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Gardening always needed!

His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.  (2 Chronicles 17:6, NIV)

Here is a Bible puzzle, the solution to which shines light on our lives.

Several of the kings of Judah are commended for removing high places and Asherah poles from the land.  Jehoshaphat, mentioned above, is one of those.  These kings did this because to build or tolerate these pagan shrines would be to violate the first commandment, You shall have no other gods before me.  The kings were acting to root out evil.

But here’s the puzzle: in some instances, we are told about a king who removed all these pagan shrines, only to be told about a successor king who had to do the same.  For example, Jehoshaphat’s father Asa removed the high places in every town in Judah (2 Chronicles 14:5).  How come?  Had Asa missed some?  What was left for Jehoshaphat’s bulldozers to demolish?  Is the Bible contradicting itself?

The answer lies in spotting a pattern.  It seems as if, silently, these pagan shrines just kept creeping back.  As Robbie mentioned in a recent sermon, they were like the weeds in the garden: they had a life of their own, growing back up.

Seeing this has also helped solve a personal puzzle.  I once visited Hazor in Israel, where we were shown an excavated “High Place”.  But in the Bible I found that king Josiah had demolished them all (2 Chron 34:6).  Was this one he missed?  No – it’s more likely that after he’d finished his work, someone came round and just rebuilt one.

All this may seem rather irrelevant to our lives until we recognise the principle.  Godliness needs constant maintenance.  Without input from the Bible, without prayer and resolute action, our hearts will stray, and we will start worshipping other gods or simply cool off in our discipleship.

I have posted before that the famous Romans 12:2 should not be translated as an active (Do not conform to the pattern of this world) but as a passive (Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world).  If it were active (do not conform), we’d be being prohibited from taking active steps to conform.  But the more likely passive (do not be conformed) suggests that we will inevitably be conformed unless we take active steps not to be (being transformed by the renewal of our minds).

Just as with the “high places”, we need to take active steps to hear and receive and act upon the Word of God, or we will inevitably drift.  That’s what Sundays are for!  Neglect them, and up will come the weeds.

We continue our series in 2 Chronicles this Sunday morning.