Clean “-ish”

When my brothers and I were much younger, our family lived in a house where one room was designated as our playroom. We built things out of Lego, had play fights (and real ones), built forts and did all the other things little boys at play will do. We also made huge messes. When the mess got to the point where Mom could no longer see the playroom floor, she’d come in and tell us to clean up. One day, she told us this and the three of us came up with a brilliant idea. We’d make it clean-ish. Since Mom usually complained she could not see the floor, we got everything off the floor — and put it all on the couch. The floor was immaculate! If you walked by the door and looked in, the place looked spotless. But Mom being Mom, never just walked by the room. She came in. At first, she praised us when she saw the floor and then she looked at the couch. I tried to plead our case: “But Mom the floor is clean!” She could not stifle a small laugh at my argument but then she said: “It’s not really clean. I want the whole room clean.”

When God calls on us to turn away from our old ways and return to Him, He will never be impressed with partial obedience. He wants our whole lives to be yielded to Him and when He looks into our lives, it’s never just a passing glance. God always enters into our hearts and examines all of it.

Jehu, a king of ancient Israel, did a lot of things to clean up Israel: he got rid of a corrupt king; he got rid of wicked queen Jezebel, the woman who was instrumental in leading Israel deep into Baal (devil) worship; he even rid the land of the prophets of Baal.

“Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel” (2 Kings 10:28).

Because he did so many things right and honored God, the LORD made him a promise:

“And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel” (2 Kings 10:30).

Not only would he continue as king, but his children for the next four generations would occupy the throne of Israel. There was perhaps no greater blessing that a king could want. But Jehu was not complete in his obedience.

All In or Not at All

“Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit [that is], the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan” (2 Kings 10:29).

Jeroboam was the one who led the revolt against Rehoboam the son of king Solomon. That revolt split the kingdom in two and led to the formation of the nation of Israel. Jeroboam became its first king. Because the sacrifices made to God were typically made in Jerusalem and fearful that regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem would cause the people to rethink their allegiance to him, and his newly formed kingdom, Jeroboam set up two golden calves in Israel for the people to worship: one in Bethel and one in Dan (1 Kings 1:25-29). In human estimation this sin was not as egregious as the sin of Baal worship, but in God’s eyes this was still idolatry, still spiritual adultery.

When Jehu came to power, he wiped out Baal worship and Baal worshippers, but he kept the golden calves set up by Jeroboam. Perhaps the most tragic remark about Jehu’s reign is found in 2 Kings 10:31.

“But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.”

Because of this, the Bible says, “In those days the LORD began to cut Israel short” (2 Kings 10:32a).

Unconditional Surrender

James 4:6b tells us: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” That word “resisteth” means to “encamp against.” In other words, when we act in pride against what God wants us to do, He fights against us on purpose. This is what He did to Jehu in “cutting Israel short.” In other words, He allowed Jehu to suffer defeats and setbacks. Why? Because Jehu would not follow God completely. He only offered the Lord partial obedience.

When we make the decision to follow God we can make great progress just like Jehu did against the worshipers of Baal but then for some reason we hit a sticking point, a place in our lives where we just won’t surrender because that thing – whatever it is – is more precious to us than our relationship with God. It’s like a golden calf of Israel. When God begins to resist us because of it, we’re surprised and frustrated. We wonder: “Why is God doing this to me?” We know from the life of Jehu that the reason is obvious. There is some area of disobedience in our life, some “golden calf” that we are refusing to tear down. Just like our Mom wanted my brothers and me to make our whole room clean, God wants our whole heart to be yielded to Him.

[Photo by Rick Mason on Unsplash]

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