By Elizabeth Prata
Reading through 1 and 2 Kings is tough. The same patterns are shown, the sinful kings who did right, only … It’s like saying you’re sorry, but. Over and over we read the same refrain,
Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah became king…He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like David his father; he did according to all that Joash his father had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 Kings 14:1b, 2-4)
Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah became king. … He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 Kings 15:1b, 3-4)
In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah king of Judah became king. He did what was right in the sight of the LORD; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 Kings 15:32, 34-35).
We cannot let any part of sin remain. Remember when God told Saul to slay all the Amalekites, down to the last man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey? But Saul disobeyed and let king Agag live, plus the better animals. (1 Samuel 15).*
Remember when God told Solomon to stay true to worship and not intermarry with foreign women, because they will lead him astray? Solomon didn’t listen. He didn’t stop at one foreign wife, either. He took 1000.
So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:6).
We can’t play with sin. We can’t pet sin. We can’t tolerate sin. We have to put sin to death. Completely. Remember when God told Cain that sin was crouching at the door, wanting to have you? “But you must master it.” (Genesis 4:11).
John Owen is helpful here. His book “The Mortification of Sin in Believers” is all about the rules for and the activity of killing sin in our selves and through that process, not to have peace with the world, a great concern of Owen’s.
Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. ~John Owen
Here is a Cliff’s Notes on Owen’s work, from an essay at Meet The Puritans–The entire article is good, I encourage you to read it.
Principles of Mortification
Mortification is the duty of all believers (Col. 3:5; 2)
Mortification Is by the Spirit
Mortification Is of Great Benefit
Explanation of Mortification
What Mortification Is Not
What Mortification Is
Rules of Mortification
Only Believers Can Mortify Sin
The Only Goal Must be Universal Mortification:
“He who truly and thoroughly seeks to mortify any disquieting lust, must be equally diligent in all parts of obedience” (53). We make a mistake if we think we can only fight against the few sins that trouble our conscience. ~John Owen
Owen is careful to note that we can never eradicate sin from our heart, mind, and soul completely in this life. Yet it is the wholehearted pursuit of its mortification (putting to death) that is the goal. David pursued sin when he pursued Bathsheba. Solomon pursued sin when he married 1000 foreign wives. Saul pursued sin when he failed to obey to the letter. The Kings of Judah and Israel pursued sin when they did right in the eyes of the LORD, and here’s that dreaded word…”only they did not…” They did right, only… They did right, but… There can be no buts about it.
We cannot let a little sin remain, or pursue righteousness and ignore the dark corner in our heart over there. We can’t deceive ourselves into thinking that just because we’ve done good over here, that the little disobedience over there will go unremarked.
Sin wants you. No matter how small it is, it will grow and master you. We see that endlessly through the books of the Kings (And Judges. And the whole Bible). Sin’s tentacles will creep and grow and strangle. Then those tentacles will drag you and encircle you and lead you where you do not want to go but you will go. So we must master it. Don’t let there be an ‘only’ in your life.
On the Agag issue:
*It’s hard to reconcile the loving God with the wrathful God when we read passages like the one where God told Saul to kill all the men, women, and children. Here is an explanation.
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now go and smite Amalek,…. This was one of the three things the Israelites were obliged to do when they came into the land of Canaan, as Kimchi observes; one was, to appoint a king over them, another, to build the house of the sanctuary, and the third, to blot out the name and memory of Amalek, see Deuteronomy 25:19 and this work was reserved for Saul, their first king:
and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; all were to be devoted to destruction, and nothing remain to be made use of in any way, to any profit and advantage; living creatures were to be put to death, and everything else burnt and destroyed:
but slay both men and women, infant and suckling; neither sex nor age were to be regarded, no mercy and pity shown to any; they had shown none to Israel when weak and feeble, and by the law of retaliation none was to be exercised on them:
ox and sheep, camel and ass; though useful creatures, yet not to be spared; as not men, women, and children, through commiseration, so neither these through covetousness, and neither of them on any pretence whatsoever. Children suffered for their parents, and cattle because of their owners, and both were a punishment to their proprietors; an ox, or any other creature, might not be spared, lest it should be said, as Kimchi observes, this was the spoil of Amalek, and so the name and memory of Amalek would not be blotted out.