Learning From The Kings, Pt. 1 (Saul): Backsliding

Learning From The Kings, Pt. 1 (Saul): Backsliding

Scripture: 1 Samuel 11:1-15
Date: 08/28/1999 
This sermon deals with lessons learned from the monarchs of Israel and is called "Learning from the Kings." The specific focus is on the common backsliding of the kings, especially King Saul and King Manasseh. The typical problems that led to the kings backsliding were pride, people, paganism, and possessions.
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Coming to you from the capital city of California, Amazing Facts presents "the everlasting gospel." We're gathered with God's family of faith at the Sacramento central church. Together, we will explore the Bible with teacher, author, evangelist, Pastor Doug Batchelor. In the atmosphere of heartfelt prayer to our Savior and lord, moved by songs of love and praise for God in his amazing grace and inspired by the dedication and personal witness of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ, we will study the timeless, everlasting truths of God's Word. From messages which inspire us with the hope and freedom we have in Christ to practical, down-to-earth sermons which give us the tools to live Godly lives in a secular society as well as messages that give Bible answers to our spiritual questions and look at what God says about the future. There is sure to be something for everyone.

So, we invite you to join our family and experience the transforming power of God's spirit in your life. I'd like to welcome everybody and tell you again that I count it a privilege to be able to be your pastor and open God's Word with you. This next few weeks together, we're going to enter into a series dealing with the monarchs of Israel and judah, learning from the Kings. Now, you may have known that this is an area of special interest for me. I love the stories in the Bible and I'm convinced that the stories of the history of the Kings and the patriarchs and prophets are there for us to learn from that experience.

And they're just filled with spiritual meaning that we can apply to our lives today. And so, we're going to look at some of the different Kings that lived, that reigned all the way from the time of melchizedek up to the last of the Kings. We'll hop around a little bit and look at different stories. The first subject in learning from the Kings is going to deal with the issue of backsliding. Now, the reason is because almost all the Kings did it.

It was one of the big problems. Do you notice as you read through your old testament that not only were the Kings but with Israel itself, it was like a rollercoaster, up and down, a very consistent, inconsistent dedication to God. King's like David backslid. Some it was temporary. Some it was permanent.

Some it was protracted. Some it was brief; hezekiah, Solomon, uzza, manasseh, Saul and many others. We don't have time to cover them all. But the Bible tells us that God's people have a chronic propensity to backslide. You can read about it in the book Hosea 11:7, "my people are bent on backsliding from me.

" What does it mean "bent on"? It's chronic. It's a tendency. It's like this built-in gravitational pull downward. You know when I lived up in the mountains, I was not a Christian when I first moved up there. As a matter of fact, my Christianity sort of happened over a period of time.

But I was a total pagan when I first moved up there. And I used drugs and I drank. And I remember one time, hiking up the canyon with some friends, we stopped at a place. You know, it's very hot in the summertime in palm springs and there were very dry stretches on the way up there. There was this one pool that we would often stop at called "square pool" because of its square formation.

It always had water in it. In the summertime, a lot of the canyon water in [inaudible] creek when underground it was dry; and you could get very thirsty hiking home. But square pool was a solid rock bottom so any of the ground water was forced to the surface. It always had cool water and you could cool off in this pool. We were hiking home, stopped to get a drink at square pool.

And these are some hiker friends of mine, some hippie friends of mine. Someone had left a half gallon of wine in the pool to try and keep it cool. So, we thought this was sent from the Gods. And we decided right then and there to celebrate our bounty. And so, there were three of us.

We drank this half gallon of wine. Well, I knew it wasn't safe hiking some of those cliffs inebriated. And so, I said, you know, the sun was going down. I said, "we better just stay here tonight." But there was nowhere smooth to stretch out and lay down by square pool. But up above square pool, there was this big, flat area with these water-worn rocks that were smooth.

And when you first laid down on them, they felt pretty comfortable. It starts getting hard at night without a blanket or sleeping bag. They kept you warm at first because they had been warmed from the sun during a hot day. And even though the desert chill took over, you stayed somewhat warm laying on these warm rocks. Well, I drank some wine, went to sleep.

But what I didn't realize is that that flat area, up above square pool and it was maybe a couple 100 feet above square pool, had a slight grade to it. It wasn't exactly flat. Have you ever watched a video tape of someone sleeping at night, how much motion there really is on a high-speed play of a person in bed? You know, just tossing and turning and twisting and rolling. Well over the course of the night, I guess I did some of that, even with the wine in me. And I woke up in the morning.

And what happened is the rock up above this cliff was very flat on top, but there was a little grade I didn't recognize. And it sloped off more and more, sort of like the half dome in yosemite until it just went off in a 200-foot drop. I woke up terrified and found out that I was on the precipice and about to roll off to my death. Imperceptibly in my tossing and turning during the night, I had slid. You with me? I didn't plan on it.

It happened while I was sleeping. I slid down towards the edge. Someone told me who had been in the area for some time that other campers had made the mistake in their sleeping bags. And they did slide right off the edge. And they didn't die but they were seriously injured or one person I know of.

You know, Solomon--no, not Solomon, Samson lost his strength while he was sleeping. The ten virgins all slept when the bridegroom came. There's a danger that we could be sliding away from the Lord imperceptibly. You know, the Bible calls it sliding for a reason. There's effort involved in walking, in jumping, in hopping and skipping.

But you can slide while you're standing still if you're on a slippery slope. It doesn't require any effort. It's a natural response to gravity and our greasy footing that we have as humans. Now, there's a couple of Kings I want to look at. I'm going to talk about king Saul and king manasseh.

Both big time backsliders. There are several differences that I want us to note. First of all, king Saul was genuinely converted, filled with the Spirit and backslid. The Bible says he was one of the prophets. God gave him a new heart.

All of the language of genuine conversion is used, chosen by the Lord, spirit-filled by God, prophet of God, victorious in battle. All the earmarks of success, total, genuine, pure conversion. But he backslid and he was lost. The other one I want to look at is king manasseh. Now, some people backslide and it's not technically real backsliding.

They're in the church all their lives. Their parents are in the church. They're surrounded with church trappings and religion, but they've never been converted. And they turn their back on it. Some of us call that backsliding.

But technically, you can't backslide if you've never been there. Well, manasseh still serves our purposes because there may be some you here today who like manasseh have been raised with the religious trappings. And out of habit, you go through all of the rituals of religion. But you've never had the new heart. And one day, you turn your back on it and go to the world.

Well, you know, it's really interesting. Saul, though genuinely converted, was ultimately lost. Manasseh, though never converted at the beginning, he backslid totally from the Lord, was ultimately saved. And we'll dwell more on that as we go on. In aesop's fable of "the tortoise and the hare," how many of you know that fable? And I'm not saying that should be the foundation for our theology.

But there's a reason it's been around for a few 1,000 years. There's some kernels of truth we can learn even from aesop. The hare bolted from the starting line and was very smug at his victory, took a nap under a tree. But the tortoise plodded along and was ultimately victorious because a good beginning does not always guarantee a good ending. A good beginning does not always guarantee a good ending.

In Christianity, we're all praying and hoping for a good finish. Am I right? Some of us have a bad start. Some of us haven't gotten off the line yet, amen? Some of us are napping while the tortoise is plodding on by. But the important thing in victory is you need to press on and have a good finish. Backsliders get interrupted along the way.

Backsliding is very dangerous. Now, we'll look at king Saul for a moment. If you turn with me to the first book of Samuel chapter 11, I want you to notice some of the ways that Saul backslid and we may learn from his example and not be prone to repeat his mistake. First, bear in mind, 1 Samuel chapter 10 and I'm going to rush past here. Saul was not chosen by the people, chosen by God, okay? Though God did choose somebody he thought the people would like, head and shoulders taller than everybody else.

It sounds like dandruff shampoo, doesn't it? The Bible says that he was a tall man. He looked like a king. But it takes more than looking like a king. The Bible says in verse 6, 1 Samuel 10, "then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you and you will prophecy with them." Verse 9, "and it was so when he turned to go back from Samuel that God gave him another heart." And there was even a proverb that Saul was among the prophets. But you'll notice as we study the Kings, they typically had a problem with pride, people, possessions and paganism.

And Saul's problem that led him to backslide, though genuinely converted, he became distracted and preoccupied more with what the people thought of him. Saul, when he was first chosen as king, was very humble. He was very--he was afraid. As a matter of fact finally when they got ready to coronate him, it says he was hiding among the baggage. Here, you've got this fellow head and shoulders, taller than everyone else.

But he's insecure. Now, you know, some people think insecurity is humility. Do you know insecurity is often pride? Are you with me? Insecurity is not a sign of humility. Insecurity is sometimes a sign that you're so concerned of what people are going to think of you that it's controlling you. Well, people react to that insecurity in different ways.

Some people hide in the baggage like Saul. Finally, he became very pompous and proud. But he was consumed with what others thought of him. Peter had that problem when he backslid. He was bragging in front of his friends, "though all men forsake you, I'll never forsake you.

" A little while later when he was, you know, when Jesus was betrayed and being carried off, Peter, when his friends were watching, he pulled out a sword when his friends were watching. Then when his friends all left and he had a different audience, are you with me? Peter has a different audience and a little servant girl intimidates him, laughs at him and says, "oh, he's the one arrested in there. You follow him, huh? He said he was a king, ha ha!" He was intimidated so much by what others thought of him, denied he knew Jesus with swearing and cursing because of what servants would think of him. Well, Saul had that same problem. He was preoccupied with what the people thought of him more than what God thought of him.

Jesus addressed this kind of spiritual hypocrisy when he talked to the scribes and the pharisees. Hypocrites that prayed to be seen of men, they fasted to be seen of men, they gave to be seen of men. They were much more concerned with the religion that was visible, God's looking at their heart. The Bible tells us that there was a battle that broke out. And the philistines gathered against Israel.

And Samuel told Saul, Samuel the prophet said, "you wait for me and after 7 days, I'll come. I'll intercede. I'll offer sacrifice. I'm the priest for the Lord, for you." But the people began to scatter from Saul as they were waiting for Samuel to come. And he was so afraid he was going to lose his support group, his soldiers, leaning on the arm of man.

There's a lot we hear today. No, I think it's important for people to have a support group. You know, that's what church is. Am I right? But I've got news for you, friends. Don't miss this.

You need a relationship with the lord where you can lean on the everlasting arms and nobody else and still stand up. If your dependence on God is also a co-dependence on others around you, you're not dependent enough on God because all of us will someday ultimately stand alone with Jesus. Our support group is going to be taken away. We need each other. We need to try and capitalize on it while we've got it.

But ultimately, we've got to care only about what God thinks of us and lean on him, amen? Well, he saw the people were scattered and so he took the prerogatives of the priest and Saul forced himself to offer sacrifice. He lost patience. And the Bible says Samuel the prophet came to him and he said, "now, your kingdom shall not continue. the Lord has sought for himself another man after his own heart. And the Lord has commanded him to be commander over the people because you've not kept what the lord commanded you.

" He backslid because of the pressure of the people and because of pride. "They scattered from him." Well, this wasn't the only time that this happened. You can go on here to 1 Samuel chapter 15, "the word of the lord comes to Samuel the prophet and he sends Saul on a mission to go and annihilate the amalekites." Now, you might think a lot of people stall right here and they choke on this Scripture that God who says "thou shalt not kill" would send his people off killing a whole nation. First of all, the commandment reads, "thou shalt do no murder." Secondly if you know the whole history, you'll know the amalekites were constantly raiding the borders of Israel. As a matter of fact, the first war the children of Israel fought after deliverance from Egypt, the amalekites raided the outskirts of the people of Israel, the old, the weak, the sick, who had been in the Exodus.

They were a very Ruthless, barbaric people. They offered their children to pagan Gods on burning brass altars and just they're ridden with disease. And that's why God sent Saul on this mission. He said, "I want you to not only annihilate them but I want you to exterminate their livestock." They were infected. The whole nation was infected.

And so, God sent him on this mission. Saul had no problem fighting the enemies. But he had a problem when it came to getting rid of all of the livestock because on his examination, he thought they looked just fine. And he thought--some of the people came to Saul and they said, "hey, your majesty," now I'm paraphrasing. It is in the Bible but I'm paraphrasing.

They said, "your majesty, we've killed all the people. Wouldn't it be nice to parade back into Israel with amalek, the King of the amalekites, in chains to show our victory? Humiliate him. Let's not kill him right away. Let's make the most of this. Keep him as a trophy of your victory.

" And he liked that, "yeah, yeah, I like that." He said, "now, all these ox and sheep, I know we'd been told to slaughter them. But well if we eat 'em, that's sort of like slaughtering them. And maybe we'll offer some of them to the Lord. We want to do a thanksgiving offering after this victory so why don't we give some of these? We're going to kill 'em anyway." Incidentally, a very simple principle, when you offer somebody else's possession as a sacrifice, it's not a sacrifice. When you give somebody else's stuff as an offering, it's not an offering.

You're trying to avoid giving your own. And so, he listened to the pressure of the people. He wanted to be re-elected. I know Kings aren't re-elected. But you know, it's how our politicians think these days.

And so, he went against what was right because it was going to be popular. And so, he said, "yeah, yeah, let's do that." So, Saul comes to meet Samuel after the battle with the amalekites. And Saul says to Samuel, I'm in verse 20 with these platitudes and pompous words, "I have obeyed the voice of the Lord and gone on my mission, which the lord has sent me and brought back agag, king of amalek. And I'm utterly destroyed the amalekites. But the people took of the plunder and the sheep," who did it? He's blaming the people.

"The people took of the plunder and the sheep and the oxen and the best of the things that were going to be destroyed to sacrifice to the Lord your God." Well, the bottom line is he didn't do what God told him to do. He was more interested in doing what the people told him to do. And Samuel said in these immortal words. They're underlined in my Bible. It'd be good if you have them underlined in yours.

"Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice." That means God would rather have you do his will than give a million dollars. Some people who are wealthy think they can substitute a consecrated life with charity and philanthropy and big offerings. God's not impressed. Do you hear me? You cannot buy for your forgiveness. It's an insult to God.

He's already paid for it with something you can't afford, the blood of his son. To obey is better than sacrifice. What does God want? He wants your hearts. He wants us to obey him. "And to he to harken in the fat of rams for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.

" And Saul started out hating witches. He tried to eradicate all the witches from Israel. In the end, he goes to a witch. It shows you how far he had backslidden. "And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry because you've rejected the word of the Lord.

He's also rejected you from being king." Now, there's a very simple principle here, friends. Receive the word and you'll be a king. You'll live and reign with Christ. Reject the word and you will be rejected as a king. Don't let anyone take your crown by telling you not to listen to the word, amen? The devil went to eve and said, "God doesn't really mean what he says.

Don't believe the Word of God." The Word of God must be supreme. And he says, "the Lord has torn the Kingdom," verse 28, "the Lord has torn the Kingdom of Israel from you today and given it to a neighbor of yours who's better than you." Who was that? David. And David, we all know was immune to backsliding, right? Well, Saul backslid. You know, after this experience first where he offered sacrifice and Samuel said, "you're not going to have an eternal kingdom." God had a plan where not only would Saul reign but his sons would reign. And there would be a monarchy of Saul.

But because The Father was not faithful, the sins carry on to the third and fourth generation. His monarchy would not continue. Not only that, Saul slowly grieved away the Holy Spirit. He not only lost the Kingdom. He permanently grieved away the Holy Spirit to the point where at the end of his life, when he was in dire straights, he turned to God not out of repentance but out of fear.

And the Bible says, "God would not answer him, neither by priest or prophet or urim," that was the lights that lit up the jewels that lit up on the breastplate of the high priest, kind of a yes and no answer. But God would not communicate with him. So, you know what he did? Just to show how thoroughly reprobate he had become. He said, "well, I'm going to get some answer one way or another." And he went to a witch who tried to resurrect a demon who impersonated Samuel. And Saul ended up taking his own life the next day.

He grieved away the Holy Spirit and committed suicide. Now, the word "backsliding" in Christian circles doesn't scare people as much as it should. Because for a lot of us, backsliding sort of has an aura of "it's temporary" about it. The Bible doesn't teach that. The Bible does teach, and there is hope in this message today, that God can heal our backsliding.

There is hope for recovery. But there are more stories in the Bible of people who backslid that did not recover their footing and they slid off the cliff into the precipice of eternity, lost. A lot of people console themselves, they think, "yeah, I know I'm backslidden. I know I'm backslidden. But it's only temporary.

One of these days, I'm going to get serious with God. I'm going to give him all my heart." You know what happened with Saul? Saul could not recover from his backsliding because even after he refused to obey God, rather than humble his heart and repent, he continued to go through the mockery of religion. You can read in the Bible where he celebrated the new moon Sabbaths. You can read in the Bible where he brought the priests and asked them to pray before he went into battle and tried to consult the ark. And he still--he would swear by the name of the Lord.

He had all the trappings of religion but he was dead inside. That's the worst kind of backsliding. Saul was lost in church. He had backslid in church. You know, they've got this plant that grows in india, we saw there.

These trees spread out called the "banyan tree." And I understand that the banyans, they don't sprout like normal trees. The seed of the banyan is typically deposited in the top of a palm tree. And then, it begins to send roots down into the palm tree for moisture and nourishment and eventually winds its way down to the ground and starts to build a cage of roots around the tree until pretty soon, it chokes the palm tree to death. And after a while, you can't even see the palm tree anymore because it's been absorbed. It's disappeared.

And yet, there's this tree standing here on what was once the skeleton of a palm tree. Well, that describes king Saul. He was on the throne 40 years, in position, had his entourage. He had his army. He vowed in the name of the lord.

the Kingdom seemed to go on. He won a few battles but he was a lost man. Had the skeleton of a palm tree but it was a banyan. You with me? Lost in church. That's the most serious case.

Keep in mind Saul never recovered because he was always surrounded with these things. He never really realized how lost he was until it was too late. Now, I want to leap over to the other king we're going to consider, which is manasseh, manasseh. Manasseh had a good name. He was named after one of The Sons of Joseph, one of the tribes of Israel.

Manasseh had a good father, hezekiah, one of the Godliest of the Kings of judah. There's a lot of good things we can say about hezekiah we'll look at later. Grew up across the street from the temple. Now, I suspect that hezekiah indulged and spoiled manasseh. Who knows why I know that? The Bible says that manasseh was years old when he began to reign.

How many remember the story in the Bible where hezekiah was going to die and God gave him another 15 years? Son went back 10 degrees. That means manasseh was born after that experience, which means it was later in life for hezekiah. And I suspect because up to that point, hezekiah had no male heir. He doted on manasseh and indulged him and spoiled him. And even though hezekiah was a Godly king, you can see several examples in the Bible of Godly people, who had reprobate children.

And there were even some reprobate parents that ended up with Godly children. And so, I mean God was a good parent. What happened to adam and eve? You going to blame the parents? I'm not trying to excuse myself. I'm just saying it's not always the parents. Well, I think that hezekiah did indulge manasseh.

And the Bible tells us that manasseh was the most thoroughly lost and wicked of all the Kings of judah. He was 12 years old when he began to be king and he reigned years. He reigned longer than any other king. Now, I want to pause right here and I want to go down a little side road. There's a danger--people remain in a backslidden state because we misunderstand the mercy of God.

We misunderstand the mercy of God. How can it be? If you and I were in charge, if you were God, if you and I were in charge and you had a king that was doing all that manasseh did, and you'll hear about it in just a minute, wicked, wicked, wicked, wicked, wicked. Think about the worst thing any king could do, manasseh did it with both hands. Why would you let him reign longer than anyone else? Well, there's a couple of reasons. One is "the Lord is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish," Peter chapter 3.

How many of you are glad the lord is longsuffering to us? You know one reason he was longsuffering with manasseh is because God sees the beginning from the end. And God saw the end. He knew that buried in that dark and wicked heart were still redemptive seeds. There were still some thoughts. There were still some characteristics of David and hezekiah in his nature that could be redeemed someday.

And the Lord bore along with him because he's desperate to save every one of us he can possibly save, amen? But we misunderstand God's mercy. Saul reigned 40 years and most of that was after he had been told that he had been separated from God, a distressing spirit came to molest Saul. And yet, he was still on the throne. If you and I were in charge, we'd hit him with lightening, right? You know, the Bible tells us. This is something that we often don't understand.

In Ecclesiastes 9:11--no, that's not the one I want. I'll quote it and someone will find it for me later, "because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of The Sons of men are fully set in them to do evil." Because God does not zap us right away, we presume on his mercy and we continue in our course. God tolerates us. Sometimes we assume that because things are going along okay, it's because we're doing the right thing; 55 years, most of it he wasn't doing the right thing. It's cause God is patient.

Does the Lord seem to be blessing America? The economy's good. We enjoy prosperity that's unprecedented in our history, maybe even the history of any other nation when you consider the technology, the comforts, the conveniences we enjoy. It must because we're a Godly nation. Oh, you're misunderstanding mercy if you think that. It's cause the Lord is longsuffering to us-ward right? Do you know the Lord saved sodom before he destroyed them? Are you aware of that? When they were carried away by chedorlaomer and the Kings of the north, God sent Abraham to deliver sodom.

He didn't deliver sodom and gomorrah because they were righteous. He delivered them because lot was still in the city. He was with the captives. And one reason that God spares us is because God still has his Christian salt sprinkled in society. Sometimes, we misunderstand Isaiah was alive for the first part of manasseh's reign.

History tells us that God--that Isaiah was placed in a hollow log and sawed in half by manasseh. You read in Hebrews, they were "sawn asunder." Speaking of the Godly, that's a reference to how Isaiah the prophet ultimately died. But we misunderstand God's mercy. I want you to read something in Luke 13:1-5. He reigned 55 years.

That must mean that he was blessed of God because he was good. No, it's not because manasseh was good. It's cause God was good. God is patient. Luke 13:1, "there were present at that season some who told Jesus, him, about the galileans whose blood pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

" I'll give you the background. There was a little revolt in the temple. Pilate sent some soldiers into the temple courtyard during the time of Jesus and slaughtered some pilgrims, unarmed pilgrims that came to worship and bring their sacrifices. And the rumor that was circulating among the Jewish people was, "well, the reason that those pilgrims were sacrificed by the roman soldiers is there must have been sin in their lives. They were doing something wrong.

Go to church with a lamb and get killed. There must've been some hidden sin in their life so God cursed them and he used the Romans to do it." Jesus said, "your philosophy is flawed. Do you suppose these galileans were worse sinners than other galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you no. But unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those 18 on whom the tower in siloam fell and killed them.

" There was a tower. They had a little aftershock. It was only three on the richter scale but a bunch of people were gathered there. The tower crumbled and they were all killed. Everybody said, "ah, it's because they were bigger sinners than everybody else in the city.

" A plane crashes and we think everybody on the plane must have been lost. Earthquake in turkey, it's because they're predominantly muslim. That's why God did that to them. Oh, you'd be surprised. Some of us won't admit those thoughts fly through our minds.

But as long as we're experiencing prosperity, somehow we like--our proud natures like to think it's because we're gooder than they are. And what does Jesus say about that? "I tell you no. But unless you repent," say that with me, "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." What was the first thing that John the baptist began when he started preaching? What was the first word out of his mouth? Repent. When Jesus sent out talking about the Kingdom of heaven, first word wasn't kingdom of heaven, first word was repent. God wants us to turn from our sins.

Now, who did Jesus and his apostles and John the baptist begin preaching to, lost pagans or church members? Are you getting the picture, friends? Here, they were sent to church members that were backslidden. He said, "repent." John the baptist said, "repent." Jesus the apostle said, "repent." And God says to Israel in the old testament and I say to the church today: we need to repent or we will perish. Turn from our sins. Now, let's go back to manasseh. This is always very tantalizing to hear about all the terrible things he did.

It'll make us feel a little more sanctimonious. Manasseh was 12 years old when he began to be king. Boy, how'd you like to live under the tyranny of a -year-old? Oh, that gives me the heebee jeebees, especially when they get to be about 14 and 15. "He began to reign when he was 12 years old," barking out orders. "And he reigned 55 years in Jerusalem.

" How long did he live? Sixty-seven, is that right? "But he did evil in the sight of the Lord according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He began to follow in all the practices of the wicked pagan world that had been expelled from the promised land. For her rebuilt the high places that hezekiah his father, had broken down," these pagan altars. "He raised up altars for the baals." Up to this point, baal had just been in the northern kingdom. Manasseh brought it down to the southern kingdom.

"He made wooden images and he worshipped all the hosts of heaven and served them." It's like he was in a frenzy to see how many pagan Gods he could embrace. "He built altars in the house of the Lord," brought them into the temple, pagan altars, mocking God, shaking his fist at the almighty, flaunting that the pagan Gods were more powerful because God wasn't doing anything to stop him. "He built altars in the house of the Lord of which the Lord had said 'in Jerusalem shall be my name forever.' And he built altars for all the hosts of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord." He filled the temple of God with pagan deities. Doesn't it break your heart to even think about that? That would never happen to us though. No, we would never bring paganism into our church, would we? You know, there's some subtle ways that it is trying to make inroads.

There are different ways of building altars without having something made out of wood or stone or bronze or gold. That's subject matter for another sermon. "He caused his sons to pass through the fire in the valley of The Son of hinnom." You know, Jesus talks about it being better to enter into heaven maimed than to go into gehenna, the valley of hinnom, whole. That was the city dump. And here he--there was this valley where they built these altars, these pagan Gods, and they used to burn their children to death to the sun God.

They said, "the sun was fire and we're making an offering of our children to these sun Gods." And they'd take these little infants from their mother's arms where they were warm and secure and place 'em on the scalding bronze arms and the fire of the pagan Gods. And he did that with his children. Well obviously, he was sincere. I mean doesn't sincerity cover a multitude of sin? He must've believed it. I'll tell you I'm not going to start guessing if I'm going to offer my children to a pagan deity and kill them.

He really believed it. "Caused his sons to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of hinnom. And he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke him to anger. He even set a carved image of the idol in which he had made in the house of God of which God had said," the narrator puts this twice because it was so outrageous to them that the temple had been desecrated this way, "which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, 'in this house and in Jerusalem, I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, all put my name.

'" And instead of the name of jehovah in the temple of God, they had the name of "moloch" and "astaroth" and all these. And you know what some of those deities involved in their worship? It was pornographic. They had temple prostitutes and the whole sh-bang. And they brought it into the temple of God. That's why the writer here of Kings is just--you can see his tears on the page as he's saying, "my name was supposed to be here.

" Here they were praying to these pagan Gods in the temple of the lord. "'And I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers if only they are careful to do all that I've commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.' So, manasseh seduced judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel." You know when God brought the children of Israel into the promised land, he said, "I'm not bringing you into this land because of your goodness." Here's another case of misunderstand mercy. He told the Israelites, "don't think I'm bringing you in because you're better than they are. I'm bringing you in and casting them out because of their badness." It's what the Bible says. "I'm evicting them because of their badness.

" Now, this nation chosen by God that had been transplanted into the promised land. They begin to live and perform worst deeds than the ones who had been dispossessed. You understand why they were carried off to Babylon a little later? "And the Lord spoke to manasseh and his people, but they would not listen." How do you think he spoke to them? At some point during his early reign, Isaiah the prophet came to manasseh and manasseh probably had a bad hair day or something. He said, "take Isaiah and stuff him in a hollow log. I've always wondered what it would look like to saw a prophet in two.

" God plead with him, sent prophets and priests. And he persecuted and killed them. The levites fled from the city. I mean things were in a deplorable state. We get a new president once every 4 or 8 years; 55 years, that would be disenheartening, amen? Now, you know what the point is here.

When you are backsliding, you will influence those around you. You don't have to be a king. Everybody has a sphere of influence. And when manasseh turned his back on the God of his fathers, brought up good church, good family, had been taught well, just completely rejected the religion. And when he went out into the world, he did it with gusto.

You know, I have sometimes trouble relating to those of you who have been raised in the church 'cause I was a pagan that was converted. But I've observed sometimes when these folks who've been raised in the church and they go through the schools and they have good families in many cases, and they decide to find out what the world's like. Boy, they do it with all their might. They'd do things I'd never think of doing when I was in the world. And it's just a tendency I've observed.

You know after a person has tasted the treasures of the world to come, they get an insatiable appetite and they turn their back on it. They get a real appetite for the things of the world. Now, here's the part I don't want you to miss. No, I'm not going to get to that part. "So, the Lord spoke to manasseh and his people, but they would not listen.

" Manasseh would not listen to the Word of God. Okay, let's get back to the subject of backsliding real quick. How do you know if you're backslidden? Want some symptoms that you might examine? Lacks in prayer. We talked about prayer the last couple of weeks. If you're inconsistent or if your prayer life is minimal, that could mean you're backslidden.

Lacking study; if you're not spending time listening to, reading the Word of God and trying to attend places where the Word of God is being opened. Forgetting to be thankful and praising God. Forgetting to praise and thank the Lord. That means you're taking his blessings for granted. That could mean that you're backslidden.

Unfaithfulness in your giving, tithes and offerings. That could mean that you think it belongs to you and you're probably--giving is a really good litmus test. It's a good indicator if a person's converted or not. First thing that happened after naaman and the leper was healed of his leprosy is he wanted to give. The natural response after zaccheus was forgiven is he wanted to give.

And when God has given you so much and when he's saved you from your sins, you want to give. And when a person doesn't want to give and it takes a long drawn-out, guilt-ridden offering appeal for them to drop a dollar in the plate, you're probably backslidden. Because the Christian response is: what more can I do? What more can I give? You want to sacrifice when you know how much the Lord has done for you. Lacks in church attendance. I know I always kind of ding on this one note as a pastor.

And you know, typically, I'm preaching to the choir because you're here, right? Some of you are watching at home and you're not at church. And every now and then, I run into people and they say, "Pastor Doug, you're our pastor. We don't go to church but we watch you." And I say, "that's not good." I says, "you ought to go to church." They say, "but you haven't been to our church." I say, "you ought to go anyway." We need to be involved in corporate worship. I heard someone say that people seldom lose their religion by a blowout. It's usually a slow leak.

Backsliding is the easiest thing to do. You do nothing. Church members are often like automobiles. They start missing before they quit. And that's what happens with our attendance sometimes.

We start--we miss a little here. They say, "hey, I'm still alive." We misunderstand God's mercy, "I'm still a Christian. I missed a little here or there." And pretty soon, it gets easier and easier until attendance becomes rare. Where before, missing was rare. Lacks church attendance.

Cherishing impure thoughts indeed. Now, you'll notice they said, "cherishing." It's not a sin when the devil sends a temptation or an impure thought. But when you cherish and embrace those things and you start to long after them, that's sin. That's usually an indicator of a backslidden heart. If you're fearful and you have no peace, when a person knows they're saved and they know they've got the gift of eternal life and they know they have a relationship with Jesus, there's a peace that passes understanding.

When a person is uneasy and insecure and they're fearful, it could be you're backslidden. And God is trying to give you unrest to save you like a sheepdog nipping at the sheep's heels to keep him away from the wolves. Those that are critical and judgmental all the time of the other sheep, sometimes they're the ones who are backslidden. And it's sort of a self-justifying, diversionary tactic where we try to console ourselves. We're not that bad by pointing to the faults of others around us.

It's often an indicator of our own unconverted condition. Do you mind my talking to you this way? This is Bible, friends. Trifling, perpetual trifling in worldly conversation; when we don't find ourselves enjoying, communing and talking about the lord. I worry sometimes because, you know, as soon as I go out of church--you folks are going to be ultra sensitive today because I'm saying this. I go out the church.

I try and race you out the door because I think it's important for the pastor to be where I can meet the people. And I'll confess, they put makeup on my head. I don't know why. But they insist I do that. And I run back and I've got some baby wipes.

The first thing I do when I walk out the door, I run in the studio. I take these baby wipes. So if I smell like a freshly changed baby when you meet me at the door, that's the reason for that. I try and wipe off as much makeup as I possibly can. And then, I go to the door and I meet people.

But I listen to the conversation. And you know what grieves me is more times than not, the things I overhear have nothing to do with religion. Not necessarily evil of itself, but it's all just--seems like trifling banter, idle chatter. And you know when our hearts are full of the Holy Spirit, when we love the Lord, when we really appreciate what Jesus has done, it's going to come out of your mouth. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks," amen? And so if we find that we rarely talk about Jesus, it could be that we're backslidden.

Here's the part we need to remember. How do we avoid backsliding? Maybe you've been raised in the church, converted and you've never backslidden. Praise the Lord. There are a few people like that. The Bible doesn't record very many.

Maybe you were backslidden and you've come back to the Lord. You know, it tells us in Scripture, very important, I haven't read yet. Revelation 2:4, "nevertheless, I have this against you because you've left your first love." Leaving or losing or neglecting our first love is deadly. And he lord says he holds that against us. You know why he holds it against us because you and I are responsible to nourish that love.

How many of you who are married have learned in order to maintain a good relationship, that love must be nourished, cherished, cultivated? You've to invest energy in it. It's not any different with your relationship with the Lord. And if we lose our first love, it's not God's fault. He hasn't stopped showering us with his love. We're neglecting it, "I have something against you.

" Well, how do you avoid backsliding? The same way an airplane avoids a stall. Now, forgive me for reverting back to my airplane illustration but one of the first things they teach you when they're teaching you to fly is you must maintain airspeed. Because what's keeping that heavier than air object up in the air is your forward momentum. Airplanes doesn't have reverse. I have no reverse on my propeller.

They're not designed to fly that way. Cars can go backwards. Airplanes must maintain forward momentum or they stall. You know what it means when they stall? They begin to drop like a rock out of the sky. And unless you reassume airspeed, you're going to stall.

It's like a bicycle. You try and stay up on a bicycle without that forward momentum on two wheels. It's a miracle for you to be able to stay up on two skinny wheels. But you can perform that miracle with forward motion, right? Because of the gyro effect. It's--there's a law that I don't understand.

But it works, okay? But you've got to keep moving forward. And so, how do you avoid backsliding? Don't be stationery in your relationship with the Lord because I'll promise you something. If you think your standing still as a Christian, you're not. You're going backwards. Moving water does not freeze.

If you want to stay alive as a Christian, you've got to stay involved. And you know what that means? Sometimes, you need to discipline yourself to do something you may not feel like doing. You may not always feel like going to prayer meeting, but you need to go anyway. You may not always feel like praying. I'm a preacher.

I don't always feel like it. I don't always feel like studying, but I know I need it. And so, you've got to keep yourself in this perpetual state of moving towards God or you're going to stall and drop out of the sky like others that we've heard of. The Bible tells us that God says he can heal our backsliding. Hosea 14:4, I like this, "I will heal their backsliding.

I will love them freely for mine anger has turned away from them." God needs to heal our backsliding. You cannot do it yourself. You cannot heal your own backsliding. But I'll tell you what you can do. How many want to know what they need to do to make sure they're not backslidden and to be healed? Here's what God says.

It was our Scripture reading, Jeremiah 3:12, "go and proclaim these words to the north and say, 'return, backsliding Israel,' says the Lord, 'and I will not cause my anger to fall on you for I am merciful,' says the Lord, 'I will not remain angry forever," here it is, "only acknowledge your iniquity that you've transgressed against the Lord your God.'" What are we supposed to do? Acknowledge. What does that mean? Confess. Admit. He goes on and he says, "return, o backsliding children." You know what the word "return" is? Repent. You know what the word "repent" is? Return.

God is saying, "return." Did David backslide? What did he do? He returned. He repented. He said, "I am the man." He humbled himself and God forgave him right then and there. Now if anybody should never be forgiven, if any mortal--i was going to say if anybody, but that would be the devil. If any mortal should never be forgiven, you know who it is? Manasseh.

I mean just the name because of the infamy of his life, that whole tribal name sort of has a syrian sound to it now. The Bible says the Lord spoke to him and he wouldn't listen. Therefore, God in his mercy sometimes sends judgment to save us, "therefore, the Lord brought upon him the captains of the army of the King of assyria. And they took manasseh with hooks and they bound him with bronze fetters and carried him off to Babylon." Now the word "hooks" is a Hebrew word; can sometimes be translated "chains." Sometimes what they did is they put a ring in the nose of a conquered king. Some places, it says it took them through the thorns.

They would drag--how'd you like to get drug through a field of star thistle? Let's just say that manasseh finally had a day of reckoning. "And the Lord brought upon him the Kings of the army, the King of assyria, and he took manasseh with hooks and bound him with bronze fetters and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction," the word "affliction" doesn't mean he was sitting in prison, playing pool and watching tv. Those prisons back then were not like prisons today. When he was suffering for his years of rebellion, "he implored the Lord his God, the God of his father.

" He remembered the God of his father. Some of you are praying that your kids will someday come to their senses. You know what it might take? They're going to have to be in affliction. And yet, you've been praying that God will protect them all this time. Maybe you need to pray that God will afflict 'em if that's what it takes to save 'em.

Are you willing to pray that prayer? "Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God. He humbled himself greatly before God." He didn't know that he had it in him. Here's this king who has temple prostitutes, putting his children in the fire, going to the witches and dialing those psychic telephone Numbers. That was manasseh. And all of a sudden, he's praying to jehovah.

And he prayed to him. And here's the part that blows me away. He, capital h-e, that's God, "he received his entreaty. He heard his prayer and brought him back to Jerusalem." Does that blow you away? After all those years of sin and rebellion, he gets on his knees. And he, from his heart, repents.

He returns to the Lord. He remembered what he had heard from his father as a little boy on his dad's knee. He said, "God, can you still forgive me after all I've done?" And you know what the Lord said, "yes, I can." And you know if God can forgive manasseh, this is the best part of the whole sermon, don't miss this. Maybe you think you've gone too far. You've got a ways to go to catch up to manasseh, don't you? I mean talk about backsliding.

He reached the bottom of the barrel and God brought him back out again. It says he not only forgave him. He restored him to his position. How rare is that? That he should go from prison in Babylon back to power on the throne in Jerusalem. God heard his prayer.

"Then manasseh knew that the Lord was God." What happened when he came back, he repented. He reformed. After that, he built the outside wall of the gate. "He took away," verse 15, "the foreign Gods and the idol from the house of the Lord and all the altars he had built and the mount of the house of the Lord and in Jerusalem; and he cast them out of the city. He repaired the altar of the lord.

" Did he just pray a prayer and go back to his old ways? Or did he get back to Jerusalem and show that his heart was changed? Now, there's a word of caution for you. Manasseh made genuine reforms even after all his years of evil. But the Bible tells us that his son, because of watching his father's wicked influence, when he came to the throne, it says his son was lost. "He," 2 Chronicles 33:23-24, "he did not humble himself before the Lord as his father manasseh had humbled himself. But amon trespassed more and more.

His servants conspired against him and killed him in his own house." The reason I'm telling you that is I don't want anyone to think that we can presume the end of our life we're going to repent and there are not consequences to our backsliding. Any day you remain in a backslidden condition has results. Any day that we linger without turning our hearts back to God, there are going to be people that are affected. And it's one less day that we've got to repent in. One more day we have to repent of, every day that we wait.

What makes the difference? Well, it's coming to the Lord just like you are. It's repenting. Some of you have sung that hymn before, "come thou fount of every blessing." It was written by robert robinson. And you know, he drifted from the Lord years after writing that hymn. Lost the peace.

He had been genuinely on fire for Jesus, but he lost the peace and the security and that communion with Christ. He thought he'd travel so that he could run away from his guilty conscience. And on one of his excursions, he was sharing a buggy with a Christian lady. And she engaged him in some Christian dialogue. And he knew what he was talking about.

And she said, "you know, I've been reading this hymn 'come thou fount of every blessing,' it's wonderful. Have you seen it before?" And he would not answer her. And she pressed the question. Finally, he broke down and started crying. He said, "I wrote the hymn.

" And you know, there's a verse in the hymn that says, "prone to wander. Lord, I feel it." That's our natures. We've got to keep that forward momentum like an airplane or like moving water. Or we're going to freeze up, slide back and we could end up like Saul. But the good news is it doesn't matter how far you've wandered from the Lord.

If you return to him, you can find peace. You can find forgiveness. You can have complete restoration and reformation. He can put you back on the throne and give you back your crown. Saul never did repent.

He lost the crown. Manasseh repented. God brought him back and gave him his crown back. Don't let the devil take your crown. It's going to require a constant ongoing effort for us to maintain our relationship with the Lord.

We need that forward momentum. You know, not only do individuals backslide, churches backslide. I was reading about some of these houses in southern California. During the torrential rains of el nino, they slid in these mudslides down in the freeway. You know what houses slid? The ones they build on the dirt and the sand.

Some other people up on the cliffs, built on the rocks, their houses didn't slide. And the only thing that's going to keep us from backsliding is you've got to build on the rock. Amen? Jesus is the rock. Happy Sabbath, pastor Jim.

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