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OF RULERS, SNIPERS AND THE ARIZONA MARKET: STUDIES IN HUMAN NATURE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT

THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
American Baptist - United Methodist

22 SEPTEMBER 1996

BY Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Kings 12:25-31
Psalms 105:1-7
Proverbs 16:18

The title of todayís sermon probably sounds quite strange, even for me to have composed, for it speaks of several seemingly unrelated things; but they are all really the same.

We are talking about human nature.

We are talking about worldly ways of conducting our lives.

And we are talking about the contrast between living our lives for God and of not doing so.

Our preparation verse for this morning spells out the primary difference between those who live for God and those who donít: (Proverbs 16:18)

18. Pride goes before destruction,

And a haughty spirit before stumbling.

One of the first signs of a Godly person is their humbling himself or herself in repentance.

Sin causes us to stumble and to be destroyed either here on earth or by our exclusion from heaven.

We humble ourselves when we come to realize the awesomeness of God.

The first seven verses of Psalm 105 speak of this recognition:

1.  Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;

Make known His deeds among the peoples.

2.  Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;

Speak of all His wonders.

3.  Glory in His holy name;

Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.

4.  Seek the Lord and His strength;

Seek His face continually.

5.  Remember His wonders which He has done,

His marvels, and the judgments uttered by His mouth,

6.  O seed of Abraham, His servant,

O sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!

7.  He is the Lord our God;

His judgments are in all the earth.

Of all the people you know, how many of them really recognize the Lord in this manner, and live their lives in this way?

This is the difference between a Godly nature and a worldly human nature.

This is the difference between recognizing God as our ultimate ruler and looking to other humans to guide us, without regard as to whether or not they follow the Lordís commandments and heavenly will.

In 1 Kings, Chapters 12-15, there is an excellent study of a ruler, King Jeroboam, and of how his pride turned him and his people away from God, causing his entire family to be destroyed.

Letís begin at 1 Kings, 12:25:

25. Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel.

26. And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.

Jeroboam's pride is coming to the foreground.

From the statement he made in verse 26, he knows the truth, but does not want it to come to pass.

Listen to what he says in his heart:

27. "If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah."

Not only does he have these prideful thoughts, but he also schemes and proceeds to do things to prevent the people from worshiping God in Jerusalem.

He believes his own lies and his fearful imaginings.

28. So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt."

29. And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.

30. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.

31. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.

Jeroboam deliberately led the people astray.

It is obvious that he was using religious rituals, in which he himself probably had no belief, in order to control and manipulate his people.

The Lord had given him the kingdom, but he didnít trust in the Lord; he trusted only in himself.

Thus God pronounced judgment upon him and his whole house, and it came to pass.

This story is quite an interesting piece of history, but you can read about the rest of it on your own, later.

Over the past several years, I have been fascinated by the events in Bosnia, for their rulers have destroyed their nation because of their individual and collective pride of life.

In their pride, and in their individual desire for power, they turned the hearts of their respective peoples to hate one another, and so they proceeded to destroy themselves.

None of their leaders sought God for direction, and for the most part, the people went along with it, either because of their fear, or because of their own pride.

And there are those in our own country trying to cause people to hate one another, thinking that it will give them some sort of power as leaders.

But remember: hate is a form of fear, and fear is present when love is absent.

And this brings us to the study of one man in Bosnia who was the subject of an in depth news segment on National Public Radio.

This man wasnít very intelligent, but he did have some talent for painting pictures, though almost all of them were of a morbid nature.

He didnít get along with people, and could find work only as a manual laborer.

Then came the civil war, and he was told to fight or be killed; so he took up a gun and started to fight against some of the people he knew.

But it was in the army that he was first accepted as an equal, and where he first had a good friend.

And one day, when he and his friend were squared off against the enemy, a sniper picked off his friend.

So he got himself a sniper rifle and made a fortress for himself in an abandoned tall building overlooking a residential portion of the enemy city.

And he began a reign of terror by systemically picking off, not soldiers, but women and children.

He became somewhat of a hero, and he liked it.

He had a feeling of pride.

Then one day, not too long ago, he was captured and killed.

The evilness of his leader had rubbed off on him, and he became just as evil.

He could have done good deeds.

He could have tried to promote peace.

But he chose not to do so.

Also on National Public Radio, a few days before this report on the sniper, there was another in depth report on the situation in Bosnia.

They were talking about a stretch of highway and a U.S. checkpoint on that highway, which has been nick-named "The Arizona Highway."

And they talked about the market that has sprung up next to the checkpoint and has picked up the name, "The Arizona Market."

The sellers and buyers at this market are of all the ethnic peoples: the very people who a few weeks or months earlier were fighting with each other during the civil war.

And the amazing thing is that they are all getting along together as they did before the war.

The various Bosnian government factions, however, are not happy about the market because they claim they are losing tax monies.

But from the interviews of the government officials and of the people in the market place, it appeared that the real fear was that the people would again come to live together in peace.

Because of this, the politiciansí power was in jeopardy; for their power came by maintaining fear and distrust among the various groups.

This is the ultimate in selfishness and an example of the sin of the boastful pride of life.

The really interesting thing about this story is that the people are beginning to construct permanent structures in the Arizona Market, and many are predicting that within a year there will be a town there.

This is not going to be a town of only one ethnic group, but a town of people from all the ethnic groups.

All the destruction, and the hundreds of thousands of people who were killed and maimed for life, was for nothing.

They suffered in vain in order to feed the hungry pride of a few evil people.

Jesus Christ came to put an end to this, and yet in His name people do all kinds of evil to each other.

He came to show that we are all equal in the eyes of God.

People who truly know the Lord can put an end to this type of evil.

And we can put an end to it here at home, too.

Every time you hear an unkind ethnic remark or ethnic joke, tell that person you donít think itís funny, and that itís degrading, not only to the people spoken about, but also to that person who tells you, for it causes you to lose respect for him or her.

And thatís the last thing they want to hear, for they are seeking to seem important, and you have let them realize that such remarks have the opposite effect: they make them seem less important.

Our own civil war started because we didnít honor African Americans as equals.

Hitler fanned the fires of his power by having the people take out their frustrations on the Jews.

If people didnít go along with such evil lies and actions, there wouldnít be any wars.

But if we learn to live in love and have compassion, we can truly have peace.

Seek the Lord first, and everything else will work out.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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