Grace Grants a Reboot

"The Ancient Path," © 2016 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

“The Old Path,” © 2016 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2016 Lynn Abbott

In general, I consider myself to be a fairly patient person. But I believe that even Job would find an ornery computer to be an extraordinary trial.

The mere mention of this machine turned miscreant has the capacity to make my blood boil. Certain it is that someone has hatched a diabolical plot to undo me through the generation of computer viruses.

Like a modern day Don Quixote, I recently spent an entire week hurling insults at an inanimate object as well as battling previously anonymous viral entities. Now, when my son moves anywhere in the vicinity of the computer, I shout, in a voice heard ’round the world,”Don’t touch that machine!”

And I threaten to kick the computer out on the curb, and rid my world of it once and for all . . .

Obviously, technological difficulties have a way of bringing out the worst in me. Perhaps, you can relate?

Over the years, I’ve found that after stubbornly struggling along, attempting to push my beast of “burden” forward despite its sluggish tendencies, I eventually resort to what is called a “reboot.”

Of course, I could just throw my computer out the second story window.

But I hesitate.  After all, it has previously served me well. Its misbehavior albeit frustrating is not the total picture.

And so, I look to save the delinquent,  piece of technology.

Yup. Time for a reboot.

Take the computer back to its factory condition: viruses eliminated, internet junk left behind, a fresh start.

Quite honestly, I have much in common with that computer.  Truth be told, I daily collect dust and “viruses” as I walk through this world.  It builds gradually. Yet, eventually, I recognize that I am far from where I began.

My life’s journey has become increasingly difficult.   I push through the overgrown brush but with limited success.

The Ancient Path, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios with watermarkAnd I note just how lost I am. At the end of the day, I scratch my head and wonder, “How did I get here?”

To be honest, the answer isn’t rocket science. I just ignore a universal principle when I take that seemingly small detour.

It’s simple yet profound.

Over the long haul, minor shift can significantly impact any trajectory.  I see that principle at work as I draw lines of perspective on paper or canvas.

But it plays out in other arenas as well.

After all, tamper with the genetics of food, and ultimately there’s a problem.

Modify a vehicle and new mechanical issues must be resolved.

Medications, while doing great good, also produce side-effects that must be ameliorated.

Uh huh.  What appears to be a minor blemish frequently grows like a cancer.

Thus, when I take a small step to the left or right and extend my path from there, I may ultimately arrive at an unplanned destination.

Or to put it in technological terms, a small virus can do great damage.  Indeed, any small departure from the manufacturer’s best potentially can introduce difficulties that yield great harm.

Just ask any of the Old Testament prophets.  The nation of Israel experienced the raw reality of this truth again and again.

The second book of Chronicles reveals the harvest.  However, the seeds of struggle began with Solomon although  I suspect the pivotal point seemed insignificant to him.

After all, Solomon simply followed the general political wisdom of his day.  He ratified his peace treaties and political alliances with other nations by marrying into the “family.”

The marriages were pragmatic.   Unfortunately for Solomon and God’s people, Solomon’s political marriages also represented a departure from the “manufacturer’s” directions.

God had specifically forbidden for His children to intermarry with the pagan nations around them.  Disobedience would lead to long-term, negative consequences.

Solomon knew God’s Word, of course.  But he may have decided that the benefits of such alliances outweighed the risks.The Ancient Path, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios with watermark Or perhaps, he thought God’s way a bit old-fashioned.

Big mistake.

As God had warned, Solomon’s heart became divided, (1 Kings 11:2).  His love for his foreign, pagan wives led him to compromise his faith.

From our vantage point, it’s easy to see where Solomon went wrong.  He didn’t follow His Creator’s directions.

Yet, often, when we’re in the middle of things, you and I also lean on our own understanding.  We improvise a little, and we vary our course ever so slightly.

It’s just a little compromise. Or so we think.

At first, Solomon’s choice didn’t seem to have any major consequences.  Over time, though, familial conflict necessitated compromise.

Solomon’s pagan wives wished to worship their pagan gods.  In order to keep the peace, Solomon allowed it.

As a result, paganism began to infiltrate Israel’s culture.  That spelled trouble for God’s people. The books of Chronicles actually detail the up and down history of Israel’s kings.

In fact, Solomon’s line produced a great many evil kings, men with no respect for their people.

Scripture describes these cruel taskmasters who lacked compassion for those they led.  Even today, secular culture nicknames cruel leaders as “Ahab” or “Jezebel.”

Undoubtedly, the small compromise led to big consequences. God’s people lost their way.

Yet, even in those dark hours of Israel’s history, you and I may discover tremendous hope, again and again.  As Jeremiah noted, Yahweh repeatedly demonstrated extraordinary compassion and mercy toward His chosen people, (Lamentations 3: 19-23).

Yes, grace finds a way to reboot.

The account of a young king named Josiah exemplifies God’s ongoing grace toward His wayward children.  Josiah’s godly life, in fact, stands in stark contrast to previous kings.

How so?

Well, Josiah’s father and grandfather had been particularly evil kings.  Idolatry ran rampant. The second book of Chronicles records that Manasseh–Josiah’s grandfather– had led the nation to greater evil than that of the Canaanites, (2 Chronicles 33:9).

The Ancient Path, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios with watermarkAlthough Manasseh apparently experienced a spiritual foxhole conversion while in Assyrian captivity, like his forbears he nevertheless compromised.

God had centralized worship for His people. The temple in Jerusalem alone housed God’s glory and Word.

Yet, Manasseh maintained alternatives to the temple.  True, those local “high places” were used for the worship of the one true God. But God had not sanctioned those high places.  In fact, Yahweh forbade worship in those high places.

Again, I suspect that to Manasseh it seemed a small compromise.  The people had returned to God so what did it matter?  The high places were convenient.

However, those forbidden places caused big problems.  When Manasseh died, his son Amon returned those sites to pagan worship.

In addition, Scripture tells us that Amon did not humble himself before God.

In other words,  he likely proved an arrogant, cruel king.  Chronicles simply states that Amon “multiplied guilt,” (2 Chronicles 33:23).

I’d say that’s an example of Biblical understatement.  Amon’s house was evidently a house of horrors.

While no details of Amon’s “guilt” are given, the behavior of his household servants confirms the absolute worst.  Two years into Amon’s reign, he was murdered by his servants.

Fortunately, the Israeli people prevented a total political meltdown: the conspirators received the death penalty.  And Amon’s eight year old son, Josiah,  was crowned king.

Of course, from a purely political standpoint, an eight-year-old king didn’t hold much promise.  Yet, Josiah became one of Israel’s great kings.

He reigned thirty-one years, and Chronicles reports that “he did right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left,” (2 Chronicles 34:2).

God sent Josiah to lead His people back to the godly path.  Grace provided a boy king who loved Yahweh.   God granted a fresh start.

Josiah sought God, and purged Judah and Jerusalem not only of idolatry, but also of all The Ancient Path, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios with watermarkits vestiges, including the high places.  He led Israel back to its “factory” condition, back to Yahweh, the Creator God.

Josiah cleansed the nation of all its spiritual viruses.  He cut out the cancer of idolatry and paganism.   Then, Josiah commissioned the rebuilding of God’s temple.  He went back to the basics.

Although much of the knowledge of Yahweh had been lost while the people experimented with idolatry, Josiah obeyed according to the knowledge that he had. Even though the written Word of God had been lost, Josiah likely surrounded himself with Yahweh’s prophets and priests.

And once Josiah began to obey God and to return to God’s path with what light he had, God spoke clearly.

Indeed.  A miraculous discovery was made.

The priest Hilkiah found “the book of the law of the LORD given by Moses,” (2 Chronicles 34:14).   The Scripture was presented to Josiah and in response to the reading of God’s word, Josiah humbled himself before God.

Obeying God, Josiah reigned in peace. Although the nation’s previous disobedience had consequences, Grace granted a reset during Josiah’s reign.

But it all began with Josiah’s repentance and his obedience to what he already knew.

At the heart of the reboot was obedience to our Manufacturer’s Directions: the Word of God.

Yup. As I think about Israel’s history, I recognize that “little compromises” aren’t so small after all.

When you and I compromise God’s Word, we begin an ongoing and dangerous trajectory.  What seems minor variation or angle eventually produces a great chasm the further into the detour we venture.

Sometimes, it takes a while for me to recognize that I’m lost.  I struggle stubbornly ahead, wrestling with the thick underbrush.

“I’m not lost,” I tell myself.  “I can do this. It’ll get better.”

But things invariably go from bad to worse.

That is, until I remember Josiah and God’s gracious reboot.

The Ancient Path, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios with watermarkJeremiah wrote, “So now the Lord says, ‘Stop right where you are!  Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it.  Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Jeremiah 6:16).

Josiah led His people back to God’s path, and peace reigned once more.

And so it is for you and me. When we lose our way, when we wander from God’s path, Grace calls; “Stop right where you are!  Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it…”

The reset button was there all along.

John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).

Grace calls.  It clears the viruses;  dumps the accumulated junk files. It returns our souls to manufacturer’s condition.

But there’s more.  Undoubtedly, the world is a messy place.   What if I misstep again?

Grace has that covered, too.

Jeremiah reminds us, “Remember my affliction and my wandering… Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me.  This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.  The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassion never fail.  They are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3: 19-23).

Every morning…

Grace.

I love the picture that Jesus gave his disciples and us as well during the Last Supper.  Jesus knelt to wash the disciples’ feet.  At first Peter objected.

Yet, when Jesus told him that could not have fellowship with Jesus without the foot washing, Peter said, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”

Jesus’ response communicated profound truth for the believer’s life. He said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet…” (John 13:10).The Ancient Path, copyright 2016, Lynn Abbott Studios with watermark

In other words, as Abba’s child, I have already experienced the full restart.  The “idols” of my life have been cleared.  Now, I need only a daily foot-washing.

And as I obey the light I have been given, God grants greater wisdom and His Spirit teaches me more of His Word.

Yeah, I still wander at times, (Isaiah 53:6).  However, the more I learn of our merciful and loving  Savior and His Word, the easier it becomes to hit that reset button.

And I daily thank God for His gracious reboot.

“So now the Lord says, “Stop right where you are!  Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it.  Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls,” ~ Jeremiah 6:16