High Places

2 Kings 12:1-3 (New International Version)
In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years. His mother’s name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.

Joash was king for forty years, but the record of his reign takes up only 21 verses in 2 Kings. Most of that space is used to describe the repairs to the Temple in Jerusalem. He directs the Temple priests to get the finances in order — from taxes to voluntary offerings — and to get started on the renovations. Everything seems to be heading in the right direction. Or was it?

“Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… but the high places were not removed…”

Even though Joash was working to restore the Temple — the center of worship for the God of Israel — he doesn’t get rid of the places where other gods were worshipped. Why is this? Jerusalem had been set apart as the city of God, and God’s will had been made very clear: “You shall have other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:4-5)

Pretty unambiguous, eh? But Joash doesn’t teach his people about the futility and danger of worshipping other gods. He doesn’t tear down the other shrines and demonstrate the joy of worshipping God alone. We don’t know exactly why Joash avoided doing this, but here are some guesses. It may have been easier to go along with the crowd — not to upset the people who had been offering sacrifices at the shrines. Or maybe Joash thought that it wasn’t really a big deal. After all, who would be hurt? Or perhaps he was so focused on the rebuilding project that he didn’t have time to deal with what he viewed as smaller issues.

We know what that’s like, don’t we? There are places in our lives that receive a “back-burner” treatment: we figure we’ll get around to addressing them when our lives are less hectic, or when we are in a healthier spiritual place. The problem is that when we hold back, when we refuse to allow God into those areas of our lives, we are missing out. We miss out on the full gift of God’s provision and care. That’s why God calls us to be all in, holding nothing back. The consequences of that decision are nothing short of life-transforming: I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).

I think it would be mightily awesome to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”… or, as The Message translates it: “Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds seriously good to me.

When you think about the parts of your life that you haven’t given fully over to God, what are your reasons?

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