Let us pray.
Father, grant us true freedom, Lord; grant us liberation and freedom to live in accordance with thy commandments.
My text today is from the book of Second Kings, the 17th chapter.
The Book of the Lord.
They wanted freedom. Freedom of religion, specifically. They wanted the freedom to worship Baal, to worship Asherah. They lived in a pagan world. This is what all the people around them were doing; it was popular. Everyone was doing it, oh they had gods to everything. Baal wasn't just one god, there were multiple Baals, Baals of all kinds of things, Baal-zebub - Lord of the Flies.
Some of them worshiped Jehovah and Baal and Asherah. But the problem there was there was a commandment: "Thou shall have no other gods before thee." They really couldn't worship Jehovah and Baal. If they were going to worship Jehovah, they just had to worship Jehovah.
And the Lord brought up prophets - Elijah brought fire down on an alter, all the people screamed "The Lord is God", and then a generation later it was back to the same old thing. Finally, the Lord ended first Israel and then Judah.
I know a friend of mine, a minister in Hawaii, who asked us rhetorically one night how Abraham, the first Jew, became a Jew? He was Abram, and then his name was changed to Abraham. He became a Jew because his chose to follow God unquestioningly. He was willing even to sacrifice his own son on an alter. An angel stopped him; it wasn't what God wanted, but it was a test, and Abram passed the test and became Abraham, the first Jew.
I'm sure it made a big impression on Issac, too. He was the next Jew, and then his son, Jacob, and so on and so forth, and they became the people of God.
We today have a New Testament, a new covenant, a new people of God, but the essential idea is the same - we choose to follow God. We choose to be people of God. It's a choice. But there are commandments; they're different, a new testament, new commandments, but the same basic idea. We live in a world where the commandments are not popular. Some people preach a great deal about sex. I don't preach so much about sex, once in a while. What I emphasize is capitalism. We have a commandment: "Give to anyone who asks." It's not optional. We can't pick and choose which commandments to obey and when we want to obey them. Capitalism for us today is our Baal worship; it is popular, but it is immoral. It is contrary to the commandments we are given to be people of God. You couldn't be a Jew and worship Baal; there was no room in Judaism for Baal worship, and there is no room in Christianity for capitalism.