Are you sure?
One of my professors challenged us to think about our thoughts. When you are waiting in traffic, to what does your mind turn? When you are not actively thinking about something, where does your mind wander? This is a good test, and probably (certainly for me) an embarrassing one. Our minds often wander to our god – that which serves as the orientation of our lives, in reality, not merely in profession. My professor also noted that Martin Luther taught that if you cannot preach ten sermons on the first commandment, you should not preach at all. For Luther, all the other commandments held together on that one commandment – as did Jesus Christ who described the first commandment as loving God with your whole heart, mind, body, and soul (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37).
Crises tend to highlight how our loyalties wander from the one true God. As I read through the Old Testament, I am repeatedly bewildered by the decisions of seemingly the most faithful Israelite kings. David wrote in Psalm 20:7 “Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; but we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.” In the last chapter of 2 Samuel, David decided to number the people of Israel. Even over the objections of his normally unscrupulous commander, Joab, and the other commanders, David sought to number the people. In what was his trust? His large army, or the LORD, his God?
Solomon, with all his God-given wisdom, sought political alliances through marriage and imported chariots and horses – both in violation of the Law (1 Kings 11:2; Deut 17:16).
Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, when faced with an invading army, instead of turning to the temple and the LORD, he stripped the temple of its treasures and paid off the invader (1 Kings 14:25-26). King Asa, Rehoboam’s grandson, was a righteous king and did what was right in God’s eyes. But when the king of Israel threatened to besiege Jerusalem, Asa again stripped the temple of the LORD and hired pagan mercenaries to fight against Israel (1 Kings 15:9-22). Joash was responsible for the restoration of the temple (2 Kings 11-12) and the worship of the LORD. When Hazael of Aram came against Jerusalem, again, rather than seek the LORD of the temple which Joash had sought to restore, he too stripped it of its gold to buy off Hazael (2 Kings 12:17-18). His son, Amaziah, was described as a righteous king, yet when he had a military victory, he decided to take on the king of Israel, lost, and the king of Israel again cleared out the gold and silver of the temple of the LORD. King Uzziah was described as a righteous king and he reigned for fifty-two years. But even he became presumptuous “when he became strong” militarily and entered the holy place of the temple to offer incense (2 Kings 15:1-7; 2 Chron 26). He died a leper as a result.
King Hezekiah prayed a great prayer in 2 Kings 19:14-19 which preaches well. But he prayed that prayer after he had already stripped the gold off the doors of the temple to buy off the Assyrian commander the first time he threatened Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13-16). When Sennacherib returned a second time, and there was no gold left, Hezekiah then turned to the LORD for help. But this is where the mercy of the LORD shines. Even after Hezekiah had cut the gold off the temple doors, the LORD’s own temple, the LORD still responded to Hezekiah’s last-ditch prayer and spectacularly delivered Hezekiah from the Assyrian army (2 Kings 19:35-37).
The mercy of God in this passage is a great comfort to me. Many times when crises come my way by the good providence of God, I look to my own resources first. When the threat of the virus was in its early stages, I checked my own stocks of masks and basic food stuffs, made sure I had plenty of money in my Thai bank accounts, regularly checked the giving from my donors who could not attend church (and give their offerings), wrote an emergency preparedness plan (at the behest of my mission agency), checked my retirement investments as their values plummeted, and occasionally I prayed. But not first. I can worry without ceasing but what about praying without ceasing?
So who, really, is your god? Who, really, are my gods? May this period of uncertainty, lack of control, inability to make sure plans, remind us to evaluate to which god or GOD we turn first. Psalm 46 is a great comfort and reminder in this direction.
 All Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible (LaHabra, CA: Lockman Foundation), 1977.