We are living in a time and place that likes to say that God is whatever you make of Him and that faith is such a private thing that whatever you believe, it's probably true...at least for you. We're told we can't question what someone else says, does, or thinks because if they say, do, or think it, then it's valid for them and for the version of God that they cling to. And He loves them for it, unconditionally and without expectation.
And while it seems like such a time is strange and new, like the concerns of the postmodern, relativistic 21st Century are beyond anything that Scripture has to say to us, there are a couple of stories in 1 Kings that remind us how dangerous our world's mindset really is and how real, righteous faith offers us something more solid to stand on.
The first of these stories comes in 1 Kings 13. Here is a story of two old men, one of whom is a prophet. He speaks to the king and then turns to go home another way, just as the Lord has commanded him. In fact, he's pretty clear on what God requires of him - he is to come, speak, and go home another way and not to go with the king or to stay with him or accept any invitations. This, he does.
But then, another man comes along and tells the prophet to come and eat at his house. The prophet repeats the orders that he has from the Lord and refuses, but then the other man says, "Oh, I'm also a prophet, and God told me to do this." So the prophet goes, and he loses his life for disobedience.
Because it turns out, of course, that the other man was no prophet at all.
The moral of this story is simply this: if the Lord has spoken, He will not say one thing to you and something contradictory to someone else. If He has said it, it is true and real and valid and vital, and He will not give someone else a message that contradicts it.
This is a bind that we're put into all the time. God says something and we know it, but then someone else claims that God spoke something to them that is different and would actually negate what we know. Our world solves this problem by telling us that both are equally true, but we know that they can't be - and so what we must decide is which is true. We do this by knowing what is the character, heart, and reality of God. Which would He have spoken? And whatever God has spoken, we must act on and throw the other out. Otherwise, we condemn ourselves.
The second story comes just a couple of chapters later in 1 Kings 20. King Ahab goes into battle, and he has explicit orders from God to kill the competing king. But the enemy king is captured and is brought to Ahab, where he begs for his life. Ahab, thinking himself cunning, makes a deal with the king and sets him free, at which point a prophet of the Lord comes to Ahab and tells him that Ahab is now the condemned man because he has not done what God desired him to do to the enemy king.
And this, too, is something that we're familiar with. We're told we can't judge anyone's actions or motive or behaviors or beliefs, that we're supposed to just make peace with everyone and let them live the way they want to live. That even God doesn't expect anything out of them, but simply loves them.
But Ahab had mercy where God did not have mercy and thus brought the other man's curse upon himself, and we, too, are living this. Our children are living this. We're living in a society that doesn't have structure or rules or expectations because we've let this go on for far too long, and we are now reaping what we've sown in a generation that doesn't know how to live or act. We are a cursed generation because we have mercy where God has none, and we have replaced conviction and standards with "tolerance" and blind affirmation.
So although it seems that maybe our times are not like any other times or that the Bible doesn't speak to today, there are still some powerful lessons we can learn from the Scriptures about what it means to be a people of the 21st Century in our postmodern, relativistic culture. We don't have to, and we shouldn't, just go blindly along with it.
Lest we condemn ourselves.