Have you ever asked yourself, “Who do I want to be like?” I was flying on Southwest Airlines from Dallas to St. Louis, then to Detroit, for a Noble Heart calling workshop, when I read this in my Daily Bible, from 1 Chronicles 5:24 … “These were the heads of their families: Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah and Jahdiel. They were brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families.”
I don’t normally spend much time reading Bible genealogies, I usually race through them, but since my purpose for attending the workshop was to move further into my role as a man for God, this particular list caught my eye. Who doesn’t want to be like these men?
“They were brave warriors.” Well, I want to be a brave warrior, knowing when it’s my moment to stand up to the enemy.
“They were … famous men.” I’ll admit, I’d like to be famous, too. Last year I received a public service award from the International Society of Petroleum Engineers, for my time in city government and community projects. To receive worldwide recognition in front of so many nationalities and languages, and in front of Cyndi, was great. My tiny bit of being famous felt good.
“They were … heads of their families.” Well, I’ve been a husband for almost 34 years, and a dad for almost 33 years, so I can’t avoid this. However, in the context of this passage, it means more than husband and dad, it means patriarch. And to be honest, while I certainly haven’t sought this position out, I can see it happening more and more with each passing year. And not only one of the heads of my own family, but Cyndi likes to remind me, one of the heads of our church and community. I’m OK with that. I don’t necessarily want to be the one in charge, but I definitely want to influence the outcomes.
Here’s the problem with those men from 1 Chronicles 24 – their standing was trumped by what it says in the next verse, 25 ... “But they were unfaithful to the God of their ancestors and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.”
It’s too bad. Men who could’ve changed the world for good wasted their turn by being unfaithful to God. And not that they just drifted away from God, but they actively gave themselves over - “prostituted themselves” - to the gods of the world, even gods they knew had been defeated.
It happens too many times. Good men in leadership positions, even influential spiritual leaders, twist off, start believing their own press clippings, and sell out completely to the god of this world. It’s tragic.
So finishing my flight to Michigan I wondered, how do we keep this from happening to us?
And then, curiously enough, the very next morning while drinking coffee on the porch at Sam’s house, I read this from Isaiah 7:3-9 (God was giving instructions to Isaiah to be passed along to King Ahaz before a battle): “Say to him, “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood.”” (The two attacking kings).
Here are the words we need to remember, the charge God gave to Ahaz, “I’ve got this, you are in my hands, don’t lose heart just because your enemies appear scary on the outside.”
But God also tells him, “Be careful.”
Those are good words. Just because we know God is with us is not time to be stupid, arrogant, or brash. We have to be careful. Take care. Think about what we do. Think about what we believe and who we listen to.
Later, still in Isaiah 7, God goes on to say, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
And there is the main point – if you don’t stand firm in your faith, it matters very little what else you do. In fact, you won’t stand at all.
So “be careful” means more than not making a stupid mistake in combat, or putting on armor and taking up weapons. Be careful means to stand firm in the faith.
Few people leave faith all at once, as an act of independence or defiance. More people simply drift away, a bit at a time, forgetting what matters, until one day it is gone, they are gone too far away to want to come back. In order for that NOT to happen we have to stay engaged. We have to be careful. We have to take care.
McMannus says, “God does not reject the sinful. He rejects the arrogant.” Being arrogant is the opposite of this passage. It is leaning on self and smarts and skill, not God.
So back to my opening question – Who do you want to be like?
Be like the one who is brave, famous, influential, careful, and who stands firm in the faith.
"I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32