Opioid Crisis: How we got it wrong again.
*Two weeks ago I heard three national experts speak on the opioid crisis in America…it was in the context of suicides among Service members, veterans and their families.
2017 there were over 72,000 overdose deaths in US.
But for every one of those deaths there were 377 others who misused prescription opioids that year.
377 times 72,000 equals 27,000,000…a massive problem.
My favorite quote from one of the experts: “We tried to treat the symptom of pain by taking the brain out of the equation.”
*If you are using opioids to manage pain or even have an addiction….THIS IS NOT TO SHAME YOU or take away hope…In fact the prognosis for people moving forward into high quality of life is very good according these experts…all of whom have dealt with thousands of people directly…but it takes work.
My point is to illustrate an ongoing reality of the human condition
We get important things wrong and the consequences can be devastating.
I am not advocating for distrust of medical science…I am advocating for humility as humans…and for rightly placed confidence.
Placing absolute confidence in current ideas has proven historically to be a dangerous proposition.
However we can live with confidence in Scripture
Some might respond with: The Bible doesn’t tell us how to evaluate medical treatments.
That would be missing my point: Science was founded on a belief in the reality of God.
The world is designed and so you can expect to find regular patterns that can be discovered and used to improve the human condition.
Scripture doesn’t tell us how to do surgery…it tells why surgery is necessary (sin)
-It tells us how is it that people can become surgeons (they are image bearers…create)
-It tells us why surgery is good (people are valuable and worth helping.)
-It tells us what kind of people surgeons ought to be if they want to be happy (love God, love people…as they become good surgeons)
-It tells us what surgery patients ought to should think about surgery and life in general (to live is Christ, and to die is gain, consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, etc..)
Scripture speaks to all aspects of our lives in terms of giving us the foundational pillars that we can build everything else on.
If you are going to build a structure on sandy soil you need to drive down into bedrock so if the loose soil moves, the structure won’t.
Much around us moves, it is shifting sand…Scriptures, from the mind of God, do not.
The pillar of Scriptures tells us:
Who are we, why are we here, what is our problem, what is the solution, what happens when we die?
From these foundational pillars we can build a life structure: family, culture, relationship, work patterns, international relations, dealing with ideas and cultural norms, dealing with disease and death, sex, money…etc.
We can learn from observation, experience and history…but we do all this from a fixed point of reference…God is there and he has spoken.
First quarter: how the Scriptures are a single narrative with multiple sub-plots.
Goal: Confidence regarding Scripture as the God-breathed book
Confidence in the God who is there…and since he is there, he has spoken…and what we have in the Bible is a historically validated, Messiah validated, and experientially validated set of books (66).
Rest of the year: what the Scriptures have to say regarding the things that concern our lives.
Goal: Confidence regarding Scripture in navigating life’s issues.
*Not that I will in 30 minutes give the final answers for complex issues…that’s not even my goal.
The goal is that we will have confidence that we have the ability to know how to deal with complex issues as we wrestle with them using an accurate and fixed point of reference.
*Everyone lives with confidence in someone, something…often it is self, or current trends
What this means is that people navigate life using a non-fixed, moving…point of reference.
Imagine a sailor navigating not by the north star but by the bow of his own ship…whatever direction he is heading is the right direction.
That direction is set not by fixed and reliable things(stars)…but by things that move…wind and waves.
The result would be to be lost at sea or crashed on rocks.
The Scriptures are the God-breathed fixed point of reference…they are complex because they transcend times and places. (apply to everyone, all the time, everywhere).
So they take work to understand…but of course they do…how could they not be complex…but they are able to be understood and applied.
Most of the attacks on Scriptures fall under the general categories of…they are:
-Full of errors (they are not)
-Outdated (they are not)
But to have a reliable reference point for your life without having confidence in it is the same as having no reliable reference point.
You won’t trust it, even if it is trustworthy.
Like having a cure for a disease that you don’t believe in…you won’t take it.
So these attacks are effective not because they are valid…they are not.
They are effective because they serve to undermine confidence in Scripture in the hearts and minds of people.
The facts don’t matter as much as does the subtle deterioration of confidence…
So the enemy asked the question of Eve in Genesis 3…”Did God really say…?”
Not a direct attack on God
But a subtle attack on confidence in what he said…”Is that what he said, really?”
Students…having Scripture attacked and faith mocked is not new for your generation.
-It happened in my classrooms and on my campus in 1978…right across the street at WSU.
It happened at Yale 200 years before then…until a man with confidence in Scripture turned things around there.
This is not new to our times…and you have reason for confidence in the facts of your faith…but you must have confidence…you must
Summarize where have been so far and where we are today:
Creation of the Cosmos and mankind (how and why we are here)
Fall of mankind and the corresponding results (what is our problem)
God’s long plan to redeem us: Abraham, Exodus, Canaan…Covenants (what is the solution)
Today the story advances as we look at the rise of the Kingdom.
Israel was an extended family when they went into Egypt
They were a large group of exiles when they came out of Egypt 400 years later.
Then they were 12 loosely attached tribes in Canaan under the Judges
They became a nation under the first Kings: Saul, David, Solomon
Saul formed the Kingdom
David created a powerful Kingdom
Solomon took it to the heights and set up its fall
Solomon’s son split the Kingdom: North and South
The books of the Bible we are in today are 1, 2 Samuel and 1, 2 Kings.
These together are called the books of the Kings…they tell the story of the rise and fall of the Kingdom…what happened and why.
The time of the judges transitions to the time of the Kings through a man named Samuel.
Samuel was the last of the Judges and also the priest who anointed the first King, Saul.
The books of the Kings can be summarized like this:
Transition from Judge to King: Samuel: 1 Sam 1-1 Sam 7
The rise and fall of the first king, Saul: 1 Sam. 8-1 Sam 15
The struggle between kings, the rise of David: 1 Sam. 16-2 Sam 2
The reign of David: 2 Sam. 2-2 Sam 20
-He is Israel’s best (but imperfect King)
The United Kingdom: 1 Kings 1-11
Israel’s glory days when Solomon rules
The Divided Kingdom: 1 Kings 12-2 Kings 18
-Kingdom is split by Solomon’s fool of a son.
North: Israel, 10 tribes
South: Judah, 2 tribes
*This section ends with the destruction of the Northern Kingdom (they will never rise again)
The Final days of the Judah (Southern Kingdom): 2 Kings 18-25
That’s a map, now let’s look at it as a story…a true and tragic one…but one with hope.
Israel is in the land that had the possibility of being a return to life with God.
As they walked with him according to his will and ways…they would experience life with him…his promises.
They turned the potential utopia into a perpetual dystopia through cycles of rebellion, despair, rescue, rebellion.
This part of the story begins with a mom crying out to the Lord for a child, the Lord hears and she names him “The Lord Hears”…Samuel.
Samuel is born during the dark days of the judges…the leading Priest of the people, Eli…has two sons who are also supposed to be priests but they are wicked fools and their father does nothing about it.
Israel was experiencing another low because of their rebellion…they are in state of warfare and Eli’s sons were killed in the battle and Eli fell and died when he heard the news that the Ark of the Covenant had been taken.
Samuel took over as priest and Judge…he led the people to some relief over their enemy and remained as Israel’s leader (judge) for the rest of his life.
Unfortunately…his two sons were in the family business…without dad’s character.
So the people, were worried that since Samuel was old and his sons were fools they would fall again from their current prosperity as a people.
They were not concerned with following God…only about not having difficult times again…key point.
**A common reason people struggle with their faith or fall away completely is because they were pursuing God primarily because they believed he would make them happy in ways they demanded to be made happy**
When life does not go as they wanted or planned…they turn away from God.
Back to Samuel: This time they didn’t want another judge…they wanted what the other nations had…a King.
The promise of the king is found very early in the story…back in Genesis the rise of a king is predicted…and in Deuteronomy the guidelines for the behavior of Israel’s kings were given.
Having or wanting a King was not the problem…the problem was why they wanted one.
1Sam. 8:4-9 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
So the problem is they believed a king would succeed where God had failed them.
They believed their king will be their permanent deliverer…no more cycles of defeat but just permanent prosperity.
They failed to attribute the cycles of trouble to their own failure but rather they attributed it to the failure of God…or a lack of a King.
1Sam. 10:17 Samuel summoned the people of Israel to the LORD at Mizpah 18 and said to them, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel up out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the power of Egypt and all the kingdoms that oppressed you.’ 19 But you have now rejected your God, who saves you out of all your calamities and distresses. And you have said, ‘No, set a king over us.’
They want a King, and Saul is the King they get…he is selected because he looks “kingly” not because he has the qualities of a King…because he doesn’t.
Saul does unite the nation against its enemies…but he fails to be and do what Israel’s kings were to do and be.
He decides for himself what is good and evil…the familiar story…and descends into madness and death.
The next King, the one chosen by God, not the people, is a shepherd named David.
He will become the standard by which all future kings are measured…but if you know his story you know he fails miserably.
We will see why he remains the gold-standard for kings in spite of his failure shortly.
David’s son Solomon is the last King of the United Kingdom…it only last for three Kings.
His son Rehoboam will split the Kingdom north and south.
The North lasted about 200 years and was ruled by 19 different kings…none of them were any good.
The average reign is 10 years and there are 9 different family lines.
7 are assassinated. One commits suicide. One is stricken by God. One is exiled to Assyria.
The Northern Kingdom…with no King from the line of David…will disappear and never return.
The Southern Kingdom, Judah…Lasted about 350 years and was also ruled by 19 Kings and also one Queen.
But there is one ruling family…the line of King David
Still lots of drama…three assassinated, three exiled, two stricken by God.
All but 8 are evil and these 8 lead the people in cycles of returning to the Lord.
Here is a key theological point in all these almost 40 kings, North and South
In the North there are 9 different ruling families
In the South, God maintains one…the line of David.
Eventually the south will also go into exile…but unlike the North…they will survive as a nation.
The Exile is the event that is the “un-exodus”
The Exodus is the key “redemption” event in OT…God brings his people from slavery to a land with him.
The Exile is the key “judgment” event in the OT…the people go full circle back into slavery.
But though the South will go into exile…they will return to their land from exile…as promised by the Prophets.
The covenant God made with King David that from his line would come an eternal King would be kept by God himself.
The passing of time, wars, rebellions, exile…none of it could overturn God’s sovereign plan.
TWO KEY APPLICATIONS FROM THE BOOKS OF THE KINGS:
The curse of idolatry
The gift of repentance
Do you ever wonder why Israel would worship an idol?
When you read it, it seems really dumb.
Remember back shortly after God did amazing things to rescue the people from Egypt…now they are camped at Sinai.
Moses goes up on the mountain to get instructions from God.
Down below the people get nervous “He’s taking a long time, maybe he is dead…what will we do now?”
“I know…let’s melt down a bunch of our jewelry and make a gold baby cow…then let’s worship it.”
“Yeah, great idea, let’s do that!”
But there’s more to it than them merely being “dumb”.
They had been trained for hundreds of years in Egyptian idol worship…belief in multiple gods…they didn’t believe the gold calf had power in it…they believed it was a sort of conduit to the gods who did have power.
The calf (or young bull) was a symbol of strength and prosperity that connected them to the gods who offered both.
When Aaron made the idol and said to Israel “Behold your gods who brought you out of Egypt”
He was not re-writing history…rather this was what is called syncretism…blending worship of more than one God or faith system together
Sure they believed God had rescued them…but they didn’t all believe he was the only god.
Now Moses, was gone, they assumed…he had been the sole mediator between them and the God who took them from Egypt.
Now they needed a new conduit…so they fell back to what they had seen and known…a idol-conduit to the gods of power and protection.
The idols were like the internet of things…where watches, and shoes, and thermostats, and appliances are networked to the internet.
These idols(they wrongly believed) were networked to the world of gods…you could access them through these things.
So from shortly after the Exodus all the way into the times of the Kings…Israel would struggle with the belief that there were real powers behind the idols.
Because they struggled to believe there was only one true God.
It’s why the Shema: “Hear” was and is so important.
Deut. 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
God is the one true God…he alone deserves all your devotion, all of your worship, all your life commitment.
Jesus would of course add to this…and love your neighbor as yourself.
Because Love and worship of the one true God will show up in love for others.
But the story of the OT and of human history is idolatry…thinking that created things are conduits to power, real life…created things includes other people, self, possessions, pleasure.
Israel ran back to idols whenever things became difficult because they believed the gods behind these would give them what they wanted…while Jehovah God was not.
Their God had failed them otherwise their lives would not be hard…never mind their misery was self-inflicted for the most part.
Their God must not be as strong as the Assryrian, or Babylonian, or Persian gods…otherwise they would not be in exile.
If our God is the strong God…we will always win (no matter what)…if we don’t win…then what good is God anyway?
Never mind that the prophets said this would happen and that these nations were God’s tools…and he would in fact judge them as well…which happened.
Listen to Isaiah’s classic and ironic critique of idolatry:
Is 44:12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint. 13 The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. 14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.” 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.” 18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.”
Isaiah is using irony to show how foolish idol worship is…we are supposed to find this funny then we are supposed to see ourselves in this irony…”Wait…do I do that?”
This chapter ends with Isaiah predicting the rise of King Cyrus, the Persian monarch who would defeat Babylon and allow Israel to return from exile.
This would happen hundreds of years in the future, just as predicted…and the irony is even greater that making an idol with your own tools.
The irony is that the one true God would in fact use a future king as his tool in judgment.
But these people were not merely ignorant, ancient people…they were deceived.
They know they made the idol…but they hoped against hope…that it would be a sort of Harry Potter doorway to power…that it would allow them to control their own destiny…to control the gods.
Rather than yielding to the true God…learning to love him and trust him…they would make their own idols in a foolish attempt to control their own destiny.
We all are tempted to worship whatever we believe will bring us life…what will quench our thirst.
Israel would easily and quickly trade the true God for idols if they thought it would bring them what they really wanted…life their own way.
Next week we will look at the Prophets who spoke truth from God to the people during the times of the Kings.
They had a three-part message from God:
- I will be your God
- You will be my people
- I will dwell in your midst
But they did follow the one God…so the prophets spoke…a three-part indictment from God:
You will experience hardship because you I have not been your God and you have not been my people…so I will not dwell in your midst…you will be taken away.
The reality of their rebellion showed up in three ways in the prophets indictment:
- Lack of social justice
- Reliance on ritual rather than relationship.
We will look at this in-depth next week…but idolatry lead to social injustice (not loving your neighbor)…while thinking rituals could appease God.
God is the one true God…he is not interested in rituals over relationship…he wants to give us his life…but it is found in relationship with him.
If we seek life elsewhere(idolatry) we will miss life altogether because…he alone is life.
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
Life here is not just biological life…It means living now and forever as we were designed to live…in a life where what our hearts really want…is what we experience.
God is who the human heart was made to long for.
The Prophet Jeremiah speaking for God said:
Jer. 2:13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own wells, broken wells that cannot hold water
So it’s not just about ignorant, ancient people who believe something they made had power.
They believed Idols would bring them life…they believed they would fulfill their lives.
We are the same.
We believe physical health, sexual pleasure, the accumulation of wealth, or of things, the number of people who know us (about us), whether we are perceived of as being smart, or lovely, or hip, or spiritual…will bring us life.
There are endless ways of stating this.
The core is the same…the heart of idolatry is looking anywhere other than to God to find life.
Digging broken wells to quench our thirst.
Now…why was David the model King? How does this apply.
Did he not disobey? Did he not do terrible things? Did he not pursue life apart from God?
Of course he did.
Compare David to Saul…and you get your answer.
What the story of the Kings presents us is the difference not between perfection and imperfection.
It is the difference between repentance and stubborn rebellion…we will sin…but we can, if we will repent.
Saul sinned them he blame shifted, he excused, but did not repent.
On the other hand…David sinned and then he lived out repentance and he wrote of it in Ps 51
Psa. 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
What idol has captured your heart?
What do you believe can give you life? What can quench your thirst?
Pornography, physical sex
A relationship with someone
Money, stuff, vocations, hobbies
The applause of others, controlling others
Ministry…making a difference with your life
Anger, bitterness, unforgiveness…holding on to these to give you life?
Will you receive the gift of repentance…Jesus offers it to you now?
“Do you mean the gift of forgiveness?”
No, the opportunity to repent is a gift…to have conviction is a gift…the result of repentance is also a gift…forgiveness.
Romans 2:4 “…God’s kindness leads you toward repentance…”
What do you treat as a conduit to your own happiness?
What action or attitude or thing or person do you believe will quench your thirst?
Will you repent of this idolatry and find joy and freedom?
Repent means change your mind regarding something…to see it as emptiness, as folly.
When you change your mind…you change your life…because you change direction.
God will empower it, this change, but you must choose it.
Repentance is not just a negative thing…”turn away from sin”
It is primarily a positive thing…”turn towards God”
David was a man after God’s own heart because he repented, and he repented because he loved God.
This is the hope we are left with in Kings…our sin is not the final word…repentance, forgiveness and an eternal King that will come from David’s line is the final word.