"Then the prophet departed and waited for the king by the road, and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. Now as the king passed by, he cried out to the king and said, 'Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and there, a man came over and brought a man to me, and said, "Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver." While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.' Then the king of Israel said to him, 'So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.' And he hastened to take the bandage away from his eyes; and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. Then he said to him, 'Thus says the LORD: "Because you have let slip out of your hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people."' So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and displeased."
The background of this incident was the war between Syria and Israel. God had given victory to Ahab, the king of Israel, and had commanded him to destroy Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria. But, Ben-Hadad offered to give back the cities that Syria had taken from Israel. So, Ahab made a covenant with him and let him go in spite of God's orders!
One of the sons of the prophets then disguised himself and sat on the road where King Ahab would pass by. He told the king a parable essentially, saying that during a battle he was told to guard a prisoner and that if the prisoner escaped he would have to pay a severe penalty. Well, the prisoner did escape! But what was the reason why? The prisoner escaped while his guard was "busy here and there." The king told him that he would lose his life for his negligence. The prophet then turned the tables, so to speak, and told the king that he was the man! God wanted the Syrians destroyed for their wickedness, but King Ahab let them get away through making a treaty. It was Ahab who was the one who had been negligent with one of God's prisoners!
Well Stephen, what does this have to do with us today? Simply this: Many today have the same problem that the prophet described of Ahab; that is, we get "busy here and there," and, as a result, we neglect God's work (or make the mistake of thinking that our way is better than God's way). Even if Ahab was very busy, such was no excuse for neglecting the things that God had instructed him to do. The same is true with us today. It is easy to get extremely busy in this complicated world in which we live, but that is no excuse for neglecting the things that God has instructed us to do through His word. On the Day of Judgment, we're not going to be able to stand before God and persuade Him by saying: "Well Lord, I was busy here and there, and that's why I never did get the things done that You wanted me to. I thought the way I did things was good enough." A very significant problem that many of us have is that we let the "urgent things" in life crowd out the "necessary things" (i.e., the things that are really important).
We often do this because the urgent things get our attention easily. For example, when the doorbell or phone rings we may think it is urgent that we answer it right away. We may view our jobs or our projects at home as urgent in that they simply must be completed by a certain time. We may view our recreation or television watching as urgent in that everything gets pushed aside--even the truly important things in life--in order to enjoy some down time or a certain program on the tube.
Now friends, I don't know if some of the things I just said apply to you or not; I know that sometimes I find myself slipping into that way of thinking. It is easy to let the urgent things of life displace the really important things because the urgent things are the ones that really get our attention right now, but most of the really important things in life will not cry out to you, so to speak, and really get your attention like the urgent things will. For instance, things like Bible study, worship, and service to God are some of the most important things we should be doing in life; these things are necessary, but we generally don't view them as urgent. We view them as things that can be put off until tomorrow or the next day or perhaps even put off indefinitely. I think you understand what I'm trying to say here: It is so easy for us to get "busy here and there" doing this and that, doing all the things we think are urgent, but at the same time neglecting to do those things that really matter. We need to strive to be busy doing the things that are important and necessary--and that's what this series of lessons is all about.