Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Elisha’s Call to Ministry

I Kings 19:19-21

“So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him.” (I Kings 19:19) 

Once more in control of his emotions, Elijah’s depression disappeared and he was able to resume his ministry.  Leaving Horeb, he returned north to Israel.  On the way he went through Abelmeholah, Elisha’s hometown, where he found him plowing a field.  Normally a single team was sufficient, but the ground was so hard Elisha was using twelve teams, and even then he was having to help pull.

Obviously, Elisha was a person who was used to working hard without seeing a lot of quick results.   It would take several years to bring such ground to a high level of production.  Clearly Elisha is a person who will not be easily discouraged.     Elijah just tossed his mantle, a sleeveless cloak over him, figuratively passing him the mantle of prophet.

“And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee.

And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee?” (I Kings 19:20)

Elisha recognized it as an anointing or appointing by God and asked that Elijah wait until he bid his parents goodbye.  Elijah basically said he had to make his own decision, because all Elijah had done was offer the opportunity.   It is essentially what Jesus told the young man who offered to follow him in Luke 9:59-60.  “And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.  Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”  He would have to choose between living a normal life and serving God.  Settling his father’s estate could well take years and might prevent ever choosing to follow Christ.

“And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” (I Kings 19:21)

Elisha made a full commitment to a ministry of prophecy.  He didn’t take time to sell his oxen or rent them out, but simply offered them as a sacrifice to God, using the yokes, blow and other equipment for fire wood.  There was no way he could go back and pick up where he left off if things didn’t turn out like he wanted them.

Over the years I have watched a number of men surrender to the ministry with the provision that they would do it for a while to see how it worked out.  Others have talked about how much they would have had if they had stayed in the professions as a doctor, an athlete,  a musician, or a business man.  Luke 9:62 warns, “… No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Though they may continue in ministry, they are not committed to Christ.  It is the theme of Luke 14:16-35.

In fact Luke 14:26-27 declares athat a person cannot be a Christian unless he is willing to make such a commitment.  “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”  Elisha made the commitment, leaving himself no where to go back to.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Still Small Voice Of God

I Kings 19:9-18

“And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 

And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (I Kings 19:9-10)

After forty days of hiding from Jezebel’s informants while crossing the countries of Judah, Edom, and Midian, Elijah had finally arrived in the wilderness of Mount Horeb.  Feeling somewhat safe there, his fear and consequent depression no longer control him completely.  Now God begins to deal with his depression.  He starts by asking why he is there.

Elijah’s answer was totally self centered.  "I have tried so hard to serve God when everyone else turned away, and now I’m the only one left and they are trying to kill me, and it is so unfair!"  It is a typical response when a person allows his emotions to take control of his thinking.  Until that hold is loosened, they are unable to consider anything else.  Feeling somewhat safe, Elijah could finally begin to think about why he felt that way.  With his logic back in control, God could show him what he needed to resolve his problem.  

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (I Kings 19:11-12)

Humans seem always to be focused on the big and powerful things as evidence they are from God.  Hurricane winds blow down trees and houses, but even they don’t break rocks.  The wind God sent did, but God wasn’t in the wind.  Even a small earthquake is more powerful than anything man can build, but while God caused it, he wasn’t in it.  Then he sent a fire.  Despite all the government’s immense resources, and our experience with using and controlling fires, forest fires burn thousands of acres of forest and property annually.  God wasn’t in the fire either.  God doesn’t even have to personally involve himself to defeat anything man can do.

Last of all God spoke in a still small voice.  No yelling, no cursing or anger.  Just a soft calm voice that most people would not have heard.  People seldom notice what God does because they are focused on big things.  I Corinthians 1:27-29 declares, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal had not been the result of a great organization or large a number of people serving God.  It wasn’t even about Elijah’s spiritual power.  Rarely are big exciting events and movements from God.  He prefers to work in less obvious ways.  He limited the size of Gideon’s army, and he sent persecution to break up the church at Jerusalem, so that only the apostles were left according to Acts 8:1.

“And it was so, when Elijah heard it that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. 

And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 

And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (I Kings 19:13-14)

Elijah finally calmed down enough to hear and recognize God’s voice rather than just his emotions.  This time he responded voluntarily by going to hear what God had to say.  He responded with almost the same words he had used before, but with a different attitude.  He recognized how silly his actions had been.  If God could send fire from heaven to burn the sacrifices, a wind that broke rocks, an earthquake and a forest fire, he could deal with Jezebel’s threats.

“And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 

And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.  Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:15-18)

Elijah had gotten eh message, and no repeating it was needed.  Instead god gave him a new assignment, as if nothing had happened.  He was to return to Israel, anointing Hazael as king over Syria, Jehu king over Israel, and Elisha as his own replacement.  They would execute the judgment of God on those who would not obey.

He also pointed out that while Elijah had believed he was the only one serving God, there were actually seven thousand more in Israel.  He wasn’t nearly as alone as he thought.  His emotions had just led him to believe a lie.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Elijah Struggles With Depression

I Kings 19:1-9a

“And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 

Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.” (I Kings 19:1-2)

Ahab worshipped Baal as another acceptable religion, much like a Protestant who is married to a Catholic might take part in a Catholic service.  Jezebel, however was more like the radical Moslem who wants to kill everyone who is not a Moslem.  When Ahab told her how Elijah had defeated and killed the prophets of Baal, she got mad, and sent a message that she would have him killed within twenty-four hours.

“And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.  But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (I Kings 19:3-4)

Knowing that as queen she could ignore the laws that restricted others, much like the IRS or Homeland Security, Elijah had no doubt about his danger.  He fled southward into Judah to Beersheba where he left his servant.  Fearing she would still be able to track him down, he left his servant and fled out into the wilderness another twenty or thirty miles.  Discouraged and depressed, he asked God to just kill him, convinced he wasn’t worth saving.

Elijah had just seen God work in a mighty way, and the prophets of Baal destroyed.  Like most of us, he assumed that that would end the matter and let down his guard.  As a result, Jezebel’s threat completely unnerved him.  Like Peter walking on the water in Matthew 14, he began to focus on the circumstances rather than on God, and he sank in depression, and went to bed, sleeping to avoid dealing with it.  Though his fear seems illogical from our perspective, it was very logical to him.

“ And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.  And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again.” (I Kings 19:5-6)

Many people believe all a depressed person needs is a swift kick in the seat of the pants to get them up and going.   Others believe a good pep talk will solve the problem.  God did not take either approach.  Low blood sugar from not eating well can cause depression, so God started by providing food and water to overcome that problem, and allowed him to sleep a while longer and regain his strength.  Sometimes just food and rest will relieve the depression by providing mental energy to address the problems.

“And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.  And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.” (I Kings 19:7-8)

After he’d rested a while longer, the angel returned with more food, recognizing that the problem was very real to Elijah.  Too often outsiders treat the problem as minor, and leave the depressed person with the impression they think he is crazy for being upset over the problem.   This leads to deeper depression.  By acknowledging the seriousness of the problem,  By acknowledging Elijah’s perception of the problem, the angel established that he didn’t think Elijah was crazy.

Depressed people tend to eat sweet or quickly digested foods because they produce a quick energy surge. Without energy, the brain cannot function efficiently to address such problems.  Unfortunately, they cause the body to raise the insulin level, and quickly lower the blood sugar again, leading to a hypoglycemic condition and often resulting in even worse depression.   Type II diabetics have developed insulin resistance, and thus their bodies are unable to produce the surge of energy from eating sweet things, so increased blood sugar does not lessen their depression.

The food the angel provided did not produce the sudden surge of energy, but a sustained level, enabling Elijah to travel forty days and nights as he continued southeast to mount Horeb in present day Saudi Arabia in his effort to escape from Jezebel.

“And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there;…” (I Kings 19:9a) 

With forty days travel separating him and Jezebel, Elijah finally was convinced he would be safe and stopped running.   God didn’t get angry with him or  give up on him because of his depression.  He recognized Elijah needed more than just a strong talking too.  He needed to get some distance so he could get perspective on the problems.  Only when he has gotten far enough away to get them into perspective could he successfully deal with them.

God knows man far better than we do, and he has given us an example of how to deal with depressed people.  Unfortunately most lack the patience to truly help those who are depressed.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Drought Breaks

I Kings 18:41-46

"And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.  So Ahab went up to eat and to drink.” (I Kings 18:41-42a) 

For three years, there had been no rain as a result of Israel’s idolatry and killing of God’s prophets.  Deuteronomy 28:15-24 had listed some of the curses that would come upon Israel for turning away from God.  A lack of rain was one of them.  “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:… And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.  The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.”

When they executed the false prophets and proclaimed God as their God, the cause of the drought was removed.  Deuteronomy  30:9-10 promised, “And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers: If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.”

This was also what God had told Solomon in II Chronicles 7:13-14.  “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

While these promises were made especially to Israel, we are told Sodom, the Canaanites and various other groups were destroyed for their sin against God.  In the story of Jonah, the people of Nineveh were spared because they repented of their sin, so the principle applies to other groups as well.

Throughout American history, we see our greatest struggles always came after a period of turning away from the Lord , whether the Civil war, World War I, the depression or any of our various other struggles.  They ended only when thre was a turning back to God.  I do not think things are different today.  If Americans would turn back to God today, I believe our greatest challenges would disappear almost immediately.

Elijah told Ahab to go ahead and eat freely, knowing they no longer had to worry about when it would rain again.  Ahab believed Elijah and went to eat before returning to Jezreel to spend the night.

“And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. 
And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. 

And he said, Go again seven times. 

And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand.” (I Kings 18:42b-44a) 

While Ahab went out to eat, Elijah got on his knees in prayer.  After a while, he sent his servant to look toward the Mediterranean and see if clouds were coming in.  The first six ties he looked, there weren’t any clouds in sight.  The seventh time he looked, there was a little cloud that looked about the size of a man’s hand over the sea.

“And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.” (I Kings 18:44b)

The cloud was so small that most people wouldn’t even notice it, but Elijah told his servant he better warn Ahab to hurry and get started to Jezreel so the rain wouldn’t make the road impassable for his chariot.

“And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel.  And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” (I Kings 18:45-46)

By the time the servant found Ahab and warned him, the clouds were looking like rain, and before he finished hooking up his chariot it was starting to rain.  It was about an hours drive for a chariot at full speed, and he drove hard.   Elijah left as soon as he had sent the message and by running as fast as he could, barely beat Ahab to the city.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Comparing God’s Power To Baal’s

I Kings 18:20-40

”So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.” (I Kings 18:20) 

Elijah had told Ahab that if he wanted the drought to end he must get all the people and the prophets of Baal and the groves together in an official meeting,   Desperate to end the drought, Ahab complied.

“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.  And the people answered him not a word. ” (I Kings 18:21a) 

Ahab and Jezebel had tried to force the people to accept the worship of Baal, killing God’s prophets.  By allowing them to do so the people implied they were willing to accept Baal as God as well.  Elijah demanded that they make a decision, much as Joshua did in Joshua 24, if they wanted things to straighten out.

Israel had been upset to have the prophets killed but had accepted the Baalim anyway. Sadly in our own country we have done much the same thing, complaining about certain actions or movements such as abortion or homosexuality, but ignoring the root problem of rejecting God.  Called to make a stand, they weren’t willing to stand alone.

“Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.  Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.”(I Kings 18:22-24a)

Most people don’t trust their own thinking and standards and yield to what their group thinks.  Elijah stood alone, but offered a way to test both sides.  Once they had a clear demonstration of each god’s power they could decide which one was really God.  Unfortunately, in our day, we are often asking people to make a decision based on a good sales presentation with no clear evidence of God’s power.  Many suffer buyer’s remorse as a result and are easily led into something else.

“And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.” (I Kings 18:24b)

The people welcomed the opportunity to make a decision based on evidence rather than just the claims of various adherents.

“And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. 

“And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.” (I Kings 18:25-26) 

Elijah instructed the prophets of Baal to go through their rituals, but to not take the last step of setting the offering on fire.  If their god was really God, he would be able to act for himself to start the fire.  They spent the entire morning performing the rituals, but nothing happened, despite their frantic efforts.

“And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.  And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.” (I Kings 18:27-29) 

By noon, it was becoming boring, and Elijah began to rub it in, stirring them to greater lengths, implying that maybe Baal was hard of hearing or had gone hunting and they needed to holler loud enough o get his attention.   They kept trying without results until late afternoon.

“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. 

And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.  And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed.  

And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.  And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time.  And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.” (I Kings 18:30-35)

Rather than building a new altar, Elijah rebuilt the altar they had let fall into disuse, making the connection with the past.  He built according to the traditional construction specified in the Law, reinforcing the importance of God’s commands.  He then offered the sacrifices according to the Law.

At that point he departed from the law, digging a trench around the altar capable of holding several bushels of seed.  He then had four barrels of water brought and dumped over the whole thing, greatly reducing the risk of fire.  He had this repeated three times, until everything was saturated and the ditch was standing full.  It would have been difficult to start a fire with such soaked wood.

“And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.  Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.” (I Kings 18:36-37)

People tend to be impressed with fancy rituals, but Elijah didn’t give them a show.  He simply prayed a very short asking God to demonstrate his Godhood and power, and that Elijah was his servant. So the people would know and turn to God again.  

“Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” (I Kings 18:38)

Normally, the wood burned, only gradually burning up the sacrifice.  This time the sacrifice burned first, then the wood.  The fire continued, burning up the stones and the dirt that supported them and finally burning the water in the trench as well. Obviously this was not just an ordinary fire.

“And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God.” (I Kings 18:39) 

The people had no questions about who the real God was.  They recognized Baal as just a pretender.  Many people today have never seen God’s power, and thus are not sure if he really is God.  Paul was concerned about the problem in I Corinthians 2:4-5.  “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”  Far to much emphasis has been placed on eloquence or education rather than on spiritual power.

“And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.” (I Kings 18:40)

Assured of God’s power, the people didn’t hesitate to take action against sin.  They executed the prophets of Baal and the groves as specified in Deuteronomy 13:1-5.  “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 

Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.  And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Elijah Arranges A Summit

I Kings 18:1-19

“And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, show thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.  And Elijah went to show himself unto Ahab.” (I Kings 18:1-2a) 

After about three years of drought, when there had been no rain at all, and Ahab had done everything possible to find and kill Elijah, God told Elijah to go see Ahab, and he would send rain on the earth.

“And there was a sore famine in Samaria.  And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly:  For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.)  And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts.” (I Kings 18:2b-5)

After three years without any rain, there wasn’t any grass for livestock, or any crops for food, things were so desperate the king and his chief of staff were forced to go out and help look for feed for the horses and mules to prevent them all dying.

When Ahab sponsored the worship of Baal, Jezebel had made a deliberate effort to kill all the prophets of God and eliminate the worship of God.  Obadiah believed God, and had put himself at risk in an effort to save the prophets of Baal.  This deliberate effort to prevent the worship of God is one of the reasons Ahab is described as being worse than all the kings before him.

“So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.  And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah? 

And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. 

And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me?  As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. 

And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here.  And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth. 

Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the Lord's prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water?  And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me. ” (I Kings 18:6-14)

Obadiah recognized Elijah immediately, and when he asked him to go tell Ahab he was there Obadiah was scared.  Ahab had spent three years looking for Elijah, and if Elijah decided not to stick around, Ahab would surely kill him for letting him get away.  He reminded Elijah of what he had done to help the prophets of God as proof he was not in favor of Ahab’s actions, but it also put him at greater risk since Ahab already had reason to question his loyalty.  When we are already in danger, it is frightening to increase that risk.

“And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself unto him to day. 

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah.” (I Kings 18:15-16)

Assured that Elijah would not leave him alone. Obadiah went to tell Ahab Elijah wanted to see him.  As king, Ahab was used to ordering others to come to him.  Being told to go meet Elijah could have been viewed as a challenge to his authority, but Ahab was getting desperate.  He went to meet him.

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” (I Kings 18:17) 

Like most people, Ahab blamed God and his people for the results of his sin. They are unwilling to admit their actions have anything to do with what is happening.  For three years he had tried to kill Elijah because of the drought.  They don’t understand that it is the very ones they are trying to kill who are protecting them from destruction.

“And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. 

Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table.” (I Kings 18:18-19) 

Elijah pointed out that the drought and famine were what God had warned would happen if they turned away and began to serve idols.  Ahab and his predecessors had deliberately turned away from God and the drought and famine were the natural result.

Today people are worried  about global warming and potential world wide famine, as well as economic concerns, but like Ahab, they blame them on other things rather than acknowledging that it is a result of turning away from God.  In fact they often blame the Christians for standing against what they are doing.

Elijah asked Ahab to gather the people, the prophets of Baal , and the prophets who worshipped nature together at Mount Carmel if they wanted to find out how to end the famine.   If they failed to show up, it would be pretty obvious they didn’t care what happened.  Politically, they couldn’t afford to refuse.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Widow’s Son Revived

I Kings 17:17-24

“And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him.  And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” (I Kings 17:17-18)

Several months after Elijah had begun to board at the widow’s house. Her son became sick, finally reaching a point where his breathing was no longer detectable.  As so often happens when something goes wrong she began to blame others, and especially God.  Since Elijah was there and he served God, she took it out on him.   She said God was punishing her and Elijah had been sent to remind her, implying she wished she had never tried to help him.  When emotions take over, people become irrational, and she was hurting emotionally at the thought of her son’s death.

“And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed.  And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, hast thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son?  And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child's soul come into him again.” (I Kings 17:19-21)

Rather than remonstrating with her, Elijah asked her to give him her son, and gently took him from her.  He took him up and laid him on his own bed and began to pray, in essence asking God why he had allowed such a thing to happen to someone who was trying to do what was right in helping him.  He then clasped the child to him, allowing his body to warm it’s body three times, asking God to restore the body to life.

“And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.” (I Kings 17:22)

Many times, as Christians, we give up hope, forgetting who God is, forgetting that as Luke 1:37 says, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  Elijah had the confidence to ask God to give back the boy’s life.  It is the confidence every Christian should have according to I John 5:15-15.  “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”

James 4:2-3 says there are two reasons why Christians lack what they want.  “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”  First, we don’t ask because we don’t expect God to listen anyway.  Secondly, we aren’t concerned about what God wants, but are focused on our own desires.  Asking in Jesus’ name implies we are asking on his behalf rather than our own.

Sometimes we are afraid to ask for things because we aren’t sure what God wants or how to pray properly.  Romans 8:26-27 addresses this problem pointing out that none of us really know what to pray foror how to ask properly.  “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

We don’t have to worry about how our prayer sounds, because the Holy Spirit will edit it so it comes across properly.  I suspect that he simply discards a lot of prayers because they are selfish, or are just repeating someone else’s words.  God heard Elijah’s prayer and answered.  The boy revived.

“And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. 

And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.” (I Kings 17:23-24)

While the widow had believed Elijah was a prophet and had helped him because of it. She hadn’t really understood that he was actually led and empowered by God.  She needed to see God’s power herself.  She was typical of most people in churches today, trying to serve God but with no real understanding of his power and love.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Widow’s Faith

I Kings 17:8-16

“And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,  Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” (I Kings 17:8-9)

For several months after his prophecy that there would be no rain for three years, as a result of Ahab’s sin, Elijah had remained in hiding in the wilderness by the brook Cherith.  Ahab made a concerted effort to find and kill Elijah, but he hadn’t found him.  Convinced that Elijah had fled Israel, Ahab began to seek him in other countries.  I Kings 18:10 describes his search.  “As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.”

After several months, or perhaps even a couple of years, the spring feeding the brook went dry, and Elijah needed to find another source of water.  God directed him to go to Zarephath, a small suburb of Zidon, in present day Lebanon.  Ahab’s manhunt had exhausted most of the leads, and other matters were claiming his attention.

“So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.  And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.” (I Kings 17:10-11) 

Right at the gate of the city, Elijah met the widow woman gathering firewood.  Desperately thirsty, he asked her for a drink.  When she went to get him one, he asked if he could have something to eat as well.

“And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” (I Kings 17:12) 

While it was customary to feed people who needed it, Like most widows, she was struggling to get by.  As a result of the drought, she was even worse off than usual and was down to the last serving of her food.  That she only needed a couple of sticks reveals how little was left.  It wouldn’t even be enough for a satisfactory meal for her and her son, and after it was gone they had no hope of getting anything else.

“And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.  For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.” (I Kings 17:13-14)

Elijah told her to just trust God,  He had promised that they wouldn’t run out of flour or oil until the rains came again.  She was to go ahead and act as if she had an ample supply, fixing some for Elijah as her guest, just as she would any other time.

“And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.  And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah.” (I Kings 17:15-16)

When she went ahead, fixing the meal for Elijah and trusting God, he fulfilled his promise, providing food for the rest of the three years.  There was always enough for that day.  There were undoubtedly times when they would have liked something different, but they survived, because she obeyed God.

Most people, myself included, find it hard to just trust God to supply when they find themselves short.  It is often easy to hold back our tithe because we don’t trust God to provide enough, but when we obey him, he makes everything work.  It gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our faith by using what God has provided.  Often, we don’t see God ‘s blessings because we don’t trust him enough to use what he has already provided, until we have enough to do everything.  It took me a long time to understand this.

Door to door salesmen often offer you gift to get you to listen to their spiel, knowing that you will then feel obligated to buy.  Unfortunately, many people do the same thing with their giving, trying to obligate God by giving him something.  Their actions are no longer an act of faith or love but an attempt to manipulate him.  Attempts to manipulate him destroys our relationship with God just as it does a relationship with our mate.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Ahab’s Sin Affects The Nation

I Kings 16:29-17:7

“And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.  And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.” (I Kings 16:29-30) 

Three years before Asa’s death, Omri died and his son Ahab became king of Israel.  Jeroboam had deliberately turned Israel away from God.  In the thirty years since his death five kings have led Israel even further away, but Ahab’s twenty year reign would be even worse than any of them.

“And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.  And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.  And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. ” (I Kings 16:31-33)

Baal was one of the most common gods of the region, worshipped by the Midianites, Moabites, and many other groups.  Time after time Israel had gotten into trouble for worshipping Baal.  Ahab married Jezebel, the Daughter of Ethbaal (with or worshipper of Baal).  He began to worship Baal and actively promoted the religion, building a temple and altars to him.  In addition, he planted groves of trees for worship of nature and did everythin possible to dilute any belief in Jehovah.  He went way beyond what any king before him had done.

“In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.” (I Kings 16:34)

Sets the example for what is acceptable in a group, as Proverbs 29:12 declares.  “If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.”   A leader who is willing to put up with lies and corruption will be surrounded by wickedness.  Joshua and Israel had destroyed Jericho by God’s command.  For almost seven hundred years it had not been rebuilt, as a testimony of God’s promises to Israel, and Joshua had prophesied that any one who rebuilt it would pay with the life of his oldest and youngest sons.

Under Ahab, a concerted effort to destroy that testimony by rebuilding Jericho was made.  Archaeologists found the remains of Hiel’s eldest son, Abiram in the foundation of the walls, and of his youngest, Segub, encased in the gate, proving the prophecy.   God would not ignore such open rebellion. Since it was the nation, not just the leader, all would be affected.

“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” (I Kings 17:1)

God sent Elijah to warn that there would be no fain for the next three years unless Elijah asked for it.  Clearly, provision was made so they could be forgiven and have the drought stopped any time they repented, but no effort was made.

“And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,  Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.  And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. “ (I Kings 17:2-4)

Like everyone else, the drought cut off Elijah’s food supply, and  Ahab was seeking to kill him, blaming him for it.  God directed Elijah to go into hiding by the brook Cherith, because it was still flowing and no one would look for him there.  He would have water to drink, and the ravens would provide for him.

Philippians 4:19 promises, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Under Jewish tradition, they would never have touched what the ravens brought, but God had chosen them to provide for Elijah.

“So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.  And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.” (I Kings 17:5-6)

Since a raven can carry only a small amount of food, and no one knew where they got it,  Waiting for the ravens must have been a little tedious, and sometimes what they brought might not have been exactly what Elijah would have preferred, but he just trusted God to supply his needs, and accepted it with thanksgiving  While many will not eat certain things, I Timothy 4:4 states, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:”  Once again we are reminded of the difference between the intent of the law, which was to preserve life, and the effects of keeping it exactly which would have resulted in starvation.

“And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.” (I Kings 17:7)

Eventually, the water table dropped as a result of the lack of rain, and the spring that fed the brook stopped flowing.  Even people who serve God are affected by the results of other people’s sin.  Elijah no longer had water to drink.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Reigns of Elah, Zimri, and Omri

I Kings 6:8-28

“In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years.” (I Kings 16:8) 

Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam were given many years to lead and both disobeyed God.  Both of their sons were given about time to demonstrate whether they were going to follow God or not, and after about two years of following their fathers footsteps were removed.  Baasha was from a different family, and again was given many years to make his decision to serve God or not, and chose to follow Jeroboam’s example.  When his son became king, like Abijam and Nadab, he was allowed about two years to demonstrate his intentions.

In each case, the sons had seen the consequences of their father’s actions and chose to do the same things.  They were not acting out of ignorance, and God acted as soon as their decision was obvious, even though he had known from the beginning what they would do.  It is another demonstration of th ejustice and grace of God that he gives each one the opportunity to decide.

“And his servant Zimri, captain of half his chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza steward of his house in Tirzah.  And Zimri went in and smote him, and killed him, in the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned in his stead. 

And it came to pass, when he began to reign, as soon as he sat on his throne, that he slew all the house of Baasha: he left him not one that pisseth against a wall, neither of his kinsfolks, nor of his friends.  Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, For all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel to sin, in provoking the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities. ” (I Kings 16:9-13) 

Elah was busy getting drunk, rather than doing his job, and one of his generals, Zimri decided to usurp the throne. He murdered Elah while he was drunk and declared himself king.  He immediately had all the rest of Baasha’s family murdered to prevent any effort to reclaim the throne, fulfilling Jehu’s prophecy against Baasha.

“Now the rest of the acts of Elah, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” (I Kings 16:14) 

Because Elah’s reign had so little effect on Judah, and the official records or Chronicles of the kings of Israel were not part of scripture, we have little more information about his actions.

“In the twenty and seventh year of Asa king of Judah did Zimri reign seven days in Tirzah. And the people were encamped against Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines.  And the people that were encamped heard say, Zimri hath conspired, and hath also slain the king: wherefore all Israel made Omri, the captain of the host, king over Israel that day in the camp.” (I Kings 16:15-16)

Zimri had himself declared king, but the people who had been involved in fighting the Philistines at Gibbethon heard what had happened a week later and were offended that he had murdered Elah.  They crowned Omri king instead.

“And Omri went up from Gibbethon, and all Israel with him, and they besieged Tirzah. 

And it came to pass, when Zimri saw that the city was taken, that he went into the palace of the king's house, and burnt the king's house over him with fire, and died, For his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the LORD, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, to make Israel to sin.  Now the rest of the acts of Zimri, and his treason that he wrought, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” (I Kings 16:17-20)

Omri and the army besieged the capital at Tirzah and defeated it.   Fearing what they would do to him, Zimri set the palace on fire and committed suicide, knowing he would be executed for murdering Elah and Baasha’s family.

“Then were the people of Israel divided into two parts: half of the people followed Tibni the son of Ginath, to make him king; and half followed Omri.  But the people that followed Omri prevailed against the people that followed Tibni the son of Ginath: so Tibni died, and Omri reigned.” (I Kings 16:21-22)

Not everyone wanted Omri to be king and for about four years Omri and Tibni fought to try to obtain the throne,  Gradually Omri became stronger and when Tibni was killed, Omri ascended to the throne.

“In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years: six years reigned he in Tirzah.  And he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria.” (I Kings 16:23-24)

For six years, Omri kept Tirzah as the capital, but bought the area known as Samaria and eventually moved the capital there.  The city he built there would remain the Capital of Israel for about a hundred forty years, until the Assyrians conquered Israel.

“But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the LORD, and did worse than all that were before him.  For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger with their vanities.” (I Kings 16:25-26) 

Like most politicians of today, Omri learned nothing from his predecessors.  He copied their examples and went a little further, leading Israel even further into sin.  He died after twelve years as king.

“Now the rest of the acts of Omri which he did, and his might that he showed, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?  So Omri slept with his fathers, and was buried in Samaria: and Ahab his son reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 16:27-28)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nadab and Baasha

I Kings 15:25-16:7

“And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years.  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.” (I Kings 15:25-26)

Jeroboam had deliberately established his own religion in an effort to ensure Israel would not turn again to Judah, in much the same way various countries adopted their own form of Christianity during the Reformation in an effort to break away from the Roman Empire.  In the process, by example, he taught his son Nadab that God’s commands didn’t really matter.  Nadab followed his father’s example, and God ended his reign after about two years because encouraging the people to sin.

“And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon.   Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 15:27-28)

Nadab led the army to attack the Philistines at Gibbethon.  Baasha conspired to kill him during the siege, and seized the kingdom, during the third year of Asa’s reign.

“And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.” (I Kings 15:29-30)

Ahijah had prophesied that Jeroboam’s family would be completely wiped out because he had caused Israel to turn away from God to another religion.  After killing Nadab and assuming the throne, Baasha killed every member of Jeroboam’s family to ensure none of them could try to regain the throne, fulfilling Ahijah’s prophecy.

“Now the rest of the acts of Nadab, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” (I Kings 15:31)

I and II Chronicles are the history of Judah.  The kings of Israel only appear as they impacted Judah’s history.  Nadab had no inpact during his two year reign.  The official transcripts of his reign is not included in scripture, so we do not know what else he may have done as they have been lost..

“And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.  In the third year of Asa king of Judah began Baasha the son of Ahijah to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty and four years.  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.” (I Kings 15:32-34)

Baasha’s only concern was with political power.  He spent the next twenty four years trying to weaken Asa’s power and capture some of his territory.  He simply followed Jeroboam’s religious policies, leading Israel further into sin.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins; Behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.  Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.” (I Kings 16:1-4)

One  of the basic principles of chemistry is that if you mix the same things together the same way, you will always get the same results.  This doesn’t just apply to chemistry, but to everything.  Einstein is quoted as having said one sign of insanity was doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Jehu’s prophecy against Baasha said basically the same thing.  Because he had done exactly the same things as Jeroboam, the same things would happen to his family.  Just as Baasha had killed Jeroboam’s descendants, Baasha’s descendants would be killed, and no one would even be concerned enough to bury them, just leaving them to be eaten by scavengers.

“Now the rest of the acts of Baasha, and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?  So Baasha slept with his fathers, and was buried in Tirzah: and Elah his son reigned in his stead. 

And also by the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the LORD against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the LORD, in provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam; and because he killed him.” (I Kings 16:5-7) 

We are reminded again that Baasha and his family would be destroyed for following Jeroboam’s example, and also because he murdered him, even though Jeroboam was so wicked.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Trusting Somebody Besides God

I Kings 15:16-24

“And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days.  And Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer any to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.” (I Kings 15:16-17)

Jeroboam died about a year after Asa became king, His son Nadab then reigned almost two years before being killed by Baasha, who then took the throne.  Throughout his reign, he made constant efforts to undermine Asa’s administration, interfering where ever he could.  He fortified Ramah, and established a border guard top prevent anyone from crossing in either direction.  After the defeat of Ethiopia’s million man army, he didn’t dare make a direct attack.

Other than minor skirmishes, things continued pretty much the same until Asa’s thirty fifth year according to II Chronicles 15:19.  “And there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa.”  Finally, Asa got fed up with the constant threat.  Since Baasha died during Asa's twenty sixth year in office, we know that this verse should read five and twentieth rather than five and thirtieth,  The error is the result of a mistake in copying and is not a serious contradiction, proving only that humans make mistakes, even when copying scripture.

“Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants: and king Asa sent them to Benhdad, the son of Tabrimon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, that dwelt at Damascus, saying, There is a league between me and thee, and between my father and thy father: behold, I have sent unto thee a present of silver and gold; come and break thy league with Baasha king of Israel, that he may depart from me.” (I Kings 15:18-19) 

Rather than start a war himself, Asa asked Benhadad, king of Syria to break his treaty with Israel and attack from the north.  To secure his cooperation, he emptied his treasury, and took what had been dedicated to God from the temple.

“So Benhadad hearkened unto king Asa, and sent the captains of the hosts which he had against the cities of Israel, and smote Ijon, and Dan, and Abelbethmaachah, and all Cinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. 

And it came to pass, when Baasha heard thereof, that he left off building of Ramah, and dwelt in Tirzah.” (I Kings 15:20-21)

Asa’s offer to pay for attacking Israel’s northern border, when he already wanted to take the land anyway was enough to persuade Benhadad.  He took most oaf the northern region, almost as far south as the sea of Galilee.  Baasha was forced to forget about fortifying Rama and move his capital to Tirzah.

“Then king Asa made a proclamation throughout all Judah; none was exempted: and they took away the stones of Ramah, and the timber thereof, wherewith Baasha had builded; and king Asa built with them Geba of Benjamin, and Mizpah.” (I Kings 15:22) 

Asa sent his army to dismantle the fortress at Ramah and bring the materials to Geba and Mizpeh to fortify them and help protect Judah.  Asa’s failure to trust God didn’t go unnoticed.

“And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.  Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand.  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.” (II Chronicles 16:7-9)

God had given victory over a far larger army when they defeated the forces of Ethiopia and Lybia.  It was foolish for Asa to then place his trust in Syria rather than in God to give victory over Baasha.  Because he had placed his trust in human power rather than God, the remainder of his reign would be marked with constant war.  It is and important lesson for today.  How many start out trusting God, but switch to trusting human wisdom?

One area that is a problem for many Christians today is financial.  I Timothy 6:17 commands, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;”  How often are we tempted to go into debt to build a church or purchase something we desire even though Romans 13:8 commands, “Owe no man any thing…”  As a result both individuals and churches spend years struggling to pay their bills rather than enjoying what Christ has provided.  They learn what Proverbs  22:7 means when it says, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”  We are not to be servants to men.

Like most people, Asa didn’t like havingf his sin pointed out.  II Chronicles 16:10 declares, “Then Asa was wroth with the seer, and put him in a prison house; for he was in a rage with him because of this thing. And Asa oppressed some of the people the same time.”  Rather than repenting of his sin, Asa became angry, taking it out on others, including God’s prophet.

“The rest of all the acts of Asa, and all his might, and all that he did, and the cities which he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? Nevertheless in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet.” (I Kings 15:23)

Two years before his death, Asa developed some kind of disease in his feet.  Instead of trusting God for a cure, he did like most of us today, trusting the doctors for a cure,  according to  II Chronicles 16:12.  “And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the LORD, but to the physicians.”

“And Asa slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 15:24)

II Chronicles 16:13-14 gives more detail about Asa’s burial.  “And Asa slept with his fathers, and died in the one and fortieth year of his reign.  And they buried him in his own sepulchres, which he had made for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odours and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art: and they made a very great burning for him.”  Asa was one of Judah's few Good Kings, and they would regret his passing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Asa’s Early Reign

I Kings 15:9-15

“And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel reigned Asa over Judah.  And forty and one years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom.” (I Kings 15:9-10)

 I Kings 14:1-2 states, “Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah.  Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom.”  Now Asa is declared to have the same mother.  If  he is actually the son of Abijam, Maachah is both his mother and his grandmother, a violation of Leviticus 20:11, calling for the death penalty.

Checking out the word translated son in this reference, we find that it actually means the one who carries on the family name in the broadest possible sense, and can be used for a son. a nephew, a grandson, or even a brother who took on his brother‘s family responsibility.  It highlights the difficulties of translating from one language to another.  Words do not always have an exact equivalent in another language, which may lead to misunderstanding, even in the best translations.

When Abijam died after only three years as king, it appears that none of his sons were old enough to assume the throne so Abijam’s younger brother, Asa was placed in that position to carry on his name and responsibilities.  He would reign forty one years.

“And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father.  And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.  And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron.” (I Kings 15:11-13)

Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijam had worshipped other Gods and built temples and altars to them.  Asa turned back to God, destroying the idols and altars, and even removing his own mother from being queen when she refused to turn from her idolatry, and ending a homosexual movement.  II Chronicles 14:1-8 describes the first ten years of his reign in greater detail.

“Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead. In his days the land was quiet ten years. 

And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God: For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.  Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him.  And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest, and he had no war in those years; because the LORD had given him rest.

 Therefore he said unto Judah, Let us build these cities, and make about them walls, and towers, gates, and bars, while the land is yet before us; because we have sought the LORD our God, we have sought him, and he hath given us rest on every side. So they built and prospered. 

And Asa had an army of men that bare targets and spears, out of Judah three hundred thousand; and out of Benjamin, that bare shields and drew bows, two hundred and fourscore thousand: all these were mighty men of valour.” (II Chronicles 14:1-8)

God blessed and Asa was able to fortify the cities and expand the economy, while developing an army of over a half million.  He recognized their success was the result of following God.

Ethiopia had been steadily becoming a major power, conquering much of northern Africa, and wiping out a number of ethnic groups named in Genesis 10 during the Ethiopic Wars.  They invaded Egypt and then moved into Judah with a million man army, twice a s many as Asa could field.  II Chronicles 14:9-15 describes the invasion and battle.

“And there came out against them Zerah the Ethiopian with an host of a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots; and came unto Mareshah.  Then Asa went out against him, and they set the battle in array in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. 

And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. 

So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.  And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil.  And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them.  They smote also the tents of cattle, and carried away sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.” (II Chronicles 14:11-15)

Knowing they were outnumbered, Asa placed his trust in God, asking him for help.  They were victorious, breaking the Ethiopian power and driving them out.  Ethiopian never recovered , and were eventually forced back into their own land.  Judah captured the spoil they had taken in other conquests.

“But the high places were not removed: nevertheless Asa's heart was perfect with the LORD all his days.  And he brought in the things which his father had dedicated, and the things which himself had dedicated, into the house of the LORD, silver, and gold, and vessels.” (I Kings 15:14-15)

Despite his best efforts to turn Judah to God, Asa was never able to completely eliminate the results of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijam’s idolatry, although he spent his entire life serving God, and dedicated many of the things they had produced to God. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Abijah’s Reign

I Kings 15:1-8

“Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah.  Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom.  And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father.” (I Kings 15:1-3) 

A few months after Rehoboam’s death, and eighteen years after Solomon’s, Abijam was anointed king.  During his three years as king, he followed the pattern his father and grandfather had set.  Having grown up with that example, it was only natural that he would think that was the right way, unless something happened to make him question it.

“Nevertheless for David's sake did the LORD his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem: Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” (I Kings 15:4-5)

Although Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijam had turned their backs on God, Because of his promise to David for his obedience, in everything but his affair with Uriah’s wife and having him killed, God would not wipe out Solomon’s family.  Contrary to what they probably believed, Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijam retained power because of David’s obedience to God, not their own political or economic skills.  I suspect the reason the USA is still surviving is because of previous generations that served God, not our present leaders’ political skills.

“And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. Now the rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam. “ (I Kings 15:6-7)

When Israel split over Rehoboam’s financial policies, Rehoboam had wanted to attack and destroy Jeroboam, but God had forbidden it in I Kings 12:21-24.  “And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 

But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.”

Rather than admit that Israel had split over his own Actions, Rehoboam blamed Jeroboam and for seventeen years tried to discredit and overthrow Jeroboam.  When he died, Abijam, also known as Abijah continued the feud, convinced that they were right in trying to conquer them.  II Chronicles 13:3-12 describes his efforts and his viewpoint.  “And Abijah set the battle in array with an army of valiant men of war, even four hundred thousand chosen men: Jeroboam also set the battle in array against him with eight hundred thousand chosen men, being mighty men of valour. 

And Abijah stood up upon mount Zemaraim, which is in mount Ephraim, and said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel; Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? 

Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord.  And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them. 

And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the LORD in the hand of the sons of David; and ye be a great multitude, and there are with you golden calves, which Jeroboam made you for gods.  Have ye not cast out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods. 

But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests, which minister unto the LORD, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business: And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the showbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him.  And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the LORD God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.”

Abijam was convinced the reason Israel had broken away was that Jeroboam took advantage of Rehoboam’s inexperience and that because they had openly turned away from God, God would defeat them.  He was convinced that he and Judah were  still serving God, despite God’s statements to the contrary.  After all, he was doing just what his father and grandfather had done.

“But Jeroboam caused an ambushment to come about behind them: so they were before Judah, and the ambushment was behind them.  And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind: and they cried unto the LORD, and the priests sounded with the trumpets.  Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.

And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand.  And Abijah and his people slew them with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.  Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the LORD God of their fathers.”( II Chronicles 13:13-18) 

When they were outmaneuvered by Jeroboam, Abijam and the men of Judah called on the Lord for help, and the Lord answered because they put their faith in him, despite their sin. Judah became the dominant country as a result.

“And Abijah pursued after Jeroboam, and took cities from him, Bethel with the towns thereof, and Jeshanah with the towns thereof, and Ephrain with the towns thereof.  Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah: and the LORD struck him, and he died.” (II Chronicles 13:19-20)

As a result of defeating Jeroboam, Judah was able to recapture the land of Benajmin,, although a large part of the Benjamites had sided with Rehoboam when the nation split.  Jeroboam never recovered from his defeat.  “But Abijah waxed mighty, and married fourteen wives, and begat twenty and two sons, and sixteen daughters.  And the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways, and his sayings, are written in the story of the prophet Iddo.” (II Chronicles 13:21-22)

Abijah copied Solomon in marrying a lot of wives, but he only reigned about three years, and never got the chance to marry as many.

“And Abijam slept with his fathers; and they buried him in the city of David: and Asa his son reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 15:8)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Rehoboam’s Reign

I Kings 14:21-29

“And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess.” (I Kings 14:21)

God had promised to leave one tribe with Solomon’s family.  Rehoboam reigned for seventeen years over Judah , in Jerusalem, five years less than Jeroboam reigned in Israel.  His mother was an Ammonite, one of the groups God had forbidden Israel to marry, according to I kings 11:1-2.  “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;  Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.”  One of the false God’s Solomon had turned to was Molech, the Ammonite God.

The Moabites and Ammonites were distant relatives of Israel, being descendants of Lot.  As such their treatment of Israel was despicable.  In Deuteronomy 23:3-4 God had commanded, “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: Because they met you not with bread and with water in the way, when ye came forth out of Egypt; and because they hired against thee Balaam the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse thee.”   Since his father was a Jew, Rehoboam was considered a Jew.

 “And Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done.  For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.  And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.” (I Kings 14:22-24)

Since his mother was an Ammonite and follower of Molech and Solomon himself began to worship other gods, Rehoboam had no strong example to serve God.  .  For three years after his becoming king, Judah served the Lord, but II Chronicles 12:1 advises, “And it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself, he forsook the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.”  The leader plays a major role in the attitude of their followers, and  the people turned gradually away from God, worshipping various idols and in various places.  Their religious decline was accompanied with a corresponding moral decline, with homosexuality becoming widely accepted.

“And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.” (I Kings 14:25-26)

 As a result of their religious and moral decay, God’s protection was removed, and Judah was invaded by the Egyptians, who pillaged Jerusalem, taking away the treasures Solomon had accumulated within five years of Rehoboam’s ascension to the throne.

It was exactly what had been prophesied in II Chronicles 12:5-7.  “Then came Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam, and to the princes of Judah, that were gathered together to Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Ye have forsaken me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak.  Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, The LORD is righteous.  

And when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.”

Because they turned back to God. Judah was not destroyed although they remained under Egyptian domination.

“And king Rehoboam made in their stead brazen shields, and committed them unto the hands of the chief of the guard, which kept the door of the king's house.  And it was so, when the king went into the house of the LORD, that the guard bare them, and brought them back into the guard chamber.” (I Kings 14:27-28) 

In an effort to maintain an illusion of greatness and prosperity, Rehoboam replaced Solomon’s gold shields with polished brass so people wouldn’t realize how much they had lost.

“Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?  And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days.  And Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess. And Abijam his son reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 14:29-31)

Little else is given about Rehoboam, except that he and Jeroboam were constantly at war throughout his life.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Consequences of Jeroboam’s Sin Prophesied.

I Kings 14:1-20

"At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. 

And Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people.  And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child.” (I Kings 14:1-3)

When Jeroboam organized his own religion to prevent his people going to Jerusalem to worship, the Levites and most of the prophets of God left the country.  When his son got sick, Jeroboam didn’t trust any of the prophets who stayed behind, but knew Ahijah could be trusted.  He was aware of his sin, and was afraid the prophecy would be worse if the prophet knew who was asking so he sent his wife in disguise, hoping to fool Ahijah.

“And Jeroboam's wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see; for his eyes were set by reason of his age. 

And the LORD said unto Ahijah, Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman.” (I Kings 14:4-5)

Ahijah had lost his eyesight so no disguise would have been needed, but God deliberately revealed the effort to conceal the truth.  It is a waste of time trying to fool God.

“And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. 

Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.  Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.” (I Kings 14:6-11) 

Jeroboam’s wife hadn’t even got to the door when Ahijah asked her why she was pretending to be somebody else.  He then instructed her to tell Jeroboam that God had chosen him to be king, because of the sin of David’s descendants, but Jeroboam had done worse.  He not only practiced idolatry, he replaced the Jewish religion with it.  As a result his family is going to die in ignominy.  No one would even bother to bury them, just leaving them for the scavengers to eat.

“Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.  And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” (I Kings 14:12-13)

The child Jeroboam had sent her to enquire about would die the moment she entered the city, and would be the last of Jeroboam’s family to be mourned and buried because he had not yet done anything evil.

“Moreover the LORD shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now.  For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger.  And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.” (I Kings 14:14-16) 

God will choose another man who would destroy Jeroboams family.  It wouldn’t protect Israel, because they had gone along with Jeroboam’s sin, knowing God had forbidden it..  Israel itself would be dispersed among the heathen because they had done as Jeroboam directed, in worshiping other gods.  Unfortunately, many false teachers have convinced people that God won’t hold them accountable if they do what their leaders have told them.

“And Jeroboam's wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died; And they buried him; and all Israel mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by the hand of his servant Ahijah the prophet.” (I Kings 14:17-18)

The prophecy about the child’s death came about exactly as Ahijah had prophesied.  Clearly the prophecy was from God, and rest would happen.

“And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.  And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years: and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 14:19-20) 

Scripture tells us little more about Jeroboam.  I and II Chronicles are the stories of the kings of Judah.   The kings of Israel usually only appear as they come in conflicty with the kings of Judah.  The record of the kings of Israel mentioned here is not part of scripture, but is purely a historical record.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Prophet Told Him To

I Kings 13:11-34

“Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.” (I Kings 13:11)

There was an old prophet in Bethel where Jeroboam had set up one of the high places.  His sons knew he would be interested in what the other prophet had done that day, because he was always interested in the things of God.  Why God didn’t use him instead is a question, but, as Jesus said in Mark 6:4, “…A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”  He probably would have been ignored just because he was local and not famous.  Perhaps he had already warned them and been dismissed as just an old fogey or crackpot.

“And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. 

And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. 

So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah?

 And he said, I am. 

Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. ” (I Kings 13:12-15) 

The old prophet was desperate for fellowship with other men that served God.  The entire country had gone along with Jeroboam’s “reforms” and turned away from God.  He had his donkey saddled and rode out to catch the visiting prophet and invite him to dinner.

“And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. “ (I Kings 13:16-17)

The young prophet responded that God had commanded him not to eat bread or water in the area or even to retrace his path.  He knew exactly what God had directed him to do.

“He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. 

So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.” (I Kings 13:18-19) 

Because he wanted fellowship so bad, the old prophet lied to the younger one, telling him that God had told him the younger one was to come home with him.  Out of respect for the older man’s experience, the younger prophet went home and ate with him.

“And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.” (I Kings 13:20-22)

While they were setting at the table, God told the old prophet to warn the younger prophet tha he was going to be killed for not doing what God had said.  He knew God had told him, but he put the other man’s advice above God’s command.  In effect he placed the other prophet in God’s place.  As a result he was going to be killed before he made it home.

When My dad first came to the Navajo Reservation, believing it was where God had directed him, a number of preachers told him he would never be able to build a big church among the Navajos, and should go to another place where there were more people so he could do a greater work.  Numerous men have been encouraged to forget pastoring a local church and serve as missionaries or evangelists because they could “do so much more.”  If they choose to follow such advice, rather than what God has directed them to do, they are guilty of the same sin  the young prophet was.  God is more concerned with our obedience than he is with our accomplishments.

“And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back. 

And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.  And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.” (I Kings 13:23-25)

Just a short way out of town, a lion killed the young prophet.  It was miraculous, in that the donkey didn’t run away, and the lion didn’t bother to eat either the donkey or the man.  Passersby took notice of the lion and donkey just standing around and reported it.  They probably didn’t dare try to drive the lion away from his kill.

“And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake unto him. 

And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.  And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass. 

And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him.  And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!” (I Kings 13:26-30)

The old prophet knew immediately what had happened and went to recover the body, finding everything just as it had been described.  He brought the body back and buried in in his own sepulchre, mourning that his disobedience had resulted in his death and aware of his own part in it.

“And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones: For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.” (I Kings 13:31-32)

The old prophet instructed his sons to bury him alongside the young prophet because he truly was a man of God, and his prophecy would one day be fulfilled, despite his sin.

“After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.  And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.” (I Kings 13:33-34)

The prophecy had little effect on Jeroboam.  He didn’t repent or change his policies, just going even farther, in making himself one of the priests as well, and actively promoting his version of Judaism.  The sin would lead to the utter destruction of his entire family.