Friday, August 30, 2013

Organizations and Associations

II Kings 6:1-7

“And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.  Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. 

And he answered, Go ye. 

And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants.

 And he answered, I will go.” ( II Kings 6:1-3)

 In the post Academic Training Versus Practical Experience  from II Kings 2:15-25, I discussed the sons of the prophets in some detail.  Essentially they were what would be called a para-church organization today, meaning they had no scriptural mandate for their existence but were an organization of prophets to help develop young prophets.

While they were very sincere about serving God, as so often happens, the focus moved from trusting God to promoting the organization.  While several of God’s prophets worked with them, and encouraged them, none of them seem to have been deeply involved in the organization.

When they needed larger quarters, they decided to work together with each one donating a beam for the structure.  It is very similar to many of the groups today.  When they asked Elisha about their plans, and he told them they should go ahead with them.  When they asked him to take part, he agreed to do so.   After all, as Jesus told his disciples in Mark 9:40, “For he that is not against us is on our part.”

In II kings 2:15-25, Elisha had stood against their decision to go search for Elijah as an evidence of a lack of faith.  While we have the right and even a responsibility to help those who are trying to do right, we must never get so involved with an organization that we overlook things that are wrong.  We will be called on to give an account to God for everything we have done.

Such organizations are to be supplemental to the Lord’s work.  They are not to become the primary emphasis.  Unfortunately, Bible colleges, missions boards, and other associations tend to draw the focus away from the local church which God established and focus on the organization, which has no God given mandate.

“So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.  But as one was felling a beam, the ax head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.” (II Kings 6:4-5) 

Constructing the new buildings was a cooperative effort.  Each one was to provide a part.  Because he didn’t own his own axe, one of the men had borrowed one.  The head was loose and came off as he was chopping wood, falling into the river.  The man was panicked because he didn’t have the money to replace it, and according to the law, in Exodus 22:14, he was obligated to do so.  “And if a man borrow ought of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.”

“And the man of God said, Where fell it?

 And he showed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.  Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.” (II Kings 6:6-7)

Unfortunately, in the effort to do their part in organizations such as this, some are encouraged to over extend themselves, borrowing more than they can afford, convinced it is God’s will. Frequently they are asked to borrow the money and trust God to be able to repay it.  That overlooks the command in Romans 13:8, to “Owe no man any thing…”  When things don’t go as expected, they find themselves panicked because they were depending on human wisdom rather than depending on God.  Faith is obeying God's commands and letting him produce the result.

Fortunately Elisha was there and could redirect their attention to God’s miraculous power.  Many times there’s no Elisha there to lead them back into faith, and as Romans 14:23 says, “…whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  Hebrews 11:6 warns, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Only when the focus and faith is centered on God will he receive the glory he deserves for what is accomplished.  He doesn’t need our human efforts.  We don’t make miracles happen, contrary to what many believe.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Profiting From God’s Work

II Kings 5:20-27

“But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.” (II Kings 5:20-21a)

Gehazi thought it was poor business that Elisha had refused to take payment for healing Naaman of his leprosy.  After all, he had offered to pay.  Surely Elisha should have taken at least a little bit of the money, but he refused to take any.  Perhaps he could make a little for himself if Elisha wouldn’t.

“So Gehazi followed after Naaman.  And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? 

And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments.” (II Kings 5:21b-22)

Naaman had barely got out of sight before Gehazi started running after him.  Naaman saw him coming and recognized him.  Thinking some thing had happened, he stopped to see what it was.  Gehazi told him that two poor prophets had come just after he left and were in need.  Would  Naaman be willing to give them a little bit to help with their ministry?  He was only asking for about seventy five pounds of silver and two suits, and the king of Syria had sent ten times that much silver and ten new suits besides six thousand gold pieces.  It really wasn’t very much and would cost Naaman nothing  since the king had sent it for that purpose.

“And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him.

And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed.  But he went in, and stood before his master.”  (II Kings 5:23-25a) 

Naaman was glad to give what was asked.  In fact he insisted on giving two talents of silver, not just one.  He even sent two of his servants to help carry it back.  Gehazi took the clothes and money and put them in his own house and sent Naamans servants back to him  After all Elisha had refused to take the money and it was right that Naaman should pay for being healed so he was justified in keeping it, or at least that’s what he told himself.  Elisha would never know what had happened.  When he had it safely stored away, he went back to where Elisha was.

“And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? 

And he said, Thy servant went no whither. 

And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?” (II Kings 5:25b-26)

Elisha immediately asked where he had gone.  Gehazi said he hadn’t gone anywhere but to his house.   Elisha then told him that the spirit had shown him what was going on as Gehazi went with him when Naaman stopped to meet him and when Gehazi asked for the money and clothing.   As Elisha pointed out helping people ought not be for the purpose of making a profit, although modern business makes it sound like that is the way things should be.

In Acts 18:18-19, Simon offered to pay a huge fee to get Gods power.    In Acts 8:20-23, Peter responded, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.  Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.  Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.  For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”

About sixty or seventy years ago, Oral Roberts was advertising that if a person would send him a handkerchief and a dollar with a return address, he’d pray over the handkerchief and send it back and the person’s problem would be resolved.  According to Peter, everyone who sent the money and handkerchief did so because they were wicked and had no understanding of God,.  Oral Roberts made the offer because he was also wicked and had no understanding of God.

The same thing is true of the televangelists who promise that anyone who gives ten dollars for their ministry will receive twenty in return, or the priests who promise that a dead person will be released from purgatory and get into heaven when their family pays a certain amount of money.   God doesn’t take bribes.

"The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.” (II Kings 5:27)

The leprosy that had been cured for Naaman would come on Gehazi in a form of poetic justice for having tried to use it as a way of making himself a profit.  Galatians  6:7-8 warns, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”  Fools think they can fool God.

God rewards as he sees fit.  We are not qualified to decide what should be paid since it is God who did the work.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Leprosy Cured

II Kings 5:1-19

“Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” (II Kings 5:1) 

While Syria had largely turned to idolatry, they still had a knowledge of God and many still served him.  It is easy to forget that Abraham was originally a Syrian, as Deuteronomy 26:5 reminds us.  “And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:” 

Unlike the Canaanites and Amorites, they had not completely turned their backs on God.  As a result, we find God still working among them in various ways.  One of these was in using Naaman to deliver Syria from some of their enemies.  Not only was Naaman respected by his king, he was an honorable man, a man who did what was right.  Unfortunately, he also had Leprosy, which would eventually disable and finally kill him.  Because it was contagious, he was forced to minimize contact with other people.

“And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman's wife.  And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.” (II Kings 5:2-3) 

In their fighting, the Syrians had taken a little Israelite girl as a slave, and she was placed as a servant to Naaman’s wife.  Being well treated in the household, she became concerned about Naaman’s welfare and told someone she wished Naaman would go see the prophet in Israel.  She was sure the prophet could heal him of his leprosy.

“And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. 

And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.” (II Kings 5:4-5)

Not wanting to lose a valuable military leader, when the king heard about her comment, he gladly volunteered to pay whatever such a series of treatments might costing in hope that it would make a difference, because obviously the standard treatment wasn‘t effective..  It was definitely worth trying something different.  He sent a vast amount of money with Naaman to pay for the treatment.   Apparently medical care those days was as expensive as it is today.

“And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. 

And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.” (II Kings 5:6-7)

Not knowing who to contact, and assuming the king would be the best informed, the king of Syria wrote to the king of Israel that he had sent Naaman to be cured of leprosy.   Since he knew nothing of any leprosy clinic and the thought of asking God for healing never even occurred to him, Jehoram had no idea how to heal Naaman.   He assumed that the king of Syria was just looking for an excuse to attack them.

“And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” (II Kings 5:8)

When Elisha heard what was going on he sent a message to have Naaman come to him.  At least Naaman and the king of Syria would know there was  prophet of God in Israel even the king of Israel didn’t seem to.  There was no need for Jehoram to get upset about the request.

“So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. 

And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. 

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.” (II Kings 5:9-12)

When Naaman arrived with his entourage, Elisha didn’t even bother to go out to meet him, but just sent a servant to tell him to go wash in the Jordan river seven times and he’d be clean.

As a powerful Syrian official, Naaman was used to having a big production wherever he went.  He felt that Elisha had disrespected him by not even bothering to meet him personally.  To be treated as just an ordinary person was really an affront to him, and he decided he’d rather go back to Syria with his leprosy than be so humiliated.   He could get just as clean washing in one of the rivers in Syria.

Sadly, it is an attitude that many wealthy or powerful people develop.  They forget that they aren’t better or more deserving than other people and began to demand special treatment, with no clue what they are missing because of their attitude.

 “And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (II Kings 5:13) 

Fortunately, his servants were not caught up in his pride and were able to help him see things in perspective.  As they pointed out, if Elisha had demanded he accomplish some great feat such as conquering a city at the risk of his life he would not have been offended so why should he be upset about being asked to just wash in the Jordan, which would cost him nothing.   It was at least worth a try.

“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.” (II Kings 5:14-15) 

Though it seemed way too simple, he did as directed, and was cured of his leprosy.   Forgetting all about any perceived disrespect, he went back to Elisha to thank him, and acknowledge that God was the only true God.  He asked him to accept payment for his healing

“But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. 

And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD.  In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing.

 “And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.” (II Kings 5:17-19)

Elisha refused payment for what God had done, So Naaman asked for enough dirt from Israel to be used in making an altar to worship God.  He also asked to be forgiven when, in the course of fulfilling his duties he might be forced to attend the worship of idols as part of his job.  Elisha told him it would be no problem.  As Christians, we may be required to do something we don’t feel good about as part of our job.  God understands our predicament.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Providing For His People

II Kings 4:38-44

“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.” (II Kings 4:38) 

Deuteronomy 11:13-17 advised Israel, “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.  And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. 

Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.”

While Jehoram was not as wicked as Ahab and Ahaziah, he still did wickedly himself, and the people continued with the same attitudes and culture they had been developing since Jeroboam’s day.  Because of their turning to other gods and refusal to keep their contract with God, droughts and famines were a constant problem, affecting those who worshipped God as well as those who didn’t.

“And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.” (II Kings 4:39)

The sons of the prophets had met together with Elisha and he asked his servant to prepare a stew to feed them all.  Because of the drought, different ones were sent our to forage for food to put in the stew.  Since the familiar and preferred edible plants were scarce, one of the men picked gourds from a vine he didn’t recognize and chopped them up into the stew, not realizing they were poisonous.

“So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.” (II Kings 4:40)

When it was cooked they served it and everyone started eating.  Before very long people started getting sick and they realized that the stew was poisonous.  They were afraid to eat anymore and warned Elisha.

“But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.” (II Kings 4:41)

Rather than throwing away the entire pot of food, Elisha told them to add some flour.   When they did so, it miraculously neutralized the poison, making it harmless so they could go ahead and eat it.  God again used what they had to feed all the sons of the prophets.

“And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. 

And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. 

And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men?” (II Kings 4:42-43a)

A few days later, an man brought an offering of his first fruits to Elisha.  This was an offering of the first things they picked that was given as a way of thanking God for making the crops grow, picked and offered before they harvested the main crop.  The man had picked enough to make about twenty servings.

Elisha told his servant to give it to the people because they were hungry.  The servant feared they would end up fighting over it because there were over a hundred there.

“He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.  So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.” (II Kings 4:43a-44)

Elisha told him to go ahead because it would be more than enough.  Sure enough, when everyone had eaten all they wanted, there was food leftover, just as there was both times  when Jesus fed the multitudes.

Though the nation as a whole was rebelling against him, God still provided for those who served him, even when they made dumb decisions such as putting poisonous gords in the pot.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Shunammite Woman

II Kings 4:7-37

“And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.

 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.  Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.” (II Kings 4:8-10)

Ahab and his descendants had been even worse than Jeroboam and his family, even killing those who served God.  Despite this effort, there were still a lot of people who served God.  One of thewse was a woman of Shunem, a great person who didn’t hesitate to help others even when it might expose her to governmental displeasure.

After meeting Elisha, she invited him to come by for a meal anytime he was in the area.  When she realized how often Elisha traveled, she suggested that she and her husband build a separate room for him to stay in whenever he was in the area.  It is a common attitude for those who love God, that they want to help others who love him.

I John 3:14 tells us that this is one of the evidences that we are actually saved, that we love other Christians.  “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”   John 13:35 says that it is one of the ways people can tell a person is a real Christian.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

“And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.  And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.  And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host?

 And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. 

 And he said, What then is to be done for her?

 And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.” (II Kings 4:11-14) 

Elisha appreciated what the woman was doing for him and wanted to do something to express his appreciation.   He asked her if there was some political favor or business she needed help with.   She responded that she lived among her own relatives and had everything she needed.

After she left, Elisha asked Ghazi for ideas as to what they could do for her.  Gehazi mentioned that she had no children, in a society which prized their children.  They didn’t have the fertility clinics we have today to try to force a pregnancy.

“And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.  And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. 

And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.” (II Kings 4:15-16)

She had reached and age where she no longer thought having a child was possible.  When Elisha told her she was going to, she begged him not to kid her about it.  It was a hope she had given u on and didn’t want to be disappointed again.

“And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.  And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.

 And he said unto his father, My head, my head. 

And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. 

And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.” (II Kings 4:17-20) 

Elisha’s prophecy came about and for several years they were a happy family.   The boy regularly accompanied his father to work in the field,  One day during harvest, he developed a terrible headache and his father had him taken back to the house where his mother held him and tried to help.  About noon the boy died, whether from heatstroke or some kind of viral infection we don’t know.

“And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. 

And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again. 

And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. 

And she said, It shall be well.” (II Kings 4:21-23)

After placing the boy’s body on the bed in Elisha’s room, she asked her husband to let her have one of their employees to accompany her to go meet with Elisha.  Since it was not one of the special days of worship, her husband couldn’t figure out why she wanted to contact him.  Apparently she had not told him about the boy’s death.  Her only response was that he’d be glad she did.

“Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.  So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel.” (II Kings 4:24-25a) 

She instructed the servant to travel as fast as possible and not to slow down unless she had to ask him to.  They made a fast trip to mount Carmel where they met Elisha.

“And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? 

And she answered, It is well. 

And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. 

And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.” (II Kings 4;25b-27)

When Elisha saw her coming and recognized her, he sent Gehazi to ask her what was wrong.  She wouldn’t talk about it to Gehazi.  When she rushed up and fell on her knees grabbing Elisha aroung the legs, Gehazi tried to pull her away, fearing people might get the wrong idea.  Elisha told him to let her alone.  Her emotional state was more important than what people might say.  They would have to wait until she was able to tell them what was wrong because God had not given Elisha some miraculous insight.

“Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? 

Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child. 

And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.

 And he arose, and followed her. And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.” (II Kings 4:28-31)

She was so overwrought she couldn’t tell them what was wrong, just reminding Elisha she hadn’t asked for a son and had asked not to play games with her.  Elisha realized something was wrong with her son and sent Ghazi ahead to see if he could do anything for him.  The woman refused to leave Elisha, so they started toward Shunem, with Ghazi going on ahead.  When Gehazi returned he told Elisha he had not been able to anything for him.

“And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.  He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. 

And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. 

Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.” (II Kings 4:32-35)

When Elisha arrived he found the child dead.  Embracing the child he lay on the bed allowing his own body heat to permeate the child’s body, warming him up.  After a while, he got up and walked around for  while, probably praying before lying down and holding the child a while longer.  Finally the boy started sneezing and regained consciousness.

“And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. 

So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.  Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.” (II Kings 4:36-37)

When the mother came to him Elisha told her to take her  son.  She went and bowed down herself to him, thanking him profusely before taking the boy to tell his father what had happened.  What a story she had to share.   Her faith resulted in her son being restored to life, and she is mentioned as one of the examples of faith in Hebrews 11:35.
She was absolutely convinced that God could ressurect her son even though he had died.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just A Pot Of Oil

II Kings 4:1-6

“Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.” (II Kings 4:1) 

Since Jeroboam became king of Israel, they had been in constant economic turmoil and god had not blessed as richly as he did under David and Solomon.  During Ahab and Ahaziah’s reigns, it had been especially hard for those who were trying to serve God.  They had tried to get rid of all the prophets of God.  It didn’t get much better under Jehorm’s reign.

During this period, one of the sons of the prophets borrowed money to care for his family.  When he died before paying off the loan, the lender demanded immediate repayment, threatening to have her sons sold as bondservants if payment was not made by a specific date.

The only difference between a bond or indentured servant and a slave was that their slavery was limited to a specified length of time by law while a slave was not.  Greedy masters trying to get the maximum for their investment often drove them even harder than their slaves.  The penalty for running away was the same as for a slave.

The widow could see no way to pay the debt, and the creditor was not willing to give her more time.  She came to Elisha hoping he could help some way since her husband had been serving God.  Devout Christians experience the same difficulties other people experience and sometimes more, contrary to what some teachers believe.

In John 16;33, Jesus said, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world…”   Paul warned, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.,” in II Timothy 3:12.  This is one of those promises I sometimes don’t like, that as a Christian, I will have trouble.  

“And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? 

And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.” (II Kings 4:2)

Elisha didn’t have any money to help her, but he asked her what she had in the house.   She responded that the only thing she had left was a pot of oil.

“Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.  And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.” (II Kings 4:3-4) 

Elisha told her to borrow as many containers from her neighbors as she could get and take them home with her.  When she got there she was to start pouring oil into them and set them aside,    She was just to use what she already had.

“So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.  And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. 

And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.” (II Kings 4:5-6) 

As long as she kept pouring the oil into the containers, there was enough to fill it.  When she stopped pouring because there was no where else to put it, the oil stopped flowing.  In many ways this story is much like that of the woman at Zarephath’s flour in Elijah’s day.   They simply trusted God and used what they had, and he supplied what they needed.

Far too often in our day, we want to be sure we have enough to complete the job before we start.  As a result we never learn to trust God to supply day by day.   I wonder how often we miss out on God’s blessings because we don’t use what he has given us.

Because of this experience. The woman, her sons, and her neighbors received a tremendous testimony of how God can and does provide for his people.  Their faith was undoubtedly strengthened as a result.  Had they not been in the situation, they would never have seen this power.  Had they not borrowed the containers and started pouring oil, they would not have seen it either.

While we are definitely advised to count the cost whether we have enough, we often miscount God's power in the process, either discounting his ability to supply, or expecting him to supply for things that are solely to satisfy our own lusts.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Attitudes Haven’t Changed

II Kings 3:20-27

“And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.” (II Kings 3:20)

The armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom were out of water and feared defeat.  God had instructed them to dig ditches to catch water he would send.  During the night there was a flash flood in the land of Edom, that filled all the ditches, even there was no rain in the area where they were.  There was no longer concern about dehydration.

 “And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.  And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.” (II Kings 3:21-23) 

Learning that they were being attacked from the south rather than the north, Moab was forced to move their army to border with Edom for defense.  When the sun arose they saw the reflection off the water int eh ditches, and it looked like blood.  They assumed that the three kings had gotten to fighting among themselves and wiped each other out,  Infact, a little later, in II Chronicles 20, a consortium of Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites did exactly that when fighting Jeroboam.

“And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.  And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it.” (II Kings 3:24-25)

Assuming the armies had fought among themselves, the Moabites were expecting no resistance.  They were completely unprepared for Israel’s defense, and were routed.  Israel followed God’s command to tear down the walls of their forts, cut down the fruittrees and vineyards , and plug the wells so they would have to rebuild their country before they could afford to retaliate.

“And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.” (II Kings 3:26) 

Convinced he couldn’t defeat the entire army, Mesha, king of Moab decided to try to kill the Edomite king for betraying him and helping Israel and Judah.   He was unsuccessful in the attempt, and decided they need supernatural help to avoid total defeat.

“Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.” (II Kings 3:27)

In an effort that smacks of present day terrorist groups sending their own children on suicide missions to win Allah’s approval, The king of Moab publicly offered his own son as a sacrifice on the wall of his capital.

Rather than blame the king for the death of his son, the people blamed Israel, much like they do in suicide bombings today.  Their attitudes have changed very little in the last three thousand years, despite their history.  The same groups still have basically the same attitudes, with the result that the Middle East is still involved in ther same power struggle.

If a culture is to be changed, it crucial that the underlying attitudes the children are taught be changed.  Education, religion, or increased wealth do not make those crucial changes.  One thing the Holy Spirit does in the Christian is to renew the spirit of his mind, to make him a new creature.  Without his work changes are usually superficial.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

He Did It Again

II Kings 3:1-19

"Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years.  And he wrought evil in the sight of the LORD; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made.  Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.” (II Kings 3:1-3)

Ahab had been king over Israel during the first sixteen years of Jehoshaphat’s reign.  After his death early in the seventeenth year, his son Ahaziah assumed the throne.  Because he so determinedly followed Ahab’s example God only let him remain in power slightly less than two years before dying of an injury late in Jehoshaphat‘s eighteenth year.

Because Ahaziah had no children, the throne was given to his younger brother, Jehoram.  While Jehoram was still involved in wickedness and rejection of God, he was not as aggressive as his father Ahab or his mother Jezebel.  He stopped worshipping Baal, and trying to kill God’s prophets.  Like Jeroboam, he tried to modify the Jewish religion to maintain control of the people however.   Because he did not do as wickedly as his parents, he was allowed to reign for twelve years.

“And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool.  But it came to pass, when Ahab was dead, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.” (II Kings 3:4-5)

The Moabites had paid Ahab a tribute of a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand Rams for many years to avoid war.  They had rebelled and refused to pay it when Ahaziah became king, but he died without being able to take action.

“And king Jehoram went out of Samaria the same time, and numbered all Israel.  And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle?

And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses. ” (II Kings 3:6-7)

Like most governments, Jehoram wanted to get as much income as possible.  After counting his forces, he decided to ask for Judah’s help to force Moab to pay their tribute.  Jehoshaphat had been rebuked for helping Ahab about six years before, but he responded the same way he had when Ahab asked for help.   He didn’t bother to ask God before committing himself.

“And he said, Which way shall we go up? 

And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom. 

So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they fetched a compass of seven days' journey: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them. 

And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab!” (II Kings 3:8-10)

After some discussion, it was decided that rather than attack from the north, they would swing south around the Dead sea through the land of Edom and try to catch them by surprise.  They enlisted the Edomite army in their effort as well.  Unfortunately, the water holes they were counting on were insufficient for the army and the livestock they had taken for food.  The entire force was suffering from dehydration.  Without an immediate source of water, they would start dying soon.

Though they had not asked God, like most people, Jehoram blamed him when things didn’t go as he expected them to.  He accused God of just bringing them out there so the Moabites could wipe them out.  It is a very common response.

"But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may inquire of the LORD by him? 

And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah. 

 And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the LORD is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.” (II Kings 3:11-12)

Rather than blaming God, Jehoshaphat suggested they ask him what they should do.  Somebody mentioned that Elisha was nearby, and Jehoshaphat recommended they go ask him what God said.  He, Jehoram, adnd the King of Edom all went to see Elisha.

“And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother. 

And the king of Israel said unto him, Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab. 

And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.  But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.” (II Kings 3:13-15) 

When he saw Jehoram, Elisha told him they should go ask the ones they had chosen as prophets since they thought they were better than God.  Jehoram insisted that they knew it was god who had put them in that position, and they needed to know what he wanted.  Elisha told them that the only reason he’d even consider helping them was because of his respect for Jehoshaphat.  Since Jehoshaphat was there, he would ask God.

He called for a minstrel to come and play soft relaxing music to settle his emotions so he would be able to hear the still small voice of God.  Otherwise, his dislike of Jehoram might well prevent his hearing what God said.  Unfortunately, much modern music is designed to stimulate the emotions, and emotional responses drown out God’s voice.

“And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.  For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. 

And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.  And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.” (II Kings 3:16-19)

God directed them to dig ditches to trap water all over the valley.  They would not see any wind or rain, but a storm elsewhere would cause a flashflood in the valley where they were, and if they had ditches to prevent it running off, would provide enough water for everyone.   Furthermore, instead of causing them to lose to the Moabites, God was going to give them a huge victory, defeating and destroying the defenses of every major city.

While they were at it, they were to plug up the wells, cut down all the orchards and vineyards, and scatter rocks in allt  eh fields to make them difficult to plow.  Moab would be forced to concentrate on rebuilding their infrastructure and would be unable to retaliate as a result.

When Jehoshaphat went with Ahab, it almost resulted in his death because he was mistaken for Ahab.  When he agreed to join forces in a trading venture with Ahaziah, his entire fleet was destroyed by a storm.  This time his entire army was in danger of death as a result of dehydration.  Seems like he ought to catch on after a while doesn’t it?  An awful lot of us don't seem to catch on either.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Academic Training Versus Practical Experience

II Kings 2:15-25

“And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.” (II Kings 2:15)

The sons of the prophets appears to have been a loose affiliation of men who felt called to become prophets.  They banded together for encouragement and the opportunity to learn more about prophecy.  It often pointed to as the forerunner of our modern day seminaries and Christian colleges.  Deuteronomy gives specific instructions as to how to tell if a prophet was from God or not.

Deuteronomy 18:18-19 declares that God would give prophets and that the people must hear what God’s prophets had to say.  They would be held accountable for obedience.  “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.  But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”

Prophets who  were not from God were to be executed  out of hand for lying about what God had said.  Two tests were given to determine whether he was a false prophet.  The first is found in Deuteronomy 18:21-22.  “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?  When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”

If the things the prophet prophesied didn’t happen, he was a false prophet and was to be killed and his prophecies ignored.   He was not speaking for God but from some other source.  Even if the prophecy happened, if he spoke in the name of another God he was also to be executed according to Deuteronomy 13:1-4.  “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.”

No other instructions about choosing or training prophets is ever given in the Old Testament.  The organization known as the sons of the prophets appears to have been entirely man’s idea, with no official authorization by God.  

“And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley.

 And he said, Ye shall not send. 

And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. 

They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.” (II Kings 2:16-17)

The sons of the prophets feared that God had taken up Elijah just to drop him out in the desert.  They had no confidence that he would actually take him into heaven.   Elisha had gotten his training in the field working alongside Elijah and seeing hoe God worked, while the sons of the prophets were in a school settings where their experience was solely with the programs their teachers exposed them to.   While they had more academic training, they had no experience in applying it to real life.

Unfortunately this is a potential problem for any academic situation, and Bible colleges or seminaries are no exception.  Many Bible colleges equip their students with a great deal of knowledge, but little or no spiritual development.  As II Timothy 3:5 says, they look great but have nothing worthwhile to offer.  “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."  Their whole focus is on man’s ideas rather than God’s power.

Far too often Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 2:2-5 is ignored.  “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  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."  Academic training cannot replace practical experience if Christians are to develop a strong sound faith.

“And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?” (II Kings 2:18)

Elisha had tried to tell them that God could be trusted, but they had ignored him.  Now he reminds them what he had told them.  Convinced they knew more than he did, they had insisted on going.   As I Corinthians 8:1 warns, “…Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.”  It is interesting to note that most of the prophets God used mightily were not from the sons of the prophets.  The contrast between Elisha and th esons of the prophets is rather dramatic.

“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is nought, and the ground barren.

 And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. 

And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. 

So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.” (II Kings 2:19-22)

The sons of the prophets were headquartered in Jericho, but they had been unable to do anything about a serious problem.  Elisha allowed the Spirit to direct him and was able to solve their problem very simply.  

“And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.  And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.  And he went from thence to mount Carmel, and from thence he returned to Samaria.” (II Kings 2:23-25)

Since the time of Jeroboam, there had been a turning away from God and an increasing lack of respect for his standards.  That these children would make fun of the prophet of God was only and indication of attitude of the nation toward God.  These children were in effect mocking God‘s standard.  Their age was not an excuse.  .  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Elisha Empowered By God

II Kings 2:1-14

“And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.” (II Kings 2:1)

Several years before, Elijah had fled when Jezebel declared she was going to have him killed.  When he finally broke free from his depression God gave him some specific instructions in I Kings 19:15-17.  “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."

Elijah had immediately followed through on that command and for at least four years, Elijah had accompanied him, learning everything he could about  God and his message.  Now Elijah’s mission is completed and God is ready to take him away.  While we don’t know exactly when this story took place, we know that it was sometime after Jehoram became king of Israel.

“And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel.

 And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. 

And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? 

And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 

And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho.

 And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. 

And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? 

And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. 

And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. 

And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.” (II Kings 2:2-6a)

Elijah repeatedly tried to leave Elisha behind at different places along the way, walking nearly twenty miles.  Each time Elisha refused to stay behind, finally telling Elijah he was going to be with him no matter what.   Elisha knew that God was going to take Elijah, as he told the prophets at Bethel and Jericho, and he didn’t want to talk about it.  Jericho had only been rebuilt in Ahab’s day.

“And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. 

And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.” (II Kings 2:6b-8)

Fifty of the sons of the prophets followed along to see what would happen, remaining at a distance.  When they came to the Jordan, God miraculously opened the way for Elijah and Elisha,  The followers were blocked by the river.

“And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. 

And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. 

And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.” (II Kings 2:9-10)

When Elijah asked what Elisha wanted, he asked for a twice as much of the spirit of God to be on him as was on Elijah.  Unlike many prospective Christian leaders today, he recognized that the indwelling Spirit was far more important than any amount of training or experience.

As Elijah told him, spiritual power requires a level of commitment far beyond what most are willing to make.  Only if he was there all the way would he receive that power.  Luke 14:26-28 describes the commitment required.  “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.  For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”

It would have been far easier to have stopped at one of the places Elijah suggested but Elisha refused to stop.

“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 

And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. 

He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.” (II Kings 2:11-14)

Elisha was there when Elijah was taken up.  He had demonstrated his commitment to God’s ministry.  When he saw the chariot of fire he recognized it as God’s power.  While he was saddened by the loss of his mentor, he wasted little time grieving.  Gathering up Elijah’s mantle or outer coat, he took it with him, and used it just as Elijah had at the river, asking if God had fulfilled his promise of power.   The waters parted just as they had for Elijah, giving him the assurance he sought.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ahaziah, King of Israel

I Kings 22:51-II Kings 1:12

“Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned two years over Israel.  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: For he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the LORD God of Israel, according to all that his father had done.” (I Kings 22:51-53)

After Ahab was killed by the Syrian Army, his son Ahaziah became king.   He had the same attitudes he learned from his father Ahab and his mother Jezebel, deliberately trying to gain power by turning Israel to other religions instead of serving God.  He worshipped Baal, and practiced the things God had forbidden.  God gave him almost two years to demonstrate his intentions.

“Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab. 

“And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. “ (II Kings 1:1-2)

The Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites had attacked Jehoshaphat and God had caused them to fight among themselves.  As a result they were weakened to a point where Ahab was able to gain control.  When he was killed, they were able to rebel and break away from Ahaziah.

Ahaziah fell through one of the railings of his palace and was severely injured.  As his condition worsened, he became concerned he would die and sent messengers to The Philistine city of Ekron to consult their god, Baalzebub, the prince of devils or Satan, as to whether he would recover.

“But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron?  Now therefore thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. And Elijah departed.” (II Kings 1:3-4)

God was not pleased by Ahaziah’s asking Baalzebub for guidance.  It implied that Israel”s God was not really a god at all, and God was offended.  As a result, Ahaziah’s health would continue to deteriorate until he died of his injury.  After delivering the message to Ahaziah’s messengers, Elijah left.

 "And when the messengers turned back unto him, he said unto them, Why are ye now turned back?

 And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. 

And he said unto them, What manner of man was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words? 

And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.” (II Kings 1:5-8) 

When his messengers returned before they could have made the trip, Ahaziah demanded to know why they hadn’t done as they were supposed to.  They repeated what Elijah had told them and Ahaziah demanded to know who told them that.  When they described him, he realized it had to be Elijah, the prophet who had stood against his father.  He decided to have him forcibly brought in for questioning.

"Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.

 And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty. 

Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly. 

And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.” (II Kings 1:9-12)

Counting on the authority Ahaziah had given them the first taskforce demanded that Elijah come with them.  Elijah simply asked God to demonstrate whether he was serving God or not by sending fire to destroy them, and like a bolt of lightening, they were destroyed.  The second group was even more aggressive, demanding that he he hurry up.  Elijah repeated his request with the same result.  Their attitude was the same domineering attitude that is so prevalent among government officials today.

They didn’t understand what Romans 13:1-2 tells us.  “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”  Even government’s power is derived from God, and is limited by his authority.

“And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.  Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.

And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.” (II Kings 1:13-15) 

The leader of the third group sent to arrest Elijah had a more humble attitude, recognizing God’s power and asking him to come with them without threatening.   God told Elijah to go with this man because there was no danger of him killing him.

“And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.” (II Kings 1:16)

God’s message didn’t change because the king didn’t like it.  Because Ahaziah discounted God and went to another for advice, he would die right where he lay.  No amount of threats would change that.

“So he died according to the word of the LORD which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son.  Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?” (II Kings 1:17-18)

Elijah’s prophecy was fulfilled, and because he had no son to take the throne, his brother Jehoram took the throne.   It is at this point we began to find it easy to get confused as to who is who, because the next king of Judah will also be named Jehoram.   Ahaziah is the king Jehoshaphat tried to form a trading venture with that God stopped.

There are those who insist the King James Version is perfect.  The statement here that Jehoram assumed the throne during the second year of Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram’s reign is contradicted by II Kings 3:1.  “Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years."  Jehoshaphat reigned twenty five years before Jehoram became king of Judah.  The error arose as a result of a scribal error in copying the scriptures, and the translators did not correct it, desiring to follow the originals as closely as possible.  It in no wise implies the scriptures are not to be trusted.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Alliance With Wicked Men
I Kings 22:48-50, II Chronicles 20:31-37

“And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah: he was thirty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.  And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.  Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers. 

Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Jehu the son of Hanani, who is mentioned in the book of the kings of Israel.” (II Chronicles 20:31-34)

Asa had been one of the best kings Judah had, serving God wholeheartedly.   Not since Solomon had they had a king who really tried to serve God.  He had done a great deal to turn the people back to God, and had made Judah a great kingdom.  His Son Jehoshaphat followed his example, even carrying it farther.  He had set up teams of leaders and Levites to teach the people God’s word, and had done his best to eradicate the idolatry and worship of nature.  Because the people chose to continue secretly, he was not able to completely eliminate it, although he did drive it underground.

“And after this did Jehoshaphat king of Judah join himself with Ahaziah king of Israel, who did very wickedly: And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Eziongaber.  Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the LORD hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish.” (II Chronicles 20:3537)

"Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Eziongeber.  Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not.” (I Kings 22:48-49) 

Early in his reign, Jehoshaphat had allied himself with Ahab, king of Israel.  As a result he had nearly been killed, and had been severely rebuked by the prophet Jehu for helping the wicked.  Thirteen years later, he made a treaty with Ahab’s son Ahaziah, joining with him in a trading venture.  Like Solomon, he established a ship building center at Eziongeber, on the Gulf of Aqaba, intending to send them along the Gold Coast of Africa and over to India.

Because the prophet Eliezer warned him that God was going to cause the venture to fail because of his association with Ahaziah, he refused to allow Ahaziah’s sailors to accompany the ships.  This did not save the ships and the entire fleet was destroyed while still in the harbor, probably by a tsunami or hurricane.  They didn’t rebuild the fleet.

Once again we are reminded of God’s command in II Corinthians 6:14-18.  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”  It is very similar to what Psalm 82 says.

Far too often Christians align themselves with things that are wrong in an effort to accomplish some goal.  God does not bless such actions.  To go along with the wickedness brings God’s judgment on us.  Proverbs 17:15 declares, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD,” while Proverbs 24:24-25 warns, “He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him: But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.”  By ignoring their sin, we effectively approve it.

After Ahaziah’s death, in II Kings 3, Jehoshaphat allied himself with Jehoram, another wicked king of Israel against the Moabites.  Like many Christians today, he never seemed to quite get it.

“And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father: and Jehoram his son reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 22:50)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Family Fight

I Kings 22:47-50, II Chronicles 20:1-30

"It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle.  Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi.” (II Chronicles 20:1-2)

The Moabites and Ammonites are both the products of incest between Abraham’s nephew Lot and his two daughters.  They were accompanied by various groups from the east of the Sea of Galilee, and the Edomites from southeast of the Dead or Salt Sea.  The Edomites were descendants of Abraham’s son Esau.  Many of the other groups were related as a result of marriage.  While the Philistines and Arabians hesitated to attack Jehoshaphat and Judah because of God’s blessing, Their relatives were jealous.   Some of the most bitter fights of history were the results of interfamily jealousy.  The entire group decided to attack Judah.

“And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.  And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. 

And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? 

Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?  And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying, if, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.” (II Chronicles 20:3-9)

Attacked by an army nearly equal to his own, but having the support of many other groups around the region, Jehoshaphat feared that they could not win the battle on their own, so he sought God’s help, gathering Israel for prayer.

In his prayer he reviews who God is and the promises He made if Israel would obey his commands.  He is reminding himself and Israel what they have the right to expect and declaring their dependence on God and faith in his promises, Reminding everyone that they have for several years devoted themselves to obeying God’s word.

“And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not; Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.  O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee. 

And all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” (II Chronicles 20:10-13) 

As he reminds God, the ones attacking were the same people God had forbidden them to attack in Deuteronomy  2:9 and 2:19.  They have obeyed God in in not attacking Edom, Moab, or Ammon, but those groups are now attacking them.  Now he is asking God to protect them from them.  All of Judah was united in this prayer.

“Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the LORD in the midst of the congregation; And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. 

To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel.  Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD will be with you.” (II Chronicles 20:14-17) 

A Levite prophet named Jahaziel was directed by the Holy Spirit to tell them not to worry because God would keep his promise.  Judah would not need to fight them, but should go down to their camp as if they were going to battle.  They would get to watch what God did to save them.

“And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the LORD, worshipping the LORD. 

And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high. 

And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.  And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.” (II Chronicles 20:18-21) 

They praised and worshipped God, falling on their faces in humility.  The next morning, on their way, Jehoshaphat selected a choir to go before the army and lead them in songs of praise, thanking God for his holiness and beauty, and that his mercy is everlasting.

“And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.  For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy them: and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.” (II Chronicles 20:22- 23)

“There was then no king in Edom: a deputy was king.” (I Kings 22:47)

The king of Edom had no authority of his own, but was a temporary appointee, serving in Mount Seir.  When Judah began to praise the Lord, God caused the Moabites and Ammonites to turn on the Edomites, in an effort to keep them from taking sides.  After destroying the Edomites, they fought among themselves until both groups were annihilated.  

“And when Judah came toward the watch tower in the wilderness, they looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped. 

And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much.” (II Chronicles 20:24-25)

God had promised Judah wouldn’t need to fight and when they arrived, they found no survivors.  It took them three days just to clean up all the stuff the different groups left behind.

“And on the fourth day they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for there they blessed the LORD: therefore the name of the same place was called, The valley of Berachah, unto this day.  Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the LORD had made them to rejoice over their enemies. 

And they came to Jerusalem with psalteries and harps and trumpets unto the house of the LORD.  And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.  So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.” (II Chronicles 20:26-30) 

After cleaning up the mess, they assembled in the valley of Beracah or ‘prosperity’ to thank God for the victory and for what they had recovered in the cleanup.  They returned to Jerusalem rejoicing, and other countries were afraid to start a war against them after hearing the outcome.

Jehoshaphat’s Reign

I Kings 22:41-46

“And Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel.  Jehoshaphat was thirty and five years old when he began to reign; and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi.   
And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the LORD: nevertheless the high places were not taken away; for the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.” (I Kings 22:41-43) 

Asa had been a very good king over Judah, following God’s commands and trusting God to defeat the Ethiopian and Libyan  alliance.  Unfortunately, when he became older, he began to put his faith in human power rather than God.  His son Jehoshaphat followed his example in serving God.  Though he reigned for twenty five years, he was never able to completely stop people from secretly worshipping nature in the high places.  II Chronicles 17 describes the tenor of his reign.

“And Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself against Israel.  And he placed forces in all the fenced cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim, which Asa his father had taken. 

And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel.  Therefore the LORD stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance.  And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah. 

Also in the third year of his reign he sent to his princes, even to Benhail, and to Obadiah, and to Zechariah, and to Nethaneel, and to Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah.  And with them he sent Levites, even Shemaiah, and Nethaniah, and Zebadiah, and Asahel, and Shemiramoth, and Jehonathan, and Adonijah, and Tobijah, and Tobadonijah, Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, priests.  And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the LORD with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people. “ (II Chronicles 17:1-9)

Not only did Jehoshaphat serve the Lord himself, he spent a great deal of effort making sure the people knew what God said, sending a group out to teach throughout the nation.  God blessed his efforts in mighty way, with the people going out of their way to do things for him in appreciation.

“And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat.  Also some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents, and tribute silver; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand and seven hundred rams, and seven thousand and seven hundred he goats.  And Jehoshaphat waxed great exceedingly; and he built in Judah castles, and cities of store.  And he had much business in the cities of Judah: and the men of war, mighty men of valour, were in Jerusalem.” (II Chronicles 17:10-13)

Because he was so blessed of God, other countries didn’t dare attack him, and some traditional enemies such as the Philistines actively sought assurances of peace.  The Arabs brought him huge flocks of sheep and goats as a token of good will.  He built large fortresses throughout the land, and the economy flourished., with large warehouses to keep surplus food for emergencies.

"And these are the numbers of them according to the house of their fathers: Of Judah, the captains of thousands; Adnah the chief, and with him mighty men of valour three hundred thousand.  And next to him was Jehohanan the captain, and with him two hundred and fourscore thousand.  And next him was Amasiah the son of Zichri, who willingly offered himself unto the LORD; and with him two hundred thousand mighty men of valour.  And of Benjamin; Eliada a mighty man of valour, and with him armed men with bow and shield two hundred thousand.  And next him was Jehozabad, and with him an hundred and fourscore thousand ready prepared for the war.  These waited on the king, beside those whom the king put in the fenced cities throughout all Judah.” (II Chronicles 17:14-19)

Besides building castles and warehouses for food throughout the land. Jehoshaphat established a million man army based in Jerusalem.  They were able to respond to any threat in a timely manner.

“And Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel.” (I Kings 22:44) 

Like the other kings, Ahab saw how God was blessing Jehoshaphat and made a treaty with him.  It was that treaty that led Ahab to ask Jehoshaphat to help in recovering Ramothgilead from the Syrians, as II Chronicles 18:1-2 describes.  “Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.  And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramothgilead.”

Because Jehoshaphat put making peace ahead of standing for what was right, God was upset with him according to II Chronicles 19:2-3.  “And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.  Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.”

“Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he showed, and how he warred, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?” (I Kings 22:45)

Jehoshaphat made a concerted effort to turn Judah back completely to serving God.  In addition to sending teams of leaders and Levites to teach them about God, he established local judges to uphold the law, reminding them that they were accountable to God for their decisions.

“And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again through the people from Beersheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the LORD God of their fathers. 

And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city,  And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment.  Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts. 

Moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, for the judgment of the LORD, and for controversies, when they returned to Jerusalem.  And he charged them, saying, Thus shall ye do in the fear of the LORD, faithfully, and with a perfect heart.  And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.  And, behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king's matters: also the Levites shall be officers before you. Deal courageously, and the LORD shall be with the good.” (II Chronicles 19:4-11)

A Supreme court or court of appeals was established at Jerusalem to reconcile difference between God’s law and governmental decisions, and to settle disagreements over which laws were to be applied in different situations.

“And the remnant of the sodomites, which remained in the days of his father Asa, he took out of the land.” (I Kings 22:46) 

While he was never able to completely eradicate secret worship of nature and the high places, Jehoshaphat was able to eradicate the homosexuals that his father had been unable to get rid of.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ignoring What God Said

I Kings 22:17-40

“And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. 

And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?” (I Kings 22:17-18)

Micaiah had been advised to tell Ahab and Jehoshaphat the same things the four hundred prophets who worked for Ahab had said.  When he did, Ahab knew that wasn’t what God said because as II Corinthians 6:14-16 reminds us, God and other religions never agree.  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”  He demanded, “How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?”

Micaiah responded that in his vision, he saw Israel scattered out like a flock of sheep no one was watching and heard God say that they had no leader.  As a result each one should just go home.  This was exactly the kind of thing Ahab had expected and he had avoided asking because he didn’t want to hear it.  Micaiah wasn’t finished yet.

“And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.  And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. 

And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. 

And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. 

Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.” (I Kings 22:19-23)

In his vision, Micaiah saw the Lord asking who could convince Ahab to go up and fight Syria so he could be destroyed as Elijah had warned him in I Kings 20:42.  After some discussion one of the spirits(angels) said he could do it by going and telling all Ahab’s hired prophets they should go.  Since Ahab would choose not to listen to anyone else, the Lord said that would work.  The plan was followed and that is why all the prophets had said the same thing.

“But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?

 And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.” (I Kings 22:24-25)

The leader of the prophets then accused Micaiah of lying, implying that it was the spirit Micaiah described who was directing him.  Micaiah said the the validity of his prophecy would be demonstrated when Ahab was dead and they were all looking for a place to get away from the Syrians.  Deuteronomy 18:22 tells us, “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”

“And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. 

And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the LORD hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.” (I Kings 22:26-28) 

Ahab ordered that Micaiah be held hostage to keep God from allowing him to be killed.  Micaiah said God wouldn’t be blackmailed, and that if he came back victorious, it would prove that Micaiah had lied and not been speaking God’s word.

“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramothgilead.  And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle.” (I Kings 22:19-30)

Despite Micaiah’s warning, both Ahab and Jehoshaphat went to fight at Ramothgilead.  Fearing that perhaps holding Micaiah hostage wouldn’t deter God, Ahab decided to disguise himself so no one would know who he was and he wouldn‘t be as much of a target.  He asked Jehoshaphat to wear his robe so they would think he was Ahab, and Jehoshaphat went along with it.    

“But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel.  And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely it is the king of Israel. And they turned aside to fight against him: and Jehoshaphat cried out.  And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.” (I Kings 22:31-33)

Ahab had allowed Benhadad to go free when he had the opportunity to kill him, but Benhadad did not appreciate it.  His only concern was to kill Ahab.  In fact he gave orders to find him and kill him.  When they saw Jehoshaphat dressed as king they took the bait and attacked him, only stopping when the realized it wasn’t Ahab.  By agreeing to Ahab’s request, Jehoshaphat put his own life at risk.

Later  God would rebuke Jehoshaphat for even trying to help Ahab, in II Chronicles 19:2.  “And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD.” Ephessians 5:11-12 commands, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.  For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.”

By trying to help Ahab, Jehoshaphat was placing his approval on his behavior and enabling him to keep on.  He had heard what God said about it and still went along.  It almost cost him his life, and brought God’s judgment on him.  It is a serious warning to us.

“And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.

“And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot.” (I Kings 22:34-35) 

God was not deceived at all by Ahab’s efforts to disguise himself.  A Syrian archer just shot at random, and God directed his arrow so that it struck between the metal plates of Ahab’s armor and inflicted a serious wound so that he had to pull back and have it treated.  He had them prop him up and stayed in the battle with blood pooling around feet, finally dying of his wound that evening.

“And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. 

So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria.  And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.” (I Kings 22:36-38)

When Ahab died, the entire army was sent home, and Ahab’s body was taken back to Samaria in his chariot.  They washed out the blood in the same place where Naboth had been executed, exactly as Elijah had prophesied.  Micaiah’s prophecy was also fulfilled as well.

“Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, and the ivory house which he made, and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?  So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.” (I Kings 22:39-40)