• Deep Heartache and Hope

    Matthew 27:33-56

    Last week we looked at how Jesus was transfigured and Elijah and Moses joined him. Just a short while later, He has taken our sin on Himself and is hanging on the cross. It’s another time that those around Him would rather look for Elijah than believe Jesus could be who He says He is.

    It’s a gruesome scene. Jesus has been tortured and hung on a cross. He’s been struggling to breathe for 9 hours.  Even as He’s dying, He is not spared. The majority of his disciples have ran in fear, afraid that they too might find themselves hanging next to Jesus.  Jesus has been withstanding abuse from those who refuse to believe. They’re so hoping what He promised would come true, but they fall into the same trap as we do. We want what we want RIGHT NOW and exactly how we expect it. Jesus gives them something better. They were merely waiting for the removal of their present suffering but instead Jesus gives eternal life AND an abundant earthly life to ANYONE who will believe, not just the two jokers hanging beside Him. He has bigger eyes than we do. A greater plan.

    In Matthew 27:46 Jesus calls out. Scripture says He cries out in a loud voice, which is hard for me to wrap my mind around.  Where does He find the energy, except only in His deep heartache and hope? He cries, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” 

    But these were words the Jews were not familiar with. They believed Jesus was calling for Elijah. Jesus, the Son of God, Messiah of the Universe, and our Savior, calling to be saved by Elijah? Did they know nothing? Had they been listening at all?

    As Jesus hang dying, His father turned his back to His Son. God wasn’t turning His back on Jesus’ suffering; He was turning away from our filth. Jesus took upon Himself all our ugliness, shame, wrongdoings, the murder in our hearts and on our hands, unkind words, lustful eyes, ungrateful hearts, greedy attitudes, every sin you’ve worked so hard to purge from yourself, Jesus magnificently conquered.  

    What his words meant were no cry to Elijah, it was a cry to His Father. My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” There Jesus hung, carrying all our sin, and even in death He was abandoned, yet He turned to His Father.

    Elijah didn’t come rescue Jesus. Neither did His Father. Jesus was left to die.

    His disciples carried his body to a tomb to get it prepared for burial, and the unthinkable happened 3 days later. Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death, defeated the ultimate enemy, and gave us a way for salvation through His act.

    Just like the criminals hanging beside Jesus, I want to look to other saviors also. I look for my own Elijah’s in a hundred ways every single day. But there is one who answers. There is one who holds the truth about my future and is willing to do something about. My Savior is the Jesus who suffered for me, stole my shame; He wrapped my broken flesh around Himself so I could be whole.

    This was the message of John the Baptist. This was the hope of Elijah as he endured suffering. This was the Good News worth suffering over, so you and I, our friends, our family, strangers around the world, could know the deep love of Jesus.

    Will you trust in Him? Maybe you have already. But maybe today you need to receive Him again, not for your eternal salvation, you’re assured of that already, but maybe you need to receive salvation today for the grace to make it through another day.

    Ask Him to save you today from the shame of your sin, from the darkness of your doubt, and the self-sufficiency you claim. Ask Him to intervene. Ask Him to save.

  • The Transfiguration

    Matthew 17:1-13

    Elijah shows up throughout the New Testament in interesting and compelling ways.  

    1. Elijah attests to Jesus’ divinity at the Transfiguration in Matthew 17.

    2. His absence at Jesus death attests to Jesus being the one true way for eternal salvation in Matthew 27.

    3. Remembering God’s answer to his prayer shows us that God will be faithful to protect a remnant of His people, The Church, until the return of Jesus in Romans 11.

    4. And his example gives us strength for our journey, knowing God hears our prayers, forgives our sins, and hears our prayers in James 5.

    Elijah lived a life faithful to our Savior, and in so doing, he became an example of salvation and a way to live faithfully before our God. Let’s take a look.

    The first of these stories is told in 3 of the Gospels. Just saying “transfiguration” conjures in my mind this fantastical image of Jesus and his disciples on a side of a mountain having their minds blown.

    You probably remember the story well, but I want to take a closer look.

    Jesus went on a walk with Peter, James, and John. They went high on a mountain to be alone and as soon as they reach their spot, before their very eyes, Jesus is transfigured. I believe Peter, James and John were being given a picture of our resurrected Lord on the top of that mountain. They were seeing God in all His glory, in the form of His son, Jesus.

    Moses and Elijah join him there. They are talking with Jesus. Can you imagine with me for a moment, the excitement Moses and Elijah must have experienced, getting to commune with Jesus in this way? They have to have some inkling of what Jesus is about to do in just a short time. He is about to become the fulfillment of all they dreamed of decades before. They walked by faith and the men on the ground below them get to walk by sight.

    Moses, Elijah and Jesus are talking together, and the disciples are blown away with what they are experiencing. They didn’t want to leave. Peter wants to do something to honor them and to keep them from leaving. He’s caught up in this glorious moment, and asks if Jesus wants him to build 3 tabernacles, one for each of them.  He’s interrupted mid-sentence by God Himself. God tells him that Jesus is His beloved son. That they should listen to Him. The point of the story is JESUS. The point of the story is ALWAYS Jesus.

    God the Father is addressing Peter’s instinct to place Jesus at the same level of Moses and Elijah by building tabernacles for the 3 of them. God differentiates Jesus from the prophets. It’s yet another opportunity for God to speak of the deity of His Son. Moses and Elijah are below Jesus. They were preparing the way for the Messiah to come. They are not deserving of a tabernacle, they were always a part of building one to point to and worship Jesus. Jesus is the only one deserving of the worship of the disciples. Yet God, in His great kindness, does not point to Peter’s sin in the moment, He points to His Son. He shows in this moment what Jesus’ death will forever do for all mankind after: when we believe, God no longer sees our sin, He sees His Son’s blood covering us, making us perfect.

    When God spoke, the disciples fell to their faces. They immediately recognized whose presence they were in. They were hearing from God, and they were afraid and humbled. Jesus touched them and told them to not be afraid. When they looked up again, Elijah and Moses had disappeared.

    The disciples ask Jesus why the scribes promise the coming of Elijah and Jesus takes a second to explain.  Jesus explains that Elijah came and no one acknowledged him. He suffered at the hands of the people.  And now on this mountain, here he has just returned but to only a few. Three disciples just saw the fulfillment of the prophecy and no one else. They want to scream from the mountaintops about what has just happened, and Jesus asks them to tell no one. The people did not acknowledge Elijah then, they will not acknowledge their Messiah now.

    What Jesus more deeply wants them to understand, is that when the prophets spoke of Elijah returning, they were emphasizing the return of “A” prophet. John the Baptist became the “Elijah” everyone was expecting. They are no better at understanding metaphors than I am. The people kept expecting Elijah himself, and God sent John the Baptist. After 400 years of silence, a prophet returns, and the Messiah comes. And on this mountain Elijah stands with God, for just a moment.

    What does the Transfiguration cause you to think of?

    What strikes you most about the story of the Messiah, the prophets, and the disciples?

    Do you believe God quit pointing at your sin when you trusted in Jesus to cover your sin?

  • A Dramatic Departing

    2 Kings 2:8-15

    Imagine Elijah bending down, and removing his head or shoulder covering. Imagine him trembling for a moment as he knows as soon as he’s on the other side, he will see God. And then imagine all the floods of memories of when God used the miracle of river crossings to deliver His people.

    Exodus 14: Moses’ job is to the lead the people out of Egypt. They start walking with the millions of slaves who are tasting freedom for the first time, and they arrive at the Red Sea. God tells Moses to reach out his staff and Moses obeys. The Israelites all pass through on dry ground. And then Pharaoh’s army is swallowed by the sea. God delivered His people. He made good on His promise, and started them on a journey of promise that continues even thousands of years later.

    Joshua 3: Joshua leads God’s people to the Jordan. They are tasked with securing the Ark of the Covenant, where God dwelt, in the land on the other side of the Jordan. They stood at the edge of the water and with great faith the priests dipped their feet in the water like they were just going to walk right across. In another massive miracle, the waters parted and they crossed over on dry land with the Ark of the Covenant and the people of God.

    2 Kings 2:8: And now we get to our prophet. Elijah is about to meet God. He’s standing where Joshua stood with the priests while they held in their hands the place where God dwelt. And Elijah knows he too is about to stand before God. He bows down before the Jordan, drops his mantle and folds it, and the waters part for he and Elisha. They cross over alone to the other side.

    When Elijah and Elisha cross over the Jordan, Elijah turns to Elisha to ask what Elisha might need that Elijah would have to offer. Elisha wants Elijah’s spirit. He asks for a double portion of it, in fact. Elisha knew this work was not for the faint of heart, there would be opposition at every turn. He had been watching Elijah’s life, and wanted the same spirit within him that Elijah had in order to bear the load. Elisha wasn’t asking for the big “S” Spirit [That is only God’s to give.] Instead he was asking for the wherewithal to stand under the pressures and struggles that he would be enduring.

    He [like Solomon] avoids the wealth, health, long life, and prosperity requests that are more associated with a genie in a bottle than with the God of the universe. Instead, both of these men, when offered the world, asked for an increase in character.

    Elisha has fought Elijah to remain with him through the day. Elijah tried to get Elisha to turn from him all day long, but Elisha stuck with him at every stop. At this point, Elijah tells Elisha that if he remains a little longer, if he watches Elijah’s entrance into heaven, he would be granted a double portion of his spirit.

    These two men have had an eventful day. Three cities, 25 miles of walking, a parting of the Jordan, and now they’re having a serious discussion of character, when horses and a chariot on fire appear before them.

    Imagine this with me. It’s almost more than my brain can wrap itself around. The burning bush that Moses fell before is one thing, a flaming chariot and horses on fire is another.

    Scripture says Elijah is taken in a whirlwind into heaven and Elisha watches every second of it, then calls out, My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” Would there be other words than this? All Elisha could speak was the exact truth of what he was seeing.

    Elisha does not waste a single second. He takes action immediately. He tore his clothes in 2 pieces. He’s just lost his friend, confidant, and counselor. Elijah is now gone, and he carries the weight of prophecy on his own shoulders. He takes this moment to grieve. And then he gets busy.

    And now another parting of the waters. When Elijah went to God, he folded his mantle on the ground. Elisha gathers up the mantle and goes straight to the edge of the water of the Jordan. He’s “testing the waters” so to speak. He asks, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah,” and strikes the waters. And the waters part. He’s seen a lot in a short amount of time. He’s seen the waters part for Elijah, he’s seen a chariot and horses on fire take Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind, he’s lost his best friend, he’s gained his spirit, and now he himself, has struck the waters of the Jordan and God has caused them to part. This is Elisha’s first recorded miracle. What an inauguration!

    When Elisha goes back through Jericho, the people of God can immediately tell that Elijah’s spirit rests on Elisha, just as Elijah had promised. And Elisha begins a life of miracles, prophecy, and sharing the words of God.

    When faced with the challenge of the next chapter of life, what is it that you want to be written?

    Elijah’s story is not finished. We have a few more appearances from him. His legacy is legendary. He’s respected and feared. He’s the prophet who did not see death. Elijah never wavered in his devotion, fearful or courageous, he is known as a man and prophet who walked with God.

    What characteristics define your life?

    What characteristics do you WANT to define your life?

  • Preparing to Go

    2 Kings 2:1-6

    Elisha and Elijah have been spending a bunch of time with each other. They’ve been walking with God together and God is answering another of Elijah’s prayers. Except, He is about to answer it in the most unexpected way possible. Just like that, we’ve come to the end of Elijah’s time on earth. Not the end of his impact, however as we’ll continue to see.

    Elijah knows that today is the day. He’s ready to be taken up with God. He is ready to be finished with the work God has for him.  He wants to spare Elisha the heartache of leaving. I think he also wanted to go alone to be with God. The way Scripture writes it, it sounds a though Elijah knows he’s going to be taken to God.

    Elijah asks Elisha to stay put. He knows God is sending him to Bethel from where they are at Gilgal, and is wondering if that is where God will take him. Elisha insists on coming with Elijah. He’s not going to miss this for anything!

    It seems that news is getting around. There are other prophets in Bethel, and they came to Elisha and asked if he knew that God was going to take Elijah that day. Elisha asks them to pipe down. YES, he knows. It’s as though he doesn’t want to spoil it with a lot of idle talk. He wants to experience it with Elijah.

    I appreciate about Elijah’s story that God has a few things to finish with him even the very day He brings him home. We’re not finished with God’s work until God is finished with us.

    From Bethel God sends Elijah to Jericho. The story plays out the same for Elisha. He has yet another reminder from the sons of the prophets there that Elijah will be taken to God. He lets them know that he’s aware. And he asks them to be still. He doesn’t need gossip as a distraction. He’s focused on the work God is doing through Elijah in all these travels. We don’t know exactly why God is taking Elijah all these places. Scripture doesn’t say what he’s doing, who he’s meeting with, what the purpose is. But it’s another beautiful picture of the obedience of this prophet of God. God is taking him on a journey and he is following where God is leading.

    God speaks to Elijah again. This time He asks him to go to the Jordan. Elijah once more tells Elisha to stay put. And once more Elisha refuses. The Jordan has been a symbol of promise and redemption since Genesis. This would not have been lost on the prophets. They know God is about to do something miraculous in this place. Here are a few other Biblical characters God met at the Jordan. Lot and Abram scoping out Canaan, Jacob and Esau, Moses, Saul and David, and later, John the Baptist.

    Elijah is about to meet God in a place where Fathers of the faith before and after him also met with God.

    To get to this point, Elijah and Elisha have journeyed about 25 miles to finally arrive at the Jordan. And they’ve assembled quite the crowd of 50 prophets. They know God is going to show up and they want to see their Savior.

    Next week we'll look at Elijah's miraculous meeting with God. But I'm wondering, do you feel like God’s taking you a wandering meandering journey to get you where He wants you?

    How are you about following?

    Do you sense anticipation for what God is going to do next through you?

    How can you deepen your resolve to follow God’s leading with great anticipation?

  • A Terrible Way To Die

    2 Chronicles 21

    We last looked at Ahaziah's terrible death and the death he brought onto his men because of his own sin. At about this time, when Jehoram is just made king, he is walking a path other than with God. Jehoram is taking over for Jehoshaphat, who had a relatively good relationship with God. But Jehoram married Ahab’s daughter. His life looked a lot more like Ahab than Jehoshaphat. Jehoram chose the legacy of Ahab’s evil over the legacy of Jehoshaphat’s love of God. Elijah must be sick of all these kings doing their own thing. Elijah finishes delivering a message to one, and he’s right on to the next guy who is breaking God’s rules and leading His people from God.

    Jehoram had killed everyone in his way to be made king. He would stop at nothing, and did whatever it would take to get there. Also, Jehoram wasn’t an ally to his neighbors. He provoked them, causing generations of enemies, and built “high places” of worship in the mountains of Judah.  Essentially, every command God gave as protection to His people, Jehoram discarded.

    Enter Elijah.

    My dad is known for his letter writing. He’s not a confronter, but if he’s unhappy with his government, a company he’s dealt with, or a vender for his business, he will write them a letter. We’ve teased him about his letter writing for years. It’s one way of getting his point across, and a few select times, he’s even gotten favorable responses.

    Well, Elijah decides to take the letter writing approach this time. This is his short, sweet, and to the point letter to Jehoram:

    “Thus says the Lord God of your father David, ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father and the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot as the house of Ahab played the harlot, and you have also killed your brothers, your own family, who were better than you, 14 behold, the Lord is going to strike your people, your sons, your wives and all your possessions with a great calamity; 15 and you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.’”

    Well, that sounds unpleasant. I’m sure it’s not exactly what Jehoram was expecting to hear that day when he opened his mail. You have to wonder if he even paid Elijah’s letter any attention. But just as God had promised through Elijah, so it happened. The Philistines next door invaded. They carried off Jehoram’s possessions and even his family. All that was left was one son with him.

    God  then struck Jehoram with some sort of bowel disease. He was a disgrace. After two years of sheer agony, he finally died. [It’s very descriptive at the end of 2 Chronicles 21, if you want to read exactly how his death takes place.] His people were so disgusted by his life and rule that they didn’t give him a king’s burial ceremony. More disgraceful than that, they didn’t even bury him with the kings. He died at age 40, after only being a king for 8 years. He died without family, followers, or possessions. It says when he died his people did not regret it. They were glad he was gone.

    Now, there are a lot of descriptions of people’s lives in Scripture, many of them I hope to exemplify. But I read Jehoram’s story with a pit in my stomach. It’s not fear exactly; it’s caution.  

    Have I received words of counsel that I have discarded because they were not what I wanted to hear? The consequences of my actions may not have the far reaching effects of Jehoram’s but if I’m completely honest, it does cause me to examine my life for an extra second. I’m sure Elijah’s letter was followed with eye rolls from Jehoram and then a prompt crumbling and dumping into the trash can next to his desk.

    I often don’t want to hear that my leadership is not worth following, or that I am not headed where I ought to be. I want to trust my wisdom alone. But I need to hear words of wisdom from others.

    Who are you listening to?

    Whose advice are you taking?

    Where is it leading you?

  • The Next Generation

    2 Kings 1:1-18

    Switching books of the Bible seems like there should be something more significant than the turn of a page. But the stories of our prophet and of the sin of Israel continue right in line with 1 Kings. We dive into the book with the story of why Ahab’s son, Ahaziah only lived as king for 2 years. His kingdom was in Samaria. If you remember from New Testament stories, Samaria is often shunned by the people of God. The people living there are considered half Jews because of how the people there mixed with other nations. Most likely it all started around this time, with the false Gods of Ahab and Jezebel and the rebellion of their descendants.

    Moab has decided to come against King Ahaziah and in Ahaziah’s surprise and fear, he fell through the ceiling, in his own home. You might imagine it like a balcony with a screened in porch of sorts.  It was devastating to his body to sustain a fall like that, and was ill in bed. Keeping in line with his father’s idolatry, he asks to consult a Baal to see if he’ll live or die.

    Enter Elijah, our beloved and courageous prophet of God. Elijah worked a ton with Jezebel and Ahab and now here he is working with their son as he's been made king. God tells Elijah to intercept the king’s messengers on the way to consult with Baal. This is what Elijah asks them, per God’s command: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” Elijah and God are calling out the precise place of Ahaziah’s distrust.  He does not believe God. Meanwhile God has been pursuing Ahaziah’s family for years. If he will only look for it, he would see evidence of God’s hand all throughout his parents’ story.

    The messengers return to Ahaziah without consulting the Baal, and Ahaziah wonders why they’re back so soon. As the messenger relays Elijah’s words Ahaziah is building in his mind exactly who it was, who delivered these words. He guessed that it was Elijah, especially after the messengers described Elijah as being hairy and wearing a girdle. It sounds like the weird descriptions they used for John the Baptist, and it also sounds isolating for Elijah.

    The king decided to send a captain and 50 of his men to apprehend Elijah.  “If you are a man of God, come down,” they command Elijah. Elijah has little patience for their shenanigans. He tells them that if he is a man of God, his God would send fire to consume them. Sure enough, fire comes down from heaven and consumes the captain and his 50 men. Just like that, over Ahaziah’s own death sentence, he’s sentenced 50 for men to death, along with a powerful captain.

    Ahaziah does not understand what has just happened, so he sends another captain and 50 more men. Again, they ask that if Elijah is a man of God, to “come down quickly.” Elijah responds the exact same way he did the first time, and fire from heaven comes down exactly like it did the first time, and another captain and 50 more men are killed.

    We have to go through this a 3rd time. King Ahaziah sends another captain and another 50 men. This captain probably had some anger towards his king for putting him in such a position, but he was wise and humble in approaching Elijah. He fell before Elijah in humility and begged him for his life, and the life of his 50 men. He begged Elijah that his life and the lives of his 50 men would be PRECIOUS in his sight. And God takes pity on these 51 men and commands Elijah to not be afraid and to go with them.

    Those men had a tough job. It was a death wish either way. Either they do not complete the mission and their king kills them, or they are killed by God. Their king had no regard for the lives of his men. All he was concerned with was finding out if he would live or die.

    Guess what the outcome is? It’s exactly the same as it was before. Elijah tells the king to his face that he will die. And then the king died shortly after.

    Yet another miracle for Elijah, and yet another opportunity for a king to turn to God, but again, he rejected the word of God and suffered the consequences. There is no telling if he would have been healed had he been walking with God, but I do know at least the 102 men he sacrificed would have been saved. As my dad often reminds me, our sin never affects just ourselves. It always also affects those around us. In this king’s case, 102 of his well trained men.

    Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat became king because Ahaziah didn’t have any sons.

    Have you been the witness of any miracles?

    In your opinion, why do you think we don’t see miracles like Elijah did?

    What big prayers are you praying right now where you would love to see God intervene? Talk to Him about it! 

  • The End Of Ahab

    1 Kings 22:29-40

    I know we've been studying Elijah, but his story is so linked to Ahab's, I didn't want to skip over this passage.

    Say what you will about Ahab, but he is not cowardly. He might be sulky, idolatrous, indulgent, selfish, disobedient, not to mention evil, but this passage shows he is at least willing to fight his own battles. He, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, decide against all good advice, that they are going to go take Ramoth-Gilead. God has just told them through a prophet, that it is not going to go well for them if they try; yet they want to try.

    To tell you the truth, I do this. Any child of any parent has done this. Mom or Dad says no, but we need to exercise our own power of choice, and sometimes it doesn’t turn out so well.  

    In Ahab’s case, the stakes were higher, and he was guaranteed failure from the very beginning. He and Jehoshaphat make a plan. Ahab wants to be IN the battle. Jehoshaphat puts on his kingly robes, but Ahab enters the battle as a soldier. He thinks his chances for survival are better if they don't know he's king. Ramoth-Gilead had their own plan in the works. Kill Ahab. That’s it. They had one goal in mind, and that was it. When they saw Jehoshaphat dressed in his robes they thought they had found their guy. Jehoshaphat yelled, and told them otherwise, and shockingly, they let him be.

    Some Aramaen soldier was out doing his job, fighting the Israeli soldiers and he “happened” to pull back on his bow and let an arrow fly. It “happened” to go through a joint in an Israeli soldier’s armor, and that Israeli soldier “happened” to be King Ahab. As soon as it happened, Ahab knew he was in trouble. Ahab was in a chariot and called to the driver that he needed to be taken out of the fight.

    Scripture says Ahab was propped in the chariot, watching the long day’s battle rage on. He had an entire day to recall his life’s story, all the evil he had done, how he wouldn’t be saying goodbye to his wife, how he had fought for everything he wanted, and yet now found himself bleeding to death in front of the Aramaens. It says his blood ran into the bottom of the chariot.

    And just like that, the battle was over. Everyone retreated and headed home, except for Ahab and the others in his army he had murdered through his disobedience. They took the chariot that held Ahab down to the pool by Samaria and washed it out. As they were cleaning it, dogs came and licked up his blood, just as had been prophesied would happen by Elijah after Ahab and Jezebel had Naboth stoned to death wrongfully, just a few stories earlier.  God kept his promise of justice to Naboth.

    Another prophecy was also completed at Ahab’s death. Remember how Ahab was supposed to completely destroy Ben-hadad and the Aramaens in chapter 20? When he showed mercy to Ben-hadad, it was prophesied that he would incur the death that he passed over Ben-hadad. It would be Ahab’s life for Ben-hadad’s, and here Ahab is killed by the Aramaen army. God kept his promises.

    What does seeing prophecies fulfilled through Ahab’s story do for your faith?

    Seeing how God acted toward Ahab and His people, what picture does it give you of God?

    Ask God to give you a right picture of Himself. Ask Him to give you eyes to see Him for all His mercy, compassion, second-chances and justice.

  • Killing the Innocent and Receiving Mercy.

    1 Kings 21

    Last week we looked at a series of Ahab's bad decisions and then the pronouncement of judgement on him for them. This week we find King Ahab going home to Samaria to sulk. While he’s there, he notices a man’s vineyard next to his palace. He’s probably seen it 100 times, but today, he decides he wants it. Talk about retail therapy. He’s just been chided for not following through what God asked of him of the Aramaen king, so he wants to comfort himself with the taking over of more property for himself. He goes to have a chat with the land owner. He claims he’d like a nice vegetable garden in the place where the vineyard is. He even promises to give the landowner another plot of land for his vineyard.

    The landowner does the unthinkable. He tells the king no. Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”  Do you see what is happening here? A couple things, really.

    1. This is land that has been in Naboth’s family for generations. It’s land God promised the people of Israel back in the days of Moses during the Exodus. The sense we get here, is that Naboth’s family has been cultivating this specific patch of land for generations. He sees God’s blessing and provision to his family through the everyday cultivation and care of this land.

    2. Naboth acknowledges the Lord. He is one of the few who has not been turned away to the Baal’s by the king’s wife. He knows that the blessings he’s been given have been given to him by the Lord. Not a neighbor, not a king, and certainly not an ungodly man could finagle this property and promise from God from his hand. There’s too much tied up in it. It is the fulfillment of God’s promises seen everyday in this little patch of land.

    This is where King Ahab becomes “sullen and vexed” again. He’s been told no, when he NEEDED the affirmation to make him feel better. Worse yet, in the “no” Naboth reminded him of his previous sin of disobeying God. One man's obedience called out another man's disobedience.

    This is what happens when we walk faithfully with the Lord. We don’t always have to call out the sin of others by actually naming it. Our walk with the Lord shows others what a life committed to Him looks like, and either guilt or repentance happens. Have you heard people accuse others of being judgmental? Boy, I have. Sometimes it’s 100% justified. Christians [including myself] can be self-righteous, hypocritical, and unkind in calling out the sins of others. So while sometimes it’s justified, sometimes just living a life contrary to how others live, the Spirit convicts their hearts. If they are not in a place to respond positively to the conviction, they might call out judgment in others to avoid their own repentance.

    That is what I see happening here. Naboth stood by his convictions, and gave God the credit for it. Ahab didn’t get his way and saw again how the man respected God more than Ahab and he couldn’t handle it.

    Ahab complains to his wife. Scripture says he crawled in bed, turned his face to the wall, and wouldn’t eat. I’ve seen children behave in much the same way. Jezebel doesn’t like seeing her husband like this, so she “takes care of it.” She frames Naboth. She plans a dinner and seats Naboth at the head, as the guest of honor. Then she plants 2 scheming nobodies and has them testify that Naboth has cursed God and the King. Which is precisely the OPPOSITE of what he actually did.

    It works. The men accuse Naboth, and the people stone him to death.

    Jezebel tells her husband that Naboth’s dead, and the land is all his for the taking. Ahab gets his sulky self out of bed and takes possession of this man’s land.

    Enter Elijah. Elijah tells Ahab what his punishment will be.

    God is finished with Ahab and Jezebel’s rebellion. When Naboth was stoned, he was left in the streets for stray dogs to feed on. God promises Ahab the exact same end: disgraced, without any heirs take over the throne, and alone.  Here are some interesting facts. 

    Scripture says that NO ONE did evil like King Ahab and Jezebel did. Yet God shows mercy to Ahab. Again. When Ahab heard from Elijah his punishment, he humbled himself, fasted, and prayed. God relents. He promises that Ahab’s sons will see this punishment, but Ahab will not.

    God is much more merciful than I, and I am so thankful.

    How have you seen merciful acts from God in your life?

    How have you seen them in the lives of others?

    Take a few moments to rejoice over the mercy of God. We sin and deserve consequences for our sin, but God does not always give us the consequences we deserve. This ought to propel us into worship.

  • Defensiveness or Repentance

    1 Kings 20:35-43

    The story I want to look into today involves a strange request, an unnamed prophet, and extreme consequences. As I dig a little more deeply, I see a prophet of God desperately trying to get a message across to his king.

    An unnamed prophet asks a man near him to strike him. The man refuses, which seems like a polite gesture. I’m not one to go about striking people just because they asked me to. The prophet curses the man by telling him a lion is going to kill him. This poor guy! I don’t know about you, but if a leader in my church asked me to hit him, I’d probably say no too.

    The man is a little dumbfounded by the message, he takes a few steps away AND A LION KILLS HIM. Exactly what the prophet predicts takes place moments later. 

    Try try again. The unnamed prophet finds another man, and makes the same request. This time, the man didn’t ask questions. He winds up, whacks the prophet, and wounds him. The prophet bandages himself up, covers half his face, and waits alongside the road like a beggar, for his king to pass by. The prophet yells out for the king. And the king listens. He paints a picture, much like Samuel did for King David after his sin with Bathsheba. He recounts this interesting story:

    “A soldier in the battle on the opposing side is captured. The soldier who captured him brings him to me and asked me to guard him with his life. I got busy doing this and that, and the man escaped. So the soldier told me I could either be killed or pay him what would take me 9 years of skilled labor to earn. What will happen to me?”

    The king is ruthless in his response to the prophet. He tells him that he will get precisely what he’s earned. His life for the soldier’s.

    At this, the prophet rips off the bandage over his eyes. The king gasps. This prophet is not unnamed to the king. Ahab knew him to be a prophet of God and then the prophet delivers a message from God. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.’”

    Ahab gets a little sulky. Scripture says he’s “sullen and vexed.” If I had my disobedience called out and my destruction predicted, I think I might have a reason to repent. Not Ahab. His heart is so hard, all he can muster is sulkiness about his bad decisions. There is no repentance in his heart. When given the choice between repentance and guilt, he willfully chooses the guilt. And even his guilt is more wrapped up in the consequences than it is in how he’s turned against God’s heart.

    He starts out for Samaria. Where we’ll find him being more “sullen and vexed” next week.

    We know the proper response is repentance and receiving God’s grace, but we often choose the same path as Ahab, and sulk over our sin in self-deprecation. Why do we do this? Maybe instead of defensiveness, we ought to choose repentance. It seems an appropriate discussion this week after recent events in the U.S. 

    How do you respond when your wrongdoings are mentioned?

    How can you receive God’s grace today?

  • Battle #2.

    1 Kings 20:26-34

    Last week we looked at a battle between Ahab and Ben-hadad. God gives Ahab victory over Ben-hadad. But in this passage in 1 Kings 20, Ben-hadad is rallying. They believe the God behind Ahab is Baal. Baal is the god of Mt. Carmel, and because of Israel’s turn to Baals, Ben-hadad has assumed that Israel’s god is only the god of the mountain. They plot to have their next battle in a valley. They’re banking on Baal being as absent during their battle as he was when Elijah was facing him with his prophets and altar on Mt. Carmel.

    But this time the Aramaens are mistaken. They don’t know that Baal is not behind this battle, God is. And we learned that He, unlike Baal, is not preoccupied, He’s not too busy, He’s capable of being all places at one time, and He’s orchestrated these battles for His glory.

    The Aramaens have brought 100,000 foot soldiers to this battle. They mean business. They were humiliated before, and are prepared to not have it happen again. They know they can take Israel’s puny army, but have brought a few extra men to ensure it.

    There are not gory details of the battle save these 2 verses:

     “29 So they camped one over against the other seven days. And on the seventh day the battle was joined, and the sons of Israel killed of the Arameans 100,000 foot soldiers in one day. 30 But the rest fled to Aphek into the city, and the wall fell on 27,000 men who were left. And Ben-hadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber.”

    Pretty much, Ben-hadad is the only one left. All of his men have been killed, and when his city walls came down the rest of his city was defeated. He and a few servants started surmising about how they could raise their white flag. They decided to take the form of total surrender. They’d put on sackcloth and came to King Ahab. They begged for mercy. They had heard that Israel was merciful to others, and they were hopeful that Ahab would also be merciful to them.

    They were right. Israel has a long history of disobedient kings defying God by not completely destroying the kingdoms God had promised them. Ben-hadad knew he was dealing with a king who in the long line of disobedient kings, might show him mercy as well.

    Ahab not only fulfilled Ben-hadad’s hopes, he also made a covenant with him. Can you imagine? This king who brought 100,000 men against him, begs for mercy and Ahab grants it. AND not only does he allow Ben-hadad to live, Ahab attaches promises to it.

    Have you done this before? You are disobedient and then you make promises to protect your disobedience? Maybe it’s an unsafe relationship. Or a work mistake you’re trying to cover instead of just admitting your failure.

    “I won’t tell if you don’t.”

    It’s common to try to cover for our bad decisions. It’s a bad option. EVERY TIME. It doesn’t turn out how we’d hoped, and many times we find our disobedience leading us down paths of further disobedience.

    Are you stuck in any of these situations now? If so, turn from them. Don’t let further disobedience hinder the presence of God.

    Do you KNOW anyone in this scenario right now? Graciously offer them your forgiveness and remind them of the forgiveness of God. It’s not too late for them to experience grace either.