1935.) 1 Kings 20

September 30, 2016

King Ahab, as pictured in Mural Mosaic, a collection of 100 rulers that have changed the world, by Lewis Lavoie.

1 Kings 20   (NIV)

Ben-Hadad Attacks Samaria

1 Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it. 2 He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: 3 ‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.’”

4 The king of Israel answered, “Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.”

King Ben-Hadad of Syria (along with 32 other kings) demands payments from King Ahab, and Ahab accedes.

5 The messengers came again and said, “This is what Ben-Hadad says: ‘I sent to demand your silver and gold, your wives and your children. 6 But about this time tomorrow I am going to send my officials to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will seize everything you value and carry it away.’”

7 The king of Israel summoned all the elders of the land and said to them, “See how this man is looking for trouble! When he sent for my wives and my children, my silver and my gold, I did not refuse him.”

8 The elders and the people all answered, “Don’t listen to him or agree to his demands.”

Seeing Ahab’s docile response, Ben-Hadad changes the terms and demands the right to loot property from Ahab’s courtiers. The elders and the people see that this would be the beginning of the end for their nation.

9 So he replied to Ben-Hadad’s messengers, “Tell my lord the king, ‘Your servant will do all you demanded the first time, but this demand I cannot meet.’” They left and took the answer back to Ben-Hadad.

10 Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab: “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust remains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful.”

11 The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.’”

Like, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

12 Ben-Hadad heard this message while he and the kings were drinking in their tents, and he ordered his men: “Prepare to attack.” So they prepared to attack the city.

Ahab Defeats Ben-Hadad

13 Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

How generous and kind of the Lord to come with an offer of help to a king who had promoted idolatry and turned the people away from God!

14 “But who will do this?” asked Ahab.

The prophet replied, “This is what the LORD says: ‘The junior officers under the provincial commanders will do it.’”

Ahab might have expected someone new and exciting to come and command the army. Instead, they were to do it themselves. “For nothing is impossible with God!”

“And who will start the battle?” he asked.

The prophet answered, “You will.”

15 So Ahab summoned the 232 junior officers under the provincial commanders. Then he assembled the rest of the Israelites, 7,000 in all. 16 They set out at noon while Ben-Hadad and the 32 kings allied with him were in their tents getting drunk. 17 The junior officers under the provincial commanders went out first.

Now Ben-Hadad had dispatched scouts, who reported, “Men are advancing from Samaria.”

18 He said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive.”

Sounds like the king has already had enough to drink!

19 The junior officers under the provincial commanders marched out of the city with the army behind them 20 and each one struck down his opponent. At that, the Arameans fled, with the Israelites in pursuit. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram escaped on horseback with some of his horsemen. 21 The king of Israel advanced and overpowered the horses and chariots and inflicted heavy losses on the Arameans.

God is true to His word and the Israelites are victorious!

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a joyful song!  “The Lord liveth, and blessed be the Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted!”

_________________________

22 Afterward, the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, “Strengthen your position and see what must be done, because next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.”

23 Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, “Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they.

“Many today think that God is a God of hills but not of the plains. They think God is a God of the past but not of the present. They think God is a God of a few special favorites but not of all His people. They think that God is God of one kind of trial, but not of another kind. Do you really think, my brethren, that God cannot preserve his Church in the particular trial through which she is now passing? Is he the God of the hills of persecution, but not the God of the valleys of prosperity?  Will God aid a Whitfield and not help a poor local preacher holding forth upon the green? Will he assist the earnest minister who addresses thousands, and desert the simple girl who teaches a dozen little children the old, old story of the cross? Is this after the fashion of God, to patronise the eminent and neglect the lowly? Does Jesus despise the day of small things?”

—C. H. Spurgeon

24 Do this: Remove all the kings from their commands and replace them with other officers. 25 You must also raise an army like the one you lost—horse for horse and chariot for chariot—so we can fight Israel on the plains. Then surely we will be stronger than they.” He agreed with them and acted accordingly.

26 The next spring Ben-Hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 When the Israelites were also mustered and given provisions, they marched out to meet them. The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.

What a picturesque simile! Ben-Hadad is not about to suffer the same humiliation as before!  He comes in force, filling the countryside, and faces a small opposition, who look like two small flocks of goats!

28 The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.’”

29 For seven days they camped opposite each other, and on the seventh day the battle was joined. The Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day. 30 The rest of them escaped to the city of Aphek, where the wall collapsed on twenty-seven thousand of them.

Ben-Hadad gets a painful one-two punch.

And Ben-Hadad fled to the city and hid in an inner room.

31 His officials said to him, “Look, we have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful. Let us go to the king of Israel with sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads. Perhaps he will spare your life.”

32 Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-Hadad says: ‘Please let me live.’”

The king answered, “Is he still alive? He is my brother.”

33 The men took this as a good sign and were quick to pick up his word. “Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad!” they said.

“Go and get him,” the king said. When Ben-Hadad came out, Ahab had him come up into his chariot.

34 “I will return the cities my father took from your father,” Ben-Hadad offered. “You may set up your own market areas in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.”

Ahab said, “On the basis of a treaty I will set you free.” So he made a treaty with him, and let him go.

Ahab is trusting an untrustworthy man who had blasphemed the Lord.

A Prophet Condemns Ahab

35 By the word of the LORD one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, “Strike me with your weapon,” but he refused.

36 So the prophet said, “Because you have not obeyed the LORD, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.” And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.

37 The prophet found another man and said, “Strike me, please.” So the man struck him and wounded him. 38 Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes.

A familiar manner in which to give a king hard news — tell him a story, give him an object lesson.

39 As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.’ 40 While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.”

“That is your sentence,” the king of Israel said. “You have pronounced it yourself.”

Ahab figures that the man is irresponsible in letting the prisoner escape, and so deserves his punishment. Little does he know he is pronouncing judgment on himself.

41 Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. 42 He said to the king, “This is what the LORD says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’” 43 Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.

“Sullen and angry” . . . but not repentant for his sins. He keeps thinking it is all about HIM, when as the king of Israel, he should know that it is all about GOD.

Yes, I can see some King Ahab in me!

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
King Ahab.    http://www.muralmosaic.com/King/panels/047ahab.html
hatched chick.   http://activerain.com/image_store/uploads/1/4/6/4/9/ar119679683394641.jpg
hills and plains in China.  http://en.showchina.org/Gallery/Scenery/200907/W020090722377150022042.jpg
you will die, cat.    https://kiwicdn.akamaized.net/1e73/4m6mb52En5ucdAR36TzL3V.jpg
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1934.) 1 Kings 19

September 29, 2016

“Elijah and the Angel” by George Richmond, 1825 (Tate Collection, London)

1 Kings 19   (NIV)

Elijah Flees to Horeb

1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”

Well, she certainly missed the whole point!

3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

Actually, Elijah will never die!

5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.”

“The Prophet Elijah in the Desert” by Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464 (from the altar panel of St. Peter’s Church, Leuven, Belgium)

from My Utmost for His Highest,
by Oswald Chambers

THE INITIATIVE AGAINST DEPRESSION

The angel did not give Elijah a vision, or explain the Scriptures to him, or do anything remarkable; he told Elijah to do the most ordinary thing, viz., to get up and eat. If we were never depressed we should not be alive; it is the nature of a crystal never to be depressed. A human being is capable of depression, otherwise there would be no capacity for exaltation. There are things that are calculated to depress, things that are of the nature of death; and in taking an estimate of yourself, always take into account the capacity for depression.

When the Spirit of God comes He does not give us visions, He tells us to do the most ordinary things conceivable. Depression is apt to turn us away from the ordinary commonplace things of God’s creation, but whenever God comes, the inspiration is to do the most natural simple thing — the things we would never have imagined God was in, and as we do them we find He is there. The inspiration which comes to us in this way is an initiative against depression; we have to do the next thing and do it in the inspiration of God. If we do a thing in order to overcome depression, we deepen the depression; but if the Spirit of God makes us feel intuitively that we must do the thing, and we do it, the depression is gone. Immediately we arise and obey, we enter on a higher plane of life.

Elijah Fed by an Angel, by Ferdinand Bol

Elijah Fed by an Angel, by Ferdinand Bol, 1663 (privately owned)

6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.

“The spirit needs to be fed, and the body needs feeding also. Do not forget these matters; it may seem to some people that I ought not to mention such small things as food and rest, but these may be the very first elements in really helping a poor depressed servant of God.”

—C. H. Spurgeon

7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God (also known as Mount Sinai). 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.

The LORD Appears to Elijah

1K19 small voice

And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

1K19 Elijah-cave

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

1K19 faithful

from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby

DISCOURAGEMENT

Kingdom work can be challenging! You can give everything you have to God’s service and come away exhausted. This is what happened to Elijah. God had just used Elijah to call down fire from heaven in a spectacular display of divine power. But Elijah’s exhilaration was soon replaced by strenuous work followed by death threats, causing him to flee for his life. Now he was alone, exhausted, and discouraged.

Again, God came to Elijah. This time, He came not in fire or in a loud, spectacular way, but in a still, small voice. God’s servant was tired, and God brought him comfort. Elijah’s focus had shifted from God to God’s enemies. He had allowed his circumstances to overwhelm him, leaving him disoriented to God and feeling alone. So God encouraged him. God provided Elisha for him as a helper, friend, and companion.

God removed Elijah from the activity for a while, so that he could rest and spend time with God. When the nation next saw Elijah, he was rejuvenated and refocused on God and His assignment.

If you are overwhelmed by kingdom work so that your focus is no longer on God but on all that there is to do, let Him comfort you. Listen to His gentle voice. He will encourage you and provide exactly what you need to prepare you for what comes next. If He needs to remove you from your work for a time, He will. He may place a friend or co-laborer beside you to help carry the load. God knows exactly how to encourage you. Let Him do so.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Be Still, My Soul”  sung by the BYU Vocal Point.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

_________________________

15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

God blesses Elijah by giving him more work to do (if only to stop the pity party).

The Call of Elisha

“The Call of Elisha” by Eric de Saussure, 1968

19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”

“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

Elisha throws himself a grand good-bye party and cheerfully sets out with Elijah.

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Richmond.    http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?cgroupid=999999961&workid=12551&searchid=4802&tabview=image
Bouts.    http://www.wga.hu/art/b/bouts/dirk_e/lastsupp/0altar.jpg
Boll.    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Ferdinand_Bol_-_Elijah_Fed_by_an_Angel_-_WGA2360.jpg
a still small voice.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/84c9e-flower2bbackground-001.jpg
Elijah at the mouth of the cave.    https://www.tonycooke.org/images/featured_articles/regular_articles/elijah-cave.jpg
God is faithful.   http://images.slideplayer.com/27/8986990/slides/slide_2.jpg
de Saussure.    http://www.artbible.net/1T/1ki1901_Elijah_Sinai_Elisha/images/20%20DE%20SAUSSURE%20VOCATION%20D%20ELISEE.jpg

1933.) 1 Kings 18

September 28, 2016

Statue of Elijah at the Carmelite monastery on Mount Carmel.  He is shown victorious over the prophets of Baal.

1 Kings 18   (NIV)

Elijah and Obadiah

1 After a long time, in the third year (and remember, it is the third year of the famine), the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

Oh, to be as sensitive to the voice of God as Elijah was! When God said, “Hide,” he went to the river and hid. Now God says, “Present yourself,” and Elijah goes off to see someone who hates him.

Now the famine was severe in Samaria, 3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. 4 While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.”

One might have thought that Ahab would be more concerned about his people and food for them, after three years of famine.

6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”

8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 10 As surely as the LORD your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. 11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth. 13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD? I hid a hundred of the LORD’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”

15 Elijah said, “As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”

Elijah on Mount Carmel

At 1600 feet above sea level, the Carmel Mountains tower above the Mediterranean coastline and their limestone rocks create a cliff-like landscape. Because of the region’s large amount of rain, the slopes and peak are covered with lush natural vegetation.  The name “Carmel” means, in Hebrew, “Vineyard of God.”

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

Later in this chapter we will read that this is God’s idea. God will show Himself mighty in front of many witnesses!

20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.

It cannot be “both . . . and.”
It must be “either . . . or.”

David Guzik says:   “They lacked the courage to either defend their position or to change it. They were willing to live unexamined lives of low conviction.”

Alistair Begg refers to such people as “unconverted believers.”

God says, in Revelation 3:14-16:    “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.  ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.’ “

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the LORD’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”

Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”

25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.

Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

1K18 prophets of Baal

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

1K18 water

Elijah has given the prophets of Baal every advantage. They could choose which bull they wanted. They had hours to call for his aid. Now he gives God futher difficulty, so to speak, by saturating the altar and the surrounding area with water.

36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.

41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” 42 So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.

43 “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

“There is nothing there,” he said.

Seven times Elijah said, “Go back.”

44 The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.”

1K18 cloud
So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”

45 Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. 46 The power of the LORD came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “These Are the Days of Elijah” sung by the Irish evangelist Robin Mark.  He wrote this song in 1994 and says this about it:

The song came from watching a television “Review of the Year” in 1994. This was the year of the Rwandan civil war tragedy which claimed 1 million people’s lives, and also when the first ceasefires in Northern Ireland were declared. On this TV review were a lot of daft stories, happy stories, serious stories, and then absolutely devastating stories like the Rwandan situation. As I watched the review unfold, I found myself despairing about the state of the world and, in prayer, began asking God if He was really in control and what sort of days were we living in. I felt in my spirit that He replied to my prayer by saying that indeed He was very much in control and that the days we were living in were special times when He would require Christians to be filled with integrity and to stand up for Him just like Elijah did, particularly with the prophets of Baal. “These are ‘Elijah’ days.”

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
statue of Elijah.    http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Elijah_statue_at_Muhraqa_tb_n011400.jpg
forests on Mount Carmel.    http://www.bibleplaces.com/mtcarmel.htm
you must choose.     http://www.makeupandbeautyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/makeup-and-beauty-blog-you-must-choose-100308.jpg
prophets of Baal.   http://theheavensdeclare.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/thetwoaltars1kings18-38-www.thebiblerevival.com-public-domain.jpg
water on the altar.    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/87/c4/e0/87c4e0792a2a309c0cf2dff9021545d8.jpg
Elijah calls down fire from God.    https://davidtlamb.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/elijah-mount-carmel.jpg
small cloud.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/d2961-cea0ce9fcea4ce95.jpg

1932.) 1 Kings 17

September 27, 2016

“Elijah Receiving Bread from the Widow of Zarephath” by Giovanni Lanfranco, 1621 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles)

1 Kings 17   (NIV)

Elijah Announces a Great Drought

1 Now Elijah

The name “Elijah” means Yahweh is my God.

the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Elijah claims that the God of Israel is in control of the weather — not Baal, the god of the sky. God honored what Elijah said for His own name’s sake.

James 5:17-18 (NLT)

Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!  Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Elijah Fed by Ravens

“Elijah and the Ravens” by He Qi

2 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”

Ravens were unclean animals, yet God used them to bring his prophet his daily meal.

Ravens were unclean animals, yet God used them to bring his prophet his daily meal.

5 So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.

1K17 dried up brook

“Ah, it is hard to sit beside a drying brook — much harder than to face the prophets of Baal on Carmel.” (Meyer) He also mentions different kinds of drying brooks we might experience:

  • The drying brook of popularity, ebbing away as from John the Baptist.
  • The drying brook of health, sinking under a creeping paralysis, or a slow consumption.
  • The drying brook of money, slowly dwindling before the demands of sickness, bad debts, or other people’s extravagance.
  • The drying brook of friendship, which for long has been diminishing, and threatens soon to cease.

“Why does God let them dry? He wants to teach us not to trust in His gifts but in Himself. He wants to drain us of self, as He drained the apostles by ten days of waiting before Pentecost. He wants to loosen our roots ere He removes us to some other sphere of service and education. He wants to put in stronger contrast the river of throne-water that never dries.” (Meyer)

—David Guzik

8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there.

God keeps moving Elijah and Elijah keeps trusting God! From home, to Jezreel, to Cherith, and finally to Zarephath, a Gentile city.

I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”

Widows in the Bible are nearly always poor. Could God be sending him to a wealthy widow?

10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks.

He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

1K17 oil-and-flour

No — this widow is poor. So poor she is preparing the last meal for herself and her son. But God has a miracle in mind for her!

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

GOD’S INFINITE MERCIES

“The barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.”

See the faithfulness of divine love. You observe that this woman had daily necessities. She had herself and her son to feed in a time of famine; and now, in addition, the prophet Elijah was to be fed too. But though the need was threefold, yet the supply of meal wasted not, for she had a constant supply. Each day she made calls upon the barrel, but yet each day it remained the same.

You, dear reader, have daily necessities, and because they come so frequently, you are apt to fear that the barrel of meal will one day be empty, and the cruse of oil will fail you. Rest assured that, according to the Word of God, this shall not be the case. Each day, though it bring its trouble, shall bring its help; and though you should live to outnumber the years of Methuselah, and though your needs should be as many as the sands of the seashore, yet shall God’s grace and mercy last through all your necessities, and you shall never know a real lack.

For three long years, in this widow’s days, the heavens never saw a cloud, and the stars never wept a holy tear of dew upon the wicked earth: famine, and desolation, and death, made the land a howling wilderness, but this woman never was hungry, but always joyful in abundance. So shall it be with you. You shall see the sinner’s hope perish, for he trusts his native strength; you shall see the proud Pharisee’s confidence totter, for he builds his hope upon the sand; you shall see even your own schemes blasted and withered, but you yourself shall find that your place of defense shall be the munition of rocks: “Your bread shall be given you, and your water shall be sure.” Better have God for your guardian, than the Bank of England for your possession. You might spend the wealth of the Indies, but the infinite riches of God you can never exhaust.

–C. H. Spurgeon

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

“Elijah and the Widow’s Son,”  by Eric de Saussure, 1968

24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a song I like a lot, a good match of chapter and music! The tune is easy to sing and the words speak truth. It was written by Reuben Morgan in 1998 and is sung here by Hillsong. As you listen, think of Elijah, and the widow — and yourself — “What the Lord has done in me.”

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Lanfranco.    http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=727&handle=li
dew on grass.     http://sabantuytatar.ru/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/dace0060af4b682bf87bd2c6ffd.jpg
He Qi.    ttp://www.heqiart.com/uploads/2/3/5/9/23595908/s463025724710779803_p127_i115_w600.jpeg
raven.    https://i.ytimg.com/vi/DDv_PlrBg14/maxresdefault.jpg
Elijah and the dried up brook.   http://media.freebibleimages.org/stories/FB_Elijah_Ravens/overview_images/012-elijah-fed-by-ravens.jpg?1436947220
oil and flour.   https://wonderingpreacher.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pot-of-oil-and-flour.jpg
jar of olive oil.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/oliveoil.jpg
de Saussure.    http://www.artbible.net/1T/1Ki1708_Elijah_and_the_widow/pages/20%20DE%20SAUSSURE%20ELIE%20ET%20LE%20FILS%20DE%20LA%20VEUVE.htm

1931.) 2 Chronicles 17

September 26, 2016

Jehoshaphat — detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo, 1511.

2 Chronicles 17   (NLT)

Jehoshaphat Rules in Judah

Chronologically, when we read about the reign of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17, we have reached the point in history where the book of 1 Kings began to spend a significant amount of time discussing the prophetic ministries of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, two of the greatest prophets in the history of Israel. So, we met Elijah in 1 Kings 16 and read of his ministry—and especially of his confrontations with the wicked King Ahab—for several chapters before meeting Jehoshaphat at all. Then, we only read two brief passages about Jehoshaphat: one in 1 Kings 22 and another in 2 Kings 3.

The Chronicler, however, takes the exact opposite approach, skipping Elijah and Elisha altogether and devoting four lengthy chapters to Jehoshaphat. Part of the reason for this is that the books of Chronicles are written to the people of the tribe of Judah who returned from exile in Babylon, and part of the reason has to do with the fact that Jehoshaphat is a son of David who, like the other godly kings of Judah, anticipates the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. Jehoshaphat is not perfect, but in the account we find in this chapter, Jehoshaphat reforms the worship in Judah like other godly kings who come before him and after him.

And Jehoshaphat does something additional that we do not find with any other king: he appoints Levites, priests, and even his own court officials to teach the law. Other than this point, the only explicit examples in Scripture of teaching the law come after the people of Judah return from their captivity.

–Jacob D. Gerber

1 Then Jehoshaphat, Asa’s son, became the next king. He strengthened Judah to stand against any attack from Israel. 2He stationed troops in all the fortified towns of Judah, and he assigned additional garrisons to the land of Judah and to the towns of Ephraim that his father, Asa, had captured.

3 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father’s early years and did not worship the images of Baal. 4 He sought his father’s God and obeyed his commands instead of following the evil practices of the kingdom of Israel. 5 So the Lord established Jehoshaphat’s control over the kingdom of Judah. All the people of Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so he became very wealthy and highly esteemed. 6 He was deeply committed to the ways of the Lord. He removed the pagan shrines and Asherah poles from Judah.

7 In the third year of his reign Jehoshaphat sent his officials to teach in all the towns of Judah. These officials included Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah. 8 He sent Levites along with them, including Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah. He also sent out the priests Elishama and Jehoram. 9 They took copies of the Book of the Law of the Lord and traveled around through all the towns of Judah, teaching the people.

2Chr17 taught the Law

These priests and Levites sent out by good King Jehoshaphat were nothing other than traveling evangelists!  They led the way as they traveled and taught the Word of God, and the Lord has raised up many, over the centuries, to follow them. Three who have touched my life in some way are described below (with thanks to Wikipedia).

John Wesley (1703-1791)

John Wesley’s famous “Aldersgate experience” of 24 May 1738, at a Moravian meeting in Aldersgate Street, London, in which he heard a reading of Martin Luther’s  preface to the Epistle to the Romans, and penned the now famous lines “I felt my heart strangely warmed,” revolutionized the character and method of his ministry. A few weeks later, Wesley preached a remarkable sermon on the doctrine of personal salvation by faith, which was followed by another, on God’s grace “free in all, and free for all.” Wesley never stopped preaching the importance of faith for salvation and the witness of God’s Spirit with the belief that one was, indeed, a child of God. Wesley allied himself with the Moravian society. In 1738 he went to Herrnhut, the Moravian headquarters in Germany, to study.

He returned to England and then one day he preached a sermon not in a church, but in the open air. Wesley recognized the open-air services were successful in reaching men and women who would not enter most churches. From then on he took the opportunities to preach wherever an assembly could be brought together, more than once using his father’s tombstone at Epworth as a pulpit. Wesley continued for fifty years – entering churches when he was invited, and taking his stand in the fields, in halls, cottages, and chapels, when the churches would not receive him. 

(John Wesley’s last words were, “The best of all is, God is with us.”)

 ____________________

Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771-1824)

Hauge had a poor and otherwise ordinary youth until April 5, 1796, when he received his “spiritual baptism” in a field near his farm. Within two months, he had founded a revival movement in his own community, written a book, and decided to take his mission on the road.  In the next several years, Hauge traveled — mostly by foot — throughout most of Norway, from Tromso in the north to Denmark in the south. He held countless revival meetings, preaching about “the living faith” often after church services. Hague taught that Jesus was Lord over all of life and that Christians were to view their work as an act of worship to God. He and his followers were persecuted, though their teachings were in keeping with Lutheran doctrine. At the time, itinerant preaching and religious gatherings held without the supervision of a pastor were illegal, and Hauge was arrested and imprisoned several times. In the end, Hauge revived the faith in Norway, making religion a personal responsibility. 

(My parents’ Lutheran roots were Haugean.  Consequently they taught me a personal faith in Jesus Christ and a love of Christian missions around the world.)

__________________

Billy Graham (born 1918)

It is said that Graham has preached the Gospel in person to more people than any other person in history. According to his staff, as of 1993 more than 2.5 million people around the world have “stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior,” many to the altar call song “Just As I Am.” As of 2008, Graham’s lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. 

(I remember watching the Billy Graham crusades on television as a child, and every time he gave the invitation I said “Yes” in my heart to Jesus.  It is a decision I make again every day — to be cheerfully obedient, to be lovingly faithful, to be boldly hopeful in God’s all-sufficient grace.)

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Word of God, Speak” by MercyMe.

_________________________

10 Then the fear of the Lord fell over all the surrounding kingdoms so that none of them wanted to declare war on Jehoshaphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought him gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought 7,700 rams and 7,700 male goats.

12 So Jehoshaphat became more and more powerful and built fortresses and storage cities throughout Judah. 13 He stored numerous supplies in Judah’s towns and stationed an army of seasoned troops at Jerusalem. 14 His army was enrolled according to ancestral clans.

From Judah there were 300,000 troops organized in units of 1,000, under the command of Adnah. 15 Next in command was Jehohanan, who commanded 280,000 troops. 16 Next was Amasiah son of Zicri, who volunteered for the Lord’s service, with 200,000 troops under his command.
17 From Benjamin there were 200,000 troops equipped with bows and shields. They were under the command of Eliada, a veteran soldier. 18 Next in command was Jehozabad, who commanded 180,000 armed men.

19 These were the troops stationed in Jerusalem to serve the king, besides those Jehoshaphat stationed in the fortified towns throughout Judah.

The true treasure of Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was not numbered only in security or material things, but also in the dedicated and courageous men he had surrounding him, these mighty men of valor.

–David Guzik

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Michelangelo.    http://www.backtoclassics.com/images/pics/michelangelo/michelangelo_sistinechapelasajehoshaphatjoramdetail1.jpg
the Book of the Law.   https://freedailybiblestudy.com/december-15th-bible-meditation-for-2-chronicles-17/
John Wesley.    http://www.brycchancarey.com/abolition/wesley.jpg
Hans Nielsen Hauge.    http://www.pergjendem.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/hauge_hans_n.jpg
Billy Graham.    http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/bethelhouse/billyGrahamPreaching_print.jpg

1930.) 1 Kings 16

September 23, 2016

In this chapter we will look at five successive kings of Israel:  Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab.

1 Kings 16   (NIV)

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu son of Hanani concerning Baasha: 2 “I lifted you up from the dust and appointed you ruler over my people Israel, but you followed the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to arouse my anger by their sins. 3 So I am about to wipe out Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. 4 Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and birds will feed on those who die in the country.”

5 As for the other events of Baasha’s reign, what he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 6 Baasha rested with his ancestors and was buried in Tirzah. And Elah his son succeeded him as king.

7 Moreover, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Jehu son of Hanani to Baasha and his house, because of all the evil he had done in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger by the things he did, becoming like the house of Jeroboam—and also because he destroyed it.

Psalm 103:8 (ESV)

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

–which is to say, it would take quite a bit of wickedness to arouse to anger Someone who is slow to anger!

Elah King of Israel

8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel, and he reigned in Tirzah two years.

9 Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the palace administrator at Tirzah. 10 Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded him as king.

1K16 wine

Proverbs 23:29-35 (CEV)

Who is always in trouble?

Who argues and fights?

Who has cuts and bruises?

Whose eyes are red?

Everyone who stays up late,

having just one more drink.

Don’t even look

at that colorful stuff

bubbling up in the glass!

It goes down so easily,

but later it bites

like a poisonous snake.

You will see weird things,

and your mind

will play tricks on you.

You will feel tossed about

like someone trying to sleep

on a ship in a storm.

You will be bruised all over,

without even remembering

how it all happened.

And you will lie awake asking,

“When will morning come,

so I can drink some more?”

11 As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha’s whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. 12 So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu— 13 because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.

14 As for the other events of Elah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

Zimri King of Israel

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned in Tirzah seven days.

Remember that strange TV show in the 50’s called “Queen for a Day”? Well, Zimri gets to be King for a Week! And it turns out to be a pretty bad week at that . . .

The army was encamped near Gibbethon, a Philistine town. 16 When the Israelites in the camp heard that Zimri had plotted against the king and murdered him, they proclaimed Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that very day there in the camp. 17 Then Omri and all the Israelites with him withdrew from Gibbethon and laid siege to Tirzah. 18 When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him. So he died, 19 because of the sins he had committed, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD and following the ways of Jeroboam and committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit.

Zimri is one of the few suicides in the Bible. The Bible never approves of suicide. It is sin; the sin of self-murder. Yet, we are wrong if we regard it as the unforgivable sin, and anyone who does commit suicide has given in to the lies and deceptions of Satan, whose purpose is to kill and destroy (John 10:10).

–David Guzik

20 As for the other events of Zimri’s reign, and the rebellion he carried out, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

Omri King of Israel

21 Then the people of Israel were split into two factions; half supported Tibni son of Ginath for king, and the other half supported Omri. 22 But Omri’s followers proved stronger than those of Tibni son of Ginath. So Tibni died and Omri became king.

23 In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. 24 He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill.

I remember reading about the building of Brazil's new planned capital city, Brasilia, in our "Weekly Reader" pamphlets in elementary school.

I remember reading about the building of Brazil’s new planned capital city, Brasilia, in our “Weekly Reader” pamphlets in elementary school.

Omri’s new capital, Samaria, offered some political advantages. The city was his personal property, so he had total control over it. Samaria also commanded a hilltop position, which made it easy to defend. Omri died before completing the city. So his son, Ahab, completed it, building not only the beautiful ivory palace (1 Kings 22:39; Amos 3:13-15), but also a temple to the god Baal. Samaria served as the capital city for the rest of Israel’s dynasties until it fell to the Assyrians in 722 BCE (2 Kings 17:5).

–a footnote from the Life Application Bible

25 But Omri did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him. 26 He followed completely the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, committing the same sin Jeroboam had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.

27 As for the other events of Omri’s reign, what he did and the things he achieved, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 28 Omri rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son succeeded him as king.

The Mesha Stele was discovered in Jordan in 1868. It bears an inscription that mentions “Omri, king of Israel” as well as a reference to the sacred Hebrew name of God — YHWH. The black basalt stone is now in the Louvre Museum.

Omri was a powerful king, who conquered and colonized northern Moab, and who established a dynasty which lasted through three descendants. Here is a report of some of the extra-biblical records which mention Omri (from  http://www.biblearchaeology.org):

732 BC, Annalistic Record of Tiglath-Pileser III

In 732 BC, the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III campaigned in Israel, taking many captives. In their record of that event, the Assyrian scribes referred to Israel as “Omri-Land,” over 100 years after the end of the Omride dynasty: “Omri-Land… and its inhabitants and their possessions I led to Assyria” (Oppenheim 1969:284).

721 BC, Annalistic Record of Sargon II

Finally, because of their failure to follow God’s ways, Samaria was captured and its citizens taken into captivity by the Assyrian king Sargon II. As with Tiglath-Pileser before him, his record of the event refers to the land of Israel as “Omri-Land”:

I conquered and sacked the towns of Shinuhtu and Samaria, and all Omri-Land (Oppenheim 1969:285).

Although Omri was a great military leader, administrator, and builder, and accumulated vast wealth, the Bible gives him low marks. Why? Because he failed in his spiritual responsibilities. He “walked in all the ways of Jeroboam” (1 Kgs 16:26). In other words, he continued to foster the pagan worship Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, instituted at Dan and Bethel (1 Kgs 12:28-33). Omri, in fact, outdid Jeroboam, because he “sinned more than all those before him” (1 Kgs 6:25).

Ahab Becomes King of Israel

1K16 chart

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah,

Asa reigned for 41 years in total (1 Kings 15:10). During his 41 years there were seven different kings of Israel!

Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.

1K16 uh-oh

Ahab is trouble, and it starts with him marrying Jezebel, a woman who had a rich evil streak in her. In order to please her, Ahab built a temple to her god, Baal, in the new capital city.

34 In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

Joshua 6:26 (ESV)

Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
shall he set up its gates.”

This should have been a warning to Ahab to pay attention to the Lord!

_________________________

Music:

All these kings of Israel mentioned here.  But only one I want to follow!  “Jesus, King of My Heart”  sung  HERE  by Rebecca St. James.

Jesus, King of my heart
Father, my peace and my light
Spirit, the joy of my soul You are

Jesus, to you none compare
Father, I rest in Your care
Spirit, the hope of my heart You are

The heavens declare You are God
And the mountains rejoice
The oceans cry Alleluia
As we worship You Lord
For this is our Song of Love

Jesus, You save my soul
I’ll thank You forevermore
Jesus, the love of my life You are

Jesus, I am in awe
Of the love that You have shown
Jesus, how precious You are to me

_________________________

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
five crowns.    http://static-p3.fotolia.com/jpg/00/14/34/90/400_F_14349093_P9JMXiNWZWRUjm1ExT90fJjIAG4Is4U7.jpg
wine in glass.    http://womenonthefence.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Avanti-wine.jpg
Queen for a Day.    http://www.fiftiesweb.com/tv/queen-for-a-day.jpg
Brasilia.    https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5178/5562942295_c4f284723f_b.jpg
the Mesha Stele.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mesha_Stele_%28511142469%29.jpg
chart of kings of Israel and Judah.   http://image.slidesharecdn.com/journey12-140216034453-phpapp02/95/journey-through-the-bible-part-12-1-kings-1622-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-4-638.jpg?cb=1392522901
uh-oh.   http://the-penultimate-word.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/uh-oh.jpg
Jericho walls falling.   http://www.reformation.org/en-walls-of-jericho.jpg

1929.) Psalm 73

September 22, 2016

Psalm 73   (NIV)

A psalm of Asaph.

1 Chronicles 16:37 (NIV)

David left Asaph and his associates before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister there regularly, according to each day’s requirements.

The question asked in the first 15 verses of this psalm — “How can a good God allow the righteous to suffer?” — reveals several fallacies in our thinking. The first is the assumption that suffering is always evil and therefore irreconcilable with God’s goodness. The second is a failure to understand righteousness, so far as it relates to the saint, the true child of God. In answer to the problem of pain, this psalm forces us to take another look at our definition of good, lest we accuse God of being the author of evil by allowing us to suffer. Let those who suffer look to this psalm for a word of instruction.

–Bob Deffinbaugh (and following comments)

1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

Here, Asaph declares the truth on which his faith is founded as well as the truth which troubles his faith. The faith of the saints has always been rooted in the firm conviction of God’s existence and the assurance that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

In one sense, verse 1 is the conclusion of the matter. Asaph believed that God existed, that He was good, and that He was sovereign. In another sense, however, this verse was the basis of the psalmist’s problem. If God exists, and He is good so as to reward the righteous, and He is all-powerful, totally in control of His creation, then why is it that in God’s world the wicked seem to be doing better than the righteous? Aren’t the facts inconsistent with Asaph’s faith? How can God be good to the pure in heart if observation convinces us that sinners succeed and saints suffer?

This is a serious spiritual issue and one that has precipitated widely diverging explanations. The atheist answers by explaining that there is no God. The cynic says that there is a God, but denies that He is good; life is just one of God’s cruel jokes. The liberal believes that there is a God who is loving, good, and kind; he explains suffering by denying the sovereignty of God. God is all-good, but not all-powerful. 

A biblical faith does not require nor permit us to deny any of the attributes of God. We maintain not only that God exists, but also that He is good and great, a rewarder of the righteous and a judge of the wicked. How, then, do we explain the problem of the suffering of the saints and the success of sinners? The psalmist takes us through the steps of his personal struggle in verses 2-28, from the low point of his doubts and protest to the pinnacle of his renewed devotion and praise.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

In verse 16 we come to a dramatic change of heart and mind where we move from the testing of Asaph’s faith to its triumph. The inner debate and doubting of the psalmist, as portrayed in verses 2-15 were the result of his efforts to resolve the problem by mere reason. Human reason could only lead Asaph to the conclusion that personal piety was profitless and painful. But suddenly in verse 16 there is a new perspective and a complete change in Asaph’s attitude. Instead of protest there is praise. What changed his outlook? The answer, I believe, can be summed up in one word—worship: “When I tried to understand all this It was oppressive to me Till I entered the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their final destiny” (vv. 16-17).

It was not a change of place that transformed Asaph’s outlook, but rather a change in his perspective and in his vocation. Asaph is now a man of worship. While God’s name was hardly mentioned in the first 14 verses (except in v. 1) other than on the lips of the wicked (v. 11), now Asaph is communing with God in worship.  There is a dramatic change in the pronouns employed. In the first half of the psalm the wicked (“they” and “them”) are the object of Asaph’s attention, but in verses 15-28 God (“you”) is central. The exact nature of worship and its effect on Asaph’s heart is described in this second half of the psalm.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Psalm 73:25 — Whom have I in heaven but Thee?  And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.

We all know the hymn “Jesus, Lover of my soul.” The line “Thou, O Christ, art all I want,” comes to us with searching power. It is strangely easy to want Him and a great many other things too. We want to do what we want to do, and to be where we want to be. This is not desiring Christ our Lord and His will only. It is not, “Thou, O Christ, art ALL I want.”

Our Lord want us to come to the place where we can truly say with the psalmist that there is no one and nothing on earth that we desire beside Him. The writer goes on in the next verse, My flesh and my heart faileth, and that is often our experience too. But we do not stop there. The psalm continues with a triumphant But God.  Verse 26:  But God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

“Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find.”

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.

Hebrews 10:22  (NIV)

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.

I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.

After worshiping the Lord, Asaph sees God’s promised blessings and His cursings in an entirely different light, and therefore Asaph concludes the psalm by summarizing the peril of the wicked and the blessings of the righteous. The wicked, those who are not near to God (v. 27), will ultimately perish. No matter how comfortable they now seem to be, destruction is their final destiny. The God who is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart (v. 1), is also the God who will destroy those who are unfaithful to Him (vv. 18-20, 27). Their momentary ease of life is no longer the object of Asaph’s envy, but their final destiny is a sobering reality.

If the blessing of God had previously been measured only in terms of material prosperity and ease of life, it is now viewed as being, in the words of one hymn, “near to the heart of God” (v. 28). This was the case with Asaph (vv. 23-26) and so he can conclude the psalm with the confident statement that he has made God his refuge and that he will publicly praise God for His wondrous deeds, which may include sending adversity into the life of His loved ones (v. 28).

Worship is not so much the leaving behind of life and coming into the presence of God as it is bringing life before God and coming to view it as He does. Worship is seeing things as they are. God is good and faithful. Life on earth is fleeting. Thus we should praise God for all that He is and for all that He does, even when He brings suffering into our lives.

Worship is not just important because it delights the heart of God. Worship is vital because it renews the perspective of the saints and enables them to live in a world of suffering, praising God, obeying His word, and looking ahead to the fulfillment of all His promises.

–Bob Deffinbaugh

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Music:

“Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” by Charles Wesley, has been called the greatest hymn ever written.  The arrangement  HERE,  by Ken Medema, is my favorite.  The verse of this hymn that Amy refers to above is not sung in this performance, but I have included it below.

Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
   More than all in Thee I find:
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
   Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy name;
   I am all unrighteousness:
False and full of sin I am;
   Thou art full of truth and grace.

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New International Version (NIV)   Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Images courtesy of:
Desiring God.     http://wallpaper4god.com/wallpapers/psalm-7325_3188_1024x768.jpg
unfair.    http://www.truelifecoaching.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/unfair.png
God is good.    http://jamieannonline.com/imgsdabney/GodIsGood.jpg
hard heart.    http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/Topics/Purity/_resPurity/HardenHearts.gif
Here I am to worship.      https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/hereiam_jpg.jpg
Whom have I in heaven but you?    http://oneyearbibleimages.com/psalm73_25.jpg
Praise the Lord!    http://icrucified.com/icruciblog/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/praise-the-lord.jpg