Wednesday, May 20, 2020

2 Kings 2, we must carry on

2 Kings 2 tells about when Elijah was taken up to heaven with chariots of fire leaving Elisha behind.  Elisha knew for days that Elijah would leave him on the earth.  For three days, the sons of the prophets told him so.  "I know," he said, "but I will not leave him."  Even when Elijah told him to leave, he would not leave.  But Elijah promised him through the Holy Spirit that if Elisha saw him go up into heaven, then he could have a double portion of Elijah's spirit as he continued as his successor.

I think of the three spiritual giants who have passed away since 2017: RC Sproul, Billy Graham, and Ravi Zacharias.  Those three men have made Jesus's name great in ways unprecedented, and who will carry on their ministries without them.  The good thing in the case of Ligonier is that RC's role was carried on to many men so that people wouldn't look to just one guy for their spiritual nourishment, but to the Lord.

I remember years ago while my mother was sick from the cancer that she died from, she had directed VBS, painted the backdrop for the skits, led music, but she could not do that in 2008 because of her cancer.  I lead the music, and Denise Martin and others put together a background that worked, and it showed that one person's ministry can carry on without them, and sometimes go even better.  Without me looking to and shadowing my mom, I could actually shine on my own in her spirit, even while she was still alive.

The good thing is that Elijah did not have to go through death.  He did leave Elisha behind.  There was a point where Elisha could follow him no further, and as much as it grieved Elisha, he would have to be okay with that.  However, as Elisha was a prototype of Jesus, his ministry would be much better.  Immediately, he goes to a city where the water had been made bitter, and he healed the water.

And then, to show that you don't mess with God's man, and that being a precursor to Jesus means a bit of assassination, some young men seriously taunt Elisha and his bald head.  Elisha calls out to God who sends she bears to maul the guys.  We may wonder what is so bad about mocking someone's bald head, but in that culture, it was a serious insult.  It seriously undermined his ministry.  And God told us all that we would die if we sinned.  If he sends that death immediately, that is his judgment.  I sit and wonder why I'm still alive.  I've had many brushes with death, but God has kept me alive.  And he kept Elisha alive to carry out his ministry on earth.

And we must go on carrying on the ministries of those we loved not for their sakes, but for God who mercifully gives ups breath and wakes us up every morning. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Proverbs 3:21-27 Safety for my soul

Proverbs 3:21-27

Through the years, you begin to realize that although Christians struggle with sin, catastrophe, and disaster beyond their control, generally the Proverbs prove true.  If you don't let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, then, if nothing else, your soul is protected from the eternal effects of sin.  They aren't what save you.  Jesus saves you.  But Jesus is wisdom and understanding at its fullest.  Never let Jesus out of your sight, and don't follow anything that will lead you away from his Word.

"They will be a garland to grace your neck."  Following Jesus causes you to stand out.  Even without trying, people will know you are a Christian.  And being true Christians who follow the word and eat and drink it every day are what caused me to have my closest friends.  I was drawn to them because they truly care about the Lord and honoring him.  I can face anything knowing that not only Jesus, but they are on my side.

"Then you will walk in safety and your feet will not stumble."  Yes.  I don't live perfectly.  I've made mistakes that have taken me years off course.  But generally, I have avoided diseases and other disasters because I took God's Word seriously.

"When you lie down, you won't be afraid.  When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet."  I know for sure, that if I breathe my last breath, I will be in Jesus's presence, and it will be a joyous union.  I can sleep peacefully knowing that.  God has not guaranteed another day of life on this planet.  But if I go home to be with him right now, it will be home, and not in the presence of his anger.  Can you say that?

I also have no fear of the disaster that will overtake the wicked because the Lord keeps my feet from being snared.  In all that, I need to do the first thing and not let Jesus out of my sight.  I can walk on water as long as I keep looking at him and not get spooked by the waves around me.

Monday, May 4, 2020

2 Kings 1, and me being a broken record

2 Kings 1 tells the account of Elijah's last message to Ahab's family and how his sons never learned the lessons taught them much to their judgment.

His son Ahaziah is now king, and he falls through the lattice in his house and gets maimed.  He decides to send messengers to the god of Ekron to see if he will recover.  Elijah intercepts them and says, "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub the god of Ekron?"  Because they still flagrantly act like there is no god and go off to find someone who will give them a quick answer, king Ahaziah is going to die.

When the messengers come back to the king, he asks them to describe the man.  He knows immediately that it is Elijah.  He sends fifty men to kill him, but Elijah calls down fire that consumes them.  After the third set of fifty man, the leader trembles before Elijah in repentance.  Elijah comes with them, tells the king the same thing, and later on the king dies.  His brother Jotham takes the throne, and I assume in the later accounts of Elisha, that he is the king mentioned.

After years and years of prophets, God sent Jesus to be the last true prophet.  Hebrews 1:1-2, "In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe."  After Jesus ascended back in to heaven, his apostles finished up his message as they built the church, and then they died.  Then John, the last apostle, wrote Revelation.  At the end in 22:18-19 he says, "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.  And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll."

It is amazing how people to this day, sometimes myself included, look outside of God's word for quick answers to their problems.  We look to people who claim to speak the very words of Jesus or popular novels that portray God in ways more comfortable to the reader.  But let me tell you, God could not have done more to reach down to our level than sending Jesus as a man.  And he has told us everything we need to know for life and salvation in the Bible.  If you have have a question that only God can answer, you need to read the Bible.  He will come back to you when the time is right.  He speaks through the Bible and he often uses other people who also read the Bible to speak through you.  But if he speaks through them, they will probably not tell you that they are giving you the very words of Jesus.  For example, I'm pretty sure God is leading me away from CCS to who knows where, but I'm not going to tell you that God told me that.  And who knows, I may be back with bells and whistles in August.  But if the Bible does not forbid or command something, then I'm free to make my own decision.  Though in my example, I'm basing my conviction based on my own hurts, habits, and hangups and my desire to please God with who I am and to not be in a toxic environment.

Even so, I need to stay in the Bible for my daily bread and my daily steps to take.  I can't go off and consult a horoscope or take a personality test.  And I certainly can't base my decisions on strong feelings that won't go away.  I need to stay in the Word and possibly consult people that I trust who also stay in the Word to pray with me and give me advice.  And that's pretty much why if you tell me God told you to do something, I won't call you a liar, but I will seriously question whether he told you that or not and see if you are mistaken.

There is a God, and he does speak.  He's spoken through his Son and he continues to speak through his Spirit flowing through the living Word.  Rely on that and nobody else.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Proverbs 3 and longings this world won't satisfy

In the past couple of weeks, I spent some time in Proverbs 3:13-20.  The thing about this section is that Solomon personifies wisdom as a lady who comes alongside God in creating and ruling the world, especially in verses 19-20.  And she sounds so much like Jesus that liberal protestants have made this cult around "Sophia", as if the Bible was portraying Jesus in female pronouns.

Let me tell you, the Bible has never portrayed any member of the Trinity in female terms.  Some may argue that the Greek word for Holy Spirit is female, but it's not.  Our God only presents himself in male pronouns and he sent Jesus as a man.

On a side note, this does not really have to do with a conversation I had the other day where I was saying, "God is not a woman".  I more meant that he's not overly emotional and sappy, and that I feel like the Message Bible is.  But it's not a bad leap of logic.

Anyway, wisdom sounds so much like Jesus, however, the it would not be in appropriate to change "wisdom" for Jesus and to change the pronouns to male.

Let's do that starting at verse 13: Blessed are those who find Jesus, who gain understanding of him.  He is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.  He is more precious than rubies and nothing you desire can compare with him.  Long life is in his right hand and in his left hand are riches and honor.  His ways are pleasant ways and his paths lead to peace.  He is a tree of life to those who take hold of him, and those who hold fast to him are blessed.

Sometimes it seems to good to be true.  His ways don't always seem peaceful, and if you follow him, it seems that the world will forsake you, and sometimes, often times, godly people die young.  But we must remember that the Bible's promises are mostly for the life to come in Christ's complete kingdom when he comes back to earth.  In that era, we will live forever and not lack anything.  There will be no holes in our hearts because our Bread of Life is here in the flesh.

It brings to mind the concept from CS Lewis, that if we find that nothing in this world truly satisfies, even the best things, then it could be because we were made for another place.  And it's true.  God has given me a house, a husband, an active church, opportunities to serve him, friends to fellowship with.  None of them are enough.  They weren't meant to be.  They were meant to point to him.  And if I lose sight of him and focus on them, I find he slowly takes them away, and I'm heartbroken again.

I was listening to a lecture by Joel Beeke of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.  He talked about how Joseph of Genesis sent wagons of riches to his father Jacob to show that he is alive and living in Egypt.  What if Jacob saw those riches and said, "I'll just settle here in Canaan and enjoy these gifts."?  No, Jacob wants to go see his son who he thought was dead.  These things in life are supposed to make us long for our Lord who we have never seen.  Sometimes the idea of him gets lost because we have not seen him and I start focusing on this person over here or that house over there.  No, and I have to tell myself this over and over because I forget daily, they are meant to point to Jesus, and only he will satisfy those longings that they don't quite quench.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Why is there evil in the world and why can I say it did not originate with God?

I think I've posted on this before.  I'm sure I'll post on this again.  But because I can't stand for another person to still be lost on this, I will post on this.  Why is there evil in the world and why can I say it did not originate with God?  Ultimately, unless God shows himself to you, I won't change your mind, but if he does, this will help.

1.  I'm not God.  This is a question only he can answer, and from what I see in Scripture, we as creatures do not have the capacity to understand the answer at this moment in time.  We can give guesses like God gave people free will (which I do believe), that we sinned, and now there is evil in the world.  But in the end, and RC Sproul agreed, we will not know the answer as to why God created a world in which Satan could tempt people and that they could betray the Lord and cause undue harm on all creation.

2.  Even if we know the answer, it still won't make our pain less.  It might even make it worse.  When God finally answered Job, he didn't answer his questions.  He simply said, "where were you when I created the world?  Can you do it better?  Can you explain Leviathan and Behemoth?"  It was enough for Job.  When you see him, it will be enough for you.  But Job would not have been satisfied if he had been told that God pointed him out to Satan, and then God gave Satan permission to attack him so that God could prove that Job truly loved God because God is enough apart from what he can do for Job.  He'd be more mad.  I'm baffled at it myself.

3.  Another thing I've gleaned from listening to RC Sproul through the years is that people are made in God's image.  We are copies of God.  And as copies of God, we will never be perfect like the original.  That imperfection is where sin and evil come from.  Again, that doesn't really solve the dilemma, but it explains why evil comes from creatures created by God but not from God himself.

4.  Back to Job, God wanted to show him off.  He wanted to prove the integrity Job had.  Romans 9:21 asks, "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?"  I don't know why evil exists, but I know in the end, that evil is going to make God's elect church shine even brighter and stronger than if it did not exist.  God is creator and wants to show off his creation to those who will not love him.  And if they still do not love him, it will add to their punishment when the end comes.

5.  How can you ask if God originated evil and question his goodness when he sent Jesus to die for our sins after he said we would die if we did sin?  He could have left us to be punished forever, but he gave us a way for that to not happen and we must believe in Jesus to be saved.

6.  If this still doesn't satisfy you, where will you go.  I said in my last blog that you can't escape God.  Psalm 139 says that God is both in heaven and in the depths of hell.  You will face him no matter what.  You can either make peace with him through the blood of Jesus and have your question answered when Christ's kingdom is complete and we are free from sin forever, or you will face his anger forever.  But it won't be because God is capricious or heartless or impotent.  It will be because after all the time he gave you to turn to him, you did not take advantage of it and come to love and believe in him.  He wants you to love him and to love him freely.  And he gave you a way to be reconciled to him.  Please, take that way before it is too late!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Psalm 11, God's rule, and heaven and hell

I had memorized Psalm 11, and lo and behold, I found a video from Tim Keller on it on his daily devos during the coronavirus crisis.

Psalm 11 is a good Psalm to consider during this time.  It talks about how the wicked people will discourage God's people and try to shoot from the shadows at them.  If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?  The answer: God is in his temple and on his throne.  He sees everyone on earth.  He examines the righteous and will call the wicked to justice.

I find it both chilling and encouraging.  Keller had three points.

1) Stop trying to rule the world.  We must not be passive, but we have to trust that God knows what he's doing and will either save the wicked, like he did for me, or judge them while saving the righteous, who were all wicked at one time.  I know as a codependent, I want to fix everything.  I want to find something social to do six feet apart and find babysitters for people and suddenly have a job as a music minister, but I have to let God write my story and stop trying to steal the pen.

2) Examine yourself.  Is there something about me that needs to change?  I know I've had more time to pray, fast, write songs, write my Bible studies, and I've had more time with my husband while otherwise, I gad about.  I've had more time to appreciate what I have and what God has given me.

3) Rejoice that the righteous will see his face.  I was once wicked.  I still have vestiges of wicked in me that pop up and I have to beat them down like Whack-a-Mole.  The best way is to meditate on Scripture.

All in all I realize, that if I died and went to heaven and saw all my loved ones that have passed and see the streets of gold, get to go to Disney World every day and have every luxury, but Jesus was not there, then it wouldn't be heaven.  Heaven is not a place or a situation, but a man, Jesus.  Where he is, that is heaven.

Meanwhile, I could be poor, lonely, and homeless and even more unsuccessful than I already am, but I have Jesus, so I already have heaven.

Psalm 139:7-8 says that there is no place I can flee from his Spirit.  Even in the depths of hell, he is there.  What does that tell me?  That contrary to popular belief, hell is not the absence of God, but only the presence of his anger and wrath.  Even if I was there, I would be in heaven because God is there.

And I think that is what will make hell so painful to those God doesn't save.  They will be in the presence of the Ruler that they despised and wanted to escape their whole lives.  Nobody wants to suffer for eternity.  They all want heaven, but not all people want Jesus as their Lord.  And it can't be both ways because Jesus is heaven.  And in God's angry presence, they will suffer but never be truly sorry that they never gave their lives to Jesus because they never received hearts that could see how much better he is than anything.

Which is chilling.  I sit and consider people who have died who I loved but I was not sure if they were saved.  Where are they?  It's not my job to wonder about that because I know that God is in heaven, and where he is, I will no longer cry in ways I can't understand now.

And you know what else, I do believe people can be saved because God placed people in their lives who prayed for their salvation.  He saves people because of the love of other people.

But ultimately, what am I doing to prevent them from being so hard that they never come to know the Lord?  I pray that they will be melted by God's love.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Death of Ahab

1 Kings 22 tells of how Israel's most wicked king dies.  The Syrians or Arameans are attacking again because he did not obey the Lord in killing Ben-Hadad when Elijah told him that he would defeat them in chapter 20.  And for his disobedience, he would suffer.

Now they are attacking, and King Jehoshaphat of Judah has joined Ahab against him.  All the prophets are telling them to go because they will win.  Jehoshaphat then asks if there is a true prophet of God there.  Ahab says that there is Micaiah, but he's always so negative.  But Jehoshaphat insists on getting him.

For some reason, Micaiah tells Ahab that he will win against the Arameans, but deep down, Ahab knows that's not true.  Okay, then, Micaiah gives a heavenly courtroom scenario where God is telling the angels to put a lying tongue in the favorite prophets to tell Ahab that he will win so that he will get killed.  Ahab knows that God is going to judge him for his years of idolatry and disobedience against God.  He could either listen to the health and wealth preachers who only say good things, or he can listen to the truth and believe in God.

He puts Micaiah in prison and then goes into battle where he gets killed.  Even when he and Jehoshaphat switched clothes, God still knew which guy was which because you can't hide from God.  Either you can repent and be saved and forgiven, or you can die in your sins.  Which will it be?

And it's strange that people who truly love Jesus and are called to tell the truth to people about their sins but paired up with the good news that they can believe in Jesus and be saved are often hated by the world.  RC Sproul told of a man who won a chance to play golf with the president of the United States and Billy Graham.  The guy was so angry because he felt Billy Graham judging him, but in truth, Billy Graham said nothing.  He simply played the game.  But the man felt uncomfortable because of the God that Billy represented.

In the same way at the kitchen where I worked until the COVID-19 crisis, people despised me because of my faith. Yes they may say I'm incompetent, lazy, and bungling, but in truth, it's because they hate the God that I represent.  And I'm not in there beating them over the head with Jesus either.  I'm there doing my job as best I know how.  But they know that I go to the church where we work, teach Sunday School, and hold to conservative values.  So they talk to me like I'm a rabid dog infecting the kitchen.  But if they'd stop, they'd realize that I have problems and sin, too.  We're both separated from a holy God because of sin, but I believe that I can approach God because Jesus died for my sins.  And I believe that Jesus is better than anything I desire, therefore I don't give into my sins and don't want anyone else to do so either.

It's also interesting that as a blogger, sometimes I speak out against things I don't agree with and it prevents me from moving forward in society.  It shows the danger of the internet.  I didn't agree with the Willow Creek Leadership Summit that had speakers there who are both prosperity preachers and non-trinitarian in their theology.  I blogged about it and I saw doors close in my face.  I also don't agree that communion can be held with anything other than bread/crackers or wine/grape juice because Jesus did not consecrate anything else.  It's a sacrilege to do so.  Jesus had many things in his day he could have used to symbolize his body and blood, but he chose bread and wine.  Not lamb, not bitter herbs, not raisin cakes, but only bread and wine.  Maybe they didn't have Coke and PBJs then, but there were equivalents, and he only consecrated bread and wine.  And we must keep this sacrament sacred.  Do not partake of it, until you have the proper materials.  God will understand.  Just don't incorporate things that Jesus did not incorporate.  We come to the Lord on his terms as a privilege that must not be abused.  Will more doors close to me for saying this?  Maybe.  And I will talk about this more when I get around to talking about King Ahaz.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Ahab, Naboth, and God's judgment and mercy

In 1 Kings 20, Ahab sees a field that abuts his royal property that belongs to Naboth.  He wants the field and offers to buy it from him, but Naboth says it is not for sale.  It has been in his family for ages, and he will not sell it.

Ahab pouts at home, and his wife Jezebel says that she will take care of things.  They hold a banquet and invite Naboth.  Then two guys accuse him of blasphemy, and the people stone Naboth.  Then Jezebel takes his property.  Elijah comes and tells him that Ahab will die and that when Jezebel dies, dogs will eat up her body and they won't be able to bury her.  Then Ahab repents and Elijah says this will all happen in his son's time. 

This account reminds me of the incident of David and Bathsheba.  David saw another man's wife, used murder to obtain her, and then Nathan rebuked him, but he genuinely repented.  He still suffered the consequences of his sins, but his repentance was genuine. 

I can't judge Ahab.  Sometimes I think he might have genuinely repented, and sometimes I think he only repented because he was caught.  Even so, God honors repentance and knows the heart.  Perhaps Ahab was reprobate through and through, and perhaps God had mercy on his soul.  Only time will tell. 

This account also reminds me of the incident of Jack the baker in Colorado.  The LGBT crowd want him to bake a cake for a gay wedding.  He says he won't do it but refers them to places that will be glad to bake one.  However, these people want to destroy him and anybody else who will not give in to their libertine agenda.  And even after the US Supreme Court exonerated him at least once if not twice, the people still won't leave him alone.  They will not stop until we let them proceed in their wickedness and get us to help them in the process.  They have time to repent.  And this is not me being judgmental.  You always have a choice in what you do with your feelings and never have to let them decide who you are.  We have an amazing God who offered Jesus do die for our sins and gives us time to repent.  He gives a Holy Spirit who will change you from your natural sins to be more like him, even the ones you love the most. 

And also, is God judging the world through the COVID-19 shutdowns?  I read one article that said that he was.  I couldn't really agree with it.  I read another article that said he does not send disasters to judge, and I couldn't agree with that one either.  The fact is, he does send disasters as judgments, and also there is rampant sickness as a result of the fall of man.  He sends rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust and in the end no one is truly just and good except God.  We all deserve a lot worse than what he gives, but he still sent Jesus to die for our sins.  We should never question his love and mercy because of that alone, but we should all repent lest something worse happen.  I have no fear because my sins have been forgiven and if I should die, I will see his face.  But if you do not know Jesus, then you need to do so before it's too late.  And we should all work for justice and mercy until then!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Thoughts on Genesis 27

About last year, a friend of mine asked me to hold her accountable to memorize Scripture.  So I started doing that again.  Years ago I had been doing that and then stopped for some reason.  I don't remember why, but I had been surfing in different passages.  I had stopped at Genesis 26, Psalm 10, Proverbs 2, and Matthew 5. 

Normally in memorizing Scripture, I'll memorize a passage, but don't rehearse it once I move on to other passages.  But I finished Genesis 27, the long passage where Jacob officially swindles Isaac into giving him the blessing, stealing the chance from Esau.  Rebekah, his mother, conspires in this.  It's a major ordeal that God still used for his glory.  Here are my ideas from it.

1. God wanted to bless Jacob, the younger twin anyway.  Just because Isaac was deadset on disobeying the Lord and blessing his favorite older son, did not mean Jacob and Rebekah had to help God keep his promise.  God would have given Jacob the blessing one way or another.  He did that for Judah even though Jacob liked Joseph the best of all his sons.  He became the ancestor of Jesus.  In fact he did that for Leah, Judah's mother, even though Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife.  In the end Jacob was only claiming what was already his, but he doubted that God would come through for him, and he did a despicable thing to his father in doing so.

2. At the end of the passage, when Rebekah sends Jacob off to her brother in Haran, she says she'll send word to him when Esau is no longer angry and forgets what Jacob did.  Notice, she never sent for him.  Esau kept being angry.  How would you forget something like that?  That is why we should never praise Esau for not retaliating at Jacob when they met again and embraced each other and wept.  That happened because God intervened, not because Esau finally learned to forgive.  Ultimately Esau was like Cain who never followed through on killing his brother.  Unlike Cain, he actually was a better guy than Jacob.  But in God's election, God wanted to bless Jacob, and we see that Esau willingly through away his blessing for a pot of stew, caring nothing for the future of him and his children.

3. No matter who is right or who is wrong, we all sin because we are sinners.  We all need redemption from our flagrant errors.  We cannot come to God on our own initiative.  Our sins need to be covered by the Blessing that God would send through Jacob.  That is Jesus.  Jesus must die for our sins so that we can have peace with God.  And that peace is meant to be shared with others.  Do not throw away eternity for one bowl of stew or one night with somebody or a relationship that you know is wrong.  Love Jesus more than this world and know his invitation is always open until you die or until he returns. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

1 Kings 20

At the end of my last post, I had said that Elijah had anointed Elisha, Hazael, and Jehu and that Hazael would end up killing Ahab.  I got that wrong.

Elijah anointed only Elisha who, decades later, anointed Hazael to be king of Syria and to judge Israel, and Jehu who would annihilate Ahab's descendants.  However, the latter two were not friends to Elijah or even God.  They would not be a good small group to encourage our weary prophet.  But Elisha would succeed him as prophet and be a prototype of Jesus.  He even has the same name. 

But the current king of Syria, in chapter 20 of 1 Kings, Ben-Hadad gathers his army to attack Israel.  They are heavy drinkers, and they taunt Ahab.  However, a prophet comes to Ahab and tells him that he will defeat the army, that God wants him to kill Ben-Hadad.  At some point, however, Ben-Hadad tells his army to surrender in sackcloth and ashes.  Ahab spares the king and his army.

Another nameless prophet tells a man to strike him.  The man refuses, so the prophet says that a lion will eat him for not striking him.  That happens.  Another man listens to the prophet and wounds him.  Ahab notices him, and when the prophet removes his headband, he recognizes him.  The prophet says that Ahab will die because he spared the Syrian king that God wanted to die. 

Because God's prophets anoint kings of Israel and Syria, it shows that God rules over all nations, whether the nations know it or not.  Both northern Israel and Syria worshiped false gods, but Israel was God's chosen people, so he gave them as many chances to repent, even sending Elijah and Elisha before he finally sends them into exile to Assyria later on.  God is patient, not wanting anybody to perish in their sins.  And he wants all nations to know their proper God.  In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess him as Lord.

The account of the man who would not strike the prophet is another grim example of God judging people immediately when people are used to him giving mercy.  It is a grave thing to disobey our Lord, but we do it daily in his face like he will never hold us to account.  And sometimes, God holds people to account right away, like the man who did not strike the prophet.  God sent a lion to eat him.  God keeps his word, even when we don't like it.  And God used the wounded prophet to show Ahab that he still did not obey God even when he said he would defeat Syria.  He nearly won, but then spared the king and his army.  Soon, Ahab will die.  But not before the next chapter which recounts his most wicked deed.

God gives us a long time to repent of our sins and turn to Jesus.  The reason Ahab lived so long in his wickedness is that God was ready to replace him with Jesus.  Jesus could die for his sins and Ahab could live a new life of devotion to God.  He proved himself real over and over in the fire called down from heaven and in the lion eating the man who would not strike the prophet.  And he still hasn't sent Jesus back even the the world grows more depraved and bloodthirsty.  He wants us all to repent of our sins and turn to Jesus.  He will not wait forever.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Elijah's big showdown and the aftermath

1 Kings chapters 18-19 continue Elijah's story and his ministry against Ahab's idolatry.  He had a refreshing three years living with a widow in Zarephath.  The Lord took care of them while famine raged in northern Israel.  Now, it was time to go on the offensive.  Elijah had to face Ahab.

On the way, he meets Obadiah, an official of Ahab who had secretly hid 700 prophets in caves to protect them from Ahab.  It shows that even when wicked people take over a country, God still rules over them and has his followers in strange places carrying out his will.  He meets with Elijah who tells him to tell Ahab that he is here.  Obadiah fears for his life, but Elijah assures him that God will protect him.

Then, we have the famous showdown between Elijah and Baal's prophets.  They set up altars, and whoever's God answers with fire is the real god.  Baal's prophets slash themselves and cry out to him all day long.  Elijah taunts them saying that perhaps Baal is asleep or he went to the bathroom.  Finally, it's Elijah's turn, and God answers immediately.  It is very obvious that Elijah won because by himself, he had enough power to kill all of Baal's prophets down by the river.

Then queen Jezebel hears about this and threatens to kill Elijah.  He runs away to mount Horeb and wants to kill himself.  It shows that when we succeed in brave things, we still get tired and anxious, ready to give up.  God graciously gave him a timeout with food, sleep and a good pep talk.  He said to stop navel-gazing and go anoint three men.

Notice, two of these three men are not friends of God.  One is Hazael.  He will assassinate the king of Syria, replace him, and kill king Ahab in battle.  God is going to judge Ahab for his continued Baal worship even after the pyrotechnics he saw on Mount Carmel.  The next is Jehu who will kill Jezebel and all of Ahab's descendants including the king of Judah because king Jehoshaphat unwisely gave his son in marriage to on of his daughters.  Then, Jehu will end Baal worship but still continue using the golden calves. 

Finally, he anoints Elisha.  Elisha will succeed Elijah.  Another version of his name is Elishua.  It is the same name as Joshua/Jesus.  Just like Joshua succeeded Moses and led Israel into the promised land and conquered the inhabitants there, and just like John the Baptist gave way to Jesus who is our messiah and will make it possible for us to enter God's kingdom and he will defeat all God's enemies who never repent, Elisha will succeed Elijah.  Northern Israel had become so bankrupt of any true religion that God graciously gave them this ministry to usher them back into the true worship still going on in Jerusalem.  Elisha's ministry reach out to gentiles such as Naaman, bringing them to worship the true God.  And he healed people and at one point even multiplied bread to a crowd.  He was not the Messiah, and one day God did judge the north who never returned to God's true worship.  But he gave them one last chance.

If we are discouraged by our enemies even when we do the best to show them God's love, we have to look to God.  We cannot find encouragement from people who found peace without knowing Christ because there is no true peace.  Their hope is only for this world.  We must look to people like William Cowper, Charles Spurgeon, or Martin Luther who suffered great depression but still clung to the hope of our Lord even in their darkest nights of the soul.  In many cases, their anxiety was not healed.  Even Cowper died doubting God's love.  But God's eternal love carried them all the way home and it can do that for you, too.