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.