Archive for February, 2013

2 Chronicles 19

2 Chronicles 19 has Jehoshaphat returning safely and being met by Jehu, the seer.  He is told that he has irritated the Lord and “wrath has gone out against you from the Lord”.  That is some serious business.  He has frustrated God and is not on His good side.  But then Jehu balances the wrath with this statement: “some good is found in you”.  Jehoshaphat did wrong, but he also had done some good.  He destroyed the idols and “set your heart to seek God”.

Jehoshaphat jumps into action, knowing he is sort of on the fence between God’s wrath and blessing.  He heads out to the country among the people and “brought them back to the Lord”.  From there, he decides to appoint judges that will lead the people.  His direction was “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes”.

He instructs the judges to give judgment in the fear of the Lord.  He is pointing these leaders to God.  Good step, but he goes one further.  Jehoshaphat appoints some priests and heads of families to “give judgment for the Lord and to decide disputed cases”.  He goes a step deeper and puts more people in charge to make sure that judgment will happen quickly and effectively.  He charged them to live in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness and with your whole heart.  Not just go through the motion, but live all out for God.

Jehoshaphat takes strong action and leads the people back to God.  He disobeyed God by getting tied up with Ahab and going out to a battle that didn’t really happen, but he also did good by cleaning up the idol worship.  He led the people back to God.  He did good and balanced the bad with good.  And God honored that.  He repented and got his heart right and back on track with God.  He creates a system that will support the effort to focus on God.  He leads well here.  It’s unfortunate he didn’t do it well all along.

2 Chronicles 18

2 Chronicles 18 has the same basic story as 1 Kings 22.  “Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor, and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab”.   There was an alliance between these kings to work together to deal with enemies.  Jehoshaphat came to visit Ahab who wines and dines him and then wants to go to battle together.  Ahab had his 400 prophets telling him it was a ‘go’ from God.  But Jehoshaphat has questions, and asks if there might be anyone else that they should ask.

Ahab admits there is one he hadn’t asked – Micaiah.  So Ahab sends for him to come.  “And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably”.  They try to influence his words.  Of course, “Micaiah said, As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak”  He is not one to be bought off or told what to say.  So Micaiah comes before Ahab to be questioned.

“The king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain”?  Not that Ahab wanted to ask, but before Jehoshaphat would join him in battle, he wanted to hear the final response.  Micaiah answered, “Go up and triumph; they will be given into your hand”.  Exactly what the king wanted to hear, wasn’t it?  Yes, but obviously the king could tell he wasn’t being honest.  So “the king said to him, How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord”. 

The truth comes out which was “Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you”.  Of course, now Micaiah tells him the real prophesy which was that he would die if he went to battle.  But Ahab ignores it and sends Micaiah off to be punished and goes into battle. The prophesy comes true and Ahab dies.  And Micaiah knew the truth and exactly what was going to happen.

1 Kings 22

1 Kings 22 has the King of Israel seeking help from Jehoshaphat to overcome the Syrians.  They come together and Jehoshophat requests that they seek the counsel of the prophets to be sure that this battle was God’s will and that they would be successful.  Of course, the king calls together his 400 prophets and they give a big green light to engage in battle. But Jehoshophat questions that and asks “Is there not here another prophet”.  He obviously thought the counsel was one sided and not necessarily from the Lord.

So “the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil”.  The king didn’t like Micaiah because he always spoke the truth, even it if it was not what the king wanted to hear.  He served God, not man, and was not afraid.  So Micaiah did not cave when asked to agree with the first four hundred prophets.  He could have, but he didn’t.

In fact, here is what Micaiah had to say.  “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak”.  He wasn’t going to give in to pressure.  So they sent him off to another place when he refused to comply.  And the king of Israel ignored the prophesy and they go into war.  He dressed in disguise and thought he would escape, but an archer shot an arrow and killed him – not by accident – but by God’s hand.  And the kingdom of Ahab continued to “walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin”.  They followed the very bad example of their king.

God will not be mocked.  And following God’s will, can be a very lonely place to be.  Micaiah could have easily given in to the request to just validate what the king wanted.  They tried to force him to just agree, not stand firm on God’s truth.  But he didn’t.  He stood alone on God’s truth.  That is what we are called to do.  To be faithful to God and His truth and tell it like it is.  God honors that obedience.  God loves it when we walk with Him. 

1 Kings 21

1 Kings 21 has Ahab going to Naboth to try and secure his vineyard to turn it into a garden.  It was a great piece of land close to the palace, and Ahab wanted it to plant food for his table.  Naboth refused both money and a trade to a better vineyard because it was an inheritance and land of his father.  Ahab is frustrated and goes back pouting that he has been unable to secure the land.  His wife, evil as she was, Jezebel told him to get over it and be cheerful.  She was going to take matters into her own hands and secure the land.

Actually her plan was sinister.  She writes letters under the sign of the king and asks the leaders of the city Naboth was in to set him up and take him out.  A couple witnesses accuse him falsely, he is convicted and sentenced to stoning.  And soon he is out of the picture.  Word comes back to Jezebel that her evil plan has worked and now Ahab can go possess the land without resistance.  So he does – he takes possession and things seem good and according to his wishes.  But along comes Elijah with some strong words.  That seems to be what happens every time Elijah shows up to Ahab.

“Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood”.  No sugar coating of the message by Elijah.  Ahab has sinned and he is going to pay.  But beyond his demise, Elijah says “Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat”.  His sin is going to spill all over everyone associated with him.  The impact of sin is wide and deep.  We cannot ignore it.  And Jezebel’s sin is also called out by Elijah.  It is a very direct message.

But Ahab hears Elijah’s rebuke and condemnation, and he “tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly”.  Ahab repents.  He knows he has sinned and he heard Elijah’s charges.  But he takes action to get right before God.  And God hears his plea, so much so, that God changes his action.  “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house”.  Ahab doesn’t stop the punishment for sin completely, but delays it to the next generation.  Important to understand that there is a consequence to sin.  There is a price to pay.  That is why Jesus death on the Cross is so important and powerful. 

1 Kings 20

1 Kings 20 is filled with the underdog facing the Goliath.  Ahab and his people Israel are being pursued by Ben-hadad and 32 other kings.  That is hardly fair.  They are going to come together to do battle with Ahab and his people.  Seems like a pretty predictable outcome, doesn’t it.  Very outnumbered, Ahab immediately caves and says he will comply with whatever these kings want. The request was sent: “Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children”.

Ahab asks his elders what to do.  This is a big request, but the option isn’t looking very good.  But as he prepares to give in and give away his money and his family, a prophet comes by.  “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the Lord”.  Seems like a lopsided situation, but God sent a message that He was showing up and Ahab’s troops would prevail.  And that they did.  They routed the enemy.

The enemies of Israel begin making excuses about why they were defeated.  It was because of the place the battle occurred – in the hills.  If only they could get the battle moved to the plains they would easily prevail.  So they wait for spring and prepare for battle then. Ahab brings his army out for the battle.  “The people of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Syrians filled the country”.   This wasn’t going to be fair.  It looked bad again.  But once again God showed up.

The few thousand of Israel killed over 127K warriors that day.  It was an amazing victory.  But Ahab blows it when he has Ben-hadad before him and lets him go.  He doesn’t finish the job.  And because of that God announces that He will be punishing him.  He won’t tolerate the failure to obey.  Ahab has just experienced a coupld of amazing victories, both definitely given by the Lord, and he negotiates with the enemy and lets him go in spite of what God had commanded.  Obedience is not optional.  We need to follow God’s direction and do it quickly and according to His plan.

1 Kings 19

1 Kings 19 has Elijah coming off a victory over the prophets of Baal in the showdown at Mount Carmel.  Should have been a victorious time, right?  That isn’t exactly the scene here.  “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done” and she is not a happy woman.  So she sends a message to Elijah telling him that he is a dead man.  So Elijah does what any man would do, “he ran for his life”.  This guy had just wiped out 450 prophets of another god and now he is running.  Seems like a different response than one might expect, but it’s what he did and we’ll see soon it was God’s plan.

Elijah ran for a day and then lies down under a broom tree.  He was ready to die, and asks God to take his life.  But while sleeping, God send an angel to him, not once, but twice, with food and water to nourish and restore his body and soul.  Elijah gets up and goes on a 40 day journey to Mount Horeb to meet God face to face.  When he arrives, he finds a cave and lodged there.  God comes and asks “What are you doing here, Elijah”?  Don’t you love it when God asks us questions He already knows the answers to.

Elijah says it this way: “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away”.  He is there to save his skin.  That’s the bottom line.  God tells Elijah to go stand at the entrance of the cave.  And he saw:

–       “a great and strong wind

–       An earthquake

–       A fire

–       A low whisper

Scripture tells us that God wasn’t in the first three – they were for show.  But God comes and speaks to Elijah in a whisper and told him to return and anoint two new kings and a new prophet.  How’s that for staying low key.  God isn’t done with Elijah yet, even if Elijah thinks his days are over.

So on the way home he finds Elisha, who is the man God had told him to anoint as prophet.  What is Elisha up to?  He’s plowing the field with twelve yoke of oxen.  He’s working the land, not studying to be the next prophet.  But Elijah “passed by him and cast his cloak upon him”.  Can you visualize this?  Elisha is working and sweating driving a team of twelve oxen and here comes this guy who puts his cloak on him.  Doesn’t say he said anything, he just comes up and puts it on him.  Elisha chases Elijah down, he hadn’t even stopped to explain.  And Elisha asks for a little time to say goodbye to his family, but before he come to follow he sacrificed his yoke of oxen and gave the meat to the people to eat.  He was all in – no alternate plan here.  He is going to follow Elijah.  And that is what scripture tells us he did: “Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him”.

1 Kings 18

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah comes out of hiding in the third year of Ahab’s rule.  And he comes upon Obadiah and tells him to “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth”.  There had been famine in the land for years as the rain had stopped falling when God told Elijah it was done raining.  Obadiah is not at all enthralled with Elijah’s request to go find Ahab.  Obadiah and others had been searching for Elijah for years.  He wasn’t interested in potentially losing him again.  He knew that if Ahab couldn’t find Elijah after he went to him, it would be certain death.

We see a real contrast between Obadiah and Ahab.  Obadiah says “I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth”.  He was a prophet and has been faithful to God, even while being in Ahab’s kingdom.  But Elijah confronts Ahab when he is accused of the drought that has been upon the land and says “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals”.  Don’t blame me, he says.  This whole mess is your fault Ahab.  You have been living in sin, not me.

That’s when Elijah asks for a showdown at Mount Carmel with the priest of Baal – all 450 of them. He says “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him”.  Pretty confident, and rightly so.  Elijah knew his God.  He knew this wasn’t going to even be close.  He takes it further…”Elijah mocked them” and throws down the gauntlet.  Let’s see whose God is real.  Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to call their god to burn the bull they had sacrificed and cut up.  “He repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down” and prepares his bull the same way and places it on the altar.

Elijah has the bull cut and placed on the wood and then asks that four jars of water be dumped on it.  Not once, not twice, but three times.  Twelve jars full of water dumped on the altar until “the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water”.  He was going to make a statement that left no doubt about whose God was real.  Elijah calls to God and “the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench”.  What would you do if you were a prophet of Baal?  The people responded and “fell on their faces and said, The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God”.  God had showed up in a big way.  But it wasn’t over yet.  Now Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal” and he had all 450 killed.  This was going to put an end to the dual god scenario.  Only the true God and His prophets would remain.  What a victory for Elijah and God.  No doubt who is real and in control.

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