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.

1 Kings 17

1 Kings 17 brings Elijah to the story.  He goes to Ahab the king with some bad news: “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word”.  Drought is coming, and Elijah is the only way to make it rain.  Scripture doesn’t tell us what Ahab does, but it does tell us Elijah got out of town and moved to hide by a brook east of the Jordan.  God doesn’t give him much to go on – just to get out of town.

Elijah leaves and really only has this promise: “I have commanded the ravens to feed you”.  That seems like a stretch, doesn’t it?  Birds feeding Elijah?  But he obviously had a relationship with God and knew of God’s faithfulness.  He didn’t question what God said.  “He went and lived by the brook”.  Obedience was immediate and complete.  He did what God had asked.  It wasn’t long before the brook dried up.  The drought Elijah had prophesied impacted the area where he lived too, so God instructs him to move on to Zarephath and dwell there.

God tells him again “I have commanded a widow there to feed you” and as Elijah walks into town he meets her at the city gate where she is gathering sticks.  He asks for a little water and a morsel of bread.  She immediately informs him that she has nothing prepared and only “only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug”.  It doesn’t phase Elijah.  He just asks her to not fear.  Then he gives her this promise: “The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth”.  Do you trust God like that?  Elijah’s sustenance is in the hands of a woman who doesn’t have enough to feed herself and her son, let alone him.

But God is again faithful and the flour and oil feed them all.  One day the woman came and had bad news.  Her son had died.  Elijah has compassion and springs into action.  He “cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again”.  Elijah got involved.  He didn’t sit back and say ‘not my problem’.  He took the boy and laid him on the bed and stretched himself upon him three times.  He went to God and interceded to make a difference.  Guess what happened.  “The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah….And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived”.  The power of intercession is so strong.  The outcome of this story would have been very different had Elijah not been willing to get involved.  He had to get in the game and go where the pain was.  Life is messy, but to make a difference we have to be willing to join people where they are and intercede with them.

2 Chronicles 17

2 Chronicles 17 is a great example of a leader that gets things right.  Jehoshaphat takes the throne after his father Asa.  He was building up the strength of his nation.  It was going well.  Why?  “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments”.  Jehoshaphat had his priorities in order and his eyes set on the Father.  He walked in obedience.  He returned to God.

So what happens?  “Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand“. Did you catch that?  THE LORD put Jehoshaphat where he was – kingdom in hand and wealth piling up.  Jehoshaphat may have done some things to fortify cities, but GOD is the One who established his kingdom.  It was God who was driving the outcome.  But wait, there’s more.  Look at what else resulted from God’s hand:

–       “all Judah brought tribute

–       he had great riches and honor

–       His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord

–       he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah

Jehoshaphat is living the good life with God.  Then he takes it to the next level – he takes the truth to the people.

He sent his officials….to teach….the Book of the Law of the Lord”.  Jehoshaphat wanted everyone to know God and His commandments.  So he sent out his leadership to where the people were, and they taught them.  “They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people”.  This wasn’t some feeble attempt to train up a few.  He went after everyone – wanting to be sure that all knew God and His Word.  He taught broadly and widely.  And it worked, to the point that others were impacted that were just close.  “And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah”.  God’s Word changes lives.  If we learn it, it will impact us.

The lesson here is clear.  Strong leadership that is built on the knowledge of God’s Word and a relationship with the Father is as powerful as it gets.  Enemy kingdoms saw the impact of the teaching and came bearing gifts to Jehoshaphat.  They didn’t want to mess with a people that was connected to God.  And the impact on those in his kingdom was equally powerful.  “These were in the service of the king” referring to the warriors in his kingdom.  There were hundreds of thousands ready to go to battle. God’s truth focuses us.  It gets us on the same page. Jehoshaphat taught his kingdom and led them to a walk with God.  What a powerful gift!

1 Kings 15:25-16:34

1 Kings 15:25-16:34 gives us a view into the leadership that ruled Israel.  And it is a very sad state of leaders indeed.  This is the list of people who came after Jeroboam, who had sinned and led the people away from God.  It goes on like this from that point:

–       “Nadab the son of Jeroboam….did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin

–       Baasha conspired against him….struck him down at Gibbethon….did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin

–       Elah his son reigned in his place….all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord

–       Zimri, commander of half his chariots, conspired against him…..sins that he committed, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and for his sin which he committed, making Israel to sin

–       Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him. For he walked….in the sins that he made Israel to sin

–       Ahab his son reigned in his place….did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him

Six kings that just didn’t get it.  They sinned and did worse….they “made Israel to sin”.  They led the people away from God into idol worship and worse.  Don’t ever think that leadership doesn’t matter.  It does, but not just in political areas.  Leadership matters in spiritual areas as well.  People follow people.  People watch people.  People are paying attention to how you live.  It starts at home, where we have the most influence, even when it doesn’t seem like the kids are listening. They are, and as scripture tells us, if we train them up right in God’s truth they will come back to it.

But spiritually bad leadership can derail a nation.  We must never believe that those who represent us in government don’t have any influence on us spiritually.  They absolutely do.  They can lead us astray.  We must guard our hearts and keep our focus on God, so that no matter what leadership may do, we will not fall into sin.  This leadership was passed from father to son, or sometimes stolen through killings and overthrow, but make no mistake about it, in each case, the sin of the leader passed to his people.

I didn’t mention Timri in the list above, as he only lasted seven
days in power before being killed.  But he too was off the track with God.  The one that truly stands out though is Ahab.  Check what scripture has to say about him: “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him”.  How’s that for his claim to fame.  He did more to make God angry than anyone.  Quite a statement to go on the old tombstone isn’t it?  We need to pay attention to how we live.  We are all leading someone, and for most of us, some many.  How we live matters, not only to us as God measures our obedience, but in the lives of those we touch as they can be pulled away from or toward God, based on how we live.

%d bloggers like this: