Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Can God really do this?

Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof. – 2 Kings 7v2

During the great siege of Samaria prices skyrocketed. Things got so bad that Samarian women were eating their children. Everyone was in despair. It looked like there was no hope.

But then Elisha spoke up and told them that on the next day the siege would be over and everything would be back to normal. Prices would plummet back to the pre-siege costs.

One of the king’s key advisors asked – ‘Even if God could open the windows of heaven, could this really be true?’

This advisor just could not see how even God could take care of this situation. Things were too hard, even for God. Because of his doubts this advisor would see the things come true, but he would not be able to benefit from them.

We can sit here some 3000 years later and be critical of this man for his lack of faith. How could he doubt Elisha?

In reality he is not worse than we are when we read the promises of God and still get sick with worry. We (read Roger here) sometimes think that some situations are just too much for God to deal with just because we can’t see His way. When we (I) do that we (I) am no better than this pagan advisor in a pagan land who didn’t even know God.

How can we (I) doubt God when we claim to know His so well?

Monday, 30 August 2010

I’ll do it my way

Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?"So he turned and went away in a rage. – 2 Kings 5v12

Namaan was a very important man. He was a leading general of the Syrian army. He was great and honourable. He was strong and brave. God had used him to give Syria great military victories. If he were alive today he would be the kind of guy to be Time’s Man of the Year. Whenever there was a military even the networks and websites would always want an interview with him. But Namaan had a problem.

Namaan was a leper. Leprosy was something to be ashamed of. The lepers were seen as unclean and they were cast out of society. Not only that, leprosy was a killer.

So, what to do? A young Jewish girl had been captured on a raid and was serving Namaan’s wife. She knew that Elisha could help. The king used his authority and resources to get to Elisha. His solution was simple enough – tell Namaan to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times and he would be healed.

Namaan did not like that advice! ‘Why should I have to travel to that stinking Jordan River? We have great rivers here in Damascus. I could wash in them and get clean!’

He then walked away in a huff. Namaan was the kind of guy who wanted to do it his way.

The problem is that his way would not work. His problem is the same one that we can run in to today. We always think that our way is just as good as, or maybe even better than God’s way. If God’s way does not ‘make sense’ to us we figure that our way must be better.

But there was only one way for Namaan to be healed. He had to follow God’s instructions. Eventually he did – he obeyed and he was miraculously healed.

God’s way and only God’s way worked. The same is true for us. No matter what situation we are in or how logical our solution may seem God’s way is the only way. In many cases God does not give us clear direction; He just gives us the good sense to make wise decisions. But there are times when God says one thing and our logic says another. When that happens doing it our way is not going to work.

Let’s learn from Namaan, swallow our pride, and do it God’s way.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

It is easy for God

And this is a simple matter in the sight of the LORD; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand. – 2 Kings 3v18

The triumvirate of kings from Israel, Edom, and Israel were wisely seeking God’s wisdom before a response to Moab’s rebellion against Israel. They went to Elisha who told them that they would prevail, but that they had to build a series of fortified moats in the dry valley. There was a problem though – there was no water to fill the moats.

Problem? Not really. ‘This is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord.’

Wouldn’t it be great if we could always keep this in mind when we find ourselves in difficult situations? What if every time we faced what seemed like an impossible task we could remember that it is a simple thing for God to handle?

The things that seem impossible to us are easy for Him. There is nothing that is too hard for the Lord.

What are you facing at the moment? Does it seem insurmountable? Remember – these things are easy for the Lord.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The word of the Lord is with him

And Jehoshaphat said,"The word of the LORD is with him."So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him. – 2 Kings 3v12

What a testimony Elisha had. Everyone had known about Elijah. Everyone knew where he stood. He was the prophet of God and there was no question about that.

But he was gone. Elisha was his replacement. Usually the successor to a great man never quite measures up to him.

Jehoshaphat was still king of Judah. He is an enigma. Sometimes he acts like a complete pagan, while other times we see at least a semblance of spirituality. One thing that is obvious, he does recognise the man of God. Here he, along with the kings of Israel and Judah, is seeking counsel about yet another battle. When Elisha’s name came up he said simply, ‘The word of the Lord is with him.’

I like that. I know that we have the word of God in a different way than Elisha, but still he sets an example for us. People who saw him and knew his life knew that he had the word of God. It was a part of his life. When the king thought about him he knew that Elisha had the word of God.

I wonder if people know that about us. When our name comes up in conversation do people connect us with living in accord with God’s word?

Wouldn’t it be a great testimony if people could say something like ‘Yeah, I know Roger; he lives his life according to the Bible?’

Friday, 27 August 2010

I will not leave you!

Then Elijah said to him,"Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan." But he said,"As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!"So the two of them went on. – 2 Kings 2v6

Dedication, faithfulness, and loyalty are a big deal to me. I think they are important character traits in dealing with others because they can indicate how we are going to deal with God.

Elijah was getting ready to depart. He was passing on his mantle of prophet to Elisha. He didn’t really want Elisha to see his departure so he kept telling Elisha to stay and not go any further.

But Elisha would hear nothing of it. At least three times he told Elijah ‘I will not leave you!’ Nothing could dissuade him. Elisha reminds me of Ruth and her devotion to Naomi – ‘where you go I will go and where you die I will die.’

I love that kind of dedication. It is a trait which is rare today. I remember a day when people stayed with their jobs, when athletes stayed with their teams, when people stayed with their churches, and when married folks stayed with their spouses. While there are sadly times when we must leave a situation physically or emotionally, it has now become far too common. Now people leave at the drop of a hat, using any excuse to get out.

We have grown too used to taking the easy way out. What kind of character does that show? If we are going to be quitters in human relationships, how are we going to do with God when things get tough?

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Whatever the Lord says

And Micaiah said, "As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak." – 1 Kings 22v14

Ahab was still trying to get the prophet to support him. He seemed to really think that if he could get Micaiah to change his prophecy it would change his fate. This really showed how out of the loop Ahab was!

Micaiah would not do it though – ‘I can only tell you what God told me to say.’ We have to admire his courage and his determination to not compromise his message. Nothing could keep him from delivering God’s message.

The modern application is pretty obvious. There are all kinds of things that could tempt us from being faithful to the word of God. While we must be wise, balanced, and careful not to cause unneeded offence, we need to be aware that man cannot keep us from being faithful to proclaiming God’s word.

Lets be careful that what we speak is not out of fear of men, not out of our own agenda, but only what God would have us to say.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

I hate that guy!

So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat,"There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." And Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say such things!" – 1 Kings 22v8

Israel and Judah had an unusual relationship. Sometimes they worked together, sometimes they were at war, and sometimes they just co-existed.

At this time Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, came to Ahab, king of Israel, to acquire his alliance to take Ramoth of Gilead. They seemed to have the right motivation, ‘Lets see what God has to say about it.’

Ahab called together 400 of his prophets and asked them – ‘Go ahead and take it. God will give it to you.’

Jehoshaphat was not satisfied. ‘Okay, but is there a prophet of Jehovah that we can ask?’

Ahab did not like that question – ‘Well, there is Micaiah, but I hare him because he only gives me bad news!’

Now, that may be a bit extreme, but how often do people hate the messenger because of His message? He didn’t hate anything about Micaiah personally, as far as we know, he hated what he said.

Anyone who treats the gospel seriously is going to face Micaiah like moments in his life. Jesus even tells us in advance that His message is going to cause offence.

Nobody likes to hear that they are a sinner. No one likes to hear that they are bound for hell unless they turn to Christ.

People are going to hate our message. Chances are that they are going to hate us as well. Our only proper response is to mix our message with the love of Christ.

Don’t be shocked when people turn away from us. We have an advantage over Micaiah. Whereas all he had for Ahab was bad news, we have the good news of Christ to go with the bad news of an eternity without Him.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The importance of the right spouse

But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. – 1 Kings 21v25

We have all heard the old saying – ‘Behind every great man is a great woman.’ Laying aside the modern perception that this is a sexist statement we are going to just move on.

In a very real way it might also be said that ‘Behind every evil man is a real beastly woman.’

We know that this is not always the case. There are historical examples where great men have had wicked wives and wicked men have had sweet wives. However, when to comes down to it, a lot of who we are and the kind of person we become is dependent on our spouse.

God says that there was never a king as wicked as Ahab because his wive Jezebel ‘stirred him up.’

Our spouses, be they husband or wife, can make our lives heavenly or they can make it a living hell. That is part of the reason why marriage is such an important matter. It is by far the most important earthly decision we will ever make.

God intended marriage to be forever. Sometimes that does not work out, but that was God’s plan. When we choose a husband or wife we literally choose a life partner.

For those who are not there yet, be careful. Don’t enter marriage based on emotion, good looks, or passion. Choose your spouse carefully and prayerfully. That choice is for the rest of your life.

For me, I have to say that I could not be more grateful. My dear Mary is a godly supporter, encourager, helper, and even at times when it is needed, a godly corrector.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Go, get back at it

Then the LORD said to him:"Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. – 1 Kings 19v15

If anyone could diagnose Elijah at this time they would surely say that he had depression. He might even have been diagnosed with clinical depression. All the signs were there; lack of energy, no desire to eat, etc. I have known people who suffer depression. It is real.

I realise that there are times when a person’s emotions leading to depression can happen because of a chemical imbalance and may need medical treatment. I won’t deny that.

However, there are also many time when people, even Christians, become depressed. It might just be discouragement, or even just a spiritual ‘funk.’ I am not inclined to depression, but I certainly can battle discouragement or that vague, undefined funk.

Sometimes people use medicine to treat these feelings. Sometimes that is even a legitimate treatment. Other times people use substances to hide the feelings. Some people eat their way out of those feelings. Some use diversions. The diversion can just be fun and excitement, but sometimes these might be choosing sin to deal with the feelings. All of these are going to fall short however, because they don’t deal with the issue.

There must, however, be a spiritual answer. Fortunately, God does have an answer. We find His answer here in this passage. ‘Get up Elijah; get back on your way. A little later God told Elijah that there were 7000 others with him who had not bowed to Baal.

When we find ourselves in these states, or even when we sense these states coming on, we have a solution. Why not try what God told Elijah first? Why not dust ourselves off, get up, and get busy for God? The problem is that we get our focus on us and our sorry state. The answer is to think about someone else.

‘Go, return on your way…’

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A still small voice

Then He said,"Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD."And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19v11-12

God was indeed with Elijah, even though Elijah did not sense it.

God had a little lesson for Elijah and one that we would do well to heed. He led Elijah to the mouth of the cave in order to speak to him.

First a massive hurricane like wind came. The wind was so intense that it broke the rocks apart. Surely, this must be God speaking. But no, God was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake followed by a great fire. This but be a sign from God.

But no – after these things there was a still small voice. It is in this still small voice that God spoke to Elijah. More on what God said to Elijah later.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the big, noisy, great spectacles of life that we forget to listen to the still small voice.

We can hardly think that is unusual. Those things are so noisy that they catch our attention and hold on to it. They are exciting, big, and dramatic. We pay attention to those things whether they are good or bad just because they are so ‘there’ that we can hardly ignore them.

I am slowly but surely learning that God does not normally speak to me in those big things. He still speaks in His still small voice. In order to hear the still small voice I have to be paying attention.

Maybe it is time for me to shut up and sit down and listen for His still small voice in my life.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Feeling alone

So he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." – 1 Kings 19v10

All alone. Anyone who is serious about serving God has been there, even in the midst of a crowd. Sometimes we juts cannot figure out what God is doing, we question Him, and we end up in what one kiddie song calls ‘Pity Party Pit.’

‘I have tried to serve God. I have done everything He asked me to do. I have been faithful. I have done my best. And now, I am all along. Everyone is opposing me. Why did I bother?’

I know I have been there. There have been times when I just cannot for the life of me figure out why things have not worked out. I remember asking one day – ‘What is the story here God?’

The truth is that just because Elijah felt all alone doesn’t mean he was. He made the common mistake of getting his eyes on the circumstances and not on his God. When we do that we get excited in good circumstances and down in the tough ones.

Elijah was not alone. His God was still there. Elijah’s problem is that He was looking and listening in the wrong place.

Feeling all alone? Look for Him and listen for Him. Don’t let your Pity Party Pit keep you away from His blessings.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Running for his life

And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" – 1 Kings 18v3-4

How often does this happen? We have a great spiritual victory. We are excited and rejoicing and praising the Lord. We are on top of the world. Everything is looking great. God has answered a prayer and we are on the victory road. Finally, the struggle is over and we are on our way.

Then, BOOM! We run smack into a wall. Bad news comes. We go from the mountain peak to the valley floor in an instant. Everything comes crashing down.

We are not alone. The same thing happened to Elijah. We went from the mountain top of Carmel to death threats from the queen. Jezebel told him that he would be dead before nightfall.

So what did he do? The victory was forgotten – he ran for his life. He found a tree, sat down in its shade, and cried about his situation. ‘You might as well take my life God, I have had enough.’

I like that Elijah was a man with the same feelings and weaknesses that we have. It makes him more real. We can identify with him. He is not some perfect Bible guy who has no problems.

Elijah forgot that the God who was with Him in victory has already been with him through the tough times. He had forgotten that God was with him under the queen’s death threat just like He was with him on Mt Carmel.

The problem is that I can forget the same thing. It is easy to see God in the good times and forget he is there in the bad times.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

When God says run, don’t walk

Then the hand of the LORD came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. – 1 Kings 18v46

Okay, I’ll admit straight up that I nicked this title from Matt’s message Sunday. I liked and I think it suits today’s thought, so thanks Matt!

The victory had finally come. The drought had been broken, the enemies defeated, and Elijah’s prayer had been answered. After three and a half years there was finally cause to celebrate.

The clouds gathered and the rain came down in torrents. Elijah told Ahab to get in his chariot and go to Jezreel. Then, when the ‘hand of the Lord came upon Elijah,’ he grabbed the hem of his robes, tucked them into his belt, and ran to Jezreel. One interesting point is that he outward the chariot!

Elijah was finally allowed to move ahead! Run back to Jezreel Elijah. You’ve been waiting – now go!

As Matt mentioned so much of our life, both physical and spiritual is all about slowing down, being patient, plodding along, and staying quiet. That’s fine, when God says slow down and wait, slow down and wait.

But when God says run – don’t walk!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Heavy rain answers

Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. – 1 Kings 18v45

When God answered prayer He really answered prayer. From the time Elijah’s servant saw the fist sized cloud and the time he got to Ahab the sky became black with clouds and there was a heavy rain.

‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.’

I don’t know why this caught my eye the way it did. I think what impresses me is the way God sent rain when He did. It wasn’t a light mist or a sprinkle. It wasn’t even a steady rain. Out of the blue came thick dark clouds and a heavy rain.

We were talking about answered prayer with some friends not too long ago. There are times of course when God does answer prayers with a whisper. There are times when He answers prayers and we don’t even really comprehend it till much later.

However, there are also many times when God answers prayer with a ‘heavy rain.’ I am grateful for those times. I realise that I should respond to every answered prayer the same way, but I am grateful that God knows my frailty and sometimes answers prayer that was so that I can be encouraged.

Praise God for answered prayer, but because of my own weakness praise His for ‘heavy rain’ answers.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said,"There is a cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea!"So he said,"Go up, say to Ahab, Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you." – 1 Kings 14v44

After the encounter at Mt Carmel was done Elijah, as we saw yesterday, knew that it was time for rain. Something had clued him. I suspect, as a true prophet of God, he just knew that the rain was coming. He started making preparations and preparing Ahab for the rain.

He knew it was coming, so he and his servant went out to look for it. He told his servant to go out and look over the ocean for any sign of rain. The servant came back and told him that there was nothing there. ‘Go look again,’ said Elijah. After a time the servant came back – ‘Nothing there Boss.’

‘Go look again.’ – Nothing. ‘Again.’ – Nothing

I won’t go through the whole event, but you get the picture. They want through this seven times. It was only on the seventh visit that the servant came back with the report, ‘I see a little could, only the size of a man’s fist.’

That was enough for Elijah. ‘Load up your chariot and head for Jezreel, Ahab. If you don’t you are going to get stuck in the rain!’

I like Elijah’s sticktoitiveness. Like Joshua leading Israel around Jericho for seven days and seven times on the seventh day, and like Namaan dipping himself in the Jordan seven times obeying God took persistence. Nothing happened immediately.

It is easy for us in our day of immediate answers to understand this concept of persistence. We want our answers and our results and we want them right now. We as a culture have lost the concept of persistence.

What is even more sad than that is that the church has, in so many areas, forgotten how to persist.

God help us to be persisters.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Real faith

Then Elijah said to Ahab,"Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain." – 1 Kings 18v41

I just find this little narrative interesting. Here we find the prophet giving instructions to the worst king Israel has ever seen. Even more amazing we find the king obeying.

I like Elijah’s faith here. There was not a cloud in the sky. There was no physical indication that the drought was over. There was nothing that would lead him to make such a statement except his faith in God.

What was this ‘sound of abundance of rain?’ I am not sure – maybe he sensed a change in the wind, but he knew that rain was coming.

I think we get a hint from James 5v18. After 3 ½ years of drought Elijah ‘prayed again and the heaven gave rain.’

I suspect that Elijah told Ahab to go ahead and have a feast because he had prayed and he knew that rain was coming. What is truly amazing is that Ahab listened to him!

Is our faith comparable to Elijah’s? Do we really believe what God says? Real faith acts. Does ours?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Then the fire of the Lord fell

Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. – 1 Kings 18v37-38

When the 450 Baalite prophets prayed and cried and jumped up and down and cut themselves for the whole day there was no voice, no answer, and no one paid attention.

Elijah was a man just like us. The prayer of this righteous man availed much. When Elijah prayed a simple prayer fire fell from heaven. When he prayed there was a voice. When he prayed there was an answer. When Elijah prayed Someone paid attention.

You know what? I think that says enough just as it is.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

No one paid attention

And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention. – 1 Kings 18v29

You almost have to feel sorry for the prophets of Baal. In the great ‘Contest of the Gods’ Elijah gave them chance to go first. They started crying out, ‘O Baal hear us, Oh Baal hear us.’ Nothing happened. The started jumping up and down to get Baal’s attention – still nothing.

Elijah mocked them and their efforts to get Baal to listen to them. Nothing.

Apparently they has a custom of self cutting to let Baal know they were serious. They cut themselves till the blood was flowing.

Still nothing.

The prophesied all day until evening drew near. ‘But, there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.’

The lesson here is pretty simple. Religion is useless. For millennia man has tried everything he can to use religion to get God’s attention. Mankind has tried everything religious to make God hear them.

But there is no voice, no one answers, no one pays attention.

That is the hopelessness of trying to reach God our way. God has already reached out to us with through His Son. He is the One who became one of us. He went to the cross to satisfy God requirements.

Jesus said that He, not religion, is the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, no matter what his religious effort, apart from Christ.

Religion brings no voice, no answer, and no attention.

Only faith in Christ can achieve the goal that these prophets, and millions of others, and sought after for so long.

Friday, 13 August 2010

How long are you going to stumble?

And Elijah came to all the people, and said,"How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him."But the people answered him not a word. – 1 Kings 18v21

After three years of God imposed drought the people were ready to pay attention. Elijah confronted King Ahab. The drought was Ahab’s fault, not Elijah’s. After three years The people were looking for someone to put the blame on.

So Elijah called for a test. He met on Mt Carmel with 450 prophets of Baal. Before the contest started Elijah addressed the people.

‘How long are you going to limp back and forth between two opposing vies. If Yahweh is God follow Him. But if Baal, then follow him.’

Elijah laid down the choice of the ages. We only have room for one god in our lives. If we try to serve both God and our own modern replacements for Baal we are going to stumble back and forth between the two. We won’t be able to do either one properly.

Choose God or choose our own modern god replacements. It is time for us to stop stumbling back and forth between the two.

Choose today who you are going to serve. Stop stumbling back and forth.

Make a choice.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The oil will not run dry

And Elijah said to her,"Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth." So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. – 1 Kings 17v13-15

It is difficult to imagine how this woman felt when Elijah asked her for a meal. She had been eking out an existence during a three year drought. She was scrapping the barrel to put together one last medal for herself and her son before they died of starvation. So what does Elijah say, ‘Don’t worry about it. You can do that, but before you do make me a little cake then fix the meal for you and your son.’

What was a poor woman to do? Feed this stranger before she fed her son and her self?

But Elijah was not done. ‘Don’t worry. Your flour will not run out and your oil will not run dry before the Lord lets it rain again. So she did what Elijah asked and God provided for her and her son for many more days.

While God has allowed us in the West to enjoy many material blessings, there are times when we have to depend on Him on a daily basis. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ do this all over the world day by day by day.

‘Give us this day our daily bread’ I show Jesus instructed the disciples to pray. ‘Don’t worry about tomorrow, it has enough issues of its own.’

It is so easy to worry about tomorrow or next week or next month or next year or years down the road. We like to see it all sorted out in advance.

Oh for the faith to trust God on a daily basis that He will not let our supply of oil run dry. That is where real practical faith comes in to play.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Where God guides…

Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." – 1 Kings 17v9

I remember about this time of year back in 1976. I had just transferred to Tennesses Temple College and was sitting in the old Philips Chapel on the corner of Bailey and Union in Chattanooga, TN. I had no money and only a small on campus job that paid a fraction of my bill. I had just been to the business office and didn’t have a clue how I was going to pay for my next school bill, much less the first semester or first year.

Dr Roberson was speaking at a new student orientation meeting. I don’t remember a lot of the talk. It was all about policies and expectations and things like that; just a typical orientation.

Toward the end though he said something that made me sit up and take notice. ‘Some of you are sitting here wondering how you are going to make it financially. You are worried about how you are going to pay your school bill.’ I thought, ‘well, that’s me!’ He then went on the say something that I had not heard before, but which has stuck in my head every since – ‘where God guides He provides.’

After 34 years that saying can sound simple and trite. While that may be the case, the truth of that statement is just as valid as it was when I was a 21 year old Bible college student. All these years later wherever God has guided He has indeed provided. We may never have had much, but we have always had enough, and usually a little more.

As Elijah moved to Zarephath he did do with God’s assurance that He would provide.

Where God guided Elijah he provided for him. Way back in 1976 God guided and provided. He is doing the same in 2010.

Where God guides He does provide.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

When the brook dries up

And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. – 1 Kings 17v7

It is going to be difficult to say much about Elijah without ‘plagiarising’ my son Matt. He is preaching a tremendous series on Elijah, and I am sure that some of that will come across so acknowledgements to him in advance.

Israel was experiencing God’s promised drought, but God provided to His servant. God sent Elijah to the brook Cherith where he has water to drink and sent ravens to feed Elijah.

That was fine. Things were not great, but it was okay. Elijah had water to drink and food to eat.

We can all understand those ‘just okay’ times. That is, in fact, what most of life is’

But then the brook dried up.

We know what those ‘brook dries up’ moments are like. That phone call, that email, that letter in the post, those words from the doctor, the police at the door in the middle of the night – these are the moments in our lives when the brook dries up.

What do we do when the brook dries up? What do we do when there just is no more?

We are going to learn something from Elijah’s response. For now suffice it to say this – Elijah did not quit when the brook dried up. He just kept on going.

In those dry brook moments our challenge is to be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. We need to not be weary in well doing.

Sometimes the brook dries up. What do we do then?

Monday, 9 August 2010

As the Lord lives

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab,"As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word." – 1 Kings 17v1

Things were getting worser and worser for Israel. In all the history of the divided kingdon they did not have one single good and godly king.

In about 860 BC King Ahab came to the throne. He was married to Jezebel. As king he ‘did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.’ He ran headlong into the worship of Baal. Baal was seen as the ‘life-giver’ and his worship included prostitution and child sacrifice. Children were killed and their bodies placed in the walls of cities or buildings as a way of seeking Baal’s blessing.

One could be forgiven for thinking that God had died or at least forsaken the land. The leader of God’s people was one of the most wicked men who ever lived.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, as I Kings chapter 17 opens we read this – ‘Elijah said to Ahab, as the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, it will not rain for three years unless I say so.’

Boom! In one fell swoop we find out who is in charge. The entire nation would soon realise that no matter who the leader is or how powerful he seems God still lives. The entire economic and political stature of the nation was no longer contingent on the king, but instead depended on the One who holds the heart of the king in His hands.

There is comfort here. Sometimes we have rulers come to power that we think are as bad as it can get. We can think that our leaders are really in charge.

Lets remember one thing though; the Lord God of Israel is as alive today as He was in Elijah’s day. It is He who is in control!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

And there was war

And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days. – 1 Kings 14v30

I could not put it more aptly than US General William T. Sherman once put it – ‘You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it…’

There is nothing nice about war. We often think about war in the terms of movements and strategies and numbers of casualties and fronts and movements and so on and so on. The cruelty of war though is that people, mostly young people, die. Father and mothers, sisters and brothers, mommies and daddies all die.

Even worse, there is not escaping it, no matter how hard man tries.

Immediately after Israel and Judah split up Reboboam and Jeroboam went to war. They were at war ‘all of their days.’ This phrase pops up a few more time in relation to the kings of Israel and Judah. Though there were a few breaks, we have something of a centuries long civil war between the two nations. All of these folks were part of God’s chosen people. Thousands died on both sides. Who was right? Whose cause was just?

War is a conundrum, but I don’t want to go into all that today. It is enough to say that wars like those fought between Israel and Judah are a part of life.

Why? Why can we not just all get along?

James 4 answers that one. ‘Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.’

We war because we want. As long as we want we will war. We will want until the ‘wanter’ is fixed and the wanter is only fixed by the Prince of Peace.

We have always warred. We war today. We will war until Jesus comes to sort it all out.

War is cruelty. You cannot refine it. But Jesus can sort out the causes for it.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

God told me?

He said to him, "I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.' " (He was lying to him.) – 1 Kings 13v18

I have to admit something here. No personal offence is intended. I am not casting aspersions or doubts. But there is something that I am always leery of when I hear it. What could it be?

I always stop and wonder when I hear someone say – ‘God told me so and so.’ Now it is one thing when it is followed with, ‘I was reading my Bible’ or ‘I was listening to a message’ or something like that. But when I just hear ‘God told me so and so’ I get a little anxious.

Here we have a prophet who used ‘God told me to get what he wanted.’ It was a dangerous claim to make. A little later a true prophet died because this guy lied about God's will.

Now, I don’t think God is going to kill someone today for saying, ‘God told me’ when He didn’t. But, I think there is a lesson on not using ‘God told me lightly.’

There are indeed times when I felt like God told me something. I remember sitting on a blue bench on our canal about eight years ago and feeling like God told me that we were to stay where we were until He moved us. However, He backed that time after time over the next few weeks as we read His word.

I am not questioning everyone who says ‘God told me so and so.’ However, I do question it when someone says or implies, ‘I know that the Bible says, but God told me so and so’ when ‘so and so’ is in opposition to scripture.

I’ll just lay it our here. This is my opinion. If you disagree that is fine. I may be proven wrong one day, but here it is.

Before I say ‘God told me’ I want some Bible support to back it up.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Rejecting wise advice

But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. – 1 Kings 12v8

The advice we saw yesterday looked pretty wise. The best way to lead is to serve and to cut taxes. How could that go wrong?

But Rehoboam did not like that advice; he rejected it out of hand.

So he went to the young guys, his friends, the guys he grew up with. He asked them for their advice. I can almost imagine this scene. It seems like when we are young we have all the answers and a cure that our way is the best way to do it. I can see these guys all throwing in their advice on how to run the kingdom.

While there is much to praise in the fervour and intensity and impetuosity of youth it can have its problems Their advice was what one might expect. ‘Show them who is in control. Raise taxes. Fill your coffers! You are king now! You deserve it!’.

So that is what he did. Rehoboam went to the people and told them ‘You think my dad was tough? My little finger is going to be harder on you than all my father’s strength!’

The result was what we might expect. The people rebelled. The nation was torn in two. Ten of the tribes followed Jeroboam and formed the new nation of Israel while Rehoboam was left with two tribes and the nation of Judah. It was a rift from which Israel has yet to recover and will not recover the Jesus returns to set up His kingdom.

What are our lessons from this passage? There is wisdom is seeking the advice of those who have been around for a while. The advice of the aged is not to be dismissed out of hand. True wisdom comes from experience. Sure, it is important to get advice from a variety of sources, Youth has a lot to offer, but lets me sure that we give weight to the wisdom of the aged.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Servant leadership

And they spoke to him, saying, "If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever." – 1 Kings 12v7

Solomon was dead. The United Kingdom of Israel and Judah had been around for 120 years. Saul, David, and Solomon had each reigned for forty years. There is no reason to doubt that the same would not be true for the new king, Rehoboam.

Once he was king he did what any young man should do – he sought advice. First he went to the old me, those who had worked with King Solomon. Their first advice was to lighten the load that Solomon had placed on the people. But, the said, come back in three days and we will give you our suggestions.

When Rehoboam came back they gave their counsel. ‘The best way to lead the people is to be their servant. If you do that they will serve you forever.’

This advice flies in the face of many in leadership. The leader is the boss. He is in charge. The people need to follow and serve him. He is the leader. He has leader stuff he has to do. He doesn’t have time to serve others.

Any yet these wise men told Rehoboam to lead by serving.

Sadly, this kind of leadership is rare, even in the church. Instead of servant leadership we too often see authority leadership or even tyrant leadership. God’s word talks about leaders being meek and humble and loving and slow to fight and, well, serving.

These old guys had it right. True leadership starts with service.

What will we do with this advice? What would Rehoboam do?

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Solomon did not obey

and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded. – 1 Kings 11v10

We’ve said it before; a key part of living for the Lord is simple obedience to Him. Solomon, despite all that he wrote in the book of Proverbs, never learned that lesson for himself. Solomon had a problem with women, Solomon did not wholly follow the Lord, but it all comes back to the truth that Solomon did not obey.

We teach our kids the little song that says, ‘Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe.’ But, I think that sometimes the problem with kid’s song is that we ignore the message they have for us. ‘This is just a kiddie song,’ after all.

Sometimes our problem is that we make things too complicated. I wonder why we have such a hard time just simply obeying.

What if we made it this simple? Read God’s word. Study it. Meditate on it. Then simply obey it.

What is the key to living a victorious Christian life? I don’t need to write a book to answer that question.

Here it is. Are you ready?

Obey God.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Solomon did not fully follow the Lord

Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. – 1 Kings 11v6

Solomon’s fall was quick. We see a hint here of why He fell the way he did. Solomon seemed like he was doing it all right. He did a great work in building the Temple. His post construction challenge to the people is a model for anyone trying to keep people on the right track. His godly wisdom amazed the world and drew foreign leaders to find out more. He seemed like the perfect leader.

But we saw yesterday that he had at least one problem – he loved many foreign women. I could go on more about that, but am going to go ahead and move on.

Here in verse six we see the root of the problem. Though he seemed like he was doing okay, Solomon had a problem in that he did not fully follow the Lord. He may have followed Him part way. In fact he may have followed Him most of the way. The problem is that He did not follow the Lord the whole way.

God really desires one kind of ‘followership’ from His people. We can’t do it halfway either. Elijah charged the people with these words – ‘How long are you going to falter between God and Baal? If the Lord be God follow Him and if Baal be god then follow him.’ Joshua said ‘Choose today who you are going to serve.’ Jesus said that we can not follow both God and wealth. We have to choose. We can’t have it both ways.

‘Whether therefore you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all you might.’

There is no place for half-hearted service to the Lord. Solomon learned that lesson with tragic effects. What will it take for us to learn it?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Solomon loved many foreign wives

But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites – 1 Kings 11v1

Here we see the beginning of Solomon’s downfall. Solomon apparently had it made. He has wisdom, wealth, and a world-wide reputation. Everything was going his way.

As wise as he was one would think that he would know better, but there is something that seems to override all wisdom, all sense, all logic, and all sense of right and wrong. Solomon loved many foreign women.

My heart breaks when I sit here and think about the friends whose lives have been marred by sexual sin. It breaks again when I think of the many men whom I have respected and looked up to who have done the same.

I look back at times I have spent with friends who gave themselves over to this sin. I think of the excuses and reasons I have heard. I have often sat there in wonder about how any thinking, logical, intelligent man who knows the word of God could make such foolish choices. I am sitting here shaking my head when I think about some of the ‘logic’ I have heard from my dear friends.

I can look at Solomon and be critical. I can look at men I have respected through the years and condemn them. I can look at my dear friends who have made these foolish choices and wrote them off.

Or, I can allow what has happened to make me increase my diligence in guarding my own heart. I can learn to strive to maintain purity. I can learn to lean on the only One who can keep me from sin.

Some of those I know have confessed, repented, and forsaken their sin. Their relationship with God has been restored. In a few cases even their relationships with their wives have been restored. Praise God for His healing power.

Solomon never got to that point. His love for women destroyed him.

No wonder we are told to keep our hearts with all keeping. None of us are exempt from sexual sins. May God give us the strength and the wisdom to learn from example like this be ever on guard. We can’t afford to let down our defences even for a moment, because a moment is all it takes to start down this road.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

I couldn’t believe it

However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. – 1 Kings 10v7

Word of Solomon’s reign, power, riches, and wisdom spread quickly. When it reached Sheba in Africa the queen was enthralled by the wisdom of this new king of the nation of Israel. Of course, everyone knew about the kingdom of Israel now and of their conquest of Canaan. Perhaps there was some fear in other nations of Israel expanding her power. This new wise king would certainly have added to those fears.

It was not enough for the queen to send an ambassador, she had to go and see for herself. She took a load of riches with her and went to see this king. The first thing we read about was that she asked Solomon all kinds of hard questions. He patiently answered each and every one.

She noticed his wisdom. Then she looked around and saw his palace, his servants, his food table, and all his riches.

‘There was no spirit left in her.’ Might I parrowphrase that? ‘It took her breath away.’

‘I heard about all this,’ she said, ‘but I could not believe it till I saw it with my own eyes. I didn’t hear the half of it!’

We could look at a number of things here, but I want to focus on one of them. The Queen of Sheba was first drawn by the wisdom of Solomon. The first thing she did was to ply him with questions. It was after she saw wisdom that she saw the rest of the blessings.

I think sometimes that we forget that we have all of the wisdom of God at our disposal. He has given us His word and allowed ii to be written down and copied and printed so that we have access to all that wisdom.

What do we do with that wisdom? Do we leave it at church or on a shelf someplace through the week, or do we exercise His wisdom in such a way that the world is drawn to it? If we would do that perhaps we could see the day when our loved ones would also say, ‘You didn’t tell be the half of it!’