These are the hot, hazy days of summer! Find a cool drink and a quiet place to read God’s Word and this week’s INSIGHTS…
DAY ONE – 1 Kings 15:25-16:34, 2 Chronicles 17
It’s time to take note of another class of men who dotted the landscape with the kings–these were the prophets. Old Testament prophets were unique in that they served one particular function, which was to announce God’s message to Israel or Judah. Some appeared only once or twice, others spoke again and again to the kings and the people. Their message was typically to condemn idolatry and to call the nation back to worship of Yahweh God. We must always keep in mind that God loves the world He created; and He continually works His plan to save the world. Idolatry is the worship of false gods–demon gods–who take advantage of sinful ways in mankind. Little gods are gods, in a sense; but they are part of a world under judgment, a world that is self-destructive, and a world that threatens to implode within itself at any time. Yahweh God, Creator and only wise God, has all power and authority which He uses to protect and guide those who seek Him and follow Him. It is He who gave us the Bible so that we could discover His person, His will and His ways, which lead to eternal life. Satan, the false god, usurper god, utilizes demonic personalities to spread rebellion toward Yahweh and to captivate the souls of mankind into a false sense of power and security while living in sin and rebellion. The prophets risked life and limb to proclaim their messages and represent the will of God. They were true biblical heroes!
Note the quick succession of kings in Israel during the days of Asa, King of Judah. Israel was in shambles almost from the day that Jeroboam made the gold calves and persuaded the people to worship these false gods. By removing the priests and Levites, he left the people on their own to craft their own religion after abandoning Yahweh God. Man’s ideas of religion always come up short, for we cannot find a way to deliver ourselves or solve the sin problem. Without the True God to lead us, we eventually and permanently succumb to the destruction that lives in spiritual darkness. So God lovingly sent the prophets and waited for any and all who would seek Him and follow Him. We have already met a few of them, sometimes referred to simply as a man of God. We will follow Israel and Judah all the way to their respective captivities and the loss of their homelands. Only then will we begin to see God’s permanent solution for sin and rebellion; and then we will meet the greatest Prophet and King who ever lived on planet earth!
DAY TWO – 1 Kings 17-19
1 Kings 18:29 When midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the evening offering; but there was no voice, no answer, and nobody paid attention. Extreme times call for extreme measures, and Israel was in full emergency mode. The prophet Elijah had appeared to King Ahab to declare Yahweh’s word to him that not another drop of rain would fall until Elijah said so! So severe was the drought that Elijah himself had to depend on a miracle from God to survive the lack of water and food. When the whole nation was finally desperate, it was time for God to act. Is Yahweh God of Israel, or is Baal god of Israel? After so many years of idolatrous religion, the people were no longer sure and could not be persuaded by argument. The showdown occurred on Mt. Carmel, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The rules were simple. Baal’s prophets–450 in all–were to sacrifice a bull on an altar on which wood had been placed but no fire. Then Elijah would duplicate their efforts on his own altar. The God who answered BY FIRE was the true God. All morning Baal’s prophets cried out to their god to send fire, but nothing happened. Taunted by Elijah, the upped their game, dancing around, slashing themselves with knives and lances and became a bloody mess… all for nothing. “…there was no voice, no answer, and nobody paid attention.” Evening came… Elijah’s turn… God’s turn. Drenching his sacrifice, altar, stones, wood; and filling the trench around it with barrels of water, Elijah called on Yahweh, the true God, the Creator, the Deliverer, the Savior! Then FIRE FELL OUT OF HEAVEN and consumed everything–sacrifice, wood, stones of the altar, water in the trench, everything! When the people saw it, they knew… they knew that Yahweh was God of Israel, that Baal was a sham/imposter. The revival of Yahweh worship was restored in Israel. Elijah’s work was almost done… now where is Elisha?
Yes, we have diversity in our nation; yes, we have tolerance; and yes, arguments are waged every day about God and religion. But still the culture sinks into deeper malaise as lives are expended in mass killings, cities declare bankruptcy, the homeless wander our streets and councils meet endlessly to find answers, to prop up our way of life, to hope the government will DO SOMETHING. Meanwhile God is either marginalized or rejected altogether by a growing segment of our population. The new secularism threatens to tear our nation in half, while our universities pump out generations of socially alert but spiritually dead youth. Are we there yet? Are we desperate enough? Are we ready to hear the “word of the Lord”? You know, there are prophets in the land, sent by God to us. Perhaps if we get still for a little while, we will hear His voice.
DAY THREE – 1 Kings 20-21
King Ahab was a piece of work! Emotionally unstable and given to impulse, he seemed to be easily manipulated by his foreign wife Jezebel, the not-so-secret power behind the throne. He found himself in a heap of trouble when Benhadad of Syria gathered thirty-two kings and their forces to go up against Samaria in Israel. Yahweh God used this occasion to remind Ahab once again that He is Lord over all Israel. Not once but twice did God deliver Ahab from Benhadad. Not once but twice did God send a prophet to speak to the king to assure deliverance. Then when Ahab failed to finish what the Lord had started, allowing Benhadad to escape, a prophet came a third time to pronounce judgment. Ahab went home sullen and displeased. Sometime later he pouted again when Naboth, a good man, would not surrender his family property to the king to pleasure him. Jezebel had Naboth killed so that her husband could possess the property. Even then Yahweh God demonstrated His patience and mercy toward Ahab when the king humbled himself after sinning so egregiously. Ahab dodged a bullet… for a while! We should always note our Lord’s mercy even when a person’s behavior is found to be reprehensible. Remember, James 2:13 “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
What are we to do when our own government seems at times to be our enemy? Government overreach touches many, often the work of misapplied regulations, stubborn bureaucrats and misguided judges. Romans 13:1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. Difficult as it may be, we don’t always get good government. There’s an old saying that we get the government we deserve, especially when we are the ones voting for our representatives! It helps to remember that we serve the Lord, not the government; so our response is to pray for those who have rule over us, to ask God for better representatives, to humble ourselves under His Almighty hand. The Kingdom of Heaven operates within every type of government, even when tyranny reigns. Then let our prayer be today, “Father, your kingdom come, your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Occasionally we will be called upon to extend mercy to our tormentors. So let us go and be good and productive citizens!
DAY FOUR – 1 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 18-19
When the tires on the car begin to show uneven wear, it’s time to get the wheels aligned. Imagine then, the kings of Judah and Israel–Jehoshaphat and Ahab–aligning with each other and forming a military liaison. Perhaps we see nothing wrong with that, but God saw something else. He saw in this liaison two nations that could never walk together so long as idolatry ruled over Israel. Jehoshaphat was attempting to follow in the ways of his father Asa–not perfectly, but there was some good in his opposition to the worship of idols; whereas Ahab was sold out to pagan practices and rebellion toward Yahweh God. A prophet would one day ask this rhetorical question: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Can we align with a life that is going in an opposite direction without coming into great conflict? These two kings formed an alliance of alignment that was doomed from the start. The prophets of Israel bolstered Ahab’s liaison; but Yahweh’s prophet Micaiah began to reveal another truth–a lying spirit was at work that would soon expose the evil of the alignment of these two kings. When they, with their armies, went up against the enemy, a wayward arrow found its way between the joints of Ahab’s armor and fatally wounded him. Israel foundered, and Jehoshaphat picked up the pieces and went home. With the prophet’s help, he accepted God’s rebuke and renewed his efforts to restore Yahweh’s name and worship throughout Judah. His realignment extended God’s favor and his kingdom. What a lesson!
Liaisons and alignments–if our ride in life is rough or pulling to one side, perhaps we should ask the Lord to show us where adjustments need to be made. Though they were kings, neither Jehoshaphat nor Ahab was confident until they heard what Yahweh had to say. God’s eternal Word and his prophetic voice are reliable indicators of His irrevocable will for us. We do well to hold every alliance, every relationship, every liaison up to the light of His revealed will as found in His Word. We will then be safely and properly aligned for our continuing journey.
DAY FIVE – 2 Chronicles 20
The Valley of Blessing–an unconventional war. Sometime later a vast army marched against Judah and Jerusalem, making camp near the Dead Sea. There is nothing like an imminent attack to rearrange our priorities! Jehoshaphat turned to Yahweh God to seek Him. He sent to all Judah, asking the people to fast and pray. When a great assembly gathered in Jerusalem in the new courtyard of the temple, Jehoshaphat stood up to pray: 2 Chronicles 20:6-12 “O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7 O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ 10 “And now see what the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir are doing. You would not let our ancestors invade those nations when Israel left Egypt, so they went around them and did not destroy them. 11 Now see how they reward us! For they have come to throw us out of your land, which you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” (NLT) You read the rest of the chapter; you know what happened. This is the first time a nation ever won a war without fighting, by simply standing still while the singers worshipped God. The name of the place was immediately called “The Valley of Blessing.” They blessed Yahweh God with their praise; and He blessed them with victory and great spoils. This wasn’t strategy; it was victory–God’s victory. Jehoshaphat simply obeyed the instructions he received from Yahweh.
What did the king do, and what did he know, to make such a difference? 1) He immediately turned to God, if even out of fear. 2) He remembered Abraham and the history of his own people. 3) He reminded the Lord of Solomon’s great prayer at the dedication of the temple. 4) He admitted that he simply didn’t know what to do. Yes, if we can get over ourselves and finally admit that we’re out of options; and if we can trust the Lord as we pray and position ourselves before Him, we may indeed be ready for a great miracle. Our breaking point may be God’s beginning point. Sooner or later every one of us faces the ‘no-options’ challenge. What can we learn from Jehoshaphat?