Saturday, March 31, 2012

2 Kings 3 - Elisha and the Battle with Moab



Kingdoms around Israel 830 map
Via WikiCommons. See full attribution below.
LINK: 2 Kings 3
Parallel passage: 2 Chronicles 22:5-7

BACKGROUND 

Jehoram (Joram) of Israel - 2 Kings 3:1-9:25
Reigned: 852-841 BC for 12 years (brother of Ahaziah and son of Ahab)
Character: Bad mostly
He did evil in the sight of the LORD, ,though not like his father and mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal . . . Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam . . . he did not depart from them" (2 Kings 3:2-3)
Overlap with Judah's King: Jehosphaphat (873-848 B.C.) and Jehoram (853-841 B.C.)
Manner of Death: Murdered by Jehu
Parallel Story: 2 Chronicles 22:5-7

It says here that Joram became king in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat, but 2 Kings 1:17 states that his son, Jehoram, was king of Judah. It was common in those days to have a son and heir to the throne become a "co-regent" with their father.  

Moab's king rebelled against Israel again (2 Kings 1:1). So Israel's King Joram teamed up with Judah's King Jehoshaphat to attack Moab. Since Edom was under Israel's authority at the time, they also joined in the battle. In the Desert of Edom, they ran out of water.  The God-seeking King Jehoshaphat asked for a prophet of the LORD. So they went to Elisha. At first he was stand-offish. He says, "What do I have to do with you?" which probably means, "Why should I obey you?"  This was probably a dig about the god Baal who was the rain god!  He was saying, "Why should I obey you. Go to your rain god so you can get water."  But Elisha prophesied for King Jehoshaphat's sake. 

Elisha requested a harpist for the prophecy because in the Old Testament, music often came along with prophecy beginning in David's time (1 Chronicles 25:1). The prophecy promised both rain and victory, and that is what happened. They overthrew the cities and towns, cut down the trees, stopped up the springs, and ruined the fields with stones just as the LORD had commanded them. 



Louvre 042010 01
By Neithsabes (Own work) [GFDL
(www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)
or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0
(www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons
In ancient cultures, defeat was a sign that their gods were angry. Therefore, in response to the devastating defeat, King Mesha of Moab offered his oldest son as a human sacrifice to propitiate (avert the wrath of) the god of the Moabites, Chemosh (1 Kings 11:7, 33; 2 Kings 23:13). This caused great wrath against Israel for having to see such a detestable act, and they withdrew. 

The Moabite Stone (also called the Mesha Stele)  has been discovered that contains King Mesha's record of this battle and others with "Omri" who was first in the line of Omride kings that included Ahab, Ahaziah, and Joram.   From his account, he claims to have been delivered from Israel because of the god, Chemosh. Even though Israel withdrew from Kir Hareseth because of Mesha's detestable act, the overall battle was won by the Lord!

REFLECTION 

Elijah and Elisha were two very different people. Elijah was a fiery and dramatic confronter of evil. In this passage, Elisha delivered a quiet prophecy of miraculous provision and victory by harp. Elisha would spend over 50 years demonstrating God's power through caring for people.

Elisha could have tried to be just like Elijah thinking that was the way to be God's servant, but He served God the way God designed him.  I had an Elijah in my life once. It was opposite, she was a quiet and intellectual woman of God; and I thought to be a godly woman, I had to be just like her.  One day, I realized that I could never be like Sheryl, and I just needed to be the woman God made me to be with my particular Gifts, Personality, and Strengths (GPS!), and let Him guide me in how He wanted me to best serve Him!

APPLICATION 

Are you more like the fiery Elijah or the quieter Elisha? 

Elijah and Elisha were definitely different personalities. So, if you have not taken this test, go ahead and do it:
Personality Style Inventory 
PDF version (with greater delineation for each question) 
Online version (with an either/or question which doesn't pick up nuances)
I have discovered this new one that is quite good: 
16Personalities 
I have used the first two since graduate school in the 80's. It is a good basic, free test; but if you have already taken the long-form, official Myers-Briggs Test, that is much more accurate (and expensive).

I also want to include this wonderful lecture about introverts that would even be helpful for you extraverts to watch so that you might understand them better (I am what she refers to as an "ambivert" in that I fall close to the middle and a little over on the introvert side even though people do not believe that when they meet me :))

Here is the video. By the way, I do not necessarily like the title because the story of Elisha is about the power of GOD through an introvert!


Susan Cain: The power of introverts (Ted Talk Link

“There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” — Susan Cain 


PRAYER

Lord, work through us to display Your awesome power to an unbelieving world. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 


Map from: By Kingdoms_of_Israel_and_Judah_map_830.svg: *Oldtidens_Israel_&_Judea.svg: FinnWikiNo derivative work: Richardprins (talk) derivative work: Richardprins (Kingdoms_of_Israel_and_Judah_map_830.svg)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, March 30, 2012

2 Kings 1 & 2 - Ahaziah's Judgment/Elijah and Elisha

LINK: 2 Kings 1 & 2

BACKGROUND 

Overview of 2 KINGS

Memory Pointer: 2 Kings is all about 2 Kingdoms. 1 Kings was about 1 Kingdom until it was split into two parts at the middle of the book (End of chapter 11 out of 22).

2 Kings continues the story of the bad kings of Israel until its captivity and dispersion by the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17. 

Memory Pointer: 2 Kings is 17 bad kings of Israel until 2 Kings 17.

It is also about the six good and ten bad kings of Judah that lasted 150 years longer than Israel until its 70 year captivity in Babylon.

It also tells the shining stories of two men of God: Elijah and Elisha!

BACKGROUND 

1 Kings 1

Ahaziah of Israel - 1 Kings 22:40-2 Kings 1:18
Reigned: 853-852 BC for 2 years
Character: Bad
Overlap with Judah's King: Coregency of Jehosphaphat and Jehoram (853-848 B.C.) 
Manner of Death: Fell through a lattice
Parallel Story: 2 Chronicles 20:35-37

Ahaziah hurt himself in a fall and showed just how far he had fallen from the Lord God of Israel by asking his messengers to go and consult Baal-Zebub. Baal-Zebub was a popular, male fertility god that also had curative powers. The angel of the LORD (the preincarnate Christ!) gave a message for Elijah to deliver to his messengers that let them know exactly how He felt about that: 
"You are going to die for consulting a pagan god instead of Me!" 
Ahaziah knew exactly who he was dealing with. Elijah was the same guy who gave Ahaziah's parents, Ahab and Jezebel, so many problems! Many of his soldiers died by fire trying to get Elijah to come down to meet with Ahaziah. The angel of the LORD finally directed him to go down. He pronounced God's judgment to Ahaziah directly, and Ahaziah died. Because Ahaziah had no son, his brother, Jehoram (Joram) became king in his place in 852 BC. The king of Judah at that time was also named Jehoram!

1 Kings 2 - Elijah Passes the Mantle to Elisha

In this chapter, Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind with a chariot and horses of fire. Before he did that he walked while Elisha faithfully followed, refusing to be left behind. They walked by four significant different places that are significant in Israel's history:
1) Gilgal - the first place after the Israelites crossed the Jordan and where they submitted to the covenant of circumcision before they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 4). 
2) Bethel - Abraham worshipped there (Genesis 12 & 13). Jacob saw the ladder to heaven and vowed to make his father's God His God if God continued to bless and care (Genesis 28). By Genesis 35, Jacob had returned to Bethel and made Isaac's God, his God.

3) Jericho - The sight of Israel's first victory in the Promised Land (Joshua 5 & 6). 
4) Jordan River - God opened this river to let them into the Promised Land (Joshua 1-4).

(These are all places we have trod as we read the Old Testament last year!)

Before Elijah was taken up, Elisha asked for a double portion of spiritual blessing to carry on the work that Elijah had started, and God granted him his desire because his heart was pure. Elisha would go on to perform even more miracles than his master, Elijah!

REFLECTION

I love the story of Elijah and Elisha. Elisha wanted to be with Elijah to the bitter end because he knew that Elijah's time was short.

That is how I feel about my Elijah's, Ginny and Lorraine, they are two wonderful women of God in their 80's. I have been meeting with them monthly since November of 2001. I also met with them weekly for about six month back in 1997 right before I went to Southeast Asia. They were coworkers in Japan shortly after World War II and lived there until 1987. They cannot believe I would want to make the hour drive north to McMinnville every month to see them, but like Elisha, "As surely as the Lord lives and [they] live, I will not leave [them] (2:2, 4, 6)!

They have been rocks in my life. They process with me and pray for me and impart wisdom to me that I can get nowhere else. I have so appreciated their presence in my life.

In his commentary on 2 Kings 2, Warren Wiersbe writes:
It rejoices my heart when I see younger Christians and Christian
workers appreciating the “senior saints,” the veterans of Christian service, and learning from them. One day, these “giants” will be called home and we’ll no longer be able to learn from them. 
These two men [Elijah and Elisha] represented different generations and opposite personalities, yet they were able to walk together. What a rebuke this is to those in the church who label the generations and separate them from each other. I heard one youthful pastor say that he didn’t want anybody in his church over the age of forty, and I wondered where he would get the wise counsel that usually comes with maturity. I thank God for the “Elijahs” in my life who were patient with me and took time to instruct me. Now I’m trying to share that same blessing with others.
(Wiersbe, W. W. (2002). Be distinct (12). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.)
I am so grateful for these two "Elijahs" in my life. I, literally, have received a "double portion" just like Elisha!

2012 Update: Ginny has recently been moved to an assisted-living facility. At age 87, she is becoming weaker and weaker. Lorraine could not take care of her anymore. 

2014: Ginny was "called home" in 2013. How I miss her! Lorraine and I still meet monthly, and she will be 90 years old in June 2015. 

APPLICATION

Where is your Elijah (someone mentoring/discipling you)? Where is your Elisha (someone you can mentor or disciple)?

The Elijah/Elisha relationship also illustrates this principles from Many Aspire, Few Attain by Walt Henrichsen:


7. Avoid an independent spirit 
The seventh reason why people will never finish the race is they have an independent spirit. They are mavericks, loners. They want to serve God, but in their own way. Perhaps you are like the fellow I asked about the Episcopal form of government. He answered, “Well, I’m against bishops unless I can be one.” 
A lot of Christians have that attitude. They are against spiritual authority and leadership unless they are the authority and leader. But God says He will not give you that which is your own until you have been part of that which is another man’s (Luke 16:12). 
The prophet Elijah, as he was about to be taken out of this world, said to his follower Elisha, “Tarry here,” (2 Kings 2:2). Elisha answered, “No way, friend. Where you go, I go. There’s no way you can get rid of me.” Where is the guy or gal you have committed yourself to in an Elijah/Elisha relationship? Where is your Elijah? Where is the person that you are going to lock into by the will of God, and go for broke with? You might say, “Well, God is my teacher. He can speak to me as easily as He ca speak through someone else. After all, doesn’t the Bible say that you shouldn't be like little tin gods?” 
That’s true. Nobody is your lord except Jesus. But I’m not referring to lordship. I’m talking about your independent spirit. 
Do you remember the argument that Dathan, Korah and Abiram gave Moses (Num. 16)? “You take too much upon yourself, Moses. God can speak to us just as easily as he can speak to you. We don’t need to follow you.” Don’t we today say the same thing? Don’t we believe in the priesthood of the believer? Don’t our prayers get through to God? Can’t God speak to us? After all, why should we follow someone else’s leadership? 
Moses, in response to this argument, said, “Well, let’s talk this over with God and see what He says.” “Okay, let’s do it.” 
So they went to God and He said, “Moses, step aside and let me show you what I think of that idea.” So Moses stepped aside, and God opened up the earth and Dathan, Korah, Abiram and all that belonged to them fell in. God closed the earth back up and then sent fire and consumed the one hundred or so princes that were with them in rebellion. 
God then asked the children of Israel, “Any more questions?” 
The children of Israel got mad at Moses after that and said, “Moses, you dirty rat, you sicced God on us!” Thousands more died of the plague that day because of their attitude. 
Again God asked, “Any more questions?” 
This time the children of Israel answered, “No, we got the point.” 
God does not hanker to an independent spirit. You can be a maverick, you can be a loner and you can go your own way. It’s up to you. But that’s a quick way to climb up on that shelf. It is safer to have a servant’s heart and submit to a spiritual authority. We need to make ourselves accountable to others.

PRAYER

God, thank You for the example of the godly life of Elijah who was not afraid to deliver Your message to a wicked and perverse generation. Help us to be bold in our generation. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen

Monday, March 26, 2012

Psalm 46-49 & 91 - Praising through the Psalms

LINK: Psalm 46-49 & 91


BACKGROUND

All of these psalms are undated but associated with Jehoshaphat's victory in 2 Chronicles 17-20. Other scholars associate Psalm 46-48 with the Assyrian invasion in 2 Kings 18:13 - 19:37. 

Psalm 46-49 are believed to have been compiled by King Hezekiah and are attributed to the "sons of Korah" who were a musical Levitical family (Exodus 6:24).  The author(s) of Psalm 91 are unknown. 

Psalm 46

Psalm 46 and 48 are part of the "Songs of Zion" or "Zion hymns":
The “Zion” hymns (46, 48, 76, 84, 87, 122), . . . were part of a ritual reenactment of the great deeds of Yahweh in maintaining Zion as the inviolable centre of his divine presence.  
(Psalms (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved March 14, 2012, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/481091/Psalms?anchor=ref95948)
It calls us to find refuge in Him no matter what storms are surrounding us and to "cease striving" and know that He is God. The NASB margin says, "Let go, relax."  We need to let go because this psalms promises that He will be exalted among the nations and the earth!  This goes with our story from yesterday where God tells Judah (through Jahaziel) that it is His battle. What a reminder for all of us. As you pray through it, note all the attributes of God in it.

It is also interesting to note that this is the psalm that inspired the hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" by Martin Luther. 

Psalm 47

This psalm worships and exalts God as the King of the world. Eventually, all the earth will bow to Him! It is classified as an "enthronement psalm" along with Psalm 93 and 95-99. 

Psalm 48

As mentioned above, this is one of the "Songs of Zion." Mount Zion, the city of the Great King is Jerusalem where the temple was located. This was the center of God's presence in the world. The psalmist offers praise for the city's glory and protection from enemies. 

Jerusalem was not "established forever" because it has been destroyed several times since the writing of this psalm, but it may refer to the prophetic new Jerusalem of Revelation 21. 

Psalm 49

This is a wisdom poem addressed to the "whole realm of human beings" (a translation in the Hebrew of the word "world").  It speaks of the futility of riches, pride, and fame. It is more for instruction than praise. Not sure how this is connected with Jehoshaphat's victory, but it was stuck with this cluster of psalms!

Psalm 91

This one does fit in nicely with Jehoshaphat's victory! God is a protector in the midst of all danger. I love 91:14-16, and it holds special memory of a time where God took me out of a terrible situation and fulfilled all the promises in it!

Take a break from the battles in Kings and Chronicles and soak in these psalms for the next four days! 


REFLECTION 

These are some of my favorite psalms to pray through!!!! I met with a believer recently who did not know what I meant when I asked her if she prayed through Scripture. So, I showed her how.


I once had a friend ask me, “If you were going to die, what would be the most important spiritual discipline that you would want to pass on before you left this world?” I said, “Prayerful meditation through the Scriptures. Meditating and praying responsively back to God.” 

The main reason I said this was because I had seen the change this had made in my own life. Throughout the years of discipling women, I have had women come back to say that this was the one thing that they most appreciated about our time together. A couple of letters from these women to illustrate this point:
Beyond Malibu seems like so long ago [Carol's note: Summer 1986], when you introduced me to a deeper way of seeking and knowing God. Thank you. 5/23/99[Carol's note: I taught her how to pray through psalms] 
I am so thankful for you, Carol. Just about a month ago my husband preached on "praying through scripture" and I can't tell you how many times he and I talked about the way you taught me to pray through a Psalm. He said in his sermon, "There should be less and less of a separation between your Bible reading and your prayer life. They should become increasingly melded together," or something similar. God used you to start me on this, and it has been so valuable to me over the years. It's a discipline to be taught -- thank you for teaching me. 6/19/99

APPLICATION/PRAYER

Over the next four days, pray responsively through each of these Psalms. Do this by reading a verse or two. Then pause to hear God's voice and verbalize your response. Praying Psalms is one of my favorite things to do with another person too. So, gather together with one or many others and pray Scripture each taking turns reading and responding!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2 Chronicles 17-20: Jumpin' Jehoshaphat

LINK: 2 Chronicles 17-20 
Parallel Passage: 2 Chronicles 18 parallels 1 Kings 22:41-50

BACKGROUND 


Jehoshaphat of Judah

Reigned: 873 - 848 B.C. for 25 years

Character: Good 

Overlap with Israel's King: Ahab (874-853 B.C.), Ahaziah (853-852 B.C.), Jehoram/Joram (852-841 B.C.)

Manner of death: Natural

Parallel story: 1 Kings 22

Yesterday, in 1 Kings 22, you were introduced to Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah.  The account in 2 Chronicles 17-20 gives you a view of his reign under a microscope as the chronicler always focuses on the Kings of Judah. 

As I said yesterday, Jehoshaphat began his reign in 873 B.C. as co-regent because of his father's poor health (1 Kings 15:23). He was one of Judah's eight good kings, but he did not remove the high places.


We learn from the chronicler's account that he followed in the way of David and his heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD (2 Chronicles 17:1-6), removed the high places of pagan worship (17:6), sent priests and Levites throughout Judah to explain God's Law to the people (17:7-9), and assigned other priests to judge in conflicts between the people (19:5).

Because of all this, the fear of the Lord fell on all of the surrounding nations so Judah enjoyed peace with them and the nation of Israel (17:10; 1 Kings 22:44). They even brought tribute (17:11), and the kingdom flourished under his reign.

We learned in 1 Kings 22 that Jehoshaphat allied himself with Ahab for war. From today's reading, we have learned that Jehoshaphat allied himself with Ahab by having his son marry Ahab and Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah. 

The alliance with Ahab had some long-term consequences that we will read about over the next couple of weeks:
1) God was angry with his decision to align himself with Ahab, a wicked person who hated the LORD (2 Chronicles 19:2). 
2) Ahab and Jezebel's daughter became queen after Jehoshaphat died, and she tried to destroy all of David's descendants (2 Chronicles 22:10-12). 
3) She influenced her husband, King Jehoram, in bringing the evil of Israel back to Judah after Jehoshaphat's reforms (2 Chronicles 21:4-7; 21:4-7; 22:3; 2 Kings 8:16-19). 
4) Jehosphaphat's economic alliance with Ahab's son, Ahaziah, was condemned by the LORD (2 Chronicles 20:37) and the plan did not succeed.
After being rebuked for #4, Jehoshaphat did come back strong when faced with invasion from the Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites (an Arabian tribe living in Edom [Mount Seir] and east and south of the Dead Sea). God had not allowed Israel to invade their land when they came from Egypt (Numbers 20:14-21). Now, they were a threat.

Jehoshaphat did not panic but proclaimed a nationwide fast in order to seek the Lord. He led Judah in a prayer committing the crisis to God, acknowledging His awesome power, recalling how He drove out the inhabitants from the land He had ordained for them, acknowledging that He would hear and save, and professing complete dependence on God for the outcome. 

The message through Jehaziel the Levite was clear: 
Do not be afraid or dismayed (shattered) because of this great army for the battle is not yours but God's . . . You need not fight . . . take up your positions, stand and see the salvation (deliverance) of the LORD on your behalf . . . do not fear or be dismayed (shattered) . . . face them, the LORD is with you. 
(2 Chronicles 20:15-17)
So the battle was won by the LORD as Judah sang praise to God. 

This was definitely the pinnacle of Jehoshaphat's reign! But he was just a "good" king and not the "best" king of Judah because of this summation of his reign:
He walked in the way of his father Asa and did not depart from it, doing right in the sight of the Lord. The high places, however, were not removed; the people had not yet directed their hearts to the God of their fathers.
(2 Chronicles 20:32-33) 

REFLECTION

In the past, I have tried to fight battles and put out fires on my own strength. I think self-sufficiency is one of my top sins!

Slowly He has transitioned me over to Jehoshaphat's way of doing things. Now, it seems as though the battles are few because they are not my battles but His, and I have given up control.

One in particular was difficulty with a certain family member. That person just seemed to not like me and was usually quite rude to me at family functions. I used to kick and scream and cry about it until God said, "Let me take care of this."  So, I set aside some time to fast and pray about it and continued to pray daily for a whole year for this family member.

The "silent battle" evaporated, and it was all the LORD's doing!

APPLICATION 

Are you facing a personal or family crisis? What about the crisis in our nation as things are heating up in many foreign countries?

Try gathering the family and/or friends together. You might even want to fast. Then you can let go of all the time spent in food preparation and eating to focus wholeheartedly on the LORD.

Worship Him as a God of power and give it all over to Him. "Be still (cease striving, let go, relax) and know that [He] is God" (Psalm 46:10 and our psalm for tomorrow!).

PRAYER

Lord, thank You that You fight all battles for us. We submit our need for control over to You. We acknowledge that it is by Your strength and power that we survive from day to day. We praise You ahead of time for what You will do. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Put 1 Kings on the Old Testament History Shelf

BibleBookcase

1 Kings Chapter Titles

Here is a recap of the chapters in 1 Kings:

SOLOMON'S REIGN


1: Solomon Anointed as King

2: Dealing with Potential Problems
3-4: Setting Up Solomon's Kingdom
5-8: Solomon Builds the Temple
9: Warning to Solomon
10: Wealth of Solomon
11: Downfall and Death of Solomon

Remember that halfway through the book of 1 Kings, the kingdom divides!

THE DIVIDED KINGDOM



12: A Divided Kingdom
13: The Man of God from Judah
14: The Unrighteous Reigns of Jeroboam and Rehoboam
15: Kings Who Walk in the Way of Their Fathers
16: Evil Kings
17: Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath
18: Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
19: Elijah's Depression and God's "Gentle Whisper"
20: Ahab's Disobedience and Repentance
21: Poor Naboth!
22: The End for Ahab

Thursday, March 22, 2012

1 Kings 20-22 - Ahab's Disobedience and Demise

LINK: 1 Kings 20-22

I had a GREAT time of listening to His voice applying 1 Kings 19. I hope you did too. Sometimes we just do not realize we have not stopped long enough to hear Him speak. 

BACKGROUND 

1 Kings 20  - Ahab's Battles

The king of Aram, Ben Hadad II (son of Ben Hadad I in 15:18, 20; 20:34), attacked Ahab two times, and God gave Aram into Ahab's hands so that Ahab would "know that He is the LORD" (20:13, 28). Sadly, Ahab disobeyed the word of the Lord by setting free Ben Hadad II when the Lord had commanded him to die.

1 Kings 21 - Poor Naboth!

A period of peace followed these two battles, but the incident in this chapter punctuates the evil characters of Ahab and Jezebel.

Naboth owned the property adjoining Ahab, and Ahab wanted it for a garden and was willing to compensate Naboth for it, but Mosaic Law stated that one could not sell a paternal inheritance (Num. 36:7) and Naboth rightly refused. Like a baby who cannot get his way, Ahab sulked until Jezebel plotted against Naboth. This eventually led to the stoning of Naboth and his two sons (1 Kings 21:13; 2 Kings 9:26). Wicked Jezebel!!!!

While Ahab enjoyed his new garden, Elijah delivered his prophecy of certain disaster on Ahab and his descendants because he "behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites." In addition, he prophesied that Jezebel would be devoured by dogs.

Surprisingly, Ahab humbled himself before the Lord, and the Lord had mercy by not having disaster come on his house in Ahab's day but in the days of his sons (2 Kings 9:14-37 - stay tuned).

1 Kings 22 - Ahab's End

In this chapter, good King Jehoshaphat of Judah enters the scene. We will hear more about him when we study his parallel story in 2 Chronicles 17-20 next, but he joined forces with Ahab in 853 B.C. in order to retake Ramoth in Gilead from the Arameans. Ramoth was one of the chief cities on the tribe of God, 28 miles east of the Jordan.

Before they embarked into battle, Jehoshaphat wanted counsel from the LORD through Ahab's prophets, but the 400 prophets Ahab provided were obviously not "prophets of the Lord" in Jehoshaphat's eyes because they just said what Ahab wanted to hear. So, the prophet Michaiah was summoned. The first time, Michaiah said exactly what the other prophets had said. Commentaries say that he was being sarcastic. Eventually, he prophesied that Ahab would die and the battle would be lost, and that is exactly what happened. He was buried, and the dogs licked up his blood just as predicted (20:42, 21:16, 21).

Archeological Note: More than 200 ivory figures, panels, and plaques have been discovered in one storeroom from excavations in Samaria. It is interesting to note that Ahab used ivory to beautify his palace and surrounding areas.

Toward the end of 1 Kings 22, there is a brief passage about Asa's son, Jehoshaphat (22:41-50), who began his reign in 873 B.C. as co-regent because of his father's poor health (15:23). He was one of Judah's eight good kings, but he did not remove the high places. We will hear more about him in the next post from 1 Chronicles. Stay tuned!

The chapter concludes with a mention of Ahab's evil son, Ahaziah. We will hear more about him when we start our study of 2 Kings.

REFLECTION

I am always amazed when I read about Ahab's repentance, and God's merciful response. This is the first time in the Bible where it is noted that a man "humbled himself." I think this is very significant.

We serve a God who longs to be gracious to us if we will only humble ourselves before Him.
Humble yourselves beneath the mighty hand of God. (James 4:10)
The other thing we can learn from Ahab's life is how the choice of your mate will have a significant effect on all aspects of your life. Jezebel was a very bad influence on Ahab. I want to encourage young people contemplating marriage to choose well! 

Sadly, I counsel women in marriages where there was not much discernment about the life partner, and the outcomes have been very sad.

APPLICATION

Do a word study on the word "humbled." Pray that God would reveal areas of pride in your life.

Consider doing a "Marriage without Regrets" Study. It is excellent for seeing ways to improve your marriage or seeing what to look for if you are contemplating marriage in the future. If the Precept study seems too overwhelming, there is a book with a less intense study guide too. There is also a 40 Minute Study.

PRAYER

Lord, humble us that we might give You all the glory. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Psalms 104, 114-115 - Praise God the Creator, Protector, and Provider

LINK: Psalm 104, 114-115 

BACKGROUND 

All three of these psalms have been associated with Elijah and Elisha.

Psalm 104 

This is a wonderful hymn of praise to God for His power, wisdom, and goodness in all of Creation. We do not know who or when it was written, but the statement, "He makes springs pour water into ravines" reminds me of how God provided for Elijah by the Kerith Ravine. 

Psalm 114-115 

These two psalms are a part of a group of Hallel songs (Psalms 113-118). These songs were sung at the three "great" festivals of Israel, the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, when every male was to come to Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). They were also sung at other holy days. Psalm 113-114 were sung before the Passover meal, and Psalm 115-118 were sung afterwards. 

Psalm 114 recalls the history of God's care for His people in the exodus from Egypt. He provided for every need on their way to the Promised Land just as He provided for Elijah's every need.

Psalm 115 specifically attacks the worship of false gods. So, we can clearly see how it is associated with Elijah and Elisha. 

REFLECTION/APPLICATION/PRAYER

Praise God for His power, wisdom, and goodness in Creation. Then thank Him for His faithfulness throughout your history. Pray through one or all of these Psalms. 

Here is a link to help you see God through creation: "The Sun as You've Never Seen It Before." 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

1 Kings 17-19 - Elijah and God's Provision, Power, and Persistence

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, page 523
LINK: 1 Kings 17-19 

BACKGROUND

1 Kings 17

Elijah, the prophet of the Lord, burst forth like a bright light in the darkness of King Ahab's reign. He was from Tishbe (#1 on map). He prophesied to King Ahab at the palace in Samaria that there would be a drought. God had warned that He would withhold the rain if His people turned away and served other gods (Deuteronomy 11:16-17), and Ahab had brought Baal worship and the Asherah pole.

After this pronouncement, he went to the Kerith Ravine (#2) and was miraculously provided for by God through the birds and the brook. Sometime during the three and one-half year drought (Luke 4:25; James 5:17), the brook dried up, and he went to Zarephath (#3) where he met a Gentile woman of Phoenicia who believed in the God of Israel and gave all she had to live on (As I read it today, I thought about another widow of faith who gave all she had in Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4.). God miraculously provided for Elijah, the widow, and her son. Note that God used unclean birds (ravens) and a Gentile woman to accomplish His work.  The widow would have to believe again as her son dies later, and God raises him from the dead. This is the first recorded resurrection in the Bible. 

1 Kings 18 

In the middle of the drought, God called Elijah to return to Ahab. Elijah went to gain access via God-fearing Obadiah, who had hidden 100 prophets in order to save them from the wrath of Jezebel. Obadiah was afraid that he would be executed if Elijah did not follow through in going to see Ahab, but Elijah was true to his word and met with Ahab. This eventually led to a showdown between the 450 prophets of Baal and one lone prophet of the God of Israel on Mount Carmel (#6). Of course, God won and proved to the nation that he was THE Lord God.

1 Kings 19

When news of this reached Jezebel, she vowed to end Elijah's life. So, he ran into seclusion in the wilderness past Beersheba (#9) where the angel of the Lord touched him and provided food and drink because the "journey was too great for him" (19:7). In Old Testament language the "angel of the Lord" is the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ (see Genesis 16:10, Exodus 3:1–4 and Judges 2:1–4 too. Note that later in Exodus 3, the angel of the Lord is called "God" and "the Lord").

Then, Elijah made his home in Horeb, the mountain of God where Moses saw the burning bush (Exodus 3). Elijah was exhausted and discouraged (He repeated "I alone am left, and they seek my life to take it away" twice in 19:10 and 14), but he hears God's still, small voice that has also been translated "gentle whisper, a tone of a gentle blowing." He was given his "marching orders" to accomplish three tasks (can you name them?), but he only performed the third one, but through that, the first two were accomplished!

The third task was to anoint Elisha (whose name means "My God is salvation") to take his place. He did this by throwing his prophet's cloak over Elisha. Doing this symbolized the passing of the power and authority of the office to another individual. Elisha responded immediately. All he needed to do was say good-bye to his family. Elijah's unusual response of "What have I done to you?" is an idiom meaning, "Do as you please" or "What have I done to stop you?"

Elisha slaughtered his oxen and burned his plough as a thank offering to God and a sign of leaving his old occupation behind to follow Elijah as his attendant.

WHEW, God is speaking to me in a "gentle whisper." So I will stop for now. Over the next two days, we will take a break from the narrative to look at three psalms associated with Elijah and this time of idolatry. 

REFLECTION

I love this story of the "gentle whisper." As I was meditating today, I was reminded of a time several years ago when God had accomplished great things through me, just like Elijah, only to have an "evil Jezebel" (no joke) come into my life and chase me away. Like Elijah, I fled and became depressed and discouraged. It had gotten so bad that George thought he was going to lose me. He said that during that time, he and the boys would joke and laugh at the dinner table and I would be somewhere else, off and distant. It was bad.

One day, I was hiding up in "my cave" upon my bed, and I cried out for the Lord's "still, small voice" of encouragement. I even prayed specifically that someone would call me that moment to encourage me. His voice came through a woman who called me at that exact moment to ask me to lead a study. She and some friends had heard I had led a study called "Marriage without Regrets" and they wondered if I might lead one for them too. That phone call opened the door into a FABULOUS group of women that I was privileged to lead in Bible Study for the next three years and are still some of my dearest friends today. Years later, this same woman wrote:
God threw me a LIFESAVER when our paths crossed again. I was drifting away from the Lord when you came along and reminded me that His way is the true and the best way. Thank you for helping me get back on course with the Lord and for challenging me to make my life count. Thank you for being my friend. "Greater love has no one that this that he lay down his life for his friends" (John
15;13).
Honestly, she was much more God's lifesaver to me than I could have ever been to her! Thank you my dear friend!

APPLICATION

Notice that Elijah fell into depression immediately after God had accomplished a great spiritual victory through him.

Maybe you have been depressed in the past or you might be depressed right now! What happened right before that low time? Maybe you are/were physically and emotionally drained from a giving out in ministry for the Lord. Maybe you need to come away and listen to His gentle whisper (19:12).

James 5:17 says that "Elijah was a human as we are . . . (NLT)" In our humanness, we all need quiet resting time where the Lord can refresh because sometimes the "journey is too great" for us (19:7).

I hear the Lord speaking to me right now. So, I am going away to rest in Him.

Come away, my beloved, and rest for a while! Sweet dreams BBC friends!

PRAYER

"Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Lamb of God, we come. Amen.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

1 Kings 16 - Bad Kings of Israel

LINK: 1 Kings 16
Parallel Passage: 2 Chronicles 16:1-6

BACKGROUND

Now we are back to the book of 1 Kings with a brief overview of the next four kings of Israel (Baasha is a continuation of 1 Kings 15). It is hard to get them all straight so click on the "Kings of Israel and Judah" page above if you want a general overview.

Keep in mind that ALL the kings of Israel were BAD and only eight out of the twenty kings of Judah were GOOD. 

Here is an overview of the bad kings of Israel in this chapter:


Baasha of Israel (no relation to previous kings) - 1 Kings 15:33-16:7
Reigned: 909-886 BC for 24 years
Character: Bad, walked in the way of Jeroboam
Overlap with Judah's king: Asa (911-870 B.C.)
Manner of death: Natural
Parallel story: 2 Chronicles 16:1-6

Elah of Israel - 1 Kings 16:8-14
Reigned: 886-885 B.C. for 2 years
Character: Bad
Elah "provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their [Baasha and Elah] worthless idols" (1 Kings 16:13). 

Overlap with Judah's King: Asa (911-870 B.C.)

Manner of death: Assassination by Zimri, one of his officials. His whole family was later killed, fulfilling the prophecy of Jehu (1 Kings 16:3).

Zimri of Israel - 1 Kings 16:9-20
Reigned: 885 B.C. for 7 days
Character: Bad
Zimri did "evil in the eyes of the LORD and walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in the sin he had committed and had caused Israel to commit" (1 Kings 16:19).
Overlap with Judah's king: Asa (911-870 B.C.) 

Manner of death: Suicide while under siege from Omri

Omri of Israel - 1 Kings 16:21-28
Reigned: 885-874 B.C. for 12 years (with six of them fighting with Tibni for control)
Character: Extra Bad
Omri "did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before Him . . . provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols(1 Kings 16:24-25).
Overlap with Judah's king: Asa (911-870 B.C.)

Manner of death: Natural (buried in his new capital city of Samaria)
Omri was probably the strongest leader of the Northern Kingdom up to that time. Assyrian records dating from over a century later refer to Israel as "the land of Omri." During Omri’s reign Ben-Hadad I, king of the Arameans in Damascus, continued to add to his holdings to the north of Israel. Omri’s son, Ahab, had difficulty containing these Aramean aggressors. Also the Assyrian Empire was growing stronger and farther to the northeast under AshurnaŠĻ£irpal II (883-859) and proceeded to expand its territory as far west as the Mediterranean Sea. Faced by these threats on his north, Omri was able to protect Israel well enough to attack and defeat Moab to the southeast at the same time. This victory is referred to on the famous Moabite Stone. Another of Omri’s significant achievements was his alliance with the Phoenicians which was sealed with the marriage of his son Ahab to Jezebel, a daughter of the Phoenician king, Ethbaal (cf. 1 Kings 16:31).  
Though Omri is passed over quickly in 1 Kings, he was a powerful and politically effective king. But the major concern of the writer of 1 Kings was Omri’s spiritual condition. In this he was the worst Israelite king so far (vv. 25-26).
(The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Volume 1:521-522)
Ahab of Israel1 Kings 16:29-22:40
Reigned: 874-853 B.C. for 22 years
Character: The Worst
Ahab "did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him" (1 Kings 16:30).
Overlap with Judah’s King: Jehoshaphat (873-848 B.C.) 

Manner of Death: Stay tuned!

We will be going over the reign of Ahab in detail over the coming days, but tomorrow, you will be introduced to a man of God, Elijah!

REFLECTION 

Read and follow through on the Reflection and Application from 1 Kings 15 if you have not already done so. 

Here it is again if you missed reading it the first time:

When I read "walked in the ways of Jeroboam," I wonder what "way" my kids might walk after me. Do my activities model being "wholly devoted to the Lord"?

APPLICATION

Here is a very good application of this chapter from The Daily Walk, April 4, 2008, p. 9:
Using the numbers 1 through 7 only once, rate the following seven influences in the order that you feel that they have affected the lives of your children (or your own life). Use 1 for "most influential," 2 for "next most influential," etc. 
__Television 
__Parents 
__ School
 __ Internet 
__Church 
__Friends 
__Brothers/Sisters 
The epitaph, "he walked in the ways of his father," could be penned over almost every king you will read about . . . With surprising regularity the son became a carbon copy of his father, patterning his spiritual and moral actions after those of his parent. 
Parent, if your child walks in your ways, will you be happy or horrified? Tonight before going to bed, give your children the above quiz. Then discuss ways that your family can walk in the ways of the Lord. 
PRAYER

Lord, draw us to You. Help our hearts to be wholly devoted to You and may that devotion be manifested in our actions that we model to our watching children and the world around us. May Christ shine through us in everything we do because it is for You we live, and move, and have our being. We pray this to the Glory of Christ our King. Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

2 Chronicles 14-16 - King Asa of Judah

LINK: 2 Chronicles 14-16 
Parallel Passage: 1 Kings 15:9-24

BACKGROUND

Asa reigned from 911-870 B.C. "Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God" by removing altars, high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to "seek the LORD . . . and to obey his commands." He enjoyed peace and rest for ten years. Then, when he faced the impossible battle with the Cushites, he depended on God and prospered.

He listened to Azariah the prophet's challenge to remain true to the LORD so that he could continue to enjoy God's blessing. Asa responded by destroying more idols and deposing his grandmother (the NASB says "mother"), Maacah, because she made an Asherah pole which was a Canaanite fertility symbol. He also repaired the temple. In 896 B.C. he assembled his kingdom and renewed their covenant to seek God with all their heart and soul.

"Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD, all his life," and there was no more war until his 35th year when Asa felt threatened by Baasha, king of a rival northern kingdom. So, he bribed Ben-Hadad, the Aramean king of Damascus to break his treaty with Baasha. It worked, but it did not please God. When the prophet Hanani confronted Asa about relying on the ungodly Ben-Hadad rather than God, Asa was angry and put the prophet in prison, too prideful to repent. The parallel passage in 1 Kings does not mention anything about the prophet Hanani.

I do not know why Asa responded in obedience to the first prophet but put the second one in prison. He did not like what he heard because of his pride. Asa started out with wholehearted dependence on the Lord, but he did not end it this way.

REFLECTION
"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars." 
(Hanani the prophet to Asa - 2 Chronicles 16:9)
Are you seeing a pattern here in the posts about the kings of Judah? It was make or break for them on one key issue: God wanted their whole heart for their whole life! He wants ours too. 

APPLICATION

Are you wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord and in it for the "long haul" of life? What habits are you establishing in your life that will foster this? Are you open to others speaking truth into your life, or has pride kept you from accepting rebuke? Memorize 2 Chronicles 16:9 to remind yourself that God strongly supports wholehearted people!

PRAYER

Lord, the lives of these kings are here to instruct us! Please do not let us lose the lesson You are trying to teach us through them. Lord, draw us close to You. We want to love You with our whole heart. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.