The Sinner Found Out (Part Two)

1 Kings 21:17-29

Still, there was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him. He committed the most detestable acts by following idols as the Amorites had, whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites (1 Kings 21:25-26 CSB).

God indicted Ahab as guilty for Naboth’s death and the seizure of his inheritance. Why did the Lord proceed against Ahab, besides the murder and the greed, which were worthy of death under the law covenant? Let’s examine the Lord’s view of Ahab’s sins.

  • Ahab had provoked God to anger; this is the key (cf. Psalm 51:4). The most important part of life is one’s relationship with the living God. Have you wronged him? Have you offended him?
  • Ahab had caused Israel to sin. No person lives to himself. We all affect the lives of other people, whether by neglect or by inducing them to sin. One person’s sin can affect a whole church (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:6). We should ask, why is this important in our lives? Our lack of zeal can have a chilling, a dampening effect on the rest of the church. Do we have a warm love for the Lord?

The Holy Spirit, provides an assessment of Ahab’s character (21:25-26). First, he sold himself to do evil. Ahab put a price tag on himself. “Available for sin; make an offer.” He was glad to go wherever any sin led him to go. Second, he accepted encouragement to sin. He may still have had the crown on his head, but he had abdicated in his spiritual responsibility as Israel’s leader and as the head of his home. Third, he behaved in the most vile manner. Idolatry was usually accompanied by sexual immorality.

The Lord God pronounced judgment on Ahab. Think of its nature. It was complete (cf. 21:21-23). It would fall on Ahab himself and his children. Why the children? Read the second command of the law covenant (cf. Exodus 20:4-6). And it would also fall upon Jezebel. The judgment also was terrible (21:19b, 23-24). We should ask, “Why is this important in our lives? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31 NIV).

The judgment was just. The Lord had exactly and completely observed all that Ahab had done. Nothing was hidden from the all-knowing God (21:19a; cf. Jeremiah 23:24.) Why is this important in our lives? God will judge the world with justice (cf. Acts 17:31). Ahab received justice from God, life for life, as God had commanded from the time of the Flood and in the law covenant (21:19b; cf. Leviticus 24:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:21).

Yet it was lessened in severity due to Ahab’s outward repentance. God is merciful, and mingles mercy with judgment so that we may know that if we do repent, we will receive mercy. But Ahab did not really change in the inward person of his heart. He had an outward show, but lacked an internal change of mind. He still hated God’s prophets (cf. 22:8). An outward show of repentance is no proof of a genuine change of mind. In order to be right with God, you must repent and believe the gospel.

What is your relationship with the living God? Have you turned from your sin to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation? If God is merciful toward wicked Ahab, how much more so to a repentant believer.

Grace and peace, David

The Sinner Found Out (Part One)

1 Kings 21:17-29

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Get up and go to meet King Ahab of Israel, who is in Samaria. He’s in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you murdered and also taken possession?’ Then tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will also lick up your blood!’” (21:17-19 CSB)

In the heart of sinful humanity, there lives a delusion that God does not notice the sins of people, or that if he does, he is unable or unconcerned to do anything about it. In contrast with this way of thinking, the word of God says that the Lord will surely bring every person to an accounting for his or her sin (cf. Romans 2:5-11).

In previous posts, we saw how Ahab was filled with jealous greed for Naboth’s vineyard. His wife Jezebel thought up and carried out an evil scheme to get the vineyard for Ahab. After she had Naboth and his sons murdered, Ahab boldly went and took possession of the vineyard with all his military leaders behind him. Will Ahab and Jezebel get away with their sin? Does God care when we sin? Is he able to do anything about it?

God sent the prophet Elijah as a messenger of judgment. Notice that the Lord knew where Ahab would be before the event, and he sent his servant to meet the wicked king there. Consider the basis for Elijah’s message. He acted in obedience to God’s command (21:17, 19). Our final authority is God’s word, in which we may read what the Lord tells us what he wants us to do and what he forbids us to do.

Here are two matters we must clearly understand. First, we dare not have anything else but the Scriptures as our authority. He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules’” (Mark 7:6-7 NIV). To rest on human opinions or reasoning is perilous to one’s soul. Second, we do not need anything else. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV).

Will the Bible tell you how to use the apps on your cellphone? (To some, that is one of life’s great mysteries.) No, because that is not an issue of life or godliness. But it will provide you with guidelines for how you ought to use your cellphone in a godly manner. See Ephesians 4:17-5:16.

How was the message received? Ahab, like anyone else who is ungodly, did not receive God’s messenger with favor. Oh, there may be a restrained civility, but there remains a deep, inner opposition to the word of God and to those who proclaim it. When unsaved people hear a message of judgment, or something else in the Bible that they do not like, they may let you know how much they dislike it, and you for telling them about it.

The message clarified. Ahab said to Elijah, “So, my enemy, you’ve found me, have you?” He replied, “I have found you because you devoted yourself to do what is evil in the Lord’s sight” (21:20 CSB). We should make clear what our purpose in telling God’s message is. We have no personal dislike for the people. All people are made in the image of God, and should therefore be treated with respect. But we are opposed to their sin, and we must warn them of the outcome of continuing in sin.

People applaud those who warn others to get out of burning buildings. We require smoke detectors, fire alarms, exit signs, panic hardware on doors, and emergency lights. Most people will agree, though perhaps some grudgingly, “If it saves lives, it’s a good law.” But let a Christian tell someone how they may avoid eternal fire, and the world goes crazy. Why is this important in our lives? As followers of Jesus Christ, our mission is to speak out for the glory of God and the good of people.

Grace and peace, David

Naboth’s Vineyard (Part Three)

1 Kings 21:1-16

Jezebel. Her name invokes thoughts of wickedness, and she earned the reputation. She was passionate for the worship of false gods and goddesses and opposed to the true and living God and his prophets. She loved power and was not reluctant to conceive evil schemes and then carry them out. In our text, we see a clear example of what happened to anyone who stood in her way of self-gratification.

How did Jezebel devise to eliminate Naboth and seize his vineyard with the appearance of legality (21:5-10)? Her method was as follows:

  • She fed Ahab’s wounded pride (21:7). She sweetly told him to act like a king in the same breath as assuring him that his dear wife would do what she could to get him the property. With the king in her hands, she could do what she wanted with impunity.
  • She assumed a religious posture (21:9). She arranged for a fast led by the prominent men of the city. Her instructions were disguised with zeal for the Lord’s name. Let us not be gullible and assume that everyone who appears to be religious and wears the name “Christian” is really a believer. Many evil plots have been carried out in the name of Christ and “true religion”.
  • She commanded false witness (Exodus 20:16) and murder (Exodus 20:13). So much for her zeal for the glory of God and his law covenant with Israel. Jezebel showed nothing but contempt for God and his law.

Her scheme when carried out brought others deeper into sin with her (21:11-14). Notice how far the people of the northern kingdom of Israel had descended. Jezebel did not think that they would hesitate to carry out her order, and they didn’t! And they were the respectable men of the community!

They also murdered Naboth’s sons (see 2 Kings 9:26). When we once step over God’s boundary lines, we quickly become experts in transgression. One sin leads to another to “secure” (so we think) our evil desires. Don’t play with sin. You reach down to pet a lap dog and find that a dragon is eating you alive.

Her scheme was completed (21:15-16). Who would dare oppose Ahab’s claim to the property? The pile of rocks over Naboth’s body would tend to chill anyone’s zeal for truth. Ahab acted like he had won a great victory, for he went in a grand march of triumph with his military leaders behind him (cf. 2 Kings 9:25-26).

Obedience to God never insures an easy life (21:13). Listen to the words of Hebrews 11:35b-38. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (ESV). Do not begin to think that your neighbors, your family, and your friends will be overwhelmed by your Christian profession. It took a miracle of grace to change your heart, and it will take a miracle of grace to change their hearts, too. The world will mark you down as a fool if you obey God (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9-13). Do you want to follow Christ? Count the cost!

God does not always punish the wicked immediately for their acts of rebellion against him. Since God is eternal, he does not need to settle all accounts today. He can wait. The sinner’s doom may be more or less delayed, as in Ahab’s case. But God will finally bring justice. When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny. Indeed, you put them in slippery places; you make them fall into ruin. How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors. Like one waking from a dream, Lord, when arising, you will despise their image (Psalm 73:16-20 CSB). May we who love the Lord and people completely avoid the evil paths of Ahab and Jezebel.

Grace and peace, David

Naboth’s Vineyard (Part Two)

1 Kings 21:1-16

Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors” (21:2-3 NIV).

Ahab came to Naboth with a greedy demand. Naboth was immediately in a very uncomfortable position. Though the northern kingdom of Israel was nominally part of the people of God and Elijah had called them back to God, the reality was far different. Since the split between Israel and Judah after Solomon’s reign, Israel had worshiped two golden calves, and Ahab and Jezebel had led them into Baal worship. Therefore, Naboth was confronted by an evil demand from a wicked king, who cared nothing for God’s covenant with Israel. In other words, Naboth’s situation was like the one true Christians face from a world that cares nothing for Christ’s new and better covenant. How ought we to respond. Consider Naboth’s faithfulness (21:3).

What was the background for his refusal: the command of God. The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land (Leviticus 25:23-24 ESV). Ahab sought a permanent transfer, as Naboth’s immediate response indicates. In the whole scheme of things, this can seem like an insignificant command. It was not written on the stone tablets, and there is not much written on the subject in the law. “Why risk your life over something so small, Naboth? You’re refusing an evil tyrant!” People easily assume that they can decide what parts of God’s word are important on the basis of their social consequences. For example, sexual abuse is wrong, but sexual immorality is quite permissible; in fact, it is not considered terribly wrong, even in most churches in our time. Fornication is part of the path to marriage, as long as two consenting people “love” each other.

However, Naboth reasoned in a godly manner. The issue was not how significant he thought the command was; the issue was that God had ordered him not to sell the land. Naboth knew his responsibility. God was the owner of the land, and Naboth was merely a trustee, and not a permanent trustee at that, but a pilgrim on a journey to a better country. God had his rights as landowner, and neither Ahab or Naboth had any right to act contrary to the word of the Lord. It is this perspective that gets true Christians into problems with a post-postmodern culture. The great evil, in the opinion of the current culture, is to call anyone out on any moral issue. Everything is to be tolerated and accepted, except truth and the judgment to come. To warn people against eternal punishment is regarded as an act of hatred. To Ahab, Naboth had decided to hate him.

Naboth’s obedience. He chose to live his life according to the Scriptures. He stood for absolute truth when Ahab was trying to bend reality to fit the desires of the individual. The ultimate issue is authority. Who is the boss, the holy God or a sinful, twisted human? Here, faith in God is crucially important. Who will choose to follow God’s word in the scriptures, unless we are fully persuaded that God has ultimate, absolute authority and speaks to us with final authority through his word?

Sometimes in order to obey God, we must disobey people. And that choice to disobey a wicked person may be extremely expensive in this world. Compare Acts 4:18-20 with Acts 5:17-20, 40-41. We in the church have forgotten much of our history. Not many remember the cruel sufferings of the Anabaptists during the Reformation. Many Puritan ministers had to make this choice at the time of “the Great Ejection”, and they lost their positions and their means of making a living. During that time, John Bunyan was imprisoned for the better part of twelve years, leaving his family charity cases. He had only to sign a paper, acknowledging the authority of Britain’s king over the church. Through his sufferings, we received his greatest work, Pilgrim’s Progress.

Grace and peace, David

Naboth’s Vineyard (Part One)

1 Kings 21:1-16

Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors” (21:2-3 NIV).

This is a well-known Bible story, or I ought to say it was when I was young, when parents took their children to Sunday School and read them Bible stories at home. Perhaps you can remember it from their childhood. Its purpose is to present an ongoing question in God’s story: Will people make choices about living for the glory of God and pleasing God rather than to please themselves? Both the main characters had to make this choice.

Life in this present time is filled with suffering (Romans 8:18-27). We do not like to hear this. It is much easier to play to the desire for pleasure that people have and tell people that God wants them to be happy and prosperous now. Such teaching destroys and perverts God’s message as much as teaching salvation by good works.  God speaks to all in the setting of a fallen world, handed over to bondage. And in that situation, evil people do run over the righteous and harm them. God wants us to understand the world in which he works out his glory. Here it is King Ahab’s greed (21:1-2, 4) that will harm a godly man. A powerful and already rich man was about to oppress a common person. In the plan of salvation, God permits evil events. He allows people to commit sins, even monstrous sins. Our view of God and his world must be correct, so that we are not misled with false ideas like “God will bless me and make we happy, healthy, and prosperous, if I have enough faith.” How did this evil event happen? Ahab wanted something that was close to him but that did not belong to him. The desire to have a field was not wrong in itself (cf. Proverbs 31:16), but Ahab desired something that God’s law had forbidden him to have. There can be a very thin line between legitimate desire and greed. When we wrongly want something forbidden that is nearby, it can be very difficult to resist the temptation to covet, since the object constantly attracts us. Think of David and Bathsheba, Herod and Herodias, Judas and money.

Ahab continued to covet, even when his offer was refused (21:4). He plainly transgressed the tenth command of the law covenant. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s (Exodus 20:17). To paraphrase Matthew Henry, Paul was content in a prison, but Ahab was discontent in a palace. Contrary to popular opinion, comfortable circumstances cannot produce happiness and satisfaction. Think of Amnon’s illicit desire for his half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-4). In an affluent culture, such as the one in which I live, it is too easy to fall into greed. Everything around cries out, “Purchase me, indulge yourself, and you will enjoy comfort!” But the whole world cannot satisfy the human heart.

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Restoration (Part Three)

1 Kings 19:11-18

But I will leave seven thousand in Israel—every knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him (19:18 CSB).

We must realize the crisis through which the Lord planned that Elijah must walk. It had been a lonely path. God had sent him to a ravine to hide, where his only companions were the raven that brought him food twice a day. Next, God led him out of Israel to stay with a Gentile widow (Luke 4:25-26) and her son. He was away from the people of God for about three years. He was far off from Jerusalem and worship. When he returned, he saw God’s people devoted to false gods. It was too easy for Elijah to draw the conclusion that he was the only one faithful to the Lord. Yet God always has a people.

God raised up other men for the ministry (19:16). First came Elisha and Micaiah, and after them many others appear. We must not give up when we appear to be alone. How foolish we sometimes feel and act! Our goal should not be to count noses, but to stand for God and his truth, trusting him to bless his word in our generation. When by grace Luther “rediscovered the gospel”, he had no intention of starting a movement. He merely wanted to testify to the truth of the Scriptures. God sent the revival.

Hopefully, Elijah’s heart was filled with joy to know that God had another man to carry on his prophetic ministry. Regardless of how Elijah was affected, The Lord taught him the doctrine of sovereign grace (19:18). Lesson to what the Spirit later said through Paul. I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me.” And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (Romans 11:1-6 NIV).

Things had looked dark from Elijah’s limited perspective. We only have a small window on the world, a window that is limited by space and time. God was saying to Elijah, “Come here, son, and look through my very large window.” Every time we read the doctrines of grace in the Scriptures, we ought to think, “This is really cool! I’m able to look through my Father’s window.”

There was a remnant because of God’s gracious choice. God did this: I have reserved for myself. “If any are preserved from false worship … it is by his special influence and agency” (Haldane). The Lord did this completely by grace; he did not consider the works of any whom he had chosen. All of us only deserve one destiny, eternal punishment for our countless acts of rebellion against the living God. But thanks be to God, in Jesus Christ he has freely chosen to be gracious to us. How did God restore Elijah? By teaching his prophet about sovereign grace. We do not have a weak God, who is bound by the fickle dictates of the corrupt wills of a fallen people. We serve a God who is infinitely powerful and who is able to save. What has he taught you of his power to save?

Are you discouraged? Then learn what God taught Elijah. Turn your thoughts from your own limited self to the unlimited God. You and I must have the proper starting point for our doctrine and practice. Are you without hope? There is only one way to face the future properly. You need to have hope, confident expectation. You cannot find this in yourself or in the things and activities of this world. God gives certain hope to people like you and me in Jesus Christ. Turn from your sin, which can only bring you to everlasting sadness and despair. Turn to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in him for eternal life. Then you will have a hope that will never perish, spoil or fade!

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Restoration (Part Two)

1 Kings 19:11-18

Then the Lord said to him, “Go and return by the way you came to the Wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive, you are to anoint Hazael as king over Aram. You are to anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Then Jehu will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death whoever escapes the sword of Jehu (1 Kings 19:15-17 CSB).

We have seen how Elijah fled from Jezebel to Mt. Horeb, fearful, faltering, and fatigued. He prayed to die. But God still had service for Elijah to do. He reaches out to his servants in their weakness. He renews and restores us. Let us see more about how the Lord brought this about in Elijah.

The Lord immediately reassigned Elijah to other work. Go … anoint…. God has the right to command us, and we are responsible to obey him. The purpose of human life is to live for the honor of God. One way we do this is by serving him. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thessalonians 1:9 NIV). We live among a people that are totally consumed with the desire to make ourselves individually happy. The Bible does not exalt the self; it exalts the living God. For example, Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV; cf. also Jude 1:24-25).

God first revealed himself to his prophet; then he sent him (cf. Isaiah 6:5, 8-9). We must first know God before we can testify about him to others. Imagine this scene: “Elisha, God has anointed you as his prophet.” What if Elisha had replied, “That’s nice; who is God? Could you please tell me about him?” No, it didn’t happen that way. First you must know God, then you can serve him. When Elijah met Elisha, he knew that he wasn’t the only one left.

God continued to use Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 1:3). Even though we may sin many times, God still can use us. He is the God of overflowing grace to his people. So that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21 NASB).

A helpful example of this is Peter, to whom the Lord said, “feed my sheep … my lambs.” The ongoing experience of God’s grace should spur us on to serve him more fervently. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you (Psalm 51:13 ESV).

Elijah obeyed. See 19:19. So Elijah went. Persevering faith produced obedience. How did God restore Elijah? By sending Elijah on a new mission. Thank God he does not abandon us after we fail or fall. The promise is extremely sure: He will never, no absolutely never, leave us or forsake us. He gives more grace. Has God been gracious to you? His grace is given in Jesus Christ the Lord. You can only know God through his Son, Jesus Christ. Come to him today.

Grace and peace, David

Elijah’s Restoration (Part One)

1 Kings 19:18-18

So he got up, ate, and drank. Then on the strength from that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. He entered a cave there and spent the night. Suddenly, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:8-9 CSB)

Years ago I worked in residential construction contracting. We primarily did new construction. Ah, there is something invigorating about watching newly framed walls being raised against the backdrop of an autumn sky! However, we sometimes would restore old buildings. When God saves us, he renews us, but afterwards, we might require restoration. He restores my soul (Psalm 23:3 NIV).

Even God’s prophet needed restoration. Remember Elijah’s problems: fear, fatigue, false view of himself, and failure to work out his theology personally and practically. Now we see God dealing graciously with Elijah, not because he deserved it, but because of God’s free grace. In this section we want to examine God’s wondrous way of working in grace to accomplish his purposes. Remember that the Bible tells us God’s story; God is revealing his surpassing power and significance through what he accomplishes, even when we his people fail.

God does not always work in the way that we expect him to work (19:11-13). The setting was Mt. Horeb. It was at Horeb, also called Sinai, that God had made the law covenant with his people Israel. See Deuteronomy 4:10-14. Consider the physical effects at that time: fire, the mountain trembled, and loud noise. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder (Exodus 19:18-19 ESV; cf. Hebrews 12:18-21).

For unknown reasons, Elijah went to Horeb. From verse nine, we can deduce it wasn’t God who directed him there. People do many strange things when they are troubled spiritually and emotionally. Let’s not be quick to judge suffering people. We don’t know exactly what Elijah expected to find there. Sometimes it is hard to know why people do what they do; to know what they are looking for in religious experience. Here are some ways people seek to charge themselves up emotionally through “spiritual” means.

  • Solemn formalism
  • Entertaining services
  • Heart-wrenching stories
  • Beaten, guilty consciences
  • Dynamic, exciting praise

When I was a pastor in a local church, I’d have people come to me after a service and tell me, “It felt like God was here today!” I wondered how they would seriously answer, “How can you know that God is here? You can’t see him or touch him. You can only experience his presence through faith.” Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6 CSB). Faith requires confidence in his being and the truth of his promises. When you do his will, then you will know (John 7:17). When you know the Lord, you know his love, his joy, his peace, and his hope! Has the Lord, the living God ever met you?

God appeared to him in a different way than he had to Moses and Israel. We can never put God in a box and demand or expect that he will act the way that we want him to act. God acts in conformity with his own will, not ours.

God deals with us in a different way. Seriously and attentively think through Hebrews 12:22-24 and the surrounding context. We are under a new covenant; the old has passed away. Therefore, we should not seek physical signs of God’s power, but the spiritual blessings his power produces.

How did God restore Elijah? By speaking to him on the mount with a gentle whisper. He let Elijah know that he is always present, even if it is in ways that we do not expect. Does God still speak to his people today? Yes, but not in an audible voice, but in the Scriptures. Today, if you hear his voice… (Hebrews 3:7, 15 NIV). Dear friend in need of restoration, the same God who spoke to Elijah still speaks today!

Grace and peace, David

Elijah: A Man Like Us (Part Two)

1 Kings 19:1-11a

There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by” (19:9b-11a NIV).

We continue to look at the great contrast in Elijah as recorded 1 Kings 18 and 19. In chapter 18, we read of Elijah standing boldly before hostile false prophets, a wicked king and people that had walked away from the Lord to worship false gods; in chapter 19 he flees from a threat of one woman, Jezebel. What caused this? We can discern four reasons. The first was that he gave way to fear, and the second was physical and spiritual fatigue. He was worn out from the events. Now, let’s think on two other reasons.

Elijah had a false view of himself, an aggravated sense of importance (19:9b-10). He justified himself. “I have been very zealous….” Do we really know ourselves well enough to ever say this? We need the evaluation of the Spirit of God. Search me, God, and know my heart;     test me and know my concerns (Psalm 139:23 CSB). Who can measure up to all that God requires? Luke 17:7-10. For example, remember the rich young man (Mark 10:20).

With a high view of himself, Elijah blamed others. “The Israelites have….” These two actions usually go together. When we think too highly of ourselves, we look down on others. Let us not imagine ourselves better than Elijah.  There are various ways we can do this. “If only brother ________ or sister ________ would _________.” “If only the pastor would ___________.” And even pastors say, “If only the people would ________.” And so Elijah exalted himself rather than humbled himself. He assumed that he was the only one left to stand for God. It is easy to fall into the trap of imagining that we are indispensable to God. The Lord corrected Elijah on this point later.

Elijah failed to work out his theology personally and practically (19:11). This was his basic problem. Too often we concentrate on the effects and not the cause. Too many incompetent doctors treat the symptoms instead of the disease. (At this point, we could talk about how to talk with your physician, but that is another subject.) Sadly, Christians do the same thing when they talk with one another or evaluate themselves. For example, we might talk with somebody battling depression or discontentment. A quick answer fails to solve the problem, such as saying, “Get more involved” or “Come (to church) expecting a blessing”. I’ve heard such shallow “cures” offered to people. We need to ask questions and seek Biblical answers. We are too impatient and too lazy. Or think of those struggling with a lack of assurance of salvation. Some want a quick answer, such as “read the verses on assurance and believe them” or “pull out your decision card”. But we should examine ourselves. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB).

This is where God begins to correct Elijah. Sometimes we need to return to square one. Remember how God corrected Job in his trials (Job 38:1ff). We need to remember what we are: “the best of people are but people at their best.” No one is invulnerable, including those who are most in prayer.

It is easy to get four “F’s” on your spiritual report card. Exercise fear instead of faith; overexert your body; become puffed up, and put your theology on the shelf. However, it is better to trust, to take care of our bodies, to see ourselves in the light of God’s word, and to realize that sound teaching produces healthy living. What can you learn from Elijah today?

Grace and peace, David

Elijah: A Man Like Us (Part One)

1 Kings 19:1-11a

Consider the great contrast between chapters 18 and 19. It is hard to comprehend that they are speaking of the same person. In chapter 18, we read of Elijah standing boldly before hostile false prophets, a wicked king and people that had walked away from the Lord to worship false gods; in chapter 19 he flees from a threat of one woman, Jezebel.

A great victory does not prevent future troubles, whether it was a victory in service to God or a victory over remaining sin. People hope to solve all their problems by triumph in one shining moment. “Let’s win this one victory so we can get on with our lives.” We should never think that sin, the rebellious world and the evil one will surrender so easily. The believer’s life is a constant warfare against sin. Why else would we need the full armor of God?

Let us think about some problems that Elijah faced immediately after seeing God answer his prayers for fire and rain.

Elijah felt the pressure of fear (19:1-3). He looked in the wrong direction. It’s amazing how quickly we can lose the proper spiritual outlook. Peter experienced this while walking on the water with Jesus (Matthew 14). Remember what happened to the ten spies (Numbers 13:33). They had known God’s miraculous provision and victory over two powerful enemies within two years. Yet they did not believe that God was able to give them the land.

Elijah fell into fear, because he did not wait for the Lord’s direction. Contrast 1 Kings 17:2-4, 8-9; 18:1. He had done so well before, but he did not wait for a word from the Lord now. By the way, it’s useless to speculate about “what would have happened if….” Don’t waste your time in empty wishing that you would have done something different. Repent, believe and get on with the good work of serving the living God. In the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan, the Great Lion, says to one of the children, Lucy, “Child, I do not tell people what would have happened.”

Even in his failure, the Lord was working for his prophet’s preservation. Elijah failed to see what God was doing for him at the very time he fell into fear. Why didn’t Jezebel slay Elijah immediately? Why did she wait? The Bible teaches us confidence in the living God who controls everything. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1). The Lord can protect when everything seems hopeless.

Elijah felt the pressure of fatigue (19:4-6). We must be aware of the effect of our bodies upon our souls. A human is a functional unity of the spiritual and the physical. Jesus told his disciples that they needed to rest (Mark 6:30-32). Not only does the body affect the soul, but the soul can also affect the body. Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (Proverbs 16:24 NIV; cf. 17:22). This physical fatigue influenced Elijah to pray foolishly (19:4). It is grace that some of our prayers are answered “no”, because we can ask for some foolish things. I do not think that Elijah really wanted to die. If he did, he could have stayed where he was and Jezebel would have been happy to cooperate. God wisely and lovingly supplied what tired Elijah really needed then. He gave him sleep (Psalm 103:13-14), and he gave him food.

We must apply this knowledge to ourselves. Some cases of spiritual depression have physical roots. If your soul is down in the dumps, you may be ill or mistreating your body. You may need to see a medical doctor. Make sure you have proper rest. Choose wisely when you read your Bible. This can involve hard choices for busy moms. Some people function quite well at night and they can profit from Bible reading late at night. You may not be that way. You may be a morning or an afternoon type of person. Know yourself. The axiomatic wisdom of Jack Sprat. Know the rest you need before you go to church services. Get to bed earlier on Saturday night.

Grace and peace, David