Strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (14:22 CSB).
We continue our theme of what churches ought to do in their ministry. However, we must always be aware of a trap, the checklist trap. This wrong idea makes us suppose that if our behavior conforms to a series of actions (rules, laws, standards, steps in mission, etc.) that we therefore have a godly local church. But God is more concerned about the internal matters of our hearts, including a collective heart of a church, which will lead to godly action. God’s work is always a matter of what Paul states elsewhere. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love (Galatians 5:6 CSB). In addition, joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17) and the peace of Christ (Colossians 3:16) are essential. With that reminder, let us continue to look at this pattern for church ministry.
Strengthening the disciples. This is usually referred to as “disciple making” by many writers. I will not talk in detail about that misstatement, except to say that we make disciples by telling the good news of Jesus. Every believer in the Lord Jesus is a disciple (or learner) of him. Notice what the Lord said in Matthew 28:19-20a (NIV): Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. First, a disciple is made, next baptized, and then taught. What is usually called “disciple making” is in reality simply teaching disciples to obey what the Lord has commanded us.
Why is it important to know this? I will suggest a couple reasons.
So then, are you being strengthened in your local church? Are you part of the process of strengthening others with the truth that you have been taught by God? Use your life for the benefit of others. You’ll discover how God uses you in his plan.
Grace and peace, David]]>
After they had preached the gospel in that town and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch… (14:21 CSB)
The book of Acts shows the continuing acts of Jesus the Messiah by the Holy Spirit through the apostles (sent ones). Much of this work concerned the starting and building up churches (local gatherings of followers of Jesus Christ). Paul and Barnabas had gone out from Antioch on what proved to be a hazardous journey to labor with the Lord in this good work. After several trials, they were able to start a couple churches. From those churches, the message of salvation would spread throughout the interior of Asia Minor. Luke gives us the bullet points of what they did to help us in what we ought to do to spread everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV). We need to take these verses to heart, because our churches seem to lack any Biblical idea of what they are supposed to do.
Real life ministry. The apostles entered Derbe after a narrow escape in Lystra. Opposition to their message was intense, even more, it was vicious. The point is that it was not an easy situation. At church picnics we used to play ballgames with plastic balls and bats. That is not what Barnabas and Paul were involved in. This was major league hardball where the opponents were cutthroat. The Lord did not put them in places set up for their success, which some suppose was the case. They went where the situation could turn deadly (cf. Acts 14:19). This provides us with hope. Many local churches feel defeated when their outreach initiatives are rejected by the community. The apostles continued when people were throwing rocks at them. We must expect setbacks; we need to persevere in faith.
Preaching. This is the means that contemporary people assume cannot work any longer. Some say, it might have worked for the apostles and men like Calvin, Whitefield, and Spurgeon when there were far less distractions. It might have worked for Billy Graham in the last century when people were still fascinated by large religious crowds and television. But not today. And so the church walks away from the means the Holy Spirit uses. To preach is to proclaim God’s word, the Bible, and to call people to respond by changing their minds and believing the truth of the word. I do a lot of small group ministry where there is much discussion. I think that is also a valid and important means that the Spirit of God wants us to use. But he also tells us to Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2 NIV).
The gospel—the good news. This is the message of salvation in Christ Jesus the Lord and what he accomplished through his death and resurrection. Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1, 2-4 ESV). When we tell people the good news, we speak of a person, God’s Anointed One (Christ or Messiah) that he sent to deal with the most important issue separating us from God; namely our sins (our rejection of the living God as our God, our refusal to love him, and our rebellion against him and his commands). This is a message of grace. God took the initiative and did what was necessary. Now, we can be right with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We have Christ’s righteousness credited to our account (Romans 3:21-4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). Since we are united to Christ, God fully accepts us for Jesus’ sake. Rejoice in that!
They made disciples. This is our mission, our purpose, our goal (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 1:17). A local church does not exist to build a building to seat people to collect money from them, so that the church can build a bigger or nicer building! The church is not a place you go to, but people in Christ with whom you share new life in Christ. We seek to make people learners (disciples) of Christ, so that they can glorify God by enjoying him forever.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s learn from the example of the apostles. They were concerned about the glory of God and the good of people. Let’s get involved in the mission that the Lord Jesus has given to us.
Grace and peace, David]]>
Verses two through eight presents five vital experiences of the saints (those set apart for God, which is a basic idea about true believers.) Each of us should seek to know each of these experiences in an increasing measure. Salvation is not some kind of “fire insurance policy” but the experience of eternal life with God that begins now. Each ideally will develop in an increasing measure. The five experiences are:
Unfortunately, some approach the Bible and its message with mere intellectual curiosity. They like to hear “steps for successful living” or how to be prosperous or moral or have a happy family or whatever quest they’re into. The Bible becomes a manual that provides a philosophy for life or counsel about how to get through their problems. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said years ago, they have “taken up” Christianity, but Christianity has never taken hold of them. To them, it is practical information without spiritual transformation. This psalm does not permit such an approach. It speaks of the person whom the true and living God has “taken up”. Against a barren assent or knowledge, this psalm tells us of spiritual experience with God as the center, as the great desire of the heart. King David’s purpose in this song is to shout out that God himself may be known!
It is important to remember that David lived during the time when the law or old covenant governed a person’s approach to God. His worship had to be through physical means like sacrifices offered at an altar at the earthly sanctuary, the tabernacle. We must think about the means he needed to use in worship. Certainly, all believers in God in all ages know God himself through faith. My point does not concern the reality of fellowship with God, or even whether any particular believer in one age of redemptive history had a greater desire for or intimacy with God than a believer in a different age. Everything is in proportion to one’s faith. But we ought to keep in mind the historical setting of this psalm.
When David wrote “in the sanctuary”, he meant that physical place chosen by God as the home of the Ark of the Covenant. Earlier in Israel’s history, this had been the tabernacle built in the time of Moses; later it would be the temple constructed by Solomon. David lived in a transitional period, and he meant the tent he had erected to house the Ark. During the law covenant, God revealed his glory in connection with the Ark. The old covenant people could see the cloud of glory arising from above the gold mercy seat of the Ark, between “the wings of the cherubim”. Part of David’s experience was very physical.
In the new covenant, believers in Jesus the Messiah are God’s temple or sanctuary. For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people (2 Corinthians 6:17 NIV; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:4-5; etc.) We do not go to a place to see a physical appearance of God’s glory, but the Spirit of glory and of God rests on us (1 Peter 4:14 NIV). When we are with other believers in Jesus, we form the temple of God that we already are. The Lord Jesus is present in such gatherings (Matthew 18:20). This truth should cause us to worship together with reverence and awe! By faith we can see the Living One in our sanctuary! Since we are God’s temple, we can know his spiritual presence (which is very real; something does not have to be material to be real, witness God himself.) In our gatherings, we should see his power and glory. We should see his power in the transformation of lives. We should realize that there is shining spiritual glory in our meetings. We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18 CSB).
Grace and peace, David]]>
David begins with a basic confession of faith. God, you are my God… David confessed that trouble, heartache, anguish, and even spiritual discipline for his sins could not affect his relationship with his God. The Lord was as much his God in the Desert of Judah as when he was in the palace in Jerusalem. It might be easier for us to declare our faith when all is well, but faith will freely speak with conviction when hard pressed. His statement was based on the core covenant promise made by God to his chosen people (Genesis 17:7-8; cf. Hebrews 8:10 for the same in the new covenant.) Our world may collapse around us, but God’s covenant faithfulness never changes. He is our God at all times. We may always call him my God. “How sweet is such language! Is there any other word comparable to it for delights?” (Spurgeon)
Flowing from this confession of faith is David’s fervent search for a sense of God’s gracious presence. He wants to know, to sense that God is with him in his trial! Haven’t all believers experienced this? “The longing of these verses is not the groping of a stranger, feeling his way towards God, but the eagerness of a friend, almost of a lover, to be in touch with the one he holds dear” (Kidner).
David sang I eagerly seek you. When in difficulty, it is natural to seek relief. David profited from his affliction by deciding to seek God first (Matthew 6:33). “He doth not say, my soul thirsteth for the blood of my enemies, but my soul thirsteth for thee; nor doth he say, my soul thirsteth for deliverance out of this dry and barren wilderness, but my soul thirsteth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is, nor he doth not say, my soul thirsteth for a crown, a kingdom, but my soul thirsteth for thee…” (The Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 2, p. 91).
I thirst for you; my body faints for you… Observe the involvement of his whole being after God. Though the body may be the instrument of sin (Romans 6:6), the body is created by God and so not evil in itself. Believers should offer their bodies and the parts of their bodies to God, for service to him, instead of in service to sin (Romans 6:12-13, 19; 12:1). We look forward to the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). Observe also the intensity of David’s desire for God. “Thirst is an insatiable longing after that which is one of the most essential supports of life; there is no reasoning with it, no forgetting it, no despising it, no overcoming it by stoical indifference. Thirst will be heard: the whole man must yield to its power…” (Spurgeon).
David continues in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. He sang of the desperate need he felt at that time (2 Samuel 16:2; 17:29). Yet there he found his help in God! We do not have to be in a comfortable place to receive comfort. We may go to God in the most unfavorable situations. As John Piper (Desiring God, p. 24, first edition) pointed out, this also testifies of the true character of God. The Lord is happy, joyful, content, and satisfied. Who would want to seek someone who was frustrated, dismal, gloomy, and discontented? When we see God in his glory (Psalm 115:3; Revelation 4:11; etc.), we realize that he is more than able to help us in our misery.
My friend, are you thirsty today? Hear anew the invitation of the Lord Jesus. On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-38 NIV). Go to the Lord and drink deeply!
Grace and peace, David]]>
David wrote this psalm when he was in the desert of Judah. This probably refers to the time of his flight from his son Absalom (cf. 2 Samuel 15-17). This was a time of great sorrow and deprivation for David. His emotions were stretched to the limit, and we can see him making some unwise choices and saying harmful things, as well as acting godly. All of us are a strange, even weird mixture of grace and sin. Let’s not be too critical of David and remember our own weaknesses. David became a temporary exile from the center of law covenant worship in Jerusalem. Being away from worship is a burden for those who love the Lord (cf. Psalms 42-43). Adding to David’s grief was the knowledge that all this came as discipline from the Lord for his sins connected with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Samuel 12:9-12).
During this situation, David wrote this psalm to record what he learned about the relationship between the covenant Lord and his people. He learned that believers can sing even when they are in desert places, because the thirsting soul finds satisfaction in God. This ought to encourage us all, since our lives have many such times, even prolonged seasons of drought. We do not need to wait until we arrive at a spiritual high to experience God. We can know him in deep trials and when troubles multiply. I have recently seen a dear brother and sister in Christ go through such a time; indeed, they are not out of it yet. But it is stirring to see them rejoice in the Lord. Think of three others who experienced God in the desert—Hagar, Moses, and Elijah.
This psalm is intensely personal. Sixteen times David spoke about his relationship with the living God. His friendship with God was far from the ritualistic or legalistic performance mentality of many religious people. God can be known personally. We can experience his personal activity in our lives. We can know his presence when we are separated from the “sanctuary” (tabernacle or temple in the old covenant and the local gathering of Christ’s people in the new covenant age). It is good to gather with the godly, but it is refreshing to know that he remains with us when we cannot.
From ancient times, this psalm has been known as “the morning psalm of the church” (Leupold). This was due to the translation of “early” instead of “eagerly” or “earnestly” (NIV). “Chrysostom testifies ‘That it was decreed and ordained by the primitive Fathers, that no day should pass without the public singing of this psalm’” (Perowne). While this might not fit with our modern lifestyle and worship, it can be a useful nudge to induce us to refer to it more frequently. The passionate language will help us leave behind the coldness of our disappointments to be warmed in the experience of God’s greatness and love for us. We will learn about how to talk to the God we love.
The psalm can be simply outlined as followed: the believer’s desire of God (63:1), the believer’s experience (63:2-8), and the believer’s security (63:9-11). We want to think about these ideas. What do you do when you are in a desert place? What do you know of God in such circumstances? How can you relate to God in such times? Are you in a desert place now? Please open your Bible and listen with your heart to this song written by a man that knew the misery of desert places.
Grace and peace, David]]>
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read (Luke 4:16 NIV).
I was born in a town in western Pennsylvania, but I never considered that place my home in any sense. It was more an item from a curiosity cabinet that a person looks at occasionally and quickly forgets. I grew up in northeastern Ohio. When I was three months old, I urged my parents to leave PA and move to Cleveland (just kidding), where we lived for a while and then out to the country suburbs. I was brought up in Streetsboro; its chief claim to fame when I was very young was Exit 13 on the Ohio Turnpike, one traffic light, and one truck stop. When I moved there, a couple hundred people called it home. When I graduated from high school, there were over eight thousand residents. It was a growing village in a very disorganized way. If I was named like many people in ancient times were, I would be David from Streetsboro.
Nazareth was an unremarkable little village. Its chief claim to fame was that Jesus grew up there, though he was born in Bethlehem of Judea. When he reached adulthood, he was known as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus worked with his adopted father Joseph as a construction worker. It wasn’t glamorous, but it helped pay the family’s bills. A family of at least nine would have its share of those. I imagine that Jesus did his fair share of “go fer” work during his first years on the job. He knew what it was to sweat, and… his hometown folks had seen him do all that stuff. He worked manual labor just like everyone else. He was nothing special in their eyes. Then one day he left it all and went to listen to a country preacher called John the Baptist. You can hear the middle-aged and older men of Nazareth talking in the village square, “There’s too many young men running off to Judea to hear that Baptist. You can mark it down today; nothing good is going to come of it. Jesus should know better. He’s about thirty years old. Should’ve had a wife and kids by now.” The opinions of people about Jesus in a rough, working-class town would not have been kind or polite.
After some time in Judea, Jesus returned to Galilee with a group of disciples (learners). The construction worker had become a rabbi (teacher). He went to a wedding in Cana with his family and disciples, and reports circulated about a miraculous sign that he had performed there (John 2:11). After a brief visit in Capernaum (John 2:12), he went to Jerusalem for the Passover where he performed several miraculous signs (John 2:23). Jesus toured throughout Judea and Galilee, and even Samaria, for a while, before he returned to his hometown. But now he is known as a rabbi (notice those disciples following him) and a miracle worker. We need to have these things in mind to comprehend what happened during this visit to Nazareth.
Luke placed this account after a summary statement about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (4:14-15). Jesus had done many mighty works, and he had taught in the synagogues. Jesus made it his habit to attend the visible gatherings of the professed people of God. Knowing the response of the people to his message, it was not a requirement that those with him in attendance were spiritual people. (To answer a question before it’s asked, what about us? We ought to look for a place where Christ and the gospel are believed and preached, and love to God and one another are plainly seen. Don’t look for a perfect church. It only takes three visits or less to discover many imperfections in the best local assemblies.) Jesus went among the people of God to honor God and to seek to do good and to tell others the good news. He was sent by God to teach and preach.
Jesus took advantage of their custom that allowed visiting rabbis to read and to teach on a passage of Scripture. I can’t imagine this happening today for several reasons, some very good and some very bad. But Jesus stood up to read in the synagogue in the town where he had been brought up. This means that as a boy and young man and a man, he had sat in this same synagogue and listened to rabbis reach and teach. Finally, it was his turn. What would the “hometown boy” say? Having been in this situation, well… let’s simply say that it is not the easiest audience to speak to, if you want people to respond to God’s Word. The people have other things on their mind than the worship of God and their own repentance and faith.
Practically, how do we listen when we worship with others? Is the worship of God topmost in our desires? Do we want to be transformed by God’s grace as we listen? Do we want to encourage others in the faith? Or do we attend with a self-centered, critical, prideful attitude? Let’s examine ourselves, since joy in the Lord and in others should be our spiritual pulse.
Grace and peace, David]]>
We have considered the need for this confrontation between the Lord’s prophet, Elijah, on one side, and the prophets of the false god and goddess, Baal and Asherah, on the other. God acted to call his people Israel back to himself when they were far away. Let us give thanks to our God that he seeks people!
Next, let’s look at the terms of the confrontation. We should notice the fairness of the terms.
The specifications for the confrontation were identical (18:23-24).
The test clarified. Why can’t we have the same contest today? First, we have no right to demand such a contest. The Lord has already given ample evidence. After he had suffered, he also presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3 CSB). Someone might wish, “If only the resurrection of Christ had happened today! All could have been photographed and videotaped.” I answer, “Would you then believe? Or would you object that it all was a computer-generated deceit?” Second, this miracle was given for the confirmation of the word of God. God acted at this time to prepare Israel for the coming of his Son through them. So then, the principle holds true that was written about the appearance of the Messiah. How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:3-4 ESV). At times of giving new revelation, the Lord testified to its reality by signs, wonders and various miracles. Elijah stood for the Lord at the time when the prophets began their ministry.
Grace and peace, David]]>
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him (NIV).
Up to this point of Luke’s account about Jesus, he had not written about Jesus’ ministry. We know that our Lord grew up in Nazareth and that he went to the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, but Luke has not told us about his ministry in Judea, which we read about in the early chapters of the Gospel of John. Instead, we suddenly read of Jesus returning to Galilee. We might ask why.
Part of the answer is simply that Luke wrote what the Holy Spirit wanted him to. None of the writers provide a biography or life of Christ. They are sacred writings that tell God’s story in Jesus from God’s viewpoint. The Spirit wanted Luke to emphasize some matters and pass by others. In regard to his purpose in the Third Gospel, Luke gives a summary of Jesus’ early ministry in Galilee, since he wants to lead up to the turning point of his book (Luke 9:31, 51). Luke points to the Ascension, which is important in his teaching about all that Jesus accomplished. What can we learn about our Lord? Note well: If we are merely reading the Bible as a self-improvement manual or to have an emotional therapy session, we have been misled about the purpose of the Holy Scriptures. They proclaim the story of God’s glory, they tell us about the Triune God, and they make known how we can know him, who is God over all. For these sufficient reasons, we ought to pay close attention to summary statements like these two verses.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (4:14). The Spirit had led him into the desert to be tempted by the devil, and Jesus triumphed there, being full of the Spirit and using the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Luke wants us to learn that he acted by the power of the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry. In Acts, the Spirit will work through the apostles in the same way. We also are to be filled with the Spirit to serve God submissively in a godly way of life (Ephesians 5:18-21).
As Jesus lived in the power of the Spirit, news about him spread through the whole countryside (4:14). His ministry in Galilee began as other ministries do: from small things. Jesus was not instantly well-known. People had to tell people about his marvelous words and mighty works. God enjoys working with people in his works. He wants us to tell others. Are you telling others about the Lord Jesus whom you’ve met and know?
Jesus was teaching in their synagogues (4:15). The tense indicates that Jesus constantly taught in the synagogues throughout Galilee. Part of his mission was to teach about God’s kingdom (saving reign), and he took advantage of every opportunity to do so. In Colossians 4:5, the Spirit instructs us to make the most of every opportunity. Certainly, everyone needs time to relax, to recover one’s strength, to prepare, to invest time in our family, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. And there are only so many hours in a day at last count! However, how much of your time is it wise to expend on television and social media? Here, we often lack self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
Everyone praised him (4:15). The start of his ministry in Galilee was a time of great popularity. It would not last, as the next section makes clear. People like to hear skillful public speakers. We were made to listen, learn, and think. We enjoy words! Human’s love communication! However, once people started to process what Jesus said, they began to dislike it and him. Sinful people suppress the truth and exchange it for foolishness (Romans 1:18-25). If people come to dislike you, it might be because they’ve come to understand what you’re saying (cf. Isaiah 6:9-13)!
Grace and peace, David]]>
It is easy for Christians to frustrate themselves as they view world conditions and the response of non-Christians to those conditions. If the times are good, then we think that they should give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, because we know that it is meant to lead people to repentance. Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 NIV) And if God’s judgments are present, we think that they will surely turn to God for help. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9 ESV).
The difficulty in both cases is that we underestimate the power of sin over unbelievers. Examine the context in both of those cases. Sin is not something external to man. It is not a slight problem that can be removed by some external pressure (whether mercy or judgment.) But the unsaved are slaves of sin and captives of the devil. Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34 CSB); Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:25-26 NIV). It takes more than good or bad times to change a person; instead, you must be born again!
Elijah had been sent by the Lord to confront a people who had turned away from him. We need to learn from Elijah’s boldness for the faith. Such a stand requires a firm trust in the living God. Let us learn to stand for God boldly as we consider these verses.
Let’s begin with the need for the confrontation between the Lord’s prophet and the false prophets in the presence of the people of Israel. In general, we might think it was strange that such an event was needed at all.
All these were intended to define how they looked at themselves and the world.
God had other particular reasons for this public clash between Elijah and the false prophets.
The Lord desired to vindicate Elijah (18:17). God desired to make known that Elijah was God’s prophet and that he was right in withholding rain. Don’t be surprised, Christian, if you are called a trouble maker (cf. Matthew 5:11-12).
It would serve as a public condemnation of Ahab and his ways (18:18). His sin would specifically be pointed out. Ahab had turned from God to idols. He was involved in both apostasy and idolatry. Blame was placed on him. The Bible teaches human responsibility. If you violate God’s laws, you are guilty.
It would display the condition of the people (18:21). Indifference sets in the hearts of people during a time of religious declension. Various explanations could be given for the people’s silence: They were guilty and didn’t care or want to change. They were guilty but afraid of Ahab. They were guilty and didn’t know how to respond. But in any case, they did not repent.
Let us learn this lesson. We should know the danger of spiritual indifference, which in one way is to be swayed by the visible and sensational rather than the word of God. Let the Scriptures influence your mind, heart, and the choices you make.
Grace and peace, David]]>
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20 NIV).
Sin had greatly increased in Israel, and it seemed like there was no hope. The Lord, their covenant God, had sent his prophet Elijah to announce a horrible drought, which was one of the curses, if Israel disregarded God’s covenant with him. The sky above you will be bronze, and the earth beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your land into falling dust; it will descend on you from the sky until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:23-24). Yet, at this terrible time, the Lord showed his grrace. We see three evidences of his grace.
First, God preserved Elijah for further service to him. God had fed him at the brook and at Zarephath. The Lord also kept Ahab and Jezebel from killing his prophet. He also had taught Elijah valuable lessons about faith that he needed to know in service to God. Elijah was now prepared for the coming contest of God versus Baal on Carmel.
Second, the Lord placed Obadiah in Ahab’s court to protect other of his prophets. When we think all is lost, we can fail to see faithful people whom the Lord has placed near us to help us. Consider Obadiah’s character. He was a godly man (18:3). Like Joseph, Nehemiah and Daniel, Obadiah was faithful to God in a pagan palace. “There is nothing wrong in a child of God holding a position of influence if he can do so without the sacrifice of principle” (Pink). The Lord often has his saints in unlikely places, as in Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22). We can be in the world and not of the world. Obadiah was consistent over a long period of time, for he had worshipped God since his youth (18:12). I am glad to see girls and boys in attendance, when their parents gather to worship the Lord. It is good to begin to serve God when you are young. Don’t let sin ruin you for years! Seek the Lord before the chains of sin harden around you and your mind is polluted with a great deal of sin. Think also of Obadiah’s accomplishments (8:4, 13). He hid the prophets and provided for them. He had bold faith. We thank God for those who have risked their lives to protect God’s persecuted people.
Third, God purposed to send rain again on the land. This was an act of sovereign mercy, for the people still had not called on him in repentance for their idolatry. If we need to wait for any nation to repent before God would act, there would be no hope for any people group. If we even had to wait for the professing church to return to him, we might despair. But God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy (Romans 9:15)! Our hope is in the Sovereign God, not in people! Remember this when you gather with others to pray. This was also an act of faithfulness to Elijah. The prophet had said that there would only be rain at his word (see 17:1), and so the Lord sent Elijah to announce the coming of rain. Here is a principle: God will honor those who honor him (cf. 1 Samuel 2:30).
Let us thank God for the godly who still remain in the nations of the world! Every follower of Christ is a witness to the power of God’s saving grace! If God could save you, my friends, he can save anyone. The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD… (Psalm 37:39 NIV). Let us pray fervently for God to send a new great awakening. Greed, self-love and sexual immorality bind the wills of people. They will not come to him and have life (John 5:40). But King Jesus is able to break those chains, for he is the Great God and Savior! Now is the time to seek the Lord!
Grace and peace, David]]>