Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part Two)

1 Kings 18:16-24

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.

  • Elijah allowed himself to be opposed by a greater number of pagan priests (18:22). Baal had four hundred fifty priests against the lone prophet of the Lord The odds of “strength in numbers” were decidedly on the side of the Baal’s priests.
  • The test should have been something that Baal could have done if he was a god. Why worship someone who can’t demonstrate his power and defend his own honor?
  • The results would be highly visible. Anyone could “Go and touch the smoldering remains.” This was not a debate about philosophical and religious systems. People love to sit back and assume that they are capable of making such evaluations. No, this would furnish indisputable evidence in the real world.

The specifications for the confrontation were identical (18:23-24).

  • There was the same sacrifice: One bull. Elijah allowed his opponents to choose which one they wanted. This would prevent charges about him choosing the best for the Lord and the worst for Baal.
  • They were to use the same method: Sacrifice the bull and pray for fire.
  • Both sides were forbidden to “help” their God or god win. Neither could use fire.

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

John and His Message (Part Two)

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Luke 3:7-9

He then said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (CSB).

John the Baptist did what the Lord called him to do. He went out in the desert and proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3 CSB). It seemed like an unlikely and unpromising place to start a great work of God, such as the coming of the Messiah was promised to be (cf. Isaiah 35.) However, God’s ways are not our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8). Who would go out into the desert to hear a preacher? The Lord did everything to make sure that John’s ministry would not rest in the power of man but the power of God. This is what most contemporary churches need to hear, because their “back door is as big as their front door.” Human schemes are no substitute for God’s word, prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Some churches will do some sort of “40 Days of Prayer” program, be excited during it, and then… “We prayed for forty days, revival didn’t come, so let’s try something else.” That was not what John the Baptist did. He went out to the desert, preached the Lord’s message, and God sent the people. Crowds came to be baptized by him with a baptism of repentance. So then, what were John’s sermons like?

He did not try to please people (3:7). You do not please people by calling them a brood of vipers! Imagine entering any contemporary church and being a viper, which is clearly symbolic of being an evil person. The crowds in our time would not stay; they would walk out. Contemporary churches are ashamed of sin and afraid to call people sinners. They want everyone to feel comfortable. They want to be thought well of in their local community. They want everyone to like them. John the Baptist lacked such concerns. Please listen carefully. I am not talking about being rude and obnoxious. We ought to welcome people with joy. But that must never obscure the truth of the sinfulness of all people everywhere. We must tell people who they are in the presence of the holy God. That is what John was doing as he preached to his people. He was not afraid to challenge people “in his church” that they might actually be a brood of vipers! How would you react if your pastor dared to say something similar in your local church this Sunday?

He told people to change (3:8). Repentance is a change of mind, as we said in our previous post in this series. Repentant people think differently in their hearts about God, themselves, sin, Christ, and the way of salvation. This inward turn produces changes in people, both internally (ideas, attitudes, expectations, etc.) and externally in the behavior. The repentant person changes the way they walk and talk. By the way, many professing Christians need to stop using the substitute obscene and profane language they use to color their speech. So that no one misses the point, I mean all the substitute “F” words and “bathroom” words. Consider Ephesians 4:29; 5:4; Colossians 3:8. Crude speech is not the right means to lead others in godly ways. The fruit of repentance is godliness, the character that shows that a person is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:10 NIV). It is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and “the new clothing” of the new person (Colossians 3:12-17). It is what we add to our faith (2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV).

He turned people from false hopes (3:8). As the last of the old covenant prophets and the forerunner of the new age, John warned the people not to trust in their ethnic heritage. Far too many rely on their descent for assurance that God accepts them. The people of God in the new covenant are only repentant believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Your physical heritage counts for nothing in God’s sight (John 1:11-13; Romans 2:9; 3:23; 9:6-8; Colossians 3:11). What does count is the grace of God freely given through Jesus Christ. In him, you can be part of the people of God!

He warned them of the wrath to come (3:9). Yes, John did not make people feel comfortable. He wanted all outside of God’s grace to feel very uncomfortable! Again, the contemporary church doesn’t want to offend anyone. Political correctness rules the day, unless it is something distasteful to their own political agenda, but that is another subject. People do not want to hear of the fires of the wrath of God. They are like people whistling as they pass a cemetery, but in this case, it is not a cemetery but hell itself. The are like toddlers playing “peekaboo”, assuming that if they don’t hear about hell, it doesn’t exist. John told the crowds the truth. We do not help people by failing to tell them their very serious problem before the throne of God.

John the Baptist was faithful to his mission. May we be faithful to the mission the Lord Jesus has given us (Luke 24:45-47).

Grace and peace, David

The Bigger Story (Part Three)

IMG_0993Ruth 4:13-22

Our God and Father always works to fulfill purpose through Jesus Christ the Lord. God acts in our lives in many ways to bring about the true story of his glory. As the Spirit of God says, This is according to His eternal purpose accomplished in the Messiah, Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11 HCSB). The end of the book of Ruth shows that it is much more than a little story about two struggling widows who needed a kinsman redeemer to set them free and provide for them. It is part of a bigger story, about God providing a king for Israel: David. And that bigger story is actually part of the biggest story, for David is the one of the top two people in the line of Jesus the Anointed (Matthew 1:1). All that happened in the story was controlled by God to lead up to David. In this story of Ruth, God was writing a much bigger story than any of the characters imagined.

There are ten names in the genealogy. Not everyone from generation to generation is recorded; instead, “father” means ancestor in some sense. Biblical genealogies are lists of significance; fifth and seventh names in such lists were held in special honor. In this list, the fifth is Nahshon, the tribal leader of Judah during the wilderness (cf. Numbers 1:7; 2:3; 7:12, 27), and the seventh is Boaz, the kinsman-redeemer, the man who acted with costly kindness and love.

God has a purpose he is working out in human history; he does this through people. God tells us selected names in his word to highlight his involvement with real people in human history. They are not “just a bunch of names”; no, they are people, like you and me. All of them had a significant part in the line of the Messiah.

God works within a covenant community. This list spans many centuries (seven or eight centuries!) in the old covenant era. The Lord’s purpose worked out gradually over a long time. God’s new covenant community stretches over twenty centuries now. We are part of a bigger story than our own lives. We can read of Christians of other times and places and realize that we are part of the story of God’s glory with them

Ruth had gone to Israel to seek refuge under God’s wings (2:12). Does God reward those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6)? Yes, he does! Who could have forecast such a destiny for this widow from an outcast, despised people group? The Lord did more for her than she could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21), by putting this outcast widow into the line of the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-17)! As God’s worked out his purpose in this line of people, his goal was not a neat and tidy list, filled with “nice” people. Think of the not so nice people we read of in this genealogy. There is shrewd Abraham, self-centered Isaac, deceiving Jacob, and incestuous Judah and Tamar. Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth a childless widow, and David, oh David, for all God’s blessings on him was an adulterer and murderer. After David, the line continued with Solomon, who was sexually immoral, Rehoboam would not listen to wise counsel, Uzziah was filled with pride, and Manasseh was an idolater, who sacrificed his own children to idols.

Jesus came to save his people from their sins. Even his own family line was filled with sinners, yet he came to be the friend of sinners. Is Jesus your friend? Turn from your selfish ways and trust Jesus to save you; he is the sinner’s friend. God builds his church with outcasts (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). They have a place in God’s heart; do they have a place in ours?

We have reached the end of Ruth. I hope that you have profited from these articles. I especially pray that they are used by God to lead us all to bring glory to the God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace and peace, David