Fire from Heaven (Part Three)

2 Kings 1:1-18

“If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men (1:12 NIV).

As the Lord God tells the story of his glory in the Scriptures, he uses events like Elijah calling fire from heaven to make known his supreme majesty. He alone is God and there is no one else. By the act, God proclaimed through his prophet, “There is no other god,” and he does not want us to entertain that empty notion for a moment. For this reason, we do well to ask, “Why is this important in our lives?

We are morally responsible to honor only the living God as God. I know that responsibility and duty are forbidden words among people obsessed with their own supposed freedom, but God makes clear the obligation of all people everywhere to confess that the Lord alone is God.

Here is a brief overview of teaching of the New Testament Scriptures honoring God as our only God.

  • They set forth clear instruction. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.
  • They condemn the transgression of this command. Romans 1:18-25.
  • They forbid a lifestyle built on the transgression of this command. Ephesians 4:17-24.
  • They command and commend repentance in relation to this command. Acts 17:30; 1 Thessalonians 1:9.
  • They command positive action consist with the God. 1 Corinthians 1:31.

We who believe and follow Christ desire to see this command realized in the hearts and lives of people, since God’s laws are written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10), and since the Holy Spirit has been given to us to produce a holy way of life that reflects obedience to this command (Romans 7:4-6).

However, we do not enforce obedience to this command by physical means in this new covenant age. Biblically speaking, the church is not and never was a physical nation. Yet with great sorrow we admit that many have tried to join church and state, and they have brought great shame to the cause of God and truth. Examples of this wrong are medieval Roman Catholicism, Calvin’s Geneva, and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in colonial America. Even today there remains a desire among certain Christians to want to go back to the lifestyle of the old covenant theocracy and to use the “sword” to punish wrong-doers, or to call upon God to so punish. But let us avoid this error by thinking on and acting consistently with:

  • Christ’s correction of the mistake of the disciples (Luke 9:51-56).
  • The clear declaration of the Lord Jesus about his kingdom (John 18:36).
  • The correction given by the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).

What methods, then, may we use today to promote God’s honor in world of hatred and violence? (We know that we live in a climate of spiritual warfare also, Ephesians 6:10-18.)

  • A godly life that exemplifies the truth we claim to believe. This must begin in the home. And it demands love of other believers (John 13:34-35). We must go out in the world together where people of the world can observe that we do love one another.
  • A witness of the truth. Use the sword of the Spirit, God’s word, to spread the good news (Acts 8:4). When we get to the place where we are in conversations with them about life, we must tell them the good news of Jesus Christ.
  • A consistent life of prayer. God acts through praying people.

Grace and peace, David

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

Psalm Nineteen (Part Two)

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (19:2-4b NIV).

People like to gaze up at the sky and into the heavens above. Sharon and I live in a suburban area, and we rarely can see many stars. There are too many lights around us. At such times, we miss upstate New York. When we can be out in the country, we like to star gaze. I suspect you do, too. In these verses, David considered the revelation that God has made in nature, specifically, in the sun and the stars.

Day after day they pour forth speech…. David next entered into a more particular explanation of the principle stated in verse one. We might picture a storyteller starting at first light with his tale, continuing it until the sun sets, but then another storyteller comes on the scene to continue the same story! “They ‘pour forth’ or literally ‘bubble forth’ their information. As someone has rightly remarked, it is as though their eloquent testimony bubbled forth at every crack and cranny of the universe” (Leupold). Speech: David emphasizes that everyday the creation communicates with mankind about their Creator. God has a twenty-four hour “TV station or web page” that only broadcasts commercials—messages about his glory. The creation says to mankind, “Stop, listen to my voice, and think about what I am telling you about the glory of God.”

Night after night they reveal knowledge. The night is usually the time for rest, sleep, and the pursuit of pleasure. The creation, however, is always at work preaching the glory of God. What an advantage may be received by people from this preacher! Until recently, people were unable to know little about the universe around him during the daytime. Sometimes the moon is still visible early in the day, and there is the occasional morning star or supernova, but it is the night that reveals the immensity of the universe. It displays knowledge not easily received otherwise; even the most illiterate can look up and read a vast library regarding the glory of the Lord.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Since the Tower of Babel, mankind has been under the judgment of many different languages, which has hindered human progress and frustrated mankind’s pride. How difficult it can be to understand someone from another language! Yet God is not frustrated in communicating with people. His creation speaks to people of all languages, so that all are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Observe that there are no “innocent heathen”, but that all are responsible to God because of the message of creation. They all are able to hear the language that the heavens speak.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Verse four is quoted in Romans 10:18, in that great passage about the sovereignty of God in the spread of the gospel (good news). No one will be able to say on that day of judgment that he or she never heard about the Creator, because the Lord has had his words about his glory and his work proclaimed to the ends of the world. But someone may object, “But this message tells nothing about the way of salvation! That doesn’t seem fair!” However, God is most just. Since they refuse to listen to the message of his glory and suppress it constantly (day after day… night after night), God cannot be blamed for not sending another message, the good news of his Son.

When we tell others the good news, we do not go among those who have never heard, but among those who refuse to listen—a hostile audience. Don’t be surprised when they will not listen to you. To turn someone from darkness to light requires the action of the Holy Spirit with God’s word. We can and should tell others the word, and at the same time, we must pray for the Holy Spirit to produce spiritual life as they hear the word. For whom are you praying?

Grace and peace, David

The Tragic Outcome of the Uncertain Journey

IMG_1017Ruth 1:3-5

We again look at a small family, who left the Promised Land of God’s old covenant people to seek an easier life. It wasn’t a far departure, but it was unnecessary and away from the people and worship of the true and living God. (Remember that under the old covenant, worship of God was closely connected with the place God had chosen for the tabernacle or temple.) What happened to that family?

First, Elimelech died. We must be cautious here, because the Holy Spirit does not say that his death was due to being in Moab or because he failed to return to the Promised Land. Physical suffering and death may come for a variety of reasons. You can be living for God’s glory and still suffer or die. But for Naomi, this was a great tragedy, regardless of its cause. For a woman in ancient times, like Naomi, the death of her husband had serious financial consequences. Most women had no job they could fall back on, and there was no insurance or social security or welfare system. A widow basically had three options: to return to her parent’s home (if she could), to beg, or to become a prostitute. In addition, Naomi and her sons are resident aliens, away from family and the people of God. All that Naomi can depend on, in a worldly sense, is support from her two sons.

Second, Mahlon and Kilion married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. This is to be expected in the circumstances. Young people tend to make friends and fall in love with available companions of the opposite sex. If there are not godly people available, they will be guided by mere physical and emotional attraction. Marriage to anyone from a Canaanite people group was forbidden by the law (Deuteronomy 7:1-4). Although Moabites were not Canaanites, the Lord restricted them from entering the congregation of his people, even for ten generations (Deuteronomy 23:3-6). Later in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, intermarriage with Moabites was considered to be a cause of guilt before the Lord (Ezra 9:1-2; Nehemiah 13:1-3). The Lord wanted his people separate from those who worshiped idols.  How much influence Naomi had over her sons at this point is unclear. Please do not blame either parents or children for the choices that the other generation makes! Parents and children are alike responsible to God for their choices. And do not expect God to bail you out of unwise marital choices! For every Ruth, there is also an Orpah. Now Naomi has to deal with the complications of having Moabite daughters-in-law. Seemingly, they got along well, and everything appears to be viable for Naomi.

Third, Naomi’s sons die by the time they had been in Moab for ten years. Again, the text does not say that her sons were being punished for sin. But it is a reminder that death can strike younger adults. Two of my best friends died around the age of thirty. Seek the Lord while you are young! Now Naomi is left without any provision in a foreign country. Picture her grief and fear as she stands beside three graves. Her hopelessness is accentuated in the story by not mentioning her name. In the Hebrew text (cf. ESV, NASV), she is now simply “the woman”; she has lost her family and with it her identity.

What hope was there for Naomi at this point? Was there any? She was living as a resident alien among an ungodly people and without the protection that God and his law covenant provided for the widow. Had this rushing river of tragedy proved that God has abandoned her? Before you rush to give a “spiritual sounding answer”, please stop and feel the horror of her situation! The Bible seems too good to some people, because they fail to read it as a story of real life. However, the story is filled with many stories of suffering and hardship for even the best of believers. Stop and read thoughtfully. Yet, the good news is that God calls wandering people back to him, regardless of the reasons and ways of their wandering. If you feel “alone in Moab” like Naomi, God welcomes you back home through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. He says, “Come home! Find friendship and joy with me and my people!” This good news can be yours today. Don’t let pride hinder you. Return to the true and living God today.

Grace and peace, David