Wavering Between Two Opinions (Part One)

1 Kings 18:16-24

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.

  • Since they were the visible people of God (Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5). There lack of positive response to the Lord would be like my children demanding that I produce their birth certificates or DNA testing that they might know that I am their father.
  • Since God had done so much for them in the past (Psalm 78). God had blessed his people through many generations. They ought to have sought the one who had made them his own and provided for them.
  • Since God was fulfilling the “curses of the covenant” upon them (Deuteronomy 28:15, 22-24). It was time to seek the Lord.

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

The Holy Spirit (Part 16)

Genesis 1

First on our “tour” of the dimly lit chamber of the Old Testament Scriptures, we view the Spirit of God as Almighty Creator. The first glimpse we have of the Spirit in the Bible is in its second verse. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:2 CSB).

If you were reading the Hebrew Bible for the first time, you might wonder what the “Spirit of God” meant. The word translated “Spirit” is ruach, which means at its basic level “the expulsion of wind or breath, the idea of air in motion” (Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, p. 16). The first-time reader, or any perhaps reader unfamiliar with the clearer teaching of the New Testament Scriptures, might think this was merely a poetic way of describing God’s creating work.

The idea of ruach is not so much immateriality as energy or power. See, for example, 1 Kings 10:4-5; Micah 3:8. By his ruach, the Lord, Yahweh, gave power to the judges (Judges 3:10; 14:6), called his prophets to their work (Ezekiel 3:12,14), created the stars (Psalm 33:6) and governs the world (Isaiah 40:7; 59:19). All these verses proclaim an extremely powerful Person. So then, we can learn how irresistible is the ruach of Yahweh. Can you remember the old commercial about EF Hutton? “When EF Hutton speaks, people listen?” Not exactly! But when the Holy Spirit of God speaks and works with his almighty power, people do listen and respond to his gentle whisper.

As you read the text more carefully, you notice something: The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The word for hover is used only two other times. In Jeremiah 23:9 it is used poetically of bones, but significantly, it is used in Deuteronomy 32:11 of God’s caring action over his people Israel. The picture in Genesis 1:2 is of the ruach of God working over the formless creation to form it to be a place where people, who could seek the Lord, would live (Isaiah 45:18).

In addition, we can learn more about the ruach of God from Genesis One. Look at 1:26 carefully. God is speaking on the sixth day of creation, and he says, “Let us make man in our image….” Within the context of this passage, the only possible reference point of creative power is the ruach of God, the Spirit of God, mentioned in verse two. Thus in the first chapter of the Bible, we have witness to the Spirit of God being addressed in a personal way as a divine Person. This alone does not prove the Trinity, but it is a signpost pointing to it. This agrees with other Old Testament references about the Spirit’s work in creation (Job 26:11-14; 33:4) and in his ongoing renewal of creation (Psalm 104:30).

On this first step on our “tour”, we learn that the Spirit of God has divine power to bring God’s plan of creation into full realization. As the Son of God made the world (John 1:3; etc.), the Spirit of the Lord acted with him, bringing all to the Father’s perfect design. We are, therefore, considering someone who is almighty and wise, and we do well to bow before him and worship. He knows the mind of the Lord and has all-sufficient power to perform his will perfectly. He is more than able to help us.

Grace and peace, David