Sunday, July 24, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "The LORD Is God!"

“The LORD Is God!”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
July 24, 2016 :: 1 Kings 18:1-46  

Last week, we entered into a new section of the books of Kings. You might call it “The Days of Elijah.”

Because right now, we aren’t learning about all of the kings in the North and the South. We’ve already met 13 of them as the book has progressed (most of them thumbs-down guys), but now we’re concentrating just on the northern kingdom of Israel and not so much on its no-good-very-wicked king Ahab, as on the prophet who has burst onto the scene and fired this first salvo in the war against Baal.

“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

The LORD was turning off the faucet. Because King Ahab and wicked queen Jezebel had “considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat” and began to serve Baal and worship him setting “up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.”

So Elijah declared that it was not going to rain.

And remember, that was a direct attack against the glory of Baal.

Because supposedly Baal was the god of rain. The god of fertility and successful crops.

But there was no fertility and no successful crops.

For three years.

Just think about that. We’ve gone, what three weeks without any real rain here to speak of. And how dry it is.

The good side is that you don’t have to mow.

The bad side is that the grass is all brown and dying.

Imagine going three years.

That whole time Elijah is hiding out from Ahab and Jezebel. They have a contract out on him and any other prophets of Yahweh.

Last week, we saw how the LORD provided for Elijah from unlikely sources like dirty ravens and Gentile widows.

Three years the widow’s flour and her oil don’t run out.

And Elijah lies low under the radar. Actually living in Sidon, Baal-territory.

But now, the LORD has a new mission for Elijah. He’s going to send some rain.

Chapter 18, verse 1.

“After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’”

Ok. I’m going to tell you the title of this sermon now.

And after you hear it, you’ll know the whole point of the story.

So, you can go home after you get this title.

Now, I recommend sticking around to see how it plays out.

And if you already know this story, which probably most of you do (it’s one of the only stories most of us all know from the books of Kings, if you know this story already), I encourage you to pretend that you don’t.

Try to read it and listen to it verse by verse as if you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Because it’s a doozy!

Ok. Are you ready for the title? It’s a doozy, too.

“The LORD Is God!”

Okay. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but it is. It’s one of the most important sentences in the whole history of sentences.

“The LORD [Yahweh] is God!”

“Yahweh is God!”

Now, my guess is that everyone here already believes that. Or why else would you have come to church today?

Maybe somebody dragged you here. Or maybe you’re checking it all out.

If so, I’m glad you’re here.

But most of already know this fact, “The LORD Is God!”

But it’s, strangely enough, easy to forget.

Easy to ignore.

That’s what had happened in Israel. The whole northern kingdom had turned to false worship, even Baal worship.

And the LORD will not stand for it.

Yahweh must demonstrate that He is God alone.

So, He shut off the rain.

And now, He’s told Elijah that He’s going to turn it back on again.

But He wants credit for that. He doesn’t want Baal, the supposed rain god, to get credit for the merciful return of the rain. So, He calls a press conference. V.2

“...the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’ So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria, and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. While Jezebel was killing off the LORD's prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) Ahab had said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.’ So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.”

This gives us a little picture of what these three years have been like.

There are still followers of Yahweh, but they have to be sneaky.

Even the guy in the charge of the palace, Obadiah (not the prophet), is a closet follower of Yahweh and he’s been hiding a 100 prophets and supplying them with food and water.

But Ahab doesn’t care about these prophets. He doesn’t mind them dying at the hands of his wife. What he really cares about is his livestock. You can tell what his priorities are.

And everything around him is dying. Baal is not coming through.

So he sends Obadiah out and they separate and scour the countryside looking for water.

But instead, Obadiah finds a prophet. V.7

“As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, ‘Is it really you, my lord Elijah?’ [Where you been?] ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Go tell your master, 'Elijah is here.'’

‘What have I done wrong,’ asked Obadiah, ‘that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? As surely as the LORD your God lives [that phrase should make a little bell go off in your head! After last week’s sermon...], there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. But now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.'

[He’s scared. Not of telling the truth, but that the Elijah may not stick around so that it seems like he’s lying. V.12]

I don't know where the Spirit of the LORD may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn't find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the LORD since my youth.

Haven't you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD? I hid a hundred of the LORD's prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. And now you tell me to go to my master and say, 'Elijah is here.' He will kill me!’”

This is what it’s been like to live in Israel for the last three years. V.15

“Elijah said, ‘As the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.’”

Yes, I’m coming, and you’re really going to see something now.

“So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’

‘I have not made trouble for Israel,’ Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals.”

Do you see the face-off here?

Ahab fires the first volley. “You’re the troubler of Israel.”

Look at the death and destruction everywhere around you.

Israel is dying of thirst!

And it’s all your fault.

But Elijah says, “I didn’t bring this trouble on Israel. You did. You brought in Baal. And this is what happens when you serve a dead god. People die.”

That’s one of the major messages of the books of Kings. When you worship false gods, there is trouble and cursing and danger and death.

Idolatry hurts people.

But the LORD lives. The LORD is God.

And He wants to show you this. V.19

“Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table.’ So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.”

It’s time for a showdown.

And you probably already know the story.

You know how it ends.

But humor me for a few minutes and pretend that you don’t.

Mount Carmel was apparently Baal territory at this point.

So there was home court advantage to the followers of Baal.

And at this location, Elijah stands up in front of everybody, all these prophets and all of this Israelites and calls them out. V.21

“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.”

Here’s point number one this morning, of three.

And it’s just what Elijah says here. If the LORD is God, then–

#1. CHOOSE TO FOLLOW HIM ALONE.

Elijah really gets in their faces, doesn’t he?

“How long will you waver between two opinions?”

The word “waver” means to hobble or limp.

How long are you going hobble around choosing what side you’re on?

You know the craziest thing about this contest? It shouldn’t be happening!

This is Israel! They should have decided who was God a long time ago.

And even here they won’t say anything.

What is wrong with you?

“If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters.”

You gotta choose.

Wade Nolan, when he was here back in February, said that a lot of guys like to hang around on the fence and eventually decide to whether or not to follow Jesus.

But Wade says, “The truth is that there is no fence.”

“If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Now, I’m guessing that this is not a hard choice for anyone here today.

Anyone here tempted to follow Baal with your life?

If so, meet me in my office after the service. We’ve got to talk.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a problem with idolatry.

The Apostle John ended his first New Testament letter with these words, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

And I doubt that he meant the ones made of wood, iron, and stone.

What is like Baal for you?

What false gods are you tempted to worship?

Baal may not be tempting, but I’m guessing there is a false deity or two that is actually appealing.

I’ll give you two of mine. They’re ones I’ve said before.

You probably know mine better than I do because our idols are often more obvious to others than they are to ourselves.

I tend to worship the gods of popularity and comfort.

I love to be liked and approved of by others. The Facebook “like” button can be a drug for me.

And I have an extra plate addiction. My gluttony tends to come not from just enjoying the pleasure of eating too much but looking for satisfaction and comfort in the act of eating.

And when you put the two together, like getting approval for how much I eat, then I can really get into trouble.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking to be liked or enjoying comfort.

But good things can become god things when we allow them to take a place they do not deserve in our lives.

And even though I am a declared follower of the LORD, I can be tempted to waver between the two.

Elijah says, “Choose to follow the LORD alone.”

“You shall have no other gods before Yahweh.”

Decide. And then act.

That’s what follow means.

Don’t just say that you believe in God, live like it.

You can’t serve two masters. Stop trying!

Does that make sense?

This applies to other religions, too, of course.

If the LORD is god, follow him; but if Allah is God, follow Him.
If the LORD is god, follow him; but if the god of the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses, or the Hindus or whatever is god, then follow them.

But choose. There is no fence.

What is like Baal for you?

Choose to follow the LORD alone.

So, Elijah, sets up this famous contest. V.22

“Then Elijah said to them, ‘I am the only one of the LORD's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it.

Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire–he is God.’ Then all the people said, ‘What you say is good.’”

They like it.

Oh, by the way. Have I mentioned that Baal was the god of lightning?

He was the storm god. So supposedly, he not only brought the rain but also the fire from heaven.

So, you can see why they like it.

Who goes first?  Elijah declines the first possession. V.25

“Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.’

So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. ‘O Baal, answer us!’ they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. [Crickets.] And they danced around the altar they had made.”

They’re starting to get worried that their god isn’t going to show up.

The shot clock is ticking down.

And their god is silent. V.27

“At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’”

I love it when Elijah does this trash-talking.

“Get out your megaphone.
Try that line again.
What do you mean nobody’s home?
Maybe Baal is busy.  He’s ‘occupied.’
Did you think of that?

You know, he might be sleeping.

Now, catch this. Why doesn’t Baal respond?

Because Baal is not real.

In the words of last week’s message, “Baal does not live.”

They don’t get a busy signal when they call.

It just rings and rings and rings.

Because nobody is home.

Do you know why? Baal is not God.

Yahweh is God.

I almost titled last week’s message and this week’s message and the next message, “The battle of Baal.”

But it’s not really a battle with Baal.

There is no contest.

Baal never shows up.

And the same thing is true of all of the other religions in the world and all of the counterfeit gods that you and I are tempted to give some portion of our lives to.

Popularity or comfort or money or possessions or pleasure or politics or sports or some other person.

End the end, they do no show up. They are not God.

Baal is not God.

But you’d have a hard time convincing these people. They try so hard.

They do whatever they think it will take to get their god’s attention.

That’s religion for you. Beware of religion. V.28

“So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. [Please, Baal, please! We’ll give you our blood!]  Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

That’s the reward for idolatry.

Now, see the contrast with Elijah’s god. V.30

“Then Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come here to me.’ They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, ‘Your name shall be Israel.’ [Isn’t that dramatic? And symbolic. He reminds them that they should be one unified nation.]

With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.

He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, [Okay! Let’s make it harder!] Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.’ ‘Do it again,’ he said, and they did it again. ‘Do it a third time,’ he ordered, and they did it the third time. [How many jars is that? Four jars three times. That’s twelve again.] The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.”

You got the picture?

Where did they get the water?

There’s been a drought for 3 years, and Elijah wants to pour water over this sacrifice.

So they get this water and they make sure that there is no way on Earth that fire could break out on its own.

And the priest of Baal are limping around, exhausted, and bleeding. V.36

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: ‘O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.

Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.’

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!’”

Boom!

They got the point, didn’t they?

Yahweh is God.

And no one else.

You know, I never noticed the rocks and the soil before.

I always thought they were scorched (and that might be all it means), and I was amazed that all that water was licked up.

But if I’m reading it right, the rocks and the soil burned up, too.

My dad has a farmer friend named, Ronnie, who has a saying, “Dirt don’t burn.”

Dirt’s really hard to burn, right? V.38 again.

“Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice [which is amazing], the wood [there goes that altar!], the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

That was some really hot fire from heaven.

The LORD is God.
And that has consequences. V.40

“Then Elijah commanded them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!’ They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.”

They will not trouble Israel any longer.

The LORD is God.

Choose to follow Him alone.

#2. CHOOSE TO PRAY TO HIM ALONE.

Did you notice how calm and collected Elijah was when he prayed?

He prayed earnestly and passionately, but there was no jumping around and cutting himself and putting on a big show.

He just prayed a simple heartfelt prayer and the fire fell.

That’s because the LORD is God.

So, now it’s time to pray for something else to fall.

Rain.

Three years and no rain because of the prayers of Elijah.

Time to pray again. V.41

“And Elijah said to Ahab, ‘Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.’ So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees.”

It’s time for Ahab to make a decision.

King Ahab has a chance here to make everything right. To turn the nation back to Yahweh.

He’s told to eat and drink and watch and see what the LORD is going to do.

Elijah prays. And he prays. And he really prays.

He’s praying based on the promise from verse 1 and what Solomon said back in chapter 8.

He knows that LORD is God, so he prays a big prayer request.

He prays for rain. And then he watches to see. V.43

“‘Go and look toward the sea,’ he told his servant. And he went up and looked. ‘There is nothing there,’ he said. Seven times Elijah said, ‘Go back.’

The seventh time the servant reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea.’ So Elijah said, ‘Go and tell Ahab, 'Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.'’ Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the LORD came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.”

Now, that’s as far as we’re going to read today.

We’re not going to find out what happens with Ahab. He’s got “the Flash” out in front of him.

Maybe Elijah is a forerunner, and Ahab is going to repent and lead the nation into revival.

We don’t know.

But we know one thing. It’s raining.

And raining and raining.

Why? Because Elijah prayed.

And he prayed, not just to any old deity, but to Yahweh.

The LORD is God.

That’s the point that the Apostle James makes in his letter. Chapter 5, verses 16-18?

“The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. [Why because the man is so special? No, James says...] Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”

Why is the prayer of a righteous person power and effective?

Because the LORD is God.

How’s your prayer life?

Don’t forget that you are praying to the God of fire and rain.

You’re praying to the same God as Elijah was.

We’re just like Elijah. We’re just people.

But we know Yahweh! So bring your big prayers to Him.

There’s a song by John Newton that very few people know. It’s not like Amazing Grace, but I think we need to bring it back.

It’s called “Thou Art Coming to a King.”

Listen to this verse.

“Thou art coming to a King.
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such, 
None can ever ask too much.”

The LORD is God. Choose to pray to Him alone.

#3. CHOOSE TO CONFESS HIM ALONE.

We don’t really have time to develop this thought, but what I want to leave ringing in our ears is the cry of verse 39.

“When all the people saw this [when they saw it with their own eyes, when they “got it,”] they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The LORD–he is God! The LORD–he is God!’”

That needs to be our confession, as well.

Yahweh is God.

And He is our God.

And Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh.

When Jesus was born, it wasn’t just fire and rain that came down.

The LORD Himself came down and gave us the perfect sacrifice.

Not just a bull on an altar, but a Savior on a Cross.

And then a risen Savior, an exalted Savior, and one day a returning Savior.

Jesus is God!  Jesus is God!

Is that your confession?

The Bible says “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

And so many people need to hear it all around the world.

The LORD. He is God.

Jesus. He is the LORD.


***

Messages in this Series:

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "The LORD Lives"

“The LORD Lives”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
July 17, 2016 :: 1 Kings 17:1-24  

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and we’ve been learning a lot over the last 10 messages in this series about the kings of Israel, both good and bad.

More bad than good, I’m afraid.

When these kings are at their best, they remind us of Jesus.
And when they are at their worst, they reminds us why we need Jesus.

And we’ve already learned about 13 kings so far between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.

David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Abijah, Asa, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni (if you count him), Omri, and last and worst so far, Ahab.

A few of those kings were thumbs up guys, at least for part of their life.

But most of them were two thumbs down in the eyes of the LORD.

Now, this morning, we start a new section of 1 Kings that’s a little different from what we’ve seen so far.

Today, the focus shifts a little off of the kings for a while and onto a prophet who bursts onto the scene with absolutely no warning.

And his name is Elijah.

A pretty significant character in the Old Testament!

This chapter, 1 Kings 17, is where he comes into the story.

And I was sorely tempted to title this sermon, “The Days of Elijah: Part One.”

But I didn’t. Because 1 Kings 17 is not at its deepest about a prophet or a priest or a king.

It’s about the LORD.

The LORD is the main character of books of Kings, and He is the main person Whom we encounter today in 1 Kings 17.

So, I actually took my title from a little phrase in verse 1.

Where Elijah says that the LORD (capital L-O-R-D) lives.

“The LORD Lives.”

Yahweh lives.

The God whom the Bible calls Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of David and Solomon. The God over Israel and Judah.

Capital L-O-R-D. That God lives!

And by that, I mean that He exists.

The LORD is real.
He is not fake.
He is not just a myth or a story or a made-up fairy tale.

The LORD lives.

Now, you all have come to church this morning so I could probably guess that you already believe that.

The LORD lives. Amen?

The LORD exists. And not just like a rock exists. He’s alive.

He’s personal. He’s relatable. And He’s true.

The LORD lives.

We believe that. ... Or least we say we do.

But there was a real question about it in Elijah’s day.

Idol worship had crept into Israel.

Remember Solomon fell for it and then his son did, too, in the South.

And they fell for idolatry even worse in the north.

Jeroboam set up those golden calves in Bethel and in Dan. Remember that?

He set up a whole invented religion.

But then it got worse. Because instead of just falsely worshiping Yahweh, they began to introduce other gods.

And the worst at it so far was the last king we met last time.

King Ahab of Israel.

Ahab was not a Arab. He was a Jew. The king of the Jews.

But he worshiped a god named “Baal.”  Or “Ba’al.”

Remember this?  Chapter 16, verse 30?

“Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him” (1 Kings 16:30-33).

Ahab acted as if Yahweh did not exist. He treated the LORD with contempt.

And he set up worship of this other god, Baal, in Israel!

And what do you think? Will God let that go?

The true God will not take this lying down.

Chapter 17, verse 1.

“Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”

Elijah just comes out of nowhere, doesn’t he?!

Bam! There is he talking to Ahab out of the blue.

Because more important than who he and where he comes from is the message that he has to present.

“There will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

Wow.

This guy means business. And that’s the because the LORD lives, and He means business.

‘As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’”

“Shots fired!”

These are the opening shots in a great battle in Israel.

I almost titled this sermon “The Battle of Baal: Part One.”

Because Elijah, in making this declaration, is taking a swipe at Baal.

Do you know what Baal was the god of?

Rain.

He was the god of rain. He was the rain god and the god of fertility, the god of life so they said.

So what was Yahweh saying by sending Elijah?

“I’m turning the faucet off! If Baal is god, if Baal is for real, then he can turn it back on again.”

That’s what’s going on here.

The LORD promised this back in Deuteronomy. He said in Deuteronomy chapters 11 and 28 that if Israel abandoned their covenant with Yahweh, He would withhold the rain.

And now He’s making good on that threat.

How devastating that would be for inhabitants of this land.

No rain, no life-giving dew. Just whatever they can find trickle in or transport in from other lands.

For years.

The LORD lives.

Elijah had to say this up front or they wouldn’t have known that it was Yahweh. They might have said it was a coincidence or tried harder to get Baal to do his thing.

But before the rains stopped, Elijah said they would.

And everyone suffered.

That’s what happens when people give in to idolatry. People suffer. People get hurt.

Idolatry always leads to death.

Idols promise life and blessing, but they always bring trouble and death.

Elijah was in trouble. Ahab didn’t like what Elijah had to say. In fact, he put out a hit on Elijah and any other prophets of Yahweh.

So the LORD placed Elijah in His own special witness protection program.  Verse 2.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.’ So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”

Crazy story, huh?

King is such a crazy book and whenever these prophets come on the scene, you never know what’s going to happen.

Here, the “word of the LORD” comes to Elijah. Remember that phrase from a few weeks ago? That’s an important phrase.

The LORD who lives also speaks.

And what He says should be listened to and believed and obeyed because it always comes to pass.

And here the LORD says, “hide.”

“Hide in this ravine. Where there would normally be no food and in drought conditions, there would be no water.

But I’ll make sure there is water in the brook, and I’ll send ravens to bring you food twice a day!”

Ravens!

Those things are unclean. And the LORD is using them?

What kind of meat would they bring twice a day in “Ravine Service?”

I’m not sure I want to know. But if you cook it, it will keep you alive.

Don’t rely on Baal. Rely on the LORD because He’s real. He lives.

He tells the birds what to do!

Here’s application point number one of three this morning.

#1. DON’T WORRY.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

I know I do.

There is so much in life right now that tempts me to worry, to grow anxious.

We all have our list.

When you wake up in the morning, and you start to go over that list in your head.

I’ve got my list. I’m sure you’ve got yours.

What are you worried about right now?

What’s at the top of the list?

Here’s the word of the LORD to us today, “Yahweh lives.”

God is real. And He is able to protect and provide and sustain us in amazing ways.

If we trust Him.

Don’t worry. If God still has a job for you, then He will sustain you until that job is over.

Elijah was on a mission, and he was indestructible until that mission was over.

Are you and I on a mission?

The Challenge Group said last week that we are. We are a family of servant missionaries SENT on a mission.

And the LORD will take care of us.

Don’t worry.

I know that’s hard to do.

Worry is my superpower. I come by it naturally. I am the son of worrier, and the grandson of worrier.

But God can send ravens to take care of me if He wants to.

So what have I to dread? What have I to fear? V.7

“Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. [Just like the LORD said. Time for plan B.] Then the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.’”

Now, that might be even crazier!

Where is Zarephath? In Sidon. That’s Baal territory.

That’s Baalsville.

Move to Baalsville where you are a hunted man, and I’ve got someone to take care of you.

Who is it?

It’s a widow.

What?!!!

Are widows, in the Bible, people with money? People with means? People with stuff to give?

No, widows in Bible times are often destitute and needy.

They are very unlikely benefactresses.

But, of course, the LORD lives and He has a plan. Go and find this widow woman, and I’ll take care of you.

Don’t worry! V.10

“So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’  [Elijah is trusting the word of the LORD. But he may have come to the wrong woman. V.12]

‘As surely as the LORD your God lives,’ [That’s interesting, isn’t it?] she replied, ‘I don't have any bread–only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it–and die.’”

What an incredibly sad story!

She’s gathering firewood to heat their last supper.

She has nothing to offer!

This is the end.

But Elijah knows that the LORD lives and therefore she should not worry. V.13

“Elijah said to her, ‘Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. [That’s bold!] For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’”

What a promise!

And that’s exactly what happened. Because the LORD lives. V.15

“She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.”

The LORD lives, and when He speaks it comes to pass.

What do we have to worry about?

I love this miracle because it’s a daily miracle. It’s a quiet miracle.

This woman didn’t get a truckload of food.

How much did she get?

A little bit. Every day.

Every. Single. Day.

His mercies were new every morning.

Every day, “the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry...”

Do you need to hear that?

That’s a mega-miracle.

And it’s the kind of thing we experience all the time.

God’s daily faithfulness. Amen?

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.
All I have needed, thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Don’t worry.

#2. DON’T MISS OUT.

What do I mean by that?

I mean, isn’t it strange that the LORD sent Elijah out of the country to get this help?

Weren’t there any widows in Israel?

Why did Elijah have to leave Israel for this miracle?

That’s what Jesus asked in Luke chapter 4.

He was in Nazareth, his hometown, and the locals were listening to Him preach. And the liked what He said about the day of the LORD coming.

But they didn’t like it when he brought up this story from 1 Kings 17.

He said, “I tell you the truth ... no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.”

And you know how they took that?

They tried to kill Him.

They were so furious, they tried to throw him off a cliff.

He just walked away.

Why were they mad?

Because the LORD who lives is gracious to those who will trust Him but He’ll also pass over those who should trust Him but don’t.

They were mad because Jesus was going to save Gentiles!

Like you and me!

But He was going to allow Jews to die in their sins if they ignored and rejected Him.

Don’t miss out.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and life.

The LORD lives.

There will be many “good,” upstanding, moral, religious people who will perish on the day of the LORD because they had not received the Lord Jesus.

Don’t miss out.

Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

I’m not asking, “Are you a good citizen? Do you pay your taxes? Do you obey the law? Do you do volunteer in your community?”

I’m asking is Jesus Christ your Master and Rescuer?

There were many widows in Israel at this time.

And they were, by and large, rejecting Yahweh.

So God went out and found an unlikely candidate to shower His mercy on.

There will be current members of ISIS in Heaven and current members of EFCA churches in Hell.

Because God doesn’t save based on niceness.

He saves based on our reception or rejection of Jesus.

And there are some in ISIS who will truly repent like the Apostle Paul did on the Damascus road.

And there are some I’m sure, hopefully not many, who look good on the outside but have not repented and received Jesus on the inside here in our churches.

Don’t miss out.

The letter to the Hebrews says, “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”

Don’t miss out.

This widow did not miss out. She trusted in the living LORD.

But then she had an unexpected tragedy. Her son died. V.17

“Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, ‘What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?’”

“What good is it to have this flour and oil during this drought if I don’t have a living son to feed it to?”

“Is God just messing with me?”

Have you ever felt that way?

Well, it could just end there and God be justified.

He gives, and He takes away, and blessed be His name.

But there was more going on here. V.19

“‘Give me your son,’ Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?’”

The stakes are so high!

Have you ever prayed like this?  Not for a dead person to come back but honestly crying out to God from the depths of you heart? And asking God to do something big? Desperate prayer. V.21

“Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD my God, let this boy's life return to him!’ The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, ‘Look, your son is alive!’ Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.’”

I don’t know why he laid himself out on the boy three times. A lot of times in the Old Testament, the prophets acts out his prophecy. So he’s probably identifying, his life for the boy’s life and pleading with God for the boys’ life.

And I love what verse 22 says. “The LORD heard Elijah’s cry.”

The LORD lives, and He hears.

Dead gods don’t hear.

False gods don’t hear.

Real gods hear!

Living gods hear.

The LORD heard Elijah's cry, and the boy's life returned to him, and he lived.

#3. DON’T DESPAIR.

Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Because the living God can bring back the dead.

He is more powerful than death.

You know Baal supposedly died a little every year.

Their story, the Baal worshipers’ story, was that the rainy season would end because Baal would meet up with the god of death named “Mot” and have give in to him.

And then when the rainy season returned, Baal would start up his work again. How convenient.

But there was nothing that Baal could do about Mot. Mot was more powerful than Baal. Baal had to yield to death.

But death is not more powerful than Yahweh.

Yahweh is more powerful than death.

This little resuscitation was a foretaste of the resurrection.

Don’t despair!

The LORD lives forever, and so will you and I if we belong to Him.

Jesus said in the book of Revelation, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Believe it.

Don’t despair. Even of death.

Believe the word of the Lord.

This Gentile widow did. Verse 24 tells us that she believes that Elijah is telling the truth and giving out the word of the Lord.

What’s sad is that pretty much all of Israel did not.

We’re going to see that next week when we head up for the showdown on Mount Carmel.

There is still no water, no rain, at the end of our story today.

Because God is still showing that He is more powerful than Baal.

More powerful even than death.

So don’t give up. Don’t despair.

Don’t pull out your hair in worry and fright and desperation and lose hope.

Yes, there is trouble and terror in our world. And even terrible death.

But take heart. Jesus has overcome the world.

He has even overcome death!

The LORD lives!


***

Messages in this Series:
01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

#LiveSent :: 2016 Challenge Report to Lanse Free Church

“Live Sent”
Challenge Sunday
July 10, 2016

[On Sunday, our group that went to the EFCA's Challenge Conference shared stories of our adventure there, what we learned and experienced. Afterward, I shared these brief comments]

I told the Challenge Group that if they talked long enough, there would be no sermon.

So there is no sermon today. But I do want to wrap up all of what has been said.

By coming back to this idea of IDENTITY.

We’ve learned all week about Who God is and what He has done and how that shapes who we are and why we are here.

Here again are the three symbols to remind us of that.



1. God is Father. And because of that, we are family.

It was really encouraging to see the students grasp their identity as children of God.

1 John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

That is what we are!

And we are not individual children. We are gathered together into a family.

And that is the most important family in the universe. The family of God.

More important than the other families the world has to offer, even the good ones.

More important than a brotherhood of bikers, a brotherhood of union workers, a family of firefighters, more important than our national brotherhood.

More important even than our biological families, is the family of God.

2. God is Son, the servant king sent to redeem us.

And because God is Son, we are servants.

It was awesome to see the students assume that identity this week on their service projects.

I was so encouraged to see them walking up and down the urban streets of Louisville picking up trash and making friends with a predominantly black community.

And there was no complaining!  They were servants.

They lived out Philippians 2.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”  Who became a servant.

3. God is Spirit, the Holy Spirit. And because of that, we are missionaries.

We are sent ones.

We have the gospel message that the world so desperately needs.

Is there any question, after the week our nation has had, that we need the gospel? And we need people to carry the gospel into the world?

We are sent into this world, into our neighborhoods, into our community, into our workplaces, into schools, into every area of life to present the gospel and to represent Jesus Christ.

We learned that this week.

[Check out all of the teaching on this page of videos. There's some really fun and funny ones in there, too!]

I saw lights go on in our student’s eyes.

Raise your hand if you are a missionary.

Raise your hand if that is your identity.

We are not all called into foreign missions.

We are not all called to go to Rio in Brazil, like we learned about at the conference.

We are all sent.

We are all missionaries.

We are all to LIVE SENT.

Remember when Jesus appeared to the disciples right before he encountered Doubting Thomas? John chapter 20?  [I just talked about this a year ago after the Pittsburgh Ministry Trip.]

They were huddled, too. They were huddled in fear and the doors were locked.

And then Jesus just appeared and they were overjoyed and said, “Peace be with you!” and then He showed his hands and side to the disciples and they were overjoyed.

And then he gave them this commission. “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

And then you know what He did?

He breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

The Father send the Son, the Son was sending the Spirit, to be received by the disciples and they were then to be sent into the world.

And that’s us, too.

A family of servant missionaries.

That’s us.  That's what we've been learning about all year long.

We’re going to how you one more video that captures what we learned.

It was created just for our conference using the poetry of David Bowden.

He wrote this poem just for us.

And they showed the first half at the very start of our conference and the second half at the very end.

It’s about our identity, and it’s called “Who Am I?”

We’ve given you the words in that handout so that you can follow along if you want.

Who Am I?



Previous Challenge Reports

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Saturday, July 09, 2016

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "In the Eyes of the LORD"

“In the Eyes of the LORD”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
June 26, 2016 :: 1 Kings 15:1-16:34  

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and the story has recently gotten pretty complex, complicated, and fairly weird.

Last week, the story involved a false prophet who turned true and a true prophet who disobeyed God, even though he knew better. It had a miracle of a splitting altar, a shriveled non-retractable hand, and a lion that kills on God’s command and then stands at attention. Exciting stuff, huh? Kind of strange.

This week’s portion of scripture isn’t as strange, but it’s even more complicated.

Because in the first 14 chapters, we’ve gone from one king over one kingdom to two kings over two kingdoms. And now in just two chapters we’re going march through a parade of 8.5 kings over those two kingdoms, and their reigns overlap, two in one, six and half in the other. So it’s a little difficult to keep track of who is doing what when and where.

We’re going to fly through about 45 years of history in just two short chapters.

And not only is it complicated, it’s also a little bit boring. It’s repetitive.

This is the part of the Books of Kings where it begins to feel like a broken record.

Do you know what I mean?

If you don’t, you soon will. The author kind of gets into a rhythm. He tells us who the king is and when he began his reign. He tells us who the king is in the other kingdom when he begins his reign. He tells us how long the king was the king. He gives a fairly short summary of the king’s administration, and then he tells us that the king died.

And then it’s all over again.

And most of it is bad.

Marilynn Kristofits was reading it this week to try to find a verse to use on the front of your bulletin, and she suggested to me the sermon title, “Bad Kings Doing Bad Things.”

That’s pretty good! And it sums up a great bulk of what we’re going to read this morning.

It’s broken record, playing a sad sad song.

But I picked a different title for today’s message based on a phrase that keeps getting repeated over and over and over again in these 2 chapters.

It’s a phrase that’s been used before and will continue again and again and again throughout the rest of the Books of Kings.

But as I studied for this week’s message, I kept hearing a bell go off every time I saw these words: “In the Eyes of the LORD.”

“In the Eyes of Yahweh.”

This is a phrase that keeps getting repeated over and over and over again in the summaries of how the king did, either good or bad.

He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.
Or he did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Those are the two choices. The only two options.

We’ve already heard that any king of God’s kingdom has just one job.

They have many duties, but only one job. To walk with God leading their people to do the same.

Well, these 8.5 kings are faced with that same test.

Thumbs up or thumbs down.

And the question is do they do what is right or what is evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Because it’s Yahweh’s eyes that truly matter.

It’s LORD’s opinion that is truly important.

What God thinks about something or someone is what is paramount.

Yahweh is the standard of right and wrong, of good and bad.

And He cares! He is watching.

Do you remember the sermon a few years ago when I chewed a stick of gum throughout the sermon?  It was on Proverbs 15:13. “The eyes of the LORD are everywhere keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

And we just meditated on those words for half an hour.

“In the eyes of the LORD.”

That’s where it happens.

That’s what truly matters.

Last week was about “The Word of the LORD.”

This week still about that. We’ll see that again some more. But it’s also about the eyes of the LORD.

His appraisal. His assessment. His opinion.

Our story starts today in the southern kingdom of Judah after the death of King Rehoboam. That’s where we left off at the end of chapter 14.

Today, we get the new king of Judah who is the son of King Rehoboam which makes him the grandson of whom? Solomon. And the great-grandson of King David.

He might have even known his great grandfather. We don’t know.

What we do know is that he did not last long as king.

And that his name was Abijah. Chapter 15, verse 1.

“In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam son of Nebat [up in the north], Abijah [or Abijam, another way of saying it] became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother's name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom.

He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.”

Stop there for a second.

Do you see how the pattern has already begun?

When he began, who is king in the other kingdom, what his name is, how long he reigned, and a summary of administration.

Is he thumbs up or thumbs down?

He’s clearly thumbs down. And the short reign would point towards that. Though we’ll see that some bad kings get terribly long reigns.

We know he’s a thumbs down because of verse 3. “He committed all the sins his father [Rehoboam] had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God [sounds like Solomon], as the heart of David his forefather had been.”

So, you might guess that the kingdom is going to be taken away from the family of David.

Right?  Three strikes, you’re out?

Solomon failed. Rehoboam failed. Abijah failed.

You’re out! V.4

“Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

Oh!  Even though these guys in the South were thumbs down, God was still gracious to them. And gave them more sons who would be king and kept Jerusalem strong.

Why?

Because of God’s promises to David.

Remember the David Covenant of 2 Samuel 7?

The promises God make to David.

Back in chapter 11 when Solomon was judged, the LORD said that he would keep a lamp burning in Jerusalem. And here it is.

It’s God’s covenant faithfulness. Which David had also a measure of. V.5 again.

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

#1. DOING WHAT IS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF THE LORD.

That’s what God is looking for from these kings.

And I don’t think it’s far off to say that’s what He wants from us, as well.

What’s that look like? Well, not like Abijah. He didn’t do it. David might have, but Abijah did not. V.6

“There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam throughout Abijah's lifetime [same old war, North and South]. As for the other events of Abijah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. And Abijah rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. And Asa his son succeeded him as king.”

Okay. Anybody know if Asa is thumbs up or thumbs down? In the eyes of the LORD?

He’s thumbs up. In fact, he’s like in the top 3 of the kings of Judah. He’s a lot like David. V.9

“In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother's name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom. Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done.

[What did that look like?]

He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley. Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life. He brought into the temple of the LORD the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.”

We’ve got a good guy on our hands!

Where is Asa king, again?  He’s in the South. Judah.

And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.

He was David-like. He even restored gold to the temple!

He didn’t quite get rid of all of the false worship in Judah, but he seemed to really try. And his heart was fully committed.

That’s what God is looking for.

Is your heart fully committed to the LORD?

One way you can tell is if you do hard things because they’re the right things.

I think that verse 13 shows us just how committed Asa was.

I mean he kicked his own grandmother out of the palace because she had set up an “repulsive” Asherah pole.

She didn’t get the “family exception” to the rules.

“Sorry, Grandma. You’ve got to go!”

Asa is at least 1 and half thumbs up.

He’s not perfect, but he’s faithful.

He hates idolatry. He loves the one true God.

He did his one job.

Now, he wasn’t always wise. In fact, the book of Chronicles tells us a lot more about his mistakes. He had plenty. Compared to David he wasn’t that great.

But compared to Jeroboam, he was amazing.

“[Asa] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.”

And that’s where it counts.

How about you?

Are you doing hard things because they are the right things?

Are you cleansing yourself of idols?

Remember, in the eyes of the LORD, idols are (v.13) repulsive.

I’m sure you don’t have Asherah poles, but what are you tempted to worship that is not God Himself?

When it takes God’s place, it is repulsive to him. Abhorrent, detestable, repugnant.

We need to be purging ourselves of those kind of idols.

To doing right in the eyes of the Lord.

Now in verse 16, it tells us a little more about Asa’s kingdom. V.16

“There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns [we’ll find out more about him in just a second.] Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah. [This is that same civil war. And Ramah is just 5 miles north of Jerusalem. So the north has really encroached on the territory of the south. But Asa has a plan. V.18]

Asa then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the LORD's temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus.

‘Let there be a treaty between me and you,’ he said, ‘as there was between my father and your father. See, I am sending you a gift [literally, “a bribe”] of silver and gold. Now break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so he will withdraw from me.’

Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maacah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali. When Baasha heard this, he stopped building Ramah and withdrew to Tirzah.

Then King Asa issued an order to all Judah–no one was exempt–and they carried away from Ramah the stones and timber Baasha had been using there. With them King Asa built up Geba in Benjamin, and also Mizpah.”

Now, I want to get on to the other kings, but this shows us, I think, that Asa was not perfect. He made the mistake of trusting in Gentile kings and he lost money and territory in the bargain. And the book of Chronicles tells us more about what mistake he made.

But that’s encouraging to me, kind of, because I make mistakes, too. I make errors. And I sin. But I want to be faithful. And I love it that the banner over Asa’s life was a “thumbs-up.” It’s verse 11. “Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” v.23

“As for all the other events of Asa's reign, all his achievements, all he did and the cities he built, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? In his old age, however, his feet became diseased. Then Asa rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the city of his father David. And Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king.”

Now, we won’t return to the souther kingdom and their amusingly named king until the very last chapter of 1 Kings.

Instead, we’re going to turn our focus for the next several chapters to the action in the northern kingdom of Israel.

And unfortunately, the kings up there aren’t so very thumbs-up as Asa was.

If you remember, the king of the northern kingdom was named Jeroboam. And he as two thumbs down. He set up false worship in his kingdom. He invented his own way of doing worship with golden calves in the north and the south, Dan and Bethel.

And last week, the prophet had announced his downfall.

And the downfall of his entire line.

Remember that?  Ahijah. The same prophet who had predicted his rise, prophesied of his fall and the death of his entire family.

Well, here is his oldest surviving son and he is the new king. Nadab. V.25

“Nadab son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. [How’d he do?] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of his father and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

#2. DOING EVIL IN THE EYES OF THE LORD.

Two thumbs down.

And he went down. Like a rock. V.27

“Baasha son of Ahijah of the house of Issachar plotted against him, and he struck him down at Gibbethon, a Philistine town, while Nadab and all Israel were besieging it. Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king.

As soon as he began to reign, he killed Jeroboam's whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of the LORD given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite–because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger.”

Sad isn’t it? And interesting.

Abijah’s line continues because of David. Nadab’s line ends because of Jeroboam.

Because they did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

In a word, idolatry.

Those are the sins that Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit.

And notice how God feels about it?  He is provoked.

His anger is stoked.

You know we don’t like to think of God having feelings. Caring about things.

But the Bible says that the LORD is a person. He cares about things.

He cares about the right things! But He cares about them deeply.

Including His glory. He is not happy if His glory goes to an idol.

It provokes Him. Rightly! Justly. Perfectly. But dangerously.

In the eyes of the LORD, idolatry is not just repulsive, it’s angering. It’s provoking. It arouses God’s wrath.

And Nadab and his family felt that wrath. V.31.

“As for the other events of Nadab's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel throughout their reigns.

In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king of all Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. [How did Baasha do? Any better? V.34] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

He wasn’t related to Jeroboam! He had killed Jeroboam’s family! But he didn’t kill Jeroboam’s worship system.

So it’s all over again.

See what I mean about a broken record playing a sad song on skip? Chapter 16, verse 1.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jehu son of Hanani against Baasha [a new prophet]: ‘I lifted you up from the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, but you walked in the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to provoke me to anger by their sins.

So I am about to consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Dogs will eat those belonging to Baasha who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.’

[And that’s about it.] As for the other events of Baasha's reign, what he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?  Baasha rested with his fathers and was buried in Tirzah. And Elah his son succeeded him as king. Moreover, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Jehu son of Hanani to Baasha and his house, because of all the evil he had done in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger by the things he did, and becoming like the house of Jeroboam–and also because he destroyed it.”

He had been sinning even as he was accomplishing the will of the LORD.

Do you see how this a broken record?

New king, old sins, dies. New king, old sins, dies.  Lather, Rinse. Repeat.

And I think that God is saying something in that.

I think that He’s saying that idolatry and sin is basically boring.

Sin promises all kind of exciting stuff, but it never really delivers.

The really exciting, awesome parts of this book happen when godliness is popping.

We’ll see that in a few weeks with the prophet Elijah.

But this stuff with bad kings doing bad things? It’s boring. Idolatry never lives up to its promises.

The end of that road is always death.

Same old, same old death.

V.8 “In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel, and he reigned in Tirzah two years. Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the man in charge of the palace at Tirzah.

Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded him as king. As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha's whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu–because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.

“Worthless idols.”

That’s interesting. Isn’t it?

In the eyes of the LORD, idols are not just repulsive and provoking, they are also worthless.

Banal. Empty. Vain. Meaningless.

Is that how we see idols?

Idols present themselves as valuable.

If you worship me, I’ll give you this. And more of this!

Right?

What your idols?

Popularity? Money? Possessions? Productivity? Entertainment? Achievement? Pleasure?

Or the things that give you those things?

What do they promise you?

They promise the world, but they don’t deliver. They are worthless.

Zero.  Less than nothing.

...In the eyes of the LORD.

V.14  “As for the other events of Elah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

In the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah, Zimri reigned in Tirzah seven days. [Seven days. That’s all he made it. He assassinated the king to become the king and it lasted for a whole week.] The army was encamped near Gibbethon, a Philistine town.

When the Israelites in the camp heard that Zimri had plotted against the king and murdered him, they proclaimed Omri, the commander of the army, king over Israel that very day there in the camp.

Then Omri and all the Israelites with him withdrew from Gibbethon and laid siege to Tirzah. When Zimri [the king] saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him [suicide]. So he died, because of the sins he had committed, doing evil in the eyes of the LORD and walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in the sin he had committed and had caused Israel to commit.

As for the other events of Zimri's reign, and the rebellion he carried out, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

Then the people of Israel were split into two factions; half supported Tibni son of Ginath for king, and the other half supported Omri. [That’s why I said “8.5" kings today. Because for a while there were 2 rival kings in the north.] But Omri's followers proved stronger than those of Tibni son of Ginath. So Tibni died and Omri became king.

[What kind of king was he? Well, actually a pretty successful one. V.23]

In the thirty-first year of Asa king of Judah, Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned twelve years, six of them in Tirzah. [But he set up a new capital.]

He bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer for two talents of silver and built a city on the hill, calling it Samaria, after Shemer, the name of the former owner of the hill.

But Omri did evil in the eyes of the LORD and sinned more than all those before him.

He walked in all the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit, so that they provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their worthless idols.”

Omri was two thumbs down.

He was actually 3 thumbs down.

Nadab was two thumbs down.
Baasha was two thumbs down.
Elah was two thumbs down.
Zimri was two thumbs down.
Tibni if he was truly a king was two thumbs down.

But Omri (v.25) “sinned more than all those before him.”

What’s fascinating to me is that by most worldly markers, Omri was a good leader.

He built a thriving kingdom. We know this because of history. The history of the kingdoms around Israel tell us that Omri was really successful at building a booming kingdom.

He was kind of like David. He fought and won wars. He built a new capital. He established good relationships with his neighbors.

For many decades after he died, they called Israel the land of Omri.

It’s in the history books!

But in the eyes of the LORD, Omri was a failure.

Isn’t that a cautionary tale?

That we could have the world by the tail, but miss what is most important.

What did Jesus say?

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

It doesn’t matter what the world thinks.
It doesn’t matter what your reputation is.
What matters is what God thinks.
Omri was very successful and did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

And that’s the verdict of his life that stands.

More evil than anyone before him, provoking the LORD, to anger by his worthless idols. V.27

“As for the other events of Omri's reign, what he did and the things he achieved, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Omri rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Ahab his son succeeded him as king.”

One last king to introduce today. He’ll actually be the king from here to the end of the first book.

And he’s the worst so far. V.29

“In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.

Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.

In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.”

This guy is the worst so far.

He’s like 4 thumbs down!

Doing evil in the eyes of the LORD. More evil than anyone before him.

It’s like it was a contest.

Oh, that’s nothing. Get out of the way. See how bad I can be!

Outdoing each other with evil.

Not just a golden calf or two like Jeroboam. That’s nothing! Child’s play.

Let’s get some fertility gods in here.

Let’s get some Baal worship going down.

Let’s marry a Baal priestess princess!

You thought those other idols were repulsive?

I’ll get one of those Asherah poles, too.

And I’ll authorize a guy to rebuild Jericho.

Never mind that God said that you shouldn’t do it.

And if you did, you’d lose your sons.

“The Word of the LORD.”

Ooooh.

“Ahab...did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

And you know that there will be consequences.

It may not be immediate.

I’m sure that he felt like he was getting away with it.

That’s what we do when we’re sinning and running.

But God cares.

He is watching.

And He is not neutral.

He is provoked. His anger is stoked.

These repulsive, worthless idols have provoked Him to anger.

And He will do something about it.

What is the application of all this?

God cares how we live.

God is looking at our hearts.

God wants our whole hearts.

He wants us to have a heart for His heart. Like David.

God wants us to put away our idols and worship Him alone.

He wants us to see idols the way He sees them: repulsive and worthless and boring and destructive. And angering.

And He wants us to see that He is in control of history.

This may all look like it’s out sliding downward out of control, but He’s actually managing every step of the descent.

He’s maintaining a lamp in Judah because of David but taking Israel down because of Jeroboam.

And what’s most important is what’s going on IN HIS EYES.

It’s a broken record for a reason.

Because we need to hear the lesson of this sad song.

Which way are you going?

Doing right? Or doing evil?

What do you need to repent of?

Where do you need to make a 180 degree turn?

You know we’ve said this again and again, but when the kings are at their best, they remind us of Jesus.

Asa reminds us of Jesus.
Jesus was perfect!
He did what was right in the eyes of His father 100% of the time.

Praise God!

But when these kings are at their worst, and we’re starting to get to the bottom of the bucket, they remind us why we need Jesus.

Because, left to ourselves, we do evil in the eyes of the LORD.

And we need a Savior to come and rescue us.

These two broken record chapters show us our desperate need for King Jesus to save us.

And praise the Lord; that’s what He came to do.

***

Group Discussion Questions

1. Review. It’s been a while since we met to discuss the messages in this series on the Books of Kings. What have you been learning the last several weeks? What has really stood out to you?

2. Read 1 Kings 15:1-24. Why is the phrase “in the eyes of the LORD” so important in this book? Why should it be important to you and me today?

3. Which kings are examples of doing what is right in the eyes of the LORD?  What did they do that was so good? What can we learn from their examples?

4. Skim your eyes over 1 Kings 15:25-1 Kings 16:34. Which kings are examples of doing evil in the eyes of the LORD? What did they do that was so bad? What can we learn (negatively) from their examples?

5. What did you pick up from these two chapters about how God thinks and feels about idols? What are modern day idols that people struggle with? What are idols you are tempted to worship? Why? What does it look like, in practical terms, to purge these idols from our lives today?

6. What do we learn about Jesus from 1 Kings 15 and 16? How is He prefigured?

7. What is your biggest takeaway from this “broken record stuck on a sad, sad song” this week? How can we pray for each other?


***

Messages in this Series:
01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Playing with Perspective


Torrey Pines, CA