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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sunday, September 18, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "What the LORD Says"

“What the LORD Says”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
September 18, 2016 :: 1 Kings 22:1-40  

Just fifteen sermons ago, the king in front of us was Kind David who was at the end of his life. And then we got 12 more kings to study: Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Abijah, Asa, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, and last and worst so far, King Ahab.

We’ve learned:

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

But we’ve learned more than just about kings in this book. We’ve also learned about prophets. Men, like Elijah, who speak the word of the LORD, the word of Yahweh to these kings.

They speak for God, the word of God, to the powerful kings of Israel and Judah.

And sometimes, the kings listen, and sometimes they don’t.

But every time a true prophet of God speaks a true word from God, it comes to pass.

And that’s because the LORD is the main character in the Books of Kings.

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings.”

And we’ve been learning about Him.

It’s easy to get lost in all of the details in the historical books of the Old Testament. Prophets, priests, kings, kingdoms.

Who did what when and where. It’s hard to keep track of.

And some of these stories have been pretty bizarre. Remember the guy whose hand froze? And the two guys on two different occasions who got eaten by lions?

Today’s story is arguably the strangest in the whole book!

But make no mistake, the point at the center of the Books of Kings is coming to know and worship the one true God, the LORD.

These books are theological history written intentionally, creatively and carefully to teach us who our God really is.

And we saw last week that our God is a speaking God.

He wants to be known. And He tells us in both deeds and especially in words what He wants us to know about Him.

Last week’s message was entitled, “Thus Saith the LORD!”

Today’s title is very similar. It is “What the LORD Says.”

We’ll see why in just a few moments.

But you already know that this is vitally important to God.

God speaks to us in His Word, and He wants us to listen...to what the LORD says.

For the last few weeks, I’ve said that these last three chapters of 1 Kings could be subtitled, “The Fall of King Ahab.”

King Ahab was a six thumbs down kind of king for the northern kingdom of Israel.

Chapter 16 told us that “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.”

And from chapters 17 through 21, we’ve seen that that was not all! He and his wife tried to kill all of the prophets of Yahweh. And even after Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal all on Mount Carmel, Ahab and Jezebel were unrepentant and remained enemies of Elijah all of his days.

In chapter 20, even after the LORD blessed him with two big victories over Ben-Hadad and the Arameans, Ahab still disobeyed the LORD and let Ben-Hadad go free.

Last week, in chapter 21, he sulked and stood idly by while his wife defrauded an innocent man and stole Naboth’s land and his life!

Again and again, we’ve been told that Ahab was going to suffer the judgment of God.

And so far, the LORD has been incredibly patient and longsuffering in bringing that judgment to pass. Last week, He even announced a delay, a postponing, of that judgment because Ahab had experienced some true remorse and humbled himself.

But it was only a matter of time.

And this time, Ahab’s number is up.

It all begins with a visit from the other king. The king of Judah.

Chapter 22, verse 1.

“For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. The king of Israel had said to his officials, ‘Don't you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?’

So he asked Jehoshaphat, ‘Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?’ Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, ‘I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’ But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘First seek the counsel of the LORD.’”

Let’s stop there for a second.

This takes place three years after, I think, the last battle between Ahab and Ben-Hadad. Not three years since Naboth’s vineyard.

Three years have gone by since Ahab granted clemency to Ben-Hadad and let him go.

And now he’s regretting the deal he made. He never demanded to get Ramoth Gilead back from Aram. And three years have gone by and nothing else has been done.

He doesn’t feel strong enough to do it on his own, but he’s on good terms right now with his southern kingdom counterpart, King Jehoshaphat.

[Whose name is so fun to say even though he never actually jumps in the Bible.]

You know, we haven’t heard anything about the Southern Kingdom for like 6 chapters. The focus has been on the North.

We’ll get some more Judah stuff, including who Jehoshaphat was later on in this chapter and more in Second Kings and Second Chronicles. His name means, “Yahweh has judged.” And he has been on pretty good terms with King Ahab. Their families actually have intermarried.

So Ahab invites Jehoshaphat to form an alliance and go to war with him against Aram to win back this section of Promised Land called Ramoth-Gilead.

And Jehoshaphat basically says, “Yes, but first let’s make sure that the LORD wants us to do that.”

Which is the right thing to say. It’s a good idea.

But you wonder if he has really been paying attention to whom he’s dealing with.

Does Ahab have a reputation for listening to the word of Yahweh?

Well, maybe a little. He humbled himself in verse 27 of chapter 21. So maybe he’s coming around? V.6

“So the king of Israel [Ahab] brought together the prophets–about four hundred men–and asked them, ‘Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’ ‘Go,’ they answered, ‘for the Lord will give it into the king's hand.’”

Now, who are these prophets?

It doesn’t say. They don’t appear to be prophets of Baal or Ashtoreth.

One of them is going to prophecy in the name of Yahweh in just a minute.

It just doesn’t tell us. My best guess is that these are guys left over from the cult of Jeroboam.

They aren’t really prophets of anybody except whoever the king wants them to be prophets of, the LORD if it’s expedient.

You see what I mean?

They are the prophets of “What Do You Want to Hear, O King?”

It’s interesting that there are 400 of them.

Just like there were 400 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

But King Jehoshaphat can tell just from listening to them, that there is something wrong here. Something is a little “off.” v.7

“But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?’”

“I hear a lot of good things here, but I’m not sure I hear the true voice of God.” v.8

“The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ ‘The king should not say that,’ Jehoshaphat replied. So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, ‘Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.’”

Isn’t that interesting?

What a wonderful thing it is to have God’s Word. And there is still one man around that Ahab could trust to bring a true word from the LORD. To truly hear, “Thus Saith the LORD!”

But he hates him.

Why?

Because this guy never says anything that Ahab wants to hear.

Do you ever go looking in your Bible for a second opinion? Another option?

“I don’t like what this says. Maybe there’s a way around it in the next chapter. Maybe we could just cut out this page. Cut out these verses.”

Thomas Jefferson did that. He cut out all of the verses he didn’t like out of his copy of the Bible. Our Link Group learned last week about a guy from church history who did that with whole books of the Bible. His name was Marcion.

I don’t like that. I don’t like that. Snip, snip. I don’t like that. I don’t like that.

Ahab doesn’t want the truth. Not if the truth hurts.

Do you wonder why Micaiah never prophesies anything good about Ahab!

But he calls for him anyway.

And while Micaiah’s on the way, they sit back for some more of the prophet show. V.10

“Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. [And the show got really exciting!]

Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, ‘This is what the LORD says: 'With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.'’

All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. ‘Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,’ they said, ‘for the LORD will give it into the king's hand.’”

Whoo! They even have props!  Zedekiah makes these iron horns and waves them around and pretends to gore Ahab’s enemies.

And he says these words, “This is what the [Yahweh] says.” or King James, “Thus Saith the LORD!”

But the LORD never said any such thing.

These guys, all 400 of them, are all saying what the kings want to hear.

But they are not saying what the LORD says.

And that’s dangerous!

And this is where Micaiah shows up on the scene.

The messenger who has gone to get him pulls him aside in the green room to give him some advice about what to say when he goes on stage. V.13

“The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, ‘Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.’ [That’s peer pressure if I ever heard it.] But Micaiah said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.’”

That’s point number one today.

#1. ONLY.

Only What the LORD Says should be preached.

Only what the LORD says should be taken as gospel.

Only what the LORD says should be what we build our lives upon.

Not the word of these other people and certainly not whatever we want to hear.

But ONLY what the LORD says.

Micaiah gets it right, “I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”

The King James translates, “What the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.”

“I don’t get to make it up. I don’t control the words. I don’t get to make it say what I want it to say. I only get to say what He said.”

That, by the way, is the definition of good preaching.

This last Summer, I taught a preaching class with Hunter Galley and few other guys each week.

And you could have summed up each class with verse 14. Make sure you tell them only what the LORD has said right here in His word.

Don’t tell them what they want to hear.
Don’t tell them what you want to say to them.

Tell them what God has said.

ONLY.

Only that is worth building your life on.

There is a lot of pressure out there to transform and conform our message to all kinds of other messages out there.

The apostle Paul said that this would happen.

He told Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers [400?] to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

The pressure is on.

And not just for professional preachers like myself.

The pressure is on all of us to trim the truth of the Word of God and adjust it to fit what others want it to say. What others want to hear.

Don’t give in. Keep your head.

Where are you tempted to conform to the world and tell the others what they want to hear?

I’ll bet there are a lot of different answers to that question in this room.

Can you own up to it?

Can you see your own temptation to trim the truth and say what the itching ears want to hear?

For some of you, it’s about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.

The world wants us to say that there are many ways to God whatever God is.

But we must say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him.

Maybe that isn’t hard for you. Maybe it’s something else.

These days sexuality is the big thing.

The world wants us to say certain things are fine and dandy that the Word of God says are not okay.

Maybe you’re tempted to give in and go along.

I feel this every week in my ministry. There are things that I feel like some of you want me to say from this pulpit that I do not think are God’s Word.

I have to say to myself every week, “Only.”

And there are things that I want to say from myself that seem right to me and good to me. But they are not in here. My job is to say only what is here. Only.

The apostle Paul said, “Do not go beyond what is written.”

What does the Word of God say?

Say that and only that. Live on that and only that.

Now, what Micaiah is actually going to say first will surprise all of us. Except, strangely enough, King Ahab. V.15

“When he arrived, the king asked him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’ ‘Attack and be victorious,’ he answered, ‘for the LORD will give it into the king's hand.’ [Huh? That’s not what I expected. And catch verse 16.]

The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’”

What is going on?

All of a sudden it seems like the prophet is lying and the king is saying that he has to regularly talk him into telling the truth.

I think that what we are missing is the tone of voice of both of them.

I think that Micaiah is sarcastic and that Ahab is frustratedly sarcastic right back.

Let me read it again to you with those tones of voice.

“‘Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’ ‘Attack and be victorious,’ he answered, ‘for the LORD will give it into the king's hand.’”

“The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’”

How many times are you going to do your little act? I’m getting tired of it.

I think that’s what’s going on. Micaiah is sarcastically saying what everyone else has said, and it’s obvious that he’s pulling Ahab’s chain. So, he’s actually saying the opposite.

And they’ve gone around this merry-go-round before. And old Ahab is tired of it. “I’ve told you. Just give me the straight truth. None of your lip.”

So in verse 17, Micaiah gets deadly serious. “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Here’s the truth.”

“Then Micaiah answered, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, 'These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.'’”

“Ahab, you’re gonna die.

And it will mean peace for your people!”

How’s that for a hard truth?

Sheep without a shepherd and better off for it. V.18

“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Didn't I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?’”

“I don’t like what I’m hearing here! Is this what I pay you for?

Why is it always bad news, bad news, bad news for Ahab?

How about some good news for a change?”

Notice that he’s not listening.

This prophet just told him that he’s going to die, and all he can do is complain about the messenger.

Ahab does not listen.

Woe to you and me if we fail to listen as well to what the LORD says.

Ahab does not, will not, listen. And so God allows more lies to seep into his ears.

Listen to the story that Micaiah tells these kings. V.19

“Micaiah continued, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. [A royal gathering like this one but different.] And the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?' ‘One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.'

‘'By what means?' the LORD asked. ‘'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said. ‘'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the LORD. 'Go and do it.'

‘So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.’”

Now, that’s some weird stuff.

We don’t normally think about the LORD sending lying spirits out. That doesn’t seem to be the business He is in.

We know from the life of Saul that the LORD can use even evil or troubling spirits to do His perfect and holy will. They have to obey the King of Kings.

They obey Jesus, don’t they, in the gospels?

The point of this story, however, is not to give us a sense of what normally goes down in the divine throne room, but point out that Ahab does not listen.

Ahab does not want what the LORD says. He will not listen to what the LORD says.

So the LORD says, “Okay, fine. Here’s some more lies for you to believe.”

“I have decided that Ahab dies today on this field of battle. How will we get him there? A lie? Sure. Sounds about right. He loves that. He loves a lie. You will succeed in enticing him. Go and do it.”

We may not understand how it all works, but this heavenly scene does not indict Yahweh.

It indicts Ahab.

Ahab doesn’t listen.

King David said in Psalm 18, “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.”

Ahab is just getting what he wants. He wants a lie. He has fed off of lies all of his life. And lies are what he wants even to the end.

Of course, there is no real deception going on here. The LORD is revealing the truth through Micaiah and even telling Ahab that he’s being lied to by the others.

But (v.23), “The LORD has decreed disaster for you.” And it’s coming through the very appropriate means of those lies that you have loved for so long.

The rest of the prophets don’t like where this is going. V.24

“Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. ‘Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?’ he asked.

Micaiah replied, ‘You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.’

The king of Israel then ordered, ‘Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king's son and say, 'This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.'’

Micaiah declared, ‘If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.’ Then he added, ‘Mark my words, all you people!’”

The proof is in the pudding. We shall see. We shall see.

And watch what Ahab does next.

He tries to avoid what the LORD said.

He’s acted all big and loud and bad when in the throne room. But now he takes precautions because, I think down deep, he knows what’s true. V.29

“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead [sad to see Jehoshaphat going along with this]. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.”

I guess Jehoshaphat would think he was being honored to be the only king out there and getting all of the glory.

But it also makes him an obvious target. And Ben-Hadad is targeting the king. V.31

“Now the king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, ‘Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.’ [He’s gunning for Ahab.] When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, ‘Surely this is the king of Israel.’ So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out, the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him.”

“Wait. That’s the king of Judah. We don’t want him. Where’s the other guy?”

Verse 34. Best verse in the whole chapter.

“But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, ‘Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I've been wounded.’ All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. As the sun was setting, a cry spread through the army: ‘Every man to his town; everyone to his land!’

So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the LORD had declared.  As for the other events of Ahab's reign, including all he did, the palace he built and inlaid with ivory, and the cities he fortified, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Ahab rested with his fathers. And Ahaziah his son succeeded him as king.”

#2. EVERYTHING.

Everything that the LORD says comes to pass.

Everything the LORD says is what is true.

Everything the LORD says is certain and trustworthy and reliable and sure.

The LORD had said that Ahab would die in battle that day.

And Ahab had chosen to go into battle that day.

No disguise could save him.
No fancy armor could save him.
No trick or precaution or defense could save him.

Because the LORD had said that he would die.

It was effortless for the LORD to do it.

He used a random bowshot.

I shot an arrow into the air, 
It fell to earth, I knew not where; 
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight 
Could not follow it in its flight. 

But this arrow did not land in Longfellow’s oak.

It landed in Ahab’s body.

Because of what the LORD said. V.38 again.

“So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the LORD had declared.”

Everything what the LORD says comes to true.

It’s all that matters.

Verse 39 tells us that Ahab was a pretty successful king by worldly standards. But it doesn’t matter because he didn’t love and trust what the LORD says.

Everything.

Everything the LORD says comes true.

I know that you know that. But this story is here to bring it home to our hearts.

Every promise that He makes is true and faithful and trustworthy.

And so is every threat.

The question is:

Do we believe?
Do we trust?
Do we take God at His word?

Do we believe everything He says?
Do we build our lives on it?

Do we believe that we do “not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD?”

Ahab didn’t. He didn’t love what the LORD says.

But that didn’t stop what the LORD says coming true.

It just made it painful for him.

What about you and me?

Are we building our lives on what the LORD says?

Or what we want Him to say?

If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I invite you to turn from your sin and trust in Him now. Trust in His promise to save all who will put their faith in Him.

Here’s what the LORD says: to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, he gives the right to become children of God. And if you come to Him, He will in no way cast you out.

If you have received Jesus as Savior, keep building your life on His words.

That verse that Marilynn put on the front of your bulletin. Proverbs 30:5. “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Every word.

Everything that the LORD says will come true.

That’s a firm foundation to stand on.

When the trials come and they will come.

That’s a rock that will not fail.

That’s what the LORD says


***

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
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations go to Brent Bodenhamer for winning a free copy of Good & Angry by David Powlison,

Brent's comment was, "I'll be mad if I don't win." So I'm glad we dodged that bullet!

Send me your mailing information, Brent, so that we can get you your book.

And thank you to New Growth Press for sponsoring this contest!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "Thus Saith the LORD!"

“Thus Saith the LORD!”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
September 11, 2016 :: 1 Kings 21:1-29  

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and we’re almost done with the first book of kings! By next week, we’ll probably have it all wrapped up.

In this first book of kings, we’ve been introduced to a whole bunch of kings both good and bad.

And we’ve learned that:

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

And while we’ve been learning about Ahab, the focused shifted for about 3 chapters away from the kings and onto a particular prophet: Elijah.  We learned about the days of Elijah who was a man just like you and me and whom the LORD used in a mighty way to reveal that He is God.

And then, last week, the focus shifted back onto King Ahab.

Was King Ahab thumbs up or thumbs down?

We’ve been calling him 6 thumbs down.

He was the absolute worst so far.

The LORD has prophesied his downfall.

And we learned last week that these last 3 chapters of 1 Kings are about the Last Days of Ahab.

Last week, in chapter 20, the LORD helped Ahab win two big victories over Ben-Hadad his Aramean armies. But Ahab went home a sore winner, sullen and angry because he had disobeyed the command of Yahweh to dispense justice on his enemy. And the LORD had called him on the carpet for it.

This week, we see the same sullen and angry Ahab, the spoiled brat of a king who does what is wrong when he doesn’t get his way.

And we see once again how the Lord responds to Ahab.

And when we see God’s response, we get to know God better.

Last week, the message was all about how the Lord wants to be known.

He wants us to relate to Him, to know Him.

He doesn’t want to be the best kept secret in the universe.

He wants us to know Him and to make Him known.

And we know that because our God is a speaking God.

He doesn’t stand aloof and alone above all things and silent.

He speaks.

He tells us through His actions and His words Who He really is.

So here’s today’s sermon title. It flows right out of that:

“Thus Saith the LORD!”

I’ve always wanted to call a sermon that. That phrase appears over and over again in our Bibles, but I’ve never used it as sermon title before.

The reason I picked it for today is that it occurs twice in the key verse of this chapter, verse 19.

The NIV translates it, “This is what the LORD says....” but most of us still remember the Old King James English way of saying it, “Thus Saith the LORD.”

Thus Saith Yahweh.

Our God is a speaking God, and when He speaks, He tells us Who He really is.

Our story begins at the ancestral land of a man named Naboth.

Naboth appears in the Bible in just this chapter and a follow-up to this chapter in 2 Kings 9.

Naboth was an honorable man who had the distinct misfortune to own some land adjacent to a royal palace belonging to Ahab in Jezreel.

It was a “misfortune” for Naboth because weak and wicked King Ahab wanted his land. Let’s read about it. 1 Kings chapter 21, verse 1.

“Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.’”

Now, if Naboth wanted to sell that land, this was a pretty good offer.

Ahab obviously wants it badly because he’s got generous terms. Name your fair price, he says.

But Naboth does not want to sell this land, and in fact, feels that it would be an affront to his family name. This land was probably allotted to his family during the conquest under Joshua. Remember that at the end of Joshua when they doled out the land to the tribes?

If Naboth was really hurting financially, he could have sold the land, but the Mosaic Law favored the family keeping the land within the family as an inheritance. V.3

“But Naboth replied, ‘The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.’”

In other words, “No deal! I know my rights as an Israelite, and I don’t care about the first law of real estate–location, location, location–what I care about is my family inheritance, so I’m going to stand up to the king and keep my land, thank you very much.”

And this does not sit well with King Ahab. V.4

“So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.”

Ever know anybody like that?

Every been somebody like that?

I know I have. Those words “sullen and angry” in verse 4 are the exact same Hebrews words from last week’s chapter 20, verse 43.

This is how Ahab deals with disappointment in his life. “Sullen and angry.”

Do you know anybody that is sullen and angry?

Do you have to live with them?
Are they are your friends (so to speak) on social media?
Are they passive/aggressive?
Are they...you?

It’s a really ugly response to disappointment in life.

When we get like this, we feel all righteous and put-upon. We don’t think about justice. We don’t think about others. We just think about ourselves. And what we want.

Ahab is a royally spoiled brat. But Jezebel; she is something worse. V.5

“His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, ‘Why are you so sullen? Why won't you eat?’ [Why didn’t you come to dinner?] He answered her, ‘Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, 'Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.' But he said, 'I will not give you my vineyard.'’”

He might not have sounded like that in his voice, but that’s what it sounded like in his heart.

Covetousness.

Wanting what someone else has.

Greed. Envy. Ahab was consumed by covetousness.

Notice that this is all about a vineyard! Just a piece of land.

And look how tied in knots Ahab is over it.  But it gets worse.

Jezebel does not respect the law of Moses.
She only respects one law, the law of power. V.7

“Jezebel his wife said, ‘Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! [“Mr. Whiney pants,”] Cheer up. I'll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’ [Just you watch!]

So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city with him. In those letters she wrote: ‘Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people.

But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.’”

This is a secret conspiracy in the halls of power to deny a man his rights and his very life. ... And she gets away with it. V.11

“So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, ‘Naboth has cursed both God and the king.’ So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: ‘Naboth has been stoned and is dead.’ As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.’ When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth's vineyard.”

She won.

Her plan worked.

Ahab won. He got what he wanted!

They pulled off the crime. And all it took was sending out a few little letters.

Does that make you angry?

It should, I think.

This is true injustice, right here.

It’s wrong and foul and bad.

And God let it happen that day.

We see a lot of injustice in the world today.

Sometimes, it’s hard for us to recognize or adjudicate, but other times, it’s blatantly obvious.

And most of us here have experienced injustice on some level ourselves.

Something bad has been done to us, and it seems like the perpetrators got away with it.

And it might seem like God does not care.

After all, He let it happen.

Injustice is real, and followers of Jesus Christ can expect to experience it.

The Apostle Peter told us that experiencing injustice is normal for Christians. Normal. He said to persecuted Christians, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

It’s normal. It’s not strange for Christ-followers to get a raw deal.

You can expect it.

Our Lord did. Our Lord Jesus experienced the greatest injustice of all time. Like Naboth, he had false witnesses stand up and accuse of Him of things He never did.

And they believed them!

Jesus knows injustice. On a human level, the Cross was the height of injustice.

So don’t be surprised if it comes your way, too.

But don’t believe for a minute that God does not care.

It’s in this moment of injustice that God speaks.V.17

“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite [Boom! Elijah comes back on the scene.]: ‘Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth's vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it.

Say to him, [Thus saith the LORD!] 'This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?' Then say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood–yes, yours!'’”

#1. “I AM JUST.”

“I am righteous. I love justice. I know what is right and what is wrong. And I care about it. I care about justice. I love justice. And I will bring justice.

I am just.”

Do you see how verse 19 is saying that?

The LORD sends Elijah all the way to Jezreel to deliver this message. Look at verse 19 again.

“Say to him, [Thus saith the LORD!] ‘Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?'”

In other words, “I saw you.”

“You thought you got away with it, but I was watching.”

“Jezebel thinks she’s so smart, but you can’t pull the wool over my eyes.”

“I know what happened. I know that it was wrong. And I care about justice.” v.19 again.

“Then say to him, [Thus saith the LORD]: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood–yes, yours!'’”

Now, that’s gruesome, but it’s a promise of justice.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood, a lick for lick. [Peter Leithart says something like this in his commentary on 1&2 Kings.]

The Lord is saying to Ahab and to us, “I am just.”

And that’s good news.

Because it’s hard enough to live in a world that is unfair and inequitable and unjust temporarily, but it would be utterly maddening to know that God is like that, too.

God is just. That’s Who He is.

And He will bring justice.

You might have to wait. Maybe what seems like a long time. Maybe until after you die, but justice is coming.

The Bible promises it.

Listen to 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

The Lord is just. Isn’t that good news?

You can trust in His judgment.

His timing may be different than yours or mine, but it is perfect.

Don’t interpret the delay in getting justice as God’s indifference to what is right. He cares. And He will act.

We’re going to see this verse come true right before our very eyes next Sunday.

Because God is just.

That should encourage us if we are going through a period of persecution or mistreatment.

It should also cause us to ask ourselves if we are just. If we love justice ourselves.

I think of these leaders at Jezreel. Nobody blinked. They just mindlessly did what the Queen asked. And nobody stood up for poor Naboth.

Nobody said, “That’s not right. That’s not the Naboth I know.”

They just stood there and let him die.

Do you and I love justice?

Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly...”

Like the Lord.

It might seem right now like Al Qaeda or ISIS or (some other radical Islamic terrorist group) is getting away with murder. Quite literally.

But they are not. The LORD is just.

And more than that. He is jealous.

#2. “I AM JEALOUS.” v.20

“Ahab said to Elijah, ‘So you have found me, my enemy!’ ‘I have found you,’ he answered, ‘because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. 'I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel–slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.' [Justice] ‘And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: 'Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' ‘Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.’

[Why? V.25] (There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.)”

Most of those verses just say that justice is coming and spell it out a little bit.

But that last verse shows the deepest injustice, the greatest wrong that Ahab committed. It wasn’t theft and it wasn’t even murder.  It was idolatry.

“He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.”

God hates idolatry. It’s the greatest injustice because God truly deserves all of our worship. So when we give it to idol, we are committing a travesty of justice.

God is jealous.

The first and second commands in the Decalogue, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).

Ahab’s worst sin was not theft or murder. It was leading the people of Israel to worship false gods.

Of course, that always leads to things like theft and murder! But it’s the heart of the matter that we raise other things in our hearts above our Lord God.

It doesn’t sound good to our ears that the LORD is jealous.

But think about the opposite. Think about what if God didn’t care whether or not we loved and worshiped and related to Him?

If He was indifferent to His glory.

What if God, the most glorious being in the universe, stopped caring about the most important thing in the universe?

Everything would come undone.

And He is jealous for our hearts.

He wants to be first our hearts.

Imagine if He didn’t care about your heart or my heart?

If He didn’t care if David had a heart for the heart of God?

“Oh well.”

That’s not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is a properly jealous God. Jealous for all the right reasons and in all the right ways.

He wants to be first in your heart and mine.

Is He?

Or has something crept in there to occupy the place where He belongs?

Is there some idol of the heart in your life that needs to be toppled?

Just about anything could become a false god for us today.

Money, popularity, entertainment are ones that we often point to.

But safety, security, comfort–those can be idols, as well.

Who or what runs and rules your life?

Answer that question honestly, and you’ll know Who your god is, for good or ill.

Who or what runs and rules your life?

Ahab allowed gods named Baal and Ashtoreth to run and rule his life.

But more than that.

Ahab allowed Jezebel to run and rule his life.

Ahab allowed his greedy desires to run and rule his life.

“(There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites [did! The ones...] the LORD drove out before Israel.)”

And then he repented.

No, really. He actually took a step back at this point. V.27

“When Ahab heard these words [“Thus saith the LORD”], he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.”

What’s going on?

Is this some kind of an act?

It can’t be for real. Ahab is the worst, and after all of what has happened, it finally got through to him? V.28

“Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite [again]: ‘Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.’”

It was for real!

No, it doesn’t last. It’s only temporary.

He goes back. Perhaps we should say that it wasn’t repentance, but it was genuine remorse. Serious remorse for his sin.

This, my friends, is Ahab’s best moment. Chapter 21, verse 27. Ahab humbled himself.

And what does God say about Himself?

#3. “I AM GRACIOUS.”

Ahab’s punishment is postponed.

The LORD shows grace and mercy to humbled King Ahab.

Let me ask you a question.

Does that bother you?

When you read verse 29, does it kind of get under your skin and make you feel a little off kilter?

Like, “Why He’s doing that?”

“Does He know what Ahab deserves?”

Of course He does. He just said all of the bad stuff that was going to happen to Ahab because of justice.

But now He does this?

That doesn’t seem fair.

I think we’re supposed to feel that.

Because grace is not fair.

Mercy is not fair and equitable.

Grace is giving someone what they do not deserve.

“But God they don’t deserve a second chance.”

And God says, “No, they sure don’t. And that’s why I’m giving it to them.”

God is gracious.

And it’s scandalously beautiful.

You know it is.

Or you don’t know what your salvation is.

Because it was at the Cross where God’s justice and grace met and mingled perfectly and bring us salvation.

Like that song we sing by John Newton:

Let us wonder grace and justice 
Join and point to mercy’s store 
When through grace in Christ our trust is 
Justice smiles and asks no more 
He Who washed us with His blood 
He Who washed us with His blood 
He Who washed us with His blood 
Has secured our way to God

You don’t want a God who is all justice and no grace.

Because what perfect justice demands you and I cannot meet.

Only Jesus can and what He did for us on the Cross.

When through grace in Christ our trust is 
Justice smiles and asks no more 

Have you come to trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins?

He is gracious. He died on the Cross for justice, to meet the demands of perfect divine justice for ours sins.

But because He’s done that, we can experience His grace.

We don’t deserve it!
We don’t deserve a second chance.

But if we did, it wouldn’t be grace.

I invite you to trust in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

And to put Him first in your life. Because He’s jealous for you.

What did Micah tell us that Lord wants from us?

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

First and foremost.

He loves you.

You don’t deserve it, but He loves you.

Trust Him, love Him back, serve Him, put Him first.

Believe in His justice and His jealousy and His graciousness.

Trust everything He says about Himself.

Because that’s Who He really is.

“Thus Saith the LORD.”


***

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
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Friday, September 09, 2016

Win a Copy of "Good & Angry" by David Powlison


It's hard to communicate how excited I am about this brand new book from David Powlison, Good & Angry, which officially releases on Monday.

I've been waiting 15 years for this book! 

Ever since I learned of the ministry of CCEF and the Journal of Biblical Counseling, I've been reading the excellent (though sporadic) articles that David has written on this difficult subject, and I've also heard him teach on it in person. And for all of those years, he's been promising a book-length treatment but has been providentially hindered from producing it. But now in 2016, Good & Angry has finally arrived!

Seeing Red

I haven't finished reading it, but I can already tell you that it's very good. David has a unique way of seeing and saying truth. He's both feisty and humble at the same time. He captures both the essence of anger and all of its contours. I think Andy Naselli nails it in calling David "the Yoda of biblical counseling," David is one of the wisest people when it comes to understanding how people tick and how the Word of God meets and changes them [I've been learning from and quoting him for years and years!].

Even the title says so much. I've been reading another pretty good book recently about how not to be personally offended, and I've been helped very much by it. But the author basically argues away the concept of righteous anger as a self-justifying fiction [see this excellent review of Unoffendable by my friend Benjamin Vrbicek]. Powlison, instead, would see anger redeemed and gives us biblical categories for understanding good anger (i.e. "the constructive displeasure of mercy").  Yet at the same time, Powlison never excuses sinful anger and constantlly offers helpful counsel for change.  [See this review by Tim Challies to get a fuller picture of the book's strengths.]

Not only does David break new ground, but he does it with gentleness and grace. He writes as one struggler to other fellow strugglers, and it feels like a personal conversation. I can hear his voice in every sentence. This book is biblical counseling at its best written by one its leading theorists and
practitioners.

Win One for Yourself!

Starting today, I'm offering a contest to win a free copy.

Entering this contest is very simple:

1. Leave a comment on this post (either here or on Facebook) with your name on it.

2. Wait to see if you win. I'll be drawing the names out of a hat. It's that easy! (Don't forget to check back or subscribe to updates to find out if you win--I'll need your mailing address if you do.)

You can also increase your chances of winning by posting about this contest on your social media page (FB, Twitter, Blog, Pinterest, etc.). Just send me an email or leave a comment with the link so that I know that you've expanded the reach of the contest. For each time you link to the contest, you get your name added to the hat one more time (limit of 7 chances, the contest ends at 12am EST on Wednesday night, September 21st).

I'll announce the winner on Thursday.

But if you can't wait, order your copy today!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "You Will Know that I Am the LORD"

“You Will Know that I am the LORD”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
September 4, 2016 :: 1 Kings 20:1-43 

If I were a betting man, I’d be willing bet that most if not nearly all of us here have never heard a sermon on 1 Kings chapter 20.

Most of us have heard multiple sermons on 1 Kings 18 where Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, and the LORD sends the fire and the rain.

And a good many of us have heard a sermon or two on 1 Kings 19 where Elijah was discouraged because it seemed like his victory on Mt. Carmel had not changed a blessed thing. Ahab and Jezebel were still worshiping Baal. And Jezebel still wanted Elijah dead.

And yet, as we learned last week, the LORD was still God.

And He encouraged Elijah with both power and gentleness that He was still working and still faithful to all of His promises.

But most of us have never heard a sermon on 1 King chapter 20.

We’ve all read it when making our trip through the whole Bible, but it often feels like a story to just get through on your way to the good stuff.

It’s a little hard to follow. The characters do stuff that you don’t expect or understand very easily. And there’s another guy who gets eaten by a lion.

It’s a story full of surprises.

You don’t always know what to do with it.

But it’s a story worth spending some time in.

It’s in God’s Word, so you know it’s inspired.

You know it’s useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.

It’s worth some meditation and some digging into.

What I noticed especially this week, as I studied it, was the desire of the LORD to be known. There’s this phrase that occurs twice, both times on the lips of the same prophet, when he explains why the LORD is going to do something.

It’s this phrase, “And you will know that I am the LORD.”

That’s important to God.

Not just that we know that there is a God out there somewhere.

But that this God wants to be known as God.

He does not want to be a secret. He wants to be revealed.

He desires to be known, and His actions will bear that out.

Now, the focus shifts in these last 3 chapters of 1 Kings from the prophet back to the king. From the prophet Elijah (who doesn’t even show up in this chapter!) to the King named...who is the king right now in Israel?

King Ahab.

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Last week, we said “6 thumbs down.”

This was the worst king so far in a very disappointing list of bad kings.

King Ahab

The focus shifts in these last 3 chapters from the days of Elijah to the days of Ahab.

And at the risk of spoiling the story for you, I’ll share that these are the last days of Ahab.

I think that, in large part, chapters 20 and 21 are there in our Bibles to make the case for the downfall and death of Ahab.

Not that you and I have much question about whether or not Ahab should go down, but the LORD seems to think it’s important for us to know the details.

Because, as we do, we get know Him better.

So, you could call these three chapters, the “Downfall of Ahab.”

But that doesn’t mean it’ll be a straight downward line.  No, in fact, there are a number of unexpected twists and turns in this story. Hang onto your hat!

The first twist is that in chapter 20 the LORD fights for Ahab!

That’s surprising, isn’t it, after what happened in the last 2 chapters?

1 Kings chapter 20, verse 1.

“Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it.” Stop there for just a second.

We’ve met a king named Ben-Hadad before in chapter 15. This is probably his son, perhaps his grandson. So he’s Ben-Hadad, Jr. or maybe B-H the third.

He is king of Aram which is a people group that settled in the region of Syria north of Israel. He was the most powerful king in Syria at the time and the leader of a coalition of other kings from all around that same region.

Last week, the LORD told Elijah to see that his successor, Hazael, is anointed, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Ben-Hadad is king of Aram and he’s on the warpath. He’s invaded Israel and has attacked Ahab’s capital city.

There are three battles in this chapter, and this is the first one. Ben-Hadad has clearly won it, and he expects some spoils from his victory. V.2

“He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, ‘This is what Ben-Hadad says: 'Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine.'’ The king of Israel answered, [No way, Bub. No, he says,] ‘Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.’”

Ahab backs down.

I think that shows us a little bit of what Ahab was like.

He’s kind of a little man. He sees that he’s beat, and he just says, “Okay, what do you want?”

Now, I think that what’s going on here is that Ben-Hadad is asking for tribute and loyalty. That Israel would become a vassal-state under the overrule of Aram.

These wives and children and silver and gold are tokens of their new allegiance.

And Ahab gives up the store, too easily. And that makes Ben-Hadad a little more greedy. V.5

“The messengers came again and said, ‘This is what Ben-Hadad says: 'I sent to demand your silver and gold, your wives and your children. But about this time tomorrow I am going to send my officials to search your palace and the houses of your officials. They will seize everything you value and carry it away.'’”

“I want it all!

I want everything you think you’re hiding.

I want everything you’ve got.”

And that’s too much for Ahab. He was willing to part with some wives and children and little bit of protection money.

But not the whole thing! V.7

“The king of Israel summoned all the elders of the land and said to them, ‘See how this man is looking for trouble! When he sent for my wives and my children, my silver and my gold, I did not refuse him.’

The elders and the people all answered, ‘Don't listen to him or agree to his demands.’ [Them’s fighting words!]

So he replied to Ben-Hadad's messengers, ‘Tell my lord the king, 'Your servant will do all you demanded the first time, but this demand I cannot meet.'’ They left and took the answer back to Ben-Hadad.

Then Ben-Hadad sent another message to Ahab: [Oh yeah? He said,] ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust remains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful.’

The king of Israel answered [with more trash-talking], ‘Tell him: 'One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.'’

Ben-Hadad heard this message while he and the kings were drinking in their tents, and he ordered his men: ‘Prepare to attack.’ So they prepared to attack the city.”

Now, what you do you think is going to happen?

Up till now, Ben-Hadad has been the winner in every contest. He has a massive army.

And we all know what kind of an evil wimp King Ahab is even though he talks a good game.

What do we expect? We expect a slaughter coming on.

But God.

But God intervenes. Verse 13.

“Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, ‘This is what the LORD says: 'Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then [here’s our sermon title] you will know that I am the LORD.'’”

Why would He do that?

Why would the LORD send a prophet (apparently not Elijah, so there are other prophets of Yahweh during this time period, why would the LORD send a prophet) to tell Ahab that He was going to beat the vast army of Ben-Hadad?

I’ll tell you this–it’s not because Ahab deserved it.

It’s not for Ahab’s glory.

It’s so that the LORD would be known. V.13 again.

“Then you will know that I am the LORD.”

Does that phrase sound familiar to you, at all?

It shows up several places in the Old Testament, but the place where it gets repeated again and again is to Pharaoh in the book of Exodus.

God says again and again that He is going to free His people from the grips of Pharaoh so that he will know that “I am the LORD.”

“I am Yahweh.”

He does not want to be disregarded.

#1. NOT DISREGARDED.

He does not want to be neglected, missed, or overlooked.

He’s going to show up and fight for Israel, not because Ahab deserves it, but because God wants the glory.

He wants to be known.

Now, Ahab almost doesn’t know what to do with this.

This is the first time in a long time that a prophet of Yahweh has brought him good news!  That never happens!

Elijah is always bringing doom and gloom and shutting off the rain.

And now the LORD says that He’s going to bring victory? V.14

“‘But who will do this?’ asked Ahab. The prophet replied, ‘This is what the LORD says: 'The [newbies, the] young officers of the provincial commanders will do it.'’ ‘And who will start the battle?’ he asked. The prophet answered, ‘You will.’ [Okay, it’s worth a shot. My big mouth has gotten into this, what do I have to lose? V.15] So Ahab summoned the young officers of the provincial commanders, 232 men. Then he assembled the rest of the Israelites, 7,000 in all.

They set out at noon while Ben-Hadad and the 32 kings allied with him were in their tents getting drunk.”

And you can tell all of a sudden how this is going to turn out!

Cocky Ben-Hadad thinks he’s got this one all sewn up. They’re already celebrating. V.17

“The young officers of the provincial commanders went out first. [Just like God said.] Now Ben-Hadad had dispatched scouts, who reported, ‘Men are advancing from Samaria.’ He said, ‘If they have come out for peace, take them alive; if they have come out for war, take them alive.’”

Those are difficult orders to follow if I ever heard one! V.19

“The young officers of the provincial commanders marched out of the city with the army behind them and each one struck down his opponent. At that, the Arameans fled, with the Israelites in pursuit. But Ben-Hadad king of Aram escaped on horseback with some of his horsemen. [And he didn’t fall off the horse!]  The king of Israel advanced and overpowered the horses and chariots and inflicted heavy losses on the Arameans.”

Why? Because the LORD wants to be known.

Not disregarded, neglected, forgotten, but known.

And that’s true today, as well.

The world loves to disregard the Lord.

To pretend that He’s a nonentity.

To suppress the truth about His power and glory and holiness.

To go our own merry way without regard to Who God really is.

But the LORD will not be trifled with.

He shows up again and again in the story of the world to make Himself known.

He’s interested in bringing glory to Himself.

Now when I try to bring glory to myself, I get into trouble. Because I’m just not worth glorifying. But when the LORD does it, He deserves all of that glory, and it would just be wrong to deny it to Him.

In fact, it’s what’s best for us. There is nothing better for you and me than to receive the revelation of the glory of God.

This banner right here. “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

Just knowing that is the greatest thing there is.

Our church exists to bring people into a life-changing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

In other words, to know Him and to make Him known.

Do you know Him? And are you making Him known?

Now, there is some serious post-game analysis of this second clash between the two armies. The first one went to King Ben-Hadad. The second one went very decisively to King Ahab. Why? V.22

“Afterward, the prophet [same one] came to the king of Israel and said, ‘Strengthen your position and see what must be done, because [there’s going to be a rematch] next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.’

Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, ‘Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they.

Do this: Remove all the kings from their commands and replace them with other officers. You must also raise an army like the one you lost–horse for horse and chariot for chariot–  so we can fight Israel on the plains. Then surely we will be stronger than they.’ He agreed with them and acted accordingly.”

How was their post game analysis?

Well, they have a pretty good strategy.

With their bigger numbers and all of their horse and chariots, it makes sense for them to engage the Israelites on the plains instead of on the hills.

But, their theological analysis is all messed up.

They believe that the gods of Israel are gods of the hills. But they are not gods of the plains or the valleys.

So, Aram will win if they fight where their gods have the homefield advantage.

What’s the problem with that assessment?

The LORD is not just the god of the hills. Amen?  V.26

“The next spring Ben-Hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel [a third time]. When the Israelites were also mustered and given provisions, they marched out to meet them. The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.”

Or as they say in sports, “Uh oh. Those guys are big.”

The odds are not in their favor.

But God.  V.28

“The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, ‘This is what the LORD says: 'Because [get that! Because] the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.'’”

Do you see God’s logic?

He is not fighting right now for the glory of Ahab or because Ahab has made wise choices or because Ahab might get rid of the Baals if he sees Yahweh at work.

He’s fighting for the Israelites because the Arameans need an adjustment to their theology.

“Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.'’”

The Lord does not want to be discounted.

#2. NOT DISCOUNTED.

The world does that all of the time.

God is the God of Sunday mornings but not Monday mornings, right?

God is the God of women and children but not the God of real men.

God is the God of grace but not of holiness.

Do you see what I’m saying?

The world loves to discount God. To put Him in a box and see Him as something you do on Sundays, maybe. But He is not Lord of all.

Of course, we laugh at these Arameans, but we do the same thing sometimes, too, don’t we?

We don’t say it. But we act like it.

Dale Ralph Davis in his book on 1 Kings puts it this way, “[This] theology simply says that there is some turf beyond the reach of Yahweh’s power. And we easily slip into this mentality, contrary to our expressed beliefs. We may catch ourselves assuming that God is at work in religious things but not in routine things. Or some have had a wretched and perverse past that has left multiple scars; they are such victims of their experiences that they can expect, they say, no change, no deliverance. The Holy Spirit may regenerate and sanctify more kosher folks, but, one of these will say, he cannot do anything with the absurd medley of genetics, environment, and folly that have made me the twisted mess of hopelessness that I am. Yahweh is only the god of the hills. And then one sometimes meets this attitude in a small church of forty or fifty members, most of whom are age sixty and above; we can’t expect God to do anything in us or among us; we are growing older, we’ve not younger couples or children; we can’t muster up any revival starter-kit like larger churches can do. We can’t expect God to stir us–he’s not a god of the valley” (The Wisdom and the Folly, pg. 287).

Can you relate?

How do you discount the Lord?

How do you compartmentalize Him, setting Him over here, but not over here?

God will not be discounted for long.

He wants to be known and known fully.

I look around our community, and I see some pretty hard cases. I was at the West Branch football game on Friday night, and looking at some of the folks, I found myself thinking, “There isn’t much hope for changing that person. That one, maybe, but not that one.”

Why? Why would I think that?

Because God is not the God of hard cases?!

He’s the God of easy cases only?

Let’s not discount Him.

“Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the LORD.'’”

So He did. V.29

“For seven days [a perfect number, reminiscent of Jericho?] they camped opposite each other, and on the seventh day the battle was joined. The Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Aramean foot soldiers in one day. [On the plains!]

The rest of them escaped to the city of Aphek, where the wall collapsed on twenty-seven thousand of them. And Ben-Hadad fled to the city and hid in an inner room. [A total reversal of fortunes.]

His officials said to him, ‘Look, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful. Let us go to the king of Israel with sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads. Perhaps he will spare your life.’ [Dress up like a slave. It’s your only hope because the shoe is on the other foot.]

Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel and said, ‘Your servant Ben-Hadad says: 'Please let me live.'’ The king answered, ‘Is he still alive? He is my brother.’ [Hmmm.]

The men took this as a good sign and were quick to pick up his word. ‘Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad!’ they said. ‘Go and get him,’ the king said. When Ben-Hadad came out, Ahab had him come up into his chariot.

‘I will return the cities my father took from your father,’ Ben-Hadad offered. ‘You may set up your own market areas in Damascus [my city], as my father did in Samaria [your city].’ Ahab said, ‘On the basis of a treaty I will set you free.’ So he made a treaty with him, and let him go.”

That almost sounds good.

But it’s not.

Ahab has won, but he’s actually lost.

Because the battle was not Ahab’s. The battle was the LORD’s.

So that means that this royal prisoner was not Ahab’s prisoner, and certainly not Ahab’s “brother,” but the LORD’s prisoner. And Ahab should have known what to do with him.

But Ahab was taken in by the royal sweet-talking, and failed to obey the LORD’s command, showing clemency when he should have required justice.

So Ben-Hadad lives to fight another day.  We’ll see him again.

But now, it’s time for Ahab to be confronted with his disobedience.

And of course, the LORD does it in a surprising way.  V.35

“By the word of the LORD one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, ‘Strike me with your weapon,’ but the man refused. So the prophet said, ‘Because you have not obeyed the LORD, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.’ And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him. The prophet found another man and said, ‘Strike me, please.’ So the man struck him and wounded him. Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes.”

What’s going on?

The LORD has an illustrated message about obedience for Ahab.

And He’s going to require obedience from everyone in the chain of this illustrated message.

The guy dies by lion bite to remind us that the word of the LORD is serious.

We saw that back in chapter 13.

The word of the LORD is serious.

The LORD wants to be known.

And He does not want to be disobeyed.

#3. NOT DISOBEYED.

The point of this death by large feline is that it is not safe to ignore the word of Yahweh.

It’s weird, but He got our attention didn’t He?

God’s word is not a game.

We’re not a playing a game up here with this thing.

This is serious stuff.

The prophet puts on this disguise, and he confronts Ahab–kind of like Nathan confronted David. V.39

“As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, ‘Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, 'Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.' [But something bad happened to me.] While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.’

‘That is your sentence,’ the king of Israel said. ‘You have pronounced it yourself.’ [You didn’t do what you were supposed to! This is an easy one. You had one job! V.41]

Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. [Uh oh.] He said to the king, ‘This is what the LORD says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.'’”

The LORD does not want disobedience. He wants obedience.

And He’s serious about that.

“You had one job, Ahab. And you didn’t do it either.”

Some of the scariest words to ever come out of Jesus’ mouth were “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [To those who live lives characterized by disobedience...] I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:21-22).

Is there some area of your life where you know you are disobeying? Actively disobeying the Lord?

I don’t just mean sin. We all sin.

But you know what the Lord says in this area, and you are just not planning to do that.

That’s a scary place to be. You don’t want to live there.

The LORD wants to be known, not to be disobeyed.

Here’s the question. When you are confronted in your disobedience, how do you respond?

What do you do next?

What did David do?  He repented. He confessed!

And he found the blessing of God’s forgiveness. He found the blessing of God’s grace to undeserving sinners.

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”

That’s what David did.

But that’s not what Ahab did. Ahab sulked.

Ahab was a sulker. That was his downfall.

God has been so good to him, so gracious. And what does he do? V.43

“Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.”

Kicking a can with his hands in his pockets the whole way.

Ahab won the big battle, but he was still a big loser.

Don’t be like Ahab.

When the Lord puts His finger on some area of disobedience in your life, don’t ignore him. Don’t neglect Him. Don’t disregard Him or discount Him.

Know Him.

Confess your sins and follow Him by faith.

And Know Him.

Because the LORD our God desires to be known.


***

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
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Three Years of "Resisting Gossip"

Aww. Our little book turns three today!

It's hard to believe, but Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue was released on September 3, 2013.

Yesterday, I went through all of the posts on this blog marked Resisting Gossip, and reviewed what a wonderful adventure it has been over the last twelve months.

This year has definitely been a quieter year than the previous one when we had the release of Resisting Gossip Together, the ten-part Resisting Gossip Video Teaching Series (free online!), and the Spanish translation Resistiendo El Chisme (remember that time it was on Colombian national television?!?!).

But even though it hasn't been as busy, I am still amazed at how far Resisting Gossip has traveled and thankful for how it continues to have an effect on people's lives.

En français!

A year ago, the French version, Résister à la médisance was released in both France and Canada.



I got to actually be present for the Canadian release. Dave Almack of CLC Ministries and I traveled up to the beautiful city of Montreal where I got to meet Antoine Roberge and the rest of the CLC Canada team and share the message of my book through a translator.

In a word, this experience was "Merveilleux!"

In Wales, Too

The next international stop was an article in the Welsh magazine originally titled, "Y Cylchgrawn Efengylaidd," or in English, "The Evangelical Magazine." They published an adapted form of chapter 6, "Instead of Gossip: Listening."  Thank you to CLC Publications for giving them permission to share this with their readers.

CCEF National Conference

In between those two international events, I had the privilege of presenting a breakout seminar at the CCEF National Conference entitled, "Behind the Back: When Gossip Distorts Side-by-Side Ministry."

Speaking at CCEF was a "bucket list" level event for me and brought Resisting Gossip full circle as it started its life as a doctoral project encouraged by Ed Welch. I spoke to a room full of highly-engaged listeners who asked great questions to interact with what I had to share. I would do it again in a heartbeat.



Hope Church

In January, I had the opportunity to present the Resisting Gossip Seminar and preach at Hope Church in Spenser, Iowa which is pastored by my friend Russell Muilenburg. Russell wove the seminar into a sermon series he was doing on "Taming the Tongue" for which he interviewed me.

Still Being Read

I'm encouraged that Resisting Gossip continues to be a bestseller for CLC Publications, and I still get emails and mail from readers who are being helped to fight the good fight against this pernicious temptation.

I'm so glad that we went with CLC as our publisher, especially because of their international missions outreach. In April, I was invited to be the speaker for their special 75th Anniversary Celebration at their annual conference in Philadelphia. What a joy to be with those precious people who pour out their lives to get solid evangelical literature into the hands of the nations!

More Still To Come

The good folks at CLC tell me that the Russian translation has been completed, and they hope to release it this Fall and that the Korean translation is in the final stages of translation and may even be out this month. How exciting to think about the impact of our little book on people around the world.