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Sunday, October 23, 2016

[Matt's Messages} "How NOT to Relate to God"

“How NOT To Relate to God”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
October 23, 2016 :: 2 Kings 3:1-37  

We might call this section of the Books of Kings, “The Days of Elisha.” Because not only have we turned the corner from book 1 to book 2, but we’ve moved from big prophet 1 to big prophet 2.

Last week, Elisha asked, “Where is the God of Elijah?” and the answer was that He hasn’t gone anywhere! He’s right here with Elisha doing redemptive miracles and keeping His threats and promises.

And that’s a theme that is going to stick with us for the next several chapters because we’re going to see that same God do some amazing miracles through Elisha.

So, I thought about calling this message, “The God of Elisha,” but as it was developing, I realized I had a more provocative title for this one.

I’m going to call this message, “How NOT to Relate to God.”

Four mistakes that people can easily fall into and do in this one chapter.

How NOT to Relate to the God of Elisha.

Which is the same God that we know today.

What would you put on that list?

I’ll bet that all of us here could make a short or even a long list of things to avoid when relating to the LORD. And most of them true!

These are just four things that waved their hand at me as I was studying 2 Kings 3.

But, I think, we can learn from all of them.

Okay. So, we know who is the big prophet right now.

Who is the king? Who is king over Israel?

I couldn’t remember either.

We were told his name at the end of chapter 1, but he didn’t figure into the story in chapter 2.  His name is King Joram, or actually the Hebrew is King “Jehoram” in most of these verses, but the NIV went with this variant version of his name because there will be another king in the Southern Kingdom with the same name soon, so they use different variations of their names to help us keep them straight.

This King Joram was actually the brother of the last king, King Ahaziah. Ahahiah died with no son as his heir so it went to his brother. Joram is another son of Ahab.

And here’s the question, right?

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Let me tell you a little secret. I may or may not have shared this with you yet.

Every single king of the northern kingdom of Israel is a thumbs-down king.

After the split, some of the kings of Judah are thumbs up.  They are men like David, men after God’s own heart. Men who lead the nation to love and serve the Lord.

But I’m sorry to say, every king of Israel in the north is a thumbs-down king.

Joram is a king of Israel. So what do you think he is?

Thumbs down. Look at verse 1.

“Joram son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned twelve years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father and mother had done. He got rid of the sacred stone of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them.”

Two thumbs down.

Now, he may not be six thumbs down like his dad Ahab had been.

Verse 2 says he wasn’t as bad as that. And he did, at least for a time, put away a major sacred stone of Baal.

But he didn’t worship the LORD alone. And he didn’t lead Israel to worship Yahweh alone. He was two thumbs down.

So that means we know that life will be hard for him. There will be consequences for his choices. Maybe not always in the short run, but always in the long.

With disobedience comes danger.

There will be consequences for Joram’s choices.

And we’ll see some of them today.

Because it’s from him that we will learn most of our “don’t list.”  “Don’t do this” and “Don’t do that.” How NOT to relate to God.

The story in chapter 3 revolves around the revolt of Moab.

Moab was, at this point in history, something of a vassal state to Israel. They had been subjects of united kingdom since the time of King David and had apparently still owed the northern kingdom tribute, taxes, but they didn’t want to pay them, they didn’t want to stay in that relationship. They wanted out. V.4

“Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to supply the king of Israel with a hundred thousand lambs and with the wool of a hundred thousand rams. But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.”

Now, this is interesting.

Anybody here know what this is?

This is the Moabite Stone discovered intact in 1868.

It’s also called, ready for this?  “The Mesha Stele”

Because it dates from the time of King Mesha of 2 Kings 3, and it describes in his own words some of what he thought of as his greatest accomplishments.

Those included winning victories in the northern area of his kingdom, the land of Medeba, and slaughtering seven thousand Israelites in devotion to his god Chemosh.

It also describes how oppressed Mesha felt as a neighbor of Israel especially during the years of King Omri of Israel.

A very interesting ancient piece for archeology. You can read about it online. You see the cracks in it? Those happened after it was discovered and after a scholar made an imprint of the front. The people of Jordan split it up into pieces so the West couldn’t have it, but eventually it got pieced back together and is now displayed in the Louvre in Paris.

This is one of the oldest surviving pieces of inscribed stones to have the name Yahweh on it.

So, it was probably done by or at least for Mesha himself, and it gives you a window into the feelings and thoughts that would lead him to rebel against King Joram.

He doesn’t mention the events of 2 Kings 3, and I think we’ll see why in just a second.

So, it’s Joram versus Mesha. Who should win that one?

Well, one is an enemy of Israel, and the other is the thumbs-down wicked king of Israel. It’s a hard one to call.

But Joram calls on his royal neighbor Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Same one as before. V.6

“So at that time King Joram set out from Samaria and mobilized all Israel.”
He’s fixin’ to win back the service of Moab, but he needs help. V.7

“He also sent this message to Jehoshaphat king of Judah: ‘The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?’ ‘I will go with you,’ he replied. ‘I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’”

Does that sound kind of familiar?

It’s the same thing he said to Joram’s daddy, King Ahab back in 1 Kings 22.

And that story didn’t turn out so good. So that might give us a clue that this isn’t the best idea. And unlike that time, he doesn’t ask for a prophet to confirm that this is God’s plan for them. It kind of looks like they might be walking into a trap. V.8

“‘By what route shall we attack?’ he asked. ‘Through the Desert of Edom,’ he answered.  So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them.”

Uh oh.

This plan isn’t turning out so well.

Joram said that they needed to take the southern route.

Why do you think that was?  I think it’s because Mesha has won so many battles in the north. He’s strong up there.

So they have to come in from the Desert of Edom. Seven days in the desert of Edom.

What could go wrong?

Well, they ran out of water.

But Joram has not run out of excuses. V.10

“‘What!’ exclaimed the king of Israel. ‘Has the LORD called us three kings together only to hand us over to Moab?’”

Here’s point #1 for you:

#1. DON’T BLAME GOD FOR YOUR ERRORS.

I don’t think there is any evidence that the LORD sent the king of Israel, the king of Judah, and their friend the king of Edom on this mission.

But Joram acts like it’s all God’s fault.

He acts scandalized: “Why is this happening to me?”

“Why did God lead us here and then dump us?”

Now, it would be a mistake to grumble and complain even if God had led them there.

The LORD had led Moses and the Israelites to the desert, and they got thirsty, too.

But I think that Joram is using the LORD’s name in vain.

He’s passing the buck.

And not blaming just anybody, but the LORD.

That’s a very old way of sinning.

Remember when the LORD caught Adam redhanded in the garden?

What did he says, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

“It’s basically your fault.”

Have you ever done that one?

“Lord, you made me this way.”
“Lord, you put me in this family, in this job, in this situation, near this temptation.”

Joram is going even further.

He’s saying, “God you led me to make this mistake.”

Not a wise thing to do.  If you are doing anything like that, repent!

But King Jehoshaphat for all of his weaknesses, often makes wise choices. He knows where to turn. V.11

“But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there no prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD through him?’ [Why, yes there is, want to guess who?] An officer of the king of Israel answered, ‘Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.’ [His servant.] Jehoshaphat said, ‘The word of the LORD is with him.’ So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.”

That’s the right place to turn. Probably should have gone there first!

These are the days of Elisha. Let’s hear what he has to say.

Well, it’s not soft words, I’ll tell you. V.13

“Elisha said to the king of Israel, ‘What do we have to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.’”

Ooh, sick burn.

Here’s number two. How NOT to relate to God.

#2. DON’T SEEK GOD ONLY WHEN YOU’RE IN TROUBLE.

Elisha’s like, “Have we met? I’ve never you seen you at church before.”

“What do we have to do with each other?”

“You are not a worshiper of Yahweh. You worship the gods of your father, Ahab, and the gods of your mother, Jezebel. Get out of here.”

Don’t seek the one true God only when you’re in trouble!

Have you ever made that mistake?

I know I have. So many times.

We turn to the Lord when the water runs out.

Not when it’s flowing.

And that’s a mistake.

Now, some people say the, “Don’t turn to the LORD if you’re in trouble.”

But that’s not right either. God wants us to bring our troubles to Him.

Seek the LORD at all times. Cry out to the LORD in your distress.

He loves to answer needy people who turn to Him!

But don’t just do it then. Do it all the time.

Like the songs says:

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

I call on you then.

But also:

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out, I'll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord

That song says that we praise Him in the bad times and the good times. Not just one or the other.

God wants an every day relationship with us.
Not just the bad days.
Not just the hard days.

Don’t see God ONLY when you’re trouble.

Do it then. If you are in trouble now, call out to Him.

But don’t stop when the trouble stops.

He wants all of you.

Joram was only looking for a way out. He didn’t really care about God.

That’s why Elisha met him with the “snarkasm.”

‘What do we have to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.’”

Why are you interested now? V.13

“‘No,’ the king of Israel answered, ‘because it was the LORD who called us three kings together to hand us over to Moab.’”

There he goes again!

He’s still blaming God, and just about saying that God has evil plans.

This is a textbook case of what it means to use the Lord’s name in vain.

It’s just about blasphemy.

And guess what God is going to do about it?

He’s going to rescue King Joram!

Wait, what?

Joram’s doing everything wrong here.

He’s blaming God for his own mistakes and seeking God only when he’s in a fix.

But we’re going to see that God is going to help him anyway.

But not because of anything great about King Joram. It’s all grace.  V.14

“Elisha said, ‘As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you.”

But he’s actually going to help him.

Here’s point #3. How NOT to relate to God.

#3. DON’T COME TO GOD ON YOUR OWN.

And by that, I mean on your own merits.

Don’t come just by yourself and say, “I’m worthy of your help, O God.”

In fact, “You’ve got to help me. I deserve it. You got me into this fix. And that’s your job, God, to get people out of their problems. Including their sin. Come on, let’s go.”

Don’t come to God on your own.

Joram had all kinds of sin hanging off of him.

He had no record with God to build on.

But verse 14 says that he was there with King Jehoshaphat of Judah.

He was there with a true man of God.

He was there with a true son of David.

And because Jehoshaphat was with him, Elisha says, “I’ll do it.”

Now, I don’t want to make too much of that, but it sounds a little bit like King Jesus  doesn’t it?

When these kings are at their worst, they show us that we need King Jesus. That’s Joram. He needed it, for sure!

And when these kings are at their best, they remind us of King Jesus.

Here, they remind us that when we are with Him, we can ask God for anything.

Salvation, prayer requests, anything.

You and I don’t come to God on our own.

We come through the blood of Jesus Christ.

We come through being connected to the person of Jesus Christ.

We’re with Him.

Isn’t it amazing that we can pray in the name of Jesus Christ?

“In the name of Jesus Christ” is not just a cute little phrase that we tack onto prayers.

It’s a powerful reality that we come to God in prayer not on our own merits but on Jesus’.

I heard someone say the other day, it’s like Jesus gave us the password to His account.

We get “in” because we’re with Him.

Don’t come to God on your own. Come through Jesus.

If you have never come to God for salvation, here this. There is only one way. Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by Him.

So come by Him to the Father!

You’re invited. You won’t get there on your own. But you can through Jesus.

Don’t come to God on your own. But come to Him, through Jesus.

And pray!

Jesus is our password to God in prayer.

Ephesians 2:18, “For through [Jesus] we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

Access to the Father!

Are you taking advantage of that access?  Are you praying?  Are you praying in Jesus’ name?

I had a friend at Moody Bible Institute named Bob, and Bob would always start his prayer by saying, “Lord, we come to you in Jesus’ name.”  He didn’t just tack it onto the end.

That really stood out to me that that was what was going on when we pray in the name of Jesus.

Don’t come to God on your own.

Joram needed David’s son Jehoshaphat to get Elisha to help.

And you and I need Jesus, great David’s greatest son, to find the help we need.

And here’s number four. How NOT to relate to God.

#4. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE WHAT GOD CAN DO. V.14 again.

“Elisha said, ‘As surely as the LORD Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you. But now bring me a harpist.’ While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha and he said, ‘This is what the LORD says: Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the LORD says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink.”

Verse 16 is hard to translate from the Hebrew. It could mean that they should dig some ditches in expectation, but it’s actually more likely that it’s saying the LORD Himself will make the valley full of pools of water.

They don’t have to do anything.

It’s a desert, and they are dying of thirst, but tomorrow, they will have plenty of water enough for them and for their animals.

God says so.

But that’s not all. V.18

“This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD; he will also hand Moab over to you. You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones.’”

I almost titled this message, “That’s nothing! Watch this!”

Because that’s how Elisha talks in verse 18.
“This is an easy thing.”
“This is a light thing.”
“It’s nothing.”
“Easy peasy.”

“You want to really see something? Let me show you what I can do.”

Don’t underestimate God.

He loves to do big things that bring Him the glory.

I am so guilty of this one.

I’m always selling God short.

My prayers are not just too few but too small.

Can you relate to that?

Sometimes, because God doesn’t always answer my prayers when or how I would like Him to, I begin to act like God can’t do big things.

Actually, when He’s saying, “No” or “Wait” to my prayer requests, it’s because He has something bigger and better in mind!

Don’t underestimate what God can do.

“This is an easy thing in the eyes of the LORD,” not only will He do that, He’ll do this, too!

Above my desk in my office, I have the words of a John Newton hymn posted to remind me to pray bigger prayers.

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

And the second stanza says:

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

Amen?

Elisha has spoken the word of the LORD and it’s exactly what happens. V.20

“The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was–water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water.

[And the LORD used that to do the other thing.]

Now all the Moabites had heard that the kings had come to fight against them; so every man, young and old, who could bear arms was called up and stationed on the border. When they got up early in the morning, the sun was shining on the water. To the Moabites across the way, the water looked red–like blood.

‘That's blood!’ they said. ‘Those kings must have fought and slaughtered each other. Now to the plunder, Moab!’

[And they underestimated what it would take to win.]

But when the Moabites came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and fought them until they fled. And the Israelites invaded the land and slaughtered the Moabites. [Just like God said.] They destroyed the towns, and each man threw a stone on every good field until it was covered. They stopped up all the springs and cut down every good tree. Only Kir Hareseth was left with its stones in place, but men armed with slings surrounded it and attacked it as well. When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they failed.

Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall.

[And here’s the surprising ending to this story.]

The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.”

Wait, what?

After all of that, they go home without ruling Moab again?

Yeah.

Even though the LORD brought them victory in town after town and field after field just like He said He would.

He didn’t promise Joram that he would continue to rule over Moab.

Even though the king of Moab desperately sacrificed his own son to Chemosh the evil pagan god of Moab, and total victory was in Israel’s hands, they went home deflated if not defeated.

Why?

It doesn’t say much. It just says, “The fury against Israel was great.”

Now, that could mean the fury of Moab because they lost their prince to this sacrifice.

And it’s possible that it is the fury of the Israelites themselves, disgusted at the human sacrifice.

But I think the clearest meaning is that God was angry with them.

Not because of Moab, but because of Joram.

He’s two thumbs down. And he never stops being two-thumbs down (Verse 3 told us that.).

God may be gracious to him in the short run. Moab does not take Israel down.

But Israel doesn’t get to continue ruling over Moab either.

Don’t underestimate what God can do.

Even in judging Israel.

Even in bringing discipline.

Don’t forget that the God of Israel, the God of Elijah, the God of Elisha is a dangerous God.

We saw it two weeks ago, we saw it last week, and here it is again.

Don’t trifle with this God.

He is serious.

He is not tame.

He is good, but He is not tame.

He is not a great grandfather in the sky.

He is the LORD of heaven and earth, and He is not to be underestimated.

Don’t blame God for your errors.
Don’t seek God only when you’re in trouble.
Don’t come to God on your own.
And don’t underestimate what God can do.

That’s how NOT to relate to the God of Elisha.


***

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!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?

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