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Sunday, October 09, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "Is There No God in Israel?"

“Is There No God in Israel?”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
October 9, 2016 :: 1 Kings 22:41 - 2 Kings 1:18

Ever since Easter, we’ve been studying the Old Testament Books of Kings.

Starting with the end of King David and then his son Solomon and then running through all of the kings of the divided kingdom, both North and the South.

Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Abijah, Asa, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, and last and worst so far, King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel.

And we’ve learned that all of these kings remind us of King Jesus.

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

And there’s been lots of that.

A lot of these kings were at their worst. They were two thumbs down, especially the kings of the North, the Kingdom called Israel, as they went after other gods.

And the worst of them was King Ahab. The LORD sent a special prophet to confront King Ahab and show that the LORD is God. This prophet’s name was Elijah. And we learned about the days of Elijah in July and August and September.

In our chapters for today, Elijah is still alive but Ahab has finally died.

It was a “random” bow shot that took out Ahab. And of course, we know that there was nothing random about it. It was the sovereign judgment of God that took Ahab out.

And that’s where we pick up the story today. Chapter 22, verse 41.

Strangely enough, the author switches right here to talking about the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He hasn’t talked about Judah since chapter 15!

But he has talked about the king of Judah who had an alliance with the King of Israel. His name was Jehoshaphat. We met him briefly last time as he battled Aram alongside Ahab. And here the author wants to tell us a little bit about his reign. V.41

“Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother's name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. In everything he walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. Jehoshaphat was also at peace with the king of Israel. As for the other events of Jehoshaphat's reign, the things he achieved and his military exploits, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?”

The author of 1 Kings does not have a lot to tell us about King Jehoshaphat.

If you want to know more about this king, then read 2 Chronicles chapters 17-20. There are four good chapters there about this guy.

But the author of 1 Kings just wants to basically answer the basic question of thumbs up or thumbs down.

Which do you think it is for Jehoshaphat?

I think he’s basically two thumbs up. Maybe one and three quarters.

Verse 43 says that he walked in the ways of his father Asa. Asa was a thumbs-up king. And he didn’t stray from them. He wasn’t like Solomon who started good and ended poorly.

And he did “what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” We’ve seen that phrase again and again and again.

That’s where it really counts, right? “In the eyes of the LORD.”

Two thumbs up.

But he did compromise some. He didn’t remove the high places so some false and unhealthy worship was still allowed, and he made peace and alliances with the wicked king of Israel, Ahab. I think that was a mistake.

But he was trying. Verse 46.

“He rid the land of the rest of the male shrine prostitutes who remained there even after the reign of his father Asa. [He was a thumbs-up king for Judah.] There was then no king in Edom; a deputy ruled. [So Jehoshaphat tried to go to into overseas shipping. V.48]

Now Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail–they were wrecked at Ezion Geber. [He was good, but he was no breathtaking Solomon. V.49] At that time Ahaziah son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Let my men sail with your men,’ but Jehoshaphat refused.

Then Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the city of David his father. And Jehoram his son succeeded him.”

Jehoshaphat was a thumbs-up king for Judah. Twenty-five stable, mostly godly, years.

So how about in Israel?  How did the northern kingdom do after Ahab died? Thumbs up or thumbs down? V.51.

“Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, because he walked in the ways of his father and mother and in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. He served and worshiped Baal and provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done.”

Two thumbs down.

What a contrast with Jehoshaphat, huh?

Where it really counts, in the eyes of the LORD, Ahaziah was a complete and total failure.

He also walked in the ways of his father (and his mother!), but they were not good examples. He served and worshiped Baal.

Just think about that.

Ahaziah has apparently learned nothing at all.

He has not learned from what happened to his dad.

He has not learned from what happened at Mount Carmel in chapter 18 when the fire fell from heaven.

He has not repented of anything his father did.

Verse 53. “He served and worshiped Baal and provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done.”

I haven’t told you the title of this message yet.

It’s a rhetorical question with an obvious answer.

It’s a satirical question that gets asked to this King, King Ahaziah who has apparently not learned anything yet in his life about the LORD.

And this rhetorical, satirical question gets asked three times in the next chapter. Chapter 1.

Here’s what it is, “Is There No God in Israel?”

Well, verse 53 already answered that question.

And it said that there is a God in Israel, the God of Israel, and He doesn’t just exist, He is angry.

He is provoked.

In fact, here’s point #1. He’s jealous.

#1. A JEALOUS GOD.

Yes, there is a God in Israel, and He is jealous.

And that’s a good thing.

The LORD told us Himself that He is a jealous God when He gave Moses the 10 Commandments.

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 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...”

God wants all of the glory for Himself.
He wants all the allegiance for Himself.
He wants all of the loyalty for Himself.
He wants all of the worship for Himself.

He deserves it. And He cares about it.

He is jealous.

And that’s good news.

Because we don’t really want a God who doesn’t care about His glory.

He wouldn’t be that glorious if He didn’t care.

Our God is a jealous God.

He deserves all of our worship and wants all of our worship.

And that’s what makes idolatry so awful.
Because it’s rebellion and disloyalty and spiritual adultery.

And God cares.

It provokes God to anger when God’s people chase after other gods.

We’ve seen that again and again and again through the Old Testament.

That was the whole problem with King Ahab.

And it was what Elijah’s battle on Mount Carmel was all about.

But apparently, Ahaziah hasn’t learned anything yet.

Turn the page to 2 Kings chapter 1.

“After Ahab's death, Moab rebelled against Israel [more on that later]. Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, ‘Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.’”

Do you see what just happened there?

The king of Israel had an accident. And he’s worried that he might not live. That he might not get up from his bed. That he might not survive his injuries.

And so he wants to see what his god says about that.

The king of Israel.

Did you catch what god he wants to consult?

Baal, and not just any Baal, but the Baal god over the Philistine town of Ekron named “Baal-Zebub.”

“Lord of the flies.”

King Ahaziah, king of Israel, sends some messengers to consult Baal-Zebub to find out if he is going to recover from his injuries.

How do you think that YHWH is going to respond to that?

Does He care?

I think that a lot of people think that He shouldn’t care.

I mean, what does it matter how you worship God or what god you worship, as long as you worship God?

As long as you’re a spiritual person.

That’s how many people in our day see it. They think that all gods are basically equal and that there are many paths to God.

But that is not how the God of the Bible sees it. He is a jealous God.

And He doesn’t want His people to accept any substitutes. V.3

“But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite [there he is again, one last mission to the king], ‘Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them [this rhetorical satirical question], 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?'

Therefore this is what the LORD says: 'You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!'’ So Elijah went.”

Do you feel the burn in the question?

'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?'

“Is there no God in Israel, Ahaziah?”

“Is that how it is?”

Do you see how jealous He is?

And how foolish idolatry is?

Idolatry is turning to the wrong things. Trusting in the wrong things.

It is find god substitutes for your life.

And we still do it today.

1 John 5:21 to New Testament Christians like you and me, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

Keep away from God-substitutes because the God of Israel is real, and He is really jealous.

What do you turn to?

What do you tend to turn to instead of turning to the Lord?

It’s probably not a god named Baal-Zebub.

It’s probably more subtle than that, I’m guessing.

But what is it?

It could be just about anything.

Money. We always go to money, sex, and power. They’re obvious attractions and things we can put our faith in.

But there’s plenty of others. Approval. That’s one for me. I love to be liked. I love the pat on the back and the attaboy. I love the like button on FB. Like, like, like.

Here’s one for me that I don’t talk about as much.

But I can easily worship productivity. I love to be productive. And I can begin to trust in my productivity. My activity that leads to productivity.

Now, productivity is not a bad thing. It’s good thing, but it can become a god thing.

And a demanding god thing!

If I’m not productive, I can go into a real tailspin.

Vacations, like we just took, can be difficult for me. I’m not that good at resting.

You’re not supposed to be productive when you’re on vacation.

What is it for you?

What do you tend to turn to as a God-substitute?

This connects with what Donnie was talking about last week, right? Christian contentment?

What do we tend to find our contentment in instead of in Christ?

Food?
Possessions?
Public opinion?
Science and medicine.

King Ahaziah might have put all of his faith, not in Baal Zebub, but in his doctors.

And that would be a mistake, too.

Doctors are good, but they are not God.

How about politicians?

The government?

It’s so easy to make politics and the government into an idol.

And you know it has become an idol if you obsess over it. If it you worship it.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a difficult time this election season keeping it all in biblical perspective.

My head tells me, “It’s just an election for president of the US. God is still on the throne of the universe. No matter what.” But my heart keeps freaking out.

And I obsess over the details.

That reveals something wrong in my heart that needs spiritual adjustment.

The word for that is repentance. And I need to have a reset in my heart.

Our God is a jealous God. He deserves and wants all of our worship, all of our loyalty, all of our trust, all of our confidence, all of our faith to be in Him.

And when we do, we experience peace, joy, and love.

But when we don’t, we get into danger.

And that’s exactly where Ahaziah was. He was in danger. Because he was chasing after another god.

A god that the New Testament names as name for Satan himself.

Because Satan stands behind all false gods.

So back to the story. Ahaziah has sent messengers to consult Baal Zebub, and Yahweh has sent Elijah to confront them. And he did.

And after they met him, he was so persuasive they turned back! V.5

“When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, ‘Why have you come back?’ ‘A man came to meet us,’ they replied. ‘And he said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, ‘This is what the LORD says [Thus saith the LORD]: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending men to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’”

“The king asked them, ‘What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?’ They replied, ‘He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.’ The king said, ‘That was Elijah the Tishbite.’ [We’ll see about this.]

Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, ‘Man of God, the king says, 'Come down!'’ [You’re under arrest. I’ve got 50 men in flack jackets here to take you to the king to answer for meddling in his business.]

Elijah answered the captain, ‘If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!’ Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.”

That’s the Books of Kings for you.

You never know what’s going to happen.

The LORD just rained down fire to kill 51 men. Scorched corpses are all that’s left.

“Is there no God in Israel?”

Oh yes, there is a God in Israel. And He is dangerous.

#2. A DANGEROUS GOD.

The God of the Bible is not tame or domesticated.

He is dangerous.

The old English word for it is “terrible.”

We don’t use the word “terrible” like that anymore. But it used to mean “striking terror” into someone.

Maybe fearsome might get it across?

English used to also use the word “awesome” to express this. God is awesome. He evokes awe from us.

But we’ve lost the meaning of awesome because now candy bars are awesome. Pizza is awesome. You and I are all awesome. We are full of "awesome-sauce."

So that word by itself doesn’t do it anymore.

But the idea is that God is dangerous.

He is not to be trifled with.

He is to be feared, revered, dreaded to use another older English word the way it used to be used.

Do you fear God?

I’m afraid that many many treat God casually. The word that describes their feeling about God is “meh.”

That’s how Ahaziah treated God.

Even after his 50 men died, what did he do? He sent 50 more. V.11

“At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, ‘Man of God, this is what the king says, 'Come down at once!'’

[Do you see how fearless he is? That’s not good.]

‘If I am a man of God,’ Elijah replied, ‘may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!’ Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men.”

Some people don’t like this story.

They feel sorry for the “poor innocent troops” sent to simply bring Elijah to have a nice conference with the king.

But that’s not they are there for. They are basically at war with Yahweh.

Sent to arrest and perhaps assassinate the man of God.

And they are discounting who God is.

God is holy.
God is mighty.
God is powerful.
Our God is a consuming fire.

He sent the fire from heaven to burn up the sacrifice, and He also sent it to burn up the opposition.

Our God is not nice.

He is not tame or mild or domesticated or wimpy.

He is, in a word, dangerous.

And we would all do well to remember that.

Yes, we know there is more to Him than fire.

But there is not less.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of the wisdom.”

But fools take Him lightly.
Fools snub Him at their own peril.

Do you need to hear that today?

Maybe it seems like somebody you know is getting away with disrespecting God.

Don’t believe it for a minute.

And don’t try it either.

There is a God in Israel, and He is dangerous.

But that’s not all there is to know about Him.

He’s also merciful and gracious.

#3. A GRACIOUS GOD.

King Ahaziah is merciless. He sends a third captain with another 50 troops. Verse 13.

“So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain [however!] went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. ‘Man of God,’ he begged, ‘please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!’”

This guy gets it.

God is not to be treated lightly.

Even attacking the prophet of God can be a death sentence.

And he asks mercy, and guess what he gets?  V.15

“The angel of the LORD said to Elijah, ‘Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.’ So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king. [Grace! Mercy. He does not die.]

[But Ahaziah does. V.16]

[Elijah] told the king, ‘This is what the LORD says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’

So he died, according to the word of the LORD that Elijah had spoken. Because Ahaziah had no son, Joram succeeded him as king in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah.  As for all the other events of Ahaziah's reign [for whatever little they were worth], and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?”

Here’s the point.

And Ahaziah never got it.

There is a God in Israel.

And He does not want to be ignored or replaced.

There is a God over the universe.

And He does not want to be ignored or replaced or taken lightly.

He is a jealous God.

And we need to repent of all of our chasing after other ones.

He is dangerous God.

And we need to repent of our treating Him flippantly.

But thank God, He is also a gracious God.

And like the third captain, we need to cry out for His mercy and experience His grace.


***

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

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