Awe

Sin is serious & we all have a part to play in the BIG STORY! (2 Kings 9-12)

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In what is a long section of brutal narrative… 

Exactly what God promised through Elijah in response to Jezebel and Ahab’s killing of Naboth for his vineyard in 1 Kings 21 is now fulfilled and Ahab’s sin and Jezebel’s sin and evil is punished by God in 2 Kings 9-10 by Jehu.

What can we learn from this for our lives?

Sin is extremely serious.  If we don’t recognise the seriousness of sin before a Holy God we are deluded, we cheapen grace and ultimately we don’t need a Saviour to rescue us from our sin or to forgive us for our sin.

“Salvation shines forth brightly when it is seen against the dark background of divine judgment. We cheapen the gospel if we represent it as a deliverance only from unhappiness, fear, guilt and other felt needs, instead of as a rescue from the coming wrath.” – John Stott

Don’t prematurely decide that just because people don’t seem for the moment to be accountable before God for their sin and their rejection of Him that they won’t be held accountable by the Holy One.

All people’s only hope is Jesus Christ who was the propitiation for our sin!  That means, Jesus was the sacrifice that was paid in our place for our sin, the sacrifice which took away the wrath of God;

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10)

Another feature of this section and all through 1&2 Kings are the little cameo’s in the BIG STORY of human history and salvation by often unremarkable individuals who did the work and will of God in the midst of a crooked and evil age.

Little cameo’s like;

  • The little Jewish girl who was carried away by Syrians and served in the house of Naaman who believed God could heal her master (2 Kings 5:2-3)
  • The unnamed servants of Naaman who helped him not miss his healing because of his reaction to Elisha’s instruction (2 Kings 5:13)
  • The four lepers (2 Kings 7) through whom God ended the brutal siege of Samaria
  • Princess Jehosheba who hid Joash from Athaliah for 6yrs in the house of God with the priest until the priest anointed him as king at the tender age of 7yrs old.
  • Joash the young 7yr old who listened to Jehoiada who discipled and instructed him and so he did amazingly good things reforming Judah and dealing with sin and Baal worship and repaired the temple.

What can we learn for our lives?

You never do know when you are going to do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, or whether you have just done it! – Michael Eaton

God’s kingdom advances through people just like you and I doing often what might not seem like extraordinary things.  Live every day as if it is the day you will do the greatest thing you will ever do for God, live on the edge in anticipation and serve God with whatever and whoever God puts before you, disciple, reach out, love, speak the words of God….

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Jealous God (2 Kings 1)

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What do we have here in the opening paragraphs of 2 Kings?  Ahab’s son is as evil as his dad and so when he is faced with a personal crisis he sends for a prophetic utterance not from one of God’s prophets but rather enquires after Baal-zebub or the ‘lord of the flies’!

God’s is a jealous God and won’t tolerate this offence.  So, God sends Elijah to meet the messengers who were on their way to seek the false god Baal-zebub, as they meet Elijah rebukes Ahaziah for his sinfulness.  God’s true words can offend!  This is especially true when we find ourselves in a place of sin and compromise.  

Ahaziah reacts by wanting to silence Elijah and so he sends a company of 50 soldiers to threaten Elijah.  God’s word, however, cannot be brought under human control, and the God of Mount Carmel sends fire from heaven which consumes Elijah’s captures twice over (cf. 1 Kings 18:10&12).

One hundred and two men are dead.  Families are in mourning, children are now without their dads, women without husbands, parent’s have lost children!  What’s happening here?  

Ahaziah is faced with a choice, serve the One true God – Yahweh or Baal-zebub.  Yahweh is the God who consumed the offering by fire just years earlier on Mount Carmel, exposing the futility of Baal worship and exposing all the 450 prophets of Baal on that day and resulting in their judgement and death.  

This whole situation has come about because Ahaziah has acted as though ‘there is no God in Israel to enquire of His word’ (2 Kings 1:3&16) and because God is rightfully jealous and intolerant of the worship or trust in any other.  

Ahaziah is bent on his rejection of Yahweh!  After the first 51 soldiers died in fiery judgement, you would have thought Ahaziah would have relented at sending more.  But he doesn’t, rather this wicked god-forsaken king sends another 51 to the same fate.  More than this, his heart is so hardened that after 102 men have lost their lives and countless families have suffered he sends another 51 men!

Fortunately the carnage is stopped when the captain humbly approaches Elijah and pleads for mercy from Elijah (2 Kings 1:13-14) and he and his men are spared but king Ahaziah dies because of his sin.

Consider: Is God right to be a jealous God?  

Jealousy is something that is almost always frowned upon and yet in certain circumstances it’s appropriate – like the jealous love of a husband or wife…  Ten times God is described in Scripture as being jealous of our wholehearted worship, trust and love for Him – and there is nothing sinful in God (Ex 20:5, Ex 34:14, Deut 4:24 & 5:9..…)

God is jealous for your wholehearted and devoted love for Him.  This is not some needy lack in God but rather an outworking of God’s holiness and God’s love for us.  God knows that for us to serve, enquire after, trust in or worship anything or anyone else is entirely futile and will bring nothing but pain and bondage to us. 

The jealous love of God sent Jesus to the cross to rescue you from satan and to rescue you from yourself  so that He could save you for relationship with Himself.  So love Yahweh, trust and worship, enquire of Yahweh alone.

Showdown (1 Kings 18)

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It’s been three years since Elijah told Ahab and Israel that there would be no rain until he said so… God tells Elijah to go to king Ahab.

On seeing him Ahab exclaims; “Is it you, you troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17) This is an important little moment – who is responsible for the suffering in the land? Is it Elijah’s fault because he spoke and the rain stopped? Or is it Ahab’s fault because of his sin?

Elijah greets Ahab back with the following retort; “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:18). Scripture makes it clear, the famine is the result of God’s judgement on the gross sin and idol-worship of Ahab, his foreign wife Jezebel and his predecessor’s.

Ahab might be king, but Elijah is calling all the shots! Elijah instructs Ahab to gather all of Israel and the 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah who eat at his wife’s table (1 Kings 18:19) at Mount Carmel. Elijah inspired by God, wants a showdown to help Israel choose whom they will worship.

Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21)

Compromise and double-mindedness is massively offensive to God. The Ten Commands start; “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments…” (Exodus 20:1-6)

God wants His people to choose. Either God is God, or Baal is God but they can’t both be God, because God makes an exclusive claim on being God and so makes a rightful jealous call for devoted and exclusive worship and trust. Elijah asks the people to choose therefore, but they remain silent, they say nothing, refuse to choose (1 Kings 18:21).

The stage is set and Elijah (still calling the shots and making demands on the king) tells the 450 prophets of Baal to make an altar, place an offering on it and then to pray for fire… The prophets of Baal cry out for Baal to answer them for hours from ‘morning to noon’ for Baal to send fire.

“But there was no voice, and no one answered” (1 Kings 18:26) “And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation (evening sacrifice), but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:29)

Poignant! No reply, nothing because Baal like all other false-gods is nothing, man made nonsense that can say and do nothing.

Then Elijah makes an altar like theirs, but does even more than them by dousing his altar and offering with copious amounts of water to underline the sign and wonder that’s about to happen.

Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36-39)

The One true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel and Elijah is personal, He speaks and guides and instructs and answers prayer – He alone is God and worthy of trust & worship. He is the God they should have chosen when Elijah challenged them to make up their minds. Now, on the evidence before them, with this contrasting display of power and God’s responding to the prayer of his servant – the nation fell on their faces proclaiming the truth about God.

Baal worship has been exposed as futile, Baal’s ‘prophets’ exposed as charlatan’s and therefore executed.

What relevance does this have for your life and mine?

Confidence – God alone is Almighty God awesome in power & majesty and ready to respond to prayer!

Consider – Am I in any way compromising by being double-minded effectively, putting my trust in anything or anyone other than God?

Repent – If you’ve doubted God in any way or been dabbling with the worship/trust of anything other than God, repent and turn back to exclusive worship of God alone.

Mystery & Treasure (Colossians 2:1-5)

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WhatsApp Image 2018-04-09 at 17.28.34As people we are inquisitive by nature.  You can see this clearly in children, the desire to know, to understand propels learning and growth.  Many people love riddles, or stories with plots that unfold, mysteries that need resolving, that draw us in as they press on our desire to know more.

This passage describes Jesus as the mystery of God!  The God of the Bible is so much bigger, more loving, more magnificent, holy, wrathful against sin, just, holy, righteous, powerful, gracious…. than we could ever imagine.  What we know of God, just reveals how little we truly know of God.  What we know of God simultaneously satisfies us and stirs up within us an insatiable desire, an inquisitiveness wanting to know more of our glorious God.

Here in Colossians 2:2-3 Jesus is described both as ‘God’s mystery’ and as the One in whom are hidden ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’.  What an intoxicating combination.  If we want to pursue the mystery of God, then we need to focus on Jesus, and Scripture here confirms that as we pursue relationship with Jesus, we will find that Jesus is the One in whom ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found.

Friend, Jesus is the answer to every problem, every need.  Jesus is the only One who can truly satisfy our souls, Jesus contains the wisdom we need for life and for godliness, for parenting, for our career choices and our relationships…  Jesus deserves not only all our worship but all our reflection, all our attention and as we focus our lives on Him, we discover more and more about God, who He is and what He is like, we discover treasures that will thrill our hearts and satisfy our souls and we discover wisdom and knowledge for life.

Oh may we make Jesus our vision and our pursuit.

In The Presence of the King (Psalm 24)

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Who is God?

Who can appear before such a God?

Open up for God to come presence Himself with us!

These are questions this Psalm addresses.

God’s supreme authority (vs1-2)

Everything that exists in physical time and space, every atom and sub-atomic particle, every mountain range, every square metre on the planet is God’s!  More than that every person who has ever existed, whether they acknowledge God as God or not, was created lovingly by God and for His glory and His purposes (Romans 11:36).

God is unmatched and unrivalled, God made everything and so God owns everything!  The maker of something is its owner, they are the one who gets to determine the purpose and value.  Since God created everything, God is in supreme authority.

Who can appear before such a God? (Vs3-6)

Greatness, majesty & authority necessitate respect.  So, in light of God’s greatness, who can approach His awesome presence?

This God of king David’s, is not just supreme in authority but is also Holy.  There is no sin in His presence and so to approach God requires ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ from anyone who enters His presence.

And this introduces a dilemma for you and I!

After all who can claim to have pure hands that have not ever done wrong and a pure heart too that has not ever thought or intended wrong?

No one! (declares Romans 3:10-12)

Yet, I love the unspoken assumption here; there is something hard-wired into us as God’s created image bearers that desires to be the presence of our God and Maker.  Yet we have this dilemma, we can’t be in His presence with the state that our hands and hearts are in.

Paul writing to the Romans expresses this moral dilemma and then wonderfully reveals the solution God Himself provided to it;

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25)

As Isaiah proclaimed; if we repent God will purify us from our sin and make us as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) if we ask Him to.  So thank God today for Jesus, thank God for forgiveness and therefore the ability to enter God’s awesome presence.

God wants to come close! (Vs7-10)

What an astounding idea that the God who created and owns everything is the very same God into whose presence we can come through the forgiveness Jesus offers us.

Even more astounding is this, that it is God who takes the initiative and God who wants to come and presence Himself with us!

The image in vs7-10 is of someone at the gate of the walled city of Jerusalem asking to enter and the gatekeepers calling out; ‘Who’s there?’

8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, 

the Lord, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! 

And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 

10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah 

The mighty one, the Ancient of Days, the King of glory, the Lord of hosts that’s who is knocking, that’s who wants to dwell amongst us, presence Himself with us!  It’s incredible good news.  This makes me think of Jesus in Revelation saying;

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice 

and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

The King of glory wants to presence Himself with you, with us.  We belong in His presence because He has removed our sin from us, given us His perfect righteousness so open the door, let Him come and presence Himself with you daily.

Invite Him now!

Jesus’ Identity & Purpose (John 18:38-19:27)

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Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.

“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.

And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.

And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!

Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.

Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.

Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)

Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)

Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)

Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!

Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)

Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…

Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)

But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.

Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)

Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)

And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.

Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)

The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning

Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)

Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life!  Behold your King!

Behold Jesus

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As we start December, what a fitting way to begin contemplating who Jesus is and why He came to earth.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

God became flesh. Creator God entered His creation. God moved into the neighbourhood of people like you and I. God who is not constrained by time and space constrained Himself to time and space. God, who does not change, became like us so as to communicate with us, be understood by us, and ultimately so that He could die for us in our place for our sin! God the immortal One, took on mortal flesh so as to give us immortality.

Behold Jesus! Mystery, wonder, awe, worship…

And why? Why did God do this? Why did Jesus enter our humanity?

So that He could become the sacrificial atoning Lamb of God who could take away the sins of the world (vs29). He had to become like us, so that he could die for us in our place for our sin.

So that God could adopt as His own beloved children all those who believe in Jesus (vs12).

Jesus we stand amazed. Jesus there is no one like you, no one who can compare, no one who has gone to such great lengths to love us – we worship You and adore You.

Read and re-read and re-read John 1:1-34. Be in awe and wonder, worship and delight in Jesus, in God.