Trust

Promise Maker, Promise Keeper (2 Kings 25:27-30)

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God promised king David (2 Samuel 7:11-16) that God would establish for David a ‘house’ (a lineage, a family, a clan or tribe) that would endure forever! In the context of the books of the Kings where king after king was overthrown some within days of their appointment as king, with whole lines of families being wiped out by successive kings more than once in Israel with the constant threat of invasion and capture from powerful nations all around – in that context these are massive promises to David.

And God kept His promise! As one reads through 1 & 2 Kings phrases like this are embedded in the storyline a total of eight times;

Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. (2 Kings 8:19)

God was faithful to His promise to David, because God is faithful, He cannot be unfaithful even though we are unfaithful to Him as Scripture declares;

“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” (2 Timothy 2:13 in NLT)

And so here at the end of 1&2 Kings in the midst of lament and the tragedy of the siege and sacking and the exile to Babylon, there are four verses that offer a ray of hope, a glimmer of God’s eternal promise to David – which still stands.

Jehoiachin and the royal family are deported and not killed by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 24:15) and then after 37yrs in prison in exile king Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah in the NT) is released from prison by Nebuchadnezzar’s successor and is given a place of honour and provision for his family! God is faithful, God is the promise keeper, not one of God’s promises fall to the ground.

And so the line of David is preserved, the promise still stands, and in Matthew 1:12 we read of Jehoiachin/Jeconiah’s place in the storyline that all culminates in Jesus the King of kings the one who ultimately fulfills the promise made by God to David, and He is enthroned as King forever and ever.

The whole Old Testament is really about Jesus, it points to Him, shows us our desperate need of Him and anticipates His coming. As Isaiah prophesied of King Jesus;

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government
and of peace there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Worship, Jesus! Thank God for His unshakable faithfulness. Trust Him.

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Be Inspired (2 Kings 18-21)

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What do you want said at your funeral or written as an epitaph in your memory?  How about; “there was none like him among all…!” 

Hezekiah stands out in stark contrast to the many who went before and those who came after him the rest of verse 5 tells us.  And what was the secret to this glowing description of Hezekiah’s life and reign as king of Judah?

5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…. he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. (2 Kings 18:5a,6-7)

Hezekiah believed God, and held on to his belief in God unswervingly.  He did not get into compromise and sin but kept God’s commandments and in response to his faith and obedience God was with him always and caused him to prosper.

Don’t for a moment think that Hezekiah had an easy time following God.  Hezekiah didn’t follow God or lead Judah in a time of ease or peace and security but rather did so in the presence of terrifying threats from the Assyrians!  The Assyrians had recently overthrown the northern tribes of Israel and had also overtaken all the towns around Jerusalem which was surrounded.

And yet Hezekiah trusted God, held fast to his God in the midst of great trials.  Hezekiah’s trust in God is expressed wonderfully in his prayer recorded in 2 Kings 19:15-19;

15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.” 

What a prayer of faith!  A prayer that’s real about the circumstances and yet more impressed with His God.  And what a response from God through the prophet Isaiah;

“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. 33 By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. 34 For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”  (2 Kings 20:32-34)

What an inspiration Hezekiah is!  Don’t you want to be like him?  How can you be?

5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel…. he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. (2 Kings 18:5a,6)

Let’s be like Hezekiah, let’s trust God, let’s hold fast to God when life is messy and confusing, let’s not depart from following God and keeping his commandments.  And then let’s see all that God will do in and through us.

Enthusiastic Obedience (2 Kings 13&14)

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One section stands out for me in 2 Kings 13-14 and that is the moment just before Elisha’s death when king Joash of Israel visits him. Elisha tells him to pick up a bow and its arrows, then tells him to draw he bow back, and then tells him to shoot an arrow out the east window and he shot the arrow out the east window…

Then Elisha prophesies; “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” (2 Kings 13:17)

God will give them victory over their neighbours who have frequently tormented them, they will destroy them entirely – the constant threat will be gone.

Up to this point Joash has done everything Elisha told him to do. You would conclude that he has been obedient. But then the story takes a strange quirky twist.

18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”

Joash obeys the final instruction which does not specify how many times but also doesn’t indicate to stop or do it a short while. Elisha is angry with Joash and tells him that he should have been more enthusiastic essentially and so now because he wasn’t he will not accomplish all that God had planned for him.

Seems a bit harsh?

When I come to passages like this that seem quirky I tend to ask God; Why is this recorded in Your Book? What do you want me to see, hear, understand from it?

I often tell people that quick obedience to God’s promptings is a sign of maturity, but maybe this passage adds another factor – enthusiasm. Without making more of it than one should, this passage does seem to indicate that there is more than one type of obedience. Slow obedience and quick obedience and in addition to that there seems to be such a thing as enthusiastic faith-filled obedience and reluctant faith-deprived obedience.

May I, may we be those who live out quick obedience that is faith-filled and therefore enthusiastic!
Amen.

 

Magnificent God (2 Kings 4)

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Elisha is the one true God’s representative. In a nation divided and filled with the worship of false gods, the call on Elisha is not just to bring messages for God but to reveal who God is through his everyday life, actions and interactions.

In this chapter we see God revealed in numerous ways through a collection of short stories which all put on display God’s nature as the one who sees, a personal God, involved in the intricate details of people’s lives, who is not indifferent to the cries and the pain that individual people endure. These stories reveal God as the one who is able to miraculously suspend or overturn the normal with His supernatural inbreakings of power at any time on people’s behalf.

Short story 1: Debt (2 Kings 4:1-7)
A poor widow in crisis is struggling with mounting debts and the ongoing challenge of providing for her two children as a single woman has the debt collectors at her door threatening to take away her children as slaves as payment for her debt! Crisis. She asks God by asking Elisha and God provides miraculously an abundance of olive oil which she sells and pays off all her debt and as able to live off the rest. God is the miracle working, prayer answering, need-seeing God who intervenes in remarkable ways for poor or rich people.

Short story 2: Deep Longings & Despair (2 Kings 4:8-39)
A wealthy woman is hospitable and honouring of God’s servant, she was rich but used her wealth to bless Elisha & Gehazi not to gain anything (vs13-14). Elisha discerns the true longing in her heart, one she is not even willing to express for fear of her longing being dashed again, and so promises her a child. She is so shocked she can’t receive this good news (vs16) but she does conceive and a son is given to her. Many years later the child falls suddenly ill and dies will in the fields with his father. She rushes straight to Elisha in deep despair, she would have rather not had a son than have one and then loose one like this! Elisha goes with her, and raises the son from the dead and gives him back to her alive. God knows the deepest longings in our hearts, even the ones we dare not speak of for fear of being hurt or disappointed again or opening up the wound… God is able to bring back to life people, marriages, finances – God is good and is so whether you are rich or poor.

Short story 3: Deadly Stew & Multiplication (2 Kings 4:38-44)
There is a famine in the land, Elisha is hosting around 100 of the prophets. He wants to cook for them, but Gehazi is a bad cook or one of the prophets is injudicious in his produce selection and the stew being cooked is bad, so bad it is like death warmed up. They complain. Elisha miraculously cures the pot with a little flour and the food becomes edible to them all. While they are all there, a man brings to Elisha some of his first fruits offering to supply food for Elisha. Elisha tells Gehazi to set it before the men to eat (but there is not enough – vs43). Elisha tells him to proceed and they all ate and yet there was excess and they had food to spare. God is hospitable, able to throw feasts of abundance in the midst of a famine, able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

Our God heals, answers long-lost longings, provides financially and materially. This all makes me think of the song we sung on Sunday;

You’re my author, my maker
My ransom, my Saviour
My refuge, my hiding place
You’re my helper, my healer
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
You’re my hope, in the shadows
My strength, in the battle
My anchor, for all my days
And You stand, by my side
And You stood, in my place
Jesus, no other name
No, only Jesus, no other name…

So, cry out to him now!  Tell your Father in Heaven your deepest longings, know that He is good and when you can’t join all the dots of your confusing life, He can and He does and so having asked Him trust Him.

Enter God’s Agent (1 Kings 17:1-24)

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What an introduction!  There is no mention of Elijah prior to this point, we don’t know anything about him, his upbringing, his faith journey up to this point.  In that sense, he is not like David who is introduced as a shepherd boy learning God’s ways and in preparation for the moment he stands before Goliath.  Elijah just arrives on the scene but does so with remarkable courage and faith.  

I am intrigued.  What lead to this man’s remarkable faith and courage in the gift God had given him?  What multiple little steps of faith had he climbed to get to this place of faith?

He goes to the despicable king of the northern tribes, Ahab and declares;  

“As the LORD, the God is Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:1)

Don’t you love that God-inspired boldness!  To go before a wicked king who could kill you in a flash but to be so much more aware of God than him that you pronounce what God tells you to with conviction.  This is not arrogance but godly obedience.  This is God’s man declaring to this wicked king where the authority really lies – in God alone.

Baal-Hadad (or just ‘Baal’ for short) was the god of storms and rain and so people at the time were tempted to worship Baal, falsely hoping that Baal would provide the much needed rain to make the land fertile.  This prophetic announcement is a direct attack on the falsehood and futility of Baal worship which is what Ahab had allowed to proliferate in Israel.

Having spoken God’s word to Ahab about the coming drought, God leads Elijah to an inhospitable  ravine in the mountains with a little brook in it presumably to wait for the drought he had prophesied to begin having its effect.

But think about it.  God said through Elijah that there would be no rain, and yet God sends Elijah not a city with water reserves but to a ravine in the mountains with a little stream – that then dries up!  Elijah must have felt both relieved and concerned by the brook.  Relieved that God had withheld the rain (1 Kings 17:7) in a display of his power over Baal – just as Elijah prophesied and yet concerned in that his life-support was drying up too.

God spoke again!  ‘At last’, he might have a thought – ‘…time for a big meal and comfy room.’  However, this time God leads him to a town on the coast in the midst of Baal-worship territory (Zaraphath) where  he meets his host – a widow with no food in her house who is about to eat her last meal and then die (1 Kings 17:8-12).  ‘Great!’  I can almost hear him saying under his breath.

Elijah had followed God to the brook (1 Kings 17:5), Elijah followed God to a widow in Zarapheth with no food at all (because of his pronouncement of no rain).  Sometimes following God leads you right into hardship or scarcity in the natural realm.  We make a mistake when we assess whether we’ve been lead by God on the basis of circumstances being good/easy assuming hard/lack = not the will of God….

Why did God send Him here?

Did God send him to a foreign land to show him the extent of God’s power over not just Israel but all nations?  Did God send him here to experience the stress and strain of another person and to bring relief to her as maybe she had prayed to God?  We don’t know…

Elijah tells her to make a cake for him first and then for her a her son and then promises to her that God says that her little flour and her jug of oil will not run out until the drought is over because God ends it (1 Kings 17:13-14)!  And so a miracle of provision is recorded because she believed the word of God through Elijah.

Faith is believing God when we can’t see, when there is no evidence but miracles reside on the ‘other-side’ of faith and obedience.

Is there something God is telling you to do, to trust him in?  Do you, will you?

Who are you listening to?

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There is a plethora of advice out there for us at any given stage in our lives – we need to choose wisely who we listen to!  

As God promised, Israel is torn in two after Solomon’s death as judgement for his many sins and his compromised heart towards God.  1 Kings 12 is one of those places in Scripture where we see the will and actions of men and women and those actions have ‘natural’ consequences and yet simultaneously those actions and consequences are attributed by Scripture to God’s sovereign workings.

After Solomon’s death his son Rehoboam is approached by his people who ask that consider easing the heavy burden of conscripted labour and taxes that his father had placed on them (for all his building works).  Rehoboam calls the old men who used to advise his father – they advise him to heed the call to lighten the burden.  Rehoboam abandons (1 Kings 12:8) their counsel and goes to his young contemporaries who advise him unwisely to speak harshly to the people about making their lives even harder under his rule!  This is bad advise and he takes it.  And as a result the people of Israel all rebel under the leadership of Jeroboam and all the tribes except Judah succeed from Judah and become the northern tribes with their own king.  Israel is divided and is never re-united.

And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. (1 Kings 12:13-15)

Rehoboam acted unwisely, was selfish, arrogant, did not listen to and was harsh with his people – it was his doing.  And yet Scripture attributes this moment to God’s sovereign plan – ‘it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that He might fulfill His word…’ (vs15).

So who did this?  Rehoboam or God?  Well both.  Rehoboam was unwise and sinful and therefore the kingdom was torn in two and yet God was at work to fulfil the judgement He had made on Solomon and  the prophesy He had spoken through Ahijah to Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 11:28-40).

Now, Jeroboam (now the king of the Northern tribes of Israel – called Israel from now onwards in the book) had heard God speak to him.  He had God promise to bless him and establish him as a king “IF” (there is that word again); 

“If you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” (1 Kings 11:38)

Jeroboam had heard God speak to him, God gave him counsel… 

And yet Scripture records that Jeroboam didn’t listen to the counsel of God but rather listened to his own thoughts; ‘Jeroboam said in his heart…’ (1 Kings 12:26) & He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart.’ (1 Kings 12:33)

Jeroboam did not believe what God had promised but doubted and thought to himself – I can’t have people continually going back to Judah to worship at the temple in Jerusalem so I will build temples here in the North (in Dan and Bethel which was contrary to what God had commanded) and I will appoint my own priests for these temples (men not appointed by God) and I will make statues of golden calves for these temples (just like Aaron had done in the Exodus)!  More than this Jeroboam found counsellors who agreed with his ungodly plan (1 Kings 12:28).  This plan became sin for the whole nation of the north (1 Kings 12:30).  

Jeroboam had God’s wisdom and advise and promise – and yet he chose to ‘follow his heart’ and found counsellors to confirm his folly!  And so he set the Northern tribes on a disastrous course of idol worship which they never recovered from.

In 1 Kings 13 we read about a prophet sent by God from Judah to denounce Jeroboam’s self-styled worship.  This prophet is told by God to prophesy and then go home and not eat or remain in the Northern territory – but he too doesn’t listen to God and ends up being killed by a lion sent by God.

What can we learn from this all?

I am freshly invigorated to listen for God’s counsel, to read God’s counsel in Scripture and to not depart from it come what may.  I don’t want to be like Rehoboam, or Jeroboam or the prophet who had heard God and knew what God had said to him and yet departed from it to his own detriment.  May I, may we be those who listen to God and obey all He tells us to do.  

When Scripture is a mirror! (1 Kings 1-2)

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We are exhorted in Ephesians 5:10 to ‘find out what pleases God’!  Much of Scripture helps us with that pursuit and yet some passages, some whole sections or even books are less about an example but more like a mirror.  There are many passages, many characters in the pages of Scripture that are not an example of the life God desires for us or from us but are a mirror into which we can look to see how not to live.

As we read the books of 1&2 Kings we will come across a great number of kings who are the exact opposite of what God desires for our lives or from our lives.  And when we do come across them, we are to consider Scripture as a mirror.  

Is there anything in their bad example that reflects our lives, our hearts or our thinking in some way?

The context for 1&2 Kings is 1 Samuel 8 that moment in Israel’s history when the people clamoured for Samuel the prophet to give them a king so that they could be like all the nations around them.  They weren’t satisfied with God as their King, they wanted an earthly king….

God warned them through Samuel, that this was not a good request, that it was not good to reject God and to put their faith in man in God’s place, God warned them of all the hardship and evil a human king would bring to them…but they would not relent and so God gave them king Saul.  And from this very first king hardship and pain came to God’s people, followed by David who made many errors and the nation suffered rebellion and wars and death as a result.  As we come to 1&2 Kings we will encounter a total of 40 kings (over Judah & Israel) and the BIG IDEA is that on the whole the kings despite some exceptions were a huge disappointment.

In 1 Kings, king David is dying and even before he is dead his son Adonijah is jostling for position trying to become the next king Israel by scheming and posturing, positioning himself.  And yet, God had told David that his son Solomon was to be the next king and was to have the honour of building God’s temple (see 1 Chronicles 22:6-10).  

So David acts to quell the rebellion of Adonijah and appoints Solomon as king and charges Solomon to ‘walk in God’s ways’ to keep God’s commands so as to see God’s blessing on his life and on God’s people , to see God establish his kingdom (see 1 Kings 2:1-4)…

But the very next thing they do together is to plot revenge for things people did during David’s reign (1 Kings 2:5-9) and then spurred on by this bad example Solomon spends the remainder of 1 Kings 2:10-46 having people murdered to establish his kingdom!  

Solomon doesn’t do what he was charged to do – to obey God and then trust that God would establish his kingdom, NO, he decides to do it his own murderous way.  And so, 1&2 Kings is off to a rollicking bad start.

What relevance does this have for you and me in 2018?

How are you living?  Are you living with the exhortation of Ephesians 5:10 pulsating through your life?  Is it your desire to live in such a way that your life pleases God? (which was the charge David gave Solomon)  Is that a motivation that’s central to your life?  

If it is – then you know that you love God (1 John 3:10).  And you can be assured that God will keep you safe to the very end (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Or is there something God has promised you that has not happened yet (like Solomon) and you feel tempted to ‘make it happen’ in your own strength?  Something you feel tempted to do something God’s not told you to do – to ensure it happens…?  

Don’t make the mistake Solomon made.