Ten people all in a desperate situation. All outcasts excluded from society, from relationships and normal interactions. Everyone of them with their lives on hold because of a circumstance brought on by a physical condition. They all needed God.
One day none other than Jesus walks on to the horizon of their lives. Can you imagine the conversations bouncing around this motley gathering of people, united by misery?
“Is that Jesus of Nazareth?” “Isn’t he the man they say raised the young girl back to life?” “I heard he healed a man born blind” “Isn’t he the one they say calmed the storm on the lake with one command from his mouth?”…
It’s not hard to imagine the conversation excitedly ramping up then to something like;
“Guys this is our moment! If the stories about him are true maybe he will perform a miracle and heal us!” And so they cry out; “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13)
Testimonies, God-stories about others encountering God can have an effect on our own faith. There is no evidence that this band of 10 believed at all in Jesus prior to this moment. But when Jesus was present, the testimonies of others primed their own faith causing them to believe that Jesus could have mercy on them and free them from their painful circumstances.
Jesus sees them. Jesus acknowledged these people who were outcasts and untouchables in that society. Jesus gives them dignity by responding to their cry for help. Jesus stops his journey to speak with them, Jesus is not too busy, not too self-important to stop for them. Jesus is amazing!
Just the other night I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of being totally unlike Jesus was here in this encounter. I had taken my wife out for a date and we had just had a nice meal. A man I had not seen before appeared out of the shadows near our car as we tried to get into it (as often happens in South Africa). He was looking for some money, which I was going to give, but then as we got really close he started suddenly pleading urgently and awkwardly and I baulked, got in the car and drove off – I am sad to say. In the moments that followed my sense of having not been like Jesus increased and so I repented and asked for God’s forgiveness. Now one could make arguments against giving in certain settings, but that’s not the point – the point is Jesus stopped and still stops for people and I want to be more like Jesus!
Jesus tells these 10, to go and show themselves to the priests which in our day equates to Jesus saying, “Go, get checked out by the Doctor and you’ll find you’ve been healed and can re-enter normal life!” (see vs14) They must have looked down at their various sores and lesions which Scripture did not say were healed instantly, rather it says; “And as they went they were cleansed.” (vs14)
It appears as though the healing required a second step of faith. Step 1 was believe Jesus can heal you and cry out to Him. Step 2 seems to have been for them believe Jesus that you won’t be wasting your time getting checked out to see if you’re healed because I am going to heal you. Step 3 “and as they went” they were healed. They had to take a step of obedient faith and then they were healed.
All 10 are healed as they go on their way and it seems 9 of the 10 just keep going and never come back to thank Jesus.
Sadly I have seen this pattern repeat itself over and over again over many years. We have prayed for countless unemployed people, or people wanting a better job, or marriages that are in need….and then when God breaks into people’s lives, in the moment that they should be thanking God, telling the God-story for God’s glory and then continuing to live for God – they disappear. God warned Israel of doing this to Him in Deuteronomy 8:11-20 saying; “take care lest you forget the Lord your God” (vs11) when God answers your prayers for a Promised Land, “beware lest you say in your heart, my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this” (vs17).
But one of the men did return to Jesus, fell on his face before Jesus’ feet and gave thanks worshipping Jesus for the miraculous and instant healing he had received. May we be like this guy! May we be those who honour God as the source of all good gifts to us.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
May we be those who don’t only remember God when we feel like we need Him, but who remember God when we need to praise, honour, worship and thank Him. After all God is worthy of praise always, everyday, for giving us Jesus who died on the cross for our sins and healed us not of some disease but delivered us from sin and sin’s punishment to come. Live your whole life as a response of love to Him.
In Mark’s Gospel account, just after Jesus multiplied the five loaves and the two fish to feed the thousands, Jesus then encouraged the disciples to get into a boat and travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He stayed to dismiss the crowd.
Jesus created this God-moment! He did so by sending the disciples on before Him so that He could then walk by them on the water. Why?
Was it so that He could continue to answer their question recorded in Mark 4:41; “Who then is this; that even the wind and the sea obey him?” which had not yet fully answered by Him?
Do you ever get that feeling? Like God has organised things, events, timing, meetings with people, conversations and there is more going on that what’s maybe visible on the surface…? God does this all the time actually.
Here in Mark 6, we get to observe from the outside – and so it is relatively easy to spot God’s hand in the circumstances. However, it is not always so easy when we are in the thick of it.
Why did Jesus create these circumstances? Jesus wanted His disciples to know Him, to know His deity, His power over creation and the laws of nature (multiplying food, walking on water, healing diseases…). And so Jesus sent them ahead in a boat, fully intending always to catch them up by walking across the water, walking past them (vs48) so that they could see Him.
And when they do see Him, their first thought is not; “Hey Jesus!” Their first thought is more like; “WHAT! A Ghost!” Aren’t you and I like that?
We are all too often filled with fear not faith, doubt not delight. If they had been on land they would have probably run for their lives, but they were captive on that boat, captive to the circumstances. Sometimes we are in the midst of a circumstance God Himself has orchestrated but we don’t see God or His handiwork, we just see dimly and have a tendency to freak out like they did.
Jesus didn’t want to make them afraid, and God’s not playing with your emotions either. And so, as soon as Jesus sees their fearful terrified response He spoke to them calling out to them; “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid!”
Friend, God is always with you, even when you can’t see Him obviously, even when you can’t feel His presence or hear His voice above the storm and the winds of life. In those moments remember what God has promised; “never will I leave you and never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) and “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)!
So call out to Him, He is there and when you do call God will come rushing to you and will speak to you, comforting you as He comforted them with His words of affirmation, with His presence (Jesus climbed into the boat with them – vs51).
Just like the other storm which was calmed by Jesus authoritative words (Mark 4:35-41), this storm too suddenly abated and peace was restored. The disciples are dumbstruck, they are in awe and wonder, astounded (vs51) at who Jesus really is – God almighty.
God arranges moments in our lives that will help us to see Him more clearly, moments that will demonstrate who He is to us in ways that no sermon or song could ever convey.
So, next time there is something of a storm in your life, ask yourself whether God might be in the storm in some way? Ask whether God might be wanting to reveal something more of Himself to you? Call out to Jesus, He is there with you already, but He will come rushing to show Himself to you and to speak words that calm you just like He did for the disciples. Trust Him that He can silence wind and calm waves with one whisper of His voice. Worship Him, be amazed at Him, trust Him, grow in your love and knowledge of Him continually. Amen.
Those who encounter Jesus are changed by Jesus! In Matthew and John’s accounts, at least 7 people have an encounter with Jesus, and in each person’s case that encounter transformed their lives forever.
Simon & Andrew were fishermen. Fishing and sea was their livelihood, it was what they did. They didn’t wake each morning wondering what to do, this was their income, it was even their defining identity. But with just one encounter, hearing Jesus’ compelling and challenging words; “follow me” they immediately left their nets, left their livelihood, left their identities as fishermen all in order to respond to Jesus.
Shortly thereafter, their business partners (James & John) similarly hear Jesus’ call to follow Him, and Scripture says that immediately they too left their nets, their identity, even their father and their servants (Mark 1:19) all to follow Jesus. Luke records summarily, “they left everything and followed Him” (Luke 5:11).
The Gospel accounts don’t record much conversation really. And yet Jesus was so compelling that when He called them to follow Him, they answered and they did so wholeheartedly! Jesus redefined each of these four men. They had been ‘doers’, fishermen, defined by their work. Now they were in an instant defined as ‘followers’ of Jesus, new lives, new identity…
What did they encounter in Jesus that caused this reaction?
John’s account of the same events is full of revelation. John exclaims; “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:35). John in that moment has truly seen who the real Jesus is. Having spent some time with Jesus, Andrew finds his brother exclaiming; ‘we have found the Messiah’ (vs41), likewise Philip finds Nathanael and says in effect; ‘we’ve found the one the whole Law and the Prophets speak of – the Messiah’ (vs45) and Nathanael himself cries out; “Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (vs49). All these people encountered the real Jesus, the King of kings, the Messiah, the got it in those moments…
Those who encounter Jesus are changed by Jesus!
None of them are left unchanged. Jesus changes their vocations, their identities, their relationships even their names! Following Jesus must have been exhilarating yes but it also came at with a high cost, with risk even. All these people have to leave things, people, what they knew for the unknown of following Jesus. They all paid a price in some way or another, and we too will be called to leave or let go at times as we follow Jesus.
Following Jesus was costly, following Jesus came with misunderstanding from others (imagine the thoughts, feelings and questions of the father of James and John’s, imagine their families, those who worked with them and those who knew them as fishermen…), and yet they never regretted it for a moment!
Those who truly encounter Jesus are transformed by Jesus. In fact if your life is not being transformed, if you haven’t felt the call to leave certain things behind, you have to ask whether you’ve met the real Jesus yet?
Ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you again and again, in all His glory and majesty.
Hear His words to you; “Follow me”.
What do those words require from you right now today, at this moment in your life?
Is there anything you need to leave behind in order to follow Jesus wholeheartedly?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
This Psalm is just absolutely jam-packed with gems about God and how God interacts with us his people. It is a psalm full of personal and experiential knowledge of God’s nature and character.
It’s almost like David is explaining in the rest of the Psalm why he says in verse 1; “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
David wants you and I to join him in magnifying the LORD with him, wants us to join in and exalt God’s name (God’s character and attributes) together.
My God answers prayer! (vs4-6,15,17)
David can testify that he called out for God, he enquired after God in threatening life situation after threatening life situation (David was a fugitive fearing for his life for 15yrs!) and he can testify that God answered when he called. More than that God delivered him from all the threats that put fear into his heart. ‘This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles’ (vs6)! And because of this testimony David can declare that the face of those who look to God for their help – their faces are radiant (vs5).
What are you facing today? Call out to your God who answers, who delivers, who saves. Put your trust in the trustworthy ONE, so that your face may radiate on the day that God delivers you.
Angelic Help (vs7)
Angels are ministering spirits sent out by God to serve and protect God’s children (Hebrews 1:14). David can testify to angelic protection, a heavenly body-guard for those who fear God. This reminds me of the moment in Israel’s history when Elisha’s servant feared because of the formidable Syrian army amassed around the city and the servant was afraid and Elisha prayed that God would show him the mighty heavenly host that was arrayed around them to protect them and declared to his servant; “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us (angels) are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:15-17).
Know this. God the Holy Spirit is with you (Hebrews 13:5) and God has sent an angelic body-guard to encamp around you! So, do not fear.
Taste and See (vs8)
We learn in lots of ways, from what we read or hear from others, through modelling etc but experiential learning is one of the most powerful sources of learning. David urges you and I to do as he has done – do ‘taste and see’ that God is a faithful deliverer. This is an invitation an exhortation to find out for ourselves to experience that God is good!
Such knowledge of God hewn out of the experience of everyday life is unshakable and precious! There are no short cuts but this is the exhortation of Scripture for you and I to discover for ourselves what David has discovered – God is good.
David begins this psalm with a declaration of faith (God is his God) and an expression of his feelings toward God whom he calls, “my rock”.
“My Rock” – God is personal immovable and immutable. Because of this God can be trusted, God is worth calling out to in prayer. If God were not God and if God were not personal or immovable or immutable it would not be worth calling out to Him in prayer! Because God is all these things and we can confidently call out to God in prayer.
And yet David’s prayer is also a complaint. Sometimes it feels like God is not hearing, like God is not speaking, as if God is unmoved by our situation or unaware from our perspective.
(vs3-5) In these verses David’s complaint is outlined, it feels like God is treating him no differently to his enemies, he is looking for God to act on his behalf and seemingly hasn’t seen God’s answering his prayers.
What’s happening in your life that feels like God is not hearing, not seeing, not aware, not speaking or answering?
I urge you to lift your eyes again to your God.
Why not declare as David did that God is your ROCK, your FORTRESS (another way of translating the underlying Hebrew word). God can be trusted because He cannot change, will not shift under your feet, God is worthy of our trust even when we can’t see what He is doing or why He is allowing something to happen. So, call out to Him again, put your faith in God again.
The psalm changes in vs6-9 becoming a psalm of praise. David is convinced now that God has heard his cries, his prayers, his lament.
David has been strengthened in his faith, knows God is his strength and his shield (protection), God is the One whom his heart can trust and so He finds help in his moment of need.
And so his heart exults, it jumps for joy (literal translation) and bursts into song! What a transformation when we see God for who he is, when we enter again feeling his presence and the warmth of his love. David had been feeling like God was no where now David’s heart is bursting with praise and thanks and love for God.
Worship is warfare! When we feel like God is distant or disinterested, we should take drastic action, reminding ourselves of the truth about our God our immovable immutable rock who is worthy of our trust and we should begin to worship as warfare against those feelings of doubt choosing to warfare not wallow in those feelings of doubt.
In worship we declare what we believe (God is our ROCK vs1, our SHIELD vs7, the ONE who HELPS us vs7, our STRENGTH vs7 & the SAVING REFUGE OF HIS ANOINTED vs8).
We worship with faith and in worship faith is renewed. And on that foundation of renewed faith we can ASK God for the future (vs9). Amen.
‘I love you, oh Lord my strength’ vs1
‘This God—his way is perfect’ vs30
‘…he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him’ vs30
David wrote this Psalm reflecting on God’s having delivered both himself and Israel from many foes (you’ll find this Psalm as a song recorded in 2 Samuel 22 if you want to read the context in which it was written).
There are three lines that summarize this whole Psalm, they summarize king David’s feelings towards God because of his personal experience of God’s faithfulness and protection in many challenging life situations.
‘I love you, oh Lord my strength’ (vs1)
In all David has experienced of God’s intervention and deliverance, what has resulted in David was a heart full of love for God. God’s loving care produced a love for God in David who proclaims this love and declares at the outset of this Psalm his dependence on God – God is his strength .
‘This God — his way is perfect’(vs30)
Don’t you love David’s summary statement of his experience of God’s faithfulness to him over many years of challenges and threats? This is a wonderful personal testimony from personal experience. Perfect, there is nothing wrong with God’s dealings with Him. There must have been many times David felt God wasn’t answering prayers, or that God’s ways were hard to understand… But when reflecting on his life David could say; God’s ways are perfect.
‘…he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him’ vs30
Through out this Psalm David shares testimony of how God answered his prayers, coming to his rescue and delivering him when he cried out! God is a shield for those who tuck into His protection and care. God rips open heaven as it were and comes down to rescue us when we pray and cry out to Him (see the wonderful testimony of vs6-19).
- What is there in your life right now, or in the life of those you love that causes you to feel like God is distant, not listening, doesn’t care?
- Take time to reflect on times God has ripped open heaven to deliver you from situations in your own life, times when God has answered prayers you cried out to Him
- Thank God for those times and then pray giving to God those thoughts and questions and replace them with prayers of faith from the testimony of this mighty Psalm.
Sleeping is a vulnerable necessity. Our bodies need sleep. Sleep is restorative and so essential both in terms of physical and mental wellbeing. And yet sleep is a vulnerable state, one is unaware and unable to protect oneself.
Worry is one of the main enemies of good sleep and so the more one has to worry about the more allusive good sleep is.
People worry about all sorts of things. Some people worry about their salvation, they have believed in Jesus and although Romans 10:9-10 is clear that those who have believed in Jesus ‘will be saved.’ And yet they worry, which just reveals that their trust is focused in the wrong place and on the wrong person.
You and I were not good enough to be saved and we are not good enough to stay saved either! We are saved and justified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.
Yes, there are a number of hard to understand passages that definitely serve as warnings to us, warning us to ‘remain faithful’ to keep our hearts soft and open to God’s words to us, urging us to persevere to the end…
And yet, we need not worry!
Because if you have put your faith in Jesus, if you have asked Jesus to forgive you of your sin, you are justified (declared righteous) on the basis of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, you are adopted as God’s child, you have the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance to come…
In addition to this, you and I who have believed in Jesus have words like these from Jesus Himself;
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)
I love this! Jesus gives eternal life, we don’t earn it through our good behaviour. We will not perish because Jesus has given us eternal life. No one can ever snatch us from Jesus’ hand because it is Jesus’ hand, the same hand that holds the universe in the span of His hand! More than that, you and I who have believed are God’s gift to Jesus and no one is greater than God and so no one is able to snatch us from God’s mighty hand!
Sleep well my friend if you have believed in Jesus.
Live your whole life as a passionate, grateful, worshipful response to God’s grace (Romans 12:1-2), live a life that is worthy of the calling (the grace) you have received (Ephesians 4:1) but sleep well! Jesus has got you, the Father has got you! Sleep well.
Dallas Willard said that people are ‘meaning-makers’. We look for and or even assign meaning to things that happen in our lives. We want to know, ‘why?’ and when we don’t know why we create our own meaning.
This is what was happening in John 9. A man was born blind. Jesus’ disciples wanted to know; ‘why?’ What was the cause, did this man’s parents sin in some way and that is why this happened or did the man himself sin – why?
I had an accident – why?
I got sick – why?
I lost my job – why?
………… – why?
All too often our desire to know why, combined with our very limited knowledge, leads us towards unhelpful or inaccurate conclusions. We add 1 + 1 and end up with 22 not 2!
This man was born blind, but it wasn’t punishment or the result of some sin that he was blind, no his tough life-circumstance was simply that God’s work could be displayed in him according to Jesus (John 9:3). Something much greater than his own life/behaviour was in play here, something that he had no control over.
God was going to use this moment to reveal the divinity of Jesus to him (vs35-38) and cause him to believe in Jesus as a result. God was going to use this to show his authority, glory and power to those who would take note of what Jesus did and said.
Is there something in your life right now that you are grappling with?
Is there something that you are trying to work out, trying to find meaning in?
I urge you to put down your theories as to why this is happening or happened, and simply ask Jesus to reveal to you what He was doing, or is doing through this thing.
The man born blind, gets healed miraculously, encounters Jesus personally and believes in Jesus and worships Jesus as Lord and Saviour in this story. He must have spent his life up to this point resenting his ailment, but in this moment his ailment became the very thing that lead Him to Jesus, to forgiveness, healing & belief in Jesus and therefore salvation!
May you stop making your own meaning and may you rather ask the King of kings, Jesus to give you His meaning. And may you, trust Him when there is no answer yet, may you accept the mystery, may you trust Him that He is good, and that He loves you and that what you can’t see or know or understand – He does see, know & understand!