Worship

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.

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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.

Look up! (Colossians 3:1-4)

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The letter to these believers in Colossae (and now to you and I) is about to take a turn towards exhortations on how we should live out our response to the risen LORD Jesus. In these verses 3:1-4 the apostle is changing gear as it were, setting up what he is about to exhort us to do, the godly practical life instruction he is about to give…

But before any life instructions are given, Paul calls us to look upwards again, to consider our great and glorious Jesus again.

May Jesus fill my vision, fill your vision. May who He is and what He has done for us captivate us and motivate us to live our lives in a life response that is fully pleasing to Him and is worship to Him (Colossians 1:10).

What is happening or has happened in your life that is filling your vision, your thoughts?
What can you do practically today to fix your eyes again on Jesus, to look up and not down, to worship not worry?

In all the imperatives to godly living that are about to follow in the letter, need something IF they are avoid just becoming like the rule-keeping rituals & regulations of the false teachers that Paul has warned us of in Chapter 2.

You see it is not just what we do, but why we do what we do that matters!

The motivation behind all the instructions for godly living needs to be our love for Jesus. Otherwise these things will become just another religious list like that of the false teachers.

But when we continually contemplate, meditate on Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, then we are filled with the desire to please Him and when we are filled with the desire to please Him with all of our lives then moral instruction like we have in this letter will not shut down the life of God in us but will stimulate & instruct us on how to live in a manner that is fully pleasing to God – the very thing we want to do.

So, set your mind on Jesus, worship Jesus, love Him more and more and you will want to live the life He wants you to live.

Good News not Good Advice (Colossians 2:16-23)

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Religion is both hard work and useless! False teachers had come into the community of believers in Colossae and were spreading false teachings that seemingly urged the believers to live an ascetic life, to give up all sorts of God-given pleasures or joyful things. Their teachings came with rules about special days and ceremonies and rules and regulations that were essential for spiritual growth according to them.

But the Gospel is good news not good advice! Advice requires you to DO something to achieve something, news is hearing about something that has been DONE already. The Christian life is not about list of things we must DO (observing special rules and rites and filling our calendars with special days and traditions…) so as to please God. No the gospel is the good news that God is pleased with us already not because of anything we did but because of what Jesus has DONE for us!

So hold on to Jesus (vs19)! Don’t let anyone who has been taken in by false religious teachings rob you of your joy in Jesus or your freedom in Jesus.

After all, false religion is both hard work and just plain useless! It can appear so intensely spiritual (such people are always so intense) but in fact it’s nothing of the sort. False religion’s foundation is not Jesus but rather self-righteous, prideful, worldly thinking (20-22). Religion and legalistic rule-keeping don’t have any ability to produce true godliness in us or to restrain our sinful desires, such thinking doesn’t bring any freedom or produce any spiritual growth (vs23).

Only trusting in Jesus, responding to the glorious good news of what He has DONE for us at a heart level, only loving Him back and letting His love for us melt our hearts so that our desires change from the inside out, only that will produce true spirituality and godliness.

For sure, the Christ follower’s life does get totally transformed, everything changes as we shall see in the rest of Colossians, but it’s so important to not slip into religious thinking, to not get taken in by false teachings that have the appearance of spirituality but in fact in the end do not help us at all to worship Jesus more fully and live the rest of our lives as a worshipful response.

So don’t let anyone tell you, now that you’re a Christ follower you HAVE to do this or that!

If you’re truly a Christ follower and you’ve seen what He has done you’ll WANT to make changes in your life, you’ll WANT to press in to Jesus and so you’ll do all sorts of things, but you’ll do them from a place of worshipful joy and not duty, you’ll do them because you’ve been accepted and loved by God not hoping that your activity will earn God’s acceptance and love.

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.

A Psalm of Thanks (Psalm 145)

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What a Psalm absolutely bursting with expressions of praise and thanksgiving! God is forever to be praised, everyday God is worthy because of His greatness which is immeasurable (vs1-3)

What David knows about God, what we have experienced of God needs to be passed on, the story of our walk with God and all we have discovered about our great God needs to be told to others and told to the next generation (vs4).

Our public praise and thanks achieves many things simultaneously;

  • God is honoured and glorified,
  • We keep a right perspective
  • Our faith is strengthened (as we recount how God has acted on our behalf)
  • And others are encouraged by our testimony to put their trust in this great God we are praising

So consider, what has God done in your life, in the life of our church?

Consider also, how you can glorify and thank God, how can you pass this experience you’ve had of God on to the next generation and to others who either don’t know God or could be encouraged in their faith by your testimony?

‘The Glorious Splendour of God’s Majesty’ (vs5 in the ESV)

David says in verse 5 that he meditates on the ‘glorious splendour of God’s majesty’. What is that? Spend time now thinking about God’s majesty, picture it in your minds eye, imagine God on His throne surrounded by angelic beings and worship and then worship God for what you see.

God’s wondrous works (vs5 in the ESV)

David also says in verse 5 that he meditates on the ‘wondrous works’ of God. Again, consider some of what this includes and worship God for it;

Creation – consider that our God made the earth, all creatures & all humankind. Look at creation today, look at people and be amazed by the beauty of it, it’s intricacy and design and praise God.

Relationships – consider that God made us with the unique capacity for relationships. We were made by God in order that we could have a relationship with God! You and I have the ability to hear God, speak to God, be loved by God and to love God. In addition to this, we were made with the unique capacity for relationships with one another. Thank God for His design and His purpose.

Redemption – consider this, that God responded to our rejection of Himself by graciously loving those very ones who had rejected Him and setting in place His plan to redeem us from the consequences of our own sin, at great personal cost to Himself.

Provision – consider all of God’s provision for your needs!

Protection – consider that God is ever mindful of us, always protecting us. I know that one day in heaven we will appreciate more fully how remarkable and continuous that protection has been.

Incarnation – consider that God chose to willingly leave heaven, leave His rightful throne and subject Himself to time and space, to the brokenness of our post-fall existence and that God did this all so as to save us from our sin and to give us His perfect life!

Wisdom & Guidance – consider that God lights our path for our lives and that God with His omniscient wisdom guides us through life.

Mercy & Grace – consider that God has not given us what we deserved, more than that consider that God has poured out on us what we never earned or deserved!

Adoption – consider that God didn’t just rescue you from the penalty of your sin but also established an eternal unchangeable family bond with you that bestows honour and privilege and peace. God made me His beloved child.

Love – consider that God loves you with an everlasting love. A consistent and committed covenant love that fills the heart to overflowing and settles the soul with ultimate peace. You and I were made to respond to this love lavished on you by Father God.

Proximity – consider that God has promised to never leave nor forsake you, that Father God sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper to make us aware of God with us, to remind us of Father God and to enable us to live as God want us to. Thank you God for making me the temple, the place in which You dwell by the Spirit, thank You for proximity to You!

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As we race towards Launch Sunday, may we consider God’s glorious splendour and His wondrous works, may our mouths ‘speak the praise of the Lord, and may all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.’ (vs21). Amen.

 

Not to us… (Psalm 115)

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The big idea in this Psalm is comparing the futility of worshipping any other so-called gods with worship, trust and reverence of Almighty God.  It’s a reminder to God’s people that no other so-called ‘god’ is God, but merely something (an idol) made by human hands, dead and lifeless and therefore not worthy of any praise or fear or trust.  Finally it’s an exhortation to trust Yahweh and to worship Yahweh exclusively.

However, in light of our church’s Launch Sunday this coming Sunday it is verse 1 that has my attention;

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1 in NIV)

May God and God only get all the praise, glory and honour on our Launch Sunday.  This day, this celebration is not about us, not about any person or even any church, or thing that’s been constructed.  This Sunday is about God, about His glory and His majesty and about praising and thanking Him!

Because God alone is worthy of praise and honour, God alone has provided, has loved us and has been utterly faithful and true to all His promises.  God alone, not us, has sustained us and brought us into this place.

LORD, may You be magnified in Your glory, may You be praised, worshipped, thanked and adored, and may people revere You and place all their trust in You and You alone.  Amen.