Archive for June, 2011


An Awesome Victory

This is one of the best victory stories in the entire Bible.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins.  Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.”  With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.  He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”

“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.

“Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time.  The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!”  — 1 Kings 18:30-39

What must it have been like to see the fire from heaven come down IMMEDIATELY and burn up everything, even the stones that made up the altar!  Clearly, the answer to Elijah’s challenge – God or Baal – has been given.  Could there have been any doubt that God is the Lord?  And will the Israelite people remember this display for the rest of their lives?


Silence Answers Elijah’s Challenge

The showdown now comes to the forefront.  Elijah’s challenge is very plain.

Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel.  Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.  — 1 Kings 18:19-21

Elijah’s proposition is very simple – “God or Baal – choose now”.  And the people said NOTHING?  Their silence is stunning to me.  Remember, these are God’s chosen people.  And they said nothing in answer to this question?  How far they have fallen from the likes of King David!


When Intolerance Is Required…

A showdown is brewing.

So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah.  When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”   “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals.”  — 1 Kings 18:16-18

It took a lot of courage and faith for Elijah to speak these words to Ahab, especially since we know how vindictive and cruel a king he could be.  And I got to wondering – when we encounter sin in our world today, do we confront it head-on as Elijah did?  Or do we dance around the topic, trying to be “nice” and “non-judgmental” to others who don’t agree with God’s position.  Don’t take this wrong – I believe there is a time for politeness and respect.  But just as importantly, Elijah shows us that there is also a time for confrontation and directness.  Have we Christians abandoned that trait, in favor of being politically correct and “tolerant”?


Early Reference to “Widows and Orphans”?

We now encounter the story of Elijah, an important prophet of the times.  His story begins with the widow of Zarephath.

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.  Then the word of the LORD came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”  So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”  — 1 Kings 17:7-12

I have to ask – what kind of place had the world become?  We see here a lonely widow and her son, who are about to eat their last meal, and then they expect to die!  Was there no one, besides Elijah and the Lord, who would take pity on her and help?


An Utterly Depraved King

Evil cultures rise and fall.  Many might say that our world today is as evil as it has ever been.  That may be true in some local areas, but the Bible tells us of many evil times, where man’s wickedness probably exceeded even today’s selfish culture (witness the earlier depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18).  One king of Israel outdid them all:

“In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years.  Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.  He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.  He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.  Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”   — 1 Kings 16: 29-33

Ahab’s sin exceeded even that of Jeroboam.  And introducing the practice of Baal worship seems to be particularly egregious.  A study of Baal worship reveals the abandonment of self-control in favor of obscene practices, especially those of a sexual nature.  But at the root of it, it is primarily the removal of God as Lord, in favor of our own desires.  Ahab brought down the people of Israel to this level of sin, and he is associated for all eternity with rebellion toward God.


Jereboam’s Lasting Legacy

Legacies can go both ways – good and bad.  Unfortunately, we are about to see many of the bad kind among the kings of Israel and Judah.

“Baasha son of Ahijah of the house of Issachar plotted against him (Nadab), and he struck him down at Gibbethon, a Philistine town, while Nadab and all Israel were besieging it.  Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and succeeded him as king.

“As soon as he began to reign, he killed Jeroboam’s whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all, according to the word of the LORD given through his servant Ahijah the Shilonite—because of the sins Jeroboam had committed and had caused Israel to commit, and because he provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger.” 1 Kings 15:27-30

Was Jeroboam worse than all of the kings of Israel?  We find that even worse ones will come (Ahab comes to mind).  Yet God reserved a special penalty for Jeroboam and his entire family, one which He made known back in 1 Kings 14:10.  Was this terrible judgment made because Jeroboam was the first king to really lead Israel away from the Lord God?  Does this intimate that God reserves special punishment for those who lead the way, when that way is not toward God?

Note:  Keep reading and you will find that the same fate awaits Baasha.  At the end of chapter 15, we find that “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.”  And then in chapter 16, we read “I am about to consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat.”  But, see how Jeroboam’s name is tied to this continuing sin.  His name will be mentioned along with many of the succeeding kings of Israel, and always in reference to his sinful ways.  It’s a sad legacy.


Deposing Grandma

Unlike the lineage of kings over Israel, there are a couple of good kings who lead the kingdom of Judah.  Here is one of them.

“In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years. His grandmother’s name was Maacah daughter of Abishalom.   Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done.  He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made.  He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.  Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life.”  — 1 Kings 15:9-14

Asa was not afraid to take on his own grandmother when it came to standing for what was right!  Lest we simply make a little fun of that fact, we should realize that God thought it was important enough to be mentioned in the Old Testament.

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