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Showing posts from June 2, 2013

Pray for your Enemies

Long before Jesus stated in the Sermon on the Mount the challenge to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44) this message was communicated by Old Testament writers.

It is demonstrated clearly for us in Psalm 83:16-18. The writer states, "Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O Lord. May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord---that you alone are the Most High over all the earth."
The objective of this request to God by Israel is victory over their enemies but not just victory for victory's sake. It is victory "so that men will seek your name." The objective is not peculiar to those who are defeated but to those who win the victory and to those who stand on the sidelines and watch. It is the desire of God that all three categories of people seek His name; be drawn to Him because of the evidence of His presence in the events of t…

Direction

It took a while for the people of Israel to depart Egypt. They had been there for over 400 years and although oppressed they had settled into life at that level. When they did leave, it was only after ten powerful demonstrations that God was superior to the gods of Egypt. All of this was meant to dislodge Israel from its present reality in order to move them on to a new reality.
After passing through the Red Sea, opened to them in another mighty miracle of God, they finally came to set up camp at Mt. Sinai, in the south end of the present day Saudi Arabia. There Moses went up on the mountain and received the Law from God.
He was gone for many days and the people began to feel he wasn't coming back, so they requested of Aaron, the high priest that he would "make us gods who will go before us...That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf." (Acts 7:40-41) The calf was the Egyptian god of the future. They had reverted to worshipping an idol which was a part of th…

Seeming to be Right

Focusing on a desire, a thing or a person as a must for your life causes you to spin a rationale that allows you to obtain it.

King Ahab wanted a field, but it was owned by Naboth, so he tried to persuade Naboth to sell it but he would not. So, the king explained what he wanted to Queen Jezebel and she immediately created a way for the king to have what he wanted by having Naboth falsely accused and stoned. (1 Kings 21)
Ananias and Sapphira wanted to keep some of their money from the sale of their land but felt like it would be to their advantage to bring a "gift" to the church. They didn't want others to know that they had kept back a portion of the sale so they decided to proclaimed that they had given all the purchase price. Their minds devised a plan to obtain the praise they wanted for their gift and at the same time keep some of the money. (Acts 5:1-11) They died in their proclamation.
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.&q…

Usefulness

After Elijah's confrontation and victory against the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel his life is threatened by Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19:2) and it creates a fear in him so great that he runs to and hides out at Mt. Horeb in the southern end of today's Saudi Arabia. In that moment he feels his life is useless and asks God to take it from him.
But God sees this as a useful experience and listens to as well as speaks to Elijah not in a booming, authoritarian voice of displeasure but in a still small voice of direction. He communicates His patience with him, His care of him in his present moment of discouragement, AND also His plan for him in the future. Yes, that's right, God has more work for Elijah to do.
So, God tells him he must "Go back the way you came..." (1 Kings 19:15) and anoint the successors to the kings of Syria and Israel and also anoint his own successor. He would see Ahab and Benhadad removed because of their idolatry and pride and replaced with the men…

Neutrality

Elijah is one of the most dramatic prophets in the Old Testament. He disappears, living in a foreign land for three years, protected from the killing hand of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. Then, reappears and draws all Israel to a confrontation on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18.
He calls all Israel to join him at the mountain and commands all the prophets of Baal, 850 in all, to also attend. He sets up a contest for who could get their sacrifice to burn just by calling on their gods. The prophets of Baal get frenetic in their worship for many hours but their sacrifice sits untouched by their gods. Then, Elijah builds an altar of twelve stones, sticks and the sacrifice and douses it with twelve barrels of water.
God comes down in fire and licks up everything including the water. You can see that water turning to vapor and providing a white cloud that encompassed the altar. All this being done presents a choice for Israel: they had to agree that God was their God or they had to stand with the p…

Cursed

Joshua took over the newly created nation of Israel just as they were entering the Promised Land. He was a bright leader in the shadow of Moses, yet didn't fail to do what was right.
The first order of business was to get control of some territory in the Promise Land as a beach head from which to move forward. Jericho stood proudly against that whole idea. It had seen many battles before and was shut up; ready to rumble. Joshua had sent two spies into it and so knew that the city was quaking in its sandals and would soon be quaking in its walls.
Those walls tumbled down and the Israelite army dealt with all the survivors except those in Rahab's home who were saved and ushered into becoming adopted Jews. Then, after all the valuables were salvaged, Joshua pronounced a curse on "the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho." (Joshua 6:26) He said he would rebuild it at the cost of his firstborn son for its foundation and at the cost of his youngest son in the fin…

Trusting God

Asa was the King of Judah and had been "fully committed to the Lord all his life" (2 Chronicles 15:17) but times change because hearts change in people.
A conflict arose near the end of Asa's reign. His sister nation, Israel and its king, Baasha, began to encroach on his territory. Baasha started fortifying the city of Ramah "to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah." (2 Chron. 16:1) In this time of crisis what did king Asa do?He gathered up all the gold and silver in the treasury of the Temple and his own palace and delivered it to Ben-Hadad, king of Assyria. It was a bribe to cause Ben-Hadad to break his treaty with Baasha and war against him from the north. (2 Chron. 16:2-6) This would take Baasha's attention off of building Ramah and focus it on beating back BenHadad and the plan worked.
Well, it seemed to have worked until Hanani, a prophet, came to Asa and declared that Asa's allegiance, seen in his bribe, was an…