Thursday, 8 May 2014

(129) May 9: 1 Kings 16-18 & John 1:29-51

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note how God displays his surpremacy over Israel’s false gods.

To ponder:
Continuing with the northern kingdom, another prophet, Jehu, now declares God’s word of judgement against Baasha just as Ahijah had to Jeroboam (see 14v7-11). God used Baasha to punish Jeroboam, but will still punish Baasha for what he did (16v7)! The fact that God uses evil for good doesn’t justify the evil.
            Baasha’s son Ela succeeded him. He and Baasha’s entire family are then killed by Zimri, fulfilling Jehu’s word. This was because both had “provoked” God’s anger by their idolatry. Yet after only seven days, the Israelites proclaimed Omri king instead. He took the royal city of Tirzah, burned the palace, and killed Zimri  - again, as God’s judgement. After putting down a rebellious faction Omri then properly became king, building a new royal city called Samaria.
            Omri and Ahab (his son and successor) do “more evil than any of those before them,” with Ahab being led into Baal worship by his Sidonian wife Jezebel, who actually executed God’s prophets (18v4). As a sign of wider disobedience, we also read of Hiel rebuilding Jericho and so losing two sons according to Joshua’s curse (Jos 6v26).
            Again and again then, events occur “in accordance with the word of the LORD.” It is truly astonishing that some Christians today can questions it authority or trustworthiness.
            History now slows to focus on Ahab and Elijah. Elijah’s prediction of a drought but for his “word” not only shows Israel to be under the covenant curses because of her disobedience (Deut 28v22-24), but that the nature gods she had turned to were false. By contrast, God’s ability to provide if the people are faithful is seen in his action towards Elijah. As with Israel in the desert he supplies water and governs even birds to supply bread and meat. Moreover, God’s provision through and for the impoverished widow shows he can provide from next to nothing, and will do so according to Elijah’s word (17v12-16). Supremely, the potential of Elijah’s prayers for rain are displayed when God answers his prayer by restoring life to the widow’s (only? 17v13) son. This all proved Elijah was “a man of God” who spoke the true “word of the LORD” (17v24), and that Israel’s fate was not due to any lack in God. We also see miracles accredit God’s spokesmen, as they did Moses - and Christ who raised a widow’s son himself (Lk 7v11-16).
            After three years of drought God finally sent Elijah to Ahab. Obadiah’s actions (18v3-6) show not all in the north were faithless and encourages readers in unbelieving contexts to remain “devout” and serve God not man. Yet Obadiah acts for Elijah, only when he gives his word that he won’t disappear.
            Meeting Ahab, Elijah affirms Israel’s troubles are due to her idolatry, and gets Ahab to assemble the people and prophets of Baal and Asherah on Mount Carmel. Elijah’s words are poignant in our pluralistic culture. There can be no mixed religion. People must decide who is the true God and “follow him” (18v21). And it is clear who we should choose. One true prophet faces 450 false ones, whose gods are shown by the detail to be impotent, and their prayers therefore futile. Having soaked his altar, Elijah prays that God would act to affirm him, but also show the people the LORD is the true God and turning their hearts back to him. When fire consumes literally everything, the people then cry “the LORD – he is God!” The event should strengthen our faith.
            The false prophets were then killed as God’s law required (Deut 13v1-5), and Elijah could tell Ahab to go and eat and drink because, with this repentance by the people, rain was on its way. We can assume he had his face between his knees in “powerful and effective” prayer, which James says is a model for us (Jam 5v13-18). After a dramatic build up, the heavy rain then comes.           

Praying it home:
Praise God for his abundant provision not just materially but spiritually. Pray that you would give him alone your allegiance, and pray with Elijah’s confidence in what God can do.

Thinking further: The number three
There may be some stress on the number three in this passage. Elijah lies on the boy three times before he is healed, the drought lasts for three years, and he has water soak his altar three times. Every word of scripture has its purpose. Although the number three can be no more than a number, the use here seems to highlight the correspondence between God’s ability to give life to the boy and his giving life to Israel proved ultimately by his consuming what is on the altar. Elsewhere too, the number three designates a particularly significant event or period of time – as it does in terms of Christ’s resurrection.

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