Tuesday, March 30, 2010

II Kings Chapters 3-5

3:14 - Elisha only concedes to offer a Word from the Lord because Jehoshaphat, a man of God, is with the armies. He has no respect for Jehoram who still follows the ways of the Baal cult.

3:15 - I find it interesting that Elisha calls for music to be played as he seeks a Word from the Lord. There is power in music and worship, something that speaks deeply to the soul. A powerful musical worship experience on Sunday mornings basically cultivates as prepares my mind and heat for the Word of God I will hear afterwards. (See also: I Samuel 10:5-6 where Saul is overcome by worship to connect with God).

3:27 - This is a really strange turn of events. With nowhere left to turn, the king of Moab sacrfices his own son to the wall of his city. He was probably sacrificing him to the false Moabite god Chemosh. Here is what I think happens next...the Israelites see the sacrifice and freak out. Many of them are God followers, but they also still believe that there are other gods in other countries. I believe that they lose heart because they think that Chemosh is about to start fighting for the Moabites. Ironically, their beliefs are self-fulfilling because when they start to doubt the one and only true God, His wrath is turned against them and they are scattered. So they do lose the battle because of Chemosh, but it is only because of their false belief in the non-exsitant god's exsoitance. Get it? The only God at work in that story is YAHWEH...when they Israelites doubt His power, He forces them to withdraw with a hollow victory.

4:1 - Wow, does this tell alot about the spiritual state of Israel?! The widow of a prophet of God is about to have her children taken into slavery because of her husbands debts...whatever happened to caring for the widows and orphans? We see God's heart for the poor and oppressed as He provides (Through Elisha) for the poor widow. What are some of the ways you feel the Christian Church does not reflect the heart of Jesus Christ today? What can we do to change that?

4:10 - The Shunammmite woman shows great hospitality and respect to Elisha. Part of the reason that she creates the room for him, is so that he will not get to close to the family. I know this sounds weird, but she wants to allow him the psace to remain separate as a holy man. He is set apart as God's voice to the people of Israel and she allows him to be in her house and still set apart. It is very respectful.

4:26 - I find it interesing that she refuses to speak to Gehazi. She wants to go directly to the person she believes is the source of the problem - Elisha. She thinks Elisha has duped her and given her a child, just so it could be taken away from her. The Shunammite woman holds Elisha responsible for his death and she has come to confront him.

4:27 - Even Elisha seems shocked by the turn of events. He says, "I have not heard anything from God about your son dying?" Like the woman, he is confused and surprised. Even the most faithful followers of God do not always know exactly what God is doing through the events in their lives. We have to make sure that even through our pain, dispair, anger, fear, confusion (All of which are perfectly resonable and acceptable to feel) that we maintain our faith and try to remember that even when we don't know what God is doing - He does.

4:31 - What is up with the staff thing? Well, Gehazi can probably move a little more quickly than Elisha and he runs ahead to place the staff over the boy's body as a symbol that Elisha is on his way. It probably also gives Elisha some time to go to God and figure out what he is supposed to do. Always a good idea to take a step back and consult God before making and rash decisions.

4:33 - What is the first thing he does after closing the door. He goes to God in prayer. That is the most powerful thing he could do right there. He has plugged himself into the only true power source in the universe. Laying on the boy is all well and good...he is intercedeing for the boy with God. But the power comes from his humble acknowledgement that God is going to be the one bringing the healing. Intercession is an often neglected form of prayer. When people cannot or will not pray for themselves, we can intercede on their behalf...a humbling and powerful experience that really allows you to put yourself in another persons shoes and cry out for them to God.

4:44 - We see example after example in these chapters - God will provide. Money for the widow. Life for the boy. Food for the prophets. God is in control.

5:7 - The king is a faithless man. Instead of trusting that God will be able to heal Namaan, he throws a fit because he thinks that Namaan is trying to trap him into going to war. The Israelite slave girl who tells Namaan to go to Israel has more faith than the king of Israel - a man who is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the country...that is sick!

5:11 - I like this part...Namaan gets visibly angry because he wanted a big show. He came all the way to Israel, just to have Elisha walk up and say, "Go bath yourself in the Jordan."? He wants pomp and circumstance. He wants singing and dancing and mystical artistry. What he gets is just raw, humble faith in God. This is a good lesson for all of us - God doesn't want the fancy stuff, He doesn't want show...he wants people to simply trust Him, to place their faith in Him.

5:15 - How cool is this? Namaan, a general of Syria, has now become a sold out God follower. God's name will now be made great to anyone Namaan comes in contact with. He also instantly wants to start changing the way he lives his life. It's a beautiful tranformation.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Kings Chapter 22, II Kings Chapter 1 and 2

22:8 - We see clearly where Ahab is coming from here. He only wants to hear what his prophets have to say. He doesn't consult the priests of God...he goes to 400 corrupt prophets. They have remained prophets during the reign of the corrupt king Ahab, by telling him whatever he wants to hear, whenever he wants to hear it. They are ancient "yes men." He hates Micaiah, because he speaks the truth no matter how ugly it is for Ahab to hear. We always need to make sure we have people in our lives who will speak truthfully to us...not just tell us what we want to hear.

22:15 - This part is kinda strange. The prophets of Ahab tell Micaiah to confirm what they have already told the king. Micaiah knows they have not spoken the truth, but he confirms what they have to say because he knows that God will is for Ahab to die for his rebellion.

22:16 - BUT...Ahab doesn't believe him. Ahab finally gets Micaiah to say something hat supports what he wants to do and he doesn't believe him (Ironically, he is absolutely right not to believe Micaiah!). What this tells me, is that even before going into battle, Ahab knows that what he is going to do is not God's will. He knows that a true prophet of God will tell him that he will lose the battle. So he pushes Michaiah for the truth and gets it.

22:19ff - Okay, this part is a little bit crazy. What we have to understand is that Micaiah is describing a vision he has seen. Remember the vision the ruler of Egypt had that Joseph decoded? Starving cows eating healthy cows...that didn't really happen, but it represented 7 years of feasting followed by 7 years of famine. This vision is about a big meeting in heaven to determine how they can get Ahab to die for his rejection of God. The vision is not necessarily an actual event, but it does confirm that the 400 prophets are lying and that God allows them to lie in His name so that His will, will be done. This whole section is about God's sovereignty. He doesn't make the prophets lie, but they do and He will use it to bring about His plan. He doesn't force Ahab to listen to the lies, but he does, which will lead to his doom...also fitting into God's plan.

22:31-34 - More sovereignty. The king of Syria uses good battle strategy, try to take out the king of Israel with his best troops. The Syrian King chooses this way, but God uses it in His plan. When they cannot find the king (Because he is dressed as a regular soldier), one of the charioteers chooses to shoot a random soldier in the battle, which happens to be the king of Israel. The soldier chose to shoot at random, and God used that choice to fulfill His prophecy. We can choose to join in with God on His master plan for all eternity, or we can choose to go our own path - either way, our good or bad choices will be weaved into the plan that God is working out to get as many people to Him as possible. I'd much prefer to be one of the Elijahs than one of the Ahabs.

22:38 - The prophecy of Elijah is fulfilled.

1:2 - Baal-Zebub means "lord of the flies." Probably because flies were often associated with rotting, dying bodies and so the "lord of the flies" would be able to drive disease and death away. It seems that Ahaziah has followed int he footsteps of his father and mother (That worked out so well for them).

1:9ff - They try to come in force to arrest Elijah, but he is having none of it. God consumes the enemy soldiers with fire - TWICE! It brings to mind the way that Jesus always evaded capture, until the time was right for him to allow himself to be arrested. Eventually God tells Elijah to go down the mountain with the soldiers to confront Ahaziah.

1:16 - I love the uncompromising nature of Elijah. In this time period is Israel, it seems that you can find thousands of people who will go along with whatever the king wants and just want to "fit in." No matter who is king, Elijah stands up and stays true to the Word of God. Again he faces off with, and humiliates the false god Baal...he tells the king, "Why are you sending for the lord of the flies, isn't there already a real king in Israel? Well, He tells me that because you have rejected Him, you are never going to leave that bed alive." Today in our culture, there are so many people (even Christians) who are willing to just go along with the tide of cultural acceptance...unwilling to make a stand for God. As followers of Christ, we should be uncompromising in our adherence to his way.

2:2-3 - Elisha knows that Elijah is about to be taken away from him, so he refuses to leave his side (Partially because he loves his master, but also because he wants confirmation that he is supposed to be the prophet that takes Elijah's place). He snaps at the other prophets, "I know - be quiet!" because of the tension of the moment and all the conflicting feelings. He is probably sad about losing Elijah. Excited about what God wants to do with him. Scared about what it means to be the number one voice of God to the people of God. Unsure if he has what it takes. He running through all the human emotions and fears.

2:9-10 - Let's clear something up here...when he says he wants a double portion of Elijah's spirit, he is not asking for twice as much spirit as Elijah had. He isn't arrogantly trying to get super-God powers. The double portion is a reference to the portion of inheritance given to the firstborn sons of Israelite families. Basically, Elisha is asking for his prophetic birthright. He wants to inherit the position and power of Elijah...it is a sign of respect - he is saying, "I want to be like you." We should all find people that we can learn from...people that can challenge us, to help us grow...people that can pass down the inheritance of their godly knowledge. We should also find people that we can challenge and raise up as leaders to leave behind us as a legacy of honoring God with our lives.

2:8 and 14 - Elijah slaps the water where the other prophets can see, given Elisha the perfect opportunity to later show that he is taking the place of Elijah. Elisha comes back and slaps the water, the water parts, and everyone can see that he has taken over the role as chief prophet.

2:23ff - What? That sounds a little harsh. A bunch of kids get mauled by bears because they called somebody "baldy?" Wow - talk about harsh! Well, let's clarify a few things. These juveniles, were most likely young men, who knew better than to verbally accost a prophet of God. Secondly, they don't just randomly call him "baldy" - they are calling into question his right and power as a prophet of God. Elijah was always associated with being covered in hair...when these young men say that Elisha is bald, they are basically saying they do not believe that he is God's prophet. Well the she-bears gnawing on their limbs probably showed them differently. God doesn't mes around when people doubt the way He chooses to work in the world...don't forget that.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Kings Chapters 19-21

19:3 - After all Elijah has seen God do, he is still afraid? Are you and I so different?

19:9/13 - God asks, "What are you doing here?" Again, I'm feeling a little introspective...how many times has God asked me the same thing? He has gifted me with the life I have and made me unique from anyone who has ever lived (Just like you), to do a specific ministry within His will that only I can do, and yet I often find myself totally off track getting distracted by meaningless endeavors. I wonder how many times God has looked at the rabbit trails I've followed and asked, "What are you doing here?"

19:10ff/14ff - Excuses and whining from a follower of God! I've never heard of such behavior! Oh wait, that's right, I see it all the time from myself and basically every other Christian I come in contact with. I love the realism and humanity that the men and women of the bible are painted with...they were messed up, quirky people just like you and me that didn't always know how to do the "following God" thing very well. If that applies to you, you've got some good company in the bible.

19:12 - I love that God is not in the huge, elemental shows of power, but in the quiet whisper or as the ESV offers as a secondary translation, "the thin silence." That term reminds me about a Celtic Christian idea called "the thin place" - sacred places they believed that the veil between the spiritual and physical worlds were the thinest and they could more easily connect with God. The thin silence is there...God is calling to us...speaking His love into our hearts, but do we allow the "noise" of this world and our lives to drown out His quiet whispers? More often than not...I think so.

20:13 - God gives Ahab a chance to change. He clearly states that He is bringing Ahab victory so that he will know that God is the Lord. Unfortunately, we see that it doesn't change Ahab's heart. Yet, Ahab's failure to change does nothing to take away the mercy of God.

20:36 - Probably a good idea to listen tot he prophets of God, huh?

20:42 - Ahab refused to finish the task that God set him to. Remember, God was bringing about the destruction of the Syrians to show the world that He was the only God. In ancient times, a king was the god's right hand man...when Ahab allowed Ben-Hadad to walk, he allowed the Syrian "god" a minor victory. Ahab's choice brought dishonor to God - not good.

21:13 - Jezebel's sick plan only works in a corrupt community where people will listen to the voices of two worthless men.

21:29 - Is this fair? Ahab is off the hook and his children will have to pay for his crimes? It seems clear from everything we have read in the bible so far that God is always willing to forgive. Look a Ahab himself...God cals destruction down on his head, yet shows mercy when Ahab repents. If Ahab's children die is disaster, it will be because of their own rejection of God.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sorry I'm so lame!!!

Hey everybody, all the different portions of my life's schedule have come together this week to create the perfect storm. I have two major papers for class due. I am leaving with a group of 50 people to build houses in Mexico on Sunday - it is crazy! So that is why I haven't been posting. It takes me an hour to an hour and a half to blog through three chapters and I just can't do it right now. Sorry. I'll be back to blogging in two weeks.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Kings Chapters 16-18

16:11 - When people with authority and power (i.e. fathers, mothers, leaders, etc.), they don't only affect their own lives, but the lives of the people in realtionships with them. These kings have the blood of their children on their hands because of their failure to lead as godly men. Out lives and choices are not simply about ourselves - we have to remember that the consequences of our actions an choices are far reaching and involve far more than ourselves.

16:24 - The king makes a pretty shrewd strategic move. He moves to a place that he has built up (so nobody is goin to try to kill him). Samaria is on high ground overlooking a major trade route. This is the Samaria that eventually gets overrun and destroyed by foregin armies and eventually becomes the home to the half-Jewish, half-Gentile Samaritan people often referred to in the NT.

16:30ff - Ahab is the worst king yet. The text says that he views the sins of the kings that came before him as nothing - he easily walks in rebellion against the Lord with no regrets. That is dangerous ground to tread. There are many times that I see Christians (myself included) who are more willing to make excuses for sin in their lives than they are willing to combat it with everything they have. Again, dangerous ground to tread.

16:34 - The curse given by Joshua after the conquest of Jericho falls harshly on the family of Hiel who is rebuilding the destroyed city at the order of Ahab. All his children are killed during the building process. It is possible (Though not proven) that Hiel may have even used the pagan building practice of placing his infant children in jars and cementing them into the foundation of Jericho, to ward off evil spirits. If it is true - it is just another example of how far the leadership in Israel had fallen.

17:1 - "Tishbe" means settler. This verse basically tells us that Elijah, one of the greatest prophets in Israel's history, was not an Israelite! Very cool. When Elijah calls down the drought in the name of the Lord, he is directly challeneging the false god Baal. Baal was known as the "rider of clouds" - he was the god of fertility and rain...God has thrown down the gauntlet.

17:5ff - God takes care of Elijah like he did the Israelites in the desert.He looks out for his faithful.

17:8-9 - Another challenge to the Baal worshippers. Elijah is told to go to Zarephath which is in the heart of Baal country. There the prophet of the one and only God is kept alive by a foreign woman in the land of Baal worship. Clearly, God is in control.

17:15-16 - The widow trusts the Lord so much, that she is willing to give out of her poverty and she is rewarded for her faith - God takes care of her.

17:21 - Elijah stretches himself out over the boy. This is not a magic trick or anything...he is interceding for the boy. He is going against Israelite law and touching a dead body - he is associating himself with the boy's death and offering himself to God in the boy's place (metaphorically). It is similar to the time when Moses asked God to blot his name out from the book of life so that the other Hebrew people would be saved. It is also a picture of the death that Jesus was willing to take on for all of our sins. It is clear from these passages that God is the giver of water, food and life...Baal is nothing.

18:17-18 - Ahab blames Elijah for the problems that his own sins have brought upon the kingdom. Typical, huh? He lives in denial seraching for someone to shift the blame to other than himself. We would never do anything like that, would we? It also shows that Ahab is faithless even in his rebellious worship of Baal...because if Baal was real (And if Ahab actually believed that) Elijah would have no power, right? He has put his trust in a god he knows is false and will let him down. Again, doesn't sound like soemthign we would ever do, right? Oops.

18:21 - I love that verse! My version says, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions?" The people are being spiritually crippled because they are trying to serve two masters. Elijah makes it clear that you cannot serve God and anyone else...trying to do so destroys your worship, your life, your heart - everything!

18:27 - LOL! Is your god going to the bathroom? Is your god taking a little nap? Elijah's reference to Baal sleeping is a sarcastic way of saying that Baal is dead. Elijah mocks their foolishness. How can a god that never existed be dead - he was never alive!

18:30-37 - 12 stones...12 jars of water poured on top. What could that possibly represent? Everything Elijah is doing points towards a restoration of the nation of Israel. God is about to destroy the Baal worship cult and set his people free from their bondage. Very similar to the freedom he offered them from the Egyptians - this time they are freed from spirutal bondage.

18:40 - They act decisively to destroy the sinful influences in their lives. There are times when you and I need to act decisively and harshly in removing sin from our own lives (I wouldn't suggest slaughter though). If you struggle with porn - get rid of the internet. If you keep have sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend, break up with them. Be willing to act decisively in the best interest of your realtionship with God.

18:46 - There are some people that think that Elijah hiked of his robes and ran off with super-human - God-given speed, outrunning Ahab's chariot. Thsi could be the case and it would be really cool (God created the universe with a few words...I think he can make a guy run fast!). But the phrase "ran before" and "go before" is a term referring to servants who would go before their masters. It seems like Elijah is willing to go before Ahab and serve as his advisor is restoring Israel to God worship. Unfortunately Jezebal has a little something to say about that in the next chapter!