Elijah

The Messiah Has Come!

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
    make his paths straight.’”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Matthew 3:1-10 ESV

Matthew has an agenda and he wastes no time on anything that will not support his overall objective. His primary interest is to establish Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, and so, after providing an abbreviated overview of Jesus’ birth, Matthew fast-forwards to His baptism and the beginning of His earthly ministry.

In keeping with his more truncated and sparse narrative style, Matthew provides little details regarding the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. Luke’s Gospel contains a much-more detailed account of this seminal character, providing information about his birth, unique lifestyle, and the nature of his God-given assignment to prepare the way for Jesus.

But Matthew eliminates all the background information regarding John the Baptist, introducing him into the narrative in a somewhat abrupt and jarring manner. Matthew fast-forwards from the news that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had settled in Galilee and brings us to a future point in time when John was baptizing somewhere in the Judean wilderness. He makes no effort to explain who John was, but simply gives us a description of his work and his wardrobe.

John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea… – Matthew 3:1 ESV

John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. – Matthew 3:4 ESV

It’s fairly clear that Matthew saw John as a supporting character in the story. He was vital to the narrative but played a clearly subordinate role to that of Jesus. And John the Baptist had been fully comfortable with his secondary status, having recognized the divine nature of Jesus’ ministry and mission. The apostle John records the words that John the Baptist spoke to his disciples when they expressed concern that Jesus was also baptizing in the Jordan and drawing large crowds.

“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.

”He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.“ – John 3:28-31 ESV

Once again, Matthew sees the events surrounding the life of Jesus as fulfilling the words of Scripture. He refers to John the Baptist “preaching in the wilderness of Judea” and calling the people to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1 ESV). And these actions by John were in direct fulfillment of a message delivered by Isaiah hundreds of years earlier.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” – Isaiah 40:3 ESV

John had been sent by God to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. He had delivered his message of repentance, warning that the Kingdom of Heaven was near. The long-awaited Messiah was about to reveal Himself.

In his Gospel, Mark shares that John “appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4 ESV). But what was this “baptism of repentance?” What exactly were these people repenting of? And why was John attracting such large crowds?

Some of John’s attraction might be linked to his rather strange attire and bizarre lifestyle. Matthew describes him as wearing “a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist” and subsisting off a diet of “locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4 ESV). John’s attire linked him with the Old Testament prophet, Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). After the last Old Testament prophet spoke his final words, God went silent for 400-years. There were no prophets. There was no communication from God. And then, suddenly, John the Baptist shows up on the scene, bearing a striking resemblance to Elijah and reminding the people of the words spoken by God to the prophet, Micah, hundreds of years earlier.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” – Malachi 4:5-6 ESV

John was the fulfillment of this prophetic promise. He came in the spirit of Elijah, accomplishing the same prophetic ministry as his Old Testament predecessor. And God had promised Zechariah,  the father of John, that all of this would take place.

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” – Luke 1:13-17 ESV

Once again, Matthew is establishing Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. And John the Baptist was sent to prepare for his arrival by calling the people to repentance. But as we asked earlier, what kind of repentance? The Greek word for “repentance” is metanoeō and it means “to change one’s mind.” We tend to think of repentance as exclusively linked to behavior, but it has a much more robust and all-encompassing meaning. Repentance begins, first and foremost, in the mind, not the actions. John was calling the people of Israel to change their minds about everything. They were going to have to radically change their minds about God. They had developed a warped perspective about Yahweh that had allowed them to treat Him with a bit too much familiarity. They were going to have to change their minds regarding righteousness. They were living under the false impression that their status as descendants of Abraham and their relationship with the Mosaic Law made them righteous. But all of that was about to change. They were going to have to change their mind about sin and the means by which the sinner is made right with a holy God. The sacrificial system had never been intended to make anyone righteous.

Years later, the apostle Paul asked the question: “Why, then, was the law given?” and then he answered his own question: “It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised” (Galatians 3:19 NLT). And now, here was John letting the people know that the child who was promised had arrived. He was now a 30-year-old man and, as John would later describe Him, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NLT).

But John’s ministry included proclamation and immersion. He baptized, which is how he got his nickname, John the Baptist. John was calling the people to prepare for spiritual restoration. The anointed one of God had arrived and they were going to have to confess their sins and prepare their hearts for what God had in store. Just as the prophet, Elijah, had called the Jews of his day to repentance, so was John. The Israelites were guilty of spiritual complacency and, at worst, apostasy. And God had graciously sent His messenger, John, to call them back.

But when John saw the religious leaders showing up to be baptized, he accused them of hypocrisy.

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” – Matthew 3:8 ESV

They were simply going through the motions, attempting to align themselves with the large crowds that John was attracting. But John’s baptism was intended to reveal the heart of the one being baptized. It was a baptism of repentance, symbolizing a desire to be restored to a right relationship with God. But John saw through the charade of the Pharisees and Sadduccees. They were unrepentant because they saw no need for it. They viewed themselves as fully righteous and John knew that their false concept was based on their status as sons of Abraham. Which is why he stated:

“Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.” – Matthew 3:9 NLT

Not exactly PC-language. But John was out to prepare the people for the arrival of the Lamb of God, who alone can take away the sins of the world. The Pharisees and Sadduccees saw themselves as sinless and, therefore, in no need of a Savior. But John warns these self-righteous men that their lack of fruit in keeping with true righteousness was going to result in their removal.

“Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” – Matthew 3:10 NLT

There was a change coming. The status quo that had existed in Israel for centuries was about to be rocked. With the arrival of Jesus, everything was about to change. The first would be last and the last would be first. The self-righteous were about to be exposed as unrighteous. The sinners of the world were about to be embraced by the Savior of the world. The weak would find new strength. The spiritually blind would gain their signt. The captives would be set free. And the lost would be found. Because the Messiah had come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Impressive, Yet Offensive.

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. – Matthew 13:53-58 ESV

After completing this series of parables, Jesus left Capernaum and made the 20-mile journey to Nazareth, the place where He had spent His childhood. By all accounts, Jesus would have been returning to familiar territory, where He would have been known and well-received. But things did not turn out that way. In this little section, which ends chapter 13, Matthew provides an important transition that brings his description of Jesus’ rejection by His own to a close.

Upon His return to Nazareth, Jesus made His way to the synagogue. This was not the first time Jesus had visited the synagogue since leaving Nazareth. Luke records that Jesus went back to Nazareth not long after His temptation in the wilderness.

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. – Luke 4:16-17 ESV 

And Jesus had read the following passage to those in the audience that day:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” – Luke 4:18-19 ESV

And Jesus had followed up His reading of this familiar Messianic passage by stating, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV). This was an unapologetic claim by Jesus to be the Messiah. And Luke records that the people “all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (Luke 4:22 ESV). But they had a difficult time reconciling who they knew Jesus to be with what they heard Him saying. They couldn’t help but ask, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” They remembered Jesus growing up in Nazareth, along with his brothers and sister. They viewed Jesus as just another one of the sons of Joseph. They had no concept of the virgin birth or of Jesus’ deity. He was just another son of Joseph the local carpenter.

Luke makes it clear that Jesus knew that, despite their marvel at what He had to say, they would never accept who He claimed to be. In fact, Jesus compared Himself to the Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who were also rejected by the people of Israel. During the famine that God had decreed on the nation of Israel, there were many widows in the land, but Elijah had ministered to only one, and she happened to be a Gentile from Zarephath. And while “there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:27 ESV). Jesus points out that, because of the stubbornness of the people of Israel and their refusal to listen to the words of God’s prophets, the mercy of God was shown to Gentiles.

28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away. – Luke 4:28-30 ESV

The Jews didn’t like what Jesus had to say. Their marvel turned to violent hatred and they actually attempted to kill Jesus.

So, here was Jesus speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth yet again. And the people are still wrestling with their perception of who they believe Jesus to be with all that they had heard He had done since leaving Nazareth. They respond:

55 “Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. – Matthew 13:55-57 ESV

Jesus, like Elijah and Elisha, was a prophet without honor in His own hometown. This was in fulfillment of the words of John, recorded in his Gospel: “He came to his own people, and even they rejected him” (John 1:11 NLT).

Jesus had faced rejection elsewhere in Israel, particularly by the religious leadership. But if there should have been a place where Jesus found receptive ears and a willing acceptance to His message, it should have been Nazareth. But He found the residents of His hometown to be just as resistant to His claims as anyone else in Israel. As a result, Jesus “did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58 ESV). They would have loved to have seen Jesus perform some of the miracles for which He had become famous. They weren’t opposed to Jesus healing the sick or casting out demons, but they were not willing to accept His claims to be the Messiah.

John records that even the half-brothers of Jesus struggled with doubt concerning His claims. They were more than happy for Jesus to become famous as a miracle worker, but they could not bring themselves to believe that He was their Messiah.

3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him. – John 7:3-5 NLT

Unbelief. That was the problem. The people of Israel refused to believe who Jesus claimed to be. They could not accept this version of the Messiah because it did not reconcile with their preconceived notions. Jesus did not look like what they were expecting. The kingdom of heaven Jesus preached about was unlike the kingdom on earth they expected the Messiah to bring when He came. And so, they rejected Him.

At one point, they had been impressed with Jesus, but ended up being offended by Him. And it all hinged on their unbelief. They could not accept His claims to be the Messiah. But they also refused to tolerate His claims that they were in need of a Savior. Jesus had come to open the eyes of the spiritually blind so that they could see their true condition. He had come to preach a message of good news to the spiritually impoverished. He had come to tell those held captive by sin how to be set free. But the Jews did not like hearing that they were poor, blind, enslaved or in need. They were offended by Jesus’ accusations that they were sinners in need of a Savior.

“The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil.” – John 77 NLT

So, rather than being redeemed by Him, they simply because offended with Him.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Listen to Him.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV

Peter begins to make a transition in the content of his letter. He has been encouraging his readers to see to it that they supplement their initial faith in Christ with the characteristics of Christ. Peter had evidently played a part in preaching of the gospel that had led to the salvation of the believers to whom he is writing. And, as a faithful shepherd, he is concerned that their faith increase as they submit their lives to the indwelling presence and power of the Spirit and pursuit the will of God for their lives: Holiness. Now, Peter begins to establish his qualifications as an apostle of Jesus, defending the nature of the gospel he had preached, and establishing his intimate relationship with Jesus Himself. There is a reason Peter is having to do this. As we will see in the very next chapter, Peter is having to deal with a problem that has impacted the churches receiving his letter. In his absence, false teachers have appeared within these churches, causing confusion and attacking the integrity of Peter’s message.

So, Peter wants to remind his readers that the gospel he had preached and which they had believed was not some man-made, cleverly concocted story that had no basis in reality. Peter had not made this stuff up. What he had told them regarding Jesus, including His life, ministry, miracles, messages, death, burial and resurrection, were true. Peter had been there. He had been an eyewitness of each and every thing regarding Jesus’ life, all the way to the bitter end. Peter makes special reference to the special occasion on which he had seen Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop and heard the voice of God. Mark records this event in his gospel.

2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. – Mark 9:2-4 NLT

Mark provides us with further insight into the reaction of the three disciples as they viewed this extraordinary event. As usual, Peter was the first to speak up.

5 Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. – Mark 9:5-6 NLT

Peter tells his readers, “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16 NLT). They had seen His transfiguration. They had watched as Jesus spoke with Elijah and Moses, two long-dead patriarchs of the faith. These two men were especially chosen by God for this occasion, because they represented the prophets and the law respectively. Jesus had come to fulfill both. All that the prophets wrote about in their books was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. And the Old Testament Mosaic Law was also fulfilled in Jesus because He was the only man who had ever kept the law in its entirety. He had not disobeyed a single part of God’s commands, which is what made Him the perfect sacrifice, the sinless lamb who could give His life as a substitute and as an atonement for the sins of mankind.

Mark’s gospel tells us what happened after Peter made his hasty, fear-driven offer to build three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. – Mark 9:7-8 NLT

God spoke, and all He expressed to the disciples was His love for His Son and His desire that they listen to Him. And as they walked away from this one-of-a-kind encounter, Jesus had further instructions for Peter and two companions.

9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” – Mark 9:9-10 NLT

As Peter penned the words of his letter, it was long after the events described in Mark’s gospel. Jesus had gone to Jerusalem. He had made His triumphal entry. The disciples had celebrated what would be their last Passover meal with Jesus. They had stood by and watched Him be arrested and dragged off to be tried. Peter had denied Him three times. They had each been forced to watch Jesus crucified, buried and left for dead. But they had also been eye-witnesses to His resurrection, the very thing Jesus had mentioned to Peter, James and John that day as they descended the mountain. These men, along with the other disciples, had see Jesus in His glorified, resurrected state. He had visited with them, ate a meal with them, and commissioned them to take the news of His death, burial and resurrection to the world. And they had.

For Peter, what he had seen on the mountaintop that day and what his post-resurrection encounters with Jesus were more than enough to convince him of the validity of Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. He was completely convinced that Jesus was the long-awaited Savior of whom the prophets had written. Which is what prompts him to write:

“Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.” – 2 Peter 1:19 NLT

Peter knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the message he preached was true because it was in fulfillment of all that the prophets had written regarding Jesus. The words of the prophets, written hundreds of years earlier, were “like a lamp shining in a dark place” and they will keep on shining until the day the Lord returns. These men not only predicted the first coming of Jesus, but His second coming. Their words still carry weight and significance. And Peter reaffirms that the writings of the prophets were not their own words, but had been given to them by God through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God. – 2 Peter 1:20-21 NLT

The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles combined to create a God-ordained message of revelation and salvation based on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He was God incarnate, the Son of God in human flesh. He was the God-Man, who lived a sinless life and performed never-before-seen miracles and spoke God-ordained words of truth. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cast out demons, controlled the wind and the waves, turned water into wine, and raised the dead. He confounded the religious leaders with His wisdom. He comforted the sinful with His words. Peter and the apostles walked with Him, learned from Him, were astonished by Him, and convinced by the words He spoke to them. Their lives had been radically transformed as a result of their encounter with Him. And Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell on them, as the icing on the cake, a final proof that He was who He claimed to be. That fateful day had brought a new energy and enthusiasm to the disciples as they were filled with the power of the Spirit and began to preach the gospel given to them by Christ. They stood back and watched in awe and thousands of lives were changed at the hearing of the good news regarding Jesus, the Savior. And Peter, writing to believers who found themselves tempted to turn from the gospel by the misleading words of false teachers, pleads with them to keep their eyes focused on the reality of who Jesus was and what He came to do. In essence, Peter is repeating the words of God spoken to he, James and John. He is calling his readers to recall who Jesus is and to hear God say, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Divine Power.

2 Kings 1-2, 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV

As believers, we sometimes fail to recognize the power of God in and around our lives. We read stories in the Bible that tell of His greatness and illustrate His mighty power, but they seem so distant and foreign to our everyday life experiences. But our God is the same God that Elijah worshiped. He is just as powerful today as He was then. He is just as able to perform miraculous acts now as He did in the days of the prophets. When we read of fire coming down from heaven and consuming the 50 men who had been sent by King Ahaziah to retrieve Elijah, we are amazed, and perhaps a bit suspicious of the story's validity. Two different times, God's power was displayed through His destruction of the king's emissaries, who were opposed to the work of Elijah and meant him harm. But God was not going to let a godless king bring harm to His prophet. Yet, do we believe that same God is alive and well today? Do we truly believe that His power is available to us in our lives today?

What does this passage reveal about God?

God does not change. There is no difference between the God of the Old Testament and the one we see on display in the New Testament. He is the same God. He is no less powerful, no less opposed to sin and the rebellion of His people, and no less capable of performing might acts on behalf of those who love Him and remain faithful to His cause. The first two chapters of 2 Kings remind us that God is greater than any false gods. King Ahaziah may have wanted to seek the counsel of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, but God was not going to let him succeed. God sent him word through His prophet, Elijah, that King Ahaziah would not be hearing from a false god and would not recover from his illness. We also see that God was greater than any army or potential enemy that stood against His will or opposed to His prophet. He destroyed over 100 men who had been sent by the godless king to bring harm to His prophet. But we also see that God is greater than His own prophet. There came a time when Elijah was removed from service. He had done what God had called him to do and God determined it was time for him to come home. He was replaced with Elisha, the prophet's understudy. God chooses to use us as men, but He is not obligated to do so and is certainly not required to do so. He does not need us to accomplish His will, but graciously chooses include us in His divine will. But we should never assume that we are necessary or indispensable to God's plans.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It is so easy for us to assume that we are essential to God's work. But we must never forget that God is greater than we are. His power is essential to us doing what He has called us to do. Without His help, we are hopeless and powerless to accomplish anything of worth or value. Paul tells us that while we us live our lives in the flesh, in these mortal, weak bodies, we must constantly remind ourselves that what we accomplish in this life cannot be done in the flesh. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). We have a power available to us that is way beyond our capabilities. It is the same power that showed up as fire from heaven for Elijah. It is the same power that allowed both Elijah and Elisha to part the waters of the Jordan River and walk across on dry ground. It is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead – “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV). With that power, we are able “to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT). We have a power available to us that is beyond this world. It is greater than any man, false god, human plan, godless teaching, or strategy of Satan himself. With it, we can accomplish mighty works on God's behalf. We can display His power among those with whom we live, work, and interact. But if we fail to believe in His power, we will fail to witness it's presence in our lives. We will fail to recognize it when it is happening all around us. We will fail to acknowledge our need for it.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The reality of the power of God is not up for debate. We can doubt it, ignore it, and even fail to avail ourselves of it, but that in no way diminishes it. God is as great today as He was in the days of Elijah. He is just as active today as He was then. He wants to reveal His power through our lives and encourage us as we experience His might revealed in real-life situations and impossible scenarios in which we find ourselves out-manned, ill-equipped, and powerless to do anything about it. We live in a world that desperately needs to see the power of God revealed in the lives of men. I want to be one of those men. I want God to reveal His power through me, so that the world may believe He truly exists and is greater than anything or anyone else they may be tempted to turn to for help.

Father, thank You for reminding me of Your power. Thank You for so graciously revealing Your power in my life so many times. I know there are many times I have failed to see it and recognize it. There are other times I have failed to thank You for it. But I am grateful, and I want to see Your power on display more and more in and around my life. Amen

Limping Along.

1 Kings 17-18, 2 Corinthians 7

And 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.” – 1 Kings 11:21 ESV

The story of the history of Israel is filled with images of indecisiveness, unfaithfulness, mixed allegiances, and self-centered motives. In other words, it is the story of mankind. But these were the chosen people of God. They had experienced first-hand the powerful hand of God on their lives, having been miraculously set free from captivity in Egypt, provided for and protected for more than 40 years as they wandered in the wilderness, and eventually, given a land of rich abundance and fruitfulness filled with cities and homes they hadn't built and crops they hadn't planted. God had proven Himself faithful time and time again over the years. He had given them a great king in David. He had made them a powerful nation. He had blessed them with a wise king in Solomon whose reign was marked by a period of peace and plenty. But despite all of God's goodness and blessing, the people of Israel could not remain faithful. They never full rejected God. Instead, they hedged their bets and worshiped other gods as well, ensuring that they had all their bases covered when it came to divine protection and provision. But the gods they worshiped proved to be no gods at all. They were impotent and non-existent. When the prophets of Baal called out to him, he remained silent. He gave no answer. “And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, O Baal, answer us! But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made” (1 Kings 18:26 ESV). It's interesting to note that the same verb is used in verse 26 to describe the actions of the prophets of Baal that Elijah uses in verse 21 to describe the people of God – they limped. The actual Hebrew word can mean “to limp, to hop, to jump around.” It is the image of someone on crutches who is unsteady, unstable indecisive, and hesitant in their actions. They were anxious and fearful, unsure if their god was going to come through for them. They lacked conviction and faith. They weren't short on effort or determination, because they even “cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them” (1 Kings 18:28 ESV). But for all their effort and energy, their god remained silent.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But in contrast, we have the God of Elijah. In the period of time leading up to this event, Elijah had been personally cared for by God, having been miraculously fed by ravens. He had seen a poor widow's meager oil and flour multiplied by God in order to keep herself, her son, and himself alive. He had watched as the widow's son became sick and died, but he had trusted God to bring him back to life, and He did. Elijah's God was alive and well. He could hear and He could respond. He was powerful and compassionate. He could be trusted. And we see in Elijah's actions that day on Mount Carmel that he believed in his God. He did not limp along in unbelief. He was not hesitant. He exhibited no doubt or indecisiveness. His actions were clear and his orders, concise. He called and his God responded – in power. “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stone and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 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 18:38-39 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

As long as the people continued to share their allegiance between God and a host of false gods, they would continue to limp along, living lives marked by powerlessness, hopelessness, and physical, as well as spiritual drought. Placing their trust in anyone or anything other than God would continue to prove unproductive and, ultimately, destructive. For all their expended effort and religious zeal, the prophets of Baal only ended up doing harm to themselves. Their blind faith in a false god would result in their own deaths. But the people of Israel were like a lame person on two crutches. Their faith was unsteady and their spiritual walk was unstable. They limped about between the one true God and a host of false gods. They staggered between truth and falsehood. But Elijah challenged them to choose. “If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21 ESV). But they were indecisive. They were unsure. They had long ago begun to doubt in the power of the one true God. As a result, they had begun seeking out the potential help of any and all gods who might meet their needs or fulfill their desires. If God couldn't or wouldn't come through, perhaps they could find another god who would meet their needs. As is usually the case, they were seeking a god would would accommodate their wishes. They wanted a god of their own making, who would take care of them according to their own standards. But because their gods were powerless and silent, they wavered back and forth between a host of gods, waiting and watching, hoping that one of them would prove to be the god they were looking for.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul has already reminded us that the people of Israel were the chosen people of God. He had promised to dwell among them. He had promised to walk among them. He had promised to be their Father and treat them as His own children. All they had to do was live like who they were: the children of God. They were to separate themselves from the rest of the world and live distinctively different lives, according to God's standards, not their own. And Paul reminded the Corinthians, that as followers of Christ, they were also to see themselves as holy and distinct, children of God. He pleaded, “beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV). In other words, they were to make the pursuit of holiness their primary focus. Rather than waver in indecisiveness, they were to do everything in their power to “make a clean break with everything that defiles or distracts us, both within and without” (The Message). Paul was wanting to see them live with a singular focus: pursuing holiness and Christ-likeness. But far too often, as believers, we can find ourselves limping along, like someone trying to navigate life while leaning on two crutches. We are unsteady and unsure of ourselves. We are placing our hope and leaning our lives on things that can't deliver. We are relying on things that, in the long run, will prove themselves unreliable. Only God can be trusted. Only God can come through for us. Only God can deliver what it is we need. How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him.

Father, I want to follow You. I want to lean on You, rely on You, trust in You. I am tired of limping along in indecisiveness. You have proven Yourself faithful and true time and time again in my life. The things of this world have proven themselves unreliable and unworthy of my allegiance. Help me to stop wavering and begin trusting You more. Amen

The Law. The Prophets. The Messiah.

Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36

“Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them." – Mark 9:8 NLT

What an amazing event this must have been to witness. Only Peter, James and John were privileged to see this incredible scene as Jesus was transfigured or transformed into what was apparently His heavenly form. We are told in the Gospels that His face glowed and His clothes became "dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them" (Mark 9:3 NLT). Matthew describes His face as being as white as the sun. This was a supernatural transformation, and it was capped off by the appearance of Moses and Elijah, two great icons of Jewish history.

This was obviously what Jesus had been referring to when He had earlier told the disciples, "And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom" (Matthew 16:28 NLT). Peter, James and John were the ones who were fortunate to see Jesus in all His heavenly glory. What they saw was Jesus, the Messiah, in His future kingly form. It is very similar to what John would see in his vision many years later while exiled on the isle of Patmos. In his vision, John was given a glimpse of the future and he was privileged yet again to see Jesus in all His glory, coming to set up His Kingdom on earth. "Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dripped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: ‘King of all kings and Lord of all lord’" (Revelations 19:11-16 NLT).

What Peter, James and John were witnessing was highly significant. They were watching as Moses, representing the Law of God, and Elijah, representing all the prophets of the Old Testament, were meeting with Jesus, the Messiah. If they still harbored any doubts about Jesus' identity, this should have erased them. They were able to listen as Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus His upcoming ascension back into heaven. And then, to top it all off, they heard the very voice of God telling them, "This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him" (Luke 9:35 NLT). And then suddenly, Moses and Elijah were gone, and only Jesus was left standing before them. I think every part of this event was orchestrated by God and had a message just for the disciples. The appearance of Moses and Elijah was significant because they represented the Law and the Prophets. Moses also represented the old covenant, and as a prophet himself, Moses had predicted the coming of the great prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Elijah and the other Old Testament prophets had foretold about the coming of the Messiah and the future blessing of God on the people of Israel. Jesus was the fulfillment of all that had been written in the Law and the prophets (the Old Testament). Later on, after His resurrection, Jesus would tell the disciples, "When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled" (Luke 24:44 NLT). Jesus was the focal point of it all. He was the culmination and the climax of all that had been written about in the Old Testament. It had all been leading up to Him. And it is significant that when Moses and Elijah suddenly disappeared, Jesus alone was left. He was God's "Chosen One," the Messiah. He was the answer to man's sin problem and He had full power and authority from God to act as His representative. So God told the disciples to listen to Him. He knew what He was doing. He was not only the Messiah, but He was the future King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He was the very same individual who was going to return the earth in power and glory and set up His Kingdom and destroy the armies of hell. This was the Son of God, not just some roaming rabbi. He was the King of Heaven. He was the Chosen One of God and He was fulfilling the will of God. So listen!

Father, sometimes we lose sight of just how significant Jesus really is. Sure, we recognize Him as our Savior. But we fail to realize just how powerful, majestic and important Jesus Christ really is. He is the one who is going to return to the earth some day and return Your creation back to its original perfect state. He is going to defeat the armies of hell and Satan himself. He is going to judge the unrighteous. He is going to rule and reign from a literal throne in Jerusalem. His death, burial and resurrection were not the end of His job. He has more to do. His work in not yet complete. Help us to recognize and respect just how holy, righteous, powerful and important Jesus Christ really is and, as a result, to listen to Him intently. Amen.

The Ultimate Question.

Matthew 16:13-20; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-21“But who do you say I am?" – Matthew 16:15 NLT

It had been a long day, and Luke tells us that Jesus left the crowds behind and was on His way to find a place to pray. The disciples were walking along with Him and so He took advantage of the moment and asked them a question. I don't think this was in order for Jesus to get information He was lacking, because I think He already knew the answer. He was simply engaging His disciples in a conversation that was directed at revealing what their true perception was of Him. They had been with Him for years now and had seen Him do some remarkable things. He had made it clear to them who He was. They had even heard demons call Him the Messiah, the Son of God. But Jesus knew there were still doubts in the minds of the disciples. While they hoped and prayed that he truly was the Messiah, so much of what He said and did was so unlike what they expected from the Messiah. He was not the conquering hero they had long anticipated. He was not regal, kingly, or a warrior like David had been. He was obviously as wise as Solomon, but He had no royal retinue and lacked Solomon's vast wealth.

So Jesus asks them a simple question: "Who do people say I am?"

The disciples immediately share all the various opinions that were floating out there. "Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead" (Luke 9:18-19 NLT). In Matthew's account, they throw in the name of Jeremiah. Obviously, the people were having a hard time coming to grips with Jesus being the actual Messiah, so they had come up with a series of viable options to explain who He was and how He was able to do the things He did. Interestingly enough, all of their options involved someone having to be raised from the dead. John the Baptist had been killed by Herod. Elijah and Jeremiah, both Old Testament prophets had been long gone. So the people didn't seem to have a problem with Jesus being miraculously sent from God. They just had a difficult time believing He was the Messiah.

But Jesus cuts to the chase and asks the disciples the more revealing and important question: "But who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15 NLT). They had each been personally chosen by Jesus. They had walked with, learned from and lived alongside Him for over three years at this point. They had had intimate communication with Him and heard things from Him that the others were not allowed to hear. He had explained His parables to them. He had given them power and authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. They had seen Him raise the dead and walk on water. They had watched Him calm the storm and feed the multitudes. They had listened as He condemned the religious leaders and easily handled their attempts to discredit Him as a fraud and a lunatic.

Now Jesus was asking them the most important question of their lives. It isn't surprising that Peter was the first one to speak up. He was the always the first to open His mouth. Most of the time, that habit got him in hot water. But this time, He said the right thing. "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16 NLT). Jesus blesses Peter for His answer, but before Peter can get a big head, Jesus lets him know that he didn't come up with this on his own and he didn't learn it from anyone else. It was revealed to him by God. In other words, this awareness of Jesus' true identity was divinely inspired. God had made it known to Peter and the other disciples. If left to their own devices, they would have come to the same conclusions as the people had. They would have rationalized away any thoughts that Jesus was the Messiah. But God had made it possible for Peter and the others to perceive and accept Jesus' claim to be who He said He was – in spite of any misgivings they may have had.

Even our ability to believe in Jesus comes from God. He must soften our hard hearts and breathe life into our dead souls in order for us to recognize and respond to the priceless gift being offered to us – His Son. Like the crowds, if left to the whims of our own intelligence, we would come up with all kinds of explanations or rationalizations to account for the Jesus as He is revealed in the Bible. We would conclude that He was a good man, a great teacher, a moral icon, and a worthy example to follow, but we would never conclude that He was the Son of God. Only God can reveal that to us. Living with Jesus for over three years was not enough. The disciples still needed God to open their eyes. Going to church your whole life is not enough. You still need God to open your eyes. Jesus made this perfectly clear when He said, "For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up" (John 6:44 NLT).

God calls. We respond. Jesus saves. God opens our eyes so that we can see His Son standing right in front of us, and He opens our ears so we can understand the offer He makes to us – and along with Peter we say, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." We have nothing to boast about. It is all the work of God.

Father, You made it all possible. You sent Your Son. He died in my place. Then you open my eyes and ears so that I can hear the message and respond. Otherwise, I would never hear. I would never choose Him. But through Your Spirit, You revealed Your Son to me. You did for me what I could not have done on my own. And Jesus paid a debt for me I could never have paid on my own. Thank You. Amen.

Quite the Mood Swing.

Luke 4:16-30

“Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips … jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff…” – Luke 4:22, 29 NLT

Jesus has made His way back to the village of Nazareth, His hometown. He is back among His neighbors and those who knew Him best. News of His travels and all that had happened in Jerusalem had probably made its way there. In fact, Luke tells us, "Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region" (Luke 4:14 NLT). So when Jesus arrived in town, He made His way to the synagogue on the Sabbath. He was invited to read from the Scriptures and the passage for that day was from the book of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus calmly read the words that those in His audience had heard many times before. But Jesus was going to instill them with significantly new meaning that day.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come." – Luke 4:18-19 NLT

Nothing new here. That is, until Jesus sat down and announced, "The Scripture you've just heard has been fulfilled this very day!" (Luke 4:21 NLT). Amazingly, Jesus was claiming this passage to be about Him. The Spirit of the Lord was upon HIM. God had anointed HIM to bring Good News to the poor. HE had been sent to proclaim release to those in captivity. HE had been commissioned to bring sight to the blind and freedom to those being oppressed. HE was the manifestation of the Lord's favor – He was the long-awaited Messiah. The people were amazed and a bit confused. They saw sitting before them, Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. They had watched Him grow up in their midst. He was one of them. He didn't exactly fit their concept of what the Messiah would look like and, knowing His family history, they didn't picture Him as possessing the qualities of leadership a king would require. They naturally ask, "How can this be? Isn't this Joseph's son?" (Luke 4:22 NLT).

Jesus knows what they're thinking, not just what they're saying. He knows they want Him to prove who He is by performing a few miracles in their midst. After all, He's one of their own. He's a hometown boy and they deserve to have Him do a few miracles for their benefit. But Jesus shocks them by His response. He tells them that the prophets of God were rarely ever received well by their own people. Sent by God as His mouthpieces to warn of coming judgment and call them to repentance, the prophets and their messages were rejected by the people. The same would prove true for Jesus, and He uses two stories from Jewish history to prove His point. One involved the prophet Elijah, who prophesied during a three-and-a-half year drought in Israel. The other story involves Elisha, also a prophet to Israel at another point in their history. The interesting thing is that both of these men, while prophets of God chosen to give the message of God to the people of God, were used to minister to non-Israelites. In both cases, there was a famine in the land, part of the judgment of God against the people of Israel for their stubborn refusal to honor His prophet and heed His call to repentance. Jesus reminds His listeners that Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephathin Sidon, and Elijah was sent to Namaan, a leper from Syria. Both were Gentiles.

Jesus' point was not missed on the people in the synagogue that day. They knew exactly what He was saying. Just as in the day of the prophets of old, the people of God were about to stubbornly refuse the God-anointed, God-appointed spokesman standing in their midst. Jesus was bringing Good News to the spiritually impoverished, release to the spiritually captive, sight to the spiritually blind, and freedom to the spiritually oppressed. But they would refuse to believe it or receive it, because they would refuse the messenger, just like their forefathers. And they react to Jesus in anger. Mob rule takes over as they force Jesus from the synagogue and to the edge of a nearby cliff where they intended to push Him to His death.

What had Jesus said that angered them so much? He had inferred that they were just as rebellious and sinful as their ancestors had ever been. He also suggested that God's message and His messenger, the Messiah, because of their rebellion would end up focused on the Gentiles, their enemies. Yes, the time of the Lord's favor had come, but it would not do them any good if they refused it. The Good News, release from captivity, restored sight, and freedom from oppression where useless unless they repented and accepted God's assessment of their need and His solution to their problem. But Jesus, "passed right through the crowd and went on his way" (Luke 4:30 NLT). They had missed their opportunity.

Father, what a sober reminder of what takes place everyday among those we know who refuse to believe in the message of Good News regarding Jesus Christ. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their own sin and their desperate need for a Savior. But yet, those of us who know Jesus, can also refuse to believe in Him and trust Him to provide us with daily hope for our spiritual poverty, release from our spiritual captivity, sight in place of our spiritual blindness and freedom from the spiritual oppression in which we stubbornly live. Help us to turn to Your Son each and every day for salvation. Amen.

 

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

1 Kings 18-19

What are you doing here, Elijah? ­– 1 Kings 19:9 NLT

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you feel all alone, under attack, or is nothing is going the way you expected? Oftentimes those kinds of days seem to follow close in the heels of times of victory. You can have experienced a season of spiritual success where God's presence and power was so readily apparent in your life, but then something negative happens and the next thing you know you're going through a period of inexplicable sadness, even depression. You find yourself having a pity party. That's exactly what we find happening to Elijah, the prophet of God.

These two chapters remind me of a story we used to read when our kids were young. It was the book, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. It is the story of a young boy who finds nothing in his life going right. Everything is always going wrong. "I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day." That is the kind of day Elijah was having. And it all came about right after he experienced an incredible victory over Ahab with the help of the Lord. Elijah had returned to Israel and challenged Ahab and his prophets of Baal to a showdown. It was going to be a dual to the finish between their god Baal, and his God, Yahweh. And it had ended in the defeat of Baal and the execution of the so-called prophets of Baal. God had miraculously answered Elijah's prayer and provided victory. Elijah then prayed for rain to end the drought, and God answered. But when Elijah receives news that Jezebel, the wife of Ahab has threatened to kill him, he panics and runs. He takes off. He becomes afraid and literally runs for his life. He even asks God to kill him. But instead, God miraculously provides for him again, commanding His angels to feed him. Elijah then travels forty days into the wilderness and winds up hiding in a cave. During his time there, God visits him two different times and asks Elijah the simple question, "What are you doing here Elijah?" Elijah responds with a sad tale of all that he has done for God and how he now stands all alone as God's representative in the land. He has a pity party. He wallows in self pity. He forgets all that he has just seen God do – through him!

In spite of Elijah's fear, God visits him at Horeb and reveals Himself to him. God gives him instructions. He lets Elijah know that his job is not done yet. He is not alone. Elijah was disillusioned and disappointed that things had not worked out the way he had expected. Even though he had won the victory against the prophets of Baal and had personally killed 450 of them, Jezebel was still alive and shrines to Baal still existed all over the land. He felt like a failure and seemed to be disappointed that God had not finished the job. But God was not through. He had more that He was going to do – and He had others who were going to play a role in His divine plan for Israel. Elijah's next job was to anoint those whom God was going to use in the next phase of His clean-up project for Israel. The pity party was over. It was time for Elijah to get his focus off of him and back on God. God was far from done. Elijah was a bit player in God's grand redemptive story. He was one character in one act in a much larger play. He had had a bad day. But God was not through. This story was not about Elijah. It was about God and it always has been.

Father, forgive me for allowing my terrible horrible no good very bad days to distract me from what You are doing in and around me. I can so easily fall into having a pity party and think about me and me only. This is all about You and Your plan. I am not the star of this show – You are. This is not about my plan, but Yours. Give me a bigger perspective. Help me to recall and remember what You have done and are doing in, through, and around me. You are at work. You are not done. Amen

 





"Yahweh Is God!"

1 Kings 17

But Ahab did what was evil in the LORD's sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And as though it were not enough to live like Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to worship Baal. ­– 1 Kings 16:30-31 NLT

Things were bad in Israel and getting worse. A sad succession of kings had led the people of Israel deeper and deeper into apostasy, turning their backs on God and turning to other gods for their hope and help. And just when you think they've reached rock bottom, along comes yet another king who leads them even further down the road of spiritual rebellion. Ahab would prove to be one of the worst kings yet. He and his wife Jezebel made up a tag team that wreaked havoc on the spiritual condition of Israel. They officially replaced the worship of Yahweh with the worship of Baal – the Canaanite fertility god. This was especially distasteful to God because the Canaanites and their god were to have been wiped out when the people took over the Promised Land. Now Ahab was making Baal worship the government-sanctioned religion of his kingdom. This would go on for 14 years before God raised up a spokesman to stand up against King Ahab. Out of nowhere come Elijah the Tishbite. He boldly confronts the king and issues a decree against him that there will be no rain in the kingdom of Israel until he says so. Obviously, Elijah is speaking on behalf of God. God had warned the people repeatedly that if they turn against Him and worship other gods, He would bring drought on the land. "And if, in spite of this, you still disobey me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your arrogant spirit by making the skies above as unyielding as iron and the earth beneath as hard as bronze" (Leviticus 26:18-19 NLT). Now Elijah was reminding Ahab of the consequences of his sin.

What is fascinating in this story is that God chooses to speak through a man whose name just so happens to mean, "Yahweh is God." As soon as Ahab heard the name of this man who had stormed into his palace issuing threats, he would have gotten the irony in it all. Here he was setting up Baal as god and in the door walks a man whose very name reminds him that Yahweh is God. Not only that, the punishment Elijah threatens Ahab with is drought – due to no rain. It just so happens that Baal is the god in charge of RAIN. He was the storm god, the god responsible for fertility and crops.  Now Ahab was going to see just how great his god really was. And Elijah, this obscure and unlikely spokesman for Yahweh was going to find out just how powerful his God was.

After giving Ahab the bad news, Elijah was sent into hiding by God. During this time, God would begin to reveal Himself to Elijah, preparing him for an even greater confrontation with Ahab to come. By the side of the brook Cherith, God shows Elijah his provisional power. He miraculously feeds Elijah using a common raven as his servant. When the brook dries up, God sends Elijah to the home of a Gentile widow who just happens to be a worshiper of Yahweh. This woman, a widow, is already poor but is now suffering even more due to the drought. Yet God show Elijah His inexhaustible power by miraculously multiplying the widow's resources so that she could live through the drought. When the widow's son suddenly dies, Elijah gets to see God's restorative power and the significance of prayer in the life God's children. In death, this boy represents the spiritual condition of Israel. They needed reviving at the hand of God. Only He could restore them to life and rescue them from their spiritual death. Elijah was learning to trust the one who had called him and sent him as His spokesman to Ahab. He would need to trust in the power of God in the days to come. He was going to be facing some difficult situations in the days to come and God was preparing him for battle.

Father, You want to prove Your power in my life each and every day. You want me to know that You can provide, that Your provision is inexhaustible, and that You are in the restoration business. Nothing is too difficult for You. The more I recognize Your power in my life, the more I will learn to trust and lean on You instead of myself. You are greater than all the little god-replacements we set up in our lives. Never let me forget that. Amen