But you, take courage!
Do not let your hands be weak,
for your work shall be rewarded.
2 Chronicles 15:7 (ESV)
June 17 1 Kings 15:1-24; 2 Chronicles 13-16
June 18 1 Kings 15:25-16:34; 2 Chronicles 17
June 19 1 Kings 17-19
June 20 1 Kings 20-21
June 21 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18-20
June 22 2 Kings 1-4
This week we read about the continuing sin of the Kings of Israel. It seems like each king was worse than the one before. Here are some “lowlights”.
Baasha killed the entire household of Jeroboam, which fulfilled Ahijah’s prophecy. But his whole family would die and be eaten by birds and dogs (no honor in their deaths).
Zimri fulfilled the prophecy and Killed Baasha’s family.
Omri’s tombstone read “more evil than those who came before”.
Ahab and his wife Jezebel. I love the ESV translation of 1 Kings 16:31:
And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 1 Kings 16:31 (ESV)
We’ve heard a lot about Baal and Asherah, but who are these gods? Baal means “Lord” and Baal Hadad was a Cannanite (Syrian) god of storm. They worshiped Baal to increase their land’s fertility. Baal’s symbol is a bull. Asherah (Athirat), was the wife of El, who was the chief god. She was considered the mother of all gods. Her symbol is the tree. In the blended worship of Israel, Asherah was depictred as the wife of the One True God.
Elijah the prophet told Ahab that there would be no dew or rain for three years. After the drought, God told Elijah to go to Ahab and tell him that he had destroyed Israel as a result of his Baal worship. He throws down the gauntlet and invites Baal’s priests to a contest to show whose God is stronger. All the priests of Baal were unable to raise their god, but our God showed His might in fire! Shortly thereafter, Jezebel threatens Elijah’s life and he runs away, taking time for a small pity party. God keeps him and we find that he is fed by angels. On the strength of the angel’s food, Elijah is able to walk [at least 250 miles] to Horeb (Mt. Sinai), a 40 day and night walk.
This 40 day walk brings to mind three past incidents: the 40 year Exodus march (Numbers 14:33-34), which of course was a one year for one day punishment for the faithlessness of all the spies except Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 13:25), and Moses’ own stay at Sinai while he waited for the tablets of stone (Ex. 24:18)
We then see the famous story about hearing God. Elijah is in a cave at Mt. Horeb (Sinai) when God speaks to him. Elijah sorta whines … here I am, I’ve done everything You told me, thrown down altars of other gods, killed their prophets, and I’m the ONLLLLLLYYYYYYY prophet left. Everyone is out to get me.
Merciful God could have had a lot to say at that point, but He gives Elijah an example of His love. He creates a strong wind, strong enough to break rocks. Next he sends an earthquake and a fire. These were all spectacular occurrences, much as the spectacular fire God used to prove that He was the One True God when Elijah challenged Baal’s prophets. Finally, God sends a “thin silence”. God revealed Himself to Elijah quietly.
One thing that stood out in 1 Kings 19:11-13 is that God told Elijah to go out of the cave that he was using. We then see the wind, earthquake, fire … and the low whisper of God. It’s not until verse 13 that we see Elijah acting obediently. It wasn’t until the low whisper that he got up, covered his face in his cloak, and stood at the cave’s entrance. How often do we do this? We know what God wants us to do, but we try to pretend we didn’t hear Him. We follow His leading halfheartedly, all the while claiming that we can’t “hear” God. The next time I feel God is far from me, I’m going to review my actions and see if I forgot to go out of my cave!
God isn’t finished with Elijah yet. He’s told to go to Damascus and appoint Hazael King over Syria, Jehu as King over Israel, and Elisha as his successor. When we get to Chapter 20, we expect to find that this is what happens, but it’s not! A different prophet shows up and a different king, Ben-Hadad is at war with Ahab. Elijah told God that he was the only one left. God shows us that this is just not true! While God’s command to Elijah will come to pass, it’s not to happen quite yet.
Ahab fights and wins against Ben-Hadad – twice. Then, for some reason, he lets Ben-Hadad go. God is not amused and condemns Ahab for releasing someone marked for destruction.
Ahab now turns his attention to Naboth’s garden. He lusts after it and demands Naboth sell it. When Naboth refuses to sell his inheritance, Ahab goes home and pouts. Jezebel finds out what’s eating Ahab and plots to have him killed by the false testimony of two witnesses. Elijah promises Ahab that he will also die because he and Jezebel devoted themselves to doing evil. Ahab saw the error of his ways and humbled himself. God promised to hold off on the disaster until his son’s lifetime.
There are three peaceful years. Jehoshaphat was allied to Ahab by marriage. Ahab wants Jehoshaphat to go to war against Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat agrees, contingent on hearing from God. Ahab asks his men and of course they say “yes”. Jehoshaphat demands that Ahab ask a prophet, and Ahab says Micaiah is available, but Ahab hates him because he only prophecies disaster. (Have you ever given lip service to asking God? I can think of many times that I said I would ask accountability partners to pray for me and help me through something – but I only picked the ones that I knew would tell me what I wanted to hear. No one really likes the Micaiahs!) Everyone but Micaiah says they will win. Micaiah not only prophecies a loss, but tells them that the reason everyone is for the war is that God put a lying spirit in their mouth to entice Ahab. Naturally, Ahab isn’t amused and sends Micaiah to prison.
Ahab goes to battle anyway, and even though he tried to hide in the uniform of a commoner, was “coincidentally” killed by an arrow that was randomly shot. His body is taken back to Samaria, and as prophesied, his career comes to an end.
At the end of the week we saw Elijah taken to heaven in a whirlwind and his protégée Elisha receiving his mantle. Elisha is as powerful as Elijah, and we see the beginning of many miracles.
I would like to hear from you! What did you think when you watched Elijah leave the earth? Could you feel the weight of Elijah’s mantle falling on Elisha? Why do you think that we saw the miracles of oil (acting as kinsman-redeemer for the widow) and resurrection of the Shunammite’s son?
I pray that you are enjoying this summer season. Please don’t forget to take time to thank the One Who gave you the beautiful weather, friends and family … and gave His life so you could live forever by accepting the free gift of salvation.
If you have prayer requests or comments, please email me or leave a comment on the blog. If you want to know more about the free gift of salvation, let me know (or talk to the pastor). It would be my honor to help you to find the way into the kingdom of God!
See you next week!