Tag Cloud
: Mothers Abandonment Abomination of Desolation Abortion Abuse Accounting Activism Adultery Affection Affliction Afterlife Altar America Angels Anger Anointing Apologetics Apostasy Armor of God Ascension Ashamed Atonement Authority Baal Babylon Bad Baptism Betrayal Bible Bitterness Blasphemy Blessing Blessings Blindness Boasting Body of Christ Bondage Borders Born Again Bridegroom Calling Capital Punishment Celebration Character Children Children of God Chosen Christ Christian Life Christians Christmas Church Civil Disobedience Clay Cleansing Comfort Commands Communion Community Comparison Compassion Complacency Complaining Conception Condemnation Conduct Confidence Conflict Conformity Confrontation Confusion Connection Conscience Consequences Contentment Conviction Cornerstone Correction Cost Counsel Courage Covenant Creation Creator Cross Crowns Crucifixion Culture Curse Darkness David Day of the Lord Death Deception Defense Delegation Demon Demons Denial Dependency Design Desolation Destruction Devil Direction Disaster Discernment Disciple Disciples Discipleship Discipline Discontentment Discouragement Disease Disgrace Disputes Distraction Diversity Divine Division Doctrine Double Fulfillment Doubt Drought Drugs Duties Duty Earth Earthly Earthquakes Easter Edom Education Elders Elect Emmaus Emotions Employment Encouragement End Times Endurance Enemies Enemy Environmentalism Equality Equipped Eternal Eternal Life Evangelism Everlasting Life Evil Evolution Exaltation Exalted Exclusion Excuses Exorcism Expectations Eyes Failure Fairness Faith Faithful Faithful Servant Faithfulness False Christs False Doctrine False Gods False Religion False Religions Family Famine Fasting Father Fathers Favoritism Fear Fear of the Lord Feasts Fellowship Finances Fire First Coming Flesh Flock Folly Foolishness Foreigner Foreknown Forgiveness Fornication Forsaken Foundation Freedom Friends Friendship Fruit Fruitfulness Future Gentiles George Wood Giving Glory God God’s Word Godliness Godly Good Good Shepherd Good Works Gospel Gospels Government Grace Gratitude Great Commission Greatness Grief Growth Guilt Hardship Harvest Hate Hatred Healing Heart Heaven Heavenly Hedonism Hell Herod Hidden Holiness Holy Holy Spirit Homosexuality Honor Hope Hopelessness Humility Husband Hypocrisy Ignorance Image Immanuel Immigration Impossibility Incarnation Individuals Indulgences Inheritance Injustice Inner Battle Instructions Insults Integrity Intercession Israel Jerusalem Jesus Jewish Temple John the Baptist Joy Judas Judgment Judgments Justice Justification Justify Key Keys Kindness King Kingdom Kingdom of God Kingdom of Heaven Knowledge Lamp Law Lawlessness Leader Leaders Leadership Leftism Legalism Leprosy Lies Life Light Like-minded Lord Lost Love Loyalty Lust Lusts Luxury Malachi Manipulation Marriage Martyrdom Martyrs Mary Materialism Maturity Meditation Men Mentoring Mercy Messiah Millennium Mind Mind of Christ Ministry Miracle Miracles Mission Mocking Money Mothers Mystery Nations Natural Gifts Naturalism Nature Near-Far Fulfillment Necessities New Covenant New Man New Testament Obedience Obstacles Obstructions Offense Old Man Old Nature Old Testament One Mind Outcast Pagan Pain Palm Sunday Parable Parables Paranormal Parenting Passion Passover Patience Patriotism Peace Pentecost People of God Perfect Persecution Perseverance Persistence Personal Testimonies Perspective Perversion Pestilence Peter Pharisees Piety Pilate Politics Poor Position Possession Possessions Posture Power Praise Prayer Preaching Preparation Pride Priority Privilege Prodigal Promise Proof Prophecy Prophet Prophets Protection Protestant Reformation Proverbs Providence Provision Punishment Purgatory Purpose Questions Racism Reason Rebellion Rebuke Reconciliation Redeemer Redemption Refuge Regeneration Rejection Rejoicing Relationship Relationships Reliability Religion Remember Remnant Renewal Repentance Reputation Resolve Rest Restoration Resurrection Revelation Revenge Revival Reward Rich Riches Righteous Righteousness Rights Riot Risk Rivalry Robbery Roman Catholic Church Rule Sabbath Sacred Sacrifice Saint Salvation Sanctification Satan Savior Schemes Science Scripture Seasons Second Coming Secret Seed Seek Self Self Control Self-centered Self-Control Selfish Ambition Self-Righteous Servant Servant-Leadership Serve Service Serving Sexual Immorality Sexual Sin Sexuality Shame Share Sharing Shepherd Sickness Signs Signs and Wonders Simplicity Sin Sincerity Singing Singleness Sinners Slavery Sober Society Sojourner Sojourners Son Son of God Son of Man Sons of God Sorrow Soul Source Sovereignty Speech Spirit Spirit Realm Spirits Spiritual Spiritual Battle Spiritual Birth Spiritual Gifts Spiritual Growth Spiritual Rulers Spiritual Warfare Stewardship Strength Stress Strife Stumbling Block Submission Suffering Supernatural Supper Surrender Syncretism Tags: Patience Taxes Teaching Tears Technology Temple Temptation Temptations Terminal Illness Test Testimony Testing Tests Thankfulness Thanksgiving The Curse The Day of The Lord The End The Fall The Holy Spirit The Law The Way The Word The World Theology Time of Visitation Times of the Gentiles Tithing Tongues Tradition Tragedy Transfiguration Transformation Traps Treachery Treasure Tree Trial Trials Tribulation Trifles Trinity Triumphal Trouble Trust Truth Uncertainty Unity Unpardonable Sin Utopia Value Vigilance Vindication Virtue Virtues Volunteer Warning Warnings Wars Watching Water Baptism Wicked Wickedness Widows Wife Wineskins Wisdom Witness Witnesses Women Word of God Word of the Lord Works World World View Worry Worship Worth Wrath Yahweh Yeast YHWH Zion

Weekly Word

Entries in Confrontation (3)

Sunday
Nov262017

The Sovereign Lord

1 Kings 18:1-19.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 26, 2017.

For three and a half years Israel and the surrounding area suffered under a drought and famine that the prophet Elijah had warned would come.  However, he also added that the famine would not quit until he said that it would.  Thus everyone in the area, whether righteous or wicked, had to live through this difficult event.  Yet, we see in Elijah’s life and the widow of Zarephath, that God was taking care of people who put their trust in Him.  Today’s story begins God’s confrontation of King Ahab, his queen Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal.  In this we will see that God doesn’t just send difficulty to make us pay.  Rather, He works in such a way as to get our attention and soften us up to what He has to say.

In ancient times and in modern times, nations and people ignore the God of Israel and could care less what He has to say, but they do so in error.  God is sovereign of the entire universe, both in heaven and on Earth.  Even though He gives mankind room to recognize their own, wicked heart, He is faithful to force the point and bring us to a place of decision.  It is His mercy that forces us to face our sin and make a choice to stand on our own merits, or fall upon His mercy.

God is sovereign over the timing of events

In verse one we see that God is ready to end the famine.  It has lasted over three years and we are not told why God had it last so long.  It is probable that Elijah was not worried about the length.  He trusted God and was receiving supernatural care.  However, other believers who were trying to be faithful to God would find themselves becoming more and more desperate over time.  “God, what are you doing?  When will you end this famine?”  It is precisely in such times that we must recognize that God is not asleep.  Thus in His sovereignty, God makes the choice over the timing of events that happen in our lives, or the life of a nation.  Yet, the Bible also makes the point that God is all-wise, in regard to such decisions.  He is not accountable to us, but He has the good of all involved in mind in His decisions.

So I would point us to the phrase in verse one, “after many days.”  In some ways we can be guilty of reading the Bible and hoping in God only for the amazing events.  When we have such an attitude, we lose sight of the “many days” that come between such huge events.  Whether at the personal level, national level, or global level, there are always “many days” between big events.  To us the centuries of time between the rebuilding of the temple in the 6th century BC and the coming of Jesus, 500 years later, can seem immaterial.  But, the truth is this.  Big events are intended to help us live out the many days in between.  Sometimes they come precisely because we haven’t been obeying in those “many days.”  The famine in this story came because King Ahab had walked away from God and was now leading God’s people into idolatry with the foreign god, Baal.  The flood came to pass, not because God wanted to spice things up, but because of the violence and immorality that was going on before it.  How we live in the “many days” between big events in our life are more important than the big events themselves.  God’s people must wake up every day and commit themselves to living it for the honor of God.  Whether the times are filled with plenty, or they are filled with lack, we must be faithful to the instructions that God has given us already.  Christ died so that we can live for Him in the now, not just for the purpose of us sitting around waiting for His next coming.  Yes, the Second Coming, is a great hope of believers.  But true hope, living hope, enables us to be faithful during those many days.  To us, it may seem that it is easy for Elijah.  He was in direct communication with God, but neither did God give him all the answers.  This story goes on to introduce a new character, Obadiah.  Obadiah was not a prophet, but a righteous man within a wicked administration.  He was trying to do his best to serve God in a dangerous time, both physically and spiritually.  Yes, he hopes for God to intervene by stopping the famine and stopping Ahab’s wicked actions.  But until that happens, he keeps faithful during the many days in between.

God tells Elijah to go to Ahab.  This is not a safe thing.  Ahab is like a bear robbed of its cubs.  He will not see reason, and wants to kill Elijah.  Yet, Elijah does not question and go right away to speak to Ahab.  I would remind us that it is not just prophets who are called to be faithful in dangerous times.  Jesus warned His disciples in Mark 13:13, “You will be hated by all for My name’s sake.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”  Yes, he was clearly speaking to his immediate disciples.  But the same dynamics of those days are true today.  In Revelation 2:3 Jesus told the Ephesian church, “You have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”  Thus the promise that Jesus would be with us even when we are undergoing difficulty for Him, is not just to the disciples who heard Jesus that day.  Rather, it was to all who would hear his words from others and choose to be faithful regardless of the risk.  Jesus promised to be with His disciples even unto the end of the age, and that means He is with us today.

We do not know what our society will become tomorrow.  Will events get worse or get better?  Only God knows.  What about the world?  Things seem to be ratcheting up to huge, watershed, global events.  But for the believer the focus is not on those big events.  The focus is on today and serving God regardless of the risks.  We do not know what will happen specifically, but we do know that we will need to persevere and be faithful in it, no matter what direction it goes.  As we follow this story further we see that Obadiah has had to do just that very thing.

It is interesting to me that Elijah happens to run into Obadiah first and not Ahab.  Sure, there is a 50-50 chance that it would be Obadiah, but I think God had a hand in this.  We are told that Obadiah has been taking on great risk during Ahab’s reign.  Jezebel had instigated Ahab to have all the prophets of the Lord killed.  They couldn’t find Elijah, but they were able to find many others.  In the midst of this, Obadiah secretly hides 100 prophets in two different caves.  He then takes care of this with food and water.  This was a great risk.  Now Elijah shows up and gives him another risk.  Go tell Ahab that I am here.  Obadiah’s fear stems from the recognition that prophets don’t always cooperate with the “agenda” of men.  He is afraid that if he tells Ahab that he found Elijah, and then Elijah takes off, Ahab will have him killed.  Elijah mercifully promises to wait for Ahab.  It is not always easy to follow God’s purpose for us.  Even when we have been successful in the past at being faithful in risky situations, new situations can put us to a deeper test.

Now we are told that Elijah had searched all over the place for Elijah.  He even made the nations around him swear that Elijah wasn’t in their territories.  Little did he know, Elijah was in the territory of his father-in-law.  I bring this up because Ahab thinks that he can just deal with Yahweh and His prophets on his own terms.  But, the lack of communication between Elijah and Ahab during the drought demonstrates that God speaks on His own terms, and not ours.  We are warned in the Bible to seek the Lord while He may be found, and to call upon Him when He is near.  This implies there are times when God cannot be found and He is afar off.  We cannot force God to change the events of our lives or times.  We must patiently wait upon Him for His timing.  In fact, it only seems fair that our insolent desire to pursue wickedness be met with silence from God.  However, this is true even when we are serving God in righteousness.  He is silent at times and waits to see if we will trust Him.  He will speak in due time, it is ours to simply be faithful until He does speak again.  Ahab does not deserve a word from the Lord, much less an end to the famine.  But here it comes anyways because God is the One who is in control.  Ahab in his pride had rejected God’s word, but God uses three and a half years of famine to get his attention.  God has been building a door of repentance through which Ahab can walk through, if he will humble himself.  Of course, we know that he won’t humble himself.  He will only double down on his wickedness.  But think of this the next time you complain to the Lord that He must do something to get you out of a tough time.  In tough times, God is busy building in us and around the things we will need for the next stage.  We must simply be ready to obey and say, “Yes, Lord,” when the time comes.

God confronts Ahab through Elijah

In verses 17 through 19 we see the clash between Ahab and Elijah.  However, next week we will see that this clash has other layers.  There is also the religious clash between those who promote the worship of the Canaanite God Baal, and those who promote the worship of the God of Israel (the One, True God).  But even deeper than that is a spiritual clash between the God of heaven and those wicked spirits that are leading people away from Him.

For King Ahab the days of forsaking God are far behind him.  He is now in a state of hardness towards the things of God.  Even the rebukes of life itself are not enough to get his attention.   Perhaps Jezebel has told him that the real purpose of the famine was because Baal was displeased with Ahab’s inability to capture Elijah.  Somehow he has rationalized that he is on the right path and Elijah is the problem.  Ahab is not the only one to persist in a bad path over the top of the rebukes of life.  God in His mercy often confronts us with a human being because it is easier to ignore natural events and general principles of God’s word than to ignore a human who is now in our face.  Ahab could ignore God, but he couldn’t ignore Elijah.  God has always been faithful to send humans who are in relationship with Him to rebuke those who are persisting in rejecting Him.  In fact, Jesus Himself was the ultimate prophet of God who spoke a word to all mankind.  He has challenged all men everywhere to turn to Him for salvation and not to ignore it.  Some even tell themselves that they are okay with God as they reject His truth in the Bible.  Just know that we are capable of being blinded to the truth, but God in His mercy always sends a human along to challenge us.

Ahab accuses Elijah of being a troubler of Israel.  But Elijah throws it back in his face.  Ahab is the true troubler of Israel.  He has forsaken the worship of God and has taught the people to worship Baal, a foreign, false god.  If we stop and think about it the situation is somewhat humorous.  Who is Elijah?  He is just a mortal, and is not able to control rain clouds with some kind of anti-rain technology.  As I said Ahab probably believes Baal is causing the punishment for some reason.  That is the only thing that makes sense.  Yet, it is Ahab who is the changing dynamic.  Elijah has always served the God of Israel in that sense has done nothing different.  It is Ahab and those who listened to him who have abandoned the God of Israel and begun worshipping a foreign god.  Thus the problem must lie there.  How could God let this attempt to hijack His people go without a response?  He couldn’t and He didn’t. 

What about our own land today?  Or, what about the whole earth today?  It is easy to focus on the bearer of bad news and try to crush them as if they are the ones causing trouble.  All around this world there are people blaming Christians as the problem in their society.  It is nothing new.  Hitler did the same thing with the Jews during the Holocaust.   Christians who are faithful to call the world back from false religions and false ideologies will be hated for Christ’s sake.  Yet, it is not true Christians who are causing the problem in the earth today.  It is those who reject the Son of God and His ultimate message of God’s love and forgiveness.  It is those leaders who love to lead people astray towards everything, but the One, True God and His Son Jesus.  God is calling us all back to Him through Jesus.  Let us cling to Jesus and remember the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NKJV). 

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

Sovereign Lord audio

Friday
Nov102017

Elijah, the Prophet of the Lord

1 Kings 17:1-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 05, 2017.

Today we are beginning a series looking at the Old Testament prophet, Elijah.  Prophets in the Bible always appeared when God’s people needed instruction, or when they needed correction.  Always, they prophets would declare to the people what God was saying, whether about past, present, or future events.  That said, the prophets are most concerned about the present.  Knowing what God says about the past, present, and future, will you not walk in faith now, in the present?  We should never lose sight of this prophetic imperative.  It comes to us in the now in order to encourage or change our present activity.

Historically, this idea that God does speak through individuals to the greater body of believers has led to lots of abuse by false prophets who had not been sent by God.  Instead they are enamored with the idea of having power and wielding it over those around them.  Their inflated egos lead them to do what no normal person would do, pretend that they have a word from the Lord for other people.  That said, it would be easy to reject the idea of prophets altogether.  Some do this completely by rejecting the idea that any person has ever really had a “word from the Lord.”  Thus they view the Bible as a man-made document that is only worthy of respect as a specimen of literature.  Others will say that God no longer uses prophets.  Thus they accept the Bible as the proven Word of God, but reject the idea that God speaks through others today.  I would challenge you to recognize the spiritual maturity that we are called to.  The spiritually immature easily accept everyone who comes along with a “Word from the Lord.”  But to reject the idea of prophets out of hand is no great maturity itself.  It refuses to deal with the hard issues of spiritually mature individuals recognizing the Holy Spirit (or lack thereof) in another person’s words.  False prophets always have red flags that the spiritually mature will pick up on.  More than this, the words of a prophet of the Lord will always prove true in the end.  Otherwise they have not spoken from the Lord, but in presumption have made up words from their own mind and heart.

Elijah is one of the true prophets whose declarations of God’s Word proved to be true in the end.  As we will see throughout this character study, the prophets were rarely well received and respected by the people during their life time.  Instead we find them harassed and threatened, rejected by the powerful of their day, and often by the average person too.

As we walk through the ministry of Elijah, we want to focus on what God is telling us and not what our flesh wants to focus on.  In this way we will be led by the Spirit of God and not by our flesh.  Let’s look at our passage today.

Elijah confronts King Ahab

In verse 1 we find two characters, Elijah and Ahab.  Although we are jumping into a running account of the Kings of Judah and Israel, this is the first point that we see the prophet Elijah.  So let’s remind ourselves of the setting of this meeting between Elijah and Ahab.  Israel had existed as 12 (13 counting Levi) tribes under the help of judges whom God raised up for their help.  Until King Saul, Israel did not have a king.  Eventually, though, God allows them to have a king, but warns them that it will not lead to good things in the end.  So Saul became the first King of Israel, followed by David and then his son Solomon.  After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam took the throne.  Through poor counsel and poor character, Rehoboam threatened to raise the heavy taxes that Solomon had levied, which led to the 10 northern tribes breaking off from the tribe of Judah (only the tribe of Benjamin remained with the tribe of Judah).  This split in Israel wasn’t healed over time.  Thus the two Kingdoms were referred to as Judah and Israel.  It is important in the Bible to pay attention to what is meant by Israel in the context.  Sometimes it refers to all 13 tribes and sometimes only to the northern 10 tribes that broke off from Judah.  This split happened roughly around 930/925 B.C.  Ahab is a king of Israel, as in the northern 10 tribes, about 70 years after this split.  Due to wickedness and power plots there have already been 6 kings and thus Ahab is the 7th king of northern Israel.  We are told in 1 Kings 16:31-33 that King Ahab was very wicked.  “And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat [the idolatry of the first Northern King], that [Ahab] took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him.  Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.  And Ahab made a wooden image.  Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”  Under Ahab, the northern tribes had not only mixed the worship of God with idols, but had now completely gone away from God; and had begun worshiping a foreign God called Baal (typically pronounced in English as the word “bail”).  It is in this context of a King of Israel who is leading the nation away from God and towards a false God that prophets like Elijah stepped forward on the scene.  God was not going to just lay down without confronting such betrayal.  However, we don’t see these prophets in league with each other like some kind of ancient “Occupy Samaria.” The prophets were not a human, conspiratorial group, but rather, a group of divinely instigated individuals who remained true to God as the One to whom all allegiance should be held.

Elijah does not rebuke Ahab for his idolatry at first, at least not as we see him in the Bible.  Rather he first establishes that he is a prophet of God by giving Ahab a powerful sign.  Elijah tells Ahab that the country will not have rain or dew until Elijah commands it to come.  Now this would be an incredibly arrogant statement to make, but it is also the type of thing that a false prophet would be very cautious about saying.  Who can control the weather?  Definitely, a person can’t do so.  Notice that Elijah warns him in advance and not after the fact.  So there is nothing right off the bat to make Ahab think there is anything to this.  However, over the years to follow (the famine would last over 3 years) Ahab would have to face the fact that Elijah claims to be able to make it stop.

Now we don’t typically think of famine as a miracle.  We tend to think of miracles as good things.  In this case the lack of rain would be a powerful sign to Ahab that God was backing up what Elijah was saying.  All this time their prayers for Baal to help them would be impotent.  Thus it is a miraculous work of grace to get Ahab’s attention and draw him back to repentance towards God.  Not every prophet of the Lord did powerful miracles, other than speak the truth and have it prove true.  There are no such stories of signs and wonders surrounding Jeremiah.  However, the Word of the Lord that he proclaimed proved very true and this is what is most important.  Elijah is what God has called him to be and Jeremiah was precisely what God called him to be.  In this case God gives a powerful witness of who is on the right side through a time of famine in the land that starts and stops at the command of his prophet Elijah.

 Now in case it looks to you like Elijah is just saying this and hoping God will back him up, notice the words, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand.”  To stand before the Lord was a clear term that is synonymous to being summoned before the king.  Elijah had been brought into the throne room of God surrounded by powerful spirit-beings.  This heavenly or divine council of God is what we see in places like Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4.  Most likely this would be in a dream or vision.    So was Elijah really entering into the divine council of God and hearing God’s words and decrees, or was this all in his head?  Though it sounds like the perfect con (anyone can claim to have been in God’s council chamber and have a word from him), it would also seem to be a dangerous thing to say that you speak on behalf of God.  Throughout the Scriptures the prophets would sometimes do something miraculous to prove that God was with them.  But always, the things they said that God said would always prove true.  It wasn’t enough to be right part of the time, or at least better than 50/50.  It wasn’t enough to be right over 75% of the time.  If God really spoke the words then they would be right 100% of the time.  Though a prophet can mature in how to be a better prophet, there is no maturing of how accurate the words will be.  You either are hearing from God, a deceiving spirit, or your own imagination.  You don’t mature in that.  When someone is actually led by God, the things they say will prove to be true.  Sure they might make a mistake like getting angry at the resistance of those you speak to and strike out in anger.  But the words themselves will prove 100% accurate.  Elijah didn’t just arrogantly assume God would back him up.  He is a man who has stood in the presence of the Lord, and is now confronting King Ahab with a powerful sign that only God could decree.  Now at first Ahab has no reason to fear Elijah.  Who does this guy think he is?  Don’t you know who you are talking to?  At this point in the story Elijah has only made a bold claim. 

Now regardless of whether you are a great prophet of the Lord or not, this is a thing that God is doing.  If He calls a prophet or many of them, it is for His purposes not ours.  We must recognize that the United States of America is not Israel and God is not giving us more Scripture in the present.  However, it is important to learn how to spend time in God’s presence and to be led by His Spirit and His counsel.  It is irrelevant whether we have had a dream or a vision of the throne room.  What is important is that by the Spirit of God we have entered into His presence and have received His word to us.  This isn’t just something intended for men like Elijah who are doing powerful things.  It is also for people like you and me who are just trying to raise our family for the Lord and be a witness to our friends and neighbors.  We must be led by God’s Spirit and not our own fleshly desires.

Now in verses 2-7 we see again the leading of the Spirit of God.  As the famine begins, Elijah is to go out into a wilderness place where God will take care of his physical needs.  Also, he will be out of touch of Ahab’s power and control.  When God makes things tough, He always has a plan for His people.  It may not be the plan you were hoping for and at the level that you were hoping, but it is His plan nonetheless.  He leads Elijah to a small brook that keeps running during the first part of the drought.  He is also miraculously fed by ravens that bring him bread and meat two times a day.  We are not told where they are getting this food, but I keep having this image of ravens descending on the table of Ahab and plucking food for Elijah.  However, where they got the food is immaterial.  This humbling means of being fed seems to be contradictory to the powerful prophet of God.  But Elijah knew that he had no power but what God gave him.  Elijah was not a superman.  He was a normal man who was called by God and also believed God.  It was God who was doing the heavy lifting of blocking the rain and dew for over three years.  Remember that no matter how greatly God works through you, in the end you are simply a servant.  It is God who is doing the hard work.  You are simply trusting and obeying.  That is nothing to get all high and mighty over.  A lack of humility is a red flag that a person is not as close to God as they are putting on.  Can I give thanks for God’s provision no matter how it comes?  All throughout the Bible God keeps trying to teach us that those who belong to the Lord will be fed though they are surrounded by a desert, and they will drink though there is no water in sight.  Yet, there is a spiritual lesson here as well.  Lack of water and dew is a symbol throughout the Bible for a lack of the word of God.  Amos 8:11 says, “’Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.’”  Perhaps this is why Elijah doesn’t say anything other than announcing the famine.  It would be symbolic of God’s anger with Ahab and northern Israel.  God was pulling away from them as a discipline upon the people.  Even when a nation and its leaders are going the absolute opposite direction away from God, those who trust God will always find a place of grace in which He speaks to them and cares for them.  This is the place we need to be.

Yet, even with all that said, we find in verse 7 that the brook eventually dries up.  God does not always care for us the same way all the time.  We can get so used to God caring for us in a particular way that we freak out when that particular source of grace dries up.  God hasn’t forgotten about you and your needs.  You do not need to fret.  If one source dries up, God will provide another.  Just trust Him and listen to His Spirit. 

There are times when I wish we had such a prophet in our land.  However, as Christians we are called to something similar and yet different.  It is different in that we aren’t commanding it to quit raining or splitting red seas.  But it is similar in that our lives become the thing that the world around us can’t just ignore.  As much as the world plunges away from God and His Word and worships everything under the sun and in the heavens besides Him, God uses those who are in relationship with Him and receiving His word to be the stumbling block that brings the unbeliever up short.  God in His mercy always sends a person who speaks and lives out the word of God as a mercy to those who have either tossed it aside, or never knew it in the first place.  Let’s be a people who are standing before the Lord in prayer and meditation.  Let’s be a people who are being directed by the Spirit of God and not the spirit of this age.  The lives of others depend upon us.

Prophet of the Lord audio

Tuesday
Aug182015

By What Authority

Luke 20:1-8—This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty on August 16, 2015.

Recently in SW Colorado, cleanup work being done at an old mine, accidentally released up to 3 million gallons of wastewater filled with heavy metal contaminant.  The pictures of a river turned orange from the toxic mistake went national and went into Native American Reservation land.  How did this happen?  Why were they there and under what authority?  Within our society these questions are being asked.  But there is also an underlying desire to find someone to blame and make responsible.  The company that was working there was acting under authority of the EPA, a federal government agency.  They had the proper authority to be there doing what they were doing.

Our passage today is quite concerned with authority.  But often enough, the objection of authority is raised when something bad happens or someone doesn’t like what the authority is doing.  Let’s look into this passage.

The Leaders Confront Jesus

In Luke 19:47-48 we see that the leaders of Israel were in quite a predicament.  Jesus had kicked out the merchants and was daily teaching in the temple.  This was “bad” to them.  Of course, from God’s perspective it was a good thing.   The other side of the issue is that their authority over the temple and what went on there was being usurped by Jesus.  The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people were so angry at this that they sought to destroy Him.  Yet, they were unable to do anything because all the people were very attentive to hear Him and did not see his actions as wrong.  In fact they were content with it.  This put the religious leaders in a bind.  If they exercise their authority and arrest Jesus, they run the risk of a revolt among the people they govern.  Authority can be held in check by the will of the people, for good or for bad, for a while at least.

Thus, the leaders devise a public confrontation in hopes that it would give them a legal cover for arresting Jesus.  Let’s take note that the actions of Jesus were being done in public and thus it was only proper to confront him publically.  However, it is also an attempt to intimidate Jesus and the people watching on.  It appears that much of the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of Israel) were there to confront Jesus in such a way as to regain their control. 

Their question is simply, “By what authority are you doing these things?”  Now they already have rejected Jesus as being a legitimate prophet and much less the Messiah.  Most of their objections had to do with stretched interpretations and understandings of the Law.  An example would be the charge that a godly person wouldn’t heal (i.e. work) on the Sabbath.  They believe that only they have the proper authority to do what Jesus is doing in the temple.  And yet, he is directly challenging their authority.  We should note that though the source of their authority was legitimate, their self-serving mal-practice of that authority had taken them beyond their proper authority.  As the messiah of God, Jesus had full authority to step in and reestablish proper worship.  Yes, the crowds had received Jesus in a way that suggested he was the messiah, but he had not publically stated it yet. 

Jesus refuses to answer until they answer a question that he has regarding the authority of John the Baptist.  Of course he knows that the question poses a problem for these leaders because they had been able to escape the fallout of dealing with John.  John stayed around the Jordan river far away from Jerusalem, and he was eventually imprisoned by Herod because of his public judgment of Herod’s divorce and remarriage to his brother’s wife.  On top of this, he was executed in response to a dance of the daughter of Herodias.  They had skirted around the issue of John’s authority.  By why press this point?  This is the same John who publicly went on record as saying that Jesus was the messiah.  “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” 

More Concerned With Authority Than Truth

Jesus is not playing a game.  He knows their hearts.  They are not interested in truth, but in power.  If you are truly looking for truth then God welcomes our questions and answers what we need to know.  But, if we are looking for self-justification and reject His every attempt to show us the truth, then we should not expect him to answer our every question.

Jesus highlights two possibilities: John (and thus he) have been given authority from heaven (i.e. from God) or, their authority is from men.   Even our Revolutionary war hung on this issue of authority.  By what authority did they revolt?  They appealed to God rather than their great military power and ability to convince enough men.  The result of the war became proof that God granted them that authority.  The religious leaders had ceased to look to God for the exercise of their authority and had replaced it with the politics of men. 

After reasoning among themselves, they claimed to not know the source of John’s authority.  If these men were interested in truth they would answer the question of Jesus.  But instead they are playing games.  If you are logically trapped then you should question the suppositions that you started with.  Instead, this only makes them angrier.  They refuse to answer because if they say heaven then John’s declaration of Jesus must be accepted by them.  But if they say men, then the people would stone them for blasphemy.  It is interesting that, as leaders, they have no end of judgments upon all activities, especially those of Jesus.  But suddenly they claim ignorance.  “I don’t recall.”  “It’s above my pay grade.”

These kinds of insincere, game-playing answers do not impress God and His judgment will be poured out on those who retreat into such childishness.

So Jesus leaves them with no answer because they do not want to believe anyways.  The time for Jesus to die is close, but not yet.  He is not afraid to, rather, they deserve none.  What was obvious to the crowds of people listening to him was unable to be seen by the leaders because they had retreated into justifications of themselves and resulting condemnations of Jesus.

God loves the lost and has worked hard to give answers to a world that claims to seek truth.  That doesn’t mean every answer under the sun has been answered.  However, what more can he say?  Today is the day to face truth and make a decision.  What will you do with Jesus?  When we approach Jesus with intellectual honesty we will find Him to be a fountain of refreshing truth.  But when we approach him with prejudice and arrogance, we will find him strangely silent.

By What Authority audio