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Entries in Wicked (9)

Tuesday
Jan082019

Walking with the Lord in 2019

Psalm 1:1-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 6, 2019.

As we begin this New Year, we begin by praying for our walk with God.  We need His wisdom and guidance for the path ahead of us, and we need to grow in our ability to follow Him.  However, more than these things from the Lord, we need His presence in our life.  So we come to the question.  Am I walking with God as I should?  Am I following the One that He sent, the Lord Jesus Christ?  This is a question that we can ask ourselves every day.  It is that important.

The Bible presents Jesus as the perfect Son of God.  He is our example of how to walk with God the Father.  Yes, He is definitely more than an example, but He is one nonetheless, which we would do well to follow.

Our passage today compares and contrasts the one who refuses to walk with the world, and walks with God, to the one who does not.  This is not about disconnecting from society and the people around us in order to go on a spiritual journey.  Rather, it is living our life in the midst of society and the people around us by following God’s direction and not our own.  It is recognizing that my way provides no salvation for myself or this world, but His way brings life.

We need to learn to walk with the Lord.

Verse one of this psalm opens with a series of statements that use the verbs “walk, stand, and sit.”  It is clear that the psalmist is not just thinking of the simple actions in and of themselves.  He is not worried that a sinner might walk beside him on the road to Jerusalem, or that a scoffer might happen to sit by him at a wedding.  Rather, he uses these verbs as extensions of the choices that we make in our heart and in our mind, which cause us to do these things in league with certain people.

Thus, it is not about who happens to be walking next to me, but who I choose to walk with.  Similarly it is not about who happens to be standing or sitting beside me, but about those whom I choose to stand with and sit beside because I share their purpose and outlook on life.  We need to learn to choose to walk in harmony with the Lord, to walk in fellowship with Him, and to walk by His leading.

Thus we end up with a list of things that we should avoid because they take us away from the Lord.  As we look at this list, we should also note how Jesus perfectly demonstrates how to avoid them.  First, the blessed man chooses not to listen to the counsel of the wicked.  Now, the wicked are those who reject God’s Word and do what they want.  They have chosen a path that is adverse to God’s path for mankind.  Those who reject God’s path, and consequently His fellowship, have their own way of looking at things and their own “wisdom.”  Their counsel or advice is always a twisted reasoning why they should not follow the counsel of the Lord.  Their counsel is like that of the devil’s when he tempted Eve.  “Has God really said…”  The wicked can be openly hostile to God, or they may operate under the umbrella of God’s people.  Yet, their counsel always provides an exit off of the path of God’s way.  If we are to do well this year, we must learn to avoid listening to the counsel of the wicked.

Second, the blessed man chooses not to stand on the path of sinners.  “Sinners” here is a conceptual rhyme with the earlier “wicked.”  They are essentially the same with a slight difference in nuance.  Yet, the emphasis moves from their counsel to their path.  We start walking away from the Lord by first listening to their counsel, but then we find ourselves walking their same path.  The sinner’s path is not the path of the Lord.  The very definition of the word sinner is one who misses or falls short of God will.  They go a different way than the Lord.  Again, if we are to do well this year, we must not go down the path of those who reject God’s counsel and are refusing to walk with Him.

Third, the blessed man chooses not to sit in the seat of scoffers.  The image of a seat seems to be the end of a series of choices that lead to a worse and worse situation spiritually.  Having listened to false counsel, and walking down a false path, we can end up in a destination full of those who scoff, mock, and scorn those who follow God.  How sad to go from walking with God to mocking those who still do so.  If you find yourself sitting with those who mock and deride God and His Word, if you find yourself in league with such people and such attitudes, then you are in a bad place.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to avoid that mocking spirit which wants to pull us off of the path of Christ and on to a path of our own making.

Now verse 2 gives us the positive things that a blessed person embraces.  Here we see that the first is the Law of the Lord.  Now the psalmist is an Israelite living prior to the times of Christ and the Law of the Lord represented the apex of God’s Word.  God had made a covenant with Israel and given them His Law.  As Christians we are not under the Law of Moses, but rather the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2).  The point here is not about legalism.  The Law represented God’s counsel and wisdom to Israel as to how they should run their society and show their faithfulness to Him.  For Christians today, we also need to heed God’s counsel and his wisdom in order to stay in fellowship with God and show our faithfulness to Him.  However, we have the Gospel from Jesus and His apostles.  We need to listen to the counsel that they give us.  Jesus will not lead us towards wickedness, sin, or mocking.

We should also note that it says that we should delight in God’s Word.  This represents an emotional response to the grace that God gives when He gives us His Word, His wisdom.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to delight in receiving God’s Word and then follow it.

Secondly, we should embrace meditating upon God’s commands.  It is not enough to merely hear God’s Word.  We are told to meditate upon what He says.  This is an inner dialogue that we can have with God in which we contemplate His Word, how it applies to us, and what obstacles we need to overcome.  The focus is to fill our minds with the understanding of God’s counsel and commands.  This involves recognizing and casting aside those understandings and counsels that are adverse to Christ.  If we do not take time to meditate about our choices in this life, we will fall far short of walking with the Lord.  If we are to do well this year, we will need to set aside time each day to meditate about the path in front of us, and prayerfully ask God to help us see His path.

In verse 3 we see the effect of the path that we walk upon our life.  Those who walk with the Lord become fruitful and beneficial to others.  This image of a fruit tree may somewhat conflict with the imagery of walking with the Lord.  However the difference in imagery helps to further explain what is intended for us to see.  The one who is walking with the Lord is simultaneously a tree in this world.  The rivers of water point to the need for trees to have water.  Without it there can be no growth.  God and His Word is our source of water.  When we are connected to God as our water source then we will become fruitful. 

Now the whole point of a fruit tree is to provide something for others.  Apple trees do not eat their own apples.  Our growth is not about getting all sorts of stuff to feed ourselves.  The one who follows God’s path becomes like a tree laden with fruit and all who come upon them can find good sustenance from them.  What kind of fruit am I in the life of those around me?  If we are to do well this year then we must turn our roots towards the waters of life, and not the stagnant waters of this world.  Then we will be fruitful and beneficial to those whom God has put in our life.

 Walking with the Lord also makes one to prosper.  “Whatever he does shall prosper.”  With so many teachers talking about prosperity, it would be good to pause and remind ourselves of what prosperity is and what it is not.  For many it only means to be financially wealthy and physically healthy.  However, in pursuing these things we can often be feeding the lusts of our own flesh.  We can promote greed, selfishness, lack of discipline, and idolatry as we try to prosper.  We cannot serve God and wealth!

Instead, the New Testament emphasizes spiritual prosperity above material prosperity (I did not say instead of).    It is not that God will not take care of our material needs, but that our flesh gets too attached to material prosperity at the expense of spiritual prosperity.  Thus we are called to be thankful and content with whatever material things God supplies, be it little or much.  We are to be other-focused and become spiritually beneficial to people around us, and, as the Lord directs and supplies, materially beneficial to them as well.  Ultimately we worship God and serve Him, rather than dollar signs and looking good in front of other people.  If we are to truly be prosperous this year, then we will need to break down the idol in our hearts that wants to be rich and satisfy all the desires of our heart.  Then we will truly prosper.

Verse 4 reminds us that if we don’t walk with the Lord the effects will be negative.  The ungodly will not be like a tree that has plenty of water and bears good fruit.  Though the psalmist could have stuck with the tree imagery and said that they produce poisonous fruit, he doesn’t.  We switch to another metaphor, that of wheat.  The wheat metaphor makes it clear.  The ungodly will perish.

Wheat has a hard shell that must be broken off of it in order to get to the useful food beneath.  The broken remnants of these shells are called chaff.  It was common to crush the wheat and then throw it into the air.  The wind would blow the light and insubstantial chaff away, but leave the heavier, good wheat behind.

This metaphor can be taken two ways.  First, all the trials and difficulties of this world have the effect of separating us into two categories.  We are either wheat that will be gathered into God’s barn, or we are chaff that the wind of God will blow away.

Second, we can also recognize a further truth that all the trials and difficulties of our life are testing and breaking the chaff off of us.  If we will allow Him, God will use those pains and hurts to break off the hard shell around our heart and remove it far from us.  We can become that which is good and the bad part will be blown away by the wind of God.  Though this image doesn’t bring up the sense of God’s love for His people and His desire to be loved by them, its lesson is still important.  God is always working to remove the bad and protect the good.  If we are to do well this year then we must learn to cooperate with this work in our life.  Quit worrying about those who reject God.  Even if they seem to prosper and seem to be so substantial in this world, the day will come when the wind of God will blow them away and they will perish.  Don’t seek to be like them, rather seek to tell them about God’s love for them.

The psalm ends with the warning that the ungodly will not stand in the Day of Judgment.  We will all one day stand and give account to the God of heaven, specifically Jesus Christ.  In that day those who have walked with Him will be blessed and enabled to stand, but those who have rejected His ways, mocked and derided them, will recognize their folly too late.  Don’t be such a person and don’t make such mistakes.  In fact, be a tree of life that when such a person crosses your path, you have enough power of Christ within you to get their attention.  If we are to do well this year, then we need Christ to help us offer something helpful to the lost world around us.

May this year be a year in which you walk with the Lord and are truly blessed.

Walking with the Lord audio

Tuesday
Oct302018

Your Personal End Times: The Great White Throne

Revelation 20:11-15.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 28, 2018.

Two weeks ago we were looking at that amazing time called the Millennial Kingdom, which lies in our future.  What a wonderful time that will be as we experience life on this earth without war and unchecked unrighteousness.  For the believer who has been resurrected, it will be even more amazing because we will not have a body that is bent towards its own lusts.  Yet, the Bible tells us that the 1,000 years of peace will come to an end when Satan is released from prison and he is able to deceive a vast number of mortal humans to go to war against Christ and His glorified saints.  This Final rebellion is quickly defeated as Revelation 20:9 says, “fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.”  We were then told that the devil would finally be thrown into the Lake of Fire where he will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  Some may wonder why God would put the devil in prison and then release him again.  Though the Bible does not give an explicit reason, it should not escape our insight that the devil and mortal man is given another chance to refrain from rebelling against God.  This seems to be the final argument in the case of God as for why all these are deserving of the Lake of Fire.  Regardless, it is a reality we must all deal with.  Even when given 1,000 years of peace and prosperity, multitudes would choose rebellion and the tyranny of sin over again when given the chance.

Our passage today follows on the heels of the fire falling from the sky and destroying the rebellion.  It focuses on a great day of judgment in which all the wicked dead throughout history will be brought up out of Hades and placed before the Lord.  You will remember that we previous spoke about a person who dies and is not in right relationship with God.  Such a person will find themselves in torments in Hades, the spiritual holding place we call the grave.  Most of what we have talked about has dealt with what the righteous will experience after death, but now we return to the wicked dead.  Though it was clear what their judgment would be when they died, technically they have not been sentenced yet.  One day their experience in Hades will be interrupted by this fire from heaven and they will be resurrected in order to stand before Christ for their sentencing.

The final judgment of creation will occur

Up to this point we have seen that the believers from every generation will have been resurrected and they will have glorified bodies (indestructible, imperishable, etc.).  They have already been judged.  In verses 11-15 we are dealing with the unrighteous dead.

Verse 11 begins with the earth and the heavens flee from the presence of the One who sits on the throne, but no place is found for them.  The idea is that they can’t hide and disappear from the scene as all the unrighteous dead are brought before Christ.  It is very likely that this passage and the fire that falls from heaven in verse 9 are tied to the prophecy that Peter makes in 2 Peter 3:10.  There Peter says, “But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  This doesn’t fit with what we have seen regarding the 2nd Coming of Christ.  Though we typically think of the Day of the Lord as referring to the Second Coming, it actually refers to the whole period from the pouring out of God’s wrath, to Christ’s 2nd Coming, including the Millennial Kingdom and the Great White Throne Judgment.  So basically the whole universe melts into plasma before the full glory of Christ.

Thus as this creation is removed, we see the source of its melting.  A Great White Throne towers above all the other thrones that have ever been mentioned in Scripture, even Christ’s millennial throne.  This is the heavenly throne of God.  It is white because of the purity of the One who sits upon it.  Simultaneously the Second Resurrection occurs.  Though the phrase is not explicitly stated here, it is a logical necessity from the details of verse 5.  There we are told that the Resurrections that have occurred before this are a part of a class called the First Resurrection.  It then pronounces a blessing on those who participate in the First Resurrection and a danger upon those who do not.  Elsewhere in the Bible the resurrection is always described in two phases or at least two kinds.  Daniel describes two different resurrections it in chapter 12 of his book when he writes, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Jesus described two resurrections and in John 5:29 the second one is specifically called “the resurrection of the condemnation.”  Paul describes it in Acts 24:15 as “the resurrection of the unjust.”  Thus the Second Resurrection is a time when all the wicked dead are raised up in order to receive condemnation and shame.

The picture is advanced as we see Hades completely emptied as all in it are brought before Christ.  It also mentions the sea being emptied of any in it and brought before Christ.  This is to emphasize that even those who could not be buried would be brought before Christ.  No one will escape this judgment, but the righteous who have already been judged as worthy of life.

We are also told that both the small and the great are brought before Christ.  No one will be too insignificant to escape this judgment, and no one will be too powerful to resist it.

Next we are told that books are opened and the Book of Life is opened.  The “books” plural are a record of the works and actions of each person.  The Book of Life is a ledger of all the “imagers” of God who have been created.  If they did not put their faith in god and His Christ then their name was blotted out of the book (see Psalm 69:28 and Acts 3:19).  When we put our faith in Christ, our name remains in the Book of Life and the record of our sinful works is blotted out.  Whether these are actual books in the heavens or merely symbols of God’s ability to record everything, it is clear that this is not a trial.  Though evidence is present, there is no rebuttal or counter evidence.  This is a sentencing phase where all will stand silent as the decision of Christ regarding them is made clear and carried out. 

Some have asked this question.  What about the righteous mortals of the Millennium?  It stands to reason that not everyone will join the Final Rebellion.  The glorified saints, of course, are able to withstand the fire that destroys all things.  Though it is not stated, it would seem very probable that any righteous mortals will be instantly transformed and caught up to the side of Christ along with the other glorified saints.  This will complete the First Resurrection.  The resurrected righteous from every generation will stand as witnesses to this judgment alongside Christ.

Those whose names are not in the Book of Life are cast into the Lake of Fire.  This is described in verses 14 and 15.  Up until this point, we have seen that the Beast and the False Prophet are the first to go into the Lake of Fire (at the 2nd Coming) and then the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire at the end of the Millennium.  It would seem appropriate that, as the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire, so his angels would be thrown in as well.  Jesus himself said that hell was created for “the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41).  The wicked humans are now joining the fate of the wicked supernatural beings.  The Lake of Fire is a place of separation from God and all His goodness. 

Thus they will never again be able to interact with God’s creation, specifically the New Heavens and the New Earth that are to be created and appear in Revelation chapter 21.  Nothing that is wicked or potentially could become wicked will be allowed to go into the New Creation.  Adam and eve were in paradise, but they were also ignorant to evil and wickedness.  Thus they could easily be deceived.  The glorified Sons of God who enter into the New Creation will not be ignorant.  We will be completely convinced of the goodness of God.

Let me leave you with the challenge to make sure that you are right with God.  Unless you surrender your life and put your faith in Jesus, you cannot escape the torments of Hades, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the Lake of Fire.  Why choose death?  Choose the life that God puts before you today.  Some reject this offer and present all manner of arguments why God should not be worshipped, but this is folly.  You will not judge God, He will judge you; and you are not truly righteous, but He truly is.

Are you angry at the idea of judgment and resentful towards God and His supposed goodness?  You should read David Guzik’s commentary on Revelation 20:12-13.  Here is part of what he has to say. 

“i. Because this is a sentencing and not a trial, those who stand before the throne have nothing to say. Many think they will “tell God a thing or two” at the final judgment, as reflected in this letter to Dear Abby (a newspaper advice column) written some years ago:

 Dear Abby: I am troubled with something a reader wrote: “What right do we mortals have to demand an explanation from God?” Abby, that writer has never known the gut-wrenching pain of losing a child...

God didn’t answer my prayers, and I resent being told that I have no right to question God. If there is a God, and if I ever get to meet him face to face, you can bet your life I will have plenty of whys for him to answer.

I want to know why my little girl died and why that drunk was allowed to go on living. I love her more than my life, and I miss her so. I am mad that I am having to live in a world where she no longer lives, and I want to know why. Why shouldn’t I have the right to ask God?

Aren’t we supposedly created in his image? If so, surely he has a heart and soul capable of hurting just as I hurt. Why would he not expect to be questioned if he has anything to do with miracles?

I don’t fear the Lord. And I don’t fear hell, either. I know what hell is like. I’ve already been there since the day my precious daughter was killed.

Please sign me... A Bereaved Mother

ii. Of course, there will be no criticism of God on that day. This desperate woman will see not only the righteousness and goodness of God, but she will also see her own sin and rejection of Him more clearly than ever. One could only pray and hope she came to understand how the Father Himself knew the pain she experienced, and sent His Son to give her hope and redemption.”

Great White Throne audio

Monday
Feb192018

Folly or Wisdom? Part I

1 Kings 22:1-18.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 18, 2018.

The book of proverbs in the bible is famous for its sayings which warn people to avoid folly and choose wisdom.  Of course the Way of the Lord is always presented as the path of wisdom, and all the ways invented by mankind besides it are presented as the paths of folly.  So, how does wisdom fit in with the New Testament’s emphasis on love?  We will find in this chapter a help in this matter.  Here we find that a person can love God and their fellow man, and yet, make foolish choices.  Foolish choices lead to folly and folly eventually leads to destruction in one form or another.

It can be easy to think that because one has put their faith in Jesus, and have whole-heartedly pursued a love of God and your neighbor, that somehow we would be insulated from making foolish choices.  However, this is not true.  To choose to believe in Jesus and follow Him as your master is the wisest thing you will ever do.  Yet, every choice we face is a test, even if we have strung together a long streak of wise choices.  That said, if love for God and our neighbor is the foundation on which we build, then wisdom is how and what we build on top of that foundation.  May God help us all to be wise followers of Jesus.

A righteous person can act foolishly

As we open this chapter we will find three main characters and three cities that are important in our understanding.  Jehoshaphat is the King of Judah who reigns in Jerusalem.  He has gone north to visit with King Ahab of Northern Israel who reigns in Samaria.  These two kings couldn’t be more different.  Jehoshaphat is described as a righteous king who led his people to worship the God of Israel, and the God of Israel was with him. However, Ahab is described as a wicked king who led his people to worship the Canaanite god Baal, and God was against him.  In fact Ahab has been told by Elijah the prophet that he is under a decree of death from the God of Israel.  Thus, during Jehoshaphat’s visit with Ahab in Samaria, Ahab brings up a city called Ramoth in the Gilead region.  This was on the eastern side of the Jordan River Valley and up on the plains above it.  This city had served as one of Israel’s cities of refuge that belonged to the Levites.  Ben Hadad of Syria had captured it at some point and had not returned it, even though he had been twice defeated by Israel (see 1 Kings 20).  Ahab wants Jehoshaphat to join forces with him and take it back.  Now our last character is the prophet of the Lord, Micaiah.  We know very little of this individual except what is revealed in this chapter.  Though it is not specifically stated, it seems that Ahab may have had him imprisoned within Samaria before this event because of his command in verse 26 to have Micaiah “taken back” to the governor of Samaria in order to be imprisoned.  Regardless, Micaiah is a righteous follower of the God of Israel and will prove to be wise.

Ultimately this chapter is about the folly of people in the face of God’s continued gracious appeal to turn from it.  Ahab’s folly is that of a wicked person who has chosen to be an enemy of God.  All his false prophets can be lumped into that category along with him.  Jehoshaphat, on the other hand, is a righteous person who wants so badly to fix things that he makes foolish choices, instead of trusting in the Lord’s wisdom in regard to actions and timing.  Lastly we see all the soldiers who go along with the folly of their leaders for varying reasons.  Some agree with the king, some are ambivalent, and some no doubt only do so out of fear.  Citizens generally suffer from the folly of their leaders decisions and are blessed by their wisdom.

For our purposes we will focus on Jehoshaphat.  When propositioned by Ahab to join forces, he is quick to agree.  This speedy agreement, no doubt, comes from a good heart.  He hates to see the once united nation of Israel divided and fighting each other.  He thinks his good will and alliance with Ahab will make unity and heal the breach.  In fact, in later chapters we find that Jehoshaphat had strengthened this alliance by having his son Jehoram marry Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah.  This is the same Athaliah who nearly killed the whole royal line of David.  If not for God’s mercy to have the infant Joash hidden from her, she would have succeeded in usurping the Davidic throne and God’s promises to David.  I am sure that Jehoshaphat also hates to see the enemies of God ruling over a city of Israel.  Though he has righteous intentions, Jehoshaphat does not recognize that he is allying with a wicked man whom God is planning to have killed.  To join together with such a person is to put yourself in the crosshairs.  You do not want to be in league with a wicked person when God decides to bring them down.

It may be good to stop and think about how we can be guilty of this today.  Many in the Church of God who want to see unity among the denominations and acceptance within the culture will make love and unity their rally cry.  There is nothing wrong with having these things at the heart of our actions and speech.  However, as we see in this story, it is never good to ally ourselves with people who are at odds with God and His Anointed, Jesus.  There is a proper timing and a proper way to healing the breaches that have happened in our nation and society.  In our zeal to “fix things” we can make foolish choices that lead to further harm.  May God help us to lean only upon His wisdom and wait for His timing, rather than rushing ahead with people who are under the judgment of God.

To his credit, Jehoshaphat asks Ahab to inquire of the God of Israel in verse 5.  At the end of the day this is a wise thing to do and could have been the very thing that saved him from his own naiveté.  But we will deal with that later.  Ahab calls forward 400 prophets who begin prophesying that if they go to battle they will win.  These prophets are clearly not prophets of the God of Israel because Jehoshaphat immediately asks if there isn’t a prophet of the God of Israel.  These are either prophets of Baal or Asherah or both.  It is difficult to tell if Ahab was trying to present them as prophets of the God of Israel, but this is highly probable.  Ahab knows that Jehoshaphat only serves the God of Israel.  Regardless of how Jehoshaphat knows (most likely their demeanor smacked of paganism), he has a big “red flag” moment in his heart.  He knows that these 400 prophets do not represent the message of the God of Israel.  So why not tell Ahab you are not interested in going to battle?  Perhaps he is in too deep and doesn’t want to mess up the good-will that he has obtained with Ahab.  Thus Jehoshaphat disregards a huge red flag and pushes on trying to find a justification to help Ahab.

When Jehoshaphat asks Ahab if there isn’t still a prophet of the God of Israel available, Ahab answers that there is one (notice he doesn’t bring up Elijah).  However, Ahab says that he hates the prophet because he never has anything good to say about Ahab.  Now, a prophet’s job is not to make the king feel good about himself, but rather to tell him the truth.  The prophets of the God of Israel were not enemies of Ahab.  They only told him the truth.  It was his obstinate insistence to reject their words that had led to his death decree.  Jehoshaphat recognizes how dangerous Ahab’s statement is.  To say that you hate a true prophet of God is to hate God.    Though he softly rebukes Ahab, he disregards another huge red flag telling him that he is on the wrong path.

A righteous person can act wisely

As Jehoshaphat and Ahab wait for Micaiah to be summoned, we are told that the false prophets continue to do their prophesying.  One particular false prophet named Zedekiah has fashioned some iron horns for himself as a prophetic prop.  He proclaims that with these two iron horns Israel will gore the Syrians.  In Israel horns were used symbolically of a king and his kingdom.  Thus the two horns are Ahab and Jehoshaphat.

Meanwhile some officer is bringing Micaiah to the Kings and clearly applies some social pressure to him.  He tells Micaiah that 400 prophets are telling the kings that they will be successful and that he should agree with them.   Such social pressure to support the public policy of the king, or the current leaders, is the folly of many a government.  Yes-men never help a leader, but rather fail their duty to fully inform and counsel them.  We see this same dynamic within our own politics and within the culture of our society.  Often believers in Jesus are pressured to speak and act in a socially acceptable way because so many are already going along with it.  Yet, Micaiah is a righteous man who wisely refuses to bow to such pressures.  He states that he will only speak what the Lord tells him to speak.  This sounds familiar with the words of Jesus in John 12:49 (and in many other places), “For I [Jesus] have not spoken on My own authority, but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.”  He also mentions that He only does what He has been told by His Father.  Is this my resolve?  Imagine how different the response of the churches in our land would be if they all followed the path of Micaiah, and ultimately that of Jesus.  Is my resolve to only speak and do what God wants me to speak and do? 

When Micaiah is finally brought before the kings, it may seem strange that he actually does tell Ahab that he will be successful.  But, it is clear in the context that he is being sarcastic.  Ahab immediately adjures him to tell the truth.  I do not believe that Micaiah’s sarcasm presents any ethical problem.  It is clear that he and Ahab have a history wherein Ahab has continually disregarded the word of the Lord from Micaiah.  Thus when Ahab asks for the truth, he is not really asking for truth so that he can obey the Lord.  Ahab will go to war regardless of what Micaiah has to say.  Instead Ahab sees Micaiah as a source of “spiritual chatter.”  He wants to know what the prophets of Yahweh have to say.  Perhaps he can glean enough information to prevent what they are predicting.  All of this is happening in front of Jehoshaphat and should be even another red flag to him.    I believe that Micaiah’s sarcasm actually highlights the hypocrisy of Ahab.  He has never really wanted the truth because he has always embraced the lie of Baal and his religion.

Of course Micaiah then tells the kings what he saw in a vision.  His words are worth noting.  “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd.”  These are similar of the words Matthew used in Matthew 9:36.  “But when [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”  This metaphor of sheep without a shepherd is used throughout the Bible.  Moses used this metaphor when God told him it was time for him to die.  In Numbers 21:17 Moses asks God to appoint another leader so that Israel would not be like sheep without a shepherd.  In other words they would be vulnerable to the world around them without strong, godly leadership.  David used it in Psalm 23 to declare, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Of course Jesus used description of the good shepherd for himself.  In Ezekiel 34:12 the Lord says, “As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.”  Lastly, in Zechariah 10:2 God says, “The idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain.  Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd.”

Even with Ahab as their king, Israel has been without a true shepherd for years because Ahab is a false shepherd who only cares about himself.  His actions are only leading to a scattering of the sheep both physically and spiritually.  Yet, God has promised to regather His sheep who have been scattered.  Today, Christians are a part of God’s work of regathering the sheep.  However, it is not just the lost sheep of Israel, but of the whole world.  In the midst of God’s regathering process we must be wise and lean upon the wisdom of the Lord rather than our own.  Yes, God so loves the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life.  However, no amount of false unity and pretending that the wicked are not in danger will save them.  Only the truth sets us free.  Let’s be righteous people who choose wisely rather than being led into folly.

Folly or Wisdom audio

Tuesday
Jan302018

The Abuse of Power

1 Kings 21:1-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 28, 2018.

Abuse of power is often in the news these days, whether we think of politics with the FBI probes into Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, or we think about Hollywood and the cascading revelations of sexual harassment within the business.  Such abuse of power can be found in any environment that is ran by people: businesses, churches, sports, schools, and the police.  However, it can also be found in a mob of people who claim to be standing against the abuse of power.  If we as Americans do not repent of wickedness and turn towards the way of Jesus, we will find this country continuing its rapid decline.  It is not enough to join the cries of those pointing out wickedness and abuse of power.  We must also repent of our own wickedness and abuse of power.  Only then can true healing and change happen in this country. 

Regardless of how the country goes, you are responsible for your own decisions.  If you are not abusing power then be a voice of truth in the midst of people lying to cover themselves.  If you are guilty of abusing your power then deliver yourself from the judgment of God because it will come as sure as the day you were born.

Today’s passage highlights the abuse of power in Northern Israel of the 9th century B.C.  But it could be written about many different cities all across these United States of America.  Let’s hear God’s Word.

Ahab covets his neighbor’s vineyard

In verses 1-4 we see Ahab’s desire for a plot of land that is next to his palace.  Yet, he clearly becomes overly attached to having it, and herein lies the problem.  Let’s look at how he gets there.

Notice that Ahab makes a very reasonable offer to Naboth in order to obtain his vineyard.  He will buy the property for money or swap a better vineyard elsewhere for his.  At this point everything is on the up and up.  Yet, we are told that Naboth declines the offer.  Now, Naboth’s words might seem insolent to us, but we should recognize that property was viewed differently in ancient Israel.  They land was not really sold but actually leased, until the year of Jubilee (which came ever 50 years).  In that year all debts, including land leased to others, would have the debt on it cancelled and return to the original owner.  This was to protect the inheritance that God had given to each tribe and the clans within them.  Typically people did not lease their inheritance unless they were desperate or so rich that they are paying others to tend it.  Naboth will not even entertain the idea.

Now Ahab’s response to the rejection shows us that something is wrong in his heart.  Though his offer is reasonable, his response to rejection is unreasonable.  Just because I make a reasonable offer, it does not follow that the person “owes it to me” to accept.  Naboth does not want another property, or to lose what he has.  He is well within his rights to refuse and, if Ahab’s heart were in the right place, he would understand.  Ahab becomes sullen and depressed.  He goes home and proceeds to lay in bed with his back to the door, refusing to eat.  His desire for a the property has gotten out of bounds and has become coveting.

This leads us to the 10th commandment found in Exodus 20:17.  When we look at this commandment, several things stick out.  It always has an object that doesn’t belong to you: your neighbor’s house, wife, servants, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to him.  Coveting begins with a desire for something that does not belong to you.  I could be innocent and proper, but there is a boundary past which our desire becomes inordinate or improper.  I should have restrained the desire to stay in the proper boundaries, but instead I have let it go beyond into the area of coveting it.  It is one thing to admire your neighbor’s house, or to recognize that their spouse is very good looking.  But if the desire is unrestrained it can cross the line into improper desire and eventually improper actions. 

There is a virtue that helps lead us away from coveting, like a kind of antidote, and that virtue is thankfulness.  When we are thankful to God for the things we already have, then our desires to have something we do not are far more restrained.  Too many people fall into the habit of looking down upon what they have because it doesn’t seem to be as much or nice as what another has.  This is a trap that sets us up for losing restraint upon our desires.  May God help us to be more thankful for the things that we do have.  If we can obtain other things, then praise God.  But, if not, then praise Him still because what we do have is a blessing.

Jezebel has a wicked plan to get the vineyard

In verses 5-10 Jezebel enters the scene.  She is clearly a take charge kind of person.  When she sees the depression of Ahab, she is determined to fix the problem.  However, in her mind the problem isn’t Ahab’s covetous, unrestrained heart, but rather, Naboth’s refusal to sell.  Our inability to recognize the true problems in our life will lead to poor decisions.  It is easy to think that all my problems are the fault of others around me, but this kind of thinking will hamper our ability to change.

Notice how Jezebel views position and power.  When Ahab tells her why he is depressed, she retorts,  “Do you not reign over Israel?”  In her view Ahab’s problem is that he has forgotten he is king.  To her, position and power are for the benefit of the person who has them.  But God’s Word reveals a different view.  Position and power are not to be used for the benefit of the person who has them, but rather for those over whom you have authority.

Think about parents and their authority over their children.  Parents can fall into the mistake of thinking that the children should benefit them somehow.  If parents want to please God, they must learn to exercise their authority for the benefit of the children.  That doesn’t mean the kids get to tell parents what to do.  Rather, we look to God to help us understand what is best for our kids.  The same should be true for politics.  It is an abuse of power to exercise your authority for your own benefit, and at the expense of those beneath you.

We see Jezebel promise Ahab that she will get him the vineyard.  How does she plan to do so?  She plans to use the power of the king to have Naboth killed.  She sends letters bearing Ahab’s royal seal to the leaders of Jezreel, the city in which this occurs.  They are to proclaim a fast, which would only be done in extreme circumstances in which something was wrong in the city.  They were to seat Naboth in a prominent place.  Then two men were to publicly accuse him of cursing God and the king.  Lastly, the leaders were to take Naboth out and stone him to death.  This is a classic example of the abuse of power.  We can’t put all the blame on Jezebel because she couldn’t have used Ahab’s seal without his approval, whether presently or in the past.  Jezebel couldn’t care less about this vineyard.  But she is willing to kill an innocent man in order to get her husband out of a bad attitude.  It is sad to see a person’s life chewed up in the grinder because someone of power is having a bad hair day.  But they don’t care.  They have the power and you don’t.  God deliver us from such thinking and such people.

When we look closer at the abuse of power, we will see that the order is unlawful.  The laws of most countries stand against such abuse of power.  However, even if a nation made it lawful to do what Jezebel does, there is still the problem that it would be against God’s law.  An unlawful order should never be obeyed, even if it is made lawful by the crooked courts/king of the land.  All laws of mankind are under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, and they carry only as much weight as they are in accordance with the laws of God.

The second thing is that Jezebel goes out of her way to use the “color of law.”  She does not care about what the law says, but she goes through the trouble of making it look like Naboth is a horrible man in front of the citizens of Jezreel.  Of course the leaders know the truth, but they will not say anything if they know what is good for them.  Ahab is enabled to have a fake cloak of righteousness when he takes Naboth’s vineyard.  People will say that wicked Naboth got what he deserved and that God was rewarding Ahab with the vineyard of the one who cursed him.  That is truly justice, right?  But the opposite is the truth.  Many a wicked leader has used trickery to convince the populace that they are following the law, when they are doing everything but that.  We must be careful of knee-jerk responses to spoon-fed information. 

The leaders of Jezreel carry out the plan

In verses 11-16 we see that the leaders carry out the plan.  They do exactly what Jezebel said to do, and have Naboth publicly executed.  When Jezebel is told that the deed is done, she goes in and announces to Ahab that he can take possession of Naboth’s vineyard because he is now dead.  This kind of wicked, civil asset forfeiture is a house of wickedness that uses the law to take that which belongs to people simply because they don’t have the power to stop it.

Ahab suddenly feels good enough to get out of bed.  Who knows, he might have even stuffed his face before he left the palace.  Perhaps he skipped like a little girl to the candy store.  Regardless, Ahab feels better, but he ought to be sickened to his stomach.  His actions testify against him.  He is a wicked man.

This brings up something that can be seen in this passage.  Ahab and Jezebel are both wicked, but Ahab is a weak wicked person and Jezebel is a strong wicked person.  Even in his wickedness Ahab seems to have some boundaries.  But Jezebel is a person who has a very perverted sense of right and wrong that centers on her and what she wants.  However, such people would get little done if it weren’t for the third class of wicked people in this passage.

The leaders of the city become the enablers of Jezebel’s wicked plan.  They are willing and compliant to her wicked plan.  By doing so, the leaders of Jezreel sell out one of their own that they were supposed to protect for the good graces of Ahab and Jezebel.  Their position and power are for the purpose of benefiting the people of Jezreel, but here they are throwing Naboth like a lamb to the wolf. 

Naboth is the true victim in this story, but the public is convinced that Ahab is the victim.  In this life the true victims are rarely noticed.  And, if they are, it is often to be used as public leverage to obtain wicked and selfish ends.  We must not be willing and compliant with those who would do wickedly through us.  We must learn to stand up and hold our ground.  The whole reason for a city mayor is to have people of power to protect the citizens, whether from each other or from outside attack.

Ultimately the Christian’s hope is not in justice from the government of man, but rather justice from the government of God.  God help us to be an ever brighter light of what is true and just.  May He help us not to aid the wicked but rather stand up and bring their evil deeds to light.

Abuse of Power audio