The Danger of Being Comfortable

As Solomon closes his prayer, the power of God in the form of fire comes down from Heaven and consumes the sacrifices in the temple. In fact the presence of the Lord is so overwhelming that the priests can’t even enter the temple at all. The Israelites are gathered around the temple by the thousands and as they witness this display, they bow themselves to the ground and worship God.

Everything seems to be perfect as tens of thousands of additional sacrifices are made over the next seven days. There is great unity in the kingdom as the people return to their homes hopeful and praising God.

Yet it is in the midst of this time of optimism and unity that the Lord issues a warning. He explains to Solomon in a dream that He wants to bless the kingdom for their obedience, but conversely He will allow evil to befall them for disobedience. In fact their is a very famous verse from this dream that most of us have seen. 2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Why does God issue this promise/warning in the midst of this time of unity and victory? It’s because He knows human nature. The Lord understands that when things are going well, we get comfortable and when we get comfortable, we get lazy. We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives and it’s called complacency. Becoming complacent is dangerous, because it causes us to lower our defenses and replace vigilance with confidence. It’s at this time, that even the strongest of us can fall.

What the Lord was warning Solomon and us about is taking our eyes off of Him. Our attention is so easily drawn away from what’s good for us, because sin comes so naturally. Thousands of years later we see the same warning in 1 Peter 5:8 β€œBe sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

Satan is just looking for an opportunity to bring us down, but if we don’t become complacent and cling to the Lord, we have nothing to fear. James 4:7 β€œSubmit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Falling prey to our fleshly nature is certainly easy, but it does not need to be inevitable. We can have a life of victory in Christ if we always put Him first!

2 Chronicles 7

How Faith is Built

The lineage of the priests and Levites is listed for us here in chapter 6. This genealogy is extremely important as the standing of these men of God and their service were directly related to their ancestral record. It was by birthright that the office of the priest was filled.

In tracking these generations we can see the high, as well as the low points of the Israelite’s spiritual walk. Some of these men of God succeeded in honoring the Lord through their ministries, while others failed miserably. What is important to consider is even though these men had a specific calling on their lives, they were still just men. Made of the same corrupt flesh as you and I.

The success or failure of these men was dependent upon their individual surrender to the will of the Father. We must be careful to not place people on pedestals, expecting them to set our examples of Godly behavior. In doing so we take our eyes off of Christ as our model and shift them to man. This is dangerous because as humans, they are imperfect and will ultimately fail us.

The solution is to look at Christ as our example. Not only will He always be the best model, but He will never fail us. Don’t get me wrong, we should all have Godly people in our lives to admire and learn from, but our faith must not rest upon them. As the old hymn says “Our faith is built on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness…”

We can certainly admire and get advice from people who set great Godly examples in their lives. In fact this is part of God’s plan. It only becomes detrimental when we attach our faith in God to our faith in man. The Lord will never fail us, but people at some level always will.

Let’s keep our eyes on JESUS as our example!

1 Chronicles 6

Learning From the Past

This opening chapter gives us a genealogy starting with Adam and following many of his descendants through time. We see Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and many more as the foundation of God’s faithfulness is established. These precise genealogies are intended to not only track specific lineages, but also display the intricacy and massive time frame that the Lord works within.

Believed to have been written by Ezra, God is setting the stage for the history lesson to follow. We will see in upcoming chapters lessons learned, mistakes made and great victories which will be setting the stage for a study primarily focused on the reign of David.

Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

In the Bible, God is constantly pointing to the past in order to teach us today. People are still people and the basic struggles they faced thousands of years ago are the same ones we battle today. Pride is still pride, sin is still sin and wrestling with the flesh is still the preeminent pastime of humanity.

In studying the Biblical accounts of these victories and losses, we can gain valuable insight into our own path. The Lord has given us all the tools and instructions we need to be a success in this life. It’s just a matter of taking the time to read the instructions (The Bible) before we act.

Having put many complicated things together wrong over the years, I figured out that instructions are very important. I don’t know about you, but I would like to skip as many mistakes as possible in this life. The way to do that is to use the Bible as our guide in every situation. His instructions are always best, all we have to do is follow them.

1 Chronicles 1

Take His Hand

Jehoiakim is king of Judah as things spiral down towards God’s judgement. The nation is weak and sin-sick under his leadership. Now Nebuchadnezzer the king of Babylon has his sites on Judah, because it is a strategic location against Egypt and Assyria. In 605 b.c. he invades Jerusalem and takes Jehoiakim captive, setting up the kingdom as a part of Babylon.

Jehoiachin the son of Jehoiakim is made king for a mere three months. He tries to rebel against Babylon, but is easily conquered as they are utterly decimated. Nebuchadnezzar takes tens of thousands captive and pillages the land of all it’s valuables. He empties the temple and makes prisoners of all the skilled artisans and soldiers.

He then placed the king’s uncle who he thought he could easily control as king. His name was Zedekiah. As all of this turmoil is broiling the prophet Jeremiah and others are pleading for the people to turn to God. They are warning of the coming judgement, but not only are they ignored, but actually punished for speaking out.

Listening to the false prophets and ignoring God’s men, Judah tries to rebel yet again. And as we will see, it will not go well. What we are seeing play out before us is the punishment that comes from the awful sins against God we have seen. Manasseh and others blasphemed the Lord and rebelled against Him, thus bringing this punishment upon the Israelites.

Throughout all of these kingdoms God has sent His messengers to appeal to the hearts of the people. They were given a choice to either serve God or man. As we have clearly seen, they prefer to serve their flesh, rather than submit to God. This is the same rebellious spirit that we struggle against today. We may not have prophets like Isaiah or Jeremiah pleading with us, but He is still beckoning humanity. The Holy Spirit of God compels us through the Bible, the preaching of His Word and Christians who are willing to be used. God’s desire is to redeem mankind to Himself because He loves us even if we deny His existence or rebel against Him.

God loves you and He wants to walk hand in hand like a parent and a child. He is already reaching out to you, the thing you have to decide is to reach out to Him. That’s what I did fifteen years ago and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made!!! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€

2 Kings 24

The Choice is Yours

Leadership in Israel is about to shift. At this time we have the remnants of Ahab’s kingdom still ruling. Jezebel still has great influence as her son Joram is king of Israel and Ahaziah Ahab’s grandson is king over Judah. Both of these men are wicked and live contrary to the Lord.

With the stage set, Elisha sends a young profit to anoint the next king and his name is Jehu. This anointing is done in private, but soon the word gets out. As Jehu grows in recognition he meets with Joram and Ahaziah. At this meeting the kings are killed and Jehu assumes both thrones.

When Jehu comes riding into Jezreel, Jezebel having heard the news prepares herself by dressing in her finest. As she looks down from a high window with several servants, Jehu rides into town as king. He looks up at the window and says throw her down, which they immediately do. Her body is left for a period of time and then when it is to be retrieved, it has been eaten by dogs. This occurrence was prophesied by Elijah in 1 Kings 21:23 “And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.”

Jezebel may have escaped judgement much longer than her husband, but she did not escape. God is understanding and forgiving, but He is also consistent and fair. He holds us accountable for our actions and only forgets our sin when we repent of it.

You see just like the rest of us Jezebel had the opportunity to turn to the Lord and receive forgiveness, but she chose to reject Him. Salvation is lovingly offered to the entire world without exception, but it comes down to the individual if they will receive it. Judgement will come to all, whether we receive forgiveness or punishment is not up to God, it is up to us.

2 Kings 9

Great Faith Equals Great Power

When we left Samaria in chapter 6 there was incredible need in the city. The Syrian siege of the city had caused citywide starvation and panic. So in the midst of this, Elisha the prophet is told by God that by the next day food would be abundant. When he tells one of the city officials at the gate this news, the man dismisses the profit as foolish. For the record, this is a bad idea as we will soon see. Elisha even warns the man, to no avail.

About the same time there are four dying lepers who decide they have nothing to loose, so they head out to the massive Syrian encampment for a look. Upon arriving they find it completely abandoned. There are mountains of provisions and even the horses are still tied up outside of the tents. Unbeknownst to them the Lord had frightened the Syrians away by allowing them to hear the overwhelming Heavenly forces surrounding them.

After filling their bellies, these outcasts of society start thinking of all those in the city suffering. Even though they were abandoned by this community they still had compassion upon the people. So they head back to the city and tell of what they have found. The news is received with great suspicion, but once verified literally causes a mad rush.

Remember the official at the door who doubted and disrespected God in the way he treated Elisha. Well, the rush is so great as the starving people poor out of the city, that he is trampled to death where he stood. He heard of the blessing, saw others receive it, but did not get to partake himself.

We need to remind ourselves that no matter how impossible a thing might be, we serve an all powerful God that can do ANYTHING. We see the issues of faith and doubt addressed by the Lord Himself in Matthew 17:20 β€œAnd Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
Our successful walk with God is predicated on our faith and trust in His power. Which by the way, has no limits in our lives, except the ones we place upon it because of our unbelief. The greater our FAITH, the greater His POWER!

2 Kings 7

Godly Confidence is not Circumstantial

Through the works of God and the boldness of Elisha the number of those training for the ministry is exploding. So much so that they along with Elisha move to another area to build larger dwellings. While chopping down trees an ax head flies off and sinks into a pool of water. Because iron was hard to come by, they were quite distressed by this. Elisha is called and as he calmly follows God’s leading the ax head floats to the surface. Though it is seemingly such a small thing, it is still important to God. He cares about the little things as well as the big, which we are about to see.

Here comes a much bigger problem. The king of Syria is planning an attack on Israel. The Lord provides all of the Syrian king’s plans to Elisha which he then shares with Jehoram the king of Israel. He was not a good king, but much more reasonable than his father Ahab. When word of this gets back to the king of Syria he at first thinks there is a spy, but is then told that it is the prophet Elisha sharing his plans.

In response he sends a huge band of Syrian mercenaries after Elisha. When they arrive and encircle the city, one of Elisha’s young men comes with the terrible news. Just like with ax head, Elisha calmly assess the situation. He knows that God is in control and he asks the Lord to show this boy what is really surrounding the city. God reveals the unseen and the boy sees a massive spiritual army with flaming chariots protecting the city.

It is this Godly perspective that gives Elisha such confidence no matter the circumstance. So Elisha asks God to blind these Syrians, thus rendering them harmless and He does just that. Elisha then leads them to Jehoram and instead of letting him kill these men, he tells him to feed them, then let them go. Elisha’s counsel is followed and this threat vanishes off the scene.

The mercenaries might be gone, but the king of Syria is not giving up. This time he surrounds Samaria and decides to starve them out (This is called a siege.) It is so effective that families eventually start eating their own children. This is prophesied in Deuteronomy 28:52-57. It is a desperate time and king Jehoram instead of looking at his own sin or the sin of the people, decides to blame Elisha.

How many times do see people blame God or someone else for what is wrong in their life, but never look in the mirror? Have we done this? It’s easy to point fingers at others and deny the truth of our own failings. What God wants for us is that our eyes be opened to not only where we failed, but also to the glorious deliverance He has prepared for us.

Scripture is constantly pointing us towards a greater dependence on God and a decreased dependence on self. Elisha was not fearful because he knew in whom he believed. (2 Timothy 1:12)

Let’s take responsibility for where we fail and trust the Lord for the solution. This is the essence at the center of our salvation and the key to a life of victory through Christ.

2 Kings 6

Representing the King

In Syria there is a great military leader named Naaman who is a leper. Though he is powerful and wealthy, he can find no solution to his ailment. Material success means very little when one’s health is in jeopardy. In fact, there have been plenty of wealthy individuals who on their death beds would gladly trade their fortunes for just a little more time. Naaman has reached this point and is desperate to be healed.

There is a young Israeli woman serving in his household that tells of the power of God to heal through the profit. Hearing this Naaman negotiates entering Israeli territory to present himself before this profit of God. When he arrives at Elisha’s home, he is loaded down with treasures to trade for his healing.

Naaman has expectations of how things are going to take place. He doesn’t understand the power or heart of God, but he is about to. When Elisha hears of Naaman’s request, he tells him by way of messenger to dip himself in the Jordan river seven times in order to be healed. This is not how Naaman thought things should be done, after all he is a very important man and he has traveled a great distance. He is offended that Elisha does not speak to him directly and also complains that the Jordan is not nearly as clean as the rivers in Syria. (The Jordan river is very murky and filled with silt.)

Remember that Naaman had an expectation of how things were going to go and when they didn’t, he was quite put out. How many times do we have a preconceived notion of how God should work things out? We have a plan, but God does it in a way that doesn’t make since to us.

Naaman is so offended that he allows his pride to turn him around and head home still leprous. Do we ever allow our pride to rule our decision making? Luckily Naaman has some advisors who step in and convince him to follow Elisha’s instructions.

He will get to see the power of God as he goes down to the muddy banks of the Jordan. Naaman dips one time, no change; two times, no change, but on the seventh time he comes up with perfect flawless skin. Understanding who the one true God is, he returns to Elisha in order to give him payment for the miracle.

Now Naaman will get to see the heart of God as Elisha refuses to take anything and sends him on his way. This delivers a strong message of what God’s motivation is to this powerful Syrian.

Unfortunately humanity is going to muddy these waters as Elisha’s assistant Gehazi chases down Naaman. He sees the potential of personal gain and seizes the opportunity. He lies to Naaman telling him that Elisha had sent him to get some of the treasure.
Note that Naaman is still convinced of God’s power, but God’s heart is no longer as clear as it once was.

The greed of Gehazi tarnishes the testimony of God. Have we ever allowed our personal agenda to affect how the Lord is represented? Gehazi hides his new found wealth and returns to Elisha who confronts him with his treachery as soon as he gets back. Elisha informs Gehazi that because of his deceit and greed, the leprosy that was removed from Naaman will now be placed upon him as well as his family.

It’s so important to remember that as Christians all of our decisions good and bad affect how the Lord is seen in the eyes of others. Let’s represent the King in honesty, kindness and character. You see, they judge Him by watching us.

2 Kings 5