Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 6 June 18:
1. 1 Kings 21:4: “And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.” Envy makes you feel resentment, anger or sorrow because God has given someone something He hasn’t given you; envy makes you want the other person to lose what they have that you might obtain. Envy is the product of pride and discontentment, both great sins against God. Pride, as opposed to humility, competes to place self above others, the exact opposite of what God commands – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) As C. S. Lewis said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.” Envy occurs when pride is wounded. While the apparent target of envy is the other person, the dissatisfaction is really with self and with God – I am not good enough, and God did not provide. Envy can cause you to forget all that you have for sake of the one thing you don’t have. In Ahab’s case, he was a king who lacked a vineyard. Envy exposes the idols in your heart. Few emotions are more dangerous than envy – there is no petty envy. Envy destroys and kills. Compare Ahab’s story with James 4:1-3 — “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” If you feel envy in your heart, repent, and pray that God will give you a grateful, thankful heart of abundance that can truly celebrate the blessings received by others.
– Note: The Bible does reveal a positive form of pride – Pride in Christ and in the sanctification of others in Christ (rejoicing rather than haughtiness):
— Romans 15:17 — In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
— Philippians 2:16 — …holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
— 1 Corinthians 15:31 — I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!
— 2 Corinthians 7:4 — I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
2. 1 Kings 21:7 — “And Jezebel his wife said to him, ‘Do you now govern Israel?’” Power does not corrupt. Power enables the behavior of those who already have a corrupt heart. Both positive stress (success) and negative stress (failure) magnify what is already in the heart.
3. 1 Kings 21:9-13 — Political leaders and others will often use religion as a way to legitimize their sinful behavior – “This is for God….”
4. 1 Kings 21:15, 16 – “And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.”
– Naboth’s land should have gone to his relatives after his death, but Ahab defied God’s laws and, apparently, no one spoke out against his actions in order to demand justice but Elijah. Are you willing to speak out against injustice and sin when no one else will?
– Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard and turned to Jezebel and the murderous ways of the world to get what he could not get through righteous ways, thereby cursing himself and his family – “Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.” Even after Ahab’s genuine repentance, the consequences of his sin were not removed by God – “…in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”
5. 1 Kings 21:17-19 – “…In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”
– Ahab king of Israel thought he had gotten away with something, but you cannot hide from God’s discipline and judgment. Ahab received condemnation from God for his actions. It is a terrible thing to position yourself against the will of God.
– Sin may begin as envy and greed and then proceed to theft and murder.
6. 1 Kings 21:20 – “Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ He answered, ‘I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord.’” Elijah was Ahab’s enemy because Ahab had become God’s enemy. Everyone takes a side in the war against good and evil. Those who side with evil usually claim that evil is, in fact, good. However, God sets the standard. A person either obeys God and stands with Him, or they don’t. You either act as a servant to evil or to God. James 4:4 has the answer: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Do you see how certain themes run throughout the entire Bible?
7. 1 Kings 21:29 – “Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days….” God showed mercy to Ahab because Ahab repented. However, the consequences of Ahab’s actions was not completely removed; his family suffered because of his sin.
8. 1 Kings 22:4 — “Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, ‘I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’” Again, Jehoshaphat entangled himself with ungodly Israel which angered God. This is the fatal flaw of the American church that has mistakenly integrated with ungodly institutions.
9. 1 Kings 22:6-8 – “Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, ‘Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?’ And they said, ‘Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.’ But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?’ The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me…”
– The king of Israel surrounded himself with religious leaders who claimed to speak for God but only said what he wanted to hear. This is often how people choose what church they go to. Second Timothy 4:3 has this to say: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
– God’s people are called to proclaim truth, whether people want to hear it or not, but fear of man will tempt us to avoid the confrontation that comes when light exposes darkness. Both Elijah and Micaiah suffered greatly for their testimony. Because of their unyielding and bold faithfulness, the king hated them and persecuted them. Today, Elijah and Micaiah would have been called haters, close minded, and judgmental, but note that, in the end, Ahab humbles himself before the Lord. We are commanded to proclaim the truth before power and contrary public opinion. Our love for God AND our love for others is demonstrated through faithful obedience. As Paul says in our readings today, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ.”
10. 1 Kings 22:14 — “But Micaiah said, ‘As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.’” Is this your criteria for what you say to others?
11. 1 Kings 22:15 — Micaiah knew the king didn’t really want to hear or accept God’s word. However, that did not stop him from speaking the truth.
12. 1 Kings 21:27 — God invites you to repent humbly of your sin and perhaps not bear all the disciplinary punishment.
13. 1 Kings 22:27 — God’s messengers historically face persecution for speaking the truth.
14. 1 Kings 22:28 — “If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.”
– If you speak on behalf of God, and what you say does not happen, you are deceived and have misrepresented the KING. Essentially, you have become a false prophet. Be very careful about what you say in the Name of God. Be very careful not to put a Christian stamp on your own opinion or teachings emanating from pop psychology.
– Ahab surrounded himself with prophets who told him what he wanted to hear, aggressively rejecting the one true prophet Micaiah who put his life on the line to speak God’s truth despite knowing that Ahab would reject the truth (a lesson for us today). Ahab’s refusal to listen to God’s word, which conflicted with his desires, resulted in Ahab’s death. Even Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, who tried hard to honor God, allowed himself to be unduly influenced by the world around him rather than serving God wholeheartedly. We read today that Jehoshaphat engaged in an unsanctioned battle with the ungodly Ahab — Jehoshaphat had made an “unequally yoked” alliance with Ahab (2 Chronicles 18). How could a noble king like Jehoshaphat ever say to an evil king such as Ahab, “I am as you are, my people as your people. We will be with you in the war.”? Then, after Ahab’s death, our readings tell us that, “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.” However, 2 Chronicles tells the rest of the story here: “After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.’ And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.” (2 Chronicles 20:35-37) Jehoshaphat was a godly king who could have been so much more had he not trusted the wisdom of the world and become entangled in worldly alliances. I believe this is a VERY important lesson for the church today that we are largely missing. We do not have to separate or disengage from the world in order to remain holy; we can engage the world without allying with the world, becoming dependent on the world or mixing message with the world. Too often we believe that to influence the world, we must partner with the world, act like it, appeal to it, rely on it. The result: the church compromises its holiness and its witness. In the ‘90s, The Clinton Administration reversed US foreign policy with China with his new policy of “constructive engagement” which was based on the notion that if we opened the doors of cooperation and partnership with China we would so influence them that they would be transformed and become a global champion of free trade and human rights. Clinton said, “And when it comes to advancing human rights and religious freedom, dealing directly and speaking honestly to the Chinese is clearly the best way to make a difference.” Today, the reader can decide how well this “constructive engagement” policy has changed China and strengthened the free word’s position. The reader can also decide how well the church’s partnership with the world has changed the world and strengthened the church’s position. Clinton said that there were only two possible approaches to China, “isolation” or “engagement” which was another word for “partnership” and “alliance.” Likewise, the church seems to see only two alternatives. Isn’t there a third alternative of engagement without compromise?
– Deuteronomy 15:6 — For the Lord your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.
15. 1 Kings 22:29-37 — You cannot hide from God and escape the judgment he has revealed.
16. 1 Kings 22:34 — “But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.” The kings cunning plan could not thwart God’s will. What seemed to be a random act was controlled by God to accomplish His purposes. God works daily in miraculous ways that are recognized by His people but viewed by others as mere chance or luck.
17. 1 Kings 22:39 — Sinners may accomplish much, but it is ultimately meaningless.
18. 1 Kings 22:43 — “Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.” Though Jehoshaphat walked in the ways of the LORD, he did not challenge the sinful practices of the people, and this is viewed by God as a major failure by Jehoshaphat.
19. 1 Kings 22:43 – “He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.” God expects consistent and complete obedience.
20. 1 Kings 22:45 — God is interested in a leader’s relationship and obedience to Him rather than their famed accomplishments and reputation.
21. 1 Kings 22:48 — “The ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.” God punished Jehoshaphat for his ungodly entanglements. More will be explained later in the Bible.
22. Proverbs 6:1-5 — Avoid debt to others; work hard, save, and invest (Pro 6:6-11); be honest and cooperative in all your dealings with others (Pro 6:12-19); and don’t commit adultery! (Pro 6:20-35)
23. Proverbs 6:6-11 — Self-discipline involves making sacrifices and working hard today for a greater tomorrow.
24. 2 Corinthians 9:6 — “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Have you ever wondered why some Christians grow so rapidly in their faith while others seem to grow so slowly? The daily disciplines of discipleship will produce an abundant harvest. If you sow sparingly, you will also reap sparingly. Specifically, this verse applies to giving. Those who give to others position themselves to receive abundantly from the Lord.
25. 2 Corinthians 9:7 — “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” People are motivated to do “good deeds” for many reasons — guilt, fear, pride, duty, etc. Many do the right things for the wrong reasons, and the Bible calls these deeds “filthy rags,” straw that will burnt in the fire. Charitable deeds that are not motivated by genuine love are valued by people but not by God. Seek a heart that gives out of love.
26. 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7 — How you view God’s gift to you determines how much of a heart you have for giving to others. How you give to others influences how God will bless you on earth.
27. 2 Corinthians 9:7 — “God loves a cheerful giver.” Any questions?
28. 2 Corinthians 9:8 – “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Do you have an abundance mentality? God is abundant in His grace. How much grace is God able to make abound to you? “All grace”! The grace God gives you is sufficient under what circumstances? “In all things at all times”! Why does God provide you all grace? So you may abound in every good work. Not that you can abound in everything, just in what He intends for you – good works. If God called you to do it, nothing can stop you.
29. 2 Corinthians 9:13 – “…they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.” The quality of our lives will be measured by how much we spread the gospel and how much we cared for the needs of others in the Name of Jesus.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 June: Pray that God will make you a more cheerful giver. Give to others today as an act of gratitude for what God has given you; give to others the way you want God to give to you. (2 Corinthians 9:6, 7)