Saturday, November 12, 2011

2 Kings 8, 9, 10: God's Sovereignty - His Prophecies Fulfilled

Isaiah 55:11 "So is my Word that goes out from my mouth;  It will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which it was sent."

God’s Word does not return to Him empty.  Throughout the Bible, God spoke through men oftentimes making proclamations about the future.  As humans, we have an ordinary grasp of time – we know the past  from which we have emerged and we have a handle on the present that we experience.   But, for humans the future is always uncertain.  Though we make plans, there is no guarantee that our plans will come to anything. 
God, however,  who created all that is – space, matter, and time – is Lord over all; Sovereign over everything.  Since God created time, He is Lord over time.  God knows the future as well as He knows the past.  God imparted knowledge of the future to select individuals who were called prophets.  In these chapters in 2 Kings, we read how God’s Word, spoken through prophets,  was fulfilled.
While Elisha was en route to Damascus to anoint Hazael as King of Aram, which was an assignment initially given to his predecessor Elijah, Hazael, sent by Ben-Hadad, King of Aram was on his way to meet Elisha.  Though Elisha did not actually anoint Hazael as King, he told him that he would succeed Ben-Hadad and that he would commit atrocities against Israel.  The very next day, Hazael assassinated the King of Aram and seized the throne.  During the course of his reign, Hazael waged war against Israel greatly reducing Israel’s territory.
Several years earlier,  God told Elijah to annoint of Jehu, יֵהוּא , son of Nimshi, whose name means “Jehovah is He” as King of Israel.  However, because Elijah was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire before he could anoint Jehu,  this assignment fell upon Elisha who delegated another prophet to actually anoint Jehu.   
  Under Ahab's rule, Israel was a country hostile to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Ba-al worship was endorsed and supported by the monarchy.  Though people remembered the God that Moses taught, their allegiance to God was wavering.   Jehu, a prominent military man who was known to King Ahab, was consorting with fellow officers when a prophet sent by Elisha, publicly called him aside.  After anointing him to be King of Israel, the prophet charged him with  God’s Word originally spoken to Elijah regarding the house of Ahab.  Jehu was told to carry out  the disaster God vowed to bring upon the house of Ahab. (1 Kings 21)  All of this occurred  hastily and without fanfare. 
 In accepting kingship over Israel, Jehu also embraced God’s Will.  It would seem that, in his heart,  Jehu was prepared to hear and respond to God’s call. The reading of these chapters, shows that he was already familiar with God's judgment on Ahab.  When his fellow officers learned what had transpired, they immediately recognized him as king and rallied behind him. 
Though several years passed between the time that God proclaimed a judgment against the house of Ahab, though disbelieving people were probably lulled into ignoring God’s Word, God set about bringing His Words to fruition.  As soon as Jehu was anointed King of Israel, he, with his extensive following, set about fulfilling God's Word. Ultimately, as God had stated in 1 Kings 21:21, every male, slave or free, from the house of Ahab was slain.  
During the reign of Jehu, whose very name bore witness to the absolute reality of Jehovah, the God of Israel, all of God's judgments against the godless monarchy of Israel were fulfilled.
Elijah prophesied against Jezebel,  the wife of King Ahab, who urged Ahab into deeper Ba-al worship and greater godlessness, in 1 Kings 21:24 when he said that dogs will devour her by wall of Jezreel.  As it turned out, she  was flung from her balcony.  Then, shortly afterwards,  a pack of dogs attacked her body devouring everything except for her skull, hands and feet (2 Kings 9: 34 - 36).   God's Word was fulfilled because He did not intend for her to have a dignified, royal funeral.  
During his reign of twenty-eight years, Jehu, King of Israel, unlike other the kings of Israel,
 stood for God.  God used him to fulfill His Word and to stand as a beacon, bringing back the knowledge of  God, the Creator and king of the Universe, to a wayward nation. 
It's a curious and interesting aspect of God's witness of Himself that He used fulfilled prophecy    to bring Jehu and his subjects, Israel,  into a relationship with Him.  Because Jehu was familiar with  prophecy spoken against the house of Ahab, he understood that God was acting to bring about His Word.  Similarly, today, God continues to use fulfilled prophecy to bring the world into a relationship with Him.  Fulfilled prophecy always testifies of the One who made the prophecy and of the One who orchestrated its fulfillment.  
Though our Bible is historical it is also largely prophetic.  While much has been fulfilled, there is still a significant amount awaiting fulfillment.   Those who will see the remaining fulfillment of God's Word will be able to fall to their knees and proclaim that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, is indeed King of the Universe, Sovereign over  all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

God's Sovereign Protection of Israel: 2 Kings 6, 7

Joram of Israel was a king of the northern Kin...Image via Wikipedia
Israel today is a country surviving in the midst of a hostile world.  Her immediate neighbors wish fervently to completely eradicate her while her strongest supporter, the United States, has become tepid and lukewarm.  Although the general populace of America strongly supports Israel,  Washington seeks either Arab approbation or simply Israel's demise.  At any rate, the current administration has distanced itself from Israel.   With the Palestinian bid for statehood being considered by the UN, Israel must feel even more threatened.

But, none of this is really news.

From Israel's inception, the peoples surrounding this fledging nation have sought her destruction.  Around 875 BC, the prophet Elisha who ministered to the Northern Kingdom (of Israel), was able to warn Joram, king of Israel, of where the Arameans (modern day Syrians) were planning to attack Israel. (2 Kings 6)
Supernaturally, God protected His people, Israel even though they had turned from Him and violated their covenant relationship with God.  God informed Elisha of the Aramean encampments so that King Joram would not suffer any surprise attacks.

Eventually, when Ben-Hadad, the Aramean king, learned that Elisha the prophet had supernatural access to his military plans, he decided to capture Elisha.  I would suspect that even though Elisha probably knew that Ben-Hadad was coming after him, he chose to stay put in Dothan because he trusted in his Sovereign God to protect him.  In 2 Kings 6: 15-23, Elisha stepped out of his house in the morning to see a a mighty contingency of Aramean soldiers, horses, and chariots.

2 Kings 6: 15- 17  When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.  "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered.  "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And, Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Elisha saw with spiritual eyes into the spiritual realm and knew that God was going to protect him.  There was nothing to fear.  And, even thought his servant couldn't see the army of the living God, he would still have been protected by God.  While it's reassuring to actually see God's protective forces around you, we can't always see into the spiritual realm.  But, we can read God's Word and trust Him to keep His Word; to honor the covenant He initiated and ratified.

Genesis 17:19 Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him."

Psalm 121:4 Behold, He that keepeth Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man that He should lie; nor a son of man that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? 

Even though the nations turn from Israel today; even though the United States is distancing herself from Israel, the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob promised to be ever the same.  God selected a family and made a nation out of it.  True, as any loving father on occasion must discipline his child, God has, on occasion, disciplined Israel .  Discipline is not rejection but correction which should serve to bring a wayward child back into his father's loving arms.  While a child may resent discipline, a parent never ceases to love his child and to yearn for his company.

In 2 Kings, after Elisha recognized God's army which greatly outnumbered the Aramean army, he prayed that God would strike the Aramean army with blindness so that he could lead them into the capitol city of Samaria.  These troops were not killed - rather, the king of Israel feted them and then sent them back to Aram.  Here, God showed the Arameans that Israel's national security relied neither on military force nor strategy.  God demonstrated that He Himself was Israel's protector.  

While there was peace for a little while,  Ben-Hadad returned with his forces around 850 BC and besieged Samaria.  Even though Israel starved during this siege, ultimately God caused the Arameans to be struck with such a great fear that they suddenly abandoned their camp and all of their goods and hastily fled as though being pursued.  Thus, God lifted the siege and fed His people Israel.  

The most important take away point from this account is to remember that God fights for Israel.  Nothing has changed. Israel must pray and strive to remember that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is Sovereign over Creation: time, space, life, everything.

L'Shana Tova

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

2 Kings: 4, 5, 6 : A Catalog of Miracles: Elisha

Tremendous miracles, signs, and wonders were seen throughout Samaria, the Northern Kingdom of Israel which was so deeply entrenched in pagan worship.  No, pagan deities did not perform miracles.  Rather, through Elisha the prophet, God worked miracles and made the supernatural into the expected or anticipated.  

Throughout these chapters, God’s love and compassion were highlighted as He met the deepest needs of people while revealing His love for each one. 

Narrative 1: When creditors were about to sell a widow’s children into slavery in order to satisfy her husbands debts, she cried out to Elisha for help.  She knew that God would help her.

Elisha asked the woman what she had in the house.  When she answered that she had a bit of oil, he instructed her to get as many jars as she could from everyone in the village and then to pour the oil from her supply into these jars.  The oil continued to flow until she ran out of jars.  God worked with what she had; with what she made available to Him.  The widow was able to pay off her creditors and still have enough money on which to live. 

Narrative 2: A wealthy Shunamite woman extended hospitality to Elisha because she perceived that he was a man of God.  In a sense, she worshipped the God of Israel when first she provided meals for Elisha and then secondly, when she built an addition to her house so that he could rest comfortably when he was in the area.  By honoring Elisha, she honored the God he served.  She gave freely without asking for anything of God.  Because he appreciated what she had done for him, Elisha wanted to extend a blessing upon her.  When he understood that she was without child, he prophesied that within a year, she would have a son.  It happened exactly as Elisha said.

Many years later, the Shunamite’s son died in childhood.  Instead of grieving, calling her husband, notifying her neighbors and family, she resolutely mounted a donkey and hurried to Elisha at Mount Carmel.  This time she had a request of God – a full fledged need for the God of Israel to meet.   She told Elisha that her son had died and that she wouldn’t have known this pain if she never had a son in the first place.  Elisha raised the boy from the dead.

Narrative 3:  During a famine, when a group of prophets of the God of Israel prepared a stew of desert vegetation, a poisonous plant was mistakenly used.  The hungry prophets cried out to Elisha that the stew was poisoned.  Elisha asked for flour to be brought to him.  After he threw some of their flour into the stew, Elisha declared that it was safe to eat.  In faith, the men ate and were not harmed.

Narrative 4:  When a man from Baal Shalishah brought Elisha twenty loaves of barley bread, Elisha instructed his servant to feed those loaves to the hundred men who were with him.  When his servant questioned Elisha’s order to feed the hundred men with twenty loaves of bread, Elisha simply quoted God’s Word to him, “They will eat and have some left over.”

Narrative 5:  When an iron axe head a prophet had borrowed accidentally fell into the Jordan River, he was overcome with anxiety.  At that time an iron axe head was extremely valuable and not readily replaced.  The prophet worried because it sank in the Jordan River and he would not be able to return it.  Showing how much God cared for this man, Elisha threw a piece of wood in the spot where it was dropped, and miraculously the axe head floated up to the surface.  The prophet was then able to retrieve it.

Narrative 6:  Naaman, a pagan and an important commander in the army of the King of Aram, was afflicted with leprosy.  There was no healing for this disease. His situation was dire.  His situation was hopeless until a young Israelite slave told Naaman’s wife that there was a prophet in Israel who healed people.   Somehow, both Naaman and the King of Aram came to believe that it was the King of Israel who healed people.  So, equipped with a letter from the king of Aram in which he asked the King of Israel for a cure, Naaman set out for Israel.   When the King of Israel read this letter, he protested and thought that the Arameans were trying to pick a fight with him.  An international crisis threatened!
When Elisha heard this, he reminded the King that Israel did indeed have a prophet of God – him.  With great expectations, Naaman then went to Elisha.  But, a messenger met him with a word from Elisha: wash in the Jordan seven times and you will be cleansed.
Naaman was probably used to pagan priests who waved their hands, danced, recited incantations, cut themselves, etc.  Elisha simply gave him God’s Word via a messenger – pure and simple.  There was nothing complicated to do – just wash seven times in the Jordan.

Naaman was furious – maybe he felt cheated.  Enraged, he was ready to leave.  But, since one of his servants managed to get him to listen to Elisha’s command, Naaman washed in the Jordan as prescribed and was cured.  But, greater than the cure was his confession, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” 2 Kings 5: 15.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2 Kings 1, 2, 3 Prophecies Fulfilled

The Jordan River runs along the border between...Image via Wikipedia
When God speaks prophetically through a man, God's Word comes true.  However, prophets are not like fortune tellers in that they don't use tarot cards, crystal balls, or devices to communicate the future simply because someone requests it.  Prophets speak God's Word when God choses to speak through them.  Typically, these prophecies have significant national and spiritual ramifications.  In fact these opening chapters are replete with supernatural events that are recorded as though they were normal.

So, 2 Kings opens with the fulfillment of God Word as spoken through Elijah the Tishbite.  Though Ahab's son succeeded his father to the throne, he died shortly afterwards.  There were no heirs.  The prophecy spoken in 1 Kings 21:17-29 was fulfilled.

In the sight of his apprentice and fifty other prophets, Elijah the Tishbite, was taken up to heaven when  chariots of fire suddenly appeared and carried him off. Elijah never died - he was taken up to heaven alive. After this, the Spirit of God came to rest on Elisha who was empowered to divide the waters of the Jordan River, as Elijah had done earlier.

Some time later, after supernaturally removing toxic substances from a vital spring, Elisha was walking near Bethel when a group of forty two youth ganged up on him, followed him,  viciously scorning and mocking him.  In Hebrew, mocked is  קָלַס (qalac), which means to deride, to pronounce to be worthless.  This was not a good-natured, innocent childish prank.  These young people  expressed a hatred and disregard for the God of Israel, that they learned in their homes.  This group of youth  publicly harassed a man upon whom Spirit of God rested and through whom miracles have already been accomplished.  Maybe because Elisha saw these humans as full fledged instruments of demons, he called a curse on them in the Name of the Lord. Curse,  execration, or  קְלָלָה (qĕlalah) in Hebrew, is not a spell but rather a statement of how absolutely loathesome or detestable a behaviour is (in God's eyes).  

All sin is is an abomination before God; all sin separates man from a holy God.   When those kids on the road around Bethel scorned Elisha, they were in fact scorning and ridiculing the God of Israel. When  Elisha proclaimed, in the Name of God, how reprehensible they were before God, two bears emerged from  the forest and mauled them.  God showed that He agreed with Elisha.

Later, when the forces of Moab gathered to fight against Joram, King of Israel, God gave Israel a supernatural edge over them, causing Moab to be defeated and their towns routed.

In these chapters, God acted supernaturally not just to protect the land of His people, but also to further demonstrate that He alone is God, Sovereign over All, Creator of the Universe.  The physical and temporal world in which man lives is but one aspect of the universe over which God has dominion.  Israel was to note the miracles attending Elijah and Elisha, as well as the other prophets, and to turn to the God of Israel, and worship Him alone.   But, mostly, God showed that no matter what, He would not give up on His people, Israel.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for qalac (Strong's 7046)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 25 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H7046&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for qĕlalah (Strong's 7045)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 25 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H7045&t=KJV >

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

1 Kings 20, 21, 22 Ahab and God's Judgment

Version of the Omride genealogy using the Sept...Image via Wikipedia
Of all Biblical couples,  Ahab and his wife Jezebel share a legendary notoriety.  Ahab, the King of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, reigned while the prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, proclaimed God's Word to a nation that rejected God.  King Ahab embraced Baal worship, encouraged all forms of pagan idolatry, but actively persecuted the prophets of the Lord, the God of Israel.  Yet, throughout his reign, God spoke to Ahab at critical points of his reign in an attempt to encourage Ahab to recognize that the Lord, alone, is God.  If Ahab accepted the God of Israel as Sovereign God, then the rest of the nation would follow suite.

It's a great mystery, that though God knows the future and how everything will play out, He still gives man the freedom of choice.  In fact, God mandates that man must make his own choices; that He will not coerce anyone into a relationship with Him.  So, before the events in these final chapters of 1 Kings took place, God already told Elijah the Tishbite that he had to complete three tasks before retiring: anoint a new king over Aram;  anoint a new line of kings over Israel;  anoint a new prophet to Israel.   In other words, God prophesied that Ben Hadad, the King of Aram, who was a powerful force with extensive alliances, would be defeated and deposed during Elijah's lifetime; God prophesied that the greatly feared tyrant Ahab and his line, would be eradicated from Israel's political arena. 

 Another facet of God's mercy is that before He brought charges against Ahab, God informed him of His plans.  In Hebrew, to bring against,  בּוֹא (bow'), carries the implication of effecting an attack against an enemy or of bringing an adversary before a tribunal, where judgement is meted out.   God does judge but He always makes His plans known to man beforehand. (see Noah)  When one knows the judgment and why it is given, it is still possible to repent and to align oneself with God.

Though Ahab was a merciless, ruthless, tyrannical leader who led his people away from worshipping the God of Israel, God  continued to  reach out to him.  When Ben Hadad's formidable forces which greatly outnumbered Israel's army,  attacked Israel, God spoke with  Ahab, through a prophet, three times on three separate occasions  to tell him that He would supernaturally defeat the armies of Ben Hadad, so that Ahab would know that the Lord is God.  (1 Kings 20: 14, 22, 28)

Before the Aramean attack, Ahab already witnessed the contest on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah, the prophet of God.  Elijah called down God's fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice while the prophets of Baal were unable to do anything.  Also, the severe drought that afflicted Israel for some years immediately before this contest, was both brought on and ended through the prayers of Elijah, not the prophets of Baal.  Ahab had ample opportunity to accept that "I AM is the Lord" (1 Kings 20:28).

However, though Ahab appreciated the military victory God afforded him, he failed to  acknowledge God's hand in defeating the Arameans and he didn't repent of his rejection of the God of Israel.  Yet, God still didn't give up on him.  By taking possession of Naboth's vineyard, Ahab violated God's Law and God's provision for the allotment of land by clan in Israel.  Because he completely dismissed God's Law in the sight of all Israel,  God proclaimed  a hefty judgment against Ahab, his descendants, and all of the males in his household.  In 1 Kings 21: 17- 24,  God said that dogs would lick up his blood where the blood of Naboth was shed; that dogs would devour his wife Jezebel - effectively, she wouldn't have a burial; that no male descendants of his would survive past his dynasty.

Where all of God's mercy and blessing failed before, this judgment grabbed Ahab's attention.  After all, every king wants his line to continue and every king wants a burial with honor.  This time Ahab repented so God softened the judgment so that it would take effect during his son's reign.  Since the substance of the judgment was not changed,  it may be that that Ahab did not fully repent.

Three years later, Ahab entered into a battle, ostensibly doing God's will.  He wanted to reclaim Ramoth Gilead from the Arameans.  However, before the battle,  a prophet of God told Ahab that the battle would be lost and that he would be killed.  If Ahab had truly given himself over to God when he repented earlier, he might have been able to discern in his spirit that a lying spirit predicted victory and that the prophet of God spoke the truth.  To hedge his bets, just in case God's word was true, Ahab disguised himself so that  the Arameans would think him to be an ordinary soldier.  Ahab believed that he could fool God.  In this instance, after God had revealed Himself so mightily in his life, Ahab still thought that he was more clever than God and that he could deceive Him.

As it turned out, a stray arrow hit Ahab between the sections of his armor. He bled profusely in his chariot, then died.  Later, the blood in the chariot was washed out in a pool in Samaria where dogs did indeed lick his blood where Naboth was stoned.  Ahab was given the honor of a burial and his son Ahaziah succeeded him.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for bow' (Strong's 935)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 22 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H935&t=KJV >

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Friday, May 20, 2011

1 Kings 17, 18, 19 The Prophet Elijah

Elijah Raises the Son of the Widow of Zarephat...Image via Wikipedia

God sent the prophet Elijah to Israel, the Northern Kingdom, to testify of His continuing
love for His chosen people.  Though Israel embraced Baal, the God of Israel reached out to His people with miraculous signs wrought through Elijah.  All that Elijah did was designed to draw the heart of Israel back to God.

During the reign of Ahab, the political climate of Israel was so hostile to God that Elijah  was considered to be the enemy of the state.  Ahab’s men routinely searched the country in order to assassinate Elijah. 

After Elijah proclaimed a multi-year drought on Israel, a judgment for embracing Baal worship,  God directed Elijah to hide in a ravine named Cherith, כְּרִית (Kĕriyth) in Hebrew.  So, while Israel suffered the effects of a lengthy drought, Elijah was literally separated from it. In Hebrew, כְּרִית, cherith means separation.  Every morning and every night, God directed ravens to bring Elijah meat and bread.   Though Elijah, the prophet of God, knew of the judgment afflicting the nation, he, himself, did not suffer from it.  God supernaturally protected him from it.

After the brook at Cherith ran dry, God sent Elijah to the household of an impoverished, single mother, a widow with a son.  When Elijah greeted her, he gave the widow a choice: (1)give to him the first of her last bread, and God would not let her flour and oil to run out or (2) do as she initially planned: eat her last bread, and die.    Since the widow’s statement of faith in God doesn’t appear until much later in the narrative, it would seem that she didn’t yet fully embrace God as her personal saviour.  When she made the decision to share with Elijah the little that she had, she may have thought that she was dying anyway, so why not share? As the supply of flour and oil was miraculously replenished on a daily basis and she did not yet proclaim her faith in God, it seems that God was showing Himself to be extra patient and kind to this widow.  God, in His mercy, allowed for her to loose sight of the fact that this provision of daily food was His blessing and a miracle.  Was this widow also symbolic of Israel, who lived impoverished in her own land – spiritually languishing where God longed to give in abundance?

One day, the widow’s son became ill and died.  In a reaction to his death, the widow turned on Elijah, effectively blaming him, and asking if an unrepented sin in her life brought about her child’s death.  Elijah prayer and brought the widow’s son back to life.  Then, when she saw her son alive, the proclaimed, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the Word of the Lord from your mouth is true.” (1 Kings 17:24)  The resurrection of her son changed her heart so that she could believe that the Word of God was true. 

Throughout these chapters, God shows the extent to which He reaches out to Israel.  Even though Israel sinned against God by turning away from Him, God in His infinite mercy and love, continued to reach out to Israel to show that He remains true to the covenant He established with Israel.

In yet another attempt to confirm His own existence to an unbelieving nation, God allowed a contest on Mount Carmel, between Him and Baal in the sight of Israel.  While Elijah and the prophets of Baal each prepared a sacrifice, the winner was to be determined by which offering was to be miraculously consumed by fire from heaven.  Of course, only Elijah’s water drenched sacrifice was entirely consumed by heaven’s fire. 

With the frenzy of having realized that they had been deceived, the Israelites turned on the prophets of Baal and slaughtered them.  When Israel cried out that the Lord is God, they turned to worship God.  They understood that the drought was God calling them back to Himself.  Only after Israel affirmed their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then massacred the prophets of Baal who led them into spiritual apostasy, did it rain. 

Through Elijah, God demonstrated that no matter how much Israel wandered from Him, He still considered Himself to be the God of Israel.  As such, God has promised to always protect Israel and to watch over His people, particularly as they live in the land He gave them. 

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for Kĕriyth (Strong's 3747)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 20 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H3747&t=KJV >

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

1 Kings 14, 15, 16, 17 Fulfilled Prophecies

The genealogy of the kings of Israel and Judah...Image via Wikipedia

Prophesies made and prophesies fulfilled dominate these chapters. Since the Bible is a prophetic book, it’s not a surprise.  Some prophecies were for judgment and destruction while others were for blessing.  Prophecies made and fulfilled within the scope of a few chapters need to be recognized because they demonstrate that God’s Word stands.   

Through Nathan, the prophet, God told King David that his throne would be established forever; that his direct descendants would always sit on the throne; that his house and kingdom would endure before God. 

2 Samuel 7: 11-16     The Lord declares to you that the Lord Himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for My Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  I will be his father and he will be my son.  When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.  But, my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.

God promised David that his line would endure and that his descendants would sit on a throne that was established forever.

During his reign, Solomon, to whom God had appeared twice, embraced pagan deities and supported their worship in Israel.  God appeared to him a third time.  This time God prophetically told him that the punishment for his sin would be that ten tribes of  Israel would be torn from his son, and given to a subordinate.  (1 Kings 11: 11 – 13)

While Solomon was still King, the prophet Ahijah  told Jeroboam, an official in Solomon’s administration,  that God had chosen him to rule over ten tribes of Israel. Jeroboam was also informed that David’s line was being humbled because Solomon had forsaken God in order to worship Chemosh, Molech, and Ashtoreth.  (1 Kings 11: 29-39)

After Solomon’s death, after his son Rehoboam alienated Israel, Jeroboam did in fact become King of Israel.  Rehoboam, however,  remained King of Judah, in Jerusalem.  According to God’s promise to David, Abijah, Rehoboam’s son succeeded him; then Asa, Abijah’s son, succeeded him. 

The monarchies of the Northern Kingdom of Israel did not enjoy a continuous line. Even though Jeroboam knew that ten tribes were wrested away from David’s line because of spiritual apostasy, he instituted pagan worship to loosely parallel the worship of the God of Israel.  

Baasha deposed Jeroboam’s son, thus fulfilling God’s word spoken through Ahijah, the prophet, to “cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel – slave or free.” (1 Kings 14:10)      In 1 Kings 15:29, this prophecy was fulfilled. 

Another prophet, Jehu, prophesied against Baasha, the new King of Israel (1 Kings 16:1 -4).  In 1 Kings 16: 11, this prophecy was fulfilled when Baasha’s son and all of his family were murdered.

After a period of turbulence, another leader in Israel, Omri, became King of Israel. His son Ahab succeeded him. At Ahab’s direction, Jericho, which was cursed (Joshua 6:26) was rebuilt.  Though Ahab ordered this project, the prophecy was fulfilled exactly as the curse was written.

Joshua 6: 26  “At the cost of his firstborn will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.”

1 Kings 16:34   “In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho.  He laid its foundation at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.”

God spoke prophetically, giving the concerned parties time to repent or to change their course of action.  If the leaders of Israel took God at His Word, calamity was both predicted and could have been averted if Israel chose to turn to God.  By underscoring the prophecies against certain individuals and their fulfillment, the prophecies concerning God’s abiding love for Israel are amplified. 

In 1 Kings 9: 3, God said to Solomon, “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there  forever.  My eyes and my heart will always be there.”    God promised to always hear Israel’s cry. 
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

1 Kings 11, 12, 13 Solomon's Legacy

The United Kingdom of Solomon breaks up, with ...Image via Wikipedia
It is so sad that the man to whom God had appeared twice, led the nation of Israel into religious apostasy.  Though Israel was already familiar with worshipping pagan gods such as Molech, Ashtoreth, and Chemosh,  Israel's rulers typically turned the national spiritual focus back to God.  Solomon, on the other hand,  by building altars for these different gods that his wives worshipped, gave Israel a sense that all gods deserved to be worshipped.  Scripture states that Solomon's "heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been ... Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely as David, his father had done." 
(1 Kings 11: 4, 6)  

By turning to other gods and encouraging the worship of these pagan deities, Solomon essentially told Israel that the God of Israel was not the King of the Universe; was not the Creator of heaven and earth.  Solomon led Israel to believe that all gods were equal.

As a young man, Solomon penned, through God's inspiration, so much wisdom literature: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.  And yet, it would seem that he never took God's wisdom to heart.  As his heart turned away from God, Solomon's kingdom no longer enjoyed the peace of his earlier years.  Enemies arose from various quarters and even the prophet Ahijah prophesied against Solomon by telling Jeroboam that God would tear ten tribes away from Solomon's son and give them to him, an Ephraimite, a son of one of Solomon's officials.  However, God also told Jeroboam that Judah would remain with Solomon's son, so that David would always have a lamp in Jerusalem.

After Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam, tried to be a harsher and more demanding monarch than his father.  Immediately, tens tribes of Israel left him and declared Jeroboam to be their king.  Because Solomon turned away from glorifying the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Israel was split into two separate kingdoms.

Solomon's wisdom, in Hebrew,  חָכְמָה (chokmah), encompasses the idea of skill in administration and in war; it implies shrewdness in all dealings.  God gave him the quality he needed to be not only an effective, but also great leader.  Unfortunately, it would seem that Solomon forgot that his unusual abilities came from God.   Somehow, he came to believe that he was wise in his own right and not in need of the God of Israel.

I wonder if, by being surrounded by so much of God's bounty, Solomon was seduced by what was given rather than turning to praise the One who gave him all.  His regency underscores the consequences of worshipping any gods as though they were in fact equivalent to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, King of the Universe, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for chokmah (Strong's 2451)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 10 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H2451&t=KJV >

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

1 Kings 10,11 Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Pen and brush ...Image via Wikipedia
This is a curious account  because so much extra-biblical literature was generated by the queen of Sheba's homage to Solomon.   According to archaeological evidence, Sheba was a mercantile kingdom located in the southwest portion of modern Yemen.  Since it was located on the Red Sea, Sheba benefited from a thriving sea trade of India and East Africa by transporting luxury commodities north to Damascus and Gaza. Sheba may have perceived King Solomon's new fleet of ships on the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:26)  as a  threat to Sheba's  trade route or business.    At any rate, the female monarch of Sheba arrived in King Solomon's court with a caravan loaded with an enormous amount of precious gifts.  

When a monarch bore gifts, it served two purposes.  First, gifts reflected a country's wealth; secondly, gifts showed goodwill.  The queen of Sheba wisely brought Solomon a tribute of more spices than any other monarch in addition to much gold and precious stones.  By her gifts, Solomon understood that he was dealing with an established and prosperous nation who had to be handled respectfully.

1 Kings, however, simply states that a monarch, the queen of Sheba,  visited Solomon because his wisdom became legendary. Although Solomon was known for wise judgement, scripture particularly depicts how much wealth he amassed.   In the space of about twenty years, Solomon, through God's wisdom,  guided Israel into unparallelled prosperity.  Silver was as common as stones (1 Kings 10:27).  It would seem that the wisdom that caught the Queen of Sheba's attention was most likely Solomon's ability to generate wealth.

As a result of her audience with Solomon, the queen of Sheba testified about Solomon's wisdom in generating wealth and in administration.  The queen of Sheba rightly recognized that Solomon's good fortune was evidence of God's blessing upon him.  She noted that God's wisdom enabled Solomon to rule in a way that kept his administrative officials content with his decisions.  

After bestowing her gifts, the queen of Sheba left Israel.  Had this been an account of a male monarch who payed tribute to Solomon there would never have been any extra-biblical accounts.  A king who recognized wisdom would have been considered normal.  However, the queen of Sheba's visit was not permitted to simply reflect a woman's appreciation of God's wisdom.  According to the Ethiopian chronicle,  Kebra Nagast, the queen of Sheba was seduced by King Solomon, tricked into adultery, and bore him a son, Menelik I, who founded the Ethiopian dynasty.  

In 1 Kings 10:13, Solomon "gave her all that she desired."  Probably, from this statement, so much nasty speculation arose.  In this phrase, the Hebrew word desire, חֵפֶץ (chephets),  refers to something one delights in, as in wise words.   Contrast this use of desire with the Hebrew  אַוָּה ('avvah) which carries with it the connotation of lust and sexual desire.  Scripture actually commends the words and attitude of a female monarch who correctly identified God's hand in Israel's development.  As such, I feel that both she and Solomon should be honored as  intelligent, perceptive people who appreciated God's blessing, rather than being denigrated by an inaccurate interpretation of this chapter.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for '"desire"' in the KJV". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 7 May 2011. < http://
Criteria=desire&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for 'avvah (Strong's 185)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 7 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H185&t=KJV >

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

1 Kings 7,8,9 Solomon's Prayer

A look inside the Ark of the Covenant, in a fu...Image via Wikipedia
At long last, Solomon completed building the temple and brought the ark of the covenant into the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the temple.  While dedicating the temple, Solomon prayed that God would keep His covenant of mercy (Hebrew חֶסֶד (hesed)) with Israel, His people; that God would always keep His eyes on the temple and hear the prayers of Israel; that God would hear Israel when they repented of sin, turned to Him by turning away from their sin; that God would forgive Israel of sin.  To be forgiven of sin is to be restored into a relationship of blessing.

In alluding to the covenant of mercy, Solomon reaffirmed God's goodness, faithfulness, kindness, grace , and favor towards Israel.  In this same prayer, the word "forgive" was used five times.  In Hebrew, forgive,  which is  סָלַח (calach),  means to pardon, to give up any right to exact revenge or punishment, to cancel the liability.  As in English, it means to extend mercy instead of judgement.  Solomon prayed that God would be merciful to His people Israel when they confessed their sin and repented of it.  What can better demonstrate God's covenant of love, than to forgive sin which ordinarily would warrant judgement and exact the price of punishment.

In 1 Kings 9: 1 -9, God's recorded response to Solomon's prayer is so amazing that it bears highlighting.  

1 Kings 9:3  And the Lord said unto him, "I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put My Name there for ever."  God  consecrated  Solomon's temple by putting His Name there forever.  Forever, in Hebrew עוֹלָם (`owlam),  means always, extending into eternity, without a time limit, without temporal limitations, perpetual, to exist continuously, eternal, unending future, everlasting.  Nothing about the word forever is conditional or temporary. Since it was the first statement, it is the umbrella under which the following qualifying statements made by God,  find their place.

By sanctifying the temple, God has put His seal, as it were, on the temple and on the relationship it symbolized between Him and Israel.  Because God's relationship and the underlying covenant with Israel remain eternal, the clauses delineating the consequences of disobedience also remain inviolate.  Bt God's declaration, Israel's inevitable sin could never alter God's act of sanctifying the temple and of putting His Name there forever.  

Though God confirmed that Israel's sin would  force Him to cast the temple out of His sight and, as per the covenant, force Israel into exile, in Hebrew cut off  כָּרַת (karath), He also assured Solomon that He would extend forgiveness to those who repented of evil.  The covenant consequence of Israel's sin was exile from the land but never rejection from God's covenant.  Israel was to be exiled and separated from the land, but not annihilated as a nation nor excluded from God's covenant of mercy.

Solomon's prayer was God's will for Israel, that no matter what the circumstances, Israel would always pray towards the temple where God placed His Name.  Solomon effectively prayed that Israel would never forget who they are before God no matter what their relationships  are with the nations.  The only significant treaty Israel has is the covenant of mercy made with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who placed His Name in Jerusalem forever.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for calach (Strong's 5545)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 1 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H5545&t=KJV >

forgive. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: May 01, 2011).

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for `owlam (Strong's 5769)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 1 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H5769&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for karath (Strong's 3772)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 1 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H3772&t=KJV >

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for checed (Strong's 2617)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 1 May 2011. < http://
Strongs=H2617&t=KJV >
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

1 Kings 4 - 7: Joyful שָׂמֵחַ Israel

Solomon and the Plan for the Temple, as in 1 K...Image via Wikipedia
From dinner table discussions to congressional debates, people always find fault with their government.  There is always some perceived injustice or something about which to be unhappy.  Yet, 1 Kings 4:20 states:
“The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank, and they were happy.” 
Through God’s miraculously bestowed wisdom, Solomon ruled a nation in which everyone was content.  While David’s reign was beset with conflict from all quarters, both within his kingdom and without, Solomon enjoyed peace ruling over a kingdom that extended from “the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:21).  Solomon’s empire extended to the boundaries promised to Abraham.

By blessing Solomon with wisdom, God effectively blessed all of Israel with peace.  Even though the nation had to work diligently to construct the temple; to construct Solomon’s palaces; to create all of the furnishings for the temple; to provide all of the food for Solomon’s household and guests, Israel was not disgruntled.  Scripture states that Israel was happy.   Hard work does not create unhappiness.  Injustice and arbitrary tyranny foster discontent, unruliness, and revolt.

The word “happy” is a loose translation of the Hebrew שָׂמֵחַ (sameach), which means rejoicing and being joyful.  The emotional state of Israel at that time was joy. 

Because the word “joy” is so commonly used, the actual meaning might be misconstrued.  In the Collins English Dictionary, joy is defined as the emotion of great delight or happiness or keen pleasure caused by something/someone that is exceptionally good, satisfying or greatly valued. 

During Solomon’s reign, when God’s wisdom abounded, the nation was joyful.  It’s a pointed illustration showing that when a man will rule through accepting God’s wisdom, his nation will prosper and his people will be happy and content.  Because God granted peace, Israel was free to build and create aesthetically pleasing furnishings for the temple.  People could think about decorations rather than about warfare.

Through King Solomon, God showed Israel how beautiful life could be when God was truly Sovereign.  Wisdom, from God just naturally evokes joy from man.

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for sameach (Strong's 8056)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 28 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H8056&t=KJV >

joy. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers. (accessed: April 28, 2011).
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Friday, April 22, 2011

1 Kings 3, 4 Solomon's Wisdom

Judgement of SolomonImage via Wikipedia
Essentially, David's last directive to Solomon was to observe God's law so that all would go well with him.  Solomon understood that  he had to "unzip" this "file" of condensed counsel.  By observing how his father ruled, Solomon understood that the key to David's success was his relationship to God.  

Solomon understood that he, too, would have to develop his own special relationship with God.  As he sought to apply David's instruction by consolidating the support of his monarchy, Solomon must have pondered extensively on how to effectively rule over Israel. During his first years, as he was tying the loose ends from his father's reign,  he may have anticipated that some "loose ends" of his own might develop over the years.  Though David said that you rule by staying close to God, Solomon may have wondered how to apply that in practice.  How does the spiritual manifest itself  in routine life?  

God gave Israel a set of laws by which they were to live.  One set of laws directed human interaction and the other described how man is permitted to approach God.  Disobedience 
to either group of laws resulted in broken or fractured relationships.  Restoration of relationships usually was accomplished through principles demanded by justice.  

After having squashed the dissidents David warned him about and thanking God for all that He had done, Solomon had  a dream in which God appeared to him and asked him to make a request of Him.  God said that He would give him anything he wanted.  

In the dream, Solomon answered God by first acknowledging and thanking God for His kindness and faithfulness to David.  Solomon told God that he recognized just how much He blessed David.  After he thanked God for placing him on the throne,  Solomon also told God just how bewildering, overwhelming, and practically impossible it would be for him to rule effectively in his own strength.  Solomon confessed before God that Israel belonged to Him and required an enlightened King to rule over them.  Solomon then asked for wisdom, בִּין (biyn), so that he could judge between right and wrong.  God granted his request.

In Hebrew,  בִּין (biyn), means to discern as in to rationally and objectively  see through circumstances or events.  Solomon understood that his job as king to not only entailed making  treaties, leading military campaigns, managing national resources, but also effecting a respectable justice department.   Because he asked God for godly discernment, Solomon made justice the highest priority of his administration.  And it still stands true today that if constituents do not sense that justice is being upheld,  they revolt. 

Solomon wanted a stable reign, so he asked for the wisdom needed to be able to govern the people of Israel.   God gave the Law to Israel and Solomon wanted to properly share this wealth with the nation so that everyone would know that God, who anointed David and appointed his heir, was just.  Solomon ruled by God's appointment and as such he wanted to reflect God's will in Israel.  By judging according to the Law, Solomon helped his people to see that they worshipped a holy God.  By extending mercy, where justice demanded punishment, Solomon helped his people see God's love.

By asking God to enable him to better understand the Law, Solomon aligned himself with his Creator, thus taking his father's advise to heart. 

Blue Letter Bible. "Dictionary and Word Search for biyn (Strong's 995)". Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 22 Apr 2011. < http://
Strongs=H995&t=KJV >
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