Have you ever wondered how you will be remembered? What will you leave behind when you leave this earth? What, of all the things that you spend your time on, will last?
Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, sure did a lot of stuff during his reign. He was only there 8 years but during that time he killed his brothers to try to secure his rule, he married an idolator and joined her in her idolatry, he lost a territory of David’s empire then he built high places and led all the people away from the Lord. In short, all the good that David and His godly descendants had accomplished, Jehoram tried to undo. He was a terrible, pathetic excuse for a king. God gave him a terrible end to his life. And how was he remembered? The people did not have a fire for him as they had for other kings. They did not bury him in the tombs of his fathers. And, “he departed with no one’s regret.” Jehoram spent all that time doing terrible things which earned him a terrible death, a terrible remembrance and, his works being an indication here of the state of his heart, a terrible eternal judgment. All his life was a waste.
Will yours be? Certainly much that we spend our time on is wasteful. Much that we strive for is not God pleasing. Much of it will not last. But through God’s grace, we have something that will – the kingdom of God. Jesus said that we should “store up treasures in heaven” and to “seek first the kingdom of God.” The time that we spend in God’s Word, reading, praying, sharing, this will not be a waste. The time that we spend caring for others, this will not be useless. The time that we spend with family or at work when it is spent out of love for Christ, this will not be forgotten. Even though Jehoram was so evil, God did not destroy his whole house as he did with the Israelite kings, he preserved the line for David’s sake. He did that because of His grace, His promise to send Jesus. And because He did, and because He died, and because He lives, you need not live the useless life that Jehoram lived; you need not receive the terrible end that he did. Seek first the kingdom of God, seek first His Word, His forgiveness, His love – these are the things that last forever.
You fall and break your arm, what do you do? Go to the hospital. You’ve got a big test coming up and you need a good grade, what do you do? You study. You’re hoping to get a promotion at work – you work hard. Someone breaks into your house? You call 911, or grab a bat….or both. You feel down and discouraged and you play your favorite song or watch your favorite show. It makes you feel better.
What I’ve just described to you is not, in itself, in any way sinful. When you break your arm, you should go to the hospital, you should study and work hard etc. But the question I’d have you ponder today is – is that the first thing you do? Is that where you place your hopes? Or do you pray first to God.
Ahaziah didn’t. He, Ahab before him, didn’t care what God had to say. No doubt he thought that God was just a big meanie! So he turned to a false god. Then, he tried to command God’s prophet, as if the king was above God! 102 men died for his foolishness. And Ahaziah brought his death on himself. He expected judgment from God so judgment is what he got. He didn’t love God because He didn’t know God’s love. He had refused it and turned away from it. In Christ, all things are for our good, outside of Him, all things are against us.
So where do you turn first – for help, for strength, for focus, for comfort? Let it not be to a false god – isn’t there a God in Israel? Isn’t He the God of grace who has poured out His love on you, forgiving your sins in Jesus? Doesn’t He long to help? Doesn’t He work all things for your good? Next time you need help, call Jesus first, He can help!
In chapter 22 of 1 Kings which we spoke of yesterday, we were introduced to one King Jehoshaphat of Judah who, besides for having a funny name, was king of Judah during most of the reign of Ahab. And what a difference between the two! It’s no wonder that God scolded Jehoshaphat for making an alliance with Ahab in battle. The two were polar opposites.
While Ahab was bringing in more idolatry, more false gods, more false prophets, Jehoshaphat was tearing those things down and shipping them out. In Israel, the prophets of the Lord had to be hidden from Ahab’s wrath. In Israel, Micaiah was warned to the tell the king what he wanted to hear, not what God had declared. But in Judah, Jehoshaphat was sending officials out to teach the people the word of the Lord! What a blessing! What a contrast with Israel.
Jehoshaphat, by God’s grace, was focused on the right thing – learning, teaching, spreading the Word of God. The word which brings conviction for sin and peace in forgiveness. The word which gives us all we need for all we face. The Word which is sufficient for everything. May our focus be as Jehoshaphat’s, not piling up false gods like Ahab, not spending our time plotting how we can get more for ourselves and get other people to give us what we want but rather to learn, to teach, to spread the Word of our God.
The title of this devotion might seem rather alarming. It should. You might think that there certainly is no end to God’s grace. You’d be wrong. It’s called death. In confirmation class we learn that the reason why God is so serious about the 5th commandment is that a person’s life is there “time of grace.” It’s the time during which there is still time, they can still repent, they can still believe. Once death comes, that time is over. Whatever the condition of the soul at death, faith or unbelief, so it will always be.
Ahab’s soul doesn’t appear to have been in good condition. We don’t see hearts and we don’t need to but the humility that he showed in the last chapter seems to have completely melted away.He is obstinate, rebellious, ignorant and arrogant. And his time of grace has come to an end.
While man does not have the right to end someone’s life, God certainly does. God does all things in wisdom, justice and mercy. That was true here as well. He had decreed that it was time for Ahab to die. Nothing would thwart that. He used Ahab’s pride against him to cause it to happen. He sent a lying spirit into most of the prophets to cause it to happen. He used luck (yes, luck does exist if by luck you mean “chance” as this chapter describes the arrow being drawn “at random”) to bring him down even though he was disguised. It was time for him to die and die he did. This was justice for all the evil he had done. This was wisdom according to His plan. This was mercy for the people that he had led astray and the believers that he had tormented. Who knows, perhaps Ahab had a spark of faith when he died and it was mercy for him too.
We don’t know and we don’t need to know. Because we know all that we need to know – Our times are in His hands and the decisions that God makes about life and death for each individual are always wise, just and merciful. How can it be otherwise? He is the all-wise God. He is the holy, just God. And He is the God who gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins, for we who are not at all wise, just or merciful. If any of his ways do not seem to be wise, just or merciful, it is only because we are blind. One day, because of His grace we will see and we will praise Him for it.
Prayer – Lord, let us trust that You are wise, just and merciful. When we can’t see anything else, let us see Your Cross. It tells us all we need to know.
“He’s a family man.” “Good old family values.” “There’s nothing more important than family.” We’ve heard it, we’ve probably said it. To a certain degree it’s true. Among the gifts that God has given us in this world, family stands out as a particularly bright and beautiful gem. Companionship. Joy. Laughter. Love. Snuggling up on the couch. Little arms around your neck. Family dinners. These are all truly wonderful things. And Elisha left it all – just like that. That’s because there is something greater than family. Truthfully, it is the only thing greater than family but it is far greater – that’s God. When God came calling for Elisha to give it all up, he did. Just like that. One day, Jesus was told that his family was looking for him. “Who are my mother and my brothers and my sisters?” Jesus said. “They are those who hear my word and do it.” There’s an old idea at weddings. The parents of the bride may often feel something along the lines of “We aren’t losing a daughter but gaining a son.” So with Elisha. When he left his family, what he was losing, though a great thing, was very small compared to the family that he was joining. So it is with us. A day will almost certainly come when God will call you to leave your family in some way. Perhaps it will simply be through death – yours or theirs. Or maybe it will be because your faith will drive a wedge between you. Who knows. But if it happens, remember this – though it is sorrowful to lose those we love, what we have in Christ, in the family of God is much greater. We have brothers and sisters in the forgiveness and peace won for us by Christ’s sacrifice. We have a Father who smiles down upon us. We have a home of eternal joy. We have a new family.
Elijah was down and understandably so. He had shown the people who the real God was. God had shown Himself to them. He had called them to repent through 3 and 1/2 years of drought. He had called the rain down according to God’s word. And now he is on the king and queen’s hit list. None of the people seemed to have cared, none of them help him. And Elijah starts to feel sorry for himself. He had become distracted so God refocused him. There is only one thing that matters – the still small voice, the word of God. The great sign that God sent on Mt. Carmel didn’t change anyone’s heart. And likely not that many people repented because of the 3 and 1/2 years of famine. There were not many believers in Israel – only 7,000 (an incredibly small number). But there were that many. Every one was a miracle. Every one had heard, had believed, had been changed by that still small voice. The world looks for big things, big numbers, and good times. But God’s church exists in weakness. It is created by a seemingly humble word and focused on the “weakness” of the cross. But from that weakness, from Christ’s ultimate humility, from that cross comes this still, small voice – “Your sins are forgiven.” That message, and that message alone makes a believer. It is that message upon which Christ builds His church, small and weak though it is. And against that message, Jezebel and Ahab and all the rulers and God-haters and unbelievers of all time could do nothing, against it, the gates of hell could not and can not prevail.
Prayer – Lord, let us find you in the stillness, the smallness, the weak-power of Your Word and Your Cross. Let it encourage us in trials. Focus our sights on it always. Let us find You were You are to be found not in the great and amazing, not in the entertaining but in Your Word and in Your Son.
2 Samuel 4 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Samuel%204
And the bloodshed continues. And they’re proud of it! And again David shows His mettle or rather, His faith. He’s not interested in revenge and never has been. And that’s because of God. He knows that God will protect and avenge him when needed. In this case God uses the sin of these assassins to serve His purpose. He ends the civil war but that doesn’t mean he approves of what they did. So He has always done. . Evil people do evil things for evil reasons and always God causes their evil actions to turn out for good for His people. The ultimate example of this is the cross. Christ’s enemies wanted him dead, the devil wanted him dead and yet God used it to conquer His foes, He won forgiveness for the world, the ultimate good. He’s pretty good at working things out – got a problem? Leave it to Him.
There’s a lot of bad stuff that happens in this chapter, a lot of really awful consequences for sin, tragic scenes. First, there is Mical. You might remember that Mical had been David’s wife but when Saul was trying to kill David, he took Mical away and gave her to someone else. Now David wants her back and you can’t really blame him (though you can blame him for having 2 other wives at least already). But man, her other husband follows after her weeping – breaks your heart! A direct result of Saul’s sin and a reminder of the pain that can be caused when people break God’s designs for marriage. Then there’s Abner. Abner took way too long to follow the Lord’s command that David should be king but he did come around and David (wisely) welcomed and forgave him. Joab, no so much. Joab is a pest and a thorn in David’s side. He kills Abner in revenge for him killing his brother (even though, oh yeah that was in battle and Abner warned Asahel to stop trying to kill him so he wouldn’t have to return the favor). What anger, what foolishness, what brazen treachery and sin! And it could have had terrible consequences. The civil war was finally over but such an act easily could have reignited the fight. But David, like his Son Jesus brought peace. He humbled himself and wept for Abner (who had disobeyed God and opposed David). David fasted for him and wept for him and everyone saw it. David brought peace by forgiveness and cursed Joab’s house though frankly, he probably should have executed Joab (if he wasn’t David’s cousin, he probably would have). Jesus too brought peace, Jesus too humbled himself and forgave those who had disobeyed and opposed Him. He laid out his life on the cross not only fasting and weeping but suffering and dying for the sins of all. Let that be our comfort and our example when others sin against us, forgiveness brings peace.
Prayer – Lord forgive me for I have sinned and so let me also forgive others. Let your peace settle upon us like peaceful showers to bring forth fruits of love and joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
2 Samuel 2 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+2
There’s a poem about war by Thomas Hardy called “The man he killed.” Here’s a link to it – http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173594
The point of the poem is how strange and sad war is. You kill a man on the other side because he’s on the other side. If you knew him elsewhere, you might be friends, you might share a drink or sing a song. You might even share a pew with him at church. How much weirder when there is civil war. That is what is happening in Israel in our text. Men killing their relatives and friends. Men being forced to fight against their fellow Israelites. And why? Because they didn’t listen to God. They thought they knew better and they didn’t trust His plan. God had anointed David to be king. He had made it clear that Saul’s descendants would not have the throne. Everyone knew this. Yet Abner makes Ish-Bosheth king. Why? He thought he knew better and perhaps was distrustful of a king from the tribe of Judah since they were the largest tribe. What it really comes down to is a failure to trust God and His Word. Such an attitude often has terrible consequences. It’s a reminder to us, God does know best! When we don’t like what He has said, when we think it doesn’t make sense, when we fail to trust let us remember Christ because He’s at the center of all this. He gives us the reason of all reasons to trust God. He died for us. He’s proved His love beyond any doubt. By His work to make us right with God, we can know that God is working things as He knows best and that’s good news! So don’t go to war because you don’t trust God. Trust Him, trust His forgiveness. There’s peace there.
Prayer – Lord, let us not in pride and unbelief question your holy Word and will. Give us faith to trust and love you above all things for You have made us Your own. Amen.
"He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."