God doesn't coddle His problem children.
This year, I did some substitute teaching at a local school. Boy, has it been a long time since I was in elementary! It seems that some things have certainly changed. The first day I subbed, I noticed that two children in the classroom were carrying what I can only describe as little, wireless keyboards. At the top was a small digital row where they could see what they were typing. When they were finished, they would print out what they had typed on a printer in the hallway. They would go to the printer, retrieve their assignment, and return to the classroom to hand it in.
Halfway through the day, I leaned over to one of the girls whose desk was close to mine, and I said, “I’m just curious. How come you’re typing on the keyboard instead of writing the assignments like everyone else?” And she informed me that her handwriting was so atrocious, nobody could read it. So she typed everything instead.
I was genuinely shocked. Two kids from this small classroom were using the keyboards, and during my other subbing days, I noticed there were many other children in the school who also used them. This really floored me. When I was in elementary school, we actually had to practice our handwriting. And if it was unreadable, we did it over again.
Now, this may seem like a small, petty thing (and, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal), but I think it’s an indication of a growing problem in our society: that we have begun to make excuses for things that would, in the past, have been confronted head-on. I mean, it’s not like poor handwriting is the end of the world. Some people might say those kids are prime candidates for medical school. (Ever met a doctor with good handwriting?) But, when children are so young, why not teach them to tackle and overcome their weaknesses, instead of just finding a way around them?
Granted, there are much bigger problems in the world than poor handwriting. But once a principle of excuses is embraced, does it tend to spill over into other things?
We saw an example of it in this chapter of 1 Kings: “Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, ‘I will be king.’ So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (His father had never rebuked him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’ He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)” (vs 5-6)
I love it when the Bible surprises me. And I just loved that little “oh-by-the-way” tidbit thrown into that verse: His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” In other words, David had coddled his son. He had never confronted Adonijah about anything. Instead of addressing his character weaknesses or behavior problems, David had made excuses for him. Instead of challenging Adonijah to work on his handwriting, he had given him a computer and a printer instead.
And where did that get David? We might naturally think that a parent who was so lenient on a child would be treated with admiration and respect. Certainly, this would be the child who would call his parent “a friend.” But that’s not what happened. Instead, Adonijah treated David with no respect, attempting to usurp the throne from him. He didn’t admire his father at all; he treated David with contempt.
Making excuses for Adonijah didn’t work out so well for David, and neither was it the loving thing to do for Adonijah. It didn’t help him; it crippled him. That’s why God doesn’t use excuse-based parenting. If we have major problems to be addressed, God doesn’t coddle us. He confronts us. He challenges us to strive for something better. He never just leaves us to wallow in mediocrity. He’ll never say “it’s okay” when it’s not. Even to the woman caught in adultery (which is the premiere story of God’s grace to sinners), Jesus ended His kind remarks to her with Go now, and try to be a better girl in the future.
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad God is like that. At the moment, it may seem like it gives us a much tougher row to hoe, but God has our best interests at heart. And He knows that to coddle us in our problems is, in the end, to see us destroyed. And far from wanting to see us destroyed, He wants to see us become something beyond our wildest imaginations. God often takes a hard line with us, and it’s the loving thing to do. He certainly doesn’t coddle His problem children!
God isn't above His own law.
Throughout history, there’s probably been at least one thing that set a king apart from his subjects: He didn’t have to abide by the same rules as his fellow citizens. That’s one of the “perks” of people in power—they tend to be (or at least see themselves as) above the law. They aren’t held to the same standard as everyone else.
Actually, this happens in other ways and in other places outside of the palace. For instance, if an off-duty police officer gets pulled over for speeding and the officer who stopped him realizes he’s a fellow member of the force, do you think the off-duty officer will get treated the same as any other “normal” citizen in that situation? Probably not. Special strokes for special folks.
That’s why David’s final bit of advice to Solomon was such great advice: “Be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’” (vs 2-4)
In other words, David was trying to tell his son that he wasn’t above the law. Just because he was the king, just because he was in a power of position and authority didn’t mean he could disregard the laws that applied to everyone else in Israel. That’s because these laws weren’t arbitrary: They were there for the protection and good of all the people—including the king himself.
In the same way, even God isn’t above His own law. He doesn’t hold us to a different standard than He holds Himself. In fact, the entire universe—all of God’s animate and inanimate creation—runs on the very same law: The Law of Love. This natural law of life encompasses all of the other things we recognize as “law” in the Bible (the Ten Commandments, the Law of Moses, etc.). That’s why Jesus said that the greatest commandment was love and that all the Law and the Prophets hung on that principle.
When it comes to this law, God isn’t above it. He operates in harmony with it, just as everything else must in order to remain alive. And God, as a good king, leads by example. Just as David recognized that a leader would only be as powerful as he was obedient (and encouraged Solomon in that direction), so God abides by His own law. His love is the foundation of everything in this universe—including His own throne.
God wants us to have it all.
Wow! This chapter started out with God coming to Solomon like a genie in a bottle: “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’” (vs 5) I had to wonder what I would say if God ever approached me like that. If you believed you were talking to someone who could give you anything, what would you really want?
By this point, Solomon must have been aware of the gravity of his position. He was king over a people “too numerous to count” and was the one responsible for making sure justice prevailed in the land. That must have been a daunting task! I have always thought that it must have been a little like becoming President of the United States—it’s easy to go out on the campaign trail and diss the guy who’s currently doing the job, but when you take over and, all of a sudden, you’re the one getting those classified security briefings, things might look a whole lot different.
So, Solomon does a very wise thing and asks for wisdom. On some level, he must have known that all the money and power in the world would be meaningless to him if he was unable to do his job well. If he wasn’t wise enough to lead the people, he would be miserable, no matter what.
But I found God’s response very interesting: “The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.’” (vs 10-13)
God wants us to have it all. However, some things are more important than others. For instance, if we have power, but not character, that might destroy us. If we have money, but not charity, we might become very greedy. If we have freedom, but not responsibility, we can harm ourselves and others.
Some things should take first place. If we possess the things of greater importance (wisdom, in Solomon’s case), then we will also be in a position to handle everything else (wealth and honor, in Solomon’s case). If we don’t have the things of greater importance, then we won’t be in a position to handle those other things, and God is not going to give us anything that will be detrimental to our spiritual health.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” It’s important that we get first things first, just as Solomon did. To seek God’s righteousness, His wisdom, and His character means that He will then be able to give us even more than we ever asked for. You see, God is in the giving business. He doesn’t want to have to pick and choose what He will send our way. He wants to give it all to us. Are you in a position to receive?
God's way brings peace.
At least starting out, Solomon did things the right way. He had a heart for others. With his newfound power, he was more worried about having the wisdom to judge his people fairly than he was worried about accumulating wealth or honor. And here, we see that God was true to His word: He gave Solomon what he asked for . . . and everything he didn’t ask for.
But because Solomon chose the way of a servant instead of a dictator, he ruled over a kingdom in peace. “The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life . . . he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.” (vs 20-21, 24-25)
God’s way brings peace—in any area of life. When we listen to Him, when we submit to His ways, we will find ourselves at peace. We will find ourselves happy and whole. There may still be giants in the land (as there were in Solomon’s day). But surrendering to God’s will makes us able to deal with those giants in a different way.
Nothing God does is arbitrary. And nothing God does is designed primarily for His benefit. Everything He asks us to do is for our best good, because He wants us to eat, drink, and be happy as we live in peace and safety.
God makes friends out of enemies.
It must have been quite a privilege to work on building the temple of God. Many tens of thousands of Israelites were involved in the process, as well as some foreigners. This was the little tidbit that caught my eye: “So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we [Israelites] have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.” (vs 6)
The Sidonians were the descendants of Canaan’s first son, Sidon. Thus, they were part of the Canaanite population that had never been driven out of the Promised Land. And, for quite some time, they had caused quite a bit of trouble for the Israelites. They were one of the groups mentioned in Judges 10 as having attacked the Israelites.
How interesting, then, that they were the very people who helped Solomon build God’s temple. Without their assistance, it probably would have been difficult to get enough wood for the project—let alone to have it so beautifully and skillfully cut! So, this group of formerly hostile folks turned out to be very instrumental in building the house of the true God.
I love how God makes friends out of enemies. He never gives up on anyone, you know. And if He finds Himself shut down by one avenue, He will try again another way. He is not offended or insulted by hostility. Rather, He uses it as an opportunity to try something else, something new. If God can use the Sidonians—people who were once so hostile toward Him—to help build His temple, then surely, He is eager to also draw us into His circle. He is a master at taking enemies and turning them into friends!
God wants to be with you.
Such a simple, straightforward message from God in today’s chapter: He wants to be with you. Period. In fact, the whole purpose of building a temple for the Lord was so that He could personally dwell amongst His people. It has always been the cry of His heart to be close to us: “The word of the Lord came to Solomon: ‘As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.’” (vs 11-13)
If God’s people choose to abandon Him, He will eventually give up on them. But this is against His very nature. God loves us and wants to be with us. Solomon may have built God an elaborate temple building, but as Christians, we have the opportunity to personally be the very temple of God (1 Cor 6:19). He wants to get even closer to us than just living in the place next door. He wants us to be one with Him in spirit, just as Jesus Christ was one with the Father.
Today, this very moment, we can fling the door wide open and invite Him to come into the temple of our hearts. He is eager for the invitation, for He longs to be with us!
God allows Himself to be eclipsed.
Well, now that King Solomon has built a temple for the Lord, he decides to continue building. After all, it’s important for him to have a place to live, right? Perhaps if he hadn’t made his palace so big, he wouldn’t have felt the need to fill it up with 1000 women! But, for me, the size of Solomon’s palace was the interesting thing in this chapter. Given its dimensions, did you realize that Solomon’s palace was more than four times larger than the temple He built for God?
There just seems to be something wrong with that, doesn’t there? Our house shouldn’t be bigger and better than God’s house, should it? But I think that sheds a beautiful light on God. He will allow Himself to be eclipsed by His creation. Of course, we understand that this isn’t necessarily a good thing for the creatures. If we exalt ourselves above God (even in our own minds), that can turn out to be very detrimental to us!
But what does it say about God that He would even allow that to be the case in the first place? Who would have dared to exalt themselves above Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot? It would have been the end for that person! But not so with God. If we put Him in a small house, He will not complain. Jesus Himself said that when He was here, He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. But He didn’t complain.
So, I don’t think God was offended that Solomon’s palace was four times as large as His temple and, perhaps, eclipsed it in glory and beauty. As long as He had Solomon’s heart, He wasn’t concerned about size. And it’s the same way with us. God cares about us, not things. He is more than willing to share all of His honor and glory with His creation.
God doesn't do anything halfway.
One of the best lessons I learned from my father was that if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing all the way. I don’t think this was anything he ever sat me down and told me. Rather, I learned it from watching him. Whatever he undertook, no matter what it was, he did to the very best of his ability. There was no “halfway” with him. There was no mediocre. Everything he did, he did it to the fullest and the finest. Even the little things, the kinds of things that most people would do halfway and then say That’s good enough.
I try to be like that, although sometimes I feel the pull of the “halfway” mentality.
But I was so pleased, from this chapter, to see that this trait in my father was but another reflection of the image of God within him. For our God doesn’t do anything halfway either: “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.” (vs 10-11)
This verse made me chuckle. God doesn’t do anything halfway. When He creates something, He creates it right. And, as seen in this chapter, when He shows up, He really shows up. He doesn’t just put a foot in the door. Apparently, He showed up to His temple in such a way that there wasn’t room for anything else! His glory filled the entire temple.
So, whatever your hand finds to do today, do it outrageously. Especially if it’s a small thing that seems insignificant, set your mind to do it as if you were doing it for the President or even for God Himself. For that’s what He is like. Everything He does is marked with excellence!
God disciplines because He loves.
This is, I’m sure, a recurring theme we will encounter as we continue our journey through the Old Testament: God disciplines the ones He loves. And His discipline always carries a redemptive component (otherwise there’s no point to it). But often, I find that it’s God’s discipline that garners Him the most criticism. People tend to look at His “threats” of discipline in the Old Testament as something punitive, harsh, and retributive. And that’s how God gets a bad rap.
There’s a great example in this very chapter: “But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’” (vs 6-9)
Does that sound harsh to you? On the face of it, it does seem like a very dictatorial thing to say, doesn’t it? Either do what I command, or I’ll bring disaster on you. That doesn’t sound like the way we would normally conduct our business affairs among adults. Try that tack with your employees, for instance, and you’re probably going to have a hard time making ends meet at your company!
However, what parent doesn’t employ the above principle in disciplining their children? You either listen or obey, or there will be some immediate consequences headed your way. Of course, the consequences would vary depending on the age of the child and the situation at hand. And what we so often lose sight of is that God is primarily concerned with our spiritual wellbeing, and especially in this case, He was dealing with an entire nation of spiritual infants.
That means, in this case, that the threat of consequences for disobedience was in no way a harsh or unloving thing. Rather, it was precisely the loving thing! If God left us to run headlong into sin without checking us, He would be as uncaring and negligent as a parent who ignored the obnoxious behavior of his children—or worse, made excuses for it.
If God’s discipline had no redemptive purpose or possible redemptive effect, than we might be able to discuss whether He was simply a tyrant who can’t tolerate disobedience. But that’s not the case. A parent may spank a young child who refuses to brush his teeth. The purpose? To correct the rebellious behavior so that good dental hygiene habits are established for the good of the child. If a parent is still spanking a 30-year-old child who clings to their bad dental hygiene, then there’s a problem.
Sometimes I wish we could see ourselves as God sees us—not so much our physical age, as our spiritual age. I shudder to think how infantile I am when it comes to that! And thus, how much discipline I still require in my development. At the very least, even if we can’t see all the spiritual details as God does, perhaps He has given us enough evidence of His love and concern for us that we can trust His discipline—even when it looks harsh to us. We can trust that He isn’t just some tyrant who can’t tolerate disobedience. Rather, He is a loving parent who will do anything—even the things that make Him look bad—if it will fulfill a redemptive purpose in our lives.
At the end of the day, God doesn’t care how bad He looks. He cares about what happens to us. And that’s why He disciplines. Because He loves.
God has no problem with wealth.
Did you notice that as you read through today’s chapter? Whoa! God certainly has no problem with wealth! I was amazed by the fact that Solomon had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. Who needs twelve thousand horses?! And this was just in addition to his palace and all the other things he acquired over the years as his fame spread far and wide. In the description of Solomon’s palace, the Bible says “nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom.” (vs 20) Solomon was, by far, the richest man in the world—probably in the history of the world!
But it was this little tidbit that was my favorite from the whole chapter: “All of King Solomon’s drinking cups were solid gold, as were all the utensils in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. They were not made of silver, for silver was considered worthless in Solomon’s day!” (vs 21) Wow. Can you imagine silver in such abundance that it’s considered worthless? Nowadays, silver sells for around $50 an ounce, but in Solomon’s day, finding a chunk of pure silver on the side of the road was apparently like finding a penny today. You ignore it and keep walking.
It is no surprise that God lavished this kind of wealth on Solomon. After all, have you read the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21? The gates are made out of pearls, the walls are made out of layers and layers of gems, and gold is pavement! Obviously, there will be such wealth and riches in heaven that everything we currently consider “precious” will be more abundant than we can imagine.
So, if God doesn’t have a problem with wealth, why did Jesus warn people about the dangers of riches? It’s not wealth that’s the problem, but it’s how our warped, sinful hearts and minds relate to it at times. If we start to value all of those things over God and people (which, unfortunately, is probably what eventually happened with Solomon), then we will get ourselves into a lot of trouble. (Incidentally, many “poor” people also have a problem with wealth—if they are constantly obsessed with how to get it!) God wants us to know that riches are no big deal for Him. He can lavish wealth on us anytime, anyplace.
He wants us to desire the things most worth having: a pure heart, a forgiving spirit, and a wise mind. Then, He said, all these other things will also be given to you. So, if you have great wealth, rejoice and share what you have with others! And if you don’t have money or things in abundance, then . . . rejoice and share what you have with others! Our God has the wealth-laden storehouses of heaven at His disposal, and He has no problem opening the floodgates!
God knows what He's talking about.
So, God had given Solomon incredible wisdom, massive amounts of wealth, and great fame. What He hadn’t given Solomon was a thousand marriage licenses. In fact, In Deuteronomy 17, God (in prophesying the fact that Israel would, in the future, demand a king to rule over them) specifically commanded that the king was not to take multiple wives. If he did, God said, his heart would be led astray.
And wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly what happened to Solomon. In marrying multiple wives, and heathen wives at that (another direct violation of God’s command), the very thing God said would happen to Solomon’s heart happened: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites . . . The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command.” (vs 4-5, 9-10)
How sad. Solomon even ended up building a place of worship for Molek—the god to whom people sacrificed their own children. How could Solomon—the wisest man who ever lived—have gone so far astray? Simple. He neglected to follow the counsel God had given him, and it ended up ruining him and destroying his kingdom.
God knows what He’s talking about. He doesn’t ask us to do things or not do things for no reason. He has a very good reason for everything He requires. Everything He “commands” is for our best good, to keep us from ruining ourselves and others. Had Solomon followed God in this area of his life as well, who knows what might have happened? If only he had heeded the counsel of God given decades before he was even born!
It’s dangerous to disregard God’s counsel. Not because God is going to “get us” if we don’t obey Him, but because His counsel is designed to keep us from doing things that will be detrimental to us. Solomon may have thought it would be great to have a thousand wives (although my husband says he can’t imagine trying to keep more than one woman happy!), but in the end, it was his undoing. Just as God had prophesied it would be.
So, what has God been saying to you lately? Listen to Him. He knows what He’s talking about
God's ways are everlasting.
What a beautiful little nugget there is tucked away in this chapter of 1 Kings. Solomon has died, and his son Rehoboam has taken over the throne in Israel. The people—who had endured hard labor under Solomon—came to Rehoboam and asked him to ease up on them a bit. After asking for some time to think it over, Rehoboam consulted his father’s advisors. This is the advice they gave him: “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” (vs 7)
They were advising Rehoboam to be a servant, first and foremost. And they said that if he would choose to serve, he would always be served in return. This is exactly what God is like! He is a servant, first and foremost. And His service to us awakens within us the desire to be more like Him. Thus, in God’s ideal plan, He serves His creation, and His creation serves Him . . . and both sides try to outdo one another in service.
This is just one example of how God’s ways are everlasting. Love creates these types of never-ending cycles—where being a servant will engender service in return. And we can see, in the case of Rehoboam, how the opposite scenario works. When we prioritize self instead of others, it leads to strife and chaos. In a scenario like that, nothing is everlasting, as things get destroyed pretty quickly.
As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, love will never end. God’s ways are everlasting, and as we learn from Him how to treat ourselves and others, we will continually discover the wisdom of His ways.
God speaks personally.
This ranks right up there as one of the most scandalous stories of the Bible. A prophet who goes on a dangerous mission to relate the word of the Lord to Jeroboam and accomplishes his mission beautifully—only to be hoodwinked by a lying man who claimed he was also a prophet.
The fundamental message of this chapter has to be this: Be careful who you trust. Even when someone claims to be speaking for God, they might be lying. Just because someone says it doesn’t mean it’s true! But I think there is an even deeper message we can glean from this chapter: God speaks personally. What I mean is that God has a way of communicating with each and every one of us, and when we learn how to hear His voice as it speaks to us, we better not trust anything that doesn’t get confirmed by Him!
Let’s take a look at that from this chapter. First of all, the story begins by telling us that a man of God came from Judah to Bethel “by the word of the Lord.” (vs 1) So, even though the Bible doesn’t explain how, it’s obvious that this young prophet had a line of open communication with God, and God convicted him to get up and travel to Judah.
Next, after the king had been properly put in his place by the prophet, the king invited the young man to dinner so he could give him some gifts. “But the man of God answered the king, ‘Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: “You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.”‘” (vs 8-9)
Not only had the young prophet been commanded by the Lord to go to Judah and deliver a message to the king, but by the very same method of communication, he had been given direct instructions to go right there and come right back home—not even stopping to eat a meal or get a drink. The young man knew that. It was part of the conviction God had given him.
When the old prophet caught up with the young man and offered to take him home for a meal, the young prophet repeated the Lord’s instructions. And that’s when the old prophet lied: “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (vs 18) And here’s where the young man made his big mistake. He didn’t check out this conflicting message with the Lord. He just got up and went with the old prophet.
It’s hard to believe that the young prophet could have made such a mistake. He had an established way of communicating with God, and anything that deviated from that should have been a huge red flag to him. When the old prophet came and told him that the Lord had given him a conflicting message, he should have thought, I wonder why God didn’t just tell me Himself?
One of the great things about God is that He is anxious to have a real relationship with us. And no two relationships are exactly alike. The way He communicates with me will, most likely, not be the same way He communicates with you! So, expect Him to speak to you personally. Spend time with Him. Learn to hear and discern His voice. And when you’re confused about something, instead of acting on impulse, go back to God and ask Him to confirm or deny it. He won’t let you down. He speaks personally!
God is not blind.
This was one of those Bible stories that I hadn’t remembered reading before. King Jeroboam wanted to know what was going to happen to his son (who was ill). So, he immediately thought of Ahijah, the prophet who had prophesied that he would become king of Israel. (It’s interesting, isn’t it? After years of worshiping false gods, it’s pretty clear that Jeroboam still knew who to go to when he wanted some real answers.)
But, just in case he had angered the prophet with all his heathen worship, Jeroboam decided to send his wife in disguise. You see, by this time, the prophet was blind, and Jeroboam thought he could pull a fast one on him. However, all that time Jeroboam had spent away from the one true God must have made him forget that God could see just fine: “Now Ahijah could not see; his sight was gone because of his age. But the Lord had told Ahijah, ‘Jeroboam’s wife is coming to ask you about her son, for he is ill, and you are to give her such and such an answer. When she arrives, she will pretend to be someone else.’” (vs 4-5)
So, the gig was up before it had even begun. Ahijah delivered bad news to Jeroboam’s wife, and shortly after, Jeroboam’s son died. The salient point in all of this? God is not blind. In this particular instance, God’s prophet was blind, but God told him who was coming. He was not fooled by the queen’s disguise.
God is not blind. He knows the truth about you. We might pretend to be someone other than we are, put on a “disguise” for those around us, but God knows the real story. We might even fool a few people, but we’re not fooling God. He knows the truth about us. And if it frightens you that He knows the truth about you, all you need to do is learn the truth about Him!
God is looking for willingness.
There is a lot of controversy in Christian circles over the issue of obedience to the law, sanctification, perfection, etc. Some people say that perfect obedience to God’s law is required for salvation. Others say that the law was nailed to the cross with Jesus, so there is no law to keep. Still others say that Jesus kept the law perfectly so we wouldn’t have to. He keeps it for us. To be blunt, I think they’re all wrong.
Did you notice this verse in 1 Kings 15? “Although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.” (vs 14) That’s an odd little verse, isn’t it? “High places” refer to shrines or places of worship that were set up on hills or mountains in order to worship pagan gods. That’s why a proper rendering of Psalm 121 reads like this:
“I lift up my eyes to the hills—
does my help come from there?
No! My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!” (vs 1-2)
Whoever wrote that Psalm was intending to draw a distinction between the “help” that was sought after in the hills and our true help—which comes from the Creator God. So when it says that Asa did not remove the high places, it means he left places of worship to pagan gods intact in Israel.
So why, then, would it go on to say that although he did not remove the high places, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord? How could his heart be fully committed when he neglected to root out all pagan worship? This was very perplexing to me at first, but I think it can provide a glimpse into how God views obedience, sanctification, and perfection.
Let me break here for a minute long enough to say this: I have an 18-month old niece. She doesn’t do much. In comparison with an adult’s life, she can’t do much. She can only say a couple of words. She can’t dress herself. She can’t fix her own meals. She can’t provide for herself. She can’t solve a basic math problem. She is totally dependent on my brother and sister-in-law for everything she has.
Is she perfect? Why, yes she is! She is just perfect at her stage of development. And if she is willing, she will eventually learn to do all the things she can’t do right now. How about a watermelon seed? Is it perfect? Why, yes it is! It’s not yet a watermelon, but given the conditions for growth without hindrance, it will become one. We need not wait until it’s a fully-grown watermelon to call it perfect.
The same is true for our sanctification. It could be said of Asa that his heart was fully committed to the Lord because he was not willfully obstructing his own spiritual growth. Even though he left some of the high places intact during his reign, it’s obvious that he had what God is looking for—willingness.
When God has our willingness, what will be impossible for Him to accomplish? Absolutely nothing! In that way, then, we are like the watermelon seed or the 18-month-old child. We are perfect now, even if we can’t dress ourselves yet. If my heart is open to God, I’m a perfect law-keeper right now, even there are still “high places” in my life that God needs to address. As long as we don’t put obstacles in God’s way, He can carry out the spiritual developmental process within us in His way and in His time. His work is always perfect, so if we put our willingness on His side, there is nothing He can’t accomplish.
On the flip side, if we are unwilling, what will God be able to accomplish in us? Not much of anything. God won’t ultimately force us to do anything. He won’t force us to cooperate with Him. So if we are unwilling, if we continually resist His Spirit’s work in us, there will come a point where He’ll just have to leave us stuck where we are.
When our heart’s door is open to God, He can and will change anything in us that needs to be changed. But the one thing He can’t do is make us willing. Today, let’s take that lesson from Asa and—no matter what we do or leave undone—make sure our heart is fully committed to the Lord.
God knows the future.
Tucked away into this chapter was this curious little detail: “It was during [Ahab's] reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho. When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub.” (vs 34) What in the world does this have to do with anything else in the chapter? And why did this man, Hiel, have to pay such a dear price for rebuilding a city?
Do you remember when the Israelites defeated Jericho? Its demise is recorded all the way back in Joshua, chapter 6. It was the first major victory for the Israelites in the Promised Land, and at the time, they razed the city to the ground and destroyed everything and everyone (except Rahab and her family) because of the evil that was so rampant throughout the city. After the battle was over, Joshua made this startling declaration: “At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: ‘Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.’” (Josh 6:26)
Wow. How many hundreds of years had passed since the destruction of Jericho and the prophecy of Joshua? Yet, all that time later, when Hiel decided he was going to rebuild the city, the Bible says that when he began, his oldest son died, and when he finished, his youngest son died.
What’s even more interesting is to ask the question why. Why would they have died? Was God angry with Hiel for disobeying Him? Do you think His attitude was something like, I told you not to do this, and I warned you about what would happen if you disobeyed Me, so now, I’m going to kill your sons! Perhaps. It might be hard to completely rule that out since God had to deal with the Israelites in such a way as to often set up very clear-cut cause-and-effect consequences.
However, there may have been something else at work here. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Hiel got it in his head to rebuild Jericho—one of the wickedest cities in Canaan’s history—during the reign of Ahab. Because Ahab was by far the most evil king in the history of Israel. He was the one most dedicated to the worship of Baal and other pagan gods, so it doesn’t seem surprising that with such an influence, an Israelite citizen might want to rebuild a former pagan metropolis in all its glory.
But there was an interesting footnote about 1 Kings 16:34 at the bottom of the page in my Bible. It said this: An ancient Hebrew scribal tradition reads He killed his oldest son when he laid its foundations, and he killed his youngest son when he set up its gates. That’s interesting! Perhaps God didn’t have a thing to do with the demise of Hiel’s sons. In fact, the Message version of the Bible renders the text this way: “It was under Ahab’s rule that Hiel of Bethel refortified Jericho, but at a terrible cost: He ritually sacrificed his firstborn son Abiram at the laying of the foundation, and his youngest son Segub at the setting up of the gates.”
Whoa! For me, that put a whole new understanding on the picture here. Now, instead of God warning of a punishment to come (and remembering His threat hundreds of years later), we have a God who knows the future and knows where evil will eventually lead. Because, of course, one of the awful by-products of most pagan worship was child sacrifice. And if Hiel set out to rebuild an evil city to the pagan gods of the day, perhaps he tried to curry favor from those gods by sacrificing his oldest and youngest sons—an awful and heart-wrenching fulfillment of the prophecy Joshua had uttered so many hundreds of years earlier.
I bet God sometimes wishes He was wrong. But, from a positive angle, this can give us great confidence that God indeed knows the future! And if the Israelites had been sensible of their past, they might have seen the fulfillment of this prophecy as evidence that there was only one Sovereign in the universe. A God who knew them so well that He could predict with unfortunate accuracy what they would do.
So, how is this comforting? Well, I don’t know about you, but I find it immensely comforting to know that God isn’t surprised by anything. He’s not surprised by the evil that comes to us in this life, and He’s not surprised by the evil we perpetrate in this life. Long before we know what’s going on, He has seen the path we’re on, and He’s prepared to help us deal with it—whether it be the fallout of suffering or the consequences of bad decisions.
God knows your future. And that means He knows what’s going to happen to you today before you do. He has seen this day and all the things it holds, and He is prepared to share it with you. If it holds pleasant things, He is prepared to rejoice with you. And if it holds unpleasant things, He is prepared to suffer with you. But one thing He most definitely is not is surprised. So no matter what comes your way today, remember: God already knows about it, and He’s prepared to help you!
God is the only provider.
Suddenly, the prophet Elijah appears on the scene. And his first recorded prophetic act was to go right to king Ahab and declare, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (vs 1)
This was a really loaded statement. First, Elijah said, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives . . .” If you remember from your Bible reading, Ahab was the most wicked king to ever rule over Israel. And, instead of acknowledging the one true God of heaven, he chose to worship Baal. So, Elijah wanted to make sure to remind him that the Lord was the true God of Israel. (And that He was still alive!)
Second, Elijah added these words: whom I serve. Here, Elijah was setting up a direct confrontation between the Lord, the God of Israel, and Baal, the god that didn’t exist. Ahab served Baal. Elijah served God. And the showdown would be over one thing: rain.
Why do you suppose God chose to pick a fight over rain? Did He want to start a famine? Did He want people to starve? No. The reason rain became the issue was because the worshipers of Baal believed that Baal sent the rain. He was the god of the harvest. And in prostituting themselves to him, they attempted to assure that they would have great weather for crops and, thus, an abundant harvest. It was their way of having “control” over their future.
So, if Israel was hell-bent on worshiping the god of the rain, He was determined to let Baal take over the weather. If the Israelites wanted to trust in Baal to send the rain, then God would let them see just how good a job he would do. Now, of course, since Baal didn’t exist, God knew there wasn’t going to be much rain falling on the land of Israel. Hence, severe drought.
Should have been a wakeup call!
What should have been even more of a wakeup call was the thing that I found most interesting about this drought. Apparently, Ahab’s reign came, in part, during the reign of King Asa in Judah. (You will remember that Asa was heralded as a king who was totally committed to God.) And although Samaria (capital of Judah) was less than 50 miles from Jerusalem (capital of Israel), there is absolutely no recorded drought in the history books for Judah.
In other words, the drought that occurred in Israel during this period wasn’t some worldwide phenomenon caused by cyclical weather patterns. It was a direct consequence of Israel’s insistence to trust Baal for their needed rainfall. And when King Ahab heard that his neighbors in Jerusalem were still using umbrellas, that should have made him go hmmmmm.
The lesson for the Israelites (which they apparently missed for the most part) and the lesson for us is that God is the only provider. He is the only God of heaven and earth. No one else can engineer or sustain life. No one else can provide what you need for this day . . . or for your future. Thus, it is foolish (and dangerous) to put your trust in anything or anyone else.
Our God is the God of everything. And the great news is that, unlike the false god Baal, we don’t have to take drastic measures to get God’s attention or win His favor. We already have His favor and His attention. And He is more than willing to provide us with everything we need for this day . . . and all the days to come.
God is pure awesomeness.
At the risk of sounding like a bad flashback from the 80s or 90s, I couldn’t pass this up as the title of today’s blog. This has got to be one of my all-time favorite chapters in the Bible. It seems like I’ve been hearing this story ever since I was a little girl, and it never ceases to amaze me. So, this was a great excuse to sit back and just marvel at God.
First, as a connoisseur of sarcasm, I notice that there is a lot of trash talk going on in this chapter. Ahab’s greeting to Elijah in verse 17 always makes me laugh: “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Ahab certainly wasn’t afraid of a little trash talk. But, it seems, Elijah could give just as good as he got. As the prophets of Baal became increasingly frustrated that they couldn’t get a rise out of their god, “Elijah began making fun of them. ‘Pray louder!’ he said. ‘Baal must be a god. Maybe he’s day-dreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.” (vs 27) Maybe your god is using the toilet. Wow.
But what may be even a little more surprising is that, as we discover, God Himself isn’t afraid of a little Booyah! The way He answered Elijah on the top of Mount Carmel is nothing short of spectacular. First of all, Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord. Then, he dug a huge trench around the altar. After laying the bull on it, he had his assistants pour twelve large jars of water over the altar.
I bet that really infuriated King Ahab. Israel hadn’t seen a drop of rain in three years! Their water reserves must have been dangerously low, yet Elijah was wasting water on this?! But, if he was mad, he didn’t let on. He must have thought Elijah was about to be humiliated in front of all of Israel.
But Elijah was not humiliated. No sooner had he finished his first, unfrenzied prayer to God than fire came down out of heaven and burned up the sacrifice. Since the true God was to answer by fire, there was certainly no doubt that the Lord was God of Israel. However, God didn’t just stop at burning up the sacrifice (which, if you’ll remember, was soaking wet). God wanted to make sure there was no doubt. So, His fire didn’t just burn up the bull. It also burned up the wet wood underneath the bull, the stones of the altar, the soil around the altar, and the water! It vaporized all that water in an instant! Booyah!
What’s really great about the story is the immediate response of the Israelites: “When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, ‘The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!’” (vs 39) It’s heartening to see that there were still people in Israel who were open to the truth about God.
God does not remain hidden in the shadows. He is not afraid to dazzle us with His awesome grandeur when the situation warrants it. What more can we do than sit back in awe, soak in the wonder, and respond, “The Lord—he is God!”
God wants us to go all in.
For those of you who may not be fans of poker, there frequently comes a point when a player will go “all in.” That means that he will bet everything he has left because he believes he has the best hand at the table. Everything is on the line. If he has the best hand, he may be in a position to win the whole game. But if he doesn’t have the best hand, he could lose everything.
When I began reading this chapter, I initially thought I would focus on the exchange between God and Elijah on Mount Horeb. That’s one of my favorite stories about God in the Bible—how He was not in the earthquake, the wind, or the fire, but in the quiet voice. However, since that’s such a well-known story, I decided to pick out something to focus on that is, perhaps, a little more obscure.
Elisha—the newly-appointed prophet in Israel—decided to go all in. The end of chapter 19 records that Elijah came to Elisha and “passed the mantle,” so to speak. Elisha knew immediately the significance of that action, and he asked for a little bit of time to say goodbye to his family. Elijah agreed, “so Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.” (vs 21)
Before Elijah came to see him, Elisha was a wealthy farmer. In fact, when Elijah met up with him, Elisha was plowing his own fields with twelve yoke of oxen. Yet, when he realized the calling God had in mind, he didn’t waste any time. He butchered all his oxen in order to throw a big BBQ party for his friends, and he cooked it up over a bonfire of his plowing equipment.
Talk about going all in! Elisha recognized God’s voice in the call to something new, and he didn’t hesitate to fully put away his past in order to pursue his new future. He didn’t complain or drag his feet. Nor did he hold his farming business “in reserve,” just in case this new thing with God didn’t work out so well. No. He went “all in.”
God also wants us to go all in. Oh, it’s true that He can and will use us—even if we are only partially committed. However, when we are fully committed to Him, He can do things beyond our wildest imaginations. It takes a lot of courage to trust ourselves so totally to God (even though He has given us plenty of evidence that He is fully trustworthy) because, most of the time, our need for control is so great. But if you are willing to go all in—as Elisha did—you will find yourself at the beginning of one of the wildest adventures you’ve ever had.
As Christian comedian Mark Lowry once said, “If I could sum up the Christian life in one word, it would be this: the Christian life is interesting. You want a boring life? Don’t come to Christ!” Next time you have the opportunity, why don’t you go “all in” with God and see what happens? Your life will never be the same again!
God doesn't give up.
Ahab has to be the most wicked king in Israel’s history. So that’s why I found it interesting that, in this chapter, God is still trying to get through to him. I mean, if I didn’t know that God was a total genius, there could be times when I might think that He was a little thick. But I just don’t think He can help Himself. When He sees an opening, He takes it.
So that’s why, when Ahab’s back was to the wall with the king of Aram, God came to him: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.’” (vs 13) Remember, this is the God that King Ahab shunned, neglected, ignored, and downright disrespected.
But God seems to be a slow learner. Even though Ahab had thumbed his nose at Him time and time again, God was still ready to spring into action, given half a chance. He was still looking for opportunities to help Ahab see the truth . . . and return to Him.
This is one of the things I love most about God: He doesn’t give up. Even if we never seem to learn, even if our case looks hopeless, God will still pursue us. He will not give up unless He has exhausted every possible means of getting through to us. As long as there is any chance that we might hear His voice and turn around, He will do what it takes to come to us again and again and again . . . and again. He just doesn’t know how to give up!
God knows what is needed.
This chapter appalled me. More than once! I know I’ve read this chapter before, but it obviously didn’t make a lasting impression then. Today, it was as if I had read it for the first time. At first, I was appalled by Jezebel. She seemed to have absolutely NO problem forging her husband’s name and enlisting the help of false witnesses in order to engineer the death of an innocent man. Just when you thought you’d seen the depths of evil in Israel, that was a nasty surprise.
Then, I was appalled by the “elders and nobles” who lived in Naboth’s hometown. Jezebel wrote to them and directed them to set Naboth up so he could be stoned to death . . . and they did it: “So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them.” (vs 11) They just did it! I thought about how much harder it might have been for Jezebel to carry out her evil plan if she didn’t just have amoral people willing to go along with whatever she said. Unfortunately, as most of us know, evil flourishes when good people don’t stand up against it.
But that wasn’t the end of my being shocked by this chapter. The last person I was appalled by was God Himself. After Jezebel’s wicked act (and Ahab’s acceptance of it), God sent the prophet Elijah to tell Ahab that it was all over for him. Elijah prophesied doom and gloom on Ahab and his house. And, certainly, if anyone ever deserved it in the whole history of Israel, it was Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel.
Of course, when Ahab heard about how his entire family was going to be annihilated because of his wickedness, he was pretty sad. Mind you, he wasn’t sorry enough to change his ways. He didn’t relinquish Naboth’s vineyard or apologize for what he had done. But he felt pretty bad that he was going to have to face hard consequences. From our perspective, though, it all seems right, doesn’t it? This would finally be justice for all the evil Ahab and Jezebel had done over the years.
But then . . . this: “When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: ‘Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.’” (vs 27-29) What?! Ahab gets a pass because he tore his clothes and missed a meal?
I had a little Jonah moment when I read that. God, you’re being way too lenient here! This is a God who spends so much of the Old Testament looking harsh, drawing hard lines, and sticking to His guns . . . yet He suddenly has a soft-hearted moment when it comes to the most wicked guy in Israel?! I gotta be honest. I just don’t get it.
So what I take away from all of this is that God knows what is needed. He not only sees the external parts of a situation, but He also sees the internal parts of a situation. He doesn’t just see behavior; He reads the heart. And He knows when a hard line needs to be drawn. And He knows when it’s best to relent from the consequences He has warned about.
I’m glad He knows exactly what is needed because I have a feeling that if we were left to determine what was necessary in any given situation, we would get it wrong a whole lot of the time. So I have to cut God some slack when He seems "overly" hard, and (unlike Jonah) I’ve also gotta cut Him some slack when He isn’t as "strict" as I think He should be. In every situation, He knows what is best, and He will do exactly what is needed.
God isn't always in favor of agreement.
This has to be another one of my all-time favorite chapters in the Bible. Who has ever heard of the prophet Micaiah? But why isn’t he upheld more often as an Old Testament Bible hero? Micaiah: the prophet with a hot mouth. I love him. And one of the things I love most about him is that he wasn’t just willing to go with the crowd. He was determined to do what he believed was right—even if it went against the grain.
I guess the reason I admire that so much is because, especially in the Christian church, unity is upheld as an important virtue. In fact, I have encountered pressure to conform in my fair share of situations. Sometimes, I have agreed that unity was important and have acquiesced to what somebody else wanted. Other times, however, I have been like Micaiah and gone against “the church crowd,” believing that there was something more important at stake.
For that reason, it was interesting to discover that it was actually the agreement of the false prophets in this chapter that threw up a red flag to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah: “[Ahab] brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, ‘Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’ ‘Go,’ they answered, ‘for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.’ But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?’” (vs 6-7)
In other words, Jehoshaphat was wondering, Why are all these guys saying exactly the same thing? Shouldn’t we find a prophet of the Lord to consult? Usually, to our way of thinking, such widespread agreement over an issue would signal the Spirit’s leading. But not in this case. (And thus, it may behoove us to think a little differently about agreement and unity in the future.)
God isn’t always in favor of agreement. This was definitely confirmed by Micaiah’s arrival on-scene. In fact, God’s true message was in total contradiction to the view espoused by “the crowd!” So, where does that leave us in regards to unity? It better leave us more concerned about hearing God’s opinion on something than we are concerned about rocking the boat. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against unity. But I am against it when it comes at the expense of hearing and following God’s voice.
Agreement is not evidence of the truth. On the contrary, it may (as in this case) simply be evidence that men are ignorant of or don’t care about the truth. May we have the courage to realize that God isn’t always in favor of agreement and be solely committed to seeking out His guidance on every issue we encounter within the church!