May 4, 2015

I Kings 15-17
In the eighteenth year of the rule of Jeroboam, Abijah took over the throne of Judah. He ruled in Jerusalem three years. His mother was Maacah daughter of Absalom. He continued to sin just like his father before him. He was not truehearted to God as his great-grandfather David had been. But despite that, out of respect for David, his God graciously gave him a lamp, a son to follow him and keep Jerusalem secure. For David had lived an exemplary life before God all his days, not going off on his own in willful defiance of God’s clear directions (except for that time with Uriah the Hittite). But war continued between Abijah and Jeroboam the whole time....

In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began his rule over Judah. He ruled for forty-one years in Jerusalem. His grandmother’s name was Maacah.  Asa conducted himself well before God, reviving the ways of his ancestor David. He cleaned house: He got rid of the sacred prostitutes and threw out all the idols his predecessors had made. Asa spared nothing and no one; he went so far as to remove Queen Maacah from her position because she had built a shockingly obscene memorial to the whore goddess Asherah....Unfortunately, he didn’t get rid of the local sex-and-religion shrines. But he was well-intentioned—his heart was in the right place, in tune with God. 

But through much of his reign there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel...  Asa took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of The Temple of God and the royal palace, gave it to his servants, and sent them to Ben-Hadad...who was ruling in Damascus, with this message: “Let’s make a treaty like the one between our fathers. I’m showing my good faith with this gift of silver and gold. Break your deal with Baasha king of Israel so he’ll quit fighting against me.”....

In his old age he developed severe gout. Then Asa died and was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. His son Jehoshaphat became king after him.

Nadab son of Jeroboam became king over Israel in the second year of Asa’s rule in Judah. He was king of Israel two years. He was openly evil before God—he followed in the footsteps of his father who both sinned and made Israel sin.

Baasha son of Ahijah of the tribe of Issachar ganged up on him and attacked him at the Philistine town of Gibbethon while Nadab and the Israelites were doing battle there. Baasha killed Nadab in the third year of Asa king of Judah and became Israel’s next king.  As soon as he was king he killed everyone in Jeroboam’s family. There wasn’t a living soul left to the name of Jeroboam; Baasha wiped them out totally, just as God’s servant Ahijah of Shiloh had prophesied...

In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha son of Ahijah became king in Tirzah over all Israel. He ruled twenty-four years. He was openly evil before God, walking in the footsteps of Jeroboam, who both sinned and made Israel sin.

The word of God came to Jehu son of Hanani with this message for Baasha: “I took you from nothing—a complete nobody—and set you up as the leader of my people Israel, but you plodded along in the rut of Jeroboam, making my people Israel sin and making me seethe over their sin. And now the consequences—I will burn Baasha and his regime to cinders, the identical fate of Jeroboam...

In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha began his rule. He was king in Tirzah only two years. One day when he was at the house of Arza the palace manager, drinking himself drunk, Zimri, captain of half his chariot-force, conspired against him. Zimri slipped in, knocked Elah to the ground, and killed him.... Zimri had no sooner become king than he killed everyone connected with Baasha, got rid of them all like so many stray dogs—relatives and friends alike. Zimri totally wiped out the family of Baasha, just as God’s word delivered by the prophet Jehu had said—

Zimri was king in Tirzah for all of seven days during the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Asa king of Judah. The Israelite army was on maneuvers near the Philistine town of Gibbethon at the time. When they got the report, “Zimri has conspired against the king and killed him,” right there in the camp they made Omri, commander of the army, king. Omri and the army immediately left Gibbethon and attacked Tirzah. When Zimri saw that he was surrounded and as good as dead, he entered the palace citadel, set the place on fire, and died.... 

After that the people of Israel were split right down the middle: Half favored Tibni son of Ginath as king, and half wanted Omri. Eventually the Omri side proved stronger than the Tibni side. Tibni ended up dead and Omri king.

Omri took over as king of Israel in the thirty-first year of the reign of Asa king of Judah. He ruled for twelve years,... But as far as God was concerned, Omri lived an evil life—set new records in evil. He walked in the footsteps of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who not only sinned but dragged Israel into his sins, making God angry—such an empty-headed, empty-hearted life!

Omri died and was buried in Samaria....Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah. Ahab was king over Israel for twenty-two years. He ...did even more open evil before God than anyone yet—a new champion in evil! It wasn’t enough for him to copy the sins of Jeroboam; no, he went all out, first by marrying Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and then by serving and worshiping the god Baal.... Worse, he went on and built a shrine to the sacred whore Asherah. He made the God of Israel angrier than all the previous kings of Israel put together....

And then this happened: Elijah the Tishbite, from among the settlers of Gilead, confronted Ahab: “As surely as God lives, the God of Israel before whom I stand in obedient service, the next years are going to see a total drought—not a drop of dew or rain unless I say otherwise.”

God then told Elijah, “Get out of here, and fast. Head east and hide out at the Kerith Ravine on the other side of the Jordan River. You can drink fresh water from the brook; I’ve ordered the ravens to feed you.”  Elijah obeyed God’s orders. He went and camped in the Kerith canyon on the other side of the Jordan. And sure enough, ravens brought him his meals, both breakfast and supper, and he drank from the brook.

Eventually the brook dried up because of the drought. Then God spoke to him: “Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live there. I’ve instructed a woman who lives there, a widow, to feed you.”  So he got up and went to Zarephath. As he came to the entrance of the village he met a woman, a widow, gathering firewood. He asked her, “Please, would you bring me a little water in a jug? I need a drink.” As she went to get it, he called out, “And while you’re at it, would you bring me something to eat?”  She said, “I swear, as surely as your God lives, I don’t have so much as a biscuit. I have a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a bottle; you found me scratching together just enough firewood to make a last meal for my son and me. After we eat it, we’ll die.”

Elijah said to her, “Don’t worry about a thing. Go ahead and do what you’ve said. But first make a small biscuit for me and bring it back here. Then go ahead and make a meal from what’s left for you and your son. This is the word of the God of Israel: ‘The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty before God sends rain on the land and ends this drought.’”  And she went right off and did it, did just as Elijah asked. And it turned out as he said—daily food for her and her family. The jar of meal didn’t run out and the bottle of oil didn’t become empty: God’s promise fulfilled to the letter, exactly as Elijah had delivered it!

Later on the woman’s son became sick. The sickness took a turn for the worse—and then he stopped breathing.

The woman said to Elijah, “Why did you ever show up here in the first place—a holy man barging in, exposing my sins, and killing my son?” Elijah said, “Hand me your son.”  He then took him from her bosom, carried him up to the loft where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he prayed, “O God, my God, why have you brought this terrible thing on this widow who has opened her home to me? Why have you killed her son?”  Three times he stretched himself out full-length on the boy, praying with all his might, “God, my God, put breath back into this boy’s body!” God listened to Elijah’s prayer and put breath back into his body—he was alive! Elijah picked the boy up, carried him downstairs from the loft, and gave him to his mother. “Here’s your son,” said Elijah, “alive!”  The woman said to Elijah, “I see it all now—you are a holy man. When you speak, God speaks—a true word!”

II Corinthians 5
For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by the resurrection bodies in heaven--God-made, not handmade---and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again....

The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead.  He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.  That’s why we live with such good cheer.  You won’t see us dropping our heads or dragging our feet....It is what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.  Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us?

But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing.  Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions.  Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions.  We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad....

That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God.  God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care....If I acted crazy, I did it for God: if I acted overly serious, I did it for you.  Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes.  His love has the first and last word in everything we do.
  
Our firm decision is to work from this focused center:
One man died for everyone.  That puts everyone in the same boat.  He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.    

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look.  We looked at the Messiah that way and got it all wrong...Now we look inside and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new....

All this come from the God who settled the relationship between him and us and then  called us to settle our relationships with each other....

God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.  We’re Christ’s representatives.  God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.  We are speaking for Christ himself now: 

Become friends with God; he is already a friend with you.  How? you ask.  In Christ.  God put the wrong on him so we could be put right with God.