May 7, 2015

 I Kings 20-22
 At about this same time Ben-Hadad king of Aram mustered his troops.... He sent an envoy into the city to set his terms before Ahab king of Israel: “Ben-Hadad lays claim to your silver and gold, and to the pick of your wives and sons.” The king of Israel accepted the terms: “As you say, distinguished lord; I and everything I have is yours.”  But then the envoy returned a second time, saying, “On second thought, I want it all—the whole works. I’ll give you twenty-four hours;.. 

The king of Israel called a meeting of all his tribal elders. He said, “Look at this—outrageous! He’s just looking for trouble. He means to clean me out, demanding all my women and children. And after I already agreed to pay him off handsomely!” The elders, backed by the people, said, “Don’t cave in to him. Don’t give an inch.”...

Just then a lone prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “God’s word: Have you taken a good look at this mob? Well, look again—I’m turning it over to you this very day. And you’ll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am God.” Ahab said, “Really? And who is going to make this happen?” God said, “The young commandos of the regional chiefs.”...“And who,” said Ahab, “will strike the first blow?”  God said, “You.”...

Meanwhile the advisors to the king of Aram said, “Their god is a god of the mountains—we don’t stand a chance against them there. So let’s engage them on the plain where we’ll have the advantage.... As the new year approached, Ben-Hadad rallied Aram and they went up to Aphek to make war on Israel. The Israelite army prepared to fight and took the field to meet Aram... 

Just then a holy man approached the king of Israel saying, “This is God’s word: Because Aram said, ‘God is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,’ I’ll hand over this huge mob of an army to you. Then you’ll know that I am God.”  The two armies were poised in a standoff for seven days. On the seventh day fighting broke out. The Israelites killed 100,000 of the Aramean infantry in one day.... 

Naboth the Jezreelite owned a vineyard in Jezreel that bordered the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. One day Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard so I can use it as a kitchen garden; it’s right next to my house—so convenient. In exchange I’ll give you a far better vineyard, or if you’d prefer I’ll pay you money for it.”

But Naboth told Ahab, “Not on your life! So help me God, I’d never sell the family farm to you!” Ahab went home in a black mood, sulking over Naboth the Jezreelite’s words, “I’ll never turn over my family inheritance to you.” He went to bed, stuffed his face in his pillow, and refused to eat.  Jezebel his wife came to him. She said, “What’s going on? Why are you so out of sorts and refusing to eat?”... Jezebel said, “Is this any way for a king of Israel to act? Aren’t you the boss? On your feet! Eat! Cheer up! I’ll take care of this; I’ll get the vineyard of this Naboth the Jezreelite for you.”

She wrote letters over Ahab’s signature, stamped them with his official seal, and sent them to the elders in Naboth’s city and to the civic leaders. She wrote “Call for a fast day and put Naboth at the head table. Then seat a couple of stool pigeons across from him who, in front of everybody will say, ‘You! You blasphemed God and the king!’ Then they’ll throw him out and stone him to death.”...

When Jezebel got word that Naboth had been stoned to death, she told Ahab, “Go for it, Ahab—take the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for your own, the vineyard he refused to sell you. Naboth is no more; Naboth is dead.”  The minute Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he set out for the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite and claimed it for his own.

Then God stepped in and spoke to Elijah the Tishbite, “On your feet; go down and confront Ahab... Say this to him: ‘God’s word: What’s going on here? First murder, then theft?’ Then tell him, ‘God’s verdict: The very spot where the dogs lapped up Naboth’s blood, they’ll lap up your blood—that’s right, your blood.’”... As for Jezebel, God said, “Dogs will fight over the flesh of Jezebel all over Jezreel. Anyone tainted by Ahab who dies in the city will be eaten by stray dogs; corpses in the country will be eaten by carrion crows.”

When Ahab heard what Elijah had to say, he ripped his clothes to shreds, dressed in penitential rough burlap, and fasted. He even slept in coarse burlap pajamas. He tiptoed around, quiet as a mouse.  Then God spoke to Elijah the Tishbite: “Do you see how penitently submissive Ahab has become to me? Because of his repentance I’ll not bring the doom during his lifetime; Ahab’s son, though, will get it.”  They enjoyed three years of peace—

In the third year, Jehoshaphat king of Judah had a meeting with the king of Israel. Israel’s king remarked to his aides, “Do you realize that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us, and we’re sitting around on our hands instead of taking it back from the king of Aram?”  He turned to Jehoshaphat and said, “Will you join me in fighting for Ramoth Gilead?”  Jehoshaphat said, “You bet. I’m with you all the way—my troops are your troops, my horses are your horses.” He then continued, “But before you do anything, ask God for guidance.”   The king of Israel got the prophets together—“Go for it,” they said. “God will hand it over to the king.”  But Jehoshaphat dragged his heels: “Is there still another prophet of God around here we can consult?”  The king of Israel told Jehoshaphat, “As a matter of fact, there is still one such man. But I hate him. He never preaches anything good to me, only doom, doom, doom—Micaiah son of Imlah.”...

So the king of Israel ordered one of his men, “On the double! Get Micaiah son of Imlah.”...The messenger who went to get Micaiah said, “The prophets have all said Yes to the king. Make it unanimous—vote Yes!”  But Micaiah said, “As surely as God lives, what God says, I’ll say.”  With Micaiah before him, the king asked him, “So Micaiah—do we attack Ramoth Gilead, or do we hold back?”  “Go ahead,” he said. “An easy victory. God’s gift to the king.”  “Not so fast,” said the king. “How many times have I made you promise under oath to tell me the truth and nothing but the truth?”  “All right,” said Micaiah, “since you insist. I saw all of Israel scattered over the hills, sheep with no shepherd.  Then God spoke: ‘These poor people have no one to tell them what to do. Let them go home and do the best they can for themselves.’”...I saw God enthroned, and all the angel armies of heaven standing at attention ranged on his right and his left. and God said, ‘How can we seduce Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead?’....“And that’s what has happened. God filled the mouths of your puppet prophets with seductive lies. God has pronounced your doom.”

Just then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah came up and punched Micaiah in the nose, saying, “Since when did the Spirit of God leave me and take up with you?”...The king of Israel had heard enough: “Get Micaiah out of here! Turn him over to Amon the city magistrate and to Joash the king’s son with this message, ‘King’s orders: Lock him up in jail; keep him on bread and water until I’m back in one piece.’”  Micaiah said, “If you ever get back in one piece, I’m no prophet of God.”...

The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah attacked Ramoth Gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Wear my kingly robe; I’m going into battle disguised.” So the king of Israel entered the battle in disguise...When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat they said, “There he is! The king of Israel!” and took after him. Jehoshaphat yelled out, and the chariot commanders realized they had the wrong man—it wasn’t the king of Israel after all. They let him go.

Just then someone, without aiming, shot an arrow randomly into the crowd and hit the king of Israel in the chink of his armor. The king told his charioteer, “Turn back! Get me out of here—I’m wounded.”..Propped up in his chariot, the king watched from the sidelines. He died that evening... The king was brought to Samaria and there they buried him. They washed down the chariot at the pool of Samaria where the town whores bathed, and the dogs lapped up the blood, just as God’s word had said.

Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king and he ruled for twenty-five years in Jerusalem....He continued the kind of life characteristic of his father Asa—no detours, no dead ends—pleasing God with his life. But he failed to get rid of the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines. People continued to pray and worship at these idolatrous shrines. And he kept on good terms with the king of Israel....Then Jehoshaphat died and was buried in the family cemetery in the City of David his ancestor. Jehoram his son was the next king.

Ahaziah son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. He ruled Israel for two years. As far as God was concerned, he lived an evil life, reproducing the bad life of his father and mother, repeating the pattern set down by Jeroboam, who led Israel into a life of sin. Worshiping at the Baal shrines, he made God, the God of Israel, angry, oh, so angry. If anything, he was worse than his father.

II Corinthians 7 -

Trust us!  We have never hurt a soul, never exploited or taken advantage of anyone.  Don’t think I’m finding fault with you, I told you earlier that I am with you all the way no matter what...

The fights in the church and the fears in our hearts kept us on pins and needles.  We couldn’t relax because we didn’t know how it would turn out.  

Then God who lifted up the downcast lifted our heads our hearts with the arrival of Titus.  We were glad to see him but the true reassurance came in what he told us about you:  how much you cared,  how much you grieved, how concerned you were for me.  I went from worry to tranquility in no time!

I know I distressed you greatly with my letter.  Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out.  The letter upset you, but only for a while.  Now I’m glad, not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around.  You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him.  The result was all gain, no loss.

Distress that drives us to God does that.  It turns us around.  It gets us back in the way of salvation.  We never regret that kind of pain....

And isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God?  You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible.  Look at this from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart.  And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter.

My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one wronged, but for you -- that you would realize and act upon the deep ties between us before God.  That’s what happened - and we felt just great.  And then, when we saw how Titus felt--his exuberance over your response--our joy doubled.  It was wonderful to see how revived and refreshed he was by everything you did....He can’t stop talking about it, going over and over again the story of your prompt obedience, and the dignity and sensitivity of your hospitality.  He was quite overwhelmed by it all!  And I couldn’t be more pleased---I’m so confident and proud of you.