Monday, June 16, 2014

"Who is your God? You HAVE to choose!!"

Day #171:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - June 17th

Scripture Reading:  I Kings 14 - 18 ...

If most people were to read these entries that I have been writing since the beginning of the year they would quite possibly think that I am narrow-minded and intolerant.  I believe there is only one true God:  the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that He is angry not only at sin, but at sinners ... and that His just judgment will fall on all those who do not come to Him through faith in His Son Jesus Christ and worship Him only.  But you see, from my perspective I have no other choice.  And since God has revealed Himself in His Word ... neither do you.  You will either believe in THIS God or you will face His wrath against your sin.

We are all sinners, we have all sinned against God by disobeying His commands.  You have heard me say that repeatedly because God's Word says that repeatedly.  So, so many today only speak of God's love, but the Bible says the only way to know God's love and to receive His love is to see it displayed in the CROSS!  "God demonstrated His love for us (believers) in this:  while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!"  (Romans 5:8).  People who don't know they are sinners and who don't believe God is angry will never grasp the depth of God's love in sending His Son to bear the penalty of His wrath against US ... against you and me!!

As we continue to read the history of the now divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah, we hear again of God's anger against the sin of idolatry - the act of worshiping ANY OTHER god.  God had taken ten of the twelve tribes of Israel away from Solomon's son, Rehoboam, and had given them to Jereboam.  But Jereboam had set up idols for the people to worship because he did not want them to go to the temple in Jerusalem.  He thought he was wiser than God and that he could control the outcome of his reign and his kingdom better than God could.  How often people get into trouble because we think we can "run things" better than God can!

While the line of the kings of Judah continued from the descendants of David, the kings of Israel were repeatedly killed and replaced by those who rebelled against them.  The reason could not be clearer!  God said to Jereboam (through his wife):  "You have done more evil than all who lived before you.  You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back" (14:9).  What an insult to God!  God had said that He is a "jealous God" and we need to understand that the worship of anything else provokes God to anger.  The only difference between then and now is that God is withholding His awesome anger and wrath for the coming "day of the Lord."  But rest assured, His judgment will come!

The kings of Israel were compared to Jereboam, the idolater, while the kings of Judah were compared to David, the man after God's own heart.  "For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD ... except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (15:5).  David had sinned, too, but he had repented; he had confessed his sin before the LORD and had pleaded for forgiveness, resting in God's grace.  As David wrote in Psalm 51:17:  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."  The kings of Israel, and some of the kings of Judah, were anything but sorry for their idolatry and they did not repent and turn from their evil deeds.  God's anger and judgment fell on them, and it will fall on all who follow in their ways.

King Asa was a bright spot for Judah and he reigned in Jerusalem forty-one years.  "Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done" (15:11).  "Asa's heart was fully committed to the LorD all his life" (15:14).  God looks at our hearts and knows the place He holds in our hearts by the way we live our lives.  As the kings of Israel and some of the kings of Judah provoked God to anger, so many people do today.  You "worship" whatever is most important to you.  Whatever you place as your highest priority is effectively your "god."  It is not as though God does not present the two opposing choices and their consequences.  Chapter 18 presents one of the clearest illustrations of the ongoing battle between those who know the one true God and those who worship other gods and thus commit idolatry.

Perhaps you know the story.  Near the end of Asa's reign in Judah, Ahab became king in Israel.  Ahab was the son of Omri, who had reigned in Israel for twelve years.  It was said of Ahab that he "did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him" (16:30).  "He did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him" (16:33).  It was a recipe for disaster.  God told Elijah to tell Ahab that He was going to withhold dew and rain in Israel except by God's direct command ... and so it was.

God took care of Elijah at the home of the widow of Zarephath (she will come up later - during the ministry of Jesus!).  But the day came when it was time for the showdown, in the sight of all of Israel.  Elijah "came out of hiding" and presented himself to King Ahab.  When Ahab saw Elijah his said, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"  Elijah responded, "I have not made trouble for Israel.  But you and your father's family have.  You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals" (18:17-18).  God leaves no doubt about why He is angry and what is the cause of His judgment.

Many of you who are reading this live in the United States of America.  Others of you live in other countries around the world.  The United States was founded on the principles of truth found in God's Word, the Bible, but has strayed from God as fewer and fewer people believe in Jesus Christ, accept the Bible as the Word of God or desire to obey His commands.  Other nations in Europe followed the same path and still other nations have never had a majority of people who claimed to know the one true God.  Whatever the case where you live, when a people turn their back on God or refuse to worship Him, God's judgment will eventually come.  Indeed, God's judgment is already being seen all over the world and meanwhile many in the church continue to proclaim that God loves everybody ... don't worry about it!!

I Kings 18 would tell us otherwise!  There can only be ONE true God and He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  There is no other God!  Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal ... all 450 of them, plus the 400 prophets of the Asherah ... the other false gods.  Quite the odds:  850 to 1!  But who really had the advantage?  Someone has said that "You and God are a majority!"  So Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow Him, but if Baal is God follow him" (18:21).  Then they set up the altars and the wood and Elijah said, "The god who answers by fire - HE is God!" (18:24).

The outcome was predictable!  The prophets of Baal cried out to their gods for hours, "but there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention" (18:29).  Then it was Elijah's turn.  He commanded that the altar and the wood be doused with water ... three times ... then he prayed:  "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Jacob's name had been changed to "Israel"), let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and have done all these things at Your command.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that You, O LORD, are God and that You are turning their hearts back again" (18:36-37).

"Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench" (18:38).  And the people responded by falling down on their faces and crying, "The LORD - HE is God!  The LORD - He is God!"  (18:39).  Elijah ordered the prophets of Baal to be put to death and then told Ahab that God would send rain, leaving no doubt who was GOD in Israel.

The fact is, there should have been no doubt to begin with.  God had revealed Himself then, as He has even moreso today.  Anyone who reads the Bible or hears its message should know that these words are true.  Anyone who looks at the creation around them should know that the God who created all things is the same God who reveals Himself in His Word and in His Son Jesus Christ.  But those without His Spirit are spiritually DEAD and blind!  Only those who have been born again by the Spirit of God through hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ will confess their sins, repent and place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Who is your God?  It is not enough to believe in some generic "god."  Satan and his demons believe in God, but do not confess their sin, repent and trust in Jesus for forgiveness.  Many believe in "a" god, but do not find forgiveness in the blood of Jesus.  Who is YOUR God?  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or one of the many gods worshiped by those who reject the truth God has revealed in His Word and in His Son Jesus Christ?  In the words of Joshua to Israel centuries before:

"Now fear the LORD and serve Him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped ...  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve!  ...  As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD!" (Joshua 24:14-16).

"O Lord, my God, YOU alone are God!  I take refuge in You and cling to Your promise of forgiveness through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Thank You for Your warnings and for Your Holy Spirit Who has opened my eyes to behold Your glory, to confess my sin and to find hope in Jesus.  I humble myself before You and ask that You would use me to warn others so that they, too, may be saved.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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