Thursday, March 17, 2016

"When God speaks ... it is good to listen!"

Day #78

Scripture Reading:  I Kings 19 - 22 …

It's easy to take the Bible for granted.  We forget that people have not always had God's revelation so readily available.  Many people look at the Bible as they would any other book, but those who have the Spirit of God understand that God speaks through His Word today and His Spirit gives wisdom to those who have been given "ears to hear!"  While there are many who claim to speak for God today, everything they say must be confirmed by going to the Bible to see if what they say is true.  The Apostle Paul commended the Bereans, saying that they "were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

In the days of the Kings of Israel and Judah there were prophets who claimed to speak for God.  The only way to determine which prophets were truly sent by God was to look at their track record.  Anyone could be right some of the time, and even false prophets sometimes said true things, but a true prophet of God had to speak truth 100% of the time and if he predicted anything in the future, he needed to be right 100% of the time.  Elijah was such a prophet, sent from God.  God had spoken through Elijah to kings before and when Elijah spoke for God against the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 other false prophets on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18), God was glorified and the result was that the people knew that HE and He alone was God!

True prophets, sent from God, always pointed people to God, not to themselves.  They didn't desire to please people, but God.  Their life was not easy because most people don't really want to hear what God has to say.  When King Ahab's wife heard that Elijah had put to death the prophets of Baal, she sent a messenger to Elijah to tell him that by that time tomorrow Elijah would be dead!  That might be enough to shake anyone's faith … and it shook Elijah's.  He ran away in fear and after a day's journey sat down under a tree to rest and prayed, "I have had enough, LORD.  Take my life" (19:4).

How often, after a good day or a time of great victory or blessing, do we experience the same feelings that Elijah felt?  We can begin to think that life is always going to be easy and that we will have no troubles.  Some even claim to speak for God and declare that this will be so … but it's not.  Jesus said that we would face persecution and that trials would be part of life in this world.  But He promised that He would never leave us and that our lives would be a testimony of hope to others because we stand firm in our faith by His strength, no matter what.  Elijah should have known that, but he forgot.

It is important to see how God encouraged him.  After giving him physical nourishment, God told Elijah to travel to Mt. Horeb, where God had appeared to His people before.  It was a forty day journey, which should have given Elijah time to do a lot of thinking and, perhaps, soul-searching.  When he arrived at the mountain he entered a cave and the LORD told him to go out and stand in the presence of the LORD and He would pass by.  A powerful wind came … so powerful that it moved rocks … but the LORD was not in the wind.  Then an earthquake shook the mountain, but God was not in the earthquake.  Then fire appeared around Elijah, but God was not in the fire.

Finally, God spoke to Elijah in a "gentle whisper" ...  sometimes we need to "be still and know" that God IS God!!  God encouraged Elijah by telling him that He was not done using him and that He had reserved seven thousand in Israel who had not worshiped idols.  Seven thousand, out of all the people of Israel, who had remained true to God.  When you are passionately serving God it can easily feel like you are the only one left, but God calls us into a community of faith where others share our devotion to God and our desire to make Him known.  You need to surround yourself with such people.

The kings of Israel were like so many today, who "use" God when it is convenient.  Ahab wanted to know that God was with him, but he still wanted to do whatever he wanted to do.  When he didn't get his way, he acted like a two-year-old and moped.  When Ahab wanted Judah's king, Jehoshaphat, to fight with him, Jehoshaphat wanted to inquire of a true prophet of God.  The prophet's name was Micaiah.  Listen to what Ahab said, "There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad" (22:8).

When Micaiah was summoned he said, "As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me" (22:14).  As Ahab predicted, the news was not good ... but it was TRUE!  When God speaks, it's good to listen! Ahab had ignored God's Word from God's prophets and the result was certain death.  He could do nothing to avoid it.  In the same way, God's Word pronounces judgment upon all who refuse to listen to His Word.  All those who worship other "gods," who follow other religions, will perish.  Judgment will come.

One of the clearest passages pronouncing judgment on those who do not believe in Jesus is John 3:18 ... immediately after Jesus says that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (3:16).  In verse 18 Jesus says, "Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."  "Thus says the LORD!!!"

God is still speaking today and those who have been born again by His Spirit listen to Him.  Even now, God is speaking to you ... to encourage you, to lift you up, to call you away from the things of the world or to guide you through the storm.  Read His Word, pray for His Spirit and listen ... you will hear His voice!!

"O LORD, my God, I thank You for Your Word and for the work of Your Spirit within me that enables me to hear You speak and to believe all that You say.  You have made known to me the path of righteousness and I desire to walk in it, for Your glory and for my good.  Continue Your work in me, Father, and cleanse my heart so that I will hear You speak and obey Your commands.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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