ELIJAH #7

02/23/21

Ahab has been looking for Elijah because he wants to kill him. He has personally gone looking for Elijah with Obadiah, a devout believer who is in charge of Ahab’s palace. By God’s grace, Elijah has met Obadiah instead of Ahab. Elijah has asked Obadiah to arrange a meeting with Ahab so he can tell the king that God is going to send the rain once again.

1 Kings 18:16-17    “So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel/’” 

King Ahab calls Elijah a troublemaker, the cause of all of Israel’s trouble. In order to get Israel’s attention, the Lord has held back the rain for three years and the nation is suffering through a devastating famine and drought.  King Ahab is blaming it all on Elijah.

How convenient it is to live in a world that doesn’t believe in sin, in a world where truth is relevant not absolute and it always depends on the times and the circumstances; in a world where nothing is wrong because everything is right and should be tolerated as long as no one gets hurt; in a world where everyone is basically good and no one is evil.  How convenient it is to always be the victim, and when others confront you they are considered to be narrow-minded bigots.  

1 Kings 18:18a    “‘I have not made trouble for you,’ Elijah replied, ‘But you and your father’s family have.’”

Jesus commissioned His church to preach the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sin until He returned.  Sin is not a four letter word.  Preachers don’t’ have to be afraid to say it.  They don’t be afraid to call it what it is.  Ahab, you and your fathers have sinned and you need to repent.  

1 Kings 18:18b   “’You have abandoned the Lord’s commands ad have followed the Baals.’”

“You have abandoned the Lord’s Commandments.”   You’ve abandoned the word of God.  You no longer believe it is the word of God.  You believe the words of other gods are just as meaningful. 

The Lord has made His word and His name more important to Him than anything else.  The Bible is without error.  The Bible is never wrong, we are.  We may not like what it says.  We may disagree with it.  We may ignore it.  We may completely reject it.  We may refuse to believe it and take our chances with something else.  But in the end, we’ll all be judged by it and held accountable for what we’ve done with it. 

“You… have followed the Baals.”   You set up an altar for Baal in the temple you built for Baal, the most popular god in the world, the god of lust, greed and pleasure.  The truth is that Baal isn’t real and he isn’t a god.  He can’t speak.  He can’t move.  He has no power.  He has never created anything.  In fact he’s the one who’s been created out of someone else’s corrupt imagination.  He’s not really there except in the minds of those who have chosen to believe in him. 

We can make a god out of anything, but that doesn’t make it God.  If we reject the God of the Bible and chose to trust in someone or something else, we have no God at all.  All religions are not worshipping the same God.  All roads do not lead to the same God.  The Bible says there is only one way and it’s a very narrow way, a very specific way. 

There is only one name by which we must be saved and that name is not Allah.  It’s not Buddha and it’s not the Universe.  That name is Jesus, the name that is higher than every other name.  At the name at of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He alone is Lord of all.

Those who have been trusting in other gods are about to discover that the path they’ve been walking on is coming to a dead end.  The path that has always seemed so right to them is actually going to end in death.

1 Kings 18:19    “Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mont Carmel. And  bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table.’” 

“Meet me on Mt. Carmel.” Why did Elijah choose Mt. Carmel as the place to have a confrontation with the prophets of Baal and the Prophets of Asherah?  Carmel means “the garden land.”  It contained the most fertile and productive land in the country.  It was the last place to be affected by the three year drought.  It was actually considered to be Baal’s garden land.  Baal had an altar there.  The God of Israel had an altar there too but it was in ruins because it hadn’t been used for a long time.

 For the past three years, the prophets of Baal have been offering sacrifices to Baal and crying, “Please make it rain.  Why won’t you make it rain?  Don’t let your garden die!”  And there’s been no response.  Now there’s about to be a confrontation, a throwdown between Baal and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the “I am that I am.”  It’s happening in Baal’s garden but it’s going to be on God’s terms.  In the end, everything is done on God’s terms.

ELIJAH #6

02/16/21

Obadiah has been asked to tell King Ahab that Elijah, the man he has been searching for, the man he wants to kill, has come to see him. Naturally, Obadiah is reluctant to do that and Elijah is trying to reassure him.

 Kings 18:10-11    “As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you, and whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’”  

Elijah wasn’t doing anything.  He wasn’t really hiding and he wasn’t running away.  He was living in Zarephath.  Jezebel and Ahab just couldn’t find him. Elijah has no idea how much danger he’s putting Obadiah in by sending him back to Ahab.   

1 Kings 18:12-14   “I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshipped the Lord since my youth,: 

King Ahab and the rest of the nation need to hear the gospel, the good news.  The drought and the famine are over and the Lord is going to let it rain again.  Elijah can’t tell them because if Jezebel or Ahab find him, he’ll be dead before he can speak.  Elijah needs Obadiah, actually the Lord needs Obadiah, to get the message told.  But Obadiah is afraid to do it because he really doesn’t trust Elijah. 

It’s hard for believers to love one another because believers have a hard time trusting one another.   How’s the world going to know that God wants to send the rain, God wants to send revival, God wants to quench the thirst of the human soul; how’s the world going to know, how’s the work of God and the will of God going to be done on earth as it is in heaven if believers can’t work together because they can’t seem to trust one another?    

 Kings 18:15    “Elijah said, ‘As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.’”

I don’t expect you to trust me just because of what I say.  But I’m determined to live my life in a way that will convince you I can be trusted. Trust cannot be expected until it has been earned.  I’ll be here when you get back and “I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”  I will not put your life in jeopardy.  Our words have to be consistently backed up by our actions.  We have to follow through, keep our promises and do exactly what we say – every single time. 

Like Obadiah, someone’s life may be depending on it.  Our words and promises have to be as good as God’s words and promises in order for a hostile, anti-Christian world to believe any of it.  The world will have trouble trusting God’s word until it’s able to trust God’s people, the ones who claim to be speaking those words in His name.  Believers won’t be able  to get the world to trust them until believers have learned to trust one another enough to love one another and work along with each other to complete the work the Lord has given us to do.

I know this was a short one today, but things are about to get real interesting. Join us again next Tuesday and be in God’s word with Pasto Buj.

ELIJAH #5

02//09/21

            Elijah is on his way to tell Ahab that, after three years, it’s finally going to rain again.

            1 Kings 18:3b  “Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord.”)     

Obadiah was not just a believer, He was “a devout believer,” an obvious believer who didn’t try to hide or compromise his faith in a world that worshipped other gods.  He loved and served the Lord his God every day and he was in charge of Ahab’s palace . 

He told Elijah that he’d been worshipping the Lord since his youth.  He was raised in a godly home by godly parents.  His faith remained strong during the three years of famine and drought; those three long years when the Lord seemed to be silent and absent. 

Ahab had done more to provoke the Lord to anger than all the other kings before him. Obadiah was a lifelong, devout believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Don’t you wonder how he got the job? 

In order to be appointed to such an important position and given that much responsibility, Obadiah must have been very good at what he did, better than everyone else.  The king demanded the best and he got it. 

Obadiah was hired because of the skills and the talents God had given him and he managed to do the job without compromising his love for, or his faith in the Lord. In order to be effective and productive witnesses for Christ, repentant believers have to do their best every day, not for the people they’re working for, but for the Lord.  

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-24

The Lord has a way of putting His people in the right place at the right time.  We may constantly be questioning whether we are where the Lord wants us to be, but when the time is right, we’ll realize why He has us where we are.   

1 Kings 18:4   “While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water.”   

While Queen Jezebel is killing off every prophet she can find, Obadiah is hiding them in caves, feeding them from Ahab’s dwindling supply of food and water.  Obadiah was risking his life every day for the God he continued to trust and believe in. 

Meanwhile, Elijah has absolutely no idea that any of this is going on.  While the prophets in Samaria are hiding in caves to keep from being killed, Elijah, who happens to be the prophet Jezebel is looking for, is living in Zarephath with a widow and her son.  They’ve been eating bread every day from the little bit of flour and a few drops of oil that, somehow, have managed to last for three years. 

Just because we can’t hear Him doesn’t mean the Lord’s not speaking.  Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean the Lord’s not doing it.   

1 Kings 18:5    “Ahab said to Obadiah, ‘Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.’”

The situation’s gotten so bad that King Ahab personally goes out with Obadiah looking for enough grass to keep his animals alive.  Elijah has been living in a spiritually protected bubble for the past three years.  He has no idea how bad the suffering in Israel has actually become.  While king Ahab is nervous and hungry in Samaria, Elijah is clueless and comfortable in Zarephath.  

1 Kings 18:6-7a   So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another. As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him.”

Here’s another example of the countless number of unseen miracles the Lord does for us every day; the ways He shows His love for us, the ways He provides for us, blesses us and protects us; the many things that go unnoticed and things we take for granted.  Ahab goes one way and Obadiah goes another. If Elijah had run into Ahab, he would have been killed on the spot.  But, by God’s grace, Elijah meets Obadiah instead.   

1 Kings 18:7b-9    “Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground and said, ‘Is it really you, my lord Elijah?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Go tell your master Elijah is here.’”

Elijah has no idea how thoroughly and how perfectly the Lord has been working to meet all of his needs and to keep him safe for the past three years.      

The problem with being clueless is that it causes us to be careless and ungrateful.  If we can’t continually “see” what the Lord is doing for us, we tend to take His love and grace for granted.  The Lord is always at work in those areas we can’t see. 

The smartest thing we can do is to keep our eyes on the things we can’t see.  What we can see is always temporary and unreliable, but the things we can’t see are true and they last forever.   

As our circumstances seem to keep getting worse and we’re tempted to think that the Lord is ignoring us; when we can’t hear a word He’s saying, the best and wisest thing we can do is admit that we’re clueless and start thanking and praising Him for the work we know He’s doing and the promises we know He’s keeping.  That way  we won’t feel so embarrassed and ashamed when it all ends in victory.

Lord willing, we’ll pick this up from here next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #4

02/02/21

It’s been less than a hundred years since David had been their king and only about seventy/eighty years since the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem, but in those seventy/eighty years, Israel, which was once a mighty nation united under God, has  been divided into two separate kingdoms.  They’ve drifted away from the faith and the principles of their founding fathers and have begun to worship the false gods of the unbelieving world around them. 

The Lord sent the prophet Elijah to speak to Ahab, the king of Israel, the ten tribes now known as “the kingdom of the north.”  Ahab had done more to provoke the Lord to anger than all the other kings before him.  Each generation kept getting more depraved.   Elijah told King Ahab that it would not rain again until the Lord said so.  Then he left and he’s been living in Zarephath with a widow and her son.  

1 Kings 18:1“After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.’”

“After a loooooooong time…”   Do you like deadlines?  Here’s a deadline we all have to deal with – April 15th.  When we’ve been given a deadline, some of us like to get it done right away to get it over with, but many of us don’t really get moving on it until the last minute. 

The Lord has deadlines.  He knows exactly when He’s going to do something and exactly when something has to be done.  Unfortunately, the Lord doesn’t tell us what those deadlines are and that makes it terribly inconvenient for us, doesn’t it?  We hate not knowing how long it’s going to take.  We hate not knowing how much longer it’s going to be, don’t we? 

Why didn’t Jesus just say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I’ll be back at 6:00pm on February 2, 2021 and I’d like you to have it all done by then.”  If we knew that Jesus was coming back this afternoon at 6:00, what do you think we’d all be doing right now?

 “in the third year…”  The Lord didn’t tell King Ahab or Elijah that it wasn’t going to rain for three years.  He just said it wasn’t going to rain again for “a few years.”  How long is that?  He’s coming “soon.”  What does that mean?  

Nothing is a greater threat to a believer’s faith than TIME.  It’s not the trial; it’s not the persecution that weakens our faith, it’s time.  History has proved over and over again that suffering and persecution will strengthen our faith.  They’ll keep faith alive.  But the passing of time can erode and eventually destroy our faith. 

In the overall scheme of things, three years is not really that much time.  But, because repentant believers live by every word that comes from the mouth of our Heavenly Father, not hearing from the Lord, not having the bread of life for three years can seem like an eternity.

I’m talking about three years when our trial keeps getting worse and we don’t hear the Lord speaking so it seems like the Lord is either punishing us or ignoring us.  That’s when all the questions, all the doubts and all the fears begin to build up in our minds.  Have I done something wrong?  Have I grieved the Holy Spirit?  Why isn’t the Lord answering me?  How much longer is this going to go on?  How much worse is this going to get? 

When the Lord is silent or invisible for, what seems to us to be, long periods of time, our faith begins to crumble.   Romans 5:3 NCV tells us that “troubles produce patience.”   KJV uses the word “Tribulation”  

Patience is the willingness to wait, the ability to maintain our faith over extended periods of time.  We’re not really able to trust in the Lord until we are able to wait for the Lord over an indefinite period of time.  The longer we have to wait, the more time that passes without any visible evidence that the Lord is with us, that the Lord is working and fighting for us, the more He is asking us and teaching us to trust in Him without being afraid.

1 Kings 18:2a    “So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.”

Without any advanced notice, the Lord just tells Elijah to speak to Ahab again and Elijah just got up and went.  It may seem like the Lord is never going to move, but when the Lord is ready to move, He moves quickly.  We need to be expecting it and we need to be prepared for it regardless of how long it seems to be taking.

1 Kings 18:2b – “Now the famine was severe in Samaria.” 

Samaria is the capital of Israel right now.  The famine was bad throughout the entire nation, but it was particularly severe for King Ahab whose palace was in Samaria.

Lord willing, we’ll see where this is going next Tuesday. Thanks for being in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #3

01/26/21

The Lord told Elijah to go to Zarephath where he would find a widow who was going to supply him with food. He is with her now as we continue on from last week. Elijah has asked the widow to give him a piece of bread and some water.

I Kings 17:12  “’As surely as the Lord your God lives,’ she replied, ‘I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it – and die.’”  

“I don’t have any… only a little.”   The Lord always seems to ask us to give the most when we believe we have the least. I can’t give.  I can’t tithe.  I don’t even have enough to pay my bills much less give some of it away.  The widow needed to learn that we always have the most when the Lord gets His first. 

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. ‘TEST ME IN THIS,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the flood-gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have enough room for it.’” (Malachi 3”10)

I Kings 17:13     “Elijah said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for your son and for yourself.’”

“First make a small cake of bread for me FROM WHAT YOU HAVE.”  The Lord will never ask us to give something we don’t have, something He hasn’t already given us and He won’t accept anything from us that we can’t joyfully give Him.   The Lord loves and blesses those who give cheerfully to Him.  

I Kings 17:14-16   “For this is what the God of Israel says, ’This jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on this land..’ She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day and for the woman and her family. For the flour was not used up and the oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.”

“There was food every day for Elijah, for the woman and her family.  The… flour was not used up and the… oil did not run dry.”  Isn’t God good?  Eating around the table with his new family is much better than eating alone by the brook with those birds, isn’t it?  Elijah has again settled in to a new, predictable and safe routine.  It took a little while to adjust to those changes, but life is good again.  

1 Kings 17:17-18  Sometime later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, ‘What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?’”  

How quickly life can change without warning, an unexpected phone call, a shocking diagnosis. Elijah did not see this coming. The Lord had not prepared him for this in advance.  Why does God let these surprises happen?  Things change, things happen to keep us focused on the Lord instead of ourselves, to keep us dependent on and trusting in Him instead of ourselves, to keep us serving Him in the work He keeps giving us to do.  

The widow had always depended on Elijah.  She looked to him for answers and, up until now, Elijah always managed to come up with them.  But this time, Elijah doesn’t have the answer.  The answer is not in Elijah.  The power is not in Elijah.  Salvation does not come from Elijah.  What they both need right now is only found in the Lord.  

1 Kings 17:19-20   “‘Give me your son,’ Elijah replied.’  He took him from her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy upon this widow I’m staying with, by causing her son to die.?’”

Elijah did what all of us should do when we don’t know what else to do, when there is nothing else we can do, He poured his heart out to the Lord in prayer. Elijah prayed with great passion.  He prayed with a great sense of urgency, desperation and complete helplessness.  He knew what the Lord could do. 

1 Kings 17:22  “Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

Every time I read this passage I wonder what I would have done.  Do I know what it’s like to cry out to God like that?  Would I have prayed like that? Would I have bothered to pray for a child who had stopped breathing?  Is it too much to ask and expect? Would I have done it three times?  How many times would Elijah have done it? 

How long should we pray, how long will we pray for a situation that looks hopeless before we abandon our faith and accept our fate?  Jesus told His disciples to keep on praying; keep on asking, seeking and knocking.  Never get discouraged or quit.  

1 Kings 17:22    “The Lord heard Elijah’s cry and the boy’s life returned to him and he lived.”

Thank God Elijah was not willing to believe that “no” was the answer.  Praise the Lord for someone who was willing to pray as long as it took for that little boy to come back to life.  That’s how to pray when someone needs prayer.  I want someone like him praying for me when I need it.  How long and how fervently are we willing to pray for someone who is dead in their sin?  Are we prepared to pray as long as we have to for them to find new life in Christ? 

1Kings 17:23-24  “Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He took him to his mother and said,  ‘Look, your son is alive.’ Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know you are a man of God and the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’”   

The woman did not believe the Word of God simply because Elijah said so.  The Apostle Paul said,

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

            We can only speak the words the Lord give us to say. We can only quote the scriptures. But we can’t expect people to believe us just because we say so. The Lord will confirm His Word, He will back up the words we speak with His power. We do the speaking but the Holy Spirit does the convincing and the convicting.

                        Lord willing, we’ll pick it up from here next Tuesday. Thanks for getting into God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #2

01/19/21

I Kings 17:2-3   “Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, ‘Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan.’”

“Leave here… and hide.”  Elijah had just proclaimed that there would be no more rain in Israel until the Lord said so. The Lord wanted to protect Elijah from Ahab’s anger.  It took a lot of faith and courage to confront the King of Israel with such bold and direct words and the Lord had a lot more for Elijah to do.  So the Lord is saying, “Just keep away from him.  Hide.  Don’t let him find you.”   

I Kings 17:4-6    “’You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.’ So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.”

We all start out like this as new believers.  Life is great and God is good when we first get saved.  Everything comes easy.  Prayers get answered immediately.  God’s word is new and fresh and exciting.  It doesn’t take long to get comfortable by that brook and start taking the grace and the blessings of God for granted. 

But while we’re drinking that living water and eating the bread and meat of God’s word, the world around us is hungry for the truth and thirsty for something that satisfies and lasts. It’s so easy to become comfortable when the Lord is supplying all our needs and forget that the Lord has put us here to take care of the needs of the world around us.

I Kings 17:7   “Some time later THE BROOK DRIED UP because there had been no rain in the land.”

His life changed when Elijah told King Ahab that it wouldn’t rain until the Lord said so.  Everything changed again for Elijah when that brook dried up. Elijah had gotten pretty comfortable and content by that brook.  That cool, refreshing water was always right there, just as much as he needed whenever he needed or wanted it.  He was never thirsty.  He was never really hungry and he didn’t really have to work very hard for it either.  The ravens would bring it to him and drop it at his feet twice a day.   But one day he reaches down for a refreshing scoop of cool water and he comes up with a handful of sand.  “The brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.”

Repentant believers are not exempt, we are not shielded from the problems the rest of the world is suffering.  We may not be “of” this world, but we still have to live “in” this world.  If we focus on our own needs, if we refuse to look out or reach out or move out beyond ourselves to a lost and dying world, the Lord will find a way to wake us up.  He’ll shake us up so He can move us on.  The Lord will dry up our brook.  The safe, comfortable, self-centered little world we’ve gotten used to living in will suddenly come to an end.  Whenever the Lord is working, things are constantly changing.   

I Kings 17:8-9    “Then the word of the Lord came to him, ‘Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.’”

I’ll still supply all your needs, Elijah but I’ll be doing it in a different way.    

I Kings 17:10-11  “So he went up to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, ‘Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?’ As she was going to get it, he called, ‘And bring me, please, a piece of bread.’”   

His food and water aren’t automatically being brought to him anymore.  Now he has to ask for it.  He has to depend on someone else to give it to him.   The Lord has a way of putting us with people we’d never choose to associate with on our own.  But we’re placed together by the Lord to learn something from each other about Him. 

Elijah needed to learn to ask and receive and the widow needed to learn to give and let go. Elijah needed to learn to work with others and the widow needed faith in God.  Lord willing, we’ll pick this up again next Tuesday. Thanks for getting in God’s word with Pastor Buj.

ELIJAH #1

11/12/21

In his Epistle, James says, Elijah was a man just like us.”(James 5:17) Over the next several weeks, I pray that the Holy Spirit will help us to see just how much like us Elijah really was.

I Kings 16:29-33  “Ahab…became king of Israel and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab… did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam…, but he also married Jezebel… and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.  Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the Lord, God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

            Things have changed dramatically for the nation of Israel. Back when David was their king, Israel was one Kingdom consisting of twelve united families, called “tribes.”  They were one nation under God with liberty and justice for all.  They were a world leader.  They were admired and respected by all the nations around them.  They were examples and role models for the other nations in the world.  Everyone knew and feared the God of Israel who had always blessed and protected them as a nation. 

They were founded on and governed by the Law and the Ten Commandments.  Under the leadership of David’s s son Solomon, they built a Temple in the capital city of Jerusalem.  They established and Altar for sacrifice and prayer. It was the heart of the nation; a gathering place for all people; a place where they, as individuals and as a nation, could confess and repent of their sin and find mercy and grace; a place where they could receive forgiveness and become reconciled to each other and to their God. 

What a glorious day it was for the whole nation when the Temple was finally completed.  The entire nation celebrated the dedication of the Temple.  The Bible tells us that when the priests placed the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, the glory of God filled the entire structure.  No one could sing.  No one could pray.  No one could speak.  No one could stand.  No one could move.  When the Lord was in His holy Temple, the whole earth was silent before Him.  They celebrated the occasion with loud shouts of praise. 

How could a nation, how could a people get from where they were then to where they are now in less than a hundred years?  It’s only been about seventy or eighty years since the dedication of the Temple.  But in those seventy/eighty years, the nation has been divided into two separate kingdoms – the Kingdom of the North, consisting of ten tribes and still called Israel and the Kingdom of the South, which consisted of only one tribe, the tribe of Judah. 

The Kingdom of the North had a new capital city – Samaria. The capital city of Judah, the Kingdom of the South, was still Jerusalem.  The tribe of Levi was technically considered to be neutral.

  Here in I Kings 16, Ahab has become the king of Israel, the Kingdom of the North.  Since the original Temple was in Jerusalem, Israel built its own Temple in Samaria.  Israel built a Temple for the god, Baal, the god of lust, greed and pleasure. 

How could a nation, how could any nation stray so far away from the faith of their founding fathers in such a short amount of time?  How could their political leaders, their educational leaders and their spiritual leaders take them so far away from the faith, from the principals, from the God who had so greatly blessed and protected them and made them so strong?

 Living by the Law of Moses used to be normal for Israel; not having any other gods or idols; not lusting after someone else’s wife, not being envious of what others had, remembering the Sabbath Day and keeping it holy was something everybody automatically did.  But if you still believe that and try to do that now, everybody laughs at you.  Your kids get picked on in school.  What does God have to say to an unholy, ungodly and unbelieving world?  What does the Lord expect, what does He desire from those who still love Him and who want to remain faithful to Him? 

I Kings 17:1   “Now Elijah… said to Ahab, ‘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.’”

Ahab, you and the nation of Israel have been going your own way and doing whatever you wanted for quite a while now, but things are about to change. Regardless of how enlightened you think you are, in spite of how advanced and progressive you think you may be; God is still God.  There are no other gods.  The I Am That I Am, the Lord alone is God and He is sovereign over all things. He’ll always have the last word.. 

Regardless of what you have chosen to believe, everything was created by, everything is determined by His word.  If God says it’s not going to rain, it’s not going to rain until God says it is.  You may refuse to believe it.  You can choose to ignore it but you can’t change it, you can’t stop it and you can’t control it.  In the end, it’s going to be the way God says it’s going to be.

We’ll be following Elijah over the next several weeks so I hope you’ll come along with me. Lord willing, we’ll pick it up from here next Tuesday.

JONAH #8

01/05/21

Jonah believes the Lord, the Sovereign creator of the universe, the I AM, does not understand how he feels and he’s trying to explain. They have differing opinions about a vine.

Jonah 4 10   “”But the Lord said, ‘You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.’”  

Never once did you stop to think about how this vine got here. You never considered the one who created and provided the vine for you. You simply took my blessings for granted. You love the things I do for you more that you love me.

Jonah 4:11a“But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty people who cannot tell their right hand from their left and many cattle as well.”

They are materially wealthy, but spiritually poor. They are spiritually ignorant, confused and lost in their sin..

 The Book of Jonah starts off with a lot of high drama; running away from God, a storm at sea;  sitting in the fish, being vomited on land, a lot of turbulent and unnecessary drama going on in Jonah’s life. But the book ends with an abrupt thud!.  The Book ends with an unanswered question.  But it’s a question that Jonah and everyone of us has to answer.  

Jonah 4:11b  “Should I not be concerned about that great city?” 

Jesus wants us to become like Him.  Unfortunately, most of us are just like Jonah.  We try to please the Lord and be obedient to His word because we don’t like storms.  We don’t like being thrown into the sea.  We don’t like to be inside a fish.  But we do love those blessings.  We’ll do whatever we have to do to keep those blessings coming. 

Immediate, self-gratification often becomes the motivation for our devotion and obedience. Who doesn’t love those name-it-and-claim-it prosperity preachers in those rapidly growing mega churches?  We get into the habit of obeying the Lord because of what’s in it for us.  We might get away with it if the Lord didn’t keep asking us the same question He asked Jonah. ”Should I not be concerned about that great city?” 

Well, yes, Lord.  You should be concerned about that great city.  I think we, the church, should be concerned about that great city.  But does that mean I have to be concerned about that great city?  Does “we” mean “me?”  Are you implying, Lord that I have to care about the lost as much as you do?  (Absolutely!)  Can’t I just sit under my comfortable shady vine and let the preacher do it?  (I don’t think so.) 

The Christian life is not about blessings, it’s about service.  The Christian life is all about becoming like Jesus who made Himself a servant.  I didn’t call you to bless you, Jonah.  I called you so I could use you to make disciples.  I called you to be my witness in your great city, in your nation and in the uttermost parts of the earth. 

If we become too comfortable under the shade of our vines, too focused on our vines, refusing to answer the question, refusing to even think about the question, the Lord has a way of making all the things we’ve gotten comfortable with dry up and wither away.  If we make idols out of our blessings, they will all begin to crumble at our feet. 

The Lord is graciously blessing us.  But if our close knit[AB1]  circle of family and friends becomes  our first love, our primary focus and our only concern, if we enjoy being together, but we fail to care about the city around us, the worm will begin to eat all those blessings away.  The scorching east wind and the blazing hot sun will burn then all to ashes. 

We’re not where the Lord wants us to be and we’re not what the Lord wants us to be until we can honestly give Him the right answer to His question; until we care about the great city of souls around us who are dying in sin, lost and without Jesus; until we can care about them as much as He does; until we are willing to love them as much as He does; until we can share the good news of the Gospel with them that will move them to repentance.  The Lord does not want to “bring upon them the destruction He has threatened.”  There’s no happy ending to our story and there’s no real progress in our relationship with Jesus until that final question gets answered.

Lord willing, next time we’ll be taking a closer look at Elijah. Please stay in the word with Pastor Buj.


 [AB1]

JONAH #7

12/29/2020

Jonah 4:1     “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.”

Jonah did what the Lord asked him to do. The Lord is pleased and satisfied, but Jonah is displeased and angry.  Obviously, there’s still more work that has to be done in Jonah. The Lord used the fish to work on Jonah’s mind and his will, getting him to think correctly about God and about himself; getting him willing to do what the Lord wants him to do and willing to be what the Lord wants him to be.  But in chapter 4, the Lord goes to work on Jonah’s heart.  

Jonah 4:2   “He prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord is this not what I said when I was still at home? This is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.’”

“I knew…”you are gracious and compassionate.   That’s why I’m not dead now.  But those people are Ninevites, gentiles, aliens and foreigners to the covenant.  I was taught to have nothing to do with the Ninevites.  The Ninevites are our enemies.  They’re your enemies.  I don’t want them to be forgiven.  They should burn in hell for worshipping false gods and for all they’ve done to us.          

Jonah 4: 3-4  “’Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ But the Lord replied, ‘Have you any right to be angry?’”   

“Have you any right to be angry?”  Do you remember when “the word of the Lord came to Jonah a SECOND time?” (Jonah 3:1) 

Is there any reason I should give you two chances to repent and not even give them one

Is there any difference between an unbeliever who worships a false god and a believer who refuses to obey the true God?  Is sin any less offensive to me when it’s committed by one of my own children?  You didn’t repent, Jonah.  They did.  They repented as soon as they learned about their sin.  You never even apologized.  You blamed yourself for the storm, but you never admitted you did anything wrong. 

You never asked me to forgive you.  Look at all you had to go through before you were willing to listen to me.  They turned from their sinful ways immediately; no ship, no storm, no fish.  They heard.  They repented and they turned to me.  Why should I ignore them?   

Jonah 4:5    “Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.”

Jonah hasn’t answered the Lord’s question.  He’s not talking to God right now. He had a lot to say when he was sinking to the bottom of the sea.  He sure had a lot to say when he was inside that fish, didn’t he?  But now that he’s safe and things have started to improve, he doesn’t feel like talking any more.   

Jonah 4:6     “Then the Lord provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.”

Wow!  What a turn around.  First he “was greatly displeased and angry,” but now he’s “very happy.”  What did it take turn Jonah from angry to happy?  It took a vine to ease his discomfort  What can the Lord do to make us happy? Ease our discomfort?  Make life more comfortable for us?  Bless us Lord and we’ll be happy.  O how we love those showers of blessings.  What does it take to get us to pray and call on the name of the Lord?  Take those blessings away and we’ll start praying again.  

Jonah 4: 7-8   “But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose. God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. . He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live,.’”

I’d rather die and be in heaven with you, Lord than have to love and live with those Ninevites here on earth.  Well, what do you know?  Jonah’s talking again.  “In my distress I called to the Lord.” (2:1)   Jonah prays when he’s worried and afraid.  He prays when he’s angry and he prays when he needs something from God.  Is he the only one who does that?  

Jonah 4:9a   “But God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have any right to be angry about the vine?’” 

There’s that question again.  The question Jonah conveniently avoided answering the first time.  Do you have a right to be angry about the vine or about anything at all? Jonah finally comes up with an answer.  Unfortunately, it happens to be the wrong answer.  

Jonah 4:9b   “’ I do,’  he said. I am angry enough to die.’”

Do we have any rights at all before God?  Are we entitled to anything from the Lord?  “Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:35)  The truth is that none of us deserve to receive anything at all from the Lord.  The only thing we really deserve from God is hell because of our sin.  Whatever the Lord may decide to give us is completely by His grace alone.  All of our rights died at Calvary.   

“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”  (Hebrews 12:4)

Lord willing, we’ll pick it up from here next Tuesday. Thanks for getting into God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

JONAH #6

12/22/2020

Last week, we left Jonah sitting inside a fish where he had plenty of time to think about his past and pray about his future.  He’s had time to think about the direction his life’s been headed and what he wants to do from this point on.  He’s decided to stop running from the Lord and start doing what the Lord wants him to do. 

He’s ready to attempt great things for God and accomplish great things for God, but he’s got one small problem.  He’s still sitting inside the fish.  Before Jonah can get from where he is, from where he’s ended up because of the choices and decisions he’s made; before he can get from where he is to where the Lord wants him to be, he has to get out of that fish. 

Remember from last week, that fish represents an uncomfortable and unpleasant time, a transitional time in our lives that we can’t change, we can’t control and we can’t stop in any way.  The Lord put Jonah in that fish and the Lord is the only one who decides when and how Jonah’s going to get out.

Jonah 2:10    “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it VOMITED Jonah onto dry land.”

How disgusting do you think that must have been?  Jonah was vomited onto dry land.  Just think about it, the sound, the smell, the feel with Jonah in the middle of it.

Jonah wasn’t paying much attention when he went into that fish.  He was too busy sinking to the bottom of the sea with seaweed wrapped around his head.  When he woke up inside that fish, he must have thought he was dead.  He wasn’t really sure where he was or how he got there. 

But this is different.  Getting out of that fish is going to be much worse than getting in because now Jonah is fully aware of what’s going on.  He’s conscious of every disgusting and nauseating detail.  It’s an incredibly miserable experience for anyone who’s ever gone through it. 

Being inside the fish is that awkward and unpleasant time in our lives that the Lord uses to turn us completely toward Him.  It’s dark and confining in there.  We feel helpless and ashamed, but we’ve also become hopeful and encouraged and eager to start living for the Lord.  It seems like it’s never going to end.  But the good news is that it does come to an end.  

The bad news is that in order for it to end, the fish has to vomit.  Being vomited onto dry land, getting from where we’ve put ourselves to where the Lord wants us to be, is always a very traumatic and unpleasant time of intense upheaval in our lives.  It’s an experience the Lord never wants us to forget and an experience we never want to repeat.  The only encouraging thing about it is that the vomiting experience doesn’t last very long.

In addition to being the worst experience of our lives, it’s also the shortest.  It begins and ends without warning.  After going months, maybe even years without anything happening, without any changes or improvements to our circumstances, without any indication the Lord is hearing our prayers, when the Lord seems absent and silent, after the Lord’s work has been completed in us, after our minds have been renewed, our wills have conformed and our attitudes have been adjusted, things begin to move at lightning speed. 

It’s a time when absolutely everything in our lives is rapidly coming apart.  Life is moving way too fast and it’s completely out of control.  There’s nothing to stand on; nothing to hold on to.  I don’t know where God is.  I don’t even care where God is anymore.  I feel like everything’s spinning around and around.  Then, all of a sudden – – – it’s over.  Everything miraculously and mercifully settles down.  The ground is solid.  The wind is calm.  The air is fresh.  The sun is shining.  The sky is blue.  The birds are singing.  I’m out.  I’m free and everything is smelling great.  Yesterday seems like a bad dream. . ‘

It’s all a part of God’s perfect and wonderful plan for our lives.  It seems the Lord is taking forever to answer our prayers, but once the Lord moves, He moves quickly so we’d better be ready to move with Him.  

Jonah 3: 1-7a   “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh…. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed, ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.’ The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.”

Jonah 3:10   “When God saw what they did and saw how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.”    

The Lord told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah did what the Lord told him to do.  The Ninevites heard God’s word and repented.  The will of God has been done on earth as it is in heaven.  The Lord is pleased.  There’s no reason the story can’t end right here, but it doesn’t. Lord willing, we’ll pick it up from here next Tuesday. I hope you’ll stay in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.

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