I am convinced that my daughter's 5th grade teacher may be the wisest of them all. She told her class this year that they were not going to debate the upcoming election. She said she knows that all of them probably have very strong opinions but since they can't actually vote in the election she thought she'd like them to all remain friends. Smart lady.
The book of 1st Kings begins with David's death and Solomon his son taking the throne. God tells Solomon that he will grant him whatever he requests. Solomon asks for wisdom.
"So give your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours." It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing." 1st Kings 3:9-10
One of the first actions of the new king is to build a temple. A place where the people can go to seek help. I love Solomon's prayer when they finish the building. Lord hear us!
Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven your dwelling place, hear and forgive; 1st Kings 8:30
Also concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel, when he comes from a far country for Your name's sake (for they will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand and of your outstreched arm) when he comes and praye toward this house, hear in in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You in order that the peoples of the earth may know your name. Ist Kings 8:41-43
God responds with a Big IF.
As for you, if you will walkbefore Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdome forever, just as I promised to your father David ,saying, "You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel." "But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me and do not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them. Ist Kings 9 4-6
And from there the fortunes and woes of the country rise and fall with the hearts of their leaders. When the kings led under wisdom and grace then the country prospered. When the kings followed other Gods, violence ensued. Civil war broke out and the country was divided into two. Two tribes formed the country called Judah and ten tribes stayed as Israel.
Our pastor says that the biggest word in the Bible is If. Our lives hinge on the word if.
If we forgive.
If we continue on this path.
If we ignore justice.
If we start with violence.
If she wins. If he wins.
Seems like we are facing a lot of heavy ifs.
The worst leaders in the Bible had to be King Ahab and his wife, Jeszebel. They stole from the poor, practiced a religion that required child sacrifice and masacared the priests of God.
"Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him." I Kings 21:25
Elijah asks God for miracles. Economic, Physical, Spiritual. The poor are fed, children are raised, the people start to return to their covenant with God. The King is ticked.
When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" He said I have not troubled Israel but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals. I Kings 18: 17-18
The conflict comes to a climax when Elijah and the prophets of Baal agree to a showdown. They both build an altar to their god and they wait to see who answers. The 450 prophets of Baal yell and dance and make a scene. And nothing happens. The prophet Elijah humbles himself and asks God to answer.
"Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God and that you have turned their heart back again" 1 Kings 18: 37
God hears from heaven and responds with a great show of power.
When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.' 1st Kings 18:39
I do best when I start with simple. The Lord, He is God.
Naturally, King Ahab and Jezebel are furious and threaten to kill Elijah. So he runs to the wilderness to hide. God met his needs. Economic, phyiscal, spiritual. I love this section of the book. If your soul could use some encourgement in this violent world we live in go read 1st Kings 19. Know that God will meet your needs and He will do it with gentleness.
This section of the Bible reminds me violence and fear and bitterness don't win. Love casts out fear. Anger turns aside to a gentle answer. Violence can't stand up to Grace. When I am weak, He is strong. Ask for help today. He hears from heaven.
The first presidential debate is today. May I recommend that you extend grace. Be gentle. Let's show some fifth grade wisdom. Let's stay friends.
Take a minute today and listen to this song. Let's ask God to hear from heaven. We could use the help.
The Bible Project did one video summarizing 1st and 2nd Kings. So you get 1st Kings now and 2nd Kings as a preview for next week. These really are a supurb way to catch the grand picture of the Bible.
Sometimes we shrug off the misdeeds of the kings in this section of the Bible. However, the level of violence and debauchary the kings displayed certainly warranted justice. Jill Williamson's new triology is a fictional tale based on the kings and the fallout to a nation who wanders so far off course. Join the adventure at www.jillwilliamson.com.
Do you feel discouraged by the hate and violence and rhetoric all around us? Sigh. Depressing. Some days I scroll the newsfeed and hang my head. Some days though I remember to pray while my head is bowed. It helps reset my soul. And clearly we need help from above. We also need each of us to square our shoulders and to do hard work of reconciliation and peacemaking. Be kind today.
The book Safely Home by Randy Alcorn is a lovely reminder of hope. I read this book a decade ago. I think about it often. Good books color your perspective and ride along with you. If you need a beautiful book to encourage your soul then this is your chance.
Safely Home follows the story of two men; one a pastor facing persecution for his faith in China and the second is a business man in America. This book was a challenge to live out my faith in openness and to pray consistently for people around the world who face tyranny. The book is full of hardship but I left at the end with great joy and encouragement. In this insane season with anger and hate and strife it's worth reading again.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes.
"When men know they cannot hope in a country, in a political belief, or in themselves, they become free to hope in God."
Randy Alcorn, Safely Home
"If you are looking for a religion centered around yourself, Ben, I must agree that Christianity is a poor choice."
Randy Alcorn, Safely Home
"And do you think your refusal to believe will convince God to change his nature? He is who he is no matter what you think of him. Despite what Americans believe, the universe is not a democracy. Truth is not determined by the majority."
Randy Alcorn, Safely Home
Randy Alcorn with Eternal Perspective Ministries gave Quirky Faith a free copy of Safely Home to give out to a lucky reader. You can visit Randy Alcorns website HERE. No purchase necessary to win. Contest starts September 23rd and a winner will be drawn randomly from all the entries on September 30th, 2016.
Five Ways to Enter (and you can enter more than once if you do more than one of the options).
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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