Welcome to Looking Up

The name of this blog is taken from Luke 21:28 where Jesus says: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

2 Kings 10:16 – Faltering Zeal

It seems as if some people who start out well in serving the Lord continue in their zeal for Him, whereas others fall away. How and why they turn is certainly a complicated dynamic. We see this in the account of Jehu. Back when Elijah was prophet over Israel, Yahweh had given him Word that Jehu the son of Nimshi would someday be king over Israel and bring the Lord’s vengeance upon those who had forsaken Him (1 Kings 19:16-17).  Up until then, Scripture doesn’t mention Jehu the son of Nimshi, so it was one of those prophecies seemingly out of the blue.  Yet, God’s Word never returns void.

In the proper time, God instructed Elisha to have one of the young prophets who followed him go to anoint Jehu, who was a known and feared army commander.  The prophet did so, and in the aftermath, Jehu was quite nonchalant about it.  The men around him asked what the prophet wanted – “this mad fellow” – and Jehu simply said, “You know the fellow and his talk” (2 Kings 9:11).  It seems as if the prophets were looked upon by some as simply mad and “out there.”

There were those around Jehu, however, who took the prophet seriously, and they announced Jehu as their king.  Despite Jehu’s casual acceptance of his role at first, he took it seriously from that point onward.  The prophet had told him that he was to strike down the house of Ahab and avenge the Lord on Jezebel who had acted so wickedly against Him, so he plotted to do that very thing.

The king of Israel was Joram (a.k.a. Jehoram), the son of Ahab.  He had been wounded in a battle with the Syrians and went to Jezreel to recover.  Because King Ahaziah of Judah wasn’t a godly man either, he was hanging out with Joram while he recuperated.

Jehu knew this and came to fulfill his destiny.  His approach to Jezreel got the attention of King Joram.  Apparently Jehu’s reputation preceded him, and the watchman reporting to Joram told him in 2 Kings 9:20:

“And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.”

This concerned Joram, so he and Ahaziah went out to meet Jehu, asking if he came in peace.  Jehu quickly declared that he didn’t, and the kings fled from him.  But Jehu was on a mission.  He personally killed Joram, and had his men dispatch Ahaziah.  From there he went into Jezreel and assured that Jezebel met her just end.

Jehu didn’t stop there.  Yahweh had instructed him to destroy the entire family of Ahab, which he did, speaking these words in 2 Kings 10:10:

“Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what he said by his servant Elijah.”

Still, there was more.  He enlisted the help of a friend, and they went to annihilate the prophets of Baal in Israel.  On the way, he uttered in 2 Kings 10:16 these inspiring words:

“Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.” 

With that, he turned the temple of Baal into a latrine.

Now, you’d think after all this that Jehu would be a Godly man in his reign as king. He was actually the instrument of the Lord’s vengeance, so he saw firsthand how important it was to follow and obey God.  Sadly, he apparently lost his zeal for Yahweh, as we see in 2 Kings 10:29:

But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin—that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.

Likewise in 2 Kings 10:31 we see the reason:

But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.

He didn’t pay attention to God’s Law.  He turned from Him and worshiped the golden calves that Jeroboam had previously set up for Israel to bow down to rather than to honor Yahweh in Jerusalem.

It saddened God and caused Him to bring judgment on the descendants of Jehu through Syria once more.

So, the question becomes: What went wrong?  Jehu was doing so well, but then went off the rails.  Why would he do such a thing knowing what he knew?

That last verse tells us.  Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.

From this, he ended up doing essentially what the king that God had instructed him to kill had done.  He followed other gods than the God of Israel.  Rather than becoming the one, single king of Israel who was righteous, he simply became one of the bunch.  Starting out so well, he fell away.

How sad, and how typical of many in the church today.  It seems that Jesus’ Parable of the Sower applied in OT times as well as for us in this NT era.  People hear the Word of God; they become excited, even zealous for Him.  But, something happens.  Perhaps it’s the cares of the world, or the Word doesn’t take root as it must.  They end up turning to other gods; in the case of present day to ones such as money, fame, power, sex, drugs, or simply worshiping a celebrity idol.

Jehu presents to us a cautionary morality tale.  Someone can be on fire for the Lord, but unless he has truly repented, truly become born-again through God’s mercy, the danger of falling away is ever-present.

Repentance is the key.  There is no salvation without it.  Let us examine ourselves.  Let us ask the Lord to reveal anything in our lives that keeps us from Him.  We’ll never regret strengthening our faith in this way.

Awaken Bible Prophecy Update 5-12-21: The Next Crisis

Awaken Bible Prophecy Update 5-12-21: Pandemic or Plague – The Next Crisis

In this prophecy update we first venture into the problem that churches propagate by allowing ungodly thinking to come from the people in the pews.

The main discussion centers around the possibility of another crisis – perhaps a smallpox epidemic – that the globalist elites require to maintain an attitude of fear in order to exercise control.

 

https://rumble.com/vgz5xx-awaken-bible-prophecy-update-5-12-21-pandemic-or-plague-the-next-crisis.html

 

Sources: See source links beneath video on Rumble

 

2 Kings 8:12 – Why Elisha Wept

The prophet Elisha had quite a lot of interaction with the kings of Syria that resulted in a number of dramatic events.  Actually the Ben-Hadad noted in the Bible as king of Syria, but not distinguished as such, was both father and son.  Because Elisha performed his many deeds for about 60 years, he would have interacted with both these individuals.  It was probably the father, Ben-Hadad I, who was king when Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, was healed of leprosy, since Scripture seems to indicate that the king was old (2 Kings 5:18).  We can’t determine for certain whether it was father or son who ruled when Syria warred against Israel and the Lord blinded the army at the behest of Elisha (2 Kings 6:18).  We are told that following this incident the Syrians didn’t come against Israel again for some time.  That period might have been a transitional one from father to son.

What is interesting in the account of the Syrian army coming against Israel at that point is how Elisha instructed the ungodly king Jehoram to respond.  The Lord had struck the Syrians with blindness when they had come to seize Elisha.  He led them to Samaria right into the hands of their enemy.  When Jehoram – who sometimes listened to Elisha and didn’t at other times – did as Elisha instructed, the Syrian king must have been befuddled, leading to his leaving Israel alone.

Elisha told Jehoram to treat their enemy well, to feed the army, and allow them to return home intact.  This was unheard of in those days.  It appears to be a foreshadowing of what Proverbs 25:21-22 says:

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,

    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,

for you will heap burning coals on his head,

    and the Lord will reward you.

Paul then echoes this teaching in Romans 12:19-21:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Here in this Old Testament account with Elisha, we see the mercy of the Lord.  His intent is always to show that “there is a God in Israel” and to demonstrate how Israel was to be a blessing to other nations.

If Ben-Hadad I, the father, learned this lesson, particularly after having had his own commander, Naaman, become a follower of Yahweh, the son didn’t study well.  He came against Israel and brought it under siege.  It resulted in such famine that the people resorted to cannibalism (2 Kings 6:29).  In this situation Elisha was again instrumental in bringing the Word of God.  An amazing turn of events took place and the Syrian army routed itself after Yahweh supernaturally confused them.  They thought Israel had hired other armies to help them.  Their fear of this – no doubt placed in their hearts by God – was so great that they fled and left everything behind. It enabled the Israelites to recover from the famine and once more see the Lord’s goodness toward them despite their ungodly behavior.

Ben-Hadad II, the son, became sick. He knew of Elisha, and that he was a man of God, so he inquired of him if he would recover. Where was his god?  Regardless, he had regard for Elisha and for Yahweh, probably in the aftermath of their massive defeat.

Some years prior, God had told Elijah, the prophet before Elisha, that Hazael would become king over Syria, although this doesn’t appear to have been made known to Hazael at the time.  In 1 Kings 19:15 we saw this:

And the Lord said to him [Elijah], “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.

When this anointing happened is unclear in Scripture.  There appears to be no textual reference to it.  When we next encounter Hazael it is through the eyes of Elisha when the king asked through this man if he would recover from his illness.  Elisha tells him that Ben-Hadad Ii would recover, but he actually won’t; that is, the king would surely die.

There is then an intriguing interchange between Elisha and Hazael in 2 Kings 8:11-13:

And he [Elisha] fixed his gaze and stared at him [Hazael], until he [Hazael] was embarrassed. And the man of God wept. And Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel. You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women.” And Hazael said, “What is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Syria.”

Hazael doesn’t seem aware of his destiny, but he accepts it after the stare-down by Elisha.  The very next day Hazael acts on this.  He returns to the king to inform him that he would recover, then murders him.  Elisha wept for Israel and the mayhem that would soon come upon her.

God used Hazael as an instrument of vengeance against Israel for a number of years, just as He often used other ungodly people to accomplish His purposes.

This is of interest to us today.  We must understand that certain events that happen at the hands of the ungodly are not without their use to God.  In fact, He orchestrates them through wicked people.  Once the necessary things have been done, God will then execute His judgment and vengeance upon these vessels of unrighteousness.

The lesson for us is that though we may see evil increasing all around us, we need not fear.  God is in control.  He has a plan.  When wickedness seems to flourish, it’s only because the end of God’s plan is nearing its conclusion.

So, let’s not despair at the rise of evil. Let us rejoice. God is in heaven and He is about to do amazing things in this earth!

2 Kings 5:20 – Gehazi’s Greed

The account of the Syrian commander Naaman and the prophet Elisha is one that teaches us much about the ways of God.  The underlying narrative is that in the Ancient Near East (ANE) there was a territorial concept about the gods.  Deriving from the Genesis 11 account of the Tower of Babel where Yahweh came down, scattered mankind into nations, and confused their languages, men began to worship the sons of God whom the Lord had placed over those nations (see Deuteronomy 32:8 – ESV translation).  Those powerful princes in the heavenly host rebelled and set themselves up as gods over these nations rather than point the people under them to God as they had been directed.  This is where and why the peoples in the ANE came to worship these pagan gods.

In the Naaman story, one of the gods over Syria was Rimmon.  After Naaman was healed, he desired to take back a load of dirt from Israel, for which Elisha was happy to comply.  The purpose goes back to the geographical nature of the gods.  Rimmon and others were over every nation except Israel.  Yahweh was the God of Israel.  As such, the ground in Israel – because of Yahweh and who He was – was holy.  Naaman, through his healing, had become a follower of Yahweh – a true believer.  His purpose in taking earth back with him to Syria was to somehow use that in worshiping the One true God.  In that process, he was renouncing his allegiance to Rimmon.  He believed he could do that only by having the holy ground of Israel to enable him to thus worship Yahweh.

Naaman wanted to give Elisha presents for healing him of his leprosy, but the prophet wouldn’t take any gifts.  As the Syrian left, Elisha’s servant Gehazi got the bright idea that he deserved what Naaman had offered, since Elisha had turned those things down.  In 2 Kings 5:20 we see what happened:

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”

This was an act of pure greed.  Elisha had declined the gifts.  As a true prophet of God he didn’t operate in the same way that most of humanity did.  He knew that God would provide.  To accept Naaman’s offerings would demonstrate a lack of trust in Yahweh, and Elsha wasn’t going there.  However, Gehazi did.

He ran after Naaman and lied to him about the need to accept some of what the commander had offered for the healing.  After receiving those things, when he subsequently came into Elisha’s presence, he lied to the man of God.  Big mistake.  Elisha heard clearly from the Lord and immediately knew of Gehazi’s deception.  It brought upon the servant a terrible consequence as recounted in 2 Kings 5:27:

“Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Even worse than this, Gehazi’s greed and lust for material possessions completely eliminated him from a potential promotion in the future.  Recall that righteous Elisha had been Elijah’s servant.  Upon Elijah’s translation into heaven, the mantle of the prophet fell to Elisha, who then received a double portion of the Spirit that had been upon Elijah and the miracles he performed.  Gehazi was next in line.  It’s very possible that had he been similarly righteous, he could have inherited the mantle from Elisha.  Instead, he disappeared from the Biblical narrative as just another unfaithful man.

Gehazi’s greed makes me think of the preachers today who, from all appearances, operate in much the same way.  They have been given the gift and opportunity from God to make a significant impact for His kingdom.  Instead, they accumulate wealth and power for their own self-interest.  They preside over mega-churches or evangelical ministries that touch millions, and accumulate a great following with much in the way of riches with airplanes, mansions, and who knows what else.

How do they get into this mindset of amassing things in place of serving God’s kingdom in the humble manner that Jesus taught?  What will be their fate?  If Gehazi is any kind of example for these present day greedy servants, I wonder.

Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It’s clear.  What is gained here on earth is of little value.  Yet, we have preachers of the Word acting completely contrary to it.  Isn’t that rebellion?  And disobedience?  How did Yahweh deal with Israel for the same sins?  Consider Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24.  He saw the result of the power of God through the apostles, lusted after it, and tried to bribe them for it.  That resulted in a serious rebuke.

The bottom line here is that worldly desires – the greed of the human heart – are not of God.  He greatly disapproves of it.  There are consequences for having such cravings. What those might be for these modern day Gehazis, only God knows.

For every one of us not in those vaunted ministerial positions, we should see the danger and walk the narrow path which rejects this burning need to fill our earthly coffers. Lust of any kind is contrary to a righteous walk with God.

We should continually examine our hearts so as to always be faithful to Him and Him alone.

2 Kings 3:27 – Human Sacrifice

The demonic realm hungers for blood. We’ve all heard about satanic rituals where blood is shed or even drank, so there’s certainly enough information and proof that adherents of darkness who follow Satan and his minions perform abhorrent practices.  Have you ever wondered why, or to what end?

First, it’s important to understand there are spiritual entities which aspire to power, even to the extent of replacing God Himself.  We’re shown this in the Bible right from the beginning of Genesis with the serpent tempting Eve.  He convinced her that she could be like God and know all that He was withholding from her.  It was a lie, of course, but one that she believed. Adam in his naivety went right along with it, and here we are today, their descendants who have inherited their sinful nature from of old.

The serpent – probably Satan – to have seduced Eve with this fallacy, had to have had the notion in the first place that God could be taken down or replaced in some manner.  It was actually his initial rebellion and sin that began the descent into darkness which we’re experiencing today.  There’s also plenty of Scriptural evidence that many other inhabitants of the heavenly host rebelled as well – likely at the instigation of Satan.  We have only to look at the accounts of Genesis 6 (sons of God producing Nephilim with human women) and Genesis 11 (Tower of Babel with God’s sons placed over resulting nations and becoming their gods) to see that foolish ambition isn’t limited to us humans.  It’s been part of the nature of many spiritual beings since their creation as well.

Secondly, one truth we’re shown Biblically is that only by the shedding of blood is sin forgiven.  In the Old Testament theocracy of Israel this came about through animal sacrifice.  These animals had to be first-born and without blemish, foreshadowing the coming of Jesus.  Through the shedding of these many beasts, the sins of the people were covered, and they became acceptable to come before Yahweh and worship.  When Jesus came, He became the perfect sacrifice for all time, doing away with the necessity of killing animals for their blood covering.

In this we see that there is power in the blood; so much so that because Jesus died and shed His blood for us, we who believe now have right-standing with God and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.  This miraculous act both empowers us today and gives us the assurance that we will rise from the dead and be with the Lord forever.

Given the efficacy of blood in doing all this from a righteous and Godly perspective, is it any wonder that Satan appropriated this act to use it for his own devious means?  If blood has this much power for good, then it likewise has much potential for evil. In the same manner, we’re shown how much miraculous power that angels have when sent by God to do His bidding. Rebellious angels have this same power. They haven’t lost it; it’s just that they use it for dark deeds rather than good ones.

Satanic rituals use lots of blood.  Followers of the dark arts sacrifice animals and perform black masses.  They drink the blood that is sacrificed.  All this empowers the demonic entities urging these people onward.  There’s also much evidence that when people drink blood, this creates an even greater demonic stronghold on these individuals that is extremely difficult to break, even when they turn from these dark practices, renounce them, and declare Jesus as their Savior.  They may no longer be possessed, but they can certainly continue to be oppressed and harassed until they walk completely in God’s righteousness and shut the door that remains open in their life to their past.

What is some of the power that comes from the unrighteous shedding of blood?  In 2 Kings 3:27 we see an example.  The kings of Israel, Judah, and Edom had joined together to fight against Moab.  God intervened and gave them an initial victory.  However, only Jehoshaphat of Judah was a righteous king; this likely contributed to what happened next.  The other two kings weren’t Godly and didn’t have His favor.  When the king of Moab saw that he was losing the battle, he performed an extreme act:

Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.

In obeisance to his god, he offered the human sacrifice of his oldest son.  The king shed this young man’s blood in order to gain the demonic power he sought.  Because of the situation, i.e. that only one of the three kings who opposed him was Godly, there was apparently enough unrighteousness in the other two kings that God allowed the Moabite king to prevail through his actions.

This king’s dark deed empowered the demonic minions so that there came great wrath against Israel.

We must understand that this only occurred because God sanctioned it.  In His doing so, this allowed the gods this evil king served to have the necessary power to strengthen their human followers and defeat the Israelite army.

It’s an illustration that we do well to realize gives us insight today as to the spiritual battle in which we’re engaged.  It brings to life Paul’s description in Ephesians 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

The three kings coming against Moab weren’t fighting on the natural human level; they were part of this spiritual war.  Because only one of them was righteous, God allowed Israel with its ungodly king , Jehoram, to be defeated.  As usual, Yahweh was trying to teach His people a lesson.  With Him, all things were possible; without Him, they were lost.

If we walk in the power of God through our salvation in Jesus Christ, we have the only means of victory against the dark forces we face everyday.  In Christ we have life, and that more abundantly.  He alone enables us to triumph over all forces arrayed against us.  Hallelujah!

Is This the Start of the Psalm 83 War?

I’ll just put this out there.  If I’m wrong in thinking this, so be it.  Most prophecy teachers hold to the theory that Ezekiel’s War (Ezekiel 38-39) is the next big prophetic timeline event – aside from the pre-Tribulation Rapture, of course.  Ever since reading Bill Salus’ book: Psalm 83 – The Missing Prophecy Revealed (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BBNQZAE/),  I’ve been a believer that the prophetic community is missing the mark, and that Salus has it right.

Since reading this first book of Bill’s, I’ve appreciated his out-of-the-box thinking that shows up in a number of other end-times prophecies that he explores.  He’s got a great ability to dig into Scripture and look at it differently than others before him.

Given the escalation of violence that has just ramped up in the last couple days (today, as I write this is May 10, 2021), I’m wondering if what we’re seeing could be the beginning of the Psalm 83 War.  We won’t know until it’s well along or over, of course, but given the times in which we’re living, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that this HUGE prophetic marker is about to commence.

Here are a couple items that promoted me to write this:

  • Statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“We are in a struggle that is spreading across several fronts: in Jerusalem, in Gaza and elsewhere in the country. The terrorist organizations in Gaza crossed a red line in the evening on Jerusalem Day and attacked us with missiles at the entrances to Jerusalem.”
  • Headline and introduction from All Israel News:
SIRENS GO OFF IN JERUSALEM — ROCKET HITS HOUSE — MAJOR ESCALATION AS HAMAS FIRES AT ISRAELI CAPITAL (Joel Rosenberg – May 10, 2021)

JERUSALEM—In a major escalation that could set off a full-blown war, Hamas has just fired rockets at Jerusalem from the Gaza Strip.

A 49-year old Israeli woman was wounded. The IDF currently launching airstrikes against targets in Gaza. Sirens began sounding in the Israeli capital just after 6 p.m. local time.

I have not heard the sirens go off here in a war-time situation since 2014.

Keep an eye out.  Bible prophecy has many unfulfilled events that are on the cusp of occurring.  We’ll see – could this be one of them?

John 3:5 – Water and Spirit

We’re all familiar with the account of the Pharisee Nicodemus coming to Jesus at night. Jesus called him the teacher of Israel (John 3:10); as such he was an important, highly regarded man.  It’s why he came at night.  His intense curiosity about Jesus got the best of him, but he couldn’t risk anyone seeing him with this One who caused such angst among his peers.

Nicodemus, like all Pharisees, thought that the way into the kingdom of heaven was by his own righteousness.  Through the uncompromising laws and rules that the Pharisees followed, they were sure that their lives pleased Yahweh.  They had seen the results of their people turning away from the Lord for centuries into apostasy by following other gods, and they were determined not to repeat that offense.  By strictly obeying the 613 Laws that God had given to Israel, they were sure this was the key to eternal life.

This is what Nicodemus believed, yet he had observed the words and actions of Jesus. He had seen the miracles. Because he was religious and knew of Israel’s history, he realized that God indeed sent His prophets, and that they often performed miraculous deeds. He acknowledged this in John 3:2:

This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

In the eyes of Nicodemus, Jesus had surely been sent by God.  So, why did Nicodemus come to Jesus?  What did he ask?

We’re not told this specifically in the text, but he must have expressed some confusion.  His fellow Pharisees were condemning Jesus, but this man who drew such large crowds had a way about Him and did things that no man without God could do.  It perplexed Nicodemus, so he had to find out for himself what Jesus was all about.

Jesus must have surprised Nicodemus by his response.  In John 3:3 we see that:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This was an entirely new concept to Nicodemus.  In all his vaunted learning as a Pharisee, he’d never come across this idea.  It wasn’t something that the Torah, i.e. the Old Testament, had revealed.

He questioned Jesus more, and He said something even more perplexing in John 3:5:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

This really threw Nicodemus.  He had no idea what Jesus was talking about.  This concept of being born again was puzzling enough, what was this about being born of both water and Spirit to enter God’s Kingdom?

We know that when the true church of Jesus Christ is Raptured, the dead in Christ will rise first, followed immediately by those who are alive.  Jesus will come on the clouds, not touching the earth, and summon those who are His to snatch them from this mortal plane to be with Him forever.

What happens then?  At that moment in time – in the twinkling of an eye – we are transformed.  The Bible tells us we will be like Jesus.  We will be given glorified bodies.  Our bodies of flesh are like a seed that goes into the ground.  When it germinates, it metamorphoses into something entirely different from what it had been.  It produces a living green plant, whereas before it had been a little, hard brown shell. The life that comes forth is so totally different from what it had been that the before and after are seemingly unrelated.

When we are born into the flesh, we develop in our mother’s womb in amniotic fluid, i.e. water.  We come forth with the bursting of that sac and water is released. Our birth into life is predicated on our having developed in this water. That process brings us into this world. As Jesus said, we are born of water.

Life in the flesh is completely different from that of the Spirit. Spiritual beings inhabit a plane of existence that we cannot see nor comprehend. We know this realm is real, but it is so far removed from our comprehension, that we can only imagine being part of it.  Jesus said that when we’re born again by the Holy Spirit of God, this enables us to enter and become part of that realm.

To become part of that new existence, we must believe in Jesus; that He is God; that He came to earth and inhabited a mortal body; that He died for our sins; that He rose from the grave – transformed back into a spiritual being; and that He is coming back to bring us to the place he has prepared for us.  This transformation is a most marvelous concept. Our mortal bodies will become something entirely different. We will become spirit beings, yet have characteristics that are of the flesh; but we won’t be flesh.

Jesus could apparently walk through walls or simply appear in one place or another.  He could eat food, yet He didn’t need it. After His resurrection. He was, and is, an inhabitant of heaven, but He was just as comfortable walking on the earth. This is what it will be like for us, and more.  It is this which Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus which neither he nor we can fully comprehend.

Contemplating this incredible future gives us hope. There is more to life than what we know in the flesh. What we will be is ultimately a mystery, but it will be marvelous. This is why we believe as Jesus so famously said in John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

1 King’s 19:10 – Elijah’s Lament

Elijah obeyed the Lord and received His blessings for his faithfulness, but that didn’t stop the prophet from fearing for his life at the hand of man.  Because of the tasks that God had Elijah perform, his life was constantly in danger.  In his human frailty, he grew weary and depressed.  Yet, Yahweh came to Elijah at multiple times to show His love and care for him in his times of greatest need.

In one particular instance, an angel instructed Elijah to travel to Mount Horeb, a journey that took forty days.  During that time he must have seriously questioned what he was doing and its purpose.  It left him depleted and with little hope. In 1 Kings 19:10 we see Elijah’s lament:

He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”

That forty days gave him too much opportunity to think.  He concluded that despite his faithfulness to God, no one in Israel paid attention to what he said – he believed God’s Word was returning void; more than that, he believed he was the only person left in all the land who still revered the Lord.

At this moment of deepest despair, God showed up.  As He did, Elijah once more voiced his complaint in 1 Kings 19:14, just to make sure Yahweh had heard him the first time.  He did.

God did something quite unusual with Elijah to assure him of His continued presence.  He instructed the prophet to anoint three different individuals for service to Him.  We see that in 1 Kings 19:15-16:

And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.”

God told Elijah to anoint:

  1. The next king over Syria which was a pagan nation and enemy of Israel
  2. The next king over apostate Israel in place of wicked King Ahab
  3. The next prophet who would succeed Elijah

The purpose of these anointings was to specifically address Elijah’s complaint.  Israel had turned from Yahweh, and Elijah hated that.  Just like any ministry leader, he wanted to see fruit from his efforts.  In this case, God largely agreed with Elijah that the unbelieving people of Israel had hardened their hearts to such an extent that few remained who followed Him.  These anointings provided the means for God to rectify the situation.  In the solution, we can read between the lines that God was as fed up with Israel’s apostasy as Elijah was.  The text of 1 Kings 19:17-18 tells us what God declared:

“And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

The new king of Syria would pursue the heretical people of Israel and put them to death.  If anyone escaped the enemy’s sword, the new king of Israel would hunt these unbelievers down and kill them.  If any of these still remained after the first two waves of slaughter, then Elijah’s successor prophet would finish God’s task.

What was at issue?  Why was God ordaining the demise of these people?  It was because they had turned from him to worship Baal.  This was always an abomination to Yahweh, and he inevitably brought wrath and punishment to those who so foolishly turned from Him.

These two new kings and the next prophet didn’t appear instantly.  As in most things in life when God is at work, it took some time for the prophecy to be fulfilled.  We don’t see the next king of Syria until 2 Kings 8; neither does the next king of Israel come into the picture until 2 Kings 9.  As for the next prophet, Elisha, he doesn’t actually succeed Elijah until 2 Kings 2.

These tasks of anointing showed Elijah that God was at work, but Yahweh also wanted to reassure him there were others who still loved the Lord.  He did this by telling Elijah that there was a remnant in Israel of 7,000 others who followed the Lord.  Surely this helped Elijah not feel so alone.  Somewhere in the land were a faithful few.

For those of us who labor for the Lord, our “success” often ranges in our ministry efforts from prominent to seemingly nothing.  We all know of high-profile pastors.  Some of them are true ministers of the Gospel, while others only pretend to be so.  There have been many missionaries over the years who worked hard in difficult places and actually saw no one turn to the Lord.  Yet, they planted seeds, and only when those missionaries died did plants and fruit appear.  It must have been exceedingly discouraging, but these faithful ones carried on in the hope and promise of God that all they did wouldn’t be wasted.  Sometimes there’s a late harvest rather than an early one.

God told Elijah that his ministry had some effect; He also let him know that through his work, greater things would happen later.

The bottom line message that God gave Elijah was to simply trust that He was present and silently at work.  That’s difficult to accept at times, yet isn’t that what faith and trust in God are all about?

God fulfills His promises.  When He calls someone to work for the Kingdom, it is not in vain.

1 Kings 18:21 – Leaping and Limping

If someone is leaping, can he also be limping at the same time?  That’s a strange question, isn’t it? Apparently according to the writer of 1 Kings, that’s a distinct possibility.

In the days of the prophet Elijah, the wicked King Ahab ruled over Israel – the Northern Kingdom.  He was so evil and far from God that the text declares in 1 Kings 16:31 about Ahab:

And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.

In other words, the sins of Jeroboam were bad enough.  His idolatry had caused the people of Israel to sin, and God didn’t take kindly to that.  With Ahab, he compounded the sin by marrying Jezebel, who was a pagan princess and high priestess of the gods Baal and Asherah.  Her influence was strong on Ahab to the extent that 1 Kings 16:32-33 tells us:

He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

That was a final straw for God.  The people had crossed a line with Him.  Just like a disobedient child that needs to be punished, Yahweh had to show Israel the error of their ways.  In this instance, He brought a three-year drought that resulted in a severe famine.

Apparently during the time of Elijah’s ministry, he had been a severe thorn in Ahab’s side.  This drought caused the king to seek Elijah to kill him.  God brought the drought and Ahab’s hatred of Elijah to a head when he instructed the prophet to present himself to Ahab.  That provided the opportunity for one of the most – if not the most – dramatic showdowns in the Bible.  This was the spiritual equivalent of Gary Cooper in the movie High Noon facing the bad guys on Main Street in a major gunfight in sight of the whole town while they stood back and watched.

Elijah declared to Ahab that it was because of him that God brought trouble on Israel; Elijah was just the messenger.  At God’s instigation, Ahab gathered all the 850 pagan prophets of Baal and Asherah together on Mount Carmel.  Elijah then asked this question of the people of Israel in 1 Kings 18:21 who were there as bystanders watching this showdown:

“How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

The Hebrew word translated as “limping” in the ESV is Strong’s #6452: pacach.  It has the primary definition of “to pass or spring over.”  It’s the same word that is used in Exodus for how the Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites who had applied the blood.  Other translations of this word for this verse use “waver” (NIV) or “falter” (NKJ) or “struggle” (NAS).  It is used in 2 Samuel 4:4 to describe Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth, who fell and became lame (pacach). We see the same word used again several verses later in 1 Kings 18:26 (ESV) as the false prophets attempt to get Baal to answer and bring down fire:

… And they limped around the altar that they had made.

Again, other translations tell us they “danced” (NIV) or “leaped” (KJV).

It’s obviously a word with a wide range of meaning. It seems to me that the text is implying that the people were engaging in an action that was simultaneously exuberant, perhaps from a natural human perspective, but spiritually it describes their vacillation between two opposing ideals with ultimately a poor end, which is exactly what 1 Kings 18:21 says.  The word conveys the image of someone who goes from one extreme to another, dancing and leaping, and ends up the worse for it, i.e. lame and useless.

In the New Testament James 1:8 describes a double-minded man as one who doubts and is tossed about like on a wave of the sea.  James 3:10 also describes the impossibility of the same mouth simultaneously speaking both blessings and curses.  The extremes caused by doubt and a lack of firm faith cause someone to be worthless in his faith.  It’s the picture of sitting on a fence and not being able to choose which side to get off on.

As blood-bought believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:13 that having done everything, to stand firm.  We are not to waver in our faith.  Such belief is no belief – no true faith – at all.

Each one of us must make the determination that truly Christ is Lord.  He is not only our Savior, but the One who we must serve in our entirety.  When we walk in any other way, it is a poor substitute for what God desires and requires for us.

1 Kings 14:13 – Something Pleasing

Those who have read any number of my essays may have noticed that I’ll often comment upon unusual or obscure passages of Scripture to tease out what may be the thinking behind what is written.  Of course, I have no unique communication with the authors of old and must sometimes speculate what’s going on behind the scenes.  As in any endeavor any of us undertakes, we have to combine what we know with critical thinking to derive an understanding as best we can.  With that in mind, let’s look at 1 Kings 14:13:

And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.

In context, what’s going on is that King Jeroboam of Israel – the Northern Kingdom, that has now separated from Judah, the Southern Kingdom – has perpetrated abominations against the Lord.  Rather than commit himself and the people to Yahweh, he made two golden calves for Israel to worship so they wouldn’t go to Jerusalem to honor God there (1 Kings 12:28).  In response, Yahweh sent a man of God to Jeroboam who declared the altars to these idols would be torn down (1 Kings 13:2).  But, the Lord didn’t stop there because of Jeroboam’s great iniquities.

Jeroboam’s young son Abijah became sick.  As so many of these apostate kings did, they turned to Yahweh only when it was convenient for them.  In this case, for the healing of his son, Jeroboam sent his wife to inquire of the Lord to the prophet who first anointed him as king.  Rather than good news for her, the prophet declared the worst possible outcome, i.e. that the child would die.  Moreover, the prophet gave the reason.  We see this in 1 Kings 14:9-10 in which the prophet said:

“… but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back, therefore behold, I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone.”

God had given Jeroboam the opportunity to rule with His favor and anointing upon him.  Instead, he had greatly angered God through his foolish and willful acts of idolatry that were intended to turn the hearts of the people from Him.  Jeroboam deliberately made people sin through the making of the golden calves.  As always when someone purposely causes others to engage in his sin, the consequences are extreme.  We have only to think of what Jesus later said in Matthew 18:6 about those who cause children to stumble and fall

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

So it was with Jeroboam.  In this case God decreed that none in Jeroboam’s family line would live.  Thus, when his wife approached the prophet about their son, she learned in 1 Kings 14:12 that he wouldn’t recover from his illness: “… the child shall die.”

It’s in the next verse in 1 Kings 14:13 that we find our interesting tidbit for today.  The prophet informed Jeroboam’s wife that their son Abijah was the only one in their family who would have a proper and reverent burial.  The reason?  “… in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord… “

This child, in all of Jeroboam’s family, was the only one that Yahweh, in His omniscience, saw as having any (future?) goodness.  Because of that goodness, God allowed Abijah to die.

Doesn’t that make you pause and think? It certainly does for me.

The implication I see is that this child had the potential to be a Godly person who could have pleased the Lord.  But, God allowed him to die.  This implies to me that the wickedness all around him in Jeroboam’s family would have been so great, that he would have sinned as a result and turned away from God – perhaps because of the way he would have been raised.  Proverbs 22:6 says:

Train up a child in the way he should go;

    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

It’s obvious to me this certainly wasn’t going to happen with Abijah, so God mercifully permitted him to die in his (future?) righteousness, and thus be with the Lord forever.  Apparently, if the child had remained alive, his fate would have been the fires of hell along with Jeroboam and all the rest of his family.

Looking at Abijah’s death in this light gives us another way to consider the deaths of at least some other children.  Losing a child is always hard.  Yet, it may be that God in His mercy preserves that child by allowing him or her to die young.  Because God knows the end from the beginning, the fate of a child who dies at an early age may actually be preferable than the alternative.  Perhaps, the family in which the child is born, or other circumstances in life, would have caused such great apostasy that God wanted to safeguard the innocence of that soul.

This doesn’t mitigate the pain of loss for any parent. However, God sees and knows all things past and future. He is merciful and loving. It may very well be that in the act of the death of a child, God is actually causing that young one to be with Him forever.