Week 26 Devotion
This week marks the halfway point in the year and the halfway point in our journey of reading through the Bible in 2017. So if you have made it this far then congratulations you are halfway to your goal.
Now, this week we will continue to read about the steady downward decline of the nation of Israel and Judah. It really is depressing to read how King after king does what is evil in the sight of the Lord. The same nation that once stood before Moses and declared their allegiance to Yahweh, the same people who stood before Joshua and renewed their devotion to Yahweh, the same tribes that once rallied around David to worship the Lord are now eagerly wandering away from God to worship and serve idols in the high places. And their new Kings are leading them into this idolatry.
At this time, even the prophets suffer because of the lack of integrity and honesty in the people. It is truly a sad state of affairs to see just how quickly and how thoroughly the people abandon their God and watch their society fall into wickedness. But we do see a few high points along the way.
We meet the prophet Elijah and we get to see God flex His power a little bit in the battle between Yahweh and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. We see God’s judgment on the wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. The book ends with Jehoshaphat reigning in Judah and surprisingly he does what is right in the sight of the Lord, but the high places housing idols temples still remain and will come into play later as we read 2 Kings.
We will also be reading the book of Obadiah which is the shortest book in the Old Testament, but it is still a very important book. Through this prophet, God brings accusations against the nation of Edom and He promises to bring judgment down upon them for their sin. But this book also brings up the history of Israel so it causes us to look back in time to the early days before Israel was a nation. This book also looks forward to the time of God’s future blessing on Jerusalem and all the nations of the World.
Here is something to Meditate on…
Some battles never seem to end. The battle of the sexes that began in the Garden of Eden is still going on today. The battle between brothers that began with Esau and Jacob, well that one is what we are going to read about in 2 Chronicles 21 and in the book of Obadiah.
Way back before Israel was a nation, even before Jacob was named Israel, there was a conflict between two brothers that are still playing out in Judea. Jacob and Esau were the sons of Isaac and one day Esau came home from hunting in the fields and he was so hungry that he thought he might die. So he made a bargain with his brother Jacob, “my birthright for a bowl of bean soup.” I didn’t say it was a good bargain, but a deals a deal. Jacob accepted the deal, gave him a bowl of soup and that’s how the conflict began.
Some time after this, Jacob deceived their father into blessing him in Esau’s place and then Jacob ran away with his brother’s birthright and his blessing. Years later these two brothers were able to reconcile, for the most part, but their descendants never forgot what happened between them. Israel was descended from Jacob and Edom was descended from Esau and here in 2 Chronicles 21:8-10 we see that old conflict rise up again.
But there is even more to it. In the book, of Obadiah we see God pronounce judgment upon Edom for the way they treated the people of Israel. The backstory to this book is that when Babylon came and took Israel into captivity, Edom was there to take advantage of God’s people. During that time, Edom plunders their cities and abused the people excessively. So this book is about how God plans to bring judgment on Edom for their treatment of God’s people.
Now here’s the first thing we can meditate on: Israel going into captivity was God’s was of judging them for their sin but even in the midst of them getting what they deserved, God still cares about His people. He still loves them and He still vows to protect them from their enemies…amazing.
But the second thing we can meditate on about this book is that even though God plans to bring judgment on Edom and all nations, there is also a day of hope. The fire of God’s judgment will come but a Savior will also come and go up to Mt. Zion. God will deal with the evil in the world but He will also establish his Kingdom of Peace to rule over all the nations. So judgment will come but after it will come a time of peace where God’s Savior reigns and that’s not just the point of the book of Obadiah, that’s the point of the whole Bible.
Here is something to Discuss…
The battle between God and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 is one of the greatest stories in the Bible. It starts out with the reality that the people of Israel have begun to worship idols instead of Yahweh but the whole scene comes together when Elijah the prophet confronts King Ahab for leading God’s people into idolatry. Ahab calls Elijah, “the troubler of Israel” because it was Elijah who prayed for the rain to cease and ushered in 3 and half years of drought.
But Elijah responds, “I’m not the one causing trouble in Israel, you are because you have abandoned the commandments of God and have followed the Baals.” So it’s a challenge. One man serves God while the other serves Baal and the time has come to see whose is the one true God.
But try as they might the prophets of Baal can’t get their god to respond to their prayers. They set up an altar and a sacrifice but when they pray for Baal to show himself he does nothing. And Elijah takes advantage of the situation. He starts mocking not only the prophets but also their false god. He tells the prophets, “Maybe Baal is asleep and you just need to shout a little bit louder. Or maybe he is in the bathroom and you just need to wait until he is done…” it’s all rather humorous.
But when Elijah’s time comes he is all business. He rebuilds the altar, places the sacrifice upon it, has the servants douse the altar with water 3 times and then he comes near to the altar calling out for God to show Himself and let these people know that He is the only God in Israel. And that’s exactly what God does.
God consumes the sacrifice, the water, even the alter itself with fire. The prophets of Baal were revealed to be false prophets and Baal was shown to be a false god. When the people saw this they all bowed down and declared, “The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God.”
Here’s what I want you to discuss…God changed the hearts of His people by answering Elijah’s prayer and by demonstrating His power. God worked that day to do something that the false prophets couldn’t do and He answered His servant’s prayers and the result was that the people believed. This is a picture of what happens each time someone believes the gospel.
It is not man’s power that brings about salvation but God’s power. Salvation is a work of God accomplished by Christ on the cross. And this salvation is applied when God changes a man’s heart often in response to the prayers of those who love him. Even here in 1 Kings, we see a picture of the gospel. We see a picture of God’s coming salvation not just for Israel but for all who repent and believe in Christ.
Here is something to pray about…
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months, it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…let that sink in. Elijah was just a man, but he was a faithful man and he cried out to God and God heard his prayer and gave him what he asked for.
There are needs that each of us has in our minds right now and we need to pray that God would meet those needs. There are people in our lives that we long to see come to saving faith in Christ and we need to pray for them today. There are struggles that we face each day and we need to confess our sins to God, to one another and pray that God would hear our prayer for victory over sin.
Take some time to read over and meditate on James 5:16-18 then slow down and pray to God about the things in your life and on your heart.