Your COMPASS for the Journey on the PATH of Discipleship: September 4-10, 2011
Your COMPASS for the Journey on the PATH of Discipleship is a daily resource designed to help you find direction in your walk with Christ. It includes a ‘Compass’ (a daily reading), a ‘Map’ (a brief comment to aid your understanding of the reading), and an application section called ‘Journey.’
Sunday, September 4, 2011 GOD HUMBLES US
1 Kings 12:1-24 ‘…This is my doing.’
King Solomon was dead, and it was reasonable to expect that his son, Rehoboam, would accede to the throne. But not so fast! Solomon, the father, had been harsh with the people of the north, and they wanted to know whether Rehoboam, the son, would be any different. The would-be king gave the wrong answer. He would treat them even worse than his father had.
Hearing this, the ten northern tribes rebelled and made Jeroboam their king. This, of course, split the nation. Ten tribes defected to Jeroboam, and only two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) stayed with Rehoboam. So Rehoboam set about to make war on the northern tribes and restore unity to the kingdom.
But God stopped him. ‘This is my doing,’ the Lord said. God was humbling Judah because of its sin (1 Kings 11:39; cf. 1 Kings 11:33). But, ‘for the sake of David’ (1 Kings 11:34; cf. 1 Kings 11:32), he would not abandon Judah This is covenant language.
God had made a covenant with David and had promised, ‘I will raise up your offspring to succeed you…. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever’ (2 Samuel 7:12, 13). This promise was fulfilled in a provisional way through Solomon, David’s son and the successor to his throne, but it was fulfilled in an ultimate way through the Son of David, our Lord Jesus, ‘the throne of [whose] kingdom [is] forever.’
God’s covenant with David is in continuity with his covenant of grace, in which the perfect life of our Lord Jesus is credited to us and in which his sacrificial death satisfies the penalty for our sins. God will never break this covenant, but when we break it, as ancient Judah did, God may humble us as he did Judah. ‘For the sake of David’ – that is, in line with God’s promise to David, fulfilled in Christ – God will not give up on us, but he may very well discipline us. ‘The Lord disciplines those he loves’ (Hebrews 12:6), so that he may ‘carry…on to completion’ the ‘good work’ he ‘began…in’ us (Philippians 1:6). He will finish what he has started in us, even if he has to humble us from time to time to do so.
Monday, September 5, 2011 THE WAY OF LIFE
1 Kings 13:1-10 ‘He cried out against the altar….’
Jeroboam was now the king of the northern tribes, but he was not a godly king. He set up altars for the worship of foreign gods and ordained priests to administer the sacrifices. One of the altars was a Bethel. Chapter 13 of 1 Kings tells about a ‘man of God’ who came from Judah (in the south) to Bethel (in the north) to cry out ‘against the altar by the word of the Lord’ (verse 2). He predicted that a later king of Judah (Josiah) would sacrifice the false priests who ministered in Bethel, and he gave a sign. He said that the altar would be split apart and the ashes on it poured out.
Jeroboam was incensed to anger by this impertinent pronouncement, and he ordered that the man of God be seized. ‘But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up,’ and ‘the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out’ – just as the man of God had said!
If we were to read further, we would see how the idolatry that King Jeroboam fostered in his new kingdom ‘led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth’ (1 Kings 13:34). In contrast, King Jesus would prove faithful to God and refuse to commit idolatry (cf. Matthew 4:10). Through his faithfulness, our Lord demonstrated ‘the power of an indestructible life’ (Hebrews 7:16). It is this life that he gives to us. King Jeroboam led his people into death; King Jesus leads his people into life.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011 GOD’S COVENANT BOND
1 Kings 16:23-34 ‘…Evil in the eyes of the Lord….’
Intrigue plagued the politically unstable northern kingdom, and Jeroboam’s dynasty was ended. In time, Omri became king, and then Ahab, his son, after him. These two men ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (1 Kings 16:25), but ‘Ahab did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him’ (1 Kings 16:30). By maintaining separation from the royal line of David, through whom the promised Messiah would come, the northern kingdom rejected the covenant that God had made with his people. A good example of this is the effort of a man named Hiel to rebuild the walls of Jericho. Centuries before, Joshua had declared that, if anyone tried to rebuild the city, it would be ‘at the cost of his firstborn son’ and that, if anyone undertook to set up its gates, it would be ‘at the cost of his youngest’ son (Joshua 6:26). To rebuild the wall would be an affront to God, saying in effect that the people could not depend upon God to protect them. Hiel’s project cost him the lives of his sons, just as Joshua had prophesied.
The people of Israel (the northern kingdom) rejected the Lord and his Christ, but, for the sake of his covenant, God remained true to his promise. He would judge the sin of the nation, but he would preserve a remnant. He would do this for the sake of Christ. God is always faithful even when we are not. And this gives us a secure hope. When we fail, God still sustains us for the sake his covenant. We don’t talk much about ‘covenant,’ but it is the unbreakable bond that God has established with us. Since God is faithful, we are saved.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011 RAISING THE DEAD
1 Kings 17:1-24 ‘…Neither dew nor rain…except at my word.’
The prophet Elijah appeared on the scene and announced a drought in the land. ‘There will be neither dew nor rain…except at my word,’ he said. This announcement placed in bold relief the conflict between the false fertility gods of Israel and the true God of Israel. Which of them truly had authority over nature? Elijah’s declaration that only his word could change things showed that he was the bearer of God’s Word. And when he hid himself at the Kerith Ravine, his action meant that God’s Word was now hidden. This was a necessary initiative on God’s part. He would show the people how dependent they were on his Word and how that he and only he – not the pagan fertility gods – could control nature. He showed this to Elijah in a dramatic way by commanding the ravens to feed the prophet. The most ravenous bird of all submitted to the Word of the Lord in laying before Elijah the meat it would have naturally consumed. If God could command the ravens, he could subdue ravenous Israel! Again, God showed his power when Elijah went to Zarephath. A widow there showed kindness to the prophet, but, despite this, the woman’s son died. Elijah prayed that the boy’s life would be restored, and God raised the child to life. This was resurrection! If God could do this for the boy, he could do it for errant Israel!
He could, and he has! God has ‘made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions’ (Ephesians 2:5). It is not just in ancient Israel that we see stubborn resistance to God; it is in ourselves that we see it. But thanks be to God! ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3). Truly God is gracious to us. If he withholds his Word, it is so that we will hunger and thirst for it. And whatever he does, whether he gives or whether he takes away, he does it for our salvation.
Thursday, September 8, 2011 THE INITIATIVE OF GOD
1 Kings 18:1-19 ‘…I will send rain on the land.’
The northern kingdom had separated itself from God’s covenant of grace by rebelling against the royal house of David, with whom God had made the covenant. Unrepentant, the kings of the north led their people deeper and more deeply still into rebellion against God. Therefore, God withdrew his Word of grace. This withdrawal was symbolized in two ways: (1) Elijah, the prophet who spoke God’s Word, hid himself, and (2) the Lord withheld rain from the land, causing a severe drought. In 1 Kings 18, we read how God said to Elijah, ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land’ (verse 1).
Grace always takes the initiative. God does not wait until we are ready to hear him; he waits until he is ready to speak to us. Elijah’s return and the promise of rain were signs of how God takes the lead. The incarnation of our Lord demonstrates the same principle. In the Scriptures we read, ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). There are times when God withholds his word of grace from us. Amos 8:11 says, ‘“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land–not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.”’ When God chooses to speak, we need to listen.
Friday, September 9, 2011 THE FIRE OF THE LORD
1 Kings 18:20-40 ‘…The fire of the LORD fell….’
Elijah the prophet challenged the prophets of Baal, the Canaanite fertility god, to a showdown. They would prepare a bull for sacrifice, and he would do the same. Then they would ‘call on the name’ of their god, and Elijah would ‘call on the name’ of the Lord. ‘The god who answers by fire–’ Elijah said, ‘he is God’ (1 Kings 18:24). The pagan prophets readied their bull and called on Baal, but there was no answer. Hours passed, and the prophets of Baal became more desperate. They even began cutting themselves, but still nothing happened.
Then, at the hour of the evening sacrifice Elijah ‘repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins’ (1 Kings 18:30), just like the divided nation of Israel. He took twelve stones, each to represent one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and he built an altar for God. In this action, God was showing the people that his covenant was with the whole nation and that he would show his mercy to anyone among the covenant people who would repent and turn back to him.
When Elijah finished building the altar, he ordered that it be drenched in water, twelve jars full. Again, the number twelve is significant. Would the twelve tribes resist the fire of God’s judgment on their sin?
When the altar and the wood and the sacrificial animal were all thoroughly drenched, Elijah called out to God: ‘O LORD…, let it be known today that you are God in Israel’ (1 Kings 18:36). Then, we are told, ‘the fire of the LORD fell’ (1 Kings 18:38), and it consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, and even the water. And the people cried out, ‘The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!’ (1 Kings 18:39).
This account is clearly a confirmation that God relates to his people in all times and all places through covenant, an unbreakable bond by which God unites us to himself. The twelve stones in Elijah’s restored altar were a testimony to the fact that God would show grace to those within the covenant – not because they were entitled to it but because he had obligated himself to do so. God’s covenant with ancient Israel is an expression of his one covenant of grace with all his people in whatever place and time. We, too, are beneficiaries of his mercy because we have been included in the covenant through Christ (Ephesians 1:13). Let us then not serve ourselves (one form that idolatry subtly takes in our time), but let us the true God, whom we know in Jesus Christ.
Saturday, September 10, 2011 RAIN FROM GOD
1 Kings 18:41-48 ‘A cloud…is rising….’
The contest on Mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal was over. Now the promised rain came. Elijah climbed to the top of the mountain and bent down before the Lord, his face between his knees. Seven times he sent his servant to look toward the sea for some sign of rain. Six times the servant returned to say, ‘There is nothing there’ (1 Kings 18:43). But the seventh time, he reported, ‘A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea’ (1 Kings 18:44). Elijah told him to warn Ahab to hurry home before the rain stopped him.
In this chapter we see three acts of mercy on God’s part: (1) God sends Elijah from his place of hiding to show that the Word of the Lord will be heard again; (2) God sends fire upon the restored altar with twelve stones to show that he will accept the repentance of his covenant people; (3) God sends rain upon the land, a much needed respite from the drought but also a sign of God’s blessing.
Fire and rain are signs of God’s Word and God’s Spirit, two blessings that we must never undervalue. Pray for a spirit of repentance among God’s people so that we may turn to him and, in wisdom and humility, receive his Word and his Spirit.
Photo Credit: View from Mount Carmel by Jed