Eliyahu ~ Part 18

In my last post, we continued in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember. In this post, we examine 2 Kings 2:7-12 as we see Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service.

7 Fifty of the guild prophets went and stood watching them from a distance, while they stood by the Yarden. 8 Then Eliyahu took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it; and the water divided itself to the left and to the right; so that they crossed on dry ground. 9 After they had crossed, Eliyahu said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away from you.” Elisha said, “Please! Let a double share of your spirit be on me!” 10 He replied, “You have requested a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, you will get what you asked for; but if not, you won’t.”

11 Suddenly, as they were walking on and talking, there appeared a fiery chariot with horses of fire; and as it separated the two of them from each other, Eliyahu went up into heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Isra’el!” Then he lost sight of him. Seizing his clothes, he tore them in half.” ~ 2 Kings 2:7-12 (CJB)

God’s Reward for Service

As Eliyahu and Elisha stood by the Yarden River, they were watched by fifty of the guild prophets, men who stood afar off. They knew that Eliyahu was going to leave that day, but they didn’t know how he would depart or when God would call him. It’s likely that only Elisha saw Eliyahu go up into heaven, and after the prophet disappeared, the fifty students thought he hadn’t left them. They saw Eliyahu open the waters of the Yarden and close them again, and they saw Elisha repeat the miracle, but they didn’t see what Elisha saw when the whirlwind took Eliyahu to heaven. The fifty men were spectators that saw only part of what happened, but Elisha was a participant in the miracle and the heir to Eliyahu’s ministry.

Eliyahu didn’t give his successor three wishes; he merely asked him to name the one gift he wanted more than anything else. Every leader needs to be right in his priorities, and Elisha had a ready answer: he wanted a double portion of the spirit of his master. This was not a request for twice as much of the Holy Spirit, or for a ministry twice as great as that of Eliyahu, but for a greater degree of the inner spirit that motivated the great prophet. The request was based on Deuteronomy 21:17, the law of inheritance for the firstborn. Though there were many guild prophets, Elisha saw himself as Eliyahu’s firstborn son who deserved the double inheritance that Moshe commanded. Like a firstborn son serving a father, Elisha had walked with Eliyahu and attended to his needs, but the only inheritance he desired was a double measure of his master’s inner spirit of courage, faithfulness, faith in God, and obedience to God’s will. In saying this, Elisha was accepting the prophetic ministry that Eliyahu had begun and declared that he would carry it on to completion, with God’s help.

Up, Up and Away

Eliyahu was honest with his friend and told him that such a gift was not his to grant, for only the Lord could do it. However, if the Lord allowed Elisha to see his ascendance from earth to heaven, that would be proof that his request had been granted. Then it happened! As the two friends walked along talking, a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses came between them, and a whirlwind lifted Eliyahu out of sight—and Elisha saw it happen! This meant his request had been granted and the Lord had equipped him to continue the ministry of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was undoubtedly the prophet of fire, for Scripture records at least three instances of his bringing fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10 and 12), so it was right that God sends fiery horses and a chariot of fire to accompany His servant to glory.

Elisha’s response was one of grief, like a son mourning over the loss of a beloved father. But he paid high tribute to Eliyahu when he called him the chariots and horsemen of Isra’el. This one man was the equivalent of a whole army! In His covenant with Israel, the Lord promised that, if the nation obeyed Him, He would enable a hundred Israelites to chase ten thousand enemy soldiers (see Leviticus 26:6-8), and Moshe promised that God would cause one man to pursue a thousand and two men to chase ten thousand (see Deuteronomy 32:30). One plus God is a majority.

To me, this is one of the most fascinating passages in scripture. While it is reminiscent of Moshe parting the Red Sea at the Lord’s direction and the Yarden parting when the priest carried the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the river so that the Israelites could cross on a dry river bed into the promised land, the fiery chariot with horses of fire transporting Eliyahu into heaven ~ WOW!

Now, you may be thinking that we have completed our character study of Eliyahu since he has ascended into heaven, but scripture has more to say about him. In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We will be looking at both the remainder of the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah for references to this fascinating prophet of God.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 17

In my last post, we rejoined Eliyahu in 2 Kings 1:1-17 where once again God Judges Sin. In this post, continue in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember. This post is a little longer than usual because of the historical significance of the content. You may want to print out the PDF version below.

1 The time came for Adonai to take Eliyahu up into heaven in a whirlwind. Eliyahu and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal, 2 when Eliyahu said to Elisha, “Please wait here because Adonai has sent me all the way to Beit-El.” But Elisha said, “As Adonai lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Beit-El. 3 The guild prophets of Beit-El came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that Adonai is taking your master away from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he answered; “say no more.”

4 Eliyahu said to him, “Elisha, please wait here, because Adonai has sent me to Yericho.” He replied, “As Adonai lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Yericho. 5 The guild prophets of Yericho approached Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that Adonai is taking your master away from you today?” “Yes, I know,” he answered; “say no more.”

 6 Eliyahu said to him, “Please wait here because Adonai has sent me to the Yarden.” He replied, “As Adonai lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.” ~ 2 Kings 2:1-6 (CJB)

God Wants Us to Remember

King Achazyah died, but Eliyahu won’t die! He will be taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, accompanied by fiery horses drawing a chariot of fire. Like Hanokh (Enoch) of old, he walked with God and then suddenly went to be with God (Genesis 5:21-24). Both men illustrate the catching away of the saints when returns. But before Eliyahu left Elisha to carry on the work, he walked with his successor from Gilgal to beyond the Yarden, and what a walk that must have been!

Wow! Now that is an example of true discipleship. Elisha has been under Eliyahu’s tutelage for some time, and he didn’t want to miss out on any new revelation or experience.

The Lord had at least three purposes in mind when He led these two servants to walk together.

Taking Advantage of the Present

It appears that Eliyahu wanted Elisha to tarry behind and let him go on alone, but this was merely a test of Elisha’s devotion. When Eliyahu threw his mantle on Elisha and made him his successor, the younger man promised, I will follow you (1 Kings 19:20), and he kept that promise.

We never know when a friend and fellow worker will be taken from us. God told Elisha that Eliyahu was leaving him, but we don’t know when it is our time or a friend’s time to go to heaven. What great opportunities we miss by wasting time on trifles when we could be learning from each other about the Lord and His Word!

These two men represented different generations and opposite personalities, yet they were able to walk together. Should we not emulate them in our walk?

Preparing for the Future

At Beit-el, Yericho, and Gilgal, the two men visited the guild prophets, companies of dedicated men who were called of God to study the Scriptures and teach the people. Sh’mu’el led one of these guilds at Ramah. These groups would be similar to the discipling groups in our churches, or even like our Bible schools and colleges. The work of the Lord is always one generation short of extinction. We must be faithful to obey 2 Timothy 2:3: And the things you heard from me, which were supported by many witnesses, these things commit to faithful people, such as will be competent to teach others also.

The Lord didn’t record for us what Eliyahu said to his beloved students. Indeed he told them to obey Elisha just as they had obeyed him, to remain faithful to the Word of God and to do everything God told them to do as they battled against idolatry in the land. It was their responsibility to call the people back to obeying God’s covenant (see Deuteronomy 27-30) so that He might be pleased to bless and heal their land.

God has different ways of training His servants, but He still expects the older generation (that’s me) to pass along to the younger generation the treasures of truth that were given to them by those who went before. “Dear friends, I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share, when I found it necessary to write, urging you to keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people.” Jude 1:3 (CJB)

Reviewing the Past

Gilgal, Beit-el, Yericho, and the Yarden were essential places in Jewish history, each of them carrying a significant message. Before he left the land and went to heaven, Eliyahu wanted to visit these sites one last time and take Elisha with him. Our eternal God doesn’t reside in particular places, but we who are creatures of time and history need these visible reminders to help us remember and better understand what God has done for His people. The past is not an anchor to hold us back but a rudder to guide us, and the Lord can use these tangible memories to strengthen our faith. All throughout the Torah, God directs His people to erect memorials for the younger generation to learn how He worked in the older generation’s time.

Gilgal was the first place the Israelites camped after they crossed the Yarden River and entered the Promised Land. It was there that the new generation of Jewish men submitted to circumcision and officially became people of Israel (Joshua 5:29). Gilgal was the place of new beginnings, and Eliyahu wanted his successor to remember that.

From Gilgal, the two men walked to Beit-el, about fifteen miles west of Gilgal. Avraham worshiped there, and so did Ya’akov. It was at Beit-el that Ya’akov saw the angels ascending and descending the ladder that reached to heaven. There he heard God promise to be with him and care for him. Beit-el means “house of God,” and there Ya’akov worshiped the Lord and vowed to obey Him. Years later, Ya’akov returned to Beit-el and, like Avraham, made a new beginning in his walk with the Lord.

At Beit-el, the students spoke to Elisha about his master’s departure. Perhaps they thought they knew something that nobody else knew, an attitude not uncommon among some students. The same scene was repeated when Eliyahu and Elisha arrived at Yericho. In both cities, Elisha politely assured the students that he was aware of what was about to happen, but that their discussing it only added to the pain of his separation from his master. Their approach to what God was doing was purely cerebral, but to Elisha, the loss of his beloved master brought pain to his heart. “The mark of a true student of the Scriptures is a burning heart, not a big head.” [1]

The two men then went fifteen miles west to Yericho, the site of Y’oshua’s first victory in the Promised Land. It was also the place where ‘Akhan disobeyed and took of the spoils that belonged to the Lord alone, a sin that led to Israel’s defeat at Ai. The incredible victory at Yericho showed Israel how to conquer the land: get your orders from the Lord; obey them by faith, no matter how foolish they may seem; give all the glory to Him alone. The two times Yoshua failed to follow this formula, he experienced defeat. Yoshua had put under a curse anybody who rebuilt Yericho, but during the reign of evil King Ach’av, the city was rebuilt (see 1 Kings 16:34). Yericho would remind Elisha of the victory of faith, the tragedy of sin and the majesty of the Lord who deserves all the glory.

Eliyahu and Elisha walked five miles east and came to the Yarden River, and surely the record in Joshua 1-4 came into their minds and their conversation. The Lord opened the Red Sea to let His people out of Egypt, and then He parted the Yarden River to let them into their inheritance. What good is freedom if you don’t claim your inheritance? As the nation followed the Ark of the Covenant, the Lord opened the swollen waters of the river, and the people passed over on dry land! To commemorate this miracle, Joshua built a monument in the midst of the river and another one on the shore. Nothing is too hard for the Lord, for, with God, all things are possible! And Eliyahu duplicated that great miracle!

Eliyahu is a good model for Believers to imitate when it comes to the inevitability of one day leaving this earth, either through death or the rapture of the church. He didn’t sit around and do nothing, but instead visited three of the prophetic schools and no doubt ministered to the students. He didn’t say to his successor “I’m going to leave you” and thus dwell on the negative, but said, “I’m going to Gilgal, Beit-el, to Yericho, and to the Yardenand kept busy until the very moment the Lord called him. Even more, he didn’t ask his successor to give him anything, because we can’t take anything in our hands from earth to heaven, but instead, he offered to provide Elisha with a gift before the end came. One of the best gifts we can leave is a prepared servant of God to take our place!

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We examine 2 Kings 2:7-12 as we see Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service.

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[1] Warren Wiersbe in Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament.

Eliyahu ~ Part 16

In my last post, we looked at God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1 Kings 21:17-29. In this post, we rejoin Eliyahu in 2 Kings 1:1-17 where once again God Judges Sin.

“1 After Ach’av’s death Mo’av rebelled against Isra’el.

2 When Achazyah fell through a latticed window of his upper room in Shomron and lay injured, he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron, and ask whether I will recover from this injury.” 3 But an angel of Adonai said to Eliyahu from Tishbe, “Get up, and intercept the messengers of the king of Shomron, and ask them, ‘Is it because there’s no God in Isra’el that you’re on your way to consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron? 4 Therefore Adonai says, “You will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will certainly die.”’” Then Eliyahu left. 5 The messengers returned to Achazyah, and he asked them, “Why have you come back?” 6 They answered him, “A man came to meet us. He told us to go and return to the king who sent us, and tell him, ‘Here is what Adonai says: “Is it because there’s no God in Isra’el that you’re sending to consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron? Therefore you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will certainly die.”’” 7 He asked them, “The man who came to meet you and told you these things, what kind of a man was he?” 8 “He was a hairy man,” they answered him, “with a leather belt around his waist.” He said, “It was Eliyahu from Tishbe.”  [That sure sounds a lot like Yochanan the Emmmerser in Matthew 3:4. No wonder he was thought to be Eliyahu.]

9 Then the king sent a commander of fifty to Eliyahu, together with his fifty men. Eliyahu was sitting at the top of a hill. The commander climbed up to him and said, “Man of God, the king says to come down.” 10 Eliyahu answered the commander of fifty, “If I am in fact a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and burn you up, along with your fifty men.” Fire came down from heaven, and it burned up him and his fifty men. 11 The king sent him another commander of fifty, together with his fifty men. He said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down immediately!’” 12 Eliyahu answered them, “If I am in fact a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and burn you up, along with your fifty men.” Fire came down from heaven, and it burned up him and his fifty men. 13 The king sent a third commander of fifty, with his fifty men. The third commander of fifty climbed up, approached Eliyahu and fell on his knees before him. He pleaded with him: “Man of God, please! Have some regard for my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours! 14 I know that fire came down from heaven and burned up the two other commanders with their fifty men; but now, have some regard for my life.” 15 The angel of Adonai said to Eliyahu, “Go down with him; don’t be afraid of him.” So he got up and went down with him to the king.

16 Eliyahu said to the king, “Here is what Adonai says: ‘You sent messengers to consult Ba‘al-Z’vuv the god of ‘Ekron. Is it because there’s no God in Isra’el you can consult? Therefore, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will certainly die.’” 17 So he died, in keeping with the word of Adonai spoken through Eliyahu.” ~ 2 Kings 1:1-17a (CJB)

God Judges Sin

After the death of wicked King Ach’av, the nation of Moav took advantage of Achazyah, his son, and successor, and broke the bonds of vassalage that had chained them to Israel. Years before, David had defeated Moav (2 Sam. 8:2) and Achazyah‘s successor, Y’horam, would join with Y’hoshafat, king of Judah, to fight against the Moavites (3:6ff). But the Lord oversees the nations of the earth and His decrees determine history. Achazyah was an evil man, but when the Lord isn’t allowed to rule, He overrules (see Psalm 33:10-11).

A decade or so before Achazyah’s accident, Eliyahu had won his great victory over Ba’al, but Ach’av and Izevel hadn’t been convinced or converted and neither had their family (1 Kings 22:51-53). When Achazyah was severely injured by falling through a lattice, he turned for guidance to Ba’al and not to the Lord God of Israel. Ba’al means “lord,” and Ba’al-Z’vuv means Ba’al is “prince.”

Why did the king decide to send messengers forty miles away to ‘Ekron to consult the priests of Ba’al? True, Eliyahu had slain the 450 prophets of Ba’al, but that was ten years ago. Surely other priests of Ba’al were available in the land. Note that Achazyah asked the priests of Ba’al for a prognosis and not for healing.

God keeps His servants informed about matters that other people know nothing about. When God’s servants are walking with their Lord, they can be confident of His directions when they need them. This had undoubtedly been Eliyahu’s experience. Eliyahu intercepted the royal envoys and gave them a message that would both rebuke and sober the king. Why did he want to consult the dead god of ‘Ekron when the living God of Israel was available to tell him what would happen? He would surely die! This ominous declaration was made three times during this event ~ twice by Eliyahu (vv. 4 and 16) and once by the messengers (v. 6). Instead of being spokesmen for Ba’al, the messengers became heralds of God’s Word to the king!

The announcement that he would die should have moved Achazyah to repent of his sins and seek the Lord, but instead, he tried to lay hands on the prophet. [Sound familiar? This reminds us of King Herod’s seizure of John the Baptist in Matthew 14:1-12.] Achazyah knew that Eliyahu was a formidable foe, so he sent a captain with fifty soldiers to bring him to the palace, but he underestimated the prophet’s power.

Did Achazyah think that he could kill the prophet and thereby nullify the prophecy? Or perhaps the king hoped to influence Eliyahu to change the prophecy. But Eliyahu took his orders from the King of Kings and not from earthly kings, especially a king who was an idolater and the son of murderers. Years before, Eliyahu ran away in fear when he received Izevel‘s threat, but this time, he remained where he was and faced the soldiers unafraid.

When Eliyahu was confronted by the commander the fire that came from heaven killed all fifty-one men. This judgment was repeated when the second company of fifty arrived. Note that the second captain ordered Eliyahu to come down immediately. Don’t keep your king waiting! The memory of the contest on Mount Karmel should have warned the king and his soldiers that Eliyahu could bring fire from heaven. [Yet another example of not learning from history.]

These two episodes of fiery judgment were dramatic messages from the Lord that the king and the nation had better repent or they would all taste the judgment of God. The people had forgotten the lessons of Mount Karmel, and these two judgments reminded them that the God of Israel was a consuming fire (see Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3; Hebrews 12:29).

Insisting that Eliyahu obey him, the king sent a third company of soldiers, but this time the captain showed wisdom and humility. Unlike the king and the two previous captains, he submitted himself to the Lord and His servant. The third captain’s plea for himself and his men was evidence that he acknowledged Eliyahu’s authority and that he would do God’s servant no harm. The Lord’s words in verse 15 suggest that the danger lay in the hands of the captains and not in the hands of the king.

The king was in bed when Eliyahu confronted him and for the second time told him he would die. How many times must the Lord repeat His message to a wicked sinner? The king would leave this world with you will certainly die to ring in his ears, yet he refused to obey the Word of God. After about two years on the throne, Achazyah did die, just as Eliyahu had predicted.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We continue in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 15

In my last post, we looked at a Synopsis of Chapters 20 and 21:1-16. In this post, we finally get back to Eliyahu who hears God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1 Kings 21:17-29.

We pick up our story of Eliyahu shortly after Ach’av and Izevel plotted to defraud and murder Navot to steal his vineyard.

17 But the word of Adonai came to Eliyahu from Tishbe: 18 “Get up, go down to meet Ach’av king of Isra’el, who lives in Shomron. Right now he is in the vineyard of Navot; he has gone down there to take possession of it. 19 This is what you are to say to him: ‘Here is what Adonai says: “You have committed murder, and now you are stealing the victim’s property!” ’Also say to him, ‘Here is what Adonai says: “In the very place where dogs licked up the blood of Navot, dogs will lick up your blood— yours!”’”

20 Ach’av said to Eliyahu, “My enemy! You’ve found me!” He answered, “Yes, I have found you; because you have given yourself over to do what is evil from Adonai’s perspective. 21 ‘Here,’ [says Adonai,] ‘I am bringing disaster on you! I will sweep you away completely; I will cut off from Ach’av every male, whether a slave or free in Isra’el. 22 I will make your house like the house of Yarov‘am the son of N’vat and like the house of Ba‘sha the son of Achiyah for provoking my anger and leading Isra’el into sin.’ 23 Adonai also said this about Izevel: ‘The dogs will eat Izevel by the wall around Yizre‘el. 24 If someone from the line of Ach’av dies in the city, the dogs will eat him; if he dies in the countryside, the vultures will eat him.’”

25 Truly, there was never anyone like Ach’av. Stirred up by his wife Izevel, he gave himself over to do what is evil from Adonai’s perspective. 26 His behavior in following idols was grossly abominable; he did everything the Emori had done, whom Adonai expelled ahead of the people of Isra’el.

27 Ach’av, on hearing these words, tore his clothes, put sackcloth on himself and fasted. He slept in the sackcloth and went about dejectedly. 28 Then the word of Adonai came to Eliyahu from Tishbe: 29 “Do you see how Ach’av has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring this evil during his lifetime; but during his son’s lifetime I will bring the evil on his house.” ~ 1 Kings 21:17-29 (CJB)

Adonai, God, does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” ~ Amos 3:7 (CJB) We have heard nothing from or about Eliyahu since he called Elisha to be his successor, but now God brings His servant into center stage to confront the king. He always does when He gives an assignment; He told Eliyahu just what to say to the evil king. Ach’av had shed innocent blood, and his guilty blood would be licked up by the dogs. What a way for the king of Israel to end his reign!

To me, verse 22 is reminiscent of 1 Kings 15:29 and 1 Kings 16:3,11.

Previously, Ach’av called Eliyahu the troubler of Israel, but now he makes it more personal and calls the prophet my enemy. By fighting against the Lord, Ach’av was his enemy and brought upon himself the sentence that Eliyahu pronounced. Ach’av would die dishonorably, and the dogs would lick his blood. Izevel would die and be eaten by the dogs. All their posterity would eventually be eradicated from the land. They had enjoyed their years of sinful pleasure and selfish pursuits, but it would all end in judgment.

Instead of going home to pout, Ach’av repented! What his wife thought about his actions isn’t recorded, but the Lord who sees the heart accepted his humiliation and told it to His servant. The Lord didn’t cancel the announced judgments but postponed them until the reign of Ach’av’s son Yoram (see 2 Kings 9:14-37). Ach’av was slain on the battlefield, and the dogs licked his blood at the pool of Samaria (22:37-38). Because of the postponement of the judgment, the dogs licked his son Yoram’s blood on Navot’s property, just as Eliyahu predicted (2 Kings 9:14-37). Later events proved that Ach’av’s repentance was short-lived, but the Lord at least gave him another opportunity to turn from sin and obey the Word. How much more evidence did Ach’av need? But the influence of his wife couldn’t easily be broken, for when Ach’av married her, he sold himself into sin. {I don’t think I will say any more on that point.}

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We next meet up with Eliyahu in 2 Kings 1-17 where once again God Judges Sin.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 14

In my last post, Eliyahu hears The Lord’s Message of Hope in 1 Kings 19:15-21. In this post, I had intended to focus on God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1Kings 21:17-29. However, the Lord had a different plan. As you can see, we are skipping over Chapter 20 and the first half of Chapter 21. The apparent reason is that Eliyahu doesn’t make an appearance in these passages. However, I wanted to give you a brief synopsis of what we missed since it will come into play down the road. The following are highlights from Warren Wiersbe’s Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament. I encourage you to read the text for yourselves.

Synopsis of Chapters 20 and 21:1-16

This was the first of two occasions when wicked King Ach’av showed a glimmer of spiritual understanding. Israel was coming out three years of famine when Ben-Hadad, King of Syria, decided to attack and take advantage of their plight. King David had defeated these northern nations, but these nations had gradually regained their independence.

Ben-Hadad gathered thirty-two other kings along with horses and chariots to wage war against Samaria. Ben-Hadad subdued Samaria and sent a messenger to Ach’av that he was next. Ach’av quickly capitulated to turn over the royal family and his wealth. Naturally, Ben-Hadad wanted more, and Ach’av found a backbone and said NO.

In opposing Ben-Hadad, Ach’av had nothing to stand on, but God in His grace sent him a message of hope: the Lord would give Ach’av the victory. The Lord wasn’t doing this because Ach’av deserved it but because He wanted to honor His name before the wavering king of Israel and his people.

The Lord selected the district governors to lead the attack against Syria, and Ach’av was to lead the small army of 7,000 men. Ach’av’s men caught the Syrian guards by surprise and proceeded to wipe out the Syrian military. Ben-Hadad jumped on his horse and escaped with his life. But because Ach’av believed God’s Word and acted upon it, God gave him a great victory.

Another anonymous prophet spoke to Ach’av and cautioned him to strengthen his forces and be prepared for another invasion. While Ach’av was listening to God’s message, Ben-Hadad was listening to his officers to explain Syria’s great defeat.

Ben-Hadad‘s officers were bright men who knew it was worth the risk to appeal to Ach’av’s pride. God had given the victory, but Ach’av would take the credit and claimed the spoils. Ach’av certainly enjoyed the “honor” he was receiving after the great victory, but not once did he give the glory to the Lord. To hear that Ben-Hadad was his servant made his heart glad, and he was more than willing to spare the man’s life. Later, Hazael would kill Ben-Hadad and become the king (2 Kings 8).

Ben-Hadad immediately entered into a treaty with Ach’av and gave back to Israel the cities his father had taken (1 Kings 15:20). He also gave Ach’av permission to sell Israel’s produce and wares in the market at Damascus, which amounted to a trade agreement. That the king of Israel should make such a treaty with the enemy is remarkable, but Ach’av had no convictions (except those of his wife) and always took the easy way out of any situation. This treaty lasted three years (22:1).

The Lord couldn’t allow Ach’av to disobey and get away with it, so He instructed one of the sons of the prophets to confront the king about his sin. The “sons of the prophets” were young men who had special prophetic gifts and met in groups to study with elder prophets like Sh’mu’el, Eliyahu, and Elisha. Knowing that he would have to catch Ach’av by surprise to get his attention, the man wisely set up an “action sermon” that would arouse the king’s interest. The young man told a fellow student about God’s orders and asked him to strike him with a weapon, but the man refused. We can understand a friend not wanting to injure a friend, but like Ach’av, the young prophet was disobeying God, and it cost him his life. This certainly puts the fear of God into the other students, because the next one the young man approached was only too willing to comply. Disguised as a wounded soldier, he was ready to deliver his message.

In those days, a person could approach the king to help decide matters that needed legal clarification; and when Ach’av saw this “injured soldier” sitting by the side of the road, his curiosity was aroused. Hearing that the “soldier” had lost an important prisoner of war and would have to forfeit his life or pay an enormous fine, the king replied, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.” The king could have granted the man a pardon and saved his life, but he preferred to let him die. But in so doing, Ach’av was declaring his guilt and passing sentence on himself. This is reminiscent of David and Natan regarding Bat-Sheva.

How did Ach’av not recognize that the young man was one of the sons of the prophets? It’s not likely that Ach’av was that close to Eliyahu’s followers to know them personally. When the bandage was removed, did it reveal some identifying mark? Had Ach’av seen the man on Mount Karmel? We have no way of knowing, but the sight must have shocked the king. The man that Ach’av judged now became Ach’av’s judge and announced that one day the Syrians would slay Ach’av. But instead of repenting and seeking the Lord’s forgiveness, Ach’av went home and pouted like a child.

Breaking God’s Laws

Ben-Hadad was the man Ach’av should have killed, but he set him free, and Naboth was the man Ach’av should have protected, but Ach’av killed him! When you sell yourself to do evil, you call evil good and good evil, light darkness and darkness light (Isaiah 5:20). The infamous episode of Naboth’s vineyard reveals the lawlessness of King Ach’av and his evil wife, Izevel. Consider the sins they committed and consequently the commandments of God that they disdained and disobeyed. Not only where they idolaters, but they also coveted after their neighbor’s vineyard leading to Izevel plotting his death to take his land.

If ever two people were guilty of blaspheming God and breaking His laws, it was Ach’av and Izevel, and judgment was about to fall.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We will return to Eliyahu as he hears God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1Kings 21:17-29.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 13

In my last post, EliyahuCreator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14. In this post, Eliyahu hears The Lord’s Message of Hope in 1 Kings 19:15-21.

The Lord Gives Eliyahu His Marching Orders

15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 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 Call of Elisha

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yokes of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Eliyahu passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Eliyahu and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Eliyahu and assisted him.” ~ 1 Kings 19:15-21 (ESV)

Eliyahu had nothing new to say to the Lord, but the Lord had a new message of hope for His frustrated servant. The Lord had many reasons for rejecting His servant and leaving him to die in the cave, but He didn’t take that approach.

First, the Lord told Eliyahu to return to the place of duty. When we’re out of the Lord’s will, we have to retrace our steps and make a new beginning (Genesis 13:3; 35:1-3). The honest answer to the question “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” (verse9) Was “Nothing! I’m having a personal pity party!” But Eliyahu was called to serve, and there were tasks to perform.

When Yoshua was brokenhearted because of Israel’s defeat at Ai, he spent a day on his face before God; but God’s answer was, “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?” ~ Joshua 7:10. When Sh’mu’el mourned over the failure of Saul, God rebuked him. “Adonai said to Sh’mu’el, ‘How much longer are you going to go on grieving for Sha’ul, now that I have rejected him as king over Isra’el? Fill your horn with oil, and set out; I will send you to Yishai the Beit-Lachmi because I have chosen myself a king from among his sons.’” ~ 1 Samuel 16:1. Sh’mu’el went and anointed David to be the next king.

No matter how much or how often His servants fail Him, God is never at a loss to know what to do. Our job is to obey His Word and get up and do it!

Eliyahu‘s first responsibility was to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria. This was a Gentile nation, but it was still the Lord who chose the leaders. Then he was to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, for even though the nation had divided, Israel was still under the divine covenant and was responsible to the Lord. His third task was to anoint Elisha to be his successor. Eliyahu had complained because the past generation had failed and the present age hadn’t done any better (v. 4). Now God called him to help equip the future generation by anointing two kings and a prophet. This is the Tanach version of 2 Timothy 2:2.

The people the Lord named weren’t especially significant in the social structure of that day. Hazael was a servant to King Bed-hadad, Jehu was a captain of the army, and Elisha was a farmer. But by the time Elisha and Jehu completed their work, Ba’al worship was almost wiped out in Israel (2 Kings 10:18-31). No one generation can do everything, but each generation must see to it that people in the next generation are called and trained and that the tools are made available for them to continue the work of the Lord. God was calling Eliyahu to stop weeping over the past and running away from the present. It was time for him to start preparing others for the future. Could that be an early example of God’s plan for discipleship? When God is in command, there is always hope.

But the Lord did more than send His servant out to recruit new workers. He also assured him that his work and their work would not be in vain. God would use the swords of Hazael and Jehu, and the words and works of Elisha, to accomplish His purposes in the land. Even more, He assured Eliyahu that his ministry hadn’t been a failure, for there were still 7,000 people in the land who were faithful to Adonai. The Lord didn’t command Eliyahu to gather all 7,000 faithful people together in a mass meeting and preach a sermon. There’s certainly a place for sermons and large meetings, but we must never underestimate the importance of working with individuals. Yeshua spoke to huge crowds, but He always had time for individuals and their needs.

Without delay, Eliyahu retraced his steps and returned to the place of duty. It was approximately 150 miles from Sinai to Abel-meholah where he would find Elisha plowing a field. Elisha’s name means “God has salvation.” The fact that Elisha was using twelve yoke of oxen—twenty-four expensive animals—indicates that his family was probably better off financially than most Israeli. Eliyahu didn’t say a word to the young man but merely cast his mantle (outer garment) over him to indicate that the Lord had called him to serve the prophet and then be his successor. Elisha and his family were part of that “remnant of grace” that God had set apart for Himself. No matter how bleak the days may seem, God has His people and knows when to call them.

As you review the chapter, you can see the mistakes that Eliyahu made and how the Lord overruled them and accomplished His will. Eliyahu walked by sight and not by faith, yet the Lord sustained him. He looked at himself and his failures instead of at God’s greatness and power. He was more concerned about doing more than his ancestors had done in the past instead of calling and preparing new servants for the future. He isolated himself from God’s people and thereby lost the strength and encouragement of their fellowship and prayers. But let’s not be too hard on Eliyahu, for he did have a sensitive ear to the still, small voice of the Lord, and he did obey what God told him to do. The Lord rebuked him gently and brought him out of his cave and back into active service. Let’s keep these things in mind and recall them the next time we’re under our broom tree or in our cave!

Finally, let’s be among those who look to the future and seek to enlist others to serve the Lord. To glamorize or criticize the past accomplishes little; what’s important is that we do our job in the present and disciple others to continue it after we’re gone. God buried His workers, but His work goes right on.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we will skip chapter 20 and the first half of chapter 21 before we pick back up with Eliyahu were he delivers God’s Sentence to Ach’av in 1Kings 21:17-29. To keep the flow of the story going, I will briefly summarize what was happening in 1 Kings 20:1 to 21:16.

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Sukkot 5779

The Ultimate Sukkah

We interrupt our series on Eliyahu once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2018, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Sunday, September 23rd.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43). Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13). It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43). During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).

Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15). It is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based on the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40). The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls. The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams. It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah. The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle). The etrog is a citron. Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14). He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot. We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth. But we do know; it indeed wasn’t December 25th. For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80). The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come! The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice. And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it entirely comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time. God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua resides as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach. Because of its latter-day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem. They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2) The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives. By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain. He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19). Can’t you imagine it? The feast of the Millennium! What a party that will be! This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy. This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory. All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day. God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Lord, do save us!) Amen. Come quickly, Lord Yeshua! Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Eliyahu.

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Yom Kippur – 5779

The Day of Atonement

In this post, we take a break from the series on Eliyahu to observe the second of the fall Jewish feasts of Yom Kippur.

In 2018, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on September 18th. The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement. The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are Kippur (noun) and Kaspar (verb). The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God. What does “atonement” mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 provides detailed instructions for a unique sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray. The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal. There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat. This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15). That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

It is essential in looking at the Tanakh to realize that in it we see realities acted out that would be unveiled later. The whole of scripture is a progressive revelation of God. He reveals Himself more and more throughout human history. God planned for continuous enactments of reality so that when Yeshua finally came to lay down His life for us, we would realize just what He was doing? Should we be surprised at the centuries of animal sacrifice, and the stress on the shedding of blood as necessary for forgiveness? No. In the repeated sacrifices of the Tanakh we are led to understand that, to God, death has always been the price of life for sinful men.

Yom Kippur in Yeshua’s Time

Vayikra 16:7-10 states that the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) is “to take the two goats and place them before Adonai at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then (he) is to cast lots for the two goats, one lot for Adonai and the other for ‘Az’azel (scapegoat). (He) is to present the goat whose lot fell to Adonai and offer it as a sin offering. But the goat whose lot fell to ‘Az’azel is to be presented alive to Adonai to be used for making atonement over it by sending it away into the desert for ‘Az’azel.”

There were also a few traditions that were added to the scapegoat ceremony. According to the Mishna, lots were drawn to decide the fate of both of the goats. The lot for the sacrifice said for the Lord, and the lot for the scapegoat said, scapegoat.  The people considered it a good omen if the lot for the Lord came up in the Priests right hand. Also, a red sash was tied to the scapegoat’s horns, and a portion of it was also tied to the door of the Temple. The sash on the Temple turned from red to white as the goat met its end in the wilderness, signifying to the people that God had accepted their sacrifices and their sins had been atoned. This idea came from Isaiah 1:18 which says, “Even if your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow…”

Also stated in the Mishna as well as the Talmud, four events occurred during the forty years before the destruction of the Temple which foreshadowed its doom. (This would have started at the time when Yeshua was sacrificed once and for all.) For forty years:

  • The lot that said “for the Lord” did not come in the Priests right hand…this was considered a bad omen.
  • The portion of the red sash that was tied to the temple door stopped turning white with the death of the sacrifice.
  • The westernmost light of the temple candelabra would not burn. This was crucial because this was the “shammash” (servant) used to kindle the other candles.
  • The temple doors opened by themselves. The rabbis saw the prophetic fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 11:1 that says, “Open your doors, Lebanon, so that the fire can consume your cedars.” Fires did consume the cedars of Lebanon that may have adorned the inside of the temple.

Yeshua’s Fulfillment

What should surprise us is that God would give His Son for us. What should amaze us is that the blood spilled on history’s ultimate altar would be His own. But we should never be surprised that only the sacrifice of another life can exempt one from the death penalty that sin and guilt deserve. Sacrifice has always been central to the history of God’s gracious dealings with men. Over and over again, that picture is presented to us. Over and over again we see the blood. Over and over – till with awed amazement we look at Calvary and suddenly the pictures from the past merge into one. And we bow, stunned by the reality.

He died.
He died for me.
He died for you.

Even in ancient times, God lifted the veil to let us peek beyond the shadows of the reality.

Isaiah 53 was long understood by the Jews to speak of the coming Messiah – the Deliverer to be sent to them by God. In this passage, we have a clear picture of Yeshua, and of sacrifice.

“Like a lamb led to be slaughtered” (v. 7).

“He would present himself as a guilt offering” (v. 10).

“He exposed himself to death” (v. 12).

“Actually bearing the sin of many” (v. 12).

We cannot read these words today without realizing that they contain God’s explanation for Yeshua’s life – and for His death.

According to Hebrews Chapter10, the sacrifices of old were “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the actual manifestation of the originals” (v. 1). The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins (v. 4). The sacrifices only covered and concealed sin, thus permitting God to overlook His people’s sins until Yeshua could come to take away sins by the sacrifice of Himself (Romans 3:25-26). What the ancient sacrifices foreshadowed, Yeshua accomplished! By one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Yeshua, our sins and lawless acts have been forgiven entirely, and we have been cleansed. (Hebrews 10:14) Thus “an offering for sins is no longer needed” (v. 18). We need to appropriate for ourselves the atonement of the shed blood of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifices had to be repeated again and again. Their repetition was a continual reminder to Israel that sin, while temporarily covered, must still be dealt with. The repeated sacrifices served to demonstrate that no animal’s life could ever satisfy the righteousness of God. What a different message the bread and wine of Communion! No longer is fresh blood required. Yeshua has died, offering “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (v. 12).

It is enough.
Redemption’s work is done.
By the blood of Yeshua, you and I have been set forever free.

The focal point of God’s atoning work is Yeshua’s death on the execution stake. Sha’ul wrote, “we were reconciled with God through His Son’s death when we were enemies” (Romans 5:10). These words not only define the meaning of atonement, but they also reveal the heart of the gospel as well.

At the beginning of His ministry, Yeshua was identified as “the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The purpose of His coming was “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He explained His death regarding His “bloodshed on behalf of many” (Mark 14:24).

The relation of Yeshua’s death to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Messianic preaching (Acts 2:21; 3:6, 19; 4:13; 5:31; 8:35; 10:43). Sha’ul proclaimed, “Yeshua died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3), that He was the “kapparah – atonement” (Romans 3:25 KJV; “sacrifice of atonement,” NRSV, NIV; “expiation,” RSV), that He became “a cursed on our behalf” (Galatians 3:13), and that those “who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood.” (Ephesians 2:13). Furthermore, Yeshua has been “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28) and has become “a new and living way” (Hebrews 10:20) into God’s presence. He is the one who “bore our sins in his body on the stake” (1 Peter 2:24).

Though atonement is focused on the execution stake, the Brit Hadashah makes clear that Yeshua’s death is the climax of His perfect obedience. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the execution stake” (Philippians 2:8). “Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience through his sufferings” (Hebrews 5:8). Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Yeshua’s obedience to Adam’s disobedience. His sinless obedience qualified Him to be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 6:8-10).

The atonement for sin provided by Yeshua’s death had its origin in divine love. No other reason can explain why “God reconciled us to himself by Yeshua” (2 Corinthians 5:18). The anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only and unique Son” (John 3:16; see 1 John 4:9-10). This does not mean that God loves us because Yeshua died for us. Rather, Yeshua died for us because God loves us. Thus, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8) Because atonement issues from love, it is always seen as a divine gift, never as a human achievement.

No day was, or is, as sacred to the Jewish community as Yom HaKippurim, the Day of Atonement.

After the high priest had made atonement for his sins and those of his household, he proceeded with the rites of atonement for the whole community.

“God put Yeshua forward as the kapparah – the atonement – for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death.” (Romans 3:25) Scripture depicts all human beings as needing to atone for their sins but lacking all power and resources for doing so. We have offended our holy Creator, whose nature it is to hate sin (Jeremiah 44:4; Habakkuk 1:13) and to punish it (Psalms 5:4-6; Romans 1:18; 2:5-9). No acceptance by, or fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless atonement is made, and since there is sin in even our best actions, anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation.

As a perfect sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19), Yeshua’s death was our redemption. He paid the price that freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14). Yeshua’s death was God’s act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his hostility to us that our sins provoked (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Yeshua’s atoning death ratified the inauguration of a renewed covenant, in which Yeshua’s one sacrifice guarantees access to God under all circumstances that cover all transgressions (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:15; 10:12-18). Those who through faith in Yeshua have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) in him… become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We no longer need the blood of bulls or goats. Yeshua is our perfect atonement. He is the Messiah!

In my next post, we will return to our series to continue to explore the life of Eliyahu.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 12

In my last post, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8. In this post, Eliyahu hears the Creator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14.

The Creator’s Message of Power

9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. Then the word of Adonai came to him; He said to him, “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for Adonai the God of armies because the people of Isra’el have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. Now I’m the only one left, and they’re coming after me to kill me too.” 11 He said, “Go outside, and stand on the mountain before Adonai”; and right then and there, Adonai went past. A mighty blast of wind tore the mountains apart and broke the rocks in pieces before Adonai, but Adonai was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake, but Adonai was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, fire broke out; but Adonai was not in the fire. And after the fire came a quiet, subdued voice. 13 When Eliyahu heard it, he covered his face with his cloak, stepped out and stood at the entrance to the cave. Then a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for Adonai the God of armies; because the people of Isra’el have abandoned your covenant, broken down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword. Now I’m the only one left, and they’re after me to kill me too.” ~ 1 Kings 19:9-14 (CJB)

It was about 250 miles from Be’er-Sheva to Sinai, a journey of perhaps ten days to two weeks. It had been three weeks at the most since Eliyahu fled from Yizre’el, but the trip expanded to consume forty days (19:8)! If Eliyahu was in such a hurry to put miles between himself and Izevel‘s executioners, why did he take such a long time to do it? Perhaps the Lord directed his steps (Psalm 37:23) – and his stops – so that he would spend one day for every year the Israelites had been in the wilderness after they were delivered from Egypt.

Perhaps, Eliyahu made the cave his home and waited upon the Lord. We might say he was “making a retreat” to solve some problems and get closer to the Lord. He was so depressed that he was willing to give up his calling and even his life.

When the Lord finally came and spoke to Eliyahu, it wasn’t to rebuke him or instruct him but to ask him a question: “What are you doing here, Eliyahu?” The prophet’s reply didn’t answer the question, which explains why God asked it a second time. Eliyahu only told Adonai that he had experienced many trials in his ministry, but he had been faithful to Adonai. But if he was a faithful servant, what was he doing hiding in a cave located hundreds of miles from his appointed place of ministry?

In this reply, Eliyahu reveals both pride and self-pity, and in using the pronoun they, he exaggerates the size of the opposition. He makes it look as though every last Jew in the Northern Kingdom had turned against him and Adonai when it was Izevel who wanted to kill him. The I’m the only one left refrain makes it look as though he was indispensable to God’s work when no servant of God is indispensable. God then commanded him to stand on the mount at the entrance of the cave, but it doesn’t appear that Eliyahu obeyed him until he heard the still, small voice (v. 13). Another possibility is that he did go out of the cave but fled back into it when God began to demonstrate His great power.

When Adonai went passed it reminds us of the experience of Moses on the mount (Exodus 33:21-22). All Eliyahu needed to get renewed for service was a fresh vision of the power and glory of God. First, Adonai caused a great wind to pass by, the wind so strong that it broke the rocks and tore the mountain, but no divine message came to the prophet. Then Adonai caused a great earthquake that shook the mount, but nothing from God came out of the earthquake. Adonai then brought fire, but it, too, gave Eliyahu no message from Adonai. Certainly, the prophet must have thought of the giving of the law as he witnessed this dramatic display of power (Exodus 19:16-18).

Try to place yourself in this scene. How would you react to these supernatural displays by the Creator? What was God trying to accomplish in Eliyahu’s life using these remarkable and frightening object lessons?

For one thing, He was reminding His servant that everything in nature was obedient to Him (Psalm 148)the wind, the foundations of the earth, the fireand He didn’t lack for a variety of tools to get His work done. If Eliyahu wanted to resign from his divine calling, Adonai had someone else to take his place. As it turned out, Eliyahu didn’t quit but was given the privilege of calling his successor, Elisha and spending time with him before being taken to heaven.

The wind, the earthquake, and the fire are all means that Adonai has used to manifest Himself to humanity. Theologians call these demonstrations “theophanies,” which means “the manifestation of God.” The pagan nations saw these great sights and worshiped the powers of nature, but when the Jews saw them, they worshiped the God who created nature. Perhaps Adonai was saying to Eliyahu, “You feel like you’ve failed to judge the sin in Israel, but one day I will judge it, and my judgment is final and complete.”

After this dramatic display of power, a quiet, subdued voice. When the prophet heard that voice, he stepped out of the cave and met Adonai. The mighty power and the great noise of the previous exhibitions didn’t stir Eliyahu, but when he heard that quiet, subdued voice, he recognized the voice of God. For the second time, he listened to the same question, what are you doing here, Eliyahu? And once again, Eliyahu repeated the same self-centered evasive answer.

God was saying to Eliyahu, “You called fire from heaven, you had the prophets of Baal slain, and you prayed down a terrific rainstorm, but now you feel like a failure. But you must realize that I don’t usually work in a manner that’s loud, impressive, and dramatic. My still, small voice brings the Word to the listening ear and heart. Yes, there’s a time and place for the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, but most of the time, I speak to people in tones of gentle love and quiet persuasion.”[1]Adonai wasn’t condemning the courageous ministry of His servant; He was only reminding Eliyahu that He uses many different tools to accomplish His work. God’s Word comes down like the gentle shower that refreshes, cleanses, and produces life (Deuteronomy 32:2; Isaiah 55:10).

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears The Lord’s Message of Hope in 1 Kings 19:15-21.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament by Warren Wiersbe.

Eliyahu ~ Part 11

In my last post, Eliyahu encounters The Enemies Message of Danger in 1 Kings 19:1-4. In this post, Eliyahu hears The Angels Message of Grace in 1 Kings 19:5-8.

Don’t Worry Eliyahu; I Have Your Back

Recall that in our last passage Eliyahu ran from Izevel, sat under a broom tree, prayed and pouted and ask God to relieve his misery by taking him home. I can certainly relate to him given his immediate circumstances.

5 Then he lay down under the broom tree and went to sleep. Suddenly, an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on the hot stones and a jug of water. He ate and drank, then lay down again. 7 The angel came again, a second time, touched him and said, “Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.” 8 He got up, ate and drank, and, on the strength of that meal, traveled forty days and nights until he reached Horev the mountain of God.” ~ 1 Kings 19:5-8 (CJB)

God’s miraculous provision was resumed, this time purely for the prophet. After Eliyahu ate and rested, he returned to the place where the covenant had been given to Moshe, Mount Horev. There, Eliyahu would have his faith renewed by God’s presence.

When the heart is heavy, and the mind and body are weary, sometimes the best remedy is sleeptake a nap! Nothing seems right when you’re exhausted. But while the prophet was asleep, the Lord sent an angel to care for his needs.

The angel had prepared a simple but adequate meal of fresh bread and refreshing water, and the prophet partook of both and lay down again to sleep. We aren’t told how long the Lord permitted Eliyahu to sleep before He awakened him the second time and told him to eat. The Lord knew that Eliyahu planned to visit Mount Horev [1], one of the most sacred places in all Jewish history, was located about 250 miles from Be’er- Sheva, and he needed strength for the journey. Eliyahu obeyed the messenger of God and was able to travel for forty days and nights on the nourishment from those two meals.

When we review God’s ministries to Eliyahu as recorded in 1 Kings 18 and 19, you see a parallel to the promise in Isaiah 40. “But those who hope in Adonai will renew their strength; they will soar aloft as with eagles’ wings; when they are running, they won’t grow weary, when they are walking they won’t get tired.”~ Isaiah 40:31 (CJB)

For three years, the prophet had been hidden by God, during which time he waited on the Lord. When the Lord sent him to Mount Karmel, He enabled Eliyahu to soar aloft as with eagle’s wings and triumph over the prophets of Ba’al. After Eliyahu prayed and it began to rain, the Lord strengthened him to run and not be weary (18:46), and now He sustained him for forty days, so he could walk and not get tired (19:8). Eliyahu wasn’t wholly living in the will of God, but he was smart enough to know that he had to wait on the Lord if he expected to have the strength for the ministry and for the journey that lay before him.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, Eliyahu hears the Creator’s Message of Power in 1 Kings 19:9-14.

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[1]Horev is another name for Mount Sinai. If Sinai is to be found down in the southern region, he must travel another two hundred plus miles and could therefore easily take forty days. It is true that a caravan could often make seventeen to twenty miles a day, but Eliyahu is not accustomed to this type of travel and is traveling on his own. Five miles per day under such conditions in this climate would not be unusual. ~ The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.