Stand Up For God’s Word

…Josiah read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant… (2 Kings 23:2).

The leader must go first.
The leader must go big.
The leader must be visible.
The leader must be consistent.

This is the only way to affect real change.

Josiah did this extremely well. In fact, he did it better than any other king!

Josiah called all the people together and read “in their hearing” God’s word. Then he made it his own and took a public stand to confirm it (v. 3). Josiah went first, and “then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.” 

The rest of Josiah’s reign is punctuated by telltale phrases like:

  • in accordance with the Word of the Lord
  • as it is written in this book of the covenant
  • fulfilled the requirements of the law

Here’s one of the most amazing things to me: Josiah’s wholehearted obedience to God ends up fulfilling perfectly a 300-year-old prophecy that God gave through a prophet of Judah (v. 16; 1 Kings 13:1-3).

A mark of a godly leader is his public alignment with God’s Word.

When the leader goes public and then wholeheartedly follows through on his commitment to God, others will follow his lead. May all of us be that kind of pacesetting leader. 

This is part 51 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

Assyrian Kings Involved With Israel

A helpful Bible study tool—

Assyrian Kings Involved With Israel

  • Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC)—2 Kings 17:3-4
  • Adad-Nirari III (810-782 BC)—took tribute from Israel; king during Jonah’s visit (Jonah 3) 
  • Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BC)—deported most of the northern part of Israel 
  • Shalmaneser V (727-722 BC)—besieged Samaria (2 Kings 18:9) 
  • Sargon II (721-705 BC)—deported the rest of Israel (Isaiah 20) 
  • Sennacherib (704-681 BC)—invaded Judah (Isaiah 36) 
  • Esar-Haddon (681-669 BC)—very powerful king 
  • Ashurbanipal (668-626 BC)—most powerful and brutal Assyrian king 

Two weak kings followed (626-607 BC), and Assyria fell in 605 BC. 

Source: Halley’s Study Bible 

You may also want to check out my chart of the kings and prophets of the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel.

The Attitude That Thwarts God’s Blessings

Two of Israel’s king Jehoahaz and his son Jehoash perpetually hung on to an attitude that limited what God wanted to do for Israel. That attitude can be summed up in a single word: but. 

Jehoahaz “sought the Lord’s favor” during a time Israel was under the oppression of their enemies, and “the Lord listen to him”! God raised up a deliverer who brought them freedom. Israel, under Jehoahaz’s leadership, could have used this newly won freedom to live closer to God and remain in a place of renewed worship. “But” they used their freedom as a license to sin and God reduced Jehoahaz’s army to a mere skeleton of what it had been (2 Kings 13:4-7). 

Jehoash went to visit Elisha. It doesn’t appear he went with a prayer request but merely to pay his respects to this dying prophet. God in His graciousness gave Jehoash something he didn’t even ask for: a promise of victory over Aram! Jehoash was invited to boldly ask for God’s help “but” he thought God had a limited supply and he asked for just a small portion. As a result, his victory over Aram was small—much smaller than God wanted for Israel (13:14-19). 

Once again, enemies surround Israel and we read a statement pregnant with possibility: “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of His covenant” (13:22-23). Despite their sin, God still wanted to bless them! 

God wants so much more for us than we even want ourselves! But our sinfulness, stubbornness, and unbelief will limit the fullness of what God wants to do. 

Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant. If God did not spare His own Son, how can I ever continue to remain skeptical that He wants to bless me?! He is glorified when I am abundantly blessed in Him. What do I do with God’s gracious concern? Will I squander it and live hemmed in by oppressors? Or will I embrace everything God has for me in Jesus and live in a way that He delights to bless? 

My attitude will determine the blessing I receive. 

Never Overruled, Never Overwhelmed

…Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army … [King Joram said] “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today” (2 Kings 6:24, 31). 

Two kings who both think that their overwhelming force can override God’s plan.

Ben-Hadad had already experienced God’s power when his previous plans were disclosed by God to Elisha, and when his “strong force” has been thwarted by God’s power (vv. 8-10, 14-20). As a result, Ben-Hadad temporarily stopped sending his small raiding parties into Israel. Now, he somehow believes that sending his “entire army” can overwhelm God’s plan?! 

King Joram also had first-hand experience is of God’s power. Not only in the above incident with King Ben-Hadad, but also in the desert when God miraculously provided water for his army. Now, he somehow thinks “this disaster is from the Lord” and Elisha is the cause. He thinks that killing Elisha will somehow intimidate God into lifting the Aramean siege?!

Here are the facts:

  • God brought the Aramaeans together to demonstrate His power.
  • God left Israel without any resources on their own to demonstrate His power.
  • God foretold events yet to come through Elisha to demonstrate His power.

And then God fully demonstrated His power!

God’s plans can never be overruled. That means that when I place my trust in God, I can never be overwhelmed by the enemy’s plans. 

No matter the circumstances, God is in control. Let me say that again: GOD IS IN CONTROL.

God will demonstrate His unequaled love and His unmatched power at just the right moment. He will bring about “a day of good news” and superabundance for all who fear and trust Him (7:9, 16). 

Don’t ever despair, no matter how dark the battle is. Don’t ever try to coerce God into doing something you want Him to do. Don’t ever become frustrated with God’s timing. Only wait in eager expectation for His answer: His all-loving, all-powerful answer. 

God is never overruled so you are never overwhelmed!

“Alas!” To “Aha!”

…oh no… (2 Kings 6:5, 15). 

The words “Oh no!” are actually a single word in the Hebrew language (Hebrew: ‘ahahh) that has been transliterated into English as “Aha!” 

But I think the old English translation is better in this context: ALAS! 

ALAS is usually a painful realization of the situation, not a cry of enlightened discovery. Here are the other times that this Hebrew/English word for ALAS! is used: 

  • Joshua said it after his army was defeated at Ai 
  • Gideon said it after realizing he had been face-to-face with God 
  • Jephtha cried it out after he knew that his daughter would have to be sacrificed
  • King Joram uttered this when he realized his troops and animals had no water in the desert 
  • Jeremiah said this to God after he was called to be a prophet, and after he was asked by God to speak countercultural words (he actually said ALAS! four times!) 
  • Ezekiel also cried out ALAS! four times when God asked him to do or to watch difficult things 
  • Joel cried it out when he saw the Day of the Lord quickly approaching 

(check out the above references by clicking here) 

In all of these ALAS! painful moments, these men were at their wits’ end, at the end of their own abilities—they couldn’t do anything to help themselves. 

In all of these ALAS! moments, they came to just one important realization: Only Yahweh can help me. That realization is truly the AHA! of an enlightened discovery! 

Calling on God turns a painful ALAS! moment into a God-glorifying AHA! moment. God alone can provide where no one else can.

Don’t despair in the ALAS! times, but cry it out loud to the only One who can help you, and then watch to see how He alone will turn your situation into a defining, God-glorifying AHA! testimony. 

Think On This…

Here’s the seed thought for this episode of Think On This

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through His servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. The Lord had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. And since the Lord had not said He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash. (2 Kings 14:23-27) 

Think on this: Just because God has used me to do something amazing doesn’t necessarily mean that I am free of sin. 

How Big?

…your servant has nothing there at all…except a small jar of olive oil (2 Kings 4:2). 

This widow made the right move in going to Elisha for help. The situation seemed impossible, so she had nowhere else to go but to God.

Instead of giving her immediate relief, God asks this widow to extend her faith. The steps she takes next will determine how big of a blessing she will receive. God frequently does this:

  • how many ditches am I willing to dig (3:16)? 
  • how many doors am I willing to knock on to ask for empty jars (4:3)?
  • how many times am I willing to strike the ground with my arrows (13:18-19)?

The ditches were filled with water until they could hold no more.

The jars were filled with oil until they could hold no more.

Joash only struck the ground three times, so he only received three victories.

Jesus told us…

…ask, and keep on asking 

…seek, and keep on looking 

…knock, and keep on knocking 

God IS going to answer. The question is: HOW BIG do I want Him to answer? 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) 

In > On

When it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On.

Sometimes, instead of referring to the two major divisions of the Bible as Old Testament and New Testament, I prefer to use First Testament and Second Testament. This helps me remember that “Old” doesn’t mean outdated, and “New” doesn’t mean forgetting what came before it.

B.B. Warfield had a great analogy. He imagined the First Testament to be a perfectly-constructed mansion. Only the finest materials had been used, and the mansion had been constructed by the best craftsmen being overseen by the world’s premier Architect. The only problem was this mansion had no lights. With the appearing of Jesus in the Second Testament, finally the lights are turned on. Jesus reveals the beauty that was already there! 

In the First Testament, we frequently read that the Holy Spirit comes ON people, usually for leadership functions. We see this phrase with Moses and his co-leaders, several of the judges, Israel’s first two kings, and many of the prophets (see Numbers 11:25; Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6, 16:13; 2 Kings 2:15). 

However, there is one leader in the First Testament about which we notice the Spirit came IN him. Twice Ezekiel says this (2:2, 3:24). This was hinting at a to-be-fulfilled promise in the Second Testament (36:25-27). 

The Holy Spirit being IN God’s people—which makes them God’s leaders—is described by Jesus in Acts 1:5. Many translations render this verse, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But the NIV footnote and The Message both say “in the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, the Greek word means “by, with, or in.” But in context to being baptized (which means immersed, submerged, cleansed, overwhelmed), I think the best word is: baptized IN the Holy Spirit.  

Let me say it again: When it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On. 

“You hardly need to pray to have the Spirit poured out, for that has been done. What you need is a baptism of the Holy Spirit; to go down personally into that glorious flood that has been poured forth. Oh, to be immersed in the Holy Spirit and into fire—covered with His holy influence—plunged into the Godhead’s deepest sea and lost in His immensity! Here is our life and power.” —Charles Spurgeon 

Jesus wants all of His followers to be baptized IN the Holy Spirit. So He told us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, keep on waiting for God’s promised infilling (Luke 11:9-13; Acts 1:4-8). 

Don’t stop at salvation—with just the Holy Spirit deposited in you—press on to be submerged deep into the Holy Spirit. 

If you missed the first couple of posts in this series, check out Where’s God Today? and The Holy Spirit Keeps Christians “Oscar Mike.” 

A Minor Introduction

The minor prophets in the Bible are pretty cool! But we have to be careful with man-made titles. For example, the “old” in Old Testament doesn’t mean outdated; nor does the “new” in New Testament mean something updated to modern times. 

In the same way, the minor prophets are only called “minor” because of the volume of their writing, not the quality of their message. In fact, their messages are actually quite major! 

The minor prophets cover a span of about 300 years, from 760 BC (Amos) to 450 BC (Malachi). You can check out this side-by-side chart to see where these prophets fit in the history of Judah and Israel. 

Here are some interesting tidbits about the minor prophets:

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these books are referred to simply as “The Twelve.” 
  • All of these prophets identify themselves in the first verse of their writing except Jonah, but he is identified in 2 Kings 14:23-25. 
  • The only others of the Twelve that are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament are Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah (see Jeremiah 26:16-19; 2 Kings 25:18-21; Ezra 5:1). 
  • The prophets consistently give us some historical context in their writings to help us place when, where, and to whom their ministry took place. 

The Twelve also show up quite liberally in the New Testament. Every one of them has either direct quotations or has their writings implicitly referred to throughout the New Testament. Here’s just a small sampling… 

  • Micah 5:2 tells us where Jesus would be born (Matthew 2:6)
  • Hosea 11:1 says Jesus would spend time in Egypt (Matthew 2:15)
  • Malachi 4:5 says an “Elijah” would precede Jesus (Matthew 17:10-11)
  • Zechariah 9:9 foretells Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10)
  • Jonah 1:17 was used by Jesus to predict His own resurrection (Matthew 12:39-42)
  • Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21)
  • Amos 9:11-12 foretold all peoples coming to Jesus (Acts 15:16-17)
  • Hosea 13:14 was quoted by Paul to show how death was defeated (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
  • Habakkuk 2:4 was also quoted by Paul to tell how righteous people live (Galatians 3:11)
  • Haggai 2:6 foretells the end times (Hebrews 12:26-29)

I look forward to diving deep into the major lessons in the minor prophets over the next several weeks, but in preparation for that let me give you 3 overarching lessons for all Bible studies:

  1. Christianity is rooted in history. The Bible is a historical record of real people, saying and doing real things in real places in the world. It’s not a collection of fables, myths, or legends. 
  2. We need to study the whole counsel of God’s Word. All of Scripture is interdependent on all the other parts of Scripture, and every part reinforces and amplifies every other part. Don’t limit your Bible reading to just one or two parts.
  3. Looking back in wonder and gratitude builds faith for today and hope for tomorrow. When we see what God has done in the past, and we realize that He is still the same God today, it builds our faith for today. And when our faith today is strengthened, it gives us a bright hope for tomorrow. 

I look forward to having you join me on this journey of discovery through the minor prophets! 

When Your Walking Is Your Praying

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience something wonderful? Maybe you got to meet someone important, or you got the job, or you got the money, or you got to ride in that fancy car. 

Some will call you “lucky” or say you “caught a break,” but both of those statements imply that something unexpected happened to you. 

Is it still “lucky” to be in the right place at the right time if you knew ahead of time that it was coming? For praying Christians, to be in the right place at the right time when we are expecting God to provide is called “an answer to prayer.” 

David prayed, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). The Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” If we pray, and we live in expectation, then it isn’t luck when we’re in the right place at the right time, but it’s a “trap” that caught the answer to our prayer. 

Our daily walking can be our daily praying, as long as we’re walking in faith in the direction God pointed us. 

One man who—literally!—walked this principle out was Elisha.

Before we look at Elisha’s expectant, prayerful walking, let’s look at his prayer request—

When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you (2 Kings 2:9 MSG).

Elisha was essentially asking to be like Elijah’s firstborn son, to be his spiritual heir. This was the original promise God gave when He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). From that point onward, Elisha steadily walked in expectation of God answering this prayer. 

Elisha wouldn’t stay in a place of military victory, or in a significantly spiritual place, or even in a place surrounded by godly leaders. Elisha wouldn’t be held back by a lucrative family business, or the warning words of friends or his spiritual mentor, or even the seemingly uncrossable Jordan River. He kept on walking (see 2 Kings 2:1-15).

He kept on walking.

He kept on walking until “suddenly” God showed up and answered his prayer. 

But was it really “suddenly”? Elisha knew it was coming. He believed what God had promised. He clung to it even when Elijah told him he had asked “a difficult thing.” Elisha kept on walking until he was in the right place at the right time to receive all that God had planned. 

If you have prayed in faith, start walking. Settling anywhere else is robbing yourself of a blessing and robbing God of glory. 

Just keep walking! And let your walking be your praying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t settle. Don’t stop eagerly expecting that the next step you took could be the “suddenly” you’ve been waiting for. Just keep walking!

Join me this Sunday as we learn a valuable lesson from another bold pray-er from the Bible. 

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