Is There A God In Israel? 

2 Kings 1:3
“But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?'”

Sometimes it is difficult to uncover the meaning behind a biblical text or to make proper application for our lives. Other times, there is no difficulty at all. Three times in this text we read the same phrase,


“Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?”

Ahaziah, King of Israel, had an accident and was severely injured. No doubt, after consulting the medical professionals of his day, he began to question whether or not he would recover. Since no earthly source could answer his inquiry, he sought out a prophet of Baal for guidance and advice. Heaven’s reaction to this was to question why a man of Israel would neglect to seek counsel from the God of Israel.

In all my years of following Jesus, I have never met a Christian who consulted Baal for advice or direction. However, I have met several who refuse to look to the Lord to meet their needs, and are quick to run to just about every other source. When difficulty, tragedy, or need arises, instead of increasing prayer time, fasting, or Bible reading, they start looking to others to solve the problem. With the advent of social media, this phenomenon has increases exponentially. Facebook and other mediums, seem to be filled with requests from Christians to assist them in their trying times. It is as though we have forgotten that Jesus promised if we seek Him and His righteousness, He will provide for our needs.

I am not saying believers should not help believers, or that it is wrong to ask others to pray for us. There are even cases in Scripture where men like Nehemiah ask the king for provision, to accomplish what God had called him to do. That being said, it does seem, at least in some cases, we have forgotten the message that Elijah heard, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?”

In contrast to this, I am reminded of the story of Ezra the scribe. When he left Persia for Jerusalem, he had witnessed to the king regarding the great power of the God of Israel. Later, as he ventured out on the perilous journey, he determined not to ask the king for protection. He thought doing so would embarrass him, because of all the wonderful things he had told the king about Jehovah. So, instead of seeking aid from the king, he spent his time pleading with God for protection.

Ezra 8:22-23 “For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.”

Whatever you may be currently facing, and whoever you may enlist to pray for you through the trial,don’t neglect to get alone with God, pour your difficulty out before Him and seek His help. Remember, He often allows the difficulties in order to bring us closer to Himself.
Pastor Jim

 

Why Have You Cast Us Off? 

Psalm 74:1
“O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?”

Asaph describes Jerusalem being ransacked by Israel’s enemies. The sanctuary is being defiled and the city is destroyed. While this is happening, Asaph remembers the ancient victories wrought by God. He speaks of how God has;

 

Divided the seas

Broken heads of Leviathan in pieces.

Broke open the fountain and the flood.

You dried up mighty rivers.

Prepared the light and the sun.

Made summer and winter.

This causes him to ask why God had cast off His people. The answer is,  God cast them off because they had turned from Him to serve other gods, and pursue their own ways. For years Israel ignored the warnings of the Word and the prophets, in order to continue in lifestyles that were abhorrent to God, and destructive to themselves. After years and years of extending His mercy, the time came when God allowed the enemies to defeat His people, as a form of judgment for their sins.

The same is true today. When we continually cast off the word of God to live however we want, we will find ourselves living in defeat rather than victory. We will one day look up and wonder how such a mighty God could allow such hardship in our lives. In some cases, the answer is that we have brought this upon ourselves, by ignoring God and His ways. It is always shocking to hear someone, who gives little regard to the ways of God, suddenly blame God or become angry with Him, when their life is suddenly met with upheaval. It may be that the difficulties you are facing are the consequences of ignoring God and are designed to awaken you so you will return to Him. It was after his world collapsed, that the prodigal son ran home to his father.

While God cast off Israel, He did not do so forever. Paul wrote,

Romans 11:1 “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”

God has a future plan for Israel and He has one for you. No matter what your past has been, or how difficult your present might be, God has a plan for your future. It is possible for you to turn your life over to Him, be forgiven, and allow Him to redeem your life and use you for His glory.

Pastor Jim

 

If…Then…

1 Kings 9:4
“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments…” 

If you are a parent, you understand conditional promises. Almost daily you find yourself saying things like “If you keep your room clean, then…” Or “if you get good grades, then…” Basically you are declaring that if certain conditions are met, certain rewards will be given.

The Bible is filled with these same kind of promises. Here Solomon is told, if Israel walks in line with the commands of God, they will experience the blessings of God, but if they turn from God, they will be chastened by Him. This is not a difficult concept to understand. If we choose to walk with Christ and live obediently to His word, we will be blessed. If we turn from Him and pursue things that His word forbids, we will begin to experience the chastening of God. We will find that the sinful activities we pursued actually robbed us of the life they promised to provide.

The narrative of Scripture reveals that Israel ignored these warnings. They were attracted to the lifestyles of the nations around them and they forsook the ways of God, for the ways of the world. It did not take long for this to have negative affects on the nation. After Solomon died, the nation experienced a devastating civil conflict that split the kingdom in two. Weakened by the split and continual rebellion against God, the nations were later overrun by enemies and taken captive to distant lands. What had once been a beautiful testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God, became a testimony to the horrible consequences of sin.

No matter how great the temptation to turn from God and embrace the ways of the world, we must remember the example of Israel. If we meet the conditions we receive the promises. We will have a blessed life as we follow after, and live pleasing to, the Lord.

Pastor Jim

Dedication Day

Ezekiel 43:5
“The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.”

What a glorious sight this must have been, as Ezekiel watched the glory or radiance of God descend upon and fill the Temple. What had been a building made with men’s hands, now became the temple of the living God. The presence of the Lord within its walls transformed this building and set it apart from all others.

This is not the only time we read of the glory of God filling or transforming something. When Moses and his team first erected the Tabernacle, God’s glory rested upon it with such power that no one could even enter its gates (Exodus 40:34-35). Years later Solomon’s team completed the Temple and the glory of God once again rested upon it in a powerful and visible way (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). It is clear, when the glory of God fills a structure dedicated to God, it is visibly transformed.

The New Testament teaches us that God no longer dwells in temples made with men’s hand, but  those who have received Christ as Savior and Lord, actually become the dwelling place of God. When we receive Christ, the Spirit of God enters us, and like the Temple of old, we are visibly transformed, being filled with the Spirit of God. We are no longer just another building, we are now the dwelling place of the Living God. It is through this transformation that the world around us will begin to see the God of glory. Let’s seek to be people dedicated to revealing the glory of God, by dedicating ourselves completely to Him.

Pastor Jim

 

Under Attack

Ezekiel 38:1-2
“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, . . .'”

Ezekiel takes us on a fast and furious ride into the future. He describes a time when a coalition of nations will come against Israel in a final attempt to wipe them off the face of the planet. The players in this coalition will come from the far north, perhaps modern Russia, and will include Iran and North Africa. Ezekiel explains that although Israel is greatly outnumbered and ill prepared for such an onslaught, God will intervene, protect them, and bring about a devastating defeat on their enemies. This prophecy is remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, it portrays a time before the return of Christ when the nation of Israel will exist, and be under the threat of annihilation by some of their neighbors. For 1900 years it would seem almost ridiculous to think that this prophecy could be taken literally, since the Jewish people had no land of their own. Regardless of your eschatology, or your view of Israel, we must at least concede that the picture painted by Ezekiel, is not only plausible, but even likely, when we consider the events currently being played out on our world stage. Ezekiel goes on to say, the scene will continue to develop until Israel finds itself under attack by armies from the North, perhaps led by Russia,  and is miraculously delivered by the Lord.

Second, this is a vivid picture of the ability of God to protect those who belong to Him. We, as believers, are constantly under attack from our own flesh, and from the circumstances that surround us. We often feel as though there is little or no chance that we will make it. We wonder if a year from today we will still be standing and following Christ. What an encouragement to know, when God is for us, it does not matter what coalition of armies are against us. This reminds me of the words of Isaiah who wrote:

Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn.This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,”

There is a strength given to the child of God, greater than anything we are forced to face. Joseph learned it in the pit, David in the caves, Daniel in the exile, Paul in the prison cells, and we can learn it no matter what obstacles we might be facing today.

Pastor Jim

 

Dem Bones 

Ezekiel 37:11
“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!'””

Ezekiel was taken in the Spirit to a valley full of skeletons. I am sure the sight itself was quite shocking, but what happened next must have been truly overwhelming. The angel asked Ezekiel if these bones could live. The obvious answer is no. When a person has been under water too long and their heartbeat has stopped there remains a slight chance of resuscitation. When a person has been dead so long that all that remains is a pile of bones, they are way past ‘mostly dead’, and no hope remains of them coming back to life. I am sure my answer would have been “No Way!” Ezekiel, however, had seen God do some pretty amazing things, so he did not discount even the possibility of these bones coming back to life. Sure enough, as he stood by, the bones came together; muscle, organs, skin and finally life was added. What had been a graveyard was now a valley filled with life.

This is a graphic picture of the work God alone can do. This passage has often been used to illustrate the work of salvation. When a person comes to Christ a miracle no less amazing than adding life to dead bones takes place. While there are many similarities between conversion and this event, the real meaning behind it is God’s promise to restore the nation of Israel; it had been divided, conquered and scattered. While this event transpired, Israel remained captive in Babylon. However, in a few short decades Cyrus, King of Persian, would issue a decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. In a minor way, that event fulfilled this prophecy, but the promises looked way beyond ancient times into the future. God promised the nation would be restored and the Messiah would sit on the throne of Israel and reign. He promised these would be end times events.

After two thousand years without a homeland, Israel returned to occupy the Promised Land. This event was the precursor to Ezekiel’s promise. Soon, Jesus Christ will return to set up His kingdom. The fact that Israel occupies the land today should stir our hearts to live in expectancy of His return.

Pastor Jim

 

Crutches

Ezekiel 29:6-7
“Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the Lord, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel. When they took hold of you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; when they leaned on you,you broke and made all their backs quiver.”

One of the common criticisms of Christianity asserts it is a crutch for weak people. I would disagree with that accusation based upon its premise. You see, anyone making that statement is failing to see that we, as humans, are all weak and in need of something outside of ourselves to help us along the way. The question is not whether Christianity is a crutch, but whether it is a reliable one. Ezekiel’s message to Israel was that leaning on the strength of Egypt, when threatened by attack from Babylon, was like using a reed to support their body weight. The visual is clear, a reed does not have the strength to support their weight.

This passage is particularly interesting to me, as I hobble from airport to airport with a broken ankle. Because of the break, my left leg can bear no weight. I am dependent on crutches to hold me up. When I reached security, I had to place my crutches on the belt and was handed two wooden canes that bore evidence of not being trustworthy. Instead of leaning all my weight on them, I chose to hop through the line, as though I were playing a childhood game.

It is not a question of whether you have a crutch or not. The question you must ask is, whether your crutch is suitable to bear the weight of both life and death. Things like family, intelligence, physical strength, resolve or riches, might be a sufficient crutch for the struggles of life, but they will not support us in death. The only way to prepare for eternity is to trust in the saving work of Christ.

Pastor Jim