Following God not Man

Don’t Be Deceived!

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1 Kings 12-14

Perhaps we will be able to learn a thing or two about unity and peace and not being deceived and the supreme importance of following God’s purpose and plan as we read the historical accounts of the break-up of the Old Testament country of Israel.  What a sad and difficult time it must have been.

Remember back to those who had insisted that they wanted to have a king in order to be a real nation like all the neighboring tribes and countries.  Samuel told them they didn’t need a king if they had God, but they didn’t listen.  They wanted to be just like everybody else.  So, sure enough, they got themselves a king – and all the heartache and turmoil that comes with trying to follow man instead of God.

As we begin our reading today Israel had survived almost 100 years under 3 kings (Saul, David and Solomon).  And, as Solomon’s son Rehoboam is poised to take the reigns, the split comes and Jeroboam takes control of most of the country.  The land previously given to the tribe of Judah (home to Jerusalem and the beautiful temple Solomon built for the whole nation to worship the one true God in) remains as Rehoboam’s territory.  Jeroboam quickly decides he must build something for all the rest of Israel to worship, so that they don’t return to Jerusalem.  Two golden calves were created.  If the people knew God and their history a little better this should have sent all sorts of red flags.

God sent one new, large, red flag for the people.  A man of God came from Judah to speak God’s Word and reveal God’s power against this new idol worship.  He turns down King Jeroboam’s invitation to dinner because the word of the Lord said he must return home without eating or drinking in this land he was speaking against.  However, when an old prophet lies and says that an angel appeared to him and told him to have the man of God come to his house….the man of God goes.  But that same day judgement is prophesied against this man of God (from God through the previously lying prophet of God).  And sure enough while traveling home the man of God is killed by a lion (who “strangely” enough, does not eat him, just kills him).

I must say I have had some trouble with this story.  Here’s the man of God on special assignment from God – and doing it quite faithfully.  Speaking God’s word, showing God’s power, turning down even the King’s attempt to wine and dine him.  He seems totally devoted to what God wants him to do.  And, then, someone lies to him.  Someone who calls themself a prophet – should be a good person to listen to, right?

Not always!

Don’t believe every word from one who says they speak for God — without consulting what GOD has to say about it!  God had not changed what He had said to the man of God.  And, so that is what the man of God was responsible to be listening to and following.  The man of God was deceived because he listened to the lie – and it cost him his life.  God is serious about people following Him and His Word, rather than what man says about God.

So, too, today I fear there are many who, like the man of God in 1 Kings 13, are trying to speak God’s word – who are at the same time being deceived – and it just might cost them their lives – as it did for the man of God.   2 Timothy 3:13 lumps both the deceivers and those who are being deceived together in one sad group.   It seems harsh.  But, God has revealed himself as a jealous God who requires obedience to Him, and not to man and man’s ideas.  There is a price to pay for turning from His life-giving words of truth to the lies man (and even kings or “prophets”) have said about God and what He requires.

There are countless voices speaking today.  It can be hard to know what to believe and listen to.  The truth is not always spoken by the one who speaks loudest or longest or believed by the largest crowd.  But the truth is always in God’s Word.  Seek It!   And ask yourself – is it actually GOD’s Word you are following, or just someone who says they are speaking for God?  Are you following man-made traditions that have been handed down about God – or are you following GOD?  Do a little research and find out where the religious traditions you believe come from.  Do they come from God’s Word or from human traditions?  Did we get the idea of going to heaven when we die from the Bible or from Plato?  Did God, Moses, Jesus, the disciples and Paul teach about One God or about a triune God theory that developed centuries after Jesus’ life on earth?

How will you make sure you are not following a man-made religion – perhaps one just as dangerous as the golden calves Jeroboam set up in his country?  Not all lies and false gods are as blatantly obvious as a golden calf crafted by the king.  Sometimes it may come in the form of a seemingly harmless new word from the prophet, a slight contradiction or addition to God’s eternal Word.  Remember God is the perfect teacher – His words do not need to be added upon to be enhanced or explained better.   You are responsible for not listening to the lies.  God gave us the Bible – His Word that is full of truth.  Let’s dig in deep and find what it says and follow it with our whole being so we will not be led astray with a lie like the people who followed a golden calf built by a king or like the man of God who listened to the lie of the prophet rather than the word given to him by God.  There are consequences for what you believe and who you listen to and follow.  Take it seriously.  God does.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+12-14&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will read 2 Chronicles 10-12 as we continue seeking God’s truth and how it affects our lives today in the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Looking into the Future

Revelation 4-7

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Tuesday July 18

If you had a chance to look into the future and see what was going to happen, would you want to?  If you had a chance to get a peek at God’s throne room in Heaven, would you want to?  John is given that chance.  While he’s physically in exile on the Island of Patmos in the middle of the Mediterranean sea around 90 A.D. during a time of great persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire, he is given a vision of the throne room of God Almighty.  He is able to see God seated upon His throne, surrounded by angels.  He sees seven scrolls that have been sealed by God.  The question is, who is worthy to unseal the scrolls and reveal their contents?  The answer is: the Lamb that was slain.  Jesus is the only one worthy to unseal the royal scrolls and reveal their contents.  The scrolls reveal what is about to happen.
Notices that there are 7 scrolls just as there were 7 churches.  In the Bible, 7 is the number of completion.  It took God 7 days to finish creating the earth (including a Sabbath rest).  The number 7 will keep occurring through the book of Revelation.  It’s completion, God is finishing the new creation, bringing this creation to an end.  7 scrolls reveal God’s plan to bring this world with it’s evil to a close.
As the scrolls are opened they reveal war, famine, earthquakes and other disasters resulting in wide scale death.  God is beginning to bring His judgment upon the earth, and He is vindicating his people who have died as martyrs at the hands of the evil empire.  (it sounds a little bit like Star Wars- Empires and those who suffer at the hands of the empire).
Imagine that you are a Christian living in this time and you want to be faithful to God, but it’s hard when you see a powerful empire destroying your fellow Christians by the sword, or burning in the fire, or throwing them to the lions or the gladiators in the arena.  It might be tempting at times to give up and give in to the seemingly overwhelming force of the empire.  But then you are permitted to look into the future and see that, eventually, the empire is destroyed, and those who died the death of the martyr are brought back to life and end up the true victors.  That is what is happening here.  The Christians are given a boost of confidence by seeing the ultimate victory of God and his people.
The trials and temptations that you and I face today may be different from those of 1st century Christians in the Roman empire.  We may be tempted to turn away from our faith in order to be popular among our peers at school, or to fit in at the university.  We may be tempted to abandon our morals in order to have fun.  We might be tempted to cut corners in our jobs to get ahead.  We might be tempted to abandon our allegiance to Jesus Christ for any number of reasons.  But what if we could see into the future, what if the curtain that separates us in time and space were peeled back enough for us to see a glimpse of God, of Jesus, of the future… how everything ends, and realize that God is victorious and those who oppose God will be defeated, and that the rewards to following God and being faithful to Jesus Christ are great.  Would that help during times when we are tempted to turn away and abandon our faith?  I think they would.  And that’s the value of Revelation.  It helps us to see beyond the here and now and base our decisions not on what’s happening today, but to see the BIG picture…. the grand and glorious victory of God over evil.  Whose side do you want to be on?

-Jeff Fletcher

(Photo Credit: https://www.versaday.com/Months/05/0516.aspx)

Where Did He Go? (2 Kings 1-3)

Saturday, November 5

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Melissa New
Texts like II Kings 2 can be a problem for us when we are conversing with our friends or family who are convinced that we will go to heaven when we die. They know that we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and, therefore, when the Bible states that “the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind” they think this “truth” should be evident to us. It says plainly that Elijah went up to heaven, does it not? The trouble is that when we explain to them that our understanding of the word “heaven” now in modern times is different from the Hebrew word “heaven” as it is used in this Scripture, they sometimes think we are changing the Bible to go along with what we believe. How unfortunate. That verse could very easily have been written in our English language to say, “the LORD was about to take Elijah up into the sky in a whirlwind.”
There are many things that we just don’t know. Like, for instance, where did Elijah go? Where did Enoch go? But those questions don’t really need to be answered. We may be curious, but it really isn’t that important. What is important to know is what happens to us when we die. Our God would not leave this as a mystery. We can take our friends and/or family to Hebrews 11:37…”Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.” It seems like that verse could very well be speaking of many prophets, including Elijah. The author here says that “they placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection” (11:35) and “none of them received all that God had promised.” (11:39) We can also trust the words of Jesus who said, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) It’s almost as if Jesus were trying to make sure this would be clearly understood.