My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, March 26, 2012

“The Power of the Word – Part II” - (03/25/12)

What God’s Word will do for the believer. 
March 25, 2012

            Last Sunday I shared with you about why the Bible is so powerful, why it is unlike any other book ever written, and why we should dedicate ourselves to know it.  We looked at seven characteristics of God’s Word.  We learned that the Word of God is
  • Infallible – means that it is flawless in total,
  • Inerrant – means it is without errors even in its smallest parts,
  • Complete – it needs nothing added or subtracted,
  • Authoritative – it is God’s voice speaking and is absolutely true,
  • Sufficient – means that it is adequate for every need,
  • Effective – means it always accomplishes the task it sets out to do, and
  • Determinative – it is the determiner of who is and who is not a believer.
Now I want to give you six major benefits of Bible study, or in other words, what God’s Word will provide in your life.  And I know that if you truly understand these they are going to become your motivation.  In fact, I hope that by the time we get done with this message you can hardly wait until this service is over so that you can get home and begin to study your Bible.  That’s my motivation today.

So the question is… What will the Word of God really do for you?  What is it able to accomplish in the life of the believer?  I’m glad you asked.

#1. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Truth.
The Bible is the ultimate source of truth.  Nothing else compares to it.  In Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17:17 He said, “Father, Thy Word is truth.”  What a great statement!  “Thy Word is truth!”  My friends, do you realize what it means to actually have the truth?  We’ve all heard people say, “Well, I don’t know what the truth is.  I don’t know what to believe.”  That reminds me of Pontius Pilate’s cynical question.  He looked at Jesus and said, “What is truth?”  How sad when we see that “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” was standing right there in front of him but Pilate was too blind to see it.
Many thousands of new pages of material are printed every minute across the globe.  Writers are cranking it out, information of all kinds, tons of it.  We’re not hurting for information, folks, we’ve got a lot of information and a lot more misinformation.  Ecclesiastes 12:12 says, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”   Books, books and more books!  The Bible tells us in II Timothy 3:7 that although people are constantly learning new things, the problem is that they are “…always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  Isn’t that terrible?  People out in the world read, and they study, and they think, and they reason, and they listen, and they talk, and they interact; but they never get to the truth, and they never settle on anything, and the frustration in them is overwhelming!  You see mankind has lost the truth along the way, as we’ve separated ourselves from God and from His Word.
But the fantastic fact is that every time you pick up this marvelous Book, you pick up THE TRUTH.  And that TRUTH is powerful!  In John 8:31-32 Jesus said that His Word is the key, “If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  
One excellent reason to study the Bible is that the truth is in there—the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about life, the truth about death, the truth about you and me, the truth about men, women, children, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, the truth about friends, enemies, the truth about how you ought to be at work, how you ought to be at home, the truth about how you ought to eat and drink, how you ought to live, how you ought to think—THE TRUTH is all there!  What an incredible resource!

#2. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Joy and Happiness.
You should want to study the Bible not only because it is the source of truth but also because it is the source of our joy and happiness.  And yes, I know that joy and happiness are not the same thing, but I believe we get both from knowing God’s Word.  In Psalm 19:8 we hear David say: “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.”  Isn’t that a great thought?  He’s talking about learning the principles of the Scripture.   When you begin to study the Bible and you learn these great truths you will get excited!  I study the Bible a lot because I’m constantly teaching and preaching the Word, but I also study it on my own because I love it, and I need it, and I have never lost the thrill of discovering the great truths that comes from the Word of God.   It’s an exhilarating and joyous experience.
There are many Scriptures that reinforce this truth.  Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 11:28: “Blessed (or happy) are those who hear the Word of God and observe it (obey it).”  Do you want to be a happy person?  Then obey God’s Word.  It’s amazing to me how many people know what the Bible teaches yet they don’t obey it, and as a result they forfeit happiness.  Lots of Christians tell me that the Book of Revelation is just too hard to understand so they don’t bother to read it.  But they don’t know what they are missing.  Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed (happy) is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed (obey, put into practice) the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”  The word “blessed” means happy.  Do you want to be happy?  Then read Revelation!  Do you want to be happy?  Then read any part of God’s Word and begin to respond to it.
Last Sunday I quoted Jeremiah 15:16, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.”  And I love these words in I John 1:4, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”  Isn’t that great?  Full joy!  There’s another wonderful statement made by our Lord Himself in John 15:11.  He says: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”  What a tremendous thought!  His words give us great, overflowing joy!  Yes, there’s joy in the Word of God, in the truth of God, if you will believe it and obey it.  If you don’t keep His Word, however, there’s no joy.  But if your heart is committed to obey His Word, He will fill your life with joy.
There is no excuse for us not knowing the truth and not having our lives literally filled with joy.  That joy is available to us right here in the Word of God.  As you study the Word, if you hear what it says, and you draw out its principles, and if you obey those principles because you love the Lord Jesus Christ, then God will pour out the blessings and the joy.
So, why should you study the Bible?  What can you expect that it will do for you?  Number one, the Bible is the source of divine truth and that truth will be the anchor for your life.  And #2, the Bible, the Word of God, is the Christian’s greatest source of joy.  No matter what happens in your life, when you study the Word of God there will be a joy in your heart that is untouched by any circumstance.

#3. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Victory.
 Just like everyone else, I like to win, and I hate to lose.  That rule applies to basically everything, including my spiritual life.  I don’t like to see Satan win a victory, I don’t like to see the world gain mastery over me, I don’t like to see my flesh override my spirit.  I want to win in the Christian life!  But here’s the secret of success. The Word of God is the believer’s source of victory and without it we are left spiritually defenseless.  In Psalm 119:9-11 David asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it (his way) according to Your Word.  10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your Commandments.  11 Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  David understood that God’s Word is the believer’s source of victory over sin.  As the Word of God is taken into our life it becomes the resource from which the Holy Spirit draws to direct our life.  It is the primary tool that the Holy Spirit uses.
But here’s the sticking point…You have no way of preventing yourself from being led into sin by the enemy unless God’s Word is already resident in you so that the Holy Spirit can kick it into your conscious mind.  You see, as a Christian you’ll never function on what you don’t know.  You’ll never be able to operate on the principle you never learned.  You’ll never be able to apply the truth you haven’t yet discovered.  So as you feed the Word of God into your mind it becomes a handle by which the Spirit of God can direct and guide you.
            An example of how the Word of God will save your bacon in the hour of temptation is seen in the account of the Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness recorded in Matthew 4.  Verse 1 says, “Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested (or tempted) by the devil.”  You know the story and we don’t have time to go through it today but you’ll remember that Satan hit Jesus three times with his best temptations.  So how did Jesus handle it?  In each case Jesus answered the devil with the Word of God.  All three times Jesus answered the temptation of Satan by quoting directly out of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Listen, as a Christian it is the capturing of biblical truth in your conscious mind that gives you the capacity to defeat Satan.  You can’t do it on your own.  Jesus triumphed over the enemy through the Word of God.  It was His source of victory.  He knew that you can’t just use logic, or reason.  You can’t out-argue the devil!  I find it amazing that Christians think they can go up against Satan with no weapons and no ammunition.  It can’t be done.
            One more thing, you can’t just throw John 3:16 at the devil.  You need to know the right Scripture for the right situation the way a warrior uses the appropriate weapon in a given situation.  Hebrews 4:12 describes the Bible as “…living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”  But swords and knives come in all sizes.  In Ephesians 6:17, in Paul’s discussion of the armor of the Christian, we find that it wraps up with this great piece of armor in verse 17, “Take the helmet of salvation and Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”   
            Now when most of us think about a sword, we think of some 5-foot thing like a Samurai sword.  The Greek word for that kind of huge cutlass is “rhomphaia.”  However, the Greek word for sword that Paul uses here in Ephesians 6:17 is “máchaira.”  A “máchaira” was a short, small dagger.  The Sword of the Spirit is not a great huge broadsword that you just flail around hoping you’ll whack off the head of a demon sooner or later.  The Sword of the Spirit is a “máchaira”; a short close-combat fighting knife, a dagger.  It is short, it is incisive, it must hit a vulnerable spot or it doesn’t do any damage.  The Sword of the Spirit that Paul is talking about us using is not something general, but specific.
            Listen, you could own a whole Bible warehouse and still not have the Sword of the Spirit.  Having the Sword of the Spirit is not owning a Bible, but knowing the specific principle in the Bible that applies to the specific situation you are facing.   The only way you’ll know victory in the Christian life is to know the principle of the Word of God to make that application to the specific point where Satan attacks, where the flesh attacks, or where the world attacks.  As you fill your heart and mind with the Word of God, it becomes your source of victory.  Just know that you can’t even begin to approach the Christian life without becoming a student of the Bible.  God’s Word is the source of truth, it’s the source of joy, and it’s the source of victory.  But that’s not all…

#4. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Spiritual Growth.
       I believe everybody wants to grow, and it’s a sad thing to see somebody who didn’t grow; but do you know something that’s even sadder?  To see Christians that don’t grow, who are stunted.  And the reason they don’t grow is because they don’t get into the Word of God.  They may go to church and sit there.  They take a thimble to church, and it gets filled up, but it’s not enough to satisfy and it’s not enough to bring about growth.  I Peter 2:2 says this, “As newborn babes desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow by it.” Even babies have the good sense to eat when food is available, but unfortunately many Christian babies don’t know that the Word of God is the source of their growth so they remain stunted.   
            The more a Christian gets into the Word the more he/she will grow.  And conversely, the more he/she grows the more they will crave the Word of God.  The more you grow the more exciting the Christian life becomes.  The Word is the source of life.  As you mature, you grow stronger, and as you grow stronger you’re able to defeat Satan, and you know more about God and His character, and your life is enriched in every possible way.  In John 6:63 Jesus said this, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and, they are life.”  The Word is a life-giver, the Word is a life-sustainer, and the Word is a life-builder.  It is tremendous nourishment.  I Timothy 4:6 adds to our understanding of this where Paul says, “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.”  The Word nourishes us, it feeds us, it builds us, and it causes us to grow.  So when you study the Word it becomes your source of growth, just like it is the source of truth, the source of joy, and the source of victory.

#5. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Power and Stamina.
It is the Word of God that infuses us with power and we all know there’s nothing worse than feeling like an impotent Christian.  Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses.”  But sometimes we don’t feel very powerful.  In fact, sometimes we feel like a dud rather than dynamite!
            The truth is most of us struggle with our spiritual impotence.  That’s because many of us don’t really understand the source of our spiritual power.  Listen, it is the Word of God ignited by the Spirit of God that infuses you with power.  Let me say that again: It is the Word of God, ignited by the Spirit of God, that infuses a Christian with power.  From my own life I can tell you that the more I know about the Word of God, the less I fear about any situation, because I know what the resource is for that situation.  The Word of God becomes my source of power.  Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  This is a powerful book.  Let me tell you, if you pick this up and read it, it will cut you up.  It’s powerful stuff!  It’s a powerful book!  That’s why the apostle Paul said in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.’’   
As you focus on the Word of God it has a power in your life that’s incredible.  As you meditate on it, it empowers you.  As you feed on the Word of God, as you pump the Word of God into your life and mind and heart, it is going to come right back out when your buttons get pushed.  It’s the believer’s source of energy, source of power, and source of spiritual stamina.  As you feed daily on the Word of God and depend on the Holy Spirit of God, it will have a powerful effect, and it will enable you to truly be Christ’s “witness”, anytime, anywhere, with anyone.   
            So we need to study the Word of God because it is the source of truth, the source of happiness, the source of victory, the source of growth, the source of power, and here’s one more.

#6. God’s Word is the Believer’s Source of Divine Guidance.
            Whenever I want to know what God wants me to do, I go to the Word.  People say, “Oh, I’m searching for the will of God.”  But where is God’s will to be found?  Friends, God’s will is easy to find; it’s right in His Book.  If you study the Bible, you’ll often come across the phrase, “this is the will of God.”   What does Psalm 119:105 say?  “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  Pretty simple, right?  The Word of God is a guide for us.  As I open the Word of God, it guides me.  It’s amazing how God speaks to me through His Word.  If I have a decision to make I find the place in the Bible maybe where somebody in the Old Testament or New Testament grappled with a similar decision and I try to see how God led there, or I go to a text in the Bible that gives me a direct answer.  God guides us out of His Book.
However, there’s a subjective element to this too.  As a Christian we have the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  I John 2:20 says, “The Spirit dwells within us,” and a few verses later in verse 27 we read, “…and we have an anointing from God.”  That means we don’t need to rely on our human wisdom because the Holy Spirit will teach us.  And that happens when you study the Bible; the Holy Spirit in you takes the Word of God and makes a personal application that will give you guidance.  It’s an incredible combination to have the Truth and the resident Truth-Teacher.  And in combination they guide the believer.  What have we said then?  The benefits of studying the Bible is that for us it is the source of truth, happiness, victory, growth, power, and guidance.

Other miscellaneous benefits from knowing God’s Word:
·         It will reveal what God is really like.
·         It will keep you spiritually clean.
·         It will give you courage.
·         It will illuminate your path in this life.
·         It will make you wise.
·         It will give you a panoramic view of time and eternity.
·         It will help you understand human nature.
·         It will make you a better spouse and parent.
·         It will point you to Heaven and warn you from the path to hell.

So after hearing all this, what should be your response?  “Well,” you say, “I guess I ought to begin to take action.  Mike, if what you say is really true, if the Bible is going to do all these things, then I need to get on board and start practicing what I’ve been preaching.”  And of course, you are absolutely right, but where should you begin?  Let me suggest 7 practical action-steps.
Action-Step #1: Study God’s Word like a dedicated workman.  Paul wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth.”  The KJV translates that last phrase as “…rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”  In either case the term Paul chooses to use literally means “cutting it straight.”  Paul is saying that we need to study diligently so that we can accurately interpret God’s Word.  Paul was using the language of a tentmaker.  A tentmaker made his product using lots of different animal skins.  He would take those hides and carefully cut out pieces that he could sew back together.  If his cutting were off, nothing would fit together and the tent would be useless.  So what Paul is saying here is that you cannot have an accurate theology of Christianity unless you have accurately interpreted the individual verses, texts, and contexts.  And I can tell you from experience, cutting it straight takes study.  One of my heroes of the NT is Apollos.  Do you know why he was so loved and respected?  He is described in Acts 18:24.  “Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.”  Did you get that?  “…He was mighty in the Scriptures.”  That means he knew how to rightly divide, to accurately handle the Word of Truth.  I want to be like Apollos, but it takes dedication and study.
Action-Step #2: Believe God’s Word with all your heart.  By that I mean, if God’s Word says it then believe it, deep down.  Jesus said to Peter one time, “Will you also go away?” and Peter said, “Lord, where can I go?  You alone have the words of eternal life.”  In other words, “Lord, You are the source of everything I need, and I’m sticking here with You.”  If God’s Word is true then hang in there.  Study it, and believe it.
Action-Step #3: Honor God’s Word by giving it priority in your life.  If this is the Word of God, then honor it.  Job makes a magnificent statement in Job 23:12, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”  Listen, if this is the Word of God and it will do everything we just said it will do, then believe it and honor it.  In fact, in Psalm 138:2, the psalmist said to God, ‘‘For You have magnified Your Word according to all Your name.”  Isn’t that incredible?  God honors His own Word and so should we.
In the city of Ephesus they worshiped the Roman goddess Diana, also called Artemis by the Greeks.  Modern images of Diana show her as beautiful, slim young woman but the old idols depicting her show her as an ugly beast of a woman with her chest covered with about 20 breasts.  So why did the Ephesians worship her image?  Because their temple priests taught them that she had fallen out of heaven, and if her image fell out of heaven it was worthy of honor.  Let me tell you something about the Bible.  It came from Heaven, directly from God!  That statue didn’t, but God’s Word really did, and it’s worthy of honor.  So study it, believe it, and honor it.
Action-Step #4: Love God’s Word as a precious love letter from God.  If all the things in this Book are true, you’d better love it.  The psalmist cried out in Psalm 119 and said, “Oh, how I love Thy law.”   And I love the 19th Psalm where David said to God in verse 10, “[Your words] are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.”  My friend, if it’s this sweet, then study it, believe it, honor it, and love it.
Action-Step #5: Obey God’s Word by submitting yourself to it.  If it’s really true, obey it, respond to it, say ‘yes’ to it when it speaks and continue in it.  Follow the admonition of I John 2:5, “But whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.  By this we know that we are in Him.”  If it’s really what it claims study it and believe it and honor it and love it and obey it at any price.  If you yield yourselves as servants to God you should obey God.  This is part of the bargain, so obey His Word.
Action-Step #6: Fight for God’s Word by defending it from attackers.  If it’s really true fight for it.  In fact, in Jude 3 it says, “Earnestly contend for the faith,” and the faith there means the body of revealed truth.  The word “contend” is the Greek word “agonidzo” from which we get the word agonize.  Agonize for it, engage yourself in a battle to defend the Word of God.  If it’s really true, if it can do the things we said, study it, believe it, honor it, love it, obey it, and fight for it.
Action-Step #7: Proclaim God’s Word by sharing its sweetness with others.  In II Timothy 4:2 Paul simply said this, “Timothy, preach the Word.”  If it’s really true, preach it.  Pass the candy around.  Don’t be selfish with the Good News.

Monday, March 19, 2012

“The Power of the Word – Part I” - (03/18/12)

What God’s Word will do in the life of the believer. 
March 18, 2012

            Today we are celebrating God’s Word, the Bible.  Our friend from the Gideons has shared with us the ministry of Gideons International that seeks to put a Bible in the hands of every person on the planet who wants one.  We’ve also spoken briefly about the work of Bible translation through groups like Wycliffe Bible Translators who have as their goal, to provide God’s Word in all of the languages and dialects of every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth.
            But why are these groups so “gung ho” about getting Bibles to everyone?  What’s the big deal about having a Bible?

            That’s a fair question, and this morning I want to try and provide a good answer.  Of course, we who are believers already have an opinion on this subject.  I’m not looking at this subject from a purely objective standpoint because the Bible has already made a profound impact on my life.  I love the Bible and I believe that it is God’s Book, His revelation of Himself and of His plans for time and eternity.  His Word has been my comfort and my guide.  The Bible has been my friend and companion.  I am incapable of being objective today because I am a fanatical Bible-lover, Bible-believer, and Bible-thumper.  And I will never apologize for it.  Let me tell you why.
The words of Jeremiah 15:16 come to my mind, “Your words were found and I ate them [absorbed them, digested them], and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.”  That is the testimony of countless millions who, like me, have learned to love the Word of God.  It is the same thing David was feeling when he wrote Psalm 19:7-10, The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. 
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. 
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. 
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.”
In September of 1832 Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet lay dying.  Sir Walter, a great Christian, said to his secretary, “Please bring me the book.”  His secretary stood there looking at the thousands of books in Scott’s library and she came back in and said, “Dr. Scott, which book?”  He said, The book, the Bible, the only book for a dying man.”  And I would have to add that the Bible is not just the only book for a dying man, but it is also the only book for a living man, because it is the Word of Life as well as our Hope in Death.
This is going to be a 2-part message.  Next week my goal will be to explain some things that God’s Word will do for you if you will study it faithfully.  That’s the pragmatic part.  That’s next Sunday.  But before we get into that subject I need to lay some groundwork.  Today, to prepare us for that, I want us to take the next few moments to explore why the Bible is so powerful, why it is unlike any other book ever written, and why we should study it.

First of all, I need to state from the very beginning that I’m approaching this subject from the standpoint that the Bible, the Scriptures including the 39 Books of the Old Testament and the 27 Books of the New Testament, are the Word of God.  It is not man’s opinion, it is not human philosophy, it is not just somebody’s ideas, it is not a polling of the best thoughts of the best men, but it is the Living and Abiding Word of God.  That’s our jumping off place for this study.  And as such, there are several things we need to realize about the Bible and about why we should study it.
There are seven characteristics of the Scriptures that I want to share with you this morning.

#1. God’s Word is Infallible
That just means the Bible has no mistakes in it.  In it’s original autographs it is without error.  In Psalm 19:7, which I read to you a moment ago, the Bible says of itself, “The law of the Lord is perfect.”  That means it is flawless; in fact, it has to be flawless because it was authored by God who is flawless.  If God wrote the Bible, and if God is the ultimate authority, and if God is flawless in His character, then it follows logically that the Bible is flawless and the Bible is the ultimate authority.  You see, the fact that God is perfect demands that the original autograph, the original giving of the Word of God, must, in and of itself, also be perfect.  So we begin by saying that the Bible is infallible, which is the first reason to study it, because it is the only book that never makes a mistake.  Everything it says is the truth.

#2. God’s Word is Inerrant
Not only is the Bible infallible in its totality, but it is also without error in its parts, down to the smallest details.  The word we use to describe this quality is “inerrant.”  In Proverbs 30:5-6 we read, Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. 
6 Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.  Psalm 12:6 puts it this way: The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.”   Every word that God utters is tested and found to be pure and true.  Not only is the Bible in total the infallible Word of God, but also even in the smallest details, every word is true.

#3. God’s Word is Complete
The Bible is not only infallible and inerrant but it is complete.  There needs to be nothing added to it.  There are people today who believe we need to add to the Bible but they are what I like to call “wrong.”  They say that the Bible is just an old, outdated record of peoples’ spiritual experiences from centuries ago.  They say that we need to update it to reflect modern man’s more enlightened spiritual understanding of things.  In fact, many of them say that the Bible is still being written.  They say that when someone stands up in church and says, “The Lord spoke to me and said such-‘n-such…” they are equally inspired with Isaiah and Jeremiah or any of the other prophets.  In other words, they claim that the Bible is not complete.  However, at the end of the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, we read these words in 22:18-19, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”  I believe it’s significant that the Bible ends with a warning not to take away anything and not to add anything.  That’s a testimony of its completeness.  It is infallible in its total, it is inerrant in its parts, and it is complete.  But there’s more.

#4. God’s Word is Authoritative
If it is perfect and complete then it is the last word.  It is the final authority.  One of the greatest musical compositions ever written was Handel’s “Messiah,” and one of the loveliest oratorios of that magnificent opus was based on Isaiah 40:1-5, which says, Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.  2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.”  3 A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. 
4 Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; 
5 then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  “For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  When God speaks, everybody listens because His is the final authority.  This same passage in Isaiah 40 drives this point home in verses 7-8: The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass.  8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.”  The Word of God will be around long after everything else is gone.  Moreover, the Bible demands obedience.  It is not a book for discussion, and by that I don’t mean that we shouldn’t discuss its implications, applications, and meanings, I mean that we shouldn’t discuss whether or not it is true.  It is authoritative, and it affirms for itself that it is true and calls upon us just to believe it.
In John chapter 8 you have the little incident where Jesus is confronted by some of the Jewish leaders, and as Jesus faces these leaders there’s a little dialogue going on, and there of course are other people there and it says in the text, As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.  No doubt some of them were leaders, but Jesus said to them in verse 31, If you abide in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  In other­ words, He demanded a positive response to His truth; He demanded a response to His Word.  That’s because it is authoritative.  In Galatians 3:10, Paul quoting the prophet Habakkuk said: “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them [to do them].”  Amazing!  Cursed is anyone who does not continue in everything that is written in this book.  That’s a tremendous claim to absolute authority.  And one more passage… In James 2:9-10 we read this: “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  In other words, to violate the Bible at even one point is to break God’s law.  It is authoritative in every part.  So we have seen that God’s Word is infallible, inerrant, complete, and authoritative but we ought to add yet another word, and this is truly a great word.

#5. God’s Word is Sufficient
For whatever it is in the heart of a man that is necessary the Bible is sufficient.  In II Timothy 3:15 there is a great message from Paul to Timothy: “…and that from childhood you have known the Sacred Writings [i.e. Scriptures] which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  First of all then, God’s Word is sufficient for salvation.  The Bible is able to make you wise unto salvation.  Ask yourself this question: “What is more important than salvation?”  Nothing!  The greatest wisdom in the universe and the Bible is that which leads to salvation.  But there’s more, verse 16 goes on to say: “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable” now watch this... “for doctrine,” that’s teaching, principles of wisdom, divine standards, divine truths; “for reproof,” that means you’re able to go to somebody and say, “Hey brother, you’re out of line, you can’t behave like that.  There’s a standard and you’re not making it with that standard.”  That’s reproof.  But God’s Word is also profitable “for correction.”  That says to that person you’ve just reproved, “Don’t do that, do this; this is the right path over here.”  So through the Word you teach, you reprove, and you show a corrected way.  And further, God’s Word is profitable, “for training in righteousness.”  Now you point out the new way and, show them how to walk in it, step by step toward Christian maturity.
I’m telling you, the Bible is a fantastic book!  It can take somebody who doesn’t know God, who isn’t saved, and save them.  And then it can teach them, and then it can reprove them when they do wrong.  But it doesn’t stop there.  It will point them to the right thing to do, and then show them how to walk in that right path.  And then the result is in verse 17: “That the man of God may be adequate [complete, talking about character], equipped [talking about life-skills] for every good work.” The incredible reality of the Bible is that it is sufficient to do the whole job!  It is one product that does everything.  The Bible is infallible, inerrant, complete, authoritative and sufficient.  But that’s not all.  Let me give you two more qualities that it has.
#6. God’s Word is Effective
Listen to the words of Isaiah 55:11, “So will My Word be…” says the LORD, meaning, this is the way My Word is going to work. “So will My word be… which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”  Isn’t that great?  God’s Word is effective.  I can tell you that one of the incredible things about being a preacher of the Word of God is that I know with certainty that it will always do what it says it will do.
Years ago I tried my hand at door-to-door sales work but I wasn’t very good at it.  I found that it is hard to sell a product in which you do not have total confidence.  But that’s never a problem with the Bible, because it is always effective, it always does exactly what it says it will do.  That’s a tremendous reality about the Scriptures!  In I Thessalonians 1:5 Paul comments on the effectiveness of God’s Word in the lives of the Thessalonian believers: “For our Gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”  He’s reminding them that when they first heard God’s Word they knew immediately that it wasn’t just words.  That’s because when the Word goes forth it has power; it has the Holy Spirit and, you can have the assurance it will do what it says!
So what have we said up to this point?  That the Word of God is infallible in total, inerrant in its parts, complete so that nothing is to be deleted from it or added to it, authoritative so that whatever it says is absolutely true and commands our obedience, sufficient so that it is able to do to us and for us everything we need, and effective meaning it will do exactly what it says it will do.  But I have one more to add.

#7. God’s Word is Determinative
This last one is a little bit harder to explain.  What I mean by “determinative” is that how you respond to the Word of God is the determiner not only of your life here and now, but also of your eternity.  In John 8:47 we hear Jesus say, He who is of God hears the words of God.”  Did you get that? “He who is of God hears the words of God.”  Notice that it’s in the plural there.  Then Jesus goes on to say, “For this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”  In other words, God’s Word is a determiner of whether an individual is of God, or not of God, based on whether they truly give heed to the Word of God.
In I Corinthians 2:9-14 Paul explains that there are two kinds of people: Christians, who can understand and receive the things of God, and, “Natural People,” meaning unbelievers, who cannot understand and receive the things of God.  What makes the difference?  Those who know Christ have the Spirit of God living in them and it is the Holy Spirit that opens our mind to God’s Word.
You’ve probably spoken with people who readily admit that they don’t understand the Bible so they never even attempt to read it.  That’s because an unbeliever finds the Bible to be a closed book, impossible to really understand.  That’s because they lack the one thing necessary to unlock it—the life of God in their soul evidenced by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  So, the Word of God is just a book of poetry, pretty sayings, and interesting yet irrelevant old stories.  To us who know God, on the other hand, it is Living, and Powerful, and Life-giving, and Glorious.  That’s because it is infallible, inerrant, complete, authoritative, sufficient, effective and determinative.

            So what can I say in conclusion?  God’s Word, the Bible is a marvelous gift from God himself.  In the words of Hebrews 4:12 it is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  It contains the words of eternal life, and if you read it, and study it, and believe it, it will make you “wise unto salvation.”  

Monday, March 12, 2012

“Who Do You Listen To?” - (03/11/12)

I Kings 22:1-40/II Chronicles 18:1-34
March 11, 2012

            We are bombarded every day with news, or what is purported to be news.  It comes to us by way of radio, television, the Internet, our phones, and printed media.  It all claims to be true, but in reality, much of it is just gossip, speculation, fear mongering, distortion, and axe grinding.  If there is one story there will be 20 different slants, depending on which network you choose to listen to, or which commentator happens to be holding-forth at the moment, or which “experts” they put on the panel.  CNN will tell the story one way, MSNBC will pull it in another direction, then FOX News will have yet another take on the very same shooting, or speech, or Senate bill, or health scare.
            So how are we supposed to sort it all out—to know truth from fiction?  How do we know who we should listen to, whose interpretation of the facts we should trust?  Sometimes it gets very confusing!

            This morning we are going to read a fascinating story from the OT about a king who got conflicting advice from his trusted counselors and was left trying to figure out who to believe.  It is actually recorded twice in the Bible—in I Kings 22:1-40, and II Chronicles 18:1-34.  In this story you will meet a man that you’ve probably never heard of before.  That’s because he’s only mentioned in these two texts.  He was one of the lesser-known prophets of Israel through whom God worked and sent a message to His people.
            This prophet’s name was Micaiáh.  His name was a common one in ancient Israel and it meant, “Who is like Yah(weh)?”  [By the way, my Hebrew name, Micaiél, is almost like it.  My name means, “Who is like El(ohim)?”]  Sometimes his name was also rendered by its shorter form, Micah, like the author of the Minor Prophet book by that name.
            We know nothing about Micaiah’s background except that his father’s name was Imlah, and that he lived in Israel during the days when evil King Ahab ruled over the Northern Kingdom, and while Jehoshaphat was King of Judah.  One other historical side note… Josephus, the Jewish historian, claimed that Micaiah was also the unnamed prophet of I Kings 20:35-43.  We have no way to either confirm or disprove this theory but it is a long-standing Jewish tradition.
            To help us pinpoint this story in history, we know that King Ahab, the son and successor of Omri, was the 7th King of Israel and he reigned for 22 years (approx. 874-852 B.C.)  He set up his capital in the city of Samaria.  During his reign there were frequent wars with Syria, to the North and East, especially against the Aramaean King, Ben-hadad, who ruled from Damascus.  Against God’s orders Ahab married Jezebel, the daughter of the King of Sidon.  Besides being a non-Jew, she was an incredibly evil woman and an idol worshipper who introduced all kinds of sinful practices in Israel.
            In order to help you have a better understanding of the depth of Ahab’s wickedness listen to this synopsis of his life from I Kings 16:29-33: “Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.  30 Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.  31 It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.  32 So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria.  33 Ahab also made the Asherah.  Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.”
            With that in mind let’s look at our story for today.  Turn to I Kings 22.  We are going to walk through the story verse by verse and I will make some observations as we go, and then we’ll try to draw some conclusions at the end.  My goal is to have us be able to leave here today with some solid biblical principles that we can apply to our daily lives.

1 Three years passed without war between Aram [Syria, settled by Aramaean people] and Israel.  This was some kind of record!

2 In the third year Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, came down to the king of Israel.  He came down the mountain from Jerusalem, to the city of Samaria.  But why?  The leaders of the two kingdoms normally didn’t wouldn’t speak to each other.  The answer is in II Chron. 18:1, “Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor; and he allied himself by marriage with Ahab.”  That was a big mistake!  This unholy alliance is described in II Kings 8:18.  Jehoshaphat entered into a treaty with Israel by taking one of Ahab’s daughters, Athaliah, to marry his son, Jehoram, who later became the King of Judah after Jehoshaphat died.  The II Chronicles account gives us another piece of useful information.  Verse 2 of chapter 18 says, Some years later he [Jehoshaphat] went down to visit Ahab at Samaria.  And Ahab slaughtered many sheep and oxen for him and the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead.”  That’s called “bribery.”  Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat’s military assistance so he plied the Judean King with gifts before he put the question to him.  There is a principle here.  Let’s call it Principle #1: When people want to give you something for nothing there is usually a big price to pay later on.  There is no such thing as a “free lunch.”

3 Now the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?”  Ramoth-Gilead was a city approximately 30 miles due southwest from the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee.  It went back and forth for years between Israel and Syria.  After three years without a war, Ahab was ready for some action.  This brings us to Principle #2: Sometimes it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie.  Don’t stir up trouble when it’s not necessary.

4 And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”  What else could he say?  Ahab was family, for crying out loud!  This brings me to Principle #3: Association with evil men is dangerous.  We should avoid entangling alliances with the ungodly (cf. Psalm 1).  The NT puts it this way in II Corinthians 6:14: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?  Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”  If Jehoshaphat had obeyed God’s Word he would have never gotten into this mess with Ahab, relative or not.
5 Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire first for the word of the LORD.”  It’s important to remember that Jehoshaphat was generally a good guy, though he made some stupid mistakes along the way, like getting hooked up with that louse, Ahab.  He was the son and successor of Asa, and he reigned in Jerusalem for 24 years as the 4th King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom.  He loved God, and wanted to do right, and he did a lot to promote godliness in Judah, especially in tearing down all the places of idol worship and encouraging people to worship the one true God of Israel.  I see a principle in this verse.  Principle #4: Before any decision, big or small, seek the Lord’s leading before you leap.  Apply Proverbs 3:5-6 which exhorts us, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” 

6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?” And they [all] said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”  Ahab had a boat-load of prophets at his disposal—400+.  This is interesting because just back a little ways in the Book, in I Kings 18, you’ll remember the story of the showdown between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal.  At the end of that God-contest Elijah put all 450 false prophets to the sword.  However, the Bible tells us that Queen Jezebel had another 400 prophets at her disposal who worshipped Asherah (cf. I Kings 18:19).  Asherah was a fertility goddess whose exploits and veneration were linked with Baal.  Here we see that Ahab had replaced the 450 prophets of Baal with 400 who claimed to be prophets of Yahweh, the God of Israel.  Principle #5: A foolish leader draws around him those who will say only what he wants to hear.  We should never trust in these kinds of false counselors. 

7 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?”  For some reason, Jehoshaphat began to smell a rat.  Something didn’t seem right.  Even though all 400 of Ahab’s prophets were saying the same thing, King Jehoshaphat apparently had some doubts.  He asked for a consultation with a true prophet of the LORD.  Principle #6: A wise man will be picky about whose counsel he listens to.  He will seek out counselors who have a track record of proven godly wisdom, rather than just settling for the loudest voice in the room. 

8 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”  Ahab hated Micaiah because the prophet never had anything good to say about him.  That hacked him off, big time, because everybody else around him was more than willing to kiss his feet and say anything he wanted to hear.  Micaiah, on the other hand, didn’t care about making the King happy.  He was only concerned with making God happy.  Principle #7: A man who speaks an unpleasant truth may find himself hated.  In general, the world prefers to hear pretty lies.  However, the one who speaks out the truth for God is usually respected at least, because he stands out in any crowd. 

9 Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.”  Josephus believed that Micaiah was already in jail at this point because of the King’s long-standing displeasure.  If that’s true, it was a short trip to his audience with the King.  A temple guard was dispatched to bring up the prisoner.  But in the meantime…

10 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them.
Principle #8: The number of counselors we have is not as important as having one who walks with God (400:1).  Remember, false prophets have always been a dime-a-dozen. 

11 Then Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, made horns of iron for himself and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are consumed.’”  12 All the prophets were prophesying thus, saying, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, for the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.”  This is quite a picture!  The two kings there on their thrones in all of their finery out in the open air.  Apparently they we in an open area close to the city gates and I’m sure the place was packed.  There were Ahab’s 400 prophets plus probably hundreds of curious civilians standing around trying to see and hear.  This guy, Zedekiah, was apparently the spokesman for the prophets.  He had fashioned a set of bull’s horns to symbolize the victory that Ahab would certainly have against the Aramaeans.  He and the other 399 prophets all said the same thing: “No worries, King.  You can go confidently into this battle against your enemies at Ramoth-gilead because God will give you the victory.  It’s a no-brainer, a done deal, you can’t lose.”  Principle #9: The advice of the majority is usually wrong. 

13 Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, “Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.”
The officer was trying to give Micaiah what he thought was some good advice.  Maybe he sort of liked the prophet and didn’t want to see him get tortured and killed.  But Micaiah didn’t know anything about diplomacy and political expediency.  He didn’t know how to lie and obfuscate.  The guard said, “Make it easy on yourself.  Just tell the King what he wants to hear.  Be a sycophant [a toady, flatterer, groveler] like everybody else.”  Principle #10: There will always be the temptation to water down the truth in order not to look like a party-pooper.  Never give in to that temptation because you will always regret it later.

14 But Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I shall speak.”    But Micaiah said, “No, I’ll say what the LORD tells me to say and let the chips fall where they may.” Principle #11: A man or woman of God does not speak the truth because it is popular but because it is right.  

15 When he came to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” 16 Then the king said to him, “How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”  I’ll bet Ahab already had a sneaking suspicion that Micaiah would prove to be difficult.  He’d been down this road before with this sharp-mouthed prophet.  To Ahab’s question, “Should we go or not go?” Micaiah answered with all the sarcasm he could muster, “By all means, go and succeed.  What could possibly go wrong?”  But either from the look on his face or by his tone of voice, Ahab recognized that Micaiah was just jerking his chain.  I love Ahab’s response: “How many times do I have to tell you, when I ask you a question I want the truth, the straight skinny.  So which is it?  Should we go or stay home?”  

17 So he [Micaiah] said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep which have no shepherd.  And the LORD said, ‘These have no master.  Let each of them return to his house in peace.’”  After Ahab urged him to tell what the LORD had really revealed, Micaiah began to unwrap the message.

18 Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”  This verse strikes me funny.  Ahab turns to Jehoshaphat and says: “What did I tell you?  Didn’t I tell you that this guy hates me and has nothing nice to say to me?”  Ahab’s snotty comment to King Jehoshaphat prompts Micaiah to unload the whole message.  He says: “You want to know what God said?  Well, here it is.  The whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” 

19 Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the LORD.  I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of Heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left [i.e. angels].  20 The LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’  And one said this while another said that.  21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’  22 The LORD said to him, ‘How?’  And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’  Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail.  Go and do so.’  23 Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you.”  WOW! Here Micaiah pulls back the curtain and reveals a conversation that occurred in Heaven between God and His faithful angels.  He concludes by saying that this battle will prove to be the death of Ahab.  He will not come home alive.  Just a quick aside: I find these verses disturbing and somewhat theologically perplexing.  How is it that the holy angels of God can go out on what looks like an unholy mission, as “a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all of Ahab’s prophets”?  I hope to ask God about this passage personally some day, because for right now it’s still a little foggy to me.  

24 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?”  The whole time that Micaiah was speaking, Zedekiah and his 399 buddies were listening to every word.  The longer he talked the madder they got.  Finally, Zedekiah couldn’t stand it any longer so he stepped up and belted Micaiah right in the chops.  POW!  Right on the kisser!  This was a cowardly act especially given the fact that Micaiah’s hands were probably bound, leaving him defenseless.  And Zedekiah’s question is a classic: “So how is it that the LORD passed right over me to tell you all this stuff?” implying, “If this were really true He would have told me not you.”  Principle #12: Spiritual pride produces spiritual blindness.  Zedekiah couldn’t recognize the truth even though it was right there in front of him.

25 Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see on that day when you enter an inner room to hide yourself.”  What did the prophet mean by this?  I think he was needling Zedekiah by saying, “On the day when the Syrians show up and start going door to door looking for Jews to kill let’s see if you are still so brave.  You’ll be under the bed in the back room crying like a little girl and hoping that the big nasty Syrians don’t find you.”

26 Then the king of Israel said, “Take Micaiah and return him to Amon, the governor of the city, and to Joash, the king’s son; 27 and say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this man in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.”’”  Ahab didn’t like the message that Micaiah gave so he decided to punish the messenger.  In reality, this may have been the death penalty for Micaiah because we know that Ahab never returned from the battle, and we never hear from Micaiah again.  Principle #13: The truth is more important than our personal safety and comfort, even if it means forfeiting our own life.  To die for the truth puts us in good company. 

28 Micaiah said, “If you indeed return safely the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Listen, all you people.”  Micaiah would go but not without a last word.  He basically said, “If you come back alive from this battle then I am a false prophet.  But if I’m right, then you’re a dead-man-walking.”  Then he turned his attention to the large crowd of people there listening.  He said, “All of you, MARK MY WORDS!” 

29 So [Ahab], the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, went up against Ramoth-gilead.  30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into the battle, but you put on your robes.”  So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into the battle.  31 Now the king of Aram had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, saying, “Do not fight with small or great, but with the king of Israel alone.”  Ahab was a real piece of work.  He said, “I have a neat idea.  Just for fun, you wear your kingly clothes and I’ll dress like a hobo and we’ll just see what happens.  You go out looking like the King and I’ll go out looking like Joe Nobody.”  Now, I wonder why he came up with this idea, huh?  I just find it hard to believe that Jehoshaphat was stupid enough to go along with Ahab’s suggestion.

32 So when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “Surely it is the king of Israel,” and they turned aside to fight against him, and Jehoshaphat cried out.  33 When the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.  34 Now a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor.  So he [Ahab] said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded.”  Jehoshaphat looked the part riding into the battle.  He looked like a king, so the soldiers zeroed right in on him.  Now this is where the II Chronicles account adds an interesting fact.  Verses 31-32 tell us: So when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is the king of Israel,” and they turned aside to fight against him.  But Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him, and God diverted them from him. 32 When the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him.”  You see, it wasn’t just a case of mistaken identity.  God wanted to make sure that the right guy, Ahab, got the magic arrow.  This was the day of reckoning for Ahab.  He tried to hide himself and save his own life by wearing a commoner’s clothes, but God knew exactly where he was, and He guided that arrow into the little slot in Ahab’s armor.  This was no accident, no lucky shot!  Which brings us to my last principle from this text…  Principle #14: An evil man cannot outrun or trick God.  Sooner or later the LORD will pull that man’s plug and he will get what he has coming.  God is merciful and longsuffering, but He is not forgetful. 

35 The battle raged that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot in front of the Arameans, and died at evening, and the blood from the wound ran into the bottom of the chariot.  36 Then a cry passed throughout the army close to sunset, saying, “Every man to his city and every man to his country.”  37 So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried the king in Samaria.  38 They washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood (now the harlots bathed themselves there), according to the word of the LORD which He spoke.  39 Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did and the ivory house which he built and all the cities which he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?  40 So Ahab slept with his fathers, and Ahaziah his son became king in his place.  

            Chances are you have never heard of Micaiah before today.  But he was one of God’s choice servants who was willing to suffer personal loss for the sake of the truth.  His goal was to please God rather than man.  He was more intimidated by the idea of offending God than of offending his fellow clergymen or the ruling leaders.  He refused to sugarcoat the truth just to make himself more safe, more popular, and more successful.  His motto was: “No compromise with the truth.”
I hope we will live like he did, no matter the cost.  In this day and age, the world needs more Micaiahs!

About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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