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Friday, July 29, 2016

Christ at Tabernacles, Part 1

Christ at Tabernacles, Part 1
John 7:14-24

When the Lord brought the Hebrews out of their bondage in Egypt… at Mt Sinai… He gave them the law to act as a guide in their behavior toward one another.

The moral law, such as is found in the 10 Commandments were given as a guide to how one ought to think… and the civil law… that guided the people in their interaction with each other.  One law to govern our hearts… and another law to govern our actions.

And… along with the law… in order to break up the monotony of daily life… where we just wake up… go to work before the sun rises… come home after the sun sets…eat dinner and go back to bed in order to start the process all over again… day after day… year after year… (Have you ever felt like you were in a similar situation… going round and round and round…)

To break this up and to bring a little more joy into the lives of His people… the Lord also established some set parties to celebrate… festivals… and the people would also create some of their own…

Some of these were in conjunction with religious worship… others were centered around agriculture, or an important event in the life of the nation… all of them with the primary focus of praising God for His greatness and for His providence.

The Sabbath… First Fruits… Trumpets… the Day of Atonement… festivals that were established by God Himself… while others, like the Festival of Lights… Purim and Feast of Dedication, came about because of some event in Jewish history.  All of these were to celebrate life or religious worship and they were a foreshadowing of the redemptive work of Christ.

Now… there were also, three specific festivals that were given to the Jews by the Lord are called “Pilgrimage Festivals”.  These festivals carried the added requirement that every Jewish male above a certain age had to come to Jerusalem in order to celebrate it.  Certain allowances were made for those who were too far away… or just couldn’t make it to Jerusalem for whatever reason… but everyone was encouraged to come and celebrate.

And… the men who came, would typically bring their families with them… So… you can imagine the enormous amount of humanity that would be in Jerusalem for these celebrations…  These three pilgrimage festivals were Passover… Pentecost… and Tabernacles (or Booths, or Tents). 

Out of all the festivals given by the Lord in the wilderness… Tabernacles was by and far… the peoples favorite.

Sukkot… also called the Feast of the Ingathering, or the Harvest… was the last of the yearly festivals given at Sinai…  It was celebrated in the fall… somewhere around September or October… and it was done in remembrance of the Jews 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  The people would come to Jerusalem… build little huts or “tents” out of palm branches… and they would live in them during the 8 day celebration.  (Maybe that’s why it was so well liked… it was a week long camping trip!)

During the festival… and during the time of the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple)… they included a “water libation” and “candle lighting” ceremonies that were very popular with the people…

These would begin one evening with the priests drawing “living water” from the pool of Siloam… which would be poured out on the altar the next day.  I don’t know if it was before, during, or after this “water libation” ceremony… but it was probably around this time that Jesus stood up and cried out…

Joh 7:37-38 KJV  … If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  (38)  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

The candle lighting ceremony was where young boy’s would climb up ladders to light three golden candlesticks that were nearly 75 feet high… while people all around celebrated in song and dance… and the Levites sang and played instruments in the Temple…

It was probably during this candle lighting ceremony that Jesus said in…   Joh 8:12 KJV  …I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

So… it’s somewhere around the middle of this festival of Tabernacles that we find ourselves today.  Jerusalem would be teaming with pilgrims from all over the world.  Thousands… upon thousands of people… Crowded… congested… loud and noisy and overflowing with life.  If Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the first day’s events… then He’s been keeping a low profile for a few days… But almost as soon as He lets Himself be known publicly… He’s faced with…

I. The Contempt of the Jews

Joh 7:14-18 KJV   Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.  (15)  And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?  (16)  Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.  (17)  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.  (18)  He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

He had arrived in Jerusalem by Himself… Joh 7:10 KJV  …not openly, but as it were in secret.

He had had a couple days at least to build His booth… or rent one that had already been built… and walk around the city enjoying the festival… and observing not only the events of each day… but also the religious leaders, and their intentions.

As we would say today… He was able to check out the “lay of the land”.  He knew that He would reveal Himself at some point.  After all… His mission still lay ahead of Him… not yet complete.  He came to do His Father’s will… so it didn’t matter who was against Him… or who wanted to arrest Him… nothing, would keep Him from preaching to the people about the Kingdom of God.

So, around the middle of the feast, Jesus entered the Temple, and went to that place where Rabbi’s would typically congregate to teach their students… and He taught the people.  Now… had the Jews seen Him arrive in the city a few days earlier… it would have been easy to take Him by force and bring Him before the Sanhedrin…

But now… with all these people… all around Him… listening to His message… their opportunity for capture was removed.  We have no idea what it was that He preached on… there’s no record of it… but we do know that it “marveled”, or “astonished” the Jews.

His mastery of the Scripture amazed them… just as it had earlier… when they heard His Sermon on the Mount… Mat 7:28-29 KJV  And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:  (29)  For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

And because they couldn’t arrest Him… they showed their contempt for Him when they said… Joh 7:15  How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

You can almost hear the contempt dripping from their lips.  This man has never been to our seats of learning and sat under our Rabbi’s… what can He know anything?  He’s uneducated… what makes Him think He can preach… or teach us?

In today’s terms… He hadn’t been to any known or recognized seminary… or He hadn’t been ordained by any formal ecclesiastical body.  They couldn’t refute His teaching… so they attacked His credentials.  They challenged His authority to teach because He didn’t have an authorized and recognized education.

Well… this won’t be the last time the Jewish leaders would be amazed at the teaching and reasoning of the “uneducated”!  In the not too distant future… they’ll meet up with a couple of men named Peter and John…

Act 4:13 KJV  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

And we can see that this same spirit is alive and well even today in many of our modern churches.  There are those who believe that a man can’t preach… or especially, pastor a church without first graduating from some Bible College or Seminary…

And while I hold that Seminary can be beneficial… and at the very least, a person needs to be involved in some sort of “continuing education” throughout their ministry… Bible College or Seminary degrees do not guarantee an accurate understanding of the Scriptures… or even that the graduate is a Christian.

Now… please don’t think that I’m speaking against higher, religious education.  I’m not.  Matter-of-fact… I’m studying toward a Master’s myself… But there are Christian Universities and Seminaries out there… and many, many more than you would think… who’s main purpose appears to be turning Bible believing Christians into skeptics…or even atheists.

No.  The best religious education any believer could possibly possess… is the same kind that the religious leaders saw in Peter and John… Act 4:13 KJV  …that they had been with Jesus.

And in a similar fashion… Jesus had been with the Father!  He told His accusers…

Joh 7:16-18  My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.  (17)  If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.  (18)  He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

The doctrine Jesus taught wasn’t His… it was the Father’s… and all those who sincerely desire to do His will… will recognize the truth of God. 

But those who are seeking only to lift themselves up… those who desire to promote their own agenda, or their own lusts… can’t see God’s truth, because their own “imagined” glory blinds their own eyes! 

And these are characteristics of every false teacher… they “speak of themselves” and they “seek his own glory”.  Their goal isn’t to feed the flock of God… but to fleece it.

Aware of the Jewish authorities’ venomous hatred… and their desire to kill Him… Jesus now pronounces judgment directly on them with a rhetorical question… thereby illuminating…

II. The Hatred of the Jews

Joh 7:19-20 KJV  Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?  (20)  The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?

You claim that Moses gave you the law… and you take pride in that fact.  So why is it then that the very thing you take pride in… you don’t follow?

What the Lord said here is one of the most accurate statements that could be made about human sinfulness.  No one can keep the law.  The Jews took great pride in the law.  They revered it… and took careful pains to follow its precepts and obey its commands… but the simple fact of the matter is… no one ever entered the kingdom of God by means of obeying the law…

Because no one can keep it.  As I said at the beginning of this sermon… the moral law was designed to guide us in how we are to think… and the civil law was to guide how we act.

No one… except Jesus… can lay claim to following the law of God, perfectly.  And even if someone were to “physically” keep all the commandments… that’s only part of it.  Jesus taught us that we are to also keep the law “mentally”… and “spiritually”.

For instance… the law of God forbids us to commit adultery.  Exo 20:14 KJV  Thou shalt not commit adultery.

And it’s entirely possible that every person in here today… never committed adultery… physically.  But Jesus goes on to tell us that adultery isn’t simply a physical act… It goes much deeper than that!  Mat 5:28 KJV  … whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

With this new information… can we all still lay claim to “never committing adultery”?

The law of God also tells us… Exo 20:13 KJV  Thou shalt not kill.

And I would think that it’d be a pretty safe bet that none of you ever did this.  But once again… Jesus tells us that murder isn’t only a physical act…

Mat 5:22 KJV  … whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

We could go through all the commandments… and I could show you how that none of us, have ever kept any of them.  But I need to move on… so let me just say that the point of this is that sin… begins in the heart.

And no matter what some “feel good” TV show will tell you… or some Psychiatrist or Social Scientist will tell you… you CAN NOT follow your heart… because your heart is deceitful, above all else!

Jer 17:9 KJV  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Following your heart will lead you right into hell.  When emotions are in control… reason flies out the window.  So if heavenresurrectionnew body… and new heaven and earth is truly your ultimate goal… then follow Christ through faithful study of and obedience to the Word of God.

Jesus revealed the hatred that the Jews had toward Him.  They wanted to kill Him for doing God’s will… and when He called them on it… they try to shame him by saying He was possessed… no one was trying to kill Him…

Yeah… Right…

III. The Hypocrisy of the Jews

Joh 7:21-24 KJV  Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.  (22)  Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man.  (23)  If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?  (24)  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

When Jesus healed the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda in chapter 5… it set in motion this animosity that the Jews had toward Him.  Not only did He heal someone on the Sabbath… but He defended that healing by claiming to be equal with God… both of which the Jews believed to be blasphemies deserving of death.

But this time… He defends that healing by pointing out their misinterpretation of the scripture concerning the Sabbath regulations… and their own hypocrisy by breaking the Sabbath themselves.

They believed that Moses gave them circumcision… but it was actually God who gave it… and that was to Abraham… long before the law.  Moses, however, incorporated it into the law.  And the circumcision of a male child had to occur on the 8th day.  So… if that 8th day fell on a Sabbath… the Jews would perform the ceremony on that Sabbath… despite the injunction in the law against working on the Sabbath!

Therefore… circumcision took precedence over the law of Moses.  And this is where the absurdity of their accusation against Jesus becomes clear… Joh 7:23   If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day?

Jesus is argument here is from “the lesser to the greater”…  If the Jews didn’t object to the ceremonial “cleansing” of a part of an individual on a Sabbath… why would they object to the healing of the whole individual?

Which is more important?  The part… or the whole?  They needed to learn to… Joh 7:24  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

But so long as they continued being more concerned with themselves… rather than exalting the Father… as long as they continued to “seek their own glory”, rather than God’s glory… they would never be able to discern what “righteous judgment” is…
*  *  *  *  *
Jesus faced the contempt, the hatred, and the hypocrisy of the Jews… throughout His ministry.  And the promise He makes to us… is that those who follow Him… will experience the same thing.

And from the birth of the Church on Pentecost… to this very day… the spiritually blind… whether they be blind from false religion, or no religion… have done all they can to kill off the faith.

From our modern colleges and universities who mock right thinking and faith in Christ… to groups like ISIS who rape, murder, decapitate and crucify… the spiritually blind show their contempt, hatred and hypocrisy toward the redeemed of Christ, on a daily basis.

And we will be facing this more and more in the days ahead… Are you ready for it?  Because… if you’re not… you don’t have to face this alone.  Jesus promised a glorious eternity to all those who believe in Him.

And that through faith in Him… it no longer matters what happens to this body… because our guarantee is a new and glorious, resurrected body… and an eternity in the Kingdom.

And as Joshua said so long ago… Jos 24:15 KJV  …choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

After These Things...

After These Things…
John 7:1-13

As you know… we have been going through the gospel of John… verse by verse… chapter by chapter… but these last few weeks, we took a break from that… which I think is good to do from time to time.  Though I really enjoy preaching expositorily through the Bible… book by book… there are times when the Spirit leads me to “shake things up” and do something different.

But now… I’d like to get back to where we left off in John.  But, before I go any further… let’s get into a “gospel of John” frame of mind… by reviewing some of what we’ve already covered.  And there’s a need for us to do this, I think… because this chapter that we’re coming to today… marks the beginning of a new section of this gospel.

These are the final chapters of Christ’s ministry.  Once He leaves Galilee for this festival… He doesn’t return… until after His resurrection.  These  remaining months are spent in the Judean countryside.

Up to this point… we have seen Jesus moving back and forth from Judea to Galilee… In the 1st chapter, we see Jesus in Judea being baptized by John and picking up a couple of John’s followers…  Then… He returns to Galilee and gathers more disciples from the Bethsaida and Capernaum area. 

In Chapter 2, Jesus is in Cana of Galilee where He changes the water to wine… His first miracle… and then in verse 13… He’s back in Jerusalem for the Passover where He drives out the money changers for the first time.

In Chapter 3… He’s still in Judea, where he speaks with Nicodemus about being “born again”… and then in chapter 4… He returns to Galilee by way of Samaria, where He speaks to a woman at a well… and the villagers of Sychar.

Once in Galilee again… He heals the nobleman’s son in Cana… and then in chapter 5, He’s in Jerusalem for an un-named feast… where He heals the paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda.

In Chapter 6, Christ feeds the 5,000 in Galilee… walks on the water… and gives his “Bread of Life” sermon. 

Throughout these first 6 chapters… Jesus is also gathering a large following of “disciples”… however, “followers” might be a better term. 

I say this because a large part of them were only “groupies”.  All they appeared to be interested in was seeing miracles. They weren’t interested in the message Christ was bringing to them…  All they were really wanted was getting their next “signs and wonders fix”.

And because many of them weren’t “real”… when the end of chapter 6 comes around… and Jesus has finished his “bread of life” sermon… where He had said… Joh 6:54-56 KJV  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.  (55)  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  (56)  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

…we see that many of His “disciples” claiming that this was a “hard saying”… turned away from Him and followed Him no more.

Joh 6:66 KJV  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

One other thing needs to be pointed out.  All through these first 6 chapters… the animosity that the “Jews” had toward Jesus began to grow.  At first, He was just an annoyance… a candle that had been lit, but would quickly go out…  But as His popularity grew among the people… the hatred of the Jews grew proportionally.

And these last two things… losing many followers… and the murderous hatred of the Jews… leads us into the 7th chapter, where we read of “A World of Unbelief”… “A World of Hatred”… and “A World of Opinions”…

I.  A World of Unbelief

Joh 7:1-5 KJV  After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.  (2)  Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand.  (3)  His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.  (4)  For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.  (5)  For neither did his brethren believe in him.

After losing a large part of His followers… and knowing that the hatred of the Jews had grown to such an extent that now they actually wanted to kill Him… Jesus “walked in Galilee.

A period of 5-6 months had passed since His last visit to Jerusalem.  And we learn from the other gospels that during this time… He traveled the length of Galilee… from Tyre & Sidon in the Northwest… to Decapolis in the Southeast.

He performed many miracles… healed many people… cast out demons… and fed a group of 4,000.  Most of these last 6 months, however… were spent discipling the Twelve… including telling them of His coming crucifixion, resurrection and ascension… and also giving Peter, James and John a glimpse of His glory at His transfiguration.

He did all this while in Galilee… because He was unwilling to go back to Judea for a time because the Jews “sought to kill Him”…  Jesus came to this world to give His life as a ransom for many (Mat 20:28)… 

So, staying away from Judea wasn’t a sign of fear… or that He was unwilling to die… He stayed away because it was prudent for Him to do so.  Just as He refused to be forced into becoming a “King” after feeding the 5,000… now He doesn’t want to do something that will rush this portion of the Father’s plan either.

So… take notice that He didn’t live recklessly.  He didn’t “live on the edge” and place Himself in needless danger.  As John Calvin wrote… “Although Christ avoided dangers, he did not turn aside a hair’s breadth from the course of his duty.”

So when the feast of Tabernacles drew near… and his brothers tried to convince Him to go to Jerusalem with them… He sent them on ahead.

His brothers completely missed the point of His mission.  Those who supposedly knew Him best…  Those who spent their entire lives with Him… really didn’t know Him at all.

To their thinking… he was trying to make a name for Himself… so they tell Him… Joh 7:4  …there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. 

In essence, they’re telling Him that if He goes to Jerusalem and “shows His stuff” to all the people that will be there… maybe he’ll gain the recognition and fame they think He’s seeking… and maybe even get back some of His disciples that recently left Him.

And the Bible makes it clear that they thought these things… and said these things, because… Joh 7:5  … neither did his brethren believe in him.

Folks… the mere possession of spiritual privileges… and Jesus’ brothers had many great spiritual privileges… because they had been with Him their whole lives… but those privileges doesn’t make anyone a Christian.

The fact that I grew up in a Christian home… with Christian parents… and went to church every time the doors opened… doesn’t make me a Christian any more than owning a cowboy hat and cowboy boots makes me a cowboy.

Seeing Jesus grow up all their lives… and witnessing the miracles He had performed… and listening to the message He taught… wasn’t enough to make even His own brothers believe… 

That will only occur when the Spirit of God moves upon a person’s heart… and brings them to faith in Christ.  Just as Jesus told us when He said…  Joh 6:37 KJV  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me…

And that… Joh 6:44 KJV  No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…

And we need to remember this.  We are commanded to spread the gospel and make disciples… and we will do this.  But no amount of begging or pleading on my part will bring anyone to faith in Christ.  That’s the specific work of the Holy Spirit.

And though we know that at least two of Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, eventually did come to faith in Christ… we really can’t say this of any of His other  relatives… (except maybe His mother…)  And I’m sure made Him just as sad as it would make any of us… when members of our own households remain unbelievers…

We can’t change this.  All we can do is remain faithful to Christ, and obedient to His command… and He will take care of the rest. 

But… until He does that… we will continue living in a world of unbelief… and because the world doesn’t believe… we also live in…

II.  A World of Hatred

Joh 7:6-10 KJV  Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.  (7)  The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.  (8)  Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.  (9)  When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.  (10)  But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.

Jesus didn’t allow the skepticism of His brothers to dictate His actions.  He came to do His Father’s will… not man’s… and He responded to His brother’s pressure in a similar fashion to the way He responded to His mother at the wedding in Cana

Joh 7:6-10 KJV  … My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready.

Jesus didn’t want to prematurely reveal Himself to the world as yet… but his brother’s “time” is “always ready”… and this is because they were just like the rest of the world…

And because they were just like the world… the world couldn’t “hate” them… but it did… and still does… hate Christ.  The goodness of Christ highlights the wickedness of the world.

The pure and undefiled love of Christ… emphasizes the filthy and immoral desires of the world.

Just as last week I used the illustration of a jeweler’s use of black velvet to highlight the diamond’s luster… Christ is the bright and shining diamond which emphasizes the darkness of our world.

The world might have tolerated Christ back then… the world might tolerate Christ even today… if He would have spared their sins.  But the holy… demands holiness.  The Righteous… demands righteousness.

This is a principle that’s universal application… and it holds good even today.  Men dislike the gospel because of the holiness it demands.  And this holiness is why those who claim to be Christian… but aren’t… are willing to compromise their faith and look for any loophole they can find.

Many who call themselves believers would be just fine with teaching abstract doctrines.  People don’t have much problem with hearing sermons about “justification”, “sanctification”, or even “salvation”.  But denounce the fashionable and popular sin of the day… whatever it may be… and thousands will be “offended”.

Joh 15:19 KJV  If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

2Ti 3:12 KJV  Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

People hated Christ back then… and people hate Christ today… because they love their sin.  And Christ’s response to sin is… Joh 8:11b KJV  …go, and sin no more.

So… Jesus sent His brothers on to Jerusalem without Him.  He knew that if He traveled with a group of people… as most people did back then… the Jews would take notice of His arrival.

Matter-of-fact… His coming to Jerusalem in a group, might have even brought about a premature Triumphal Entry.  So, to avoid this… He waits until His brothers are well on their way… and then He leaves for the festival by Himself.

Joh 7:10b  … not openly, but as it were in secret.

And when He arrives in Jerusalem… He arrives to…

III.  A World of Opinions

Joh 7:11-13 KJV  Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?  (12)  And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.  (13)  Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem… His caution… and wisdom… were confirmed.  The Jews were waiting for Him… We need to keep in mind that “the Jews” we’re speaking of… isn’t a reference to the common people in the crowd… but the religious leaders who were seeking to kill Him.

They were asking around about Christ… asking… Joh 7:11 KJV  …Where is he?  Hoping that someone would spot Him and point Him out to them…

But the religious leaders weren’t the only ones who were talking about Jesus.  The Bible also tells us that… Joh 7:12 KJV  …there was much murmuring among the people concerning him…

Some of the people were saying that… Joh 7:12 KJV …He is a good man…  While others disagreed and said… Joh 7:12 KJV  …Nay; but he deceiveth the people

And the words which old Simeon had spoken many years earlier… had finally come to pass… Luk 2:34 KJV  … Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against…

When we look at this passage… and then we consider our world today… we come to understand that all the open hatred that we see toward Christ… all the carping and sniping of prejudiced spirits… the war of words… the strife of tongues… are only modern symptoms of an ancient disease.

Human nature is so corrupt… that wherever and whenever Christ is faithfully preached… people will be divided… like sheep from goats.   Some will hear His message… and love Him… and believe in Him.  While the majority of others will hate His message… turn away… and refuse to believe.

But love Him, or hate Him…everyone will have an opinion about Christ.  In the Apostle’s day… some people said that He was John the Baptist come back to life… Others said He was Elijah… or that Prophet. 

Today… Mormons say that Jesus was Lucifer’s brother.  Jews say He was an imposter.  Muslim’s say He was a prophet. 

Some atheist’s claim that He didn’t exist.  Jehovah’s Witnesses say that He was Michael the ArchangelGandhi admired Him.  Hitler hated Him.  Pontius Pilate didn’t know what to do with Him.  The Democratic National Convention booed Him.

There is a world of opinions about Christ.  But in a world of opinions… the only opinion that really matters... is the Bible.  It tells me that Jesus was God in human form… the Christ… the Son of the living God… and that He is the only door to everlasting life.

And that through the shedding of His blood… and the application of that blood to my heart… I am saved.  Death has “passed over” me… And though this body will one day return to the dust… I will rise again with a new body.

This is the Bible’s testimony of Jesus… and everyone who believes this… and places their faith in Him… will also be saved.  This is the clear promise of God. 

So… the question that Jesus asked the disciples long ago… is the same question He asks you now…Mat 16:15 KJV  … whom say ye that I am?

Who do YOU say that He is?  It’s a question that demands an answer from each and every person.  And, the response each person gives… will have eternal ramifications.

Mat 16:15 KJV  … whom say ye that I am?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Payday--Someday, Part 2

Payday—Someday, Part 2
1Kings 21: 17-19, 23

(My version/revision of Dr. R.G. Lee's sermon by same title.)

1Ki 21:17-19, 23 KJV  And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,  (18)  Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.  (19)  And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.  (23)  And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.

Last week… if you’ll remember… I delivered to you the first part of this divine tragedy by introducing the main characters… such as Naboth… a devout and good man who loved God, his family, his nation… and his vineyard.

Then we looked at Ahab… one of the worse of the kings of Israel.  He was such a bad king that even though Israel had many that were also wicked and vile… Ahab is the name that people remember the most. 

Think about it for a moment… How many evil Bible kings can you name?  If you can name any at all from memory… I’d be willing to bet that Ahab was one of them.

We also found out that as evil as Ahab was… he really couldn’t hold a candle to his wife… Jezebel.  If there was a super-villain, mastermind behind Ahab’s wickedness… it was his wife…

1Ki 21:25 KJV  But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.

Most of what is evil in all the evil women throughout history… found it’s expression in this wicked woman.  Jezebel’s very name lives on through the ages… as a vile slur against a womanhood.

Then… our final character was Elijah, the Tishbite.  God’s voice for holiness and right living in the midst of a world turned upside down and consumed in idolatry and licentiousnesskinda like our modern world today.

He was one of earth’s greatest heroes… and one of heaven’s greatest saints!

Then we spoke of the two years prior to our story… and how that Israel had two wars with Syria.  Ahab had won both battles… and after the second war… instead of killing Ben-hadad, the Syrian king… he made a treaty with him.

But… sparing Ben-hadad went against God’s command… and because of his disobedience… the destruction that was ordered for Ben-hadad… was now transferred to Ahab.

And true to form… Ahab pouted

1Ki 20:43 NKJV  So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and displeased, and came to Samaria.

*  *  *  *  *
Now… after the background information of chapters 19 & 20… we began in chapter 21… learning that Ahab had a summer palace in a town called Jezreel.  And that outside this palace… there was a nice little property owned by Naboth.

A vineyard that had been in his family for generations.  But, Ahab had a desire to own that piece of land… so he approached Naboth with an offer to buy it from him. 

Naboth, of course, turned the offer down… and just like we saw earlier… Ahab went back to his palace… sullen and vexed again.  He went to his bedroom… lay on his bed… turned his face to the wall… and refused to eat his dinner.  (I don’t know for sure… but I can’t help but think that he might also have had his thumb in his mouth too!)

1Ki 21:4 KJV  And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.

Now… the last thing we covered last week was that when Jezebel got wind of what her husband was doing… sulking in his room… like a child who’s been denied a toy… or a piece of candy

She goes to his room and fusses at him… reminding him that he’s the king.  In essence, telling him to get upgrow up… and splash water on his face.  She would take care of this situation…

And this is where we begin today… continuing our story with…

Act IV.  A Message of Murder

1Ki 21:7b-8 KJV  … I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.  (8)  So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

“I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite.”  It doesn’t matter what translation you use… and I’ve checked many… the words are the same.  “I will give you…”

Notice the marked difference in thinking between this pagan queen and the Israelite king.  He sulked because he knew that he couldn’t just take land from anyone… because the land belonged to the Lord.  Even in his seriously fallen condition… he knew this in his heart of hearts… just as all Israelites knew this…

But the pagan queen had no such upbringing.  In the surrounding countries… though there may have been some individual ownership of land… ultimately… it all belonged to the king who could… and usually did… whatever he wanted with it.

And this mentality is seen in her statement… “I will give…”  There is no question in her mind that Naboth’s land was her land…  That as royalty… she had divine right to everything in her kingdom… and she could distribute it however she wished.

But she had been in this land of Israel for many years now… she knew better than to just send troops to force Naboth and his family off this property… so she hatched a scheme to get rid of her opposition.

So… she writes a letter to the elders of the village of Jezreel and tells them to… 1Ki 21:9 KJV …proclaim a fast

Now… the idea being that there was a national emergency at hand…  Someone’s done something wrong… and we have to repent and fast in order to divert the coming disaster…

Then she tells them to… 1Ki 21:9 KJV …set Naboth on high among the people:

Now… the NKJV has some unfortunate wording here, because it says to… “seat Naboth with high honor among the people”  When she’s not telling them to put him in a place of “honor” at all… but rather, she wants him placed in the place of the “accused”

Just as the accused stands before the judge… Naboth is to be placed before all the people… in a prominent place for all to see.

1Ki 21:10 NKJV  and seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him, saying, You have blasphemed God and the king.

They are to find two men… because the law of God required the testimony of a minimum of two witnesses in capital cases…  And these two men were to be “scoundrels”… or as the NASB & ESV call them… “worthless” men.  In other words… men who were accustomed to lying.  Men who would do anything for a buck!

Now let’s think about this for a minute.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have such a bad reputation… that when someone is in need of a “worthless” man… or a “worthless” woman… your name tops the list?

Or… how about this?  When someone as evil as Jezebel, would think that YOU were evil?  These would have to be some pretty sad people…

And then, she tells them in the letter to… 1Ki 21:10 NKJV  …Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die.

His fate is sealed… His doom assured.  There’s only one outcome for those found guilty of blasphemy!  They took him outside the city… and murdered an innocent man.

Lev 24:14 NASB  "Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him.

Jezebel knew how to use God’s law to her advantage…

Just as many evil people use our own laws against us today… to their advantage… and our hurt. 

Innocent Naboth is unjustly accused… just as our Lord was unjustly accused…

Naboth was was unjustly condemned… just as our Lord was unjustly condemned…

And Naboth was unjustly murdered outside the city… just as our Lord was unjustly murdered outside the city.

And after this horrible deed was done…

Act V.  Ahab Takes Possession

1Ki 21:16 NASB  When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

The potentate’s pouting had paid off!  Ahab knew that his wife would make good on her promise…  He also knew that she’d use nefarious… or less than honest methods.

But he didn’t care.  To the wicked… “the end” does “justify the means”.  How it came to be in his possession didn’t matter.  He was perfectly willing to let someone else do his dirty work.

So once it’s done… he takes a stroll through his new vineyard… soon to be a vegetable garden.  He probably envisioned tomatoes or cucumbers growing over there.  Maybe some squash right here.

All was “right” in his world now… and he could almost taste those vegetables… hot and buttered… his mouth beginning to water… when suddenly… he comes face to face with…

Act VI.  The Pointing Finger

1Ki 21:17-19, 23 KJV  And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,  (18)  Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.  (19)  And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.  (23)  And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.

This part of our story reminds me of Charles Dicken’s classic… “A Christmas Carol”.  You know… that part where the ghost of Christmas future… black and hooded… the bony finger rising up and pointing at Scrooge…

Well… that pointing finger comes to Ahab.  While he’s happily walking around in his vineyard… Elijah… as he very frequently does… just appears on the scene… seemingly out of nowhere.

He was Ahab’s nemesis… and as soon as he looks up and sees Elijah… I’m sure he was thinking, “Uh oh… Now this can’t be good!”  Almost immediately… the wind goes out of his sails… and he asks…

1Ki 21:20 KJV  And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?

Ahab hated Elijah.  He and his wife had tried to kill him several times already.  He knew from personal experience that whatever Elijah said would happen… tended to come to pass.

He had already experienced the years of famine that Elijah said would come… He saw the fire from heaven consume the soaked sacrifice… He had even gotten drenched from the rain that Elijah had called up to end the drought…

Yeah… his thinking that “this can’t be good”… was right!  The prophecy that Elijah had just pronounced against him… was very similar to the one prophesied against Jeroboam, son of Nebat… and Baasha, son of Ahijah…

Those prophecies had come to pass… and this one would too.  Ahab hated Elijah… just as all evil men hate righteous men… because righteousness highlights the darkness of sin. 

Like a jeweler… who highlights the brilliance of a diamond by placing it on the black velvet… righteous Elijah highlighted the blackness of Ahab’s soul… and his conscience… even as seared as it was… screamed in his mind… making him mad with anger.

And fear.  Ahab was scared out of his mind that he would have to face his maker.  And just as it’s said that there are no “atheists” in foxholes while the bullets are flying all around… Ahab found religion… real quick.

1Ki 21:27 KJV  And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.

Ahab’s foxhole faith brought him to repentance.  And it may have been a real repentance… at least for a time… because though God’s judgment against Ahab would stand… he took note of his remorse and postponed it.

1Ki 21:28-29 KJV  And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,  (29)  Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.

So Ahab was still going to collect the wages of his sin… but it would be on a…

Act VII.  Payday—Someday

Just as surely as the sun rose this morning… what God has promisedwill come to pass!  Though judgment may be deferred… it will none the less come

This story comes full circle... three years later.  Remember that I told you about the two years of wars against Syria and Ben-hadad at in the beginning of this story?  Well… now comes the reason why I began there, instead of somewhere else…

After that second defeat of Ben-hadad… he made a treaty with Ahab to return a city to Israel that his father had taken from Ahab’s father… Ramoth-gilead.  Well… that never happened.  Ramoth-gilead was still in Syria’s possession… so Ahab… three years after Elijah’s prophecy against him… decided to go to Ramoth-gilead and take possession of it.

But he first makes an alliance with the Southern Kingdom’s king… Jehoshaphat.  And we read in the final chapter of 1st Kings… of this 3rd battle with Syria’s Ben-hadad… And how that Ahab decided to dress as a common soldier and go into this battle…

We also read how the Bible emphasizes that some random enemy archer… just randomly shot an arrow into the air… that arrow just happened to penetrate Ahab’s armor…

1Ki 22:34 KJV  And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness…

Folks… that was a “guided missile” if ever there was one!  Ahab died from that arrow… and just as Elijah had said… a little later, his blood was washed out of the chariot… and the dogs licked it up.

And then it was some 10-12 years after Ahab’s death… that God’s judgment against Jezebel… and all of his remaining male offspring came to pass through Jehu… Ahab’s chariot officer… who was anointed to be king in his place.

After Jehu commanded Jezebel’s servants to throw her off her balcony… and he and his horses rode right over her… a little later that day, he sent some men to bury her…

2Ki 9:35 KJV  And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands.

The dogs of Israel had eaten her body… as the prophet said they would… but even they couldn’t stomach the skull which had conceived all her wicked plans… or her feet, which had carried and spread all her evil throughout Israel… or the palms of her hands, which had performed all of her vile intentions.

The full measure of the wages of their sin… had finally been paid, in full.

Payday had arrived…

*  *  *  *   *

Beloved… listen… and learn.  Listen to the truth that was established from the ages.  A truth that will stand firm until the end of time…

Gal 6:7 KJV  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

It’s an ages old agricultural principle that describes a spiritual truth

That if you plant corn—you will get corn.  If you plant alfalfa—you will get alfalfa.  Tomatoes begets tomatoes… hemlock begets hemlock… weeds begets weeds…

If you sow the wind… you will reap the whirlwind! (Hosea 8:7)  Though the wicked may appear to prosper… there will be a payday—someday…

Learn from the characters of this divine tragedy… what the end will be for all who turn away from God and follow after evil.  Learn from your own lives…

Because you know from your own experiences… that instilled into the very fabric of your own existence… is the knowledge that there will be a payday—someday.

And that there is only one way to avoid this sure payday… one way to avoid making that final payment… and that’s by accepting and believing in the One who has made that payment for you.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Payday—Someday, Part 1

 (This is my version and revision of Dr. R.G. Lee's sermon by the same title.)
Payday—Someday, Part 1
1Kgs 21:18-19, 23

Let me introduce to you, the first character in our story… His name is Naboth, who was an inhabitant of the village of Jezreel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

He was a devout man… a good man.  He abhorred things that were evil… and he clung to that which was good.  He loved God… He loved his family… and He loved his nation.

And he owned a vineyard… which unfortunately… was located very near to the summer palace of the King of Israel

This vineyard was his family’s cherished possession.  It had been passed down from generation to generation.  It was a small little plot of land… but it was his… and he loved it.

*  *  *  *  *
Now… the next character in our story is a man named Ahab… the vile toad who squatted on the throne of Israel.  Of all the really bad kings Israel had had on its throne… he was one of the worse.

1Ki 21:25-26 ESV  (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited.  (26)  He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)

He commanded a nation’s army and wealth… but couldn’t command his own lusts…  He wore the finest clothing… but it only covered a wicked heart…  He ate the best foods… the most splendid dishes from around the world… but he had a starved soul

He lived in palaces and owned much land… but he tormented himself for just a little bit more… And though he sat on a throne and had the scepter of a King in his hand… he was under the thumb of a wicked woman.

*  *  *  *  *
Then we come to a woman named Jezebel…  Though her name means “chaste”… she was probably anything but.  The daughter of Ethbaal… King of Tyre.

A King’s daughter… a King’s wife… and the evil genius of her dynasty and era.  She was infinitely more daring and reckless than her husband.  As evil as Ahab was… he was wimpish in comparison to his wife.

A devout worshiper of Baal… she hated anyone who spoke against… or refused to worship her pagan god.  Just as Solomon’s wives brought their foreign gods into the land with them… Jezebel brought her Phoenician god, Baal into Israel and set up an elaborate and extensive system of Temples, Altars and Priesthood within the land.

She was as brazen in lewdness as Cleopatra, the sorceress of the Nile… As subtle and scheming as Lady Macbeth… who goaded her husband to kill King Duncan to become King himself…

          As a matter-of-fact… her own father, Ethbaal… did this very thing.  He murdered his predecessor in order to take the Phoenician crown for himself…

She was as adulterous as Potiphar’s wife… as bold and cruel as Mary I of England… who is otherwise known as “Bloody Mary”who re-established Roman Catholicism in England and began a protestant persecution which had over 300 burned at the stake.

Most of what is bad in all the evil women of history found its expression in this painted viper of Israel.  Her very name lives on in infamy… and is used as a vile slur against a woman…

To be called a “Jezebel”… used to be one of the most horrible things you could call a woman.  It was the ultimate of insults.

*  *  *  *  *
Then… our last character is Elijah, the Tishbite.  He was a prophet of God when 10’s of thousands had forsaken Yahweh… He burned with holy anger against the cruelties, licentiousness and idolatries of a once holy nation—which now was no different than the surrounding pagan countries.

He wore the roughest of clothes… ate birds food… and was God’s tall cedar that withstood the storms of the day without bending or breaking.  Though mostly alone… he had angelic armies surrounding him… and he passed from earth without dying and was driven straight into celestial glory!

He was one of earth’s greatest heroes… and one of heaven’s greatest saints!

Act I. The Tragedy of Payday—Someday

In chapter 20 we read about a couple of wars Israel had with the Syrian aggressor.  Ben-hadad came against Israel twice in two years and was defeated both times.

Israel may have had the victory over Syria… but it was the Lord who was the real victor… 1Ki 20:13 ESV  And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, "Thus says the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD."

After Ben-hadad’s second defeat… he escaped into a nearby town called Aphek… and then eventually surrendered himself to Ahab.  And, Ahab… because of political expediency… agreed to a treaty with Ben-hadad… and spared his life.

You see… further to the east of Israel and Syria… there were some rumblings of a rising threat to come…  Assyria was growing and rattling its sabers… taking country after country…

In Ahab’s mind… sparing Ben-hadad would be a step toward forming an alliance against this Assyrian threat.  It’s exactly what he had done previously with his marriage to Jezebel… the daughter of the Sidonian King… and then the marriage of his daughter, Athalia, to King Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram

Ahab was shrewd in creating political alliances… but this one was condemned by God…  1Ki 20:42 ESV  And he said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.'"

Ben-hadad had been devoted to destruction by God himself.  Ahab had no right to do otherwise… But… true to form… Ahab did his own thing, like many of us do… and he was rebuked and told that the destruction that had been declared upon Ben-hadad… was now transferred to himself.

And, this upset the King.  How dare this unknown prophet say such a thing!  Why would God do this?  Couldn’t He see that this would be better?  So… as we’ll see in typical Ahab fashion…

1Ki 20:43 ESV  … the king of Israel went to his house vexed and sullen and came to Samaria.

Vexed and sullen… we need to remember these words… We’ll see them again…

*  *  *  *  *
So… after all of this, we read in chapter 21, that Ahab had a desire…  In all his traveling to and fro… amidst all the hustle and bustle of dealing with wars and rumors of war…  As he would travel to his very own Camp David… his palace in Jezreel… he would pass by this quaint little plot of ground… known to all… and for all time as… Naboth’s Vineyard.

And it’s because of events in this vineyard… that we come to see… once again… the…

Act II. The Pouting Potentate

Naboth’s vineyard was a quaint little property that he had driven past many times… and each time he drove past… his desire for that piece of land grew more and more.

It was close to his summer palace… and Ahab had a hankering for some vegetables.

Now, the custom of the surrounding kingdoms was that the land belonged to the King… and could be taken at will.  But the custom in Israel was that the land was the Lord’s… and the people held the land as stewards…

Num 35:34 ESV  You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the people of Israel."

Ahab couldn’t just take a persons land away from him.  It would be against the law… and would cause a popular revolt.  So… he made an offer to Naboth…

1Ki 21:2 ESV  And after this Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money."

His offer was actually more than fair… as far as it goes.  However… he failed to understand Naboth’s connection with his land… and he got a swift response…

1Ki 21:3 ESV  But Naboth said to Ahab, "The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers."

I’m sure Naboth’s response was given with politeness.  Who in their right mind would want to offend someone such as Ahab?  But that land was his sacred inheritance.  To sell it off would be to cut off all his ancestors from their inheritance forever.

Not only would that be a terrible thing to do… but it was directly forbidden by God!

Lev 25:23a ESV  "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine.

So, when Naboth said, “The Lord forbid…”  He literally did forbid it!  The land couldn’t be sold… but if it were leased… it had to be returned to the original tribe and family in the year of Jubilee.

But Ahab didn’t care about any of this.  Naboth’s rejection seriously offended him… and as we saw earlier, he had a tendency to pout when things didn’t go his way… and we see where once again, he…

1Ki 21:4 ESV  … went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, "I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers." And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.

Like a sullen child who’s been denied a toy… or a piece of candy… he goes to “his bed”… turned his face to the wall… and refused to eat his dinner!

Act III. The Wicked Wife

The Bible has a lot to say about women… both good and bad… godly and ungodly…

And we normally see that behind an evil man… there is usually an evil woman.  Study the Bible… or history… and you’ll see that the spiritual life of a nation… state… home… or church… will never rise any higher than the spiritual life of women.

When women lag morally… men lag morally as well.  The degeneracy of womanhood helps the decay of manhood.  Take for instance, famous women of our past…

Lucrezia Borgia… a woman… dominated the papacy in its most shameful years.  She was the illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander VI… who married her off several times in order to advance his career… and his family’s position.

Catherine de Medici… a woman… ordered the massacre of thousands of Huguenots (Protestants) on St. Bartholomew’s Day

Samson’s downfall was expedited by Delilah

David’s fall was because of his lust for Bathsheba

Salome danced John’s head off—and Herod straight into hell…

Potiphar’s wife sent spotless Joseph to jail…

And who was it who suggested to Haman to build high gallows to hang Mordecai the Jew… but his wife… Zeresh

Who told Job to curse God and die—but his wife?

Who was it that caused Anthony to throw away victory at Actium… but Cleopatra?

Eve enticed Adam to sin…

Clyde had his Bonnie

Hitler had his Eva

Boris had his Natasha (Rocky & Bullwinkle)

But… lest we get carried away with all the evil women of the world… we must also recognize that there are many, many, many more women of faith who have helped their husband’s and families to success!

Many may have mastered their men for evil… but countless others have encouraged them for the good.  Women like Ruth, Esther, Abigail, Mary… and modern ones like Dolly Madison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Princess Di, Nancy Reagan, Barbara and Laura Bush… all of them have their place in history… and our hearts as good and godly women who were driving forces for good in their own era.

*  *  *  *  *
So… when Jezebel hears of her husbands pouting episode… she enters his chambers and says… 1Ki 21:7 ESV  …"Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."

“Aren’t you the King?”  In other words… “Why didn’t you just take what you wanted and be done with it?”  Other kings would do this…  Her own father would have done it…

You can almost hear the sarcasm dripping from her lips.  And she probably thought of Ahab as a worm… something to be controlled…

And isn’t this exactly what today’s society teaches?  For instance… how many movies or television shows are there, that actually promote Christian and Biblical values?  There are shows that many today would consider “wholesome”… which really aren’t…

I used to love watching a TV show called “Home Improvement”.  Tim the Toolman was absolutely hilarious.  It was thought to be a wholesome, family show… but you know what?  Tim’s wife was always making fun of him in front of the kids and friends…

Another show called “Everybody Loves Raymond”… a wholesome, family show… where the husband is a little on the dumb side and his wife is forever calling him an idiot.

Even the best of shows today… show a dysfunctional family at best… with either the wife… or the children… in control of the household.

And I realize that these and other shows are simply comedies.  That they’re designed to make people laugh…  But we have to understand that in the laughter… norms get pushed to the limit… thereby creating new norms.

Because these limits have been pushed, repeatedly… over and over… the new “norm” now proclaims an atheistic worldview… It proclaims that homosexuality as “normal” and “acceptable” behavior… That living together outside of marriage is okay… and that Christianity as intolerant and hateful.

We tend to look at ancient Israel and its kings like Ahab and think, “How horrible!”  But are they really any worse than we are today?  Can we take an honest look at our morality and values today… and say that we’re not as bad as them?

I don’t think so.  Matter-of-fact… I believe we’re probably a lot worse than they were in many ways.

And as we continue this story next week… we’ll see how far Ahab and Jezebel’s Israel had fallen… and how that they back then… and us today… though we may think we’re okay and doing “pretty good”… we have actually been storing up wrath against the day of wrath that’s to come.

Rom 2:5-6 ESV  But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.  (6)  He will render to each one according to his works:

We’ve been storing it up… like putting it in a bank… Saving up our wages that we have been working so hard for… waiting for our payday, which will come, someday.

*  *  *  *  *
Now… before we close… if every head would bow…  I want us to take a few moments to think about the heart of this message…  Matter-of-fact… it should be the heart of every gospel message…

And if you missed it… it’s this…

That there is a day of reckoning coming…  And it will arrive much sooner than you would expect.  A day when all of us will be paid our wages. 

And just as Jesus showed us in His parable of the Laborers… the pay will be the same for all those who have trusted in Him—eternal life.

And the paycheck for those who have not yet… or those who continue to refuse to trust in Him will also be the same—an eternity in the lake of fire.

And just as Jesus also showed us… it doesn’t matter how long you’ve trusted in Him… an hour… a day… or years…  Placing your faith and trust in Him saves you… and guarantees your place with Him in His kingdom forever.

There are some young ladies here today who have trusted in Christ unto salvation… just this week.  Their eternity with Christ and the saints is guaranteed…

Is yours?