1 KINGS 15:25-17:24 | ACTS 10:24-48 | PSALM 134:1-3 | PROVERBS 17:9-11
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Jeroboam’s story continues. After his death, his son Nadab succeeds him. Remember Jeroboam was the one who caused a mutiny after Solomon’s death, and while Rehoboam succeeded his father Solomon, he was king only over Judah, while Jeroboam went off up into the hill country of Ephraim and installed himself as ruler of the rest of Israel.
Jeroboam did have a following which is why he continued in power for so long. But Jeroboam did not love the Lord and had committed the grave sin of idolatry. And yet, he remained in power for about twenty years, and was succeeded by his son Nadab.
But Nadab was no good either, and he was soon overthrown by a man called Bashaa. Bashaa’s reign is said to be a long one for twenty-four years, but he also went the same way as the others, and dies a shameful death. His son, Elah succeeds him but soon his own commander Zimri leads a coup which is not a bloodless one because next thing you know, Zimri is king.
Well, Zimri becomes king but stays king for a mere seven days because there happens to be a faction that supported another army chief called Omri. And so, Omri leads a coup, gets rid of Zimri, and has himself appointed as king. Now, Omri reigns as king for twelve years, but it is said that he was even worse than all the rest of Israel’s kings with his “worthless idols.”
You sometimes think you may have heard it all and seen it all as far as these kings of Israel were concerned, but no, there’s even more: Ahab, Omri’s son succeeds him, and is actually the very worst of the lot. Ahab builds all kinds of altars and poles to worship strange idols, and what’s more, he even takes for himself as wife the woman called Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon—a city in modern day Lebabon—who will have her own infamy documented soon enough, but Ahab was known for introducing and instituting the worship of the pagan god, Baal.
And it is in this setting, during the kingship of Ahab that Elijah, the great prophet arrives on the scene. Elijah, the straight-talking, shoot-from-the-hip kind of prophet comes to Ahab to make an announcement: “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”
Well, Ahab must not have liked this very much, because next thing we know, Elijah appears to be on the run.
It is now that we encounter the interesting story of Elijah and the widow. God leads Elijah to a place in the wilderness but provides sustenance for him through a poor widow who when asked for a piece of bread and a jar of water informs Elijah that she has only enough flour for one small loaf of bread.
God’s provision is manifest in this story in a very practical and tangible way: our daily bread is literally provided to us every day, day by day, solely by trusting in God’s promise and provision. Elijah tells the woman, ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’”
And beyond the sustenance provided in the form of bread and water, there are times when God goes the extra mile in showing you just how much he can do for you. You thought bread and water was all he could provide?
Well, wake up and smell the coffee, my friend, because this is a God that has the power to raise the dead!
When the woman’s son suddenly dies, she comes to Elijah, heartbroken and angry for her loss, not even knowing or expecting that this strange old man who lives in the outdoors—for whom she made a loaf of bread everyday from a bin of flour that had no bottom—that this old man could do anything more for her.
But Elijah could. And so he tells the woman to take him up to the body of the dead boy.
Elijah lays the body down, lays himself upon the dead boy, and speaks these words, “LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” And so it is: the boy is made alive!
I imagine Elijah would have stayed for dinner that day. I also imagine the dinner-table conversation between the three of them that evening would have been spectacular! God is good!
Turning now to our reading in the book of Acts, we find that Peter has arrived in the house of Cornelius, the man who had sent for him. Cornelius is an Italian non-Jew, i.e., a Gentile, but he has been having visions for the past several days and wants to know the meaning of it. The text tells us that he is a good man who is known in the city as a philanthropist, but he has no clear knowledge of this man called Jesus who lived some 60-70 years ago. He does, however, follow the instructions in his vision in arranging for this man called Peter to be brought to him, and one imagines Cornelius being somewhat puzzled at his own doings.
Not unlike Ananias from the other day, who had visions concerning one Saul.
And so, Peter arrives in the house of Cornelius, and following cursory introductions, Peter launches into a small sermon.
Listen up, everybody, this is how it is, he seems to say. His words are a succinct delivery of the good news, aka, the gospel, that I wish to reproduce here, for our own benefit.
Peter says: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Is that sufficiently clear, gentle reader?
This is a message that is open and available to one and all! For both Jew and Gentile; for male, female, and eunuch; for people in the ancient lands of Judea as well as Asia Minor where the Greeks and Turks began to become believers and became known as the first Christians; and so also for everyone else around the world who heard this good news—from that first time of Peter’s preaching and down through the ages for the last 2014 years!
[Yes, that is how we mark time on our calendars– we have been counting the years since the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.]
Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs that are worthy of record and rumination:
9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.
This particular verse must have been written with me in mind. For I am guilty sometimes of the charge of not letting bygones remain bygones. I struggle with the despicable habit of allowing residual hurt, anger, and other such emotions to overpower my good intentions, and not allow love to “cover over an offense”.
Another proverb to heed is this one:
10 A rebuke impresses a discerning person
more than a hundred lashes a fool.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.