Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 20 2019 - 1 Kings 16:29-17:24 – King Ahab

After Solomon died, his kingdom fell apart. The ten northern tribes, who continued to bear the name Israel, broke away from the rule of David's house and set up a kingdom of their own. The tribe of Judah, along with the smaller tribe of Benjamin, continued to be ruled by David's descendants from the capital city of Jerusalem. Today's reading therefore begins with a reference to Asa king of Judah and Ahab king of Israel.

Ahab was particularly notable for his wickedness. He abandoned the God of Israel and, encouraged by his Sidonian wife Jezebel, led Israel in the worship of the fertility god Baal. He, "did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him" (1 Kings 16:33) – and that took some doing.

Elijah was a prophet of the Lord – he knew the Lord and the Lord spoke through him. He was sent to tell Ahab that there would be no rain or dew for a number of years. The Lord wants Ahab to know that fertility and good harvests are not in the gift of Baal; they come from the hand of the Lord, the only true God who had revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (=Israel) and Moses. The Lord is able to give rain but he can equally withhold it; both are demonstrations of his power and the power of his word – the word through which the world was formed.

The power of the living God is displayed not only in months of drought but also in the way Elijah is sustained during the drought. Like Israel of old, Elijah is to live in a desert region where the Lord will provide him with water from the rock and with bread from heaven, this time delivered by ravens.

When even these waters dried up, the Lord sent Elijah to a widow living in Zarephath near Sidon – Jezebel's home country. The Lord planned to provide for Elijah through this foreigner. The widow is preparing a last meal for herself and her son from the meagre supplies of food she has left. After this, she expects that they will both starve to death. Elijah asks her to share her food with him, assuring her, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘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’" (1 Kings 17:14). And that's just what happened; God provided not only for Elijah but also for this widow and her son when Baal, the god of the Sidonians, could do nothing. There is power in the word of the Lord.

Some time later, the widow's son fell ill and died. Elijah prayed earnestly to the Lord concerning the boy and he was restored to life. The Lord not only demonstrated his kindness and compassion, he also demonstrated that he had power to give life to the dead; he is the living God, the life-giving God.

Are there idols to which we devote our life in the expectation that they will deliver prosperity? We need to appreciate afresh that the God of Abraham is the living God, the God who gives life to the dead and who provides for all that he has made. He has shown us his power and goodness in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has demonstrated that he can give life to the dead by raising Jesus from the grave. Have we experienced the saving and life-giving power of God in the Lord Jesus Christ?

The God who has shown us his grace and power in the Lord Jesus is determined to bring his life and healing to places where he is not yet known, and he has chosen us to be his agents in bringing his life to a dying world. How might God use you to touch and transform the lives of those who do not yet know him?

Living God, you raised Jesus from the dead and you give life to all who come to you through him. Fill us with your Spirit that you might speak through our words and that your life might shine through our lives. May others come to know your transforming power through our words and actions.

Jun 20 2013 - Acts 13:16-41 – A heart to do God’s will

Paul and Barnabas were invited to speak at the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (not to be confused with the Antioch in Syria which was their sending church). Paul recounted the story of God's dealings with Israel, as Stephen had done in Jerusalem. Though Paul had colluded in Stephen's death, something of Stephen's message seems to have made a lasting impression on him.

It’s easy to make quick judgments about people based on their immediate response to the good news about Jesus. We need to remember that seeds may have been sown that the Spirit of God can protect and nurture and bring to fruit in due course. Don’t give up praying for those to whom you have spoken of Christ.

Paul emphasises that his namesake and fellow Benjaminite, King Saul, was the king the Israelites had asked for. They had not been content for God to lead them through his prophets; they had wanted a king like the other nations around about them, and in Saul this is exactly what they got. By way of contrast, David was the king raised up by God; God had found in David "a man after my own heart who will do all that I want."

David’s heart is disclosed through his many psalms. He had a clear love for the Lord whom he views as his Shepherd, his rock, his stronghold, his joy, his delight, the ground of his hope and the source of his confidence. He had a deep reverence for God’s word and a desire to govern the Israelites in a way that reflected God’s own government of his people.

Nevertheless, David was only mortal. He died and was buried and that was the end of his story. But God raised up from his descendants the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Though he was put to death and buried, God raised him from the dead and has given him David's throne. He is the one who fulfils all that was spoken by the prophets. Full and free forgiveness of sin is given through him in a way that had not been available before and is not available through anyone else.

Paul emphasises that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem rejected Jesus and delivered him over to be crucified. All of this fulfilled what the prophets had written beforehand. Paul urges his listeners not to join those leaders in fulfilling the words of the prophets. They spoke strong words about those who scoff at the remarkable things that God is going to do.

The phrase I found particularly striking this morning was the description of David as one who will do all that God wants of him. Despite this commendation from God, David failed to be all that he should have been – most notably in the incident with Bathsheba. But this description is entirely true of Jesus, one whose whole delight was to do the Father's will – even though it took him to the cross. Jesus could say that he had fully completed the work that the Father had given him to do.

And this should also be the mark of those who follow him. The heart that God found imperfectly in David, a reflection of his own heart, is seen in all its perfection in Jesus Christ. That should be the heart God finds in us – a heart that beats in tune with the Father and longs only to please him.

Father God, give me the heart you found in David. No, rather, give me the heart of Jesus, David's greater son. Give me a heart devoted to doing your will, no matter the cost. May I delight in pleasing you and completing the work you have given me to do.

Peter Misselbrook