November 15, 2015

God rules that He might bless His people

1 Kings 20:26–21:29, Mark 12:1–34, Proverbs 5:1–10

Yesterday’s featured loser, Ahab the sinful king of Israel, was again attacked by the Syrians. By God’s design, he’d won the first battle and this time he would win again because it was God’s will. A prophet told him: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ”

The attack came and Israel struck down 100,000 Syrian foot soldiers in one day. The rest fled into a city where a wall fell on 27,000 who were left and their king fled to a hiding place. Ahab won again, but not because he was a godly stagiest. The Lord was in this loser’s victory. (1 Kings 20:28–30)

However, he disobeyed God by letting the Syrian king live and the Lord said, “. . . your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.’ ” Ahab pouted. He had not learned anything about honoring the Lord.

Then he decided to buy another man’s vineyard, but the man refused. So Ahab “lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.” His wife Jezebel told him to quit pouting and “arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” (1 Kings 21:5–7)

She organized a trap, caught the vineyard owner in it and had him stoned to death. Then she told Ahab to take possession of the vineyard. However, God spoke again and again told Ahab: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood . . . . and the dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.” (1 Kings 21:23–24) 
At that, this loser did something right; he repented. God said to His prophet Elijah, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.” (1 Kings 21:27–29)

Solomon also warned losers who ignore His wisdom. He tells His people to guard themselves from the appeal of illicit relationships too. Those who tempt them fail to “ponder the path of life.” They are even ignorant of their wandering ways, but His people must cling to His words and stay away from such people. We are not to “give our honor to others and our years to the merciless” for they will rob us of our strength and the fruit of our labor will go to strangers. (Proverbs 5:6–10)

In Jesus’ day, the merciless religious leaders tried to trap Him with questions like “Should we pay taxes to Rome?” knowing no matter what He said, He would be in peril. But asked for a coin, pointed to the likeness and inscription of Caesar on it, and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” He had the wisdom to avoid the trap set by these tempters.

Those same leaders challenged Jesus about who belonged to whom in heaven with someone who had multiple spouses. He told them their error: they didn’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. Eternal life is not about marriage, but about living forever with the Lord as the angels for He is “not God of the dead, but of the living . . . .” (Mark 12:22–27) Again, His wisdom defeated their attack.

These leaders also tried to trip Jesus with a question about the most important commandment, something they argued over. Jesus wisely answered, “The most important is . . . you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:28–34)

It is possible that this is really one commandment. The way I am to show my love for God is by loving others using all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

This is not like Ahab who loved himself. Even though God was merciful to him in several ways, his own way was more too important to him than God or anyone else.  This is also not like those who lure others into sin, or those who confronted Jesus with trick questions.

However, the issue about the most important command clarifies all questions. My very life is about loving the Lord and demonstrating it by the way I treat others. I do not overlook their sin, nor steal their vineyard, nor want what isn’t mine. I’m not to be greedy or vindictive, or ignorant of God’s Word or His power. I’m never to assume that I can do whatever I want.

Yet these are not a list of rules and duties. Instead, they have powerful and life-giving opposites, light and guidance from the Lord who loves me and wants the very best for me.

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