1 Kings 19 – Will You Get Back in the Game?

Everyone goes through difficult and draining times…even those seeking God. (John 16:33) Some will recover from those times, while others will not.

In 1 Kings chapter 19, we see Elijah fearfully running. He wants to quit and die.

Was he exhausted after his battle on Mt. Carmel? Did his adrenalin bottom out after all the excitement was over? Was the queen’s threat to kill him the straw that broke the camel’s back?

We don’t know, but we know God sought to refresh him (1 Kings 19:5-8) and refocus him. (1 Kings 19:9, 13) And God didn’t chastise for his discouragement.

The sad thing is, Elijah never really came back from it. After God replenished Elijah physically, He tried to get redirect his focus by asking, “What are you doing here?” But Elijah responded with self-pity. (1 Kings 19:10) So God reminded Elijah to Whom he was talking, (1 Kings 19:11-12) and once again asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:13)

At this make-or-break moment, Elijah could have turned his eyes off himself and back to God. He could have said, “I am here to serve you and bring you glory.” But instead, Elijah repeated the previous self-pitying speech. At that point, Elijah could no longer be the instrument God needed, and God prepared his replacement. (1 Kings 19:16)

We all will go through difficult, disheartening, and discouraging times that will take their toll on us and leave us depleted. And God will be gracious to minister to us.

But then God calls us back into the game by asking, “What are you doing here?” How we answer that question determines whether we get back in the game or are benched. At that moment, we need to realize we’re called to something greater than the cave we’re in.

1 Kings 18 – What Will You Choose?

There are stories that are timeless classics. They have action, intrigue, a good hero, a strong villain, a powerful conclusion, and a timeless message.

1 Kings chapter 18 has such a story. In this story, after years of moral and religious decline, God finally says “Enough!” and He calls for a showdown.

The prophet Elijah presents the challenge. Two offerings: one for the God of Israel and the other for Baal. Two representatives: Elijah versus four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. One objective: the God who answers by setting the offering ablaze is the true God.

The prophets of Baal work feverishly. They shout, they dance, and they even cut themselves. And they do this all day long, but nothing happens.

Finally, Elijah quietly prepares his alter and his sacrifice. Then, he does something unexpected. He saturates everything with water so there is no human way for the offering to be set ablaze. Lastly, he prays a short and simple prayer to God, and God sends a fire that completely disintegrates everything!

That’s a great story!

But the purpose of the story is not that we’re supposed to be doing dramatic acts of faith like Elijah. The purpose is to call people (then and now) to a decision. “How long are you going to waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal is god, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)

And the sad part of the story is that, when Elijah asked the question, the people didn’t respond. They didn’t choose. (1 Kings 18:21) It took something dramatic to get them to choose.

All Scripture and all life call us to this decision. To choose a path. To choose a god. To make a commitment. To follow something or someone.

What have you chosen? Whom will you choose?

1 Kings 17 – If You Loved Me You Wouldn’t…

“If you loved me, you wouldn’t…”

We say this when someone who is supposed to care about us is not responding as we hoped or expected. The underlying message is, “If you loved me, you would keep me from hurt, struggle, and difficult times.”

1 Kings chapter 17 raises this issue. As the chapter begins, God is taking care of Elijah’s needs in the face of a drought and king Ahab’s anger. God gives Elijah a place to hide, a brook from which to drink, and birds that bring him food. But then the brook dries up.

“God, if you loved me, you wouldn’t dry up the brook.”

Then God directs Elijah to a widow in Zarephath who is supposed to feed him. But when he gets there, the widow only has enough for one small meal.

“God, if you loved me, she wouldn’t be running out of food.”

The widow obeys Elijah’s instructions and they wind up with plenty of food. But then, just as everything is going well, the widow’s son dies.

“God, if you loved me, you wouldn’t have allowed him to die.”

Then, God uses Elijah to bring the son back to life…(and the saga continues.)

Why is it, when things are going well, God seems to allow something to mess it up?

I believe these unwelcome events are important and necessary. How would the hero of a story ever gain the trust and loyalty of others if they never faced a villain or threatening situation?

In 1 Kings chapter 17, each time there’s a dead-end, God reveals Himself in a new and powerful way. And each time God meets the new challenge, the people become stronger in their faith and more confident in their God.

The thing that makes us say, “God if You loved me you wouldn’t…,” is the very thing God uses to show His love for us. Because it’s the difficulties that develop our faith and trust.

1 Kings 15-16 – Groundhog Day

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” a self-centered and difficult man relives the same day over and over again. Each day, the same people say the same things. The same songs play at the same time on the radio. And the same people have the same flat tire at the same spot each day. There seems to be no way to stop history from repeating itself.

1 Kings chapters 15-16 feel like Groundhog Day. With each king, the story’s the same. The new king follows in the old king’s idolatry, false worship, pride, and arrogance. Over and over again, the kings change, but the story remains the same.

But, there is one bright spot in these two chapters.

In 1 Kings chapter 15, you read about King Asa. Asa chose to do something different. He broke the mold and followed after God. He obeyed God’s commands, destroying idols and pagan temples. And he led the people back to faithfulness to God. Asa was like the sun breaking through the dark clouds of the times.

We need someone like Asa to stand up and break the cycle of darkness.

Each of us is called to be that someone. It starts by focusing on changing things within us before we try to change around us.

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” the main character eventually escaped repeating the same day over and over again. And he did it by daily making a positive change in himself and learning to focus on others more than himself. Consequently, he woke up one day and things were different.

That’s what Asa did, and that’s what we’re called to do. If you’re tired of living the same story over and over again, then you need to do something different. And you need to start with what’s going on inside of you before you try to change what’s going on around you.

1 Kings 14 – What a Waste!

It happens. You open up your news feed or turn on the news, and you hear about someone with a lot of promise and with everything going for them who threw it all away on bad choices and wrong living. It’s not only sad, it’s mystifying. All you can do is shake your head and think, “What a waste!”

This is the feeling you get from 1 Kings chapter 14. Both Jeroboam and Rehoboam had been given great opportunities. God had given each of them a kingdom and a promise to meet their needs and desires if they would simply follow and obey Him. Yet, they took God’s goodness toward them as a sign they were invincible and they did whatever they wanted.

We can read 1 Kings chapter 14 and say, “What a waste,” but aren’t we prone to demonstrate the same type of behavior?

When things are going well, we tend to let down our guard and become less disciplined and vigilant. We do more of what we want to do and less of what we need to do, acting as if God’s blessings are going to just keep coming…even though our actions are less and less worthy of blessing.

We must remember that every blessing we experience is a gift from God. (James 1:17) We need to realize that we have been bought with the great price of Christ’s life. We should honor and obey God out of gratitude, rather than honor ourselves by doing whatever we want. (1 Cor. 6:20)

Don’t take for granted the blessings of God and your need to gratefully obey His directions. Don’t live your life in such a way that someone might someday look at your life and say, “What a waste!”

1 Kings 13 – Trust the Director, Not the Plot

“Have you ever watched a movie and thought… “Wait a minute? That’s not supposed to happen!”

I feel that way after reading 1 Kings chapter 13. The chapter starts off well. There’s a clear good guy and bad guy. The good guy confronts the bad guy. And the bad guy seems to change his ways, while the good guy seems to win, staying true to his cause.

But then, everything changes. One good guy deceives the other good guy. A good guy walks away from his code of honor and gets killed. And the original bad guy continues to be just as evil as he ever was!

What kind of movie is this?!

Unfortunately, it’s not a movie. It’s real life. We want:

  • Things in life to be clear cut, with a predictable plot.
  • The good guy to always win.
  • The husband and wife to get back together.
  • Children to stay pure and innocent.
  • The cancer to be cured.
  • Hard workers to be rewarded.

And there are times when things work out the way we want. But there are other times when the plot changes and the outcomes just feel wrong.

But know this…the plot does not control the movie. The Writer/Director does. And in the end, it is what He wants that will prevail.

Throughout 1 Kings chapter 13, God is still writing and directing, no matter how twisted the plot may seem to be. (see 1 Kings 13:1,4-5,21-22,24,28,34.)

Even though the plot may appear twisted and unjust at times, the Director still controls the plot. And His plans for us are always good (Jeremiah 29:11). (Note: Jeremiah 29:11 was given to the Jews, even though they had been defeated, deported, and taken as slaves in a strange land for 70 years. How’s that for a twisted plot.)

There is a Writer/Director Who loves us unconditionally. He is in control of the plot, and He will ultimately make things right, in His time. (Proverbs. 3:5)

1 Kings 12 – Are You A Repeat Offender?

Have you ever watched someone do something foolish and said to yourself, “I’m never going to do anything like that,” and then wound up doing something very similar later on? If so, you have a picture of what’s going on in 1 Kings chapter 12.

There, Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, chooses to reject wise counsel and instead do what he wants to do. Because of this tragic and rebellious sin, Rehoboam loses over 90% of his kingdom to Jeroboam.

Now you would think that Jeroboam, having watched Rehoboam lose most of his kingdom through selfish rebellion, would have learned to do things differently. But after God gives most of the kingdom to him, and after God has told him that He will do for him what He did for David, Jeroboam turns away from the God who has given him the kingdom and sets up idols and false gods for worship. He’s a repeat offender.

It makes you want to say, “How can you be so foolish?”

But before we start pointing fingers, how many times have we watched someone suffer the consequences of willful disobedience only to turned around and ignored our own need to obey.

It’s part of our post-fall wiring (Romans 3:23) and none of us are exempt. This is why we need a Savior to pay for our sin and give us a new life that can combat the old life.

Rehoboam. Jeroboam. They all sound alike. They all act alike, and they are all prone to wander off the path of God…just as we are. The question is not, “Will you ever do something like that?” The question is, “When you do, will you turn back to the God of your blessings or continue toward your downfall.

Are you a repeat offender?

1 Kings 11 – A Little Disobedience

There’s no such thing as a little disobedience.

It’s not unusual to find news stories of well-known and successful investors being arrested for illegally cheating their clients out of millions of dollars. Thousands of people have lost their retirement and life savings due to illegal investment schemes by unscrupulous investors.

These investors were successful without their illegal schemes. Even in a down-turned economy, they fared better than most. Yet their desire for even more led to their downfall.

This was the case with Solomon in 1 Kings chapter 11. Solomon had wealth, wisdom, power, and luxury. He was famous and respected throughout the known world. But he wanted even more.

Solomon had a weakness for women. And though he could have had all the Israelite women he wanted for his wives, Solomon wanted foreign women. He wanted women who believed in, and followed after, other gods. God had specifically and clearly told Solomon that such women were “out of bounds.” But Solomon, though he had everything, wanted more and willfully disobeyed God’s instructions. (1 Kings 11:2, 9-10)

This started Solomon and the whole nation of Israel on a downward slide.

It’s so easy for our lives to be like Solomon’s. God has given us so much, yet we still want more. We clearly understand how God wants us to live, yet we willfully do what we want to…often with similar results to Solomon’s.

We consider an act of disobedience such a small thing, then we suffer big consequences. And we find ourselves saying, “I don’t know what happened. Things were going so well!”

God has given us Solomon’s story to warn and teach us. The God who blesses us so richly calls us to follow Him completely. (1 Kings 11:6) There’s no such thing as a little disobedience!

1 Kings 9-10 – A Small Thing to Ask

“It doesn’t get any better than this!” These are the words of someone who feels they’ve reached a high point and can begin to enjoy the fruit of their labor.

That is exactly where Solomon is in 1 Kings chapters 9-10. He has arrived!

  • He’s completed the most magnificent temple and palace in all of history.
  • He has the blessing of God upon his life and his reign.
  • He’s built projects to his heart’s content.
  • He has acquired chariots, horses; fleets of ships; and tons of gold, silver, and jewels.
  • He is the wisest man on the planet, and people all over the known world come to experience his wisdom and wealth.

“It doesn’t get any better than this!”

But, as you read of all this in 1 Kings chapters 9-10, you begin to get uneasy. Much like a piece of music that keeps building and climbing to greater and greater heights, you begin to wonder… “when and how will it all come down?”

The answer to that question is alluded to in 1 Kings 9:6. It’s as if the writer of 1 Kings is dropping a clue as to what will eventually happen in chapter 11 and following.

The sad thing is, it didn’t have to end. We’re told in 1 Kings 9:4 that all Solomon had to do was to continue to follow God with integrity and godliness, keeping His laws and commands. It’s such a small thing to ask, in light of all the benefits Solomon was experiencing.

In light of all that God has done for us…and all He promises to do for us…following His commands is such a small thing to ask. Why would we not do this and forfeit all we’ve received?

1 Kings 8 – Don’t Relax Your Grip!

There are times in life when things are just good. When this happens, it’s easy to kick back, relax, and take it easy.

But chances are, we got to those good times by doing the opposite of kicking back and taking things easy. You see, good times tempt us to relax our grip on the good times we enjoy.

This is what we see in the remainder of the book of 1 Kings. In chapter 8, God’s people are at their highest point. They’re a superpower; mighty in number, resources, and influence. They are experiencing a time of unheard of peace and prosperity, and they are continuing to do the things that got them to that place:

  • Acknowledging they are the benefactors of God’s mercy, grace, and power.
  • Realizing the importance of God’s presence and putting Him in the center of their lives.
  • Proclaiming God’s holiness and confessing their sinfulness.
  • Petitioning God’s mercy and forgiveness for their sin.
  • Asking God to reveal Himself to others through them.
  • Sacrificing what they have to honor God.

These are the actions and attitudes that fostered their peace and prosperity.

But as we’ll see throughout the rest of the book, when we feel we’ve “arrived,” we have a tendency to relax the very actions and attitudes that fostered our peace and prosperity in the first place. It happened with the nation of Israel, I believe it’s happening with the United States of America, and it can happen to us as individuals.

Are you diligent in the things that promote God’s presence and blessing in your life, or have you relaxed your grip on such things?