SOAP Journal – 28 February 2018 (1 Kings 17)

Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”

1 Kings 17:8-9

This chapter opens with Elijah the Tishbite telling Ahab that there is going to be a drought, then heading off to a cave by a brook and staying there as God tells him to. While Elijah is there, he is able to drink from the brook and eat food that is brought by ravens. After a time, the brook dries up and God tells Elijah to go to Sidon and stay with a widow there. Elijah does.

This widow sees two miraculous things happen in her home.

First, she meets Elijah while getting ready to prepare her last meal — that is not the miracle, even though meeting the right person at the right moment involves God orchestrating things. All the food had run out and she was getting ready to make a bit of bread for her son and herself so they could have one last meal before they starve to death (vv. 10-12). Elijah tells her to make him some food first and then make her last meal. She, to her credit, does what he tells her and the bit of flour and oil she had lasted for years (vv. 13-16).

Second, she sees her son resurrected from the dead (vv. 17-24). Her son falls ill and dies and she brings it to Elijah’s attention in a rather harsh way — she accuses him of staying with her to bring her sin to remembrance. Elijah takes the boy and prays over him three times and the boy comes back to life.  It is after this that the woman says “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth” (v. 24). She overlooks the fact that Elijah told her that her flour and oil would last while he stayed with her and it had still not run out after a long while. She does not believe that Elijah is a man of God until she receives her son back from the dead.

Both Elijah and the widow have application for me.

Elijah holds application in that he is no one special when he shows up on the scene. He is Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead. And that means next to nothing. He becomes, by his actions and his faith in God, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament. As Elijah did, so , too, can I do. I can also be a person of no importance and be used mightily by God. I may not mouth off to rulers and declare droughts or bring back the dead, but I can most certainly speak the Word of God.

The widow holds application in that she saw, but did not believe. I, too, have seen God do miraculous things. These should strengthen my belief. If they do not, then I need to consider whether I am holding God to an impossible standard. Do I require Him to raise the dead in order to believe? He has already raised my soul from death to life. That is where my salvation began.

Let me know that God can do mighty things through even me. And let me believe without requiring God to do more and more miraculous things. A wicked and perverse generation looks for a sign. Let me not be of that generation, but believe.

Father, thank You for Elijah’s lack of pedigree. Thank You that he is just a man like any other. Please remind me that You use men — just ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

SOAP Journal – 26 February 2018 (1 Kings 16:29-34)

Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.

1 Kings 16:30

After a string of downright evil kings who conspired against and murdered one another and wiped out entire family lines, the northern kingdom sees Ahab take the throne. Rather than being a pleasant reprieve from the string of evil, Ahab is worse than all of those who came before him. And The Bible gives reasons why.

The first reason given is that he married Jezebel, who was a Sidonian. At this point, I am already peering at the text, because both David — a man after God’s own heart — and Solomon — the wisest man ever — married women who were not Israelites. Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, was a Hittite. There was a difference, though. David married Bathsheba, who had thrown in her lot with the Israelites. If she was not worshiping the LORD, she was not trying to stop David from doing so. Solomon’s wives, though, led him to wander from the LORD. Ahab, by contrast, is not led astray but went to serve Baal and worshiped him (v. 31). Ahab may very well have sought out a wife whose views were in keeping with his own.

The second reason given is that Ahab went to serve Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made the Asherah. The religious system of the northern kings had been an attempt to worship the LORD on their terms. While still wrong, it was not the complete abandon of the LORD that Ahab perpetrated. Ahab did not even go so far as to pay lip service to the LORD, but walked away.

Ahab serves as a warning on multiple levels.

First, he reminds me to seek out close associates who will encourage me to walk with the LORD and be faithful to Him. Bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33) and I, like all people, have the tendency to seek out the kind of company that will affirm whatever morality I want to have. Let me seek out those who will affirm the morality that is of the LORD.

Second, let me be faithful to the LORD. He has been faithful to me and I ought to reciprocate.

Father, thank You for the warning that Ahab represents. It is too simple a thing to seek out close associates that will affirm whatever morality I want to have and will gladly help me walk away from You. Please bring into my life those who will seek You and encourage me to do likewise. Please make me such a person to others — one who encourages them to seek You and to spur them on to know You better.

SOAP Journal – 23 February 2018 (1 Kings 16:8-28)

For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and in his sins which he made Israel sin, provoking the LORD God of Israel with their idols.

1 Kings 16:26

This passage summarizes the reign of three kings: Elah, Zimri, and Omri. None of them is a Godly king. None of them distinguishes himself in a positive way. In fact, this morning’s verse works as a summary for all of these men.

Elah is the son of Baasha, so his reign was already under a cloud. But the only view of him we are given is of him at Tirzah drinking himself drunk (v. 9). During this bout of drunkenness, Zimri kills Elah. From there, Zimri kills all the descendants of Baasha and so God’s prophecy is fulfilled.

But Zimri does not get to rule for long. There is no prophecy that establishes his lineage or dooms it. Within seven days (v. 15), the people decided they had had enough of conspirators sitting on the throne, so they chose Omri to rule over them.

Omri brings the people back from a battle to Tirzah, where Zimri is, and Zimri hears about it. He decides that he is not going to be taken alive, so burns the king’s house down around himself and dies there (vv. 15-20).

There is a brief disagreement over whether Omri or this other man named Tibni should rule , but the supporters of Omri won out (vv. 21-24). Omri — no surprise to anyone reading this account of the northern kings — turns out to be idolatrous and to lead the people still further from worshiping the LORD.

Each of these men represents a life wasted. Their lives include no good thing that was worthy of note. They were drunkards and conspirators and murderers and idolaters. They were ungodly. And that is the sum total of their lives: ungodliness.

This is a challenge to examine my life and ask how I will be remembered. Is there Godliness in my life? Am I doing things that please God and are more noteworthy than the things I do that displease Him? My works will not gain me entrance into Heaven, but they are the legacy I leave behind me.

Father, thank You for this reminder that ungodliness is remembered as much as Godliness and that what I do in life is the legacy I leave behind me. Please make me like You, that the legacy I leave may be one worthy of You.

SOAP Journal – 22 February 2018 (1 Kings 15:25-16:7)

“Inasmuch as I exalted you from the dust and made you leader over My people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made My people Israel sin, provoking Me to anger with their sins, behold, I will consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.”

1 Kings 16:2-3

In chapter 15, Nadab the son of Jeroboam became king over Israel (15:25). There were two things working against this: the conspiracy of Baasha and a prophecy handed down by God to Jeroboam regarding his lineage. Baasha conspires against Nadab and kills him and as soon as [Baasha] was king, he struck down all the household of Jeroboam. He did not leave to Jeroboam any persons alive, until he had destroyed them, according to the word of the LORD, which He spoke by His servant Ahijah the Shilonite (15:29). So the lineage of Jeroboam ends.

But Baasha, instead of learning from the mistakes of Jeroboam, Baasha did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel sin (15:34). So God sends a prophet to have a chat with Baasha (16:1-4). The substance of that chat is that Baasha’s lineage will end in much the same way that Jeroboam’s did. Since Baasha had gotten his hands dirty with the blood of Jeroboam’s household, he probably had a graphic idea of what was going to happen to him and his.

While all of this is a rough way to start my morning, I need to stop and ask what this has to do with me and how I can apply it.

First, there is the issue of these kings doing what is evil in the sight of God. If I am doing the wrong thing, I should expect the consequences of wrongdoing. Plain and simple. Jeroboam led Israel into idolatry. He did not sin alone, but brought others along with him. This is a frequently-overlooked aspect of sin: we almost never sin alone. It is not that anyone else necessarily committed the sin with me, though they may have, but the fallout from my wrongs will impact others. Jeroboam sinned and his whole family line suffered the consequences. Lest anyone think God is unjust, Jeroboam’s descendants had sins of their own for which to account — and God knew that they would. And it is these same sins that Baasha commits when he takes the throne of Israel. Wrongdoing has consequences.

Second, both of these men acted to bring about God’s plan in ways that God does not condone. Jeroboam tried to cement his hold on the northern kingdom by introducing a form of worship that God had not ordained. This idolatry was unnecessary. God had promised the kingdom to Jeroboam. All that Jeroboam had to do was follow God and rule wisely and he might have had a dynasty. Instead, his son was murdered for the throne. Baasha conspired against Nadab, Jeroboam’s son, and wiped out Jeroboam’s descendants. That was unnecessary. God is completely able to wipe people out without human intervention. And God had not commanded anyone to do anything to Jeroboam’s family line. To compound his wrongs, Baasha leaves the idolatry in place. I need to let God accomplish His will in His way and on His schedule. This will not always be easy for me — it is frequently difficult — but it is the best way to accomplish God’s will and the only way of doing so that God can condone and bless.

Father, thank You for these accounts that are here for my instruction. Thank You that I can choose to learn from the mistakes these men made. Please teach my heart that wrongdoing has consequences and that Your will is best accomplished Your way and in Your time. I often get impatient and want to do things in the ways that seem right to me. Please remind me of these men and what happens when I get ahead of You and try to do things in the wrong way.

SOAP Journal – 21 February 2018 (1 Kings 15:8-24)

Asa did what was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father.

1 Kings 8:11

Asa, the son of Abijam, takes the throne of Judah after his father’s death. Asa’s reign lasts 41 years and is marked by him doing what was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father. Asa dismantled the systems of idol worship and generally turned the hearts of the people back to God. Asa was not perfect. He acted shrewdly when confronted with the enmity of Baasha, king of Israel, by buying a treaty with the king of Aram and convincing that king to attack Baasha instead of Judah. It is a good military strategy, but it shows a lack of trust in God’s ability to deliver.

Asa and all of the good kings of Judah act as reminders that I may live a life that is noted for my faithfulness to God without anyone being under the illusion that I am perfect. And this removes a heavy burden from me. I need not try to appear perfect, I need only walk with God in integrity and God will take care of how people perceive me while I live and remember me when I am gone.

Asa leaves me with two takeaways.

First, I need to trust God’s ability to deliver me from my adversaries. On a daily basis, my adversaries are generally the sins that entangle me. And I need to trust that God is able to deliver to the uttermost. He is able to deliver me so completely from any sin that the temptation to it is a minor annoyance in my day. Not all deliverance happens in a moment. Sometimes, God does things slowly and steadily. Jericho fell in a moment, but the Promised Land itself was delivered slowly because the Israelites were not numerous enough to inhabit all of the land. God may not drive out all of my enemies until I am ready to take possession of the place they once inhabited. So, that sin of anger that God overthrew in my youth was cast out because I was ready to take possession of that mental and emotional real estate. The sins with which I still struggle are, I suspect, mental and emotional real estate that I am not yet ready to possess. I may need to mature or simply realize that it is mine for the asking. No matter what, I need to trust that God is able to deliver me.

Second, my greatest need is to walk in integrity with my God. I need to follow God with my whole heart. Verse 14 tells me that the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the LORD all his days. That is a testimony I want to be true of my life as well. Asa was not perfect, as already discussed, but he walked with God wholeheartedly.

Father, thank You for Asa and the good kings of Judah who remind me of how to walk with You faithfully. Thank You that none of them is perfect, but all are remembered, like Asa, as men who were wholly devoted to the LORD and did what was right in the sight of the LORD. Please work in me so that I walk with You in such a way as is remembered in those same terms.

SOAP Journal – 20 February 2018 (1 Kings 15:1-7)

Now the rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam.

1 Kings 15:7

The summary of Abijam’s life is brief. The passage tells me that Abijam reigned three years and walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him. That is a short and shameful résumé. But Abijam serves as a reminder — as do several of the kings recorded in The Bible — that power and position do not equate to greatness. Certainly, power and position put a person in a place wherein they might do great good, but the kings of Israel and several of the kings of Judah serve as an illustration that the opposite can also be true.

Which will I decide is true of me? All of the kings had choices set before them. Abijam walked in all the sins of his father, but he could have chosen to walk in the ways of the LORD as his son and grandson do after him. What will I choose?

Father, thank You for this reminder that power and position only increase the potential impact of one’s choices and actions. Thank You, also, for the reminder that I have a choice in the matter of how I am remembered. Please strengthen me to choose Your way and to walk in Your way that I might be recorded as a man after Your heart when Your books are opened.

SOAP Journal – 08 February 2018 (1 Kings 14)

All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he alone of Jeroboam’s [family] will come to the grave, because in him something good was found toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.

1 Kings 14:13

1 Kings 14 is the end of two kings and the beginning of the descent into progressively worse kings of the divided nation.

Jeroboam in the northern kingdom dies and the only member of his household that is buried and mourned is the son mentioned in verse 13. In fact, God says of that son that he is the only one in Jeroboam’s entire  household in whom something good was found toward the LORD God of Israel. Harsh words. Especially when Jeroboam had sent his wife to ask Ahijah the prophet about what would happen. Essentially, Jeroboam was a believer only in the moment of crisis. Faced with the imminent death of a loved one, he turns to God. The rest of his life is given over to doing what he thinks is right and worshiping idols.

Rehoboam does not fare much better. He, at best, allows Judah to go astray from worshiping the LORD. At worst, he encourages it. There is nothing good mentioned about him, no son or daughter that was found to be holy. His grandson, Asa, is listed as one of the good kings of Judah, but he does not show up until chapter 15. Rehoboam starts his reign by taking bad advice from the men his own age and never seems to recover.

Both kings supply a harsh message about how God looks at things.

Rehoboam is not recorded as having forsaken God, but he is also not recorded as having done anything to turn Judah back to the LORD. He is a milquetoast believer, going into the house of the LORD and going through the motions while the nation he was made ruler over forsook God.

Jeroboam actively leads Israel astray, making idols and establishing systems of state-approved worship that are not acceptable to God. The only time he looks for God’s counsel is when tragedy strikes. He is a crisis believer, seeking God out only when he has no other avenue available to him.

Both kings are rejected by God. Both kings are recorded in an unfavorable light.

I must examine myself. Am I a milquetoast believer; a Sunday Christian who shows up to God’s house and acts holy while I am there, then lives however it pleases me the rest of the week? Am I a crisis Christian, coming to God only in times of necessity and only after I have exhausted every other avenue available to me? These are both wrong; both rejected by God.

God, please search me and fathom the depths of me. Please reveal the areas in which I am not submitting and strengthen me to submit to You in those areas. Please do not let me go through my life as a Sunday Christian or a crisis believer and think that this is acceptable to You. Please work in me to live out my faith each and every day.

SOAP Journal – 07 February 2018 (1 Kings 13)

Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you … your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’”

1 Kings 13:20-22

1 Kings 13 is all about obedience. Jeroboam built altars and set up high places and started a system of worship that was not the one that God had ordained. This disobedience led to God sending a prophet from Judah to let Jeroboam know that the false worship would not stand. The prophet had been given instructions to go straight to where Jeroboam was and go straight home, not taking the same route in either direction — not even stopping for a cup of water along the way. Neither man was obedient. And each man’s disobedience came at a cost.

Jeroboam’s disobedience cost him the chance at a lasting dynasty on the throne of the northern kingdom. God had promised Jeroboam that his family line would be established as kings in the north if only he and his sons would be obedient. They were not.

The prophet’s disobedience cost him his life and any chance of being buried with his family. The whole concept of being buried in the family tomb was kind of a big deal and to be placed in another location just was not desirable.

It all comes back to obedience. Obedience establishes families in God’s promises. Obedience honors my God. Obedience is what God wants from me. As Samuel said, To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).

Father, thank You for this reminder that obedience is what You want from me. You do not want me to sacrifice or anything more or less than to obey Your command and pay attention when You speak to me. Please give me ears that hear Your voice and a will that responds in obedience.

SOAP Journal – 06 February 2018 (1 Kings 12:25-33)

Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, [even] to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”

1 Kings 12:26-27

The Kingdom of Israel is split, with Jeroboam ruling the northern tribes and Rehoboam ruling Judah. Jeroboam sees a problem in this arrangement, though. He realizes that the temple is in Jerusalem and that is in the territory of Judah. This worries him and he comes to the conclusion contained in this morning’s verses: the kingdom will return to the house of David if this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem. If the people go to Jerusalem to worship God, then they will return to being the subjects of the house and line of David. Here is the problem with his line of thinking: God promised him a throne if he would be faithful as David had been faithful (1 Kings 11:26-40). All that Jeroboam had to do to establish his dynasty over the northern tribes was to be faithful to God. Instead, Jeroboam leans on his own understanding and his own wisdom and establishes idolatry as the official practice in the north. Things just go downhill for the northern kingdom from this point forward.

It is interesting to note that Jeroboam had nothing to worry about. God had promised to establish his kingdom if he and his descendants would be faithful and he was witness to how a similar promise was playing out in the lives of David’s descendants. Solomon had tried to kill Jeroboam, but to no avail. I am certain that Jeroboam thought he had escaped by his own wits and cunning, but Solomon was at peace with almost all of the neighboring countries. I am certain that most of them would have been pleased to extradite Jeroboam (or what was left of him) to their ally.

How often do I see the promises of God and think that I have to add something to them in order for them to work out? We do it all the time in regard to our salvation. We think that we have to add something to the mix in order to be saved. And it simply is not so. I have nothing to add. Let me, instead, take God at His Word. If He has promised something, let me accept the promise exactly as God has spoken it and not try to work it into some framework of my own making. I will only mess it up.

Father, thank You for Your promises that, like the promise You made to Jeroboam, sound too good and too simple. Thank You that Your promises are exactly as You speak them. I have nothing more or less to do with regard to those promises than what You have said. Please teach me to take You at Your Word. Not one syllable more or less.

SOAP Journal – 02 February 2018 (1 Kings 12:16-24)

‘Thus says the LORD, “You must not go up and fight against your brothers the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.”’ So they listened to the word of the LORD, and returned and went [their way] according to the word of the LORD.

1 Kings 16:24

After Rehoboam decides not to listen to the elders who served his father, the kingdom of Israel is split. Rehoboam gets the army together and prepares to go to war, like many kings who have seen the majority of their kingdom rebel against them would and have. But God intervenes. God sends word to Shemaiah and tells him to speak to King Rehoboam and the army. This morning’s verse is the message that Shemaiah was given.

Sometimes, what I think of as a Bad Thing is actually just God fulfilling His promises and making good on the things He has said; the consequence of sin and trying to do anything to change the consequence would be compounding that sin. The sin, in Rehoboam’s case, was not his own, but Solomon’s. Solomon had forsaken worship of God and worshiped other gods. When Rehoboam was faced with the choice to rebel against God and fight the tribes that no longer subjected themselves to him or to subject himself to God and let things be, Rehoboam made the right choice. He subjected himself to God.

This breaks down into two pieces of application for me. First, I need to examine what is happening and see it as God sees it. This will require reading my Bible and prayer in order to get to know the mind of God. I can rest assured that He wants me to know how He sees things and what He wants me to do about them. Second, no matter who is at fault for the thing happening — Rehoboam was dealing with a rebellion brought on by his father’s unfaithfulness and his own poor choices in governing — I can still choose to submit myself to God and what He tells me to do. Obedience is always an option. And it is always the best option.

Thank You, Father, that You want me to see things as You see them and give me ways to learn that. Please give me eyes to see and ears to hear Your mind and heart in all things. Please give me a heart that is ready and willing to submit itself to You and Your will.