Day 99 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue First Kings and Psalms.
1 Kings 17 – From the end of chapter 11 all the way to the end of chapter 16, the author has been tracking the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. Destruction and exile were coming, but first God would send the prophets Elijah and Elisha to prepare the people for their grim future. Because of Israel’s sin and the Lord’s just anger, you might expect a prophet like Elijah to cast shadows of dark gloom and despair, but this is not the case.
From this first account of Elijah we learn two things about how God will treat His people in exile. First, God will always provide for His people, even by extraordinary means—with ravens or poor widows from foreign countries. Second, exile is not the final word when it comes to the Lord’s dealings with His people. As the resurrection of the widow’s son demonstrates, God is able to fully restore His people, even by supernatural feats of resurrection (Ezekiel 37).
The hope represented by Elijah is also applicable to the Christian life. We live in exile on this earth as aliens and sojourners (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11), but the Lord is able to provide for our every need (Matthew 6:25–34; 1 Timothy 6:17), even in miraculous ways.
How, like Israel, do we share in the hope of restoration through resurrection, when our covenant Lord will make all things new? Hint: Romans 6:5; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 42; Philippians 3:10–11.
Even in the dark hours of Israel’s sin, the Lord was compelled to give hope. How much more should we be encouraged by these same realities in our own day of greater light, living on this side of Jesus’ first coming.
1 Kings 18 – The competition between Elijah and the prophets of Baal was certainly dramatic: a single prophet of Yahweh versus 450 prophets of Baal. It hardly seemed fair, and the consolation prize for the losing side was death! But all of this drama had a purpose, and that purpose was to produce repentance and to change the hearts of God’s people, in order “that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
Elijah set the stage with a question: “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people responded with silence. It appears that their concerns related to the famine, and their persistence in idolatry had hardened their hearts to the reality that Yahweh alone was God. As such, this competition between Elijah and the prophets of Baal was motivated by the Lord’s desire to make Himself known as the God of Israel, the only true God, and this is exactly what transpired: “When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.’”
One of the remarkable features of this narrative is the fact that the Lord changed the hearts of His people by answering Elijah’s prayer and demonstrating His incredible power. We are reminded that God’s good news, whether in the Old or New Testament, constitutes a proclamation of His mighty deeds in real time and space. This is one reason why so much of the Bible consists of a narrative history. Over and over again, our covenant God is demonstrating to His people that He alone is the only true God. As such, He is to be trusted, turned to, and obeyed. As these events were intended to bring spiritual change to God’s people in the days of Elijah, so the record of these events in Scripture is intended to have the same effect on us—to change our hearts and move us to authentic repentance.
How does this story move you towards God?
1 Kings 19 – After the events recorded in chapters 17 and 18, it is hard to believe that Elijah should despair of his life and make a statement like, “I am no better than my fathers.” In fact, Elijah twice states his zeal for the Lord and laments that there appears to be none like him who have remained faithful. So what was happening here? Was Elijah wrongfully conflicted? Not at all.
We must first recall that Elijah had spent the last three years of his life swimming in the miracles of the Lord: fed by ravens, provided for by a poor widow, seeing the dead raised, and the cessation of rain by his word, and then the dramatic events with the prophets of Baal. These encounters with God’s majesty had a profound impact on Elijah. Even as a faithful prophet, he recognized the great divide between himself and his covenant Lord to such a degree that he could only identify with the sinfulness of his fathers. In other words, the power and grace of God displayed in his own life had produced true and genuine humility.
How do we see this same humility in the apostle Paul after his encounter with Jesus in Acts 9? Hint: 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:9.
As Believers, how do we recognize the importance of humility in living the Christian life? Hint: James 4:6, 10; 1 Peter 3:8; 5:5–6.
We must remember that true humility is always the product of our encounter with God’s majesty and grace. Real humility is never something we can create on our own. This is good news! For not only do we have the record of God’s majesty in the days of Elijah, but we have a Bible filled to the brim with events of this kind. Each one is recorded for us to experience over and over again by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you need humility? Dare to study God’s Word to experience the majesty of His power and grace!
Psalm 99 – God’s holiness means He is superior to all other creatures in his being and sovereignty, but that holiness brings redemptive benefits to true worshipers. His enthronement “upon the cherubim” means mercy for those who trust Him for salvation. With a reference to the mercy seat, which rested just under the wings of angels atop the ark of the covenant, the psalmist reminds the singer of that place where blood made yearly atonement for lawbreakers (Leviticus 16:15–16; Luke 18:13; 1 Corinthians 11:25).
Furthermore, God’s holy reign extends to His “footstool,” the earth (Isaiah 66:1). Thus God is not only transcendent but also present and active in His world, as symbolized by the pillar of cloud that guided Israel in the wilderness and descended in glory upon the temple at its dedication (1 Kings 8:10–13; 1 Corinthians 10:1–4). And believers can be glad that God is actively present, because with might He executes loving justice (1 Kings 10:9; Luke 11:42).
Prayer is the major means through which God executes His decrees on earth. So the psalmist provides examples of men who received exceptional answers to their petitions. Each example prepares us to understand the mediating work of Jesus. God granted the revelation of His glory to Moses, who would intercede for the people (Exodus 33:12–23; 34:6–7; Hebrews 9:24). Aaron saved the Israelites by mediation (Numbers 16:41–50; 1 Timothy 2:5). And Samuel prayed down terror on the Philistines (1 Samuel 7; Revelation 6:10).
How does a holy God answer the prayers of sinful men? Hint: Hebrews 12:22–24.
This atonement finds ultimate expression in the final Mediator, Jesus Himself, who reconciles God to humanity with His own blood.
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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