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Series Theme:   Walking with God Meditations

Part No. TWO

Meditation Title: Overview

  

Part ONE

 

 

Prologue

1

Gen 3:8

In the Cool of the Evening

2

Gen 5:22,23

Daily Walking

3

Gen 16:7,8

Running Away

4

Gen 21:14

Wandering in the Desert

5

Gen 18:16

Walking in God's Classroom

6

Gen 22:6

The Walk of Death

7

Gen 37:15

Wandering before Upheaval

8

Ex 3:3

The Walk of Investigation

9

Ex 19:3

The Walk of Separation

10

Josh 1:3

The Walk of Ownership

11

Josh 5:13 ,14

The Walk of Assessment

12

Josh 6:15

The Walk of Victory

13

Ruth 1:1,2

Walking into Oblivion

14

1 Sam 1:2

The Walk of Heart-Ache

15

1 Sam 3:6

The Walk of Response to God

16

1 Sam 14:6

The Walk of Adventure

17

1 Sam 16:7

The Walk of Disclosure

18

1 Sam 17:45

The Walk of Confidence

19

1 Sam 20:1

The Walk of Confusion

20

1 Sam 24:4-6

The Walk of Rebellion

   

Part TWO

1

1 Sam 28:8

The Walk of Rebellion (2)

2

2 Sam 6:7

The Walk of Carelessness

3

2 Sam 6:14,15

The Walk of Joy

4

2 Sam 12:7

The Walk of Rebuke

5

2 Sam 18:33

The Walk of Grief

6

2 Sam 24:11,12

The Walk of Judgement

7

1 Kings 3:3

The Walk of Imperfection

8

1 Kings 3:14

Walking in the Ways of God

9

1 Kings 9:4

Walking in Integrity of Heart

10

1 Kings 10:1

The Walk of Investigation (2)

11

1 Kings 11:1

The Walk of Folly

12

1 Kings 11:38

The Walk of Potential

13

1 Kings 12:28 ,29

The Walk of Imitation

14

1 Kings 14:27 ,28

The Walk of Shame

15

1 Kings 15:26

Walking in the Sins of the Past

16

1 Kings 17:6

Walking in Unusual Provision

17

1 Kings 17:15 ,16

Walking in Miraculous Provision

18

1 Kings 18:43

The Walk of Anticipation

19

1 Kings 19:3,4

The Walk of Despair

20

Ezra 1:5

The Walk to Restoration

   

Part THREE

1

Neh 2:11,12

The Walk of Assessment (2)

2

Psa 23:4

The Walk in the valley of the shadow of death

3

Esther 4:12-14

The Walk of Faith Provocation

4

Esther 5:2

The Walk of Wisdom

5

Isa 30:21

The Walk of Security

6

Isa 35:8

Walking in the Way of Holiness

7

Isa 40:31

Walking without Fainting

8

Jer 6:16

Walking in the Ancient Ways

9

Dan 1:3

Walking into Triumphant Slavery

10

Dan 4:37

Walking in Humility

11

Matt 9:5,6

Walking Freed & Forgiven

12

Matt 14:29

Walking on Water

13

Lk 24:15

The Walk of Communion

14

2 Cor 6:16

Walking with God in the Midst

15

Col 3:7-10

Walking Renewed

16

1 Jn 1:7

Walking in the Light

17

1 Jn 2:6

Walking as Jesus did

18

2 Jn 1:6

Walking in Obedience

19

2 Jn 1:6

Walking in Love

20

3 Jn 1:3

Walking in the Truth

         

 

 

 

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Series Theme:   Walking with God Meditations

Meditation No. 1

Meditation Title: Walk of Rebellion (2)

        

1 Sam 28:8 So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. "Consult a spirit for me," he said, "and bring up for me the one I name."

 

The story of Saul and David is a story of contrasts. Saul is a man head and shoulders taller than most (1 Sam 10:23), a man who ‘looked' the part. David was a man after God's own heart (1 Sam 13:14 ). Saul was a ‘head' man, David was a ‘heart' man. When it came to difficulties David sought the Lord (1 Sam 23:10-12). When Saul got into difficulties he reasoned what should be done and ended up taking the role of a priest (1 Sam 13:9-13) and was rebuked for it, only referred to the Lord as a second thought (1 Sam 14:36), makes a bad judgement (1 Sam 14:44,45), and was only partially obedient against the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:9-19). No wonder he was rejected by God.

 

We are now some time on and Samuel has passed away and Saul is left without any counsellor. Once again the Philistines gather to come against Israel (v.4) and Saul is afraid. He enquires of the Lord but the Lord is silent, because He has rejected Saul and Saul has not the sense to stand down. More than that he has not the sense to call for a time of national repentance which he should lead and seek God's mercy. That would have been the right course of action. Instead Saul thinks, what other way is there of getting guidance? I have no counsellor, God is silent, what about the spiritists? Ah, under Samuel I got rid of them from the land – yet there is one at Endor I'm told.

 

Now the Law of Moses expressly stated, “Do not practice divination or sorcery” (Lev 19:26) and “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead(Deut 18:10,11). Occult means ‘hidden powers' and all of these sorts of things were hidden powers that excluded God and were thus clearly forbidden by God. There is no question in Scripture that spiritism or spiritualism (whichever you prefer to call it) is forbidden by God, but here we find Saul contemplating this very thing.

 

Now we don't need to go into the detail of what followed; we are more concerned with Saul's walk of rebellion against the will of God as decreed in the word of God. Later on king Manasseh's activities were described : “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger (2 Chron 33:6) His occult activity provoked God to anger. God IS angry with occult activity because such activity is a) demonic, b) deceptive and not truthful, and c) denying God. It was in the ensuing battle with the Philistines that Saul died. The record in Chronicles reads: “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse (1 Chron 10:13,14) What a statement of condemnation and this episode of going to a medium is seen as a key factor in his death which was the judgement of God on him.

 

The warning is therefore very clear to us today. Whatever the reason, we may never consult mediums. It is a walk of outright rebellion and rejection of God. If God is silent, seek Him more. Isaiah was later to ask, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God?” (Isa 8:19) The Biblical message is quite clear. For the people of God who need guidance, God and NOT mediums is to be their source. It is an interesting point of note that those who have consulted mediums find it more difficult to come to God. Why? Because they have been tainted by the demonic unseen powers and darkness makes it harder for them to receive the light. If you have consulted mediums in the past, seek God's face in sincere repentance and ask Him to cut you off from any lingering influence that activity may have left in you. This is one of those times when John's words are particularly important, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). We need purifying from such occult darkness. If you have never been down that path, don't ever be tempted to go down the path of rebellion. Stay clear, stay clean.

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 2

Meditation Title: Walk of Carelessness

         

2 Sam 6:7 The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

 

There are some passages of Scripture that make you gulp, and this is one of them, especially when you consider how we sometimes think about our ‘worship services' today. We need to get the full picture of what was happening here to appreciate this. The ark of God was a box covered in gold which had resided in the innermost part of the tabernacle. Originally it had housed the Ten Commandments and Aaron's rod that had budded. It was in the innermost place where the presence of God was said to reside and God's glory hovered above it. It thus came to be associated with the presence of God. In the time of Eli and Samuel it had been taken foolishly by the Israelites into battle, almost as a good luck charm, and had been captured by the Philistines. There followed a time of misfortune for whichever Philistines looked after it until it was eventually sent back to Israel . Thus the Lord conveyed a sense that it was holy and not to be messed about with. In the wilderness wanderings it had only been allowed to be carried by the Levites. When it had been brought back from the Philistines it was put in the Tabernacle which had been set up at Shiloh and there it remained until the time of King David who had made Jerusalem the capital city of Israel .

 

Thus we come to chapter 6 of 2 Samuel when David decides to take the ark to Jerusalem . They put it on a new cart pulled by two oxen and with a large fighting force and a big band, they set off for Jerusalem with great celebrations. In fact we read, “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals.” (v.5). This was one serious celebration! The only trouble was the Lord spoilt it!   At one point in the journey to Jerusalem , the oxen stumbled and the ark looked like it would slide off the cart. To stop this happening one of the attendants, Uzzah, reached out to push it back on. Instantly he was struck dead. Suddenly the celebrations stopped. David's initial reaction was one of anger. Why should the Lord do this? There were, after all, celebrating with all their might and he had had a good heart in his intention to bring the ark to Jerusalem , so why has God gone this? But as he thought about it his anger gave way to fear, as he began to realize that he was dealing with a holy God. This had in fact been a walk of carelessness. Later, as he thought about it, he realised that God had said the ark should only be carried by Levites, and he hadn't bothered with that. The ark should have been given reverence but he hadn't done that. He had in fact, been careless about how he dealt with things pertaining to the Lord, and that left him in fear. How could he ever bring the ark to Jerusalem ?

 

The ark had been left at the nearby home of one of the Israelites and God blessed that household. When David realised that the ark brought blessing he realised that God would in fact bless him if he handled it right. Thus we find that when David tried again to bring it to Jerusalem , he had it carried as it should have been and as they carried it, they sacrificed offerings to the Lord all along the way. In this way they showed their reverence for the Lord and in this way they came safely to Jerusalem .

 

Now the question must arise, how do we do things pertaining to the Lord? How do we come together, how do we pray, how do we worship? Because God is described in the New Testament by Jesus as our Father, and even daddy, we sometimes perhaps treat God as our best friend and lose something of His holiness and majesty. Do we come casually and with little preparation? Are we careless and thoughtless about how we approach the Lord? When the apostle Paul was talking to the Corinthian church about the Lord's Supper (see 1 Cor 11) he chided them for the careless way they were coming to Communion (v.21) and pointed out to them that as a result many among them were weak and sick and some had even died! (v.30). Now I wonder how often you have heard that preached? Some in the New Testament church were dying because of the way they were treating the Lord's Supper! That raises a further question: are there people ill or dying in our congregations because they are casual about how they treat God? This is a serious question. Both the Old and New Testament testify to this fact, that God deals with unrighteous and ungodly attitudes in respect of things we should consider holy. As we said at the beginning, these are passages that make one gulp. Don't be careless with God! Realise again, that we only come into the Lord's presence without being destroyed, because of what Jesus achieved on the Cross at Calvary . Remember that.

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 3

Meditation Title: Walk of Joy

      

2 Sam 6:14,15 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

 

Now you may be surprised when you see today's verse because it seems such a close follow on to yesterday's meditation – and it is! Because it is such a close follow on, it has special significance. Yesterday we saw David's walk of carelessness as he walked alongside the cart carrying the ark of God, while singing his heart out, accompanied by all the musicians. Today's walk is in fact a dance, a very different sort of walk. So what has changed? Well we hinted at it briefly yesterday.

 

The walk of carelessness ended in a death. That upset David and he left the ark at a nearby home and disbanded the party and went home. There the ark remained for three months and we read, “The ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months, and the LORD blessed him and his entire household.” (v.11) This was not the sign of an angry God. This was the sign of a God who desires to bless those who will respond well to Him. As David thought about this, and no doubt sought counsel of others, he realized that it should have been the Levites who should have carried the ark, lifting it up and reverencing this box that so often signaled the presence of God. He also realized that there was a whole sacrificial system that had been provided by God for Israel whereby they could do something that indicated their state before God, whether it was penitence as they came and confessed their sins, or simply reverent love as they came to fellowship with God. Yes, the sacrificial system allowed them to express what they felt to God in a prescribed manner. Doing it in that manner was an indication of their obedient, submissive hearts.

 

Thus David began to realize that he could actually take the ark to Jerusalem without being struck down. So they had the Levites carry the ark and others offer sacrifices along the way. More than that, David put off his kingly robes and put on the garments of a priest, a linen ephod, a light shirt, as a sign of his humility. This was no great king bringing in the ark; this was a humble worshipper. As the procession got under way and the music played, David caught a sense of the rightness of what they were now doing, and of the approval of the Lord, and he was filled with joy so that he danced with all his might as an expression of that joy.

 

Do you see what has happened? The walk of carelessness leading to death has been transformed into a walk of joy-filled obedience. Now in Acts 5 we find Peter referring to, “the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him (v.32). We also find Paul teaching, “ where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom .” (3 Cor 3:17 ). The simple lesson? It is that when we are obedient to what God has said, God blesses us with His presence, the presence of His Holy Spirit, and where the Holy Spirit expresses himself there is freedom and joy. As Paul taught the church at Rome , “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit(Rom 14:16). What is the kingdom of God ? It is the reign of God in us as we are obedient to Him and as we are that, it brings righteousness and peace and joy from the Holy Spirit.

 

But we commented above on the special significance of this verse that follows so closely on the ones we considered yesterday. Yesterday it was failure and fear. Now it is obedience and optimism. What does this say to us? Among other things it should remind us that God is forgiving and seeks to redeem. God did not hold David's previous failure against Him. Our previous failures do not exclude God from our lives. Jesus died for those failures so that we might confess and be forgiven and reconciled to God. Yes, David did blow it with disastrous consequences the first time round, but that has not stopped him coming in the right manner to God and finding a tremendous joy in obedience and in the realization that he was still accepted by God. That is why this ‘walk' of joy is so significant; it is all about redemption and reconciliation. Rejoice in it and experience it yourself after a previous failure.

  

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 4

Meditation Title: Walk of Rebuke

       

2 Sam 12:7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!

 

Our verse above shows us the importance of not taking verses out of context. Standing on its own it could have a number of meanings. It could be very positive: you are the man of God's choice to be king and deliver Israel . But it wasn't. Let's see what had been happening. Again if we purely took chapter twelve it would not be sufficient. In that chapter we find the prophet, Nathan, walking over to David's palace and telling him a story of a rich man and a poor man. The poor man had nothing except a little ewe while the rich man had lots of sheep and cattle. When a traveller visited the rich man instead of killing one of his own animals for a feast, he took and killed the poor man's ewe. The natural injustice of this act made David angry, and as he expresses his anger over the rich man, it is then that Nathan says, “You are the man!” It is in fact a word of rebuke.

 

But if you didn't know your Bible you would now be wondering what this was all about because the actions behind this have not been revealed so far. For that we have to go back into chapter 11. There we find the account of how David saw Bathsheba bathing and took her to himself and had her husband murdered. He had used his position of power to commit adultery and do away with the husband and we find in the closing words of chapter 11, “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27). Thus He sends Nathan on this walk of rebuke (12:1)

 

Now a rebuke is not a pleasant thing but in the kingdom of God it is a necessary thing. The reality is that we go astray and get things wrong, even if we are Christians. On a bad day the only difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is that the Christian knows that they have done wrong! But because of the old sinful nature that still lingers there, and which will never be completely gone this side of heaven, we are often hesitant to acknowledge and confess the wrong. Adam and Eve gave us the clearest examples of what happens. They did wrong (Gen 3:1-6), they realized their state (v.7), became fearful and hid when God came (v.8-10) and then justified their actions (v.12,13) by blaming others. No, we're not always very good at facing up to the truth about ourselves and our misdemeanours. The truth is that if we can, we will get away with it, and that's why we need someone to face us up with the truth.

 

We find rebukes coming at various times in Jesus ministry and in the life of the early church. In the storm on the lake, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith (Mt 8:26). When a man came to be healed, he rebuked the teachers of the Law for their hard hearts (Mt 9:4). He also rebuked the cities that did not respond to him (Mt 11:20-). He chided Peter for wavering in faith when he walked on the lake (Mt 14:31), he chided him for being of slow to understand (Mt 15:16) and he rebuked him for his response to his teaching about his death (Mt 16:23). The classic rebuke in the Acts is that of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3-5,9,10). Indeed we find Jesus teaching, “If your brother sins, rebuke him(Lk 17:3) and “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline(Rev 3:19). Thus rebuking is an expression of God's love for us. He sees us in error and doesn't want us to go on in a place where His blessing is hindered by our failure. He wants us back in a place of goodness and rightness of relationship with Him. As some of the above examples show, He wants us to become strong in our faith and go on and mature.

 

How does He rebuke? Well perhaps a common way is through His word which Paul described as, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). He instructed Timothy, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction (2 Tim 4:2). Rebuking is thus confronting failures with the truth. Another way the Lord does this is through our coMeditations on the “Walking with God”: 5 : Walk of Grief

 

2 Sam 18:33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you--O Absalom, my son, my son!”

 

There is so much that could be said about this episode in history but we will limit ourselves here to the expression of grief that we observe in this verse, and what caused it. Grief is that emotional response when we have lost a loved one. What is strange about it here, is that the grief David is expressing, is for the loss of his son who has been hunting him and trying to kill him! Let's get the bigger picture.

 

Yesterday we saw Nathan rebuke David for his activity with Bathsheba. Part of that rebuke declared, “ Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own….: `Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you ” (2 Sam 12:10 ,11). In other words discipline will come upon David because of what he has done, discipline in the form of a similar thing happening to him. In chapter 13 we see Amnon taking Tamar and subsequently being killed by Absalom – and they are all David's children. Absalom was exiled but eventually allowed back but David refused to see him (Chapter 14). Absalom then conspired for the crown and David and his closest men had to flee Jerusalem (Chapter 15) when Absalom turned the nation against David. David eventually fled across the Jordan and settled in the town of Mahanaim (2 Sam 17:27 ) to the east. Absalom and his troops eventually

nscience: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience (2 Cor 5:11). Allied to that, the Holy Spirit also convicts (Jn 16:8) us of our wrong doing. Sometimes, as with today's example, He will rebuke us through another person, a prophet or simply a friend or someone close to us who sees our wrong and loves us enough to confront us with it. Indeed “ speaking the truth in love ” (Eph 4:15) will be one of the key ways we will grow into maturity. If someone walks the walk of rebuke to us, are we open to receive it?

   

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 5

Meditation Title: Walk of Grief

   

2 Sam 18:33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you--O Absalom, my son, my son!”

 

There is so much that could be said about this episode in history but we will limit ourselves here to the expression of grief that we observe in this verse, and what caused it. Grief is that emotional response when we have lost a loved one. What is strange about it here, is that the grief David is expressing, is for the loss of his son who has been hunting him and trying to kill him! Let's get the bigger picture.

 

Yesterday we saw Nathan rebuke David for his activity with Bathsheba. Part of that rebuke declared, “Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own….: `Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you” (2 Sam 12:10,11). In other words discipline will come upon David because of what he has done, discipline in the form of a similar thing happening to him. In chapter 13 we see Amnon taking Tamar and subsequently being killed by Absalom – and they are all David's children. Absalom was exiled but eventually allowed back but David refused to see him (Chapter 14). Absalom then conspired for the crown and David and his closest men had to flee Jerusalem (Chapter 15) when Absalom turned the nation against David. David eventually fled across the Jordan and settled in the town of Mahanaim (2 Sam 17:27 ) to the east. Absalom and his troops eventually follow and Absalom is killed in a battle with some of David's men. When the news is brought to David in Mahanaim, he weeps. He leaves the messenger and weeping, he walks up to his room over the gateway to the city. It is a walk of grief.

 

Of course his people don't know how to cope with this. They are overjoyed that Absalom is dead and the threat to David has been removed, but the word gets out that David is weeping about it. The troops returned in silence (19:2) instead of victory shouts and their general, Joab, is livid with anger and confronts David (19:5-7). David returns and takes his place where he should be, accessible to his men, but why did David respond like that?

 

To answer that we have to go even further back. David you may remember was described as a man after God's own heart (1 Sam 13:14 ) and we find in Scripture, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezek 18:32). God does not rejoice when sinners die. Yes, it is right that they die if they refuse His grace and mercy, but it is not a thing for rejoicing. To see this more fully, look earlier in David's experiences as a leader when Saul had been pursuing him and was killed in battle. When the news of Saul's death is brought to David we find this same grieving (2 Sam 1:11,12) In his lament that followed David only remembered the good about them: “How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Sam 1:19,25,27). David anguished over what could have been. In this Fallen World there is always that anguish – if only… what could have been!

 

David feels as God feels and thus he shines out of the pages of Scripture on occasion (there are bad times as well!) as an example. Yes, he has every reason to rejoice over the death of one who was hunting him down, trying to kill him, but that one was his son. It was a tragedy the way it had all happened, and David would remember Nathan's words to him – it was because of his own sin that this all occurred. Did God make it happen? No He simply stepped back and let the unrestrained desire of Amnon have its way while David was so little involved with his children that he knew nothing of what was going on. Then the Lord stepped back and let the unrestrained anger of Absalom bring judgement on Amnon, and so it went on, unrestrained, undisciplined desires, just like David's had been with Bathsheba, all working to bring this discipline to David. At the end of it he weeps. He knows he has contributed to this outcome. He grieves.

 

When such similar circumstances, effects of the Fall, are encountered by us, do we understand the tragedy of them, do we weep? Do we walk the walk of grief as we share in the Lord's anguish as we observe the effects of sin, and ponder what could have been instead? How deep is our understanding of this terrible thing called Sin?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 6

Meditation Title: Walk of Judgement

    

2 Sam 24:11,12 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David's seer: "Go and tell David, `This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.' "

 

The life of David is a veritable gold mine in terms of lessons about mankind and the way God deals with us. David was indeed a man after God's own heart, yet he was also a man with feet of clay, so that from time to time he got it very wrong! Yet despite getting it wrong a number of times, he still lived to a good old age, still seeking and doing the will of God. Here in itself is a reassuring lesson, a reminder that for much of the time we who are Christians, who seek the will of God, do get it wrong, but in those times the Lord disciplines us and corrects us. Paul said of the Scriptures , “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16) and recently we considered the need to be rebuked, but we wouldn't need to be corrected or rebuked if we didn't sometimes get it wrong. Our verses for consideration today are about a time when David got it wrong.

 

This episode begins at the beginning of the chapter with, “Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel” (2 Sam 24:1). What is strange is that the reason for the Lord's anger is not given. Some suggest that it was because of the fact that a large number of Israel had sided with Absalom and risen against the Lord's anointed. The way the Lord deals with this is by killing two birds with one stone. As well as Israel's unfaithfulness to be dealt with, the Lord also sees that there is pride in David's heart, and so He incites him to sin: “Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go and take a census of Israel and Judah'.” (v.1) Now the way the Lord does this is to let Satan play on David's weakness, his pride, for we read in the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles, “ Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel (2 Chron 21:1). Satan is God's means of provoking David to respond to his area of vulnerability and sin. Did God make David sin? No He simply allowed Satan to prod David even further in an area where there was sin already (pride) to bring that out into the open to be dealt with.

 

So David gives orders for his troops to be numbered with the express intention of showing how big and powerful he was. Pride! However, immediately after the census has been taken, David realizes he has sinned: “David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing (v.10) This is quite a remarkable awareness in this man; he knew exactly what he had done and why he had done it and was not making excuses.   

 

Before the night has passed, the prophet Gad gets a wake up call from the Lord with an awesome message for David. Talk about punishment to fit the crime! Remember, the Lord is also looking for an opportunity to punish Israel for their unfaithfulness and perhaps shock them back into a right place with Him. A premature end of life is going to come to a number of the people of Israel . They are all going to die one day anyway, but there is going to be a premature end for many of these people who had rebelled against God when they had rebelled against David, but the Lord is going to take this opportunity to discipline David as well. The greater the closeness or intimacy with the Lord, the greater the responsibility and accountability to the Lord. The way the Lord is going to deal with David will be to deal with his heart in a devastating way. Gad's walk to the king's palace is a walk of both discipline and judgement. David is going to know discipline and Israel are going to know judgement!

 

David is given options. He is to choose the judgement on Israel . How terrible was that! David had shown again and again his shepherd-heart care for his men, and now he is being told to choose judgement for them. He will be devastated. He cries to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men (v.14). He didn't want the three months at the hands of his enemies because he knew what the sin of men could do – no restraint! No, he wanted God to do whatever had to be done, because he knew God was a God of mercy and might hold back – which happened. Nevertheless seventy thousand died.

 

There are some terrible lessons here. First, a godly nation with a God-appointed king, was accountable to God for their rebellion. God will not simply ignore it. Second, pride is a sin and God will deal with it, especially in those who are closest to Him. Third, often the way the Lord deals with it is to let Satan expose it and bring a temporary downfall of that person. Fourth, the downfall is God's discipline but He will also work further to rid that person of that pride. These are serious lessons that those of us who would claim to walk with God need to learn, as painful as they may be. When Paul wrote of God changing us into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor 3:18 ), this is one of the ways He uses to change us. deal with the sin before He deals with it!

  

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 7

Meditation Title: Walk of Imperfection

      

1 Kings 3:3 Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

 

Throughout this series we have been picturing our life with God as a walk. Walking is a picture of an ongoing activity and our ‘walk with God' is an ongoing activity. The different ‘walks' that we have looked at have considered different things that happen on that walk or different ways we ‘walk'. A number of the recent meditations were in respect of David but now we come to a series of ‘walks' that are seen in the lives of the kings that follow him, starting with his son Solomon.

 

Before we examine Solomon's activities, we should note a summary of David's life and reign: “David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life--except in the case of Uriah the Hittite(1 Kings 15:5) David's only failure was in respect of his desire for Bathsheba, his subsequent act of adultery and of assassination of her husband. Sexual desire had been his downfall, and that alone. At the beginning of the current chapter we find, “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter” (v.1). Now that was not a smart move; in fact it was contrary to God's instructions to the Israelites not to marry foreigners who might lead them astray. Now we can accept that this marriage was no doubt part of a trade treaty, but it still reveals an area of vulnerability in Solomon that will bring his downfall. However, a more favourable outlook on this marriage might say there was the possibility of this Egyptian princess becoming a member of the covenant race and following the religion of the Lord. However, something in our verse today suggests that that might not be very likely.

 

At this stage of his life (and we have to say at this stage), this summary of Solomon suggests that his heart was turned to the Lord and he did keep the Law of Moses – or at least, most of it! And therein is the problem. His walk with the Lord was imperfect, in that he was careless in his attitude towards worship. We can say that because of the two things mentioned. First, Solomon in his enthusiasm to worship God conducted his own sacrifices instead of using the priests. Second, in his travelling around he would stop off at the ‘high places' to offer incense to the Lord. Now incense was a part of the sacrificial system (e.g. Lev 2:2,16) and of course there was an altar of incense (Ex 30:27, 40:27). However this was only to be burnt in the Tabernacle and the burning of incense elsewhere was a simple way, in Solomon's eyes to express worship when he was away from Jerusalem . The trouble was he did it at the shrines with little idols at them that were scattered around the land on hilltops, remnants of the idol worship from the earliest inhabitants of Canaan, and which some of the Israelites foolishly carried on using.

 

Solomon would no doubt have said that he was worshipping the Lord, but the trouble was that he was a member of the covenant community and the Law of Moses was very specific about how and where worship should be offered, and it was by the priests in the Tabernacle. Solomon's attitude was obviously one that is still very common, “Oh it's all right, God understands.” This casual attitude was eventually to be Solomon's downfall as we'll see in a subsequent meditation. It seemed ‘all right' at the moment but was an indication of a half-hearted attitude in some respect of the way he thought about the Lord.

 

Now what is amazing about this, is that shortly after his marriage he went and offered major sacrifices to God and shortly after that God gave him a dream in which he asked for and was given, wisdom from God to rule the people wisely. Despite the fact that God knew Solomon's casualness and what his eventual outcome would be, the Lord nevertheless granted him this supernatural level of wisdom that made him the richest man in the world and a mighty ruler. Perhaps it was that the Lord, respecting his self-will, allowed him the path he took but blessed him anyway so that he could never say he hadn't had God's fullest blessing to be a success as Israel 's ruler.

 

To summarise Solomon's approach to his walk with God: he was casual about certain parts of it and did not ensure that he complied fully with God's will in respect of his attitude towards worship. Solomon is a man who accepts imperfection and doesn't seek to be whole-hearted in keeping every aspect of God's will. Our possible similar attitude might be, “Oh, it's all right if I do this, God doesn't expect me to be perfect.” Wrong! Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). We are at least to make that our aim. We may fail, but our intention should be to be whole hearted in seeking all of God's will for our lives. Solomon might have said, “Well I'm keeping most of the laws!” but that meant there were some where he was offending God because he thought he knew better. What we call ‘little things' can become our downfall. That's the warning Jesus kept giving in the Sermon on the Mount when he talked about plucking out eyes or cutting off hands. He was saying, if you are casual about these things, unless you take radical action, they will be your downfall. Heed the warning! Don't tolerate the ‘little things' that are contrary to God's will!

     

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 8

Meditation Title: Walking in the Ways of God

    

1 Kings 3:14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life

 

There are phrases in the Bible that we come across and, I believe, mostly take for granted. In our verse today we have one of those phrases: if you walk in my ways. What do the ways of God mean? It is a highly significant phrase. Moses at a crucial point asked of God, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you” (Ex 33:13). In the Law of God we find the same reference: “Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him ” (Deut 8:6) and then, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Deut 10:12,13). Indeed it became a condition of blessing: “If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow--to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him ….” (Deut 11:22)

 

Touching on this phrase goes to the very heart of the whole concept of these meditations about walking with God. As we've said previously, when you walk with someone you start to learn about them. There is a mutual sharing and a relationship grows. At the heart of relationship is learning about one another, about how each other thinks, about what they like or dislike, about what they enjoy doing, about how they do different things in life. The ways of God are personal things about Him. Moses father-in-law instructed him to, “Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform” (Ex 18:20 ). That sounds very impersonal, a set of rules to be followed – and that is what many Christians today would prefer to have, an impersonal set of rules to follow, but we are called to personal contact with the Lord so that we learn His ways, the things that please Him, the things that grieve Him, the way He does things. In a sense all of these meditations are about different facets of the ways of the Lord, the different way He deals with different people and different situations, which then reveal what He feels. That is the most intimate level of fellowship, when you understand what the person you are walking with feels.

 

When we spend time with the Lord, and when our heart is turned toward Him, so that He is the first person we think of or turn to, when we either have cause to be thankful or cause to be concerned, He starts sharing His heart with us. First of all he shares through His word, the Bible. This is our greatest source of starting to learn His ways. As we read and as we ponder on His dealings with those we encounter in the Bible, we begin to catch something of His heart and the way He acts. But actions are simply the outward thing. So, we also start to learn how He thinks, but thinking is purely a mind thing and so, as we go deeper, we begin to catch what He feels. The Bible is His book. If you look up the word LORD you will see it is used nearly seven and a half thousand times! It's all about Him!

 

How might we sum up the ways of the Lord? An almost impossible task! Yet perhaps the Lord's own words do it: “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin (Ex33:6,7). When it comes to God expressing Himself through His Son, Jesus, the apostle John perhaps encapsulated it by describing Jesus as: “ full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). Yet even these descriptions, as wonderful as they are, seem to fall short and the only way to describe His ways, is to say, you read the Bible, you read and study it and see what you see. If you want a short cut, read of Jesus who described himself as “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus is the perfect expression of the ways of the Father and as much as he does that he becomes THE way. Is it any coincidence that the Christian faith was referred to as the Way? (Acts 9:2, 22:4). Living on the Way we are called to walk in the ways of God, learning to see what He does, learning to think as He thinks and, yes, learning to feel as He feels. What an amazing walk!

   

 

 

 

     

 

 

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Meditation No. 9

Meditation Title: Walking in Integrity of Heart

  

1 Kings 9:4,5   As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, `You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'

 

Time has moved on, at least seven years, for Solomon has spent that time building the temple (1 Kings 6:37,38). As the Temple was completed and the ark brought in, the glory of the Lord filled the whole Temple (8:10,11). Outside Solomon prays and dedicates the Temple with great spiritual insight, and a little later the Lord appears to him again, accepting the Temple and making this promise that we have above. It was a promise of establishing the dynasty of David for ever over Israel, but it is a conditional promise as we see above, and He adds a warning that if he or his sons turn away from the Lord, the Lord will reject Israel and the Temple will be destroyed (9:6-9). It is a great promise, a strong condition and an awful warning!

 

So let's look at the condition of this promise of blessing. It is that Solomon will walk in integrity of heart and uprightness. When we speak about integrity, we usually mean undeviating honesty, moral strength, the ability to hold true to those standards and subsequently, trustworthiness. This is God's call to Solomon and to us, to walk before Him, to live out our lives with hearts that are totally honest, morally sound complying to His holiness, utterly secure in that moral soundness refusing to deviate from it, and therefore being people who can be replied upon to remain like that throughout our lives. Now because there is so much in this, in these descriptions, we really need to go over them one by one in more detail.

 

This is all about heart condition, that elusive inner realm of life commitment. Biblical references to the heart mean that inner state of mind and will. Now we have just described integrity as undeviating honesty or, put another way, truth. Isn't that we are called to, the truth? Jesus came full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). Again and again when Jesus was teaching, he said, “I tell you the truth”. He taught, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (Jn 8:32). The Holy Spirit who we receive when we become Christians is referred to as “the Spirit of Truth” (Jn14:17). Truth is to be a key element of our lives. We are to walk in the truth.

 

We also said it was moral strength. This means we have high ethical standards. We above all others should be above reproach, clearly knowing and living out the distinction between right and wrong. What is right and wrong? It is what God decrees is right or wrong, and that conforms to the way He has designed things to be. It is living out life as He would live out life as He has designed it to be. This is what holiness is all about, about different godly living. But integrity is more than that; it is refusing to deviate from that moral soundness. God doesn't expect us to be half hearted or coming and going in our standards. He wanted Solomon and He wants us to be totally set in those standards of moral righteousness, never even contemplating deviating from them.

He wants us to be ‘set in concrete' in this respect, utterly unmoving. When we are like this, then other people (and God) will know that they can trust us. We will be dependable in this respect. They will know that what we say and do will always be the same, conforming to this high moral stance. (Please note that this doesn't mean that we are to be like the Pharisees of Jesus' day who had these high ethical standards but considered themselves morally superior and therefore looked down on everyone else.) No, the standards that we have, and the life we live, are because we are walking with God and we are what we are because we are committed to our relationship with Him. Our integrity comes out of our relationship with Him; it is an expression of that relationship and not something distinct or separate from it. This is clearer for us today than it was for Solomon, because of what Jesus has done and the salvation that is ours.

 

But there is one final word to be noted, uprightness, because the Lord spoke of integrity of heart and uprightness. Uprightness conveys the idea of being morally upright or righteous, not stooping and being anything less than God has designed us to be. When our conscience is clear we can walk upright with our head held high. The call is not to let any unrighteousness bow us down. Uprightness means we stand morally straight without any deviations that would cause us to morally ‘stoop'.

 

This is the walk that the Lord calls us to. To have hearts that are set on Him and filled with His goodness, hearts which are immovable, hearts that are steadfast. May it be so!

    

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 10

Meditation Title: Walk of Investigation (2)

   

1 Kings 10:1 When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions.

 

OK, the Queen of Sheba almost certainly would not have walked to see Solomon, but I want to include her journey to see Solomon in these stories that can be used as analogies about walking with God. When Solomon had a dream and the Lord promised him wisdom, we find that God's promise was even bigger than ‘just wisdom', “I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.” (1 Kings 3:12 ,13). Time has moved on and that promise has been fulfilled. Indeed the description of him said, “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift--articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules. (1 Kings 10:23 -25). It was for this reason that the Queen of Sheba came. She had heard of his wisdom and wanted to come and test him. He exceeded her expectations: “Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.” (v.7). In a nutshell, the blessing of God on Solomon, His decree of goodness, was such that Solomon stood out in the earth, so much so that this Queen heard about him and wanted to come and check it out for herself.

 

This reminds us of the burning bush in the wilderness that Moses went over to see. That was something that stood out and required investigation. Solomon stood out and stirred kings and queens to come and investigate. The response of the Queen is obvious: “Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel , he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness." (v.9) She acknowledged that this was a work of God. There was no other way to explain it.

 

It may not be quite the same, but we see a similar level of blessing on Abraham's life so that king Abimelech could declare, “God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.” (Gen 21:22,23). That king recognized God's blessing on Abraham and asked him to enter into a peace treaty. An individual man making treaties with kings??? If you look at the way that Pharaoh of Egypt welcomed old Israel (Jacob) and was blessed by him (Gen 47:7-10), you realize how God had blessed him similarly. But then there was Daniel who came to be known as a mouthpiece for God (e.g. Dan 2:46 -48). These are all instances of men who walked with God and whom God blessed in such a measure that they stood out so that the world came to them.

 

When we come to the New Testament we find Jesus telling his disciples, “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16). Now this is not quite a promise of blessing that brings affluence and the attraction of the world, but there is an implied suggestion that we can shine in such a way that people will be blessed and as a result of that blessing they will praise God. What happens when people are blessed? They feel good and they tell others who then come to see and find out and get blessed. Jesus is the perfect example of that. The Samaritan woman was blessed by the way he treated her and she went and told all her friends who came out to see for themselves. (Jn 4:28,29,39-41). The rigid, cold orthodox Christianity that many in the West know doesn't do that. Dare we believe and experience a new form of Christianity that is more Christ-like that attracts people by its love and its joy? Dare we believe that the world will be attracted when we allow God to lead us to the needy of the world, from whatever class or group, and shower them with God's love and goodness? If we can, then there will be many more people who will beat a path to our door on this walk of investigation. May it be so!

   

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 11

Meditation Title: Walk of Folly

     

1 Kings 11:1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter--Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods."

 

There are times when, looking at the human race, you wonder why God ever made us, knowing that in our sinfulness we would do the most stupid of things. This present situation with Solomon is one such time. Solomon in his youth had received supernatural wisdom from God and as a result of that had become the richest man in the world. He had known the blessing of God on him as few others do. He made Israel very prosperous and from his writings in Ecclesiastes, you name it and he had done it. He had had a most fulfilling life, having opportunities to do things most of us only dream of. Yet when you read Ecclesiastes it is the epitome of cynicism. He is clearly jaded and even for this man of almost infinite wisdom (well it came from an infinite source!) there is a confusion about life and a weariness that is more than mere old age.

 

How did Solomon get to that state? Why was he like that? In a previous meditation we started looking at Solomon, and we noted: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter” (v.1). Now that was not a smart move; in fact it was contrary to God's instructions to the Israelites not to marry foreigners who might lead them astray. Now we can accept that this marriage was no doubt part of a trade treaty, but it still reveals an area of vulnerability in Solomon that will bring his downfall. The Egyptian princess was merely the first of many foreign women that Solomon married. His walk through life was littered with beautiful women, for that's what they would be.

 

Despite all of the wisdom from God that enabled him to run a country more prosperously than any other king in the world, when it came to his own life, there was something in him that was never satisfied and could never settle. Solomon, in this respect anyway, is the role model for many foolish men today who are unable to settle and be loyal to one woman. The Egyptian princess was clearly not enough for Solomon so when he saw another beautiful woman from another land, he took her too, and then a while later she became not enough and he found another and another and another. Soon he worked on the basis of ‘variety is the spice of life' but this ‘wise' man did not realise that in respect of relationships that was not true. Somehow he had either not read or ignored the Scripture that told him, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Gen 2:24) one man with one woman was God's best design, that was what worked best.

 

But there was another aspect to this vulnerability of Solomon. When he took another woman he forgot that she had a background, and most of them came from other cultures where they worshipped other gods or idols. He also didn't realize that when such a woman came, she came with the trappings of superstition, not knowing the one true God, and would want to continue that idolatrous worship of idols. More than that she, like Eve, would want to involve her man in what she did, and so Solomon found himself being pressed to go along and join in her rites of idol worship. “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” (v.3,4) Soon the reality of the Lord's presence faded and with it the sense of meaning and purpose that comes with the knowledge of the Lord who is Creator, Sustainer, and Planner of this world. Soon he became very jaded. What was so awful about this was that he had been warned against this. He belonged to a people who had been warned not to marry idol worshipping foreigners. If those foreigners wanted to convert to become the true people of God that was different, but if they didn't the command was stay away!

 

Thus Solomon's walk through life changed from a walk of wisdom to a walk of folly. Read Ecclesiastes and you will catch a sense of the awfulness of the results of that folly. Written near the end of his life it shows in the most graphic terms possible what can happen when a person loses their faith and turns away from God. The awful truth was that at some point, despite his wisdom, Solomon thought he knew better than God and ignored God's command to stay away from foreign idol-worshipping women. Whenever we fall to such a temptation that Satan puts before us, we do the same thing, we think we know better than God – it will be all right. It won't! Every time we accept or tolerate some ‘small' wrong in our lives, we do this. Jesus understood this when he said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Mt 5:29,30). He knew that unless you deal radically with an ongoing sin, it would bring about your destruction. Don't let it! Do something about it, because while you tolerate it and don't deal with it, you walk the walk of folly and the end will be destruction.

    

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 12

Meditation Title: Walk of Potential

    

1 Kings 11:38   If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.”

 

They do say that some people have a better start in life than others. I suppose this is so when you consider a child born to a wealthy, healthy, united family compared to a child born to a poor single mother in a ghetto. The potential for each child is the same in that they are a human being capable of much if they reach for it, but the truth so often is that the child from the slum is rarely able to overcome all the awfulness of that environment and what it means, and climb to great heights. The child from the wealthy neighbourhood, we might say, has it all going for them.

 

Yes, a good start in life is a real help and Jeroboam certainly had that, and that is who our verse is about today. Jeroboam had been an official for Solomon (v.26), a young man of standing (v.28) who had been appointed a manager. Now Jeroboam was minding his own business going out of Jerusalem, presumably on business, when he was joined by a man named Ahijah, who happens to be a prophet. Once they have walked some distance from Jerusalem, Ahijah takes off his new cloak and tears it into twelve strips and gives ten of them to Jeroboam saying, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes.” (v.31). In other words God is appointing him the new king over Israel although He is going to leave Solomon's family two tribes, for the sake of David (v.32), and He goes on to explain, “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon's father, did(v.33). Now it is important to see this because the Lord is giving Jeroboam clear insight into why Solomon's family is being removed from office – because they had false worship. That is important to bear in mind in all that follows. By way of contrast, the Lord goes on to promise him a lasting dynasty if he doesn't go that way.

 

From this point on Jeroboam has potentially a great future. He and his family will be the future kings of Israel . All they have to do is stick with the Lord and avoid the foolish ways that Solomon had gone, into foreign idol worship. As Jeroboam looks to the future, his walk with God is a walk of potential. He has everything going for him. He has God on his side and he has seen clearly the cause of Solomon's downfall, so he knows what to avoid. The future looks good. If only!

 

To cut a long story short, Jeroboam was made king of the ten tribes (12:20) and God even told Rehoboam in the south not to go to war against Jeroboam. In this manner the Lord protects him, and the word of this must surely have reached Jeroboam. He is at a place of peace and he has the Lord on his side. Potentially everything is great, and then this man shows his true colours. Does he refer to the Lord when he has a concern? No! He starts worrying, thinking about the Temple in Jerusalem , and thinks that the people of the north under his reign might drift back south to go and worship the Lord in Jerusalem . So what does he do? He sets up a substitute religion with an idol at either end of the country, and high places with shrines for worship all over the place, making sacrifices and creating festivals. It is truly a substitute religion with all the trappings of the old – except the Lord! For this he was rebuked by a word from God. Jeroboam squandered all the potential that had been his and disregarded the Lord.

 

What is the lesson here for us? When we come to Christ we have tremendous potential. We know what we have been saved from and gradually we come to see what we have been saved for. (If you have never seen the wonder of all that God has given us, when you complete this series of meditations, go to the series “Effects of the Cross” to see the spiritual realities at least of your new walk with God). In Christ we have the potential to become the people we were designed to be. As we receive all of our inheritance in Christ we become whole people, who have every aspect of their lives touched by God. The path ahead is a path of blessing. All that is required of us is that we remain true to the Lord. The potential is enormous! However, there is that awful thing called free will to consider. Yes, the terrible thing is that the Lord still gives is free will and we can choose to follow the Lord, or not! The blessing of God is not on the ‘or not'! God has wonderful things He yet wants to do in and through you. The potential for your life in His hands is enormous. Will we fulfil it or squander it? The choice is ours! You can be a child of the slums but yet with Christ rise to great things. You can be a child of the affluent West, yet squander all the potential you have. Consider these things carefully.

    

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 13

Meditation Title: Walk of Imitation

    

1 Kings 12:28,29   After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.”

 

You may be surprised to see that we are focusing on two verses today that we used in the course of explaining Jeroboam's failure in yesterday's meditation, but we need to consider more deeply just what was going on in this man's mind, that can so often go on in ours. As we noted yesterday, Jeroboam had been made king over the northern ten tribes of Israel , while Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south – which included Jerusalem. That, as we observed yesterday, had been Jeroboam's concern, that Israel might drift back down to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in the Temple there, and thus align themselves with Rehoboam.

 

Now there is something very important to notice here at the outset: God had declared His will in respect of Jeroboam and the northern tribes and so the Lord would not just sit back and let the tribes all drift back together again. The first thing to note was that Jeroboam was half-hearted in receiving the word of God. He had not fully taken on board what that word had said and had not thought through the significance of it. If there are common failures in the Christian world, one of the main ones is that so often the people of God do not take in the word of God and the significance of that word. That is one of the main reasons for the presence of these meditations, that we provide a resource where people are refocused on God's word and its significance. The question for you, therefore, is how important do you consider the Bible? Do you read it daily or just once in a while? Are you at this meditation page by chance or because you have disciplined yourself to read your way through them and take in God's word? The same thing applies to the preached word and the prophetic word, I have observed. People's reception of both is often quite casual, and that was Jeroboam's first problem! If Jeroboam had realised that he was living in God's declared will, he would not have had the worry he had.

 

Now the second thing to note is that having saddled himself with this worry, he then began reasoning how he could deal with it and he did not turn to the Lord and seek and answer from Him. If he had, he would probably have received a word of reassurance. The Lord hasn't got a problem with us seeking reassurance, as long as we do seek Him. No, here is another common tendency – failure to turn to the Lord for answers. Now if you don't get help from the Lord you are only left with yourself (or perhaps other counsellors) and so Jeroboam started reasoning and came to the wrong conclusions. Conclusion number one was that the people would drift south, and conclusion number two was that he would have to do something about it, and conclusion number three was that he would have to provide a substitute religion for his people to stop them going to Jerusalem. So he sets up what is clearly an imitation of the true religion that God had instituted at Sinai through Moses. It has altars, sacrifices and festivals. Why not, reasons Jeroboam, it will still enable the people to worship the Lord. Do you see that? That is the subtle error that sounds so right – they'll still be able to worship the Lord. However as the text goes on to show us, that was not all right with the Lord. What He had given them was what should happen, not some pale imitation of what He had given – because He wasn't in the pale imitation!

 

Can you see a parallel to this in what has so often happened in the church down through history? The Eastern Orthodox Church focused on the use of icons to help them focus on God. The Holy Spirit and the word of God were not sufficient. The Roman Catholic Church built great church buildings (our cathedrals were mostly built in the time of the Catholic Church being the only church), the church leaders wore special clothes to make them distinctive, and a managerial hierarchy was set up to maintain control and exercise authority. We take all these things for granted, but they are all things that come from the thinking that, “The people will need something more to encourage their faith and keep them true to God.”

None of these things were anywhere in Jesus' thinking in his teaching. There was just a bare, simple, straight forward faith, expressed collectively when the people of God gathered together, under men who were raised up by God without any external trappings, only the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Some of those men were gifted to be pastors and teachers, some to be evangelists, some to be prophets and some to be apostles (see Eph 4:11,12), so that they could help everyone else become what they were called to become, those who do the works of God. Instead we very often have an imitation of the real thing, an imitation that is devoid of the power and presence of God. The final question must be, do we each as an individual, know the power and presence of God in our lives, or are we walking a walk of imitation? A serious question!

      

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 14

  

Meditation Title: Walk of Shame

  

1 Kings 14:27,28    So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. Whenever the king went to the LORD's temple, the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom”

 

Perhaps one of the world's greatest deceptions, being played out on a daily basis, is the deception that says, “I'm all right.” when in fact the individual knows deep down that they are not ‘all right'. The life that is being played out to the surrounding observers, family, friends or workmates, does everything it can to portray someone who is happy and in control. Life really begins when we face the truth, “I'm not all right, and I need help!” Until we come to that point, we are in fact living a life of shame. Something deep in us tells us that what we have is second best, or that we have failed, or that we need to try harder, or whatever else our past demands.

 

Rehoboam was king of Judah and Benjamin, a reign he had inherited from his father, Solomon. Under Solomon the nation had been great but as the years passed Solomon drifted away from the Lord and, as we've seen previously, the Lord took ten of the tribes from his son so that Rehoboam is left with only Judah and Benjamin. And then we read these awful words of indictment of Judah : “Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.” (1 Kings 14:22-24) and Rehoboam did nothing about it!

 

What we next read is, “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.” (v.25,26). The king of Egypt was the Lord's way of disciplining Rehoboam and Judah; it was a humbling process. We see this sort of thing again and again in the life of Judah or Israel . While they remained close to the Lord they were secure and had peace and freedom from attack from their neighbours. When they turned from the Lord, He allowed or sent their neighbours to attack them, as a means of bringing them back to Himself, exaclt in accordance with the Law (Deut 28:25)

 

But Rehoboam is like so many of us. He wants to carry on as normal and pretend everything is all right, so we read, “So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace (v.27) but bronze is not gold. Solomon had made these incredible solid gold shields for ceremonial purposes. They symbolized the wealth and prosperity that his wisdom had brought. Now an enemy was taken them and so Rehoboam, trying to maintain a semblance of normality, replaces them with bronze shields, because bronze is all he has left! Every time Rehoboam goes to the Temple , the guard takes the bronze ceremonial shields to accompany him. This is almost the equivalent of our Queen going to the State Opening of Parliament in a horse and cart because an enemy had taken her state coaches! This trip to the Temple is thus a walk of shame. These shields are a constant reminder to Rehoboam of what they have lost. They didn't have to carry shields but if they didn't that would make it even worse, even more obvious what has happened, and so, to try and make things look normal, they carry these bronze shields. If you didn't know any better bronze shields probably looked quite good and perhaps the next generation thought they were great – but they were not gold! Oh yes, then next generation may have come to accept them and think they were good, but Rehoboam knew the truth. He knew this was a walk of shame, he remembered the gleam of the wonderful solid gold shields of his father's reign.

 

Gold or bronze? What are you living with? The Christian life is supposed to be gold. Gold represents holiness, purity, goodness, all the attributes of the Lord's presence. That is what is supposed to be in our lives, but in its absence, like we've seen previously with Jeroboam, we provide substitutes to try to pretend everything is ‘all right'. Years later Jeremiah brought this accusation from the Lord, “They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13). It was an accusation that said you have provided substitutes for Me, substitutes that are not up to the job! That's the truth. No substitute can ever replace the reality of the Lord's presence. That is what we need. Accept no substitutes!

      

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 15

Meditation Title: Walking in the Sins of the Past

    

1 Kings 15:26    He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of his father and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

 

There is a saying, ‘like father, like son' with the implication that a son will follow his father. There may have been something of that thought behind the Lord's words at Sinai, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” (Ex 20:5). The reality was that there could be three or even four generations alive at any one time, and if that was so it implied two things. The first, was that the father (who became a grandfather or even great-great grandfather) was the patriarch who was the authority over the family and who was thus responsible for the family before God. The second thing was, that the likelihood would have been that children followed their father's example and so went the same wrong way as their father, and thus incurred the Lord's anger. The balance was the verse that followed, “but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (v.6). Where the example was the love for God and that was passed from generation to generation, every generation could guarantee to know God's love. That was the simple promise.

 

Now our verse above applies to Nadab, Jeroboam's son, but it also applied to a number of other subsequent kings of Israel . In fact most of them! It tells us that Nadab followed in the footsteps of his father, doing the same wrong things, specifically allowing or encouraging Israel to worship idols and not the Lord. Now when we did the meditation on Jeroboam being given the ten tribes of the north, we noted the potential that was there for him, to live out a life of blessing as he followed the Lord having been given a throne at God's instigation. It was a completely new chapter opening up before him that invited him to walk the walk with God and be blessed. Instead he walked his own walk and received censure. Now when it comes to his son, he doesn't HAVE to walk the same walk. Every son has the potential to walk a fresh walk with God. He doesn't HAVE to go the same way his father went. This is another aspect of the whole thing about free will. Because we have free will we do not HAVE to walk the same walk as our parents. There is a very important lesson here for many of us.

 

Now the truth is that we do have the same genes as our parents but all that means is that in a variety of ways we will have a tendency to be like them, but please note it is purely a tendency. You don't HAVE to be the same. We each have the ability, and especially when we walk with the Lord, to walk a new path. We can learn from the weaknesses or failures of our parents, and with God's help we can ensure we don't go the same way as they went. Where there are good things to follow, then of course we will want to imitate them, but the bad or negative things we want to reject.

 

One of the things about parents, is that because we were so close to them (geographically if not emotionally) they are there as an object lesson for us and we can never say, “Well I never knew.” We did; they were there, right in front of us. Their weaknesses or failures were obvious to see and we should have learnt from them, so that we don't go the same way. Where they were a good example to us, we have an even bigger responsibility to follow their example because we can see the goodness of the way they walked. We can never say to God, “I didn't see,” because that only shows our foolishness that was blind to the goodness before us which we obviously took for granted!

 

That is what lies behind the verse above. It is a terrible indictment, upon Jeroboam but also upon Nadab. It says that Jeroboam was foolish but Nadab was doubly so because he had had the opportunity to watch his father and ponder on what he was doing. A son is, if you like, on the sidelines watching his father, and because he is on the sidelines, he has the opportunity to think about what his father is doing and come to a right assessment about it.

 

So how about our own situations? When we look at the lives of our parents, are we able to be grateful for the goodness of their lives and do we follow the example of their goodness, or do we take it for granted and even reject it? Or is the opposite true? Do we look at the lives of our parents and feel sad for the sort of people that they were, perhaps struggling with the pain they inflicted on us. It happens. But if it did happen, have we learnt from it, so that we avoid going down the same path? It is sometimes said that someone who has been abused in childhood finds an abuser partner. It doesn't have to be! If we are Christians the power of God is there so that we are released from our past history and can live out new lives with Him – but we have to believe it! What is the lesson that is coming out of this verse? You don't have to be bound by your past. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17 ). Believe it!

   

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 16

Meditation Title: Walking in Unusual Provision

   

1 Kings 17:6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

 

The subject of the provision of God is both varied and exciting, and it takes us away from the gloom of the kings as we look in these next four days at the walk with God as it comes to us through incidents in Elijah's life. Elijah was a prophet who had dealings with the very ungodly and unrighteous king, Ahab (1 Kings 17:1). He has just pronounced a three year drought for Israel and the Lord has told him to leave the area and go to a place east of the Jordan . This was not a day of social security and so the question of food or drink was a very real one, especially when you are in desert areas.

 

Now the first thing to note is that Elijah had clearly had a word from the Lord about the drought, and he had now clearly had a word from the Lord about where he should go. He is clearly, therefore, serving the Lord and being obedient to the Lord. He is in a good place with the Lord and so, even though the geographical location and climate are inhospitable, he can still trust the Lord to look after him. In this he is quite different from a number of other Biblical examples who ‘ran for the hills' of a foreign country when a famine came, instead of seeking the Lord (e.g. Abram – Gen 12:10, Isaac – Gen 26:1, and Elimelech – Ruth 1:1,2).

 

The fact that he goes to this ravine, miles from anywhere in a time of famine, would appear humanly at least to be simply foolish. It will be the last place to get food, but it is the place where the Lord has said to go and therefore he trusts the Lord to provide for him there, especially as he has been told by the Lord that He will provide for him in that place. In our walk with the Lord we are called to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) and so there will be times when the word of the Lord will come to us to lead us into circumstances that leave us wondering about how we will cope. Don't worry, He will.

 

The second thing to consider is the way of God's provision. There have been some who have suggested that ‘ravens' is a nickname for a certain group of nomadic Arabs, but whether it is that or literally the birds of that name, it is still a strange and most unusual form of provision that you could not have planned or guaranteed beforehand. In that these scavenging birds dropped him food morning and evening on a regular basis, sufficient to keep him alive, is a small miracle. However we normally tend to use the word ‘miracle' to apply to something that is completely contrary to nature. Ravens doing this is fairly common to them and so we would prefer here to refer to this as a remarkably unusual provision of food for Elijah, rather than a miracle that we will see tomorrow. Why are we making this distinction? Because God does use natural but unusual means of providing for His people. Let's consider this question of provision more widely.

 

Why should we need God's provision? Well usually it is when all other provision has run out. There is a sense that ALL our food and drink is God's provision, but having accepted that normal daily life provision is part of God's design, there are times when that provision seems lacking, for example when there is a famine. Now a famine, in Israel's case (and possibly in a wider world sense), is an indication of the blessing of God being withheld because of the sin of the nation (see Deut 28:15-19), but although the nation will be suffering this story tells us that God can still provide for His faithful people even in the midst of a famine.

 

So famines come and God will provide for His faithful people, but if you try and think how that provision will come, you won't be able to do it, because the Lord does it through a means that you will probably have never thought of. It happens in a variety of ways. One of the famous stories of provision is the story of the Schaeffer family who established L'Abri in Switzerland . They trusted the Lord and again and again and again, He prompted people to send them money, sufficient to meet the needs of the hour. The Lord obviously doesn't do this for everyone, simply those He has called into a position where they will need such provision. Many Christians through the years have been able testify that as they came to the end of their resources as they served the Lord, suddenly there was unusual provision, provision that came through a natural source, but a very unusual and completely unexpected source. Miracles? Yes, in as far as they are things prompted by God so that where there were no resources there are now resources, but these are ways of provision that come through natural means.

 

This is a story and a concept that appears to be only for certain special people, but in our walk with God, I wonder if in respect of our money we have an attitude that means we are open to the Lord leading us to give money away to bless others? Are we open to be the ‘unusual resource' that the Lord will use to provide for another person? This is as much a faith action as being on the end as the receiver of the unusual gift. Some of us might then worry, but I haven't much money so what would happen if the Lord asked me to give to another? You suddenly move from the role of giver to receiver, you become an Elijah where you trust that if the Lord has prompted you to give, He will provide for you afterwards. Fun isn't it, this life of faith!

  

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 17

Meditation Title: Walking in Miraculous Provision

    

1 Kings 17:15,16     She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

 

Miracles don't happen, miracles rarely happen, miracles frequently happen, thus runs the gamut of people's ideas. Probably for many Christians the viewpoint would be, miracles can happen but never for me. That idea is probably built on two further ideas. First, I have no need of a miracle and second, God doesn't turn up in my life like that anyway. Well what is a miracle? It is a sovereign act of God to bring about the existence of something that didn't previously exist, or to change something, and both things are against the course of nature.

 

The intriguing thing about the miracle that occurred here in today's verses, is that God took something that already existed and kept on making it exist, even when some of it was taken away and used up. The same thing occurred when Jesus performed the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand (Mt 14:15-21) and the feeding of the four thousand (Mt 15:32-38). There too he took a small quantity of food and made it stretch round a large number of people. The other well-known ‘provision' miracle of Jesus was the changing of water into wine (Jn 2:1-10), this time changing something that existed into something else. Other miracles that Jesus performed that went against nature were walking on water (Mt 14:25 ), and the calming the storm (Mk 4:39). Of course all his acts of healing and raising people from the dead all come under the heading of the miraculous as well, all things that clearly went against nature. Miracles of provision where there was nothing previously were the two draughts of fish (Lk 5:4-10 & Jn 21:6).

 

The question has to be asked, why miracles? Well in Jesus' case in the examples of all the healings he did, the simple answer has to be compassion and because he could do it. Those of us who struggle with miracles actually struggle with the concept of a God who is there, who created this world and therefore clearly has the power to change this world as He sees fit. It's as simple as that. We may be frightened of miracles because they challenge our unbelief, but don't write off miracles as impossible because you are writing off the God who the Bible proclaims from beginning to end who is all-powerful and who created the world, sustains this world, knows everything there is to know about this world and can, therefore, change this world as and when He wants! Why should He want to change it in the form of what we call miracles? Because the Bible shows Him not as some impersonal, unfeeling force in the background, but a living, feeling, benign and full of love Being who interacts with this world that He has made. Very simply God loves people and turns up and blesses them in the miraculous simply because He loves them and can do it!

 

In the case of Elijah God has performed this ongoing miracle for this woman as a means of providing for her and her son and for Elijah. How did God do it? Don't be silly, you can't explain miracles! He just speaks and things come into being. He has that power because He is God. Now the bigger question that may be in your mind is, well I don't have a need so why should God turn up in this way for me? Why shouldn't He? I wonder how many times in life God does things that change the course of nature or change the course of circumstances without us ever noticing. I wonder sometimes if, when we get to heaven, God will ever let us look back and see over our past lives but from His viewpoint. If He does I suspect we may be very surprised at the number of times He intervenes in the affairs of the earth on behalf of His children, us! However, one has to agree that much of the time it seems we don't need a miracle because most of the time most of us don't stretch ourselves in His service where our resources need miraculously replenishing. But what about the illness or the infirmity that we seem stuck with, what about the thing that seems impossible to change? Yes, if you look around your life, it is quite possible that you will see examples of things where we tolerate the absence of provision whether it is the absence of health, or healing or whatever else. Do we not get because we do not ask? (Jas 4:2). Did Jesus not teach us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”, (Mt 6:11 ) i.e. please provide for me all I need to live today in your kingdom.

 

Elijah had put himself out on a limb in God's service in difficult times, yet God was there for him and in this beautiful way seen in our verses today, provided for Him. The question of miracles is a real challenge to our faith. To deny the possibility is simply unbelief; let's not try to rationalise it and explain it away, it's unbelief! Perhaps we need to be like the father of the little boy who, when Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believesresponded, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief (Mk 9:23,24)

 

 

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Meditation No. 18

Meditation Title: The Walk of Anticipation

   

1 Kings 18:43 "Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said. Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."

 

Sometimes in the Christian life, in our walk with God, we seem to be waiting and waiting and nothing seems to change. At those times it is easy to give up, but that is something we must resist. The writer of the Proverbs understood this: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick(Prov 13:12). The Message version speaks of ‘unrelenting disappointment'. Hope that keeps on getting put off, disappointment that keeps on and on, these are things that wear us down and perhaps these are the things the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9). Perhaps that was also in Jesus' mind when we find, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Lk 18:1). No, the Bible writers clearly understood the human condition and they knew that when we expect something and it doesn't happen, and keeps on not happening, there is a strong temptation to give up.

 

This makes the example of Elijah all the more helpful, so let's see what is behind our verse above. Elijah has just been through the amazing tussle with the prophets of Baal where God turned up for him and brought fire down on his sacrifice to confirm His presence with Elijah. The Lord has stood up for His man, and that must have felt good to Elijah. After the prophets of Baal have been disposed of, Elijah turns to King Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” (1 Kings 18:41). Now that is an amazing prophetic command because there has been no rain for three years and the sky is still perfectly clear. For there to be rain there needs to be clouds – and there are none! Elijah is saying to the king, it's all right, you can go and celebrate now, the drought is over. Elijah has just stood in faith against the prophets of Baal and now he stands in faith against the drought. So what does he do? “So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees” (v.42). He prays! There is an interesting example to follow here. It is all very well to know the will of God (the drought is ending) but we are still to be part of the process of bringing it about by praying for that will to come into being. Elijah knows rain is coming, but he now needs to pray it into being. It's just how it works.

 

But Elijah needs to know how long to pray, so he sends his servant to go to look for the clouds. There are none. Now I wonder why Elijah did this? Why couldn't he have just looked himself? There may be two answers. First he may have been too burdened and felt he needed to totally immerse himself in prayer and, second, he may have felt he wanted to involve his servant and teach him something about spiritual realities. This servant would remember what happened because he was involved in it. His part was to walk the walk of faith, or the walk of obedience, or the walk of anticipation; we can call it a number of things. This servant could have just sat round the corner and not bothered to go. He could have thought, “This is crazy, Elijah has finally flipped after all his exertions with the false prophets,” and not bothered to go. After all, where he was standing he could see around him that there were no clouds!

 

But this servant doesn't do that. The man of God has spoken the word from God and so his role is to follow through as requested. He hadn't had the word but he knew the man who had had it. That was enough. So he goes to the lookout point where he can see across the sea, but there is no cloud. He returns and tells his master. Seven times at his master's bidding he goes to look and six times he sees nothing. Humanly speaking, with every additional time he would be thinking, “This is a waste of time!” but there is a spiritual dimension to all this – God has spoken, the man of God has spoken, and so ‘sometime' it IS going to happen. Eventually the word IS fulfilled: “The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." So Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab, `Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.' Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on and Ahab rode off to Jezreel(v.44,45)

 

Prophetic people are notorious for getting the timing wrong, but that need not put us off. For decades now we had heard prophetic words saying ‘revival is coming', and it hasn't. It's all right, don't be put off when dates were attached that didn't work out, it will happen, in God's time. Just keep walking the walk of anticipation. He's said it, so it will come – eventually.

 

Listen to how Jesus finished off his parable in Luke 18 about persisting in prayer: “And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (v.6-8). Keep on praying, he taught, because the answer will come, and by the way, when I come back and you've been waiting and waiting for me, will you still be faithful? Will you still be walking the walk of anticipation, knowing it's just a matter of time? Hang on in there! Walk the walk!

   

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 19

Meditation Title: The Walk of Despair

   

1 Kings 19:3,4 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah , he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."

 

We have previously commented along these lines, but it bears repeating, that the idea that the Christian life is always smooth and easy is unreal. Christians have to live in this Fallen World and so things go wrong and people are nasty. To see the reason why Elijah was running for his life, we have to see the previous two verses: “Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of themThis was a very real threat from a very nasty person! There was a contract out on Elijah's head! But, you might say, wasn't Elijah this great prophet of the Lord so he could simply stand up to the Queen? Well actually, no, because that is the problem.

 

The problem is not only the Queen, it is that Elijah has just been through an amazing spiritual battle and would be feeling exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Please realize that this was all in the service of his Lord. Even Jesus took time out to rest after his busy schedule. The reality is that when you are giving out spiritually, it can leave you drained. Yes, the Lord will be your strength and yes, He will restore you, but for that moment you are empty, needing to be refilled, and it is often that at that moment the enemy attacks, when he sees you are vulnerable. The response? You feel weak and fearful and want to run, escape to a quiet place and fall asleep (v.5). Did the Lord chide him for this? No! Instead He sent an angel who provided supernatural provision for Elijah to enable him to get to the place of meeting with God again. This is a very real experience and we need to really take on board the elements of it.

 

First note that we live in a state of war with Satan and sometimes he seems to come like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8) and when he comes like that he seeks to create fear in us.

 

Second , note that he comes to attack like this when we are vulnerable and probably when we have just been giving out a great deal, and even when we have just had a great victory.

 

Third , the crucial thing here is to be aware of what is going on. When Peter in the verse just referred to warns about Satan coming as a roaring lion, he starts, “ Be alert…..” Very often Christians become casualties simply because they did not realize what was going on and did not take steps to counter it. Emotional responses when you are at this place of attack are fear, doubt, feeling down, worrying and so on. They are all things the enemy seeks to impose upon you. Realise what is happening.

 

The fourth thing is to get out of the firing line. It was sensible, in the absence of a word from the Lord, to get out of range of the Queen. When you are feeling weak and vulnerable step back from the front line until you can be restored. While you stay there you are simply a target for more blasting from the enemy, and that isn't necessarily the big obvious things, it can be the subtle temptation that brings your downfall into sin.

 

The fifth thing is to get with God. Elijah made for Horeb, or Sinai, the known place of encounter with the Lord. Even to get there he needed supernatural help. It may be that you need help from the Lord and that ‘angelic' help can actually be through others. If you have those who are close to you, ask them to pray and carry on praying for you. (If you don't find them!) I have a small group of people I confide in who pray for me all the time, but they find it particularly helpful if I share with them what is happening to me. Perhaps we need a retreat – it can be a day or a week. We would like to say that the ‘walk of despair' should only be temporary, but unless you do some of these things, it can extend. Prov 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeedIt is the same principle that applies here. If you stand alone you are vulnerable. If you have those who can be made aware of the battle and the subsequent weakness, you are on the way to recovery.

 

The ‘walk of despair' is all about resources, or to be more precise, shortage of them. In your daily walk with God, when you are in the midst of the battle, those resources can run low. Listen to the apostle Paul: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia . We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death (2 Cor 1:8,9). Did you see that? “pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” Why does the Lord allow that? Listen to Paul again, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers(v.10,11). There it is, exactly as we were saying. This happens, share it, get prayer support to get to the Lord and “he will deliver Hallelujah!

 

 

 

 

 

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Meditation No. 20

Meditation Title: The Walk to Restoration

    

Ezra 1:5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem .

 

We now move from what you might have considered a very negative aspect of walking to a much more positive one. We have now moved on hundreds of years. Nearly seventy years have passed since the Temple was destroyed and Judah and Benjamin had gone into exile. Humanly speaking, it had been the end of the nation of Israel . They now only existed as a people being amalgamated into the life of Babylon . There was however an echo of hope from the past: “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer 25:11) That prophecy still hung in the air, brought years before by Jeremiah before he was carried off to Egypt.

 

Indeed there had been, centuries before, an even more amazing prophecy through Isaiah, “(I am the Lord) who says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid.” (Isa 44:28) That had come long before the exile, leaving the listeners wondering what that was all about. Now, the Jews find themselves in Babylon under the reign of a king called Cyrus. Dare they hope? The hope is fulfilled: “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing” (Ezra 1:1). Before they knew what was happening Cyrus made this proclamation: “Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.” (v.3)

 

Now to catch the full significance of this, we have to think about the significance of the Temple in the life of Israel . THE thing that marked Israel out from every other nation in the world, was the fact that God had made His dwelling in their midst. From Sinai onwards He had commanded them to build a Tabernacle: “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Ex 25:8,9). Established in the land, it was Solomon who built the Temple in Jerusalem, which the Lord filled with His glory on completion (1 Kings 8:10,11). The Temple was thus the central point of focus for the Israelites, the place of encounter with God. When it had been utterly destroyed it was as if the Lord had cut off any means of communication with them (though of course He continued to speak through prophets such as Daniel).

 

When Cyrus made this proclamation to the Jews, it must have appeared beyond their wildest dreams. It wasn't merely going back to Israel , it was going back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple , to re-establish the place of encounter with God. The Exile had been a terrible act of discipline, needed to shake Israel free from their godlessness and unrighteousness, but discipline only lasts for a while. God's intent is not to pursue pain in His children, but to restore their hearts to Him and to restore the relationship with them. As the Jews prepared to return to Jerusalem this was a major walk of restoration. Their hearts were being restored to the Lord, the place of encounter was being restored and their relationship with the Lord was being restored.

 

Now how does this apply to us today? Well it happens in small ways and big ways. In small ways it probably happens fairly regularly for some. Every time we sin, we offend God and grieve His Holy Spirit and there is a break in our fellowship with Him. Yet He encourages our speedy return: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness ” (1 Jn 1:9). Confession is the way back. Indeed Jesus has been praying for that to happen: “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense” (1 Jn 2:1). That happens on in the short term, but sometimes there are times when our relationship with the Lord drifts and, in all reality, it is not very real. Then something seems to stir within us. (it is His Holy Spirit) convicting us, nudging us to return. The Lord's desire is NOT that we have a half-hearted relationship with Him where we simply nod at Him on Sundays. No, He wants a daily, living, vibrant relationship with us. For some of us, we need to make the walk of restoration. It's time to come home, to come to the place of encounter with God, to pick up a regular and real relationship. Perhaps this page is the equivalent of Cyrus's proclamation for you. Come home; come back to the place of close encounter of the God kind.