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2 Kings 9:14-29

Jehu Kills Joram and Ahaziah

One of the things that we hear often from Christians in this day and age is how this nation is not “what it used to be”! The culture seems to be running in the opposite direction from God’s Word. Christians shake their heads as to what happened. Only a certain few churches are growing. Thousands of churches are stagnant even though our nation’s population increases at a rate of 2% per year. Even scarier is the fact that approximately 5,000 churches close their door permanently each year since the beginning of the century. Look around within the walls of most traditional churches and churches are aging and I am not talking about the buildings. What happened? We blame it on the culture. But we, the church, Christians, used to be the dominating influence on the culture in America. What happened?

Plain and simple. We have never had to work for it – making sure that our churches are healthy and growing. Back in the day when we were the dominating influence on the culture, we didn’t have to do anything. Church was just part of everyday life. If you DIDN’T belong to a church of some sort, people though something was wrong with you. We didn’t have to do anything. Pastors and parishioners alike. People were just there when the doors opened. So when the culture began to drift away from a church-dominated culture, we did not and often still do not know what to do but continue to do nothing.

We gotta work for it now. We no longer can say I wish people would come to my church but yet still sit on the church steps and do nothing. We gotta work for it. We can’t wish. We gotta work for it. Otherwise, the culture will continue to drift away from God. Complaints about where the culture is headed cannot be our action plan. We gotta work for it.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage about God executing his justice on evil kings. My thought was “what would have happened if these two kings of what was supposed to be godly countries would have influenced their cultures on the road back to God?” Maybe their outcomes would have been different. What if they had been willing to take a lead role in influencing their culture back to God. We will never know because they did nothing and their were the leaders of their countries! That’s what I thought of and how we as Christians can no longer sit by and just expect the culture to come to us. Let’s look at this passage, 2 Kings 9:14-29, with that idea in mind:

14 So Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi, led a conspiracy against King Joram. (Now Joram had been with the army at Ramoth-gilead, defending Israel against the forces of King Hazael of Aram. 15 But King Joram[a] was wounded in the fighting and returned to Jezreel to recover from his wounds.) So Jehu told the men with him, “If you want me to be king, don’t let anyone leave town and go to Jezreel to report what we have done.”

16 Then Jehu got into a chariot and rode to Jezreel to find King Joram, who was lying there wounded. King Ahaziah of Judah was there, too, for he had gone to visit him. 17 The watchman on the tower of Jezreel saw Jehu and his company approaching, so he shouted to Joram, “I see a company of troops coming!”

“Send out a rider to ask if they are coming in peace,” King Joram ordered.

18 So a horseman went out to meet Jehu and said, “The king wants to know if you are coming in peace.”

Jehu replied, “What do you know about peace? Fall in behind me!”

The watchman called out to the king, “The messenger has met them, but he’s not returning.”

19 So the king sent out a second horseman. He rode up to them and said, “The king wants to know if you come in peace.”

Again Jehu answered, “What do you know about peace? Fall in behind me!”

20 The watchman exclaimed, “The messenger has met them, but he isn’t returning either! It must be Jehu son of Nimshi, for he’s driving like a madman.”

21 “Quick! Get my chariot ready!” King Joram commanded.

Then King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah rode out in their chariots to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of land that had belonged to Naboth of Jezreel. 22 King Joram demanded, “Do you come in peace, Jehu?”

Jehu replied, “How can there be peace as long as the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother, Jezebel, are all around us?”

23 Then King Joram turned the horses around[b] and fled, shouting to King Ahaziah, “Treason, Ahaziah!” 24 But Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart, and he sank down dead in his chariot.

25 Jehu said to Bidkar, his officer, “Throw him into the plot of land that belonged to Naboth of Jezreel. Do you remember when you and I were riding along behind his father, Ahab? The Lord pronounced this message against him: 26 ‘I solemnly swear that I will repay him here on this plot of land, says the Lord, for the murder of Naboth and his sons that I saw yesterday.’ So throw him out on Naboth’s property, just as the Lord said.”

27 When King Ahaziah of Judah saw what was happening, he fled along the road to Beth-haggan. Jehu rode after him, shouting, “Shoot him, too!” So they shot Ahaziah[c] in his chariot at the Ascent of Gur, near Ibleam. He was able to go on as far as Megiddo, but he died there. 28 His servants took him by chariot to Jerusalem, where they buried him with his ancestors in the City of David. 29 Ahaziah had become king over Judah in the eleventh year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab.

In this passage, we see that the kings that had been the latest in the line of kings that had participated in the straying of Israel and Judah from the Lord. Each of these kings participated and did not stop their nation’s descent into idolatry and evil. They joined in the wickedness and evil of their predecessors. They suffered the consequences of their evil. What can we learn from this? We, as the people, of God must, at times, stand up against evil rather than go along with it. Our silence can allow evil to flourish and continue and deepen. How far Israel and Judah had fallen because the anointed leaders simply went along! How far Israel and Judah had fallen because the anointed leaders were either just as the wicked as the people they led or they simply went along and didn’t wanna work for it. Either way the result is the same.

That’s the thing that I think we can bring forward to the 21st century from this passage and use as a challenge to us as modern-day Christ followers. Are we willing to work for it to change our culture? We have had it easy for so long in America as Christians. The church was a dominating influence in our culture for so long. We didn’t really have to do anything. Churches just grew. Everyone in the culture circled around a church somewhere. Church was intertwined with culture. That is no longer true.

Now, we must work for it. Are we ready for the struggle? Do we want to impact the culture for Christ and change things? We will have to work for it now.

First, we must see ourselves, not just our pastors, as ministers of reconciliation. We must be unafraid to share what the gospel has done in our lives with those in our lives that do not know Christ. That means we need to step outside our Christian circles and make friends with the unchurched. Their eternity is at stake and they don’t even know it. We each have our circles of influence that go far beyond what our pastors can do alone. We are all a kingdom of priests, as the Apostle Peter tells us, so we must see it as our daily job to seize opportunities to share the gospel. We are provided divine appointments by the Lord each day. Let’s not miss them. It is only through our active sharing of the gospel, each and every one of us, can we expect to influence the culture away from its current path. One person at a time by each one of us.

Second, we must be willing to take public leadership roles so that we can influence public policy. If we are to change the culture, we must be willing to make the sacrifices to lead it in the right direction. Sure, its going to be tough because of laws that prevent us from openly sharing our faith in public positions but there is nothing that says we cannot demonstrate our Christian values in the choices that we make as public leaders.

Third, we must be willing to meet the world where it’s at right now. What worked for churches 60 years ago is no longer relevant to a culture that has changed drastically since then. Our gospel message should not and will not ever change. The Bible is timeless and eternal and its message is true 60 years ago and will be 6000 years from now. However, the methods by which we engage people with the gospel is and should be different in 2019 than it was in 1969 or 1959 or even as short a time a go as 1989. Let us begin to be imaginative about how we engage the culture around us as churches. Let us be willing also to allocate resources based on our willingness to reach the souls of the unsaved. Changing the course of the eternity of the unsaved is what it’s all about.

Are you and I? Are we? Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and work for it? That’s the challenge that comes out of this passage for me. Am I ready to do the hard work to reach unsaved souls and change the culture?

Amen and Amen.

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2 Kings 8:16-24 (Part 2 of 2)

Jehoram Reigns in Judah

This week, Elena and I have been staying with my daughter, my son-in-law, and my granddaughter. This week, I have gotten to see all of my granddaughter’s behavior, not just the best of it. We have seen some of her two year old (a month a way from three now) nuclear meltdowns when it comes to behavior. Most of the time, Ralyn is the sweetest, most well-behaved little child you will ever meet. For a child that is less than three years old, she has such good speech and diction, you would think she is a child twice her age. Most of the time, she has wonderful manners. Yes and Yes ma’am and Yes sir. Thank you. Please. All the appropriate social graces for a child. And to listen to her tell stories, it is just so entertaining. She is so expressive. She doesn’t struggle with words because she has such a good vocabulary. Without the struggle for words, she concentrates on voice inflection and hand gestures. It’s just so amazing to have a conversation with her because it is so uncommon to be able to have a real conversation with a child of this age. And, she is so funny sometimes without even realizing it. It’s just a joy to watch her growing up.

However, when you are with a child 24/7, you get to see it all. You get to see the behavior meltdowns too. You get to see what their parents get to see. Friday evening was a particular troublesome evening when it comes to behavior. She was just sassy to everyone. This was the evening of the Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Pack Incident of 2019.

Because Ralyn had not had a nap on Friday, her behavior began deteriorating in the afternoon. Everything was a problem. Everything was a struggle. Sassy-ness was the order of the day. Since we came to visit after our trip to the beach, we brought all our food that we had not eaten up while at the beach. Part of that stash of food was a box of Welch’s fruit snacks. Elena and I love them. Just a quick snack not requiring a large investment of time and preparation. Ralyn loves them too. So, from Wednesday through Friday, Ralyn and her Papa would grab a pack each and sit and eat them together. So, by Friday evening we were down to the last snack pack in the box. Ralyn got it and everything was cool until I offered to open it for her (since she struggles with getting them open). But oh my that’s when the trouble began. She sass-mouthed her Papa saying it’s not yours, it’s mine in the most “terrible two” way possible. Not once but multiple times. That was it for her mom. The snack pack was taken away. Apology was required and when it was not given, a spanking ensued. The crying and pouting ensued. She was made to go to bed right then. And man it all could have been avoided had she just listened to what Papa was going to say – the offer for help, rather than being selfish and disrespectful.

The Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Pack Incident of 2019 with Ralyn was what I thought of this morning as I re-read this passage, 2 Kings 8:16-24, for the second of two times.  Let’s read it together now with an eye toward how selfish desires affect us in our relationship with God:

16 Jehoram son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah began to rule over Judah in the fifth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel. 17 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. 18 But Jehoram followed the example of the kings of Israel and was as wicked as King Ahab, for he had married one of Ahab’s daughters. So Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. 19 But the Lord did not want to destroy Judah, for he had promised his servant David that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.

20 During Jehoram’s reign, the Edomites revolted against Judah and crowned their own king. 21 So Jehoram[a] went with all his chariots to attack the town of Zair.[b] The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he went out at night and attacked them[c] under cover of darkness. But Jehoram’s army deserted him and fled to their homes. 22 So Edom has been independent from Judah to this day. The town of Libnah also revolted about that same time.

23 The rest of the events in Jehoram’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. 24 When Jehoram died, he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. Then his son Ahaziah became the next king.

In this passage, we see that, during Jehoram’s reign in Judah, a revolt began by the Edomites. The Edomites had been under the control of what was the united kingdom of Israel since the time of David. Under David, the kingdom of Israel expanded to it widest realm of influence that the Jewish kingdom had ever known. It was then maintained and great building projects occurred under David’s son, Solomon. However, because of all the in-fighting among David’s children and grandchildren, the kingdom split in two and each gradually became weaker as the kingdoms descended into disobedience toward the Lord. Here, in this passage, we see that Edom won its independence from Judah. Now, Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel would begin their slow decline into becoming non-influential nations that would ultimately be occupied by a successive larger and more powerful nation/kingdoms – beginning with the Assyrians for the northern kingdom, followed by the Babylonians and Persians for the southern kingdom. That was then followed by the Greeks who occupied both the north and the south under Alexander the Great. That was followed by the kingdoms that developed by the four generals of Alexander after his death. Then, came the long, long occupation under the Romans all the way up to the point that the Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were finally dispersed and Israel and Judah were no more after 70AD.

What we see in the beginnings of the decline here was both Israel and Judah became less and less concerned with obeying God and more and more concerned with getting their own way and doing what they wanted. Instead of observing God’s laws (that were intended to preserve the nation and allow them to flourish in the freedom of God’s protection), they began to see these laws as restrictive and they began to go their own way and do their own thing. As a result of selfish desires and behaviors, the kingdom split in two and became weaker. As a result of selfish desires and behaviors, the two nations made deals with other nations that made them weaker and made them susceptible to foreign practices and beliefs that were ungodly. Steadily, steadily, their disobedience and ungodly behavior led to loss of lands and influence and ultimately to occupation and destruction. We see the beginning of this loss of influence here with the revolt and independence of Edom.

Similarly, sudden selfishness led Ralyn down a path of losing her fruit snack pack and instead of repenting of that bad behavior she continued in it. She continued in her bad behavior to the point that she lost her right to stay up with the grown-ups and was forced to go to be early. Without repentance, the rebellion continued and she lost the freedom she enjoyed just a few minutes earlier. Without repentance, she lost all her freedom and had to go to bed as punishment. Her behavior and the behavior of Israel and Judah should be a reminder to us all.

God’s expectations of us are not to hold us back and restrict us. God wants us to obey Him so that we can experience the freedoms that come with obeying Him. His so called rules for our behavior are really intended to prevent us from destroying ourselves. They are there because He loves us and wants to protect us from that which is evil for us and that will destroy us. As children, we see our parents’ rules as restrictive but when we disobey our parents’ rules, we find out that our parents really do have our best interest at heart. We find out that we have more freedom when we obey our parents’ commands. We find our that life is more peaceful and we actually have more freedom. It is the same way with God. When we obey Him, we have more freedom, we have more influence, we seem to be able to handle what life throws at us with less stress and trouble.

Ralyn learned, I hope, from the Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Pack Incident of 2019 that disobedience, though self-satisfying, will lead to loss of freedom. Maybe, she learned that repentance when we have disobeyed can help us reclaim the blessings in which we were operating. Maybe, she learned that the lack of repentance, rebellion, will led us to lose all of our freedom and influence that we once enjoyed under the blessing of God. Maybe, you and I need to learn these things too in our grown-up lives, not just Ralyn in her “terrible two” meltdown during the Great Welch’s Fruit Snack Incident of 2019.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 6:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)

The Floating Ax Head

Does God care about the details of life? Does God care about the Cool Whip? How that question ties in to our topic today is coming up. But … We often think of God of being the God of significant events, significant struggles over a period of time, just anything significant. We go to Him in prayer when we are about to go through something big in our lives, when we are in the midst of something big in our lives, and so on. We often treat God as if He is not with us everyday and in everything. We consult Him like we consult a doctor. We go to Him when something major is amiss or just for an occasional checkup. Sometimes, we treat God as the God of the Significant but not of anything insignificant, the mundane, the usual, you know, the everyday. We tend to think that God doesn’t care about the mundane details of our lives. I fall victim to this syndrome as much as anyone else.

I used to make fun (in my mind) of people who would pray to God about everything. You know, those people that pray to God about what to fix for dinner and all sorts of other minor details of life. Then there are people who pray in an amazing level of specificity about things.

I remember when Meghan, my oldest daughter, was little and I was still married to her mom, we were at Lisa’s (my first wife’s) family Thanksgiving dinner. And everyone agreed that Meghan should give the thanksgiving prayer. It went something like this. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. She began her prayer, thanking God for all her friends, naming them one by one. Then he thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, her newborn sister, Taylor, her grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts. Then she began to thank God for the food. She gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the fruit salad, the cranberry sauce, the pies, the cakes, even the Cool Whip. Then she paused, and everyone waited–and waited. After a long silence, Meghan looked up at me and asked, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won’t He know that I’m lying?” Funny story about the specificity of prayer and kind of illustrates the question that we are wrestling with today. Does God really care about the Cool Whip?

Are you one who prays for everything, every little detail of life like my daughter did in that Thanksgiving prayer? Do you pray for what you should pick off the menu at a restaurant? Does God really care about what we are going to fix for dinner, or what we are going to choose of the menu at a restaurant? Does God really care whether the Clemson Tigers will beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship game of college football? Does God really care about what clothes you are going to wear today? Does God really care about whether my weed-eater will start on the first pull?

Sure, God gave us free will and He expects us to do our part in life. He gave us intellect to reason and to make wise choices. He gave us memory to understand that if we do x, then, y will be the result. But the answer is yes God does care about every detail of our lives. That’s what I thought about this morning as I read this passage, 2 Kings 6:1-7. It just seemed like one those stuck in the middle passages that give you a little rest between bigger events in the Bible. Sometimes, you know, there’s that first impression that a passage is an interlude, or filler, in between bigger stories in the Bible. That was my first impression when I read this passage today. But I reminded myself there is nothing insignificant in the Bible. Every passage, every story, every storyline, it’s all meaningful. You just have to look for the meaning. That’s when it hit me, this passage illustrates that God IS in the details of everyday life. Let’s read the passage now:

6 One day the group of prophets came to Elisha and told him, “As you can see, this place where we meet with you is too small. 2 Let’s go down to the Jordan River, where there are plenty of logs. There we can build a new place for us to meet.”

“All right,” he told them, “go ahead.”

3 “Please come with us,” someone suggested.

“I will,” he said. 4 So he went with them.

When they arrived at the Jordan, they began cutting down trees. 5 But as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. “Oh, sir!” he cried. “It was a borrowed ax!”

6 “Where did it fall?” the man of God asked. When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water at that spot. Then the ax head floated to the surface. 7 “Grab it,” Elisha said. And the man reached out and grabbed it.

In this passage, we see that the incident of the floating ax head is recorded to show God’s care and provision for those who trust him, even in the insignificant events of everyday life. God is always present.

At the Billy Graham Evangelist Association website, they have a section of the website devoted to questions from visitors to the website. In response to this very question, the response at the website said this:

Why is God concerned not only about the big things but the small things in our lives? One reason is because He loves us. If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t care what happens to us—and He certainly wouldn’t care about the little details that often preoccupy us or cause us the greatest worry. But He does love us, and we know this because He sent His only Son into the world to purchase our salvation. Jesus said, “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid” (Matthew 10:30-31).

But we know God is concerned about even the smallest things for another reason: His greatness. Listen: God is so great that even the very smallest detail of the universe is under His control. The most distant galaxy … the littlest seed … even the smallest sub-atomic particle—everything was created by Him, and is under His sovereign control. God is that great! In Christ, the Bible says, “all things were created. … And in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

So, let us be aware of God’s presence in the details of lives. That is a good thing. When we remove God from the shelf and make Him a part of our everyday life, then, intimacy with Him can grow. When He walks with me and He talks with me and tells me that I am His own, like the old hymn said, we can have true intimacy. When we make Him a part of everything, there is recognition that God is real, that we can begin to feel close to Him, that we can feel His presence. When we only recognize Him in the big things of life, we miss out and we often feel disconnected and less intimate with Him. How do you get close to people in your life? You talk to them daily. You interact with them daily. You grow close through daily contact. We should be the same with God.

Because, yes, Meghan, God does care about the Cool Whip!

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 2:19-25 (Part 1 of 2)

Elisha’s First Miracles

The world in which we live now in the Western world is one of high levels of technology and equally high common knowledge of how to use this vast array of technology in everyday life. We talk to our phones, it responds. We talk to our cars, it responds. We have remote start for our vehicles. We can set our thermostats at home while sitting at work. We watch a delivery man leave a package at our front doors on our computers. We can talk to our remote control to our television and ask it to find a certain type of program or a specific show on the five hundred channels that we have on our cable television subscription. We have subscriptions to media services that will allow us to watch whole seasons of a television show all at one sitting. All of this is of course being watched on at least a 48” screen or more hooked into a wireless sound system that will rival any movie theatre. We have home assistants that can turn on, dim, or turn off the lights on voice command. We can ask our phone questions about things we don’t know and it looks up the answer for us. We live in an amazing time. What we take for granted today as simply part of our the “necessities” of life were things of science fiction dreams only 10 years ago. The pace of technological advancement of inventions that make our life just that much easier to live is staggering.

We are a spoiled people here in the United States. We have so much and we take it for granted as it being “that’s just the way life is supposed to be!” Just think how helpless we all feel when the wi-fi network goes down at home or something goes wrong with the internet or your network infrastructure at work. Everything comes to a screeching halt. We cannot operate without our technology it seems. We no longer no what to do. I remember as late as 1995, most people did not have computers on their desk at work and it was less common for a home to have a desktop computer. Before 1995 when technology exploded, we actually used spreadsheets in accounting – literal spreadsheets, ten-column spreadsheets. Before 1995, major accounting functions and financial reporting was done through main-frame computers that took up whole rooms in the basements of large businesses. The pace of change in technology over the quarter century is equivalent to all the technological advancements in human history prior to that.

Has it made us a better society? I am not sure that it has. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and am a gadget geek. I stand in awe of the technological advances made just in my lifetime (where my iPhone in 2019 has more computer capacity than the Apollo 11 command module that held land man on the moon back in 1969 – when I was a little kid of 6 and 7 years old that year). I embrace technological advances rather than fear them. However, the question remains, “is our society better for it?” I think that question is really an unfair one because technology no matter how vast and amazing it is, is simply a by-product of man. The real question is…as we have progressed in technology and ease of life, are we a better people because we have time to focus on things that matter?

We have the finest of everything. The best cars. The best homes. Even our poorest people in this country are more wealthy than the 97% of the world’s population. We’ve got it all. We’ve got it made. Does that make us closer to God though? Has the ease of life enabled us to become closer to God? The answer is sadly no. As we gather more and more wealth, it seems that we are as a nation drifting farther and farther from God. The town is beautiful but the water is growing more and more murky.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through 2 Kings 2:19-25, this morning. Jericho was this beautiful, successful town but its water was horrid. It is symbolic of how that city was enamored with its own wealth and beauty but in the basic thing of life, its water, it was putrid. It took a miracle of salt to change things. That is us, as Christians today, we are the salt that can change things. Let’s read the passage now:

19 One day the leaders of the town of Jericho visited Elisha. “We have a problem, my lord,” they told him. “This town is located in pleasant surroundings, as you can see. But the water is bad, and the land is unproductive.”

20 Elisha said, “Bring me a new bowl with salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went out to the spring that supplied the town with water and threw the salt into it. And he said, “This is what the Lord says: I have purified this water. It will no longer cause death or infertility.[a]” 22 And the water has remained pure ever since, just as Elisha said.

23 Elisha left Jericho and went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, a group of boys from the town began mocking and making fun of him. “Go away, baldy!” they chanted. “Go away, baldy!” 24 Elisha turned around and looked at them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them. 25 From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel and finally returned to Samaria.

In this passage, we see that the story is short and simple, yet its truth is profound and far reaching. This was a city controlled by Israel and in which there was a small seminary (a school of the Prophets), but the water of the city was bad and caused unfruitfulness in the land. If you will notice, in 2:19 the men of the city of Jericho reported, “the situation in the city is pleasant.” At first glance things looked prosperous in the city. There were beautiful buildings, trees, gardens, and much activity – but no actual fruitfulness. Literally the Hebrew says, “the land causes barrenness.” This may indicate the water contained mineral deposits which hindered growth or fruitfulness. Things grew, but before they produced fruit, the fruit would drop off or the plants would wither. The men recognized the authenticity of Elisha as a prophet of God who had walked across the Jordan, an evident token of the power of God in his life. So they came to Elisha and requested help for their problem. Elisha then requested a new jar filled with salt, casts it into the spring, and by a miracle of God the water was purified with permanent results. Evidently, the spring to this day is okay. Please note in 2:21, Elisha gives God the credit. It was not Elisha and it was not the salt – it was God. Elisha was only a representative agent of God and the salt a symbol.

Salt was important in man’s history all the way up to the invention of refrigeration. Salt helped prevent decay of meat. It was a preservative. It was and is a flavor giver. It is often a purifying agent. That’s the symbolism for us as Christians in this passage. We must be the change agents in society. Scripture calls us to be like salt on several occasions. We are to be the ones to prevent decay. We cannot as Christians be content to sit on the sidelines and watch society destroy itself. We cannot sit on the sidelines and simply provide sad commentary on the state of the world. We are called to be the salt of the earth – that which prevents its decay. We must be used by God and thrown into the water to create the miracle of clean water. We must be the change agents. We must no longer be sideline sitters. We must get in the game and change the world by sharing the love of Jesus Christ with our neighbors one person at a time. Let us be the salt thrown in the water to create the necessary chemical reactions.

Let us be the salt thrown in the water!

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 18:1-40 (Part 2 of 3)

The Contest on Mount Carmel

For the last few weeks, we have had a group of friends/couples over to our house that we have grown to love deeply over the past year. These are couples that we have forged some deep connections with because we have been part of significant events in their lives over the past year. In these first three weeks we have gotten together, we have shared our journeys to the cross with one another. Since we were the common bond among these couples that we were bringing together and the other couples did not know each other beyond knowing that we all go to church together, I felt the best way for us to get to know each other was to share our salvation stories with one another as we shared meals and conversation.

What a better way to get to know one another than to share your life story of how to got to the cross, how Jesus saved you, and what life has been like since! We have shed tears together over the last three weeks that we have been together. We have shared laughter. We have seen each person let down the masks that we often put up to the outside world. As a result, the bond that was through getting connected with one another through God’s local church has grown deeper. The couples that did not know each other have forged instant bonds with one another because the honesty required by sharing your road to the cross with another person. The common thread in each salvation story shared among the four couples in these three meetings is a term that probably someone else coined but true nonetheless is “the God-sized hole”.

We all have the “the God-sized hole” in our soul. Some people are lucky and get it filled with the right thing at an early age and I thank God for those people. They don’t have to go through the struggles that most of us do. Many people are not so fortunate. Many, including myself, have lived a large portion of our lives seeking to fill our God-sized hole with other things that do not fit. All the stories shared during our first three meetings of these couples are individual stories and sometimes couple stories of trying to fill our God-sized hole with other gods. In the 21st century, we may not worship Asherah poles or images of Baal like they did in the Old Testament but we are often no different that ancient people. We stray from the one true God to find and fulfill our desires of the flesh and hope that those desires fulfilled will fill the God-sized hole. It may be our jobs. It may be our relationships, even bad ones. We may use drugs or alcohol to attempt to fill the God-sized hole. It may be defining our self-worth through approval of others. It may be defining our self-worth through sexual conquests. It may be trying to fill the hole with money and property. It can be so many things. But as God’s Word tells us in so many ways and so many times, that worshiping something other than God always leads to destruction.

We always come up empty in the God-sized hole when we try to fill it with gods that are man-made. It may not be an elaborate religion such as we see here in this text from the Old Testament but our gods are no less elaborate and man-made and ultimately useless in today’s world. That’s the come thread to all the stories shared so beautifully over the last three meetings is coming up empty in the God-sized hole.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read 1 Kings 18:1-40 about how the elaborate but false religion of the people of the northern kingdom failed when it counted. It reminded me of the common thread of the salvation stories of many, many people is that when it comes down to it we come up empty when we try to fill our God-sized hole with something other than God:

Chapter 18

1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the Lord said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab.

Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the Lord. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.

7 As Obadiah was walking along, he suddenly saw Elijah coming toward him. Obadiah recognized him at once and bowed low to the ground before him. “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?” he asked.

8 “Yes, it is,” Elijah replied. “Now go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

9 “Oh, sir,” Obadiah protested, “what harm have I done to you that you are sending me to my death at the hands of Ahab? 10 For I swear by the Lord your God that the king has searched every nation and kingdom on earth from end to end to find you. And each time he was told, ‘Elijah isn’t here,’ King Ahab forced the king of that nation to swear to the truth of his claim. 11 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to who knows where. When Ahab comes and cannot find you, he will kill me. Yet I have been a true servant of the Lord all my life. 13 Has no one told you, my lord, about the time when Jezebel was trying to kill the Lord’s prophets? I hid 100 of them in two caves and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you say, ‘Go and tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’ Sir, if I do that, Ahab will certainly kill me.”

15 But Elijah said, “I swear by the Lord Almighty, in whose presence I stand, that I will present myself to Ahab this very day.”

16 So Obadiah went to tell Ahab that Elijah had come, and Ahab went out to meet Elijah. 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.[a]”

20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent.

22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed.

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.”

26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself.[b] Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.

30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel,[c] 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the Lord. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons.[d] 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.[e]

Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”

34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.

36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,[f] prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O Lord, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

38 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God! Yes, the Lord is God!”

40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.

In this passage, we see that, although the prophets of Baal “raved all afternoon” no one answered. Their god was silent because he was not real. Baal was a man-made creation. It may have had all the trappings of something supernatural with trinkets and physical representations of what this “god” looked like, but it was fully unreal. The gods of our day may not have idols in the same sense as ancient man-made religions but they are just as false and dangerous because they cause to depend on something other than God. Power, status, appearance, material possessions, drugs, alcohol, sexual validation, all of these things can become our gods if we devote our lives to pleasing those desires in our lives. However, in times of crisis, and we desperately call out to our gods, they will only be silence. We are all built with a God-sized hole in our soul than only God can fill. Our gods of our mind and flesh can offer no true answers, no guidance and no wisdom.

Whether we believe it or not (and if you do not believe in God that belief does NOT make Him NOT exist), we are born to seek after and worship God. He, the Creator of All Things, designed us to worship Him. He wired us that way, plain and simple. Satan may deceive us into believing that God does not exist or that we have evolved beyond the myth of religion and God. We may pride ourselves in our “evolution” and may even ridicule those who still believe in all that God stuff. However, convincing yourself that God does not exist and that you have evolved beyond “the myth of God” does not make Him stop existing. It does not make Him not exist. God designed us to be worshipful creatures toward Him. However, in Sovereignty as God, He chose to give us free will. He wanted us to worship Him not as robots but rather as free will beings who worship Him from the heart, soul and mind.

In that free will and because of the sin of Adam and Eve that we have inherited through the generations since, we choose to sin and walk away from God. We try to fill the God-sized hole with things that give us pleasure. We worship our own pleasure. We try to fill the God-sized hole with the things that we like and that we begin to worship. We worship money, power, position, drugs, alcohol, sex, and all sorts of pleasure giving activities instead of God. The path that these gods lead us down is one that leads to destruction. Why are we so hard-headed? Why does it take being brought down to our knees by the emptiness of the pursuits of the flesh before we cry out to God? Why is it that we try to fill the God-sized hole in our soul with something other than the one true God? We come up empty in the God-sized hole because our gods do not fit and are not intended to fill the God-sized hole.

Just that hundreds of priest of a false and empty religion came up empty when it came to bringing the rain so, too, do we come up empty when it’s crunch time in our lives and our gods of our own making fail us. Only God can fill the God-sized hole. Only God can bring the rain we cry out for. Only God is real. We are programmed by Him to worship Him and Him alone. Stop trying to seek the gaping hole in your soul with false gods of your own making and come to the Lord. Only He is designed to fully fit the hole in your soul. He will bring the rain which you seek. When you seek after Him you will begin to see the promise that you seek. You will see deliverance from the drought of your life. You will see a cloud coming that brings the promise.

The cloud is coming with promise to fill the hole in your soul. I think Elevation Worship says it best when they penned the song, There is A Cloud, and it goes like this:

Hear the Word, roaring as thunder

With a new, future to tell

For the dry, season is over

There is a cloud, beginning to swell

To the skies, heavy with blessing

Lift your eyes, offer your heart

Jesus Christ, opened the Heavens

Now we receive, the Spirit of God

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Every seed, buried in sorrow

You will call, forth in its time

You are Lord, Lord of the harvest

Calling our hope, now to arise

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love

When You come

Like a flood; like a flood

We receive Your love!

And with great, anticipation

We await, the Promise to come

Everything, that You have spoken

Will come to pass, let it be done!

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

We receive Your rain

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 9:10-14

Solomon’s Agreement with Hiram

Speaking in culinary terms, the colloquial term, “leftovers” brings to mind food that was not chosen at the meal at which it was originally served. It was the food thought to be good enough for a snack or a smaller meal at a later time. It was not the choice meat. It was not the choice vegetable. When one mentions to his/her family that they will be served leftovers at their next meal, it generally brings a lackadaisical response and not closely comparable to the response elicited by a freshly cooked meal. Oh boy! We’re having leftovers for dinner tonight! (infuse statement with sarcasm).

Leftovers do not elicit the idea of what you best is. Leftovers bring to mind the taking of the best already andleaving behind that which is the dregs. In this Christmas season that we are inright now, how often do we give “leftover” gifts to those that we have to givegifts to as opposed to those that we want to give gifts to. You know, those giftsyou HAVE to buy. Those ones that you run into Wal-Mart and pick up a gift cardfor Amazon in the smallest denomination possible. Those obligatory gifts thatyou do not put much thought into. These types of gifts are the ones thatsatisfy the custom but have no heart in them. The kind of gift that when youreceive it you go…well…ok…ummm…thanks. That nephew or niece or that person thatyou rarely see but are required to give a gift to but you have nothing investedreally in their lives. These are the gift card or regifting people on yourlist. It kind of reminds you of the movie, ChristmasVacation, starring Chevy Chase. In that movie, the old lady, AuntBethany, had a penchant for wrapping up presents from things that were aroundher house for Christmas presents for this annual extended family get-togetherat Christmas. As she had grown senile by the time we see her in this movie, shehad actually wrapped up her cat in one of the boxes! LOL! So, you get thepicture of what I am talking about, we have those gifts that we give that wereally don’t invest ourselves in selecting because the person we give the giftto is not a high priority.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read 1 Kings 9:10-14 – how Solomon just kind of gave Hiram a thoughtless gift, a leftover gift, an oh-here gift, when he should have really invested in an amazing gift for Hiram, his closely allied king in the region. Hiram was insulted by the gift to the point that he turned it into a transaction rather than accepting the gift as a gift. He did not honor Hiram the way he should have. Let’s read what happened:

10 It took Solomon twenty years to build the Lord’s Temple and his own royal palace. At the end of that time, 11 he gave twenty towns in the land of Galilee to King Hiram of Tyre. (Hiram had previously provided all the cedar and cypress timber and gold that Solomon had requested.) 12 But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the towns Solomon had given him, he was not at all pleased with them. 13 “What kind of towns are these, my brother?” he asked. So Hiram called that area Cabul (which means “worthless”), as it is still known today. 14 Nevertheless, Hiram paid Solomon 9,000 pounds of gold.

In this passage, we see that Solomon had built his own house, and God’s house, with all the materials that Hiram had provided, and they had this good relationship — so now it says: “King Solomon gave Hiram 20 cities in the land of Galilee”, evidently as a gift for all he had done for him, and as an expression of good will for the relationship they had. This “gift” from Solomon apparently was insulting to Hiram in exchange for gold that apparently Solomon needed. Apparently, Hiram did not think that these 20 cities were worth 9,000 pounds of gold. Because of the relationship that they had in the past, Hiram was expecting the land and the cities in it to be beautiful, useful land.

However, Solomon gave him the worst of his kingdom. Galilee, as you may remember from the New Testament, is a land from which nothing good ever came out of. The land that Jesus grew up in was a poor area with limited resources which caused people there not to be able to afford good educations, good jobs, and so on. Nothing good every came out of Galilee, as the saying went in the Bible. This kind of disrespect is something that we must think about when it comes to how we treat God when it comes to our gifts to God – our time, our talent, our resources.

So what can we take away from this short passage? What is it that we can apply to our daily lives here in the 21st century as modern Christians? I think it has to do with how we honor God. Do you know the Bible tells us that we can insult God by what we try to give Him? Repeatedly God tells us in His word that there are “gifts” which people try to give to Him which He rejects. In Malachi 1 the people of Israel were bringing their blemished animals and offering them as sacrifices to God instead of bringing their first and best. So God said in Malachi 1:10, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates … I am not pleased with you, says the LORD of hosts, nor will I accept an offering from you.” God told those people, your “gift” of these unwanted animals is an insult to Me. He said in v. 1:8, “Why not offer it to your governor?” You wouldn’t give something like that to him — why would you give it to Me?”

Malachi puts it simply, “In your tithes and contributions (3:8c).” Malachi says, using the robber motif, that the people have been, in effect, stealing from God. As a consequence, the Lord has withheld blessing. Their covenant faithfulness is lacking in comparison to God’s faithfulness. They again were picking and choosing which covenant stipulations to observe. They had withheld their tithes or at least the full extent of them that the Law commanded them to bring to God (Leviticus 27:30, Deuteronomy 12:5-18, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Numbers 18:21-32). This rebuke is not something isolated to a few individuals. It is a national rebuke when the Scripture says, “the whole nation of you (3:9c).”

Maybe, this rebuke is part of the vicious spiral of degeneration that Malachi observed. With the failure of the people to support the Levitical priesthood as God commanded, it is possible their passion for their job was correspondent to the amount of support that they received. Neither has pleased God. Service to God should not be contingent on the amount of support received for the effort. All parties of Israel are somehow shocked that they have not been blessed. The command was to teach faithful obedience. It was to be an act of trust in the Lord. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The requirement of a tenth was a benchmark of obedience. Paul’s message is that of loving willingness rather than ritualistic adherence. His expectation was that believers should give above and beyond as they had means. The message is that one should give liberally not out of compulsion. As Hemphill states, “the giving of tithes and offerings in Scripture cannot be separated from the heart condition of the giver.” 

Malachi calls into question whether the Israelites place God first in their lives since they have a spirit of disobedience. In our passage today, Solomon shows a similar disrespect to Hiram. By contrast, those who give God the best of their wealth, God’s response will be to “open the windows of heaven for you and pour down a blessing for you until there is no more need” (3:10b). Malachi shows that obedience provides blessing. Malachi praises a humble and giving heart. Similarly, the saga of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 deals with this very issue of holding back and giving God what is left over but yet at the same time publicly displaying piety. In this scene from Acts, one understands the biblical imperative that all of our resources come from God not just the tenth that is considered the minimum to return to the Lord. When His people usurp their place and begin keeping what they wish to themselves, it is dishonoring to their loving Father. Further, this lack of obedience calls into question whether His people can be trusted to be His representatives here on earth. If God acts to preserve the integrity of His name to the nations through his representatives here on earth (through the rebukes to His people announced through Malachi or the deaths of hypocrites in Acts), these corrective actions produce increased confidence in the truthfulness of God’s message itself.  What remains after rebuke and repentance is a message that God is primary in His people’s lives. He is not the God of leftovers. As Polaski states, “Those who do not wish to live in covenant with God fail to reverence God. The job of the covenant community is to reverence God and thus to oppose such conduct…in the context of God’s faithful devotion to an unfailing covenant.”

Modern day people of God should worship God fervently with their hearts daily – more than just on the Sundays one finds it convenient to go to church. Modern day believers should display worship of God in their daily lives. One’s service to God should be more than serving the body of the church or the world outside only when it does not interfere with work, or school or our favorite hobbies. Our finances should reflect God. Biblical financial behavior honors God. When one gives God the first fruits of one’s finances, it honors Him. The believer should order his finances in a manner that God get the best meat of one’s finances, not the leftover fat.

Do we respond to Him with leftovers? Are giving God thoughtless gifts in the same way that Solomon gives this gift to Hiram? Or do we respond to him with the best food of our lives, the first check that we write, the “get to serve at church” rather than the “have to serve at church”, the thinking of how does this honor God in everything we do? Those who believe in God want to make His glory known to the world so that others may come unto Him. How does that happen? Lives are lived where everything is done to honor God not oneself. Stop bringing God your leftovers. Honor Him with the best of everything that you do (your time, your talents, your resources). To be uncommonly devoted to the Lord in everything that we do rather than being like the culture is what draws the world unto Him. Put God first in your finances (and every other area of your life) and honor Him with your best gifts! Treat Him like the person you most want to buy a gift for rather than someone your run into Wal-Mart for and get a gift card of the lowest denomination on your way to the party.

Amen and Amen.

1 Kings 8:1-11 (Part 1 of 2)
The Ark Brought to the Temple

I remember my college graduation for what is wasn’t and for what it almost was. In June 1983, Ronald Reagan was our President and George H.W. Bush was our Vice-President. The school that I graduated from, Furman University, in Greenville, SC had landed quite a coup for our graduation. We were to have Vice-President Bush for our commencement speaker. It was quite the big deal. However, it was not to be. For some reason that I cannot remember, VP Bush had to cancel at the last minute. So close to graduation it was, our university president ended up having to give the commencement speech.

At Furman, a small school of about 3,000 students and is a school that plays football at the division of NCAA football just below the big boys known then as Division 1-AA, we held our graduations in our football stadium that holds about 20,000 people – the home side of the stadium being about 12,000 of that total. On the home side of the stadium you can observe Paris Mountain in the distance, some 3 miles away from the stadium. It is a beautiful view. So, families and friends of the graduates were sitting in the home stands and the graduating seniors were sitting in folding chairs on the football field in front of the graduation platform that held all the dignitaries, special guests and other participants in the late afternoon of early June. It was a beautiful day but hot as blazes as it often is in the South in the summertime. It was so humid that day I remember it clearly as I remember sweating a lot underneath the graduation gown and my suit and tie. As was usual in that time of year, with all the heat and humidity, summer afternoon/evening thunderstorms were bound to pop up. Well, on this day, it was no different. As we proceed through all the festivities, you could see this large dark group of clouds approaching. During the various speeches, it was creeping ever closer and ever closer. Our university president, Dr. Johns, was the final and keynote speaker before the conferring of degrees. Since the stage was facing the graduates and the home side stands in the football stadium, the approaching clouds were behind the dignitaries. I think Dr. Johns was oblivious to the approaching storm. Maybe, it had been a while since he had given a commencement speech, but he seemed to go on and on and on. And the clouds kept getting closer and closer to the stadium. Finally, he was done.

The thunderstorm cloud was now such that you could no longer see Paris Mountain in the background and the skies were gray above us. We proceeded to get through all the degrees being handed out and the final charge to the graduates and the final prayer and then of course the tossing of our mortarboards into the air after we were declared graduates of Furman University forever the Class of 1983. Then the rains came and it poured for about a half hour. So, we came oh so close to having to walk across the stage in an active thunderstorm. But God was kind to us and held the rain off until we began exiting the field as graduates. Thank goodness we could all mill around in the concession area/concourse underneath the upper stands as the storm passed.

Isn’t funny though how you remember little details like that of your life? The mile markers of life. I remember graduation from college, my graduations from graduate school and seminary, my marriage ceremonies, the births of my children, the day of my salvation, moving days, both of Clemson’s national championship games in football, and other important and seminal events in my life. This is how we measure life – by the mile marker moments in them. What are the mile marker moments of your life?

Those mile marker moments of life are what I thought of this morning as I read this passage, 1 Kings 8:1-11, for today. This moment in Israel’s history is momentous. It is a mile marker in the history of Israel. In the history of ancient Israel, this moment when the Temple was finished is a reference point. It is that moment that things happened before and things happened after. It is a mile marker in history. Let’s read the passage now:

Chapter 8

1 Solomon then summoned to Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes—the leaders of the ancestral families of the Israelites. They were to bring the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant to the Temple from its location in the City of David, also known as Zion. 2 So all the men of Israel assembled before King Solomon at the annual Festival of Shelters, which is held in early autumn in the month of Ethanim.[a]

3 When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests picked up the Ark. 4 The priests and Levites brought up the Ark of the Lord along with the special tent[b] and all the sacred items that had been in it. 5 There, before the Ark, King Solomon and the entire community of Israel sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that no one could keep count!

6 Then the priests carried the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant into the inner sanctuary of the Temple—the Most Holy Place—and placed it beneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 The cherubim spread their wings over the Ark, forming a canopy over the Ark and its carrying poles. 8 These poles were so long that their ends could be seen from the Holy Place, which is in front of the Most Holy Place, but not from the outside. They are still there to this day. 9 Nothing was in the Ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Mount Sinai,[c] where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel when they left the land of Egypt.

10 When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. 11 The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of the Lord.

In this passage, we see that Solomon gathered the people not just to dedicate the Temple, but to rededicate themselves to God’s Service. Solomon could well be speaking these words to us today as he did later in this chapter in 1 Kings 8:61 when he said, “And may you be completely faithful to the Lord our God. May you always obey his decrees and commands, just as you are doing today.” Thus, as the university president did at my college graduation and his charge to us to be difference makers in the world, so too does Solomon use this opportunity, this mile marker moment, to remind the Israelites that they are God’s people and that they must continue to be faithful to him. The establishment of a permanent Temple was a moment for them to realize that God has blessed them mightily and that He has shown them favor, often when they did not deserve it. It was a moment to realize that they were no longer wandering from place to place. They now have what God promised them – a homeland where they could be at peace and serve the Lord and be a beacon to the rest of the world.

It is in these mile marker moments of life when they happen right in front of us that we can take time to realize how far we come and where we have to go. It is a time to celebrate and a time to realize what comes next as we stand here in this moment. As Christians, we have mile markers too. We reference our entire lives and the history of God’s people by the greatest mile-marker moment in history – when Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, my sins, your sins, the sins of all men of all time. Without that mile marker moment, none of us would have any hope. We should reflect on this mile marker moment every day and be thankful and grateful for what Jesus has done for us. Without that moment, we are left to the condemnation of our mountains of sins that we commit every day.

Another important mile-marker moment for Christians is the day of their salvation. I can still remember the sights, sounds, and smells of that day, the Sunday before Christmas in 2001 (December 23, 2001). It was the moment that I realized that if I continued to live in the false security that I had about my general goodness that I was destined for hell in the absence of Jesus Christ. It was that moment that the reality of my sins overwhelmed me and thrust me at the feet of Jesus – begging for his mercy. It was a seminal moment in my life and our salvation day is a seminal moment in each Christian’s life. I often think that we should celebrate our salvation day anniversary with the same fervor that we do our birthdays. It is that important. It is that mile marker by which my life is measured – before salvation and after salvation. It is a mile marker moment that should be remembered and treasured. Do you remember your salvation day? Let us not forget that moment when our life changed forever. Let us remember that joy that we felt that day. Let us remember the sights, sounds, and smells of that day. Let us always remember the tears of joy, the moment when the burden seemed lifted, that moment when everything changed. That mile marker moment!

Amen and Amen.