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June 27, Day 179 – What Were They Thinking?

In 1 Kings 16:8-18:15, we come to “Elah, the son of Baasha, who became king of Israel, and he reigned only two years in Tirza” (verse 8). We see that he was a drunkard, and Zimri, one of his officials, came in, struck him down, and killed him” (verse 10). Then Zimri took over the northern kingdom, and after that, he killed all of Baasha’s family (verse 11). Leaders – and everyone else – should think twice about placing their followers or their friends too quickly into their service positions. This is especially true of friendships in our culture. All too often, we extend the hand of friendship way too quickly and easily without knowing our friends as well as we should know them. The Apocryphal book of Sirach – though not inspired by God – contains a wise principle about friendship: “Let those who are friendly to you be many, but one in a thousand your confidant. When you gain friends, gain them through testing, and do not be quick to trust them” (cf., Sirach 6:6-7; Proverbs 18:24). This is equally true for followers of leaders. For all his efforts, Zimri only reigned seven days – burning down the palace on himself – after all Israel proclaimed Omri king (verses 15-20). What was he thinking? Omri was no better – he only reigned longer because he was stronger (verse 21-28). Next, we are introduced to Ahab – who now becomes the standard for wickedness among the Israelite kings (verse 30) – and Scripture has a lot to say about him. In chapter 17, God raises up Elijah, who will become Ahab’s (and his wife, Jezebel’s} nemesis. Elijah stays at the home of the Zerephath widow – a poor Gentile woman – through whom God will supply Elijah as he serves God miraculously. Here, in the midst of a famine - which foreshadows the tribulation conditions of the future - we see three initial but unprecedented miracles: [1] “neither dew nor rain except at Elijah’s word” (verse 1); [2] “a jar of flour and a jug of oil that will not run out or run dry until it rains” (verse 14); and [3] the life of the widow’s son “returned to him” after he died (verse 22). In chapter 18, we see Elijah with the prophet Obadiah, who expressed his dread of Ahab during the famine, hid a hundred prophets, and supplied them with food and water” (verses 1-15). All of these events prepare the way for Elijah to confront Ahab about his wickedness.

In Psalm 78:9-16, I am amazed that “the men of Ephraim … did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. They forgot what He had done … His wonders” (verses 1-11). How is it possible for men to forget such incredibly significant and miraculous events? How could this be true? It happens only when men hold a low view of God - which results in no view of His hand in their daily lives. Here, we see the things God did for them: “He did visible miracles in Egypt; He divided the sea and led them through it; He guided them by a cloud by day and fire by night; and He split the rocks and gave them water” (verse 12-16). How do you forget such things? We forget those things which are not important to us. This shows that “the men of Ephraim” could not find these miracles important in their memories. What were they thinking?

As we come to Acts 17:1-21, we see again how antagonistic people are toward the gospel – “jealous Jews stirring up a riot in Thessalonica and dragging Jason out of his house” (verses 5-6). They said that Paul and Silas were causing “trouble all over the world and have now come here” (verses 5-6). We might well ask, “What were these jealous Jews thinking? What were they doing – if not stirring up trouble? Were they keeping the peace?” These so-called, “supporters” of Caesar “threw the city in turmoil” (verse 8). I suspect that, if we could have covertly overheard their banter in the town marketplace, they would be the first group to whine against Caesar’s oppression, his taxes, and his heavy hand upon them. Given our own current political situation, we should learn from this to avoid becoming too caught up in the social and political culture of our day because people are unpredictable, they can quickly turn against us, and they bite. In the next section, Paul and Silas went away to Berea, where “the jealous Jews followed them to agitate” in that city, too (verse 13). Subsequently, we see Paul and Silas escorted to Athens where Paul was “greatly distressed” by the idolatry there (verse 16). Tomorrow we will look at Paul’s Athenian address.

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