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June 29, Day 181 – They Kept On Sinning

Yesterday, at the end of 1 Kings 19, we briefly saw the transfer of authority as Elijah appointed Elisha as his replacement (cf., 1 Kings 19:19-21). From that passage, we note Elisha’s level of total commitment to the Lord: “Elisha took his yoke of oxen, slaughtered them, burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat, and gave it to the people … then he set out to follow Elijah” (verse 21). Elisha turns his back on the past and now looks forward to his future service. Now today, we come to 1 Kings 20-21, where we see Ahab and Ben-Hadad – two selfish, egotistical, and evil kings (i.e., so-called “leaders”) – who went to war against each other. Foolishly, Ben-Hadad demanded Ahab’s “silver, gold, the best of his wives, and his children” (verse 3). In this section, we see enacted what Psalm 78 says - they just “kept on sinning,” but here we note God’s patience and mercy toward the wicked Ahab as Ben-Hadad lays siege to Samaria. The prophet advises Ahab who prepares for battle accordingly. In verses 13-34, we see Ben-Hadad’s coalition of thirty-two kings all “getting drunk in their tents” (verse 15-16). As Ahab advances, he “inflicts heavy losses” (verse 21), and Ben-Hadad flees. Interestingly, the Arameans falsely believe that Israel’s God equates “to the gods of the hills” (verse 23), so they adjust their strategy, but that didn’t work. The “next spring” (verse 26), they try again, but that didn’t work either – “the Israelites inflicted a hundred thousand casualties on the Arameans in one day” (verse 29). In verse 34, Ahab frees Ben-Hadad, and he ignores God’s command to kill him (verse 42). As a result, God’s mercy and patience with Ahab are about to run out, and both kings will soon become “a passing breeze that does not return” (cf., Psalm 78:39). In chapter 21, we see Ahab and Jezebel’s manipulation of Naboth to get his vineyard. Though Ahab offered to buy the property, he was violating the Levitical law (cf., Leviticus 25:23). As Ahab and Jezebel set up false charges against Naboth – an innocent man – Naboth prophetically depicts our Lord Jesus Christ standing before His trial (cf., Mark 14:56). Elijah delivers to Ahab the Lord’s death sentence of Jezebel (verses 23-24).

In Psalm 78:32-39 we continue to read Israel’s history, and we notice the above-quoted statement that “in spite of all that God did for the Israelites, they kept on sinning” (verse 32). Again, we note God’s incredible mercy and patience and see how “God the Most High was their (and our) Rock and Redeemer” (verses 35-38). “Time after time, God restrained His anger, and He remembers that we are but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return” (verses 38-39). This Psalm is filled with lessons that we should learn, remember, and practice every day.

In Acts 18:9-19:13, we see the Lord strengthening Paul in Corinth, where he was under “attack” and falsely accused (verses 12-13). Gallio was supposed to be a public servant, but like many politicians today, he was only in it for himself – better referred to as a public sleazebag. It is a shame that unbelievers are often so cruel toward believers - we only mean to bring them good news with no intention whatsoever to harm anyone. But God continued to use Paul to minister to many people and in many places, though always in the face of opposition. Here, we see that Paul worked with “Priscilla and Aquila, whom he left in Ephesus” (verse 19), and then we observe that Paul moved on to “Caesarea, Antioch, Galatia, and Phrygia – strengthening all the disciples” (verses 22-23). In addition, we meet Apollos who “was a great help to those who believed” (verse 27). Finally, we see that “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul” (cf., Acts 19:11). What a blessing and an encouragement it is to read how the church was developing!

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