Light and darkness, good and evil….mob rule destruction or Spirit-filled transformation

10 08 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-NINE : 1 Kings 20 v. 1 – 21 v. 29; Acts 18 v. 9 – 19 v. 13; Psalm 78 v. 32 – 39

Ahab has his eye on Naboth's vineyard

1 KINGS
Ben-Hadad Attacks Samaria – the king of Aram gathers his army, along with 32 other kings and their armies, Ben Hadad attacks Samaria. The dialogue between Ben-Hadad and Ahab is a reminder of how wars escalate :
B-H : We’re going to attack and take off with all your silver and gold, and the best of your wives and children (how would they choose the ‘best’?)
A : Okay, you can have all the silver and gold, and the wives and children – ‘I and all I have are yours’.
B-H : Okay, but tomorrow, my officials are coming to search your palace and your officials’ houses, and will take everything valuable
A : (after consulting with his elders, who tell him not to give in to B-H’s demands) No way ! The first demand was just about acceptable, but not the second!
B-H : (a reply along the lines of ‘then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house down’) Samaria will be wiped off the face of the earth, not even traces of dust will remain.
A : ‘One who puts on his armour should not boast like one who takes it off’
B-H is now well and truly pumped up for battle – ‘Prepare to attack’ he orders his men, as they sit drinking in their tents.

Ahab Defeats Ben-Hadad – however, B-H doesn’t realise the power of God on Ahab’s side. Ahab is visited by a prophet who tells him that God will deliver this vast army into his hands.
A : But who will do this ?
P : ‘The young officers of the provincial commanders’
A : And who will start the battle ?
P : You will
Ahab gathers his men and sets out at noon, while B-H and his men are still getting drunk in their tents. B-H’s scouts see the Israelite army approaching, and instructs his men to take them alive (they are of more use to him that way).
But it’s the young officers of the Israelite army who strike down all their opponents, pursuing the Arameans, with B-H escaping on horseback.
Ahab advances and overpowers many – the Arameans suffer heavy losses.
The prophet reappears urging Ahab to strengthen his position, because another attach will come in the spring.
B-H’s officials advise him to fight next on the plains (claiming Israel’s gods were gods of the hills), and to take the time to muster a larger army. B-H agrees and spends time doing this.
In the next springtime, B-H gathers the Arameans to fight Israel at Aphek.
As the two armies gather, B-H’s army covers a vast area of countryside, whilst Ahab’s army looks like two small flocks of goats (another David and Goliath moment for Israel).
Again the prophet (the man of God) comes to encourage Ahab, that God will deliver this vast army into his hands (for the Arameans’ sin of calling the Lord a god of the hills).
There’s a seven day stand-off, then the battle commences. 100,000 Arameans are killed in one day; the rest escape to Aphek, but the city wall collapses and kills another 27,000. B-H is in hiding in an inner room.
B-H pleads for mercy from Ahab, sending messengers in sackcloth; Ahab prepares to make a treaty with B-H (‘Is he still alive ? He is my brother.‘) and sets him free.

A Prophet Condemns Ahab – by a strange turn of prophetic events, a son of a prophet asks his companion to strike him, and he refuses; the prophet’s son declares that this companion, because he has refused, will be attacked and killed by a lion. This, of course, is what happens next – he is attacked and killed by a lion.
A second time, this prophet asks a companion to strike him. This time the companion does, and wounds the prophet.
The third act involves the prophet disguising himself along the roadside to intercept king Ahab as he passed by. The conversation goes :
Prophet (disguised) : I was sent into battle, your majesty, and was asked to guard a man who had been taken captive. If I lost this man, I would lose my life (or at least lose a talent of silver). When I was busy, in an instant, with my back turned, the man escaped.
Ahab : You pronounced your own sentence ! Life for life.
P (taking off his disguise, and instantly recognised by Ahab) : God says that this is precisely what you have done – set free a man God had determined to die – therefore, life for life is the sentence.

King Ahab returns to his palace ‘sullen and angry’. Well you would, wouldn’t you !!

Naboth’s Vineyard –
an incident occurred sometime later. Naboth’s vineyard, in Jezreel, was near to Ahab’s palace, and Ahab asked for it to be a vegetable garden for the palace in exchange for a better vineyard elsewhere or good money. Naboth refused to hand over the vineyard which had been in his family for generations.
Ahab is ‘sullen and angry’ again (this emotional response is beginning to be habitual !!). He sulks and refuses to eat – the king is having a strop !!
Queen Jezebel comes to find out what’s wrong, and when she hears, persuades Ahab to let her sort the situation out.
‘Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard…’
She writes letters in Ahab’s name to the leaders in Jezreel, organising for Naboth to be wrongly accused of cursing God and the king, and to be stoned to death.
When Jezebel gets the news, she immediately tells Ahab to take possession of the vineyard, and he does.
At the same time, God is speaking to Elijah, arranging for him to meet Ahab, with the message
‘Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?…..In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood – yes, yours.’
Ahab addresses Elijah as his ‘enemy’, and Elijah talks of the disaster God is going to bring upon Ahab and his descendants ‘because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.’ God will do as He had done to Jeroboam’s and Baasha’s household.
Jezebel, also, will be devoured.
Ahab is cast as the worst of all men, selling himself to do evil, urged on by Jezebel. ‘He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols…’
Ahab tears his clothes and wears sackcloth and fasts, truly repenting. This brings God’s mercy to bear, and He tells Elijah :‘because he has humbled himself, I will not bring disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.’

ACTS
Paul in Corinth – Because of a night-vision in which God tells Paul it is safe to stay in Corinth, that he should keep speaking, Paul remains there for one and a half years, teaching God’s word.
Jews unite to have Paul brought before Gallio, the proconsul, in court, charging Paul with ‘persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law’.
Before Paul has the chance to speak, Gallio throws the case out of court, telling the Jews to settle the matter themselves; he does not want to get caught in such trivial issues. As a result Sosthenes, the synagogue ruler, is beaten up in front of the court.

Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos – when the time came for Paul to leave, he set sail for Syria, with Priscilla and Aquila. Paul has his hair cut off as part of a vow he had made. Paul parts from Priscilla and Aquila at Ephesus, where he stays and teaches in the synagogue. Although they urge Paul to stay, he presses on, promising to return ‘if it is God’s will’.
Paul arrives in Caesarea, greeting the church there and makes his way to Antioch. After time in Antioch, he moves on through Galatia and Phrygia, ‘strengthening all the disciples’.
A Jew named Apollos (from Alexandria) arrived in Ephesus – a man well-versed in Scripture – he ‘spoke with great fervour and taught about Jesus accurately, though he know only the baptism of John.’
Priscilla and Aquila take him into their home and teach him some of the deeper ways of God.
Apollos moves on to Achaia, encouraged by a letter sent to the church there urging them to welcome Apollos. He is a great help to the grace-filled believers there. His strength was in public debate, arguing convincingly from Scripture that ‘Jesus was the Christ.’

Paul in Ephesus – So, with Apollos in Corinth, Paul travels to Ephesus, where Apollos has been. His question to the people of Ephesus is whether or not they have received the Holy Spirit (there’s a further experience of the Holy Spirit which may or may not accompany the moment of belief, of conversion). The Ephesians answer that they have never heard of the Holy Spirit.
They had received a baptism of repentance (only), John’s baptism. So Paul has them baptised in the name of Jesus, and as he places his hands on them, ‘the Holy Spirit came on them (all twelve of them), and they spoke in tongues and prophesied’.
For three months, Paul teaches about the kingdom of God in the synagogue there. There is a group who become obstinate, refusing to believe and ‘publicly maligning the Way’.
So, Paul leaves the synagogue and takes up his debates within the public lecture hall. He engages in these debates for a good couple of years, until ‘all the Jews and Greeks….heard the word of the Lord’.
Miracles accompanied Paul’s teaching ministry:
~ handkerchiefs and aprons he’d touched were means of healing for the sick
~ illnesses were cured
~ evil spirits left people
Some Jews even tried to copy Paul, seeking to drive out spirits in Jesus’ name…..

I am struck, in these days (summer nights of rioting in London, Manchester, Birmingham etc.), that there are still times when the mob rules, when gangs of people rise up, and it’s difficult to police them or protect the public.
I am struck, too, by the copy-cat mentality of some of the Jews in Ephesus, seeking to get in on the healing action which is only possible in Paul because of his openness to the Spirit.
I am struck, finally, by the need for all not only to ‘repent and be baptised’, but to be ‘filled with the Spirit’ over and over, that we may truly be the salt and light, the body of Christ we have been created and redeemed to become.
‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land…’

PSALM
‘Israel kept on sinning…not believing, in spite of His wonders…
their days became futile and terror-filled…
whenever disaster fell, they would turn back to God, eagerly seeking Him…
remembering God the Rock, Most High Redeemer…
however, they merely flattered God, lying to him…
disloyal hearts…
unfaithful to the covenant…
God is merciful, forgiving, resisting destruction…
restraining His anger, not fuelling His wrath…’

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