Political turmoil and rioting on the streets…of Ephesus!

12 08 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY : 1 Kings 22 v. 1 – 53; Acts 19 v. 14 – 41; Proverbs 15 v. 31 – 16 v. 7

1 KINGS
Micaiah Prophesies Against Ahab – There’s a three year peace between Aram and Israel, but then the kings of Judah (Jehoshaphat) and Israel met. Israel was wanting to take back Ramoth Gilead from the king of Aram. Jehoshaphat offers to stand with the king of Israel : ‘I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses’.
They agree, first, however, to seek the Lord. The king of Israel gathers around 400 prophets, and all of them bring the word that they should go, fight and reclaim Ramoth Gilead (the Lord will give it to the king). Jehoshaphat asks for a second opinion (or a 401st opinion) from a true prophet of the Lord. The king of Israel says :
‘There is still one man through whom we can enquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad….’

The role of the prophet is often to bring challenging, unpopular words especially to those in authority / power. Some of the prophetic words being spoken at present in the light of the riots across our cities will be difficult for our politicians, media, police etc. to hear, and are a real challenge to us as church in this land….the king of Israel had hatred for the prophet of the Lord…

Jehoshaphat tells the king of Israel that he shouldn’t be talking about God’s prophet like that, and Micaiah is sent for.
The two kings are sat on their thrones together, surrounded by the prophets. Zedekiah steps forward with iron horns he has crafted – a symbolic prophetic act  – ‘with these you will gore the Arameans’.
All the other prophets join in urging them to attack Ramoth Gilead.
The messenger who has gone to Micaiah urges him to align himself with the hundreds of prophets, but he stands his ground :
‘I can tell him only what the Lord tells me’.
Before the kings, Micaiah is asked by Ahab whether they should go to war or not.
Micaiah initially suggest that they should fight – maybe Ahab was not expecting that answer (thought there’s more to come), and he urges Micaiah to tell ‘nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord’.
Micaiah tells Ahab of a vision he’d had of all Israel scattered like lost sheep without a shepherd (a direct attack on the lack of spiritual leadership from Ahab). Ahab recognises this attack, with an ‘I told you so’ to Jehoshaphat.
Micaiah continues to say that, in his vision, God had asked who (from the host of heaven) would ‘entice’ Ahab into a battle with Ramoth Gilead, where Ahab would lose his life. Various suggestions were made (that’s unsettling in itself!), before one spirit came forward and offered to be a lying spirit infecting the 400 prophets. God approves this plan.
‘So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.’
Zedekiah slapped Micaiah in the face, spitefully suggesting the lying spirit has left them and entered him !
All Micaiah, as a true prophet, needs to say is ‘let’s see what happens’, knowing that God will fulfil all He has said.
Ahab orders Micaiah to be thrown in prison, and given meagre rations.
Micaiah’s final warning, as he is taken of is, ‘If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me….Mark my words, all you people!‘.

Ahab Killed at Ramoth Gilead –
the two kings go to Ramoth Gilead – Ahab going into the heat of the battle in disguise, while Jehoshaphat wears his royal robes (who is most vulnerable here ?).
The king of Aram had sent the message to particularly go for the Ahab, and some of the commanders mistake Jehoshaphat (dressed in his robes) as the king of Israel and are ready to attack him until they recognised that his voice was not that of Ahab’s. They leave Jehoshaphat alone.
Ahab, however, is struck in battle, hit by an arrow between the sections of his armour. The king bleeds to death throughout the day, watching the battle from a distance. There’s a cry throughout the army camp on the news of his death.
Ahab is buried in Samaria – his chariot is washed down with water from the pool where prostitutes bathed (and dogs licked the blood, too, as a fulfilment of a prophecy).
All Ahab’s deeds are recorded in the annals of the kings of Israel, including the ivory-inlaid palace he had built, and the cities he fortified.

Jehoshaphat King of Judah – Asa’s son Jehoshaphat become king in Judah, after Ahab has been king in Israel for four years. Jehoshaphat is 35 years old, and he reigns for twenty-five years. In contrast to Israel’s evil kings, Jehoshaphat ‘walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’.
There is also peace between Israel and Judah during Jehoshaphat’s reign.
All Jehoshaphat’s deeds are recorded in the annals of the kings of Israel – including ridding the land of the male shrine-prostitutes. He also influenced the region of Edom, reclaiming it. He built a fleet of trading ships to set sail for Ophir’s gold – but they were wrecked before they could get there.
When Jehoshaphat died (‘rested with his fathers’) he was buried in the city of David. His son, Jehoram, succeeds him.

Ahaziah King of Israel –
So, Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, succeeds him and becomes king in Israel, after Jehoshaphat has been ruling in Judah for seventeen years. Ahaziah only lasted two years, as he ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’, causing Israel to sin, serving and worshipping Baal, provoking the Lord’s anger.


ACTS

Paul in Ephesus (cont.) – amongst those Jews who were trying to drive out demons in Jesus’ name were the seven sons of Sceva (Chief Priest). One day they were surprised to hear back from the evil spirit they were trying to banish…
‘I know Jesus, I know Paul, but I don’t recognise you’
and the spirit compelled the man to jump on them and beat them all up, such that they all fled the house naked and bleeding.
News of this spreads around Ephesus, and a holy fear, even a reverence for the power which is in the name of Jesus.
People who had become believers in Jesus ‘openly confessed their evil deeds’ – an expression of a deep desire for holiness (sanctification) beyond initial conversion. They burnt artifacts from their past (especially connected with sorcery) – approximately 50,000 drachma-worth of scrolls were burnt.
The word of the Lord is conquering the scrolls of sorcery.
Paul is then led to prepare to go to Jerusalem (via Macedonia / Achaia) and then on to Rome, sending Timothy and Erastus ahead of him, whilst he finished off in Asia.

this week we have seen anti-riot police on the streets of Britain, once again...

Riot in Ephesus –  mmm, timely reading today, after a week which has seen terrible rioting and looting on the streets of Britain’s cities. After all the heat and anger, sadness and disgust directed at the rioters, there is a need to ask the deeper questions about ‘why’; what motivated people to do this; what underlying problems in our society lead to such violence, and disregard for people and their properties ?
So, we have a passage of scripture about a riot in Ephesus, and the ringleader is a businessman named Demetrius, a silversmith ‘who brought in no little business for the craftsmen’. His trade around the shrines of Artemis is threatened by the spread of the gospel. Paul is preaching against their gold and silver idols such that ‘there is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited…and robbed of her divine majesty’.

I find these words very revealing. The real motivation for rioting here is not protecting the name and shrines of Artemis, but a greed and self-protectionism which the shrines of Artemis have allowed to develop. I would dare to suggest that those who have been ‘discredited’ in recent years in Britain include the bankers (recklessness leading to financial meltdown), the politicians (expenses claims), the media (phone hacking), the police (accepting bribes for information) – those who may be quickest to throw mud at the rioters this week. 
Even today, I felt the media were showing too much, even ‘glorifying’ ten, eleven and twelve year olds for their acts of violence. This nation needs a much bigger and deeper conversation about its people and our social responsibility, not the shallow protectionism of business and personal interest. The gaps are too big, the inequalities too great.
Those are my thoughts today, for what they are worth….

The tradesmen are furious and shout loudly stirring the ‘whole city’ into a frenzied uproar. Paul’s companions (Gaius and Aristarchus) are seized, and the great theatre in Ephesus becomes the stage for the unfolding scene. Paul wanted to make an appearance but the disciples persuaded him not to.
There was great confusion (as there is in a riot) – different people there for different reasons (and some for no reason at all, I guess – ‘most of the people did not even know why they were there’ (sheep without a shepherd?))
A Jew, Alexander, is pushed to the front to try to quieten the crowd, but they turn against his Jewishness and shout even louder for Artemis.
It is the city clerk who quietens the crowd some two hours later. He basically encourages them to let the law and the courts settle this dispute – that’s where charges should be pressed. ‘We are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events’. He succeeds in sending the crowds home.

PROVERBS
‘He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise…
He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding…
The fear of the Lord teaches wisdom, and humility comes before honour….
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed…
Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.’

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