Choice 

MTS-3590

Choice

“If the Lord is God,
follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

                  1 Kings 18:21

 

Elijah was
urging the people to make a choice between the Lord and Baal, and not to waver
between the two. The logic seemed quite simple to him, for common sense told
him that people were hesitant to make a decision because they were unsure which
one of the two was the true God, and he was there to make it abundantly clear
who they should follow.

A decision
such as that was a lot more difficult to make than the prophet had anticipated.
No decision might have been the decision most people would have chosen to make.
A decision to follow a god was a commitment of a life time, and most of the
Israelites simply didn’t have the resolve to take such a drastic leap of faith.

Even after I
have presented the best apology for believing in Christ and my audience seems to
have been convinced, most of them choose to do nothing when I urge them to make
a decision to follow Christ. There seems to be a wide chasm between being
convinced of something and becoming moved to a decisive action. Being convinced
and acting on it are two different things. People don’t always act upon their
knowledge, for they may be persuaded intellectually, but their hearts are very
slow to follow the lead of their heads, and doing nothing is a lot easier than
doing something.

Even if the
people became convinced that the Lord was God, they didn’t necessarily want to
follow him. Most of them probably were preoccupied by their numerous immediate
concerns in life and making a commitment to follow the Lord was the last thing
they wanted to do. It would take a great effort for them to quit following
whatever they were following and turn to God.

Being a
prophet of the Lord had to be a lonely and frustrating calling. No wonder
Elijah lamented when he was running from Jezebel, who was seeking to take his
life: “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”  

Did the
Israelites all decide to follow the Lord after they witnessed such a great
miracle when Elijah’s sacrifice was consumed by fire from heaven? It didn’t
seem to be the case. Not long after he had scored a great victory against the
prophets of Baal, Elijah found himself totally alone, running for his life. He
became dejected, depressed, and utterly disappointed, because what he was
hoping to happen after the monumental event didn’t materialize and the
Israelites remained obstinate and unmoved.

“People were
lining up after church to believe in Christ,” a Christian brother posted on
Facebook.

Such a phenomenon
has never taken place at our church, but for sure it must happen elsewhere. The
Lord assured his servant there were still five thousand people in Israel who
were following the Lord and Elijah was never alone, albeit he felt so alone.    

Monday, September 30, 2013 6:24:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Trouble 

MTS-3589

Trouble

“You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.”

           1 Kings 18:18

 

Elijah was labeled as a
troublemaker by Ahab, but the people who were causing trouble for Israel were
Ahab and Jezebel. They turned the god-fearing nation upside down by bringing
foreign gods into the country and encouraging people to bow down to them, and
gradually the king and the queen’s personal faith turned into a national
phenomenon.

The king should have kept his
faith in Baal to himself so the damage he did would have been a lot less. It
was one thing that he himself was heading to hell; it was entirely another if
he dragged the whole nation to go in the same direction.

Baal worship was probably just
a religion to Ahab and he didn’t really pay much attention to it. Like all
religions, it was of no great significance to him and he probably was merely
following his wife’s lead in keeping all the rituals of the worship. Jezebel
was the one who was passionate about the religion and took it as her personal
responsibility to spread the belief.

Nonetheless, both of them were
troublemakers, since what they were proclaiming so zealously carried an eternal
consequence. It was a life and death issue with which they were dealing- not
just for themselves, but for thousands of others as well.

By the same token, are we
completely sure we are bringing people into God’s kingdom, since we are also
trying to gather people into our camp, which is something people from other
religions are attempting to do? What will transpire at the end if we are proven
wrong? If Buddhism turns out to be the truth, my future destiny will be abysmal
since I just single-handedly took down three wasp nests this morning. Does that
mean I will turn into a mere wasp in the next life? This is a scary thought
indeed. 

The key lies in the person
Jesus, really. We have no other person under the sun to turn to except him, if
He is who he claimed to be and what his followers believed him to be. There is absolutely
no sound reason for me not to follow him wholeheartedly if the gospel record is
credible. Besides, there is the Holy Spirit within my heart, confirming what I
believe is true.

“Lord, to
whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” exclaimed Simon
Peter.

What Ahab and Jezebel did was
truly troublesome for the Israelites and those people who followed their lead
were heading toward eternal damnation. Paul’s statement relating to this in
Romans rings so true: “Although they know God’s righteous
decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to
do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”   

Friday, September 27, 2013 6:51:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Troublemaker 

MTS-3588

A Troublemaker 

““Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

         
1 Kings 18:17

 

What evil had
Elijah done to make him a troublemaker? What kind of trouble had he made for
the nation of Israel?

Elijah was
troublesome to Ahab and Jezebel because he held onto his faith in the Lord
while the king and the queen were bringing Baal to Israel and attempting to
establish a foreign religion. Anyone who refused to go along would have been
called a troublemaker and would be singled out to be attacked.

The prophet’s
life was hanging by a thread when he appeared before Ahab and Jezebel, for they
had been in hot pursuit of the one they deemed the worst troublemaker, public
enemy number one even, of the land and were very eager to get rid of him.

“We have
found this man to be a troublemaker.” The apostle Paul was accused of the same
thing. What kind of trouble did the apostle cause? What he was doing for the
entire world wasn’t trouble at all; it was the greatest blessing the world had
ever known. People considered it troublesome because his message demanded that
they make a change in their thinking and actions, which was something most
people didn’t want to do.

The gospel
message can be quite troublesome to many.

Back to the
prophet Elijah, who must have become quite a sore spot for Ahab and his mere
presence was troublesome beyond words. The prophet stood for something Ahab
didn’t have the courage to face, something completely righteous and holy,
attributes imparted to him by the almighty God. So Ahab stood condemned in the
mere presence of the holy man. Thus the king had two choices to make: he could
have yielded to the prophet or he could have done away with the man.

It would have
been alright had the prophet remained silent, which was something many people
of his time might have chosen to do. No wonder the prophet felt so lonely and
isolated while he was fighting for the truth. It is merely a self-protective
mechanism that we are accustomed to practicing; consequently, very few of us
are troublemakers. “One must be discerning to protect himself (明哲保身,)” a Chinese saying is rendered.

“I want you to be wise about
what is good, and innocent about what is evil,” wrote Paul in the book of
Romans. I suppose we all have become too wise to become troublemakers and have
learned to keep our mouths shut as far as goodness is concerned, for people
often consider it evil when we try to defend and proclaim what’s righteous and
good. Goodness simply does not sell these days.

“We are fools for Christ, but
you are so wise in Christ!” lamented the apostle. I am afraid we don’t fare
much better than the Corinthians of the first century in being witnesses for
Christ and, compared to Elijah, the troublemaker and the fool, we are just too
wise for words.    

  

  

  

Thursday, September 26, 2013 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Obedience 

MTS-3587

Obedience

“Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did
while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord?”          1 Kings 18:13

 

As if Elijah
needed to be reminded of what Obadiah had done while Jezebel was slaughtering
the prophets of the Lord, the official of Ahab told the prophet in the form of
a question.

Was Elijah
impressed? He must have been, for he himself was one of the prophets the evil
queen was pursuing and could have been butchered. Many faithful servants of the
Lord were killed, but one hundred of them were spared, and the credit should
have gone to Obadiah.

Yet Elijah
mentioned nothing about Obadiah’s exploit in his response. He merely reassured him
that when he presented himself to Ahab Obadiah wouldn’t be in danger. What
Obadiah did for the prophets was praiseworthy, but not worth mentioning
repeatedly. The man’s left hand should have forgotten what his right hand had
done.

The Lord
could have employed any means he deemed suitable to rescue his people, but he considered
it appropriate to choose Obadiah as a vital instrument by which the Lord
achieved his goal, therefore any boasting on Obadiah’s part was superfluous at
best. The man should have been grateful that he was given an opportunity to
serve the Lord and become a part of God’s redemption of his people from danger.

“If they keep
quiet, the stones will cry out.”

The Lord
could have raised all the stones to give him praise if he so desired, yet he
wanted people to offer him thanks, and it was a great honor and privilege for
the ones who did it. Whatever we do for the Lord has a reciprocal effect, for
what we do for God we actually do it for ourselves. God does not need us in any
way; it’s we who need him in all ways.

Obadiah was risking
his life harboring those prophets and his life could have been in jeopardy had
his scheme been discovered; therefore there was nothing to be gained for what
he was doing, was there? But let’s pose another question. What would the
consequence have been had Obadiah done nothing to protect the prophets even
though he had full knowledge of what would occur to those men. Could he have
kept a clear conscience? Could Obadiah live peacefully, knowing what he could
have done for the Lord, yet failed to do?

The safest
bet is doing God’s bidding at all times, counting not the cost, for ultimately
it’s the only thing to do. I can hardly imagine what the results would have
been and what benefits I would have missed had I not done what the Lord called
me to do on so many occasions. We may not be trying to earn any kind of reward
by being obedient to God’s every bidding, but it does pay for us to obey.

 

 

 

   

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 6:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Preparation 

MTS-3586

Preparation

“Yet I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth.”

              1 Kings 18:12

 

Obadiah did
not become a spiritually-minded person by accident; he had been worshipping the
Lord since his youth. By this time, his faith in God had grown to a point where
he could serve the Lord under quite difficult circumstances, going so far as to
risk his own life protecting the prophets of the Lord. What he did was
extremely dangerous, for Queen Jezebel would have gone after him had she found
out Obadiah was behind the scheme of preserving the lives of God’s prophets.

“Yet I your
servant have worshiped the Lord since my
youth,” Obadiah told Elijah.

There was no
need for him to remind the prophet, since Elijah knew what sort of person Obadiah
was and he probably had developed an admiration for the man. Evidently he
didn’t hold it against Obadiah for serving in Ahab’s court, because he knew God
had a specific purpose by placing him next to the evil king. Obadiah might have
been serving Ahab outwardly, but inwardly he was serving the almighty God.

Of course,
who we are is more important than what we do, and what we do reflects who we
truly are. Obadiah was an administrator for Ahab, yet in essence he was
administrating God’s will and bringing God’s plan to pass in an extremely
difficult situation. It took a special person like Obadiah to pull that off.

Obadiah had been
trained and prepared for this job since his youth. He was a worshipper of the
Lord even when he was very young, which might not have been a popular thing to be,
since Baal worship had been ushered in by the king and his wife, and was
gradually become trendy among the upper class. By remaining a worshipper of the
Lord, Obadiah might have been mocked and belittled. It was likely that he was
one of the few people within Ahab’s regime who remained faithful to the God of
Israel.

To be a
worshipper of the Lord in one’s youth is one thing; to keep one’s faith to old
age is entirely another. Obadiah was such a person. Not only did he keep the
faith of his youth, he had continuously been putting his faith into action. He
was one of those five thousands the Lord mentioned to Elijah who refused to bow
down to Baal.

May we remain
faithful to the God of our youth, although the world is becoming more and more
hostile to the Christian faith. We may even be mocked and persecuted for taking
a bold stand for Christ, but that’s what we are called to do and it’s
unthinkable that we could do otherwise. What Obadiah did to save the prophets
was indeed a great privilege, and it took the man his entire life of devotion
to God to be prepared for such a critical moment and such a rare
responsibility.    

 

 

    

Tuesday, September 24, 2013 6:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Obadiah 

MTS-3585

Obadiah

“Now the famine was severe in Samaria,
and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator.”            1 Kings 18:2

 

Obadiah could
mean “the servant of God.” Was the man truly the servant of the Lord? How could
he be if he was the servant of Ahab, the evil king of Israel?

Obadiah was
the one who risked his life hiding one hundred prophets of the Lord in two
caves and provided them with food during the time when Jezebel, Ahab’s wife,
was slaughtering God’s prophets in Israel. Undoubtedly the man was both brave
and generous, godly attributes which enabled him to perform such admirable
tasks.

We may be
tempted to hold it against him, for he was serving as an administrator for Ahab
and, by all accounts, he seemed to have a pretty good relationship with the
tyrant. How could that be possible? An upright and just man serving an evil
king as his right hand man, who apparently was required to participate in all
the king’s evil deeds.

Could Obadiah
have served the Lord better by remaining a civilian? This is the question we
must ask.

The man might
have been able to wash his hands and remain pure by not getting involved in
Ahab’s government, yet by doing so, one hundred prophets of the Lord would have
been murdered by Jezebel, for Obadiah would not have been in a position to
rescue them.

“And who
knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Mordecai
said to Esther, who was in a position to do something to save her fellow
Israelites from utter destruction.

There was a
specific reason that Obadiah was being promoted to be an important official in
Ahab’s administration. He must have felt extremely uncomfortable working for a
man who was serving Baal and persecuting the servants of the Lord. The thought
of quitting might have surfaced in his heart repeatedly, but somehow there was
a voice in his heart telling him to stay where he was, for he would become
instrumental in preserving the lives of one hundred prophets of the Lord.

I suppose we
need more just people serving in an unjust government, for more salt is needed
to preserve the governing body of our country from becoming more rotten and
corrupted. The world will become a much darker place if we all put our light
under a bowl.

I guess my
faith will never be challenged or tested if I continue to preach to a choir and
hide myself within the church walls; but my belief will be attacked if I
attempt to take it to the market place. We need more people like Obadiah who
answered the challenge and lived out his faith in a hostile environment.

Monday, September 23, 2013 6:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Now I Know 

MTS-3584

Now I Know

“Now I know that you are a man of God
and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the
truth.”         1 Kings 17:24

 

The widow
should have known long before that Elijah was a man of God, since she had
already witnessed a great miraculous sign in God’s provision of flour and oil.
Had something like that happened to us, we would no longer have any doubt about
God’s mercy and power. So we think.

Hunger was no
longer a problem for the woman, but there were other issues that concerned the
widow, such as her son’s health. Although God might have provided for her daily
needs, it was possible that he might neglect taking care of other misfortunes
in life. The woman was still anxious. How could she not worry, for something
horrific had happened to her years before and it didn’t seem that the Lord had come
through. Indeed she had learned not to trust the Lord completely, because she
had been disappointed once. She did lose her husband, didn’t she?

How many
miraculous signs do we have to experience or witness to keep us from worrying
about the unknown and the unpredictable. How often does the Lord have to prove
his love to us by performing one miracle after another on our behalf so that we
will trust in him without the slightest reservation?

Is it comforting or terrifying to meditate on God’s sovereignty?  It all depends on how we perceive him,
really. If we truly believe that he is loving and kind and has the best
intentions for us, then nothing is more encouraging and exciting for us to
ponder about than his sovereignty; but it’s awfully terrifying to think about
it if we believe otherwise.

We will
always have various challenges in life and the Lord often seems to rise to the
occasion and rescues us. The more he does it, the stronger our faith in him
will become. Yet we should never base our faith on what the Lord does for us,
but on who he is, so that we can proclaim boldly as Job did when he exclaimed
in the midst of severe suffering: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust
in him.”

The Lord came
through yet again and the story had a happy ending: Her son was healed and all
was well. Even so, we know full well that other issues might have come about later
that demanded that she exercise her faith again, and they might not have ended
up as she would have liked. All physical healings on earth are temporary, for all
of us will experience death at the end that will render all physical healings ineffectual.
Our physical healing serves one important purpose: it should cause us to seek true
healing through Christ Jesus, for those who are inwardly healed by him will
never die.

We nonetheless continue to seek physical healing, for we desire to serve him
longer in our flesh and, moreover, the miraculous healings may strengthen our
faith and cause more people to give God honor and praise. The Lord’s name was
lifted up when the boy was brought back to life and the widow mother’s faith
was greatly enhanced.   

    

Friday, September 20, 2013 6:46:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Question 

MTS-3583

Question

“Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying
with, by causing her son to die?”          
1 Kings 17:19

 

Elijah was a
man of God who had devoted his entire life to the Lord’s work; he was also
flesh and blood who developed an emotional connection with those with whom he
had contact. By this time, he had stayed with the widow for quite a while and
must have built a relationship with the family, especially the little boy. The
prophet himself might not have had any children, but he did have a soft spot
for children and the passing of the little boy must have dealt him a big blow.
Not only did the Lord not bring blessing to the widow for all she had done for
Elijah, he seemed to have brought great woe to the family. “How can this be?”
Elijah lamented.

“Have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with?” asked
the prophet.

Indeed this
was something that totally eluded the reasoning of the man of God. Something
like that didn’t seem to be compatible with God’s way of doing things. Not only
was it unfair to the woman, it was cruel and unjust. The widow was doing
something good for the Lord, yet evil was what she received in return.

 Certainly the Lord is free to do what he deems
proper and whatever he determines to do is just; was the prophet nevertheless still
entitled to raise the question and take God to task? Isn’t this something we do
so often, since we encounter or witness so many tragic events that seem to be
so random and unnecessary? How can we not cry out to God when we read about
mass killings in the Middle East and random shootings in our own backyard?

Surely the
prophet must have known human suffering and witnessed many tragic happenings
during his career as a prophet, but this time felt different, for the tragedy
had a face and the one he had come to love was taken away prematurely. It caused
him to cry out to God for help, and for a reasonable explanation. Things such
as this shouldn’t take place, thought the prophet.

Did the Lord
bring the tragedy to the family specifically? Not necessarily. The Lord could
have prevented it from occurring, which he didn’t do. Children were dropping
like flies during a time of drought from starvation and various diseases; why
should the widow’s son be excluded from it all? Aren’t we all victims of
different kinds of natural calamities in life? Aren’t we all going to die from
one cause of another, it is just a matter of time?

“But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” The Lord Jesus told the ones who
were questioning him about random tragic events that had occurred to some
people. Death entered into the world when sin was introduced
into the world by the first man. I supposed we are still suffering the ill
effects of sin, both original and factual.

By the mercy
of the Lord, the boy was brought back to life, the story had a happy ending and
the widow’s faith was greatly strengthened. The Lord saved the little boy from
the portal of death, and he will continue to do so if we allow him to enter
into our lives. “I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full,” declared the Lord Jesus.

 

    

Thursday, September 19, 2013 6:35:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Illness 

MTS-3582

Illness

“Some time later the son of the woman
who owned the house became ill.”

           1 Kings 17:17

 

The widow of
Zarephath appeared to be doing all the right things and apparently was a devout
woman who feared the Lord, for despite her destitute situation, she was still
serving God’s servant by providing for his daily needs. The flour and oil were
in the jars, but it was the woman who baked the bread for the prophet during
the long period of drought. She might not have been doing all those things to
get a reward from the Lord, yet she was still expecting the Almighty to be
gracious to her by setting a hedge around her family. The woman had lost all
hope for life when her husband passed away; but for her son, she would have
followed in her man’s footstep. She had been struggling to bring the boy up
even in extreme difficulty. The hope of them surviving the drought didn’t look
too good until they met the prophet and just when things were becoming a bit
brighter, her son became seriously ill, which threw the woman’s life into a horrific
tailspin from which she might never recover.

“Is the Almighty playing a joke on me?” She asked.

The question
was perfectly reasonable, wasn’t it? She had been doing her best to serve the
Lord and was hoping the Lord would bless her for her devotion by bringing
protection to her beloved, yet the boy became ill all of a sudden and what she
dreaded the most was taking place. The poor widow found herself questioning her
faith in God.

It had taken
a monumental effort for her to hold onto her faith in a loving and merciful God
when the widow lost her husband a few years before, and yet another horrible
tragedy occurred just when her faith in God was about to be restored
completely. With the prophet’s encouragement and teaching, the woman’s faith
was growing rapidly, but her son’s sudden illness was about to tear the faith
she had built up to pieces. With the passing of her only son, the woman had
lost all things in life and was in grave danger of losing her faith in God.

“Does Job fear God for
nothing?" Satan asked the Lord, ever so
sarcastically. The evil one would never believe for a moment that it was
possible for humans to revere and love the Lord for no reason. There had to be
an ulterior motive in people’s devotion to God, he believed, for the evil one
who was absolutely incapable of rising above himself simply couldn’t have
considered otherwise.

Could the
woman have risen above herself and continued to love God, even if her son had not
been brought back to life through the prophet’s earnest prayer? This is indeed
out of the question, for thousands of saints in history have done so and, with
God’s help, the woman would have done it if it had been necessary. 

  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 9:25:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Drying Up 

MTS-3581

Drying Out

“For the jar of flour was not used up
and the jug of oil did not run dry…”

             1 Kings 17:16

 

Our checking
account didn’t increase miraculously, but when I needed a couple of thousand
dollars to pay for my dental work, the funds were there. I guess Kathy’s been
careful over the years in maintaining her account and the money grew gradually
and, when the need arose, we were able to cover it.

Did I thank
the Lord for his provision, even though the money might have been saved up by
us over a long period of time? You bet I did, numerous times. Whether we
sweated over the money we have earned or not, it was the Lord who made it all
possible; therefore he should received all the credit. We could easily have
gotten sick and couldn’t work anymore, or other diffculties could have occurred
that prevented us from earning a living but, through God’s mercy, they didn’t
take place and we continue to work over the years.

“At least dad
had yams and rice to eat, we seemed to eat PBJs everyday for lunch,” William
complained. “We did grow up so poor,” he added.

This might
have been the case, since for the majority of my children’s childhood days, I
was a graduate student, surviving on a meager TA stipend, but as far as I can
remember, our flour jar was never used up and our supply of oil was always
sufficient. We might have been poverty stricken, but I never felt poor or knew
hunger during that time. The Lord saw to it that our family of five did not go
hungry and we were able to successfully raise three boys.

“We may be
able to start a savings account for our retirement since we are starting to
have a little surplus every month,” Kathy mentioned to me and I concurred. We
opened up a savings account immediately, but much to my displeasure, some unexpected
expenses came up the following two months and we were not able to put any more
money into the account. Instead of saving money, if we do have some extra,
perhaps we should give it away, I am starting to wonder.

Did the widow
of Zerephath ever become anxious about the flour and oil jar drying up? I
suppose what she received was a day’s portion, and there was no possibility
that she could store up more supply for future use. She just had to trust that
the Lord would come through every day, providing for her needs as long as she
needed it.

“Is it prudent for us to save for a rainy day?” you may question.

We may save
up for rainy days, which may never come, yet heavy rain seems to be pouring on
a lot of people every day all over the world; yet we continue to store up in
barns all our grain that quickly becomes stale. 

 

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 6:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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