The Lamb Cows the Lion

June 28, 2010 at 11:21 am | Posted in Daniel | 3 Comments
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The Medes and the Persians diverted the stream of the Euphrates River, and went underneath the supposedly impenetrable walls of Babylon.

Daniel, who had been brought to Babylon as a teenaged boy, and had served under Nebuchadnezzar, now – in his 80s – found himself serving under a pagan king: Darius. How did Daniel do so well and gain the trust of all these pagan kings and rulers?

Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.

Daniel 6:3

He had more than just exceptional qualities – he had an excellent spirit – like Elijah with Elisha in II Kings 2:9. Like Elijah, Daniel had a spirit that was pleasing to God. Therefore, Daniel was trusted for his honesty. Those who wanted to keep stealing schemed against him.

Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.

Daniel 6:4

They used flattery and appealed to the king’s pride to get him to sign a decree without thinking about it. The decree said that anyone who prayed to anyone other than the king would be thrown into the lions’ den.

Daniel and his friends had faith in times of great crisis because they practiced their faith in the ordinary, everyday things. Reading my Bible, praying, going to church – these things build strength into my faith.

To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

I Thessalonians 3:13

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

Luke 16:10

The king was mad at himself when he realized how he had been tricked.

Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.

Daniel 6:14

How could this pagan king have such fond feelings for Daniel? Daniel had shown charity to him.

And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

I Peter 4:8

Daniel was delivered and he gave God the glory.

My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

Daniel 6:22

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

Isaiah 65:25

Satan, who is compared to a lion, can be controlled and made meek by the Lamb of God.

Daniel’s faith even caused the king to honor Daniel’s God and proclaim His power.

I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Daniel 6:26-27

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 4

December 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Arise | 5 Comments
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In Part 1 and Part 2 we met:

I. The Pious Patriarch (Naboth)
II. The Pouting Potentate (Ahab)
III. The Poisonous Puppeteer (Jezebel)
IV. The Pestering Prophet (Elijah)

In Part 3 we saw:

V. The Preeminent Precept

Now we will discover:

VI. The Poignant Payment
and
VII. The Punctual Punishment

There came a time when Jehoshaphat the King of Judah was preparing to go to war with Syria, and he wanted the help of Ahab the King of Israel. Ahab agreed, on the condition that he would disguise himself, and that Jehoshaphat would wear the robes of a king. The King of Syria had a plan for his men to disregard the rest of the troops and go directly after the king. But a strange thing happened in the heat of battle.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture…

I Kings 22:34

Dr. R.G. Lee, who preached a great sermon on this passage of Scripture, called this man “the nameless aimless archer.” He was a “certain” man – not named – who drew his bow at a venture – not really aiming at anything. (In keeping with my own outline, I probably should have called him the “Passive Pointer.”)

Are you “nameless?” God knows your name, even the hairs of your head are numbered. But does the devil know your name? He knew Job’s name. When God asked, “Hast thou you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8) the devil didn’t say, “No, who is that?” He knew Job by name, because Job was living an exemplary life for the Lord. The devil knew Paul’s name. The evil spirit summoned by the Jewish exorcists said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) As Christians we should not be “nameless,” because we are certainly not “aimless.” We are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Your “calling” (your vocation) is to love God and love others – to serve God and to serve others. This archer did God’s will, but there is no indication he received God’s blessing for doing it. God will get the glory out of your life one way or the other. The question is not whether God will be glorified – the question is whether you will get the tremendous blessing of having a part in that glory.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.

I Kings 22:34-38

This is the Poignant Payment. Just as the dogs had licked the blood of Naboth, so they licked the blood of King Ahab. But what about Jezebel?

Ahab’s son became king, and Jezebel pulled his strings the way she had pulled Ahab’s. He also worshiped Baal, and was a wicked king… and years passed. Elisha replaced Elijah. Then, one day God told Elisha that Jehu, the chariot driver, was to be anointed king.

And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber;

II Kings 9:2 (emphasis added)

Jehu rode down on the palace in Jezreel, and, after killing Ahab’s wicked son, he looked up at Jezebel, the painted and poisonous puppeteer.

… and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel:

II Kings 9:32-36

Why did God make the penalty for the sins of Ahab and Jezebel so poignant? We might say that God was pleased with the symmetry of it. Sometimes, as in the case of Absalom’s hair (II Samuel 14:26 and 18:9), God just decides to make the punishment fit the crime in a ghastly humorous way.

When Elijah was announcing God’s punishment to Ahab, he told him:

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

I Kings 21:21

Most Bible versions other than the King James Version speak of the punishment of all the “male” followers of Ahab, but that is not the correct translation. The King James Version gets this right and retains the true context. Ahab and Jezebel did not see Naboth’s vineyard as God’s property. They saw it as belonging to whomever was powerful enough or sneaky enough to get it. So they marked it as theirs – the way a dog marks his territory against a wall. The poignant penalty is when God takes our vain attempts to dishonor Him, and our foolish boasting that we can somehow spite Him and get away with it, and He turns them into our own shame and disgrace. Be very careful about what you try to mark as “your” territory in this life. If we are trying to keep some things from God, He may just decide to take those things away, so we will have more time, energy, focus, attention, and love for Him.

The Punctual Punishment

God’s judgment may seem late or slow to us, or it may seem terribly swift, but the fact is – it is always right on time. The devil arises. His agents arise, and pull the strings of the lost. (Lost people are the devil’s puppets. See Ephesians 2:2.) God’s servants arise to proclaim His warnings and judgments. Finally, God ARISES.

Ahab got three years. Jezebel got many more. But the payment came due – and it was only a down payment. Jezebel is paying for all eternity. If you are not right with God, you have to ask yourself how close is God’s judgment from coming to you right now? It will not be tardy; it will not fail. One day everyone who has ever lived is going to confess the truth about God: that He is worthy of honor and obedience. Would you rather God have you by the heart or by the throat? II Corinthians 6:2 says now is the accepted time. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Fling yourself on the mercy of Christ this instant.

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 2

November 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Arise, Biblical friendship | 10 Comments
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In Part 1 we met:

I. The Pious Patriarch (Naboth)
II. The Pouting Potentate (Ahab)

Now we will meet Jezebel, the wife of Ahab.

III. The Poisonous Puppeteer

And Jezebel his wife said unto him, Dost thou now govern the kingdom of Israel? arise, and eat bread, and let thine heart be merry: I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.

I Kings 21:7

This is so characteristic of how the devil works. Lacking the ability to know the thoughts and intents of every heart the way God does, he watches and observes… Until it’s time for him to “arise.” He rises like a serpent with its head poised to strike. He finds someone who is saying no to God’s way – someone who loves things more than God – someone who loves self more than God. Then the devil arises, and he strikes, and he tells his servants to arise. Beware of the poison of those who will manipulate you at the behest of the devil.

Jezebel knew just which strings to pull. She injected the poison of greed and covetousness, and she started to put on the devil’s own puppet show.

Take a moment to figuratively look around you right now. Who has hold of your strings today? Are you surrounded by good and Godly friends? People who will hold you accountable in tough love? Who will tell you when you’re sinfully pouting? Or do you have acquaintances who are working for the devil? You can recognize them by the way they always have a soothing word – they’re quick to tell you just what you want to hear. And secretly they are pulling the strings and they are moving your hands away from prayer and the Bible. They are moving your feet away from the church house. They are pulling your eyelids open until the wee hours on Saturday night, and holding them down on Sunday morning. You need to ask God to cut those strings.

When Jezebel started pulling the strings for her devilish puppet show, she played a masterpiece of evil. First, she forged Ahab’s name on a poison pen letter.

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth.

I Kings 21:8

Then, she blasphemed God by pretending that someone in Jezreel had sinned against Him and Ahab.

And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:

I Kings 21:9

To be “set on high” was not an honor. It was to be placed in the seat of the accused. Naboth, who had honored God, was being falsely accused of dishonoring God. When the devil says “arise,” there are always plenty of his children eager to do his bidding. Jezebel brought out two puppets to bear false witness.

And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.

I Kings 21:13

Covetousness led to lying, and to blasphemy, and to theft, and to murder. Never kid yourself that the sin of coveting what your neighbor has is a harmless or a minor little fault.

II Kings 9:26 tells us that not only did these sons of Belial, these worthless puppets – playing on the ends of their strings for their evil puppet-master Jezebel – kill Naboth, but they took his little sons out and killed them, too. They did this so that Ahab would not have to contend with any heirs to Naboth’s vineyard.

If you play with sin, sin will play with you. And if sin plays with you, it will wreck your life. If you fool around with sin, sin will make a fool out of you.

Sin will take you further than you wanted to go.
Sin will teach you more than you wanted to know.
It will keep you longer than you wanted to stay.
It will cost you more than you wanted to pay.

So far, we have seen two despicable characters: Ahab, the Pouting Potentate, and his manipulative and evil wife, Jezebel, the Poisonous Puppeteer. We have seen one person in this whole account who has acted honorably: Naboth, the Pious Patriarch. And he and his beloved sons have been killed for their trouble.

Now we will see that when someone arises to the cause of God, and then the devil and his minions arise to do battle, the outlook is not always rosy from start to finish. When the devil says “arise,” sometimes his victims are struck down. But aren’t you glad that, even though Satan has his followers to whom he can say “arise,” God has His man to whom He can say “arise?”

And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.

I Kings 21:17-18

IV. The Pestering Prophet

Elijah was Ahab’s and Jezebel’s old foe. He did not live in a palace like Ahab. He was from the little town of Tish. He did not wear fancy clothes like Ahab. He wore rough clothes. He did not dine on delicacies and herbs like Ahab. He had a strange diet in the wilderness. But underneath his rough exterior, he had a pure heart, a holy devotion to God. Ahab’s fine garments covered a corrupt, rotten heart.

Ahab wandered through the vineyard that Jezebel had got for him with treachery. We might wonder if a shadow suddenly fell across his path: the shadow of Elijah the prophet.

I call Elijah the pestering prophet not because he was a pest in general, but because in the days when Ahab’s wife and yes-men encouraged every frivolous sin he indulged in, Elijah alone was the one voice who would not condone, who not go along, who would not soften his tone, who would not bow before the throne of the wicked.

And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, O mine enemy? And he answered, I have found thee: because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.

I Kings 21:20

Elijah was not really Ahab’s “enemy.” No, he was the only friend he had in all the land. Your best friend is the one who tells you the most truth. Elijah was no more Ahab’s enemy than Christians who are intolerant of sin are the enemies of a nation. We live in a day and age when we are not only allowed to sin, not only tempted to sin, not only encouraged to sin, but praised and honored for being good at sin. We tolerate everything in this world – except intolerance.

Liberalism says that everyone is free to do what he wants – except to tell the Truth about Jesus. We don’t want Christ in anything anymore. We are not supposed to talk about celebrating Christ’s birth in December – we’re just supposed to say “Seasons Greetings.” We are not supposed to celebrate Resurrection Day – we are supposed to have “spring break.” We don’t pray in our schools anymore – we’re too busy reminding our kids that they came from an amoeba or a monkey. A man can fornicate with a man or a woman with a woman – and celebrate it in a parade. But if you stand up and say the Bible says it’s not marriage, it’s sin, then you’re guilty of a hate crime! When a missionary or a pastor or a Christian father or mother who was faithful for 60 years dies, it’s not on the news. Because if it were on the news, it would have to interrupt the spectacular tribute to some idol whose great contribution to society was wearing a sequined glove and walking backwards while pretending to walk forward! According to today’s society it’s narrow-minded, close-minded, “everybody who rejects Jesus is going to hell” Christians who are the only problem we have in this country. And that’s the way it’s portrayed in the media.

Ahab called Elijah “my enemy.” “Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?” And this wasn’t the first time Ahab had taken this attitude toward Elijah. After Elijah had told Ahab it was not going to rain, he went to see him after three years of drought.

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?

I Kings 18:17

That’s what the government – that’s what society – that’s what popular culture – is saying to Christians today: “You are the ones who are troubling America.” One day – and it might be soon – they’re going to see just what this world will be like without Christians troubling it – and they’re not going to like it one bit.

I. The Pious Patriarch
II. The Pouting Potentate
III. The Poisonous Puppeteer
IV. The Pestering Prophet

In Part 3, we will examine the Preeminent Precept.


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