Jonah 1-2

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide.

“But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction in order to get away from the LORD. He went down to the seacoast, to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping that by going away to the west he could escape from the LORD.” ­– Jonah 1:3 NLT

Running from God. Sounds idiotic doesn’t it? I mean, who in their right mind would ever think they could get away from God? Yet Jonah decides to ignore God’s command, catch a ship and head off in the opposite direction, somehow hoping that God would not see him and possibly forget about him. But God warns us, “‘Am I a God who is only in one place?’ asks the LORD. ‘Do they think I cannot see what they are doing? Can anyone hide from me? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?’ asks the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:23-24 NLT). The omnipotent, omniscient God is not some old geezer in the sky that we can somehow pull a fast-one over. We can’t run from him. We can’t hide from him. And we certainly can’t say we worship Him if we refuse to listen to Him. Yet that is exactly what Jonah did. When he caught a ride on the ship and it gets caught in a violent storm, Jonah gets exposed as the cause of all their problems. And when they confront him, he simply says, “‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ Then he told them that he was running away from the LORD. The sailors were terrified when they heard this. ‘Oh, why did you do it?’ they groaned” (Jonah 1:9-10 NLT). Did you catch the irony of Jonah’s statement? “I worship the Lord.” Really? Do you?

You see, worship is about more than going through the motions. It’s about more than words of affirmation and declarations of intent. Jonah could claim to be a God-worshiper, but his actions proved otherwise. He was disobedient and dismissive of the very command of the One he claimed to worship. He talked a good game, but he lacked follow-through. He was going to live life on his terms, not God’s. He worshiped his own agenda, his own opinion, his own desires. Yet when Jonah saw what was going on and that the men in the ship were going to perish because of his disobedience, he confessed his sin and instructed them to throw him overboard – which they eventually did. But death wasn’t to be Jonah’s lot. Deliverance was. But first Jonah was going to have to discover what real worship is all about. He found himself in a lonely and extremely difficult situation – under the water and in the belly of a large fish. That’s a bad day anyway you look at it. Jonah was in trouble and at a loss as to how he was going to get himself out of the fix he was in. So what did he do? He worshiped! He turned to the only one who could rescue and restore him. He called out to God, and in doing so he acknowledged the sovereignty and power of God. “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish. He said, ‘I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the world of the dead, and LORD, you heard me!'” (Jonah 2:1-2 NLT). Worship is far more than singing songs and attending a service on Sunday. It is a state of the heart. It is a way of life. It involves submission to the will of God. It includes obedience to the Word of God. It requires an understanding of the worth or value of God. Listen to what Jonah said: “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple” (Jonah 2:7 NLT). Worship is turning our thoughts to the Lord. It is turning our thoughts away from ourselves and all those other things we turn to for hope, help, deliverance, and satisfaction. It is learning to rely, instead of run. It is listening to the Word of God and doing what He tells us to do – regardless of how we feel, what we think, or what others may tell us to do.

Jonah tried to run from God. He thought he could hide from God. But God had a job for him to do. He had a message for him to share. And God has a job for you and me as well. He has a message for us to share, too. Yet just think about how many times we follow Jonah’s lead and run from God’s will. We ignore God’s Word. We reject God’s way for our lives and choose our own. But while you may run from God, you won’t get far. You can try to hide from God, but He’ll always find you. The story of Jonah is really not about him, but it’s about the redemptive plan of God for mankind. It’s about a sovereign God who chooses to use fallen men to accomplish His divine will. God has determined to use people like you and me to accomplish His will in the world. He doesn’t need us. But He chooses to use us. Amazing isn’t it? So why in the world would we ever want to ignore His call and command for our lives? Why would we ever choose to run and hide from God when we can be instruments in His redemptive hands?

Father, I run way too much. I try to hide far too often. I ignore Your Words and reject Your will far too frequently. Forgive me. Thank You for using me. Thank You for choosing me. Thank You for showing patience to me. Give me a view of Your redemptive plan for mankind. Then give me the strength to obey – at all costs.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 25

Is God For You Or Against You?

“God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.” ­– 2 Chronicles 25:8b NLT

Chapter 25 of 2 Chronicles gives us some further insight into the story of King Amaziah of Judah and the events surrounding his defeat at the hands of Israel. It seems that Amaziah started off well. We’re told that he “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight,” but then we’re given the additional little caveat, “but not wholeheartedly.” He was half-hearted in his obedience, devotion, and submission to God. Sometimes he did what he was supposed to do. Other times, he did what he wanted to do. His real god seemed to be military conquest and power. He formed an army comprised of 300,000 trained men, then added to that number 100,000 more paid mercenaries from the northern kingdom of Israel. But a prophet of God warns Amaziah against going into battle with these Israeli soldiers on his payroll. The prophet warns him, “Your majesty, do not hire troops from Israel, for the Lord is not with Israel. He will not help those people of Ephraim!” (2 Chronicles 25:7 NLT). If he chooses to disobey God’s warning, he will be defeated, no matter how well armed, trained, and numerous his troops are. If he disobeys God, he will be fighting against God – and that is a no-win situation.

But it is amazing how easy it is to inadvertently do battle with God when we choose to ignore His counsel or refuse to seek His advice. He has given us His written Word, but we too often leave it out of our decision-making processes. And yet, He “has the power to help you or to trip you up.” It’s interesting that Amaziah’s first concern when given the warning by the prophet is about the money he stood to lose if he sent the Israelite troops packing. He said, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?” (2 Chronicles 25:9a NLT). Wait a minute God! I stand to lose a lot of money if I listen to You! We’re talking 7,500 pounds of silver – down the drain, wasted, squandered – if I listen to God. This can’t be God’s will. It doesn’t make good financial sense. It’s fiscal suicide! But the prophet simply replies, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” (2 Chronicles 25:9b NLT). Just do it! Don’t try and rationalize your decision or justify your desire to obey God’s clear command. Remember, He has the power to help you or to trip you up. Amaziah could have used a little bit of Micah 6:8 about this time. “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you:He wants you topromote justice, to be faithful,and to live obediently before your God.” God wanted Amaziah to do the just thing, not the expedient thing. God wanted Amaziah to put his faith in Him, not an army. God wanted Amaziah to make his faith into practice by obeying instead of justifying his own actions.

And God wants the same things from you and me. It doesn’t pay to fight against God. That’s a battle you will always win. God’s ways don’t always make sense. His will is not always palatable or even enjoyable. Obeying is not always easy. But it always pays. It always brings blessing. God has the power to help us or trip us up. His will always wins out. We will never lose if we always obey. Our obedience may cost us, but He will make up any loss we suffer in ways we could never even imagine. Jesus put it this way, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matthew 16:25 NLT). We never lose with God on our side.

Father, why would I ever willfully choose to leave You off my team? It just makes no sense. But I do it every single day in a variety of ways. I rationalize, justify, ignore, and avoid Your divine will in order that I can do my own. I decide that Your way is too costly and then learn the hard way that disobedience carries a much higher price in the long run. Father, You have the power to help me or trip me up. Why would I ever choose the latter over the former? I know. Pride. Continue to deliver me from myself.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 14

The Self-Destructive Nature of Self-Importance.

“You have indeed defeated Edom, and you are very proud of it. But be content with your victory and stay at home! Why stir up trouble that will only bring disaster on you and the people of Judah?” ­– 2 Kings 14:10 NLT

Pride goes before the fall. Or something like that. We all love paraphrasing this message from the book of Proverbs. It actually says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 NLT). But regardless of exactly what it says, we enjoy sharing the basic gist of it – especially in retrospect – when someone we know, and usually don’t like, has experienced a failure of some kind. It’s a very biblical way of saying, “I told you so!” Whatever negative circumstances this person has experienced was well-deserved. They got what was coming to them. Now while we probably misapply this verse more than any other, there is some truth to the idea that pride is destructive. And behind all pride is a sense of self-importance that blinds us to the danger we face when we think too highly of ourselves. Paul provided this warning against being overly self-important. “I gave each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3 NLT).

Self-importance is a dangerous drug that is both addictive and destructive. Little victories and successes, even spiritual ones, can cause us to suffer from inflated self-worth and become overly self-confident. That’s what happened to Amaziah. As king of Judah, he experienced some early successes and seemed to have the hand of God on his life. At one point he experienced a decisive victory over Edom, defeating 10,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He also defeated the stronghold of Sela, located in the city of Petra. Fresh off these convincing victories, Amaziah decides to challenge the king of Israel to a battle. He is confident and tad bit cocky. King Jehoash of Israel warns him to think about what he is doing. He compares Judah to a thistle going up against a mighty cedar tree. Not only that, but the thistle ends up getting stepped on and crushed. before it can even attack the cedar tree! But self-importance can make us self-delusional. We can begin to believe our own press clippings and think we are something really special. Which is exactly what happened to Amaziah. He refused to listen to Jehoash and went ahead with his battle plans. Rather than be content with his victory over Edom, he had to have more. He had to prove himself to himself. His self-confidence would end up being self-destructive. “King Jehoash of Israel captured Judah’s king, Amaziah son of Joash and grandson of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh. Then he marched to Jerusalem, where he demolished 600 feet of Jerusalem’s wall, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. He carried off all the gold and silver and all the articles from the Temple of the Lord. He also seized the treasures from the royal palace, along with hostages, and then returned to Samaria” (2 Kings 14:13-14 NLT).

Amaziah’s pride led to his fall and the defeat of Judah. His own self-importance became self-destructive, but also spread to those around him. The effects of self-importance and pride are rarely relegated to self alone. Others are always impacted by our own self-obsession and over-confidence. Nowhere do we read that Amaziah was instructed by God to wage war with Israel. This was his own plan, driven by his own need for self-importance. And the results were disastrous. Jerusalem was left defenseless with broken-down walls. The Temple of God was ransacked and left desecrated. Citizens were turned into slaves. The wealth of Judah became the booty of Israel. All because of one man’s self-importance and pride. If Amaziah had only listened to the wisdom of Solomon. “Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the LORD will be happy” (Proverbs 16:20 NLT). The antidote to self-importance is humility and submission to the will of God. When we begin to think we are something special, we need to remind ourselves of the reality of our own self-worth. Paul gives us sobering words to consider any time we begin to think too highly of ourselves. “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and use them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT).

Father, protect me from self-importance and it’s offspring – pride. Help me remember that I am nothing without You. My value is found in Christ  alone. Self-importance is self-delusional and self-destructive. But learning to find my value and worth in Your Son reminds me that I bring nothing to the table. All my worth comes from Him and what He has done for me.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 24

A Sign of Things To Come.

“Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!” ­– 2 Chronicles 24:22 ESV

Christ, the living Word of God, fills the written Word of God from beginning to end. He is revealed in a variety of types and forms throughout the pages of the Old Testament. It is essentially the story of redemption – God delivering His people from their slavery to sin and providing them with salvation. The undeserved grace and mercy of God can be seen everywhere. His repetitive use of a savior to rescue His people is a common theme. And here is the story of King Joash, we see the rejection of the savior. King Joash had been rescued from sure death at the hands of his power-hungry grandmother, Athaliah. She had had all his sibblings murdered so that she would have clear access to the thrown after the death of her son, Ahaziah. But Joash had been hidden by Jehoiada the high priest in the temple for seven years. Then at the age of seven, Joash had been crowned king of Israel and Athaliah had been executed for her crimes. And all the years that Jehoiada was alive he provided Joash with counsel and wisdom so that his reign was a righteous one. But when Jehoiada dies, Joash turns away from the wise counsel of Jehoiada and succumbs to the wicked counsel of men. He forgets all that Jehoiada had done for him – the grace and mercy he had shown him all those years ago. He forgets that it was Jehoiada who made it possible for him to live and take the throne of Israel.

So God sends the son of Jehoiada to call him to repentance. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, is given a message from God to the people. “Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, ‘This is what God says: Why do you disobey the LORD’s commands so that you cannot prosper? You have abandoned the LORD, and now he has abandoned you!'” (2 Chronicles 24:20 NLT). But his message was not well-received. Neither the people of Joash like what Zechariah has to say, so Joash commands that he be put to death – stoned in the middle of the courtyard of the temple itself. The messenger of God is killed.

Fast-forward. The people of God have rejected the wisdom and will of God again. Their rebellion has resulted in the occupation of their land by the hated Romans. They are an oppressed, yet proud people. And into their midst, God sends His own Son, Jesus Christ, to bring them a message of repentance. The very one who had rescued them from captivity and given them a land they did not deserve, had been rejected by them. So He sends His Son with a message for them to hear. And their response? They kill Him. Unlike Zechariah, Jesus came with a message of hope and salvation. He brought good news of great joy to all people. He offered a means for them to receive forgiveness of sin and a restored relationship with God – that was not tied to them keeping the Law, but was a free gift based solely on faith. Yet they still killed the messenger. The killed the Messiah. They rejected the very one who brought the answer to their problems and the solution to their sins. And we still reject Him today. Even those of us who have placed our faith in Christ for salvation can end up rejecting Him on a daily basis. We reject His wisdom. He reject His leadership. We reject His call to holiness. We reject His offer of sanctification and heart transformation. Instead, we try to change ourselves and work our way toward righteousness. We demand to do things our own way. We listen to the advice of the world and reject the word and wisdom of God. And we suffer the consequences. But if we listen, we will learn. If we obey, we will be blessed. If we take the words of Jesus seriously, we will continue to be changed – radically. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Father, You sent Your Son to save. You sent Him to provide life more abundantly. But we have to listen. Not just to His offer of salvation, but to His call to sanctification. He wants to transform us into His likeness. He wants to make us increasingly more into His image. We have His Spirit living within us, but we have to listen to the voice of His Spirit speaking to us each and every day. Don’t let us be like Joash and reject the message of God given through the messenger of God. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 13

Our Gracious God.

“But the LORD was gracious to the people of Israel, and they were not totally destroyed. He pitied them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And to this day he still has not completely destroyed them or banished them from his presence.” ­– 2 Kings 13:23 NLT

If I were God … I know, that’s a dangerous statement to make, let alone finish. But when I read through the history of the kings of Israel and Judah, I can’t help but think what I would have done to the people of God if I had been in God’s place. Extending grace is NOT one of the things that comes to mind. Even when I was a kid I would read some of these stories and think how ridiculous it was that God didn’t wipe these people off the face of the earth for their stupidity and stubbornness. He could have started all over with some other people group. But He didn’t. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that these stories are less about the falibility of men, than the faithfulness of God. These brutally hones portrayals of the lives of the kings and their people allow us to see just the kind of God we worship and follow. Over and over again we see their infidelity. And over and over again we see God’s faithfulness – His commitment to keep His promises – in spite of the actions and attitudes of His people. Today’s reading is a perfect case in point.

We read that Jehoahaz, the king of Israel, was just as wicked as the kings who came before him. And it resulted in punishment from the hand of God. “So the LORD was very angry with Israel, and he allowed King Hazael of Aram and his son Ben-hadad to defeat them time after time” (2 Kings 13:3 NLT). But Jehoahaz, unlike most of his predecessors, sought God. ” Then Jehoahaz prayed for the LORD’s help, and the LORD heard his prayer” (2 Kings 13:4 NLT).  God heard and God responded because of His grace and mercy. “The LORD could see how terribly the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. So the LORD raised up a deliverer to rescue the Israelites from the tyranny of the Arameans. Then Israel lived in safety again as they had in former days” (2 Kings 13:4-5 NLT). God sent a deliverer – literally, a savior – to rescue the people. He gave them what they didn’t deserve – which is the basic definition of grace. They deserved punishment, but instead God extended mercy and rescued them from their oppressors. And in spite of God’s grace and mercy, the people continued to turn against Him. His mercy was met with ingratitude and rebellion.

But even in the days of Jehoahaz, as the people continued to reject God, He continued to fulfill His covenant promise that He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “But GOD was gracious and showed mercy to them. He stuck with them out of respect for his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He never gave up on them, never even considered discarding them, even to this day” (2 Kings 13:23 MSG). He never gave up on them. And He never gives up on you and me! God keeps His promises. He remains faithful to His commitments. He shows us mercy and grace, when we deserve nothing less than punishment. He continues to extend grace even in the face of our ingratitude. Because that is who He is. He is faithful. He is merciful. He has made a promise to His people and He has and will keep it. God’s faithfulness to His covenant resulted in the arrival of the Messiah. His faithfulness to His promise made possible salvation to all those who would accept it. When Israel and Judah were unfaithful, God was faithful, and we are the beneficiaries of that faithfulness today.

Father, thank You for Your faithfulness. Without it, I would not be here. Without it, I would never have been given eternal life and forgiveness of my sins. You remained faithful so that we might have a chance to experience the faithfulness of Your Son, who died on a cross in our place. Thank You! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 12

Good Start. Bad Ending.

“All his life Joash did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.” ­– 2 Kings 12:2 NLT

Jehoiada the priest had protected Joash for seven years from his scheming grandmother, Athaliah. She had killed all his siblings in order to take over the throne of Judah when her son, King Ahaziah, had died. But Joash had been hidden away in the temple of God until the day he was crowned king by Jehoiada at the age of seven. He would reign for forty years in Judah and as long as his mentor, Jehoiada was live, he accomplished some good things for the kingdom. One of his main projects was the restoration of the temple. It had fallen into disrepair, so he came up with a fund-raising plan to provide the resources to see to its repair and restoration. But somewhere along the way, Jehoiada died. “Jehoiada lived to a very old age, finally dying at 130. He was buried among the kings in the City of David, because he had done so much good in Israel for God and his Temple” (2 Chronicles 24:15-16 NLT). And with his death, things began to change for Joash – and not for the good.

Within no time, Joash’s reign took a turn for the worse. According to 2 Chronicles 24, Joash was easily convinced by his officials to abandon the restoration of the temple. “But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded the king to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Then the anger of God burned against Judah and Jerusalem because of their sin” (2 Chronicles 24:17-18 NLT). God sent Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, to rebuke Joash, and his reaction was to have him killed. He was stoned to death at the command of Joash. Suddenly, Joash found himself in a difficult place. He was under attack from King Hazael of Aram. Hazael had recently defeated the northern kingdom of Israel and was headed south along the Mediterranean coast toward Judah. He had already captured Gath and had sent soldiers against Jerusalem. who killed many of the leaders of Judah. But instead of  turning to Yahweh for deliverance, Joash decided to try and buy off Hazael using gold from the renovated temple. But Hazael would later return to Judah and Jerusalem with a small company of men and destroy all the princes of the people and send their spoil to the king of Damascus (2 Chronicles 24:23).

In the midst of all this, Joash was wounded by the Arameans and left Jerusalem to recuperate in a town named Beth Millo. It was while there that several of his officials came up with a plan to assassinate him, all because he had put the high priest Zechariah to death. Joash was buried in Jerusalem but not in the royal tombs – a sign that the people had lost respect for him as their king.

“Once a promising, God-fearing young ruler, Joash died a disappointment. By bribing Hazael with Temple treasures, he tarnished his one great
achievement, the Temple restoration.” – R. L. Hubbard Jr., First and Second Kings

Joash started out well, but ended poorly. All because he turned away from following Yahweh. When his godly mentor died, he began to listen to the advice of the ungodly men around him. Instead of listening to the counsel of Zechariah as a word from God, he had him killed. As a result, God would remove His blessing from the life of Joash, causing his reign to end with death and indignity. He failed to finish well. Our goal, as followers of God, is to finish well. The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 ESV). Let us run with endurance. Finish well.

Father, I want to finish well. Give me the strength to run the race ahead of me so that I can finish with a kick. I want to cross the line with a full head of steam, not staggering and stumbling. May my life bring You joy and pleasure right up to the very end. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 11

A Godly Influence.

“Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people that they would be the LORD’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people.” ­– 2 Kings 11:17 NLT

Salt and light. That is what we have been called to be – providing an influence and making an impact on the society in which we live. As God’s chosen people we exist to influence. We can and should make a difference in our surroundings. We are His ambassadors, His change agents, who are indwelt and empowered by the very Spirit of God. Our presence in this society should be felt. Our lives should be making a difference. Just like Jehoiada did. Jehoiada was the high priest of God living in a time when the worship of God was waning. The people of Judah were worshiping Baal more than they were worshiping God. A line of kings had led them in rebellion against God and caused them to turn their hopes to false gods instead. Even in Jerusalem, home of the temple of God, they had erected a temple to the rival god, Baal. The queen, Athaliah, was a wicked woman who had ascended to the throne when her son Ahaziah had been killed. She did so by killing all the royal offspring – her own grandchildren – so that she would be the only heir left. But little did she know that God had preserved one son, Joash, by having him hidden in the temple, where he was protected for six years by Jehoiada, the high priest.

For six long years, Jehoiada kept the future king of Judah safe, providing him with around-the-clock protection. He knew that if Athaliah ever got wind that Joash was alive, she would have him destroyed. He had to keep him alive long enough so that he could grow old enough to crown him king. So when Joash turned seven,  “Jehoiada brought out Joash, the king’s son, and placed the crown on his head. He presented Joash with a copy of God’s covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and all the people clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!'” (2 Kings 11:12 NLT). Jehoiada had endured the wicked reign of Athaliah for six long years, but now it was time to make a change. During that time he must have been grooming this young boy, teaching him the law and telling him about Yahweh, the one true God. He must have told him all the stories about David, the one king of Israel who was a man after God’s own heart. He probably read him the writings of Solomon, the wisest king who had ever lived. He more than likely told him all the stories of God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from captivity, of His miraculous provisions during their wilderness wandering years, and of His provision of the Land of Promise. Behind the scenes, Jehoiada was preparing the next king of Judah to be a king who had a heart for God.

But Jehoiada’s influence didn’t stop there. He had Athaliah executed for her crimes against God and the royal family. “Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people that they would be the LORD’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people” (2 Kings 11:17 NLT). He called the people back to God. He encouraged them to restore their commitment to God. And they took that commitment so seriously that they immediately tore down the temple of Baal and killed the high priest of Baal. Jehoiada’s godly influence was far-reaching. He made a difference. “So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was peaceful because Athaliah had been killed at the king’s palace” (2 Kings 11:20 NLT). The city was peaceful. The people rejoiced. A godly man had made a powerful impact on the society in which he lived. And he had not done so without risk. Everything he did was risky. But he was willing to do it because it was the right thing to do. Godly people living godly lives will have a godly influence. They will make a difference. What is God asking you to do today? What risk are you willing to take to stand up for God and against wickedness? You could be the difference maker.

Father, I want to make a difference. I want my life to make an impact on the world in which I live. Like Jehoiada, I want to be used by You to prepare the next generation to live for You and serve You. But to do that I am going to have to want to protect them from evil. I am going to have to take a stand for You. Don’t let me become complacent or content with my life the way it is. You have called me to serve You, not me. Show me what You would have me do to make a difference today. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 9-10

Good, But Not Good Enough.

“Thus, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. 29 He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, the great sin that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit.” ­– 2 Kings 10:28-29 NLT

Jehu isn’t exactly a household name, but he stands as a semi-bright spot on the landscape of Israel’s dark history. He was chosen by God to take the throne of Israel and to punish the descendants of Ahab for his years of wickedness and rebellion against God. Jehu was hand-picked by God and anointed by the prophet of God. And he took his new role as king seriously. In fact, he took it so seriously that Elisha warned the prophet who was being sent to anoint him, “Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you to be king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run for your life!” (2 Kings 9:3 NLT). Jehu was going to waste no time getting acclimated to his new role. He immediately kills King Joram, the king of Israel, as well as King Ahaziah of Judah, who had made an alliance with the king of Israel. The Jehu began to methodically wipe out every descendant of Ahab he could find. He also killed every priest of Baal as well as all Baal worshipers he could find, as well as 70 of King Ahab’s sons. He cleaned house – Baal’s house that is. He tore down the sacred pillar and wrecked the temple, converting it into a public restroom. We’re told that Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? He was obedient. He did what God had told him to do. HOWEVER! Yes, the story of Jehu’s exploits contains that awkward and tension-packed word. He didn’t exactly finish what he began. “He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, the great sin that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit” (2 KINGS 9:29 NLT). Why in the world would he be so committed to getting rid of the prophets of Baal, every worshiper of Baal, as well as the temple and idols of Baal, but leave the golden calves in Bethel and Dan that Jeroboam had set up as replacements of Yahweh? It would seem that his decision was based on convenience. Since Baal was tied directly to the reign of Ahab, it made good political sense to disassociate himself from Ahab’s gods. But if he got rid of the golden calves, then the people would have no place to worship; leaving them Jerusalem as the only option. This was unacceptable to Jehu as the new king of Israel. He could not afford the risk of any of his people coming back from Jerusalem ready to reconcile with their southern brothers. There was also more than a possibility that Jehu saw the golden calves as not idols, but simply as representations of Yahweh Himself. When Jeroboam came up with the idea of the golden calves in the first place, he had told the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:28 NLT).

While Jehu received more than a passing grade for his removal of all descendants of Ahab and is destruction of all remnants of Baal worship, he failed in one fatal respect. “But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit” (2 Kings 10:31 NLT). Jehu’s reign would last an amazing 28 years – an eternity for a king in those days. But his reign would not be marked by complete obedience. God would never have his whole heart. He was content to give God partial obedience, partial commitment, and partial worship. He would never be a man like David – a man after God’s own heart. Jehu is a powerful reminder of partial obedience and incomplete devotion. Jehu knew what God expected. Nothing less than his best. “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6 NLT).  Wholehearted obedience. Wholehearted commitment. Wholehearted devotion. God wanted all of Jehu, but only got a part of him.

Father, You want my whole heart. But on my own, I am incapable of loving You wholeheartedly. I am incapable of obeying You completely. I am lousy at worshiping You alone. But You have given me a new heart and a new desire, and filled me with Your Spirit, so that I have a new capacity to love You – wholeheartedly. Thank You for making it possible for me to love and follow You wholeheartedly. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 8

Our Behind-the-Scenes God.

“But the Lord did not want to destroy Judah, for he had made a covenant with David and promised that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.” ­– 2 Kings 8:19 NLT

He is always there, behind the scenes, working in ways that we can’t see. It may appear that God has abandoned us or become too busy elsewhere, but He is always there. His timing is perfect. His knowledge of our needs and circumstances is complete. In writing this chronicle of the kings and prophets of Israel and Judah, the author has a Jewish audience in mind. He is not only giving them a history lesson, but a primer on the character of God. Every story is designed to provide the people of God with an intimate understanding of just who it is they worship and serve. These stories reveal His power and patience, His wrath and redemption, His sovereignty and His faithfulness. The kings of Judah and Israel present a sad portrait of the character of man, full of rebellion, selfishness, unfaithfulness, and sin. Each seems to take the practice of evil to a whole new level of depravity. They lead the people of God away from God. They believe they have become the masters of their own fates. But God reveals over and over again that He is in control. This is His story, not theirs. God has a greater plan that will outlast every one of the kings. He has a purpose behind every circumstance that happens. Even their most willful act of rebellion against God will be used by God to accomplish His will.

The story of the woman from Shunem gives us an understanding of just how gracious and good our God is. Here you have this relatively unimportant woman who had been helped by the prophet Elisha earlier in the story. He had miraculously brought her son back to life. Then Elijah had told her to take her family out of the country because a famine was coming to the land of Israel. She listened to the words of the prophet and did as he instructed her. Seven years later she returned. But her concern was that she would be able to get her land back after having been gone so long. Little did she know that the very moment she was making her way to the king’s palace to make her request, the servant of Elisha was telling the king about her story. “At that very moment, the mother of the boy walked in to make her appeal to the king about her house and land” (2 Kings 8:5 NLT). Not only did she get her land back, but all the value of the crops that had been harvested while she had been away. God took care of her. Her obedience resulted in blessing. This story is here for a reason. It was a reminder to the people of God to obey Him, even when it seemed to make no sense.

This story stands in contrast to that of Jehoram, king of Judah. As was the case with his predecessors, “Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (2 Kings 8:18 NLT). Rather than obey, he rebelled. Rather than trust God, he trusted in himself. He did what was right in his own eyes. He did things his way and eventually lost it all. There would be no blessing from God. But in the midst of his rebellion and rejection of God, we see the faithfulness of God expressed to the people of Israel. While their actions were punishable by God, He remained faithful to the covenant He had made to David. He had made a promise and He was going to keep it. Why? Because His promise came with a provision and a plan. A descendant of David would someday rule who would save His people once and for all. God had a reason for preserving the tribe of Judah, because out of the tribe of Judah would come the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ. He would become the ultimate King of kings and Lord of lords. He would rule justly and righteously. He would be the faithful King. God would preserve Judah so that He could redeem mankind. Every king and every story in these two books show us that our God is faithful and in full control of history because it is ultimately His story. This is all about Him. He started it and He will finish it. He is working behind the scenes in ways we can’t see, but He is there. We can trust Him. And while we may not like our circumstances, we can rest in the fact that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB).

Father, this is Your story. Help me to keep the greater context in mind as I look at the text of my life and of the time in which I live. You are working a far greater plan than the one that I can see. But at the same time, in the midst of all that is going on, You care for me. Like the woman of Shumem, You care for and provide for me in ways that are beyond belief. All I have to do is trust You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 5-7

The Blindness of Doubt.

“O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” ­– 2 Kings 7:17 NASB

When we doubt God, it prevents us from seeing what He is doing or getting ready to do. Doubt distorts our vision of reality. It blurs our perspective and causes us to view life with less-than-perfect vision. We become far-sighted and can only see things that are close-up or nearby. But faith is the like corrective lenses for our lack of vision. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). Faith has a way of correcting our perspective and improving our sight. We begin to see things from God’s point of view. Rather than our myopic, limited perspective, we begin to see what God see and realize that He is working in ways that have been unseen to us before. Paul told the Corinthians believers,”So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).

In these chapters of 2 Kings, we have two different stories of spiritual blindness brought on by doubt and a lack of faith. In the first, Elisha’s servant is suffering from spiritual nearsightedness. He can’t see beyond the immediate problem surrounding him. The king of Aram has sent troops to capture Elisha for having exposed his plot to attack Israel. When Elisha’s servant wakes up one morning he sees them surrounded by enemy troops and cries out, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?!” All he can see is trouble. His vision of reality is distorted. He is unable to see what is really going on. So Elisha tells him to calm down, to relax. “Don’t be afraid, Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16 NLT). Really? But that’s not the way this servant saw things. Elisha’s statement couldn’t have seemed more ill-informed or unrealistic. So Elisha prays for him. “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see” (2 Kings 6:17 NLT) and immediately the servant’s eyes are opened and suddenly he can see what he couldn’t see before. The hills around them are filled with horses and chariots of fire – the army of God. His lack of faith had limited his perspective. But Elisha had seen it all along. He had learned to look at life through the lense of faith. He had learned that what was seen was not necessarily an indication of reality. Elisha had learned to fix his eyes on what is unseen. He had learned to look at life through God’s eyes, not his own.

It’s interesting that in the story, while the servant of Elisha had his eyes opened, God blinded the eyes of the enemy. They lost their ability to see and were easily led by Elisha right into the capital of Israel where they were captured by the king. Their inability to see made them vulnerable. They were easily mislead and confused. That is what a lack of faith can do to us. It blinds us to the work of God. It causes us to lose our way. But when our eyes are opened by faith, we are able to see God at work where we didn’t see Him before. We learn to see what is unseen, not just what is right in front of our face. God is always at work. He never rests. He never sleeps. He never runs out of ideas or answers to our problems. Faith allows us to see that God is at work despite our circumstances.

Open my eyes, that I may see

glimpses of truth thou hast for me;

place in my hands the wonderful key

that shall unclasp and set me free.

Silently now I wait for thee,

ready, my God, thy will to see.

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Father, open my eyes. Help me to see what You can see. Give me an eternal perspective. Increase my vision, my ability to see more than what seems to be apparent at first glance. Replace the blindness of doubt with the vision of faith. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men