1 Kings 22

No News Is NOT Good News.

“The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me!! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.” ­– 1 Kings 2:8 NLT

I don’t know of anybody who ever named their son after Micaiah, but I think it would be a great name for any boy to have. I’m not quite sure how to pronounce it or what it means, but I know what he stood for: God and the truth. Even against the most powerful man in Israel at the time, this obscure, little know prophet was willing to speak the truth of God, even when he was the odd-man out. I just love this guy’s unbridled devotion to God and his willingness to stand up for God regardless the cost. More than 400 other “prophets” had given King Ahab the news he wanted to hear: If he went up against the Arameans in battle, he would easily win. The Lord would give him victory. But Micaiah had a slightly different take on how things were going to turn out for Ahab and the Israelites.His news was not going to be what Ahab wanted to hear.

I also love the fact that Micaiah had a sarcastic sense of humor. He was a prophet of God, but he wasn’t afraid to drop a little sarcasm on the king when the opportunity presented itself. When he was brought before king Ahab to give his prediction of the battle’s outcome, Micaiah replied, “Yes, go up and be victorious, for the Lord will give the king victory!” (1 Kings 22:15 NLT). That is exactly what Ahab wanted to hear, but he knew that Micaiah wasn’t telling him the truth. Why? Because as Ahab irritatingly told Jehoshphat, “He never prophesies anything but trouble for me” (1 Kings 22:18 NLT). Micaiah ultimately told Ahab the truth – that he would lose his battle against the Arameans and, not only that, he would die. God was going to pay Ahab back for all his wickedness and his lifelong love affair with rebellion. Rather than listen to the prophet of God, Ahab chose to listen to the false prophets who were more than willing to tell him what he wanted to hear. Their news was good news. He wanted God to bless what he was doing. He wanted God to conform to his will. It reminds me of the warning Paul gave Timothy: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NLT). Had Ahab listened to the Word of God delivered to him by the prophet of God, he would have survived this battle. But what God had to say was hard. It was difficult to accept. It would require Ahab to die to his own will and submit to God’s.

So the king died. That’s how Ahab’s story ends. Tragic and sad. He had rejected the Word of God and suffered the consequences. He had refused the will of God and died seeking his own. God had spoken, but Ahab refused to listen. He rejected the good news for a false and more flattering version. And millions of individuals have repeated that same sad mistake ever since. But as followers of Christ, we can also refuse to heed the Word of God. We can ignore it. We can reject it. We can refuse to obey it. There will always be plenty of those willing to tell us what we WANT to hear. They’ll tickle our ears. They’ll tell us everything is fine. They’ll paint a rosy picture of life. They’ll refuse to preach the full counsel of God. But as children of God, we should long to hear the unfiltered, unadulterated Word of God. Not a watered down, sweetened up, pasteurized, homogenized, and palatable version that makes us feel good about ourselves and justifies our sins. No news is NOT good news. Are you willing to hear from God and accept His Word as the final word? Seek it. Listen to it. Obey it.

Father, I can be just as guilty as Ahab of seeking to hear only what I want to hear. I can cherry-pick the Scriptures, looking for passages that justify my actions and assuage my guilt. Give me a listening ear and a soft heart that is ready to hear what You have to say and do what You tell me to do. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 21

Hardened Hearts.

“And then seat two scoundrels across from him who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” ­– 1 Kings 21:10 NLT

How do two people get to the point that they are willing to kill to get what they want? How did Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen of Israel, find themselves so morally corrupt that they were willing to twist the very laws of God to fulfill their own selfish desires? It was all a matter of the heart. Their hearts had become hardened after years of living in rebellion against God. Over in Proverbs, Solomon warns, “Blessed is the one who is always cautious, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into evil” (Proverbs 28:14 NET). The NET Bible study notes read, “The one who ‘hardens his heart’ in this context is the person who refuses to fear sin and its consequences. The image of the ‘hard heart’ is one of a stubborn will, unyielding and unbending (cf. NCV, TEV, NLT). This individual will fall into sin.” Ahab and Jezebel had developed calloused, hardened hearts characterized by a stubbornness and insensitivity to the will and the ways of God. They both knew that it was impossible for Naboth to sell his vineyard – it would have been a breech of the Law for him to sell his family inheritance. But Jezebel was not only willing to break that law, she was willing to twist another law of God to suit her own selfish agenda. She used the law of blasphemy to have Naboth falsely accused and executed. Once he was out of the way, she could get his land.

In his letter to the Ephesians church, Paul describes the ungodly is terms that seem as if he is describing Ahab and Jezebel. “Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed” (Ephesians 4:18-19 NLT). Closed minds, hardened hearts, an indifference to right and wrong, lives filled with impurity and greed. That is exactly what was wrong with Ahab and Jezebel. When they had decided to turn their backs on God, their hearts began to turn hard. Without hearts that were tender toward the ways of God, they were capable of doing anything. Their hearts were driven by selfishness and self-centeredness. This whole story revolves around Ahab’s desire to have a vegetable garden! A man loses his life and his family loses their inheritance all because Ahab wanted to have a garden. According to Elijah the prophet, Ahab had “sold” himself to doing evil. He had surrendered himself to a life of doing what was against the will of God. And the result was going to be his own destruction and that of his family. God would not and could not allow Ahab and Jezebel to continue to mock His name and His law.

How did Ahab and Jezebel get to this point? It all began when they decided to disobey God and live according to their own set of standards. Hard heads develop hardened hearts. An unwllingness to listen to God turns into an inability to know right from wrong.

Father, hard hearts don’t happen overnight. They develop over time. And it begins with a willingness to disobey You in the small areas of life. As we do, we become increasingly more insensitive to Your will and Your ways. Please protect me from disobeying You and justifying it. Don’t let me rationalize my sin and excuse my disobedience. It will only result in a hardened heart. Keep my heart tender and sensitive to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 20

God Over All.

“Then a certain prophet came to see King Ahab of Israel and told him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do you see all these enemy forces? Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'” ­– 1 Kings 20:13 NLT

“Then you will know that I am the Lord.” That is a familiar phrase in the Old Testament. You find it used repeatedly by God going all the way back to the time of the Exodus. God wants all men to know that He alone is God. So He reveals Himself in nature. He even places an awareness of His existence in the hearts of men. Paul reminds us over in his letter to the Romans: “But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God” (Romans 1:18-20 NLT). Yet, even though they are without excuse, God continues to reveal Himself to men. He reveals His power and His presence. In the case of Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, God intervened in a time of great need and attempted to reveal Himself by providing victory over the Arameans. Despite the wickedness of Ahab and his wife Jezebel, and their history of leading the people of Israel to rebel against God and worship Baal, God would mercifully intervene and provide them with a miraculous victory over superior forces. TWICE.

After the first victory, the Arameans determined that the Israelites had won simply because their “gods” were gods of the hills. They had made the mistake of fighting on the home turf of Israel’s gods. So if they took the battle to the plains, all would go well. So they came back in even greater numbers. In fact, the passage tells us “the Israelite army looked like two little flocks of goats in comparison to the vast Aramean forces that filled the countryside (1 Kings 20:27 NLT). But that’s just the kind of situation in which God likes to reveal Himself. Israel was out-manned. They were the underdogs. But God told them, “The Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the hills and not of the plains.’ So I will defeat this vast army for you. Then you will know that I am the Lord” (1 Kings 20:28 NLT). God was going to provide a second unlikely and unexpected victory against superior forces. So that through experience, the people of Israel would know that God is the one and only God. The Hebrew word for “know” is yada. It carries the idea to know by experience. It goes beyond academic understanding of the facts and includes an awareness that comes from actual experience. God is not content that we know about Him. He wants us to know Him through actual experience in our lives. He wants to reveal Himself in power in our lives. God is constantly intervening and acting on our behalf. He gives us victories, great and small. He constantly guides and protects us. He provides for us. He proves Himself to us. But too often we fail to see Him. We neglect to experience and know Him.

But the greatest revelation of God came in the form of His Son. John reminds us, “God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But his only Son, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart; he has told us about him.” (John 1:17-18 NLT). Jesus Himself reveals to us the power, love and mercy of God. He was God in human flesh. He made the invisible – visible and knowable. He revealed God’s love and mercy. He demonstrated God’s power and plan for rescuing mankind from the affects of sin. God has revealed Himself in His Word. We see Him on every page. He gives us glimpses into His character. He shows us His unflinching holiness and unfailing love. He demonstrates His power in and over the lives of men. He gives victories and brings defeat. He lifts up and tears down. He delivers and destroys. He rescues, restores, redeems and reconciles. All so that men might know Him. Know Him as God over all. He is the God of the hills and the plains. He is the God of the Israelites and the Arameans. He is the God of the faithful and the faithless. He is God whether anyone wants to acknowledge Him as God. Ahab and Jezebel had spent their lives promoting a god other than God. They had seen their god’s prophets destroyed by Elijah, the prophet of God. They had seen their god fail in a showdown with the one true God. Now they had seen God give them victory over their enemies. But they still did not know Him as God. They still refused to acknowledge Him as God. To acknowledge means “to admit to be real or true; recognize the existence, truth, or fact of.” Even though they had seen God work, they refused to admit that God was truly God. They refused to recognize Him as God of their lives. They stubbornly refused to admit that He was God over all.

Father, You are God over all. Yet I sometimes fail to acknowledge that in my own life. I try to keep control over certain areas of my life. I want to be god. I want to make my own decisions. I want to run my life. And I also fail to recognize and appreciate your involvement in and around my life. You are so active, revealing Your power and presence on a daily and regular basis. But I sometimes fail to see You. And when I do see You, I can so easily take it for granted or try to take credit for it myself. Father, I want to know You experientially and acknowledge You regularly. You are God of the hills and the plains. You are God over all. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 18-19

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” ­– 1 Kings 19:9 NLT

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you feel all alone, under attack, or is nothing is going the way you expected? Oftentimes those kinds of days seem to follow close in the heels of times of victory. You can have experienced a season of spiritual success where God’s presence and power was so readily apparent in your life, but then something negative happens and the next thing you know you’re going through a period of unexplainable sadness, even depression. You find yourself having a pity party. That’s exactly what we find happening to Elijah, the prophet of God.

These two chapters remind me of a story we used to read when our kids were young. It was the book, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. It is the story of a young boy who finds nothing in his life going right. Everything is always going wrong. “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” That is the kind of day Elijah was having. And it all came about right after he experienced an incredible victory over Ahab with the help of the Lord. Elijah had returned to Israel and challenged Ahab and his prophets of Baal to a showdown. It was going to be a dual to the finish between their god Baal, and his God, Yahweh. And it had ended in the defeat of Baal and the execution of the so-called prophets of Baal. God had miraculously answered Elijah’s prayer and provided victory. Elijah then prayed for rain to end the drought, and God answered. But when Elijah receives news that Jezebel, the wife of Ahab has threatened to kill him, he panics and runs. He takes off. He becomes afraid and literally runs for his life. He even asks God to kill him. But instead, God miraculously provides for him again, commanding His angels to feed him. Elijah then travels forty days into the wilderness and winds up hiding in a cave. During his time there, God visits him two different times and asks Elijah the simple question, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Elijah responds with a sad tale of all that he has done for God and how he now stands all alone as God’s representative in the land. He has a pity party. He wallows in self pity. He forgets all that he has just seen God do – through him!

In spite of Elijah’s fear, God visits him at Horeb and reveals Himself to him. God gives him instructions. He lets Elijah know that his job is not done yet. He is not alone. Elijah was disillusioned and disappointed that things had not worked out the way he had expected. Even though he had won the victory against the prophets of Baal and had personally killed 450 of them, Jezebel was still alive and shrines to Baal still existed all over the land. He felt like a failure and seemed to be disappointed that God had not finished the job. But God was not through. He had more that He was going to do – and He had others who were going to play a role in His divine plan for Israel. Elijah’s next job was to anoint those whom God was going to use in the next phase of His clean-up project for Israel. The pity party was over. It was time for Elijah to get his focus off of him and back on God. God was far from done. Elijah was a bit player in God’s grand redemptive story. He was one character in one act in a much larger play. He had had a bad day. But God was not through. This story was not about Elijah. It was about God and it always has been.

Father, forgive me for allowing my terrible horrible no good very bad days to distract me from what You are doing in and around me. I can so easily fall into having a pity party and think about me and me only. This is all about You and Your plan. I am not the star of this show – You are. This is not about my plan, but Yours. Give me a bigger perspective. Help me to recall and remember what You have done and are doing in, through, and around me. You are at work. You are not done. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 17

“Yahweh Is God!”

“But Ahab did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And as though it were not enough to live like Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to worship Baal.” ­– 1 Kings 16:30-31 NLT

Things were bad in Israel and getting worse. A sad succession of kings had led the people of Israel deeper and deeper into apostasy, turning their backs on God and turning to other gods for their hope and help. And just when you think they’ve reached rock bottom, along comes yet another king who leads them even further down the road of spiritual rebellion. Ahab would prove to be one of the worst kings yet. He and his wife Jezebel made up a tag team that wreaked havoc on the spiritual condition of Israel. They officially replaced the worship of Yahweh with the worship of Baal – the Canaanite fertility god. This was especially distasteful to God because the Canaanites and their god were to have been wiped out when the people took over the Promised Land. Now Ahab was making Baal worship the government-sanctioned religion of his kingdom. This would go on for 14 years before God raised up a spokesman to stand up against King Ahab. Out of nowhere come Elijah the Tishbite. He boldly confronts the king and issues a decree against him that there will be no rain in the kingdom of Israel until he says so. Obviously, Elijah is speaking on behalf of God. God had warned the people repeatedly that if they turn against Him and worship other gods, He would bring drought on the land. “And if, in spite of this, you still disobey me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your arrogant spirit by making the skies above as unyielding as iron and the earth beneath as hard as bronze” (Leviticus 26:18-19 NLT). Now Elijah was reminding Ahab of the consequences of his sin.

What is fascinating in this story is that God chooses to speak through a man whose name just so happens to mean, “Yahweh is God.” As soon as Ahab heard the name of this man who had stormed into his palace issuing threats, he would have gotten the irony in it all. Here he was setting up Baal as god and in the door walks a man whose very name reminds him that Yahweh is God. Not only that, the punishment Elijah threatens Ahab with is drought – due to no rain. It just so happens that Baal is the god in charge of RAIN. He was the storm god, the god responsible for fertility and crops.  Now Ahab was going to see just how great his god really was. And Elijah, this obscure and unlikely spokesman for Yahweh was going to find out just how powerful his God was.

After giving Ahab the bad news, Elijah was sent into hiding by God. During this time, God would begin to reveal Himself to Elijah, preparing him for an even greater confrontation with Ahab to come. By the side of the brook Cherith, God shows Elijah his provisional power. He miraculously feeds Elijah using a common raven as his servant. When the brook dries up, God sends Elijah to the home of a Gentile widow who just happens to be a worshiper of Yahweh. This woman, a widow, is already poor but is now suffering even more due to the drought. Yet God show Elijah His inexhaustible power by miraculously multiplying the widow’s resources so that she could live through the drought. When the widow’s son suddenly dies, Elijah gets to see God’s restorative power and the significance of prayer in the life God’s children. In death, this boy represents the spiritual condition of Israel. They needed reviving at the hand of God. Only He could restore them to life and rescue them from their spiritual death. Elijah was learning to trust the one who had called him and sent him as His spokesman to Ahab. He would need to trust in the power of God in the days to come. He was going to be facing some difficult situations in the days to come and God was preparing him for battle.

Father, You want to prove Your power in my life each and every day. You want me to know that You can provide, that Your provision is inexhaustible, and that You are in the restoration business. Nothing is too difficult for You. The more I recognize Your power in my life, the more I will learn to trust and lean on You instead of myself. You are greater than all the little god-replacements we set up in our lives. Never let me forget that. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 15-16

From Bad To Worse.

“He followed the example of Jeroboam, continuing the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. Thus, he aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel.” ­– 1 Kings 16:26 NLT

Rebellion always looks so appealing in the beginning. It tempts us with images of freedom, self-sufficiency, and a life void of all those confining rules. Most people refuse God’s offer of salvation because of all that they think they are going to have to give up if they accept it. They don’t want to give up their “freedom” and autonomy, so they reject God’s offer of grace for a life of independence and self-reliance. But rebellion against God has its price. And nowhere do you see this more clearly than in the history of the people of Israel. Their unfaithfulness to God and refusal to submit to Him as the only true God has led to a civil war and two divided kingdoms. In the north, Israel has continued its downward spiral of idolatry. Each successive king continues in the ways of Jeroboam, leading the people deeper and deeper into their rejection of God. But rather than learn from the mistakes of their predecessor, each king gets progressively worse. Chapter 16 of 1 Kings is full of murder, intrigue, plots, assassinations, suicide, military takeovers, and civil and political unrest. Their rebellion against God has led to anything but freedom. Basha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab. Not exactly household names, but their actions would make a lasting impact on the people of Israel. Their reigns were short, but their legacies were long-lasting.

Over and over again we read that they “aroused the anger of the Lord.” Why? Because they had rejected God and were making their own gods to worship. They had forsaken all that God had done for them and turned their backs on Him. A big part of their problem was ingratitude. They were ungrateful for God’s deliverance, protection, and provision of the very land in which they lived. Their very existence as a nation was completely the result of God’s call of Abraham hundreds and hundreds of years earlier. God had chosen to make them His people. He had redeemed them out of slavery in Egypt, guided them across the wilderness and delivered them into the Promised Land. And now they had turned their backs on Him – after all He had done for them. Their self-sufficiency and pride was intolerable. Their ingratitude was unacceptable. God would not allow His people to mock His name. Their rejection of Him would have consequences. Their desire for freedom would prove costly. But lest we look down our noses at the Israelites and judge them harshly for their actions, we need to remember that their story is our story. In many ways, our lives mirror theirs. We too can turn our backs on the very God who chose us, redeemed us, and delivered us into a new life of promise. We can make other gods to replace Him. We can turn our desire for freedom and autonomy into rebellion. It reminds me of the words of Peter:

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you were not a people; now you are the people of God. Once you received none of God’s mercy; now you have received his mercy.” Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls. Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world. – 1 Peter 2:9-12 NLT

We were once not a people, but now we are the people of God. And we are to live like it. We belong to Him. Our lives are to honor and respect Him. We are to live in obedience to Him, so that all those around us can see the difference in our lives and honor the One who makes it all possible. Israel was to be a light to the nations. So are we. Their light had dimmed because of rebellion. What about us?

Father, I am more like the Israelites than I want to admit at times. I can rebel with the worst of them. I can desire my freedom so strongly that I end up turning my back on You. And sometimes I don’t even know I’ve done it. I erect replacements for You in my life and fail to recognize them for what they are – idols. Lord, never let me forget that I am what I am because of You. I was once dead in my sins, then You gave me new life through Your Son. I was a sinner, condemned and unclean, but You restored me, forgave me and cleansed me. Why would I ever turn my back on You? Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 15

A Rare Breed.

“Asa did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, as his ancestor David had done.” ­– 1 Kings 15:11 NLT

One of the saddest, yet most repeated phrases found in the Scriptures is “But he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his father” (1 Kings 15:26 NLT). You see it over and over again in the history of the kings of Israel and Judah. It seems that virtually every king these two nations ever had were unfaithful and worse than the one before them. And only occasionally was the long line of losers broken by someone like King Asa of Israel. And the writer of 1 Kings makes it clear that this was God’s doing. “But for David’s sake, the LORD his God allowed his dynasty to continue, and he gave Abijam a son to rule after him in Jerusalem. For David had done what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and had obeyed the LORD’s commands throughout his life” (1 Kings 15:4-5 NLT). It was because of the faithfulness of David that God would allow an occasional king to rise up who would call the people back to a right relationship with Yahweh. Asa was that kind of a king. He breaks the pattern of apostasy and begins to do what was right in the eyes of God. Asa institutes a series of reforms, including the removal of the male cult prostitutes who “assisted” the men of Judah in their worship of false gods. He also removed the idols set up by his predecessors and took the bold step of removing his own grandmother as queen because she had assisted in the moral decline of Judah by erecting what was probably a highly obscene image or statue for the worship of Asherah.

Asa was swimming against the tide. He was battling a pattern of unfaithfulness and moral apathy that made his reforms especially hard to enact. The people would not have easily or eagerly embraced his reforms. Removing their idols and the myriad replacements for God they had grown used to turning to would have been met with skepticism and resistance. He probably was not popular in a lot of places within Judah. I doubt he had the best of relationships with his grandmother Maacah either. And while his reforms did not result in the complete iradication of idolatry from Judah, “Asa remained faithful to the LORD throughout his life” (1 Kings 15:14 NLT). He provided a 40-year respite from the pattern of moral and spiritual decay that plagued both Israel and Judah. During Asa’s reign in Judah, Nadab would come to power in Israel and he “did what was evil in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his father, continuing the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit” (1 Kings 15:26 NLT). Nadab would be assassinated by Basha, who would take over the throne of Israel. “But he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of Jeroboam, continuing the sins of idolatry that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit” (1 Kings 15:34 NLT). The pattern continues. Good and evil, faithful and unfaithful, righteous and unrighteous. But because God is in control and He has a plan for the people of Israel, He occasionally raises up a man after his own heart – a man who is willing to stand up for God and against the tide of moral and spiritual decay taking place all around him. God is still raising up individuals like that today – even with the church. Men and women who are willing to swim upstream and do the difficult job of calling the people of God back to faithfulness to God. The reality is, we can be just as prone to the erection of God-replacements in our lives as the people of Judah and Israel were. We can end up “worshiping” all kinds of things, turning to them instead of God for our comfort, encouragement, happiness, provision, protection, etc. Instead of trusting God, we can end up trusting a long list of other things that we expect to deliver what only God can. Like Asa, we need to do the hard task of removing the idols from our own lives and encouraging those around us to do the same thing. It won’t be popular or pleasant. But the life of faithfulness seldom is. We are called to be salt and light – agents of influence and change in a dark and dying world. Will it be said of us, they did what was pleasing in the sight of God? I hope so.

Father, You are still raising up a faithful few who will stand in the gap and do what is right in Your eyes instead of their own. You are calling out a remnant of faithful followers who will do the right thing, even though it is the hard thing. May I be one of them. May I live my life in such a way that I challenge the status quo and model a life of faithfulness in the midst of the rampant unfaithfulness around me. May I be an Asa in my generation. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 13-14

Divided Kingdom. Divided Allegiance.

“There was constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” ­– 1 Kings 14:30 NLT

What a sad time in the history of the people of Israel. Gone are the glory days of Solomon. During his days, gold and silver were in abundance. Israel was wealthy, powerful, and influential. They enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. But now the kingdom was divided into north and south. The once powerful tribe of Judah was alone. The other tribes had split off and formed the northern kingdom of Israel. Their leader was Jeroboam, a former servant of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir to his throne. But in spite of their differences, the two kingdom shared one thing in common: They were both unfaithful to God. Rehoboam and Jeroboam had followed in Solomon’s footsteps, erecting idols to other gods. Jeroboam had gone so far as to establish a completely separate worship system for the people in the northern kingdom. He chose and ordained his own priests and set up his own holy cities. There he erected altars to the gods he had made – two golden calves.

God was not happy. But He wasn’t surprised either. He knew this was going to happen – after all, He’s God. And because He is God, He had to deal with the divided allegiance of both Judah and Israel. To Jeroboam He said, “I promoted you from the ranks of the common people and made you ruler over my people Israel. I ripped the kingdom away from the family of David and gave it to you. But you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted him to do. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods and have made me furious with your gold calves. And since you have turned your back on me, I will bring disaster on your dynasty” (1 Kings 14:7-10 NLT). God had chosen Jeroboam and given him all he had. In return, Jeroboam had turned his back on God. He had disobeyed Him and chosen to serve gods of his own choosing. But Rehoboam was no better. “During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, arousing his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. They built pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites” (1 Kings 14:22-24 NLT).

So God was forced to deal with their disobedience and apostasy. In fact, you see throughout these two chapters, that God is serious about the obedience of His chosen people. Even the young prophet, “the man of God” whom God sent with a word of warning for Jeroboam, suffered death because he refused to obey God completely. It would be easy to look at these two chapters and paint God as a vengeful, angry god who wipes out all those who disagree with Him. But what you have is a picture of the holiness of God in the face of the sinfulness of men. God graciously chooses these men and gives them places of prominence and importance in His kingdom. He makes them a part of His divine plan. In return, He asks for obedience. He reveals His power to them. He makes clear His expectations. The writer of the book of 1st Kings works hard to point out that disobedience brings a curse while obedience brings blessing. The reign of Solomon is described in great detail, pointing out the tremendous blessings of God on the people of God as long as they obeyed Him. But beginning with Solomon we see a pattern of willful rejection of the commands of God. And God is forced to deal with the divided allegiance of His people. He has chosen them, set them apart for His glory, and established them as His own. Their response? They reject Him. They disobey Him. They turn from Him.

And the pattern continues to this day. We love to enjoy the blessings of God. As the people of God, we expect them – even demand them. We pray for, and fully expect to enjoy peace, prosperity, abundance, joy, health, happiness, and a relatively care-free life. And for the most part, we do. But what is our response to the blessings of God? More often than not, it is disobedience. It is divided allegiance. We end up making other gods, replacements for the one true God. We turn to other things for our happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, encouragement, peace of mind, and protection. We end up worshiping the gods of entertainment, money, materialism, pleasure, politics, career, sex, and even self. And then we are shocked and appalled when God is forced to deal with our unfaithfulness. We don’t understand how a loving God can deal so unlovingly just because we have turned our back on Him. But God so often disciplines us because He loves us. Hebrews 12:6 reminds us, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.” God wants us to obey Him because He wants to bless us. He wants us to enjoy His best for us. But He cannot tolerate our willful rebellion and rejection of Him. There are consequences for turning our backs on God. He continues to show grace and mercy, but He doesn’t turn a blind eye to our rebellion. To do so would make Him less than God. So, “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever ? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:7-11 NLT).

Father, help me to realize that my allegiance to You can become so easily divided. I can walk away from You so quickly and pursue gods of my own making. And yet, when I do, I am shocked when I suffer the consequences. I almost demand that You bless me. I want the blessing without the obedience. But that is not the way You work. You demand obedience. You have already blessed me is so many ways. You have chosen me, saved me. redeemed me, and promised me eternal life. In return, you ask that I trust You, obey You, follow You, and remain faithful to You. But I don’t want to obey You out of fear or some sense of obligation, but willingly and gratefully, because of all that You have done for me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 12

A Turn For The Worse.

“After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” ­– 1 Kings 12:28 NLT

Solomon is gone. But he has left behind a legacy far more significant than his wisdom, magnificent royal palace and powerful kingdom. His son, Rehoboam, would inherit his throne, but also his love of women and his habit of worshiping the gods of his foreign-born wives. We are told in 1 Kings 11 that while he was still alive, Solomon “followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done” (1 Kings 11:5-6 NLT). As a result, God warned Solomon of he consequences of his rebellion. “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates” (1 Kings 11:11 NLT). God would choose Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s servants, and give him ten of the tribes of Israel. Later the tribe of Simeon would later migrate north and join the northern tribes, leaving Rehoboam with only the tribe of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Solomon’s once powerful kingdom would be no more. And God makes it clear why all this was going to happen: “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did” (1 Kings 11:33 NLT).

In chapter 12 we see all that God had predicted taking place. It is almost painful to watch as Rehoboam, the son of the wisest man who ever lived, effectively destroys all that his father had spent years building. Rehoboam is the consummate expression of the fool lived out in real life. He refuses counsel, is wiser than his elders, and rash in his decision making. His foolish leadership causes the people to rebel, splitting the kingdom in two. Even in the northern kingdom, now led by Jeroboam, they end up walking away from God, worshiping gods of their own making. “After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there” (1 Kings 12:28-30 NLT). A split kingdom with two rulers, both with divided hearts. Somehow they both forgotten all that God had done for them. They had failed to remember that God had made them a people. He had given them this land. He had made them His own. He had set them apart for His use and for His glory. But they had made this story all about them. It was their will in place of His. It was their way rather than His. In their eyes, God was replaceable. They didn’t stop worshiping. They just stopped worshiping Him alone. They turned to other gods, rather than to the one true God. They created gods they could control – gods of their own making. And that tendency is alive and well among men today. We are still finding ways to make replacements for God in our lives. We look elsewhere for someone or something to bring us comfort, peace, joy, fulfillment, pleasure, power, confidence, and acceptance. We end up making idols out of just about everything. We worship and adore all kinds of things besides God. And the easiest way to discover what it is we worship is to look at where we spend our time, money, and attention. What do you worry about the most? That is your god. What do you think about the most? That is your god. What do you look to to bring you pleasure? That is your god. Where do you turn when you are in trouble? That is your god. Rehoboam and Jeroboam were both guilty of turning from the one true God to seek after false gods. But their spirit of rebellion didn’t die with them. We have inherited their tendencies. We are tempted to do the same thing. But do we recognize it? Will we turn from it? In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller defines an idol this way, “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” Simple, straightforward and convicting. We could each stand to examine our lives and see what we have placed on the altar of our hearts in place of God.

Father, You alone are God. Forgive me for erecting my own gods in an attempt to meet my own needs and live my own life according to my own terms. Help me to learn from the lessons of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Open our eyes so that we might see the replacements for You we have allowed to come into our lives. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

1 Kings 10

Now Is The Time To Be Careful.

“All of King Solomon’s drinking cups were solid gold, as were all the utensils in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. They were not made of silver because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s day!” ­– 1 Kings 10:21 NLT

What a time to be alive in the land of Israel. This nation had seen a lot of change take place in a very short period of time. No longer the poor, raggamuffin former slaves who had left Egypt, Israel had become a great nation with a powerful king and a growing reputation. They were a force to be reckoned with in the region. Their king was wise and extremely wealthy. They had a strong army. They sat at a strategic crossroads when it came to trade and commerce, occupying the land bridge that connected three continents. Money and goods flowed through their land and, as a result, the wealth of the Israelites increased greatly. So much so that silver was considered of little value! The abundance of gold made silver virtually commonplace and worthless. These were heady times in the life of Israel.

On her royal visit to Jerusalem, the Queen of Sheba recognized the hand of God in all that she saw. “The LORD your God is great indeed! He delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because the LORD loves Israel with an eternal love, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10:9 NLT). She was impressed with Solomon and his God. So much so that she made Solomon even wealthier by sending him nine thousand pounds of gold, and great quantities of spices and precious jewels. Solomon and the people of Israel had been blessed by God. They enjoyed peace, prosperity and, more importantly the presence of God. But all this reminds me of the words of Jesus recorded in Luke 12:48: “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” Was Solomon becoming distracted by his own celebrity and wealth? Were the people of Israel beginning to think that they were indestructible and untouchable? Was there a level of complacency and cockiness settling into the people and their wise king? The answer is yes. Chapter 10 is a set-up to chapter 11 of 1 Kings. We’re going to see that all was not well in Solomon’s Camelot. On the surface all looked well. But like a cancer that spreads unseen and undetected in the body, there was a subtle spirit of rebellion slowly infiltrating the people of Israel, and it began at the top. Success was breeding complacency. The abundant blessings of God were resulting in a loss of the fear of God. Solomon and his people were becoming self-sufficient and self-reliant. They were losing their sense of dependence on God. Years later, after Solomon’s kingdom split in two, the prophet Hosea would end up giving the people of Israel a warning from the lips of God, “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from your slavery in Egypt. You have no God but me, for there is no other savior. I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. But when you had eaten and were satisfied, then you became proud and forgot me” (Hosea 13:4-6 NLT). Prosperity was breeding pride. Ease and comfort was resulting in short-term memory loss and an inability to remember all that God had done. God had warned them that this might happen.

“When you have eaten your fill, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and laws. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, that is the time to be careful. Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 8:10-14 NLT

That is the time to be careful! Could the same be said to us today? Are we enjoying the abundant blessings of God, but subtly turning away from our dependence upon God? Are we just as guilty as Solomon of accepting the gifts of God, while disobeying the Word of God? That is the time to be careful.

Father, I am so abundantly blessed. You have been so good to me and yet I can so easily forget You and just bask in the blessings. I almost come to expect it, even demand it. Never let me forget that I am what I am because of You. I would be nothing without You. I deserve nothing on my own. I don’t merit any of the good things you shower on me every day. Don’t let me become proud, arrogant and complacent in my walk with You. Remind me daily that now is the time to be careful. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men