THE NEW EWE
"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 30, 2008
I am continuing the series I have been doing on Elijah. If you would like to study Elijah's life for yourself, you can find the scriptures relating to him in 1 Kings chapters 17-19, then in 2 Kings chapters 1-2. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and learn from these devotionals over the next few weeks.
After three and a half years of no rain, Elijah and King Ahab finally meet face to face. Ahab's first words are, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
Elijah replied, “I have not made trouble for Israel, but you and your father's house has. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals.”
Isn't Ahab's response typical of human nature? How we hate to take responsibility and blame for problems that arise. It's so much easier to blame others. In our society you hear kids blaming their parents for their rebellion and choices, and parents blame peer pressure and the school systems. Congregations blame their pastor. In businesses, upper management point the finger at the employee's, if the company isn't as successful as they would like; and employee's become disgruntled and blame the upper management. Politicians are always very vocal about who's to blame for the economy, and are eager to disagree and cast blame on one another.
At times there are legitimate reasons for problems we have to deal with. But there is a big difference between reasons and excuses. Reasons are based on truth. Excuses are based on denial, or an individual trying to get around the truth. It's easier for us to come up with excuses, than to cast blame on ourselves when we err or are to blame.
After all this time of drought and famine sweeping across Israel, Ahab was still worshiping his idols, and was denying that he played any part in the disaster the nation was facing. In fact, he had been searching all the other nations and kingdoms for Elijah. You would have thought after that length of time, and the situation getting worse and worse, that the people would begin to question their worship of Baal and him not responding. You would think they would turn their hearts towards God.
But we nowadays see people who are involved in ungodly and sinful lifestyles. They are so wrapped up in their causes and are so self-absorbed, that they have no regard for God. At times, God may put them in positions where they reach rock bottom and are desperate, in order to try and get their attention. Thankfully, some will choose at that time to turn to God. Yet so many cast blame on God for their situation, and they become even more bitter and resentful, and deeper involved in sin.
Elijah tells Ahab to summon the people from all over Israel to meet him on Mount Carmel. He further instructs Ahab to bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who ate at Queen Jezebel's table.
Surprisingly, Ahab did what Elijah requested. He sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the false prophets on Mount Carmel.
Elijah stood alone before all these prophets of Baal and Asherah, the wicked king, and all the people from Israel who practiced idol worship. It would have been so easy for Ahab to order Elijah's death, once they were all assembled. Yet Elijah stood before the great crowd of people with no fear.
Elijah asked, “How long will you waver (halt or hesitate) between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
Many of the people in Israel believed in God, but didn't believe that He was the only God. They didn't worship Him alone. They worshiped other gods also. They would go to the temple and make sacrifices to God. But they would also sacrifice to the other gods, depending on what they were asking for. They had gods for weather, crops, fertility, wealth, war, etc. Not only were there big idols built on the high places where they would gather to sacrifice, but many would have small statues of their gods, that they would keep inside their homes and would burn incense and offer sacrifices as they worshiped there.
I have read different things about the idol worship, and it was absolutely deplorable and debase. Women would worship Asherah, the goddess of fertility. Many times they would promise this idol that if they would be blessed with a child, they would offer their firstborn as a sacrifice. When the baby was born, they would kill the child as a sign of worship and thanksgiving to this goddess. Molech was another god that was worshiped. He was a god they would build on the high places, and a fire would be built inside him where flames would shoot forth from his mouth. In times of war, men would sacrifice their first born sons by throwing them into the flaming mouth of this idol, trying to appease the god so they would be victorious.
The Israelites were performing this type of idol worship, while going to the temple and making sacrifices to God. Elijah told them to quit wavering between the real God and Baal, and choose. They needed to quit going back and forth between the two, and worship whichever one was the true God. But the people stood there and didn't say a word.
In Exodus 20:2-6, as part of the ten commandments, God speaks and says, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
We will more than likely never see the kind of idol worship and sacrifices that were going on during that time in history. Yet there are many people who are straddling the line, trying to serve God, while following their own desires and holding onto sinful practices. Have you ever seen someone try to walk on top of a fence or something along those lines? They may do well for a while, but sooner or later they are going to fall to either one side or the other. It's the same with those who are walking through life trying to hold onto God with one hand, and holding onto the world with the other. Eventually they are going to be pulled to one side or the other.
Matthew 6:24 says, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will by loyal to the one and despise the other....”
Revelations 3:15,16 says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
I think it's pretty obvious as you study the scriptures, that God doesn't just want part of our worship and devotion. He wants all of our heart and mind. It's impossible for us to serve God and other things at the same time. It causes us to have a divided heart, where no one or nothing gets our total devotion.
This is a problem that man has dealt with since the beginning of time; wanting to serve God, but being lured away by temptations, desire for money and wealth, false teachings, and so many other things. There has always been that internal struggle between good and evil. The choice between obeying God or the flesh has been there in the heart of man since the Garden of Eden.
In Joshua chapter 24, Joshua is nearing the end of his life. He called all the people together one final time to lead them in a ceremony of renewal and commitment to serve God.
In verses 14-15 Joshua tells the people, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So the people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.”
If you are at a place where you are wavering between two opinions, you are never going to be content until you make a choice. You cannot stay silent forever and continue trying to please God, while holding onto worldly pleasures and things that are pulling you away from Him.
As Joshua wrote, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” You may not be choosing man made idols, but there are many things that can become more important to us than God. Anything or anyone that becomes priority over God, becomes your idol. Just as Joshua encouraged the people, I encourage you to choose to serve the Lord!
I know that I speak for both myself and my husband when I boldly make the statement that, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”
The Israelites and their neighbors looked for solutions to their problems in all the wrong places. Sure, they respected God, but when they needed rain, they turned to one god. When they needed sun, they turned to another. When they needed children or victory in battle, others.
Not so long ago, people in America often turned to snake-oil for health or to cannons loaded with salt for rain. That might sound ridiculous, but even now, people use magnets, surgeries, and all manner of plant extracts for health. (I don't want to discount healthy diets or exercise. There are actually quite a few scriptures that encourage both.)
It's more difficult to talk about necessary medical help. When most Americans want health, we just turn to a doctor. I don't want to discourage anyone from seeing a doctor or getting any surgery they need. But the danger that most of us cross easily is when we look to the doctor alone for healing. Because God is the Great Physician. Yes, see a doctor, have the surgery, follow a proper diet. But pray to God, and give God thanks when you are healed. The rest are good tools.
It's the same with work. We work to earn a living. God is our Provider. But sloth is a sin. We aren't off the hook by looking to God to provide for us. But we need to be thankful to God for providing for us after we've done a good day's work.
round steak, cut into strips
½ medium onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup water
flour with salt & pepper, to taste
oil (approx. ¼ cup)
Cut the round steak into strips. Mix the salt and pepper into the flour. Coat the steak strips with the flour mixture (I put the flour, salt, and pepper into a ziplock bag; put the steak strips inside and shake to coat). Heat oil in pan; brown meat. Put browned steak into a crockpot. In the oil that you cooked the meat in, add the onion and saute. Add the can of mushroom soup and water. This will make the gravy to pour over the steak. Stir occasionally and bring to a boil. Pour the gravy over the round steak. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Serve over mashed potatoes or rice.
I'm sure we have all been on both the getting and receiving end of giving. There are times when we have the resources to give and help out someone and times when we are the ones in need of help. Throughout the years there have been times when I've thought, “I wish I had the money to help so and so out, but I just don't.” So I end up not ever giving. As I've matured over the years, I've come to realize that it's not always monetary gifts we can give. And when money is required, God will speak to someone's heart who does have the resources. I've also learned when God speaks to someone's heart and they offer to help, don't turn them down or else you will rob them of a blessing.
An example of not giving monetarily happened a few weeks ago. I enjoy cooking and I think the best cookbooks out there are ones made up by church women. Over Christmas, a young wife and mother mentioned to me that she had started cooking and really enjoyed it, but didn't have any cookbooks. I knew that I had extras that I could share. I found an extra copy of a church cookbook my home church in Missouri had put together several years ago. I fixed her up a care package with that and a couple little cookbooks I had ended up with duplicates of, and mailed to her.
An example of someone seeing a need and responding just happened recently. I had mentioned to one of my best friends about a child who was in need of clothes. She asked for the sizes, and without hesitation she went online and ordered a few items. Knowing that I was in contact with the situation, she had the items directly shipped to my house so I could make sure the child would receive them. My friend doesn't know the child and didn't have to respond, but I know that God will bless her because of her willingness to give so unselfishly.
In the Arkansas town where my step-mother lives, there is a local radio program called “Trade-e-o”. It's where people can call in and advertise to buy and sell items. Listening to Trade-e-o has been one of the highlights of my step-mother's day, ever since the program first started many years ago. It doesn't matter who's there or what's going on, she wants to listen to it.
A few days ago, I received an e-mail from my step-sister saying that she had talked to a cousin of mine, who had advertised an item on Trade-e-o. She gave me his name, and said that he was talking about my singing, and wanted me to call him if I was ever going to be singing in the area where he lived. I e-mailed her back and told her that must have been quite the long distance call, because this particular cousin had passed away over 25 years ago, and I didn't realize they listened to Trade-e-o in Heaven. If he wanted to hear me sing when I got there, I guess I could give him a call.
She replied and asked if I hadn't heard that she had a direct line to Heaven. She said apparently she misunderstood his name when he gave it, so she has no idea who she talked to.
The choices we make determine our path.
Stopping to praying for God's wisdom before making a choice, will stop us from acting hastily.
Thanks again for reading our newsletter. May you be encouraged and blessed.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon