Today’s Bible reading: 2 Kings 1-2:25; Acts 13:42-14:7; Psalm 139:1-24; Proverbs 17:19-21
When Azahiah falls and is seriously injured he doesn’t seek help from God. Instead he seeks help from a false-god, Baal-zebub, from which we get another name for Satan: Beelzebub (2 Kings 1:2). When people are in trouble they turn to something/someone they think can help them. Maybe alcohol. Maybe a fellow human-being. Maybe drugs. Maybe spiritual meditation. But the only thing that can truly help us in our times of need is God.
Even though Azahiah did not ask God, God – out of His mercy – actually sends Azahiah an answer anyway. Through Elijah He tells Azahiah that his condition is fatal (2 Kings 1:4). This is actually a blessing from God – very few people know when they are going to die. God gave Azahiah time to repent.
Unfortunately, Azahiah does not repent and instead arrests Elijah (2 Kings 1:9). As we’ve been learning recently, people don’t like what God has to say. God speaks truth in love and has the power to heal our broken lives. But people don’t want to know the truth about themselves. We’d rather believe lies that make us feel good. We aren’t the most intelligent creatures, are we?
Notice that Azahiah calls Elijah “Man of God” (2 Kings 1:9, 11, 13). Azahiah knew that God existed. But he also believed Baal-zebub existed. He thought he could pick and choose his own truth from many existing truths. The world operates the same way today. People believe there are many paths to heaven and they can pick the one that is most pleasing to them. But this is not true. God made a way to heaven when there was none. That way – the one and only way – is through Jesus Christ.
Elijah is famously taken up to heaven in 2 Kings 2:11-12. Elijah never died. For this reason many believe that he will be one of the two witnesses during the Tribulation (Revelation 11:3).
Elisha takes over for Elijah and immediately is tested when some young men make fun of his baldness (2 Kings 2:23). Elisha did not become despondent and depressed as Elijah had. Instead he calls on the name of God to take care of these mockers who were rejecting him and, therefore, God.
I wish there was as much excitement to hear God’s word today as there was in Acts 13:42 where the people loved Paul and Barnabas’ sermon so much they wanted to hear it again. Whatever these men said it had a tremendous impact as many devout Jews believed.
Notice too that this is the first time Paul’s name is placed before Barnabas. Up until now when these men worked together Barnabas’ name came first because he was mentoring Paul. But now Paul has matured spiritually and is taking the lead in their relationship as well as in his availability for God.
The Jewish leaders become jealous of Paul’s following so they tell lies about him and argue with everything he says (Acts 13:45). I’ve been there. There will always be people who love themselves and hate God so much that they will lie – which is a sin. But these are the same people who refuse to see themselves as sinners.
These leaders were also apparently unhappy that Gentiles and Jews were mixing (Acts 13:46). Despite being religious leaders they knew nothing about what the Bible said about salvation being for everyone, not just the Jews (Acts 13:47). The same thing happens today with people who think they know God but have never even opened a Bible. God loves these people, but their opinions on God are meaningless.
Paul and Barnabas then travel to Iconium where many Jews and Greeks believe (Acts 14:1). But with success come opposition and some Jews, who rejected God’s message, intentionally persuade others not to believe (Acts 14:2). This behavior, which we still see today, amazes me. People who do not believe in God want others to not believe in God either and very often go out of their way to stop other from believing. When I was an atheist I did the very same thing and began to ask myself why. The answer is that this is a tactic from Satan.
Satan convinces unbelievers to preempt others from believing too. But if you think about it, there is no reason to do this. Why should an atheist stop someone from believing something they (the atheist) does not think is true to begin with? What harm would there be if the person did believe? None. The only reason Satan would want people to not believe is because the object of the belief is, in fact, true.
Nevertheless, Paul and Barnabas stay in Iconium for a long time, preaching boldly about God’s grace (Acts 14:3). God gave them the power to do miracles to prove what they were saying is true. How cool would that be?
Paul and Barnabas continue to preach the truth until it becomes unsafe for them to do so (Acts 14:5-6). God wants us to persevere. We shouldn’t quit at the first sign of trouble when it comes to witnessing to others. God will send us a sign when it is time to move on. In this case the sign was the death sentence handed down by the those who were unwilling to believe.
God knows everything about you, even more than you know (Psalm 139:1). As such He can point out anything in us that needs correction (Psalm 139:23-24). This is a prayer we should all pray. We don’t enjoy hearing about the bad things in us (which are many). But God reveals them to us out of love – so we can enjoy a stronger relationship with Him.
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