Story, Wk. 15 01/22/17—Highland—Meute
The Story: “God’s Messengers”
The Story, Chapter 15
I Kings 18: 17-19; Luke 4: 14-21
Pearl: Listening for God’s message.
Function: To recognize the voice of Christ, the chief prophet, and to follow him rather than ignoring the voice of God given through many prophets as the kings and people of Israel and Judah leading to catastrophe for their kingdoms.
Last week in The Story you learned that the nation of God’s people divided into two nations as a consequence of the division that took place within the heart of King Solomon. Solomon’s heart became divided between the living God and false gods. So as a result, God’s people were divided into two kingdoms: Israel (north) and Judah (south).
1. The historical books of the bible contain the record of the many kings of the two nations and the many messengers (prophets) who were led by God to confront the corrupt powers.
a. Look in your study bibles for listings of the kings of Israel and Judah and note how to match up various prophetic and poetic books with various historical books. Also, note how various messengers/prophets correspond to various kings.
2. God saw to the division of the people of God into two nations because his people were sending the wrong message about him to the neighboring nations.
a. God wanted his people to live in harmony with him so that he could bless them with his love and provision. He wanted to do this so that other nations would be drawn to the God of Israel. He wanted his people to be a light to the nations.
b. Instead the people rebelled from God.
i. They were not completely devoted to God.
ii. They engaged in the worship of other gods who were not gods.
iii. They disobeyed God’s commands literally and they disobeyed the spirit of God’s laws.
iv. This is what Jesus confronted constantly in his short ministry.
c. So, God divided the nation in order to purify the message regarding God’s character. The carelessness and waywardness of God’s people reflected on him.
3. Sadly, the record of success among the leaders of God’s people in Israel and Judah in heeding the messages and the messengers who were sent by God was very, very poor.
a. Only one prophet was heeded—Jonah. And get this, he was sent to the nation of Nineveh—not God’s people.
Who were God’s messengers? They were people who God raised up to confront the powers. They rose up to call Israel and Judah back to God. They rose up to cry out for justice according to the will of God.
1. In The Story, chapter 15, you read of a few prophets whose career was in the northern kingdom of Israel. Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea.
a. Elijah is especially remembered for his interaction with the 400 prophets of Baal. He challenged them to a contest to see whose God was true. He ordered them to prepare a sacrifice and to call upon their god to bring fire upon the sacrifice. The 400 prophets of Baal cried out to their god all day long and nothing happened. When it was Elijah’s turn, he ordered gallons and gallons of water be poured upon the sacrificial altar such that it was flowing around the trench of the altar. When Elijah called on the God of Israel to bring fire upon the sacrifice it came forth and licked up all of the water and all declared that day the God of Israel was the true God.
b. Hosea was another messenger of God. Under the inspiration of God Hosea married a prostitute named Gomer. He was inspired to take her as his wife and to love her with a great devotion. It was a very difficult marriage for Hosea because this woman was unfaithful to him. Yet he loved her faithfully and Hosea married her partly to demonstrate to the nation of Israel that God is the spouse of Israel and like his wife Gomer, Israel played the harlot with the living God by chasing after other gods.
2. These messengers were calling for reform. They were calling God’s people back to their fundamental loyalty. They were foretelling a dire future for the people of God if they did not return to God.
a. The next couple of chapters of The Story contain the lowest part of the Bible. Other than when Jesus was crucified, there is no lower part of the Bible. The two nations would be invaded, destroyed, and God’s people would be taken away and into exile.
b. All of this happened because as was repeated over and over through the historic record of the kings of Israel and Judah, they set up altars to other gods; they practiced the horrid practices of other nations like sacrificing their children; they broke God’s commandments. There were some bright spots where reform happened for a time, but then the next king would return to the former ways of idolatry.
c. They let themselves become estranged from God.
d. They forsook their primary identity in the God who brought them out of bondage in Egypt. They forsook this God who separated them from every other nation. They looked beyond their God to other gods.
3. So, God inspired and raised up messengers to confront the powers—the kings—the authorities—and the people. They spoke up and they spoke truth. They tried to shock the people and the leaders back into their primary identity. They tried to remind of God’s faithfulness. They cried out in protest of what was happening.
4. God’s messengers still speak today through his people, through you and me.
a. For one thing, we look to the sermon/message that is given in Christian worship to be the message of God to the people. But God also inspires his people to speak to the powers that be and to cry for purity of devotion to the Lord and for God’s will to be carried out.
b. Last week the nation enjoyed a holiday to remember and honor Martin Luther King, Jr. This man was a follower of Jesus Christ who confronted a terrible flaw in American society. In the name and spirit of Christ he appealed for justice in our nation.
c. Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke up to the powers in South Africa and urged the destruction of apartheid.
d. Such prophetic witness continues today. Many are concerned about systemic inequities. Many are concerned about those who will fall between the cracks. Many are concerned for the plight of the planet we call home.
i. The prophets, God’s messengers, are speaking out still. Some of you are those messengers. You are not often popular. Your messages are not always welcome or appreciated.
5. God’s messengers call God’s people back to devotion to God. They call God’s people back to devotion to God’s ways of justice, mercy, and grace. God’s ancient prophets called for care for the poor, care for the widows, concern for the prisoners, and care for the aliens living among them. Such priorities continue to be the priorities of God today.
Sadly, the biblical record of God’s people listening to the voice of God through his messengers is an utter failure. There were some bright moments of reform. There were a handful of Kings who sought justice and who did right in the eyes of God. The majority were evil and failed to lead the people as God willed.
1. This is why the time came for God to send his own special Messenger.
2. God broke the cycle of the misrepresentation of himself, sending his Son, the Messiah. The Messiah rightly represented him on earth. You will see this in the New Testament.
3. Jesus the Christ was the incarnation of God on earth. He was God’s unique representative on earth. He was the Prophet of prophets!
a. He is the one that you should listen to. His spirit is the one to follow. His heart and mind are to be in you.
b. Jesus fulfilled the letter and the spirit of the Law throughout his life and ministry and even in his death.
i. He is today, the Head of the Church.
c. All true messengers of God today speak and act according to the spirit and message of Jesus the Christ. His people will determine his truth and call for it—they will stand for it—they will even die for it, if necessary.
Your greatest fear and concern as God’s people today should be straying from the spirit and priorities of Jesus the Christ.
Your greatest priorities today should be to hear the voice of Jesus the Christ and to do his will on earth heeding the message of his kingdom as it continues to challenge the powers. Your concern should be to follow after the counter-intuitive message of the kingdom of Christ and to be the Church of Jesus Christ.