Elijah is Taken up to Heaven / Youths mauled by Bears / Paul Resurrects Eutychus: June 30th 2021

2 Kings 1:1-2:25

The evil king Ahaziah, of Israel, had suffered a nasty fall and sent messengers to ask a Canaanite deity if he would recover. Even when he was mortally injured, the king refused to turn to the Lord.

The angel of the Lord told Elijah to meet the messengers and prophesy to them that the king would die (2 Kings 1:4). They carried this message to the ailing king who recognised their description of Elijah.

The king had to send three squads of soldiers one after the other to fetch Elijah because fire from heaven consumed the first two squads. When the third squad arrived, its captain begged for his life and the life of his men. An angel told Elijah to go with the soldiers (2 Kings 1:15).

Elijah told Ahaziah his prophecy in person and the king died. He was succeeded by Joram. Ahaziah had no sons to succeed him.

Elisha and the companies of prophets at both Bethel and Jericho all knew that Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven. Elisha refused to leave Elijah’s side and went with him everywhere. Elijah divided the water of the River Jordan by striking it with his rolled-up cloak. The two prophets crossed over on dry ground. Elisha asked to inherit a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9-12).

Suddenly, Elijah and Elisha were separated by a chariot of fire and horses of fire. Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah’s cloak had fallen to the floor. Elisha picked this up and found that when he struck the River Jordan with it, the river parted as it had done for Elijah. Elisha had been called by Elijah throwing his prophet’s cloak over him (1 Kings 19:19) and now he had inherited this relic through which God was still working. He ‘took up the mantle’ and became an active miracle-working prophet.

The sign of the Jordan dividing demonstrated to the company of prophets that the spirit of Elijah was now resting on his protégé. The company of prophets asked Elisha if they could send a search party of fifty men looking for Elijah. However, Elisha knew that he would not be found on the earth.

God healed the water of the town permanently by Elisha throwing salt into the spring (2 Kings 2:21). As Elisha walked up to Bethel, a gang of youths jeered him for being bald. Elisha called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord and they were mauled by two bears. This wasn’t the New Testament behaviour that we are expected to show, but by disrespecting God’s new prophet, these youths were also insulting God. God also has a thing about hair with Samson’s strength being linked to hair, people taking on Nazirite vows and letting their hair grow in dedication to God and God counting all the hairs of our head. The youths came from Bethel, which was a centre for idolatrous worship. This was the first clash between the new servant of God and the servants of Satan. Elisha was replicating the works of Joshua by crossing the Jordan on dry land. God had sent hornets after idol worshippers in Joshua’s day. Now he used bears.

Elisha would prove himself to be a great prophet. He had asked Elijah if he could inherit a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9), symbolically becoming his first-born spiritual son, and Elisha would go on to do twice the number of documented miracles.

Acts 20:1-38

Luke wrote down in detail where Paul had travelled. Paul was flexible with his travel arrangements, deciding to travel back through Macedonia when he heard there was a plot against him.

Paul had boundless energy for preaching the gospel and encouraging people. One night, he preached until midnight. A young man, Eutychus, fell asleep as Paul talked and fell to the ground through a third-floor window. He was dead. Paul interrupted his preaching to throw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. He declared that Eutychus was alive (Acts 20:11) with the same confidence that Jesus had when he raised the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:52). The people took the recovered Eutychus home and were greatly comforted. I feel that I was dead to the Gospel for many years having first fallen asleep while people were trying to preach it to me. If we remain asleep all our lives to the gospel, we will slip into spiritual death. However, Jesus is always willing to throw himself on us, wrap his arms around us and declare us to be alive when we believe in him.

Paul had faithfully preached that everyone must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Jesus (Acts 20:21). The Spirit compelled him to travel and warned him that prison and hardships were awaiting him. However, Paul didn’t care about his own comfort, he wanted to complete the task that Jesus had given him – testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).

Paul instructed the elders to be shepherds over the church of God and to watch over their flock. Jesus has bought the church with his own blood. Paul predicted that some Christians would distort the truth to draw disciples after them (Acts 20:30).

Paul had supplied his own needs, the needs of his companions and helped the weak by working hard as a tentmaker while he preached. He had not coveted other people’s belongings. He modelled his generosity on that of Jesus who also had a trade as a carpenter to earn his own resources (Acts 20:35).

The Ephesian elders wept as they embraced Paul and said goodbye to him. Paul had prophesied that they would never see him again. It is heart wrenching when Christian brothers and sisters leave a Spirit-filled church. I only began to feel this fully when I started to attend a Pentecostal church where it is so easy for brothers and sisters in Christ to become friends for life.

Psalm 78:40-55

The Israelites rebelled against God repeatedly in the desert despite the ten plagues he had inflicted on the Egyptians (Ps.78:40). He safely led them like a shepherd.

He drove out nations before them and settled them in the Holy Land as their inheritance.

As we are adopted children of God by our belief in Jesus and our baptism, God can perform these same types of miracles for us.

We all deserved God’s wrath, indignation and hostility because of our constant rebellions until Jesus made us at peace with our Father through his death on the cross.

Image: Giuseppe Angeli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A Prophet Condemns Ahab / Paul in Corinth & Ephesus: June 28th 2021

1 Kings 20:1-21:29

Ben-Hadad, King of Aram, besieged Samaria, where Omri the king the Israel had built his capital city. Israel was currently ruled by the evil Ahab, who had succeeded Omri.

At first Ahab simply agreed to Ben-Hadad’s claim on the city. Ahab could not fight against such a massive force but Ben-Hadad became even more demanding and Ahab finally made a stand and insulted him (1 Kings 20:11).

A prophet came to Ahab and said that the Lord was reaching out to him. The Lord would defeat Ben-Hadid’s vast army to prove who the Lord was (1 Kings 20:13). Ahab sent out young army officers with seven thousand men. Ben-Hadad was busy getting drunk and was dismissive of the threat they presented (1 Kings 20:18). However, the Israelites successfully struck down their opponents and the rest of the Aramean army fled.

The prophet warned Ahab to strengthen his position because he would be attacked again next spring.

The Arameans analysed their defeat. They came to the conclusion that the Israelite ‘gods’ were gods of the hills and so they needed to fight them down on the plain. The next spring, the vast army of the Arameans advanced again. The camp of the Israelite army was tiny in comparison (1 Kings 20:27). Of course, God was not going to accept the insult of being considered just a ‘god of the hills’, he was God of everywhere and would prove it (1 Kings 20:28).

The Israelites killed a hundred thousand Aramean foot soldiers in one day. The rest escaped to the city of Aphek, where the wall collapsed killing another twenty-seven thousand. Ben-Hadad and his officials begged for their lives. Ahab spared him and made a treaty with him.

However, God had wanted Ben-Hadad dead. A prophet was sent to Ahab to tell him he would die in Ben-Hadad’s place for disobeying God (1 Kings 20:42).

Ahab wanted to buy a vineyard close to his palace to use as a vegetable garden. The owner of the vineyard, Naboth, upset Ahab by refusing to sell it. This made Ahab sullen and angry. However, his evil wife Jezebel simply arranged for Naboth to be stoned to death on false charges so that Ahab could seize the vineyard.

God told Elijah to go to Ahab and accuse him of his crimes (1 Kings 21:19). God was going to wield justice on Ahab, bring disaster on him and all his male descendants and ensure Jezebel’s death. Ahab and Jezebel were the worst royal couple in the history of Israel (1 Kings 21:25-26).

Ahab listened to this prophesy and did something about it. He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, fasted and went around meekly. God noted Ahab’s new-found humility and relented. The disaster that God had promised would not arrive until the days of Ahab’s son.

God had tried to reach out to Ahab by giving him victory against the Arameans. Ahab had tried to buy his desired vineyard from Naboth honestly before Jezebel got involved. However, he would not give up worshipping idols egged on by his evil wife. Ahab was prepared to humble himself when convicted by Elijah, which postponed disaster. If Ahab had married a righteous woman, his whole reign might have ended differently.

Acts 18:9-19:13

God spoke to Paul, while he was in Corinth, and reassured him that he should keep on speaking. God was with him. No-one was going to attack or harm him. God had many people in the city. Paul stayed there for eighteen months.

The Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him to court. However, Gallo the proconsul of the region refused to judge on religious matters and threw them all out. The Jews beat up the ruler of the synagogue in frustration.

After his stay in Corinth, Paul left the other disciples and sailed for Syria along with his fellow tent-makes Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off ‘because of a vow he had taken’ (Acts 18:18). This implies that Paul had made a temporary Nazirite vow to the Lord – the completion of which was marked by cutting off his hair which had been allowed to grow long during the period he had especially dedicated himself to the Lord (Num.6:18). Even though Paul was now a Christian and not bound by the full Jewish law, he was still performing some of their historical spiritual practices.

Paul travelled to Ephesus, where the Jews wanted to hear more from him and then to Caesarea and Antioch. Priscilla and Aquila had heard a learned man, Apollos, speaking with great fervour about Jesus in Ephesus. His teaching was many accurate but he only knew the baptism of John (Acts 18:25). Priscilla and Aquila invited him to the home and gently explained the full gospel message. We all need good Christian mentors, who can correct misunderstandings and fill in gaps in our knowledge. Married Christian couples radiate their love of Christ to the world and also their holy commitment to each other. They are less intimidating as mentors than ordained ministers and can combine family hospitality with the gospel message. Married partners always have a Christian on hand to back up their prayers making their combined ministry highly effective (Matt.18:19-20)  

Apollos wanted to be a missionary and the brothers encouraged him. They wrote to the disciples in Achaia to ensure a welcome for him there. He was a great help to believers in vigorously refuting the Jews in public debates. He proved ‘from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ’ (Acts 18:28). So many passages in the Old Testament show that Jesus was our anointed saviour such as Isaiah 53:1-12.

Paul started to find disciples who had not heard of the Holy Spirit. They had only received John’s baptism for the repentance of sins. Paul re-baptised them in the name of Jesus and when he placed his hands on them, ‘the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied’ (Acts 19:6). This process needs to happen to the majority of modern Christians. They may have been baptized in the name of the Trinity, possible decades ago as an infant, but they then sit around passively with a tiny flickering pilot light of the Holy Spirit within them and have never asked for the unlimited power of God within them to be fanned into a roaring flame. As adults, we have to ask Jesus to come into our lives as our personal saviour and also ask the Holy Spirit to enkindle within us the full power of his gifts.

It is encouraging to us that even Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, was not able to convert everyone. Even though he argued persuasively, some of his audience became obstinate and refused to believe (Acts 19:9). Paul did not stay, he simply started daily discussions in a lecture hall. After two years, all the Jews and Greeks in Asia had heard the word of the Lord.

When handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched Paul were taken to the sick, miraculous cures and deliverances happened (Acts 19:12). Jesus had cured a woman with the hem of his garment (Luke 8:44). Peter’s shadow appeared to cure people (Acts 5:15). A dead man thrown into the prophet Elisha’s tomb came back to life when the body touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21). In each of these instances God brought about healing using an object. The cause of the healing was always God. The pieces of material, the shadow and the bones were a means through which He acted. Objects such as these are not magic. They do not contain a power that is their own; the power comes from God. God worked through Paul’s handkerchiefs in order to draw attention to the message that Paul was faithfully proclaiming. God wanted people to recognise Paul as a model and an intercessor. As the Bible says, ‘God did extraordinary miracles through Paul’ (Acts 19:11).

The Mother Church still venerates such relics today. There are three classes of sacred relics. The first-class is a part of the saints body such as the bones of Elisha (it is this type, which was traditionally placed in an altar stone.) The second-class is a piece of the saints clothing or something used by the saint such as Paul’s handkerchief, while the third-class is an object which has been touched to a first-class relic. I carry a cross on a keyring that has been touched to half a dozen first class relics.

Prior to Jesus’s incarnation, there had been Jewish exorcists. Every culture had been given prayers / incantations / ceremonies to deliver people from demons, presumably having been taught by angels or the Holy Spirit. Without these, whole cultures would have probably ceased to exist. The exorcism prayers and techniques were passed on in books of prayers or ‘magic’ books. Solomon allegedly collated several volumes of these incantations for his son Rehoboam. There was no guarantee that these ancient prayers would be effective and the people who used them probably charged for their services. Jesus exorcised people with a simple command and faithful people can deliver others ‘in the name of Jesus’. Some Jewish exorcists started to use the command: ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out’ (Acts 19:13. However, they weren’t professing their own faith in Jesus and faith is very important in deliverance work. We will review the success of their approach tomorrow.

Psalm 78:32-39

In spite of all God’s wonders, the Israelites kept on sinning and did not believe.

God is always merciful and forgiving. He knows that our flesh can be weak but, through the power of the Holy Spirit, he intends to make our spirit powerful, strong and ready for eternal life.

Image: I, Davezelenka, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah on Mount Carmel / The Call of Elisha / Paul in Corinth: June 27th 2021

1 Kings 18:16-19:21

Odadiah trusted that Elijah would not run away and informed evil king Ahab that Elijah wished to see him. Ahab greeted the long-lost prophet with an insult (1 Kings 18:17).

Elijah denied being a troublemaker. It was Ahab and his father’s family who had abandoned the Lord’s commands and followed Canaanite fertility gods. Elijah demanded that the prophets of these ‘gods’ should be assembled and brought to him along with the people from all over Israel. There was going to be an epic showdown.

Elijah challenged the assembly of Israel. If the Lord is God, as he had proved time and time again rescuing the Israelites, then they should follow him. If Baal, the Canaanite deity, proved himself to be God then they should follow him. They should stop wavering (1 Kings 18:21). But the people said nothing. We can set this challenge to thousands of people today. They waver about following God and doubt his actual existence, choosing to worship themselves and created items instead. God doesn’t like lukewarm waverers. He wants fully committed believers with faith.

Ahab assembled the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah took charge of the proceedings. He asked for two bulls. The prophets of Baal could choose one, cut it into pieces and put it on wood but not set fire to it. Elijah would do the same. The prophets would call on the name of Baal. Elijah would call on the name of the Lord and they would see who answered by fire.

The Baal prophets went first, they prepared the bull and shouted for Baal from morning until noon, dancing around the altar. Elijah started to taunt them (1 Kings 18:27). The prophets slashed themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed. Blood is the universal currency in the spiritual realm. Demonic entities want payment in blood. We were saved by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. There was no response to their frantic prophesying or their bloodletting.

It was now Elijah’s turn. He told the Israelites to ‘Come here to me’ (1 Kings 18:30). He repaired a ruined altar of the Lord using 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. He dug a trench around it. He arranged the firewood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he told the Israelites to pour water all over the sacrifice, the wood and completely fill the trench. It would have been far too easy for God to set fire to dry wood. God loves a challenge. He wanted to prove that no natural force could have achieved the same victory; just as God had whittled Gideon’s fighting men down to a fraction of their strength before winning an impossible battle (Judges 7:8).

Elijah prayed to God to demonstrate that he was God over Israel and that Elijah was his prophet. Fire came down from heaven and not only burned up the sacrifice and the wood, but it also consumed the stones, the soil and licked up all the water in the trench (1 Kings 18:38). This was not just a stray spark. This was fire of the Lord. The people fell prostate and turned to God (1 Kings 18:39). Elijah then had the prophets of Baal seized and slaughtered.

Elijah told King Ahab to leave the mountain as heavy rain was approaching (after the three-year drought). Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel but didn’t look out for clouds himself. He asked his servant to do this seven times. Meanwhile, Elijah had bent down with his face between his knees. The seventh time that Elijah’s servant looked, a small cloud had appeared. This heralded heavy rain.

Elijah, with the power of the Lord upon him, was able to run faster than Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel. Our Pastor tells a story of a missionary in Africa who had to stay up all night because the local witch doctor had said he would come to kidnap the missionary’s son to kill him and eat him. In the middle of the night, the witch doctor passed through the locked front door – using his occult power – to find the missionary waiting for him. The witch doctor ran off at high speed, bounding across fields with giant strides due to demonic assistance. The missionary, to his great surprise, was able to keep close behind him throughout a high-speed chase until he had chased the witch doctor far away. The next morning, the witch doctor knocked on the missionary’s door, apologised and handed over his books of spells. He now knew that the Lord is the true God because when the missionary pursued him, he had felt fire coming from the missionary burning his back. The Holy Spirit can allow his servants to move extremely fast when He wants us to.

Elijah ran away from Ahab’s terrifyingly evil wife, Jezebel, and ended up in the desert. Even after his great triumph at Carmel, he was depressed and despondent (1 Kings 19:4). God send an angel to feed him until he had the strength to travel for forty days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

God asked Elijah what he was doing in a cave on the mountain. God told him to stand out on the mountain as he passed by. There was a great wind, then an earthquake, then a fire until finally God showed up as a gentle whisper. God told Elijah who to anoint (1 Kings 19:15-16) and reassured Elijah that he was not by himself. God had kept seven thousand faithful people in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).

Elijah went and found his successor, Elisha. Elijah claimed Elisha for the Lord by throwing his cloak over him. This did not put Elisha off, who slaughtered his oxen and cooked them on his ploughing equipment. This signified that Elisha was fully committing himself to his new life as a prophet.

Acts 17:22-18:8

Paul stood up the aristocratic council of Athens, the Areopagus, and skilfully told them that they were already worshipping God as they had an altar inscribed: ‘To an unknown God’. Paul was there to tell them all about him.  

God, who made everything, does not live in temples. He does not need us to serve him, because everything belongs to him already. From one man, Adam, he made every nation of man. God made us so that we ‘would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us’ (Acts 17:27). We are his offspring, ‘for in him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).

As we are God’s offspring, God must be a living being like us and not an image made of gold, silver or stone crafted by man. Paul said that God would not overlook the ignorance of worshipping idols any longer and commanded everyone to repent. God has set a day for us all to be judged by the man he has appointed and raised from the dead. Paul converted a few members of the council with his speech but some sneered at the concept of the resurrection of the dead.

Paul went to live with fellow tent-makers Aquila and Priscilla. They were Jews who had been expelled from Rome, along with all the others, by the emperor Claudius. Paul was joined by Silas and Timothy and devoted himself to preaching. When the Jews opposed him, Paul shook out his clothes in protest and turned to the Gentiles with a clear conscience (Acts 18:6). We have to move on to more fertile ground if people refuse to be saved. However, Paul had made some noteworthy converts including Crispus, the synagogue ruler and his entire family.

Psalm 78:17-31

God fed the Israelites in the desert with ‘the bread of angels’ despite their constant disobedience and disrespect. Jesus gives us the bread of life when we believe in him and ask him to come into our lives as our personal Saviour.

The Israelites were given water to drink in the desert, gushing from a rock. When we ask the Holy Spirit to enkindle his fire within us, we will have streams of living water flowing from us bringing refreshment and healing to those in their own personal wildernesses.

We can be thankful that God our Father gracefully fed and prospered us when we sinned and rebelled long before coming to Christ due to his love for us.

He gives us more than enough and we should never doubt his providence or wilfully put him to the test. I will always trust in him and his deliverance.

Image: Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 RS https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/rs/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah fed by Ravens / Paul travels to Athens: 26th June 2021

1 Kings 16:8-18:15

Today, we are back to a list of the successive kings of the Northern area of the Holy Land (Israel) as opposed to the kings in the South (Judah).

The son of Baasha, Ela, only reigned for two years before he was assassinated by Zimri, one of his officials, whilst he was getting drunk. Zimri killed off all Baasha’s family, in accordance with the prophecy of Jehu, as soon as he was seated on the throne.

Zimri only reigned for seven days in Tirzah. The Israelites rebelled against him, having heard about how he plotted against Ela and they proclaimed the commander of the army, Omri, king instead. The army laid siege to the palace and Zimri set the palace on fire around him.

Omni fought off a rival to the throne and then reigned for twelve years. ‘He sinned more than all those before him’ (1 Kings 16:25). His son, Ahab, succeeded him and was even more wicked. It was trivial for him to commit all the sins of his ancestor Jeroboam and he also married the evil Jezebel, daughter of the king of the Sidonians. He set up an altar and pole to worship the Canaanite fertility deities who had always been a trap for the Israelites ever since the Moabite women had first seduced them (Num.25:1-3). Ahab infuriated God more than any of the previous kings of Israel (1 Kings 16:33). It was time for someone to stand up against his abominable practices.

Jericho was rebuilt during the reign of Ahab by Hiel of Bethel. Both his first born and his youngest son died in the process in accordance with the curse imposed by Joshua 6:26. This demonstrates the wickedness of the time; people were prepared to go against ancient laws to rebuild cursed cities for political / commercial / reasons of pride despite it costing them their own children. Child sacrifice would also have been routinely practiced under the rule of the wicked Ahab and Jezebel.

Elijah the prophet stood up to Ahab. He said there would be no dew or rain for the next few years until he commanded it (1 Kings 17:1).  God told Elijah to flee and hide in a ravine. He was to drink from a brook and ravens had been ordered to feed him (doesn’t seem very hygienic). Ravens have a history of performing God’s work for him and must not be eaten (Lev.11:15 and Deut.14:14. Noah sent a raven out from the ark looking for dry land (Gen.8:6-7). I carry a blessed St. Benedict medal with me. This medal is often carried by exorcists. Picking it up in the morning and putting it in a pocket, calls down the protection of God through the intercession of Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe. On the front of the medal, are depicted some of the notable events of Saint Benedict’s life. Jealous monks tried to poison him several times but he was always protected supernaturally. Once, his goblet of wine was poisoned but it shattered when he made the sign of the cross over it. When his bread was poisoned, a raven flew down and snatched it away. It’s common to lose food to birds where I live. Voracious gulls are all too keen to snatch chips and sandwiches. Ravens seem to keep an eye on major saints, even after death. I went to visit the grave of Saint Patrick in Northern Ireland and a raven kept a very close eye on me from the top of the church tower. I feel he was checking me out, to ensure I was showing an appropriate level of respect for this great saint.

As there was no rain, the brook that Elijah was drinking from eventually dried up. God told Elijah to go to Zarephath because he had commanded a widow there to feed him. Elijah came to the town gate, saw a widow gathering sticks and correctly assumed that this was the one. Following God is not complicated. The poor widow and her son were starving and only had a tiny bit of flour and oil left. She and her son were planning to eat it before dying. Elijah told her not to be afraid. He proclaimed that by God’s power, if she had sufficient faith to make bread for Elijah first, then her jar of flour and her jug of oil would not run dry until God gave rain. This miraculously happened (1 Kings 17:15-16). They didn’t have excessive amounts of flour and oil to give away, they just miraculously received their needs each day because of their combined faith. God kept them alive and dependent on His daily providence, just as the Israelites had relied on His daily supply of manna in the desert.

Some time later the widow’s son died. Maybe it was all that gluten! Elijah prayed and stretched himself out on the boy three times. God heard Elijah’s cry and brought the boy back to life. This miracle again confirmed that Elijah represented God (1 Kings 17:24).

After three years of total drought, God told Elijah to go back to King Ahab. Ahab’s wife Jezebel was conducting a genocidal campaign against the Lord’s prophets but a righteous man called Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace, had hidden a hundred prophets in two caves and was feeding them. Obadiah met Elijah and recognised him. Ahab had been searching everywhere for Elijah for three years and now he was walking into the lion’s den facing almost certain execution. Obadiah did not want to go and announce Elijah’s appearance to Ahab, because, if Elijah made a run for it, Ahad would surely kill Obadiah out of disappointment. Elijah reassured Obadiah that he would not run away. (1 Kings 18:15). This passage shows that even in the middle of great evil, there are still some good people performing righteous acts. Obadiah had hidden the prophets, despite the personal risk to himself, just as brave people hid Jews during the Second World War. There is always a holy remnant left in the most evil of societies.

Acts 17:1-21

Paul had now travelled to Thessalonica. He went to the Jewish synagogue on three Sabbath days to prove, from the scriptures, that Jesus had to suffer and rise from the dead. Some of the Jews were persuaded in addition to a ‘large number’ of God-fearing Greeks‘ (Acts 17:4). It appeared easier to convert open-minded Gentiles than the Jews, who were more brainwashed in religious tradition. The remaining Jews were jealous. They formed a mob and started rioting.

Paul and Barnabas were sent to Berea by the other believers, for their own protection. The noble Bereans received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures to confirm Paul’s word (Acts 17:11). Unfortunately, the hostile Jews from Thessalonica went after them and Paul was then brought to Athens, where he had to wait for Silas and Timothy.

Of course, Paul could not be idle and so he reasoned in the synagogue and the marketplace about Jesus, having been greatly stressed by the city being full of idols. The Athenians were interested in philosophy and new ideas and brought Paul to a meeting of the aristocratic ruling council, the Areopagus, to find out more. This was a golden opportunity for Paul to spread the gospel to the most influential people in Athens. Tomorrow, we will reflect on the magnificent speech that he delivered to them.

Psalm 78:9-16

We should never forget the miracles and wonders that God performed to lead his people out of Egypt. That is why a reading is read out from Exodus at the Easter Vigil (Exodus 15:1-18).

God performed an even greater wonder to rescue us from our death sentence. Jesus is the new and infinitely greater Moses. He is our Good Shepherd, our precious Saviour.  

The Jews were saved by the blood of the Passover lamb and went through water to be saved from death. We are made anointed children of God by going through the waters of baptism.

We have been saved by the precious blood of God’s only son. We have been redeemed and given the priceless gift of eternal life. We have been given the Holy Spirit by baptism, who will lead and guide us with his fire twenty-four hours a day (Ps.78:14). Our hard hearts will be split open, so that abundant streams of living water and loving power can flow from them (Ps.78:15).  

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/32495192@N07/10807624504

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