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!'"  

Luke 15:4-6

February 27, 2008

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

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.

The past few weeks, I have been writing about the life of Elijah. Many events have occurred, and we are now at the point where he has just anointed Elisha to take his place as prophet. But before Elisha assumes that particular role, God uses Elijah a couple more times. This week I will cover the first incident, and will write about the second one next week.

In 1 Kings chapter 21, we see the last confrontation that Elijah has with King Ahab.

Naboth owned a vineyard next to King Ahab's house, and Ahab decided that he wanted to own it. He spoke to Naboth saying, “Give my your vineyard that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near, next to my house; and for it, I will give you a better vineyard, or if you would rather, I will give you its worth in money.”

This particular vineyard was an inheritance that Naboth had received from his father. He denied Ahab's request and answered, “The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my father to you!”

Ahab's response to not getting his way was very childish and immature. He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would eat no food.

Jezebel came in and ask the reason why he was so sullen that he refused to eat. He told her about the incident with Naboth and being refused the vineyard.

So being the evil wife that she was, Jezebel told him, “You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth.”

Jezebel wrote letters in Ahab's name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and nobles in Israel.

In the letters she wrote, “Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people; and seat two men, who are scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him saying, 'You have blasphemed God and the king.' Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die.”

So the elders and nobles of the city did as Jezebel had commanded in the letters. After Naboth was stoned, they sent a message to Jezebel letting her know that he was dead. She told Ahab to arise, and take possession of Naboth's vineyard, which he had refused to sell; for Naboth was not alive, but dead. Ahab got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard.

The word of the Lord came to Elijah saying, “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who lives in Samaria. There he is, in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone down to take possession of it. You shall speak to him saying, 'Thus says the Lord: Have you murdered and also taken possession? In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood.'”

Ahab sees Elijah coming and greets him, “Have you found me, O my enemy?”

Elijah answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord.” Elijah then proceeds to proclaim the full message to Ahab, just as the Lord had given it to him.

In addition to the above message, he adds that the Lord had also spoke and declared, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.” He also gives a prophecy concerning the whole house of Ahab because of the kings wickedness and idol worship.

When Ahab heard the prophecy, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, fasted, and went into mourning.

The word of the Lord came again to Elijah saying, “See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring calamity on his house.”

We see in other scriptures that the prophecy was fulfilled. Ahab was killed in battle and the dogs licked up the blood washed from his chariots. Ahab's sons also died violent deaths; as well as Jezebel. God kept His word.

First of all, look at Ahab's reaction when Naboth refused to sell his vineyard. He wallowed in self pity by lying on his bed, with his face turned away, refusing to eat. How mature were the actions of this dignified, royal ruler of Israel?!

But how many of us have ever wanted something so badly, and just knew that it was what we needed, that we were willing to do almost anything to get it. No, we may not have been willing to murder (although many do), but we are willing to sacrifice our savings or go into debt in order to gain possession. If that doesn't work, we'll do our best to figure out how to get our way. And too often, if we don't get something that we really want, we will pout and feel sorry for ourselves. It's also easy to look at what others have and desire their prosperity or material possessions. And then we start trying to justify why we deserve that “special something” that we so desperately want. We often get jealous of how the ungodly are seemingly being blessed, while we may be struggling or doing without the luxuries we so much want.

Several verses in Psalms 37 address that: Vs 1 & 2, “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herbs.” Vs 9-11, “For evildoers shall be cut off; but those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Vs 16-18, “A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be forever.”

Those who speak against God or refuse to honor Him may seem to be exalted into positions of power and may prosper with much wealth. They never seem to be satisfied though, and keep striving for more and more. But the day will come when it will all be meaningless. That's all that they have, and some day it will come to an end. But as believers, we have peace of mind and the hope of eternity spent with God. He promises us an inheritance that will last forever. Those benefits far outweigh what the others seem to accumulate here on earth.

Just as God sent Elijah to confront Ahab about his sin, He will not let sin in any individual's life remain hidden forever. Ahab was out taking possession of his new vineyard, and probably feeling pretty prideful that Naboth had lost and he had won. Then up walks Elijah! Notice that Ahab's first words were, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” I'm sure that the satisfaction and pride he had felt just a few moments earlier, quickly evaporated. He knew first-hand what God had accomplished through Elijah. He was on top of Mount Carmel when the fire of God had consumed the sacrifice and all that was surrounding it. He knew that Elijah spoke the word, and neither rain nor dew fell for 3 ½ years. Dread and fear probably filled Ahab's heart as he waited to see why Elijah had stopped by. He was very likely trying to compose himself in order to hide his guilt.

There have been people I've known that it really didn't matter what they thought of me. I want to be liked and respected, of course, but their opinion really didn't account for that much. Perhaps it was someone I didn't know that well, or someone whose reputation was not that outstanding, etc. On the other hand, there have been those that I didn't want to find out when I messed up or did something I shouldn't. They have been respected pastors, friends, siblings and relatives, and co-workers.

At the very top of that list were my parents. I couldn't stand getting into trouble with Daddy and Mama! It broke my heart for them (especially Mama) to get on to me. Them finding out and confronting me about something was worse punishment than a spanking. The reason I felt that way, was because of my deep love and respect for them. I knew their lives and how they lived, and I knew what they expected of me. I had a deep desire to please them and make them happy.

Even though Ahab may have considered Elijah as an enemy, I think that deep down he had a deep respect for any word that came from Elijah's mouth. If he said, “Thus says the Lord” then Ahab knew that was what he meant!

None of us may serve in the role as prophet, but we need to be careful of the words we speak. Can people trust that what we say is truth? Do we have the respect of others? Or do people question whether or not we're being completely honest or telling them the whole truth. Do they describe us as being “full of hot air” or that “they can only believe about half of what we say?” Too many of us talk for the sake of talking, without thinking of the consequences or impact of our words. It is of utmost importance that we are known as individuals of honesty and integrity. Others need to know that our yes means yes, and no means no. I know for myself, there are times when I should stop and think about what I say beforehand, instead of speaking then regretting it later.

One of my friends told me once that she gets aggravated at her husband because it takes him forever to have a conversation. That is true, because I've talked to him many times. Anytime anyone asks him a question or before he makes a comment, he will stop and think about what he says before he speaks. He very seldom says anything without first considering his words. She on the other hand is the opposite. She said that the thing was, he rarely ever regretted his words or had to go apologize for something he said; whereas she was constantly sorry for something she said in haste or having to apologize to someone.

Last of all, Jezebel told Ahab that she would see that he got the vineyard from Naboth. She goes away, and then comes back shortly thereafter telling him that Naboth is dead. He had to have been smart enough to know that she was involved in his death. Yet, he didn't feel guilty about going right out and taking possession of the vineyard. He only felt sorrow after Elijah spoke to him and gave him the word from the Lord.

We need to be careful who we let influence us. Ahab may have thought, “I wasn't the one who killed Naboth, and my wife didn't actually commit the murder herself, so we're innocent!” Justifying our actions doesn't resolve our guilt.

Over and over again, we see where Ahab listened to Jezebel and allowed her to have sway over him. He gave her more power than she should have ever had. Seemingly, he let her do what she wanted and would listen to her opinions and advice. Even after he saw what had happened with the showdown between the prophets of Baal and Elijah and heard the Israelites acknowledge the true God, he still didn't defend Elijah when Jezebel threatened to kill him.

If there are those around us; whether it be family members, friends, co-workers, or fellow church members; who are encouraging us to be involved in activities that are sin, we need to be careful. It may not be one of the sins that is on our list of the “big ones”. But if their voice is sounding louder in our ears than the voice of God, and it's causing us to listen to them more than God, we need to be careful. We will all day have to answer for our behavior and actions when we stand before God, and that person(s) is not going to be there to defend us.

May we all stand strong in our faith and be an “Elijah” and not a “Jezebel or Ahab”!

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

Jezebel used Ahab's signate to seal the letters because Ahab let her speak in his name.

Jesus gives us authority to speak in His name. “Where two or three are gathered in My Name.”, “Whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you.” (John 16:23), and “And whatever you ask in My Name, that I will do, that The Father will be glorified in The Son.” (John 14:13).

But be careful. Jezebel abused her husband's name, and paid for it. If we abuse the name Jesus, we will pay, too. Would what you ask bring glory to God, or yourself? The best prayer is that you would know the will of God, and to seek the Kingdom of God first.

Jesus also prayed, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39.

ON THE MENEWE:

Apple Dumplings

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 cup shortening

1/3 cup cold water

8 medium tart apples, peeled and cored

8 tsp. butter

9 tsp. cinnamon-sugar, divided

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in shortening until crumbly. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Divide into eight portions. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Roll each portion of dough between two lightly floured sheets of waxed paper into a 7-inch square. Place an apple on each square. Place 1 teaspoon butter and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture in the center of each apple.

Gently bring up corners of pastry to each center; pinch edges to seal. If desired, cut out apple leaves and stems from dough scraps; attach to dumplings with water. Place in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Sauce:

1 ½ cups packed brown sugar

1 cup water

½ cup butter, cubed

In a saucepan, combine sauce ingredients. Bring just to a boil, stirring until blended. Pour over apples.

Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes or until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown, basting occasionally with sauce. Serve warm.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

The Grandma Horton that I knew was a white headed lady who wore her hair in a bun on the back of her head. She made all her own dresses, wore cotton tennis shoes (with the end of the big toe cut out, when she was home), and stockings rolled down to her ankles (except to church, she rolled them to her knees). She quilted all the time. Grandma never baked and didn't really cook that much. She bought Little Debbie cakes to give the grandkids when they came to visit. I think I do remember her making beans and cornbread and fried potatoes before my grandpa passed away. Afterwards, she ate a lot of tuna. The reason I know that, is because instead of throwing the lids in the trash after opening the can, she would toss the lids and cans out the back door. Daddy got onto her over and over again for not throwing them into the trash. Either he or one of us girls would mow for her. He was afraid one of us girls would be mowing and run over the lid to one of the tuna cans and it would fly up and cut our leg. He finally got tired of picking them up every time, so quit mowing that corner of the yard and let the weeds grow up.

Grandma never had a telephone, and would tell everyone that she never read anything but the Bible. She liked to sing, and when asked to do so at church, it was always a big ordeal. She would have the words to a song in her dress or jacket pocket, but liked everyone to beg her to sing. Grandma wouldn't stand on the platform, but would stand down in front of it; and she refused to use a microphone, saying she was loud enough where everyone could hear her. The pianist never knew what song she would sing or what key, but she would just take off and they would have to try to find the key and follow her. I also know that from personal experience of being the one sitting at the piano. And you didn't dare not play for her!

Daddy told me that when he was a little boy, Grandma would sew all the shirts for him and his brothers. What is surprising, is that she would then cut labels out of store-bought shirts and sew them into the homemade ones. I'm sure back in those days and especially in that area of the country, most mothers sewed the clothes for their children (Whew, thankfully the days of having to sew your own clothes have ended, or I'd be in a pickle!!), so I'm not sure why it was so important to her that anyone seeing the label (which I doubt that many people did), would think it was store-bought.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

Don't cry because it's over;

smile because it happened. -unknown

Thanks again for reading our newsletter. May you be encouraged and blessed.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org