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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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James

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 1

 

As I said earlier, I am running this old series on the prophet Elijah. He is such a great example of a man who answered God’s call and never looked back.

I really, really like the story of Elijah found in First Kings Chapters 17 and 18.

Why do I like this story? It reads very easy because it is very familiar. The background in which the great Prophet operated, as well as the Prophet himself,  have a familiar ring to them.

During the next bit, we will study our way through 1 Kings Chapters 17 and 18, as we explore the calling of Elijah, his subsequent teaching and development, and finally ending with what appeared to be his true purpose. So, that’s homework. Read those two chapters, read the culture and history of the time, even read some commentaries.

Let’s take a trip back as we begin, to Chapter 16 of our book.

1 Kings 16:29-34

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years and Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

What we see above is Elijah’s world. One could say that what we see above is our world also. In Israel we see a nation carried away in the abandon of its own sin. Today we are in a nation carried away in the abandon of its own sin. Israel was populated by people who had, by and large, abandoned the true worship of the True God. Today we are in a nation that has, by and large, abandoned the true worship of the True God.

What do we see in Israel at this time?

Wicked and corrupt leaders

A nation and a people who are turning from God

A nation and a people who are turning to many gods

A nation and a people sliding deeper into sin and immorality of every sort, and things that only a few generations before would have been unthinkable.

What do we see in our own land today?

Wicked and corrupt leaders

A nation and a people who are turning from God

A nation and a people who are turning to many gods

A nation and a people sliding deeper into sin and immorality of every sort, and things that only a few generations before would have been unthinkable.

Another thing we can perhaps surmise but is not necessarily made explicit in the text is the slow change from the worship of the true God, to perhaps religious pluralism, to outright persecution and murder of God’s people. Does that sound familiar? First, it is okay to worship other gods. Next, it’s okay and pretty accepted to take one’s pick; worship Yahweh, or Baal, either one is fine. Next, it becomes definitely NOT okay for one who worships the True God to say or even imply that God is the only God or the only way to heaven. After that, we see Jezebel’s systematic murder of the Prophets of God. I know no one is being killed in this nation for their Christian faith, but we certainly see other indicators very similar to what we see with Ahab and Jezebel.

1 Kings 17:1

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Elijah who? That is a good question really. We just discussed the depths of rebellion into which the Israelites had descended. They were ruled by the most Evil and unGodly King since the Kingdom had divided, and Idolatry and sin of every sort were rampant in the land. Then, seemingly out of nowhere pops this man, Elijah to proclaim boldly to King Ahab the pronouncement of God’s judgment upon the nation. Wow.

What do we know for sure? He was a Tishbite, from Gilead. Nothing is noted about his parentage, or anything else. We don’t even know for sure exactly where his hometown was even located!

He certainly made a grand entrance, and quite a grand exit as well. In 2 Kings Chapter 2, we can read how Elijah was taken by God in a fiery chariot to Heaven. God must consider him to have been of some importance, as he appeared with Moses at the Transfiguration of our Lord in Matthew Chapter 17.

What can we infer perhaps about Elijah.? Well, it seems he was, in many ways, just like the rest of us. He was a man of strong passion and strong emotion. He was even a man of fear, as we see later after his showdown with the Prophets of Baal. When threatened with death by the evil Jezebel, Elijah succumbed to his fatigue and fear and became depressed. He may have been a tough, hard man, as he seems to have lived mostly alone in the desert for a good piece of the three-year drought God judged Israel with. Comparison is made between Elijah and John the Baptist, also a rough, tough man of the wild.

What is the point? There is nothing to really indicate that Elijah was special or specially gifted or endowed in any way. Apparently, Elijah’s gift was simply that he responded to God’s call. Elijah was one man, willing to step into the gap.

Why this study of Elijah? Because of the similarities we see between then and now. The society is similar, and the need is similar. God is still calling a few, or many, to step up and deliver a message of repentance to a nation gone astray. There are simply some great lessons in this story about how God will take care of us if we take care of His business.

Who will be our Elijah today?

Faith In Action-Who’s Doing the Healing? And What’s With the Oil?

faith in action

James 5:14-16

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Given the likely timing of this Epistle, it is very possible that the gifts of healing were still widespread and common at the time of its writing. That would make it possible that the Elders were to be called for the simple reason that they had been gifted with special powers to heal on The Lord’s behalf. Given that the sign gifts were primarily designed to establish the authority of the representatives of Jesus on the Earth and not simply for the sheer sake of healing itself, I don’t see that to be the case here; however, I certainly don’t dismiss it either.

Let us have a look at some issues and questions. Is this person sick because they don’t have enough faith in their prayers to have an effect? I would disagree totally with that and further say the telling anyone they are not healed because of their lack of faith is quite damaging. Is the healing discussed because of the extraordinary faith of the elders? I say no on that one as well.

We discussed earlier the fact that God has never stopped being God. He can do anything, at any time, and that would include things that might be considered miracles to us. But the key point is: Who did it? Well, God of course. That has always been the case and is the case even if He uses a representative to do it. It has always been, and always will be, God doing the healing and not man.

So, what is with the oil anyway? Some things to quickly note here. The anointing is being done in the ailing person’s home, and not with the congregation. So James is not trying to teach us that anointing with oil is some rite or ritual we are to practice. Really, it seems far simpler than all of that. Applying oil to the sick was simply part of what was, at the time, modern medical treatment. It is more or less what we should do today if we are sick: see a doctor and pray for God to heal!

Faith In Action-Why Call the Elders?

faith in action

James 5:14,15

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Previously we discussed the idea of an afflicted or ill person bearing some responsibility for getting him or herself assistance when they need it; they are to call the elders, and furthermore, the elders are to respond.

This is not the place to discuss the particulars of who the elders of any particular church are, or exactly what the word represents. Elders, deacons, pastors: the name used matters not nearly so much as what they represent.

Some might say the reason for calling the elders is because they have some special authority granted to have a special pipeline to God for healing the sick. I personally don’t see this as being the case, now allow me to explain. Regardless of how we see the definition of the name elder, it is evident that the word is being used to represent those in the church who are spiritually mature and full of Godly wisdom. The question, then, becomes why that matters!

Why is this person sick? We don’t see the answer in concrete, but we can see some possibilities from context. We have been discussing the trials and pressures placed on those who live the Christian life. Perhaps this person was not so much sick as simply exhausted and worn out from the trials. Perhaps they are just wearied in their Christian life to the point where they have become ill. Who better, then, to provide comfort and guidance on how to recover from this malady than those who are mature and may have lived these very issues themselves.

It may be possible that this illness has come about as a result of some sin. Does our sin always result in illness? Absolutely not. Can our sin result in illness? Absolutely. Do we know that this is happening here? Not really. But, if sin is a factor, then perhaps what we see here is simply some church discipline going on. If not, then still who better to help a believer work through an issue such as this than those who are more mature and experienced?

Isn’t this simple thought true in all of our lives? The Christian walk can be a tough one at times and may take us to the point of exhaustion and even illness. Some may be new and unseasoned believers when exposed to all of this. Rather than just suffering in silence and perhaps falling away, we should seek those who can help us. Those of us who are blessed with wisdom and experience should be ready always to help those who need it.

Faith In Action-Sick? Call for Help

faith in action

James 5:14

Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Have you ever noticed that your pastor is a very busy man? Most are. Have you ever seen or heard a situation where a person got their feelings hurt because they felt ignored when a need presented itself?

We don’t necessarily see just why the person in this passage is sick. As with most of this passage, there is more than a substantial discussion about it. He may be simply sick. It may be that the trials and persecutions discussed previously have worn the person down to the point that they have become sick. They may even be sick as a result of sin.

The whys of the sickness don’t really matter as much as the reaction. Note here one very important thought, and the answer to this question: Who called for the elders? Correct, the person suffering the illness called. Why does that matter?

It matters because our Pastors, Elders/Deacons, cannot be all places at all times, nor are they all knowing. We certainly bear some responsibility to communicate our needs to our brothers and sisters in Christ. What a shame to be suffering from some great need and it not be met simply because nobody knew

Additionally, look at the reaction once a summons is made. The elders come; they respond to this expressed need. People gather to meet the need once it has been expressed.

This may not be the primary point of this passage, but it is certainly one we can make. We are to be there for each other. We should communicate our needs to those who can help us. If we are not the suffering ones, we should pray for, assist, and uplift those among us who are in need, whether physical or emotional.

Faith In Action-Ups and Downs

faith in action

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

During most of James Chapter 5, we have been dealing with some issues involving how we deal with and react in particular situations. We have discussed how we react to being rich and how we react to being poor. We have discussed reaction in terms of patience when confronted with the various trials and tribulations we may face to include interpersonal conflicts.

Even though there is some discussion about illness, faith, anointing and prayer in the section that follows I have, after substantial study and reflection, come to the opinion that this section is probably not about healing per se, but guidance on practical ways to deal with the issues of life. I am not saying healing does not occur, just that I don’t think that is what is being covered here as the main point. Overall, I think this fits with the practical nature of James’ Epistle.

Actually, the word affliction as used here has nothing to do with physical sickness at all, but more along the lines of. “suffering in difficult circumstances, ” or “in trouble.”  This ties our verse in quite nicely with the passages before and in my thoughts, ties it in with the ones to follow as well.

This seems to be a clear lesson. God wants to communicate with us; specifically,  He wants us to communicate with Him! Life will have its ups and downs; sometimes things will go our way, and sometimes we will be troubled, or afflicted. When we are in trouble God wants us to turn to Him in prayer. When life is great, God wants us to thank Him for it.

Do we do that? Is God our first resort when things head in a direction we don’t like or is He our last resort after we have exhausted all or our human resources? When life is great, who gets the credit? Do we pat ourselves in the back for a job well done or do we thank the true source of our many blessings?

David Jeremiah captures the essence of this well by saying, “We have a God for all seasons “(from What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do) He then goes on to quote the following from his own readings (from Alec Motyer, The Message of James.)

“Both in periods of suffering and trouble and in times of joy, prayer and praise alike acknowledge that He is sufficient. To pray to Him is to acknowledge His sovereign power in appointing our circumstances. Whether as the source of supply in need, or the source of gladness or our joy, God is our sufficiency.”

And finally, the chorus from a favorite song of mine really captures the essence very well. From the song, God On the Mountain.

For the God on the mountain, is the God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
And the God of the good times
is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day is still God in the night.

Faith In Action-Happy? Then Sing Praises!

faith in action

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

This is pretty simple. If we are afflicted, under fire, and set upon, we should pray. If we are not suffering any of these things, we should rejoice! We can’t really minimize the importance of these two directives standing side by side. The fact that they are side by side tells us one thing; to sing praises when things are good is just as important as prayer when things are bad.

There are several ideas we could toss around here regarding these thoughts being placed together. No matter how we might see these statements, the lesson remains the same. Prayer matters and praise matters. Prayer and joyful praise are both vital and important parts of the life of a believer, and the life of the church.

James may be using this as an example to us that our lives will be a mixture of ups and downs, and valleys and mountaintops. Even as likely is the idea, based on the earlier discourse on patience during trials, that there is a completely different idea being taught here. Perhaps James is not illustrating the idea that these are two separate events, the affliction, and the merriness. Wait, is it possible the two can coexist together?

Perhaps what is being taught here is that even through the affliction we may be under, that we are to maintain our joy, even in the face of it. What could we possibly find to praise God for during the tough times?

How about we praise Him for the grace to make it through the trial? How about we praise Him for the comfort He will provide through the trial? How about we praise Him for the fact that He will resolve the issue, in the way that most honors Him and is ultimately best for us?

Faith In Action-Don’t Swear, Pray

faith in action

James 5:13

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

It seems like there is a pretty clear linkage here between this verse and the section before. James had been talking about patience through trials; then he covered how not to react to these trials. His injunction to us was to not react to our trials and adversities by saying things we do not really mean. As God has a tendency to do, he immediately offers a solution to the problem. Cool huh? What we have here amounted to this basically: “When life gets tough, don’t say things you don’t mean and can’t back up, pray instead!”

It’s time for another language lesson very quickly, especially in light of the fact that shortly we will be talking about physical illnesses. This is important because, in the verse we are talking about, the word afflicted is not a reference to sick; it is not related to the sickness we see described later on in this passage. This is simply another reference to being afflicted with trials, mistreatment, and persecutions. This is the main reason this verse seems so connected to the discussion before. When we face trial, we should pray; when we face persecution, we should pray.

We pray for a solution; we pray for God’s will; sometimes we simply pray for comfort during these times. The answer to what we face is there, we just have to reach for it, and we reach for it by prayer. One writer used this Hymn to illustrate what we give away when we fail to pray, and instead act inappropriately.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Ev’rything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden?

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Faith In Action-Speak Honestly

faith in action

James 5:12

But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

Here, it almost seems James has taken off in yet another direction. In this verse, James teaches a point on, basically, honesty in one’s words. There is some discussion among commentators about how exactly this verse fits with the previous discussion; not all even agree that it ties in with the previous discussion. It may stand alone as an instruction, but it also may be tied to earlier statements. It is very possible that James is instructing us to watch what we say during times of stress and conflict, In other words, do not let the stress of a moment cause us to make promises we have no plan to keep. Personally, I like that linkage. Either way, the point of the lesson does not change much.

Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; If you say yes mean yes; if you say no, mean no. It’s all about integrity. This is a critical point in our Christian walks and in our testimonies. Christians should be instantly known as people whose yes means yes and whose no means no. There should never be any doubt in the mind of the people we engage with that the words we speak are, to our knowledge, true.

This matters to God. Jesus said the following:

Matthew 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, also had something to say about words of integrity.

Ephesians 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.

How do we know this matters to God? We are to deal honestly in our words lest ye fall into condemnation. Lying is a sin.

Let’s be honest, the world as a whole has many opportunities to find ways to present Christians as hypocrites; do we need to give it one more?

Faith In Action-The Patience of Job

faith in action

James 5:11

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.


Read all of James Chapter 5 here

 During the last few days, we have covered a lot of territory concerning patience and endurance. We have seen James provide us with many good reasons why we should live a lifestyle of patience and endurance. We do it because God is patient with us; we do it because it is the example Jesus Christ set for us; we do it because we can see the example set by believers throughout history.

Now, we see yet another reason and motivation to exercise patience in our lives, even in the face of trials and adversity. God blesses those who endure these things patiently. We have seen the end of the Lord; in other words, God has a good outcome planned for those who endure patiently.

There is probably no greater story in all of Scripture about patient endurance than the story of Job in the Old Testament.

Read Job here.

Job was tested more than any man we see in the Bible. Reading the history, we can see some of the reasons why God tested Job, and they line up quite well with some of the things James is teaching us in his Epistle.

To test Job’s faith and prove the reality of it.

To divert Satan’s evil plans.

To make Job’s faith stronger.

To bless Job.

We can see this now, but poor Job had no idea of God’s plan. He just simply endured. Job lost his family, his possessions, and his health. Job lost everything. Job may have questioned God and asked why, but he never lost his faith or love for God. What happened in the end?

Job 42:10-17 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold. So the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days.

Paul also recognized that those who endure patiently are the recipients of God’s favor. Does anyone recall the thorn in Paul’s side? God did not remove that thorn; Paul merely endured it, using strength provided by God to do so.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

In our above examples, we see a couple of different outcomes coming as a result of patience. Job, as we see, was physically and materially blessed for demonstrating patience in the Lord. It’s very important to note, however, that there is no promise of material blessings as a result of patience. God is not a cosmic candy machine who will give us stuff if we just put in the coin marked patience.

Note that Paul didn’t get anything material as a result of his patience and waiting for God. Paul got grace; Paul simply received the strength through the Holy Spirit to endure and live with his particular affliction.

The point is, God’s promises are good and they are guaranteed. If we do His work, in His way, in His time, we will be blessed. It may be now, it may be later, but He guarantees it. Are we resting in that guarantee?

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