The Struggles Of The Righteous

The Struggles Of The Righteous

(Pinch Hitting For Brent, Who Is Sick)

(This is from today’s Lehman Learner)

Neal Pollard

Perhaps Jeremiah seemed to be mean, harsh, even unloving, to his brethren. His message is certainly what we could categorize as negative, but we remind ourselves that its source was God. What may get lost in Jeremiah’s challenging message is how it affected him to share it. Chapter nine is full of the struggles he endured in being God’s spokesman with a message of divine judgment.

Jeremiah endured mourning (1). While Judah would be hypercritical and threatening toward Jeremiah for his message, they had him all wrong. He did not relish his unpleasant message. He would have preferred to have kept his mouth closed (20:9). They had no idea of how his mission was wearing on him. He writes, “Oh that my head were waters And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” He knew that they were hurting themselves by their lifestyle, and he wanted them to escape judgment. It can be heartbreaking work to share God’s word on any number of unpleasant, unpopular subjects. No rational preacher, elder, or teacher is excited to share such a message, but it must be done (2 Tim. 4:2).  Jeremiah is rightly called the “weeping prophet” (8:18; 13:17; Lam. 2:18). Revealing this was an emotional struggle.

Jeremiah endured isolation  (2). The pressures of sharing a message nobody wanted to hear created inevitable isolation. He felt alone and like nobody understood or cared. He longs to escape such disappointing, unrighteous behavior. He wanted to run like Jonah. He felt alone like Elijah. It can go with the business of declaring God’s message. There are times when you may feel like you are standing all alone, but you never will if you are sharing God’s word God’s way. He will never leave you (Mat. 28:20; Heb. 13:6). 

Jeremiah endured disillusionment (3-6). He expected more and better from his brethren. They knew better, but they were guilty of treachery and adultery (2), lies and deceit (3,5-6), ignorance (3), violence (4), slander (5), and general iniquity (5). Have you ever overheard someone you looked up to use foul language or stumbled upon someone doing something sinful? It’s like a punch in the gut. But imagine a congregation full of people doing what God through Jeremiah reports. It had to have been discouraging and caused feelings of hopelessness. 

Jeremiah endured a sinking realization (7-11). What was the cost of this? Sin is not without consequences (Gal. 6:7-8; Hos. 8:7; Prov. 6:26). At the heart of God’s message was this rhetorical question: “Shall I not punish them for these things?” (9). Jeremiah knew what was coming. There would be weeping, wailing, and dirges (funeral songs)(10).  Judah would be ruined and desolate (11). Jeremiah knew this ahead of time. Whatever normalcy he witnessed each morning and evening, he knew that would ultimately change. The fact of judgment looms over the horizon of time. It will be a day of rejoicing for the righteous and prepared, but not for the rest of humanity. The people of Judah were not ready for this judgment, and Jeremiah knew that. 

Jeremiah endured being overwhelmed (12-16). The message gets specific about the nature of what was coming. It was going to be more devastating than any of them had experienced. Because of their stubborn rebellion, they would be scattered and annihilated. Hope belongs to the penitent, but there’s just no good news for those who are determined to oppose God’s way.  

Jeremiah endured unpleasant duty (17-22). God tells Jeremiah to call for mourning, wailing, and tears (17-19). He is help them focus on their shame (19).  The heart of the message was death (20-22). Don’t you think Jeremiah would have loved to have spoken of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, and blessings? But the circumstances did not call for that. Jeremiah had to be faithful to God’s message. Like Micaiah, every faithful spokesman for God should say, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I shall speak” (1 Ki. 22:14). 

There is a ray of hope starting in 9:23. Amid the folly of idolatry, there will be a reminder of the wonderful, perfect character of God in chapter ten. But even here, there is encouragement for God’s faithful servant. It was a message for the worldly wise, for the mighty man, and for the wealthy (23) not to trust in those things, but to trust in Him. Everyone should boast of knowing and understanding God, that He is “the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things” (24). Punishment was for the spiritually uncircumcised (25-26). It was not for the faithful, like His man Jeremiah. Whatever we have to struggle through for the Savior, may we know that God will be with us through thick and thin. He has not left us alone. He will always be with us, help us, and strengthen us! Declaring His word is right, and He will not let us lose for being unswervingly loyal to it and Him! 

The God Of The Mountains And Valleys

The God Of The Mountains And Valleys

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

*main points adapted from Wayne Burger. 

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah performed the impossible through God. In this chapter we learn that a drought has occurred in the land. Elijah had just asked Obadiah to tell the King that he was there. Elijah goes before the king and tells him that he is the reason for the drought. Elijah has had enough and calls them all together at Mount Caramel. It is here that God through Elijah lights the water-soaked altar and all the prophets of Baal are slain. 

Elijah in 1 Kings 18 was on the mountaintop with God. He showed the idolatrous people the power of the Almighty. He proved without a shadow of a doubt that God is king, and idols have nothing on the living God! 

We go from this incredible victory in chapter 18 to Elijah running scared for his life in the very next chapter. From the mountaintop, to the valley. And there’s one constant that remained for Elijah: God. 

In 1 Kings 19, we learn the the cure to discouragement. The chapter begins with Elijah receiving a message from Queen Jezebel. This messenger tells Elijah that Jezebel has sworn to kill him by this time tomorrow. Of course, Elijah is afraid and he runs. 

Elijah is in the wilderness, running for his life, and all he wants to do is die. Just 24 hours earlier, he had performed the greatest miracle through God, and now he’s scared for his life and on the run. So what’s the solution? 

The next time we find ourselves in a situation like Elijah, remember to: 

  1. Tell God (1 Kings 19:10) 
  2. Tell Him what’s on your mind. God knew why Elijah was in the wilderness, but He wanted Elijah to admit it with his own mouth. When you’re in the valley, talk to God.
  3. Eat a meal (1 Kings 19:6)
  4. Get strength to carry on. Comfort food can work miracles. 
  5. Have a job (1 Kings 19:15)
  6. Get going. Elijah couldn’t just stay in the forest for the rest of his life! He had a job to do. And so do we. There are souls that are lost, friends that need encouraging, families that need us. 
  7. Have a friend (1 Kings 19:19). Elisha would carry on the torch for Elijah. Elijah not only had God, he had Elisha. God will always be there for us, but he also gives us close friends to lean on. 

If you ever find yourself in the valley, remember to talk to God, eat a meal, remember your purpose, and don’t do it alone. 

God’s Solutions For Our Problems

God’s Solutions For Our Problems

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

It’s been said that the there are more stars in the known universe than all of the sand on earth combined. That being said, in just one grain of sand there are more atoms than all of the stars. That’s pretty amazing. Our planet is but a speck in the grandeur of space. Countless stars, planets, galaxies, lightyears and somehow God is well aware of the happenings of people. Have you stood on the mountain tops? Have you observed the power of the oceans as the waves crash on the shore? Has your heart almost stopped after the vibrating sensation of a thunder clap resonates in your chest? The might of the Creator is everywhere in the world around us and at times it just demands to be noticed. 
A section of scripture that is mysterious and fascinating is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13. The Lord of hosts is about to show Himself to a depressed and exhausted Elijah, but in a way that he would never forget. “The Lord said, ‘go out on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out to stand at the mouth of the cave. Then the voice said, ‘what are you doing here Elijah?’” In the solitude of Horeb, Elijah seeks to avoid the troubles of his world. 
The acoustics of the mountainous area along with the time spent in silence must have made the shattering rocks, raging fire, splitting hills, and rumbling earth all but deafening and definitely a terrifying display of divine power. Then in sharp contrast, a still whisper comes. This gentleness, no doubt, is the reason Elijah decides to cautiously emerge from his hiding place. God is teaching His worn-out servant a lesson that holds true for us today. The fact is, there is no more God, His wisdom, power, and presence in an earthquake than there is in the sweet breath of a blooming flower. The quiet ticking of a wrist watch reveals just as much intelligence and purpose as does the striking of a clock tower’s bell. 
One may walk out into an open field at night and stare up into the vast sky, lit up with numerous twinkling stars and declare, “I’ve found God!” But God is no more in the sky than He is in the blades of grass flattened beneath your feet. The question came to Elijah from that still voice, “What are you doing here?” To the prophet, his problems were too great and too large and his solution was to run and hide. God, in a magnificent way, is trying to remind Elijah of his place.
 Our place in life is not to take matters into our own hands or solve life’s many difficulties on our own. The answer is not to run away, but to walk humbly with our awesome God. He is strong enough to lift our burdens, wise enough to counsel us, patient enough to allow us to learn, and loving enough to constantly forgive. 

RIGHTEOUS OR RAVENS?

RIGHTEOUS OR RAVENS?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

dale and janelle

Dale Pollard

Elijah is known as one of the greatest prophets. We’re introduced to him in 1 Kings 17 and God is preparing him to accomplish great things. As God leads him he begins to grow in faith while following His lead. Ahab wears the crown after his father Omri, but he is significantly more wicked. In fact, he’s more wicked than all before him. It’s fitting that during such a terrible time someone like Elijah makes his appearance. 

There’s an interesting event that takes place while the prophet shelters by a brook that God had led him to. Ravens fly in with bread and meat to keep him sustained. The raven was an unclean animal, yet God is helping Elijah grow in several ways during this period. He’s leading, and Elijah follows in faith. He could not deny that God sent him the ravens, yet it went against his upbringing. Even so, he still ate. 

One lesson we can pull from this account is that God can use the unclean for His purposes. God can use the evil people and nations to accomplish His will. An unfaithful Christian can share the gospel and a sinful man can make good and godly decisions, all the while remaining unclean. That’s a humbling lesson. We can act faithful, but we can remain filthy. We don’t want that! It’s my prayer that today we can make a fresh commitment to be faithful to God in all things. He can lead us through even the darkest times, if we have the faith to follow. 

My God Is So Big

My God Is So Big

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

IMG_1381

Dale Pollard

My problems are so big, my worries so mighty, there’s nothing my anxieties can’t do. Wait, that’s not how that song goes. It’s been said that the there are more stars in the known universe than all of the sand on earth combined. That being said, in just one grain of sand there are more atoms than all of the stars. That’s pretty amazing. Our planet is but a speck in the grandeur of space. Countless stars, planets, galaxies, lightyears and somehow God is well aware of the happenings of people.

Have you stood on the mountain tops? Have you observed the power of the oceans as the waves crash on the shore? Has your heart almost stopped after the vibrating sensation of a thunder clap resinates in your chest? The might of the Creator is everywhere in the world around us and at times it just demands to be noticed.

1 Kings 19:11-13 is a section of scripture that is mysterious and fascinating. The Lord of hosts is about to show Himself to a depressed and exhausted Elijah, but in a way that he would never forget. “The Lord said, ‘go out on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out to stand at the mouth of the cave. Then the voice said, ‘what are you doing here Elijah?’” In the hush of Horeb, Elijah seeks to avoid the troubles of his world. The acoustics of the mountainous area along with the time spent in silence must have made the shattering rocks, raging fire, splitting hills, and rumbling earth all but deafening and definitely a terrifying display of divine power. Then in sharp contrast, a still whisper comes. This gentleness, no doubt, is the reason Elijah decides to cautiously emerge from his hiding place. God is teaching His worn-out servant a lesson that holds true for us today.

The fact is, there is no more God, His wisdom, power, and presence in an earthquake than there is in the sweet breath of a blooming flower. The quiet ticking of a wrist watch reveals just as much intelligence and purpose as does the striking of a clock tower’s bell. One may walk out into an open field at night and stare up into the vast sky, lit up with numerous twinkling stars and declare, “I’ve found God!” But God is no more in the sky than He is in the blades of grass flattened beneath your feet. The question came to Elijah from that still voice, “What are you doing here?” To the prophet, his problems were too great and too large and his solution was to run and hide. God, in a magnificent way, is trying to remind Elijah of his place. Our place in life is not to take matters into our own hands or solve life’s many difficulties on our own. The answer is not to run away, but to walk humbly with our awesome God. He is strong enough to lift our burdens, wise enough to counsel us, patient enough to allow us to learn, and loving enough to constantly forgive. My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do— for you, too. 

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A view from Mt. Carmel (Israel)

Who Is The “Troubler Of Israel”?

Who Is The “Troubler Of Israel”?

Neal Pollard

Ahab was the most wicked king in Israel’s history (1 Kings 16:30). To top it off, he was married to perhaps the most immoral woman revealed to us during the time of the divided kingdom in the Old Testament. Her name, Jezebel, is still somewhat infamous today. She destroyed the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18:4). The prophets who survived feared for their lives because of Ahab (18:9). Instead, Jezebel kept a stable of false prophets, 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (18:19). Read this section of 1 Kings and the first nine chapters of 2 Kings to get the full flavor of who this notorious couple was.

How ironic that when Elijah appears to Ahab before the prophet’s infamous confrontation with the false prophets on Mount Carmel, Ahab’s first words to him were, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” (18:17). There was controversy, division, problems, and trouble in the land, but Ahab’s narrative was distorted. Ahab was like a reckless drunk driver weaving in and out of traffic and blaming a law-abiding pedestrian for being in his way on the sidewalk. Elijah was not the troubler of Israel for daring to oppose the false ways of Ahab and Jezebel. He was doing exactly what God wanted him to do!

In our present, lawless age, there are so many “prophets” who come along with a message appealing to right ideas like peace, grace, unity, and love. Many of them package themselves in the garments of relevance, using our culture as their props and stage. The causes célèbre which our age reveres, some of which are diametrically opposed to the doctrine, ethics, and morality outlined in Scripture, are pushed at God’s people—who are shamed and made to feel unrighteous if they dare protest what is said. In some circles, it is asserted that anyone teaching that the Bible is authoritative, contains a pattern, and is God’s objective truth for all times, is Pharisaical, consumed with self-righteousness, hateful, mean-spirited, and divisive. In short, that they are “troublers of Israel.”

As a quick side-note, there are some who do press their personal proclivities, traditions, and convictions as divine truth. This is as accursed a thing as seeking to nullify what God has bound in heaven (cf. Mat. 16:19; Rev. 22:18-19). Such folks manufacture trouble rather than trouble people by faithfully sharing God’s Word. These occupy unenviable ground, in view of the end of all things.

Yet, anyone who conscientiously tries to follow God’s blueprint for how to share His truth (Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Col. 4:6), who takes care to handle Scripture accurately (2 Tim. 2:15), is going to invariably encounter the Ahabs, Jezebels, Baalites, and Asherahists. Teach the singular, undenominational nature of the church (Eph. 4:4), the role of women in the church (1 Tim. 2:9-12), the essentiality of baptism in God’s saving plan (Acts 2:38), God’s plan for marriage and sexuality (Mat. 19:1-9; Heb. 13:4; Rom. 1:26-27), and the like, and it will come. The Ahabs will label you the troublemaker and the source of the problem.

In what may sound dark and grim, Paul warns Timothy that difficult times will come (2 Tim. 3:1). He speaks of men immoral in nature and inaccurate in message who succeed with the weak and impulsive (3:6), who themselves are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (3:7), who in fact “oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith” (3:8). Ultimately, they will not carry the day (3:9). But they will always have their eager followers who “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (4:3-4).

Suppress the victim mentality if you are trying to be an Elijah in this Ahab society. On the job, at home, in the community, within the religious community at large, and even at times within the church, “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Do it with great patience and instruction, as Paul counsels. Don’t be a troubler in God’s eyes, but know that you will be seen as one in the eyes of some in this world. Keeping company with Elijah is not a bad thing.

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