Wednesday, 26 October 2016

So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” – 1 Kings 22:4

Today’s Scripture Reading (October 26, 2016): 1 Kings 22

Family is strange. Sometimes we fight, but then there are those special moments when we support each other. North and South Korea have been separated by politics for more than five decades now, but something inside of me wonders if Koreans ever wake up in the mornings and look across the border of their country and recognize that it is their cousins who are standing on the other side.
Because of my name, I have always considered myself to be Irish (Mullen=Ireland). I am sympathetic to the desires and needs and politics of the Emerald Isle. But the truth is that I am Northern European. 
My heritage is from Ireland, but I am also English (I am the proud 37th cousin twice removed – or something like that – of Prince William through the lineage of Princess Diana), and there is more than a smattering of Dutch and German blood that flows through my veins. My end of the family has lived in North America (The United States and Canada) since the middle of the 1600’s, yet there is still something inside of me that responds to news from Northern Europe – some tie that still binds me to the land that my distant ancestors walked.

David’s Kingdom was divided. Through much of their history, Israel and Judah warred against each other – or ignored each other. But deep down they recognized that it was the blood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that flowed through the veins of those on both sides of the artificial divide that separated them. So Ahab sends a message to this cousin Jehoshaphat who ruled on the other side of the divide. Ramoth Gilead was given to us, and yet it is currently in the hands of a foreign king. Will you help me get it back?

The response – “Of course, we are family. What is mine is also yours, as long as God walks with us, we can walk together.” It wasn’t always like that for the family of Jacob, but it was a special moment when the Kings simply recognized that an artificial border could not hide the fact that they were one people – and under God would always be one people – even if they served different earthly kings.

As Christians, we believe that we have been adopted by faith into the family of Abraham. We are one together. Even though we are separated, in Christ we are unified into one people. And our goals are the same – to proclaim the love of God to a world that has forgotten that love. As we walk with God, we are one, no matter what denominational brand we might carry on the earth.

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: Obadiah 1

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD.” – 1 Kings 21:20

Today’s Scripture Reading (October 25, 2016): 1 Kings 21

Just after the video (audio) revelation about Donald Trump’s conversation with Billy Bush was released, a group of influential evangelical leaders had a closed door session. The topic was evident – What do we do now? We have supported Trump and got him this far (mainly because Hillary Rodham Clinton terrifies us), but then this video comes out. I had a conversation recently with a good friend, and his defense of Trump began with the driver and the others who were on the bus. Maybe it was the same discussion that the church leaders had. In the end, the leaders decided that the video was not that big a deal – not big enough to derail their support of “Trump for President.” It was a decision that left some of the women of the church feeling sold out. Trump’s misogynist comments were somehow more important than the practice of treating women with the respect that they deserve.

In the aftermath of the video, I found it quite interesting that Billy Bush could not stay at his current television gig at “Today,” essentially because of the moral corruption revealed in the audio. In contrast, these leaders had no problem with Donald Trump remaining in the race for President. Apparently, television requires a higher moral standard than the President of the United States of America. Who knew?

Ahab and Elijah meet one more time. This time, it is the death of Naboth that hovers in the background of the meeting. It needs to be noted that the murder of Naboth was committed on the orders of Queen Jezebel, not on the orders of King Ahab. The charge of Elijah against Ahab was that Ahab had “sold [himself] to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Even if Ahab had not committed the crime, he did nothing to stop it.

Elijah, on the other hand, did what few religious leaders in his day would have dared. He stood up against the King because the King was in the wrong. Elijah seemed to believe that sin needed to be confronted and called what it is before it could be dealt with. Maybe that is a lesson we need to learn in our current political environment. Whether you blame Bush or Trump for the discussion does not really matter. The conversation was wrong. It was sin. And both men had the ability and the responsibility to stop it, but neither did. We need an Elijah today to stand up against the power of the moment and declare what is “evil in the eyes of the Lord.” This is what I believe that God is saying to our culture.

Having said that, in my opinion (not God’s), we, the church, need to get out of this election. Neither one of the candidates running are worthy of our support. Yes, we need to vote our conscience, but we don’t need to lower our own moral standards to be part of the campaign. This election is not worth the soul of the church.

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 22

Monday, 24 October 2016

The king of Israel answered, “Just as you say, my lord the king. I and all I have are yours.” – 1 Kings 20:4

Today’s Scripture Reading (October 24, 2016): 1 Kings 20

On September 25, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson collapsed. A week later (October 2) he suffered a debilitating stroke. He would never recover. The cause has often been seen as a case of exhaustion and stress. And that is not all that surprising considering everything that had happened during his presidency.  He had led his nation through the First World War, an attempt to form the League of Nations (a concept that Wilson had co-authored but that he was never able to convince his country to join) and, at the time of his collapse, his aggressive campaign in support of the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles.

The immediate result of Wilson’s physical collapse was that he was effectively unable to fulfill his duties as President of the United States, although no one was willing to make that determination officially. For the rest of his Second Term, the effective power lay in the hands of his wife, Edith Wilson. It was Edith that made the determination concerning which matters went to her husband and which could be shifted to Congress or be delegated to some other authority within the Government. Edith Wilson became the power behind the throne while Woodrow Wilson would finish off his career as just the figurehead of that power.

While President Wilson’s figurehead years were as a result of illness, an examination of the story of King Ahab reveals a man who was never more than the figurehead of power. The real power of his reign was actually held by his wife, Jezebel. I am not sure how obvious this might have been to Ahab’s contemporaries, but this story suggests that it might have been possible that Ben-Hadad had figured that out. Ben-Hadad demands that Ahab send him his gold and silver and the best of his wives and children. After all, Ben-Hadad and Ahab believed that everything that Ahab possessed belonged to this northern king.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, Ahab agrees. Some commentators believe that, in Ahab’s mind, this was nothing more than a prelude to a demand of tribute – which Ahab was happy to give. But the reality is that Ahab did not possess the character to stand up to anyone. What he wanted in life were ease and comfort, and he was more than willing to pay for that pleasure. He was also more than willing to allow Jezebel to run his kingdom. Ahab did not desire power; he desired an easy life.

But the demand from Ben-Hadad would have surely included Jezebel the Queen. And it might have been that she was the object of his demand in the first place. He could leave the hapless Ahab in Israel. By taking the best of his wives, it would mean that Ben-Hadad would have had the real power in Israel living under his roof – and under his thumb.

On the part of Jezebel, this must have been a terrifying moment. Everything that she had dreamed of was about to be thrown out the window. And there was no god that she served, and certainly no king to whom she was married, that had the ability or the courage to come to her defense. She was alone as a foreign King made his attempt to take her prisoner, and there was nothing that she could do to stop the process.

Tomorrow’s Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 21