Partial script for the May 5th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the May 5th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is in 1 Kings 19-20 and Luke 23. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.
1 Kings 19
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah would’ve been on cloud nine! He saw God do some incredible things with fire out of heaven and then a famine come to an end in response to his prayer.
But one thing that followers of the Lord have discovered is that we are the most susceptible to discouragement and despair immediately following mountaintop experiences. This is what we observe when we begin reading 1 Kings 19.
1 Kings 19:1-3 (CSB): “1 Ahab told Jezebel everything that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘May the gods punish me and do so severely if I don’t make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow!’ 3 Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life…”
Elijah, who had been used by the Lord put the fear of God in the Israelites was now running from one woman.
Another biblical principle we can draw from this is that yesterday‘s faith is no longer good for today. Just because we trusted God to do something wonderful yesterday does us no good today. Every new day, and every different circumstance, provides a new opportunity to trust the Lord.
Well, as we get back into the story, we see that Elijah is settling into some serious discouragement. He was on an emotional high and was excited about his God. But what goes up must come down.
1 Kings 19:3-5 (CSB): “3 … When he came to Beer-sheba that belonged to Judah, he left his servant there, 4 but he went on a day’s journey into the wilderness. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, ‘I have had enough! Lord, take my life, for I’m no better than my ancestors.’ 5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree.”
Sleeping is the favorite pastime of the person who is struggling with discouragement and depression. Friend, I want you to know that if you battle these emotional ills, you are not alone. Arguably the greatest Old Testament prophet battled with depression and even a desire to die.
But the wonderful thing is that what goes down will almost certainly come back up again. In 1 Kings 19, it was an angel that the Lord used to get Elijah moving again. In your case, it may be a friend, or a stranger’s passing words, or the Lord’s nearness in your times of prayer, or a Christian counselor, or any number of other things. I just want to encourage you to look for who or what the Lord may send your way to give you what you need to get back up and get moving again.
After Elijah got his energy back up, he went to a very special place…
1 Kings 19:8-9 (CSB): “8 … Then on the strength from that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 He entered a cave there and spent the night.”
So what is so special about Horeb. Well, if we read Exodus 3:1, we see that Horeb was called “the mountain of God” and is where Moses saw the burning bush. We then come to realize as we read through Exodus that Mount Horeb is Mount Sinai. It’s the place where Moses got the Ten Commandments.
So, 1 Kings 19:8-9 tells us that Elijah went to Mount Sinai and “entered a cave there and spent the night.” The Lord was going to use this as a teaching moment to encourage and instruct His prophet.
In verses 9-18, the Lord spoke with Elijah on the mountain. He began the exchange with a simple question… “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
When we look at Elijah’s answer, we observe that he realized that God was essentially asking: “What’s going on in your heart, Elijah? Let’s determine that so that we can make the most of our time here.”
Elijah’s response was a “glass half empty” answer…
1 Kings 19:10 (CSB): “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of Armies, but the Israelites have abandoned your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.’”
In other words, Elijah said that he had passionately served the Lord and everything fell apart. He feels defeated, lonely, and thoroughly discouraged.
We can understand this, can’t we? When we are discouraged, we can’t see the good stuff. We only see the bad. Friend, Elijah is just like us. He was thoroughly discouraged so the Lord needed to help him out.
So, the Lord sent a powerful windstorm, maybe a tornado, that was ripping sections of the mountain to pieces. Then, He sent an earthquake. Then a fire. But Elijah realized that the Lord wasn’t manifesting Himself in these powerful, destructive forces.
1 Kings 19:12 (CSB): “… And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.”
What’s going on here? What’s the lesson to be learned? It would seem, based on what happened in the rest of Elijah’s life, that the Lord was saying two things.
First, just because it didn’t seem that the Lord was working powerfully around Elijah didn’t mean that the Lord wasn’t working. The Lord was doing His work, even if it seemed like a soft whisper.
Second, the ruff and tumble ministry of Elijah had left him weary. The powerful miracles. The running from this place to that. Elijah was emotionally empty and so the Lord was taking him into a quieter time. He would continue to serve as the Lord’s prophet but easier, less emotionally taxing times were ahead.
The Lord brought the session to an end by giving Elijah some instructions. He was to anoint Hazael as king over Aram, Jehu as king over Israel, and Elisha as the prophet who would succeed him.
But the final words of the Lord revealed that he wanted to correct Elijah’s thinking. Elijah had felt all alone as a prophet of the Lord but the Lord assured him that he wasn’t. There were others who were serving the Lord. Plenty of them.
1 Kings 19:18 (CSB): “But I will leave seven thousand in Israel—every knee that has not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Friend, when you are discouraged, you will feel alone. But you aren’t. You’ve got to believe that. Even though you can’t see the Lord working, He is and you’ve got to believe that. Just keep doing the next right thing and almost certainly you will step out of the dark tunnel one day.
In verses 19-21, Elijah finds Elisha plowing a field. He threw his mantle (we would call it a cape) on top of Elisha. Was Elijah still discouraged so that he recklessly through it over Elisha? Or was Elijah feeling much better so that he playfully sneaked upon behind Elisha and scared him to death as he tossed it over his head? We aren’t sure.
But this was the way that Elijah anointed Elisha. Elisha went back to tell his parents goodbye and then he became a disciple of Elijah, to learn from him.
1 Kings 20
As this chapter begins, we read the following words: “Now King Ben-hadad of Aram.” That’s interesting. Why? Because we just read a few verses ago that the Lord told Elijah to anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Since two kings cannot reign over the same people simultaneously, we realize that we are looking at a dead man.
King Ben-hadad sent messengers to King Ahab of Israel and said: “Your silver and your gold are mine! And your best wives and children are mine as well!” (v.3).
King Ahab was fine with this. He agreed to let his wives and kids be taken. That was easy for him since his wife was Jezebel. But then he realizes that Ben-hadad is playing him like a lion might play with its prey before it devours it.
So, Ahab sent word back to Ben-hadad that he would give him his wives and kids, silver and gold, but nothing else. Ben-hadad is infuriated and allows this to be his justification for wiping out Samaria.
While King Ahab was a wicked man, I think his response to Ben-hadad was classic. If there ever was a mic-drop comment, this was it.
1 Kings 20:11 (CSB): “… ‘Don’t let the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off.’ ”
In other words, it’s easy to sound tough before the battle. It’s quite another to sound tough after the battle is over.
King Ben-hadad of Aram rallies his army and went to fight against Israel. But a prophet of the Lord spoke to Ahab to encourage him. The words were intended to encourage Ahab to rely upon the Lord and serve Him and abandon their wicked ways.
1 Kings 20:13 (CSB): “A prophet approached King Ahab of Israel and said, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Do you see this whole huge army? Watch, I am handing it over to you today so that you may know that I am the Lord.” ‘ ”
This illustrates the principle of what is called “common grace.” Some Christians erroneously believe that God should bless them for their obedience to Him and He should bring difficulties into the lives of those who do not live for Him. Yet, the notion of common grace makes it clear that God is often gracious even to His worst enemies just because He is good and kind.
Listen to what Jesus once said about common grace.
Matthew 5:44-45 (CSB): “44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
So, if God sends His sunshine and refreshing rain on even His worst enemies, shouldn’t we also extend kindness to our enemies?
Well, back to our story in 1 Kings 20. We read that Ahab defeated Ben-hadad. But he was told that Ben-hadad would attack him again in the spring. So the second battle was about to begin but the Lord spoke another word through a prophet. The Lord was continuing to reach out to a wicked man, giving him ample opportunity to follow the Lord.
1 Kings 20:28 (CSB): “Then the man of God approached and said to the king of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Because the Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,’ I will hand over all this whole huge army to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” ’ ”
The Israelites once again defeated the army of Aram. But Ben-hadad survived. Hazael still hasn’t become king of Aram even though Elijah has already anointed him as king. Instead, we read that Ben-hadad fell at the mercy of King Ahab.
One thing we understand is that if you are the one who lost on a battlefield, you should have no leverage. Your only response is unconditional surrender. Yet, we read that Ahab allowed Ben-hadad to act as if he had leverage and they made a treaty.
1 Kings 20:34 (CSB): “Then Ben-hadad said to him, ‘I restore to you the cities that my father took from your father, and you may set up marketplaces for yourself in Damascus, like my father set up in Samaria.’ Ahab responded, ‘On the basis of this treaty, I release you.’ So he made a treaty with him and released him.”
So, the Lord has reached out to Ahab. The Lord, through prophets, has made it clear that the Lord was the one giving Ahab victories on the battlefield. But Ahab was taking the blessings and continuing to act like the weak, wicked man that he was.
Another prophet of the Lord had a fellow prophet hit him so hard that a wound was visible. He went to Ahab, presented a scenario that got Ahab to pronounce a sentence, and the prophet took off his disguise and spoke frankly to the king.
1 Kings 20:41-43 (CSB): “41 He quickly removed the bandage from his eyes. The king of Israel recognized that he was one of the prophets. 42 The prophet said to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Because you released from your hand the man I had set apart for destruction, it will be your life in place of his life and your people in place of his people.” ‘ 43 The king of Israel left for home resentful and angry, and he entered Samaria.”
The Lord had reached out to Ahab at least twice. But when the Lord’s message through His prophet pointed out Ahab’s sin, his heart remained dark. It was just as rebellious toward God, if not worse, than before this all started.
Friend, God looks at the heart because it is there that true change happens. This is why Jesus was often so angry at the Pharisees. They were content to focus on how they lived in front of others but their heart was far from the Lord.
If our heart is cold toward the Lord, even if we try to live right, it doesn’t matter. So continue to make positive adjustments to behaviors that others see. But spend even more time working on cultivating a godly heart. Plead with God’s Holy Spirit to assist you in this. I promise you that He’s been waiting for you to ask him.
In verses 1-5, the council of Jewish leaders took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor. They claimed that Jesus had told people to refuse to pay taxes to Caesar when He had actually said the exact opposite. They also said that He claimed to be a king, but the way they said it made it sound like Jesus was an insurrectionist, which He clearly was not. All of the accusations were false and Pilate could see right through them.
So, what is Pilate to do when he has reached an impasse? He simply turns Jesus over to another government official and we read about this in verses 6-12. Herod was the ruler over Galilee and was in town so he got a chance to meet and interrogate Jesus.
Luke 23:8-9 (CSB): “8 Herod was very glad to see Jesus; for a long time he had wanted to see him because he had heard about him and was hoping to see some miracle performed by him. 9 So he kept asking him questions, but Jesus did not answer him.”
Why wasn’t Jesus speaking with Herod? I believe at least one reason is that Jesus wasn’t in the entertainment business. Herod’s heart was like the packed dirt path in Matthew 13 that was incapable of receiving the Gospel seed. So Jesus didn’t sow anything. He didn’t cast his pearls before pigs because nothing He said would produce any spiritual fruit in Herod’s heart.
After a while, Herod must have felt slighted. Jesus wasn’t talking to him. So, Herod’s playful curiosity turned to anger and he sent Jesus back to Pilate.
In verses 13-25, we read about the swap that beautifully pictures the Gospel. Pilate had a tradition during the annual Passover celebration when he would release one Jewish prisoner. On the occasion when Jesus was being falsely accused and the Jews were calling for his death, there was a man named Barabbas. What was Barabbas guilty of?
Luke 23:19 (CSB): “He had been thrown into prison for a rebellion that had taken place in the city, and for murder.”
So, Pilate presented Jesus and Barabbas to the crowd and gave them a choice. Did they desire for Jesus or for Barabbas to be released? Pilate must have thought that they would call for Jesus’ release when placed side-by-side with such a vicious man. Yet, to his surprise, they cried out for Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ crucifixion.
Luke 23:18 (CSB): “Then they all cried out together, ‘Take this man away! Release Barabbas to us!’”
Why is this a picture of the Gospel? Because you and I are Barabbas. We have fallen so far short of God’s glory and broken God’s laws. If we are completely honest, we break them every day. We are certainly worthy of God’s punishment. But Jesus is the one who stepped into the picture. The Gospel is wonderful news because by trusting in Jesus, we get forgiven and set free as He went to the cross and paid our sin debt.
In verses 26-31, we read about Jesus making His way to the cross.
Luke 23:26 (CSB): “As they led him away, they seized Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, and laid the cross on him to carry behind Jesus.”
Who was this man? We are told that he was from Cyrene which was a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea in what is present-day northeast Libya.
We also read that his name was Simon. If we look over to the Gospel of Mark, we are given the name of two of his sons.
Mark 15:21 (CSB): “They forced a man coming in from the country, who was passing by, to carry Jesus’s cross. He was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.”
Well, that’s interesting. Why did Mark give us the names of his two sons? Might it be that Mark was writing to a Gentile audience who might know one or both of Simon’s sons?
When we search for these names, we realize that Paul mentioned a man named Rufus in his letter to the Gentiles in the church in Rome. Could this be one of Simon’s sons?
Romans 16:13 (CSB): “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother—and mine.”
Getting back to the story in Luke 23, we read that Jesus was not crucified alone. In verses 32-43, we realize that Jesus was crucified between two criminals.
Luke 23:33 (CSB): “When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.”
So, the place where Jesus was crucified was called “The Skull.” It’s quite possible that it was named that because it looked like a skull. I believe the evidence is compelling that Jesus might have been crucified at what is now called Gordon’s Calvary and then buried in what is now called the Garden Tomb. We cannot know for certain but you can at least explore it and come to your own conclusions. Just do a search on Gordan’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.
As we come to verse 34 all the way to the end of the chapter, I wish I could just unpack when we can learn from in each verse, I could easily make this podcast at least one hour longer. But I want to honor your time. Plus, I’ve addressed much of this as we looked at the crucifixion and burial accounts in Matthew and Mark.
So, let me simply summarize the following and encourage you to post comments on our Facebook group page if you have questions or comments.
In verse 34, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who put Him on the cross. Friends, I don’t believe that He was only referring to those at the foot of the cross. I believe His comments included us as well.
In verses 35-39, the leaders, soldiers, and even one of the criminals being crucified, told Jesus to save Himself if he really was the Messiah. Yet, the irony is that if He would be able to save them, He could not save Himself from death on the cross.
In verse 43, Jesus told one of the criminals that He would see him that day in paradise. There is no such thing as soul sleep. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Jesus would see that man in Heaven … that same day!
In verses 44-49, we read of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus was placed on the cross at 9 AM and then the sun went dark at noon. The darkness was to illustrate that for those final three hours, God the Father turned His back on His Son while He wore our sin and guilt on the cross.
At 3 PM, Jesus cried out “It is finished” and then “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” Then He died.
When that happened, the curtain (or veil) in the Temple ripped from Heaven to earth. In the Old Testament, that curtain might as well have been an iron curtain because no one could go past it into the Holy of Holies except the High Priest, and only on the Day of Atonement, and only if he was bringing blood for his sins and the sins of the people of Israel. But, when Jesus died, His death once and for all appeased God’s wrath. Now, we are free to go into the very presence of God in prayer, and at death, we will be able to enter the Lord’s presence physically.
In verses 50-56, we read of Jesus’ burial. Joseph of Arimathea, a town in Judea, was a follower of Jesus. He asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and then placed it into a tomb in a rock that had never been used.
We are also told that some of the Galilean women who were followers of Jesus saw where Jesus’ body was placed. Then, they went away and prepared spices and perfumes to bring back on Sunday to anoint Jesus’ body. They rested at sundown because it was the beginning of the Sabbath.