Love flows out of our deep gratitude for His love for us, rather than out of our likes and dislikes. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our fear and love for God enable us to walk willingly in obedience to God’s law.
Someone shared with me her observation about two bosses. One is loved but not feared by his subordinates. Because they love their boss but don’t respect his authority, they don’t follow his guidelines. The other boss is both feared and loved by those who serve under him, and their good behavior shows it.
The Lord desires that His people both fear and love Him too. Today’s Bible passage, Deuteronomy 10, says that keeping God’s guidelines involves both. In verse 12, we are told “to fear the Lord your God” and “to love Him.”
To “fear” the Lord God is to give Him the highest respect. For the believer, it is not a matter of feeling intimidated by Him or His character. But out of respect for His person and authority, we walk in all His ways and keep His commandments. Out of “love,” we serve Him with all our heart and with all our soul—rather than merely out of duty (v.12).
We are here most plainly directed in our duty to God, to our neighbor, and to ourselves.
1. We are here taught our duty to God, both in the dispositions and affections of our souls and in the actions of our lives, our principles and our practices. (1.) We must fear the Lord our God, v. 12, and again v. 20. We must adore his majesty, acknowledge his authority, stand in awe of his power, and dread his wrath. This is gospel duty, Rev. 14:6, 7. (2.) We must love him, be well pleased that he is, desire that he may be ours, and delight in the contemplation of him and in communion with him. Fear him as a great God, and our Lord, love him as a good God, and our Father and benefactor. (3.) We must walk in his ways, that is, the ways which he has appointed us to walk in. The whole course of our conversation must be conformable to his holy will. (4.) We must serve him (v. 20), serve him with all our heart and soul (v. 12), devote ourselves to his honour, put ourselves under his government, and lay out ourselves to advance all the interests of his kingdom among men. And we must be hearty and zealous in his service, engage and employ our inward man in his work, and what we do for him we must do cheerfully and with a good will. (5.) We must keep his commandments and his statutes, v. 13. Having given up ourselves to his service, we must make his revealed will our rule in every thing, perform all he prescribes, forbear all the forbids, firmly believing that all the statutes he commands us are for our good. Besides the reward of obedience, which will be our unspeakable gain, there are true honour and pleasure in obedience. It is really for our present good to be meek and humble, chaste and sober, just and charitable, patient and contented; these make us easy, and safe, and pleasant, and truly great. (6.) We must give honour to God, in swearing by his name (v. 20); so give him the honour of his omniscience, his sovereignty, his justice, as well as of his necessary existence. Swear by his name, and not by the name of any creature, or false god, whenever an oath for confirmation is called for. (7.) To him we must cleave, v. 20. Having chosen him for our God, we must faithfully and constantly abide with him and never forsake him. Cleave to him as one we love and delight in, trust and confide in, and from whom we have great expectations.
2. We are here taught our duty to our neighbour (v. 19): Love the stranger; and, if the stranger, much more our brethren, as ourselves. If the Israelites that were such a peculiar people, so particularly distinguished from all people, must be kind to strangers, much more must we, that are not enclosed in such a pale; we must have a tender concern for all that share with us in the human nature, and as we have opportunity; (that is, according to their necessities and our abilities) we must do good to all men. Two arguments are here urged to enforce this duty:—(1.) God’s common providence, which extends itself to all nations of men, they being all made of one blood. God loveth the stranger (v. 18), that is, he gives to all life, and breath, and all things, even to those that are Gentiles, and strangers to the commonwealth of Israel and to Israel’s God. He knows those perfectly whom we know nothing of. He gives food and raiment even to those to whom he has not shown his word and statutes. God’s common gifts to mankind oblige us to honour all men. Or the expression denotes the particular care which Providence takes of strangers in distress, which we ought to praise him for (Ps. 146:9, The Lord preserveth the strangers), and to imitate him, to serve him, and concur with him therein, being forward to make ourselves instruments in his hand of kindness to strangers. (2.) The afflicted condition which the Israelites themselves had been in, when they were strangers in Egypt. Those that have themselves been in distress, and have found mercy with God, should sympathize most feelingly with those that are in the like distress and be ready to show kindness to them. The people of the Jews, notwithstanding these repeated commands given them to be kind to strangers, conceived a rooted antipathy to the Gentiles, whom they looked upon with the utmost disdain, which made them envy the grace of God and the gospel of Christ, and this brought a final ruin upon themselves.
3. We are here taught our duty to ourselves (v. 16): Circumcise the foreskin of your hearts. that is, “Cast away from you all corrupt affections and inclinations, which hinder you from fearing and loving God. Mortify the flesh with the lusts of it. Away with all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, which obstruct the free course of the word of God to your hearts. Rest not in the circumcision of the body, which was only the sign, but be circumcised in heart, which is the thing signified.” See Rom. 2:29. The command of Christ goes further than this, and obliges us not only to cut off the foreskin of the heart, which may easily be spared, but to cut off the right hand and to pluck out the right eye that is an offence to us; the more spiritual the dispensation is the more spiritual we are obliged to be, and to go the closer in mortifying sin. And be no more stiff-necked, as they had been hitherto, ch. 9:24. “Be not any longer obstinate against divine commands and corrections, but ready to comply with the will of God in both.” The circumcision of the heart makes it ready to yield to God, and draw in his yoke.
II. We are here most pathetically persuaded to our duty. Let but reason rule us, and religion will.
1. Consider the greatness and glory of God, and therefore fear him, and from that principle serve and obey him. What is it that is thought to make a man great, but great honour, power, and possessions? Think then how great the Lord our God is, and greatly to be feared. (1.) He has great honour, a name above every name. He is God of gods, and Lord of lords, v. 17. Angels are called gods, so are magistrates, and the Gentiles had gods many, and lords many, the creatures of their own fancy; but God is infinitely above all these nominal deities. What an absurdity would it be for them to worship other gods when the God to whom they had sworn allegiance was the God of gods! (2.) He has great power. He is a mighty God and terrible (v. 17), who regardeth not persons. He has the power of a conqueror, and so he is terrible to those that resist him and rebel against him. He has the power of a judge, and so he is just to all those that appeal to him or appear before him. And it is as much the greatness and honour of a judge to be impartial in his justice, without respect to persons or bribes, as it is to a general to be terrible to the enemy. Our God is both. (3.) He has great possessions. Heaven and earth are his (v. 14), and all the hosts and stars of both. Therefore he is able to bear us out in his service, and to make up the losses we sustain in discharging our duty to him. And yet therefore he has no need of us, nor any thing we have or can do; we are undone without him, but he is happy without us, which makes the condescensions of his grace, in accepting us and our services, truly admirable. Heaven and earth are his possession, and yet the Lord’s portion is his people.
2. Consider the goodness and grace of God, and therefore love him, and from that principle serve and obey him. His goodness is his glory as much as his greatness. (1.) He is good to all. Whomsoever he finds miserable, to them he will be found merciful: He executes the judgment of the fatherless and widow, v. 18. It is his honour to help the helpless, and to succour those that most need relief and that men are apt to do injury to, or at least to put a light upon. See Ps. 68:4, 5; 146:7, 9. (2.) But truly God is good to Israel in a special obligations to him: “He is they praise, and he is thy God, v. 21. Therefore love him and serve him, because of the relation wherein he stands to thee. He is thy God, a God in covenant with thee, and as such he is thy praise,” that is [1.] “He puts honour upon thee; he is the God in whom, all the day long, thou mayest boast that thou knowest him, and art known of him. If he is thy God, he is thy glory.” [2.] “He expects honour from thee. He is thy praise,” that is “he is the God whom thou art bound to praise; if he has not praise from thee, whence may he expect it?” He inhabits the praises of Israel. Consider, First, The gracious choice he made of Israel, v. 15. “He had a delight in thy fathers, and therefore chose their seed.” Not that there was any thing in them to merit his favour, or to recommend them to it, but so it seemed good in his eyes. He would be kind to them, though he had no need of them. Secondly, The great things he had done for Israel, v. 21, 22. He reminds them not only of what they had heard with their ears, and which their fathers had told them of, but of what they had seen with their eyes, and which they must tell their children of, particularly that within a few generations seventy souls (for they were no more when Jacob went down into Egypt) increased to a great nation, as the stars of heaven for multitude. And the more they were in number the more praise and service God expected from them; yet it proved, as in the old world, that when they began to multiply they corrupted themselves.
The Third Command–“and stay there.” Next, he heard “and stay (yashab, “live, dwell”) there.” He might have thought, “This really takes the cake.” And, as if these were not enough, he then heard something even more strange that had to be a tremendous challenge to his commitment, trust and vision as a man of God who was seeking to serve the Lord.
The Promise–“behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” Note the very next word, “behold.” This is the Hebrew hinneh, a demonstrative particle used to arrest the attention or to focus the reader’s (or hearer’s) attention on something important. The Lord was dramatically pointing out the reason for going to Zarephath. “I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” Elijah’s provision would come by human hands, but they were the most unlikely hands he could have imagined. Everything about this was a test for Elijah. Please note the following:
“I have commanded a widow” is an interesting statement. Had the Lord spoken to this Gentile widow? Was she waiting for Elijah to come? I think the content of the text suggests this was not the case. I don’t think she was aware at all of her role in God’s plan. Rather, I believe this expresses the divine will of God. It shows that God commands or wills things to take place and they do. He uses the conditions and dispositions of men and women and brings things to pass.
Let’s say you need a job. When you find a job, it will be because God commanded it. Your new employer may not be aware of it unless he or she is a believer, but it will be because God willed it so. “He sits in the heavens, He does what He pleases” (cf. Isa. 10:5-6 with vs. 7, and Gen. 50:19-21).
“Provide” is the Hebrew word, kul. In Aramaic and Arabic this word means “measure, measure out.” The basic meaning is “calculate,” or “contain” as does a vessel. For instance in Isaiah 40:12 the prophet writes, “who hath calculated or contained the dust of the earth by a measure?” Mainly this verb is used in a causative stem and means “to cause to contain, supply.” It came to be used in the sense of “support, sustain, provide for” (cf. Ps. 55:22; Gen. 50:21; Neh. 9:21). While the Hebrew word used is different, I am reminded of one of the Names of the Lord, “Jehovah Jireh” or “Yahweh Yireh,” meaning “the Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:8 and 14). It comes from the Hebrew ra`ah, “to see” as the Lord foresees and thus provides.
THE LORD’S SUPPLY–PROVISION
First, God would provide for Elijah through a woman. While women in Israel had a higher position and status than among their Gentile neighbors, this was highly irregular, for it was the man’s place to provide for women. Second, this was a Gentile woman, a woman outside the circle of God’s own people. In fact, she was from the pagan nation of the Sidonians (or Phoenicians) who, at that time, represented the forces arrayed against God’s kingdom. Third, she was a poor, destitute, depressed widow facing starvation. She wasn’t exactly the kind of person you would go to for support, but she was the person whom God had chosen to be Elijah’s support and the instrument of God’s glory. He didn’t know her plight as yet, but he would soon find out and his response is remarkable.
Note several principles of application:
(1) Remember what God said through Isaiah (Isa. 55:8f, God’s ways are not ours)? We might also remember 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, “but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.” God uses sources and instruments we would never choose, but in His wisdom He chooses them to accomplish His own purposes and to do exceeding abundantly beyond all we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). We should not be surprised then with the tools God sometimes uses. What would we choose? We would choose a hero kind of figure, a well-known athlete, a rich man or a king, but the Lord chose a destitute widow. We would choose someone brilliant, powerful, perhaps someone in the king’s palace. But God chose a woman from Zarephath of the land of Jezebel. Sure, sometimes God uses the powerful and wealthy as he did with Nehemiah (Neh. 2), or Joseph in the latter chapters of Genesis. The question is, what is our response when He chooses to use the poor and the weak in our lives? Do we despise them? Are we disappointed? Or do we thank Him for what He is doing?
(2) The sources God chooses to use often test our submission and faith. How could God possibly supply through this destitute woman? The how is not important. God would show that in time. God only wants us to trust Him regardless of how things look to us. I remember a story my grandfather used to tell about a dear old lady who truly believed God. One day he said to her, “Mary, I believe if God told you to jump through the wall, you would jump.” She replied, “Yes sir, I would. If God told me to jump, it would be my job to jump and His to make a hole.” How can we rest in God’s supply in situations like this? We need to remember a simple but profound concept. Who would supply Elijah’s need, the woman or the Lord? The Lord, of course! The woman was only an instrument.
Never get your eyes on the instrument or the conditions. Look beyond the instrument to the real source of supply–the Lord. Read again the story of Abraham in Genesis 22. He saw beyond the immediate problem to the Lord’s supply.
Often God either chooses the despised and the small, or He reduces our resources to teach us He is really the One who supplies. See Judges 7 for the illustration of Gideon and God’s instruction to him. Lest Israel boast and trust in their own power, the number of men to go up against the Midianites was reduced from 32,000 to 10,000 and finally to 300.
(3) The Lord uses His sources of supply to humble us. Doesn’t He really know how to take the starch of self-dependence and pride totally out of our spiritual shirts in order to bring us to a place where we will really trust Him? Here Elijah was receiving aid at the hands of a destitute widow of the enemies of Israel. How humbling! But also, what an opportunity for the manifestation of God’s grace, love, and power.
(4) Finally, this teaches us God can use any of us. He can take whatever we have and multiply it many times over just as He did with the meager resources of the widow or as the Savior did when feeding the five thousand.
What was Elijah’s response in verse 10? We read, “So he arose and went . . .” No questions, no arguments, no complaints–just obedience. Undoubtedly, it was in the joy and expectation of not only what the Lord would do for him, but through him. Elijah realized he would be there not simply to be ministered to, but to minister.
By way of application:
- Are you in a spiritual condition where you can hear God’s instructions? (Mark 6:30f.)
- What are you facing in your life right now that needs God’s supply? Are you resting in Him for your needs?
- Where is your focus? Are you focused on the problem rather than the Lord? Are you seeing the agents of supply in your life as totally inadequate with the result you are questioning what God can do?
- Does your present condition look impossible? Does it look like there is no way God can meet your needs through what He has brought about into your life?
- Have you considered that before God meets your need, or that in meeting your need, He wants to use you to meet the need of someone else?
Now we turn to another scene in the life of Elijah. Again, God is preparing him for what is to come. But the story also involves what God is doing in the life of His people, the nation of Israel. Let’s not lose sight of the nationalistic interest here. The story deals with more than simply Elijah or his destiny. It also deals with what God was seeking to do in the northern kingdom. It deals with what the northern kingdom was experiencing because of its idolatry. The nation had turned away from the Lord and His Word to the substitutes of the world.
Elijah forms a model for us. We can learn from Elijah about God and about ourselves–our needs, responsibilities in society, and our tendencies under the pressure of the conflict. On the other hand, Israel forms an example of what happens in a society when it ignores God–it goes down hill fast and becomes morally corrupt.
With this in mind, let’s ask a question. Why did God send the Prophet into the land of the Sidonians and to this widow as His source of supply when there were many widows in Israel with just as great a need? Apart from God’s mercy, His use of this in the life of Elijah and the lessons it has for us in that way, there is another very important lesson here that I would like to address. The answer is found for us in the remarks made by the Lord in Luke 4:23-27. Not only was the nation facing drought and famine in the land, but they were also facing a famine of the Word of God. Because of their indifference, idolatry, and unbelief, God sent Elijah out of the land and to a Gentile widow. This was a form of judgment and has a two-fold significance for us:
This was somewhat prophetic of the church age when, because of Israel’s unbelief, God would turn from Israel as a nation and offer the gospel to the Gentile world. Remnants of Israel would still come to Christ, but from the standpoint of the nation and her promised blessings, she would be temporarily set aside (cf. Rom. 11:6-32). Sending Elijah to the widow reminds us of our responsibility to carry the gospel to all men.
This also teaches us we should never take our blessings for granted. Privilege never guarantees success (1 Cor. 10:1-13). It provides the basis for success, but we need to take heed how we use those blessings. When a nation or individuals ignore the Word and turn to the substitutes of the world, they eventually experience the judgment of God. God may finally turn them over to the futility of their own solutions or strategies for life (Rom. 1:18f; Amos 8:11; 2 Tim. 4:3; 2 Thess. 2:10-11).
The Response of Elijah
Both in 1 Kings 17:5 and 17:10, we see how the prophet moved only when he had a word from the Lord. Even though the brook was drying up, he remained by the brook until word came from God. Isaiah 28:16 says, “he that believeth will not make haste” (KJV). The RSV has, “he who believes will not make haste,” and the NASB has “he who believes in it (the cornerstone) will not be disturbed.”
Interestingly, this statement of Isaiah 28:16 is made following a reference to lsrael’s deceptive trusts–her dependence on her own human solutions. Rather than waiting on the Lord, Israel was running ahead to solve her problems and fears through her own strategies. But Elijah waited on the Lord and help arrived. But in what manner? He was commanded to go on a long and toilsome journey through wild and barren country. Further, with so many widows in the land, how was he to find the right one? Isn’t this a natural question? It appears he didn’t know who the widow was, but he knew the Lord who did and that was more than ample.
Elijah was operating by the principle of Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” While this verse refers primarily to the moral rectitude of those who walk with the Lord, it may also illustrate how the Lord directs our paths making His will plain as we walk in His righteousness by faith. The righteous live by faith. Day-by-day, step-by-step as we walk in fellowship with the Lord, He leads and directs the path of the righteous (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17).
Again, being consistent in faith, Elijah did not argue with the Lord, whine, complain, nor run away. Instead, we read, “So he arose and went.” No questions, no arguments, no complaints, just obedience and undoubtedly, in the joy and expectation of what the Lord would do not only in him and for him, but through him. Why? Because, like the Lord Jesus, he would be there not simply to be ministered to, but to minister. I expect also he understood why he was not being sent to the widows of Israel. Also, it was God’s way of removing Elijah from Jezebel’s reach.
The Relief to the Widow
When you and I measure what God is doing, we tend to measure it by what we see and think according to the natural man. We tend to measure God’s supply, or our confidence and hope in God’s supply, by what we see. When we do this, we are walking by sight rather than by faith. The question we need to ask ourselves is: “Do I tend to look at human conditions as a basis for my confidence or do I see through them to the Savior?”
Obviously, we need to know human conditions. We need to know the facts. For this reason, God allowed the spies to go into the land, but what they saw was not to become the basis of their confidence in what God could do nor for what they should do. That was to be found in God’s person, promises, and commands to go in.
Let’s note Elijah’s response: Our text tells us, “and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks.” Again, we have the word “behold,” that little demonstrative particle, hinneh, which is designed to arrest attention. We find Elijah at the gate of the city of Zarephath, but the Lord, who was there before him, had arranged it all. The widow was by the gate gathering sticks by the providence of God. Remember, He leads us step-by-step. He never leaves us, indeed, He goes before us.
If Elijah was looking for something to encourage him from the human standpoint of the widow, like a well-dressed woman living in a luxurious house with a well-stocked pantry, his hopes were soon dispelled. “Gathering sticks,” was a sign of poverty. This woman was so poor she had no fuel, and in order to cook even a meager meal, she had to get out and round up a few sticks. Until now Elijah knew only that his source of supply was a widow. Now he knew she was a poor widow.
By human measurement, how reasonable was it that the man of God could expect sustenance under her roof? It was no more reasonable than Noah should build an ark before he had ever seen rain, much less a flood, or for Joshua to command the people to walk around Jericho and expect the walls to fall down. But the path of obedience is the path of faith that looks to God and not to circumstances both before and after the will of God is clear.
Elijah’s response is the issue. Remember that the brook was a preparation for him. The God who commanded the ravens and supplied through them, was the same God who had commanded the widow and would supply through her. The principle is the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Circumstances change, but the Lord never changes. Our circumstances do not diminish the character and power of God. They can in no way change His faithfulness or omnipotence.
Elijah responded in faith. But how did faith manifest itself? Like Abraham on Mount Moriah who looked to God for the supply of a lamb, so Elijah saw beyond the woman’s condition to Yahweh Yireh–Lord who provides. He did not judge according to sight, but according to God’s character and divine essence. Elijah trusted in the promises of God. He didn’t throw up his hands and say, “I don’t believe this! You mean this poor soul is my supply for food? How in thunder can she help me?” He responded to God rather than reacting. Elijah acted in faith with his eyes on the Lord. In verses 10 and 11, he asked the widow for a jar of water and a piece of bread. Was he believing the promise of God and acting on it, or was he looking for confirmation by her response that she had been expecting him and had plenty to eat? I think he was believing the promise of God because Elijah knew she was poor by the fact she was gathering sticks.
In verse 12 we see the widow’s response. Elijah’s request opened afresh the wounds and pain of her heart. She could conceal her pain no longer. Her words showed she was not only poor but severely depressed. She had given up and was ready to die. This was their last meal and after that they would simply starve. It also appears she was without any real knowledge of the Lord and without faith. Still her heart was ready and had been prepared for God’s Word and the ministry of Elijah.
Note her words in verse 12, “as the Lord your God lives.” This suggests she must have recognized Elijah as a prophet of Israel, perhaps by his dress (cf. 2 Kings 1:8). But Yahweh was not her God and she wasn’t all that sure about the honesty of Elijah or the reality of his God (cf. vs. 17:24). She needed to see the testimony of Elijah’s life as well as the power of God.
What was Elijah to do now? Was he mistaken? What gave Elijah the courage to act like he did instead of throwing in the towel? Remember, as a man thinketh, so is he! Elijah’s response in verses 13 and 14 were words of faith, compassion, and vision.
As a man of God, he undoubtedly felt compassion for this poor woman but he knew his solutions or strategies for meeting his or her needs were not sufficient. He knew she was poor, yet God’s source of supply was no accident or mistake. Elijah knew God was faithful, powerful, and purposeful and that his needs were God’s concern and that they were met in the Lord. He also knew God was aware of his longings to preach in Israel and this would need to be tabled for now and turned over to the Lord and His timing. This meant he must be available to serve others and trust the Lord for his needs.
For us today, Elijah’s words to the woman in verses 13 and 14 are equivalent to two things: (a) Giving others the promises of God’s love, concern, and care such as the promises of Philippians 4:19; 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22; and John 10:10. Please note the first half of John 10:10. We often fail to connect the two. (b) Acting as the Good Samaritan; sharing our blessings with others, knowing that our giving will not be our lack (Phil 4:19).
The woman listened to Elijah’s instruction and it was just as he had promised according to the Word of the Lord. She saw the power of God–the widow, her son, and Elijah were all sustained.
What lessons can we learn from this passage?
(1) Look beyond the circumstances to the Lord as Yahweh Yireh–the Lord who supplies.
(2) Never judge or measure God’s supply by what you can see. He is the One who does exceeding abundantly beyond all we can ask or think.
(3) Ask God for the vision needed to see the opportunity for ministry lying, perhaps, right under your nose.
(4) Ask God for the compassion and love needed to reach out to others with His power and love.
(5) Know that the Lord is aware of your longings and turn them over to Him.
(6) Know also that your basic needs have been met in Christ. Knowing that, commit yourself to fulfilling God’s purposes in your life.
God sent Elijah out of the land because the people were indifferent–indeed, rebellious to the Word of God. No man or nation can neglect God’s truth without dire consequences. It can mean a famine, not just for bread and water, but for hearing the Word. This is not just a matter of what God does to us, but what we do to ourselves, of what happens within mankind that hardens us and causes us to ignore and turn away from God.
Far too often today when people look for a church they choose one like they would a country club or a shopping mall, on the basis of consumerism rather than on the teaching of the Word of God and the ministry of its people to one another. Many times the basis of their choice is not the solid teaching of the Word, but programs, music, the number of youth, the activities, and other similar consumer-like issues. Our nation is filled with steeples, but there is a famine in our land. Not a famine of food and water but of the proclamation of the Word of the Lord.
Everyone – pantheist, atheist, skeptic, and polytheist – has to answer these questions: ‘Where did I come from? What is life’s meaning? How do I define right from wrong and what happens to me when I die?’ Those are the fulcrum points of our existence.
A few months ago I was reading an article about King Tut (his full name was Tutankhamun). The ancient Egyptian pharaoh, and artifacts from his tomb, were making a tour and would be stopping in at Chicago to be displayed at one of the museums there. As I read the article I became intrigued by a couple of things.
Back in 1922, archeologist Howard Carter led a team that unearthed the tomb of King Tut. Shortly after the tomb was opened, Carter’s canary was bitten by a Cobra A year later Lord Cameron – the man who financed the expedition – died of an infection he got while shaving. Add the rumor that King Tut’s tomb held a curse for any who would open his grave… and the media had a field day.
By 1935, they claimed there were 21 victims of the Mummy’s curse.
Now, they really had to stretch to get that number (only 6 of the 22 people present when the tomb was opened actually died over the next 12 years or so… not a dramatic number), but because of the supposed Mummy’s curse and the interest it aroused in the general public, Hollywood took notice. From that day until this, there have been over 500 movies featuring dead Pharaohs, wrapped in burial cloth, wreaking their wrath on foolish mortals who dared to disturb their tombs.
APPLY: The story of the curse of King Tut is interesting to me.
And the reason its interesting is because there really was a curse associated with his family.
But the curse didn’t affect the people who opened his tomb.
And it didn’t effect King Tut.
If I’m right, it effected his father, his uncle and his grandfather.
Tut’s mother was Nefertiti (one of the famed beauties of ancient Egypt) and his father was a Pharaoh named Amenhotep IV.
Amenhotep was not quite as famous as King Tut, but he caused quite a stir in his day because he made a major change in Egypt’s worship. Amenhotep took what had been a worship many gods (called polytheism)… and forced Egypt to worship only ONE god (monotheism)
Scholars are divided as to why Tut’s father made this dramatic change but you can be assured it wasn’t real popular at the time. People didn’t like changes in their worship back then any more than they do now. In fact, Amenhotep’s decision was so unpopular that once King Tut took the throne he immediately changed Egypt back to the many gods that everybody seemed to want.
Amenhotep IV (King Tut’s father) was the heretic King of Egypt.
He wanted Egypt to worship only one god.
That alone was worth my interest.
But even more intriguing was the fact Amenhotep IV wasn’t actually supposed to be Pharaoh. That title should have gone to his older brother – Thutmose.
Thutmose was the 1st born of his family… and he died mysteriously. No one seems to know why. (Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten: King of Egypt. New York: Thames and Hudson Inc. 1988)
To my way of thinking this family sounds a lot like one that might have suffered from a curse. A curse known as the 10th plague of God upon Egypt.
God told Moses say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” Exodus 4:22-23
Now, I could be wrong, but…
Since King Tut’s father (Amenhotep IV) was the 2nd born, and became Pharaoh because his elder brother, the 1st born, had died of unknown causes. And since he decided – once he became Pharaoh – to abandon the many gods of his family for ONE god…
My guess is: Amenhotep was probably the 2nd born son of the Pharaoh that defied God in Exodus.
I can visualize what transpired:
Amenhotep IV would have seen the failure of Egypt’s many gods. And he would have known 1st hand that his family’s gods couldn’t save his family. And in bitterness he would have abandoned them for a more powerful god.
If one God were good enough for Moses – then one god (albeit not the God of Scripture) would be good enough for him.
If that’s true, that would make King Tut’s grandfather – Amenhotep III – the Pharaoh of Egypt during the Exodus.
Now don’t get lost here.
Amenhotep the IV was son of Amenhotep III.
And Amenhotep III was a powerful ruler who ruled Egypt for nearly 40 years. His reign was one of the most prosperous and stable periods of Egypt’s history
But Amenhotep III suffered from the curse.
His son – his 1st born son – died mysteriously.
So let’s review:
King Tut’s grandfather (Amenhotep III) would have been the Pharaoh during the Exodus. Tut’s father (Amenhotep IV) would have become the next Pharaoh sometime after Israel went on their Exodus. And King Tut himself would have restored the ancient practice of polytheism once his father died.
Ok, but we still have one Pharaoh we haven’t identified.
Who would have been the “new king who didn’t know Joseph” in Exodus 1?
Moses returned to Egypt at the age of 80, so the Pharaoh who ruled when he was born had long since died. So, who was THIS first Pharaoh mentioned in Exodus?
If my math is right that might have been Tut’s great, great, grandfather – Thutmose III.
Thutmose III loved to build things… great monuments, temples, and cities (According to Wikipedia, he built over 50 temples, including what is now the great ruins of Karnak).
That kind of building would have required a lot of labor… slave labor… slaves like maybe Israelite slaves.
In addition – Thutmose also hated people that weren’t like his people – the Egyptians.
Years before Thutmose became king, Egypt had been taken over by foreign people called Hyksos. The Hyksos ruled for about 110 years
But the Egyptian people never warmed to these new rulers.
They didn’t fit in. They weren’t “like” the Egyptians.
They lived different, ate different, and worshipped different.
And eventually the Egyptians overthrew these foreign Kings
When Thutmose became king he decided to completely remove any remaining threat of the Hyksos and he mounted 23 campaigns to finally destroy what power they still had. He was a mighty warrior that some have called the Napoleon of Egypt.
And like I said – he hated people who weren’t like his people.
Like the Hyksos.
And (perhaps) like the Israelites – because they weren’t like the Egyptians either.
· They lived different
· Ate different
· And they worshipped different than Egyptians did.
Many conservative scholars believe Joseph came to Egypt during the reign of the Hyksos. Thus Israel would have been identified as being part of the hated rule of those foreigners and thus Thutmose III would have sought to destroy Israel because he saw them as posing the same threat the Hyksos had had over his beloved nation.
So THIS is how it would have all played out (according to my way of thinking)
Thutmosis III – was the New King who didn’t know Joseph (Exodus 1:8)
Amenhotep III – (Thutmosis’ great grandson) was the Pharaoh during the Exodus (chapters 3 – 14)
Amenhotep IV – was the 2nd born son who became Pharaoh due to his brother’s death and who forced Egypt to worship only one God.
And King Tut was the king who brought Egypt back to worshipping its many false gods
Now that’s nice but YOU MIGHT ASK “what difference does that make?”
I’m glad you asked
It makes a difference because there are many “scholars” out there who would like you to think that the Bible is unreliable.
They’d like you to think you can’t trust it
That it’s historically inaccurate
That its authors borrowed from other cultures to arrive at its theology.
For example they’d like us to think that Moses didn’t come on the scene of Egypt until nearly 200 years later… and thus learned his theology about there being only “one God” from Amenhotep IV rather than the other way around (first suggested by Sigmund Freud)
Why would these skeptics believe this?
They believe it because they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.
And since they don’t believe in Him they need to explain how the Israelites could have lived in such a polytheistic world… and still ended up worshipping only ONE God. Religion evolved (say these “scholars”) and that evolution progressed from polytheism to monotheism. Thus, to their way of thinking, since there is no REAL God – then men had to make Him up.
But there is a REAL God and His Bible makes no errors in its telling of history. Archeologists have used the Bible for more than a century as a road map to find cities and civilizations that have been long buried by the sands of time.
There is no other religious book capable of that kind of accuracy!
God didn’t give us the Bible as a history book… but it IS historically accurate.
You CAN depend on it to be correct even in the smallest details.
And I believe God didn’t do that just with the Bible.
I think He left a little “trail of crumbs” in history-crumbs of evidence pointing back to His Word… evidence like the lives of King Tut and his father Amenhotep IV
Now… I want to shift gears a little here.
The curse of the Mummy was the curse of God’s judgment upon Pharaoh’s house.
Ever since the days of Thutmose III (this new king that didn’t know Joseph) God had been at war with Egypt. The Pharaoh had arranged to kill the babies of the Israelites and so God would not only free His people from their slavery but would bring judgment upon all of Egypt…and especially on the house of Pharaoh.
When the confrontation in Exodus 5 takes place Moses came into Amenhotep III’s throne room and asked permission to take Israel away. And Pharaoh declared: “Who is the LORD that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2
Well… over the next weeks God showed this Pharaoh just WHO He was and why he should let Israel go. He brought 10 terrible plagues upon Egypt… and the last of those plagues was the death of the firstborn (except in the homes of those who had applied the blood of innocent lamb on their doorposts).
Now, what I found interesting in this part of the story was Pharaoh’s comment:
“Who is the LORD that I should obey Him?”
As I pondered on that phrase, it occurred to me that this was exactly the same attitude Satan had toward God.
Satan had declared in his heart – “Who is the LORD that I should obey Him.”
In Isaiah 14:13 we’re told that Satan had said in his heart
“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.”
WHO IS this supposed God that I should bow down to Him (Satan was saying) I’ll take Him down from His throne… and then I’ll be God!
Then it occurred to me that Pharaoh was a “Type” of Satan.
Pharaoh was to Israel what Satan is to us.
· held God’s people in slavery
· he was known for his cruelty
· pain, punishment and death were in his hands
· And he owned Israel (Moses had to ask his permission)
In the same way – before we became Christians – Satan
· held us in slavery
· he was known for his cruelty
· pain, punishment and death were in his hands
· And because of our sins – he OWNED us
· BUT Jesus bought us back.
Now, follow me here:
Colossians 1:18 tells us that in His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus was “… the firstborn from the dead” (repeat this for emphasis)
By His resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of hell and freed us from death’s power.
Thus… just as the death of the firstborn heralded the freedom of Israel
So also, the death of only begotten Son of God – His “firstborn” – heralded our freedom
In His death and resurrection He bought us our freedom
Every time we see someone accept Jesus by being buried in the waters of baptism and risen up to live a new life we should be reminded of this great truth. In their baptism they are re-enacting the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and declaring that it was by His action that they were freed from sin.
One last thought.
There has always been one troubling aspect of Israel’s relationship with Pharaoh that has always puzzled me. Once they crossed the Red Sea – and for the next 40 years – whenever Israel ran into difficulties and hardships… guess where they wanted to go back to?
That’s right. They’d always talk about going back to Egypt.
In Numbers 11 we’re told that Israel began to be bored with their diet. They wanted more variety, more meat. And so they said: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost— also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” Numbers 11:5
they’d forgotten the bitterness of their slavery when life didn’t go their way and they were tempted to return to their old way of life.
That happens to some new Christians as well.
They become bored with Christianity.
Or they face troubles that shake their faith
And they long for how life had been before they were saved.
And some even return to Egypt.
And because they turn back… they embrace the curse.
CLOSE: Michael P Green (Illustrations For Biblical Preaching – with a few changes)
When Howard Carter and his associates found the tomb of King Tutankhamen they opened up his casket and guess what they found? They found another within it covered with gold leaf.
Then they opened this 2nd casket and guess what they found? They found a third.
Inside the third casket – guess what – there was a fourth made of pure gold.
And the pharaoh’s body was in the fourth, wrapped in gold cloth with a gold face mask.
But when the body was unwrapped, it was leathery and shriveled.
No matter how elaborate the caskets.
No matter how beautiful the wrappings
What lay within was death
And no matter how they tried to preserve their bodies the Pharaohs couldn’t escape that final curse.
The curse of death.
But through Jesus we have escaped
Hebrews 2 tells us “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15
Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead to free us from the curse.
And that’s why we offer an invitation at the end of every service for all who would be willing to die to their sins, be buried in the waters of Christian baptism and rise up to a new life.
* Ramses (or Ramesses) II is considered by many to be Pharaoh of Exodus. However, the more conservative timetable for the Exodus (around the 1400’s) predates Ramses by over a hundred years.
* An intriguing website to check out: http://www.heptune.com/akhen.html
When do we know that the Holy Spirit or God has spoken to our heart? How do we know we are doing God’s will and not our will?
These two questions are common and not so easily answered in a specific manner. There are, however, general principles by which we can know we hear the Holy Spirit. I offer the following guidelines not as a formula and not as a guarantee but as a means to help people understand and recognize when the Holy Spirit is speaking to and through them.
- Become a Christian
- John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
- It should go without saying that we should be Christians before we seek to hear from the Holy Spirit. Though there are many non-Christian groups such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and aberrant Christian groups like Roman Catholics, the necessary first step is that we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God through receiving Christ as Lord and Savior. This can only occur if a person is saved from God’s judgment by trusting, through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone. Of course, this means that we must understand and know that Jesus Christ is God in flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, that he died for our sins, and that he was physically risen from the dead.
- Therefore, you must be indwelt by God before you can hear from him.
- Therefore, in order to hear from the Holy Spirit, you must first be saved.
- Read the Bible to know how to pray and recognize false impressions
- 2 Tim. 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
- We cannot claim to be in the will of God, and thereby hearing the Holy Spirit if we are believing or acting in a manner contrary to the revealed Word of God. We need to study the Bible. It is God’s inspired word, and it guides us so that we might know how to pray and also so that we can discern whether what we think we hear from God really is or is not true.
- Take for example the Mormons. They pray about the Book of Mormon and believe that the Holy Spirit tells them that Mormonism is true. However, Mormonism clearly contradicts the Bible since it teaches there are many gods, people can become gods, there is a goddess mother in heaven, etc. What they think they are hearing from God the Holy Spirit really is not from him at all.
- Therefore, by reading God’s Word we can at least eliminate any suspected communication from the Holy Spirit should it prove contrary to the Bible.
- Pray in accordance to God’s will
- 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
- We discover the will of God by conforming our lives, our thoughts, and our actions to the words of Christ and the apostles as taught in the New Testament. But, it is in prayer that we enter into the presence of God and seek to hear from him.
- Therefore, we need to hear from God’s Word, and we need to be in prayer for God’s will.
- Confess your sins
- Psalm 66:18, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear.”
- We cannot claim to walk with God and yet abide in unrepentant sin. If you want to be in the will of God and hear the Holy Spirit work in your heart and life, you must confess your sins and repent of them. You cannot hear from the Lord if you are willfully living in a manner contrary to the holiness of God.
- Therefore, if there are sins in your life from which you have not turned, then you need to confess them before the Lord and be cleansed.
- Wait upon the Lord.
- Psalm 40:1, “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry.”
- Sometimes the answer to prayer takes longer than we expect. This is why hearing from the Holy Spirit requires that we be patient. When we ask of God and when we seek his will, we can know instantly what his will is in many cases by reading the Bible. But in those areas where the Bible is not specific and we ask God something about life’s direction, who to marry, what job to take, etc., we must wait in order to hear from the Holy Spirit.
- Oftentimes, we can discern the will of the Holy Spirit by the becoming aware of an increase or decrease of desire in our hearts as we repeatedly pray and wait on him. In other words, God often puts a desire into our hearts that increases over time as we pray about something. If that desire is in agreement with scripture, then it is most probably from the Lord. If the desire in your heart decreases, it may be that the Lord is not speaking to you on that topic. Look at it this way. Pray and ask the Lord to increase desires in your heart that are from him and decrease those that are not. And, always make sure your desires are in accordance with the Bible.
- Therefore, be patient and give the Lord the opportunity to answer you–to speak to your heart.
In these principles, you can find how to hear the Holy Spirit–how to recognize his work in you. Be filled with the Spirit in salvation. Study what the Bible says so you might recognize truth. Pray for his will. Confess your sins and be patient. The Lord answers, but sometimes he has to prepare the groundwork before the answer can come to fruition.