Picture of Pastor Carlson

Sermon delivered May 29, 2004 by Pastor Paul Carlson

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version, NIV, unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Is Your God Everywhere?

1 Kings 20

I was raised in a family of four brothers. One of my brothers was named, Tim. Tim and I were just kids when he told me that he liked reading the stories of the Bible because they were interesting. Neither of us were raised as Christians. Since that time I've discovered for myself a very fascinating story about how God participated in one particular battle with Israel. I'd like to0 share what I've learned in that story. You can find it in 1 Kings 20. I invite you to open your Bibles to 1 Kings 20.

The background to all of this was a war that had started in the days of the wicked King Ahab; it was a war between the northern kingdom of Israel and the Syrian nation. There were two phases to this war the first phase started with Ben-Hadad the king of Syria attacking Israel. The Bible says in 1 Kings 20:1 that Ben-Hadad of Syria attacked and besieged Samaria, the capitol of the northern kingdom of Israel. The armies were encircling Samaria and it seems that they wanted a special kind of payment. They wanted a tribute, a special kind of payment which would signify submission to Syria. In those days, a strong or dominant country would attack and demand "taxes," so to speak, of another country that was weaker. Syria, or otherwise known as Aram, wanted Israel to be its territorial possession. So, what was their demand? What was their enforced "tax" on Israel? In 1 Kings 20: 3 it says, "Your silver and your gold are mine; your loveliest wives and children are mine." I don't think we could stand attacks like that. That would be a very difficult attack to deal with.

But, notice Ahab's response in verse 4, "My lord, O king, just as you say, I and all that I have are yours." Not only was Ahab surrendering in this way, I could well imagine that he must have been very frightened. After all, he was surrounded by a horde of armies all the forces of Syria and the forces of 32 small city-states that Syria had already conquered and forced to become a part of its kingdom.

Ahab had said, "I am yours." Not only was he frightened, this reply that he gave back to the messengers was in humiliating terms. So, the messenger took Ahab's response back to Ben- Hadad and then returned again to Ahab with another message from Ben-Hadad. This time the message was that not only was Ben-Hadad wanting the silver, gold, wives and children as payment, but anything else in the city that was considered valuable.

"Anything else?" That was adding insult to injury. And that ios what broke the deal. You see, the Syrian king didn't just want payment. He wanted unconditional, abject surrender. He wanted to completely humiliate Israel.

I like to imagine this poor messenger going back and forth between these two kings. Maybe this messenger thought to himself, "Wont these kings ever agree on something?" After all, he probably had to wade through streams, climb over rocks, hike over hills and watch out for bandits, enemy soldiers, snakes and wild dogs. These messengers went back the King of Syria with Ahab's response which was basically in modern lingo, "No way, dude; now you've gone way too far."

And then another message went back to King Ahab with the humiliating insult in 1 Kings 20:10. "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if enough dust remains in Samaria to give each of my men a handful." In other words, this Syrian king was saying, "we're going to reduce you to dust, that is, if we can find enough of you left for all of my men after we're done with you." What a wonderful boast!

King Ahab sent back the message (1kings 20:11): "One who puts on his armor should not boast like the one who takes it off." I like best the TEV translation which spells it out clearly. It says, "A real soldier does his bragging after a battle, not before it."

What happened next? The Bible then tells us that a prophet came to tell Ahab this message from God, 1 Kings 20:13: "I will give it into your hand today, and then you shall know that I am the Lord." Wicked king would experience God delivering him from the hands of the Syrians so that he would know that God really is the Lord. I find that so amazing, that God would do this for wicked king Ahab so that god could draw ans woo and seek to bring Ahab back to the faith that he was raised with. This speaks wonders of a God Who loves us and will do almost anything to bring us back to Him because He loves us that much. What a powerful amazing God.

When the actual battle began, we find that the Israelite army, because of God's help, destroyed most of the Syrian army while their commanders and Ben-Hadad himself were drunk. But of course, this was just the first phase of the story. The war was not over.

And then the Bible goes on to tell the second phase. Again a prophet is involved and the prophet tells Ahab to be ready for next spring for another attack from Ben-Hadad. You see, spring was the time for battle and war in those days. After their first defeat, the officials of king Ben-Hadad said to him, "Their gods are gods of the hills. Therefore they were stronger than we; but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they." Now, that's an interesting thought. In ancient polytheism or paganism there was the idea of local power because of local deities. For example, there was the god or Baal of Hermon, a Baal of Lebanon, a Baal of the summit of Zaphon, and a Baal-shamin, who was the god of the heavens, of the mountaintops, and of lightning and thunder. So, if victory was to be achieved by Ben-Hadad, according to this idea, then the object was to lure the forces away from the mountains of Samaria and get them in the plains where the gods of the plains could have control.

What a stupid thought when you consider that the God we worship today is the God of the heavens and the earth, the entire world and everything in it, and the entire universe. He is the Creator. He's mighty and powerful over all other "supposed" gods that people might conjure up. He is the only real God, and unfortunately for them, the Syrians didn't know Who they were up against.

The Syrians, or actually known as Arameans, planned and prepared. They fixed and built their chariot wheels. They made arrows and spear-heads and spear-shafts. They trained their teenagers and young men for war. They practiced with their swords. They bowed down to their idol-gods and they sacrificed to their gods of the plains. But it didn't matter what they did, because they didn't know what or Who they were up against. They were up against the God of the whole universe. They didn't know that they were just mere ants to be stepped upon by a Giant. They didn't know that they were actually preparing to lose everything.

Well, the two forces met on the battlefield out on the plains. But the Arameans were wiped out as the prophets had predicted. Notice verse 28; it's what the prophet says to King Ahab before this second and final battle with the Syrians. This is why God wanted to give Ahab victory in battle. Notice how these words in 1 Kings 20:28 stand out like a bold banner. "This is what the Lord says: 'Because the Syrians have said, "The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not the God of the valleys," therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.' "

Wow, what a statement! By giving Israel victory over the large Syrian army, God wanted to show to all the nations around that He was a God not only of the hills but also of the valleys, and the plains, but indeed of all the earth. He was not rescuing Ahab because of anything good that Ahab had done. He had to make a statement about Himself. He had to demonstrate, not only to king Ahab that He was God and that He loved Ahab, but He had to demonstrate to all the pagan nations that He truly is in charge.

Aren't you glad that our God is Lord over all the earth? Sabbath is a day where we celebrate how big and wonderful God is. He's a God over all geography, not just over the hills, but over the plains and the valleys. And He's a God over all countries, not just over the United States, but Mexico, Russia, India, African and Asian countries, and everything else on this planet. He's a God over the whole earth.

Do you know what that means? That also means that God is over all the hectic and harried experiences of our lives. Not just over all the good times in our lives, He's a God that can see us through all the bad as well. He's a God over all the days of the year, not just the holidays, but all the other days as well. He's not just a God over the weekends, but a God over the week-days. And He's a God over our strong days as well as our weak ones. Aren't you glad that our God is big enough, strong enough, wise enough, and loving enough to take care of us anytime and anywhere?

I remember an experience when I was a student colporteur, a door-to-door seller of religious books. All during my experience doing that I never really felt much at ease doing that kind of work. Right now, I'm the least shy that I have ever been. But then, I was quite shy. It amazes me to think of it. To this day, I still admire, but don't envy those people who can knock on doors and try to sell religious literature or anything for that matter.

There I was selling the Bible Stories and the Conflict of the Ages series in Reno, Nevada. The actual process of selling wasn't very hard. But it was getting up to that point that was difficult. It was actually getting myself out of the door of the conference office where we worked out of. Many days, it was easy for me to feel like a complete and utter failure. Have you ever felt that way?

One time, I remember singing to myself the words of the song, "All the Way my Savior leads me, What have I to ask beside? Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my guide?" And it was the last phrase of that first verse gave me courage; it spoke to me, "For I know whate'er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well." What a fantastic message. Whatever happens to me, Jesus will do what is best for me. And He will help me through whatever I'm going through. After all, He is so big. And He can take care of my good days and my bad days alike. He's bigger than and big enough to handle all of our down-and-out days. He's big enough to handle our downer emotions. We need to remind ourselves that God is not just a weekend God, a Saturday-Sabbath God, but He's also a God for the every other day of the week. He's a seven- day God. A God that we need each and every day of the week. A God that we need to have with us in our work, in our family, in our choices for our lifestyle and our entertainment. A God that we can't just say that We can't just say, "Worshiping is just on Sabbath," but it's also in family prayer and worship throughout the week. That's the kind of God we worship.

Religion is not just for Sabbath morning. It's not just the day that you go to church. It's God's principles for guiding us in our every-day decisions to faithfully fulfill our responsibilities at work and how we treat our family members at home. God is a God of our family time as well as Sabbath time. And I'm glad that He is, because I need Him every day of the week. I want Him. And we need Him. We want His presence in our lives. That is the kind of god that we have, the kind of God that wants to be our companion, and our friend, and our Lord and our Guardian every day, every time, and everywhere we are. And I praise God that He is so big and powerful enough to help me in every situation.

Let's respond in our hearts that this is the God we want to trust and love and cooperate with.

Hymn of Praise: #88,  I Sing the Mighty Power
Scripture:  Isaiah 43:1,2
Hymn of Response: #516,  All the Way

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