The Backdrop (1 Kings 17:1-6)

By Em Sumaway

Elijah went to King Ahab to predict a coming drought. Now King Ahab is one of the most wicked rulers in Israel (1 Ki. 16:30). For 22 years, he reigned as the champion of evil, leading the nation of Israel to an extreme level of immorality (1 Ki. 16:29-30). King Ahab encouraged not just the worship of the Canaanite goddess, Asherah, but also, of Baal (1 Ki. 16:31-33). The worship of these two gods involved prostitution and infant sacrifice. These are illegal things in the sight of God but made legal in the rule of King Ahab.

Then came Elijah with a bad weather report. He, in no uncertain terms, pronounced judgment on King Ahab and the nation of Israel for their immorality. And this is in line with what Moses already wrote in Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44. According to God’s promise, a disobedient nation will be cursed. It will be destroyed by droughts and floods. It will cease to be a world leader (kulelat). So when Elijah told King Ahab about the drought, he was not just foretelling the future, but also reminding them of the past warnings of God to a disobedient nation.

But what do you think happened next? Did King Ahab listen to Elijah’s warning? The next scenario suggests otherwise. God told Elijah to hide in a desolate region. If that’s not bad enough, I’m sure what God said next did not bring any comfort to the lonesome prophet—“I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.”

God is a God of many surprises. I’m sure what God said here surprised Elijah like a bombshell. You see, for the Jews, ravens are detestable. It’s not an animal that they would want to have as a pet. And the interesting thing is that God Himself commanded them to “feel” this way about ravens.

When God gave the Law to Moses, he declared that ravens were unclean birds:

“These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat (Lev. 11:13-19, emphasis added).

Because of this declaration by God, no Jew would have anything to do with ravens. But God chose this very bird to minister to a Jewish prophet. But then again, we already acknowledged that He is a God of many surprises, did we not?

Elijah and the Ravens

By Em Sumaway

Elijah_fed_by_Ravens_16-1281 Kings 17:1-6 (KJV) reads,

1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

2 And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying,

3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.

5 So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.

6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

EXORDIUM

There are a lot of movies featuring animals behaving in very strange ways that you don’t normally see in real life. Who has not heard about, or has not watched, movies where there are giant spiders, flying horses, talking dogs or cats, a turbo racer snail, and farm animals planning to take over the world? Who has not watched the classic movie, Planet of the Apes?

There’s one particular movie that features an animal in the Bible passage above. The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock is about a mass rebellion of birds against other animals and human beings. These birds just suddenly started to attack any living being that comes across their path.

Speaking of birds acting strange, 1 Kings 17 features a story about birds that behaved in a very strange way or acted out of the ordinary. These birds did not attack any human being. On the contrary, they saved a human being from death by starvation. The birds featured are not your usual adorable birds that many people love to have as pets. We are talking about ravens—those dark-coloured birds that are normally more associated with death or some sort of dark magic.

The person on the receiving end of this act is no other than the prophet Elijah. He who became so popular for showing remarkable prophetic authority and power on Mount Carmel owed his life to the unusual behaviour of a flock of ravens. Let’s take a closer look at this peculiar phenomenon and see what valuable lessons we can learn from it.

III. Affirmation of Peter (John 6:66-69)

By Em Sumaway

John 6:66-60 reads,

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,

69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Faith without knowledge is mere fantasy. The Christian faith is not a blind or a brainless faith. It is based on pragmatic and historical verifications. In the case of the disciples, they were first-hand witnesses of the teachings and the ministries of the Lord. They personally knew Him. Because they have witnessed sufficient evidence that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, they put their faith in Him. The verbs, “have believed,” and, “have known,” are both in the perfect tense in Greek which means that they have permanently believed and have known Jesus as the Son of God.

Although we haven’t met the Lord personally, like Peter we can always say, “We have believed and have known,” because we have the Scriptures as the foundation of our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith is founded on factual events which are recorded in the Bible. We do admit that there are many imponderables in the Scriptures and requires more faith than reason. This was pointed out by Dr. Gadiel Isidro in our Christology class: Faith and reason go together, but faith continues where reason ends. This is the reason why we have to surrender our lives to the Lord because it is only then that we can accept Biblical truths which are not fathomable through logic.

Conclusion

Lastly, we ask this very important question: “To whom shall we go?” This is a question many unbelievers ask, may it be consciously or otherwise. Problems like sickness, poverty, emotional stresses, familial breakdowns and so on and so forth, lead people to ask, “To whom shall I go?” These people are looking for something, or someone, for security, peace, and love that will give life to their dying existence.

As Christians, we must grab these opportunities to show them where it is best to go – to the only One who has the words of eternal life. It is through faith in Him that one can receive wonderful blessings that go on beyond this present life.

Friend, go to Jesus now. He has the words of eternal life.

II. Answer of Peter (John 6:68)

By Em Sumaway

012_GalleryIf we look into the past, we will see that many great teachers have influenced the history of the world. In India, for example, there once lived a man named Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha. Gautama thought that life was an endless cycle of pain and the only way to escape it was by seeking wisdom. After meditating deeply for many days in the shade of a tree, Gautama suddenly felt that enlightenment came to him. He rose and set out to teach others what he had learned. Thereafter, he was known as Buddha, a title meaning “the Enlightened One.” His first five companions were so astonished by his wise and gentle words that they exclaimed: “Truly, O Buddha, Our Lord, thou has found the truth!” Thousands of Indians agreed and became his devoted followers.[1] As of 2011, there are about 1.2 to 1.6 billion people throughout the world practicing Buddhism.[2]

Another notable example is China’s most influential scholar named K’ung Fu-tzu (“Master Kung”), better known as Confucius. A duke of Lu, a state of China, was so impressed by the wisdom of Confucius that he appointed him Minister of Crime. According to legend, Confucius so overwhelmed people by his kindly, courteous ways that almost overnight crime vanished from Lu.[3] His influence shaped Chinese education for several millennia and has influenced philosophy throughout the world.

These two teachers lived hundreds of years before Jesus was born. But what makes Jesus different from other great teachers in history? The answer is found in Peter’s response to the question of Jesus. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” The Greek word for “words” here is rhēmata, from the root rhēma, which basically means, “an utterance.” But the qualifying phrase that makes this word distinct from a mere utterance are the words zoēs aiōniou, which is translated “of eternal life.” These are not just instructive words or enlightening speeches. These are life-giving words. This is the very explanation of the Lord regarding His metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking His blood. It is not the literal flesh and blood which must be ingested, but the words which He spoke.[4]

Buddha taught the ideas that had come to him in his enlightenment, calling them the Four Noble Truths. The Analects of Confucius contained his words of wisdom as recorded by his students. But there are no other words greater than what the Lord has given to man – words that bring eternal life. No one else has as great words as His.

[1] Larry S. Krieger, Kenneth Neill and Steven L. Jantzen, eds., World History – Perspectives on the Past (Lexington: D.C. Heath, 1994), 72-73.

[2] Cited Sept. 7, 2011. Online: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_ people_practice_Buddhism_in_the_world_today#ixzz1XAkj8x4a

[3] Krieger, et. al., World, 88.

[4] Isidro, Annotated, 146.

I. Assessment of Jesus Christ (John 6:67)

From John 7:16-17, we learn that a very essential part of theological learning is submission to the will of God, the Father. Many of the Jews were surprised that Jesus possessed higher knowledge even if He did not have a formal education in the rabbinical schools. The reason is stated in v. 16: Jesus answered them, “My doctrine is not mine, but from him who sent me.” His knowledge came from the Father who sent Him. Further, He says in v. 17, “If any one desires to do his will, he will know concerning the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from myself.” Spirituality, not the intellectual capacity of a person, is really the issue here. According to G. Isidro, we, too, can obtain higher theological learning if we do the will of the Father. This means we must surrender our lives to Him.[1]

There are many nominal Christians in the world today. They can be found in any number of churches amidst a vast selection of denominations. The term, “nominal,” means, “in name only.” This indicates a position without attributes or power that should go along with that position.[2] The nominal Christian calls himself a Christian. He may even be religious. But he does what he wants rather than the will of God.[3]

As Christians, sometimes we wonder at the apostasy of many who profess to be followers of Christ. It is a sad reality that many people are induced to become His professed followers because of some temporal benefit or just carried away by public excitement. But when the temporal benefit is not obtained or the excitement is over, they fall away.

In John 6:66, we see that many of the followers of Jesus turned away from Him and left Him. The reason is that they can’t accept the words He spoke regarding His flesh and blood. This is due to their lack of willingness to surrender their lives to the Him. After this occasion, the Lord asked His twelve disciples a very affectionate, yet, very convicting question. “Do you not also want to go away?” Here, the Lord is giving them a chance to leave if they want to leave. He does not want anyone to be detained with Him against their own will. The Greek word for “want” is thelete, from the root, thelō. The basic meaning of this word is, “to will,” “to wish,” or “to desire.”[4] This implies active volition and purpose.[5] We see a very important lesson: Genuine obedience is not stipulated or forced. The Lord does not want followers who are just “pressed on” to serve but disciples who are willing to serve out of genuine love for Him. The first big step into genuine obedience to the Lord is to surrender our lives to Him first.

The question now is this: When we hear some teachings of the Lord which are hard for us to accept or obey, do we feel a disconcerting feeling or inclination to leave Him also? God forbid.

[1] Isidro, Annotated, 148.

[2] An example would be a king who is considered a ruler, but who obviously does not have authority to make or enforce laws over his own people thus proving himself to be only a nominal ruler after all.

[3] “The Nominal Christian.” Cited Sept. 6, 2011. Online: http://www.comprehensivechristian.com/The-Nominal-Christian-comprehensivechristian.com.asp.

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament (Chattanooga: AMG, 1992), 727.

[5] Zodhiates, Complete, 727.

Lord, To Whom Shall We Go?

011_GalleryBy Em Sumaway

John 6

67 Then said Jesus to the twelve, Do you not also want to go away?

68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

69 And we have believed and have known that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.[1]

Introduction

When Jesus talked about Himself as the “bread of life,” many of His followers were troubled. They didn’t realize that He was using figurative language and this sounded cannibalistic to them. The underlying reason is their lack of faith. But Jesus knew all along those who are not believing (Jn. 6:64).

The passage in John 6:50-58 has also been grossly misinterpreted to support the teaching called “transubstantiation” – that is, “the change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.”[2]

Studied carefully, these passages simply teach that in order to receive eternal life one must receive the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His body and shed His blood in behalf of sinful humanity.

Nonetheless, we find in this occasion one of the most eloquent declarations of faith in Jesus as the Christ and the hopelessness of turning to someone else for salvation.

[1] Gadiel T. Isidro, Isidro Annotated New Testament (Cebu: Gadiel T. Isidro, 2005), 145.

[2] “What is Transubstantiation?” Cited Sept. 7, 2011. Online: http://www.gotquestions.org/transubstantiation.html.

Conclusion

By Em Sumaway

Philippians 2:9-11 forms the climax of what is sometimes called, carmen Christi, “the song of Christ.” Paul is probably quoting an early Christian hymn about Christ. In doing so, he gives it his apostolic imprimatur and confirmation. This hymn contains the following implications. The early Christians gave Jesus a God-title (“Lord”), and transferred to Him God-texts regarding the salvation He bestows and the homage He deserves, and offered Him God-worship.

Gadiel Isidro also points out another theological implication of the text—His redemptive Lordship. He writes that “on the basis of his death and resurrection, Jesus’ Lordship as Savior is confirmed. He is not just the Creator-Lord, but the Redemptive Lord.”[1] There is no salvation without Lordship and there is no Lordship without salvation. “The two affirmations, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and, ‘Jesus saves,’ are virtually synonymous.”[2] Both are inseparable and undivisible concepts. They are indissolubly linked together in Jesus Christ. This gives further weight to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. It is ever the church’s duty, when the opportunity arises, to share Christ as Lord and Savior to people—relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues, even total strangers, who do not yet know Him as Lord and Savior.

There is no greater incentive to evangelism than the lordship of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is not an impertinent interference in other people’s private lives, or a dispensable option which may be rejected, but an unavoidable deduction from the universal lordship of Jesus Christ.

[1] Gadiel T. Isidro, Isidro Annotated New Testament (Cebu: El Theological Seminary; Gadiel T. Isidro, 2005), 337.

[2] Stott, Contemporary, 90.