1 Kings 16:34

Sermon preached on April 1, 2007 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.newlifeop.org/.

I sometimes go around the Remington Trail that circles the Partridge Run Golf Course. The trail starts at the golf course parking lot. I think it was early last year as we drove in we noticed that they had put a new sign up on the gates at the entrance to the parking lot. The sign says something like,

"Gate is locked a half hour after dusk."

We realized that we might be later than that so instead of parking in the parking lot, we parked on the side of the road, outside the parking lot. When we finished, it was well after a half hour after dusk but the gates were still open. We could have parked there after all. Another time we went much later in the night and when we arrived we saw that the gates were still open. It seems that they never lock it. In all the times I've been over there—many of them well after dark—I've never seen the gate locked or even closed.

So what do we do now when we go over there? We totally ignore the sign. We always park in the parking lot. The sign is a lie. It's not true. It warns you that if you park in the parking lot after dusk that your car will get locked in. But they don't do what the sign says they are going to do. You can safely ignore it. The warning is a lie.

Many people view the threats and warnings in the Bible that way. They think that they can safely ignore them. They live their lives doing the things that the Bible warns against and yet they think that they'll be okay. They believe that the threats will not come true. Sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, anger and hatred—those things characterize their lives yet they think that they're still good people and that when they die they'll be all right. They view God's Word with a distinct lack of respect and believe that they can safely disregard it's threats and warnings.

King Ahab and Hiel of Bethel were like that. Six hundred years earlier, after God had made the walls of Jericho fall—Joshua pronounced a solemn oath. He said, (Joshua 6:26)

"Cursed before the LORD is the man
who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:
At the cost of his firstborn son
will he lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
will he set up its gates."

But Ahab and Hiel thought that God's curse could be safely ignored. Hiel started to rebuild Jericho. We read, (1 Kings 16:34)

"In Ahab's time,
Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho.
He laid its foundations
at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram,
and he set up its gates
at the cost of his youngest son Segub,
in accordance with the word of the LORD
spoken by Joshua son of Nun."

The divine curse was carried out. God's threatenings are to be taken seriously because they come to pass. M.B. Van't Veer writes, (My God is Yahweh, p. 13)

"It was the Lord's will that not only the contemporaries of Ahab and Hiel but the church of all ages to the very end of time should pay careful attention to the story of the rebuilding of Jericho. Hiel's curse would teach respect for the Word of the Lord, and the language spoken by Jericho's rebuilt walls would be understood by the church of all ages. The rebuilding of Jericho is recorded in God's Word because the Lord saw fit to use it as an indication of the truth and living power of His Word."

Thus we are taught that

we are to have great reverence for God's Word.

You are to hold it in great esteem. Let's consider the reasons why.

First, we see that

the warnings of Scripture cannot be disregarded without misery being the result.

That's what happened to Hiel. His two sons were struck down. His eldest when he laid the foundations, his youngest when he set up its gates. It is sure that at least two of his sons died—but some have pointed out that the Hebrew idiom suggests that all Hiel's children in-between the oldest and youngest—we struck down as well. (Van't Veer, p. 22. Matthew Henry also alludes to this.) But at the very least Hiel's eldest and youngest died. Great sorrow came upon Hiel and his family. I've heard that one of the greatest sorrows that can come upon a human being is to have their children die before them. That's what happened to Hiel. The warnings of Scripture cannot be disregarded without misery being the result.

This is a message that the world today needs to hear. Most people today think that sin is the way to go. They think that if they follow God's commands that they'll miss out on a lot of the good things of life. People view God's commands as restricting, as negative, as something that will stop them from fully enjoying the good things of life. One of the reasons that people sin is because they think they'll be better off if they sin.

But the opposite is true.
God's Word is your life. As we read in Proverbs 4:13,

"Hold on to instruction,
do not let it go;
guard it well,
for it is your life."

In Psalm 1 we read about what kind of man is blessed.

"Blessed is the man who does not walk
in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers."

The word 'blessed' there could also be translated 'happy'—not referring to the emotion so much, as to the whole of his life—referring to being truly fulfilled.

We see the same thing in
Psalm 119. Who are blessed? It begins,

"Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.
You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.
I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws."

God's commands are your life. If you ignore the warnings of God's Word and do what it forbids—you will suffer the consequences that it lays out. Both Ahab and Hiel found that out. Misery and death are the result.

Christians, get this message out to those who are not Christians. God's commandments aren't bad for us—they're good for us. They don't bring bondage—they bring freedom. Sin brings bondage, suffering and misery.

Consider AIDS. Many countries of the world are spending millions in trying to prevent and cure it. It's such a scourge. In Africa its left millions of children orphans. Such suffering, such misery. Why? Basically because people haven't obeyed God's commandments.

God's commandments don't bring unhappiness, they bring true happiness and contentment. In
John 10:10 Jesus referred to His disciples and He said,

"I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full."

The second reason you should esteem the Word of God is because

there's a close relationship between God's Word and God Himself.

In Joshua 6 Joshua made it clear that it wasn't his curse that he was pronouncing, but a curse from the Lord. He said,

"Cursed before the LORD is the man
who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:"

By the time of Hiel Joshua had been dead for approximately 500 years. It wasn't his curse, but God's. God was the one that struck down Hiel's two sons.

Yet it was Joshua who uttered the curse. But in doing so he was merely being God's spokesperson. Joshua was speaking what God told him to speak. The words were from God. When Hiel disobeyed the word of the Lord spoken through Joshua—he suffered the consequences. He should have respected what Joshua said, he should have respected the Word of God, he should have respected God. All three were related. Peter alludes to this in
2 Peter 1:19-21 after he talked about how they saw Jesus' glory and heard the voice from heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration. He wrote,

"And we have the word of the prophets
made more certain,
and you will do well to pay attention to it,
as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns
and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Above all, you must understand
that no prophecy of Scripture came about
by the prophet's own interpretation.
For prophecy never had its origin
in the will of man,
but men spoke from God
as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

Some people accuse us of putting the Bible up as an idol. They accuse us of Bible-idolatry and say that we've lost connection with God and we worship a book instead. They reject portions of the Bible and tell us that we should do so as well—telling us that they're not really from God, that they're of human origin, that they reflect some of the prejudices of the culture or people back then and that we should dispense with them.

The Samaritans did some of those things. What was the result. You'll remember that Jesus rebuked the
Samaritan woman and her people for their ignorance. She questioned Jesus about the Jews saying that God had to be worshiped in Jerusalem when her fathers had worshiped on this mountain in Samaria. Jesus said to her, (John 4:22)

"You Samaritans worship
what you do not know;"

We don't worship the Bible. However we do see it as God's Word and show it respect and obey what God says.

In actual fact it's those who show contempt for God's Word that commit idolatry. If you reject God's Word and go by something else—you've gone astray. You're not worshipping God, you're worshipping a figment of your imagination. That's what a lot of people do today.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issued this warning against this. He said, (Matthew 7:21)

"Not everyone who says to me,
'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will
of my Father who is in heaven."

In other words, it's not those who say they love God who will be accepted—but those who do His will.

Yet today people claim to be following and worshiping God and at the same time they reject His Word. In effect they say to God,

"I love you, God. But I don't like what you say. I don't agree with it at all. I'm going to do things my way. But I love you and worship you."

That's lubricious. Yet there are even churches that do that. Some of them are even set up, (in part, to support things that the Bible calls sin. For example, there are gay churches that claim to worship God properly. Yet they disregard portions of His Word. They're acting like Hiel. One of the sections they disregard is Jude 1:7.

"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah
and the surrounding towns
gave themselves up to
sexual immorality and perversion.
They serve as an example of those
who suffer the punishment of eternal fire."

I recently read where people are even saying that Judas, who betrayed Jesus, wasn't a bad guy at all. They go by this Gospel of Judas and say that we've misunderstood Judas, that he was the only one of Jesus' disciples who understood Jesus and who obeyed Him. The Gospel of Judas has Gnostic influences in it and it paints Judas as a hero because by betraying Jesus, he helped Jesus get rid of his flesh, because, according to them, the material world is inherently evil, only spirit is good.

What nonsense! What did Jesus say about Judas? In Matthew 26:24 Jesus said,

"The Son of Man will go
just as it is written about him.
But woe to that man
who betrays the Son of Man!
It would be better for him
if he had not been born."

The New Testament doesn't teach that the material things are inherently evil—rather it celebrates the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Judas was a great sinner. He disobeyed Jesus. He broke the commandments. He despised the Word. He was a thief. He was greedy. He betrayed our Lord.

Don't let anyone fool you. Respect for God's Word goes hand in hand with respect for God Himself. If someone doesn't respect God's Word, they don't respect God. There's a close relationship between God's Word and God Himself.

The third reason we should have a great respect for God's Word is because

it is through obedience to God's Word that trust in God exhibits itself.

Why would God have a curse on the rebuilding of Jericho's walls? Was this just an arbitrary thing or was there a spiritual principle behind it?

We don't have to look far for the spiritual principle. Jericho stood at the border of Canaan. It was the first city that the Israelites encountered and defeated. But they didn't take it by their own power. God showed them that He would fight for them, that He was giving them the land—that they could trust Him.

Joshua pronounced the curse upon Jericho precisely because of this.
The question was—were the people of Israel going to rely upon God or would they trust in human strength?

That's what the curse was all about. Jericho was at the entrance to the land. The people of Israel were ordered to leave it undefended in the sense that its walls were not allowed to be rebuilt. God wanted the Israelites to trust Him to defend them. M.B. Van't Veer writes, (p. 13)

"Why did the Lord want Jericho to remain an open city? The answer is that it was the Lord's will that the voice of His wonders should be heard in Jericho. This city had once been the scene of Yahweh's great deeds. He Himself had pulled down the city walls. The victory could not be credited to Israel's strength and weapons but only to His wondrous intervention from above. The ruins of the once mighty wall testified to the great power of God and spoke to all who passed by of Israel's God and His unlimited strength."

The walls of Jericho were the walls that God Himself had torn down. The Lord claimed the fallen city walls for Himself—for His service—they proclaimed to any who came by that no military might could defeat those who trust in Him. As M.B. Van't Veer writes, (p. 16)

"Any ruler who knew that his office and power were given to him by the God of those ruins would regard God's power as the most secure border defense possible."

But Ahab did not trust God. An unprotected Jericho was something that he could not tolerate. Jericho, as a gateway to his kingdom, had to be rebuilt and become a fortress again. Ahab would only feel safe when Jericho was surrounded by thick, high and strong walls. Ahab felt threatened by the growing power of Moab. The land directly across the Jordan belonged to Israel by right, to the tribe of Reuben, but Moab was threatening to capture it.

So Ahab thought he needed Jericho's walls rebuilt.
Not only did he himself not trust God, but he took away this sign that pointed to God's unlimited power which is available to those who look to Him. M.B. Van't Veer writes, (p. 14)

"No Israelite could pass by Jericho without reading the inscription God had written in its seemingly shapeless pile of stones: 'This city was received only as a gift of grace through the power of faith.' Thus the ruins reminded the Israelites that the city had been given to them by Yahweh's own hand as a gift of grace!"

God's people are to trust Him to take care of them. They are to look to Him when they are in trouble. Jericho's walls did not fall because of military might or strategy. No, it was through the faith of God's people that God brought down the walls.

The fourth reason we should esteem God's Word is because our passage shows us that

it is through our obedience that God's glory reveals itself.

At Jericho the people believed God and He revealed His glory to them in bringing down its walls. As long as the Israelites left the fallen walls as they were, their obedience displayed God's glory. M.B. Van't Veer, (p. 17)

"We see here the struggle between God and satan, the struggle that comes to expression in the two opposed principles by which people live. Man lives either by grace through the power of faith or on the basis of his own efforts through the power of his own merits." "Will Canaan and God's covenant people bear the mark of God's grace or the mark of human power and greatness? Whose fame is Canaan to proclaim, and whose honor is it to broadcast? Above the gateway to Canaan the Lord had written: 'Received through faith purely as a gift of grace.' Ahab and Hiel contradicted this and proposed to fill in a new inscription: 'Only through the strength of Ahab and the genius of Hiel.' The Lord declared: 'The ruins of this city are to tell of My power and deeds.' Ahab and Hiel declared instead: 'The rebuilt walls will proclaim the greatness and honor and independence of man, who has no use for gifts of grace.'"

M.B. Van't Veer, (p. 15)

"The fallen walls were to testify continuously to God's righteousness in punishment as well as to His generosity. They were to speak of the collapse of any human greatness that sets itself up in opposition to God, as well as of the glory of God's gracious power, which exalts man."

The fifth thing we see that shows us that we should have great esteem for God's Word is the fact that

Jericho's openness pointed to the future openness of Zion.

In Revelation 21:13 and 25 we read about the New Jerusalem.

"There were three gates on the east,
three on the north,
three on the south and three on the west…
On no day will its gates ever be shut,
for there will be no night there."

M.B. Van't Veer, (p. 26)

"The holy Jerusalem will be a complete fulfillment of the Old Testament Canaan with its open gateway… We see the complete fulfillment in Jerusalem with its gates open on all sides."

M.B. Van't Veer, (p. 25)

"While Jericho's walls stand as a confirmation of the Lord's curse, the walls of the eternal Jerusalem sing of our emancipation from God's curse."

Two thousand years ago Jesus entered Jerusalem to die for us. He went through its gates and was met by crowds who praised Him for what He was going to do. His work would ensure that the New Jerusalem's gates would remain open forever. Jesus died for sinners. His life, death and resurrection is the basis of the New Jerusalem—of it's freedom, of its safety. There we will be safe forever, safe with our Lord, safe because He will have defeated all our enemies. All who stood against us and opposed us will be gone—cast into the lake of fire where they will remain forever.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians.

You must pay close attention to the warnings of Scripture, because if you flaunt them, there's a possibility that you'll become hardened in sin and be lost.

It's noteworthy that Hiel continued to rebuild Jericho's walls even after Abiram, his firstborn, was struck down. You would think that the death of his firstborn would bring Joshua's curse to mind and stop him in his tracks. But it didn't. Hiel continued with the building. He was hardened in his sin. Don't let what happened to Hiel happen to you.

Don't let what happened to many of the citizens of ancient Jerusalem happen to you. Not all of them accepted Jesus and praised Him when He entered Jerusalem on His way to the cross. Many rejected Him and thereby they rejected the only one that could save them. In
Luke 19:41f we read about Jesus and His last entry into Jerusalem.

"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city,
he wept over it and said,
'If you, even you, had only known
on this day what would bring you peace—
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
The days will come upon you
when your enemies will build an embankment
against you and encircle you
and hem you in on every side.
They will dash you to the ground,
you and the children within your walls.
They will not leave one stone on another,
because you did not recognize
the time of God's coming to you.'"

Accept Jesus now. Accept Him before the dreadful curse of sin falls on you. Ask Jesus to save you. Go to Him and find life.