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Daily Dose of Truth June 1, 2016

How is it Wednesday already? This week has (quite literally) FLOWN by. Next week begins my summer swimming lessons, which means by this time, three days a week, I’ll be at the pool ready to teach lessons. So, the DDT will be more sporadic for the next several weeks, ‘cuz, well, water and computers don’t mix. Ha! But, that’s next week, not this week, so, in the meantime, onto today’s DDT:

 

2 Kings 6:1-7

Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” 3 Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” 6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. 7 And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

Now, this is interesting. Remember when Elijah was the “leader” of the prophets and Jezebel was out killing God’s prophets? There weren’t many of them left. Obadiah hid 100 prophets in caves to keep them safe from Jezebel. And then we see, later, as Elijah pouts and whines and insists that he is the “only prophet left” that this may have felt true to Elijah, but it wasn’t true.  Now, we see that there is an abundance of prophets and they are feeling squished in their current location, so changes are on the way.

The prophets ask for permission to go to the Jordan, get a log, and make a place to live there. (No, they weren’t planning to live inside the log. But ya know, they wanted to make dwellings for themselves.) Elisha grants permission, no problem. Yet, they want him to come along too. No reason is given for why they want him along, but Elisha agrees to this request as well and joins the prophets as they go to the Jordan to work on dwellings for themselves. 

They get to the Jordan and begin to fell trees…and we can clearly see that they are not lumberjacks. HA! Not only have they borrowed tools for this job (which does make sense; I mean, they were prophets; there isn’t a huge call for axes in prophet work), but they aren’t very good at using them. One guy’s (borrowed) axe head falls into the water. The man is beside himself, not just at the loss of the axe head, but also because it was valuable and it was borrowed. Iron was not a common metal for the people of this time to be using for tools. The Hebrew word here for “axe head” is actually “iron” so we get the double emphasis on this being iron, and, thus, an emphasis on its rarity.

Elisha remains calm and comes to the rescue. He asks the man to show him where the axe head fell into the water. Elisha cuts off a stick and throws it into the water at the place where the axe head went in, and voila! The iron floated to the top of the water and Elisha instructs the man to reach out and grab it. Thus the borrowed iron axe head is retrieved, a miracle (floating iron) has been performed, and the prophets can continue on in their work.

Now, not that I’ve had any experience with this (ahem) but this sorta reminds me of a parent, like my husband, having to rescue my children’s toys out of a tree. First the children are either not being careful or being distinctly foolish with their toys and the toy ends up stuck. Second, my children, in an effort to be industrious, attempt to get the toy out of the tree…usually resulting in more toys getting stuck. Then, they finally come and ask for help, and daddy rigs up something ingenious to retrieve the toy(s) from the tree.

In this case, the prophet was not particularly skilled using the axe, and thus it was a result of carelessness and not deliberate foolishness that landed the axe head in the water. At this point, he calls for help. (At least he didn’t throw something else in to try to get the axe head back!) And guess what? Help comes. God works through Elisha to raise the axe head and all is well.

So….what is the point here? “Neither a borrower nor a lender be?” “God helps those who help themselves?” “Hire skilled workers for tasks you are unable to do?” I honestly think the “point” is pretty simple: God is in the details. God knew what the prophets were doing. God knew they needed alternative lodging. God knew they didn’t have the tools for this, and God knew they could borrow the tools they needed. God wasn’t “not paying attention” when the axe head went flying. That didn’t surprise Him. Yet, that was another opportunity for Him to remind us that He is always in control and that nothing is too “small” or “insignificant” for Him to do. This really wasn’t a dire, earth shattering thing; it was a lost tool. Was it a problem? Yes. But not on par with “sinners in the hands of an angry God” problems. Yet, God still provided for them.

I am constantly amazed at the way in which God is “in the details” of my everyday. Everything is ordered by Him and nothing ever takes Him by surprise. I can recount so many times when something seemed like it was a hugely dire, awful thing, which God used to be an amazing blessing. Yet, even in the day to day bits of life,  take for granted all the ways in which God has so graciously blessed me. I have two beautiful sons who, really, are awesome boys. I really do thoroughly enjoy them and am immensely grateful to God for the gift of my sons in my life. As I sit here right now, I’m feeling icky, and I know that I can go lie down and have the boys play in their room while I rest…and they will play quietly and let me rest. My husband spoils me (he really does) and I constantly wonder that he is so gracious with me. (And even makes me fabulous desserts…seriously fabulous.) And I know that I don’t deserve these gifts, these tangible, precious people in my life. I know it. But God has given them to me anyway.

I owe God…everything. Everything from the air I breathe, to my next heartbeat, to the husband I adore to my precious sons, to the salvation that was bought and paid for with His Son’s blood. And He continues to provide for our family (and me specifically) in so many amazing ways and I’m just…floored with the blessings. Nothing is to small to bring to Him; nothing is too big to bring to Him. When we are His children, when we have repented and been reconciled to Him, we are His adopted children. He is the perfect Father, and we need never doubt that whatever He is working in our lives is for our ultimate good and for His glory. Even a lost axe head points to the way our Father is ruler over the “laws” of nature to make an iron axe head float.

So, know, today, that, if you are His child? If you are covered with the blood of Christ and adopted as co-heir with Christ? He is working all the details out in your life for your good and for His glory. Especially the hard stuff. Suffering as a child of God is not suffering for no purpose. We are being sanctified, brought more in line with His will every day, and that, my friends, is good news, as we draw nearer to the One who bought us for Himself. Praise Him for the way that He is “in the details” in your life. Give your hurts to Him today and ask Him to help you to seek His will first, even as you don’t understand all the things going on in your life. Humble yourself before your God and Savior, and let Him lift you up and comfort you.

Have a great day, everyone!

Blessings-

Beth

 

Daily Dose of Truth May 27, 2016

Good morning and welcome to a rainy Friday around here!! After a week of illness ranging from allergies (and allergy testing) to walking pneumonia, we’re feeling semi normal (for us) today and may even venture outside of the house for a bit, now that we shouldn’t be contagious anymore. Yippee! I’m more tired today than I have been this week, though, so, perhaps a nice nap while it rains….

Anyway, onto today’s DDT:

2 Kings 5:15-27

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?”22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Now, remember yesterday, we saw the struggle that Naaman had with his expectations and with humbling himself. Yet, in the end, Naaman accepted the counsel of his servants, obeyed the command of God through Elisha, and Naaman was healed. Now, we see Naaman’s joy and excitement at being healed. He returns to Elisha and humbles himself before Elisha. He confesses his own new faith, that there is no God in all the earth but God, and again offers a gift to Elisha. (Just a note, here. We see in the Bible pagan kings acknowledging God for who He is, but they merely “gather in” the true God into the pantheon they already worship. As we see here, Naaman’s story is different than that, and that becomes clear in the next few verses.)

Elisha refuses this gift from Naaman. He will not take payment or credit for what God has done. For Elisha to accept the gift would have suggested that he had performed the miracle on his own power, and Elisha won’t do that. Naaman urges Elisha, but to no avail, and finally Naaman accepts Elisha’s answer.  

This great man had a problem to which a little girl offered the solution. The solution involved him becoming like her; humbling himself as a little child, submitting to the authority of a prophet, and acknowledging his new faith that there is no God in all the earth but the one in Israel.

Naaman then makes an interesting request. Naaman has professed faith in God because of his miraculous healing, and now he pledges to bow only before God and offer sacrifices only to God. But there is a challenge because of his job. As part of his job, he has to help the king of Syria to enter into the house of Rimmon to bow before the false gods of Syria. It is likely that there were requirements like bowing as you entered the building, which is now a conflict for Naaman. In addition, the king would be leaning on Naaman’s arm in order to bow and in order to help the king do this, Naaman is also going to end up bowing. So, Naaman asks for 2 mule loads of earth to return with him. Why the earth/dirt? Well, we see that in Exodus 20:24-25 there were instructions for building altars to offer peace offerings and burnt offerings on it to the Lord. Naaman is looking for a way to honor God as the true God, and is acknowledging this problem ahead of time and asking for forgiveness. The dirt is to be used by Naaman to construct a mud brick altar for his worship of the Lord. Elisha acknowledges this issue and tells Naaman to go in peace…with the dirt. (Funny note: Rimmon is literally “pomegranate” and is a parody of the name “Ramanu” the Syrian storm god which roughly corresponded to Baal. Again, we see the writer of Kings mocking the false gods of the other nations, just as when he talked about the “Lord of the flies”, changing Baal-zebul to Baal-zebub to demonstrate the impotence of the god of Ekron that Ahaziah sought the counsel of in 2 Kings 1.)

But when Naaman had only gone a little distance, Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, gets a big head. He gets the idea that Elisha should have taken something from Naaman. He thinks it was owed. (Notice, in verse 20, he says that Elisha “spared” Naaman by not accepting these gifts? The implication there is that Elisha was owed something but didn’t require it from Naaman, and so his “sparing” of Naaman was an act of grace even though Naaman should have “paid” for this.) So, Gehazi takes it upon himself to “right” this matter.

Gehazi goes after Naaman, and, apparently, he is running to catch up with Naaman. This is urgent to Gehazi, and when Naaman sees him running after him, he down and is concerned that something is wrong and that Elisha needs Naaman’s help.At this point, Gehazi lies outright. He claims that Elisha sent him. And then, knowing that Naaman understood why Elisha refused the gifts, Gehazi invents a story to explain why Elisha might now change his mind. Gehazi says 2 prophets have come to Elisha for help and they need money and clothing. Gehazi asks, supposedly on behalf of Elisha, for Naaman to give them some money and clothing. Naaman is happy to give over these things; in fact he does more than is asked. He gives two talents of silver instead of one as requested, and he even sends his servants back with Gehazi to carry the stuff. Well, this is actually a problem for Gehazi. With extra people coming with him back to Elisha, Elisha is sure to notice and be suspicious. So, Gehazi takes the goods from the servants and he puts them inside the house and sends the servants away.

Gehazi then goes in and stands before Elisha, not volunteering any information. In fact, when Elisha asks him directly where he has been, Gehazi lies again and says “I didn’t go anywhere”. Elisha has now given Gehazi a chance to “come clean” and confess what he has done, and Gehazi has continued to lie and try to profit from his lies. However, Gehazi appears to have forgotten who he was talking to. While Elisha has no ability to see the future, Elisha is a true prophet of the true God, and God can give Elisha information that was “hidden”. Elisha knew where Gehazi had gone and what transpired. He asks Gehazi, point blank,  “Was it time to accept money and clothes and livestock and servants? That’s not what any of this was about, Gehazi; you have missed the point.” And? As a result? Gehazi will now have the leprosy that Naaman was cured of. And not just Gehazi, but his descendants as well. Gehazi will not only not benefit personally from Naaman’s cure, and won’t have the wealth he gathered from Naaman to pass on to his own children, but will instead inherit and pass on Naaman’s disease. That will be the inheritance Gehazi gives.

    

Just as kings can misuse their power, so can servants of prophets. Gehazi had a unique position and he tried to leverage that for his own benefit. Now, Gehazi is not the only person to ever try to profit from a miracle of God. In Joshua 7 we see that Achan tried to profit from the victory God had given Israel over the peoples of the land as they took the promised land. Achan had taken stuff from among the devoted things of the pagan people they had conquered, and he had hidden them. The result was God allowed Israel to lose a battle  against the men of Ai, and the people cast lots to figure out who had disobeyed God. Achan and his family and his livestock were all killed because of Achan’s deceit. And, again, we see in Acts 8, Simon the magician tries to pay the apostles to give him the power of the Holy Spirit and Peter rebukes him and calls him to repentance.

Isn’t it interesting that Naaman came to Elisha, full of pride, and learned that he had to humble himself and obey to be healed. Gehazi, however, allowed his pride to be the downfall of himself and his descendants. Think about it. Gehazi felt that Elisha had been slighted. Yet, Gehazi didn’t bring this up with Elisha. And, when he acquired the goods, he hid them from Elisha. The truth is, Gehazi felt that Elisha had been slighted and so he perceived that slight had impact himself as well. It wasn’t for Elisha’s benefit that Gehazi acted; it was for his own. Gehazi was frustrated at Elisha’s humility and refusal to be paid, not because he was really concerned about Elisha’s wealth or well-being, but because he was concerned about himself. And, in his pride, Gehazi sought what did not belong to him, telling himself that he had a “right” to it, and the result is a legacy of leprosy. Ouch.

We can do the same thing, though, without even realizing it. We can claim that what we are doing is for God’s glory, while our actual actions demonstrate that we are actually concerned about our own glory. If my goal is to be “right”, my actions are going to be toward that end. If my goal is for God to be glorified? That will look very different. For example, if I’m talking to an unbeliever about the things of God and my goal is to be right? I’m gonna continue arguing and debating with them until I feel that I have been proven right…even if that means I’m engaged in a foolish, destructive quarrel. However, if my goal when talking to an unbeliever is for God to be glorified? The pressure is off of me. I point them back to Scripture as my guide, even if they don’t believe Scripture, because I do believe Scripture unapologetically; I share the whole gospel with them, even when they think it is foolishness. I elevate Christ and emphasize what He has done; not what I have done. My goal is to share Christ, fully and with grace, knowing that I can’t change their hearts anyway, but God can. So, at the end of the day, I fulfill what I am called to do: share God’s word and share the gospel. The results are not up to me. I haven’t failed if that person doesn’t immediately bend their knee to Christ. I have only failed if I have failed to do what I am called to do: share the Gospel.

When we get our pride out of whack, we can do things that seem to be out of a spirit of humility, but are really out of our own selfish motives. Gehazi tried to say that it was because his master was wrong in refusing these gifts that he did what he did, but that’s justification of his sin. The reality is, Gehazi did what he did for his own benefit. Period.

We have to constantly check our motives, folks. John Calvin was totally right when he said that our hearts are “idol factories”. We can make idols out of anything, and we can even justify those idols and act as if they were righteous…when they are self-righteous. We have to be constantly seeking God’s word and spending time in prayer before we act to be sure that we are truly seeking God’s glory, and not something else. I continue to have to learn this lesson. I want so badly for those around me to see the truth of God’s word and, especially, not to be led astray by false teaching, that I can get frustrated when they defend a false teacher or don’t take a dangerous false teacher seriously. I have to remind myself, at those points, what my role is. I am called to warn; to do so with grace; and then I’m called to stay out of foolish arguments. If people do not heed the warning? I can’t force them to heed it. So, I warn and then I get out of the way. I must warn when I know there is a warning to give, or I’m not showing love to my brothers and sisters in Christ, but if they harden their hearts or stop up their ears? I have no control over that. I have to decide if I truly trust God or not. If He is trustworthy, then I do what I am called to do without being an insolent, arrogant twerp (as much as I can avoid that!!), and I trust Him for the result. That’s all any of us can do.

So, today, friends, I would just ask that we check our hearts. If you find that there is a battle you are facing where your goal is to be “right” instead of to glorify God? Repent and step out of the battle. Acknowledge your sin in your pride, and ask God to help you to go forward.

This one is gonna get harder as the “day grows short and night comes”. The desire to get others “on our side” is soooo strong…and so dangerous. Our goal must always be to share the gospel, knowing that hell is a real place and not wanting any to go there. And our goal is, always, to glorify God. We must decrease and He must increase. May we seek the only source of truth that we have diligently; may we pray and humble ourselves before Him continually. And may we rest, joyfully, trusting that God knows what He is doing, even as the depravity of the world multiplies exponentially.

Have a great day, friends!

Blessings-

Beth

 

 

 

 

Daily Dose of Truth May 25, 2016

Good morning! Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, ya know? Let’s just put it this way: bronchitis + steroid= no sleep before 2:30 am. Virus + allergies + cough for my son = nebulizer treatment at 5:45 am. End result is a tired mommy (sure, now the steroids fail me…sheesh). But son is in excellent spirits, so perhaps I can sneak a nap in a bit…

On to today’s DDT:

2 Kings 5:1-14

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Naaman was an important man. He was the commander of the army of Syria. He was a great man with his master and he was well favored in general. He was a “might man of valor”; the same description given to Gideon by the Angel of the Lord. Why was he this great, loved, important man? Simple.  Because God used Naaman to give victory to Syria. Once again, we have a reminder of God’s sovereignty. He is the One who causes nations and leaders to rise and fall. Nothing happens without His knowledge and nothing happens that is outside of His ultimate will. Naaman’s status and position within Syria are a direct result of God’s sovereignty.

In addition to all those things, Naaman was also a leper. In that day and age, nothing else mattered once you put that on your resume. A leper was not only considered to be ceremonial unclean (so, for the Jews—and Naaman wasn’t a Jew—you couldn’t enter the temple, you couldn’t participate in the feasts and festivals, and you couldn’t have your sins atoned for by the high priest because of the restrictions on you), but you were also considered to be contagious and not fit for the public. Naaman is a mighty man; powerful; strong; in a high position of authority. Yet, all of those achievements are useless because of the skin condition that he had that was totally out of his control.

Now we get a little bit of “plot exposition”. Sometime in the past, during a raid, the Syrians carried off a little girl from the land of Israel. This little girl now works for Naaman’s wife. And? She seeks the good of her master.She tells the wife (which is appropriate) that there is a prophet in Samaria who could cure Naaman’s leprosy. This little girl knows about the true prophet of the true God, and it is to him that she directs her master. 

Watch Naaman’s character here. He is an important man, but look what he does. Naaman heeds his wife’s counsel from this source, from this slave, and he takes steps to journey to this prophet to see what can be done. Keep that in mind. He listened to his wife and he didn’t discount the source of the information either.

So, being the important man that he is, Naaman goes to ask for a leave of absence from his employer: the king of Syria. He tells the king what his plan is and the king basically says, “Go for it! I’ll send the king of Israel a letter.” The Syrian king has mistakenly supposed that Elisha’s work is at the command of the king of Israel. Based on that assumption, that’s why he sends this message to the king of Israel, not to Elisha himself.

So Naaman packs. Well sorta. He brings 10 talents of silver, 6000 shekels of gold, and 10 changes of clothing. Those are in the form of a tribute/payment or perhaps a bribe, and also a mark of his own pride. He is announcing who he is and what he is able to give to Elisha; this way, Elisha knows the man whom he is dealing with…an important man, whom he should honor. Naaman is putting himself forward as one “worthy” of being healed and able to “recompense” for this healing, and there is most definitely an expectation of how he will be received as he does this. Then, he brings the letter to the king of Israel who promptly overreacts.

There was an uneasy truce between Syria and Israel at this point, and this letter comes and Jehoram is sure that the peace is over. He worries that the king of Syria is going to hold him personally responsible if Naaman isn’t healed. , then the letter and Jehoram’s overreaction to the letter Of course, the king of Israel is an evil man (Jehoram, son of Ahab, brother of Ahaziah) and he freaked out when at battle with Jehoshaphat against Moab. So, he thinks the king of Syria is setting him up for reason to go to war, since Jehoram can’t fix Naaman. Sigh. 

Elisha scolds the king for reacting to the Syrian king’s request with such alarm in tearing his clothes. He basically tells him to go sit down and be quiet. He then tells Jehoram to send Naaman to his (Elisha’s) house and God will handle this. This will be done this way so that Naaman will know that there is a real God in Israel, a God who is able to heal, and Elisha is a true prophet of this true God. This is all for God’s glory, not Elisha’s.

So, Naaman comes in all his pomp and circumstance to Elisha. He has been sent for, and he is ready to be received. He has a definite expectation of how this whole thing is going to work out. Naaman, however, is not the one calling the shots here, and he’s about to get a dose of humility. 

Elisha? Doesn’t even meet this prestigious visitor. He is totally unimpressed. He sends servants with a message to Naaman: go wash 7 times in the Jordan and you’ll be clean.

Naaman? Is angry. He is feeling slighted by Elisha and? Because Elisha doesn’t do what Naaman expected in receiving him and putting on a show for him (basically), he is even more mad. Naama clearly expected personal, immediate attention from Elisha, but gets a messenger. Also, Naaman wants a cure, but Elisha appears to offer only ritual cleansing. Naaman calls the Jordan a dirty river (basically) and turns to go away in a rage, feeling humiliated in his pride and prestige. His pride, at this point, blinds him to the fact that he is walking away from a chance to be healed; this requirement is not what he expected, it’s not a noble request, it’s a common one, and he refuses. Naaman doesn’t realize the importance of divine freedom and the critical role of faith, so, he thinks there is something contemptible about having to bathe seven times in the river.

So. Naaman has come all this way, has seen the king of Israel and been forwarded on to his goal: Elisha. Having not received the reception he expected, however, Naaman is now taking his toys and going home. He’s throwing an adult-sized temper tantrum. However, Naaman is blessed to have surrounded himself with servants who aren’t just “yes men” and who also aren’t afraid to speak to him. They won’t let him do this. They come near to him (shows their concern for him and their comfort to have access to him, which, again, gives us information about the overall character of Naaman and how he treats his servants) and they, quite literally, talk some sense into him. They remind him that he was prepared to do all kinds of feats of bravery and to give all this wealth to be healed. This healing is worth much to him. However, because his expectations were not fulfilled in his reception by Elisha, and because the thing asked of him was a simple thing, a thing that anyone could do, he refuses to do it. His servants also were listening closely to the message given from Elisha. The message said “Your flesh will be restored”, so we see that this is more than ritual cleansing. This isn’t just “being clean” this is “restoration and cleansing.”

Then we see something that, again, demonstrates the overall character of Naaman. Naaman swallows his pride, humbles himself, and goes to the Jordan to wash. This. Is. Amazing. There are so many people today who, simply because of pride, would never do this. They would never admit even the possibility of being wrong. They would pack their bags and go home, and then they would rant and rave over how unfair the prophet of God was in not healing him. All blame would be shifted elsewhere, and they would simply grow more bitter and resentful. Naaman, however, is not that man. He is a man who listens to the counsel of his servants and takes their counsel seriously. He accepts their rebuke here, and the result is…well, miraculous!

And, on the seventh wash? His flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Naaman is healed. Naaman almost missed this healing because of his pride, but, in humbling himself and being obedient to the “little” thing he was called to do, he has been healed! 

Guess what? There were lepers amongst God’s people at this point in history, yet the one who is healed is not of God’s people, it is a foreigner. This harkens to Elijah’s ministry too—God is God not only of the Israelites, but also of foreigners. Remember in 1 Kings 17 when God sends Elijah to the widow of Zarephath for him to stay during the drought? There were hungry widows in Israel during that time, but God chose to bless and provide for this widow, this foreigner.  Then we saw the “showdown” on Mt. Carmel, where God proved that He is the only true God and 50 prophets of Baal lost their lives. The point is this: God blesses whom He chooses when He chooses. He heals whom He heals. And? He is the only true God. Period.

God is no respecter of persons, friends. He’s not. He doesn’t care whether “you” have “raised yourself” out of poverty and now have wealth. He doesn’t care whether you have power or fame. Know why? Because it is only by His grace that you have any of that. He gave it to you, just as surely as He gave Naaman his position in Syria. Don’t fool yourself and think that you did anything that you’ve done in your life outside of God’s providence. You were born into the time that He chose; into the family He chose; with the traits and characteristics that He chose for you. You can’t take credit for those any more than I can take credit for curly hair! God gave them to you, and the glory for all those things is His alone. One day, that will be evident. One day, even if you refuse to give Him glory and honor for His gifts to you, it will be clear that those gifts were not of your own doing.

Naaman humbled himself and obeyed; and he sees, without a doubt, who the true God is! He set aside his pride and did what was asked of him even though it wasn’t what he expected. How often do we let our expectations prevent us from doing obeying God? Now, don’t misunderstand; we can’t rebel forever. No one can. But how often do we allow our sinful flesh to be our guide instead of stopping, seeking God first, and seeking His will? So often we “know” how a situation is going to work out so, when it doesn’t go as we expect, we get depressed or angry or confused. Instead of trusting that God knows what He is doing and will do it His way, we get all fussy and throw our own fits. May I gently suggest that we stop doing that? May I suggest that we seek God’s will…and then stop trying to make our own will be done? He really does know what He is doing, even if He doesn’t do it “our way”.

May we all learn from Naaman. May we be teachable and rebukable. May we not harden our hearts and stop up our ears when we are faced with tasks we consider distasteful, and may we seek God in prayer and through studying Scripture to help us know how to obey in every circumstance. May we not allow our sinful flesh to prevent us from being obedient. And may we always, in every second of our days, seek to bring Him glory, humbling ourselves before Him, knowing that He is worthy to be praised. Even if we have to go wash in the Jordan. (Stay out of the Jordan. Just saying. There was nothing magical in the water. It was Naaman’s obedience to what God called him to that demonstrated his faith and it was God who healed Naaman.)

Have a great day, everyone!

Blessings-

Beth

Daily Dose of Truth May 23, 2016

Goooood morning! Well, it’s been an interesting (to say the least) weekend. I woke up yesterday with a fever that continued to rise throughout the day, ended up at urgent care to have my worries confirmed: bronchitis. No swimming for me for a couple of days, and  I confess I am grateful for the steroid which is already helping my poor broncholes and their silly cough.

This morning we are off in 20 minutes to go take one son in to be re-checked for his nut allergy. (I’m not expecting it to have gone away. Nut allergies don’t. But he’s at the age where he wants to know for sure, so off we go.)

So, without any further ado, today’s DDT:

2 Kings 4:38-44

And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land. And as the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39 One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were.40 And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. 41 He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” And there was no harm in the pot.

42 A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

So, Elisha comes again to Gilgal when there is a famine, or at least a lack of food in the land. The group of prophets there are gathered around, and Elisha tells his servant to set a large pot and boil some stew; it’s time for dinner.  

One guy goes to get herbs and found a wild vine that is growing with gourds on it. He gathers both the vine and the gourds and cuts ‘em up for the stew. Now, we really can’t blame this guy for this. There are myriad plants and gourds that we know today that look like edible plants, but are actually poisonous. We’re about to see that this guy didn’t know what the gourd really was as he chopped away for the stew. However, others knew what he chopped, but didn’t realize it until they were eating.

So, as the men were eating, they realized there was “death” in the pot. Now, this is a bigger problem than you might think at first glance. Remember, there is a famine; a lack of food. This stew is likely a mishmash of food (meat and veggies) that have been thrown together to make them go farther as a stew. However, with this root and gourd in the stew, all the food is contaminated. All of it. They can’t pick out the “good” pieces ‘cuz this has all cooked together and the poison is cooked into the food. So, not only can they not eat this pot of stew, but they have nothing else to substitute. They can’t call the pizza place to deliver because the recipe went bad. They can’t head down to the grocery store to get stuff to try again and remake dinner. This is it. The food they had available is now contaminated and they have nothing else available.

Elisha, however, doesn’t even appear phased by this. The men appealed to him (“O man of God, there is death in the pot!”) and Elijah knows Whose man he is. Make no mistake; what happens next is not on Elisha’s power, but on God’s. We are all reminded of whose man Elisha was with this scene. Elisha has them bring flour to him. He takes the flour and tosses it in the pot and VOILA ! Poison is no longer a problem. Elisha even commands them to pour out the stew for the men, and instructs them to eat. Indeed, we see that there is no longer anything problematic in the stew.

Now. Just as the musician back in chapter 3 had nothing to do with God bringing water to the armies of Israel, Judah and Edom, and just as the salt that Elisha threw into the water of Jericho had no magical properties of it’s own, so, too, the flour here has nothing special about it. It’s flour. It isn’t the flour that decontaminates the stew, it’s God who does that. The flour is merely a visible sign of the Lord’s power working through Elisha.

And, then, a man comes to Gilgal, and he is bringing Elisha “bread of the firstfruits”, which included 20 loaves of barely and fresh ears of grain. This man brings the firstfruits of his harvest, showing his gratitude for the dedication and prophetic work of Elisha.That’s quite a bit of bread, but it still isn’t enough for 100 men to eat and be satisfied. Still, Elisha commands the bread be given to the men, and his servant, just like the disciples when Jesus told them to feed the 5000, responds that there isn’t enough food to go around. Elisha doesn’t really respond to this question except to repeat his instructions with an additional bit of information: God has said that these men will eat, be full, and they will have leftovers. So, the servant puts the food out there and, just as God will do through His Son in the future, God multiplies the food that was available and there was food left over, just as the Lord had said through Elisha.

I love these powerful reminders of God’s provision. I do. These hungry prophets are doing the best they can to have a meal…and it’s ruined. Completely and utterly ruined by the efforts of humans. However, it doesn’t stay ruined. God redeems the stew and the men are able to eat. Not only that, but we have a faithful, God-fearing man who comes to Elisha with the firstfruits of his harvest, which included bread and grain. The men now have stew and bread, and they even have more than they need. God’s provision is simply amazing. (This physical provision is awesome, but it’s nothing compared to the spiritual provision we have in Christ.)

Here’s the thing. We often realize when we lack something physically, right? I mean, if we’re hungry, we know it. Our bodies may even loudly announce that information to all those around us. If we’re tired? We know it. If we are exposed, we know we need shelter or covering. Those things we can grasp pretty easily because they are pretty obvious to our physical bodies. Yet, God not only provides for us physically (our nation is still one of the most abundantly blessed with physical “stuff” in the world), but much more importantly, He provides for us spiritually. I always wonder how the prosperity gospel preachers can sleep at night, knowing that they are selling the lie to people that God is more concerned with their current well-being than He is with their eternal well-being. There is a reason we don’t see those guys going into the poorest regions of the world and trying to sell that lie. You tell a woman who struggles to feed her children once a day, as they all share a woven mat on the floor as a bed and sleep in a room without running water or electricity that the reason she lives in poverty is because she “doesn’t have enough faith” to “give God permission” to give her stuff, and she’ll prolly cook you up for her children to eat. How absolutely insulting and ridiculous! How dare we suggest that it is lack of faith that keeps them in poverty. We may not have a simple answer for why they were born where they were and why they have to struggle for every morsel they eat, but at the end of the day, the only real answer is “God knows why He put you here at this time, in this place. Cling to Him, because this temporary life is not the end, and whatever you lack here on earth will be but a mere shadowy memory one day, as you see your Savior face to face.”

Christ didn’t come to feed all the hungry or heal all the sick. Did He feed hungry people? Yes; and then He rebuked them for stalking Him just so they could get another meal. (John 6:22-41) Did He heal the sick? Yes, but not all of them. Why not? Why, if Christ came to “make our lives better” didn’t He do that? Why didn’t He spend His time in leper colonies healing everyone? Why didn’t He manufacture wealth for the poor? Why didn’t He give food to every starving person He met? Because that wasn’t the reason that He came. He didn’t come to fix our temporal state; He came to reconcile sinners to their Creator. He came to deal with the real issue, the greater need that we all have; the eternal need for salvation. And even though they didn’t realize that they needed that kind of a Savior, He knew what they (and we!) needed. He knew what was necessary and He provided all of it. All of it. There are so many facets to what He provided for us that are simply astounding. I continue to find new things that I shake my head in wonder at as I think “Whoa. I didn’t realize I needed that fixed too; and He provided that for me too!” Only Christ could have done what He did in His life, death on the cross, and resurrection, and only He could have done it to the satisfaction of the Father. We needed a Savior who could come and offer Himself willingly. Who was flawless and without any sin. Who was fully man and fully God. Who could pay the penalty we couldn’t pay. The Gospel is soooo beautiful and soooo precious, friends. And guess what? Not only did God know that we needed that kind of a Savior, not only did God provide that kind of a Savior, but He did that while we were still His enemies. He provided what was needed for a rebellious and hard hearted people, to bring them to Himself. The Jews thought they knew what they needed: they thought they needed an earthly king to overthrow the rule they were under and release them from their burdens in life. That would have been nice, and that would have been a blessing, but that wasn’t what they needed. They needed to have their sin problem dealt with, and that was why Jesus came.

God’s provision is evident in every aspect of our lives, from the air we breathe to the places we live and, even, to any lack that we may have in our lives. God knows what you need. He really does. And we must trust that He knows what is best, even if we, like Job, end up a miserable, broken, destitute people in this world. Our hope is not in this world. Our joy is not from this world. And, oh, Christian, we should have joy! We should, as James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Oh, friends, if all that you are doing is hoping for the next world? You’re missing the joy that He has for you in the midst of your trials today. And there is joy to be found when we rest in Him. Not just “acceptance” but joy.

May we always remember that our God is truly the God who provides. (Jehovah Jireh) He provides grace for every moment of every day, and He hasn’t missed the fact that you have needs. He knows it. He is trustworthy. Set aside your expectations and ask Him to give you what you need, to equip you to do the good work that God has prepared in advance for you to do, and never forget that your most important and urgent need is always for your Savior. That’s what really matters, friends. Hold fast to Him. (And don’t eat random gourds that you aren’t sure about. Just don’t. Or mushrooms. Or berries. Just don’t.) (Sorry, I feel like I’m lecturing my sons now. But really. Don’t eat the berries that you don’t recognize.)

Have a great day, folks!

Blessings-

Beth  

 

 

 

Daily Dose of Truth May 19, 2016

Good morning and welcome to Thursday! Another sunshiny day in our neck of the woods, and we are all waking up and getting ready for the day. We’ve finished the “big” work on the pool (hallelujah!!) and I’ve almost finished scouring our home (two more rooms…). And I may need more coffee. (yawn) But without any ado, today’s DDT:

2 Kings 4:18-37

When the child had grown, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 And when he had lifted him and brought him to his mother, the child sat on her lap till noon, and then he died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God and shut the door behind him and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” 23 And he said, “Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” She said, “All is well.” 24 Then she saddled the donkey, and she said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite. 26 Run at once to meet her and say to her, ‘Is all well with you? Is all well with your husband? Is all well with the child?’” And she answered, “All is well.” 27 And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away. But the man of God said, “Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” 29 He said to Gehazi, “Tie up your garment and take my staff in your hand and go. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not reply. And lay my staff on the face of the child.” 30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her.31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. Therefore he returned to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 Then he got up again and walked once back and forth in the house, and went up and stretched himself upon him. The child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Then he summoned Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite.” So he called her. And when she came to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground. Then she picked up her son and went out.

Well, we can see several years have passed now. The child that was born to the woman and her older husband is now old enough to join the reapers in the field. In fact, it says that the child had grown, so he could have been in his late teens at this point, or even older. He had survived infancy (which, let’s face it, infant mortality was very high at this point) and his parents are both settled in the expectation of him inheriting what they have and caring for his mother when his father is gone. Well, as he is out with reapers, something happens. We aren’t told exactly what, but from what is described, (his head being the source of his illness) it is entirely possible that he had a stroke or a brain aneurysm. We don’t know exactly, but what we do know is tragic. By noon, he died in his mother’s lap. She put her son on Elisha’s bed (he wasn’t there) and sends servants to get Elisha.

Her putting him on the bed like this is, in a very real way, her attempt to deny that he is dead and refuse to start the ritual mourning of him. That may not have been her primary thought, but the result was the delaying of that process while she went to go find help. And she knows that the only one who can help her in this case is God. So, naturally, she seeks out the prophet of God to ask him for help.

As she asks her husband to get the donkey ready for her to ride, he says something that seems random. What we can gather from his response is that it was normal  custom to consult prophets only on a particular day or festival, perhaps on the new moon and Sabbath, but her business with God not wait until those times. All is NOT really well, and she doesn’t want anyone to interfere with the help needed from Elisha. Thus, she goes against the custom (and, if anything, this was a custom; there is no prohibition given by God to prevent her from talking to the prophets on just “any old day”) to get help.

   

Elisha sees her coming at this fast pace and he knows something is wrong. But Elisha is not omnipotent; he only knows what God reveals to him. So, while he knows immediately that something not good has happened, he doesn’t know what that not good thing is. He sends Gehazi to ask her what is wrong and look at what she says to Gehazi “All is well”. All was most certainly not well, but she doesn’t stop to tell Gehazi the whole thing. She doesn’t have time to tell her story over and over again, and she needs to get to Elisha for help.

Gehazi, thus, was likely surprised when she grabs Elisha’s feet when she gets to him. He goes to push her away but Elisha stops him because he can see she is in “bitter distress” and neither God nor the woman has revealed to Elisha why she is distressed.

This poor woman. She has kept herself together, focused on one goal, until she can get to Elisha. And now that she finally gets to Elisha? She’s a mess. She laments the giving and taking away of her son. She reminds Elisha she never asked for a son. She never sought this blessing but he prophesied she would have a son. And now, this blessing she didn’t request, but has dearly loved and cherished, has been yanked away from her with sudden finality. 

Elisha now knows the source of the problem. Her son is either sick or dead. He tells Gehazi to get ready to run (tie up your garment) and take his (Elisha’s) staff and go, and don’t stop even to be polite. When Gehazi gets there, he is told to lay the staff on the face of the child.

The mother won’t leave Elisha. She is scared to hope that her son will be raised from the dead. And she is probably scared to face what is waiting for her at home if her son is not raised from the dead. So, Elisha goes with the woman, returning with her to her home.

Gehazi, meanwhile, does as Elisha bids him, but nothing happens. So he goes back to Elisha (who was probably on the way) to report that nothing has happened, and the child is still dead.

Then Elisha arrives, with the mother, and goes up into his room. There, he sees the dead child on his (Elisha’s) bed. Elisha goes in to his room, shuts the door, and prays. Before he even touches the child, Elisha is focused on seeking God and His will and help. We don’t know how long he prays for, either. The text doesn’t give us any clues on this. But we do know that Elisha doesn’t stop with prayer; Elisha acts. And, looking at how he acts, we can assume that this was what God told him to do ‘cuz, well, a good Israelite didn’t willingly defile himself by touching a corpse. Elisha’s actions will mean he is ceremonially unclean…unless the child comes back to life.

Then, Elisha goes up and “lay” on the child. Look at how he does this. He covers the child’s body with his own, giving the dead flesh warmth from his own body. The way that he is laying on the child, too, we get a very graphic (in a good way) image of him breathing life from his living body into the boy’s dead body, and looking with his living eyes into the sightless eyes of the child. While we know that Elisha had no power in himself to raise this child up, this is a startling image, for him to be in this much contact with the corpse. Elisha’s actions vividly picture God restoring breath to the child as well as sight and strength. And the boy’s flesh becomes warm. Notice, the boy is not alive (yet); just his flesh is warm.

Elisha gets up and walks once back and forth in the house. He then repeats this covering of the boy, and the boy sneezed 7 times then opened his eyes. (Now 7 was the number of perfection to the Israelites. It symbolized wholeness to them and rightness. But please know that 7 is just a number and you can’t manipulate God by doing something 7 times.)

Elisha calls for Gehazi to bring the mother and tells her to pick up her son who is no longer dead—he tells her to touch him, see he is alive, and have no worries of being unclean for touching a dead body for this boy is not dead. The Shunammite woman comes and falls at Elisha’s feet, bowing to the ground. She picks up her son and leaves. (I gotta admit, this reminds me of Jesus after His resurrection. He encouraged His disciples to touch the wounds on His hands, to see Him eat, and to know that He was, indeed, alive.)

Ya know, there are several things we can glean from this passage. First, let’s look at the Shunammite woman.

What is her first thought after her child dies? Go to the prophet of God. Seek God. That was her first thought and she wasn’t going to be deterred from it or detained in any way. When anyone asked her what was wrong, she told them “all was well”. All was, most decidedly, not well, yet she has one goal in mind and she’s gonna get there. Now, I’m not gonna try to make a huge deal out of this, but that was a wise choice. Far too often, we seek God last instead of first. We’ll tell anyone who has ears our sob stories, whether those people are people who we should be sharing that information with or not. We want people to commiserate with us, to focus on us and our hurt or need, instead of taking that hurt or need to the only One who can even do anything about it: God. We don’t stop and pray immediately; we pray after we’ve vented or unloaded on others. Our goal should be as straightforward as this woman’s: seek God first. Take everything, good and bad, to Him first. Ask Him for wisdom to know what to do next. And don’t share our personal business with everyone around us. I’m all for being transparent, but some people are simply not able to be trusted with personal information of all kinds. That’s okay, by the way. Me knowing that friend x is, perhaps, an immature believer who struggles with gossip doesn’t mean I hate that person. It means I’m gonna be careful about what I share with that person, though, because not only do I not want my personal information spread around, but I also don’t want to tempt them to sin and gossip about me. So, I’m careful about who gets what information. That’s really okay, friends. It is okay to have healthy boundaries.

Secondly, this woman recognized the source of her blessing: God. She knew Who had given her this child, and she knew Who had also taken him away. While she wasn’t at the point where Job was, and able to say “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord”, she knows He is the giver of life. We, too, need to remember that all that we have is a gift from God. We don’t “deserve” to have a nice house (or even a house at all) or nice car or good job. We deserve hell. That’s what we deserve. Everything we have outside of that is grace, pure and simple. That breath you just took? A gift of God. He controls the beating of your heart and He sustains the creation every second of every day. We need to remember the source of our blessings and we need to be content in them. That doesn’t mean it is sinful to pray for health or a better job or whatever, but it means that, if health and better economic status don’t come to you, you submit to His will in that, as well.

Thirdly, we see that the woman wouldn’t leave Elisha. She sought out the man of God, and now she stays with him. She is scared, totally, but she doesn’t surround herself with people who will tell her only what she wants to hear. She stays with Elisha, who will tell her the truth and who, also, will be there to help her to seek God in whatever comes next. Elisha will point this woman straight to God, not to his own opinions. Whatever the outcome, this woman is in good hands.  Just like her, we need to surround ourselves with brothers and sisters in Christ who won’t just tell us what we want to hear but who will tell us the truth and point us to Scripture. It may be hard to hear these truths at times, painful even, but we need to not fear truth, but bear with one another as the body of Christ to glorify God in all circumstances.

Then, look at Elisha. Elisha knows his own limits. He knows that he isn’t God and isn’t omnipotent. He knew something was wrong with this woman, but he didn’t know the source of the wrongness. Yet, he had compassion on her and was concerned for her. But his concern didn’t end at expressing concern; he also acted. There was no “Oh, gee, that’s too bad; I’ll pray for you.” He bore her burden with her. He sought God on her behalf. And he did what God gave him to do to raise this child up. Now, don’t go around thinking that God is going to send you out to raise the dead. But God may send you out to spend time at a hospital bed, just being near a sick friend. He may send you out to watch the older kids of a mom of a newborn so that she can get some much needed sleep. He may send you out to bring a meal to a family that just lost a loved one. We need to remember we are the body of Christ, and, more than “just” praying, we can act on the behalf of others, too.

Bottom line? The first thing we should do, in all circumstances, is seek God. Primary. Right there. We should pray for wisdom, too, in who we share information with and how much information to share. And we should be willing to act on behalf of our brothers and sisters, acting and speaking in truth and love (and truth is more loving than lies every time).

God is amazing, friends. Look at how He gave life back to this boy, giving hope and joy back to his parents. And? Remember that He also gave us life, not once, but twice. We who are in Christ have been regenerated to be His. He breathed life into us, gave us His Spirit, and opened our spiritual eyes. He gives us the strength we need every single day to endure the trials and sufferings of this life, to do His will and bring glory and honor to Him. We are as spiritually impotent as this woman was. She couldn’t raise her own son back to life; we can’t manufacture strength to endure the trials we face. We have nothing to boast about, friends. All we have is Christ and in Him, I will boast.

So, be wise today. Be humble. Take everything to God first and foremost. Seek His will and honor Him in your lives. And thank Him for everything that He has given you, including the sufferings that you face, knowing that our sufferings produce perseverance which produces character which produces hope, not in ourselves but in Him. Hope in Him. Rest in Him.

Have a good day, everyone!

Blessings-

Beth

Daily Dose of Truth May 18, 2016

Good morning!! It’s a beautiful morning around here and the boys are outside so it is quiet inside. The wall of windows is open, letting in the cool air, and I’m content to sit here with my coffee and open Bible. The day is full of “time to clean the bedroom” followed by “the pool needs to be ready to be filled” work this evening, so, without further ado, onto today’s DDT:

2 Kings 4:8-17

One day Elisha went on to Shunem, where a wealthy woman lived, who urged him to eat some food. So whenever he passed that way, he would turn in there to eat food. 9 And she said to her husband, “Behold now, I know that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing our way.10 Let us make a small room on the roof with walls and put there for him a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.”

11 One day he came there, and he turned into the chamber and rested there. 12 And he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘See, you have taken all this trouble for us; what is to be done for you? Would you have a word spoken on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” 14 And he said, “What then is to be done for her?” Gehazi answered, “Well, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 He said, “Call her.” And when he had called her, she stood in the doorway.16 And he said, “At this season, about this time next year, you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God; do not lie to your servant.” 17 But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.

On Elisha’s travels, he went to Shunem. When he arrived there, there was a wealthy woman who urged him to eat some food. She saw Elisha. She knew who he was. She provided for his physical needs. Notice, also, that she is married, but she is the one who is mentioned as being wealthy, not her husband.  She was a wealthy woman and she was in charge of her wealth. We see that, whenever Elisha passed by, he would go to her house and eat. He was welcome and she was happy to provide that for him. She is a striking contrast to the woman we saw yesterday; a woman who was a widow, poor, not among her own people, with no one to redeem them and help them when she was about to be sold into slavery to pay for the debts of her husband.

Now, look at what she does next. Even though she is the one with the wealth, she still seeks her husband and talks to him before building this spare room for Elisha. Providing food for Elisha when he was in town was one thing; but she doesn’t just build this room and then tell her husband “well, it’s my money so I can do what I want.”  And I love the hospitality she shows here. Truly. She realizes that Elisha may need a place where he can be alone to sit, pray, sleep, write or whatever. So this room has everything he could need: a bed, a table and chair, and a lamp. It’s not a big room, but it’s a place where Elisha can go when he is in Shunem and recharge. The structure made for Elisha is not a temporary guest quarters, but a more permanent structure with walls. This was his room, and it was solid and strong.

None of what the Shunammite woman does here is done to earn merit with Elisha, either. We don’t see any evidence of her expecting repayment of favors or anything of the sort. this was a woman who saw Elisha as a “holy man of God” and sought to enter in to his work with him in a very practical way, using the wealth that she has been given to help Elisha to do God’s work as His prophet.

Still, Elisha is grateful for her provision. He knows God is the ultimate provider though, but Elisha wants to demonstrate his gratitude for this woman’s kindness to him. So, he sends his servant, Gehazi, to see if there is any way they can help the Shunammite. Perhaps she needs protection and safety? Nope. She lives among her people and is safe there; she does not fear the king or the army.

Well, Elisha is a bit perplexed. She doesn’t need protection from the army or the king; obviously Elisha has no wealth to share with her (nor does she need it). What could be done to bless this woman? Gehazi gives him a great idea. Gehazi points out that this woman has no son, and her husband is not a young man. (We get a hint here that there was likely a large age gap between the woman and her husband. It is possible she was married before and widowed, and if her first husband was wealthy, that could be where her wealth comes from. The truth is, we don’t know where her wealth came from, but we do know that this woman does lack something and her husband is not a young man, so her need for a son to care for her when she gets old is becoming more urgent.) Gehazi told Elisha this of his own accord. It appears that he noticed these things and brought that to Elisha’s attention. We see no mention of her making this request. Yet, without a son, her family’s home and goods would be given to others and, living as a widow when her husband dies, was a difficult prospect, regardless of income level.

Elisha tells Gehazi to go call the woman to him and she comes to the doorway. Elisha tells her that about 1 year from now, she will embrace a son. The woman, knowing this is a man of God, is worried that he might be in trouble with God for lying to her. She doesn’t want false hope, either. Still, what Elisha tells her comes to pass and, about that time the next spring? The woman has a son.

Here’s something we have to consider as we read this. This woman did not do this for repayment. While it is true that no one ever acts with true altruism, she wasn’t looking for a tangible repayment. She sought to please God. Her actions did not go unnoticed, though, and, just as we see other places in Scripture, God rewards this woman with a child. (What a contrast to our world today where children are seen as a burden or as a status symbol. Children were a gift directly from God, not to be taken lightly, but to be cherished and raised up in the knowledge of who God was. God gifted this woman; He didn’t give her a burden to be shouldered.) Again, too, contrast this with the widow from verses 1-7. That widow had 2 sons; but had no inheritance to give to them. This woman, although not a widow at this point, has a husband who isn’t young, and no son to receive the inheritance of wealth that she (obviously) has.

I do love this story. (Note: I say “story” a lot, but please know, that doesn’t mean I think it is fiction, ‘cuz I don’t. I do believe the Word of God is a true accounting of events of the history of the world; including that giant fish and that big ‘ol smelly ark.) I love seeing how God has equipped His people differently, but able to help each other and support each other. The Shunammite woman had money…and no children on which to spend that money, yet she loved and served God and used her wealth to bless God’s prophet. Elisha had no money; God provided what Elisha needed, as is evident in this story. Yet Elisha did have something the Shunammite didn’t have: direct access to God in a personal and profound way. Elisha doesn’t use that to test God or to manipulate God, but seeks God to bless this woman. And He does. Elisha intercedes for this woman, and, even though this woman was content with what she had and was not distraught over her lack of children, God blesses this woman abundantly. Abundant grace. Over. The. Top. Just as we saw yesterday, with the widow of the prophet, God shows this Shunammite woman abundant favor and grace in giving her a son.

This, friends, is our God. This is the God who sees us (El Roi) all the time, right where we are. This is the God who teaches us to be content in our circumstances, and who teaches us to use whatever we have to bless others. I confess, this is sometimes hard for me, and this year, I’m realizing that as swim lesson season approaches rapidly. I love teaching kids, but I have allowed my attitude to become not pleasant about swimming lessons, yet I need to remember that God has given me a gift to be able to teach, and I need to align myself with Him as I go forth to work with the children this summer. It is 100% true that it takes a lot of energy from me. It does. Which is why I only teach private lessons three days a week. (I could teach 6 days a week; I have 7 families on a waiting list right now because I simply don’t have time to teach everyone in 3 mornings a week.) I’m allergic to chlorine too, that’s totally true, and more than 3 hours in at at time means the chlorine does painful things to my skin. But I know how to moderate the time spent in the water, and I know that I can’t help everyone all the time. So, I need to remember that God brings these people to me for lessons for His purpose, and I need to go forward stewarding the time and ability I have for His glory. And I need to be thankful for the gift He has given me even while it means that I have to say “no” to some, so that I can say “yes” to any of these precious families who entrust their children to me.

Refining isn’t always easy, but it is always necessary. And guess what? God is still Sovereign and in charge. These two, back to back stories of these women remind me that we are all totally dependent on God for everything that we have and do. Everything. He is the gift giver. He has the words of life. How dare we insist that He gave us the “wrong” gift or refuse to be content with what He has given to us. We should all be seeking ways to use what little (or abundance!) we have to bless others. Remember what Galatians says,in Galatians 6:2-5 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.5 For each will have to bear his own load. We all have a load to bear, and we will be responsible for what God has given us. Yet, we are also to come alongside each other and help as we are able, not removing someone else’s burden/responsibility (we are not to over-function for others so they become dependent on us) but bearing with each other, knowing that we are not “better” or “above” or “more worthy” than the person next to us. We have nothing to boast about; all are saved through God’s grace by faith in Christ alone, not through our works. Yet, we do have work to do to be the body of Christ.

Okay that got a little ranty toward the end…sorry! Heh. Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Blessings-

Beth

 

Daily Dose of Truth May 16, 2016

Um, oops. This was supposed to be posted first, not the one from 2 Kings 4. Um, yeah. Guess not enough coffee this morning… :/

2 Kings 3:1-27

In the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twelve years. 2 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, though not like his father and mother, for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made. 3 Nevertheless, he clung to the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat,which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from it.

4 Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. 5 But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. 6 So King Jehoram marched out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. 7 And he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to battle against Moab?” And he said, “I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 8 Then he said, “By which way shall we march?” Jehoram answered, “By the way of the wilderness of Edom.”

9 So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. And when they had made a circuitous march of seven days, there was no water for the army or for the animals that followed them. 10 Then the king of Israel said, “Alas! The Lord has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” 11 And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” Then one of the king of Israel's servants answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” 12 And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

13 And Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.” But the king of Israel said to him, “No; it is the Lord who has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” 14 And Elisha said, “As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you. 15 But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played,the hand of the Lord came upon him. 16 And he said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’ 17 For thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’18 This is a light thing in the sight of the Lord. He will also give the Moabites into your hand, 19 and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” 20 The next morning, about the time of offering the sacrifice, behold, water came from the direction of Edom, till the country was filled with water.

21 When all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them, all who were able to put on armor, from the youngest to the oldest, were called out and were drawn up at the border. 22 And when they rose early in the morning and the sun shone on the water, the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood. 23 And they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely fought together and struck one another down. Now then, Moab, to the spoil!” 24 But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose and struck the Moabites, till they fled before them. And they went forward, striking the Moabites as they went.[a] 25 And they overthrew the cities, and on every good piece of land every man threw a stone until it was covered. They stopped every spring of water and felled all the good trees, till only its stones were left in Kir-hareseth, and the slingers surrounded and attacked it. 26 When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him 700swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom, but they could not. 27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.

 

 

Jehoram, another son of Ahab, became king after his brother dies, and he rules for 12 years. He became king in the 18th year of Jehoshaphat’s reign (king of Judah). Even without doing the math, we can see clearly that the kings of Judah, by and large, ruled for much longer than the kings of Israel. The result will be that the nation of Judah will outlast the nation of Israel.

We see that Jehoram did what was evil in God’s sight too. However,  he did put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made, which shows a departure in some ways form his father. Yet, he still clung to the sin of Jeroboam which he made Israel sin. (Jeroboam, remember, was the first king of the divided Israel; again we see this pattern where kings are compared to the ones before them. Jeroboam built “new worship” places so the people wouldn’t go into Judah to worship at the true temple. The result was idol worship. While Jehoram removed the pillar to Baal that Ahab had made, Jehoram didn’t stop the idol worship in Israel.)

At this point, Mesha, king of Moab, was a sheep breeder. He had to deliver to Jehoram, king of Israel, 100,000 lambs and wool of 100,000 rams. (That’s a lot of wool…and lot of fluffy li’l lambs.) When Ahab died, Mesha took advantage of the perceived weakness in Israel to rebel against Israel. This is after that, now that Jehoram is king, Jehoram is setting out to deal with the rebellion in Moab. (Look back to 2 Kings 1; that’s where we see Moab rebelling and then we see Ahaziah falling through the lattice and then having judgment pronounced upon him for not seeking out God in his need, but seeking out a false god to know if he would live or die.) If you think about it, Ahaziah didn’t have time to deal with the rebellion; he died. So, now this rebellion has been going on and Jehoram is gonna deal with it. He marches out, mustering all of Israel, to fight Moab.

And, demonstrating that there is still something of a “peace” with Judah, Jehoram asks Jehoshaphat to join him with the army of Judah. Jehoshaphat agrees and off they go into battle.

As they go to deal with Moab, they go through the territory of Edom (the Edomites were descendants of Esau). It appears that either someone forgot to bring a map, or someone is wasting time wandering around in circles. I mean, really, a circuitous march? And, after 7 days of this “circuitous” marching, they have no water for the horses. This is a problem for an army, even more than it would be a problem for just a traveler! They can’t show up at a battle with dehydrated horses! They’d be handing the victory over to Moab!

True to form, Jehoram doesn’t know God, so, when he finds they are in this position? He despairs. Now, remember, this was all Jehoram’s idea. He was the one who mustered his troops and the army of Judah to go and deal with rebellious Moab. Now, however, that they are without water for the animals, Jehoram is sure that God has brought all 3 kingdoms (Israel, Judah and Edom) out to this place to be killed by Moab. Sigh.

 

Jehoshaphat, however, doesn’t just accept Jehoram’s word for this. He wants to inquire of the Lord. (Interesting note: when Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat to go with him to fight against Syria, Jehoshaphat wouldn’t go unless they talked to a prophet first. This time, however, Jehoshaphat didn’t ask for a prophet at the outset of this particular war.) Well, now Jehoshaphat wants answers and he has the sense to know where the answers are found: God. So, Jehoshaphat asks if there isn’t a prophet somewhere in Israel who can inquire of God on their behalf. The servant of the the king of Israel knows of one: Elisha. (Again, isn’t it interesting who it is who has to provide this information? The king of Israel didn’t put forth any prophets for God; either he didn’t know any or was scared to go and find them.) Jehoshaphat knows that Elisha is a true prophet of the true God.

Elisha rebukes Jehoram when he comes to seek him out. He reminds Jehoram that his father (Ahab) and mother (Jezebel) never sought God’s will, and tells Jehoram, basically, “go ask questions of those idols you actually worship”. Jehoram responds as a true son of Ahab: he whines. “But you have to help! God did this! He brought us all out here, all three nations, to dieeeee.” Sheesh.

Elisha makes it very clear that he has no respect for Jehoram. None. He states, without any apology, that if Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, wasn’t standing there? He wouldn’t help. Yet, Jehoshaphat is seen in a positive light, (and, remember, we saw this when we were introduced to Jehoshaphat…he “did what was right” in the eyes of the Lord, remember?) and it is only for his benefit that Elisha will speak.

Elisha requests a musician and when the musician played, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha  and he prophesied. Elisha tells them that, even though they won’t see wind or rain” (in other words, there will not be an obvious storm that would cause this to happen) “that streambed will be filled with water” so that they may all drink, animals included. God will be the one doing this. He will make a dry stream bed full of pools.

This stream thing? Is a very small thing for God to do. This is the Creator of the world; He invented water. This whole “water in the stream” was no big deal for God. As evidence of how “light” a thing this was for God? He would also do that which is harder; give the Moabites into their hands. Their victory over Moab will be completely complete. They won’t just win, they will attack every fortified city, every choice city, and win. They will fell all the good trees (no more shade and no more fruit from those trees; they’ll have to be regrown from seedlings or seeds before they are useful again). They will stop up all the springs of water (not the main water sources, but the springs, the tributaries, which feed the fields of the people) and ruin every good piece of land with stones. Let me just say, living in Iowa, I get why that’s a nightmare. You have a piece of land with rich, dark, fabulous soil…but you have to till and harvest by hand because of the hidden rocks? Oy. That’s…oy. So, God is going to provide for their immediate need (water) and then He will provide the victory in battle, and the utter ruin of the Moabites. Whoa. ( This part, where Elisha emphasizes what a small thing this is for God, reminds me of Jesus talking to the Pharisees as the man is lowered into the house through the roof. Jesus first addresses the man’s urgent need: his sin. He first tells the man his sins are forgiven. It is only after that that Jesus tells the crowd that, to show that He does, indeed, have the power to say this, He will heal the man, too, so they will know who He truly is. Just as God could bring water without a source to water these horses and men, so can Christ forgive and heal a man’s sins…because He is God. Period.)

 

The next morning, at time of offering the sacrifice, water came from direction of Edom til the country was filled with water. Done.

Moab gathers to fight against Israel, Judah, and Edom (Edom, by the way, was a vassal of Judah, so if Jehoshaphat called them up to fight, they sorta didn’t have a choice). They are ready for battle, armed and dangerous. When they get up in the morning and see the sun shine on the water, they saw the water as being as red as blood. This may have been a trick of the light, God may have turned the water red, or this may have been a mass hallucination that God inflicted on them, but whatever the case, they were sure that the water was red and they were sure this could only be the result of a bloody battle. So, the assume that the kings of Edom, Judah and Israel have fought amongst themselves and destroyed each other. Moab is ready to take advantage of this (just as Moab was ready to take advantage of Ahab’s death by rebelling in the first place), so they go to get the spoils. Basically, they are thinking they are going to walk into the enemy camp and just pick up all the things of value for themselves, and walk back out again. They were, however, wrong.

When they come to the camp of Israel, they are shocked. The Israelites are still there. With their armor and weapons. And Israel is ready for battle whereas Moab had thought that they were walking in just to pick up the goodies. So, Israel fights and the Moabites flee. Israel pursues, destroying the Moabite army as they go. And, just as God decreed through Elisha, as they go they overthrow cities, “stone” the fields, stop up the springs of water, and fell all the good trees. At the end, all that is left is Kir-hareseth and they attack that city, too.

The king of Moab sees the battle is not going well. So, he tries once last push to get 700 swordsmen to break through against the king of Edom, but that fails. When that fails? We see a horrific event. The king of Moab then sacrifices his own son as a burnt offering on the wall of the city. The result? The Moabites blame Israel for all of this. They are wrathful against Israel. Remember, Moab is the one who first rebelled against Israel. And the Moabites could have surrendered, but they chose not to. It was not the fault of Israel, Judah or Edom that the king of Moab offered up a human sacrifice. Now, though, that Moab has been soundly defeated, Israel, Judah and Edom return to their own lands.

Ya know, this whole thing is just such a bunch of bananas to me. Ya have the kings going off to subdue Moab; okay, I get that. But not one of them seeks God before they go. Ugh. Then, they get lost in the wilderness and wander around for days to the point of dehydration. Now we see Jehoshaphat seek God (phew) while Jehoram is off being overly dramatic. Elisha is brought forward, and at first? It looks like he isn’t gonna be helpful. He wants nothing to do with Jehoram. However, when he sees that Jehoshaphat is there, too, Elisha offers help. He inquires of God, and finds out the answers they needed. And God is going to move mightily, to give them what they need in a huge way. This victory will be decisive. And then? The delusion of the Moabites. Then the routing of the Moabites. Then the human sacrifice. Then? The Moabites blame Israel for their troubles. Um. Really??

But ya know what? In Revelation we see the same thing. What happens when the plagues and the bowls and the everything else starts happening? The people don’t repent. No. They curse God. They curse Him. Far from repenting,they hate Him even more now, as they are having 100 lb hailstones dropped on their noggins. That doesn’t humble them; that makes them more angry. Sigh.

The contrast here with Jehoram and Jehoshaphat is striking, too. Jehoram, whiny king of Israel, son of Ahab, and Jehoshaphat, who follows God. God’s prophet will not lift a finger to help Jehoram. Won’t even see him. That is how anti-God that Jehoram is. Yet, he will not withhold good from Jehoshaphat merely because it will also benefit Jehoram. Guess what? God does the same thing every day. The same sun that I see is also seen by countless rebellious sinners. The same electricity that I enjoy is also enjoyed by countless unrepentant sinners. Yet God does not withhold good from me to keep good from happening to those people, too. His common grace provides benefits to us all, all the time. Yet, for those who reject God, that’s where it ends, sadly. This is their “best life now”…and that is sobering to realize.

And then that last “ick” moment, when we see that the god that the Moabites served is appealed to through human sacrifice. How horrifying. Just. Wow. That is awful. That is horrible. And the reaction of the people should be to recoil in revulsion…but they then lash out at the only One who can save them from themselves. Sigh.

Friends, I can’t say this enough: repent. The life of a Christian isn’t “I repented once; I’m good to go” it is a continual process of repenting as we see the sin in our lives, and giving ourselves over to God to sanctify us. I look at the sin in my life today and think “Oy, if God had shown me that when I was a baby Christian, I would have given up right then!” Turn to God. Trust in Him. Know that His wrath is upon you if you are not His; you need to be rescued from His wrath and the only way is to be rescued by Him. It won’t all be puppies and roses; there is a cost to following Him, especially as our world grows darker. But know this: eternity matters. If you aren’t following Him? It’s not going to end well for you.

I could go on, but, um, the offspring need me…and, well, this wasn’t a short segment today anyway. Just please, be sure of your salvation. Test yourself to see whether you are in the faith, and hold tightly to Him in all that you do.

Have a great day, folks!

Blessings-

Beth

 

Daily Dose of Truth May 17, 2016

Good morning!! It’s Monday and the sun is out and doing that shining thing! The boys have spent the last 2 days building with cardboard, and today the last giant box is hotly contested. Oh well, they’ll figure out how to work together…or I’ll just tie ‘em up and stick ‘em each in a corner.

So, before the all out warfare ensues, onto today’s DDT:

2 Kings 4:1-7

Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” 2 And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. 4 Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” 5 So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

Okay, I have to admit, the first thing I noticed in this passage was that prophets have wives!! There was no requirement of them being single! I mean, I knew that in my head, but this reminded me that, just because a vast majority of the prophets we see were single, some of them were married. (Which then made me think of Hosea, which sorta was depressing…so moving on!)

Now, remember, after Elijah died, Elisha became the “leader” of these groups of prophets. We’ve seen him being confirmed as the successor of Elijah in many ways, and this is yet one more way that we are about to see that Elijah is a legitimate prophet of God.

So, this widow (her husband, the prophet, died) goes to Elisha and says “My husband, your servant, is dead, but to pay his debts, my children and I are about to be sold into slavery. HELP!” At this point and time, if you couldn’t pay your debts, this is what happened. Now, having said that, please keep in mind that this was not the slavery like we think of when the word slavery is brought up. This is not the abusive, cruel and violent slavery that our country espoused against a single race of humans. Under the law given by God, being a slave meant you worked for free, but you were still to be fed and cared for as if you were a member of the family to which you were indebted. And, every 7 years, all debts were totally erased so, at most, you would be in slavery for 7 years. But at that point, they even had regulations in place in case a slave wanted to stay with his master permanently. (See Exodus 21:6 for more on this.)  Slavery as spoken of here is vastly different than what our brains associate with slavery.

Still, this woman has come to Elisha for help. What she needs is a kinsman redeemer; someone from her family (or husband’s family) to pay her debts and redeem her and her children, but there is no redeemer available. Elisha has nothing to give this woman himself. He has no wealth; indeed, we will see him refuse wealth when it is offered to him by Naaman. Still, he asks this rhetorical question “What shall I do for you?” He doesn’t really expect her to answer that. It’s almost like he is musing this thought. Then he asks her to tell him what she has in her house. What she tells him confirms the direness of her situation; all that is left is a jar of oil. That’s it. Everything else is gone already.

Elisha gives her instructions to go and borrow as many empty containers as she can. He tells her to go to all her neighbors and borrow from them. Now, this is interesting, because if this debt was a secret, it won’t be for long! But also, this request she will make of others will let them know something is going on. This miracle will not go unnoticed, and it will be obvious that it is the work of God, not of this woman or Elijah.

Elisha tells her to then go in to her house, take her sons with her in the house, and close the door. No one else is to be in the house with her as she does the next part. Then she is to start pouring oil from her jar into these borrowed vessels. Look at how specific he is. She is to pour until the vessel is full, then go to the next vessel, and to continue on in this way until all the vessels she has borrowed are full.

This woman and her sons obey. They borrow the vessels as instructed, then go in to their home, shut the door, and start pouring. The oil continued to flow until she ran out of vessels. The oil didn’t run out first; the borrowed vessels did.

Now, look at what she does next. She doesn’t assume she knows what to do with these jars now that she has them full of oil. She has completed the task given to her by the prophet Elisha, and so she goes to him for further instructions. She knows that these instructions have been from God; she knows the miracle of provision in this way is from God, but she does not automatically assume she knows what to do now. She seeks out Elisha for God’s will for the next step, too. She is demonstrating how she has humbled herself before Elisha and before God as she does this.

Elisha tells her to go sell the oil and pay her debts and he tells her there will be leftover money as well, and with that money, she can provide for herself and her sons. This, my friends, is extravagant grace. Not only was her debt cancelled, but there was an abundance left over to provide for her family. God didn’t just reset her balance to zero and let her figure it out from there; God erased her debt and filled her bank account again. That is the abundant grace that our Father shows.

One more time, too, we are seeing that Elisha is the successor of Elijah. Elisha is now associated with a miracle with oil and a widow, just as Elijah was associated with a miracle with oil and a widow. God is the one orchestrating all these events to demonstrate who is really in charge, and who actually does speak for Him.

I love this scene. I love the lavish grace that God pours out on this woman. It honestly reminds me of the grace that He has lavished on us. Think about it. If all that He had done were to forgive our sins? That would have been grace. Lavish, abundant grace. We all deserve wrath and hell for our sins; if all He had done were forgiven those sins, that would have been astounding. But He went further. He didn’t leave us with a “zero” balance and say “Okay, now, from here on out, you have to not sin anymore. I cleared your slate, but you have to keep your account in the black from now on, so be careful.” No, He knew we couldn’t even do that. Not only did He forgive our sins, imputing our sins to Christ’s account, but He then imputed to us Christ’s righteousness. He has put in our account the righteousness of His Son. Think about that! He paid the unpayable debt (unpayable by anyone but Him) and then lavished upon us a “full account” as He imputed His Son’s righteousness to us. He set us on our feet and sent us forth not on our own merit or strength (we still have none) but in His Son’s. Basically, He gave us the equivalent of a platinum credit card; no credit limit.

Our response to this lavish grace should never be one of extravagant sin. Just as we see that a credit card with no limit can easily be abused, if we do not actually understand the depth of the grace shown to us, it is easy for us to abuse the grace we have been given, acting as though we had an excuse to sin, since our account is in the black because we are covered with Christ’s righteousness. No. This is not the response of a sinner saved by grace. The response of a sinner saved by grace is to take that grace and steward it. To be thankful and grateful for it; to put it to good purpose. The life of a true believer will be one marked by a love for God, for His Word (not His word torn out of context and wrapped in an over the top emotionally driven “devotional”, but for the actual Word of God), and for His people. If you find that you can’t stand His people; that you have no desire for His Word aside from an “I should do that…” duty like attitude, and you have no love for Him in the forefront of your thoughts everyday? You need to consider whether you are really a believer or whether you are a false convert. Test yourself to see whether you are in the faith. Go through John 1 and see if there is evidence in your life that God is actually working in you…or is there evidence in your life that you are still part of the world.

This isn’t easy for us, friends. We will struggle with this. But the overall pattern of our lives should be one of longing for and delight in the things of God, as we acknowledge that we don’t deserve the grace we have been given…but we are so thankful to have it!!

I’m so thankful for my Savior. I’m so thankful that He didn’t stop at “debt paid” but went further and made me presentable to the Father. Without His blood covering me, I’m dressed in my best deeds…of filthy rags. That’s the best I can offer on my own. Praise be to God for His abundant provision of all that we need, from the grace to get through one more day on this depraved earth, to the lavish grace that atoned for the sins of all who call on Him.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Have a great day, folks!

Blessings-

Beth

Daily Dose of Truth May 12, 2016

Good morning! It’s Thursday and a lovely day is shaping up! We have a busy morning planned, and I am behind on a few things, so without any ado…today’s DDT:

2 Kings 2: 23-25

He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. 25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

 

This is such a weird scene, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve just seen Elijah go to heaven; we’ve seen Elisha able to walk across the Jordan on dry ground; we’ve seen the sons of the prophets insist that they need to go hunt for Elijah’s body; and we saw God use Elisha to decontaminate the water of Jericho. Now we see Elisha going up from Jericho to Bethel (remember, Bethel was an important city for the Israelites, going back further than the establishment of any type of kingship in Israel) and, on his way, this attack takes place.

Now, some things that we need to keep in perspective. It says in 2 Kings that “some small boys” but just a verse later we see that this wasn’t 5 or 6 boys…there were more than 42 of them. This wasn’t a small group of kids being kids; this was a mob. Also, “small boys” doesn’t give us a good clue on how old they are. We can assume they aren’t toddlers, but also they aren’t mentioned as adults. However, boys of ages 8,9,10,11 could easily be considered “small boys” and I want you to think about the 8,9,10,11 year olds you know. I currently have in my house an 8 and a 9 year old; if there were 42+ of them? They would be a serious threat if they wanted to be. Now, at this point, knowing that Bethel is where Jeroboam went to set up a pretend altar to insist that this was who the people should worship as their God, so this isn’t really a shock that there would be this mob of unruly, rebellious youths, mocking a prophet of the Most High God.

Their “taunt” of Elisha is interesting, too. They call him “baldhead”. Now, it is possible that Elisha was bald or perhaps some prophets shaved their heads. It is also possible, though, that  the youths were sarcastically comparing Elisha to Elijah who wore a “garment of hair”, and suggesting, basically, that Elisha is somehow “less” than Elijah because he doesn’t wear a garment of hair. Also, they keep saying “go up”, which, again, may be a taunt about Elijah. Elijah “went up” to heaven; these youths appear to be wishing that Elisha would die, just like Elijah.

What does Elisha do? Well, this will be a pattern we see in Elisha. We will see that Elisha is compassionate toward the repentant…and hard on the rebellious and stubbornly unrepentant. And this situation clearly demonstrates that. Elisha turns when he sees this mob (it really was a mob), and curses them in the name of the Lord. These boys are in open, unrepentant rebellion toward God’s prophet, and thus they are also rebelling against God. This was a big deal. We don’t know exactly what he said to curse them. Note, too, that “cursing” them is not the same as using profanity. Elisha isn’t spewing naughty words at these boys; he is pronouncing judgment on them.

And the judgment comes immediately. Two she bears come out of the woods at that moment and tore 42 of the boys. We don’t know how many total were there, but we see that 42 of them were mauled by these bears. Chances are very good they didn’t survive this.

This section shows us a couple of things. First of all, we get one more affirmation that Elisha is, indeed, the successor to Elijah. The power of God in Elisha is obvious and evident; you can’t hide from it. It’s right there. Elisha is, most definitely, a true prophet of the true God.

Secondly, it reminds us to take seriously the people and things of God. These boys were bent on destruction; they just didn’t think it would be their own. This is not the same as coming to a teacher or pastor and expressing concern over some aspect of their teaching or doctrine. In fact, we see, all over Scripture, that we are to do just that when what is being taught doesn’t line up with God’s word. (Be a noble Berean!) We need to understand that, when someone is really doing what God has purposed for them to do, and we try to destroy them and that effort? God takes that seriously. Very seriously.

In Revelation we see that the martyrs are crying out for God to avenge their deaths on those who martyred them, for His glory, that His name might be made great. They aren’t in it for their own sense of justice, but they hunger for God’s name to be honored as it should be. Ya know what we’re told? We’re told that God will tarry until the full number of martyrs has been martyred. (Revelation 6:10-11) Awesome, huh? God is waiting until more people are martyred. That sounds like fun, right? No? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. Still, that’s the reality. The reality is that there will continue to be martyrs for our God until the day that the last drop of martyred blood has been shed, and the final number of believers has been gathered in and then? Well, as my son said in church on Sunday (we’re going through Revelation 15 and 16 and we were reading about the 100 lb hail stones) “I don’t want to be under God’s wrath!! I want to be a Christian!” Amen, son. Amen.

Did you know that God knows all the slights and insults and scorn you have faced because of Him? He does. Did you know that He will repay those insults on those who have insulted you? He will. Bear in mind, though, that sometimes, that “repayment” may come through the repentance and faith of your attacker. Think about Saul/Paul and how broken he was as he realized who he had been persecuting. God may choose to bring salvation to many we don’t feel “deserve it”. Guess what? Neither do you. None of us deserve salvation; we all deserve hell. All of us. Yet God has demonstrated His own grace as He has rescued you; how dare we question who God can or cannot redeem!

As you go throughout your day today, thank God for His grace in saving you. Thank Him for His faithfulness to right all the wrongs one day.  And thank Him for His word, for reminders like these in 2 Kings, that show us that does care for His people. He may not always send she bears to deal with those who persecute you for His name’s sake, but know that it did not go unnoticed. And ask Him to help you to see where you may be suffering for self-righteousness instead of suffering for righteousness from Him.

Cling to Him, folks. This world grows darker by the day. God will not tarry forever, and we are being reminded of that as we watch the world fall gleefully into sin and depravity. Hold fast to Him.

Have a great day, folks!

Blessings-

Beth

 

 

 

Elisha goes on to Mt. Carmel and tehn Samaria

 

 

though the judgment may seem harsh, those roup likely posed a physical threa to Elisha

bears no longer live in his are BUT the type that DID live there could grow up to 7 feet and 500 lbs

Daily Dose of Truth May 11, 2016

Good morning and welcome to Wednesday! We’ve made it halfway through the week!Yesterday being library day, and today being “thunderstorms intermittent” day, I’m anticipating a nice, quiet day of reading. Aaaahhhh. Can I just say I love my sons? Well, I do. So there.

Anyway, onto today’s DDT:

2 Kings 2:15-22

5 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the Lord has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.” 17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him. 18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”

19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” 22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.

 

 

Now, if you remember yesterday, the sons of the prophets were sorta stalking Elijah and Elisha. They were hanging back respectfully, but they were still following, as they knew that Elijah was going to be taken off the earth that day. Now, as these same prophets of God see Elisha returning, they can also see that the same spirit that was upon Elijah rests on Elisha.

Again, remember that Elijah was likely the “head” of these groups of prophets all throughout the area. Now that Elisha is officially his successor, Elisha is the head of all these groups. So, these prophets come forward and show him honor as they bow before him, and then they ask a sorta peculiar question. They want to send some strong men to hunt for Elijah in case God has “caught him up” and “cast him upon some mountain or into some valley”. They want to bring his body back for burial.

Um, really? God didn’t “miss” or “drop” Elijah. They aren’t gonna find Elijah hanging out in a tree somewhere. Elisha knows this, too, and he says “no!” but these prophets keep hounding Elisha. Finally, Elisha feels ashamed, perhaps because he is beginning to doubt himself and wonders if Elijah might actually be hanging out in a tree and the thought didn’t cross his mind to check. It’s almost like he didn’t want Elijah to be found, ‘cuz he gets to take Elijah’s place, so finally, Elisha gives in and lets them go look for Elijah.

For three days they look and guess what? They don’t find Elijah. This was not a surprise. This was expected.

After this three day man hunt (for a man who was in heaven…sheesh) the men of  Jericho, which is the city where Elisha is at, come to him and ask him for their help. The water in the city is polluted and poisonous. Because of this, their crops aren’t growing and they are struggling to sustain themselves.

Now, here is an interesting bit. Jericho was an ideal location for settlement because of the permanent spring that watered the land around it. Yet, we know that Jericho was destroyed when God led Joshua and the Israelites through to the promised land. At that point, Joshua pronounced a curse upon any who would rebuilt Jericho. Now, the specific curse was this from Joshua 6:26 “Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
shall he set up its gates.””

Well, we saw that curse fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.” Now, the speculation is that Hiel’s sons were offered as a child sacrifice when Jericho was rebuilt; this was a practice that the Canaanites practiced to prevent evil from coming upon a building or a structure.

Anyway, the point of all that is, after the rebuilding of Jericho, we can see that they didn’t have smooth sailing. The very building of this city was founded in blood, and here we see that they are dealing with contamination in the water supply that makes Jericho’s location ideal in the first place.

Elisha has the people bring him a new bowl and put salt in it. The salt, by the way, is just salt. It’s not “magic salt”. It’s salt. Salt is a preservative and thus an apt symbol for how God is faithful to maintain His people. Then, with his bowl and salt, he goes to the spring of water and flings the salt in, while giving the people a message from God. God says that He has healed the water and from now on, the water will not be the cause of death or miscarriage. And guess what? The water was no longer contaminated and was safe to drink.

One more time, I just have to emphasize this: the salt was just salt. The salt didn’t do anything to the water. God healed the water. That’s what happened to the water; God miraculously decontaminated the water. Don’t go getting salt out of your cupboard and thinking you’re gonna clean up the Cedar River or anything; you have no power to do anything, and your salt is just salt. It was God who fixed the water. Period.

Thus inaugurates Elisha’s ministry as a prophet of God. God has parted water for Elisha and healed water for Jericho using Elisha as the messenger to do this. In all of this, it is God who gets the glory. I still chuckle at the prophets and their desire to hunt for Elijah’s body; they wanted to make sure and I understand that, but really? Their response casts a shadow of their own doubt on God’s power. God took Elijah up to heaven; Elijah’s body wasn’t left behind. That was an amazing sight for Elisha to witness and report, yet these prophets almost seem to want more proof that Elijah is truly gone. Perhaps that proof comes for them when Elisha is used by God to heal the water of Jericho; there have now been two water related miracles associated with Elisha, he has the cloak of Elijah (all that’s physically left of him) and is obviously Elijah’s successor.

It is interesting to see Elisha’s faith in God’s miracle be put to the test by these prophets. They pushed and pushed at him, implicitly questioning his authority in doing so,until even Elisha feels pressured into allowing them to go look for a body that he knows is not there.

Yet, through it all, the one constant is the same constant that is always there: God. Even as the prophets push Elisha in their doubt; even as Elisha allows their doubt to sway him, God was still faithful. God had already taken care of Elijah, and no amount of hunting would produce a body that God had already claimed. As the people of Jericho are dying because of their contaminated water, they come to Elisha, the prophet of the true God, for help. These people were, likely, Israelites. Jeroboam had built up his kingdom and had put a golden calf in Bethel as an idol for the people to worship when he did this. (He was trying to prevent any of his people from going back to Jerusalem in Judah to worship God.)  Hiel, the man who rebuilt Jericho, was from Bethel. This “new Jericho” was likely settled by Israelites. Thus, again, the one constant here is God. The people disobeyed and paid the curse put upon Jericho as they rebuilt it; but God is still faithful and still provides the cure His people need for their water. He even has Elisha use salt as the symbol of the healing on the water; salt which preserves and stays faithful to preserve…just as God does.

Guess what? He’s still the only constant we have today. The “view” has changed; we have the Messiah and we can look back through history to see His life, and we can look forward to the future to see His return. That doesn’t mean we will have smooth sailing in this life; look at Jericho. Many people died and many women lost babies before the water was decontaminated. Still, when we hold fast to the promises that we have been given to us, we know that we are holding on to the God who is faithful. And He is.

I gotta say, as I watch how quickly our world is decaying morally, I am so glad to know that I know Who is in charge of it all. It is a huge comfort to me, as I watch political games being played and terrorists run rampant, that none of what is happening is a surprise to God and that He promises that He will never leave me or forsake me. I am His eternally. Whatever happens to my body is really quite irrelevant. For if I am living as Paul said, where living is for Christ then dying? Dying just unites me with my Savior for eternity. That’s a promotion, not a demotion!!

So, as you watch the world embrace its sin, take heart. Be of good cheer. We know how this all ends. We know who wins. And, if we are His children? We know that He holds our salvation and He is keeping us to Him, forever. That should encourage you, today. Our God is faithful; the preserver; the one constant Whom we can cling to. That is a truth that we can rest our hope on.

Have a great day, folks!

Blessings-

Beth