Joash Repairs the Temple / Death of Elisha / Paul’s Trial before Festus: July 6th 2021

2 Kings 12:1-14:22

Joash was seven years old when he became king of Judah and he reigned for forty years. He was instructed by Jehoiada the priest and generally ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’ (2 Kings 12:2) – apart from not removing the high places (traditional sites of pagan worship).  

Joash told the priests to use all the money collected in the temple to repair the temple. The priests were slow to start repairs but quick to collect the money. After several years, Joash enquired why there had been no progress. This finally prompted the priests to employ the necessary craftsmen (2 Kings 12:11-12). The priests then acted with complete honesty with regards to handling the money for the repairs.

Joash paid Hazael, King of Aram, all the gold from the treasures of the temple and the royal palace to persuade him not to attack Jerusalem. Even when a king is working on a project for God, money is still required to both pay for it and protect its future. Eventually, Joash was assassinated by his officials.

Meanwhile, the evil king Jehoahaz ruled Israel. As God was angry at the nation for its idolatrous ways. He kept Israel under the oppressive power of successive Aramean kings.

Jehoahaz eventually asked for God’s help and God did respond due to the severe oppression of the Israelites by the Arameans. The Israelites were delivered from Aram and lived in their own homes. However, they continued with their idolatrous behaviour.

The army of Israel had been virtually wiped out by the Arameans leaving the country undefended. Jehoahaz was succeeded by his son Jehoash.

Jehoash carried on with evil behaviour in the tradition of Jeroboam. Jehoash went to visit Elisha, when the prophet was terminally ill. Elisha told the king to shoot an arrow from a bow through an East window, while he put his hands on the king’s hands. This arrow symbolised an upcoming victory over the Arameans (2 Kings 13:17).

Elisha then told the king to strike the ground with his other arrows (presumably also shooting them through the window). Joash rather half-heartedly just struck the ground three times. Elisha was angry at Joash’s lack of zeal and passion. Elisah explained that if the king had struck the ground five or six times his enemies, the Arameans, would have been completely destroyed. Now they would only be defeated three times. If we are offered a chance to receive a blessing or grab hold of a prophecy, we should do it with enthusiasm. We shouldn’t be lukewarm when it comes to the promises of God. We should keep vigorously striking the ground until God tells us to stop.

Elisha died and was buried. Later, when a dead man was thrown into Elisha’s tomb in an emergency, the dead man sprang back to life when his corpse touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21). This is why the Mother Church venerates relics. God still works miracles through the dead bodies, bones and possessions of the saints.     

Amaziah, the son of Joash, became king of Judah. He carried on in the positive footsteps of his father (2 Kings 14:3). He executed the assassins who had murdered his father but excused their sons. He defeated ten thousand Edomites but then arrogantly challenged Jehoash, king of Israel. The king of Israel warned him not to ask for trouble but Amaziah did not back down. His country, Judah, was subsequently routed by Israel. Israel broke down six hundred feet of the wall of Jerusalem and plundered the temple and the royal palace. This was a new low in the relationship between idol-worshipping Israel and the more righteous Judah.

Acts 25:1-22

After Paul was held in jail for two years, Governor Felix was succeeded by the splendidly named Porcius Festus.

Festus visited Jerusalem, where the chief priests and Jewish leaders had still not forgotten or forgiven Paul. They still wanted to kill him in an ambush and so asked Festus to have Paul transferred back to them.

Festus convened a court back in Caesarea. Paul appeared before the Jews. They still could not get any of their serious charges to stick because they could not be proved. Paul gave his defence and explained that he was innocent of all charges (Acts 25:8). If we are ever accused falsely by belligerent prosecutors we can remember Paul’s trials and know we are in good company.  

Festus asked Paul if he was prepared to go to Jerusalem. Festus cared more about appeasing the Jews than justice. Paul refused. No-one had the right to hand him over to the Jews as he had done nothing wrong. Paul appealed to Caesar and would now have to be sent on an all-expenses paid trip to Rome.  

King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice, visited Festus. Agrippa was fascinated to hear about Paul. He wanted to hear about the ‘dead man’ (Jesus) who Paul claimed was alive. Paul would once again deliver his testimony to influential people.

Psalm 81:1-7

God is our strength and we should sing his praise with enthusiastic joy. We shouldn’t mumble worship songs and hymns; we should sing them vigorously feeling proud to make loud music and strike our tambourines.

Jesus rescued us from slavery. He hears us when we cry out in distress. We will be tested to teach us endurance and character but he will always rescue us. He removes the heavy burdens from our shoulders and gives us rest. He invites us to share his light yoke with him as he walks gently in step with us every day of our lives. Jesus set free our hands so we could help him carry his righteous burden. This will be a joy because Jesus our saviour is humble, his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt.11:28-30).

Image: https://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/paul-festus-agrippa/

Jehu kills Joram and Ahaziah / Paul transferred to Caesarea: July 4th 2021

2 Kings 8:16-9:37

Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, became king of Judah. At the same time, Joram was king of Israel in the North. I fully approve of first names beginning with ‘J’, but this period can become a little confusing.

Judah had been doing relatively well in the eyes of the Lord while Jehoshaphat was king (1 Kings 22:43) but Jehoram walked in the way of the evil kings of Israel. He married a daughter of the notorious King Ahab and ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (2 Kings 8:18). However, God still did not destroy Judah in memory of King David and to preserve it for the birth of Jesus.

The regions of Edom and Libnah rebelled against Jehoram and set up their own kings. Jehoram failed to counteract these rebellions. His country became smaller and smaller.

Jehoram was succeeded by his son, Ahaziah, who teamed up with the king of Israel, Joram, to fight the Arameans, reigned over by Hazael, at Ramoth Gilead.

The prophet Elisha organised a coup. He instructed a fellow prophet to anoint Jehu as king over Israel and to then run away quickly. It was Jehu’s destiny to clean up Israel by destroying the house of Ahab and killing Jezebel. Jehu was a competent soldier even though he drove his chariot ‘like a madman’. He shot Joram, king of Israel, through the heart with an arrow and fatally wounded Ahaziah, king of Judah, in his chariot. Joram had repeatedly asked Jehu through messengers, if he had come in peace. There could be no peace until the idol-worship instigated by Ahab and Jezebel had been purged from the land (2 Kings 9:22).

Jehu then went to Jezreel to confront the queen of evil, Jezebel. She met an unfortunate end. She was thrown down from a window by her eunuchs, trampled by horses and eaten by dogs. It had been prophesied that she wouldn’t be buried (2 Kings 9:37).

Jehu had a dynamic, if somewhat brutal, start to his reign. Things looked more promising for Israel’s future if he managed to keep purging the evil from the country.

Acts 23:12-35

There was now a major conspiracy to kill Paul. More than forty Jews vowed not to eat or drink until they had ambushed and murdered him. Paul’s nephew informed both Paul and the Roman commander about this plot.

Paul appeared to have a lot of freedom in jail. He could receive visitors and call on the centurions to run errands for him. God was still protecting Paul. Prison was the safest place for him while his life was so threatened. Jesus wanted Paul to testify in Rome and was influencing people to safely transport him there.

The commander transferred Paul to Caesarea guarded by four hundred and seventy Roman soldiers. Paul was held in Herod’s palace by Governor Felix, until his accusers arrived.

Psalm 80:1-7

Jesus restored us in God’s eyes when he died on the cross (Ps.80:7).

He is our Good Shepherd, who leads us as his flock.

We were at war with God due to our sins and our future was death. Jesus made peace with God on our behalf, through the shedding of his perfect blood and opened the way to eternal life, where God’s face will shine upon us forever (Ps.80:3).

We were born again through the waters of our baptism to be adopted children of God.

Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.

Image: Rijksmuseum, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Siege of Samaria / Paul the Roman Citizen before the Sanhedrin: July 3rd 2021

2 Kings 6:24-8:15

The Arameans besieged Israel’s capital city, Samaria. There was a great famine because the siege was so long. People had to resort to eating each others babies and the king abdicated from his responsibility to help them in their need (2 Kings 6:27).

Even though the Israelite king, Joram, was wearing sackcloth under his robes, God was not responding. The king lost patience and decided to get revenge on God by executing his representative, Elisha. Elisha was remarkably calm about this and prophesied that by the next day, food prices would tumble. One of the king’s officers doubted his words and Elisha told him that he would see this happen but not eat any of the newly abundant food (2 Kings 7:2).

Four men with leprosy at the city gate had decided to go to the Aramean camp as it was their one chance of surviving the siege. They reached the camp to find the Aramean army had run away. God had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of a great army advancing on them (2 Kings 7:6). The men with leprosy ate and drank in the abandoned army tents and hid treasure. Eventually, they decided they should report back to the city that the siege had been lifted. They were compelled to announce the good news to rescue others (2 Kings 7:9). The king was wary that this was a trap but after he had sent chariots to confirm the Arameans had fled, the people ran out of the city and plundered the Aramean camp.

Before I was born again, I was similar to a leper hanging around the city gates. I was unclean and disfigured by a life-destroying condition, habitual sin.  I knew I was a different ‘species’ to secular, worldly people but I still hung around their gates. Like the lepers, I realised this halfway house would only result in death and so I took the plunge and turned my back on the secular world. I ventured out to find out more about Jesus. When I did, I found abundant treasure and food for my soul as my demons fled at the sound of God’s word. I took God’s word, I consumed it and saved some for hard times. After a while, I realised I could not keep the good news about salvation to myself and started to testify; it was my duty to save others. Some people chose to accept life and eat the bread of eternal life, others were suspicious and thought it may be a trap. Jesus offers abundant life for all that run towards him.    

Food prices tumbled as Elisha had predicted. The officer who had doubted Elisha’s prophecy was killed in the stampede as people rushed out of the city to get food.

If we hear prophetic words, we should rejoice and have faith that they will come to pass. God does not like disbelief.

Elisha had warned the lady, whose son he had brought back to life, to leave Israel for seven years to avoid the famine. She had gone to live with the Philistines. On her return she went to beg the king for her property just at the exact moment that Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was telling the king about how her son had been brought back to life. The king decreed that all her possessions and the income from her land for the last seven years should be given to her. The benefits from her faith in God and hospitality towards Elisha kept materializing.

Elisha went to Damascus while the king of Aram was ill. The king, Ben-Hadad, asked Hazael to take a gift to Elisha and ask the prophet if he would recover. Elisha predicted that he would recover but also die, which isn’t the best prognosis. Elisha could see the wickedness in Hazael and started to weep (2 Kings 8:11-12).

Elisha predicted that Hazael would do terrible harm to the Israelites when he became king. When Hazael returned to the king he told him that he would recover. The king of Aram must have been very relieved to have heard this prophesy from a world-class prophet. Unfortunately, the next day Hazael murdered the king and succeeded him. One wonders how much ambition Hazael had in the back of his mind before Elisha told him he would be king. Did the prophesy initiate or just speed up his wicked crime? Prophets don’t seem to have much of a filter. They just pronounce the Word of God as directed even if it might give bad people confidence to carry out their evil crimes. However, God must have wanted Hazael to succeed Ben-Hadad at this moment in history. God will manipulate evil people in order to achieve his good purposes in the end (‘the Lord determines our steps’ (Prov.16:9).

Acts 22:22-23:11

Paul, under arrest, was going to be flogged and questioned by the Roman soldiers to find out why the Jerusalem riot had occurred. However, Paul was from Tarsus and a Roman citizen. He asked whether it was legal for a Roman citizen to be flogged without a trial (Acts 22:25). This alarmed the commander of the Roman soldiers who should not have put Paul in chains. He released him the next day but had him stand in front of the Sanhedrin.

Paul told them that he had fulfilled his duty to God in all good conscience. The Chief Priest ordered that he should be punched in the mouth for this statement. Appearing before this group of priests could be a brutal affair.

Paul tactically started an argument between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Paul was a Pharisee and he, like the others, acknowledged the resurrection of the dead, angels and spirits. Paul was on trial because of his hope in the resurrection of Jesus. The Sadducees had a different theology and there was a great uproar between the different factions. The Roman commander had to rescue Paul from the mob and bring him to the barracks.

Jesus stood near to Paul the following night and encouraged him. Paul would now be called to testify about Jesus in Rome, the centre of the Roman empire (Acts 23:11). Saint Paul is a model for us as regards confidently testifying about Jesus no matter how testing the circumstances.

Proverbs 16:8-17

God does not like injustice. If we work in business, we should put righteousness above dishonest profit.

A wise leader takes pleasure in hearing the truth, even if it is a rebuke. Do not work for a company where only ‘yes people’ rise to the top and honesty is punished. We should avoid evil as we travel on our career highway.

An angry manager in a company can destroy people’s careers and their lives. A wise person will appease them, so their face brightens and they gain their favour.

We might imagine we will work at the same company until we retire only to find ourselves suddenly made redundant or sacked. However, God always has the best intentions for our lives (Romans 12:2). Our mediocre personal plans might not match God’s desires for our life and so he takes charge to map out our steps (Prov.16:9).

Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Miracles of Elisha / Paul is arrested in Jerusalem: July 2nd 2021

Elisha came to the rescue of the company of prophets who had made a revolting and toxic stew out of gourds from a wild vine (2 Kings 4:40). Elisha stirred some flour into the pot, making the stew harmless. Jesus promised his disciples that they would be able to eat poison and it would not hurt them (Mark 16:18). Jesus can counteract anything toxic we encounter. In the garden of Eden, vines would not produce toxic gourds – everything would have been pleasing to the eye and good to eat. The toxic vegetables are symbolic of the selfishness of warped creation where everything tries to protect itself even if that means poisoning others. God counteract the poison in the stew through the addition of bread flour. Jesus is the bread of life, who counteracts evil in the world today.

A man came with twenty loaves of barley bread and Elisha commanded it be given to a hundred men. The Lord had said: ‘They will eat and have some left over’ (2 Kings 4:43). This prefigured the feeding miracles of Jesus when baskets were filled with leftovers after food was miraculously multiplied to feed thousands. 

A young Israelite girl had been taken to Aram as a slave. She served the wife of the commander of the army, Naaman. He was a valiant soldier and highly regarded but he had leprosy. The young slave girl was adamant that if he went to see the prophet Elisha, in Samaria, he would be healed. Naaman actually listened and asked permission from the king to go. Naaman, the commander of a fearsome army, had humbled himself to obey the advice of a young girl.

Elisha was confident that God would heal Naaman – despite the king of Israel’s despair that the request to heal Naaman was a plot to start a war. Elisha instructed Naaman to wash seven times in the River Jordan. Out of pride, Naaman refused to do this simple task until he was persuaded by his servants to give it a go. He had to overcome his pride to be healed. Elisha refused to take payment as should all Christians. We have received freely and so we must give freely. Naaman took earth back with him as a souvenir, presumably so that he could pray to God kneeling on the soil of Israel (2 Kings 5:17).

Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was consumed by greed and secretly ran after Naaman to get something from him. He lied that he had been sent by Elisha and that he was collecting money and clothing for prophets. Naaman gave him clothes and silver. Gehazi then lied to Elisha by saying that he hadn’t gone anywhere. However, you can’t hide things from a prophet. Elisha’ spirit had travelled with him. Some famous saints have demonstrated the supernatural gift of ‘bilocation’ (being able to be present in more than one place at the same time), most famously Padre Pio. ‘As to how Padre Pio with God’s help accomplished such feats, the closest he ever came to an explanation of bilocation was to say that it occurred “by an extension of his personality”’ https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/padre-pios-bilocation-and-the-odor-of-sanctity-13853  

Elisha sacked Gehazi and cursed him with leprosy.     

One of the prophets accidently dropped an iron axe-head into the River Jordan. This would have caused embarrassment and expense as it was on loan. Elisha cut a stick and threw it where the axe head had sunk and the iron floated to the surface.

The Arameans were at war with Israel. Elisha supernaturally overheard the plans that the king of Aram spoke in his bedroom and so the king of Israel was always able to avoid the enemy soldiers. The Arameans went to capture Elisha, who was in the city of Dothan. The Aramean army surrounded the city. Elisha was not perturbed. He knew that God’s army was camped around him. He prayed that one of his servants should be allowed to see the supernatural horses and chariots of fire around Elisha (2 Kings 6:17). God listened to Elisha’s prayers and struck the enemy with blindness. Elisha led the blind enemy soldiers into the city of Samaria, where he prayed for them to regain their site. He advised the king of Israel to be kind to their enemies as Jesus would later command (Matt.5:44). They gave them a great feast and sent them away. The Arameans stopped raiding Israel in return.

Acts 21:27-22:21

The whole of Jerusalem went into uproar as Jews from Asia tried to kill Paul. They accused him of teaching people everywhere against their people, the law and the temple and were under the mistaken impression that he had taken Greeks into the temple (Acts 21:28).

Roman soldiers saved Paul by arresting him. He had to be carried into the barracks to keep him away from the violence of the mob.

Paul asked permission to address the crowd from the steps of the barracks. The crowd became very quiet when he addressed them in Aramaic. Paul informed them that he was also a Jew, thoroughly trained in the law by Gamaliel. He told them about how he used to persecute Christians until his conversion on the road to Damascus. He was to be a witness of what he had seen and heard. He had been baptised to wash his sins away before being sent to the Gentiles. The Lord himself had said that those in Jerusalem would not accept his testimony.  

What was we waiting for? Let us move on to people who will accept our testimony.

Psalm 79:1-13

Christians are often the object of scorn and derision. People who rage against sexual scandals by church ministers have fallen into the most basic trap of the devil. All professionals have fallen colleagues. Doctors, nurses and teachers have all done terrible crimes against the people entrusted to them but unbelievers do not shun these professions. They know that most of them are trustworthy.

However, the unfaithful will seize on the sins of church ministers. They use them to confirm their prejudices, which blind them to starting on the road to salvation.

We know that God is great and will praise him for ever. The Holy Spirit will sanctify us if we hand ourselves over to him. God will pour his wrath on those who fail to acknowledge him and refuse to call on his name.

He longs for us to repent so that his mercy can rush to meet us.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/8527011991

Elisha’s miracles: The Widow’s oil and Boy Back to Life / Paul Arrives in Jerusalem: July 1st 2021

2 Kings 3:1-4:37

Joram, son of Ahab, became king of Israel. He wasn’t as bad as his notorious mother and father but still ‘did evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (2 Kings 3:2). He got rid of his father’s sacred stone. The Israelites continued to worship other idols in the tradition of Jeroboam.

Mesha, the king of Moab, rebelled against having to send a massive tribute of lambs and wool to Israel. Joram allied with King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and the king of Edom to fight against the Moabites. They unwisely marched their troops through the Desert of Edom and ran out of water after seven days. Elisha the prophet was with them. He would not have ignored the king of Israel, but, out of respect for Jehoshaphat, he told them to bring him a harpist. While the harpist played, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha who prophesied that they should make ditches in the valley. Then, these ditches would be miraculously filled with water; Moab would be handed to them and they would ruin the country (2 Kings 3:19). It seems unusual that Elisha first asked for a harpist. However, David used to play the harp to drive away an evil spirit from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:23). Perhaps Elisha needed to drive away negative influences, as he was in the presence of the evil king of Israel, before God would speak to him.

The next morning, the ditches were miraculously filled with water (flowing from the direction of Edom). The sun shining on the water making it look like blood which encouraged the Moabites to attack, thinking the forces allied against them had attacked each other. The king of Moab, after the battle had gone against him, sacrificed his firstborn son on the city wall. The Israelites went back home after they had invaded the land, slaughtered the Moabites, destroyed the towns and ruined the fields.

God carried out a multiplication miracle through Elijah that allowed a widow to keep her sons with her. The widow only had a little oil in her house. She was instructed to ask her neighbours for empty jars. She was to take the jars into her house and shut the door behind her and her sons. She then poured the oil into the extra jars until they were all full at which time the oil stopped flowing. She was able to sell some oil to pay her debts and live off the rest of it. I like to think this miraculously produced oil would be the finest that people had ever tasted – like the magnificent wine that Jesus produced at Cana.

This type of multiplication miracle still happens today. Many have prayed successfully that a dish of prepared food will stretch to feed a host of unexpected guests. My pastor recalls when she was a missionary in Africa and had to keep her bread flour in tins – for fear of the weevils. When she came to make bread one day, all the tins were empty. There would be nothing for lunch. After praying, she checked a tin that she had already looked in earlier to find that it was miraculously full. God provides to those with faith.

A well-to-do woman often gave Elisha a meal whenever he passed and ended up making him a small guest room too. Elisha wanted to do something to repay her kindness. God loves the hospitable. Elisha prophesied that she would have a son in a year. She was childless and her husband was old. Her son was born as predicted but unfortunately died suddenly after he had grown into a boy. The woman rode off on a donkey looking for Elisha as she knew God would listen to him. She wouldn’t tell Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, what was wrong. She took hold of Elisha’s feet. She reminded him that she shouldn’t have been misled about having a son if he was going to die.

Gehazi ran on ahead of Elisha to lay Elisha’s staff on the boy’s face but there was no response. It took Elisha to pray to the Lord and to lie on the woman’s son twice in order for the Lord to bring him back to life. It is effective to remind God of his promises when we pray.

Acts 21:1-26

Disciples repeatedly warned Paul (through the Spirit) not to go to Jerusalem. However, he was not to be dissuaded. Paul was happy to be made captive and even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 21:13).

Paul was able to travel with little expense as the disciples were so hospitable wherever he went, letting him stay in their homes.

Paul was received warmly in Jerusalem. He reported to the church elders how the Gentiles had responded to his ministry. The elders had a plan to placate thousands of Jewish converts to Christianity who had become convinced that Paul was leading Jews away from the Jewish law. They asked Paul to join four men in their purification rites after the completion of a vow to demonstrate that he still had respect for Jewish customs and lived according to the law. Paul dutifully joined in and went to the temple to give the customary notice. Paul was prepared to comply with any reasonable regulations if it meant he could continue his ministry.

Psalm 78:56-72

God brought David from the actual sheep pens to be the shepherd of his people (Psalm 78:70-71).

David was a man after God’s own heart and shepherded his people with skill and integrity (Ps.78:72).

The kings after David did not have his integrity. They rebelled and were disloyal and faithless. The whole country lost its integrity as God divided Israel from Judah.   

We should pray to God not only for wisdom but also for integrity – to be honest and have strong moral principles.

Jesus demonstrated integrity in everything he did (Mark 12:14). We can learn his ways by studying his word and living out his principles in our daily lives.

Image: Circle of Jan Pynas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah is Taken up to Heaven / Youths mauled by Bears / Paul Resurrects Eutychus: June 30th 2021

2 Kings 1:1-2:25

The evil king Ahaziah, of Israel, had suffered a nasty fall and sent messengers to ask a Canaanite deity if he would recover. Even when he was mortally injured, the king refused to turn to the Lord.

The angel of the Lord told Elijah to meet the messengers and prophesy to them that the king would die (2 Kings 1:4). They carried this message to the ailing king who recognised their description of Elijah.

The king had to send three squads of soldiers one after the other to fetch Elijah because fire from heaven consumed the first two squads. When the third squad arrived, its captain begged for his life and the life of his men. An angel told Elijah to go with the soldiers (2 Kings 1:15).

Elijah told Ahaziah his prophecy in person and the king died. He was succeeded by Joram. Ahaziah had no sons to succeed him.

Elisha and the companies of prophets at both Bethel and Jericho all knew that Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven. Elisha refused to leave Elijah’s side and went with him everywhere. Elijah divided the water of the River Jordan by striking it with his rolled-up cloak. The two prophets crossed over on dry ground. Elisha asked to inherit a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9-12).

Suddenly, Elijah and Elisha were separated by a chariot of fire and horses of fire. Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah’s cloak had fallen to the floor. Elisha picked this up and found that when he struck the River Jordan with it, the river parted as it had done for Elijah. Elisha had been called by Elijah throwing his prophet’s cloak over him (1 Kings 19:19) and now he had inherited this relic through which God was still working. He ‘took up the mantle’ and became an active miracle-working prophet.

The sign of the Jordan dividing demonstrated to the company of prophets that the spirit of Elijah was now resting on his protégé. The company of prophets asked Elisha if they could send a search party of fifty men looking for Elijah. However, Elisha knew that he would not be found on the earth.

God healed the water of the town permanently by Elisha throwing salt into the spring (2 Kings 2:21). As Elisha walked up to Bethel, a gang of youths jeered him for being bald. Elisha called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord and they were mauled by two bears. This wasn’t the New Testament behaviour that we are expected to show, but by disrespecting God’s new prophet, these youths were also insulting God. God also has a thing about hair with Samson’s strength being linked to hair, people taking on Nazirite vows and letting their hair grow in dedication to God and God counting all the hairs of our head. The youths came from Bethel, which was a centre for idolatrous worship. This was the first clash between the new servant of God and the servants of Satan. Elisha was replicating the works of Joshua by crossing the Jordan on dry land. God had sent hornets after idol worshippers in Joshua’s day. Now he used bears.

Elisha would prove himself to be a great prophet. He had asked Elijah if he could inherit a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9), symbolically becoming his first-born spiritual son, and Elisha would go on to do twice the number of documented miracles.

Acts 20:1-38

Luke wrote down in detail where Paul had travelled. Paul was flexible with his travel arrangements, deciding to travel back through Macedonia when he heard there was a plot against him.

Paul had boundless energy for preaching the gospel and encouraging people. One night, he preached until midnight. A young man, Eutychus, fell asleep as Paul talked and fell to the ground through a third-floor window. He was dead. Paul interrupted his preaching to throw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. He declared that Eutychus was alive (Acts 20:11) with the same confidence that Jesus had when he raised the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:52). The people took the recovered Eutychus home and were greatly comforted. I feel that I was dead to the Gospel for many years having first fallen asleep while people were trying to preach it to me. If we remain asleep all our lives to the gospel, we will slip into spiritual death. However, Jesus is always willing to throw himself on us, wrap his arms around us and declare us to be alive when we believe in him.

Paul had faithfully preached that everyone must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Jesus (Acts 20:21). The Spirit compelled him to travel and warned him that prison and hardships were awaiting him. However, Paul didn’t care about his own comfort, he wanted to complete the task that Jesus had given him – testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).

Paul instructed the elders to be shepherds over the church of God and to watch over their flock. Jesus has bought the church with his own blood. Paul predicted that some Christians would distort the truth to draw disciples after them (Acts 20:30).

Paul had supplied his own needs, the needs of his companions and helped the weak by working hard as a tentmaker while he preached. He had not coveted other people’s belongings. He modelled his generosity on that of Jesus who also had a trade as a carpenter to earn his own resources (Acts 20:35).

The Ephesian elders wept as they embraced Paul and said goodbye to him. Paul had prophesied that they would never see him again. It is heart wrenching when Christian brothers and sisters leave a Spirit-filled church. I only began to feel this fully when I started to attend a Pentecostal church where it is so easy for brothers and sisters in Christ to become friends for life.

Psalm 78:40-55

The Israelites rebelled against God repeatedly in the desert despite the ten plagues he had inflicted on the Egyptians (Ps.78:40). He safely led them like a shepherd.

He drove out nations before them and settled them in the Holy Land as their inheritance.

As we are adopted children of God by our belief in Jesus and our baptism, God can perform these same types of miracles for us.

We all deserved God’s wrath, indignation and hostility because of our constant rebellions until Jesus made us at peace with our Father through his death on the cross.

Image: Giuseppe Angeli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah on Mount Carmel / The Call of Elisha / Paul in Corinth: June 27th 2021

1 Kings 18:16-19:21

Odadiah trusted that Elijah would not run away and informed evil king Ahab that Elijah wished to see him. Ahab greeted the long-lost prophet with an insult (1 Kings 18:17).

Elijah denied being a troublemaker. It was Ahab and his father’s family who had abandoned the Lord’s commands and followed Canaanite fertility gods. Elijah demanded that the prophets of these ‘gods’ should be assembled and brought to him along with the people from all over Israel. There was going to be an epic showdown.

Elijah challenged the assembly of Israel. If the Lord is God, as he had proved time and time again rescuing the Israelites, then they should follow him. If Baal, the Canaanite deity, proved himself to be God then they should follow him. They should stop wavering (1 Kings 18:21). But the people said nothing. We can set this challenge to thousands of people today. They waver about following God and doubt his actual existence, choosing to worship themselves and created items instead. God doesn’t like lukewarm waverers. He wants fully committed believers with faith.

Ahab assembled the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah took charge of the proceedings. He asked for two bulls. The prophets of Baal could choose one, cut it into pieces and put it on wood but not set fire to it. Elijah would do the same. The prophets would call on the name of Baal. Elijah would call on the name of the Lord and they would see who answered by fire.

The Baal prophets went first, they prepared the bull and shouted for Baal from morning until noon, dancing around the altar. Elijah started to taunt them (1 Kings 18:27). The prophets slashed themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed. Blood is the universal currency in the spiritual realm. Demonic entities want payment in blood. We were saved by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. There was no response to their frantic prophesying or their bloodletting.

It was now Elijah’s turn. He told the Israelites to ‘Come here to me’ (1 Kings 18:30). He repaired a ruined altar of the Lord using 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel. He dug a trench around it. He arranged the firewood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he told the Israelites to pour water all over the sacrifice, the wood and completely fill the trench. It would have been far too easy for God to set fire to dry wood. God loves a challenge. He wanted to prove that no natural force could have achieved the same victory; just as God had whittled Gideon’s fighting men down to a fraction of their strength before winning an impossible battle (Judges 7:8).

Elijah prayed to God to demonstrate that he was God over Israel and that Elijah was his prophet. Fire came down from heaven and not only burned up the sacrifice and the wood, but it also consumed the stones, the soil and licked up all the water in the trench (1 Kings 18:38). This was not just a stray spark. This was fire of the Lord. The people fell prostate and turned to God (1 Kings 18:39). Elijah then had the prophets of Baal seized and slaughtered.

Elijah told King Ahab to leave the mountain as heavy rain was approaching (after the three-year drought). Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel but didn’t look out for clouds himself. He asked his servant to do this seven times. Meanwhile, Elijah had bent down with his face between his knees. The seventh time that Elijah’s servant looked, a small cloud had appeared. This heralded heavy rain.

Elijah, with the power of the Lord upon him, was able to run faster than Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel. Our Pastor tells a story of a missionary in Africa who had to stay up all night because the local witch doctor had said he would come to kidnap the missionary’s son to kill him and eat him. In the middle of the night, the witch doctor passed through the locked front door – using his occult power – to find the missionary waiting for him. The witch doctor ran off at high speed, bounding across fields with giant strides due to demonic assistance. The missionary, to his great surprise, was able to keep close behind him throughout a high-speed chase until he had chased the witch doctor far away. The next morning, the witch doctor knocked on the missionary’s door, apologised and handed over his books of spells. He now knew that the Lord is the true God because when the missionary pursued him, he had felt fire coming from the missionary burning his back. The Holy Spirit can allow his servants to move extremely fast when He wants us to.

Elijah ran away from Ahab’s terrifyingly evil wife, Jezebel, and ended up in the desert. Even after his great triumph at Carmel, he was depressed and despondent (1 Kings 19:4). God send an angel to feed him until he had the strength to travel for forty days and nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

God asked Elijah what he was doing in a cave on the mountain. God told him to stand out on the mountain as he passed by. There was a great wind, then an earthquake, then a fire until finally God showed up as a gentle whisper. God told Elijah who to anoint (1 Kings 19:15-16) and reassured Elijah that he was not by himself. God had kept seven thousand faithful people in Israel (1 Kings 19:18).

Elijah went and found his successor, Elisha. Elijah claimed Elisha for the Lord by throwing his cloak over him. This did not put Elisha off, who slaughtered his oxen and cooked them on his ploughing equipment. This signified that Elisha was fully committing himself to his new life as a prophet.

Acts 17:22-18:8

Paul stood up the aristocratic council of Athens, the Areopagus, and skilfully told them that they were already worshipping God as they had an altar inscribed: ‘To an unknown God’. Paul was there to tell them all about him.  

God, who made everything, does not live in temples. He does not need us to serve him, because everything belongs to him already. From one man, Adam, he made every nation of man. God made us so that we ‘would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us’ (Acts 17:27). We are his offspring, ‘for in him we live and move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).

As we are God’s offspring, God must be a living being like us and not an image made of gold, silver or stone crafted by man. Paul said that God would not overlook the ignorance of worshipping idols any longer and commanded everyone to repent. God has set a day for us all to be judged by the man he has appointed and raised from the dead. Paul converted a few members of the council with his speech but some sneered at the concept of the resurrection of the dead.

Paul went to live with fellow tent-makers Aquila and Priscilla. They were Jews who had been expelled from Rome, along with all the others, by the emperor Claudius. Paul was joined by Silas and Timothy and devoted himself to preaching. When the Jews opposed him, Paul shook out his clothes in protest and turned to the Gentiles with a clear conscience (Acts 18:6). We have to move on to more fertile ground if people refuse to be saved. However, Paul had made some noteworthy converts including Crispus, the synagogue ruler and his entire family.

Psalm 78:17-31

God fed the Israelites in the desert with ‘the bread of angels’ despite their constant disobedience and disrespect. Jesus gives us the bread of life when we believe in him and ask him to come into our lives as our personal Saviour.

The Israelites were given water to drink in the desert, gushing from a rock. When we ask the Holy Spirit to enkindle his fire within us, we will have streams of living water flowing from us bringing refreshment and healing to those in their own personal wildernesses.

We can be thankful that God our Father gracefully fed and prospered us when we sinned and rebelled long before coming to Christ due to his love for us.

He gives us more than enough and we should never doubt his providence or wilfully put him to the test. I will always trust in him and his deliverance.

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