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.

Image: Gmihail at Serbian Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 RS https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/rs/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah fed by Ravens / Paul travels to Athens: 26th June 2021

1 Kings 16:8-18:15

Today, we are back to a list of the successive kings of the Northern area of the Holy Land (Israel) as opposed to the kings in the South (Judah).

The son of Baasha, Ela, only reigned for two years before he was assassinated by Zimri, one of his officials, whilst he was getting drunk. Zimri killed off all Baasha’s family, in accordance with the prophecy of Jehu, as soon as he was seated on the throne.

Zimri only reigned for seven days in Tirzah. The Israelites rebelled against him, having heard about how he plotted against Ela and they proclaimed the commander of the army, Omri, king instead. The army laid siege to the palace and Zimri set the palace on fire around him.

Omni fought off a rival to the throne and then reigned for twelve years. ‘He sinned more than all those before him’ (1 Kings 16:25). His son, Ahab, succeeded him and was even more wicked. It was trivial for him to commit all the sins of his ancestor Jeroboam and he also married the evil Jezebel, daughter of the king of the Sidonians. He set up an altar and pole to worship the Canaanite fertility deities who had always been a trap for the Israelites ever since the Moabite women had first seduced them (Num.25:1-3). Ahab infuriated God more than any of the previous kings of Israel (1 Kings 16:33). It was time for someone to stand up against his abominable practices.

Jericho was rebuilt during the reign of Ahab by Hiel of Bethel. Both his first born and his youngest son died in the process in accordance with the curse imposed by Joshua 6:26. This demonstrates the wickedness of the time; people were prepared to go against ancient laws to rebuild cursed cities for political / commercial / reasons of pride despite it costing them their own children. Child sacrifice would also have been routinely practiced under the rule of the wicked Ahab and Jezebel.

Elijah the prophet stood up to Ahab. He said there would be no dew or rain for the next few years until he commanded it (1 Kings 17:1).  God told Elijah to flee and hide in a ravine. He was to drink from a brook and ravens had been ordered to feed him (doesn’t seem very hygienic). Ravens have a history of performing God’s work for him and must not be eaten (Lev.11:15 and Deut.14:14. Noah sent a raven out from the ark looking for dry land (Gen.8:6-7). I carry a blessed St. Benedict medal with me. This medal is often carried by exorcists. Picking it up in the morning and putting it in a pocket, calls down the protection of God through the intercession of Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe. On the front of the medal, are depicted some of the notable events of Saint Benedict’s life. Jealous monks tried to poison him several times but he was always protected supernaturally. Once, his goblet of wine was poisoned but it shattered when he made the sign of the cross over it. When his bread was poisoned, a raven flew down and snatched it away. It’s common to lose food to birds where I live. Voracious gulls are all too keen to snatch chips and sandwiches. Ravens seem to keep an eye on major saints, even after death. I went to visit the grave of Saint Patrick in Northern Ireland and a raven kept a very close eye on me from the top of the church tower. I feel he was checking me out, to ensure I was showing an appropriate level of respect for this great saint.

As there was no rain, the brook that Elijah was drinking from eventually dried up. God told Elijah to go to Zarephath because he had commanded a widow there to feed him. Elijah came to the town gate, saw a widow gathering sticks and correctly assumed that this was the one. Following God is not complicated. The poor widow and her son were starving and only had a tiny bit of flour and oil left. She and her son were planning to eat it before dying. Elijah told her not to be afraid. He proclaimed that by God’s power, if she had sufficient faith to make bread for Elijah first, then her jar of flour and her jug of oil would not run dry until God gave rain. This miraculously happened (1 Kings 17:15-16). They didn’t have excessive amounts of flour and oil to give away, they just miraculously received their needs each day because of their combined faith. God kept them alive and dependent on His daily providence, just as the Israelites had relied on His daily supply of manna in the desert.

Some time later the widow’s son died. Maybe it was all that gluten! Elijah prayed and stretched himself out on the boy three times. God heard Elijah’s cry and brought the boy back to life. This miracle again confirmed that Elijah represented God (1 Kings 17:24).

After three years of total drought, God told Elijah to go back to King Ahab. Ahab’s wife Jezebel was conducting a genocidal campaign against the Lord’s prophets but a righteous man called Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace, had hidden a hundred prophets in two caves and was feeding them. Obadiah met Elijah and recognised him. Ahab had been searching everywhere for Elijah for three years and now he was walking into the lion’s den facing almost certain execution. Obadiah did not want to go and announce Elijah’s appearance to Ahab, because, if Elijah made a run for it, Ahad would surely kill Obadiah out of disappointment. Elijah reassured Obadiah that he would not run away. (1 Kings 18:15). This passage shows that even in the middle of great evil, there are still some good people performing righteous acts. Obadiah had hidden the prophets, despite the personal risk to himself, just as brave people hid Jews during the Second World War. There is always a holy remnant left in the most evil of societies.

Acts 17:1-21

Paul had now travelled to Thessalonica. He went to the Jewish synagogue on three Sabbath days to prove, from the scriptures, that Jesus had to suffer and rise from the dead. Some of the Jews were persuaded in addition to a ‘large number’ of God-fearing Greeks‘ (Acts 17:4). It appeared easier to convert open-minded Gentiles than the Jews, who were more brainwashed in religious tradition. The remaining Jews were jealous. They formed a mob and started rioting.

Paul and Barnabas were sent to Berea by the other believers, for their own protection. The noble Bereans received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures to confirm Paul’s word (Acts 17:11). Unfortunately, the hostile Jews from Thessalonica went after them and Paul was then brought to Athens, where he had to wait for Silas and Timothy.

Of course, Paul could not be idle and so he reasoned in the synagogue and the marketplace about Jesus, having been greatly stressed by the city being full of idols. The Athenians were interested in philosophy and new ideas and brought Paul to a meeting of the aristocratic ruling council, the Areopagus, to find out more. This was a golden opportunity for Paul to spread the gospel to the most influential people in Athens. Tomorrow, we will reflect on the magnificent speech that he delivered to them.

Psalm 78:9-16

We should never forget the miracles and wonders that God performed to lead his people out of Egypt. That is why a reading is read out from Exodus at the Easter Vigil (Exodus 15:1-18).

God performed an even greater wonder to rescue us from our death sentence. Jesus is the new and infinitely greater Moses. He is our Good Shepherd, our precious Saviour.  

The Jews were saved by the blood of the Passover lamb and went through water to be saved from death. We are made anointed children of God by going through the waters of baptism.

We have been saved by the precious blood of God’s only son. We have been redeemed and given the priceless gift of eternal life. We have been given the Holy Spirit by baptism, who will lead and guide us with his fire twenty-four hours a day (Ps.78:14). Our hard hearts will be split open, so that abundant streams of living water and loving power can flow from them (Ps.78:15).  

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/32495192@N07/10807624504

Solomon Dedicates the Temple / Paul Heals a Man Crippled from Birth: June 21st 2021

1 Kings 8:22-9:9

Solomon stood before the altar of the new temple, in front of the whole assembly of Israel and prayed.

There is no God like ours. He keeps a covenant of love ‘with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way’ (1 Kings 8:23).

Solomon prayed for his descendants that they would continue on the throne if they would faithfully walk before God as King David had done.  

Solomon asked: ‘But will God really dwell on earth?’ (1 Kings 8:27). Jesus came to dwell among us after his incarnation. God came to earth to serve and to save us. The temple would meanwhile serve as a place where God would ‘hear the prayer that your servant prays towards this place (1 Kings 8:29). Solomon prayed for God to both hear and forgive.

Solomon asked God to dispense justice, forgive the sin of Israel, teach them the right way to live and send rain on the land.

Solomon also asked God to hear the prayers of foreigners (Gentiles) so that ‘all the peoples of the earth may know your (God’s) name and fear you’ (1 Kings 8:43). He prophesied that because of Israel’s sins, ‘for there is no-one who does not sin’ (1 Kings 8:46), the Israelites would be defeated and exiled. Solomon prayed that in the future, the exiled Jews would be heard and forgiven when they turned back to God with their heart and soul in the land of their enemies.

God had singled out Israel from all the peoples of the world to be His inheritance. Solomon prayed that God’s eyes would also be open to the Israelites when they were in distress and that He would listen when they cried out to Him.

Solomon then blessed the whole assembly of Israel reminding them that not one word of God’s promises had failed. He prayed that God would never leave or forsake them and that He would help by turning their hearts towards him in order to keep his commands, decrees and regulations (1 Kings 8:57-58). Solomon told the Israelites that their hearts must be fully committed to the Lord our God.  Is our own heart fully committed to God? We should ask this question of ourselves everyday and if the answer is ‘no’ , repent and renounce our failings and pray for more faith and commitment.

The temple was then dedicated with the sacrifice of a massive number of cattle, sheep and goats (1 Kings 8:63). There was a festival that lasted 14 days before the king sent the vast assembly of people home. The people blessed King Solomon and went away joyful and glad in heart (1 Kings 8:66).

The Lord again appeared to Solomon. This must have been Jesus as no-one can see God the Father and live. Jesus said that his eyes and heart would always be at the temple. Jesus again gave a blessing and a curse. If Solomon obeyed all the decrees and laws, his kingdom would be established for ever. But if he, or his sons, turned away from God then disaster would strike. God would cut them off and reject the temple if they embraced ‘other gods, worshipping and serving them’ (1 Kings 9:9).

Israel’s future was entirely down to the behaviour and actions of its king and people. They could choose a wonderful everlasting relationship with God or disaster, if they sinned and turned from God. We know which option they chose. People are so sinful they cannot stick to the path of faith and obedience, which is why Jesus would have to return to earth, become sin and take our punishment so that eternal life became a gift rather than something we could fail to earn.

Acts 14:8-28

Paul healed a crippled man in a very similar way to both Peter (Acts 3:6) and Jesus (Mark 2:11). Paul looked directly at the man, saw that he had faith to be healed and ordered him to stand up. Even though the man had been lame from birth and had never walked, the man jumped up and began to walk (Acts 14:9-10). My wife offered to pray for a lady in the street the other day who had confessed to having a medical worry. The lady, after a little thought, asked her not to pray because she had no belief. At least a seed was sown in this lady’s mind about our God being a healing God. We should move on and find people who have the faith to be healed – whilst praying that non-believers find faith, which would enable them to be healed.

When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they wanted to offer sacrifices to the two apostles as gods. Paul and Barnabas were horrified and insisted they were human. They were bringing the crowd the Good News telling them to turn to the living God, who had created everything. They had great difficulty in stopping the crowds from worshipping them.

Jews had followed them from the cities where they had previously preached. They won the fickle crowd over, stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city ‘thinking he was dead’ (Acts 14:19). The disciples gathered around him and he got up and went back into the city. Paul had amazing stamina and the healing power of the Holy Spirit to help him.

The next day, Paul and Barnabas left for Derbe and then returned to the other cities they had already preached in, despite having faced antagonism. They were fearless and prepared to lose their lives for the gospel. They had put their trust in God but expected to face hardships along the way (Acts 14:22).

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in every church and committed them to the Lord ‘with prayer and fasting‘ (Acts 14:23). They travelled back to Antioch to explain how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. They stayed a long time back with their home church. It is wonderful to have a specific congregation to go back to, to give them our testimony and share how their prayers for our missionary work have borne fruit.

Proverbs 15:11-20

The cheerful heart has a continued feast and a happy heart makes the face cheerful.

A patient man calms a quarrel. Upright people live their lives on a highway, whereas lazy people find their paths blocked (Prov.15:19).

We don’t want to be hot-headed as this will stir up dissension. If we resent being corrected and don’t like to ask wise people for advice, we may be proud and mocking. Discerning people seek knowledge (Prov.15:14).

I love sharing a fellowship meal with Christians because you can feel the love in the room. The food does not have to fancy (Prov.15:17).

If we show wisdom, we will bring our parent’s joy. A foolish man despises his mother (Prov.15:20). Jesus cared for his mother so much that he arranged a permanent place for her in John’s house while he was on the cross (John 19:26-27).

Image:  National Gallery of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

King Solomon’s Wisdom / Herod’s Death / Saul blinds Elymas the Sorcerer: June 18th 2021

1 Kings 3:16-5:18

Solomon famously demonstrated his wisdom by ruling over a baby custody case (1 Kings 3:28). A prostitute’s child had died and she allegedly stole another baby to replace it. Solomon threatened to cut the disputed baby in two and the woman who had kidnapped the child was prepared to let this happen. Solomon gave the child to the other woman, the rightful mother, who was prepared to give her child up rather than to see him harmed. Of course, this could have gone badly wrong if the kidnapper had thought she had gone too far when the child’s life was threatened and backed down from her claim. Solomon probably assessed the kidnapper’s character and realised she was evil.

Solomon ruled over all Israel and appointed chief officials and twelve district officials. Each district had to provide supplies for the king’s household for one month each year. Kings are costly. Samuel had warned the Israelites that a king had would cost them dearly and enslave them (1 Sam.8:14-17). Solomon was very well provisioned and built-up enormous numbers of horses including chariot horses (1 Kings 4:26). His father David had never been interested in chariot warfare but Solomon was determined to keep up with military technology.

‘God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight’ (1 Kings 4:29). He wrote proverbs and songs. He studied and taught about plants and animals. Men of all nations came to listen to him (1 Kings 4:34).

The people of Judah and Israel were now prosperous, numerous and happy (1 Kings 4:20). They lived in safety. Satan (the adversary) was not active in the kingdom (1 Kings 5:4). God had arranged peace and prosperity so that Solomon could complete an important project.

Solomon came to an arrangement with Hiram, king of Tyre. Hiram provided timber from the legendary cedars of Lebanon with which to build the first temple and, in exchange, Solomon supplied food for Hiram’s royal household.

Solomon conscripted labourers from all Israel and sent ten thousand men to help gather the timber. He sent an enormous number of workers to the hills to provide the stone foundation for the temple. The craftsmen of both Solomon and Hiram and the Gebalites prepared the timber and stone. It was a massive joint project between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Solomon used the finest dressed stone for the foundation of the temple – which no-one could see once it was constructed. Solomon intended the temple to stand forever and for there to be nothing false or shoddy about it – even the hidden sections. Jesus told us to build on the strongest possible foundations – the word of God. The secular world cares more for outward appearances. When we carry out work for God, we want to build it on solid, quality foundations.

Solomon was building the temple for the ‘Name of the Lord my God’ (1 Kings 5:5). Solomon knew in his wisdom that God would not come and live solely in the new temple. God’s presence would still be everywhere and in everything. When Jesus was preaching, the Chief Priests and Pharisees wanted to confine God to the temple in Jerusalem, even though the ark of the covenant was missing. They refused to acknowledge Jesus’s signs and wonders that demonstrated that God is mobile, meeting people’s desperate needs out in the community and is not confined within man-made walls.

Acts 12:19b-13:12

God will always serve justice on corrupt leaders. Herod had killed John the Baptist, failed to save Jesus, executed James the apostle and attempted to kill Peter. God was watching him closely. When he was praised as a god by the desperate people of Tyre and Sidon, he did not give praise to God and so he was struck down (Acts 12:23).  

The Holy Spirit specified that Barnabas and Saul should be set apart for a mission (Acts 13:2-3). This was while the church members in Antioch were worshipping and fasting. Fasting is a helpful spiritual discipline that can help us relate to people who lack food, curb our obsession with food and clear our mind helping us to communicate with God. God likes it when we make an effort and earnestly praying while fasting can help our conversations with Him to be more productive.

The church ‘sent them off’ (Acts 13:3). The two most able and gifted apostles in the church were dispatched as missionary ambassadors for the Holy Spirit with the full backing of a specific church congregation. One of the church members was Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod. He showed that our spiritual brothers and sisters are our true family; in their presence we can be truly loved and at home. We don’t have to be corrupted by our past, our family and former associates.

Barnabas and Saul were directed by the Holy Spirit to Cyprus. They travelled with John Mark (who would later write the second Gospel). They proclaimed the word in Jewish synagogues (sowing seeds of belief in Jesus) until they encountered the evil sorcerer Bar-Jesus / Elymas in Paphos who tried to turn the Roman governor (proconsul) from the faith. Paphos was renowned for its immorality and the influence of Elymas might have had something to do with that.

The governor had sent for Barnabas and Saul because he ‘wanted to hear the word of God’ (Acts 13:7). Thus, their preaching in the synagogues had born fruit as it had attracted this important man’s attention and aroused his curiosity.

Saul now metamorphosed into Saint ‘Paul’ as he made Elymas go blind through the power of the Holy Spirit. When Saul had earlier encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he had gone blind for three days symbolising his spiritual blindness during the days he had persecuted Christians. As a sorcerer, Elymas was spiritually blind and belonged to the devil. The darkness before his eyes prefigured his eternal life separated from God and matched his dark heart. Jesus is the light of the world and will illuminate our soul if we repent, believe in him and are baptized. .

Paul’s analysis of Elymas’ character may well have applied to us before we were born-again. Many of us have been children of the devil, enemies of all that is right, full of deceit and trickery and constantly perverting the ways of God.   

The blind Elymas groped around ‘seeking someone to lead him by the hand’ (Acts 13:11). This could have been his chance to repent and come to Jesus just as Paul did when he was blinded on the road to Damascus. We don’t know Elymas’ fate but this demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power convinced the proconsul to believe. The most productive strategy is always to convert the leaders at the top of society first.

Prior to this miracle, Paul had always been a less prominent disciple than Barnabas. Barnabas was always named first (Acts 13:7). Now, after the Holy Spirit had acted so powerfully through him, Paul was the leader and would be named first going forward (Acts 13:13).  

Psalm 74:18-23

I have reached a low ebb at a few points in my life and at all those times God rose up to defend me (Psalm 74:18-23). The Holy Spirit prompted me where to go and what to do and God placed people in my path who could help my cause with guidance, help, healing prayers and prophecies.

God will save us from fools who cause clamour and uproar, people who revile His name.

When the needy stop relying on their own resources and trust in God, He will give them reason to praise him (Psalm 74:21). Persistent, earnest prayer and fasting will be noticed by God and he will give attention to our cause.

God will engineer a way out for us so we can escape dire circumstances in our private or work lives. We won’t have to retreat in disgrace. Our lives will improve victoriously (Psalm 74:21).

Image: By PMRMaeyaert – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92424726

Solomon asks for Wisdom / Peter’s Miraculous Escape from Prison: June 17th 2021

Kings 2:13-3:15

David’s son, Adonijah, had been outmanoeuvred in his attempt to become king of Israel. David had ensured that his younger son, Solomon, would succeed him.

Solomon would only let his elder brother live if he proved himself to be a worthy man (1 Kings 1:52) and so Adonijah should have led a quiet, respectable life. However, lust was his undoing as it had been for his father.

Adonijah went to Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, and asked a favour. He wanted her to ask her son, King Solomon, if he could take the deceased King David’s beautiful, virgin, bedwarmer (Abishag) as his wife.

This was a terrible mistake. Solomon was infuriated by this disrespectful request. He probably also had his eye on Abishag. Adonijah was one of his elder brothers and so had a valid claim on the throne. If Solomon gave him a woman whom David had spent most of this time with during his dotage, this would make him even more of a threat (1 Kings 2:22).

Solomon had inherited Benaiah as captain of his bodyguards and he ordered him to kill Adonijah. It was then time to deal with the rest of Adonijah’s allies. Solomon sent Abiathar the priest back to his fields, removing him from the priesthood. Solomon told him that he deserved to die for conspiring against him but Abiathar had been loyal to King David and ‘shared all my father’s hardships’ (1 Kings 2:26).

Solomon then had to deal with Joab, the ruthless commander of the army. Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord, after hearing about Adonijah and Abiathar, and was beside the altar seeking sanctuary. Solomon did not grant him mercy and ordered him to be killed there for his crimes (the murders of Abner, Amasa and his conspiracy to oust David from the throne during his last days). Joab had also disobediently killed David’s other rebelling son, Absalom, despite explicit instructions from David that he shouldn’t be harmed. On the other hand, Joab had fought valiantly for David on many occasions as chief of the army. He could have been retired to somewhere harmless for his generally loyal support to David but he was an extremely dangerous man and Solomon wanted to secure his throne.

Solomon did give the disrespectful Shimei a chance. He told him to stay in Jerusalem or he would be executed. Three years later, Shimei left the city briefly to retrieve two runaway slaves. This was the excuse Solomon needed to have him killed and his kingdom was now firmly established (1 Kings 2:46).

There are some interesting principles at work here. When Adonijah desired Abishag, he asked Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, to intercede for him on the grounds that he would not refuse her. She even instructed her son the king not to refuse her (1 Kings 2:20). Christians in the Mother Church pray today to the Blessed Virgin Mary asking her to intercede for them, for her to talk to her son, Jesus Christ, in order to get their prayer requests to the top of the queue. They want her to use her influence over her son. This can be extremely effective. However, it has got to be a godly request that fully complies with all principles in the Bible. Solomon refused the request from his brother even though it had been mediated through his mother because it put his own rule at risk. God gives us what we need not necessarily what we desire – particularly if those desires are harmful.

Solomon had tidied up all the unfinished business of King David and had extended mercy to Abiathar the priest and Shimei. However, he was not going to put up with disobedience and so Shimei eventually provoked his own execution. I feel slightly sorry for Joab, who had fought valiantly for his uncle David. Two of Joab’s killings (Abner and Absalom) had tidied up problems for David. However, Joab was a dangerous individual prone to disobedience. Solomon wanted no responsibility for the murders that Joab had committed (1 Kings 2:33). If we live by the sword, we die by the sword. Just as Joab had been the hatchet man for King David, Solomon now had Benaiah to do his dirty work for him.

Solomon started to make political alliances. He married an Egyptian princess. Because a temple had not yet been built, the Israelites were still sacrificing at the high places. The Israelites had been instructed to destroy all the high places where the Canaanites had worshipped their gods (Num.33:52 and Deut.12:2-6). The Israelites at the start of Solomon’s reign seemed to be blending religions by using the traditional Canaanite worship sites for the worship of our one true God. ‘The Lord’ appeared to Solomon in a dream, where he had travelled to offer sacrifices at the most important high place and said: ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you’ (1 Kings 3:5). As no-one can see the face of God and live, this must have been Jesus appearing to Solomon and conversing with him – yet another Christophany.

Solomon was already wise for a young man but he asked for even more wisdom in order to be a just leader (1 Kings 3:9). Jesus was delighted that Solomon had not asked for long life, wealth or the death of his enemies and so he gave him the wisest and most discerning heart of any man ever and also gave him riches and honour. If he walked in God’s ways and obeyed his statutes and commands, he would also have a long life (1 King 3:12-14).

Solomon realised that his dream had been life changing. He now had the confidence to stand in front of the ark of the covenant and make sacrifices to God. He then gave a feast for all his court. When we know that God has broken into our lives and spoken to our hearts, we can’t help but celebrate.

Acts 11:19-12:19a

Disciples, other than Peter, had also started to convert Gentiles. Some disciples had travelled to Antioch, where Greeks then became believers and turned to the Lord.

The disciples sent Barnabas to encourage the new believers to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts (Acts 11:23). Barnabas went to fetch Saul from Tarsus and brought him to Antioch, where they both preached for a year. This is where believers first became known as ‘Christians’.

A Christian prophet stated there would be a severe famine over the entire Roman world. The disciples were happy to send monetary assistance to their brothers living in Judea. To a Christian, excess money is best used to help other people.

The wicked King Herod put James, the brother of John, to death. As this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too. As Peter was detained in the Jerusalem prison, the church ‘earnestly’ prayed for him. Even through Peter was under close guard, he was rescued by an angel in the night (Acts 12:7). Peter had to get up and follow the angels’ instructions to escape.

It must have strengthened Peter’s faith to know that God supported his mission (Acts 12:11). If we as a church really want something to happen we have to put effort into our praying. God answered the fledgling church’s earnest prayers.

Peter fled to the house of John Mark’s mother. This John Mark was the Mark who wrote the second gospel.

A servant girl heard Peter’s voice outside the door but other people in the house did not believe her. It seemed impossible for Peter to escape and they said, ‘It must be his angel’ (Acts 12:15). The Jews held the same tradition as Christians that each one of us is assigned a Guardian Angel at the time we are conceived. However, the Jews also believed that a Guardian angel looked identical to the person they were protecting and evidently also sounded the same.

The disciples eventually opened the door and were astonished to see the real Peter. Peter asked them to pass his story onto James and the other brothers and then left to hide from Herod in a less obvious location.

Herod could not find Peter in the morning. He was not lenient on the guards who had failed to retain him (Acts 12:19). This story shows how much of a threat Herod thought Peter was. Herod had no intention of allowing Peter to be rescued. Peter had been chained and made to sleep between two soldiers with sentries on guard at the entrance. Some pastors say that God does not intervene directly after Jesus died and relies on human beings to do his work for us. The disciples did earnestly pray for Peter’s release but it was no human who came to his rescue. God had demonstrated he was willing to deploy angelic assistance to save the apostles when there was no other alternative.

Proverbs 15:1-10

Our tongue is the most powerful organ in our body. We can protect ourselves with our tongue (Prov.15:1). We can praise, spread knowledge and bring healing with our tongue.

A wicked tongue stirs up anger and gushes folly. A deceitful one crushes the spirit.

God is pleased with the prayers of the upright. He loves those who pursue righteousness (Prov.15:9) and will fill their house with great treasure. He detests the ways and sacrifices of the wicked. Their income will bring them trouble.

We should prudently listen to valid criticism as it may keep us alive. We cannot escape from God; he is everywhere and in everything. His eyes are everywhere. No sin is ever secret. He keeps watch on the wicked and the good (Prov.15:3).

Image: By Bartolomé Esteban Murillo – http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/tmplobs/T0W0Q86QNMP6XMQX2.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9639644

Absalom Returns / Peter Heals with his Shadow: June 9th 2021

2 Samuel 14:1-15:12

King David’s heart longed for his estranged son, Absalom, just as God hopes and contrives for banished people to come back to him from exile (2 Sam.14:14).

Joab hired a wise woman to persuade King David to invite Absalom back from exile. David wisely saw he was being manipulated by Joab but gave in to the suggestion (2 Sam.14:21).

Joab brought Absalom back to Jerusalem but he was not allowed to see his father King David.

Absalom was very good looking, with not a single blemish, with thick luxuriant hair. He had three sons and a daughter and named his daughter Tamar after his sister.

Absalom did not see the king for two years. Joab refused to come to him until Absalom took the drastic step of setting Joab’s field on fire. Absalom demanded to see the king as he was living in limbo. He wanted to face up to any punishment. Then the king summoned his son, who bowed down before him, and the king welcomed him with a kiss (2 Sam. 14:33). We can live in a similar king of non-living limbo when we have not confessed our sins to God and received forgiveness. We might think our sins are too severe to forgive but God is always calling us to him and he will forgive us with a warm embrace.

Even though Absalom had been welcomed home, he started to conspire against his father the king. He woke up early and stood by the road leading to the city gate. He would intercept people travelling to consult the king, tell him that no-one would be available to listen and boast that he would do much better and give them justice if only he were to be appointed judge. He was very charming and approachable. If someone came to bow down before him, Absalom would take hold of him and kiss him. He disloyally stole the hearts of the Israelites through slander and flattery. He did this for years.

He asked permission from his father, the king, to go to worship in Hebron and David blessed him. He invited two hundred guests to accompany him, to make it look like he was assembling an army and he sent messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say: ‘Absalom is king in Hebron’. He started to steal David’s officials away from him starting with David’s counsellor. Day by day, Absalom gradually weakened David’s grip on power as his following kept increasing.

David was showing himself to be a complacent ruler. He hadn’t dealt with his son Amnon’s crime and now he was letting the kingdom slip away from him.

Acts 5:12-42

The apostles carried on performing miracles (Acts 5:12). More and more people believed in the Lord and joined them. All the believers used to meet together. We need to meet as the body of Christ to praise and worship God and to teach and encourage each other.

Sick people we laid in the street so that Peter’s shadow might fall on them (Acts 5:15). We need to pray for this level of faith, so that just our presence or our shadow can heal the sick and deliver people from evil spirits. Crowds gathered and everyone was healed (Acts 5:16). Jesus had predicted that the apostles would do even greater things than he. Jesus prayed for healing on an individual basis. Peter was now healing people on an industrial scale.

The religious professionals were filled with jealousy and threw the apostles into jail. An angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail in the night and brought them out. He told them to stand in the temple courts and ‘tell the people the full message of this new life’ (Acts 5:20). Everyday, we should publicly tell people that they can lead a wonderful new life in Jesus Christ.

The full assembly of the elders of Israel (the Sanhedrin) gathered to interrogate the apostles but they were not be found in the jail. Eventually, they found them freely teaching in the temple courts and went to collect them. They didn’t use force against them as the crowds would have defended them.

The Sanhedrin reminded the apostles they had been ordered not to teach in Jesus’ name. Peter reminded them that the apostles must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). They, and the Holy Spirit, were witnesses to Jesus’ death and resurrection. God had exalted Jesus to his right hand as Prince and Saviour ‘that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel’ (Acts 5:31).

It is wonderful to pray in tongues as it confirms the Holy Spirit is living in us because we obey God. The Holy Spirit lives in people who believe and obey God (Acts 5:32).

The Sanhedrin became infuriated and wanted to put all the apostles to death but a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a brilliant teacher of the law who educated Saint Paul, wisely told them to leave the men alone. If they were working for God, they could not be stopped and the Sanhedrin would find themselves fighting against God (Acts 5:38-39).

The Sanhedrin ordered the disciples to be flogged and not to speak in the name of Jesus and then let them go. The apostles left rejoicing because ‘they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name’ (Acts 5:41-42). In public and going from house to house, they never stopped ‘teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ’ (Acts 5:42). In this county, it is only the Jehovah’s Witnesses who bother going door-to-door telling people about Jesus. Maybe, we should all be inspired by the early church and start with all the houses in our own roads. Knock on their doors, tell them about Jesus and ask if anyone needs to be healed or delivered so we can pray for them. If people won’t go to church, the church will have to go to them.

Proverbs 14:15-24

We should not believe everything we are told and assess it in light of Biblical teaching. However, we do not want to become so distrusting that we give a Spirit of Unbelief a right to attach to us. I believe most things in news reports unless they are completely against the Word of God. We have to be careful in this country because our foremost channel has such an evil, woke, liberal agenda. They even infect their drama programmes with unchristian influences including pro-abortion propaganda. Once we have our eyes opened to how biased a media channel is, it can be quite entertaining to watch just to spot the recurrent toxic anti-Christians themes but we should try to shun such evil (Prov.14:16).

However, when the news has scientists on it who tell me that it a good idea to have a Covid vaccine to stop the deadly pandemic that has devastated the global economy, I believe them. There is clear clinical evidence that it helps and, as we should love our neighbour as ourselves, we should be vaccinated to protect other people. I have lost respect for the leaders of several smaller Christian denominations who haven’t given clear leadership on this matter and put their congregations at risk. The leaders of the mainstream denominations, the Anglicans and the Catholics, have clearly told Christians that they should be vaccinated and, as we are meant to be people of obedience, this should be good enough for us. If we don’t have a vaccine we are putting God to the test, which Jesus reiterated to the devil that we should not do (Matt. 4:7).

We should wisely weigh up the evidence not entertaining all the crazy conspiracy theories that a simple person might believe (Prov.14:15). The prudent are crowned with knowledge and wisdom. Foolishly rejecting a lifesaving vaccine is folly and will yield foolish deaths. God works through people these days. He will have inspired the scientists to make the vaccine in order to save our society.

It isn’t a holy blessing to be poor and to be shunned by people (Prov.14:20). God likes us to prosper through our hard work and his guidance. If we prosper, we can be even kinder to the needy and God will bless us even more.

Image: Masaccio, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

David fights the Arameans / Peter and John Heal a Man Crippled from Birth: June 6th 2021

2 Samuel 9:1-10:19

David tracked down his deceased friend Jonathan’s disabled son. David was determined to show kindness to someone from the house of Saul for Jonathan’s sake.

Jonathan’s son was called Mephibosheth and David restored to him the land of his grandfather, Saul, and allowed him to always eat at his table.

It is wonderful to spend time considering if there is someone we can help out / be kind to and get on and do it.

The king of the Ammonites died and David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to his son. The Ammonite nobles accused the visiting Israelites of being spies and assaulted them disrespectfully (2 Sam.10:4). The Ammonites realised this had angered David and they hired mercenaries to bolster their army. David sent Joab and his entire army of fighting men against them.

The hired men, Arameans, fled in front of the Israelite army. They eventually regrouped and engaged Israel in battle. David’s army killed a huge number of them (2 Sam.10:18) including the commander of their army. This made smaller nations make peace with the Israelites out of respect for them and the Arameans were too afraid to help the Ammonites any more.

Acts 3:1-26

A man crippled from birth asked Peter and John for money. He didn’t even look at them. He didn’t realise that they, out of all the people passing him by, were now adopted sons of God with the power to heal him. Peter commanded the man to look at them (Acts 3:4). The man finally gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Peter said he didn’t have any money ‘but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’ (Acts 3:6-7). Peter helped the man up and instantly his feet and ankles became strong. The man had never walked for his whole life but was now able to walk, jump and praise God. It was an outstanding miracle and shows that we, as baptized spirit-filled disciples, can also pray powerfully for healing ‘in the name of Jesus’. A crown of onlookers acknowledged the man’s healing and were filled with wonder and amazement.

The place where the healing took place was a temple gate called ‘Beautiful’. Peter and John had seen the beauty in a man created by God, even though he needed healing. The crowd saw the beauty of Jesus’ healing power changing someone’s life for ever. We can encounter someone that needs healing wherever we may travel. The Holy Spirit might whisper to us that we should walk up a different street than usual or go somewhere at a certain time in order to meet someone we can help. Let us boldly seize the chance and not walk on by. A friend of mine specialised in healing strangers in supermarkets. He marched up to a lady one day in the vegetable aisle and said: ‘I can see you have a problem with your leg. I am a Christian, may I pray for you.’ Most people are very grateful for the offer. Everyone likes attention. The lady replied: ‘I didn’t know that I had any problem with my leg but please go ahead anyway’.

Peter asked the crowd why this miracle surprised them. It was not the disciples’ own power or godliness that had healed the man but the authority of Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him (Acts 3:16). Peter reminded the crowd that they had disowned the Holy and Righteous One and killed the author of life (Acts 3: 14-15). So many people in our society today still disown Jesus and allow a murderer, the devil, free access to take up residence within them. The crowd in Jerusalem had acted out of ignorance but modern people are far more guilty. Most are not ignorant of the gospel, they just ignore it and refuse to believe in active rebellion against God.

Peter urged the crowd to repent and turn to God so that their sins would be wiped out (Acts 3:19). When we finally turn to God and become ‘born again’ our whole body and spirit will be refreshed.

Jesus will physically remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything (Acts 3:21) but he spiritually lives in the hearts of all born-again Christians.

Moses had prophesied that Jesus would be raised up from the Jews. All the prophets, from Samuel on, had foretold the appearance of Christ (Acts 3:24). Jesus wants to turn all of us from our wicked ways through the power and encouragement of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is descended from the original patriarch, Abraham, because God had promised him: ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed’ (Acts 3:25).

Psalm 70:1-5

We can pray for God to hasten to save us. He is our help and our deliverer (Ps.70:5).

Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Romans 12:14) in contrast to King David who often wanted his enemies to be shamed / confused and disgraced. However, God will make sure that justice is delivered (Romans 12:19-21).

King David prayed that all who seek God will rejoice and be glad in him.

I love the kind salvation that God has given me and so I proclaim, with David, ‘Let God be exalted!’ (Ps.70:4).

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_apostles_Peter_and_John_heal_the_lame_man._Photomechanic_Wellcome_V0034960.jpg

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