Friday, March 18, 2016

"God, a prophet and the everyday things of life ..."

Day #79

Scripture Reading:  II Kings 1 - 5 ...

Elijah and Elisha were two of the first of a line of prophets who spoke for God during the times of the kings of Israel and Judah.  During this time there were "schools" of prophets.  These apparently began during the time of Samuel, at the end of the period of the Judges.  The schools of the prophets were similar in some ways to the theological schools of today.  While there were some "inspired" prophets to whom God gave specific messages, most of the prophets were the “preachers” of the day, teaching God's law to His people, perhaps like Ezra some time later.  While we often remember the familiar stories of miracles that some of the prophets performed, it is important to understand that the God who sometimes foretold events is the same God who is intimately involved in the details of everyday life ... the big things and the little things.

Throughout these five chapters God uses Elijah and Elisha to speak His word to kings and common people alike.  Whether it was Ahaziah, King Ahab's son, or a widow or a commander of an army, God does what only God can do ... He brings judgment on those who despise Him and He brings blessings to those who seek Him.  The Apostle Paul would write centuries later to the church in Corinth:  “We are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.  Who is sufficient for these things?” (II Corinthians 2:15-16).  God’s message offers life to those who receive it and confirms His sentence of death upon those who reject it.  The Word of God is like no other message in the world, for it carries with it the very authority and power of God Himself.  Those who deliver it are but messengers, sent by God to declare HIS Word.

In Chapter 1, King Ahaziah consults Baal-Zebub rather than God.  In other words, he prays to a false god rather than the God of Israel.  After Elijah intercepted the messenger the king had sent to Baal-Zebub, the king sent a captain of his army with a company of fifty men to pursue Elijah.  God intervened and sent fire down, killing them all.  A second captain and his fifty men were sent to pursue Elijah and to bring him to the king.  The same thing happened.  A third captain and his fifty men are sent to get Elijah ... but this time the captain, apparently realizing that there was divine intervention taking place, humbled himself before Elijah and pled for mercy.  God responded by sparing the captain and his men.  Why?  Because God is merciful.  What about the 102 “innocent” men who died?  They were not innocent, and neither were the ones who were spared.  Yet God makes it clear throughout His Word that those who humble themselves before the Lord receive mercy.

When Elijah ran away from Queen Jezebel in I Kings 19 and he asked God to take his life because he was the only one left to stand for God, God had told him that there were still 7,000 who believed in Him and that Elijah had more work to do, including anointing Elisha to be the next "spokesman" for God.  Here in II Kings 2, after fulfilling all that God had given him to do, Elijah is taken away in a chariot of fire, but before he is taken, Elisha asks, "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit" (2:9).  Elisha had been called of God, as Elijah was, and he knew that he could not fulfill his calling without the Spirit of God.  How true that was then and how true that is today.  No one who is called to proclaim God’s Word can do so without the leading and empowering of God’s Spirit.

The company of prophets were watching all of this take place and they recognized that the Spirit of God that had been with Elijah now rested on Elisha.  The same should be true of us!  People should be able to see that the Spirit of God rests on us as we believe in Jesus and as WE declare God's Word to those around us.  Paul said to the Corinthians that even more than being able to speak in another language, he wished all of them would prophesy (I Corinthians 14:5).  Speaking God's Word to those around us is part of our calling.  Every true believer, having been born again by the same Spirit of God, is called and sent to testify to the world around us.

God's principle of blessing those who seek Him is repeated again in Chapter 3, when Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, joins with the kings of Israel and Edom to fight against Moab.  It was only Jehoshaphat who sought the Lord and God said it was only because of him that He would bring victory to them (3:14).  God sees people's hearts and He sees your heart and mine.  He knows when we are sincere and humble and He promises to hear and answer the prayers of those who truly seek Him ... like the widow, like the Shunammite woman.  God HEARS US when we cry out to Him!!

This God that we are reading about is OUR God!  We know God does not always work in miracles and you can't coerce God to do a miracle by sending a donation to a TV ministry, but God always hears our prayers.  When Naaman, a commander in the army of the king of Aram, was struck with leprosy, a girl from Israel who had been captured in war told him that Elisha could heal him.  He went to Elisha, anticipating that Elisha would do a miracle.  Instead, Elisha told him to go wash himself seven times in the Jordan River.  Naaman was outraged and embarrassed and refused to go, until his servant convinced him to do as the prophet said ... and he was healed.

There was a God in Israel who heard and answered prayers ... and the same God hears and answers the prayers of those who humble themselves before Him and who seek Him today.  He is the God who can do miracles, and He is the God who works in the everyday circumstances of life.  Do you know Him?  Have you been to the "school of the prophets?"  Are you speaking God's Word to those around you?  Jesus said to His disciples, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you!"  Go and tell others about our God!

"Lord God of heaven and earth, You are the God who rules over kings and nations, and yet who cares for those who humble themselves and call out to You for help.  I thank You for Your Word and for Your Spirit.  May we who believe today live to testify to the world that there is a God who rules today, not only in Israel, but over all the world!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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