2 Kings 5-6

A lot of really amazing things happen in this story, but I’m drawn to the floating ax head. 

Last night I stayed up late cutting out felt letters that spelled “kindness”. It’s for a church event this weekend where I’ll sit and hear women from my community talk about specific experiences they’ve had with God’s kind heart. 

The man in today’s story borrowed a friend’s ax and it broke while he was using it: everyone’s nightmare when lending something out. I love that this story made it into the Bible. It’s showing us that God is extending Elisha his power to perform miracles, but it also shows us that God cares about the every day problems

A couple weeks ago, I misplaced my son’s asthma medication. It was late at night and we were wavering between taking him to the ER or not. I couldn’t find it anywhere. The tighter his breathing got, the more frantic our search. My mind was a flurry of self-deprecating accusations as I tried to remember where I put it. If we hadn’t found the medicine,  we would’ve loaded up the car and spent the next few hours waiting for the ER staff to administer medication we already had at home. I finally stopped, stood in his room alone and closed my eyes. God, can show me where the medicine is? Suddenly the image of it laying on it’s side under the bookshelf flashed in my head. I reached under it without even looking and my hands closed around the bottle of prednisone. I reached out to God and he kindly intervened. He didn’t magically stop my son’s asthma attack, but he was with us, present and gently loving us in the details. 

Kindness is showing consideration. Isn’t it amazing to stop and think that God considers us? I grew up intimidated of the Old Testament, afraid of the God who brought on strict rules, floods and plagues. But instead I read about him chasing after us, boundlessly loving, whispering to us in the wilderness and helping return borrowed items. 

When I think that God exists simply to meet my wants and needs to make me happy, I get it wrong. But when I assume he doesn’t care about what’s on my heart, no matter how small or petty, I get it wrong too. He’s Emmaunel. God with us. Every part of us. 
-Carly 

2 Kings 3-4

“As the LORD of hosts lives, before who I stand, were it not that I have reguard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you or see you.” (3:14)

It’s important who you roll with. Also, we learn that asking God for water is pretty little league. He throws in Salvation. 

The Lord is deeply personal. Elisha’s life was marked by a lot of miracles (double the miracles of Elijah), bu notice they are predominantly for the benefit of one or two people. As corporate Israel continues to slide down the tubes, God comes in powerfully for the few faithful. He’s ready to do it all for them. 

Its not unusual to hear people have qualms with God. He’s disappointed or confused a lot of folks, allegedly. It seems though that our expectations are not too high, but too low. He functioning on a playing field we don’t recognize or dare to hope for; but you’re His child! Don’t be afraid to ask!

I am severely jet lagged right now, so here’s hoping this made any sense. What did you–normally rested people–get out of these chapters?

-Bethany

2 Kings 1-2

The Bible is so weird. A prophet performs miracles by slapping his coat on the water, is taken away from earth by a chariot of fire and his successor has his bullies mauled by bears. (Sensitivity to male pattern baldness is timeless, apparently.) So weird.

The Lord and Elijah’s spirit settles on Elisha, making him a particular powerful prophet. My commentary points out that him tearing off his garments not only shows respect and mourning to his mentor, but is symbolic of him shedding his old self. He now bears the image of the Lord through inheriting Elijah’s spirit. Sound familiar? When we come into relationship with God, we shed our old selves and inherit the Holy Spirit, bearing Christ’s image.

Reading the last few verses of chapter 2 got me thinking. How seriously do I take this? A group of disrespectful boys were viciously killed for rejecting the Lord’s power and authority (in Israel at the time, this crime was punishable by death). I’m uncomfortable with that. Mostly because I live in a culture, more specifically a part of the country, where God’s power is constantly mocked. His authority is greatly rejected. How many times have I defended it?

Christ calls us to meekness, not a defensive spirit. But I know (in myself), what it looks like when I protect my own image instead of protecting his. Join me this morning in asking God when I have been guilty of this and repenting.

 

-Carly

 

1 Kings 21-22

The LORD gives Ahab a break because he humbles himself. Directly following a side note reminder that he was the worst guy in the history of Israel thus far. 

It’s flabbergasting. What? Ahab!? Kill that guy! He made Israel worship idols and now killed a guy to take his land! The LORD has grace on him because of humility. 

We can never over emphasize the importance of humility. God opposes the proud. Stands against them. But gives grace to the humble–no matter what they’ve done. We are nothing without grace and we are not far from it, if we can lay down our pride. 

Ahab does eventually meet his slow, miserable demise. Slouched over, pridefully in his chariot, quietly bleeding out. He didn’t want to admit God was right about his defeat, he just took it.

God, however, saved Jehoshaphat because “he did what was right in the sight of the LORD”. Even though his efforts weren’t entirely thorough, God honored them. His mercy always triumphs over judgement. 

Check yourself for pride today. Let God humble you, if you need it. There’s a lot of grace available.

-Bethany

1 Kings 19-20

This morning my brother-in-law, Abram, will be guest posting! He’s a Bible teacher in Tanzania and a PhD candidate in intercultural studies. You’re in for an intellectual treat: 

Chapter 19 gives a reassuringly human picture of the prophet Elijah coming down from a ‘spiritual high’ or mountaintop experience. After God dramatically reveals His power and willingness to answer prayer, Elijah probably felt vindicated and perhaps secretly expected that his lonely and challenging life of preaching truth to a fickle and compromising people (the Israelites) would radically change. Maybe he thought he would finally be respected and his people would follow God like He did. However, this chapter reveals Elijah struggling with unfulfilled expectations, fear (vs. 3), and pride (vss. 10, 14) and God graciously revealing more of Himself to him.

First, we see weakness in Elijah’s faith in God’s protection, when Elijah flees because of the death threat of Queen Jezebel (vs. 2). He had been so bold in the previous chapter! Rather than scold or abandon him, God ministers to Elijah by providing food and water in a miraculous way (cf. God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness) and a message that God is for him, not against (vs. 7). 
Second, Elijah reveals a prideful attitude – “I have been very jealous for the Lord…” (vss. 10, 14), when God gives Elijah the opportunity to explain his flight (at least he ran towards God). The Lord also reveals that He is not only to be found in great manifestations of power (i.e. wind, earthquake, fire), but in quiet words (“the sound of a low whisper” vs. 12). Perhaps it was through quiet listening to the Word that the 7,000 in Israel remained faithful to God. Elijah needed to realize God’s vision and ways are greater than his own. We would do well to remember this too.
Though Elijah had essentially given up on his ministry (cf. Jonah) because of fear and disillusionment, God continues to use Elijah and also accommodate his desire for retirement. In the transition of prophetic ministry to Elisha, God’s choice highlights Elisha’s allegiance to God over relationship to parents, economic security and personal independence (cf. Jesus’ teachings about the cost of discipleship).

In chapter 20, Israel continues to struggle with external enemies, partially because of Ahab’s weak spiritual leadership. God again demonstrates his power to accurately predict the future and fulfill it. King Ahab and God’s people are given victory over the drunken, boastful Syrians, despite Ahab’s fickleness and flaws. The words of God’s prophet show that it is in Ahab’s best interest to listen and depend on God’s leading. However, Ahab does not give God credit after the victory and makes his own plans with respect to Ben-Hadad. When God sends a message that Ahab has been disobedient and will face consequences, Ahab is angry and unrepentant like Cain (Gen. 4). We ought not to have such a response to God’s correction.

Thanks for sharing your insight with us, Abram! 
-Carly 

1 Kings 17-18

This is one of my favorite stories. I love it when the stupidity of idolatry is dramatically pointed out. 

“How long will you hesitate between two options? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” (18:21)

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s not entirely skip over chapter 17. As James 5:17 puts it, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, he prayed it would not rain and it did not rain 3 1/2 years.” We are ordinary people who serve no ordinary God. 

So here’s the scene: Elijah alone with God (who did not previously agree to a contest) vs. 450 prophets of Baal. Two alters, two piles of wood, two oxen.

“You call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” (18:24)

The worshippers of Baal yell and wail and cut themselves from morning til evening, “but no one answered, no one paid attention.” (18:29)

Then Elijah soaks his alter with 12 pitchers of water and asks the LORD one time: ‘Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their heart back again’. Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” (18:37-38)

The LORD is God! He listens to His people and works mightily for His name’s sake. Elijah didn’t have to beg, plead, dance around, injure himself, he just asked for the LORD to represent Himself and He did. 

Sometimes we get an idea in our heads and then dance around, praying and pleading that God will bless it. Endeavors, relationships, you name it.  When we don’t hear back, we begin to assume this means God is not powerful or does not listen. I dare say, maybe it’s because it is an alter to ourselves or something else. 

Elijah had just spent the past 3+ years with the LORD, praying, listening, and hiding from Ahab. He knew the heart of God and that it was for Israel to see Him truly, and give up this worthless devotion to Baal. 

Listen to the heart of God. What is important to Him? 1. Truth: there is no God but Him. 2. Provision and protection for the widow and orphan. Follow His lead, join Him in His work, seek His kingdom and His righteousness. Then suddenly you’ll see His power, His fire, going with you, because His dreams have become your dreams.

-Bethany

1 Kings 15-16

These chapters summarize the character and some of the events of the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel. It’s more or less a list of who did “what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord” and who “provoked the anger of the Lord”. 

I can’t help but talk about politics here. In two months, America will elect a new president and of course, it’s all anyone can talk about it. I won’t go too far down that road, but I couldn’t help but think about that this morning as I read. These chapters remind me that leaders come and leaders go, and God’s character never changes. 

I was talking with my brother-in-law this morning about this, and he pointed out something interesting. There were a lot of great leaders in the history of Israel that did some amazing building projects or had great accomplishments and were never recorded in the Bible. In Scripture, leaders were marked by whether or not they humbled themselves before God, not how much money they have or what elite circles they run in. 

I’m thankful my well-being hinges on God’s sovereignty; not whoever wears the earthly crown. But I’m still stopping to pray for my leaders this morning. My pastors, my husband, people making decisions in my city and our country, these people need prayer. 

Someone beautiful is about to be on the scene in the next few chapters! 
-Carly 

1 Kings 13-14

A nameless prophet pronounces judgement, predicts Josiah’s reforms, still 300 years in the future, splits an alter, shriveles a mans hand, restores it, then gets tricked, and killed by a lion.

What the heck is this story?!

This cautionary tale establishes something: dividing Israel does not mean dividing God. Judah still talks with Him and Israel is fooling themselves. The worship set up in Bethel is a horrible farse, no where near the worship at the temple in Jerusalem. 

The prophet from Judah was marked by power. Power for him in obedience, and power against him in disobedience. The lion and donkey standing civily in the road indicates the divine involvement. He did not randomly die. Judah moves in the power of God. It is both good and dangerous. Israel is out of the game. They are just like any other nation in Canaan now, worshiping false gods and following false prophesies. 

Favor with God is not inherited. Yes, some people like myself were fortunate enough to be born into God-fearing families, but that’s not what justifies me. I, as with each person on earth, am personally responsible for how I respond to the power, love and holiness of God. This fact is why I can even hope to know Him. If it was genetic, my non-Jewish family would be without hope. God time and time again demonstrates that His favor rests with those who respond in obedience to Him. Like Rahab the Canaanite, Ruth the Moabite and Uriah the Hittite. 

I admit there have been times when I was an independent little turd, yet still assumed God was on my side. Nope! He let me fall on my face more than once! But His steadfast love endures, folks, and He is faithful to restore us. 

He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Is there an area of your life you assume God will bless, even though it’s not submitted to Him?

-Bethany

1 Kings 11-12

I’m going to be honest. We’d all be better off in Bethany’s academic hands for today’s chapters, since they hold a pretty pivotal event of the Bible. But too bad.

These two chapters cover the divide of the kingdoms, which affects the rest of the Old Testament. They both have different relationships with God and eventually, different fates.

The narrative of Solomon ends with him being swallowed up in sin by his gigantic pile of foreign wives he’s accumulated. My commentary assumes that these marriages were the result of making treaties with many other nations. A business move. Politics. However, God has specifically commanded him against that. Solomon was not to be a typical king. Israel was not to behave like a typical nation. It got me thinking about all the ways I justify sliding into cultural norms that God has set me apart from.

The worst part about sin is that you never think it’s going to impact anyone else. I wonder if it ever occurred to Solomon that practicing polygamy would result in the biggest divide in the Bible.

God still expects obedience of his Word no matter what culture, position or society we’re in. There are no exceptions, no bending of the rules for your particular situation. Solomon had been warned, there were no asterisks.

 “He must not take many wives or his heart will be led astray.” Deut. 17:17

You must not make a treaty of any kind with the people living in the land. They lust after their gods, offering sacrifices to them. They will invite you to join them in their sacrificial meals, and you will go with them. Then you will accept their daughters, who sacrifice to other gods, as wives for your sons. And they will seduce your sons to commit adultery against me by worshiping other gods.” Exodus 34:15-16 

Ask yourself today: what are you trying to bend the rules on? What does God say?

 

-Carly

1 Kings 9-10

Let’s pause and sigh. SIGH. Here it is. The height of Israel’s prosperity. And it’s real high. Everything gold, silver made as common as stones, exotic trees, horses, chariots, spices, jewels, ivory, apes, peacocks!

God appears to Solomon and gives him an incredible promise: It can stay this way. Your heir will forever sit on this throne. I will be with you. “if you will walk before me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances.”

It is then when God (spoiler alert) warns the alternate ending: this house will become a heap of ruins. And yeah, that’s how 2 Kings closes. 

Keeping a king and nation wholly devoted to the Lord proves impossible. Solomon makes a place for God’s name to dwell then begins dwelling on his own name. Fortunately for us, sanctifying and glorifying one race and people group was never the ultimate goal. One day, in the fulfillment of all days, (spoiler alert again) people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be sanctified and glorified as we worship at the throne of the One True King of Kings and Living God!

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

We’ve got the audience of those who’ve gone before us: the patriarchs and prophets. Will I heed the warnings of God when He shows me His most excellent ways vs. the destructive course of my sin?

Solomon became entangled by the lure of wealth and success. What sin so easily entangles you?

-Bethany