Against all the advice….God’s will be done.

17 08 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO : 2 Kings 3 v. 1 – 4 v. 37; Acts 21 v. 1 – 26; Psalm 78 v. 56 – 72

'pour oil into all the jars until each is filled'

2 KINGS
Moab Revolts – So Joram becomes king of Israel in Jehoshaphat’s eighteenth year as king of Judah. Joram reigns for twelve years, but continues the line of those who do evil in the eyes of the Lord. Although he did get rid of the ‘sacred stone of Baal that his father had made’, he still clung to many of the sins of his ancestors, turning from God.
There had been an arrangement with the king of Moab, Mesha, that he would supply 100,000 sheep (and the wool of 100,000 rams) to Israel. However when king Ahab died, Mesha rebelled against this agreement. King Joram enlists the support of king Jehoshaphat and all the army of Israel and Judah. They agree to go via the Edom Desert (and the king of Edom joins with them, too). However, after seven days, all their water had gone, and the fear grew that they and their animals would die of thirst.
Ahab, in his lack of faith and trust cries out, ‘Has the Lord called us three kings together only to hand us over to Moab?’
Elisha, the Lord’s prophet, is in the entourage, so the kings seek him out.
Elisha asks Ahab first off, why has he not gone to the prophets his father and mother used. Ahab recognises, however, that it was the Lord God who brought the kings together. Elisha states that it’s only because Jehoshaphat is there that he will get involved. He asks for a harpist.
It is as the harpist plays that Elisha senses God’s hand, and knows God’s instruction that they build ditches which He will fill with water.
‘You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink.’
And the promise is that Moab will be handed over to them.
The following morning, just as God had promised, the ditch was filled with water (flowing from Edom). Enough water for all.
From Moab, the enemy look on, and see what looks like rivers of blood. They assume that the kings have fought with each other, and slaughtered themselves. So they head in to plunder their goods.
All Israel rises up to fight, to their surprise, and the Moabites flee – the Israelites invade the land and slaughter the Moabites, mass destruction of fields, springs, trees.
In one final, last-ditched attempt, Moab’s king rallies some 700 troops and tries to push through to get the king of Edom, but fails. So, he offers his firstborn son (and heir) as a sacrifice, enraged at all Israel has done, and retreating.

The Widow’s Oil – Elisha hears the cry of a widow, whose husband had been one of the prophets ‘who revered the Lord’, and who has the creditors coming to take her two sons into slavery. Elisha (like Jesus at times) asks, ‘How can I help you….?’. He asks what she DOES have in her home.
Nothing but a little oil.
Elisha sends her out to collect lots of empty jars from her neighbours (‘everybody needs good neighbours…’), and not just a few jars, but LOTS !!
Elisha tells her to secretly (just her and her sons, behind closed doors) pour oil into each jar, filling each one.
When all the jars were filled, the oil stopped flowing! (Just enough and no more….‘give us this day our daily bread’)
Elisha instructs her to go and sell the oil, pay the debt, and live on what’s left.
God’s miraculous provision !

The Shunammite’s Son Restored to Life – Another day, Elisha is in Shumen, where a wealthy lady invited him to dinner. He ate with her and the family on several occasions, until she persuades her husband to make up a room for him on the roof, so that Elisha could stop over whenever he was in the area.
On one such occasion, he get his servant to call the Shunammite woman to him, and asks her what good deed he can do for her (as she has shown such kindness to him). She and her husband have had no children, and her husband is quite old now. Elisha announces to her that this time next year she will have a son in her arms. She begs him not to give her false hope.
Just as Elisha had prophesied, a year later she gave birth to a son, who grew into childhood. One day he complained about a sore head, and his mother nursed him until noon, when he died. She laid him on Elisha’s bed and sent a servant to fetch the prophet. Her husband suggested she wait till New Moon or the Sabbath (seen as good days to seek out the prophet), but she can’t wait.
She goes speedily on the donkey her servant has brought, and approached Elisha on Mt. Carmel.
Elisha sees her coming and sends his servant out to ask if everything is okay. She gives the message that everything is alright (though it’s clearly not…I think she just wants to get to see Elisha in person as quickly as possible).
She falls at Elisha’s feet and he sees her ‘bitter distress’. Again, the woman suggests that Elisha gave her false hope all along – the son she had been promised had died.
Elisha arranges to send Gehazi, his servant, to lay Elisha’s staff on the boy, that he might be revived.
The woman is insistent that Elisha goes back with her – she won’t leave him until he does.
So they leave, Gehazi going on ahead. He lays Elisha’s staff on the boy, but it has no effect.
Elisha finds the boy laid out on his bed / couch. He prays, and lies over the boy’s body. The boy’s body gradually got warmer.
‘Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got onto the bed and stretched out upon him once more’  (my study bible says ‘the effort required to raise the dead may be contrasted with the spoken word of Christ (e.g. Mark 5 v. 39 – 42)’
The boy sneezes seven times and opened his eyes.
He is revived with a loud atchoo !!
The boy’s mother falls at Elisha’s feet in awe, wonder and praise.

ACTS
On to Jerusalem – The emotional farewell to the Ephesians out of the way, Paul set sail for Cos, then Rhodes, then Patara; then on a boat to Phoenicia, sailing south of Cyprus, on to Syria. The boat landed at Tyre, where the cargo was unloaded, and they met up with the disciples there, staying for seven days. ‘Through the Spirit, they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem’. However, they did continue on their way. Again, there’s an emotional farewell from the beach there, where all the disciples and their families gather to pray with them before they leave.
From Tyre to Ptolemais, staying with the ‘brothers’ there overnight. From there to Caesarea, stopping for a few days with Philip the evangelist (one of the Seven), whose four unmarried daughters all prophesied.
Agabus the prophet came from Judea to see Paul; he took Paul’s belt and symbolically tied his feet and hands with it. He said the Holy Spirit had told him ‘the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over’.
Plenty of warnings are coming Paul’s way, and everyone pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
‘I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’
Eventually the people gave up trying to dissuade him and prayed, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’
So the journey to Jerusalem continued, and they stayed in the house of Mnason, a Cypriot, who was amongst the earliest of all the disciples.

Paul had to resist a lot of advice, concern, warnings, even from the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to get to Jerusalem. He is afraid of nothing and no-one, and is determined to get there.

Paul’s Arrival at Jerusalem – Paul and his companions receive a warm welcome from the ‘brothers’ in Jerusalem. After a night’s rest, they go to visit James and the elders the next day, reporting back all that was happening in the mission to the Gentiles.
They praise and worship God for all the news that is being received.
There is clearly still sharp disagreement in some quarters about Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. The decision that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised is making some say that Paul’s teaching is a turning away from Moses. To show that this is not the case, Paul is urged to join in with the purification rites of four men who have just made a vow, and to pay for their heads to be shaved as part of that vow. In this way, Paul will be showing his allegiance to both the Gentiles and the Jews who are turning to Jesus.
Paul does as has been proposed, taking the men with him, and giving notice of the days of purification and the offerings at the end of this ritual.

PSALM
‘God is tested – they rebel against Him, the Most High;
disloyal, faithless, like their ancestors;
angering God with their high shrines;
God is angered, and Israel is rejected;
God abandons His tabernacle in Shiloh;
the ark is captured – ‘His splendour into the hands of the enemy’;
His people are given over to the sword and to fire;
maidens are left unmarried; widows unable to weep;
THEN THE LORD WOKE, AS FROM SLEEP –
He beat back the enemies…He chose the tribe of Judah,
Mt. Zion which He loved, building His sanctuary there.
He chose David, from the sheep pens, to shepherd His people…
AND DAVID SHEPHERDED THEM WITH INTEGRITY OF HEART
WITH SKILFUL HANDS HE LED THEM…’

(I like the twin-track praise the psalmist sees in David – both CHARACTER (Integrity of Heart) and COMPETENCE (Skilful Hands) – are necessary qualities in Christian discipleship and leadership).

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