This week we are assured of God’s faithfulness to His own promises, even if He has to work miracles to keep His word!
DAY ONE – 2 Kings 1-4
A season of Miracles. Israel lived in a spirit of poverty. Things were getting desperate when King Ahaziah had an accident and sent servants to inquire of Baal-Zebub, god of Ekron, to see if he would recover. God’s prophet Elijah interrupted their trip with a stern rebuke, followed by a miracle of fire. But it was time for Elijah to go to heaven. Into this malaise came Elisha, the young prophet who had picked up Elijah’s mantle and became his successor. His fame was immediate, for he crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, using the mantle. And at Jericho he healed the water supply with salt! So he returned to Samaria to live. Miracles multiplied, garnering the attention of the kings of both Israel and Judah, who turned to the prophet for help. A valley of ditches filled with water without any rain. A small jar of oil became a fountain of oil which filled pot after borrowed pot until there was enough oil to sell and live off the proceeds. A woman whose husband was old became pregnant. Her beloved son died in her arms but was brought back to life. A few barley loaves of bread were used to feed a large gathering of men, and there was some left over! Such was the life of Elisha. He spoke God’s words and received miracles to validate God’s authority in the land. Israel’s fortunes plummeted to the extent that idolatry ruled over the hearts of the people. The prophets did what they could as God’s Spirit used them.
Things can get tough; life can become difficult when God is no longer in charge of a nation’s outlook and activities. As it was in Israel, so is it now across our land. Rife with division, our culture staggers through another day as God’s people wonder, “Where is the God of Elijah?” It’s a good question. A season of miracles would be a good way to reestablish the authority of God’s words in the land. Intercession IS intervention. Would you invest a few minutes every day asking for Divine intervention? Would you risk being identified with those who actually BELIEVE that God is real, that HIS WORD is the TRUTH? Would you go on record if asked by the opposition that you are now and forever a person of FAITH in God? And will you talk about the miracles you know about, even if they didn’t happen to you? Stand, people of God; and having done all, remain standing!
DAY TWO – 2 Kings 5:1 – 8:15
If we focus only on the miracles we miss the big picture. These chapters are filled with miraculous events of Elisha’s prophetic life, from the healing of Naaman the Syrian’s leprosy to the prophecy over the successor king of Syria. Exciting and awe-inspiring, they could be read over and over as we wish to high heaven we were seeing the same things in our day. But lurking in the background is the REAL story of Israel’s apostasy from Yahweh God and their perpetually hard life resulting from their rebellion. From the siege of Samaria to Elisha’s visit to the Syrian king life rolls on, God apparently nowhere around. Branded by Elisha as the ‘son of a murderer,’ the king of Israel is constantly at odds with the prophet, at one point even seeking his life. And then there was the famine–seven years of famine in the land. Israel was so destitute that Elisha encouraged the woman who provided him a special roadside chamber and whose son was raised from the dead, to find another place to live for the time. From these stories we can extract powerful and potent lessons: 1) God is always at work on His plan to save the world. 2) God is never at a loss no matter what people and their kings do. 3) The Lord always features the miracles to keep the spotlight focused on eternal matters. 4) We must always know that Yahweh God is INVOLVED in the national affairs of His people and the nations around them.
Because we cannot always ‘see’ the Lord at work, we may be tempted to believe that life DOES just go on and on, with technology and growing intelligence leading the way. Generations come and generations go. The young get old and the old die. The newborn enter the world and the process starts over again. Until what… when? Jesus’ disciples asked Him the same question–Matthew 24:3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”
(WEB) The rest of chapter 24 explains that there is a definite END, and it has visible signs to be noted and properly interpreted. While we don’t know the exact time of these events, we are nevertheless WARNED to always be ready for them. God’s plan WILL SAVE the world–that is, the world of the FAITHFUL, the followers of Christ Jesus. His plan will also condemn the world–that is, the world of the scoffers and unbelievers. We do have a choice in the matter–not a choice of what God does… only of what we do. Miracles are exciting, but they are no substitute for obedience to the eternal Word of God Who was born into this world to save us.
DAY THREE – 2 Kings 8:16-29, 2 Chronicles 21:1 – 22:6
Although this reading is somewhat abbreviated, it places a magnifying glass over the behavior of these kings, revealing the detailed evil in which they lived and which they practiced. Jehoram was the king of Judah for only eight years. The lens reveals that his marriage to Ahab’s (king of Israel) daughter was a significant factor in his idolatry, bringing Judah under condemnation. His fortunes were extremely negative. That’s bad… but look what is said of him: 2 Chronicles 21:18-20 After all this, the Lord struck Jehoram with the severe intestinal disease. 19 The disease grew worse and worse, and at the end of two years it caused his bowels to come out, and he died in agony. His people did not build a great funeral fire to honor him as they had done for his ancestors. 20 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery. (New Living Translation) NO ONE WAS SORRY WHEN HE DIED. The nation uttered a collective sigh of relief! Now perhaps they could move on to something more promising. But do we have any idea how long it takes to bring about a shift in culture and overcome habits set in place by bad leaders? Inertia is the tendency for an object to keep moving in the direction it is traveling. The only thing that will halt that motion or alter that direction is force. And the only force strong enough to bring the kind of correction often needed is the POWER OF GOD.
The God we are getting to know more profoundly through Israel’s history is the Creator God, Yahweh, maker of heaven and earth and Originator of the Plan to Save the World! He is also known now to us as ‘Father in Heaven,’ so revealed by His Son Yeshua (Jesus) in the implementing of His wonderful plan. To Him we must continually make our appeal. Earlier He said in the days of King Solomon: 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (New Living Translation) This is the only way to bring God’s power to bear on the inertia of government and culture. If we want heaven in our land, we must make a continuous appeal to heaven. If we want the Lord to help us, we must continually ask for His help. It’s called PRAYER, and this is the time!
DAY FOUR – 2 Kings 9-11, 2 Chronicles 22:7 – 23:21
I remember hearing the late Billy Graham comment on the death rate that is frequently cited as a statistic. He said, in essence, “The death rate always remains the same; it doesn’t rise and it doesn’t fall. War, murder, sickness and all the other causes of death don’t affect it. The ratio has always been the same: one to one.” As the scripture has so crisply stated, “It is appointed unto man once to die; and after this, judgment.” A lot of people died in our reading today. Their deaths, and the reasons for them, were clearly stated by Yahweh God. It was due to kings, their families and followers who abandoned Yahweh and worshipped and served the Baal-gods, pagan deities who deceived and ruled over the goyim (Hebrew for Gentiles). God’s prophets declared that they, their households and followers would perish. So our reading describes the demise of the kings of both Israel and Judah for their personal and national sins. If it seems so autocratic, so unfeeling, so… so… well, just ask yourself: If I had a plan to save the world, what would I do to see that the Plan was successful? How would I deal with open rebellion and personal refusal to carry out my instructions designed so that people would be saved eternally? How often would I plead with the lawbreakers to change their ways so that my lovingkindness supporting my Plan could be extended to them and their families? And at last, when all that failed, what would I do? Is death better now or later? If eternal life has been offered and rejected, when is the best time to die? Yahweh’s problem was that He needed a remnant of people to carry the righteous bloodline until a Messiah (Savior, Deliverer) could be born into the world and finally finish the Plan. Therefore He purged the ones responsible for self-destructive practices that undermined His loving Plan. How many lives would become involved? How many generations would it take? How much grace and mercy would have to be extended, and for how long? The world is still waiting for the final answer.
Our response must be simple at this point… Deuteronomy 6:1-5 Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which Yahweh your God commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you go over to possess it; 2 that you might fear Yahweh your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, you, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life; and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Hear therefore, Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with you, and that you may increase mightily, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised to you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: 5 and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. If God’s great Plan depends on me, how will it turn out?
DAY FIVE – 2 Kings 12-13, 2 Chronicles 24
It’s very easy to see only the negative when we read the stories of the kings. But there were some very bright spots and some good people along the way. Jehoash (Joash) was only seven years old when he became king of Judah, but because of his mentor Jehoiada the priest, he did some really good things. He served Yahweh God, mostly. He saw to it that the house of the Lord was repaired to its original condition, as much as possible. During that process some honest men of good reputation, builders and masons, took all the money given into their care and gave back labor of equal value. It’s difficult to determine how widespread idol worship became, but ‘the people’ continued to burn incense on the high places (shrines to false gods). Only after Jehoiada died did Jehoash turn his back on God. Things went downhill then. And it was during this period that the prophet Elisha became sick and died; but not before bringing a hopeful message to Joash, King of Israel. As a result Israel rebuffed repeated advances of Syria when they attacked. And should we fail to NOTE that a dead man revived when he was tossed into the tomb where the bones of Elisha lay? I’d say that God was still somewhere nearby!
Trying to understand the Lord’s interaction with these two wayward nations is a little easier if we consider WHY He did as He did: 2 Kings 13:22-23 King Hazael of Aram had oppressed Israel during the entire reign of King Jehoahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious and merciful to the people of Israel, and they were not totally destroyed. He pitied them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And to this day he still has not completely destroyed them or banished them from his presence. (NLT) One of God’s character traits is FAITHFUL; He remains loyal to His own promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the ancient fathers of Israel. The Lord has never abandoned His promises to Israel, nor will He ever, until all of His plans to save the world are complete. FAITHFUL GOD… thank you for remembering your promises to us as well.