Bible Reading for: April 26
The Bible offers us a big picture and a lot of details. If we rush through our reading we can miss much. We need to see both the forest and the trees.
As we have read about Elisha in 2 Kings, I marvel at the variety of stories we have been told. At times, it feels like we are rambling from one episodic moment to the next. The problem for me is I can start to “jog” through these stories without picking up on their significance. This tendency is further enhanced by the fact that I keep looking for the “big picture” in the daily reading. I’m afraid I begin to suffer from the old saying “I can’t see the forest for the trees.”
As I’ve thought about it I realize that the big picture never really changes. God created all of humanity to be in right relationship with Him. Man chose to walk away from that relationship, and continues to suffer the horrible consequences of that decision. The big picture is this, everyone needs the one and only Savior to be restored to right relationship with God, and that Savior is Jesus Christ. Everything in the Bible points to Jesus.
Jesus is “the” hero of the Bible story. He is our protagonist. Now you might be surprised by the identity of the antagonist. It is not, as you might think, Satan. Oh, he is a malevolent figure that floats in and out of our story, but the antagonist of the Bible story is the self-centered heart of every human being. Sinful man is the antagonist here. You and I are the antagonist; or at least we were until we accepted Christ’s sacrifice and joined the good guys.
You see, sin is what Jesus came to conquer. It is sin that fights against Him. The life and death battle between Jesus and sin is a battle between Jesus and every self-centered heart. Self-centeredness is at the heart of every sin. Self-centeredness is the attitude of a created being, attempting to raise himself above the Creator. I remember an old saying, “Your arms are too short to box with God”, and yet every impulse of our self-centered hearts is to say to God “I’m god and you’re not!”
What we’ve been reading in the Bible from day one is this epic battle, and the stories we read today are no different. So that is the big picture, but what about all of these vignettes with Elisha? Have you ever stopped to think about why any given little scene in the Bible was included? Think about this. God, through His Holy Spirit, has guided the creation of every word in the Bible. If this is true, then nothing in this Bible is here on accident. There are no throw away lines in this text. Every iota and dot of Scripture has purpose.
I believe that in reading through the Bible in a year, we find ourselves between the big picture and the close-up. We are at a middle distance and we often lose the detail. This is natural. To dissect every bit of scripture in every day’s reading would be an all-day affair. Yet, much is to be gained if we remember that everything is here for a reason, and it all relates back to the story God is telling us in His Word.
With all of that said, I’d like to look at two items in today’s reading. The first is the confidence Elisha has when surrounded by the Syrian army. Elisha’s servant is fretful because, in his ignorance, he fears for the safety of his master; and likely himself. This servant says “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” I found Elisha’s response fantastic!
2 Kings 6:16 ESV
“He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.'”
Who is Elisha talking about? Those that are with us are more than those who are with them? Where is this vast host of warriors? Elisha prayed to God to enlighten this young man.
2 Kings 6:17 ESV
“Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
I’m reminded of what Paul said in Romans:
Romans 8:31 ESV
“…If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Elisha knew that God was more powerful than anything man, or Satan for that matter, could throw at him. His relationship with God, and spiritual maturity, allowed him to see the power which surrounds the true children of God. Imagine, a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire. I guess in today’s terms, we’d be looking at a mountain of Abram tanks armed with nuclear missiles! Do you not realize that when you are faithful in doing your Father’s business, you are surrounded by an innumerable host of heavenly beings armed and ready to defend you?
Why should we be timid in sharing the Gospel? Why should we have any fear and trepidation? If God is for you, who can stand against you? God included this story in the Bible for you to read today. He is telling you that His children, who are doing His business, have nothing to fear. What does the knowledge of this mean to you? Does it give you confidence? It should! It really, really should!
Finally, we read of a changing of leadership in Judah. In fact, we read of two changes of leadership in Judah. Jehoshaphat, who had been fairly faithful to God, has finally gone to his ancestors, and his son, Jehoram, comes to power. Jehoram does not walk in his father’s footsteps but in the ways of Ahab. If you will recall Ahab was the king of Israel that worshipped foreign gods. Jehoram’s son, Ahaziah, also worships foreign gods.
I’ve mentioned before that, as fathers, we have a responsibility to set a good example for our children, and if we don’t, we share a portion of blame for their behavior. The Bible shows us however, that even if a child has a poor example as a father, he can still choose to follow God, as did Asa, Jehoshaphat’s father. It also shows us that you can set a good example and your child can still go astray. In my opinion, if you’ve been the father you are supposed to be, have set a good example, and taught them the ways of the Lord, then you have no culpability for the choices of your child. I don’t know if Jehoshaphat did his part or not, but the child did go wrong.
Do you notice what led Jehoram astray? He married a daughter of Ahab who worshipped foreign gods. How many times have we seen this? A guy has a casual attitude about marrying a non-believer. Guys, if you are not married, don’t marry a non-believer, and don’t kid yourself into thinking you can win them over. It’s a bad idea. If you are married, I hope you chose to be with a believer. If you did marry a non-believer, this is not an excuse to bail. You have made a commitment before God, and you must now exhibit Christ-like behavior for two reasons; because you are a Christian, and because by doing so you may bring your bride into salvation. This is serious stuff guys, and you just can’t afford to be indifferent to the most influential relationship you will have outside of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers, you are a child of the living God. He hasn’t taken you up to Heaven to be with Him yet because He has work for you to do here on Earth. You must make every effort to identify that work, or mission, and compare every decision you make against it. Marrying a non-believer is not consistent with whatever mission God has for you.
If you have married a non-believer your primary mission now is to model Christ for them so they will respond to the call of grace. Your wife is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. How can you possibly be doing your Father’s business when part of you, your wife, is not dedicated to the same business? You cannot force or browbeat or cajole anyone into accepting Christ. All you can do is point them to Christ by your behavior. People can’t hear a word you are saying when your bad behavior is screaming in their ears. If you love your wife the way Christ loves the church, a desire for Christ is a likely response.
Well, those are a couple of the trees as I see them. Please tell me about the trees you see.
Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!