Tuesday, December 06, 2016

"More People to Love"


This is a new book out just today by Jason Abbott and Benjamin Vrbicek. I got to read a pre-pub version and offer an endorsement.

Monday, December 05, 2016

E-Book Versions of "Resistiendo el Chisme"

Rejoice with me!

Resistiendo el Chisme, the Spanish version of Resisting Gossip, is now available as an e-book in multiple formats:

Kindle

Nook

Kobo

iTunes (iOS devices)

Google Play

This is so encouraging to me, especially because I know it's already being used in online classes for Christian leaders by educators like Dr. Tim McIntosh. Tim had asked for a digital version for his students, and the good folks at CLC Colombia and CLC Publications made it happen!

When it first came out, Resistiendo el Chisme was featured in a 18 minute segment on the morning show of Channel One television in Colombia (see YouTube Video below). When I wrote the original book, I never expected it to be used by people all around the world. Praise the Lord!




Sunday, December 04, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent: A Candle of Spiritual Power

LEFC Family Advent Readings: “A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse”
Isaiah 11 :: December 4, 2016
Week #2: Spiritual Power

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s Advent season, we are reflecting together on the ancient promise of the Messiah revealed in the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 11. Isaiah predicts:

[READ ISAIAH 11:1 AND RE-LIGHT FIRST CANDLE.]

Our first candle was a candle of persistent promise. Even though the dynasty of David had dwindled to almost nothing, God was still at work. A new king would arise, a tender shoot sticking up from the stump of Jesse.

Who will this king be? The next verse gives us a hint.

[READ ISAIAH 11:2 AND LIGHT SECOND CANDLE.]

Our second candle speaks of this promised ruler’s spiritual power.

Four times in one short verse, Isaiah tells us that the Spirit of the LORD will rest on this king, and he describes the Spirit as providing wisdom and understanding, counsel and power, knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

Clearly, this coming ruler will possess the Spirit of God in an unprecedented way.

Who will this king be? It must be Jesus!

In the gospel of John, Jesus said that the Father has given Him the Spirit “without limit.”

With all of that spiritual power at His disposal, how glorious will be the Messiah’s rule? The shoot from the stump of Jesse will not be tender and small forever. It will grow to be a powerful tree that will tower over the ages and never be toppled.

Rejoice! Because of the fullness of the Spirit, King Jesus will have everything He needs to rule in power and perfection forever.

[Matt's Messages] “I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants”

“I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
December 4, 2016 :: 2 Kings 8:1-10:36  

I’m going to read a lot of scripture to you today (three chapters worth), but don’t you worry, I absolutely guarantee that it will not be boring!

These chapters are probably the most exciting chapters (and most gruesome) in the whole second book of kings. Action, adventure, blood, death, intrigue, suspense–these chapters have them all!

And here’s the title that I picked to sum up these three chapters in one quote from chapter 9, verse 7 where God through the prophet says, “I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants.”

This is big story about the justice of God.

I tried to think of how to divide this up into shorter portions for preaching, maybe a chapter at a time, but I really think that these next several pieces all flow together to tell one big story about how our God brings perfect justice and rights every wrong.

He says, “I will avenge the blood of my servants.”

Now, perhaps, you haven’t been waiting for that in this book.

And that’s my fault (at least a little).

Back in 1 Kings, the LORD promised to bring justice to against the Ahab, Jezebel, and all of Ahab’s children. Do you remember that?

Ahab was a six-thumbs down king. The worst ever by far at that point.

And he married an 10-thumbs down queen.

And they killed the prophets of Yahweh by the dozens. By the hundreds. Maybe by the thousands!

And they brought in the worship of Baal and Asherah.

They led the country into rank idolatry.

And though Ahab died at the end of 1 Kings, Jezebel has yet died.

And Ahab’s son is the king. His line has continued.

It’s actually Ahab’s grandson who is the current king!

“I thought God had promised to bring justice?”

For the last few months I should have pointed this out every Sunday when I preached from 2 Kings.

All of those chapters where the prophet Elisha was bringing peace and joy and life and hope to God’s people, God’s faithful remnant–every single sermon should have included that line: “Huh. I thought God had promised to bring justice?”

In 1 Kings 19 when Elijah heard the small, still voice, he was told to anoint Elisha and also see that Hazael was anointed king over Aram and Jehu king over Israel.

But that hasn’t happened yet.

Elijah went to heaven on a fiery chariot before those things were accomplished.

And Elisha hasn’t done them yet, either!

“Huh. I thought God had promised to bring justice?”

He’s brought miracles.
He’s healed the waters and the death in the pot.
He’s taken care of widows.
He’s taken care of Syrian generals with leprosy!
He’s made an axhead float.
He’s blinded Arameans and opened the eyes of his servants.
He’s lifted a famine and made some lepers very happy and sent the Arameans packing all by Himself.

But so far, no justice.

“Huh. I thought God had promised to bring justice?”

Well, now it’s time.

We’ve just about reached the end of the story of Elisha, and it’s all about God’s avenging justice.

2 Kings chapter 8, verse 1.

It starts with one last happy story.  Which is also a story about justice. V.1

“Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, ‘Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the LORD has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.’ The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.

At the end of the seven years she came back from the land of the Philistines and went to the king to beg for her house and land.”

Remember this lady? She was mom in chapter 4 whose son died and then the LORD through Elisah brought him back to life.

She’s had to move away and when she got back someone (maybe the government) had seized her land.

So she’s looking to get not just her boy back but her land back and something we call “justice.”

What are the chances that she’ll get it? V.4

“The king was talking to Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, and had said, ‘Tell me about all the great things Elisha has done.’”

It’s surprising to see Gehazi here because he was given leprosy back in chapter 5. Perhaps this story is out of chronological order–the Bible writers often do that–or perhaps the king doesn’t care that he’s leprous. He’s getting used to have lepers around.

But he’s asking Gehazi to regale him with Elisha stories. Especially the miracles. Especially the ones that not everybody knows about. V.5

“Just as Gehazi was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, the woman whose son Elisha had brought back to life came to beg the king for her house and land. [What coincidence! What timing!] Gehazi said, ‘This is the woman, my lord the king, and this is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’

The king asked the woman about it, and she told him. Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, ‘Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.’”

I love that story! It’s a great story about how there really are no coincidences and that God’s timing is absolutely perfect. And it’s a story about how God arranges things so that there is justice.

Now, what should we be saying when read that?

“Huh. That’s great. She got justice.

But I thought God had promised to bring justice for the blood of His servants. What about all of those guys that Ahab and Jezebel killed?”

Verse 7.

“Elisha went to Damascus [in Syria!], and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill. When the king was told, ‘The man of God has come all the way up here,’ he said to Hazael, ‘Take a gift with you and go to meet the man of God. Consult the LORD through him; ask him, 'Will I recover from this illness?'’

Now, this is a turning point in the story of Elisha.

He’s been doing miracles that bring grace and life, but now he’ll be prophesying mostly judgment and death.

He goes out of the country to Syria. It doesn’t say why, but he’s nearby to the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad who has been the enemy of Israel for many chapters now.

And Ben-Hadad is sick and is worried about his future. He’s learned by now (maybe from Naaman) that Elisha can tell the future.

So he sends one of his guys to find out what is going to happen.

And his guy’s name is Hazael.

And that should ring bells for you and for me.

In 1 Kings 19, the LORD told the prophet to anoint Hazael king over Aram.

And he’s supposed to be a king that brings vengeance. V.9

“Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, ‘Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, 'Will I recover from this illness?'’

Elisha answered, ‘Go and say to him, 'You will certainly recover'; but the LORD has revealed to me that he will in fact die.’

He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Then the man of God began to weep. ‘Why is my lord weeping?’ asked Hazael. ‘Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,’ he answered. ‘You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.’

Hazael said, ‘How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?’ ‘The LORD has shown me that you will become king of Aram,’ answered Elisha.

Then Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master. When Ben-Hadad asked, ‘What did Elisha say to you?’ Hazael replied, ‘He told me that you would certainly recover.’ But the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king's face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king.”

I told you that this wouldn’t be boring!

There’s an assassination for you right there.

Elisha tells Hazael that Ben-Hadad would recover just fine if he was allowed to. But Hazael will murder him in his sleep and take over the kingdom.

God has shown this to Elisha. It’s part of His plan. But he takes no pleasure in it.

Hazael seems to take pleasure in it! “That’s sounds cool, but how could I ever do it?”

“God says it will happen.” Which is no excuse for what he does. Hazael takes matters into his own hands and becomes the king of Aram by treachery.

Now, how about the kings of Judah and Israel?

We haven’t seen much of them for the last few chapters. The king of Judah almost not all.

So, now in verse 16, we get an update. Who is king? Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat. V.16

“In the fifth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began his reign as king of Judah. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years.”

What’s next?

Thumbs up or thumbs down, right?

This is in the South remember. The north is always bad. What about this guy in the South? He’s related to David....v.18

“He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”

Two thumbs down.

He married into and followed the wicked family in the North.

But he wasn’t wiped out? Why? Because God always keeps His promises. V.19

“Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever. [That’s in fact, why we have Christmas. Because a son of David was born in Bethlehem that lives today to keep God’s promises! V.20]

In the time of Jehoram, Edom rebelled against Judah and set up its own king. So Jehoram went to Zair with all his chariots. The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he rose up and broke through by night; his army, however, fled back home. To this day Edom has been in rebellion against Judah. Libnah revolted at the same time. As for the other events of Jehoram's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Jehoram rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David. And Ahaziah his son succeeded him as king.”

Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat was nothing to write home about. He barely survived and his kingdom shrank under his rule.

How about his son, Ahaziah? Thumbs up or thumbs down? V.25

In the twelfth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother's name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel [Probably the daughter of Jezebel. Remember her name. She’ll come back into the story. Thumbs up or thumbs down? V.27]

He walked in the ways of the house of Ahab and did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was related by marriage to Ahab's family. Ahaziah went with Joram son of Ahab [in the north] to war against Hazael [the new] king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram; so King Joram returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds the Arameans had inflicted on him at Ramoth in his battle with Hazael king of Aram. Then Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to Jezreel to see Joram son of Ahab, because he had been wounded.”

Now, I’m not going to spend any time explaining all of that, but I’ll just say this. If you do the math on the reigns of these two kings, North and South, Joram son of Ahab in the North and Ahaziah son of Joram in the South, you find out that both of these guys are due to die in the same year.

And here they both are in the same place. Jezreel.

And the king of the north has a military leader that has the name Jehu.

Everything is now in place for God’s vengeance to fall.

2 Kings chapter 9.

“The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, 'This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.' Then open the door and run; don't delay!’

So the young man, the prophet, went to Ramoth Gilead. When he arrived, he found the army officers sitting together. ‘I have a message for you, commander,’ he said. ‘For which of us?’ asked Jehu. ‘For you, commander,’ he replied. Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu's head and declared, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anoint you king over the LORD's people Israel.

You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the LORD's servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel–slave or free. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.'’ Then he opened the door and ran.”

I told you it wouldn’t be boring!

Do you know what this makes Jehu?

It makes him a Messiah.

What does Messiah mean? An anointed ruler.

Jehu is the only king of the northern kingdom to be anointed.

And he is anointed to bring God’s vengeance.

We don’t like that word. For most of us vengeance conjures up the connotation of meanness, beastliness, unrighteous anger.

But when vengeance is decreed by God, it means justice.

It means righting the wrong and making everything right by righteous force.

The time has come for God to avenge the blood of His servants.

And He has anointed Jehu as the messiah to do it. V.11

“When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, ‘Is everything all right? Why did this madman come to you?’ ‘You know the man and the sort of things he says,’ Jehu replied. ‘That's not true!’ they said. [You’re covered in oil!] ‘Tell us.’

Jehu said, ‘Here is what he told me: 'This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.'’ [And they believed him.] They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, ‘Jehu is king!’

So Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, conspired against Joram. (Now Joram and all Israel had been defending Ramoth Gilead against Hazael king of Aram, but King Joram had returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds the Arameans had inflicted on him in the battle with Hazael king of Aram.) Jehu said, ‘If this is the way you feel, don't let anyone slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.’ Then he got into his chariot and rode to Jezreel, because Joram was resting there and Ahaziah king of Judah had gone down to see him.

When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu's troops approaching, he called out, ‘I see some troops coming.’ ‘Get a horseman,’ Joram ordered. ‘Send him to meet them and ask, 'Do you come in peace?'’

[That’s the key question here. “Do you come in peace?” v.18]

The horseman rode off to meet Jehu and said, ‘This is what the king says: 'Do you come in peace?'’ ‘What do you have to do with peace?’ Jehu replied. ‘Fall in behind me.’ The lookout reported, ‘The messenger has reached them, but he isn't coming back.’

So the king sent out a second horseman. When he came to them he said, ‘This is what the king says: 'Do you come in peace?'’ Jehu replied, ‘What do you have to do with peace? Fall in behind me.’ The lookout reported, ‘He has reached them, but he isn't coming back either. The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi–he drives like a madman.’

‘Hitch up my chariot,’ Joram ordered. And when it was hitched up, Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah rode out, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of ground that had belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. [Oh boy. You can see what’s happening now!]

When Joram saw Jehu he asked, ‘Have you come in peace, Jehu?’

‘How can there be peace,’ Jehu replied, ‘as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?’ [And then he knew!] Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, ‘Treachery, Ahaziah!’

Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, ‘Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the LORD made this prophecy about him: 'Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the LORD, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the LORD.' Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the LORD.’

How many times have we seen that God always keeps His promises?

How many times do we need to be told that that includes His threats?

“In accordance with the word of the LORD.”

v.27 “When Ahaziah king of Judah saw what had happened, he fled up the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu chased him, shouting, ‘Kill him too!’ They wounded him in his chariot on the way up to Gur near Ibleam, but he escaped to Megiddo and died there. His servants took him by chariot to Jerusalem and buried him with his fathers in his tomb in the City of David. (In the eleventh year of Joram son of Ahab, Ahaziah had become king of Judah.)”

Jehu has killed, not just one king today but two. Not just the king of the Israel in the north, but the king of Judah of South. What will happen down there?

And has Jehu gone too far?

It’s Jezebel’s turn now. It’s been a long time coming. V.30

“Then Jehu went [back] to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she painted her eyes, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. [Always the queen. Always the idolatrous harlot. Always defiant and unrepentant even though she knows her time is up. V.31]

As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, ‘Have you come in peace, Zimri, you murderer of your master?’

He looked up at the window and called out, ‘Who is on my side? Who?’ Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. ‘Throw her down!’ Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot. Jehu went in and ate and drank. ‘Take care of that cursed woman,’ he said, ‘and bury her, for she was a king's daughter.’ But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. They went back and told Jehu, who said, ‘This is the word of the LORD that he spoke through his servant Elijah the Tishbite: On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel's flesh. Jezebel's body will be like refuse on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, 'This is Jezebel.'’”

I told you it wouldn’t be boring.

Jehu has not come in peace. He’s come in vengeance. The LORD’s vengeance.

Chapter 10, verse 1.

“Now there were in Samaria seventy sons of the house of Ahab. [Elisha said that God has said that they all need go.] So Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria: to the officials of Jezreel, to the elders and to the guardians of Ahab's children. He said, ‘As soon as this letter reaches you, since your master's sons are with you and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city and weapons, choose the best and most worthy of your master's sons and set him on his father's throne. Then fight for your master's house.’ [Ready or not, here I come.]

But they were terrified and said, ‘If two kings could not resist him, how can we?’ So the palace administrator, the city governor, the elders and the guardians sent this message to Jehu: ‘We are your servants and we will do anything you say. We will not appoint anyone as king; you do whatever you think best.’

Then Jehu wrote them a second letter, saying, ‘If you are on my side and will obey me, take the heads of your master's sons and come to me in Jezreel by this time tomorrow.’ Now the royal princes, seventy of them, were with the leading men of the city, who were rearing them. When the letter arrived, these men took the princes and slaughtered all seventy of them. They put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu in Jezreel. When the messenger arrived, he told Jehu, ‘They have brought the heads of the princes.’ Then Jehu ordered, ‘Put them in two piles at the entrance of the city gate until morning.’ The next morning Jehu went out. He stood before all the people and said, ‘You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these?

Know then, that not a word the LORD has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The LORD has done what he promised through his servant Elijah.’ So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor.”

I told you that it wouldn’t be boring.

The author doesn’t let us think for a second that God is not in this vengeance.  V.10, “Know the that not a word the LORD has spoken...will fail. The LORD has done what He promised.”

Including His threats.

Now, I tend to think that in this section, Jehu starts to go it on his own. V.12

“Jehu then set out and went toward Samaria. At Beth Eked of the Shepherds, he met some relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and asked, ‘Who are you?’ They said, ‘We are relatives of Ahaziah, and we have come down to greet the families of the king and of the queen mother.’ ‘Take them alive!’ he ordered. So they took them alive and slaughtered them by the well of Beth Eked–forty-two men. He left no survivor.”

Now I’m sure he could have made the excuse that the two royal families have intermarried, and so this was bringing God’s justice to bear on them. But just like killing King Ahaziah wasn’t in his marching orders, I’m pretty sure that killing these guys wasn’t either.

But he’s got the taste of blood now.

V.15

“After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Recab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, ‘Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?’ ‘I am,’ Jehonadab answered. ‘If so,’ said Jehu, ‘give me your hand.’ So he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot. Jehu said, ‘Come with me and see my zeal for the LORD.’ Then he had him ride along in his chariot.

When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab's family; he destroyed them, according to the word of the LORD spoken to Elijah. [And then he got really tricky. V.18]

Then Jehu brought all the people together and said to them, ‘Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. [Uh oh. That doesn’t sound good!]

Now summon all the prophets of Baal, all his ministers and all his priests. See that no one is missing, because I am going to hold a great sacrifice for Baal. Anyone who fails to come will no longer live.’ But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the ministers of Baal. [It’s a plot.] Jehu said, ‘Call an assembly in honor of Baal.’ So they proclaimed it.

Then he sent word throughout Israel, and all the ministers of Baal came; not one stayed away. They crowded into the temple of Baal until it was full from one end to the other. And Jehu said to the keeper of the wardrobe, ‘Bring robes for all the ministers of Baal.’ So he brought out robes for them. Then Jehu and Jehonadab son of Recab went into the temple of Baal. Jehu said to the ministers of Baal, ‘Look around and see that no servants of the LORD are here with you–only ministers of Baal.’

So they went in to make sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had posted eighty men outside with this warning: ‘If one of you lets any of the men I am placing in your hands escape, it will be your life for his life.’ As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, he ordered the guards and officers: ‘Go in and kill them; let no one escape.’ So they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal. They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it. They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day. So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel.”

Can you believe it?

I’m sure the Israelites never thought that that could happen.

Remember just a few pages ago how there were Baal priests everywhere and it seemed like Baal worship would never end?

And one day it did.

One day it was gone, just like that. Because the Jehu the messiah came and through him the Lord avenged the blood of His servants.

So, does this mean that Jehu is two thumbs up? V.29

“However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit–the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. [Baal is gone. But that doesn’t mean that Jehu has a good heart. In fact, he didn’t go far enough with his reforms! V.30]

The LORD said to Jehu, ‘Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.’ [One thumb up. The only king of Israel who gets one thumb up. V.31]

Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.

[And the nation paid for it. V.32]

In those days the LORD began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael [as prophesied] overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead (the region of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh), from Aroer by the Arnon Gorge through Gilead to Bashan.

As for the other events of Jehu's reign, all he did, and all his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Jehu rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son succeeded him as king. The time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years.”

I told you it wouldn’t be boring.

But what does it mean for us today?

It’s very bloody story and hard to stare at, isn’t it?

I love that the prophet, when he sees the future weeps over the vengeance to come.

But I also love that the vengeance shows us God’s perfect justice.

Let me give you three very quick points of application.

#1. MARVEL AT THE PATIENCE OF GOD.

When we see all of that vengeance fall, we can easily forget that God has been very patient with everybody concerned.

Chapter after chapter people are given the opportunity to repent and make amends.

But Jezebel just suits up and puts on her Maybelline.

And stands there defiantly.

It’s amazing that we are not all toast, isn’t it?

I know that I have a hard time being patient and longsuffering with people.

And I don’t have the responsibility of bringing justice for my servants the prophets who have been slaughtered!

The apostle Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. [But he won’t be patient forever.] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:9-10).

But right now, He’s being patient.

And so should we be.

Because His timing is not off at all. He can swoop in and connect the Shunnamite mom with the king at the very moment when Gehazi is telling the very story of her son.

He doesn’t get the timing wrong. Ever.

He’s being patient. And that should make us marvel and also repentant.

Don’t put off your repentance thinking you’ve got forever!

You don’t know how much time you have.

He does, but you don’t.  He always keeps His promises, including His threats.

He’s just being patient right now.

#2. TREMBLE AT THE VENGEANCE OF GOD.

When the LORD finally does unleash His justice, it is terrible to behold.

And don’t think that this just an Old Testament thing with God.

This Summer we read the book of Revelation together in our Family Bible Week class.

It’s in there.

God promises to avenge the blood of His servants, and He will.

What happened to Jezebel, what happened to the priest of Baal, is a picture of what will happen in the final judgment.

And it will be the Messiah who does, God’s Anointed One.

Read Revelation 19 some time. And tremble. Here are a few verses from it.

John writes, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

And unlike Jehu, he won’t make any mistakes. He won’t go too far or not far enough.

His justice will be just right.

“Is it peace?”

“Do you come in peace?”

The answer is, there will be peace when Jesus brings it in full.

“Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

Tremble at that.

Don’t look away. Know that this is our God.

Our God is not just a kind and merciful God. He’s not just an old uncle who loves to hand out presents at Christmas with a twinkle in his eye.

Our God is a consuming fire.

And He will avenge the blood of his servants.

Tremble with joy at that!

I mean it. It is good news that God is just and will bring perfect justice to the world.

Every wrong will be made right.

Nobody will get away with anything.

That’s worth celebrating!

That’s how it is in Revelation. Here’s the first verse of chapter 19:

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: ‘Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.’”

He’s going to bring us perfect justice!

Hallelujah!

Have you been hurt by someone?

Does it feel like they’re going to get away with it?

They won’t.

Their sin will either be judged at the Cross or in the eternal judgment.

And it will be perfectly dealt with.

Justice will be done and will be seen to be done.

God will avenge the blood of His servants.

#3. HOPE IN THE GRACE OF GOD.

This story isn’t over yet.

Jehu dies and things are not perfect yet.

But there is another king coming who will make everything right.

He’ll be two thumbs up, everything thumb you can think of up!

And He will perfectly balance grace and justice.

In fact, He will take the justice on Himself.

He will take God’s vengeance on Himself.

That’s what the Cross is, isn’t it?

The wrath of God applied to the Son of God.

The just vengeance of God applied to God the Son.

To give us grace.

That’s what this table is all about.

As John Newton wrote:

Let us wonder grace and justice 
Join and point to mercy’s store 
When through grace in Christ our trust is 
Justice smiles and asks no more 
He Who washed us with His blood 
He Who washed us with His blood 
He Who washed us with His blood 
Has secured our way to God


***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel
21. LORD, Open Our Eyes!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Sunday of Advent: A Candle of Persistent Promise

LEFC Family Advent Readings: “A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse”
Isaiah 11 :: November 27, 2016
Week #1: Persistent Promise

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s Advent season, we will be reflecting together on the ancient promise of the Messiah revealed in the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 11. Isaiah predicts:

[READ ISAIAH 11:1 AND LIGHT FIRST CANDLE.]

Our first candle is a candle of persistent promise.

Isaiah’s prophecy anticipates a time when all of the kings of Israel have been cut down to size. As kings, they were all disappointing and never lived up to their potential.

These kings failed. They did not lead the nation into covenant faithfulness, and their people suffered for it. David’s royal dynasty had declined until it was almost as good as dead.

But in this bleak time, God was still at work. He was still keeping His promises to His people.

Isaiah says that the Lord will startle everyone and bring a glorious new ruler out of the family line of Jesse. Though every son of David so far has been a sad disappointment, God’s promise remains persistent.

The Lord will bring a powerful king out of humble origins. A tiny shoot will poke up from the stump of Jesse and then grow into a mighty tree. From modest roots, a magnificent Branch will one day bear flourishing fruit.

Sometimes it seems as though God’s promises will never come to pass. May this candle remind us that God always keeps His promises, often in surprising ways which we would never have anticipated.

His promises are persistent, and so should be our faith.

[Matt's Messages] "If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven"

“If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
November 27, 2016 :: 2 Kings 6:24-7:20  

Last week, the story ended with the Lord, through the prophet Elisha, providing a feast to the enemies of Israel whom He had captured through His supernatural power.

We went into the Thanksgiving season reminded that God shows amazing grace even to His enemies.

But as the curtain opens on this very next story, Israel is back at war with the Arameans.

And they are showing Israel no mercy.

In fact, they have laid up a siege against Samaria, the capital of Israel. And the siege is so successful that Samaria is devastated and nearly everyone within its walls are dying of starvation.

2 Kings Chapter 6, verse 24.

“Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey's head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels.”

Now, we don’t know exactly how much these weights and currency would be in today’s measurements, but it’s obvious that things have become desperate.

A donkey’s head has almost no nutritional value. And here they are paying eighty shekels, perhaps 80 month’s wages just to get their hands on one.

The word translated “seed pods” in verse 2 could be translated “dove’s dung.”

Which has absolutely no nutritional value, but maybe a little bit of fuel for a cooking fire. Five shekels for that?!

That’s how utterly awful things have become in Samaria.

And here’s the worst. Verse 26

“As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him, ‘Help me, my lord the king!’ The king replied, ‘If the LORD does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?’ [You can tell how disheartened he is. How powerless he feels.]

Then he asked her, ‘What's the matter?’ She answered, ‘This woman said to me, 'Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we'll eat my son.' So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, 'Give up your son so we may eat him,' but she had hidden him.’

When the king heard the woman's words, he tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and there, underneath, he had sackcloth on his body.

He said, ‘May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!’”

He blames Elisha for all of this.

He’s put in a situation where this woman is clamoring for justice and it’s sick and totally wrong.

It’s supposed to remind us of the wisdom of Solomon.

But this king, probably Jehoram, is two-thumbs down. He has no wisdom. He has no power.

He has almost no kingdom left.

And he blames Elisha.

He’s living in sackcloth because his life is a constant lament.

And he knows that all of this judgment.

Deep down, he knows that he deserves all of this.

That he has led his people into all of this misery. All of this suffering.

Now he doesn’t admit that. Instead, he pins the blame on the man of God.

“May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!’”

It may not fix this situation, but it will feel really good to take it out on someone.

So he sends a messenger to collect Elisha, or at least his head. V.32

“Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. The king sent a messenger ahead, but before he arrived, Elisha said to the elders, ‘Don't you see how this murderer is sending someone to cut off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold it shut against him. Is not the sound of his master's footsteps behind him?’ While he was still talking to them, the messenger came down to him. And the king said, ‘This disaster is from the LORD. Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?’”

Did you ever feel like that?

I’m not exactly sure why the king says what he says to Elisha.

My best guess is that Elisha has told the king to repent in sackcloth and to wait upon the LORD for deliverance.

And the king basically says, “I tried that, and it didn’t work. Look around you.”

“I’m giving up on the Lord.”

Have you ever been there?

Now, Elisha speaks in chapter 7 verse 1 and he makes a surprising prediction of God’s grace. V.1

“Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.’”

That would be amazing.

Those wouldn’t be normal prices, but these people have not seen normal prices [or flour or barley!] for some time.

And now Elisha says that it will happen tomorrow.

It’s so unlikely, it’s almost unbelievable. V.2

“The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, ‘Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?’ ‘You will see it with your own eyes,’ answered Elisha, ‘but you will not eat any of it!’”

#1. BELIEVE GOD’S (ALMOST INCONCEIVABLY) GOOD PROMISES.

You see our title there in verse 2?

“Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?”

I mean, really?!

Some translations have “window of the heavens” there in verse 2.

The idea is that God throws up the sash and starts pouring out His blessings on the people.

But this guy doesn’t believe.

He says that even if God threw open the sluicegates of the heavens and started blessing them, he probably couldn’t pull off the miracle that Elisha predicted.

What do you think of that?

Well, I know that we’re supposed to root for God and for Elisha.

But there is a part of me that understands where this guy is coming from.

Because sometimes it feels and seems like God’s promises are just too good to be true.

In this situation, to go from devastation and cannabalism-tempted starvation to full tummies in just one day seems more than just a little hard to believe.

And what about all of those other promises from God?

Like:

Every evil thing ever done to you or me worked to our good?

Each and every one of our God-betraying sins forgiven?

Being resurrected from the dead and given a new indestructible glorious body?

Do those promises (and there’s more where those came from, do those promises) sound almost inconceivably good to you?

They do to me.

When I look at the state of our world today, it’s easy for me to start thinking like this guy did.

“I don’t know. It seems to good to be true. Even if God threw open the windows ans started raining down blessings, I don’t know if everything He’s promised could come true.”

But, friends, that’s unbelief.

Everything we’ve seen in this book so far and everything we read in the rest of the Bible tell us that God’s promises are real and true and certain. God will bring them all to pass.

“Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.”

Believe it or not.

It’s going to happen.

Brothers and Sisters and Friends, God is calling us to trust in His (almost inconceivably) good promises.

And take them to the bank.

Do you know them?

Do you know what God has promised to His children?

Sometimes people believe in things that God has not promised. And then they get disappointed.

If I think that God has promised me a happy Christmas with dozens of presents under the tree, and good health and a happy family and a happy church family, then if I don’t get some of those things, I’m disappointed and feel let down by God.

So it’s important to know what God has promised and what He has not.

And to believe Him for every single thing that He has said He would do.

No matter how difficult or unlikely or improbable they would be to come true.

I mean, a resurrected body?!

Yesterday, I read a quote from D.A. Carson that said, “I’m not suffering from anything that a good resurrection can’t fix.”

Ain’t that the truth?

But a resurrection?

Have you ever seen a dead body?

Have you ever seen a grave?

Do people get up out of their graves?

That’s what we believe.

We don’t just believe in “going to heaven when you die.”

Christians believe in the resurrection of the body.

Christians believe in the (almost inconceivably) good promises of God.

We should know what they are. We should ransack our Bibles until we know what God has promised to do and then trust Him full for it.

Elisha has spoken the word of the LORD and has told this fellow that he will see it but not taste it.

And now, for something completely different.

In verse 3, the curtain opens early the next morning on four lepers.

Four guys with leprosy. The last people we expected to hear from. V.3

“Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, ‘Why stay here until we die? If we say, 'We'll go into the city'–the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let's go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.’”

You see where these guys are at, don’t you?

They have absolutely nothing. They are social outcasts who have to live outside the starving city.

And they are planning to die so they decide what could it hurt to try to surrender to the Arameans. Maybe they’ll feed them. If not, they are going to die anyway.

What do you think is going to happen?

Well, it’s God, right? And it’s 2 Kings. So they probably aren’t going to die. But it sure seems like it. V.5

“At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!’

So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.

Then they said to each other, ‘We're not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace.’”

If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven:

#2. SHARE THE (ALMOST INCONCEIVABLY) GOOD NEWS.

Can you imagine how these guys felt?

They went from starving to feasting and trying on new clothes and putting stuff away for a rainy day.

They had hit the jackpot!

Imagine the soundtrack for this moment.

It’s a ghost town. God had orchestrated this miracle so that the Arameans were so scared that they left all their good stuff behind.

It was better than Black Friday.

The stores were empty of people and everything was free!

The four guys are running from tent to tent.

“Do you see what they have behind door number 3?”

And it’s all ours!

And then they come to their senses and remember that there are people starving just over there behind that wall.

“We're not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

What a picture of the gospel!

God’s good news is too good to keep to ourselves.

What Jesus did for us on the Cross. What He purchased there when He died?

That’s too good to not share.

What Jesus did at the Empty Tomb. What kind of life He brought on that day?

That’s too good to keep to ourselves.

Like the song says:

“Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine.

Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine!”

I’m afraid that many of us are ashamed of the good news.

We don’t feel like sharing it.

We love it. We cherish it. We sing about it on Sundays.

But what about on Mondays?

Do we keep all of this gospel wealth to ourselves?

If so, “We are not doing right. This is a day of good news...” and we should get busy sharing it.

When was the last time you gave testimony of God’s grace in your life to someone who needs to hear it?

This is a good season for it. The Advent season leading up to Christmas.

We don’t need to get all preachy.

But we do need to share the wealth that we have been given.

Given!  Not earned.

These 4 lepers did nothing to deserve all of these blessings.

And neither have we.  But we are the beneficiaries of God’s almost unbelievably generosity, and it would be wrong to hoard it.

Share the good news.

Whether they believe it or not themselves. V.10

“So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, ‘We went into the Aramean camp and not a man was there–not a sound of anyone–only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.’

The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.

[And because Elisha had said that it would be so, they were all ready to go out there. Not so much. V.12]

The king got up in the night and said to his officers, ‘I will tell you what the Arameans have done to us.They know we are starving; so they have left the camp to hide in the countryside, thinking, 'They will surely come out, and then we will take them alive and get into the city.'’ [It’s a trap!]

One of his officers answered, ‘Have some men take five of the horses that are left in the city. Their plight will be like that of all the Israelites left here–yes, they will only be like all these Israelites who are doomed. So let us send them to find out what happened.’

[I think that guy believed Elisha! But he says, “What do we have to lose?”]

So they selected two chariots with their horses, and the king sent them after the Aramean army. He commanded the drivers, ‘Go and find out what has happened.’ They followed them as far as the Jordan, and they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messengers returned and reported to the king.

Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans.

So a seah of flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, as the LORD had said.

Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate, and the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house.

It happened as the man of God had said to the king: ‘About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.’ The officer had said to the man of God, ‘Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?’ The man of God had replied, ‘You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!’ And that is exactly what happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died.”

How many times does the author emphasize that God did it just like He said He would?

God did it just like He said He would.

God always keeps His promises.

Believe it!

Disbelieve it at your own peril.

What happened to this man, trampled in the gateway, is a picture of what the author of Hebrews says when writes, “[H]ow shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” or when he says, “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?” (Heb 2:3, 12:25).

There is a great price to pay for unbelief.

God has made almost inconceivably great promises, and they call come true for those who put their faith and trust in Him.

But those who ignore His promises and choose to not believe them?

Don’t be that guy.

Because the LORD has promised to open the floodgates of heaven on all who trust in His very great and precious promises.

Only trust Him.
Only trust Him.
Only trust Him now.


***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel
21. LORD, Open Our Eyes!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "LORD, Open Our Eyes!"

“LORD, Open Our Eyes!”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
November 20, 2016 :: 2 Kings 6:1-23  

I think that our message for today is a good one for the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s all about seeing things that are easily missed.

Like our blessings.

We always sing that song this time of year, “Count Your Blessings.”

Count them one by one.

And it’s good advice. Because we can easily forget how good we have it until we get to thinking about, reminding ourselves.

So it’s good to slow down and count those countless gifts.

The title I picked for today’s message is “LORD, Open Our Eyes.”

And you’ll see where I get that as we study chapter 6 together.

Today, we’re only going to make it the first 23 verses.

We’ll have to save the rest for next week.

Today, we’re just going to read two short stories with more a few more miracles done by Elisha.

Strangely enough, the Books of Kings haven’t been talking that much about the kings for the last several chapters.

It should almost be called the Book of Prophets!

Because first Elijah and now Elisha have held center stage.

We’ve learned that one of the reasons for that is because the kings have been doing such a bad job.

There are little glimmers of goodness in the Southern kingdom, but every king of the Northern kingdom, every king of Israel has been at least two thumbs down. Some more than two!

Each and every king has been a big disappointment. All of the kings have been a failure.

But God has not failed.

The LORD has not failed His people.

He is still caring for them, especially for those who have stayed faithful to Him.

Kings may fail us (and often do), but the LORD never fails His covenant people.

I think that’s one of the big truths that this section of Scripture is getting across to us.

That’s why so many of the stories are simply God graciously caring for His people during hard times.

The hard times have come, in many ways, because of bad leadership.

But Elisha, the man of God, is on the spot to remind God’s people that no matter what God is still on the spot, God is still on the job.

2 Kings 6 starts with a quirky little story about an unusual and unique miracle.

“The company of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.’ And he said, ‘Go.’ Then one of them said, ‘Won't you please come with your servants?’ ‘I will,’ Elisha replied. And he went with them.

They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh, my lord,’ he cried out, ‘it was borrowed!’ The man of God asked, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.

‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.”

Now, that’s a pretty unique story, isn’t it?

I don’t think there’s anything quite like it in the rest of the Bible.

Elijah never did that. I know that!

Elisha is apparently the head of the company of the prophets and this group of them needed a new place to meet and apparently to live.

And they Elisha agreed to go along for the barn raising.

They are cutting wood near the Jordan and the axehead, at least, this is how I picture it, the axehead flies off backwards over the man’s head and into the Jordan.

Deep! Unsalvageable. Unable to be found.

“What are we going to do?”

Now, what I never thought about before was just how bad this was for this man.

You can see how distressed he is. “My master Elisha, it was borrowed!”

Now, when you and I read that, what we do we think?

We think. How embarrassing. I’ve lost something I’ve borrowed before.

And you have to go to Lowes and get another. Right?

What did he think?  He thought, “I’m going into slavery.”

Does every man have a iron axehead in the days of Elisha?

No. Why? Because they’re expensive.

This guy had to borrow one.

It’s more like this. What if you borrowed your friend’s truck to do a little job and you totaled it and you didn’t have insurance.

How would you feel then?

That’s how this guy feels.

He’s just gone deep into debt that he can’t repay, and it probably means servitude until he can pay it off.

And what does Elisha say to that?

“It’s tough to be you!”

Is that what he says?

No, he says, “Where did it fall?”

And he does a miracle in the name of the LORD.

The iron axehead floats!

Here’s point number one.

Lord, Open Our Eyes to See That:

#1. YOU CARE ABOUT OUR (little) BIG DEALS.

No matter how little they are.

Isn’t that great?

God is the God of small things, not just big things.

You know the things that to us are a big deal even if they aren’t a big deal to other people?

What’s an axehead worth, really?  Is it worth asking for a miracle to get one back?

I’ll bet this guy thought so.

I’ve always thought this was almost a trivial pursuit.

Whenever I’ve read this story before, I always focused on how different and weird it was. Iron floating!

But it’s not very different from the widow’s oil, the Shunammite’s son, the death in the pot, and the feeding of the hundred.

Those were all small to us and are tucked away deep in the Old Testament, but they were gigantic to those needy people at that time.

What’s your “big deal” right now?

What are you worried about?

What’s got you concern, your attention these days?

Does it seem too small to bother God with?

Author Dale Ralph Davis says about this story:
[T]he greatness of God in large measure consists in the fact that he is ‘faithful in little’. We make a mistake when we confuse God’s greatness with ‘bigness’ or when we associate his greatness only with bigness. Then we begin to carve out for ourselves a graven image of the living God which shapes him in our image: his is so busy, so preoccupied and distracted, pressured under time constraints. This CEO-type God can have no time for Joe or Jane Peon. Ah, but that is not our God. Part of his greatness appears in the fact that he does attend to the small problems, the dinky details, the individual needs, the mundane and ordinary affairs of the believer’s life. The hairs on your head are numbered; God does care about your axe-head (The Power and the Fury, pg. 104).
God cares about your big deal right now, no matter how small it really is.

Isn’t that comforting?

I remember a number of years ago, I was buying plane tickets, and I prayed really hard about when to buy them. And I had to go to the public library and get internet access to purchase them. So this was a while ago.

And I remember praying about it, and then sitting down to the computer and buying the tickets, and getting the best price I could have every imagined.

And I went out to lunch with a guy from our church who no longer goes here. And I was telling him about what the Lord had done.

And he said, “You think the Lord actually cares about that stuff? About the price of a plane ticket? And whether or not you got one in time?”

I said, “Absolutely. Don’t you?”

Yes, it’s no big deal to Him. But it’s a big deal to us.

And God cares about our big deals.

Now, that doesn’t mean that He always does what we want about them! Certainly not.

He does not always give us our axe-heads back!

But count your blessings. Nothing you care about is too small for God to take notice of and be involved in.

He’s the God of small things. He is the God who answers prayers for parking places. And for postage stamps. And business deals. And health insurance problems. And whatever your big deals is right now.

He cares. Even when the kings who are supposed to be looking out for your welfare do not, God is on the spot and on the job.

Put your trust in Him.

And that would be enough for us to take into Thanksgiving, but let’s see some more.

In the next story, the prophet Elisha is supplying military intelligence to the King of Israel. V.8

“Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel [back to that again!]. After conferring with his officers, he said, ‘I will set up my camp in such and such a place.’ The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: ‘Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.’

So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.

This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’ ‘None of us, my lord the king,’ said one of his officers, ‘but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.’

‘Go, find out where he is,’ the king ordered, ‘so I can send men and capture him.’ The report came back: ‘He is in Dothan.’ Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.”

It doesn’t say when this happened or where. It’s kind of vague on the details. It doesn’t even actually say which kind of Aram or which king of Israel. And some of these stories may be out of chronological order.

But none of that is very important.

What is important is that Elisha is using his prophetic abilities to inform the king of Israel of the troop movements of the King of Aram. Elisha and the king are working together here.

And he’s got miraculous intel to reveal military secrets.

And the king of Aram thinks he must have a mole, a traitor, inside his own team.

They assure him that they are all loyal, but the tell the king about Elisha’s abilities.

“He knows the very words you speak in your bedroom!”

So the kings sends a strike force to take Elisha out.

Now, what I always think is funny is that they think they can take him by surprise in the middle of the night!

“He knows the very words you speak in your bedroom!

So try to sneak up on him.”

But it does bother Elisha’s servant, perhaps Gehazi, but it doesn’t say. V.15

“When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. ‘Oh, my lord, what shall we do?’ the servant asked.

‘Don't be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’

And Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ [There’s our sermon title.] Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

LORD, Open Our Eyes to See That:

#2. YOU ARE UP TO SO MANY THINGS WE AREN’T AWARE OF.

Here’s the thing. Verse 16 is true even if there is no verse 17.

Do you get that?

It’s amazing what the servant sees!  He sees hills full of horse and chariots of fire.

There is an amazing army of, angels? I assume.

Fiery horses and chariots like what took Elijah up in chapter 2.

And they vastly outnumber the Aramean strike force. If the two got into a battle, there would be no contest.

But here’s the point. Verse 16 is true even if there is no verse 17.

“Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

That’s always true.

Whether we see it or not.

And not just that there is an unseen reality of spiritual warfare out there. Beyond our vision.

There are an infinite number of wonderful things out there beyond our vision!

We don’t know the half of it.
We don’t know a fraction of it.

We don’t know most of what God is up to!

Even in our situations.

Is that encouraging?  It is to me.

Because sometimes it feels like God isn’t doing anything.

And the reality is that God is doing an unimaginably great amount of things around me out of my perception all of the time.

Why don’t we all die today at church?
Why doesn’t a plane fall on our building?
Why don’t we all have heart attacks?

Are all of those things that could happen? I guess so. Why don’t they?

Sometimes miracles. All of the time, because God is doing stuff.

On the macro level and the micro level. And on the spiritual level.

We learned about Job today in Sunday School.

The thing about Job is that he didn’t know he was in the story of Job!

We know about the cosmic quarrel between the Lord and Satan in chapters 1 and 2.

But Job doesn’t know about any of that.

It’s all behind the scenes.

And Job trusts and learns to trust deeper that God is doing things behind the scenes, the right things, the things that need done.

Count your blessings. God is at work in ways you can’t see and probably can’t even imagine.

And He’s bigger than all of your enemies, combined.

What is the New Testament version of verse 16?

1 John 4:4, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

That’s always true. Whether you can see it or feel it or not.

If you belong to the LORD, the one who is in you is greater than all of your enemies combined!

Put your trust in Him.

The story isn’t done yet. V.18

“As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. [The opposite of what he asked for his servant.]

Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ And he led them to Samaria.

[This is called a “Yahweh mind trick.” Get it? A little Star Wars reference for you there. No? Okay, we’ll move on. V.20]

“After they entered the city, Elisha said, ‘LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.’ Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria [Israel’s capital city!].

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, ‘Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?’

‘Do not kill them,’ he answered. ‘Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.’ So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel's territory.”

Lord, Open Our Eyes to See That:

#3. YOU WANT US TO LOVE OUR ENEMIES.

The King of Israel was just drooling wasn’t he?

“Shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?”

But Elisha says, “No, they aren’t your prisoners. The are the LORD’s prisoners, and today He is showing them mercy.”

And they get a great big feast.

Probably turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry dressing....

Well maybe not that.

But they get a great big feast! The enemy gets a great big feast and then gets sent home and (at least for a time) the war is over. “The bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”

King Solomon said, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).

Yes, that’s in the Old Testament!

But our Lord Jesus said it even stronger in the New.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:44-47).

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

That’s not an easy one to see.

It’s certainly not an easy one to do.

But when we love our enemies, we are being like our Father. Showing the family resemblance.

And we’re acting not like King Jehoram or whoever this is, but like King Jesus, the king of kings.

Who do you need to show love to this week?

Who is your enemy? How might you seek to bless them?

Do it wisely. Do it prudently. Shrewd as a serpent, innocent as a dove.

But do it.  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Maybe even throw them a big turkey dinner.

They’ll never see it coming. And it might even end the hostilities.

Count your blessings. Because you were loved in this way.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

While were His enemies, Jesus showed us love.

And think about this, Jesus had the ability to see spiritual realities that we can’t.

He knew about those horses and chariots on the hillside.

And He didn’t call on them.

In the garden of Gethsemane, He told Peter to put back his sword and He said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt 26:53).

But He chose not to do that.
He chose not to protect Himself.
Instead, He chose to die for His enemies.

Put your trust in Him.

And follow His lead.

Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If you have not yet, make this the day!

Because even though we are His natural born enemies, Jesus died to save those who will believe in Him.

And He came back to life to give us all of the blessings that we don’t deserve.

A feast with the king had been our enemy.

Once Your Enemy
Now Seated at Your Table
Jesus, Thank You!

Put your faith and trust in Him.

And if you have, then count that as your greatest blessing.

Pray that the LORD would open your eyes to see just how great our salvation truly is.

Because, thank God, we now belong to the God who cares about our big deals no matter how small they really are.

Thank God, we now belong to the God who is up to so many things we are not remotely aware of.

Thank God, that we belong to the God who loved us even when we hated Him.

And now He call us to love, not just our brothers and sisters though we need help to do that, too, but to love even our enemies.

And invite them to the feast that makes peace.

***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel