He Speaks

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked. But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.'” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. 2 Kings 4:42-44

If we didn’t know any better, we’d say that this story comes directly out of the New Testament from the feeding of the 4000 and 5000! Once again God supplied the needs of a hundred people. Sure, the servant could have gone out and bought more bread and grain, but he didn’t need to. When Elisha was hearing from God, I’m certain he didn’t know how it would play out but it did.

We don’t know the name of the servant, but he played a key role in feeding these people. This servant had to trust a man of God he didn’t know to perform a miracle I’m sure he’d never seen before. He probably thought Elisha was a crackpot. But the Lord had anointed Elisha to do great things

God used a servant and a prophet to feed 100 people; one was a follower, the other was clearly a leader. He still speaks to those who will listen; he still moves in hearts; at times he still speaks through others. And of course He still speaks to people through His word.

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After Seeking Advice

Jeroboam thought to himself that “the kingdom, will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam. After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt. 1 Kings 12:26-28

Advice is good. Bad advice is, well, bad. How can you tell the difference between the two? In the case of the passage above, Jeroboam knew what he was doing but wanted his counselors to sanction it. Kings and powerful leaders throughout history have surrounded themselves with "yes men." Followers learn quickly what to say and what not to say around their king. Often their lives depended on it. So too was the case with Jeroboam. He knew what he wanted, probably let his counselors know it too and wanted verification that he was doing right.

We do this in a more subtle way in our lives. We really really want to do something. The thing we are thinking about may be a very good thing. We think and believe in our minds that God must be in it since it's the only thing we've been thinking about for days and why would he put this in our minds for such a long time if it wasn't from Him? Then you ask God to sanction (bless) it when you actually go through with it.

The lines are often blurred between what we want and what we believe God wants. Too often we let our emotions get in the way. Too often what we want is not at all what God wants but we're afraid of letting go for fear of losing something we really really wanted. What's worse is when this applies to relationships we know deep down aren't healthy or right for us. We continue in them anyway and ask God to bless something that is flawed and unhealthy from the start.

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God Raised Up an Adversary

Then the Lord raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite…And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada…1 Kings 11:14, 23

We get to see a very different side of God in this passage. Generally, we tend to think that the opposition we face in life is entirely of the Devil's doing! Not so. Twice within a dozen verses God raised up an adversary against the King of Israel, Solomon. Solomon's heart had turned away from God and the anger of the Lord burned against him (1 Kings 11:9).

God had given Solomon great wisdom and he had squandered it. He married many foreign women and they had led him astray with their foreign gods. Here is a man who was seeking, searching for the truth, trying to fill his void. He had it all. And he had experienced God in a great way. But the Scriptures tell us that Solomon had done evil in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 11:6). You still can't help shake the nagging feeling that God was trying to tell Solomon something very important. There was still hope for Solomon.

God is still in the business of trying to shake us and wake us. His methods are often unconventional, and He can deploy any means at his disposal (which happens to be the entire creation) to get us to open our eyes. God has not written any of us off.

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Wise but Disobedient

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharoah's daughter – Moabites, Ammonnites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods”…and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God…So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. 1 Kings 11:1-6

In these few verses we see unnecessary tragedy. Solomon was said to be the wisest man alive. He was wealthy, articulate, and judged people wisely. In the end, though, he followed after other gods (as a consequence of having 700 wives and 300 concubines – v3).

If you've been following these devotions for long, you'll realize that I talk much about wisdom, for we live in a world that needs a considerable amount of wisdom. Any wisdom that we can throw into the mix is welcome. Solomon wrote plenty of wise material for us to mull over.

But it's apparent from this text that God wants obedience. The foreign women with their foreign gods had led Solomon astray. The favor of God had clearly left Solomon, to the point that god said that Solomon "did evil in the eyes of the Lord." What an indictment!

I guess our takeaway from this is that wisdom is good, doing things that build up the kingdom of God is good, but ultimately God desires obedience. God may be revealing something to you right now that you are resisting for any number of reasons. Sometimes full surrender is the only option left on the table for us. More often than not, it's the best option too.

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Hated By All Nations

Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. Matthew 24:9

This isn’t exactly the first verse people turn to when they think of devotions. It doesn’t have the “warm, fuzzy” feel to it. However, it is an important verse in an important passage. Jesus was talking about signs at the End of the Age. Of course there will be deception, wars and rumors of wars, and other “birth pains.”

As we look at the world today, we see the beginning of these birth pains (or a continuation of them). We even can envision how the world would hate Christians. One needs only look to the West Coast immediately after Proposition 8 passed (a California ballot proposition that changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman and eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry-from Wikipedia) to see that people are being persecuted for their faith and their stance against immorality.
Some headlines read:

  • ‘Gays’ Call for Violence Against Christian Supporters of Prop 8
  • Prop. 8 passage spawns protests, violence and vandalism
  • Mob anti-Christian anger violence by Prop 8 opponents

As we get closer and closer to the Second Coming of Christ (could be tomorrow or could be a thousand years from now), those who stand up for morality and decency will be persecuted and hated, though it may not be as blatant as the headlines above suggest.

So don’t be surprised that you will be hated by the nations. The implication is that entire nations will come down on Christians (in a bizarre way, they are already being blamed for the violence that Muslims are committing in France, England, and elsewhere). Rejoice instead that your names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and that you’re being faithful to what He has called you to do. It may not be easy (especially when we like to be liked) but it may be necessary.

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No One Knows

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Matthew 24:36, 42

These two verses will cause no shortage of consternation among my readers. That's fine. Wise and more scholarly men than I have debated the meaning of these kinds of texts for ages and have still come to different conclusion.

These verses talk about Jesus' second coming to Earth. We know it's going to happen; we just don't know when. We get a sense of what it will look like here (Mark 13 and Luke 21 seem to indicate that there will be great deception, life anxieties, drunkenness, and false prophets), which probably has happened throughout the ages. The difference is that there will be an increase in those activities. It doesn't take too much imagination to see that today – and it's getting worse.

However, we also see many Believers in this generation waiting eagerly for His return. There's an expectancy, an urgency. Witness, for instance, the underground church in China. They have a vision to reach the Muslim world, a mission field that we in the West have almost written off as too difficult! We can certainly learn for their enthusiasm.

Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

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The Greatest Commandments

One of them [Pharisees}, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:35-40

The Pharisees were at it again. They were trying to test Jesus. If they really only knew who they were talking to (the One who created them, gave them life, and knew exactly what was in their hearts)! Nothing they tried (when trying to trip him up) worked.

He answers their question by subtly pointing his finger (figuratively) back at them. They were the ones that probably lacked a love for God and others. They were the ones who were more concerned about keeping the Law rather than practicing mercy and justice. They were the ones who loved the people's praises. He was merely reminding them (and us) what we should be doing along the way in life.

If we only practiced these two commandment every day, life would go very well for us. It's good to be reminded this often because we forget.

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Sign of Jonah

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher we want to see a miraculous sign from you." Matthew 12:38

The first question I ask when I read this verse is, would they have believed the miracle if Jesus had performed it right there on the spot? Probably not. Yesterday's devotion touched upon the crowds liking Jesus and hanging around him for more. The spiritual leaders seem to have just the opposite reaction. Jesus was threatening their power, and they wanted him out of the limelight quickly. They were hoping to ridicule and mock him.

So what was Jesus' reaction? "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." In essence he says, "Wait, and you'll see a miracle that you can't explain away! I will be the miracle! Then you'll have to deal with it in a very different way."

Jesus knew what those leaders were after. He knew their hearts and motives. He stood up to them and they probably walked away scratching their heads at "the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

Rejoice today that the Son of Man spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth for us.

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Pretty Cool Stuff

And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:7-8

Jesus was a crowd pleaser, though that’s not what he set out to do. Generally speaking, the crowds liked Him. He did some pretty cool stuff (healing men and casting out demons is some cool stuff when it’s done right in front of your eyes)! They were probably puzzled at the Jewish leaders’ contempt for him and hostile reaction to him.

Jesus had just healed the paralytic. He instructed him just to get up and walk because his sins were forgiven. The leaders bristled at that. How dare he! Then he told the man to get up and go.

Pretty cool stuff.

Jesus still does some pretty cool stuff, though it may not always be as dramatic as this passage. He’s still in the business of changing lives, one at a time. He’s still trying to draw us unto himself so that we can learn. He still answers prayer and often not the way we’d like it get answered. He is still in the hearts and minds of millions of His believers around the world. And He still has the time for me.

I’d say that’s some pretty cool stuff and worthy of His praise, just like the crowd did in the story.

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