Face to the Wall

The news was devastating. “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.”

Not what King Hezekiah wanted to hear. Though at the point of death, how he had hoped that the prophet’s visit would have been with a different word from the LORD.

And it’s Hezekiah’s response that has me thinking.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD.

(2Kings 20:2 ESV)

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.

Face to the wall. Must be an important detail, not just because it’s recorded here, but because the Spirit makes sure it’s recorded in Isaiah’s parallel account in Isaiah 38, as well. So what am I to pick up from what’s being laid down?

Hezekiah may have turned his face to the wall so that the attendants in the room wouldn’t see that he was blubbering like a baby (20:3b). The dignity of physical strength had already been stripped away as those in his house witnessed daily his deteriorating condition. So, he may have been trying to maintain some emotional dignity by trying to keep his household from also seeing his crushed soul.

Or, perhaps he turned his face to the wall because that would have had him facing toward the temple. Did Hezekiah know the story of Solomon’s petition before God when Solomon first dedicated the temple?

. . . listen to the plea of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive.

(1Kings 8:30 ESV)

Maybe Hezekiah went face to the wall so that he could pray toward this place. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s when it came to the proper way of approaching God.

But maybe Hezekiah’s posture reflected the reality of where your hope is when there is no more hope. The reality of the singularity of where you’re forced to go when there’s no other place to go.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

(Matthew 6:6 ESV)

I’m wondering if going face to the wall wasn’t the manner in which a man who was physically unable to get off his death bed could go into “his room” and shut the door. An acknowledgement that the power of his place atop the kingdom had no benefit in this situation. That the pomp and circumstance of having once paraded about as king, now provided no promise or certainty of surviving his malady. Only his room. Only with the door shut. Only before the Father who is in secret.

The Father who sees and rewards, in fact, granted Hezekiah’s request for an extended life — 15 years (2Ki. 20:6a). But we know there are other ways the Father may choose to reward when we go face to the wall.

He rewards with grace that is sufficient. With Spirit-infused power experienced in our weakness. Mercies new every morning. A peace which passes all understanding even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And other encounters of the divine kind as we go face to the wall.

Continuing, ever-present evidence of God’s amazing grace. All for God’s glory.

Posted in 2Kings | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concluding With Confession

I know I’ve observed it before. Looking back on my journal, I know that I’ve written of it before (last time was 2017). But I’m captured afresh this morning by the manner in which the songwriter concludes the longest of his songs. The way in which he goes out, and what he leaves his listeners to ponder.

It’s been 175 verses of variegated tributes to the word of God. The songwriter loves the Word. The songwriter stands in awe of the Word. The songwriter has sought the Word. The songwriter has meditated on the Word. The songwriter has clung to the Word. The songwriter, until this closing verse, has expressed repeatedly that he has kept the Word. But check out his final lyrics.

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.

(Psalm 119:176 ESV)

I can’t say this for sure, but I’m thinking this may be the first time, thus the only time, the psalmist confesses sin in the psalm. He has declared repeatedly that he hates sin (119:104) and is grieved by sin (119:136). He has called out his enemies’ sin (119:85). He has even acknowledged the propensity to sin (119:11, 37). But, I think this is the first time he confesses sin.

For all that he believes about the Word being truth, for as much he loves the Word and delights in the Word, for as determined as he has been to walk in the way of the Word, this Spirit-filled lyricist concludes his ode to the Word by humbling acknowledging his failure, at times, to keep the Word.

He confesses he is apt to get sidetracked. That he is “prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” To find himself as a sheep gone astray.

Now, while a lost dog can find his way home, a lost sheep just keeps getting more lost apart from a faithful shepherd who seeks the wayward lamb and brings it back. And so, the lowly songwriter pleads to the Mighty God of Creation, “Seek Your servant.”

Ultimately, though striving to walk in obedience, he depends not on his own ability to turn things around, but on the Good Shepherd’s ability to lead him by still waters. His hope is not in his own will and resolve, but in His God’s determination and faithfulness. His confidence not resting in his ability to maintain goodness, but in God’s inexhaustible well of grace. Seek Your servant.

And even in this acknowledgment of failure and need there is tribute paid to the Word.

. . . for I do not forget Your commandments.

It is the word of God which keeps the child of God tethered to the nature and work of God. For in the Word is the promise, the reminder, that a lost sheep can pray to a great God knowing He will leave heaven’s glory to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).

Concluding with confession. Acknowledging our tendency to stray. Petitioning God that He would continue to pursue. All because we trust in His word.

Hmm . . . Kinda’ makes sense.

So we continue to draw on God’s grace, even as we desire to live for God’s glory.

Amen?

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Caution About Imitating the Wrong Stuff

It seems he was an innovator. A collaborator. An imitator. Ahaz, king of Judah, took the things of God and thought he could improve on them. He visited other nations and partnered with them to bring the best of their religious practices back to Israel. He saw what his neighbors had, liked it, and told his priest to replicate it. Oh, did I fail to mention that this king of Judah was also a desecrater?

When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar.

(2Kings 16:10-13 ESV)

Wrong on so many levels. A new and improved altar based on the latest design from the pagan nation next door. A priest who seems to be quick to do the king’s bidding without much concern for the LORD’s building. And, if I’m reading it right, it looks like the king himself is the first to try it out, supplanting his priest in order to be the first to christen his new, avant-garde sacrificial platform. Interesting that while he tests it with a burnt offering and a grain offering and a drink offering and a peace offering, there’s no mention of a guilt offering or a sin offering.

Not being judgmental, but I don’t think I ever really noticed Ahaz’s improvisation with the things of God. New altar, new location, new procedure. And the old altar, the bronze altar? Well, says Ahaz to Uriah, “The bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by” (16:15). In essence, he re-purposed it as his very own Ouija Board!

In adding the things of the world to the ways of God he diluted, distorted, and desecrated the things of God. I’m thinking that’s why it’s recorded “he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God . . . but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel” (16:2-3). The kings of Israel had innovated as well, centering their place of sacrifice around the two golden calves created by Israel’s first king, Jeroboam (1Ki. 11:25-33).

Speaking of Israel, the next thing I read is that, while Ahaz may have been captivated by Assyria’s altar, Israel was taken captive, literally, by Assyria’s army (2Ki. 17). And here’s a summary of why: they feared other gods (17:7b); they walked in the customs of the nations (17:8a); they built high places just like those around them (17:10); and, they went after false idols and became false themselves, following the nations that were around them (17:15b). Thus, they provoked the LORD to anger (17:11b).

I’m thinking there’s a caution here. Ahaz didn’t abandon the things of God he just tweaked them a bit. Took the best of heaven and added in some of the best of earth. But it was indicative of a heart becoming entangled with idolatry, a heart drawn toward false gods. And, when you go after false gods, you become like those false gods.

Nothing wrong in being an innovator. No inherent evil in being a collaborator. But how we need to be careful of becoming an imitator of the wrong stuff.

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. (3John 1:11a ESV)

By His grace. For His glory.

Posted in 2Kings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An Inferior Brand of Righteousness

If anyone had a legitimate reason to boast in their own righteousness, Paul says, it was him. And I think he was right. I don’t think he was blinded by pride, but provided a realistic assessment of pedigree.

When he talks of his heritage, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; and of his formal education and religious attainment, a ranking Pharisee; and of his integrity and authenticity, sincerely persecuting the church for what he believed was its heresy — when Paul contends he was blameless and righteous under the law, I think he contends correctly. Though his righteousness may been misdirected, it wasn’t hypocritical. His righteousness, according to the prevailing standard of righteousness, was the real meal deal. But as Paul came to realize, his was an inferior brand of righteousness.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. 

(Philippians 3:8-9 ESV)

A righteousness of my own. That’s what Paul says he had. That’s how the ESV translates it. But Peterson in The Message, with his flare for embedding commentary within translation, calls out Paul’s works based righteousness for what it was, an inferior brand of righteousness.

While this Hebrew of the Hebrews might have ranked at the top of the food chain when it came to integrity, honesty, and authenticity concerning spirituality, his eyes were set on the wrong food chain. A fallen food chain. A food chain compromised by the fact that all within the food chain were born in iniquity, by default walking in darkness because of a wicked and deceitful heart. So that, even the best of the best of this food chain, were but the best among the worst of all sinners.

. . . all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6 ESV)

But, says Paul, through God’s divine, merciful, and gracious intervention, Paul was able to exchange his own righteousness, an inferior brand of righteousness, for a righteousness which comes through faith and depends on faiththe righteousness from God.

He would toss everything worth boasting of in life, he would gladly discard any claim or ego concerning his own good works, and count them as garbage in order to “boast” of a righteousness apart from himself. A righteousness credited to his account based on the merit of Another. A righteousness ready to “move in” and take over because sin had been dealt with, the old man could now be crucified, and he had been Spirit enabled to walk in true righteousness — the righteousness from God.

How the old nature still wants to find some righteousness for which to take credit. To chalk up some meritorious work in some imaginary win column in which it can boast. But any such “righteousness” won’t survive the test of eternity and pales in comparison to the righteousness that comes through faith and is by faith. No other righteousness but Jesus’ righteousness is real righteousness.

I need to be reminded of that from time to time. To not be duped into settling for an inferior brand of righteousness.

By His grace alone. For His glory alone.

Posted in Philippians | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

To Them, On Them, Toward Them

A verse in 2 Kings pops this morning. I know it’s because of a book I’ve recently listened to on the heart of Christ, Gentle and Lowly, by Dane Ortlund. Ortlund, in the manner of the deep meditations of the Puritans, helps to lead his reader, or his listener, to explore the depths of Christ’s self-identified nature, that of being gently and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:29). At one point in the book, Ortlund leaves the New Testament and hangs out in the Old Testament for a few chapters to demonstrate that like Son, like Father. That the Son isn’t some different, New Testament manifestation of the God of the Old Testament, but is the perfect representation of the nature of God who is unchanging, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

One of the most impactful points Ortlund makes is that — and these are my feeble words and not his most eloquent contention — God has, in essence, a default disposition (if I can use that word). That there is — again my words not Ortlund’s — a “normative” supernatural context from which God operates. For example, if God is love, then in acting out of who He is, to love is His “default.” God needs to be incited to act outside that divine default (though He never acts outside of His divine nature). In considering that God is slow to anger, Ortlund says:

It takes much accumulated provoking to draw out his ire. Unlike us, who are often emotional dams ready to break, God can put up with a lot. This is why the Old Testament speaks of God being “provoked to anger” by his people dozens of times (especially in Deuteronomy; 1–2 Kings; and Jeremiah). But not once are we told that God is “provoked to love” or “provoked to mercy.” His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, ready to gush forth. We tend to think: divine anger is pent up, spring-loaded; divine mercy is slow to build. It’s just the opposite. Divine mercy is ready to burst forth at the slightest prick. (For fallen humans, we learn in the New Testament, this is reversed. We are to provoke one another to love, according to Hebrews 10:24. Yahweh needs no provoking to love, only to anger. We need no provoking to anger, only to love.)

Ortlund, Dane C.. Gentle and Lowly (pp. 148-149). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Case in point, the verse that popped this morning.

Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and He turned toward them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has He cast them from His presence until now.

(2Kings 13:22-23 ESV)

Jehoahaz was another in the long line of the kings of Israel who “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” leading Israel deeper and deeper into sin and kindling the LORD’s anger (2Kings 13:2-3). And yet, when hard-pressed by the king of Syria, Jehoahaz seeks “the favor of the LORD” and “the LORD listened to him” (13:4). And how does God respond? He is gracious to them. He has compassion on them. And He turns toward them. That’s how our God rolls. For our God is, by nature and according to His name, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).

Sinners, even ones like Jehoahaz, who turn to God seeking His unmerited favor, find a God who is quick to turn towards them because He is gracious and compassionate.

My sin may not be exactly like the sin of Jehoahaz, but it is enough, more than enough, to offend, and even provoke a holy God to anger. But God receives the penitent heart freely because of His covenant — a better covenant than the one with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a covenant whose guarantor is Jesus Himself (Heb. 7:22).

A better covenant which promises that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is an eternally sufficient atonement for our sins, such that God can justly forgive us our sins when we confess our sins. Which promises that God is ready, willing, and able to faithfully cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Which promises that the work which a God who is love has begun in us through redemption and regeneration, is a work which a God who is love will complete in us on that day of perfected reconciliation.

God was gracious to them. He had compassion on them. He turned toward them.

That’s how our God rolls. Because that’s who our God is.

He is the God of grace.

To God be the glory.

Posted in 2Kings | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Well Tried

Can misinterpretation still yield good application? Noodling on that this morning.

Reading still in Psalm 119, day 18 of the 22 day, 176 verse mega-psalm, and observed something that caused me to nod my head and whisper to myself, “Amen! Thank You, Lord.”

Your promise is well tried, and Your servant loves it.

(Psalm 119:40 ESV)

Psalm 119 is a tribute to the word of God. The songwriter is moved of the Spirit to state, again and again, in way after way, the excellencies of God’s precepts and the ways in which His commandments, testimonies, and promises have impacted the songwriter’s life — often through times of trial and affliction.

So, when I first read, “Your promise is well tried” this morning, my immediate “Amen!” came from processing that as: Your promises have been really well tested in Your servants life. Claimed repeatedly. Often trusted in, desperately. Always found true, completely. Never found wanting, thankfully.

I know the sufficiency of the promises of God because I’ve drawn heavily on the promises of God. So, His promise is well tried and I love it! Amen!

But dig a little and the intent of the songwriter is more to say that God’s word is “completely pure” (CSB). That it’s been “thoroughly tested” (NLT) in the sense of a fine metal being tried. Smelted and refined such that, if possible, there’s no impurity to be found within it. That God’s word is better than fine gold.

So as I chew on it, like the psalmist, I love the Word because it is God’s perfect word. His living word. His unfailing word.

And, I love God’s word because it’s been well tried in the crucible of life’s experiences and found to be His all-sufficient word. A living word. An unfailing word.

So, I may not have connected with the right interpretation on the first swing, but it’s true, His promises have been well tried and have stood the test of time. And that’s because they are His pure and perfect promises given for all time.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

(Hebrews 10:23 ESV)

Still thinking it’s worthy of my “Amen!”

Amen?

By His grace. For His glory.

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Only Plea, The Safest Plea

I’m going to suggest that, in our circles, when we talk about “turning,” most often, if not always, we’re thinking in terms of turning to God. When we think about our sin, we often speak of the need to make a 180 degree course correction, turning from our sin and towards the Savior. And when we talk about our suffering, we turn to God for comfort and endurance. We are the turners. Seems kind of appropriate. He is God and nothing less, we are man and nothing more — if anybody’s going to be turning to anybody, just seems it should be the lesser to the Greater.

While I believe that’s true, I’m not sure we could do even that if not for a God who turns to us.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way with those who love Your name.

(Psalm 119:132 ESV)

Turn to me. Older translations render it “look to me.” Found only in the Psalms, and that but four times.

What a bold thing for the songwriter to sing. Perhaps audacious even, considering it’s an ask of the created to their Creator. Maybe somewhat risky, coming from a sinner to the Sovereign, from one prone to stumble in the darkness to the One who lives in unapproachable light.

Aren’t we more comfortable with “turn to God” than turn to me? We’ll do the turning. We’ll make the effort. Though we know it’s not of works, somehow we think our effort is gonna help. We’ll make the first move, we’ll oblige God to forgive us, or strengthen us, by turning to Him. But what if we really can’t turn to Him unless He first turns to us?

And really, aren’t we kind of uncomfortable with the thought of a holy, holy, holy God looking on us. What’s He gonna see? Honestly, stuff I’m probably embarrassed for Him to gaze upon. A heart that is frustratingly feeble when it comes to innermost fidelity. Flesh often too weak to do what the spirit wants. Who wants God to look on that? Foolish reasoning, I know. That God is Omniscient, that He is all-knowing, tells me He knows everything about me there is to know — more than I really know about myself. So, asking God to turn to me isn’t so He’ll know me, it’s a recognition that He already does.

Jesus knew the believers at the church in Laodicea. He knew them better than they knew themselves. They thought they were doing pretty good, that they were rich, prosperous, and in need of nothing. But Jesus knew they were lukewarm and He didn’t beat around the bush with His holy assessment of them that, in reality, they were “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:14-17). But Jesus, the Lord of the church, doesn’t turn on them for their tepid attempts to love Him while also trying to love the world — no, Jesus turns to them.

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. . . Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.” ~ Jesus

(Revelation 3:18, 20 ESV)

These messed up Laodiceans weren’t asked to bring gold, or find clothes, or open their eyes. Instead, they were told to open a door. Because Jesus had already turned to them.

He didn’t wait for some meritorious signal on their part, but had already brought the gold, provided the garments, and was ready to apply the salve. Theirs was to avail themselves of it. And not even on a “take out” basis where they needed to go and get it. No, Jesus was ready to deliver. All they needed to do was open the door.

Turn to me. Look on me. It might seem like a bold plea, an audacious plea, even a risky plea. But isn’t it really our only plea? Because we need God to “be gracious to me.”

In fact, chew on it a bit, and it really becomes the safest plea because, as the songwriter reminds us, it is just how God desires to interact with those who love His name. We are but asking God to be who God says He is, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 ESV).

Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is Your way with those who love Your name.

By Your grace, Lord. For Your glory.

Posted in Psalms | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

It Has Been Granted to You

Minds set on the things of God rather than minds set on the things of man — that’s been running through my head this week as I prepare to speak, Lord willing, at our gathering this Sunday. Not surprising it would factor into my filter as I continue to read in Philippians this morning.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

(Philippians 1:12 ESV)

Certainly that is a “mind set on things of God” sort of sentiment. Only as we believe in God’s provision, trust in God’s power, and hope in God’s promises could we declare such a view from God’s perspective. Thinking that’s a pretty familiar verse for most of us. So, not surprised.

But then, I encounter the following. And it stretches this mind which most naturally wants to set itself on the things of man.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.

(Philippians 1:27-29 ESV)

It has been granted to you. That’s what caught my eye. That’s what raised a “suspicion.” Could this word, granted, actually be graced? Yup, it could.

Looked it up and sure enough the original word is charizomai, form the root word charis. Oh, there’s other Greek words translated as granted in the NT with the idea of bestowing or delivering something. But here Paul is led by the Spirit to use the word for gifting.

Fits pretty comfortably with Part A of the gift, that we should “believe in Him.”

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Amen and Hallelujah. Faith, the gift of God graced to us. Got it!

But what if we tweak that well known verse to encompass the Part B of Paul’s Philippians statement?

For by grace you get to suffer for His sake. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Okay, that’s a mind set on the things of God perspective. We don’t get there with minds set on the things of man.

But to these believers who sorrowed at Paul’s imprisonment for the gospel, and were perhaps confused by his suffering for Christ, Paul exhorts them, “It’s been granted. It’s a gift. For me and for you.”

Suffering has been granted to the believer. Whether it’s for the gospel, or in the gospel, it’s comes with being saved by the gospel.

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ Jesus

(John 16:33 ESV)

Tribulation, it’s part of the package. Could be the world’s opposition or could be the body’s deterioration. Might be attacks of the enemy, or could be the loss of family and friends. Whatever the suffering, it has been gifted to us.

That we might know His strength in our weakness. That we might realize mercies new every morning. That we might demonstrate gospel power even as we cling to Jesus for gospel faithfulness. That we might grow in our faith, becoming more like Him.

For it has been granted to you . . .

Can I get there? Only with my mind set on the things of God.

And only by His grace.

And only for His glory.

Posted in Philippians | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Did I Just See Jesus?

Honestly, of all the well-known Bible characters in the Old Testament, Elisha would probably be the one I “get” the least. First, I find him the most forgettable. Ask me to list his bio off the top of my head, and the first thing I’m likely to do is to start questioning myself, “Elisha? Or was that Elijah?”

Elijah, him I think I could start to talk about pretty easy. The butting heads with Ahab and Jezebel thing. The Mt. Carmel thing. The depression the thing. The voice of God in the whisper thing. The man of “like passions” thing (James 5:17 KJV). And, the New Testament clearly declares that Elijah was, in part, a precursor to John the Baptist (Mt. 17:10-13).

But what about Elisha?

Not much from the New Testament, he’s only referred to once (Lk. 4:27). Yet, when it comes to sheer prophet power, Elisha was given “a double portion” of Elijah’s spirit (2Ki. 2:9-12a). If there’s any doubt about that, just check out the miracles performed by his hand or through his word in 2Kings (miracles which most often, I can’t remember — did I mention I have a certain block when it comes to Elisha?)

But this morning, maybe this morning, there’s a bit of a breakthrough. Here’s what I’m chewing on:

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left.'” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.

(2Kings 4:42-44 ESV)

Does that have a familiar ring to it? Ever read or heard a story like this somewhere else? A story of not enough food to feed the people present? A story of a man of God telling his servants to go ahead and distribute the food? A story of everyone eating and being satisfied and there’s still food left over? Yeah, me too. Multiple times in the New Testament. Actually two different stories, at least one of which is covered by every gospel writer (only John covers but one of the occasions).

To be sure, Elisha’s story pales in significance to the other stories. He’s presented twenty small loaves with some grain and wants to feed a hundred, hungry men. No small task, but it doesn’t compare with a few loaves and few fish and four or five thousand to feed. While Elisha may have had a double portion of Elijah’s power, what multiplier must the Man of God in the New Testament stories have had? But it’s this story that sparks my possible “aha” moment this morning.

Is Elisha in some way a foreshadow of Jesus? If Elijah foreshadowed John the Baptist, then it might make sense that Elisha is a picture of Christ. Even the nature of some of Elisha’s other miracles have a certain familiarity to them. In addition to multiplying food, he brings back to life a child who had died (2Ki. 4:18-37); he cleanses a man afflicted with leprosy (2Ki. 5:1-14); he demonstrates authority over natural elements such as iron and water (2Ki. 6:1-7); and, even in his death, he’s the source of another man’s resurrection (2Ki. 13:20-21). Hmm. Kind of sounds like Jesus. Not being dogmatic, but wondering.

So, if Elisha is meant to add something to the tapestry of the fullness of the picture of the Messiah, what’s his particular contribution? Maybe, for me, it’s that fact of how forgettable he is. No butting heads with evil kings, no Mt. Carmel showdowns, just meek and lowly Elisha, yet with evident power and authority. While he was given the cloak of Elijah, yet he walked under the cloak of a certain obscurity, just as the One who was equal with God “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Php. 2:6b-7). Willing for others to be His hands and feet, distributing food and blessing, even as He demonstrates His authority and provides the power.

Did I just see Jesus? I’m thinkin . . .

For sure, more to noodle on. Perhaps someday I’ll feel like I have a handle on Elisha. But for now, I’ll take this blessing.

By His grace. For His glory.

Posted in 2Kings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Approve What Is Excellent

Hovering over Paul’s opening words to the Philippians this morning. Though the prayer he prays is for them, I’m pretty sure it was preserved for us. That, as Paul yearns for the saints at Philippi “with the affection of Christ Jesus” (1:8), the heart and desire he has for them reflects the heart and desire the Bridegroom has for His Bride, the Church.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

(Philippians 1:9-10 ESV)

Love, knowledge, discernment. Not sure how intuitive it is for me to link those three words together. Sure, knowledge and discernment make sense. You need the former in order to be any good at the latter. But that they would be integral for loving with a love that abounds more and more? Hmm.

I wanna go with love being emotional and knowledge being cerebral. That love is what I feel while knowledge is . . . well, what I know. However, if we’re going to love with the highest form of love then, it would seem, its going to be informed by knowledge and discernment, so that we can approve what is excellent.

Approve what is excellent. Test, try, examine, scrutinize, prove the authenticity of something. Deem something worthy because it’s been validated as worthy after examination. Sounds a bit counter-cultural to me — especially in these days of behind-the-scenes curated social media feeds and trigger-happy thumbs ready to “share” the latest and greatest “facts and data.” We might pass it on out of care and concern, but is it really loving if we haven’t invested the effort to know it’s true? Haven’t taken the time to discern it’s origin or prove that it’s authentic? Is it loving or caring if what we pass on isn’t really sterling?

Approve what is excellent. Kind of hard to do with all the what’s we’re exposed to in our “information age.” Too much to really know. So many sources from which to discern and approve. So, maybe we consume less, whittling it down to a source that we have approved and found excellent. Better yet, to have two or three approved sources — and not from the same camp or tribe — so that “every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matt. 18:16). Or, if we’re not going to filter what our devices are feeding us, then at least discern that this knowledge should be taken with a grain of salt, and just keep it to ourselves until we have approved it.

Approve what is excellent. What’s the tie between that and being pure and blameless for the day of Christ? We know we’ll never perform our way to pure and blameless. We know that it is Christ who will present His Bride “to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish”, and that “by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26-27). So, I’m thinking that to the degree to which our knowledge, and our discernment, and our approving, ultimately keeps us focused on the Only One who is truly excellent — and on our desperate need for Him to give us His mind, lead us to repentance, cleanse us with forgiveness, and fill us with His Spirit — then to that degree will we be pure and blameless. And then, able to love as we should love and love until the day of Christ.

Hmm. Approve what is excellent. So that we might abound with Christ’s love. So that we might depend always on Christ’s love. So that we might be presented to Him on that day pure and blameless.

Only by His grace. Only for His glory.

Posted in Philippians | Tagged , , | Leave a comment