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Babylon: Fear and Faith

Handwritten page from the second book of kings chapter 24 verse 16 through chapter 25 verse 7
2Kings 24:16-25:7

Synopsis     2Kings 24:16-25:7     10/28/2019 

When the Babylonian army besieged Jerusalem, King Jehoiachin surrendered in order to preserve the city. As a result, he was taken into exile along with key members of his family and along with thousands of Israelite soldiers.  

King Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon. So, he made Jehoiachin’s uncle the new king over Judah. Although his name was Mattaniah, Nebuchadnezzar changed his name to Zedekiah. Accordingly, Zedekiah served Nebuchadnezzar for nine years.  

But after that, Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon. And almost immediately, Nebuchadnezzar brought his army to besiege Jerusalem. The siege lasted more than a year before Zedekiah attempted to flee toward the Arabah wasteland. However, the Chaldean soldiers working for Nebuchadnezzar captured him and brought him to the city of Riblah.  

Nebuchadnezzar dealt harshly with Zedekiah’s rebellion. At Riblah, he brought out Zedekiah’s sons and killed them in front of the Israelite king. After this, he poked out Zedekiah’s eyes so the death of his sons would be his last visual memory. After this, he took him back to Babylon where he placed him in prison until he died.  

Babylon: Fear and Faith 

Zedekiah was faithful to Babylon for almost nine years. But then, something happened. As a result, he decided to break faith with Nebuchadnezzar. For whatever reason, he sensed that faithfulness was no longer required 

From the Babylonian perspective, the failure to remain faithful was perceived as faithlessness. In other words, broken faith was no faith. Zedekiah’s breach revealed his obedience was only, ever the result of fear. Although Nebuchadnezzar had made personally made him king, Zedekiah was never committed to the Babylonian empire. In this sense, the Babylonian king saw him as a mere opportunist.  

Jesus: Fear and Faith 

It’s somewhat easy to come to God when my life is a mess. I cry, “Jesus take the wheel” not when I find myself overwhelmed with love for God. Instead, I generally only want God to take control when everything is a mess. So my crying out is really more an attempt to avoid the pain and suffering of the mess that I’ve made for myself.  

And God will accept this for a while. He really will take the wheel. And very often, He will even grant relief from the disasters that I create through my own selfishness and pride.  

But His ultimate purpose is that I grow up. He wants to support my adult effort to bless others, not my adolescent disposition to create chaos and then hope somebody else will save me.  

“when I am afraid, in you I place my trust.” Psa 56:4 

October 29, 2019

Jerusalem’s Destruction

Handwritten page from the second book of Kings chapter 23 verse 32 through chapter 24 verse 5.
2Kings 23:32-24:5

Synopsis     2Kings 23:32-24:5     10/23/2019 

The people made Jehoahaz king after Josiah, his father, died in battle.  However, Jehoahaz reigned for only three months. The scripture reports that, unlike his father, Jehoahaz did evil. 

His reign ended when Pharaoh Neco took him prisoner in the Judean town of Riblah. Of course, Neco’s forces were the same ones who had killed his father.  

So, Pharaoh Neco installed another one of Josiah’s sons as king. This man was named Eliakim. But, Pharaoh called him Jehoiakim. He was twenty-five when he became king. And he reigned for eleven years.  

During the time of Jehoiakim’s reign, Babylon became a major world power under the rule of their king Nebuchadnezzar. And so, Babylon attacked Jerusalem as part of its campaign to dominate the region. They besieged the city. And so, King Jehoiakim sought terms.  

Accordingly, Jehoiakim agreed to become a tribute paying vassal to Babylon. So, he served Nebuchadnezzar in this way for three years. But then, when Babylon’s principle army was far away, he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. As a result, the Babylonians returned and sacked Jerusalem. 

Jerusalem’s Destruction 

Because Hezekiah was able to resist the Assyrian siege a century before, the Israelites living in Judah believed that Jerusalem was somehow magically  protected by God. In this way, they once again objectified God.  

People and Things 

But God’s agenda was not for a city. He cared about Jerusalem only to the extent that it contributed to His purposes. It was the people that mattered. And not just the people of Jerusalem, but all of creation.

God created for His own sake. And His intention is always for good. This is the beginning of God in context. 

And I think this is a key part of what it means to remember. Here, in this view of God, I find the possibility of keeping a right perspective on the circumstances of my own life.  

Otherwise, I seem to be easily ensnared by my own sense of what matters. All the stuff of life – it’s all His. He created it for His purpose. And that’s not just OK. It is ultimate and transcendent good. 

“Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.” Rev 4:11 

October 24, 2019

God Bigger than Israelite Imagination

Synopsis     2 Kings 7:10-16     8/16/2019

The four lepers of Samaria had discovered that the Aramean camp was empty. The Aramean soldiers had heard something that sounded like an army of horses and chariots approaching. Thinking they had been outflanked by a foreign army allied with Israel, they abandoned their siege. As a result, the entire Aramean army had suddenly panicked and taken flight.

The lepers had plundered the camp. But before the night was over, they reported to the king of Israel what had happened. The king of Israel received this news with caution, thinking that it might be a trap. But his forces reconnoitered the area and discovered that the Arameans had indeed fled.

And so, the Israelites left the city en masse and plundered the camp. As a result, grain prices immediately returned to their historical averages. All of this was just as Elisha had predicted in his prophecy.

God Bigger than Israelite Imagination

Although the king of Israel couldn’t imagine it, God was still capable of bringing an extraordinary victory. In this way, the lesson was repeated: God was not limited by what the current generation of Israelites thought was possible.

God Bigger Than My Imagination

It’s really like this. My prayers seem to go unheeded. And life doesn’t seem to be working out the way I imagined – the way that I expected. So, the temptation is to think that it will never go the way I hoped.

Accordingly, I find myself beginning to wonder whether or not God is really capable of answering my prayers at all.

Of course, for anyone who has made the effort to track “prayers” and “answers to prayers” in a journal, it comes as no surprise that God always works His will in ways that I could never imagine.

Still, in the absence of the active effort to chronicle and remember, my tendency is to forget and doubt.

“Therefore, I will always remind you of these things, even though you already know them and are established in the truth you have.” 2 Peter 1:12

August 16, 2019

Desperation and Action

Synopsis     2 Kings 7:2-9     8/15/2019

The city of Samaria remained under siege by the Aramean army. The famine was so severe that people were in danger of starving.

There were four lepers who were staying outside the walls of the city. They were especially desperate. Believing death was a certainty if they did nothing, they decided to approach the Aramean army and beg for something to eat.

But when they approached the enemy camp, they found that all the Aramean soldiers had disappeared. Something had caused them to abandon their camp. As a result, the four lepers immediately began plundering the camp. Starving, they ate their fill of food. And they also hid many valuables in the surrounding area as they could.

After they had plundered through several tents, their consciences were convicted. They knew that the people of their city were starving, desperate and anxious. So, they decided to inform the king that the siege was broken.

Desperation and Action

The lepers of Samaria were in an especially precarious position. They could never easily enter to the city because the disease made them pariahs. But they could not escape the siege because they had no way to break through the Aramean lines that surrounded the city.

So, in their desperation, they sought a desperate and unlikely outcome. They threw themselves of the mercy from their enemies. But, it was doing just this that they discovered their enemies were no longer present.

And this discovery created the strange possibility of personal gain. In one of the most curious of all scriptural reversals, the four lepers of Samaria were momentarily the richest people in the kingdom. They had an unlimited feast. And, they had unlimited access to the most precious valuables and goods anyone could imagine.

Poverty and Action

Poverty makes people desperate. Someone who is starving will do anything necessary to find food. Survival is an ingrained quality of human life.

So, perhaps the challenge for me is to recognize my utter poverty. The food I put into my body makes me feel temporarily satisfied. And the material goods that fill my house, and my life, make me feel temporarily satisfied. But if I lack what matters in God’s economy, the sense of satisfaction is elusive and ever fleeting.

The riches of God are faith, hope and love. When I feel my lack of these in the same way that I feel my stomach when it’s empty – that’s when I’ll know true poverty. And that’s when I’ll start looking for a real solution.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:3

August 15, 2019

Elisha and the Unseen

Synopsis     2Kings 6:8-17     8/12/2019

The prophet Elisha experienced extraordinary power. For example, he was able to discern the military plans of the king of Aram. And he shared this information with the king of Israel.

The king of Aram was so frustrated that he suspected one of his generals of treacherously giving away their battle plans to Israel. But the generals were aware of Elisha’s special powers. And so, they reported to their king that he was the source.

So, the king of Aram made a plan to capture Elisha. The Aramean army surrounded Elisha’s house in the night. Upon seeing the Aramean forces, Elisha servant panicked. But Elisha consoled him by praying to God that the servant would be able to see the heavenly forces arrayed to protect them.

Accordingly, God opened the servant’s eyes. And he could see that the Aramean army was surrounded by a heavenly host of angels prepared for battle.

Elisha and the Unseen

Elisha had this extraordinary ability to see things as they truly were. His servant, however, did not.

His servant understood that Elisha had faith in God. And he obviously recognized that Elisha had remarkable power over the circumstances in his life.

But the servant didn’t actually see what Elisha saw on an ordinary basis.  And except that Elisha prayed for him, the servant could not see the reality of God and His angels working in the affairs of men.

Walking Among the Unseen

I think most people would say that they wouldn’t choose to be blind. At least in my own case, if there is something to see, I typically want to see it. In other words, if it were up to me, I would choose to see what is normally unseen.

For example, if I had an x-ray image taken of some distressed part of my body, I would choose to look at it. I would want to know what was really going on. I would incorporate that which is normally unseen into my total understanding. The x-ray image would clarify and contribute to understanding my felt experience.

In a similar way, the mass brings us face-to-face with the deepest realities of existence. Through my participation in the true presence and the communion of saints, I have a visceral experience. And this clarifies and contributes to understanding my intuitive experience of what must certainly be.

“For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” Eph 6:12

August 12, 2019

Greed and Gehazi’s Leprosy

Synopsis     2Kings 5:24-6:7     8/9/2019

2 Kings 5:24-6:7

Gehazi was frustrated. Elisha had provided a cure for Naaman’s leprosy, even though Naaman was not even an Israelite. And Naaman had come to the prophet fully expecting to pay for his healing, but Elisha had required no payment.

So, Gehazi ran after Naaman. When he caught up to him, he told him that Elisha now required money and cloths. And Naaman gladly gave more than what was requested. Then, Gehazi deposited these things in his own house.

After this, he returned to Elisha. But Elisha already knew what happened. So, the leprosy came upon the servant, Gehazi.

At another point in Elisha’s time, the guild prophets were living with him. There were so many prophets living together that they asked Elisha’s permission to build a larger building for their home. He agreed. And so they all went to the Jordan to prepare wood for the new structure.

As they were working, the iron head of an axe came loose and fell in the river. There was a lament, because iron was expensive. And so, Elisha was asked to help find it. So, Elisha cut off a stick and threw it in the water. Somehow, this caused the iron axe head to come to the surface where it was retrieved.

Greed and Gehazi’s Leprosy

Gehazi was overcome with greed. So, the leprosy that had afflicted Naaman ended up coming upon him.

It’s a curious paradox. But because of his own greed and envy, the cleansing and conversion of a gentile became the source of disease for Gehazi.

Jesus said that the angels rejoice more over the repentance of one sinner than over ninety-nine who have not sinned. And in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus further described how the older brother could not rejoice over his younger sibling’s repentance and restoration.

It is Gehazi’s paradox all over again. His brother’s healing brought to the surface a certain greed and bitterness that he probably didn’t even realize existed. He resented the celebration. But what he more deeply resented was that he had never been celebrated. He felt “taken for granted”.

Like so, I admit it. Sometimes I feel the “injustice” done to the older brother. I feel like my efforts to do what is right and good have too often gone unrecognized and underappreciated.

And that’s the revealing of my own impurity. In my moment of greed and envy, the salvation that I truly want for every other human being paradoxically becomes the source of my own temptation.

So, Reminder to Self: The call is to love. The promise is heaven. Not fame. Not appreciation. Only life with Jesus forever.

“Then he said to the crowd, ‘Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.’” Luke 12:15

August 9, 2019

Naaman’s Conversion

Synopsis     2Kings 5:17-23     8/8/2019

Naaman was healed from his leprosy. And so, he returned to express his thanks and appreciation to Elisha.

This time Elisha came out to greet him. And although Elisha refused to accept any payment for the healing, Naaman professed his intention to no longer serve any god, except the God of Israel. After this, Naaman began his return home.

However, Elisha’s servant was disappointed. The servant’s name was Gehazi. And Gehazi felt that Elisha should have accepted some form of payment in exchange for Naaman’s healing. So, unbeknownst to Elisha, Gehazi pursued Naaman.

When he caught up to Aramean general, Gehazi lied. He falsely reported that Elisha had changed his mind and now requested a payment. Naaman gladly agreed. In fact, he gave twice what Gehazi had requested as payment.

Naaman’s Conversion

Naaman’s healing from leprosy resulted in his conversion. As a result, he committed to worshipping the one, true God of Israel. But it wasn’t just his healing from leprosy that caused his conversion.

When Naaman arrived at his house, Elisha understood with whom he was dealing. He recognized that Naaman was both powerful and wealthy. And so, he refused to come to him on the basis of his power and wealth. Instead, he offered him healing in an unexpected way. He sent a message conveyed by a lowly servant. He gave specific instructions. It was offered as a “take it or leave it” opportunity.

Because he was offered neither deference nor honor, Naaman was offended. So much so, that he contemplated sabotaging his own healing. However, he was eventually persuaded to overcome his feelings of offense. And so, he finally washed. And he was healed.

But he wasn’t healed because he could pay. And he wasn’t healed because he was powerful. And he wasn’t healed because of anything he could do.

Accordingly, he returned to Elisha. And in great humility, he did the only thing he could do. He expressed his gratitude – just like any other man. In nothing but the full dignity of the human person, he stood before God – just like any other man.

And in that moment of God-realization, Elisha was finally free to receive Naaman in fellowship.

My Conversion

Though I lack both power and wealth, I am amazed at how easily I feel Naaman’s pride.

So, all praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has saved me despite all my wretchedness.

“But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit,” Titus 3:4-5

August 8, 2019

Naaman’s Healing

Synopsis     2 Kings 5:9-16     8/7/2019

Naaman was angry. Elisha had prescribed a cure for his leprosy. But the cure seemed ridiculous and unlikely to work. And his pride was injured. The prophet hadn’t even honored him by coming to meet him face-to-face.

So, he complained bitterly. He was so offended he determined to not even accept the prescription. But his servants prevailed on him to at least give it a try. So, against his own reasoning, he followed the recommendation of this servants. He did what was required. He washed in the muddy waters of the Jordan seven times.

And he was healed.

He returned to offer some compensation to Elisha. But Elisha would have none of his money or fine clothing. Instead, he sent him away. Together they rejoiced in the healing power of the God of Israel – the God of all Creation.

Naaman’s Healing

Naaman wasn’t healed because of who he was. Neither was he healed because of the money he could afford to pay. Instead, he was healed entirely and completely as a result of the grace of the God of Israel.

My Healing

The truth is I am like Naaman. I want to control this.

It’s my pride that wants to lay claim to the victory – to the healing.

But, as is always the case, if something truly good, then it started with God and was effected by through the power of God. And Him alone.

And this is why we say – “All Glory to God”. Forever.

“Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Mark 5:36

August 7, 2019

Elisha Multiplying Loaves

A picture of 2 Kings 4:36-44 written by hand
2 Kings 4:36-44

Synopsis     2 Kings 4:36-44     8/5/2019

There was a famine in the land of Israel. At one-point during this time, Elisha hosted the guild prophets at Gilgal. So, he directed his servant to make a pot of vegetable stew.

However, someone who was helping to prepare the stew inadvertently added wild, poisonous gourds. Upon being served, the guild prophets recognized immediately that there was something wrong. So, they complained to Elisha that the stew was deadly. But Elisha simply added some meal to the stew and it was made good to eat.

On another occasion, Elisha was brought twenty barley loaves and some fresh (unroasted) grain as an offering. He happened to have one hundred guests to feed when it arrived. So, he told his servant to put the food out before the people.

Despite it not being enough by any normal standard to feed so many people, there was enough for everyone to eat and still have some left over.

Elisha Multiplying Loaves

The stew wasn’t good for feeding the prophets. And there wasn’t enough bread to serve the masses. And yet, somehow with God, it was enough.

You Give Them Something To Eat

Like the prophet’s servant, it’s easy to think that what I have to offer isn’t life-giving. Or similarly, it’s easy for me to get caught up in the belief that what I have isn’t enough to be helpful to other people.

But the truth is that our gifts are enough. What you have been given, is perfectly positioned to be just what’s necessary for someone else to experience the fullness of life.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;” 1 Cor 12:4

August 5, 2019

The Shunamite’s Faith

Synopsis     2 Kings 4:26-35     8/2/2019

The Shunamite woman and her husband built a friendship with the prophet Elisha. Because of their generosity to him, he prayed for her to have a son. And so, the woman bore a son. And the child was healthy and grew naturally.

However, the child died after unspecified head pain. And so, the woman laid him in the room that they had built for the prophet. And then she rode a donkey a full days’ journey from her home in Shunem to Mt Carmel.

When she arrived there, she prevailed upon Elisha to come and heal the child. So, he went to her home. And there, he prayed over the child. And like Elijah had done in a similar situation, he actually spread himself over the child. After repeating this twice, the child’s life was restored.

The Shunamite’s Faith

The child had died in his mother’s lap. Yet she did not accept the finality of this death. Instead, she went out a day’s journey and then returned with the prophet. Even though her son was multiple days dead, she was still sure Elisha could heal him.

Simple Faith

There is a temptation to think that I am beyond the power of redemption. My moral failures and general inadequacies tempt me to believe that God couldn’t really love something as ugly and imperfect as I am.

And yet, it is believing just this that changes everything.

“Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,” John 11:25

August 2, 2019
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