Apples or fish
2Kings 4: They not only ate, but had leftovers.
During our Lord’s ministry some of the people think Jesus is possibly one of the prophets of old, resurrected from the dead. It might be that they’re thinking of this incident. In fact, Luke’s report of the suggestion that Jesus is a resurrected prophet comes right after Jesus feeds the five thousand. In this case Elisha feeds, not thousands, but a hundred; and not with bread and fish but with bread and apples. It’s a different day in which a different man provides and different main course. But it’s the same God. Because of that the lessons are the same. One lesson is that “little is much when God is in it.” Another is that I can trust the Lord with my meager resources; he can make better use of them than I can anyway. Whether I’m thinking about Elisha or Jesus or apples or fish it’s good to be reminded that when I give my all to the Lord he does wonderful things.
Take Away: The Lord takes the little bit that’s our all and does more with it than we ever could.
Bring your vessels not a few
2Kings 4: He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped.
Clearly the series of stories in the first part of 2 Kings are examples of what a powerful man of God Elisha is. Still, it seems that, like a symphony, each story is a variation on one theme: that when people have faith they act on that faith. These miracles all start with a need and the promise of God. Then, the person has to take action in preparation for God to move. In one story we see soldiers digging ditches in the desert in preparation for water to miraculously flow into them. Now we have a widow with just a little oil being told to go out and borrow jars from everyone she can. When she starts pouring oil out of her meager supply she fills all the jars she collected. It’s only when she runs out of jars that she runs out of oil. So often we take our needs to God and then stand back to watch what he does. However, in this, and the other stories, we see that God invites us to partner with him in what he does for us. No doubt, he does the greater work; after all, anyone can collect jars. Only God can fill them all from such a limited supply. Lord, help me to be a “jar collector.” Help me to be a person doing my part in working with you as you accomplish your purposes in my life and in this world.
Take Away: What does the Lord call you to today that will prepare for what he intends to do in your life tomorrow?
Ditch digging for the Lord
2Kings 3: Dig ditches all over this valley.
An alliance of three armies has formed to take on the army of Moab. The armies of Edom, Israel, and Judah plan to circle around and attack from an unexpected direction. However, it all backfires. They find themselves a day out of Moab and in the desert having exhausted their supply of water. Jehoshaphat asks for a prophet of God and Elisha “just happens” to be nearby. God’s word through Elisha is that they’re to begin digging ditches in this desert plain because, without a single drop of rain falling on them, God will fill those ditches with water. Many years earlier Elisha’s predecessor had prayed for rain and, when a cloud “the size of a man’s hand” appeared on the horizon he stopped praying and started running in preparation for the rain storm that was coming. Now, Elisha promises water, but tells them that they need to start preparing for it before they see even the first drop. Obviously there’s a pattern here and in many other instances in God’s Word. God expects us to act in faith that he’ll keep his word to us. For Elijah that meant he needed to stop praying and start running. For this army it means that out in the arid, dusty desert they’re to prepare for flowing water. How does this principle apply to my life today?
Take Away: Our acts of faith really do have a bearing on what the Lord does for us and through us.
The God of the mountain
1Kings 20: Their god is a god of the mountains.
Israel has already soundly defeated Ben-Hadad and his forces once, but he’s ready to go to battle a second time. After some reflection he thinks he understands what happened. It was their God who engineered the defeat. It has to be something like that because he knows that he has the superior army. Know what? He’s absolutely correct! The only reason he lost the first battle was because of the God of Israel, otherwise, there was no way that Israel could have survived, much less came away victorious. Ben-Hadad needs a battle plan that will not only over-power Israel, but will somehow circumvent their “God advantage.” His solution is to draw the Israelite army out of the hill country and onto the plain. He thinks that their God is a limited God, whose power is concentrated in the mountains. If he can fight Israel out on the plains he’ll level the playing field (pun intended) and easily defeat Israel. Know what? He is totally mistaken! This underestimation of Jehovah God will lead to an even more humiliating defeat than before. God is not a territorial God and no place is beyond his authority. To this day God is still Lord of all. There’s no part of my life that operates beyond his reach. Religious stuff, sure, but also everything from my every day coming and going and the big, unexpected life changing stuff too. The God of the mountain is also the God of the plain.
Take Away: Where I am, God is.
A miracle working God
1Kings 17: The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty….
The drought brought about by the judgment of God is a hardship for everyone. Elijah goes into hiding and for a time God sends ravens to feed him. Now, as the drought brings famine to the land, the man of God is sent to Zarephath for long-term lodging. The widow there is nearly out of food and about to surrender to starvation when Elijah shows up. He makes the startling promise that as long as the drought continues she won’t run out of oil or flour. And that’s how it is. For the duration of the ordeal God supplies the need. It’s good to know that God is the Way Maker in our lives. Only he can make something out of nothing. I need to be careful to not be so blinded by my circumstances that I count God out. Generally speaking, he works through the normal course of life to bless us, but he’s not limited to that. If necessary, he can work his purposes by suspending the laws of Creation and performing miracles. That’s the God I serve!
Take Away: Never count God out.
1 Samuel 10: The Spirit of God will come on you…and you’ll be transformed. You’ll be a new person.
Beyond Saul’s natural advantages is the stated intention of God Almighty to make him into one of the heroes of the Bible. This big man is humble and practical and will be used by God in wonderful ways. What Saul lacks, his shyness and his inexperience as a spiritual leader, is recognized by the Lord so right off the Lord goes to work there. Samuel says that before the day is out Saul will be transformed into a man who openly worships God, one who can be numbered among the prophets. Failure is coming to Saul, but not because God just tossed him into the water to sink or swim. The same God who chooses him also enables him for the task. That’s still true today. What the Lord calls me to be enables me to be. There’s clearly more to be said about that, but this is a truth that’s made real in the lives of all that hear God’s call.
Take Away: Those the Lord calls he also equips.
By God’s help we can live steady, Christ-like lives
1 Samuel 7: Samuel gave solid leadership to Israel his entire life.
This is a powerful and important statement about Samuel. Only rarely do we encounter such high credentials, even in the Bible. Abraham messed up by trying to “help” God in his relationship with Hagar. Moses failed at the Waters of Meribah Kadesh. Just about all the heroes of the Bible have blots on their records. But it’s not so with Samuel. From the time that as a lad serving in the house of God at Shiloh he hears God’s Voice to the end of his life Samuel is faithful. As a result, some of the golden days of the Old Testament are before us in our Scripture reading. Of course, this is actually a God-story more than it is a Samuel-story. It’s God who answers Hannah’s prayer that brings Samuel into the world in the first place. It’s God who initiates contact with the boy Samuel. And it’s God who continues to lead Samuel even as Samuel leads Israel. We see today that spiritual failure doesn’t have to be part of anyone’s story. I know it’s true that just about everyone has a story of spiritual breakdown, but here we see that the Lord’s able to keep us as we allow him to work freely in our lives. Isn’t it wonderful to be reminded that because the grace of the Lord is freely available to us that we don’t have to stumble our way through life hoping we can hold it together just enough to squeeze through the Pearly Gates at the finish line of life?
Take Away: The Lord provides us everything we need to live faithful, victorious Christian lives.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Joshua 5: As soon as they started eating food grown in the land, there was no more manna for the People of Israel.
All their lives they’ve eaten manna that appears every morning. It’s God’s provision for them, meeting their needs in places and under circumstances in which that need could be met in no other way. They eat other things too but it’s manna that’s the staple in their diet. Now they have a toe hold on the land God promised to them. There’s much to be done: wars to be fought, land to be claimed, but finally they are here. Apparently, they’ve camped at Gilgal long enough to plant and harvest their first crop of grain. What a great Passover, remembering not only deliverance from Egypt but also now beginning to receive the land God promised them. With the harvest of this first Canaan crop the manna stops. The end of the manna isn’t an indication that God’s no longer going to provide for them. It’s simply a change in how he’s going to do it. Now the Lord’s providing for them in a new (only to them) way. Sometimes God does things in miraculous ways but most of the time he uses common tools for that purpose. Either way, it’s God who’s supplying the need. This concept works not only with manna and crops, but also with my health, job, and the many other concerns of life. I thank God for “the manna” but also for the ordinary, everyday provision for life.
Take Away: The Lord does, indeed, “give us this day our daily bread.”
He never has failed me yet
Deuteronomy 8: So it’s paramount that you keep the commandments of God…walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him.
The road God has led them down has not always been easy. At times, they’ve been pushed to the limit. Still, in all of it God proved faithful. There has been manna from heaven, perpetual clothes and shoes, and many other direct evidences of God’s steady faithfulness. The fact of the matter is that while their wilderness journey is about to end, there are more times of testing to come. Those same giants that scared their parents off 40 years earlier still live down the road a few miles ahead. The cities are still fortified and the armies there are still superior. Moses says they need to learn from the past as they move to the future. I’m reminded today that sometimes God leads me down roads that scare me to death! Still, as the old song says, “He never has failed me yet.” With that in mind, I walk down the roads he shows me. If he says, “go” that means he’ll go with me and make a way even when I can’t imagine how it can all work out.
Take Away: The Lord never leads us where he doesn’t go with us.
Exodus 24: Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it as the people listened. They said, “Everything God said, we’ll do. Yes, we’ll obey.”
Things are coming together for this nation of ex-slaves. They’ve been delivered from the bondage of Egypt, are receiving constant guidance from the Lord who is also providing their needs. Now the rules for living have been laid out. Soon, God, Himself, will write out the basics on tablets of stone. To their credit, the people are ready. They pledge themselves to obedience. Now, you and I know that this isn’t going to work out. God’s faithfulness to them will be contrasted by their failure to keep the Covenant. Still, God isn’t setting them up to fail. In this Covenant we see all the potential for success. Their failure in breaking the Covenant is what stops the plan from being a success. Hundreds of years later God will initiate another plan. You know it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son….” Once again, and in an even more complete way, everything’s in place for success. And, once again God’s part is perfect. In fact, he’s even gone so far as to provide us the grace to make the same commitment they made. Now, Heaven awaits our response to the New Covenant.
Take Away: We have every reason in the world to live victorious, godly lives.