Tag Archives: Thought

“Right”

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.
2 Kings 19:14 (NIV)

The author(s) of Kings and Chronicles record the reigns of the 39 monarchs of the divided kingdom. There were 19 kings of Israel and they are all listed as having been evil in the sight of the Lord because of their idolatry and accompanying practices such as sacrificing their own children. Of the 20 kings of Judah, only eight were recorded to have done right in the eyes of the Lord. That leaves the tally of those who did evil at 31, and those who did right at 8. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words describing the path to life being a narrow road and few following it, while the highway to destruction is pretty much a busy interstate.

The story of Judah’s King Hezekiah is one of the most intriguing and inspiring of all the kings of Israel and Judah. In fact, the author of Kings calls him the undisputed leader of the “Right Eight.” His story is made all the more intriguing due to the fact that the miraculous fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and the decimation of Assyria’s besieging army in today’s chapter are historical facts, as is Isaiah’s prophetic description of the King of Assyria’s patricidal assassination and the ascension of his younger son to the throne.

So what was it that made Hezekiah a leader of the “Right Eight?”

The first clue I have is from the previous chapter. While some of the other members of the “Right Eight” had rather lenient policies regarding those in Judah who wanted to follow the evil practices of the regional pagan deities and cults, Hezekiah refused to allow the evil practices to officially continue in the nation under this leadership.

The second clue is also from yesterday’s chapter in which it states that Hezekiah “held fast” to his faith and trust in God. There was whole-hearted loyalty that never waned during his nearly 30-year reign.

In today’s chapter, I noticed my third clue in two separate very scary moments. I think about the scary moments of my life like losing a job, having my hotel room burgled, finding out a loved one has cancer or getting the call that our company was losing our biggest client. These things can’t compare to the terror Hezekiah is experiencing in today’s chapter.

The Assyrian Empire was incredibly successful at destroying other kingdoms, incredibly nasty at what they did to their victims, and was on a very long undefeated streak. The fact that they had surrounded Jerusalem was not good news. Hezekiah had every reason to be terrified. He and his people were facing the prospect of being starved to the point of cannibalizing their dead friends and relatives, the city eventually being burned, slavery, exile, rape, cruel and unusual forms of murder, and citizens dismembered and their body parts piled up outside the city gates to let everyone know the Assyrians had been there.

After the first smack-talking parley from the Assyrian commanders, Hezekiah immediately goes to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was God’s mouthpiece and Hezekiah desperately wanted to hear from God.

After receiving a subsequent threatening letter from the Assyrians, Hezekiah “went up to the temple and spread it out before the Lord.”

In both of these instances, Hezekiah’s first reaction to a crisis was to go right to God. It reminded me so much of “The Chain Reaction of Praise” that I’ve written about on multiple occasions. One of the first things the author of Kings says about Hezekiah in yesterday’s chapter is that he “trusted” the Lord God of Israel. His actions in today’s chapter are evidence of this fact.

My “one word” for 2023 is “trust,” and in the quiet this morning I can’t help but feel as though Hezekiah is a prescribed example for me to contemplate and emulate. When I consider the circumstances terrifying me and compare them to those from which God delivered Hezekiah, I can’t help but realize that God’s provision for my needs is an easy thing.

NOTE: Wendy and I are going somewhere warm for a week. I’ll be back to finish up the chapter-a-day journey through 2 Kings on Feb 12. In the meantime, if you’d like a fix for the next six weekdays just choose one of these links: Galatians, Ephesians, or 1 Timothy. Each has six chapters and the linked index page will then link you to each chapter’s post in one convenient place.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Sacred Things

Sacred Things (CaD 2 Ki 18) Wayfarer

[King Hezekiah] broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
2 Kings 18:4 (NIV)

Wendy and I had the joy of visiting a local high school yesterday to provide feedback on two student theatre pieces on their way to All-State contests this weekend. It was so much fun for us.

Before leaving, we got into a conversation with one of the teachers regarding the ways individuals get offended and bent out of shape by different things. It’s not unusual. In the years that I was President of our local community theatre, I got to field many calls and personal visits from people who were offended by this or that.

One of the things that I observed amidst the anger and the criticism I listened to is that people sometimes hold the most unusual things personally sacred – things I would never expect.

I’ve experienced the same with church. I remember once getting into hot water because the ratty, old, falling-apart King James pew bibles were replaced with new pew bibles in a more modern translation. The ratty, old, falling-apart bibles had become sacred to someone.

In today’s chapter, we begin the story of ancient King Hezekiah of Judah. As the author lists all of the things Hezekiah did to abolish idolatry in the kingdom, he mentions that people had been burning incense to a most unusual object.

Around 750 years before Hezekiah, Moses was leading the Hebrew tribes out of slavery in Egypt. Snakes were biting and killing the wandering tribes. God told Moses to make a snake on a pole out of bronze and anyone bitten by a snake could look at it and they would live. Fast forward to the days of Hezekiah (a time when snake worship was common), and individuals had begun worshipping the bronze pole rather than the God who miraculously used it for a specific purpose at a specific point in time to address a specific situation.

In the quiet this morning, I am simply reminded of the human tendency to make certain things sacred and worship them. I’ve observed people making sacred and worshipping homes, buildings (especially churches), children (deceased or living), ancestors, traditions (lots of these), memories, treasures, celebrities, hobbies, clothes, cars, et cetera.

It is especially easy for me to do exactly as the people of Hezekiah’s day had done. I can hold certain trappings of religion more sacred than the living God to which those trappings are supposed to point me.

So, what do I hold sacred? Are there things, other than God, that I actually worship without thinking about it in those terms?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Note: The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder AI

Destructive Deference

Destructive Deference (CaD 2 Ki 16) Wayfarer

[King Ahaz of Judah] took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the Lord, in deference to the king of Assyria.
2 Kings 16:18 (NIV)

I hate conflict. I don’t like difficult situations. I’m sure I’m not alone.

One of the realities of this life journey in this imperfect world is that conflict is unavoidable (not that I haven’t tried to avoid it) as are difficult situations and crucial conversations.

This morning as I sat in the quiet and wrote my Morning Pages, what poured out of me was a string of events, situations, and relationships over many, many. years in which I chose passivity rather than purposed initiative, silence rather than strife, and escape rather than engagement. As the confession rolled off my ballpoint onto the pages I had to acknowledge the collateral damage I caused because of my unwillingness to simply step up to the plate and into the box.

Then, I opened the Great Story and it was as if God had synchronized my confession and the content of today’s chapter.

Ahaz takes the throne of Judah. The political situation in Judah is tenuous. Judah has been squeezed and diminished by enemies on all sides who have whittled away at their territory. Ahaz appears to be the quintessential “pleaser” who caters to everyone. There’s not a god he won’t worship, not a sacrifice he won’t make (even his own child), nor an offering he won’t give to ensure his power and security.

The Arameans and the Northern Kingdom of Israel come to lay siege to Jerusalem, and Ahaz appeals to the ascendant Assyrian Empire for help. Ahaz steals gold and silver from God’s Temple and sends it to the king of Assyria as a gift. When Assyria comes to the rescue, Ahaz visits the Assyrian king. He then sends word to the high priest Uriah back in Jerusalem to build an altar like the Emporer uses for worship and to put it in God’s temple. He orders that God’s temple be altered to be like the one where the Emporer worships. He orders that the worship of God be changed to be like what the King of Assyria does. He does all of this “in deference” to the king of Assyria. Ahaz’s faith was in appeasement. His trust was in the most powerful human protector he could afford.

Along my life journey, I’ve observed that deference can be a noble quality in the right context. However, the twenty-twenty hindsight in my Morning Pages this morning also reveals that I have often used “deference” as a cover and an excuse for my fear. I used it as an excuse for not appropriately confronting people and circumstances when I should have. I leveraged it to rationalize my passive avoidance of crucial conversations. Like Ahaz, my deference has been ultimately destructive.

Mea Culpa.

In the quiet this morning, I am grateful for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. No matter how far I get in my spiritual journey, I still have more to learn, more to confess, and more to grow. I can’t do anything to change the mistakes of my past, but I can make different choices and decisions today than those I made before.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

How the World Works

Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom. Menahem exacted this money from Israel. Every wealthy person had to contribute fifty shekels of silver to be given to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer.
2 Kings 15:19-20 (NIV)

When I was just out of high school, I took a manual labor job that I knew would only last four months until I went to college. I chose not to join the union, as was my right because I knew it was just four months. I was bullied, coerced, and threatened until I quit. When I complained I received a shrug of the shoulders. “This is how the world works.”

Another job I had as a young man was for a private company working in a government building. By federal law, there was no smoking anywhere in the building, yet two ladies sat at their desks every day smoking like chimneys as I passed by. When I asked about it, my boss told me that they were legacy employees protected by the local political machine that had been in power for decades. They could do whatever they wanted. They were untouchable. “This is how the world works.”

In another department within that same building was another legacy employee who refused to help me when I came in with a records request. I was a bit confused when she told me, “I’m not working today. Go to another window.” When I told my boss and co-workers what had happened I got the same familiar shrug. “This is how the world works.”

I worked for several different churches in different denominations when I was a young man. I learned very quickly that there were the official boards and consistories that were set up to govern the church, and then there were individuals (typically wealthy, prominent, legacy, and generational members) who really called the shots. By this time, I should have learned: “This is how the world works.”

Today’s chapter contains an overview of five successive kings of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Four of them were assassinated by the person who then claimed the throne. One of them, Shallum, assassinated his predecessor and sat on the throne for one month before he, himself, was assassinated in the same manner by a man named Menahem. Whoever has the guts to assassinate the king gets the throne. “This is how the world works.”

Menahem happened to be on the throne when the army of Assyria came raiding. Menahem was a big fish in a small pond compared to the ascendant Assyrian Empire. Menahem didn’t have the army to withstand a takeover, so he had one choice. He extracted money from his wealthy citizens and paid the King of Assyria. It was really no different than the mafia or a local gang extracting money from neighborhood businesses for “protection.” It was just done on a larger scale. “This is how the world works.”

In the quiet this morning I’m reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same. With the dawn of the technological age, my generation has arguably experienced greater change than any other generation in history. And yet, what has not changed is the human condition. The culture wars being waged online are simply a reboot of tribal warfare. Throughout COVID lockdowns there were endless examples of those in power (on both sides of the political aisle) who made rules for constituents, then flagrantly violated those same rules.

“This is how the world works.”

Into this world, Jesus came to exemplify and prescribe an alternative. Before beginning His ministry Jesus was approached by the Evil One whom Jesus referred to as “The Prince of this World.” The Prince of this World offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if only Jesus would bow to him. It was quite an offer. Jesus could then change the world as He wished in a top-down power grab. It would surprise no one. That’s how the world works.

Jesus declined the offer.

Instead, Jesus asked me and all of His other followers to live, think, act, speak, and relate to others “not as the world works” but as the Kingdom of God works. It’s one of the things that drew me to Jesus and continues to draw me in.

I learned how the world works.

I don’t want to live that way.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Humiliating Defeat

Humiliating Defeat (CaD 2 Ki 14) Wayfarer

Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”
2 Kings 14:9-10 (NIV)

There are certain things that one simply experiences and knows from growing up and living in Iowa. For example, there’s the sport of wrestling. For whatever reason, the sport of wrestling is a thing in our state. Our major universities have long histories of success in the sport, and they’ve produced some of the most dominant wrestlers in history.

When I was growing up, wrestling was part of the required P.E. curriculum in the Middle School years. When you’re the youngest of four children, that means that older siblings came home and taught what they’d learned. I had never really wrestled in any official capacity, but I knew a few things from what my siblings taught me. I remember being paired up with partners in P.E. class and whoever my partner was, I had a pretty easy time of it.

Then we were allowed to challenge others in the class while the entire class looked on. I chose to challenge one of my classmates who was about my size. I figured I would at least be able to hold my own. What I didn’t know is that the guy I chose was already an accomplished wrestler and would go on to be a formidable wrestler in high school. It took less than five seconds for him to pin me. It was total humiliation.

It’s funny the things that I remember, and that still come to mind, over forty years later. There have been moments along my life journey when I experienced humiliating defeats and crashes of different kinds. Moments of shame are hard for me to forget. They have definitely served a purpose, however.

In today’s chapter, King Amaziah of Judah finds himself flying high after defeating the army of Edom. Feeling good about his victory, he challenges the Kingdom of Israel to a battle. Jehoash, King of Israel, tells Amaziah to reconsider and gives him the opportunity to withdraw the challenge, but Amaziah will have none of it. It does not go well for him. It ended up a humiliating defeat and Amaziah’s own people eventually turned on him and killed him.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the seasons of life. In the ebb-and-flow of the journey, I have experienced seasons of victory in which I felt on top of the world. It’s easy for me to think I’m going to stay there or fly even higher. Eventually, life always hands me a loss.

I also wrote yesterday that I’ve learned to embrace every season for what it is. Seasons of loss, defeat, shame, or humiliation are good soil for growing faith, humility, perseverance, and proven character. The “mountain-top” soil isn’t suited to grow those things.

In the quiet this morning, I’m praying a word of gratitude for the defeats, losses, and humiliating moments along my life journey. They’ve taught me a lot, including when to be content with life’s victories and appreciate how transient they can be. I’m also saying a prayer for my classmate who humiliated me on the wrestling mat (Yes, Wendy, I still remember his name!). I hope he’s in a good place on his own life journey.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Leadership Difference

The Leadership Difference (CaD 2 Ki 9) Wayfarer

Jehu said [to his fellow officers], “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’”

They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

2 Kings 9:12b-13 (NIV)

Decades from now, mystified scientists will gather to study the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, to try to figure out what they were all about—if they existed to compete in football, or merely to psychologically torment a population of loyal, long-suffering fans.”
-Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal

Jason Gay wrote these words earlier this week after Wendy and I joined the Vikings Nation in suffering another disappointing playoff loss. It was, however, one of the most interesting and entertaining seasons in history. If you’d suggested to experts and oddsmakers that the Vikings would go 13-4 this season, they’d have laughed in your face. Add to that going 11-0 in games decided by one score or less (I have no fingernails left), including the biggest comeback in NFL history (they were down 33-0 at halftime and won).

What’s even more fascinating about this year’s Vikings team is the larger story. Last year the owners fired the coach and general manager after another disappointing year in which the team failed to meet expectations. After the firings, the proceeded a flood of comments from players regarding how terrible the atmosphere had been in the locker room, how awful the leadership team had been, and how frustrating it was to play under them.

The owners then hired two very capable young men with integrity to take the helm of leadership.

I heard one anecdote regarding a former assistant coach now working for another team. When someone mentioned that the attitude of the Vikings going into this season was really positive, he replied “Of course it is. Satan left the building.”

Today’s chapter would make a fascinating and thrilling movie if it were done right. It’s all about leadership change in dramatic fashion. The prophets anoint an army officer as King of Israel and place on him the responsibility to rid Israel of the evil House of Ahab and Jezebel.

What stood out to me was how quickly everyone joined in the rebellion. The newly anointed Jehu seemed to consider his anointing as a joke until his soldiers and fellow officers quickly pledged their allegiance to them. They were desperate for change.

When Jehu confronts Jezebel in her upper story window in Jezreel, he simply suggests to the eunuchs in her service that they throw her out the window. They are eager and happy to oblige.

A wise man once said that the only thing to which evil responds is an overpowering force. It’s all that evil understands. Evil rules and holds sway through power, fear, intimidation, violence, and oppression.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve delivered a couple of messages in which I explored how different Jesus’ example and plans were for changing the world. Instead of top-down power, He exemplified and called his followers to live out a bottom-up, humble, love-powered service towards others that would transform other individuals from the inside out. Those individuals would then pay it forward by doing the same thing.

In the quiet this morning, I’m contemplating the difference that leadership makes on a football team, in a business, in a church, in a community, and in a family. When leadership is a top-down, authoritarian power play, those in the system become anxious for a change in leadership. When leadership is a humble, love-motivated mindset of serving those within the system, there is no limit on how much that system can flourish and accomplish.

It might even go 13-4, 11-1 in close games, and stage the greatest comeback in NFL history.

I can’t wait to see what happens next year.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Thoughts on the Prophetic

Thoughts on the Prophetic (CaD 2 Ki 8) Wayfarer

Hazael said [to Elisha], “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.

2 Kings 8:13 (NIV)

In today’s chapter, there is a fascinating episode in which the servant of the king of Aram sends a man named Hazael to the prophet Elisha to ask if he will recover from his illness. Elisha informs Hazael that the king will recover but he will die. Then Elisha stares at Hazael for an uncomfortable and awkward period of time and begins to weep. Elisha then tells Hazael that he will become king of Aram and will do great harm to the kingdom of Israel.

Hazael returns to the King of Aram, murders him, and usurps the throne. I’m left wondering if Hazael’s coup was already in process when he went to see Elisha, and Elisha’s prophecy confirmed for Hazael that it was time to pull the trigger.

An interesting historical side note: An ancient Assyrian inscription records the reign of Hazael “Son of Nobody” in Aram.

What struck me as I read this story was how similar it is to one of my favorite Shakespearean plays. The tragedy of Macbeth basically follows the same plot line. It is prophesied that Macbeth, a relative nobody among the nobility of Scotland, will be king. It so happened that the King of Scotland decides to stay at Macbeth’s place for the night and his wife convinces him that they should murder the king and make the prophecy come true. I couldn’t help but wonder if Shakespeare was inspired by the story of Hazael.

By the way, things don’t work out so well for Macbeth and his wife. Hazael, on the other hand, did quite well for himself. He created a fairly impressive little regional empire in Damascus and reigned for over 40 years.

Prophecy is a fascinating element of life. As I contemplated it in the quiet this morning it struck me, from horoscopes to Nostradamus, how pervasive it is, even among otherwise nominally spiritual people.

As a disciple of Jesus, prophecy is a part of the fabric of life, and the Great Story is chock full of it. Seventeen books of the Bible are the words of the ancient prophets and the book of Revelations records the prophetic visions of John. One of the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on individual believers is the gift of prophecy.

During my forty-plus years of being a follower of Jesus, I’ve experienced many instances of people who have told me things that have been prophesied to them or for them. In other instances, both Wendy and I have had people speak prophetic words to us. And, on a handful of occasions, I’ve been directly given specific prophetic words from God’s Spirit.

My experience with the prophetic, however, includes individuals who regularly share with me prophetic messages they’ve been given that I’ve noticed never pan out. I’ve also observed instances of individuals who, like Lady Macbeth, go to great lengths to make a prophetic message happen, usually to semi-tragic ends. False prophecy has always been a part of the prophetic experience.

I’ve also had some legitimately amazing, truly prophetic experiences.

I’ve learned along my life journey to take what I call the .38 Special approach to prophecy: “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” I’ve come to believe in holding the tension between being someone who frantically chases after the prophetic and those who dismiss it entirely. If a prophetic word is truly prophetic, it will come to pass. When given a prophetic word I listen. I make note of it. Then I place it on the back burner of my heart and mind, and I continue to press on as normal.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Difference a Dinner Makes

So [the king of Israel] prepared a great feast for the [Aramean soldiers], 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.
2 Kings 6:23 (NIV)

As Wendy and I sit each morning over breakfast and peruse the news of the day, we will often discuss different politicians or other individuals making headlines. Of course, there are always certain individuals for whom we have a certain affinity but we don’t always have the most glowing impressions of other individuals.

I’m not sure how and when this happened, but Wendy and I will commonly discuss the notion of having said individuals over for a meal. I think this idea began during a Presidential campaign years ago. A few months ahead of the Iowa Caucuses you can’t spit without hitting a visiting presidential candidate. One year when the number of candidates was off the charts, Wendy and I discussed the idea of how nice it would be to actually have each of the candidates (from any/all parties) over for dinner one at a time. It’s easier to really get to know a person over a good meal and good table conversation. Somehow, the idea stuck and now it comes up quite regularly in our conversations, what it would be like to have so-and-so over for dinner.

Today’s chapter is filled with extreme events from the miraculous to a horrific human tragedy. I have no recollection of this quiet little episode stuck in the middle. The kingdom of Aram shared a border with the kingdom of Israel, and bands of Aramean soldiers were constantly raiding the towns of Israel. Elisha miraculously blinds one of these raiding parties and leads them straight into Samaria, the capital city of Israel. When the king of Israel suggests killing them, Elisha instructs him to treat them to a feast instead.

So, the king of Israel treats the enemy soldiers as honored guests. They sat around the table and enjoyed a feast together. I imagine they swapped stories, laughed together, and got to know one another to a certain degree. The Arameans, knowing they could have been killed, were treated the way Jesus would later instruct His followers to treat our enemies, by blessing those who intend to persecute us. The result? The border raids stopped.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded of the conference Wendy and I attended this past week that addressed some of the most controversial and divisive topics of our day. One of the most powerful things that the conference accomplished was to share the complex and intimate stories of individuals struggling at the heart of the issue. When issues are translated into human stories, it changes both my perceptions and understanding of the issues themselves. It’s the same principle that the king of Israel and the Aramean soldiers discovered. They came to bust heads and instead broke bread. It changed their attitudes and behavior toward their enemies.

(BTW: Another Presidential election cycle begins later this year. For any candidate who happens to read this, there’s an open dinner invitation here at Vander Well manor! 😉)

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“Consider” This

"Consider" This (CaD 2 Ki 5) Wayfarer

Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, “My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.”
2 Kings 5:20 (NIV)

I’ve been working on a message I’m scheduled to give this Sunday morning among my local gathering of Jesus followers. One of the concepts on which I’ve been meditating is the idea of “consideration.” There is a subtle theme in the Jesus story and the Great Story’s teaching regarding what disciples of Jesus are to “consider” and what we are not to “consider.”

Today’s chapter is a fantastic example.

An Aramean military officer had some kind of incurable skin disease (FYI: The Hebrew word that gets translated into English as “leprosy” has a much broader meaning and could mean any number of skin issues or diseases). He comes bearing an extraordinary amount of money and gifts and visits Elisha, asking to be healed. Through intermediaries, Elisha instructs him to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times, which he eventually does, and he is healed. Elisha sends word to the man to keep his gifts and go home.

As I meditated on the story, I thought about what Elisha was considering that motivated his words and actions. Elisha, considering the big picture of what God is trying to do at that moment, wants this Aramean (a foreigner dedicated to Aramean pagan gods) to know that the God of Abraham, Moses, David, and Israel is the one true God. He chooses not to even meet the man in person because he wants no credit for the miracle, and he doesn’t want the man to focus on Elisha, but on the God of Elisha. Finally, Elisha refuses any gifts or payment because he considers that he has done nothing to earn these things, and he’s not in the business of miracles-r-us. He was just doing what the Lord instructed. He considers God his master. He is just a servant doing what he’s been told.

The officer leaves, and the scene switches to focus on Elisha’s servant Gehazi.

First, Gehazi considers to himself all of the silver and fine clothes that the Aramean had brought. He then considers that this Aramean is a foreigner and an enemy. He considers why this pagan Aramean should have such wealth and fine things instead one of God’s chosen people. In his considerations, Gehazi comes to the conclusion that he deserves a little bit of the spoils for himself.

Gehazi then runs after the Aramean. He lies to the Aramean about prophets arriving from a distance and his master Elisha commanding him to ask for silver and clothes for the two prophets.

Gehazi then takes the ill-gotten plunder and hides it.

Finally, when asked where he’s been, Gehazi lies to his master and claims not to have gone anywhere.

What a contrast. Elisha’s words and actions were in consideration of what God, his Lord, is doing and desiring in the larger context of the political and spiritual landscape of the people of Israel and their rulers. Elisha acts as a humble servant who sees everything through consideration of his master and what his master desires.

Gehazi, on the other hand, reflects the original sin:

When the Woman [Eve] saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she’d know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Genesis 3:6 (MSG)

He sees the silver and fine things that the Aramean brought with him. He considers how awesome it would be to have some for himself. In doing so he does not consider his master’s intentions, his master’s wishes, or what his master will do if he finds out what he has done. Gehazi considers his own selfish desires as everything while considering his master Elisha’s desires nothing.

Welcome to the human condition.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself convicted. How often are my daily, moment-by-moment considerations about myself, from my lizard brain survival instincts to my envy of others, my desire to have what others have, and my lust after the things of this world? How different was Jesus’ example:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)

And so, I find myself sitting in the quiet considering the day ahead. Will I consider this day about me and my personal needs, wants, and desires? Or will I consider Jesus’ example, humble myself, act as a servant, and consider others’ needs ahead of my own?

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Transitions

Transitions (CaD 2 Ki 2) Wayfarer

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

2 Kings 2:9 (NIV)

Transitions are typically difficult.

Along my life journey, I’ve been part of many different transitions and have walked alongside others in their own seasons of transition. I’ve noticed that there are many different elements that make a transition easier or more difficult for those involved. It can be a matter of temperaments, as some individuals handle change differently than others. It also has to do with how long the transition has been anticipated and how well the transition has been planned. It has to do with how well those in the system experiencing the transition have been prepared. It also has to do with whether or not the transition flows in the natural progression of time or whether the transition is unforeseen and forced by sudden tragedy or change in circumstances.

Over the past few years, Wendy and I have been in a season in which we are experiencing a number of transitions in our families and in business.

Today’s chapter is about a major transition in the spiritual landscape of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The prophet Elijah appeared on the scene like Clint Eastwood wandering into town in High Plains Drifter. God uses Elijah to take on corrupt King Ahab, his wife Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal. God worked miraculously through Elijah throughout his ministry, and now it’s time for him to ride off into the sunset (or in this case, riding off in a chariot and a whirlwind). Today’s chapter is all about the transition of Spirit and prophetic authority from Elijah to his protégé Elisha.

First God leads the two of them on Elijah’s farewell tour of the three towns where companies of prophets reside: Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho. In each place, it is known or made known that Elijah is going to be taken away. Elijah and Elisha then cross over the Jordan river, with Elijah striking the water with his cloak and parting the waters to cross on dry ground. This is a direct parallel to Moses striking the water with his staff so that the people of Israel could cross into the Promised Land in Exodus 14.

This is also the root of so many metaphors that we continue to use today. Elijah is “crossing over Jordan” to be taken to heaven. “Crossing Jordan” is still used in life and lyrics when referencing death and the passing of a person from earthly life to eternal life.

Elijah then asks Elisha what he wants, and Elisha asks for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit. In modern western culture, this sounds like a consumerist request as if Elisha is asking for a spiritual BOGO coupon. What Elisha is asking is in reference to the Mosaic laws of inheritance. The first-born son gets a “double portion” of the father’s inheritance and takes on the role of patriarch in the family. Elisha is asking to receive the mantel of spiritual leadership among the prophets and the people, to be the spiritual firstborn son among the prophets of God’s people.

When Elijah is taken, he leaves his cloak behind, which Elisha picks up and strikes the water of the Jordan. The waters part and he returns to the other shore on dry land, symbolizing that he indeed received what he had asked for. And, by the way, we still use this event metaphorically in talking about transitions of power and authority. Another word for cloak is “mantel.” The “mantel of leadership” had been passed from Elijah to Elisha.

The last two stories in the chapter confirm the miraculous powers of blessing (healing the water) and curses (the curse on the jeering boys) that Elisha now possessed just as Elijah had possessed before him.

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking through all of the areas of transition that Wendy and I are still navigating. How does the transition from Elijah to Elisha speak into all of these other transitions?

First, there was a process. So often in transitions, I experience the desire to jump to the end of the process. I want to skip the more difficult parts, especially the ones that are about dealing with messy relationships. But the process is necessary, and it can make a huge difference in the success of the transition.

Second, there was a nod to both the past (Moses crossing Jordan) and to the future (Elijah being taken to heaven in order to set up the “return” in the person of John the Baptist). The good transitions I’ve experienced in life and organizations both honor the past and open up new paths and future opportunities. In the transitions I’m experiencing, how can I embrace both?

Finally, there was an element of the divine mystery in the transition. Elijah didn’t grant Elisha’s request. He deferred that to God. That’s why Elisha’s three miracles (dividing Jordan, healing the water, cursing the jeering boys) confirmed that God had granted Elisha’s request. In this, I am mindful that there is, I believe, an element of the divine mystery in every earthly transition. I believe that God is at work in my story and in each person’s story. I have been a part of transitions that didn’t end the way I wanted them to, but in retrospect, I can see how it was instrumental in the directing of my steps.

So, I’m reminded of my one word this year: Trust.

Trust the Story.
Trust the plan.
Transitions are waypoints in the direction of our path.

FWIW: Several of my messages from the past five months were uploaded to the Messages page. Messages are listed in chronological order with the newest messages on top.

Featured image on today’s post is by Jan Saenrendam, from the collection of the City of Amsterdam, and is in the Public Domain.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.