You Perceive My Thoughts From Afar

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2 KINGS 1:1-2:25 | ACTS 13:42-14:7 | PSALM 139:1-24 | PROVERBS 17:19-21

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Elijah is still very much in action and seems to appear and disappear at the most expected and unexpected of times. 

After Ahab’s death, Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, continues in his father’s way of worshiping Baal, and there is the incident of Ahaziah sending messengers to inquire of Baal’s prophets concerning the prognosis for his health since he happened to fall down from a roof and injure himself. 

Elijah must have heard of this as well, because we learn that he intercepts these messengers with a message of his own:  ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ 4 Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’”

Is that sufficiently clear, Ahaziah?  

And perhaps just for good measure and great effect, he prays fire down upon two sets of fifty men with a captain each who come to fetch him as per the king’s orders.  Elijah is going nowhere and has nothing further to say to anyone! 

Does he not remind one of John the Baptist who many thousands of years later would go about in the wilderness in the same manner—speaking his mind, and speaking it loud and clear.

And just like John who is known for his preaching and his work at the Jordan river, there is a most wondrous and miraculous thing that takes place at the Jordan river for Elijah.  Here is one man who does not taste death:  Elijah is raised up into the heavens just like that, while Elisha, his disciple, is still with him and watches him being taken up by the chariots and horsemen of Israel.” 

How amazing a sight would that have been!  One moment the two are talking, and the next moment, Elijah is swooped upward perhaps in a great wind.  Is this not reminiscent of the way in which our Lord Jesus himself was ascended into heaven?

A point of note here concerning Elisha.  This was a young man who left his home and family to follow Elijah, and appears to have been a most faithful and loyal disciple.  When Elijah asks him what he can do for him before he leaves for good, Elisha is a very wise man to ask for a “double portion of your spirit.” 

Here was an opportunity to ask for anything at all—after all, this was no ordinary man—if anything, Elijah was most extraordinary in performing the most amazing of miracles, even raising a man from the dead, and Elisha could have indeed asked for anything at all, but he chose instead to ask his master for a double-portion of his spirit so as to be filled with the power to be like Elijah himself. 

This ought not to be viewed as an act of challenging his mentor, but rather, as an act of humility.  And sure enough, we find two examples of Elisha using his powers:  one of his very first acts is to use this power for good of the people by bringing healing to the waters in a certain town, but next we find that Elisha also has the prerogative to use his power to call down curses upon a group of boys who are mocking him for his bald pate. 

May it be that this would serve as warning for anyone tempted to jeer at another, especially a man of God.  They would be better off to hold their tongue lest they meet a fate like those young boys who are mauled by bears that come out of the woods! 

And so ends the second chapter of the second book of Kings.

Turning now to our reading in the book of Acts, we find Paul and Barnabas busy in their mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to both Jew and Gentile in the region.  In some places they are welcomed; in others, they are not.  In such places where they were not welcomed, it is said that they shook the dust off their feet and continued on to their next destination. 

To the Jews who were unbelieving, this was their message:  “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Turning next to our psalm for the day, we find the well-known and oft-quoted psalm 139.  I reproduce it here in its entirety because of the timeless quality of the emotion conveyed by the psalmist that translates to us even in these modern times where despite our knowledge of science and technologies, there is still an element of wonder in the belief that there is a God who is even more omniscient than all our imaginings.  The psalmist puts it like this:

1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

 13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Finally, three verses from the book of Proverbs, all of which are independent in their message, and serve as food for thought:

19 Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin;
whoever builds a high gate invites destruction.

20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper;
one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.

21 To have a fool for a child brings grief;
   there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

2 thoughts on “You Perceive My Thoughts From Afar

  1. This is another one of those days when the readings are very full and rich and your devotional rises to the occasion. I like your analysis of Elijah and Elisha and share your love for this psalm. There is a beautiful and very popular song in our tradition based on this psalm, “You Are Near.” TFS!

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