2 KINGS 3:1-4:17 | ACTS 14:8-28 | PSALM 140:1-13 | PROVERBS 17:22
Well, Ahab and Jezebel are no more, but their son, Joram, is the new king of Israel. He isn’t any better than his parents, but life in the ancient land of Judea and Palestine somehow seems to continue.
Soon it seems as though the king of Israel, the king of Judah, and the king of Edom are all quite chummy, and the three of them decide to go to war against their neighbor, Moab, who is apparently not honoring an old commitment to pay its annual tributes by way of the wool from their sheep.
And so, they round up their forces and decide on a plan of action, first among that being a consultation of a prophet. And who do you think fits that bill very nicely—why, Elisha, of course! At first, Elisha is reluctant to offer his prophetic services, but soon gives in, and actually predicts a victory for them. And so, it comes to pass that Moab is defeated.
This is the age of Elisha, and we now learn about his life and times in those ancient of days. There are two incidents from this passage, both of which serve to demonstrate his powerful and miraculous words and actions.
The first is concerning a poor widow woman who needs help to pay off her debtors. Elisha instructs her to pour what little oil she has into jars—as many as she can find—and sure enough, the oil is never-ending which is a bounty for her so as to sell and pay her debts.
The second has to do with a Shunamite woman who has shown kindness to Elisha over the years in inviting him into her home and in being a kind host. Elisha asks what he can do in return for her, and knowing her desire for a child, he speaks the word that this time next year she will give birth to a child—despite the fact that her husband is an old man. We shall see how this might work out.
Is this not reminiscent of Abraham and Sarah in how they were promised a child when Sarah was at the ripe old age of 90? Stranger things have happened…
Turning now to our reading in the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas are busy at work in preaching the gospel to the Greeks. In the town of Lystra, Paul does something almost identical to what Jesus himself had done: he gives healing to a lame man simply by commanding him to rise up and walk. The people are awestruck, so much so, that they are convinced that these are the gods of Zeus and Hermes who walk among them!
But Paul tells them otherwise. He says this: 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
But soon after this, some very self-righteous Jews arrive on the scene, and in the name of preventing sacrilege and abhorring blasphemy, they do what they do best: they begin to persecute Paul by beginning to stone him to death. Paul is driven out in this manner to the outskirts of the city, but Barnabas and some other believers help Paul to flee from that place to another town called Derbe. In this way, Paul and Barnabas continue their missionary work throughout the areas of Greece and Turkey.
Turning now to our psalms for the day, we find one in which David, the psalmist, is distraught over his enemies. He is praying that God will protect him and provide for him. Here is one person who certainly knows how to heap curses upon the heads of his enemies!
Sometimes, I wonder, is it not better to just speak one’s mind and vent one’s frustrations—if but only to God. Here’s how David does it:
9 Those who surround me proudly rear their heads;
may the mischief of their lips engulf them.
10 May burning coals fall on them;
may they be thrown into the fire,
into miry pits, never to rise.
11 May slanderers not be established in the land;
may disaster hunt down the violent.
Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs that is worthy of reading, remembering and reciting to oneself because of the wisdom contained within it:
22 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.