2 KINGS 8:1-9:13 | ACTS 16:16-40 | PSALM 143:1-12 | PROVERBS 17:26
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We start out this chapter with an account of the Shunamite woman again. This is a continuation of her story—after the restoration of her son’s life in the most miraculous way by Elisha, the woman and her family are advised by Elisha to go away for a few years because of the impending famine in the land. Which is exactly what she does. But after seven years, she returns to her home and it is said that even as the king is inquiring about Elisha, the mysterious “man of God” who is here, there, and everywhere, the woman approaches the king and petitions for the return of her land and home. The king readily grants her request.
Next, we learn about the fate of Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, who is very ill and sends a messenger, Hazael, to inquire from Elisha what might be in store for him. Hazael does the king’s bidding, and returns with encouraging news about the king’s restoration of health, but what he doesn’t say is that he himself will prove to betray the king, kill him in cold blood, and assume the throne.
The chronological exactness of the account of these texts may be somewhat questionable, but that notwithstanding, we learn next about the reign of Jehoram, king of Judah, who is the counterpart to Joram, king of Israel. Both Israel and Judah continue to do evil in the eyes of the Lord and are a disgrace to the House of Saul and David.
And yet, life goes on. Ahazaih succeeds his father as king of Judah. And on the other side, we learn of the new king of Israel to be Jehu, anointed by none other than Elisha, the “man of God”, also known as the “maniac” in some circles!
It is to be seen what may come of this kingship.
Turning next to the reading in the book of Acts, we now see Paul and Silas, the new duo, in action: they have been traveling to towns and cities preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles alike.
There is an interesting account of a female fortune-teller who seems to have been a source of income to her bosses, but in the wake of Paul and Silas’ preaching, she is led to speak as if in a mocking tone, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.”
After this goes on for a few days, it becomes a source of annoyance to one and all, including Paul himself who turns to her and speaks to the evil spirit residing within the woman these words: “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!”
Sure enough, the woman is freed from the evil spirit that had been in possession of her, and she evidently ceases to tell fortunes. This doesn’t sit too well with her old bosses who were profiting from her, and the next thing you know, Paul and Silas are yet again pursued by the authorities for disturbing the peace and are soon caught and thrown into prison. Not only are they thrown into prison but they are first flogged soundly. So much for the Roman laws of fairness and justice of a fair trial!
But it is in prison that a most unusual thing happens. Despite being bound by chains, it is said that Paul and Silas are singing hymns and praising God. So fervent is their worship in these destitute of circumstances that a most inconceivable thing takes place. Even as they are bound in chains, there is an earthquake that shakes the very foundations of the prison and loosens their chains. And so stricken with fear is the prison guard that he will be held responsible for the presumed escape of the prisoners, that he is ready to take his life.
But Paul cries out to assure him that they are all still there, to which the guard is so relieved and so convicted that he says, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And you know right away that he is referring to a much more deeper sense of salvation than that of the physical; he is asking about the saving of his soul itself.
And Paul replies clearly and unequivocally, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Is that sufficiently clear, gentle reader? It is, to me, and I daresay it was to that prison guard as well.
In the morning, when the authorities learn of what has happened, they wish to quietly release Paul and Silas, but Paul knows his rights, and is quick to point out that he is not going to let this audacity pass—he is, after all, a Roman citizen, but has been treated as if he had no rights of a fair trial. And so, Paul insists that he wishes the authorities to come in person and offer an explanation and possibly an apology. The authorities concede to this request following which Paul and Silas are released with honor, and they then depart the gates of the prison.
Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find a most heartfelt psalm by David in which he cries out to the Lord just like a child would. His pleas for help and mercy are so raw and filled with emotion, they could have come from the lips of anyone who is in need. Like David, I also find myself praying in this manner sometimes:
7 Answer me quickly, LORD;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, LORD,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground
Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs which is reminiscent of the plight of Paul and Silas in the prison. Solomon, king of Israel has penned these words:
26 If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good,
surely to flog honest officials is not right.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.