Anointed One

In the Bible, Christ has many names; Master, Teacher, Lord, Son of God, and Emmanuel to name a few. Looking at Acts 4:27 today, we see another: the Anointed One. Anointing is a physical act with a deeply spiritual meaning, where oil or some sort of perfume is poured one someone’s head or applied to some object to mark it as particularly holy, or set aside for some notably divine purpose. Typically, in biblical times, it was done to kings as part of a coronation ceremony, or by homeowners to guests as a sign of welcome and thankfulness. To be anointed is to be given the favor of God, and an act of recognizing a deep spiritual connection with the Lord.

  We know that in Jesus’s time on earth, God made clear he was symbolically anointed, set forth as the most holy King, a true leader and ruler of God’s people. Jesus himself recognizes the duties put forth before Him by God and the importance of anointment in demonstrating this, especially in the story of His anointing told in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and John 12, where he says “In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.” Or as Luke described in Acts 10:38, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” But this term, used throughout the Bible, seems to frequently be used as well to describe those who follow Christ. A few examples.

Psalm 23:5 – “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

Psalm 45:7 – “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Psalm 105:15 – “he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, ‘Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!’”

Luke 4:18 – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”

1 John 2:20 – “You have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.”

The central theme around referring to the body of believers as “the anointed” is that through our faith in God and our spiritual death and rebirth provided from grace through baptism, we have been truly made and marked holy. The Lord has set us apart from the world, using the hope and faith in what is unseen to demonstrate God’s blessings dwelling within us. God has welcomed us into his kingdom and honored us as guests in His house, representative of the symbolic hospitality of anointment.

Therein lies to encouragement in Acts 4:27, where the entire world seems to have banded together to rise against Jesus, “whom you anointed.” We see this same message in Psalm 2:2 – “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.” Since the fall of man, the world has despised and worked against those whom the Lord favors. This is epitomized in these verses where the Anointed One, the most consecrated of all, is turned against. It’s not hard to see; turn on the news or check social media and you’re likely to see an outpouring of slander and hatred against the faithful and against God’s word. But all these verses and all of God’s promises speak true: in anointing us and recognizing our faith, God has promised we will be safe from wickedness. He will make sure our cup overflows and we can continue to perform good works in His name, no matter what the weapons the world may raise against us. In Him and in His blessings, we are safe and secured. This definite truth is one we can always hold onto when the world turns against us – no matter what, when, or where, our Lord is with us.

After Christmas

As we enter the dreaded post-Christmas comedown, some people may have started wondering what the heck to do with all the Christmas presents they now have. Those of you with kids may even be seeing the gifts you put weeks of work and thought into starting to get discarded and forgotten. The weight of all this material stuff may start gathering up, and you could be saddled with that gift-receiving guilt I know all too well. When all the stuff that comes along with the Christmas season starts losing its shine and reality begins creeping back in, what do we do when the gifts feel hollow and unfulfilling?

Now as good a time as any is a good time for the reminder I like looking to after Christmas. Luke 2, the classic Christmas verse, encapsulates the glory of the Christmas season well, but also contains great instructions for what comes after in verse 20, when the Shepherds are leaving baby Jesus’s manger – “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” We’ve been spending quite a while now hearing about and considering the gift of eternal life Jesus’s birth sets into motion – the greatest gift of all.

As Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now more than ever is a good time to remember how serious a gift God has given us through His son. By our own nature, we rightfully deserve utter damnation, but through God’s grace He has gifted us eternity. We no longer need to worry about death or suffering or what comes afterwards – we know we are gifted eternity with God. How many gift cards or sweaters were you gifted this year that could obliterate death?

The world will try to tell us at all times how we can find fulfillment through physical gifts and the things of this world. But none of that will last beyond this lifetime, throughout history, or in some instances, even through this week. Now, after the birth of Christ, is the time to consider the one best gift we have received, that we could ever hope to receive. Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Santa may have only given gifts to those who deserved it, but all of us believers can now ponder and praise God for the one gift no one could ever want to return.

Now, with this gift, what do we do? How do we handle such a powerful and important gift? Well, it’s just as the Shepherds did when they heard the news of Jesus’s arrival in Luke 2:20: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” As we all begin rolling back into our regular routines, remember the gift we can tell others we received that will last forever – eternal salvation and happiness with God, given from His grace and goodwill. How could we not glorify and praise the Lord for this gift?

The Gift of Rest

Today, through the rest of the year, the daily Bible Journal will be taking a “free write” structure, where the writer is free to write about whatever biblical verse or topic they feel called to. Personally, one topic this Christmas season that has been on my mind and heart and in our prayers has been rest. In this particularly hectic season, it feels as if everything on our schedules is never-ending. This can be even further exacerbated these days by how technologically connected and constantly stimulated we are with news and entertainment. It feels as though we can never find time to rest, and when we do, it never feels sufficiently recharging. Plus there’s the guilt of not being more productive or studious when the opportunity to rest does arise.

If this sounds familiar to you right now, you might be like me: in need of a reminder of where rest comes from. Way back in Genesis 2, after bringing all of creation into being, God set the precedent that rest was holy and good by spending day 7 resting. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Even later in Matthew, in chapter 26, Jesus needs to be alone in peace and quiet to connect with God in prayer. God makes it evident that in our toil and stress, it is good and necessary to recuperate with quiet downtime. In Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”

However, the issue lies in who we give our downtime to. Do you devote your silent moments to the television or your phone, or to God? Not that these things are inherently bad, or that you should never enjoy these luxuries. But in moments of rest, as in all things, we need God to come first. Rest is an opportunity to engage in intimate conversation with God: to come to Him, receive and ponder His blessings, and to be renewed in our spirit. In all the noise and distraction of life, it can be easiest to hear God’s voice in your heart when at peace in silence and relaxation. Beyond all, rest is a spiritual gift from God, a chance to simply be close to the Lord.

In a more simple viewpoint, our imperfect earthly bodies are just designed to rest. We need moments to recharge and engage in prayerful stillness; obviously not a coincidence, but perhaps more of a subtle affirmation from the Lord. We should take our moments of respite first as moments of prayerful listening to God speaking to our hearts before tending to our own physical wants for relaxation. So work hard, engaging in the work the Lord has laid out for you when you should. But when it is time to kick back, be sure to use it as time with God foremost, knowing it is needed and wonderful. Enjoy your moments of rest this Christmas season, and know that giving those moments of rest to others can be a powerful gift; a simple act like taking care of the evening’s chores for your spouse or watching a friend’s child for a while can offer them meaningful time to quietly visit with God, making all the difference. This Christmas season, engage the Lord in thanks and praise when you can kick back and relax, for from God comes rest, as does all things good.

Barnabas

Today’s reading is on Barnabas in Acts 11, 13, and 14.

One of the most supportive practices in marriage my wife and I maintain is the constant encouragement we provide each other. From helping each other manage the day-to-day routines when they wear us down, or from pushing each other to pursue our loftier aspirations and goals, the encouragement she has provided me has been invaluable in getting through tough times. Providing encouragement for her as well offers an interesting opportunity to build up people around us, not only in our own rapport, but in the experiences and paths they may encounter that lead them closer to God.

Enter Barnabas, member of the church in Jerusalem, moved when he heard the Lord’s word. According to Acts 11:24, Barnabas was “a g good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith.” He was evidently adept at speaking and filling others with spiritual direction, as evidenced by how it’s further told after preaching to the church in Antioch, “a great number of people were brought to the Lord” after he spoke. In fact, Barnabas’s name itself, depending on the translation of the original Hebrew text, could mean “son of encouragement,” “son of exhortation”, or “son of consolation” – it’s clear this man had a talent for building up others.

So why is Barnabas so notable? It’s through his help we see Paul grow into the great missionary role he fills. It’s back in Acts 9 that Barnabas introduces Saul to the apostles after his revelation when no one else wanted anything to do with him. In Acts 13 they’re originally called by the Holy Spirit to serve as missionaries, we see Barnabas as the prophet and teacher originally mentioned, but quickly see Paul taking charge and growing into a great teacher in his own right. In Paul’s journey to spreading the word to countless people and eventually prison where the Epistles that would be included in the Bible were written, we see Barnabas helping all along the way, helping Paul along his path to his calling.

The importance of a good teacher can not be overstated – I’m sure some people reading this might be teachers, and to you I say thank you for your work. In Barnabas’s journeys across Israel, we see the power of spiritual teachers and encouragers, those who help others along their spiritual paths. Clearly, the importance of this spiritual assistance was not lost on Paul, who wrote about this very thing multiple times in his letters to the churches. In Colossians 3:16, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” In Titus 2:7, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good.” And in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, he says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”

Being encouraging and kind to others is simply the decent thing to do. But beyond that, building up and helping others learn and grow in their faith in the Lord does magnitudes for the Kingdom. Your sharing in spiritual wisdom and teaching empowers not only your fellow believers, but brings God joy from the gratitude and servitude your actions show. Building up others and strengthening their connection with the Lord reaps lifelong effects, bringing them ever closer to God. And when they grow closer to God, their lives with be more full of joy and peace that would ever be possible otherwise. So in all times, look to how you can advise and build up your brothers and sisters in Christ in order to further God’s glory.

Nicodemus

Today’s reading is on Nicodemus in John 3:1-21.

Do you remember when you first wanted to give your life to Christ? For some of you, it may have been when you were a very young child, introduced to the Gospel by family. For some, it may have been first going off into the world on your own and discovering meaning in life through God. For others, maybe later in life, after experiencing many things, the decision to follow Christ made more and more sense. Either way, chances are it was not spontaneous. You most likely didn’t go your whole life without knowing a thing about God, then one day waking up and thinking “hey, you know what, I feel like devoting my life to Christ today.” It doesn’t really work that way – the decision comes naturally after beginning a personal relationship with God and His moving in your heart.

Enter Nicodemus, a Pharisee seated on the Sanhedrin, high council in charge of the law of Jerusalem. While Jesus is in Jerusalem, Nicodemus comes at night to ask the Messiah he’s heard of about who He is. Jesus gets right to the point and confronts him about how to enter the Kingdom of God. To Jews of this time, the idea of being “born again” is entirely new – they were part of God’s people simply because of their ancestry, entering into Heaven on merit of their heritage. But Jesus flips this idea on its head – entry to the Kingdom is not decided by who you were born to, but by who you give your life to instead.

Scripture makes sure we know the importance of baptism. In Acts 2, Peter says “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In Titus 3: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Through our spiritual death and rebirth, we declare ourselves dedicated to the Lord, renewed and saved through His grace. The most miraculous thing about it is anyone can choose to do so and give their life to Christ, Jewish or not. We can never predict how or when God moves in someone to make them want to decide this, but when he does, how could we do anything but fall to our knees and surrender to Him? The way Jesus explains why we would make this choice is surely one of the most known Scriptures for good reason. John 3:16-18 reads:

“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Nicodemus hears why we choose to cast off our old life and accept spiritual death and rebirth in God’s Kingdom – His love. God’s love is more sacrificial, enduring, and rewarding than any other. It is this love that sent Jesus to live among us, that sent Him to die on the cross, and now seats Him at the right hand of the Father. This same love will always be, from now until the end of time. This love is available to anyone – those who have not yet believed but are moved by the Spirit will always be welcome in God’s loving arms. Someone today needs the news of this loving God, who will always love and never forsake those who trust Him: share this good news today with me. The world needs love now more than ever, and only God can provide the love we need for all.

The Shepherds

Today’s reading is on the Shepherds in Luke 2:8-20.

Happy November! With October past and the Christmas season soon kicking into full gear, what more suitable verse to go to than the true meaning of Christmas from A Charlie Brown Christmas?

I apologize for reminding you all about this, but the next few months are going to be stressful and long, full of family & travel plans, entertainment preparation, buying gifts, the work year coming to busy end, and mitigating the effects of the worsening weather. It can be a frantic period, far too easy to lose your cool and become sick of the holidays. Personally, I never enjoy the consumerism involved in Christmas season – so much of media and society around us revolves around buying and receiving stuff that it can spoil the importance of this time of year. But in this stressful season, the straightforward faith of the shepherds in this Scripture are a needed example of how simple this whole season really is. Just like in the aforementioned special, when Charlie Brown grows weary of the season, Linus reminds us all of this:

 

 

Christ is here! A savior is born! Glory to God in the highest! These shepherds hear the good news and immediately celebrate, going to Jerusalem to see the Messiah and share the good news with all we see. In an instant nothing else matters – they are called to act, then they drop everything and celebrate the Lord. Whatever headaches these next few months, remember our true missive as Christians in this season: spreading the good news that Jesus Christ is born. Yes, every frantic shopping trip, every long car ride to family, every bill and expense added to the Christmas credit card; they all are useful for important things like family and generosity. They all, however, revolve around a single truth – the living Lord who has blessed us all with these things. In all these moments lie opportunities to follow the Shepherd’s examples here: tell all we see that the Savior is here. Pray today that the Lord would remain in our hearts and thoughts in this important upcoming time of year, and enable us all to share the joy Jesus brings us this Christmas season and always evermore.

The Sadducees

Today’s reading is on the Sadducees, specifically Jesus’s interaction with them in Matthew 22:23-46.

So, that Sadducees: generally, not a well-liked bunch. It’s easy to see why in the Gospels, as they repeatedly pop up to attempt to trick Jesus into speaking blasphemy against their laws and silencing his radical preaching. But who is this group and why is this smackdown Jesus delivers particularly noteworthy?

The Sadducees were one of the main religious leading groups in Israel during Jesus’s life. They were an offshoot sect of sorts of the Pharisees, seated as a sort of oppositional ruling party to the Pharisees. But whereas the Pharisees believed in the oral passing of traditional teachings of God and fervently interpreted the books of Moses in their own terms, the Sadducees were more direct and literal in their interpretation of God’s word. They believed nothing but the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible as we know it, were the word of God, and while the rest may have been divinely inspired, they saw anything outside of that as unfit for following as the law. Since their writings didn’t have any mention of an after life either, the Sadducees, unlike their Pharisee counterparts, didn’t believe in any sort of an afterlife – that God ruled over this life absolutely, but after this life, nada. This is displayed in Matthew 22:23, as well as later in Mark 12:18 and Luke 20:27, where it is expressed the Sadducees “say there is no resurrection.” They had no belief in angels or demons either, essentially distilling the essence of God’s word to its most literal and applicable usage as they saw fit. Their faith was more of a political ruling practice – this was done out of love for power and ruling over Israel, not for love of God.

So when Jesus begins speaking in the Sermon on the Mount about the kingdom of heaven, and inheritance in a life beyond this, he was preaching a message proudly opposed to their laws and ways of life. This man, who the Jews would come to call the awaited Messiah, spread a message of God in direct opposition to their own. In their view of the law and of the word of God, no one who spoke of resurrection and life after death was speaking for God in any capacity.

This belief of no life after death is what sets up the Sadducees’ question to Jesus here in Matthew 22:23-46. They come here of course not with the intention of learning about marriage after the resurrection, but with the intent of trapping Jesus in a trick question. One of the laws of Israel that the Sadducees were familiar with was the teaching of “Levirate marriage” In Deuteronomy 25:5-6 – a law describing the successors in marriage of a widow. By stretching this law to its extremes, they were hoping Jesus would provide an answer not covered by Levirate marriage, offending Jewish teachings & breaking the law, a jail-worthy offense and a means of silencing their biggest dissenter of the time.

But here comes Jesus with the response in Matthew 22:29-32 – “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Not only does Jesus provide new divine insight of the resurrection and the disposal of our earthly bodies for blameless angelic beings after death, topics the Sadducees did not consider legitimate, but in the same breath renders their intent moot by giving them an answer from Exodus 3:6, when God first revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, using their own God-given law to invalidate their line of question. Boom. This is like the WWE Smackdown of Israelite scriptural debate.

But we can do better than be merely entertained – we can learn from all Jesus has to say. Especially convicting to me is this particular line: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Here we had a group of people who knew the word of the Lord and applied it as the law of the land. But to them it was merely a tool, something purely logical and utilitarian, some way with which to wield power and authority of their own. We know however, that all Scripture is God-breathed and holy. As Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” Every piece of Scripture in the Bible contains value and wisdom, not just the Pentateuch. The meaning for it, as Jesus demonstrates in explaining God’s power over death, extends beyond simply the law into educating, uplifting, correcting, and celebrating.

But Scripture is only half of what Jesus mentions – alongside the power of God. Jesus knows His Father’s power extends beyond the living – over all who were as well. He knows the Sadducees’s denial of an afterlife is wrong, for as he tells Martha in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” To deny that the Lord’s power extends over the dead is to miss out on the incredible power of God. But to believe in Jesus, that He is the resurrection and the defeater of death, is to be right and just. So arm yourself today with the knowledge of Scripture, and remind yourself of the power of the Lord. Pour over the word of the Lord and ponder it always. And hold fast to our awesome and mighty God. For we know with these two things, we can overcome any adversity that would deny the Lord’s power.

Take it Easy-kiel

Today’s reading is on Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1-3).

Think back to a time when you were forced to deliver bad news to someone. Bonus points if you were not the first person to deliver them bad news in a row. The difficulty of having to inform someone of something extremely unpleasant or devastating can be frightening, especially so if it’s directly a consequence of their own actions. This is especially true if you’re a non-confrontational person like me, a problem that tends to get exacerbated the closer you are with someone. Now imagine that scenario, directed to thousands of your fellow exiles after watching their homeland get ransacked and ravaged.

This offers a basic summary of the position of Ezekiel, one of many captives from the Babylonian’s siege on Judah way back in 2 Kings. Ezekiel had been training to join the priesthood at the time, but plans had changed slightly after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed his hometown. Now, stuck in the desert with about 10000 other exiles, God appears to Ezekiel with a very convicting command – to go and tell his fellow Israelites about how their downfall had been a direct consequence from God for their disobedience in Him and turning away from Him.

Talk about salt in the wound. These people had watched their home been destroyed and their leaders slaughtered before their eyes, and Ezekiel the priest comes along to inform them it is their fault this all happened. While we know it to be the truth and the obvious results of generations of sin, I can not imagine the Israelites would have accepted this so easily or quietly. In situations where warning non-believers about the consequences of sin and the result of separation from God arise, it can be easy to feel incompetent or unable to express the Lord’s word properly, or to invite their often harsh or derisive responses upon ourselves.

But from this passage, and Ezekiel’s tale of captivity in Babylon, we know the Lord equips us to handle whatever may happen when we spread His word. As the Lord says in chapter 2 verse 7-8, “…the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are.” The Lord equipped Ezekiel in his unique circumstance of preaching to those with hearts angry and deaf to God by giving him tough, unshakeable faith and an equally tough disposition.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul instructs this: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” To share the Word of the Lord is of utmost importance; to spread the Lord’s message and bring hope to those who need it through Him brings Him immeasurable joy. More so, the Lord has equipped us each with our own special way of reaching someone’s heart who needs it. Only the Lord knows how, when, and where exactly your talents may come in handy, but He has given each of us tools to share the Gospel effectively to someone responsive to your talents. He has given us each a mission, to go out and tell others about His good news, but not without planning and thought.

Ultimately, Ezekiel’s tale serves as a reminder of the necessity for sharing the Lord’s word with those who need to hear it. As believers, the Lord calls us as He did Ezekiel to help direct others away from sin and towards Him. It is as Peter says in Acts 10:42 of Jesus’s command to His disciples and to us: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one who God appointed as judge of the living dead.” We are called as Christians to testify about our savior, and that even when difficulties arise from it, God has already given us everything we need to endure. Let’s all pray today for hearts and tongues of love and wisdom, and to be filled with His spirit, ready to share the good news with a world that desperately needs to hear about Him.

Job

Today’s reading is on Job (Job 1-2).

Today, we come into one of the most personally convicting stories in the Bible, the tale of Job. Here is a man who has it all: A happy family, enough wealth to live in great comfort, fields of thousands of livestock, more than enough servants to take care of them all, and respect and prestige among his people. Above all, he was a man who prized his Lord above all. The Lord Himself even rejoices in Job’s faith, saying in verse 8, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Then how much more painful all that happens to Job: his livestock slaughtered, his servants killed, his family crushed in a freak accident, and his very body consumed by horrible, agonizing sores across his entire body. In the blink of an eye, this man’s life hand in life has gone from plentiful to torturous. While we know this was the work of Satan from our perspective of the text, Job can see no fault in what he’s done. From what he’s experienced, the greatest torture he had to endure I can only imagine must have come from within his own mind, thoughts whispered from the Devil: What had he done to deserve this? How had the wronged the Lord to earn such overwhelming retribution?

But never once does Job harden his heart against the Lord: as he speaks over the course of this book, we see the heart of one who has truly given all he has to God. Although he may curse his own life and beg for death, never once does he speak out against or doubt the Lord or His plan. What a feat this must have been: for all the pain he had gone through, never once did Job lose faith.

One of the biggest questions people have always had for Christians is “why do such awful things happen to good people?” There is no true answer we can give: not one of us in this life will understand the nature of God. But in Job’s story, we see one reason: Satan attempting to undermine our faith and the refuge we can find in the Lord. From Job’s perspective though, he does not know what transpired to affect his life in this way. He will have to endure the rest of his time on earth not knowing why the Lord had not prevented this from happening. But never does his steadfast faith fade.

When tragedy befalls you, how do you handle it? Do you look outward for answers from others and the world around you, look inward to your own actions and behaviors and wrestle with guilt and anger towards the self? Do you look to the Lord for answers and demands, or do you surrender yourself to Him and follow His plans for your life in even your darkest seasons, knowing He has plans for you and will bring provide no matter what? In times of intense grief and unbearable pain, we can look to Job for answers: how will God provide? How can we go on? We may never know, but we know the Lord is powerful and sovereign, loves us deeply, and will never leave us.

Scripture reminds us of this: Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  When we find faith difficult to muster over our desperation and questions for God, Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” And of course Psalm 23:4 reminds us that God looks out for us even amidst our darkest times: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

Job experiences it firsthand here, and we learn as well: God is always with us, especially when we are crushed by heartbreak and surrounded by death and despair. Even though we can’t provide answers for the trials we face, we know the Lord enables our capability to withstand any storm. All we must do is trust wholly in Him and his unshakeable shelter and protection. For just as God surely knew during Job’s ordeal that his faith would keep him going, God knows any suffering we could ever go through, He has already ensured we He will see us through. Preparation to turn our hearts to God in times of ease and plenty can often be overlooked – if you’re in that period of life today, pray for your heart to be strengthened in the Lord now. And pray for those of us who may be winding our way through the valley of death as it were – be ready to offer a helping hand and the encouraging word of the Lord to those who may need it more than ever.

From Geha-A to Gehazi

Today’s reading is on Elisha’s servant Gehazi in 2 Kings 5.

You know when you take a bite of something delicious, immediately followed by a rotten, disgusting one? Or when some pleasing scent passes by your notice, only to be replaced in the next moment by the smell of old garbage or sewage? That foul sensation, made all the more unpleasant from the contrast provided by the enjoyable one beforehand, reminds me a little bit of Gehazi in this passage. Elisha, having been passed the Lord’s blessings that resided in his master Elijah, was in his own right showing the miraculous power of the Lord. 2 Kings 5 tells of the meeting of Elisha and Naaman, a powerful army commander stricken with leprosy, asking for help. After obeying Elisha’s guidance and declaring how he has seen the Lord’s power for himself, Naaman offers payment to the prophet as reward. Elisha refuses, Naaman offers allegiance to God and goes on his way.

Enter Gehazi. Not able to hold his own tongue when the opportunity presents itself, he follows after Naaman, asking for two talents of silver in his master’s name. Two talents of silver – the wage of a few dozen people for about two months – is a huge amount for one person to ask for, much less for something they themselves didn’t do. After profiting off of God’s work enacted through his master, Elisha instead decides to pay Gehazi’s inequity with the leprosy Naaman had removed. Through receiving judgement for his actions this way, we see a few sobering reminders of how easy it can be to misstep in our faith.

  • At this point, Gehazi has witnessed a number of miracles in service of Elisha, including raising the dead. He is personally witnessing incredible displays of God’s command over all things, yet still fails to recognize the levity and weight of what he’s seen. I admit to being guilty of this – there are miracles the Lord performs every day that I might see and jump to assume “oh, that’s just how the world is” or “how lucky that happened to that person.” We must train our minds at all times to look for and rejoice in the miracles the Lord provides, so that in a moment of weakness, we too won’t find ourselves affronting God’s instructions and desires.
  • Elisha states in verse 16, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” To put something as temporary and fleeting as monetary gain above the Lord is foolish – how much more to put it above sharing the word of the Lord with those who need it. As Christians, we know salvation comes through faith alone, not buying our way into Heaven. Likewise, we should not look to gain anything from others for sharing our faith as Gehazi attempted, but should find joy in our Lord and sharing His gospel.
  • Most of all, the Bible is very clear about our relationship with money, and Gehazi’s behavior is a demonstration of how not to behave with it. Matthew 6:24 puts it best: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Putting money in the forefront of our thoughts is easier than ever to do these days. Not that it’s bad to be mindful of your finances either – love of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. But in all manners, including financial, put God first.

All these reminders together help us realize, even if Gehazi was pretty boneheaded in this moment, he was generally righteous in action. He was a prophet’s servant, giving his life to helping advance the Lord’s work in Israel and spreading His message. But ultimately his heart was not devoted to the Lord, and in one opportune moment, Satan slipped into his heart and sin prevailed. Gehazi was not some storybook villain – just an ordinary guy who’s heart was not 100% trained on God. So take this as a reminder today: above all else, we must keep our hearts trained on God at all times. If not, sin is sure to take hold in those moments of weakness. But luckily we serve a forgiving God, and when we do slip up, He will be willing to forgive us when we ask Him with all our hearts. The important part then is to learn from our mistakes so we may better serve the Lord when next these moments arise. I pray that in time in Scripture and prayer today, you may learn a little more how to train your heart on God always, so that you may hold fast on God’s teachings against temptation.