Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June 22

OT: 2 Kings 3:1-4:17

First of all, whoa: Jehoshophat is back.

Secondly, whoa: I had erased both these stories from my memory! How is that possible? They were both so interesting!

Elisha put two miracles into motion today, and both of them occurred in direct proportion to the people's faith. In the first miracle, Elijah tells the kings (Joram, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom) to dig the valley full of ditches, and God will magically fill them up. He didn't say how many ditches to dig; he just said to dig. I could see skeptics not being too thrilled by this ditch-digging scheme, and only wanting to dig a few. The end result was that their willingness to act on faith and dig the ditches directly affected the amount of miracle they received. If they only dug a few ditches, only a few would fill up with water. If they dug a lot, then a lot would fill up with water.

None of that would have occurred to me, though, had I not read the miracle that came directly after it. In this one, a widow comes to Elisha in distress because her dead husband's creditor is threatening to take her two sons as slaves because of the family debt. Much like Jesus with the loaves and the fishes, Elisha then takes what she already has and multiplies it according to her faith. He tells her to gather many clay pots, and then he tells her to start pouring the oil in the pots. What is most noteworthy about this miracle (and what started my thinking about faith) is that Elisha doesn't tell her that when the pots are all filled, the oil will stop. There is no going out and getting some more pots. She has to gather them all beforehand, in proportion to her faith. If she gathered only ten pots, she'd only get ten pots of oil. If she gathered 100 pots, then she'd get 100 pots of oil. I'm sure we all get that principle, but I couldn't help but wonder how that applies to faith universally. I know there is a lot of talk in the NT about receiving things "according to one's faith," but I can't remember anything specific right now. I will have to ponder this further.

NT: Acts 14:8-28

Greg is always amused by the crowd in this story. First of all, it's funny how they think Paul and Barnabas are Zeus and Hermes, especially because Barnabas hardly seems like a Zeus to me. If anything, Paul is the head honcho here. Paul and Barnabas are not amused, however, and they give a beautiful, eloquent response about the true God and his power. But "even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them" (18). That is just hilarious to me. Such great mental pictures. And then in the very next verse, some Jews turn the crowd completely against them, and they end up stoning Paul and leaving him for dead. Now, I know that that is not funny (and really, none of it is, I guess), but there is something comical in the sheer suddenness of the reversal. What a crazy time Paul and Barnabas had. And how did Barnabas escape stoning? Poor Paul--he always gets beaten. He is like the John Lewis of the early Christian movement (kudos to anyone who got that reference:)).

I do love Paul and Barnabas' words in verses 15-17. I especially loved their explanation of God's presence in the lives of Gentiles up to this point: "Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kingdness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy" (17). I love all of that, but especially the idea that it is God who gives all of us our joy.

Psalm 140: 1-13

Another one from David. Here, he is beseeching God to protect him from his enemies. (And while he is at it, he would really appreciate it if God would just go ahead and destroy all his enemies. That would be ideal, according to David.)

Proverbs 17:22

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." It truly is amazing what a good attitude will do for you. Just tonight, I was in a sour frame of mind, but when I decided to suck it up and be happy, things got so much better. The problem wasn't with my circumstances, but with me. Choosing a cheerful heart truly was good medicine.

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