OT: 2 Kings 8:1-9:13
Wow, Elisha sure enough got a double portion of Elijah's spirit. He apparently has power to spare for even menial tasks like de-poisoning a pot of stew, or salvaging a sunken axhead. I don't mean to touch a hot button for anyone, but he reminds me of a wizard.
Also today, the ever-cantankerous Arameans are back on the prowl. I wonder if Naaman is among their ranks. Probably so. Regardless, Elisha keeps informing the king (and who is this elusive king? Is it still Joram? The trash-talking Ben-Hadad of I Kings 20 is still king of Aram, so it either has to be Joram or Ahab. With the reappearance of Jehoshophat recently, I'm thinking that chronology isn't the author's top priority at this point. Sorry for the long interruption to this sentence!) of Aram's whereabouts, prompting Ben-Hadad to rage, "Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?" Upon learning that his continual betrayal is Elisha's doing, he sets out to eliminate the prophet, prompting a great moment in the OT. When Elisha's servant (the leprous Gehazi, or a new guy?) sees the army, he freaks out. Elisha comforts him and then asks God to open his eyes to see God's power. God does so, and the servant sees "the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (6:17). Wow. I wish I could see the unseen sometimes. I wish I could see God's power that surrounds His followers. Or would it freak me out to see all the darkness that also abounds? I don't know. I am definitely curious, though.
I also thought it was interesting that Elisha instructed the king of Israel to have mercy on the men he captured (after I stopped laughing at the comic picture of the prophet leading blind men straight into the enemy's capital). In the past, God got angry with Ahab for having mercy on an enemy king. (Come to think of it, it was old Ben-Hadad himself in I Kings 20.) This time, however, Elisha balks at the idea that the king would kill the prisoners, asking rhetorically, "Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword and bow?" Ummm....yeah? Isn't that what God would want? Regardless, I'm not complaining. I like the mercy route. And it worked, sort of. Aram stopped raiding Israel's cities...at least until Ben-Hadad decided to starve out Samaria.
Hey, maybe this was why God wanted to kill that guy. Maybe all of this didn't have to happen. Hmmmmm....
Whether or not that is true, the king of Israel didn't see it that way. According to him, "this disaster is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?" (6:33). In his anger, he attempts to strike out at God's chief spokesperson (Elisha), who in turn foretells of God-sent deliverance the next day.
Whoa--I just got a flash. Maybe this siege and subsequent famine is the disaster is what God held off from the repentant Ahab and is now sending on his son (see I Kings 21:29). In that case, Joram is the king. And in that case, I'm beginning to understand all of this a little more.
NT: Acts 15:36-16:15
Today, Paul splits with Barnabas and continues his travels with Silas alongside him. Barnabas is really good at taking risks on people, as it turns out. He took a risk on the formerly murderous Paul, and today, he takes a risk on the formerly unreliable John Mark. I find it a little ironic that the formerly murderous Paul is not on board with that.
In the past, I have also found it absolutely baffling that Paul circumcised Timothy. Um, didn't he just fight against that in the last chapter? And didn't he rail against circumcision to the Galatians (sample comment from Gal. 5:2: "Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.") Thus, in the past, Paul's circumcision of Timothy seemed bizarrely hypocritical to me. Today, though, I feel like I get it. Paul isn't circumcising Timothy as a requirement of the faith. He hates that, and that is what he rails against in Acts 15 and Galatians 5. Timothy could be a Christian whether or not he is circumcised. But if Timothy wants to reach people with weaker understanding (a la Romans 14), he is going to have to be circumcised. To Paul, such a sacrifice is worth it b/c we are to become "all things to all people" in order to save some. "To the Jews," says Paul, "I became like the Jews, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law" (I Cor. 9:20). Thinking of Timothy's circumcision in those terms keeps it in sync with Paul's character.
Lastly, we got to our first "we" passage today. From the context of the passage, I guess they picked up Luke in Troas?
Psalm 142: 1-7
Another lament and plea from David. As our highlighted verse indicates, one reassuring thing about reading these pleas is that we see that we can pour out our worries and troubles to an all-powerful and loving God.
Praise of discernment and criticism of foolish sons.