By This Time Tomorrow!

For October 25, 2020
Scripture Text:

Elisha replied, “Listen to this message from the LORD! This is what the LORD says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, six quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and twelve quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver.” The officer assisting the king said to the man of God, “That couldn’t   happen even if the LORD opened the windows of heaven!” But Elisha replied, “You will see it happen with your own eyes, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!” (2 Kings 7:1-2 NLT)

The Old Testament book of Second Kings presents the final three-hundred years of the divided Hebrew kingdoms, Israel and Judah. The ever-worsening spiritual climate of apostasy proved to be the downfall of both kingdoms (Samaria in 722 BC and Jerusalem in 586 BC).

The events of this Scripture passage occur some eight-hundred years before Jesus. Here, Elisha serves as prophet to the Northern Kingdom, Israel during the reign of Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel.

Benhadad, the king of Syria has made several border raids in attempts to capture the king and defeat his armies. But God thwarted every attempt to imperil Israel though Elisha, who warned the Jehoram of the secret ambushes Benhadad planned—even in the privacy of “his bedchamber” (2 Kings 6:12).

Now desiring to capture Elisha, the Man of God, Benhadad sent a great host of warriors with chariots and horses to surround the city of Dothan. When Elisha’s porter saw the army surrounding the city with horses and chariots, He cried to Elisha: “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

Elisha comforts his porter, and us today, with words that have become a very familiar passage of Scripture:

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them!” 2 Kings 6:16 (NKJV)

This same idea is also conveyed in 1 John 4:4: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”

Elisha prays for the Lord to open his porter’s eyes, and the porter sees the entire mountain filled with horses and chariots of fire around Elisha. Then, Elisha prays for the Lord to blind the Syrian army, and he leads the helpless army into Samaria where they are treated to a banquet and sent home.

Undaunted, Benhadad later returns to Samaria with his Syrian forces to lay siege to the city. And after three years, so desperate were the conditions that two starving mothers resorted to cannibalism (cooking and eating a child: cf. 2 Kings 6:29).

In total despair, Jehoram challenges Elisha to explain why they should continue Jehovah worship in light of their extreme suffering. Then, Elisha reassures them that God says that “by this time tomorrow,” food would be purchased for “pennies on the dollar” in downtown Samaria. When one of the officers argued how such would be impossible—even if the Lord “opened the windows of heaven,” Elisha told the officer that he would see it, but would not taste it.

Here, three things are clear:

  1. The Children of Israel Stray into Idolatry, and they Fall into Apostasy (breaking the 1st and 2nd of the Ten Commandments).

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord  your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:2—6 NLT).

So on the advice of his counselors, the king (Jeroboam I) made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols (1 Kings 12: 28—29 NLT).

Jehoram, to his credit, was not as evil and ruthless as his parents, and he removed the pagan shrine that his father Ahab made. However, he did not remove the golden calves that Jeroboam had made for Israel sin (2 Kings 3:1—3).

2. God’s Wayward Children May Stray at Times, Yet He Still Provides for Them.

Elisha’s message from the Lord was simply: “By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, six quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and twelve quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver” (2 Kings 7:1 NLT).

That evening, the Lord uses four lepers to notify the city gatekeepers of the deserted Syrian camp rich with spoil and an abundant food supply. (The Lord sent the sound of chariots and horses to frighten the Syrians into abandoning the camp, for fear of capture from the Hittites and Egyptians.)

The king sent officials to confirm the lepers’ story, and they reported their findings to the king, and an abundant supply of food was made available to the people. The criticizing officer, who was assigned to crowd control at the city gate was trampled to death by the mass of people running to get the ample supply of food.

3. The Lord Loves Us, and He Will Answer Our Prayer and Supply Our Need!

God is no respecter of persons. What He’s promised, He will do! Here’s what the Lord promises us today:

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him (Matthew 7:7—11 NLT).

You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy (John 16:24 NLT).

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6—7 NLT).

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19 NLT).

This does not mean we can “name it and claim it!” But it does mean the Lord is our Good Shepherd, and we shall not want for anything (Psalm 23:1). The Lord will answer our prayer and supply our need. But, our motives and intent must be pure; consistent with His will and purpose for our lives.

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:2—3 NIV).

The Lord wants us to be at peace, because as one writer observes, ”When the need is greatest, God is nearest.”1 We need not worry or fret, because He knows all about us—and our situation. The Lord is faithful to meet—not our wants—but all our needs; for He is not only our Lord, and Savior; He is our “Friend who is closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

What A Friend We Have In Jesus 2
Joseph Scriven (1819-1886)

What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,  O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged— Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness— Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge— Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee— Thou wilt find a solace there.

The Lord is faithful. He will safeguard His precious children and will attend to our every need. Won’t you trust in Him today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

 

Radical Forgiveness Is Needed Today!

For October 18, 2020
Matthew 18:21-35, presents a sober lesson on forgiveness; there, Peter asks Jesus how often should we forgive. Seven times? Jesus responds with seventy times seven. To illustrate the necessity of forgiveness, Jesus offers a Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to make this point,

Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart (Matthew 18:32-35 NLT).

For the better part of three years, the Lord has been teaching His Disciples about humility and self-denial. In addition, He was their prime example of humility and self-sacrifice. (As He emptied Himself of His deity, took on a human form, and offered Himself as our payment for sin.) Yet the Disciples did not yet understand the importance of serenity and forgiveness.

In this parable, God is the Forgiving King who loves and forgives us in a way far beyond our ability to comprehend. We often take for granted the enormity of our sin debt, which has been forgiven, forgotten, and canceled through the redemptive work of Christ. We are not in a position to make “sin comparisons” towards other people since we all have sinned and are deficient of God’s righteous standards (Romans 3:23).

At the time He spoke this parable, the talent was the largest measurement for precious and non-precious metals for the Jews. Its weight ranged from 90 to 120 pounds, or what a “normal man” could carry, and it represented the wages a common person earned over a lifetime. Its value was somewhere between $1,000.00 and $1,500.00 in today’s US dollars. Multiply this by ten thousand, or the debt we have been forgiven, and we are looking at an amount ranging between $10 and $15 million U.S. dollars.

The parable makes no mention of how the debt was incurred. But as an integral part of his master’s household, the servant could have incurred it through fraudulent transactions while acting on his master’s behalf. Nevertheless, the servant was guilty of mismanagement by being solely responsible for a massive debt, and the Forgiving King was well within his rights to order the servant and his family to be imprisoned and/or his property seized until the entire debt was repaid.1

The servant had nothing of value to bargain with. He owned nothing that would satisfy a debt that would have taken him several lifetimes to repay. In addition, the likelihood of him repaying the debt from prison was utterly preposterous. So he falls on his knees and begs for mercy, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!” (Matthew 18:29), and the Forgiving King does something extraordinary as one writer observes,

In the parable, the first slave owes the king ten thousand talents. Given the enormity of his debt, the slave’s promise to repay everything is absurd. The king does not merely postpone or reduce the debt—he cancels it.2

Immediately after the unforgiving servant left the king, he meets another servant who owes him 100 denarii, the most basic unit of Roman coinage, equalling a normal day’s wage of approximately sixteen or seventeen cents in today’s US money.3 When multiplied by one hundred, this was a minuscule debt totaling no more than seventeen dollars.

Compared to the massive debt forgiven, this minuscule debt could have been forgiven and forgotten…easily. But instead, the unforgiving servant explodes in rage, grabs him by the throat, and chokes him while yelling, “Pay me what you owe me!” (Matthew 18:28) The unfortunate fellow servant acknowledges his debt and begs for mercy: “Have patience with me and I will repay you!” (Matthew 18:29) And although both servants beg for mercy, there were two vastly different responses.

While the unforgiving servant’s $15 million debt was cancelled, his fellow servant was condemned for a debt less than twenty dollars. The unforgiving servant prospered from the Forgiving King’s graciousness, he demonstrated excessive ruthlessness toward his equal—a fellow servant in need of forgiveness!

As the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon had it right when he observed, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9 NLT). And as it was two thousand years ago, it is still true today; we live in a world that prefers retaliation over reconciliation.

The Lord characterized the “end times” as a period of escalating hostility. Since today we are encouraged never to show weakness or to allow others to take advantage of us, the signs of the times include the heightened levels of random assaults, workplace violence, and civic unrest. Although tragic, these are the byproducts of a fallen, unforgiving, violent, “dog-eat-dog” world where “only the strong survive,” and the “ends always justify the means.” Because “it’s never personal; it’s only business.”

It was only natural for Peter to ask the question, “How often should I forgive—seven times?” Because from our human perspective, forgiving once is remarkable, and forgiving seven times is extraordinary since we keep track of offences, and we bear grudges. We also rate sins on a sliding scale as though one is more heinous than another, and we falsely characterize people for their sinful past.

We must accept the fact that no one race has “cornered the market” on victimization or being victimized. All races have faced discrimination, injustice, victimization, oppression, and hostility in this country or around the world. The presence of sin within each of us will ensure we will always have injustice on earth.

Thus, it is hypocritical to condemn others when we all have “skeletons” in our closet as Jesus observes,

Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5 NLT).

Nevertheless, we who have experienced God’s love and forgiveness through Christ, by our faith in Him, are forgiven—to the extreme, because our sin debt is greater than our ability to pay…in a hundred lifetimes. Jesus paid it for us and cancelled our debt forever at Calvary’s Cross.

Having received His great gift, our time is better spent forgiving others (just as He has forgiven us) as King Solomon also observes,

“For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife” (Proverbs 30:33 NIV).

As forgiven followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to exhibit a higher level of spiritual and moral acumen; one that accepts and embraces others so that we can enhance and preserve civil society. Thus, we need to adjust our sliding scales to accommodate our own failings because we are guilty of offending someone—particularly God. We cannot forgive only to a certain level. We must forgive completely (seventy times seven). This is radical forgiveness.

The parable’s central message is clear. God forgives us, and He expects us to forgive others in like manner. While we await His glorious return, our Lord Jesus Christ expects us to practice a radical forgiveness that glorifies Him while transforming others and us. Why not start today?

What a Wonderful Savior!

Our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

For October 11, 2020
Jesus Christ was without sin. Yet He was fully aware His death would redeem all fallen humanity from sin by restoring us to a loving, eternal fellowship with God,

Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous (Romans 5:18-19 NKJV).

It is truly unbelievable how Jesus freely chose to offer Himself to redeem the entire world—whether Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, believer or non-believer. All of us can vicariously receive the full benefit of His perfect sacrifice—without preference or distinction.

No longer do Satan, sin, and death bind and hold us. Our faith in His perfect, work determines our righteousness (or lack thereof) before our Heavenly Father.

Ultimately, Jesus chose to redeem those who love Him, those who hate Him, those who believe in Him, and those who do not believe in Him. This idea of “equal atonement” is difficult for the modern mind to capture fully. Not concerning Christ’s saving efficacy, because His complete and total sacrifice remediates all our sins forever,

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16—17 NLT).

However, His commitment to give Himself freely and willingly for every man, woman, boy, and girl—past, present, and future—so comprehensively, is difficult to fathom. Such an action is not a normal human response, especially toward someone we feel is “less desirable.” Sacrificing for a loved one is conceivable when our love for them or our desire to protect them motivates us. However, choosing to sacrifice our lives for an enemy or someone who dislikes us is extremely hard to envision.

History has shown there may be certain situations where we would risk life and limb for someone we might not necessarily care for. During the Second World War, for example, cultural issues fostered adversarial relationships that fragmented our troops occasionally. Although these valiant men and women may have been divided, they proved themselves more than willing to sacrifice for their adversary’s greater good by fighting and dying to spare the world from the global tyranny of the Axis powers.

Fast-forward eighty years to our current global pandemic. We have replaced our noble altruism with a cold-hearted malevolence as we maliciously engage in “germ warfare” by unleashing a virus that targets innocent victims with underlying health issues around the world. Then, we withhold vital technologies and politicize medical remedies that can prevent and treat illness and improve our overall health and safety. Finally, we hoard or resell safety supplies at inflated prices and expose those who are vulnerable, with premorbidities to even more danger.

I am saddened by the barbarism plaguing human hearts today. Truly, the Enemy is at work in the callous and malicious disregard for human dignity witnessed in the indiscriminate killing of the unborn and helpless, the calculated euthanization of the weak and aged, and the exploitation, abuse, trafficking, oppression, and violence perpetrated against all those who fall between these two extremes. Ultimately, we have reduced precious, God-given lives to mere dollars and cents.

Our heartlessness is most unfortunate because technology, education, politics, military, and industry do not make our country great. It is our faith in God, and the Judeo-Christian values we embrace and uphold, as the Scriptures attest, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 NKJV).

Ours is not a perfect nation; no nation is, especially with sin and entitlement issues running amuck as they are today. Nevertheless, there was a time in our not-too-distant past when we understood right from wrong, and we intuitively maintained a line of demarcation between what was morally good and morally bad.

Unfortunately, we have erased that line by our existential relativism. Our existentialism celebrates our human subjectivity while our relativism denies the existence of all absolute truth,

Dress as you will, fornicate with whom you will, infect whom you will, wear clothes, or go naked as you will. The only right is what is right for you, and the only wrong is that which produces pain or inconvenience for you. There is no law, no principle, no proper course of action of any kind, so go with the vibes! Whatever is your thing, do it. 1

In other words, God’s Word (Bible) and His Helper (Holy Spirit) no longer guide our thoughts, words, and behavior. Instead, whatever feels good or gives us pleasure—at this moment—is what governs our conscience and behavior. Oh, what sorrow and despair await those of us who insist “evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NLT).

There is yet time to surrender. Jesus Christ is at the door of your hearts; awaiting your invitation to have full access to your lives. Only then can you know what true peace, joy, and fulfillment that lasts forever feels like. Won’t you trust Him today?

What a Wonderful Savior!