May 8, 2015

II Kings 1-2
One day Ahaziah fell through the balcony railing on the rooftop of his house in Samaria and was injured. He sent messengers off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, “Am I going to recover from this accident?”

God’s angel spoke to Elijah the Tishbite: “Up on your feet! Go out and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria with this word, ‘Is it because there’s no God in Israel that you’re running off to consult Baal-Zebub god of Ekron?’ Here’s a message from the God you’ve tried to bypass: ‘You’re not going to get out of that bed you’re in—you’re as good as dead already.’” Elijah delivered the message and was gone...

The king sent a captain with fifty men to Elijah. Meanwhile Elijah was sitting, big as life, on top of a hill. The captain said, “O Holy Man! King’s orders: Come down!”  Elijah answered the captain of the fifty, “If it’s true that I’m a ‘holy man,’ lightning strike you and your fifty men!” Out of the blue lightning struck and incinerated the captain and his fifty.  The king sent another captain with his fifty men, “O Holy Man! King’s orders: Come down. And right now!”  Elijah answered, “If it’s true that I’m a ‘holy man,’ lightning strike you and your fifty men!” Immediately a divine lightning bolt struck and incinerated the captain and his fifty.

The king then sent a third captain with his fifty men. For a third time, a captain with his fifty approached Elijah. This one fell on his knees in supplication: “O Holy Man, have respect for my life and the souls of these fifty men! Twice now lightning from out of the blue has struck and incinerated captains with their fifty men; please, I beg you, respect my life!”
The angel of God told Elijah, “Go ahead; and don’t be afraid.” Elijah got up and went down with him to the king.

Elijah told him, “God’s word: Because you sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub the god of Ekron, as if there were no God in Israel to whom you could pray, you’ll never get out of that bed alive—already you’re as good as dead.”  And he died, exactly as God’s word spoken by Elijah had said.

Because Ahaziah had no son, his brother Joram became the next king. The succession took place in the second year of the reign of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah.

Just before God took Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on a walk out of Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. God has sent me on an errand to Bethel.”  Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” So they both went to Bethel.  The guild of prophets at Bethel met Elisha and said, “Did you know that God is going to take your master away from you today?”  “Yes,” he said, “I know it. But keep it quiet.”

Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. God has sent me on an errand to Jericho.” Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” So they both went to Jericho.  The guild of prophets at Jericho came to Elisha and said, “Did you know that God is going to take your master away from you today?”  “Yes,” he said, “I know it. But keep it quiet.”

Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here. God has sent me on an errand to the Jordan.”  Elisha said, “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight!” And so the two of them went their way together.  Meanwhile, fifty men from the guild of prophets gathered some distance away while the two of them stood at the Jordan.

Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up, and hit the water with it. The river divided and the two men walked through on dry land.
When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.”

Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you.” “That’s a hard one!” said Elijah. “But if you’re watching when I’m taken from you, you’ll get what you’ve asked for. But only if you’re watching.”

And so it happened. They were walking along and talking. Suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came between them and Elijah went up in a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw it all.... When he could no longer see anything, he grabbed his robe and ripped it to pieces. Then he picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him, returned to the shore of the Jordan, and stood there. He took Elijah’s cloak—all that was left of Elijah!—and hit the river with it, saying, “Now where is the God of Elijah? Where is he?”  When he struck the water, the river divided and Elisha walked through.

The guild of prophets from Jericho saw the whole thing from where they were standing. They said, “The spirit of Elijah lives in Elisha!” They welcomed and honored him....

One day the men of the city said to Elisha, “You can see for yourself, master, how well our city is located. But the water is polluted and nothing grows.”  He said, “Bring me a brand-new bowl and put some salt in it.” They brought it to him.
He then went to the spring, sprinkled the salt into it, and proclaimed, “God’s word: I’ve healed this water. It will no longer kill you or poison your land.” And sure enough, the water was healed—and remains so to this day, just as Elisha said.

Another time, Elisha was on his way to Bethel and some little kids came out from the town and taunted him, “What’s up, old baldhead! Out of our way, skinhead!”  Elisha turned, took one look at them, and cursed them in the name of God. Two bears charged out of the underbrush and knocked them about, ripping them limb from limb—forty-two children in all!


II Corinthians 8-9
Now friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia.  Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to their very limit.  They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor.  The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts...they gave offerings of whatever they could---far more than they could afford!--pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.  

This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard.  What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us.  The other giving was simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives....

You do so many things---you trust God, you’re articulate, you’re insightful, you’re passionate, you love us--now, do your best in this too....by bringing in the Macedonian enthusiasm as a stimulus to your love, I am helping to bring the best out of you.  You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ.  Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us--in one stroke he became poor and we became rich....

Your hearts have been in the right place all along.  You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it.  Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t.  The heart regulates the hands.  This isn’t so others can take is easy while you sweat it out.  No, you’re shoulder to shoulder with them all the way all the way, your surplus matching their deficits, their surplus matching their deficits.  In the end, you come out even.  As it is written:  Nothing left over to the one with the most.  Nothing lacking to the one with the least.  

Paul informs them that he is sending an advance team led by Titus to ensure they are on board and working toward the relief offering like the Macedonians.  He then writes:

Remember:  A stingy planter gets a stingy crop: a lavish planter gets a lavish crop.  I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give.  That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting.  

God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done....This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you.  He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians.  It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgiving to God.  The relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ.  You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone.  

Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond  by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need.  Thank God for this gift, his gift.  No language can praise it enough.