May 10, 2016

II Kings 6-7
One day the guild of prophets came to Elisha and said, “You can see that this place where we’re living under your leadership is getting cramped—we have no elbow room. Give us permission to go down to the Jordan where each of us will get a log. We’ll build a roomier place.”  Elisha said, “Go ahead.”...He went with them. They came to the Jordan and started chopping down trees. As one of them was felling a timber, his axhead flew off and sank in the river.  “Oh no, master!” he cried out. “And it was borrowed!”  The Holy Man said, “Where did it sink?”  The man showed him the place.
He cut off a branch and tossed it at the spot. The axhead floated up.  “Grab it,” he said. The man reached out and took it.

One time when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, after consulting with his officers, he said, “At such and such a place I want an ambush set.”  The Holy Man sent a message to the king of Israel: “Watch out when you’re passing this place, because Aram has set an ambush there.” So the king of Israel sent word concerning the place of which the Holy Man had warned him. This kind of thing happened all the time.

The king of Aram was furious over all this. He called his officers together and said, “Tell me, who is leaking information to the king of Israel? Who is the spy in our ranks?”  But one of his men said, “No, my master, dear king. It’s not any of us. It’s Elisha the prophet in Israel. He tells the king of Israel everything you say, even what you whisper in your bedroom.”...

Then he dispatched horses and chariots, an impressive fighting force. They came by night and surrounded the city.
Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”  He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.”  Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.”  The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!

When the Arameans attacked, Elisha prayed to God, “Strike these people blind!” And God struck them blind, just as Elisha said.  Then Elisha called out to them, “Not that way! Not this city! Follow me and I’ll lead you to the man you’re looking for.” And he led them into Samaria.  As they entered the city, Elisha prayed, “O God, open their eyes so they can see where they are.” God opened their eyes. They looked around—they were trapped in Samaria!  When the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “Father, shall I massacre the lot?” “Not on your life!” said Elisha. “You didn’t lift a hand to capture them, and now you’re going to kill them? No sir, make a feast for them and send them back to their master.”
So he prepared a huge feast for them. After they ate and drank their fill he dismissed them. Then they returned home to their master. The raiding bands of Aram didn’t bother Israel anymore....

Later, while Elisha was giving his instructions, the king of Israel showed up, accusing, “This trouble is directly from God! And what’s next? I’m fed up with God!”  Elisha said, “Listen! God’s word! The famine’s over. This time tomorrow food will be plentiful—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel. The market at the city gate will be buzzing.”

It happened that four lepers were sitting just outside the city gate. They said to one another, “What are we doing sitting here at death’s door? If we enter the famine-struck city we’ll die; if we stay here we’ll die. So let’s take our chances in the camp of Aram and throw ourselves on their mercy. If they receive us we’ll live, if they kill us we’ll die. We’ve got nothing to lose.”  So after the sun went down they got up and went to the camp of Aram. When they got to the edge of the camp, surprise! Not a man in the camp! The Master had made the army of Aram hear the sound of horses and a mighty army on the march. They told one another, “The king of Israel hired the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to attack us!” Panicked, they ran for their lives through the darkness, abandoning tents, horses, donkeys—the whole camp just as it was—running for dear life. These four lepers entered the camp and went into a tent. First they ate and drank. Then they grabbed silver, gold, and clothing, and went off and hid it. They came back, entered another tent, and looted it, again hiding their plunder.  Finally they said to one another, “We shouldn’t be doing this! This is a day of good news and we’re making it into a private party! If we wait around until morning we’ll get caught and punished. Come on! Let’s go tell the news to the king’s palace!”...

The people then looted the camp of Aram. Food prices dropped overnight—a handful of meal for a shekel; two handfuls of grain for a shekel—God’s word to the letter!  The king ordered his attendant, the one he leaned on for support, to be in charge of the city gate. The people, turned into a mob, poured through the gate, trampling him to death. It was exactly what the Holy Man had said when the king had come to see him.  Every word of the Holy Man to the king—proved true. The final stroke came when the people trampled the man to death at the city gate.

II Corinthians 11 - 
The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much --- this is the passion of God burning inside me.  I promised your hand in marriage to Christ, presented you as a pure virgin to her husband.  And now I am afraid that exactly as the Snake seduced Eve with his smooth patter, you are being lured away from the simple purity  of your love for Christ.

It seems that if someone shows up preaching quite another Jesus than we preached --different spirit, different message -- you put up with him quite nicely.  But if you put up with these big-shot “apostles,” why can’t you put up with simple me?  I’m as good as they are.  It’s true that I don’t have their voice, haven’t mastered that smooth eloquence that impresses you so much.  But when I open my mouth, I at least know what I’m talking about.  We haven’t kept anything back.  We let you in on everything....

I am giving nobody grounds for lumping me in with those money-grabbing “preachers,” vaunting themselves as something special.  They are a sorry bunch--pseudo-apostles, lying preachers, crooked workers--posing as Christ’s agents but sham to the core.  And no wonder!  Satan does it all the time, dressing up as a beautiful angel of light.  So it shouldn’t surprise us when his servants masquerade as servants of God.  But they are not getting by with anything.  They’ll pay for it in the end.

Let me come back to where I started--and don’t hold it against me if I continue to sound foolish....You have such admirable tolerance for impostors who rob your freedom, rip you off, steal you blind, put you down---even slap your face...Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool talking), let me try my hand at it.  Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham?  I’m their match.  Are they servants of Christ?  I can go them one better...I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and on death’s door time after time.  I’ve been flogged five times by the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods, three times pummeled with rocks once....and that is not the half of it....

If I have to “brag” about myself, I’ll brag about the humiliations that make me like Jesus