Sunday, August 20, 2017

2 Kings 4:38-41 God's Miraculous Provision

And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land. And as the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant,

“Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.”

One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were.

And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” And there was no harm in the pot.

Miracles… do you believe in them?

7-year-old Roger Woodward and his sister were enjoying a boat ride on the Niagara River.  They were the guests of a relative who lived nearby, and were enjoying all the sights and sounds of the falls.  

No one was prepared for the tragedy that would invade that beautiful moment.  

Their boat capsized and all three occupants were thrown into the river.  The man who owned the boat went over the falls and was killed - instantly.  Roger’s sister was saved by a couple of tourists near the river’s edge.  But little Roger, beating wildly against the current, finally yielded to the inevitable and went over the falls wearing only his swimming trunks and a life-jacket.

A tourist down below saw it all.  Through the mists he could see the little life jacket bobbing under the falls.  Unconscious and fearing he would die, he was rushed to the hospital where he was discharged after three days - virtually unscathed except for a mild concussion.

30 years later, Roger returned to the sight of the accident to share his testimony before those gathered.  

The crowd was breathless as he recounted his harrowing experience. The panic he felt as he neared the edge… the anger he felt because no one helped him… the flashbacks as he said goodbye to his parents, his dog, and his toys.

Then he said,

“I want you to understand that it wasn’t FATE that saved me – luck had nothing to do with it either.  It was the hand of the Living God that saved my life that day – giving me the opportunity, to ONE day know HIM.”

In short - it was a miracle.

How often have we heard similar stories repeated again and again – of those whose salvation could only be explained by the miraculous intervention of God??

Some of YOU could ALSO tell of how God has done great things for YOU – things that seemed impossible that can only be explained as ⇒ “God’s miraculous provision.”  It might have been reviving a relationship that was all but dead… or providing materially for some need you could never see a way to meet.  It might be a sudden turn in health… or the softening of a heart of stone – you’ve seen God work too many times NOT to believe.

We see it in our text.  

Elisha had returned to Gilgal to a school he founded for young prophets.  At the time, there was a great famine in the land.  The situation was made worse by the fact that Israel was under the judgment of God… and the King seemed no closer to repentance than before the famine began.

You will notice not even the young preachers were exempt from the suffering – like we see so often, the righteous suffer right along with everyone else.  

When the economy is bad, in times of war or violence, when storms come, we do NOT belong to some special class of people who are insulated from suffering.  

The one difference being, however, WE are NOT without HOPE.  

As the Psalmist explains is psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved...”

Elisha - arriving on the scene and helping these poor struggling preachers - puts us in mind of how God helps US when WE are in trouble.  Are YOU in trouble today??  

Notice 3 things…

1.  First, as we read this story we see what the Father does.  There are times in all of our lives when NO ONE and NO THING will do, but God.  The Lord looked down on this pitiful scene and took compassion on them.  In v. 38, Elisha told his servant, “Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.”  

Had they HAD any provisions for a stew, I imagine they would have already done that – but Elisha told them to step out in faith – God was going to provide what they needed, but they had to get ready for it as if the answer was already on its way.  They needed to anticipate the provision of a loving Father for His children.

From this story we learn WHY God allows trouble to come us:

First, troubles have a purifying influence in our lives.  The 7 year famine WAS an act of God’s judgment.  God was speaking to them through their circumstances, showing them the need to turn from their sins and trust the Lord.  Their starvation was a graphic reminder that sin doesn’t pay - that God WILL NOT be mocked - that ALL THE WORLD is under HIS DIVINE AUTHORITY.

I wonder, might God do some of the same types of things today?  Does he put us individually or collectively in certain situations:
  • to wake us up
  • to call us to repentance and holiness
  • to cause us to be preoccupied with HIS will rather than OURS.  
  • How OFTEN must God reach out to man through the trials of life to get his attention?

Troubles ALSO have a Unifying Influence – they remind us that we are no better than anyone else.  We are all in the same boat.  When one suffers, we all suffer.  The sins of one directly impact the lives of others.

The fact that you go to church doesn’t exempt you from the harshness of living in a fallen world.

When you hear Christian people talk about societal sins – it doesn’t take very long for ignorance to show itself.  One will say, “I don’t understand why the pastor gets so upset about gay marriage – after all, what those people do doesn’t affect ME.”  

Sin ALWAYS affects us!!  Sin isn’t committed in a vacuum, my friend – isolating the one individual from everyone else.  No, it impacts EVERYBODY.  Our children and grandchildren are going to face judgment for the sins WE have tolerated as a society.  The Church suffers from the sins of a nation that has rebuffed the wooing of the Holy Spirit.

Solomon explained in Proverbs 14: that “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.”

In my lifetime, the moral fabric of this country has become ‘threadbare.’  The changes that have occurred in the last 10 years are astonishing.  I can’t IMAGINE what is around the bend.  I can’t IMAGINE what kind of world my grandchildren will be left with that they have inherited from our misguided generation.

But not only do trials have a purifying and unifying effect, they have a Satisfying effect.  When God gets involved, when He FEEDS His followers, THEN and ONLY then can we know REAL satisfaction.  God always provides for His own.  Where God guides, He always provides.

I want you to remember one thing – in your darkest hour, when others are forsaken and cry that we have been abandoned – there is HOPE for the child of God in what the Father does.

2.  But not only do we see what the Father does, we ALSO see what the Flesh does.  In v. 39, “39 One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were.  40 And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.”

How many times have we seen it –circumstances are bad, but instead of seeking the Lord or carrying out HIS directions, we insert ourselves into the situation and try to make it better WITHOUT Him.  

We want to help God out.  We have good intentions - We want to do SOMETHING - even if THE WRONG THING - because we haven’t learned to wait on the Lord.

I’m sure this man never meant to poison the pot of stew – just like US when we are trying to help God out - we never INTEND to mess up what God wants to accomplish.

But regardless his motives, when you get ahead of God you are only inviting trouble.  When you think you are helping God out – you are only making matters WORSE.  Whenever a man walks in the wisdom of his flesh, he will POISON the pot.  There are several examples of this in scripture:

Think of Adam and Eve.  Created in innocence, they had only ONE desire – to love and serve God.  It seems inconceivable that Adam and Eve would wish for anything MORE than the wonderful Garden God had given them and the unhindered fellowship they enjoyed with Him.  But when Satan convinced them God was holding out on them, they acted in the flesh and brought death upon THEMSELVES and ALL creation.

Consider Nadab and Abihu – the sons of Aaron, the High Priest of God.  In Leviticus chapter 10, they brought what the Bible calls “strange fire” before the Lord.  That is, they came to worship the Lord in some fashion NOT PERMITTED in the scriptures.  Their flesh got involved. They would “IMPROVE things,” they would come to God “THEIR WAY.”  And God killed them.

Then there is Hophni and Phinehas who were killed because they had allowed their flesh to completely corrupt the worship of God.

Or Uzzah, who was struck dead because he reached out and touched the Ark of God when God had said only the priests could touch the ark, and THEN, only with poles.  

On and on we could go, showing how when the FLESH gets involved in the things of God, it only brings ruin.

  • What controversies have we created, thinking we knew best, but only resulted in making matters worse?  

  • How many times have we made decisions WITHOUT the direction of God, and we wonder why the whole thing blows up?

  • How many Christians think they are helping God… when in reality, God isn’t in their decision AT ALL?

The flesh is an insidious thing – it will trick you into believing that you only have God’s best in heart, but your actions are only making God’s best more difficult to obtain.

We better be careful, friends, getting ahead of God.  That's what the FLESH does.

3.  But not only do we learn what the Father does and what the Flesh does, third we see what Faith does.  In v. 41, “He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” ----- And there was no harm in the pot.”  

Not to make light of the special moment here, but:

I seriously doubt any of US would have wanted to be first in line to sample that stew.  

I mean, wouldn’t you have at least gone through the MOTIONS of eating but then looked to see if anyone dropped dead from it before you actually took the first bite?  It was deadly stew, for crying out loud!!  And all Elisha did was throw a little flour in there!!

How often does God do things or direct us to do things that require TOTAL CONFIDENCE IN HIM???

They were being asked to do something HARD – to exercise FAITH… they were being asked to TRUST the Lord.  And when they did – they were able to be filled.

Martin Luther once observed:  God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.
Could much of the trouble we find ourselves in be tied to a lack of faith??  The writer of Hebrews clearly says, “And without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please him.”

The Christian life REQUIRES faith.  Trusting something we CAN’T see – taking steps, that quite frankly, may not make sense.  We have to trust a God we cannot see to help us face those giants we CAN see.

  • Maybe these men realized that they didn’t have anything to lose.  
  • Maybe they thought, “If we DON’T trust the Lord, we will die anyway.  So why NOT??”  
  • How often have we been challenged to trust the Lord in a particular situation, but we have to fight the objections of the flesh?

These men put their confidence in God and they were saved… filled… their needs were met.

Does their example challenge YOU?  

Do you trust Him??

One night a house caught fire and the flames forced a young boy out of his upstairs window to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life.

All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy argued, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

The boy jumped, because he trusted his father.

The Christian faith enables us to face hard situations, not because WE CAN SEE, but because we are certain that He sees US; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.
Maybe you are in a “no win” situation?  Maybe you can’t see your way clear?  Won’t you put YOUR confidence in Him too??  Won’t you realize that so much of the Christian life demands FAITH?  That God puts us in situations where we will resist the flesh and trust Him?

What situation are YOU in right now that calls for ‘faith?’  Why not take the risk and come forward – seeking God’s direction?  What have you got to lose??

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Joshua 14:6-15 Caleb, a lesson in faithfulness

Joshua 14:6-15
Caleb, a lesson in faithfulness
Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me.  

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart.  But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God.  And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’  
And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness.
And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.
So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”

Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.  Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.)

And the land had rest from war.

One of the most tragic events of the Reagan presidency was the Sunday morning terrorist bombing of our Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
241 Marines died in their sleep… and many more were critically wounded.  

Burned into the nation’s psyche were those terrible images of dazed survivors working frantically to dig their trapped comrades from the rubble.
A few days AFTER the attack, Marine Corps Commandant, Paul Kelly, visited some of the wounded survivors in the hospital.  Among those survivors was a young Corporal named Jeffrey Nashton.  Severely wounded, Nashton had so many tubes running in and out of his body that he looked more like a machine than a man.  

Unable to talk for the tubes down his throat, he motioned to his nurse to bring him a piece of paper and a pen so he could communicate with his commander.  He wrote a brief messagetwo words that spoke volumes of his commitment and valor as a Marine.

“Semper Fi.”  

The marine motto – meaning “Always Faithful.”

How refreshing.  

In a time when the hearts of men fail… when fear turns trained soldiers into hapless cowards… there are STILL men of courage, men willing to pay the ULTIMATE price for God and country.
Oh how we need men like that today.  Men of faithfulness … a rare commodity in this era of complacency and compromise.  Too many are unconcerned… apathetic… not asking questions and CERTAINLY NOT making the necessary commitments.  People today have become arm-chair quarterbacks – authorities on all that NEEDS to be done… but unwilling to leave their easy chair long enough to do it.  Sipping their beer while the world burns… the only time you time they are moved to action is when the cable goes out.
Even in church-life, too many have become professional spectators.  We want too much to be entertained.  Words like ‘sacrifice’ and ‘commitment’ chafe the modern Christian.
The church needs men of conviction and courage who are willing to sacrifice personal comfort for the cause of Christ.
We need men like the one in our text - men like Caleb.
Caleb was a foreigner by birth

– his father Jephunneh was a Kenizzite – from a race of heathens – outside the circle of God’s chosen.  

And yet, this outsider became one of the greatest heroes Israel has ever known.  A valiant man – a loyal man.  One who possessed “a different Spirit” according to Numbers 14.  And because of that “different spirit,” he would become one of God’s mighty men… a hero.
We need a modern-day Caleb.  Would you be that crisis man or woman?

Maybe there was a time when YOU were an outsider.  YOU had little interest in spiritual things.  But once the Spirit of God got ahold of you, you offered your heart to Jesus Christ.  THAT DAY you were adopted into the family of God and became a member of His Church – THAT DAY you changed…  a new desire to serve the Lord and be faithful… a longing to make a contribution to the work of God - came over you.
IF THAT'S YOU, you will be impressed by four distinct qualities we see in the life of Caleb that made him a mighty man of God.  If you would do something for God, you must live......
1.  A Surrendered Life.  Notice his own testimony about himself:  “I wholly followed the Lord my God.
Caleb despised half-heartedness.  He REFUSED to be one of those who would only go PART WAY for the Lord.  In HIS mind, it was ALL OR NOTHING.  Flip-floppers and luke-warm fence-straddlers have no place in God’s army.  

He lived a Surrendered Life.
Interestingly, the name “Caleb” literally means “all heart,” in Hebrew.  A name often given to dogs that were particularly faithful, alert, and obedient to their master’s call.  That’s how Caleb followed the Lord.  

We see his surrendered life in three ways:

First, we see his Confession when he says “I wholly followed the LORD my God.”  He is not boasting.  He is merely testifying of a commitment he made long ago – he would not hold back ANYTHING from his God –  TOTAL surrender.  Caleb understood - God is never satisfied with half-heartedness – He demands our all.
People today want a god of convenience… a god who makes no demands… who winks at their wrongs and showers them with blessings without accountability.  A magic-good-luck-charm they can put on the shelf until their next self-made crisis.

Churches offering an easy Christianity are flourishing too – and why not – who wouldn’t want a god who gives us everything we want while refusing to INTRUDE on our lives??  

But the God of salvation, the God of the Bible and the creator of heaven and earth is worthy of our obedience and service.  Which is why Caleb pledged to “wholly follow the LORD.

Secondly, we know he lived a surrendered life by his Commendation.  If you look at verse 9 of chapter 14, Moses, the leader of God’s people, said “You HAVE wholly followed the Lord.”  Moses recognized Caleb’s faithfulness.  He commended him for it.

And while I realize that we are to serve to please the Lord, it’s good to be recognized for what you do.  Moses commended Caleb for his faithfulness.
But after his Confession and Commendation, we see his Confirmation in Numbers 14:24, where GOD says, “Caleb has followed me fully.”  

  • It’s one thing for a person to say of himself that he follows the Lord completely.  
  • It’s ANOTHER thing when OTHERS - YOUR PEERS recognize it.  
  • But the greatest honor that could ever be conferred on man is when the LORD recognizes your faithfulness.  

God knows if you are truly committed.  When God looked at Caleb, He saw a man who totally surrendered to the Lord.
What about you??  Can you honestly confess that you are surrendered to the Lord??  Would your friends agree… and would God confirm it??  If you would be a hero for God, you MUST live a Surrendered Life.
2.  Secondly, Caleb knew a Spared Life.  In verse 10 he explains, “the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years.”  Caleb was no spring chicken… he was 85 years old!  And the older he got, the more he recognized the grace of God in his life.  All that he had, all he had achieved in life, he owed to the Lord.  If it hadn’t been for God, he would never have accomplished a thing.  By his own testimony, the Lord had spared him from…
Discouragement, according to verse 8.  While the hearts of others melted in fear, while his peers were overcome by discouragement, Caleb stood firm.  He stood on principle even when it wasn’t popular.

It is HERE that God weeds out the Cowards from the Champions.  Are we willing to go forward for God EVEN IF it means going alone??  Caleb was preserved from discouragement because he stood for something greater than man’s approval… he longed for God’s approval.
Serving the Lord isn’t easy.  Discouragement abounds.  One reason people get discouraged is because they have made service about the wrong thing.  Some serve for results.  But when those anticipated results don’t come… they get discouraged.
Others serve for the praise of men.  And when that praise subsides, they get discouraged.
But the key to joyful service is realizing that God doesn’t call us to be successful, but faithful.
Not only had God spared him from discouragement, he was also spared from Death.  Caleb was one of only two men alive of an entire generation of people who died in the wilderness.  God preserved Caleb because he was a man of faith.  He had proven faithful in the small things, therefore God would bless him with greater things.
And certainly that ought to remind us how much we have to be thankful for.  God has been so good to us.  We owe all that we are and all that we have to Him.  

3.  But not only did Caleb know a Surrendered and a Spared Life, he also knew a Strong Life.  Verse 11 says, “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.
I don’t believe this was merely machismo speaking.  Though 85 years old he was still ‘ready’ for battle.  When most of us are well into retirement and looking for excuses to pass on our work to others, Caleb asked Joshua for the most difficult land in Canaan for an inheritance.  The land of the Anakim – the land of giants.  

Remember how the 12 spies who went into Canaan came back and said that the people of Canaan were so big they made the Israelites look like grasshoppers?  They were HUGE men - the forefathers of Goliath - the Anakim.  And THAT’S the land Caleb wanted.  Not the easy land.  Not the most scenic place for a retirement villa – no.  He wanted MORE than that.
The work of the Lord is not for the fainthearted.  I find it troubling that 9 out of 10 times, whenever the people of God are led to a critical juncture that demands faith, they are indecisive… paralyzed by fear… wanting to tuck-tail like cowards.
For us today, it doesn’t even have to be something REAL to intimidate us – just something we’ve never done before is enough to lose heart.  If we can’t rely upon ourselves to handle it, then in our minds, it can’t be done.
But not Caleb.  He told Israel, “Let’s go up at once, for we are well able to overcome it!”  And because his confidence was in God, the Lord gave him the strength he would need to be victorious.
That’s the thing about God - He will give you the strength you need REGARDLESS the mountain you are facing - IF - YOU - WILL - TRUST - HIM!

There is an old saying that dates back to the 1700’s.  “He who hesitates is lost.”  Indecision has ruined many a good men and many good churches.  My prayer is – as I reach the twilight of MY life, that I would be just as strong in faith as ever – that I dare to believe God when others falter.
Is that YOUR prayer?  Is that YOUR desire?  Or do you find yourself hesitating, afraid… too practical??
4.  But NOT ONLY did Caleb know a Surrendered, Spared, and a Strong life – he also knew a Satisfied Life.

In verses 13 and 15, Joshua blessed Caleb, and gave him Hebron… and the land had ‘REST from war.’
The Bible teaches that it is God’s desire to bless His children with fulfillment.  He is not glorified when we are discontented, discouraged, and defeated.  God is a God of reward.  He blesses those who follow Him and honor Him with Satisfaction.
As you read the text, Caleb was rewarded in three ways:

First, he was given Prominence.  He was given honor because of the work he had done.

He was given Possessions.  He inherited the land of his choosing, though NOT an Israelite by birth.
And he was given Peace – verse 15 says, “the land had rest from war.”  God had made this battle-weary old man victorious, because, from beginning to end, Caleb was faithful.
How about you, friend?  Are you faithful?  God is still looking for men and women, boys and girls who are surrendered to Him fully.  2 Chronicles 16:9 reminds us, For the eyes of the Lord range to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
Don’t let apathy overtake you.  Don’t be hard and unmoved.  Caleb could have let circumstances turn him sour.  After all, it wasn’t HIS fault that Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years.  

And YES, when other people are rebellious and faithless - it affects all of us just the same.

But Caleb’s desire to serve the Lord never waned.  He took every opportunity given him to stand for the Lord, even when a man well past his prime… even when others were afraid, even when there were giants in the land.
Some Christians will never do anything great because they are too busy making excuses or finding other things to do.
What about YOU?  Will YOU be the kind of person God can use to do great things?  Will you be a modern-day Caleb?