Hebrews 11 – By Faith

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the Babylonian king's golden statue, so the king ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace. But God protected them (Daniel 3)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the Babylonian king’s golden statue, so the king ordered them thrown into a fiery furnace. But God protected them (Daniel 3)

Famous for the great description of faith in verse 1 (“faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”), Hebrews 11 is (arguably most unfortunately) often called the “Hall of Faith” or the “Faith Hall of Fame.” Most of the accounts of people in this chapter are familiar to most people.  Some of the references are not so clear, and some maybe not so familiar.  Verse 33’s reference to those who “quenched the power of fire” is likely of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from Daniel 2:49-3:30.  Verse 35’s women who “received back their dead by resurrection” is likely (among others) of Elijah raising the son of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha raising the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:18-37).  Verse 37’s gruesome deaths may refer to the extra-biblical accounts of the deaths of Jeremiah and Isaiah.

But this chapter is not an account of extraordinary men and women with supreme faith.  It is rather the story of ordinary men and women like you and me, who because of their faith in God, were blessed with the power and grace of His mighty hand.  It is the story of their endurance and perseverance through all manner of evil against them and bitter times, and how that endurance saw them through it by their faith.  It is the assurance that the recipients of this letter can persevere by their faith through the endurance the writer encouraged them to have in chapter 10.  It is the assurance that we can do it as well.  We have a better promise, through a better covenant, and if we are faithful, we will receive our reward – which will be the same perfect reward those mentioned in this chapter will ultimately receive (verses 39-40).

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 9 – Jehu Anointed King of Israel

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Na...

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God has ordained that Elisha will anoint Jehu (son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi) as king over Israel.  The servant of the prophet, at Elisha’s instructions, anointed him in secret chambers (reminiscent of Samuel’s anointing of Saul in 1 Samuel 9:27-10:1).   As he anointed him, the servant gave him the instructions of the Lord as given to Elisha (verses 6-10).  He is to carry out the prophecy of 1 Kings 21:21-4 that Elijah had spoken to Ahab, declaring the death and destruction of Ahab’s house, that Jezebel would be eaten by dogs (we learn later that this is for killing the Lord’s prophets), and that Ahab’s blood would be shed in the very same place where he and Jezebel had caused Naboth to be stoned to death for his vineyard (1 Kings 21:19).  Because of Ahab’s repentance in 1 Kings 21:25-29, the Lord relents on Ahab himself, and has Elijah wait for his son to come to power.

Jehu wastes no time in assuming power (verses 12-13), and heads to Jezreel to deal with Ahab’s son, Joram and his mother Jezebel.   The tension of the story mounts while Jehu furiously approaches, as one by one, messengers sent to inquire of Jehu’s intentions fail to return – instead turning to ride with Jehu!    Ahaziah, the king of Judah, had come to visit Joram, so at first reading, one might think that it was just his bad luck to be there.  But another account of this event with more details is in 2 Chronicles 22 (especially 2 Chronicles 22:7-9), making it clear that Ahaziah’s death was ordained by God.

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of J...

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of Jehoshaphat [1], and grandson of Nimshi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Jehu, kills Joram, he has his body taken to be thrown on the ground of Naboth’s vineyard.  He then pursues Ahaziah and has him shot near Ibleam; and Ahaziah makes it to Megiddo before dying.   Back in Jezreel, he had Jezebel tossed out the window; and when he sat down to eat, he gave instructions to have her buried.  But when they went to get her, there was not much left of her body (verses 35-37), just as God had said.

This chapter shows us once again that when God’s will is made known, you can count on it coming to pass – in His time.

Side notes:

This link to an interesting article about excavations in Tel Jezreel has a lot of great information and pictures, and interesting bits of history, such as a reference that “shortly before Jehu’s revolt in 842 BCE King Joram and the dowager Queen Jezebel were in residence in Jezreel.”

Also, this link to the British Museum is about an Assyrian exhibit of a find in an 1846 excavation containing the Black Obelisk of Shalmanesar III (a public monument erected about 825 BCE), which both mentions and pictures Jehu (the earliest known picture made of an Israelite) and Ahab’s father Omri.  It has an inscription about tribute the Assyrian king received from Jehu when he was king (dated about 841 BCE) written in Assyrian cuneiform:

“The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears.”

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 5 – Naaman Healed of Leprosy

Elisha refuses the gifts of Naaman

Elisha refuses the gifts of Naaman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Naaman was a leper.  In these times, leprosy was a general term for a number of skin diseases – not necessarily the same as the leprosy that we refer to today, but no less incurable than that sort of leprosy once was.  When he learned of Elisha’s reputation as a prophet , being the commander of the Syrian army, his king sent him to the king of Israel with a gift of riches so that he would be cured.  The king of Israel was deeply distressed (verse 7), as he knew he could not cure him; and was sure that the Syrian king was looking for a quarrel.  But Elisha heard, and told him to send Naaman to him.

Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house, expecting to meet him personally, and have him perform some ritual to cure him.  Instead, Elisha sends word for Naaman to wash himself in the Jordan river seven times, and he would be cured.  Naaman went away angry – both at the impersonal instructions, as well as the fact that the Jordan was a dirty river, compared to others that he could wash in.  But his servants convinced him that doing as Elisha had said was the right thing to do; and he was indeed cured.

Grateful and certain that the God of Israel was the true God, Naaman returned to offer a gift to Elisha, but he would not take it.  So in verse 17, he asks for two mule-loads of earth to take home from Israel (probably for construction of a mud-brick altar – see Exodus 20:24) because he will no longer offer any sacrifices to any god but the Lord.   He asks for the Lords pardon, as he will still be required to enter the house of Rimmon, the Syrian god of storms, with his master, appearing to be in service.  Elisha tells him to go in peace.

Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, lets greed overtake him; and runs after Naaman, telling him a lie to make it seem that Elisha had changed his mind about accepting some payment.  Had he forgotten that Elisha was a prophet?  When he returned, Elisha obviously knew what he had done, and sent him away with a worse case of leprosy than had afflicted Naaman.  The Lord had provided the circumstances for Naaman’s conversion, and Gehazi’s evil deeds threatened to taint Elisha’s fulfillment of that effort.

The chapter also serves to remind us that although we sometimes might not understand why God requires something of us, it is no less important for us to do it than it is to do the things for which we do understand the purpose.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 4 – God’s Power in Elisha’s Deeds

English: Elisha raising the Shunammites Son

English: Elisha raising the Shunammites Son (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The creditors are about to take the children of a widow of a prophet as slaves for debt she cannot pay.  Elisha becomes her redeemer, as she has no kin to do so for her.  In verses 2-7, the oil God provides in abundance from the little that she has is enough to pay her debts and provide for her and her sons.

The kindness of the Shunnamite woman in providing food and generous shelter for Elisha whenever he came her way (verses 8-10) prompts him to desire to do something for her.  She was wealthy, and needed no help in the same regard as the widow.  When Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, tells him that the woman has no son and that her husband is old, he tells the disbelieving woman that she will embrace a son the next year; and it was so.  Some years passed, as the child had grown, was struck ill, then died (verse 18-20).  So the woman went to Mount Carmel to appeal to Elisha, “the man of God” she had befriended.  Elisha sends Gehazi with his staff, and instructions to raise the boy; but the woman stayed with him, sure that no less than Elisha’s own intervention would do.  That did turn out to be the case; and Elisha’s healing of the boy reminds us of the similar deed of Elijah for the widow in 1 Kings 17:17-22.

Then in verses 38-44, Elisha purifies a pot of stew that the famine-stricken prophets had perceived to have been poisoned by the wild gourds one of them had added; and then provides in abundance for a hundred more men, using meager resources (this latter, on a smaller scale, being similar to Jesus feeding the multitude in Matthew 14:13-21). This chapter is intended to once again demonstrate God’s awesome power; and that His will is going to be done.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

2 Kings 2 – Elijah Taken To Heaven

For the most part, the Old Testament speaks very little about life after death, at least compared to the New Testament.  Some take that to mean that God’s people knew nothing about it then.  But how much the people of God knew or thought about it is actually pure (and often, I believe, incorrect) speculation.  It is clear from God’s word that His people were told something about, and had been given hope for, some sort of fellowship with God after death.  Among the notable places in scripture where this is evident are Genesis 5:24, where Enoch was “taken” by God, Psalm 23:6, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and certainly here in 2 Kings chapter 2, where Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind.

The Ascent of Prophet Elijah, a northern Russi...

The Ascent of Prophet Elijah, a northern Russian icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know little about most of the prophets of the Old Testament because God gave us what we need to know through the prophets that gave us His word in the scriptures.  But there were many more than most people think (remember Obadiah hiding 100 of them from Ahab in caves in 1 Kings 18:4).    Here, Elijah has been preparing Elisha to be his successor as God told him in 1 Kings 19:15-18; and some of the prophets make it clear that God has revealed to them what is about to happen to Elijah (verse 5). Clearly, Elijah is in some way their leader, and is held in reverence. When Elijah asks him what he would have Elijah do for him, Elisha asks for a double portion of his spirit.  Though God had already declared that Elisha would be Elijah’s successor, this could have symbolic meaning as Elijah is like a father to him (verse 12).  He has already left his old life behind and an inheritance with it; and a first son would expect a double portion in his inheritance.

Elisha tearing his clothes before he takes the cloak that Elijah left behind (verse 12-14)appears to have a double meaning.  The tearing of ones own clothing in the Old Testament was an act of mourning or deep dismay, but it also seems to symbolize the transformation of Elisha to Elijah’s role.  Upon Elisha’s return, the other prophets can tell that Elijah’s spirit “rests on Elisha” (verse 15).  And in verses 19-22, he makes it clear that he has the favor of the Lord.  The fate of the “boys” in verses 23-24 when they were disrespectful to Elisha may seem harsh, but remember that Bethel was at the center of Israel’s apostasy; and traveling in a gang of around 50 (or possibly many more), their behavior and intentions were likely more threatening than mere taunts.

Read or listen to audio of ESV version of this selection from this link.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.