When Hezekiah cleaned out the temple, one of the things cleaned out was the bronze serpent used by Moses in the Book of Numbers. When the serpents were attacking the Israelites, Moses was instructed to make a bronze serpent and hold it up. When the Israelites looked to the bronze serpent, they would be saved from the snake bites.
One time use. But Israel held onto it all those years. They had sacrificed to it from time to time.
It is the temptation of our Christian good luck charms. It could be a place at the altar. It could be a favorite preacher at camp. It could be camp itself. It could be a particular song, or worship band.
We hold onto things past their expiration date. We think, “Oh, if I could just get back to that altar, or that camp. If I could heart that worship band sing that one song… I could hear from God again!”
I need this reminder. I hold on to something that worked in the past. I hold on to an unrealistic expectation. And I know God is moving me on to something else… but I hold on.
The expiration date is long past. New dreams and new promises and a fresh anointing for TODAY is here. It is time to put away the old wishes. Actually, I don’t need to put them away. I need to DESTROY them.
What God has ahead is better, more powerful, and carries HIS anointing, and not just my ability.
Throw out the bronze serpent of your life. It worked once. It hasn’t worked since. Look for what God has TODAY.
2 Kings 3:14-19
Elisha prophesied for Joram, not out of any love for the man, but out of respect for Jehoshaphat. The trouble was Moab and Joram wanted to know if they were going to be okay.
The thought that stands out for me is this: “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.” (v. 18, NIV)
It jumped out to me as I have been praying about some HUGE things God has given me in the last year. There are things I know with a lot of assurance are GOD, but when I look at what is at hand… it’s a bit nerve racking.
Yet, I have confidence in what God is saying. When I think about what is ahead, I keep coming into passages like this one.
These are places where the Lord readily reminds me, “This is an EASY thing for me, Dan. Just step out!”
New things are stirring. God is ready to birth new things in our church. And it is EASY for him!
I talked earlier about why we don’t want a move of God. It’s about the JUNK.
Josiah wanted a move of God again. He wanted the favor of God, and that meant clearing out the temple, then repairing the temple. It meant getting rid of the shrines all over the country, and the priests attached to those shrines.
The longer you wait to deal with junk, the higher the pile gets.
Then, after you deal with the junk, there is the task of actually following God.
It all just sounds too exhausting. We need to re-think this whole thing about following Christ. It is just too involved. I may have to give up something I really like. I may have to ask silly questions about what is “God’s best” for me, when I prefer to ask, “Is this okay?”
Josiah’s pursuit of God cost a lot. It was time, energy, money, reputation…
And his pursuit of God helped him find the favor of God… and Judah was spared a few more years because someone decided to move some junk.
Hezekiah was one who followed God to a greater degree than most kings before him. His story begins in 2 Kings 18. He not only follows God and does what is right, but he tears down the high places. He finally got rid of the bronze serpent Moses had used in the wilderness.
There is this great tribute to his work:
5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, Israel’s God. There was no one like him among all of Judah’s kings—not before him and not after him. 6 He clung to the Lord and never deviated from him. He kept the commandments that the Lord had commanded Moses. (2 Kings 18:5-6, CEB)
But Hezekiah doesn’t always get it right. When Sennacherib marched on Jerusalem after defeating the northern kingdom, Hezekiah immediately caved to them. He bribed Sennacherib to go away!
Shockingly, that wasn’t enough and the Assyrians showed back up.
Hezekiah finally got fed up and took the whole matter to God. He actually took a letter from the Assyrians and laid it before the Lord (2 Kings 19:14). He got serious in seeking the Lord’s help.
We have our own times when we are on top of the world and ready to take on any challenge. It’s summer camp season, so every week we will have youth coming home from camp ready to take on Satan in every corner of the world! Two weeks later… well… not so much…
We all have our moments. We are full of faith. Then, the enemy blindsides us and we find ourselves caving in to what the enemy demands.
The grace of God is GREAT. The enemy WILL show back up again, only giving us yet another opportunity to trust God! We need to take those moments to get back on track and find ourselves in the presence of God once again. He is gracious. He WILL hear!
Do not let one defeat tear away the next opportunity to call out on God!
One of my heroes in ministry spoke at our church yesterday and he gave us this formula from 2 Kings 4, the story of the widow and Elisha. She was in debt and the creditors were going to take her children as slaves. Elisha had her take the little oil she had and begin pouring it into every vessel should could borrow from her neighbors. The oil stopped when she ran out of vessels. She could then sell off the oil and pay off her debt and live on the rest of the proceeds.
It’s math that doesn’t make sense. Very little oil was already there, yet she kept pouring and the oil kept coming.
The phrase from the formula above goes like this:
Obedient Activity combined with Divine Authority will bring Great Victory.
We need to understand what we HAVE. Elisha asked the widow what she had, and she focused on what was NOT there. We have that response. We need the response that says, “This is what I have. It may not be much, but here it is.”
And see what God will do with it.
2 Kings 22
Josiah heard the Book of the Law read and then tore his clothes. He was broken. He allowed the words of the Lord to tear into his heart.
He didn’t sit stroking his chin and contemplating the words. “Well, should I obey or not?”
His heart was shredded.
We work so hard to make sure we don’t feel guilty about anything anymore. We don’t want to feel “bad.” Medication works. Feel bad? Take a pill. See a therapist. You need to get over feeling bad.
There are times we shouldn’t “get over it.” We should feel the pain of disobeying God, and it should cause more than just a moment of contemplation.
“Conviction” wasn’t always a “bad” word. We’ve made it that way today, and I don’t think we’re really that better for it.
Good kings were rare in Judah. They were non-existent in the northern kingdom of Israel. 2 Kings 18 begins the story of Hezekiah. He is not the first righteous king, but he takes serving the Lord to another level.
When good kings followed God, they usually left the “high places.” They didn’t tear down everything that didn’t point Judah to the worship of God alone.
Hezekiah was different. Everything went. The high places, the altars, the Asherah poles, even the artifacts Israel had been carrying around foolishly for generations, like the bronze serpent Moses had used in the wilderness.
Hezekiah finally led Judah out into a period of abundance. It wasn’t all “roses,” as they say. Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem in Hezekiah’s years. But Hezekiah had a determination to clear everything out and lead the nation in truly serving God. Even the high places had to go.
There are times we need to get fed up with the lackluster effort we put into our walk with God. We need to get disgusted with our minimal efforts and that attitude that always asks, “What’s wrong with it” instead of “What’s right with it.”
We need periods in our lives when we spiritually evaluate and see we need to toss out a ton of junk in our lives. If we don’t go through those evaluations, then it’s not a ton of junk anymore. It’s two tons. Then three tons.
And then we won’t want to even think about cleaning house anymore.
Hezekiah got fed up.
I find there are those times I need to get fed up as well. Housecleaning has to happen. Junk has to go. And Jesus needs to be the fullness of my vision.
Reading 2 Kings after the stories of Elisha could get a bit confusing. Who was in Israel? Who was in Judah? What is Samaria?
One way to at least try and stay on task that has been helpful for me is to notice when a new king comes in the picture. I look for a few things that get mentioned most of the time and circle them. It keep me on track.
Look for: the age of the king when he came into power, the name of his mother, how long he reigned, and if he did evil or good. If good, what were the caveats given (such as, “the high places weren’t removed”).
Most of those things show up in some way in each king’s brief story, so it could help you stay focused and moving through the text.
In reading through the story of Elisha I am struck by the ease with which Elisha moves in each situation. The miraculous pours from him. He has not looked back since he struck the Jordan River with Elijah’s cloak.
There is almost the mundane situation of having the stew taste funny and he knew what to do. Then there is the widow and the oil that supplied money for the debt she owed. It is as “every day” as an ax head that gets lost, or the very surreal event of the enemy’s general coming for a visit.
Elisha isn’t intimidated. He doesn’t show favoritism. He hears from God and moves as God wants him to move.
Elisha wasn’t intimidated by Naaman, an enemy of Israel. He doesn’t refuse Naaman because he is the “enemy.” He hears God and lives to OBEY.
My heart is challenged. This week has been a week of prayer as I’ve examined this life of Elisha all over again.
Elisha asks this question as he comes back to the Jordan after witnessing Elijah being taken to heaven. He has the mantle of Elijah and he has asked for the firstborn’s inheritance: a double portion.
He cries out, “Where is the God of Elijah?” and strikes the water. The Jordan parts again.
As I read this passage and look through some old notes, I think of two great men of God I miss right now. David Wilkerson, who pastored Times Square Church in New York and spoke prophetically for many years. He also founded Teen Challenge out of witnessing to gang members in New York back in the 1950s. David had words that would enrage people. I would get mad from time to time at “dumb” things I thought he said. Yet, I always knew this man trembled in the presence of God and prophets just say things that tick you off from time to time.
The other man I miss is Calvin Olson. Other than a few people in Minnesota, probably no one knows this incredible man of prayer. He was a missionary in his career. When I met him he was retired and helping with prayer ministry in our District. The man walked with God. I do not say this jokingly: you could ask Calvin what God was up to in the world and Calvin could honestly tell you.
I miss these men and I miss their voices in my life, and in the life of the Church.
But there is a time to miss men like this and there is a time to pick up their “mantle,” so to speak, and get on with the next stage of the journey. It is one thing to talk about what has gone before. It is another thing to actually engage God at the level those men walked with God.
Elisha decided to walk with God as Elijah had shown him. It wasn’t about wishing Elijah was still here. It was knowing the God of Elijah was still around, and if so, pick up where Elijah left off.