Sunday, September 28, 2008

Who is on the Lord’s side?


Key Scripture: Exodus 32:26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

The question is not ‘whose side is God on?’ … but rather, ‘Who is on God’s side?’!

Bible pattern shows us that once God finds someone who will respond to Him, He often prepares them for greater use and uses them and blesses them over and over again.

This principle is understood and taught in a much greater sense in the Jewish faith and history. Rabbinical scholars, following the traditions of their elders, make historical claims which connect people named in one story to other stories in the Old Testament as well. These historical claims have been handed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.

Such is the case of the son of the Widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17. This widow was chosen by God to sustain the prophet Elijah and provide for him during the last period of a three and one half year drought. When Elijah met her, she was gathering sticks so she could prepare a last meal for her and her young son. God specifically chose this woman and her son for special blessing and use.

Jewish rabbinical teachings hold that this same little boy who was used along with his mother to attend the prophet’s needs grew up, was called into ministry himself and continually used by God as a prophet to the Gentiles. According to tradition we catch a glimpse of the life and ministry of this now gown up son of the widow of Zarephath, in the book of Jonah. That’s right, Jewish tradition has it that Jonah is this same young boy who was raised from the dead, this son of the widow of Zarephath, as recorded in 1 Kings 17. (ref: John Gill’s Expositor – Commentary, Jonah 1:1)

There are many other such accounts of people who get onto God’s list of usable servants. It seems that when God finds someone who will respond favorably to Him and His leading of the Spirit, God continues to use them over and over again, blessing them more and more each time.

Matthew 25:21 "His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

This is the principle Jesus revealed to us when He said, “If you have been faithful over a little, I will make you ruler over much.”

It is on this note that I find another interesting account in the bible. I am referring to the story of a Syrian leper who goes to visit a prophet in Israel and is ultimately cleansed of his leprosy. His name is Naaman and we find him in 2 Kings 5.

However, let’s begin our story a little earlier, at the end of the book of 1 Kings, a time when the evil King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel were ruling Israel.

It seems that Ahab, King of Israel and Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, were going up to battle against the Syrians at Ramoth Gilead. The order had gone out from the King of Syria to fight only against Ahab and focus every effort on killing him. Ahab had attempted to disguise himself and leave Jehoshaphat to catch Syria’s attention but from reading all accounts it didn’t work out that way.

After the Syrian commanders realized that they were chasing the wrong King, they quit pursuing Jehoshaphat and refocused themselves. It was at this point that scripture says:

1 Kings 22 KJV

34 And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.

‘venture’ - translated from the Hebrew word: ‘tom’ tome

This word does in no way imply that the act of drawing the bow was done at random, just in passing or without aim as some versions indicate. Rather the opposite is true.

This word literally means: With integrity and uprightness, perfection and fullness; to be complete or with completeness.

Psalms 26:1 Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity (tome): I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.

Psalms 101:2 I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect (tome) heart.

Proverbs 2:7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly (tome).

These scriptures do not indicate randomness or carelessness but rather a purpose filled acts full of intent and focused attention. The only time this Hebrew word ‘tome’ is translated in any light other than perfection is in this story where it is translated ‘venture’.

Bear in mind that the Old English word venture can be used to give indication of one being employed on a certain and specific route with purpose, or to attempt something which one is unsure of the outcome. I do not think this Syrian soldier was haphazardly letting an arrow fly without a specific target in mind. Oh no, in my mind he took careful, perhaps much more careful aim knowing that this was a very difficult, perhaps impossible shot to make … but he tried it with all his skill and strength. He risked loosing for the chance to win.

After much study on this scripture, researching from many sources, I am confident that it is reasonably arguable that the man who drew this arrow back on his bow string did so with definite intent and full strength, aiming at a target impossible to hit, doing his very best as he believed he had the king of Israel in his aim. No one imagined he could do it since the shot was very far, the target well protected by armor and jostling unpredictably by the movement of the chariot in which the king was riding.

Nonetheless, undaunted by the challenges, this man, evidently touched by the divine providence of God, gives it his full attention, adding all the skill he has gained through his years, he takes aim in hopes that this one chance might hit its mark.

In reality, although he cannot know it, if he will only do his best here and get it as close as he can, God will care for the rest.

This man is most likely unaware that he has been chosen by God and that he is responding with his skill and strength to the call of the Lord upon his life. He has been prepared for such a time as this.

When the arrow hits its intended mark King Ahab, the evil King of Israel who has caused shame and curses to come upon God’s land and people, falls prey to his mortality. A small, almost inaccessible gap in the armor is penetrated and the King is wounded it seems either in heart or lung.

King Ahab died that evening thus ending the reign of this enemy of God’s will. But, what happens to this champion of the Syrian army, this skilled soldier used by God to defeat a foe and win a battle? How goes it with him? Did anyone notice his impossible shot? Many Jewish scholars believe so and tradition teaches that this man was amply rewarded and ultimately promoted in the ranks to become the captain of the hosts of Syria, second only to the King himself.

Now let’s turn the pages to a few years later, leaving the book of First Kings into the book of Second Kings. Elijah has gone on to be with the Lord in heaven and the young prophet Elisha has taken his place. After Ahab’s defeat Syria continued to raid Israel and took some Israelites captive as slaves. We pick up with the story in:

2 Kings 5 NKJV

1 ¶ Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.

2 And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.

3 Then she said to her mistress, "If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy."

4 And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, "Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel."

5 Then the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.

6 Then he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which said, Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.

7 And it happened, when the king of Israel read the letter, that he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy? Therefore please consider, and see how he seeks a quarrel with me."

8 So it was, when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, "Why have you torn your clothes? Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel."

Now you can read the rest of the story how that Naaman was told to dip in the Jordan River seven times and be healed of his leprosy and how although he did not want to, he was convinced by his friends to go ahead and do it anyway and sure enough, Naaman was completely healed.

You know, there is something to say here about having good friends and counselors and there is also something to be said for people, even important commanders, proven leaders of men, even leaders chosen by God, who have a spirit to receive counsel from their trusted friends. Without this element of humility in Naaman’s life, perhaps he would have died a leper and perhaps the King of Syria would have taken revenge on the people of Israel for the death of his servant. Who can know … God does! …

At any rate, let’s get back to the meat of this morning’s message about ‘Who Is On The Lord’s Side?’

Did you catch what the bible said in verse one of chapter five?

2 Kings 5 NKJV

1 ¶ Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.

What do you think it means that the LORD had given victory to Syria by the hands of Naaman?

You see, according to the historical teachings of many Rabbinical leaders of Judaism, Naaman was that Syrian soldier we read about earlier from 1 Kings 22:34 who drew back his bow with such strength and skill to let his arrow fly to God’s appointed target, King Ahab. (ref: Adam Clarke’s Commentary by Gary Gallant – 2 Kings 5:1)

Well, not only did that soldier deliver Syria to victory that day, but he also delivered the Children of God from the worst King who ever sat upon the throne Israel. What truths can we glean from this story?

Point Number One:
Some things which may benefit our enemies may also benefit us.

There are many situations which can be turned into a win, win situation if left in God’s hands. We should not complain when our enemies are blessed by our victory. Our blessings come from God and not only from the defeat of our enemies.

God can and does at times use our enemies to defeat our enemies. Let God be God, trust Him and look only to Him as your source. Remember, God so loves the whole world …

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you and do good to those who despitefully use you and persecute you …”. Matthew 5:44

Point Number Two:
This point concerns the young Israelite girl who was taken captive by the Syrians and compelled to serve as a maid to Naaman’s wife. Imagine both her and her parents. They were both deprived of family and their expectation of life. Even though it was a terrible loss nonetheless, this young girl’s faith and continued trust in God gave her significance and purpose as she participated in God’s plan.

No doubt she became a well favored young lady afterward and although nothing could ever replace what she lost, God helped her to blossom where life had planted her. Point number two is simply:

No matter where you are in life, you can make a difference.

Just keep the right attitude and remember what your parents taught you, if they taught you at all about God.

Also, invest in your children while there is time for you never know when they may be called upon to live life and make decisions without your continued input. Influence them while you can.

Point Number Three:
God has people on both sides of many issues.

So, be nice to people, even those who are different from you. Naaman was a Syrian and yet he was chosen and used by God.

You see, its not ‘Whose side is God on?’ but rather, ‘Who is on God’s side?’ Are you on God’s side? Respond to His spiritual leadership and He will bless and use you over and over again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Study of the Miraculous; Series: Part One


Lesson One: God demands that we participate in our miracles.

Commentary by Reverend DR R. L. Hammonds
2 Kings 4 The Miracle:
1 ¶ Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets
unto Elisha, …

* This story begins with the wife of a man who had been a student in
the school of the prophets under Elijah’s ministry. She was most likely
from Bethel. (2 Kings 2:3) These students were for the most part
non-Levitical, non-priestly men who felt called and compelled to learn the
ways of the Lord and therefore had dedicated their lives to His service.
Since the days of Samuel and continuing throughout the Old Testament period, gifted men who entered the school of the prophets were prepared to stand beside monarchs and priests, to guard the nation and to proclaim and protect the God ordered rules of life and reward. Schools were established at Ramah, Bethel, Gibeah, Gilgal and Jericho. Before Elijah’s final departure he found it desirous to visit these schools and give parting instructions to the young prophets.

* In answer to the call of God, she and her husband had relegated their
lives and futures to a meager existence. In these times of spiritual
drought for the masses of people, without a secure job and secular
occupation, those who dedicated their lives to serving God in this respect
could expect very little, income was almost non-existent and always

* Perhaps it is because she learned the value of a Godly man’s counsel
from having a husband so committed to God that in her desperate moment she sought out the advice of one she trusted, the Prophet Elisha, who was a true servant of the Lord.

saying, Thy servant my husband is dead;

* This evidently was a sudden and unexpected death that had not been
prepared for. As often happens, sudden departures, even of servants of the Lord, can cause great and continuing hardship on those left behind to manage the affairs of life.

* Since Elisha was Elijah’s recognized successor and chosen replacement, (2 Kings 2:15), it seems reasonable that this widow would go to Elisha for assistance in solving her problem. Thus she continues:

and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD:

* The widow establishes the thought that her late husband was not a
careless nor reckless man who just did not pay attention to his affairs but
rather this statement lends credibility to the idea that he died suddenly
and without fair notice or opportunity to make arrangements himself for the payment of his debt and provision for his family after his death.

* The widow tells the Prophet Elisha that she knows he too was
personally familiar with her husband’s service to God and spiritual

* Now this widow puts forth her dilemma.

and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

* The husband has died leaving his family in debt, so much debt that
the widow and surviving sons cannot pay.

* Even though they have faithfully and fearfully served the Lord and
been employed by choice and at personal cost in the spiritual service of
God’s Kingdom, nonetheless, the current laws of the land apply to them.

* One cannot claim to be exempt nor excused from the laws governing
others just because they have given their all in service to God. Even Jesus
paid taxes, rendering custom to whom custom was due. (Luke 20:25) The
Apostle Peter also encouraged saints to obey every ordinance of man while the Apostle Paul encouraged us to submit to the magistrates in place. (1
Peter 2:13 & Romans 13)

* The two sons, regardless of age, must by law fulfill the contract of
payment either by monetarily satisfying their father’s debt or by serving
out the debt as slaves until fully paid or until the year of Jubilee in
which time they would be set free.

* This widow’s cry was for the freedom of her sons. She no doubt is as
well crying for her own recent loss and fearing the added loss of her only
two sons, which seems unbearable.

2a And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee?

* It is unclear from which frame of mind Elisha asked this question …
whether he is truly wondering or from an attitude of despair as to what to
do. Even seasoned men of God can and do feel both when faced with solving others problems in the visible place of God. The Apostle Paul rehearsed that daily there came upon him the care of all of the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28) and he wondered at times if he had actually run and sown and labored in vain. (Galatians 4:11) No matter, genuine care and
dedication was present in the prophet’s life and actions but may have still
been at a legitimate loss as to what to do.

* It is perhaps certain that Elisha knew that there was nothing which
he, of himself, could do. This would require a miracle and thus he needed
to move this woman into a position to receive from God. Any minister of the Gospel should realize that our only hope is to connect people to God. In order for a person such as this to receive a miracle they must:

1. Be motivated to depend on God and not the arm of man;
2. Offer what they have to God for His touch;
3. Obediently follow the prescribed course of action required for
God’s intervention:

* (this can be anything from dipping in the river Jordan seven
times, to walking the isle at a church and humbly submitting to the laying
on of hands for help);

* and finally, they should:
4. Use the blessings and benefits received for that which God
intended when He blessed them.

* Perhaps Elisha is using this interim time to think of a way to move
this woman into faith filled action or maybe he is waiting to receive divine
direction from God. At any rate there seems appropriate to the moment a
certain pause after this question and before the next one.

2 Kinds 4: 2b … tell me, what hast thou in the house?

* It might seem to some that a true prophet of the stature of Elisha
could have already discerned what it was that the woman had in her house.
This indicates to us two possibilities of which both are at times true.

> First: Even true and gifted men of God do not always know
everything, even about the works and miracles they themselves are involved in. (such as the Prophet Nathan: 2 Samuel 7)

> Next: Often men of God, though they know, they await others to
come to the knowledge as though arriving at it by themselves. People guided to truth who uncover it often feel more joined to it since they feel they discovered it.

* Note: The prophet is going to identify something personal and costly
to the widow … something in her house. Even though she has recently lost
much, still the road to her salvation demands she offer yet more of what she has. Much like the widow of 1 Kings 17, this woman must act in faith for her miracle.

* Trusting God is often easier when it is out of one’s abundance,
however, seldom does that type of action produce miracles for the ones who supply it even though it often is a miracle for those who receive it.

2 Kings 4:2c … And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the

* She evidently did not go immediately running to Elisha as a first
option in her need, but rather had waited, most likely trying every other
natural means to supply. Now, only when she possesses nothing, do her
creditors come as vultures, in their right advance, to lay claim to her most prized possessions. It can seem when all else has left you and there is no
ability in reserve, that the problems of life unfairly pile onto the shoulders of God’s people. Through necessity many finally despair of any other way and turn to the way, Jesus.

save a pot of oil.

* The things we so lightly esteem are often raised to become our
salvation. God chooses the simple things of this world and the things which are nothing to bring about great things. (1 Corinthians 1:28) Little David,
from the backside of the desert, tending a few sheep, was brought from
obscurity to greatness in the hand of the Lord. (1 Samuel 16:11 & 17:28) God has decided to place more of His honor on the unseemly parts of mankind than on those we often esteem. (1 Corinthians 12:23) In our humility we are exalted and in His gentleness are we made great. (1 Peter 5:6 & Psalms 18:35) It is in the weak of this world that God chose to place His greatest treasure. (2 Corinthians 12:10) These ignorant and unlearned men, earthen vessels of clay, just because they had been with Jesus were elevated to eternal recognition as their names are written on foundation stones of our new Jerusalem, the holy city ascending down from God. (Acts 4:13; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Revelation 21:14) As then, so now, the stone that the builders rejected becomes the head of the corner. (Matthew 21:42)

* How appropriate to have only a little oil become much more than was

* Oil is representative of the Holy Spirit in the house. At one time
there was most likely much more in abundance and in reserve. Probably there was a plentiful supply for the daily needs of the home and family, any unexpected visitors and even enough to share with others in need. Now, with the loss of the spiritual head of the house, the oil had dwindled. However, the great truth is seen in that only a little of the Spirit of God is enough when given proper attention, miraculous opportunity and first place in the home. It is enough to meet any need and solve any problem and last for the season to come.

* What grace can pour from an earthen vessel containing oil in the
hands of one touched by God.