Future Generations

In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign…He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles…
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.

2 Kings 18:1-6

King Hezekiah was a bright spot in an otherwise dark season for the people of God. Most of the kings had turned away from the Lord until Hezekiah, and Israel had already been conquered by Assyria. Only the kingdom of Judah was left.

Hezekiah’s faithfulness is contrasted sharply with his son Manasseh’s and his grandson Amon’s. Here is what scripture says of Amon:

He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. He followed completely the ways of his father, worshiping the idols his father had worshiped, and bowing down to them. He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him.

2 Kings 21:20-22

So while Hezekiah was completely faithful to the Lord, Manasseh and Amon were worse than the former kings of Israel in their disobedience and infidelity. Yet, when Josiah–Amon’s son and Hezekiah’s great-grandson–became king of Judah, he made a hard turn back to the Lord. Scripture says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).

King Josiah is the one who rediscovered the Book of the Law in the Temple of the Lord. Josiah is the one who re-established the covenant of God and enacted massive reforms throughout the land leading the people back to the worship of God alone.

This is a good reminder that the faithfulness of one generation can impact future generations. Though fidelity to the Lord may skip a generation or two, though there may be some prodigals in the family line, God has a way of honoring the faithfulness of former generations by causing a flourishing of faithfulness in future generations.

I sense this in my own life. I had two faithful grandmothers who I know often prayed for their grandchildren. I can’t help but sense that my own experiences in ministry are a result, not only of faithful parents, but of faithful grandparents. And I’ve also learned that even further back in my family line were some pastors and evangelists. It makes me wonder about how spiritual inheritance works in the Kingdom of God.

Our God is a God of the generations. When God sent Moses to set His people free, God told Moses to refer to Him as “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob“(Exodus 3:16). He’s a multigenerational God who often keeps His promises to one generation by fulfilling it in the next generation.

Peter reminds us that God thinks in long-term plans and doesn’t rush to accomplish His purposes. What we often perceive as “slowness” is really just God’s patience with us.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you…

2 Peter 3:8-9

What if the things happening between you and God right now are God answering the prayer that one of your ancestors prayed centuries ago? What if the spiritual gifts and open doors that you’ve experienced are, in part, a result of the faithfulness of past generations?

We must also wrestle with these questions: What are we doing now that will have ripple effects in the Kingdom of God down through our family line? What prayer are we praying now that our great-grandchildren will receive the answer for? What seeds are we planting now in the Kingdom of God that will bear fruit a century from now?

Understanding Physical Healing

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. 

2 Kings 20:1-6

We can learn so many things from this dramatic healing of King Hezekiah. First, prayer changes things. I don’t like it when people say, “Prayer doesn’t change things; it changes us.” Nope. Prayer does both.

Hezekiah got a direct word from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die from the illness he had. Then, Hezekiah cried out to the Lord and the Lord healed him. Prayer matters. Prayer for physical healing matters. The fatalistic idea that “God’s going to do what God’s going to do” is a poor understanding of God’s sovereignty. God has chosen to be in covenant relationship with His people, which means that what we pray and what we ask for in prayer has an effect on things.

Secondly, most people don’t understand the connection between “small” healings and “big” healings. All miraculous healings are “big” in the sense that God chooses to divinely heal. But what I mean is that people don’t seem to care much about physical healing until they or someone they love is in Hezekiah’s position with an illness that is heading toward death.

I’ve encountered this attitude with people in my own church and people I’ve talked to about physical healing. They ask me why I think praying for physical healing is so important. They always use the argument that it is more important that people get saved and experience the loving community of the church than it is that they get physically healed. But this argument borders on gnosticism (an early heresy that thinks “spiritual” things are of ultimate importance while “physical” things don’t matter).

When a person doesn’t understand why I get so excited about “small” healings like a injured knee getting healed or a migraine problem going away, I start asking them about whether they would have that same cavalier attitude about stage 4 cancer getting healed or someone with traumatic brain injury getting healed. In every case, the person who was relatively indifferent about physical healing two seconds ago suddenly agrees that physical healing in those situations is supremely important. And what becomes clear is that they don’t understand the connection between the knee getting healed and the cancer getting healed. Most people don’t.

First of all, Jesus did not make this distinction between small and big healings. He healed blindness and He healed fevers. He raised the dead and He healed crippled hands. Jesus treated sickness as an attack on the body that God created. Whether it was a fever or blindness, Jesus wanted it gone.

Secondly, any spiritual gift must be used faithfully in order for it to grow. We accept this as a truth of the Kingdom when it comes to gifts like teaching or hospitality. We intuitively understand the parable of the talents applies not just to our financial resources but also to how we steward our spiritual gifts. This line of the parable should be ringing in our ears, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things“(Matthew 25:23).

The gift of healing (1 Corinthians 12:9) is no different. As we are faithful to pray for smaller physical needs and see God heal those, our faith grows. As we are faithful with “smaller” miracles, God can begin to trust us with “bigger” ones. When the apostle Paul talks about spiritual gifts in Romans 12, he teaches that we operate in our gifts in accordance with our faith (Romans 12:6). So while different gifts are given simply by God’s grace, we grow in these gifts by faith. We must exercise our faith as we use our gifts in order to mature in them.

So, when it comes to gifts of healing, praying for the “smaller” healings is what prepares you and your faith for the day you pray for life-threatening illnesses. Indifference toward small healing is a recipe for powerlessness and doubt when you need a big miracle. This is how all spiritual gifts work. If you’ve never preached to a group of 200 people, you wouldn’t assume you could step into a stadium full of people and preach an amazing sermon to thousands. Yet, this is exactly how we treat healing prayer.

Someone might say, “But couldn’t God move powerfully anyway?” Yes! Of course He could. He could also help that person who’s never preached to preach an incredibly powerful and moving sermon to a stadium full of people. God loves to do that! But on our end, we are being irresponsible and arrogant if we are relying on God’s sovereignty to bail us out of our indifference.

Paul’s advice to his protege Timothy was, “…be prepared in season and out of season…”(2 Timothy 4:2). This advice applies to all the spiritual gifts. And when it comes to healing, being prepared means we are praying for small and big miracles alike. It means we grow in our ability to hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance in healing prayer. It means we are seeing “small” healings happen and allowing those to build our faith.

So we celebrate every healing, big or small, because it is a tangible expression of God’s grace. We pursue and celebrate the healing of every disease, big or small, because healing is a sign of God’s Kingdom breaking into this world. We pray for healing because it is an act of love and compassion that was modeled for us by Jesus. Cavalier indifference toward physical healing is an unbiblical and irresponsible reaction that dishonors Jesus’s activity in the world.

What was important to Jesus should be important to us as His followers. And clearly, from reading the Gospels, physical healing was extremely important to Jesus.

Is it important to you? Who have you prayed for recently?

If

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

1 John 4:9-16

So often our default position when it comes to loving God is to love Him with an “if.” We may not say it out loud, but we say it in our hearts. It sounds like this, “God, I’ll worship you if….” “God, I’ll give you all the praise when…..” “Jesus, I’ll live my life for you if…” “Father, I’ll lay my life down for you if…” “I’ll share my faith with others if…” “I’ll step out boldly for You, God, if and when…”

If You protect me…if You provide for me…if You make this turn out alright…if I won’t lose friends…if I don’t have to be uncomfortable…if I won’t be embarrassed…if it’s not too hard…if I don’t experience pain and suffering…etc.

If.

But there have been moments in my life where I’ve left the land of “if” and entered into something better, something that feels totally free. There is a place with the Lord where there is no “if.” It’s a place where we realize that Jesus is the name above every name no matter what is happening in our lives or in the world. There is a place of worship where we love God just because He is God. There is a place of intimacy where we come to know, down to our bones, that He is worthy. Period. No if. He is worthy. He is good. He is loving. He is kind. He is patient. He is full of grace and humility.

I want to live in this land, not the land of “if.” I can feel myself being pulled away from this place and back into the conditional love of the world. And, yet, when I re-enter this place again, I once again experience the freedom of it. It is so incredibly freeing to simply love God because He is. Not to get something. Not in response to something I need Him to do or something He already did. There is freedom when we are in a place of exalting His Name simply because of who He is.

The freedom is that it doesn’t matter what happens to my life. I’ve already died with Christ. I’ve already been raised with Christ. I’m already seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. My life is not my own. I was bought at a price…a very high price. So regardless of what happens in my life, God is worthy of extreme worship and devotion. Jesus gets the glory regardless. Jesus is worthy of all honor and praise.

Have you been to this place before? Have you ever left the land of “if?” I invite you to spend time with the Lord and experience it for yourself. Once you get a taste of it, you’ll want more. You’ll want to not just visit but to live every day in that place…that place of total freedom.

Polygamy

They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God… They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence…

They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

2 Kings 17:16-18, 32-33

Right after Israel gets removed from the Promised Land and sent off to a foreign land, the writer of 2 Kings explains why. The main issue with Israel wasn’t that they didn’t worship the Lord. It was that they worshiped the Lord along with worshiping other gods. They did all the practices of the nations around them. Their chief sin was their universalism, their religious inclusion. What offended the Lord so much was that they allowed their religious pluralism to become polytheism.

They bowed down to the starry hosts (read “practiced astrology and believed horoscopes“). They worshiped Baal (read “worshiped money and provision“), and sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire (read “celebrated abortion“). They practiced divination and sought omens (read “went to psychics, palm readers, tarot card readers, and sought spirit guides, mediums, energy healers, Reiki healers and crystals“). This sounds a lot like America right now.

You see, it’s not enough to say we believe in God. It’s not enough to say we are a Christian. What matters is if we have given ourself to Christ alone. Have we mixed our worship of the Lord with the worship of the gods of our culture? Throughout the scriptures God calls His relationship to His people a marriage. Likewise, this mixture of worship–this polytheism born of pluralism–is regarded as polygamy. It is cheating on the Lord. It’s infidelity.

Unhindered, sold-out devotion to the Lord is what we are invited into when we are invited into Christ. Jesus alone is worthy of our worship. It wasn’t atheism that caused Israel’s downfall. It was syncretism, the amalgamation of the worship of the Lord with the worship of other things in their life. Israel’s story is a gigantic warning to us about pure devotion. God is not interested in a polygamous marriage to His Bride, the Church.

Prophets, Priests, and Kings

Elisha died and was buried.

Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

2 Kings 13:20-21

After Elisha dies, we don’t hear much about the prophets in the book of 2 Kings. This is in part because the prophets who followed him operated less in the miraculous and in part because the prophets after Elisha started to write down their prophecies. The prophets Hosea, Joel, Amos and Jonah were the next prophets to take up the prophetic mantle after Elisha.

It is important to realize that ever since the Hebrew people were set free from Egypt and started to form a national identity, they always had a prophet, priest and king. In the early years, their prophet was Moses, their priest was Aaron, and their King was Yahweh Himself. Moses passed off his prophetic mantle to Joshua and then to those would be raised up as Judges to lead the people. Aaron passed off his priestly mantle to his own descendants and the Levites.

Then the people wanted an earthly king and so the prophet Samuel anointed King Saul, the first official king of Israel. From that point on, there was always an executive branch (the kings), a judicial branch (the prophets) and a legislative branch (the priests) that functioned as the leaders of the people of God. The kings led the people, the prophets heard from the Lord, and the priests helped the people atone for their sin through the sacrificial system.

A similar system existed when Jesus entered the scene, only the prophetic presence has diminished. John the Baptist functioned as the first real prophet in hundreds of years. And the priests had divided their role in two. Part of the priestly role was pastoral, helping people atone for their sin through the sacrificial system; the other part was a teaching role, helping people know the Law and avoid sin in the first place.

Jesus was furious that the priestly role that was supposed to pastor the people and teach the people instead was exploiting the people and weighing them down with guilt and legalistic burdens.

Jesus took these leadership roles for the people of God and adapted them for the birth of the Church. The executive leader became the apostle. The judicial voice became the prophet. The priestly/legislative role became the pastor and the teacher. Then He added one more role for the spread of the Kingdom of God, the evangelist.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-13

These five roles together are called the five-fold ministry gifts. Each of these five roles are gifts to the Church which allow it to be equipped and built up. The apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher are meant to work together, each bringing something special.

The apostle is focused on God’s direction. The prophet is focused on God’s voice, His word to the people. The pastor, teacher, and evangelist are all focused on the people but in different ways. The pastor wants to care for the people and remind them of God’s grace and forgiveness. The teacher wants to disciple the people and help them know the scriptures. The evangelist is focused on people outside the Church, wanting them to hear the good news of the gospel.

The foundation of the global Church and the local church, however, has to be the apostolic and prophetic roles. The apostle Paul said it this way:

…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

Ephesians 2:19-21

The foundation of the American church is too often the pastor or teacher. This is not how Christ designed His Church to function. He designed the base on which the church is built to be the apostolic role and the prophetic role. Paul emphasized this truth to the Corinthians.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:27-28

What the people of God need right now is not more pastors but more people operating in an apostolic anointing. What the people of God need right now is not more teachers but more people operating in a prophetic anointing. Both the apostle and the prophet are focused first on God–His direction, His voice, His signs, wonders and miracles, His Presence–and not primarily on whether they will be liked by people. Apostolic and prophetic people do not fit well in consumeristic Christianity. Their target audience is an Audience of One. Their opinion polls are filled out by One and Only One.

Who will be the ones to stop pretending to be pastors and instead step into the apostolic role they were created for? Who will be the ones to stop just teaching and instead deliver the prophetic words from the Lord as they were called to do?

Years From Now

When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab’s family;he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah.

2 Kings 10:17

Jehu is anointed King of Israel and goes about destroying the entire family of wicked king Ahab. Both him becoming king and his campaign to rid Israel of Ahab’s family was prophesied by Elijah. What struck me about the above passage is that Elijah had been gone for sometime. Roughly 15 years had passed from the time Elijah prophesied this to the time it actually came about. Fifteen years!

The Lord told Elijah to anoint Jehu king when Elijah had run away and was hiding on Mt. Horeb. This is also when the still, small voice came to him. It was also when Elijah was told to anoint Elisha as prophet to succeed him (1 Kings 19). A couple years after this Elijah would prophesy the total destruction of Ahab’s family. Yet, Elijah didn’t get to see any of this.

Elisha became prophet of Israel, and Elisha is the one who anoints Jehu as king. Elisha gets to see the fulfillment of a word that came to Elijah.

What did your life look like 15 years ago? For me, I had just started pastoral ministry. I was dating my wife but was not married, and I didn’t have three kids. I was a brand new pastor with no wife, no kids, no house and no idea what the next 15 years would hold. If someone had given me a prophetic word about the coronavirus during that time, would I have believed them? And even if I believed them for the first few years, would I have continued to believe it after so many years?

Jesus did something similar in His own ministry. The disciples are overwhelmingly impressed with the splendor and grandeur of the Temple. Then Jesus prophesied about the destruction of the Temple, something that wouldn’t happen for another 40 years.

As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

“Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Mark 13:1-2

In our fast-food world, prophetic words like this are really difficult for us to process. It seems that in ancient cultures there was a better understanding of how things take time. Maybe personal experience with farming helps a culture understand cultivation and the nature of time. There was a generational approach to things. It was assumed that one might not see something in their lifetime but that it would be important to build toward it for the sake of children or grandchildren. Today, that idea seems so foreign. We don’t plan and build with the next few generations in mind. We want things now.

Maybe God has given you a word or a promise that hasn’t come to pass. And maybe you’re starting to doubt that it ever will. But God’s timing is very different than ours. It could be coming years from now. It could even be coming in the next generation, something you won’t see firsthand. But one thing we can trust is that God keeps His promises. He keeps His word.

One-Liners

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
    to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

Proverbs 25:2

One of the ways that God speaks to us is through what I’ll call “one-liners.” Jesus often did this when He quoted the Old Testament. He quoted most from the Psalms, Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Exodus and, when He did, He often quoted only one line from a larger passage. Jesus’s intention was to allude to the whole passage, but He knew His listeners would only need one or two lines to get the meaning.

For instance, if I was talking to you and I said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” you would likely know the rest. Or if I said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come…” you would likely know the rest. This is how most of the Old Testament was for the Jewish people. They grew up on it.

Jesus still speaks to us today in this same way. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus will often drop a one-liner into our hearts and minds. Sometimes it is a part of a scripture passage. Sometimes it is a line of a worship song that makes reference to a scripture passage. Often, its meaning is not immediately understood. As the Proverb above admits, God isn’t hiding things from us but for us. He’s giving us a clue that He wants us to explore.

If someone hands you a key to a lock, do you assume that the key is the gift or that the key was meant to open up something that leads to the gift. The key is only the first part of the gift, but it was meant to lead you into more. This is how the one-liners from the Lord work, so don’t ignore them. Instead, explore them. According to the above Proverb, to search out a matter is the glory of royalty, and we are royalty in the Kingdom of God.

One of God’s favorite times to give us one-liners is just as we are waking up in the morning. Don’t miss these! Our spirits do not sleep and neither does God. He often ministers to us throughout the night as our bodies and minds are at rest. And just as we are waking up, He will often leave us with a one-liner either as a message or as an encouraging word.

I woke up this morning and the first thing that ran through my mind was “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Now, I knew that this line was in scripture somewhere, but I had not read that passage recently. It wasn’t in a song that I had been listening to. In other words, it felt like it came out of left field. I knew it was the Lord.

So my next task, if I wanted to be a good steward of His words to me, was to search out its meaning. I knew this was something people shouted to Jesus on Palm Sunday as He entered Jerusalem but that was about it. As I explored it more, I learned that it actually comes from Psalm 118. So I read the whole Psalm and, in doing so, I realized that God had more for me than just that one line. The whole Psalm was a mixture of declarations about Jesus and personal encouragement to me. It was beautiful!

But if I hadn’t paid attention to the one-liner from God, if I didn’t know that was a way the Lord loves to speak to His children, I could have ignored it and missed it. We need to be ready in quiet moments–in the shower, in the car, as we are going asleep, and especially as we are waking up–to receive one-liners from the Lord. And we need to be ready to explore the fullness of all that the one-liner was meant to say. If you are willing to pay attention, you’ll notice that God is speaking to you more than you may realize.

Suddenly

Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels…

Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.”

The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?”

“You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!”

2 Kings 6:24-25; 7:1-2

The king of Aram had laid siege to the capitol city of the northern kingdom of Israel. The army surrounded the city and didn’t let any food or other products in or out of the city. Eventually the people ran out of food and money. Donkeys were considered an unclean animal and, not only were they eating them, but they were in high demand. Cannibalism had even set in. Hopelessness and despair were crushing the people of the city.

The king of Israel asked the prophet Elisha to seek the Lord for guidance. Elisha declares that their situation would change so suddenly that not only would they have food but they would have an overabundance. Prices on all goods would dramatically drop because of the outpouring of provision. Not only that, but all of this would happen within 24 hours.

One of the chief officers of the king couldn’t believe what Elisha was saying. He was a practical kind of guy. He reasoned that even if the siege somehow miraculously lifted, it would take weeks and months to get back to normal. Then it would take another set of miracles for crops to do well and for there to be an abundance. As this officer did the math, practically speaking, even if Elisha’s prophetic word came to be true, it would take months and months to happen. It was impossible for it to happen so suddenly.

Yet, that is exactly what happened. In the middle of the night, while the city of Samaria was asleep:

…the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

2 Kings 7:6-7

So within 24 hours, the Israelites had an overabundance of food, clothing, gold, silver, horses and all the other items that the Aramean army left behind. The Israelites could not have predicted what God did nor how He did it.

Over and over again in scripture we see that God is not only a God of process but also the God of the “suddenlies.” After a lifetime of having no children, Abraham and Sarah suddenly have a son. After a lifetime of deceptive actions, Jacob has a night of wrestling with the Lord and suddenly becomes Israel, the father of a nation. After 400 years in slavery, the Hebrews were suddenly set free. After 400 years of waiting for the Messiah, Jesus was suddenly born. After 30 years of living a normal life, Jesus suddenly gets baptized and starts His public ministry. After waiting 40 days from the time Jesus resurrected, the disciples suddenly experience an outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. After persecuting the early church, Saul, who becomes the apostle Paul, suddenly encounters the glorified Jesus on the road to Damascus. After being a faithful, God-fearing Gentile, Cornelius hears the gospel and suddenly has a life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit.

We worship the God of the suddenlies. There seems to be a period of waiting before every suddenly of God. But when God decides to act, things move quickly. Things change faster than what a normal process would allow for. Things fall into place in rapid succession. Through the prophet Isaiah, God describes His tendency to act in this way:

I foretold the former things long ago,
    my mouth announced them and I made them known;
    then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.

Isaiah 48:3

Notice that there is often a prophetic word first, then a time of waiting, then a sudden action from the Lord. This is a biblical pattern that happens over and over again in scripture.

I believe we are living out this pattern right now with the COVID-19 crisis. As the coronavirus was first hitting the U.S. a number of prophetic voices said that this thing would end suddenly. In other words, they were saying that it won’t take a year to get back to normal. Right now, many of the experts would disagree with those prophetic words because they are doing the math on how long normal processes would take. But what if God is about to do a “suddenly?”

Just like the people of Samaria, I have no scientific evidence to suggest that there is a “suddenly” coming. All I have is the word of the Lord delivered by prophetic people who may or may not have heard the Lord correctly. But I am choosing to lean into faith and believe that a suddenly of God is right around the corner. I don’t know if that means months, weeks or days. But in the waiting, I am going to choose to believe. Count me among the foolish ones who are choosing to live by faith and not by sight.

Lord, may your sudden action surprise and delight us all, and may Your Name be lifted up and glorified through it all!

Elisha & Jesus

Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way before you.’ [Malachi 3:1]

Luke 7:24-27

The Old Testament prophets prophesied that an Elijah-figure would precede the Messiah in order to prepare the way. Jesus identifies John the Baptist as this Elijah-figure and identifies Himself as the long awaited Messiah.

This can help us make sense of so many of the signs, wonders and miracles of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Elijah’s protege was Elisha. When Elijah was taken up to heaven, he left a his prophetic mantle to Elisha as well as a double portion of his anointing from the Spirit. So we can understand that if John the Baptist is the Elijah-figure, Jesus then becomes the Elisha-figure. Only when we compare and contrast the signs, wonders and miracles of Elisha with those of Jesus, we see that Jesus was not-so-subtly declaring that He was even greater than Elisha in word and deed.

Elisha healed the water in a well that had been contaminated (2 Kings 2:19-22). Jesus calmed an entire sea and declared that those who trusted in Him would have a well of living water springing up from within them.

Elisha caused jars to be miraculously filled with olive oil (2 Kings 4:1-7). Jesus caused the water in huge water jugs to be miraculously turned into wine.

Elisha miraculously fed 100 men with 20 loaves of bread and even had some left over (2 Kings 4:42-44). Jesus fed the 5000 with five loaves of bread and two fish and had 12 baskets of leftovers. He also fed the 4000 with seven loaves and some fish and had seven baskets of leftovers.

Elisha helped out one of his prophet buddies when an axhead flew into the Jordan River and sank. Elisha cut a stick and threw it on the water where the axhead sunk, and the axhead miraculously floated up to the surface. The prophetic friend reached his hand in the water and retrieved it. Jesus, however, walked on the Sea of Galilee. Then He invited one of His own buddies to come out on the water with Him. He enabled Peter to walk on water for a short time.

Elisha healed Naaman, who had leprosy, by telling him to wash in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10-14). Jesus healed leprous people everywhere he went with just a touch.

Elisha raised the Shunammites’s son back to life (2 Kings 4:32-37). After his death, his bones cause another man to come back to life (2 Kings 13:20-21). Jesus raised a young boy, a young girl, and Lazarus back to life. Then He Himself was raised back to life and the sheer power of His resurrection caused many in Jerusalem to be raised out of their own tombs (Matthew 27:52-53).

The point of all of this is that Jesus wasn’t random in His signs, wonders and miracles. Besides being moved with compassion for the person in front of Him, Jesus did many things that showed that He was, indeed, the Messiah. He was the one preceded by the Elijah-figure only He was much more powerful and more amazing than even Elisha was. Many of his signs, wonders and miracles fulfilled and completed all the miraculous events of the Old Testament and pointed forward to a day when the Kingdom of God would be in all its fullness on the earth.

Simple Faith

 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

2 Kings 5:9-14

When we read about the life of Elisha, almost everything he did was a foreshadowing of Jesus. This event was no different. Naaman, the commander of the armies of Aram, had leprosy and traveled south to Israel to seek healing from Elisha. When he arrived at Elisha’s house, we was told to simply go wash in the Jordan River seven times and he’d be healed. But the simplicity of this act was offensive to Naaman.

The Jordan River was not impressive back then nor is it today. Dipping in the Nile or the Euphrates may have seemed significant. Even the rivers of Aram (Abana and Pharpar) made more sense than the Jordan. Naaman was expecting a magical display of Elisha’s power. The healers and witch doctors of that day all had ceremonies and herbs and incantations for practicing their healing arts (as they still do today). They all had strict and complicated rituals for a person to follow in order to be healed. But God through Elisha didn’t need all of that. The power of the Spirit was enough to heal.

Notice that when a person has been taught their whole life that to get right with God, to get well, to get clean, one must work for it, simple grace is offensive. Earning one’s righteousness through works, though a heavy burden, comes with it the feeling of control. It comes with it the ability to retain one’s pride and self-sufficiency.

But receiving simple grace requires humility. It requires giving up on earning our righteousness, our healing, our cleansing. It demands simple obedience in receiving the grace of God. It means laying down my self-sufficiency and my control. This is why the simplicity of dipping in the Jordan was so offensive to Naaman. It was too easy. It displayed too much of God’s grace and not enough of his own works. Many people react the same way to the message of the gospel.

But if we want to be cleansed from the inside out, it requires something very simple. We only need to receive the grace of God through Jesus Christ. That’s what this weekend is all about. Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday are the once and for all declaration that God paid the price for our sin so that we wouldn’t have to. He sacrificed Himself so that we wouldn’t have to work for our righteousness. We could simply receive His righteousness, a righteousness that we don’t deserve in any way.

By believing Jesus, entrusting our life to Him, we lay down our attempts at saving ourselves through good works. We lay down our self-sufficiency and pride. Humbly, we come before the Lord and repent for our sin. And in doing so, we are given the free gift of grace. We are forgiven for all past, present and future sin, and we are given a new heart. The very Spirit of the Living God comes to dwell in us and begins to transform us from the inside out.

Naaman dipping seven times in the Jordan was a foreshadowing of the simplicity of baptism. We are washed clean from our sin, not by complicated religious rituals and incantations, but by simple faith in Jesus Christ. What He did for us was enough. We need only to believe it. We need only to take Jesus at His word.

Have you been spending your life trying to be a good person on your own merit? Apart from the transforming work of Christ, that kind of life only leads to failure and disappointment. If you haven’t already, receive the free grace of God, purchased for you by the death of Jesus. And receive a new heart, a new life, a life won for you by the resurrection of Jesus.

Don’t be offended by the simplicity of it all like Naaman was. Let go of the pride and self-sufficiency that would keep you from surrendering your life to Jesus, and invite the Holy Spirit to come and dwell within you. Pray something like this:

Father God, thank you for sending your son Jesus to take my place on the cross. Please forgive me for my sin and my selfishness. I receive your grace today. I know I don’t deserve it. I know I can’t earn it. I know Jesus did for me what I could never do for myself. I surrender my life to you, Jesus. I am yours. I ask You to come and transform my heart. Wash me clean. Make me new. Holy Spirit, I invite you to come and dwell in me and give me new life. I ask you to transform me from the inside out. I lay down my pride and my self-sufficiency. And in its place I receive your love and your peace. I ask all of this in Jesus’s name. Amen.