The Appointment Elijah Did Not Keep (Part Two)

2 Kings 2:1-14

Fifty men from the sons of the prophets came and stood observing them at a distance while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water, which parted to the right and left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground (2:7-8 CSB).

The Bible tells us reality of the supernatural. With our physical senses, we experience the natural realm constantly. This is the usual and the normal. Anything supernatural is a very unusual experience. But it does happen! When Sharon and I saw the pictures of three new arteries that grew on my heart in answer to prayer, we had a glimpse of God’s supernatural power. (The arteries weren’t there when I had a heart attack, but they were there a year later after prayer.) When we see people who have lived in rebellion against God suddenly turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:28b NIV), we also experience God’s supernatural power in what is called the new birth.

God is able to reveal his will to mankind. The Lord told Elijah, Elisha, and the company of the prophets what he was going to do, and they were able to understand his revelation. In the Bible, God speaks plainly to us. Our failures to understand are related to our failures in listening. Some people are unwilling to invest the time required to listen. Many are prejudiced against what the Lord says and do not want to listen. Others listen through the grid of the traditions of people and only hear what they have been told to hear. And we could give other examples. But when we simply and attentively listen, we discover that God’s word is plain. The men in this account knew what God was going to do. As God was able to speak to them in dreams, visions or some other way, so he is able to speak to us through his written word. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).

God is able to act in the natural realm with supernatural power. Remember the crossing of the Jordan river, when Israel crossed into the Promised Land. God acted through Elijah to do something similar for his two prophets. Here was something beyond natural experience. I have said to people in Pennsylvania, “Which of you rolls up his coat, strikes the Delaware River, and crosses over on dry ground when you want to go to the Jersey shore?” They probably use one of the bridges to cross the river. But in this account, we are talking about supernatural power, displayed according to God’s will. It prepared the younger prophet Elisha for what the Lord was about to do for Elijah.

Elijah would not keep the usual human appointment with death. God would act to take of Elijah alive from this world. Death brings separation. You talk with someone, but then death seals their lips and you can speak with your loved one no longer. You experience the pain of separation. But this pain of separation would not be the suffering caused by death, but the shocking intervention of the supernatural. Elisha was talking to Elijah when suddenly a chariot of fire separated the two. Elisha then saw Elijah go up to heaven in a whirlwind.

Why did God act with his supernatural power then? Because he wanted to make his power known and honor his servants. The Lord chooses his times to so act. One day, he will take his people to be with him forever. Some will be raised from the dead. Others will rise alive to meet the Lord in the air. Our faith looks forward to supernatural acts, all done by the great power of the true and living God.

Grace and peace, David

Something Special Will Happen!

dscn3808Luke 1:26-28

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you” (HCSB).

Luke wrote “an orderly account” (Luke 1:3) about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The next scene in the Third Gospel opens with a connecting phrase: “In the sixth month….” The time refers to Elizabeth’s pregnancy. The forerunner of the Messiah was on his way. Next, wrote about the first step in the coming of Messiah the Lord himself. It started with a private conversation between Gabriel, God’s messenger, and a young woman named Mary.

Luke tells us a couple of facts about Mary. First, Mary was a virgin. She was sexually inexperienced and hardly a candidate for an angel to tell her that she was going to have a baby. This has always been a stumbling-block to antisupernaturalists, but their world and life view is indefensible, unable to account for many facts of human experience. However, even to those who believe in God and supernatural power, the announcement of a virgin birth is unique. From what we know of the culture of Mary’s time, she was probably about twelve to fifteen years old. So then, a very young woman was about to hear the greatest announcement in history in a private encounter with the angel of the Lord.

Second, Mary lived in Nazareth, a town in Galilee. Nazareth is about seventy miles northeast of Jerusalem, and it is surrounded on all sides by hills, except on its southern side. The village was unremarkable; no notable events occurred there up to Mary’s time. Since the prophet Micah had announced that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), there was nothing in Mary’s situation to prepare her for Gabriel’s message. She was simply an ordinary teenage girl.

Third, Mary was legally engaged to Joseph, one of many descendants of King David. We later find out that he was a carpenter. The line of David, almost six hundred years after the Babylonian Captivity of Israel, had been reduced to obscurity and poverty. One of my ancestors was one of the founders of what is now the University of Pittsburgh, about two hundred years ago. They have never called me to invite me to a special event. I never expect them to. The point is that after six hundred years, though Joseph was in David’s royal line, he and Mary were not expecting the kingdom to come to their family. They were poor peasants. They would live and die in obscurity, and maybe someday God might do something with David’s house.

However, one day God stepped into Mary’s life! God’s messenger angel went to Mary with a great announcement. Listen to his opening words, “Rejoice, favored woman!” In Luke’s Gospel, the message begins with the typical ancient Greek greeting, “Rejoice!” Gabriel urges her to be glad. True happiness was on the horizon. The joyful God had a happy task for her. We should not pass by this word. Joy is one of the great words and ideas of the new covenant age. God’s people are to be joyful people (Philippians 4:4). Joy is our portion, because in Jesus the Messiah, we are right with God (Romans 5:1-11). In Mary’s Son, the kingdom of God was about to happen, and his kingdom is a kingdom of joy! For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17 HCSB, my emphasis).

In his opening words, Gabriel gave Mary a reason to rejoice. She is a “favored woman”. Mary had received favor with God. In what way? The Lord was “with her”. Since Mary clearly knew God’s word (see her words of praise, Luke 1:46-55), these words would resonate in her. When people were told that the Lord was with them, it was a statement that something special would happen to or through them. The Lord was with Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, and Gideon. All of them were great patriarchs and leaders of God’s people. The last two men were great warriors. But now, God spoke these words of promise and assurance to a woman. The Lord would be with her in a more wonderful way. She would become the mother of Immanuel, “God with us”. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23 HCSB).

Grace and peace, David