My husband's birthday is today. Big family dinner tonight. Let me remind everyone that he is the designated chef in our household. I told him I'd take care of dinner so naturally we're having take out. I did ask what kind of cake he wanted me to make. German Chocolate. His mama's German Chocolate.
Sigh. This is the first time he's asked for German Chocolate when I couldn't call my mother-in-law and ask her to bring the cake. This year, she'll be watching the birthday celebration from her seat in heaven. I'm quite confident that she's grinning right now as I'm digging out her recipe and coming to terms with the fact that I'll be in close contact with coconut. I'm not a fan of coconut.
Sometimes we do things not because they are easy, or convenient, or because we understand. Sometimes we do things just because we are asked, because it's honoring, because it's respectful, because we love and trust the one who asked.
2 Kings is a series of stories that follow the kings of Judah and Israel. Some of the kings follow God's requests and lead their people in wisdom. Most do not. The book is a long slide down from the glory of Israel at her prime under King Solomon to the heartbreaking conquering by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The people start in health and end in starvation. They start in freedom and end in slavery.
Just like in 1st Kings, the trajectory of the nation is determined by the character of her leaders. The thing I find interesting about 2 Kings is found in a couple of stories about individuals and their responses to authority. The direction of an individual life is forecast by daily choices.
So Elijah has just gone off to heaven in a fiery chariot and Elisha has taken up the role as head prophet. Big shoes to fill. He promptly performs a mighty miracle by purifying the poisoned water in Jericho. Clearly he's got God on his side. And then.
"Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, "Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldheaded!" When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the wood and tore up forty-two lads of their number." 2 Kings 2:23-24
I know. Kinda extreme. God clearly isn't joking around. His authority is not to be taken lightly. The consequences are extreme.
This is one of those stories that when I take out of context I can get sideways. I can view God as heavy-handed judge. Which frankly He has the right to be. He's God. I'm not. But when I view it in light of the full Biblical story I get a picture of great love. The truth is that God is utterly powerful and should not be mocked by His creation. But. God loved his creation so much that he sent Jesus to save humanity. And the mob of humanity laughed, and spit, and joked. They still do. And God still holds open the door and beckons them home.
The other story that gets me in 2 Kings is the story of Naaman. He is a Syrian Captain of the army and he ends up with leprosy. He has a young Israelite girl who was taken captive who is working in his home. She recommends Naaman ask Elisha for help.
"Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "'Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean'. But Naaman was furious." 2 Kings 5:10
The Jordan? That nasty river over in Israel? How dare this prophet tell me to go wash when he could just wave his hand and I'd be clean?
There is that fun pride again. I've been there. I don't want to say sorry, ask for help, go to counseling, bow to pray. So I stumble around with relationships broken but my pride intact. Wrong choice.
This afternoon my four-year-old was sitting watching me mix her daddy's birthday cake. I measured and mixed and stirred and successfully separated the yolks from eggs. Then I got ready to chop two cups of pecans.
I had an issue with the chopper. It's not my kitchen. I don't even know what this particular tool was called but it exploded. My little one said "Um. Mom. You are gonna be in big trouble with Dad."
I laughed and told her, "No babe. Your dad knows exactly who I am. He won't be surprised."
Naaman's servants came to him and said "My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash and be clean'?" 2 Kings 5:13
Naaman takes the advice, humbles his heart and he is healed.
You see it don't you? God knows exactly who we are. He isn't surprised by any of our messes. He also knows what it'll take to bring us home. What it requires from us is a willing heart to listen and take the next step. Try following the recipe. It'll be good.
This song always makes me want to know how these crazy Old Testament stories have anything to do with my life. It's fun to dig out the application. Check it out.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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