"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
January 31, 2018
If I had to choose my favorite person in the Bible (other than God, Jesus, Holy Spirit!), it would be a toss-up between Elijah and Elisha. I love their faith, their flaws, their obedience to God even when it was unpopular and not well-received..... and I love their stories.
My pastor has been preaching from 2 Kings the past few weeks, and this past Sunday used this particular story as her sermon text. She used this story to teach about honor, but as I sat there listening, I received a different revelation from this same passage of scripture. That's what is so amazing about the Word of God: you can read the same scriptures over and over again, and glean something new each time; or you can hear a sermon or lesson that brings new insight, yet, the Holy Spirit reveals something completely different to those listening.
In 2 Kings 4:8-37 read this story: One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem and passed by the home of a wealthy couple. The woman urged Elisha to eat a meal with them; and from then on, every time he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.
The lady told her husband, "I'm sure that this is a holy man of God. Let's build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by."
One day Elisha returned to Shunem and went to this upper room to rest. He said to his servant, Gehazi, "Tell this woman that we appreciate the great kindness that she has shown us. Ask her, 'What can do we for you? Can we put in a good word for you to the king or the the commander of the army?''' The woman's response was, "No, my family takes good care of me."
Later, Elisha once again asked Gehazi what they could do for this lady. Gehazi replied, "She doesn't have a son and her husband is an old man."
Elisha asked his servant to call the woman back again and told her, "Next year at this time you will be holding a son in your arms!"
She cried, "No, my lord! O man of God, don't deceive me and get my hopes up like this!"
But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year, she had a son, just as Elisha had said.
When the son was a few years older, he went out to help his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he cried out, "My head hurts! My head hurts!" His father told one of his servants to carry the boy home to his mother.
The servant took the boy home and the mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died. She carried him up to the rooftop room and laid him on Elisha's bed. (Scripture doesn't give the boys age; but he was small enough to sit on her lap and for her to carry him up the steps to the prophet's room on the rooftop.) Then she sent a message to her husband, "Send one of the servants and a donkey so that I can hurry to the man of God and come right back." He asked why she wanted to go that day and her response was, "It will be okay!"
She saddled the donkey and said to the servant, "Hurry! Don't slow down unless I tell you!"
As the woman approached Elisha at Mount Carmel, he saw her coming in the distance. He told Gehazi to run out to meet her and ask if everything was all right with her, her husband, and her son. Her response was, "Yes, everything is fine."
But when she came to Elisha, she fell to the ground and caught hold of his feet. Gehazi started to push her away, but Elisha said, "Let her alone. She is deeply troubled, but the Lord has not told me what it is."
Then the woman said, "Did I ask you for a son, my Lord? And didn't I say, 'Don't deceive me and get my hopes up'?"
Elisha told his servant to go with her and lay his staff on the boys face, but the mother said, "As surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, I will not go home unless you go with me!" So Elisha returned with her.
When Elisha arrived, the child was indeed dead, lying there on his bed. He went in alone and shut the door and prayed to the Lord. Then he lay down on the child's body, placing his mouth on the child's mouth, and his eyes on the child's eyes, and his hands on the child's hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the child's body began to grow warm again. Elisha got up, walked back and forth across the room once, then stretched himself out again on the child. This time the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes!
Elisha summoned Gehazi and told him to call the child's mother. When she came in, Elisha said, "Here, take your son!" She fell at his feet and bowed before him, overwhelmed with gratitude. Then she took her son in her arms and carried him downstairs.
There are a couple things that spoke to me as I listened to the story in church this past Sunday. First of all, this woman was just going about her daily life when she had her first encounter with Elisha. He walked by her house and she invited him in for a meal with her and her husband. I imagine that they must have had a great rapport and established a friendship over time, because Elisha would stop by for a meal each time he went by their home.
The couple were wealthy and she thought it would be a good idea if they build Elisha his own room on their rooftop, so that he would have his own space and a place to sleep whenever he came by; so that's what they did.
I see her as being someone having the gift of hospitality, opening her home up to Elisha and making sure that he had everything that he needed whenever he stopped by. I'm sure she had the servants keep his room dusted and prepared at all times in readiness for him. She may have told him, "Just come in and make yourself at home; anytime, day or night! If we're not here, go ahead and come in and have our servants prepare you a meal or draw you a bath; feel free to ask for whatever you need. You are always welcome to stop by anytime you want, and stay as long as you want!" She did so without ever expecting anything in return.
Sometimes in life, God will unexpectedly bring those special people into our life whom we will share a good rapport with and feel an immediate connection. We may be going about our daily business, as usual, when we meet someone and they end up being a close friend or someone whom we hold in high regard. Other times, it may not necessarily be someone with whom we build a relationship, but someone that we feel as if we've known them all our life upon our meeting them and having a conversation. We just make a connection and feel comfortable chatting with them.
This past summer, my sister, Janie, and I experienced this. We were in California for the A/G General Council, where Janie was interpreting for the deaf. Upon our arrival, we met up with three older cousins and their spouses for lunch. I had met them years ago and had seen them a couple of times, but it had been the summer of 2000 when we had last been together. Janie doesn't remember ever meeting them; due to her being married and living away when they had made the trip to Missouri to visit family. But we all immediately felt a deep connection, as if we had known each other all of our lives.
God knows who we need in our lives and when we need them, and He orchestrates things so that our paths will cross. He loves us that much!! Whether it be for a once in a lifetime lunch, or a friendship that will develop and last a lifetime; God places special people in our path for a reason.
Elisha appreciated the kindness of this woman and he wanted to do something for her in return, even though she never expected or wanted anything. He even offered to speak to the king or commander of the army on her behalf and put in a good word for her. But her response was, "I have everything I need and am well cared for by my family!"
Wow! Elisha wasn't just offering to buy her a loaf of bread or a new candle or a piece of cloth for a new dress; he was offering to go all the way to the king to put in a good word for her! That's quite a gift!!
Gehazi had noticed that she didn't have a son, so when asked again by Elisha, he mentioned that fact. Back in that time, having sons was vitally important. But her husband was old, and I'm sure she had made peace with the fact that she would never conceive and have her own child. That was not even a consideration when asked by Elisha what she would want. So when he brought up the subject and told her that by that time next year she would be holding her own son in her arm, she was overwhelmed. In fact, she seemed to not have any hope that that could even be a possibility! Her response was, "Please don't deceive me and get my hopes us!"
Sometimes when we have hoped and prayed for something for years on end, and have waited without seeing any results, we feel our hope ebbing away and it becomes hard to believe that it will ever become a reality. After a while, we begin to question if perhaps what we're asking for is not God's will and that His answer seems to be no, for whatever reason. We may hold onto a thread of hope from time to time, but after a while, we feel that we need to let go of that thread and move forward, for our own peace of mind. So finally, we give up, believing that God must have another plan, therefore, we need to accept His will and stop hoping for this thing to come to pass.
Then when someone tells us that they have a word from God for us, or we have a dream, or hear a sermon, or the Holy Spirit speaks through someone regarding that area and it reawakens something within us that we had suppressed, it's difficult to know how to respond. We may tell God, "Please don't deceive me or give me hope, unless this is really going to happen!" We want to believe that it will really take place, but don't want to be disappointed again. But we find that a spark of hope has been lit within us, and long to see what we have long awaited and prayed for finally come to pass.
That moment may finally arrive when we hold in our arms that which we have awaited for so many years, and we are so grateful! We may have held hope in a strong grip for a long time, then for a period of time that hope may have grown dim and almost died, but then the time came when hope was restored and God gave us what we had long yearned and believed for.
We are overwhelmed with excitement and our hope and faith are fully restored once again! We testify about what the Lord has done and encourage others to never lose faith and to always hold onto hope, regardless how thin that thread may become at times. We, who needed encouragement and hope only a short time ago, now becomes the one who offers those very things to others.
Then one day, it may feel as if death comes in and steals away what God has blessed us with! What?! Why would this happen?!? Perhaps in that moment we feel as if it would have been better to never have experienced that answered prayer at all, then to experience it and then seemingly lose it. That's when we have to make a choice in how we respond!
When this woman's son died, she could have wailed and blamed Elisha and God for taking away her son. She could have called her husband to come and help her prepare her son's body for burial. She could have chosen to bury her miracle, then become bitter and grief-stricken and filled with anger because he was taken from her; perhaps even closing up Elisha's room and telling him that he was no longer a welcomed guest in her home.
But she chose a different path! She carried her son up to Elisha's room and laid him on her bed, then requested that her husband send her a servant and a donkey. When her husband asked why she wanted to go that day, she answered, "It will be okay!" I'm not sure if she even told him that their son had died, or if he thought that she was going to get a doctor or medication for his aching head. But away she and the servant went, as fast as they could go, to find the prophet of God. When Gehazi asked how she and her husband and their son were doing, she answered, "Everything is fine!"
When she responded to her husband and Gehazi, "It will be okay," and "Everything is fine," I don't think she was was in denial that her son had died, nor was she hiding her grief. I believe that she knew her son was dead, but she had seen that Elisha had a direct connection with God and believed that if he would come with her and pray, then her son would be revived.
She wasn't there to talk to anyone other than Elisha. She was a woman with a mission! Elisha was the one who had spoken the promise over her regarding her having a son. Therefore, he was the one that she was going after when that promise died. She didn't want to deal with his servant, she wanted to go straight to the man of God!
When we find ourselves in a position where it may seem as if our promise has died, we have to choose what our response is going to be. Are we going to wail and grieve the loss and bury our miracle; or are we going to go straight to God?
Honestly, I needed to have that personal revelation and ask myself those questions. I had grown weary in holding onto hope and had begun to question whether or not I needed to let go completely and move on, for my own peace of mind. For several days it had been an internal struggle, which became a spiritual struggle. When do we let go, trusting that God has another plan; and when do we tenaciously hold on, determining not to let go, believing that what we are believing for IS God's plan?!
I believe that God gave me the revelation that I needed to hold onto hope, not letting go until the window of heaven opened. When God opens that window, then things can happen very suddenly, regardless of how difficult or impossible the situation looks.
I want to encourage you today, if you are struggling with a situation where it feels like your hope has dwindled from a strong rope to a slender thread. Hold on, trust God, and tenaciously don't let go!
I'm sure every prophet was well known all over the land. They probably didn't have any pictures of them published all over, but people probably all knew a prophet by their clothes, and stories and reputations traveling ahead of them everywhere they went.
As a major celebrity, it would probably have been very hard for a prophet to have a normal peer-to-peer friendship with anyone. It seems like stars in our time are surrounded by people who want something from them, or are more interested in their reputation than the actual person behind the stardom. And many people are too intimidated to even speak to them.
So, when Elisha met a woman who wanted to feed him, and visit without wanting something from him, it must have been refreshing. Elisha was happy to do something for her. But she never asked for anything, even when she was prompted to. And it wasn't Elisha who offered. He had his servant offer instead.
This woman, and likely her husband and son, had a good, friendly relationship with the prophet of God. And it paid off, even though she didn't really ask for anything.
We can have that same relationship with God. Many people seem overly intimidated by God, so don't believe we can be friends. And many others only want to get chummy with God for what they can get out of the relationship. But there is a great area between the two, where we can worship God, and still be friends.
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken
6 boneless chicken breast halves
24-ounce jar salsa
Juice from one lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 package taco seasoning
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (optional)
In a slow cooker mix together the salsa, lime juice, cilantro, taco seasoning and jalapenos (if using). Add the chicken and coat with the salsa mixture. (That is what the recipe reads. I normally just put the chicken in the crock pot and dump all the other ingredients on top of it!)
Allow the chicken to cook on low for 6 hours. When chicken is tender, take two forks and shred the meat; stir meat in with the salsa mixture to combine.
Serve in flour tortillas as chicken tacos. Top with avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, and favorite toppings. Can also be served on tortilla chips as chicken nachos.
More Bulletin Bloopers:
For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
The pastor will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing "Break Forth Into Joy".
This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.
Bertha Belch, a missionary from Africa, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Methodist. Come hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.
On a church bulletin during the minister's illness: GOD IS GOOD; Dr. Hargreaves is better.
The rosebud on the altar this morning is to announce the birth of David Alan Belzer, the sin of Reverend and Mrs. Julius Belzer.
Obedience is less painful than regret. - Christine Caine
We love you!
Loretta & Jon