SOAP Journal – 20 March 2018 (2 Kings 5:1-19)

Then his servants came near and spoke 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

The story of Naaman is important in The Bible for more than one reason.

First, it is one of the very few recorded instances of a leper being cleansed in Old Testament (OT). The only other that comes to mind is the case of Miriam (Numbers 12:9-15). Jesus cleanses lepers in the New Testament, but the OT has precious few instances of a leper being cleansed.

Second, this healing is of a non-Jew. Naaman was, in fact, a captain in the Aramean army.

Third, this miracle is referenced by Jesus (Luke 4:27).

What is said about Naaman explicitly is that he was a great man with his master, and highly respected … [he] was also a valiant warrior, [and] he was a leper (v. 1). I learn some things about him by what is implied, too. For example, he took captive a young Israelite girl and the girl waited on Naaman’s wife (v. 2). This captive is the one who says that Naaman should go see the prophet Elisha and be healed (v. 3). So I can infer that his household was run in such a way that the servants felt free to offer advice and cared about the well-being of the heads of the household. I also infer that he is a proud man. When he meets Elisha, the prophet tells Naaman, via messenger, to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman is initially offended and angry about this instruction, but is prevailed upon by his servants to do what the prophet says (vv. 8-14). Good counsel prevails and pride is defeated, because he humbles himself to do what the prophet said instead of insisting on his own way. I also see that Naaman is wise. When he is healed, he goes back to Elisha and confesses that the LORD is the only God. He also looks ahead to the times he knows are coming when the king he serves is going to order him (Naaman) to stand in a place of idol worship and Naaman asks to be pardoned. He does not plan to participate, but he will have to be present.

I am not a leper. Not physically. However, like everyone, I began my life as a spiritual leper. I was walking around with the sentence of death hanging over my soul. It was not a matter of if, but when I would pass from this world and my soul pass into eternal punishment. Like Naaman, we are all presented with a very simple task: wash and be clean. Naaman was told to wash in the Jordan. I am told to wash in the blood of Christ. Naaman’s washing cleansed his body and the resulting faith enlivened his soul. My washing in the blood of Christ gives life to my soul.

As I walk with God, He may tell me to do things. Like Naaman, I am wont to become offended when God commands a simple thing. It seems too easy and I can think of better ways to do that same thing. Let Naaman’s servants speak to me, too. If God had commanded some great thing, would I not have striven to rise to that challenge? How much more when God commands me to do some simple thing?

Father, thank You that Your commands are simple. Seldom easy. Often simple. Your commands require me to put away pride and to humbly do the thing You tell me. Please remind me that I feel stirred to rise to the great tasks — to slay the dragons and such — but feel offended by the small tasks — to make sure that my armor is in working order. The great task, I have learned, is impossible without the small, but still the pride within me rails. Please, as the hymn says, pour contempt on all my pride and bring me to the place where I can be washed and cleansed and live. Bring me to the place of simple obedience to simple instruction so my faith reigns in me and my pride is put to death.


SOAP Journal – 19 March 2018 (2 Kings 4:38-44)

So he set before them, and they ate and had left over, according to the word of the LORD.

2 Kings 4:44

There are two miracles recorded in these verses, but only one of them stands out to me.

Verse 38 sets the stage by telling us that there was a famine in the land. The people were hungry. So Elisha told his servant to put on the large pot and boil some stew. One of the sons of the prophets went out to gather herbs to season the stew and saw some wild gourds (v. 39) which he gathered and sliced into the pot. The trouble was that this particular man’s botany was suspect and the gourd happened to be poisonous (v. 40). Elisha told them to bring some meal and toss it into the pot. They did as he instructed and the stew was no longer poisonous.

Some indeterminate time later, a man brings an offering of first fruits and gives it to Elisha. Elisha tells his servant to Give them to the people that they may eat (v. 42). His servant replied that twenty loaves of bread and ears of fresh grain were not enough for a hundred men. Elisha reiterated the instruction and added that the LORD said there would be leftovers.

And it is this second miracle that catches my attention. The miracle that Elisha participates in here is a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do later. On two different occasions, Jesus fed thousands with nothing more than a few loaves of bread and some fish. Here, Elisha feeds a hundred or more with twenty loaves of bread and some fresh grain. This is far from the only time that a prophet was part of a miracle that was later echoed and amplified by Jesus. In fact, those miracles that are echoed and amplified act as a connective tissue between Jesus and the prophets. The similarity between them helps me see that the same God is acting in both instances and the differences between them cause me to pause and reflect on why that difference might be there.

This leaves me with two thoughts.

One, God is able to supply my needs. He can even supply them when some well-intentioned people accidentally poison that provision. This caveat reminds me to look for the best intentions of people who are trying to help. They may mess up (we all do) and their mistake may be potentially catastrophic, but God can fix anything. Even death is not final for Him.

Two, the same power that was at work in the prophets — viz., God’s power — was at work in the life of Jesus. The same power that was at work in the life of Jesus is promised to every believer. That includes me. Do I see that power at work in my life?

Father, thank You for this connection between the prophets and Jesus. Thank You for this reminder that it is Your power and Your Spirit at work through all. Please work through me.

SOAP Journal – 16 March 2018 (2 Kings 4:8-37)

The woman conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her.

2 Kings 4:17

Elisha frequently passed through Shunem and a woman and her husband in that city often hosted the prophet and his servant as they passed through. She went so far as to ask her husband to build an addition onto their home for Elisha and Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, to stay in when they came to visit. Elisha appreciates the generosity and hospitality and asks what good turn he can do for her. She is well situated, but Gehazi mentions that she has no son and her husband is getting on in years. Elisha tells her that she will have a son about that time the following year. And she does.

The years go by and the boy grows and one day visits his father in the fields, telling his father that his head hurts. His father sends him home and the boy dies in his mother’s arms. The situation looks grim, but the woman heads over to see Elisha. As did the widow in the previous account, the woman does not ask for anything, only tells Elisha the situation. But there is an additional element to this story, the Shunammite refuses to go back to her home and the body of her son without Elisha. She is not going back to the situation that sent her to seek God via the prophet unless God, as represented by the prophet, comes back with her. Elisha does go with her and raises the boy from the dead, giving him back to his mother.

This story contains elements that are similar to others. The woman being given a prophecy of a son when her husband is on in years echoes the account of Sarah and Isaac. The woman receiving her son back from the dead echoes the experience of Mary with Jesus. Interesting to me is the sort of negative of this story in Jairus coming to Jesus. In that account, it is a father coming to Jesus to raise his daughter from the dead. In a way, it is a reminder that resurrection stories are rather more common in The Bible than one might think. And rightly so, resurrection is the hope of the believer.

In addition to that, this Shunammite woman’s story is also an allegory of a life with God. She invites the prophet, the representative of God, into her home and life and even makes more room so he can stay longer and more comfortably. I, as a believer, should be rearranging my life — inner and outer — to accommodate Jesus. The woman is not looking for anything more than to be in the presence of God’s representative. When Elisha asks what should be done for her, she answers with the verbal equivalent of a shrug. She is well situated in life and does not need anything. Which gives God, through Elisha, the opportunity to give a blessing that the woman was not expecting. I, too, often receive unexpected and delightful blessings when I am at my most content in simply living in God’s presence. The woman goes to Elisha when tragedy strikes and does not leave him until something has been done to make the situation right. She is in that an example of persevering prayer. She refused to go back to the body of her son until Elisha went with her. She may have been looking for comfort. She may have been looking for a miracle. All she says is, “I told you not to lie to me.” It is possible for me to feel like God has lied to me; like He made a promise and started to fulfill it only to pull back. I ought also to cling to the feet of God until He comes into the situation in which I feel hopeless or abandoned or like God is not making good on His promises. He will make good on every promise He has made and He will walk with me into the difficult situation if only I will persevere.

Let me make room for God in my life — my time, my thoughts, my plans, my all. Let me not limit God to blessings that I can conceive of, but leave room for Him to bless as He sees fit. Let me continue to pursue God’s presence in difficult times until He enters the situation and makes it right, however He chooses to make it right.

Father, thank You that You have made room for me. Please teach me to do the same for You. Thank You that You have blessings I cannot conceive in mind for me. Please give me a heart and mind that look for You as my chief blessing and all else will be a pleasant surprise. Thank You that You are near to those who are hurting and in difficult times. Please remind me to cling to You and not let go until You have made the rough ways smooth.

SOAP Journal – 15 March 2018 (2 Kings 4:1-7)

Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”

2 Kings 4:2

The miracle of the widow’s oil is fairly well known. A widow of one of the sons of the prophets comes to Elisha to let him know that she is deep in debt and her creditors want to take her sons as payment. Elisha tells her how to miraculously solve the problem. She goes in faith and does what she was instructed and her immediate problem — deep debt — as well as long term problem — provision for the future — is solved. I want to consider the request, the response, and the result.

The request was not so much a request as a simple statement of need. This widow had debts enough that the creditors were coming to collect whatever she had. She needed her sons. Sons were the ancient world’s retirement program. Sons inherited the land and worked it to supply the parents when the parents grew too old to work the land themselves. For women, this was even more vital, since women could not generally inherit land or work the farm. There were exceptions, but the rule was that women did not inherit and could work very few professions. So taking her sons would be roughly analogous to seizing all of the assets left by her husband. She was in a difficult spot.

The response came in two parts.

The first part was an inquiry. She just said she did not have enough to pay the creditors. But what did she have? God often poses this question before doing something miraculous. For example, He asked Moses what was in his hand before turning the staff into a snake. And Jesus asked the disciples what food they did have at both of the miraculous feedings of thousands. It may be that God wants us to be reminded of our absolute need. It may be that God is showing us how little He can work with in order to meet our needs. It may be for so many other reasons of which I cannot conceive. Regardless of His reasons, God is recorded to call attention to what those in need have.

The second part of the response was an instruction: go borrow as many jars and pots and whatnot as you can and pout out what you have into them.  God has been known to do things like this, too. He will make the provision or the scope of the miracle proportionate to the faith of the individual. He tells kings to tear up bits of cloth and chides them for not going further and receiving greater blessing. This widow had some hardcore faith, because she borrows jars and pots and whatnot and pours oil.

The result of her request and her response in faith was enough oil to sell and pay her debts and live on the rest of the proceeds. The result was provision for her present and future needs. And that result was in direct proportion to how much she thought God could do. She might have borrowed only a few vessels and so received little provision. Instead, she borrows so many that she and her sons sound a little surprised when they run out.

This is a reminder to me that God does not need me to prescribe how to meet my needs, He only wants me to acknowledge my needs and leave the method of supply to His discretion. He may, as with this widow and in many other instances, use what I have on hand to supply what I do not. He may supply in another way. He is not limited so long as I do not limit Him. And I should go as far as my faith will take me if He involves me in the supply of my needs. I never know what blessing I forfeit by trusting God too little.

Father, thank You for supplying all our needs. Please forgive the littleness of my faith and grow it.

SOAP Journal – 14 March 2018 (2 Kings 3)

But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?”

2 Kings 3:11a

The book of Kings hits a soft rewind in this chapter. Back in 1 Kings 22:50, we are told that Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of his father David, and Jehoram his son became king in his place. In 2 Kings 3, the account goes back to a specific battle that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram the son of Ahab were involved in as allies. Moab rebelled against the rule of Israel and Jehoram decided to go out and put down the rebellion. He asked his ally, Jehoshaphat, to help and Jehoshaphat agreed. En route, the army came to a place with no water and Jehoram attributes the lack of water to the LORD bringing failure on the allied kings. Jehoram chooses not to remember that he chose to route without consulting the LORD. Jehoshaphat asks for a prophet, just as he had done with Ahab, and Elisha talks with the kings for Jehoshaphat’s sake. The LORD provides water and the water provided acts as bait to lure out the Moabites and bring victory to the kings of Israel and Judah.

Three men and each one has something to teach me.

Jehoram teaches me not to blame God when my plans go awry. It is easy to make plans and think that they are just not what God wants when things go pear shaped. In truth, it could be my poor planning and lack of consultation with God that leads to my failure. Jehoram was victorious, but that was despite him, not because of him.

Jehoshaphat teaches me that I need to turn to God when I need something. Previously, Jehoshaphat wanted God’s counsel on whether or not to even go up to battle. In this instance, he wants God’s provision for a need. Jehoshaphat is often recorded and going to the LORD when he had a need, great or small, and finding provision there.

Elisha teaches me that I should be willing to speak to anyone for the sake of God’s people. It is because of Jehoshaphat that Elisha talks with Jehoram. It is because of Christ that I ought to be willing to speak to anyone God brings across my path. I do not know why God has brought them across my path and it may be that something I say might help them in some way.

Father, thank You for these lessons. Please cause them to find good soil in my heart that they might take root, grow, and produce fruit in my life to Your glory. Please teach me to accept blame for the times when my plans go awry and not to blame You or think that my poor planning is Your disapproval of the plan. Let me, instead, seek Your counsel and every other need I have. I lack wisdom and should seek it in You. I have many other needs that You are abundantly able to supply if I will but ask. And please control my tongue; that I speak when and to whom You want me to.

SOAP Journal – 13 March 2018 (2 Kings 2)

Now when the sons of the prophets who [were] at Jericho opposite [him] saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him.

2 Kings 2:15

All along the journey to the place where God took Elijah up in a fiery chariot, the sons of the prophets had been telling Elisha that God was taking Elijah from him that day. Every time they said it, Elisha told them that he knew. When the time came, Elijah asked Elisha what he (Elijah) should do for him (Elisha). Elisha asked for a double-portion of the Spirit that rested on Elijah and Elijah said that Elisha could have it on condition that he saw Elijah when God took him up to Heaven. Elisha made sure that he saw that event — Who would not have wanted to see that? — and the Spirit that had been on Elijah was doubly on Elisha. Elisha demonstrated this at the Jordan, where Elijah had been taken up, and the sons of the prophets recognized what had happened. The account goes on to record a couple more miracles performed by Elisha —healing bitter water and cursing some young men who were mocking God’s prophet (some of those young men were eaten by a pair of bear sows).

The place where I want to focus is where the sons of the prophets recognize Elisha and the spiritual successor to Elijah.

Good leaders and counselors are difficult to come by and Elijah was a good counselor. He spoke the truth to the king and the people. He squared up with false prophets and proved the falsehood of their gods. He told king and commoner what wanted: Stop waffling between idolatry and worship of the True and Living God. Such a counselor would be extremely difficult to replace and his successor could easily be called into question.

But that is not the case. God makes abundantly sure that the successor to Elijah is clear to anyone who is paying attention. Where Elijah spoke the truth to all, Elisha did the same. Where Elijah squared up against false prophets, Elisha squared up with the armies of idolatrous kings. And Elisha continued to tell everyone what God wanted: Worship the LORD.

Too often, God making succession clear is lacking in spiritual movements. Since God does not change, the failure must be on our side. Instead of looking for the man or woman whom God attests as the successor to a great leader or counselor by examining the work of God in their lives, we look at other measures or simply look to who seems to be the next in the chain of command. This only leads to strife. And we have the chutzpah to be surprised when it happens.

Let me look not so much to organizational succession or who said what about whom. Instead, let me examine the fruit of God in the life of anyone who would try to lay claim to leadership or offer counsel. If God’s Spirit confirms anyone as a trustworthy counselor or a good leader, then I can bank on that. Otherwise, I am just taking unadvised chances.

Father, as there are places in my own life where spiritual leadership and counsel is needful, please give me Your eyes and mind when I consider whose leadership and counsel I should trust. In the movement in which I have grown up, please give our pastors and teachers this same mind and restore the unity that comes with the leading of Your Holy Spirit.

SOAP Journal – 12 March 2018 (1 Kings 22:41-2 Kings 1:18)

Then he said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die.’”

2 Kings 1:16

The last few verses of chapter 22 speak briefly of Jehoshaphat before moving on to say that his son succeeded him. The focus of this passage is Ahaziah — primarily, his end.

Ahaziah had an accident: he fell through a lattice in his palace and did not seem to be recovering. He sent messengers to Ekron to inquire of Baal-zebub about whether or not he (Ahaziah) was going to recover, but God (one of my favorite phrases) told Elijah to have a word with the messengers. He intercepts them and sends them back to Ahaziah with a message from God.

Ahaziah does not like the news, so he sends a captain of fifty with his soldiers. Angry captain is angry and gets confrontational with Elijah. He calls Elijah a man of God and must have had a note in his voice that threatened bad things, because Elijah replies with the comment that if he (Elijah) is a man of God, then fire should come from heaven and consume the captain and his soldiers. Sure enough, the fire comes. This process of sending soldiers repeats and the second group is consumed in the same way. The cycle repeats again — because Ahaziah has not learned form the first two occurrences — and this captain comes humbly and just asks Elijah to please come see the king. God tells Elijah to go. Elijah goes and repeats the message to Ahaziah who dies, exactly as God said he would.

There are a few players in this drama and each has a lesson to teach me, I think.

Ahaziah teaches the lesson that I need to look for answers in the right place. If I want to know whether or not someone will recover from persistent illness or serious injury, I am best served to ask God, Who holds the power of life and death in His hand. This is not to say that I should not go to the doctor. I absolutely should go to the doctor if I am ill or injured. I just need to keep things in perspective. The doctors are not God, no matter how much medical knowledge they have — and they have quite a lot. I should pray en route to the doctor and pray in the waiting room and pray while waiting for a diagnosis if it is that sort of illness or injury. It is God Who can heal me and the doctors are a means by which He can do so, just as a prophet is a means whereby God can speak to people.

The captains teach that I need to approach God and His messengers in humility. Two captains came up strutting their stuff and trying to throw their weight around. Those captains never went back down the hill. One captain realized that he was dealing with God and came humbly and respectfully. That captain walked back down the hill and went on with his life.

Elijah teaches that I need to listen to God. God gives Elijah a message for Ahaziah and Elijah delivers the message. God, apparently, warns Elijah about the first two captains, so Elijah does not go with them. God lets Elijah know that the third captain is safe, so Elijah goes along with him. All through this account, God speaks and Elijah listens. That should also be true of my life.

Let me look for answers in the right place, approach God humbly, and listen for God’s voice.

Thank You, Father, for these reminders to seek Your counsel, approach You humbly, and to listen. Thank You for hearing when I do come to You with my questions. Please work these truths into me so they become part and parcel of how I go about my life and walk with You.