Words of Agur Proverbs The identity of Agur is not known; of interest in this section is the series of numerical sayings in verses , , , , , In the original Hebrew, each of the verses in begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, for ease in memorization. This literary genre appears in the Hebrew text in The alphabetical acrostic was beloved by biblical writers see Psalms ; 25; 34; ; ; ; and especially , probably as a memory-aiding device.
Scholars continue to find new hidden or obvious acrostics in biblical literature. Every speaker uses the device of reporting a real or imagined first-person observation and then drawing a conclusion from it. See also Psalm , and Sirach for further first-person materials. Some of these forms were likely invented just for the sheer aesthetic delight, much as one might enjoy composing limericks or rhymes. Examples in Proverbs include: , 19; , 12; ; ; , 24; ; b; see also Ecclesiastes , 13; , 3, 5, 8; Sirach The genre might also serve a pedagogical purpose: one can imagine a teacher asking, "What is better than a house full of feasting with strife?
Since much of the material in the book was originally intended for young men who would grow up to take positions of leadership in the government, efforts must be made to address the materials in ways also relevant to feminine readers. The warnings against the "loose woman" in chapters 5 and 7 will obviously have to be considered in the context of sexual responsibility in general.
When read in the context of family devotions, the reader may have to exercise editorial freedom to adjust or even excise certain passages. These speeches in chapters and are dominated by the imperative mood. Crucial to the interpretation of each of these pieces is the identification of the subunits within each chapter. For example: chapter 1 consists of , and ; one's own sense of style or a good study Bible will be helpful in this task.
The use of the imperative mood means that the material was designed to be used for providing advice or instruction to an individual or a group. While chapters were formerly considered to be the latest material in the book, recent scholarship contests that view. These were also probably composed for aesthetic delight; see ; b; ; ; ; Once again the form lends itself to teaching, with the teacher asking: "Name three or four things that are small but wise" Or "Name three or four things that evoke wonder" Discussions would easily follow.
There are a few examples of the riddle in biblical literature. Again, the form is a playful one that lends itself to a pedagogical setting: "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has redness of eyes? Note that this is a real question-and-answer riddle with the answer in The piece is obviously a warning against excessive drinking; a discussion of proper use of wine could follow.
Note other examples of riddles in Judges and 1 Kings First Esdras 3 and 4 shows some royal bodyguards passing the time with word games! These dominate chapters of the book. For clear examples note the sayings in , 5, 7; , 12, 13, 14, These sayings can be taken one at a time, read, reflected on, or discussed. A tip for interpreting similes comparisons using "like" or "as" : begin by concentrating on the "like" half of the saying "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout" ; what is the point of picturing a gold ring in a swine's snout?
These sayings could also point to a pedagogical setting, with the teacher asking, "Why are these two alike? The sense of "fear" is not "to be afraid of" but to honor or respect. Living responsibly under God means practicing friendship and neighborliness. The first element in the wisdom that this biblical book advocates is a right relationship with God.
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The human side of this relationship is expressed in the notion of "the fear of the Lord. The God encountered in Proverbs is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Put plainly in , "The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens"; see also Absent from this book is a recital of God's mighty acts in history; these themes are dealt with elsewhere see, for example, Deuteronomy ; Joshua ; Psalms ; ; ; Hosea It is not so with the man of facts and figures, with what the Bible calls the darkened mind of the children of this world.
He sets at nought all that he cannot see and measure. He stupidly thinks that the five senses take in everything. Turn to the Bible, and you at once get into the company of men whose might is in other weapons, who are covered with the invisible panoply of God, and who see around them the spiritual chariots and horses. They take little account of material masses and numbers. They laugh at huge figures.
A grain of faith outweighs the resources of a kingdom. And there is no question about their heroic strength and fearlessness. The sceptic would call it imagination, but it is the kind of imagination which invests them with wonderful power. Magnificent figures were all these. We would give all our goods to be like them. Yet it was simply their belief in the unseen forces which made them what they were.
They saw the fiery chariots and the armies of heaven. They knew that God and Omnipotence were on their side, and only the fickle whims and passions of men against them. It is always these unseen forces that we reckon upon in our Christian warfare to-day. Faith, if not actually compassed about by invisible armies, is nerved, inspired, and energised by thoughts, upliftings, and confidences which make a man more than a match for his fellow-men.
The valiant fighters in it are always outnumbered and overmatched. Religious censuses would fill us with despair if we weighed spiritual forces in ordinary scales. Where there is one man mightily earnest in this struggle there are ten standing aloof, and ten more lukewarm. The odds are all apparently on the evil side. Yet we never lose heart until we have lost all faith.
We are always optimists until our eyes become blind to the unseen forces. These unseen forces are operating on every man. When he is most against us, there is something in him that is for us. Every man has occasional visions of the fiery chariots. There is a judgment throne which he can never wholly forget. There is an eternal righteousness which he knows he must reckon with. There is something in every man which secretly sides with the good. There is conscience, and memory, and unrest, and a lurking fear of the very God whom he denies.
The warfare is not unequal, as it seems. Remember that these and countless unseen forces are over and around every one who is resolutely bent on living the Christian life. We often hear of the difficulties of the Christian life. I think we hear more about its difficulties than about its helps. We get into the murmuring vein of the children of Israel, who were always magnifying shadows into mountains and ordinary fees into terrible giants. Yet surely there is another and brighter and diviner side to all that which the darkened eyes do not see, and which the despondent mind often forgets.
There are many things against the godly life, but there are more things for it. Yes, we have more helps than temptations, more inspirations than discouragements, more incentives and wings than drawbacks and chains. Greenhough, M. God is the protector of His people. The reality and nearness of the invisible world. The unseen is not the unreal. It needed just the opening of the eyes, and nothing more, to reveal to this young man agencies unseen and unsuspected before. We are citizens of two worlds--one material, the other spiritual.
We cannot too frequently remind ourselves of this fact: that the world we see is not the only one in which we live. All about us is another, vast and mighty, although invisible and silent. When Dr. Judson was at Rangoon for the last time, endeavouring to gain a footing for the Gospel, he heard one day that the savage Burman magistrate had stationed guards with orders to seize every native seen coming out of the house of the teacher.
Rank upon rank they stood about him, countless as sunbeams; chariots that were billows of fire, and horses that were clouds of flame. The ministry of the angels. As sons of God by creation, we of the human race do not stand alone. There is another race of intelligent beings, to whom, by the fact of a common fatherhood, we are nearly related.
They are our brethren in the household of the divine offspring. They are the elder, we the younger, born. With them there is neither childhood nor age, for they came into being, not by successive generations, but swept forth in all their glittering hosts, full-statured, at a single fiat of creative will. They are no flock of idle dreamers, sauntering along streets of gold, lying on fleecy clouds, listening to the music of fountains, their gravest task to practise psalmody and carry their part in some grand chorus.
The word assures us that they are employed, every one, in rendering service in this earthly life to them who are heirs of salvation. There is something impressive and stimulating in the thought that we are constantly surrounded by these unseen helpers. No power of evil can avoid their scrutiny. Wherever a foe lurks an angel watches.
They attend us in our solitudes, walk by our side in danger, and mingle with us in our solemn assemblies. Over the sorrowing, the tempted, the toiling, the dying they bend in true and tender sympathy. George W. Dothan is not an unusual place for the at least occasional residence of a Christian man.
Sometimes the Christian man is in the Dothan Beleaguered Dothan is not a place so unusual for a Christian man to stand in. But, in the ancient story, Elisha, though in Dothan, and so beleaguered, was not fearful. It is a good thing, amid the stress and strain of life, to count up our allies. I have often found great heartening in doing it. Though a man be in Dothan, God the Almighty is his ally. Consider further, though a man stand in Dothan, Christ the Saviour is his ally.
The Saviour is evidence. Consider further, though a man be beleaguered in Dothan, the Holy Spirit is his ally. John Consider further, though a man be in Dothan, good angels are his allies Hebrews Fear not, therefore, because of oppositions, because of your weakness, because of your mistakes, because of your sins even, because of death. Count up your allies. Hoyt, D. It is related that, on the first awful day of the fight against fire made on board The City of Rome, the passengers had been driven out of the forward cabins and their quarters were shifted aft.
It was impossible to set the evening meal in the first cabin, and it was spread aft also. It is a remarkable fact that the discipline of the ship made it possible to serve the evening meal, and perhaps still more remarkable that most of the passengers gathered at it, and many of them enjoyed it.
Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see. Here is a scene which is worthy of the pencil of the finest artist, but a scene of such simplicity and beauty that no artist could improve it. It represents the triumphal struggle of simple unarmed truth against the massed and mailed battalions, of error. It brings before us a man, with a great soul of love, standing up in the omnipotence of his faith to defy kings and all their hired hosts. Lessons of this kind are to be found on almost every page of history.
He believes more than others because he sees more. He lives in two worlds, and draws his forces from both. The chariots and horsemen of truth are ever about him, and he sees them, though others near to him have no eyes to see. This is the plain story of the incident with which our text is connected. His servant was blind and was greatly stricken with fear. He had not yet formed the habit of looking at things invisible. He could take stock of material masses but he had no perception of spiritual forces. Ten thousand men with their chariots, horses, and swords were to him stubborn facts; facts which, to a certain extent, he could measure and calculate.
But the powers on the side of his master he could neither gauge nor understand. But he also knew that Elisha was only one, and that if he added himself--though his poor faltering heart would make a very bad second--that, even then, there would be ten thousand with arms to two without arms. No prospect could be more unpromising and gloomy. It looked as if they might as well dash themselves against the mountain as contend against a force so numerous and well equipped.
Here we see,. That that which gives to men master-hood and confidence is the power to see. What is it that makes the difference between the great man and the small man--between the thinker and the clown--between the hero and the coward--between the saint and the sinner--between the Pauls and the Neros? You may say that there are a hundred things which go to make up this difference. But analyse them and you will find them to centre mainly in one. The greatest and wisest and purest men are in some sort prophets--or seers, as they used to be called; men who see further, see deeper, see more than other men.
Your poet is not a mere manipulator of words, a jangler together of rhymes. He is one who sees flashes of resemblance, brilliant analogies, angelic and heroic thoughts, where ordinary men see nothing but what is common and uninteresting. Your artist is one who can see more in a tame Dutch landscape than others can see in an Italian sunset or in the snowy Alps. Your sculptor can see more in a rugged, unwashed gipsy than the common eye can see in a white-robed angel.
Sometimes we look upon these men as creators. But they create nothing; all is created for them. What they do is simply to see that which they find. She seemed to linger by loving preference among that which was common; yet she found miracles and marvels and thrilling episodes from every page. She did not create them, she found them.
They were there all the time; all that was wanted was the open eye, the power to see. Christ saw what blind eyes could not see, and He was therefore calm and joyful, even in the presence of agony and death. To others there were only the cross, the jeers, the wails, the fierce cries of a drivelling multitude. To Him there was a great world beyond. He could recognise a moral power knitting together the hearts alike of men and of nations. No fallacy was ever more misleading; a man is rich only in proportion as he has power to see. One man will find more pleasure in a flower which he is too poor to buy than another will find in some earthly paradise which is all his own.
A book which cost fifty cents is a richer treasure to some than is a mission which costs ten thousand dollars a year to others. A chapter in the Gospel is a richer field of gold to many a humble soul than is a lordly estate to a wearied voluptuary whose vision is bleared by excess and debauchery.
It is not,, How many friends have you? It is not, How far have you travelled? One man may find more in his own house than another can find in a tour round the world. Paul was a far richer and happier man than Caesar, though Caesar owned the world and Paul owned nothing, simply because he saw more. It is not those who have much, it is those who see much, and who make us cry, whenever we come into their society. But in order that we may offer this prayer aright we must be conscious of our need. No man will be passionate in his cry for help who does not realise his own helplessness.
Nothing is more common than for men to imagine that that which they do not see does not exist. It is said that a dog writhes in agony under the most exquisite music; the more elevating the music the more the dog writhes. But who thinks any the worse of the music on that account? The most you can do is to pity the dog. When the vibrations of a musical chord attain a certain rapidity the music is no longer heard, by ordinary ears. It is too high, too refined; m a sense, too spiritual. It is only the keen ear of a practised musician that can catch it then. The same law runs through all life, and it should be a warning against our too ready criticism, and should check our faulty and uncharitable judgments.
There are numbers of men who think that it is an easy thing to fathom a human soul and take in the sum of its mysteries. The men and women who are to us as closed doors, with dark and empty chambers behind, are full of the choicest treasures to those who have found the secret key. They are like closed instruments to us, which yield no music to our touch because our hands lack the cunning which is required to play on them. But as soon as our kinship with them shows us what chords we are to touch, and how to touch them, their whole nature will break out in symphonies, and they will become to us an unmeasured source of delight and joy.
The prince of the world looks into the royal and Divine soul--or thinks lie looks--and declares that he finds nothing. The very fulness of God, the overflowing fountain of eternal love and delight, is to the prince of the world only emptiness, darkness, and silence. He may be clever with chisel, and saw, and hammer, and scalpel, yet when he has to deal with a magnetic current, or an electric spark, he may be as helpless as a child. These subtleties escape him because neither his instincts nor his discernments are sufficiently fine. And in the same way there are clever dogmatists who think that they know all about the things of God, who laugh at those who profess to see more than they see, but who themselves never touch the very fringe of the subject of Divine things.
But to the eye of the thoughtful and enlightened Christian, the man with spiritual insight, every chapter sparkles with beauty, and pulsates with life. Some time ago I met with a picture representing two women in great sorrow. Standing behind the chairs on which they were sitting there appeared the figure of Christ stretching out His hands over them.
They could not see Him, because their eyes were dim, but He was none the less present with them. He was near in all His effulgent brightness, with all His sympathetic consolation, and with all His helpful power. At the foot of the picture this verse was written:. Unheard, because our ears are dull,. Unseen, because our eyes are dim,. He walks on earth, the Wonderful,. And all great deeds are done for Him. What we need then, brethren, is the power to see--to see the chariots and horses on the mountains; to see God all about us; to see the strong right arm of the Almighty stretched out to help us; to see that the darkest clouds and most threatening surroundings are under the all-controlling power of the Everlasting Father.
Here we see, as if through a microscope, the act or process of faith in the human soul. What is faith? Faith, then, is not an act of the natural imagination. Imagination deals with that which is not; faith with that which is; imagination with a fiction; faith with fact. The objects of faith and the objects of imagination may have this, if you will, in common, that they are both beyond the reach of the natural sight. But, then, there is this difference, that the objects of faith, being, as they are, real, may become visible to a higher sense than the bodily eye; while the objects of imagination can never be visible to the soul; being fictions, however beautiful, they occur to the soul always as such--as fictions, it may be, of its own creation, not as realities.
When men speak of faith as a vivid and energetic form of imagination, they mean to imply this, without stating in terms that they do so: they mean to imply that just as the poet Virgil projected a picture of the nether world out of the immense wealth of his fancy, so evangelists and apostles hare traced their own beautiful pictures of heaven, and their awful descriptions of hell and of judgment, on the pages of our Testaments, by the aid of an extraordinary variety of the religious imagination. The evangelists and apostles, whatever else they were--I say it with reverence--were not poets, they were eminently prosaic; and the remark of Rousseau that the inventor of the Gospel history must have been not less wonderful than its hero, if he were entirely unassisted from above, is at least a satisfactory reply to this theory of faith doing the work of pure imagination.
Why, the apostles say with St. The thing was psychologically impossible. He had his eye upon the hard and menacing fact before him, upon the lines of the Syrian troops who were sent to capture the prophet his master.
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He could, for the time, see nothing beyond the sphere of sense. But the world of spirits was a thing utterly independent of his imagination. His new power of seeing the chariots and horses of fire sweeping around Elisha did not create these spiritual forms and beings; there they were, whether he and other men saw them or not. Yes, but I hear it whispered, there is a common sense based on our ordinary experience, which resists these notions of aa invisible world, actually around and about us.
But what is the real worth of this so-termed common sense? When the comet of October appeared, a lecturer made a tour of some country villages in Devonshire, with a view of telling the country people some facts about the beautiful object which, night by night, attracted so much of their attention; and among other points he touched upon the calculations which astronomers had made as to the enormous length of the tail of the comet.
Nor is faith only the conclusion, the final act, of a process of natural reasoning. If this were the case, if faith were merely the conclusion of a syllogism, it would necessarily follow that all people with good understandings must necessarily be believers in Christianity.
We know that many persons of great natural abilities, such as was Voltaire, are and have been unbelievers; and this alone would seem to show that something besides intelligence is implied in an act of faith. If believing in Christianity were simply an affair of the natural understanding, this could not be. It would be just as inevitable to believe St. Paul as it is intellectually to believe Euclid.
Why is it so? Why is acceptance of religious truth not just as imperative upon the human understanding as the acceptance of mathematical truth? Because the act of faith is not merely an act of the intelligence; because it is an act of the whole inward nature, an act of the affections and the will, as well as an act of the understanding.
The understanding cannot compel faith. If faith were merely an assent of the understanding to a conclusion warranted by sufficient evidence, it is plain that St. Paul could never speak of it as he does when writing to the Romans and the Galatians. He tells them that it is that which justifies before God. Why, goodness of understanding could be no more reason for our acceptance with God than strong limbs or retentiveness of memory.
Faith is thus spoken of in the New Testament because it is a test of the moral nature, because a man believes upon evidence, although not absolutely compulsory evidence, in obedience to the promptings of his heart and will. What is it which makes the desire, the heart, on the one side, and the evidence at the disposal of the understanding on the other side, result in the complex, in the perfect act of faith? What is it which strikes the sacred spark which thus combines the action of the understanding and the yearnings of the heart into the single act which supersedes while it combines them The Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
It is a gift from God. It is a fresh gift, which nature can neither rival nor anticipate. Elisha might have insisted upon many considerations which ought, in reason, to have satisfied his servant that God and His holy ones were now, as of old, near at hand, that the near presence of the Syrians did not amount to a real reason for despair. Had not God helped the patriarch Jacob? Had He not delivered Israel in the wilderness, and David from the wild beast, and Elijah quite recently from the power of Ahab and of Jezebel?
Was it to be supposed that He would desert His prophet now, or that, happen what might, He was unconcerned or powerless? Elisha did not argue. There are times when argument is most precious; there are times when it is worse than useless. Elisha prayed. Now this exactly agrees with what we are taught about faith in the New Testament.
Faith is there represented as a new spiritual sense, as an endowment or gift bestowed upon the soul by the Holy Ghost. It is contrasted with natural sight. It is contrasted with natural reason. It is a higher reason than the reason which nature gives; it is a higher and more perfect sight, which God gives over and above the sight of nature, which nature cannot, if she would, achieve. Do I say that natural reason has no office whatever to discharge in the work of establishing our religious convictions? If this were so, not merely the evidential theology of the Church, but much of the language of the Bible itself, which unmistakably appeals to reason, would be a vast mistake.
Reason can do very much for faith. Reason stands to faith just as did the Baptist to Christ our Lord. She is the messenger which goes before the face of faith to make ready its path within the soul. Reason can explain, she can infer, she can combine, she can reduce difficulties to their true proportions, she can make the most of considerations which show what, upon the whole, is to be expected; but here she must stop. Let us see in this history a remedy against despondency, such as good Christians often feel on contemplating the state of the world at particular periods.
All seems to be going against the cause of right, of truth, of God. It is echoed throughout the centuries. Intellectual assailants, political adversaries, all the passions, all the prejudices, all t e misapprehensions of an unregenerate humanity, come down and besiege the prophet in Dothan. All might seem to be lost again and again if it were not that, again and again, the eyes of the spirit are opened to perceive that they which are with us are more than they which are with them.
Courage; the unseen is greater than the seen, the eternal will surely outlive the things of time. An act of faith may cross the threshold of the door which separates us from that world which is beyond the senses, and may at once correct the apparent preponderance of evil by a vision of the throne, and the resources of the All-good. And see, too, in this history our true pattern of nobility. It has been a common saying, quoted again and again of late, to explain and justify changes on the Continent that have taken place within the last ten years, that it is better to be the citizens of a great state than the citizens of a small one.
Brethren, it is better for many reasons, for this among the rest: there is an inspiration for good which comes from the sense of wide and noble fellowship, of high and distinguished associates and guardians, which is denied to those who are members of a small society that have it not. And, in His kingdom, God has provided us with this.
It embraces both worlds, the unseen world as well as the visible. Does this lofty conviction, think you, inspire nothing like hatred of sin, no longing for a higher life, no wish to live as should the companions of beings who constitute the household of God, and who are our predestined fellow-citizens? The Syrian host may press us hard; the host of temptations, and bad thoughts, and bad acquaintances; of haunting memories; but when, at the voice of prayer, the prayer of the Church or our own, our eyes open upon the realities around and above us, we must remember that we have a destiny before us, and means at hand to prepare for it.
Lastly, we see here the secret of real, effective prayer. Why is prayer, public prayer especially, in so many cases nothing better than the coldest of cold, heartless forms? For two reasons especially. Men enter on it without having any true knowledge of themselves whatever, of their sins and wants, as well as of their hopes and fears, of their real state before God, as well as of their reputed character in the eyes of men: in a word, they have no true knowledge of that for which prayer wins something like a remedy, and thus they have no personal interest of their own which they can import into, and identify with, the public language of the Church.
They do not, for instance, know enough about themselves to say, with anything like sincerity before God, that they have erred and strayed from His ways like lost sheep, or that there are certain things which for their unworthiness they dare not and for their blindness they cannot ask. This is the first reason. But there is a second.
Prayer is so cold and heartless a thing in numbers of instances because men see nothing of Him to whom prayer is addressed, nothing of God, nothing of Jesus, nothing of the spirit-world around the throne, nothing of the majesty, the beauty, the glory which encircles God, such as is possible, really possible to our finite and purblind gaze,--nothing of the everlasting worship which surrounds Him, nothing of the ministers of His that do His pleasures. Cannon Liddon. Are the children all dead because you cannot see them?
Has love ceased her sweet function because you cannot see the handmaid, the mother, or the sister, through whom that function operates? Has the exclusion wrought by blindness annihilated domestic or communal economy? Open your eyes: all your friends are about you, all the ministry of the house has been going on, though you could not see it. Why, then we would blot out the sun; why, then we would sweep the heavens at night of all their jewellery; why, then we should turn the summer into the blackness of absolute gloom.
So our inner eyes are closed at present; but that does not necessitate the absence of spirits, angels, ministrants divine, servants sent to minister unto us by the King of Heaven. Parker, D. Faith is to sight and reason what the telescope is to the naked eye. By the use of this powerful instrument, the most distant planets are made known to us in detail. A map of Mars has been published showing canal-like seas, islands, and large mountains covered with snow. Faith brings the distant near, makes the spiritual the most real, and enables us to dwell in heavenly places.
God is the unseen but constant factor in the lives of men and women. The King of Syria made his plans and tried to carry them out with his best cunning, but they all went awry because he was fighting against God. He did not take God into account. God is the most important factor in our lives, and there is absolutely no certainty of our success unless God is working in harmony with us. As Joseph Parker says, commenting on this case, it is the Unknown Quantity that troubles men, and gives them to feel that after they have completed their arithmetic their conclusion is a lie.
The spirit-world is near to us. It is not a dumb, dead world, all day and iron and gold, with no voice or hearing. It is not a thin empty world, all air and space. No, indeed: our Heavenly Father has many children, a universe peopled with them, the creatures of His love, just as we are. The ingenuity of heaven was not exhausted when God made the human body; He has millions of angels clothed upon with spiritual forms; bodies that we may not see with our earthly eye, but bodies none the less real and infinitely more enduring than those we do see.
The Bible is a book of angels. The army of God camps between the trusting soul and his enemies. The military of heaven greatly exceeded that of the Syrians. I have seen a man who had been rescued from terrible sins and cruel appetites beset by a legion of devilish lusts and temptations that clamoured for his soul, and I have wondered if he would be able to beat them down and go on his way with steady step towards heaven.
And I have rejoiced as I have watched and witnessed that, despite all the howling and barking of the wolves of temptation, the man grew stronger, his face firmer, his eyes shone with a loftier courage, and his brow was glorified with higher ideals. Through prayer we may pass from the life of sight into the life of faith. The Syrian army surrounding Elisha, a symbol of the forces that have ever been arrayed against the truth.
The attack upon Elisha and his servant was very unfair, and the forces apparently very unequal--an armed host against two unarmed men! Let us notice The foes were mighty--armed men with horses and chariots, presenting a very formidable and imposing appearance, and threatening to sweep all before them. The foes were malignant, they had crept up stealthily under the cover of the night, and they intended to pounce upon the man of God, and arrest him with violence.
They had been told that the prophet had been the cause of all their defeats, so they would feel very spiteful and vindictive, and would be anxious to capture the man they regarded as their greatest enemy. Here we have a symbol of the forces that have ever been arrayed against the truth. The prophet Elisha in the midst of the Syrian army a type of every true defender of the truth.
He was not an enemy, but a friend to the true progress and best interests of men; and in his gentleness and harmlessness he is a model of every true, godly, and christly man. Elisha was on the alert. He had not gone to Dothan to spend his time in idleness, for, early in the morning, he and his servant were on the move to prosecute their work and fulfil their mission. Elisha was calm in the face of danger.
He admitted human weakness, but he apprehended Divine strength.
He put his trust in God, and so his mind was kept in perfect peace. Elisha found refuge in prayer. Cod had already shown him that he had a great host on his side; and now he wishes that his servant may see the army too. The horses and chariots of fire upon the mountain, an emblem of the forces that are ever battling on the side of truth.
They were invisible to mortal eyes. The prophet Elisha had the spiritual vision to discern them; but the servant could not see them till his spiritual vision was uncovered. The horses and chariots of fire, formidable and real as they were, were not palpable to human sight. They were innumerable. The mountain was full of them. Elisha was completely surrounded by celestial warriors; the army from the sky was mustered and marshalled as if on the eve of a terrible battle.
They were invincible. The horses and chariots of Syria in the valley would be as nothing compared with this great host of fire upon the mountains. Sight is a wonderful thing by it we are connected and associated with the things that are around us. A man who has never seen is only self-contained and knows nothing of the wealth of glories which are within his reach.
It is well to think sometimes of what our loss would be if our world were circumscribed by the orbit of our own darkened bodies. The scope of human penetration is limited. This is an indisputable fact. Even with our wonderful organs of vision there are many material things which we cannot perceive. Think of animal life. How infinitely small some of its existences! They are too small for our perception.
A pint measure may contain as many living creatures as the world contains inhabitants. The microscope has of late years taught us that, around us on every side are existences so small and numerous that we can scarcely conceive of their multitude. But beyond the range of our most powerful microscope there lie still unexplained worlds of life. Think of the particles of inanimate matter. A ray of sunshine in a darkened room will reveal the existence of thousands of particles which we cannot ordinarily observe, and opens a wondrous field of imagination as to what may be beyond.
Besides material objects there are immaterial things which the age cannot perceive -electricity, sound, heat; smell cannot be practically seen. Beyond all this there is the spiritual world. That this is close around us we know. God is everywhere. Satan is everywhere. There are for aught we know millions of angelic beings and even of human spirits within our call, but they cannot be seen.
We cannot take a more striking example than that of our Lord Himself. Here was apparently a poor simple countryman, poor and despised, passing about from one place to another, attended by a few followers, still poorer and more neglected than Himself. At a word all creation would have asserted His position and would have avenged His cause. Ten legions of angels attended His course, and He had only to speak for inanimate things to obey. And as with Christ so with His people both before and since His earthly appearance.
A few practical thoughts will urge this subject on our consideration. Faith is not a matter of ideality or imagination. As he died Zechariah asked the Lord God to take notice and punish Joash. God empowered the weaker Syrians to overwhelm the army of Judah and Joash was badly injured. Joash was murdered in his bed for killing Zechariah.
He was not buried in the royal tombs. Amaziah began his time as king in loyalty to the Lord God but after the Lord gave him victory over the Edomites he brought home their false idols and worshiped them. When a prophet of God challenged him he was threatened with execution, so the prophet did not trouble him further, other than to inform him that God had decided to end his reign and his life badly. Amaziah became king of Judah and led a very successful battle against the Edomites and then he challenged King Joash of Israel.
Joash warned him to not be too bold after only one victory but Amaziah continued to threaten them so Israel attacked and defeated Judah. He was captured, and the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed. He was in captivity many years and then assassinated. The pattern of blessed loyalty to the Lord God versus troubles for rebellion continued for the kings and the people of Israel and Judah. Why would the kings, sons of blessed kings, choose the path of rebellion and trouble rather than that of faithfulness and blessing?
The prophets had a tough time of things, sometimes kings and other leaders listened, and sometimes they were ignored — and even killed — in their service to the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who is being faithful to the Lord and who faces challenges as a result. Today I will diligently pray for, and as is appropriate, otherwise assist the one to whom the Lord God directs my attention. They may be domestic or foreign missionaries, leaders or members in a local fellowship, or activists within the larger community of faith.
He traveled to Joppa and found a merchant ship heading to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went aboard it to go with them to Tarshish far away from the Lord. Such a violent tempest arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break up! Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold below deck, had lain down, and was sound asleep. Get up! Cry out to your god! Perhaps your god might take notice of us so that we might not die! Where do you come from? And who are your people? And I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.
After all, you, Lord, have done just as you pleased. Now Nineveh was an enormous city — it required three days to walk through it! Perhaps God might be willing to change his mind and relent and turn from his fierce anger so that we might not die. This is what I tried to prevent by attempting to escape to Tarshish! He made a shelter for himself there and sat down under it in the shade to see what would happen to the city.
Now Jonah was very delighted about the little plant. It grew up overnight and died the next day. There are more than one hundred twenty thousand people in it who do not know right from wrong, as well as many animals! Lord, Your desire to bring hope to wretches like us, as well as to the historically-brutal Ninevites, is consistent with Your character as a loving God of grace and of mercy.
May I praise You for Your patient and persistent love for me. You brought Jonah where he could recognize and repent of his sin, then You rescued him. May I not make it necessary for You to get my attention in such a profound way. Jonah tried to foil Your plan to offer mercy to the enemies of his people, but You overcame his resistance.
May I be a willing instrument of Your mercy no matter to whom You may choose to offer it. The beneficiaries of the prophetic ministry assigned to Jonah were the people of Ninevah. Jonah and his people despised them because of their exceptionally brutal conduct during war and their vicious treatment of captive people. Jonah discovered that what David had written was true — there is nowhere one may go to escape the presence of the Lord God.
Because of his rebellion Jonah placed many others, the Ninevites and the sailors and fellow passengers in jeopardy. When confronted Jonah finally acknowledged his responsibility for the trouble and accepted that he had to sacrifice himself to save the others, despite their resistance he finally persuaded them to throw him overboard, which they reluctantly did.
Jonah was rescued by the Lord God Who sent a great fish to swallow him, keeping him from drowning. While inside the fish Jonah prayed and reflected — confessed his sin and his fear that his separation from the Lord God could be permanent - then he repented. Jonah observed that just as he thought he would die the Lord God reached-out and saved him. He also observed that those who worshiped false idols would miss that mercy. The Lord caused the fish to swim to a beach near the city of Ninevah and to spit-out Jonah there.
The Lord God was impressed by their repentance and relented from His angry judgment. Jonah, who despised the Ninevites for their violence against his people, was angry — for the Lord had done as he feared — shown mercy, and He had used him as His agent to make that possible.
He declared that he would rather die than see the Ninevites forgiven and that he had fled from his mission from the Lord God because he wanted to prevent them from being forgiven. The Lord God questioned him if he was really that angry and watched as Jonah left the city, made himself a shelter from the sun, and watched in hope that the city would not succeed in avoiding destruction. The Lord God caused a small plant to grow very large and to provide Jonah with a great deal more shade than his little shelter and so Jonah was quite pleased with the plant.
Why would Jonah have thought he could disobey and then hide from the Lord God? Why would the Lord God have confronted Jonah rather than discarding him and replacing him? Why would Jonah have continued to watch the city in expectation of destruction when the Lord God had already told him that He had decided to withhold it? The sailors were placed in a terrible predicament, to die in a storm that was caused by a prophet of the Lord God, or to throw that prophet into the sea to die and maybe survive the storm — then be punished by the Lord God.
When have you been trapped between emotional desires of the world and what you know to be different expectations of the Lord? When have you benefited from the mercy of the Lord?
Category: 2 Kings
Today I will give praise and thanks to the Lord God for His patience with me. I will confess and repent of that place in my life where I have been allowing anger, bitterness, greed, laziness, lust, revenge, selfishness, or some other emotion to hold first-place instead of the fruits of Your Holy Spirit Who lives in me. It may be confronting a brother or sister in sin, it may be sharing the Word with someone who is considering-Christ, it may be confessing your own sin, it may be seeking forgiveness from someone you find difficult to deal with, or something else.
I will humbly and prayerfully ask that I be shown another place where I may be doubting the mercy, or some other redemptive action, of the Lord - so that I may again learn to trust His grace and wisdom even more. They are offspring who do wrong, children who do wicked things. They have abandoned the Lord, and rejected the Holy One of Israel. They are alienated from him.
Why do you continue to rebel? Your head has a massive wound, your whole body is weak. There are only bruises, cuts, and open wounds. They have not been cleansed or bandaged, nor have they been treated with olive oil. Right before your eyes your crops are being destroyed by foreign invaders. They leave behind devastation and destruction.
The blood of bulls, lambs, and goats I do not want. You observe new moon festivals, Sabbaths, and convocations, but I cannot tolerate sin-stained celebrations! Cleanse yourselves! Remove your sinful deeds from my sight. Stop sinning! Promote justice! Give the oppressed reason to celebrate! Take up the cause of the orphan!
Defend the rights of the widow! She was once a center of justice, fairness resided in her, but now only murderers. All of them love bribery, and look for payoffs. They do not take up the cause of the orphan, or defend the rights of the widow. I will remove all your slag. All the nations will stream to it,. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will no longer train for war. For diviners from the east are everywhere; they consult omen readers like the Philistines do.
Their land is full of horses; there is no end to their chariots. Get away from the dreadful judgment of the Lord, from his royal splendor! For why should they be given special consideration? Youths will proudly defy the elderly and riffraff will challenge those who were once respected. This heap of ruins will be under your control.
Too bad for them! For they bring disaster on themselves. For they will get exactly what they deserve. You have stashed in your houses what you have stolen from the poor. They walk with their heads high and flirt with their eyes. They skip along and the jewelry on their ankles jingles.
My love had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He built a tower in the middle of it, and constructed a winepress. He waited for it to produce edible grapes, but it produced sour ones instead. When I waited for it to produce edible grapes, why did it produce sour ones instead? I will order the clouds not to drop any rain on it. He waited for justice, but look what he got — disobedience! He waited for fairness, but look what he got — cries for help! So they do not recognize what the Lord is doing, they do not perceive what he is bringing about.
Their leaders will have nothing to eat, their masses will have nothing to drink. For they have rejected the law of the Lord who commands armies, they have spurned the commands of the Holy One of Israel. The mountains shake, and corpses lie like manure in the middle of the streets.
Despite all this, his anger does not subside, and his hand is ready to strike again. Look, they come quickly and swiftly. The hooves of their horses are hard as flint, and their chariot wheels are like a windstorm. They growl and seize their prey; they drag it away and no one can come to the rescue. One will look out over the land and see the darkness of disaster, clouds will turn the light into darkness. Lord, You are holy and righteous and in return for your grace, protection, and provision You require that we respond in obedience and righteousness. May I be increasingly grateful and therefore increasingly faithful in seeking after righteousness through surrender to the working of the Holy Spirit in and through me.
You love the people whom You created, and Your desire is to bless them. You ask for integrity, in our relationship with You, and with fellow humankind. May I be attentive to what it is that You want, rather than what the world values, and so become a conduit of Your blessing and truth to others. Isaiah was a prophet to Israel a little over years after the reign of King Solomon. Isaiah delivered the message of the Lord God which compared the people of Israel to an ox and a donkey and found the people wanting because of their foolish rebellion.
The Lord observed that they are beaten and bruised, suffering and over-run by their enemies, yet they persisted in their rebellion. He further observed that it was only the Lord God who preserved a few survivors, otherwise they would have been utterly destroyed as were the people in Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Lord God said, through Isaiah, that He did not want their sacrifices while they were in active rebellion, and that He would not listen to their prayers either. His final word of the first chapter is that He would purify them by fire, all who rebelled — regardless of their station in life — would be destroyed. Only righteousness could result in a reconciliation and restoration of their relationship with the Lord God — and the blessings that would flow from that.
He continued to detail the consequences, beginning with facial sores on the women whose pride and abuse of their sexuality was offensive to Him, then make the fronts of their heads bald, followed by destitution and slavery. He would also cause the strong young men to die in battle so that there would be seven women begging one man to marry them so that they would no longer be without husbands. The desire of the Lord God would be to make the crops of those who remained in Jerusalem, those whom He had found to be obedient, to be exceptional and He would wipe clean the shame of the women.
Despite all of the losses they had experienced, and the reprieves they had received when they were momentarily repentant, the people continued their rebellious ways. Why would the people have bothered to pray and to make sacrifices when they refused to obey the Lord God? Why was it so difficult for the people to see that the Lord God wanted to bless them and that all of their rebellion was getting them nowhere? Despite their persistent rebellion the Lord God stood ready and willing to forgive and restore them.
When have you experienced or observed that a leader who practiced justice and created a healthier environment rather than one that was arbitrary and selfish? Today I will confess and repent, seek and receive forgiveness from the Lord God, and make the necessary changes to better align my words with my deeds and to surrender more completely to the Lordship of Christ in my life.
It may be in a gray area of financial dealings, integrity in academics, truth-telling in social relationships, or in some other area. The hem of his robe filled the temple. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and they used the remaining two to fly. His majestic splendor fills the entire earth! I am destroyed, for my lips are contaminated by sin, and I live among people whose lips are contaminated by sin. My eyes have seen the king, the Lord who commands armies.
In his hand was a hot coal he had taken from the altar with tongs. Your evil is removed; your sin is forgiven. Who will go on our behalf? Otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, their hearts might understand and they might repent and be healed. That sacred pillar symbolizes the special chosen family. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will no longer exist as a nation. If your faith does not remain firm, then you will not remain secure.
You can even ask for something miraculous. Do you consider it too insignificant to try the patience of men? Is that why you are also trying the patience of my God? Look, this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman, will name him Immanuel. Indeed, everyone left in the heart of the land will eat sour milk and honey. Cattle will graze there and sheep will trample on them. It will reach flood stage and overflow its banks. He will spread his wings out over your entire land, O Immanuel.
Pay attention, all you distant lands of the earth! Get ready for battle, and you will be shattered! Issue your orders, but they will not be executed! For God is with us! He took hold of me firmly and warned me not to act like these people:. He is the one you must respect; he is the one you must fear. He will become a trap and a snare to the residents of Jerusalem. Should people not seek oracles from their gods, by asking the dead about the destiny of the living?
Certainly they say such things because their minds are spiritually darkened. Their hunger will make them angry, and they will curse their king and their God as they look upward. Lord, You are holy, we are not. May I be as aware of Your holiness as was Isaiah. You rule over all armies and nations, therefore You may choose which will fail and which will have victory — especially where it impacts Your people.
May I never fear as a child of God that in the battles of life anything of significance, in the eyes of the Lord, will go other than the way that You decide. You loved the people and they rejected You, and after generations of grace Your discipline fell upon them. May I remember to respond appropriately and obediently to Your love and not give you a reason to discipline me. My eyes have seen the king, the Lord He was correct. The news had come the king of Judah of the former nation of Israel, since divided into Israel and Judah that King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel and the nation of Ephraim which had splintered off from Judah were about to attack, and they were terrified because they were unable to resist such a combined military force.
Before he was of the age of accountability the king of Assyria was to plunder Ephraim and Syria as prophesied. The Lord then prophesied that after obliterating Ephraim and Syria the Assyrians would over-run Israel and Judah and all of the nations around them. The Lord God warned Isaiah to take care not to follow the actions and thinking of the people:.
Many will stumble over the stone and the rock, and will fall and be seriously injured, and will be ensnared and captured. Look, I and the sons whom the Lord has given me are reminders and object lessons in Israel, sent from the Lord who commands armies, who lives on Mount Zion. Isaiah was warned further that the people, filled with spiritual darkness in their rebellion, would ask him to call upon demons and ghosts and witches in the hope that the dead might tell them of the future of the living. It would be yet another act of foolishness and of rebellion; he was to ignore them as their due punishment descended upon them.
The celebration of the holiness of the Lord God in Heaven is an amazing thing to imagine. The people of Judah saw things only through their human eyes, and so they were terrified, but the Lord God saw their enemies as already defeated; indeed, destroyed. The Lord God would protect Isaiah, and others, who honored their relationship with Him but would bring trouble to rebels and create challenges for others who denied His presence.
Why might Ahaz have been so fearful of asking the Lord God for a sign or a miracle? At one moment the people of Judah were terrified and in the next they learned that their fearful enemies were soon to be wiped from the map, by the Lord God. When have you experienced or observed a moment in praise and worship, or in prayerful and intense study of the Word of God, where a sense of His unique holiness overwhelmed you? When have you been fearful of a person or situation only to have your prayers answered and the entire threat disappear?
When have you observed people acting and thinking in pagan ways in hopes of a God-less magical solution to their problems? Today I will confess and repent, ask forgiveness and receive it from the Lord, and then surrender to the Holy Spirit as He leads me to listen with His ears, understand with His wisdom, see with His filter so that I notice what He says is important , and perceive with His perspective of eternity.
I will raise grateful prayers of praise and thanks to the Lord God. I will begin a daily discipline to bring everything to the Lord in prayer. He was one of the herdsmen from Tekoa. These prophecies about Israel were revealed to him during the time of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake. They ripped through Gilead like threshing sledges with iron teeth. I will remove the ruler from Wicked Valley, the one who holds the royal scepter from Beth Eden. The people of Aram will be deported to Kir. They deported a whole community and sold them to Edom.
I will strike Ekron with my hand; the rest of the Philistines will also die. They sold a whole community to Edom; they failed to observe a treaty of brotherhood. He chased his brother with a sword; he wiped out his allies. In his anger he tore them apart without stopping to rest; in his fury he relentlessly attacked them. War cries will be heard on the day of battle; a strong gale will blow on the day of the windstorm.
Their false gods, to which their fathers were loyal, led them astray. They sold the innocent for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals. A man and his father go to the same girl; in this way they show disrespect for my moral purity. They drink wine bought with the fines they have levied; they do so right in the temple of their God! They were as tall as cedars and as strong as oaks, but I destroyed the fruit on their branches and their roots in the ground.
Is this not true, you Israelites? I will press you down, like a cart loaded down with grain presses down. Therefore I will punish you for all your sins. Does a young lion bellow from his den if he has not caught something? Does a trap spring up from the ground unless it has surely caught something? If disaster overtakes a city, is the Lord not responsible?
Who is not afraid? The sovereign Lord has spoken! Who can refuse to prophesy? Observe the many acts of violence taking place within the city, the oppressive deeds occurring in it. He will take away your power; your fortresses will be looted. They will be left with just a corner of a bed, and a part of a couch. The sovereign Lord, the God who commands armies, is speaking! The horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground. The houses filled with ivory will be ruined, the great houses will be swept away.
You oppress the poor; you crush the needy.