Here is the transcript for my sermon that I preached yesterday, September 24th, 2017 at First Presbyterian Bradenton. I hope you enjoy it.
Read 2 Kings 6
What does a motorist do when she sees a group of men running out of a bank with machine guns?
Erline Androin ducked. Then she lost control of her car, triggering a chain-reaction crash that injured nine persons, police said.
But the 24-year-old woman’s alarm was unwarranted. The machinegun-toting holdup men were part of a movie cast that had just staged a bank holdup scene.
The guns weren’t loaded and the bank wasn’t even real, said a spokesman for Hollywood’s Penelope Productions, who said a bank-like front had been set up in front of a store.
Police said Miss Androin struck five pedestrians, including several cast members, before her out-of-control vehicle slammed into two other cars. The other vehicles hit three more people, authorities said.
This is an unfortunate story, but sadly, it is true. In this story Miss Androin witnessed what she thought was a robbery in progress and responded in fear to what she thought was happening, just like any normal person would. Her fear filled response created a chain reaction accident which led to the unfortunate injuries of many people. She responded to what she saw happening, but it really wasn’t. It was fake. She didn’t see the whole picture. She didn’t see the cameras and movie set. She only saw what was before her. We can’t fully fault her for her response, because she only saw and reacted to what was before her and not what was happening behind the scenes.
Today’s passage is a bit peculiar, much like the news story I just read. There is a lot going on and it really is difficult to determine what is happening and what the purpose of the passage is. So, before I get to the theme we are going to look at the context or background of 2 Kings 6, I would encourage you to read Chapters 6 through 8 on your own to get a better understanding of the context. In fact, for your benefit the Bible study guide in the bulletin will assist you in reading through 2 Kings 6 for this week. There is also a notes section if you wish to write notes.
2 Kings 6 is a passage about perspective. It involves seeing one thing, while another thing is happening behind the scenes which is not seen.
Elisha, is the prophet of focus in chapters 6 – 13. He was the apprentice of the prophet Elijah and he took his place when Elijah ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire in 2 Kings 2. Elisha, was part of a group prophets who lived in a small cramped area in Israel. It appears Elisha was the head prophet and all others were under his direction. The prophets went to Jordan to get wood to build homes.
We are going to fast forward to verse 8 which begins with the King of Syria announcing that is going to ambush the Israelites at an undisclosed (to us at least) place. Somehow Elisha hears this plan and he warns the King of Israel to not pass through this undisclosed place because the Syrians were waiting to ambush them and the king listened to his warning.
Once the king of Syria found out that Israel was tipped off he was angry because he thought there was a spy or a mole in the camp. One of the servants said that none of them were spies, but it was Elisha, a prophet, who warned Israel. He informed the king that Elisha heard his plans of attack that he spoke in his bedroom. Now, here is where it gets a bit unclear. We are not sure how Elisha hears the king. The Jewish study Bible says that Elisha had clairvoyant powers, while others interpret that God spoke to him in a dream or vision, a that he had some sort of supernatural military intel and more conservative interpretations say that Elisha was a spy in the camp and he heard the king because the walls of his bedroom were very thin. I don’t think it really matters how he got the info, it just matters that he got it to the king of Israel.
When the king hears this, he wants Elisha seized and sent back to him. When he finds that Elisha is in Dotham, the king assembles a massive army at night to surround his camp so they may seize him. In the morning Elisha’s attendant awakes and sees the army surrounding the city… afraid he runs to Elisha and asks what should we do?
Unconcerned Elisha responds, “do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha sees that there is a supernatural army surrounding the Syrian army and he is not worried because God is on their side. The problem was the others did not see this supernatural army, they only saw the Syrians before them.
Elisha prays a twofold prayer…
So, what does this all mean? Why do the writers of Kings spend a great deal of time talking about Elisha, spiritual armies and the tension between Syria and Israel? We can look at it merely as a historical account or we can see that it is much more than that. When we look below the surface, so to speak, we see that the focus of this story needs to be on vision, or having the ability to see beyond the usual perception. Or more simply having spiritual insight to see the whole picture of God. Elisha was privy to insights that others were not. Is it because he was a more holy man than others or that God liked him better? No, I believe it is simply God showing us that he uses people to accomplish his will and to bring assurance of his presence in times of uncertainty. You see the attendant only saw the crisis before him, but Elisha saw what God was up to. Once the attendant’s eyes were opened he saw no reason to doubt, fear or worry. This is very applicable to us as well. When we can have spiritual insight to God’s plan, and it may not be as extreme as this account, but when we have a connection with God and He speaks to us then we do not need to be crippled by fear.
So here are three observations we can take home from this passage and apply to our lives
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (437). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
Read Psalm 8:1 - 3
Today we are going to look at Psalm 8:1 -3. Some speculate this Psalm was written after David slayed the giant Goliath; others say it was penned as he was in the fields watching his flock at night. We are not sure to when it was written. We do know that it is a hymn or Psalm of praise and adoration. It was intended as a song that would help people celebrate the privileged place God has given us in the created order. This is a Psalm that expresses wonder and awe at the majestic and magnificent nature of God.
The Psalm opens with “O LORD, our lord” which proclaims the majesty of God's name and his authority over his life and the nation of Israel.
LORD – YHWH (Yehovah) All capital letters equals the proper name for God. In God’s name his nature is revealed. His name is who He is; the Existing One; the One without beginning or end; the One who was not created but has always been; the One who is I AM.
Lord – (awdone) – Capital “L” and lower case letters is a reference to God’s position. Sovereign Master, general recognition of superior, king.
So another way to read this would be “O Eternal One (YHWH) our king (Lord)…”
“how majestic” – (adeer) – Famous, great, excellent, glorious. The response of the psalmist to God is adoration and awe. To one who does not believe or know God His name instills fear and trepidation. His name is a power that is visible and is on display for everyone to see.
“is your name” – reputation, glory, fame. The name of God is an extension of himself.
David acknowledges that God’s fame and reputation is visible for all to see throughout creation. In Romans Paul even acknowledges this in 1:20. The glory and splendor of the invisible God can be seen throughout creation. God has revealed himself to us through creation. When we look around us we don’t see creation as God but we see God and his attributes in creation.
“You have set your glory…” – Splendor (magnificence), majesty, vigor (strength)
The planets, the stars, the limitless universe give a partial view of how very great God really is. Yet sophisticated men shrug off the evidence as if it didn’t exist. God is exalted above them all and to know his glory is to know him as he really is at the core of his being.
As the psalmist looks up into the sky he is in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. He looks at the night sky and is in wonder of the creative work of God’s hand. They all belong to God and are a result of God’s handiwork. He gives God credit for all around him. The beauty that surrounds us is authored by God and to give anything other than Him credit is plagiarism.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (Ps 8:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Not sure if I have posted this or not, but I am posting it again. This was first published in First Press newsletter. If I already posted then I am putting it up again... It's very relevant with Hurricane Irma coming in a few hours.
Read PSALM 13
David begins his Psalm by asking God “How long?” four times. The repetition shows that David is at a point of being unable to bear or endure the situation(s) he is facing. He asks God, “How long YHWH will you forget me, how long will you hide your face from me, how long must I take counsel in myself and how long must I watch the enemy exalt over me?” Initially one would think David is having a crisis of faith as he wonders if God is even around or even cares.
Questioning God was a practice of many men and women of the Bible throughout the centuries. For example, Abraham questioned God when He promised Abraham’s wife would one day bear a son. Job questioned God when he lost everything that was precious to him. Elijah questioned God’s whereabouts when he flees from Jezebel. The Israelites continually questioned God in times of calamity.
There are people who think questioning or complaining to God is wrong, disrespectful or irreverent. I could not disagree more. God is not taken back, intimidated or offended when we bring our raw unfettered emotions to him. I believe He welcomes our cries of despair that we express to him.
David, the Psalmist, is voicing his concern to God by asking, “How long do I have to endure before you will intervene and take control of the situation?” He feels alone and abandoned by God and he is in despair as he faces his enemies. The last thing anyone wants when they are facing a trial or calamity is the feeling of being alone and abandoned. Yet, this is how David feels and he is begging God for divine intervention.
He begs, “God, hear my prayer! I have made my request known and I implore you to give it consideration. Give me the hope I need to know that I will emerge victoriously over my enemies for your name sake; lest my enemies think they have won.” However, in his despair he does not have a shallow hope that God may pull through for him; he is expecting God to hear his prayer and respond in the appropriate manner. This is hard to do, because I often allow my feelings to dictate my relationship with God.
Gerald H. Wilson writes in his commentary of Psalm 13 of three helpful responses to the question “How we can regain a sense of God’s presence when we feel as though we are all alone and far from his presence.”
Vs. 4 – This is a contrast of the happy life. A happy person rooted in God will be healthy, fruitful and prosperous but the person who seeks happiness in anything other than God will experience a fleeting happiness. It is a type of happiness that may bring happiness for season but when the storms of life pick up so goes their happiness. This is the person who has no faith in God and thinks he is happy. The fact remains this persons happiness is grounded in things that will flee or will disappoint. There will always be better jobs, bigger houses, newer cars, more money to be made, more stuff to buy etc. and when one of these fails you or stops bringing happiness to you, then the world can seem bleak or depressing, so you either wallow in misery or go out and find something else to bring a temporary joy which will eventually let you down.
We have happiness in God through Jesus Christ. We know true happiness and we know true joy. May we all completely understand today that apart from God the worldly mindset essentially has nothing to offer us in regards to happiness. Apart from God your marriage, your family, your relationships, the materials things of the world can’t bring happiness. The source of joy and happiness can only be found in God through Jesus Christ.
Read Psalm 1:1 - 3
In this Psalm we see again, the emotion of happiness and joy. This Psalm easily defines happiness in general. I think it is safe to say that we all want to be happy. In the United States we even believe happiness is a right for all people. The Declaration of Independence states that every American has the "unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This is true, but what is happiness? We all want it and we all pursue it in various ways, but do we actually know what we are pursuing?
People inside and outside of the body of Christ believe that happiness is can be found in someone or someTHING. I have hear some say they would be happy if they had a good paying job, a big house, a new car, a better Pastor, etc. Some seek happiness in a person or people… like a spouse, a boyfriend or girlfriend, children, friends, family, etc. These bring a great deal of happiness and joy, but I don't believe they are not the true and final source of happiness.
Writer of Psalm 1 describes what he believes brings happiness...
Vs. 1- Blessed – The word "Blessed" simply means happy. It is the kind of happiness that flows from a sense of well being and rightness. A happy person is one who does not walk in the ways of the world or of sin. Sin does not bring happiness; it may be fun for a moment but eventually misery follows.
Seeking the “Counsel of the wicked” means taking advice or advisement from the ungodly person or those hostile to God. How can a person find happiness from a person who doesn’t have happiness? The happy person does not take up residence with people who are proud, boastful, mockers, or get off on deriding people of joy. However, this does not mean we isolate ourselves from wicked or ungodly people. We are to steer clear of the influence of the ungodly. We are called to love the sinner; but we are not to let this person be an influence in who you are and in your joy.
Vs. 2 – True happiness comes in the instruction of the Lord. Some take this to mean that the only way we can be happy is if we read the Bible all the time and memorize the laws of the Bible and follow every letter of the law to the “T”. This is not what is meant in this verse. Sure, we will find a ton of joy when we read the word of God and hold it in our hearts; but a truly happy person is one who is influenced by and completely submitted to God and his ways because they are the right ways. Our source of happiness and joy should come from God. He is happiness and He is joy. True happiness is found in God and living a life grounded in him. Does this mean that if we follow God’s ways we will always be skipping, smiling and soaring through life without a care? Of course not! We will always experience anger, frustration, despair and all sorts of negativity throughout life, but we will always have the source of happiness in us. We can still be happy and be miserable all at the same time. Why? Because our happiness is not based in a person, place or thing; it is grounded in God and we can truly be happy when life does not seem so good.
Vs. 3 – Not only will a submitted person be happy but he will also live a fruitful life. He or she who is rooted in God will be like a tree that is well nourished and cared for and produce abundant and healthy fruit in its due time. God will bless the person who is rooted in Him. We will be blessed, we will prosper, and we will be filled with joy and happiness all according to God’s purposes. This can mean we may not always FEEL like we are blessed, prosperous, joyful and happy but you are because God has given all for you.
For the past couple of days I have been posting devotionals from the Psalms. I love the Psalms because of their raw emotion and honestly. John Calvin wrote, “I may truly call this book (the Psalms) an anatomy of all the parts of the soul, for no one can feel a moment of the spirit which is not reflected in the mirror. All sorrows, troubles, fears, doubts, hopes, pain, perplexities and stormy outbreaks by which the hearts of men are tossed have been depicted here to the very life.”
C.S. Lewis also writes, “Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all incense and all formalities, the hyperbole's, the emotional rather than the logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry.”
These men are essentially saying, the Psalms are meant to speak to the heart more than the head. We are not necessarily meant to read them as intellectual observations as much as we are to observe the raw emotion as the Psalmists speak through them and speak to our souls.
There are five types of Psalms represented in the Bible.
I just wanted to pause and give a little insight to the Psalms and as I continue to write devotionals from the Psalms, hopefully this little introduction to reading the Psalms can be helpful to to you.
Read Psalm 84:4 -5
I get excited when I think about the day when I can spend eternity in the presence of God Almighty in His dwelling place. My heart reflects that of the Psalmist as I declare, “my soul longs and faints for the city of Heaven. My heart and flesh cry out for joy to the living God who has prepared a place for believers where we may dwell in His presence for all eternity." Until that day I will live in joyous anticipation and seek to dwell in His presence here on earth.
Vs. 4 – 5: Happy is the person who dwells in the presence of God and happy is the person who is completely and utterly dependant on God for all things. Dependence on God is not a crutch or a constricting thing; it is the one thing that can truly make a person happy and blessed.
Vs. 8 – 9: The prayer of the journeyman. It is a prayer of protection upon the nation of Israel and her king.
Vs 10: The Psalmist continues his prayer. He declares that if given the choice in life he would choose to spend one day in the presence of God than to the spend 1,000 days anyplace else. He would gladly be a servant in the presence of God than to be confined by the shackles of sin and evil. This verse is just another way of saying there is nothing more in heaven or earth that can compare to being in the presence of God. Imagine that! This man is soooooo excited to go to “Church” that he can’t imagine being any other place on earth than in the place where he can meet with God.
Vs. 11: He declares God is the source of all that is good and perfect. He provides our every need… He provides protection, sunlight, honor and all that is declared good to us.
Vs. 12: Proclaims another way we can be blessed or happy. Happy is the one who puts all his trust in God.
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