Sunday is the first day of a new year, so we will celebrate this newness just like we always have, by eating black-eyed peas for at least the 45th time in my life. We are so comfortable with the old, I don't see why we bother changing. Just imagine how much easier it would be to keep the year 2011. Then we wouldn't have to worry about that whole Mayan Calendar/ Doomsday thing. :) Funny thing about that is, they were obviously wrong. The Mayans were wiped out long before 2012.
Malachi 4:2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
This verse is a beautiful allusion to newness and change. Here you have the picture of a baby calf whose Mamma is taken into the stall in late Winter before she calves, just in case she drops the calf at night while the farmer is sleeping. He might freeze to death before morning. So, after the calf is born, they remain in the shelter of the stall until Spring. Then, the farmer opens the stall door and the Mamma walks out into the sunlight, taking in the wings of the morning, for the sun's rays are the "wings" of the sun.
But, the calf is afraid to come out because he was "born in a barn," literally. That is all he has ever known, the stinky smelly stall where he has laid in his own waste for weeks on end. The farmer has to tie a rope around him and drag him out of the stall, out into the field. After a few scared minutes, the calf begins to notice the neat sights around him, and basking in the sunlight, he will begin to frolic around from one end of the pasture to the other, exulting in his new life with pleasure.
Jesus is the Sun in this verse, for it is speaking of the end times prophetically, just as much as it is speaking of a new day. Prophetic verses have a near fulfillment and a far fulfillment, just like a row of mountain peaks. This applies to when Jesus opens our world to a new light, and it refers to when Jesus will open the new world up for us to experience the fulness of His light.
"As the sun rises our infirmities decrease," according to the old Jewish proverb.
This proverb is true in two ways. When we are sick, it usually gets worse in the late hours of night. But, by morning the fever recedes. Likewise, sickness is more prevalent in the winter when earth is farther from the sun. But, as the Sun rises in the sky to its position over the equator in summer, the sunshine brings health to our bodies that was denied in the dark winter months indoors. This is true too of Jesus. As He rises in our lives, our weaknesses vanish, because we are strong in Him.
You may think life there in your old stall is comfortable, and you may fear this change, but I promise you it is for the good. God has unimaginable things in store for you... tomorrow. Each new day, each new year is a blessing and a beginning. Take hold on what God will give you. That is your blessing, just like Elisha's blessing that dropped from the whirlwind of change. Never fear Elisha, God is with you now, just as before. He does not change. Only the circumstances change for you to receive all that He has for you.
Revelation 21:5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
A new year is upon us! Get ready for all things to be new.
Joe Paterno is in an unfortunate situation at Penn State. He was fired by phone this morning. It is often easy to see a great leader's effect on those around him. The students are in turmoil as we see from the rioting. The university is surely devastated by the crimes that have been committed and the suffering of the victims. I think the whole situation could have been handled better by the leadership of the university. The fact that they handpicked who would be removed and who would not, instead of removing everyone involved shows evidence of further ignoring criminal acts. Of course, Joe Paterno has been held accountable for his position in this tragedy. Leadership has responsibility.
2 Kings 2:12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the
chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took
hold of his own clothes, and tore them in two pieces.
This passage in the Bible is one of the most beautiful speeches or eulogies I have heard in my life. I wrote the other night about Elisha's love for Elijah as a mentor in the blog titled, "Hey Baldy! You Think You Gonna Get Raptured Too?!" But, I think the metaphor chosen by Elisha brings out exactly the impact Elijah's life and death had on Israel, and we know that Elisha had vision enough to see this.
Chariot -(Hebrew) rekeb reh'-keb
a vehicle; by implication, a team; by extension, cavalry; by
analogy a rider, i.e. the upper millstone:--chariot, (upper) millstone,
multitude (from the margin), wagon.
Horsemen -(Hebrew) parash paw-rawsh'
a steed (as stretched out to a vehicle, not single nor for
mounting (compare 5483)); also (by implication) a driver (in a chariot), i.e.
Both a chariot and the horsemen are vehicles. But, a chariot specifically carries. Elijah was seen as the wheels of his organization. He brought motion to the people in a religious sense. He put wheels on the Spirit of the country. He carried them to greatness. A chariot is like the undercarriage or chasis of an automobile. It is essential to support. Meaningful movement is not going to take place without this support. In the same way, a body with no skeleton can not have meaningful movement.
The horsemen, or the horsepower of the chariot, is much like the engine of an automobile. Elisha saw Elijah as the force that drove Israel. Note that the Spirit is what drives the individual person. Elijah was the one man in Elisha's eyes who embodied the Spirit of Israel. Elijah was both the support and the driving force of Israel. This is an amazing credit to the man.
2 Kings 13:14 Now Elisha had fallen sick of his sickness of which he died.
And Joash the king of Israel came down unto him, and wept over his face, and
said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.
Fastforward sixty years into the future to Elisha's deathbed, for he did not "go up like Elijah." Once again some young man is there beside him as he prepares to leave Earth, one with enough vision to see that Israel is losing their locomotion and driving force. The exact same eulogy delivered by Elisha is spoken at his death bed for him. And, of course, the eulogy includes the title "My Father." I wait till last to add this to the eulogy because it brings in so much more of what a great leader can be. Your father is the source of life. He is the one who gave you existance. Your mother is the vehicle alone. But, your own spirit is the engine that keeps you moving. Here in this one eulogy, Elisha and Elijah were credited with having the role of mother and father and spirit of Israel.
They are beautiful words, and I believe they were well founded and rightfully spoken. But, that is not the real story here. Sadly, you can't help but notice that the man who spoke the words to Elisha at his deathbed was not asking for an inheritance. He was not taking up Elisha's dropped cloak of the Spirit. He had only been king for one year and was just a young man, possibly onlly eight years old. He was seven when he began to reign. Yet, he had lived long enough to witness the slaughter of his whole family. He knew what war was and he took the throne in a coup, led by the High Priest. So, he was well aware of the violence of his kingdom around him. How much more should he have been aware of the threat from outside the kingdom?
2 Kings 13:15-19 records that Elisha gave Joash a prophecy before he died there that day. There must have been a desire inside of Elisha to mentor the young King, who hadn't asked for an inheritance. Yet, he knew the right words to say. Imagine that! An eight year old boy knew the exact words Elisha had spoken when Elijah was taken up. He had heard the story many times from his Spiritual advisor's own lips. He knew the Words. But, he didn't ask for the double portion. Why?! What is wrong with this picture?
Elisha wanted to help the young man. He knew the crown would be a heavy burden for a man who was Spiritually weak. So, Elisha told Joash to take up his bow and shoot an arrow out the window toward the East. Joash must have been handy with the bow and the shot was good. Elisha was happy with his aim. He pronounces that Joash will surely be able to win a few battles against the Syrians in the East with an aim like that. Then Elisha tells the boy to take the arrows in his hand and to strike the ground. He didn't tell him how many times to strike the floor, just to strike. This was a test to measure the boy's stamina, his endurance, his passion for victory. The boy struck the ground three times and stopped.
Elisha was disappointed that Joash stopped so quickly. He wanted to see an enthusiastic show of gung-ho readiness to take the reins. This did not happen. Joash gave up to quick. Elisha told him that he should have struck the ground five or six times. Elisha knew it would take repeated wars to subdue Syria. The fact was, Joash was not like Elijah or Elisha. There would be neither a chariot to carry Israel, nor horsemen to lead them into the coming thirty years. Joash would eventually turn to idolatry and Israel would eventually fall into captivity, without Spiritual leadership.
Interestingly, the name Paterno means Father-figure, and Joe Paterno was certainly a father figure to many young men. It is sad to see the reins taken from his hands. As he himself has said in the past, "Success without honor is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy
your hunger, but it won't taste good." -Joe Paterno
EJ: "Stay here"
ES: "I will not leave you."
( Both walk 10 miles in the dust.)
SP1: "Don't you know?"
ES: "Yes, I know it... just be quiet!"
EJ: "Stay here"
ES: "I will not leave you."
(Both walk 20 miles more in the heat of the day.)
SP2: "Don't you know?"
ES: "Yes, I know it... just be quiet!"
EJ: "Stay here"
ES: "I will not leave you."
As long as God is alive and you are alive, I will not leave you... such stirring words, rivaling even Ruth's words to Naomi. Yes, this is the intensity with which Elisha pursued his mentor. Such love! After the 30 mile hike from Gilgal to Bethel, and from Bethel to Jerico, and after the third profession of undying loyalty, the sons of the prophets in Jerico didn't question Elisha anymore about his intelligence. They just all stood on the front lawn of the campus and watched the headmaster and his favorite student walk out to the Jordon River alone. The dust flew in the distance, and the sun beat down from the sky.
Miraculously, Elijah folded his cloak and, like a matador in the arena he waved it across the water, then they both crossed over with dry feet. The aged mentor turned to his follower and asked just exactly what it was he wanted from him, desiring to be certain of Elisha's motives, whether they were truly rooted in love for his master as it seemed. The student unashamedly admited he was after an inheritance... the firstborn blessing of a double portion... of Elijah's Spirit. Imagine the audacity to admit that he wanted to be more than just like Elijah... twice the man he was! Imagine the pride and love Elijah must have felt to have this son in the Spirit.
Elijah had no family, no wife, no children, but this son in the Spirit. Indeed, Elisha had no Father but Elijah, since we saw him leave his Father and Mother in 1 Kings 19:20 to follow Elijah. So, you can imagine the sadness Elisha must have felt when he saw his teacher go up into the skies, raptured in a whirlwind right in front of his eyes. Like a son driven to follow in his Father's footsteps, Elisha bravely picked up the mantle Elijah dropped to him and turned back to divide the waters of the Jordon again. "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" he called. God answered by parting the water. Returning to the Prophet school where the others were waiting, he told them what had happened. But, they took a search party looking for Elijah anyways.
Later, returning on the way that he and Elijah had come from Bethel earlier, he walked alone. The story of Elijah's private rapture had spread fast. A mob of children from the city apparantly ran in the wilderness like urchins in London's streets in the nineteenth century, for many saw him and began to taunt him. They began to shout, "Go up, you bald head; go up, you bald head." This had to torment his lonely soul, for how he must have wished he could have gone up with Elijah! Elisha called on the name of God, and suddenly two mamma bears came out of the woods and killed 42 of the children. It is not a good thing to mock God.
I know that today we have many who speak of knowing the day and the hour of Jesus' return in the sky to take His children home. But, the Bible says no man knows the time. Matthew 24:36 this leads many more than before to doubt Jesus' return, and to mock true believers. The other students mocked Elisha. The children mocked Elisha. But, Elisha had seen Elijah go up with his own eyes. An eyewitness account can not be refuted.
And, what did Elisha have to show for his witness? He received a double portion... the firstborn blessing. Noteworthy is the fact that the Bible records twice as many miracles for Elisha as Elijah. It was one short when Elisha was buried. But, later a dead man was buried in the pit with him in a hurry and the moment he touched Elisha's bones, he was resurrected. This made the count double, and Elisha carried the Spirit of Elijah, which will one day bring his bones from the grave, up with Elijah.