Tag Archives: enemies

2 Kings 4:29-8:15

One of my challenges to understanding the Old Testament is reading about war, yet there are many stories of interest in God’s narrative other than just who wins or loses the battles. The first several short stories in this Scripture focus describe God confirming His prophet, Elisha through signs and miracles. I especially was struck by an incident when Elisha prayed that God would feed a hundred men where there were only 20 loaves of barley bread in one man’s knapsack. His servant broke bread until all were fed and some food was left over (reminds me of the miracles through the Lord Jesus yet to come). Elisha also instructed an enemy captain, Naaman, what to do to receive healing from leprosy (doing good to his enemy, again is messianic). We also learn that Elisha, who spoke not of his own will, but what he heard from God, was completely confident in what he was to say. Even when he knew the outcome would not be favorable, he did not hold back speaking the word of God. It is one such story that drew me in for a closer look.

When Elisha met with the king of Aram’s messenger regarding Aram’s failing health, Elisha said this to the man, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” But Elisha could not stop staring at the messenger, Hazael, who became embarrassed under Elisha’s gaze. In this eerie moment, Elisha was given a horrifying vision of what was to come at the hand of Hazael. He wept as he prophesied to Hazael what he would do to the Israelites, saying, “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.” Elisha knew he was helpless to do anything about this but weep; yet he was tasked with knowing and prophesying the tragedy.

I do not seek that kind of relationship with God, our Father. Still, there have been times when I feared for a person’s future without really knowing why. And when some disaster shortly befell that person, I went to my knees in fear and in prayer for mercy. On another occasion, when this foreboding overtook me concerning what a person said, I prayed for God to forgive her. I still pray that His mercy was shown to her in her last moments of life. I am no prophet, and frankly I do not want to be the harbinger of destruction. It weighs down my soul.

Yet, there are many even today who are called prophets, and who are sounding the alarm about the times we are living in. How can I discern when God is speaking through them? When I hear of destruction, is my fear of what is to come causing me to tremble? Or am I fearful for the words of those who pray for this destruction, not just to destroy the enemy armies but to cut off their descendants? Are we to pray for our enemies and ask God to destroy them at the same time? This, too, weighs down my soul.

My writer friends and I have been discussing the ‘divided heart.’ Loving two things at the same time. I thought about Jesus’ commandment, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (Matthew 5:43-48). If we are to obey Christ, therefore, we must love our enemies even knowing their intent to do us or others harm. How do we do that?

Look up to heaven. Look into the face of Jesus Christ. Let His words, His Spirit, and His will be alive in our prayers. For the only way a soul is lifted up is to give God glory. He alone knows the end of all life; I am not the one who has understanding. And that is okay. My prayer is that God be with us all, protecting our hearts from becoming embittered, unforgiving, or vindictive. What we may see in a vision or otherwise, we must submit to a good God who is Lord over all the earth. Let us start by dropping to our knees in prayer for mercy. Then pray that God will increase our faith in the sovereignty of His will.

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1 Samuel 20-22

David fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. ”What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. ”What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?” ”That’s not true!” Jonathon protested. ”You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!” Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ’I won’t tell Jonathan-why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the LORD and by your own soul!” ”Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed.” 1 Samuel 20:1-4 NLT

Jonathan was put in a tough position, between his dad and best friend. But, his loyalty was with God first. That gave him the wisdom and courage to do what was right. He was loyal to his dad who was King and to his friend. I can’t help but to wonder what I would do in the same situation. Am I letting God’s word guide my decisions? Am I a loyal friend?

“Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend-for we made a solemn pact before the Lord-or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!” ”Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I have the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.” 1 Samuel 20:8&9 NLT

Jonathan was a faithful friend. I can get weary of praying the same prayer or showing up when it doesn’t seem to make a difference. But, God has been speaking the importance of faithfulness in my life. It reminds me of His faithfulness to me.

And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, ”May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.” 1 Samuel 20:14-17 NLT

Do I know how fully loved I am by God, that I can love others well? Jonathan loved David well. With a love that could only come from God. They had genuine sadness when they left each other. It was a bond that could not be broken.

“Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David. At last Jonathan said to David, ”Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.” 1 Samuel 20:42 NLT

Thank you Father for never giving up on me. Thank you for being my closest friend. Help me to be a good friend and love others well. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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2 Kings 4-6; Matthew 5

I wonder which would be more difficult: to fill many empty jars with oil from one flask or to offer my other cheek to be slapped again by an enemy? In the one situation, a widow is about to have her two sons taken away from her to fulfill a debt. In another situation, one is advised to stand before an enemy and not only take the blow, but ready oneself for the next without striking back or defending oneself. Really: which would be more difficult?

Elisha speaks miracles–many of them just by telling people what to do. He doesn’t do it for his own glory. He doesn’t even accept payment. He does it out of relationship with God and obedience to him. It is an act of trust and faith. God is the source of power, holiness, and ability, and Elisha knows it. And when others witness these things, they know it too.

Lord, do my words and actions support my belief that you are the source of power, holiness, and ability?

Elisha gives the word to a soldier to dunk himself in the water to heal his leprosy–he doesn’t need to be there. He eats in a famine. He sees the Lord’s vast army through the window when others can’t.

Imagine holding a flask of oil that continues to flow beyond its measure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus teaches his disciples about blessing, effectiveness (saltiness), the law, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies. This isn’t teaching for other people; it’s guidance for all people. So, what is more difficult: to be mocked, persecuted and lied about for being a Christ follower or to shine like a light from a hilltop for even your enemies to see, unhidden? To actively reconcile with someone where there is deep tension or to love (in deed) people who are not friends?

It’s easy to think metaphorically, easy to comply when one isn’t in the heat of a conflict, “Offer your other cheek. Give your coat too. Go the extra mile.” But what if an enemy literally struck my cheek, would I stand in God’s strength and offer the other cheek? And what if I was fined payment of something I used daily (the shirt), could I also offer something I used in emergency (the coat)? And if, in oppression, I was told to carry something, would I go above and beyond?

Am I like the “tax collectors and pagans” loving only those who love me, showing kindness to only my friends? Do I shine my light in the safe places, only to those who already know God, or do I hold him up in the company of unbelievers?

Or am I a flask that continues to flow beyond its measure? Could I do what Christ suggests without fear, without complaint, without resentment because I know there’s more (in me) where that came from (because of God)?

10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (Matthew 5:10, NLT)

Father God, you are the source of all. If you call, you will equip. And in the impossible, you make it possible. Oh, this is freedom, to live a life poured out for you, flowing from your abundance. You give sunlight and rain to both the evil and the good because there is no shortage of grace and goodness in you.

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44-45a, NLT)

Courtney (66books365)

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Ezekiel 16-18; John 6

He came so that we could have life.

Old Testament reading of a nation’s beauty, nurtured and tended, turned prostitute. God says of sin:

For all people are mine to judge—both parents and children alike. And this is my rule: The person who sins is the one who will die. Ezekiel 18:4, NLT.

The warnings whisper through time, woven in example after example. Sin kills.

30 “Therefore, I will judge each of you, O people of Israel, according to your actions, says the Sovereign Lord. Repent, and turn from your sins. Don’t let them destroy you! 31 Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O people of Israel? 32 I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live! Ezekiel 18:30-32, NLT.

God speaks and HE is judge. It is not for me to sit back and tally offenses (help me, God, help me). He looks at it all, he is judge.

I was thinking on a New Testament story of a man who asked, “Who is my neighbor?” And then wondered to myself, “Who is my enemy?” God says to bless our enemies, to pray for those who persecute–and I read these verses and think of his heart: Turn back and live. Whether I or another falls into sin, it grieves his heart and he wants something better–will not forsake me and speaks over me: turn back and live.

Sin kills. It breaks apart families and friendships. It snares a heart and squeezes tightly. Lord, you came so that we could have life, and not just eternal life, but life TODAY.

Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

“Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” John 6:27b, NLT.

Where do I spend my energy? Is my time spent clinging to sin that strangles–ensnared in a trap? Lord, I seek and pursue you–you are my peace and my freedom.

32 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.”

35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. 37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:32-40, NLT.

Lord, give me that bread every day. This is me: seeking, reaching, grasping, praying–and there you are: looking at me and not past me, never rejecting or losing me; life giving, heart changing, bread of life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalm 1-3; Acts 16:1-15

David writes this psalm while fleeing from his son Absalom. It’s hard to imagine the vulnerability of sleep when someone is out for your life. It’s hard to imagine your own family member out to destroy you.

Enemies don’t always come across as sinister villains. Sometimes they wear larger-than-life smiles. Sometimes they send you Christmas cards. Sometimes they are people you’d least expect (like David’s son!). Does this hatred lie dormant in each of us? What triggers the turn? Is it power? Is it jealousy? Is it resentment? What feeds this beast?

Oh, Lord, guard my heart!

There were days when I could not hold my head up. Days when there were enemies on every side. I stood in worship and sang the words, if our God is for us then who could ever stop us. I wondered, when so much seemed wrong, was God for me? That is the darkest place to be.

When an enemy’s hand holds down, it’s hard to feel uplifted by encouragement, “God’s got something better.” Because, what if–and you’d seem faithless to finish the question.

I read over Acts with some students last fall as we were getting to know about Paul. I read this part with fresh understanding:

Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. Acts 16:6-8, NLT.

That first spring after we moved, I learned how to ride the tractor to cut the field. I’m sure I was a grinning fool, overwhelmed by beauty. The sky, the fragrance, the feel of the breeze, the sound of the birds, the temperature–like an embrace. He spoke to me there, a repeating refrain. I searched his words online and found them. He took my breath away with this: “It was I who sent that great destroying army against you.”

And you know what? I was thankful.

O Lord, I have so many enemies;
    so many are against me.
So many are saying,
    “God will never rescue him!” Interlude

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
    you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
I cried out to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side.

Arise, O Lord!
    Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
    Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
Victory comes from you, O Lord.
    May you bless your people. Interlude Psalm 3:1-8, NLT

When hardships come, I can know: he is a shield; he hears me and holds me; he watches over me. I can read the words and know them as truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, ESV Through the Bible in a Year