Worth Doing Poorly

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 10.25-31
25 As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, he ordered the guards and officers: “Go in and kill them; let no one escape.” So they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal. 26 They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it. 27 They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day. 
28 So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. 29 However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. 
30 The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” 31 Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit. 

Reflection: Worth Doing Poorly
By John Tillman

There’s an aphorism that says anything worth doing is worth doing right. There is also a counterargument which says that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. The traditional aphorism discourages shoddiness and sloth and the non-traditional mirror-version discourages despair and apathy.

People may feel they don’t have the resources to “do something right” and so do nothing. Whether one feels a lack of emotional strength, or physical strength, or other resources, the idea that one cannot complete something can be paralyzing.

It is easy to apply this to tangible things. If you are too tired to brush and floss, just brushing makes a difference. If you can’t afford healthy food for every meal, changing one meal a day is an improvement. If you can’t run a 5K, walking around your block is still worthwhile.

But when it comes to serving the Lord, is partial obedience worth anything? How does God view our futile attempts at perfection? 

God seemed pleased with Jehu’s partial obedience. Jehu eliminated the worship of Baal and carried out God’s prophecy against Ahab. Based on this, God made a promise to Jehu that his line of kings would last four generations.

Partial or incomplete obedience matters when it comes to earthly consequences and outcomes but it is not salvific. All the repeated failures of kings and saviors in the Old Testament point to our need for the true savior and true king to come. 

The Christian faith acknowledges, with more honesty than most faith systems, that humans are incapable of complete righteousness and justice. This harsh realism is not a fatalistic surrender to human nature. We cannot gain salvation by legalism but this does not mean abandoning self-control. On the contrary, Paul (the Bible’s most strident anti-legalist) encourages us to make our bodies slaves to God’s will and to press onward to a higher calling.

Christians do not believe in capitulating to sin, but in following the one who has defeated it. It is Christ’s complete righteousness that we cling to and claim, not our own. 

No matter how “good” we are, we can’t save ourselves. But no matter how far short we fall, anyone can turn in repentance and take steps with Jesus that make a difference. Pressing onward to follow Jesus is more important than how many times we fall or fail.

Following Jesus is worth it, even if you fail frequently.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
For you Name’s sake, O Lord, forgive my sin, for it is great. — Psalm 109.25

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 10 (Listen – 6:30)
2Timothy 1 (Listen – 2:37)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 11-12 (Listen – 7:38),  2 Timothy 2 (Listen – 3:17)
2 Kings 13 (Listen – 4:33), 2 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:21)

Read more about Praising Christ’s Righteousness
God specifically tells Ezekiel that not even the greatest, most righteous men he might trust in would be able to save the nation.

Read more about Kiss of Righteousness and Peace—Guided Prayer
May we bring righteousness and peace together in our lives and communities.

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The Hero We Need Isn’t Jehu

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 9.22-26
22 When Joram saw Jehu he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu?” 
“How can there be peace,” Jehu replied, “as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?” 
23 Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, “Treachery, Ahaziah!” 
24 Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. 25 Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, “Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the LORD spoke this prophecy against him: 26 ‘Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the LORD, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the LORD.’ Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the LORD.” 

Reflection: The Hero We Need Isn’t Jehu
By John Tillman

Joram’s death completes a prophecy against Ahab. Ahab was so evil that the writer of 2 Kings made a special mention (twice) that there never was anyone like Ahab, who chased after Baal and declared God and God’s prophets to be his enemies. If not for the actions of a few who resisted Ahab, all the prophets of the Lord and those faithful to Yaweh could have been wiped out. 

After the murder of Naboth, God promised to wipe out Ahab’s family, then later delayed the judgment. After Ahab’s death, time was up. Justice rode into Samaria at the heels of Jehu. Like Jehu’s arrow that pierced Joram’s fleeing back, God launched Jehu, into the heart of Israel’s idolatry, targeting those responsible for violence and injustice.

Comparatively speaking, Jehu is probably the closest Israel ever came to having a righteous king who sought the Lord. However, that’s kind of like saying he was the best smelling dumpster fire in the alley. 

Jehu’s brand of justice was blood for blood, deception for deception, and slaughter for slaughter. 
Most of the time those who are used by God to carry out violent justice are then brought down in violence by God. Live by the sword, die by it. They aren’t good role models and we shouldn’t long to emulate them. Jehu wasn’t the hero Israel needed. He’s not the one we need either. 

One thing Jehu got right was that we cannot have peace with God while serving other gods. Jehu was an incomplete savior who delivered an incomplete and unsatisfying justice. He failed to pierce the idolatry and injustice in his own heart. He destroyed the worship of one of Israel’s idols but left other corrupt worship practices in place.

We might like to picture ourselves as a Jehu. We may feel heroic riding to attack and destroy the idols of others. But what idols do we leave standing? What false gods are we at peace with? Before you launch an arrow at another, target your own heart with the help of God’s Spirit. How can there be peace, when our idolatry lives?

Jesus is the hero, the savior, we need. One day, Jesus will ride like Jehu, bringing final justice to evil. But now is the time of salvation when we can make peace with God through Christ. Now, Jesus extends his hands, offering forgiveness. Make peace with him today.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
The Lord is King; let the people tremble; he is enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth shake. — Psalm 99.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 9 (Listen – 6:32)
1 Timothy 6 (Listen – 3:16)

Read more about Ahab and David
Ahab’s murder of Naboth has some interesting parallels to David and the murder of Uriah.

Read more about Muscle Memory
Ahaziah adopted the sinful behavior of his father and suffered the same tragic death.

Ordinary Measure of Faithfulness

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 8.2
2 The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.

Reflection: Ordinary Measure of Faithfulness
By Erin Newton

Almost 100 years ago, Amy Carmichael dreamed of moving to Japan to be a missionary. However, God led her somewhere unplanned, India, to do unexpected work, running an orphanage. Much of her days were spent tending to the children and discipling other women. At a time when the most epic events of modern history were occurring, she was in India quietly doing the unassuming work of God.  

The Shunammite woman is a tale of the slow, quiet, and ordinary walk of faithfulness. She started with hospitality. She offered a meal to Elisha and quickly became a reliable and trustworthy resource for the prophet. When tragedy fell upon her house, she immediately sought God’s prophet. Her character was shockingly different from the leaders of Israel and Judah.

When Elisha told her that a famine was coming to the land, she believed and followed his advice, leaving her home and country for seven years. Because of her faith, she was saved from the ravages of the famine which devastated the people, leaving them in unthinkable desperation. She listened, believed, and obeyed what Elisha told her. Upon her return, she was a shining example of the blessing of humble faithfulness.

We never learn her name. Her story is not painted in cathedrals or put into comic books. She is not sought out by the prophet because of her charisma or popularity. She is esteemed for her hospitality and faith. The miracle of her son’s resurrection is set against her unwavering confidence in the power of God through the prophet. We know nothing of her seven years away. But her reward at the end of those years is worth more than many of the inhabitants who refused to believe and whose stories have become warnings.

Let us not be deceived into thinking excitement is proportional to godliness. Sensationalism is not the measure of faithfulness. Walking with God is doing ordinary things day in and day out. In Amy’s time in India, she struggled with some of the volunteers arguing with each other. She felt the Lord call her to write a series of reflections about the ordinary measure of faithfulness.

If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider ‘not spiritual work’ I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love. — Amy Carmichael

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Protect my life and deliver me; let me know be put to shame, for I have trusted in you. — Psalm 25.19

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 8 (Listen – 5:18)
1 Timothy 5 (Listen – 3:22)

Read more about God is Faithful, not Indebted
God proves more faithful than Job’s friends, and as he came to Job, he also comes to us.

Read more about Christ, Our Undeserved Friend
Unfailing faith to stand in grace
And steps to finish out this race.
Christ, he our undeserved friend,
Is with me yet, until the end.

An Officer and Four Leper Men

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 7:8-9
8 The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.
9 Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

Reflection: An Officer and Four Leper Men
By Jon Polk

The city of Samaria was under siege by the Arameans! A great famine overwhelmed the city! Food prices skyrocketed! The people became so desperate that mothers made deals to cook and eat their own children! Oh, the humanity!

But Elisha prophesied, “Hear the word of the Lord! By this time tomorrow, food prices will plummet!”

One of the king’s highest officers scoffed in disbelief. Elisha insisted, “It will happen, but you won’t get any.”

Overnight, God caused the Arameans to hear sounds of a mighty army approaching. Quaking in their boots, the Arameans fled for the hills, leaving food and supplies behind in their camp.

Who made the joyous discovery of the enemy’s empty camp? The king of Israel? His officers and commanders?

No, the heroes of this tale are four unassuming men with leprosy, the definitive social outcasts of the Bible. Four men who sat every day outside the city at the gate, their ‘proper place’ according to tradition. Talk about social distancing.

These men had decided their lives were so miserable that they would rather surrender themselves to the Arameans than to stay put and die from the famine. Four men with nothing to lose but everything to gain.

So they stumbled upon the empty camp and began to feast upon their unlikely bounty. But wait! “This is great news! We cannot keep it to ourselves! We must immediately go back to the city and report this!”

(Sound familiar? Centuries later, in a pasture outside the sleepy, little town of Bethlehem, a group of shepherds, the social outcasts of their day, heard some great news and did the same.)

The king was informed. The people rejoiced. Food prices dropped, just as Elisha predicted. And what happened to the disbelieving officer? He was assigned to the city gate and in a Black Friday style surge, he was trampled to death by the crowds out plundering the camp for food.

One officer did not believe and was left out of the blessing. Four outcasts had nothing to lose and cashed in the biggest lottery winnings of their lives. They were also responsible for bringing the good news to the rest of the city.

Who are the “outcasts” in your world? Who do you consider outside the reach of God’s blessing? Who do you go out of your way to avoid?

As the church, we ignore the voices, participation, and contributions of those whom we call “outcasts” at our own peril. For God does not call them “outcasts,” he calls them “my precious children.” 

Music: “God Help the Outcasts” by Cynthia Clawson

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to his hands.
Anyone who believes in the Son had eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: God’s retribution hangs over him. — John 3.35-36

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 7 (Listen – 3:55)
1 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:05)

Read more about The Beautiful Feet of Lepers
Most stories of lepers in the Bible end with them being healed but these weren’t.

Read more about Separateness Not Superiority
Like the coal taken from the altar that cleansed Isaiah’s unclean lips, Jesus cleansed what was unclean.


Eating With Enemies

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 6.17-18, 20-23
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. 

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. 
21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” 
22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. 

Matthew 26.52-54
52 “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” 

Psalm 23.5
5 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.

Reflection: Eating With Enemies
By John Tillman

Elisha was, perhaps, never more Christ-like than when he led an army of his political enemies into the citadel of his spiritual enemies and then directed everyone to sit and eat a meal together.

This wasn’t a kumbaya moment where everyone held hands and decided to get along. It was a power play. Elisha demonstrated that God alone was king—not Joram, not the king of Aram, Yahweh. Elisha, through God’s power, prepared a table in the presence of his enemies and made them eat together. (Psalm 23.5)

However, no demonstration of God’s power is sufficient to prevent human rebellion. After a short peace in which Aram avoided Israel’s territory, hostilities resumed. After calling Elisha, “Father,” and being obedient during a crisis, Joram and Israel’s kings returned to their idolatry.

No miracle or display of power can sustain faith. The Bible proves over and over that miraculous signs and wonders will not convince us to abandon our idols for long.

Sin is too ingrained in us to be sanded off, like a minor imperfection. Sin is too bold to be frightened away. It crouches at our door. It seeks to master us. It asks to sift us. It hovers over us like a mighty predator. It surrounds us like an army.

Yet, we are not without hope. Like Elisha’s servant, we need our eyes opened to realize those with us are greater than those with them. He that is within us is greater than he that is in the world. (1 John 4.4) The sin that stalks us, has been defeated by the one who walks with us. (Psalm 23.4) The sin that crouches at our door has been nailed to Christ’s cross. (Genesis 4.7) Sin intends to sift us, but Christ has prayed for us. (Luke 22.32)

Like Peter, we will deny Christ, draw our swords, and sin. But we can turn back and strengthen others. Walking with Christ, we will be led to eat with our enemies rather than destroy them.

When Christ leads us into the heavenly city, we will find ourselves dining and worshipping with people we harmed or who harmed us. Christ’s love will cover all, Christ’s justice will restore our hurts and harms, and we will feast together.

However, we shouldn’t wait for eternity. Let us call on God’s power for peace, not destruction. Let us love our enemies today. Through Christ, enemies can eat together in peace.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. — Psalm 31.24

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:05)
1 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:10)

Read more about Christless Forgiveness is the Absence of Justice
Forgiveness is unjust if forgiveness is simply letting evil succeed…if victims are never heard and no one ever answers for their pain.

Read more about The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel
God sets his table for scoundrels, shaking hands with undeserved trust.