Monday, July 31, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — II Kings 2:1-15

Elisha to Elijah (disciple to teacher) — 2 Kings 2:1-151
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

In any field of endeavor it is helpful to have a goal, to have some idea what the endgame is.
The school of agriculture's dean of admissions was interviewing a prospective student, "Why have you chosen this career?" he asked. "I dream of making a million dollars in farming, like my father," the student replied. "Your father made a million dollars in farming?" echoed the dean, much impressed. "No," replied the applicant... "but he always dreamed of it."
In any field of endeavor it is helpful to have a goal. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to the loyalty of a student to his teacher, the loyalty of Elisha to Elijah, of how one man followed another in his quest to become a prophet in Israel.
The Bible does not indicate how Elijah becomes a prophet or under whom he studied. He appears on the scene already in office and engaging in ministry:
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word" (1 Kgs 17:1).
Elijah spends his time in the northern kingdom of Israel where he serves both king and commoner.2
Elisha has a more traceable pedigree. There are prophetic guilds, and Elisha may have begun his training in one of them.3 At some point, though, an angel tells Elijah to take Elisha as his apprentice:4
Anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.... So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat.... Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.... Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. (1 Kgs 19:16b, 19,21b)
Elisha presumably trains exclusively with the senior prophet,5 although they appear together only at the end of Elijah's life.
I. Elisha is with Elijah on his travels (2 Kgs 2:1-7).
A. Elisha accompanies Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel (vv. 12).6
2 Kgs 2:1 When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel." But Elisha said, "As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
The senior prophet seems to be on a farewell tour, going to places he has been before or places he has yet to visit. Either way, Elijah is following the Lord's itinerary. Elisha may sense that Elijah is nearing the end of his life, and so the student is reluctant to leave his teacher, this being the last opportunity to enjoy his company.
  • The prophets at Bethel tell Elisha about Elijah's departure (v. 3).
2 Ks 2:3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, "Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?" "Yes, I know," Elisha replied, "but do not speak of it."
Fellow student prophets confirm Elisha's suspicion about Elijah's imminent departure, but Elisha does not want to discuss with his mentor such a potentially painful subject.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — I Sam 20:1-18

Jonathan to David (friend to friend) — I Sam 20:1-181
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

Nothing forges loyalty between two friends more than sharing common experiences, events both can look back on later and say, "We did that."
Jim and Jeff were two friends who got a pilot to fly them into the far north for elk hunting. They were quite successful in their venture, and bagged six big bull elk. The pilot came back as arranged to pick them up. They started loading their gear into the plane, including the six elk. But the pilot objected, saying, "The plane can take out only four of your elk; you will have to leave two behind." They argued with him indicating that the year before they had shot six and that pilot had allowed them to put all aboard, and the plane was just the same model and capacity as this. Reluctantly the pilot finally permitted them to put all six aboard. But when they attempted to take off and leave the valley where they were, the little plane could not make it, and they crashed in the wilderness. Climbing out of the wreckage, Jim said to Jeff, "Do you know where we are? "I think so," his friend replied. "This is the same place where the plane crashed last year."
Nothing forges loyalty between two friends more than sharing common experiences. David and Jonathan were also friends, and they had common experiences, like the need to deal with King Saul. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to the loyalty of two friends to each other as they face the machinations of Israel's first monarch.
After David's stunning victory against Goliath and his hero's welcome at home, King Saul is jealous of the boy's popularity and attempts to eliminate him.2 Saul views David as a political rival, a potential claimant to the throne, despite David's protestation that he has no such aspiration. Complicating matters for Saul is the friendship that has developed between Jonathan, the king's son, heir to the throne, and David. Jonathan refuses to believe that his father would harm David despite indications of the king's growing animus toward the boy.3 David has already escaped Saul's deadly machinations several times, so when Jonathan comes to him and assures David that the king does not wish to harm him, David is suspicious of the king's true agenda.
I. Saul is hostile toward David and wants to harm him (I Sam 20:1-4).
I Sam 20:1 David...went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?" 2 "Never!" Jonathan replied. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!" 3 But David took an oath and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, 'Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death." 4 Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you."
A. Jonathan doubts the king's evil intentions (v. 2).
The author attributes Saul's animosity to "an evil spirit from the Lord" (19:9). How can God use such a means? ...The answer lies in understanding the sequence of events. God did not precipitate Saul's spiritual decline. That was a decision Saul made when he twice chose to disobey Samuel, God's representative.
  • Before Israelite troops fought the Philistines, Saul sacrificed a burnt offering, which only a prophet or priest could do. Samuel rebuked him: "Now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command." (1 Sam 13:9b, 14)
  • After Israelite troops fought (and defeated) the Amalekites, Saul took the spoils of war, contrary to the prophet's instruction. Again Samuel rebuked him: "Rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." (1 Sam 15:23)
When Saul's disposition toward God changed, God's disposition toward Saul changed: The Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him (1 Sam 16:14). Because Saul displayed a lack of devotion to God, God chose another: The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7b-c).
B. David affirms the king's evil intentions (v. 3).
The king's son is in denial about his father's deadly plans for David, which Jonathan thinks is less than an "inkling" (v. 9). How can David convince his friend, who refuses to recognize his father's extreme jealousy? The spear toss was an obvious accident. The soldiers who came to David's home must have been looking for someone else, a terrorist or a spy. There are no tapes of Saul's conversation, no incriminating film footage of the various attempts on David's life. Jonathan refuses to believe that his father would do such a thing:
"Never!" Jonathan said. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!" (1 Sam 20:2)
How can David convince him? In the absence of corroborating evidence, the fugitive does the next best thing.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — Exod 19, 20, 24

Israel to God (subject to sovereign) — Exod 19:3-8; 20:1-17; 24:3-111
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

As fallen people, we know there is always room for improvement; yet that no matter how hard we try, we still fall short.
Tom was a retiree who volunteered to entertain patients in nursing homes and hospitals. He went to one hospital and brought his portable keyboard along. He told some jokes and sang some funny songs at patients' bedsides. When Tom finished, he said in farewell, "I hope you get better." One elderly gentleman replied... "I hope you get better, too."
As fallen people, there is always room for improvement. That applies to much of life, including one's devotion to God and obedience to what He has commanded. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to Israel's loyalty to God, which the nation expresses by heeding the instructions He has given.
In the second millennium B.C. the contract between a lord and his vassal was called a suzerainty treaty (Kaiser 1990:415). The Hittite treaty2 is the main model for this contract and resembles the structure of Exodus having several standard features:
  • Preamble or prologue,
  • List of stipulations,3
  • Provision for regular reading,4
  • Divine witness,5
  • Blessings and curses according to compliance,6
  • Sacrificial meal.
The covenant between God and Israel, after the nation's departure from Egypt is very much like that agreement in form and content.7
I. God's prologue introduces His covenant with Israel (Exod 19:3-8).
A. He delivers the people from their bondage (vv. 3-4).
Exod 19:3 Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel:8 4 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. 9
The exodus from Egypt was just one step in God's election of Israel to a central role in His plan, a role that began with Abraham about 2000 B.C. It was not the first of God's mighty acts for His people, but it was the one event which the biblical writers cite most often as a display of His power and love.
Exod 6:7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
Israel's election is unique.10 As the psalmist writes, Israel's revelation is also unique: "He has done this for no other nation; [moreover] they do not know his laws" (Ps 147:20). The heart of God's covenant with Israel is Torah, and it is unique as well. To be sure, there are some similarities with other legal codes of the period,11 but those aspects that relate to the people's relationship with God have no parallel in other codes because the LORD has no parallel with other deities.12 The revelation of God's uniqueness was one purpose of the exodus:
Moses replied, "It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God" (Exod 8:10).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lessons of loyalty — Gen 22:6-14

Isaac to Abraham (son to father) — Gen 22:6-141
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

The relationship between a father and his son is special, characterized by moments of understanding...or not:
A five-year-old boy was eating an apple in the back seat of the car, when he asked, "Dad, why is my apple turning brown?" "Because," his father explained, "after you ate the skin off, the meat of the apple came into contact with the air which caused it to oxidize, thus changing the molecular structure and turning it a different color." There was a period of silence. Then the son asked... "Dad, are you talking to me?"
The relationship between a father and his son may be characterized by moments of understanding, but not always. In this sermon series entitled Old Testament Lessons of Loyalty, we come to the loyalty of a son to his father, the loyalty of Isaac to Abraham, and of how a boy, who is probably a little older than five when he accompanies his father to Mount Moriah, may not understand fully the reason for their trip.2
When Abraham tells his son and his servants they will be traveling together, he does not include many details, only that they are going to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. There is no indication the Patriarch made regular offerings, although he did construct altars in the various places he lived. These altars, however, may have functioned more as boundary markers or commemorative markers than as places for sacrifice. In any case, Abraham set up altars in the various places he lived in Canaan:
Abram traveled through the land as far as...Shechem.... He built an altar there to the LORD.... From there he went on toward the hills... There he built an altar to the LORD.... [Then] Abram, where he built an altar to the LORD. (Gen 12:6-8; 13:18)3
The next mention of an altar is when God sends Abraham to Moriah to present a burnt offering. God does not explain why the altar close to home at Hebron is an unsuitable site for this sacrifice. In any case, the Patriarch travels to the new location.
Gen 22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."
Abraham leaves his servants at the base of the mountain while he and Isaac make the final ascent:
Gen 22:6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. And the two of them went on together.
Apparently the dictum: "Children should be seen and not heard" is applicable even in the second millennium B.C., because the trip is very quiet until...
I. Isaac questions the expectation of his father (Gen 22: 6-9).
Gen 22:7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
A. Abraham assembles most items for the sacrifice.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lessons from the parables of Jesus

pdf (24 pages)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2017

The Playing Children Luke 7:29-35
The Two Debtors Luke 7:36-50
The Persistent Friend   Luke 11:05-13
The Rich Fool Luke 12:13-21
The Ready Servants Luke 12:35-40
The Wise Servant Luke 12:42-48
The Mustard Seed Luke 13:18-19
The Leavened Loaf Luke 13:20-21
The Great Banquet Luke 14:15-24
The Lost Items (sheep, silver, son)  Luke 15:03-32
The Temple Petitioners Luke 18:09-14

Jesus employed various methods of instruction in his ministry, elements that would engage the attention of an audience and make his words memorable. One of his favorite trope was the parable, a rhetorical device that couched a single point in the form of a fictional but true-to-life story to which people could relate easily. Each of the synoptic gospels preserves examples of this method, although the greatest numbers of parables appear in Matthew (26) and Luke (27). Mark has far fewer (9), and John has none. There is considerable overlap, with many of the same parables appearing in two or three gospels. This brief study treats the eleven parables exclusively or primarily in Luke.1 The format here will accord with a three point outline:
  • Determine the setting (or occasion).
  • Divide the story (into major and minor details).
  • Discover the significance (the single point).