27. To Joshua

“God turned up” Meditations: 27 :  To Joshua the High Priest

Zech 3:1     Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.

We conclude this series with another of the prophets, Zechariah. This is his fourth vision and he sees the high priest, Joshua. Now Joshua is also written ‘Jeshua’ and that is how we find him named among Zerubbabel and Nehemiah (Ezra 2:2 & Neh 7:7). We need to build up the picture of who was involved and when. Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to encourage the finishing of the rebuilding of the Temple after the Exile (see Ezra 6:14). Haggai specifically mentions Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest. (Hag 1:1,12). The role of the high priest was partly as a spiritual encourager (seen in various places on the Old Testament) but the rebuilding of the temple had received such opposition that it had come to a grinding halt. In fact Haggai’s word had specifically rebuked the people for being concerned about their own homes but now ignoring the Temple of the Lord (Hag 1:4).

Joshua the high priest must have been feeling particularly low about this state of affairs. Here he was, the overseer of the activities of the Temple, but the Temple was not being completed. Will he ever be able to perform the tasks of the priest in the Temple again? There are those who make this vision in Zechariah involving Joshua to mean that Joshua was representative of the Israel and that this was a word to Israel but, I suggest, this ignores the activity or rather the lack of activity to do with the Temple about which these two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah were prophesying. This is a word that this man desperately needs to hear!

The Lord turns up and brings this word about Joshua through Zechariah because indeed Joshua is THE person who will oversee the work within the completed Temple and if the Temple is about to be completed at the urging of these prophets, then the chief priest needs to be brought into a right place and restored in both his eyes and the eyes of the people. THIS is why this is such a wonderful vision! This is the Lord who sees His servants, understands them, and feels for them and who comes and restores them.

See the word that follows: The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (v.2)  Joshua has been coming under immense condemnation from Satan. Not only had Satan been using the enemy to discourage the leaders and the builders, but he had been pulling down Joshua with condemnation, declaring him a failure. Have you heard similar thoughts in your mind? “You are rubbish! You are a failure! Give up! Stop pretending you are a man (or woman) of God with a calling. You’ve lost whatever calling you had; you’ve failed!”  Satan had been rebuking Joshua so the Lord rebukes him in turn. Yes, Joshua was burning with shame, burning with condemnation and with a sense of failure and Satan is trying to destroy him, but the Lord has come to come to snatch him from destruction.

See what the Lord does for Joshua: “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” (v.3,4) which is clearly symbolic of his guilt being taken away: “Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” (v.4) Now the turban of the priest was especially significant because it had on the front of it, “Holy to the Lord.” (see Ex 28:36) so that gets a special mention in the restoration: “Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.” (v.5) This representative of the Holy God is completely restored and the nature of his clean clothes indicates that he is reinstated in his role as high priest.

Next he gets his marching orders from the Lord: “The angel of the LORD gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: `If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” (v.6,7)

But this cleansing and reinstating of Joshua is symbolic of something so much greater that is yet to come: “Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.” (v.8) What has happened to Joshua is what will happen when “the Branch”, the Messiah comes. Then he refers to him as a stone (v.9) and says he will remove all sin in a single day (v.9) which can only refer to the work on the Cross by the Son of God.

This is pure grace! Joshua has done nothing to deserve this. He’s simply been there to serve the Lord – if the temple is restored – and the Lord comes and restores him and removes his sin. He is now equipped to be the high priest again.  Isn’t this what the work of Jesus has achieved, a holy priesthood? (1 Pet 2:9, Rev 5:10)

In a very negative situation the Lord turns up to restore this man, Joshua. He has done nothing to deserve it; it is a pure act of God’s grace. This is what the Lord longs to do with each one of us. How wonderful!

26. To Hosea

“God turned up” Meditations: 26 :  To Hosea

Hos 1:2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.”

The life of a prophet in Old Testament times was often not a comfortable one. They were first and foremost a messenger from God to the nation of Israel. Often they were under the nose of the king in Jerusalem and so when they brought a word it soon came to the ears of the king. Gossip travels fast in any society. Often what they said clashed with the lifestyle of the king and the prophet found himself arrested and imprisoned. Some even were put to death. Isaiah at one point, even went naked .

We know virtually nothing about Hosea. He lived in the northern kingdom of Israel in the tumultuous last years of that kingdom before it was swept away in 772-721BC.  Israel, the northern kingdom had been unfaithful from the start. So here was a kingdom that has given itself over to idolatry instead of following the Lord. Yet, there is at least one man, Hosea, who is open to the Lord.

The Lord turns up and starts speaking to him: When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him……” Again we don’t know how the Lord spoke but the assurance of it being the Lord comes through the very nature of the word to him. In a recent meditation we commented how when the Lord speaks we know it is Him because it cuts right across our own desires or wishes or expectations. That can be no more true than in this word of instruction to Hosea.

In fact we might wonder exactly what Hosea felt and thought about what he believed he was hearing from God? Go and take a wife who is likely to be morally unfaithful? How do you do that? Why should you do that? Well I suppose you look around the local community for a girl who has a dubious reputation, one who is likely to continue in the way she has gone to have gained such a reputation. What a terrible thing to have to do, to win a wife who you know is morally dubious and who is almost certainly going to continue that way after you are married. The outlook is only hurtful!

In passing, I cannot help but note that this is the dilemma of so many young people today. Only recently I was talking to a man in his early forties who was bewailing the fact that he wanted to settle down after a ‘morally flexible life’, but who feared taking a wife from a population that is so often promiscuous. He knew exactly this thing: why should a girl who has jumped from one bed to another settle down and be faithful to him? The ‘free society’ has brought this folly on itself.

So Hosea was obedient and married Gomer: “So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.” (v.3) Not only did she bear him a son but she also bore him a daughter and then another son. Each one of these children Hosea named according to the Lord’s instructions. Now Hebrew names tended to have a secondary meaning and the meaning of these three names pointed to Israel’s unfaithfulness and the Lord’s condemnation. Thus they would be living signposts to the Lord and a reminder to the people of their unfaithfulness.

After this, Gomer clearly commits adultery for later we find, “The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes. “So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.” (Hos 3:1-3) It appears from this that Gomer had not only committed adultery, but had fallen so low as to become a slave, for Hosea has to buy her back. The Lord explains the significance of this: “For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or idol. Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.” (Hos 3:4,5)

Hosea’s actions are to reveal the depth of God’s love that is still there reaching out to wanton Israel. Indeed there is coming a time when the Israelites (?the northern kingdom) will be without a nation or sacrifices but there will come a time when they will return to the Lord – and He will receive them and bless them. This northern kingdom will be dispersed yet there will be those who will return to the Lord who will be waiting for them. This is an amazing picture that Hosea conveys at God’s instigation, and as we consider what he must have been feeling about being abandoned by his wantond wife, and then having to rescue her from slavery, we might catch something of the pain that the Lord feels when His people abandon Him. Yet in His love He still waits, like the father of the prodigal, to receive His wayward child back. Amazing love!

25. To Ezekiel

“God turned up” Meditations: 25 :  To Ezekiel

Ezek 1:2,3 On the fifth of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin– the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the LORD was upon him.

I think sometimes we should give special credit to filmmakers. Their work is sometimes amazing. I’m thinking here of the film Independence Day. The arrival of the alien space machines in the thick billowing clouds made me think of Ezekiel’s revelation. It is absolutely amazing! The location of Ezekiel at this time is also something to be noted and amazed at. The fact of the matter is that he is one of the exiles who has been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar and is now having to live in a foreign land – but he’s still God’s man. Simple lesson in passing: if we’re Christians in a land under God’s judgment we may suffer some of the things the nation suffers – but we’re still to be witnesses in it.

So there he is in the land of the Babylonians, an exile – and God turns up in a most dramatic way; in fact one of the most dramatic ways in the Old Testament: I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north–an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. (v.4-6) Well, we won’t go into the detail of all of it, you can read it yourself, but even here we start to catch a sense of the incredible: storm, clouds, flashing lightning (ordinary so far) brilliant light, a central fire like glowing metal, strange creatures. As I said, Independence Day did it well. Perhaps they had read Ezekiel!

Later we read, “Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (v.26-28) There, in the midst of the incredible vision (see 1:1), there is a figure. When God revealed Himself in the most perfect way on earth, it was in the form of a man, His Son, Jesus Christ. There in the centre of the vision He reveals Himself to Ezekiel in an understandable way, and yet He is still an incredible, glorious being with incredible surroundings.

Now why, we may ask ourselves, did the Lord reveal Himself in such an incredible way to Ezekiel? We aren’t told and so we are left to speculate. Was it to counter all that Ezekiel might have been feeling? He is a Jew who has been snatched from his country which appears at the end of its life. It appears that God is about to give up Israel. It is the end; they are no longer His chosen people – or so it might appear, especially when you are an exile in a foreign land.

So the Lord comes with this incredible vision which leaves Ezekiel in no doubt as to who it is – and he is shattered. Then the Lord speaks and we see some more why it may be that He is coming to him in this way: “And he said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you. Go now to your countrymen in exile and speak to them. Say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” (Ezek 3:10,11) Previously He had warned, “The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn,” (Ezek 2:4) so Ezekiel’s calling was to go to his own countrymen in exile and challenge them about the Lord – but they are going to be obstinate and will not take kindly to what he says. Put this together with Ezekiel’s own negative feelings about being an Israelite in exile, and you begin to see why the Lord revealed Himself to Ezekiel in such a dramatic way.

So why doesn’t the Lord reveal Himself to us in such ways? Two reasons! First you aren’t in the crisis situation that Ezekiel was in and, second, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the word of God, and the support, encouragement and direction of the church to help, guide and direct us. There are times when God does turn up in dramatic fashion but if that happens it is almost certainly because you are in big trouble and the Lord knows you need big encouragement!  The rare occasions in the Bible (here, with Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and in Revelation to John) that the Lord does reveal something of heaven breaking through on earth, remind us that we are dealing with an awesome God who, in His graciousness, mostly keeps Himself hidden so that we aren’t destroyed by the immensity of His presence. One day we will see Him face to face but now, for most of the time, He hides Himself to preserve us! For that we should be thankful. When we do see these times they should evoke awe and worship in us. May it be so!

24. To Jeremiah (2)

“God turned up” Meditations: 24 :  To Jeremiah (2)

Jer 32:6-8   Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, `Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’ “Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, `Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.

In all these studies on God turning up, as we’ve noted before, the Lord turns up in a variety of ways, but as the Bible develops it seems the most common way is that He comes and simply speaks directly to one of His servants, especially to the prophets who by their very nature had an ear open to God. In the previous meditation we saw the Lord coming to Jeremiah to call him to his ministry. Now there could be a dozen times where we could see the Lord turning up and giving Jeremiah a message, but this one seems a particularly significant example of God’s word coming.

To catch the significance of this episode we need to note what went immediately before it: This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah.” (Jer 32:1,2) So here is Jerusalem under siege, with all the surrounding country taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Jeremiah gets a warning from the Lord that his cousin would come and offer to sell him some of the family land outside the city. Now don’t be under any illusion that Jeremiah thought the present siege was going to turn out all right, because he had just prophesied to king Zedekiah, “This is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon.” (v.3,4)

So Jeremiah knows that the future is that Jerusalem will be taken and the land devastated by Nebuchadnezzar. What is interesting is that Jeremiah doesn’t say that the Lord told him to buy the land, merely that He had warned Jeremiah. Jeremiah obviously took it that the Lord was inviting him to buy the family land – in the face of impending doom. This is to be an act of faith in respect of the Lord’s plans for Israel obviously!

Jeremiah steps out in accordance with the warning from the Lord and when his cousin comes he does buy the land and goes through all the legal formalities so that there will be no question in anyone’s mind about the authenticity of this sale for he said, “I knew that this was the word of the LORD.” (v.8) .

Indeed at the end of the formalities we read, “I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard. “In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: `This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.” (v.12-15)  That was quite an amazing prophecy there at the end. So often Jeremiah was accused of negative speaking, but this is very positive. It says the Lord has plans for the future of Israel after Nebuchadnezzar.

Note what follows: “After I had given the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah, I prayed to the LORD:” (v.16) What follows is a wonderful prayer declaring God’s greatness in all His deeds. Following this comes a further word from the Lord which includes, “I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (v.37,38) and then a reiteration that fields and land will again be sold in the land. There is a remarkable clarity in this prophecy: yes, Israel will be taken into exile, but the Lord will eventually bring them back to this land and restore them.

What we have seen is Jeremiah being invited to step out in trust in the Lord and buy land which appeared worthless at present, as a sign that there was yet a future for Israel there. Jeremiah would not see it, but it would come. Once he acted in faith, the Lord confirmed His word to Jeremiah, a remarkable promise about the future. A simple lesson here?  Sometimes we need to step out in faith on fairly minor revelation before the bigger revelation is given. Faith as big as a mustard seed releases greater things. Let’s not despise the small acts of faith for they can lead to much bigger things. Has the Lord invited you to step out in a small way? Go for it, for it may open the way to something much greater. 

23. To Jeremiah

“God turned up” Meditations: 23 :  To Jeremiah

Jer 1:4,5 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Most human beings at some time, be it ever so fleetingly, ask the question, “Who am I?” Some people go through life struggling the whole time to find out who the ‘real’ them is. We have self-awareness or self-consciousness and this seeks to put us in a framework of living and give us meaning. Some of us might start from, ‘I am a son (or daughter)’ and that may not be good news in their life context. Others might say, ‘I am a mother (or father)’ or we might go on to define ourselves by our job or career or special title. We like to know who we are.

Jeremiah was a relatively young man when God turned up. We don’t know how the Lord came and spoke to Jeremiah; he simply records, “The word of the Lord came to me.” That phrase crops up a number of times in Scripture and unfortunately no one defines it. Somehow the sense of God speaking to him came. You know you are hearing from outside you when what comes cuts right across your natural thinking. Jeremiah obviously recognises who it is speaking to him, and he queries what he is apparently hearing: Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” (v.6). He feels too young and he feels inadequate as a speaker. I have had similar ‘conversations’ with the Lord where the content of what comes is completely contrary to anything I would naturally think.

Given time to think about this, I suspect that Jeremiah would have felt strangely comforted and assured by these words. “Before I formed you in the womb.” We would normally think of being formed in the womb as a natural product of the coming together of our father and mother, of something that automatically happens after conception, natural growth, but the Lord lays claim to involvement in Jeremiah’s formation. Perhaps in the reality of eternity we will learn something that Scripture hints at – it isn’t just a ‘natural process’ but a God process.

But it goes on, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” i.e. even from before conception God knew Jeremiah, knew all about him, who he would be and what he could do. God knows our potential from the very makeup of our genes, from the very things we inherit from those who went before us, and He knows what He can do with us. It’s not only nature plus nurture; it’s nature plus nurture plus God! And God knows that possibility before it happens. When we doubt our capabilities when the Lord appears to call us to a task, remember these things; remember that He knows your makeup and your past and He knows what you are capable of with His help. Oh yes, when God calls it is with full knowledge of who we are!

Indeed He carries on, “before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Now remember that this isn’t because of Jeremiah’s natural abilities because we’ve seen already that Jeremiah doesn’t feel much about his capabilities. We saw the same thing in Moses’ calling; he too felt utterly inadequate: “Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Ex 4:10)

The Lord had an answer for Moses and He has an answer for Jeremiah: “But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, `I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.” (v.7,8) The crucial element of this instruction is found in the words, “whatever I command you.” Put another way, He is saying you say what I will give you to say. It’s not down to you. I will provide the words. To Moses the Lord had said similar words: “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (Ex 4:12)

Jesus similarly told his disciples not to worry about being persecuted: “do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Mt 10:19,20). In other words when we are on God’s business we are to simply trust Him to provide the words we will need. He will provide!

Thus when the Lord turns up and calls Jeremiah, we see these most important things. First, the Lord knows us completely and He knows what he can do with us, what we are capable of with His help and guidance. Second, what we are to do isn’t down to us; it is down to Him for He has plans for us and also has the grace to enable us to do what He’s called us to do. Perhaps Paul caught something of this when he wrote, “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) Let’s be reassured as we step out in God’s calling on our lives. We know who we are – God’s people on a mission! 

22. To Isaiah

“God turned up” Meditations: 22 :  To Isaiah

Isa 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.

There are certain passages in Scripture, I believe, that stand out, and this is one of them, the time of Isaiah’s revelation of heaven. To be more precise it is his revelation of the Lord and those immediately around Him, for there is nothing else in it really. We aren’t told how this vision came to Isaiah, whether he was praying and waiting on the Lord or whether it just suddenly came. It is a year of crisis for the nation. The great king Uzziah has recently died. It is a time of change. (It is about 740BC)

And so it is that as one throne ceases, Isaiah is granted a vision of the throne that is unchanging and eternal, the throne of God in heaven. How simply he puts it: “I saw.” For him to have seen it means he was shown it for we see nothing of heaven unless God reveals it to us. So the Lord turns up and reveals something of what happens in heaven. There, the focus of the vision, is the Lord who is above all others and He has a robe, the train of which filled the temple.

The temple?  Hullo, I thought this was heaven? Well if it is, it is either a temple in heaven or heaven has come down and filled the temple in Jerusalem. Which ever it is, the temple was the meeting place of men and God. The Lord is in the place to meet with mankind and yet the sign of His majesty (his robe’s train) fills the temple so there appears no room for mankind – unless you walk on the train! For a moment, therefore, it almost seems a picture where the glory and sovereignty of God excludes mankind. We saw previously that when the glory of the Lord filled the finished temple of Solomon, it was impossible for men to serve there. God’s glorious sovereign presence precludes and excludes human activity! When He turns up in His glory we are brought to a halt!

But the Lord is not alone in the temple: “Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” (v.2) There are angelic beings with six wings. Wings are usually the means of a creature flying, but in the case of these creatures four of their wings had additional uses. With two wings they covered their faces. They are there to serve God and therefore they do not go where they see but where the Lord sees. They cover their feet. They go where He indicates not where they determine to put their feet. The remaining two wings propel them forward to do their Lord’s will. But they have a further purpose.

“And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (v.3) These creatures proclaim the uniqueness of the Lord – He is perfect, utterly distinct from anything and anyone else and His glory or greatness is revealed throughout the earth. Note “the whole earth IS full of his glory.” We may not see it or comprehend it, but that is just because of our spiritual blindness. These creatures declare the reality of what is. They challenge the rest of us to see the truth. But there is an outworking of their loud voices: “At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (v.4) When they declare the truth the entrance to the temple is shaken and the place is filled with smoke, both things being things that prohibit human entrance. Isaiah is granted no entry.

Isaiah’s response is automatic: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty. (v.5). The terrible presence of God makes Isaiah instantly aware of his own unholy state and the unholy state of the nation. He speaks things that are not perfect. His imperfection starts with words. There may be other actions that follow that make him unholy, but even his very speech separates him off from this heavenly vision. But God doesn’t leave him in that state: “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (v.6,7) The live coal comes from the altar which was the place for burning up and destroying the sacrifice that represents and carries the sin of the Offeror.  His sinful words are thus destroyed and his guilt removed.

But we aren’t just left there, cleansed beings: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go and tell this people…” (v.8,9) This is a time of encounter that concludes with Isaiah being sent to fulfil the will of God. Note that he isn’t commanded to go; he simply responds to the Lord’s enquiry. It is like the Lord leads him into an intimate encounter where he is allowed to chose the path ahead – and of course the Lord knows he will choose it and go for Him.

So we have here possibly the deepest encounter with God that we have seen so far in these meditations. In all other cases the Lord turns up and speaks. We haven’t ‘seen’ Him.  Isaiah sees and is transformed but the transformation comes about first by his own recognition of his own unworthiness and then by the act of God cleansing him. Then and only then is he ready to be used by God. There are some challenging lessons here.

21. To Elisha’s Servant

“God turned up” Meditations: 21 :  To Elisha’s Servant

2 Kings 6:15,16   When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Every now and then it seems in Christian circles, there is a thing about angels. In all the years I’ve known the Lord, it seems there have been phases when people get interested in angels. The usefulness of these times is that during them, testimonies appear of people who have had angelic encounters. This doesn’t happen to most of us most of the time, but every now and then the Lord does appear to send His angels to help us out. The writer to the Hebrews referred to angels as ministering spirits sent to help the saints (Heb 1:14). Much of the time most of us, though, don’t give the angelic forces much thought; in fact if the truth were told many of us possibly don’t even believe in them.

That might have been the case in respect of Elisha’s servant.  I suspect that life with Elisha was a bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes you saw miracles and sometimes because of your master’s ministry you were on the run. At this particular time Elisha had been helping the king of Israel with revelation as to how to avoid the Aramean invaders: The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” (2 Kings 6:9)

Word of this eventually got back to the king of Aram: “This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” (v.11,12) so he sent word out to get Elisha: “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” (v.13,14)

Which brings us to the place of crisis for Elisha’s servant: “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.” (v.15) The servant gets up, goes out of the city and sees the Aramean army camped all around the city. They are in trouble!

It is at that point that Elisha makes this statement that should become embedded on our hearts: “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” (v.16) at which point I guess the servant looked around in puzzlement. So Elisha prays. “And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so 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.” (v.17) If this isn’t an angelic host, I don’t know what is! Now what is intriguing about this is that God’s ‘turning up’ in this case is simply Him coming and enabling the servant to see the unseen world. The Lord’s troops were already there; it just needed the servant to be able to see them. So the Lord turns up and gives the servant the supernatural ability to see the spirit world!

Now of course you might be tempted to think, so OK, why are all these angelic forces there? Well, we are going to have to draw a conclusion from what follows: As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” (v.18) One has to conclude that the Lord uses the angelic host to blind the soldiers in the Aramean army. You can read the rest of the story yourself.

So the question must arise, what relevance might this have to our lives today in the twenty-first century? Exactly the same as in Elisha’s day. The apostle Paul speaks about these things to the church at Ephesus: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12) Do you think this is just airy-fairy language that has no relevance to us? If you think that you have never let the Lord open your eyes to the reality of this world that is material AND spiritual. I wonder how many times we stagger and struggle in ignorance against unseen opposition that has a spiritual dimension? I wonder how many times we feel alone and are unaware of the Lord’s angels with us? We live in a very ‘material’ world, very much aware of possessions and things and it is very easy to forget what the Bible teaches us. Maybe we need to ask the Lord to turn up for us and bring us the revelation of what is really going on in the world around us – on material AND spiritual levels.