Remorse 

~~MTS-3738
Remorse
“Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him.”
           2 Kings 13:14

King Johoash probably didn’t care too much about Elisha personally until the prophet was gravely ill. The old prophet was a national treasure and, even though the king didn’t really heed his teaching, he nonetheless respected the prophet for who he was and what he meant to the entire nation.
We may wonder why the king was weeping.
Was it politically expedient for the king to cry over the prophet’s impending death? It might have been better for Johoash that the prophet was going to be gone, since his mere presence never failed to bring silent condemnation against the king. Surely King Jehoash wasn’t known for his reverence for the Lord or his walk with the Almighty.
Were the tears a sign of remorse? Possibly.
The king could have heeded the prophet’s teaching and turned away from idolatry, yet he didn’t have the courage nor the resolve to do what appeared to be unpopular among the people. The Israelites seemed to have made the choice of their gods and it would have been rather difficult to bring them back to the right path. King Johoash decided to take the easy way out by making a compromise - he took a route of the least resistance.
The king didn’t take the chance of embracing the Lord when it was presented to him, and now the opportunity was slipping away. The prophet he had come to admire was dying.
The prophet could have become the king’s mentor and things would have turned out so differently. With the death of the prophet, the opportunity with all its possibilities would vanish. The king was left to ask the “what if” question.
What if he could do all things all over again?
Life has its way of taking revenge against us and all the missteps we have taken may all come back to us in full force from which we will find no escape. The road we have not taken or the right choices we have not made may follow us and haunt us all the days of our lives. Wasn’t this the reason why the king wept over the prophet’s death?
If there had been no prophet in Israel, the king would have had ample excuses for all he had done and all the missteps he had ever taken, but with Elisha’s presence in his midst and voices echoing in the air, the king had no such apology to make for all his actions. So he might have been weeping for himself as he wept over the death of the prophet. 
Didn’t some people also weep over the death of our Lord Jesus? Wouldn’t it better for them if the Word had never become flesh? 

                                                                                                                        

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, May 30, 2014 6:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Elisha's Illness 

~~MTS-3737
Elisha’s Illness
 “Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died.”
                  2 Kings 13:14

The prophet had helped many people in his career, and now he himself needed help, but help didn’t seem to be coming. He helped other people, yet he couldn’t help himself.
Didn’t Paul pray three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed? He indeed pleaded three times, yet the thorn that gave him great physical discomfort remained, and the apostle had to learn to accept it, embrace it even.
What could he have done about it? To cry over it or to grumble about it? What good would that do had he done that?
Had he any bitterness about his physical pain at all, he simply kept it to himself. Being flesh and blood, he certainly wasn’t immune to emotional anguish and physical pain; he merely tried to deal with it the right way.
Physical things have to be dealt with spiritually. When pain becomes inevitable, one must rise above it through the power from above.
Had Paul’s thorn been removed, another one would have been planted in his flesh; and had he escaped death once, the last enemy would soon come back to haunt him again.
It was unfortunate that Lazarus had to go through the agony of death twice, wasn’t it? The first might have been quick and easy, and the second one could have been long and difficult.
Did the prophet asked for a miraculous healing from the Lord? He could have. It appeared that his illness was a chronic one from which he died, and he might have suffered from it for quite some time before he passed away, which made the prophet’s remaining days on earth agonizing. The Lord should have taken it a little easier on his servant, shouldn’t he have?
Elijah appeared to have a much better deal than Elisha. Surely being taken away in a chariot of fire was a much better way to go than languishing in a lengthy illness with emotional stress within and physical pain without.
Did the Lord Jesus choose the manner of his death? There wasn’t a form of death more cruel and painful than death on the cross, yet it was the kind chosen for him.
There are thousands of ways of death; be they painful or painless, the end result still remains the same, which is the cessation of our breath. What makes the greatest difference isn’t how we depart; it’s where we will be arriving.
The prophet didn’t seem to ask for another year or two on earth, in which his life would end just the same; he might have asked for other things instead.
“My power is made perfect in weakness.” This was the response Paul received from above, therefore the apostle could have asked for more weakness. The old prophet might have asked for the same thing with his dying breath.        

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 29, 2014 7:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Time to Reflect 

~~MTS-3736
Time to Reflect
“Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam…”
          2 Kings 13:6

The Israelites enjoyed peace during this time and each one of them lived in their own homes for a while, but the tranquility did not last for very long, for they did not change their way of life and worship. When all things seemed to be going well, they felt they could just keep their old ways of conduct and continued to do what they were doing, until something bad occurred, serving as a reminder that all things were not well.
The Lord had indeed shown mercy to the Israelites by driving the oppressors out of their region so that they could enjoy a brief moment of peace, and whether they would continue to live in peace or not depended on how they acted as a people of God and the way they related to the Lord.
The Israelites continued to serve two masters during that time. They might have paid lip service to the Lord and bowed down to Baal at the same time, expecting both parties would be pleased by their worship. Their old habits died hard, and after things calmed down, God’s people went back to their old ways. “Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam.” They didn’t get into their predicament for no reason, and the same evil, or a worse one even, might befall them if they did not make a meaningful change in their thoughts and deeds.
The Lord provided for the Israelites a respite so that they could go through a transformation, turning from idolatry to true worship, from a life centered on selves to God.
“Be aware of danger when you dwell in peace (居安思危,)” renders a Chinese saying. May we never take the peace and prosperity we enjoy for granted, for it is an opportunity given to us to examine our spiritual state so that we can continue to relate to God in the right way and to lead a life that is pleasing in his sight.
Doesn’t it give us a sense of utter unworthiness when we ponder how the Lord has been bestowing one blessing after another upon us in so many ways and times? Doesn’t it make us so much more desirous to love and adore him?
I often catch myself looking at my grandson for a long time when we are visiting and am amazed at God’s goodness in giving my son such a wonderful gift. It is indeed a precious opportunity for me to reflect on God’s grace when I am looking at my first grandchild with utter amazement.
We are transformed inwardly both by joy and sorrow, and I would like to believe the former has a greater impact on us than the latter if we give it chance. Had the Israelites taken the time of peace to reflect on God’s grace and mercy, the time of turmoil which was about to occur to the nation could have been avoided.     
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 28, 2014 7:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Homes 

~~MTS-3735
Homes
“So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.”
               2 Kings 13:5

It wasn’t really a happy place where I grew up, even though it was a home in every sense of the word. It was, however, a rather large one- thirty some members within the family, including grandparents, many uncles, aunts, and their families.
I remember wanting to run away from it, and after I finally succeeded in doing so at age fourteen, homecoming became more of an obligation than anything else and, much to my parents’ displeasure, I always tried to make my stay as short as possible.
What went wrong? I did love my parents very much and cared for my siblings, and they all treated me well as I was growing up. We weren’t all fuzzy and loving toward one another, but the feeling of love was nonetheless palpable over the years.
Yet I have never had a strong longing for home, and the idea of “home, sweet home” didn’t always resonate in my heart. Why?
The only reason I can come up with was I had been verbally abused by my relatives, friends, and neighbors as a little boy, for I seemed to look plain and dumb, and I was extremely quiet.
“Your grandparents wanted to give you up for adoption after you were born, because, according to some fortune-tellers, you would turn out to be a ‘misfortune,’” my mother told me about a year before her passing. This was something I had never heard before. Was I unwanted? I started to wonder.
“I would never have given you up,” my mother told me. It must have taken quite a bit of courage for her to stand up against my grandmother, who had always appeared to be stern and demanding.
“So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.” What was so appealing for the Israelites to live in their own homes? Being a hobo suited me just fine and I was one, for the most part, all the days of my youth. In fact, up to this day, I still enjoy being alone and have often felt I myself am home.
I guess homes represent all that is sweet and desirable. The internet post of my son swinging his baby in front of a mirror brought back a flood of happy memories when we were raising our boys. I believe that kind of home was where God’s people were longing to be when they were out fighting a war or being enslaved by foreign nations. Home was where they dreamt to be and where they would find their sense of belonging and bliss.
I lost my home in Taiwan when mother passed away three years ago, for the home I used to know vanished with her, and returning home has since become impossible. I may return someday to visit my parents’ graves, but a couple of tombstones don’t really make it home.
The truth is, the Lord took me away from my home at a very young age and he himself became my true home where I was reared and cared for. He did for me what my poor earthly parents were incapable of doing, and I am always home when I am with him. Home is where the love is.  

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, May 23, 2014 7:02:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ignorance 

~~MTS-3734
Ignorance
“Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.”   2 Kings 13:4

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” wrote Alexander Pope. Indeed we have some knowledge about a lot of things, but compared to what needs to be known, what we know is, in fact, very little. Even so, we all try to draw a definite conclusion based on the knowledge we possess, and act upon it as if it were the truth.
The crux of the matter is that we know either too much or too little of certain things at the same time. I guess we are still haunted by the curse of Adam’s sin - “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die." Our knowledge or lack thereof both lead to death. 
Knowledge indeed enlightens and illuminates, but it also darkens and misleads. It puffs us up so much that we believe what little bit we know about reality is all there is to know, causing us to mistake something partial as a whole, something partially real as reality itself.
A tsunami brewing somewhere causes us to think that there is a tsunami everywhere; an earthquake occurring at the corner of the world makes us believe that the entire earth is crumbling; and a famine happening in Africa causes to believe the entire population of the world is starving. We are indeed seeing reality dimly, as Paul put it: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
May we never reach a general conclusion by arguing from specifics and mistake that the Lord is unloving and uncaring. In most cases, the Lord is still doing what he is supposed to do, sustaining and supporting each individual’s life in the entire world, and he will continue to do so for the years to come until the earth is no more.
What bothers us aren’t the norms, but the exceptions. If the Lord fails to come through for us one time, the numerous times he has done so don’t seem to matter anymore. The Lord is unmerciful and uncaring, we conclude. With the proliferation of mass media and internet connections, we are bombarded with news, and what make the news are the exceptions. This information and knowledge that we routinely receive make us more and more knowledgeable and ignorant at the same time. Do these lines by Eliot from Choruses of the Rock speak to you at all?

   “All of our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
        All our ignorance brings us closer to death,
        But nearness to death, no nearer to God.”

    “Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.”  From your viewpoint, was this deliverance the norm or the exception? Does the Lord listen to our cry for help all the time, or just some of the time? 

       

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 22, 2014 7:26:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Under the Power 

~~MTS-3733
Under the Power
“So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram…”        2 Kings 13:3

The boundary between liberty and bondage has become quite vague these days and we don’t always know the difference between the two. We may believe that we have been liberated, not realizing that we are still in bondage. We may even mistake the bitterness of slavery as the sweetness of freedom.
The Lord was angry at the Israelites governed by Jehoahaz at the time, for the people were practicing the idolatry established by Jeroboam. The Lord kept the Israelites under the foreign power of Hazael for many years and God’s people might have gotten accustomed to the tyranny of the Arameans and lost the ability to tell the difference between the joy of freedom and the misery of bondage.
Humans have an amazing power to cope with adverse situations, and we often mistake something abnormal for normal. We often choose the better and miss the best.
Living in sin is miserable, yet sinners seem to enjoy the pleasure of sin, and deem nothing is wrong in what they do. They may consider bondage is freedom, for it’s the only thing they know and have long become accustomed to it.
I was doing just fine living in a totalitarian nation until I had a chance to live in a free country, and was feeling rather ill at ease when I returned home to visit. The repulsive country where I was brought up remained the same, but I had become a different person, and there was no turning back to where I once had been before. Of course I am looking at this from a spiritual point of view.
All the people who were on the Titanic had their aspirations and dreams and their plans for their future surely extended far beyond the vast Atlantic, reaching their promised land. The mood was jolly and all the affluent were enjoying their voyage until the ship hit an iceberg. Things were indeed quite normal until the abnormal occurred, which was inevitable. Time would eventually have a rendezvous with eternity, and then what? 
“I will not become more mature than what I am now,” I said half-jokingly to some people after church, implying that I have either become perfect as a Christian or I simply have resigned myself to the fact that I will never grow another inch spiritually. Unfortunately this simple statement appears to contradict what I have been teaching from the pulpit. Are we going to surrender to the tyranny of our carnal selves and accept the abnormal as norm or keep on fighting against the perverse and bring it to purity and the profane to holiness?   

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 21, 2014 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Hope 

~~MTS-3732
Hope
“His officials conspired against him and assassinated him at Beth Millo, on the road down to Silla.”      2 Kings 12:20

He hardly knew what was happening when a crown was placed on his head, and from then on, he did mostly what he was told to do. The child king was an orphan and all he knew about the kingship was taught to him by Jehoiada the priest, who singlehandedly saved Joash’s life and was almost like a father to him.
Joash reigned over the nation of Judah for forty years, which was a lot longer that most kings before him. Even though he died at a relatively young age by assassination, the orphan king earned himself a good name by honoring the Lord in all he did as a king.
This was hardly probable considering how the man started his life. His grandmother was seeking his life and he had to be in hiding the first six years of his life. He would have been killed had he been exposed in any way. His future looked rather gloomy at the time and mere survival appeared to be somewhat of a challenge.
Yet among all this trouble, all things were still under God’s supreme control and he would bring everything to pass according to his sovereign will. The child would grow up to be one of the better kings in Israel. Even the most optimistic ones wouldn’t have entertained this outlandish idea, would they?
We need to make a choice to hope, no matter how hopeless the situation may be. Both to hope and to despair are conscious choices that we make.
“The doctor said I only have two weeks left if I don’t have an operation, yet I am too weak to have one,” a Christian brother said to me when I was visiting. Sounds pretty desperate, doesn’t it?
Where was hope when he needed it so desperately? His hope on earth might be vanishing quickly, but there is an ample supply of hope beyond this world, which is equally hopeful, more hopeful than the earthly one even.
Joash’s hope on earth lasted for forty more years, and he appeared to have made the best out of the opportunity given to him. It was a shame that he didn’t last longer. Treason took place rather suddenly, which ended the king’s career at a young age.
The king’s hope on earth appeared to be gone in one second when the sword fell, yet his hope for the future didn’t end with the end of his earthly journey.
Unless there is hope beyond this world, all our earthly hopes will become quite meaningless, for hope is not really hopeful if it’s ended at a certain point in time. The true hope is the kind that Paul mentioned in his letter - a hope that does not disappoint.

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 20, 2014 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ownership 

~~MTS-3731
Ownership
“But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple.”            2 Kings 11:6

The temple was everybody’s business; therefore it was nobody’s business. It was God’s work, so most people stayed clear of it. When things are personal, we tend to take them personally; if they are not, we leave them to the public.
The temple of the Lord was owned by all the Israelites, but not many of them had any intention to claim ownership of it, not even the priests who were charged with the responsibility to watch over it.
It wasn’t for lack of funding the priests failed to repair God’s building for years; they drew money from the treasury for a long time for that particular purpose. The work remained undone, however.
“We need to hire people to do the church lawn and landscape,” I shared with the church board during our monthly meeting. In some cases, hired hands seem to do better a better job of maintaining the church grounds than owners.
Who are the owners of God church? We question.
“We ought to enhance people’s sense of ownership of the church by starting a membership drive,” I once mentioned to the board.
“But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple.”
We can almost feel the king’s sense of frustration over the lack of progress in the temple’s repair work. The building might have fallen into disrepair a little and things were crumbling. The king had to claim the ownership of God’s house since no one seemed to be doing it, including the priests.
“I have always considered this my church home, and it saddens me a great deal to leave,” a sister said during the farewell, holding back her tears. I knew she had claimed the ownership of the church without her saying it. We could tell by the way she participated in serving the church over the years.
I guess the ones who truly own our church are the ones who come to worship Sunday rain or shine, who labor in the church kitchen after Sunday lunch, who love and care about all things great or small that occur within the church walls. They are not guests or mere visitors of God’s church; they are members of God’s family.
As far as I could tell, this lady was yet to become a Christian, yet she seemed to take a ownership of our church’s flower bed and made it as beautiful as possible, but it was overgrown with weeds a few months after she moved away. The owner of the flower bed had left, I guess.

 
    


   

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, May 16, 2014 6:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Repair 

~~MTS-3730
Repair
“Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, then use it to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.”      2 Kings 12:5

The priests should have been the first ones to know when the holy temple needed any sort of repair, for they were in charge of the upkeep and maintaining of God’s house. The problem was most of them might not have had the expertise to do the job well and, even if they did, they might have been preoccupied by other more pressing personal issues, which easily crowded out God’s work in the temple.
I always become concerned about the roof our church building when a strong West Texas wind starts to blow at over fifty miles an hour. I guess I feel that way since I am the church pastor, who is supposed to watch over all things of the church, both physically and spiritually. I would probably worry a lot less if we had a maintenance person to take care of our church property.
How often does the condition of our church enter into our minds during the week? Probably not very often at all. There are serious consequences if we fail to put our office work first and be wherever we are supposed to be and do what our bosses ask us to do. We may have to do the same concerning our families, and faithfully do our husbands’ or wives’ bidding, but as far as God’s work in the church is concerned, not so much at all.
We desire for the Lord to put our wellbeing first on his list, yet he is often lodged at the bottom of our lists. That doesn’t seem to be fair, does it? It makes more sense, it appears to me, that we deny the existence of the Almighty, and therefore have nothing to do with him, than to believe in his existence, yet ignore his preeminent authority over us.
We believe in God, yet it’s far better for us that he doesn’t really exist, for we are doomed if he does exist and will hold us accountable for how we lead our daily lives and where we place him in our priorities. We honor him with our mouths, yet deny him repeatedly with our actions.
The priests had been charged with the responsibility to watch over God’s house and do the repairs when they were needed, yet the work was left undone for years. The ones who were supposed to put God first in their lives didn’t seem to be doing that, let along the laymen who only frequented the temple occasionally.
Have we created an all-loving and all-forgiving deity so that we can take advantage of him? Do we pay him homage at his house only when it’s convenient for us, and occasionally give him some of our spare change to soothe our guilty conscience? It should frighten us a great deal if God does exist, for we haven’t been treating him as he rightly deserves and giving him honor and glory as we should. “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes." Old Job reminds us of what we should do if we are confronted with the truth that God does exist. 
    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 15, 2014 7:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The End 

~~MTS-3729
The End
“So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death.”       2 Kings 11:16

Athaliah wasn’t the first woman who was corrupted and ruined by her passion for power, and neither was she the last one. Many women would rise and follow her footsteps in the following generations and would also end their careers pretty much the same way, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
The woman had to murder many people in order to gain her power, yet the duration of her reign was merely six years, which was hardly worth all the trouble she had to go through. Besides, she might have spent the entire time of her reign laboring to fortify her position and might even have lived in terror most of the time. The fruit of her labor wasn’t as sweet as what she had anticipated.
There was likely regret in the woman’s heart for all she had done, yet what was done was done and she had no choice but to own what she had broken, for better or for worse. There was no return after she crossed the bridge.
What might have been a crime of passion turned into a lifetime of punishment, which changed what was supposed to be sweet into something bitter and unbearable.
What could Athaliah have done after she found out that her son, the late king of Judah, was dead? Instead of attempting to gain control of the situation by her ruthless action, she should have stayed clear of the power struggle and played her role as a mother in mourning, which was a natural and plausible thing to do. By doing something different, the tragic situation could have been reversed.
Doing the right thing at the right time may not be gratifying to the flesh at the time, but it does pay in the long run. It might have made sense for the king’s mother to do what she did at the time, for all the stars seemed to be lining up perfectly for her to seize the throne, but it was nonetheless the wrong thing to do.
There is often no return after we take the first step moving in the wrong direction, for a sinful act snowballs after it starts and its momentum is very hard to halt as it rolls downhill, building up both speed and weight along the way. It’s akin to a person riding on a tiger’s back; getting off from it becomes impossible and extremely dangerous (騎虎難下.) The wisest thing to do is not to try at all.
It didn’t take very long for the sins Athaliah had committed to catch up with her and, when they did, there was absolutely no recourse to be found.     

 

   

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 14, 2014 6:55:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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