The Attitude That Thwarts God’s Blessings

Two of Israel’s king Jehoahaz and his son Jehoash perpetually hung on to an attitude that limited what God wanted to do for Israel. That attitude can be summed up in a single word: but. 

Jehoahaz “sought the Lord’s favor” during a time Israel was under the oppression of their enemies, and “the Lord listen to him”! God raised up a deliverer who brought them freedom. Israel, under Jehoahaz’s leadership, could have used this newly won freedom to live closer to God and remain in a place of renewed worship. “But” they used their freedom as a license to sin and God reduced Jehoahaz’s army to a mere skeleton of what it had been (2 Kings 13:4-7). 

Jehoash went to visit Elisha. It doesn’t appear he went with a prayer request but merely to pay his respects to this dying prophet. God in His graciousness gave Jehoash something he didn’t even ask for: a promise of victory over Aram! Jehoash was invited to boldly ask for God’s help “but” he thought God had a limited supply and he asked for just a small portion. As a result, his victory over Aram was small—much smaller than God wanted for Israel (13:14-19). 

Once again, enemies surround Israel and we read a statement pregnant with possibility: “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of His covenant” (13:22-23). Despite their sin, God still wanted to bless them! 

God wants so much more for us than we even want ourselves! But our sinfulness, stubbornness, and unbelief will limit the fullness of what God wants to do. 

Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant. If God did not spare His own Son, how can I ever continue to remain skeptical that He wants to bless me?! He is glorified when I am abundantly blessed in Him. What do I do with God’s gracious concern? Will I squander it and live hemmed in by oppressors? Or will I embrace everything God has for me in Jesus and live in a way that He delights to bless? 

My attitude will determine the blessing I receive. 

Never Overruled, Never Overwhelmed

…Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army … [King Joram said] “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today” (2 Kings 6:24, 31). 

Two kings who both think that their overwhelming force can override God’s plan.

Ben-Hadad had already experienced God’s power when his previous plans were disclosed by God to Elisha, and when his “strong force” has been thwarted by God’s power (vv. 8-10, 14-20). As a result, Ben-Hadad temporarily stopped sending his small raiding parties into Israel. Now, he somehow believes that sending his “entire army” can overwhelm God’s plan?! 

King Joram also had first-hand experience is of God’s power. Not only in the above incident with King Ben-Hadad, but also in the desert when God miraculously provided water for his army. Now, he somehow thinks “this disaster is from the Lord” and Elisha is the cause. He thinks that killing Elisha will somehow intimidate God into lifting the Aramean siege?!

Here are the facts:

  • God brought the Aramaeans together to demonstrate His power.
  • God left Israel without any resources on their own to demonstrate His power.
  • God foretold events yet to come through Elisha to demonstrate His power.

And then God fully demonstrated His power!

God’s plans can never be overruled. That means that when I place my trust in God, I can never be overwhelmed by the enemy’s plans. 

No matter the circumstances, God is in control. Let me say that again: GOD IS IN CONTROL.

God will demonstrate His unequaled love and His unmatched power at just the right moment. He will bring about “a day of good news” and superabundance for all who fear and trust Him (7:9, 16). 

Don’t ever despair, no matter how dark the battle is. Don’t ever try to coerce God into doing something you want Him to do. Don’t ever become frustrated with God’s timing. Only wait in eager expectation for His answer: His all-loving, all-powerful answer. 

God is never overruled so you are never overwhelmed!

“Alas!” To “Aha!”

…oh no… (2 Kings 6:5, 15). 

The words “Oh no!” are actually a single word in the Hebrew language (Hebrew: ‘ahahh) that has been transliterated into English as “Aha!” 

But I think the old English translation is better in this context: ALAS! 

ALAS is usually a painful realization of the situation, not a cry of enlightened discovery. Here are the other times that this Hebrew/English word for ALAS! is used: 

  • Joshua said it after his army was defeated at Ai 
  • Gideon said it after realizing he had been face-to-face with God 
  • Jephtha cried it out after he knew that his daughter would have to be sacrificed
  • King Joram uttered this when he realized his troops and animals had no water in the desert 
  • Jeremiah said this to God after he was called to be a prophet, and after he was asked by God to speak countercultural words (he actually said ALAS! four times!) 
  • Ezekiel also cried out ALAS! four times when God asked him to do or to watch difficult things 
  • Joel cried it out when he saw the Day of the Lord quickly approaching 

(check out the above references by clicking here) 

In all of these ALAS! painful moments, these men were at their wits’ end, at the end of their own abilities—they couldn’t do anything to help themselves. 

In all of these ALAS! moments, they came to just one important realization: Only Yahweh can help me. That realization is truly the AHA! of an enlightened discovery! 

Calling on God turns a painful ALAS! moment into a God-glorifying AHA! moment. God alone can provide where no one else can.

Don’t despair in the ALAS! times, but cry it out loud to the only One who can help you, and then watch to see how He alone will turn your situation into a defining, God-glorifying AHA! testimony. 

How Big?

…your servant has nothing there at all…except a small jar of olive oil (2 Kings 4:2). 

This widow made the right move in going to Elisha for help. The situation seemed impossible, so she had nowhere else to go but to God.

Instead of giving her immediate relief, God asks this widow to extend her faith. The steps she takes next will determine how big of a blessing she will receive. God frequently does this:

  • how many ditches am I willing to dig (3:16)? 
  • how many doors am I willing to knock on to ask for empty jars (4:3)?
  • how many times am I willing to strike the ground with my arrows (13:18-19)?

The ditches were filled with water until they could hold no more.

The jars were filled with oil until they could hold no more.

Joash only struck the ground three times, so he only received three victories.

Jesus told us…

…ask, and keep on asking 

…seek, and keep on looking 

…knock, and keep on knocking 

God IS going to answer. The question is: HOW BIG do I want Him to answer? 

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) 

When Your Walking Is Your Praying

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience something wonderful? Maybe you got to meet someone important, or you got the job, or you got the money, or you got to ride in that fancy car. 

Some will call you “lucky” or say you “caught a break,” but both of those statements imply that something unexpected happened to you. 

Is it still “lucky” to be in the right place at the right time if you knew ahead of time that it was coming? For praying Christians, to be in the right place at the right time when we are expecting God to provide is called “an answer to prayer.” 

David prayed, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). The Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” If we pray, and we live in expectation, then it isn’t luck when we’re in the right place at the right time, but it’s a “trap” that caught the answer to our prayer. 

Our daily walking can be our daily praying, as long as we’re walking in faith in the direction God pointed us. 

One man who—literally!—walked this principle out was Elisha.

Before we look at Elisha’s expectant, prayerful walking, let’s look at his prayer request—

When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you (2 Kings 2:9 MSG).

Elisha was essentially asking to be like Elijah’s firstborn son, to be his spiritual heir. This was the original promise God gave when He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). From that point onward, Elisha steadily walked in expectation of God answering this prayer. 

Elisha wouldn’t stay in a place of military victory, or in a significantly spiritual place, or even in a place surrounded by godly leaders. Elisha wouldn’t be held back by a lucrative family business, or the warning words of friends or his spiritual mentor, or even the seemingly uncrossable Jordan River. He kept on walking (see 2 Kings 2:1-15).

He kept on walking.

He kept on walking until “suddenly” God showed up and answered his prayer. 

But was it really “suddenly”? Elisha knew it was coming. He believed what God had promised. He clung to it even when Elijah told him he had asked “a difficult thing.” Elisha kept on walking until he was in the right place at the right time to receive all that God had planned. 

If you have prayed in faith, start walking. Settling anywhere else is robbing yourself of a blessing and robbing God of glory. 

Just keep walking! And let your walking be your praying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t settle. Don’t stop eagerly expecting that the next step you took could be the “suddenly” you’ve been waiting for. Just keep walking!

Join me this Sunday as we learn a valuable lesson from another bold pray-er from the Bible. 

Book Reviews From 2018

A Double Portion

“I am convinced that we don’t get a double portion of God’s Spirit by watching Elijah walk away while standing at Jericho. When we choose to remain behind, we also leave behind all that God desires to do in us and for us and through us. If we want to inherit a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, we need to walk in the steps of Elijah until he leaves no more footprints. …

“Don’t wait to be asked—volunteer. Volunteer to go forward. Volunteer to go further. Volunteer to go harder. You cannot pioneer out of obligation. It is not an adventure if it is not your choice. You have to want it. You have to want more. If you are going to be greedy, this is the right place to be greedy. Want everything God has for you. Want more than others think you can obtain. Why settle for a single portion if a double portion can be yours for the asking? …

“Perhaps the reason so few of us have received a double portion of God’s Spirit is that the lives we have chosen require so little of God because they require so little of us. … I want to live the kind of life that cannot be lived without the fullness of Christ in my life.” —Erwin McManus, in The Last Arrow (emphasis added)

The Last Arrow (book review)

When I read an Erwin McManus book, I always feel like an arrow shot out of a bow: ready to launch into areas where I should be living. So it’s very appropriate that McManus’ newest book is entitled The Last Arrow! 

The premise of the book comes from a story in the Old Testament where King Jehoash has come to the prophet Elisha for help and counsel. Elisha tells Jehoash to strike the ground with his quiver of arrows, Jehoash does so, but only three times and then he stops. Elisha is furious with the king! In essence, Elisha is saying to Jehoash, “Why are you holding back? Why are you trying to store up resources for the next life? Now is the time: keep on striking until the very last arrow is spent!”

Erwin McManus writes, “My intention for this book is that you would never surrender, that you would never settle, that you would save nothing for the next life. May you die with your quivers empty. May you die with your hearts full. … This book is about not underestimating how much God intends for your life.” 

YES!!

In chapter after chapter, Pastor McManus encourages us to keep pressing forward, not letting our past holding us back, getting the right people around us, standing our ground, and living for a greater future. He shares examples from Scripture, his own life, and the lives of some extraordinary “last arrow” people he’s met along his journey. All in all, this book will fire you up! 

Near the last page of the book you will be cheering as McManus writes, “If you truly live before you die, your life will have a power that not even death can conquer”! 

I am a Waterbrook book reviewer.

God’s Good Word

“…it happened after this…” (2 Kings 6:24).

After what? After God thwarted Syria’s attack against Israel. Later Syria tried again, and the king of Israel forgot what God had done in the past and instead blamed the prophet Elisha for Syria’s oppression (see v. 31).

How quickly we are to forget what God has done! How quick we are to abandon His Word? How quick we are to let our eyes see the problems and instead of the Provider!

Elisha again spoke “according to the word of the Lord” and everything transpired “just as the man of God had spoken” (7:16-18).

As William Gurnall said, “If you have God’s good Word, you do not have to fear the world’s bad words.” 

My prayer—O God, may I be quick to remember Your words and Your past victories; quick to look to You as my Provider and not to look to my problems.

Your Nothing Is Really Something!

I love the story in 2 Kings about the widow who comes to Elisha for help. Elisha tells her to borrow as many empty jars as she can, and then begin to pour the little oil she has remaining in her own jar into all the empty jars.

Miraculously, her one little jar fills all of the empty jars she had borrowed! It was only after the empty jars had been filled that her jar of oil stopped pouring. When she sold the full jars of oil, she was able to pay off her debts and have enough left over to take care of her and her sons.

We always have something.

In our eyes our something may appear as nothing. The widow originally told Elisha, “I don’t have a thing. Except a tiny bit of oil.”

But if God has given you something, that something is everything you need.

Your something is everything to you, and it’s a blessing to others too.

What do you have to do with your something? Pour it out on those who have nothing.

For how long? Until all the places of nothing are full. Once all the nothing is filled with something, you can stop.

And then what? Then you will find that your something with God’s blessing is everything you need!

God has given you something that those with nothing need. So perhaps a good prayer for all of us is—God, show me today what something You have given to me, and where You want me to pour my something into someone’s nothing.

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