November 20, 2015

His presence, angels, and God’s keeping power

2 Kings 6:1–7:20, Mark 15:16–47, Proverbs 6:20–27

The Proverbs of Solomon offer a great deal of advice and warnings, particularly against adultery. However, much of that advice could fit any sort of sin.

For instance, he wrote, “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil . . . .” (Proverbs 6:20–24)

My father and mother didn’t hold Bible commands over me. Nonetheless, they gave good advice and warnings because they loved me. Not everyone gives advice that way. Advice should be objective, and without bias. A few people offer it based on their own fears and phobias rather than what is true. An elderly relative once expressed to me that I should not go out at night by myself because of all the ‘bad people’ that could hurt me. I told her that I had the protection of dozens of angels and she was speechless.

Today’s OT narrative is about those angels. The king of Syria was warring against Israel and became frustrated because the king of Israel always knew where this enemy army was camped. Finally Syria’s leader discovered that Elisha the prophet was telling Israel’s king “the words that you speak in your bedroom.”

This king decided to seize Elisha and sent a great army to surround the city where the prophet was staying. When Elisha’s servant rose early in the morning, he saw the army and was dismayed. However, the prophet said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then he prayed, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”

The Lord opened the eyes of the servant and he saw that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When the Syrians came down, Elisha prayed again, “Please strike this people with blindness.” God did what the prophet asked. Then Elisha took those enemy soldiers to Israel’s king who, at the prophet’s advice, fed them and sent them home. The Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:8–23)

As with Elisha, God promises to never forsake me also. I cannot see the angels, but I do trust Him to keep His promises to me. However, I am reminded with today’s NT reading that God did forsake one of His own, His only begotten Son. 

“It was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews.’” Everyone mocked Him, even those crucified with Him.
“When the sixth hour came, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. At the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ . . . And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.” (Mark 15:25–37)

Most say that at that moment when Jesus bore all the sin of all the people for all time, God the Father could not look at that sin. Others say that the Father did not forsake the Son, only that it felt like He did. Neither explanation seems right.

Then, as I read this, I tried to imagine what it would be like to not have the presence of the Lord in my life. Thinking back, I knew. Before Christ opened my eyes and came into my heart, I was separated from God and spiritually dead, without any sense of His presence.

This makes me wonder about the Father forsaking the Son. Could it be that unless God forsook Jesus, He would not have died? Or maybe He would not be able to die. And if He didn’t die, then He could not bear the penalty of my sin, which is death, separation from God forever.

But Jesus did die. Was it because the Father forsook Him? Is it because God departed from Jesus that I have life, and that I have His presence with me all the time? Was this the reason that now I have the power and protection of legions of angels. Oh the cost, oh the cost!

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