November 18, 2015

Sticking to my plans

2 Kings 3:1–4:17, Mark 14:22–50, Proverbs 6:6–11

New Year’s resolutions usually don’t last long. Neither do most of the decisions I make to change a bad habit or start a new one; eat better, exercise more, move faster, spend more time with friends, spend less time with email, and so on. But today I’m reminded that even a ‘bad’ king’s plans can succeed, and even Jesus’ disciples can fail to follow through on their commitments. What makes the difference?

Jehoram, Ahab’s son, became king over Israel. “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, though not like his father and mother, for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless, he clung to the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from it.” (2 Kings 3:1–3)

Moab had been under Ahab’s thumb, but he rebelled against Jehoram. Jehoram mustered all Israel and asked Jehoshaphat king of Judah to go to battle with him. Jehoshaphat agreed and they marched, along with the king of Edom and his forces. Unfortunately, there was no water for the army or for the animals that followed them.

Jehoram said, “Alas! The Lord has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” Then one of the king of Israel’s servants answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” (2 Kings 3:9–11)

Elisha was not impressed with Jehoram, but he said for the sake of Jehoshaphat, he would seek God’s will. Then he told them, “This (water problem) is a light thing in the sight of the Lord. He will also give the Moabites into your hand, and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” (2 Kings 3:18–19)

The Moabites prepared for battle, but “when they rose early in the morning and the sun shone on the water, the Moabites saw the water opposite them as red as blood.” They thought the three kings had fought and struck one another down, so headed into their camp for the spoil. “But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose and struck the Moabites, till they fled before them. And they went forward, striking the Moabites as they went.” (2 Kings 3:21–24)

Why did Jehoram succeed? He asked God for direction.

Solomon speaks to lazy people saying this: “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6–11) His imagery points to a need for diligence and having a clear purpose and goal. Without these, plans will fail.

In the NT, Jesus speaks to His disciples, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Of course they didn’t want to hear this. Peter said, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” But Jesus knew what would happen. He replied, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. (Mark 14:27–31)

Later, they were in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was praying, but the disciples were sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Soon after, when the solders came to arrest Jesus, His prophecy came true: “They all left him and fled.” (Mark 14:37-38, 50)

Here the answer is obvious. Jehoram prayed and they didn’t. Yet even if they had, would it have made a difference? Their plan was to stick with Jesus. They didn’t understand that it was the will of God that Jesus should die for the sins of the world. Had they prayed for His deliverance, their prayers were not in God’s will. Had they prayed to not scatter, they might have had the will to stay, but been arrested and also killed. That was not the will of God either.

When I make a plan, I need to seek God’s direction for that plan, make sure it is in His will, and pray for diligence to carry it out. Yet I must also remember that my spirit could be willing, even zealous, but my flesh has this nasty habit of interfering by trying to do without the Lord.  

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