February 12, 2014

Country Bumpkins III: Giving It All Away or Taking It All Away

Giving It All Away

We see in 1 Kings that one of the greatest Old Testament prophets was a farmer. We see Elisha get his call to ministry as he is plowing a field.

1 Kings 19:19-21~“So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him,“Go back again, for what have I done to you?” So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him.”

Where Elijah as a human deemed this acceptable since he himself was only a man, Jesus as God with a better understanding of what the Kingdom is deems the request to tie up loose ends too much and says so. To follow Jesus requires one to virtually sever one's self from the world (flesh) immediately. To be fair to Elisha he does eventually slaughter his oxen and burn his plow and dives wholesale into his prophetic ministry…it is not before saying goodbye to family. In Luke we see Jesus hold us tighter to the spiritual flame…

Luke 9:59-62 ~ “And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

A person literally needs to die to self to serve God properly. The person must sever his new self from the old self. There can be no compromise with the world at the risk of losing everything you might have gained in Christ. There are few in a congregation that reach this truest point. There are many pastors leading churches that have not reached this point either and it shows. Total divestiture of one's desires to take someone else's.

When addressing this as a form of symbolic action we must realize that a farmer plowing a field must devote all of his attention to keeping his animals walking forward and keeping the furrow in a straight line. Otherwise the rows will zig-zag all over the place crossing over one another. If a farmer turns around all bets are off. In Jesus' discipleship there is no "multi-tasking". He knows that any additional tasks one takes on are a distraction to the main task of planting seeds in fertile soil or literally preaching the Kingdom...preaching the Gospel.

We are called to complete devotion and all the requirements of this demand. We can give Jesus nothing less than everything we have to give. To give less of our attention puts us at risk of falling victim to our own sinfulness and temptation. We are to make ourselves living sacrifices (Romans 12). Here Jesus speaks of the one that is willing to look back, the one that still has one foot in the past in their old life - mind you it is a sinful life. Meanwhile, because they are not paying attention they could potentially be messing up their future life too. You cannot live in the past and in the present or future at the same time. It causes a conflict of interest.

Yes, the demands are to be a disciple are great but the reward...greater still. You can ask any farmer, it is easier to keep the planted row straight and under control than it is to try and straighten a furrow after it has been plowed. To straighten it requires one must retread the same piece of earth over to get it right and double the workload. No one likes to do double the work. It is easier to do the job right the first time. Jesus understood this and it is why He ups the ante even in light of the fact that He draws on the story of Elisha to make His point. It is exactly because he draws on the story of Elisha's call that we need to take heed to what Jesus points out. In upping the ante He shows the true intent of Scripture just as He did with murder and adultery in the Sermon on the Mount.

Taking It All Away

In our second narrative in 1 Kings 21 we see Naboth’s vineyard adjacent to Ahab’s palace. It appears that it was so closely situated and conveniently that it was sinfully coveted by Ahab.

1 Kings 21:1-2 ~ “Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.”

The sinful and covetous Ahab is prodded by his evil wife Jezebel. When he does not react, she takes the reins into her own hands. Any nasty characteristics in Ahab are now amplified by his horrendous wife. Ahab subsequently goes into a steep apostate decline. Ahab would’ve bought the land according to the text but the witch Jezebel has no such scruples. Where Naboth as the common man refuses to sell based in a code of honor to his forefathers. The leader/king of the land and his wife act in a dishonorable way that brings shame to the throne and to a nation in general which is also in decline.

In Naboth we see a man of conviction, in Ahab we see a man of misgiving and hesitation. Naboth responds as a gentrified man and Ahab responds like a petulant immature child. Jezebel finds Ahab’s character in this as repulsive as a modern reader and sets out to divest Naboth of his land. The skank Jezebel assumes Ahab’s royal role and concocts an evil scheme to wrench the land free of Naboth’s honor-bound grip. Naboth ends up stoned and the King gains ownership of land through blood-guilt. It is at this point in Ahab’s reign that he turns decisively homicidal, oppressive and worst of all: Decidedly apostate. In this story Naboth has everything taken from him but maintains his integrity. In taking everything that doesn't belong to them Ahab and Jezebel loose any integrity the might have had (which was very little to begin with).

In Ahab (aided by Jezebel’s wicked pagan influence), we see what becomes of a man removed of God or who removes God from his life. We see gradual erosion of ethical, moral and biblical foundation until virtually none remains. We see Romans 1. It is during his reign that we will see one of the greatest, if not the greatest prophet come on the biblical scene: Elijah and later Elisha. This of course would not be surprising because prophets were heralds or callers, calling people back to the Law and the God of the Bible once they started going adrift. You have to know you were seriously apostate when the man that became the gauge of an Old Testament prophet is raised up by God while you are the reigning king. Yet in their sin and transgressions Ahab and Jezebel were blind.


Anonymous said...

Thank you. When this year started, as I have gotten into the practice of doing I simply asked the Lord what He had to say to me for this year. Keep your hand to the plow were His first words for the year and 1 Kings 19:19-21. Timely message as I have been meditating and praying over this passage and was asking the Lord, If I am missing anything to reveal it. He used your blog to answer. --Be encouraged.

Andy Pierson said...

It always blesses me to know that something I've written through the Spirit's guidance has blessed someone enough that they would mention it. May God give you grace on your journey to whatever it is He is calling you to. Peace and Grace of our Lord Jesus

:P Andy

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...