The Spiritual Reality

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, a host with horses and chariots was round about the city.
And his servant said unto him, “Alas, my master! how shall we do?”
And he answered, “Fear not; for they that are with us are more than they that are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, and said, “O LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.”
And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kings 6:15-17).

By all accounts, the situation looked grim.

The Aramean king learned that Elisha was foiling his plans to raid Israel, and sent his army to end the threat.  The Aramean army comes toward Elisha– a terrible sight indeed.  Who can stand against the foe?  The Israelite army has enough problem, let alone some prophets!

We can understand and sympathize with the great concern of the servant.  According to the physical reality on the ground, there was little reason to hope.

Yet Elisha is unperturbed.  He recognizes the spiritual reality in their midst.  He knows that there are more on his side than there are for the enemy– even if such are invisible to man’s eyes.

We can only imagine what the servant felt when he suddenly sees the angelic host with its fiery chariots.  He, no doubt, felt amazement and wonder.  Stupefied is probably more like it.  None of it was visible a moment earlier.  Yet, in the blinking of the eye, everything was different.

Yet nothing was really different.  The angelic host was always there.  The servant simply did not perceive them!

This passage seems to teach us that there is a spiritual reality in our very midst that we do not perceive.  If our eyes were opened, we might feel amazement and wonder, utterly stunned at all that is around us.  Everything would seem different, but nothing would really be different.  It is always there, just past our physical senses.

Let us remember this when we feel alone or discouraged, believing that our situation is hopeless.  We may be struggling with a temptation to sin; we may feel some persecution for our faith; we might be experiencing some kind of trial, physical, spiritual, or otherwise.  It may seem that the forces of evil and darkness are too numerous, and we despair of victory.

Yet, as it is written,

Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

In Jesus Christ we will have the victory.  There is no force greater than His Lordship.  We just need to have faith that an overwhelming spiritual reality is all around us, and that there are more for us than there are for them!

Ethan R. Longhenry

He Has Done It

All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship: All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him, Even he that cannot keep his soul alive. A seed shall serve him; It shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation. They shall come and shall declare his righteousness Unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done it (Psalm 22:29-31).

While Jesus hung upon the cross, according to Matthew, He cried out with the introductory verse of Psalm 22– “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”, or, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Psalm 22:1). While it is disputed whether this represents an actual separation between the Father and Jesus, or whether He is simply evoking the Psalm, the strong parallels between Jesus’ crucifixion and Psalm 22 cannot be denied.

David well expresses the agony and anguish that Jesus would suffer. He would be mocked and derided for His faith in God (Psalm 22:7-8). His hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:16). His enemies surrounded Him (Psalm 22:12, 16). His clothes are taken by others (Psalm 22:18).

Despite the suffering, however, neither David nor Jesus lose their faith in God. Their confidence is wholly upon the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, and they will be vindicated.

Jesus was not delivered from His enemies that day in any way that humans would recognize. Three days later He was alive again. The power, the glory, and the might were all now His.

And indeed, it was told to the next generation. And the generation after that. And in every generation until now.

And we continue to declare His righteousness, that He has done it.

He has done what was necessary for us to be saved (Romans 5:6-11).

He has done what the Law could never do– conquer sin and death (Romans 8:1-3).

He has done the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile, bringing people from every nation, tongue, and race to Him (Ephesians 2:11-18).

He has fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 5:17-18).

He has accomplished the victory for all who would come to Him (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Let us never cease to praise Jesus who accomplished so much through His suffering. Let us continue to proclaim His righteousness to everyone.

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Secret Things

The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).

We humans are curious to a fault. It does not matter if you speak to a child or an adult: tell someone that they cannot do something, and you have just challenged them to try. Humans keep trying to push every boundary– to learn more, to investigate more deeply, to plumb greater depths and ascend to greater heights. Many believe that there is limitless potential with human beings.

Yet we are the creation. Our brains, while magnificent in their complexity, are still finite. There are some things that we are just not going to be able to understand. There are some depths that we cannot plumb; some heights we will not climb.

Three of the hardest words for humans to say are, “I don’t know.” And yet, especially in many spiritual matters, they are very humble and powerful words.

God never intended to reveal everything to humanity– there are many things that we just cannot understand (Isaiah 55:9-10). They are the “secret things” that belong to God. He knows and understands, and we may gain a better understanding when we stand before Him.

Until then, however, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know,” when the Bible has not revealed it. How can God be Three in One, or One in Three? We don’t know. How will the resurrection take place, and what will we be? All we know is that we will be as Christ (1 John 3:2). Why is there evil and suffering? In the end, we can’t really know.

But we can know what God has revealed to us, and we are to be content with devoting ourselves to that. Let us diligently consider what can be known, and leave what cannot be known to God who knows all.

Ethan R. Longhenry

No King in Israel

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6).

Some people think that humans would do best under no government whatsoever: every man would be responsible for himself and his own decisions.  The Bible reveals how foolish such an idea really is.

Man is quite sinful, and his sin too often gets the better of him.  In the time of the Judges, while Israel technically was subject to God, in reality, they decided for themselves what they were and were not going to do.

Did this lead them to follow the Law of Moses?  Far from it!  They served the Baals and the Asherah.  They stole, made idols and called them YHWH, raped, slaughtered, turned blind eyes to kidnapping, and suffered greatly with internal conflict.

It is as Solomon and Jeremiah have established:

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).

O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10:23).

Government must exist to punish evil and praise good (Romans 13:1-6).  It is within the Gospel message, however, that we learn that we cannot direct our own steps as we ought.  We learn how we must instead trust in God, lean on Him for understanding and follow His paths (cf. Proverbs 3:5-7), and find the right path for our feet.

We may not have an earthly king, but we do have a Heavenly One, and we must do what is right in His eyes (1 John 2:1-6).  Let us strive to do so today!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Micah’s Certainty

Then said Micah, “Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest” (Judges 17:13).

Statistics reveal that most people believe in God.  Most would say that they seek to curry favor with God.  They have it within their heads that if they do certain things that God will surely bless them.

Micah is a representative of this view.  We learn in Judges 17 that after taking 1100 pieces of silver from his mother and then restoring them, his mother decides to take some of the silver and make a molten image of YHWH of it.  Micah makes his own ephod and installs his own son as a priest.  When a Levite comes by who is willing to serve before the idol for him, he takes him in and then feels pleased with himself.

When we consider the whole of the Law of Moses, and how molten images are an abomination to God, let alone having one’s own sanctuary, we wonder how Micah can feel this way.  What does the LORD owe him?  How can he think that the LORD will bless him when he is presently sinning?

Yet we must not be too harsh on Micah, because many Micahs are all around us, and we may have a little Micah within ourselves.

How many people have we seen who make progress with one or two battles in their lives and then think that God is then okay with them?  How many will point to all of their generosity and act as if such will cover their iniquity?

How many times have we done the same?  How often have we prided ourselves on some spiritual accomplishment while neglecting other matters?  How many times have we labored under the pretension that if we curry favor with God that such automatically leads to blessings?

In Matthew 5:45, Jesus declares that God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust.  God may do people good even though they have been unrighteous; after all, we have all sinned, and God showed His love for us while we were in sin (Romans 5:6-11).  The righteous may experience difficulty and suffering in order to test their faith and to produce spiritual benefit (James 1:2-4, Hebrews 12:6-13).

We would do well to learn from Micah’s “certainty.”  God does not owe us anything, and there is nothing that we can “do” that forces God to “do good” for us.  God still provides life and blessing even though we all have sinned against Him.  As opposed to striving to gain God’s favor, let us be thankful for the blessings which God has already provided!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The (Imperfect) Men of Faith

Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. For therein the elders had witness borne to them (Hebrews 11:1-2).

Hebrews 11 enshrines the men of faith from the old covenant.  Yet consider these men:

Noah (Hebrews 11:7): got drunk, exposed himself in a tent (Genesis 9:20-21).

Abraham (Hebrews 11:8-10, 17-19): deceived rulers, took an additional wife without God’s consent (Genesis 12:10-20, 16, 20).

Sarah (Hebrews 11:11-12): laughed at God’s promise, lied about it (Genesis 18:9-15).

Jacob (Hebrews 11:21): cheated his brother, deceived his own father (Genesis 25, 27).

Moses (Hebrews 11:23-30): attempted to reject God’s call, at times did not give God the glory (Exodus 3-4, Numbers 20:1-13).

Rahab (Hebrews 11:31): lied to cover for spies (Joshua 2:3-6).

Gideon (Hebrews 11:32): made an ephod, caused family to go astray (Judges 8:24-27).

Samson (Hebrews 11:32): visited a prostitute (Judges 16:1-3).

David (Hebrews 11:32): committed adultery with a faithful servant’s wife, schemed to have that servant killed (2 Samuel 11).

These are the men whom God commends for their faith?  How can this be?

We must recognize that God is not commending these men and women for being perfect, because no one is perfect save Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8).  God is not commending them for their sins and character faults.

They receive commendation for their faith– their trust in God at difficult moments, their willingness to do what God tells them to do even if they did not entirely understand or if the situation looked hopeless.

Being a man or woman of God does not mean that we are perfect.  It means that we place our trust in God and strive to follow His will in all things, even if we do not understand or if our situation looks hopeless.  Yes, it also means that we must confess our sins and repent of them (1 John 1:9), but let us not be deceived into thinking that God can only use perfect people.  The “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) is full of imperfect people who trusted in a perfect and holy God.  Let us strive to be as them, and run the race set before us!

And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him (Hebrews 11:6).

Ethan R. Longhenry

Samson and Revenge

And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, “O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28).

The Judges author presents the story of Samson as a cycle of vengeance.  The father of the Timnite shames Samson, and in revenge, he has the grain of Philistia burned.  In revenge, they kill the Timnite and her father, and seek to do to Samson what Samson did to them.  Samson then kills more Philistines (Judges 15).  The Philistines, through Delilah, figure out how to capture Samson, and blind him in vengeance for what he did to them.  And here, at the end of his life, Samson asks God to give him strength to get revenge on Philistia for his eye.

What is the result? The death of thousands, but no real change.  Philistia is still in control, and Israel is still humbled before them.  Samson’s vengeance is not enough to save Israel.

Samson’s life provides a vivid demonstration of the fruitlessness of the cycle of vengeance.  Its desire is never satisfied; there is always some new affront that requires restitution.  This is not God’s way in His Kingdom.

Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written,
“‘Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense,’ saith the Lord.”
“But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21).

Only by loving our enemies can we win them over or to at least demonstrate that we are God’s children (Matthew 5:43-45, Luke 6:27-36).  Let us leave judgment in God’s hands, and love all men!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Gideon’s Tests

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, “Arise, get thee down into the camp; for I have delivered it into thy hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Purah thy servant down to the camp: and thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thy hands be strengthened to go down into the camp” (Judges 7:9-11a).

If we consider the story of Gideon as described in Judges 6-8, we are struck by Gideon’s constant testing of God.  What is he trying to accomplish?

Is he timid?  He was willing to tear down the Baal and Asherah of his father’s people, and went within earshot of the enemy camp at God’s instruction.  He certainly is bold when he wants to be!

So what does Gideon seek?  The answer is not specifically revealed, but it seems to be that he seeks reassurance of God’s presence.  Gideon has enough faith to trust in God; he just wants to make sure that God is still with him in his endeavors.

What about us?  Do we seek God’s reassurance that He is with us in our endeavors? Do we want to make sure that what we are striving to do is, in fact, what God desires us to do?

We are to be people who walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Let us find reassurance in the Author and Finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ, and in the confidence of His Word (cf. Hebrews 12:2)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Gideon’s Perspective

And Gideon said unto him, “Oh, my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where are all his wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD hath cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian” (Judges 6:13).

Gideon (and Israel) experienced difficult times: Midian and the people of the East were strong, and Israel was greatly humiliated and oppressed.  Where was God in all of this?  If God is as great as the fathers made Him out to be, where is He?

What Gideon did not consider was Israel’s great sin in serving the Baals (Judges 6:10, 25-26).  He did not consider that God handed Israel into Midian’s hands because they transgressed His covenant (Judges 6:1).  He did not consider that Israel remained stubborn and did not heed God’s voice (Judges 6:10).

The situation was quite different than it seemed through Gideon’s eyes.

There are many times in our own lives when things do not seem to make a lot of sense.  We see pain and suffering and difficulty.  We read the stories about how God delivered people in the past, and yet there is no delivery for us.  Many want to know where God is in all of this.

Yet just as God was there in Gideon’s day, God is here today (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:8).  We may be experiencing God’s chastening for our sins.  We may be experiencing trial so that our faith can be properly tested.  God may have something entirely different in store for us.  In the end, it may even turn out for our own good.

Wisdom teaches us to remember that our perspective is limited, and we often neglect to remember that there are many other factors involved that we may not understand.  We can let our doubts, questions, and difficulties separate us from God, or we can let them teach us to trust Him more.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” saith the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Ethan R. Longhenry