Devotional Week 37 Monday
“Fear not, there is nothing to fear, for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with my victorious right hand of rightness and justice.”
Isaiah 41: 10
Fret Not Thyself
“Far in the future
Lieth a fear,
Like a long, low mist of grey,
Gathering to fall in dreary rain,
Thus doth thy heart within thee complain;
And even now thou art afraid,
For round thy dwelling
The flying winds are ever telling
Of the fear that lieth grey,
Like a gloom of brooding mist upon the way.
But the Lord is always kind,
Be not blind,
Be not blind
To the shining of His face,
To the comforts of His grace,
Hath He ever failed thee yet?
Never, never: wherefore fret?
O fret not thyself, not let
Thy heart be troubled,
Neither let it be afraid.”
“No not be seized with alarm and struck with fear, little flock.”
Luke 12: 32
Today’s Study Text:
“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, ‘Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.’”
II Kings 4: 38
“A Dearth In The Land”
“Meaning of “dearth”: A famine. A hunger.
“Above all, we must not be discouraged by difficulties, but must remind ourselves that the more difficult a work is, the more necessary it is to set to work with great dispatch and make great efforts.”
Charles de Foucauld
What difficulties am I facing in my life today?
When I look over my life, how has God assisted me in meeting with difficulties in my past?
“Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”
John Henry Newman
“Difficulties are not a passing condition that we must allow to blow over like a storm so that we can set to work when calm returns. They are the normal condition.”
Charles de Foucauld
The quote above, penned by Charles de Foucauld whose “Prayer of Abandonment” is a well-known Christian outpouring by one who ended up martyred, makes a very true statement: Difficulties are the normal condition. I doubt many of us really want to come to this conclusion in our own lives. We would rather think that “difficulties,” which are defined as “troublesome or embarrassing events that cause us worry, even to the point of despair,” are temporary occurrences that last, only until, the blight has been eradicated.
However, if we carefully exam Elisha’s ministry, we will quickly become aware that one problem upon another, many of which dealt with famine, hunger, and the lack of something to eat or drink, happened all through Elisha’s ministry.
In fact, author Ray Dillard’s book, Faith in the Face of Apostasy, gave me a much broader view of the daily lives of the people who lived during the prophetic work of Elijah and Elisha. Here’s how Dillard describes conditions:
“It is striking how many of the stories about Elijah and Elisha have to do with food. It is difficult for modern Western readers to understand what life in an agrarian society of basically subsistence levels meant for the average individual in ancient Israel.”
I want to interject here that I didn’t understand much about the word “agrarian” myself. This word pertains to land and its ownership – equitable distribution regarding agricultural or rural matters. This description would not have meant much to me except that I have a friend who not long ago sent me information about a 50 acre piece of land here in Arizona that was potentially going to be divided into fifteen one acre parcels with “joint-use” pieces of land in-between for growing fresh food with the sole purpose of usage by all fifteen participants. A modern day “agrarian” society was how the brochure described this piece of land.
As Ray Dillard goes on to inform his readers, in Israel’s life at the time of the prophets, ”starvation and hard times were never far away.” Then Dillard goes on to compare the food requirements in our daily life to those in ancient times when he makes this important observation: “In modern Western countries, food is a far smaller part of a household budget than it has ever been; the time invested in gathering it is ordinarily limited to how long one spends in a supermarket or a convenience store and perhaps a small family garden. Life was very different in ancient Israel. In subsistence or marginal economies, providing daily bread may represent the largest expenditure one makes and may also consume almost every waking moment.”
To give you another look into the difference between the effort I make each day to put supper on the table and the way things were in the 1700-1800’s, I had a real eye-opening experience a number of years ago when Jim and I had the pleasure of visiting Mt. Vernon, the historical home of George Washington, the first President of the United States. On this particular day it was 17 degrees with a wind that blew right through you. So Jim and I found we were the only visitors who braved the severe cold. It was worth it for we had the most personal tour throughout every building, even into the turret on the top of the house, an off-limit location normally. However, it was the kitchen that really kept my attention. It was not all the time-saving devices that caught my eye. Instead, it was the need for fireplaces that filled the huge room and the “stoves,” if you can call them that, which also needed to be constantly stoked in order to cook the food that was harvested in the gardens surrounding the property or by game hunted down and killed. Eating a meal was something that required hours of preparation.
Now let’s translate this information back to the world of Elijah and Elisha where we read about famine-after-famine and drought-after-drought.
While a king like Ahab and his court could greedily hoard the resources they
needed, the “regular folk” suffered – much of the time. What’s more, God’s children were not immune to these difficult times. Here’s how F. W. Krummacher portrays the arrival of Elisha at the “seminary” in Gilgal during a time of famine:
“A gloom spread over the community. Their stores were now entirely consumed; their gardens were stripped and their purses were empty. They were indeed oppressed with want, and their wealthier idolatrous neighbors would be more inclined to ask, ‘Where is now thy God?’ They must have been dejected and distressed; and in what respect then, it may be asked, ‘Had they any advantage over the ungodly?’”
Sometimes when the events around us lead us to come to the conclusion that there is a famine in our lives, a dearth, a lacking – we too may find fear invading our hearts as we look around and come to the conclusion, “There isn’t enough. There’s a famine!”
No matter what you and I lack, we should have no concern when we have the presence of our Father continually by our side.
I like the way Beth Moore describes how the daily difficulties we all face can make us feel, “We look around us and we think that people look like they’ve got it so together and we’re just absolutely sure we’re the only one that’s a wreck…that’s not true!” What you and I need to do in our own lives, when a famine strikes or the blight kills off the fruit or the drought leaves a trail of death – is recognize that the difficulties, everyone of them, which come our way can serve to send us to our Father, to the “One” who will deliver us.
Author Jane Truax draws this object lesson from trees in describing how the difficulties of life can strengthen each of us in our walk with God, “Botanists say that trees need the powerful March winds to flex their trunks and main branches, so that the sap is drawn up to nourish the budding leaves. Perhaps we need the gales of life in the same way, though we dislike enduring them. A blustery period in our fortunes is often the prelude to a new spring of life and health, success and happiness, when we keep steadfast in faith and look to the good in spite of appearances.”
“Whatever clouds you face today, ask Jesus, the light of the world, to help you look behind the cloud to see His glory and His plans for you.”
Evangelist Billy Graham
Lead Me Out of My Doubts and Fears
lead me now
out of the familiar setting
of my doubts and fears,
beyond my pride and my
need to be secure into a
strange and graceful ease
with my true proportions
and with Yours;
that in boundless silence
I may grow
Strong enough to endure
And flexible enough to
Share Your grace.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author