These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“Are they not all ministering spirits …” (v.14) RSV
I have never seen an angel, and yet I believe that we are surrounded by these unseen beings. The Bible refers to angels nearly 300 times! God not only created the world and all that is material, he also created the immaterial world including spiritual beings. These are known in the Bible as angels.
Now you may be accustomed to calling certain people like nurses, ‘angels’. But that is not what the Bible is talking about. You may also believe that the Bible is merely talking about human beings who are God’s messengers, for the word ‘angel’ means ‘messenger’. But despite angels sometimes appearing as human beings (see more about this in the next few weeks) we must not lose sight of the fact that God has created myriads of unseen beings.
Why? As our reading today says, “Are they not ministering spirits …?” (v.14). They are at God’s beck and call, not ours. But nevertheless they are “sent forth (by God) to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation.” (v.14).
One of their main functions therefore is to protect God’s people. Do we believe that there is this silent army on stand-by? Remember how Jesus’ Father could have sent “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53) to deliver him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Or how the eyes of Elisha’s servant were opened to see that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about” (2 Kings 6:17). The words of Elisha to his servant could equally well be applied to us: “Fear not, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16).
We are not simply dependent on the gifts, people and forces that we can see. There are unseen hands at work whose task it is to protect us and bring us through to salvation. We must not assume that we are always going to be protected from all troubles. Sometimes suffering serves our Father’s purpose. But oftentimes when we call upon Him, he will send his “ministering spirits” to our aid. (Psalm 34:7)
Thank you Lord that I am never alone, and need fear no evil. Send your holy angels to protect me. Amen.
“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,” (45:1) RSV
Cyrus is not a king of Israel, but the king of the Medes and Persians who conquered Babylon whilst the Jews were in exile there. Why speak of him? Because he is the only person in the Old Testament referred to as ‘Messiah’ – “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus” (45:1). The word ‘anointed’ is ‘Messiah’ in Hebrew, and ‘Christ’ in Greek.
Cyrus was, like all the kings of the earth, under the sovereign control of Almighty God. Though he was in his own right a powerful and successful king, he was nevertheless at the disposal of the King of kings. God used Cyrus to capture Babylon from Belshazzar and the Babylonians, and to instigate a new policy for handling all the foreign nations that were held captive in that city and across the whole empire. The Israelites had been in exile for well nigh 70 years. God was now arranging for them to start returning to their own land, to Jerusalem, and to the rebuilding of their Temple.
Cyrus was to be God’s instrument of salvation. He used Cyrus to fulfil this purposes. That heathen king had no idea he was serving the God of Heaven. A possible modern day equivalent might be Mikhail Gorbachev. His policies of ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ brought about the liberation of many nationalities and races within the borders of the old USSR. They became free to return to their own countries.
God is not merely working through ‘Christians’ but has the world at his disposal. He will achieve his purposes whether people acknowledge him or not. God achieves so much through the people he has made, quite apart from the people he has saved. Let us give thanks that he has the whole world in his hands. Cyrus, strange as it might seems, is a type (example) of the Christ who was to come in the form of Jesus. He would set all people free in the deepest and most fulfilling ways.
Thank you Lord for your mighty power. You are indeed King of king and Lord of lords. Thank you that nothing is outside your control. You can handle all things; may I trust you. Amen.
1 What was happening the night before Cyrus conquered Babylon?
“… the king did not hearken to them …” (12:16) RSV
The tragedy of schism is illustrated by the foolish reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. He had grown up in the glory days of Israel. His father had been wise and rich. The country had prospered and had become a power to be reckoned with in that area of the world. He had had a privileged upbringing and had never had it so good. But now he wanted to continue bleeding the people dry in order to maintain his privileged status and way of life. His father had been tough, but at least he had earned the right to be tough. Rehoboam felt he could be tougher just because of his background – what a disaster!
Rehoboam did not have the wisdom of his father. And when he sought counsel he rejected the advice of his elders and followed the advice of his peers. All of those young men wanted power and privilege, but did not realise that their first responsibility was to their people. God raises leaders and kings not primarily for their own benefit but for the benefit of their citizens. Rehoboam neglected the duty of any caring leader, he “did not hearken to them …” (1 Kings 12:6).
God cares for people, and his servants, all of us, are to care for people too. We are not to oppress them, withhold their pay, or in any way be unjust to them. We are called to follow the example of Jesus who was a shepherd to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. A shepherd is prepared to lay down his life for the sheep.
Rehoboam’s crass and immature repression of his people resulted in a split that was never to be healed. The ten northern tribes hived off under Jeroboam and became ‘Israel’, and Rehoboam was left with the remaining two, known as ‘Judah’. Woe betide us if we do not “hearken” to the cries of the poor and needy.
Lord, forgive me when I am arrogant and simply want my own way. Help me to listen to others, and above all listen to you. Teach me to be kind and gentle. Amen.
“I purpose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God” (1 Kings 5:5)
Solomon, the son of King David, was known for his wisdom. He wrote many proverbs and made practical decisions. There is the well known story of deciding who was the real mother of the baby by threatening to cut it in half; it worked! (1 Kings 3:16-28)! Someone who was extremely impressed by his wisdom and wealth was the Queen of Sheba. But Solomon’s most abiding legacy to Israel was the Temple he built.
David his father had wanted to build it, but was not the right man to do so – his hands were stained with blood. But the time and the situation was now right for Solomon to do so. We may note how times and seasons lie with God. Our plans have to wait for his timing. We may not be the right person to do it. We need to seek what God is actually calling us to do. As Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Although God now gave Solomon permission and the commission to build the Temple, it still needed Solomon to say “I purpose …” (1 Kings 5:5). Nothing will get done, whatever vision we have, unless our will transforms our dreams into actions. As James wrote, “Let us be doers of the word, and not hearers only …” (James 1:22).
Note also Solomon’s motivation. This Temple was to be built for the glory of God, not to establish his own greatness or to impress his neighbours. Unless we are filled with a desire to please God and to glorify him, we will never find sufficient motivation to build ‘houses’ for him. Solomon (in this early part of his life) was a man who spent much time in thought, mediation and prayer. This is how right motivation and enthusiasm is found.
Forgive me Lord when I have idled away my dreams. Galvanise my by your Spirit to start today to put into practice your calling(s) to me. Amen.