Day 181

The Most Powerful Message in the World

Wisdom Psalm 78:40-55
New Testament Acts 20:1-38
Old Testament 2 Kings 1:1-2:25

Introduction

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Mojtaba Hosseini for our HTB services. He is a young pastor who was imprisoned, aged 20, for running house churches in Iran. He was imprisoned alongside murderers and drug dealers. He spent long periods in solitary confinement, not knowing if or when he would be released.

Mojtaba felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to share the good news of Jesus. So when the opportunity arose, he began sharing his testimony and the gospel with the other prisoners, proclaiming, ‘Jesus is alive.’

He said, ‘It doesn’t matter what situation I’m in. I can work in God’s kingdom wherever he places me. And at that time God placed me among the prisoners.’

Of one fellow prisoners that he helped lead to Christ, Mojtaba said:

‘I heard this message from God: “Mojtaba, whatever you have been through, being away from your family, all the humiliation, all the suffering, all the pain and solitary confinement and everything you will still go through… It’s worth it for this man who came to Christ.”’

The message of Jesus is the most powerful message in the world. It is good news. It changes lives. It changes cities and cultures. Yet it is also a message that provokes opposition. God equips you to pass on this message by giving you the Holy Spirit.

Wisdom

Psalm 78:40-55

40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
  and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;
  they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power—
  the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,
43 the day he displayed his signs in Egypt,
  his wonders in the region of Zoan.
44 He turned their river into blood;
  they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them,
  and frogs that devastated them.
46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper,
  their produce to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail
  and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail,
  their livestock to bolts of lightning.
49 He unleashed against them his hot anger,
  his wrath, indignation and hostility—
  a band of destroying angels.
50 He prepared a path for his anger;
  he did not spare them from death
  but gave them over to the plague.
51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,
  the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.
52 But he brought his people out like a flock;
  he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;
  but the sea engulfed their enemies.
54 And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
  to the hill country his right hand had taken.
55 He drove out nations before them
  and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
  he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

Commentary

Explain the good news of rescue from sin

You will never fully understand the good news of the gospel until you understand why you needed rescuing.

Jesus, through his life, death and resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit, has rescued us from sin. Here we get a glimpse of what we have been rescued from.

First, we see the nature of sin. Sin is rebellion against God: ‘They rebelled against him’ (v.40). It is not a single act. The psalmist writes, ‘How often… again and again’ (vv.40–41). Sin comes from not trusting in God’s character, God’s word and God’s actions (vv.41–43).

Second, we see the consequences of sin. It grieves God (v.40). It leads to anger, wrath, indignation and hostility (v.49). Ultimately it leads to death (v.50).

It was not only the Egyptians who sinned (vv.43–51) but also God’s people (vv.40–42). Nevertheless, God rescued them. He redeemed them (v.42): ‘He brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert’ (v.52). He guided them safely, so they were unafraid (v.53). All this was preparation for God’s great rescue plan in Jesus.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for rescuing and forgiving me through Jesus. Thank you that you lead me and guide me so that I do not need to be afraid.

New Testament

Acts 20:1-38

Through Macedonia and Greece

20When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. 2 He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, 3 where he stayed three months. Because some Jews had plotted against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. 5 These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. 6 But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.

Eutychus Raised From the Dead at Troas

7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

Commentary

Speak the good news of God’s grace

Do not waste a single day of the precious life God has given you. Whatever you are called to do, however difficult your circumstances, you can enjoy your calling and complete the task with joy.

The message of the gospel is a hugely encouraging one. Everywhere Paul went he encouraged them to ‘keep up the good work’ (v.1, MSG). As he travelled around, ‘he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope’ (v.2, MSG).

Paul felt passionately about this message. It was hard to stop him speaking about it. In Troas, he ‘kept on talking’ (v.7). As ‘Paul talked on and on’ (v.9), Eutychus fell fast asleep, fell out of the window and died. Paul raised him from the dead and then ‘went on telling stories of the faith until dawn!’ (v.11, MSG).

It takes a lot to stop a preacher once they’ve started – members of the congregation dying and rising again only causes a coffee break!

Take every opportunity to get the message out. Paul said, ‘I have not hesitated to preach to you anything that would be helpful to you… I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God’ (vv.20,27). He spoke both ‘publicly and from house to house’ (v.20).

It was hard work (v.35). Paul laid his life on the line (v.19, MSG). He was not afraid to die in the process. He did not regard himself as indispensable: ‘Neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, if only I may finish my course with joy’ (v.24, AMP).

He knew that it would not be ‘any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead’ (v.23, MSG). Like Mojtaba Hosseini, he was severely tested (v.19). There were lots of tears (vv.19,31,37).

Why is it worth going through all of this? We see here three reasons:

1. Power of the words

You have the most powerful message in the world. Paul went around preaching the message ‘of God’s grace’ (v.24), the ‘incredibly extravagant generosity of God’ (MSG). It was ‘the truth’ (v.30).

It was all about Jesus. Grace is undeserved love. It is made possible through Jesus and ‘his own blood’ (v.28). It cannot be earned. It is a free gift.

How do you receive the gift? First, turn to God in repentance (v.21). Repentance is such a positive word. It means turning away from sin and to God.

Second, have faith in our Lord Jesus (v.21). You receive the gift by faith in Jesus Christ.

2. Power of the Holy Spirit

You have the Holy Spirit living in you. Everyone who repents of their sins and puts their faith in Jesus Christ receives the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks about how he is ‘compelled by the Spirit’ (v.22). The Holy Spirit speaks to us (v.23). It is the Holy Spirit who anoints and raises up leaders.

3. Power of giving

You will be blessed as you give. Paul knew that money is not the key to happiness: ‘… keep remembering that our Master said, “You’re far happier giving than getting”’ (v.35, MSG).

Paul preaches ‘the whole will of God’ (v.27). That includes a lot! In this passage we only get a glimpse. But it clearly includes the word of God (v.32), prayer (v.36), a church of overseers and shepherds (v.28), the sacraments (vv.7–11), sanctification (v.32), helping the weak (v.35), and much else besides.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you have given me the power of the Holy Spirit. Give me courage to face hard work, tears and all the other obstacles in order to ‘finish the race’ and ‘complete the task’ you have given to me (v.24).

Old Testament

2 Kings 1:1-2:25

The Lord’s Judgment on Ahaziah

1After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel. 2 Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.”

3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ 4 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’” So Elijah went.

5 When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you come back?”

6 “A man came to meet us,” they replied. “And he said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!”’”

7 The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?”

8 They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.”

The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”

9 Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’”

10 Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.

11 At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, this is what the king says, ‘Come down at once!’”

12 “If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men.

13 So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. “Man of God,” he begged, “please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! 14 See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!”

15 The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king.

16 He told the king, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” 17 So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.

Because Ahaziah had no son, Joram succeeded him as king in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. 18 As for all the other events of Ahaziah’s reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

Elijah Taken Up to Heaven

2When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho. ”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.

5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”

“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”

11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.

13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.”

“No,” Elisha replied, “do not send them.”

17 But they persisted until he was too embarrassed to refuse. So he said, “Send them.” And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him. 18 When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”

Healing of the Water

19 The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”

20 “Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.

21 Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” 22 And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.

Elisha Is Jeered

23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. 25 And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.

Commentary

Tell the good news about Jesus

Good leaders train up successors. This is one of the examples in the Bible of where succession worked really well.

A good mentor is a great gift. Elijah was a mentor to Elisha and passed on his power to him. Elisha had asked, ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit’ (2:9). He wanted to be a holy man, just like his mentor.

Elijah told him he could get what he asked for if he stuck with him to the very end: ‘If you’re watching when I’m taken from you, you’ll get what you’ve asked for. But only if you’re watching (v.10, MSG).

‘Stickability’ is so important in ministry. It is easy to start off with zeal and enthusiasm, but not everyone has the ‘stickability’ to endure hard work, difficulties and disappointments and see things through to the end in the way that Elisha did.

Elisha did indeed receive ‘a double portion’. (The book of Kings records that Elisha performed twice as many miracles as his mentor.) The mantle of Elijah fell on Elisha (v.13). It was clear to all who were watching that Elisha was the anointed successor: ‘the spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha’ (v.15).

The account of Elijah and his extraordinary power to call down fire from heaven (1:12) and to divide the waters (2:8), should be read in the light of the New Testament. Elijah prefigured John the Baptist. John ministered ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:14), preparing the way for Jesus.

Jesus says that you are better off than Elijah or Elisha. He says, ‘Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist’ (the Elijah who was to come). Yet he goes on, ‘Whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11). Every Christian is in a better position than Elijah and John the Baptist for at least two reasons.

First, you are in a better position to tell the good news about Jesus. Second, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit given on the day of Pentecost. Every Christian (‘whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven’) has the opportunity to proclaim the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit – the most powerful message in the world.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the amazing privilege you have given to me and to every Christian – being able to pass on the most powerful message in the world. Thank you that this message transforms lives, communities and cultures.

Pippa adds

Two warnings in today’s passages:

  1. Don’t be rude to bald-headed men (2 Kings 2:23–25)
  2. If the preacher is going on and on, find a comfortable (and safe!) place to doze off, which didn't happen in Acts 20:7–12.

Verse of the Day

Acts 20:24

‘… my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace’.
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References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

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