Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-one through forty-four of the fourth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will find Jesus having left His hometown of Nazareth after teaching in their synagogue, having declared unto them that the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied had been fulfilled in their hearting, and after He spoke unto them concerning the many widows which were in the land of Israel during the days of Elijah when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine was throughout all the land, but how the Lord didn’t send Him unto any of the widows in Israel, but instead sent him unto a widow in Sarepta, a city of Sidon. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to declare that there were many lepers which were present in Israel during the days of Elisha, however none of those lepers were cleansed save Naaman the Syrian. With these words Jesus not only spoke of provision during a time of famine and need, but Jesus also spoke of healing and cleansing. It’s actually quite interesting and astonishing to read and to consider the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto the men and women in His hometown of Nazareth, for it seems apparent that Jesus was indicting those within His own hometown for the hardness of their heart, as well as for their unbelief. With the words which Jesus spoke unto those within His hometown of Nazareth Jesus was emphatically declaring and making a statement that there was a definitive reason why unto none of the widows in Israel did the Lord send the prophet Elijah during a time of famine and drought, and how the Lord did not send the prophet Elisha unto any of the lepers within the land of Israel, but instead chose to cleanse Naaman the Syrian commander. With these words Jesus was peering back into history and emphatically speaking concerning those times and calling them to take a look back into the history of their nation, into the history of their people, and into the history of their ancestors, and to examine the reason why the Lord would send the prophets Elijah and Elisha to those who were outside of the land of Israel. WHEN THE LORD SENDS PROVISION OUTSIDE OF THE PROMISE! WHEN THE LORD SENDS HEALING OUTSIDE OF THE INHERITANCE!
Please don’t miss the incredible significance of that which Jesus was speaking unto those within His own hometown concerning the days of the prophet Elijah, as well as the days of Elisha the prophet, for with these words Jesus was essentially indicting them for their lack of faith, for the hardness of their heart, for their unbelief, and I would even dare say their offense in Him. What’s more, is that I would dare say that what we find within this passage of Scripture is an incredibly powerful truth that is centered upon the reality that familiarity can not only breed contempt, but familiarity can also breed offense within our hearts if we aren’t careful. I am convinced that if we are to truly understand that which took place within the city of Nazareth during this time when Jesus declared unto them how the words of the prophet Elijah were fulfilled in their heart, as well as to understand that which is found in the verses immediately proceeding it in the latter portion of the fourth chapter, it is necessary and imperative to turn and direct our attention back to the Old Testament books of First and Second Kings. It is within these two Old Testament books where we will find the accounts of Elijah and the widow to which he was sent, as well as the Elisha and Naaman the Syrian general who happened to be leper as well. I invite you to turn and to direct your attention to the words which are found in each of these two passages of Scripture, for not only do they help shine a great deal of light on to the days of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, but they also help us understand that which took place after Jesus departed from Nazareth in Galilee and continued on to the city of Capernaum. Consider if you will the two accounts of Elijah and Elisha as they are recorded in the Old Testament books of First and Second Kings beginning with the seventeenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings, and continuing again into and with the fifth chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Kings:
“And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word. And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to ZIdon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee. So he arose and went to Zarephtah. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a. Barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord senders rain upon the earth. And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, and did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Elijah”
“Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in Val our, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! For he would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I god, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how He seeketh a quarrel against me. And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha, And Elisha sent a messenger unto him,s saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou s halt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the Lenore. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I. not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and speak unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? For thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaner on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way” (2 Kings 5:1-19).
These two passages are absolutely and incredibly interesting and intriguing—not only because of the context of events which are presented within them, but also because they were used by Jesus when speaking unto those of His hometown of Nazareth who had gathered themselves in the synagogue. Within these two passages found on the pages of the Old Testament we find two distinct prophets of the living God in the northern kingdom of Israel—the first being the prophet Elijah, and the second being the prophet Elisha. During the days of Elijah the prophet there was a famine and drought in the land because according to the prophet’s own word the Lord had shut up the heavens and provided no rain upon the land for the space of three and a half years. It’s interesting and worth noting that before Elijah was even sent to the widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon, Elijah himself experienced the direct results of the drought and the lack of rain. It was the Lord Himself who had commanded Elijah to go and dwell by the brook Cherith, and to drink of the brook while dwelling there. For a period of time Elijah was sustained by and with the water that was found in that brook, however, there would come a point in time when the brook itself would dry up, and the source of provision which the Lord Himself had sent Elijah to would be removed. Pause for a moment and consider that it was according to the word of the Lord through the prophet Elijah that the heavens were shut up, and it was during that time the Lord sent Elijah to dwell near the brook Cherith in order that he might drink and be sustained by it. Eventually, however—during the course of time—the brook itself would dry up, and the source of provision given by the Lord would be removed from the life of the prophet. What do you do when the Lord instructs and directs you to go to a specific place where He would provide you with provision, and the provision in that places lasts for a short period of time, but eventually—through the course of time—that provision dries up? What do you do when the provision which was sustaining you—even provision which was provided according to the word of the Lord—dries up and you find yourself beginning to be in want and be in need? How do you respond, and how will you react when you come to this particular place within your life—the place when the provision appointed by God dries up and you are no longer sustained by that provision? The prophet Elijah was instructed to dwell by the brook Cherith during a time of famine and drought, and was promised by the Lord that He would provide for him there, however, there would come a point in time when the place of provision appointed by God would dry up.
WHEN THE PLACE OF PROVISION APPOINTED BY GOD DRIES UP BEFORE YOUR FACE! I can’t help but see a tremendous prophetic word that is found within this passage of Scripture—one that has the ability to dramatically alter and shift our thinking and our perception. As I sit here this morning thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, I can’t help but think that there might very well be times within our lives when the Lord leads us, guides us, and directs us to a specific place where He Himself would provide provision for us. For a season we are able to abide and dwell there in the place appointed by God and experience the provision of God. As we continue living and dwelling in that place we find ourselves being provided meat in the morning and meat in the evening by ravens (so to speak), and we find ourselves being able to drink freely from the brook Cherith. Eventually, however, the brook which we are able to drink freely from dries up, and we are left wondering why the Lord would lead us to such a place of provision—only for that place of provision to dry up. I am thoroughly convinced that while the brook Cherith was an appointed place of provision for the prophet Elijah, there was also an appointed time of provision for the prophet. In other words, while it was true the Lord appointed and prepared this place to be a source of provision for the prophet Elijah, the place of provision would itself have an appointed time for it to sustain the prophet and his need. What’s so incredibly interesting about this is that the Lord didn’t speak unto, nor did He reveal unto the prophet Elijah that he would be abler to drink freely from the brook Cherith in the appointed place of provision, but there would come an appointed time when the brook would dry up, and the source of provision would be removed from within the life of Elijah. What I find to be truly remarkable about this particular event within the life of the prophet Elijah is that while it was true that the brook Cherith was the appointed place of provision for the prophet—that appointed place of provision would itself have an appointed time for it to last within the life of the prophet before it would dry up. It would be in that place where the provision dried up that the Lord would when lead the prophet to an unlikely source of provision—namely, a widow who lived in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. What we must recognize and consider when reading this passage is that there are times in our lives when the Lord can and will lead us to an appointed place of provision within our lives, and will allow us to experience provision in that place, however, He can and may very well allow that provision to dry up in order that He might move us from that place to the next place of provision. What’s more, is that when the Lord moved the prophet Elijah from the brook Cherith and an appointed place of provision for himself alone, He would transition him to an entirely new place of provision—and not only a place of provision, but also a place of ministry and testimony. Although the provision which was found at the brook Cherith dried up, the Lord would lead the prophet to an unlikely location and to an unlikely widow woman in order that He might provide for him there, and in order that through provision there might be a witness, a testimony, and ministry for the prophet Elijah. There are times within our lives when the Lord who promised us provision in a specific place will allow the provision to dry up, and in that place of dried up provision, He is preparing us to move on to another place of provision—to a place where the provision has directly linked and connected to it a wonderful testimony and witness to those we wouldn’t otherwise have any inclination of going to.
When you come to the days of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will find Jesus referencing the events which took place within and during the days of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and using the events which took place within their lives to speak something truly unique and powerful to those within His hometown of Nazareth. It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt, and I would dare say that it is possible that familiarity can and may also breed offense within our hearts if we aren’t careful. I firmly believe that it was because of this familiarity within the hearts of those within the town of Nazareth that caused them to be offended at and with the words of Jesus the Christ, for they could not get past the fact that this was the son of Joseph the carpenter. It is undeniable and unmistakable that Joseph must have had a reputation and been well known within the town of Nazareth, for when those within the city heard the words of Jesus, they could not get past the fact that this was Joseph’s son whom they had all known. There is not a doubt in my mind that in their familiarity with Jesus, they allowed themselves to grow and become offended with Jesus, and from that place of offense became angry toward Him. Eventually the account of Jesus in Nazareth would culminate and come to a head when those from His own hometown attempted to thrust him off the brow of a cliff in order that they might be rid of Him. Pause for a moment and consider the fact of how angry, and how indignant these within the town of Nazareth must have been with Jesus in order for them to seek to thrust Him off the brow of a cliff. Jesus read from the words which were found in the sixty-first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah concerning the Spirit of the Lord being upon Him and anointing Him for ministry, and he declared that in those days before them these words were fulfilled. Those within the town of Nazareth began to grow offended with Jesus when they heard Him imply and suggest that the words of the prophet Isaiah were fulfilled in their hearing with the life of Jesus who had grown up within this small town of Galilee. What’s more, is that when Jesus would go on to speak concerning the widows in Israel during the days of Elijah whom the Lord didn’t send the prophet to, as well as the lepers in Israel during the days of Elisha whom the Lord didn’t send him to either. Essentially, the Lord allowed many widows in the land of Israel to remain in their current state during a period of famine and drought while sending the prophet Elijah to a lowly widow in the land of Sidon, which was outside of the promise and outside of the inheritance. What’s more, is that the Lord allowed many lepers who were present in the land of Israel during the days of Elisha to remain unclean, yet sent Elisha to cleanse the leprosy of of a Syrian general who was a mighty man of valor and mighty in battle. With these two examples it becomes quite clear that the Lord not only sent provision, but also healing outside of the place of promise and inheritance in order that He might minister unto a lowly widow in the land of Sidon, and a Syrian general who sought to be cleansed of his leprosy.
As we continue reading the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke, we find Jesus departing from Nazareth in Galilee and journeying down into Capernaum, which was also a city of Galilee. Upon coming to Capernaum we find Jesus teaching those within the city on the sabbath days, and those who heard Him speak being astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with power. I would like to call and draw our attention to the use of the word “power” in this particular passage, for it is not the first time this word is used within the fourth chapter. If you turn and direct your attention back to the fourteenth verse of this chapter you will find Luke writing and recording how Jesus returned [from the wilderness] in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and how there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. In the fourteenth verse of this chapter we find it written that Jesus returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and now in the thirty-second verse of the same chapter we find it written that when those in Capernaum heard the words which Jesus taught them in their synagogue, they were astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with power. Twice so far within this chapter we find the beloved physician Luke using the word “power” to describe the ministry of Jesus, for not only did Jesus emerge from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit after being tempted of the devil during a period of forty days, but now we find Luke writing concerning those in Capernaum, and how they were astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with power. Please note that this was before a single miracle was recorded by the beloved physician. When the beloved physician Luke writes and records how those in Capernaum were astonished at the doctrine of Jesus, for His word was with power, Luke hadn’t even touched on a single miracle which Jesus had performed among them in their midst. How absolutely remarkable and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that when Jesus stood before them and taught in their synagogues on the sabbath days, He taught them as one having authority and power, and not as their scribes taught them. In other words, there was something fundamentally different about the teaching of Jesus during those days—something that was drastically different from the teaching of their scribes and teachers of the law. Essentially and ultimately there was a fundamental difference between hearing from Jesus and hearing from the teachers of the law, and hearing from the scribes who taught them without power and without authority. This leads and this brings me to a single important thought concerning our own churches and our own meetings and gathering together—namely, whether or not we are first and foremost hearing from Jesus, and secondly, whether or not there is power and authority present in the words which are being taught and preached among us within our midst.
The more I spend time within the church, and the more I sit and listen to ministers and preachers, the more I am becoming increasingly convinced that while many messages which we hear might sound nice, and while they might be correct theologically and doctrinally, they are not with authority and with power. Those within the city of Capernaum were astonished at the doctrine of Jesus, for His word was with power. In other words, there was something vastly and fundamentally different with the teaching of Jesus—something that was a marked and noticeable transition from the teaching of the scribes and teachers of the Law. I am convinced that while we might sit under cleverly crafted messages, and while we might sit under messages which are theologically correct and doctrinally sound, and while we might even sit under words which appeal to our emotions and our senses, are we truly sitting under a word that is being presented with power? Jesus returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit, and taught in the synagogues in Capernaum, and when He taught and spoke, He taught—not as their scribes and teachers of the law, but as one who had power. What I so love and appreciate concerning this passage of Scripture is that not only do we find power in the word which Jesus taught in the synagogues within Capernaum, but we also find His word being accompanied by and with power. As you continue reading the final verses of the fourth chapter you will find there being one in the synagogue which had a spirit of an unclean devil—one who cried out with a loud voice, saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that one of two things could have happened on this particular day—either this was the first day this man who had the spirit of an unclean devil had entered into the synagogue, or this man had sat in the synagogue sabbath after sabbath and listened to the scribes and teachers of the law. Pause for a moment and consider that it is possible that this man with a spirit of an unclean devil could have sat under the teaching of the scribes, and yet none of them could do anything to bring deliverance into his life. What a terrible indictment is found within this passage of Scripture concerning many of our churches today, for I am completely and utterly convinced that there are churches and houses of worship in our midst today where although the word of God is being preached, and although individuals stand behind the pulpit week after week and teach the word of God, there are those within the seats and those within the pews who desperately need deliverance within their lives, and yet they are unable to receive the deliverance they so desperately desire. I can’t help but believe within my heart that it wasn’t until Jesus showed up in this synagogue and began teaching with power that the spirit of an unclean devil was directly confronted in that place, and was exposed and revealed in the sight and presence of all.
WHEN THE WORD OF JESUS EXPOSES THE DEMON(S) WITHIN YOU! I have to admit that I absolutely love what I find and what I read within this passage of Scripture, for contained within this passage of Scripture is a wonderful and powerful picture of the word and teaching of Jesus directly confronting the demons which have been tormenting and oppressing the people of God within and throughout the course of our lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that this spirit of an unclean devil tormented and oppressed this man for some time, and on this particular day this spirit of an unclean devil was directly confronted, exposed and revealed by the teaching and word of Jesus. Please note and please understand that when I speak of the word and teaching of Jesus exposing the demon(s) which are present within you, I am not referring to a literal spirit of an unclean devil, but rather those things which torment, those things which oppress, those things which keep you in bondage and captivity. What I am speaking of in this particular writing are those things which have continually tormented and oppressed you on a regular and day to day basis within your life, and those things which might have been permitted to remain in your life because they have not been directly confronted and exposed by the teaching and word of Jesus. I am completely and utterly convinced that there is a great and tremendous need within our churches and within our houses of worship for the demons which have been tormenting and oppressing us to not only be directly exposed by the teaching and word of Jesus, but also called out and commanded to no longer torment and oppress us. What is so wonderful and powerful about this particular passage is that not only do we find and read words which describe this spirit of an unclean devil recognizing being in the presence of Jesus, but we also find this spirit of the unclean devil being commanded by Jesus to come out of this man. I find within this passage of Scripture a wonderful picture—not only of the demons which have been tormenting and oppressing us within our hearts and lives being exposed, but also those demons which have been tormenting and oppressing us being once and for all being commanded to come out of us and to never enter in again. I find within this passage of Scripture a truly remarkable picture of a people who have a great need to sit in the presence of Jesus, and to sit under the word and teaching of Jesus, and that word directly exposing and revealing that which is inside them and has continually tormented and oppressed them. I am convinced that there are men and women sitting among us within our church services who not only desperately need that which has tormented and oppressed them to be exposed and revealed, but they also need it to once and for all be commanded to come out of them, and to enter no more. I believe with all my heart that there is a great need for deliverance within many of our churches, and within many of our houses of worship as there are men and women who enter in week after week to worship the living God, and to hear the word of God preached, and yet they have yet to find real and lasting deliverance from that which has tormented and oppressed them. I know that I myself am in this boat, and not only need that which has been tormenting and oppressing to be exposed and revealed, but also to once and for all to be cast out and removed from my life. What we must understand, however, is that it is only in the exposure and the manifestation of that which has tormented and oppressed us that we can truly find deliverance. There are many who might want deliverance, and yet they aren’t willing to have that which tormented and oppressed them being exposed. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to allow ourselves to have that which has tormented and oppressed us to be exposed and revealed in order that in and from that place of exposure we might once and for all be delivered and set free.