God Throws a Wicked Curve

What You’ve Missed…
* A lot.
* A whole lot.
* Like, a buttload.

Day 178
Daily Reading: Hosea 9-14

Let me catch you up to speed (since I clearly copped out in the actual recap.) Israel went off the deep end, following evil king after evil king. There was lots of idol worship, temple prostitutes and basically people just kind of forgot about God for awhile. Sort of like an extended weekend in Vegas. A very extended weekend. And apparently His people totally forgetting about Him hurt God’s feelings.

So He sends some prophets out to let everyone know that He’s upset and is going to bring some serious destruction their way as a result of their disobedience and lack of desire to interact with Him the way He’s asked them to. And He’s not messing around.

“The LORD says, ‘O Israel…there has been only sin and more sin! You have made no progress whatsoever…Now whenever it fits my plan, I will attack you too. I will call out the armies of the nations to punish you for your multiplied sins.’” (Hosea 10:9-10)

“The people of Israel are struck down. Their roots are dried up, and they will bear no more fruit. And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved children.” (Hosea 9:16)

Yikes. Calm down there Debbie Downer.

(Can we just pause for a minute to think about how much everyone probably hated Hosea? And since he was a prophet, I bet he literally rained on their parade every time they had one.)

So Hosea’s getting the word out that God’s about to lay the smack down, when all of a sudden God throws out a curve ball.

“War will swirl through Israel’s cities; their enemies will crash through their gates…For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me. Oh, how can I give you up Israel? How can I let you go? … My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal…and I will not come to destroy. For someday my people will follow me…and I will bring them home again.” (Hosea 11:8-11)

I bet when Hosea heard this he thought that he might actually get invited to a party for once. Or maybe he set his expectations a little lower and thought this good news meant he wouldn’t get kicked in the shins everywhere he went. Either way, he had to be stoked that he got to actually deliver some good news for a change.

I can only wonder how he went about it. “Uh, hey ya’ll. Remember all that stuff I said about God totally wrecking your lives? And remember how I said that He said everything was going to be horrible for you because of your sins? Well, uh, God changed His mind, and so He’s not going to completely destroy you anymore. He says He loves you too much. So, that’s good news right? Think I can come to Tommy’s Passover dinner tomorrow night? And remember how you guys booed me all the time? Think we could call it quits on that for awhile?”

However he did it, I bet Hosea was just as thrown off when he heard God say it as I was when I read it. “God, you’re changing your mind? Are you even allowed to do that? You love them? They hate you. You know that right? Oh, you do? Oh. Okay. Well, I just don’t really get it I guess. You’re more unpredictable than I expected.”

And so we’re left with another fantastic head-scratching moment brought to you by the Bible.

Da Bears-1, Adorable Children-0

What You’ve Missed…
* More evil kings of Israel.
* More evil kings of the tribe of Judah.
* More war, death, pillaging and plundering, blah blah blah.
* Elijah goes Super Street Fighter on everyone, calling down more fire from heaven and wiping out 50 dudes instantaneously. Twice. Perfect victory.

Day 166
Daily Reading: 2 Kings 2, 4

Like most living legends towards the end of their careers, Elijah takes things easy. He enjoys good conversation with friends. He spends his time taking long, relaxed walks. He parts rivers with the touch of his cloak. You know, the normal stuff retired guys do.

On his final long walk, Elijah asks his servant Elisha what he wants from his master before he is “taken away” for good. (How does he know he’s going to be taken away? He wouldn’t be one of the most powerful prophets ever if he didn’t know now would he?)

So Elisha, a young gun in the prophetic world, eager to get stuff done, asks Elijah for a double portion of his spirit (or power) and Elijah agrees. Later Elijah, who knows the value of solid showmanship is whisked away to heaven by a chariot of fire, leaving Elisha to carry on the legacy. And carry on the legacy he does.

Elisha gets down to business right away by purifying a local spring with a sprinkle of salt and saving the entire town of Jericho in the process. It’s a lot like Erin Brockovich, just with less cleavage, lawsuits and tough biker babysitters babysitting the most adorable children.

Speaking of children, check out what happens next in the story.

“Elisha left Jericho and went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, a group of boys from the town began mocking and making fun of him. ‘Go away, baldy!’ they chanted. ‘Go away baldy!’ Elisha turned around and looked at them, and he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them.” (2 Kings 2:23-24)


Did that just happen? Give me a second to go back and re-read that.

Yup. Elisha just took out 42 kids who made fun of him via bear mauling. Bear mauling.  As in, those bears shredded those kids in a crazy mother nature battle royale bloodbath.  As in, those bears went to work, and business was good.  As in, those bears were biting off limbs like they were steppin’ into a Slim Jim.  And parents think the Bible is safer for their kids than Call of Duty? I’m not so sure. (To be sure, I should probably go play for a couple of hours. You know. For research.)

What I do know is that if there was ever a way to gain street cred as a for real and total bad ass, well, I think Elisha just found the most effective way to lock that title down. He’s like the Blues Brothers. He’s on a mission from God, and nothing’s going to stand in his way.

Especially not a little male pattern baldness.

Even Prophets Love Big Macs

What You’ve Missed…
* The book of Ecclesiastes.  It’s more depressing than hearing someone say, “I like Twilight because I think it was really well written.”
* It’s more depressing than the ending to Million Dollar Baby.  Or Gran Torino.  Or any Clint Eastwood movie where he’s a bitter old man who acts his way into your heart, only to crush it with his fantastic writing and directing prowess.
* It’s more depressing than knowing I will never, ever marry Jennifer Connelly. (Sniff.)
* Six chapters of 1 Kings, listing a number of kings ruling in Israel and Judah, including Jehoshaphat, who never even jumps once. Lame.

Day 162
Daily Reading: 1 Kings 17-19

Growing up in Sunday school, I often heard about the prophet Elijah.  He’s considered a pretty big deal, and all good Christians are supposed to know all about him.  Well, I’ve been faking it all this time, because all I really know is that he called down fire from heaven once.  And that one time he was in a cave and heard God’s voice as a whisper.  (Christians quote that one ALL the time.)  I’ve heard other stories, but they’re all kind of fuzzy, partly because I’ve never read them for myself, and partly because I get them mixed up with the stories of his assistant, named Elisha.  (Like the Bible isn’t confusing enough already.)

Anyway.  So I’m reading about all these kings, when all of a sudden the Bible just starts talking about Elijah out of nowhere.  And yes, it mentions him calling down that fire, and being in the cave, and bringing a dead kid back to life and other stories I probably should have known already.  That stuff’s fascinating and everything, but the author has thrown some other gems in there I never heard about, and they kind of blew my mind.  For example, Elijah could run faster than Superman.

If I had heard that when I was eight, then the Bible would have had my attention more than the Sunday comics.  But no one told me, and so Calvin and Hobbes became the most influential writing in my life for the next 10 years.

But I digress.  Where was I?  Ah yes, Elijah and his gift of super-speed.  So, what the heck am I talking about? Check this out:

“…Then Elijah shouted (to his servant), ‘Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home, If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you.’ ’ … A heavy wind brought a terrific storm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezereel. Then the LORD gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezereel.”  (1 Kings 18:44-46)

Dude had “special strength” and ran AHEAD of a quickly moving chariot.  Basically, God turned him into The Flash for the afternoon. No big deal.

But that’s just the beginning, because it turns out, Elijah experienced tons of crazy stuff.  At one point God tells him to go camp out and live by some river, and that birds will bring him food.

“So Elijah did as the LORD told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook.” (1 Kings 17:5-6)

Keep in mind he didn’t train these birds.  They just brought him stuff.  And we’re not talking twigs and berries and worms.  They brought meat, and bread.  In short, the guy was feasting on free Big Macs left and right.  Delivered personally by Mother Nature herself.

Here’s one more.  Elijah encounters King Ahab’s servant, Obadiah, and asks him to go tell the king he’d like to meet with him. Obadiah isn’t too thrilled because the king isn’t much of an Elijah fan, and Obadiah thinks Elijah might not be there when the king arrives, and that the king will kill Obadiah for all the trouble. But here’s the crazy part. Obadiah doesn’t think Elijah will just wander off like every awestruck kid in Toys ‘R’ Us, but is afraid of something else entirely.

“…as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you away to who knows where…” (1 Kings 18:12)

Another translation (The Message) says, “…as soon as I leave, the Spirit of the LORD will whisk you away…and you’ll have disappeared.”  So, what our boy Obadiah is really talking about here is that God will just teleport Elijah somewhere.  It sounds crazy to me too.  But here’s what really gets me.  Why would Obadiah even assume this is what would happen?  It’s pretty ridiculous to assume the default probability of the situation is that God would just “whisk someone away.”  Unless you live in a different universe than I do, where Scotty beams people up left and right in real life, then there’s clearly something wrong with Obadiah’s thinking here.

Here’s what I think is happening: Elijah has a reputation for being whisked away by the Spirit of God.  That it happens to him often enough for people to assume it could happen at any moment.  That’s how I see it.  And that’s straight up crazy.

So, in conclusion, Elijah was The Beastmaster, The Flash, and the dude from Quantum Leap, who brought someone back from the dead.  Now there’s a 3D summer blockbuster that’s worth $14.