Kingdom principles to live by
We live in a society where powers and authorities offer to provide for us, empower and protect us. How we meet these real needs – and where we place our trust – are crucial issues.
In His wilderness temptations, Jesus Christ experienced three related temptations – provision (stones to bread), power (serving that which will make you powerful) and protection (protecting the body from harm). He taught us to always put our trust in God’s sovereignty.
As humans we are prone to willfully or blindly serve the authorities and technologies that promise provision, power and protection. But in trusting them we can quickly make them into idols or gods, denying our God-given dignity.
Instead, we need to remember our true standing before God, what faithfulness requires, and the Kingdom principles Jesus lived.
After His 40 days in the wilderness and His temptations, Jesus went to the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, announced the Kingdom of God was at hand and called for repentance (Matthew 4, Mark 1). He read aloud Isaiah 61 about the year of the Lord’s favour, good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, liberty for those oppressed. He announced Himself as the fulfilment of this prophecy (Luke 4).
Those present were not shocked. Rather, they marvelled at His gracious words.
Jesus then reminded them of two prophets. During a time of famine when there were many hungry people in Israel, Jesus recalled, God sent Elijah to the land of Sidon to miraculously provide food for a widow and her son (1 Kings 17:7–16). And while many suffered from leprosy in Israel and elsewhere, God cleansed a Syrian named Naaman (2 Kings 5).
Jesus was reminding His listeners that the promises of Isaiah 61 are offered to all. This so angered them that they sought to throw Jesus off a cliff.
Why did God provide for the poor widow of Sidon and cleanse a Syrian?
When Elijah met the widow she was gathering sticks to cook a last meal. In abject poverty she expected that after this meal she and her son would die of starvation.
Elijah asked her for bread. He said that until the famine ended, her jar of flour and jug of oil would not be empty. She believed God’s promise and displayed her faith in a radical act of generosity by sharing the last of her food with Elijah.
God was faithful and provided her daily bread. And when her only son died tragically of an illness, God miraculously used Elijah to provide for her again by raising her son from the dead.
The second story, of Elisha and Naaman, would have reminded those listening of their own legacy of captivity through the story of a Jewish slave girl who demonstrated remarkable compassion and courage (2 Kings 5).
Naaman, the Syrian military commander, was the instrument of her enslavement and likely also responsible for the deaths of others she knew. Yet she recommended to Naaman’s wife that he see Elisha. Would her presumption cause her more suffering? What would happen if Naaman was not healed?
The powerless and at-risk slave girl, having no reason to help her enslaver and despite the possible consequences of her act, displayed radical compassion for her enemy. Displaying the character of true leadership, she manifested remarkable generosity to her enslaver and courage borne by her faith in God’s sovereignty.
The end result? Not only was Naaman healed, but he came to worship God at the risk of losing his power and prestige.
These stories parallel the three temptations Jesus faced – the provision of bread (the widow), being faithful to God rather than pursuing power (Naaman) and protection from harm (the raising of the widow’s son from the dead, the vulnerability of the slave girl, and Jesus walking though the murderously angry crowd).
Jesus reminds us that that generosity (despite natural odds), compassion (for one’s enemy) and courage (speaking truth to the powers) are challenges to would-be idols. Kingdom principles uphold the dignity and worth of all involved.
The generosity, compassion and courage of a widow and a slave girl, vulnerable and disposable in the eyes of their societies, and the lives of the prophets Elijah and Elisha – all four believers demonstrated relational faithfulness and trust in God’s sovereign power. Each is an important part of the tapestry of prophetic leadership and witness by which Jesus defines his ministry.
Living in a society of various powers offering provision, power and protection, believers who have experienced God’s mercy and grace can offer no less a witness and legacy.
Bruce J. Clemenger is President of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Please pray for our work and support us at www.TheEFC.ca/Donate or toll-free 1-866-302-3362.