Monday, September 28, 2015

Time and Chance

[Ecc 9:11 NKJV] 11 I returned and saw under the sun that--The race [is] not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.

[Luk 13:1-5 NKJV] 1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all [other] Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all [other] men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
Now let's take a look at this in detail. Turn to 1 Kings 17, starting at verse 8. Elijah the prophet was just starting his ministry, and God had an assignment for him.

[1Ki 17:8 NKJV] Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
[1Ki 17:9 NKJV] "Arise, go to Zarephath, which [belongs] to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you."
[1Ki 17:10 NKJV] So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow [was] there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, "Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink."
[1Ki 17:11 NKJV] And as she was going to get [it], he called to her and said, "Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand."
[1Ki 17:12 NKJV] So she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I [am] gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."
[1Ki 17:13 NKJV] And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go [and] do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring [it] to me; and afterward make [some] for yourself and your son.
[1Ki 17:14 NKJV] "For thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.' "
[1Ki 17:15 NKJV] So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for [many] days.
[1Ki 17:16 NKJV] The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah.
[1Ki 17:17 NKJV] Now it happened after these things [that] the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him.
[1Ki 17:18 NKJV] So she said to Elijah, "What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?"

What haunted this woman? What guilt tore at her?

This woman had been through some hard times. She and her son were on the verge of starvation. All they had left was a handful of flour, and a little bit of oil in a jar. She was going to cook up a piece of bread for her and her son, and then wait to die. Perhaps during this bitter experience, she thought the whole time, "have you come to bring my sin to remembrance?"

God sends Elijah. And Elijah asks her to do something truly odd, he says to bake him that last cake instead, and then make one for her and her son afterwards. And the woman goes along with it, and they are blessed with a never-ending supply of flour and oil. IHOP has "endless stack of pancakes" now and then, but God was giving them endless bread.

And yet the woman probably had in the back of her mind, "have you come to bring my sin to remembrance?"

Now some time later, how long it does not say, the woman's son dies. And the thought is so at the forefront of her mind, she cannot contain it any longer. "have you come to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?" No doubt she was thinking the miracle of endless bread was just to prolong her suffering, to let her bond with her son all the more. Certainly the Devil was present to flood her mind with thoughts like "If God is a God of love, why did He kill your son?"

God was not done yet. Not with Elijah, not with the widow, not with her son.

[1Ki 17:19 NKJV] And he said to her, "Give me your son." So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed.
[1Ki 17:20 NKJV] Then he cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?"

Apparently, even Elijah had his doubts. He went along with obeying, though.

[1Ki 17:21 NKJV] And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, "O LORD my God, I pray, let this child's soul come back to him."
[1Ki 17:22 NKJV] Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.
[1Ki 17:23 NKJV] And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, "See, your son lives!"
[1Ki 17:24 NKJV] Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now by this I know that you [are] a man of God, [and] that the word of the LORD in your mouth [is] the truth."

In the end, this woman got a firsthand touch of grace. We never did get to hear what her sin was. And that is truly grace in action. God threw her sin as far as the east is from the west. Erased. Forgotten. Forgiven. Her son? Not dead due to her sin.

But what caused her son to die? We do not know. It is entirely possible that time and chance caught up with him. Perhaps he had a stroke, or an aneurysm. Maybe with today's medical knowledge, doctors could see he had a blood clot or a brain tumor. Truly, though, we will never know in this lifetime. Time and chance happened upon her. A humble widow woman with a son, and their lives intersected the throne of God.

Not everybody who prays for a sick loved one gets their prayer answered with a miracle. Time and chance.

[Ecc 9:11 NKJV] 11 I returned and saw under the sun that--The race [is] not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.

What does JESUS say about this? Remember what He said earlier, back in Luke 13:5

[Luke 13:5 NKJV] "...but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

We are all going to die. If you do not trust Jesus, you get to die twice. It is up to you to choose Heaven or Hell.