Love Inaction Or Love In Action?

Anna Mae Bullock was born in 1939 and grew up as the daughter of a Baptist deacon in Nutbush, Tennessee. After her parents divorced at age 10, she spent the rest of her adolescent years living with her grandparents. At age 18, she began singing with a man named Ike and married him a year later. The two became a successful husband and wife duo, garnering critical success and selling millions of records.

Despite their success, Ike’s addiction to drugs drove him to become an increasingly abusive husband. Finally, after a particularly violent episode, Anna left her husband. With 36 cents to her name, she spent the next few months in hiding, fearful of a reprisal from Ike.

Slowly, Anna pieced her world together and remerged on the international music scene bigger than ever. She’s best known for a 1984 hit song with lyrics that likely reflect her experience with an abusive husband and abandoned parents:

What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart
When a heart can be broken

The words betray a shattered heart. Her parents and husband may have told her that they loved her, but their actions communicated something quite different.

The woman’s stage name? If you haven’t guessed it already, her name is Tina Turner.

Please join me in our daily Bible conversation as we delve deeper into love in action—rather than love inaction.

TODAY’S READING

2 Kings 1:1-2:25
Acts 13:42-14:7
Psalm 139:1-24
Proverbs 17:19-21

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Kings 1:1-2:25. Second Kings concludes with the end of Elijah’s life. He seems a little more relaxed after his Mt. Horeb experience. When Jezebel pursued him, he ran. This time, when King Ahaziah’s men sought to call him to account for the words he had spoken, Elijah called down fire from heaven.

As Elijah enters the last few hours of his life, his protégé Elisha asks him for a double portion of his spirit. That doesn’t mean he would get twice as much power as Elijah. He was asking for the inheritance of the firstborn son. Normally, the firstborn son received twice as much of the inheritance as the other successors. This meant he wanted to be the heir apparent to Elijah.

Notice the mentoring relationship evident between Elijah and Elisha. Most compelling to me is the way Elisha sought out a mentor in Elijah. Elijah called Elisha from the field to assume his role as a prophet to Israel, but after that, Elisha followed him, learned from him, and desperately desired to follow in his footsteps.

Theologians have long compared Elijah with Moses. Both were extremely important to Israel’s history—and in fact both appeared together at Jesus’ transfiguration (see Matthew 17). A theologian once wrote, “Without Moses the religion of Yahweh as it figured in the Old Testament would never have been born. Without Elijah it would have died.”

In the same way, theologians have found a number of parallels between Elisha and Moses’ successor Joshua:

As Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the people, so Elisha succeeded Elijah, crossing the Jordan on dry land from east to west as Joshua did (versed 14) and following in Joshua’s footsteps by going on to Jericho (verses 15–22). Even Elisha’s name recalls that of Joshua. Elisha means ‘God is salvation’, while Joshua means ‘Yahweh is salvation’.

Finally, as Elijah rode off into the heavens in a whirlwind, Elisha cried out, “the chariots and horsemen of Israel.” This was an indication that Elisha believed Elijah was Israel’s protection, that he was the chariots and horsemen of Israel.

Acts 13:42-14:7. This section was a turning point in Paul’s ministry. Previous to this, he focused on reaching the Jews with the gospel, but because of their vigorous opposition, Paul decided to bring the gospel to Gentiles (Acts 13:46). If you’re a Gentile believer, you can thank the people of Pisidian Antioch for inspiring Paul to make the change. The passage includes a phrase that has caused many of a debate over the centuries. The New Bible Commentary explains:

Luke’s phrase all who were appointed for eternal life believed is to redress a balance. For it is never merely a person’s own choice that saves them, it is always God’s love and mercy. As with all the passages dealing with the conversion of Gentiles, Luke is at pains to show that what happened was at God’s initiative and had God’s approval. The acceptance of the Jewish Messiah by the Gentiles was sometimes a surprise and sometimes an offence to the early Christians, but none of it took God by surprise; he had always planned it just this way, as the quotation in v 47 shows.

Psalm 139. This is one of the most profound of all psalms. Notice that David begins by recounting the many ways God cares for him. Then he responds, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you” (verses 17-18).

Worship is a response to God’s love and faithfulness toward us. We don’t worship to win God’s favor, we worship because of God’s favor.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Often when I read a passage of Scripture, I ask myself, What does this tell me about God?

From my initial reading Psalm 139, I learned:

  • God knows me in my deepest places. He knows me so well that even before I speak a word, he knows what I’m going to say (verses 1-4).
  • God surrounds me. I can do everything in my strength to avoid him, but he’s always there. Even in my darkest places, God is with me (verses 5-12).
  • God created me with a purpose in mind. He was intimately involved in creating me. No mistakes were made when he formed me (verses 13-16).
  • God is in ultimate control of my life. Every day of my life was recorded in a book before I was born (verse 16).

If there’s one idea that summarizes this psalm, it’s the word “love.” Yet, notice that the word never appears in the text.

“Love” is one of the most over-used words in the English language. When I monitor my kids’ FaceBook, they throw around the word “love” as if it were a preposition in a sentence. When they’re dating someone (or “going together” as my younger teenage daughters call it), they tell each other that they love each other.

Of course, I’m an equal opportunity offender. I describe to my friends how I “love” my new truck, my favorite cereal, or my Denver Broncos American football team.

But in God’s economy, love is more than a word he throws around. God’s love for us is in action—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

God demonstrates his love for us by knowing us intimately and still accepting us. By accompanying us in our darkest places. By creating us with a purpose in mind. By ultimately controlling our destiny.

God loves you—and you can’t do anything about it. You can’t change his mind. You can’t run from it. All you can do is accept it.

That’s love. In action.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does Psalm 139 tell YOU about God?
  3. How has God shown you love in action?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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