Hezekiah took a threat, which was significantly more imminent, disastrous and real than anything I have experienced or am currently going through, and he spread it out before the Lord. That is a marvelous image of prayer, to spread it out before God as a sign of weakness and dependence and ask God to take care of it. We can fold it up tight and carry it around in our pockets and let it weigh us down and ultimately decay our peace, or we can spread it out, fold it flat, show it to God, and ask Him to help.
When I re-read the story of Samson today, it was no less tragic but I could see some of the strands of grace. A man with low impulse control, who is remarkably gifted by God's Spirit but who cannot control his ego, his temper or his sex drive ends up being weakened and humiliated, and the only glimpse of redemption comes in the form of self-destructive revenge, and yet, God uses Him in the ongoing advance of His Kingdom, and gifts him grace and power, in spite of himself. That's just like God, to love and empower and work through really flawed people.
Jesus prays not because He is superhuman, but because He is human. It isn't a sign of His strength that He rubs our nose in, it is evidence of His dependence on the Father that He invites us into. His early morning prayer session isn't the separated hours of spiritual practice reserved for an unhurried monk, but rather it is the life giving retreat of a very busy shepherd.
Elihu strikes me a little bit like a young man who stumbles into Calvinism for the first time. Extremely passionate, very vocal, long-winded, lacking nuance, and rapidly running out of friends to yell at.
There is a difference then between the Spirit's gifts and the Spirit's fruits. The gifts are just that...gifts, given to us as a kindness of God. The fruits though require life long growth and care. They grow out of a life of walking in the Spirit. This should still be our focus and desire, that we would grow fruit. If God has given you remarkable gift, great! Be humble, be thankful, be faithful, and walk a life that focuses on fruit and not just gift. I have met too many Christian leaders who are incredibly gifted and also jerks. The reason for this is that we celebrate gift over fruit.
The story of the covenant people of God in Genesis is a story of God's faithfulness to a people who are fighting to survive. They are exiles, sojourners, almost everywhere they go, and they face the steepest odds in every land - not to mention the odds they lengthen through their own sin - and yet they cling to a promise that God will sustain them, bless them, increase them, and get them home. That is the story arc of all of the people of God, but we forgot the whole exiles and sojourners part of it.
In this season of extreme refining for the people of the world, we have an opportunity to realign where we put our trust. For many of us, our temptation is to look to the very things that enslaved us for years, without looking to our Lord or even consulting Him on what to do next.
In the midst of the global suffering occurring through COVID-19, we once again find ourselves with the questions of Job and his friends. We want to know how God works, and we want simple answers for what He is doing in the world. While many of them may be found, and while the Scriptures and revelation of Jesus Christ within them offer us all we need to know about the nature of God, and lots of information about His work, there is still an element of mystery to His work in the world that we simply must accept, lest we misrepresent Him like Job's friends did, or we attempt to paint Him into a corner like Job did.