Close to the Ezel Stone

From the moment Samuel anointed David, by the direction of the Lord, he was a king (I Sam. 16:12-13): without a recognizable throne. The present king, Saul, initially loved David, and was soothed by his sweet singing (I Sam. 16:21-22), as personal torment increased after the Spirit of God departed him (I Sam. 16:14).

The love of Saul quickly turned to murderous rage, as David increased in fame, and songs proclaimed his greatness. The story of David and Saul is fascinating for many reasons; just too many for this blurb. The friendship between David and Jonathan, Saul’s son and heir, is equally fascinating, but for entirely different reasons.

Bottom line, the friendship between Jonathan and David is one we should all be blessed with.

Jonathan chooses faithfulness to God, and friendship with David over his fathers rule, and what would be his future throne. Simply: Jonathan knows David is God’s anointed.

The stone of Ezel.

Jonathan and David devise a plan that will either let David know that Saul does not intend him harm, and he is free to reenter Saul’s court; or, Saul intends harm, and David should flee (I Sam. 20:18-42).

The plan involves a stone, three arrows, and a third day.

Jonathan confirms Saul’s intent, and follows through with the plan on the third day. Arrows are loosed. David is sent away. Oversimplified summary, read the original, it’s much better.

There were times in David’s life when he did not much look like a king. And in this moment, as he awaits Jonathan’s report, hiding in a field, by a stone, kingly he was not.

What happened here?

Jonathan told David to “stay close to the Ezel Stone” (I Sam. 20:19). Why? This marker, the stone, will be where David is shown the way. Ezel is from a Hebrew root meaning departure. The “Ezel Stone” is sometimes translated as the “Traveler’s Stone.” It was a marker of direction for those on the journey, or departure for those leaving.

The Ezel Stone was the spot where David would begin to make the journey to his promised throne. What a journey it would be.

The arrows, sent the his friend and natural heir apparent to Saul, signaled David to depart. The arrows sent him out. Jonathan and his arrows, in that moment, became God’s voice of direction to the would-be king. David knew the direction – stay or leave – by where the arrows landed.

The third day is significant for many reasons. In some rabbinic literature the third day, the day after tomorrow, is known as the day of hope. On the third day, David would emerge, and begin the process of renewal to who God anointed him to be.

The arrows did not direct him immediately to the throne. Rather, they sent him to the mountains and valleys, to caves and deserts. They sent him to hardship, pressure that would bring forth the treasure of his psalms, and the unification of Israel.

Jonathan, as the way maker, decreased in order that David would increase; a pattern we see again in the life of John the Baptist, who said of Yeshua/Jesus, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Each of us will find ourselves waiting at the Ezel Stone at some point, wondering which way to go. Praise the Lord that the Stone the builders rejected is our Traveler’s Stone, Yeshua/Jesus, and He sends us out by the arrow of the Holy Spirit indicating the way.

When the arrow message arrives at Ezel, don’t look back, just go. The Lord has made the way. It may be to the unknown, but remember this, the One sending you said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Did you notice that Jonathan never left David; if this is true of Jonathan, how much more so of the covenant Lord who is, “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8)?

It was from this journey, triggered by three arrows, that David would learn to sing:

“…strangers have risen up against me; cruel men seek my life, men who have no regard for God – Selah. Look, God is my helper; the Lord is the one who sustains my life. He will repay my oppressors for their evil. By Your truth destroy them. To You I will offer a free will sacrifice; I will praise Your name, Lord, for it is good. For He has saved me from all danger; my eyes have seen my enemies downfall” (Ps. 54).

Be well. Shalom.

“Love covers …”

When studying the Book of Acts, it’s easy to go from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), right to the missionary work of Paul. Doing so, however, leaves enormous gaps in the narrative Luke records; and in those gaps is the human frailty of the apostles themselves.

In one such gap we find Paul … and Barnabas … and well, John Mark.

Barnabas arrives on the scene in Acts 4:36-37. He is a well-placed Levite, by birth, from Cyprus. According to Luke, he is a good man, filled with the Spirit, faith and wisdom (Acts 11:24). By rebirth he is a disciple, and apostle of the Messiah.

Barnabas is there in the beginning, in Jerusalem. He is one of the many brethren gathering, sharing, and laboring for Yeshua/Jesus. After he ministers in Antioch, he travels to Tarsus to look for a man, Paul. He probably never expected to have cause to seek Paul out, since Paul was seeking Jews like Barnabas out only a short time before.

When these two join together in Gospel ministry, nations begin to change. The record of their travels inspire; but the record of their sharp dispute, and split makes one wonder.

Why such a sharp dispute? Why a split? Over a young man named: John Mark.

John Mark, commonly known as Mark, yes, that one, was also well-placed in Jerusalem: perhaps similar in social standing to Paul and Barnabas, only younger. When Peter is freed from prison, he goes to the house of Mark’s mother (Acts 12:12). It is speculated that Mark was born-again under the guidance of Peter, with whom he had a lifelong relationship (I Pet. 5:13). John Mark’s “Gospel” account is widely accepted to be the apostle Peter’s witness, just by his hand.

Then, as Paul and Barnabas are sent out from Antioch, John Mark travels with them as a helper (Acts 13:5). He does so, however, for a very short time (13:13). Scripture is silent as to why John Mark left Paul and Barnabas; and it would be foolish to offer speculation. Paul, according to Luke, considers John Marks departure desertion (Acts 15:38); a rather serious accusation.

As Luke records, “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose ta sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).

Can you imagine the anger here? Among brethren? Paul and Barnabas? It happened. For many years, before and after the dispute, there must have been tension. Until, grace changed them.

While we do not see the reconciliation between Paul and Barnabas, it is undoubtedly there. Especially with evidence of Paul’s reconciliation with … John Mark.

We find a general time period of about eleven years before John Mark reappears in the biblical record. He is mentioned by Paul in Colossians 4:10-11, and Philemon 1:24, as he is with Paul. The very one that caused the uproar. The one Paul refused to travel with, was with him once again.

Here is Paul’s words to another disciple, Timothy, “Luke is the only one with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” (II Tim. 4:11). This is, perhaps overlooked, a warm and rather glowing remark: John Mark is useful to him.

In his youth, John Mark deserted Paul. Now, with time and maturity, grace and love, he endeavours to to travel from Ephesus to Rome, to be with Paul.

Did Peter have John Mark, Paul and Barnabas in mind, when perhaps Mark wrote these words for him, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8)?

Yes, Luke records a bitter split between brethren; but the Holy Spirit led, and then recorded their reconciliation as well.

When we put flesh and blood on the names we read in Scripture, acknowledging their struggles and victories, we recognize that in our own situations of dispute, and division, the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation in Messiah is present.

Paul, even as the apostle, was far from perfect, as he let the sun go down on his anger, and his friend sail away; but he gives us a perfect example of what happens when Christ takes center stage in your life.

Keep pressing in beloved, and trust in the One through whom all things are possible.

Be well. Shalom.

The Upholstered Potters Wheel?

The potter has a right, and the authority to do whatever He desires, or finds necessary in the formation of the clay. He owns it after all. Can the clay fight the potter? Or ask, “What have you made?” (Isa. 45:9).

We are the clay. He is the Potter. And our circumstance becomes the wheel upon which He shapes us by His hand. The wheel isn’t spinning itself, His hand is working the wheel as well (Ps. 37:23; cf. Gen. 50:20).

Naturally, we would like a nice upholstered wheel to be shaped on; but the upholstery does not offer resistance. Circumstances are hard, much like the potters wheel, offering the necessary resistance; and this reminds us just how difficult it is to form the image of Messiah in this clay, so accustomed to having its own way (Ro. 8:28-29). And just when you think, “Yes! Victory!” It’s splat once again.

Splat. Spinning. Pressure. Shaping. The pressure of His hand brings us to: Christ in you, now shining out from you.

Ask yourself, “Why am I in such a hurry to be displayed on a shelf?” The more He works on you, the more He works through you. He’s spinning the wheel, and His hands are shaping out the unformed hunk of clay.

When you realize that you are a hunk of clay in the hand of the Potter, where is the boasting? Yet, the vessel He formed becomes an out-raying of His glory, and a vision of His Son.

And when one person is blessed by the out-raying of Yeshua/Jesus, the pressure of being shaped on the hard, cold wheel is forgotten in the warmth and comfort of His hands that are ever resting on us. Hallelujah!

Be well. Shalom.