Hanging From an Oak Tree

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 16-18; Luke 17:20-37

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From Mr. Biblehead (http://mrbiblehead.blogspot.com/2016/)

So the troops marched into the field to meet the Israelites. The battle was fought in the Ephraim forest. The army of Israel was defeated there by David’s soldiers. A great slaughter of twenty thousand men took place that day. The battle spread out over the entire countryside, and the forest devoured more soldiers than the sword that day.

Absalom came upon some of David’s men. Absalom was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the tangled branches of a large oak tree. Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair while the mule under him kept on going. 10 One of the men saw this and reported to Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.” (2 Samuel 18:6-10, Common English Bible).

When you read some of the other translations of the Bible, instead of the phrase “…hanging from an oak tree,” as is the case with the Common English Bible, in the New Revised Standard Version, for example, we read, “…hanging between heaven and earth.” It creates an interesting image, regardless of which version you might read.

Regardless of how you might read it, depending upon your perspective, the image can be pretty comical and pretty scary all at the same time. To be down on the ground and seeing Absalom in the tree, hanging either from his hear or by his neck between two tree limbs (I prefer by his hair), he, the would-be ruler of Israel, hanging in a tree by his hair. But, on the other hand, from Absalom’s perspective it had to be terrifying. The king’s army is after you and you hang helpless from a tree, defenseless. In addition to all that, it had to hurt!!!

There are two other things about the Absalom story that are really important. First of all, if you remember back to just a few days ago when we read the story of David and Bathsheba. God said, through the Prophet Nathan, that David would face revolt from within his own family. This is that prophecy coming to life.

The other thing, and it is actually in today’s “Journey Through Scripture” reading from 2 Samuel. David asked Joab and his other two military commanders to please go easy on his son Absalom. I understand how David felt. I have two sons. I would beg anyone to spare their lives regardless of what they had done to me. We saw evidence of that just a couple of months ago, when in February, Governor Abbott commuted the death sentence to life without the possibility of parole for Thomas Whitaker, who had killed his mother and tried to kill his father. It was in part, Thomas’ father Kent’s appeals to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and to the Governor that led to the very rare action on the part of the Texas Governor. David and Kent Whitaker were thinking a great deal alike on this one. David was thinking like a father, not a deposed monarch.

Joab, on the other hand, knew, as long as Absalom was alive and free, or perhaps just alive, David’s throne would remain in jeopardy. Joab knew, that for him to truly serve his king, there was only one action he could take. Absalom had to die.

One more thing I want to mention regarding all of this. Nathan had prophesied that David would face an uprising from his own family. And, as we have already said, it did happen. And, Absalom already had control of the country and there were people who were extraordinarily happy about it, as we can see from today’s readings. This was all over David’s affair with Bathsheba and the execution (or it may as well have been an execution) of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. God could have let Absalom take over the country. Already Absalom had all but won. It was really just a matter of catching his father and either executing him or putting him in prison. Yet it didn’t happen. And friends, that is grace, the unjustified merit of God. David deserved what he would have gotten, but God protected him anyway, unmerited favor.

God gives grace to all of us. God offers, let’s take grace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

It Wasn’t God…

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 14-15; Luke 17:1-19

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11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, 13 they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”

14 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”As they left, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. 16 He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18  No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

How easy it is.  When things in life are bad, we are quick to ask God to help. When things are good, well, not so much. Way too many of us start taking credit for what God actually did. “It wasn’t God. There’s no point in thanking God. I took care of that myself. Just like always, I picked myself up by my own bootstraps and took care of business. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. It wasn’t God.”

Before long, however, we are down off the mountaintop and things aren’t going so well. Things are beyond what we can do for ourselves so we stop and pray. “Lord, I can’t handle this, I need your help. Please come and help me.” God does, we forget to be thankful, we take credit and when things go bad again… well I think you get the idea.

Things couldn’t have been much worse for those ten guys. Leprosy, the name given by those in the Biblical era for any one of a number of skin diseases. At least some of these diseases were very contagious. When someone contracted the disease they lost everything. They lost their ability to work, to make a living for their family, really they lost their ability to even support themselves. They lost their family. Think about it, would you want to infect your family with such a terrible disease? Most of us wouldn’t even consider it.

Probably what made the disease as bad as it possibly could be, by law, these men and women lived in isolation, outside towns and villages, depending on the kindness of family and friends or strangers for their survival. To cap it all off, when someone approached, the “leper” was required, by law, to shout as loud as possible, “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!”

When Jesus was coming close that day, they didn’t do as the law required. They didn’t yell, “UNCLEAN UNCLEAN!” Instead, it was, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!” In other words, “Lord, I can’t handle this, I need your help. Please come and help me.” Do those words sound familiar? They should. If they don’t, read again from the top.

As they traveled back, they discovered they are cleansed, made well. Nine of them just keep moving. Over history, we have given those guys some grief for not going back. But, they were doing exactly what Jesus told them to do. But, Jesus himself is critical of their behavior. When one man, a hated Samaritan, is the only one to return, Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine?”

Could it be that the nine were saying, “It wasn’t God. There’s no point in thanking God. I took care of that myself. Just like always, I picked myself up by my own bootstraps and took care of business. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. It wasn’t God.”

As for the only man to return? Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” That could lead us to think, there is a difference between being well, and being healed. From the way I read it, I think I would rather be healed.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

In Broad Daylight

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 12-13; Luke 16

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Why have you despised the Lord’s word by doing what is evil in his eyes? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and taken his wife as your own. You used the Ammonites to kill him. 10 Because of that, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own, the sword will never leave your own house.

11 “This is what the Lord says: I am making trouble come against you from inside your own family. Before your very eyes I will take your wives away and give them to your friend, and he will have sex with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did what you did secretly, but I will do what I am doing before all Israel in the light of day.”

13 “I’ve sinned against the Lord!” David said to Nathan.

“The Lord has removed your sin,” Nathan replied to David. “You won’t die. 14 However, because you have utterly disrespected the Lord by doing this, the son born to you will definitely die.” (2 Samuel 12:9-14, Common English Bible).

David, the guy after God’s own heart, the guy that knew God would help him whip up on the Philistine version of Shaq, Goliath, shows he is like the rest of us, he too has feet of clay.

First David has an affair with the wife of one of his soldiers. There is a line of theological thought that says it wasn’t an affair but instead, it was David being even more sexually inappropriate and in essence using his power to force Bathsheba into the illicit affair. Think about it, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. After all, he is the king and she was just a woman. As I’ve said before, I am not trying to be controversial when I say that. Women were little more really than the purpose for which David used Bathsheba. Well, that and rearing a family, hauling water, cooking, making clothes… shall I continue?

Then to make matters worse, when Bathsheba’s husband wouldn’t cooperate in David’s efforts to cover things up, David sent him into battle and to his death. He may not have murdered the poor guy, but he may as well have done so.

I remember one Sunday I preached on David and Bathsheba. After the service, a man met me at the door. “Preacher! I don’t know why you thought you had to preach that sermon. We don’t have any murderers and adulterers in our church!”

I wanted to answer, “Are you sure?” but I let it go. In reality, I was a lot more concerned that he completely missed the point and I am sharing this little side story with you because I don’t want you to miss it too. This isn’t about murder and adultery. Yes, those two sins are present. Of that, there is no doubt. But, this isn’t about some specific sin, it is about sin, period. David had committed sin and tried to sneak around about it. He tried to cover it up. He did it secretly. And God said, through the Prophet Nathan, “What you did, you did in secret. What I am about to do, I will do in broad daylight so everyone will see it.”

So much of the time when we commit sin, we try to keep it a secret. We try to cover it up. What God does, God lets the who world to see.

In the end, things sound bad for David. God knows his sin. God says punishment is coming. David’s child with Bathsheba is going to die. But, God says to David, “You aren’t going to die.” Further, before the Journey Through Scripture passages for today close, Bathsheba and David will celebrate the birth of another son, Solomon who will lead God’s people Israel.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

And When He Came to His Senses…

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 9-11; Luke 15:11-32

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17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19  I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24 because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate (Luke 15:17-24, Common English Bible).

For the first time since starting this series, today I actually had to make a difficult decision regarding the text on which I would write. Both the Prodigal Son and David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) are great stories. Further complicating things, once I decided which text would be my focus for the day, I had to further cut it down. Which one of the sons do I focus on or do I ignore them both and talk about the father.

Well, by this point it should seem fairly obvious which way I went. We are talking about the Prodigal Son and the first of the two sons, but you can’t talk about either of them without talking about the father.

At the point where I pick up the story, the younger son has taken his share of the inheritance and blown it all in what we will just call “wild living.” Having nothing left and thinking going home was not an option, he hired himself out to a pig farmer. There is little that could be worse for a Jew than being a pig farmer. And, if there was anything worse to eat than pork (not saying I agree, I am talking about to a true, faithful Jew) it would be the slop fed to the pigs. And, the Scripture says, he was ready to eat that.

Then one day, he came to his senses. Hopefully when any of us are acting and thinking in a way that, let’s just say, isn’t to smart, we come to our senses as the son here did. He thought to himself, “Here I am starving to death. My father’s servants eat better and are treated better than this. I know I can’t go back expecting to just pick up where I left off. I blew that chance when I left home. But, if I go back, perhaps my father will hire me back as a servant. Whatever things may have been before, they were always better than this.” And, he heads for home.

How can you not love the father in this great story. “While he was still a long way off…” His father knew what was going to happen and he allowed his son to make the mistake. For too many parents today, when my boys were still at home I would count myself in that number, don’t let their children make their own mistakes. The father in the story did.

But, while he allowed him to make the mistake, he also knew that one day he would come back and he was watching for the return of his son, and even when the son was a long way off, the father saw him and new it was him. He ran to his son. We guys may not have tried this much, but running with a long skirt isn’t so easy. It would require raising the length above the ankles, something men didn’t do in those days. It violated societal norms and yet he did it anyway.

His son had his speech ready. “Dad, I am a sinner. I am unworthy of being your son. But please, let me come back and just work for you.”

For his part, the father would have none of that. In essence, the father said, “You can come back, but it won’t be as a servant! It will be as my son.” And with that, the father threw a barbecue that any Texan like me would be proud to throw.

Friends, there is a word for that. GRACE. We have talked about it a bit already. Grace – God’s unmerited favor. There is nothing the son did deserving of what his father was doing for him. He couldn’t buy the position, he had no money. He couldn’t expect to borrow from it. He couldn’t take it or otherwise rob his father of it. It could only come as the free gift from his father. It was more than he deserved. It was more than he could pay back. It was more than his fair share. Remember, he had already received his share of the inheritance. There was nothing else he deserved, legally or otherwise, and yet his father gave anyway. That is grace.

Just like the son, we too receive grace. It is more than we deserve and it is more than we could take or borrow or anything else. God gives it to us out of God’s love for us, God’s greatest creation. You and I receive the gift of grace, God’s unmerited favor.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness (For that grace),
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Follow the Instructions

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Readings: 2 Samuel 6-8; Luke 15:1-10

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Once again David assembled the select warriors of Israel, thirty thousand strong. David and all the troops who were with him set out for Baalah, which is Kiriath-jearim of Judah, to bring God’s chest up from there—the chest that is called by the name of the Lord of heavenly forces, who sits enthroned on the winged creatures. They loaded God’s chest on a new cart and carried it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were driving the new cart. 4 Uzzah was beside God’s chest while Ahio was walking in front of it. Meanwhile, David and the entire house of Israel celebrated in the Lord’s presence with all their strength, with songs, zithers, harps, tambourines, rattles, and cymbals.

So David went and brought God’s chest up from Obed-edom’s house to David’s City with celebration. 13 Whenever those bearing the chest advanced six steps, David sacrificed an ox and a fatling calf. 14 David, dressed in a linen priestly vest, danced with all his strength before the Lord. 15 This is how David and the entire house of Israel brought up the Lord’s chest with shouts and trumpet blasts (2 Samuel 6:6-10, Common English Bible).

So David went and brought God’s chest up from Obed-edom’s house to David’s City with celebration. 13 Whenever those bearing the chest advanced six steps, David sacrificed an ox and a fatling calf. 14 David, dressed in a linen priestly vest, danced with all his strength before the Lord. 15 This is how David and the entire house of Israel brought up the Lord’s chest with shouts and trumpet blasts.

16 As the Lord’s chest entered David’s City, Saul’s daughter Michal was watching from a window. She saw King David jumping and dancing before the Lord, and she lost all respect for him.

It was to be a huge political coup. The Ark of the Covenant had been in the possession of the Philistines since the battle in which both of Eli’s sons were killed and after which Eli himself died (1 Samuel 4). Shortly after due to conditions blamed on the Ark, the Philistines put the Ark on a cart pulled by a couple of cows which headed straight to Israel (1 Samuel 5-6). For a short period of time the Ark was in Beth Shemesh, then a little later found a more permanent home in Kiriath-Jearim. It remained there until David came to power. Now David wanted to bring the Ark to Jerusalem.

 

It was important for David to bring the Ark to Jerusalem because it would give his government legitimacy. For the Israelites, the Ark of the Covenant represented the real presence of God. Where the Ark was, God was. So David wanted, perhaps it would be better to say needed, the Ark to be in Jerusalem.

David and his army traveled to Kiriath-Jearim, placed the Ark on a cart and started back for Jerusalem. When the cart’s wheels went through a rut in the road, one of David’s men, Uzzah, reached his hand out, touching the Ark. The lesson says that rose God’s anger against Uzzah and he was stricken dead on the spot. Of course, that upset David, who of us wouldn’t be upset. He left the Ark in the possession of Obed-Edom. When Obed-Edom was blessed by having the Ark, David decided to try again. This time the Ark was carried by some of David’s men, using poles designed specifically for the purpose. This time they were successful and David danced and praised the Lord as his men brought the Ark into Jerusalem.

So, why, when Uzzah was trying to do something good, did God strike him down? It wasn’t so much about Uzzah (try telling that to Uzzah, Keith) it was about the handling of the Ark. Back in Exodus, when God gave instructions to the Israelites how to transport the Ark. It was to be carried by hand using poles designed for the purpose. Nowhere did God ever say it was permissible to carry the Ark in a cart. It was a lack of attentiveness to the details and Uzzah paid the price. When it comes to serving God, you’ve got to follow the instructions.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Dream Home

Today’s Journey Through Scripture Passages: 2 Samuel 3-5; Luke 14:25-35

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10 David grew increasingly powerful, and the Lord of heavenly forces was with him. 11 Tyre’s King Hiram sent messengers to David with cedar logs, bricklayers, and carpenters to build David a palace. 12 Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and that his kingship was held in great honor for the sake of his people Israel. (2 Samuel 5:10-12, Common English Bible)

If you have ever watched HGTV you can quickly see person after person wanting their dream home. For some, that means buying an old house and completely renovating it. For others it means building something new, from scratch.

As you watch you also see many different kinds of people. For some it is a large house with all the amenities. For others something more modest is the plan. For some it is a single family home and for others a townhouse or condo (for me it is the condo).  There people with large families and people with no family, at least no family living with them. There are people who insist on a green footprint while others are nowhere near as concerned about the world environment as they are about their personal living environment.

As David got ready to build the King’s palace, he would have quickly found, had it not been for the generosity (and probably wanting to curry favor with the new King of Israel who at this point was a world super-power) of Hiram, King of Tyre. David was building his dream home, or at least that is what we might guess.

Make no mistake, David earned this. He had defeated Goliath. He had a hand in defeating many of Israel’s worst enemies. For his trouble, the jealous Saul kept him either on the run or out of the country in hiding. With all David had done for Israel, he then was unable to even see his family without taking his life into his own hands.

In today’s journey through Scripture readings, we read of David going through bitter conflict with Saul’s family. For them, it didn’t matter that David was God’s choice. For those who crave and covet power it never matters if there is sufficient reason for walking away from the source of power. They want to take control of all that is around them. Saul’s family was no exception.

Even once David is able to bring resolution to the conflict with Saul’s family, things still weren’t peaceful around him. David had to deal once again with the Philistines. Some enemies, it would seem, just will not go away. The Philistines were just such an enemy for David. He had dealth with them as a boy, he dealth with them during the time he served Saul, he dealt with them at this point and he would deal with them once again.

But, once David defeated them on this occasion, at least for a time, Israel enjoyed peace from her enemies. That meant it was time for “House Hunters” Israel. David, with the help of Hiram, built his dream home, a palace built for a king. That would only make sense. Finally, David, after close to 20 years, was King of Israel and a king deserves a palace.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

With Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2018, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Abner Rolls the Stone

No one could believe what was happening down on earth. All the angels in the Kingdom of heaven were worried about what they saw unfold down below.

It was a very sad Friday. The angels saw Jesus arrested. He was judged by the Jewish high council. Sent on to Ponitus Pilate, then Herod and then back to Pilate who, in the end agreed to allow Jesus to be crucified.

They made Jesus carry his cross. When they reached the place where they crucified him, the soldiers nailed Jesus to the cross. There he had died. He was placed in a tomb with a giant stone in front. The Son of God, Jesus, was dead.

A small family of angels sat at dinner. They didn’t talk very much. After what happened that day they just didn’t feel much like talking. Then, finally, Abner spoke.

“Dad, it has been such a bad day, so sad. I don’t understand. Why did Jesus have to die? It was so mean.”

“You are right about that, son,” said his father, Gabriel. “It is a very, very sad day. Many people, and angels, here in heaven and on earth, have cried a lot today. But, ever since God created the world, He has let people decide what they will do. Sometimes they make good choices. Sometimes they make bad choices. This does not seem to be a good choice.”

“I just can’t believe it happened,” said Abner’s older sister Carmen. “It seems like it was just last week that my choir sang at his birth, and now he is dead.” “So is God mad at all those humans?” asked Abner.

“I think right now, God is just sad. I think God knew this was going to happen but he hoped it might be different. Like all of us, God cried a lot today,” said his father.

“I knew God was sad when the world went dark today. It was sad and it was spooky,” said Abner’s mother.

“Yeah, it scared me.” said Abner’s other sister Eleanor.

“Jesus did so much for people down there on earth,” said Abner. “He healed sick people. He gave blind people back their sight. He fed them when they were hungry. He

tried to teach them a happier, better way to live. Then they killed him.”

“I don’t think they really knew what Jesus was trying to do,” said Carmen.

“You are right about that,” said their father.

“Dad,” asked Abner, “God has punished the people on earth before because they were bad and mean. This is the worst thing they have ever done. How do you think

God will punish them this time?”

“Abner I don’t really know,” said Gabriel. “I just don’t think I would want to be a human living on earth during the next few days. If God wants to punish people it could be bad. It could be really bad.”

As the family left the dinner table, Abner said, “I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.”

The next day, when Gabriel came home he called out, “Abner! Abner! Are you here? I need you. It’s really important.”

“Hey Dad,” said Abner as he ran into the room. “You seem excited. Is something on fire? What’s up?”

“God wants you to go with me and two other angels down to earth tonight. I am not sure why. I was just told we have to meet up with the other angels at the park tonight and that we would probably be gone all night,” said Gabriel.

“All night?” asked the young angel’s mother.

“That’s what I was told,” said Gabriel. “I don’t know why or what Abner, me and the others will be doing.”

“If that is what God wants,” Abner said, “I will be there. I am ready to go, whatever God might want us to do.”

“Well, you aren’t leaving without eating a good dinner first!” replied his mother.

“Go get cleaned up while I make you something to eat.”

Two hours later, Abner met up with the other angels. Gabriel sent Abner ahead while he went to learn what they would do that night. Abner was surprised to find that the other two angels at the park were his two best friends, Remo and Zeke.

“What are you guys doing here?” asked Abner.

“When our dads came home today they said for us to be here. We were supposed to meet you and your dad, and that your dad would know what we would need to do.”

“Well, Dad has gone to find out,” said Abner. “He should be here in a few minutes.”

Then, just as Abner finished talking, Gabriel flew into the park.

“Well, our job tonight,” Gabriel said, “we are to go move a rock down on earth. I am not sure why we need to move the rock. God just said we would understand when the job was done. He picked the three of you because you are young and strong.”

“OK,” said Abner, “but I’ve never heard of angels moving rocks before, normally we would help people.”

Remo and Zeke quickly agreed.

“Well, angels don’t question God,” said Gabriel. “We just go and we do the things God asks us to do. I think we need to get going. Just like God wants people to do His will, God expects us angels to do what He wants us to do too. Let’s fly.”

The four angels then flew from heaven to earth ready for the job God had given them to do.

When the angels arrived on earth, they found themselves looking at a huge gigantic rock.

“How are we ever going to move that rock?” Zeke asked Gabriel. “That thing is

HUGE!”

“I am not as worried about the rock as I am about the Roman guards that are standing around the rock,” said Remo.  Those are some scary looking dudes.”

“Both of you guys are right,” said Abner. “But remember what they taught us in school. With God everything is possible and God will give us whatever we need to get the job done when we follow God’s will. Isn’t that right Dad?”

“Everything all you guys are saying is true,” said Gabriel. “The rock is huge. The guards are scary. And, with God on our side we will get the job done.”

Just then, one of the guards saw the four angels. “Who goes there?” shouted the guard to the angels. Then the guards rushed toward the small group of angels.

“There are more of them than there are of us,” shouted Zeke.

“What are we going to do?” asked Remo.

Just then one of the guards was right by Abner. Abner reached out his hand and touched one of the guards. As soon as Abner touched him, the guard fell to the ground and was sound asleep. That guard was quickly followed by another. Abner reached out and touched him too. Like the first guard, when Abner touched the second guard, he fell to the ground and went to sleep too.

“Wow!” yelled Abner. “Dad, Guys, just reach out and touch them with your hand.

When you do they will fall asleep.”

“Thanks, Abner,” said his father. The three started touching the guards around them, and just as had happened for Abner, the others fell asleep.

“Well, I guess we didn’t need to worry about the guards,” said Abner.

“Yeah, that was a pretty easy problem to solve,” said Remo.

“That is true my friend,” said Zeke. “We solved one problem, but we still have another problem to work out and it is HUGE!”

“You are right about that Zeke,” said Gabriel. “I am just not sure how four of us are going to push such a big rock out of the way. Why don’t we just get behind it and push. Maybe it will roll out of the way.”

The four angels got behind the rock and they started to push. They pushed and pushed and pushed. The rock would not move.

“Are you pushing as hard as you can Zeke?” asked Remo.

“Of course I am pushing hard Remo,” said Zeke.

“OK guys,” said Gabriel. “We will never get the job done is we spend our time arguing. We need to work together. What if we took that long stick over there and tried to pry the rock out of the way?”

“It’s worth a try,” said Zeke. He went over and picked up the large stick. They stuck one end under the rock and tried to pry the rock out of the way. It just wouldn’t move.

“I thought the guards were going to be hard,” said Remo. “This rock is what is really hard. Will we ever get it to move.”

“Let’s all take a break and think for a minute,” said Gabriel. “Surely we can come up with a plan that will work.”

“I’m all for that,” said Zeke as he went over to another, smaller rock and sat down. Remo and Gabriel went over to join him.

Abner had stayed quiet through all of the conversation. He wasn’t talking. He was just thinking.

“I think I may have to go back up to heaven,” said Gabriel. “This rock is just too big. I think we are going to need more help.” Zeke and Remo nodded their heads. They thought Gabriel was right.

Abner heard his dad even though he wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention.

Something was bothering him.

“Abner!” said his father. “Come over here and rest for a minute. You need a break too. We all need a break. Don’t worry. We will figure it out. We won’t let God down.”

“I know, I know,” said Abner. I will be there in a minute as he looked around. He was thinking. “What is bothering me? We are missing something. What are we doing wrong? What is it?” Then Abner remembered.

Abner knelt down in the dirt. The others thought he was going to sit down right there. “Abner, why don’t you come sit with us?” asked Remo.

Abner waved off his friend and continued to kneel in the dirt. “Abner,” Zeke

Abner Rolls the Stone

started to say, but Gabriel stopped him.

“I think Abner might be on to something,” said Gabriel. “He is kneeling in the dirt because he is going to pray.”

“God, you sent us here to move this giant rock. You only sent four of us. That means four angels is all we need to get the job done. Four is all we need if we do it right, if we do it with you. Give me the strength we need to move the rock, O God. Amen.”

Abner stood up from the dirt and walked to the huge rock. He started pushing. “Abner,” shouted the others. “Wait. We can help” shouted Remo and Zeke.

“You are going to hurt yourself trying to move that huge rock by yourself,” said his father. “You need help.”

“No, I won’t,” said Abner. “With God, I can do anything.”

Abner kept pushing as the other three angels walked toward him. Then the stone started to move. It rolled an inch. Then two. Then five. It rolled a foot and then two feet. Abner kept pushing and the rock kept moving. Soon the rock started to roll and it moved completely out of the way.

“Wow Abner,” said Remo. “You are super strong.”

“No,” replied Abner. “I am not any stronger than you guys. And, I know I’m not stronger than my Dad. But I remembered, with God, all things are possible. So, I prayed that God would give me the strength to move that rock.”

“That’s right Abner,” came a voice from inside the cave.

The voice soon got the attention of the small group of angels. The younger angels became scared again. Gabriel had a pretty good idea what was going on now.

“It’s OK boys. God said when the stone was moved we would understand.” “Well,” said Zeke. “The stone is moved and I still don’t understand.” “Neither do I,” agreed Remo.

“I think I do,” said Abner. “Is this Jesus’ tomb Dad?” “I do believe it is,” said Gabriel.

“You are right,” said Jesus as he reached the entrance to the tomb. “It is my tomb.”

“But, but, you are dead,” said Zeke.

“I told people before,” said Jesus, “I would rise on the third day.” “Now you have,” said Abner.

“I have,” said Jesus. “And with the help you four have given me, I can show the world  have risen. Thank you for rolling away the stone Abner.”

“Wow. This is so cool,” said Remo. “Can we do anything else to help you

Jesus?”

“Well Remo,” said Jesus, “There is one more thing. I have to go to Galilee. Abner, since you got me out, I need you to stay here. There will be people coming to prepare my body for final burial. I need you to wait for them. Ask them ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ Tell them, ‘He has gone ahead to Galilee just like he told you he would.’ Tell them to go and tell the disciples and Peter that I will meet them there.

“As for you Gabriel, Zeke and Remo, go and watch over the road from the city

Abner Rolls the Stone

and see that the women have no trouble getting here but don’t show yourselves if you don’t have to do so,” Jesus said. “Now, let’s all go.”

And, Gabriel, Zeke and Remo left, flying of toward Jerusalem. Jesus stood with Abner.

“Abner, thank you for your work and remembering how important it is to pray when we are going to do something big. Your prayer helped you move the stone. By moving the stone you helped me. That is good work.” Jesus said.

“Thank you Jesus,” said Abner. I will tell the women what you said when they get here. I won’t let you down.”

“I know you won’t Abner,” Jesus said. “Bye for now.”

“Bye Jesus,” said Abner as Jesus walked away. When Jesus was out of Abner’s sight, he climbed up and sat down on top of the rock he had moved a few minutes before.

Abner remained there for perhaps a half hour. Angels have trouble keeping track of time. God’s time isn’t the same as human time and angels work more on God’s time. Then he heard voices coming toward him. He waited, then he saw the women coming toward the tomb. His father, Zeke and Remo flew just above the women, out of sight.

Suddenly Abner’s face began to shine like the sun and his clothing became very white as the women came to the tomb.

“You don’t need to be afraid,” Abner said to the women. “I know you are looking for Jesus. He’s not here. He has risen just like he said. Now, go back to the city and tell his disciples and Peter to go to Galilee and they will find him just like he said. You can go with them to Galilee too. He gave me this message to give to you.”

So the women turned around and started back to Galilee. Abner joined his father, Zeke and Remo and watched over the women as they were returning to Jerusalem. Suddenly Jesus appeared and began to talk with the women. The women dropped to the ground and worshipped Jesus. The angels saw Jesus help them to their feet.

Jesus then said, “Go quickly and tell the disciples to come with you to Galilee and I will see all of you there.” The women got to their feet and ran toward Jerusalem. Jesus then looked up at the four angels, giving them a wink and a wave, then he was gone.

The assignment was over for the angels and they returned home. There were lots of stories to tell about what happened to Abner, Gabriel, Zeke and Remo. All of them shared their adventure with their families.

A few days later Gabriel came home. “God was really pleased with the work you and your friends did when you rolled away the stone,” Gabriel said. “You now have your first permanent assignment.” The women that Zeke, Remo and I watched over, you three are their angels. You are too watch over them. And Abner, your special assignment is to watch over Mary the mother of Jesus. She is very special and God wants you to personally see to her care. Do you think you can do it?”

“Dad, with God beside me, I know I can do anything.”

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved