Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Lord Almighty has sworn, "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand." Isaiah 14:24
This verse was specifically referring to the prophesied doom of Assyria (which came true - see 2 Kings 19 and Isaiah 37:21-38).
But this is definitely a verse that we can take huge comfort in for our lives as well. Though I still have trouble wrapping my mind around our free will and God's purposes being fulfilled, I know that this verse is true. I know that God's purposes will prevail - through us or in spite of us.
And because God is good, we can take comfort in knowing that nothing can thwart His purposes. He is sovereign, He is in control, He is all-powerful, He is mercy, He is justice, He is compassion, He is love, He is the Alpha and Omega.
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Chronicles 29:3-31:21
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
There are two commentaries on bible.org that give an overview of the entire book of Isaiah. Isaiah Overview, Part 1 and Isaiah, Part 2: God's Redemptive Plan for Mankind.
The following excerpt is from the first one commentary, under the heading God Runs the Show. Always Has. Always Will!
Another theme running prominently throughout Isaiah: God firmly controls all rulers, kingdoms, and all world events. Nothing escapes His notice. No one pulls the wool over His eyes. No one challenges the Lord and gets away with it.
Listen up, those who march today on the gay and lesbian parades, those who live only for the next “rave” party, and those who take away the unborn’s right to life. Look at chapter 5:18-23:
Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood,
and sin as if with cart ropes;
Who say, “Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it;
And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near
And come to pass, that we may know it!”
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness.
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight.
Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine,
And valiant men in mixing strong drink;
Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right.
You can march in your parade all you want, pulling along your sin behind you as if on a cart for all to see. You can hide behind the laws and courts to support your views about your lifestyle or the right to take an unborn baby’s life. You can even shake your fist in God’s face, daring Him to do something about it, and then laugh when lightning doesn’t strike you. Just remember what Isaiah says.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, … is too difficult for our Lord to control, solve, or correct. His word to you is “Woe!” … and that’s not what you ever want directed at you from the mouth of the Living God. Nothing is impossible for Him.
The first thing that came to my mind when I read the verse about those who call good evil and evil good was those who condone things we KNOW to be wrong under the guise of "political correctness" - such as homosexuality and abortion - and encourage others to "live your truth". ??? That was a popular catchphrase of Oprah's a couple of years ago that actually made me wince. Live your truth? Really? What about the truth? I more or less quit watching her show around then. She is just one example of someone who has used her power for tremendous good, but also for some astonishing evil - unintentionally, but still to the detriment of those who believe everything that comes out of her mouth.
That's why spending time reading the Bible and studying it with others is so important, and why I've been so thankful both for this blog group and my Bible study group at church. It's important to know what God says about all these things so that when we hear some very sensible, plausible-sounding politically correct argument for something, we know why we need to stand against it.
Tomorrow's reading is 2 Kings 16:19-20; 2 Chronicles 28:26-27; Isaiah 13-16:14.
Monday, June 28, 2010
A couple of verses stood out for me today.
Probably one of the most well-known verses....
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18
Scarlett or crimson was the colour of a deep red and permant dye that was almost impossible to remove from clothing. Our sin is just as impossible for us to remove from our hearts. Only God can do so, through our acceptance of the sacrifice of the only perfect man who ever lived - God's son Jesus Christ. He can do the impossible. He can make our scarlet hearts as white as snow, as pure as wool. If we are willing, obedient, confessing our sin and truly repenting of it - He will forgive us completely remove the stains of our hearts.
Another verse that jumped out at me with some very basic and straightforwards commands....
Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
That's some straight shooting right there. No mincing words, no tiptoeing around it, no beating around the bush.
Stop doing wrong. There is no try. Do or do not.
Learn to do right. Read the Bible, study God's instruction manual and put it into practice.
Seek justice (not revenge). Stand up for what's right. Speak up when someone is being wronged. The head-in-sand position does the kingdom of God no favours. Standing idly by and allowing evil to continue unchecked is wrong.
Encourage the oppressed. If it is in your power to do so, help those who need help - financially, practically, materially, prayerfully, emotionally - do something!
Defend the causes of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow. There is an epidemic of fatherless children in our country. There are so many single moms out there doing the best that they can. But children need both a mother and a father figure in their life. This is not a slight against mother's in any way, but a good father figure is so vital for children. This is how their first view of God the father is formed. This is how boys learn to treat women and how to be men. This is how girls learn how men are supposed to be treated. We need to encourage our husbands in their vitally important job as fathers to their own children. And we need to encourage them to step up and be a mentor for children in need. We need to come alongside fatherless children, orphaned children, widows, widowers - anyone in need. Our faith needs to have hands and feet on it, or it's validity is in serious question.
Yes, our own family is our priority. But we cannot use that as an excuse not to help those in need. When we are doing the will of God, He will provide.
Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 1:21-5:30
Sunday, June 27, 2010
John Piper's sermon Call Me Husband, not Baal is a great summary of the book of Hosea.
The book of Hosea shows that God loves us deeply and wants us to love Him deeply too. The prophecies of judgement (for God is holy and will judge) are always followed by prophecies of forgiveness if we choose to repent.
When you think of your failures... —how little you have read his Word, how burdensome prayer has felt, how many other things of this world have given you more kicks than God—God wants you to remember that his desire to have you back is not based on a naïve estimation of your character. The point of Hosea is that God exalts his mercy by not giving up on his wife of harlotry. The good news of Hosea—and of the parable of the prodigal son, and of Christmas—is that God knows we have sold ourselves for a song in 1982, yet he is wooing us into the chambers of his love.
But, please take special notice of this, especially you who tend to keep God at arm's distance from your emotions. According to Hosea 2:16, God does not want you to return to him and say, "Yes, Sir," and set about your duties. He wants you to come into the wilderness, to listen to him speak tenderly, and to respond to him, "My husband." God wants your heart, not just your hands, because if he has your heart, he has everything. (John Piper)
Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones. Hosea 10:1
From my Life Application Study Bible...
Israel prospered under Jeroboam II, gaining military and economic strength. But the more prosperous the nation became, the more love it lavished on idols. It seems as though the more God gives, the more we spend. We want bigger houses, better cars, and finer clothes. But the finest things the world offers line the pathway to destruction. As you prosper, consider where your money is going. Is it being used for God's purposes, or are you consuming it all on yourself?
Having nice things isn't a sin. But finding our security in them is. Ignoring the poor and helpless so that we can buy them is sin. We should be generous with the things we have, because they are not ours. They are God's. And we are simply stewards of His money and His possessions. We will be held accountable for how we have invested them and used them for His glory. A very sobering reminder.
Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 28, 2 Kings 17:5, 2 Kings 18:9-12, 2 Kings 17:6-41, Isaiah 1:1-20
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Scripture: Hosea 7: 13 NIV
13 Woe to them,
because they have strayed from me!
Destruction to them,
because they have rebelled against me!
I long to redeem them
but they speak lies against me.
Hosea 7:13 KJV
13Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me.
Observation: We face negative consequences when we make bad choices.
Every decision that we make has a consequence. Whether these decisions are good or bad, they shape us and make us into the people that we are. We can be influenced one way or the other by circumstances, people, or scripture but it is ultimately each decision we choose is a personal choice that we make. This commentary suggests that throughout Hosea chapter 7 that
This commentary adds that this verse:
"teaches how intolerable is our ingratitude, when, after having been redeemed by the Lord,
we keep not the faith pledged to him, and which he requires from us; for God is our
deliverer on this condition, that we be wholly devoted to him."
Prayer: Heavenly Father, You declared this promise of destruction so long ago to those who chose not to obey your commands and yet its words are true even today. When we watch the news, or read the papers, we see the wrath of bad decisions and the consequences that have resulted from them. Thank you for your gift and promise of forgiveness through Jesus and that you will forgive us for the mistakes that we make. Amen.
Tomorrow's Reading is HOSEA 9:1-14:9
Friday, June 25, 2010
This passage covers a lot of ground that's for sure!
Isaiah 12 is a beautiful psalm and reminds us to praise God, to give thanks to Him, and to proclaim His name to the nations. Isaiah 17 on the other hand prophesies the destruction of Damascus and reminds us of the huge consequences of rejecting God.
Then it's back to King Ahaz for some more life lessons.
Consider 2 Chronicles 28:22-23 In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, "Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me." But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.
See how absolutely twisted our thinking can become when we turn away from God? King Ahaz was completely blind to the fact that it was his/his kingdom's disobedience that was the cause of their downfall, not the gods of Damascus!
We, too, are easily misled to believe partial truths and even outright lies when we turn away or even drift away from God. Consistently being in the Word is the only way to combat this slippery slope.
One thing that I've noticed about myself reading through the Bible this year is that I am reacting more emotionally to what I'm reading. Last year I would read about these ridiculous evil kings and just keep on going. But this time, some of the things I read just cause absolute revulsion to come over me as I read about how they desecrate God's temple and reject His holiness. My heart and soul aches as I read about King Ahaz callously destroying the temple and building his own altar - the extent of his evil idolatry makes me shudder. And for that I am thankful. We need to find evil repulsive, we need to desire holiness in ourselves and challenge it in those around us as well.
And then we finally come to King Hezekiah where a most remarkable thing is said about him....
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And teh Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook. 2 Kings 18:5-7a (emphasis mine)
Incredible!! There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah or Israel, either before him or after him. Wow! (Important note, this does not include David because this refers to the kings after the division of the kingdom - after Solomon). But still, incredible!! I'm looking forward to finally being able to read about some good stuff going down in the kingdom of Judah.
And then we end of with the first part of the book of Hosea and God's incredibly difficult command that he marry a woman who was going to be unfaithful to him. Talk about a command that you wouldn't want to obey! I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it would've been for Hosea to marry Gomer knowing in advance that he would be betrayed by her in the most intimate way. And this wasn't because of any sin Hosea had committed, this wasn't to punish him. It was to be an object lesson for the people of Israel. The faithfulness of this man is absolutely astounding.
That's all I'll say about Hosea for today as we'll read more about him over the next 2 days.
Tomorrow's passage: Hosea 2:14-8:14
Thursday, June 24, 2010
A couple of things stood out for me in today's readings - all of them beautiful pictures and promises of hope in the midst of a very dark time in Israeli history.
First, I don't think I've ever really caught the meaning of the symbolism Root of Jesse before. From my Life Application Bible.....
Assyria would be like a tree cut down at the height of its power (10:33-34), never to rise again. Juday (the royal line of David) would be like a tree chopped down to a stump. But from that stump a new shoot would grow - the Messiah.
I always knew the Root of Jesse was the Messiah of course, but I've never seen it through the end of Chapter 10 like that. What a beautiful picture of hope. We've all seen pictures of forests ravaged by fire or simply chopped down to stumps - such a bleak and hopeless lanscape. But out of the ravages of evil and war would come the promise of hope to the whole world!
The famous "to us a child is born" portion I loved of course, but what jumped out at me more this time was more at the beginning of this chapter...
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2
The light of course refers both to the hope of the Messiah and Jesus himself. The apostle John refers to Jesus as the "light" (John 1:9) and Jesus refers to himself as "the light of the world" (John 8:12).
For me this is such a beautiful pictures of hope, especially for the few people who remained faithful to God throughout the reigns of evil and good kings. No matter how bad it was, there were always at least some faithful people amongst the darkness of the times and they must have just clung to this promise of hope.
And I think it's a great promise for us to cling to as well. We too are walking in a time of darkness, but the Light will come again in power and majesty to reign forever more.
Come Lord Jesus!
Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 12, 17, 2 Chronicles 28:16-25, 2 Chronicles 29:1-2, 2 Kings 16:10-18, 2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Kings 15:30-34, 2 Kings 17:1-4, Hosea 1-2:13
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. Isaiah 7:9b
God sent the prophet Isaiah to give King Ahaz a message. He told Ahaz that the attack against Jerusalem would not succeed. He then gave Ahaz a challenge - will you believe? If Ahaz did not believe, the outcome of the battle wouldn't change - God had already decreed that the attack would fail, and it would fail whether Ahaz believed or not. But what WOULD change is the course of Ahaz's life and reign as king.
However, Ahaz did not believe. He did not trust in the promise of the Lord and instead purchased his safety from the Assyrians (which would eventually be Judah's downfall) - and his plan succeeded. Ahaz likely thought it was his sharp political maneuvering that saved them. However, he did not realize that if only he had believed God, he would've won the battle AND been blessed.
The challenge is just as true for us as it was for King Ahaz. If we do not stand firm in our faith, we will not stand. If we will not believe God, we will not receive the blessings that He has planned for us.
We need to believe God's promises, and act on that belief. If we do so, we will be blessed. If we do not, we may have success but it will only be a pathetic shallow reflection of what might have been. We will miss out, and not even know it.
Dear God, we thank You for the promises You have given us in Your Word. We thank You for Your great faithfulness that You have demonstrated to us over and over again - both in bible times and in our lives right now. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see, and the strength to live out the faith we claim to believe. Amen
Tomorrow's passage: Isaiah 8-11
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
From bible.org - The Minor Prophets has a brief overview of each of the "smaller" prophetic books of the Bible, including Amos. Here is an excerpt:
The divine message given to Amos was primarily one of judgment, though it ends with words of hope. Amos warned that the Lord God, the sovereign Ruler of the universe, would come as a Warrior to judge the nations that had rebelled against His authority. Israel in particular would be punished for her violations against God’s covenant. Amos sought to bring the prosperous and materialistic northern tribes under Jeroboam to repentance as the only escape from imminent judgment. In the process, the book demonstrates God’s hatred of evil because of His holiness and that His justice must act against Israel’s sin for He cannot allow it to go unpunished.
However, even though the nation would be destroyed, God would still preserve a repentant remnant and one day this remnant would be restored to their covenant blessing and political prominence when the Lord would then also draw all nations to His Himself.
Chapter 9 is a key chapter because of its focus on the restoration of Israel. Set in the midst of the harsh judgments of Amos are some of the greatest prophecies of restoration of Israel anywhere in Scripture. Within the scope of just five verses the future of Israel becomes clear, as the Abrahamic, Davidic, and Palestinian covenants are focused on their climactic fulfillment in the return of the Messiah.
Amos presents Christ as the One who will rebuild David’s dynasty (9:11) and as the one who will restore His people (9:11-15).
The part that stood out most for me personally was in Chapter 7 where Amaziah tells Amos to take his prophesying elsewhere. I don't imagine it was easy being a prophet, especially as the bearer of bad news. No one ever likes to tell someone something bad. Sometimes because the messenger knows the news will cause the other person pain and sorrow, and sometimes because there is a tendency in human nature to blame the messenger for the message he or she brings.
"Now then, hear the word of the LORD," was the particular phrase that really pricked me while reading. We have the Bible readily available to us. We need look no further for instruction. And yet we sometimes want to pick and choose the parts that we want to follow and do what we want the rest of the time. We don't want to read or "hear" the parts that tell us something we're doing is wrong.
It's hard to hear when someone corrects or rebukes us. It's hard to have a humble heart and accept correction - meaning actually learning from it and trying to change it going forward.
I watched "Inedible to Incredible" last night. It was the very first time it was on (TLC, I think?). There were two episodes and both cases the husband called in an award-winning chef to tell his wife what he didn't have the heart to tell her - that her cooking was awful - and teach her some better cooking techniques. I have to say, I was impressed with both women and their attitudes towards the "experiment". It must have been hard for them to hear that their husbands hate the food they cook. Especially since both of them prided themselves on being creative cooks. The first woman's ingredient creativity was extremely bizarre (strawberry cornflake hamburgers, anyone?). The second woman used more normal combinations, but a lot of fat and sweet with little flavour. Both of them accepted the challenge to learn to cook three new dishes. Both of them graciously accepted the chef's help and learned about new and wonderful things like measuring ingredients and following a recipe. Both of them ended up preparing three delicious dishes for their husbands, families and friends to try and it was a raging success.
I can only pray that when my areas of weakness are brought to my attention, that I can be as gracious in accepting help and learning to correct them as were these women.
The passage from Isaiah right away touched on a couple of my favourite things about that book. How incredible to have a vision of God and angels. Even if Isaiah was being given bad news to bring to the people of Israel, what an absolutely unimaginable thing it must be to have even a glimpse of such amazing glory and holiness.
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
How could one say anything else, when faced with the awesome glory of God? I hope that we all respond to His call, even without a vision of Him or angels. I pray that as we go about our daily lives and duties, following His will to the best of our knowledge and abilities, that we will always say "Here am I," when He is searching for someone to do something for Him.
Tomorrow's reading is 2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chronicles 27:1-9; Micah 1:1-16; 2 Kings 16:1-9; 2 Chronicles 28:1-15; Isaiah 7:1-25.
Monday, June 21, 2010
He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name. Amos 4:13
Amos was an ordinary man whom God had called to proclaim His message to the people of Israel. Unlike Jonah, he was preaching to his fellow Israelites. But totally like Jonah, he was preaching to a people who were evil, who had turned their back on God despite the consequences God had already sent them.
This verse reminds us of the utter fear that should fill our hearts with dread if we are to meet God on Judgement Day as a lion of wrath.
As John Piper says
He makes mountains like Play-Dough, and mighty wind with a whisper. He knows every thought of your mind before you speak it. He governs all the workings of the solar system, and steps from the Appalachians to the Rockies in one stride. Do you want to meet him roaring from Zion, or rejoicing over us with gladness?
And here's one that might step on your toes like it did mine..
Amos is a devastating book for people who give token attention to God through assemblies and songs, but whose hearts are much more genuinely engaged by sports, or business, or family, or hobbies. If your outward acts of worship are a mask to give you some respectability while your heart is really attached to the world and to your own comfort, then God hates your worship and despises your solemn assemblies and offerings and songs.
Through Amos, God takes the people to task for turning away from God, for loving comfort and luxury which in turn led to dishonesty and callousness towards the poor. Though specifically for the people of that time, we would do well to heed the warnings of this book. For God is the same yesterday, today and forever. Actions and motives that He despises in the OT He still despises today.
In the book of Jonah the Ninevites listened to the Word of the Lord, repented and were spared.
In retrospect we know that Israel did not heed the voice of Amos and they were taken into captivity. Let us not make the same mistake.
Tomorrow's passage: Amos 7-9, 2 Kings 14:28-29, 2 Kings 15:6-29, 2 Chronicles 26:22-23, Isaiah 6:1-13
Sunday, June 20, 2010
In all this reading, just like reading earlier about the people of Israel, it's exhausting how many kings just don't get it. It's sad how many of them are assassinated. There are so many of them that when you get to one that reads "he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord" you get so excited.....for a while.
Pride. Oh, that glorious sin of pride. Amaziah seems on the right track, until pride takes over. His son Uzziah seems a little stronger in his stride for the Lord when pride once again, overcomes him. Pride is the proven destroyer of amazing good but what is it rooted in?
If you asked someone what the original sin was that Satan committed (before he was Satan, but the angel described by God as "blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you." Ezekiel 28:15) they would probably say pride. Some people will say selfishness is right there with pride. Yet, what is it that birthed pride? It is the deeper sin of unbelief.
Each of us in our thought processes that produce what we do in our life we have a choice to believe (trust) God or not. We start by analyzing what God wants and what we want, what we think is good and what he says is good. We then will find ourselves either agreeing or disagreeing with him. Even that stage is perfectly fine as a child may very well disagree with a parent, but we should expect that we would disagree with him at times since his thoughts are higher than ours and there is no way for us to "get" his wisdom. From there however is the first sin, to believe or not to believe, that is the question! Do we take God at his word when he says "this is what's best", or "the way I want things is for my glory and your good"? Do we trust him? Do we say "yes, I believe you" or "no, my way would be better for me". Once this sin or submission is decided we act on it in one of two ways: humility or pride. Pride is the road the blameless angel took after he decided he did not believe or trust God's good plan for his joy, but rather he believed his own deduction that being equal with God would make him happier.
We have the same chance at this process every day and on every level. I think it's good to identify it because it's important to know how your heart and your mind connect to respond to God. It makes more clear that all sin is rooted in unbelief. Daily we get chances to believe and trust God and to act on it. Humility says "He is in control and his way is best". Humility breeds faith because it empties us out and fills us with the God who, as stated in these most recent passages, provides the victory.
It's sobering to think we have the same choices that Satan did on every day of our lives. The turning point can be severe when we choose unbelief. Both Amaziah and Uzziah thought they had this down, God was on their side right? It proves that we always have to be on our toes to turn to God and not our strength, to ask of him and not trust the counsel of men alone, to lean on what he has stated in the past is good for us, and never to reduce him to a good luck charm we carry in our pocket with us. To always view him as the Almighty God, truly interested in our doings, but also passionate about his own glory which he wants us to participate in and not distract from.
Tomorrow's reading is Amos 1-6:14
Saturday, June 19, 2010
The phrase "what does around comes around" comes to mind in this passage - especially the 2 Chronicles one.
It seems like King Joash never learned how to make decisions. He began ruling at age 7 but obviously it wasn't him doing the ruling. It was the Priest Jehoiada. And it seems like King Joash simply ruled by listening to his advisors. Which means he was only as good as the people advising him. And when Jehoiada died, King Joash listened to the wrong men. And he ended up betraying the son of the man who, for all intents and purposes, saved his life.
He betrayed Zechariah.
It seems only fitting then that he ends up being assisinated by his own men and, as we're informed in 2 Chronicles, it was due specifically to his betrayal of Zechariah/Jehoiada.
His officials conspired against him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest, and they killed him in his bed. 2 Chronicles 24:25
We need to learn how to make our own decisions, measuring them against the Word, so that we don't fall into the same trap as King Joash did. It's so easy to listen to people's advice - after all, we can physically see and hear them and often their advice is what we want to hear. It's much more difficult, yet so much more important, accurate and crucial, to listen to the advice of God as given to us in His Word and by His Holy Spirit.
Tomorrow's reading: 2 Kings 14:1-14, 2 Chronicles 25:1-24, 2 Kings 13:12-13, 2 Kings 14:15-16, 2 Kings 14:23-27, 2 Chronicles 25:25-28, 2 Kings 14:17-22, 2 Kings 15:1-15, 2 Chronicles 26:1-21, Jonah 1-4. For less flipping read 2 Kings 13:12-13, 2 Kings 14:1-27, 2 Kings 15:1-15, 2 Chronicles 25-26:21, Jonah
Friday, June 18, 2010
I have obviously never really paid very close attention to this story before. Or at least, never gave much thought to the additional information the 2 Chronicles account gives. I have always loved hearing or reading the story of Joash, the boy-king, who was saved by his aunt and a nursemaid from his blood-thirsty grandmother; who grew up to rebuild the temple and restore worship of The One True God. The story in 2 Kings is a very positive one ~ Joash is a shining light in Israel and Judah's dark days of disbelief and discord. This is obviously the version all the childrens' Sunday school stories are based on!
But this time, I couldn't help noticing that 2 Chronicles gives us information beyond Joash's good deeds and therefore, a little more insight into his relationship with God. His story ends almost as tragically as it begins, despite the good things he did during his lifetime, and despite the awesome fulfillment of God's promise that there would always be a remnant of David's line to sit on the throne.
We see in 2 Chronicles that Joash really isn't such a great king. Yes, he instructs all Judah to return to God and he eventually gets around to restoring the temple once he's 30 yrs old, but both accounts, actually, clearly state he did right in the eyes of God only while Jehoiada, the priest, was alive.
It seems Joash didn't so much have a heart for serving God as he did, perhaps, a deep gratitude and strong emotional connection to Jehoiada, who, in a very real and physical sense, had been his savior in his early childhood. But instead of seeing God's hand in his life being spared and seeking to live his life in gratitude to GOD for His miraculous protection and provision, Joash seems to live to please Jehoiada instead.
As soon as Jehoiada dies (At the ripe old age of 130!), things go downhill BUT FAST! Joash lets the officials of Judah woo him with their own ideas of what's important and very quickly, God and His house of worship are abandoned. Jehoiada's son, Zechariah, speaks up and reminds the people of their disobedience and disloyalty, but his message proves rather unpopular. In an appalling turn of events, Joash himself orders the son of his former mentor, advisor, and friend to be killed. Zechariah is stoned to death within the walls of the temple. Hard to believe Joash could do something like this to a man he quite possibly grew up with and considered a close friend at one time.
It's amazing and frightening to what lengths we'll go sometimes to drown out God's Word; shutting our minds to what we read in our Bibles, to what is spoken from the pulpit, or to what we hear from the mouths of friends. It's hard to receive rebuke well, but that's exactly why a spirit of humility and repentence is so important if we really want to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
Tomorrow's passages: 2 Kings 13:1-11; 12:17-21, 2 Chronicles 24:23-27, 2 Kings 13:14-25.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Jehoram was thirty-two year old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one's regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. 2 Chronicles 21:20 (emphasis mine)
King Jehoram was an evil king whose death was not regretted by anyone.
What an incredible statement. "He passed away, to no one's regret".
In the world's eyes, and certainly in his own, King Jehoram had achieved wild success. He was King for 8 years, he was the absolute ruler of Judah. But he did not worship God, and without that there can be no true success.
This verse to me was such a reminder of our mortality and made me think again of the legacy I want to leave my children. Obviously the verse is harsh - I know that I will not pass away to no one's regret - but what will people say of the way I lived my life? How will I be remembered?
I want to leave behind a legacy of faith for my children. I know that my name will not be remembered in the history books, and that doesn't matter. I know that is not the definition of success. Success is living my life the way God intends me to live it, walking in His will, seeking Him in every area of my life in order to glorify His name. And it will take a lifetime of committed and consistent effort for that to happen.
I don't know who this quote is by, but it's a good one...
Live your life in such a way that when your feet his the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "Oh no! She's awake!"
Lord, we know that the years of our lives here on earth are few, especially viewed in light of eternity. Help us to do whatever we can during this short time to store up eternal treasures in heaven, our intended home. Give me the desire to live for You consistently, to each and every day be willing to take up my cross and follow You. I want to leave behind a legacy of faith.
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Kings 11:1-3, 2 Chronicles 22:10-12, 2 Kings 11:4-12, 2 Chronicles 23:1-11, 2 Kings 11:13-16, 2 Chronicles 23:12-15, 2 Kings 1:17-21, 2 Chronicles 23:16-21, 2 Kings 12:1-16, 2 Chronicles 24:1-22, 2 Kings 10:32-26. For less flipping read 2 Kings 11-12:16, 2 Kings 10:32-26, 2 Chronicles 22:10-24:22
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Today's passage continues with more stories of Elisha and the many miracles he performed for the famous and commoner alike. Where Elijah's ministry was more of a stance against evil, Elisha's was one more of compassion for the people. Different times, and perhaps different personalities, call for different ministries.
Anyway, something that struck me in today's passage are the parallels between the stories themselves and the gospel message.
Naaman didn't want to go bathe in the dirty little Jordan River as it was too beneath him. The whole thing just seemed to easy. His servants reminded him that if the prophet had asked him to do something great he would've done it, so why not do this?
I see several parallels to how many people respond to the gospel. Some people view it as a crutch, or that it is beneath them. Others view it as too easy, too good to be true, to just believe seems too simple And yet if God asked them to do something great, they would do it.
Just as Naaman's bathing in the Jordan required him to humble himself, coming to God requires humbling ourselves - recognizing that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves and that we must accept the gift of the sacrifice of the perfect God-man Jesus as the penalty for our own sin.
The seige of the Arameans against Samaria resulted in a famine so severe the people resorted to cannibalism (as Moses prophesied would happen as a result of disobedience and turning away from God). But instead of acknowledging his sin, the king blames Elisha!
We have the same tendency to put the blame on anyone but ourselves. Taking personal responsibility against involves humility, putting aside our pride and admitting our mistakes. It is even harder to do when we were not the only ones to blame and the other party has not attempted to make things right. But, as I preach to my kids all the time, you're not responsible for what anybody else does, you're responsible for doing the right thing yourself.
The last passage that reminded me of the gospel message and our response to it was about the lepers discovering the bounty left behind by the fleeing Aramean army. Their initial response to hoard was later followed by their realization that they needed to share this good news.
We, too, need to remember how vital it is that the Good News is shared. People's souls are starving, they are dying in their sin - and we know the Good News that could save them. It doesn't matter if they are skeptical (like the King was when the lepers first shared the news). We are not responsible for people's response to the gospel, but we are responsible to share it. Are we willing to share the Good News with urgency and rejoicing?
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Chronicles 21:8-20, 2 Kings 8:23-29, 2 Chronicles 22:1-7, 2 Kings 9-10:17, 2 Chronicles 22:8-9, 2 Kings 10:18-31. For less flipping read 2 Chronicles 21:8-22:9, 2 Kings 8:23-10:31
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
So the majority of today's reading was talking about miracles. I love reading about miracles. Big ones or little ones - it makes no difference. I just love the fact that God can do literally ANYTHING. He can purify fouled waters. He can make one small flask of oil fill jars and jars. He can bring the dead to life. He can cause animals who ordinarily would be just as happy to leave alone and be left alone to demonstrate his intolerance of the disrespect shown to his prophet.
On a more personal note, he can allow a tiny baby to remain in its mother's womb until He knows it is just the right time for him to be born - even though the medical professionals (and everyone else) think it is much too early. But that baby can thrive and grow and do amazingly well for having been born so prematurely. I'm talking here about my sister's baby, who was born at 25 weeks gestation. All babies are a miracle, really, but he got a couple of extra miracles. The doctors and nurses at the hospital told the residents that it is almost unheard of for such an early preemie to not need intubation to help him breathe (especially as he's a boy) and he did so well that he was allowed to go home almost a month earlier than expected - he's surpassed all expectations and we're so thankful. He was originally due this past weekend - he's now 7 lbs and doing very well.
Anyway, getting back to the Bible reading, I read the story of the boys who make fun of Elisha and are then mauled by bears and was somewhat taken aback. It seemed fairly extreme consequences for what initially seemed to me to be a bit of name-calling. Here is what Bob Deffinbaugh had to say about this story, taken from The Life and Times of Elisha the Prophet - Elisha's Accreditation. It really helped me to understand the story better. I hope it does the same for you.
2 Kings 3:23-25
He went up from there to Bethel. As he was traveling up the road, some young boys came out of the city and made fun of him, saying, “Go on up, baldy! Go on up, baldy!” When he turned around and saw them, he called God’s judgment down on them. Two female bears came out of the woods and ripped 42 of the boys to pieces. From there he traveled to Mount Carmel and then back to Samaria.
It was, indeed, a long, hot twenty-five mile trek from Jericho (some 1300 feet below sea level) to Bethel (which was 2,000 feet above sea level). Bethel was not just any Israelite city, either. Bethel was one of two cities that Jeroboam had designated as places of worship for the northern kingdom of Israel when Solomon’s kingdom was divided between his son Rehoboam and his enemy, Jeroboam. Jeroboam feared that these two kingdoms might be tempted to re-unite because of the one central place of worship (Jerusalem) which was located in Judah. And so Jeroboam made a bold move—he established two places of counterfeit worship in Israel. One was in Dan, at the northern edge of Israel. The other was in Bethel, at the southern edge of Israel, a mere 12 miles from Jerusalem. One of the golden calves Jeroboam had provided for Israel to worship was placed in Bethel (see 1 Kings 12). This was a very pagan place, where God and His Word were no longer revered. The disrespect which Elisha received by these young Bethel boys was typical of the attitude of the general population in Bethel toward any true prophet of God.
The term used by our author to refer to these young men is one that is quite flexible. It is used of a young child, but it can also refer to what we would call a “young man.” It is apparent to me that these are not “little boys” who accost Elisha, but “young men.” My junior high school teacher, Chet Dombroski (I can remember some things), used to call fellows like this “local toughs.” This was not a group of little boys; it was a gang of young trouble-makers. Remember, we know that 42 were injured. That means that the smallest number for this “gang” was 42, and there could have been others who were fortunate enough to escape from the bears. This could have been a very intimidating confrontation for Elisha. The “bad boys of Bethel” got what they deserved. Would they try to bully Elisha? Then let them face two mother bears and see what real intimidation feels like.
There are various explanations of the words these young men spoke to Elisha, but I think we can be certain of several things. First, these young men were both hostile and insulting to the prophet. The expression “bald head” is no compliment, but rather a most offensive insult. We do not know for sure what they meant by the words, “Go up,” either. Were they challenging Elisha to do what Elijah had just done (“Go up” into heaven?)? It’s possible, but I rather doubt it. After all, even the prophets who looked on from a distance were inclined to think that Elijah was “taken up” by a windstorm. I think the essence of what these boys were chanting was something like this: “Keep on going up that road!” In more contemporary terms, these young men were shouting for Elisha to “Get out of town!” These young men, like the rest of those who lived in Bethel, did not want Elisha around. They did not want to hear “the word of the Lord.”
Let me remind you that Elisha did not personally harm any one of these trouble-makers. Elisha pronounced a curse on them, but in and of itself, that is not an act of violence. By pronouncing a curse, he left judgment where it should be—in the hands of God. We are intended to conclude that the two she bears attacked the young men simply because Elisha pronounced a curse on them. This is true, but we must also see that it was God who brought about the judgment these young men deserved. If we do not like the judgment that was executed here, then we have a problem with God. I believe that God “tried these young men as adults” (in today’s legal language) and found them guilty. Thus He carried out their rightly-deserved punishment by means of the bears.
These were not innocent little boys, naively teasing a prophet in an inappropriate fashion. Elisha was not needlessly harsh, nor was God. God’s judgment was poured out on those who rebelled against God, who disobeyed His Word, and who mocked His servants, the prophets. If there was one lesson that the people of Bethel learned that day, it was that they must reverence God and His spokesmen.
There is another couple of paragraphs that provide references to God's warnings in the past to the Israelites about sending wild animals against them and their children if they refused to obey Him. If you're interested in those passages, you can check them out in the commentary.
This story got me thinking how pastors and elders of our churches may not be prophets the way Elijah and Elisha were, but they are still chosen and/or appointed by God (provided the church seeks God's will when it comes time for a new pastor/elder/deacon etc. to be chosen). We may not always agree with them, but we should always show them respect as representatives of God.
Tomorrow's reading is 2 Kings 5-8:15.
Monday, June 14, 2010
2 Kings 1:1-18; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 1 Kings 22:41-49; 2 Chronicles 20:31-37; 1 Kings 22:50; 2 Chronicles 21:1-4; 2 Kings 8:16-22; 2 Chronicles 21:5-7. For slightly less flipping read 2 Kings 1 & 3, 1 Kings 22:41-50, 2 Kings 8:16-22, 2 Chronicles 20:31-21:7.
Commentaries on today's passage
2 Kings 1 (and part of 2) - Bob Deffinbaugh
2 Kings 3 - sermons by Keathley (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth adn honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage. 2 Chronicles 18:1
Jehoram walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 21:6
Jehoshaphat was a godly king overall, but he made a few bad decisions that had huge consequences, one of which was marrying his son Jehoram to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel.
From the Life Application Study Bible
When the challenges were obvious, like the need for religious education of the people or the threat of war with a vast army, Jehoshaphat turned to God for guidance and made the right choices. His dependence on God was consistent when the odds were clearly against him. It was in depending on God for the day-to-day plans and actions that Jehoshaphat was weak. He allowed his son to marry Athaliah, the daughter of the wicked Ahab and Jezebel of Israel, who did her best to be as evil as her parents. Jehoshaphat was almost killed when, without asking God, he made an alliance with Ahab. Later, he got involved in an unwise shipbuilding venture with Ahab's son, Ahaziah - a venture that was shipwrecked by God......
We repeat Jehoshaphat's error when we relegate God to the background in the "easy" decisions of life. Then, when things get out of hand, we want him to get us out of the mess we got ourselves into. God wants us to give him not only the major decisions, but also our daily lives - the things we are most often fooled into believing we can control.
Don't we often make the same mistake?
When someone gets cancer, we pray to God for a miracle. When threatened with imminent danger, we pray for God's protection. When we have a huge life-changing decision to make, we pray for guidance.
But what about the everyday decisions? What about our day-to-day lives, the small decisions that, like Pam referenced the other day, all add up to cause a slow fade into a downward spiral? What about when we think we know what's best? What about when the answer seems obvious, especially through society's worldview?
I'm sure making a political alliance through marriage seemed like a great idea to Jehoshaphat. But it turned out to be disastrous. According to scripture, Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, turned the heart of her husband (Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram) towards evil. He even murdered every single one of his brothers. I'm guessing that that's one decision Jehoshaphat would love to have back.
But we don't often get a do-over. Even when we repent and receive forgiveness, that doesn't mean there will no longer be consequences for our sin. Obviously God can and does work good out of these horrible situations, but how much better for us to seek, trust and obey God in everything right from the beginning.
Again, let us learn from history. Let us learn from the mistakes of others. Because if we do not learn from them, we are doomed to repeat them.
Lord, we thank for Your Word. We thank You for all the many lessons You have given us to learn from the mistakes of others so we do not have to learn it ourselves the hard way. Help us to heed the warnings. Help us to take Your Word seriously, to study it, to arm ourselves so that we are prepared to do battle every day. Help us to give You control over every area of our lives. Thank You for Your faithfulness. Amen.
Tomorrow's passage: 2 Kings 2 & 4
Sunday, June 13, 2010
(I don't know how do do the condensed reading link so Tammy, you can add it here if you like. I really like using those links but don't know where you get them).
Tammy here - for less flipping read 1 Kings 22:10-40, 1 Kings 22:51-53, 2 Chronicles 18:9-20:30
I won't be able to do a post today unless I can manage to get back to it after church.
Please go ahead and post any reflections you had on the reading in the comments and they will still be there if I come back and edit to add anything. It's been a crazy busy week.
Tomorrow's readings are:
2 Kings 1:1-18; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 1 Kings 22:41-49; 2 Chronicles 20:31-37; 1 Kings 22:50; 2 Chronicles 21:1-4; 2 Kings 8:16-22; 2 Chronicles 21:5-7. For slightly less flipping read 2 Kings 1 & 3, 1 Kings 22:41-50, 2 Kings 8:16-22, 2 Chronicles 20:31-21:7
Saturday, June 12, 2010
1 Kings 21:2-3
2 Ahab said to Naboth, "Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth."3 But Naboth replied, "The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers."
It is not always easy to follow God's commands when we are tempted by gain.
Temptation. It. happens. every. day. We are constantly being tempted and challenged in our faith and our ability to follow God's desire for our lives. Standing firm on our beliefs and not wavering in our commitment to Christ in a constant choice that we need to make. I love the song "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns and the message that it has about how we don't often blatantly choose a drastic bad choice but it is a series of steps that lead us down a path that we had never intended to be on. When Ahab asks Naboth for his vineyard, Ahab offers him fair market value for the land and even offers a better one to Naboth. I wonder if Naboth considered, even if just for a moment, cashing in on the deal. The passage seems to indicate that Naboth's response was immediate but I wonder if the thought crossed Naboth's mind that he could benefit financially from selling that land for a good price. Was he tempted to disobey God's commands? Was Naboth doing well that he didn't need the extra money? Would the situation have been different if Naboth had been poor and needed the money? Regardless, Naboth made the deliberate choice to stay true to his commitment to God and to not stray from his promise.
This story did not turn out for Naboth EVEN though he did the right thing. The king whined and acted like a child and his wife orchestrated and executed a plan for Naboth that ultimately ended his life. Standing up to temptation does not always mean things will work out for us. In fact, it is rarely easy and often ends up turning up badly in the short term. Not giving into the temptation to gossip may leave you in a place where you are the one talked about. Not giving in to the temptation to steal may leave you in financial hardship. Not giving into the temptation to seek comfort in another person that is not your husband or wife could leave you feeling alone. However, when you consider the long term gain by following God's commands, it negates any short term gain. If Naboth had sold his land and made a profit it may have been a great benefit in that moment, but long term, it would have impacted his family and friends to compromise on their commitment to God and instead Naboth passed on a legacy of a faith in God that did not waver even if it took his life.
Dear Lord, You never promised us a life of luxury and ease when we decided to become a part of your family. We are constantly tempted to compromise on our beliefs and challenged to be true to our decision to follow You. It is not our intention to take small steps and to make a "slow fade" to a path that differs from Your plan but occasionally we get side tracked. Lord, You promised that You would always be there for us I pray that You will help us to not be tempted by short term gain. I pray that you will give us a long - term focus so that we can strive to follow Your plan regardless of the cost. Amen.
Tomorrow's Readings are 1 Kings 22:10-28; 2 Chronicles 18:9-27; 1 Kings 22:29-35; 2 Chronicles 18:28-34; 1 Kings 22:36-40; 1 Kings 22:51-53; 2 Chronicles 19-20:30
Friday, June 11, 2010
There are numerous commentaries available for this passage on bible.org both by Bob Deffinbaugh and J Hampton Keathley.
I absolutely love this passage! It has everything - private miracles, public miracles, doubts, wavering faith, despair, repentence, God's presence - everything!
The showdown between God and Baal is probably my favourite portion of today's reading, so I did read the commentary on this section by Bob Deffinbaugh (Keathley had about 4 sermons on this, so I didn't read them all!) and it had some excellent points.
First though, I found the conversation between Ahab and Elijah to be quite humourous.
When he (Ahab) saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals." 1 Kings 18:17-18
It reminds of my kids. One time Olivia and I were walking up some stairs side by side and she tripped and fell and angrily said "MOM! You made me fall!" Seriously? I made you fall?! Right.
And that's what this reminds me of. Like a petulant 4 yr old, Ahab is blaming Elijah for his own sins and the resulting consequences. And Elijah replies exactly like a parent would. No. You made a bad choice and are suffering the consequences of your bad decision.
Anyway, on to the showdown.
First of all, the reason this type of showdown was chosen was because Baal was supposedly the god of the weather. And yet it had not rained for over 3 yrs because God said so through His prophet Elijah. God controls the weather, not Baal. And God will prove so again in the fire showdown.
We know the story, the prophets of Baal - all 450 of them - are praying fervently for Baal to light their offering on fire. Elijah taunts them and they pray even more fervently, maniacally even - cutting themselves and pretty much going crazy trying to get their god to listen to them. In the meantime Elijah is calmly repairing the altar with 12 stones (not 10, even though the kingdom was divided), adding water on the altar 3 times, making it "impossible". Love it! There is no such thing as impossible with God. And then Elijah prays, a simple, straightforward prayer with no pomp and circumstance - and God answers, decisively! EVERYTHING is burned up. And the people react exactly as they should - they fall to their knees in worship and repentence. Elijah commands them to execute the false prophets (as the law required) and they did so.
The people were suffering the consequences of their sin. Withholding rain was one of the consequences mentioned earlier in the OT. When Elijah prayed he prayed that the Israelites would know that God was the one true God, that they would repent, and that they would know that God had brought them back to repentence. As always, God was seeking them. He never gave up on the Israelites. And He never gives up on me and you.
An interesting point the commentary brought up that I hadn't noticed before. Ahab and Solomon actually committed similar sins. The only difference was in the severity of them. Ahab married a Sidonian, so did Solomon. Ahab built an altar to his wife's foreign god, so did Solomon. Ahab worshipped this foreign god, so did Solomon.
Our actions—or more pointedly, our sins—have an impact on others. Solomon’s sin seems to have set a precedent for Ahab’s sin. Ahab’s sins certainly had an impact on the nation. The sins of a leader do impact the people he leads.
Bob Deffinbaugh also brings up prayer and some common misconceptions about prayer amongst Chrsitians.
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone in good spirits? Let him sing praises. Is anyone among you ill? Let him summon the elders of the church, and let them pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain and there was no rain on the land for three years and six months! Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land sprouted forth with a harvest James 5:13-18 (emphasis mine)
If Elijah is an example of a prayer warrior, then I would encourage you to consider the implications. Is God prompted by the number of those who pray? James tells us what Elijah exemplifies, namely that the prayer of one saint has great effectiveness. Jesus said that if two agree on anything in prayer it will be done (Matthew 18:19). Why is it that we think we have to amass large numbers of people to pray in order for God to hear and to answer us? Why is it that we place so much emphasis on ourselves, on the number of us who pray, and on the fervent manner? I fear that it is because we think we can manipulate God.
Having said this, I know that I may have upset you. What about “concerts of prayer”? What about encouraging groups of people to pray in large groups? I’m all for it, so long as we do not think that God will be impressed with our numbers, and that how we pray, or how many pray is what determines whether or not God will answer us.......
I delight to see saints gather together for prayer, and much more should be done. It is a beautiful thing for the saints of a city to gather for prayer in a large facility like a stadium, but let us not ever suppose that the prayer of one person is of little value. Elijah prayed. It was a short prayer. It was, by all appearances, not a fervent (dramatic, like the 450 prophets) prayer. But it was a prayer that was according to the will and Word of God. It only takes one such prayer, though others would surely have been blessed to participate.
And then right at the end of the commentary he said something that really struck me.
when God does intend to do something, He first pours water on it, He brings unexpected difficulties and obstacles, so that it will be more than evident that it was His doing, and not ours. Are there difficulties in your life, my friend? Maybe they are just water on the altar. What God chooses to accomplish, He often purposes to accomplish as something that is humanly impossible. As someone has said, “I love the word impossible.” (emphasis mine)
I love that phrase - water on the altar. Abraham and Sarah's age was water on the altar to God's promise that they would have a child. The Red Sea was water on the altar to the Israelites as they fled from Egypt. When Jesus learned that Lazarus was sick, He waited until he was dead - water on the altar.
Water on the altar makes it humanly impossible. Water on the altar makes it crystal clear that all the glory goes to God.
I want to be able to pray "Lord, put water on my altar that You may be glorified!"
Tomorrow's passage: 1 Kings 20:23-22:9, 2 Chronicles 18:1-8
Thursday, June 10, 2010
There are so many things that jumped out at me in today's reading.
One quick thing from near the end of the 1 Kings passage is a fulfillment of prophecy.
In Ahab's time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun. 1 Kings 16:34
Joshua 6:26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath:"Cursed before the Lord is theman who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: "At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates."
It makes me curious - did they forget about this prophecy? Did they think that it would no longer be binding because it was so long ago? Did they think God didn't really mean it? Did they think God couldn't or wouldn't do it? Did they not care? Whatever the reason, they went ahead and rebuilt Jericho despite Joshua's prophecy and they paid the price for it.
Another thing I found interesting in today's passage that will carry over as we go through the rest of the kings of Israel and Judah is that every single Israelite king was an evil king, and in general, their reigns lasted fewer years than the reigns of the good kings of Judah (Judah had evil kings too and they also experienced this same thing). God rewarded the good kings for their faithfulness to Him.
The very end of our passage introduces us to Elijah who had an incredible faith in God. This commentary has some amazing things to say from just one verse! (1 Kings 17:1)
At the end of our passage in 2 Chronicles I noticed something very impressive about King Jehoshaphat, another good king. Not only was his heart devoted to the ways of God, not only did her remove the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah - but he sent out officials to teach the people! Though the beliefs of the King are paramount in determining the direction the kingdom goes, King Jehoshaphat recognized that the people needed to be taught too in order for the worship of God to truly be kingdom-wide.
Now with all that being said, I really wanted to focus on King Asa in today's post. Mary DeMuth reminds us in this commentary that the reign of King Asa demonstrates once again how hard it is to finish well.
King Asa started out so well! When facing the mighty army of the Cushites, King Asa turned to God and God gave him the victory. Asa removed the idols from the land, he repaired the altar of the Lord, he even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother!
Asa walked with God many years. It wasn't until year thirty-five that he stopped seeking God, instead relying on a man-centered shortcut. Walking with God is a tedious marathon full of sweat and grit and a rugged determination. Running a marathon means enduring all the way to the finish line. (from above commentary)
After that initial victory Asa had peace until year 35 of his reign. During times of peace or prosperity it is easy to become complacent. It is easy to forget exactly what happened and how God delivered you and it's easy to view things through self-tinted glasses. Perhaps Asa started to give himself and his strategic military thinking credit for his previous victory. Perhaps he just became complacent during those years of peace and instead of working on his relationship with God it drifted to the wayside and became irrelevant to his life, so that his first instinct when faced with new adversity was not to turn to God, but to rely on himself.
And it's not that he technically couldn't do it himself. In fact, his strategy worked.
And often, we fool ourselves the same way.
In John Piper's excellent sermon on Asa's Folly he says...
So many times when we rely on ourselves and our own resources, things seem to go well for a season. But things are not well when we have stopped hoping in God and started hoping in what man can do. We miss tremendous blessings and we bring unnecessary hardship on ourselves. Look at the blessing Asa missed in verse 7b: "Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you." God would not only have protected Asa from Baasha and Israel, he would given the entire Syrian army into the hand of Asa. But Asa threw it away by trusting in money and intrigue instead of God.
And look at the hardship that will now come into his peaceful life. Verse 9b: "You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars." Now we know from other Scriptures (e.g., Romans 8:28) that if we repent after such unbelief, God will even take the chastisements of hardship and turn them for our good, and they will be fatherly discipline and not judicial condemnation. But it seems that Asa never did that. He carried his folly with him to the grave.
Did you catch how huge the repercussions were for Asa relying on self instead of on God?
He missed out on God's blessing and he didn't even know it. Not only would God have delivered him from Baasha, he would have given him Syria as well!
Not only did he miss out on God's blessing, he experienced God's discipline which unfortunately did not result in Asa's repentence.
John Piper describes two reasons why this was folly.
So the first reason Asa's trust in money and military might and political alliances and human physicians was folly is because God had made it so clear early in Asa's reign that he would do great things for him if he would simply trust him and not forsake him. Asa's failure to rely on God was folly because God had been so amazingly good to him and helped him in the past simply for crying out and trusting.
It is the same with us. God has proven to us time and time again that He is good to us and has helped us in the past for simply crying out and trusting. He has! And yet still my first instinct is not always to go to God for help. So many times our instincts are to do what we can on our own first and then go to God for help. But that is not how it should be.
Yes, we can often experience what we think of as success by relying on our own strength. But when we do so, we are missing out on the blessings of God and we don't even know it! God wants us to rely on Him, to hope in Him in every single area of our lives, both big and small, with peace, freedom, courage and power!
The second reason given in the text for why Asa's reliance on man was folly is that the very nature of God is that he is eager to show his power on behalf of people who trust him. (from John Piper's sermon)
For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a NIV
For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. NASB
The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. NLT
That verse is simply awesome. As John Piper says
This is not something God does on the weekends. It is not something he does just in church or holy places. It's not his hobby or after-hours recreation. This is what God is doing all the time everywhere (cf. Zechariah 4:10). God's eyes are everywhere always, so that he never misses one single opportunity any time, anywhere to demonstrate his power on behalf of weak people who rely on him and not man. This is why Asa's unbelief was folly.(emphasis mine)
May we rely on God more and more in every single aspect of our lives. In doing so, we will be strengthened by His power. And we will experience God's blessings in ways we never could have imagined.
Tomorrow's passage: 1 Kings 17:8-20:22 (look - no flipping!)
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
God punished Solomon for worshipping other gods, but He kept his promise not to take away the kingdom until after his death. And it sure didn't take long after Solomon's death for things to spiral downhill fast!
The kingdom is immediately divided. Jeroboam doesn't listen to God's earlier promise...
If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do waht is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. 1 Kings 11:38
Jeroboam is obviously not a wise king. After seeing God take 10/12ths of the kingdom from Solomon's line, after hearing from God's prophet that the reason for this is directly due to Solomon's disobedience, after hearing God's promise of an amazing kingship as a reward for faithfulness - what would be the smart response? Obedience and faithfulness to God of course! What was Jeroboam's actual response? To turn away from God and become the first of many evil kings of Israel. What an absolutely foolish decision!
And he is not alone.
Rehoboam obviously did not listen to the wisdom given him by his father King Solomon, and apparrently did not read much of the Proverbs filled with wise advice specifically for him. He listens to poor advice of his peers (likely because they said what he wanted them to say, and they were his friends) over the wise advise of his father's counsellors. And within only 5 years of King Solomon's death, the priceless pieces of the temple are looted. How far the mighty can fall how quickly! And it just breaks my heart. All the work, all the previous obedience and faithfulness - destroyed so quickly by hearts turned away from God, by one great king not finishing well, and the next starting so poorly. 5 years!
Then the prophet of God falls for a lie and disobeys the very Word of God he personally heard, and paid for it with his life.
There is no end to the foolish decisions in these chapters!
Until finally, with a breath of fresh air, we read about King Asa who wholeheartedly served the Lord, who publicly proclaimed his devotion to God. And, surprise surprise, experienced incredible successes and victories! At least for the first 35 years. More bad news to come tomorrow.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how things work for the kings of Israel. Faithfulness to God equals victories, wealth, success, prosperity of every kind! And rebellion leads to kingdoms divided, temples looted, death, disaster of every kind! And yet, so many choose rebellion. Why?! It just makes you want to shake sense into them, slap them upside the head, anything to wake them up and see the destructive consequences their foolish choices will result in.
We can't do that. We can't change history. But we can learn from their mistakes. The only question is - will we?
Tomorrow's passage: 1 Kings 15:16-22, 2 Chronicles 16:1-10, 1 Kings 16:1-34, 15:23-24, 2 Chronicles 16:11-17:19, 1 Kings 17:1-7. For less flipping read 1 Kings 15:16-24, 16-17:7, 2 Chronicles 16-17:19.