4/23/16 “Preparing My Heart to Seek the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 12-14)

“…Now Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king; and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. His mother's name was Naamah, an Ammonitess. And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:13-14).

Rehoboam had become king following the death of King Solomon. His kingdom was immediately divided as 10 of the 12 tribes over which his father had ruled, refused to submit to his reign as he rejected the wise advice of the elders and heeded the foolish advice of those his peers concerning how he should react to some distresses the people had asked him to take into consideration (2 Chronicles 10:1-19). As the opening verses above indicate, Rehoboam’s failure as a leader happened because he had failed to “prepare his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:13-14).

Instead of being proactive and “preparing his heart to seek the Lord”, we see Rehoboam having to “react” to different predicaments he faced. First, following the division of the kingdom, Rehoboam attempts to send his tax collector to the northern kingdom of Israel to collect taxes from the rebellious tribes which leads to the death of his revenue man (2 Chronicles 10:18-19). Next, Rehoboam tries to unite his kingdom by force by going out to war against the northern kingdom of Israel. God sends his prophet Shemiah to rebuke Rehoboam for attempting to do this and Rehoboam backs down (2 Chronicles 11:1-4). After God blesses Rehoboam by having all the Levites from the northern kingdom and all those from the tribes of Israel who sought after God come and join Rehoboam and strengthen his kingdom (2 Chronicles 11:13-17), Rehoboam again finds himself in trouble as he forsakes God’s law. As a result of this, God sends Shishak, king of Egypt, to threaten Jerusalem because “they had transgressed against the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:1-2).

Following God’s sending Shemiah the prophet once again to rebuke Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah for forsaking God, we read, “So the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, ‘The Lord is righteous’. Now when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, ‘They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless they will be his servants, that they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations’" (2 Chronicles 12:6-8).

It is interesting that God only granted Rehoboam “some deliverance” from the troubles he faced (2 Chronicles 12:7). Although Jerusalem would not be destroyed by the king of Egypt, Rehoboam and Judah would still have to serve Shishak, the king of Egypt in order, as God said, “they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations” (2 Chronicles 12:8).

Why did God do all of this? I believe it goes back to the fact that Rehoboam failed to “prepare his heart to seek after God” (2 Chronicles 12:14). Because Rehoboam failed to do this, God would have to use chastisement as a way to teach Rehoboam to the importance of submitting to Lord (cf. Proverbs 3:11-12). Rehoboam would have to learn “the hard way” about the importance of seeking after God. Today, as I begin my day, I will strive to learn from the example of Rehoboam. Rather than learning “the hard way”, I will “prepare my heart to seek after the Lord”!

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 119:67-68).

4/22/16 “A Word Not Fitly Spoken” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 9-11)

“Then the king answered them roughly. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, ‘My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ So the king did not listen to the people…” (2 Chronicles 10:13-15).

Following the death of King Solomon, all Israel gathers together to the city of Shechem to make Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the next king of Israel (2 Chronicles 10:1). This had the potential to be a joyous occasion as the children of God were moving forward with a new ruler. However, the people of Israel had a request of Rehoboam: “"Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you" (2 Chronicles 10:4). The people show they are more than willing to serve Rehoboam, but they were asking him to show them some consideration as he begins his reign.

Rehoboam tells them to come back to him in 3 days. During this time, he consults with the elders who served his father King Solomon. The elders encourage him to show kindness to the people and “speak good words to them” and the people will serve him forever. However, Rehoboam rejects this advice and instead chooses to consult with the young men who had grown up with him (2 Chronicles 10:5-8). At this time in his life Rehoboam was 41 years old (1 Kings 14:21). The young men who grew up with Rehoboam gave him the following advice in how to answer the people of God: "Thus you should speak to the people who have spoken to you, saying, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us'--thus you shall say to them: 'My little finger shall be thicker than my father's waist! And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!' "(2 Chronicles 10:10-11).

Sadly, Rehoboam, like many people do today, heeds the foolish advice of the young men who grew up with him instead of following the wise advice of his elders. When the people come back after the 3 day waiting period, Rehoboam “answered them roughly” and failed to “listen to the people” (2 Chronicles 10:12-15). As a result when the nation of Israel, with the exception of the tribe of Judah, saw that the king did not “listen to them”, they rebel against Rehoboam and refuse to serve him as their king. From this point forward the kingdom will be divided into the nations of Israel and Judah with only Judah serving Rehoboam and his descendants as their king (2 Chronicles 10:16-19).

As I consider this chapter of the Scriptures, I am reminded of the damage that can be done with my tongue. James writes, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 4:6-8). Rehoboam’s tongue set on fire the nation of Israel by his failure to listen to the people, choose his words carefully, and show kindness to the people of God.

Today, I realize the great damage I can do with my tongue. I will strive to follow the wise advice of James: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). I rejoice that God has given me a tongue that I may be able to speak, but I am more than aware I need to show great responsibility with how I use it!

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

4/21/16 “Seeking God’s Face” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 6-8)

“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’” (2 Chronicles 7:12-14).

In regard to the background of the above verses, Solomon had just finished building God’s temple and called a great assembly of the leaders of Israel to Jerusalem to bring the Ark of the Covenant into the temple (2 Chronicles 5:1-3). After the ark is brought into the temple, God’s glory fills the temple, and Solomon speaks to the assembly and proclaims God’s faithfulness to keep the promises which He made to Israel (2 Chronicles 5:4-6:11). Then in the presence of all the people, Solomon calls upon God in prayer. As he finishes his prayer Solomon says, “Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place. Now therefore, Arise, O Lord God, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. Let Your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let Your saints rejoice in goodness. O Lord God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; remember the mercies of Your servant David” (2 Chronicles 6:40-42).

Now all of the people witness an awesome sight: “When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). God had accepted Solomon’s prayer and the sacrifices of the people. What an awesome sight this must have been to behold on that day!

God wasn’t done showing His approval. As the opening verses above indicate, God appears to Solomon by night saying He had heard Solomon’s prayer and chosen this special place (i.e. the temple) for Himself as a place for sacrifice (2 Chronicles 7:12). Moreover, God understood the weaknesses of His people. Even though they had performed this great gesture in building God a house and made great sacrifices to Him that day, He knew they would struggle with sin. When they fell into sin, God would try to gain their attention to the error of their ways by: (1) causing it not to rain, (2) causing insects to devour the land, and (3) sending pestilence among the people (2 Chronicles 7:13). God did this because He loved His people and wanted them to turn back to Him and restore their relationship with Him by: (1) humbling themselves, (2) praying and seeking His face, and (3) repenting of their wicked ways. If they did this God assured them He would: (1) hear them, (2) forgive them, and (3) heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

As I think about this awesome occasion where God spoke to Solomon that night, I am struck by God’s love, understanding, grace and mercy He shows to His people. He earnestly desire for His people to “seek His face”. As I think about my loved ones, it is nice to “text” them and speak to them on the phone, but it is better to see them face to face and be able to embrace them! God wants His people not only to seek Him in the text of His Word by studying the Bible, or speak to Him by calling upon Him in prayer, but He wants them to pursue Him even more by “seeking His face”. Today, I rejoice in the great and awesome God I serve and will “seek His face”!

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

4/20/16 “Who Am I that I Should Serve the Lord?” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 2-5)

“Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the Lord my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts of the Lord our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel. And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him?” (2 Chronicles 2:4-6)

These words were spoken by King Solomon to Hiram, king of Tyre, as Solomon begins the great work of building the house of God. Solomon was requesting from him not only some additional materials for the building of the temple, but also a man who was skillful in working with gold, silver, bronze, etc. (2 Chronicles 2:7-9). Hiram will gladly send such a skilled man and also the materials which Solomon has requested. Hiram then adds, “Because the Lord loves His people, He has made you king over them” (2 Chronicles 2:11).

In his request to Hiram Solomon makes an interesting statement: “Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him?” (2 Chronicles 2:6). Solomon was now ruling on the throne of the great nation of Israel. He served as the king over God’s people. Yet, he realized how completely undeserving he was to build God a temple. He realized the heavens above could not contain God how much less this temple he was building. However, the temple would be a place where God’s people could worship Him and “burn sacrifice to Him” (2 Chronicles 2:6).

As I consider these words of Solomon, I am struck by how honored Solomon felt to be able to serve God and build a temple for God. Although Solomon was determined that the temple he was making was going to be great because “God is greater than all the gods” (2 Chronicles 2:5), Solomon did not “pat himself on the back” for his carrying out this great work. He did not boast about how much he was doing for God, but instead felt greatly humbled that he was honored to be the one to be privileged to build the temple of the Lord.

How do I view my service to God? Am I like the Pharisee who said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:11-12)? As much as I hate to admit it, if you are like me and serve in a number of areas in your local church, it is very tempting to boast about how much we do to serve the Lord. It is easy to forget the great privilege it is to serve God and instead to “pat ourselves on the back” and boast like the Pharisee. May God guard our hearts from this temptation!

Instead, like Solomon may we remember what a great honor it is to be able to have a part to play in serving the Almighty God Who made the universe! May we remember the words of Christ, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'" (Luke 17:10). Today, I will strive to remember what a great privilege it is to be able to serve Jehovah, Who is greater than all the gods!

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:3-5).

4/19/16 “Remembering From Whom Our Blessings Come” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 29-2 Chronicles 1)

“Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:12-14).

David had brought all the leaders of Israel together to unite them to follow his son Solomon who was to become the next king of Israel. David then hands over to Solomon the plans for the temple and the materials with which to build the temple (1 Chronicles 28:11-19). He tells Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God--my God--will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 28:20).

In addition, David gave out of his own personal treasures to the work of building the Lord’s temple. He then encourages others to give and says, “Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” In response, the people gave generously towards the work of the house of God (1 Chronicles 29:6-8). “Then the people rejoiced, for they had offered willingly, because with a loyal heart they had offered willingly to the Lord; and King David also rejoiced greatly” (1 Chronicles 29:9).

How did David view all these riches? Did these things BELONG to him or the people? No, he viewed all this wealth as belonging to God. “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all” (1 Chronicles 29:11). David remembered from where he and Israel had come and where God had taken them. All that they now had in their current possession was because God had so blessed them: “For we are aliens and pilgrims before You, as were all our fathers; Our days on earth are as a shadow, and without hope. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own” (1 Chronicles 29:15-16).

David had a proper view of the things which were in his possession. Although he was the wealthy and powerful king of Israel, he did not feel like the things under his control belonged to him. He viewed them as belonging to God and when he gave out of his own personal treasure to the work of the building of the house of God, he was simply giving back to God what rightfully belonged to God: “…For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14).

As I consider David’s words on this occasion, I ask myself, “How do I view the things which are in my possession?” Are they mine? Did I “earn” them because of my hard work? Do I deserve them or am I entitlement to them? Today, I rejoice that I am privileged to live in a land where I enjoy a high standard of living. I have good health, the ability to work at a nice job, and do my part in providing for my family. I have been blessed with a lot of material goods which I have accumulated over the years. I enjoy all of these things because God has so blessed me. It is not because I “earned it”, “deserved it” or am “entitled to it”. May God help me to keep a proper perspective of my possessions and may I never forget from where my blessings come!

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

4/18/16 “United For a Great Cause” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 25-28)

“Now David assembled at Jerusalem all the leaders of Israel: the officers of the tribes and the captains of the divisions who served the king, the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, and the stewards over all the substance and possessions of the king and of his sons, with the officials, the valiant men, and all the mighty men of valor. Then King David rose to his feet and said, "Hear me, my brethren and my people: I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made preparations to build it” (1 Chronicles 28:1-2).

As David’s kingdom comes to a close, he makes preparations to turn the reigns of his kingdom over to his son Solomon. He gathers the leaders of Israel together (1 Chronicles 23:1-2). The writer of Chronicles then goes into great detail writing the divisions of the Levites, the divisions of those skilled men who would prophesy during worship, the divisions of the gatekeepers, the listing those who served as treasurers, the listing of those who served as officials, the divisions of those who served as captains in the army, the officials who served as leaders over the various tribes of Israel, and the leaders of who served King David’s himself in various ways (1 Chronicles 23:1-27:34).

Why would the chronicler spend so much time and detail describing all of these people? Each one had an important service which they performed for the kingdom. Each one had served David well. But now David was going away. David’s son Solomon was going to be taking over as king. As the opening verses above indicate, David had called all these officials together because he wants to unite them to continue to follow his son Solomon so that nothing would hinder the great purpose of building the temple of God (1 Chronicles 28:1).

As David stands before this great audience of people, he reminds them of what God said to him: “Now He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father’” (1 Chronicles 28:6). He then charges Solomon before all these people saying, “Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it" (1 Chronicles 28:10).

As I consider these verses, I appreciate the great, godly leader David was. David was well aware of how easily it is during periods of leadership transition for people to become divided and lose their focus from accomplishing the task at hand. Even though he was not going to be allowed to build the temple himself, David wanted to do all he could to see that God’s purposes for His people were accomplished. He made great effort to unite God’s people to accomplish a great task as they were about to undergo a period of great transition as David passed the reigns of his kingdom to Solomon.

Today, the church is given the great task of taking the gospel message to the whole world (Mark 16:15-16) and of encouraging one other to continue in the faith (Ephesians 4:11-16). Yet, it is easy for divisions to occur within a church which hinder us from accomplishing these great tasks (1 Corinthians 1:10). May God give us more godly leaders who understand the importance of uniting God’s people to stay focused on accomplishing God’s purposes! I will strive to dwell with my brethren in a spirit of unity, flee from those things which create divisions among God’s people, and be about doing God’s work for me!

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

4/17/16 “Content with My State?” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 22-24)

“Now David said, ‘Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.’ So David made abundant preparations before his death. Then he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 22:5-6).

Because of His love for God, David desired to build a house for God. However, God did not want David to do this. David spoke to his son Solomon about this. “And David said to Solomon: ‘My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the Lord my God; but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever” ' ” (1 Chronicles 22:7-10).

At this point in his life, David had broadened the borders of his kingdom and subdued many nations under his feet. He was a powerful king of a powerful nation. Yet, he was not so powerful that he was unwilling to submit himself to the authority of God. He is an example of meekness (i.e. strength under control). Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Although he wanted to build God a house, God did not want him to because he had shed much blood during his lifetime. Rather than fight against God’s Will for him, David chose to accept God’s Will for him and he contented himself with living within the boundaries God had established for him. God did not want David to build the temple, but the Lord did allow David to make preparations for the building of the temple and David went through extensive lengths to prepare for the building of the temple. He raised money, gathered materials, put together a work force, organized the priest into divisions, and encouraged the current leaders to help Solomon build the temple (1 Chronicles 22:14-24:31). David made up his mind that he would do his best to fulfill God’s role for him!

As I reflect about David’s reaction to God’s role for him in not allowing him to build the temple, I ask myself, “Am I content with God’s role for me?” In my physical family do I seek to fulfill my role to the best of my ability as a father, husband, mother, wife, parent, child, brother or sister? Am I content with my role in my church family or do I go about creating divisions because I want to have my way? As a man or woman am I content with the roles God has given me and to live within the boundaries of His Will for me (cf. Genesis 3:16-19; 1 Timothy 2:8-15)?

The apostle Paul encourages us to fulfill our roles to the utmost of our abilities: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24). Today, I will rejoice in the roles God has given to me. I will strive to follow David’s example of being content in whatever state I find myself and fulfill my roles to the glory of God!

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

4/16/16 “An Interesting View of Our Spiritual Warfare” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 18-21)

“Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and to the leaders of the people, ‘Go, number Israel from Beersheba to Dan, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it.’” (1 Chronicles 21:1-2).

King David had been reigning in Israel for years. God had richly blessed him and preserved him wherever he went. Now his heart is moved to have his general Joab go an take a census of the people to see how many men there would be who could go to war for Israel. Joab then brings back a report showing there were 1,300,000 who were “valiant men who drew the sword” (2 Samuel 24:9).

What is interesting is why David did this? As we consider from the Scriptures why he did this, we get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes as we are engaged in our own spiritual warfare which we wage against Satan and his allies (2 Timothy 2:4). The inspired author of Chronicles mentions that it was Satan who “stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). However, the writer of 2 Samuel tells us that that God moved David to numbered Israel because, “the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel” (2 Samuel 24:1). So the Bible describes both God and Satan having a part to play in David’s choosing to number Israel.

It is interesting to compare these events with what happened in the 1st 2 chapter of the book of Job as we see Satan going before God to get permission to afflict Job. Each time God set boundaries on what he would allow Satan to do to Job. The first time, God would allow Satan to “touch all” that Job had, but he could not “lay a hand” on Job himself (Job 1:12). The second time, God allowed Satan to afflict Job’s body, but Satan was told to “spare his life” (Job 2:6).

Whose fault was it that David numbered Israel? Actually, it was David’s fault! Because God was angry with Israel, He “allowed” Satan to tempt David to number Israel. However, although Satan tempted David, which God allowed him to do, David still had the power to choose not to give into the temptation (James 1:13-15). King David succumbed to this temptation because he had begun to trust in the power of his army instead of the power of God to deliver him from his enemies.

Following his receiving word of how many in Israel could serve in the army, we read: “And David's heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly’" (2 Samuel 24:10). God would punish Israel by sending His angel which resulted in the death of 70,000 people, but He also restrained the angel and stopped him from killing more. He also gave David an opportunity to repent and offer his sacrifice to God for his sin (1 Chronicles 21:14-15, 18-27). Thus in God’s infinite wisdom He accomplished His purposes to punish Israel’s sin for which He was angry with them, did not take away David’s freedom to make his own choices, and provided a way for redemption for David and Israel.

As I consider this behind the scenes look of what goes on behind the scenes of my own spiritual warfare, I am awed by the power and wisdom of God. I am also reminded of how Satan continually probes for opportunities to lead me astray. Today I will strive to cling to God’s hand and look to Him in faith as I war against my adversary, the devil.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

4/15/16 “The Blessing of Consulting God about the Proper Order” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 15-17)

“He said to them, ‘You are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order’" (1 Chronicles 15:12-13).

These words were spoken by King David following the great disaster that occurred the first time David tried to have the ark of God carried to Jerusalem. During this first time, David had the ark of God transported on a cart driven by Uzzah and Ahio (2 Samuel 6:1-5). God had not authorized the ark of God to be transported in this manner. As a result, when the oxen stumbled and Uzzah took hold of the ark of God to stabilize it, God’s anger was aroused as He struck Uzzah so that he died (2 Samuel 6:6-7). Following this David became angry and afraid (2 Samuel 6:8-9). This should teach us that there are negative consequences when we fail to fear God by not respecting God enough to seek how He wants us to serve Him and follow His proper order.

To King David’s credit, he did not remain angry. He decided to find out how God wanted the ark of God to be transported. God had specifically commanded that the ark of God was to be transported by having the priest carry it on their shoulders using poles (Exodus 25:14). As the opening verses above indicate, once David found out the proper way to carry the ark of God, he called the priests unto himself, told them what to do. Then we read, “And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 15:15). The ark of God is brought to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:16-28).

It is interested to note the great joy that David now feels following these events. God’s people went down to get the ark of God and brought it up to Jerusalem “with joy” (1 Chronicles 15:25). The people sang with “resounding joy” (1 Chronicles 15:16). As the ark of God is brought into Jerusalem, David “appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel” (1 Chronicles 16:4). David then composes a psalm and delivers it into the hand of Asaph and his brethren to thank the Lord: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!” (1 Chronicles 16:8-10). There is great joy to be had when we follow God’s proper order!

As I read these events, it serves as yet another reminder of why David is described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Although David had made a mistake earlier by not following God’s Word on how to transport the ark of God, David repented and sought to find out how God wanted the ark of God to be moved. As the powerful King of Israel, David was humble enough to submit himself to the Will of God. When he followed God’s Way, David’s anger over the tragedy that had happened to Uzzah was removed and his heart was filled with great joy!

Today, I will strive to consult God’s Will for how He wants me to worship Him. I will not try to come up with my own ideas of how to serve God. I will submit my will to His Will and let His joy fill my life!

“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods” (1 Chronicles 16:23-25).

4/14/16 “Understanding the Times” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 11-14)

“For at that time they came to David day by day to help him, until it was a great army, like the army of God… of the sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command” (1 Chronicles 12:22, 32).

Following the death of King Saul, David comes to the throne. However, not all Israel followed David at this point. Saul’s son Ishbosheth continued to reign over the majority of Israel for 2 years. During this time only the tribe of Judah followed David (2 Samuel 2:10-11). There was a long war civil war during this time between those who followed Ishbosheth and those who followed David. The followers of David grew stronger while Ishbosheth and his allies became weaker (2 Samuel 3:1).

The 12th chapter of 1 Chronicles describes how people began to leave Ishbosheth in droves and come over to follow David. As the opening verses above indicate, this continued to happen until the followers of David became a “great army” (1 Chronicles 12:22). The inspired author summarizes why these various individuals came over to David’s side: “All these men of war, who could keep ranks, came to Hebron with a loyal heart, to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest of Israel were of one mind to make David king” (1 Chronicles 12:38).

Again, as the opening verses indicate, among those who came over to David’s side were men of the tribe of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). While others who came over to David were “mighty men of valor” and “captains in the army” and were noted for the abilities to fight on the battlefield (1 Chronicles 12:21), these men of Issachar were noted for their ability to discern the times in which they lived. They were able to recognize that God had anointed David to be king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13) and that now was the appropriate time to unite all Israel together to make David the king over the whole nation. It was important to David’s success that he have such men among his followers who had “understanding of the times” and to “know what Israel ought to do”

As I consider these men of Issachar, I ask, “Do we not need such people in the Lord’s church today?” It is one thing to know what the Bible says; it is another to know how to go about implementing those godly instructions into everyday living today. For example, the Bible speaks about Paul preaching till midnight (Acts 20:7). Would it be wise to encourage our preachers to preach 3 or 4 hour lessons in a day and age in which most people would struggle to remain focused for 30 minutes (i.e. the average length of a TV sitcom). Then again, how should we go about trying to reach the lost in an age where people are becomingly increasingly disconnected from each other? Should we go out and knock on doors or should we try to use technology (e.g. such as Facebook) to try to get the message of God across?

I am not suggesting we should “water down” any of the messages from God’s Word, but we do need to understand the times in which we live. The methods and techniques the church might have used in the 1950’s and 1960’s may not be very effective today. May God give us more people in the church who are like these men of Issachar who have “understanding of the times” and to know what we should do. Like those of David’s day, such will be a great blessing to the Lord’s church today! I will strive to follow God and understand the times in which I live as I apply His Word to my life!

“My son, let them not depart from your eyes-- Keep sound wisdom and discretion” (Proverbs 3:21).

4/13/16“The Death of the Unfaithful” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 8-10)

“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).

After describing the descendants of the various tribes of Israel in the first nine chapters of the book of 1st Chronicles, the inspired author now turns his attention to the first kings of Israel. Whereas the book of 1st Samuel describes King Saul’s reign over 21 chapters, the chronicler only devotes one chapter to Saul’s reign and focuses solely upon the final days of Saul as dies in battle at Mount Gilboa in a battle with the Philistines (1 Chronicles 10:1-10).

As mentioned in the opening verses above, the writer of 1st Chronicles makes it perfectly clear why Saul died. He died “for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). He then describes in what ways Saul had been unfaithful.

First, Saul had been unfaithful to “keep the word of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13). At the very beginning of Saul’s reign Samuel had told Saul to wait for him and Samuel would come and offer sacrifices to the Lord. Instead, Saul grew impatient and offered the sacrifices himself (1 Samuel 10:8; 13:8-14). On another occasion God, through the prophet Samuel, told Saul to utterly destroy all the Amalekites and their possessions. However, Saul chose to spare Agag their king and the best of the animals of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:2-3, 12-28). Saul was unfaithful because he refused to follow God’s commands!

Saul was also unfaithful because he “consulted a medium for guidance”, but “he did not inquire of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Before the eve of the battle against the Philistines in which he would lose his life, Saul was greatly afraid and troubled. King Saul then consulted a spiritualist, a medium, for guidance as to what he should do (1 Samuel 28:8-19). Saul’s failure to humble himself before God and seek God’s guidance and direction in his life was another way he had been unfaithful.

The life of Saul is a very sad one. His kingdom had started out so promising as he had been anointed by the prophet Samuel and blessed by God to lead the people of God (1 Samuel 10:1). However because of his unfaithfulness to follow God’s commands to him, God told Saul that he would tear the kingdom from him (1 Samuel 13:13-14; 15:27-29). Rather than accept God’s judgment upon him regarding the kingdom, Saul spent the rest of his life fighting against God’s Will for him as his soul was filled with distress and his heart was filled with jealousy over David who would succeed him (1 Samuel 16:14; 18:8-9). Saul would spend the majority of the 40 years of his reign pursuing David all over the countryside trying to kill David in his jealous rage.

As I think about Saul, I surely do not want to follow his example. I do not want to die the death of the unfaithful. I rejoice that God has not left me to guide myself in life. He lovingly gives me direction because He made me and knows what is best for me. I will strive to seek His guidance and heed His commands for me in my life. “Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah!”

“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12)

4/12/16 “Tragedy Has Come Upon My House” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 5-7)

“Then Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. And when he went in to his wife, she conceived and bore a son; and he called his name Beriah, because tragedy had come upon his house” (1 Chronicles 7:22-23).

The beginning of the book of Chronicles lists the descendants of the various tribes of Israel. The 7th chapter of Chronicles describes the descendants of Ephraim, a grandson of Jacob, who made up one of the 12 tribes of Israel. However, tragedy had fallen upon Ephraim as the men of Gath had killed his descendants in order to take away their cattle (1 Chronicles 7:20-21). Understandably, Ephraim mourned many days over this tragedy (1 Chronicles 7:22). After his brethren came to comfort him, Ephraim and his wife were blessed with the birth of another son (1 Chronicles 7:23).

However, what is interesting is what Ephraim and his wife chose to name this newborn son. Ephraim called the name of this child “Beriah” which means “in tragedy” because tragedy had come upon his house. It is interesting that rather than rejoice in the future as God had blessed Ephraim with another child, Ephraim chose to dwell on the tragedy of the past and so named his newborn son.

It is understandable and appropriate that Ephraim and his wife would grieve over the loss of their family from the tragedy which happened to them. Grief is a natural part of the human experience and it is appropriate and essential to allow ourselves to grieve and pour out the pain we feel over the loss of loved ones. Jesus understood grief. “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with GRIEF (emp. Mine), and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3). The apostle Paul encourages appropriate grieving as he writes, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

The concern with Ephraim and his wife was not only did they appropriately pour out their grief for a time following the loss of their descendants, but they let that grief begin to dominate their lives as is seen in the naming of their newborn son Beriah. They begin to dwell on their grief rather than allow themselves to experience joy as in the birth of another child.

Following the rebuking of a young man who had sinned and his subsequent repentance, the apostle Paul urged the Christians at the church at Corinth to forgive him and reaffirm their love for him lest he be “swallowed up with too much sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:7). Ephraim and his wife were in danger of being “swallowed up with too much sorrow over the tragedy which had earlier befallen their family.

As I think about this interesting account of Ephraim and his wife I have to consider: Do I tend to dwell on the tragedies of the past or rejoice in the hope of the future? Am I in danger of being “swallowed up with too much sorrow” over the tragedies of the past or do I allow myself to pour out my grief for a time, but then cling to God’s hand and look forward to the future opportunities that await me?

It is interesting that later in the same passage above, one of Ephraim’s descendants would be Joshua, the son of Nun, who would lead God’s people into the Promised Land (1 Chronicles 7:27). There was a great blessing awaiting Ephraim in the future. One of his descendants would become one of Israel’s greatest leaders. Today, I will choose not to be “swallowed up with much sorrow”, but we eagerly embrace the future and the joyful opportunities that God will offer to me!

“Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!" (Lamentations 3:22-24).

4/11/16 “May I Not Cause Pain!” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 1-4)

“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain." And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).

As the writer of the book of first Chronicles lists those among the descendants of Judah, the son of Israel, he describes one whose name was Jabez. His mother called his name “Jabez” which means, “He will cause pain”. She did this because in much pain she bore him (1 Chronicles 4:9). She attached this label to him thinking that he would not only cause pain to her during childbirth, but also he would bring pain to others as well! Her choice for his name certainly did not help his self-esteem!

However, Jabez did not wish to live up to his name. He did not want to be known as one who caused pain to others. Instead, he desired to be more “honorable” (1 Chronicles 4:9). He prays to God and petitions God to bless him, enlarge his territory, for God’s hand to be with him, and for God to keep him from evil. He makes these requests of God because as he says, his fervent desire is, “that I may not cause pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:10).

 As I consider his prayer, I ask myself, “Do I strive to follow his example and not cause pain to others?” Do you know of people who always seem to be in the midst of a lot of “drama”. In other words they always seem to be upset and something or someone. Instead of love, joy and peace filling their lives, their lives all full of hate, anger, and fighting. Because of this, not only do they cause a lot of pain in their own lives, but they cause a lot of pain to the lives of others as well as they engage in gossip, backbiting, and complaining.

The church at Corinth was filled with many who had given into the temptation to have a divisive spirit and who caused pain to others. The apostle Paul pleaded with them to rise above this and to strive to have unity among themselves: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

On the other hand, Jesus spoke to his disciples about how they should not cause pain to others. Christ said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). King David, wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

The prayer of Jabez teaches me that in whatever circumstances I may find myself, I do not have to act in a way that causes pain to others. Jabez found himself born to a woman who expected he was going to cause pain to others. Jabez could have resigned himself to fulfilling her expectations of him since she had so named him. Instead, he chose to be “more honorable” and petitioned God to guide his life so he would not cause pain to others. Today, I rejoice that when others around me engage in gossip, backbiting, and complaining and cause pain to others, God has given me the power to choose to not engage in such divisive activity. Like Jabez, I will strive to “not cause pain”!

“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way” (Romans 14:13).

4/10/16 “God’s Anger is but for a Moment, His Favor Is For Life” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 23-25)

“Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which the Lord would not pardon” (2 Kings 24:3-4).

The book of 2 Kings closes with one of the saddest pictures in all the Scriptures. The Babylonians have come up and attacked Jerusalem and carried away its people to Babylon and destroyed the buildings and walls around Jerusalem. Regarding Nebuzaradan, a servant of the king of Babylon it is said, “He burned the house of the Lord and the king's house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around” (2 Kings 25-9-10). As the book of 2 Kings begins to close, God’s people are suffering and their city lay in ruins.

Why had all this happened? As the opening verses above indicate, God was removing His people from His sight because of their sins. King Manasseh, who had reigned years before, had committed great sin and filled the city with “innocent blood” (2 Kings 24:3-4). God would not pardon this sin, but would execute punishment for this sin. God was angry and it was time for His people to experience His wrath. “For because of the anger of the Lord this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, that He finally cast them out from His presence…” (2 Kings 24:20).

However, less we be filled with exceedingly great sorrow at reading these things, the book of 2 Kings concludes in a very interesting way. Notice the final 4 verses of the book: “Now it came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He spoke kindly to him, and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin changed from his prison garments, and he ate bread regularly before the king all the days of his life. And as for his provisions, there was a regular ration given him by the king, a portion for each day, all the days of his life” (2 Kings 25:27-30).

The book concludes with the king of Babylon bringing Jehoiachin, one of the former kings of Judah, out of prison, sitting him at his table, clothing him, and feeding him well for the rest of his life. The book ends with a message of better days coming for God’s people. Yes, God had been very angry with His people and was punishing them for their sins. However, God also made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would bless the whole world through one who would come through their seed (i.e. Jesus Christ). God’s favor was still going to be upon His people as He would see that this promise was fulfilled.

As I consider these things, I shudder at the thought of God’s wrath coming upon our country because of all the innocent blood (e.g. the practice of abortion) which has been shed in our land and all the evil our nation practices. However, I know God’s favor still rests upon those who seek to remain faithful in the midst of all the evil which surrounds us. Today, I rejoice that, though I am sure God is angry with the sins of our nation, His favor still rests upon those who strive to do His Will!

“For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

4/9/16 “Casting Your Care upon the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 19-22)

“And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: "O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God” (2 Kings 19:14-16).

King Hezekiah ruled the Judah during the time of the Assyrian takeover of the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:6-7; 18:1-2). Hezekiah was a godly king who served God and strove to remove idolatry from the southern kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 18:3-4). God’s Word testifies to his faithfulness to God: “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:5-6).

However, King Hezekiah faced a great challenge. Unlike his father Ahaz who had served the king of Assyria and paid tribute to the Assyrians (2 Kings 16:1-8), Hezekiah trusted in God and refused to serve the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:7). As a result the king of Assyria sends his forces to attack Judah and threaten the capital city of Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13). He sends his official, the Rabsaris, to urge Jerusalem to surrender to his forces (2 Kings 18:17-35). The Rabsaris (i.e. also called the Rabshakeh) mocks the idea of Hezekiah or Judah trusting in God’s power to deliver them from the powerful hand of the king of Assyria. He relays the word of the king of Assyria as he says, “Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their countries from my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?” (2 Kings 18:35). Later, the king of Assyria sends a letter by his messengers again making similar threats to King Hezekiah and the nation of Judah and boasting how he had conquered all the other nations who had stood in His way (2 Kings 19:9-13).

What does Hezekiah do as he faces such a great threat? Assyria was an incredibly cruel power which used terroristic techniques to intimidate their opposition such as skinning people alive and leading them into captivity with hooks in their noses and bridles in their lips. As the opening verses above indicate, Hezekiah takes this letter to the house of the Lord and “spread it before the Lord”.

God does intervene. God spoke against the king of Assyria saying, “'But I know your dwelling place, your going out and your coming in, and your rage against Me. Because your rage against Me and your tumult have come up to My ears, therefore I will put My hook in your nose and My bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came” (2 Kings 19:27-28). God did this as “the angel of the Lord” went out and killed 185,000 Assyrians in their camp. The Assyrians turned back and Sennacherib, the king of Assyria is killed by his own 2 sons (2 Kings 19:33-36).

When I consider how God intervened on the behalf of His righteous servant King Hezekiah, I am encouraged to know that God will take up my cause when I am faced by challenging situations or threats from others. Today, I will rejoice that I can “spread out” my cares before the Lord and He will rise up to help me. God is able to deliver me!

“When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:9-11).

4/8/16 “The Judgments of the Lord Are True and Righteous Altogether” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 16-18)

“For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day” (2 Kings 17:21-23).

After centuries of forsaking God, the northern kingdom of Israel now endures God’s judgment. The nation of Assyria captures the land of Israel and the people of Israel are taken captive to a foreign land (2 Kings 17:4-6). God’s longsuffering with the southern kingdom of Judah would continue, but a couple of centuries after the fall of Israel, the nation of Judah would also face God’s judgment.

Why did this judgment of God occur? “For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made” (2 Kings 17:7-8). Israel had walked according to the nations and not according to God.

What had God done to help His people avoid such a terrible judgment upon themselves? “…the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.’ Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God” (2 Kings 17:13-14). Through His servants, the prophets, God had pleaded with His people to turn from their evil ways!

After such a long period of trying to encourage His people to repent, the time had finally come for God to execute His judgment. “Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone” (2 Kings 17:18). In order to be a just God there has to come a time when God executes His justice!

As I read the 17th chapter of the book of kings which describes God’s judgment on Israel, it is interesting the lengthy explanation of why God had brought this judgment on His people. Verses 7 through 23 of this chapter provide the details of why God allowed another nation, more wicked than His own people, to overtake the Promised Land and lead his people away captive. Why did God dedicate all these verses to explaining why He brought such judgment on His people? I believe it is to show that God’s judgments and true and righteous altogether.

Today, I rejoice that God is a just God. He shows no favoritism in His judgments. He isn’t influenced by bribes. He is more than fair in His judgments. As He considers His judgments, He extends His grace and mercy to those who seek it by repentance. He is longsuffering hoping that people repent. He sends His messengers to warn people they need to repent. Praise God that His judgments and true and righteous altogether!

“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:9-10).

4/7/16 “The Longsuffering of God for His People” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 13-15)

“And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and regarded them, because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not yet destroy them or cast them from His presence” (2 Kings 13:22-23).

As one reads chapters 13 through 15 of 2nd Kings, it is difficult to keep track of all the different kings that are reigning in the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms, especially Israel, are spiraling down the drain as they depart further and further from God. Other nations (e.g. Syria and Assyria) begin to attack God’s people and take away their land (2 Kings 13:3; 15:19-20, 29). God allowed this to happen because He was angry with His people; and, He hoped that as a result of being oppressed, His people would recognize their need for God and turn back to Him and repent of the evil of their ways.

However, what is also striking in these chapters is God’s longsuffering with His people during these dark days. God’s people were conducting themselves very wickedly. They were worshipping idols and treating God just as another god among a long list of ones they worshipped. Yet, although God was angry with them and would allow them to suffer persecution in an effort to draw them back to Himself, God would not “yet” destroy them or cast them from His presence (2 Kings 13:23).

Notice other verses from this section of Scripture and how they speak of God’s longsuffering with His people at this time. After God delivered Israel into the hands of the Syrians, we read, “So Jehoahaz pleaded with the Lord, and the Lord listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, because the king of Syria oppressed them. Then the Lord gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Syrians; and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before” (2 Kings 13:4-5). In addition, later, after Israel had lost much of her land, God prophesied through the prophet Jonah that He would restore the land which he did during the reign of Jereboam the son of Joash even though Jereboam was evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kings 12:23-25): “For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. And the Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (2 Kings 14:26-27).

God’s longsuffering does not mean that He will not hold those accountable who have sinned, but it does mean that He suffers with His people as He longs for His people to turn back to Him and restore their relationship with Him by repenting of the error of their ways. Sin creates a breech in one’s relationship with God as it causes one to be separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). In His longsuffering with His people, God waits with outstretched arms towards His people longing for them to turn away from their foolishness of their sinful lifestyle and back to His loving arms.

As a child of God I greatly rejoice in God’s longsuffering with me. The apostle Peter certainly understood the longsuffering of God as he recalled how longsuffering Jesus had been with him during His ministry on this earth as Peter made one mistake after another, even to the point of denying He knew the Lord. In my walk with God I know many times I have strayed. God doesn’t give up on me when I stumble and sin. He bears with me with much longsuffering and He stretches out His arms to me reminding me of His love. Today, I will praise God for His longsuffering towards me!

 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

4/6/16 “The Blessing of Godly Instructors and Examples” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 10-12)

“In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash became king, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Zibiah of Beersheba. Jehoash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:1-2).

As the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah depart further and further from God, a new king, Jehoash begins his reign in Judah. His grandmother Athaliah had reigned the 6 previous years after she had taken the throne by having all of Jehoash’s brothers murdered. She murdered her own grandchildren! Fortunately Jehoash’s aunt, Jehosheba, had taken Jehoash and had temporarily hid him in the bedroom and then for 6 years in the house of the Lord while Athaliah reigned (2 Kings 11:1-3). In the final year of Athaliah’s reign, the priest Jehoiada makes a covenant with some of the captains to protect Jehoash and brings Jehoash out and crowns him king of Judah (2 Kings 11:4-12). Jehoiada then has the captains and officers to kill Athaliah (2 Kings 11:13-16). At the young, impressionable age of 7 Jehoash begins his reign (2 Kings 11:31).

Fortunately, young Jehoash has a man in his life who will exercise some godly influence and guidance upon him as he takes hold of the reigns to lead this nation. The man’s name was Jehoida. Not only did Jehoiada help Jehoash to become king by working with the leaders of the army to overthrow Athaliah, but Jehoiada helped to turn the people of Judah back to God. “Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord, the king, and the people, that they should be the Lord's people, and also between the king and the people” (2 Kings 11:17). Jehoiada also led the people to destroy the temple of the false god Baal (2 Kings 11:18) and worked with the king and the people to raise money and repair the house of the Lord (2 Kings 12:4-14).

As the opening verses above indicate, king Jehoash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him (2 Kings 12:2). Later, Jehoash would go astray when, instead of trusting in God, he feared the king of Syria and paid him off so he would not attack Jerusalem (2 Kings 12:17-18).

When I consider the great work Jehoiada performed for Jehoash, I am reminded how blessed I have been to have spiritual mentors in my life who have instructed me and encouraged me on my journey with God. I think about faithful gospel preachers and Bible class teachers who have helped me to understand the Scriptures and make applications of them to my life. I think about elders who have shepherded me as they “watched out for my soul” (Hebrews 13:17). It is a blessing to have godly men and women in my life whose “faith I can follow” (Hebrews 13:7).

Have I taken time to thank those who have been spiritual mentors to me? Today, I will rejoice that I have examples not only in the Bible of those whose faith I can follow, but living examples of godly men and women around me who seek to instruct me not only in what they teach to me, but in how they live before me! I also will strive to live in such a way as to encourage others in the faith!

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

4/5/16 “I Will Repay You” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 7-9)

“Then Jehu said to Bidkar his captain, ‘Pick him up, and throw him into the tract of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite; for remember, when you and I were riding together behind Ahab his father, that the Lord laid this burden upon him: Surely I saw yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons,” says the Lord, “and I will repay you in this plot,” says the Lord. Now therefore, take and throw him on the plot of ground, according to the word of the Lord’" (2 Kings 9:25-26).

These words were spoken regarding Jehoram the son of Ahab after Jehu had killed him (2 Kings 9:24). Earlier, Elisha the prophet had Jehu anointed to be the next king of Israel (2 Kings 9:1-6). Jehu was then told to strike down the remaining members of the house of Ahab including the sitting king, Jehoram the son of Ahab (2 Kings 9:7-10). Jehu does as he is instructed and shoots an arrow through Jehoram’s heart, as well as having Jehoram’s mother Jezebel killed (2 Kings 9:11-37).

Why was this done? Ahab had been an exceedingly wicked king (1 Kings 21:25-26). After Ahab’s wife Jezebel had Naboth murdered so Ahab could take over his vineyard, God told Ahab through the prophet Elijah, “'Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin.” And concerning Jezebel the Lord also spoke, saying, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field" (1 Kings 21:21-24).

In addition, the opening verses above indicate to us that God had told Ahab that He had seen the blood of Naboth and Naboth’s sons which had been shed because of Ahab’s selfish desire to have Naboth’s vineyard. Like Abel of ancient times, God had heard the crying out of their blood from the earth asking God for justice (cf. Genesis 4:10). The Lord had “laid a burden” on Ahab by letting Ahab know that God would repay Ahab on this same field which belonged to Naboth. This was fulfilled when Jehu threw the dead body of Ahab’s son Jehoram upon this field and the dogs ate the flesh of Jezebel on this same field.

Although it took many years for God to execute vengeance upon the house of Ahab, in due time justice was done. Perhaps for a while, Ahab’s household might have thought they would not have to experience any ramifications for what they had done. However, God did repay them in full!

Do you ever struggle with feeling like the wicked get away with their crimes? Over the centuries God’s people have struggled with this. The prophet Habbakuk said, “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ And You will not save” (Habbakuk 1:2). In the book of Revelation, those souls who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held, cried out with a loud voice saying, “"How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Revelation 6:9-10).

Today, I rejoice that I know that God will execute His justice in due time (2 Corinthians 5:10). I don’t need to harbor feelings of vengeance because I trust in God to execute this. I will strive to extend to lost souls God’s mercy and forgiveness as I have also been blessed to be a recipient of these!

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

4/4/16 “Does God Meet My Expectations?” (Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 4-6)

“Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, ‘Indeed, I said to myself, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.” Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage” (2 Kings 5:9-12).

During the reign of Jehoram, the son of Ahab, king of Israel (2 Kings 3:1-3), God did many wonderful miracles through his prophet Elisha. Elisha had become a great prophet of God after his mentor Elijah was taken up to heaven in a flaming chariot (2 Kings 2:11). One of the great miracles Elisha did through God’s power was the healing of Naaman.

Naaman was commander of the Syrian army. He was a great and honorable man. The Lord worked through Naaman, even though Naaman did not realize this, to give victory to Syria. But, Naaman was a leper (2 Kings 5:1). A servant girl of Naaman, who was from the land of Israel, told Naaman’s wife about Elisha and how she believed Elisha could heal her master of leprosy (2 Kings 5:2-4).

As the opening verses above indicate, Naaman goes to Elisha’s house to be healed. He expects Elisha to come out, wave his hands, and call on the name of the Lord God. But Elisha doesn’t do this. In fact, Elisha doesn’t come out at all, but sends a messenger to Naaman. This messenger tells Naaman to go wash in the Jordan River seven times. The messenger tells Naaman if he will do this his flesh will be restored and he will be cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:9-10).

Naaman can’t believe this! This is not what he expected. He can’t believe he left Syria and came all the way down to Elisha’s house just to be stood up by Elisha who doesn’t even come out to meet him! He doesn’t understand why he could not have washed in one of the rivers back home. He is filled with rage and gets ready to leave (2 Kings 5:11-12). However, his servants persuade him to do as the man of God has said. Naaman does so and is cleansed of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:13-14). Naaman humbles himself, thanks the man of God, strives to follow after the one true living God, and returns to land of Syria (2 Kings 5:15-19).

As I read this, I think, “Do I ever get upset because God doesn’t meet my expectations of Him?” In reference to the things which the Bible says God has done (e.g. the virgin birth of Christ, creating the world in 7 days), do I find it challenging to accept what the Bible says when the “scientific community” rejects it? Regarding God’s commandments, do I have difficulty following those commands of God (e.g. baptism or God’s laws on marriage, divorce and remarriage) that don’t “make sense” to me? When I pray, do I expect God to answer my prayers a certain way; and, when He doesn’t answer my prayers my way, do I become disappointed with Him?

Living by faith means I trust fully in God that He will answer my prayers and direct my paths in a way that He knows is best for me. It means following His commandments when, like Naaman, they may make no sense to me. Today, I will strive to trust fully in God as he leads me on the journey of life!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).