Monthly Archives: April 2017

Through the Bible, April 30

Reading: 2 Chronicles 11:5-23; 13:3-21; 14:6-15:15; 17; 19; 20:1-30

Summary: Continuing our readings of material from Chronicles that is unique to this source we find additional records concerning the reigns of kings of Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa, and Jehoshaphat.

Devotional Thought:

Say or Do?

“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” (Friedrich Engels).

         “Achievement seems to be connected with action. Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit” (Conrad Hilton).

Doing is better than knowing or saying.  It’s true in all of life, including the spiritual.

Think about Kings Abijah and Asa, the son and grandson of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon.  In the record of Abijah from 2 Chronicles, there is a noticeable absence of any reference to his standing with God.  That’s a telling sign. Yet, he delivers a very passioned and (mostly) accurate account of the difference between Judah and Israel to Jeroboam and his nation.  He basically says you have forsaken God and will not succeed (2 Chronicles 13:8-12), while in Judah we have remained faithful and “God is with us at our head” (v. 12).

Nice speech.

But notice what happens when Abijah dies and his son Asa reigns.  Asa removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, and commanded all Judah to seek the Lord God and observe His law (2 Chron. 14:3-5).   This is all preceded by a statement about Asa that was absent with his father, “And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (v. 2).

That’s the difference; Abijah said, Asa, did.

Through the Bible, April 29

1 Chronicles 15:1-24; 22:2-19; 28:1-29:22

Summary: Today’s reading will focus on material related to David and Solomon found only in 1 Chronicles.  This includes additional information from the occasion that David moved the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, his words of advice and wisdom to Solomon, as well as his final prayer.

Also found in 1 Chronicles, but which we will not read, is the account of David’s organization of the Priests, Levites, and other officials related to the work and service of the temple, including musicians and gatekeepers (1 Chronicles 23-27).

Devotional Thought:

Valuable Lessons from a Dismal Failure

I really do love fly fishing.   One thing I enjoy about it is that there is always something more to learn.  No matter how good, or bad, one may be at it there is something they can learn to help them be better at it, enjoy it more, and, hopefully, catch more fish. The “I’ve-got-it-all-figured-out” mentality doesn’t last long.

Anyone interested in serving and seeking and pleasing God will be on the constant lookout for insights and understanding about how that can be done better.

Here’s something interesting from David’s experience of moving the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem.  The first attempt had been disastrous.  Uzzah died as a result (see 1 Chron. 13).  Notice this comment from David reflective of that failed effort; “Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us because we did not seek him according to the rule” (1 Chron. 15:13).

Here are some observations about that first attempt:

The decision to bring the ark was made by the best leadership (see. 13:1).

The effort was considered to be “from the Lord” (see 13:2).

Consensus opinion of the people was that it was “right” (see 13:4).

The project enjoyed wide-ranging support (see 13:5).

Due respect was given to what the ark meant and represented (see 13:6).

It was a time of great celebration (see 13:8).

And yet God “broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.”  Here are some more observations based on David’s assessment.

Our good intentions are not sufficient, we must follow God’s “rule”.

Otherwise good leadership can be wrong.

Consensus opinion is of little value in pleasing God.

What seems “right” and “from the Lord” to us, may not be at all.

Widespread support and celebratory moods do not sanctify a wrong.

Proper understanding and respect for God in one area does not cover over failure to obey in another.

What’s the bottom line?  Well, let’s allow Jesus to say it; “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

April Supplemental Reading Introduction

Extra Days: Supplemental Readings

April 29-30

            April’s supplemental readings are taken from 1 & 2 Chronicles.  These books repeat much of the same material recorded in 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings, although there is material unique to each source.

The two books of Chronicles were written late in Old Testament history.  They were penned during the time of the return of many of the Jews to Jerusalem and Judah following the Babylonian captivity.  They appear to serve as reminders to these returning captives of their heritage as God’s people.

Through the Bible, April 28

Reading: No Scheduled Reading

Thoughts and Reflections: This is the catch-up day for the fourth week of April (22-28) as well as some points to ponder based on this week’s readings.

  1. The sin of Jeroboam maintains the spotlight of Scripture’s attention. His alternative religious system is one he “devised from his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33).  That was in direct contradiction to what God had explicitly revealed in His Law.  Then, as now, the fundamental issue is whether we will submit to God’s revealed will or follow our own.
  2. Elijah makes an important appearance in the New Testament. It is he, along with Moses, who appears with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8), talking with our Lord.  He seems to represent all the prophets–and Moses the Law–when God states that His own Son is the one to whom we ought to listen.
  3. One incident from Ahab’s life is quite surprising. Following God’s pronounced judgment against the house of Ahab after his seizure of Naboth’s property, Ahab humbly repents (1 Kings 21:27). And God responds to him with favor (v. 28-29).  Scripture plainly expresses the extreme of Ahab’s wickedness in one breath (vv. 25-26) and then God’s positive reaction to this evil man’s penitence in the next (vv. 27-29).  The point here is evidence of the extreme sensitivity of God to man’s humility.

Devotional Thought:

The Limitations of God

Some things just always go together; peanut butter and jelly; love and marriage; Jekyll and Hyde.

What goes with God?  Lots of things; love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, sovereignty, power, infinite—speaking of which, I guess this list could be as well.

But limitations?  We’d argue that one of the things that makes God, God is that where we are so limited, He is not.  He’s not limited by time or space or knowledge or strength.  “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end” (so the song adaptation of Lam. 3:22 goes).  We even talk about His limitlessness in His being omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.

But it’s not true across the board.  God does have limitations.  What God is and does must remain consistent with His character and nature.  So the Bible specifically says that God cannot lie and He cannot be tempted by evil (Hebrews 6:18; James 1:13).  So it is also true of His toleration for sin in man.  It’s not that sin is ever OK with God, but, for instance, there obviously came a time in the lives of the Kings when He said, “That’s it,” and took action against them for their sin.  It was true of Jeroboam and Ahab (1 Kings 14:7-11; 21:21-24).

That’s just it, isn’t it?  That while some things always go together, some things never do; such as God and sin.

Here’s the marvelous reality, though; instead of immediate condemnation for humanity’s sin, God responds with time. Time allows for the opportunity for repentance and forgiveness.  That is Peter’s meaning when He says we should “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

Here’s the point for us: just because we’re not experiencing any immediate negative consequences for sin doesn’t mean we’re in the clear.  God’s patience is not without limits.

Through the Bible, April 27

Reading: 2 Kings 1-2

Summary: Ahab’s son Ahaziah succeeds his wicked father, and he too must deal with God’s prophet, his father’s nemesis.

In remarkable fashion, the great prophet Elijah does not die, but is escorted from his earthly existence in a whirlwind by a chariot and horses of fire.  His successor, Elisha, witnesses the incredible event.

Devotional Thought:

The Worst—and Most Common—Kind of Atheism

It would appear that atheism has found its voice in this generation.  Not that it hasn’t been around for a very, very long time and there haven’t been previous times when spiritual skepticism flourished, but it appears to have achieved nearly unprecedented levels of notoriety and influence.  Think Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens who have achieved nearly “household name” status.

The greater issue, though, is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism.  That is, it isn’t the philosophical arguments against the existence of God—not to downplay that problem at all—that are the greatest concern; rather it is acting as if there is no God, even by professed believers.

The Bible addresses both.  Simply stated, Scripture’s position of theoretical atheism is, “The fool says in his heart, There is not God’” (Psa. 14:1).

Practical atheism, on the other hand, is much more prevalent and problematic.  It’s like king Ahaziah whom God asked through Elijah, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron?” (2 Kings 1:3).  Or those warned in James about boasting of their grand and prosperous plans, all the while acting as if God didn’t even exist (Jas. 4:13-17).

Practical atheism fails to act like God exists.  It fails to acknowledge His sovereignty and His goodness, His steadfast love and constant care.

Theoretical atheists may use their words to say there is no God, but practical atheists use their actions.  And the old idiom is true, actions do speak louder than words.

Through the Bible, April 26

Reading: 1 Kings 21-22

Summary: Perhaps the crowning event (negatively speaking) of Ahab’s reign is the seizure of Naboth’s property.  For this God issues his judgment against Ahab’s house. Surprisingly, Ahab repents and God decides to postpone his punishment.

Of interest is the fact that the closest alliance achieved between Israel and Judah took place during the reigns of Israel’s worst king, Ahab, and one of Judah’s better kings, Jehoshaphat.

Devotional Thought:

Why Would God Listen?

Would God listen to me?  Really?

After the mistakes I’ve made and the ways I have failed Him?  Would He really respond to anything I did or said?

We might tend to think not, but then there’s Ahab.

Ahab was a horrible man.  The Bible even says, “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab” (1 Kings 21:25).

Yet, when Ahab heard from Elijah of God’s judgment against him and his house, he repented.  God recognized and acknowledged that repentance.  God listened and responded to Ahab!  Ahab!!

Did Ahab deserve such compassion and mercy from God?  No, he did not.  And, no, neither do I.

Why is it that the magnitude of God’s mercy and compassion and grace should consistently surprise us?  “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex. 34:6-7).

Yes, God would listen to me.  Really.

Through the Bible; April 25

Reading: 1 Kings 19-20

Summary: The saga of Ahab and Elijah continues.  Notice how in this portion of the Bible devoted to the monarchy (the books are called “Kings” after all) that Scripture’s attention is directed primarily to the ongoing confrontation between God’s prophet and the wicked king, as the role of Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat, remains in the background.  The book of 2 Chronicles provides further details of Jehoshaphat’s reign, as well as those of Abijam and Asa (see the reading introduction for April 30).

Devotional Thought:

The Sound of God

What does God sound like?

Few people have ever heard God, literally.  He spoke audibly at Jesus’ baptism, on the Mount of Transfiguration, and once in Jerusalem.  On that occasion those who heard it thought it had thundered or that an angel had spoken (John 12:28).  I’ve always imagined a deep, booming, baritone voice.

Whatever His voice sounds like, it must be impressive, right?  Unmistakable and memorable.  That’s just how God does things.

Then there is the instance of God speaking to despondent Elijah on Mount Horeb.  God set the whole thing up by first a great strong wind (that even “tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks”), then an earthquake, and finally a fire.  But God was in none of those.  Lastly came the sound of a “low whisper”.  The ESV footnote offers “thin silence” as a possible rendering (1 Kings 19:12).  That’s where God was.

The point is, I believe, that we need to pay attention.  It would seem that a “thin silence” would be easy to miss.  We don’t want to miss God.

Also, we need to anticipate God in unexpected places.  Great wind?  Yes.  Earthquake? Yes. Fire? Yes.  Low whisper?  Not really.  I must look for God where He is, not where I expect Him to be.

Further, we may need to be still and quiet to catch a “still, small voice” (KJV).  We’re not geared for silence and quiet.  Hardly ever.  “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  Maybe would should be quiet too.

Whatever God sounds like, I dare not miss hearing Him.

Through the Bible, April 24

Reading: 1 Kings 16:29-18:46

Summary: Though Jeroboam is well noted for his great sin as king, it is Ahab who receives the designation of Israel’s worst king (1 Kings 16:33).  And, Scripture is sure to point out that he had help.  His choice of a wife, Jezebel, the daughter of the Sidonian king, proves one of the worst decisions in history.  It is she who is credited (?) with the promotion of Baal worship in Israel, for which the nation would ultimately be punished by God through Assyrian captivity.

In these evil times God raises up one of the greatest of His prophets–some would argue the greatest–Elijah the Tishbite, in response to the evil ruling couple.

Devotional Thought:

What God Says, God Does

It’s really just an incidental reference. It comes as we are being introduced to Ahab for the first time.  Ahab splashes on the scene in dramatic fashion.  He’s the worst king there has been.  What about Jeroboam, the one who has become the measure of evil kings? Of Ahab it is said, “And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him”  ( 1 Kings 16:31).  It’s like he was saying, “If you thought Jeroboam was bad, just watch me.”

So, Ahab really grabs our attention, then the text slips this side note in: “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun” (1 Kings 16:34).

Yes, Joshua had prophesied at the time the Israelites destroyed Jericho that anyone who rebuilt it would do so at the cost of his own offspring.  And it happened, just as he had said.

Here’s the point: what God says happens.  Mark it down.

It’s what the New Testament reminds us, “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:7).

Don’t forget.

Through the Bible, April 23

Reading: 1 Kings 15:1-16:28

Summary: The next kings of Judah are Abijam, Asa, and Jehoshaphat while the kings of Israel are Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, and Omri.

It should be remembered that in Judah all of the kings remain in the ancestral line of David, but in Israel there are multiple dynasties.  Baasha, Zimri, and Omri all represent new lines of kings in the North.  Assassination is the typical initiation for each new ruling family.

Devotional Thought:

What’s Your Story?

So, what is your story?

No, not what are the facts and details of your life up to this point in time; that’s one thing.  The story you tell (mostly to yourself) from those events is what I’m talking about.  “Aren’t those the same thing?” you ask.  No, they are not.

Remember, it’s not what happens to you that’s important, but rather your attitude about those things.  So what attitudes have you developed based on the events of your life?  Two people can experience the exact same circumstances and emerge with vastly different outlooks.

Think about how David is described in reference to king Abijam, “David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5; see also 9:4; 14:8).

Could the story of David be framed differently than that?  Of course it could.  David could be described in much different terms.  He could be viewed in a very dark, negative light.  But this is God’s view of him.

Human nature seems to tend toward the negative.  We see ourselves in a poor light.  We fail to appreciate the value and the worth and highlight the mistakes, weaknesses and failures instead.

In the end we are quite condemning of ourselves.  When “our heart condemns us” we should remember that “God is greater than our heart and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).  In other words, we should see ourselves as God sees us.

Chances are, God’s story about us is much better than our own.

Through the Bible, April 22

1 Kings 12-14

Summary: It is not as the instigator of the division of the nation for which Jeroboam is best known–that had been prophesied by God (see 1 Kings 11:35) and the tribes were “given” to him.  Instead, it is because of what he did after becoming king of the Northern Kingdom, Israel.  His posterity is that as the man who “caused Israel to sin.”  Twenty-one times Jeroboam’s sin will be remembered as the point at which this nation was steered wrong and from which they never recovered.

Meanwhile, Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, is not allowed to fight against Israel in an attempt at recovery of the tribes lost.  Also, an unnamed prophet foretells a future king who would destroy the altar erected by Jeroboam.  He even names that king, though the event prophesied would not take place for 300 years.

Devotional Thought:

Where You Put It

Some of our possessions are on prominent display in our home.  We have pictures, clocks, decorative pieces, and heirlooms hanging on the walls, setting on table tops, or otherwise out for all who visit to see and enjoy.

Many other of our things are kept in boxes, in cabinets and closets, and stored away in the attic.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is a saying that would apply.  It’s that stuff that becomes the fodder for garage sales.  These goods, by and large, just aren’t as important or valuable or meaningful.

Where we put stuff says a lot about what it means to us.

That idea is certainly involved in the prophet Ahijah’s message for Jeroboam. God said said of Jeroboam, “you have cast me behind your back” (1 Kings 14:9).  This is an all-too-familiar sentiment.

“Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back” (Ezek. 23:35)

“…and cast your law behind their back” (Neh. 9:26).

“…and you cast my words behind you” (Psa. 50:17).

Out of sight out of mind seems to apply here, too.

Jeroboam’s legacy is as the king who “made Israel to sin.”  There’s little question why.