Tag Archives: Bible reading

Through the Bible, May 22

Reading: Zephaniah 1-3

Summary: Zephaniah’s task was not a pleasant one.  His was to announce to Judah God’s impending discipline against them.  Though he offers no hope for their being saved from this judgment, He does, like others of the prophets, speak of future glory for God’s people.

The chronological placement of Zephaniah is difficult.  Some see him addressing the very religious conditions of Judah prior to Josiah’s reforms and that perhaps the prophet influenced the actions of the young king.

Devotional Thought:

Not a Josiah? Be a Zephaniah

Josiah and Zephaniah; of the two, Josiah is the far better known.  Of the two, Josiah held the more prominent position as king.  Of the two, Josiah is heralded as the great reformer, the one who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).  Of the two, Josiah may not have been possible without Zephaniah.

Spiritually speaking things were horrible when Josiah became king at the tender age of 8.  He began seeking the Lord at 16 and at 20 began his extensive religious reforms.  The prophet Zephaniah lived “in the days of Josiah” (Zeph. 1:1) and addresses very serious religious wrongs, the kind that Josiah attempts to correct.  Zephaniah may very well have been the source of motivation for the young king to launch his ambitious efforts to bring his people back to God (perhaps as well as Jeremiah).  Zephaniah appears to be the man behind the movement.

Would Josiah—and what we know him for—be possible without Zephaniah?  I don’t know that we can know for sure.  But we do know this: our world is in desperate need of Josiah’s and Zephaniah’s.  We need people with the courage and conviction of Josiah to use whatever influence and opportunity they have to do right, combat unrighteousness, and lead people back to God.  We need people who though they may not be in positions of prominence are, with no less courage and conviction, influencing whomever they can in whatever way they can.

For every Josiah there is a Zephaniah; without the Zephaniah’s of this world there would be no Josiah’s.

Through the Bible, May 21

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflection: Today is the scheduled catch up day for the third week of May.  No readings are assigned for today, but below are some thoughts for your consideration.

  1. Isaiah figures prominently in the presentation of Jesus as God’s Son in the New Testament. For instance, when Jesus visited His hometown synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30), He appealed to Isaiah 61:1-2—a recognized text foreseeing the work of the Messiah—as that which He Himself fulfilled. And when Philip preached Jesus to the Ethiopian nobleman, it was from Isaiah 53 that he launched his message that culminated in the nobleman’s immersion into Christ (Acts 8).
  2. As the Israelites occupied Canaan, God drove out the nations as punishment for their great sinfulness (Deut. 9:4). Now “Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9).  How could Judah expect any less than the judgment God announced? (vv. 11-15).
  3. Josiah did right before God. It did not change the fact that God would punish Judah with Babylonian captivity.  Josiah knew that before he led in many of his reforms.  “What’s the use?” we might ask.  Doing right is reason enough on its own.  We don’t do right to gain something, we do right because it is right.

Devotional Thought:

The Bible is Puzzling and It’s Not

Sometimes the Bible is puzzling.  Like when king Josiah went out to confront Pharaoh Neco.  Remember, Neco is going to aid Assyria in its battle with Babylon at Carchemish.  This proved to be the decisive battle in Babylon’s rise to dominance in the ancient middle east. Babylon had already been identified by God as his instrument of punishment against Judah.

Yet, when Josiah met Neco, the Egyptian king said to him, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you” (2 Chron. 35:21).  One might think Neco was mistaken about God’s will, but the very next verse says, “He [Josiah] did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God” (v. 22).

Neco understood himself to be doing God’s will and Josiah had no business interfering.  God was at work among the heathen nations.  But we knew that, didn’t we?  He sent his prophets Jonah, Nahum, and Obadiah specifically to them.  Virtually all of the prophets’ messages included warnings and judgments for these neighboring peoples.  God was not exclusively interested in “His” people and neither were they the only ones accountable to Him.

Among other things, we learn that we should not be too certain that we know all that God is up to and where and how and through whom He is working.  And neither, then, should we think that everything is up in the air with God and we’re free to devise our own means of relating to Him.  No, we still know His will as He has made it known and we are very much responsible to Him through it

That is not puzzling.

Through the Bible, May 20

Reading: 2 Kings 22:1-23:30; 2 Chronicles 35:1-17

Summary: Though Judah was in a precipitous spiritual fall and Babylon was emerging as a serious threat, one last bright spot remained for the nation’s monarchy; king Josiah.  Repairing the damage caused by both his father and grandfather would not be easy, but he set himself to the task.  Even though the restoration efforts would not avert God’s judgment against Judah, Josiah pursued this noble task.

Given the king’s good character, the circumstances of his death are perplexing.  He confronted the Egyptian army passing through Judah and was killed in the ensuing battle.  Pharaoh Neco understood his efforts to be according to God’s will and warned Josiah not to oppose him.  Josiah ignored the warning and paid with his life (see 2 Chron. 35:20-27).  Incidentally, Egypt was going to Carchemish to aid Assyria in a last stand against emerging Babylon.  Assyria’s loss there marked the end of that empire.

Devotional Thought:

Proof of Heart

Josiah was good, very good.  He was one of the rare kings favorably compared with David in that he did not deviate from David’s way (2 Kings 22:2).

Of course, David served the Lord with “integrity of heart and uprightness” (1 Kings 9:4).  The interesting thing about Josiah is that this is said of him before the book of the Law of Moses was found in the temple during repairs and restoration (1 Kings 22:8ff). Second Chronicles points out that he began seeking the Lord in the eighth year of his reign, began reforms in the twelfth year, and the lost book of the Law was not recovered until the eighteenth year (2 Chron. 34:3, 8).

The real test for Josiah came after 10 years of seeking and serving God.  That’s when he was finally exposed to God’s will as revealed in His word.   What would Josiah do?  Make further changes and adjustments to his service to God and lead the people to do the same?  Or just expect God to accept what he was already doing based on his good heart?

Obviously, he chose to initiate further reforms and changes as per the actual word of God. His was not an attitude of, “Well, what we’ve been doing is good enough.  Besides, we’ve been doing it for ten years and we’ve been sincere and earnest.”

The genuineness of the integrity of Josiah’s heart is proven by what he did after learning what God’s word said.

A sincere heart is a fine thing, but neglecting God’s expressed will and relying solely on our good heart is a fool’s venture.

Through the Bible, May 19

Reading: Habakkuk 1-3

Summary: While prophets served as God’s mouth pieces to deliver His message, Habakkuk’s approach is unique.  His message centers around two question which he poses to God and Jehovah’s response.  The first issue is Judah’s wickedness (remember the reigns of Manasseh and Amon). The second is prompted by God’s response to the first.  He will use the Chaldeans (Babylon) to punish His own people.  But how Habakkuk wondered, could God use such a wicked people to discipline his own?

Devotional Thought:

How Long?

Habakkuk wants to know what the Psalmist wants to know, what Zechariah wants to know, what Jeremiah wants to know, what martyred saints want to know, and what you and I want to know: How long, O Lord?  (Habakkuk 1:2; Psalm 13:1; Zechariah 1:12; Jeremiah 47:6; Revelation 6:10).

How long will the Lord allow His own people to go on sinning before He acts or to allow the wicked to continue to prosper or to forget me in my own afflictions and hurts.  How long before the Lord executes judgment on the wicked and blesses the righteous?

It isn’t a question of whether or not God can or will do it, but when?

Our anxiety over God’s timing is not exemplary of great faith.  God, being perfect in every way, is no less so with His timing.  The fact that He does not act when I think He should is but another reminder that His thoughts and ways are not only not my thoughts and ways, but they are infinitely higher than my own (Isa. 55:8-9).

So, Habakkuk has two reminders for us in our agitation over God’s apparent delays.  First, “the righteous shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4).  An alternative reading from the footnote on this text suggests “faithfulness”.  In other words, it’s not our place or responsibility to have everything figured out or to worry and fret when it appears that God has not appropriately moved in response to the circumstances of this world and my life.  My job is to be faithful.  Period.

The second reminder is that “the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:20).  God is where He’s supposed to be and needs to be and I should be good with that.  Given that fact nothing is needed from me—silence.  My questions, complaints, or irritation at God’s timing are wholly inappropriate and of no help.

None of this means I won’t still wonder, how long?  It’s either that I will continue to have those questions or God will start explaining everything to me about why He does what He does.

And I’m not holding my breath.

Through the Bible, May 18

Reading: 2 Kings 21; Nahum 1-3

Summary: It very well may be said that Manasseh was to Judah, what Ahab had been to Israel. Hezekiah’s wicked son undid so much of what his good father had done.  It is during his reign that God determines that Judah, too, will be punished as had Israel.  Also, like Ahab, Manasseh does repent and by the end of his reign he “knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chron. 33:12-13).  Unfortunately, his son, Amon, broke the pattern of alternating good and wicked kings by following in the evil ways of his father.

It is interesting that three of the Old Testament (literary) prophets’ messages were directed toward a foreign power; and two of them to the same people.  The first writing prophet, Jonah, had great success—to his own consternation—in his preaching to the city of Nineveh.  Nahum addresses the same people about a century later, but without his predecessor’s results. The third prophet is Obadiah (see May 30 reading introduction).

It should be remembered that Nineveh is the capital of the Assyrian empire, which had taken the nation of Israel captive.  Now, their own demise is immanent.  Babylon would replace Assyria in world domination and would soon also play a major role in Judah’s future.

Devotional Thought:

God is Not Simple

He cannot be understood, simply.  That’s not to say God cannot be understood.  And there are critically important things about God that are simple—radically simple; like the fact that He loves us.  The simplest mind can fully grasp that powerful reality.  He also is patient and kind and good, plus a whole lot more.

The problem comes when we begin to define His love and patience and goodness in ways that are quite human, not divine.

A case in point is His description in Nahum.  “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him” (Nah. 1:7).  In the verse immediately prior to that statement, the prophet speaks of God’s indignation, anger, and wrath (v. 6).

It’s not a contradiction, though it may appear to be a great inconsistency.  But that’s just it; it only appears that way.  Our trouble is that we cannot envision ourselves as both loving and good and patient while at the same time having great indignation, anger, and wrath.

Because I can’t, does not mean God can’t.  He’s not that simple.

Through the Bible, May 17

Reading: Isaiah 7:10-19; 9:1-7; 11:1-5; 53

Summary: Likely the best-known feature of Isaiah’s message is his prophecies of the coming Messiah.  These passages, as one would expect, play a prominent role in the New Testament.  These readings are among the best known of all Messianic passages, not only in Isaiah but all of the Old Testament.

Devotional Thought:

It’s In My Hands

Isaiah chapter fifty-three, it could be argued, is the most important text about Jesus in the entire Old Testament.  It’s an incredible passage, the depth and breadth of which could not be exhausted after a lifetime of study and meditation.  One cannot say they truly know Christ without intimate acquaintance with this portion of the Holy Writ.  It can lead to true life and eternal joy as with the noble worshipper from Ethiopia who from this very Scripture heard the powerful, life changing message of Jesus (Acts 8).

Of all the incredible affirmations made of our Savior in this sublime prophecy, none is more compelling than that “the will of Lord shall prosper in His hand” (Isa. 53:10).  What better, more important, or complementary statement could possibly be made?  And as true with all Messianic prophecies, it found fulfillment in Jesus.

The will of the Father was more than a point of interest or a matter of some concern.  It occupied the highest priority and consumed the man of Galilee’s very purpose.

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

“I seek not my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:38).

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me” (John 6:38).

The proof that no mere high-sounding rhetoric crossed Jesus’ lips is found when God’s will obviously countered His own desire.  Back in Isaiah 53:10, the verse begins, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief”  Still, that will prospered in His hand.  So, famously, in Gethsemane, He prayed fervently, repeatedly, and passionately that the “cup” might pass from Him, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39).

So, as a professed follower of Jesus, the question for me becomes, how does God’s will fare in my hands?

Through the Bible, May 16

Reading: Isaiah 55:6-13; 59:1-15; 61; 65:1-7; 66:1-6

Summary: Here is a collection of Isaiah’s prophecies dealing with God’s relationship to His people; how they must seek for Him and that He will allow Himself to be found, how God’s compassion and desire is for His people, how sin has devastated that relationship, and how they have failed on the most fundamental spiritual level.

Devotional Thought:

I Don’t Understand God

God disturbs me, and that’s a good thing.  It really is.

A fundamental trait of us human beings is our attempt to “make sense” of things.  A loved one dies, a tragedy befalls people, wicked and insensitive people appear to have lives of ease and pleasure, and my efforts at good seem to go unnoticed and unrewarded.

We want to make sense of senseless things.  That’s not an easy task.  As a matter of fact, we’re ill-equipped to handle it.  Our knowledge and understanding are so small.  Our perspective stretches no further than our own limited experience.  I am incapable of knowing where a present event may lead or whom it may impact and in what ways.

Really, my “making sense” is an effort to cram and contort whatever event, thought, person, or idea I confront into the framework of my personal—that is, vastly insufficient—understanding, experience, and perceptions.

So: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9).

If I always understand and concur with what God does, then one of two impossibilities has transpired; I have downsized God and fit Him into my framework of knowledge, emotion, and comprehension; or I have successfully expanded my framework to sufficiently encompass God.

Poppycock.

If God doesn’t disturb me now and again then I’m committing egregious errors in my thinking about Him. His ways and His thoughts are no longer infinitely higher than mine.  I’ve either brought Him low or I’ve ascended on high.

I’ll say it again: poppycock.

Through the Bible, May 15

Reading: Isaiah 40; 42:1-17; 44:1-11

Summary: Remember, the second half of Isaiah (40-66) looks primarily to a future chain of events when after Judah is taken into Babylonian captivity, they return to their homeland.  But national faith has taken a blow.  What implication does the fact that the nation had been overthrown by a foreign power have on their God?  Actually, nothing.  That’s not exactly true as those events were not a result of God’s weakness, but rather His sovereignty. He rules even over the Babylonians and used them as an instrument in His hand.

Still, an important message from Isaiah is that Jehovah alone is God.

Devotional Thought:

God is Impressive

Little children are sometimes taught to sing: “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty; there’s nothing my God cannot do.”

No doubt we should be duly impressed with how big and strong God is.  No power or force or influence can overcome Him.  His presence cannot be contained by space or even time.  What would threaten or challenge me fades with a whimper when seen alongside God.  How reassuring is God’s greatness.

At times, though, it’s not power and size that I need.  As a child, I reveled in my big, strong father, but my mother’s tender arms frequently met my greatest need.

Too, God is mighty to rescue and protect and defend and conquer.  Those are most appropriate in their time.  But it’s not every time.  He is equally capable to caress and to soothe and console and comfort and to cheer.  That also is most appropriate in its time.

In Isaiah 40 two statements of God’s might and magnitude serve as bookends to a beautiful depiction of His tender care.  “Behold, the Lord God comes with might and his arm rules for him…Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weight the mountains in scales and hills in a balance” (Isa. 40:10, 12).  Between them, is this: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (v. 11).

As impressive as His might is His tender care.

Through the Bible May Bible Reading Introduction Week 3

Week 3: The Nation of Judah Remains Alone

May 15-21

      This week we’ll spend three more days reading from Isaiah’s message.  The great prophet is referred to as the Messianic prophet, and with good reason.   Another great theme of the book is the “oneness” of Jehovah God and His supremacy over all other gods.

Judah just cannot seem to get on track.  For every good king there is at least one, and sometimes two, wicked kings.  After Hezekiah, his son Manasseh follows in his wicked grandfather’s (Ahaz) footsteps as does his own son, Amon.  Finally, Josiah, Hezekiah’s great-grandson, returns to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, but it will be too late to save Judah.

The international political landscape is beginning to change and Judah is caught in the middle.  Even good king Josiah falls victim to the unfolding events that will lead to Babylon’s rise to prominence.

Through the Bible, May 14

Reading:—No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Catch up day (if needed) as well as some points to ponder based on this week’s readings.

  1. Through four consecutive kings of Judah, from Joash to Amaziah to Azariah to Jotham, the exact same observation is made: “the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and made offerings on the high places” (2 Kings 12:3; 14:4; 15:4, 35). It is also said of each of these men that they “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  These men personally were devoted to God (at least at the beginnings of their reigns), but they failed to exercise adequate leadership in guiding the people to also do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

This certainly could not end well.  So it is with the fifth king, Ahaz; “he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord…he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places” (2 Kings 16:2-3).  He even burned his own son as an offering.

So, we too must not only be concerned with our service and devotion to God but use our influence to encourage others to do the same.

  1. An event of historical significance occurs after the Assyrians have taken the people of the northern kingdom into captivity. They repopulated the land with other people.  “And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities” (2 Kings 17:24).

Fast forward to the New Testament where we find living right in the middle of Palestine among the Jews the Samaritans; hated Samaritans.  These transplanted people by the king of Assyria are the origin for this group of people curiously living in the midst of the Jewish nation in Jesus’ day.

Devotional Thought:

Don’t Sell God Short

We sometimes think that God has given up on us.  When we’ve done wrong and we know we’ve disappointed our Creator we can’t imagine how He could possibly love us.  And usually, that’s because we’re having trouble loving ourselves.

Truth is, we’re selling God short.  He is quite capable of doing many, many, many things we cannot do; that includes loving us when we’re quite unlovely.  It’s nothing short of foolish to place our own limitations on God.

If there’s anything we learn from the history of the northern kingdom, Israel, it should be that God loves His people and is patient with them far beyond what they deserve.

Yes, He sent the Assyrians and punished His people for their unfaithfulness.  But that doesn’t make God unloving and uncaring. Far from it.  He had sent numerous prophets—like Hosea, Micah, and Amos—but the people had refused God’s warnings and pleading for their return.  Had God not loved them He would not have expended so much effort or been so patient to provide opportunity for their repentance.

So too, does God love us and is patient with us.  He has not written us off, despite our mistakes.  He’s not given up on us even though we have failed Him.  We should, as Peter suggests, “count the patience of the Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15).

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).