One Hand Washes the Other

2 Kings 5-8

2 Kings 5 16 NIV sgl

Over the course of the past few months, it would not be presumptuous to say that many of us have amended our handwashing technique; however, we have most likely been using one hand to wash the other for quite some time (hopefully with warm water and soap, too).  It is a mutually beneficial relationship, which makes both hands equally clean, each part repaying the debt to the other. This has become a beautiful analogy for many who do favors in expectation of a return. No matter how you say it, “one hand washes the other” or “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” (which you will definitely need to wash your hands if you scratch someone’s back), going out of our way and doing the right thing can be advantageous to a relationship, a caching of IOUs, or marking our debt paid. Handwashing itself is definitely a biblical, Levitical principle, but is this tit-for-tat the way God works?  Should we expect a return when we have lived out the moral will of God? Should we be cleanly rewarded because we have taken a risk on someone else’s mess?

 

Today’s reading challenges us to think differently about the expectations of doing a good deed.  Naaman is healed of leprosy by the instructions ordained through Elisha.  Naaman was indeed searching for a cure, but as the many who came up to Jesus looking for healing, he had a curiosity about the God of Israel.  Overwhelmed by the healing, he asked Elisha if there is anything He can do in return? For a moment, think of your hospital bill if you were healed of a flesh-eating disease that could ultimately take your life, much less the deep appreciation you might have for your new quality of life.  Both would be truly astronomical.  Elisha could have asked for enormous amounts of wealth, power or favor in Syria, or even asked for a vow of protection from an enemy captain.  He wanted part of no such thing.  His whole purpose in helping is so that men, specifically Naaman, would know and confess “…Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel…” – 2 King 5:15.  If we needed any further confirmation of this truth, Elisha’s servant is struck with leprosy after turning back to essentially say Elisha had changed his mind and would be happy to take a few things in return (2 Kings 5:26,27).

 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a message of hand washing hand.  It is a message of hands washing feet. We are to be servants of God, and in turn, servants of those He loves, people.  We do not do these things because we can earn our spot in the Kingdom of God, or buy our way into his favor (Rom 6:23).  Our debt is so enormous, we could never repay it.  We become the beneficiaries of this gift when we humbly accept the healing instructions God offers us; that we would be made clean by the waters of baptism and know and live that there is no other god in our life, except the living, one true God of Israel.  When we act as God, meaning, when we act as an agent of His attributes (love, kindness, patience, truth, faithfulness, forgiveness, grace) we are not offering something that is from us.  We are offering God.  God’s terms have already been agreed upon; we do not have any additional conditions to bring to the table.  We are not owed, nor should we expect a return on such an investment we make with our life or provisions. God is the rewarder. Every good and perfect thing flows down from the Father (James 1:17).  Ultimately, we should not ever extend our hands out to expect a reward from God or anyone else. As we serve the Lord in whatever capacity he has called us to, we should extend our hands upward to give Him the praise because He is rewarding us in a literally astronomical way that will reshape the structures of heaven and earth.  We may lose all we have or be thought of as fools as we try to serve like Jesus, but we can truly never settle the score, or wash the hand of God, and that is an awesome, powerful, wonderful thing.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 9-11 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Portion Sizes

2 Kings 1-4

Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit

On our occasional visits to Disney World, I often think about the cruel irony of Walt never laying eyes on his biggest dream.  He died just five years before the Magic Kingdom opened, just as they were breaking ground. While Disney was charismatic, passionate, creative, and a visionary, he surrounded himself with an entourage of like-minded people, so consequently, his dream did not die with him. By mentoring and empowering those who worked for him, he allowed their passion, creativity, and vision to fuse with his own, to accomplish even greater things than even he could imagine.  In some manner of speaking, each one of the people around him each received the spirit of Disney, yet retained their own spirit, allowing them to benefit from both. This legacy has been passed down over and over again, and Disney has become one of the most innovative companies in film, television, and travel.  Using a conversion that translates 1966 dollars to 2020, The Walt Disney Company is worth a hundredfold more today than it was 54 years ago, maybe even more than Walt, the greatest of the imagineers, could have ever dreamed.

 

While the opening today sounds like one of the final chapters of a leadership book, it is akin, albeit less significantly and definitely imperfectly, to the promises of Elijah and Jesus.  Both not only spent a great deal of their time speaking with God, prophesying, and doing miracles, but both these men made specific investments in the people around them for God’s message to increase.  Jesus surrounded himself with the disciples, and Elijah’s legacy is specific to Elisha.  There is no doubt that these men’s examples made a profound impact on those who spent the most time with them (and yes, the example of Jesus is reverberating, impacting us today, but that’s the direction we’re heading).  The momentum of Elijah or Jesus did not stop when they were taken to heaven.  In fact, Elisha, and Peter, often thought of as the disciple Jesus was closest to, were recipients of faith-induced natural phenomena (2 Kings 3:17 ; Acts16:26).  Additionally, both Peter and Elisha raised people from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35; Acts 9::32-43). Years of watching, listening, and serving led to specific callings for each of these men to do bigger, bolder things than demonstrated by their predecessors (with exception to the propitiation of Christ).  In fact, both Elijah and Jesus prophesied this to be so (2 Kings 2:10; John 14:12-14)

 

This begs the question: who are we bringing along on our faith journey?  If we are effectively sharing the Gospel message, is there not someone who is receiving an exponential portion of whatever our faith has to offer?  How can we extend our finite time on earth to impact the infinite time we will inherit in the kingdom of God? It may be as simple as sharing our faith with our family.  As my children grow, I am alarmingly realizing the majority of their modeling and information is from my wife and me.  Our ultimate goal is that their faith far exceeds our own, yet if we do not show the devotion, love, and belief we have, they will never receive even a single portion of it, much less build upon the faith we have.  It could be we have served in ministry or occupation where we are now becoming the experienced one (this is also known as “old”).  It is time to take someone under our wing, share our testimony and calling.  By allowing someone to watch, listen, and serve, they can learn from our successes and failures without having to bear the consequences or responsibilities, ultimately placing them in a more successful position when they are on their own, long after our influence has left for one reason or another. Their trajectory is steeper, and at some point will outpace us.

 

Ultimately, we should be intentional about sharing our faith, vision (God-given), and resources (also, God-given) with our families or small circle of influence. Our greatest calling may be to prepare the way (Eli, Mordecai, and John the Baptist) for someone who will do more than we could possibly imagine because God will use them to exponentially grow his kingdom.  Let’s make some significant investments. Let’s sow and tend the seeds. Let’s watch as God makes the return thirty, sixty, or even a hundredfold because the world is starving for His message. Let us pray and work to serve up bigger portions than ever.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+1-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 5-8 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Opposite of God

Obadiah and Psalm 82 & 83

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In yesterday’s devotion, one of four bullet points focused on making God the judge. In today’s reading, there are calls from Obadiah and the Psalmist(s) for justice to come from on high.  To be clear, we are not appointing God to a position He doesn’t already command, and we aren’t necessarily persuading Him to intervene.  When we implore God to judge, we are inviting Him to rule in our favor by having a life-contrast or dichotomy that would allow Him to easily see we are for Him.  We are the wheat. We are the sheep. Whether he intervenes today or not, ultimately, “Come” will be the words of invitation we will hear from our King inviting us to dwell with God in love and in eternity.  Conversely, we are all declared guilty for the first death, but we can be condemned to a second and permanent death if we are not found covered by the innocent blood of Jesus Christ.  Those who remain are against Him. The chaff. The goats. “Depart” will be the words of condemnation to those who made themselves a stranger.  There is no invitation.  There is no love.  There is no eternity. God’s ruling is truly sovereign. There is no room for shades of gray.

 

Although the following isn’t a joy-filling thought to charge the beginning of your day, we need to be reminded there is a place opposite of God.  Sometimes those who dwell there actively and openly oppose Him (Obadiah 1:3). In fact, there are people in this world who would love nothing more than to imprison Christians, outlaw prayer, burn down churches, and try to expunge the name of Jesus Christ from existence.  Sadly, this happens quite a bit across the world today, and I dare say, at an ever-increasing pace in the United States. However, we must also remember, open defiance and apathetic faith are equally punishable in the eyes of God: women and men who prioritize their lives by accumulating wealth, try to make a name for themselves, acquire dizzying intellects, repeatedly give into vices, forget to take care of those who are hungry, thirsty, or imprisoned, or many other acts not listed here that do not center solely around God (Psalm 82:3,34, Matt 25:44,45). Apathy, complaisance, half-heartedness, and postponement can place us in imminent condemnation of God as plainly as open defiance.

 

To not share the name of Jesus Christ is to annul his message. To not lift up the church is to tear it down.  To not empower the weak is to place them in the hands of those who would do them harm.  Where is the contrast in your life?  Are you living for the finite or existing for the eternal? Are you with Him or against Him?  Yes, there is a place opposite of God, but let us pray that God uses these words we read today to convict us, bringing us closer to His calling as good and faithful servants.

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Obadiah+1%2C+Psalm+82%2C83&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 1-4 as we continue our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

2 Chronicles 19-23

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If you have been to any youth ballfield, the mantra of even the most uninformed coach or parent to his/her child in most all situations is “keep your eye on the ball.”  Whether it is baseball, soccer, football, tennis, or basketball, knowing where the ball is at any given point in a game is the greatest predictor of success and will result in the highest probability of a favorable outcome.  In order to strike, kick, tackle, return, or rebound, you have to know where the ball is.  It seems simple enough; yet, anyone who plays any number of the ball-including sports at any level suffers from the occasional mishap that begins with losing sight of the most important object to the game.  Why?  We get scared.  We’re thinking about our next move.  We get caught up in the emotion.  Or it might simply get lost in the lights.

 

“If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” –   1 Chronicles 20:9,11b

 

In today’s reading, Jehoshaphat gives us an example of what it looks like to keep our eyes in the most important place.  Not all of us play sports, and if we do, we most certainly may not play them well (present company included), but we all have a part to play in the will of God.  Without your eyes on the Father, you might still have a bit of fun, but there is no purpose in the participation of it all.  You are simply existing, a benchwarmer staring off into the distance, oblivious to the wonderful plan that God has for your life.  Yet, keeping our gaze affixed to Him isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds.  Even the most professional ballplayers have blunders. Here are a few reminders of how to readjust our focus, to make sure it is in the right place, no matter what “level” we are playing at:

 

To keep your eyes on God, let Him take away the worry.

 

There is a ton of uncertainty in the air right now.  Disease, political unrest, economies, natural disaster, not to mention all of the “typical” fears we have about things like acceptance and loss.  Jehoshaphat had a vast army approaching, yet he remembered that God had promised Israel and Judah the land they possessed. Remind yourself of the simple yet immense promises of God – He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), We know all things work together for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28), Do not fear, for I am with you always (Isaiah 40:1; Matt 28:20). The promises purge us of the pressure to take the entire crushing yoke upon ourselves and hand it over to God.  In exchange He will give us peace in the restless situations (John 14:27).

 

To keep your eyes on God, remember He has planned the present.

 

One of the greatest defensive failings in baseball is thinking about throwing the ball before you have ever fielded it.  Time and time again, the baseball zips “through the wickets” or is fumbled as it is being removed from the glove and falls flatly to the ground.  Jehoshaphat could have spent his time sending messengers to form alliances.  He could have armed the remaining men, women, and children to increase the size of his army. He could have sent out terms of surrender to try to salvage the lives of his people.  He didn’t do any of this.  He kept the most important thing as the most important thing; his gaze never faltered. He didn’t “throw the ball” before He fielded God’s response (as we saw yesterday).  Don’t forget to serve God now because there is a bigger, better plan you have made to serve Him down the road.  He is the God of tomorrow, but before then, the God of today.  Seek first the Kingdom of God. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for it will take care of itself (Matthew 6:33,34). He may call us to things that inconvenience, disrupt, or even abort the plans we have made down the road, but when those days come, or if they don’t, He has planned those days too.

 

To keep your eyes on God, make him the judge.

 

One of the most frustrating things is a competitor who doesn’t play fairly or feeling we are the victim of unjust treatment.  What’s even more frustrating is an umpire or referee who fails to see it or worse, lets it persist.  Our God doesn’t turn a blind eye to us; He sees the struggle.  He isn’t deaf; He hears the petition.  When we want to take matters into our own hands, be reminded that you too are a trespasser but also an unfair recipient of favored treatment. This more than anything, should make us compassionate and ready to forgive others.  We will be called to be God’s facilitator of forgiveness many times more than we will be judicator of justice.  Jehoshaphat made the appeal, but was also seemingly ready for whatever answer came his way. We must trust God, let Him be the judge, and maybe the hardest thing, be ready, like Jesus, to be dealt injustice, yet still forgive for the sake of the Gospel and our message.

 

To keep your eyes on God, eliminate the distractions.

 

The lights can be blinding.  The hecklers can be loud.  The teams’ morale can be affecting you. Even seemingly good things like family and church can provide an incorrect context of focus if not filtered through the lens of their role in God.  When we work, provide, heal, love, carry on, feed, protest, or serve, constantly remind yourself you are doing it all for the Lord.  Take a lesson from Jehoshaphat’s army; worship God while you are in the battle (1 Chronicles 20:22).  It would be challenging to give into your pride when you sing “Oh Spirit come make us humble…” It would be tough to look at inappropriate material when you sing “We turn our eyes from evil things…” It would be difficult to spend Sunday morning after Sunday morning with your family at the ballfield while singing “Oh Lord, we cast down our idols.” Filling our mouth with praise, worship, and prayer prevents anything else from slipping out.  The same could be said of our eyes, ears, hands, and most importantly, minds.  Engage God with everything you have, and you will be ready and attuned to His movement no matter where on the field He takes you.

 

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+19-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the short book of the “minor” prophet Obadiah and Psalm 82-83 as we continue keeping our eye on the Father through our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Beware of the Buttkissers

1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18

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Yes, I know, a bit of a sensational title. In fact, I can hear my mom reaching for the Irish Spring to place in my mouth because “butt” is not a church word. Please give me grace just a few sentences longer as I am someone who spends a great deal of time at school with 11 and 12-year olds. I often use a bit of high-brow potty humor for the connection and to make sure that I have your attention.  From here on out, I promise <crossing heart> I will use yes-men, suck-ups, sycophants, or something similar, but we’ll both know that I truly mean <in a whisper> “the ones who kiss b-u-t-t.”

Scattered throughout the last couple of weeks, we have read about the life of King Ahab. Today we will finish off Ahab [spoilers ahead] in more ways than one.  Ahab has grown unhappy that a previously Israeli owned-city, Ramoth Gilead, is now occupied by the Syrian (Aram) people, the very nation that was given over to him by God (1 Kings 20).  No doubt that Ahab’s misintentioned mercy to the Syrian nation (Again 1 Kings 20) has become less than advantageous, contemptuous, or is now, simply biting him in the…rear.  Ahab forms an alliance with Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat, who says he will fight with Ahab to take back Ramoth Gilead if he consults the LORD first.  Ahab thinks, “No problem; I have plenty of prophets.”. Enter the yes-men.

‘So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”  “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” – 1 Kings 22:6

Jehoshaphat isn’t convinced by the mass of soothsaying suck-ups for a simple reason: they do not mention God, YHWH, which prompts his head-scratching statement “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?” “But didn’t the prophets say ‘the Lord will give <Ramoth Gilead> into the king’s hand?’” You may have heard it before, but it is worth reminding, that not all “lords” are equal in most English translations of the Old Testament.  L-o-r-d means master, which is often used for God, but L-O-R-D is the indisputable proper name of God, the Father, YHWH.  The sycophantic seers have not consulted with the Almighty, but have most likely consulted one another, telling the king whatever they think he wanted to hear.    Ahab confesses there is still ONE prophet of the LORD, Micaiah, but he doesn’t like to use him because he doesn’t like to kiss-up like the others. In fact, Ahab’s reluctance shows that he most likely already knew the truth. Micaiah lives up to his reputation, delivering a Word from the LORD that was unfavorable to what Ahab had already set upon his heart to do.

Is Ahab’s folly not our own? As I read about his fatal flaw, I can feel my own groan, lurch, and tumult described by Paul in Romans 7:15-20, between what I have intentioned in my heart and what the LORD wants of me.  What makes it worse is the body of booty smoochers ready to tell me that fulfilling my desires are what will ultimately make me happy.  In 2020, it doesn’t take much searching to find 400 people that agree with you.  Just because a crowd has formed in agreement with you, it doesn’t mean they (or you) know what’s best.  There are well-established organizations, conferences, websites, movements, forums, etc. that have opposing views to God’s desire for your life.  No matter how convincing the mob, there is only one way to get the truth: The Word of the LORD.  Yet the fact of the matter is as I wrestle with my desire, my pride, and my sin, I’d rather hear comforting, confirming, justifying lies from hundreds than hear a truth from a single person that would convict me and cause me to change. This would mean that the problem doesn’t externally exist in the world I live in, but within me, which is the hardest thing to hear (and the reason why we don’t invite challenging scriptures or a truth-telling Christian friend to the party, i.e. Micaiah)

“The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrew 4:12

There is great advice in the word of Jehoshaphat, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”  Before taking any course of action, no matter how great or small, let me stop consulting my social circle of “yes people” and search the Word of the LORD for discernment.  Almost always, our only reluctance is because we already know the answer that is buried not-so-deep within our heart. Let’s pray that God will bring his convicting truth to our aspirations and challenge us to listen to His voice only as He guides us to His way.

 

Aaron Winner

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+22%2C+2+Chronicles+18&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Chronicles 19-23 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Still Not Alone

1 Kings 20-21

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I neglected to mention at the end of yesterday’s “You are Not Alone” devotion that one excellent way to battle the weary, lonely depression that sometimes falls upon those who speak for God is to find a partner in ministry – work together with one you can mentor.  At the end of chapter 19 Elijah found Elisha.  Some Bible scholars suggest they worked together about 6 years, but I found another that thought it could have been closer to 23 years.  Regardless of the length of time, I believe it is safe to say the apprenticeship was a mutual blessing to both Elijah and Elisha – and likely multiplied the work that either one could have done on their own.  Elisha will have a very long and powerful ministry for the LORD, but what would it have looked like if he had not had the opportunity to serve under Elijah?  Who are you serving under?  Who are you mentoring?

It is interesting that in the next chapter neither Elijah nor Elisha are mentioned, but at least twice a prophet or son of a prophet speaks to evil King Ahab – once to tell him how to be victorious over the attacking Ben-Hadad of Aram, and once to reprimand him for being too leniant on Ben-Hadad when God delivered him into Ahab’s hand.  This is further proof that Elijah was indeed not the only one left to stand for and speak for God.  And proof, that while Elijah had very faithfully performed many deeds and sermons for God – God did not need Elijah.  The Almighty can call any man or woman – or rock – to work for Him.  I do believe when the city walls fall down on 27,000 fleeing enemy soldiers God’s rocks were at work – perhaps others would have merely called it a coincidence or an earthquake (1 Kings 20:30).

It can truly be amazing who and what God uses – even the evilest king who had ever lived.  Sure, enough, when God wanted to show HIS strength against the advancing foreign army – He tells Ahab the winning battle plans through a prophet and Ahab somewhat surprisingly listens and follows along – to a point.  And, in the last chapter of today’s reading we will even see Ahab repentant – for a time.  There is no heart God can’t soften and change or use for His glory.

But, you are just asking for trouble if you choose to hang out with the bad girls (or in Ahab’s case, his wicked wife).   They have done a lot of evil things but how many commandments do they manage to break when Ahab decides he would love to have a vegetable garden for his second palace?  Once, again, sin snowballs.  One leads to another and it grows larger and larger. With serious consequences.

Following the violent murder of innocent Naboth and the stealing of his property, Elijah is sent to condemn Ahab and Jezebel and foretell their own violent deaths – only partially put on hold by Ahab’s repentant spirit.  Isn’t it good to know that God still sees the  cruelty and injustice of the world today and His timeline is put in place to make all things right.  There will be a time when all humanity meets their judge and will be held accountable for all their deeds and the condition of their hearts.  Until that day may we faithfully carry His word – knowing that we are not alone!

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+20-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18 as we continue the seekgrowlove.com 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

You are Not Alone

1 Kings 17-19

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Don’t you love Elijah!  The showdown at Mount Carmel is one of my all-time favorite Old Testament stories!  Elijah makes a bold, strong, fast, quick-witted hero for the LORD.  We love to see how he repeatedly stands firmly for God and how God takes care of him, over and over again.  Even though his king (Ahab), his queen (Jezebel) and his nation (Israel) are making some really bad decisions following a man-made god (Baal), Elijah doesn’t back down and his deep faith in God allows him to display God’s power in amazing and miraculous ways.  He prays and God holds back the rain for 3 and a half years. During the drought he is fed by ravens.  (Don’t worry, there are no sanitation problems when God provides the birds to bring you your daily breakfast and supper). He is the first person recorded in Scripture through which God raises the dead!  Never-before seen miracles – at the hand of Elijah!  He prays and God sends fire from heaven to burn up the absolutely drenched sacrifice, wood, stones and soil.  With God’s power he outruns Ahab’s chariot – I bet that was fun to do.  Can you imagine the face and heart of Ahab who had just been bested on Mount Carmel by his enemy Elijah, and then here comes Elijah running past his royal chariot that is trying to outrun the storm clouds that Elijah predicted?  Triple whammy!  It is like Elijah is untouchable!   A super-human spokesman and miracle maker for God.

But no, he was not super-human.  In case anyone was wondering, James sets the record straight many years later in the New Testament that, “Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly…”  (James 5:17).  He was a regular man like us.  But he sure knew how to pray!

But being a regular man like us, he grew tired, too.  And fearful sometimes as well.  Ministry can be exciting and exhilarating.  And, tiring and scary.  Sometimes the results aren’t quite what you were hoping for.  Instead of a dramatic conversion – now the ones you were trying to convince of God’s majesty are trying to hunt you down to destroy you!

When Elijah hears that Jezebel has vowed to take his life he is so ready to give up.  Maybe you have been there too, sitting under a broom tree telling God you are done.  But God provides for him again and sustains his long journey (40 days) to a safer (and holy) spot and then reveals himself in a gentle whisper.  Elijah knows he has had a special, one-of-a kind moment with God.  God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah” (1 Kings 19:13).  Elijah answers, saying he has done so much for God, but the people still won’t listen, and now he is the only one left who speaks for God and they are trying to kill him, too.  It is a little bit of a pity party perhaps – that’s where we go when we are tired and worn out and fearful for the future.

God could be angry.  After all that God has done for Elijah, how dare he mope?  But God doesn’t respond with anger and condemnation; instead, the loving, compassionate, faithful God gives Elijah specific action steps as well as correction.   He says – “Go Back”.  You have had your 40 day sabbatical – you have encountered me in a gentle whisper – I have provided for you – now return, your work isn’t done.

God knows the world is broken and rough and a difficult place to speak for God.  But He says don’t give up.  Keep at it.  He still has more people for you to influence – more people for you to anoint with God’s words and purpose.  The evil king (Satan) may not be brought down in your lifetime.  That’s okay, God will still take care of him, God’s rule will prevail, and He is lining up the people (including His Son the Messiah) and the events to bring it to be.  In the meantime, it is still your job to pass along the good news and the words and power of the Almighty.  And in this way the faithful chain continues through the generations – each one doing their part to proclaim the greatness of our Heavenly Father and prepare the way for His ultimate Kingdom rule.

And, no, Elijah – you are not alone.  Yes, you felt alone.  But you were never alone.  We know that Obadiah (a God-believer in charge of Ahab’s palace) had risked his life by saving the lives of 100 prophets of God in caves (1 Kings 18:2-4).  And God himself corrects Elijah by telling him He had personally reserved 7,000 in Israel who had not worshipped Baal.  It was far from a majority – you don’t need to be a majority to continue speaking God’s word.  But know that you are not a lonely army of one.  God sees you – and He sees all those He has given the most important task of speaking for Him.  Don’t bend your knee to evil.  Don’t give up.  God sees and provides.  Keep speaking for Him.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+17-19&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Sin Snowballs

1 Kings 15:25-16:34 & 2 Chronicles 17

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In our chronological journey through the Bible we took nearly 7 weeks to read and discuss the life and writings of David.  But in today’s reading in 1st Kings (15:25-16:34) we will cover 6 kings of the Northern Kingdom Israel and in 2 Chronicles (17) we will be introduced to a king in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  Hold on to your hat – here we go!

THE NORTHERN KINGDOM – ISRAEL (10 tribes) – will have 9 different family dynasties reign (with 19 kings) over a period of 208 years

Jeroboam – rebelled against Solomon’s son Rehoboam – reigned 22 years – evil – set up golden calves for worship so the people wouldn’t return to the temple in Jerusalem – succeeded by his son….

Nadab – 2 years – evil – overthrown by…

Baasha – 24 years – evil – Jehu prophesied Baasha’s family would be ruined – succeeded by his son….

Elah – 2 years – evil – drunk – overthrown by…

Zimri – 7 DAYS – (next time you think you’ve had a tough week – remember Zimri) – long enough to kill all of Baasha/Elah’s family, as prophesied – but he too was evil and when their army (and Omri, its commander) heard Zimri killed Elah and made himself king they marched against the palace – rather than be captured, Zimri burned the palace down around him as he was overthrown by…

Omri – 12 years – evil – moved capital city to Samaria – “sinned more than all those before him” (I Kings 16:25)

Ahab – 22 years – evil – “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.” (1 Kings 16:30)

 

Well, that’s where our reading will leave the nation of Israel today – so far that is 4 of the 9 dynasties – not bad for a quick history lesson.  Do you see a pattern developing for the Northern Kingdom of Israel?  Not a very pretty one I am afraid.  Spoiler alert – NONE of their 19 kings are going to be deemed good and upright by God.   You would think with all the rebellions and overthrowing of the old nasty king, someone better would come along at some point.  But, no.   Can you imagine living in a country with one after another dirty, rotten, scoundrel, violent, unfaithful leaders?  I wonder if the people thought back to Samuel’s words about the wisdom of being led by God rather than a man?  They already had God, why did they think they needed a king?  Over and over again we read, “(He) did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit.” (1 Kings 15: 34).  Even when it is no longer Jeroboam’s family line,  the sin continues to snowball.  Unfaithfulness breeds unfaithfulness.  Tomorrow we get to read a ray of hope and inspiration as we watch  a man of faith witnessing in the midst of this evil and tumultuous world.  Never give up -even when evil is on the rise!

The rest of 1st & 2nd Kings will focus on the rest of the evil kings of Israel (from Ahab on) as well as the prophets who spoke for God and worked to turn the hearts of the people to God.

Meanwhile, 2nd Chronicles will continue their retelling of the house of David – what has become the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  Quite in contrast to their northern neighbors, Judah will remain under the leadership of ONE family – the line of King David!  And, while there will be a fair number of kings judged to be evil – we will also meet some who seek God and strive to lead their country to do what is right as well.  Here’s the start of our chart for Judah

SOUTHERN KINGDOM – JUDAH – (2 tribes) – from the split to the exile 20 kings in the line of David

Rehoboam – 17 years – evil – David’s grandson – but heart not set on seeking God

Abijah – 3 years – gave a great speech about God as the leader – but didn’t continue to live it out – evil

Asa – 41 years – called good and upright – commanded Judah to seek the LORD – but then at the end of his life put his trust (& treasuries) in men rather than turning to God in his troubles

Jehoshaphat – 25 years  – “the LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed.  He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3)
We will get to know Jehoshaphat better in our coming readings, but today I am most impressed with his deep desire to seek God rather than doing whatever is politically/religiously “correct” at the time (following the neighbors).   And, he knew it wasn’t enough for him to do it alone – his desire was to see his whole country following the LORD.  I see great wisdom in his act of sending out godly teachers throughout Judah with the Book of the Law.

You may be feeling surrounded by evil and bad examples.  Don’t give up.  The world needs your light and example and godly teaching just as much as it did back in the day of Jehoshaphat.  How will you shine and spread the word of God today?

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+15%3A25-16%3A34%2C+2+Chronicles+17&version=NIV

Tomorrow we get to read several events from the life of Elijah as we cover 1 Kings 17-19 in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Story

1 Kings 15:1-24 & 2 Chronicles 13-16

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History is a curious thing.  Today’s reading covers two different kings of Judah, Abijah and Asa, from the perspective of two different writers.  It is quite interesting to see what is remembered and omitted and concluded from the lives of these two kings from the two different authors writing at different time periods for different purposes.

Let’s look at Abijah, King David’s great grandson.  It is easy to love the Abijah recorded in 2 Chronicles 13.  King Jeroboam of Israel is closing in with an army twice the size of King Abijah’s of Judah.  But Abijah responds with courage, faith in God and a rousing speech.  He speaks of Israel’s united history under David and God and then records the sins of Jeroboam (& Israel) in breaking with God, the God-ordained priests, and the house of David.  He concludes that, “As for us (Judah), the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him….God is with us, he is our leader.” (2 Chronicles 13:10,12). And then, even though an army twice their size is before and behind them, God gives the victory and Abijah’s army wipes out over half of Jeroboam’s fleeing and destroyed army.  It’s exciting to see how God shows His strength through Abijah.

And then we read the account of King Abijah as recorded in 1 Kings 15.  The details of his life agree completely with what is recorded in 2 Chronicles: reigned 3 years, son of Rehoboam and Maacah, there was war between him and Jeroboam, and his son Asa would rule after his death.  But, absolutely nothing is said of the moving speech or victorious battle or God as his leader.  Instead, the writer of Kings sums up Abijah’s life by saying, “He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.” (1 Kings 15:3).

Oh, Abijah, we had such hope for you from that one outstanding snapshot of your life.  Your sermon that day was so full of convicting truth – that you forgot?  What went wrong?  How was your heart divided that sin won out?  Didn’t you daily recall how God fought for you?  Did you think you did that on your own?  It is discouraging to see what could have been, or once was, a strong testimony for God crumble and cave to sin and a divided heart.

But, it is also encouraging to see what God can do for His purposes – even when He’s working with and through sinful, broken people.  He can use the Joshua’s, the David’s and the Abijah’s and you and me.  He has and can and will have the victory any time He wants – and He can do it using any one He wants.

It is also interesting to see what one chooses to remember when looking back on history.  How do we portray and ultimately judge the heroes and the villains?  Which statues do we decide to pull down, if any, or why not all?  Everyone is certainly a mix of wise and foolish choices.  Some of our forefathers had some really good, faithful days (like Abijah’s) and these can still be celebrated today.  Remember the Chronicles were written long after these events took place and were written to encourage the returning exiles.  They needed to remember the faithful God who worked through the house of David and the priestly line.  They were being prepared for the coming arrival of a Messiah from the house of David who would be a priest like none before.  It would be helpful for them to remember their history as they prepared for their future.  It was time to bolster their courage and faith and remind them that God is their leader.  They needed the story of Abijah’s Really Good Day and the God who supplied it.

And, it is also valuable to consider the bigger picture of someone’s life to see what to avoid in order to get us where we want to go.  Rather than using our own flawed measuring stick to judge (popularity, wealth, good speaker, etc…), whenever possible it is helpful to know what God thought of the man.  That is going to be what really counts, so that is what I want to pay attention to so I am not setting up heroes for my life that God would disapprove of.

All that and we finally get to Asa – one of the few kings recorded as, “good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2).  And the writer of Kings agrees completely.  There are some beautiful passages you won’t want to miss about God’s provision and Asa’s seeking and working for God wholeheartedly, even when it meant going against some of his family.  Although, for all his wise and courageous decisions, he still had a rough spot towards the end of his reign when he chose to rely on man instead of God – and there was a price to pay for that error.  But it would be a mistake for us to judge and remember Asa only for that sin that sadly would affect him and many others for years to come.

History is interesting, as is our record of it, and our judgement of those who have come before.  But first and foremost lets learn to us it to grow closer and closer to living a life seeking and serving with an undivided heart the God who created all history and present and future.  What would He have you learn from His Story today in order to live better today and prepare yourself for His Future?

Keep Reading His Word and Seeking Him

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+15%3A1-24%2C+2+Chronicles+13-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 15:26-16:34 & 2 Chronicles 17 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

So Many Choices to Make

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2 Chronicles 10-12

Today’s reading (from 2 Chronicles) begins where yesterday’s reading began (in 1 Kings) – Solomon has just died and his son Rehoboam has been made king of all Israel.  It is a good time to use a lot of wisdom, especially since there are discontented citizens and a prophecy has been made that the kingdom (or 10 of the 12 tribes) would be torn out of the hand of Solomon’s son and given to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:9-13 & 26-40).

When the potential revolters knock on the palace door asking Rehoboam how he will rule them, Rehoboam responds first with wisdom.  Rather than giving a rash answer he might regret later he asks them to return in 3 days – and he consults with his elders.  Well done, Rehoboam.  The wise elders advise the new king to be a servant leader and his countrymen would always be faithful to him (1 Kings 12:7, 2 Chronicles 10:7).  It wasn’t the answer Rehoboam was looking for.  He was looking forward to having great power, authority and fame – perhaps even greater than that of his dad Solomon or his grandpa David.  He didn’t see how a kind “servant” fit into the picture of leadership.

So, he goes to his young buddies he grew up with (perhaps about 40 years old 🙂 – 2 Chronicles 12:13) and asks them how he should proceed.  They are inexperienced, power hungry, arrogant, foolish “young” men.  But Rehoboam rejects the wisdom of the elders he asked first and follows the foolish advice of his friends and tells the people he will be a harsh and firm ruler.  Not too wise, Rehoboam.

Rather than submitting to these fear tactics, Israel revolts and 10 tribes go with Jeroboam, leaving just Judah (and parts of Benjamin) loyal to the house of David and his grandson Rehoboam.  This is exactly what God told Solomon would happen, as a result of his turning away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:9).  Like father, like son – it’s not enough to start out wise – you must stay the course and firmly resist the easy, enticing, foolish way that the worldly friends would lead you down.

In the next couple chapters we see Rehoboam, continue to yo-yo between good choices and bad choices.  He wisely listens to the word of the Lord and abandons plans to attack Israel and start an all-out bloody civil war with their dissenting brothers (2 Chronicles 11:4).  But then, “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD.” (Chronicles 12:1).   Too often when we are feeling strong, comfortable and sure of ourselves…our pride makes us think we don’t need God anymore.  And that is a dangerous place to be – for Rehoboam and the country of Judah as well as for you and me and our country.  In God we trust.  Or, we did once?  How sad and hauntingly eerie to read God’s proclamation against the nation that rejects God: “This is what the LORD says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to …’ ” (2 Chronicles 12:5b).  And in came the invaders from Egypt.

The good news is, the story doesn’t always have to end there – and it doesn’t for Rehoboam!   He still had a bounce back left in his up/down/repeat journey.  Rehoboam’s pride had brought him down, turning from God, and leading to punishment.  Now, at the bottom, faced with a foreboding enemy he gets another chance to choose his response –  wise or foolish, humble or proud, repentant or heard-hearted?  Rehoboam and his countrymen chose wisely this time – they, “humbled themselves and said, ‘The LORD is just.’ ” (2 Chronicles 12:6).   God still sent the invaders from Egypt – to shake them up a little and teach them a lesson they needed to learn – there is a price to pay for turning from God and proudly putting your trust in yourself instead.   But, because of their humble response, God did not let the Egyptians annihilate them.

That would not be the end of Rehoboam.  He would reign in Jerusalem 12 more years.  But sadly the few wise choices we saw in Rehoboam were not enough.  In the end, it was recorded, “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 12:14).

In reality, we are all a mix of wise and foolish choices.   There are consequences for the foolish ones and rewards for the wise.  But which will you be known for in the end?  Let us each work hard to make wise choices everyday.  Daily seek the LORD with humility – acknowledging our need for Him, our desire to follow His wise and right way, our willingness to set aside the selfish, prideful desire for power and and instead offer ourselves as a servant.

Seek Him!

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+10-12&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 15:1-24 and 2 Chronicles 13-16 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan