Old Testament: 1 & 2 Kings Intro below
Poetry: Proverbs 29
*New Testament: Acts 23
“Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked, like my need to be praised.”
This quote is not the usual wisdom you’re accustomed to reading on this blog, but it does highlight something about our human condition: we like to be liked.
In Acts 23, we see Paul being—well, to put it understatedly—not liked. He’s been arrested for his teachings about the resurrection and his open arms toward the Gentiles. Because of his Roman citizenship, he is granted the right to a trial. Some Jews are unhappy that Paul is given a fair shake for his supposed crimes, and they take matters into their own hands (and bellies).
“When it was day, the Jews made a plot and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who made this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food till we have killed Paul. Now therefore you, along with the council, give notice to the tribune to bring him down to you, as though you were going to determine his case more exactly. And we are ready to kill him before he comes near.” (Acts 23:12-15, ESV)
When I put myself in Paul’s shoes, I quake. I can’t imagine a mob of forty people who hate me so much that they make a vow to not even eat until I’m dead. I’ve never experienced anything close to this magnitude of persecution. While the occasional hostility we receive as Christians does not compare to the threats made on Paul’s life, we can still emulate Paul’s response.
He wasn’t paralyzed by people’s perceptions. He was captivated by God’s purpose for his life. He continued in boldness and went on to testify in Rome, just as God said he would (Acts 23:11). Paul writes more about this in Galatians:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV).
Speaking vulnerably, this verse is difficult to move past my head and into my heart. In my head I know that my identity, value, and purpose are found in God. But in my heart it is HARD to give up validation from my peers. It feels so good to be in their good graces, and it hurts so badly to be left out, lied about, and laughed at.
It’s hard to tune out other’s voices when it’s quiet. Imagine a humming noise. In a quiet room it would dominate your thoughts, but standing at the foot of a roaring waterfall you wouldn’t even notice it. So here’s the first step for me—and for you too, if you struggle letting go what other people think. Like Paul, be so captivated by God’s purpose for your life, that the rest of the noises just fade into the background.
Live unabashedly how God has called you to live. No apologies. No compromises. No holding back.
- Have you been left out, lied about, or laughed at because of your faith? How did it make you feel? What does God say about facing persecution for your faith?
- God used Paul’s persecution to give him an opportunity to share his testimony to a larger audience. How has God used the bad in your life for good?
- How does knowing scripture help you counteract what others say about you?
1 & 2 Kings Introduction
The books of First and Second Kings describe the period of time between the death of King David and the exile to Babylon. They record Israel’s decline over time as a nation – as they sink deeper and deeper into idol worship.
Solomon, David’s son, started out following God and was initially blessed by God; but he eventually turned away from God. As a result of this, the kingdom was divided, with 10 tribes rebelling and choosing a new king (Israel in the North). God allowed David’s descendants to continue to rule over the Southern two tribes, collectively called Judah – because of God’s love for David (which was a direct result of David’s love for God).
One godless king after another ruled the Northern kingdom of Israel until it was destroyed by Assyria in 721 BC. While Judah declined more slowly, God finally allowed Babylon to destroy Judah in 586 BC.
2 Kings 24:3-4 records this sobering message, “Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”
Even though the overall trajectory of these books is depressing, there are some exciting and uplifting stories, including:
- Solomon’s dedication of the Temple, and God’s appearance to Solomon
- Elijah and his miracles
- Elisha and his miracles
- Jehoshaphat’s and Hezekiah’s faith
- The destruction of Assyria’s army by the angel of the Lord
- Josiah’s revival
As you read through 1 and 2 Kings, please notice the strong correlation between obedience to God and blessings from God. Also, notice the relationship between rebellion against God and punishment.
I’ll close with some of the last words of David, as recorded in 1 Kings 2: 2-3, “…So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commandments, his laws and requirements, … so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.”