Detestable Practices

2 Chronicles 33-34

I have two dramatically different directions I’d like to go with today’s reading, and decided I’d share them both.

In 2 Chronicles 33:1-2, 6, we find, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. … He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists.  He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”

Did you catch that, he sacrificed his sons in the fire.  As repulsive as everything else is that he did, in my mind, nothing can compare with that.  That sounds horrible, and in my mind, he deserved a horrible punishment.

2 Kings 24: 1-4 tells the end of that story.  It goes like this, “During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled. The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. 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.”

God annihilated the nation of Judah because of all the innocent blood Manasseh had shed.  God wasn’t willing to forgive.   As I read this, I have to agree that God was right in his judgement against Judah.  They deserved everything they got.

But this makes me wonder, how are we different from Judah?  We may not sacrifice our children in the fire, but we do have rampant abortion in our nation.  I wonder, in God’s eyes, how do those two ways of shedding innocent blood differ?  Which makes me wonder how much we are provoking God to anger, and what will be the end of our story as a nation.  I see parallels, and they concern me. 

The second thing that jumps out at me from today’s reading is that Manasseh was born during the additional 15 years that God had extended Hezekiah’s life.  If Hezekiah had died when he was originally very sick, Manasseh would not have been born, and someone else would have been king.  It may have been that Judah would have existed as a nation far longer.  In this case, I think we can agree that for the greater good, it probably would have been better if Hezekiah had died young, so Manasseh would not have been born.

I know probably more than most, how we long to have life extended, and how we may plead with God to spare life.  But I’m reminded of Isaiah 57:1-2, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart, devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”

We don’t often think that sometimes the righteous die, basically for their own good.  We view death as the enemy, and rightly so, but this life isn’t our final reward.  This life is the test to see which eternal reward we will receive, life or death.  It’s easy to say, but hard to put into practice that we should live so sold out for God, that we shouldn’t be concerned about our life or our death.  We need to seek first God’s kingdom, and God will take care of everything else.


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Chronicles 33-34 and Romans 16

Peace and Building Up

Romans 14

So far this week, I’ve been focusing on the Old Testament reading, since fewer people are as familiar with the Old Testament, and there is a lot to learn from it.  But today, I’d like to point out something from Romans 14.

Romans 14 is written to “strong” Christians, and discussed the topic of doing things that may offend a brother (i.e. cause someone to stumble into sin).  Back in the day, apparently there were some who felt they shouldn’t eat meat, because it may have been sacrificed to an idol.  But since we know idols are nothing, it’s fine to eat meat, as long as we thank God for it.  But here comes the rub, in Romans 14:15, “If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love.  Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.”

It continues in Romans 14:19 by saying, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”  And in Romans 14:21, “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.”

I share this because it hits me personally.  Years ago, we had someone in our church who thought it was a sin to drink wine.  I happened to drink wine (sparingly, but still…).  Somehow, it came up that I drank, and he came to me to point out my sin.  I was familiar with this passage, and others like it, and knew it wasn’t a sin to drink, but it’s a sin to get drunk.  Of course I thanked him for his concern and for pointing this out, while secretly I was scoffing.

But Beth, my late wife, pointed out 1 Corinthians 8:9, “Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”  In my arrogance, I was quick to point out that he was the weak one here, and I am the strong one.  That was irrelevant.  I was commanded to do things that lead to peace and to not put a stumbling block in front of the weak.  So, with Beth’s persistence, I was able to comply.

This points out a truth I’ve come to understand over the years.  Many times, we may recognize what God has to say, but we don’t necessarily want to do it.  In cases like these, I have found that it really helps to have an accountability partner to help hold us accountable, to do what God demands, even if we don’t necessarily want to obey.  And ultimately, obeying God works out best for everybody.

So if you haven’t considered having an accountability partner before, you may want to consider how this could be used to draw you closer to God.

-Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 29-30 and Romans 14

Following Evil

2 Chronicles 21-22

Even though King Jehoshaphat “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  He was sure stupid when it came to raising his kids.  He had arranged a marriage between his son, Jehoram, and  Athaliah, Israel’s evil king Ahab’s daughter.  This was a stupid arrangement for two reasons.  First, this would virtually guarantee Jehoram would be evil and lead Judah into evil.  Second, the future of God’s plan of salvation depended on the continuation of David’s dynasty through Jehoram, and as we will see, that came into peril.

Anyway, 2 Chronicles 21 starts with Jehoshaphat’s death, and Jehoram’s ascension to the throne.  Once he established himself as king, Jehoram killed all of his brothers and some of the princes of the land – basically, anyone who may challenge his authority.  (Presumably, he wanted them out of the way so they couldn’t oppose his promoting the worship of Baal.)  Then he proceeded to follow the evil ways of the evil King Ahab, because he had married Ahab’s daughter.  

Jehoram received an astounding warning.  He received a letter from Elijah pronouncing judgment on him because of his sins.  This is astounding, because this is several years after Elijah was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind (as recorded in 2 Kings 2:11).  This passage in 2 Chronicles 21 corresponds to events recorded in 2 Kings 8.  Elijah had obviously written this prophetic letter and had directed it to be delivered at a particular future date.  Anyway, this letter declared a curse on Jehoram because of all of his sins and the sins he caused Judah to commit.  According to the letter, he was going to be inflicted with a disease of his bowels until his bowels came out.  And two years later, that’s exactly what happened, and how he died.

As the story continues, Jehoram’s son, Ahaziah, became king but only reigned one year.  After his death, Athaliah (remember her from the first paragraph?) killed all her kids and grandkids so she could rule the nation.  (Remember my comment in the first paragraph about David’s dynasty being in peril?).  Athaliah was no descendant of David!  As it turned out, her infant grandson, Joash, was whisked away while everybody else was being killed.

The main thing that jumps out at me from today’s reading is the importance of not only following the Lord ourselves wholeheartedly, but also how imperative it is to pass along a love for the Lord to our children (both physical and spiritual children).  I’m convinced Jehoram could have been a great king, who loved the Lord, and had a blessed reign, if only Jehoshaphat had stressed the importance of following the Lord, and if Jehoshaphat had chosen a godly wife for Jehoram.

The second thing that jumps out to me is the importance of choosing a godly spouse.  This is literally the second most important decision any of us can ever make (after the decision to follow the Lord).  And this will either make it easier to live for God, or will make it harder – and the implications are eternal.

The third thing that strikes me is how God alerted Elijah in advance, so he could write a letter to be delivered to Jehoram years later, declaring his downfall.  And then Elijah had to have someone deliver this letter on a specific future date, at just the right time.  God really does know everything.  (Maybe He knows a thing or two about how we should live, and maybe I should read His word to find that out, and maybe I should live for Him.)

The final thing that I see is that God saved exactly one descendant of David – and that was a baby – so he could continue David’s line, and fulfill His promise to David.  Despite everything seeming to go wrong, God was still in control.  And much later, He would ultimately fulfill His promise to David through another baby, Jesus.

I want to be on God’s side – since God can still be in control, even when everything seems to be falling apart.  How about you?


–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Chronicles 21-22 and Romans 10

Consider Your Allies

2 Chronicles 19-20 & Romans 9

When your life is over, how would you like to be remembered? After ruling over the Kingdom of Judah for 25 years, it was written that Jehoshaphat “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” As we have learned, the king was not perfect, but he set his heart on seeking God. He went out and turned people back to the Lord. He appointed judges and setup a judicial system based on God’s Law. He also humbly sought God’s deliverance against a vast army. God delivered the King and his people. It would be great if that were the end of the story. The King was good-the end. But no, in the truthfulness of the scriptures we find out a huge blunder made by Jehoshaphat near the end of his life. He once again makes an alliance with another wicked king of Israel. This time he agreed to construct a fleet of trading ships. Of course, the ships were wrecked and these trading ships were never used.

From Jehoshaphat’s example, we should realize that it is so important that we use godly discernment in forming our relationships with others. Paul the apostle’s warning is “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) We want to influence others for good and to show them the way to God. We never want them to adversely affect our relationship with God. It is easy to pick up habits and behaviors from our social group, but we are to be imitators of the Lord. Our relationship with God and Christ should be the most important relationship in our lives. May you be blessed as you read the scriptures and spend time with our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Chronicles 19-20 and Romans 9

No Condemnation

2 Chronicles 17-18 & Romans 8

Jehoshaphat was the fourth king of the Kingdom of Judah. We are told that he “sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel.” Jehoshaphat sent out leaders throughout Judah to teach the people from the Book of the Law of the LORD. He was a good king, but we are informed of a couple of mistakes he made in his life. In one instance, he allied himself with Ahab, the evil king of Israel. He even joined forces with Ahab to enter a war even though they were warned by God’s prophet that they would lose that battle. When he returns, he accepts the correction from Jehu the seer. We can learn so much from this.

When we find that we have sinned and realize that we have messed up in our spiritual lives, it is so important for us to repent and offer our situation up to God. He will forgive and restore us. Of course, no one wants to deal with the consequences of sin, but God will also give us the courage and strength to face the consequences as well. Paul assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let’s remember:

We are God’s children. (Romans 8:14-17)

God is for us. (Romans 8:31)

God gave up his own son for us so He will graciously give us all that we need. (Romans 8:32)

God has forgiven us. He justifies us, declares us righteous in Christ. Do not doubt, because no one condemns us. We are in Christ. (Romans 8:33)

Christ is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

Christ loves us and there is nothing that can separate us from His love. (Romans 8:35-39)

God and Christ will help you overcome. We are told that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. What does it mean to you to be “more than a conqueror” through him who loves you? Trust Him to lead you to victory!

-Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 17-18 and Romans 8

Wages and Gifts

Romans 6

When I was a child, I had the chance to make some extra money in the summer. About 8-10 of us would work in the fields around our neighborhood. It was hard work in the hot summer sun and our wage was .50 an hour. Some of the older kids made a dollar an hour. No, we didn’t care about minimum wage laws, because we received a bonus of a free soft drink after a couple of hours of work in the fields. That was exhausting work in the heat, but at the end of the day we received our wages. Our wages were exactly what we earned and deserved. We knew ahead of time what we would be paid for our work.

I was reminded of this by today’s reading. The first part of Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death.” We understand that sin means missing the mark. It is from a Greek archery term meaning to miss the bulls-eye. Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all realize that we deserve punishment for our sin, but living in a life of sin can deceive us. When we open ourselves to sin, we start believing the lies. We justify and reason away our wrong behavior.  Remind you of some kings we have been reading about? We read their stories, and say to ourselves, “What are you doing? Just stick with God. He will deliver your nation like He has done before.” God would give the kings victory and peace, but they forsook Him because of sin and pride.

 We know that sin leads to death, so let’s make a commitment to a life that is interwoven with God. When we are close to God, we are going in the right direction and following His commands. We are experiencing His love and blessings every day.

The rest of Romans 6:23 continues “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Thank you God for this gift!

-Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 13-14 and Romans 6

What is Your Heart Set on Seeking?

2 Chronicles 11-12

Solomon died and his son, Rehoboam became king. The people requested that he lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke that the king was requiring of them and they would serve him. It takes a lot of taxes and hard work to support the extravagant lifestyles of a family of 700 wives and 300 concubines.   By following the poor advise of his peers, he unwisely threatened to increase the harsh labor and make the peoples’ yoke heavier. He arrogantly pronounced “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier.” Nope. That was it. No more. The people had enough. They refused to support the king any longer.

The united kingdom of Israel was divided. There was now a northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah which included Jerusalem and was ruled by Rehoboam. Jeroboam, the king’s rival becomes the king of Israel.

We can learn a lot from Rehoboam’s mistakes.  We can take advice from godly individuals with more life experience and we can sympathize with others who are experiencing difficulties especially if we are leading those individuals. But perhaps the most important thing we should learn from his example is that Rehoboam “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.” Our life purpose should be to experience a loving relationship with God through Jesus. What portions of our lives might be torn apart because we reject God? What portions of our lives will receive blessings by seeking the LORD?

-Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 11-12 and Romans 5

Freedom

2 Chronicles  7-8

Today we celebrate the many freedoms that we have in our country. We are so blessed to live in a country that allows us to worship God and so freely profess our belief in Christ. The scriptures explain that through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free. We are also free from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8)

From the beginning, God has given human beings freedom in the form of free will. He allows us to choose. We can choose to follow Him and His Son or we can reject them because we want to go our own way. It is so clear to see this choice when it is placed before the people in the scriptures. Their own evil desires will result in sin and death or they can follow God as He leads them and others to life. Life that is described as abundant and everlasting.

Solomon had been making some great choices for God. He was honoring Him. God’s temple was being dedicated and Solomon was using his influence for good. As always when people draw near to God, He draws near to them. God assures them that He is there with fire from heaven and His glory filling the temple. The people praise the LORD by saying, “He is good; His love endures forever.” After this the LORD even appears to Solomon. God presents a choice that Solomon has to personally make. Solomon can walk before the LORD faithfully following everything that God commanded or reject God by doing his own thing.

Unfortunately, as Solomon’s life unfolds, he begins breaking the laws that he was given. One by one he breaks the few laws that he was asked to follow as the king. He continues following some of God’s laws while ignoring others. His heart was led astray, just as the LORD told him it would be.

Solomon had wealth, fame, power, and wisdom, but none of that mattered because he allowed people and things to replace his love for God. Let’s examine our own hearts today and freely give them completely to our God. We know that “He is good; His love endures forever.”

-Rebecca Dauksas

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Chronicles 7-8 and Romans 3

God Sends Answers

1 Chronicles 25-26

Reading through Chronicles it is easy to skim past large sections that seem to drone on for hours. But the fact that the whole book of Chronicles was true history of the Israelites, that was written down for us to read thousands of years later is truly fascinating. The book of Chronicles which starts off with the genealogy from Adam, shows how much the Israelites appreciated and treasured their heritage and lineage. They viewed their history as all the ways God provided for them over the years. 

Chapters 23-26 are devoted to the organization of the temple. It tells in detail the families who served in the temple and how God chose the people to be servants of the temple by being musicians, gatekeepers, treasurers, and temple officials. These positions were cast by lot. The high priest who wore the special ephod was able to cast lots using the urim and thummim. This was one way God communicated with his people. It allowed God to give the Israelites a direct yes (urim) or no (thummim) answer. 

There are many times in the Bible where it tells us that something was determined by lot. For example, Saul was appointed King of Israel by lot, and the lot was cast on Jonathan when he ate the honey he wasn’t supposed to eat according to Saul’s orders (1 Samuel 14:42), and Matthias was chosen as the apostle to replace Judas by lot (Acts 1:26), and to make decisions on how to divide the land to each of the 12 tribes (Joshua 18:6). The Bible records many other times when the people used lots to seek God’s counsel. 

So what can we take away from all of this? God loves his people, He wants to show us His plans for our lives. Part of God’s character is that he is immutable- never changing through the ages. In most cultures today, casting lots is often overlooked as a means of receiving communication and answers from God, but we must not overlook His word given to us – including Chronicles- which show God’s continuity and love to His people. God knows that we are a forgetful people who don’t remember all the many things God has done over the years. Through Chronicles we see a God who kept his promises to the Israelites and who organized the temple and determined its leaders by lot. This same God is involved in our lives as well. It’s filled with the history of God providing for and keeping true with his promises to his people. It was used to remind the Israelites of these things and it can remind us as well how God was working through their lives and how He is and was and will work in ours. And knowing this helps us Stand Firm for Him.

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Corinthians 25-26 and Proverbs 29

Detestable Prayers

Proverbs 28

As Marcia mentioned in yesterday’s devotion, many of us were at Midwest Family Camp last week, where the theme was “Stand Firm”.  In a nutshell, if we don’t have a relationship with the Lord, it is critical that we repent and come into a relationship with Him. If we already have a relationship with the Lord, we need to strengthen that relationship, and stand firm in the faith – no matter what.

In today’s reading in Proverbs 28, there are a few verses that jumped out at me which reinforced that message.  The first is found in Proverbs 28: 9, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable.”  This proverb tells us that if we’re not doing everything to live the life God called us to live, if we’re not following his rules, then He won’t listen to our prayers.  Since many of our prayers are about asking for God’s help with various things, if we selfishly want Him to answer our prayers, then we need to obey His rules, and live for Him.  As we grow in relationship with Him, we come to long for an even deeper relationship with the Lord. Then we learn that prayer is powerful, and we don’t waste it just asking for superfluous things.

Proverbs 28:13 goes on to say, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”  This is saying if we pretend to be Christians, we won’t prosper (you can’t fool God).  But if we confess and renounce our sins, and turn completely to God, we will receive God’s mercy.  I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have His mercy than to have Him holding me back from prospering.

As we continue to read through this chapter, we get to verse 20, which says, “A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”  I’ll take a detour here and comment on the health and wealth teachings we often hear from people who don’t know better.  The theory goes sort of like this… “if someone follows God, God will bless every aspect of their life.  They will be rich, healthy, and blessed.”  Many people who call themselves Christians subscribe to this false belief.  Jesus told us in John 16:33, “…In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  We have to remember this life isn’t our reward.  This life is the test to see what reward we will receive when Jesus returns.  If we are faithful to the Lord now, we will enjoy peace with God now, and eternal life when Jesus returns.  If we are just trying to get rich, we are actually worshiping money, not God — our reward is in this life, and we will forfeit eternal life.  

1 Tim 6:9-11 says, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and have pierced themselves with many griefs.  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”

Instead of trying to get rich, we need to follow the advice given in Proverbs 28:27, “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.”  Again, I think the idea is that if I’m greedy, wanting to keep all my money for myself, I’m not trying to please God, I’m just greedy for money, and God will curse me for not following Him.  But if I’m generous with the things God has given me by giving them to the poor — this mimics God’s generosity to me.  When I am imitating God, God loves that.  In fact we’re commanded in Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.”

So the bottom line is this.  We need to do everything we can to reconcile ourselves to God.  We need to confess and renounce our sins, obey His laws, be faithful, and be generous.  All these things are required to live in close relationship with God.  And if we live in a close relationship with God, we will have peace with God in this life, and an amazing reward in the life to come.  In Rev 21:4, we’re told, “He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…”   Rev 21:7 goes on to say, “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

How well are you imitating Dad?

Stand Firm.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 1 Chronicles 23-24 and Proverbs 28