A King with a Divided Heart

2 Kings 14 & 2 Chronicles 25

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Today’s reading looks at King Amaziah.  2 Kings 14:3 explains, “Amaziah did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, but not like his ancestor David” (NLT). In 2 Chronicle 25:2, we are again told of Amaziah’s faith as he “did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, but not wholeheartedly” (NLT).  The literal Hebrew translation for the phrase wholeheartedly means with a loyal heart. So, King Amaziah served the LORD, but not with a loyal heart. Sometimes he obeyed God, as explained in 2 Chronicles 25:5-10, by heeding the prophet’s warning to not use the troops from Israel. Other times, he forgot God and chose to worship idols. His heart was not loyal. He was a king divided.

The idea of serving with a divided heart reminds me of a sermon I preached last summer on Philippians 4:2-9. This passage begins with the ever popular “Do not be anxious about anything” verse. I conducted a closer word study over this passage and discovered what Paul is really saying is not “don’t worry” but not to be divided. The Greek translation for the word anxious is merimnate. The root word merimnaó actually means to be divided, not to be whole. Paul is asking believers not to let their hearts and minds become divided, but to invite God into all aspects of our lives doing this through “prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.”

While worry is one thing that can divide a heart, it is not the only thing. Right now, living in pandemic times, it is easy to be distracted by many feelings. Despair, anger, depression, grief, uncertainty, doubt, and loneliness are all feelings that can be developed during this time. All very reasonable feelings, considering all that is happening. The key is to not let these feelings divide our hearts or keep us from serving God. I believe the best thing we can do to ensure we serve God with a loyal heart, despite our circumstances, is to invite God into our feelings.

Share with Him the things troubling you. Do not keep your worry to yourself, tell God about it. Tell Him when you are lonely. Tell Him when you are angry and doubting His sovereignty. Tell Him when you are sad. Invite God into your struggles so your heart will not be divided. It may not change your circumstances but unlike King Amaziah it will help keep our hearts loyal.

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+14%2C+2+Chronicles+25&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the (short) book of Jonah as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan .  What can we learn about God or about ourselves from this prophet in the belly of the big fish?

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

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

The Queen of Sheba and Jesus

1 Kings 10-11 & 2 Chronicles 9

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Who is the wisest person to ever live?
Let me tell you why you’re wrong. (Just kidding!)
Most of us answer Solomon, right? We are told that many times in Sunday School, and our teachers weren’t wrong. He was wise… to a point. We look at what he did at the beginning of his life and we see a man who was so dedicated to God that he asked for wisdom instead of riches, power, wealth or fame. For that, God gave him all wisdom and all the other things as well. Solomon was “wise enough to know that we are not wise enough on our own.” But, is Solomon the wisest person to ever live?
I believe our reading today disabuses of that notion quickly. Solomon starts off great, but in the end, his rule falls apart. His wisdom allowed his fame to increase. But as his fame increased, his wealth increased; as his wealth increased, his political connections, in the form of marriages, increased; as his number of marriages increased, the amount of gods he worshipped increased. And there’s our problem, but it doesn’t start there. Solomon, for all his wisdom, lost sight of the end goal. Wisdom is not meant for wealth. Wisdom is not meant for fame.
Wisdom is meant for godliness.
If we want to find the wisest person to ever live, we should look to the man who knew and had insight into the hearts of men and women, the one who even knew “all things.” Jesus, of course, is the wisest man to ever live. He unpacks the wisdom of God found in the Torah Law and applies it in a way that changes more than just behavior, but changes the heart. Jesus knew how to perfectly interpret scripture in wisdom. Most importantly, Jesus lived a life of wisdom by being Godly, doing what God wanted, all day, every day.
When we read about the Queen of Sheba and the wisdom of Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9, we need to remember that her praise was not only directed at Solomon. 1 Kings 10:9 reads “Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” The Queen of Sheba was wowed at the power of YHWH to give wisdom to people. The wisdom that Solomon imparted was that God was the giver of wisdom and that God was the blesser of his people; this, sadly, was a lesson Solomon forgot. It should be no surprise that Jesus said “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31) Jesus knew that if the Queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba, were alive in his day, she would travel from the ends of the earth to hear the message of wisdom that he preached, because his teaching, his power, his wisdom far exceeds all that Solomon had.
May we my brothers and sisters, stand on the day of judgement found in the wisdom of Jesus, the wisdom that leads to godliness. May we recognize the wisdom of Christ over the wisdom of this world, and choose Christ every time. May you be blessed because you choose to trust and to live your days in the saving grace of the wisest person who ever lived.
Jacob (Jake) Ballard
——————-
Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church. You can hear more of his thoughts and worship along with the TBC Family on Facebook, live streaming every Sunday at 10am. Reach out to Jake on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Tomorrow’s reading will be the end of the Proverbs (30-31) as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Your Life is Not Meaningless

But it is Fleeting – so Live Wisely!

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Ecclesiastes 7-12

In Ecclesiastes 7-12 the author, the Teacher, continues to discuss things that are “havel”, vain, futile, fleeting and temporary. (If you haven’t yet, go ahead and read yesterday’s devotion on Ecclesiastes 1-6 for a deeper understanding of “havel”.)
The author accepts that death is the end of every person and it is important to accept that fate and live with one’s face toward death. Much of the last half of this book is the reality righteous and wise people suffer the same fate as those who are wicked and foolish. However, we must not let this reality change how we read the entire book of Ecclesiastes. The author writes in 8:12-13 “Although a sinner does evil a hundred times and may lengthen his life, still I know that it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly. But it will not be well for the evil man and he will not lengthen his days like a shadow, because he does not fear God.” While it is TRUE that the wicked and the righteous both end their lives in death, the author holds that there is good for a righteous person. Still, seek righteousness and wisdom because even a little foolishness can ruin one’s life. (10:1)
For you younger readers, the author commends that you seek out wisdom and that you remember God today! At this point in your life (12:1) There will be days of difficulty as life goes on, but in our days of joy, remember God. God is the one who gives comfort, joy, happiness, and strength on the days when the world is dark, the clouds are gray, and the pains of life are crowding in. Because the childhood and the prime of life are fleeting, temporary and transitory, enjoy them now. (11:10)
We are nearing the end of the book. We have been asking the question : “what lasts? What do people REALLY gain for all they do?” The last two verses of the book tell us what lasts : How we have lived, whether we kept the commands of God and feared him. All this in our life will be judged. Of course, this has been hinted before; now it is explicitly and clearly stated. If we believe, as some have, that the Teacher is a cynical, morose, or even godless man, then the last two verses are a radical departure. However, if this is a man who loves God and understands the futility, vanity, temporariness, FLEETING nature of life, then the final verses in Ecclesiastes are an understandable conclusion.
This of course effects how we read many passages. The author says “eat, drink, enjoy your labor, be merry!” (5:18, 8:15, 9:7) These passage show us that our labor, what we do, are not meaningless, but they are precious because of their very fleeting nature. The teacher says in 9:9, “Enjoy life with the woman you love all the days of your fleeting life…” You know you are precious to God. Your life is not meaningless, but it is havel, transitory, temporary. What we have in this life is not meaningless drudgery of existence, but the temporary good things are to be enjoyed, and to seek the eternal good things, doing the will of God and fearing him.
In the short time of our discussion we missed many interesting passages, some that are difficult (about death and sorrow) and some that are encouraging (about enjoying pleasure on the earth). But, my friends, remember : The entire duty for all people is to do the commands of God. We know that since Christ has come into the world “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1 John 3:23) As you continue to believe in the name of Jesus, may you love one another as you seek how to live wisely today!
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ecclesiastes+7-12&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 10-11 and 2 Chronicles 9 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Ecclesiastes gets a bad wrap. 

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It shouldn’t but it does. Most people think it is a depressed Old Man Solomon sitting down at the end of his life saying “EVERYTHING IS MEANINGLESS.” Therefore, most of the book is about how everything is meaningless, life is not valuable, and it would be better to be dead.
But that’s a bad interpretation.
First, let’s look at 1:2. This is the key phrase of the book. Everything hinges on understanding this phrase correctly. And most of our translations do a poor job. That may seem arrogant, but let’s look at the word in Hebrew. The word, (transliterated) is “havel” or “habel”. Literally, it means “mist” or “vapor.” Very rarely is it used in this sense. Many more times it is used of idols, which are “mists” as opposed to God’s “concreteness.”  In its more poetic context, which the passage warrants, it means “temporary”, “fleeting”, “transitory”. The author is declaring “Passing! Fleeting! Un-lasting! Everything changes and nothing remains!” See how VASTLY different that sounds from the usual “eVeRyThInG iS mEaNiNgLeSs!” we normally read?
We need to understand that the central call of the book is about how nothing lasts because it makes the question in 1:3 make SO MUCH MORE SENSE! The author (Qohelet, the teacher, most likely meant to be Solomon, but not for sure) is not simply lamenting that work is hard and not much can be gained. Instead, the author is asking a very pointed question : “In everything I do, WHAT DO I HAVE THAT LASTS? What remains? What is not ‘havel’, not a temporary, fleeting, striving after the wind?”
Now THAT is a question we want an answer to!
This isn’t a depressed teacher moaning about how everything is terrible and nothing matters and that all the stuff we do is unimportant. He is asking (and implicitly promising to answer), “What will be the thing that will last when all the other futilities of life fade?”
He goes on in these first 6 chapters and tells us that it’s not wisdom (1:12-18)[though it is better than folly (2:12-17)], it’s not pleasure (2:1-3) or possessions (2:4-11), it’s not labor (2:18-23) [though labor is a good thing (2:24-26, 3:12-15)]. The justice and oppression of men is havel, those who seek after money will realize it is havel.
Look at what the author says in 3:14 “I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it.” The eternal, so far as we know now, the thing that is not havel, temporary, fleeting or futile, is the work of God.
We leave this section of Ecclesiastes without the answer. There are some depressing things the author says, but once we have the answer for “what does a man gain? what LASTS?” we can reevaluate those passages in light of the answer.
Jake Ballard
Tomorrow we will finish the book of Ecclesiastes to find yet another wise answer to the questions of life on our walk through God’s powerful word – 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Counterintuitive Wisdom

Proverbs 27-29

Proverbs 27 6 NIV sgl

The Proverbs are, in many cases, fairly self explanatory. Don’t be lazy, don’t be a wicked ruler, don’t be foolish but be wise, be a righteous ruler, be diligent in your work. Each Proverb has it’s own meaning but they go along those lines. But some are not so self explanatory. They are counterintuitive.
A short example is found in 28:27. If you want to be prosperous and blessed, to never be in want, then we give our money to the poor. The world, our own sinful heads, and many economists believe that the way to grow our wealth and not be in want is to hoard our money. But that’s not the way God works. It is only in generosity and giving that we will be blessed. This comes from the fact that God will bless and many times he blesses us through the care of others in our time of struggle and hardship.
Also, 27:5-6 doesn’t seem to be true in the moment. I don’t like to be rebuked. I don’t like it when a friend calls me out on the garbage way I am acting. But the Proverb teaches us that we should delight when a friend rebukes us because their correction comes form a place of love and they want our life to be one of wisdom and righteousness. This is especially true for  our brothers and sisters in our local church. Many times, we may feel judged by the people of our church, but more often than not, they are wanting the BEST for us. The “wounds” they give are better than any kisses of those who tell us we have nothing wrong with us. There could be people who act like a friend and hurt you in terrible ways, but here we mean TRUE friendship, TRUE companionship, TRUE love from a brother or sister in Christ. That true love is shown in forgiveness and compassion, especially in our moments of weakness and humility. Many times, when we are sinning and are fearing the rebuke of those people, we hide our sin away, like 28:13 says. But counterintuitively, by hiding our sins, we only hurt ourselves more when they are brought to light in some other way. We need to confess our sins and turn away from them. When we do, compassion and forgiveness are waiting for us from the people of God and from God himself.
Jake Ballard
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=proverbs+27-29&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Ecclesiastes 1-6 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

To Answer a Fool – or Not?

Disagree – Wisely

Proverbs 26 4 5 NIV

Proverbs 25 & 26
Proverbs is hard to write ONE devotion about. From chapter 10 forward, nearly the entire book is a collection of pithy quick sayings that were meant to produce wisdom in those who learned them. (Only chapter 31 is different, but that will be for another author to work through!) Today, for chapters 25 and 26, I want to focus on just one set of verses.
There are two authors to every word of the Bible. The first is the human author, a person who lived in a specific place and time, thought and wrote in a specific language and who was fallible and failing just like the rest of humanity. Also, Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. This means that God directed the author so that the words, ideas, and stories are those by which God wanted people to live and that everything in the Bible is true. Short and simple, the Bible is not full of lies and misinformation, and it doesn’t contradict itself. (1)
That seems like a hard standard to hold when we read Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5.
26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
DO NOT X & DO X. That is a pretty clear contradiction, right?
Well, yes and no; let me explain. It is clearly contradiction if we believe that all the Proverbs must be followed all the time, like the laws of the Torah. But this is not how the Proverbs were intended to be used.
Proverbs were meant to make people wise, and therefore were to build wisdom AND BE USED WITH WISDOM. Every Proverb doesn’t always give what must be done in every situation always, but instead tells you a general way of living that should guide you in the moment to make a wise decision.
The question we are hard-wired to ask is : Is it right or wrong to answer a fool? But,  THAT’S A BAD QUESTION! Instead we should be asking : Is it wise or foolish to answer this fool right now? Sometimes you debate with a person in private who will never change his or her mind, and you have to throw up your hands and say, “Not worth it” or you could be dragged into the mud and muck of folly and error. Sometimes, you need to correct someone for the foolish thing he or she has said or done, or they go on being foolish forever. Either approach could be wise or foolish; it is the wisdom of God that will sort out which way we should go.
Thus, God’s word is kept from our bad interpretation and we recognize that there is no contradiction!
Jake Ballard
(1) Rarely, if ever, is something truly “short and simple.” There are lots of implications and theological, historical and scientific questions that come up, but sadly, we don’t have time for that at the moment.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 27-29 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan