The Enemy desires everything we have

2 Kings 19-20; Proverbs 14

In our previous readings, there were examples of two choices that could be made when faced with trouble. One could follow the one true God or follow their own god. Hezekiah was the king of Judah who chose to follow God, and we should too. However, Hezekiah was not exempt from later circumstances with choices to be made. The choice to follow God or not was – and is – ongoing.

At the end of Chapter 18, we see that Hezekiah stumbled. He accepted defeat from the Assyrian army after years of conquering and standing strong with his God. He gave the king of Assyria what belonged to his God (gold from the temple of Yahweh). Even after meeting their demands, it was not enough. The enemy desired everything of Hezekiah and his people. He desired their worship.

The king of Assyria sent armies to Jerusalem and surrounded it. The leader of the army told the people to accept defeat because their God would not deliver them from the king of Assyria. He went on to offer the people great things such as a land full of plentiful good food and drink. It could be theirs if only they would forsake their God.

This time (it was over the course of a few repeated circumstances with the same choice – following God), Hezekiah made the right choice. He prayed. He proclaimed the majesty of his God and asked that all would know that Yahweh alone was God. What a prayer. And then what a response from God! What an outcome! Yahweh heard and delivered.

Yet again, God prospered Hezekiah. While all the cities around him, even the northern kingdom of Israel, had been desolated and the people carried away into exile, God did great things in Jerusalem under King Hezekiah. The great things (good food and drink) that were offered to the people of Judah if they would just forsake their God and follow the king of Assyria became abundant in Jerusalem and a remnant was spared for years when they chose to follow God. Remarkable!

It is clear to me that Yahweh God alone wants our worship. He wants our hearts. When we are faced with a choice to follow him or not, he rewards those who choose him.

The people in Hezekiah’s kingdom were seeing defeat all around them. They knew what taking a stand against the king of Assyria might mean for them. The northern kingdom had starved to the point of eating their own dead children before they accepted defeat (as we read in other places, the king of Israel was told by God to surrender. Instead, he allowed his people to die). For Hezekiah’s people, having the temptation of a land full of food and drink dangling above them would have been hard to resist. Yet they did resist. In the face of temptation, they listened to their king and remained silent.   

I thought about Jesus when I read this passage and how he was led by the spirit to be tempted when he was hungry. The very last thing he was tempted with was being placed on a high mountain (maybe like the Asherah?) and given a choice to have all that he saw from that high place if he only worshipped the devil. Jesus said “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship Yahweh your God, and serve him only.’”

If our Lord Jesus was not exempt from temptation in his time of need, neither should we expect to be. We all have a choice to make. Will we serve God in our times of trouble? Will we serve God when tempted with pleasure or even with our basic needs? Know what Yahweh has done for his people when they choose him. “Have you not heard?” (2 Kings 19:25). In our time, he has supplied every need through our Lord Jesus Christ. Choose him! He has already won. If we follow him, we’ve won too. Pray like Hezekiah. Command the enemy to flee like Jesus. When difficult circumstances arise again, keep choosing God. Tell Satan to Go!

-Juliet Taylor

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 19-20 and Proverbs 14

Destroy the Asherah

2 Kings 17-18

There seems to be a persistent theme when it comes to the kings of God’s people. There were kings who served Yahweh their God and kings who served false gods. In 2 Kings 17-18, we are told a tale of two kings. The first king, Hoshea, king over Israel in Samaria, did evil in the sight of Yahweh God. During Hoshea’s reign, the king of Assyria came up against him. Instead of relying on Yahweh for help in the time of trouble, Hoshea sought the help of foreign aid and made foreign gods.

He set pillars up and Asherim (wooden symbols of a female deity) on every high hill and under every green tree. He served Idols and worshiped stars. He made the people pass through the fire (sacrificed them to gods) and practiced divination and enchantments.

Over and over again, Yahweh God tells Israel to turn from their evil ways and keep his commandments and statutes, but they would not listen. They became stiff-necked and vain and did what Yahweh God commanded them not to do under Hoshea’s leadership. They put their trust in other gods and did not fear the one true God. The next and last king of Israel did accordingly. As a result, Israel was carried away into exile. God removed them from his sight.

Then there was Hezekiah, king over Judah. He did right in the sight of Yahweh. He removed pillars and cut down the Asherah. He trusted in Yahweh God and clung to him. He kept his commandments. Yahweh was with him and wherever he went he prospered. While all the nations surrounding him were taken into captivity, Hezekiah not only withstood the forces against him, but conquered them because he put his trust in Yahweh God, listened to his commandments, and removed the false gods from his kingdom.

In our times of trouble, will we despise the word of God and serve little self-made gods like Hoshea, or will we destroy the Asherah of our lives and serve the one true God like Hezekiah? We are told by our Lord Jesus that we will have trouble in this life but to take courage because he has overcome the world. In response to trouble, we have two choices to make that can lead to two very different outcomes. We can create and rely on our own Asherah or destroy it and rely on Yahweh God alone through his son Jesus Messiah.

We don’t live in a day and age when most people are physically making objects out of wood to worship or sacrificing their children to other gods. We may however worship and sacrifice to other “gods” that we’ve made priority in our lives over Yahweh God. If we’re not careful, we may find ourselves making our personal lives our priority. We can pursue a self-indulgent lifestyle that involves making ourselves happy, making ourselves financially secure, and making ourselves feel safe. We can sacrifice our time, energy, and focus on all things not God. We’ve got to stop doing this if our desire is to serve the one true God.

Idols can be hidden. There was a time when God ordained the bronze serpent in the wilderness as a symbol of the coming Messiah. It was to be held high for all Israel to look upon and live in the face of death. Yet, we find in 2 Kings that Hezekiah destroys it. Why? Because it had become a symbol of worship beyond what God intended for it to be. What once represented the Messiah who brings life became idol worship.

Have we set up idols of influence in our lives “on every high hill and under every green tree” without even realizing it? Have we become stiff-necked and vain with our priorities and done the very thing God commands us not to do? If we have, there’s hope! Thank God we have repentance and forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Messiah. Identify the Asherah in your life, repent, destroy it, and rely on God. 

-Juliet Taylor

Hello brothers and sisters in Christ! I am thankful for this opportunity to write.  I am a Biblical Unitarian and have been for life (although I didn’t know we had a name until recently). I grew up attending fellowship based off of the teachings of the Way International Ministries. There were some years I spent listening to church online from Living Hope International Ministries, until I found a local church that believed like me. I currently attend Higher Ground Church, now affiliated with The Church of God General Conference. I’ve been with my home church for about 14 years and attend with my husband and two boys. 
We love Yahweh God, his son Jesus Messiah, and long to be with them in the Kingdom of God. Love to all and God Bless! -Juliet

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 17-18 and Proverbs 13

Lead

The Right Way

2 Kings 15-16


As a child, I was always told to be a leader, not a follower. The importance of leading with wisdom and godliness was engrained in my mind; it was repeatedly being taught by parents, teachers, mentors, and of course, leaders. I’m sure most of us grew up with similar advise. We all know the impact a good leader can have, as well as the impact a bad leader can have. That’s why
if we know what it means to be a good leader, we must take it upon ourselves to be one.


The thing is, most of us do know what it means to be a good leader. We all have it within us to lead as God instructs us to lead, because He gave us this whole enormous book full of leaders to read about and learn from. Jesus Christ was obviously the top dog when it comes to leaders…and everything else, but there are so many others we can look at too, including the not so great leaders.


Throughout the Old Testament, the importance of a strong leader is stressed over and over again. We see these amazing, capable, resilient, faithful leaders bringing God’s people into the light, guiding them in the direction God laid out for them, like Jesus someday would. But we also see weak leaders, lacking in faith and abounding in pride. When leaders like that are in charge, they
normally can be observed dragging their followers down with them. The readings of the past week have been absolutely full of leaders who could not leave behind the sins of their predecessors, which “made Israel to sin.” When you have been blessed with the knowledge of the truth, and you know the commands God has given us, it is your duty to be a leader. It is your duty to point others to God in everything you do, not to continually lead others in sin.

When Israel had weak kings who did evil in the eyes of the LORD, the whole nation was brought down as a result. On the other hand, when Israel had strong kings who did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, the entire nation would be lifted up. You can see when God favored Israel and its king, because He would lead them to victory in battle, and bless them with prosperity. When the king and Israel failed, however, they would often be delivered into the hands of their enemies.


It is clear how much of an impact a leader can have in the Bible, and that hasn’t changed at all today. We are so blessed to have the knowledge of the truth, and to know that we are loved by the Almighty. To have this knowledge, and to have a real relationship with God, we also have to accept our responsibility on this earth to be leaders. Not the kind that will lead others into sin, but the kind of leader God can count on to be a light, just as His son was. The kind of leader that has unwavering faith, because they know who holds the future. The kind of leader that obeys the words of the LORD in every circumstance. The kind of leader that shows the unconditional love of God to each and every one of His children, everyday.


Let it be our prayer that we become the leaders God made us to be, to be a bright light that guides others to Him even in this dark world.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 15-16 and Proverbs 12

It’s Not Enough

To Just Start Out Good

2 Kings 13-14


As we read through these accounts of the kings of Judah and Israel, a divided kingdom, we notice the reoccurring evaluation of how good or bad each king is. The standard by which their goodness/badness is measured is based on their obedience and faith in God. There were definitely a few truly good kings, such as David and Jehoshaphat. However, most kings, we find, were very, very far from perfect, and often ranked quite low. There were also a lot of kings that started off okay, but eventually became just as disappointing as their father before them.


Amaziah, not to be confused with Ahaziah, was one of those kings. In the beginning of chapter 14, it is stated that Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done.” He was a good king in the sense that he adhered closely to the law, but like his father, Joash, his loyalty to God and the law had its limits. Amaziah justly struck down only the assassins who killed his father, and not their whole families- which was a common practice at the time. This was a righteous and honorable thing to do, as it aligned with the instructions from Deuteronomy 24:16. His trust in God also carried him to victory over Edom, killing ten thousand Edomites; a strong display of his ability as a warrior
as well as a king.


But that’s where the righteousness of Amaziah’s reign ended. Just like his father, Joash, he continually allowed the practice of sacrifices and incense offerings on high places, which was a violation of the instructions God gave to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem. Amaziah also made the mistake of bringing back false idols to worship from the defeated Edom, and did not heed a prophet’s warning to stop. This interaction can be found in 2 Chronicles 25:16. And at the end of chapter 14 of 2 Kings, Amaziah fails his kingdom in challenging King Jehoash of Israel, despite Jehoash’s gracious advise to back down. Amaziah let his pride guide his decisions, instead of God, so the army of Judah was defeated, and Jerusalem was plundered. Not to mention Amaziah was also captured, and later conspired against by the people of his own nation.


If Amaziah had simply continued following God’s instructions, he could have had a very long and successful reign over Judah. But that wasn’t the case, and rather than being remembered as one of the good kings, he was remembered as just another almost good, but in the end a failure kind of king. How will you and I be remembered? Are we going to live our whole lives for the glory of God, taking heed of every instruction, obeying every command? Of course none of us
are perfect, but as sons and daughters of God, we have to continually strive to be obedient in all things, and never lose sight of who we were made to be.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 13-14 and Proverbs 11

What can we learn from a 7 year old king?

Evil Won’t Stop God’s Covenant

2 Kings 11-12


Have you ever thought about how absolutely insane it is that somehow, David’s lineage made it all the way to Jesus? Through 14 generations, 490 years, and an abundance of disappointingly disobedient kings, God kept his promise to David (2 Samuel 7). As we read through the Old Testament, it becomes clear that God’s people are not always godly people. We watch as countless kings mess up, disobey, lose their faith, forget God, and pass their bad habits onto the
next generation. But God’s covenant prevails. Nothing could break it, no matter the odds.


In today’s reading, Athaliah, the mother of the late King Ahaziah, sets out to end the house of David, killing Ahaziah’s entire family in a cruel effort to keep a firm grip on the throne. Miraculously, however, she fails. Ahaziah’s courageous sister, Jehosheba, safely hides away one of her brother’s sons, Joash, and keeps him hidden for six years until he can be anointed and crowned King of Judah. Athaliah is put to death, and the young Joash grows into a good and righteous king.


God didn’t let go of the promises He made to David, even when it seemed all was lost. Through both wicked kings, like Ahab and Ahaziah, and good kings, like Jehoshaphat and Joash, the royal line of David continued on, all the way to Jesus Christ. God had a plan, He made a promise, and He followed through. And this was a large-scale plan, spanning over 400 years. So we never need to doubt His plan for us. Jesus will return, he will establish God’s Kingdom, and if we
believe, we will live there forever in eternal fellowship with our Heavenly Father. No matter how lost the world may seem, no matter how hopeless we may feel, our God will carry out His promises.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 11-12 and Proverbs 10

Half-Hearted Obedience

2 Kings 9-10


Sometimes, it’s easy to confuse serving God with serving our own desires. You can go out and do amazing things, things God would love to see you doing, but that doesn’t mean you’re truly doing it for God. Our intentions behind the works are what matter. Only obeying God when it happens to align with your own agenda is not truly serving Him. We are called to take up our crosses daily, to surrender our lives to God wholly and completely. Half-hearted obedience isn’t going to cut it. It can make the world a better place, momentarily, and it can even be used by God to carry out His plan. But God isn’t asking us to be lukewarm, available-only-when-it’s-convenient-for-us Christians. A true follower of Christ is willing to do whatever God asks, and go wherever He leads, everyday.


When Jehu was anointed and declared the next king of Israel after Joram (aka Jehoram), he was tasked with a very morbid vocation. He was called to bring judgement on the house of Ahab; a very harsh judgement consisting of a lot of killing. Fortunately, the intense Jehu was up to the task, and in a way, was one of the most successful kings Israel had during this time. After a long run of very bad kings, Jehu was a refreshingly obedient type of ruler, who did exactly what God called him to do… until he didn’t.


In 2 Kings 10:12-14, we watch as Jehu viciously takes the additional life of King Ahaziah. This was a whole separate ordeal from the righteous fulfillment of God’s command to end the house of Ahab, and later he kills more relatives of Ahaziah. This was not apart of the instructions God provided, but he went on ruthlessly anyways. His ego and yearning for glory gave rise to unsolicited murder, of which he was thoroughly proud. In 2 Kings 10:16-17, Jehu requests that the honorable Jehonadab come with him and see his zeal for the LORD, and then kills more people. Jehu’s continued obedience is noteworthy, and even impressive, but in the end, he was proud of his own zeal, and only followed God’s command when it went along with his own ambitions.


2 Kings 10:31 says: “But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin.” He was quick to end the worship of Baal in Israel, but continued with the worship of false idols of Jeroboam. Jehu fought hard against idolatry, but not with all his heart. He fulfilled God’s work, and served Him well, but he never really had a true relationship with God. He destroyed everything in his path, partially for God, but ultimately for his own gain.

As followers of Christ and servants of the Most High, we are called to live everyday for something greater than ourselves, whether or not that lines up with our personal plans, desires, or ambitions. I pray that we may always serve our loving God wholeheartedly, for His cause, and not ours.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 9-10 and Proverbs 9

Restored!

2 Kings 7-8


Our God is a God of restoration. There will ultimately be a full restoration, but full restoration can only happen when the world is once again the beautiful, perfect place God created it to be, when His Kingdom is established on earth. Partial restoration, however, has been happening ever since the beginning of time. We read about restoration countless times in the Bible, and if you look, you can see it in our lives today, too. God constantly restores what has been lost to His people, whether it be a physical ability, such as sight, or movement, or a spiritual restoration, such as that of faith, or even the restoration of life.


Today, we read in 2 Kings chapter 8 about a Shunammite woman who lost everything she had during a 7 year famine, but because of her faith in God and willingness to obey, it was restored to her. Now this woman was not new to witnessing God’s ability to restore what was lost. In chapter 4 of 2 Kings, we read about how Elisha rewarded the Shunammite woman’s kindness with fertility, and she bore a son. Sadly, the son later died, but she had faith in God’s power, so she sought out Elisha. Elisha came, and the son was brought back to life; he was restored.


It is clear that this woman had remarkable faith. Perhaps this is why Elisha warned her about the famine that would come on the land for 7 long years, and advised her to leave. So without question, she and her household left their home and stayed in the land of the Philistines for 7 years, until the famine was over. When they returned, she had to appeal to the king to get back her home and all her land. The crazy thing is, right as she was coming to appeal to the king,
Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, (who in chapter 5 was cursed with leprosy, and left Elisha… so it can be assumed that these chapters are not necessarily in chronological order) was telling him the unbelievable story of the miracle Elisha performed in the resurrection of the son of the Shunammite woman. The woman, who just happened to show up during this particular story
time, also gave an account of what happened, and the King was so impressed that he instantly granted her the land and all that she left 7 years ago.


This story speaks volumes of God’s perfect timing, and adds to the common theme we see throughout the Bible of God’s willingness to restore what has been lost to those who are faithful. Look closely at the different ways in which God restores things in your life, and let it remind you to live everyday for the ultimate restoration that’s coming.


-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading devotions can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 7-8 and Proverbs 8

Not What You Expected

2 Kings 5-6


As ignorant, stuck-up, entitled humans, we often think we know what we need. We have this nice little idea of what will make our lives better, and we go to God expecting Him to grant us our wishes. But the thing is, we don’t know what we need; we don’t know how God works or what He plans to accomplish through us, or how He even uses our situation for His glory.


In 2 Kings 5, we read about one particular ignorant human who went to Elisha hoping to be healed of his leprosy, despite being a gentile and enemy of Israel. Now this man, Naaman, wasn’t mistaken in thinking he would receive the help he needed, but what he thought he needed and what God knew he needed were two separate things. When Elisha told Naaman to wash 7 times in the river Jordan, he became angry and almost turned around to head home, because this wasn’t the grand solution he expected to hear. Fortunately, however, his servants reminded him what was at stake, and what he should be willing to try for the sake of healing his leprosy. So Naaman, I imagine quite reluctantly, went down to the river and followed Elisha’s instructions. And what do you know – he was healed!


After experiencing this miraculous restoration of health, Naaman knew who the one true God was (and is), and came back a changed man. Even in the few paragraphs we read about Naaman, we can see a drastic difference in his overall attitude and behavior. God changed his heart. If Naaman wasn’t lucky enough to have those servants around, he would’ve missed out on everything he gained in his short encounter with Elisha. Because of his own pride and desires, he
was prepared to walk away from the only chance he would ever get at healing his fatal disease, and finding a relationship with his Creator.


Naaman’s story can serve as a reminder to let go of our self-conceived ideas of what is best for us, and instead trust God to handle every situation His way. God’s way is always the best way, whether or not we are capable of understanding it. He has a plan for all His children, and this plan has already been set in motion. He answers our prayers in ways we could never imagine,
and sometimes in ways we can’t even see. We have to trust that our loving, heavenly Father knows what’s truly best for us, and that everything He does is part of the ultimate plan He has for us to live together with Him in His eternal Kingdom.


God knows what you need, all you have to do is trust Him.

–Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 5-6 and Proverbs 7

God Gives Victory

2 Kings 3-4


You know the feeling you get when you meet up with a couple of fellow kings, who aren’t really your fellows, but you have a common enemy, so you march on together in friendship and harmony, despite the odds that are against you, when you come to the devastating realization that your combined armies and cattle are on the road to dehydration, so you suggest finding that one
prophet dude who can maybe help out in this situation, and the other kings agree, so you find the prophet dude and it miraculously turns out, yes! He, or more accurately God through him, helps you out with your water dilemma, (it’s “but a slight thing in the sight of the LORD) and not only that, but he also says that he’ll assist in the defeat your enemy!! Eeeeek, I’m practically bursting
just thinking of it. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve actually experienced the aforementioned occurrence, but I have felt the amazing emotion that fills your heart with complete, unmatchable joy when you are assured that the most powerful, capable, fierce, wisest Being in the universe, loves you and has your back.


In 2 Kings 3, this is exactly what we see happening. Jehoram, the king of Israel, comes together with Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, along with the king of Edom, and together they avoid dying of thirst, and totally crush the Moabites. Their epic victory wasn’t of their own works, though. It was God who provided water, and delivered Moab into the hands of the three kings. More often than we ever realize, God works in our lives too. Every single undeserved blessing, every single little victory we celebrate, is our Father’s loving presence. He is continually showing us how much He cares for us, and how deeply He loves us. He demonstrates this love not only in our lives now, but in the amazing promises He’s made to us. Promises of a perfect Kingdom in a beautiful land, where we will live eternally in absolute contentment and happiness
with our wholly perfect and wholly good Father.

Notice, however, that Elisha clarified in verse 14 of chapter 3 that he would not even be seeing them if it wasn’t for the presence of the godly and faithful king Jehoshaphat. This king trusted his God, and knew to go to Him in his time of need. Back then, they had to go to God through a prophet, like Elisha, or Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, but Jesus has since then connected us to our
God, bridging the gap as a mediator between God and man. We have the ability to speak directly with God and form the relationship He so desperately wants with us, despite our utter imperfection and His divine perfection. Hold on tight to that gift, never forgetting how awesome it is that we can be so massively loved by such a great God; that He would care for us at all, even in our sin and weakness. Hold on tight to the unimaginable promises He’s made to us, and live
everyday aware and thankful for the countless blessings He provides for us.


What a feeling, to know that you have such an awesome God on your side.

-Isabella Osborn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at Bible Gateway here – 2 Kings 3-4 and Proverbs 6

Led Astray by the Sweet Aroma

Proverbs 5

Have you ever tasted vanilla extract? Vanilla extract is a kitchen ingredient that has a decadent scent. Whenever I use it in recipes, I am always tempted by its sweet vanilla aroma. However, I know better because of giving into this temptation when I was a young child. I remember when helping my grandma make cookies, I smelled the extract. It smelled so nice. So, I tried a bit and quickly spit it out as it was very bitter. Did you have the same reaction?

Vanilla extract smells as though it should be pleasing to the taste buds, but it leads us astray. It is, in fact, not delicious as its scent would make us believe. It instead leaves us with the desire to wash our mouths out.

In Proverbs 5 an adulteress in mentioned. The adulteress, it reads, has lips that drip honey, but in the end are actually bitter. Much like the seductive nature of the adulteress, so is sin in our lives. The things that tempt us may look good at first. But in the end will only be bitter to us. What looks pleasing to us in the moment, may not be so pleasing if we fall into the temptation.

The book of Proverbs time and time again tells us to listen to instruction so that we may be able to stay away from temptation. My grandma had told me that the vanilla extract was bitter and that I would not like it. But I didn’t listen. I could have avoided the bitter taste, but I was led astray by the sweet aroma. I forsook her instruction for the vanilla extract that looked pleasing in the moment.

-Hannah Deane

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – 2 Kings 1-2 and Proverbs 5