Into Exile

2 Kings 24-25 and 2 Chronicles 36

But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 2 Chronicles 36_16 NIV

Well, if yesterday’s reading was one of the most depressing passages, I guess it applies doubly today, since we read two more accounts of the Babylonian conquest of God’s holy city Jerusalem and the nation of Judah.  Bad kings, poor decisions, temple treasures plundered, men and women forced into exile, rebellion, siege ramps around Jerusalem, starvation, fleeing king captured and tortured, temple and city set on fire, officers executed, more and more exiles, governor assassinated, fleeing for safety.  God’s anger.

It’s not a pretty story.  But it is a story well worth our time to know and remember and understand.  It is such an important part of God’s story and His character.  This is the same God of today and the same God who centuries before this had saved His people out of Egypt and revealed himself to Moses as, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…” (Exodus 34:6,7).  God had been patient with His people hundreds of years, but there comes a time when their unfaithfulness can no longer be overlooked or excused or explained away.  He had sent many, many prophets to warn the people and if His people would had listened and repented and turned from their wicked ways, they would have been saved from this time of judgment.  But they made their (poor) choices and there was a consequence to pay for it.  

Today, many like to focus solely on the God of compassion.  It is a beautiful picture.  And, it is true – but it is not the whole picture – or the whole truth.  It can be a fatal error to not consider the whole picture when viewing, knowing and loving God.  He is a God of compassion who is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.  Praise God!  We have benefitted from His love and compassion in many ways and at many times!  He does not always treat us as our sins deserve.  But He is just when He does punish – way back then, and today.

Did you notice that the two accounts we read today don’t end the same?  At the conclusion of the book of 2 Kings we read of the grace extended to Jehoiachin, a king from Judah who was deported to Babylon and held as a prisoner for 37 years.  The new Babylonian king not only releases him, but welcomes him to a place of honor, he eats at the king’s table and his daily needs are provided.  It is indeed a sweet ending for Jehoiachin.

The book of 2nd Chronicles was written at a later time – to remind the surviving Israelites of their history. This author knows that Jehoiachin is not the only one to experience great grace and restoration.  The years of time-out in exile in Babylon would last 70 years, as predicted by Jeremiah – and then the time would come for God to extend grace and restoration to His people, or to the remnant of believers.  The final verses of 2 Chronicles are:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the Lord their God be with them.’” (2 Chronicles 36:22,23 NIV).  

 

God works in amazing ways towards restoration for the faithful remnant who walk with Him.  The story of God’s people does not end in exile.

Take heart.  Remember God’s character and His story.  He is a God of love and compassion – who in His perfect love, will not leave the guilty unpunished.  Be wise and pay attention to God’s Word – listen to the prophets who speak for Him.  Seek God with your whole heart and don’t follow after false gods.  God’s plan is still in progress.  It includes love and punishment.  And ultimately He is planning a time of restoration where He will dwell with the faithful remnant in His Kingdom on earth.  How will you prepare for that today?

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to here – 2 Kings 24-25 and 2 Chronicles 36

Tomorrow’s reading will be the three short chapters that make up the book of Habakkuk as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Unworthy of His Greatness

2 Samuel 7 & 1 Chronicles 17

2 Samuel 7 21 NASB

Sometimes I feel like I keep beating the same drum but when we talk about David and the Psalms I have such a difficult time getting away from his heart. The heart of this man is extraordinary and I think because of this God made him into someone extraordinary. God molded him into someone that we are still talking about to this day. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here we go.

When we talked about David’s ability on Sunday, we talked about how he looked after God’s people and put their desires above his own. Today we will look at how David continued to be an impressive man after God’s own heart.

I want to look at the entire incident in 2 Samuel 7. In the opening paragraph David recognizes what he sees as injustice. The injustice being that though he lives in a house made of cedar, the ark of God dwells in a tent. David’s heart here is pure. He sees that what represents the presence of God for the nation of Israel is dwelling in a measly little tent while he is living in a full-blown swanky house made of cedar. He recognizes that this just doesn’t seem right. It seems very wrong that the maker of heaven and earth, the God of this nation, the reason for this nation’s success, the reason they even existed, the God who had blessed them and literally done everything for them didn’t have a proper dwelling place. He did everything from singling out Abraham and blessing him and all his descendants after him, saved them from oppression in Egypt by sending the plagues, delivered them out with Egypt’s spoils, parted the Red Sea as they walked between walls of water on either side, saved them from their enemies by collapsing that sea on the army seeking to kill them or enslave them. I could go on and on and on about all that God did for the nation of Israel. David didn’t forget any of this. He looked back in gratitude and decided that his God should at least dwell in a place as nice as the one he had. That gratitude sparked a desire in David to take the action of wanting to build a house for the ark.

God’s reaction to David wanting to build a house for him is quite interesting. He says, “Did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” God had never before asked someone to build him a house. Have you ever wondered why God never asked anyone to build him a house? Maybe he didn’t want one. Gods of other nations had physical temples. So why wouldn’t the one true God? When you look back in the history recorded in scripture it seems like God was hesitant to have a physical representation on earth that could be misconstrued. This was not without cause since in the time of the temple when God’s people had drifted away from him, they claimed that they couldn’t be taken over because of the temple. It seems like God’s focus is on his people believing in him and not becoming preoccupied with something that simply represents him. This is continued in the New Testament with what is defined as the church. God defines the church as his people and tells us that we are all the building blocks of his temple as the body of Christ. That is so awesome and mind blowing to me! The thought that I would be a building block of his temple is an overwhelmingly beautiful thought.

Let’s keep going with this passage, though. God continues to speak to David and tells him He would make a great name for him, plant his people and help to leave them undisturbed, give him rest from his enemies, make him a house, allow his children to build him a house, establish his child on the throne, love that child and discipline him as a father, establish his throne, house and kingdom forever. Dang, that is a list, right? Those are some amazing promises! For you girls, if a guy promises you the world – don’t believe him. But if God promises you all that, I would believe him. Utterly blown away is how I think I would feel if I were David.

David responds in the best way ever. He responds in the only way someone who was qualified to receive these promises should. Who am I and what is my house that you have brought me thus far? David didn’t let being king get to his head rather David knew that he was nothing without God. David knew without God he would still be that shepherd in that field. He felt unworthy of all that God had already done for him. Here is the thing, he totally was unworthy. David recognized he deserved none of these things. He recognized that there were better and smarter. David recognized how undeserving he was of the grace and love that God extended to him.

David’s response continues as I think he is lacking the words to even handle this and he says as much in verse 20. He continues to acknowledge and praise God throughout this response where he speaks about God’s knowledge of his heart, his greatness, how none is like him, praising him for raising up the nation of Israel, and stating that because God spoke those promises they would surely come true.

I think it would be too easy to disassociate from this passage and say “God never promised me any of those things” and in doing so we would miss the very heart that David had.

God sent his son to bear your sins. God has made the whole earth and it is all his. I didn’t make anything and yet I still have everything I need. My actions and my sin without the cross mean I don’t deserve a relationship with God, life or breath. My first sin should have been the end of my life and yet the Lord still gives me life and breath. He still wants me and a relationship with me. He is continually extending his grace to us EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don’t even want to think about what my life would look like without God’s grace.

In this way all of us should be responding every single day “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)

 

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+7%2C+1+Chronicles+17&version=NASB

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 25, 29, 33, 36 & 39 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Sucked into Sin

Proverbs 29

Proverbs 29 16 NIV

This chapter of proverbs continues the thoughts from the previous one – speaking on the contrasts from the wicked and the righteous. Proverbs 28 and 29 give us wonderful examples, not only of recognizing sinful ways but, of the habits that could sneak into our own lives. Many a good man and woman have been corrupted in time by the allure of sin. Additionally, it is noted in this proverb that those who we surround ourselves with can lead us into sin. We must choose carefully who we associate with and be wary that they do not drag us into sin and away from God.

In my youth I hung out with people that did a lot of things that I knew were not good. Drugs, alcohol, and other activities were happening all around me. I hung out with them because I liked being around them but I never let myself fall into their ways. I always thought that made me okay but all it would have taken is one encounter with law enforcement and I would have been found just as guilty as the rest. Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks when I first realized that. God was watching out for me but I was really pushing the boundaries of His grace and I realize that now. In that I am reminded that we are not to put our God to the test. Yet that is exactly what I was doing for years. He truly is merciful and gracious!

One last thought from this passage that actually ties back to what I wrote about for Proverbs 27 concerning anger, check it out if you missed it. Giving full vent to our anger as this proverb points out is bad. Yet I said before that it is good. No, not is good, but may be good and can help. Verse 11 says that a wise man keeps himself under control. Anger released rationally, controlled, is what I spoke of the previous day. This is talking about rage. Rage is uncontrolled, irrational, and violent. There can be no compassion or concern in rage but you can have both while angry. Understanding this is important for our relationships. That is why we have the saying, “Count to ten before speaking.”

In closing, I urge you to be aware of the various ways in which we can get sucked into sin. Be careful to not place yourself into a situation where you become guilty by association. And remember that we were created for relationships. They are vitally important to our God and to our daily existence. Treat them with the care that they deserve.

To be continued…

Jeff Ransom

You Do You! or ?

Proverbs 14

Proverbs 14 12 NIV.png

“You do you!” This phrase is ubiquitous… I’ve seen it on social media, heard it on commercials,  and tween shows my daughter enjoys watching. I’ve even heard actual people say it directly to actual people. 🙂

On the face of it, it’s a pretty positive and encouraging phrase.  Don’t let others define you. Do what you enjoy. Do what makes you happy! And that’s all great and wonderful…to a point. That point is the Holy Bible. You can totally do You if the You that you do is aligned with God’s word. The problem comes when your You goes with whatever you FEEL is right, rather than what you KNOW is scriptural.

Here in Proverbs 14 (especially in verse 12) we are reminded that so many of the things, thoughts, and actions we think are right, actually lead to destruction.

Proverbs 14:1 really hit me hard in this area. Unlike the wise woman building her house, I was letting my struggle with anger threaten mine. For a season, my anger was quick, hot, and in my mind, justified. I was right to be angry. I was being taken for granted, no one understood what I was going through, why was everything up to me???  I often felt the anger from my stomach up to my jaw.  Proverbs 14 repeatedly warns of the folly of anger (16, 17, 29) but I was choosing to follow my feelings over wisdom.

I thought I was right…but only because of the grace of God and a forgiving family, my “rightness” did not lead to destruction.

Everyone should evaluate their You. If doing You involves sin (Galatians 5:19-21), you must let that go. Christ goes even further to say that if we are to be his disciples, we must DENY ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him (Matthew 16:24).

When looking to Godly wisdom, such as found in Proverbs 14, You will start to look less like you and more like Christ. That is true wisdom.

So this song came out when I was 14 (1986). Having it tucked in my head has often helped me make choices to please God.

 

God Pleaser by Petra

So many voices telling me which way to go

So many choices come from those who think they know

There’s a way that seems right to a man

But it only brings him death

I want to go the way that leads to life

Till I draw my dying breath

Don’t want to be a man pleaser – I want to be a God pleaser

I just want to have the wisdom to discern the two apart

Don’t want to be a man pleaser – I want to be a God pleaser

I just want to do the things that please the Father’s heart

Some make a sacrifice and never let it show

Some make a point of letting everybody know

Some will live their lives as unto men

And they have their reward

I just want to do everything I do

With all my heart unto the Lord

I just want my life to glorify His Son

To make my Father proud that I’m His child before I’m done

No need to pat me on the back or stop to shake my hand

I just want to hear my Father say “Well done, well done”

I just want to hear my Father say “Well done”

 

devotion by Maria Knowlton

Reader Beware!

The Letter of Jude

Jude 24 b

“Judgment is Coming, Especially for False Teachers”

“He who saved a people of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (1:5).

The Letter of Jude is very similar to 2 Peter. The letter is a warning to believers that false teachers who have perverted the grace of our God into a license for sin will undergo a devastating, destructive judgment.

 

Turning the Grace of God into a License to Sin

Jude states that the faith had been delivered once for all to the saints (1:3). The believers were “once for all fully informed (1:5). This new teaching was a perversion. The new teaching was brought by false teachers who “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (1:4). Some people perverted the grace of God and the work of Jesus on the cross into a license to sin. Their attitude was something like: “Our sins our forgiven, so let’s do whatever we want”.

The New Testament strongly condemns such an attitude (Romans 6:1-15, 1 John 3:4-10). Rather than promote sin, the grace of God through the work of Jesus on the cross condemns and defeats sin.

 

Examples of Judgment

Jude reminds his listeners that there is a devasting, destructive judgment in store for these false teachers, but also by implication for those who follow them. Jude gives several examples from the Old Testament to illustrate that judgment will eventually come.

  • God brought Israel out of Egypt, but afterwards destroyed those (in the desert) who did not believe (1:5).
  • Angels who “did not keep their proper position” have been kept in chains “until the judgement of the great day” (1:6).
  • Sodom and Gomorrah acted immorally but were destroyed by an eternal (of an age) fire.
  • Jude also mentions the “way of Cain”, “Balaam’s error” and those who perished in Korah’s rebellion.

All these serve as evidences and examples that God will judge wickedness. It is a great error to turn the grace of God and the work of Jesus into a license to sin.

 

Admonition to Stay Faithful, 1:17-23

Jude knows that a warning is needed, but hopes that his listeners can maintain their “holy faith”. He says believers should not be surprised that false teachers have arisen. The Lord Jesus and the apostles said this would happen (1:17).  In the Old Testament, one reason that God allowed false prophets among the people was to test the people, to see if they loved God with heart and soul, or not (Deuteronomy 13:3).  Likewise, one reason false teachers are around today is for our testing (2 Peter 2:1-3, 1 John 4:1).

“But you beloved…keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal (of the age) life” (1:20-21).

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

 

(Editor’s Note: Yesterday, we provided some links to Bill’s website, Satellite Bible Atlas and trip to Israel.  Today you might enjoy this interview with Bill from our friends at Restitutio.  https://restitutio.org/2019/08/01/interview-53-why-knowing-the-land-of-israel-matters-bill-schlegel/.)

The Life I Now Live

Galatians 2

Galatians 2 20

Paul has jumped ahead 14 years in his summary of his life as we start this next chapter.   Paul chose to meet with the leaders in the faith to present to them the gospel he was sharing with the Gentiles to make sure he was doing it properly.

This was 14 years after the end of events in the previous chapter, and if you look back, that was 3 years (and sometime) after his conversion.  After 17+ years of being in the faith, Paul, whose words we read in our study of Scripture, still asked those with more experience than he if he was on the right path.  What a good reminder for us!  Sometimes I think it can be easy to assume that for as long as you have been a part of the church (especially if you are someone like me who was raised in the church), that we have it all right.  But it is wise to continually seek counsel to ensure we have not strayed from the truth or are missing anything.

In Paul’s case, the leaders had nothing to add to what he was sharing.  “On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a]just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.”

Paul’s message may have looked a little different than Peter’s because of who he was presenting to, but these leaders still agreed that it was true and wasn’t lacking anything.  I like this.  It is a reminder to me that not everyone is going to receive the Good News the same way.  If we tried to present it to everyone identically, it just wouldn’t click.  But by having different ways of sharing, and different people doing the sharing, we have the opportunity to reach more people.

As Paul continues to talk of his journey, he comes upon the argument that he had with Peter regarding forcing Gentiles to follow the Jewish law.  He reminds Peter that they and we are not justified by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  But that doesn’t mean that we can return or remain in our sinful lifestyle.  We must get out of that pattern.

The chapter ends with this:

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[e]

As Christians today, we are not bound by the law, but we are to live for God just like Paul.  We should be grateful for the grace God has given and the sacrifice of Jesus and strive to live a life worthy of that honor.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

The Movement Spreads

acts 11 23

Acts 11

“When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” Acts 11:23

In chapter 8, Stephen was stoned and the Christians were persecuted and dispersed all over the land. In chapter 10, Peter preached and through his message broke down the walls between the Jews and Gentiles. Chapter 11 gives us the next story in this Christian movement.

As we talked about earlier, after the Christians had been scattered, they never stop talking about their God and the good news. Some of the Greek-speaking believers travel to Antioch to tell them about Jesus. It says the “Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”

News of this great movement spread and they decide to send Barnabas to Antioch to check it out. When he gets there he “saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them to all remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:23).

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all say this? If we could all see the grace of God and be glad? That would be incredible, so how did it happen for them in Antioch? Well, I think it was their persecution turned into praise. Turmoil turned into transformation. Sorrow turned into salvation.

Even with God’s grace, people still suffer, but that doesn’t mean that God is pushing you away, it could just mean he’s trying to get you to a place to serve Him better. 

-Grace Rodgers

Free the Captives

Isaiah 61-63

isa-61-1-ww-cc-9x

Friday, February 24

Again there’s kind of lots that goes on in these three chapters, so I am going to talk about them separately.

Isaiah 61 is talking about God’s grace. Not only does it talk about God’s grace, but it talks about our part in sharing that grace. The author talks about it being his job, or his duty to bind up the broken hearted, and to free the captives, to proclaim of Yahweh’s great grace. Even though this is Isaiah’s call, I feel like that is our job too, as Christians and followers of Christ. We should be binding up the broken hearted, and freeing the captives, we should share all about God’s great love and his grace. This is something God has given to us too!

Isaiah 62 is all about Jerusalem, and its righteousness. Isaiah 62 says that Jerusalem will shine bright, and be a light that shines, and this light is because of its salvation. Jerusalem will no longer be called forsaken, because Yahweh delights in them. My favorite verse in this chapter is verse 12: “They shall call them the holy people. The redeemed of Yahweh: and you shall be called Sought-out, a city not forsaken.” This chapter and especially this verse are applicable to not only Jerusalem, but each of us as well. As far as I know, we are not all perfect, none of us are. I know for sure, that I am absolutely not perfect, yet God seeks us out, we are not forsaken. Just like Jerusalem, we have been given salvation, and that is a light inside of each of us that shines, and we need to share it. We need to be a lamp for others, and show others how God has redeemed us, because he surely has.

Isaiah 63 First this chapter talks about one who walks in with dyed garment and delighting in their own strength. This shows vanity in the one from Edom who relied on their own strength their own wrath and their own vanity to move forward. This is a perfect example of exactly what we should not be. Relying on our own strength will get us nowhere, if we are not following in God’s plan for us. We need to listen and follow God. The latter part of chapter 63 is much more hopeful in my opinion. This part, verses 7 and on, again talk about Yahweh’s great mercy and love for us. In verse 8 it says, “For He said, surely they are My people, the children who will not deal falsely: so He was their saviour.” We are his people, and his children, and this is why he loves us, does not forsake us and has mercy on us.

-Jana Swanson

Some songs for today:

Dwelling in Beulah Land: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AxoCssVyHo

This Little Light of Mine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKkbIZtqhyQ

Strong God by: Meredith Andrews https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAXgKPtAiMA

 

(Photo credit: http://www.alittleperspective.com/isaiah-61-and-62/)