God is No Magic Genie

1st Chronicles 3-5

1 Chronicles 4 10 b NIV

When we began 1st Chronicles two days ago we likened the beginning of this book to a family reunion.  It was written for the people of God who were returning to the Holy Land after years of captivity and living amongst foreign people who did not worship God (which had been their punishment for forsaking God).  Now, they were returning and receiving a history lesson on what it means to be God’s people.  If we listen in, I believe we can also benefit greatly from this lesson.

In today’s reading our list of genealogies is broken up in chapter 4 with a passage about Jabez.  In two short verses we learn: “he was more honorable than his brothers”, “his mother had named him” – PAIN (in Hebrew Jabez sounds like pain), he prayed to be blessed, “and God granted his request.” (1 Chronicles 4:9,10).  Makes you wonder why we don’t have any babies today named Epidural?

Seriously though, I hurt for this man Jabez.  It doesn’t seem very nice of his momma to pass along the brief pain she felt at childbirth (I know, in the midst of it, it doesn’t feel brief) to her son to bear the name PAIN the rest of his life.   Can you imagine the jokes he heard from the neighborhood boys?  We also know it can be very painful growing up with less than honorable brothers.

It could have been a rough life for poor PAIN/Jabez.  BUT – it wasn’t.  Even though he had a few strikes against him in his early years, he knew to cry out to God.  And, perhaps because of Jabez’s honor, and I am guessing his heart was in the right place, God was ready, willing and able to fulfill his request.

Just what was his request?  “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!  Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from PAIN.”  It is a touching prayer knowing his background.  Other versions have slightly different interpretations – I especially love the NKJV, “Keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain.” It sounds so much more noble.  But, either way, he cried out to God and God “granted his request”.

Does anyone else get a vision of a genie, or is it just me?  Jabez cried out (with a list of 4-5 wishes) and his wishes were granted.  Poof.  Who wouldn’t take a God like that!  I can fill a whole book with my wishes and cry out to God and all my wishes will be met.  Never mind what God requires of His children.  Never mind the timeline and big picture that God is working with in His infinite wisdom.  Never mind the growth, compassion and character that develops in the midst of trials.  I want no pain.  I want it now.  Give it to me, God.

I would love to read the rest of Jabez’ story – the daily details, his life’s timeline.  I highly doubt that he never felt ANY more pain – never stubbed his toe, never lost a friend or family member, never needed to cry out to God again.  But, we know that God was faithful.  He blessed Jabez and He answered his prayer.

God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of Jabez.  He wanted them to know of God’s faithfulness and the good gifts that He brings to His children who are honorable and cry out to Him.  Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of Jabez.  God takes us in our pain and gives us blessings.  God is good.  God is powerful.  God is love.  God is faithful.

BUT don’t be fooled.  God is no magic genie.   In fact, He is so much more.

Our history lesson continues.  Keep reading, in chapter 5 (verses 23-26) we meet the half-tribe of Manasseh.  They were God’s people. God had already fought their battles and given them land.  They had prospered and become numerous.  Their leaders were “brave warriors, famous men, and heads of their families” (1 Chronicles 5:24).  It sounds so good.  It looks like they were leading a charmed life.  God’s goodness and power have provided for these people.  We see God’s blessings – but do they?  NO!  “But they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and prostituted themselves to the gods of the peoples of the land” (1 Chronicles 5:25).  In their pampered state they turn from the One who has blessed them.  They leave their Provider and Protector to run after false gods.  They chase what the ungodly society calls good – rather than clinging to their Creator, the God of their fathers.

And, their foolishness comes with consequences.  They don’t get more wishes granted.  What they have is taken away.  God uses the Assyrians to remove them – to place them into exile in a foreign land.  They have earned themselves a Big Time-Out which will last several years, until God prepares the way for the exiles to return.

God wanted the returning Israelites to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh.  He wanted them to know of the serious consequences that He puts into action when His children flaunt their waywardness.  Likewise, God wants you and me and the world today to know the story of the half-tribe of Manasseh.  God has given blessings, how will we respond?  God is just.  God is powerful.  God is faithful.  His loving kindness requires our faithfulness, too.

Marcia Railton

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+3-5&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Psalm 73, & 77-78 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Family Reunion

1 Chronicles 1-2

1 Chronicles 2 1 NIV (1)

Right now family reunions look a little different as we face our current situation with Covid-19 and all that brings.  Yet there is still great joy in hearing that familiar voice on the phone or interacting with your family on Zoom or facetime.  Remember those family reunions with multiple generations where the old dusty photo albums are brought out to celebrate and learn about those who have gone before?

 

As we read the Chronicles we are reading a family reunion.

 

In our chronological Bible reading plan we have just begun the book of 2nd Samuel to read of David as king.  And, at the same time, we are reading various Psalms, many of which were written by David.  And, now, we are going to begin yet another book, 1st Chronicles, which will include several of the same stories as 2nd Samuel, and later 1st & 2nd Kings.

 

Why the overlap?

 

They were written for different people at different times, but both are still relevant to us.  The books of Samuel (originally one book) were written shortly after David’s son, Solomon’s, death, at a time when the kingdom of Israel was going to be fractured and face the tragedy of many evil kings which would ultimately lead to the downfall of their nation(s).  It was important at that time to preserve a record of how Israel became a nation with a king – and thus the book(s) of Samuel.

 

Many years later, after the Israelites had been conquered and in foreign captivity for generations, they would be preparing to return to Jerusalem and their homeland.  This was now a totally different people in a totally different situation.  They needed to be taught that they were indeed the people of God, and what that means.  They needed to be reminded of their roots.  They needed a good old family reunion.

 

Break out the photo albums, or – in this case – the genealogies!

 

I know, it’s not very exciting for us to read long lists of names, many of whom we have NO clue who they are or what they did or even how to pronounce their name.  But, if you count yourself among the people of God – this is your family tree, too!   And, you know what they say – every family tree has a few nuts.  So, indeed, this family tree has the good, the bad and the ugly.  They don’t have time or space to write of the stories for everyone, but several names bring to mind a picture of righteousness (Noah, Abraham, Joseph and David).  Other times the writer takes the time to remind his family reunion participants of the sad lessons learned from those who had strayed:

 

1st Chronicles 2:3 – “Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.”

 

1st Chronicles 2:7 – “The son of Carmi: Achar, who brought trouble on Israel by violating the ban on taking devoted things.”

 

So, dig in – enjoy your little trip down the Israelite memory lane today – there will be more on Friday.  And, pause to think, just how do you fit into God’s family tree?

 

Also – now is a good time to reconnect with your more immediate family too (maybe 3-4 current generations, what about your church family, too)  Check in on them and share how God is blessing you today.  See what God is teaching them today.

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be found at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Chronicles+1-2&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be back in the Psalms (43-45, 49, 84-85, 87) – we will save more of the genealogies for Friday.  Continue on the journey with us by printing your own copy of our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan – and keep reading His Word to you.

Anti-Anxiety

Deuteronomy 8-10

Deut 8 6 7a NIV

Imagine that you are an Israelite that has been taking in all the words of your leader Moses. You have listened as he has given your history. You have committed to love God with all your heart, soul and strength. You have determined to follow the commands, decrees and laws that the Lord directed Moses to teach you. Soon it will be time to enter the land and possess it. You have heeded the warnings of idol worship. You have envisioned this good land flowing with milk and honey. Moses told you of all the good things that wait inside the land, but your mind also fills with doubt. You must face the nations that are physically stronger than you are. As you lie in bed, your mind races over what lies before you. It is then that you remember what else was said. “If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers.” You decide this is in the LORD’s hands, you settle in, smile and go to sleep.

 

We are sometimes faced with the same dilemmas that the Israelites faced. We live in an uncertain world. We daily experience the results of this fallen world-war, pain, sickness, … We can easily become anxious and worried. But God also provided us with a great teacher who gave us instruction. Jesus Christ told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our Heavenly Father and His Son are with us. They are aware of our situation. We may have to face difficult and uncertain circumstances, but they are with us as we go through them. We are certain of this, if we are faithful to them, they will always be with us.

Just like the Israelites we will set our minds on the words of God. We will remember that we live on “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Even in our chaotic world, we should observe the commands of the Lord our God, walk in obedience to Him and revere Him because the Lord our God is bringing us to a good land. This land where righteousness dwells will reside in a new heaven and new earth.

Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+8-10&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 11-13 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

In His Word – HIS-STORY

2 sam 7 28a

History was always one of my favorite subjects in school.  So many stories, so many time periods, so many real characters who have lived through so many unique situations, and some who even grew through their experiences.  The things we can learn through a great history book are amazing.  And, just as amazing – the fact that through it ALL – there has been ONE God of this universe.  In every event everywhere and at every time – He has been there – and will be there.

 

And yet, there has been one special place, one special people that God has taken a very special interest in – and that is the land and people of Israel.  It is this history that was preserved for us and makes up the second division of the Old Testament – the 12 books of History – the history of God’s chosen people as a nation.

 

So much can still be learned today about God and mankind by reading these historical accounts.  Go ahead – pick a book and get a glimpse into His Story.

 

12 BOOKS OF OLD TESTAMENT HISTORY 

 

JOSHUA – The Lord Gives Victory in Canaan

Joshua leads Israel into the Promised Land – Rahab is saved, walls of Jericho, sun stands still

JUDGES – Israel Led by Judges

Cycles of sin and rebellion – enemies surround – Israel calls out to God – God sends a judge to save – people repent and serve God, until….cycle repeats.  Some of the judges were Samson, Gideon, Deborah, and Ehud.

RUTH – Faithful Daughter-in-Law – and Faithful God

Ruth, a Moabite, is loyal to Naomi her Jewish mother-in-law and God takes care of them

I & II SAMUEL – Samuel Anoints Israel’s 1st & 2nd King

Hannah’s son Samuel raised by the priest Eli – He anoints Saul, then David as kings – we also meet Goliath, Jonathan, Bathsheba and Nathan

I & II KINGS – Israel Splits and is Captured

King Solomon, kingdom divides (Northern Israel, Southern Judah), many bad kings (like Ahab),  some good kings (like Josiah), and God’s prophets (like Elijah)

I & II CHRONICLES – Judah’s Kings – Repeated

Retelling of Judah’s history – Adam to King David to Jerusalem’s destruction to King Cyrus permitting Jews to return to rebuild Jerusalem

EZRA – Exiles Rebuild Temple

Returning Jews rebuild Jerusalem’s temple and Ezra teaches them how to seek God

NEHEMIAH – Rebuilding City Walls

Nehemiah leads the Jews as they rebuild the walls of Jerusalem through much opposition

ESTHER – Jewish Girl Becomes Queen and Saves Jews

Brave, beautiful Esther, Cousin Mordecai, King Xerxes, evil Haman, 3 days of prayer and fasting, Jews are saved, new national holiday

 

 

Read some HIS-STORY today – the best is in God’s Word!

Marcia Railton

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

ezek 20-17

Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)