Keep Your Eye on the Ball

2 Chronicles 19-23

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If you have been to any youth ballfield, the mantra of even the most uninformed coach or parent to his/her child in most all situations is “keep your eye on the ball.”  Whether it is baseball, soccer, football, tennis, or basketball, knowing where the ball is at any given point in a game is the greatest predictor of success and will result in the highest probability of a favorable outcome.  In order to strike, kick, tackle, return, or rebound, you have to know where the ball is.  It seems simple enough; yet, anyone who plays any number of the ball-including sports at any level suffers from the occasional mishap that begins with losing sight of the most important object to the game.  Why?  We get scared.  We’re thinking about our next move.  We get caught up in the emotion.  Or it might simply get lost in the lights.

 

“If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us…We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” –   1 Chronicles 20:9,11b

 

In today’s reading, Jehoshaphat gives us an example of what it looks like to keep our eyes in the most important place.  Not all of us play sports, and if we do, we most certainly may not play them well (present company included), but we all have a part to play in the will of God.  Without your eyes on the Father, you might still have a bit of fun, but there is no purpose in the participation of it all.  You are simply existing, a benchwarmer staring off into the distance, oblivious to the wonderful plan that God has for your life.  Yet, keeping our gaze affixed to Him isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds.  Even the most professional ballplayers have blunders. Here are a few reminders of how to readjust our focus, to make sure it is in the right place, no matter what “level” we are playing at:

 

To keep your eyes on God, let Him take away the worry.

 

There is a ton of uncertainty in the air right now.  Disease, political unrest, economies, natural disaster, not to mention all of the “typical” fears we have about things like acceptance and loss.  Jehoshaphat had a vast army approaching, yet he remembered that God had promised Israel and Judah the land they possessed. Remind yourself of the simple yet immense promises of God – He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), We know all things work together for those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28), Do not fear, for I am with you always (Isaiah 40:1; Matt 28:20). The promises purge us of the pressure to take the entire crushing yoke upon ourselves and hand it over to God.  In exchange He will give us peace in the restless situations (John 14:27).

 

To keep your eyes on God, remember He has planned the present.

 

One of the greatest defensive failings in baseball is thinking about throwing the ball before you have ever fielded it.  Time and time again, the baseball zips “through the wickets” or is fumbled as it is being removed from the glove and falls flatly to the ground.  Jehoshaphat could have spent his time sending messengers to form alliances.  He could have armed the remaining men, women, and children to increase the size of his army. He could have sent out terms of surrender to try to salvage the lives of his people.  He didn’t do any of this.  He kept the most important thing as the most important thing; his gaze never faltered. He didn’t “throw the ball” before He fielded God’s response (as we saw yesterday).  Don’t forget to serve God now because there is a bigger, better plan you have made to serve Him down the road.  He is the God of tomorrow, but before then, the God of today.  Seek first the Kingdom of God. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for it will take care of itself (Matthew 6:33,34). He may call us to things that inconvenience, disrupt, or even abort the plans we have made down the road, but when those days come, or if they don’t, He has planned those days too.

 

To keep your eyes on God, make him the judge.

 

One of the most frustrating things is a competitor who doesn’t play fairly or feeling we are the victim of unjust treatment.  What’s even more frustrating is an umpire or referee who fails to see it or worse, lets it persist.  Our God doesn’t turn a blind eye to us; He sees the struggle.  He isn’t deaf; He hears the petition.  When we want to take matters into our own hands, be reminded that you too are a trespasser but also an unfair recipient of favored treatment. This more than anything, should make us compassionate and ready to forgive others.  We will be called to be God’s facilitator of forgiveness many times more than we will be judicator of justice.  Jehoshaphat made the appeal, but was also seemingly ready for whatever answer came his way. We must trust God, let Him be the judge, and maybe the hardest thing, be ready, like Jesus, to be dealt injustice, yet still forgive for the sake of the Gospel and our message.

 

To keep your eyes on God, eliminate the distractions.

 

The lights can be blinding.  The hecklers can be loud.  The teams’ morale can be affecting you. Even seemingly good things like family and church can provide an incorrect context of focus if not filtered through the lens of their role in God.  When we work, provide, heal, love, carry on, feed, protest, or serve, constantly remind yourself you are doing it all for the Lord.  Take a lesson from Jehoshaphat’s army; worship God while you are in the battle (1 Chronicles 20:22).  It would be challenging to give into your pride when you sing “Oh Spirit come make us humble…” It would be tough to look at inappropriate material when you sing “We turn our eyes from evil things…” It would be difficult to spend Sunday morning after Sunday morning with your family at the ballfield while singing “Oh Lord, we cast down our idols.” Filling our mouth with praise, worship, and prayer prevents anything else from slipping out.  The same could be said of our eyes, ears, hands, and most importantly, minds.  Engage God with everything you have, and you will be ready and attuned to His movement no matter where on the field He takes you.

 

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:17

Aaron Winner

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+19-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the short book of the “minor” prophet Obadiah and Psalm 82-83 as we continue keeping our eye on the Father through our 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

The Valley of Jehoshaphat

2 Chronicles 20-22

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Tuesday, November 29

Our reading today goes from Jehoshaphat’s greatest victory to the terrible things that his children and their wives did after he died. Let’s look at his great victory and the possibility of it happening again.

 

Numerous countries are aligned against Judah and Jehoshaphat knows that he cannot defeat them. He calls upon God and is told that his prayers will be answered. Instead of fighting Judah watched as its enemies destroyed each other.

 

Might that happen again? One of our older ministers, Don Ward from Missouri, wrote about the current situation in the middle east, where ISIS is directing most of its evil towards Islamic states. He said this could be a fulfillment of Joel 3:

 

1 For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations.

 

Pastor Don pointed out that there is no valley in Israel named after Jehoshaphat, and instead suggested that it refers to 2 Chronicles 20 and the way Israel’s enemies destroyed each other, which could be what is happening now. I think that is fascinating to think about.

-Greg Demmitt

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One Foot in the World vs. Whole Hearted Devotion

2 Chronicles 17-19

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Monday, November 28

You might have noticed in your reading that 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings read like history, while 1 and 2 Chronicles seem written to teach what it means to follow God rather than simply giving the history of the people. As noted in the intro to 1 Chronicles, these books might have been written after Israel returned from exile in Babylon. Since it covers material already recorded in Samuel and Kings, it would seem evident that this author has more in mind than simple history.

 

Here are two things to notice in today’s readings. First, Jehoshaphat made sure that the people were taught the way of God, first by sending teachers throughout the land (2 Chron. 17:7-10), and then by teaching the people how to live when they went to court to settle disputes (19:8-11). Second is the back story behind the battle alliance between Ahab and Jehoshaphat.

 

Before they went into battle, Jehoshaphat wanted to inquire of the Lord. All the prophets predicted success, but when he asked for one more, with reluctance Micaiah predicted that Ahab would be killed. He went on to say that God had put a lying spirit in the mouths of the prophets who curried Ahab’s favor. That certainly gives us something to think about, doesn’t it. It seems that if you want to believe the wrong thing, God will let you believe it.

 

So how can we know what to believe? Jehoshaphat went down the wrong road when he made alliances with a king who did not honor God. If we are trying to keep one foot in the world, we can never trust what we hear. Those who are whole-heartedly dedicated to God will not be misled.

Pastor Greg Demmitt

A Good King Allies with a Bad King (I Kings 21-22)

Friday, November 4

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Melissa New
Israel was suffering under the leadership of their wicked King Ahab. Even when God had obviously given them the victory over the Arameans, Ahab decides to disobey God’s instructions. Ahab is recklessly impulsive. So you might wonder why the good king of Judah, King Jehoshaphat, bothered to visit Ahab. I picture a couple of powerful men getting chummy and having a good time and then, the clever Ahab says, “Hey man, Romath-gilead should be part of my kingdom. What do you say we go to war to recapture it for me?” And Jehoshaphat says, “Why, of course! Let’s first check to see what the LORD’s thoughts are on our plans. That really is the smart thing to do. But brother, I’m already liking this idea.” (Disclosure: this is not how the Scripture exactly reads.) Ahab calls in his prophets because they always say what he wants to hear. Jehoshaphat, in a moment of clear-headedness, says they need a true man of God’s advice. Ahab admits there is a prophet who could consult the LORD for them, but he never says anything good. And Jehoshaphat says, “That’s not the way a king should talk!” (I Kings 22:8) You would think at this point King Jehoshaphat would be having second thoughts about rushing into battle with Ahab. Especially after they hear what Micaiah, the prophet, has to say!!! Ahab must have been a smooth talker. Not only did Jehoshaphat go into a needless battle with him, but he put on Ahab’s king’s robes so that he would look like the perfect target for the enemy. In the end, Jehoshaphat is remembered as a good king who “did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight”, but there is a good lesson here for all of us. We need to be always alert to the warning bells that the company we keep may cause to go off. It may sound like a good time and we may really like the person or people we are hanging out with, but are they following God’s way?