The Battles Fought and Still Fight

June 26     1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26

David is still fighting battles and confronting the enemies around him.  When things still flare up in Israel today, I often think how LONG it has been happening for about 2,700 years! Battles and hatred from their surrounding enemies has actually been going on for a long time in Israel. It is actually “old news” to hear the continual fighting. In this battle, Joab led David’s army. He could see that the battle was against them this time. He encouraged his best men, “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the LORD do what is good in His sight.” (19:13) What encouraging words from the army captain. He did not encourage them to find strength in themselves or by their own might and power they could win, but to be STRONG for their people and the cities of God, and that God would do what was good in HIS SIGHT. When young Israeli men (like our 2 sons) and women are sworn into the Israeli army today, Joshua chapter 1 is read to them in Hebrew. I found these words to be very touching and encouraging to a young soldier. (By the way, ALL boys are required to serve 3 years after high school in the Israeli military and girls 2 years. So, they are not thinking about what college they are going to attend, but what division of the army they would like to go into. Girls are not required to do combat. Lots of a variety of tests are given to match them up to fitting tasks for them.) “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9   What hope and encouraging words for the army of Israel, back then and today.  Like the schools, also their military is not anti-God or Bible.  How awesome that a whole chapter of the Bible is read at every soldier’s swearing into the Israeli army.  May they and we truly find our strength and courage in the God of Israel. 

Another battle was against the Philistines at Gath. Goliath was also from Gath. It is an ancient ruin still visible today as you can see in the drone picture that our son took. David’s brother, Jonathan killed a 24 finger and toed giant from Gath! We do not see any giants there today!

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It is interesting to note the allusion to David, one of many sling throwers, in Proverbs 26:8. “Like one who binds a stone in a sling is he who gives honor to a fool.”  I understand this to mean that it is not fitting to praise a fool, like putting ammo in a gun except in this case it is a stone in a sling.  In conclusion, of todays and this week’s devotionals I hope you have a greater LOVE for the God of Israel, His Messiah Jesus, and beautiful Land of the Bible. 😊

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Longing for the Kingdom

June 25     1 Chronicles 17-18 and Proverbs 25

It is important to see the connection between David and Jesus, both are messiahs! Many Christians today misunderstand who Jesus is because they never understood about the messiah David. In fact, “Christian” has messiah in it. In Israel, they are called Messianics (which has also been twisted).  God chose David to shepherd the people Israel and be ruler over them. (17:7) God told him through the prophet Nathan, “When your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My mercy away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever.” (17:11-14) What promises God made to David that through his seed would be an everlasting kingdom, AND that he would call God his FATHER and he would be God’s son. David was also a son of God, and we know that ultimately, Jesus is the Son of God. Even though sometimes the Old Testament books may seem “drier” or have lots of lists of names and cities, they’re so valuable for understanding as we’ve been seeing this week. Sometimes I tell my kids reading the Bible is as important as eating food.  One often can’t remember what they read or ate several days ago, but we needed them for our survival!!

David’s response is exalting, “O LORD, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, … and who is like Your people Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people—to make for Yourself a name by great and awesome deeds, by driving out nations from before Your people whom You redeemed from Egypt? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD have become their God.” (17:20-22) Little Israel, the size of New Jersey, yet God chose them as a people to make His name known. 

The first six verses of Proverbs 25 deal with the king, so it’s very fitting with our chapters from Chronicles. If you read Proverbs 25 today take note of that timely match up. 😊 Here’s one of them. “Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” (25:5) That makes me think of the future kingdom of God.  Once the wicked are removed before King Jesus; his throne will be forever est. Oh, how we long for that day when righteousness will be established on this earth, and the wicked will be taken away. 

Today’s picture is when we left Israel 3 years ago. Our 9-year-old daughter is looking longingly out the window of the airplane as we left. She didn’t want to leave it as it was home to her where she was born and raised. She looked at Israel the whole time, until she couldn’t see it anymore. So far, we have not been back, because of covid restrictions, but others in our family long to go back. And 1 of our 2 sons there plans on coming this week, God willing, after almost not seeing him for 2 years. “The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, is Israel’s God.” (1 Chronicles 17:24)

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Fear God and the King

June 24    1 Chronicles 15-16 and Proverbs 24

Once again David planned to bring up the ark to Jerusalem. However, this time he found out how to do it properly.  The last time he had good intentions, but did not do it the way God intended it to be done. “Then David said, ‘No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever.” (15:2) Previously, he had it put on a new cart, and it was always ONLY to be carried by the Levites. “The LORD broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.” (15:13) After waiting and seeking the proper way GOD WANTED it done, THEN there was much celebration and joy this time since it was done according to God’s way. It even says, “God helped the Levites who bore the ark of the covenant.” (15:26) The proper way was written down years ago in Exodus 25:13, but His ways can be forgotten if we don’t read and study them.  For us too, it’s always good to consult God and do it His way. There are so many things that we think and seem are right, but it’s not actually the way God planned it. Let’s be open to read the Scriptures and seek Him in prayer in the way we should go. 

After the ark arrived in Jerusalem there was much rejoicing.  I do not have a picture today of a site because I want you to image what it was like seeing and hearing the people praising the LORD.  It was not only sites and sounds, but smells too! There were numerous burnt offerings before God.  We often do not think of what it would have smelled like with all the burnt offerings.  Then David blessed the LORD God of Israel with song.  In fact, it is a combination of 3 different Psalms; 105:1-15, 96:1-13 (all), and 106:1, 47. “Do not touch My anointed ones (messiahs), and do My prophets no harm.” (16:22) “For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared about all god. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” (16:25,26) “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” (16:36)

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.” (Proverbs 24:17) That’s just what David experienced when King Saul died. He mourned for Saul and asked others to do so also.  He wrote a lament and said to teach it to the children. In fact, all 6th grade Israeli school children, secular and religious are required to memorize David’s lament in 2 Samuel 1:19-27 to this day.  Our children memorized it also along with the other Israeli school children.  The picture is taken at one of our children’s school programs often celebrating biblical holidays. (As you can see there is limited seating and many children sat on the floor for the program.) It is neat in Israel by being a Jewish nation the Old Testament is studied as a subject in all the schools starting in 2nd grade until graduation. The public schools there are not anti-God or Bible, which is a good thing. “My son, fear the LORD and the king.” (24:21) We pray more will come to understand Jesus as their king along with the LORD God of Israel.

 

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Good Intentions… yet Not What God Intended

June 23     1 Chronicles 13-14 and Proverbs 23

Now” that David’s living in Jerusalem. He wanted to return the ark of the covenant there. He said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the LORD our God, … let us bring back the ark of our God back to us.” (13:2,3) David had good intentions of bringing the ark back, but he did not actually inquire of God or do it according to His instructions. He gathered all Israel together to bring the ark of God up from Kirjath Jearim. He had it put on a new cart. “All Israel played music before God with all their might with singing, on harps, stringed instruments, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets.” (13:8) He had such good intentions, but once Uzza held the ark when the oxen stumbled and he died, David became angry and was afraid. He took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom and left it. 

We lived in the village right behind Kirjath Jearim. In fact, for 20 years we could look out our living room/kitchen windows and see it! Also, one can see in the picture modern houses built around the ancient site.  There is a Catholic church over the ruins, which is the case for other sites in Israel. And one can see the main road, which is still the modern-day ridge route they would have traveled on to avoid the deep cutting valleys. 

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Even though David had good intentions, afterwards he sought God for instruction, which encourages us to do the same. Not long after the Philistines attacked near Jerusalem, it says, “David inquired of God” if he should go against them. (14:10) Again, he inquired of God if to attack them, and God told him to send an ambush around them and succeeded. (14:16) “So David did as God commanded him, and they drove back the army of the Philistines from Gibeon as far as Gezer (could include pictures of them too😉). Then the fame of David went out into all lands, and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all the nations.” (14:16,17) This account of David is so encouraging though he had good intentions and yet failed to seek God, he corrected himself immediately and sought God’s counsel if he should attack the Philistines.  We can learn from David and do likewise! “Be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day.” (Proverbs 23:17) In wrap up, it is interesting to note once again another Proverbs that talks about a child, which has a Hebrew word meaning more “youth.” “Do not withhold corrections from a child (YOUTH), for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.” (Proverbs 23:13) Children and youth both need lots of training and correction, but the end results are so rewarding. Reach out to children nearby you or related to you and encourage and lovingly correct them. Many may be going back to camp this summer, which is a special time for them. Many times, they have good intentions and yet need directed in God’s ways. 😊

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

The Humble Shall be Exalted

June 22     1 Chronicles 11-12 and Proverbs 22

After the death of King Saul, Israel came together at Hebron to anoint David king. God took him from being a shepherd of sheep to shepherd people.  “You shall shepherd My people Israel and be ruler over My people Israel.” (11:2) Think about that, now adays it is a matter of degrees one has from LOTS of inside study. With David it was after LOTS of outside hours of watching the sheep (and years on the run from King Saul). For the first 7 years he reigned as king from Hebron. Then he wanted to move to Jerusalem, but the people rejected him there, so he fought against them. After David built the city up, and still to this day it is called, “The City of David” in that area by the temple. “So David went on and became great, and the LORD of hosts was with him.” (11:9) Below is a picture our son took with a drone of the City of David. (My husband knew what shots he wanted, but our son knew how to get them as a teenage tech). 😊 They made a great team, while it was still possible to fly in Jerusalem. 

My biblical geography teacher of a husband likes to point out the parallels with David, anointed as messiah and king of Israel with Jesus, also anointed as messiah by God and king of Israel. Both lived lowly lives in the beginning though they were kings! Some of David’s mighty men even hid themselves in the cave of Adullam. And guess what?! Those caves are still there today and called by the same name! The students that came for our semester program would sometimes camp out there or have a bonfire there depending on our schedule. (Drone shot from our son😉) “The LORD brought about a great victory.” (11:14) God caused David and his men to prosper against their enemies. “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life.” (Prov. 22:4)

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Further looking into Proverbs, it is interesting to note that the popular verse, “Train up a child (youth) in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” (22:6) means more “youth” in Hebrew, like David was this age when he killed Goliath. Also, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (YOUTH); the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” (22:15) So, to end on a happy note this “youth” son that took many of our drone pictures in Israel was granted permission today from the Israeli army to come and visit us for a month!! So exciting! 😊

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Turn of Events

June 21 1 Chronicles 9, 10 and Proverbs 21

The Philistines fought against Israel on Mount Gilboa. King Saul and his sons were also fighting against them. They fell slain in battle there.  It says that “Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he didn’t keep the word of the LORD.” (10:13) He consulted a medium for guidance, “but he did not inquire of the LORD; therefore, He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David.” (10:14) It is so important to ask God for guidance, first and foremost. We so often ask others or search online for answers, which can be okay, but mainly we need to seek and ask God.  It had been almost 9 years since Saul’s disobedience and rejection by God as king, yet he was still ruling for years, until it says that God killed him through the Philistines, and FINALLY the kingdom was turned over to David… as they mourn for King Saul.  

Here is a modern aerial (drone) view of Mount Gilboa taken by our homeschooled high school son that was with my husband on a field trip. It is a mountain range, not one individual mountain. And guess what? It still has the same name today! In fact, by it you can see a manmade “snow” slope to go sledding on throughout the year.  😊

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Proverbs 21:1 follows the two chapters in Chronicles perfectly! “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes.” And not just his heart but his whole life, as we just read that He can even kill the king. “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (21:3) “There is no wisdom or understanding or counsel against the LORD.” (21:30)

Another Proverbs I wrote “sp” for speech by it helped me a lot during a rough time in my life. “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (21:23) There were troubles brewing in my life, but it really helped to GUARD my mouth and tongue like a security guard standing by the opening of my mouth watching what I was going to say.  In Israel, there are security guards everywhere. Most malls have a grocery store in them, but before buying milk in the mall’s grocery store, I would need to pass by three security guards!  Thus, it is good for our words to be guarded at the exit of our mouth to make sure they are fitting! It is a good exercise today to picture a security guard by our mouths and tongues to make sure what we say is appropriate and pleasing to God. 

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Real Places and People and Real God

June 20    1 Chronicles 7,8 and Proverbs 20

Shalom y’all. 😊 I was born and raised in small town Indiana, then lived in Israel for 25 years, now I am back in the States in the South. So, I will add some pictures and thoughts about Israel in each devotional this week to help give you a taste of it over there.  This year I have been reading through the Chronological Bible for my personal Bible reading and really enjoying it. In various ways, reading through the Bible is a great experience even though some parts are slower. 😊 It is interesting to note that the Hebrew Old Testament is arranged in a slightly different order than in English. In my Hebrew/English Bible the Old Testament ends with 1 and 2 Chronicles as a final summary of the Old Testament.

Although 1 Chronicles 7 & 8 are FILLED with Hebrew names and cities, it is amazing how familiar those names are to native Israelis.  Many people are still called those names today, especially religious Jews. AND many of those cities are STILL called that TODAY. At some places, the ancient ruins of the city are beside the modern one, sharing the SAME NAME! Also, amazing that we still have this record of people and places from about 2,800 years ago.  God’s Word has been preserved through all these years and one can still see the numerous same locations in Israel today.  Israel is a wonderful country and testifies of real places and a real God and Messiah Jesus. See the green patch towards the bottom of our picture, that’s ancient Shechem with the modern city built around it. It is listed among the many cities in 1 Chronicles 7 and 8 and is STILL an actual city in Israel today! Some ancient cities are only in ruins, but the name remains the same.

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Over the years, it has been a great benefit to read the book of Proverbs and focus on a certain topic while reading it and marking that topic with a few letters, like shown in picture. So many good nuggets of wisdom to meditate on! Something interesting is that many times a “child” is mentioned it’s often referring to a “youth” in Hebrew. “Even a youth is known by his actions” (Proverbs 20:11) is how it translates into English, same word used for David when he killed Goliath. I encourage you the next time when you read the book of Proverbs to pick a topic that interests you or that you would like more wisdom in and initial each verse that applies.  Sometimes I have even made a list in a notebook of those verses and then meditated on them, and it has really helped me in that area that I needed more wisdom about.  “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both.” (Proverbs 20:12)

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~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

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

Two Choices

Saturday – May 29, 2021

1 Kings 9-10, Acts 26

Solomon has finished the calling that God assigned to him. The temple was completed. In addition, Solomon has built an elaborate palace and pursued wisdom in his life. In 1 Kings 9, God appears to Solomon and makes a second promise to him. If Solomon commits to following after God and living by the commandments of God, God will build his kingdom and establish it. But, this promise presents a choice: either Solomon can have a kingdom established forever or he would have his kingdom ruined and removed. These consequences are contingent upon the actions of the Israelites outlined in Deuteronomy 30: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the Lord swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (v. 19-20). 

The Israelites could have life and blessings, but they needed to love God, obey him, and remain faithful to him. If they didn’t, they would live a life apart from God, full of troubles and difficult times. Even though the choice seems like a no brainer, generations of the Israelites still choose death, including Solomon. Because of their choices, they faced exile, famine, sickness, and death. 

We have the same choices today. We can choose life or death. I’ve always wondered why the Israelites couldn’t see the goodness that they were leaving behind because they chose to live a sinful life. However, when I look at my own life, I can understand why that path seemed pleasing to them. Sin feels good in the moment. It fills us up in the short term. But, as life continues and sin upon sin piles up, it turns out to be rotten. Like sweet cakes or soft drinks, it tastes good, but over time, too much leaves us feeling gross inside. Too much leads to death. To say no to sin requires self-discipline and sacrifice. We recognize that we are giving up something that may feel good now, because later on, we will have a better thing. 

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, our consequences are not contingent upon all of our actions. We will not be judged by the law, because we have freedom in Christ – if we make one choice. If we choose to make Christ our Lord, we will have life in him. Today, choose life! Choose to live righteously and follow after Jesus, the perfect king. This choice and the sacrifice is so worth it!

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.

Our High Calling

Thursday – May 27, 2021

1 Kings 5-6, Acts 24

As Solomon’s reign continues, he begins to build the temple: the job promised to him by God through David. Solomon knows that this is his calling – and he wants to do it well. After David was told that he could not build the temple because of the blood shed on his hands, David amassed a treasure trove of building supplies for years. Even though temple building was not David’s calling, he still worked hard to make sure that he made Solomon’s task easier through his actions. 

One of the first actions that Solomon takes is to get the best lumber he could find. He goes to the king of Lebanon and asks for the cedars of Lebanon. Then, he began to build the temple – a process that lasted 7 years! 

Solomon knew that when God has called you to do something you make sure to do two things: (1) you give him the best of you first and (2) you complete the task assigned to you no matter how long it takes. Solomon didn’t let the difficulty of getting the cedars of Lebanon stop him from being sure to get the finest lumber. He also didn’t give up in the process of finishing the temple. He was committed to finishing the task he was assigned to well. 

In our lives, are you as committed as Solomon to completing the calling God has assigned to you well? We are God’s hands and feet in the world. Part of our testimony to the world is how well we complete our callings. “Let’s not grow weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9). “Let’s finish the race we are running with endurance” (Heb. 12:1-2). 

~ Stephanie Schlegel

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading at Biblegateway.com: 1 Chronicles 19-20 and Proverbs 26.