Deceived by Pride

Jeremiah 49-50

Jeremiah 49 16 NIV sgl

More sin, more judgment, more destruction, and a little more restoration – just like yesterday – only the names have been changed.  Yesterday we read about the judgment God was planning against Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab.  Today, we read what was in store for Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam and the big one – Babylon.  God saw their sins and would be bringing judgment and destruction to their lands.

There is one sin that is mentioned again and again.

“Why do you boast of your valleys, boast of your valleys so fruitful? O unfaithful daughter, you trust in your riches and say, ‘Who will attack me?'” (Jeremiah 49:4  NIV).

“The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you” (Jeremiah 49:16 NIV).

“See, I am against you, O arrogant one” (Jeremiah 50:31 NIV).

It may come by many names – boasting, pride, arrogance – but every time it is a sin worthy of judgment.

How could the pride of your heart be deceiving you?

A few weeks ago I was preparing a devotion for posting and I was looking for a background photograph for a verse referring to Hezekiah’s pride (2 Chronicles 32:25).  I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for – but figured I would know it when I saw it.  So I typed in that I wanted to see photos of pride and I started scrolling.  and scrolling.  and scrolling.  You of course are smarter than I and know what I ran across – over and over again.  I am pretty sure there were thousands upon thousands of options for gay pride – rainbows, couples, signs, and more rainbows, a lot of rainbows (when did they get to hijack the symbol of God’s promises?).  There was also the occasional national flag or beaming, proud parent pictured with her perfect child.  But, there was NOTHING there to indicate that pride is a sin, a deadly sin worthy of judgment.  Finally, I opted for the proud peacock as my photo background and shook my head at dismay over what we have become – a culture that celebrates and basks in pride.  Are we any different from the countries of Jeremiah’s day?  Arrogant, boastful, flaunting sin and deceived by pride.  Can we expect anything less than what Jeremiah foretold for these sinful nations?

What about on a personal level?  It can be overwhelmingly depressing to think about trying to fix all the evils of a nation – but what can I work at fixing about myself?  Where do I let pride puff me up so I no longer care for others or about what God says?  How is my use of social media contributing to the spiraling problem of pride?  How is pride connected to so many other sins?

It is time to see our pride and sin for what it is – and treat it as the deadly gangrene it is.  Don’t be led astray and deceived by pride.  Jump down from your high horse and humble yourself.  You aren’t as much as you think you are.  For God has promised judgment for the proud and arrogant.  He has also promised restoration and forgiveness for those who humble themselves  – “If  my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to here – Jeremiah 49-50

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Jeremiah with chapters 51-52 as we continue searching God’s Word in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Discipline with Justice – then Restoration

Jeremiah 46-48

Jeremiah 46 28c NLT sgl

Today we remember that God is not just the God of the Jews – but the God of the world – all the nations.  And as God has watched the sins of these nations – so will He exact discipline on these nations.  Jeremiah writes what God tells him to write regarding the coming destruction that God will oversee and orchestrate against Israel’s neighbors.

Jeremiah uses vivid imagery to describe these events:

“The sword will devour till it is satisfied, till it has quenched its thirst with blood.”  (Jeremiah 46:10 NIV)

“Moab is disgraced for she is shattered.” (Jeremiah 48:20 NIV)

His descriptions show not only how scary and total the destruction will be – but also what a sad state of affairs these societies had become.  The most powerful passage that got my attention was in the message against the Philistines, “Terrified fathers run madly, without a backward glance at their helpless children.” (Jeremiah 47:3b NLT).  Where have the strong, brave protectors and defenders of their families gone?

We would do well to pay special attention to the passages that point to the reasons for this judgment.  All of these neighbors are being punished for their mistreatment of God’s chosen people, as well as for their own sins. “Since you trust in your deeds and riches, you too will be taken captive…We have heard of Moab’s pride – her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and arrogance and the haughtiness of her heart…In Moab I will put an end to those who make offerings on the high places and burn incense to their gods…Moab will be destroyed as a nation because she defied the LORD” (Jeremiah 48:7, 29, 35, 42 NIV).   How many similarities do you have to Moab – just one of the countries that would feel the burn of God’s discipline?  How do you treat God and His people?  Is your pride in check?  Where do you put your trust – in your job, your finances, your teachers, your doctors, yourself – or in God?  Do you offer your best and first time, talents and resources to God or to selfish pursuits and false gods?

After 46 verses of judgment against Moab, the final verse of chapter 48 says, “Yet, I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come.”   Hope and restoration is coming – at least for those judged worthy.  Amongst the condemnation of these chapters, Jeremiah includes a beautiful word from God for Israel as well,

But do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant;
    do not be dismayed, Israel.
For I will bring you home again from distant lands,
    and your children will return from their exile.
Israel[f] will return to a life of peace and quiet,
    and no one will terrorize them.
28 Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
    for I am with you,” says the Lord.
“I will completely destroy the nations to which I have exiled you,
    but I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you, but with justice;
    I cannot let you go unpunished.” (Jeremiah 46: 27-28 NLT)

God sees and will not let the guilty go unpunished.  But His deepest desire is to find and reward faithfulness in His children so He can live with them in peace.  God still judges in His love today – as a wise and caring parent.  There will yet be a time of unequaled punishment for those who appeared to get away with evil with a proud heart, relying on themselves and turning their backs on God.  This is discipline with justice.  And, then, there will be restoration and peace.  Come Lord Jesus Come – may He find us faithful.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 46-48.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 49-50 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Why are You Destroying Yourself?

Jeremiah 41-45

Jeremiah 44_71 NLT sgl

Life is often not what we expect.  The last few days we have read about the Jews who went into exile to Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar.  This was punishment from God for turning their backs on Him and following after their own selfish interests – false gods.  No doubt it would be very difficult to be uprooted from your homeland and all you have ever known to be taken to a foreign land – with a strange new language, foods, neighbors, rulers, homes and customs.  It would be easy to think that the ones left behind to stay in Judah were the lucky ones.  But, that would depend on how they acted.  After having just witnessed their brothers’ and sisters’ tragic deportation, you would have thought they may have learned their lesson and stuck a bit closer to God’s guidelines.  But….then you would read today’s Bible reading (Jeremiah 41-45) and find out mankind doesn’t always do the wise thing.

When Babylon invaded Jerusalem the foreign commanding officer released Jeremiah from prison and gave him the option of going to Babylon and being well cared for in a foreign land, or staying with those left behind.  He (or God) chose for him to stay behind – perhaps knowing how much the people still needed a word from the Lord – if they would listen.  Before the Babylonians left town with their captives they set up Gedaliah as governor of the land.  But just 3 months later he is assassinated by Ishmael who also kills several Babylonian soldiers, some Judeans who were loyal to Gedaliah, as well as 70 travelers who had come to worship at the burned down temple.  Next, Ishmael kidnaps the king’s daughters and others that had been under Gedaliah’s care.  Violence, treachery and strife are still rampant in the land.

It seems like a bright new start when Johanan saves the day and Ishmael runs away and the people ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do.  The people want to head to Egypt as they are scared Babylon will hear that the governor they left was killed and come to punish the whole tribe.  But they sound so brave and upright when they say, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us.  Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:5,6).   

Ten days later, Jeremiah tells them God says stay and He will protect you.  It should have been good news, and not too hard to follow.  But, suddenly their eloquent words mean nothing.  Because they were really hoping and thinking God would say to go.  That’s what they wanted to do – so that’s what they would do – regardless of a good speech about following God.  Suddenly, it was more convenient to call Jeremiah the liar and continue packing their bags in defiance of all God said, thus shattering the promise they had just made.

Jeremiah tells them that war, strife, famine, persecution and death will follow them to Egypt.  There is not a safe place to go to disobey God.  But off they go.  Totally disregarding God, they turned again to their false gods that would give them the answers they wanted to hear and let them go where they wanted to go and let them do what they wanted to do.

They thought they had won.  But they were actually destroying themselves (Jeremiah 44:7a NLT).  Just as Jeremiah foretold, Egypt was not a safe place.

It still happens today.  People who commit to follow God anywhere – until they decide they would rather make the rules and the map.  And, if you listen carefully to God and His Word, you can still hear Him say, “Why are you destroying yourselves?”.    Examine yourself and see if there are any ways you are breaking your commitment to God, and thus destroying yourself.  He has offered protection and hope for those who rely on Him and follow Him with their whole life.

 

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 41-45.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 46-48 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Why, God?

Habakkuk 1-3

Habakkuk 1 3 NIV sgl

It is a common question asked through the ages, “Why, God?”  Why do the wicked succeed?  Why do the violent survive?  Why is there injustice in the nation and even in the courts?  Why, God?  Why?

Habakkuk had the same questions.  He lived during the “end” days of Judah, before the Babylonian captivity we have read about the last 2 days.  He had a heart for God and sought to do what was right.  But, what about everyone else?  He was outnumbered, “The wicked far outnumber the righteous, so that justice has become perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:4 NLT).  And that can be a hard place to be.  Where right has become wrong and wrong has become right.  And, where was God?  Why was God not taking action to right the wrongs, punish the evil and make things right?

God answered Habakkuk, but it certainly wasn’t the answer he was expecting or wanting.  God did see the evil, violence and injustice. and he was taking care of matters – in His time and His way.  He revealed to Habakkuk that He was preparing the wicked, idolatrous Babylonian neighbors to the north to bring God’s judgment on Judah.  Wait, a minute, God – they are even worse than us!  That’s not fair!

If God had a penny for every time He heard that line – but, He owns everything already.

He doesn’t need your penny – or your advice.  God doesn’t need to be understood by His creation.  But we would be wise to accept His sovereignty, as Habakkuk did.  Even when faced with answers He didn’t fully understand or like, Habakkuk realized and accepted that God was in control.  He would punish Judah – and then Babylon – when and how He wanted.  And, He would show His power, His patience, His justice, His grace, and His love when and how He saw fit.  God’s people can rest in that knowledge.  There is a lot we don’t have to know or understand – a lot of “why’s” we can’t answer.  But we can rest in knowing that God knows.  He knows.  He sees.  He’s got this.  He is working out all things.  We can bolster our faith and reliance on God’s way by joining with Habakkuk as He proclaims:

I heard and my heart pounded,
    my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
    and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
    to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habakkuk 3:16-19 NIV

 

In our questioning, in our fear, in our uncertainty – yet we will wait patiently for God.  He WILL set things straight.  His perfect judgment is coming.  Until then, wait and rejoice in God our Savior – He is our strength.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at Habakkuk 1-3

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 41-45 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

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

Not Enough

Jeremiah 38-40 and Psalm 74 & 79

Jeremiah 38 18 NIV sgl

I believe today’s Bible reading ranks high among the most depressing passages of Scripture.   From the burning of Jeremiah’s scroll by King Jehoiakim which we read about yesterday to the major blows against Judah we read about today another 17 years has passed.  Jeremiah is still preaching, warning, and speaking truth for God, but very few seem to be interested.  In all, Jeremiah will have preached 39 years, his ministry reaching across the reigns of 5 kings of Judah, only one of whom truly listened to Jeremiah and had a heart for God.  If more had responded the way Josiah had, the disastrous events of today’s reading would have been avoided.  But instead, Judah’s final king, Zedekiah (chosen by Nebuchadnezzar), is a weak king who lacks the courage to do things God’s way.

Unlike Jehoiakim who scorned God’s word and His prophet, Zedekiah seems to know about God and His power.  He asks Jeremiah to pray for them and he secretly asks Jeremiah what he should do.  BUT – he doesn’t do it.  And, when feeling pressure from Jeremiah’s enemies, he even gives his permission for them to mistreat him and abandon him to die in a deep, muddy pit.  Thankfully, Ebed-Melek was there to petition the king to allow them to rescue Jeremiah.  Even at Judah’s final hour, with Babylon at the city walls, God, through Jeremiah, gave Zedekiah an opportunity to save his life and his city.  He could surrender to Babylon and peacefully accept the “time-out” Judah deserved for her waywardness.  But, instead he runs from God’s plan into a tragic, tragic end for himself, his family, his advisors, his city and his country.  Do you think he regretted his decision as he was watching his sons be put to death, or as his eyes were gouged out?

Suddenly, surrendering to God’s plan doesn’t seem so hard, difficult or painful after all -considering the consequences of the alternatives.  Is there an area where you are feeling too weak, too prideful, too insignificant, too scared to follow God’s plan?  Remember, there are often painful consequences of running from God’s plan.  It’s not enough to know of God and his power and truth.  It’s not enough to ask for prayer and guidance.  You must step up and do what God wants you to do.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 38-40 and 

Psalm 74 & 79

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 24 & 25 and 2 Chronicles 36 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Don’t Give Up Now

Jeremiah 35-37

Jeremiah 36 28 NIV sgl

We sure could use a few more Jeremiahs today!  He was quick to follow God’s instructions, and he boldly spoke God’s truth even when it was quite unpopular.  And, he didn’t quit!

At the time of the events of Jeremiah chapter 36 the prophet had already been preaching to his Jewish brothers for over 20 years – warning them of God’s displeasure and the coming wrath if they don’t repent and turn from their wicked ways.  Over and over again he has urged the people, the kings, the priests to stop sinning and return to God.  But as a nation, they don’t get it.  They revel in their freedom, follow after the gods of their neighbors and fall further and further from what God designed them to be – His chosen people who love Him and follow Him and are blessed by Him.

The 20 plus years of preaching hasn’t turned the hearts of Judah back to their Creator.  Maybe if it was ALL written down – would the people listen then?  God tells Jeremiah to write down all the sermons he has ever preached – every word that God has given him from the very start of his ministry.  God said, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3 NIV).  Even though God hates the sins of His people He still loves them and wants to give them another chance to come back to Him.  And so a great project begins.  Jeremiah dictates as his scribe Baruch writes it all down.  Perhaps the people will listen.  They spend over a year writing – God has said a lot.  How will the people respond to this book that lays it all out?

Since Jeremiah’s unpopular (but very Godly) message has already had him personally banned from the temple, Baruch is sent to read God’s words through Jeremiah to the people.  One who hears it, Micaiah, realizes the importance of what has been written and he arranges a reading of it with some of the royal officials.  “When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear” (Jeremiah 36:16) and they arrange for the king himself to hear the words on the scroll from Baruch, Jeremiah, and ultimately God.

Here’s the king’s chance.  He can hear God’s word and repent and lead the nation into a time of Godly reformation, thus saving them from God’s wrath at the hands of the Babylonians – just as his father Josiah had done years ago.  But King Jehoiakim thinks he knows better.  His arrogance and hardened heart don’t crack.  Instead, as the scroll is read to him in his chambers, he cuts it apart and burns God’s word, piece by piece.

Can you imagine the anger and defeat and perhaps fear Jeremiah and Baruch may have felt when they heard the fate of their scroll – God’s words?  To know the utter disrespect they (and their God) had received – and how their work was violated and destroyed.  And they didn’t even have a copy saved on their hard drive.  Totally lost.  Over a year’s work, gone.  But, God’s Word stands forever (Isaiah 40:8).  So, when God tells Jeremiah to write it all down again – with an extra word for Jehoiakim – Jeremiah and Baruch get to work – and the second work is completed, more impressive than the first.

God’s Words are priceless.  Some will hear and respond and pass it on – to work to save themselves and their hearers  (1 Timothy 4:16).  Some will scoff, show no fear and even seek to destroy it.  It does not change the supreme importance and value of the words – or the God who spoke them.  Nations, kings, priests, people; past, present and future will be judged by how they respond to God and His Word.  The king who brazenly cut apart and burned the scroll paid with his life – and his children and country suffered mightily for it as well.  Jeremiah and Baruch had far from an easy life – but they didn’t give up.  They kept at it – living, writing, sharing, reading, speaking God’s Word.  Striving to help save those in danger of experiencing God’s wrath.  Will you stand with them today and be a Jeremiah?

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible reading passage, Jeremiah 35-37, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+35-37&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Jeremiah 38-40 and Psalm 74 &79 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Still Not Alone

1 Kings 20-21

1 Kings 20 13 NIV sgl

I neglected to mention at the end of yesterday’s “You are Not Alone” devotion that one excellent way to battle the weary, lonely depression that sometimes falls upon those who speak for God is to find a partner in ministry – work together with one you can mentor.  At the end of chapter 19 Elijah found Elisha.  Some Bible scholars suggest they worked together about 6 years, but I found another that thought it could have been closer to 23 years.  Regardless of the length of time, I believe it is safe to say the apprenticeship was a mutual blessing to both Elijah and Elisha – and likely multiplied the work that either one could have done on their own.  Elisha will have a very long and powerful ministry for the LORD, but what would it have looked like if he had not had the opportunity to serve under Elijah?  Who are you serving under?  Who are you mentoring?

It is interesting that in the next chapter neither Elijah nor Elisha are mentioned, but at least twice a prophet or son of a prophet speaks to evil King Ahab – once to tell him how to be victorious over the attacking Ben-Hadad of Aram, and once to reprimand him for being too leniant on Ben-Hadad when God delivered him into Ahab’s hand.  This is further proof that Elijah was indeed not the only one left to stand for and speak for God.  And proof, that while Elijah had very faithfully performed many deeds and sermons for God – God did not need Elijah.  The Almighty can call any man or woman – or rock – to work for Him.  I do believe when the city walls fall down on 27,000 fleeing enemy soldiers God’s rocks were at work – perhaps others would have merely called it a coincidence or an earthquake (1 Kings 20:30).

It can truly be amazing who and what God uses – even the evilest king who had ever lived.  Sure, enough, when God wanted to show HIS strength against the advancing foreign army – He tells Ahab the winning battle plans through a prophet and Ahab somewhat surprisingly listens and follows along – to a point.  And, in the last chapter of today’s reading we will even see Ahab repentant – for a time.  There is no heart God can’t soften and change or use for His glory.

But, you are just asking for trouble if you choose to hang out with the bad girls (or in Ahab’s case, his wicked wife).   They have done a lot of evil things but how many commandments do they manage to break when Ahab decides he would love to have a vegetable garden for his second palace?  Once, again, sin snowballs.  One leads to another and it grows larger and larger. With serious consequences.

Following the violent murder of innocent Naboth and the stealing of his property, Elijah is sent to condemn Ahab and Jezebel and foretell their own violent deaths – only partially put on hold by Ahab’s repentant spirit.  Isn’t it good to know that God still sees the  cruelty and injustice of the world today and His timeline is put in place to make all things right.  There will be a time when all humanity meets their judge and will be held accountable for all their deeds and the condition of their hearts.  Until that day may we faithfully carry His word – knowing that we are not alone!

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+20-21&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 22 & 2 Chronicles 18 as we continue the seekgrowlove.com 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

You are Not Alone

1 Kings 17-19

1 Kings 19 14 NIV sgl

Don’t you love Elijah!  The showdown at Mount Carmel is one of my all-time favorite Old Testament stories!  Elijah makes a bold, strong, fast, quick-witted hero for the LORD.  We love to see how he repeatedly stands firmly for God and how God takes care of him, over and over again.  Even though his king (Ahab), his queen (Jezebel) and his nation (Israel) are making some really bad decisions following a man-made god (Baal), Elijah doesn’t back down and his deep faith in God allows him to display God’s power in amazing and miraculous ways.  He prays and God holds back the rain for 3 and a half years. During the drought he is fed by ravens.  (Don’t worry, there are no sanitation problems when God provides the birds to bring you your daily breakfast and supper). He is the first person recorded in Scripture through which God raises the dead!  Never-before seen miracles – at the hand of Elijah!  He prays and God sends fire from heaven to burn up the absolutely drenched sacrifice, wood, stones and soil.  With God’s power he outruns Ahab’s chariot – I bet that was fun to do.  Can you imagine the face and heart of Ahab who had just been bested on Mount Carmel by his enemy Elijah, and then here comes Elijah running past his royal chariot that is trying to outrun the storm clouds that Elijah predicted?  Triple whammy!  It is like Elijah is untouchable!   A super-human spokesman and miracle maker for God.

But no, he was not super-human.  In case anyone was wondering, James sets the record straight many years later in the New Testament that, “Elijah was a man just like us.  He prayed earnestly…”  (James 5:17).  He was a regular man like us.  But he sure knew how to pray!

But being a regular man like us, he grew tired, too.  And fearful sometimes as well.  Ministry can be exciting and exhilarating.  And, tiring and scary.  Sometimes the results aren’t quite what you were hoping for.  Instead of a dramatic conversion – now the ones you were trying to convince of God’s majesty are trying to hunt you down to destroy you!

When Elijah hears that Jezebel has vowed to take his life he is so ready to give up.  Maybe you have been there too, sitting under a broom tree telling God you are done.  But God provides for him again and sustains his long journey (40 days) to a safer (and holy) spot and then reveals himself in a gentle whisper.  Elijah knows he has had a special, one-of-a kind moment with God.  God asks, “What are you doing here, Elijah” (1 Kings 19:13).  Elijah answers, saying he has done so much for God, but the people still won’t listen, and now he is the only one left who speaks for God and they are trying to kill him, too.  It is a little bit of a pity party perhaps – that’s where we go when we are tired and worn out and fearful for the future.

God could be angry.  After all that God has done for Elijah, how dare he mope?  But God doesn’t respond with anger and condemnation; instead, the loving, compassionate, faithful God gives Elijah specific action steps as well as correction.   He says – “Go Back”.  You have had your 40 day sabbatical – you have encountered me in a gentle whisper – I have provided for you – now return, your work isn’t done.

God knows the world is broken and rough and a difficult place to speak for God.  But He says don’t give up.  Keep at it.  He still has more people for you to influence – more people for you to anoint with God’s words and purpose.  The evil king (Satan) may not be brought down in your lifetime.  That’s okay, God will still take care of him, God’s rule will prevail, and He is lining up the people (including His Son the Messiah) and the events to bring it to be.  In the meantime, it is still your job to pass along the good news and the words and power of the Almighty.  And in this way the faithful chain continues through the generations – each one doing their part to proclaim the greatness of our Heavenly Father and prepare the way for His ultimate Kingdom rule.

And, no, Elijah – you are not alone.  Yes, you felt alone.  But you were never alone.  We know that Obadiah (a God-believer in charge of Ahab’s palace) had risked his life by saving the lives of 100 prophets of God in caves (1 Kings 18:2-4).  And God himself corrects Elijah by telling him He had personally reserved 7,000 in Israel who had not worshipped Baal.  It was far from a majority – you don’t need to be a majority to continue speaking God’s word.  But know that you are not a lonely army of one.  God sees you – and He sees all those He has given the most important task of speaking for Him.  Don’t bend your knee to evil.  Don’t give up.  God sees and provides.  Keep speaking for Him.

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+17-19&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Sin Snowballs

1 Kings 15:25-16:34 & 2 Chronicles 17

1 Kings 16 25 NIV sgl

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