A Goldmine

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 31 & 32

Psalms Reading: Psalm 18

New Testament Reading: Matthew 17

In a year that we are searching in His words for who God is, Psalm 18 is a goldmine. Almost no seeking is required, just taking it in, line after line after line. In 50 verses David shares who His God is: what God has done and why, what He loves, what He doesn’t love, His super powers, what He offers and provides and gives, what is perfect about Him, what He delivers us from, and why He is worthy of praise.

The first time I read Psalm 18 this week I journaled what I saw regarding God – it was the first Psalm that took a full page to record my observations, and I am sure I missed some. Here’s just a sampling from my journal page (with some added thoughts):

  • God – MY strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, horn of salvation, stronghold, worthy of praise… (written by David so he was the original “MY” referred to – but not the only – thank you God for being MY strength, too)
  • He hears me from his temple…(I am not used to being heard by the “higher-ups” – but here is the Highest of them all, and He hears me.)
  • He gets angry – earth trembles and quakes, mountains shook…
  • He reached down from on high and rescued me…
  • He’s my support…
  • To turn from Him is evil…
  • God saves the humble…not so the haughty… (Be humble, don’t be haughty)
  • To the faithful/blameless/pure – He shows Himself to be faithful/blameless/pure…. (but don’t be crooked with Him, unless you are curious what His other side looks like).
  • The LORD lives!…

As I re-read I began looking for what verse or phrase I would choose to create a picture to accompany the devotion – there were way too many I wanted to use! Here are some of my personal top choices, that I didn’t end up using…

“I call to the LORD who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” (vs 3) – (My enemies will look different from David’s – we each have a different purpose from God to fulfill and different enemies to overcome – but we both have the same God who is worthy of praise and who saves from the enemy.)

“He rescued me because He delighted in me.” (vs 19) – (Thank you God for delighting in me – and rescuing me. Your love and your power work perfectly together. And I am the blessed recipient of both.)

“My God turns my darkness into light.” (vs 28) – (How’s that for a lightbulb moment?)

“You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great.” (vs 35) – (Don’t you love the picture that creates in your mind! Re-read it again slower. How is God trying to pass you His shield of victory today?)

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.” (vs 30) – (Is there anything else in this world that is perfect? We are so used to flawed, broken and mediocre – but that is NOT My God – his way and his word are perfect – and they are for me!)

What pictures/passages do you like best in Psalm 18? What do they tell you about God? Is He YOUR God, too?

Remember those book reports you did back in elementary school when you had to create something to show you learned something from the reading – a mobile, a shoebox diorama, a character chart. I encourage you to create something from Psalm 18 – a journal page, memory verse cards for your bathroom mirror, a friend’s refrigerator and the wallets of all your family members, a wall hanging for your home or your neighbor’s, a card or text for a friend who is feeling surrounded by enemies today.

Read His words and remember and share. God is worthy of praise. “I love you, O LORD, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1 NIV)

-Marcia Railton

If you were hoping for a devotion today over Matthew 17 and the Transfiguration which is a very interesting “highlight” of Jesus’ earthly ministry, here’s a good one called A Mountain Top Experience by Rebecca Dauksas.

Reflection Questions

  1. In what way do you think God wants to give you His shield of victory today? How might you receive it? What enemies is God able to help you overcome?
  2. How might your day be different if you remember all day long who Your God is?
  3. Just as we can benefit from David sharing with us how God has helped him, how can you share with others how God has helped you and how might it benefit them?
  4. What pictures/passages do you like best in Psalm 18? What do they tell you about God? Is He YOUR God, too?

Good Question

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 19 & 20

Psalm Reading: Psalm 12

New Testament Reading: Matthew 11

Where is the darkest place you have been? So dark, you were scared to take a step? The most difficult place you’ve been? So difficult, you doubted? When have your dark, difficult, trying circumstances caused you to doubt what you previously knew to be true?

You are not alone. John has been there, too. Sometimes referred to as John the Baptist or the Baptizer for his message of repentance and baptism, John had faithfully worked for years. Known for his simple lifestyle, his ministry was not about him – but about the one who was to come – the Messiah. He had prepared the way for Jesus’ entrance. He had not taken the easy road. He had not backed down from authority. He continually stood for what was right and true – even when it landed him in prison. The ruling Herod and his wife didn’t appreciate John speaking out against their unlawful marriage.

With his ministry and freedom taken from him, and his future in question, John had a lot of time to think in the darkness of his circumstances. Why? What if…? Was it worth it? Was this supposed to happen? Had he been right? Or wrong? We don’t know all the questions John asked in his prison cell. But, we do know the most important one. The one he needed an answer to. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

And Jesus answered. Restating the truth that John needed to hear again. Pulling up Old Testament scripture from Isaiah and giving evidence of how his own ministry lined up with what had been foretold: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper is cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).

In our dark days and when we question what we knew to be true, we would do well to return to Jesus. Tell me again, Jesus. Give me proof of who you are. Read again who he is, what he has done, what he taught, what he did for me. The story of Jesus never gets old, but we do need to be reminded of what we know. And then we have the beautiful opportunity and mandate to tell others of what we have seen and heard.

In the rest of this chapter (as well as the previous one) Jesus demonstrates that following him can be hard. People will criticize everything – our job is not to make people happy. There will be many unrepentant people (and cities) who do not accept the work that Jesus has done for them or the path that Jesus has laid out. Don’t be swayed, know that judgement will come and make sure you are on the right side. Stay close to the one who knows and reveals the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way. Work with him. Stay attached to Jesus. Take his yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29).

-Marcia Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. Who is Jesus? Do you know that he is the one who was to come? How do you know this? What is the value in reading the Old Testament? What is the value in reading the New Testament?
  2. What is repentance? Why is it important? Without it, what will happen? (Matthew 11:20-24)
  3. What do you learn about God in today’s reading? What do you learn of His Son?

He Sees and Examines

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 17 & 18

Psalm Reading: Psalm 11

New Testament Reading: Matthew 10

Yes, indeed. You can be guaranteed, God sees (you can review yesterday’s devotion if you missed it). For many people in innumerable situations across the centuries, the fact that God sees has given reassuring peace and comfort. The oppressed, the grief-striken, the helpless, the victim, and the fatherless have all been introduced to the God who sees and His Son who changes lives.

In today’s Psalm 11 it even records, “He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine the sons of men. The LORD examines the righteous.” (Psalm 11:4b, 5a NIV). He examines the righteous – that’s much more than a casual “see” and walk on. It gives me a picture of a kind, thorough, knowledgeable doctor. He has listened to your list of ailments and what you hypothesize might be needed but his careful examination will reveal the true issues and in wisdom he will prescribe and deliver what you really need at just the right time. “The LORD examines the righteous.”

It is a comforting first half of Psalm 11:5. The verse doesn’t end there. We are reminded that it is not ONLY the righteous God sees. And when he sees the unrighteous – he also takes action. “…but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur, a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face” (Psalm 11:5b-7 NIV).

God sees.

God examines.

God acts.

God loves justice.

In our Genesis passage we see God seeing Sarai and Abraham. He has been promising that Abraham will be the father of many descendants, a great nation and kings. But they are old – with no child of their own. Sometimes it’s hard to keep believing that God sees. God reminds them, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14 NIV). Sarai tries to get away with a little lie – saying she didn’t laugh at the crazy idea that within the year she, an old woman, would have a baby. But God sees even the little laugh. He examines the righteous (not the perfect – but the righteous). Don’t try to fool the all-seeing God.

Then the story turns…to God preparing to visit Sodom, a city full of sin . He has heard of their wickedness. Is it time for Him to act? Is it time for justice? We will have to see tomorrow when we read Genesis 19. But, if you want a little hint, recall what the Psalmist said regarding what God will do to the wicked: he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur. Even in our Matthew passage, where Jesus is preparing his disciples to go out into the towns of Israel, knowing full well that many will not accept them or the message they bring, he references Sodom and judgment.

God does see.

It is reassuring to the righteous.

It is judgment for the wicked.

What does He see in you?

He isn’t fooled. He sees. He examines. He loves justice.

-Marcia Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. What does God see in you? What might His examination reveal are your true ‘health needs’ to be addressed, and the remedies He is offering? Are there any areas where you have been trying to lie to God?
  2. Matthew 10 is one of those chapters you could read every day for a week or more and still find new insight. Jesus is preparing his disciples to share the good news of the kingdom in a world that sometimes/often rejects it. What is helpful for you to hear from Jesus? Are we to just give up and keep silent if the world rejects the message?
  3. In today’s Scripture reading you see God is ________.

The God Who Sees Me

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 15 & 16

Psalm Reading: Psalm 10

New Testament Reading: Matthew 9

We have a need to be heard.

We have a need to be seen.

In today’s Psalm, the psalmist begins writing about a wicked man who preys on the weak, he doesn’t seek God, “in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (Psalm 10:4), he is haughty and God’s laws “are far from him” (10:5), he is full of lies and threats, and, “He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees'”(10:11).

There are those who would like to think that God never sees. Don’t be one of them.

In the second part of the Psalm, the psalmist calls out for God to arise and take action, remembering the helpless.

“Why does the wicked man revile God: Why does he say to himself, ‘He won’t call me to account’? But you, O God, do SEE Trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand…You HEAR, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you LISTEN to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed” (Psalm 10:13, 14a, 17a)

And it just so happens that our reading in Genesis has an excellent example of this. Unfortunately, our very own Sarai and Abram, to whom God had promised a child and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, got tired seeking God’s way and waiting on Him. Perhaps Sarai didn’t think God really saw her trouble and grief, or wasn’t able to do anything about it, if He did see. So her solution (and an accepted custom of the time – still not making it right) was to have her husband sleep with her maidservant Hagar and build a family through her. Hagar did become pregnant and jealousy and bitterness mounted within the household leading Hagar to run away.

She had been oppressed, abused and used.

But God heard her cry.

An angel of the LORD tells her it will be safe for her to go back to Sarai and resume her servant’s role, but that won’t be the end of her story. She will have a child and her descendants will be too numerous to count. I love that she was told to name her child Ishmael which means ‘God hears’. What a great life-long reminder she would have every time she said his name. I also love Hagar’s response. After God named her child, this oppressed and helpless Egyptian servant girl who just met God in the wilderness gives a name to God. “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'” (Genesis 16:13 NIV).

You are the God who sees me.

What a privilege to be seen by God.

In our Matthew reading we see that God has passed along this compassionate, caring, seeing trait to his son Jesus as well. Jesus sees the paralytic in need of forgiveness and healing. Jesus sees (and eats with and calls) the sinners and tax collectors (much to the dismay of the pharisees). Jesus sees the sick, the dead, the blind, the demon-possessed, the crowds that are like sheep without a shepherd. He sees and he has compassion and he gives hope and a new life. I am sure God is proud of His son – seeing these traits passed down.

Jesus says there is still work to be done. The harvest fields are full of the sick, the sinners, the oppressed, the Hagars. They want to be seen. They want to be introduced to the God who sees. Pray for God to show you where He wants you to work in his harvest field.

-Marcia Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. Are there times you have resembled the man of Psalm 10:4 – “In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” How will you make room in your thoughts for God and seek Him? What role does pride play?
  2. When have you known God sees you? How can you introduce others to the God who sees and His Son who gives a new life?
  3. What did God reveal about Himself to you in your reading of His words today?

Just Like Dad, but Not Dad

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 13 & 14

Psalm Reading: Psalm 9

New Testament Reading: Matthew 8

Don’t you love seeing pictures of two family generations where the younger looks just like the senior? The family resemblance can’t be mistaken. As I was reading of Jesus calmly calming the storm I was thinking – I have seen this before. The masterful control exercised over the wind and water. It’s been done before. There is a family resemblance there that can’t be mistaken. Sure enough – in the account of Noah and the great flood found in Genesis 7 & 8 (which you may have just read last week), it is recorded that the LORD God controlled the springs of the deep, the floodgates of heaven and the winds. Perhaps the astonished disciples weren’t thinking of the ancient time of Noah, but they were asking, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27 NASB).

Interestingly, in the very next passage it is revealed who Jesus is – by the demons. It appears the spiritual world has a pretty clear picture of who Jesus is, as well as what fate awaits them in the future at Jesus’ hand. Even back in Matthew 4 in the wilderness the tempter/devil twice began tempting Jesus by saying, “If you are the Son of God…”. And now here in Matthew 7 the demons recognize the family resemblance and see Jesus as the Son of God. That is an amazing title and honor and job to be the Son of the Most High God Almighty.

But being the Son of God is not the same as being God. Just as you are the son or daughter of your dad and mom, but you are not your dad or mom. There are still many differences. Here is a partial list of some of those differences…

God can not die – but Jesus did.

God knows everything (including when Christ will return) – Jesus didn’t. (Mark 13:32)

Jesus increased in wisdom – God already had it all.

Jesus was God’s servant and he knew God was greater than himself.

Jesus didn’t do his own will, he did God’s – they have different wills.

Jesus had a God.

Jesus prayed to His God, and called Him Father.

Jesus cannot be a mediator between man and God if he was in fact God.

Jesus is now at God’s right hand.

They will rule at different times.

As we spend the year asking God to reveal Himself to us in His Scripture, we get the added supreme joy of finding Jesus in the process. As we read of Jesus’ love and compassion, power, judgment, forgiveness and mercy – we are reminded of his dad. There is an unmistakable family resemblance. There is often much you can learn about a parent by watching a child (even a child all grown up). Also, there is much you can learn about a gift-giver by seeing the gift they have given. As we read through the Bible seeking God may we recognize Him as the Father and God of his Son Jesus and as the ultimate gift-giver who gave His Son to His broken creation, knowing full well they would break his gift as well – for a time.

As I am journaling what God is revealing to me about Himself in Scripture this year, I am also writing in notes about His gift, His Son – clearly labeling those lines with an underlined “Jesus”. In my Bible margins I am using an asterisk to remind me where I found something of God’s character (sometimes with a note to explain at the bottom of the page). I am also using a cursive capital J in the margin marking the passages where I learn more about Jesus, the unique Son of God. I pray this will be a year of great revelation as I seek Him and His Son. I pray this for you as well.

-Marcia Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. What do you learn about Jesus in Matthew 8?
  2. What is most incredible to you about this gift that God has given?
  3. What family resemblance do you see in the Son of God – where did you see those qualities first in his Father? What do you learn about the gift-giver by looking at the gift He has given?

God, You Are…

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 9 & 10

Psalm Reading: Psalm 7

New Testament: Matthew 6

We are a week into our Bible reading plan for 2023. What are your thoughts so far? I have enjoyed reading Scripture and searching for what God is revealing about Himself in the words He inspired the authors to write. Previously, I have most often looked at the Bible as an instruction manual for life, and as such it is extremely valuable. I, for one, need a good bit of direction in my life! And while there are a lot of instruction manuals out there, I want to use God’s directions rather than the world’s. But I am realizing His words are so much more! They allow us the privilege to know God – really KNOW Him. What He likes, what He doesn’t like, what He IS like, what He does, what He doesn’t do, what He will do, what He desires, what thrills Him, what makes Him angry, what He plans, what He promises, what He controls, what He doesn’t control, even if He could. These are the things you would want to know about someone if you were considering entering into a serious relationship. It goes much deeper than knowing a name, a pronoun and 6 descriptive adjectives and thinking that we now know that person.

So, why is it important to really KNOW God? I am reminded of a very sad passage in Romans. It begins by saying all men should know there is a God because of the works of His glorious creation. Yes, we should. But, we know of too many who don’t. What went wrong? “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image…Therefore God gave them up to vile impurity… For they exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25 NASB)

So many today have been at a point where they would say there is a God, but because they didn’t honor Him or give Him thanks, it was easy to turn their backs on Him and become fools and be given over to sin and judgment. When we SEE God for who He is and really KNOW who He is, the true response is honor and thanks. We can not give an unknown being genuine honor and thanks. The best list of rules won’t save us. If you don’t have a serious relationship with the author of the best instruction manual in the world, the words will be lost, neglected and even despised. It is time, for us and our children, to get to KNOW God Almighty – so we will honor Him and give thanks and be serious about our relationship with Him.

So, that’s one reason I am enjoying getting to know the author of this great instruction book more and more. In our Old Testament readings we are just finishing with the events of Noah’s life. What did you learn about God from Genesis 6-9? There isn’t one set of correct answers. But some of the things I jotted in my journal over the past few days include:

He feels pain – He sees evil in His creation.

He plans destruction of evil – but He still sees and gives favor to those who walk with Him and are righteous.

He is detail-oriented, gives precise directions that work well. He’s a good ship designer (that means He’s smart).

He creates covenants to save.

He saves families.

It happens as God said it will. He is trustworthy and true.

He controls the floodgates and springs. He controls the animals. He controls the winds. He is powerful.

He blesses with fruitfulness and children.

He gives plants and animals to eat.

He made man in His own image (How many times will we read this – how many times will we ignore it? Trading the truth of the creator was part of the lie spoken of in Romans. I think that makes it important. Thank you God for making us in Your image – you are incredible to make us – and super generous to make us in YOUR image!)

He will demand an accounting for the life of men. He values life, every life.

He makes covenants. He remembers His covenants. He created the rainbow.

If you haven’t tried it yet – I encourage you to give it a go. Read at least one of today’s passages, searching for what you can learn of God. What is He like? What does He like? What did He do? What will He do? It will give you reason to give Him glory and thanks. It will prepare you for a serious relationship with Him – for all eternity.

-Marcia Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. What’s in it for me? What are the benefits to having a serious relationship with God, rather than just agreeing that there is a God out there somewhere?
  2. Do you believe God created you and the world? Does it matter?
  3. If you’ve tried it – what did God reveal about Himself in your reading so far this week, or today? If you haven’t tried it yet – now is the time. Ask Him, God – what do you want to show me about yourself? And then dig in, seeking Him. When He shows you a bit of Himself, how will you express your honor, glory and thanks?

Knowing Jesus

Mark 3

Monday, July 24, 2022

How well do you know Jesus? I mean, really know him?

The Pharisees (the religious leaders who prided themselves on supposedly having mastered the Old Testament law) knew Jesus – and were plotting with the government leaders to find a way to kill this rebel.

The sick and the maimed and the hurting knew Jesus – and were flocking to his side in droves, anxious for their turn to be touched, recognized and healed by this miracle worker.

The evil, impure spirits knew Jesus – they knew they were powerless before the one they rightly recognized as the Son of God.

The 12 disciples knew Jesus – and they dropped what they were doing to follow him, sit at his feet, learn from him, and do the work this teacher sent them out to do.

His mother and brother knew him – or they thought they did. They thought he was out of his mind. They were so familiar with him, they missed who he really was and couldn’t comprehend his true mission from God.

The teachers of the law knew Jesus – and they were so upset and thrown off by him they accused him of being possessed by Beelzebub the prince of demons. It is easiest to accuse what we don’t understand or what we feel threatened by.

So, I ask again, how well do you know Jesus? I mean, really know him.

Thousands of years later and there are still many different ways people think they know Jesus and respond to him. Some are still so familiar with Jesus (they’ve grown up with Jesus all their lives) they have actually missed who he really is. Others see him as a threat to their way of life or popularity and have made him out to be the enemy, attacking him with vicious lies and accusations at every chance. Others, are sincerely working at being his disciples, spending time with him and doing the work he sends them out to do. Some still recognize Jesus as the healer, the one who can ease their pain and put the brokenness back together again. And, the evil spirits still know they are no match for the power of the Son of God. They may win a battle here and there, but the ultimate victory will go to Jesus Christ.

Do you know who Jesus is?

Does he know who you are? Will he tell his Father in heaven that you are his brother, sister or mother, because you are doing God’s will?

-Marcia Railton

Application Questions

  1. How well do you know Jesus? How would you describe Jesus to someone who has never heard of him before?
  2. If you have grown up with Jesus, how can you be sure you aren’t so familiar with Jesus that you are missing who he really is? Where do you get your information about Jesus? What did Jesus say about himself? (Did he ever say he was God the Son?)
  3. Today, who is attacking Jesus and how? How will you make sure you are on Jesus’s side now and at the time of the last battle between good and evil?
  4. What does Jesus know about you?

He Cursed the Day of His Birth

Job 3

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Today’s is a devotion I wish someone else was writing. It is over a chapter that is too dark, too deep, too depressing.

That is the start of the first devotion I wrote on Job 3. The one I spent a couple hours writing this morning before my computer ate the rest of it. So, now I get to write a second one. Maybe God has more to teach me about Job 3. Dear God, help me learn what you want me to learn – and put it into action.

I loved Hannah Deane’s devotions on Job 1 & 2 (as well as the rest of her devotions this past week on 2 Corinthians). If you missed them, I encourage you to go back and read them. Yesterday she pointed out that in chapter 2, Job’s grieving wife who had also lost so much, encouraged Job to just curse God and die. One can only endure so much, right? When is it time to give up on God? Job’s wife thought Job should be there already. But good old Job called it foolish talk. If you accept good from God, be prepared to accept some trouble, too, he said. Then his friends came and sat with him in silence for 7 days.

In chapter 3, Job speaks. And, it is difficult to listen to. Is he finally ready to curse God and die, as his wife had counseled him? No – not exactly. But there is no denying the pain and agony he is in. Rather than cursing God though, he curses the day he was born.

I have no recollection of the day I was born, but I have some pretty fond memories of the three days my children were born and put into my waiting arms. And it breaks my heart that one would become so depressed and despondent that they would wish their day of birth had never been. I have never been at this dark point Job was.

I also can’t help but think of the pro-abortion claims that for a certain amount of hardship (financial, physical, relational, or emotional), it would be better for a child to never have the chance at life. If we only had this ONE single chapter of Job to consider, it might seem that Job would agree.

It can not be denied. Hardships and loss come with life. No life has been lived without, no matter how spectacular the parents or timing or circumstances or inception. Hardship began with the serpent in the garden. And it will continue until the new heaven and new earth comes in the clouds, and God will live with His people and will wipe every tear from their eye and there will be no more mourning or crying or pain or death. (Revelation 21:1-4). What a beautiful hope for the future. But, we aren’t there yet. So, we must be prepared in this life for some trouble ourselves. And, we must consider how we can encourage, comfort and sit with those in deep pain and agony. And, while we are at it – how can we speak with compassion and wisdom to the would-be mom who is scared of the loss in her own life as well as the amount of hardship that a baby would meet in life? Job knows what it is like to be overcome by grief and raw emotion – for a time. That is where he is in Job 3, though he does not take his own life or the life of another.

Job doesn’t end with chapter 3. He has many more chapters of grief, sorrow and questioning God. There is not a quick and easy answer for pain. He will hear many half-truths from his friends who have a distorted view of God and His justice. And, then, he will get the opportunity to hear from God Himself. And, of course there are the blessings that Job receives in the end. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough days in the year to read each chapter one by one. In this year’s reading plan we will include just one more day tomorrow for Job before moving along to Psalms. But I encourage you to take some more time digging into Job. While Job continues to question God in his grief, he never gives up on God. I think we would do well to realize we don’t have to understand God in order to continue to trust Him.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. We are often uncomfortable with people who are in deep pain and agony. It can be difficult to be around people who are cursing the day they were born (at least for me). How can we bring comfort and wisdom to their deep hurt?
  2. What advice and counsel do you think Job of Job chapter 38-42 would give to Job of Job chapter 3? What might he say to the man in despair contemplating taking his own life, or the woman considering an abortion?
  3. How can you trust God even when you don’t understand Him?

Tell Me Again

1 Chronicles 22

March 19

My daughter loves Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She loves watching each new version that comes out – and then rewatching the old classic again, too. Each new director has a slightly different angle on Austen’s original work of art so watching multiple versions helps the viewer appreciate Austen’s storytelling abilities and intent.

Similarly, God created the nation of Israel (and Judah) and gave them a deep and meaningful history – the story of God at work through His people. Since then, there have been various written (and inspired) versions to capture God’s work of art story of these people and their triumphs and failings. And each version shows a slightly different angle of the same characters, events, and the God who was over them all. And so we have 1st & 2nd Samuel and 1st & 2nd Kings written to tell of the history of Israel from the time they clambered for a king, through the kings of United Israel: Saul, David and Solomon and then the many kings of the Divided Kingdoms of Northern Israel and Southern Judah, leading up to the exile, first to Assyria for unfaithful Israel, and then years later to Babylon for Judah. The story was well-told. It emphasized the fact that the troubles that came upon Israel were because of their unfaithfulness to God and their disobedience to Him. They could have chosen a better way that would not have ended in exile, but instead they gave up God’s offered blessings to follow the pagan neighbors in idolatry and disobedience. It was important for God’s people in exile to see that connection.

Fast forward many years – Babylon has been overtaken by Persia and the Persian king (prompted by God no doubt) allows Jews to start returning to what had been their Promised Land so many years before. This is a new generation that grew up exiled from their homeland, surrounded by foreign people, customs, gods, and culture. God was calling them back again to be a holy people in a holy land devoted to Him. Their time-out was over. But, they needed to know the story of where they came from and the God who was over all.

It was time to tell the story again. It was time for 1st & 2nd Chronicles to be written. About 50% of what is written here was already told before in other books of the Old Testament, but this time the writer was coming from a slightly different angle.

They needed to show the returning Israelites they were God’s people – not Babylon’s or Persia’s. So 1st Chronicles begins with about 9 chapters of genealogies and lists of family names and positions. Imagine the thrill of finding your family name and tracing it all the way back to Adam. This is your family. You are a part of God’s chosen family. He has a plan that includes you and your family.

They needed to show the people how to worship the One True God, again. So, 1st & 2nd Chronicles includes many chapters detailing the roles and names of the Levites, priests, the worship singers and musicians, and gatekeepers, as well as David’s plans for the building of the first magnificent temple, the supplies he collected, the gifts given for the temple, and then Solomon’s final preparations, the temple furnishings, the ark of the covenant and the dedication of the first temple. The returning Israelites would be setting all this up once again – it was important for them to know and understand the history and glory and excitement the first temple designers, builders, priests and participants experienced. They needed to convey the joy and awe that comes with the awesome responsibility of worshiping the Lord God.

They needed to show the victories and triumphs that can be had when one truly seeks the Lord. The Chronicler chose to focus more on the positive examples through the history of Israel. 29 chapters include the good things about the reigns of David and Solomon when Israel was enjoying God’s richest blessings. And when he writes of the Divided Kingdom, he primarily writes about Judah – the country that had some good kings and continued the line of David.

It was a great time to remember the heroes of their faith as they now had a second golden opportunity to create a holy people in a holy land. In 1 Chronicles 22, we, too, can be encouraged and energized by David’s example. We can be encouraged to give generously, to work hard, to follow God’s plans not our own, to pass on the work of the Lord to our children, to teach them well to strive for understanding and discretion, being careful to obey the Lord for that brings success. Just as in the time of David, and the time of the return from exile, so today is a day to remember all these things.

“Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” – 1 Chronicles 22:13

“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.” – 1 Chronicles 22:19a

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. If you were writing a history of the nation of Israel during Old Testament times, what would you make sure you include and what are the overall themes you would want your readers to know?
  2. Who in your life has been a positive godly role model for you? What have you learned from them? How can that help you when you begin a new endeavor or challenge in life?
  3. Can you point to any victories in your life when you were seeking the Lord? What about any exiles or punishments for falling away from the Lord? What can be gained from each experience? How can you use your experiences to help others?

God Over All the Kingdoms of the Earth

2 Kings 19

March 18

A good leader, a bad leader, a boasting field commander, mourning, praying for those left, searching for a word from the Lord, reports of fighting here and there, a large impressive bully nation, a pleading king. It’s almost enough to make me look for a time and date stamp to check what century I am reading of. Am I reading the headlines of the newspaper today, or from 2 Kings 19, an account of when the small country of Judah and her king Hezekiah were being bullied and intimidated by Sennacherib the king of Assyria?

For a better understanding, we might need to back up a couple hundred years from where we are reading in 2 Kings. It is tricky fitting the whole wealth of Old Testament history and beauty and lessons into 105 days, as our Bible reading schedule this year dictates, but let’s catch up on a couple hundred years here. The end of last week we were reading of the son of King David, King Solomon – the third king of Israel. His reign over Israel was blessed by God and Israel prospered. However, after King Solomon the kingdom divides into the 10 northern tribes of Israel (which rejected the rule of the line of David and created their own system of worship since they no longer held Jerusalem, the home of God’s temple) and the 2 southern tribes then called the nation of Judah.

Israel would have one bad king after another. But still God was active and at work in their nation, as we saw with the powerful ministries of the prophets Elijah and Elisha in our readings earlier this week. But it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of the nation that had chosen to reject God. Israel would be overtaken by the bully nation Assyria (see 2 Kings 17). This was God’s judgment on a country that had rebelled against Him.

And now, Assyria was coming after the nation of Judah. Hezekiah, the 12th king of Judah and from the line of David, had been king 6 years when Israel had fallen to Assyria, within the next 8 years Assyria had attacked and captured all of the fortified cities of Judah, except the capital city of Jerusalem. Scared Hezekiah, feeling desperate to save his nation, had even tried paying tribute to Sennacherib king of Assyria – striping the temple and palace of all its gold and silver. But still, Assyria advanced and now they were at the gates of Jerusalem. Sennacherib’s field commander, had just delivered an intimidating speech to the occupants of Jerusalem – promising protection and life if they surrendered and destruction and death if they did not. He tried convincing the people saying, “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’  Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?” (2 Kings 18:32b-33). And, that is where we are when we read 2 Kings 19.

The king, the leaders and the people are scared. Assyria has already conquered so many, including Israel and the fortified cities of Judah. It seems perhaps this will be the end of Jerusalem and all Judah as well. Hezekiah sends his advisers to the prophet Isaiah asking for prayer for the people. Isaiah replies – Don’t be afraid. God heard the boasting blasphemous words of the field commander – and God is preparing a surprise for them.

Sennacherib sends a written intimidating message to Hezekiah. I love what Hezekiah does with the letter. He takes it to the temple, spreads it out before the Lord and prays:

“Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.

17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

(2 Kings 19:15-19)

What a beautiful prayer that lays it all out before God. First, acknowledging God for who He is and what He has done – no small matters. Go back and read it again to hear the awe and reverence in Hezekiah’s voice. He knew he was speaking to the creator of heaven and earth! How awesome is that? Then, bringing before God what was on his heart. What do we want Him to look upon, and listen to? Yes, God already has heard it and seen it all. Hezekiah wasn’t surprising God or giving Him new information. But He was asking God to act on what Hezekiah was seeing and hearing, what was important to Him. And, believing that God could do it, he asked for deliverance, not just to save their own hides – but “so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.” (2 Kings 19:19).

God did answer this prayer in such a way that all those kingdoms knew that He alone with God. That night, the angel of the Lord visited the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000. Sennacherib and the rest went running home. Sennacherib survived, for a short time, only to be assassinated by two of his sons. Hezekiah lives to have more prayers answered in the next chapter.

But here we are today, surrounded by more conflict, and more bully leaders, and more scared leaders and still One TRUE God over them all. Perhaps now is a good time for more heartfelt prayers to God. We know more righteous judgment from God is on its way – both now and ultimately at the end of this age when His son Jesus returns to earth. We so look forward to a time when the faithful from all nations and kingdoms are gathered before the throne – no longer waving national flags, if now their allegiance is to the Lamb of God.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Hezekiah’s strongest weapon was not his armies or alliances or his gold and silver – but his heartfelt prayer to God. How can we better use prayer in our own time of desperate need? How can we better use prayer for the nations in conflict today? What do you want to make sure God hears and sees? Tell Him about it, even though He already knows.
  2. Hezekiah praised God for His creation. I wonder if, or how much, Mr Darwin and the theory of evolution has blocked the prayers of “believers”. What do we truly believe in today? When we strip God of His power and His creation, do we also strip Him of His power or desire to act on our behalf? What are other ways we fail to recognize God’s greatness and power? What do you believe God can do and will do and has done?
  3. Do a little word study on nations or kingdoms – how do they show up in Scripture? What about in Revelation?

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