His Story

1 Kings 15:1-24 & 2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Chronicles 15 15b NIV sgl

History is a curious thing.  Today’s reading covers two different kings of Judah, Abijah and Asa, from the perspective of two different writers.  It is quite interesting to see what is remembered and omitted and concluded from the lives of these two kings from the two different authors writing at different time periods for different purposes.

Let’s look at Abijah, King David’s great grandson.  It is easy to love the Abijah recorded in 2 Chronicles 13.  King Jeroboam of Israel is closing in with an army twice the size of King Abijah’s of Judah.  But Abijah responds with courage, faith in God and a rousing speech.  He speaks of Israel’s united history under David and God and then records the sins of Jeroboam (& Israel) in breaking with God, the God-ordained priests, and the house of David.  He concludes that, “As for us (Judah), the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him….God is with us, he is our leader.” (2 Chronicles 13:10,12). And then, even though an army twice their size is before and behind them, God gives the victory and Abijah’s army wipes out over half of Jeroboam’s fleeing and destroyed army.  It’s exciting to see how God shows His strength through Abijah.

And then we read the account of King Abijah as recorded in 1 Kings 15.  The details of his life agree completely with what is recorded in 2 Chronicles: reigned 3 years, son of Rehoboam and Maacah, there was war between him and Jeroboam, and his son Asa would rule after his death.  But, absolutely nothing is said of the moving speech or victorious battle or God as his leader.  Instead, the writer of Kings sums up Abijah’s life by saying, “He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been.” (1 Kings 15:3).

Oh, Abijah, we had such hope for you from that one outstanding snapshot of your life.  Your sermon that day was so full of convicting truth – that you forgot?  What went wrong?  How was your heart divided that sin won out?  Didn’t you daily recall how God fought for you?  Did you think you did that on your own?  It is discouraging to see what could have been, or once was, a strong testimony for God crumble and cave to sin and a divided heart.

But, it is also encouraging to see what God can do for His purposes – even when He’s working with and through sinful, broken people.  He can use the Joshua’s, the David’s and the Abijah’s and you and me.  He has and can and will have the victory any time He wants – and He can do it using any one He wants.

It is also interesting to see what one chooses to remember when looking back on history.  How do we portray and ultimately judge the heroes and the villains?  Which statues do we decide to pull down, if any, or why not all?  Everyone is certainly a mix of wise and foolish choices.  Some of our forefathers had some really good, faithful days (like Abijah’s) and these can still be celebrated today.  Remember the Chronicles were written long after these events took place and were written to encourage the returning exiles.  They needed to remember the faithful God who worked through the house of David and the priestly line.  They were being prepared for the coming arrival of a Messiah from the house of David who would be a priest like none before.  It would be helpful for them to remember their history as they prepared for their future.  It was time to bolster their courage and faith and remind them that God is their leader.  They needed the story of Abijah’s Really Good Day and the God who supplied it.

And, it is also valuable to consider the bigger picture of someone’s life to see what to avoid in order to get us where we want to go.  Rather than using our own flawed measuring stick to judge (popularity, wealth, good speaker, etc…), whenever possible it is helpful to know what God thought of the man.  That is going to be what really counts, so that is what I want to pay attention to so I am not setting up heroes for my life that God would disapprove of.

All that and we finally get to Asa – one of the few kings recorded as, “good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 14:2).  And the writer of Kings agrees completely.  There are some beautiful passages you won’t want to miss about God’s provision and Asa’s seeking and working for God wholeheartedly, even when it meant going against some of his family.  Although, for all his wise and courageous decisions, he still had a rough spot towards the end of his reign when he chose to rely on man instead of God – and there was a price to pay for that error.  But it would be a mistake for us to judge and remember Asa only for that sin that sadly would affect him and many others for years to come.

History is interesting, as is our record of it, and our judgement of those who have come before.  But first and foremost lets learn to us it to grow closer and closer to living a life seeking and serving with an undivided heart the God who created all history and present and future.  What would He have you learn from His Story today in order to live better today and prepare yourself for His Future?

Keep Reading His Word and Seeking Him

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+15%3A1-24%2C+2+Chronicles+13-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be 1 Kings 15:26-16:34 & 2 Chronicles 17 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

To Answer a Fool – or Not?

Disagree – Wisely

Proverbs 26 4 5 NIV

Proverbs 25 & 26
Proverbs is hard to write ONE devotion about. From chapter 10 forward, nearly the entire book is a collection of pithy quick sayings that were meant to produce wisdom in those who learned them. (Only chapter 31 is different, but that will be for another author to work through!) Today, for chapters 25 and 26, I want to focus on just one set of verses.
There are two authors to every word of the Bible. The first is the human author, a person who lived in a specific place and time, thought and wrote in a specific language and who was fallible and failing just like the rest of humanity. Also, Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. This means that God directed the author so that the words, ideas, and stories are those by which God wanted people to live and that everything in the Bible is true. Short and simple, the Bible is not full of lies and misinformation, and it doesn’t contradict itself. (1)
That seems like a hard standard to hold when we read Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5.
26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
Or you will also be like him.
5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
That he not be wise in his own eyes.
DO NOT X & DO X. That is a pretty clear contradiction, right?
Well, yes and no; let me explain. It is clearly contradiction if we believe that all the Proverbs must be followed all the time, like the laws of the Torah. But this is not how the Proverbs were intended to be used.
Proverbs were meant to make people wise, and therefore were to build wisdom AND BE USED WITH WISDOM. Every Proverb doesn’t always give what must be done in every situation always, but instead tells you a general way of living that should guide you in the moment to make a wise decision.
The question we are hard-wired to ask is : Is it right or wrong to answer a fool? But,  THAT’S A BAD QUESTION! Instead we should be asking : Is it wise or foolish to answer this fool right now? Sometimes you debate with a person in private who will never change his or her mind, and you have to throw up your hands and say, “Not worth it” or you could be dragged into the mud and muck of folly and error. Sometimes, you need to correct someone for the foolish thing he or she has said or done, or they go on being foolish forever. Either approach could be wise or foolish; it is the wisdom of God that will sort out which way we should go.
Thus, God’s word is kept from our bad interpretation and we recognize that there is no contradiction!
Jake Ballard
(1) Rarely, if ever, is something truly “short and simple.” There are lots of implications and theological, historical and scientific questions that come up, but sadly, we don’t have time for that at the moment.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at

Tomorrow’s reading will be Proverbs 27-29 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A Word for the Fools

Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8 35 NIV

This chapter is very poetic and filled with a personification of wisdom.  It is used to draw people in and make the writing more personal, and to have greater impact.  I think this is a way of showing how important Godly wisdom is, and how important it should be to each of us.  The idea that wisdom is calling out at the entrance of the city so that we can each hear “her” is an interesting idea.  Obviously, wisdom is a virtue that we should aspire to, not a being.  However, it is so important, and so beneficial to each of us, something that God desires each of us to have, it is as if wisdom is crying out to us, and we need to listen.

If wisdom is something that we aspire to, why do we need this chapter showing all the strengths of wisdom?  Why do we need to hear wisdom calling out to us?  Why do we need to be told again to heed instruction?  This has already been stated multiple times in the first 7 chapters of proverbs.

Verses 4 and 5 say:

To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
“O naive ones, understand prudence;
And, O fools, understand wisdom.

Maybe this isn’t for all of us.  We are all “men” (or people) and sons (or children) of men, but verse 5 specifically talks to naïve ones and fools?  So, maybe this is just for people who aren’t getting it yet.  But, maybe if we are thinking it is just for the naïve or fools, we are being naïve and foolish.

Verses 7 and 8 say:

“For my mouth will utter truth;
And wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
“All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness;
There is nothing crooked or perverted in them.

When I look at this, I have to admit that not everything I say is done in righteousness.  I say things out of anger at times.  I say things at times when I should jut keep my mouth shut.  So, I still need help with wisdom.

I can read through this chapter and point out things in nearly every verse that shows how important wisdom is.  We obviously need to be reminded of this often, based on how often it is written about.  I encourage you to read through this and pick out each of these items.   The end of the chapter summarizes why we should do this:

“Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
33 “Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
35 “For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord.
36 “But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.”

Wisdom comes from God and will only be gained when following God.  This will lead to eternal life.  If we turn away from wisdom, we are turning away from God, and that leads to death.

Andrew Hamilton

Trust Conquers Uncertainty

Eccles 10 2

Ecclesiastes 9:13-11:6

“An example of wisdom that greatly impressed me.” Wisdom that greatly impressed the man that chose wisdom over all of the world’s riches? Okay, you have my attention. It was wisdom that impressed him and saved a city from a superior force. But fools neglect and forget the wise. In times of trouble the wise find themselves surrounded by the lost and afraid, looking for direction. But as soon as they feel safe again they cast off the wise and get back to their hollow lives.

Forget about the wise. Besides it only seems to take a little bit of foolishness to nullify all that the wise do. Whether it is a wise man doing himself harm from his own stupidity or being harmed from someone else, we have seen this and have likely experienced it firsthand. “One sinner destroys much good.” Foolishness is so common. It almost seems incomprehensible that people continue to act the way they do. But I guess that it is easier to believe the unbelievable, to follow the fools way that appears flat and smooth rather than to face the hard truth, to take the difficult path of wisdom and honor. Jesus said it best when he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.” Matthew 7:13-14. The great value of wisdom is lost on the foolish.

Despite what many might think, verse 2 has nothing to do with our modern political party system or whether you are conservative or liberal. The people of Israel understood that the right hand of God is a place of authority and protection. The wise, who we have described as godly, would seem to naturally be inclined toward the right while fools go in the opposite direction. What’s more, the fool flaunts his stupidity. It says he “walks along the road” and “shows everyone how stupid he is.” If you doubt the truth in this I suggest you take an objective look at social media! “Preach it brother!”

Solomon spends a lot of time in these passages reminding us that life is not fair. We may work hard and not get the results that our works merit. Someone else may get all the benefits of what we do while not contributing to it themselves. And of course there are dangers all around us, accidents do happen after all. He urges us to see the dangers, to be aware of them. Preventing us from falling into a pit, literally and metaphorically. The fool though will walk himself right into a pit, into “wicked madness.”

I want to take a moment to address 10:19, specifically “money is the answer for everything.” This is how my NIV puts it and this is a great example of a red flag moment in Bible reading. I personally look at this and I am stunned by most of the commentaries I read concerning this verse. At best they say this is Solomon’s wry humor or his attempt at sarcasm. At worse it is a passage that feeds all the prosperity preachers out there. “You may be struggling to pay your bills right now but God will provide a great bounty, a time of plenty. God knows what you need.” Yes, God does know what you need! We need a relationship with Him, with His son Jesus, and with one another. We need to be like the flowers of the field and be content with what we have. So why does Solomon say this? The original Hebrew reads something more like the NEB version, “money is behind it all” or the NIrV, “people think money can buy everything.” I find it interesting that the young reader version of the NIV is so dramatically different from the standard version on this passage. Apparently kids can handle this truth better than adults can.

Solomon urges us to be diligent and trust in God else we find our heads in the clouds and daydreaming. We cannot get caught up playing with “what ifs” and “what could have been”. We can only affect what we can and trust God to handle the rest.

God has asked His people to trust Him from the very beginning. He has made promises and He has kept those promises. He has worked in and through various people and revealed Himself in many ways. And then the world went dark. For 400 years God was silent, still working but not revealing as He had been. That all changed when an angel of the LORD appeared before Zechariah letting him know that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son. That son, known as John the Baptist, would herald in the time of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus, the son of God, knew what he must ultimately do. He could only go to the cross with confidence if he fully trusted in God. After he ascended to the right hand of God the world once again seemingly went dark. …

Indeed it is dark for those who lack trust in God, who do not have a hope through His son Jesus. God calls for trust. Solomon wrote God’s words to teach us how to trust. Jesus’ sacrifice was a display of trust. We remember that sacrifice and know that his was the only death that actually has meaning, for Jesus’ death is the one that gives life.

-Jeff Ransom