None so Blind

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 6-7; John 8:21-36

49 But Aaron and his sons made offerings on the altar of burnt offering and on the altar of incense for all the work of the Most Holy Place, and to make atonement for Israel, according to all that Moses the servant of God had commanded.          I Chronicles 6:49

23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”                                                                            John 8:23-24

Ever since the nation of Israel was constituted with the Law of Moses, the priesthood had been established with the system of sacrifices for atonement for sin as the central element.  It was such a significant part of the religious culture of the nation that one tribe, the Levites, were ordained to tend to the matters surrounding worship and sacrifices. One family within the tribe of Levi, the descendents of Aaron, were eligible for the priesthood.

The sacrificial system was established to show the heinousness of sin and the need for atonement, an offering to God for offenses made against Him. But when Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, came who would be the One to bear the sins of His people, there was caution, skepticism, rejection, and hostility heaped on Him. As we see throughout the Gospel of John, His origin was debated. His words were parsed and doubted. His explanations were questioned and re-questioned. The evidence of His authenticity was dismissed.

Now He plainly tells them that they will die in their sins if they do not believe in Him. His whole purpose in life is to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1: 21). He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Faith in Him is a matter of life and death.

Yet many refused to see. The problem of sin has existed since the Fall of Man. God has presented His Son to be the atonement. Is it not plain? Is it not clear? Why persist in unbelief? Why remain blind? The old saying is true, “There is none so blind as him who will not see.” If you are troubled by your unbelief, call to Him for faith and the ability to repent. If you see, give Him praise for His great mercy to you.

Darkness or Light

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 3-5; John 8:1-20

25 But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. 26 So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day. I Chronicles 5:25-26

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                                               John 8:12

There is a clear line drawn for all mankind, to walk in darkness or light. What matters, after all, is to walk in the light of life.

The half-tribe of Manasseh included a large population, mighty warriors, famous men, and heads of their fathers’ houses (I Chronicles 5:23-24). But they did not walk in the light of the truth of God. They served other gods who had shown their inability to deliver the nations that served them in the past. Despite the long list of accolades mentioned about this half-tribe, they failed in the most important matter, to remain faithful to the God of Israel. They were in “Who’s Who” as far as their contemporary society was concerned, but they got only scorn and judgment from the Lord.

Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the world. Those who follow Him have the light of life. Those who do not must walk in darkness, like the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The awards and recognitions of this world can contribute nothing to one who is walking in darkness. Better to walk in the light and be in societal obscurity than the reverse. Seek to walk in the light of Christ today. Your steps may not be easy but they will be sure.

No One Ever Spoke Like Him

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 1-2; John 7:32-53

43 These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the people of Israel: Bela the son of Beor, the name of his city being Dinhabah. 44 Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place.           I Chronicles 1:43-44

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as[a] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.                                                          John 7:37-39

The genealogy of the Bible shows us that our lives matter, people live, die, and are remembered, but the deceased, although they were great in their time, do not leave much of a legacy.   Jesus calls us to believe in Him, the One who gives the Spirit, the living water, that flows our of our hearts.

In our reading today, we find a long list of those who were born, lived, and died. Some, like the kings of Edom, ruled for a time, but they died and someone stepped up to rule in their place. One after another, they ruled, died, and were replaced. You might wonder, “Is this all there is to life?” You and I may be less significant in our time than these Edomite kings were in theirs. Will we leave anything for future generations? Will our life really have long term significance?

Jesus called His disciples to come to Him, to believe in Him, to receive the Spirit, and to know the living water that flows out of the believer’s heart. He has been promising eternal life for those who eat His flesh and drink His blood. He calls us not to live and die and be forgotten, but to live, believe, and live forever.

The history leading up to Christ’s coming is important. It shows the need for something more than ruling for a time in this world. It shows the sinful relationships that existed along the genealogical lines which point to the fallenness of man and the need for a savior. Fellow believer, do not think your life is of no lasting importance. You have the living water that wells up to eternal life (John 4:14). Rejoice in His mercy and goodness to you. No wonder the officers who failed in their attempt to arrest Him said, “No one ever spoke like this man!”

 

 

Be Careful What You Don’t Wish For

Today’s reading: II Kings 23-25; John 7:1-31

25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.                                                                                              II Kings 23:25

17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.                                                  John 7:17

Yesterday we saw that we choose unbelief because that is the natural inclination of our hearts. By the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we are born again with hearts inclined toward God.  Today we see that another obstacle to believing, besides being spiritually dead and unable and unwilling to believe, is that as unbelievers we do not really want to do God’s will.

Jesus told the crowds, who were astounded by His teaching despite His apparent lack of formal education, that His teaching came from the One who sent Him. What He taught was not His own but His Father’s teaching. God the Father’s authority was behind the Son’s words. How can you know this? Jesus said, if anyone’s will is to do God’s will, that person will know whose the teaching is.   People around Jesus all heard Him but they responded in a wide variety of ways. Some sort-of believed. Some seriously doubted. Others wondered. But Jesus said the confusion would clear up immediately for that person who was seeking to do God’s will.

Josiah, although living some six centuries before Jesus, was certainly a man whose will was to do God’s will. When the Book of the Covenant was found, Josiah devoured it. He then gathered all the people together and read it to them in its entirety. He wanted to do God’s will and he wanted the people in his kingdom to do so, too.

It is a dangerous thing to be indifferent or averse to the will of God.  Be careful what you don’t wish for. Make it your greatest desire to do God’s will. Seek to know it through His Word. One thing we know He wills for us is our sanctification (I Thessalonians 4:3), that we grow to be more like His Son (Romans 8:29). Eventually we, if we believe, will be like Him for we will see Him as He is (I John 3:2).

Why We Choose Belief or Unbelief

Today’s reading: II Kings 20-22; John 6:45-71

9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. II Kings 21:9

65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”   66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” John 6:65-67

People choose to believe or not believe, but without the work of the Spirit in a person’s heart there will be no inclination to believe.

The history of the kings of Israel and Judah is both fascinating and troubling. It is fascinating to follow the decisions of the kings and their conflicts and treaties with the neighboring nations. It is troubling because there is so much unfaithfulness to God’s covenant. Just about the time you think things are getting on a better path, a king will revert to idolatry and disobedience.

Today’s reading demonstrates these ups and downs. Hezekiah had led Judah in a period of faithfulness like none before him. We also read about Josiah who repaired the temple, rediscovered the book of the law, and led the nation to revival. But in between these two godly kings was Manasseh who had the longest and worst reign in the history of Judah. He led the people to do more evil than the Canaanite nations that God had judged and destroyed under Joshua. How do these things happen? How does a great and godly king (Hezekiah) have such a wicked son (Manasseh)? How does such a wicked king (Manasseh) father such a godly son (Josiah)?

Clearly, something is at work in these fathers and sons besides mere environmental influence. The difference, we discover, is God the Father who draws people to Himself (John 6:44). It is the Spirit who gives life (John 6:63). It is Jesus whose body and blood gives eternal life to the one who believes in Him. Those who heard Jesus either responded with disbelief and even disgust, or they drew near to Him concluding like Peter did when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69).

To whom will you go? Jesus’ words either comfort or repel you. If you believe, you may be sure it is the drawing of the Father and the life-giving ministry of the Spirit as you consider Jesus. If you do not believe, but are troubled by your unbelief, that, too, is the work of God in you. Call to Him for faith to believe and grace to repent of your sins and come to the Bread of Life. You are not controlled by your family history and outward environment either for good or bad. Your choice reflects your heart. May God give us His Spirit so that we may believe!

What Pleases God

Today’s reading: II Kings 18-19; John 6:22-44

5 He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered.                                                                                                                 II Kings 18:5-7a

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”                                                                                                       John 6:28-29

Throughout history, God has been and is pleased with those who believe in Him, who believe Him.

Hezekiah came to the throne in Jerusalem at a most difficult time. Assyria was the dominant nation and was putting pressure on both Israel and Judah. Israel fell and Assyria prepared to finish off Judah as well. But Hezekiah trusted the Lord. Taunting came and threats of Assyrian victory, but Hezekiah prayed and sought the Lord. He turned to the prophet Isaiah for advice. God delivered them and turned sure defeat into a time of freedom and prosperity.

The Jews asked Jesus what they needed to be doing in order to do the works of God. Their question implied that they wanted to please God and that they assumed that God could be pleased by some actions, some works on their part. Jesus corrected them by saying that the work of God for them was to believe in the One God had sent them. They stumbled over His plain teaching, looking for some way of getting on the right side of God, but they were missing the most basic quality of the godly person, faith.

The writer to the Hebrews said, “ And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

How about you? Do you trust God or, when life is unbearable, do you frantically try to be “good enough” to merit God’s favor? God looks for the believing heart and is pleased. Trust Him even if the Assyrians are at your doorstep. The same God who was with Hezekiah is able to see you through and deliver you from your worst nightmare.

A Humble King

Today’s reading: II Kings 15-17; John 6:1-21

 10 Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place.                                                  II Kings 15:10

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.                                                                                                                                   John 6:14-15

Fools seek power that is not theirs, but Jesus did not grasp the power that was rightfully His.

Shallum was one in a line of brief reigns on the throne of Israel. He came to the throne through conspiracy and the assassination of Zechariah, but his reign lasted only a month before he, too, was assassinated. The prophet Hosea would later indict Israel for their failure to seek God’s direction for their kingdom which contributed to all that instability (Hosea 8:4).

What a contrast to Jesus! He relinquished the glories of His heavenly status and came to earth. He announced the kingdom of God, healed the sick, and fed the hungry, but when the fickle crowds wanted to make Him king, no doubt for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way, He disappeared to avoid that happening. He knew they were only responding to the signs He did and anticipated having a king who could take care of their health and their hunger (John 2:23-25; 6:2). They thought of an earthly kingdom, but His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). Although Jesus was the rightful king of all Creation, His goal was not to be merely a king in this world. He would redeem  His people and be established as the Lord of lords and King of kings at the right hand of God the Father in His eternal kingdom (Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 19:16).

See how glorious and worthy is our King, the Lord Jesus Christ whose every action and decision showed love, grace, humility, and justice! Give Him the praise He deserves and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength today.

 

The Tyranny of Public Approval

Today’s reading: II Kings 12-14; John 5:25-47

10 You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”                                                                                        II Kings 14:10

44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?                                                          John 5:44

Seeking glory from society is a sure stumbling block to believing the truth and to living wisely and godly.

Amaziah, king of Judah, defeated Edom. Then he called on Jehoash, king of Israel, for a face off on the battlefield. Jehoash called his bluff and told him to “be content with your glory.”  Good advice, but Amaziah wasn’t buying it. They fought and Amaziah lost badly, not only the battle but all the gold and silver in the temple and the palace. He would die in a conspiracy. He foolishly started and lost a war that was about his own glory, not God’s.

Jesus confronted the Jews who were increasingly opposed to Him and His teaching. He unmasked their motives. They sought glory from one another and not from God. No wonder they could not see that God had sent Jesus, His Son, and that there was overwhelming support for His claims. John the Baptist, Jesus’ own works, the Father’s approval, and the Scriptures all pointed to Him as the Messiah. Those who sought public approval and acclaim were too blinded by their pursuit to see and accept the obvious truth.

How much does public opinion affect your decisions and your viewpoints? Jesus calls us to follow Him, the One who did not seek glory from people. Follow Him and be free from the tyranny of the fear and praise of men. You will be glad in that hour when the dead are called to the resurrection of life and judgment.

 

Joy in Reconciliation with God

Today’s reading: II Kings 9-11; John 5:1-24

20 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house.                                                   II Kings 11:20

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.  John 5:24

To be at enmity with God, our Creator, is a hopelessly depressing situation, but to be reconciled to Him brings joy and peace.

When Jehoash was crowned king at age seven, Jehoiada, the priest, led the nation to make a covenant with God to be His people. Certainly, Jehoiada was the real leader of Judah and he led well. The wicked queen Athaliah had been executed and the rightful heir to David’s throne, Jehoash, was inaugurated. There was joy in the land.

Jesus’ ministry brought division and conflict in Jerusalem. He healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years, but the Jews criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath, calling God His Father, and “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Jesus made stupendous claims about Himself in this passage. He said He only did what the Father was doing. He was perfectly in sync with His Father. He was giving life to whomever He would. Jesus said the Father had given Him all authority to judge. Jesus said His word, if heard and believed, imparted eternal life and freedom from judgment and death.

Jehoiada’s leadership brought joy to the land of Judah, for a time, but the revival would not last forever. Someone greater was needed to lead the people to a permanent solution to the problem of guilt and sin. That One was Jesus. His word brings life. Do you have it? Trust Him. He and the Father give life to those who believe His word because through Him, and only through Him, we are reconciled to God.

Authority and Faith

Today’s reading: II Kings 6-8; John 4:31-54

12 And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’”                                                              I Kings 7:12

53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.                                                       John 4:53

Those who hold significant authority in this world need God’s help and mercy, but sometimes they find it hard to believe in Him.

The king of Israel was told that the Syrian army had fled, leaving their equipment and food behind. Even though Elisha had already prophesied that there would be abundance of food within a day, the king was quick to look for a trick. He assumed that Elisha was wrong so he was not expecting some kind of miraculous intervention. He was wrong. Did his position as king cause him to be more self-confident and less willing to believe God’s word through His prophet? It seems that those who have the most power and wealth sense the least need for divine assistance.

But this is not always the case. When Jesus arrived at Cana, an official of King Herod the Tetrarch went to Jesus requesting healing for his son. The official hoped that Jesus would come to his home and heal the boy, but Jesus rebuked him for looking for signs and wonders as a basis for faith. The man implored him again and Jesus sent him on his way with a promise that his son would be well. The healing occurred at the hour Jesus had spoken. Jesus was being constantly tested by the people requesting signs, but, in the case of the official, Jesus tested him to see if he believed enough to return home with only the assurance of the Lord’s word. He did and he believed, as did his whole household.

Why do some who hold power and wealth believe, while others do not? The inclination of the hearts of men is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Only by the work of the Spirit of God in people is there any willingness to believe. Jesus knew the hearts of men. Jesus declared that no one could come to Him unless the Father who sent Him draws him (John 6:44). Certainly, having power and wealth is no asset in coming to know God and believe His word. But God is able to draw the powerful, just as He is the powerless. He is also free to leave the powerful, like the king of Israel, in his unbelief and self-delusions.

If you believe God, it is not because you have some inherent wisdom to do so. It is His doing completely. You believe because He drew you. He drew you because He wanted to. You responded because He made you willing.   Give Him all the praise.