God’s Mercy to Eclectic Worshippers

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 17:1-19:13

My selection: II Kings 17:41

So these nations feared the Lord and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.

My reflections: After Israel was defeated and taken captive by Assyria, the land was repopulated with a mixture of peoples from captured nations. They had various gods and forms of worship including the burnt offerings of children. When lions attacked the people, they concluded that they were offending the “god of the land.” The Assyrian king sent a prophet of Israel to them to instruct them in the law of God.

The result was not a single-minded embracing of the law of the God of Israel but the addition of Biblical worship to their previous traditions. This is why the Samaritans came to be despised by the Jews, as is easy to see in several incidents during Jesus’ ministry. But Jesus presented Himself to them as the Messiah and Savior of the world, and they turned to Him in faith (John 4).

My challenge: Praise God for His mercy and grace to such eclectic and unlikely worshipers and to us as well.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Kings 19:14-22:20

Unbiblical Worship Exemplified

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 14:1-16:20

My selection: II Kings 16:9-10

9 And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin. 10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details.

My reflections: Ahaz had such disregard for the law of God that he borrowed the design of the altar used in Damascus, had Uriah build a replica of it and replace the bronze altar that had stood in the Holy Place of the temple.

The regulative principle of worship says we must do all that God commands in our worship but not what God does not command. Ahaz may have found the Damascus altar more appealing or he may simply have wanted to be trendy in his worship in Jerusalem. He erred and so do we if we are not careful to observe the Scriptural norms for worship.

My challenge: To glorify God means not only to worship Him but to worship Him properly. It need not be popular or trendy but it must be biblical. Be sure you worship where being biblical is an absolute.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Kings 17:1-19:13

The Danger of Settling for First Place

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 10:18-13:25

My selection: 2 Kings 10:28-31

28 Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. 29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin—that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan. 30 And the Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.

My reflections: The final evaluation of Jehu’s reign resulted in a mixed grade. He wiped out Baal but kept the golden calves of Jeroboam. He did enough good to warrant the continuation of his dynasty but enough bad to be compared to evil Jeroboam.

Jehu was not focused on pleasing God or being completely obedient. Perhaps he was just good enough to be not as bad as most other kings. He settled for being first place in a field of very flawed rulers. He went part way toward leading the nation to faithfulness but not far enough. As a result, the dismemberment of Israel’s territory began (vs. 32).

My challenge: What is the standard for righteousness in your life? Do you compare your obedience with that of others to get a false sense of spiritual superiority? Or do you make Jesus Christ and God’s Word the standard for holiness? To use other people as a measure of perfection will result in either overwhelming discouragement or unwarranted pride. Or some of both. To look to Christ will result in humility, challenge, and encouragement.

God’s purpose for you, Christian, is not to merely make you better than others but to transform you into a true reflection of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

Don’t be a Jehu. Look to Jesus. Seek to please Him. Seek to be like Him. There is joy ahead at the end of the race.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Kings 14:1-16:20

 

 

Preaching through Tears

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 8:7-10:17

My selection: II Kings 8:11-13

And he fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was embarrassed. And the man of God wept. 12 And Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel. You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women.” 13 And Hazael said, “What is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Syria.”

My reflections: Elisha was faithful to deliver the Lord’s message but it was not a pleasant one for him. It gave him no joy to think of Hazael, king of Syria, destroying Israel, killing young men, pregnant women, and children, despite the fact that Israel had incurred the judgment of God for her idolatry and wickedness.

The gospel is both good news and bad news. The good news is that there is salvation in Christ for all who believe. The bad news is that mankind is on a path of eternal destruction apart from Jesus Christ. All are born in sin and stand under the just condemnation of God if they do not repent and believe in the one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus.

We, who believe, cannot ignore the bad news and we cannot help but weep at the thought of judgment falling upon those who reject God’s truth. Elisha sets an example of faithfulness in delivering a message which troubled his heart. He did not neglect to tell the truth. In the end, it will be seen that sin, falling short of the glory of God, is justly punished and the joy of seeing God’s name vindicated will overwhelm the sorrow of judgment upon a vast host of mankind who remain of the serpent’s seed.

My challenge: Do you hesitate to give the bad news as you give the good news? Be faithful, even while brokenhearted, in giving the gospel to the world.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Kings 10:18-13:25

God’s Sovereignty Over the Nations

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 5:1-8:6

My selection: II Kings 6:16-18

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.

My reflections: During the time of Elisha’s ministry, the Lord showed His power over the nations. In this incident, the king of Syria came after Elisha who could report to the king of Israel the words his enemy spoke in his bedroom. The Lord delivered Elisha and taught his servant a lesson as well that “those who are with us are more that those who are with them.”

This victory led to a time of peace with Syria but when it was broken by Syrian aggression the Lord again showed His power and turned around the desperate situation in Samaria in one day. Famine turned to feasting and the skeptical captain who doubted God’s power to fulfill Elisha’s prophecy was punished with death.

Throughout these examples we see that God is sovereign even in seemingly impossible situations. He is not limited or hindered by human power. He is faithful to His Word.

My challenge: Do you trust in His sovereign power in your personal life and in the entire world today? Do you rejoice even when things look bleak knowing that His purposes cannot be thwarted?

As you look at what appears to be the hopeless state of affairs, trust in Him. Rejoice in Him. Be steadfast.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Kings 8:7-10:17

Validation of the Prophet’s Ministry

Today’s reading: 2 Kings 2:19-4:44

My selection: 2 Kings 3:11-12

And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” Then one of the king of Israel’s servants answered, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” 12 And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

My reflections: The spirit of Elijah was on Elisha and the word of the Lord was with him. His ministry was validated by a number of miracles. Notice:

1. Prophecies. He proclaimed what God would do accurately both on a personal level to individuals and a national level to the king.

2. Resurrection. He raised a dead boy.

3. Feeding of multitudes. He multiplied food for the sons of the prophets.

There is a parallel here to Jesus’ ministry. Miracles do not occur indiscriminately in the Bible but at times when God is working through someone whose ministry is validated by signs and wonders. Once that ministry was established it was incumbent upon the people of God to listen and heed the words that were proclaimed.

My challenge: We err if we seek signs merely to satisfy our curiosity or to entertain us. Jesus Christ is God’s final word to us (Hebrews 1:1-2). Hear Him. Do not seek another prophet or follow those who claim to have a new word from God.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Kings 5:1-8:6

Bold Obedience

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 22:1-2 Kings 2:18

My selection: I Kings 22:28-29

And Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, all you peoples!”

29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.

My reflections: The prophet Micaiah was called by the kings of Israel and Judah, Ahab and Jehoshaphat, to advise them about the pending battle with Syria. Four hundred prophets had already counseled the kings to go into battle. Under enormous pressure, Micaiah told them that God would not be with them nor bless their efforts in the battle.

The kings ignored Micaiah’s prophecy. Ahab had Micaiah put in prison and fed on bread and water. Here are some observations:

1. The man of God tells the truth in spite of opposition from powerful leaders and public opinion.

2. The man of God (unlike King Ahab) listens to the advice of wise counselors. He weighs his counselors rather than counting them.  One Micaiah is better than 400 of the other prophets.

3. The man of God remains committed to God’s truth in the face of personal loss and suffering. Ahab’s punishment did not sway Micaiah. The prophet risked his life for the truth.

My challenge: Do you seek and follow wise counsel when making important decisions? What is the Lord calling you to do or say for His glory and against the tide of popular opinion? Are you ready to suffer personal loss, if need be, to be obedient and to tell the truth?

Today, be a Micaiah not an Ahab.

Tomorrow’s reading: 2 Kings 2:19-4:44

 The Right and Wrong Use of Power

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 19:1-21:29

My selection: I Kings 21:20-24

Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

My reflections: In a flagrant abuse of power, Ahab let his desire for Naboth’s land and the evil advice of Queen Jezebel lead to perjury and the murder of an innocent man. But the king and queen would not get away with it. Elijah brought the sentence to Ahab so he could ponder just what the real price of his sin would be. His family would be exterminated. There would be no dynasty of Ahab. Jezebel was singled out for special punishment. She would die. Not only would there be no royal funeral, she would be eaten by dogs in Jezreel, the site of the stolen vineyard.

Governors and rulers have a special responsibility before God. They rule by His consent and must be accountable to Him for their use of authority and power. On a lesser level, all of us (parents, employers, citizens) hold some level of power and authority for which we are accountable to God.

My challenge: Scripture admonishes Christians:

1. To pray for those who govern ( I Timothy 2:1-4)

2. To use whatever power we have to do good and be just (I Tim 5:17; Eph. 6:1-9)

Are you using your power wisely or abusing it to satisfy selfish desires and discontentment? Are you praying for those who lead our nation?

Be wise in the use of power which is given by God for good. Pray for our leaders that they may rule in justice.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Kings 22:1-2 Kings 2:18

Attack the Messenger

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 16:21-18:46

My selection: I Kings 18:5

As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would take an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you.

My reflections:

King Ahab, whose name is synonymous with evil, rejected God’s message of judgment upon him through Elijah.God sent a drought, and Elijah went into exile. All through the drought, Ahab searched for Elijah, and, when he found him, he called him the “troubler of Israel” (v. 17). Elijah was steadfast and got his orders from God, but the pressure from Ahab was tremendous. Ahab did not accept correction nor consider that the fault was his own not Elijah’s.

Hearing truthful warnings and deserved criticism is not easy. The wise and godly man or woman, unlike Ahab, receives correction. [See Proverbs 2:1-5].

Doing and saying the right thing is often not easy or popular. The man or woman of God will be like Elijah, unwavering from the truth, steadfast unmovable always abounding in the work of the LORD (I Co. 15:58).

My challenge: Do you receive correction or do you blame anyone who would dare to point out your sins or weaknesses? Are you vigilant in confessing and forsaking sin? Are you a faithful witness risking rejection to proclaim the gospel to those around you?

Be faithful in hearing God’s correction or in giving it. Don’t attack the messenger. When you are the messenger, be gracious but also be willing to be attacked. Don’t be an Ahab. Be ready to be an Elijah.

Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Kings 19:1-21:29

God’s Absolute Justice

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 14:1-16:20

My selection: I Kings 16:7

7 Moreover, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha and his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it.

 My reflections: Baasha was the means God used to destroy wicked Jeroboam and his family. But Baasha also brought destruction on himself by his evil acts including his assassination of Jeroboam and his family.

God uses evil for good but still punishes the evil doer.

God is completely just but it is not the kind of justice we would do as humans. We weigh evil and opt to let lesser evil go. God punishes all evil even though that evil accomplishes His will.

Humanly, we are tempted to find fault with God for this but who are we to call Him unjust? We expect Him to be like us, to assign relative values to sin and evil, but He does not.

My challenge: Do you find fault with God? Do you question His wisdom or justice?

Praise Him for His righteous ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways than our ways. [See Isaiah 55:8-10]. Praise God for providing a full sacrifice for sin through Jesus Christ who saves His people from all their sins whether they seem small or large.

 Tomorrow’s reading: 1 Kings 16:21-18:46