2Chron 33 There is nothing like hooks in your nose, bronze chains, and extradition to a foreign land; a prison cell, cold gruel, day-old bread, and water to awaken your senses, and that is what happened to King Manasseh. He then “realized that the Lord is the true God” and repented. It was because of the mercy of God that he was released and returned to his kingdom. God’s mercy is overflowing!
God has placed this event to remind us that it begins with how you pay attention to the Lord and His Word. A word of caution here: his sin, just like ours, does impact family and children. His unrepentant son Amon is proof of that.
The Chronicler records these words: the annals record all his sins and unfaithful acts, and identify the sites where he built high places and erected Asherah poles and idols “before he humbled himself.” [2Chron 33:19] Mark that last phrase: he humbled himself, and that is what God is seeking.
You can listen and repent now, or you can do it later, but beware because God doesn’t guarantee there will be a tomorrow. Unfortunately, Amon learned that lesson the hard way; his life ended in an assassination.
2 Kings 16 King Ahaz goes down in history as one of Judah’s worst kings. This chapter is a must-read for any leader to see how quickly one can move from faithfulness to compromise. The list of Ahaz’s sins is like reading the seven deadly sins of the Hollywood elite. It begins with “he did and he did” and finally ends with “he died and was buried.”
He offered sacrifices & burned incense on the high places
He presented himself as a servant and dependent on an enemy
He bribed the Assyrian king and opened the door for him to conquer Israel whom he promptly deported.
He had built an altar just like the Assyrian’s.
He moved the bronze altar that stood in the Lord’s presence from the front and put it on the north side of the new altar. AND the priest consented as the king requested. The high priest, unfortunately, cooperated with the king!
He removed the Sabbath awning.
When we read this list, we say, I would NEVER do that, but is that true? Malachi wrote about this same problem. Do we offer our best to God? We say I would NEVER compromise but do we? Does God present an opportunity to witness, but we take the easy way out? We say that we would NEVER build altars, but do we try to keep up with the neighbor next door?
Remember Paul’s warning: “And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?” [2Cor 6:15]
1 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 18 and we might add 2Chron 19:2-3 to this reading.
In these chapters, we read about the end of the wicked king Ahab in battle. The prophet Micaiah’s words came true. In addition, God reveals to us the character quality of a double-minded man in King Jehoshaphat. He was basically one of the good kings of Judah, but he had a fault. He compromised and allied himself with King Ahab. After Ahab dies and Jehoshaphat is returning home, the prophet Jehu meets him with this question: “Is it right to help the wicked and be an ally of those who oppose the Lord? Because you have done this, the Lord is angry with you! Nevertheless, you have done some good things; you removed the Asherah poles from the land, and you were determined to follow God.
Like Jehoshaphat, when we compromise and do not call sin, a sin and we fail to stand strong and stand apart from the crowd, we pay the price. James wrote about this: a double-minded man is one whose faith is weak, is a doubter, and wavers. That was Jehoshaphat. Over and over we see this played out in times past and in our own country. When we fail to call sin, a sin we reap the fruit of unrighteousness.
Life lesson: do not make alliances with evil; you will pay the price down the road.
Proverbs 19 As Solomon sat in his throne room, receiving people, we can see how practical he was at solving their problems and giving wise advice. He noted from his many interactions that poor people were either accepted or rejected by society, much like James saw. He stressed that “Wealth adds many friends, but a poor person is separated from his friend.” [Prov 19:4] He noted that when a poor person came into his presence with a problem, he was often by himself, but friends, family, and acquaintances were by his side if a wealthy person came in. So we wonder why because we often hear this saying: blood is thicker than water. What Solomon was seeing was that money or wealth was the contributing factor, not blood. He noted that it was selfishness on the part of those who were wealthy themselves in these cases. One author said that we as a people are inherently selfish, greedy and we think of self first and foremost.
Remember the rich man in Luke 16:19-31? He had no use for Lazarus in life, but in death, he requested he come and minister to him. How unlike our Jesus who said “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” [Heb 13:5]
You can tell a true friend because they stick with you through thick and thin. That is Jesus!
1Chron 7 to 10 Do you see your area of service as God ordained?
God put into the heart of the Chronicler to record voluminous lists and lists of unpronounceable names and places where they lived. He also recorded the professions of the men who served in the Tabernacle. Some were gatekeepers or doormen. God assigned them to guard the gates of the Lord’s sanctuary. They stood guard at all four corners of the Tabernacle; 24/7. When their sons grew up, they too were gatekeepers.
Others were in charge of the articles used by those who served and counted them when they brought them in and when they brought them out. Ezra followed that pattern when Cyrus released them from captivity to return to Israel. And then there were the musicians or the orchestra. These stayed in rooms at the sanctuary and were exempt from other duties. The Chronicler even recorded that some were bakers of the most refined unleavened bread for the Table of Shewbread, and their sons followed in their footsteps.
The Chronicler is making the point that no matter what you are assigned to do, it is the Lord’s work and that work is essential. No work is greater or lesser in the eyes of God. God has a place for you in the service for you serve the King of Kings. What area of service has the Lord given to you?
Psalm 84 There was a gentleman (and I say that with great tribute) many years ago who was one of the survivors of the Pearl Harbor disaster. He was one of the few who saw and lived through the horror unfold on the decks of the Arizona battleship. Upon returning from that experience, he always stood and opened the doors to God’s house to welcome us with great grace. When asked to recount that day, he would never recall it. From that day forward, he only said all he wanted in this life until God took him home was to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord, and until his death, that is what he did—faithfully. Today he serves in the heavenly kingdom. God looks at his children for one key component: Faithfulness in service.
The psalmist wrote: Certainly spending just one day in your temple courts is better than spending a thousand elsewhere. I would rather “be a doorkeeper” or stand at the entrance to the temple of my God than live in the tents of the wicked. [Ps 84:10]
Where are you serving until Jesus comes and takes you home?
Ruth 1-4 In Judges, the people ignored and rebelled against God, and every man did what was right in his own heart. Yet God can and will direct our steps, whether we can see it or not. The time frame is the same, but the responses are 180 degrees apart. One Levite left us with a sour taste, but in Ruth, the sweetness of His aroma draws us to Him.
A famine is a test; will you trust God or self? Elimelech, from Bethlehem, chose to trust in his ways, not God’s. He moved his family to Moab, the country that lived, breathed, and worship wood and stone idols. Yet, God was at work to change the heart of one woman that we might know the truth of Isaiah’s words about God: “my ways are higher than yours.” [Is 55:9]
In Moab, Elimelech and his two sons passed away, leaving Naomi destitute. The rumor mills are busy, and Naomi hears that there is food in Israel now. Deciding to return to her roots in Bethlehem, she begged her daughters-in-law to return to Moab. But God had other plans for God is a promise keeper, and He is in the business of preparing the Messianic line through one submissive daughter-in-law, Ruth, who chooses to accompany Naomi with these famous words: “your God will be my God.”
God can and will work even if we fail to trust Him. He has his people ready to complete his promise and bring them to Jesus.
Judges 13-15 This chapter reveals a God who cares for His people even if they don’t seem to care for Him. God loves all His people, especially barren women. God, in particular, loves to bless these women. For four chapters, we read about Samson, the son of Manoah and “Mrs. Manoah.” It is the “Mrs.” that has the initial contact with the angel of God. It is she that quoted verbatim his words to her husband, Manoah. But, like the priest Zechariah, Manoah needed more confirmation.
Mr. Manoah, as well as Zechariah, may not have understood all the details about the birth to come, but they are commended for their obedience and faith as they entreated the Lord.
Mr. Manoah, like Jacob, wanted to know the name of the “man of God.” He needed confirmation on all accounts. After seeing the miracle of the flame and the rising of the angel to heaven, he then had a crisis of belief: “surely we will die for we have seen God.” But Mrs. Manoah was perceptive: look at the evidence, God answered our prayer, he accepted our offering, and he wouldn’t have shown us these things or let us hear something like this! How great was her faith! And God blessed her with a son.
When God speaks, do we believe Him 100 %! Or do we need more confirmation like Manoah and Zechariah did?
What are the marks of a humble person? They are willing to wait on God’s plan and timing. Joshua is such a man; a picture of true humility. He had waited over 47+/- years to achieve a place of rest since leaving Egypt’s slavery. He had seen the wonders of God at work in Egypt; he had been a faithful spy at Kadesh Barnea and had been a faithful servant of the Lord under Moses. He then led the children of Israel over seven years as they conquered the land and until every one of the Lord’s faithful promises to the family of Israel was completed. He waited patiently for his inheritance. He didn’t ask for land but only a city. Humble people are satisfied with the least and are willing to wait until others have their share. Humble people are those who do not seek glory or honor but only that which pleases the Lord. Joshua only wanted what the Lord wanted. God has placed this man for us to study and to learn exactly what God requires and desires.God “has told you…to carry out justice, to love faithfulness, and to live obediently before your God.” [Mic 6:8]
Today may we take our lesson from this man and learn from him how to please God.
Deut 1 There will always be those who seek to discourage us in the battle that God has set before us. God permitted the Israelites to “spy” out the land. They brought back evidence to God’s gracious words of a land of milk and honey. They saw the evidence, but it was not enough. The giants loomed in their minds, and so they brought back a bad report. Satan uses the giants in our lives to discourage us and cause us not to trust God. But, God is greater than any giant, and Caleb and Joshua were a testimony to how they saw them. Do we see the giants in our life as impediments to stepping forward to victory? Do we let him cause us to waver and forget the faithfulness of God in the past? James reminds us of that principle: he who wavers is unstable and God will not bless. [James 1 paraphrased]
The Israelites had an opportunity to trust God, but they chose not to. Thus, God removed His protection from them when they decided they had sinned but would go forward. If we choose disobedience when He specifically says obey, we will not be blessed. God gives us tests to see if we will obey. How presumptuous to think God will provide us with a second chance to obey? [Psalm 19:13] Do not tempt God!
Tough words to live by, but they are a reminder of God’s will for our lives and what He expects us to do.