Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Esther 9 & 10 - Feast of Purim

LINK: Esther 9 & 10

The Jews had been given nine months to prepare for the attack of the Gentiles against them. They used that time to get themselves organized and armed, so when they were attacked on the specified date they were ready to defend themselves and their families. God had also been at work so that "the dread of them (the Jews) had fallen on all the peoples." God had done that before, when Israel prepared to enter the promised land (Deut 2:25). The people also feared Mordecai (Esther 9:3), because he was in a position of authority and would use that authority righteously.

So when the appointed day came, there were attacks against Jews all over the empire. But the Jews were able to defend themselves successfully against these attacks. Although they had been given permission to take the spoils of their attackers, they did not do it. They weren't out to gain wealth; they were only protecting themselves, their families, and their own property.

When the fighting ended, there was great rejoicing! Then Mordecai proclaimed an annual feast to celebrate the victory. The date was set for the 14th and 15th of Adar each year, and the feast was named Purim, which means lots, because Haman had cast lots to determine the date of the original attack against the Jews.

Today, the Jews begin their celebration on the 13th with a day of fasting to commemorate Haman's evil decree. They go to the synagogue where the entire book of Esther is read aloud. Whenever Haman's name is mentioned, they cry out, "May he be accursed!" or "May his name perish!" and children rattle their noisemakers.

Then on the 14th, they go to the synagogue again, and the entire book of Esther is read aloud again. The story of Moses and the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16) is also read on this day, and there is also a time of prayer.

After this time at the synagogue, families go home to celebrate the festive holiday meal with special foods and give gifts to each other. They send gifts and food to the poor as well (as Mordecai commanded), so they may also participate in the celebration.


Mordecai and Esther saw God's hand in the events of their time, and they did not want the Jews to forget what happened. So they established the annual celebration of Purim for the Jewish people in all places, through all generations. We do tend to have short memories and can greatly benefit from reminders such as these. We celebrated Christmas last week, and although this celebration is never commanded by God, it serves as a good reminder to us of what Jesus did in order to obtain our salvation. We also commemorate specific events each year at Easter, as well as other holidays. These days of corporate celebration serve as great reminders of what God has done for us.


We can also have personal or family celebrations to commemorate specific events in our lives. Some celebrate a second birthday each year, remembering the day they recognized Jesus as their personal savior. We can establish our own celebrations to remind us of how God brought us through difficult times or surprised us with some kind of provision for our physical or spiritual lives. What events in your life do/could you celebrate? Take some time to reflect and give honor and praise to God for what he has done at various points in your life or the life of your family.

Lord, you are worthy of much praise! You give us the strength to stand against our enemies. You provide for us and lead us in this life. We honor and praise you for what you have done. Amen.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Esther 7 & 8 - "This Wicked Haman!"

LINK: Esther 7 & 8

In chapter 7, Esther makes her request to the king. She reveals to him that someone has set out to destroy her and her people. This statement grabs the king's attention and probably puzzles him. He immediately wants to know who would presume to do such a thing. Esther identifies the enemy as Haman -- the king is enraged and Haman is terrified.

In his great anger, the king leaves the room to try to collect himself. While he is gone, Haman proceeds to beg for mercy from the queen -- his only chance for escape. While begging, he falls on the couch where Esther is reclined just in time for the king to reenter the room and accuse him of trying to molest the queen. Haman is doomed! The king orders him killed on the very gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.

In chapter 8, the king gives all of Haman's land and possessions to Esther, and she turns the management of the property over to Mordecai. Then the king also gives Haman's position, similar to prime minister, to Mordecai. He becomes second in command over the entire empire.

But the Jewish people are all still at risk of annihilation. Esther falls at the king's feet and weeps and implores him to avert the evil plot against the Jews. The king can't change the edict he gave earlier, but he allows Mordecai to write a new one allowing the Jews to defend themselves. Mordecai takes action immediately and writes a new edict, has it translated into all the languages of the empire and dispatched to every province by couriers on the royal steeds.

When the new decree reaches the Jews scattered throughout the empire, there is much rejoicing and celebration. Many observers are stricken with fear of the Jews, and many pagans apparently converted to Judaism or at least sided with the Jews.


Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. Haman is an excellent picture of the principle "you reap what you sow" in life. Haman sowed hatred and violence and reaped the wrath of the king and a violent death for himself. Haman's pride led to his destruction, as Carol discussed yesterday. Haman is such a great example of what NOT to be in life.

We can look at the responses and actions of Mordecai and Esther and see the flip side of "you reap what you sow." They demonstrated humility and were thereby raised to positions of honor. They responded to Haman's edict with prayer and fasting before God, seeking His guidance and direction. Esther approached the king carefully, with great wisdom and perfect timing. I believe that was a direct answer to their prayers.


The Galatians 6 passage goes on to say, "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Let's meditate on that thought today.

Lord, you promise vengeance on your enemies, but you also promise blessing to those who love you. Teach us to trust your timing and to allow you to be God. Show us ways we can "sow to the Spirit" so we may reap the blessings of the Spirit. Let us see ways we can do good to others, not from impure motives but out of our love for you. Remind us to be humble before you and before men, so that all that we do may bring honor and glory to your holy name. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ezra Character Study Summary

EZRA CHARACTER STUDYHere are my observations and thoughts. Please feel free to continue sharing yours.

The man Ezra
Ezra was a direct descendant of Aaron, through the line of Eleazar and Phineas. While living in exile in Babylon, he took his role as priest very seriously and studied God's word and became "skilled in the law of Moses" (7:6). He lived a life that gained favor with King Artaxerxes (7:21). Artaxerxes trusted Ezra and gave him authority to appoint civil leaders (7:25).

Character Traits
Trustworthy - Artaxerxes transfered a considerable amount of authority to Ezra and trusted him not to use that authority against him.

Passion - Ezra had a passion for God's Word - knowing it, keeping it, teaching it. He states his passion in 7:10, and demonstrates it through his actions in chapters 9-10.

Trust God rather than man - He chose not to ask for troops and horsemen to protect them while they traveled (8:22), rather, he trusted God to provide safety.

Humility - Ezra was totally humbled before God. He gave God the credit for everything (7:27-28), and demonstrated his humility when he tore his garments, pulled out some of his hair, and prostrated himself before the temple (9:3-5). He was focused entirely on God, not what others would think.

Sensitive to sin - Ezra truly mourned the sin of the people even though he himself had not committed the sin and continued to mourn even after the decision to put away the foreign wives had been made (10:6).

Leadership Style
Ezra gathered people around himself to whom he could teach God's law (7:10). He also gathered people to volunteer to return to Jerusalem to establish worship of God there (7:13).

He led the people mostly by example. He led the people to fast and pray when confronted with safety issues (8:22). When he was informed about the sin among the people, he responded to the sin himself (9:3). He didn't tell everyone else how they should respond; he simply acted. The people followed his lead and wept bitterly over their sin (10:1).

When it came time to execute a plan, Ezra relied on the advice of Shecaniah. Shecaniah encouraged Ezra to tell the people what they must do (10:2-4). Ezra took the responsibility to require the men to put away their foreign wives, but when it came time to actually carry that out, he delegated the task to capable leaders (10:16). Ezra was not an administrator, but was wise enough to assign those administrative tasks to trustworthy men so they would still get done.

This is my own personal reflection. Yours may be different, and you are welcome to share.

Ezra is a kind of leader I can relate to. I, like him, have a passion to study and know God's word, to practice it, and to teach it to others. I tend to gather small groups around me to teach. Although I can do administrative type work, I'd rather not. The more I spend time with God and his word, the more I come to detest sin, but I think I'm more desensitized than Ezra to the sin around me. I have sometimes wept bitterly over my sin, though. I tend to be reserved, so I've thought a lot about Ezra's public display of emotion over the sin of the people. I think his outward example was very valuable to the people, so I wonder if a little more outward expression of my heart would be beneficial to others.

Father, thank you for your word. Thank you that you are a personal God who is involved in our lives. Thank you for the opportunities to teach others about you and your word. Teach me to see sin more like you see it and not to take it lightly. Keep teaching my heart to conform to you and always point people to Jesus. Amen.

Ezra 10 - Character Study

LINK: Ezra 10
How does Ezra's behavior demonstrate his heart attitudes?

How does Ezra act on what he believes to be true?


I have enjoyed doing a character study. I hope you have, too. Summarize what you have observed about the man Ezra in these four chapters. Please post a comment sharing your observations. What have you learned from Ezra about prayer, obedience, view of God, response to sin, actions, reactions, etc.? What character qualities did Ezra demonstrate? How can you apply what you've learned to your own life?

I will post my summary later today in a separate post.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ezra 9 - Character Study

LINK: Ezra 9

A few months after his arrival in Jerusalem, Ezra met with some of the leaders and was informed of the many mixed marriages among the priests, Levites, civil leaders, and the people in general in the land. It's possible that this occurred after the reading of the law described in Nehemiah 8. This was likely an official report, in accordance with the decree of Artaxerxes to "keep the law of your God and the law of your king" (Ezra 7:25-26). The law was given in Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 7 that they were not to marry the pagan Canaanites when they entered the land. The sin is not mixed racial or ethnic marriages, rather it is an issue of religious holiness.


What kind of attitudes, actions, reactions, etc. do you see in Ezra in this chapter?

How does Ezra view God?

What is his view of himself and the other Israelites before God?

How does Ezra respond to sin?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ezra 8 - Character Study

LINK: Ezra 8


What do you learn about Ezra's prayer life in this chapter?

How did he respond to fear?

What is his view of himself in relation to God?

Add any other observations you might have about Ezra and his leadership.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ezra 7 - Character Study

LINK: Ezra 7

We are going to switch gears a bit here and do a character study on Ezra. Later, Carol will lead a character study on Nehemiah and then a comparison between the two men. As we read these four chapters about Ezra, I will pose questions each day to help us consider who Ezra was and what he did. My main purpose is to get us thinking along the lines of a character study. Please feel free to go beyond these questions as you consider the man Ezra and what you can learn from his character. On Friday, when we finish this book, I'd like to invite you to share your observations summarizing the character of Ezra.

Ezra chapter six ends in 516 B.C. with the completion of the temple in Jerusalem. Priests and Levites were performing their duties and the spiritual rituals were being observed. Now we fast-forward 58 years to chapter seven. (The story of Esther took place in Persia during that 58 year gap.)

Chapters 7-10 of Ezra describe Ezra's return to Jerusalem during the reign of Artaxerxes. Ezra led a group of people from Babylon to Jerusalem in 458 B.C. Artaxerxes provided Ezra with a decree that allowed any and all Israelites in the kingdom of Persia to join Ezra if they so chose. This decree also provided financing and gave Ezra authority to institute God's law in Jerusalem.


What is the purpose and significance of Ezra's genealogy?

Who is Ezra? What kind of work did he do in Babylon?

What do you learn about Ezra's heart in this chapter?

What can you learn about Ezra's relationship with God from the final two verses?

Based on his decree, what do you think Artaxerxes thought of Ezra?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ezra 6 - Completion of the Temple

LINK: Ezra 6

Darius received Tattenai's letter and investigated the decree that Zerubbabel claimed was issued by Cyrus. He found the decree that Cyrus had issued and sent word to Tattenai to leave the Jews alone and let them rebuild the temple. He also ordered Tattenai to pay building expenses out of the royal treasury.

Four years later, the temple was completed in the spring of 515 B.C. There was a joyous dedication of the temple followed by the celebration of Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. They were very anxious to do everything just as it had been commanded in the Law.

Once again, God used pagan rulers to accomplish his plan. He uses our secular government to accomplish his will as well. But regardless of what the government does, we are still responsible to live our lives according to God's word.


The first year of this Bible Book Club is coming to a close, and I am learning and understanding more and more about God and my relationship to him as I study each day. I am very thankful for this opportunity and accountability to dig into God's word. If you are "behind" I want to encourage you to keep pressing on. And as we read and study, we need to keep adjusting our thinking to line up with God.

Lord, you are the creator who formed the earth. You set the boundaries of nations. You determine each person's length of life. You give each of us work to do in this life. Teach us to submit to your wise rule over us, to know you and your word, and to trust you enough to obey you regardless of what the people around us think. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ezra 5 - Encouragement

LINK: Ezra 5

Jerusalem, 520 B.C.

Haggai was sent by God to speak to the Jews. Haggai said, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?" (Haggai 1:4). The next month Haggai encouraged the Jews, "'But now take courage, Zerubbabel,' declares the Lord, 'take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,' declares the Lord, 'and work; for I am with you,' says the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:4). You can read Haggai's complete messages here.

God also sent Zechariah to speak to the people and to say, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Return to Me,' declares the Lord of hosts, 'that I may return to you,' says the Lord of hosts. 'Do not be like your fathers . . . (who) did not listen or give heed to Me,' declares the Lord" (Zechariah 1:3-5).

So, with this encouragement, the building project began again on the temple.

Then Tattenai showed up and questioned the authorization to build. He doesn't seem to be antagonistic like Rehum and Shimshai had been (chap 4), but is likely just verifying the story he got from Zerubbabel. So Tattenai wrote a letter to Darius to confirm the autorization Zerubbabel claimed to have to build the temple. He referred to Zerubbabel by his other name, Sheshbazzar in the letter.

Father, thank you that when you call us to do your work, you also provide encouragement for us. Help us remember to rely on you, rather than ourselves, and to do the work you give us to do. Amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ezra 3-4 -- Opposition

LINK: Ezra 3-4

In chapter three, Zerubbabel led the people to set up the altar and begin worshiping God. They began celebrating the feasts and daily sacrifices as they were laid out in the Law. Once the sacrifices were established, they began work on the foundation of the temple. When the foundation was complete in 535 B.C., there was great rejoicing.

Chapter four makes more sense if you think of verses 6-23 as a parenthesis that explains verse five. It tells of the local resistance Zerubbabel faced. People living in the area did not want the temple to be rebuilt. They wrote to King Artaxerxes telling him that these Jews were plotting to rebel against him. Artaxerxes believed the letter and ordered a halt on the building project. The work stopped until Darius reversed the order in 520 B.C.

Twice we are told of the fear the returning exiles had of the people who lived in the land. "So they set up the altar on its foundation, for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening" (3:3). "Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building (4:4).

Despite the fear they experienced, the people of Judah kept working (until they were ordered by a higher authority to stop). They did not quit out of fear. In fact, their fear spurred them on to get the altar constructed and start worshiping God as quickly as possible.


We all have fears. We tend to respond to fear by being tentative, hesitating, reconsidering, waiting, and withdrawing. Courage isn't the absence of fear; it's doing the hard thing despite the fear we feel in our hearts. It's a decision to place trust outside ourselves and move forward, even though it's a scary thing to do.

What fears are holding you back from God? Fear of failure? Fear of opposition? Fear of ridicule? Talk to God about your fears, and trust him to give you courage. Then, even though it's scary, take that step of obedience and do that hard thing.

Father, you have not given us a spirit of fear and timidity. Instead you have given us power and courage. Help us to go push past our fears into trusting and obeying you. Amen.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ezra 1-2 -- Back to Jerusalem

LINK: Ezra 1-2

BACKGROUND for the book of EZRA

Ezra is likely the author of this book, but he probably compiled other people's writings for parts of it. He seems to have collected various documents, genealogies, and personal memoirs as sources for the parts of the book he wasn't witness to. The books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah were originally one book in Jewish scripture. In the Latin Vulgate, Ezra and Nehemiah are titled 1 Esdras and 2 Esdras.

Ezra probably completed the book between 456, when the events of 10:17-44 took place, and 444, when Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem.

God had promised to restore Israel to her land following 70 years of captivity in Babylon. "And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." (Jeremiah 25:11) . . . "When 70 years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place" (Jer 29:10). Ezra records the fulfillment of God's promise.

God used both godly Jewish men (Zerubbabel, Joshua, Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra) and Persian kings (Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes) to accomplish His plan. Cyrus overthrew Babylon in 539. His policy was to encourage subject people to return to their homelands, so in 538 he issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

Chapters 1-6 describe the return of about 50,000 Jews under Zerubbabel's leadership (authorized by Cyrus) and their work in laying the foundation of the temple. Chapters 7-10 describe Ezra's return to Jerusalem under Artaxerxes and his leadership in spiritual revival of the people.

Persian kings and the dates they reigned through this period are as follows:
Cyrus -- 538-530 B.C.
Cambyses -- 530-522 (not mentioned in Ezra's account)
Smerdis -- 522 (also not mentioned in Ezra's account)
Darius I -- 521-486
Xerxes (Ahasuerus) -- 486-465
Artaxerxes I -- 464-423
Darius II -- 423-404

NOTE: Ezra is not written as a strict chronology of events. The author compiled various accounts without reorganizing the information included in the original documents.


Father, you truly are sovereign. You set up kings and rulers, and you depose them. You turn the hearts of rulers to go whichever way you want them to go. Keep us always mindful that you are in total control over the affairs of men. Nothing surprises you or catches you off guard. We worship and praise you for your sovereignty over all. Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Psalm 65 - A Song of Praise & Thanksgiving

LINK: Psalm 65


David wrote this song. He most likely wrote it for the Feast of Tabernacles, the most joyous Jewish festival when Israel celebrated God's provision and offered Him the firstfruits of the harvest.

v 1-4 - Praise God that He forgives sin and draws us to Himself.
v 5-8 - Praise God as the great Creator of the world and the one who keeps it under His control.
v 9-13 - Praise God for all He provides for us on this earth.

"The Christian ought to be a living doxology"
~Martin Luther


On this Thanksgiving Day, offer praise to God that He has chosen you for salvation, for His mighty power over all creation, and for His provision. Try writing your own song of praise.

Pray or sing your song to the Lord!

Enjoy celebrating the goodness of the Lord this Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

2 Kings 25 - The End of Judah

LINK: 2 Kings 25
Parallel passage --
Jeremiah 40-43
2 Chronicles 36:11-21

After about nine years, Zedekiah rebelled against both King Nebuchadnezzar and the Lord God. The priests and people had also defiled the temple. God sent Jeremiah, but the people mocked him and God. So God brought Babylon one more time to invade Jerusalem. A one and a half year siege resulted in the fall of Jerusalem.

King Zedekiah was captured and made to watch the slaughter of his sons before his eyes were put out. This fulfilled prophesies of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Jeremiah had warned Zedekiah that he would see Nebuchadnezzar.

because Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying "Why do you prophesy, saying, 'Thus says the Lord, "Behold, I am about to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will take it; and Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but he willl surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will speak with him face to face, and see him eye to eye; and he will take Zedekiah to Babylon, and he will be there until I visit him," declares the Lord. "If you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed"'?" (Jeremiah 32:3-5)

But Ezekiel had prophesied that Zedekiah would not see Babylon.

I will also spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare. And I shall bring him to Babylon in the land of the Chaldeans; yet he will not see it, though he will die there. (Ezekiel 12:13)
One month later, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, burned the city and the temple, carried off the temple treasures that remained, and took Seraiah the high priest and others to Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah where they were executed.

Gedaliah was appointed governor of the land, and Jeremiah stayed with him at Mizpah, the new capital. But when Gedaliah was murdered by Ishmael, the remnant of Jews feared retaliation from Babylon and fled to Egypt (in direct disobedience to the Lord), taking Jeremiah with them.

Fast forward 27 years . . . .

In Babylon, Jehoiachin was imprisoned for a total of 37 years. When Evil-merodach ascended to the throne in Babylon, he released Jehoiachin from prison and provided him with daily rations and a daily allowance. Interestingly, there are Babylonian tablets that confirm that Jehoiachin, his sons, and others received rations from Nebuchadnezzar's stores. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach was apparently attempting to gain favor with the captive Jews by releasing Jehoiachin from prison and treating him well.

This book was written to the Jews exiled in Babylon. What do you think was the primary message the author was trying to communicate to his audience? If you were a Jew in Babylonian captivity at the time, what would have been the book's major lessons to you?

Father, thank you for the light of your word that guides us and leads us to you. May we follow your ways and seek to please you in all that we say and do. Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2 Kings 24 - Nebuchadnezzar in Judah

LINK: 2 Kings 24
Parallel passages --
2 Chronicles 36:5-21
Daniel 1:1-2
Jeremiah 22:13-30

Chapter 24 opens in the year 605 B.C. Nabopolassar king of Babylon sent his son Nebuchadnezzar to fight the Egyptian army at Carchemish. Nebuchadnezzar completely defeated the Egyptians giving Babylon control over a large area including Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and captured King Jehoiakim. While he was there, he received word of his father's death and returned to Babylon to claim the throne. Jehoiakim was bound and carried off to Babylon, and this is also when Daniel and his friends were deported to Babylon.

Jehoiachin then reigned for three months during the year 597 B.C. During that time, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem a second time, and 10,000 people were deported. Jehoiachin was taken captive and exiled to Babylon along with all of his family members, all the leaders and officials of the land, and all the skilled workers. The prophet Ezekiel was part of this deportation, and the treasures of the temple were taken as well.

Nebuchadnezzar then placed Mattaniah (Jehoiachin's uncle) on the throne in Jerusalem and changed his name to Zedekiah. We learn more about his reign in 2 Chronicles 36. About eight years later, he rebelled against the king of Babylon (and against God).

Keep reading. We will conclude this story tomorrow.

Lord, let us not harden our hearts against you and your word. You will not be mocked and will discipline your children when they rebel against you. Teach us to be sensitive to your Holy Spirit and to be obedient to your word because we love you with all our heart, soul, and mind. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

2 Kings 19 - God vs. Assyria

LINK: 2 Kings 19

Yesterday, we left Hezekiah under threat of attack by Assyria's king Sennacherib. He immediately turned to the Lord and sent word to Isaiah asking for help from the Lord. Rabshakeh, the commander of Assyria's army, had not only threatened Jerusalem but had declared that Judah's God could not rescue the people from his hand. But God showed Rabshakeh that he truly was a powerful God, not like the gods of the other nations. Even without a battle, Hezekiah defeated Sennacherib because the Lord struck the troops, killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. So Assyria withdrew, and Sennacherib was assassinated when he was worshiping one of his false gods.

Also, many commentators believe that Psalm 76 was written by Asaph in response to this situation.


Hezekiah's prayer is a great demonstration of his faith. His request to be rescued is not only for his own benefit but also because the enemy has insulted God. He wants God's power to be demonstrated that "all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God."


Hezekiah was confident in the Lord because he knew the word of the Lord and his character. He fully trusted God to remain true to what he had revealed in his word. Although Satan will attack our faith like he did Hezekiah's, we can also have confidence in the Lord. But our confidence must be based on what God says in his word, not our own ideas of who God is. God is completely commited to his own glory and to keeping his promises. The more we understand God from our study of the Bible, the more we can pray in line with Him, and the more God will answer our prayers.

Father, when Satan tries to shake our confidence in you, help us to remember who you really are and trust in you to bring glory to your name and to be faithful in keeping your promises. Teach us to have faith like Hezekiah, who relied on you and your word. Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2 Kings 18 - King Hezekiah vs. Assyria

LINK: 2 Kings 18
Parallel passages on the story of Hezekiah are found in 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39.

Judah finally has a good king, a really good king! Hezekiah "did right in the sight of the Lord." He took down the high places, broke the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah poles, and even broke apart the bronze serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness. Apparently, the people were worshiping the serpent. Hezekiah truly trusted the Lord, as opposed to many before him who only pretended to trust the Lord.

Assyria already took the kingdom of Israel among other countries in the area. When Sennacherib (king of Assyria) seized several fortified cities in Judah, King Hezekiah paid him tribute in an attempt to get him to withdraw. But Sennacherib did not withdraw and threatened Jerusalem with a siege. In his arrogance, the king of Assyria taunted and told the people that the God of Judah was no better than any other god. And since he had already overpowered the other gods in the area and taken their lands, Jerusalem and Judah should expect the same.

Stay tuned to see what happens in tomorrow's reading.

Let us cling to you, Lord, and never depart from following you. For you are the true God, not like any other god. Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2 Kings 11-12 - Reign of Joash (Jehoash)

LINK: 2 Kings 11-12

The story of Judah's kings left off in 2 Kings 9:27 with the death of King Ahaziah (killed by Jehu). We pick up the story again at the beginning of chapter 11. King Ahaziah's mother was Athaliah. Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. At the death of her son, she killed all of his descendants (her grandchildren) and usurped the throne. But Ahaziah's sister Jehosheba rescued one of the grandsons, Joash, who was an infant at the time. She hid him with his nurse in a bed storage room in the temple for six years.

Significantly, Joash was now the only living male descendant of David. In God's covenant with David, He had promised "a lamp for David and his descendants forever." God used Jehosheba to keep that "lamp" burning so David's line would not be wiped out.

When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada the priest staged a coup, Athaliah was killed, and Joash took the throne. He ruled under the guidance of Jehoiada, and his first act was to tear down the temple of Baal and kill Mattan the priest of Baal.

As long as Joash (also called Jehoash) was instructed by Jehoiada the priest, he did "right in the sight of the Lord." His only fault during that time was that he did not remove the high places, so the people still used them for burning incense and making sacrifices.

The major accomplishment of Joash's reign was restructuring the temple finances and repairing the temple building itself. At this time, the temple would have been about 150 years old and in need of some repair, but the repairs weren't getting done. So, Joash set up a separate collection to be used for repairs and selected honest skilled workers to do the work.

Hazael king of Aram captured Gath, a strategic trade and military location, then set out to capture Jerusalem. Rather than fight this powerful enemy, Joash bought him off with all the treasures of the temple. Aram went away.

Joash's reign lasted forty years before he was assassinated by his own officials. There are more details in 2 Chronicles 24:17-27. Joash was leading the nation into idolatry, and Zechariah (Jehoiada's son) spoke out against him for it. Rather than listen to Zechariah, Joash murdered him. Joash's officials who were true to the Lord were the ones who then killed him. And Amaziah his son became the next king, continuing the line of David on the throne.

Joash did well in serving the Lord as long as Jehoiada was alive. But once Jehoiada was removed from the scene, he turned away from the Lord and promoted idol worship. He started off well but did not finish well. Joash himself may not have even realized it at the time, but his motivation for doing good was most likely to please Jehoida rather than to please the Lord. Once Jehoiada's influence was removed, Joash forgot the Lord.


Let's examine our motives for serving the Lord. Is our service out of whole-hearted devotion to God, or is it to impress or appease others? Are we truly serving God or serving our mentors, church leaders, Bible study teacher, etc.? And if we have leadership roles, let's make sure we point the hearts of others to God rather than to ourselves.

Let our hearts be fully yours, Lord. May all we do and say be done to your honor, not for our own honor. Teach us to obey you from the heart and to listen when you rebuke us for going astray. Thank you for being like a father who guides us and keeps us on the right path. Help us to keep our eyes on you and you alone and to serve you from pure devotion to you. Amen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2 Kings 10 - Jehu's Purge

LINK: 2 Kings 10

In this chapter Jehu continued to fulfill the prophecy against the house of Ahab. There were 70 male descendants (sons and grandsons) of Ahab, and Jehu had them all killed. Jehu went beyond killing Ahab's sons, though, and also killed all of his leaders, acquaintances, and priests.

In chapter 9, Jehu had also killed Ahaziah king of Judah. Now he encountered a group of Ahaziah's relatives who claimed to be coming to visit Ahaziah and Jezebel. Jehu was suspicious of their motives and had them all killed. Commentators give two reasons why Jehu would have been suspicious. (1) It's not likely that they wouldn't have heard of the death of Ahaziah and Jezebel by this time. (2) They were north of Samaria, which is not on the path from Jerusalem to Jezreel.

Then Jehu went on a mission to destroy Baal worship in Israel, and he took Jehonadab the son of Rechab along with him. Jehonadab was the leader of a conservative group of Israelites who strongly opposed Baalism. Jehu gathered all the priests of Baal by staging a great sacrifice for Baal. He made sure all the priests and nobody else were present, surrounded them, and killed them all. Then he demolished the Baal temple and turned it into a latrine. He destroyed Baal worship to demonstrate his great zeal for the Lord. Unfortunately, Jehu's zeal for the Lord was limited to his opposition to Baalism. He did not turn away from the sin of idolatry as far as other gods were concerned.

Because Jehu destroyed Baalism in Israel, God promised that his desendants would sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation. This would be the longest ruling dynasty in the history of Israel (841-752 B.C.).

The final verses of this chapter tell of the reduction in size of the nation of Israel. The land on the east side of the Jordan was lost. Outside of scripture this is recorded on the Black Obelisk of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, where it says that the "son of Omri" (believed to refer to Jehu, even though Jehu wasn't Omri's son, as identifying Jehu with Samaria/Israel) paid tribute to the Assyrians shortly after coming to the throne of Israel.

Jehu's "zeal for the Lord" led him to obedience in destroying the Baal worship in Israel. However, Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord. His obedience to the Lord was partial. What he did was great, and he was rewarded for it. But he didn't go far enough, and Israel was decreased because of it.

Zeal is no substitute for obedience. We must be obedient to the Lord, guided by His Word. In Romans 10:2, Paul praised the Jews for their zeal for God, but their zeal was not in accordance with knowledge. Zeal by itself is not enough. When Jesus cleared the temple, his disciples associated his action with the Psalm that says, "zeal for your house will consume me." Jesus was zealous, but controlled by the Holy Spirit. In Romans 12:11, Paul exhorts us to maintain our zeal as we serve the Lord. Zeal with obedience is a very powerful combination!

Lord, help us to be zealous for You, to be passionate toward you. At the same time, teach us Your ways and let our zeal and obedience work together to honor You. Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

2 Kings 4 - Elisha's Ministry of Miracles (part one)

LINK: 2 Kings 4

These next few chapters are accounts of miracles that God did through Elisha. There are four in chapter four.

God provided for a poverty-stricken widow so her sons wouldn't have to leave her to work off their father's debt as slaves to the creditor.

God gave a son to a well-to-do but childless woman, and gave him back again when the son died at a young age. (This is the second recorded resurrection in the Bible.)

When the sons of the prophets at Gilgal used toxic wild gourds in their pot of stew, God made it edible for them.

A large crowd ate a small amount of food, were satisfied and had some left over. This is very similar to Jesus feeding the 5000 with the boy's lunch of five loaves and two fish (John 6).

God is a God of compassion. He cares about His people as a whole as well as individuals. Jesus also showed compassion to the crowds as well as to individuals.


As believers, we are to be compassionate as well. "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12).

Father, thank you for your compassion toward us, your children. Because of your great compassion, you give us our very life -- this life as well as eternal life. Teach us to be like you, showing compassion to others -- helping those in need, encouraging the downcast, coming alongside the brokenhearted, and being kind and gentle toward others. Amen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2 Kings 3 - Conflict with Moab

LINK: 2 Kings 3

When David was king, he conquered Moab, and the country had been paying tribute to Israel ever since. When Ahab died, Mesha king of Moab thought it was his chance to get out from under that yoke of serving Israel and refused to pay the tribute.

In order to put down the rebellion, King Jehoram gathered his army and asked the kings of Judah (Jehoshaphat) and Edom to help him. He devised a clever plan of sneaking up on Moab's least defended border, and the three armies joined forces and marched. But the journey took too long and they ran out of water.

Jehoram blamed God for the problem. Jehoshaphat called for a prophet of the Lord and found out that Elisha was nearby. Elisha was called and would have refused to help had it not been for the presence of Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah. In fact, he was so perterbed with Jehoram that he had to call for a minstrel to play for him to help calm him down before he could hear from God.

The Lord sent water for the armies then confused the Moabites so that they rushed forward. Then the Moabite men fell under the armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom. As a final desperate act, Meesha king of Moab sacrificed his son, the crown prince, to the god Chemosh. Of course Chemosh did nothing since he is not a true god.

Jehoshaphat was a godly king, and because he was involved in the war effort along with the two ungodly kings, Elisha and God came to their rescue. Often when God blesses His children, the blessing overflows to those around them who would not be blessed otherwise. What a privilege we have as God's people! We can bring blessing to unbelievers by living godly lives around them. As believers, maybe we have more influence than we think!


Let's live godly lives that bring honor to the Lord and blessing to others.

Lord, let us not grow weary in doing good, but seek to serve you and obey you in all things. Let us be a blessing to those around us, both believers and unbelievers. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

1 Kings 19 - Elijah Continued!

LINK: 1 Kings 19
It is yet another "catch up on your reading day" because my kids just completed preparation for a presentation on local government in their government class, and I have a FLAMING sore throat! So sorry. I am going to bed, and I will summarize the exciting story of Elijah tomorrow (hopefully).

We have good news about Jerry (Becky's husband who had the terrible motorcycle accident):

Hi, ladies!
I just talked to Becky. Jerry will be coming to Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake Rehab, tomorrow. He will come by ambulance and Becky & Paula will follow in the car. Becky said Jerry is improving daily, and he is stronger. He even "likes" rehab, because it gives him something to do & it's helping him to improve.Great news! Joan

Let's give praise to God!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

1 Kings 16-17 Evil Kings & Elijah

LINK: 1 Kings 16-17

Chapter 16 is focused on the next few kings of Israel.

Baasha reigned 24 years (909-886 B.C.) and "did evil in the sight of the Lord." God promised to wipe out the family of Baasha because of his great sin.

Elah (son of Baasha) succeeded him to the throne and reigned two years (886-885 B.C.). One of his major military commanders, Zimri, conspired against him and killed him as well as all other members of Baasha's family, fulfilling God's promise to destroy Baasha's household.

Zimri reigned only seven days in the year 885 B.C. before the people of Israel rose up against him. When Zimri saw that he would lose the throne, he burned his house down overtop of himself.

There was a dispute over who should be king -- Omri or Tibni -- but the supporters of Omri prevailed and Tibni died (probably murdered).

Omri reigned twelve years (885-874 B.C.) and established Samaria as the capital of Israel.

Ahab, son of Omri, reigned next for 22 years (874-853 B.C.) and was the worst of all kings so far. He married Jazebel and together they led Israel deep into pagan worship. Ahab built an altar for Baal and made an Asherah pole.

Baal was the storm god, the "rider of the clouds" who exercised control over rain, wind, and clouds. As the fertility god, he became the most significant deity, since life depended on rain and harvest. The stories of the gods were full of violence, cruelty, rape, and seduction. Baal worship was characterized by idolatry and immorality that went along with cult prostitution. The mother goddess Asherah was sometimes depicted as Baal's enemy -- but more often as his consort. Often depicted as the naked goddess, the goddess of fertility, she was honored by a wooden pole or a stone pillar, which probably had sexual implications. (from Gary Inrig's commentary on 1&2 Kings)

Chapter 17 introduces Elijah. He showed up on the scene and declared that it will not rain for three years until Elijah himself tells it to rain again. This directly defied the false god Baal. Through the drought, God provided for Elijah. The Lord sent Elijah to a Gentile widow and provided for her as well. When the widow's only son died, God brought him back to life, demonstrating his power over life and death, further convincing the widow that Elijah truly was a man sent by God and that he spoke the true word of God.

That's enough comments for today. Keep reading; Elijah (and God) will do some exciting things in the next few chapters!

Lord, help us not to get distracted with our own desires and the things of this world that lead us into idolatry. Keep our hearts pure and fully devoted to you, because you are the only true God and the salvation of our souls. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

1 Kings 9-10 -- Warning & Wealth

LINK: 1 Kings 9-10

God reminded Solomon that he would be blessed as long as he walked "in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you." But if Solomon or his sons turn away from following God and don't keep his commandments but serve and worship other gods, then the temple will be destroyed and Israel will be removed from the land.

Solomon was building great wealth. He had forced laborers (the Canaanites who were still living in the land they had conquered), started building a navy, and traded extensively with other nations. Besides other goods, he had an annual income of 2.5 TONS of gold! On top of that, officials from all over the world came to see him every year, bringing many gifts of gold, silver, garments, spices, horses, and mules. And Solomon traded with Egypt in order to purchase horses and chariots.

Deuteronomy 17:16-17 (emphasis added)
Moreover, he (the king of Israel) shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, "You shall never again return that way." Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.
Solomon was not walking in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing all that God had commanded.


It is very easy to get distracted from our obedience to God and to get carried away with things of this world. It's something we have to be on guard for. It is very wise to set aside time regularly to seek God's face and search our hearts to make sure we are staying on track.

Lord, you know how the things of this world tempt us, for you were tempted also. Please help us to keep our focus on you and not get distracted by all the glittery things of this world. Amen.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Psalm 50 - God Gives a Warning!

LINK: Psalms 50


This is the first of twelve Psalms titled, “ A Psalm of Asaph.” It’s unclear whether Asaph is the author of the psalms or whether the psalms were dedicated to him.

This psalm opens with three names for God. In English we read “The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken and summoned the whole earth.” I don’t think we get quite the emphasis that is there in the Hebrew, which uses the words “El,” “Elohim,” and consonants that mean Jehovah, which in English is translated LORD. We could make a study of those three names for God, but my only point today is that God wanted to leave no doubt as to who is speaking and summoning here.


God has something to say and He wants us to hear. He is going to judge everyone. Surprisingly, his judgment will begin with those who identify themselves as His, those who say they are His people. He has something against some of them and charges two groups found within His people.

The LORD first charges those Jews who have totally missed the real purpose for sacrifices. God says He has no complaint about the fact that they are sacrificing. What He is complaining about is those who have forgotten that the sacrifice is one of thanksgiving for the love and mercy of God – the God who owns all and doesn’t need the sacrifices. He reminds them here that He’s not one of the gods like the people around them worship – He doesn’t rely on the sacrifices for food – the sacrifices aren’t something they do to appease Him, but rather speak to their realization of what He has done for them. They should be offering sacrifices from thankful and trusting hearts.

The second group of people that God levels charges at are those who claim to belong to Him, who know His word, yet who are characterized by evil and deceit. They are hypocrites. They aren’t living what they’re learning. God tells these people to repent before it’s too late. These people accuse God of not being interested and feel free to live life the way they want to. They have interpreted His silence as meaning that He doesn’t care how they live. He tells us here that He does. He may be silent at the moment, but it’s not because He doesn’t care. A time of reckoning will come.

So what does this psalm have to do with us today? It warns us, just as it warned the Israelites.

We are not to take God lightly.

God wants our true thanks and worship, not because He needs them, but because we need Him.

He wants our trust.

He want us to give Him glory.

He wants us to reflect Him - to be doers of what we read, not just hearers. We should be living out our thanks to the LORD by living His principles.

We should not think that if God is silent it’s because He doesn’t care how we live. He does.


Do you find yourself treating God lightly by habitually coming to Him without a heart that is thankful for His love and mercy and provision? Do you reverse His role and yours and somehow think that what you do for God is because He needs it and you are helping Him?

Do you pretend to obey God? Do you act one way at church and another way at work or when you’re alone? Do you claim His promises, but not live the way He says?

This psalm is a warning to those who say they are God’s people. Maybe we’d better heed it long enough to examine ourselves. If you find that you fit either of these categories of people, repent and turn to God with renewed thanks and obedience and trust.


Mighty God and LORD – you have no need for anything from us. Give us thankful hearts to YOU – the owner and giver of all things. Thank you that it is in Jesus’ sacrifice that we have forgiveness and can be your covenant people. Help us to live with integrity so that our actions reflect what we learn from Your Word and demonstrate our thanks to You.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Proverbs 12 - Wise Words

LINK: Proverbs 12


One great way to learn from Proverbs is to group verses topically. Today I’d like to look at what Proverbs 11 – 12 have to say about our words, our speech. Yesterday we looked at the broader meaning – how to delight the Lord – and you can continue looking for ways in this chapter as well. But Proverbs is full of advice on all sorts of specific topics, and several hit me as I read. I picked the topic “words” to write about here, but I also digested the advice on using money and material goods, on attitudes about work, and on women.


With {his} mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered. (11:9)

He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding keeps silent. He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter. (11: 12-13)

The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright will deliver them. (12:6)

A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man's hands will return to him. (12:14)

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (12: 18)

Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment. (12: 19)

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy. (12:20)

Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight. (12: 22)

A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly. (12: 23)

So what characterizes the wise person’s use of words – her speech?

She doesn’t use them lightly or speak of what she doesn’t know (11:9) and in the end her honesty and sincere speech will deliver her from the harm others may try to do to her (11:9 and 12:6). She doesn’t spread stories about other people. She’s not a gossip. She is trustworthy with what has been told her and can keep a secret (11:12-13; 12: 23). She seeks to heal and not wound with her words (12: 18, 20) . She is honest and truthful (12: 19, 20, 22). I love how 12:22 equates truthful words with dealing faithfully. Think about that! A wise woman tries to make peace through her honest advice, not stir up wrong by shading the truth in order to manipulate and deceive others (12:20). When she speaks wise words (true and healing and kind and peaceful words) she will be satisfied with the good results of those words (12:14) – her words can bear good fruit! The wise woman thinks before she speaks – doesn’t speak rashly (12:18, 23).

If a woman speaks wisely she will have joy and peace and be satisfied! Her truthful speech (integrity) will stand her in good stead in times of persecution or trouble.

I noticed, too, that often the heart is mentioned with our words. What is in our hearts will be reflected in our speech. It says in James that the tongue is the hardest member to tame. Perhaps that’s because there’s a direct relationship between the heart and the mouth. That’s why we need to seek the LORD Jesus and yield to Him.

There may be other verses that can apply to our use of words, but those are the ones I saw and recorded. It hit me (tying this in with yesterday’s post) that my words can give delight to my God or they can disgust Him (12:22). I do want to delight God!

There are other topics covered in these two chapters, as I have already mentioned. Why don’t you write down verses that deal with the same topic (like money or women or work or discipline) and paraphrase what those verses’ advice is?


Truly, Lord, it is hard to tame the tongue. I know that from experience. Thank you for Your death and resurrection, for your forgiveness and grace and mercy. I so often fail to reflect You in my words. Please be in charge in my heart and show me where I am not whole in yielding to You, where I lack integrity. I want my words to heal others, not hurt them. And I want to delight You! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Proverbs 11 - Giving God Delight!

LINK: Proverbs 11


Proverbs uses contrasts to teach us. The contrasts help us understand what the alternatives are and make clear our choices. The first nine chapters of the book express the contrasts in longer sections: contrasting wisdom with folly and making it clear that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of widsom.. We have learned that as we follow the Lord with trust, committed to the path of wisdom, we are made wiser. In the last twenty-one chapters of the book we’ll discover how we can “fear the Lord” in everyday life, in small details. Chapters 10 – 15 express contrasts in short units, usually of one verse. Frequently the verse has “but” in the middle between the two contrasting statements.


As I read this chapter I was struck by all the contrasts between the godly and ungodly. The godly person is characterized by humility, integrity, right living, peace, kind words, generosity, and wisdom. Quite a bit is wrapped up in those words. The ungodly person is characterized by foolishness, dishonesty, treachery, pride, greed, and hypocrisy.

The righteous or godly are compared to green leaves and trees that bear lifegiving fruit in vv.28 and 30. “He who trusts in his riches will fall,/ But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. “ “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,/ And he who is wise wins souls.” I love those images more and more as I grow older! As we’ve seen over and over again in the passages we’ve read this year, it’s important where our trust is placed. Is our trust centered on ourselves or some other person, on our family or things? Or are we clinging to the Lord in humble trust, realizing that He is the only sure foundation. Being godly doesn’t mean we’re exempt from suffering. It does mean we have someone to turn to when we do suffer. As we trust in the Lord and live in obedience to Him, He will nourish our souls and give us life, which in turn can bless others.


“The perverse in heart are an abomination to the LORD,/ But the blameless in their walk are His delight.” (20) That verse contains a strong contrast! God is disgusted by hypocrisy, by those who claim to follow God but really serve themselves. God delights in those who are wholehearted in seeking righteousness – in seeking Him - those who have integrity. The Hebrew word for “blameless” means complete, whole, entire, sound. The word “walk” means habits or manner of life.

What are your habits? Do you want to delight the Lord? Read through Chapter 11 and notice what actions bring delight to the Lord. Are there any that you find yourself struggling with? Ask God to help you in those areas.


Dear Lord, Thank you that the way to wisdom lies simply in realizing we’re not wise and that we need You! You are our righteousness and our strength. Keep us from putting our trust in what has no power to help us. May your Spirit use this chapter to show each of us specific ways we can give You more delight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1 Kings 3-4 - Setting up Solomon's Kingdom

LINK: 1 Kings 3-4

Chapter 3 tells of Solomon's request for wisdom from God and the display of that wisdom when he judged between two women claiming one baby.

Chapter 4 tells how Solomon set up his administration and of his great fame. Solomon reigned 40 years, approximately 971-931 B.C. Here is a map demonstrating the extent of Solomon's rule.


In 1 Kings 3:3 we read:

Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.

Solomon loved God and worshiped him and obeyed him . . . EXCEPT for one thing. He used the high places for sacrifices instead of obeying God's command to sacrifice only at the tabernacle. These "high places" will lead him away from God and will take the nation of Israel away from God as well.

Do I worship and obey God in all of my life . . . EXCEPT one thing? Is there something that I hold onto? Is there just one thing that I want to do my way instead of God's? Those exceptions, those "one thing" items in my life can lead to a lot of trouble. They are opportunities for Satan to gain entry into my life and lead me astray.


God gave Solomon the opportunity to make one request of him, and Solomon asked God for wisdom. He asked for an "understanding heart." He didn't ask for head knowledge; he wanted a heart that would discern well by God's standards.

Do you know that you can ask God for wisdom as well? In James 1:5 we are told that if we lack wisdom we should ask God for it. And God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, will give it to us. One word of caution, though, you have to have faith, not doubting that God will answer your request (v 6-8). So, go ahead, ask God for wisdom to discern what's right in your life.

Lord, I want my life to be entirely yours with no "EXCEPT one thing" that I hold back. Search my heart and show me anything that is keeping me from wholeheartedly obeying and serving you. Give me wisdom to meet the trials in this life in a way that is pleasing to you, so I will grow to maturity in you. I love you, Lord. I want to serve you with my life and obey you from my heart. Because of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Psalm 72 - The Just and Righteous King

LINK: Psalm 72


Psalm 72 ends Book II of Psalms.

The title at the beginning of the psalm reads, “A Psalm of Solomon.” The consensus of opinion seems to be that Solomon is the author of this psalm and that in some early version of Psalms all of David’s psalms were grouped in the first two books of Psalms, which is why verse 20 says, “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.” Some commentators, however, especially older ones, believe that this is a prayer of David and that perhaps Solomon is named in the title because he’s the one who wrote it down. I’m not sure it matters – it doesn’t to me – but I thought I should mention it. There’s certainly no doubt that the psalm is about Solomon, at least on the surface.

This psalm is a prayer asking for God’s blessing on the king of Israel, Solomon, who was to reflect God’s character to His people. God, the true ruler, is the source of justice and righteousness and the kings of Israel were supposed reflect those traits to their people. As we read further in 1 and 2 Kings, we’ll have a chance to evaluate just how well the kings did!

If you look at the language of this psalm there are parts that point to the Messiah - to Jesus Christ, and there are parts that point to Solomon. This is one of those psalms with a clear double meaning. It is a prayer for Solomon, but it also clearly points to the Messiah – the ultimate and final Ruler, the one from whom Solomon’s power derived. So “this is a prophetic psalm, in which Christ is typified by Solomon, whose name means ‘peace’.” (Search the Scriptures, 243)


“Take me there!” That was my first thought after reading this psalm. We are in the midst of an economic crisis where people’s greed is being exposed and economic security is threatened. Here in the U.S. we are in the last throes of presidential election campaigns, with each candidate trying to convince us that his policies are the ones that will work and give peace and prosperity to our country. I doubt that any candidate will usher in a new era of peace and justice. I’m ready for the kingdom of Psalm 72!

The only Ruler who can truly promise peace and righteousness and justice (as well as mercy and abundance) is Jesus. We can taste those now, even in the midst of the conflicts and needs of this life. Someday we will know them completely. Someday everyone will know that Jesus is King and Lord.

Are you poor and needy? This psalm reminds me of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” God longs for us to be poor and needy so that He can deliver us and fill us with His abundance.

“His name shall endure forever;/… Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,/ Who only does wondrous things!/ And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory./ Amen and Amen.” (18-19)

Who is your Ruler? Where do you turn when you are needy? There is only one kingdom that will last forever. There is only one Ruler who fulfills all His promises. His name is Jesus.

Can you take the time to read this psalm again?


“Blessed be the Lord God …who only does wondrous things!” Help us to put our trust in You. We thank you for being a King who cares for us. We pray for this country that we live in for awhile. We are needy, though we often don’t realize it. Help us to pursue goodness and mercy and truth. Raise up humble leaders who reflect Your righteousness and justice. Most of all, Lord, we pray that You will do what is best for Your kingdom, for Your Name.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

2 Samuel 20-21

LINK: 2 Samuel 20-21


Chapter 20
The schism between Israel and Judah shows up again here when Sheba, a Benjamite (Saul's tribe) of Israel, led a rebellion against David. The tribes of Israel followed Sheba while Judah remained loyal to David. David told Amasa to gather his men for battle, but he took too long to do it, so David sent Abishai after Sheba. Joab joined Abishai in the venture, and the two leaders (and brothers) pursued Sheba. When Joab encountered Amasa, he killed him, thus regaining his position as head of the army, then he continued his pursuit of Sheba.

Sheba was hiding in the city of Abel Beth-maacah (Abel, for short), so the army besieged the city. A wise woman of Abel called for Joab to find out what he wanted. In order to save the city, the woman convinced the people of the city to kill Sheba and so end the siege.

Chapter 21
There was a famine for three years. David recognized the famine as chastening from God, so he asked God the reason. God revealed to him that Israel was guilty of killing some of the Gibeonites under the leadership of Saul. (Remember, they had made a treaty with the Gibeonites not to kill any of them.) So David talked to the leaders of the Gibeonites and asked how he could make restitution. They took the lives of seven of Saul's descendents.

This section of narrative ends with more exploits of David and his men against the Philistines -- giants, even.


Many difficulties arise in our lives as believers, often just because life is difficult. But there are also times when God chastises his own children. You can read about it in Hebrews 12:5-11. Many Christians go through life's difficulties always wondering if God is punishing them for some unknown deed, and they live in a state of defeatedness because of it. I am of the opinion that God does not leave his children wondering. If he is disciplining you, you will know it, and he will also make known to you what your offense is. Otherwise, his discipline would be pointless. So, when life is difficult, seek the Lord. He will sustain you through the rough times, and you will grow from them. (See Romans 5:3-5.)

Father, thank you for loving us when we were your enemies and making us your children. We rejoice in our reconciliation to you! Lead us in serving you with our lives. Bring us comfort in sadness, strength in difficulties, and confidence in who we are as your children. Amen.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Psalms 48 - 49 - God, Our Protection and True Wealth

LINK: Psalm 48 and Psalm 49


Everytime I read Psalm 48 I want to break into song! The first year we were married my husband and I were part of a wonderful Bible study group. We learned so many great Scripture songs and we sang this psalm frequently. So now when I read it I want to sing it. And truly, its message is something worth singing about! It (and the two previous psalms) were written in praise of the memory of a great deliverance, probably that of Jerusalem from Assyrians. (You can read the story in 2 Kings 18-19.) God does deliver and protect His people. Look at the words of this psalm and note what is said about Him: His character and His relation to His people.

How timely Psalm 49 is for us, with all that is going on in our country with the financial crisis and the economic bailout to bring home its truth. It is foolish to trust in riches.

Riches cannot redeem a soul. I love vv. 7 – 9 and 15 for their foreshadowing of Jesus. The psalmist points out that there is no way to redeem or give a ransom for someone’s soul – no person can do that. We don’t have enough. Then the psalmist says in verse 15 “God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,/ For He will receive me.” It is so cool to me that long before Jesus, this psalmist knew that God is the one who redeems even as He judges. God has provided a ransom, a redeemer for us in Jesus. He rescues our soul. Jesus, our Redeemer, is true wealth.


I’ve already mentioned one way to apply Psalm 48. Read the psalm and as you do, list what is said about God’s character and His relation with His people. Then praise Him!

Read Psalm 49. What does it say about how people generally view wealth (6, 13,18)? Is that true of you? Do you define yourself by what you have or don’t have? Do you admire those who have acquired position and wealth?

What does this psalm say is true about wealth? What’s wealth unable to do ? What happens to the person who trusts in what he has? What perspective are we counseled to have?


Father God, thank you that You are our stronghold and our safety. Thank you that You have lovingkindness and are righteous. We are so grateful that You guide us. Help us to put our trust in You and You alone. Help us to desire You more than anything – more than money and things and position. Thank you that You came and paid our ransom – something we are unable to do ourselves.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2 Samuel 12:14 - 13:39 - Consequences

LINK: 2 Samuel 12:14 - 13:39

Because of David's sin, God pronounced two judgments on him. The first was that there would always be strife in his family, and the second was that the child would die. The baby only lived a week after birth, and the family strife began in today's reading with Ammon's rape of Tamar.

As long as there was hope that God could change his mind, David plead with God for the life of the child. But once he knew God had not relented and the child died, he accepted God's decision as final and worshiped him.

When we sin, we (as well as others around us) suffer the consequences. God is merciful, but he doesn't usually remove the natural consequences of our actions. And sometimes he imposes further consequences on us. He disciplines us because he loves us, and I believe this is what God was doing with David. We need to know that we can't "get away with" blatant sin against God. But God "disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (Hebrews 12:10). His goal isn't simple to punish us, but to make us holy.

Lord, I want to be made holy. I know that the process involved is sometimes painful, because you are a loving Father who disciplines us. But you also give us comfort. You require obedience but also walk beside us. Thank you for being the all-wise, perfectly loving Father. Because of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Psalm 51 - What God Wants

LINK: Psalm 51


Sometimes the realization of our sin surges over us and we lie exhausted and drained on the battered shore of our own self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction. What do we do then?

The titles of the psalms are part of the original Hebrew and so each is a part of the psalm it introduces. This title states that Psalm 51 was written by David after Nathan the prophet had visited him to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba. So that is the occasion of the writing of this psalm. But I think that David is dealing with more here than his physical act of adultery with Bathsheba, though that alone is an act that deserved punishment. Sin is conceived in the heart. So David comes to God for mercy and forgiveness for a heart that has been untruthful and rebellious.


I have read this psalm many times as I’ve meditated on it. It is healing to the spirit. How often do I fret and stew in my sin, refusing to admit it, reluctant to come to the only One who can deal with it?

Sin is not a popular word these days. We rationalize reasons for wrongdoing; we excuse sin as something that is a result of dysfunction. We call sins “mistakes.”

But you know, at its core, sin isn’t about me and how it hurts me (which it does). It’s not even primarily about how I hurt others (which I do). Sin is about rebellion toward God. That’s why David said, “Against you and you only have I sinned.” There is a freedom in recognizing the reality of sin in my life and confessing it to the only One who can forgive and cleanse and make new. If we don’t recognize our sinful heart then we can’t truly find forgiveness. Calling sin a “mistake,” making excuses for sin, rationalizing and refusing to admit sin – all of the coping mechanisms we use for dealing with guilt and wrongdoing – cannot give us forgiveness and freedom. There is a relief in recognizing my sin, because when I recognize it then I can turn to the One who can deal with it.

That’s what David does in this psalm. I see a progression here:

David admits his sin and recognizes that he deserves judgment from God for it (1-6). He’s not trying to make excuses or rationalize. He recognizes that the core of his sin is found in his heart, which has been untruthful. Isn’t that what making excuses and rationalizations are?

David asks for forgiveness and cleansing from a God He knows is merciful and loving (7). There is no indication of doubt that God will hear and answer. David knows His God. He knows that the Lord is full of tender mercy and lovingkindness. We certainly should know that this side of the cross. God came in the flesh to die for us. What more evidence do we need of His mercy and love?

David asks for restoration – for a clean heart – for renewal of a steadfast spirit (8-12). (I love that word steadfast – a faithful heart that stays steadily bound to God.) David asks for God to restore joy and and a willing spirit– which return after the sin is cleansed!

Look at the results of forgiveness – of restored relationship with God : service to others(13), worship of God (14-17) that flows from a heart broken open and relying on Him, and fellowship (18-19). Who doesn’t long for those?


Read this psalm several times. Meditate on it. Let its words soak into your spirit.

If you tend to take sin lightly think about this:

Ye who think of sin but lightly, Nor suppose the evil great.
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load.
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

We have God who forgives. We have a God who sacrificed Himself for us. We can have freedom from the guilt of sin. That is huge!

If you are convicted of unconfessed sin, then do what David did. Admit it and recognize that you deserve judgment; ask God to forgive and cleanse; turn from the sin and ask for restoration of joy and steadfastness. God will forgive and cleanse and restore. Believe Him.


Yesterday in church we sang a couple of songs that dovetailed with this psalm. I’m going to quote one for our prayer today.

Out of the deep I call,
To Thee, O Lord, to Thee
Before Thy throne of grace I fall;
Be merciful to me. Be merciful to me.

Out of the deep I cry;
The woeful deep of sin,
Of evil done in days gone by,
Of evil now within, of evil now within.

Out of the deep of fear,
And dread of coming shame:
All night till morning watch is near;
I plead the precious name; I plead the precious name.

Lord, there is mercy now,
As ever was, with Thee.
Before Thy throne of grace I bow;
Be merciful to me; be merciful to me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

2 Samuel 2 & 3 - Fight for the Throne

LINK: 2 Samuel 2 & 3


Upon Saul's death, God sent David to Hebron to claim the throne. The people of Judah (in the south) anointed him king. Meanwhile, Abner, commander of Saul's army took Saul's son Ish-bosheth to Mahanaim and made him king over the northern tribes. This triggered a civil war with Joab leading David's men and Abner leading Ish-bosheth's men in battle. When Ish-bosheth accused Abner of being a traitor, Abner defected to David's side and swore he would bring the kingdom together under David. When Joab saw that David accepted Abner, he brought Abner back to Hebron and murdered him as an act of personal revenge. David mourned the death of Abner and cursed Joab for murdering him.


When Joab killed Abner, he was not acting in a military role. Rather, he was taking personal vengeance for the death of his brother Asahel by the hand of Abner (2:18-23). Hebron was one of the cities of refuge, so Abner should have been safe from Joab's vengeance there. And a trial was required before the avenger could slay a murderer. Joab ignored these laws, and David rightly condemned him for this murder.


When somebody wrongs you, do you seek revenge? Do you want to get even, get them back, make them pay in some way? When we do this, we become murderers in our hearts. (See Matthew 5:21-22.) To believers, Paul says, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." (Rom 12:19) We are commanded to seek peace with all men, even those who persecute us. Read and meditate on Romans 12:17-21. If you are struggling with conflict in your life, I would highly recommend the book Carol mentioned the other day called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande.


Today pray for anyone who has wronged you. Instead of seeking revenge, ask God to bless that person (and you leave the vengeance to God). Ask the Lord to change your heart toward that person. Determine to show kindness to him/her, thereby overcoming evil with good instead of perpetuating evil.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Psalm 78 - History Lesson!

LINK: Psalm 78


Asaph, the poet God inspired to compose this psalm, reminds the parents of Israel to tell their children the stories from history that they were supposed to have been told by their parents. What is the purpose in telling the history? It is so that their children might praise God for His power and provision; so that they will set their hope on God; and so that they can, in turn, pass the story on to their children as a kind of cautionary tale.

As we begin 2 Samuel and the reign of David as King of Israel, this psalm reminds us of the importance of what we’ve read so far in the Old Testament. We read in this psalm a summary of how God provided miraculously for the Israelites over and over again, and how, time after time, they rebelled against Him by refusing to trust Him. The message is clear. Learn from history! Don’t follow the pattern of disbelief that characterized the Israelites.

The psalm does end on an encouraging note, with David the shepherd king – a man who shepherded not only sheep, but people, too, with integrity of heart.


Sometimes the word “but” is so sad. It’s frequently a sad word in this psalm.

Look at the cycle that is repeated:

The psalm tells how over and over again God demonstrated His powerful care for His people. Just look at a little of what He does: God divided the sea so they could pass through, led them with a cloud by day and a fire by night, split rock and caused streams to flow from it so they could drink.

And then there’s that word “but.”

But they sinned even more against Him/ By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness./ And they tested God in their heart…”

Look at the rest of the psalm. Notice all that God did for His people. Yet they continued to sin by not trusting Him and His power. Verse 41 says, “Again and again they tempted God,/ and limited the Holy One of Israel./ They did not remember his power:/ The day when He redeemed them from the enemy.”

When I read this psalm I get impatient with the people of Israel. How could they respond like that to the God who cared for them so miraculously? How could they forget Him so quickly?

Then I realize that I often do the same thing. I have seen God's provision for me and my family. I have been told ways He was active in the past in my parents’ lives. I have been redeemed from the Enemy! How quickly I forget. How quickly I demand “food” I want. I am so quick to love myself and so slow to love God.

So I am thankful for the time that little word “but” is good news!

But He (God), being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,/ and did not destroy them. … He remembered that they were but flesh.”

I am so glad that God is merciful and full of compassion in the face of our weakness and sinfulness.


If you have the time, sit down with this psalm and list all the miraculous ways God provided for His people. Then list the ways they responded. How did they demonstrate their lack of trust?

Here are a few that hit me:

They disobeyed.
They willfully put God to the test.
They demanded food they craved.
They did not believe in God.
They were ungrateful.
They didn’t trust in His deliverance.
They lied to Him.
Their hearts weren’t loyal.
They were unreliable.

What do you see?

Learn from this psalm. That’s why it’s here. Don’t be like the Israelites.


Help us to learn from this parable from history, Lord. Thank you for your miraculous provision for us. Keep us from self-centeredness. Help us to respond to you in trust and obedience and integrity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

1 Samuel 29 & 30 - Katrina's Reflection, Application, and Prayer

I am reposting many of these posts in 2011, but I am leaving posts that others have written. Katrina and I combined on this particular post. So, I am  leaving her part of the post here for posterity. Thanks Katrina for all your labor in the first round of Bible Book Club!!!

REFLECTION with Katrina

The Lord is always at work, but from our perspective we don't always see it. God allowed the Amalekites to raid Ziklag and capture all who were there while David and the fighting men were gone. But he did not allow them to kill anyone before David rescued them. God allowed David to be called to battle by Achish, but he didn't make or let David go into battle against Israel. David's own men turned against him in their hearts, but God did not allow them to stone David. The Egyptian slave fell sick and was left behind to die along the road. But God provided for his rescue by David and then the Egyptian helped David. This slave was not only kept alive through his deadly circumstances, but he was also freed from his slavery to the Amalekites. All of these situations looked hopeless at a certain point to those in the middle of them. But God used these difficult situations for the good of these people in the end.

APPLICATION with Katrina

When David found himself at the end of himself, he "strengthened himself in the Lord his God." He pulled himself away from his circumstances and let God refresh him. When he was exhausted, he drew strength from God. When he wasn't sure what step to take next, he just flat out asked God to tell him what to do. We would do well to follow David's example. We can find strength in the Lord on a daily basis as well as in times of distress by spending time in God's word and in seeking his face. The Bible and prayer are sources of strength to us from God. The men came back from battle and didn't want to share with those who stayed behind, but David declared that those who stayed behind were just as important as those who fought and should share equally in the spoils. The same is true in the church today. Some people hav eministries that are much more visible than others. That doesn't make the others any less important or deserving of less reward. Whatever ministry God has given you, do with all your heart. The world's perspective has no bearing on God's perspective. Each member of the body of Christ is valuable and has been gifted to serve. So avoid comparison and competition (like Carol mentioned the other day), and serve in whatever capacity God has given you to serve.


Lord, we can't always see and understand what you are doing, but we know that you make all things work together for the good of those who love you. We love you and want to serve you. Help us keep our eyes off earthly values and focus on obeying and serving you. In the name of Jesus, Amen.