Sunday, May 31, 2009

Psalms 100 & 101 - Praising God in Word and Life

by Becky

LINK: Psalm 100 and Psalm 101

BACKGROUND AND REFLECTION

Psalm 100

This psalm is full of delight in the LORD.

It is all about Him. He is God. He made us – we didn’t make ourselves. Implication: we are here for Him, not ourselves. We belong to Him; we are His sheep. Implication: We follow Him and trust Him, just as sheep trust their shepherd.

Read this psalm out loud. When my husband and I were first married, we were part of a Bible study and sang some great scripture songs with a guitar. This psalm was one of them. I still want to sing it when I read it.

KNOW that the LORD – HE IS GOD! HE IS GOOD; HIS MERCY and TRUTH are EVERLASTING.

Augustine said this: “ I call [love to God] the motion of the soul toward the enjoyment of God for his own sake, and the enjoyment of one’s self and of one’s neighbor for the sake of God .” (from On Christian Doctrine)

Psalm 101

It is generally thought that this psalm was written by David either just before or at the beginning of his reign. Luther called it “David’s mirror of a monarch.” In it, David makes certain resolutions about how he will live. The more I’ve meditated on this psalm, the more it reminds me of Proverbs!

David begins this psalm with this verbal praise:

I will sing of your love and justice.
I will praise you, LORD, with songs.


He goes on to recount ways he will praise God in the practice of his life. So I think that’s an important reminder to us. God is characterized by love and justice; if we are called by His name then our lives should reflect those characteristics. Yes, we are to worship and praise God with our lips, but living life with integrity is also a way to praise Him. I will go so far as to say that if we are truly praising God in our hearts, it will overflow both to our lips and to the way we live.

David isn’t making these resolutions lightly.

I will behave wisely in a perfect way.
Oh, when will You come to me?

His heart’s desire is for wise actions and to walk perfectly with God. But he knows himself and his weakness and that he needs God’s help. So he cries to God and asks when He will come. What a wonderful way to begin.

He resolves to live with integrity in his own home. What is integrity? Well, it’s the opposite of hypocrisy. There’s an idea of wholeness to integrity – that the goodness seen is there all the way through – not a fa├žade. In a sense, it’s simplicity of character – no cover-ups or subterfuges. Sometimes our homes are the hardest places to live with integrity. Our families see us as we truly are.

David wants to avoid certain actions and kinds of people. Look at the list (vv 3-5):

I will not look at worthless things.
I will not be gripped by dishonest dealings.
I will reject having a perverse mind/heart/understanding (perverse means willfully turned
away from what is right).
I will not tolerate someone who secretly slanders (maliciously tells a false report about) her neighbor.
I will not endure someone who looks down on others and acts arrogantly (displays a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance).

David concludes the psalm by saying that he will watch for those who are faithful so that he can to spend time with them, that they can serve in his court. He wants his reign to be characterized by faithfulness and goodness, rather than falsehood and evil which have no place in the city of God.

It seems to me that David would define faithful people as those who live Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, oh man what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly [do what is right], to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

APPLICATION

From Psalm 100 - Am I delighting in the LORD? Do I offer Him shouts of of praise and songs of thanksgiving?

From Psalm 101 – Am I delighting in the LORD? Do I fix my gaze on what is ultimately worthless or is my gaze fixed on the LORD Jesus? Do I value what He values? Does my life reflect Him?

PRAYER

We praise You, our Creator and Shepherd. Thank you for Your mercy and goodness. Thank you that You are truth. Help us to live our lives in the light of that mercy, goodness, and truth. Help us to reflect You in what we value and how we live.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hosea 10 - It's Time to Seek the Lord

by Katrina

LINK:
Hosea 10

BACKGROUND
Chapter ten gives a description of Israel's pride in self. They claim to be wealthy in and of themselves. They have no need for God, and trust in themselves instead. The richer they become, the more they turn away from God and worship idols. But God is going to chastise them. He will demonstrate his power to them. He is going to show them who he is, and they will be destroyed.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
Verse 12 says, "Sow with a view to righteousness. Reap in accordance with kindness. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you."

Fallow ground is land that has not been recently cultivated. This land is hard and full of weeds. Our hearts can get hard and full of weeds (sin) if we don't keep cultivating (plowing) the soil of our hearts. We cultivate the soil of our hearts by being repentant and seeking after God.

Once soil is broken up by the plow, seeds can be planted. Likewise, once our hearts are softened through repentance, the seed of God's word can be planted and grow in our hearts.

The cultivated ground can soak up the rains, while the rains run off the hard, fallow ground. Likewise, if our hearts are cultivated by God, then his righteousness soaks in and becomes a part of who we are.

It is good to examine our hearts periodically and look for hardened areas where we keep God out. Do you have any of those areas in your life? Confess them to God and allow him to cultivate his righteousness in your heart. "For it is time to seek the Lord."

PRAYER
Lord, we confess we do not always want to give you full access to our hearts. We are often proud and sinful, and rather than seeking you we try to hide from you. Break up those hard areas of our hearts and cultivate your word in us. Amen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hosea 9 - Judgment Day Arrives

by Katrina

LINK:
Hosea 9

BACKGROUND
This is a sobering chapter telling Israel that their time is up. Punishment is around the corner. It is time for the nation to reap what it has sown, like Hosea referred to in chapter eight.

Here are a few notes to help clarify some of the verses in this chapter:

Ephraim is the larger of the two tribes of Israel, and the title is used to refer to the whole nation.

v 1 - The threshing floor was a large flat area, often on a hill, where the grain was beaten to separate the chaff from the kernel of grain. During the threshing season, men would often sleep on the threshing floor to protect the grain from thieves. (You may remember that Boaz slept on his threshing floor in the book of Ruth.) Prostitutes would visit the men at the threshing floors.

v 3 - Some of the Israelites did leave and go to Egypt during this period of time. See 2 Kings 25:26.

v 7-8 - Not liking the message of Hosea, the people mocked the messenger.

v 9 - Refers to Judges 19-20 when the men of the city wanted to have sex with a man who was visiting overnight. They were given his concubine, whom they abused all night instead. Then the people rose up and destroyed the entire city.

v 10 - The sin at Baal-Peor is told in Numbers 25 and occurred shortly before God transferred leadership from Moses to Joshua.

v 15 - The evil at Gilgal was appointing a human king (Saul) over the nation of Israel (1 Samuel 11).

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
I wonder how many times I have ignored or mocked a messenger just because I didn't want to hear what he had to say. Or maybe I've ignored some warnings in Scripture, thinking they don't apply to me. This chapter concludes with the words, "My God will cast them away because they have not listened to Him. . . " Oh, I pray that would not be true of me!

PRAYER
Lord, help us to truly listen to you with our hearts and seek after you with all of our beings. Let us not get distracted with the glitter and sins of this world but seek to obey you in all things. Amen.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Psalms 98 & 99 - Serious Joy!

LINK: Psalm 98 and Psalm 99

by Becky

BACKGROUND AND REFLECTION

Psalm 98

This psalm, along with Psalms 93 and Psalms 95-99 are called the royal psalms because they focus on God as King.

Remember how the Israelites cried for a king? They wanted to be like all the nations around them. But from the very beginning God made it clear that He is King. And what a ruler He is!

Psalm 98 begins, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song!” This “new song” seems to be centered on God’s salvation and redemption rather than on God’s creation. The psalmist praises God in the present for what He has done in the past and continues to do, and for what He will do in the future. Just looking back at what we’ve read in BBC, think of all the times we’ve read of how God visibly saved (or rescued) His people: Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, the Hebrew people in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, fighting Jericho, leaving Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall and the temple. That’s just a partial list. I have a feeling that remembering God's salvation in all those events and more was in the heart of the psalmist. That’s enough to make anyone break into joyful song!

(I have to insert an interesting tidbit I learned while preparing to write this entry: Did you know that the hymn “Joy to the World” is based on this psalm? )

But that’s not all! Even nature itself (the sea, rivers, mountains – the whole world) is personified as singing in praise of God’s redemption. Verses 7 – 9 brought Romans 8: 18-25 into my mind.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one sitill hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

So all of creation praises God for His salvation. God is Rescuer and Ruler, not only of people, but of all nature!

Look at the last two verses of Psalm 98!


… He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness, He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity.


This psalm praises God not only for what He has done, but for what He will do. We have seen more than the poet who wrote this psalm did, because we’ve seen God’s salvation and mercy and righteousness revealed in Jesus. When we think of the victory God has gained (v 1) and how “the LORD has made known His salvation and righteousness in the sight of the nations,” (v 2) we think of God coming in the flesh in the person of Jesus – who lived and died and rose again for ALL NATIONS – for all of us. But there’s still a future hope: God will come yet again to judge in righteousness and justice and uprightness.

Which leads us into Psalm 99….

One of these days I’m going to write the entry for the second psalm first! I get so caught up in the first psalm of the pair when I have two to write, that I give the next one short shrift.

Psalm 99 focuses again on God as King. This time His holiness is emphasized.

It seems to me that we neglect focusing on God’s attribute of holiness these days. Well, this psalm doesn’t!

Three times the refrain of God’s holiness is repeated! He is holy (v 3); He is holy (v 5); … the LORD our God is holy (v 9). God’s holiness is spoken of not in abstract, but as something active.

It’s worth noting that again the poet recounts God’s actions in the past: Moses, Aaron, Samuel all called upon the Lord, and God answered them. (v 6) How did He answer them? What was their response to His answer? I hope you’ll take the time to ponder this.

I love how over and over again in Scripture God reveals Himself in paradox. Look at verse 8:


You answered them, O LORD our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.

APPLICATION

What does this psalm have to say about how God’s holiness is demonstrated? What warning can we take from the very real truth of God’s holiness? What comfort can we take from it?

Do you share the psalmist’s passion to see God publicly exalted in holiness? Do you know what it means to call on Him and to find that He answers (verses 6-8)? What is your response when He does?

And for Psalm 98: Are you singing to the Lord a new song today: a song to God for His salvation, revealed over and over again and ultimately revealed in the Lord Jesus? Spend some time thinking about how God’s salvation (rescue) has been revealed in the past. Meditate on the passage I quoted from Romans. Then sing that new song of praise!


PRAYER

Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints!
Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.

~ Revelation 15: 3-4 ~

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hosea 6:11b-7:16: Rebellion in Israel

LINK: Hosea 7

BACKGROUND

Metaphors for Israel continue to abound as the nation is referred to as a dying man, flaming fire, unturned bread, senseless dove, and faulty bow. They are guilty but they do not "cry out" to God "from their hearts" (v. 14) or "turn to the Most High" (v. 16) even though he "longs to redeem them" (v. 13)

APPLICATION

If you are caught in some sin, cry out to God from your heart and turn to Him. He really does long to redeem you!

PRAYER

Lord, we worship You as our gracious Redeemer. Thank You that You have loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with lovingkindness. We praise You for Your compassion and ask that You would draw us to You in true repentance. We ask that You would cause our hearts to cry out to and turn to You alone. Amen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hosea 3-4

by Katrina

LINK:
Hosea 3-4

BACKGROUND
Chapter three returned to Hosea's personal life with the Lord's instruction for him to retrieve his wife from the market place. Hosea purchased her for half the price of a slave plus some barley. He took her home with him and isolated her, yet did not restore her to the full marriage relationship. Likewise, Israel would not enjoy the full fellowship of her relationship with God. This is the current state of the Jewish nation. They are without a king, without sacrifice, without priests (although Jesus fulfilled all these roles). Yet, once again, God promised that this is not the end for Israel. One day there will be restoration.

Chapter four begins God's indictment against Israel, first against the nation as a whole (v 1-3), then the priests (v 4-14), the spectators of Judah (v 15-19), and continuing in chapter five with the priests and rulers.

REFLECTION
The verse that stood out to me in these chapters is Hosea 4:6. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." Those who were supposed to be teaching God's word to the people had completely neglected that duty. The priests were corrupt and passed that corruption along to the people. God had given them knowledge, but they had rejected it.

APPLICATION
Anyone who teaches God's word has a tremendous responsibility to teach His truth fully and correctly. We must not reject or neglect any particular teaching just because we don't like it. We may not teach one way and live another way.

Parents have the responsibility of teaching their children God's word. Teachers in the Church have just as great a responsibility as the priests of Israel had. Paul exhorted Timothy always to give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, and to teaching. He also told him to pay close attention to himself and his teaching (1 Tim 4:13-16).

Purity of the message is very important. And the message isn't simply facts about God; it's the message of a relationship with God. This responsibility is one I do not take lightly. James said, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment" (James 3:1). I count it a great honor, as well as a great responsibility, to teach the Bible and the message of the gospel to others.

PRAYERLord, may we always share your word with others with a heart of humility and a pursuit of teaching the pure message of your word. We want to teach others to have a vibrant, real relationship with You. Amen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hosea 1-2

by Katrina

LINK:
Hosea 1-2

BACKGROUND
Hosea, Joshua, and Jesus are all variations of the same name which means "salvation." The prophet Hosea ministered in the northern nation of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam II, son of Joash. Hosea was a contemporary of Isaiah and Micah who both ministered in the southern nation of Judah. Hosea's prophecy was during the times of four Judean kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, which means his ministry spanned at least 50 years.

God orchestrated Hosea's domestic life as an illustration of His message to Israel. Hosea's wife Gomer represented the nation of Israel. Her harlotry represented Israel's spiritual harlotry.

Their first child was named Jezreel which means "God sows" and refers to a valley in northern Israel. This was where Jehu murdered the 70 sons of Ahab in order to seize the throne for himself (2 Kings 10:1-11).

Next, a daughter was born and was named Lo-ruhamah which means "unpitied." God's compassion would be withheld from Israel and His wrath poured on her.

The third child was another son and was named Lo-ammi which means "not my people." Israel was not acting like a people belonging to God, and God would chastise them accordingly.

In the final two verses of chapter one, God promised three great blessings to Israel: the nation would increase, the people would turn to God, and Judah and Israel would be reunited as one nation under one king.

Chapter three begins with God's accusations against Israel and His responses: spiritual adultery brings dissatisfaction in that unfaithfulness (v 2-7) and ungratefulness to God results in God withholding His blessings and bringing destruction (v 8-13).

Once again, though, God did not leave them without hope. The rest of chapter two (v 14-23) describes the restoration of Israel. This passage gives a beautiful description of complete restoration. God says three times that He will betroth Israel to Himself. He will respond to her needs and draw her to Himself. Israel will once again be God's people and He will be her God.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
One of Israel's great sins was her ungratefulness. Are we grateful for all that God provides for us? Or do we take it for granted? Do we thank Him for all the blessings we have? Or take the credit for ourselves?

PRAYEROffer to God a prayer of thankfulness today for as many blessings as you can think of!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Psalms 95 & 97 - Worship and Trust

by Becky

LINK: Psalm 95 & Psalm 97

REFLECTION

We are told what to do and what not to do in these two psalms.

It seems to me that there is a link made in these psalms between having a thankful heart that praises God and obedience.

Look at the first half of Psalm 95 and Psalm 97. Nothing staid about that praise! Look at the exuberance and joy expressed in worship of the Lord!

Sing to the Lord

Give a joyous shout!

Come before Him with thanksgiving.

Come let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Let the earth rejoice!

Let the farthest islands be glad!

The heavens declare his righteousness!


The mountains melt like wax before the LORD.

Every god must bow down to Him.

All the cities of Judah are glad!

For you, oh Lord, are most high over all the earth!

I ran across these words of C.S. Lewis recently:

“I want to stress what I think that we (or at least I) need more; the joy and delight in God which meet us in the Psalms, … These poets know far less reason than we for loving God. They did not know that He offered them eternal joy; still less that He would die to win it for them. Yet they express a longing for Him…. I have rather… called this the ‘appetite for God’ than ‘the love of God.’ The ‘love of God’ too easily suggests the word ‘spiritual’ in all those negative or restrictive senses which it has unhappily acquired. These old poets do not sem to think that they are meritorious or pious for having such feelings; nor, on the other hand, that they are privileged in being given the grace to have them… It has all the cheerful spontaneity of a natural, even a physical, desire. … They are glad and rejoice. Their fingers itch for the harp, for the lute and the harp… Let’s have a song! … We’re going to sing merrily and make a cheerful noise! … Let even the remote islands share the exultation! …
… There [in the Psalms]… I find an experience fully God-centred, asking of God no gift more urgently than His presence, the gift of Himself, joyous to the highest degree, and unmistakably real. What I see (so to speak) in the faces of these old poets tells me more about the God whom they and we adore.”
(from Reflections on the Psalms, Ch. V)

But there is a warning in these psalms, too. See the last half of Psalm 95 and Psalm 97:10-12. We, his people, are warned against having hard hearts of unbelief – of not seeing God’s working in our lives. Psalm 95 cites the examples of the Israelites, who complained and tested God, and counsels us NOT to be like them.

I will add, too, a reminder of what we are reading right now in II Chronicles about the kings of Judah. We see those who trusted and those who doubted. Trust is linked to giving God His rightful place. Sin and evil are linked with lack of true worship of Jehovah.

Somehow this walk with our Lord is a kind of circular thing - obedience and trust lead to joy and praise which in turn lead back to obedience and trust.

Look at end of Psalm 97!

"Light shines on the godly,
and joy on those who do right.
May all who are godly be happy in the LORD
and praise His Holy Name!

APPLICATION

The passage in Psalm 95: 7b – 11 is quoted in Hebrews 3:7 – 4:7, where we Christians are warned not to have a heart of unbelief. If you get a chance, I hope you’ll read it.

What has stood out to me today is that true praise – exultant and exuberant worship of God from the heart – is an antidote to unbelief and its consequent sin. If we are truly lifting up our hearts and voices and eyes to the Lord, if we are thanking Him for His rule over all the earth and its inhabitants, if we truly are bowing down to Him as sovereign King – then we cannot have hard hearts that refuse to obey.

Who are you worshiping today? Write down a list from these psalms of the reasons why the Lord God is the only One truly worthy of worship. Add to that list all that God has done for us through Jesus. We know far more reasons for praise than did the poets who wrote the psalms.

Then read your list out loud to God. You could even try shouting it!

PRAYER

Father, You are more powerful than anything. You have made us and all that we see and know. You sustain all that is. You are righteous and just and holy. You love us! If we just look around, we see everywhere evidence of who You are. You came in the flesh and lived and died and rose again so that so that we can have freedom and life. Thank you for being our Shepherd - for caring for us, guiding us, watching over us.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

2 Chronicles 30 -32: Hezekiah's Reforms, Prayers, and Pride

LINK:

Thursday, May 14: 2 Chronicles 30

Friday, May 15: 2 Chronicles 31

Saturday, May 16: 2 Chronicles 32

(Parallel Passages: 2 Kings 18-20 and Isaiah 38-39)


BACKGROUND


Hezekiah was not perfect, but he did model his life after King David by seeking the Lord and obeying Him. He rates up there as a "good" king of Judah along with Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joash. Hezekiah removed the high places and put an end to idol worship in the hills. He restored temple worship and invited people from both Judah and Israel to come to the temple in Jerusalem and worship the Lord because it was the only true center of worship (see Deuteronomy 12). He also restored the observance of Passover (see HERE for a previous post about the Passover). The people's return to worship shamed the priests into action. They sanctified themselves and brought offerings to the temple (30:15).

Regardless of the mocking of the people outside of Judah and the mocking of the king of Assyria when he invaded Judah, Hezekiah remained steadfast and fought the Lord's battle exactly where it should have been fought: on his knees! God honored his prayers by defeating Assyria.

The Lord healed Hezekiah fifteen years before his death in 687 B.C. but he had pride in his heart and did not respond to the Lord's kindness. Hezekiah humbled the pride of his heart though and the Lord's wrath was averted.

Sadly, he failed the Lord's test by showing the Babylonians his vast wealth (and revealing more pride in his heart). This would come back to haunt the Kingdom of Judah in the future (see 2 Kings 20:16-18 for Isaiah's prophecy of doom). Despite this failed test, Hezekiah responded well to the "word of the LORD" (2 Kings 20:19) and was still considered a "good" king who was buried in honor.


Isaiah was a prophet during Hezekiah reign and is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32 and in the parallel account of this passage in 2 Kings 19. We will be reading Isaiah in June and July; but for the remainder of May, we will be shifting back to the northern kingdom where Hosea prophecies during its final days.


REFLECTION

"He [Hekekiah] trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses" (2 Kings 18:5-6, NASB95).


On your knees! That is how God has been speaking to me as I have read through the life of Hezekiah. He wasn't perfect, but he clung to the Lord through prayer. Look back over these chapters and note all the times he prayed!

APPLICATION

PRAY!

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the model of prayer in Hezekiah's life. Help us to face life's battles clinging to You and on our knees. We ask this in the strong name of Jesus, amen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2 Chronicles 29 - Consecration

by Katrina

LINK:
2 Chronicles 29
Parallel Passage: 2 Kings 18-20

BACKGROUND
Hezekiah followed Ahaz and reigned as king of Judah 715-686 B.C. Once he was on the throne, the first order of business he carried out was to reopen the temple and reestablish proper worship and sacrifice to the Lord. This chapter describes the process involved to consecrate the temple and priests so the people could worship the Lord again at the temple.

REFLECTION
The consecration of the temple again by Hezekiah reminded me of the following passages:

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." (1 Cor 3:16-17)

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Cor 6:19-20)

"Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God: just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" (2 Cor 6:16)

APPLICATION
Are your body and your life fully consecrated to God?

PRAYER
Lord, you have purchased me with the blood of Jesus. Help me to always be aware that I am not my own but that I belong to you. You have made me holy for your purpose. Thank you for your Holy Spirit within me. May all that I say and do bring glory to your name. Amen.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2 Chronicles 27-28 - Two Kings

by Katrina

LINK:
2 Chronicles 27-28

Parallel Passages:
reign of Jotham - 2 Kings 15:32-38
reign of Ahaz - 2 Kings 16; Isaiah 7-9

BACKGROUND

Jotham was one of the eight good kings of Judah and reigned 750-731 B.C. Although Jotham worshiped the Lord, the people of Judah continued to act corruptly. He strengthened Judah and subjected the Ammonites to Judah so that they had to pay a large annual tribute. Jotham became mighty because "he ordered his ways before the Lord his God."

Jotham was followed by his son Ahaz, who reigned 731-715 B.C. Ahaz "did not do right in the sight of the Lord." He worshiped the Baals and even burned his own sons as sacrifices to false gods. Because of his sin, God allowed the king of Aram to defeat Judah in battle and carry off a great number of captives. Israel also did a great deal of damage to Judah and carried off captives as well. But the Lord sent a prophet to the Israeli commanders and told them to send the captives back to Judah. God had used Israel to punish Judah, but taking captives was beyond the punishment God would allow. It's interesting that the very ungodly nation of Israel listened to the prophet and did what God said. They fed and clothed the captives, treated their injuries, cared for them, and took them back to Jericho.

When God decided to humble Ahaz, Judah was attacked by the Edomites, Philistines, and Assyrians. But Ahaz did not turn to the Lord for help. "Now in the time of his distress this same King Ahaz became yet more unfaithful to the Lord." He turned to other gods for help and closed up the temple of the Lord.

REFLECTION

We have a great contrast between these two kings. On the one hand, Jotham honored the Lord by proper worship and obedience. In contrast, Ahaz worshiped idols and did not obey the Lord. When it comes down to it, all the kings were judged as "good" or "bad" based on their worship. Those who worshiped the Lord and tore down the idols were deemed "good" kings while those who worshiped idols were deemed "bad" kings. I think what God really wanted from the kings and His people was worship, and I think that's what God wants from us today.

APPLICATION

Worship and praise God today!

PRAYER

Pray your own prayer of worship, praising God for who he is.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Psalm 94

by Becky



LINK: Psalm 94


BACKGROUND AND REFLECTION

Psalm 94 goes full circle. It begins with the psalmist’s cry to the LORD – twice referring to Him as the God of vengeance – to reveal His justice. It ends with this promise: “God will make the sins of evil people fall back upon them. He will destroy them for their sins. The LORD our God will destroy them.”

Before we reflect on this psalm, I think we need to understand that word “vengeance.” Vengeance, as used here, is not an emotional, bitter, spiteful means of “getting even.” It is not revenge. Vengeance is equated with justice here. The previous psalm lifted up God as King. This psalm appeals to Him as Judge. God, as King and Judge, has the right and the power to punish evildoers. For too long evil has triumphed and the psalmist cries out to God to shine forth – to reveal His glory. He bursts out with, “How long, Lord?”

Just what are these evil people accused of doing?

First, they are self-confident and arrogant (v 4). They think they are powerful. The implication is that they are not giving God His rightful place. Which leads to their next action:

They oppress God’s people (v 5). They demean God by hurting those who are called by His Name.

They also kill the helpless of society – the widow, orphan, and stranger (v 6) - the very people that God wanted the Israelites to treat justly, in remembrance of what God did for them (Deut. 10:17-19).

These evil actions are rooted in the idea that God either doesn’t know what’s happening or doesn’t care (v7).

The psalmist goes on, through a series of rhetorical devices, a series of balanced questions, to point out the folly of these evildoers (vv. 8 – 11):

He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?

He who formed the eye,
shall He not see?

He who instructs the nations,
shall He not correct?

He who teaches man knowledge?
The LORD knows the thoughts of man, that they are futile.

That word “futile” means literally “ a puff of wind.” What a word to use for those who in their arrogance make themselves little gods!

Halfway through, the psalm turns! “Blessed are those you discipline, LORD, and those you teach from your law.” (v 12)

Those who belong to God are joy-filled, content in Him, and with what He brings into their lives. Though the times they live in may be troubled, though they may suffer for bearing God’s Name, they have an inner quietness (v 13) and peace.

A “pit” is being “dug for the wicked.” That is quite a metaphor! Digging a pit takes awhile, but it is happening.

The psalmist reminds God’s people that they are not abandoned. He cites his own experience: He had known God’s comfort himself. He had felt himself slipping and had cried out to God and the Lord supported Him!

The psalm ends with a summary (vv 20-23): Yes, there is injustice in this world. There are leaders who pervert justice, who bend the law to suit their ends, who kill the innocent. BUT the Lord is a fortress and rock for His people.

In the end, the sins of the evil people will fall back on them to destroy them.

APPLICATION

Whew! What do I get from that?

I once read a book titled Ideas Have Consequences. That is so true. We are affected by what we hold true, by what we believe. There are consequences to the ideas we hold.

So what ideas do I cling to? Do I sometimes buy into the notion that God either doesn’t care what’s going on or can’t do anything about it? Do I look around at what is happening in the world today and doubt God?

In the previous psalm we are told to trust God even when all about us is in chaos. In this psalm we are told to trust God even when it looks like evil is succeeding.

One way to trust Him is to reach out to others, to remember His care of His own people by caring for those who are voiceless in society, those who are most helpless. Am I reaching out? Am I being Jesus’ hands?

Finally, I am convicted by verse 12: Blessed are those you discipline, LORD, and those you teach from your law.” This is repeated so often in the Bible (James 1: 2-4; Romans 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 6: 3-10; Heb. 12: 1-13) that God must want us to grasp it! If you get a chance, I encourage you to read those passages. Go on a Bible treasure hunt and look for more!

PRAYER

Give us hearts to trust you, Lord. Help us to lean on You in confidence and quietness. Fill us with Your Spirit and make us your hands and feet in this world in which we live. Amen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Amos 1 & 2 - The Lion Roars!

LINKS:
Monday - Amos 1
Tuesday - Amos 2

by Katrina

BACKGROUND
Amos was not a prophet by birth or profession. He was a shepherd and fig grower. He was from the southern kingdom of Judah and traveled to the northern kingdom of Israel with his message from God around 760-750 B.C. At the time he prophesied, Uzziah was king of Judah, and Jeroboam II was king of Israel. Judah and Israel were both wealthy and powerful then. The two nations were at peace with their neighbors. The people lived in great luxury and arrogance. Their hearts were far from the LORD, and their lives were immoral. So, God sent Amos with a message to Israel.

Here is a map of their world around that time.



The book of Amos begins with a brief introduction of Amos and the time of his prophecy. Then judgment is declared against all the countries surrounding Israel and Judah, followed by Judah, then Israel herself. The capital (or a major city) is often used to refer to a nation. Each judgment begins with the phrase, "for three transgressions . . . and for four." This is a figure of speech for an incalculable number. It means that the measure of iniquity is full and wrath must fall upon the wicked. (Feinberg) The Lord is in Zion (Jerusalem) and roars out his wrath against the nations.

  • Damascus - capital of Syria (to the northeast of Israel) - judged for the cruel treatment of the people of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh east of the Jordan. The Syrian king Hazael had oppressed Israel during the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz (2 Kings 10:32, 33; 13:3-7) and had mangled their bodies with threshing instruments.
  • Gaza - city of Philistia (along the Mediterranean coast west of Judah) - judged for selling Jews, probably prisoners of war, to Edom as slaves.
  • Tyre - city of Phoenicia (along the Mediterranean coast northwest of Israel) - also sold prisoners of war as slaves
  • Edom (south and southeast of Judah) - descendants of Esau, who continually fought against Jacob and his descendants
  • Ammon (east of Israel) - Ammonites were descendants of Lot and his younger daughter. There son was Ben-ammi, father of the Ammonites. They would be punished for their inhumane treatment of women and children in Judah.
  • Moab (east of Judah) - descendants of Lot and his older daughter
  • Judah - God's own people deserve judgment as well because they have rejected the LORD.
  • Israel - Immorality, greed, oppression of the poor, open idolatry, and disregard for the Law bring judgment from God to Israel. God's indictment against Israel will continue in the following chapters.

REFLECTION
The Gentile nations were responsible to God for their actions and would be punished for their inhumane treatment of other people and for fighting against the LORD's people. There is a moral standard of God that applies to all people. God's own people were guilty of rejecting God and living lives of idolatry and immorality.

APPLICATION
All nations will be judged by God. Are we taking/sending the message of salvation to all peoples? I am challenged by Carol's application from Jonah the other day, and I know this is an area that I need to work on.

PRAYER
Lord, help us to be concerned for the lost people around us and take your message of salvation to them. Amen.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Psalm 93

by Becky

LINK: Psalm 93

BACKGROUND

This short psalm is packed with joy because it is focused on the character of God: His kingship, His sovereignty, His power and strength, His trustworthiness, and His holiness. We don’t know when the psalm was written or who wrote it. It is thought that it was sung by God’s people when all around them seemed to be in chaos, perhaps when being invaded and taken into captivity.

The poem begins with a description of God’s majesty and power (vv. 1-2). Unlike the gods of the nations around the Israelites, Jehovah is everlasting. He is mighty: His power is evidenced not only in His creation of the world (He established it), but also in His continually sustaining it .

The next two verses focus on the image of floods or mighty waters. Those floods are personified as powerful enemies, with strong voices that overwhelm and threaten to sweep everything in their path away. What a powerful image for events and forces in this life that are beyond our control!

I live in Louisiana and have seen from a front row seat the power of floods. When Hurricane Katrina ravaged much of our state, when Gustav swept in – it became clear just how little control we humans have. Civilization is a thin veneer. Think about what happened when the Asian Tsunami hit in December of 2004.. It destroyed whatever was in its path – a huge demonstration of power and might.

So floods – mighty waters – are a very fitting image for those chaotic events and forces that we have no power to control.

But as mighty as the waters of a flood are – no matter how noisy and chaotic events in our lives might seem – we have a God who is mightier. “The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea.” (v 4)

The psalm’s last verse returns to the theme of the uniqueness of our God. What He says is sure and true. It is a firm foundation. We can be certain of God’s truth and holiness. He doesn’t change. He is trustworthy forever.

All about us may be swept away as in a flood, but we cling to the rock that is our God.

REFLECTION AND APPLICATION

What is joy? I think this psalm explains it. Joy doesn’t depend on the circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s not happiness. Joy springs from our trust in the eternal, mighty, holy, truthful God we serve. He is sovereign King. Nothing can touch us unless He allows it.

I don’t know what flood threatens to overwhelm you. Whatever it is that you feel you have no control over, remember this: God is mightier. Actually, I think it’s good for us to be hit with circumstances that force us to see our frailty and weakness. It’s easy to think that we are in control, that we are strong. Those “floods” make us realize that we truly can be swept away very easily by forces we have no control over. The only one able to hold us up, to give us stability, is our Lord.

So call on Him. Trust Him. Just do it.

PRAYER

Help us to cling to You, Lord, when we find ourselves overwhelmed by a flood of circumstances. Bring this psalm to mind so that we can have joy in the midst of what seems like chaos. We praise You for being our everlasting, mighty, truthful, holy King.