June 20

June 20

Five Wicked Kings (Northern Kings 40 years) — The sins of five different kings & God’s anger.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1Kings 15:25-33

Reading 2: 1Kings 16:1-28

Reading 3: Isaiah 65:2-3

The decline into evil continues in Israel (the northern kingdom) as king after king turns away from God and engages in self-promoting and corrupting behaviors.

Evil always shows itself violently, and the greater the evil the greater the violence (as we see on the news day by day). But let us remember that evil is not a force or a commodity. Evil is the absence of good, just as cold is the absence of heat, and darkness is the absence of light. (You may have seen the viral video attributing this insight to Albert Einstein).

So here we see kings of an ungodly nation running ever further from God, and evil growing as a result. This is not what God wants (as the prophet Isaiah records), but He gives us the freedom to choose, nonetheless. Love cannot be forced, it has to be freely given. The good news is that, in Jesus God’s love is freely given to us. So let’s resolve to go in the opposite direction to those ungodly kings, and pursue God with all our hearts.

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 19

June 19

Asa (Southern King 41 years) — Asa relies on Syria instead of relying on the Lord.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 15:1-24

Reading 2: 2 Chronicles 16:1-14

Reading 3: Psalm 118:5-14

The recurring theme in the books of Kings and Chronicles is whether each successive king does what is evil in the sight of God, or whether a king stands against the tide of decline and does what is pleasing in God’s sight.

Asa starts out his rule in Judah by doing what pleases God, but in the end he turns to a treaty with pagan Syria (Aram) rather than relying on God to give him victory over Israel (the northern kingdom which is consistently less godly than Judah).

Hanani the seer (prophet) exposes Asa’s folly in trusting his own alliances or wisdom rather than God. Ultimately Asa seeks only the wisdom of his physicians rather than asking God for healing for his foot disease, and so the disease kills him within two years. This is not an indictment of medical professionals – medicine was not yet fully developed and physicians were more like witch doctors than doctors!

Hanani tells Asa this powerful truth: The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. Yet Asa does not choose full commitment to God. The Psalmist also tells us the benefits of such trust: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.

We miss so much when we compromise our commitment to God; He wants us to succeed and to prosper.

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 18

June 18

Jeroboam (Northern King 22 years) — Jeroboam creates idols to keep the people’s allegiance.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 12:25-33

Reading 2: 1 Kings 13

Reading 3: 1 Kings 14:1-20

Today we see the ungodly lengths the rebel king Jeroboam goes to in order to secure the loyalty of his people. Showing that the use of religion and superstition are nothing new in the armory of deception, he creates two golden calves, like the idols made by the Israelites while Moses was up the mountain with God in the book of Exodus!

And so we see the consequences of turning away from God to idolatry of any kind – whether golden calves, or wealth, or political power, or religious authority, or atheistic dogma; man cannot prosper by ignoring or denying God’s principles or God’s standards. Rejecting God results in God rejecting us!

Thank God we have a Savior who has overturned this pattern of rebellion and saved us when we did not deserve to be saved!

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 17

June 17

Rehoboam (Southern King 17 years) — Rehoboam ignores the wisdom of answering gently.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 12:1-24

Reading 2: 1 Kings 14:21-30

Reading 3: Proverbs 15:1

If David’s united kingdom and Solomon’s building of the Temple were the peak of the nation of Israel, we now start the descent into the dark valley of judgment. It will be years before there is a powerful display of godliness in the nation again.

And it all begins with pride, just as with satan’s fall (and Adam & Eve’s sin). When we think we are right, and act without being open to wise counsel, then we will always fail. Rehoboam makes this fatal mistake. Listening to his peers, and failing to heed the wiser counsel of his father’s advisors, leads him into prideful boasting and threats which drive the nation from him. If he had read the wisdom of Proverbs, he would have known that a gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

After tempers flared, and the eleven tribes rejected David’s tribe and their king, Rehoboam is left with just the tribe of Judah (and the city of Jerusalem) to reign over. And there is constant war, eating away at what little he has left. What a high price he paid for failing to listen to advice!

We do well to remember that none of us has all the answers, and none of us is without weakness and sin, so God’s provision of wisdom through others around us is invaluable. This is especially true of those older than ourselves with godly experience. Let’s resolve to seek wise input today, and to recognize and thank those God has put around us to provide it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 16

June 16

Pause and reflect

Take a moment or two today; review what you have written in your journal the past week or two. Maybe revisit a reading that spoke to you strongly.

This journey is not one of checking off a whole list, or reaching a desired pinnacle of achievement, but one of growing in relationship with the God who loves us.

Solomon’s life would have ended differently if that had been his goal. Yours can be different because the Holy Spirit lives in you and will guide you into all truth.

Selah!

Have a great day.

Mark.

June 15

June 15

Solomon & his Death — Solomon’s final comments on the meaning of life.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1Kings 11:41-43

Reading 2: Ecclesiastes 1

Reading 3: Ecclesiastes 12

Finally we reach the end of Solomon’s life; a life with notable achievement (primarily the building and dedication of the Temple, but also the accumulation of great wealth and influence). His life was also conspicuously fallible – multiple wives who led him astray to worship other gods, incurring God’s anger and judgment.

At the beginning of his book of wisdom, Solomon declares that everything is meaningless. That sentiment is restated at the end of the book, but he adds this wisdom: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

If only Solomon had heeded his own wisdom! Then he would have avoided God’s judgment that will take the kingdom away from his son.

Since Jesus paid for our sin, we no longer have to pay for our own errors (as Solomon did). Instead we can enjoy the benefits of Jesus’ death in our place and welcome the Holy Spirit to lead us, guide us, and make us fruitful.

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 14

June 14

Solomon & his Wives — Solomon’s wives turn Solomon’s heart away from God.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1Kings 11:1-40

Reading 2: Deuteronomy 17:14-20

Reading 3: Nehemiah 13:25-31

Solomon’s magnificent reign comes to a sad end with his disobedience to God leading him into great sin. God had commanded the king to avoid marrying many wives, as well as to take care not to pile up wealth for himself. Solomon appears to have disregarded both these instructions and he pays a heavy price. God takes the throne away from Solomon’s family, just as He had warned.

Later, Solomon’s example was taken up by Nehemiah in calling for purity among the Israelites resettling the land they had lost through sin. We can’t ignore sin – it will always be our downfall. The only solution is death. Thankfully this is the very solution Jesus chose for us!

So when (not if) our hearts turn away from God, the solution is to repent for our sin, and trust Jesus to forgive us, restore us, and lead us in God’s ways again.

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 13

June 13

Solomon & his Wealth — Solomon’s wealth & his thoughts on the limitations of wealth.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1Kings 10:14-29

Reading 2: Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Reading 3: Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

Today’s reading may be hard for us to read! Solomon had so much wealth that silver was considered worthless in his day! He had more than anyone could ever need, and his wealth kept increasing. Sounds like a candidate for an Occupy protest – a greedy, one-percent king robbing the poor to line his own pockets. But that is not the reason why Solomon was rich. He was rich because he was wise, and that is a principle that is still true today. Prosperity is not a guarantee of wisdom, but wisdom is a guarantee of prosperity. Not on the scale of Solomon, but prosperity nonetheless. Not every rich person is wise, but every wise person prospers. That is why seeking wisdom from God (as Solomon did) is the greatest path to success anyone could take.

But when we turn over to Ecclesiastes, we learn what Solomon learned about riches – riches alone are meaningless. There is a place for wealth, and God wants us wealthy, but not in the sense of accumulated riches. Our wealth is to be in contentment, diligence, and trust. With those wisdom riches, almost any amount of money is enough!

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 12

June 12

Solomon & the Queen of Sheba — Solomon, Jesus, & us being ready to answer questions.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 10:1-13

Reading 2: Matthew 12:42

Reading 3: 1 Peter 3:15

Today’s famous meeting, between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, is a model for us. We don’t have the material wealth that Solomon had; our households are much simpler without servants or soldiers. But we have what Solomon had: we know the God of the Universe as our Lord and Savior. That alone makes us curiosities, and attractions, to those around us who do not yet know “The Lord Your God” (verse 9). Seeing Him in us, those who are not yet believers will be drawn to Him in worship and amazement.

This attractiveness is not the result of our rational understanding of God or our observance of His rules – the Pharisees had that, but Jesus said the Queen of Sheba will condemn them for not seeking His wisdom.

Today I pray for you, that your life will be more like Solomon’s than like the Pharisees – hungry for God’s wisdom, focused on His love, and attractive to everyone around you.

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 11

June 11

Solomon & the Temple — Solomon’s speech, Solomon’s prayer, & God’s second visit.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 8

Reading 2: 1 Kings 9:1-9

Reading 3: 1 Kings 11:9-10

Chapter 8 is a massive chapter, full of accounts of God’s faithfulness and blessing. We see that God is worthy of praise, and all His people join in praising Him. Solomon celebrates both his father, David, and his God. He also blesses the people.

When God appears to Solomon a second time, He warns the king to be faithful, otherwise all this splendor will be lost. This is not a threat from a vindictive God, but a warning from a loving Father who wants His children to flourish and be blessed.

Yet we know that Solomon failed the faithfulness test. He did not maintain the integrity of his commitment to God, but took many foreign wives (in an echo of both his father David, and other fallible leaders such as Samson). These wives inevitably led Solomon astray, and resulted in the downfalls God warned him of before.

Let’s remember that none of us is perfect. We all fail because we are human, marred by sin and self-centeredness. Such instability is universal and leads each of us into rebellion and sin sooner or later. We all need the grace only Jesus can offer; which is why we are all the more grateful for His atonement when we see the ups and downs of humanity in stories like today’s.

Our story has to be interwoven with His-Story to avoid becoming a tragedy.

Have a great day!

Mark.