June 23

June 23

Ahab (Northern King 22 years) — Syria’s threats & Naboth’s vineyard.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 20

Reading 2: 1 Kings 21

Reading 3: 2 Kings 9:24-26

God’s heart for His people is such that He will go to any lengths to show that He is God, and that He is worthy of allegiance and worship. Today we see God opposing the king of Syria on behalf of king Ahab of Israel, even though Ahab is the most ungodly king Israel has ever known.

By following instructions given by God’s prophet, Ahab is able to defeat the Syrian army of king Ben-Hadad. It is a miraculous victory, and God told them in advance that it was to show that He is God. But following the victory, Ahab shows his disregard for God immediately by entering into a peace treaty with his enemy! So another prophet decrees doom for Ahab.

But before this can happen, Ahab commits a further sin by coveting the land of his neighbor Naboth. When Naboth refuses to sell, Ahab becomes angry and sulky. So Jezebel steps in and has Naboth killed, adding the sin of murder to the sin of coveting. This leads to God’s judgment being declared on Ahab and Jezebel to bring an end to their sin. Although God is patient and wants every sinner to repent and turn away from their rebellion, ultimately He will judge sin to bring it to an end.

Then in a remarkable display of compassion, God responds to Ahab’s repentance by telling Elijah that the judgment on Ahab’s household will be postponed until after his death. Our reading in 2 Kings 9 shows us the completion of the judgement on Ahab’s family as his son Joram is killed and his body thrown out on the plot of land that used to belong to Naboth, where it will be eaten by dogs.

So we draw near to the end of an ungodly dynasty with many lessons to teach us. Let’s resolve again to listen, obey, and worship God alone, shunning any entanglement in demonic or occult powers. God is more than enough, and we are His!

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 22

June 22

Ahab (Northern King 22 years) — Elijah’s depression, God’s compassion, the 7000, & Elisha.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 19

Reading 2: Psalm 103:13-14

Reading 3: Romans 11:1-8

What do you do when ungodly opposition threatens you? Elijah ran for his life! And who could blame him? He has obediently resisted the most ungodly king in Israel’s history, and now the evil wife of that ungodly king has sworn to kill him or die herself! This is fanatical demonic deception of the kind displayed today by ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar radical groups.

Elijah is experiencing depression and burnout. But God is with Elijah and cares for him even while he is running away! When Elijah reaches a place of safety, God meets him there. After Elijah’s history as the fire-calling prophet, you might expect God to speak in the fire, but He does not. We know that Elijah is later taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, but God does not speak today in the wind. God does not speak in the earthquake either, but in a small quiet voice: a gentle whisper.

And this is how God so often speaks to His children – in a gentle whisper. And although Elijah’s depression is caused by the opposition he faces, and leaves him feeling alone, God quietly reassures him that there are 7000 others who have remained faithful to God.

And when Elijah is listening, God gives him further instruction: to anoint Hazael king of Syria (Aram), Jehu king of Israel, and Elisha as his successor. For Elisha there was a cost to his obedience, but he willingly paid the price.

Even when things look hopeless, God is still at work in ways we cannot see. It is the same with God’s chosen people today – the Jews seem to be hostile to the gospel and to be seeking salvation by their observance of the Law, but God says He has chosen some to be His own – to follow their true Messiah Jesus. And it seems the same is true for Islam – even though militant Islam is anti-Christian there are many former Muslims all over the world who have turned to Jesus!

As the Psalmist tells us, God is a loving Father who acts tenderly and compassionately toward us. Who do you know who needs to know that today?

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 21

June 21

Ahab (Northern King 22 years) — Elijah’s victory, the fires from heaven, & end of the drought.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1 Kings 18

Reading 2: 2 Kings 1:1-15

Reading 3: Luke 9:51-56

We have already seen Elijah’s obedience to God through his conflict with wicked king Ahab. The drought that Elijah prophesied lasted three years (making Elijah very unpopular with the king). There was hardship for all in the nation, but this did not stop true believers from trusting God. The exchange between Obadiah and Elijah is almost humorous despite the deadly significance of the task Obadiah is given – to tell his wicked master that his greatest enemy is here!

This leads to the famous confrontation between Elijah (representing God) and the prophets of Baal. Baal and Asherah were pagan deities that God had commanded His people to reject, but Jezebel and Ahab had replaced the worship of God with these two demonic counterfeits.

Elijah is notably unthreatened by the evil around him. He knows the true God and has no reason to be afraid. He sets the challenge and waits for the demonic worship to be fully revealed in all its powerlessness, then calmly asks God to reveal Himself (which of course he does) and this allows Elijah to have all the prophets of Baal killed.

Then Elijah tells Ahab that rain is on the way, but he has to pray until he sees the answer to his own instruction from God. Just as godly people suffered along with the ungodly as a result of Ahab’s rebellion against God, so Elijah had to play his part in seeking the answer God had already promised. The godly suffered with the ungodly, and the servant of God works with God.

Later we see that Ahab’s son Ahaziah is just as ungodly as his father. Faced with injury, he sends messengers not to God’s prophet Elijah, but to consult the pagan god Baal-zebub in Ekron. This deity has the same name as satan himself (see Luke 11:15 where he is called beelzebub) so this is the peak of pagan worship – to ask the rebellious spirit for answers and to reject the living God. Elijah obediently delivers God’s message to Ahaziah’s messengers – that Ahaziah will die for his sin. But Ahaziah wants Elijah arrested for opposing the king. The first captain, and his 50 men, die when Elijah calls down fire from heaven to consume them (just as fire had demonstrated God’s power over Baal on Mount Carmel).

Ahaziah sends a second captain and fifty men, and the same fate befalls them. Undaunted Ahaziah sends a third captain, who fears God (and Elijah) and pleads for his life. This humility is enough to show Elijah it is safe to go with this captain, and so he goes with the captain to Samaria, delivering the message to Ahaziah in person.

Notice that all this happens in obedience to God’s Word. God speaks to Elijah, and Elijah obeys. In the same way Jesus told his followers He only did what He saw the Father doing. So when James and John demonstrate their knowledge of the Old Testament on the way through Samaria, they ask Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven on inhospitable Samaritans. Clearly they remember that this is the way to show Samaria that God is boss? But Jesus rebukes them because (listening to God) He knows this is not what God wants now.

Let us be those who listen carefully to God, and show His love wherever we go, rather than those who think they know God’s methods and call down fire from heaven on everyone who does not fit our stereotype of godliness.

Have a great day!

Mark.

 

June 20

June 20.

Ahab (Northern King 22 years) — Elijah’s powerful prayer & drought of three and a half years.

Today’s Readings:

Reading 1: 1Kings 16:29-34

Reading 2: 1 Kings 17

Reading 3: James 5:16-18

King Ahab was the most wicked king Israel ever had, and that is a dubious honor among so many godless kings! During the 22 years of his reign, God raised up Elijah to stand against the ungodliness and to show that God is still King even if earthly kings turn away from Him, causing evil to grow.

Throughout today’s reading we see how Elijah both listened to God, and had the courage to do what God commanded. In the process, God’s power is demonstrated, evil is resisted, and ordinary people see what God can do. It was  not easy, because evil has an influence in all of our lives through sin, but obedience to God has the power to overcome evil, even before Jesus deals evil a final blow on the cross.

Now we live in the time when Jesus has opened the way for all of us to confess our sin, receive forgiveness, and see our prayers answered. Thank God for this grace, especially in light of so many evil things taking place in our society. Now is the time to pray – not revenge prayers or judgment prayers, but repentance prayers that release healing, forgiveness, and the power of God’s love.

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 18

June 18

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 17

June 17

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 16

June 16

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 15

June 15

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 maybe thank those who we recognize God has put around us to provide it!

Have a great day!

Mark.

June 14

June 14

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 13

June 13

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 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.