Good listening is a rare skill these days. We mostly listen just enough to jump in with our next point. Like today’s proverb says, real skill in listening comes when we listen to what the other person is saying simply to hear and understand them, not to then quickly offer our own opinion.
2 Kings 13:1-14:29:
- 4 – Jehoahaz repents in order to have relief from the constant attack of the Syrians.
- 5 – This “savior” was not the Messiah. This was someone who saved them from military attacks. It is uncertain who this was.
- 14-19 – Elisha gives Joash the opportunity to end their thumpings by Syria, but he does not complete the job and is limited to a temporary break in defeats.
- 21 – This is told simply to display the amount of God’s power Elisha possessed.
- 22-23 – Though Syria heavily oppressed Israel, the Israelites were not completely banished by God. The writer is telling us that at this point in history, the full covenantal curse (all the consequences of breaking their covenant with God) would come to fruition.
- 3-6 – Amaziah was a faithful king, but not quite as faithful as David. He avenges his father’s death according to Moses’ Law.
- 9-10 – In his reply, Jehoash refers to himself as a cedar – a revered, strong, established tree, and to Amaziah as a wimpy thistle.
- 24-28 – Apollos had not yet been baptized in the Spirit, and still needed a little refinement in his teaching. The believers took him under their wing to help him grow in his faith.
- 3-6 – We tend to place our trust in everything but God because we can see and touch them, but there is no salvation apart from the Lord.
- 7-9 – Very reminiscent of Isaiah 61, which Jesus quotes in his first sermon in the temple found in Luke 4.
- 2 – This is one of the key skills in listening. Listen to understand the other person, not to make your next point.
Today in both 2 Kings and Proverbs we learn to follow good advice. We are bombarded with all kinds of messages every day of what we simply must do and what is totally absurd to do. Most of these are simply trying to get us to buy something. It is important that we discern those who have our best interest in mind and are steering us in the right direction. Then, like Joash, we need to follow it.
2 Kings 10:32-12:21:
- 12 – Though Athaliah was ruling in Judah, Joash was the rightful king. When he was 7, he was crowned king by Jehoiada the priest.
- 2-3 – Joash is considered a faithful king. Thankfully he had a great advisor, Jehoiada, the priest. The “high places” listed here were places of worship to God, not other gods, that is why it was good that they were kept.
- 4-8 – Joash institutes a plan to repair the temple. The priests don’t comply and then somehow reach a compromise to no longer take people’s money and also not to repair the temple.
- 21 – Now Joash is killed and his son Amaziah takes over.
- 5-6 – It is common throughout Jesus’ and Paul’s ministries that they try to share the gospel with the Jews but when rejected they offer the same message to the gentiles.
- 7-11 – The faithfulness and hospitality of Titius and Crispus allow Paul to stay and minister in Corinth for a year and a half.
- 12 – Macedonia was the northern part of Greece. Achaia was the southern part. Corinth was located in Achaia.
- 14-15 – Like with Jesus, the Jews bring their complaints to the state official.
- 17 – Sosthenes was the chief ruler of the Corinthian synagogue.
- 8 – God’s steadfast, or unchanging, love is a theme throughout the psalms.
- 9-10 – There is no need to doubt that God wants to and plans to be merciful to all of us. We know this full well because of our salvation. Because of that abundant mercy, we should give continual thanks to God.
- Considering what we just read about Joash’s success as a faithful king because he listened to the wise counsel of Jehoiada, this seems pretty accurate.
Have you noticed yet, in 1 & 2 Kings, what the biggest factor in a king being a good or bad one is? In general, if they follow and worship God, they’re a good king. If they do not, they’re a bad king. Do you think that translates into our culture in any way?
2 Kings 9:14-10:31:
- 14-22 – Joram was king of Israel. Jehu wanted to be. Ahaziah was the short-lived king of Judah. Jehu confirms that he’s not coming in peace because peace is impossible while Joram still allows his mother, Jezebel’s evil ways to remain in the land.
- 25-26 – King Ahab wanted to buy Naboth’s plot of land, but Naboth wouldn’t sell. Jezebel told Ahab to have Naboth killed, so he did.
- 29 – This is the same Ahaziah that just died. There was also a king of Israel named Ahaziah, but he’s already come and gone.
- 1-8 – Naturally, one of Ahab’s sons should have become king after Ahaziah’s death, but Jehu assures that doesn’t happen by killing them all.
- 18-31 – Jehu seems to have such potential to be faithful to God by wiping out Baal from Israel, but he remains sinful in other ways.
- 1- Thessalonica is where Paul sent the Letter to the Thessalonians. He did not visit all the churches he wrote to, but this is one he did.
- 2-9 – Jason was a local believer who allowed Paul and Silas to stay with him. He was punished with a fine for hosting the apostles.
- 11-12 – People weren’t simply believing blindly, but were studying the Scriptures to discern and it led them to the truth.
- 22-34 – Paul’s address to the people of Athens is powerful and convincing, even quoting some of their culture’s writings. As was always the case, some were convinced and some were not.
- 1-2 – War was a way of life for David. While some he talks about are internal, he often is talking about real wars.
- It is clear, due to the frequency with which David addresses God in these ways, that he views God as his provider and protector.
- 28 – This is the origin of the well-known adage, “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Have you ever felt unworthy to ask God for something? Maybe you thought it wasn’t important enough or that you didn’t deserve it. In today’s psalm, David admits that he has sinned but he asks for God’s protection and blessing anyway. God wants to know our hearts and wants us to ask for what we need. A good rule of thumb is to repent (this assumes true repentance) and then ask God for what you need.
2 Kings 8:1-9:13:
- 10 – God made it clear that the king would not die from the illness, but he would die soon.
- 15 – Hazael kills the king by putting a wet, heavy blanket on his face and suffocating him.
- 4-6 – Jehu is made king over Israel after quite a line of evil kings.
- 16-24 – Paul drives the evil spirit out of the young women, but her owners, who profited off that spirit are not pleased. They get others on board and beat and imprison the apostles.
- 25-34 – Paul and Silas are miraculously released from prison, but they stay and end up converting the jailer.
- 1-2 – David asks that the Lord would grant his prayers while admitting his own sinfulness and inability to deserve God’s blessings.
- The entire psalm is an earnest prayer asking God to hear him and protect him.
- Presumably the fine would be unwarranted if it was placed on a righteous man.
It’s hard to be a faithful Christian in our society. We are bombarded by temptations and our culture does not lend itself to faithfulness. We are often teased for being prudes or are simply excluded because we might judge others.
Undoubtedly, this is difficult. However, this week, we will read about Paul and several of his companions who had a truly difficult road. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and more. He frequently faced outright opposition. And yet, he was determined to spread the gospel to anyone who would listen. He would even say what an honor it was to face persecution for the sake of Christ.
This week, as you read Acts, thank God for the challenges you face in being faithful. If you continually pursue Christ these will eventually prove to be strengthening.
In today’s Acts reading we meet Timothy, Paul’s protégé. Paul mentors and trains Timothy to also be able to minister to early churches and spread the gospel. Paul prepares Timothy for pitfalls, allows him to watch his ministry and travel with him, and encourages him in his gifts. What if we each had a faith protégé?
2 Kings 6:1-7:20:
- Here’s that chart of the kings again, just in case:
- 1-7 – This was not just a party trick or Elisha showing off. The man’s accident with the axe head was done while attempting to be more faithful. Elisha used God’s power to bless his faith.
- 15-19 – Elisha’s servant is given special sight to see what’s going on. The Syrian army is not struck completely blind, but just blind to Elisha’s true identity.
- 20-23 – Though a rare occasion in the Old Testament, the Syrians and Israelites are able to resolve the situation peacefully.
- 25 – People are buying donkey heads and dove poop. Clearly the famine was really bad. They were so desperate they were eating the least desirable part of an unclean animal and paying high dollar for dove poop – which they were probably burning or using for other household tasks – not eating it.
- 26-31 – While this story is absolutely horrifying – here is some background: Joram was the king of Israel. His sins as well as the sins of the people had gotten so out of control that some of the curses associated with breaking their covenant with God had started to occur. Though Joram’s response in verse 31 suggests that the famine and reactions by the people are God or Elisha’s fault, it was actually caused by the ongoing sin of the people.
- 3-20 – The four lepers were Israelites, this is why they tell the king when the Syrians’ camp is empty. The Israelites, like Elisha prophesied, had abundant, affordable food.
- 39-40 – Church disputes happen because we’re human. Like this one, God works good through our failures. Now there are two teams ministering instead of the one they had before.
- 1-5 – Timothy became Paul’s protégé. Paul circumcised Timothy, even though it was no longer truly necessary, to give him credibility with those he would minister to.
- 10 – Note that the narrator goes from being simply a narrator to a participant by starting to use “we”. This is to indicate that Luke, the writer of Acts, has joined the mission team.
- This psalm said it was written when David is in the cave. This is most likely talking about when he was hiding in the cave with some of his men and Saul came in to use the restroom. David had an opportunity to kill Saul, but only cut off a piece of his robe instead.
- At this time David has been anointed as king but is on the run because Saul is still in power and is pursuing him to kill him.
- 24 – We often look to everything else to satisfy us, but wisdom will guide us faithfully where we are supposed to go.
It is far easier to hold onto what we know and never let go, even if it’s not the best thing for us. Change is hard and scary and requires trust. Many of the Jews who became believers were excited about Jesus, but didn’t trust in grace for salvation completely. They wanted to dabble in faith and in trusting the law for holiness. Peter works to make it clear you have to choose one or the other.
2 Kings 4:18-5:27:
- 18-25 – In yesterday’s reading, this child was promised to the woman as a gift from God, and now he dies. The woman’s faith is greatly tested. She puts him on his bed and shuts the door so no one else will know he died. She seeks Elisha to explain what’s going on with her son since Elisha was the one who told her she would have this child.
- 32-44 – Note that there are three miracles in a row. A resurrection, providing food where there is none, and providing more food than there actually was. Any time there are three of something in Scripture, we should pay attention. Elisha is clearly connected to and filled with the power of God.
- 9-10 – Though Elisha invites Naaman to his house, he does not let him in. This is strange considering the hospitality culture of ancient Israelites.
- 11 – Naaman wanted a grand, miraculous healing and thought Elisha’s instructions were a farce.
- 15-16 – It was not unusual for faithful Israelites to turn down gifts from other nations. This was to show their commitment to the provision of God and so no other nation or god could take credit for the Israelites’ well-being.
- 20-27 – Gehazi did not trust the Lord for provision and saw an opportunity. He lied to both Naaman and Elisha and his punishment was receiving the leprosy Naaman had.
- 1-11 – Some Jews, who had become believers, still felt the need to cling to the law and the sign that they were set apart. Peter urges them that the law had not worked for salvation and so it is the grace of Jesus alone that saves.
- 19-21 – Peter makes it clear that Jesus didn’t abolish faithfulness and living to please God. There were still standards. It was just important to know that the law wasn’t a means of salvation.
- 3-4 – David gives God permission to help control his mouth and heart so he can be more faithful.
- 5 – David also welcomes correction from faithful people.
It’s important to read the Bible carefully. If only skimming, stories like the one of the King of Moab sacrificing his son, in today’s Acts reading, could be mistaken for something God wanted or chose. God did not want the king to sacrifice his son. God did not ask him to do that. That was the king’s own evil choice. We tend to read the Bible as if everything is telling us to “go and do likewise”. This is simply not the case.
2 Kings 3:1-4:17:
- 9 – The kingdoms of Israel and Judah had not been united on anything since just after Solomon’s reign.
- 13 – Elisha learned his sass from Elijah. The king of Israel’s parents worshipped Baal. Elisha is pointing out that the king wants the Lord’s help even though he hasn’t been faithful to the Lord.
- 17-19 – It is often the simplest things that prove God’s favor or lack there of. Like when wandering in the desert, the Israelites lack water and God provides it.
- 27 – The King of Moab who sacrificed his son did not do this to honor God. God did not ask this of him.
- 1-7 – The Lord provided for the woman when it seemed impossible. He multiplied the oil to make it profitable for her so she could take care of herself and her son.
- 8-10 – Above and beyond hospitality
- 11-17 – Elisha was blessed and then asked the Lord to bless the woman in return.
- 8-10 – Healings often happened because of faith. This one is simply because Paul saw faith in the crippled man.
- 11-18 – The people assumed that Paul and Barnabas were their gods in human form. This, for obvious reasons, greatly distressed the men of God.
- 19-23 – When Paul later writes about suffering for the sake of Christ, he is not speaking figuratively. He truly had suffered greatly to share the gospel.
- It is pretty incredible that, with so many aggressive enemies, David is still able to focus on and remain faithful to God. At the same time, it is pretty incredible how well God protected David from his enemies.
- Joy, a fruit of the spirit, is more than just enjoyable, it’s life giving.
Psalm 139 is a powerful one about how intimately God knows us and how purposefully he made each one of us. It is futile to attempt to run from him and why would we want to? He knew us before we were born and loved us before our parents knew we were on our way. Here is a modern interpretation of the psalm:
2 Kings 1:1-2:25:
- 2 – Reminder: Ahaziah is the king of Judah. It is obviously not good that he’s seeking advice from Baal-zebub.
- 3 – A little sass from Elijah – clearly God was present, but Ahaziah chooses to consult other gods.
- 8 – This is very similar to the outfit John the Baptist was described to have worn. John the Baptist was considered the second Elijah.
- 9-16 – The first two captains with soldiers the king sent were most likely intending to do Elijah harm, this is why he wants to have them killed. The third captain and soldiers come more peacefully.
- 8 – Very reminiscent of Moses parting the Red Sea.
- 11-12 – Elijah is the second person in the Old Testament who doesn’t die. Enoch was the first who was simply taken to heaven.
- 23-25 – Most commentaries explain this as the boys having such disrespect, as did all their people, for the prophet Elisha or anything else representative of God. Elisha’s curse was also representative of the fate of the rest of the people in the city who rejected God. All in all, this is a strange and disturbing passage.
- 44-47 – The Jews, who were jealous of Paul and Barnabas’ crowd, denounced what Paul was saying. Paul reminds them that Jesus came for them first but was rejected. The gentiles now had a shot.
- 1-7 – Though the readings have, at times, been misinterpreted as such, the Jews weren’t bad. Throughout Acts, many come to faith. Some of the Jewish religious leaders, however, did oppose Jesus’ mission and ministry and cause problems.
- A beautiful psalm explaining the depth to which God knows us. He knew us in our mother’s womb. He knows our movements and our thoughts.
- 23-24 – A powerful request for God to fully search your heart and take away the parts that don’t please him. A difficult prayer to pray, but the results would be life changing!
There are certain things in life that you simply cannot do halfway. You can’t get kind of married. You can’t come to work sometimes (and expect to keep working there). And you can’t love God most of the time. This is what Jehoshaphat tried to do. For the most part, he’s a good guy…but he was only faithful to a point. God is not looking for partial followers or sometimes believers. He is looking for our whole hearts and whole commitment.
1 Kings 22:1-53:
- 5 – Jehoshaphat was willing to go into an alliance with Ahab, but only if the Lord approved it.
- 6-8 – The 400 prophets who gave Ahab the go-ahead were not prophets of the Lord. Micaiah was and he spoke truth from the Lord. Ahab preferred good news to truth.
- 40 – Micaiah was right. Ahab trying to conquer Ramoth-gilead was a bad idea. He dies in battle and Ahaziah takes over.
- 42-44 – It seems that Jehoshaphat intended to honor and worship God, but he failed in certain areas – leaving up certain allegiances to other gods and making an alliance with someone who did not honor God.
- Today’s reading is pretty much the best sermon ever preached.
- 16-25 – Paul sums up the grace of God and the failures of the Israelites from Jacob to John the Baptist.
- 26-41 – Paul explains how Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies the Jews read so frequently and longed to have fulfilled. He also warns them not to be the ones who fulfilled the prophecy that many people would not see and understand.
- So many of David’s psalms show his steadfastness in praising God despite his surroundings or circumstances.
- 17 – True, godly relationships are able to withstand difficulty and trials.