This portion of Isaiah isn’t the most uplifting…but ends with hope! Because there is hope! And if you read carefully, you’ll find a number of clues pointing to our ultimate hope – JESUS!!
How do you help someone follow Jesus? Paul makes it really clear in our 1 Corinthians reading. If I’m following Christ, I can simply invite them to follow me. There is obviously a big “if” involved though. I first have to make sure I’m following Christ in order to ask a perspective disciple to follow me.
- 3-19 – This is the list of people who settled back into Jerusalem.
- 1-26 – These are lists of the various priests and Levites post exile.
1 Corinthians 10:14-11:2:
- 14-22 – Paul urges the Israelites not to participate in the sacrifices offered to idols, but to remember that participating in communion makes us connected to all believers.
- 23-30 – Based on how hard Paul is hammering this point home, clearly the Corinthians were struggling with what was good and lawful to eat. His point is that nothing starts out unclean any longer. However, anything already sacrificed to idols is off limits.
- 1 – The perfect model of discipleship. I can feel confident in asking you to follow me if I am confident that I am following Christ.
- 18 – A good reminder when we or someone we love is heartbroken.
Is your faithfulness circumstantial? It’s not uncommon for people to be faithful when they need something and then, as things get easier for them, they don’t “need” anything anymore and feel no need to be faithful. Obviously other circumstances effect our faithfulness as well. In today’s 2 Chronicles story, Joash’s faithfulness seems to be dependent on his mentor. We should be faithful because of our love for and reverence to God. This doesn’t change with circumstances, but remains because God remains.
2 Chronicles 24:1-25:28:
- 5 – The temple had fallen into disrepair after a number of unfaithful kings. Joash wanted to raise money to repair the temple.
- 7 – Just like the Israelites were set apart for God, the temple and all its contents were set apart for worshipping God. It must have grieved God greatly when these items were used for worshipping other gods.
- 10 – People don’t normally rejoice when paying taxes, but this tax was to restore them with their God. This seems worthy of celebration.
- 15-22 – Jehoiada’s death is a major turning point for Joash. He switches from being faithful to totally abandoning faithfulness. He listens to the wicked princes of Judah and kills Jehoiada’s son Zechariah.
- 14 – The Israelites were often temped into worshipping other gods, but normally not as quickly and blatantly as Amaziah. God had just blessed Amaziah with a war victory, which to the people of that time, was a sign that the God of the victorious army was more powerful. It seems odd that he would immediately turn to a lesser god.
- 1 – This is one of the main reasons it matters how we take care of our bodies. Our bodies should be one of our offerings to God.
- 3-8 – As the Body of Christ, we come together with a variety of talents, skills, and opportunities to serve. None are more important than the other, they just present differently. This is why we are all necessary.
- 12 – My personal favorite verse of the Bible. Feel free to claim it as your own too.
- 14-21 – Powerful verses on how we should treat one another.
- 25-31 – These sound like what it will be like when the Kingdom of God is fully realized.
- None of us can claim to have made our own hearts pure. Jesus is the only one who can do that for us.
Leaders are leaders for a reason. They have influence and people choose to follow them whether they recognize their choice or not. The Bible is full of good and bad leaders and their quality tends to define the quality of their constituents – particularly in the arena of faithfulness. In today’s 2 Chronicles reading, we see examples of both, but note that King Jehoshaphat takes it further than most. He not only leads his people towards faithfulness, but extends his reach to those surrounding him. I wonder your reach could extend?
2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34:
- 6 – Taking down the high places, where false god worship often occurred, seemed to be the final act of faithfulness that even most of the faithful kings failed to complete.
- 7-10 – Throughout 1&2 Kings we see the faithfulness of the people closely follow the faithfulness of the king. Hear King Jehoshaphat takes it a step further and has his officials teach those in the surrounding lands about God.
- 1-3 – It was unusual for Israel and Judah to work together during their split. There were reasons they split.
- 16 – This phrase “sheep without a shepherd” is used often when people don’t have anyone to follow. Jesus called the Jews that when he started his ministry. The Israelites were often called this when they were not following God.
- 11-22 – Ahab’s prophets guaranteed he would have victory at Ramoth-gilead, but Micaiah explains that they all have a lying spirit and that, due to Ahab’s unfaithfulness, God intends for Ahab to fail. Ahab didn’t really believe Micaiah because he hadn’t liked previous prophesies he’d given.
- 29-34 – Ahab did everything he could to avoid his fate, but what God speaks is true.
- 25-26 – Hosea is a prophet and a book of the Bible. Hosea was called to marry a promiscuous woman so his life could serve as a microcosm of God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful Israel.
- 30-33 – Most human sin points back to our desire to rely on ourselves instead of relying on God.
- 9-13 – This is a quick summary of salvation.
- Most of David’s Psalms are focused on his own troubles, needs, and praises. This one is clearly meant for the whole group.
- 7 – A powerful declaration. Might be something nice to hang above your door frame.
- 3 – Avoiding unnecessary conflict is wise. Fools tend to rush into it.
Even for faithful folks, it’s easier to focus and spend our time on the things that are most imminent, those that we can see and touch. Even more than that, we tend to have things that scream for our attention. Those demand that we give them our time and attention. In today’s Romans reading, we are reminded of how easy it is to give ourselves over to whatever idol is placed before us. But we must remember that none of these things will satisfy like worshipping God.
1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36:
- 1-24 – David prepares a huge celebration for the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
- 29 – This is the same story that’s found in 2 Samuel 6 when David dances undignified before the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant returns to its rightful place and people.
- 8-36 – Like Moses, Mary, Zechariah, and others, David has a song for the Lord to praise him for a specific situation but also uses that time to praise God for his overall goodness.
- 20 – This verse explains that God’s character and attributes are revealed through creation – aka we can know that he gives us new life when we see leaves reappear on trees in the spring, or we can see his power and majesty through the mountains, etc. This is an answer to many people who wonder about people who have never heard about God. They have seen him all around them.
- 22-23 – It is easier to worship the things we see, touch, and are familiar with. This is why the Israelites wanted some tangible thing, even just a golden calf, to convince themselves that there was a god to worship and take care of them.
- 24-27 – Four times in a row, Paul explains that people exchanged God’s perfect plan for something counterfeit. He explains that God gave the people over to the counterfeit thing they desired.
- 28-32 – Those who are not righteous not only practice these things that are listed, but they also encourage others to practice them as well.
- The psalmist seems to be describing someone who is wicked and sinning purposefully. And seemingly, it is someone who is sinning and wicked towards him. Though the judgment and request for punishment sounds harsh, we would probably feel the same way towards our true enemies.
- This is also the psalm of people who, in frustration, watch others get away with bad things.
- Once again we’re confronted with our bias towards wealth. Poor men tend to be left in a lurch by everyone where as people come out of the woodworks for someone with money or influence.
Oh dear sweet Azariah, you almost had it! In today’s 2 Kings reading Azariah realizes, as should have been very clear by now, that partial faithfulness is actually not faithfulness at all. Azariah seems like a good king and does a lot of faithful things, but he draws the line at destroying worship implements of other gods, which would have helped protect his people from worshipping other gods. Partial faithfulness is also partially unfaithful.
2 Kings 15:1-16:20:
- 1 – Azariah was also known as Uzziah, who we’ll hear about in the book of Isaiah.
- 4-5 – Though Azariah was faithful in a lot of ways, he did not destroy the opportunities for the Israelites to worship other gods. His punishment was leprosy.
- 12-13 – Shallum was no longer in the same family as the previous kings.
- 16 – This kind of terror and violence was foretold by Elisha. Because Israel had strayed so far from God, Hazael of Syria and others were able to get in and cause total chaos and destruction. Elisha and God were not pleased by these consequences, but they knew and warned that Israel’s sins would lead them to this type of harm.
- 37 – Not only had Israel split in two (Israel and Judah) politically, but now Israel has joined forces with Syria to attack Judah. Remember, that Israel and Judah are all descendants of one family.
- 10-16 – King Ahaz, the new king of Judah, builds an alter replicating the one in Assyria. This is not an altar to God, but to one of the Assyrian gods. The king of Assyria then dictates what types of offerings the people of Judah should offer.
- 19 – After each king’s profile it says that the rest of what that king did is written in a different book. The writers of 1 and 2 Kings only included what the king did in relation to God and the covenant the Israelites had with God.
- 13-20 – The Ephesians had seen Paul cast out evil spirits and some people wanted to do the same by using magic. It backfired and caused a lot more people to follow Jesus.
- 23-27 – It is no new thing that people are persuaded to be unfaithful in order to secure or grow their finances.
- 32-34 – A case of mob mentality.
- 35-41 – The mob is disassembled, but the issue is not resolved.
- This psalm is a series of urges to praise God followed by reasons why he is worthy of praise.
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!
Now that we’ve read a little bit into the kings, let’s learn a little bit more about why we have these two books (that were once one). Warning: be prepared to be disappointed in humanity.
Like trying to keep the Israelites separate from all other people groups, God often sets parameters for us to protect us. The Israelites didn’t listen, they intermingled, and it ultimately led to their destructions as they chose to worship the gods of the neighboring people. We sometimes feel stifled by our parameters and don’t want to abide by them, but ultimately, it will lead to our destruction too.
1 Kings 14:1-15:24:
- Clarification because of all the rhyming names: Rehoboam = Solomon’s son who was king of only Judah and Benjamin. Jeroboam = one of Solomon’s former officials who God appointed king over Israel. Abijah = Jeroboam’s son. Ahijah = a prophet who told Jeroboam he would be king.
- 6-12 – Choosing and worshipping other gods was the most egregious sin someone could commit. Losing a child is the most painful punishment one could receive.
- 22-24 – Though it seemed harsh at the time, now it makes sense why God drove other people groups out of the land intended for the Israelites. They were to be set apart so they wouldn’t be influenced to worship other gods and disobey God’s law. By intermingling, they have now fallen prey to these temptations.
- The list of the kings of both Judah and Israel can become complicated. Here is a chart of who was king of where when.
- When a verse has an “a” or “b” by it, this simply means to read through the first half of the verse, normally ending in a period, or to start with the second half of the verse.
- 9-16 – Peter, though a dedicated follower of Jesus, was still culturally a Jew and still followed their laws. He feared eating something that was previously forbidden, but God made it clear that he was now allowed to.
- 2 – Anointing with oil in this culture was a sign of great honor. This is specifically talking about Aaron being anointed as chief priest.
Everyone has a “bad idea friend”. They’re the friend who is always talking you into things that get you in trouble, cause you to make bad investments, and ultimately make life more difficult. Unfortunately, Rehoboam chose to listen to his “bad idea friends” instead of wise counsel. He had an opportunity to be a great king, but bad ideas get the best of him. It’ll make you think twice about who you take advice from.
1 Kings 11:1-12:19:
- 1-3 – Solomon knew the law and knew the reasoning for the law, but he was unable to withstand his desires and ultimately, it led to his downfall.
- 4-8 – David sinned, but never worshipped or offered any sort of allegiance to other gods. Solomon divided his heart between many gods, this breaks the first and most important commandment.
- 11-13 – God promised that David’s line would be on the throne as long as they were faithful to him. Solomon has already failed there. God had such love for David, though, that he allows his line to stay partially in leadership.
- 36 – It was important for David’s line to stay on the throne because Jesus eventually comes from David’s line.
- 40 – Clearly Solomon had strayed far from God if he was willing to oppose God’s will even to the point of killing God’s chosen future king.
- 6-8 – Rehoboam had a chance to be a beloved king. He only needed to listen to the wise counsel of the older men and lighten the load of the people.
- 8-15 – Rehoboam, instead, listens to his bonehead friends and chooses to increase the difficulty of the people. Rehoboam’s sin ultimately causes the split of the kingdom, which, over time, causes all kinds of problems and makes them so vulnerable that both parts of the kingdom are conquered.
- 2 – “The Way” is what early Christians were called.
- 3-16 – Certainly there were many people who persecuted the early Christians. God had a specific purpose for Saul – to minister to the gentiles – so he converted him dramatically.
- 20-22 – Saul’s conversion was so dramatic because he was well known for persecuting Christians. We know him as Paul, a faithful disciple, so it’s easy for us to believe what he says about practicing our faith, but those who had heard of him previously would have had a difficult time.
- This Psalm indicates humility and reliance, like a young child, on God.
- This proverb seems to describe the actions of a bully and how they will not prosper.