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.
How do you know when God’s talking to you? How can you understand if what you think you’re supposed to do is God’s will or just your own desires? In today’s reading from John, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd. He says sheep follow shepherds because they know his voice. We can know God’s voice based on whether or not it lines up with God’s character and if it aligns with what we know of God through Scripture and prayer.
1 Samuel 22:1-23:29:
- 2 – David clearly had many of the same characteristics as Jesus. The low and broken were attracted to him.
- 11-19 – We are not guaranteed that doing the right thing will have positive consequences. The priests protected David, but were ultimately killed by Saul.
- 2 – David consults God to see what God’s will is before he acts.
- 3-5 – The fear of the people causes David to hesitate, but the Lord confirms his desires and David obeys.
- 6-14 – David and his men could have easily been trapped and ambushed in Keilah, but the Lord watched over him. Notice David’s extremely open and close relationship with God. He asked God for specific information and God does not hesitate to share with him.
- 24-29 – Note that God makes the impossible possible. Saul is closing in on David and something urgent arises right at the right time.
- 3-4 – Sheep know their shepherds voice so they follow his instructions. Note that we just read an example of this with David. He was close with God and knew his voice so he had open conversations with him and knew where God was sending him and what he was calling him to do.
- 7-9 – Another I am statement. Basically, Jesus is the passageway to God. He is also that which closes us off from things we do not need to participate in.
- 10 – A very clear comparison between the thief and Jesus. One steals, kills, and destroys, the other brings abundant life. Seems like an easy choice.
- 11 – Another I am statement. Jesus, as the good shepherd, will and does lay down his life for our good.
- 16 – This explains that not only Jews will be saved, but gentiles as well. They are from different flocks, but both will be saved.
- 1 – Psalms lend themselves to songs because many were used as songs in worship. This psalm inspired this early 2000s gem.
- 4-8 – A perfect explanation of why graven images and various idols are worthless. They seem to have so much to offer (we’re obviously talking about our own “idols” here too), but fall short and leave us empty.
- 18 – Yet another example of prudence and wisdom being associated with rational thought out responses.
Suffering is terrible. It is particularly hard when it comes by no fault of your own. Today’s Psalm is a good one to turn to when your suffering blind sides you and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. Turns to God, not to despair.
- 3-9 – Through Balaam’s obedience to God, he is blessed with a greater understanding and insight to God’s plan, provision, and protection for the Israelites. He expresses this in this oracle.
- 1-5 – God takes idolatry and worship of other gods very seriously.
- 9 – A plague killing 24,000 people seems harsh, but God’s plan was to set the Israelites apart. When they intermixed with other nations, they often fell to the temptation of worshipping other gods. Clearly this Israelite who took the Midianite woman did so without regard to the congregation and interfered with worship in doing so.
- 8-15 – The first people to find out about Jesus’ birth are shepherds, one of the lowliest jobs in their society.
- Simeon offers a special blessing for Jesus because it had been revealed to him who Jesus was. Notice that he also is described as having the Holy Spirit upon him. The Holy Spirit was active and working in people well before Jesus officially sent him to the disciples after his resurrection and ascension.
- This Psalm is good for times when we suffer through no fault of our own. David calls out to God and trusts him to take care of him.
Here’s a rockin youth group song from way back when that’s based on the story of Blind Bartimaeus. Quality tunes here, folks. Clearly he gets winded towards the end – he’s just rocking so dang hard.
- No matter who we serve, we are ultimately to serve the Lord.
- 21-22 – These consequences sound severe, but the Lord will not be mocked or pushed aside. He will not allow us to go on sinning against him.
- 44-45 – Though he would punish Israel for their unfaithfulness when necessary, God would not forget Israel or his covenant with them.
- 35 – A pretty bold request.
- 42-45 – We are often concerned with status and being recognized for our skills and accomplishments. Jesus calls us to serve if we hope to lead.
- 52 – Many who were healed or who had demons removed would go and tell about what Jesus did. Bartimaeus, on the other hand, followed him.
- Loving righteousness and hating wickedness is rewarded by God.