I’ve heard a number of people say they wish God would just give them specific instructions. Do this. Don’t do this. Then it would be far easier to follow them. We see in today’s Zechariah reading, and we’ve seen it so many times before in Scripture, that there are some specific instructions. With these, you can’t go wrong. Be kind. Show mercy. Help the poor. Hopefully that helps.
- 1-8 – The horses and chariots seem to represent God’s power returning to Judah and Israel.
- 9-14 – Zerubbabel and Joshua were to work together to rebuild the temple.
- 8-10 – God tells the Israelites, through Zechariah, exactly how he wants them to live. He is looking for kindness, mercy, and help for the poor.
- 11-14 – The Israelites didn’t listen but hardened their hearts.
- 1 – Though “plague” is never an enjoyable thing, it is good that the wrath of God will soon be over.
- 1-4 – David admits his past sins and repents. He knows that no one can stand before God’s righteousness.
- 9-12 – David not only looks to God for forgiveness, but also for protection from enemies.
- These are fascinating examples of creatures who have been given little but make the most of it. Presumably, we could learn a lot from them.
Today’s psalm is a reminder of God’s provision of care and comfort for those who are made low by the world. God doesn’t see or treat us by the world’s standards. He is not impressed with our wealth or power. He sees our needs and meets them. When people have great need, he responds greatly.
- 1-6 – Through yet another vessel, Judah is hearing of their upcoming destruction.
- 7-18 – This prophecy proclaims that destruction is coming soon and all the things the people had previously relied on will not be able to rescue them.
- 1-15 – Though Judah faced destruction from God, God still didn’t take kindly to other nations oppressing or harming Judah. They too would face judgment and destruction.
- 14-20 – Not unusually, God promises that after punishment there will be restoration for Israel. God’s ultimate desire is to restore relationship and connection with Israel.
- 1- The rainbow over the angels head is a reminder of the covenant God made with Noah and of the hope that encompasses all of the judgments.
- 1-7 – The angel with the small scroll declares that the major judgment is coming soon and that the seventh angel would bring more clarity of God’s mystery. Instead of more judgment, this angel simply brings more clarity to what is to come.
- 8-11 – The scroll tasted sweet at first because the message is good for the prophet – it is the word of God and the prophet had been faithful. It becomes bitter because the prophet, though he will not face destruction himself, is human and is being made aware of the judgment coming down on humanity.
- 6 – Throughout Scripture God raises up the lowly. This should offer us great comfort that God sees the plight of those who struggle. He does not leave them alone. When we are proud and feel that we do not need God, he obliges.
- These verses warn us that there are people out there who have evil in their heart and act upon it.
Want a guaranteed 100 on a pop quiz? Simply ask yourself the questions in verse four of today’s Proverb and answer “God” every time. It’ll work. I promise. And, in the process, be reminded of God’s incredible and matchless power.
- 1 – This establishes that God will use Micah as a prophet and that he is to communicate God’s message to a series of kings of Judah.
- 2-9 – Judah will receive punishment and all the idols will be destroyed because of its sin.
- 1-11 – God declares the destruction those who work evil will face. Like in other books, God makes clear that he will not tolerate oppression of the weak.
- 1-12 – This chapter denounces rulers and prophets, but it only denounces those who are not following God and are leading people astray. This is definitely not denouncing all prophets, because it is being spoken through a prophet that God has chosen to use.
- 6-13 – The Lord promises to rescue Zion. Zion is the mountain where Jerusalem is located.
- 1-17 – Six of the seven seals are broken by the lamb. As each seal is broken, more of God’s wrath is released onto the earth. This is a part of the final judgment against evil and wickedness.
- This is another Psalm of Ascent, which would have been recited on the way up to Jerusalem. It must have been a joyful one as they all sang praises as they approached the city.
- 4 – These are a series of rhetorical questions to which the answer is always God alone.
Today’s Revelation reading is part of the letters to the seven churches. Each receives either commendation for faithfulness or warning to repent from wickedness, or both. Though these messages are specifically for the various churches, listen to what is said to them and see if they can help you become more faithful as well.
- 1-15 – These are various judgments passed down on Israel’s neighbors who have wronged Israel.
- 4-5 – This judgment is passed down upon Judah. The first part of the prophecy was against non-Israelites, but now it has switched to the Israelites.
- 6-16 – This judgment is against the Israelites and explains a variety of their transgressions.
- 1-15 – Here God confirms the guilt of the Israelites and describes the punishment they will face. He also reiterates that they have had a variety of warnings before this all goes down.
- 1-7 – Here there is a word for the church at Ephesus. They are commended for their original faithfulness, but have apparently strayed recently. This is a call to return to their original faithfulness and warning of what will happen if they don’t.
- 8-11 – Here the church of Smyrna is warned of upcoming trials they will face.
- 12-17 – Here it sounds like the church of Pergamum has some issues to work out. They too are given an opportunity to repent and return to God before destruction befalls them.
- Here the psalmist has faced persecution but gives a testimony that God prevails regardless.
- 20 – Common theme? Yes! Once again we see a proverb lauding patience and restraint and warning against haste.
Isaiah is one of the most recognizable prophets. It is the most quoted Old Testament book and is one of the longest books in the Bible. Despite all that, it can be a challenge to follow. Isaiah sometimes uses confusing language and he repeats things a lot. So, here’s a little synopsis to keep you on track: in the first half, look for prophecies of destruction against the Israelites; in the second half, look for prophecies of restoration; sprinkled throughout, look for prophecies that foretell a coming Messiah.
- The book of Isaiah is told from the perspective of Isaiah the prophet about a vision he has had. Sometimes he will quote God, but he will identify it when he is. It is set before the Babylonian exile.
- 2-17 – This is a vision God has given Isaiah explaining that the Israelites are sinful and that God is tired of receiving meaningless sacrifices from people who go on sinning. They are no longer pleasing to him.
- 18 – There seems to be a plan in place for how God will restore the Israelites to himself.
- 1-4 – This is a vision for future peace and perfection.
- 5-22 – Though the majority of Isaiah addresses Judah, this vision calls upon the house of Jacob, which is most likely the Northern Kingdom of Israel, to repent.
2 Corinthians 10:1-18:
- 2-6 – Paul is hoping he doesn’t have a major spiritual battle to fight when he is with the Corinthians. He is not shy to do so, but he’s hoping there’s not a need there.
- 11 – Paul doesn’t just ask others to live faithfully, he does so himself.
- 17-18 – Our only boasts should be in what the Lord has done in the world and in us.
- This Psalm is from David’s perspective and contrasts his faithfulness and connection to God with someone else who delights in evil.
- This advises against making promises you can’t keep.
Did you catch the glimmer of hope? At the end of 2 Kings, it seems like all hope is lost until the last four verses. The king of Babylon, in a shocking move, releases Jehoiachin, a member of David’s line, from prison. It seems that even in exile all hope may not be lost.
2 Kings 23:31-25:30:
- 31 – This is not Jeremiah the prophet.
- 32 – Interesting that Josiah was more faithful than any of the kings before him and yet his son, Jehoahaz, did evil.
- 33-35 – Pharaoh Neco removes Jehoahaz from the throne after only 3 months and puts Eliakim/Jehoiakim in power. Pharaoh’s appointment and name change makes it clear that the king of Judah is now subject to him.
- 3 – This is Manasseh the king, not the tribe.
- 1-9 – Jehoiakim followed the Pharaoh and Jehoiakin did what was evil.
- 20 – God finally allows the remainder of the Israelites (Judah) to get what they keep, through their sin, asking for – to no longer be in God’s presence or under his rule.
- 9 – The Babylonians burn down the temple in Jerusalem – this was the most significant sign of God’s presence the Israelites had. This symbolically shows God and the Israelites officially separating.
- 12 – A few people are left in Judah, but they leave the lowest of the low.
- 27-30 – Evil-merodach (an unfortunate name), king of Babylon, shows kindness to Jehoiachin, which shows a slight bit of hope that exile might not be forever and Israel and the line of David may have some hope.
- 17-21 – The Jews in the synagogues knew Paul’s past and it seemed to be a barrier for some of them to believe what he now believed – that Jesus was the Messiah. Thus, God sent him to the Gentiles.
- 25 – It was illegal to use whips to gain a confession from a Roman citizen. Clearly the powers that be were unaware of his citizenship.
- 3 – “Whitewashed wall” is a metaphor for a hypocrite. Looks good on the outside, but who knows what it’s hiding.
In today’s Acts reading, Paul has been imprisoned, which obviously sounds terrible. How would you handle it? I know I’d probably whine and get down and defeated. Paul acts differently. He takes the time to explain why he does what he does. He had been a faithful Jew who strictly obeyed the law, but Christ’s love and grace were powerful enough to convert him and then to cause him to share that good news with others. What opportunities do you have to share your faith story?
2 Kings 22:3-23:30:
- 3-7 – The temple, due to sinful leadership and neglect, had fallen into disrepair so Josiah used his position as king to restore it.
- 14-17 – The prophetess Huldah lets Judah know it too will be destroyed because of its sin.
- 18-20 – Because King Josiah had been faithful and repentant, he would die before the destruction occurred.
- 1-24 – Josiah took the law he found in the temple very seriously and methodically destroyed any remnants of anything dedicated to any other God.
- 4-16 – Paul addresses his captors by sharing his conversion experience and why he switched from devout Jew who persecuted Christians to tireless Christian from a Jewish background.
- This Psalm contrasts a person who’s delight is in the law of the Lord versus someone who is wicked.
- 11 – Solomon makes it clear that wealth is a false sense of security.
As of yesterday, we are officially halfway through the Bible! Woohoo!! Give yourself a pat on the back! Bake yourself a cake! This is a great accomplishment, so take a deep breath and enjoy it. You’ve done a great job!
2 Kings 20:1-22:2:
- 3-7 – The Lord hears Hezekiah’s prayer and answers it. God heals Hezekiah from a life threatening illness using a fig cake, or what is described in other translations as a fig poultice.
- 12-19 – Hezekiah is overly hospitable to the king of Babylon, Merodach-baladan. It’s possible he’s trying to impress him with his riches so they won’t want to attack. Though it won’t happen for a while, Babylon will eventually take his people into exile.
- 19 – Though Hezekiah’s response seems a little arrogant or lackadaisical, commentaries tell us, because he was a faithful king, his response is more likely one of thanks for the peace they have at the moment.
- 7 – This was the tribe of Judah. God claims this tribe forever and it is the tribe that Jesus belonged to.
- 1-9 – Manasseh was pretty much the worst of the worst. He should not be confused with Joseph’s son Manasseh who was the patriarch of one of the 12 tribes.
- 12-15 – Israel had already been conquered and exiled, but Judah remained where they belonged. Manasseh’s leadership puts it over the edge though, and God explains that he’s opening them up for attack too.
- 23-24 – These four men had taken the Nazirite vow. At some time before the vow they must have done something against the vow they were taking, which caused them to need to shave their heads and be purified for 7 days. Paul sponsors them financially.
- 28-29 – It was illegal to bring a non-Jew into the temple and Trophimus was Greek. It seems that Paul did not actually do this and even if he had, according to the law, the people should have attacked Trophimus, not Paul.
- 6 – No excuses. That means you too.
- 9 – Verses in Colossians and Ephesians also encourage us to work to the best of our ability. We are to work like we’re working for God, not man.
This week we finish 2 Kings and begin 1 Chronicles. The end of 2 Kings is the beginning of Judah’s exile. At this point, we’ve already seen Israel enter exile, but Judah held out a little longer.
Quickly, before we jump into the historical accounts of the Chronicles, let’s recap the highlights of what got us to the point of both the northern and southern kingdoms being in exile:
- The Israelites demand a human king and reject God as their king.
- Rehoboam, the 4th king of united Israel is unfair and unkind to his people so they refuse to follow him. The majority of the Israelites follow Jeroboam and form the kingdom of Israel.
- Israel as much weaker as two kingdoms.
- Twenty kings in a row of the northern kingdom of Israel are evil.
- Twelve of the twenty kings of the southern kingdom of Judah are evil.
- The Israelites of both kingdoms worship other gods and forsake their part of the covenant.
So as we read, this week, about God turning away from the Israelites, remember that he is not unkind and hateful. The Israelites turn their back on God over and over until he has no choice but to allow them to face their consequences.
Reading these consequences sure makes you think about your daily decisions, doesn’t it?
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.