Sunday, June 25, 2017

June 25: 2 Kings 8 – 9:13; Psalm 143; Proverbs 17:26; Acts 16:16-40



Overview

            2 Kings: In Israel: Elisha told the Shunammite woman to leave Israel because of a famine. She went to live in Philistia 7 years. When she came back to ask the king to restore her property, Gehazi was telling the king of Israel about Elisha raising the woman’s son. The king then restored all her property to her.
            Ben-hadad, king of Syria became ill and sent his servant, Hazael to ask Elisha if he would get well. Hazael met Elisha with 40 camels loaded with gifts. Elisha told him that he would recover, but he would die. He told Hazael would slaughter Israelites and become king of Syria. Hazael went back and told Ben-hadad he would recover but killed him the next day.
            In Judah: Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began to reign and lasted 8 years. He did evil like the kings of Israel because he married Ahab’s daughter. The Lord let him live because of David. Edom rebelled against Judah along with Libnah. Jehoram died and Ahaziah took over.
            Ahaziah reigned one year. He did evil the same as Ahab because he was Ahab’s son-in-law. He went with Ahab’s son Joram to fight against Hazael. Joram was wounded and was healing in Jezreel so Ahaziah went to see him.
            Elisha called one of the prophets and told him to anoint Jehu king of Israel. He was to anoint him then flee. The young man found Jehu, one of Israel’s army commander with other commanders in council. He took Jehu aside anointed him with oil and said that God had anointed him king. Jehu was told to wipe out Ahab’s line just like Jeroboam and Baasha’s lines. When the other commanders were told, they backed Jehu and announced that Jehu was now king.
            Psalm: David is still in trouble. He asks God to grant him mercy. He wants the Lord’s faithfulness, not judgment because no one is righteous before God.
            His enemy is making it really hard on him so his spirit is weak and he is appalled. He remembers the past. He meditates on all the Lord’s works. He reaches out to the Lord and his soul thirsts for the Lord.
            He wants to be answered quickly before he dies. He wants to know the Lord’s steadfast love in the morning because he trusts the Lord. He lifts his soul to the Lord in order to know the way to go. He wants deliverance and to know the Lord’s will and guidance.
            He asks for deliverance for the sake of the name of the Lord. He wants God’s righteousness to rescue his soul. He wants his enemies destroyed, those who would destroy his soul.
            Proverbs: It is an injustice to punish a godly person.
            Acts: A slave girl with a demon brought good pay for her owners because the demon could predict future events. She kept following Paul and his companions saying that they were servants of the Most High God and providing the way of salvation. Paul finally had enough of her and cast the demon out. Her owners then dragged Paul and Silas to court saying all kinds of evil against them. They were beaten with rods and thrown into prison.
            At midnight, an earthquake opened the doors and freed all the prisoners while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns. The jailer was about to kill himself when Paul stopped him. The jailer wanted to know how to be saved and they replied to believe on the Lord Jesus. The also spoke the word of God to his whole household. The jailer and his household believed and were baptized then took care of Paul and Silas.
            The next day the magistrates wanted to let Paul and Silas go quietly. But Paul told them they had unlawfully beat two Roman citizens. The magistrates then came, apologized, and asked them to leave the city. Paul and Silas took their time leaving. They visited Lydia and the other believers to encourage them before they left.

What Stood Out

            2 Kings: “And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 8:18).
            Psalm: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you” (Ps 143:8 NIV).
            Proverbs: “To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness” (Prov 17:26).
            Acts: “She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation’” (Acts 16:17).

Insight

            2 Kings: This was not a time in the history of Israel or Judah where you would want to be king. The perks were simply not worth a short life. The bottom reason for it all was that they did evil in God’s sight. As a result, they usually didn’t live long. Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram (also spelled Joram) and his son were evil and the Bible says that the reason was their alliance to Ahab by marriage. Apparently, their wives had a lot of influence over their spiritual state. It isn’t surprising for us because we have all this history to teach us. We also have Paul’s warning not to marry unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14). Yet, we find many young people doing exactly that. Raised in the church, professing Christians, and still think marrying an unbeliever is what God wants them to do. Sometimes, the unbeliever does become a Christian and things work out okay. However, more often than not, the Christian is dragged away and spends many years away from the Lord. Their kids are affected and are not introduced to Jesus. Tell your kids or grandkids to pay attention to the Word. Don’t get involved emotionally with unbelievers. It only leads to grief.
            Psalm: When troubles assail us, there is one thing that we should desire. That is to be renewed every morning by remembering the Lord’s unfailing love. That love is always available to us because we trust in God. It isn’t a promise that an unbeliever can claim. If we want to live a life that is righteous, then we must lift up our souls to the Lord. That is total surrender. David talks of his soul several times in this Psalm. Our soul is defined by the Oxford Dictionaries (online) as “The spiritual or immaterial part of a human being … regarded as immortal”. It isn’t often that a secular definition it accurate but this is exactly what we are looking at in this Psalm. We should be surrendering our being or soul to God. This means that it is an eternal surrender and not just a temporal or temporary surrender until we get what we want.
            Proverbs: In today’s world of political correctness, this proverb is being abused every day all around the world. People who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are constantly trying to force their ungodly attitudes and behaviors on Christians. This include taking them to court and fining them for obeying their conscience. We need to recognize the injustice but we also should expect this from those who are opposed the way of Jesus.
            Acts: What’s the problem with a demon possessed person telling the truth about Paul and his companions? It would seem to make sense that people who really wanted to be saved would hear and come to Paul. I’ve seen instances where unbelievers have made comments that helped people come to Christ. However, this is different. Everyone knew this girl was demon possessed and would either discount what she said or they may even think that this salvation was about was a way of appeasing other demons or gods. Even if they did believe that she was accurate, our God doesn’t need the enemy to be a witness for him. I’m more surprised that Paul didn’t act sooner.
            However, the aftermath may have been the reason Paul didn’t act sooner. While God worked some good out of it by saving the jailer and his household, Paul and his companions had to leave Philippi.
            We learn that doing right sometimes ends us up in bad places. However, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, he will work it all for good. In this case, the obvious good was the jailer’s salvation that wasn’t dependent on a demon’s witness. The unknown good was where Paul and his companions were to go and do next.

Application

             I need to be able to look beyond the current problem to see that God will work out a greater good than I can imagine. I shouldn’t think God has lost control when injustice occurs because righteous people are fined or imprisoned wrongfully. It is working exactly the way he wants. I need to pray and sing praise the Lord in all circumstances.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

June 24: 2 Kings 6 – 7; Psalm 142; Proverbs 17:24-25; Acts 15:36-16:15



Overview

            2 Kings: Some of the prophet wanted to build a larger dwelling and went to the Jordan to cut timber. Elisha went with them. When a borrowed axe head fell in the river, Elisha tossed in a stick and the axe head floated up.
            The king of Syria was warring against Israel. Elisha would warn the king of Israel where the Syrians were camped. The Syrian king thought he had a mole but was told that Elisha was able to tell the king of Israel whatever the king of Syria said in his bedroom.
            The king of Syria sent his army to Dothan to capture Elisha. Elisha’s servant was afraid, but Elisha prayed and the servant was able to see even more horses and chariots of fire around Elisha. Elisa then prayed for the Syrian army to be blinded. Elisha then led them to Samaria.
            The king of Israel wanted to know if he should kill them, but Elisha told him they were like captives, so feed them. They had a great feast and the Syrians didn’t raid Israel again.
            Later, Ben-hadad, king of Syria besieged Samaria. The siege caused a famine and when the king discovered that a woman had eaten her son., he swore to kill Elisha. When the king came, Elisha told him that the famine would be over the next day. The king’s captain didn’t believe that God could do that. Elisha told him he wouldn’t eat of it because he doubted.
            Two lepers decided to desert to the Syrians. They thought they would die in the city but there was a chance the Syrians would not kill them. When they went to the camp, it was deserted because the Lord made the Syrians hear a great army and they fled. The Lepers stashed some booty but then felt guilty for hording it all. They told the city about it. The king verified the Syrians were gone. The people stampeded out of the city and trampled the captain who doubted the Lord.
            Psalm: David is in trouble again. He is hiding in a cave. He asks the Lord for mercy and tells the Lord all his troubles. However, he knows that when he is overwhelmed, God knows the way out. Traps are laid for him and there is no refuge. No one cares for him. So he cries to the Lord, who is his refuge and protection while he is still alive. He asks for rescue from those who are too strong for him. He wants to be set free so he can thank the Lord. When that happens, the righteous will rally to him because God is good.
            Proverbs: A person who can figure out the difference between right and wrong always seeks wisdom. A fool, on the other hand, will keep his eyes on earthly things. The fool brings grief and bitterness to his parents.
            Acts: Paul and Barnabas have a big fight over taking John Mark along to visit the new churches they established. Paul didn’t want to take him because he had abandoned them in Pamphylia. Barnabas took Mark with him and went to Cyprus. Paul took Silas and went to Syria and Cilicia.
            In Lystra, Paul had Timothy join them. He first circumcised Timothy to avoid criticism from Jews. When they visited churches, they told them about the decision made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. The churches were strengthened and increased in number daily.
            The Holy Spirit didn’t let them speak in Asia and they continued westward. In Troas, Paul had a vision of a man asking him to come to Macedonia. (Luke joins them in Troas.) They finally arrive in Philippi and stayed there a while. They went to a place of prayer by the river and met Lydia, a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to believe, was baptized, and had them stay with her.

What Stood Out

            2 Kings: “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).
            Psalm: “I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my troubles before him” (Ps 142:2).
            Proverbs: “The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth” (Prov 17:24).
            Acts: “And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6).

Insight

            2 Kings: This incident in Elisha’s life where the king of Syria tries to capture him is awesome. It is awesome in several respects. The first is that the Lord tells Elisha all the plans of the Syrian king. The king of Israel, who presumably is the same one when Samaria is later besieged, is greatly benefited. It is awesome that the Lord would keep on protecting this evil king (none of the kings of Israel were righteous).
            It is awesome because Elisha has a heavenly perspective where he can see the heavenly forces and what is going on there. He even asks that his servant see the protection the Lord has given Elisha (By the way, we should not assume that the Lord does the same for us in the same way. There is no indication that this is a universal promise to all believers.) It is awesome that the makers of Star Wars copied Elisha by having the Jedi use mind control that sounded almost the same as the way Elisha spoke to the Syrian army, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek” (2 Kings 6:19). It goes to show that elements of the Bible show up in unexpected places and if so, they have no excuse for not believing God.
            It is awesome because Elisha showed his enemies mercy. They were helpless before him because the Lord was with him. The king of Israel would have slaughtered them. Instead they had a feast and war was averted instead of increased.
            Psalm: Some of the Psalms of lament end up wanting all sorts of disastrous things to happen to the Psalmist’s enemies. This one is a bit different. This is focused not so much on the enemies but on David’s response to them. He sets the tone by saying he pours out his complaints to the Lord and clarifies that he isn’t complaining about the Lord, but simply telling the Lord about all his troubles. Sometimes we are overwhelmed and need to do that. We should be careful because these can get out of hand and turn into bitterness and other sinful attitudes. David ends his plea for help by saying he wants to be able to give thanks to the Lord and this will result in glory to God. We always need to focus on the end in the same way Jesus did when he endured the cross looking to the joy of sitting down with the Father.
            Proverbs: A wise person is one who is able to look forward to what is good instead of all the distractions of the world. Just as David was able to keep his eyes on the Lord when in destress and overwhelmed, and Jesus was looking to all the would be accomplished after the cross, so we should make sure we are heavenly minded instead of earthly minded (Col 3:2).
            Acts: I don’t know how the Holy Spirit prevents someone from speaking the word. Maybe Paul and Silas simply kept running into people who were not interested. Maybe Paul just had a feeling that he had to keep moving. Unfortunately, Luke didn’t say anything more specific. People today say a lot about the way the Holy Spirit leads them. I’ve heard people talk about a strong impulse to go and share the gospel with someone and find the person is ready and willing to become a Christian. I’ve had instances where I “just knew” that a person was not ready. However, some can take a verse like this and think that all their feelings are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Obviously, the Holy Spirit worked so that Luke recorded exactly what he did and they had the proof by a vision and by the work they found in Philippi.
            Just like we can’t take Elisha’s experience to be the Christian norm, neither can we take Paul and Silas’ experience as the norm. What we can do is be faithful to the Lord in our lives and discover how the Spirit works in us, especially when reading and apply God’s word to our lives.

Application

             While I would really like to see into the heavenly realms and see horses and chariots of fire, have visions, or hear the Holy Spirit directly talking to me, I must also realize these are special instances of the way God works. I need to be able to apply Scripture to my life, doing God’s will and working on sanctification. If these other things happen, that is God’s doing not mine.

Friday, June 23, 2017

June 23: 2 Kings 4:18 – 5; Psalm 141; Proverbs 17:23; Acts 15:1-35



Overview

            2 Kings: The Shunammite woman’s child died and she left to find Elisha. She didn’t tell her husband why she was going to Elisha but had him send a servant along with her. When Elisha saw her coming at a distance he sent Gehazi to find out why she was coming, but she wouldn’t tell him. She fell at Elisha’s feet. The Lord did not reveal what was wrong, but Elisha could see she was in distress. When she told Elisha that she had asked him not to lie to her about having a son, Elisha sent Gehazi to put his staff on the boy. Elisha then went with the woman. Gehazi came back and reported that the boy was still dead. Elisha arrived and laid on him, prayed and the boy came back to life.
            Elisha went to Gilgal and there was a famine. The prophets there scavenged some gourds for a stew. When they ate it, it was poisonous. Elisha put some flour in it and it was okay. A man brought 20 loaves and some grain. Elisha told him to give it to the 100 prophets but the man didn’t think it would feed everyone. Elisha spoke by the Lord that all would have enough and some left over and it was so.
            Naaman was commander of the Syrian army but he had leprosy. A Jewish slave girl told him the prophet in Samaria could heal him. The king of Syria sent Naaman to Samaria with much treasure and a letter to the king asking him to heal Naaman. The king tore his clothes and asked if he were God thinking that Syria simply wanted reason to fight.
            Elisha heard about it and sent a message to the king and telling him to send Naaman to him. Elisha had a messenger tell Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan. Naaman thought that was insulting besides Elisha didn’t even come to see him. One of his servants convinced him to do it. Naaman did and was healed.
            Naaman went back to Elisha and proclaimed that he now knew there was no God but the one in Israel. He tried to give Elisha some of the treasure he brought. Elisha refused. Naaman was now concerned that he had to help his master bow before the god Rimmon. Elisha told him to go in peace.
            After Naaman left. Gehazi thought he got off to easy, went after him, and asked for some of the treasure. He lied about the need for some of the treasure. Gehazi kept it for himself. Elisha confronted him for his greed and told him Naaman’s leprosy would be on him and his descendants forever.
            Psalm: David asks the Lord to quickly hear his prayers. He wants his prayers to be an act of worship like the evening sacrifices. He asks the Lord to keep him from evil in his speech and actions. If it is necessary, have a righteous person rebuke him and he will count it a blessing. Still, he prays against evil rulers. He wants them to hear his words so that when they are punished in hell, they will know why.
            David is looking to the Lord for refuge. He doesn’t want to be trapped by the wicked people. He asks that they fall into their own traps.
            Proverbs: Wicked people will pervert justice with bribes, but they don’t want anyone to know.
            Acts: Some men came for Jerusalem to Antioch and told the people that they couldn’t be saved unless they were circumcised. Paul and Barnabas didn’t agree and were sent to Jerusalem to get an official decision. The church welcomed them but some Pharisees said that Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses.
            The Apostles and elders debated the issue until Peter reminded them that he was the one who took the gospel to Gentiles and they received the Holy Spirit by faith just like the Jewish Christians. He asked why they were trying to put a burden on Gentiles that Jews couldn’t even keep. He told them that they believed everyone is saved through grace of Jesus.
            Paul and Barnabas then told of the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles. James then spoke saying that Peter agreed with the prophets. He said the church shouldn’t ask the Gentiles to do anything other than abstain from things offered to idols, sexual immorality, eating meat killed by strangulation, and blood.
            The Apostles and elders then sent Judas and Silas along with Paul and Barnabas with a letter to the church at Antioch stating what James said and keeping from idols. The church in Antioch rejoice and was encouraged.

What Stood Out

            2 Kings: “But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper’” (2 Kings 5:11).
            Psalm: “Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies” (Ps 141:4)!
            Proverbs: “The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice” (Prov 17:23).
            Acts: “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11).

Insight

            2 Kings: How often do we think that God should do things in the way we expect? Think about the young Jewish girl who was taken captive and ended up in Naaman’s service. Would anyone expect her to be a witness for the Lord? It had to be God’s plan to have her at the right place at the right time, and to be faithful to witness. God would not have gotten the glory for healing Naaman without her, or he would have arranged it by some other means.
            The king of Syria thought God would work through the king of Israel. The king of Israel didn’t think God would work at all. Naaman was sure that God would have Elisha do specific things. All of them were wrong. Just to prove a point, Elisha didn’t even come near Naaman.
            God only worked after Naaman obeyed, but when he did, God opened his eyes to know that there is no other gods but the Lord. Then Naaman started thinking about his job. Would it still be right for him to help his master worship Rimmon? Elisha’s answer may be surprising to some. He said it was okay and to be at peace about it. I don’t think many of us would have answered him in the same way. Sometimes, being a good witness for the Lord requires us to put up with the people around us worshiping other things. The young Jewish girl did and it brought glory to God.
            Psalm: It is the desire of most Christians to keep their hearts from evil deeds. How many of us actually pray for that? David recognized that keeping bad company can corrupt us and we may desire the same things they do. Without the Lord’s help, we would fall into the traps of materialism, pride, power, and other things that he world offers. We need to ask the Lord to keep us from those traps or we may not realize that they are there or how much they draw us away from the Lord.
            Proverbs: Isn’t it interesting that people are willing to give and accept bribes to pervert justice but they don’t want anyone else to know about it. That means that they know quite will that what they are doing is wrong. The Lord knows and sees all. When Gehazi asked Naaman for riches for himself, the Lord saw and let Elisha know. He didn’t escape punishment. Neither will those who use bribery to get promote evil.
            Acts: Peter made it quite clear that salvation is by faith and we are able to believe by the grace of Jesus. Those who wanted to add things to the gospel were shut down. Unfortunately, they reared their ugly heads later in Paul’s ministry and they are still trying to do the same thing today.
            Some tried to add circumcision to salvation. They probably used God’s command to Abraham as the basis for their argument (Gen 17:10-14). They would argue that it predates the Law and even as Paul preached, we are Abraham’s spiritual offspring therefore, we must be circumcised to be part of his household. Unfortunately, some Christian have reworked that logic by saying that the New Covenant has replaced Abraham’s covenant but the sign for belonging to the New Covenant is baptism. Just as all members of Abraham’s household had to be circumcised to be part of God’s covenant with Abraham, now, anyone who wants to be in the New Covenant (become a Christian) must be baptized.
            The party of the Pharisees were legalistic from the beginning but they recognized Jesus as the Messiah. With their penchant for following rules, it was natural for them to think that rule keeping was still necessary for salvation. We all like to keep rules, but that doesn’t save us. Paul later made it clear that if keeping the Law could produce righteousness, then Jesus would not have had to be crucified (Gal 2:21).
            It is only by God’s grace we are saved. The early church affirmed this doctrine and we shouldn’t try to add anything, baptism, circumcision, or legalism to it. Once saved, there are some things we are expected to do, such as obedience to Jesus. But the church also clarified that did not mean keeping the whole Law of Moses.

Application

             I don’t want to be in a position where I put God in a box and think I can predict what he will do or how he will do it. I do want the Lord to keep my heart from evil and obedient to Jesus. I do want to handle the Word correctly so that I don’t add to or subtract from what it takes to be saved or live a godly life.