Friday, June 30, 2017

June 30: 2 Kings 17 – 18:12; Psalm 148; Proverbs 18:6-7; Acts 20



Overview

            2 Kings: In Israel: Hoshea reigned for nine years. He did evil but not as bad as previous kings. He was a vassal of the king of Assyria. Because Hoshea tried to break the alliance and serve Egypt, Assyria invaded Israel and carried them away. The Lord did it because Israel had sinned against God with their idolatry. The Lord warned them but they wouldn’t listen. Judah didn’t keep the Lord’s commands either. This idolatry went back to Jeroboam when he broke off from Judah.
            The king of Assyria brought people into Israel from many other nations to repopulate the land. They didn’t fear the Lord so he sent lions to kill many of them. The king of Assyria then sent priest back to teach the inhabitants “the laws of the god of the land” (2 Kings 17:27). Because Israel and their descendants disobeyed the Lord and worshiped other gods and they didn’t listen to the Lord, he handed them over to their enemies. These nations that repopulated and settled in the land learned to fear the Lord and they also worshiped their own gods.
            In Judah: Hezekiah began to reign at the age of 25. He reigned 29 years and did right in the eyes of the Lord. He removed the high places, Asherah pillars, broke the bronze snake Moses had made because the people made offerings to it. He trusted the Lord and the Lord was with him. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and fought the Philistines and prospered.
            In the fourth year of Hezekiah, the king of Assyria besieged Samaria and captured it after three years. He carried the Israelites away to Hala in Gozan on the Habor River and other cities of the Medes. He did his because Israel had violated the covenant the Lord had made with them through Moses.
            Psalm: The Lord’s praise comes from the heavens where all the angels praise him. It comes from the celestial objects because God made them all. They will always be around. The earth and all that is in it praise the Lord. Creatures, vegetation, and geological formations praise the Lord. Kings and peoples, men, women, and children all praise the Lord. They praise the Name of the Lord because it is exalted. His majesty is beyond the heavens and he has raised up a ruler for his people, his saints in Israel who are near to him.
            Proverbs: The biggest problem with a fool is his mouth. It gets him into fights and it even does harm to his soul.
            Acts: After the uproar in Ephesus, Paul continued traveling, encouraging believers in Greece. He then started back to Syria. Several brothers from different cities accompanied him. Others went ahead and all met at Troas. While there, they met and Paul talked until midnight. Eutychus fell asleep and fell out a third story window and died. But Paul picked him up and announced he was alive. Paul then broke bread with the disciples and talked with them until morning. Paul and his companions departed.
            Luke and other took a ship then met Paul at Assos. Paul decided to sail past Ephesus because he wanted to arrive in Jerusalem for Pentecost. So from Miletus he sent for the Ephesian elders. When they arrived, he reminded them how he had served the Lord, how Jews plotted against him. But he testified in public and house to house. He told them the Holy Spirit told him he would be imprisoned. He considered his life of no value if only he could finish his ministry to testify about the grace of God. He knew he would not see them again. He warned them to take care of their flock because wolves would come in among them and gave them instruction on teaching, working hard, and giving.
            He prayed with them. They then all cried and embraced. They went with Paul as he got back on the ship.

What Stood Out

            2 Kings: “He [Hezekiah] trusted in the Lord the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him” (2 Kings 18:5).
            Psalm: “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven” (Ps 148:13).
            Proverbs: “A fool's mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Prov 18:7).
            Acts: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Insight

            2 Kings: When reading about all the kings of Israel, it is refreshing to be able to read about Hezekiah. Because he trusted in the Lord, he was able to rebel against Assyria. Hoshea in Israel tried to do the same thing but he failed. He trusted in Egypt and all the other gods they worshiped. The result was the final destruction of the nation with the people being carried off to other nations. It was all that the Lord had told Moses and Joshua would happen if they followed other gods. What is amazing is that it took so long before the Lord let it happen.
            We are often just like Israel. We trust in things other than God. Usually, we trust ourselves. Sometimes we put our faith in our spouse, the government, a gifted speaker, or jobs. What is amazing is that the Lord lets us continue in this idolatry for a long time before disaster comes on us. Like many of the kings of Israel, we don’t see the disaster in our lifetime but our children suffer the consequences of our devastating lifestyle and belief system. Of course, when we look at the individual level and not the national level, we see that we all suffer, especially when our idols keep us from trusting Jesus for salvation. Then our eternity is sealed upon death and there is no opportunity for repentance. We should be like Hezekiah and trust the Lord and not serve the false gods of our culture.
            Psalm: Creation is awesome. It doesn’t matter if you are looking at outer space through the Hubel telescope or looking at a virus with an electron microscope. All creation is awesome. What is even more awesome is the Lord. He created it all. That means he has to have intimate knowledge of atomic particles as well as all the stars in all the galaxies. Consider all that and he cares for us. He has raised up Jesus for our salvation so we can have a relationship with the maker of the universe. He lives in our hearts because he has saved us and we belong to him. We can praise him for creation but the highest praise goes to him just because of who he is.
            Proverbs: How is it possible that what a fool says is harmful to his soul? It could be that he begins to believe the things he says. After all, what comes out of our mouths originates in our hearts. So his words repeated enough times reinforce his erroneous beliefs. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good” (Ps 14:1). That’s the problem with fools. They say there is no God, it is confirmed in their hearts and the result is corruption and that means their souls have ben ensnared. Unless the Lord changes their hearts, fools have no hope of salvation.
            Acts: Paul’s instructions to the Ephesian elders is something we can all take to heart. The first thing is to be examples of godly living. Paul lived out what he taught. Whether it was in service to the saints or in spreading the gospel. There wasn’t any area where he had to tell them do as he said instead of how he acted. His afflictions were a testimony that he considered obedience to his calling above personal safety or convenience.
            He also encouraged them to be careful in their ministry. They had the charge of being overseers of God’s people. Yet he also warned them that even among their own people, heretics would raise up their ugly heads teaching wrong doctrines to draw people away from the truth.
            Unfortunately, Paul’s warning is lost on many churches, if not most, in the western world. As western culture embraces homosexuality, divorce for any reason, and other sinful actions and attitudes, churches and denominations are following suit. Instead of basing their theology on the Bible, they are basing in on the cultural norm. We would all do well to pay attention to Paul’s warning and get back to the Christian basics.

Application

            I need to be careful about my theology. If I am wrong or slightly off base, and then repeat it often enough, I can be like the fool and imbed wrong theology in my heart. I become unteachable. If that happens, that unteachable spirit and wrong theology can lead to wrong practice of my faith. The result can lead others astray. If I’m not careful, I can become one of the wolves and won’t even realize it.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

June 29: 2 Kings 15 – 16; Psalm 147; Proverbs 18:4-5; Acts 19:13-41



Overview

            2 Kings: In Judah: Azariah son of Amaziah began to reign when he was sixteen years old. He reigned for fifty-two years though he was a leper for many of those years. He did right in the eyes of the Lord but didn’t get rid of the high places. His son, Jotham, governed while he had leprosy.
            In Israel: Zechariah, son of Jeroboam, reigned in Israel for six months. He did evil just like his fathers. Ibleam killed him and took over. Zechariah was the fourth generation of Jehu and fulfilled the prophecy that his descendants would reign for four generations.
            Shallum reigned in Samaria one month.
            Menahem killed him and took over. He performed atrocities against those opposed to him. He reigned ten years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He paid Pul, king of Assyria to stay in power and taxed he people to pay for it.
             Pekahiah, Menahem’s son reigned in Israel next. He lasted two years and did evil in God’s sight.
            Pekah, captain of the guard, killed Pekahiah and reigned in Israel twenty years doing evil in the sight of the Lord. During that time, the king of Assyria took several cities from Naphtali and carried captives to Assyria.
            Hoshea killed Pekah and took over.
            Back in Judah: Jotham began to reign when he was twenty-five. He reigned sixteen years. He did right in the eyes of the Lord but the high places were still there. Resin the king of Syria and Peka of Israel came against Judah during Jotham’s reign.
            Ahaz, Jotham’s son took over after Jotham died. He was twenty years old and reigned for sixteen years. He didn’t do right and even sacrificed his son. Resin the king of Syria and Peka of Israel besieged Jerusalem but couldn’t take it. Ahaz took silver and gold from the temple and sent it to the king of Assyria to help him. Assyria went to Damascus, killed Resin.
            Ahaz went to Damascus to meet the king of Assyria. There he saw the altar in Damascus so he had it copied and built before the temple. He told the priest to offer all sacrifices on it and move the bronze altar to the side. Ahaz would only use the bronze altar to inquire of the Lord.
            Ahaz also modified the temple and the sea putting in on a stone instead of the bronze oxen. He did this to please the king of Assyria. Ahaz died and his son, Hezekiah took over.
            Psalm: It is good and fitting to praise the Lord. He builds up Jerusalem and gathers outcasts. He is powerful and his understanding is incomparable as evidenced by the stars, yet he lifts the humble and breaks the wicked.
            Give thanks to him because he provides for rain and takes care of animals. He is pleased with those who fear him and hope in his love. Jerusalem is to praise him because he has blessed it with children, peace, and food. He controls the weather. He has given his word to Israel and not to other nations.
            Proverbs: A person may talk a lot, like deep waters but wisdom in those words are only a small part like a brook. Don’t cater to the wicked or pervert justice for the righteous.
            Acts: In Ephesus, seven itinerant Jewish exorcist tried to cast a demon out of man by the name of Jesus and Paul. The demon-possessed man beat them up. The whole community heard about it and Jesus’ name was extolled. Many became believers and brought all their magic books together and publicly burned them.
            Paul decided to move on intending to go to Jerusalem and then on to Rome. Before he left, Demetrius who made a living making images of Artemis, incited a riot claiming Paul was going to wreck his and other craftsmen’s business. He also said Paul’s teaching would defame Artemis. The city was in confusion and they went into the theater chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” They dragged some of Paul’s companions into the theater. Paul want to go in and speak, but his friends kept him back.
            There was a lot of confusion and the town clerk finally quieted them down. He told them everyone knew how great Artemis was and that they were keepers of the sacred stone that fell from the sky. Since no one could deny this, Demetrius should go to court if he has a problem with Paul. He then dismissed the assembly.

What Stood Out

            2 Kings: “He took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the Lord, in deference to the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 16:18 NIV).
            Psalm: “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Ps 147:4).
            Proverbs: “The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (Prov 18:4).
            Acts: “But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’” (Acts 19:15).

Insight

            2 Kings: Ahaz was one of the most abominable kings of Judah. He sacrificed his son. This kind of abomination is so bad that the Lord says it had not even entered his mind (Jer 7:31). Since God is omniscient, he knew that this would happen, but he used this hyperbole to emphasize how bad this sin is. Of course, the Lord would not put up with that so he brought Syria and even Israel against Judah. Then Ahaz stole the treasures from the temple to buy the king of Assyria. Though that worked, it also put him in debt to the Assyrian king. To please the king, Ahaz copied his altar for sacrifices and used it instead of the Lord’s altar. He modified the temple and the sea to please the king of Assyria. He was totally subjected to the Assyrian way of worship and it seems it was his delight to do so. Ahaz was also presumptuous. He believed that even with all his sins, he could still inquire of the Lord by using the Lord’s bronze altar to hear God’s answers.
            When we are deep in sin, we will do just about anything to keep doing it. We will go against everything that is right. You can read in the newspapers (internet now days) about seemingly normal people looking for hired killers to knock off a spouse so they can get what they want. In the midst of this sinfulness, they still think they can pray and hear God’s answers. They may be getting guidance, but it isn’t from the Lord.
            Psalm: We have many reasons to praise and give thanks to the Lord. This Psalm lists several of them. His awesomeness in creation is one thing the Psalmist reveals. God determines the number of the stars and he names them. When we stop to consider how many stars there are in the universe, we usually ask astronomers to make an estimate of what only God knows. We have problems estimating because the very first problem is even knowing how big the universe is. Some scientists think it is infinite, which is impossible based on this Psalm, God has numbered them. Other scientist think there may be more than one universe, which also seems implausible if God made the universe and has named all the stars. However, David Kornreich estimated the number of stars by estimating that there are ten trillion galaxies with an average of one billion stars per galaxy. The gives us and estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.[1]
            Try to imagine how many stars that is. We can’t even begin to understand numbers that big, much less that many stars. So what does that say about God? It means his mind must be infinite. It means his power must be infinite. Yet the Psalm also says he loves those who fear him. That means his love must be infinite to care for one so small as one of us in comparison to his great creation. Yes, we should praise him and thank him.
            Proverbs: Some people talk nonstop. Somewhere in all their talking, there may be choice words of wisdom, but they are often hard to find because of all the other stuff they are saying. A person of wisdom will utter words that are refreshing and clear, like a bubbling brook.
            Acts: This episode where seven Jewish exorcists tried to cast a demon out of a man reveals that the spiritual world it much more complex that we can ever imagine. These seven sons of Sceva had obviously been casting out demons for some time. How they did it is unknow but they weren’t alone. Jesus refers to this as if it may have been a common practice (Matt 12:27). He also knew that there would be people who would be successful in casting out demons in his name, but they would not be true Christians (Matt 7:22-23). Why these demons would respond to these people is beyond me.
            However, when these men tried to use the name of Jesus and Paul to cast out a demon, they were thoroughly beaten by the possessed man. The results reveal the reason it happened this way. Fear fell on everyone in Ephesus and the name of Jesus was suddenly held in high respect. There is a connection between this incident and people confessing and giving up their magic practices. They realized that their magic is only possible because of demons enabling their spells. When the demon possessed man said he knew of both Jesus and Paul, it revealed that the spiritual world knows and understands things that we wouldn’t normally know. That is why all methods of trying to lean about future events or other magical spell, voodoo, and such are strictly forbidden by God in the Old Testament (Deut 18:10-13; 1 Sam 15:23; Isa 8:17, 19:3).
            If we want to exalt the name of Jesus, we will have nothing to do with any of these things. If we do, then we are opening ourselves up for demonic influences.

Application

            It is easy to slip into sin and not even recognize it. I need to make sure that I don’t do things that are an abomination to the Lord. That means more than just observing the externals of what Jesus commanded but discerning why the Lord has said different things in the Bible. That means understanding things like demons are the source of magic. It means exalting Jesus above all other things in my life.


[1] Elizabeth Howell Space.com Contributor, "How Many Stars Are In The Universe?," Space.com, May 31, 2014, , accessed April 27, 2017,http://www.space.com/26078-how-many-stars-are-there.html.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

June 28: 2 Kings 13 – 14; Psalm 146; Proverbs 18:2-3; Acts 18:23-19:12



Overview

            2 Kings: In Israel: Jehoahaz, Jehu’s son, reigned for 17 years and did evil. So the Lord let Hazael and his son Ben-hadad continually fight and defeat Israel. Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord and God gave them a savior to escape the Syrians but the people continued to sin.
            After Jehoahaz, his son, Jehoash reigned for 16 years. He sinned and did evil.
            Elisha became ill and Joash (Jehoash) king of Israel came to him and wept. Elisha had him shoot an arrow eastward then strike the ground with his arrows. The eastward shot signified the Lord’s victory over Syria and striking the ground was the number of times he would strike down Syria. Elisha was angry with Joash because he only struck the ground three times.
            After Elisha died, he was buried. Another man was being buried but they threw him in Elisa’s grave when they saw a raiding band of Moabites approaching. The man revived when he touched Elisha’s bones.
            Jehoash (Joash) took from Ben-hadad the cities Hazael had taken from Jehoahaz when he struck them three times.
            In Judah: Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign. He reigned for 29 years. He did right in the eyes of the Lord but not as well as David. The people still sacrificed in the high places. He killed the servants who had murdered his father. He didn’t put to death their children. He killed 10,000 Edomites and then sent messengers to Jehoash of Israel to go to battle.
            Jehoash told him his victory of Edom made him proud and he shouldn’t look for any more victories. Amaziah wouldn’t listen so they fought and Israel defeated Judah. Amaziah was captured, Jehoash raided the temple, and took captives to Samaria.
            In Israel: Jehoash died and Jeroboam reigned in his place.
            In Judah: Amaziah lived 15 years after Jehoash died. There was conspiracy against Amaziah and they killed him in Lachish. They then made Azariah, his son, king at the age of 16.
            In Israel: Jeroboam reigned for 41 years. He did evil but the Lord saw Israel’s affliction and restored much under Jeroboam. When he died, his son, Zechariah, took over.
            Psalm: We are to praise the Lord from our souls as long as we live and are able. To do that we can’t trust rulers or any other people for salvation. They are mortal.
            We are blessed when the Lord helps us because he is the Creator, faithful, just, and takes care of the oppressed. He sets prisoners free, heals the blind, and lifts our heavy loads. He guards foreigners, widows, and the fatherless. He ruins the way of the wicked.
            The Lord reigns forever.
            Proverbs: Fools enjoy telling their opinion and not trying to understand anyone else’s point of view. Wickedness and corruption go hand-in-hand in the same way as dishonor and disgrace.
            Acts: Paul then left Antioch and went to Galatia and Phrygia strengthening the disciples. In the meantime, Apollos showed up in Ephesus. He was educated and spoke well but only knew about John’s baptism. Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and filled him in about the way of God. He went to Achaia and refuted Jews in public as he taught from the Scripture that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul and Apollos crossed paths in Corinth.
            Paul found some disciples inland from Ephesus who only had John’s baptism. Paul explained that John’s baptism of repentance pointed to Jesus. These 12 disciples were then baptized in the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues.
            Paul then went to the synagogue for three months teaching about the kingdom of God. When the Jews became stubborn he taught the disciples in the hall of Tyrannus for two years. The whole area of Asia Jews and Greeks heard the word of the Lord.
            God worked through Paul so that people were healed when they touched things Paul had touched. Sick were healed and demons came out of people.

What Stood Out

            2 Kings: “You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?” (2 Kings 14:10).
            Psalm: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps 146:3).
            Proverbs: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Prov 18:2).
            Acts: “” ().

Insight

            2 Kings: With all the different kings of Israel and Judah overlapping each other, having alternate spellings for the same king, and even having the same names, it gets rather confusing. It is also surprising that the Lord put up with Israel as long as he did. It was only out of compassion and promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he allowed them to continue. The phrase describing Israel’s kings is, “He also did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin, but he walked in them.”
            Judah vacillated between good and evil kings. The phrase describing most of the good ones is, “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but the high places were not removed.” Some of the good kings did some remarkably stupid things. Jehoshaphat went into battle alongside Ahab. In today’s reading, Amaziah succumbed to pride. Because he wiped out an Edomite army, he felt he could take on Israel. His arrogance was quite expensive. Israel not only defeated him, but they marched on Jerusalem and took the gold and silver from the temple. They broke down part of the wall and took hostages back to Samaria.
            What catch phrase would you like to have written about you after you are gone? What prideful acts have cost you a lot or worse, cost others? Only by waking humbly with the Lord can we be remembered for good and avoid the pain of pride in our lives.
            Psalm: We often forget that the Lord is sovereign. He has made everything and he provides everything we have. We may think we have provided for ourselves, but our every breath comes from him. If he did not will us to keep breathing, we would die. If he did not keep on willing everything in this universe to exist, it would disappear.
            So why do we often think that a person is the answer to our problems. For a husband and wife, they often look to the other to meet all their perceived emotional, physical, or romantic needs. Every four years, we look to the Republican or Democratic party to solve all the socio-economic problems of our country. We will only be content in this world when we look to Jesus as our Savior. Then we’ll know that this world is temporary and our real future is secure in the Lord.
            Proverbs: As I look at these proverbs, I’m seeing how much more of a fool I am than I thought. While I may take pleasure in learning, I also have a tendency to want to make my opinion known. Sometimes that opinion is contrary to good understanding. I’m not the only one. Just look at the newspaper and you should be able to find an article with which you disagree. The evidence can be staggering but you still want to believe and tell others what you believe.
            Sometimes that’s good, like all the scientific evidence that a person can’t be resurrected from the dead. But we believe that Jesus is raised and that he died for all so we can live for him (2 Cor 5:14-15).
            Acts: In this reading, we have two different instances of people who only knew of John’s baptism. The first is Apollos who was an eloquent speaker and well versed in the Scriptures. Amazingly, he preached accurately about Jesus. How could he speak about Jesus and only know John’s Baptism? It is possible that he told about the coming Messiah but didn’t know that the prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus. However, he was teachable and when better informed, he was able to show from Scripture that Jesus is the Messiah.
            The other instance is when Paul met 12 disciples. They were apparently John’s disciples but not Jesus’ disciples. It appears that they didn’t even know specifically about Jesus. When Paul let them know that John pointed to the Messiah coming after him, John was talking about Jesus. This may have been the same thing that happened with Apollos but we can’t be sure. Here were 12 men looking for someone to come after John but not knowing who it was. They didn’t know about the Holy Spirit coming either. They were people in an arrested state of development.
            However, when told about Jesus, they were then obedient in baptism. They didn’t immediately start speaking in tongues like others, but Paul had to lay his hands on them before the Holy Spirit was manifested with speaking tongues and prophesying. The last mention of people speaking in tongues after becoming Christians was the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house. This was several years later. It just goes to show that there are no two instances of the Holy Spirit coming on people where they are so similar that they can be called normative.
            The lesson here is to be teachable. It isn’t to formulate a doctrine and then stick with it to the exclusion of being corrected.

Application

             I need to be teachable and listen to others. I don’t want to succumb to pride and think that my opinion is always the best either. That’s just pride and I don’t want to be like Amaziah and suffer the consequences of pride.