Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 144: Job 7 - 9

If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both. (Job 9:33)

Some critical scholars see the book of Job as an amalgam of writings. There is the original account of a good man beset by horrible misfortune, which is one of the oldest stories in the Bible; and then, there is the long poetic conversation between Job and his friends, which is of more recent vintage. (Wisdom literature – Job is classified among the wisdom writings – was the last part of the Old Testament to arrive at its present form and become canon, whereas the setting of Job is more congruent with the time of Abraham.)

Regardless of when it was written, this passage has always caught me off guard. It is a poignant cry for a bridge between a man and his God. And while I in no way want to imply that the writer of Job had any Messianic thoughts going here; from this side of the cross I cannot help but see this cry fulfilled by Jesus as our High Priest, our bridge between God and man.

Job, there is someone. Jesus Christ is our bridge – our connection to God. One hand on God – one hand on humanity.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1)

Day 143: Job 4 - 6

Post your comments and questions about Job 4-6 here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 142: Job 1 - 3

No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:12)

Why do bad things happen to good people? That's the basic question in Job. Theodicy is a defense of God's justice in spite of the onslaught of overwhelming evil. This question has plagued mankind since... well, since the time of Job.

Retribution theology can be summed up in the phrase: What goes around comes around. We read this thinking in the book of Deuteronomy: Love the Lord your God . . . then you will live and increase... But if your heart turns away . . . you will certainly be destroyed. (Deuteronomy 30:16-18) We get the same kind of thinking in the book of Proverbs: Whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. (Proverbs 1:32)

When Job lost everything he had, he must have thought: Wait! This isn't supposed to happen to me - I read Proverbs. My life comes with the extended warranty!

But we all know bad things do happen to good people, don't we?

That's why, even though Job can at times get tedious, there's something about these writings that keep bringing us back, as if we can identify with Job, unlike some of those Bible characters who are a little too good to be true.

So you had a bad day...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 134: Ezra 4 - 6

Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews. (Ezra 5:1)

When the returning exiles set about their work to rebuild the temple (as was ordered by King Cyrus), they encountered opposition from their neighbors. Those neighbors sent complaints to the king (Cyrus was dead by now), who ordered work on the temple to stop because of Judah's history as a trouble maker.

Then Haggai and Zechariah (two prophets we'll be hearing from in a about five months) encouraged the people of Jerusalem to get back to work. Another complaint was made to the king (still another king by this time) and further investigation uncovered the documents signed by Cyrus that ordered the people to rebuild the temple, and even guaranteed that the government would pay the construction costs!

At this point, construction continued with the full support of the king, the project was completed, and the people celebrated as their enemies looked on in disbelief.

Doesn't it make a difference to have the support of the King?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 133: Ezra 1 - 3

And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:13)

Here we have the account of an exiled people returning home. One of the first things they did was work on rebuilding their spiritual center. There was a lot of crying going on when they laid the foundation for the temple. Those who could remember Solomon's Temple were crying tears of sadness over the fact that Solomon's Temple had been destroyed, not to mention that their new temple just wasn't as big and glorious as the old one. The young people were crying too - tears of joy. They had heard stories of Jerusalem, and now they had returned and were setting about the rebuilding of their heritage.
Have you ever returned home after being away a really long time?

Day 132: 2 Chronicles 34 - 36

And this would be a good place for your comments and questions regarding 2 Chronicles 34-36.

Day 131: 2 Chronicles 31 - 33

Put your comments and questions for 2 Chronicles 31-33 here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 130: 2 Chronicles 28 - 30

May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary. (2 Chronicles 30:18,19)

Because of King Ahaz's disobedience Judah was defeated by both Aram and Israel. Then Ahaz started worshiping the gods of Damascus, thinking he had been defeated because Aram's gods were more powerful than the God of Judah. Even when he paid the king of Assyria to help him, the Assyrians just took his treasures and added their abuse to that of all of Judah's enemies. The prophet Isaiah chastized Ahaz for his lack of faith, but to no avail.

Ahaz was not honored by the people of Judah. When he died he was not buried in the tomb of the kings.

When Ahaz's son Hezekiah took the throne, things were different. He walked in the ways of King David and got rid of the idol worship in Judah. Under Hezekiah's leadership, Judah became strong and regained a place of honor among the nations.

Passover had not been celebrated in Judah for many years. Hezekiah changed all that, however, some of the people were not ritually clean, and therefore technically should have been barred from participating in the celebration. Hezekiah called out to the Lord and asked him to make an exception, and God who cares more about hearts than about rules, accepted everyone into the feast.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Day 129: 2 Chronicles 25 - 27

Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God. (2 Chronicles 27:6)

Uzziah (Jotham's father) was a great king of Judah. Because of an act of disobedience he was afflicted with leprosy and ruled from seclusion, with his son Jotham co-reigning with him. What do you think Uzziah (called Azariah in 2 Kings) taught his son about obedience? One way or the other Jotham apparently learned the lesson that he must follow God wholeheartedly.

NOTE: Just a quick piece of information that might clear up some confusion regarding the kings of Israel and Judah. 2 Kings 15:30 says Hoshea became king of Israel in the 20th year of Jotham king of Judah. 2 Chronicles 27:1 says Jotham reigned 16 years (as it does in another 2 Kings reference).

If he only reigned 16 years, how could a king of Israel's reign be dated as beginning in Jotham's 20th year?

First off, that's the way Ancient Near East dates were recorded. This happened in the 3rd year of Ben-Hadad king of Aram. Next point: One of the challenges in accurately dating the rule of kings is that a king often brought his son to the throne to co-reign, sometimes years before the father's death. So we have to do some serious comparisons to determine if the years of a king's reign overlapped with his father or his son. This obviously makes it very difficult to be precise.

Okay... that was just a little biblical trivia. No extra charge!

Day 128: 2 Chronicles 22 - 24

This is the place for your comments and questions regarding 2 Chronicles 22-24.

Day 127: 2 Chronicles 19 - 21

This is the place for your comments and questions regarding 2 Chronicles 19-21.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Day 126: 2 Chronicles 16 - 18

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor once wrote that, "God created man because he loves stories." I think that's what this verse is all about.

Remember the account from yesterday? Judah was being attacked by the bigger and tougher army from Israel. Abijah, Judah's godly king, stood up against Israel because he knew he was in the right and that God was on his side. To sum up the story, Judah sent Israel packing.

Fast forward 35 years to the reign of Abijah's son Asa. Asa is usually remembered as a good king... at least as far as his early years go. In fact, Judah experienced a revival during that time called Asa's reform. Then Israel once again oppressed Judah, and Asa buckled. Instead of manning up and trusting God for victory, he sent a large gift of gold (much of it from the temple treasury) to the king of Aram as protection money. In return Ben-Hadad came to Judah's rescue, and the end result was that Judah was safe, but subject to Aram.

The prophet Hanani got right in Asa's face and told him he was wrong. How did Asa respond? He pouted. For five years he pouted, his feet hurt, and then he died.

The next time you're faced with the choice of trusting God or selling out, remember Asa's sad end.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 125: 2 Chronicles 13-15

Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest. (2 Chronicles 13:9)

I love David and Goliath stories where right living results in confidence on the battlefield. Remember David's words on the day he fought the giant? First to the men standing nearby as Goliath taunted the Israelites: Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? (1 Samuel 17:26) Then to the big palooka on the field of battle: Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth. (17:46)

And here, many years later one of David's descendants is faced with another kind of Goliath - a vast army superior in numbers, training and weaponry. It's brother against brother, or more correctly cousin against cousin as 10 tribes of Israel come against two tribes of Judah. And then Abijah speaks out: Your golden calves are no match for the God of the universe. And by the way, didn't you drive out all the priests of Yahweh? How are your replacement priests working out for you? You know, the ones who got their ordinations on the Internet?

Nothing like a little good natured trash talk between opponents.

And then the battle is joined. All the bookies had odds in favor of Israel, and yet Judah came out victorious, leaving Israel to limp home, shell shocked from the beating they'd received.

Now, what was that enemy you were afraid was too tough for you and God to handle?