Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 151: Job 31, 32 and 33

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (Job 31:1)

In the 1983 film WarGames, Matthew Broderick plays a teenage computer whiz kid who accidentally hacks into the missile defense of the United States. Thinking he’s found his way into a computer game company, he’s eager to sample their newest product. He comes across such files as Tic-Tac-Toe, Chess,… and a very intriguing Global Thermonuclear War.

The computer asks: Do you want to play a game? And before he knows what’s happening, the computer locks him out and initiates a countdown to a preemptive nuclear strike.

While the countdown progresses, the kid challenges the computer to a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. Because two evenly matched players can play Tic-Tac-Toe indefinitely and neither of them ever win a game, the computer soon learns the concept of stalemate. It starts looking ahead through all the possible outcomes of a nuclear war and comes to a conclusion.

The only winning move is not to play.

The control room at NORAD breathes a collective sigh of relief, the world is saved, and the delinquent computer genius becomes the hero.

We may think we can play the game of lust and come out a winner but we cannot. There are always consequences for playing this game. Job had taken precautions to protect himself. When it comes to sexual fantasy and lust, the only winning move is not to play.

How are you protecting yourself? …your marriage?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day 150: Job 28, 29 and 30

Man puts an end to the darkness; he searches the farthest recesses for ore in the blackest darkness. (Job 28:3)

Job describes an awesome, scary picture of ancient mining operations. He writes about cutting a shaft through the rock, dangling from ropes, and working in pitch blackness, illuminated only by the miners’ lamps. No bird or animal has ever seen what man discovers there in the cave’s loneliness.

But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? (v. 12)

Job is telling us that wisdom is more valuable than even silver or rubies, and that we should be willing to go to greater lengths to find wisdom than we do to dig up sapphires and gold.

Our hero is also comparing the toils of his life to the search for riches. He has worked harder and suffered more than any treasure hunter. And he has discovered the hard truth that wisdom is more difficult to find than a vein of gold.

Do you treasure wisdom enough to keep going until you find it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 149: Job 25, 26 and 27

I will never admit you are in the right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity. (Job 27:5)

One after another, first Eliphaz, then Bildad, and finally Zophar, Job’s three friends spout off the same age-old retribution wisdom. If you’re suffering, it must be because you sinned. Humble yourself and be restored.

But Job couldn’t humble himself. He had nothing to confess. To feign guilt just to gain relief wouldn’t have been right. Job was not about to let God off the hook just to ease his own discomfort.

Is there a lesson here for us? How often do we fall on our own sword, when we know we’re not in the wrong, just to make peace? If Job is a theodicy, a defense of God’s justice in the face of seemingly contradictory evidence, then it is also a study in the ethics of conflict.

How many times have I taken one for the team? While it sounds noble, it may be no better than a prizefighter taking a dive. Romans 12:18 reads: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. But avoiding conflict isn’t always the ethical thing to do. Standing our ground may be more Christian than retreat. Winning a battle for my own glory certainly does not display a proper Christ-like attitude, but falling to the mat just to avoid the unpleasantness of conflict doesn’t either.

Have you ever kept the peace and lived to regret it?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 148: Job 22, 23 and 24

If only I knew where to find him. (Job 23:3)

St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish mystic, wrote The Dark Night of the Soul to describe the painful and lonely journey of an individual seeking spiritual maturity. John wrote his treatise while imprisoned by his own monastic brothers for his attempts to reform the order. It symbolizes a spiritual crisis in which God seems far off and unreachable.

Watchman Nee, the Chinese church planter who died in 1972 after twenty years in prison, wrote about the brokenness of the outer man in The Release of the Spirit. He talked about how God uses struggles and hardships in our lives to break the shell (the personality or the soul) that binds the inner man (the spirit). Nee and John could have been reading each other’s emails.

We talk about times when God seems to be hiding and our prayers bounce off the ceiling, times we cry out to God but get no answer. That’s what Job was experiencing. He was seeking, but God was nowhere to be found.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent (Psalm 22:1,2).

It seems that Christ also experienced the dark night of the soul.

Have your cries for God ever been answered only with silence?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 147: Job 19, 20 and 21

Why do the wicked live on? (Job 21:7)

There’s the crux of the matter. I know bad things happen to good people, but if it at least seemed like the scales were balanced and that the wicked suffered as much as the righteous, then I could say, Well, trouble comes to us all in equal measure.

But that’s not how it seems. While I’m struggling to pay my bills; while I’m suffering through illness and injury; while my kids are making bad choices causing me to lose sleep, my neighbor just bought another boat. Why does he need two boats? How is that fair, God?

It’s not so much that good people suffer, but that bad people so often seem to get a pass. Why do they have the advantage?

Near the end of the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella confronts baseball right fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson. Kinsella complains how he did all the work and went to all the expense to build a baseball field in the middle of his struggling farm, and he’s about to go under.

Kinsella: Never once have I asked, “What’s in it for me?”

Jackson: What are you saying, Ray?

Kinsella: I’m saying, What’s in it for me?

Looking at the seeming disparity between the lifestyles of the rich and famous and the lifestyle of the average believer, can you understand why Job thought life seemed unfair?

Have you ever asked, “What’s in it for me?”

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 146: Job 16, 17 and 18

What ails you that you keep on arguing? (Job 16:3)

Job referring to his friends as miserable comforters (v. 2) reminds me of the SNL character Debbie Downer played by actress/comedienne Rachel Dratch. Debbie was that socially awkward acquaintance (we all know one) who shares depressing anecdotal information guaranteed to cast a pall over any gathering.

In one episode while the whole gang is enjoying breakfast in a Magic Kingdom novelty restaurant, one cast member says how great steak and eggs sound. Debbie’s reply: Ever since they found mad cow disease in the U.S. I’m not taking any chances. It can live in your body for years before it ravages your brain. We know she’s a lot of fun at parties.

Job goes on to say, If you were in my place, I could speak just like you. But my mouth would encourage you; my words of comfort would bring you relief (vv. 4,5 my paraphrase).

Let’s face it: some people seem to have the spiritual gift of discouragement… they’re pathological downers. Moms-to-be heading for the delivery room don’t need to hear horror stories about the pain of childbirth. People scheduled for a tax audit don’t need to be regaled with accounts of someone else’s IRS nightmares.

If you’re an encourager, keep it up. You are sure to be welcome in any gathering. If you’re a Debbie (or Donny) Downer, maybe you should just not talk.

Do you light up a room by entering it? Or by leaving it?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 145: Job 13, 14 and 15

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job 13:15)

Job exhibits great confidence in his own righteousness, and even greater confidence in God.

Job’s statement highlights an important ingredient in faith. Job is saying that no matter how bad things get, no matter how dark, no matter how hopeless, he still knows where he will put his trust.

When everything’s going our way, when the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming, when we’ve just receive an A on our report card or a nice attaboy at work, who needs faith then? Faith was made for the dark times. Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. Faith is about certainty in uncertain times.

When we can’t see what’s around the bend, that’s when we wrap ourselves in the faith that God is walking with us and will not let us down.

Can you trust in God even through the hard times?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 144: Job 10, 11 and 12

If you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, . . . you will stand firm without fear. (Job 11:14,15)

Job’s friend Zophar probably meant well and genuinely cared for his friend. We can forgive his ignorance in that he was simply going along with accepted understandings of how things worked. Again, popular thought said, Do right and you’ll prosper; do wrong and you’ll suffer. Obviously since so many things were going wrong for Job, he must have done something really bad.

Zophar and the others just couldn’t conceive of a righteous man suffering the way Job was. They saw his pain and wanted it to stop. They were doing what they thought was best. If they could get Job to confess his sin and abandon his claims of innocence, then his life and fortunes could be restored.

Maybe you’ve experienced the pain of well meaning friends adding insult to injury in their awkward attempts to minister to you in a time of suffering. How many platitudes and clichés have been offered grieving parents at the loss of a child, or to a friend who’s been diagnosed with cancer. Statements like: Take comfort that this is God’s will, or If you just confess the sin in your life God will heal you, don’t do anyone any good.

Let’s not inflict further pain with careless words.

What would you say to a hurting friend?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 143: Job 7, 8 and 9

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

Some critical scholars see Job as an amalgam of writings. There is the original account of a good man beset by horrible misfortune – 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 man and God. 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 in 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)

What would you want Jesus to say to the Father on your behalf?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Day 142: Job 4, 5 and 6

We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself. (Job 5:27)

Word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of advertising. Someone for whom we have respect tells us, I tried it and I like it. I think you’ll like it too. That carries a lot of weight. As that endorsement spreads from 1 to 2 to 7 to 1,000 people, we call it going viral. It attains a momentum of its own and becomes almost impossible to stop. Advertising agencies spend loads of cash to achieve that kind of success.

But there’s nothing more annoying than someone saying I should like something I don’t like just because they tried it and they liked it. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I don’t like coffee. Talk about pressure! It doesn’t matter if your favorite brand really is the world’s best cup of coffee. To me that means it actually tastes even more repulsive than the other brands. And no, thank you, I have no desire to acquire the taste.

Job’s friends ascribed to the popular philosophy of the day: Do right and you’ll prosper; do wrong and you’ll suffer. But no matter from whom or how many Job heard that message; he still couldn’t accept it, because he knew it wasn’t true in his life.

Have you ever felt pressured to accept someone’s remedy for your life’s circumstances even though you knew it didn’t fit?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 141: Job 1, 2 and 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 life’s 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. I signed up for 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...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 140: Esther 7, 8, 9 and 10

They hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. (Esther 7:10)

Haman’s plot to wipe out the Jews had been announced. What Haman didn’t know was that Persia’s new queen was a Jew, and that the target of his anger, Mordecai, was in fact Esther’s cousin who had raised her after her parents died.

At the risk of her life, Esther appeared unbidden before the king. He received her with pleasure and offered her anything. She asked that the king and Haman come to a private banquet with her that day. At lunch, the king again offered her anything she wanted, and Esther simply asked him to bring Haman for another meal the next day.

In the next 24 hours, Haman, carried away with his own importance, contracted the construction of a special gallows on which to hang Mordecai. Then to his great distress, the next morning he was ordered to honor the very man he despised. Upon his return to Esther’s quarters for lunch later that day, Esther announced to the king that she was a Jew and that Haman had plotted the genocide of the Jewish people.

In a rage, the king decreed that Haman be hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. The edict to kill the Jews was reversed, and a day of mourning turned to celebration.

If a man digs a put, he will fall into it (Proverbs 26:27).

Ever have anger or bitter words come back to haunt you?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Day 139: Esther 4, 5 and 6

What should be done for the man the king delights to honor? (Esther 6:6)

In the dictionary next to the definition of the word hubris should be a picture of Haman the Agagite.

Because of insomnia, the king was listening as his attendant read to him from the chronicles of his reign. He was reminded that years earlier two of his trusted advisors had plotted his assassination and that Mordecai had uncovered the conspiracy and warned him in time to save his life and execute the would-be assassins. He also found that Mordecai had never been thanked for his intervention.

Coincidentally Haman had just arrived to speak with him about hanging Mordecai on a gallows he’d built especially for that purpose. The king was happy to welcome his friend and immediately asked: What should be done for the man the king delights to honor? Of course, Haman thought he was the one the king wanted to honor, so he came up with an elaborate reward. The king was pleased with Haman’s plan and told him: Go . . . do just as you have suggested… for Mordecai (6:10). Now what did you want to ask me?


Reminds me of the words of Jesus: When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited (Luke 14:8).

Have you ever made a similar misjudgment? How long before you crawled out of that hole?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Day 138: Esther 1, 2 and 3

The city of Susa was bewildered. (Esther 3:15)

The first Jews were exiled to Babylon in 605 BC. After things settled down, life was actually pretty good. They bought property, raised families, and when allowed to return to Jerusalem 70 years later, many elected to stay in their new home.

The story of Esther falls many years after the return to Jerusalem among Jewish people remaining in Persia. Susa, the empire’s winter capital, has a large and prosperous Jewish population, well thought of by their non-Jewish neighbors.

In an ancient Persian version of The Bachelor, Esther, a Jewish orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai, is selected from all the young ladies of the empire to be the new queen. When Mordecai offends Haman, a rising star in Persian society, he makes an arch-enemy of comic book proportions. Haman is a descendant of Agag – King of the Amalekites – killed by the prophet Samuel in the days of King Saul. Agag’s descendants have nursed a grudge against Israel for 600 years.

Haman sees his favor with the king as an opportunity to wreak vengeance on not only Mordecai, but on the entire Jewish people. He convinces the king to have the Jews killed (genocide). The day, chosen by chance, is eleven months away. As the news spreads throughout the empire, the Jews are in disbelief and their neighbors scratch their heads at this order, of which they cannot make sense.

How does faith help when you don’t understand the circumstances of life?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Day 137: Nehemiah 10, 11, 12 and 13

In those days I saw men in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath. (Nehemiah 13:15)

Entropy (enꞋ trə pē), n. 1. Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.

A. W. Tozer compared the spiritual life to a garden cut out of the jungle. No matter how well cultivated, if left untended the jungle will always creep back in.

After everything the nation of Judah had been through: the exodus, the conquest of Canaan, the monarchy, the divided kingdom, Israel’s fall to and Judah’s deliverance from Assyria, the Babylonian exile, the return to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls; one would think they would have learned their lesson.

Nehemiah’s furlough from service to the king was ended and he had returned to Persia. On another visit, he was dismayed to find that all the things addressed during his time in Jerusalem had gotten off track in his absence.

Tobiah, one of the enemies who had tried to intimidate Nehemiah and the builders of the wall had been given access to the temple, financial support was being withheld, the Levites had not been paid in months and so had gone back to their fields to make a living, men were working on the Sabbath as well as buying and selling goods, and once again marrying foreign women.

We cannot afford to coast. The path of least resistance always leads to decline.

What steps will you take this week to avoid spiritual entropy?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Day 136: Nehemiah 6, 7, 8 and 9

I realized that God had not sent him . . . He had been hired to intimidate me. (Nehemiah 6:12,13)

As Nehemiah continued in his project to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, opposition took many forms. There were threats, lies reported to the king in Persia, a failed assassination plot, and in today’s reading a conspiracy of intimidation.

Sanballat wielded much influence in Judah’s neighbor province Samaria and would one day be its governor. He saw a repopulated Jerusalem as a threat to his power, so he was determined to do whatever it would take to stop Nehemiah. He hired Shemaiah, a man Nehemiah respected enough from whom to seek counsel, who tried to sow into Nehemiah’s mind fear for his life.

Sanballat’s plan was to intimidate Nehemiah and the builders so that they would give up the project before its completion. It is an attempt right out of Satan’s playbook. Lacking the authority or power to impose your will, fling words of fear in the general direction of your target, and let him derail his own progress.

For God did not give us a spirit of [fear], but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Satan is a toothless, defeated foe, with no authority over Believers. All he can do is threaten, hurl innuendo and hope we fall for his lies.

God warns; the Enemy threatens.

What fearful thoughts are being thrown at you by Satan to derail your forward progress?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Day 135: Nehemiah 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are? (Nehemiah 4:2)

In his insightful book Rebuilding the Real You, Jack Hayford compares Nehemiah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls with the Holy Spirit rebuilding the walls of our lives. [1] The temple had been rebuilt, but the city’s means of protection were only piles of rubble. Hayford says the temple illustrates our spiritual center, whereas the work on the walls illustrates the longer and slower process of rebuilding our personality – a sort of healing from the wounds of life.

Notice the opposition to Nehemiah’s rebuilding project. When Sanballat . . . heard about this, [he was] very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites (2:10). In our focus verse, Sanballat ridicules them for their efforts to rebuild. Your enemy wants you to think what is broken must remain broken.

Hayford also reveals that the name Nehemiah can be literally translated as the comfort of Yahweh. Jesus said: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever (KJV, John 14:16). We want to stop short of allegorizing this text, but it’s interesting how closely the restorative roles of Nehemiah and the Holy Spirit complement one another.

Do you need help rebuilding the walls of your life?

[1] Jack Hayford, Rebuilding the Real You (Ventura: Regal, 1986).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Day 134: Ezra 7, 8, 9 and 10

Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today. (Ezra 9:7)

As Ezra made his journey to Jerusalem, he no doubt reflected on what had caused Judah’s destruction and delivered them into exile. From the beginning the men of Israel had been warned to not intermarry with foreign women who would lead them astray after their gods, and from the beginning they had ignored this advice. Here we have another example of how disobeying the 1st Commandment led to ruin for the people of Israel. You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). Then he arrived in his homeland and discovered that the returning exiles were engaged in the same practices. It must have struck him as inconceivable.

But in retrospect, as we look over the biblical accounts, it is clear that there were times that men of Israel married foreign women without reverting to the worship of foreign gods. Jesus’ genealogy includes Ruth (a Moabite) and Rahab (a Canaanite). Though technically personae non gratae, these women hold positions of honor in Jewish tradition.

We look to these stories of inclusiveness, and to God’s promise that all peoples of the earth might be blessed through Abraham’s seed, as clear signs that God loves all people – not just a select few.

Are there people outside your circle whom God would invite you to embrace?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 133: Ezra 4, 5 and 6

Do not interfere with this work on the temple of God. (Ezra 6:7)

When the returning exiles set about their work to rebuild the temple (as was ordered by King Cyrus), they encountered opposition from their neighbors. After Cyrus’s death, those neighbors sent complaints to the new king 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 coming 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 original documents signed by Cyrus that ordered the people to rebuild the temple, and even guaranteed that the government would cover the construction costs!

At this point, King Darius ordered that the Jews be left alone and that there was to be no more opposition to their building project. Furthermore, if anyone did oppose them, they would be executed and their home turned into a pile of rubble. Needless to say, construction continued without further interference and 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?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Day 132: Ezra 1, 2 and 3

All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold. (Ezra 1:6)

Ezra records for us the return from exile (I know – it seems like we just got here!). These are newer writings than those found in Deuteronomy; remember that these texts reached their finished form probably in the late sixth century BC. The Deuteronomic History (Joshua through 2 Kings) was compiled for an audience that had just been exiled to Babylon. These writings are for their children and grandchildren who have just come home from exile.

When we read the account of Moses on the Plains of Moab, giving his farewell address just before the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land, we asked the question: How would a Jewish expatriate, waiting for the expedition back to Jerusalem, read the story of Moses and the Exodus?

Here we are again. Would the people of Judah receiving gifts from their neighbors see the connection with the Exodus story? The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold (Exodus 12:35). Just as the Israelis plundered the Egyptians, now it seems their postexilic return to Jerusalem was financed by Persia.

Do you ever wonder if God has the resources to get you where you need to go?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Day 131: 2 Chronicles 34, 35 and 36

Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people . . . I have heard you, declares the Lord. (2 Chronicles 34:27)

[Josiah] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left (34:2). The parallel account in 2 Kings says this about Josiah: Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength (2 Kings 23:25).

Josiah became king at age 8, and began to search out the things of God when he was 16. At age 20 he purged from Judah every vile and offensive thing. When he was 26, he started the work of repairing the temple, which led to the discovery of the Book of the Law.

Josiah was not some cavalier young man following his basest instincts until suddenly being confronted with the word of God. He had already been pursuing God for sixteen years. When God revealed his plan to punish Judah, how easy would it have been for Josiah to throw a tantrum? Don’t you know everything I’ve done for you? But he didn’t. He submitted to the words of God and found favor in God’s eyes.

How do you respond when you get bad news?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Day 130: 2 Chronicles 31, 32 and 33

Be strong and courageous . . . for there is a greater power with us than with him. (2 Chronicles 32:7)

Here again the Chonicler regales us with the story of Judah’s deliverance from Assyria’s King Sennacherib. Sennacherib had already destroyed Samaria and exiled the people of the Northern Kingdom to the far reaches of the Assyrian Empire. Now its sights were set on Jerusalem.

Rather than focus on Judah’s deliverance as we did on Day 109, let’s focus on Judah’s preparation for war. Hezekiah did everything he could militarily and strategically to prepare for the coming assault. He repaired the weaker sections of the city wall, built another wall around the first, built towers, engineered new weapons and trained his fighting men, promoting those deserving to officer status. He blocked off the water outside the walls while ensuring a steady flow of fresh water inside the city. After strengthening his position, listen to his speech to a nervous city.

He didn’t say, Be strong and courageous because we’ve done everything we can; we have impenetrable walls, we have new weapons, we have plenty of water. No, he said, Be strong and courageous because God is on our side.

This is a good lesson for us. We are responsible to prepare for the future, but it is in God we put our trust.

What can you do this week to prepare for your future?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day 129: 2 Chronicles 28, 29 and 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 his enemies. The prophet Isaiah chastized Ahaz for his lack of faith, but to no avail.

When he died Ahaz was not buried in the tomb of the kings.

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

The nation of Judah had not celebrated Passover in many years, but Hezekiah decided to change 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.

How have you experienced God’s grace this week?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day 128: 2 Chronicles 25, 26 and 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, but because of an act of disobedience he was afflicted with leprosy and ruled from seclusion. During this time, his son Jotham was his co-regent - they shared the throne, reigning together. That's why it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint a date in ancient times. Events were dated according to how many years the reigning king had been on the throne (i.e., Hosheah . . . succeeded [Pekah] as king in the twentieth year of Jotham - 2 Kings 15:30). This seems straightforward until we consider that sometimes a son's reign would overlap with his father's. One source might consider the son's first year the first year of co-regency, while another might consider the son's first year the year after his father's death.

Back to Jotham. What lessons about obedience did Jotham learn at his father's side? Did he learn from his father's words or from the consequences his father suffered? One way or the other Jotham apparently learned the lesson that he must follow God wholeheartedly.

How did you learn obedience? Or are you still learning?

Day 127: 2 Chronicles 22, 23 and 24

The Levites are to station themselves around the king, each man with his weapons in his hand. (2 Chronicles 23:7)

This story would make a great action adventure film. First Jehu, in a religious coup, cleans house in Israel, which also leads to the death of Judah’s evil king Ahaziah. When Athaliah – the queen mother – learns of her son’s death, she sets out with a vengeance to exterminate the entire royal family and seize the throne for herself. Her killing spree rids the kingdom of nearly every possible contender for the throne, and for six years she wields a tyrant’s fist over Jerusalem.

But Athaliah does not know about the pact entered into by the Levitical priests loyal to God and to David’s family. One child has survived Athaliah’s murderous rampage, and the priests have covenanted together to protect him with their lives, giving him time to grow up so he can claim his rightful throne.

I don’t know what inspired Jehoiada the High Priest to know that the time was right, but when the boy turned seven years old, Jehoiada revealed the boy’s presence and proclaimed him as king. When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and cheering the king, she . . . tore her robes and shouted, “Treason! Treason (vv. 12,13)!”

Show me a strong leader, and I’ll show you strong followers committed to his/her success.

Be it employer, parent, pastor or project manager, how can you protect your leader?

Day 126: 2 Chronicles 19, 20 and 21

[Jehoram] passed away, to no one’s regret. (2 Chronicles 21:20)

Jehoram was not like his father. Jehoshaphat was a good king who loved God and loved his people. In an effort to build an alliance with the northern kingdom Israel, Jehoshaphat had arranged a marriage for his son with Athaliah daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. A deal with the devil.

Never get into a card game with a shark. The deck is always stacked against us and any attempt to outsmart him will end in crushing defeat. Though there were no hostilities between Judah and Israel for those years when they were connected by family ties, there was a disintegration of Judah’s moral and ethical foundation.

Even Elijah, prophet to Israel, sent Jehoram a letter accusing him of cold blooded murder, and prostituting his people to foreign gods. The letter included a chilling prophecy that made Asa’s aching feet sound like a walk in the park… without the achy feet.

Walking hand in hand with the enemy sounds like a good way of keeping him where we can see him, but it always has a way of coming back to hurt us. Hence the Apostle Paul’s admonishment: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)?

Our focus verse reveals how much Jehoram was missed after he was gone.

Ever make a deal with the devil? How’d that work out for you?

Day 125: 2 Chronicles 16, 17 and 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)

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 make a long story short, 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 significant 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, Asa put his trust in the king of Aram. In return for a large bribe, Ben-hadad came to the rescue, earning Asa a lifetime asterisk on his baseball card. By the way, Asa’s error meant Judah was now one of Ben-hadad’s vassal kingdoms.

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, consider Asa's aching feet.

Day 124: 2 Chronicles 13, 14 and 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 in a fight. Remember David's words on the day he fought the giant? First to 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 across the battlefield: 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, David's great-grandson 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 ten tribes of Israel come against two tribes of Judah. 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 ordained on the Internet?

Nothing like a little good natured trash talk between opponents.

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

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

Day 123: 2 Chronicles 10, 11 and 12

Do not go up to fight against your brothers. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing. (2 Chronicles 11:4)

Ever notice how concerning some things we consult God; and about other things… not so much? Many times the best course of action seems like a no-brainer. A faction of the kingdom rebels – go after them, punish the rabble-rousers and force everyone else back in line.

What about when David wanted to build a temple? Who better? No one with any hope of future job advancement would have said to him, I don’t think you’re the guy.

Or what about when Ahab asked Micaiah for a blessings about the coming rescue mission into Aram? Micaiah, how are things going to work out today?

Go get ‘em! God is on your side.

No, really; tell me the truth.

You’re going to die.

Ahab was killed in battle, and Micaiah was imprisoned for telling the truth.

And God spoke through the prophet Nathan. Nathan stopped David just as he was climbing into the royal pickup to head for Home Depot. And God spoke through the prophet Shemaiah, who informed Rehoboam he was not supposed to fight that day – for God himself was behind Israel’s secession.

I don’t know if I would have wanted to be the prophet-in-residence at the palace. Seems like it could be a very rough end to a distinguished career.

How do you handle it when God says, “No”? Do you shoot the messenger?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day 122: 2 Chronicles 7, 8 and 9

My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the Lord has entered are holy. (2 Chronicles 8:11)

Even though Solomon had been warned not to intermarry with the nations, he amassed 700 wives and 300 concubines. When the reigning Egyptian Pharaoh offered his daughter in marriage to the King of Israel in order to solidify their uneasy alliance, Solomon brought his new wife to Jerusalem. Knowing her presence in David’s palace would be displeasing to God, he did not move her in there, but skated the issue by building her a brand new palace.

Solomon did what we often do; he compartmentalized his life: I’ll keep my Israeli wives here in this palace, and I’ll keep my foreign-born wives over here, and never the twain shall meet. God won’t even notice. God did notice, and Solomon’s dalliances hurt not only him, but the entire kingdom. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods (1 Kings 11:4).

Solomon thought he could handle it, but he was lying to himself. When we think, This is my home life, this is my work life, and this is my spiritual life, we’re lying to ourselves too. We may think we can get away with it, but eventually it catches up with us.

Are any parts of your life incongruent with the rest? What are you going to do about that this week?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Day 121: 2 Chronicles 4, 5 and 6

Now arise, O Lord God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. (2 Chronicles 6:41)

Solomon’s final words of dedication over the new temple are borrowed from his father David. In a similar ceremony, forty years earlier, David and all Jerusalem brought up the Ark of the Covenant in a glorious procession to Zion, its new home. David wrote a song for the occasion which can be found in Psalm 132:8-10.

David proclaimed his faith that it was God’s presence which accounted for his success so far, and it would be God’s presence that would carry the young kingdom into the future.

By building the temple and employing David’s song for the celebration, Solomon affirms the continuity between father and son, between the God of David and the God of Solomon. God worked in the life and reign of David and God would work in the life and reign of Solomon.

Our spiritual lives are not lived out in a vacuum. There is a connection between parent and child. Your parents had, for good or bad, an influence on your walk with God. Your kids are watching you. Not only is their picture of God defined by their relationship with you, but they also learn how to live in relationship with God from what they see in your walk.

What did you learn about God from your parents? What are you teaching your kids?