Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 120: 2 Chronicles 1, 2 and 3

[Solomon] adorned the temple with precious stones. And the gold he used was gold of Parvaim (2 Chronicles 3:6).

We’ve already acknowledged the cheerful heart with which the people of Israel donated monies and materials toward the construction of the temple. They were a grateful people, who gave enthusiastically to make the construction of the temple a success.

Here we have another illustration of this building project’s importance. This was no 21st century construction project where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidders. Without proper oversight that process can lead to inferior materials being substituted for those in the engineering specs. There was no cutting corners in building Solomon’s Temple. Only the best was good enough for God.

Precious stones were used where the substitution of cubic zirconium would never have been detected. Tyre’s best cedar was harvested and delivered to the worksite. More cedar, along with juniper and algum wood, was brought in from Lebanon. Expert weavers and embroiderers produced elegant tapestries and curtains. 80,000 stonecutters used incredible precision to prepare limestone blocks in the quarry so that no tool noises would be heard in Jerusalem. And when it came to the overlays, no one was tempted to skimp with 10-carat gold. Solomon would accept only the gold of Parvaim, the finest gold money could buy.

When you leave your gift at the altar (be it money, time or talent), can you walk away satisfied you’ve given your very best? What would it look like to “leave it all on the field”?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 119: 1 Chronicles 26, 27, 28 and 29

We have given you only what comes from your hand (1 Chronicles 29:14b).

Listen to David’s heart as he splendors in God’s blessing: Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? (29:14a).

Awhile back I read that an eastern European government had regulated the amount its citizens could give to their churches. In fact charitable contributions of all kinds were being limited to two percent out of concern that financial support for terrorist organizations is often disguised as gifts to charities. The writer of the article reported that Christians in those countries are looking for loopholes so they can give more.

Contrast that with wealthier countries where many people find loopholes to give as little as possible, or feel no desire to give at all. Why is it the more we have the tighter our grip? Not so with David and the people of Israel. They were truly grateful for all that God had done for them, and they gave with joyful hearts. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Blessings are given that we might share them with others. Abundance is meant to be passed along. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). Knowing where our gifts come from can transform us into cheerful givers with generous hearts.

Ask God how you can be a cheerful giver. And think about how you could give a little extra this week.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 118: 1 Chronicles 22, 23, 24 and 25

They numbered 288 (1 Chronicles 25:7).

David designated 288 men to serve as singers in the new temple. 288 vocalists divided into 24 groups of 12.

What else can be evenly divided into 24 units? Hmmm... a day? Ding, ding, ding. “Congratulations. Johnny, tell him what he’s won.”

“You bet, Bob. You’ve won a BRAND NEW CAR!!!”*.

It has been conjectured that these 12-member teams each served daily 1-hour shifts lifting up their voices to God, so that Solomon’s Temple was blanketed in worship 24 hours a day.

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness (Psalm 89:15,16).

John MacArthur writes: “Do you worship God as a way of life? You should! If you find it difficult to worship the Lord . . . on Sundays, it isn’t because the music isn’t right, or the atmosphere isn’t right, or because you got distracted. . . . it’s because you’re not worshiping during the rest of the week. Worship can’t just happen once a week – it’s a way of life. And when Christians do come together once a week, there should be a bursting out of true praise and worship of the heart. The worship that is enjoyed individually will be enriched and enhanced when brought into the joy of the assembly” [8].

Worship: It’s not just for Sunday anymore.

How do you express your loving submission to God Almighty? How could you develop a lifestyle of worship?

*Just to be clear, nobody's winning anything.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 117: 1 Chronicles 19, 20 and 21

Do you think David is honoring your father by sending men to you to express sympathy? (NIV 1984, 1 Chronicles 19:3).

During the days of Saul there was great enmity between Israel and Ammon. Saul’s decisive victory over the Ammonite forces cemented his position as king over Israel. We learn in verse 2 that David held the Ammonite king Nahash in high regard. The text doesn’t spell out for us why that is, except with a vague reference to some kindness shown David. It is probable that Nahash may have provided David refuge during the time he was hiding from Saul. Whatever the case, upon Nahash’s death, David wanted to show kindness to his son Hanun in return for the kindness he’d been shown years earlier. Not only was it the right thing to do, but it should have also served to strengthen the tentative alliance between the two nations.

When the Israeli envoys arrived in Ammon they were greeted with suspicion. Hanun’s advisors encouraged him to deal harshly with this threat, and the order was given for the ambassadors to be humiliated. Diplomacy demands that when an ambassador is welcomed, he is to be received as though he were the king himself. Not only were the envoys humiliated, but David and all Israel were shamed as well by this despicable act. The resulting conflict would result in Ammon’s destruction.

Have you ever suffered a lapse in judgment and questioned someone’s motives who had only your best interest in mind?

Is there someone in your life who deserves the benefit of the doubt?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 116: 1 Chronicles 16, 17 and 18

David left Zadok the priest and his fellow priests before the tabernacle of the Lord at the high place in Gibeon to present burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of burnt offering (1 Chronicles 16:39,40).

In approximately 1050 BC the Philistines won a decisive victory over the confederated tribes of Israel at Shiloh. Though Israel brought the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield as its ultimate weapon, it did them no good, and they were soundly thrashed in a major defeat leaving Israel subservient to Philistia.

Philistine celebration soon turned to concern and then panic as the power of God turned against them. They sent the ark back to Israel where it found a resting place in Kiriath-Jearim.

For over fifty years the ark remained there in the care of Abinadab’s family. Never during the reign of Saul did he inquire of the ark. When David conquered Jerusalem, establishing it as the religious and political center of Israel, he retrieved the ark placing it in the new tent he had built for it there.

At some point after the defeat at Shiloh, Moses’ tabernacle was moved to Gibeon, and from today’s passage it seems that sacrificial worship continued there – business as usual. One difference: God was not there. The Ark of the Covenant (the symbol of God’s presence) was housed elsewhere.

How life changing could worship be that doesn’t require the presence of God?

When’s the last time you encountered God’s palpable presence in worship? What was that like?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 115: 1 Chronicles 13, 14 and 15

Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul (1 Chronicles 13:3).

When King Saul wanted advice he went to the Prophet Samuel, but most of the time he trusted his instincts, leading according to his own strengths. For many years Saul’s reign over Israel seemed successful, even though he neglected the Ark of the Covenant (symbolic of the presence of God). After Samuel’s death, rather than go to the priests or visit the ark to encounter God, Saul chose to consult a witch. And in the end, the burdens and responsibilities of leading God’s people proved too heavy a burden for his broad shoulders.

David had a lot going for him. He was a cunning military leader, made great political decisions and, because of his charisma and wisdom, his people loved him. But David never forgot where his success – including his gifts and strengths – came from.

David wanted God close to him, so he built a new tent to house the Ark of the Covenant in his capital city. Even though it took a couple attempts to accomplish the task, he brought the ark into Jerusalem, installed it in its new home, and gave it the place of prominence that reflected God’s prominence in his own life.

Some people are content to just get by. Some want to accomplish great things possible only with God’s help and strength.

What about you? What does God want to help you accomplish?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 114: 1 Chronicles 10, 11 and 12

[These fighting men] came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel (1 Chronicles 12:38).

Most casual readers of the Bible think David became king of Israel immediately upon the tragic deaths of Saul and Jonathan (as first-born, Jonathan was in line for the throne). What they fail to realize is that Saul had another son named Ish-Bosheth, who received the kingdom upon his father’s death.

While Ish-Bosheth did not enjoy the confidence of the people, he did have the support of Abner, Saul’s highest ranking general. This was a relationship of convenience. Ish-Bosheth needed Abner’s strength to secure for him the kingdom, and politically Abner needed Ish-Bosheth in place until he could seize the kingdom for himself.

Saul had been thinking of his sons and future generations when he exiled David, seeing him as a threat to his throne. He exiled him to erase that threat. But even while David was running for his life, a growing band of skilled fighters rallied around him.

In the mean time, upon hearing of Saul’s death, the men of Judah proclaimed David king and he reigned in Hebron, Judah’s tribal capital. David had a charisma that Ish-Bosheth lacked, and today’s reading illustrates the transfer of power as a steady stream of supporters gathered around him in Hebron.

No one could have been more loyal to Saul than was David. He knew the first step toward being a good leader is to be a good follower.

This week, how can you be a good follower?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 113: 1 Chronicles 7, 8 and 9

Ezer and Elead were killed by the native-born men of Gath, when they went down to seize their livestock (1 Chronicles 7:21).

Within this History of the World is inserted what amounts to little more than a parenthetical note regarding two sons of Ephraim. Though Ephraim was the second son of Joseph, Jacob (Ephraim’s grandfather) gave him the best blessing, which normally would have gone to his older brother Manasseh.

Because of the limitations of ancient languages, and some particularly awkward sentence structure, it’s difficult to say exactly why Ezer and Elead were caught in a conflict with the men of Gath. Some commentators say men from Gath raided the Israelites in Goshen and the brothers died defending their livestock. Others say it was Ezer and Elead who were the thieves and they died when they were caught stealing from the herds of Gath.

Most translations leave the statement ambiguous. Then again the NLT places blame with Ezer and Elead, and the Amplified Bible says they were heroes. There’s anecdotal evidence in support of both scenarios, but we just don’t know.

Here’s what we do know: Jacob’s kind words over Ephraim did not guarantee him a life free from sadness. In spite of his grandfather’s blessing, this was a man who knew the heartache of burying his children.

Have you ever felt betrayed by God? What does it do to your faith to realize believers suffer the same tragedies as (or even worse than) those who don’t believe? How is that fair?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 112: 1 Chronicles 4, 5 and 6

His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain” (1 Chronicles 4:9).

Not everyone gets to be born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The mere mention of your name may not cause doors of opportunity to swing wide in welcome. And if town leaders offer you the key to the city just because of where you came from… you can stop reading right now.

Jabez didn’t live that kind of life. There was nothing special about Jabez’s family. Koz, his father (verse eight lists Koz as the father of Hazzobebah, which is probably a variant of the name Jabez), had an A-list half-brother named Tekoa. Besides that, Koz was the youngest of four brothers, not counting his other half-brothers. When it came time to split up the inheritance, there probably wasn’t much left for Koz.

And Jabez wasn’t even Koz’s firstborn son. There was Anub, who would get a double share of the estate (what estate there was) as his birthright.

And if that wasn’t enough, the day of his birth was a bad day for Jabez’s mother. To commemorate a difficult birth she named him Pain.

But Jabez had one thing going for him. He knew where to turn for help. “Oh, that you would, bless me.” . . . And God granted his request (4:10).

You may have lots of strikes against you. Does any of that really matter when you have a God who’s for you? Imagine a life unconfined by self-imposed limitations.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 111: 1 Chronicles 1, 2 and 3

Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mehalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah (1 Chronicles 1:1-3).

How’s that for launching right into the genealogical history of the world? No introduction, no beating around the bush. Sort of like a Billy Graham stadium event where his first words are: “Won’t you come?”

According to Walter Brueggemann, the first three chapters of 1 Chronicles make a “wondrous sweep” of the past, delivering us to post-exilic times [5]. Chronicles was likely written late in Israel’s Persian period, sometime after mid-sixth century BC.

At times over the next three weeks as we read the story of Israel (after the northern kingdom Israel fell in 722 BC, the name Israel defaulted to the southern kingdom Judah), it will seem like, Didn’t I just read this? At other times, we’ll read a chapter and think, “That doesn’t quite agree with what I read in Kings.”

Again to reference Brueggemann, this is a “revised version of Israel’s memory” [6]. Consider it like this. Joshua to 2 Kings is the Deuteronomic History. It tells exiled Israel’s story looking back through time. How did we end up here? Chronicles covers the same time period (even more – it goes all the way back to Adam), but rather than looking backward, Chronicles sees those same events in the light of looking ahead. Can what we’ve been through teach us something as we begin a new chapter in our lives? Same events. Different perspective.

How might your life look different if you observed its events through different lenses?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 110: 2 Kings 22, 23, 24 and 25

I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord (2 Kings 22:8).

Hezekiah’s great-grandson Josiah became king of Judah when he was only eight years old. The writer of 2 Kings tells us he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (22:2). Whereas Hezekiah had to strip gold from the temple doorposts to pay Assyria tribute, Josiah authorized a capital funds campaign to restore the temple to its original condition.

It was during the renovation process that Hilkiah the High Priest found the Book of the Law (possibly Deuteronomy), and passed it on to the king. Josiah was grief-stricken upon hearing God’s commandments, and implemented a sweeping reform of Judah. It is in reading of this reform (chapter 23) that we see how far Judah’s downward spiral had progressed in just two generations, due to the evil influences of Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh.

Josiah had never met his great-grandfather, but had probably heard stories. Possibly because of his mother Jedidah (the writer carefully includes her name), he developed a heart for God. So the question is: Did the discovery of the Book of the Law fan into flame this passion for God? Or did God reveal his Word to Josiah because he knew Josiah was already primed to do something about it?

Just goes to show what we could be missing when we neglect our Bibles.

How is God preparing your heart to answer his call in your life? Ask him to make you ready.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 109: 2 Kings 19, 20 and 21

Isaiah . . . asked, “Where did they come from?” “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied . . . “Babylon” (2 Kings 20:14).

In 722 BC Israel had ceased to exist as a kingdom. The Assyrians relocated her people and repopulated the land with other conquered peoples. Where earlier empires had been satisfied with receiving tribute, the Assyrian king knew that deporting an enemy effectively ended any possibility it would ever cause him trouble again.

From the south, Judah watched her sister nation crumble. Then Assyria turned its gaze toward Jerusalem, defeating Judah’s fortified cities and marching on the capital. Only after receiving a huge bribe (including gold and selected daughters of Hezekiah as royal concubines) did the Assyrian king Sennacherib withdraw his troops [4].

Rebellion on the other end of the Assyrian Empire convinced Hezekiah to strike a blow for independence. When things turned bad, help from Egypt proved worthless, but Hezekiah was determined to die rather than surrender. The only thing that saved Jerusalem was the mysterious deaths of thousands of Assyrian soldiers (possibly due to rodent-borne bubonic plague). Sennacherib withdrew but Judah remained a subject nation.

In later years Hezekiah received a get-well gift from the king of another empire on the rise. Hezekiah proudly showed his guests the nation’s remaining wealth. The prophet Isaiah’s question regarding the purpose of their visit foreshadows dark days to come.

Do lapses in judgment from your past threaten to come back and haunt you? Take it to your Father.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 108: 2 Kings 16, 17 and 18

The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from his presence (2 Kings 17:22,23).

Jeroboam son of Nebat, the first king of Israel the Northern Kingdom, knew that if anyone made the trip back to worship in Jerusalem, they might realize the error of their ways and return their allegiance to Rehoboam of Judah (1 Kings 12:27). He had two golden calves fashioned to represent the gods who had brought the people out of Egypt, appointed a new priesthood and built shrines on the high places, all of which were abominations before God.

King after king, generation after generation, the people continued to worship the calves stationed at Bethel and Dan (conveniently located in a neighborhood near you!), as well as worshiping at the high places scattered throughout Israel. After Jeroboam, 18 kings ruled in Samaria and almost every single one had the same epitaph: He did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Even Jehu – responsible for purging the evil Omride dynasty (Ahab and Jezebel) from Israel – did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat (2 Kings 10:29).

The nicest thing said about any king of Israel was said about Hoshea (Israel’s very last king): He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him (2 Kings 17:2).

What spiritual heritage are you leaving to your great-grandchildren? What will historians write about you?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 107: 2 Kings 13, 14 and 15

A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, “Give your daughter to my son in marriage” (2 Kings 14:9).

Just a few generations after Jehoshaphat king of Judah went to such great lengths to restore good relations with Israel, the two countries were once again at each other’s throats. Jehoash of Israel was a proven leader with several impressive military victories under his belt. Amaziah of Judah had recently successfully battled the Edomites.

Amaziah, completely enamored with himself, was itching for another enemy to defeat and turned his gaze to the north. Amaziah’s grandfather had been killed by Jehoash’s grandfather, and it is almost definite there was still bad blood between the two families. So Amaziah issued a challenge: Come, meet me face to face, to which Jehoash sent his poetic reply: Should a cedar concern itself with a thistle? Stay home; you’re asking for trouble.

Here we have the proverbial big fish in a small pond scenario. Amaziah had a limited view of the real world and an elevated opinion of himself. Jehoash’s retort was injurious to his pride and he couldn’t back down. The ensuing conflict was disastrous for Judah. Amaziah was captured, Judah’s army was routed, and the enemy broke through the very gates of Jerusalem. Bad decision on Amaziah’s part.

But that apparently wasn’t the last mistake Amaziah made, because he survived Jehoash by fifteen years before being assassinated by his own people.

How has pride reared its ugly head in your life? What does God want to teach you?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 106: 2 Kings 10, 11 and 12

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family (2 Kings 11:1).

Jehoshaphat was one of the great kings of Judah, but he had a blind spot when it came to Ahab. Perhaps as part of a sordid plan to extend their power over Israel’s neighbor nation to the south, Ahab and Jezebel gave their daughter Athaliah in marriage to Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram. Out of his naïve desire to restore good relations between the two nations, he never saw Ahab’s ploy for what it was, and opened Judah to a nearly disastrous wicked influence.

Jehoram and Athaliah gave birth to Ahaziah. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Ahaziah was mortally wounded in Jehu’s purge, which eradicated all of Athaliah’s family members still in Israel. When the news reached the palace, she set out in a venemous rage to kill every member of the royal family – which by the way would have ended David’s line – and seize the throne for herself.

In the nick of time, High Priest Jehoiada spirited Ahaziah’s youngest son Joash into hiding. He was the only one to survive Athaliah’s pogrom. The priests cared for Joash until Jehoiada proclaimed the young man king at the tender age of seven. The bodyguard priest then ordered the execution of Athaliah ending her reign of terror.

Against overwhelming odds, God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7:16) remained intact.

So when the odds are against you, what are the chances God will keep his promises?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 105: 2 Kings 7, 8 and 9

Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master? (2 Kings 9:31).

Jehu was doing the Lord’s work, purging the house of Omri from the nation of Israel, and Jezebel was next. Some manuscripts state Jezebel’s question like this: Was there peace for Zimri who murdered his master?

However Jezebel originally framed her question, her intent was the same. She was reminding Jehu that many years earlier a similar coup had been engineered by a man named Zimri. Once the gate was cracked open, no one could hold back the floodwaters of rebellion. Zimri sat on the throne only seven days before lighting his own palace on fire – committing suicide to save himself from death at Omri’s hand.

If Jezebel was going to die, she would at least do what she could to curse her killer. She attempted to sow doubt in Jehu’s mind: “Zimri only lived seven days after he seized the throne. How long do you think you’ll last?” Watch your back. Recipe for paranoia.

Even when we’re confident our mission is from God (it was Elisha who ordered that Jehu be anointed king) enemies will do their best to fill our heads with fear. But when God is on our side, though our foes taunt us with songs of destruction, we can know peace. Despite Jezebel’s warning, Jehu’s purge was effective and his son succeeded him as king of Israel when Jehu died in his sleep 28 years later.

Is your enemy taunting you with thoughts of fear and failure? What does God’s Word say?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 104: 2 Kings 4, 5 and 6

If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? (2 Kings 5:13).

During a time of uneasy détente between Aram and Israel, Naaman – one of Aram’s most valued generals – came to the prophet Elisha to obtain healing for his leprosy. Naaman was a proud man, who had earned his position and commanded respect from both his subordinates and his superiors.

When his entourage stopped at Elisha’s house, the prophet didn’t even come out to meet him. He sent word that in order to be healed, Naaman was to wash himself in the Jordan seven times [3]. The general was offended. It would be like expecting to see the doctor and having the receptionist hand us a prescription through the glass: Take two aspirin and call us in the morning.

At the very least a man of Naaman’s standing deserved a face-to-face. He expected Elisha to make a big deal over his visit and summon his very best magic to heal his leprosy. Not only did he want the answer to be harder than Elisha made it out to be, he wanted to play a role in his own healing. “Give me a quest; I’ll do anything. Go wash in the river? Are you serious?”

We’re just the same. Give me step-by-step instructions. I’ll follow any rule to make myself right with God. Naaman needed to learn the same lesson we need to learn: It’s not about proving ourselves worthy. It’s about accepting God’s free gift of grace.

How’s your quest coming to earn God’s favor? Isn’t it time you gave it a rest?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 103: 2 Kings 1, 2 and 3

Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? (2 Kings 1:3).

There was a history of antagonism between Elijah and Ahab, and that history continued with Ahab’s son Ahaziah. When Ahaziah was injured, he probably expected a less than favorable answer from Elijah, so he preempted that diagnosis and went straight for a second opinion. He sent his envoys to the Philistine city of Ekron, to inquire of the god Baal – not the best way to get on Yahweh’s good side (or Elijah’s for that matter).

It’s kind of like a little girl playing one parent against the other until she gets the answer she wants. Or a hypochondriac doctor shopping until he finds one who will give him the diagnosis he’s looking for. Or maybe more like someone who doesn’t like the news from CNN and goes with FOX instead.

But Elijah knew exactly what Ahaziah was up to and wasn’t about to let him go unchallenged.

No extra charge: Did you notice the full name of the false god in verse three? Baal-Zebub (Lord of the flies). By the time of Jesus’ ministry the name would evolve to Beelzebub and be synonymous with Satan (Matthew 12:22-28). Our enemy is more than happy to give us the answer we’re looking for – but it won’t be the truth.

How do you handle bad news? If you don’t like God’s answer, do you sidestep him and shop around for an answer more to your liking? How would life look different if you submitted to his truth?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 102: 1 Kings 19, 20, 21 and 22

One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off (1 Kings 20:11).

Yesterday I told you how despicable a person was King Ahab. Today I confess that one of my favorite quotes in the Bible must be attributed to Ahab himself.

In this passage, the King of Aram, along with 32 of his vassal kings and their forces, come out to attack Ahab’s Israel. It isn’t looking good for Ahab, and Ben-Hadad of Aram is boasting of how he is going to destroy Samaria (Israel’s capital city). When I get done with you there won’t even be enough dust remaining in Israel to give each of my men a handful! (Author’s Paraphrase, 20:10) Wow! That’s a good taunt. But then comes Ahab’s priceless response: One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.

This is the kind of attitude one might expect from John Wayne defending the stage coach’s women and children against masked highway bandits! “An hombre getting into a gunfight oughtn’t to brag about the outcome before the lead starts a’flyin’.”

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do” [2]. Ben-Hadad’s taunts were brave talk for a man who hadn’t yet drawn first blood from his enemy. Somehow, Ahab’s axiom sounds tougher (and cooler) than Ben Franklin’s “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” but it’s the same sentiment.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).

Is your ego writing checks your body can’t cash? In whom are you putting your trust?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 101: 1 Kings 16, 17 and 18

Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him (1 Kings 16:30).

The Omrides (Omri and his descendants) were the most evil royal family in the history of Israel.  You could say they put the nasty in dynasty. Omri had been the commander of Israel’s army when Zimri assassinated King Elah. Zimri only lasted seven days before Omri and his troops besieged the city and surrounded the palace. When Zimri saw he was surrounded, and that Omri was supported by the military, he set fire to his palace, forfeiting his own life.

The changing of the guard was not uncontested, but Omri’s supporters were stronger than those of his opponent. After four years of civil war Tibni, the contender for the throne, was executed and Omri was crowned king. Thus begins the dynasty.

After Omri’s death, his son Ahab became king in his place. Ahab’s wife Jezebel was the Baal-worshiping princess of Sidon. The couple set out on a literal reign of terror during which time the prophets of the Lord feared for their lives. There were no more feared Old Testament names than Ahab and Jezebel. Even after their deaths, their evil would infect Israel’s sister nation of Judah for generations to come, but that’s a story for another time... a story that begins with Omri.

Evil starts somewhere. So does redemption.

Who do you have to thank, good or bad, for the road you’re on today? What direction are you setting for generations to come?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 100: 1 Kings 13, 14 and 15

King Rehoboam made bronze shields (1 Kings 14:27).

After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam ascended the throne. In his fifth year, Egypt’s Shishak invaded Judah and carried off the treasures of palace and temple. In spite of everything that was stolen (we can only imagine the list provided to the insurance company), the account focuses on the loss of Solomon’s gold shields. It would seem then, that the shields are a very important part of this story.

We just read 1 Kings 10:16-17 about Solomon having the shields made from hammered gold. Once they were stolen by Egypt, the once wealthy nation of Judah could no longer afford the gold to replace them, so Rehoboam had copies made from bronze.

Every Sabbath, as Rehoboam made his way to the Temple, his Secret Service agents equipped with those bronze shields surrounded him. I imagine, as the sun shone down on that bronze, it must have dazzled the eyes of anyone looking – maybe even giving the appearance of real gold – but it wasn’t.

After church the guards would put the shields away, locked in a cabinet where they would stay until the next Sabbath for their weekly parade to Temple.

It’s probably easy to forecast where I’m going with this. It’s easy to play dress-up on the weekend. Some people head for church wearing their shiny best. They look the part, but there’s no authentic relationship with God. Others fear what might happen if they were to be transparent.

Another opportunity to take honest inventory: Are you authentic gold? …or wannabe bronze?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 99: 1 Kings 10, 11 and 12

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women (1 Kings 11:1).

The smartest man in the world lost his head over a pretty woman… actually it was a thousand pretty women. It was not uncommon for one king to marry off his daughter to another king or to another king’s son to solidify an alliance. That’s probably where a lot of Solomon’s wives came from. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase wedding present.

Solomon had inherited a strong and stable kingdom. But even if his military was the strongest in the entire world, Solomon the man still had chinks in his armor, which left him vulnerable. His weakness? His foreign wives and their gods.

These dalliances affected not only Solomon, but brought great hardship on the nation. Today’s passage cites Solomon’s disobedience as the root cause of Israel’s dissolution into two kingdoms – the northern of which would keep the name Israel, and the southern to be called Judah – which would be realized during the reign of his son Rehoboam.

Due to God’s favor and David’s capable leadership, Israel was the premier military strength in the region. It didn’t have to worry about being attacked by any foreign enemy. Though the front door was locked up tight, what no one counted on was the new king leaving the side door wide open to an even more formidable foe.

In taking inventory of your defenses, where are you most vulnerable? What are you going to do about that this week?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 98: 1 Kings 7, 8 and 9

When they sin against you . . . and you . . . give them over to their enemies, who take them captive to his own land… (1 Kings 8:46).

The long awaited temple has finally been completed. Solomon offers a grand dedication prayer with some rather odd elements.

Solomon takes it as a given that Israel will fall away from God and be exiled into a foreign land. It’s awkward to believe the king would be such a wet blanket during Israel’s greatest national celebration to date. In fact, this passage fits better with our premise that this collection of materials (Joshua through 2 Kings – the Deuteronomic History) was gathered into its final form when the people were still stunned from their recent exile. We know chapters 24 and 25 of 2 Kings were written after the fall of Jerusalem. In the end he thrust them from his presence (2 Kings 24:20).

Imagine a nation’s disbelief, having taken for granted that Jerusalem was invincible. The temple in Jerusalem housed the greatest of all gods (they still probably weren’t quite monotheistic – chasing after other gods is what got them in this mess). If Yahweh were the strongest god, how could they have been defeated?

Then we understand Solomon’s odd dedication prayer.

Who’s the audience? Not people standing around listening to Solomon pray, but Israeli exiles 375 years later, wondering what happened and how they ended up in Babylon.

What does God want you to learn from the hard times in your life?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 97: 1 Kings 4, 5 and 6

Solomon had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year (1 Kings 4:7).

The nation of Israel was growing up. During the reign of Saul, Israel was at war, subject to, or at the very least tormented by the Philistines. During the reign of David, Israel conquered its enemies and its borders were expanded. In Solomon’s time, Israel enjoyed a season of peace and prosperity – at least temporarily.

As enemies were conquered, they were required to pay tribute to Israel. That partially accounted for its prosperity. Under Solomon, however, the kingdom quit expanding even though its bureaucracies did not. Chapter 4 gives us our first glimpse of Solomon organizing Israel into 12 administrative districts (read: tax districts), coordinating roughly with tribal borders. Each district was responsible to fund the national budget for one month.

No longer were the costs of doing business covered by tribute from other nations (there was still tribute to be sure, but not enough to cover expenses); now Israel’s own people were being taxed to help pay for the many levels of bureaucracy.

We think of the reigns of David and Solomon as the golden age of Israel. We would be wise to consider how their decisions affected future generations.

Are you living within your means? How will your decisions this week affect your great grandchildren? Pray for wisdom.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 96: 1 Kings 1, 2 and 3

Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar (1 Kings 3:4).

Upon entering the Promised Land, the tabernacle found a temporary home at Shiloh. There it remained from the time of the judges through Samuel’s childhood. At some point, probably soon after the Battle of Shiloh (1 Samuel 4), the tabernacle was moved to Gibeon. But what’s a tabernacle without the Ark of the Covenant? After the ark was captured by the Philistines, and then returned, it would never again be housed in Moses’ Tabernacle. For years (throughout the reign of Saul and beyond) it was sheltered at the house of Abinadab. When David conquered Jerusalem, he set up a new tent for the ark called Zion, but Moses’ tabernacle remained at Gibeon.

The Zion tabernacle had no altar for burnt offerings so, after Solomon’s coronation, he went to Gibeon, where he offered up a thousand sacrifices. Can you imagine how long it would take to sacrifice a thousand burnt offerings? In return for this act of worship, or more likely because of Solomon’s heart behind the worship, God appeared to him in a dream and offered the new king anything he asked. Solomon could have asked for wealth or power, but asked instead for wisdom. So in addition to wisdom, God promised Solomon all the wealth and power he could have asked for.

Extravagant worship. Extravagant blessing. Could there be a connection?

Now why was it you wanted to keep your worship safe and respectable? Pray for the courage to worship God the way he deserves to be worshiped.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Day 95: 2 Samuel 22, 23 and 24

Enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are (2 Samuel 24:2).

This is one of those times when the writer neglects to share with us the details that must have been obvious to him. Why was it a problem for David to count his fighting men?

When we read the account of David, we can only be amazed at his win-loss record. I haven’t counted up his wins, but I can tell you how many fights he lost. None.

Why did he always win? Was it because his vast army outnumbered his foes? No. There are plenty of occasions when David led the smaller fighting force, but still managed to pull out a victory. Was it because he was better equipped? No. Many of his enemies had chariots. Fighting primarily in the hill country, David didn’t see their value. For the most part, his men were foot soldiers.

David always won. Why? It wasn’t because of numbers; it wasn’t because of weaponry; it was because God was on his side.

So what was the problem?

David counted his soldiers because he wanted to know if he had enough men to defeat any enemy that might rear its head. For the first time in his life, David was putting his faith in his own strength, and his own resources, rather than in the presence of God.

Do you count your money and take inventory of your bills before deciding whether or not you can trust God? Reflect on God’s faithfulness.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Day 94: 2 Samuel 19, 20 and 21

Whoever is for David, let him follow Joab! (2 Samuel 20:11).

Maybe he felt bad for sending Absalom away when he avenged his sister by killing her rapist (his half-brother Amnon), but when it came to his favorite son, David was loyal to a fault.

Absalom had finessed the kingdom away from his father, causing David and those loyal to him to run for their lives. Joab had the opportunity so, out of loyalty to David, he killed Absalom. Joab knew it had to be done if the king were ever to regain the throne. And how does David reward him? He spitefully replaces him with none other than Amasa, the general who had supported Absalom’s coup.

But being in trouble is a good way to find out who your friends are. Amasa, sensing David’s vulnerability, drags his feet allowing David’s enemies more time to strengthen their position. Joab, still loyal to David, sees what Amasa is up to and executes him. He then chases down his king’s other enemies, reuniting the kingdom under David.

Those seeking an advantage constantly scrutinize us to find where we are weak. And once they discern a chink in our armor, they use it against us. A friend loves us in spite of our shortcomings. A friend sticks by us when the chips are down.

A friend loves at all time, and a brother is born for adversity (NIV 1984, Proverbs 17:17).

Who do you know that needs a friend? How could you be that friend?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Day 93: 2 Samuel 16, 17 and 18

[Shimei] threw stones at David and his officers, but the people and soldiers gathered all around David (NCV, 2 Samuel 16:6).

As leaders, it’s a fact of life that people will throw stones at us. What a blessing to be surrounded by people who love us, and who are willing to put themselves between us and our detractors. It is not self-serving for a leader to teach those around him their responsibility in this matter. It is not dictatorial or cultish to engrain this kind of loyalty and sacrifice into the hearts and minds of followers. Leaders in training will be blessed by following the example of David’s soldiers. After all, one day someone may be throwing rocks at them.

There’s another lesson here. David doesn’t just dismiss out of hand Shimei’s curses. If he is cursing me because the Lord told him to, who can question him? (NCV, v. 10). David understood the necessity of spreading out before the Lord accusations made against him. David knew that – only after honest examination – if there was nothing there, that would be the time to dismiss those curses. The king was humble and teachable. If there was a foundation of truth in Shimei’s curse, or if God was trying to speak to him, he was prepared to receive from the Lord his message of correction.

Thank God for those people in your life who care enough about you to shield you from attack. And for those who care enough to lovingly confront you.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Day 92: 2 Samuel 13, 14 and 15

Amnon had a friend named Jonadab . . . a very shrewd man (NIV 1984, 2 Samuel 13:3).

These chapters illustrate the influence of a well-placed whisper. Our story begins with Amnon, a prince of Israel, who is head over heels in lust with his half sister. His friend Jonadab conceives an evil plan, and whispers it in Amnon’s ear, leading to the travesty of King David’s virgin daughter being raped by her half brother.

After Tamar confides in Absalom the terrible thing that has happened, her older brother nurses a scheme of vengeance and two years later kills Amnon for raping his sister, before finding asylum in a neighboring kingdom.

David is in a difficult position. Absalom (his father’s favorite) has killed another of his sons. Societal conventions do not allow David to bring his son home (no doubt the two years between Tamar’s rape and Amnon’s death, not to mention the careful planning involved, make it difficult to argue against premeditation).

Joab, the king’s trusted general, intervenes. Though he convinces David it is time to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem, David still refuses to see his son. Though back in his home, he is still exiled from his father’s presence. Yet another two years pass. Joab pleads Absalom’s case before David, and the king finally reconciles with his son.

Whispers. Jonadab whispered in Amnon’s ear to indulge his appetites. Joab whispered in David’s ear to do the right thing.

Who’s your Jonadab? Who’s your Joab? Can you discern who’s been whispering in your ear?