1-kings

1 Kings 21, Daniel 3

Today’s readings are 1 Kings 21 and Daniel 3.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 21.

There are two types of leadership: (1) positional leadership and (2) personal leadership. A personal leader is someone who is influential because of who they are. They have the right combination of characteristics that cause others to follow them naturally. This kind of person is sometimes called a “natural born leader.”

A positional leader is someone who occupies a position that gives them influence over others. Your boss is a positional leader because s/he decides whether you keep your employment and pay, or get demoted or promoted. Even if you personally dislike your boss or wouldn’t follow that person (or any positional leader) if you didn’t have to, you have to follow him or her because they can help you or hurt you.

Ahab definitely had positional leadership. He was the king of Israel. But when it comes to personal leadership, he seems to have far less of that quality than his wife Jezebel had. In this chapter of scripture, Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard and attempted to get it in a righteous way. He made Naboth a fair offer (v. 2) and accepted Naboth’s rejection, even though it hurt his feelings (vv. 3-4). Later on in this chapter, after receiving the Lord’s declaration of judgment for his sin (vv. 21-24), he responded with a degree of repentance (v. 27).

So if Ahab had a few principles, why was he said to be unlike anyone else “who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord” (v. 25)? One answer to that is his own idolatry (v. 26) but a key component was the personal leadership influence of his wife Jezebel. The last phrase of verse 25 told us that he did all this evil, “...urged on by Jezebel his wife.” It was was her personal leadership--her influence--that gave Ahab the confidence to follow some of his own sinful tendencies. Furthermore, we read in this chapter that it was her idea to frame and kill Naboth (vv. 7-14) in order to make it easy for Ahab unjustly to take Naboth’s vineyard (vv. 15-16). Jezebel led her husband into sinful actions that he (apparently) would not have taken himself (v. 7).

One important lesson, then, is to be careful about who you marry and, generally, who your friends are. Relationships give people great power over the choices and decisions of others. If you’ve ever done something you were reluctant to do (or that it never occurred to you to do), you know how powerful personal leadership can be. So be careful to choose people who are growing Christians with high moral character to be the closest people in your life.

Even though it was Jezebel’s idea, Ahab was still accountable for what happened. Don’t ever let yourself believe that your sin is excusable just because you were following someone else. Ultimately we will answer to God for everything we do regardless of what led us to do it.

Who are the biggest personal influences in your life? Are those people leading you (influencing you) in godly ways or ungodly ways? Would making some changes in your relationships help you to make better, more righteous decisions?

1 Kings 17, Ezekiel 47

Today’s scheduled Bible readings are 1 Kings 17 and Ezekiel 47.

Yesterday in 1 Kings 16 we saw that Ahab was sold out to evil like no king Israel ever had before (1 Ki 16:30). Based on that description of Ahab, we might expect that Ahab’s reign in Israel was a dark time for the Northern Kingdom spiritually and morally. Our expectation is correct; the Northern Kingdom was always far from God both spiritually and morally. It was born in rebellion to God’s Davidic king, worshipped idols from the very beginning of its separation from Judah, and was led by 20 kings who all did evil in the sight of God. In response to Israel’s sinful ways—particularly the evil leadership of king Ahab, God sent his prophet Elijah to proclaim judgment on Israel. Verse 1 told us that Elijah’s message was, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” This drought would naturally lead to famine which would ravage Israel’s farm-based economy and cause many people to suffer and die.

What’s interesting about today’s passage is that the focus is not on the devastation God brought on Israel, but on the provision God brought to his servant Elijah. At a time when food and water were scarce, Elijah just had to hang out near a water source and God miraculously brought him food carried by ravens (vv. 2-6). Then, when the drought caused the brook he depended on for water to dry up, God sent him to a person who could take care of him. But she was a very unlikely caretaker. Instead of sending him to a godly man of wealthy means, God sent him to a widow. This widow lived outside the land of Israel; verse 9 told us that he was sent to “Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” This town was located near the Mediterranean Sea and was a good distance north of the most northern tribes of Israel. Widows, typically, struggled to survive themselves, having no husband to work and provide for the family in an age and economy where everyone in the family had to work hard for the family merely to survive. God told Elijah, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food” (v. 9b) which suggests that she knew Elijah was coming beforehand. Yet when he arrived and asked her for food, she said, “As surely as the Lord your God lives… I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (v. 12). Not exactly an ancient version of Costco, was she? Yet Elijah believed the Lord’s word; he comforted her by telling her not to be afraid (v. 13a) but to do trust the Lord’s provision by making food for Elijah first, then for herself and her son (v. 13b-c). This command was based on God’s promise in verse 14: “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” Amazingly, she believed the Lord’s promise and God provided for her, her son, AND Elijah day after day after day (vv. 15-16).

Then, as if her daily test of faith were not enough, it was tested again when her son died (vv. 17-19). She reacted as anyone would in this kind of tragedy. Why would God keep her son alive day after day from starvation only to see him die prematurely from illness? But God listened to Elijah’s prayer and restored his life (vv. 20-23). The purpose of these miracles was to authenticate the message of Elijah: “Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’” The point of this story was to show how God provided for those who trusted in him, even in a dark time spiritually for the nation of Israel. His provision required constant faith, but he never failed to live up to his promise. And, like he did with Elijah, God calls us to trust him and live according to his word and his promises even when times look bleak spiritually and economically.

Every time we elect a new president here in the United States, the side that loses believes that the end is near. Let’s consider that: What if someday we elect the most ungodly person to ever occupy the oval office, someone determined to stamp out biblical Christianity? Can God provide for us if we are ruled and even persecuted by unsaved and ungodly people? Of course he can but we have to look to him in faith. Think about the possible anxiety Elijah might have faced. What if the ravens don’t show up with any food today? What if this is the day that the widow’s flour and oil run out? Each day was a test of faith for these people, but God was faithful. May we have the grace to trust him no matter what kind of trial of faith we face in the days ahead.

1 Kings 12, Ezekiel 41

Today we’re reading 1 Kings 12 and Ezekiel 42.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 12.

Just as God promised, the kingdom of David and Solomon was torn apart into two kingdoms: Judah and Israel (aka “the Northern Kingdom”). This division happened as a consequence of Solomon’s idolatry, a divine act of judgment, as we read yesterday. That was the divine side of the division. The human side was accomplished by the foolishness of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Instead of lightening the burden of taxation on the people of Israel, he promised to make things worse than ever. The Northern kingdom rallied around Jeroboam, a capable leader from Solomon’s administration, and made him king.

David and Solomon reigned over Israel for a combined 80 years and the two of them centralized political, economic, and spiritual power in Jerusalem. Jeroboam was delighted to be king but he worried that his fragile kingdom would “likely revert to the house of David” (v. 26) if people kept going to Jerusalem to worship. Instead of trusting God, who decreed this division and prophesied about it before it happened, Jeroboam decided to make his own gods to keep people from traveling to Jerusalem. Verse 28 told us that he ordered the creation of two golden calves. If you’re making your own religion, you might as well make it easy for people and offer them two convenient locations (vv. 28, 29). Everything he did made sense on a human level. What does not make sense is his statement in verse 28: “Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

What?! These idols were so new, so freshly manufactured, that they were still warm from the gold smelting furnace. Yet somehow the people were to believe that these idols had led God’s people out of Egypt generations earlier?

Well, yes, if the calves represented gods rather than actually being gods. That seems to be what Jeroboam was saying to the people. “You don’t need no stinkin’ Ark of the Covenant to be the place where God is represented. Let these calves represent our gods instead.

This was a clear attempt to appropriate Israel’s redemption story for Jeroboam’s advantage and apply it to the idols he made. This is often what false doctrine, false religion does. It claims aspects of God’s true revelation and reapplies it some significant but false way. A little bit of truth can help people swallow a whole lot of error. Ask Jeroboam; he built his career on that principle.

Someone who knew God and wanted to be faithful to Him should have pointed out that the God who brought Israel out of Egypt was One Lord (Deut 6:4) not two calves. A faithful servant of the Lord should also have said that the God who rescued them from Egypt commanded no graven images. The same person should have pointed out what happened when Aaron made a golden calf for Israel to worship after the Exodus.

Instead, the Northern Kingdom liked the ease of having two convenient locations for worship as well as the ability to keep their redemption story without maintaining any connection to Jerusalem. As Christians, we should be very careful. Many self-help books quote scripture but are filled with advice that is directly unscriptural. Don’t allow our faith to be pasted like a label on a can of manmade ideas.

1 Kings 11, Ezekiel 41

Today we’re reading 1 Kings 11 and Ezekiel 41

This devotional is about 1 Kings 11.

Non-Christians who read the Bible sometimes complain about how large a role the wrath of God plays in the story of Scripture. They are not wrong; God is frequently described as being angry in the pages of scripture.

The truth is, God has a lot to be angry about. He gives us life, has created a planet and a solar system that reliably and predictably provides our basic human needs of water to drink, air to breathe, and food to eat. He gave us each other so that we could know the joys of family and friendship. He called us to worship him alone and promised blessings and joy to us if we worship him.

Despite all of this, mankind as a group has rejected him and his word in order to live selfishly. Instead of thanking him for food, water, and air, we consume these things without giving them a second thought and we idolize material things instead of enjoying and giving thanks for what we have. Instead of loving one another, we resent others for not loving us enough or meeting our expectations; we use and abuse other people instead of serving them and giving thanks for them.

What I just described is only the beginning of the ways in which we’ve dishonored and disobeyed God. No wonder God is angry.

Here in 1 Kings 11, the scripture describes for us the kind of selfish life that Solomon began to live. In disobedience to God’s commands (v. 2), Solomon married women from other nations (v. 1). His marriages to them may have had political, diplomatic value but they were more personal than that because verse 2 ends by saying, “Solomon held fast to them in love.” Just as God predicted (v. 2), Solomon’s heart turned away from God and he “did evil in the eyes of the Lord....” This is why God was angry with him; verse 9 says, “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel....” This is the heart of sin, of disobedience to God. When we love God, we keep his commands. When we become enamored with other things (or other people), our hearts grow cold to God and we look to sinful things for pleasure.

Because of Christ’s love for us and his death for us, we no longer live under the wrath of God. Christ bore every bit of God’s wrath for us so that we would not fear him but could love and live for him, just as he created us to do. We have the Spirit of God within us which makes us thankful for God and his works and stimulates the desire to love and please him. Nevertheless, each of us still has a sinful nature within that causes us to stumble. It is important to remember that breaking God’s laws results in personal consequences for our relationship to God. If you break the laws of our state or nation, nobody in the government gets mad at you; they seek justice but it doesn’t make anyone angry. When we break God’s laws, however, we bring grief to the heart of God who has done so much for us.

Try to keep this in mind today when you are tempted to sin. Not only is sin a bad idea because it creates human problems for us; it is a bad idea because it represents a personal rejection of God. Honor your Father in the choices you make today because you love him and are thankful for all he has done for us.

1 Kings 10, Ezekiel 40

Today, please read 1 Kings 10 and Ezekiel 40.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 10.

Sometimes things seem too good to be true. Someone describes to you how great a place is or how funny someone is, or what a great place to work a certain company might be and, from a distance, it does look good. But, once you’ve gotten a closer look and experienced it for yourself, you find yourself disappointed. After the first course of my doctorate was complete I was talking with a new friend I’d made in the class. He said something I’ll never forget: “This was one of the few things in life that actually turned out better than I thought it would.”

If only there were more experiences in life that fit that description! In this chapter, the Queen of Sheba had one of those experiences. Verse 1 told us that she’d “heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord....” So she showed up to Jerusalem “to test Solomon with hard questions” (v. 1c). At the end of her visit, verse 5 says, “she was overwhelmed.” Her words were even more potent in their description: “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard” (vv. 6-7).

In verse 8 she went on to say this: “How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” But were Solomon’s people happy? Were they as blown away by his wisdom as she was?

Maybe, but I doubt it, because of human nature. Human nature tends to feel entitled. We tend to think that whatever good things we’ve always had are to be expected. That causes us to take valuable things for granted and, often, we don’t realize how precious, how unusual, or what a blessing the thing we take for granted is... until it is gone. People take good health, a loving spouse, good kids, a good job, or close friends for granted too often. Then, if death or some other circumstance takes that away, they feel both the sorrow of loss and the regret of not having enjoyed and appreciated what they had.

Is this happening in your life at all? Do you have a blessing (or more than one) that other people would dearly love to have? Do you realize how gracious God was to give that to you? Do you thank him for it and just savor and enjoy it?

Or, do you complain or just never express gratitude because you feel entitled. You may not know that you feel entitled, but you may reach a point in life where you realize what a great blessing you had.

The Queen of Sheba went on to praise the Lord (v. 9) who was the source of it all (v. 1: “his relationship to the Lord”). Think about what God has given to you and take some time to thank him for it. If it is a person, find a way to let that person know how blessed you feel and are to have him or her in your life.

1 Kings 9, Ezekiel 39

Today, read 1 Kings 9 and Ezekiel 39.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 9.

David and Solomon had a good relationship with the kings of Tyre. They seemed to enjoy knowing each other but they certainly enjoyed the prosperity that their trade relationship brought to each of them. David and Solomon benefited greatly from the natural resources that Tyre sold and shipped to them. Verse 10 referenced the “twenty years” that Solomon spent building the magnificent temple of the Lord and the even more magnificent palace where he lived. Now, in verse 11, we read that Solomon gave 20 towns to Hiram king of Tyre. The text doesn’t say, but it is possible that the 20 towns corresponded to the 20 years Solomon spent building--1 town to represent 1 year.

Hiram was probably delighted to be told that these towns would now be part of his kingdom. Delighted, that is, until he took a tour. Verse 12 told us that after his tour, “he was not pleased with them.” Instead of hiding his displeasure, he asked Solomon what was up: “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” (v. 13a) is a rhetorical question. Hiram’s answer to that question was not very good. At the end of verse 13 “he called them, the Land of Kabul.” “Kabul” according to the footnote in our NIV text “sounds like the Hebrew for good-for-nothing.”

Does this mean that Hiram was ungrateful for Solomon’s gift? Maybe.

But it probably indicated something of Solomon’s stinginess. These last few chapters in 1 Kings have been describing Solomon’s vast income and wealth in detail. Solomon extracted high prices and high taxes from others and became a wealthy man accordingly. But, if his gift of towns means anything, he was stingy. Solomon received extravagantly but he seems to have given very sparingly.

Solomon probably thought he was a gracious, magnanimous giver when he handed over the keys to these towns. The problem is that the receiver of his gift didn’t think so. If you want to make someone feel loved, appreciated, and that you’re spoiling them, you need to give them something that THEY value, not something that you value. To use the idea of “love languages,” you need to find out what communicates love to the other person and express your love in that language.

How are you doing on that? Are you thoughtful and generous in your giving to others or are you stingy and self-centered? When God gave us a gift of love, he gave us his very best--our Lord Jesus who willingly sacrificed himself for us. We should keep his gift in mind and treat others with that kind of love and care which Jesus showed.

1 Kings 8, Ezekiel 38

Today’s OT18 readings are 1 Kings 8 and Ezekiel 38.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 8.

After years of planning, preparing and building, the temple of the Lord was complete. It was time to move in! Solomon called for all the leaders distributed among the tribes and towns of Israel (vv. 1-2). He called them to Jerusalem so that they could witness the ark of the covenant and all the objects used for Israel’s worship being moved into the temple (vv. 3-9). Then, to confirm that what Solomon had done was according to God’s will and to demonstrate that the new temple, not the old tabernacle, would be the official place of worship, God made his presence visible in the temple. A cloud that represented God’s glory filled the place, demonstrating his presence there (vv. 10-13).

Solomon then turned to the people who witnessed this event and spoke words of praise to God and explanation to them about the meaning of all of this (vv. 14-21).

Finally, Solomon spoke to the Lord; his prayer in verses 22-60 displayed his devotion to the Lord and his desire for how this temple should function in Israel’s life as a nation. He began by worshipping God for who he is (v. 23a) and for the promises he had kept (vv. 23b-24). He continued by asking God to continue fulfilling his promises to David (vv. 25-26). Then he asked the Lord to let this temple be a place where God’s people can get an audience with him. He asked that God would listen day or night and be merciful in forgiveness to his people (vv. 27-30).

Then Solomon asked the Lord to listen and judge when God’s people came to him asking for justice (vv. 31-32). He next asked that the Lord would hear their prayers of repentance when he disciplined them with war losses or famine (vv. 33-40, 44-45). He asked that even Gentiles living in the land of Israel who pray would be heard so that “all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name” (v. 43). He asked the Lord even to hear, forgive, and restore his people even if they sinned so much that he allowed them to be exiled to a foreign country (vv. 46-50). The basis for his prayer was God’s redemption of the people from Egypt (vv. 51-53).

I can only imagine what it must have felt like to observe this dedication service and to hear Solomon’s prayer and praise as well watch the offerings begin (vv. 62-64) and enjoy the feast that followed (vv. 65-66). Solomon left this event “joyful and glad in heart for all the good things the Lord had done for his servant David and his people Israel” (v. 66). I’m guessing everyone who attended felt the same way. Hopefully for some of them, the memory of this event caused them to turn to the Lord in prayer during their times of need, just as Solomon prayed that they would.

Ceremonies like this one can be so helpful in steering our emotions in a godly direction, but this was a rare occasion in the life of the nation of Israel. It was like Pentecost is to our faith as Christians—an important, rare demonstration of the Lord’s presence and power. After this, though, Israel went back to their routines. A farmer living far away in Galilee would visit this temple as part of his observance of the Jewish feast days, but if he needed forgiveness or justice, he would have to pray toward this temple in faith that God would hear and answer him. There was no visual smoke to give him assurance of forgiveness or of an answer to his need; he just had to take it on faith that God’s will would be done.

While we have no literal place like the temple, we actually have better access. Instead of seeking forgiveness by offering our prayers and bringing an animal to burn, we come seeking forgiveness based on the finished sacrifice of Christ. Instead of thinking that the Lord is among us as a group because the ark of his covenant is in Jerusalem, we have the promise of the indwelling Spirit and the assurance that, collectively, we are the temple of the living God when we gather together as his church (1 Tim 3:15; 2 Cor 6:16). Although Solomon’s prayer was certain to be answered because it was based on God’s covenant with Israel, we have the assurance of Christ that he hears and answers our prayers according to his will when we ask in his name. But, like the ancient Hebrews, we have to act on these promises to get the blessings. Let’s not just long for God’s work and intervention in our lives; let’s ask him for it based on all he has done for us and promised us in Christ.

1 Kings 7, Ezekiel 37

Today’s readings are 1 Kings 7 and Ezekiel 37.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 7:1.

The last verse of 1 Kings 6, which we read yesterday, told us that Solomon spent seven years building the temple of the Lord.” The first verse here in chapter 7 says, “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.” The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are not inspired and were long after both the Old and New Testaments were complete. Someone decided to end chapter 6 with the statement that the temple took seven years. The same person decided to start chapter 7 with the contrasting statement that Solomon’s palace took thirteen years to build. That was an unfortunate decision because the original author meant for these two statements to stand back to back as contrasts. He wanted us to know that Solomon spent much more time on his home than he did on the Lord’s house.

I guess Solomon’s house could have been beset by construction delays but that’s probably not why his house took so much longer to build. If we compare the dimensions that are given in chapters 6 and 7, we will see that Solomon’s house was much larger than the temple. Notice:

1 Kings 6:2 says the temple was 60 cubits by 20 cubits by 30 cubits. 1 Kings 7:2 says the palace was 100 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits.

So the two buildings were the same height but Solomon’s house was much bigger--longer and wider--than the temple he built for worshipping the Lord.

Solomon’s house wasn’t just a residence; it was a government building where he also lived. We can see that in verse 7 where we read about “the throne hall, the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge...” and then verse 8’s statement, “...the palace in which he was to live, set farther back, was similar in design.” But the human author of 1 Kings wanted us to see that Solomon’s palace was much larger and took much longer to build than the temple did. The point is that Solomon did an incredible job building a house for the Lord but he spent even more money building a house for himself. He was self-centered, materialistic, and showed poor priorities in the contrast between these two buildings.

Do our lives reflect the same struggle with priorities or self-centeredness? Do we give our best energy to our career or our hobbies but give leftovers to serving the Lord? Do we spend money lavishly on ourselves while being stingy when it comes to financially supporting the Lord’s work?

1 Kings 4-5, Ezekiel 35

Today, read 1 Kings 4-5 and Ezekiel 35.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 4.

Wisdom, defined basically, is “skill.” There are people in the Bible who are said to have had wisdom in the area of making garments, for instance (Exodus 28:3). That is a skill that God gave them but that they developed.

In Proverbs, Solomon described the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom. Most of the Proverbs speak of wisdom in a moral context--worship the Lord, follow his commands, and you will be a wise person. But people can have skill in many areas of life and Solomon’s God-given wisdom extended broadly. He not only had spiritual insight, as we read today in1 Kings 4:32 but he also had administrative insight. Most of this chapter, 1 Kings 4, is dedicated to how Solomon skillfully built administration into his kingdom.

But verse 29 goes on to say that Solomon had wisdom in many areas of life. Verse 33 tells us that Solomon lectured on “plant life... animals and birds, reptiles and fish.” This suggests a curiosity about the world in general and a focused effort to study and understand things.

We believe that God created all things and we believe that he charged humanity with responsibility to develop and use the world around us. Given that, many things that we don’t ordinarily think of a spiritual can actually be acts of worship for a dedicated Christian. Geology, astronomy, physics, business administration, investing, money management, medicine, law, technology, botany, art, music, and many other things that I can’t think of just now can all be areas where God gives someone wisdom and where someone who fears the Lord can demonstrate that wisdom and give glory to God with it.

What areas are you gifted in? Can you sell? Persuade other people? Write? Crunch numbers? Fix electrical problems or computer problems? Learn foreign languages? Write code for computer applications? Have you considered that the interest and ability you have in one or more of these so-called “secular” areas of life could actually be a gift of wisdom to you from God? What, as a Christian, are you doing with that ability to bring glory to God?

1 Kings 1, Ezekiel 32

Today’s readings are 1 Kings 1 and Ezekiel 32.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 1.

The longer you live, the more information you have about life. Getting older allows you to see how decisions you made when you were young or younger have turned out or are turning out. You can also witness how the lives and decisions of others around you have turned out. The wise pay attention to what is happening around them and learn some lessons as they get older.

The opening verses of 1 Kings 1 suggest that David has learned some things about women. As David aged, he had a hard time staying warm at night no matter how many blankets they stacked on top of him (v. 1). His servants, then, decided he needed a warm body to sleep with. They could have set up a schedule for his many wives to take turns keeping him warm at night but, knowing that he had an eye for a pretty girl, they looked for a newer, younger, prettier model to keep him company instead (v. 2).

While their stated goal was to keep the king warm (v. 2c), the fact that they chose a girl based on her beauty suggests that they wanted to satisfy the king in other ways as well. The girl they found was beautiful and useful according to verse 4a, b but according to verse 4c, “...the king had no sexual relations with her.” This suggests that David had learned something about the appropriate relationship a man should have with a woman that is not his wife. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon, and the way that Absolom used David’s concubines had, maybe, taught him some respect for women that he did not have when he was younger. At any rate, in this one instance at least, David was able to keep his attraction for Abishag in check. So, perhaps, getting older and experiencing the chastening hand of God in his life had taught the king an important moral lesson.

However, David didn’t learn all the lessons he should have learned. The rest of this chapter described the royal crisis that David’s son Adonijah created when he decided to designate himself king. Before he proclaimed himself to be king, however, Adonijah had developed a habit of self-promotion. Verse 5e says that Adonijah “got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.” The next verse, verse 6, indicates that Adonijah had done this kind of thing many times before. That is indicated by the words, “His father had never rebuked him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’ in verse 6. Recall that Absolom did this same sort of thing (2 Sam 15:1) before he tried to usurp David’s throne. So David had seen this activity before, but he apparently did not learn much from it. If he had responded to Adonijah when he began acting like Absolom, perhaps Solomon could have become king without any intrigue, without a rushed coronation ceremony, and without the violence that we’ll read about tomorrow.

One of the patterns that we see in David’s life is passivity in certain situations. He showed no reluctance when it came to making war against other nations but he seemed to have great reluctance when it came to dealing with Joab or with his children. He did not confront Amnon when he sinned and raped Tamar. He did not confront Absolom the numerous times that Absolom sinned. And, now, he avoided confronting his son Adonijah or dealing with Adonijah after Solomon became king.

If you look back over your life, you will probably see how sins or just weaknesses in your character or personality have caused you problems again and again. You probably already know what things trip you up repeatedly but you are reluctant to change. Please reconsider; look how costly David’s reluctance to change was in his life and the life of his kingdom. Is it really worth it to let your kids ruin their lives just because you don’t like confrontation? Is the comfort of passivity worth the pain that comes from living on cruise control? What decision do you need to make or difficult conversation do you need to have that you are avoiding? Learn from David’s life and do what you know you should do. Don’t relive the same mistakes over and over again.

1 Kings 22, 1 Thessalonians 5, Daniel 4, Ps 108–109

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 22, 1 Thessalonians 5, Daniel 4, Ps 108–109. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 22.

Jehoshaphat king of Judah was such an interesting man. He is one of the 8 kings of Judah who is described as doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord. In his obedience to the Lord he was following his father Asa (v. 43). But, though he was credited with being a good king, he made some very curious decisions.

We read about one of those decisions today in 1 Kings 22. Unlike other kings of Israel and Judah who were at odds with each other, Jehoshaphat and Ahab of Israel got along well (see v. 44). In today’s passage we read today they were getting along so well that Jehoshaphat joined Ahab in Ahab’s war against Aram (vv. 1-4). Like a godly king, however, Jehoshaphat sought the Lord’s guidance about this decision (v. 5). Against his better judgment (v. 8), Ahab sent for Micaiah the prophet (v.9). Micaiah, contrary to the popular mood of Ahab’s false prophets (vv. 10-12, 24-25), contrary to what he was asked to do by Ahab’s messenger (vv. 13-17), and at great personal cost to himself (vv. 24-28), Micaiah faithfully relayed the Lord’s word that Israel’s false prophets were lying to Ahab and Jehoshaphat (vv. 19-23) and that Israel and Judah would suffer a costly defeat to the Arameans (vv. 17, 23, 28). 

Although Jehoshaphat sought counsel from the Lord, he did not listen to the warning he received. Then, he foolishly went into battle dressed like a king while Ahab went incognito (vv. 29-33). God protected Jehoshaphat from being killed himself (vv. vv. 31-33) but Ahab was killed in battle just as Micaiah had prophesied and presumably Israel and Judah lost many men in battle. 

Why did Jehoshaphat ask for the Lord’s will then do what he wanted to do despite the Lord’s will? Was it peer pressure or the desire to maintain a good relationship with Ahab? We don’t know; however, each of us understands what it is like to be Jehoshaphat. We know what it is like to want to do something foolish or even wrong, be warned by God’s word that there will be negative consequences, sin anyway, then experience exactly what the Lord said would happen. In our foolish hearts, we think that we are exceptional—that we won’t get caught or the risks are minimal and controllable or that God will just be merciful to us. But God is just and one of his fundamental laws of creation is that you will reap what you sow. If you sow disobedience, you will reap death. What decision are you mulling today or already actively moving toward? Is this outside God’s moral will—his commands that are set forth in his word? Is your decision risky from a moral or wisdom point of view? Learn the lesson of Jehoshaphat; don’t ask for God’s will hoping that he’ll bless what you want to do; instead, choose to do what God wants you to do. It’s the only wise, safe decision to make if your trust is in him. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 19, 1 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 1, Psalm 105

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 19, 1 Thessalonians 2, Daniel 1, Psalm 105. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 19.

It was tough to choose today between writing about Elijah’s conversation with God and the stand of Daniel and his three friends, but we’ll go with Elijah since this passage finished the story we’ve been tracking.

Unimpressed by God’s thorough defeat of Baal & his prophets, Jezebel sent Elijah a nastygram promising to end Elijah’s life just as he put all of her prophets of Baal to death. As a human, I’m not surprised that “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (v. 3a). But consider how God had already miraculously provided for Elijah first at the brook and then with the widow. Then he answered his prayers for fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices and rain from heaven to end the drought. God had dramatically worked for Elijah and through Elijah but now one person’s threat causes him to completely unravel and flee to save his life (vv. 3-4), then he prayed and asked God to take his life (v. 4b). Here is a man who went from a place of spiritual strength to emotional weakness very quickly. So what did God do?

First, God took care of his body—giving him rest (v. 5a, 8) and food (vv. 5b-8). Then the Lord spoke to him, asking him why he was hiding (v. 9b). Elijah’s answer drips with a feeling of unfairness; despite all he had done for God, now he was #1 on Jezebel’s most wanted list. God then showed Elijah some serious displays of power—an incredibly powerful wind (v. 11), an earthquake (v. 11b), and a fire but “the Lord was not in” any of these things. Finally in verse 12 the Lord spoke to him in “a gentle whisper.” After asking him again why he was here and receiving the same answer, God gave Elijah a series of instructions (vv. 15-17). But he also revealed to Elijah that his claim to be “the only one left” (v. 10, 14) was false. We know from yesterday’s reading (1 Ki 17:4) that Obadiah had hidden and provided for many of the prophets. Now in verses 15-18 we learned that God has plans that don’t involve Elijah (well, after he anointed these people) and that there are 7000 people in Israel who do not worship Baal. 

Elijah had a flair for the dramatic, as we saw in chapter 18. But although he had a dramatic experience with the wind, the earthquake, and the fire, God didn’t use any of those to speak to him; instead God used a gentle whisper. And, while Elijah was convinced that he was the only one left devoted to God, God had other people Elijah just didn’t know about. Although the scriptures do not interpret Elijah’s experience for us directly, it seems to me that God was telling him and us not to be so impressed by big, impressive outbursts of his activity. God does use those, but many of his ways are quiet. Instead of seeking mass conversions, mass revivals, and dramatic miracles, open your eyes to how God is working in ordinary people—bringing them to faith and teaching them to follow him consistently. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 18, 1 Thessalonians 1, Ezekiel 48, Psalm 104

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 18, 1 Thessalonians 1, Ezekiel 48, Psalm 104. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 18.

Sometimes the most joyous times of the Christian life are called “mountain top experiences.” Elijah experienced one of those literally and figuratively in today’s passage. After a long absence of over two years (v. 1a), Elijah presented himself to Ahab according to the Lord’s command (v. 1b-2). Elijah approached Obadiah, Ahab’s palace administrator, who was devoted to the Lord and his work (vv. 3b-8) but terrified that Ahab would kill him if he falsely claimed to locate Elijah (vv. 9-14). After reassuring Obadiah (v. 15), Elijah met Ahab and challenged him to contest (vv. 16-24). The contest was straight forward—build two identical altars with bulls on top of them, ready to be offered as burnt offerings (vv. 22-23). Have your prophets call on your god Baal and Elijah would call on YHWH; the god who sent fire to consume the offering was the one true God (v. 24). YHWH won this battle easily (vv. 24-40) and then provided the rain that he had withheld for three years (vv. 40-45). God even empowered Elijah to run faster than Ahab’s chariot and horses could carry him (v. 46). 

What stands out to me, though, is Ahab’s greeting (if you can call it that) when he first saw Elijah: “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” (v. 17). Ahab said this to Elijah because of Elijah’s prophecy and its fulfillment that there would be no rain in Israel until Elijah said so, at the Lord’s direction, of course. Ahab blamed Elijah for the extreme drought that blanketed the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This is an all-too human tendency, isn’t it? When life gets complicated and difficult because of our sins, we tend to blame God or, at times, blame his servants who call us to repentance. I have experienced this personally when involved in church discipline issues. We try our best as elders to be compassionate, kind, and patient with people in sin. Often, though, they lash out and condemn you for being unloving or unkind or worse. Elijah would accept no blame from the mouth of Ahab. In verse 18 he laid the blame where it belonged—on Ahab’s head: “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals.” 

Sin is always destructive; it is usually pleasurable and promises good things ahead, but instead of delivering the promised goodness, it brings consequences. This is why it is so much wiser to repent when you are confronted with your sin rather than to deny or try to evade accountability. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 17, Colossians 4, Ezekiel 47, Psalm 103

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 17, Colossians 4, Ezekiel 47, Psalm 103. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 17.

Yesterday in 1 Kings 16 we saw that Ahab was sold out to evil like no king Israel ever had before (1 Ki 16:30). Based on that description of Ahab, we might expect that Ahab’s reign in Israel was a dark time for the Northern Kingdom spiritually and morally. Our expectation is correct; the Northern Kingdom was always far from God both spiritually and morally. It was born in rebellion to God’s Davidic king, worshipped idols from the very beginning of its separation from Judah, and was led by 20 kings who all did evil in the sight of God. In response to Israel’s sinful ways—particularly the evil leadership of king Ahab, God sent his prophet Elijah to proclaim judgment on Israel. Verse 1 told us that Elijah’s message was, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” This drought would naturally lead to famine which would ravage Israel’s farm-based economy and cause many people to suffer and die.

What’s interesting about today’s passage is that the focus is not on the devastation God brought on Israel, but on the provision God brought to his servant Elijah. At a time when food and water were scarce, Elijah just had to hang out near a water source and God miraculously brought him food carried by ravens (vv. 2-6). Then, when the drought caused the brook he depended on for water to dry up, God sent him to a person who could take care of him. But she was a very unlikely caretaker. Instead of sending him to a godly man of wealthy means, God sent him to a widow. This widow lived outside the land of Israel; verse 9 told us that he was sent to “Zarephath in the region of Sidon.” This town was located near the Mediterranean Sea and was a good distance north of the most northern tribes of Israel.  Widows, typically, struggled to survive themselves, having no husband to work and provide for the family in an age and economy where everyone in the family had to work hard for the family merely to survive. God told Elijah, “I have directed a widow there to supply you with food” (v. 9b) which suggests that she knew Elijah was coming beforehand. Yet when he arrived and asked her for food, she said, “As surely as the Lord your God lives… I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die” (v. 12). Not exactly an ancient version of Costco, was she? Yet Elijah believed the Lord’s word; he comforted her by telling her not to be afraid (v. 13a) but to do trust the Lord’s provision by making food for Elijah first, then for herself and her son (v. 13b-c). This command was based on God’s promise in verse 14: “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” Amazingly, she believed the Lord’s promise and God provided for her, her son, AND Elijah day after day after day (vv. 15-16). 

Then, as if her daily test of faith were not enough, it was tested again when her son died (vv. 17-19). She reacted as anyone would in this kind of tragedy. Why would God keep her son alive day after day from starvation only to see him die prematurely from illness? But God listened to Elijah’s prayer and restored his life (vv. 20-23). The purpose of these miracles was to authenticate the message of Elijah: “Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.’” The point of this story was to show how God provided for those who trusted in him, even in a dark time spiritually for the nation of Israel. His provision required constant faith, but he never failed to live up to his promise. And, like he did with Elijah, God calls us to trust him and live according to his word and his promises even when times look bleak spiritually and economically.

I can’t help but think about our current presidential election when thinking about this passage. What if we elect the most ungodly person to ever occupy the oval office? Can God provide for us if we are ruled and even persecuted by unsaved and ungodly people? Of course he can but we have to look to him in faith. Think about the possible anxiety Elijah might have faced. What if the ravens don’t show up with any food today? What if this is the day that the widow’s flour and oil run out? Each day was a test of faith for these people, but God was faithful. May we have the grace to trust him no matter what kind of trial of faith we face in the days ahead.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 16, Colossians 3, Ezekiel 46, Psalm 102

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 16, Colossians 3, Ezekiel 46, Psalm 102. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 16.

Evil is evil, right? If one sin condemns a person to eternity in hell, then it doesn’t really matter whether you are the least of sinners or the greatest of sinners. 

Not so; the paragraph above this one may sound logical, but it is false. It is true that one sin is too many for God to overlook; his perfect justice demands complete accountability for every sin. But that does not mean that each sin is of equal weight or that every sinner is equal in God’s sight. Sometimes we sin because the comfort of the crowd sinning around us gives us confidence to ignore the warnings of our conscience and give into the lusts of our hearts. But there are some people who are leaders when it comes to wickedness. They are innovative in the ways that they find to sin or they are more consistent and aggressive in how they sin. 

Ahab, king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, was one such leader of wickedness. We saw that in verse 30 when we read that, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” There were many wicked kings who led Israel before him but Ahab surpassed them all. And how did he do that? Innovation, baby: “He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria” (vv. 31-32). Translation: he happily and without pause did everything the kings preceding him did AND he brought Baal worship to Israel, even institutionalizing it by building a temple in Samaria, the capital city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. 

Verse 33 says, “Ahab also made an Asherah pole….” This phrase helps explain why this form of idolatry is worse than the idolatry that Jeroboam created in Israel. One key difference is that Jeroboam’s idolatry was a perversion of the worship of the true God. He created golden calves, yes, but he credited them with the Exodus story (see 1 Ki 12:28-30). What he did was idolatrous and sinful and offensive to God, but he did it for political reasons (1 Ki 12:26-28) and he tied his idolatry to Israel’s history. 

Baal worship was in a different category. It was imported from outside of Israel through Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel (16:31) and the reference to the “Asherah pole” Ahab installed (v. 33) suggests that Baal-Asherah worship had a sexual component  to it. Baal was the male and Asherah was the female in this unholy idol-couple. We are not given details in the scriptures of how these pagan idols were worshipped but we know this: Ahab’s actions in creating a temple for Baal and setting up an Asherah pole “…did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him” (v. 33b). Something about the way Baal and Asherah were worshiped was worse than the other forms of idolatry that Israel practiced. At the very least, it would cause them to blend in more and more with their pagan neighbors instead of being/becoming the holy people God set them apart to be in his covenants.

The lesson I’m taking away from this passage today has to do with leadership and sin. Ahab was a leader in sin because he was willing to sin the way everyone else before him did AND go beyond them. This is especially bad because, as king of Israel, he could create a climate where such sins were acceptable and openly practiced. We cannot force anyone to sin, but we can cause people to stumble into sin; those who look to us for leadership see what we find acceptable and unacceptable. This can give them the moral go-ahead to follow their own evil desires because it allows them to rationalize. “Hey, if king Ahab is hanging out around the Asherah pole, then there must be nothing too wrong with it.” But Jesus warned us about causing others who are immature, impressionable, and under our leadership to sin: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matt 18:6-7). 

Consider, then, the affect your sins have on your children and on other Christians who look to you for moral leadership. It is one thing to answer to God for our own sins, but Jesus promised accountability for those who mislead others into sin.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 15, Colossians 2, Ezekiel 45, Psalms 99–101

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 15, Colossians 2, Ezekiel 45, Psalms 99–101. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 15.

Going forward it is important to remember a couple of things. First, the nation that has been called “Israel” for centuries is now divided. 10 1/2 tribes revolted from Judah when Solomon’s son Rehoboam wouldn’t reduce the burden of the government on the people. The 10 1/2 tribes that revolted continued to be called “Israel” but we also call them the Northern Kingdom. The Bible doesn’t use that term, but it is a helpful one we’ve applied to remember that “Israel” now isn’t what it was under David and Solomon. You will probably see me use that term several times in coming devotionals.

David’s family continued to reign over his tribe of Judah. They were now considered a separate nation. They were called Judah, but we also use the term Southern Kingdom to distinguish them from the Northern Kingdom / Israel. In addition to Judah, the tribe of Levi continued to serve as priests; however, they had no tribal lands but were scattered by God’s will among all the other tribes of the nation. Since they were responsible for Israel’s worship and the temple was in Judah, many of them were loyal to Judah. That’s why we say that Israel had 10 1/2 tribes.

The Northern Kingdom, Israel, had 19 kings from the time of Jeroboam until the Assyrians defeated them and scattered them from their national land. Of those 19 kings, not one of them is described in the Bible as a righteous or good king. They all did evil in God’s sight.

The Southern Kingdom, Judah, had 20 kings from the time of Rehoboam until the Babylonians took them captive. Of those 20 kings, 8 were described in the Bible as righteous or good kings. The first of these good kings, Asa, we met today here in 1 Kings 15. Although his father and grandfather were wicked men, “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life” (v. 14). His devotion to the Lord was demonstrated by his commitment to rid the land of idolatry (vv. 12-13). Verse 14a began with the phrase,“Although he did not remove the high places….” This indicates that Asa was not fully able to extinguish idolatry in Judah, but that he did remove it from the public eye. Idolatry was still practiced in Judah but it was done privately. It became like illegal drug use in our country—against the law and prosecuted when it was known about, but still practiced in privacy. The fact that Asa “did not remove the high places” indicates that he knew idolatry was being practiced there, but did not channel government resources toward their removal. That did not mean, however that Asa’s commitment to YHWH was weak or questionable or only for public consumption. The rest of verse 14 tells us that “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life.” His commitment was total even if his actions were not perfect. 

One incident in Asa’s life demonstrated his commitment to the Lord. Verse 13 told us, “He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.” Unlike many powerful people who give exemptions, special favors, and “carve outs” to their own family members and friends who are in violation of the law, Asa’s love for God and his commitment to the Lord outweighed his loyalty and love to his family. This must have been a difficult choice emotionally—and possibly a costly one relationally—for Asa, but he did it because he loved the Lord and wanted to be faithful to him even if it cost him a relationship he held dear. Jesus expected a similar commitment from his disciples when he said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37). So we must ask ourselves this question: “Do we love God enough to stand for what’s right even when another person we love deeply stands on the other side?” If someone we love sins and is unrepentant or clings to unbelief or false beliefs, will we choose faithfulness to the Lord or the preservation of peace in the relationship? Asa’s devotion to the Lord was demonstrated by his choice to stand for God even when it hurt and cost him personally. May we never have to make such a choice but, if we do, may the Lord give us grace to do the right thing.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 14, Colossians 1, Ezekiel 44, Psalms 97–98

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 14, Colossians 1, Ezekiel 44, Psalms 97–98. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 14.

Isn’t it surprising how utilitarian Jeroboam was about matters of faith and worship? When he was being anointed king, he was willing to to believe the Lord (11:26-39, 12:2-3, 12-15). But after the Lord’s word was completely fulfilled and he was made king, he made two golden calves and said, “‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan” (12:28b-29). Now that his son—his heir—is sick here in chapter 14, Jeroboam wanted to know the Lord’s will again. He sent his wife to the very prophet who anointed him, whose word was fulfilled completely, when he wanted to know if his son would be OK (vv. 2-5). Comically, he even told his wife to disguise herself (v. 2b) as if the Lord would not reveal who she was but would reveal what would happen to his son. He was all about knowing God’s will when it had to do with his life and prosperity. When the Lord’s word was against him, however, he wanted to seize the Lord’s prophet (13:4), presumably to harm him. God’s word, his truth, was important in key moments of his life; the rest of the time, however, his golden calves were more than good enough. The true God was like a spare tire to him. You never think about your spare tire until one of your regular tires goes flat; then you hope the spare tire will bail you out of being stuck and stranded. This is how Jeroboam treated the God of his people Israel.

I take it back; maybe it isn’t surprising that Jeroboam treated God this way because it is tempting for us to treat God this way, too. When our future is at stake, we want to know what God’s word says. When everything is good for us, we are tempted to give God as much consideration as we give our spare tires in normal driving conditions. Do your prayer habits shrivel and dry up until the next crisis hits? Do you neglect God’s word until you are afraid, then you crave knowing what God’s will is? Because we are fallen, the spare tire theology that Jeroboam had is easy for us to slouch into. May God give us a heart like David who, though sinful himself, longed to know and love God.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 13, Philippians 4, Ezekiel 43, Psalms 95–96

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 13, Philippians 4, Ezekiel 43, Psalms 95–96. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 13.

Jeroboam led the northern tribes’ rebellion from Judah and the Davidic king Rehoboam, but the northern tribes were still Israelites, still descendants of Abraham, still under the covenants God made with them. Therefore they should have continued to worship the Lord. The idols Jeroboam set up in 1 Kings 12 were designed to keep these northern tribes from re-unification with Judah. If the northern kingdom (which retained the name “Israel”) had its own king, its own capital city and its own religious centers, there would be no need to go to Judah and both areas would develop their own national identity over time. Although the Lord allowed Israel and Judah to separate in judgment for Solomon’s sins, he still required his people to live by his laws. He therefore sent a prophet “from Judah to Bethel” (v. 1) to confront Jeroboam and prophesy judgment on his altar of idolatry (vv. 1-3). Part of his prophecy was immediately fulfilled (v. 5); in addition Jeroboam had a personal demonstration that the Lord was in this word from the prophet when his hand suffered from some kind of paralysis and immediate atrophy (v. 4). Having lost the use of his hand, Jeroboam did ask the Lord for healing which he immediately received (v. 6). This kind of immediate demonstration of God’s power should have turned Jeroboam’s heart in repentance and faith; however, Jeroboam continued in unbelief and disobedience to the Lord’s laws (vv. 33-34). Unbelief does not come from lack of evidence for God; it is the default expression of our human hearts due to the fall. God can do many gracious things for us, but apart from God’s transforming, saving grace, we will persist in unbelief.

Speaking of people who were disobedient to the Lord’s word, the passage continues by focusing on the unnamed man of God who delivered these prophecies to Jeroboam and was the agent of these miracles (vv. 7ff). King Jeroboam, happy to have use of his hand again, wanted to fellowship with and reward this prophet (v. 7), but the prophet explained that God had given him clear instructions not to eat or drink in Israel or take the same route back to Judah (vv. 8-9). He refused Jeroboam’s dinner invitation and found a new route home, just as God had commanded (vv. 9-10). But when another man came along, an older man claiming to be a prophet himself (vv. 11-14), the younger prophet disobeyed God’s word to him and accepted the lie of the older prophet (vv. 16-19). Although the older man lied and deceived the younger man, God spoke through the older man and prophesied judgment for the younger prophet (vv. 21-22). The judgment the older prophet foretold was vague: “Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors” (v. 22c). This was probably not welcome news, but it certainly did not sound like an immanent threat or a high price to pay for his disobedience. God did not delay, however, in executing this sentence as the younger prophet died before he even reached home (vv. 24-25). The older prophet completed the Lord’s word and buried his new friend (vv. 26-30). He even changed his estate plan and insisted that his children bury him with this younger prophet (v. 31) and affirming that his original prophecy to Jeroboam would be fulfilled (v. 32).

It is strange, isn’t it, that this older prophet would deliberately lie to the younger prophet, then be used by God to deliver the news of judgment against the younger man. Why would he tell such a lie? Was he so lonely in his service for the Lord that he would deceive God’s man for his own selfish reasons? And why was the older prophet not judged by the Lord for his lie? The scriptures do not answer these questions, nor do they tell us why the Lord bound the younger prophet by the seemingly arbitrary commands to not eat or drink or use the same route in Israel. What the passage seems to be telling us, however, is to be careful about our own obedience. It was hypocritical for the younger prophet to condemn Jeroboam’s disobedience then disobey the Lord himself. Yes, Jeroboam’s disobedience was much more serious than the younger prophet’s was. And, yes, it is true that the younger prophet was deceived by someone he thought he could trust and should have been able to trust. But the younger prophet had God’s clear word to him. He had already seen God confirm his word to Jeroboam so he should have taken God’s personal commands to him just as seriously. Furthermore, he should have known that God does not arbitrarily change his mind or his commands; the right thing to do, the wise thing to do, was to remain obedient to what God had told him despite a convincing word from a trusted older prophet. It didn’t matter if Jeroboam was the one issuing the dinner invitation (vv. 7-10) or if a trusted older prophet invited him (vv. 16-19), it was sin either way to disobey the Lord’s word. This is what we should cling to when someone we trust departs from God’s clear commands. It is always awkward and confusing to see someone we respect and admire sin or contradict God’s word, but if you walk with God long enough it will happen to you. The challenge in that moment is to cling to God’s word yourself instead of being disenchanted or falling into disobedience yourself.

One final thought: the younger prophet could have repented when he was confronted with his own disobedience. Why he didn’t repent is unknown to us; however, my understanding is that when God prophesies judgment he is giving his people the opportunity to repent. This is how we ought to receive confrontation, if it is biblical. Don’t ignore it, minimize it, make excuses for yourself, or try to refute it; embrace it as the Lord’s grace to keep you from greater sin and the consequences that come from sin. When verse 33 says, “Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways…” I think we are to understand that Jeroboam heard of the demise of this young prophet and the circumstances behind it. In other words, the younger prophet’s life and death were another illustration to Jeroboam of the danger of disregarding God’s word. Yet, despite all this, he did not repent. May God give us the grace to respond properly to his word in ways the men in this passage refused to do.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow. 

1 Kings 12, Philippians 3, Ezekiel 42, Psalm 94

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 12, Philippians 3, Ezekiel 42, Psalm 94. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 12.

Today’s devotional is too easy to write. One verse explains what happened to Solomon’s son Rehoboam and what happens to anyone who thinks that authority is for them: “They replied, ‘If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.’” Did you catch it: “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them…?” This is what leadership is all about—serving those you lead. Solomon, despite his great wisdom, imposed a heavy tax burden on his people to build all the grand structures that made Jerusalem a world-class city and to support all his wives and girlfriends. The people went from prosperous and happy (1 Ki 4:20, 10:8) to begging his son for relief (12:3). That’s because Solomon turned from having a servant’s heart (1 Ki 3:7b-9) to believing he was entitled to whomever and whatever he wanted. 

An entitled attitude can develop at any stage of life—witness Solomon who had a servant’s heart when he was young and gradually began to feel that he was entitled. But I wonder if youth and immaturity don’t make people especially susceptible to a feeling of entitlement. When you’re young, everything is done for you because you haven’t learned to do it yourself. But at some point in your life you must learn to do things for yourself, to set goals and accomplish them, to understand that setbacks and hurdles are part of life and that you have to find ways to overcome them. Nobody but your parents owes you devoted love; you have to cultivate that with another person if you want to get married and have a happy family yourself. Nobody owes you a job or a decent standard of living. Your employer does not owe you a promotion or a raise or a carefully mapped out career path where you ascend to greater leadership and prosperity. Because you are human—made in God’s image—society does not have the right to take your life or to mistreat you. You have the right to life, to private property, and to justice. With those basic protections in place, whatever else happens in your life is up to God’s providence and your decision-making. 

Rehoboam, I’m sure, lived a very entitled life. He never had to tend sheep or fight in battles as his grandfather did. His friends (v. 10), likewise, were probably sons of high officials in Solomon’s administration (see 1 Ki 9:20-23). None of these kids had to work for anything; the good life was provided to them in abundance and they all saw how Solomon did whatever he wanted. Their advice to Rehoboam was not to serve his citizens by getting off their backs and out of their way so they could provide for themselves (12:4, 9); rather, their advice was to push them harder, to show them who’s boss (vv. 10-15). The result was a rebellion that nearly led to civil war (vv. 16-21). Only God’s direct revelation kept Israel from decimating itself (vv. 22-24). All of this happened in God’s providence (v. 24: “…this is my doing…”) as a consequence of Solomon’s sins (11:34-39). But it reminds us to watch out for the sin of pride manifested in an entitlement mentality. If you use your power and influence for yourself, that is a sin against God. It is also a prescription for trouble because eventually those you use and abuse will seek relief.

If anyone in our government were paying attention, it should warn them of the potentially devastating consequences of helping themselves to too much of the wealth of a nation’s citizens. Many people in our country are upset by “welfare mothers” and others who are accused of abusing our welfare system. But what about the politicians, regulators, lawyers, bureaucrats, defense contractors, and consultants? What about the lobbyists, bankers, farmers and workers in other industries who get government subsidies or exemptions from laws everyone else has to follow? What about government employee unions who vote for politicians who then give greater wages and benefits? Are these groups of people truly serving the citizens or are they using the public for their own enrichment? Instead of condemning the poor for being poor, we should look first toward the prosperous who do not design, manufacture, or sell anything but instead become prosperous by confiscating the profits of those are productive. 

For the moment, we can not do much about the burdensome government we elected and empowered. But we can learn how to serve those we lead instead of using them for our own enrichment. Learn the lesson of Rehoboam and banish the entitlement mentality from  your heart. Be a servant just as God served us in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Kings 11, Philippians 2, Ezekiel 41, Psalms 92–93

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Kings 11, Philippians 2, Ezekiel 41, Psalms 92–93. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 1 Kings 11.

Yesterday’s passage from 1 Kings 10 seems to represent the apex of Solomon’s career as king. The queen of Sheba had heard about “the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord (10:1a). That last phrase is key because after she tested him with hard questions (10:1b-3), she saw everything there was to see about his kingdom (vv. 3-5). Her response was to praise God and give him glory for it all (v. 9). As I suggested yesterday, her praise for God seems to show that Solomon gave praise to God for it all. It was his humility, his faith in God, and his obedience that led to such an amazing golden era in Israel’s history.

All of that started to unravel in today’s reading from 1 Kings 11. Contrary to God’s commands (11:2), Solomon married women from every foreign nation around Israel in addition to his Egyptian wife (v. 1). And his marriages to them were not merely tokens binding a peace accord with him and these other countries; verse 2c says, “Solomon held fast to them in love.” Indeed, he must have really, really been enamored with women because verse 3a-b says, “He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines….” At some point, Solomon’s harem became the idol in his life that displaced God for verse 3c-4 says, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” The symptom of his romantic idolatry was real idolatry as we see in verse 5, “He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites.” The implication I see in this passage was that his desire to please his wives led him to do what they wanted him to do, namely worship idols with them. 

God was not passive about Solomon’s idolatry. Instead God promised that Solomon’s heir would lose the whole kingdom except for David’s tribe Judah (vv. 9-13). In addition to this promise, God raised up threats to Solomon’s kingdom from outside of it (vv. 14-25) and inside of it (vv. 26-40). Instead of finishing his reign in peace and prosperity, he left behind a disorderly, divided kingdom.

The lesson here, of course, is to be careful what you love. If you want to please anyone more than you want to please God, the temptations that follow that desire will be intense—too intense for most of us to resist. While God is gracious and merciful to forgive our sins, what he wants from us who know Christ is obedience from an undivided, loyal heart to him.

So, what is it or who is it that competes with God for your attention? Who do you want to please so much that disobeying God’s commands becomes an option or even a decision or habit? What pastime, or hobby, or ambition, or goal, or whatever captures your attention when your mind wanders? What do you daydream about? What habit are you developing that is disobedient to God’s word? Whatever it is, get rid of it! Remove it from your life as much as possible and, when you find yourself turning your attention to it, turn to God in prayer and ask him to remove that affection from your heart. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.