God's Power

2 Kings 25, Amos 1

Today’s readings are 2 Kings 25, Amos 1.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 25.

Judah’s final defeat to the Babylonians was recorded in this chapter. Although the Babylonians were ruthless to the people of Judah, their ruthlessness was militarily shrewd. Consider:

Before invading Jerusalem, the Babylonians used a siege to starve the city, weakening both the bodies of Judah’s army and the spirit of everyone in Jerusalem (vv. 1-3). After Zedekiah, king of Judah failed to escape Jerusalem (v. 4), the Babylonians killed Zedekiah’s sons (v. 7a). So, there would be neither heirs to his throne nor retaliation from his family. Then the Babylonians blinded the king and made him a prisoner (v. 7b). The Babylonians then invaded Jerusalem and burned down “every important building” (v. 9c)--the Lord’s temple and the king’s palace included (v. 9). This signaled both complete spiritual and military domination. But before burning the temple, the Babylonians destroyed all of the furniture used in the worship of God (v. 13). They also carried away all the valuable things they found in the temple (vv. 14-17). But, that’s not all; the Babylonians rounded up key leaders in the temple worship (v. 18) and in the government (vv. 19-20). They forced these men to march to Nebuchadnezzar who ordered them executed (v. 21).

All of this was designed not only to defeat Judah but to grind their faces in the dust and emphasize to them that they had been decimated in every way--militarily, spiritually, and administratively.

Then the Babylonians sent in an administrator who promised they would be safe as long as they submitted to Babylon (vv. 22-24).

So here we have God’s chosen people and their Davidic king utterly defeated and humiliated by a pagan foreign nation. We understand that all of this happened because of Judah’s idolatry and disobedience to God. But why did God allow it to happen in such a brutal, thoroughgoing way?

The answer is that God wanted to show his people something that Jesus told his disciples hundreds of years later: “Without me you can do nothing.” Jesus said that in John 15:5 but God’s people proved it to be true over and over again.

God’s promise to his people was that in His will they would be unbeatable but outside of his will they would live in constant defeat. God still had plans for redemption for his people, but first he wanted them to experience absolute destruction without him.

As Christians, we don’t operate in a political and military context but the principle underneath this passage is as true for us as it was for Zedekiah and the rest of the people of Judah. We must trust God and be obedient to his commands if we will have any power in this life, any success spiritually. Are you living your Christian life in obedience to God’s word? Have you suffered some defeats and setbacks that might indicate your need to depend on God?

2 Kings 5, Daniel 9

Today, read 2 Kings 5 and Daniel 9.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 5.

From the time Elijah was taken to heaven in 2 Kings 1, God had been doing many miracles through Elisha. Widows, families who feared God, other prophets, and hungry people who were just standing around received the benefits of these miracles as we read about yesterday in 2 Kings 4.

But the king of Israel, Joram son of Ahab, had seen some of this miraculous power back in chapter 2 when God gave Elisha a message about how to defeat the rebelling Moabites (2 Ki 3). The overarching purpose of these miracles is always to show that Israel’s God is the true God but, like most unbelievers in the Bible, the demonstrations of God’s power had no affect on Joram’s faith.

Here in 2 Kings 5, Naaman experienced the miraculous power of God through Elisha. God spoke through Elisha and gave instructions that healed Naaman’s leprosy. Naaman was an unlikely recipient of God’s healing grace in this chapter. He was an Aramean and a skillful fighting commander for the Aramean army (v. 1). This made him both an enemy of God’s people Israel and someone Israelites would have regarded as a “heathen.” Yet an Israelite slave girl loved him enough and believed in God’s power so much that she persuaded Naaman to seek God’s power for relief from his leprosy.

The contrasts of faith in this chapter are striking:

  • The slave girl had complete faith that Elisha would heal Naaman (v. 3c: “He would cure him of his leprosy.”).
  • The king of Israel, however, freaked out when he heard what Naaman wanted (vv. 6-7) even though he knew Elisha (3:11) and how powerfully God was working through him (3:15-27). He had no faith that Naaman could be healed.
  • Finally, after Naaman reluctantly obeyed Elisha’s instructions, he came to believe in God and worship him alone (vv. 15-17) because he had experienced complete healing of a fatal disease.

Jesus seized on this story in Luke 4 to make a point about how God saves the unlikely: “And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian” (Lu 4:27). People can see God working up close and directly yet, without the gift of faith, they will not come and worship him alone.

There are many people in our country who don’t believe in God or that he works powerfully in this world today. These people live near churches, know Christians, and some were even raised in Christian families but they are oblivious to the power of God changing lives around them. Instead, it is often the irreligious that God saves and, in national terms, people who live in places with little gospel witness. Many of these people are ready for the gospel and they will eagerly receive God’s grace when you share it with them or when a missionary comes to their land to talk about Christ.

Are there areas in your life where you are missing out on seeing the power of God work just because you lack faith and aren’t looking for God’s works? Are there any people in your life that you don’t share the gospel with because you’ve already concluded that they are heathens who won’t listen anyway?

What does this story in this chapter say about those attitudes?

2 Kings 4, Daniel 8

Today’s OT18 readings are 2 Kings 4 and Daniel 8.

This devotional is about 2 Kings 4.

Ahab and Jezebel were both dead, relieving Israel of her two most evil influences. Their son Joram, who was now king, was not as bad as Ahab and Jezebel (2 Ki 3:2), but he was far from a godly man. He faced some political problems, too, as we read about yesterday when Moab rebelled against the tribute Ahab had imposed.

Meanwhile, though Israel as a whole remained idolatrous, the work God had been doing continued. Elijah was gone (though, not dead) but that was not at all the end of God’s activity in Israel. Instead, just as Elisha had asked, God blessed his ministry twice as much as He blessed Elijah’s works. Here in 2 Kings 4 we see God working miracles through Elisha:

  • God spoke through Elisha to miraculously provided for a poor widow on the edge of starvation (vv. 1-7).
  • He raised a dead boy to life again, restoring a family that feared God despite the idolatrous times they lived in (vv. 8-37).
  • He cured a group of prophets who were eating poisonous potluck (vv. 38-41).
  • He multipled loaves to feed a large number of people, foreshadowing a miracle that Christ would do many hundreds of years in the future (vv. 42-44).

All of this miraculous activity happened despite the godlessness of the people of Israel. In fact, this is often how God works. His power is often displayed most directly in the most ungodly of times and situations.

So what do we do with this? One thing we should do is not worry if our country and culture becomes more secular. The more godless the culture, the more God works in power. We also should consider the situations we are in. Do you work in a godless company? Live in an unsaved family? How might God use you to pray for people and, in answering your prayers, reveal to those around you that God is real?

So look for needs that need prayer and offer to pray for people. Let them know that God is real and that he still is active and working, not only meeting human needs but--more importantly--saving people from their ungodliness and unbelief.

The most effective person I’ve ever met in personal evangelism begins most encounters with people by offering to pray for them and their problems. Have you tried that in your situation?

2 Kings 2, Daniel 6

Today’s readings are 2 Kings 2, Daniel 6.

I wrote yesterday about how great Elijah was and how unappreciated he also was. That doesn’t mean, however, that he was totally unappreciated. His friend Elisha certainly appreciated him and so did “the company of prophets” in Bethel (v. 3) and in Jericho (v. 5).

But they valued him a bit too much, it seems. Elisha was glum about the fact that God was going to take Elijah away from him (v. 3c, 5c). And, when God did take Elijah, Elisha’s cry, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”seems to mean that the most powerful thing Israel had was now gone. Elijah was a spiritual father to Israel even though most did not receive his message. He was certainly a spiritual father to Elisha (“my father”) and the idea of “the chariots and horsemen” were an analogy to the strength and defense of a nation. Elijah meant more to Israel’s power and defense than all the nuclear missiles and bombs we have stored away for our national defense. So the idea of losing Elijah was a source of despair for Elisha and probably every other faithful Jewish person.

Unable to do anything about Elijah’s departure, Elisha wanted his power so that he could do ministry in the same vein as Elijah but with even greater effectiveness. That’s how I interpret his request to “inherit a double portion of your spirit” (v. 9c). His request was answered but notice how he framed his description of it in verse 14b: “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” This was a test; would God actually use Elisha now in Elijah’s absence? The fact that the waters parted for him just as they had for Elijah (vv. 8 vs. 14c) demonstrated that God was indeed with Elisha. The fact of the matter is that Elisha did more miracles than Elijah did.

Was it really necessary for Elisha to see Elijah taken to heaven in order to receive the power of God? Of course not. Elijah was “a human being like we are” according to James 5:17. There was nothing special about him. The power to be a “father” and to have greater power than all the chariots and horsemen of Israel resided in God, not in Elijah. But Elijah had to go away in order for Elisha to trust God and do what God called him to do.

Great leaders, godly people, spiritual fathers and mothers are great to have and an important part of everyone’s spiritual growth and maturity. But people die; we should appreciate them while we have them and even mourn their passing. But we should not fear their loss in terms of the loss of God’s work. God is able to work powerfully in us if we actually trust him and obey what he commands us to do. Even our Lord Jesus said that whose who believe in him “will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (Jn 14:12-14).

Do you believe that God will use you to save people and change people’s lives? Are you looking to some person’s leadership when you should be looking to God for power?

Judges 7, Jeremiah 20

Today’s readings are Judges 7 and Jeremiah 20.

This devotional is about Judges 7.

God chose some unusual characters to lead Israel in this book of Judges. Those unusual characters used some unusual weapons, too. Gideon fit right in with the other oddballs God used in Judges. He was a weak man from a weak family and a weak tribe in Israel. He had no military experience, and no killer instinct. He did everything he could to shirk the assignment God gave him to rescue Israel from the Midianites.

I think Gideon had enough disadvantages already, but in today’s chapter God weakened his army even more. In verse 3, God told Gideon to announce that anyone who was too scared could go home. Twenty-two thousand men took him up on that offer but God thought Gideon still had too many troops. I’m sure Gideon didn’t think it was funny but I laughed when I read, “I will thin them out for you” (v. 4). Uh.., thanks?

Anyway, after sending home all the guys who kneeled down to drink, Gideon was left with three hundred men (v. 8). Using nothing but trumpets, torches, jars, and their voices, God defeated the Midianites with those three hundred water-lapping Hebrew men.

The point of this strange approach to fighting was to give glory to God. In verse 2 we read, “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, “My own strength has saved me.”’” By choosing a weak man to lead using a small group and an unconventional method, God was able to demonstrate his power to Israel again and call them to trust him and stop worshipping those false gods.

God doesn’t always use weakness and strange methods to do his work but this certainly wasn’t the only time he worked this way either. The lesson for us is to rely on God to use us not our superior tools or preparation. I’ve been guilty in my life and ministry of relying on excessive preparation and the best tools possible, at times, while neglecting prayer and faith in the power of God to work. Passages like this remind us that we need God’s power and promises far more than we need human power, ingenuity, and tools.

Have you ever thought or said, “I could never do “x” for God because I don’t have “y?” For instance:

  • I could never teach a Calvary Class because I don’t have enough time to prepare.
  • I could never give my testimony in church because I don’t have confidence to do public speaking.
  • I could never talk to someone else about the gospel because I don’t know every answer to any question they might ask me.

If you’ve ever thought or said something like this, then you should apply this lesson from Gideon to your life. God wants to use you and has promised to do so if you rely on him. What kind of act of faith might he use you for if you trusted him?

Judges 16, Acts 20, Jeremiah 29, Mark 15

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Judges 16, Acts 20, Jeremiah 29, Mark 15. 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 Judges 16.

When Samson went to visit his wife in Judges 15:1-2, it was probably some physical affection he had in mind. Note that he was going to “her room” in verse 1, so he probably wasn’t planning to take her out to dinner then for a romantic moonlit stroll. Unexpectedly single and still feeling lonely, Samson turned to a prostitute here in Judges 16:1 to find the satisfaction he did not find with his now ex-wife. The Philistines thought they would gang up on him and defeat him when he left the next morning (v. 2), but Samson decided to leave in the middle of the night (v. 3), perhaps to keep the cost down (?). The gates to the city were undoubtedly locked, both due to the hour of the night and to keep Samson from escaping so they could take him in the morning. But Samson, never one to miss a chance to mess with the Philistines, let himself out of the city by ripping off the gates and carrying them to a hill (v. 3). where everyone would know that something unusual and terrifying had happened overnight.

Then he met Delilah (v. 4) and even “fell in love with her.” This suggests that his infatuation with her was more than physical and his intentions toward her were more than temporary. Since his first marriage had gone so poorly and since the Philistines had loose morals anyway, Samson apparently had a “sleep-over” arrangement with Delilah that allowed him to spend personal time with her without the costly entanglements of marriage. Delilah, however, was loyal to her nation, especially given the promise of her rulers to pay her well if she betrayed Samson (v. 5). The task she agreed to perform was to obtain “the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him” (v. 5). This suggests that Samson was not an unusually muscular man. The great feats of strength that Samson accomplished were done by God’s power, not because he was a workout warrior. If the Philistines could discover his secret, they could eliminate him as a problem in their lives.

Delilah dedicated herself to the task, asking him to tell her his secret in order to deepen their relational intimacy (v. 15), then keeping Samson around her house until he was good and sleepy. Each time he lied to her and each time she tried what he said. I suppose her excuse was that she wanted to test him to see if she was telling the truth, but you’d think that he would have gotten suspicious after she repeatedly tried to weaken him using the information he gave her. Foolishly, he trusted her and told her the truth after she tried to betray him three times. They say “love is blind” but it can also be really stupid, too. 

I said that Samson “trusted her and told her the truth” in the paragraph above, but that’s not exactly correct. He told her what he thought the truth was; the real truth was that his strength had nothing to do with his hair. It was God’s spirit coming on him in power that gave him such super-human strength. But Samson had been disobedient to God repeatedly—marrying a Philistine woman, consorting with a prostitute, and living with a woman he had married. When he started revealing his Nazirite vow, that was when the Lord “left him” (v. 20). It was not the length of his hair or anything else about him as a man that made him so strong. It was the power of God in his life, but his repeated selfishness and sin caused God to withdraw that power from Samson. 

This is what happens to us when we stop relying on the Lord and start to arrogantly trust ourselves instead. Although God used Samson for one mighty final act, his story is mostly about how one man presumed on the grace of God and lived his own sinful way, without regard to the consequences in his life. Instead of cultivating a strong relationship with God, Samson cultivated his sin nature. Instead of becoming the godly leader he could have been, Samson became a tragic figure who was used by God despite his lack of faith, not because of it. Don’t ever let success in any area of your life be the barometer of your walk with God. Walk with God and let him handle the rest.

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.