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Deuteronomy 11, Isaiah 39

Today we’re reading Deuteronomy 11 and Isaiah 39.

This devotional touches on both Deuteronomy 11 and Isaiah 39.

In Isaiah 39 a delegation from Babylon came to visit Hezekiah. Their mission was was peaceful and was designed to create goodwill between the two nations (v. 1). Hezekiah was eager (probably too eager) to welcome them and he showed them all of the material blessings God had given him (v. 2) making reconnoissance easy for the Babylonians who would soon become Judah’s enemy. God used the occasion of their visit to send a message through Isaiah prophesying of the coming Babylonian captivity (vv. 6-7). Hezekiah was untroubled by the prophecy because it would be fulfilled after his death. As verse 8 said, “‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my lifetime.’” His viewpoint was self-centered and short-term in its focus. Instead of being concerned about Judah receiving the benefits of God’s covenant with Israel for many generations, Hezekiah only cared to know that there would be tranquility during his kingdom and lifetime.

Contrast Hezekiah’s attitude with Moses’s teaching in Deuteronomy 11. While Moses was certainly concerned with the faithfulness and fruitfulness of the current generation (vv. 8-18), he also urged the current generation to pass on what they had seen and learned about God to the next generation (vv. 2, 5, 19-21). All of us who love the Lord here in the church age should think this way, too; unfortunately, many Christians do not and some of the common problems churches experience are the result of short-term thinking like Hezekiah’s. The more mature you are in Christ, the more you should care about the salvation and spiritual growth of young people. Of course the church should minister to every age group, but it should focus most on ministry to families. When you are a kid, a teen, a young adult, and a parent with children, the church should be optimized to to minister to you. As your children become adults, they should, by God’s grace, be moving more and more toward leadership and service in the church. Then, the older you get, the more your growth in Christ and personal maturity should point you toward reaching and discipling the next generation.

Often, though, there becomes inter-generational conflict in the church. This is where some of the “worship wars” come from but also the inability of the church to prune ministries that once were effective but are now no longer serving a good spiritual purpose. A church can easily be born, grow strong, and then decline (or eve die) in a 20 year span because it only ministers to one generation. People in that generation are content, even complacent, that the church offers “peace and security in my lifetime” (Is 39:8b) and so, like Hezekiah, they are unconcerned about what will come after them.

When you think about our church, are you looking to see if young people coming through our youth group stick around and get involved as young adults? Does it give you joy to see those young adults marry, have children, and raise them in our church? Are you praying that some of them will become elders in the days ahead? Are you looking to be involved in some of our ministries to children or young adults so that you can pass on what you’ve learned in your walk with God to others who haven’t seen what you’ve seen?

2 Kings 21, Hebrews 3, Hosea 14, Psalm 139

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 21, Hebrews 3, Hosea 14, Psalm 139. 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 2 Kings 21.

Hezekiah and his son Manasseh lived on opposite poles of the worship globe. Hezekiah was devoted to the Lord with all his heart and even did the hard work of rooting out the private places of idol worship in the hills and mountains around Jerusalem. That was great during the twenty-nine years he reigned, but then it all ended. Manasseh his son devoted himself to the worship of every kind of god other than the God of Israel. He rebuilt all those shrines of idolatry that Hezekiah had torn down in the hills (v. 3a) and introduced the worship of Baal and Asherah to Judah (v. 3b). He began to worship the stars and planets in space (v. 3c) and even built idol altars in Solomon’s magnificent temple to the Lord (v. 5). He burned his son alive as a human sacrifice to pagan gods (v. 6a) and practiced every kind of witchcraft (v. 6). Later he added Asherah worship to the temple along with the altars he had built there to the celestial bodies (v. 7). God had forewarned Hezekiah that his judgment would come to Jerusalem for sins like this (20:16-19) and he sent prophets again to warn Manasseh and the people of Judah (vv. 10-15). When God sends messages of judgment through is prophets, the goal is always repentance but Manasseh was unrepentant for his idolatry. In addition to being an idolator, Manasseh was a killer, executing people in bulk who had not committed crimes worthy of execution (v. 16). This should not be a surprise. Worship is about far more than who receives your prayers and sacrifices; it also determines your morals, ethics, and your actions. Find an ungodly ruler, one obsessed with idol worship and you will see unjust ruler, one oblivious to justice or the value of human life. If a man is so hardened that he is willing to offer his infant son as a burnt offering to a false god, why would he grant justice to adults or show compassion to those who oppose his will?

Manasseh was his own man. Like every person, he was responsible for his choices. But I can’t read his story without wondering: Did he not see how God delivered Hezekiah from Sennacherib when all Hezekiah did was pray (2 Kings 18-19)? Was he not informed about Hezekiah’s fatal illness and how God extended his life after he prayed (2 Kings 20)? Hezekiah tore down those idol altars in the hills because he believed God. He worshipped one God and one alone. He gravitated toward the Lord’s temple (see 2 Kings 19:14, 20:8) suggesting that he spent much time there learning God’s law and observing the worship ceremonies devoted to the Lord. Did Manasseh fail or just refuse to see the depth of his father’s devotion and how God honored Hezekiah’s faith and obedience to the Lord’s word? Or did Hezekiah neglect to instruct his son to follow the Lord? Hezekiah is implicated in any of Manasseh’s idolatry of disobedience. But recall 2 Kings 20:19, which we read yesterday: “‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’” For all his virtues, Hezekiah may have spent too much time thinking about himself, his lifetime, his walk with the Lord and not enough time preparing and passing on what he knew about God to others, particularly his own son, his successor. 

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.

2 Samuel 13, 2 Corinthians 6, Ezekiel 20, Psalms 66–67

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Samuel 13, 2 Corinthians 6, Ezekiel 20, Psalms 66–67. 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 2 Samuel 13.

I’ve always wondered what family life looked like for David; whatever it looked like, it certainly did not resemble the lives of most other families in his kingdom. He was married to multiple women who bore him multiple children. Most Israelite families were monogamous; the few men who had more than one wife probably only had two wives and all of them lived in small homes. There was very little privacy and very little free time as everyone in the household had multiple jobs to do in order to provide for the entire family. David’s family, by contrast, lived in a sprawling palace and had everything provided for them. 

The boys in David’s household almost certainly had a distorted view of women and the relationship that men had to women. For all his virtues, the fact that David had so many wives and still committed adultery indicates that his view of women was very narrow. Maybe this is why his son Amnon treated Tamar the way he did in this chapter. Verse 1 says that he “fell in love” with her. Does this indicate that he was merely obsessed with her as a sex object? Possibly, but it also might mean that he had a narrow, deficient view of what love is and what a male-female relationship was about. 

Regardless, his intentions toward Tamar were entirely sexual. Verse 2 tells us that her virginity made it “impossible for him to do anything to her.” He was not troubled that they could not marry because they were siblings. Since she was his sister, he could have talked with her and spent time with her without anyone thinking it was inappropriate. When he finally did get her alone in his room, thanks to the devious engineering of Jonadab, he did not pour out his heart to her. He wanted to have sex with her (v. 11). When she did not cooperate, he raped her, but then “he hated her” (v. 15). I’ve always wondered why his attraction turned to antipathy so quickly. Maybe his fantasies all assumed she be just as hot for him as he was for her. Since she resisted instead of reciprocating, everything was probably ruined for him.

As sad as this story is, David’s responses made it all so much worse. Verse 21 says that David “was furious.” That’s it. There is no mention of David rebuking Amnon, much less executing judgment on him for his act. There is no suggestion that David tried to console his daughter; by not bringing her attacker to justice, he diminished her value as a person. No wonder she was so devastated: Her innocence was forcibly taken from her. Her ability to marry was taken from her, for men wanted only virgins as their wives. And, to make it all worse, her father got mad but did nothing.

Although Absalom cared for his sister and took up her cause in ways her father should have but didn’t, his approach was sinful. The right thing for Absalom to do was to become David’s conscience on behalf of Tamar. He should have vigorously lobbied David to do what was righteous and just for Tamar. Instead, Absalom sought and got revenge. In response to this, David was once again in the wrong. Although he mourned the death of Amnon (vv. 36-37), he got over it and wanted to normalize his relationship with Absalom again (v. 39). 

The problem David demonstrated in this passage was passivity in his family. Instead of showing leadership and doing what was right when one family member sinned against another, David emoted then did not act for justice and reconciliation. I think family life, for some reason, is susceptible to this. It seems easy to just assume (hope?) that family members will get over it when they are abused or taken advantage of by their siblings. I feel this in my own life as a husband and father. It is easier for me to act, to know and do the right thing as an elder in our church than it is to know and do the right thing as a father. But that’s no excuse to allow sin to go unaddressed, to allow problems to be left alone, hoping they go away. Godly leadership calls us to run toward issues, not away from them. May God give us wisdom and courage to show this godly leadership; maybe that will rub off on our kids rather than a poor view of the opposite sex.

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.

Joshua 3, Psalms 126–128, Isaiah 63, Matthew 11

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Joshua 3, Psalms 126–128, Isaiah 63, Matthew 11. 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 Psalm 127.

Human beings are builders. We build houses, cities, gardens but also families, companies, and teams. There is something very satisfying about having an idea, formulating it into a plan, then step-by-step putting that plan into action until it is finished. Once it is finished it needs to be protected from thieves, vandals, and natural disasters.

Solomon knew a lot about building; he built Jerusalem into a world-class city from the simple fortress town it had been when David ruled over Israel. Yet, as the wisest man who ever lived, he reflected on all his projects and realized something profound: If God is not behind your project, it will not succeed (v. 1a). If he isn’t defending it, all the elite guards in the world won’t be able to protect what is so important to you (v. 1b).

In verse 2 Solomon moved from general notions about building a home and defending a city to a more personal application to us all. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat….” People work themselves to death trying to achieve their dreams or trying to avoid being a failure; but Solomon claims that it is useless—“vain”—to spend so much time and effort on the projects in our lives. The reason he says this is in the last line of verse 2: “for he grants sleep to those he loves.” The Hebrew in this verse is not 100% clear, so it could be translated, “…for while they sleep he provides for those he loves” as the NIV’s footnote says. I think that is probably what Solomon was saying because verse 3a says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord….” Verse 2’s “he provides for those he loves while they sleep” is a euphemism for the conception of children with your spouse. People work so hard building a career, building wealth, building a company, creating whatever; then they go home and create what really matters—children—between the sheets. It is not hard work; it is a gift from God—both the intimacy that creates children and the children that result from that intimacy. Solomon says they are God’s “reward” for those whom he loves (v. 3). Verses 4-5 explain that one of the benefits of your children is that they will defend you when you are old and others try to take advantage of you. Your wealth may diminish over time, your athletic achievements will be forgotten, you will someday retire from your stellar career, the hobbies that take so much of your time will someday bore you to tears. It will be your children that matter to you when you look back on your life; they will care for you when you get older. The implication is: put your energy and effort there. You know God thinks children are important (v. 3), so why not build into their lives while you work on your other projects? God will bless you if you 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.

Leviticus 22, Psalms 28–29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Leviticus 22, Psalms 28–29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1. 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 2 Timothy 1.

Second Timothy is the most personal of all of Paul’s New Testament letters. Although he intended it to be read to the entire church at Ephesus (4:22: “Grace be with you all”), he addressed it only to Timothy (v. 2) and even called him “my dear son” in the same verse. He assured Timothy of his constant prayers for him (v. 3: “night and day”) and told him, “I long to see you” (v. 4). When speaking of Timothy’s faith, Paul noted that it “first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” I believe in divine election—the doctrine that everyone who believes in Jesus was chosen by God based only on God’s grace. One might think that election would look sort of random with a person here and there from various families; however, this passage and personal experience both demonstrate that salvation frequently runs through family lines. This is because God wants—and has always wanted—generations of believers. It is a beautiful thing to see the grace of God saving one generation after another in a human family. As the members of that family trust Christ and follow him in baptism, as they grow in their faith and become holy, an entire family tree begins to show how different it looks when an entire family belongs to God and lives for his glory. If you came from a Christian family, that is something to give thanks for. It is also something to ask God to help you pass on to your children and grandchildren—whether you came from a godly family or not.

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.