Day 109: 2 Kings 12-14; Joash, Jehoash, Jehoahaz, Jeroboam II, and Amaziah

I was trying to come up with some sort of a witty name for today’s reading as it is much more of the same stuff that we have been reading, but I failed in my efforts.  So, today is simply more narratives about the kings of Israel and Judah.  Some of these kings are good, and others are not so good…

English: Amasias was the king of Judah, the so...

English: Amasias was the king of Judah, the son and successor of Joash. Русский: Амасия — царь Иудеи (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joash, king of Judah, we read, does good in the eyes of the Lord.  He seeks to repair the temple of the Lord.  Yet he doesn’t turn completely to the Lord and tear down the high places and stuff.  The same goes for Amaziah, the son of Joash, king of Judah.  Both were relatively good kings, but not so much so that they follow God completely.  There is a segment in the narrative of Amaziah in which we see him adhering to the law, not taking revenge on the sons of those who killed his father which is another example of how they followed the Lord and sought to do what was good in His eyes.  God’s response to this is to bless them, for the most part, and grant them victory of their enemies and peace for a majority of their reigns.

English: Jehoahaz of Israel was king of Israel...

English: Jehoahaz of Israel was king of Israel and the son of Jehu (2 Kings 10:35). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In sharp contrast to this, the kings of Israel are not so great.  Jehoahaz, Jehoash, and Jeroboam II, were all wicked kings in the sight of the Lord.  They are all the decedents of Jehu, which we read yesterday were promised to reign on the throne for a total of four generations because of the work that Jehu did for the Lord.  There is a bit of a bright side to these kings in that at times they seek after the Lord and the Lord grants them favor through victories and the like.  Ultimately, we read that God doesn’t wipe out Israel on account of the evil of any of these kings because of His covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  I find the reference of these particular people to be quite interesting because it skips past more recent “versions” of the covenant with David and with Moses at Sinai, and references the original covenant that was put in place.  While I don’t know if it is abundantly relevant in this passage, it is a unique diversion from the norm of talking about the covenant and the promise in general and not necessarily naming names.

Another thing of importance in this story is the death of Elisha.  Though it comes with quite a bit less pomp and circumstance than that of his master Elijah, none the less, even this great prophet succumbs to mortality.  Yet even in death, it seems, God’s work through Elisha wasn’t quite finished.  There is a brief narrative of a dead man touching the bones of Elisha and being instantly revived.  You might be thinking, “great, another miracle from a prophet…” but I think there is something a bit deeper in this.  Remember back to the “holiness codes” when we talked about how people were not allowed to touch the dead lest they become unclean.  An event like this seems to call a Law like that into question in some ways.  Interestingly, as prophet who serves as the mouthpiece of God in that time and place, calling people to repentance and speaking for God (sometimes we refer to them as heralds of the Kingdom), acts even in death in a way contrary to the world of sin and death in which he lived.  We see here once again a dramatic foreshadowing of death bringing life in a very little way.  Without discounting the narrative at hand, anytime we see someone raised to life we ought to keep in the back of our minds the resurrection of Jesus!

P.S.  Did you notice the brief mention of Jonah here?  It is the only other place in the Old Testament where Jonah is mentioned outside of the book that bears his name.



Day 108: 2 Kings 9-11; Jehu, the Best Bloody King of Israel

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of J...

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of Jehoshaphat [1], and grandson of Nimshi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Legacy of King Jehu is somewhat of a double-edged sword, and our reading today reflects this is many ways.  He does a great deal of good in the land of Israel, but does it in a ways that is one whale of a blood bath.  Today’s reading is certainly not rated G or PG in nature, but I think that it lends itself to the reality of what sometimes needs to happen to rid evil from the land and from our lives as well.

This whole narrative begins with the anointing of Jehu, an anointing that is quite unlike all of the others.  Elisha sends his servant rather than going himself.  His instructions are basically to do the deed and get the heck out of there… “Do not linger” he says.  Whether Elisha is aware of what is about to take place or not, it is abundantly clear that the man Jehu is to be feared.  Our suspicions are confirmed when we read of the people that are look-outs and see him coming.  They say that he drives like Jehu, which indicates to us that Jehu has a reputation for bad driving, or perhaps wild behavior.  In any case, Elisha doesn’t risk himself and doesn’t want his servant caught in the cross-hairs (if you can call it that with bows, swords, and spears) either.

The resulting conflict is indeed bloody and swift.  Jehu wipes out the entire family of Ahab.  Scripture tells us that all of Ahab’s male relations, his friends, his priests, and anyone that was close to him.  Scripture is also very specific as to why this is done.  Unlike some of the kings anointed before him, Jehu takes the task he is given from the Lord rather seriously, perhaps maybe even to a fault?  I don’t think he was meant to kill the family of the King of Judah, at least not that I can remember, yet he does.  He almost seems like the perfect man for the job.  He follows the Lord’s command, carrying out what the Lord had proclaimed again Ahab, Jezebel, and all their family.  Through Him all the words of the Lord came true against Ahab.

He also takes out all the prophets of Baal, his worshipers and the house in which they worship.  The Bible says, “Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.”  However, even to this credit, He still did not turn Israel around.  He left up the golden calves that were erected by Jeroboam and did not remove the idolatry from Israel.  Even with his failings though, the Lord looks favorably on him and says that the house of Jehu will reign for four generations, a promise that would not have gone unnoticed by the king, however evil he was.

English: Joas was the king of the ancient King...

English: Joas was the king of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, and sole surviving son of Ahaziah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, back in Judah, there are some royalty issues going on as well.  Jehu killed king Ahaziah and much of his family too.  In his stead his mother took control of the throne and sought to wipe out the entire royal family.  The actualization of this would have completely mitigated the Lord’s Covenant with Daivd.  Of course, this couldn’t and doesn’t happen.  One of the slain king’s sons was sneaked out by his sister, the only one of his line to remain alive.  How this got overlooked we’ll never know.  Only by the grace and power of God I imagine.  In any case, the Queen was even and Joash, also know as Jehoash was crowned king by those who were faithful to the royal family and God provides a good adviser for the 7 year old who would be king.  The Queen is put to death and Jehoash is crowned king at age 7.  Once again, God has shown Himself to be faithful to all that He has promised and has maintained the line of Kings from David for the sake of David and the Covenant that God made with him.

These stories often leave us with some uneasy feelings about how God can use something so seemingly evil to bring about His working and will in the world.  But I think, without over generalizing this story down to something smaller than what it is, we get a good picture of the wrath of God against the evil of the land.  We know that God is Love, but we also know that God is Holy and is completely opposed to sin.  We have seen time and again that God punishes His people when they sin through various means.  This is very much a part of the Covenant relationship that has been made with God.  But it is not a heartless beating, but rather like a Father punishing His child.  While this metaphor doesn’t work well due to all the death, perhaps it is better to look at the death as the working toward removing sin in the lives of the people.  Removing entrenched sin in our lives is often like going to war, having to struggle and cut things out of our lives in what can be a Spiritually bloody battle against the deceiver.  But even here we see God’s abundant faithfulness.  He does not leave His people to suffer alone with no hope, but instead brings someone that can do battle on their behalf… He has done this for us in Jesus Christ as well: God becoming human to taking on the sin of the world, to take it on himself… to do battle for us… and to overcome completely the oppression of sin and death in the world.



Day 107: 2 Kings 6-8; Elisha, Israel, and Syria

There are a variety of smaller narratives within the continuing meta-narrative of Elisha and God’s work through Elisha.  Today, however, we are going to look at Scripture from a bit of a different perspective: enactment.  The narratives of Scripture, especially the Old Testament, were passed down from generation to generation through Oral transmission.  Most were likely performed as a way of communicating the message and truth of God’s Word to continuing generations.  Seeing Scripture come to life in a physical way also draws our attention away from simply seeing words on a page, but clues us in to the human factor of what is happening, and also tends to also give us new insight as to what God is doing in the narrative that is being read.

So, our first enactment is called “The Bands of Aram,” and comes from 2 Kings 6:8-23.  This comes from the “WTSHebrewPlayers,” groups that perform Scripture at Western Theological Seminary in both English and Hebrew.  Remember, in watching this, to continually hold before you the question of how we see God in this Scripture.  All of Scripture is ultimately a testament to God, His work, His love, His Faithfulness, etc.  How is God at work in this narrative?

The reading for today contains a great deal of other narratives about the great works of God.  The other one that we are going to focus on today has to do with the transfer of power from Ben-Hadad, whom we have known as the King of Syria (aka. Aram), to Hazael.  Remember a couple days ago, when Elijah had gone to the mountain of God, He is commanded to go and anoint Hazael as “King over Aram.”  We never read that this physically takes place, but we do see here the faithfulness of God to His promise in making Hazael the king.

This narrative does leave a bit of discomfort in our hearts when we read it.  God has anointed and brought Hazael to power in Aram, yet Elisha has made it clear that this guy has nothing good in mind for the people of Israel.  Why is it that God appoints him then?  I think that we could come up with a variety of answers that would seek to… help us ignore the tension that we may feel here.  Yet, I think that there are some things that we just won’t understand.  Of course God is always true to God’s self.  God is always faithful to His people and always works in line with the Covenant relationship that He has with Israel and Judah.  And we see, as we read on from here, that the people of Israel, and now the Kings and people of Judah are not faithful to the Covenant, and for that God will punish them (even though we see once again that God will not wipe out Judah for the sake of David).  However, this thing that God knows is going to happen is awful, horrific even, but He still allows it to happen.  Perhaps this is just one of these times that we cannot have a simple answer for.  Maybe this is a time that we have to live in the uncomfortable nature of the narrative and trust that God is God and knows what He is doing.  God is always working out His will in His way… even if we don’t understand it… or approve of it…



Day 106: 2 Kings 4-5; Elisha's Ministry Begins

Elisha raises the Shunammite's Son Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElishaRaisingShunammitesSon.jpg

Elisha raises the Shunammite’s Son
Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElishaRaisingShunammitesSon.jpg

Elisha’s ministry begins with work that is much like the work of his predecessor Elijah.  When Elijah was in the wilderness, through the power of God he provides for a widow and her son making her flour and oil last during the drought that had come on Israel in that time.  Her resources do not run out for as long as the drought persisted.  We see Elisha do somewhat of the same, by the power of God, in helping a widow with her debts and to save her family.

Later in Elijah’s ministry, he raises a boy from the dead.  He does it in a rather peculiar way, by laying on him three times, at which time the boy wakes up and is raised to life again.  Elisha does much of the same with the young boy that he raises from the dead.  Though, instead of laying on him three times, it is only once and the boy wakes up, sneezes seven times, and then goes about his life.

In many ways, the prophets are at type of foreshadowing as well, heralds of the kingdom of God and of God himself to His people.  They are also shadows of what is to come in the life of Christ.  They often mirror the miracles of Jesus, like the feeding of a multitude, the raising of the dead, and the healing of diseases.  All these are symbolic of the work of the Lord, the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.  We see it in some ways with the prophets, and in numerous ways in the life of Jesus.  It isn’t simply a random thing, but almost like a direct attack on the brokenness of the world.  It is clear that things aren’t as they should be in this world, and we see here glimpses of what the Kingdom of God looks like: no more death, no more disease, no more hunger, etc.

The other major narrative in today’s reading is that of the healing of Naaman’s leprosy.  This is a very interesting story about a man from Syria, a nation that has been constantly at war with Israel, coming to Elisha, the man of God, for healing.  As we talked about yesterday and is times past, this narrative has a very specific baptism motif in it.  Naaman has to bathe himself in the waters of the Jordan River in order to be cleansed from his illness.  What is so also amazing about this story is the reversal of roles that takes place in this narrative.  Again, as we talked about yesterday, the people of Israel, especially the Northern Kingdom in this case, have abandoned God and turned to the gods and idols of all the nations around them.  Yet in the midst of Israel’s turning towards the nations for their faith, we see the nations turning to the God of Israel for their healing.  In some ways, this is what it looks like for Israel to be a light to the nations, a blessing to the Gentiles, and yet even the people of the nation of the Covenant and blessing do not even see it.

Sometimes this story makes me think about the people of God today, the Church, and the light that it is to be to the nations.  I wonder if we were to look at the Church, especially the Church in North America, if we were to see ourselves and turning to God for healing, for growth, for faith, or if we have turned to our own devices.  We often hear a great deal of talk about the Church becoming more relevant so that we can reach more people.  We talk about hot button topics to attracted an audience.  We surrender our ideals and our beliefs to the movements of culture.  We focus on making things more modern, more up beat, more this and more that.  We turn to these things because we think that those will be the things that make us better and make us more marketable, ways that we will reach more people.  Yet in this we often abandon our core message, the center of all that we are as a faith community and as believers.  It may seem cliche’ to say, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most relevant, most necessary, and most needed message of hope that our world needs today.  All else may be helpful, but it is only a means to an end.  The end is Christ, our Savior is Christ, and He (not media, lights, music, bands, art, pictures, etc.) is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.



Day 105: 2 Kings 1-3; Elisha Succeeds Elijah

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel ...

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel and the son of Ahab and Jezebel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We open the book of 2nd Kings right where we left off in 1st Kings.  These books, as you can imagine, are completely linked.  Really, it is just the book of Kings, yet they are divided up into two volumes.  2 Kings opens just after the death of Ahab, which we read about yesterday.  Ahaziah takes the throne after his father and we read that he is apparently clumsy or something and fell through the “lattice” and probably injured himself somehow.  In any case, rather than going to God with his concern about his injury, he decides to go to one of the gods of the philistines, Baal-zebub (interestingly sounding a lot like “Beelzebub”).  Elijah meets the messengers on the road and delivers the message that God has given him.  Ahaziah will die from his injury because he did not seek the Lord.  I wonder what would have happened if he had sought the Lord…

This act and the the narrative surrounding it brings forth one of the primary issues that plagues both Israel and Judah in this book, and really during most of the time of the kings: Idolatry and a lack of spiritual center.  The people of Israel, both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms are children of the Covenant, living with the promise that God as made.  God is very present among them and has revealed Himself in a very special way to these people.  Yet it seems that whenever there is trouble, the people of Israel go off looking to other gods for help.  Israel was meant to be the light of God to the nations.  They were THE nation through which all nations would be blessed.  Yet, instead of turning to their light in times of need, they look to the gods of the nations that surround them.  Ahaziah is a prime example of this.

The other narrative that we read about today has to do with the succession of Elisha as the Prophet of God.  There are many things that we can glean from this narrative.  Elisha is persistent and loyal, never refusing to leave his master’s side, even after being commanded three times.  I suppose there could be an interesting correlation to Peter’s Denial of Jesus here.  Elijah asks his faithful protegee what he can do for him before he leaves and Elisha’s request is bold!  “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me” he says.  What a request!  And it is granted by his seeing Elijah being taken away, or so Elijah says.  Isn’t it interesting that it takes two strikes for Elisha before the waters part for him.  I think it is important to see here that when he strikes the first time he doesn’t just give up, but he questions the Lord, asking where He is and why he hasn’t yet granted the request.  He is given no sign, no message that he had the power of the Spirit, but he strikes again in faith and the waters part.

Speaking of water, as we close for today, it was suggested the other day by a professor or mine that at any time in the Bible that we talk about water, especially when we talk about going through the water, our minds should move toward the idea of baptism.  We touched on this when we talked about Israel crossing the Red Sea and again when Israel crossed the Jordan River.  Baptism, a washing and cleansing with water, a foreshadowing of Christ’s baptism and His atoning death on the cross, a dying to the old self and rising in the new self, a fundamental re-identification of the person.  This motif, this idea of identity and baptism persists throughout the Bible.  When Israel Crosses the Red Sea they enter as a group of slaves and emerge as a chosen, rescued people of God.  When they cross the Jordan they go down as a Nomadic group of wanderers and emerge as a the nation of God.  Elijah passes through the waters and is taken away and Elisha does the same and takes on the role of his now departed master.  All these events happen though because of the power and will of God alone.  It is God’s might that holds back the sea, it is God’s will, call, and promise that makes someone His… and it will be God’s grace and love which bring Jesus to the cross as atonement for our sins and ultimately the way to be found truly in Him as members of His body.



Day 104: 1 Kings 21-22; Naboth's Vineyard and the Death of Ahab

I feel like today’s reading has called into question some things that I would otherwise have taken for granted about God.  However, before we get to that, let’s talk for a moment about Naboth’s Vineyard and what happens when Ahab takes it.

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Na...

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We read that there is a Vineyard that King Ahab wants.  Naboth owns it and won’t give it to him because it is part of his “inheritance.”  What he means by this is that, likely, this was the plot of land that was given to him when the people of Israel entered and conquered the land of Canaan.  Remember that every tribe was given a plot of land and every family was given land within that land to call their own.  There are a great deal of laws that have to do with the possession of the land including things like the Year of Jubilee and laws that governed the sale/transfer of ownership of the land.  This land was very important to the people.  It was given to them by God as part of the Covenant promise that God made with Israel and therefore was to be kept in the families.  As I understand it, even when someone had to sell their land or had lost it somehow, it was to be returned to them after a period of time.  This is spelled out fairly specifically in Leviticus 25.  So it doesn’t come as a surprise then that Naboth is unwilling to sell his Vineyard as it is part of (or perhaps all of) his inheritance.  The land was sacred to him, given to him by God, and he didn’t want to give it up.  Likely it is that he knew the King wouldn’t honor the codes of the Law in returning it to him in the Year of Jubilee.

The other part of today’s reading had to do with the nature of King Ahab’s death.  Returning to my original statement, this narrative is a bit confusing.  We read a of a vision that the prophet Micaiah speaks to Ahab and Jehoshaphat prior to the conflict with Aram.  He talks about a decieving spirit sent directly from God to disceive the prophets that Ahab had so that he would wrongfully attack Aram.  In doing so, we read, God is ensuring that Ahab would end up dead.  This can be confusing because it seems to be out of character from God.  We don’t equate the word “decieving” with God often.  We belive the Lord God is the essence of truth.  Being decitful is considered to be sinful in most situations, so seeing God sending someone or something to decieve seems completely out of character.  Yet I think that we can understand that there is a bit more going on here than simply God lying to someone in order to get him killed.

English: The Death of Ahab (1Kings 22:29-40) Р...

English: The Death of Ahab (1Kings 22:29-40) Русский: Смерть Ахава (3Цар. 22:29-40) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, here we see very clearly that God is being true to Himself and His own words.  A couple times now there have been prophecies, which are words from the Lord, that have to do with the death of Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel.  In this action, God is ensuring that His word comes true, which happens despite Ahab’s attempts to hide himself.  We read that a random arrow strikes Ahab, likely a 1 in a million shot being that the king’s armor was much better than the normal soldier’s armor, and King Ahab dies exactly in the manner which God says… dogs and all.

So what do we do with things like this?  They do make us question things that we think we know about God.  Yet I think it is important for us to know that, as much as anyone tries to explain away the actions of God, we have to know that God is God and He is abundantly higher and greater than we ever are or will be.  “Who can know the mind of the Lord?” the Psalmist writes,  “Your ways are higher than our ways.”  We may not know or understand how or why God is working in the ways that he does, but we know that He is always true to Himself.  God cannot act outside the nature of God, and we know that the nature of God is first and foremost a God of love and faithfulness.  God is true to His own being always, and in all things will indeed be faithful to His people.



Day 103: 1 Kings 19-20; Elijah and Ahab

Today’s reading continues the narrative of the prophet Elijah and his work for the Lord in Israel.  Yesterday we saw the awesome power of God in the face of the gods that the people of the Northern Kingdom had turned to.  However, today, even after that amazing power is displayed before King Ahab and all the people of Israel, we find Elijah running for his life because of death threats from the king.  When I read this, I don’t necessarily know what to think of it.  God’s power is displayed before all the people, the prophets of Baal and their gods have been defeated and put to death, and yet Elijah runs from the threats of the Queen.  Does this display a lack of trust?  Or does it model, in some way, the life of Israel before God.

Prophet Elijah, Russian Orthodox icon from fir...

Prophet Elijah, Russian Orthodox icon from first quarter of 18-th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In many ways, the prophets, as well as speaking for God, also model in many ways the life of Israel to the people of Israel.  There are many correlations between Elijah’s running away and any number of instances in Israel’s past in which they complained, wept, or were in fear just after witnessing the power of God in their lives.  However, unlike Israel, Elijah actually runs to the mountain of God, seeking the will of God instead of running to the “power” or other gods.  We see that in his journey he is miraculously provided for and journeys for 40 days and 40 nights, numbers that are always significant.

While at Mount Horeb, God speaks to Him.  Here we see and interesting contrast in the way that God reveals Himself to His people.  We had just witnessed a God that provides for His prophet, a God than is more powerful than any other god, and now a God that speaks in that still small voice.  It is so awesome to see the many ways in which God reveals Himself.  God almighty, the creator of the universe can face down any challenge with omnipotence that He possesses, and yet meets Elijah in his time of struggle, fear, and perhaps even questioning/doubt in the “still small voice” that speaks to Elijah’s heart and calms his mind.

On another note, there are some folks that are named here today that we should keep in mind.  They were have prominent roles in the chapters to come, especially in 2 Kings.  Ben-Hadad is the “King of Aram (Syria) and attacks Ahab and the Northern Kingdom.  Ultimately this attack fails because God provides for His people again, even in their sinful nature.  We are also introduced to Hazael.  He is Ben-Hadad’s second in command, trusted adviser, and the anointed king of Aram.  We never actually read that Elijah makes good on this anointing, but it is clear that God has chosen him for some purpose in the future.  Jehu is also someone that we meet today.  He will be king over Israel soon as well.  All of these people have been hand picked by God for some purpose, most of which is described by God to Elijah.

The other important person that we hear mentioned today is that of Elisha who will be the successor to Elijah as prophet.  We don’t hear much about these folks today apart from some of the story about what they are doing (primarily Ahab and Ben-Hadad), but what we learn here is that God is at work in people, all sorts of people, both local and abroad to bring about His will in the world and with His people.  Interestingly, God is showing here, once again, His power to work in the lives of people all over the place to both bring about His will and to show once again His faithfulness to the covenant that has been made with His people.



Day 102: 1 Kings 16-18; Enter Elijah

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son a...

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the Kings of Israel are Evil.  One after another, the do worse and worse things.  Scripture even says that some of these kings did so much worse that all the others before them.  Today we come to Ahab, who fits that profile and then some.  He “did evil in the sight of the Lord,more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam.”  Israel has walked away from God continually from the time of the Northern Kingdom’s inception.  Now they are worshiping the Baals as well as Asherah, following in the ways of the nations around them, just as Moses warned before they entered into the promised land.

Interjected into the story of Ahab becoming king and ruling is the little known story of Hiel, the man that rebuild the city of Jericho.  Scripture tells us this story in 1 quick verse:

“In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”  1 Kings 16:34

The word of the Lord to which this verse refers is back in Joshua 6:26, when Joshua say the very words which come true for Hiel:

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
    lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
    shall he set up its gates.”

Enter Elijah, the most famous prophet without a book to call his own.  Elijah enters this scene in much the same way that Moses enters the scene over 400 years earlier.  Israel was enslaved by Egypt then and is enslaved by foreign gods and sin now.  Once Elijah says his piece to Ahab he goes out into the wilderness where God provides for him bread and meat, much like the mana and quail from Israel’s wilderness experience.  After this wilderness experience, like that of Israel and of King David (and later Jesus as well), Elijah emerges and begins to do the work of the Lord in a land permeated by evil.

The Prophets of Baal Defeated Photo Credit: http://102grow.blogspot.com/2011/03/god-hears-us-2.html

The Prophets of Baal Defeated
Photo Credit: http://102grow.blogspot.com/2011/03/god-hears-us-2.html

The story of the challenge between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is probably a familiar one to those who attended Sunday School as a child.  It can also be a popular story to preach from in churches, but I think that this story, when read in the context in which we find it in today’s reading helps to bring out a great deal more of the depth of meaning that is taking place here.  In the land of Israel, there really hasn’t been any sort of following of God over the course of the last 50+ years or so.  We can look as far back as Solomon’s reign to see that the kings have turned away from the Lord and are following after idols.  By this point the grip of idolatry is very strong on this nation.  Yet even here, God does not abandon His people and leave them in their apostasy.  God sends his prophet and challenges the evil that is present.  Again, as we talk about pretty much every day, God remains faithful even when the people clearly are not.  Yesterday it was covenant faithfulness with the kings of Judah, today God will not simply surrender His people to the Baals or Asherah goddesses or any other idols.

God does not shrink away when we sin.  He is not threatened when we turn away or doubt.  God is not put off by our questions.  He does not turn away when we do not live for Him.  No, God challenges the status quo and the idols that we may have.  God doesn’t let the things of this world take His people away while just idly standing by helplessly.  Today we read that through Elijah, God takes on the gods of Baal in front of all, inviting it to show its power for all to see.  Obviously Baal doesn’t show up because it has no real power.  But God shows up in a very real way, sending an all consuming fire that eats up the sacrifice, the water, and even the rocks on which it is placed.  God’s power is almighty; nothing can stand before Him.

Do not live in the fear that you may have angered the Lord.  Do not live in the lie that you have walked away too far or that you have done something that is unforgivable.  God did not abandon the people of Israel and He will not abandon you ether.  God is faithful.  He is Loving.  He is Jealous for His people.  He is quick to forgive.  If you are wandering, listen for His voice… He IS calling you back and He IS ready to fight for you.



Day 101: 1 Kings 13-15; Jeroboam and Rehoboam

And so the story of the divided kings begins.  Today’s reading is the beginning of the Kings Cycle, the stories of Israel and Judah as they progress down the line of Kings.  There are many notable differences between the stories of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and the stories of Judah, the Southern Kingdom.  Sadly however, there are also marked similarities as well.  It would be really nice to say that the Kingdom of Judah did what was right in the sight of the Lord while the evil Northern Kingdom headed by the usurper to the house of David, only did evil.  Unfortunately, that is only partially true.  As we read through the stories of the Kings of Israel, you will notice that not a single one of them does what is right in God’s eyes.  They are all evil, every single one of them.  While the depth of their evil deeds may vary a bit, not a single one of them is said to have done what is even remotely right in God’s eyes.  Israel is dead-set on a path to destruction, which is prophesied about here in today’s reading.

English: Jeroboam was the first king of the no...

English: Jeroboam was the first king of the northern Israelite Kingdom of Israel after the revolt of the ten northern Israelite tribes against Rehoboam that put an end to the United Monarchy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jeroboam’s wife goes to the prophet Ahijah to inquire about the fate of his son, a grim prophecy is made.  Not only will his son die, but his entire family will be cut off from the kingly line of Israel.  Further more, because of the sins of Jeroboam, because he did not walk in the way of the Lord after God gave him the throne which he took away from Solomon, “the Lord will strike Israel as a reed is shaken in the water, and root up Israel out of this good land that he gave to their fathers and scatter them beyond the Euphrates, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the Lord to anger.  And he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin.”  This is a direct prophecy of the coming total destruction of the Northern Kingdom.  This will happen much later, but this is where we see the prophecy is made that the Northern Kingdom will go into Exile… and never return.

The Kings of Israel and Judah Photo Credit: http://kencarlson.org/bible/those-confusing-kings/

The Kings of Israel and Judah
Photo Credit: http://kencarlson.org/bible/those-confusing-kings/

Rehoboam, I would love to say, was exactly the opposite of Jeroboam.  However, that is not the case.  He did evil and his son did evil too, as we read.  Yet Scripture tells us that “Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem,  because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”  I think that this is an amazing show of faithfulness by God to the Covenant He made with David.  The promise was to David’s family forever, that His throne would be established forever; and to this promise God remains faithful.  Really, this has the overtones of Election written into it once again.  Clearly God has chosen this people to be His people… and here it is clear that it is not because of any merit that they had, have, or will have.  These people sin constantly, they are no better than any of those around them, yet God continues to be faithful to them, even when they refuse to obey or follow the Law.

It isn’t until King Asa, Rehoboam’s grandson that things get put relatively back on track.  Scripture says that “the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days” dispite the things that he didn’t do to right the path of Judah.  This is another part of the Kings Cycle that we will see.  With Israel it is all bad all the time.  However, with Judah things go up and down, back and forth.  Unfortunately the trend is still downward.  Yet God remains faithful, often times only for the sake of the Covenant He made with David…

Spiritual State and the Kings of IsraelPhoto Credit: http://www.flester.com/blog/2008/03/14/the-kings-of-israel-and-judah

Spiritual State and the Kings of Israel
Photo Credit: http://www.flester.com/blog/2008/03/14/the-kings-of-israel-and-judah



Day 100: 1 Kings 10-12 Solomon's Downfall and the Divided Kingdom

Today marks 100 days into this journey through the Bible.  I can honestly say that I have never made it this far in a “1 year Bible reading plan” before.  It is usually about the middle to end of March that I would start falling away.  Warm weather is here (perhaps not this year, but sometimes) and the desire to be outside or the busyness of school work always seemed to take over.  That is, as I know, an excuse, but I am excited to say that we are at 100 days and still going strong!

Today is also a day of transition in the continuing narrative of God’s people.  Solomon, as we have seen over the past few days, was made king over Israel in his father’s footsteps and grated abundant wisdom.  Under his rule, all of Israel continues to prosper  growing from the successes of his father David and increases in wealth and influence.  We read that all of the nations of the world wanted to be in the presence of Solomon because of his great wisdom.  One person in particular, the Queen of Sheba, comes to visit Solomon and verify for herself exactly who Solomon is and if the stories about his were true.  She comes with great with, which she gives to Solomon after finding out about him, approximately 1/6 of his total income for that year.  We read that Solomon’s total income in one year was 666 talents (a rather ominous number).  To put this in perspective, roughly according to the price of gold today, Solomon himself was making over 1 Billion dollars a year!!  This was apart from what “came from the explorers and from the business of the merchants, and from all the kings of the west and from the governors of the land.”  One year.  Solomon was easily generating more income than many of the big companies in America right now.  Talk about prosperity.

Visit from the Queen of ShebaPhoto Credit: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/poynter/paintings/16.html

Visit from the Queen of Sheba
Photo Credit: http://www.victorianweb.org/painting/poynter/paintings/16.html

Yet all is not champagne and rose pedals for Solomon… or perhaps it is, and that actually is the problem.  A couple times now we’ve talked about Solomon’s infringement on the rules for the kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17.  The king was not to collect large amounts of money or have many wives.  Solomon is clearly doing exactly the opposite, having  700 wives and another 300 concubines.  And we read that what happens is exactly what the Law said would happen, Solomon’s heart turns from the Lord and he begins to worship the gods of this wives: Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites.  This angers the Lord, and rightly so I think.  God Himself appeared to Solomon not once (which should be more than enough), but TWICE, and yet Solomon still turns away.  Because of this, the Lord says, the Kingdom will be ripped away from Solomon… well Solomon’s son… but not the whole Kingdom either.  As I listen to God’s judgment on Solomon I kind of feel like its the punishment of an unresolved parent.  “You’re grounded.  For a day.  And you can still have your friends over.”  Yet this isn’t what God is saying at all.  The judgment happens this way “for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen,” God states.  This shows an incredible amount of faithfulness on the part of God to the covenant He has made with David and his house, one that extends forever.

And this is indeed what happens.  Solomon’s son Rehoboam rises to the throne after the death of Solomon and quickly makes a mistake.  Clearly the wisdom of Solomon is not a genetically passed down trait and the ability to recognize such wisdom is not one that Rehoboam excels at.  As we had seen, Jeroboam has been given the kingship of the Northern Kingdom, what we will now know as “Israel” where as Rehoboam rules over the Southern Kingdom, what we will now know as “Judah.”

The Kingdom DividedPhoto Credit: http://biblemapper.com/gallery1_files/DividedKingdom_1_mark.jpg

The Kingdom Divided
Photo Credit: http://biblemapper.com/gallery1_files/DividedKingdom_1_mark.jpg

As we enter into this time of transition, remember the words of the Lord to Jeroboam as he is given kingship over the Israel.  God says through the prophet Ahijah, “…and if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.”  Jeroboam has been given a promise from God that his rule will be blessed if he follows God and as soon as he has the throne he turns from God, not trusting in Him.  He builds 2 Golden Calves and places them in the Kingdom of Israel so that his people won’t go to Jerusalem to worship God where they should be worshiping.  This turn proves to be the beginning of the end for Israel.  No king from this point on ever turns their face back to God.



Day 99: 1 Kings 8-9; Dedication of the Temple

When Solomon had finished building the Temple of the Lord he held a great celebration as they brought the Ark of the Covenant up into the Temple.  Notice some differences here between how Solomon brought the Ark where it needed to go and how David did the first time.  David had it brought in a cart which led to the death of one of the men going with them up to Jerusalem.  This time however, Solomon makes sure that it is done right.  The priests carry the Ark of the Covenant up to the Temple and place it in the Most Holy place, also know as the Holy of Holies.  This room existed in the Tabernacle as well.  In fact, the Temple area was an exact representation of the Tabernacle, only it was larger and a bit more permanent.

English: The Ark of the Covenant Brought into ...

English: The Ark of the Covenant Brought into the Temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like the dedication of the Tabernacle in Exodus 40, when the Temple is finished and the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat and throne of God is placed in the Tabernacle, we read that the glory of God descends down upon the Temple.  It comes down in the form of a cloud so think and (I imagine) so dark that the priests are unable to do their priestly duties.  As we have spoken about before, the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies represents the place at which heaven and earth meet, where God’s presence is concentrated, the center of the Hebrew universe.  When everything is finished, God inhabits this place in all His glorious splendor, which is physically manifested in a dark cloud.  This too is a sign that it is indeed God that is present.  Remember all the way back to God’s covenant with Abraham.  The first time we read about this was on Day 4 of our journey through the Bible.  The vision that Abraham had involved a great deal of darkness, which represents the glory and presence of God.

Dedication of the TemplePhoto Credit: http://www.pitts.emory.edu/dia/detail.cfm?ID=112584

Dedication of the Temple
Photo Credit: http://www.pitts.emory.edu/dia/detail.cfm?ID=112584

Solomon’s benediction prayer is a beautiful conclusion this whole celebration!  It is, in itself, an occasion of covenant renewal.  He has just finished a prayer to the Lord to remember the people and be merciful to them when the sin.  He continues on with this benediction:

“Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant.  The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us,  that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires,  that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.  Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

What an amazing testament to all that the Lord has done.  Not one word has failed of all his good promise. He refers to both the blessings and the curses.  God has been faithful to them all and continue to be faithful even to the present day.



Day 98: 1 Kings 6-7; The Temple of the Lord

The Temple of the Lord (often referred to as Solomon’s Temple).  I don’t know that words necessarily do it justice.  I doubt that any sort of artist’s rendering would either, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, we’ll take a look at a few to gain some perspective.

Photo Credit: http://knightsoftemplar.wordpress.com/category/002-temple-of-solomon/

Solomon’s Temple
Photo Credit: http://knightsoftemplar.wordpress.com/category/002-temple-of-solomon/

If we think back to the building of the tabernacle, much of the descriptions here are similar.  While the dimensions are much greater for the Temple, there is still a great deal of precision that is described here and a great deal of care that is taken to not only preserve these descriptions, but also to craft each piece.  I think its amazing that everything that went into this temple building was made off-site “so that neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron was heard in the house while it was being built.”  Every single one of these stones, much like the building of the great pyramids of Egypt, were hauled in from elsewhere.  Simply amazing, and what a marvelous feat for these people to accomplish.

Floor Plan of Solomon's TemplePhoto Credit: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/king_solomons_temple/page_13.htm

Floor Plan of Solomon’s Temple
Photo Credit: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/king_solomons_temple/page_13.htm

As we talked about so long ago with the building of the Tabernacle, we see here, and in yesterday’s reading, that God once again works through people with certain gifts which He has given them.  1 Kings refers specifically to Hiram of Tyre, yet we read that there are literally thousands of people at work doing various things to help in the construction of the Temple.  God has gifted each and every one of these people for this work at this time.

Looking at this floor plan, I think it is interesting to see the full layout of the Temple building and the surrounding court.  Anything strike you as interesting?  A Cross… with the Holy of Holies at the exact center.  Interestingly, this is also the shape of a many, if not most, of Christian Cathedrals as well.  The Temple building itself is a rectangle, yes, but this whole area including the Temple courts was designated for worship!  Even back then, this symbol of faith is prominently displayed for all to see!

Solomon's TemplePhoto Credit: http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2008/temple.html

Solomon’s Temple
Photo Credit: http://www.johnpratt.com/items/docs/lds/meridian/2008/temple.html



Day 97: 1 Kings 3-5; Solomon the Wise King

As we read today, I found it interesting how the writer of 1 Kings juxtaposes Solomon’s amazing wisdom amid the glaring violations of the Law of Moses that he makes.  What is more interesting, in my opinion, is how all of these seem to float right by, especially because they all seem so logical and make so much sense.

King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter ...

King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Scripture starts off with a glaring error from Solomon… the wife he took from Egypt as a marriage alliance.  You might think, “alliances are a good thing, why is this bad?”  Deuteronomy 17 talks about the laws for Israel’s future kings, one of which is very clear about returning to Egypt for anything.  Egypt was to be a place that they were to never return for anything.  For Israel, Egypt will always be the place of slavery, a symbol of both the bondage that they were in and the freedom that they were given by the power of God.  Using them as an ally then, would mean Israel’s binding of themselves to their slave masters once again.

Yet in the midst of this, God comes to Solomon with an inconceivable offer… ANYTHING Solomon wants.  And the young king chooses well: “an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil.”  This request pleases God too.  I dare say that if anyone of us would be offered anything we want, wisdom is the last thing that we would choose.  God’s response makes it clear that He was pleased with Solomon’s choice:

“Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,  behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

The following passages though, are a bit confusing for me.  God promises Solomon all of these things, the riches and honor, but He doesn’t promise Solomon the great increase in military might which also comes with the abundance of tributes and other riches that King Solomon is receiving, much due to the conquests of his father David.  This military build up is also expressly spoken against in Deuteronomy 17, siting the propensity for the heart of the King (and thus the people) to turn away from God.  Perhaps, and by perhaps I mean absolutely, God knew that the strong tend to trust in their own power, while the weaker one tends to put their trust in God.  It is not for the people of God to put their trust in princes, kings, or military might, but they are to trust in God and to love Him with their Heart, Soul, and Might!

However, it seems as though, at least for now, the Lord is blessing Solomon just as He said He would.  And Solomon is following after God, keeping to the charge that David gave Solomon before he died.  And he will continue to as he makes preparations to build the Temple of God… which we will talk about tomorrow!



Day 96: 1 Kings 1-2; The Death of King David

The Anointing of Solomon by Cornelis de Vos. A...

The Anointing of Solomon by Cornelis de Vos. According to 1 Kings 1:39, Solomon was anointed by Zadok. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

96 Days into the Bible now, and we find ourselves entering the book of 1 Kings.  Really, this is the continuation of 2 Samuel without interruption.  The books of 1 and 2 Samuel deal largely with Samuel, the “last judge of Israel” and the two kings that he anoints.  However, we could go ahead and call those two books 1 and 2 Kings in which case this book would be 3 Kings and the next 4 Kings.  Yet the naming is what it is.  What is important is that we understand that this isn’t a new narrative, but rather the continuation of all that has been happening following now from David to Solomon, David’s son.

After some brief family squabbling over the crown, and some interesting internal family politics, the it becomes very clear who it is that the Lord has chosen to be King.  There is some reasoning behind Adonijah’s attempt at the throne, being that he was the second oldest after his deceased brother Absalom.  As we have seen in examples of Monarchy throughout history, the oldest child is often the one to assume the throne after the father dies.  However, this is not historically true for Israel, as we have seen.  Ironically, Saul comes from the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob (and smallest tribe of Israel.  David is also the youngest of Jesse’s sons.  Being 0/2 in traditional throne succession, I guess perhaps Adonijah shouldn’t have just assumed anything.

If you are wondering about David’s saying that “Solomon will be king” to Bathsheba, don’t worry… you didn’t miss it.  There is a single reference that “the Lord loved Solomon” in 2 Samuel 12, but apparently this conversation took place off the record of Scripture.

What I found to be of great importance in this passage is David’s charge to Solomon.  There are some things about the people that Solomon is going to need to remove to solidify his reign, and people that he was to protect.  These would have been fairly customary for the day when power was passed within a family.  The important part, as I read it, was the thing David tells Solomon first and foremost:

David's charge to solomon“Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’”

True to Character, even in his final breath, David encourages his Son, the next king to first and foremost “keep the charge of the Lord your God.”  There is no duty for the king greater than this.  There is no duty for the people of Israel greater than this.  It is the first commandment.  It is the purpose of the Shema.  For the people of God, they are to “keep the charge of the Lord your God.”

This is the essence of the Law and the Covenant and David knew it.  He had seen the success and blessing that had come with following the Lord.  He had also seen the destruction and horror of disobedience.  David impresses on his son these words, that Solomon would not lose his way.  He might as well have been repeating the words of Moses saying, “Hear, O Solomon, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.  You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your might…”



Day 95: 2 Samuel 23-24; David's Waning Years

English: King David, second king of Israel

English: King David, second king of Israel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continuing from yesterday, the “final words” of King David are yet another song to the Lord:

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

“For does not my house stand so with God?
    For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
    ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
    all my help and my desire?
But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,
    for they cannot be taken with the hand;
but the man who touches them
    arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
    and they are utterly consumed with fire.”

This really is the summary of David’s rule isn’t it?  David really proclaims the true Character of God here.  “When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, He dawns on them like morning.”  What beautiful imagery of God blessings toward David.  David doesn’t neglect to mention what happens on the other end of the stick either though, what happens to those that are “worthless.”  He has experienced this as well and see those he loves taken by the sword, “utterly consumed with fire.”  How sad the valleys of David’s life has been, and yet he still proclaims the greatness of the Lord.  And we see it in the verses that follow as well, as God continues to work through the people of Israel, raising up leaders that defend and protect the nation midst the twilight years of David’s reign.

2 Samuel ends on an interesting discord of a note, setting up the anger and judgment of God next to God’s incomparable mercy.  We read that the anger of the Lord is once again kindled against Israel, yet we are not informed as to why exactly this has happened.  We can probably assume that the people of Israel have once again turned away from God, as has been their nature since the beginning, yet the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly why.  What we learn though is that David is led to take a census which winds up getting him into trouble.  I’m not entirely sure why this happens, but it might have something to do with the Law regarding the taking of a census in Exodus 30.  In any case, David is charged with a decision as to how the Lord is going to punish the people of Israel (a rough choice to be sure).

As the judgment is being carried out though, we see David cry out to the Lord, who hears his plea and brings an end to the pestilence that has killed 70,000 people.  When David cries out, admits his sin, and builds an altar to the Lord, the plague is averted.  Once again we are placed in a position in which we see both the righteous anger of God against Israel and David for the sin that is committed, and also the compassion and mercy that God shows in the face of sin.  I find the words of David interesting here, as he is attempting to purchase the area where he will make a sacrifice to God,

“No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”

It makes me wonder… how often does our repentance, our offering to the Lord cost us little or nothing?  Are we willing to give something to God that incurs a cost to us?