Day 128: 2 Chronicles 17-19; King Jehoshaphat

King Jehoshaphat was arguably the first of the great kings of Judah.  As we have read throughout the books of 1 and 2 Kings, the spiritual state of Israel goes up and down based on the king that is reigning at the time.  We saw how the actions of Rehoboam and Abijah lead that Southern Kingdom wars and even servitude to other nations, and now with Asa and Jehoshaphat we see the flip side of the coin.  When the people follow God, worship Him, and do not go after other gods, the blessings shower down once again.  We see this very clearly with Jehoshaphat and the wealth and fame that is given him and how the “fear of the Lord” descended on the nations around Judah.

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram
Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

We read today about the many reforms that took place during the time of Jehoshaphat as well.  Interestingly, he does, in some ways, exactly what our Deuteronomy 17 passage about the Kings of Israel says he should do.  I think that this is the first time I have said this since we started reading about the Kings of Israel.  For us, this has been one of the laws that has guided our vision of what the kings shouldn’t be doing when they are walking in the ways of sin… kind of a “see, I told you so” thing from the Law.  However, there is a section in this chapter that also talks about what the king should do, and this is kind of what Jehoshapaht does, with a little extra on the side!

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,  that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

Not only does Jehoshapaht follow the laws of God, he appoints people to take the book of the law with them out to the people of Israel, to teach them the ways of the Lord.  Some of these names might be familiar to you as they were people mentioned in 1 & 2 Kings.  People like Obadiah, Micaiah, and Adonijah were also prophets that were mentioned as folks that talked to the King’s of the Northern Kingdom, particularly Ahab.  While he isn’t named here, this is also the time of Elijah and Elisha, who would be making appearances before Ahab and trying to bring back the ways of the Lord in Israel.

Ahab Killed in Battle Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com/

Ahab Killed in Battle
Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com

Speaking of Ahab, we encounter once again, the deviousness of the Northern Kingdom under king Ahab.  The narrative of Ahab and Jehoshapaht going up against the army of Ramoth-gilead is ultimately the culmination one of the worst kings in the Northern Kingdom.  Why it is that Jehoshapaht decides to go up with Ahab we will not know.  However, what is primarily pointed out here is how the leader and the people of the Kingdom of Israel have indeed fallen away from the way of the Lord.  Again, this is a narrative of contrasts, seeing Jehoshapaht’s desire to seek the way of the Lord in the face of Ahab’s false prophets.

Ultimately, given the context and the audience that is being spoken to here, the writer is pointing out the dangers of taking counsel with sinners.  There are many echoes in this narrative to Psalm 1.  Jehoshapaht is clearly a king that is living for God, but even so he finds himself in a situation where he must stand for his beliefs in the face of one who certainly doesn’t want to hear it.  Yet the King of Judah stands up for his beliefs and seeks the face of God in spite of Ahab’s displeasure, and it winds up saving his life.

PSALM 1

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.



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 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.