Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday – 2nd Chronicles 17 - Circuit Riding Preachers

Jehoshaphat was a good king. He did things that even good kings before him hadn't done. Not the least of which was the spiritual growth of Jehoshaphat as he learned the ways of God (2nd Chronicles 17:6). Jehoshaphat became so energetic in his walk with the Lord that he evidently began to realize just how imperative and valuable it would be to spread that spiritual wealth throughout his kingdom. So, he did that (2nd Chronicles 17:7, 8 & 9). He sent circuit riding teachers and preachers throughout the land to educate his people. And, oh how wonderful was the effect and impact of the knowledge of God's Word among the people. The success and holiness in Judah caused the people around them to respect and fear Jehoshaphat and his people to such an extent that they could even live in peace.

There is something that is particularly interesting to me in the sequence of the events that are covered in this chapter.

Consider what preceded this revival... and what followed it.  The free growth of the knowledge of the truth was preceded by a moral cleansing of the land. Call it... repentance.  Jehoshaphat removed the high places and groves out of Judah (2nd Chronicles 17:6).  There was only one proper place to worship Jehovah in Judah, and it certainly was not in the various groves... groves which hearkened back to times when idolatry had prevailed.  The temple was the proper hub for those sanctified activities.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday - 2nd Chronicles 16 - A Disappointing Finish

1st Kings 15 (and following) records many particulars on what went on during the days of Asa.  However, here we have some additional details... very specific details, about Asa himself, particularly a few very disappointing decisions which Asa made at the end of his life.

As we saw in the last 2 chapters, Asa had done fairly well. For several decades, he had led Judah in the ways of faith and righteousness, but in his old age he resorted to his own ideas (instead of continuing to follow after God). It isn't really that he turned to overt acts of lewd wickedness, he just stopped leaning on the Lord. In his public, spiritual and private life, Asa took to contriving his own solutions to the problems that arose.

First, Baasha and Israel began to encroach into territory which Judah considered to be rightfully theirs. Now, Asa had seen what God could do on the battlefield... back when he had an encounter with the Ethiopians (2nd Chronicles 14:12).  One would think that his past success would have caused him to follow the same strategy again; a strategy of dependence upon God 2nd I Chronicles 16:8).  But no, he tried to handle this military threat by hiring Syrian mercenaries to defend his borders.  Not God's way (2nd Chronicles 16:7).  God wanted to help, but Asa got in the way instead of making a way 2nd Chronicles 16:9 & Isaiah 40:3).

Second. When God sent a prophet to rebuke Asa, he jailed him. Instead of humbling himself, he became and angry old man.  And finally, when he contracted his last illness, he didn't ask God for help or health, he just went to his local medical clinic.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday - 2nd Chronicles 15 - Justified Hype

I realize that I am misusing the word hype. Hype is generally viewed as something that is at least partially artificial. I don't want to promote artificial worship. What I am attempting here is a little hyperbole for the sake of emphasizing the wholesomeness of intense and intentional worship. God is worthy of it!

In 2nd Chronicles 15:14 it is recorded that the people of Judah "swore unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets."  No doubt there was a measure of spontaneity in their worship, but the tenor of verses 12, 13 & 15 leaves the impression that there was also some form and discipline in this celebration. In other words, there was a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Besides, scheduling a moment to shout is not as strange as one might imagine.

In modern sports, we know that chants and cheers are memorized, rehearsed and repeated, and yet using them is a very effective way of allowing fans to express their sincere excitement about their beloved team.  Even so, in our praising and rejoicing, doing it on purpose with much effort and gusto is commendable, if not expected... especially if you are blessed with leadership who is so opposed to unrighteousness that they are even willing to stand up boldly against it in their own family... as Asa clearly was (2nd Chronicles 15:16).

Let us all "Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near..." (Isaiah 55:6). And, when we find Him, let us meet together and rejoice loudly, and on purpose.  There is nothing more worthy of our ecstatic jubilation (Jeremiah 9:23 & 24).  Is there even a possibility of being guilty of "too much" hype over knowing God?  Sounds like an oxymoron to me.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thursday - 2nd Chronicles 14 - Legislated Morality

There have been many philosophers and pundits who have mocked the idea that morality can be legislated. And, in certain ways, some of them have been right. Morality and holiness - real morality; good and wholesome morality, godliness and biblical spirituality must come forth from the inside of an individual as the result of the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit of God. Yet, in a society, the morality, immorality or amorality of a group of people can most definitely be controlled and influenced by the presence and enforcement of moral laws. In other words, rules don't make men moral, but the absence of rules can most definitely promote a distinct lack of morality (1st Timothy 1:9 - 11).

Judah's king Asa demanded morality from his nation (2nd Chronicles 14:4). And, mainly because of the example that he set, and due to the power of God as an influence upon the hearts of the men of Judah, the morality of the nation was indeed relatively commendable for a little while. The real test of the direction of their heart came in the form of a 1,000,000 man army of Ethiopians which came up against Asa and the Jews (2nd Chronicles 14:9).  And, despite the unfair odds, Asa was a winner in this case just as his father had been.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday - 2nd Chronicles 13 - A Little Faith Can go a Long Way

In 1st Kings 15:1-8 we read a brief summation of the mark that Rehoboam's son Abijam (or Abijah) left on the pages of Judah's history. In this chapter one of the missing details is filled in. This is the story of his war with Jeroboam and Israel.

Now, Abijah was not a good man, nor was he a good king (1st Kings 15:3). He didn't even have an accurate view of his place or of his rights as king. However, he did have one basic thing going for him. He was convinced that Jehovah was real, good, able and willing to defend the name and heritage of David and Solomon.  And, he was right.

Although Abijah was outnumbered 2 to 1, he was confident. Why? Because he believed that God was on his side. And, as I said, He was. Jeroboam's 800,000 were no match for Abijah's 400,000... because the captain of Judah was truly Jehovah Himself (2nd Chronicles 13:12). So, despite Jeroboam’s strategic advantage over Abijah (2nd Chronicles 13:13 & 14), the battle belonged to the Lord (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Judah won and ½ a million of Jeroboam's troops were killed (Psalm 124:1-8). Due to their faith in God, albeit momentary, the men of Judah... and their king, Abijah... were victorious. In the end, Jeroboam died (2nd Chronicles 13:20) and Abijah became a dominant force in the region (2nd Chronicles 13:21).

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday - 2nd Chronicles 12 - An Unprepared Heart

Rehoboam got into trouble and lost a considerable amount of his pride at the hand of Shishak, king of Egypt. The strong cities that Rehoboam had established were lost to the Egyptians, and some of the wealth of the temple was taken too. Commendably, God's judgment against Judah elicited a humble response in the king's court (2nd Chronicles 12:6).

We are not always given an explanation concerning the causes of men's failures.  I mean, we know that all of us are sinners by nature and so sin should never be a real surprise, but the immediate cause can sometimes be a bit of a mystery. Not so in this case. The reason behind Rehoboam's moral and spiritual failures is explicitly given in 2nd Chronicles 12:14, "He did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD." So then, all that we need is to understand clearly how one is to go about "preparing his heart" to do this or that... particularly to seek God (Romans 3:11).

There are 2 men of whom it is said plainly that they did indeed prepare their heart to seek God: Jehoshaphat & Ezra (2nd Chronicles 19:3 & Ezra 7:10). Knowing that helps us some. We need only to examine their lives a little. It is apparent that these men had a wholesome direction in their lives. Their mindset was holy and pure. They had made up their minds that they were going to do right. But, Rehoboam didn't do that.  The direction of his mind was wishy-washy.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday - 2nd Chronicles 11 - Lots of Levites & A Distracted King

There were 2 tribes who originally remained loyal to Rehoboam: Judah and Benjamin.  As the 10 tribes to their north went their own way, those 2 stuck together.  But, they were not to remain completely alone. The Levites began to move into Judah and Jerusalem out of all of the other tribal lands in Israel. Jeroboam, the king of Israel, took his people in a new and evil religious direction... so the Levites lost their significance there. Clearly, Rehoboam's kingdom was the place to be. Rehoboam had promptly strengthened his kingdom by establishing 15 fortified towns complete with captains, supplies, munitions and members of the royal family.   And, he did pretty well as king, at first.

This is not to say that Rehoboam was perfect. He had a weakness. And, his primary weakness was women (2nd Chronicles 11:23). He wasn't quite as bad as his father had been, but still, he did have 78 lovers (2nd Chronicles 11:21). We can commend him for listening to God's warning and thereby allowing the 10 northern tribes to separate from his jurisdiction (2nd Chronicles 11:4). We can commend him for following after the example of his dad and granddad (2nd Chronicles 11:17)... for a while.  What we can't do is excuse his faults.  We will read about those in the next chapter.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday - 2nd Chronicles 10 - Here We Go Again

From 1st Kings 12 through 2nd Kings 25, you can read (and we have already read) the stories of the various kings of Judah and Israel: from the death of Solomon to the invasions of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. That's 36 chapters, so we have already spent considerable time discussing these events. Here in 2nd Chronicles we now encounter 27 more chapters which address many of the same events.

David's grandson Rehoboam took the throne in Jerusalem after the death of his father Solomon. Sadly, he wasn't wise like his father had been, nor was he mighty like his grandfather. Of course, these attributes of Rehoboam fit right into the plan of God, because (as a consequence of Solomon's sins) God was determined to split the nation.  That doesn't get Rehoboam off of the hook though.

Rehoboam met with his people after he became king and listened to their petitions. They primarily wanted tax cuts. Apparently Rehoboam was neither predisposed to give them what they wanted, nor to refuse. So, he asked for some advice. He was counseled by 2 groups. There were young men who were his peers. And, there were elderly advisors from his father's generation.

The young men advised Rehoboam to be stricter and harsher. The older men advised him to be gentle, compassionate and generous. Which did he heed? He listened to his own generation, of course.  It was to be the cause of his immediate demise.  Well, at least, he lost the majority of his followers as a result of his decision. True, it was part of God's plan, nevertheless, Rehoboam was the guilty catalyst (consider Matthew 18:7).

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday - 2nd Chronicles 9 - The End of Solomon

Solomon, for better and for worse, was the last monarch to rule over the unified kingdom of Israel... that is, over all 12 tribes. When he died (1st Kings 11:43 & 2nd Chronicles 9:31), his kingdom was quickly divided into 2 nations.  But, before we get to that, let's wrap up a few loose ends from the life of King Solomon.

In his day, Solomon was known around the world as a spectacularly wise and successful king. Many monarchs came to meet him (I Kings 10:24), but one specific sovereign ended up with her visit being recorded in the Scripture; she was the queen of Sheba. She interrogated the great king until she had exhausted her questions... yet, she did not exhaust his answers (2nd Chronicles 9:2). Not only that, when this queen had observed the habits of his court, the food he ate, the attitude of his servants and the clothing that everyone wore, she simply lost all suspicion (2nd Chronicles 9:4). She was totally convinced that all of the fame of Solomon was legitimate. Above all, she concluded that God was the source of Solomon's success.

Now, just to get a small glimpse of the extravagant wealth of Solomon, we are given a portrait of his ivory and gold throne with a dozen sculpted lions standing on the steps leading up to that throne.  It must have been both beautiful and intimidating. And, that is only a place to start in describing this man's luxurious life. In possessions, influence, fame and experience, he was a one-of-a-kind man. God poured out upon him more goodies than any of us can really even begin to imagine. Anything Solomon wanted, he got it (Ecclesiastes 2:10 & 6:2). Yet, in the end, he didn't take it with him. He perished, was replaced.  Others used and squandered his collection of wealth. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday - 2nd Chronicles 8 - Half-Way Done & Hardly Started

At this point in 2nd Chronicles, we are told that Solomon had been king for 20 years (2nd Chronicles 8:1). This is significant, since in the next chapter we will be reminded of the fact that he ruled and reigned for 40 years total (2nd Chronicles 9:30).  So, by chapter 8, Solomon was only half-way through.  Yet, there is a long list of things (both good and bad) that have NOT been brought up yet in 2nd Chronicles.  As such, in this chapter we find an index of some of Solomon's other accomplishments.  And, in the next chapter there is a little more information about some of his other great acts, including the account of Solomon's famous interaction with the queen of Sheba.

Of course, conspicuously missing is the stuff about Solomon's 1000 lovers and his idolatrous diversions (1st Kings 11:3). But so too is the fact that he wrote 3 books of the Bible (including the Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes).

Truly Solomon was a man of many talents and of extensive experience. Perhaps there has never been a man whose life was as varied as Solomon's was. In architecture, religion, agriculture, literature, politics, fame, education, pleasure and wealth; he knew no real rival in his day, and very few are his peers even in all of history. And yet, his conclusion draws a line that all of us can see clearly enough. One doesn't have to be a royal aristocrat with privilege and position in order to see the necessity for respect, devotion and obedience to the one and only great God of heaven and earth. Of all of Solomon's accomplishments, that summation of life (in Ecclesiastes 12:13) was among his greatest accomplishments.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday - 2nd Chronicles 7 - Fire & a Formula

Sometime, you might write out a list of what you consider to be the top 10 verses in the Bible.  In that kind of a list, many of us would surely include 2nd Chronicles 7:14. It is a verse with just about as much "stand alone" power as John 3:16. In fact, it stands by itself so well that I usually don't even consider or remember its original context.  But, today it's impossible not to look at that context.

The temple was complete, God's presence was evident, Solomon had prayed a prayer of invocation and fire from heaven had fallen upon the main offering. It was in that context that God spoke those great and famous words to Solomon: “If My people…”  The offer wasn't made during a time of rebellion, judgment and poverty. It was, however, made in anticipation of and preparation for that eventual situation. God knew that they would forsake Him and that as a result hard times would come upon them. So, He gave them the formula for restoration and revival, even before they needed it.

Now, actually, God wasn't prescribing a cure as much as He was agreeing with what Solomon had already postulated (in chapter 6). If you read Solomon's invocative prayer you'll see that he already understood what was required for God's mercy to be released upon His people.