Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar

When you are suffering or enduring hardship, where do you turn?  Do you have friends that you immediately pick up your phone and call?  Where do you look for encouragement?  Do you have friends, neighbors or a small group that show up when you are suffering?

We all have heard the story of Job and all he suffered and endured.  Job had 3 friends that showed up for him in his time of need.  

When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him.  Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  

Job 2:11 (NLT)

At first, I can imagine Job being so relieved that these men, his friends, showed up for him.  He surely assumed they were there to support and encourage him.  But, it wasn’t long before he realized that they did not bring him any comfort, they only criticized and accused him.  

These three men were jealous of Job because he was a godly man, a rich man and everything was going well for him and his family.  The three knew about God, but they didn’t know God personally.  They could not truly understand why Job suffered as he did.  In Job chapters 4-7 we read the dialogue between Job and his three friends.  The friends point out various reasons of why Job is suffering.  Each time Job responds with a speech of his own.  

The first to speak was Eliphaz who was the oldest and considered the wisest of the three friends.  He starts out by complimenting Job, but soon begins to accuse Job of being impatient.  Then Eliphaz told Job that according to what he himself had experienced and seen in his own life, those who do wrong suffer (even though he had never experienced or saw the same suffering Job was experiencing).

Don’t we sometimes do this in our own life?  When a friend is suffering, we try and relate an experience we have similarly had?  We try to explain why this might be happening to them based on our experiences.  Eliphaz thought he had wisdom because of his personal experiences.  But, our personal experience does not give us sound wisdom.  Sound wisdom only comes from the Bible.  Bible doctrine gives us a divine viewpoint, personal experience gives us a human viewpoint.  

The next to speak is Bildad.  He was pretty harsh with Job.  He accused job of being a windbag and not having anything worthwhile to say.  He told Job to look at past generations to see what happened in their lives.  Bildad took the stand that if Job was upright or had not sinned, God would not be punishing him.  He wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.

Then Zophar talked to Job.  He was the most critical.  He told Job he should be grateful that he wasn’t getting what he deserved.  He used sayings of that day to get his point across.  They didn’t even relate to Job’s sufferings.  Zophar did not use correct Bible doctrine for the situation.  He too thought Job sinned and was being disciplined.  He also wanted Job to repent so God would restore his blessings.

Now, on top of all Job’s sufferings, he was getting tested from Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  He had great patience and unconditional love for his friends, but he knew their advice was not good advice based on God’s word.  They were doing just what the enemy wanted, giving advice that had no value and not based on Bible doctrine, they were using their own standards instead of God’s standards.  Satan wanted Job to keep debating with his friends so he would get off track and begin to agree with their false standards.

The three friends agreed that god’s ways are far above their ways.  However, their words to Job did not go along with the doctrine of the Bible.  They judged Job because they were fearful.  They knew Job was righteous and they also thought they were righteous.  (Much like we see in the Pharisees later in the Bible.)  They saw the suffering Job had and they were worried that maybe they would also suffer.  They saw that the righteous do suffer and they didn’t want to believe that.  They wanted Job to repent so his suffering would disappear.  They were fearful that they also might have to suffer at some point in their lives.

You, too, have given no help.  You have seen my calamity, and you are afraid.   

Job 6:21

Satan’s favorite way to control us is through fear.  Fear is an emotion and moves us away from the promises of Christ.  Satan loved that the three friends were in fear.  He hoped their fear would rub off on Job and Job would eventually turn away from God and lose hope.  But, this does not happen.  Even though he suffered, he was able to have courage and not fear.  He was able to concentrate under pressure from the friends.  

The main difference between Job and his friends is not that Job suffers and they do not.  And it is not that Job understand suffering in a way that they do not.  The main difference is that Job fears God and they do not.  

Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence?  Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?

Job 4:6 (NLT)

The main message of Job is not so much about how to deal with suffering as about learning how to fear God, even through suffering.  Because we all will suffer.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

John 16:33 (NLT)

This example of suffering and friends coming to the rescue is such a great example for us today.  We all suffer and have friends who may rally around us.  We need to take every word they say and apply Bible doctrine to their words.  Are they pointing us to Christ or causing us to doubt and turn from him?  The devil would like nothing more than for us to turn from Christ in times of hardship.  

We give great honor to those who endure under suffering.  For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance.  You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

James 5:11 (NLT)

Job

Today’s reading is on Job (Job 1-2).

Today, we come into one of the most personally convicting stories in the Bible, the tale of Job. Here is a man who has it all: A happy family, enough wealth to live in great comfort, fields of thousands of livestock, more than enough servants to take care of them all, and respect and prestige among his people. Above all, he was a man who prized his Lord above all. The Lord Himself even rejoices in Job’s faith, saying in verse 8, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

Then how much more painful all that happens to Job: his livestock slaughtered, his servants killed, his family crushed in a freak accident, and his very body consumed by horrible, agonizing sores across his entire body. In the blink of an eye, this man’s life hand in life has gone from plentiful to torturous. While we know this was the work of Satan from our perspective of the text, Job can see no fault in what he’s done. From what he’s experienced, the greatest torture he had to endure I can only imagine must have come from within his own mind, thoughts whispered from the Devil: What had he done to deserve this? How had the wronged the Lord to earn such overwhelming retribution?

But never once does Job harden his heart against the Lord: as he speaks over the course of this book, we see the heart of one who has truly given all he has to God. Although he may curse his own life and beg for death, never once does he speak out against or doubt the Lord or His plan. What a feat this must have been: for all the pain he had gone through, never once did Job lose faith.

One of the biggest questions people have always had for Christians is “why do such awful things happen to good people?” There is no true answer we can give: not one of us in this life will understand the nature of God. But in Job’s story, we see one reason: Satan attempting to undermine our faith and the refuge we can find in the Lord. From Job’s perspective though, he does not know what transpired to affect his life in this way. He will have to endure the rest of his time on earth not knowing why the Lord had not prevented this from happening. But never does his steadfast faith fade.

When tragedy befalls you, how do you handle it? Do you look outward for answers from others and the world around you, look inward to your own actions and behaviors and wrestle with guilt and anger towards the self? Do you look to the Lord for answers and demands, or do you surrender yourself to Him and follow His plans for your life in even your darkest seasons, knowing He has plans for you and will bring provide no matter what? In times of intense grief and unbearable pain, we can look to Job for answers: how will God provide? How can we go on? We may never know, but we know the Lord is powerful and sovereign, loves us deeply, and will never leave us.

Scripture reminds us of this: Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  When we find faith difficult to muster over our desperation and questions for God, Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” And of course Psalm 23:4 reminds us that God looks out for us even amidst our darkest times: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

Job experiences it firsthand here, and we learn as well: God is always with us, especially when we are crushed by heartbreak and surrounded by death and despair. Even though we can’t provide answers for the trials we face, we know the Lord enables our capability to withstand any storm. All we must do is trust wholly in Him and his unshakeable shelter and protection. For just as God surely knew during Job’s ordeal that his faith would keep him going, God knows any suffering we could ever go through, He has already ensured we He will see us through. Preparation to turn our hearts to God in times of ease and plenty can often be overlooked – if you’re in that period of life today, pray for your heart to be strengthened in the Lord now. And pray for those of us who may be winding our way through the valley of death as it were – be ready to offer a helping hand and the encouraging word of the Lord to those who may need it more than ever.

Mordecai…Do you know him?

Today’s reading is Esther 3:1-15, 5:9-6:14, and 10:1-3 with a focus on Mordecai.

I have to admit, sadly, that I was more familiar with the major league baseball pitcher and manager from the first half of the 20th century, “Three Finger” Mordecai Brown, than I was with Mordecai from the Bible. I at least knew the major league pitcher and manager had three fingers but couldn’t tell you anything about Mordecai in the Bible until this post. A famous comedian Rodney Dangerfield main punchline was always that he didn’t get any respect. Well, I feel like Mordecai might be the “Rodney Dangerfield” of biblical heroes who stood up for God and what was right despite the risks. Many of us know about Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, and even Rahab to name a few, but may not know much about Mordecai. Although I don’t think Mordecai himself would really care, what he cared about doing what was right in God’s eyes for God’s glory, despite the risks and lack of notoriety. We can learn from this and should strive to do the same.

If you like soap operas or just a good drama, take the time to read this entire book of Esther. I’ll try to sum up who Mordecai was and what he did as briefly as I can. Mordecai took Esther, the daughter of his uncle Abihail, as his own daughter because she had no father or mother. This was after King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the Jews from Jerusalem during the rule of King Ahasuerus while the Jews were still exiled. Not only had Mordecai sacrificed to help make Esther his own, but he also helped her behind the scenes to rise to queen while her Jewish beliefs and lineage were hidden. He went to great risks to foil a plot from some of King Ahasuerus’ own men to kill him, even though he received no credit. Like the more well-known Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he refused to bow down anyone other than God when he did not bow down King Ahasuerus’ right-hand man Haman. As a result, Haman plotted to annihilate all the Jews across the land and eventually hang Mordecai. However, Mordecai convinced Esther to potentially put her life at risk by asking her to reveal her Jewish lineage by telling King Ahasuerus about Haman and his plot to kill all her fellow Jews and him. After much time had passed since the event, the King learned it was in fact Mordecai who exposed the plot some time earlier to kill him and saved Mordecai’s life, as well as all the Jews, promoted Mordecai to his right-hand man, and ultimately hanged Haman instead.

I’ve heard the quote before, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” This is what Mordecai did time and time again, despite the risks to himself, all the Jews, and Esther who he raised and obviously cared so much for. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Mark Whitacre speak on two occasions. You may recognize his name as the FBI informant who exposed the ADM price fixing scheme in nearby Decatur, IL and may have even seen the movie with Matt Damon starring as him. I admittedly have not seen the movie, but what you may not know (I’m not sure if it is in the movie…) was that his wife, Ginger, told Mark that if he didn’t go to the authorities, she would. Although Mark did and was responsible for initially helping to expose the scheme, he did not fully cooperate with authorities and served 9 years in prison while the average stay of the others involved was only 30 months! Do you think Ginger who gave up a wealthy life and who was now raising their children alone without her husband and their father might have regretted her decision and might have been bitter about the others’ lesser sentence? I don’t know if any of these thoughts crept in, but I do know that she prayed for her husband consistently throughout this time. Ultimately, Chuck Colson, who was guilty as part of the Richard Nixon Watergate scandal, witnessed to Mark while he was in prison, and Mark gave his life to Christ. Mark now travels the country sharing his story and witnessing to thousands about the saving grace of Jesus he received which they can also receive. If Mark doesn’t go to prison, or has a shorter sentence, it’s likely he doesn’t find Christ, nor help others find God’s grace through sharing his story. This all started by Ginger Whitacre doing the right thing and encouraging her husband to do the same.

While we may not be in the situation to step in the middle and stop criminal activity, we are faced with opportunities each day to stand up for God and His Word. The world keeps telling us that there is no right and wrong and everyone should just do like they feel, seeking pleasure and whatever makes them happy. It’s their choice, right? If we don’t agree, we are looked at as being in the wrong. Well, God is clear in His Word what is right and what is wrong, and we must not let the world convince us differently. We must also let the world know what God’s Word says is truth, despite the risks of being ostracized and despite the fact that we who are witnessing and standing up for God are also sinners in need of God’s saving grace ourselves. Like we learned from Mordecai in the book of Esther and Ginger Whitacre, “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.”

If you want to read more verses on how we must not heed to what the world says is right, despite the risks, check out James 4:4, Matthew 10:22, John 15:18, Matthew 24:9, Galatians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18, and finally Matthew 5:10-12.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in Heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

Ester

Ester 2:1-23, 4:1-5, 7:1-8, 8

Oh my goodness, it’s like a 7thgrade algebra story problem figuring out what to read today… Hoping you “did the math” and got your reading done so we can look at Ester’s story together today. It is another beautiful example of God’s power and ability to use all kinds of people (with lots of different motives) to accomplish His plan… preserving a people group to bring His perfect Son to earth, making a way for us to have relationship with Him!

I know chapter 1 was not part of our assigned reading today but I have to start from the top. I honestly couldn’t remember why King Zerxes was looking for a new queen so I started reading chapter 1. The king threw a HUGE party, (the celebration lasted 180 days!) so he was feeling pretty good from the wine and made a request of his wife. He wanted to show her off in front of all the leaders of his kingdom. She refused him. He was mad! He gathered a bunch of friends (with ulterior motives) and asked their opinion on how to deal with the queen instead of thinking for himself and then followed their advice. So the queen got banished forever from the king’s presence and in time it seems like he started to second-guess the decision he made in anger about his wife. Turns out he did want a wife. So once more he asks his friends for help and they tell him to do a nationwide search for the perfect queen (or maybe the hottest virgin he can find) and this sounds pleasing (shocking, right?) to him so he agrees. A Jewish man named Mordecai had a job around the palace and heard about the beauty contest. He went home and got his beautiful, God loving cousin Ester entered in the contest. Out of many young women, Ester was chosen to be the queen. Mordecai stayed in close proximity to the palace so he could find out how things were going for Ester. He loved her and cared about her wellbeing.

Mordecai overheard a plot to kill king Xerxes while at work one day and quickly reported this news to Ester. Ester told the king, crediting Mordecai with the intel and the king did an investigation and found the report to be true. He impaled the two men on a sharpened pole for their plot to kill him. Some time later, the king promoted a man named Haman to make him the most powerful official in the empire. Haman decided that all the king’s employees should bow down to him as he passed by to show him respect. (Do you think he had pride issues?!?!) Mordecai refused to bow to Haman, because he was Jewish and loved God. This made Haman very mad and he decided to retaliate. Haman was so mad that punishing Mordecai wasn’t enough vengeance for him so he devised a plan to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes. Haman was a smart man who served a not so smart king, so he went to the king and told a vague version of the truth that the king believed (without investigating the facts).  Haman got a law passed that stated that all the Jews in the land, women and children included, would be slaughtered on Mar 7 the following year. This is where Ester’s faith gets tested and the rubber meets the road for her. She has to talk to the king about this new law that is passed and try to get things changed around so that God’s people are not completely wiped out. No big deal right? Are they not husband and wife? The problem is that in the culture they live in, the queen cannot ask to be in the king’s presence. Only the king can call for his wife. Ester’s life is at risk for asking to speak to her husband. Ester is brave and invites the king to a meal where she explains the plight of her people, and her own fate because of Haman’s law. King Xerxes is furious about being tricked by Haman and impales Haman on the sharpened pole that Haman has set up to impale Mordecai on, and then the kings anger subsides. Justice! But there is still that law out there (that Haman had passed that cannot be revoked because it was signed by the king) that kills all the Jews, including Ester, on Mar 7 of the following year.

King Xerxes finally puts some smart and moral people around himself and replaces Haman with Mordecai. Mordecai was smart enough to come up with a plan that allowed the Jews to unite as a people to defend themselves and their property on Mar 7 of the following year, which God used to save the Jews lives and also to wipe out the rest of Haman’s family.

No matter people’s motives, position of power, or thinking capability, God’s plan will always be accomplished! He is more mighty than any human, more virtuous than any person, more loving than any being and will accomplish His truth no matter what people do to try to interfere. He will always win.

Nehemiah

Today’s reading is from Nehemiah, chapters 1-2.

Nehemiah had received some disheartening news in regard to the state of Jerusalem and those of the Israelites who were left behind after the rest of the people were carried off into exile by the Babylonians. The city was in ruins and those that remained were vulnerable to the surrounding nations. They were in trouble. It broke Nehemiah’s heart because this was his country – his people -who were suffering. It was also a reminder to him of the continued unfaithfulness of his people that led to the situation they now faced. The news of the condition of the city and those left behind that brought Nehemiah to his knees.

Ch 1:1-6: As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.  And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,  let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.Nehemiah understands the power of prayer and to whom he is presenting his petitions. He trusts in the power, love and faithfulness of his Lord.

Nehemiah confesses not only the sin of his people, but also his own sins. He correctly points out that they have acted in disobedience to God’s command and are deserving of the punishment that they are receiving. He also “reminds” God of the promises He had made to His people – a promise to restore them to their land, no matter where they may be, if they would be faithful to God’s command. Nehemiah was praying day and night for the restoration of his people. Finally, four months after receiving the news of the dilemma that the
remnant found themselves in, Nehemiah had the opportunity to present his request before the king.

Ch 2:1-6: In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence.  And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid.  I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”  Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.  And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”  And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.

There was a danger in approaching the king with a rejected look. Servants in the king’s presence were always to be “on their game.” Additionally, Nehemiah was asking for something huge. Some would consider his request to be a backhanded condemnation as to the way that this ruling family had handled the situation in Jerusalem. Regardless of the potential danger, Nehemiah took the opportunity to make his request and the king responded in the affirmative. Not only that, he also granted Nehemiah’s request for letters to allow for safe-conduct through the region and supplies for his rebuilding program.

Most, if not all, of us have had situations in our lives that just broke our hearts. We find ourselves on our knees praying for hope, healing or maybe that the situation would be completely different. Nehemiah was well aware of his past and the past of his people that led them to the predicament that they were in. He also knew that his God remained true to His promises, loved His children and never stopped being involved in their lives, whether in Jerusalem or in exile. God never left them. Knowing this about God gives us comfort and reassurance that we can go before Him 24/7 and present the things that are on our heart, the celebrations and the struggles. God loves His children and He is active in answering prayer – maybe not always the way we had hoped for or in our timing – but He is always answering prayer.

Phillipians 4:4-7: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Influenced

Ezra 7-10

As a teenager, I remember my mother questioning me about my friends.  You become the company you keep; she would tell me.  I knew what she meant. Many of my friends were not scholars or great athletes nor did they have any desire to be.  More importantly, they did not share my belief in Jesus. Consequently, I often found myself engaged in behavior that was counter to who I wanted to be.  I knew this, but, at the time, giving up all of my friends seemed like too big of a cost.  You already know.  If we want to live a Christ-following life, we must be prepared to make some adjustments in our lifestyle.

I recalled this as I studied Ezra this week.  He was given the task of re-populating the Temple in Jerusalem.  God provided everything that he would ever need to do so.  It seems like it was easy.  Think about it, he received special permission from the king to take the Israelites and relocate them.  Then, he was given access to the king’s treasury.  More so, he was given authority to take as much silver and gold as he could carry from Babylon.  This turned out to be 24 tons of silver, 7,500 pounds of silver articles, 7,500 pounds of gold, 20 gold bowls and 2 fine articles of polished bronze (Ezra 8:26).  Clearly, he was well funded.  To top it all off, God granted him safe passage (Ezra 7:31).  For Ezra, it seemed, nothing could go wrong.  Until it did.

As they were settling into their new land, Ezra became aware of sin in their lives.  His investigation uncovered cause of the sin. It was the bad influence of the peoples they had just fled (Ezra 9:1).  To make matters worse, they had brought many of the people with them.  Now, the ones that came along were special.  They were their very wives and children.  You see, they had intermarried while they were still in captivity.  Unfortunately, they had “taken up their detestable practices.”  If the Israelites were really to choose God, they would have to remove these wicked influences.

The real work of Ezra’s leadership was just beginning.  The next several years would test his medal as he challenged the Israelites with God’s laws.  If you continue reading into Ezra 10, you will see that the people do choose God.  Their choice, however, comes with a disturbing cost.  They would have to leave behind the relationships that they had built.  It was, Afterall, these relationships that were causing them to fall.  They had to choose.  Love God, or love the world.  So do we.

Lost Words

Five years ago, I received one of those phone calls. You know the type. The name pops up on the screen and your stomach drops. You know that the uncle you hardly ever talk to on the phone, is likely calling to deliver some news that a text or facebook message wouldn’t be appropriate for. In my heart – in my bones – I knew. I let it ring a few times while I settled myself quickly and then answered.

Hi Uncle Brad, what’s up?

It was my Dad. He died in the middle of the night – unexpectedly a few months before his 70thbirthday. We had just buried my grandma (his mom) two years before, and I think he died of a broken heart. The coroner said the official term was coronary disease.

I was in my mid thirties, and with a 3 year old and a seven month old in tow, we went and planned a funeral 2,000 miles away. It all seems like a blur now, and as I reflect I just have to smile at God’s timing.

I knew my Dad loved Jesus, and I knew my Dad loved me. But you know what was neat? After returning from California with much of my Dad’s belongings, I found notes he had written in the margins of books he was reading about God. I saw goals he had written down, ideas and thoughts he had about theology. What a gift to see that in your parent’s own handwriting.

My dad had lived a hard life – as a kid, he was despised by his stepfather, he had failed marriages and two children he was estranged from most of their lives. He struggled with substance abuse and it wasn’t until later in life when he was paying for the consequences of those choices that he came to faith in Jesus. I reconnected with my Dad in my teens, although he was in California and I was here, and it was mostly through the mail and phone calls. As I got older we had trips and visits – and he didn’t miss an opportunity to share his testimony of faith with me. It was powerful to then see that belief continue until the day he died.

The last two years of my Dad’s life, I had grown closer to him. He had lost his mom, his best friend, and he was lonely. We talked and texted more. I checked in on him and spent time listening to what was happening in his life. Just getting to know more of who he was. He was a man that carried a lot of burdens and regret from his past, trying to look forward and follow Jesus.

Three months after my dad died, my grandma on my mom’s side sent me some mail. She was going through boxes and found letters that my dad had written her from his time in prison (postmarked 1996). Letter after letter, he poured his heart out about Jesus, his love for my half sister and me, and more. While I don’t have a lot of memories of my Dad from age 4-16, I can be thankful for God’s provision in this other way. In one letter to my grandma, he wrote that he didn’t have money to send me a gift so he wrote me this poem and sent it to me. Thankfully (miraculously?) my grandma kept this letter and her copy of the poem, because I didn’t have it.

If you’re still with me – and wondering what any of this has to do with our reading for today – let’s dive in.

2 Chronicles 34:14-33 (and 2 Kings 22 is another good cross reference for this chapter)

Josiah is king, and he’s following the ways of the Lord – going away from his predecessors and ancestors’ idolatry and sin. He is having the temple restored and during this restoration process, one of the high priests, Hilkiah, finds the lost scroll, what we call the book of Deuteronomy. What a discovery!

So. Many. Questions.

How long has it been lost? DECADES!

How did it get lost? (Those funny memes of You Had ONE Job are entering my mind) But truly, it was in the very place that it should be – in the temple that the high priests had access to.

Is Deuteronomy THAT critical? YES! Such a rich book, tying together God’s law and God’s love for his people. Deuteronomy also shows us that keeping the law is in response to God’s grace, not a means to earn God’s favor. Jesus references scripture in Deuteronomy more than any other OT book, even combating the temptations of Satan with these powerful words (Luke 4).

Now what? The book is rediscovered (thanks, Hilkiah) and King Josiah uses these words to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. It’s a revival of sorts, with repentance, reconciliation, and restoration. God’s word is powerful, living, and brings people to action! If you missed Stephanie’s post last week on King Josiah, check out the details here.

So back to Hilkiah, the high priest that found the lost book. What a cool legacy and blessing that had to be in his own life! When I first read this passage I had to ask myself – have I ever lost anything and then found it? Or discovered something that maybe I didn’t even know was missing? The letters my grandma found from my Dad quickly came to mind, and I’m so blessed by them. And they’re nothing in comparison to the words we have from our Heavenly Father!

What a gift He gave us in revealing Himself to us through scripture. Do we long to read the words? Treasure them for the love and grace they pour into us? Keep them in our hearts and ready to use? When was the last time I craved the Word, just so I could know God more? If we want to grow in our love for God and his people, wouldn’t getting to know Him more deeply, be a great start?

 

Man-ass-eh? But God still loves us.

Dear Readers,

This post was primarily authored on September 11th, 2019 from approximately 30,000 feet in the air. My thoughts from the beginning of today have been consumed by the tragedies that occurred on 9/11/2001. Those of us who witnessed these events unfolding will never forget this day that changed our lives forever.

For the first time in my recollection on the hundreds of flights I’ve taken, the captain (instead of a flight attendant) of the plane made the verbal welcoming announcement in person from the main cabin (outside of the cockpit). He didn’t mention 9/11/2001, but his tone was passionate and warm, and his face was serious as he made eye contact with many of the passengers. He welcomed us aboard in subtle remembrance and it was moving.

The tragic events of what is now known as “Patriot Day” brought collaborative evil terrorist schemes to light which included mass murder, complete devastation, horror, shock, loss, fear, pain and deep mourning.

Further, the leaders behind these events used this as a way to encourage additional terrorism in the future. This reminds me of Manasseh in our reading today which is 2 Chronicles 33:1-20.

Manasseh was a wicked king committing idolatry, sorcery and like the aforementioned terrorists, leading his people astray to do evil. He even went so far as to do the unimaginable: He burned his sons as an offering.

How does God respond to our disobedience?

One way is that he tries to communicate with us.

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, (2 Chronicles 33:10a)

This chapter doesn’t say how or what The Lord said to Manasseh and his people so let’s consider ways he tries to communicate to us today. Through his Holy Spirit whispering into our souls, through his marvelous works such as providing daily sustenance (oxygen, food, water), showing us the glory of a new sunrise and sunset, wildlife, mountains, forests, and the oceans along with the billions of inhabitants living there as part of the circle of life. Through performing countless miracles that we either notice or take for granted. Through his living word in The Bible conveying the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We should pay attention and be grateful for the many clues and ways he seeks relationship with us.

but they paid no attention. (2 Chronicles 33:10b)

Manasseh provokes God’s anger.

Eventually God got Manasseh’s attention in a most undesirable way.

Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 33:11)

Manasseh repents.

And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. (2 Chronicles 33:12)

Manasseh lived such a life of defiance, it is interesting that he actually repents. A true atheist wouldn’t beg for God’s forgiveness right? This tells me that somewhere in Manasseh’s heart, he knew God all along.

He knew who his creator was. He knew the God of his ancestors was true. He had a compass, he knew right from wrong. Being made king at age twelve, much had been given to him, yet his selfishness and hatred drove his life up to this point.

God listens and responds.

The shocking yet beautiful result is that God was moved by Manasseh’s humility and forgives him, just like he forgives us when we truly repent and turn from our sins. This guy was the worst, but God forgave him! Note that this repentance was pure; not one of those fake repentances where one begs for help, gets rescued, then goes back to the same ways.

Like Manasseh, no matter how great our sins, we can be forgiven. It doesn’t make earthly sense but it is God’s perfect eternal equation. Sin = death. Repentance + Jesus = life.

Similar to remembrance of the events of 9/11/2001, holding this history close to our hearts, we must never forget God’s love for us. How Jesus surrendered his life for us. How our prior sins must not define us, but who we are in Christ, a new creation, washed clean.

May we repent and live new lives like Manasseh, being known for the change that can only point to a life defined as living for our God: creator, friend, and deliverer.

Like Sands through the Hourglass

Today’s reading:  2 Chronicles 26

Do you, or did you ever, get in to watching soap operas?  When I was in college, Days of Our Lives was on every day at 12pm.  It’s been enough years ago that I can’t exactly remember the time, but I think lunch was served at the IWU Kappa Kappa Gamma house every weekday around 11:15 or 11:30.  Plenty of time to eat lunch, then head to the TV room to watch Days.  This show was pretty stupid, but we faithfully watched it anyway.  The storyline had been the same for decades.  In fact, I bet if I turned on Days of Our Lives tomorrow, it wouldn’t take me more than a couple of days to pick up on what the Horton’s and the Brady’s are up to now.

Our assigned reading for today is 2 Chronicles chapter 26.  In my opinion, the Old Testament books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles are just like a soap opera.  1 Kings starts at the end of King David’s reign.  Solomon becomes King, the temple is built, and the kingdom divides into north and south.  God’s people then cycle through 20 kings in the northern kingdom of Israel before they get taken to Assyria, and 20 kings in the southern kingdom of Judah before they are taken into Babylonian captivity.  For more than 500 years, God’s people were ruled by 42 different kings and one queen (if you include David and Solomon).  By my count, only 8 of the 43 rulers (>20%) followed the ways of the Lord.  The rest were anywhere from kind of bad to downright evil.  The reigning king’s response to God set the spiritual climate for the nation and impacted whether God blessed or sent judgment on his people.  This was a total soap opera, only it wasn’t decades of the same story, it was centuries!

In 2 Chronicles 26 today, we are studying the life of King Uzziah.  He took over as King when he was 16 years old, and reigned 52 years.  Uzziah had a great start.  Uzziah won wars, built cities, and maintained productive farms and vineyards.  He became very famous and powerful.

He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done.  Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as the king sought the Lord, God gave him success (2 Chronicles 26:4-5).

But…

When he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall.  He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the altar (2 Chronicles 26:16).

When Uzziah was confronted by the priest, did you notice Uzziah’s response?  Instead of acknowledging he was wrong and seeking forgiveness, he became angry and refused to submit to the priest’s spiritual authority.  By this point in his life, he was so powerful and prideful he couldn’t see beyond himself and his desires.  God’s response to Uzziah’s actions was harsh, as Uzziah developed leprosy on the spot.  Verse 21 tells us Uzziah then lived the rest of his days alone, and his son Jotham took over the throne.

STOP HERE.  Do you remember the main point in my post two weeks ago about Amnon, Absalom and David?  Just like a soap opera, the same storyline continues just with different players.  Even though Uzziah started off well, he ended up in the same place as Amnon, Absalom and David – self promoting and prideful.  In case you missed it two weeks ago, here is the main point again –

Power, and the pursuit of power, often drives people to actions (or inaction) that were previously uncommon of their character.  They often disregard their moral compass, what is right, or what is in the best interest of others.  Their actions demonstrate complete self-promotion.

So I ask you again, does this behavior sound familiar?  Have you experienced it in the lives of people close to you?  Have you been hurt in the process?  Are you in a position of power or pursuing power?  Could you be blind to the hurt you are causing for those close to you?  Either way, I urge you to draw near to God and submit to his ways.  His plans are sovereign.  All power truly belongs to him.

Jehoshaphat

Today’s reading is 2 Chronicles 17-20

These 4 chapters are quite the read!  Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, became king of Judah. He was a great leader who followed God, but he still made mistakes that cost him greatly. He seemed to be very strong in his convictions, but when it came to choosing alliances he did not make wise choices. He chose to join forces with King Ahab (who did not follow the Lord) by allowing their children to marry. This brought Jehoshaphat into an alliance that almost cost him his life in the midst of battle.  King Ahab “enticed” Jehoshaphat in joining him in an attack against Ramoth-Gilead.  Jehoshaphat eagerly agreed, but then took a step back and said, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says”(18:4). King Ahab appeased him and brought in 400 of his prophets who agreed 100% with the attack and assured them there would be victory. Jehoshaphat was not convinced so he requested that a prophet of the Lord come forward. Instead of 400, there was only one. The prophet of the Lord, Michaiah, prophesied that King Ahab would NOT be victorious like the other 400 prophets had said.  So what did they do? They attacked Ramoth-Gilead anyway! What happened? King Ahab died and Jehoshaphat was spared after his urgent prayer to God to save him. 2 Chronicles 18:31 “But Jehoshaphat cried out to the Lord to save him, and God helped him by turning the attack away from him”.

I am struck by the decision to follow the advice of 400 prophets that belonged to a king who did not follow God. These were most likely false prophets who told the king what he wanted to hear instead of the truth. 400 voices are definitely louder than 1, and easier to listen to when they are telling us to do the very thing we want to do anyway. Jehoshaphat was right in asking for a prophet of the Lord, but for some reason he couldn’t stand up and follow his advice when it disagreed with everyone else. Was it because he didn’t want to let his buddy King Ahab down? Was he caught up in the moment of excitement for battle? Was it too hard to turn back and say no? There are a lot of voices in our world today. Like Jehoshaphat, I’m guilty of following the crowd in spite of my convictions. There have been times I have caved and done things that I knew were not in God’s plan for my life. The good news is that God heard Jehoshaphat’s cry for help in the midst of his sin. He made a poor choice and found himself on the brink of disaster, but he “cried out to the Lord to save him” and he did.

What voices are you listening to in the midst of all the decisions of life? The agreeable 400, or the challenging 1? Have you followed the 400 into a disaster? It’s never to late to cry out for help.

Shelly