Day 151: It’s all in the details…

2 Kings 8-10; John 9:1-41

In 1 Kings 19, God instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha as his replacement, but God also told Elijah to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel.

Finally, in today’s reading of 2 Kings, we see these instructions fulfilled, through Elisha. And by anointing Jehu king over Israel, God uses Jehu to fulfill the prophecy He made to Ahab (through Elijah) back in 1 Kings 21…

Thus says the Lord: ‘In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick [Ahab’s] own blood.’

And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat. (1 Kings 21:19; 23-24).

Because of Ahab’s repentance, God relented and saved the inevitable prophesy for his son, Jehoram. We read the fulfillment in all of its gory detail in today’s passage.

The intricate, sovereignty of the Lord is displayed as he uses sinful men to carry out his holy purposes. God orchestrated every detail and every word of his prophecy came to pass… including the destruction of Baal worship in Israel. Amazing.

In today’s Old Testament reading, God’s glory is revealed in the sovereign execution of judgment. Conversely, in today’s New Testament reading, God shows his glory in the restoration of sight to a blind man.

The disciples assumed that the man’s blindness was the result of God’s judgment either for the man’s sin or his parents’ sin. But Jesus refutes the traditional thought that all suffering is brought about by God as judgment. Some suffering occurs so that God’s glory might be revealed through deliverance.

This was the case for the man born blind. God used his “light and momentary suffering” to reveal His glory through healing. Jesus also used the physical healing as a symbol for spiritual healing… insinuating to the Pharisees that they were spiritually blind because they claimed to see. “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ ” (John 9:39).

Was the glorious healing worth the years of suffering? I believe so. The suffering that the man endured primed his heart to receive the gospel. After years of suffering, he knew he needed a Savior. The eternal blessing always outweighs the temporal suffering!

God’s intricate handling of the details of our lives reveals a benevolent, powerful and sovereign God. C.S. Lewis’ allegorical depiction of Jesus as Aslan in his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, captures both the terrifying and comforting aspects of God’s sovereignty…

“Is he—quite safe?”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver […] “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Keeping up with the Kings

  • Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat), Ahaziah
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz

Day 150: Eternal God

2 Kings 6-8; John 8:37-59

Today we read the climatic conclusion to Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees and Jews in the temple. Jesus’ words were sharp and divisive. He tells the people that because they do not accept His words, they are children of the devil. Ouch. Jesus was not afraid of controversy!

The conversation contains the typical back and forth misunderstandings as Jesus speaks spiritually and the people respond literally. Jesus ends the conversation with His clearest declaration of divinity…

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:58-59).

The fact that the people picked up stones to kill him meant they understood exactly what Jesus was saying… The notes from the ESV study bible explain…

The words “I am” in Greek use the same expression (Egō eimi) found in the Septuagint in the first half of God’s self-identification in Ex. 3:14, “I am who I am.” Jesus is thus claiming not only to be eternal but also to be the God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. His Jewish opponents understood his meaning immediately and they “picked up stones” to stone him to death for blasphemy. (ESV Study Bible, Crossway).

Yes, Jesus claimed to be the Eternal God. The same God who created the earth and spoke to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same God who called and empowered Moses to rescue His people and the same God who strived to rescue His people from apostasy as He worked through Elijah and Elisha. Jesus was there, commanding the armies of angels to protect Elisha in 2 Kings 6 – and sending the Syrian army fleeing in 2 Kings 7. He was there… protecting his wayward people from starvation – proving that He was not only God over Israel, but Lord over all the earth.

This is the God we serve. He was. He is. He will always be!

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat)
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (Joram)

Day 149: Prophet, Priest & King

2 Kings 4-5; John 8:21-36

In the Old Testament, God used prophets to communicate His truth and demonstrate His power.

Today we read of Elisha continuing the ministry of Elijah. God worked through Elisha to heal, give provision and bring life from death. Elisha was God’s mouthpiece as he persistently demonstrated that God, alone, is God of Israel.

In the New Testament, God sent His Son to fulfill the role of Prophet, Priest and King.

As we read through the Pentateuch, we saw how Jesus perfectly fulfilled every point of the Law and the Sacrificial System. He is our High Priest – opening the way to the Father.

In the gospels, we see that Jesus is the ultimate Prophet, communicating truth and demonstrating God’s power. In today’s reading, Jesus continues to speak the words of the Father to the people, and through His words, he reveals that He is also the King.

Only a King has the authority to free slaves, and Jesus has this authority. But once again, as He is speaking, the people misunderstand Him. They interpret him literally and argue that they are not enslaved.

But they are enslaved. Everyone is a slave, spiritually. We are slaves to sin. And we need the King, not just of this world, but the King of Heaven and Earth to set us free from the bondage of sin.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. ..So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:34; 36).

Jesus, our Prophet, Priest and King, gives us freedom. And we are free indeed!

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat)
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (Joram)

Day 148: The Light of the World

2 Kings 1-3; John 8:1-20

Jehoshaphat was a rare king that walked in the ways of the Lord. He ruled Judah while the evil king, Ahab, and his sons ruled Israel, and somehow, Jehoshaphat maintained peace between the two nations. Jehoshaphat aided Israel twice in war, and both times, before they entered the battle, Jehoshaphat asked to inquire of a prophet of the Lord…

And [Ahab] said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord” (1 Kings 22:4-7).

And [Ahab’s son, Jehoram,] went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to battle against Moab?” And he said, “I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” (2 Kings 3:7; 11)

Jehoshaphat depended on the Lord’s guidance. He understood the perils of walking on paths outside of the Lord’s will. It would be like traversing a mountain in the dark…extremely dangerous! Jehoshaphat needed light, and he sought it!

In today’s reading from John, we see Jesus proclaiming: “I am the light of the world.”

  • He is the spiritual light – illuminating the path to eternal life.
  • He is the moral light – living the absolute perfect life.
  • And one day, on the new earth, He will be the physical light… (Rev. 21:23).

Jesus is the light of the world – and we should seek Him passionately as we traverse the dangers in this world. We need Him. We need light!

As we follow Him, we also become lights. We are called to reflect the light of the Savior. This is our job. This is our purpose!

We know from our readings about Elijah, that this was Elijah’s job as well – to reflect the light of Truth amidst the Baal worship in Israel. And in today’s reading in 2 Kings, we see Elijah pass the torch to Elisha. Elisha will now bear the burden of light-bearer to Israel and its kings.

The darkness in this world can feel overwhelming. But we must cling to the Light as we reflect the light of Christ to the world. The darkness will never overcome the Light!

The light shines in the darkness. and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat)
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (Joram)

Day 147: The River

1 Kings 21-22; John 7:32-53

I love today’s New Testament passage. It characterizes the discourses found in John…

Typically, Jesus communicates a spiritual truth, and the people misunderstand Him because they try to apply His words to the physical world. In today’s reading, Jesus is speaking of his death and says, “Where I am, you cannot come.” His audience interprets Him literally. They wonder where he could go that they could never follow. They completely misunderstand. In some ways, it’s humorous. In other ways, it’s tragic.

I wonder if they understood the symbolism when Jesus stood on the last day of the Feast of Booths and declared, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” The Jews celebrated the Feast of Booths to commemorate the way God provided for them in the wilderness after they had been delivered from Egypt. The Israelites would not have survived their desert wanderings without God’s consistent provision of water and food. Consequently, water was a key symbol in the celebration of the Feast of Booths. And here we see Jesus, standing on the last day of the feast, declaring that He is the Living Water – the source of all life. What a powerful picture!

What was the people’s response? Some believed, some did not. It is the same today… Some come humbly and repent and others walk away, unchanged.

As I’ve studied the bible this year, I’ve been struck by one truth that weaves its way through both the Old and New Testaments. God desires repentance, and when the sinner repents, He forgives.

This forgiveness is offered to anyone. Even to Ahab, the most evil king to ever rule Israel, ever. Seriously, he was The. Most. Evil. King. in all of Israel’s history. In today’s passage from 1 Kings 21, Ahab repents, and God relents…

And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house” (1 Kings 21:28-29).

God’s offer of grace and forgiveness extends beyond our comprehension. He doesn’t just offer to quench our thirst – He offers “rivers of living water.” More grace and forgiveness and life than we could ever imagine! He is the river, and He invites us to come, and to drink.

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah

Day 146: The quiet work of God

1 Kings 19-20; John 7:1-31

Elijah had a great purpose, and he understood his purpose. He lived to defeat the apostasy in Israel. He battled against the worship of Baal and hoped for the people of Israel to turn to God with an undivided heart.

Elijah had just persevered through 3 years of drought, and led the people in a powerful display of God’s power. The people worshiped the Lord and killed the 450 prophets of Baal. Elijah must have thought he had won. His life purpose felt complete. The rain came and Elijah ran empowered by the Spirit all the way to Jezreel – to the home of Queen Jezebel.

I don’t know what Elijah expected… maybe for Jezebel to admit defeat, maybe fire from heaven to consume her, but he did not expect Jezebel to belittle his victory and threaten his life.

In the course of one rain storm, Elijah went from the heights of victory to the depths of defeat. Consumed by disappointment, Elijah fled south through Judah to the southernmost town of Beersheba and further south into the wilderness. There, in complete despair, Elijah asked God to take his life.

We read in Chapter 19 of God’s graciousness to Elijah. God sends an angel to provide food and comfort. Elijah makes his way to Mount Sinai (Mt. Horeb) and God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

It is an invitation for repentance. “Elijah, pour out your heart to me. Tell me your fears. Let me encourage you with my Truth.” But Elijah is angry and disappointed. He justifies himself. So God tries to reveal His ways…

He tries to show Elijah that the battle will not be won with spectacular displays of power, but in quiet, persevering strength. God’s voice was in the whisper – not in the wind, earthquake or fire.

But Elijah’s disappointment blinds him to the truth, so when God asks him again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah’s answer remains unchanged.

God’s ways are quiet, yet strong. Mysterious, yet glorious. Invisible, yet powerful.

Jesus shows us the mysterious ways of the Father. Although Jesus demonstrated the power of God in signs and wonders, it was his humble sacrifice that broke the power of sin – and today, it is the Spirit that works quietly to turn our wandering hearts wholeheartedly to the Savior.

We must cling to these truths as we face disappointment and despair. God rarely offers “quick-fixes” to our problems, but works painstakingly slowly – to squeeze the most good out of every circumstance. Elijah’s character would be strengthened as he overcame his anger and despair and re-entered the battle to continue the fight against apostasy. We must also re-enter the battle – moment by moment – and continue to fight for righteousness to rule our hearts and our world!

Day 145: A hard choice

1 Kings 17-18; John 6:45-71

After [this hard teaching] many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:66-69).

I have come back to this Scripture many times over the course of my Christian life. I typically come here when I am at a crossroads in my faith. Some call it a crisis of belief or a choice between fear and faith. Whatever you want to call it, I read this passage when I know God is asking me to walk down a difficult road. The disciples were at that crossroads. They had a choice to make… stay with Jesus and relinquish control of their lives or walk away to follow their own path.

In today’s reading from 1 Kings, we see many “crises of belief…”

First, the prophet, Elijah, risked his life and delivered an unwelcome message to the evil king Ahab that there would be a three-year drought in the land. By prophesying a drought, Elijah was telling Ahab that his little god Baal, who supposedly controlled rain and fertility, was powerless against the living God.

And then God told Elijah to flee east of the Jordan and that He would direct the ravens to provide food. This made no earthly sense. The land east of the Jordan was desolate with no reliable source for food. And ravens don’t even take care to feed their own young… why would they feed Elijah??!!! But what choice did Elijah have? He obeyed and God kept Elijah alive through the drought.

And what about the widow of Zarephath? She had enough flour and oil to make one small cake of bread for her and her son to share…. but Elijah asked her to give it to him – with the promise that God would provide enough flour and oil to feed all three of them through the end of the drought. The widow chose wisely. She chose life and God rewarded her obedience.

In Chapter 18, we see Elijah confront the people as he organized a contest between himself and the prophets of Baal…

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

Elijah challenged the people just as Jesus challenged the disciples. But the people were silent. They didn’t have the faith to set aside their fertility god, Baal. They doubted the Living God.

Each time God calls me to obey, I have a choice. Do I echo the words of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” or do I remain silent, passive and ignore the voice of the Lord.

I pray for the grace to choose the Savior – I am more afraid of facing the perils of this life without Him than of facing what He has prepared for me. I desire obedience. I long for Jesus. I choose life.

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab

Day 144: All who are thirsty

1 Kings 14-16; John 6:22-44

Nevertheless, for David’s sake the Lord his God gave [the evil king, Abijam] a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem (1 Kings 15:4).

Asa ruled Judah after Abijam, and did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. There are few “good” kings after David, but all of them reigned in Judah. The author makes a stark contrast between the kings of Israel and Judah as he lists all of the evil kings that reigned in Israel during the reign of Asa. God’s blessing remains on Judah only for the sake of David and the fulfillment of His promise.

The Davidic line must be preserved for the Promised One. the Bread of Life, who died to give life to the world. “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst'” (John 6:35).

We are all hungry. The question is… what are we hungry for? The satisfaction that the world offers is fleeting. Only Jesus satisfies the deep longing in our souls for life and purpose. He is the bread of life!

All who are thirsty…

Keeping up with the Kings
Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat
Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab

Day 143: Give me Jesus

1 Kings 12-13; John 6:1-21

Today we read of the division of Israel. No longer will the nation be unified, but Israel rejects King Solomon’s son Rehoboam and Judah becomes a separate nation. The line of David stands alone with his own kinsmen.

There is a stark contrast between the kings described in 1 Kings – and The King depicted in John…

First we read of Rehoboam, Son of Solomon and King of Judah, threatening “a heavier yoke” and “discipline of scorpions” to the people. Whereas we see Jesus being followed by large numbers because of his kindness to the sick. Jesus doesn’t “lord over” the crowds with cruelty, rather He feeds them, generously, and blesses them.

We also see Rehoboam, King of the one tribe of Judah, fail to force his rule over all of Israel – whereas Jesus has to withdraw from the crowds because he perceived “that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king” (John 6:15).

Then there is Jeroboam, King of Israel, who created his own religion to further separate Israel from Judah. God sends a prophet to destroy his new altars as a sign of His Power. Jesus… walks on water and shows his power over creation as he calms the storm in John 6:16-21.

Who are these kings? Besides having names that rhyme, they are power-hungry fools. They are the very antithesis of Jesus – and their arrogant cruelty brings the judgment of God on the people. My response to reading about these kings is… “Give me Jesus.” -Fernando Ortega

In the morning, when I rise… give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Give me Jesus.

And when I am alone…give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Give me Jesus.

And when I come to die…give me Jesus.
You can have all this world. Give me Jesus. -Fernando Ortega

Day 142: The needy

1 Kings 10-11; John 5:25-47

Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

Solomon has successfully disobeyed every command given to Kings of Israel. In Chapter 11, what the author has been hinting at throughout the book of 1 Kings is finally stated clearly: “…his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God” (11:4).

In his old age, Solomon turned away from God to follow other gods. God is gracious and assures that the Davidic line continues its rule – even if over just one tribe of a divided nation. God was preserving the family of David for the promised offspring… the true Forever King of Israel.

Jesus comes to the feast at Jerusalem and teaches the crowds of his authority from the Father. He rebukes the Jewish leaders for their blindess…

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40).

Only the needy come to Jesus. Solomon turned away because, from his earthly perspective, he had no need of God. The Jewish leaders refused Jesus because they depended on their rituals, traditions and outward obedience for justification. They had a formula; they didn’t need a Person.

A needy heart is a humble heart. A needy heart is someone who is desperate for help. Jesus offers life. Who will come? You have to recognize the depths of darkness in your own heart to seek out the light…