Day 147: The River

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

Key Verses

John 7:37-38
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

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 of 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 evilest 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

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Day 146: The quiet work of God

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

Key Verses

1 Kings 19:12-13
And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

John 7:15-16
The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”

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 despair. 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

Key Verses

1 Kings 18:21
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.”

John 6:66-69
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.”

I have come back to this Scripture in John 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.

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. Also, 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.

The widow of Zarephath also faced a crisis of belief. 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 read the familiar story of Elijah confronting the people as he organized a contest between himself and the prophets of Baal. Elijah challenged the people just as Jesus challenged the disciples. The people were faithless and 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

Key Verses

1 Kings 15:4
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).

John 6:35
“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.”

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.

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

Key Verses

1 Kings 12:16
And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.”

John 6:21
But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

Today we read of the division of Israel into two separate nations: Judah and Israel. Israel rejects king Solomon’s son Rehoboam so Judah splits away from Israel and becomes a separate nation. The line of David stands alone in Judah 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.

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 God’s judgment 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

Key Verses

1 Kings 11:4-6
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.

John 5:39-40
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.

At the end of his life, Solomon had disobeyed every command for kings listed in Deuteronomy 17:11:16-17. In Ch 11, what the author had been hinting at throughout the book of 1 Kings was 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 was gracious and assured that the Davidic line would continue 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.

In John 5, we read of Jesus coming to the feast at Jerusalem and teaching the crowds of his authority from the Father. He rebuked the Jewish leaders for their blindness.

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.

Day 141: The Temple of God

1 Kings 8-9; John 5:1-24

Key Verses

1 Kings 9:1-3
As soon as Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.”

In 1 Kings we read of God coming down and filling Solomon’s temple with His glory (8:11)! God promised that his eyes and heart would be there for all time, but because of Israel’s sin, God’s Holy presence left the temple. Did God break his promise? No! For in John, we see God’s permanent temple…Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. Jesus was the manifestation of God’s glory on earth. He became the temple of God. Jesus is the final fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel!

After Jesus ascended to the Father, and the Spirit came at Pentecost, God made a new temple. God chose to manifest His glory through His people, the church. It is there, among God’s people, that we experience God’s presence. We are also His temple…

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

I wonder what Solomon would think of God’s temple today?

Day 140: Glory Over All the Earth

1 Kings 5-7; John 4:31-54

Key Verses

1 Kings 5:5
“And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.'”

John 4:42
They said to the [Samaritan] woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

The last time we read of Solomon in 1 Kings, he had been given incomparable wisdom, so much so that “people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:34).

Solomon’s treaty with King Hiram of Tyre is another example of how Solomon’s wisdom affected the world. And the world would watch as Solomon used the finest material to build two houses… one for God and one for himself.

Solomon’s glorious temple may have made the people wonder… Is Solomon the promised King that will establish God’s Kingdom on the earth forever? It is true that the glory and power of Israel were at its highest under King Solomon’s rule, but Solomon was not to be the Forever King. Solomon’s heart was divided (1 Kings 7:1). And ultimately, his divided heart would bring about the division of Israel.

We know that it was the humble carpenter’s son that was destined to be the Forever King – not just of Israel – but of the world. Remember John 3:16? How God so loved the world? We see Jesus blessing the world in these last few chapters of John…

In John 3, we saw Jesus teach a Jewish leader how to be born again to gain eternal life. In the beginning of John 4, we saw Jesus teach a Samaritan woman how to “never thirst again” through the living water. He stayed two more days and many more Samaritans believed in Him. In the final verses of John 4, we see Jesus heal a Gentile centurion’s son.

Jesus started with the Jewish nation, and then reached out to the surrounding areas – and then finally stretched his blessing to all the earth.

Although Solomon’s temple was glorious, it was only temporary. Jesus is forever.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

Day 125: The motivation for obedience

1 Kings 3-4; Luke 22:1-30

Key Verses

1 Kings 3:12-14
“Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

Luke 22:25-27
And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”

Solomon loves the Lord, and the Lord gives him great wisdom, but Solomon falters in the nitty-gritty daily-ness of his faith. He doesn’t obey God in all areas of his life, and eventually, his missteps lead him further and further away from God and God’s blessings. Specifically, we read of Solomon acquiring many horses (4:26) and turning back to Egypt to find a wife (3:1). These actions are in direct opposition to the laws for Kings written in Deuteronomy:

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’s mistakes are a familiar road for many of us. Compromising obedience in daily life can slowly turn us completely away from our faith. Many times, apostasy is a slow burn and not a quick blaze.

In order to keep ourselves from falling away, we must cling to the hip of our Savior. His grace and help are our lifeline to an obedient life. The sacrament of communion (instituted in today’s passage from Luke) is a gift to us to help us remember the great Sacrifice of our Savior. His death is the evidence of His incomprehensible love for us! It is this love that should motivate us to obey…

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV).

Day 124: David’s Dynasty

1 Kings 1-2; Luke 21:20-38

Key Verses

1 Kings 2:1-4
When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2″I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.'”

Luke 21:33
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Today we begin 1 Kings which is the story of the continuation of David’s dynasty. David’s oldest remaining son, Adonijah, plotted to make himself King apart from his father’s knowledge. But God, and therefore, David had chosen Solomon to succeed David as king. 1 Kings 1-2 is the story of David establishing his dynasty through Solomon.

David’s dynasty echoes the promise of Genesis 3 – that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. And then the rest of the Old Testament plays out as a mystery novel as we try to determine… out of which family line the Promised One would come.

The seed passed from Adam to Seth – on down to Noah and through Shem to Abraham – through Isaac, Jacob, and Judah – through Boaz, Jesse and then to David.

The Davidic covenant narrows the search for the promised seed. The covenant reveals that the Promised One would be descended from David, and He would establish David’s throne forever! But who would it be? Would Solomon be the promised King? Or would it be Solomon’s son, Rehoboam?

With each subsequent king, the author of 1 & 2 Kings builds the tension of waiting for the revelation of the Promised Eternal King. 2 Kings ends with the fall of Jerusalem and the capture of Judah. Was all hope for the King lost? Would the King ever come? Was God’s word just not true??

We know who the seed of the woman is. And we know who the promised King is. Jesus. And in today’s reading in Luke, we find him in Jerusalem – warning of its destruction – and promising that he will return.

Jesus’ words are permanent – the forever kind of permanent. When he says he will come again – there is 100% chance that he will come again. Even though the story seems hopeless at times – we must never stop waiting for His return. He tells us to be ready. When he comes, not if, but when he comes, will he find us faithful? Oh God, I hope so – but only by Your grace!