Day 224: The battle within

2 Chronicles 33-34; Romans 7

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 33:12-13
And when [Manasseh] was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

Romans 7:22-23
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

We all have a mix of king Manasseh (evil) and king Josiah (faithful) in us. Romans 7 describes the tension between our new, regenerate nature and our old, sinful nature. It is the tension between the now (that we have been saved from the power of sin) and the not yet (that we still live in a sinful body) that causes Paul to cry out at the end of the chapter, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).

But hear this… Manasseh, the evilest king that ever ruled Judah, the king who placed idols in the temple and sacrificed his children in the fire… when this evil king humbled himself before God and asked for help, God rescued him from his distress.

Manasseh’s apostasy still carried great consequences – as it was his evil influence that led the people so far away from God’s law that God promised to judge them with destruction and exile (2 Kings 21:11-15). The people’s sin was so heinous that not even the faithful King Josiah could turn away God’s judgment. But. The judgment was delayed – first because Manasseh repented, and second, because of Josiah’s faithfulness.

We all struggle with sin. Even Paul struggled with sin! But consider the common thread that runs throughout the Old and New Testaments… If we humble ourselves – that is… if we repent – God is faithful to forgive and restore. (If he restored the evil king Manasseh, then he can forgive anybody!)

But God not only forgives, he works his righteousness into our hearts – like a potter molding his clay. In other words, he sanctifies us. But I’m jumping ahead! Paul teaches about the work of the Spirit in sanctification in Chapter 8, and we’ll get to that… tomorrow :)

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Day 223: Hezekiah

2 Chronicles 29-32

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 30:9
“For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

2 Chronicles 32:26
But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

The Chronicler devotes more words to Hezekiah than to any other post-Solomonic king. Unlike the parallel account in 2 Kings which focuses mainly on Hezekiah’s conflict with Sennacherib, the Chronicler chooses to highlight Hezekiah’s religious reforms and his celebration of the Passover.

The Chronicler was writing to the post-exilic community in the hopes that they would learn valuable lessons from the good and the bad of their history. Therefore, Hezekiah is presented as a “second Solomon” who enjoyed great wealth and favor with God because of his religious faithfulness.

But there is so much more to Hezekiah’s story. He was a faithful man – but he was also flawed. Before the conflict with Sennacherib, in the height of his glorious reign, Hezekiah became prideful. So God orchestrated the circumstances in Hezekiah’s life to bring about repentance. Hezekiah was struck with an illness, and the prophet, Isaiah, brought a message from God saying that Hezekiah would die.

This was God’s grace. This was Hezekiah’s chance to repent.

Consider David. He was not perfect, but he repented for the wrongs he committed and God pardoned him by His grace.

How many kings started off well and then become prideful during their reigns? Too many! In each instance, God gave them the opportunity to repent, and most of them chose to walk away from Him in pride.

Humility is not for the faint of heart. Repentance is not an easy pill to swallow. But it is the way that leads to life.

Hezekiah chose repentance. His life was extended 15 years and he was given the opportunity to lead his nation in one of the greatest shows of faith recorded in the pages of the Bible. His faith in God against the sure destruction by the Assyrian ruler, Sennacherib, was glorious.

Hezekiah struggled with his sin nature just like the rest of us, but when God offered grace, he seized it. He grabbed it and held on as if his life depended on it. …Because his life did depend on it! And so does ours. Let us not let go of the grace that is our salvation!! We must walk in the way of the humble… we must walk in repentance and faith.

Day 222: No Longer Under the Law

2 Chronicles 26-28; Romans 6

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 26:3, 5
Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.

Romans 6:14
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

I think Romans 6:14 is one of the clearest statements distinguishing the Old Covenant (law) from the New (grace).

The three kings from today’s reading are perfect illustrations of the burden of living under the burden of the law.

Uzziah (Chapter 26) began in good fashion… “He set himself to seek God […] and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5). Uzziah enjoyed the blessings of God in military strength and victory. But Uzziah became prideful and presumed upon the law of the Lord by trying to do the duty of a priest. God gave him the opportunity to repent by sending the priest to warn him, but Uzziah became angry. “When he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord” (26:19).

Jotham (chapter 27) was portrayed as upright throughout his reign, and he enjoyed God’s favor. Whereas, Ahaz (chapter 28) was idolatrous and suffered under God’s judgment.

This is the Old Covenant. Living under the law was burdensome. Sin was inevitable. But God, in his grace, would relent if His people repented. Otherwise, they faced judgment.

In contrast, the New Covenant is founded on Grace and offers freedom from the burden of the law. Listen to how Paul begins Chapter 6 of Romans…

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

Paul answers, “By no means!” But the reason for his answer is complicated, and it is the key to the difference between the Old and the New Covenants. Paul’s answer involves the difficult concept of union with Christ…

Christ’s death and resurrection have defeated the power of sin in the believer’s life! As believers in Christ, we are united with him in his death and life, so that we have His power to overcome the sin in our hearts. When we turn to Christ in repentance and faith, a powerful spiritual transaction occurs. Our hard hearts are given life…they are transformed from stone to flesh through the indwelling of Holy Spirit.

  • The Old Covenant exposed sin through the lens of the law, but provided no power to overcome sin.
  • The New Covenant defeats the power of sin through the death and life of Christ.

Living under the new Covenant of Grace does not remove our responsibility…we are still able to sin and we are still accountable for our actions! But. We have the power of Christ to help us obey!

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14).

Day 208: A Far-Reaching Gospel

1 Chronicles 17-19; Acts 22

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 17:11-14
“‘When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.'”

God’s house and an Eternal dynasty… The Davidic Covenant (found in today’s Key Verses) is God’s promise to David that his son would build God a house and that God would establish David’s throne forever…

These two promises – of a House and a forever King – became Israel’s hope and identity. To the (kingless) people in the post-exilic Jerusalem, the Davidic covenant pointed to their future hope for a Messiah.

For us, we can look to the kingdom under Solomon’s reign as a precursor of God’s eternal Kingdom on earth. The prosperity and peace of Israel haven’t been matched since the days of Solomon!

The Davidic Covenant joins the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants in describing God’s relationship with His people. The Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants promised to make a Great Nation. The Mosaic Covenant laid the foundation for how to live and worship in this nation.

The Mosaic law was a conditional covenant… if the people obeyed, they would be blessed. If they disobeyed, they would be cursed. But the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants were based on God’s loving kindness; they were not conditional on the obedience of the people.

Of all three Covenants, the promises made to Abraham give the broadest picture of God’s relationship with His people… God promised to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham and his family. David’s Covenant refines this promise to reveal how the nations would be blessed – through the Eternal King that would come from the line of David.

Somehow, the Jews of Paul’s day missed these points in the Great Promises.

Remember the context for today’s reading from Acts? Paul had just been arrested by the Roman Tribune to save him from the rioting crowd in Jerusalem. As Paul was being led to the barracks, he asked permission to speak to the crowds. Acts 22 records his testimony to the Jewish people.

The people listened as Paul spoke in the Hebrew language and defended his Jewish heritage. The people listened further as Paul described his encounter with Jesus – his “Damascus Road” experience – but they stopped listening when Paul reported that this Jesus had commanded him to go to the Gentiles. At this, the people became enraged, “shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air!”

The people had lost sight of the Abrahamic Covenant – the promise of which all the peoples of the earth would be blessed… And they had forgotten that David’s seed was the conduit for the blessing!

The pride that came from adhering to the strict moral demands of the Mosaic Law blinded the people to God’s love for all the nations. They misunderstood when Jesus spent time with “sinners” and died a criminal’s death. And they rioted against Paul at the mere mention of those wretched, lawless Gentiles.

We are tempted by the same pride. We can’t let the trap of moral superiority prevent us from taking the gospel to all people! There are no prerequisites for the gospel. It crosses every line – race, gender, nation, and tongue. Jesus came to bless all the peoples of the earth – even wretched, lawless people like us.

Day 207: Celebrating God’s Presence

1 Chronicles 14-16; Acts 21:15-40

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 16:8-11
Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!

Jerusalem. It is the backdrop for our reading today…

In 1 Chronicles, David had just captured Jerusalem and made it his home, and from that point forward, it would be known as “The City of David.” We read as David brings the ark into the city (this time, being careful to obey the Mosaic laws concerning carrying the ark!)

The “chronicler” describes a joyous celebration as the people praise and worship the Lord. It was a new beginning. A newly unified people being led by a godly leader.

It’s important to remember the original audience of 1 Chronicles… The “chronicler” was writing to encourage the post-exilic community. But consider the great differences between these two communities – both living in Jerusalem – during different points in their history.

David’s Israel was beginning anew and experienced a youthful joy. Unlike the post-exilic community, they hadn’t experienced the fullness of God’s judgment…yet. The post-exilic community was in the unique position of experiencing both God’s full judgment AND the beginnings of the promised restoration. The “chronicler” wanted to encourage them to celebrate their restoration with the joy exemplified by David and his Psalms. But their history also instructed them that observance of the Mosaic law was linked to blessing. Obedience was the road to further restoration. Obedience was where the former Israel failed. The restored Israel must hold the law closely. They must observe the law. They must.

In Acts, we see how this mindset had grown into a strict, legalistic observance of the Mosaic law. This legalistic mindset prevented the Jewish believers from totally accepting grace as the only means of salvation. The elders and apostles in Jerusalem accepted the theology of grace, but the new Jewish convert struggled to let go of the old traditions and rituals.

So the Jews in Jerusalem lashed out against Paul… This city who had witnessed the dancing of David and rose out of the ashes to welcome the exiles. This blessed city – killed the promised Messiah and attacked Paul with such passion that the Roman tribune had to arrest Paul to save him from the rioting crowd!

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)

The people of Jerusalem needed to look at David more closely. He celebrated the ark’s return to Jerusalem because it symbolized the return of God’s presence. He respected God’s law and he rejoiced in His provision and grace!

We must not overlook this lesson! We must not fall into a life of legalism and in so doing belittle the grace of God! If David celebrated the mere symbol of God’s presence, what should we do as Christians who have the very Spirit of God living inside us??

God dwells among us. We should celebrate!

Day 206: A Costly Misstep

1 Chronicles 12-13; Acts 21:1-14

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 13:7-8
And they carried the ark of God on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, and Uzzah and Ahio were driving the cart. And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets.

Acts 21:13
Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Chapter 13 begins the saga of returning the ark to Jerusalem. This act was significant because all Israel agreed to it (continuing the theme from chapters 10-12 of David unifying the nation), and it was an act of spiritual renewal. By bringing the symbol of God’s holy presence back into the assembly of the people, David was acting as both their military and spiritual leader.

The idea was great, but, unfortunately, the execution was poor… David did not ensure the ark was carried according to Mosaic law – that is – carried by the Levites via poles. Instead the ark was transported on a cart – similarly to the way the Philistines transported the ark when it was in their possession.

This was a costly oversight. When the oxen stumbled and the layman, Uzzah, reached out his hand to protect the ark, Uzzah was killed instantly by God.

This has always been a difficult passage for me. Why would God execute such severe judgment for an unintentional breach of the law when it seems He offers grace for far worse offenses? This is a difficult question, but looking at the context for this and other similar instances can shed some light…

God acted in a similar fashion with Aaron’s sons (Leviticus 10) and against Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). In both cases, God was in the process of establishing His people.

  • In the case of Aaron’s sons, the tabernacle had just been built, and Aaron’s first sacrifice had just been accepted. On the same day, his sons “offered unauthorized fire before the Lord” and they were killed instantly. God would not let the impure actions of Aaron’s sons pollute the sacrificial system that had just been established.
  • In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the church was in its infant stages. The Holy Spirit was working mightily among the people, and God would not tolerate the lies of this couple polluting his earliest congregation.

Similarly, the context of Uzzah’s death was during an essential “establishment period.” David was bringing the ark into his city to be the centerpiece of worship, attempting to unify the people around the Mosaic law. God would not tolerate impurity. Especially not in the beginning stages of re-establishing His people under the rule of David.

Finding a pattern to make sense of God’s actions might be helpful, but I think the bigger issue lies within my own heart. When I react to God’s actions in a toddler-type fashion, (i.e. “That’s not fair!”), I know that my perspective is askew. God has every right in his holiness to kill any of us in our sinfulness at any time. But because he is gracious and doesn’t do it very often, I can slip into an attitude of entitlement.

I need to be more like Paul… His perspective is more in line with reality. He knew he had no claim on his life (Acts 21:13)…that his life belonged totally to Jesus. Why has God granted us the privilege of life? To bring him glory in all that we do! Our lives were bought with the precious blood of the Lamb. Who am I to clutch my life tightly as if it were mine to lose? The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Day 171: A New Covenant

Jeremiah 30-31; John 21

Key Verses

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Hope. Restoration. Renewal. This is the aroma of Jeremiah 30-31. It is in these verses that we find the promise of a New Covenant – the only time this phrase is used in the Old Testament.

God makes a new covenant through Jesus. The Law that was written on stone tablets and so easily forgotten would now be written on the heart. The Law becomes internal so that it can never be lost or destroyed. It is a permanent, forever-type-of Law – that flows from God forgiving iniquity and choosing to remember our sin no more.

Jeremiah could not have known the far-reaching implications of his words. We know that forgiveness of sins is only possible because of Jesus and His Sacrifice. The gospels and epistles of the New Testament teach that Jesus is the mediator of this New Covenant – a covenant based on grace – not on our ability to keep the covenant demands. Yet the purpose of the New Covenant remains the same as the Old… “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

In the final chapter of John, we see our God… kneeling on a sandy shore, cooking fish for his friends; restoring Simon Peter and commissioning him to lead the church. Just a typical day in the life of the Master.

I’m going to miss the gospels. I love reading Jesus’ words and picturing his life on the move. The beauty of the New Covenant is that Jesus’ teaching is written on the tablet of our hearts. He is close. And I am grateful.

Day 155: Gracious Delay

2 Kings 21-23; John 11:1-17

Key Verses

2 Kings 22:17-20
My wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, [king Josiah], …because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, […] I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’”

John 11:4-6
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

2 Kings 21 is filled with the atrocious actions of  Judah’s most evil king. Manasseh rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah had torn down, offered his son as a child sacrifice, and consulted evil spirits for counsel. Manasseh’s complete apostasy brought an end to God’s patience with Judah; consequently, He declared that judgment would rain down upon the city of David.

Then Manasseh’s grandson, King Josiah, discovered the books of the Law and realized that destruction was exactly what Judah deserved. He mourned his country’s apostasy and humbled himself before God. What did God do in the presence of a truly repentant heart? He did as he always does – God relented!

Seriously?! God delayed the judgment because one man repented. How could I ever doubt God’s goodness and kindness and His overwhelming desire for repentance in his people? Repentance always brings blessing. Lack of repentance ultimately leads to judgment.

Josiah’s response to God’s grace was obedience. Josiah’s reforms were such that he exceeded David in observance of the Law – observing Passover in a way that had not been done since the days of the Judges, surpassing both Hezekiah and even David in faithfulness to God’s law!

But it was not enough to undo the evils of the earlier generations. God’s Covenant was broken, and his judgment – though delayed – was set.

In John, we read of a different sort of delay. Instead of delaying judgment, Jesus delayed healing – and his beloved friend, Lazarus, died as a result. But as we’ll read tomorrow, the suffering caused by the delay, only served to magnify God’s power and goodness.

Both stories of God’s “delays” are stories of grace. How often do I grumble when God delays to answer my prayer or change my circumstances? Chances are, His delay is for my good. His delay is a work of grace!

Keeping up with the Kings

  • Judah: Rehoboam, Abijam, Asa (good), Jehoshaphat (good), Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat), Ahaziah (killed by Jehu), Queen Athaliah, Jehoash (only surviving son of Ahaziah: good), Amaziah (good), Azariah (Uzziah, good), Jotham (good), Ahaz, Hezekiah (good), Manasseh, Amon, Josiah (good), Jehoahaz, Eliakim/Jehoiakim
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, Hoshea

Day 149: Prophet, Priest, & King

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

Key Verses

2 Kings 4:42-44
And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.'” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

John 8:34, 36
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.

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, was 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 were 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, 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 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.