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
Advertisements

Day 153: The Door

2 Kings 15-17; John 10:1-21

Key Verses

2 Kings 17:22-23
The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

John 10:11
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

2 Kings 17 is the culmination of all of God’s warnings. Samaria was captured, the people were carried away, and Israel fell to Assyria. The people broke the Covenant. They failed to walk in the law outlined in the Pentateuch. And all of the curses described in Deuteronomy 28 came to pass…

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. (Deut. 28:49-50).

They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you (Deut. 28:52).

And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul (Deut. 28:64-65).

Israel’s judgment came after hundreds of “second chances.” God longed for his people to repent. They chose to walk away, and they experienced his wrath.

It is true that God is holy and should be feared. But He is also fiercely loving, merciful and kind. We know this because of the person of Jesus. We find him today inviting us into a saving relationship. He is the Door – the only way to a right relationship with God. He is the Good Shepherd, and He cares for his sheep.

God doesn’t require perfect adherence to his laws to enter through the Door. Rather, He requires only that we know that we can’t keep the law perfectly and that the only “work” we can offer Him is our humble need to be saved.

He still longs for repentance. He sent His son to show us the depths of his love for us. He is patient, long-suffering and kind. Yet people continue to walk away. The Door is there – and grace and forgiveness are waiting for those who humbly enter…

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).

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
  • 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 152: Floods of Mercy

2 Kings 11-14

Key Verses

2 Kings 13:22-23
Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now.

As I read through these chapters in 2 Kings, I’m struck by the long-suffering patience of God. After almost 300 years of being independent of Judah, there has not been one king of Israel that did “right” in the eyes of the Lord. Even Jehu, who demolished Baal worship, “was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of  Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10:31).

But God continued to show mercy… continued to wait for repentance. Consider the example from today’s Key Verses: “The Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them.” God seemed to give Israel every chance to repent. He waited and waited and interceded and sent Elijah and waited and sent Elisha and waited and waited some more. But in the end, Israel did not repent, and Israel would be destroyed.

God’s mercy to Israel reminds me of a quote from Charles Spurgeon…

Slow to anger. He can be angry, and can deal out righteous indignation upon the guilty, but it is his strange work; he lingers long, with loving pauses, tarrying by the way to give space for repentance and opportunity for accepting his mercy. Thus he deals with the greatest sinners, and with his own children much more so: towards them his anger is short-lived and never reaches into eternity, and when it is shown in fatherly chastisements he does not afflict willingly, and soon pities their sorrows.

From this we should learn to be ourselves slow to anger; if the Lord is longsuffering under out great provocations how much more ought we to endure the errors of our brethren! And plenteous in mercy. Rich in it, quick in it, overflowing with it; and so had he need to be or we should soon be consumed. He is God, and not man, or our sins would soon drown his love; yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of his mercy rise.

– taken from The Treasury of David (Psalm 103:8)

Yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of mercy rise. Beautiful. Both the truth and the words… are beautiful!

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)
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II

What I’ve learned

I’ve learned so much this past year, but the lesson I cherish most is surprisingly simple: patience

My healthy daughter was injured in an automobile accident in 2010. She now struggles with a brain injury. I have been impatient with her recovery – wanting her to walk and read and reason too quickly after her life-threatening injury – I haven’t been willing to wait on God’s slow and sure work in her Spirit and mine.

My marriage has been tested in the wake of such a life-altering event. The trauma of losing our healthy daughter combined with the relentlessness of caring for a disabled child has added great stress to our relationship. I want our relationship to be easy again– I haven’t been willing to wait for God’s slow and sure work in my husband’s Spirit and mine.

This year, God has performed the slow and sure work of granting me a little bit more patience – and with it has come… a quiet trust, a gentle strength and a more peaceful spirit. I’m less anxious about my daughter’s recovery. And I trust that my marriage will emerge from this trial stronger than it was before. This is God’s great work in me.

God did not work quickly – He works faithfully, steadily and surely.

His Word is a balm to my soul. Why? Because in it, I find Him. He’s shown me His love, His grace and His patience in the pages of His Great Word.

What about you? What has God taught you through His Word this year? (Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.)

I hope you have enjoyed my blog through the Bible! Happy 2014!!

Day 265: Leadership (Biblical-style), pt. 2

Nehemiah 1-2; 2 Corinthians 8

Today we move on to Nehemiah, the sequel to Ezra. If Ezra was Israel’s spiritual leader, then Nehemiah was very much their political leader. In fact, Nehemiah’s godly example of leadership is one of the primary themes that runs throughout his book.

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king of Persia and learned about Jerusalem’s great trouble and the ruined state of her walls. Nehemiah’s first course of action was to pray (Neh. 1:4) and then he waited for months (Neh. 1:1, 2:1) for an opportunity to ask the king for help.

This is the first of many instances where Nehemiah shows wisdom and patience in dealing with his fellow-man. Nehemiah is not impulsive – but uses careful observation and humble persuasion to lead effectively. After he wisely gains the kings help and favor, he arrives in Jerusalem. Again he exercises patience and wisdom as he waits for the appropriate time to inspect the walls alone. He does this to be better prepared to lead and organize the people (Neh. 2:11-16).

We see the positive results of his preparations in Chapter 3 as the author systematically lists each section of the wall and what group of people were responsible for rebuilding. Nehemiah not only persuaded the people to commit to a great work but organized and equipped them to complete the task.

Meanwhile. Paul exercises his own leadership skills in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians 8. He is working to persuade the church to give generously to the needy in Jerusalem. Again, Paul uses patience and wisdom in how he asks.. He doesn’t ask at the beginning of the letter, but rather waits until after he lays a foundation of truth for the Corinthians church. He first defends his apostolic ministry. then teaches the truths of eternal perspective and finally, commends the church for their repentance. Only after he has created a clear context does he ask the church to complete their work of giving to the needy in Jerusalem.

Neither Paul nor Nehemiah was manipulative – but used patience, insight and wisdom to influence people to do what was right and glorifying to God. They were effective leaders – bringing much glory to God!

Day 241: Our Helper

Isaiah 30-32; 1 Corinthians 5

Today, Paul addresses a specific sin in the Corinthian church… incest. Lovely.

The problem was… this person’s sin was damaging the church’s witness in Corinth, so for the sake of the gospel, Paul directed the church to “remove him from among you” (vs. 2). But this instruction was not given solely for the good of the church, but also for the good of the sinner. For it was Paul’s hope that the severe discipline would result in a change of heart. So the church was not to excommunicate the member in harsh judgment – but rather in mercy… “so his spirit could be saved in the day of the Lord” (vs. 5).

Many times, I have misunderstood God’s judgment for being unloving. God’s character is unchangeable. He is not only loving – He is love. It is impossible for him to act in a way that is unloving.

Consider today’s reading from Isaiah. These chapters were written less than a year before Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah. Isaiah 30 denounces Israel for looking to Egypt to save them from the mighty Assyrian army. Ironically, Israel made this same mistake years earlier… They looked to Assyria to defend them from other foreign invaders – and now they are being threatened by the same country they trusted in for help years earlier.

At the heart of Judah’s sin was unbelief. Their unbelief in the God of Israel led to impatience. They could not wait on the Lord’s salvation…

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling… (Isaiah 30:15-16)

Isaiah reveals Israel’s true “Helper” in 31:4-5. With the fierceness of a lion and the gentleness of a bird hovering over its nest, He will guard his people.

…the Lord of hosts
will protect Jerusalem;
he will protect and deliver it;
he will spare and rescue it (Isaiah 31:5).

Despite their unbelief, God showed grace to Jerusalem.

And then Isaiah looks farther in history – to the Messiah – where in the beginning of Chapter 32, he describes life under the Messiah’s rule. It will be like “a shelter from the storm” and like “streams of water in a dry place.”

This is the love of the Lord…offering mercy to the sinner, extending grace to an unbelieving people, not only to the people in Isaiah’s day but ultimately to all nations through the life and death of Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God! He is our Help – Let us wait, trust and rest in His salvation!

Day 155: Gracious delay

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

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 – and he declared that judgment would rain down upon the city of David.

And 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. And what did God do in the presence of a truly repentant heart? He did as he always does – God relented!

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’” (2 Kings 22:17-20).

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 153: The door

2 Kings 15-17; John 10:1-21

2 Kings 17 is the culmination of all of God’s warnings. Samaria was captured, the people were carried away, and Israel fell to Assyria. The people broke the Covenant. They failed to walk in the law outlined in the Pentateuch. And all of the curses described in Deuteronomy 28 came to pass…

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. (Deut. 28:49-50).

They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you (Deut. 28:52).

And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul (Deut. 28:64-65).

Israel’s judgment came after hundreds of “second chances.” God longed for his people to repent. They chose to walk away, and they experienced his wrath.

It is true that God is holy and should be feared. But He is also fiercely loving, merciful and kind. We know this in part because of the person of Jesus. We find him today inviting us into a saving relationship. He is the Door – the only way to a right relationship with God. He is the Good Shepherd, and He cares for his sheep.

God doesn’t require perfect adherence to his laws to enter through the Door. Rather, He requires only that we know that we can’t keep the law perfectly and that the only “work” we can offer Him is our humble need to be saved.

He still longs for repentance. He sent His son to show us the depths of his love for us. He is patient, long-suffering and kind. Yet people continue to walk away. The Door is there – and grace and forgiveness are waiting for those who humbly enter…

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture (John 10:9).

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
  • 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 152: Floods of mercy

2 Kings 11-14

As I read through these chapters in 2 Kings, I’m struck by the long-suffering patience of God. After almost 300 years of being independent of Judah, has there been one king of Israel that did “right” in the eyes of the Lord?? Even Jehu, who demolished Baal worship, “was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of  Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10:31).

But God continues to show mercy… continues to wait for repentance. Consider this example from today’s reading:

Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now (2 Kings 13:22-23).

God seems to give Israel every chance to repent. He waits and waits and intercedes and sends Elijah and waits and sends Elisha and waits and waits some more. But in the end, Israel does not repent, and Israel will be destroyed.

God’s mercy to Israel reminds me of a quote from Charles Spurgeon…

Slow to anger. He can be angry, and can deal out righteous indignation upon the guilty, but it is his strange work; he lingers long, with loving pauses, tarrying by the way to give space for repentance and opportunity for accepting his mercy. Thus he deals with the greatest sinners, and with his own children much more so: towards them his anger is short-lived and never reaches into eternity, and when it is shown in fatherly chastisements he does not afflict willingly, and soon pities their sorrows.

From this we should learn to be ourselves slow to anger; if the Lord is longsuffering under out great provocations how much more ought we to endure the errors of our brethren! And plenteous in mercy. Rich in it, quick in it, overflowing with it; and so had he need to be or we should soon be consumed. He is God, and not man, or our sins would soon drown his love; yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of his mercy rise.

– taken from The Treasury of David (Psalm 103:8)

Yet above the mountains of our sins the floods of mercy rise. Beautiful. Both the truth and the words… are beautiful!

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)
  • Israel: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (or Joram, son of Ahab), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II

Day 114: The patience to wait wisely

2 Samuel 1-3; Luke 19:1-28

If I were living in David’s story, I think I would have expected to be anointed King over all of Israel after Saul’s death. Wouldn’t you? But no… The commander of Saul’s army, Abner, anoints Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, and made him King of every part of Israel- except Judah.

But thankfully, David isn’t me! Instead of presuming, he inquires of the Lord. And the Lord directs him and his family to Hebron. There, he is anointed King of Judah – and must wait (again) to inherit the throne over all of Israel.

In today’s New Testament reading, Luke records Jesus’ last parables before he enters Jerusalem. Interestingly, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom will not come quickly – but that we will have to wait for his return and subsequent establishing of His Kingdom. In the interim, we are to be wise stewards of the resources and gifts God gives to us. In other words, we need to inquire of the Lord for every decision!

We have much to learn from David’s patience as he waits for God’s promises to be fulfilled. He is wise with God’s gifts and he never moves without asking the Lord what he should do. I long to be as faithful as David!

Lord, help me to follow you carefully with a whole heart – not wanting to move without your help and guidance. Give me patience and encouragement as I wait for your Kingdom. I love you, Lord. Amen.