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 221: The Power of Grace

2 Chronicles 23-25; Romans 5

Key Verses

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Grace. Romans 5 outlines two men and two systems. As children of Adam, we have inherited a sin nature and just condemnation. However, through Jesus Christ, we have the free gift of life.

Paul makes the point that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners.” It is Christ’s death that opens the door to life for “the ungodly.” And then he goes on to reason that Christ’s gift of life is far more powerful than Adam’s sin. Condemnation for all came through the one sin of Adam. Whereas life through Christ’s sacrifice is able to overcome the millions of sins that have been committed since Adam!

Sometimes it’s hard to spot God’s grace at work in the Old Testament – but only because it’s wrapped in the package of the Old Covenant. Consider how God’s grace presents itself in today’s passage from 2 Chronicles…

We read about two kings, Joash and Amaziah… both described as doing what was “right in the eyes of the Lord,” but each with qualifiers… Joash only did was right during “all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (24:2). And Amaziah is described as doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord, “but not with a whole heart” (25:2).

The life of Joash
After all of the good Joash did to repair the temple, when Jehoiada the priest died, Joash, together with his unworthy comrades, “abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols” (24:18). As you can imagine, this infuriated God – but a closer look reveals God’s grace. Don’t miss it…

Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the Lord. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention (2 Chronicles 24:19).

Joash had sinned, and he deserved God’s just punishment. But before the punishment came, Joash was given the opportunity to repent. If Joash would have repented and turned back to the Lord, there would have been forgiveness. Why?? “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

Joash did not repent. Instead, he turned further away from God and killed the son of Jehoiada. He rejected the grace of God, and suffered under God’s judgment as he was defeated by a small army and murdered by his “comrades.” If only he had heeded the word of the prophet…

The life of Amaziah
Joash’s son, Amaziah, didn’t fare much better. He also began his reign well, initially obeying the word of the Lord and enjoying victory in battle. But then he turned away from God to worship idols. See if you can find God’s grace in the text…

Therefore the Lord was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of a people who did not deliver their own people from your hand?” But as he was speaking, the king said to him, “Have we made you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” So the prophet stopped, but said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel” (2 Chronicles 25:15-16).

God sent a prophet to warn Amaziah – so that hopefully he would repent. But Amaziah refused to listen to the word of the Lord, and in-so-doing rejected the grace of God.

The Grace
God’s grace can always overpower sin… “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). But. We have to receive it through repentance and faith for it to defeat the sin in our lives…

If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? (Romans 5:17, The Message)

Day 219: Jehoshaphat’s Prayer

2 Chronicles 20; Romans 2-3

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 20:12
“O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Romans 3:23-24
…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

The Jews had become accustomed to God’s favor. After thousands of years of being God’s chosen race, they wrongly assumed that possession of the Mosaic law gave them favor before God – which was true – but only as a means to reveal their sin and need for repentance – the law was NOT to be used as a means to judge other nations.

The Jews erred by placing emphasis on the external signs of the covenant – like possession of the law and circumcision. But Paul forces their eyes inward to reveal that true Judaism had always been about the internal state of the heart…

…no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Romans 2:28).

In essence, Paul had to reframe all of Jewish history in the context of grace. The Jewish nation did not earn God’s favor by observing the law…No! They only brought the wrath of God on themselves because they could not observe the law perfectly (Romans 3:10-18). When did the people receive God’s favor and blessing? When they repented and turned to God in humble reliance!!!!

Consider today’s story from 2 Chronicles 20. What was Jehoshaphat’s response when confronted with a great enemy? He gathered the people (with their wives and children) to the house of God and prayed. He humbled himself and called out to God for help! And what was God’s response?? Grace. God showed up in a mighty way and delivered His people from the hand of the enemy. But. God did have one requirement… faith. He told the people to “go down against them” but “you will not have to fight this battle.” In other words, the people had to confront their enemy with faith that God would keep His word. God’s deliverance came through repentance and faith!

This is the gospel at work. This is grace at work.

Paul goes on to teach at the end of Chapter 3 that the Jews were never justified by works – only by faith (3:21-24). He even argues that God endured the sin of the Jewish nation only by looking forward to Christ’s death on the cross which satisfied the wrath of God on their behalf (3:25).

We must not fall into the old sins of the Jewish nation. We must never think that our good words earn us favor before God! Rather, we must cling to the truth that God’s kindness toward us is undeserved – and has one purpose – one extremely important purpose…

…God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)

Let Jehoshaphat’s prayer be our example… Let us humble ourselves in absolute reliance on our God. And may His kindness produce in us… repentance and faith!

Day 216: The Master’s Plan

2 Chronicles 10-12; Acts 28:1-16

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 12:7
When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and my wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak.”

Acts 28:15
And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.

God’s sovereignty is a mystery. We see his hand at work in these chapters, weaving his story with the tainted fabric of the human heart. Somehow He uses our sin nature to weave His grand story of redemption…

Consider Rehoboam, son of Solomon, who refused to heed the counsel of the wise and heeded the counsel of his rash comrades – and because of this foolishness, the Kingdom of Israel was split in two. Yet God said, “This thing is from me.” Somehow God used Rehoboam’s youth and pride to carry out his will.

God gave security to Judah for the sake of the faithfulness of his priests and people and saved them from destruction when Rehoboam humbled himself in repentance. God masterfully orchestrated His story – for the sake of the individual and for his collective people. He works every detail to fulfill His grand plan.

We see his sovereignty on display in Acts. It was God’s will that Paul should sail to Rome, and because God willed it, it would come to pass. No storm, shipwreck or viper would hinder God’s plan. When Paul arrived in Rome, he was greeted by Christians – evidence that the gospel had spread from Jerusalem to the far-reaches of Italy. God’s will would be done. His story would be told. No human can thwart God’s plan!

If you feel like you’ve messed up God’s plan for your life – well, you give yourself too much credit. God is bigger than our miscues. He can use every detail, every mistake, even our sin to bring about His good purposes. The first step back to God is repentance. God loves the penitent heart!

Day 214: God Dwells Among Praise

2 Chronicles 4-7

Key Verses

2 Chronicles 5:13b-14
…the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

2 Chronicles 7:14
…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The theme of God’s glory dwelling in God’s temple is prevalent throughout Scripture.

This theme was especially meaningful to the original readers of 2 Chronicles, the post-exilic community. They had sacrificed so much to rebuild the temple – and still, it paled in comparison to Solomon’s temple. The Chronicler recounts how the Shekinah glory descended on the Holy of Holies “when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 5:13).

The external grandeur of Solomon’s temple didn’t cause God to descend; rather, it was the praise of His people that drew God’s glory down.

Later, after Solomon’s heartfelt prayer of dedication (6:12-42) and God showing his approval of Solomon’s prayer by consuming the offerings with fire and filling the temple with His glory (7:1-3), God appeared to Solomon and made this well-known promise.

…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

This is one of the clearest descriptions of repentance and the blessings it brings. Repentance results in forgiveness for the individual and healing for the community. God’s loving-kindness is revealed in the face of true repentance. He loves the penitent heart!

Think of the impact these truths would have had on the post-exilic community!!!

We serve a God who not only forgives, restores and heals – but who also dwells among the praise of His people! What sort of Sovereign and All-Powerful being chooses to live among the lowly and sinful? Only One who is good and filled with loving-kindness. 

These chapters helped to restore hope and faith in God among the post-exilic community. And they do the same for us – living in the church age – as we wait for the return of our Forever King!

Day 209: The Substitute

1 Chronicles 20-22

Key Verses

1 Chronicles 21:17
Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.

1 Chronicles 21:26-27
And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.

1 Chronicles 20 continues from the previous two chapters to show how David’s military victories prepared the way for Solomon’s peace and prosperity.

Chapter 21 recounts events from 2 Samuel 24… It’s a powerful story of sin, repentance, and redemption. David sinned by demanding a census and God sent a great plague on Israel as punishment for David’s sin. Then God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem.

Let’s think about this… Didn’t God just promise David that his son would build Him a house and He would establish his rule forever??!! Now God is about to destroy the “City of David.” It seems as if God’s covenant promise is in jeopardy because of David’s pride. 

God gave David the ability to see the angel “standing between heaven and earth and in his hand a sword stretched out over Jerusalem.” David realized that his sin had put all the promises of God at risk. He fell to his face and cried out to God…

Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people (1 Chronicles 21:17).

God did relent and spare Jerusalem…But – there had to be a substitute – something to receive the punishment intended for Jerusalem.

This story harkens back to Abraham lifting the knife over the body of Isaac – just in time, God provided a ram.

In this case, God commanded David to build an altar and offer a sacrifice at a specific place. The sacrifice would be the substitute.

And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath (1 Chronicles 21:26-27).

David’s repentance led to God’s relentance (yes, I just made up that word :)

But consider this detail in the text… In order to build that altar, David had to buy the land on which to build it. This piece of land would be the site of Solomon’s temple. Because of David’s repentance, God orchestrated the circumstances by which David bought the plot of land on which the future temple would be built.

Somehow, God redeemed a genuinely repentant heart and brought about a greater and more powerful good.

This story not only points back to Abraham and Isaac but points forward to God’s only Son. There must be a substitute. Our sin demands it. But thankfully… God’s goodness overrules our sinfulness!

Day 175: The End and The Beginning

Jeremiah 38-39; Acts 3

Key Verses

Jeremiah 39:16-18
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the Lord, […] because you have put your trust in me, declares the Lord.

Acts 3:6-7
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.

The end. The fall of Jerusalem. The burning, the slaughter, the slavery – it could have all been avoided if the people had listened to the word of the Lord given through Jeremiah the prophet.

It did not please God to destroy his beloved city. He tried to spare his people from such extreme suffering…

Thus says the Lord: He who stays in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans shall live. He shall have his life as a prize of war, and live (Jeremiah 38:2).

But they didn’t listen. They chose to believe the flattering words of false prophets who promised peace and prosperity. In the end, the real truth was revealed. Even Zedekiah king of Judah came to see the truth as his eyes were gouged out and he was led away to Babylon.

Contrast Jerusalem’s bitter end to its new beginning at the onset of the new covenant age. In Acts 3, the Spirit’s mighty work continues…

We see Peter and John. The Peter and John – who just three years prior – were ordinary fisherman leading ordinary lives. The gospels revealed their babe-like-faith as they walked with Jesus – questioning, doubting, denying, loving and following. Now we find them, empowered by the Spirit, healing and preaching with authority. You know Jesus had to be looking down with a father-like pride as the Spirit worked to build His people… as the worldwide church began with the sermons of a few fisherman in the hands of a mighty God!

Day 174: Two Sermons

Jeremiah 36-37; Acts 2:14-47

Key Verses

Jeremiah 36:3
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them, so that every one may turn from his evil way, and that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Both of today’s readings contain sermons – which resulted in two very different responses…

In Jeremiah, we learn that Jeremiah had been banned from the temple grounds. So he dictated his message to his faithful friend, Baruch, who wrote down on a scroll God’s message to the people. Baruch went to the temple and read the scroll which gave an account of the people’s sins and called them to repent so that the Lord’s judgment might be averted. God, himself, wanted the message preached so that He “may forgive their iniquity and their sin.

Amazingly, this scroll found its way to the king. Surely, as the scroll was read in his presence, the fear of the Lord would cause him to repent and lead the people back to God! But no. Jehoiakim’s heart was hardened…

As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot (Jeremiah 36:23).

The king had no fear of God. His pride ensured the destruction of Jerusalem.

Now let’s consider Peter’s sermon from Acts 2.

Peter’s sermon was remarkable. The Holy Spirit opened his eyes to see how Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He quoted Joel and David. He used logic to prove that Jesus was the Messiah mentioned in David’s 16th Psalm. And after he proved that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, he accused the people of killing him!

This wasn’t some sweet “come to Jesus” message. No! He accused the crowd of murdering the Son of God! I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot. But the Spirit was at work and the crowd was “cut to the heart.” Amazing. They didn’t make excuses or get defensive. They didn’t try to kill Peter or the other disciples, but they actually took responsibility for their sin and asked, “What shall we do?”

What should they do? What should have the king of Judah done when he heard the warnings in Baruch’s scroll? What should we do when we feel the prick of conviction – when we know we’ve done something offensive to God? What is the one thing that God has desired in every human heart going all the way back to Adam? Repentance. This can only be done through the power of the Spirit. In other words, we need God’s help to repent.

As we turn to God, he is pleased to help. God loves the penitent heart!

What was the result of the people’s repentance after Peter’s sermon? 3,000 people were baptized that day! The first church began and it was characterized by self-sacrifice and generous giving to others. The repentance of the crowd changed the course of human history!

Imagine what God could do through us today – if we humble ourselves, and repent?