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 154: Secure

2 Kings 18-20; John 10:22-42

Key Verses

2 Kings 19:15, 19
And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. […] So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”

John 10:27-29
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

As believers in Christ, our eternity with God is secure. This is a Truth that makes me marvel… Jesus promises in today’s New Testament passage that no one can snatch us out of His hand!

Today’s Key Verse from the book of John is dripping with theology. The source of understanding, faith, and eternal life is God himself. We are powerless to gain eternal life – it is God’s gift to His sheep. If we are powerless to earn it, we are also powerless to lose it. God is our assurance of life eternal!

Hezekiah’s story in 2 Kings illustrates the theology of Jesus’ words.

Where was Hezekiah’s security? As Jerusalem was surrounded by the great Assyrian army and King Sennacherib shouted his threats of destruction, where did Hezekiah turn? Did he trust in his own strength or wisdom? No. He humbled himself and went to the house of the Lord.

The Lord delivered Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem from the hand of the Assyrian king.

God also delivers his children from the snares of sin and sets them safely upon the rock of salvation! He has delivered me, and I am beyond grateful!

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)
  • 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

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 151: It’s All in the Details…

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

Key Verses

2 Kings 8:19
Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David his servant, since he promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

John 9:1-3
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping up with the Kings

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

Day 127: The hour of darkness

Proverbs 4-5; Luke 22:31-53

Key Verses

Luke 22:53
“When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Proverbs 4:18-19
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.

Light and Darkness. Good and Evil. It’s the formula for a good story. And God’s salvation story is the story of all stories!

Today, we read of Jesus, our hero, faced with an impossibly difficult task – He was under so much stress that “his sweat became like great drops of blood dropping to the ground.” But somehow he was under complete control. Even as the soldiers came to arrest Him, He never lost his temper – never shouted – in fact, he was so composed that he healed the ear of a soldier in the middle of the chaos! In the end, He allowed himself to be arrested and attributed the horrible events to “the power of darkness.”

Was Jesus losing the fight? Will the darkness emerge the victor? In order for the darkness to overcome the light of Jesus, well, Jesus had to give it permission. Jesus was the one who allowed the darkness to overcome. Listen to his words:

“Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:52-53).

Do you see?! Many times they had tried to apprehend him, but he would slip away, untouched. This was the time that He had ordained. This was the hour that had been decided upon in the inner chambers of heaven – as the Three Persons hatched their plan – their salvation plan. The Darkness would have its time – and this was the appointed time.

Here’s the truth about darkness. It can’t overcome the light. The light will have the final say. The light will have the final say in Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. And the light will have the final say in our suffering and hardship. Yes, there is a power of darkness in this world. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the LIGHT!

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

Day 122: A King’s Prayer

2 Samuel 21-22; Psalm 18

Key Verses

Psalm 18:46-50
The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
who delivered me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you rescued me from the man of violence.
For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.

Psalm 18 is adapted from David’s personal prayer recorded in 2 Samuel 22. Therefore, the two chapters are almost identical.

David’s prayer reveals both a deep personal relationship with God as well as an understanding of God’s character and ways. It is encouraging to note that despite David’s great sin, his repentance and dependence on God have kept him close to the Almighty.

God is merciful and will accept the penitent sinner who calls on Him in faith…just as He accepted David.

David understood that the Kingship was an undeserved gift of God. He was absolutely dependent on God for deliverance from his enemies, and he gave God all the credit for his victories.

David knew that he experienced all of life directly from the hand of God. We are no different. We also must depend on God for all of our earthly successes – and for the will to persevere through our failures. Ultimately, we should cry out with David…

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies (Psalm 18:1-3).

Day 112: The Ways of the Kingdom

1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 18:1-17

Key Verses

1 Samuel 28:17
The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.

Luke 18:16-17
But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

David aligning with the Philistines… Saul seeking out a medium… The spirit of Samuel predicting Saul’s death… and David escaping the dilemma of fighting against his countrymen.

It’s all very exciting. And filled with irony and poor decisions from both David and Saul.

I believe David has lost hope to be king. Why else would he prepare to go to battle with the Philistines against Israel? If David had entered the battle on either side, the result would have been disastrous. But God, in his sovereignty, used the Philistine lords to prevent David from entering the battle. God has used all of David’s hardship to prepare him for the throne. He is a seasoned warrior in a humble position. He is ready.

Jesus’ teachings in the beginning of Luke are some of my favorites. The parable of the persistent widow encourages me to persevere in prayer. The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector reminds me of God’s disdain for self-righteousness and love for the sinner. And Jesus’ care for the children shows me that God values the small and insignificant of this world.

It all reminds me of a scene from The Hobbit. I think Gandalf’s words epitomize the way of God’s Kingdom!

Galadriel: Why the halfling?
Gandalf: I do not know. Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found that is the smaller things – the everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid. But he gives me courage.

Day 111: How Long, O Lord?

1 Samuel 25-26; Luke 17:20-37

Key Verses

1 Samuel 26:23-24
The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness, for the Lord gave you [Saul] into my hand today, and I [David] would not put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. Behold, as your life was precious this day in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he deliver me out of all tribulation.”

Luke 17:20
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.”

I wonder how many years have passed since Samuel anointed the little shepherd, David, to be King of Israel… I’m sure it seems like a lifetime to David, and now that Samuel has died, I wonder if David doubted if God would ever make him king…

For David is still leading his ragamuffin crew from wilderness to mountain, to cave back to wilderness. I imagine he’s becoming weary of his flight. But when given the opportunity to take Saul’s life for the second time – David trusts and obeys his God – and in so doing chooses God’s difficult path to the throne instead of the easy shortcut. But I’m sure he’s wondering… How long, O Lord?

I resemble that statement! Sometimes I doubt whether God really does have a hope and a purpose for my family as I trudge through the daily-ness of caring for a disabled child. I read today’s passage in Luke that describes Jesus’ return to establish His Kingdom on earth and I cry out… How long, O Lord? How. Long.

But like David, we are given a choice. There are always easier paths before us. Following God is a hard road – full of sacrifice and ‘character building.’ How do we find the strength to persevere?

David looked forward to God’s promise of kingship. We look forward to God’s promise of His Kingdom – where there will be no more pain. and no more tears. Until that day comes, I will look to God for the strength to press onward – and as I do, He surprises me with joy along the way.

Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life (Psalm 54:4).

Day 110: A Purpose for Pain

1 Samuel 23-24; Psalm 54; Luke 17:1-19

Key Verses

1 Samuel 24:17-20
[Saul] said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.

Humility and Gratitude. They are the key to persevering through hardship. If we humbly consider ourselves unworthy servants, as Jesus teaches in Luke 17:7-10, we will be doubly grateful for any blessing that God gives. A perfect example of this principle is the story of the 10 lepers recorded in Luke 17:11-19. Jesus healed 10 lepers, but only one returned to thank him… and he was a Samaritan. Samaritans were traditionally despised by the Jews. Because of his humble position, the Samaritan was more grateful for Jesus’ gracious healing. Humility multiplies Gratitude.

These characteristics are evident in David from today’s reading from 1 Samuel. David had a chance to kill Saul, but his reverence for God would not allow him to strike the Lord’s anointed king. Instead of reveling in the opportunity to kill his oppressor, David humbled himself before Saul and submitted to the will of God.

Both David and the leprous Samaritan lived in treacherous circumstances. But God used their suffering to humble each man and bring about godly character. God’s ways are mysterious, but they are always good. When our lives take a hard turn, it is tempting to shake our fists in anger at God for allowing hardship into our lives. But we should trust that God has a purpose for our pain…to break down our self-reliance so that we might walk more closely with the Savior and mold us more into the likeness of Jesus. As we allow God to humble us through our circumstances, David’s words in Psalm 54 become our anthem…

Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life (Psalm 54:4).

Day 103: Mysteries of the Kingdom

1 Samuel 10-12; Luke 13:22-35

Key Verses

1 Samuel 12:14-15
If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king.

Luke 13:23-25
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’”

These verses in Luke 13 are difficult for me. I’ve always been uncomfortable that there will be people left out of the Kingdom. Did God not choose them or did they not choose God? It’s one of the great mysteries of the faith…

There is a great tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. How can God be 100% sovereign AND man be 100% responsible for his choices? This is a great mystery.

1 Samuel 10 makes it very clear that God was sovereign over Saul and chose him to be king of Israel. Saul had nothing in himself to qualify him for king except God’s grace and anointing. But Saul failed to live a life worthy of his calling. Later, God removed the kingship from Saul because of his disobedience and failure to repent. Ultimately, Saul was held accountable for his decisions.

Did God make a mistake by choosing Saul? Absolutely not!  Then why did God choose Saul when He knew that Saul would disobey? When I can’t untangle the mysteries of God, I look to God’s character for insight… Who is God? He is Sovereign over all, All-Powerful and the final Judge of all mankind. But what else is God? He is compassionate and kind. He is Good.

Listen to the compassion in Jesus’ words…

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! (Luke 13:34)

He is sovereign AND we are given the freedom to choose. Somehow, God uses our sinful choices to bring about the good of his big plan. God uses Saul’s disobedience and pride to mold David into a godly leader. And God uses Israel’s rejection to open the door for Gentiles to enter His Kingdom.

When all is revealed at the end of the age – I believe we will see that all things were weaved together for GOOD!