Make a Choice! – 2 Chron. 34

 

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This picture is from the Memorial Scrolls Trust (http://www.memorialscrollstrust.org/), a collection of 1600 Czech Torah scrolls saved from the destruction of the Holocaust.

 

Wow! This week has been such a great reminder for me about the importance of scripture! We began this week by looking at our memory verse from Deut. 30:19-20:

 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

We’ve learned how we can choose life through desiring and studying God’s word this week. What does choosing life look like?

Let’s pause for a moment this Saturday morning and turn to 2 Chronicles 34, our key text. The Israelites in the Old Testament always seem to be getting into trouble and turning away from God’s paths. At this point in 2 Chronicles, the kingdom of Israel that Saul and David had established had been divided in two, with the ten tribes in the north making up Israel and the two in the south, Judah. The nation of Israel had become so wicked that God had sent them into exile. The kingdom of Judah had not gotten that bad, yet. But still, the people, under the king’s directions, had begun to worship other gods and neglected the one true God. In 2 Chronicles 33, we find the temple in disrepair and the law of God lost. The nation of Judah was choosing death.

But, in 2 Chronicles 34, we find hope in the form of a boy named Josiah, anointed king at only 8 years old. The Bible said that “he did what was right in the LORD’s sight and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or the left” (v. 2). Josiah according to this verse was obviously choosing the path of life. But, what does that actually mean? What did he do that was so righteous?

The rest of this chapter goes on to say that he tore down the false gods that his people were worshiping and cleansed the land. Then, he began to restore God’s temple to how it should be. While the priests were looking through the temple and cleaning it out, they found something pretty important. In verse 14, it says that “Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD written by the hand of Moses.” The people of Judah had walked so far down the path of unrighteousness that they totally neglected the law of God and lost it. Later on, it says that the court secretary, Shapan, just told King Josiah, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.” The law to him was nothing more than an old book!

Shapan read the law aloud to Josiah and when Josiah heard this, he got so upset that he tore his clothes! He realized that his people hadn’t been choosing the way of life; they hadn’t been keeping “the word of the LORD in order to do everything written in [it]” (v. 21).

choose life

This week, we’ve been meditating on the importance of scripture. We have a wonderful gift already because we have such easy access to the word of God! But, just like the people of Judah, we may neglect it to chase after other things. This year, we have another opportunity to commit ourselves to learning how to choose life from God’s word, both through these devotions and more simply through dedicating ourselves to God. Beginning tomorrow, we will learn more Godly wisdom from the book of Proverbs. Make a choice now to dedicate yourself like Josiah did to the daily reading of God’s word so that we can follow the paths of righteousness that lead to life.

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Thrown to the Lions

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Daniel 5-6                                            

In Chapter 6 of Daniel something very devious and disturbing occurs. After being selected as one of three administrators over Babylon by its new king, Daniel found himself in the crosshairs of the other overseers of the kingdom. They were jealous of the favor Daniel was finding in the eyes of Darius and that the king wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom.  This jealousy led to a conspiracy to get rid of Daniel. But how could they entrap such an upright guy? 

The satraps and administrators devised a plan to use Daniel’s devotion to God against him. They convinced the king to enact a law that would prohibit prayer of any kind to any person or god, other than Darius for thirty days. The punishment would be certain death, in the form of being thrown into a pit with hungry lions.

Daniel, in response to the ridiculous edict, went home and did the same thing he did everyday: prayed. He prayed three times everyday, not to Darius, but to the God of the universe, Yahweh.  In the middle of his prayers, a group of satraps and administrators went to Daniel’s house and caught him in the unlawful act. They turned him in. Despite trying everything he could, the king had no choice but to order to have Daniel thrown into the Lion’s den. 

The next morning Darius rushed to the den to see if Daniel was still alive. Not only was he alive, he didn’t have a scratch on him. God had spared him. He sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. The king was overjoyed and had Daniel pulled out. And, in a clear case of poetic justice, the men who tried to entrap Daniel are thrown to the lions to meet the same fate they had planned for Daniel.

The big point I want to draw from this particular story, and in this book as a whole, is Daniel’s consistency despite the changes in the world around him. Daniel lived his whole life in a place that was not his home, lived under the reign of several different kings, and he had people who were jealous of him and wanted him dead. Despite these things that were out of his control, Daniel was steadfast in his devotion to God and unwavering in his commitment to living right. 

The world we live in is constantly changing. Every four to eight years, we have a new president. What is popular today will be forgotten tomorrow (silly bands anyone?). What was socially acceptable a decade ago, is now taboo. What was once taboo is now celebrated. Society is in flux. Our devotion to God must not be. We may never live in a time when it is illegal to pray, but we do live in one where it is unpopular and becoming more so ever year. Our foundation must not be the shifting sands of the culture, but the Rock that never changes. It may get you thrown to the lions, but you’ll be in the favor of the one who made those lions. 

– Joel Fletcher

A to Z

Psalm 119

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Monday, January 16

If you live in the United States, you are subject to millions of laws.  There are so many laws at the federal level, that it would take lifetimes to count them all. There are possibly 20,000 regulations placed upon gun ownership.  The Internal Revenue Code is over 7,500 pages long.  There are over 300,000 expressions of criminal offenses you could possibly commit.  All of these numbers do not include the laws you must abide by at the state or local levels.  I do not tell you all of this to make you rummage through law books before every action, so you will fearfully stay at home (there might be a law against that, too), or even as some kind of backhanded political statement, but to make the simple point — even when you want to follow the law, it can be hard when there are so many.

 

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD.  Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart — they do no wrong but follow his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.” – Psalm 119:1-4

 

“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.” – Psalm 119:8

 

Psalm 119 is a reflection on the following: the laws, statutes,  precepts, and words given by God to men through an acrostic.  What is an acrostic?  You have most likely done something similar with your name at some point in your school career:

 

Artistic

Ambitious

Relaxed

Objective

Nearsighted

 

The first letter of each word spell out the theme of discussion.  By using the Hebrew Alphabet to begin each stanza, David, our author, literally covers everything from “A” to “Z” (or “Aleph” to “Taw”) to thoroughly tell about the favor or folly that comes from obeying / disobey God’s commandments.  The ABC’s of living a life for God is closely clinging to His commands – all 600+ of them given in the Torah that make up the Levitical Law? For David, yes.  Thankfully, Jesus Christ simplified the commandments to two guiding principles that encompass them all:

“‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40

Does reducing these many laws to two make it easier to live within the law? Absolutely not.  There are no longer loopholes, gaps, or technicalities to exploit which are the reasons for chastisement of religious leaders in the time of Jesus and the ever-increasing amount of laws today.  These two laws encompass every part of our lives. A-to-Z. From Actions with our enemies to the Zeal which we have for His kingdom, these laws apply.  When we commit to following His law, we have blessing, direction, fulfillment, and hope.  Is it an easier life? No. Is it a better life? Absolutely, yes.

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:  I will obey your righteous regulations.” – Psalm 119:105-106

-Aaron Winner

We Want a King (I Samuel 8-10)

Monday, October 10th

1st Samuel 8:19,20

But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

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by: Terrence Raper

I said yesterday that I struggled drawing a parallel with the God of the Old Testament, and the grace of Jesus shown in the New Testament. Jesus represented God, but in a way that seems to us studying the Bible years later completely new. In some ways he made obedience seem more realistic. He also taught us that even though obedience may be more realistic, it will require a lot of forgiveness and a different way of thinking about obedience. We will have to strive for excellence in how we treat each other. We will no longer work out our good deeds on some sort of accounting ledger in hopes that we are in the black with God.

   

Before, it was about how well we followed all of the law. The law seemed tangible, and measurable. In a way, that’s how we like it. We love tracking our progress. At the very least we like noticing the failings of others. Then Jesus tells us, we are missing the point. He explains that God has a plan. We say “okay, what is it?”  We are told to trust in the plan. We ask again, “what is it?” We seem to only trust in God’s plan when we understand it. We have a hard time tracking the measurables within God’s plan. This has been the story of us for a long time. The people of Israel got tired of waiting. So when Samuel got old they told him “appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have (I Samuel 8:4).” Basically we have done it God’s way, now we are interested in the system they have in other nations. This is the longing for more than what God has given us.

 

We all act this way. We act impatiently with our money, our relationships, with our expectations. This is not the behavior of faithful followers of God. One thing I have heard said in every church I have ever attended is “God is good”. Some of us even say this on Sunday mornings to stir the congregation  to comment back “all the time”. Do we truly believe that God is good? Because if we did truly believe God is good, our whole world would be different. We would trust that God had our best interest in mind. We would stop rushing our own plans. We would stop trying to make relationship works that aren’t blessing us. We wouldn’t try to make scriptures and truths fit into our own agenda. We would be more faithful with our time and resources.

 

           The Israelites failed to remain faithful. They stopped believing God was going to do what was best for them. So they wanted a king. King Saul is a fascinating person in the Bible. I find something newly perplexing every time I dive into these Scriptures. I hope I find something new to share with everyone moving forward.