Daily Bible Reading

Daily Bible Reading
WBF Building before the Great Fire of 1909

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 30, 1 Chr 1-2

Today's readings are 1 Chr 1-2.

1 & 2 Chronicles were originally one volume. 1 Chr focuses on the history of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, and the reign of David & Solomon (roughly from 1000 BC to about 930 BC). It stresses David's heart of worship and gives us the plans for the temple which will be built by Solomon.

While most of the events and people depicted in the two volumes of Chronicles are also covered in the Samuel/Kings four volume series, the Chronicler puts a heavy emphasis on interpreting the history of Israel from a theological perspective. The Chronicler has the benefit of time. As he looks back on the events of history, he can be more analytical as to how they impacted Israel’s relationship with God and what they meant regarding how we perceive Him moving through the lives and history of His people. As such, much time is spent on the temple as a place of covenant worship, the covenant itself, the results of breaking it, prayers, and speeches. In other words, the Chronicler is able to look back and interpret the meaning of the event of history rather than merely record them.

The genealogies documented in the first three chapters of 1 Chr show us Israel's place in history and the continuity of God's plan of redemption. Starting in the Garden, weaving its way through the first settlers, then Noah, then Abram. God's blessing would come through Abram, then, eventually, through David. We see, not only how God ordered even the birth of those He would use but where they would live. Notice the that many of the names mentioned are also names of cities and countries. Many towns and countries take their names from the first notable person who settled there.

Here's a map of David and Solomon's kingdoms as of the 10th century B.C.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 29, 2 Kgs 23-25.

Today's readings are 2 Kings 23-25.

Even though Josiah has God's promise that he will be spared, he enacts godly reforms in 2 Kings 23:1-15. He tears down the altar and removes the high places. He restores the temple, renews the Passover and eliminates the ungodly mediums and seers (2 Kgs 21-25).

Judah still struggles with the sins perpetrated by the people in Manasseh's time (2 Kings 23:26-27). Josiah dies an honored and godly king. But, Jehoahaz takes his place and does evil in the sight of the Lord. Pharaoh intervenes and makes Josiah's son, Jehoiakim, the king. Jehoiakim, even though he is Josiah's son, aligns himself with Pharaoh and becomes an evil king.

In 2 Kings 24:1-7, King Jehoiakim of Judah becomes a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar according to the prophecies delivered to Hezekiah in 2 Kgs 20:17 and Manasseh in 2 Kgs 21:12-14.

We see how Zedekiah came to be king after Nebuchadnezzar first came against the city and captured many but was unsuccessful at taking the city (2 Kgs 24:15-17). This was not yet the siege that was coming and would bring near total devastation to Jerusalem. That is described in detail after Zedekiah, who was set up as king by Nebuchadnezzar, rebels against him. Note that Judah's kings are now chosen by a Babylonian rather than by God. 

The siege lasts over two years. Jerusalem is destroyed and the Temple is burned (2 Kgs 25:1-17). Evil King Jehoiakim, Zedekiah's predecessor who was put in place by Pharaoh, then captured by the Babylonians, is befriended by Nebuchadnezzar and lives in luxury. Meanwhile, Zedekiah, who was originally in league with Nebuchadnezzar, suffers at his hand.

So, we see that God will hold those who reject Him accountable as He does in the case of the people of Judah. Their godly leader, Josiah, brings a reprieve but as soon as Josiah dies, the new king and the people slip backward again. Israel is gone, taken captive by the Assyrians. Judah is crumbling. The temple, the symbol of God's presence among His people, is in ruins, a sad reminder of the deteriorated relationship between Judah and God.

We've watched Israel, then Judah, try to align with the world, try to dig themselves out of a mess, both kingdoms creating a greater mess in the process.

We are always at the peril of being left to our own devices when we choose to ignore the word of God. We have an advantage over Josiah, though. We have the complete Bible to refer to, God's immutable word in writing. It is our duty to know what it says and heed it. As believers, we actually have less excuse than Josiah did.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 28, 2 Kgs 20-22

Today's readings are 2 Kings 20-22.

Although 2 Kgs 20 follows, 2 Kings 20:1-11 occurs immediately before God supernaturally delivers Jerusalem from Sennacherib, king of Assyria in 2 Kgs 19. It is the key to why Hezekiah, king of Judah, turns to the Lord for help when the attack occurs (Isaiah’s chapters 36-38 show the chronology).

Hezekiah becomes ill, and Isaiah tells him he is going to die. When Hezekiah cries out to the Lord, God shows grace and gives him another fifteen years of life (2 Kgs 20:6). Hezekiah learns a valuable lesson in this; he can trust God with his life. In just a short while, this will encourage him to trust God with the fate of his city and his people.

The victory goes to Hezekiah's head. He brags to the envoys the king of Babylon sends, showing them the riches of his treasury and the temple (2 Kgs 20:12-13). Apparently, even godly kings can become victims of their own pride! Now, the Babylonians are acutely aware of the riches of Israel! Isaiah tells Hezekiah this was a mistake. While God has promised peace to Hezekiah for his remaining days, his sons will pay the price for his pride. They and the treasures shown to the Babylonians will be carried away to Babylon (2 Kgs 20:14-18). Hezekiah’s response is enigmatic. It may well be that he hears good news and bad in Isaiah’s prophecy. The good news is that he will have a son and there will be peace as long as Isaiah lives. The bad news is that Isaiah knows when he will die (in fifteen years) and after he’s gone, his son will be taken into captivity.

How often have we seen this scenario where the sins of one man have a long-term effect on those around him and those that come after him?

2 Kings 21:1-9 picks up with the reign of Manasseh, Hezekiah's son. Manasseh is an evil king, doing evil and leading the people into idolatry. God sends prophets to condemn Manasseh and warn the people. Of course, Hezekiah was warned by Isaiah well ahead of time as well, but Manasseh is well-deserving of the condemnation Isaiah’s prophecy held (2 Kgs 21:10-18).

Amon is the next king, another evil one. He is assassinated, and his son Josiah takes his place (2 Kgs 21:19-26).

Judah's slide has begun. Hezekiah, a good and godly king, fell victim to his own pride. Isaiah prophesied that there would be long-term consequences for his stumble. God remains faithful to the promise He gave Hezekiah but those who follow him turn against God and begin to do evil.

Hezekiah could easily have assumed there were no consequences for his sin merely because he did not immediately suffer any. The word of God told him differently. Nonetheless, Hezekiah did not repent. As a matter of fact, he took the position of "If it doesn't harm me, it doesn't matter." Read 2 Kings 20:19 carefully. Hezekiah has already learned that contrite repentance will bring God's grace. But he doesn't repent. Apparently, he has become self-absorbed and seems to lack compassion on those who will follow him.

Seeing the long-term impact Hezekiah's sin has should teach us two lessons.
1.  Even the best and most godly of us should be diligent to avoid becoming victims of our own pride.
2. We should never take God's grace for granted nor think that because the consequences of sin are not immediate, there are none.

In 2 Kings 22:1-2, Josiah takes over after evil king Amon dies. Josiah is a good king. But, the word of God has been so neglected most people in the kingdom have not heard it. It is found and read, and King Josiah mourns that the Jews have not been faithful (2 Kgs 22;3-11). God uses a woman, Huldah, to prophecy to Josiah (2 Kings 22:12-20). She tells him God will judge the people but will have mercy on King Josiah for his humble and godly nature. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 27, 2 Kgs 18-19

Today's readings are 2 Kgs 18-19.

What we've seen through the two books of Kings is the gradual but steady decline of Israel. First, due to infighting, she divides into two kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). God never told them to split. As a matter of fact, they were supposed to be united as His people. Yet, they separate, due to some questionable decisions by the kings and leaders. Then we see the gradual slide away from God of both kingdoms. Israel is sliding at a more rapid rate, but both are sliding away.

God sends prophets to both kingdoms warning them to return to Him or be taken captive. As the prophecies unfold, it becomes evident that Assyria will be used by God to invade both kingdoms and carry the Jews away.

But, when Assyria finally invades, Judah is spared. Why? We find out in these two chapters.

Judah has a new king, Hezekiah, a godly man. He has his faults, but he does much to turn Judah back toward God. Idols are removed from the country, pagan altars are torn down, the Temple restored and the priesthood re-established. Sacrifices are offered up again, and the people fear God (2 Kgs 18:1-7).

As a result of Hezekiah's godly leadership, Jerusalem is spared when the Assyrians attack. Instead of calling on pagan nations for help like his predecessors did, Hezekiah calls upon Isaiah and the Lord (2 Kgs 19:1-7). Judah is delivered miraculously (2 Kgs 19:35) while their attacker, Sennacherib, the one who mocked God dies at the hands of his sons (2 Kgs 19:37).

This is what distinguishes Hezekiah from many of the kings of Israel and Judah who have gone before. This is what makes him a good and godly king. When in trouble, rather than seeking the wisdom of friends and forming earthly alliances, he turns toward God's messenger, throws himself upon the mercy of God and trusts God to deliver His people and be faithful to His promises.

Hezekiah provides us with an admirable template for war. But, he also shows us a great strategy for confronting hard times in our personal lives as well. While many are tempted to gain the advice of friends and align themselves with worldly methods of dealing with trouble, God's people should rely solely upon Him.

The true victory comes in trusting Him, not in gaining the upper hand in a tough situation. Worldly wisdom and ways will show us how to gain victory for today, how to become the "winner." That kind of victory can be breathtakingly short lived and unsatisfying. God's wisdom and His ways will show us how to gain victory for all eternity.

Judah’s deliverance is another exhibition of God's matchless grace and mercy. He gave His precious children every chance to repent. Judah did, Israel did not. Judah received grace, Israel received chastisement. Only when God’s children stubbornly refuse to obey Him do they suffer worldly consequences.

This should be a warning and encouragement to us. God has not only graciously given us His word to guide us in living for Him, but He has also sent His Spirit to dwell within us to help us in that effort. If we become conversant in His word, the Spirit will help us keep it. God is not out to exact vengeance for every stumble we make. His grace will cover them all, but repentant hearts and true sorrow over our stumbles are necessary to avoid His chastisement. Blatant rebellion and disregard for His word and the leading of His Spirit will not rob us of our salvation. But, it will make our walk on earth more difficult.  

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 26, 2 Kgs 15-17

Today's readings are 2 Kgs 15-17.

The next king of Judah is the sixteen-year-old Azariah. He was a good king, and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kgs 15:1-3). Even so, he also failed to remove the high places, and the people of Judah worshiped and sacrificed to other gods. Ahaziah's unwillingness to fully remove pagan idolatry early in his reign along with his growing pride will prove to be his undoing much further down the road as we will see in 2 Chr 26. Jotham, another good king who makes the same mistake of not removing the high places, takes his place (2 Kgs 15:6).

These high places that seem to be a constant presence in Judah are the leaven that will ultimately be part of Judah's downfall.

Next, we see a lengthy line of bad kings in Israel, most of them removed from their thrones early in their reign (2 Kgs 8-27. By this time, God has removed His protection from Israel, and they have become another in a series of conquests by Emperor Tilgath-pileser of Assyria (2 Kgs 15:28-31). Northern Israel is taken captive.

Meanwhile, Jotham, a godly man, becomes a good king of Judah (2 Kgs 15:32-34). Incredibly, Jotham fails to remove the high places (2 Kgs 15:35-36). Evidence of God beginning to remove His protection from Judah surfaces as Syria and Israel attack Judah (2 Kgs 15:37-38).

Jotham’s son, Ahaz, may be the worst king of Judah yet (2 Kgs 16:1-4). When Syria and Israel attack, instead of calling out to God, Ahaz forms an alliance with a dangerous enemy, Assyria. The king of Assyria routs the attack against Judah but at what price? (2 Kgs 16:5-9).

Ahaz has an altar made in Jerusalem that is patterned after one he saw in Damascus. He performs sacrifices there (2 Kgs 16:10-16). He rips the precious metals from the temple and replaces them with stone to pay tribute to the king of Assyria (2 Kgs 16:17-18).

Just as we saw in Joshua as the twelve tribes failed to occupy the land they were given, we are watching the kings of Israel and Judah as they fail to remove the high places.  Both failings have long-term, disastrous results. We see that God's people must be determined to do whatever it takes to purge sin from their lives. Putting up with "a little" sin and tolerating ungodly behavior always tends to allow those influences to expand and grow to cause even greater problems further down the road.

Here are the kings and dates again:

By now, the two kingdoms have turned away from God to a startling extent. It all started with Solomon and some questionable decisions. Now they are fighting against each other, just as Solomon's sons did. They have abandoned God, embraced other gods and are even sacrificing their children to those false gods. They turn everywhere for help - to former enemies, to pagan nations--everywhere but to the one true God.

Right around the middle of Ahaz's time, in 722, Israel, after trying to align themselves with Egypt is taken captive by the Assyrians (2 Kgs 17:1-5). This occurs because they “…walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” (2 Kgs 17:8).

Israel’s fall is complete. All the warnings and prophecies against disobeying God, allowing sin to creep in, intermarrying with pagan people and worshipping idols have been fulfilled. They are now just like the nations they displaced. The Lord completely removes them from His protection and provision (2 Kgs 17:14-18).

Judah is spared but is struggling as well. As they watch what is happening to Israel, they should see this as an act of grace and an ominous warning that the same thing could happen to them if they continue to stray (2 Kgs 17:19-22).

Assyria resettles Samaria with immigrants from other nations they’ve conquered creating a people that are a blend of Jew and Gentile (2 Kgs 17:24-41). This will have an impact on how Judah relates to Samaria far into the future.

Israel’s dreadful fall from grace should earn condemnation and estrangement, yet, we see proof that God has not abandoned His children. There is hope—and there is a remnant! God uses the king of Assyria to send a priest into Samaria to teach the ways of the Lord (2 Kgs 17:26-28).

Once again, we see God's sovereign hand moving among nations outside of Israel and Judah. Once again we see that God's children will always be God's children. However, we also see, once again, that there are worldly consequences for disobedience. God's blessing and protection are removed nearly completely. They are left to fend for themselves. God has not abandoned them, but He has allowed them to become the victim of their own rebellious hearts. There will be redemption. There will be a remnant. But there will be suffering in the meantime.

As believers, we should take this lesson to heart. Much of the Old Testament is comprised of lessons that reveal the character and nature of God. We see, repeatedly, that God will not forsake His people, that He is faithful to His promise and His word. Simultaneously, we see that there is a worldly price to pay for unrepentant sin. Sincere, heartfelt, contrite repentance is always rewarded with grace and mercy. Hard hearts and a callous attitude toward sin are always rewarded with hardship.

God will deliver His people, but, because of their constant falling into sinful ways, their journey will be rough. It's the same for us.  God will bring us into His presence for all eternity. If we insist on sinning and rebelling against Him without godly grief over our stumbles, our journey to heaven will be rough.