Archive for August, 2007

Ezra 3

The people are back in Jerusalem now ready to start rebuilding the temple.  They have been stripped of their worship and now want to bring back their old celebrations and offerings as it was written by Moses.  They have a dilemma – scripture says it like this: “Even though they were afraid of what their non-Israelite neighbors might do, they went ahead anyway”.  The people were unsure what the reaction would be if they lived their life honoring God the way they knew they should.  They didn’t know if they were going to be accepted or persecuted for returning to the old way of worship.  Sometimes I think we live like that.  We are afraid we might step on someone’s toes if we let Jesus shine in our life, or if we talk about our spiritual relationship, or if we acknowledge that what happens is not our doing but that of God.  We allow fear to dictate what and how we say it.  The people have been persecuted, exiled and are a bit gun shy here.  They don’t want to rock the boat too much.  But they also know that God’s truth calls them to live in relationship with Him and to follow a set of traditions and customs handed down to their forefathers.  They decide to take a chance and built an altar, start rebuilding the temple and celebrating the festivals and burning offerings.  People light up – they are “noisily shouting with joy” because they experience life the way God planned.  “God is good” is what they find.

Ezra 2

  Sheshbazzar leads the exiled back to Jerusalem and their other home towns from captivity.  The whole list is in Ezra 2 but there were 42,360 people as a “total count for the congregation”.  Sometimes I forget the magnitude of what happens in scripture.  This exile was not just a small deal.  For us, it is like taking a small city and just wiping it clean.  As they come back, this stands out to me.  “All the Israelites found a place to live”.  They have been removed from their homes, gone for a while and yet when they return God provides.  He is so very faithful.  He is so very good.

Ezra 1

Today I am beginning to read in Ezra.  Can’t say I ever remember reading this book of the Bible before.  It starts out in chapter one with a word that God gives to Cyrus the king and a number of other people.  Scripture says “God prodded”.  He prodded Cyrus to build the Temple and he prods a bunch of people to do the work and others to provide for the workers.  God is still in the prodding business guys.  He is prodding you and me every day.  Are you paying attention to that little prodding?  What is the work He has for you to do today?  He does have a plan.  He does have a specific set of things for each one of us to accomplish for Him today.  It may be a person we will cross paths with, a prayer that needs to be prayed, an encouraging word we need to speak, or just some quiet time to sit at His feet.  But make no mistake, God has a plan for you today.  He wants to use each of us as His vessel today to make a difference in this world He has entrusted to us.  We have to pay attention to that prodding.  The Holy Spirit has been placed within us to help us get the message.  But the key is we have to be listening, paying attention and not in ignore mode. 

2 Kings 25

God’s destruction continues on the people.  They are put under siege for 19 months.  Scripture tells us “not a crumb of bread was left” and the people were really in trouble.  The army broke out of the city through an “opening in the wall” and run.  They scatter and Zedekiah is captured and blinded.  The people from Jerusalem are almost all either killed or exiled except for a “few poor dirt farmers behind to tend the vineyards and what was left of the fields”.  I knew that farming was a good thing.  These folks are left to take care of the things that had not been destroyed.  Unfortunately the remnant of the army officers who were still left come back and whack these folks.  What a sad way to end 2 Kings.  The lessons from the kings really focus on one area – obedience – complete obedience to God’s direction.  Those that did it were blessed.  Those who did not, or whose ancestors did not, led kingdoms that struggled through hard times and destruction.  God is serious about obedience.  

2 Kings 24

  1 Kings 24 is payback time from God.  Because of the evil that had been done “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the country”.  He emptied their treasuries, he rounded up around 10,000 of them and took them off to exile.  This is what scripture tells us: “None of this was by chance–it was GOD’s judgment….. This should have been no surprise–GOD had said it would happen”.  God’s truth happens.  “Anyone who was anyone” was rounded up and taken away.  Another “puppet king” was put in place named Zedekiah but he “was just one more evil king”.  Even in the midst of this disaster the people just don’t get it.  They don’t seem to understand that there are consequences to sin and disobedience.  Lord help me not be hard hearted about this.  Help me live obedience.

2 Kings 23

  Josiah had rid the kingdom of everything that was evil and not in accordance with God’s word.  He pursued God with his whole heart.  Look at what scripture says about him: “There was no king to compare with Josiah–neither before nor after….turned in total and repentant obedience to GOD, heart and mind and strength…world would never again see a king like Josiah”.  This was one serious and devoted king.  He had the people on a crash course of repentance and obedience.  So what was God’s response to this one in a lifetime kind of man?  Despite Josiah, GOD’s hot anger did not cool.  Did you expect that?  My goodness, Josiah did everything humanly possible to follow God’s commands.  He was obsessed with correcting the errors of the past and present.  He cleaned it all up.  Yet God did not cool in his anger toward the people.  Too little too late seems to be the description that fits here.  While Josiah worked the last years of his life trying to rectify the situation with God, the sins of the past could not just be overlooked and ignored by God.  How we live matters men.  Not just today, but for our legacy and those who follow.  We need to realize the impact of our life….

Want the really sad news of this chapter.  Josiah is followed by two sons, Jehoahaz who ruled for a mere three months and Jehoiakim who ruled for 11 years.  Scripture tells us they both were “evil kings in God’s eyes”.  Can you believe this?  Their father spent years destroying the sin of the people and they immediately fall back to it.  Oh the power of sin.  It will keep its stranglehold unless we let God empower us to defeat it once and for all.

2 Kings 23

Josiah had been given word by Huldah that things were not going to end well for his people and kingdom.  In 2 Kings 23 we see a man on a mission to make things right with God.  Holy cow – he is obsessed with repenting and cleaning things up.  He tore down, cleaned up, burned up, killed and did lots of other things to make things completely right with God.  He reinstated the Passover which had not been celebrated for a very long time.  He burned the bones of dead people from their tombs.  He really “scrubbed the place clean” and got rid of everything he could find that was not pleasing to God.  He was filled with passion to lead his people back to God.  Scripture tells us “Josiah did this in obedience” – so his motive was right too.  He just wanted to please God.  Hilkiah the priest was a key part of making sure they got it all rooted out.  Evil was no more in the kingdom.  Sacred cows of the past were slaughtered – primarily the sex and religion shrines that has been there for generations.  Josiah was serious and took drastic action to bring the people back to God. 

 Are there any skeletons in your closet that need to be rooted out and burned?  Is there anything that is keeping you from walking in total obedience to God?  Are you at all distracted from God by anything in your life?  We need to have the passion of Josiah and get rid of it.  We need to clean up and get right with God.  He set the standard here.  On Monday we will see the results.

2 Kings 22

Josiah’s leadership team is dispatched to Huldah the prophetess.  These five guys “consulted with her” and are given the bad news: “I’m on my way to bring the doom of judgment on this place and this people”.  She is very clear to them why God’s judgment is coming:

  1. Because they’ve deserted me and take up with other gods
  2. Because they made me thoroughly angry by setting up their god-making businesses

You will recall that Josiah had learned of the sin of his ancestors and the people earlier in this chapter and had called for everyone to PRAY.  He had torn his robe in “humble repentance” and wept before God.  Josiah knew that his grandfather, father and others before them had not walked in God’s ways and things were not good.  So he seeks God and does the right things to try and correct things.  God recognizes that.  His prophetess gives this word to be delivered to Josiah: “Because you took seriously the doom of judgment…..responded in humble repentance….tore your robe….wept…’ll have a quiet death and be buried in peace”.  Not exactly the ending you expected??  After all Josiah was a “good king in God’s eyes” and had repented from the sin of his father and those before him.  He had done what he could to right the ship.  God says one more thing about Josiah’s future: “You won’t be around to see the doom I am going to bring on this place”.  Still not the result we would like to see.  The lesson here is strong and clear – there is a price to pay for sin.  It may not be paid by the generation that commits it.  That is why scripture tells us that sin can have an impact to the third and fourth generation.  Not fair?  Life is not fair but God is.  God cannot allow sin without punishment.  He is holy and righteous.  He can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.  I can’t explain why Josiah is the time that God chose to punish the people.  But the truth is clear – sin will have to be dealt with.  It is true for each of us.  Our sin may not be punished upon us, but it could impact our legacy and generations to come.  That is a sobering thought to me.  How I live will likely make a difference on Micah, my young grandson.  Puts a whole new spin on life.  Makes my focus on obedience a very important part of how I live every day.  Have you considered the impact of your life on those who follow?  Josiah lived that reality.  How much better to walk with God in relationship and leave a legacy of godliness…………..

2 Kings 22

A new king takes the throne at 8 years old – Josiah.  Note what scripture says about him: “He lived the way God wanted”.  Those are fantastic words about a man’s life.  I so want God to say that about me someday.  “Well done good and faithful servant” are also scriptural words I long to hear when I stand at heaven’s gates.  How did Josiah, who came from a long line of really bad blood, turn out to be a man after God.  The chapter doesn’t really tell us but does call out his mother “Jedediah” as it opens.  I think the power of a godly mom probably has done more to impact the lives of young children than we do as dads sometimes.  Maybe most or all the time.  In fact, I think that kids probably turn out good if they follow a godly mom and bad when they follow an ungodly dad.  Whatever the case – scripture records this about Josiah: “He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to either left or right”.  Did you catch this.  Not ONE STEP to either the left or right.  He stayed only on the straight and narrow road that his ancestor David left as his legacy.  It skipped a few generations, but the legacy comes alive again through Josiah.  David must have smiled with God from heaven.  The real lesson in this first section of 2 Kings 22 comes in verses 10-13.  One of the kings management team returned from a visit to the Temple where Hilkiah the priest had shared some of God’s truth with him.  The truth was read to the king and pointed out that the “ancestors haven’t obeyed a thing written in this book, followed none of the instructions directed to us”.  Josiah knows they have a problem.  So what does he do?  He calls five people on his management team together and says: “Go and pray to GOD for me and for this people”.  Do you see this – PRAYER – that is the response to a difficult situation. 

2 Kings 21

 Scripture tells us that God was “totally fed up” with Manasseh because he was “setting new records in evil” by leading the people against God’s command.  God doesn’t just sit idly by – he sends word through his prophets that he “will visit catastrophe” on the kingdom and its people because they have “pushed me to my limit”.  Did you know God runs out of patience with us sometimes?  He is a loving God full of grace and mercy, but even He has limits in how long He will wait for us to get our act together and walk in obedience to His word.  Manasseh exceeded that limit and God basically turns them over to the enemy for destruction.  Amon his son follows.  He only lasts two years before he is assassinated.  Scripture says “he followed in the footsteps of his father” – he was also an evil king.  Why is it that kids always pick up the bad things we do as dads but not so much the good things?  I have noticed that all my bad traits end up coming back through my kids but the few good ones don’t replicate nearly as easily.  It just reinforces that we have to invest time and energy building up our kids in the right things.  If we don’t they will default to the bad things they see in our lives.  Amon surely was an example of that.  We see it over and over in scripture as one bad king begat another many times over, and often good kings had bad kingly sons too.  We have a very important job to do guys.  Lead well – it matters!

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