God's Mysterious Plan.

 2 Kings 25, Ephesians 3

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. – Ephesians 3:6 ESV

Things could not have looked bleaker. The destiny of Israel could not have appeared any darker. The Babylonian army had laid siege to the city of Jerusalem for months, resulting in a famine inside its wall. Eventually, the city fell and the temple was ransacked, burned and destroyed. The priests were killed and the people were taken captive to Babylon. Zedekiah, the king, was captured and forced to watch as his sons were executed before his eyes. Then he had his own eyes gouged out. The once glorious city of Jerusalem lie in ruins and the people of Israel were prisoners in a foreign land. And amazingly, this was all part of God's plan. He had predicted that all of this would happen. “Thus says the Lord: Behold, I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall capture it;  Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye.  And he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I visit him, declares the Lord. Though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed” (Jeremiah 32:3-5 ESV). Israel was facing the consequences for its disobedience and unfaithfulness. God had warned them that disobedience would bring curses. He had been very specific. But God would not fully abandon His people. As bad as things appeared, God had not fully forsaken them. King Jehoiachin, who had surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar years earlier, and had been living in exile in Babylon for 37 years, would find himself freed by Evil-merodach, Nebuchadnezzar's son and successor to the throne. God was keeping the line of David intact. He was keeping His promise to David. “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 ESV). David was destined to have a descendant who would once again sit on his throne in Jerusalem. God had ordained it and He would one day fulfill it.

What does this passage reveal about God?

In the midst of all the darkness surrounding the people of Israel, there exists a feint glimmer of hope. Yes, the temple had been destroyed and the city burned to the ground. The once formidable walls of Jerusalem were shattered and lie in ruins. But God was still there. He had not disappeared from the scene. He was allowing His people to learn a painful, yet invaluable lesson. But He would be with them all along the way, sending His prophets to minister to them even while they lived in exile. He would continue to tolerate their disobedience and unfaithfulness all during their seven decades of imprisonment in Babylon. But He had promised to return them to the land and He would fulfill that promise. But God's ultimate plan was not just to restore them to the land, but to restore all mankind to a right relationship with Himself. The people of Israel had shown that, even though they had been handpicked by God, they were incapable of living in obedience to His commands or of loving Him faithfully and exclusively. God used a pagan, Gentile nation to punish His people. And the day was coming when He would include pagan, Gentile people into His family. This is one of the great mysteries of the Bible – the mystery of Christ. God would use a descendant of David to provide reconciliation for not only the Jews, but for all mankind. Paul writes, “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6 ESV). This mystery “was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5 ESV). Jehoiachin didn't know about this plan. Nebuchadnezzar wasn't aware of it. Zedekiah (excuse the pun) was blind to it. Even David himself was kept in the dark regarding it. The day was coming when God allow Paul to “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:8-9 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man can't maintain a right relationship with God. Living up to God's holy, righteous standards has always been impossible for any man to accomplish – except one. Only Jesus was capable of living a perfectly obedient life, in keeping with God's laws and in submission to His will. He lived a sinless life, which made Him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of man. He was able to offer Himself as our sinless, blameless substitute, dying the death we deserved in our place and satisfying the just demands of a holy God. The books of 1 and 2 Kings reveal just how sinful man can be. The history of the Israelites reveals just how disobedient and unfaithful even the people of God can be. Sin is inevitable and unavoidable for mankind. We can't help it. We can't keep from doing it. But God had a solution to our problem. He had a plan that would provide restoration and reconciliation when all our efforts produced nothing more than rebellion and rejection. The fall of Jerusalem was not the end. The exile of the people of God was not the final chapter in their story. God would eventually restore them to their own land. But it would not be until "the fulness of time" that He would send His Son to provide a once-and-for-all solution for the sin problem of mankind. Through the sacrificial death of His own Son, God would join together Jew and Gentile, making them “fellow heirs, members of the same body and partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6 ESV). “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The Bible is the story of God's redemption of mankind. It is not a collection of isolated stories, but a clear and concise compilation of God's ongoing relationship with His creation. It is a unified picture of His unfailing love for mankind and His divine plan to restore what sin had attempted to destroy. As bleak as Israel's exile appears, it is just a chapter in a much larger story of God's redemption and reconciliation of mankind. Today, we get to see firsthand the manifold, multifaceted wisdom of God revealed through the multi-ethnic, multicultural and multifaceted makeup of the body of Christ. Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, educated, uneducated, slave, free, white collar, blue collar – every imaginable combination of people – revealing “the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11 ESV). I am reminded that God has always been working His plan. But I am also reminded that God has not yet completed that plan. There is more yet to come, and I can trust Him to finish what He has begun. He will one day send His Son again to bring His great and glorious plan to its final conclusion, bringing an end to sin and death, and reconciling and restoring His creation once and for all.

Father, thank You for Your mysterious, unstoppable, perfect plan. Thank You for sending Your Son to do what none of us could have done on our own. You have provided a solution for sin and a means by which we might have a right relationship with You, once and for all. Amen

Redemption, Not Reform.

 2 Kings 23-24, Ephesians 2

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV

Josiah made a herculean effort to restore and reform the nation of Judah to a right relationship with God. Convicted by what he had read in the book of the Law, he began a series of sweeping reforms, all based on a renewed covenant with God pledging to “walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book” (2 Kings 23:3 ESV). And all the people vowed to join him in keeping the covenant. Josiah then began an aggressive and sweeping purging campaign, removing all the vestiges of idol worship from the land. And he had his work cut out for him. The kings of Judah had left a staggering number of idols, high places, altars and shrines to their false gods. Many of them were in the temple itself. There were cult prostitutes actually living in the temple. There were mediums, necromancers and household gods everywhere. There were altars and high places dedicated to a wide range of gods, including Baal, Molech, Ashtoreth, and more. It seems that everywhere he turned, there were shrines, altars, and idols erected to just about every false god imaginable. He even went so far as to remove the false gods erected by Jeroboam in Bethel. In other words, Josiah took pains to enter the land of Israel, which had already fallen to the Assyrians, and he removed the vestiges of idol worship that had led to their downfall. Josiah was thorough in his efforts. He even reinstituted the Passover, which had not been practiced since the time of the Judges. But all his efforts at reform did nothing to assuage the anger of God. It was too little, too late. “Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah” (2 Kings 23:26 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God knew the hearts of His people. He knew that these reforms, in spite of all of Josiah's efforts, were merely external changes. Not long after Josiah's death, the wickedness would resurface and the idolatry would continue as before. Josiah's own son, Jehoahaz, “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 23:32 ESV). God knew that all the external reforms in the world would not change their hearts. They were addicted to sin and incapable of changing their behavior. The reading of the book of the Law may have convicted them, but it could not transform them. They could remove all the idols, altars, high places, and shrines from the land, but they couldn't remove the idolatry from their own hearts. The fall of Jerusalem and the coming captivity of the people of Judah was necessary. It was all part of God's divine plan. “Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done … and the Lord would not pardon” (2 KIngs 24:3-4 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man is incapable of truly reforming himself. Any efforts we make at change are always limited and short-lived. Any attempts we make at transforming our behavior in order to comply with God's righteous standards will always fall short, because we can't change our hearts. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the condition of man's heart and he didn't paint a very pretty picture. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV). Jesus Himself echoed these same thoughts when He said, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23 ESV). Josiah meant well. He had every intention of reforming and restoring the land of Judah to faithfulness to God. He sincerely wanted to see every last idol removed and the people of God restored to a right relationship with Him. But God knew that nothing was really going to change. Their hearts were wicked. They didn't truly love Him. He had warned them and pleaded with them to return to Him. He had sent His prophets over and over again, calling them to repentance, but they would not listen. They refused to change. Because they couldn't. And God was not surprised.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Rather than stand back and criticize the Israelites for their stubbornness and stupidity, I must constantly remind myself that I am no different than they were. I would have done the same thing if I had been in their sandals. I would have proven to be just as unfaithful and disobedient. The Bible makes it clear that all men stand guilty before God. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV). “They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good” (Psalm 53:1 ESV). “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV). Paul reminds me that even I was once “dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is not at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV). Even those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, used to live “in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3 ESV). But here is the good news! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV). God showed us mercy and grace. He didn't ask us to reform ourselves or correct our behavior before He would love us. He loved us while we were at our worst. He reconciled us to Himself through the death of His son, not through some form of self-reformation. We couldn't have saved ourselves any more than the Jews of Josiah's day could. There is a day coming when God will completely restore His people. He will reform their behavior, but He will do so by changing their hearts. He will do for them what they could never have done for themselves. “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses” (Ezekiel 36:26-29 ESV).

Father, You are a faithful, loving, gracious God. When we couldn't do anything to save ourselves, You stepped in and provided salvation for us through Your own Son's death. You did for us what we could never have done for ourselves. And one day, You are going to do for the people of Israel what they have never been able to do on their own. You are going to complete restore, renew, and reform them, from the inside out. You will reconcile them to Yourself and make them a people after Your own heart. Amen

Light in the Darkness.

2 Kings 21-22, Ephesians 1

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left. – 2 Kings 22:2 ESV

There is a depressing pattern in the book of 2 Kings. Repeatedly we read the words, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 21:2 ESV). It seems that each successive king was predisposed to take the evil committed by his predecessor to an all-new low. The reigns of these men were marked by continued idolatry, rampant unfaithfulness, and a wholesale abandonment of the ways of God. Manasseh could have been the poster boy for poor leadership. He rebuilt the high places that his father had destroyed. He erected altars to Baal and Asherah poles. He even built altars to idols in the temple itself and sacrificed his own son as an offering to a false god. Manasseh led the people “to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9 ESV). And Manasseh was followed by his son, Amon, who proved to be just as wicked and rebellious. His reign would last only two years, and end with his murder at the hands of his own servants. But in the midst of all this darkness, a feint glimmer of light appeared in the form of Josiah, the son of Amon. It is as if God allows us to see that all is not lost. Not everyone has turned their back on Him. His people are not a completely lost cause. Amazingly, in spite of a heritage of wickedness and a family history of idolatry, Josiah manages to maintain a right relationship with God. Early in his reign, we see a marked difference in his leadership style. Rather than build high places and erect altars to false gods, Josiah begins an aggressive restoration campaign, beginning with the much-neglected temple. In the midst of the repairs, a copy of the Book of the Law is found. More than likely, this is referring to the book of Deuteronomy and its recovery was to have a significant impact on the life of Josiah.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Regardless of the efforts of a long line of kings to eliminate or simply dilute the worship of God, He continued to have an influence over their lives. While Manasseh was busy erecting idols to false gods in the temple, God had not forgotten His promise: “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever” (2 Kings 21:7 ESV). God had not yet abandoned His people. In spite of all their sin against Him, He had remained in their midst. He had remained faithful even though they had refused to keep His commands or live according to His laws. But the day was coming when God would no longer put up with Israel's unfaithfulness. He warned Mannaseh, “I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle” (2 Kings 21:12 ESV). “I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies” (2 Kings 21:14 ESV). God would not tolerate their rebellion forever. It was a matter of the holiness of His own name. It was about His own reputation. God had placed His name on the city of Jerusalem and the temple itself. The one thing that set the people of Israel apart from all the other nations was the name of God – His reputation among the nations as revealed by His abiding presence and power among the Israelites. Rather than live for God and honor His name, the people of Israel had repeatedly discredited His name by their sinful actions. They had harmed His reputation by their immoral behavior. And the day was quickly approaching when God would say, “Enough is enough!”

What does this passage reveal about man?

But Josiah shows us that their is always hope. The darkness can never fully eliminate the light. This one man reminds us that repentance and restoration are always possible. But it requires a return to God. It necessitates a readiness to listen to the Word of God and a willingness to obey what it says. When Josiah heard the words of the book of Deuteronomy, he was was convicted. He became painfully aware of the sinfulness of the people of Israel and recognized that “great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13 ESV). But Josiah is not merely convicted, he is convinced to do something about it. He doesn't just mourn their sin, he plans to make a difference. And while God makes it clear that His wrath is coming, He assures Josiah that he will not live to see the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. He tells Josiah, “because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I have also heard you” (2 Kings 22:19 ESV). God told Josiah, “your eyes shall not see all the disaster I will bring upon this place” (2 Kings 22:20 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Even though Josiah knew that his efforts would not prevent God's coming destruction, he would still enact a series of reforms among the people of Israel. He would still attempt to make a difference and restore the reputation of God. When the book of Deuteronomy had been read to Josiah, he not heard the warnings of God's curses and coming wrath, he heard of God's promise of restoration. In the latter part of Deuteronomy, it states, “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God has driven you, and return to the Lord your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you” (Deuteronomy 30:1-3 ESV). The fate of Israel was sealed. Their unfaithfulness was going to bring God's judgment. But God had promised that if they would only return to Him, He would restore them. Josiah had hope that his efforts at reformation might lead to their future restoration. He wanted to make sure that the people of Israel did not forget the Lord their God. He was going to do whatever it took to bring the light of God back among His people. Josiah had heard the Word of the Lord, and he wanted his people to live according to it. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV). We too, have been called by God to be His chosen people. He has called us to live holy and blameless lives in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us. We are to bear His name as His children and uphold His reputation among the nations. We must recognize our distinctiveness as His heirs and live in such a way that He receives glory and honor by our actions. Like Josiah, we must constantly seek to restore our faith in God and allow Him to reform our behavior as we live according to His Word. As His Church, we are to shine as lights in the darkness, proving that the power and presence of God is real, and that His saving work is not yet done among men.

Father, I want to be a light for Your glory as I live in the darkness of this world. Don't let me give in to the darkness and be overwhelmed by it, but allow me to shine brightly for Your sake and the reputation of Your name. You are far from done yet. Your divine plan is not yet fulfilled for this nation. May we continue to act as reformers and restorers for as long as You give us energy to do so. Amen

The Power of Pride.

2 Kings 19-20, Galatians 6

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. – Galatians 6:3 ESV

Pride is a powerful force that can lead a man to great heights. But it can also end in tragedy and destruction. Our own success can be like a powerful drug that causes us to think we are indestructible, unstoppable, and the ultimate determiner of our own destiny. Sennacharib, the King of Assyria had a serious pride problem. He was powerful, successful, and a formidable force in the world in which he lived. He had conquered many nations. He ruled over a powerful nation and led a great army that had won victories over all their enemies. Sennacharib's pride had resulted in a god-sized ego that led him to believe in his own sovereignty and invincibility. He viewed his victories over all the nations the Assyrians had conquered as personal triumphs over their gods. Now the God of Judah was standing in his way, and he taunted King Hezekiah by saying, “Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 19:10 ESV). As far as Sennacharib was concerned, Judah was just another bump in the road to his ultimate conquest of the world. But as the proverb says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV). Sennacharib had a hard lesson to learn concerning pride and humility. He had underestimated God and over-valued his own self-worth. In his eyes, he was a self-made man who was in complete control of his own destiny.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Hezekiah, in response to Sennacharib's boastful demands for the surrender of Jerusalem, turned to God. He appealed to “the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim” (2 Kings 19:15 ESV). He acknowledged God as the one true God and the creator of all things. He asked God to hear his plea, see their plight and intervene on their behalf. He recognized that Sennacharib had defeated the gods of all the other nations, but “they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone” (2 Kings 19:18 ESV). Hezekiah's God was different. He was a living, powerful, sovereign God who had made all things, including Sennacharib. And Hezekiah's God heard his prayer. He responded with a powerful indictment of Sennacharib's pride and a sobering reminder of His own divine power. While Sennacharib may have envisioned himself as the cause of his own success, God reminded him that nothing could have been further from the truth. God asks, “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass?” (2 Kings 19:25 ESV). Sennacharib's great victories were God's doing. He was in complete control, orchestrating the affairs of men in order to accomplish His divine will. The Assyrians were instruments in God's hands to bring about His sovereign will in the world. Sennacharib was about to learn the hard way that pride does come before destruction. That very night the angel of God would strike down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians, causing Sennacharib to abandon his siege and return home, where he would be murdered by his own sons. This miraculous turn of events should have been a wake-up call to King Hezekiah that his God was in complete control. He should have recognized that his future and fate were in God's hands. The humiliation of Sennacharib should have resulted in a humble spirit for Hezekiah. But instead, he develops his own pride problem.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Hezekiah was a good king who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 8:3 ESV), “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Kings 18:5 ESV), and “held fast to the Lord” (2 Kings 18:6 ESV). When faced with the armies of Assyria, he had turned to God for help. He had seen God miraculously deliver Judah from the hands of their enemy without a single arrow having been shot or a solitary spear having been thrown. And when he had become deathly ill and given a less-than-ideal prognosis from the prophet Isaiah, he had turned to God again. God restored him to health and promised him 15 more years of life. Not only that, God promised to defend the city of Jerusalem and deliver it from the hand of the king of Assyria. But sadly, Hezekiah's response was one of pride. He became cocky and self-confident. He developed an attitude of indestructibility and invulnerability. When envoys from the king of Babylon showed up on his doorstep, Hezekiah took them on a whirlwind tour of Jerusalem, showing them “all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (2 Kings 20:13 ESV). Hezekiah showed off. He wanted to impress his guests with a show of superiority, power and success. He wanted to awe them with a display of his own splendor. But Isaiah the prophet was to be the bearer of bad news. He was to remind Hezekiah that pride comes before destruction. “Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 20:17-18 ESV). Isaiah prophesies the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the people of God into Babylon. Yet, blinded by his own pride and drugged by his own self-centered perspective, Hezekiah responded, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19 ESV). He didn't care what happened in the future. He wasn't interested in the long-term ramifications of his behavior. He was consumed with self and solely interested in his own well-being.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It was James who wrote, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:6 ESV). God's grace is available to those who have learned to humble themselves under His sovereign hand. He extends His amazing grace, His unbelievable favor and mercy, to those who understand that they don't deserve it. But the prideful don't receive God's grace. Sennacharib is a perfect example of this truth. His pride resulted in his own death. Hezekiah's pride would result in the destruction and fall of Jerusalem. He would enjoy peace and security during his lifetime, but he would die knowing that the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah would eventually fall to the armies of the very envoys he had so desperately tried to impress. At the end of the day, we must all come to grips with God's sovereignty and our own insignificance. Our response to His greatness should be a growing sense of humility. We are nothing compared to Him. We are nothing without Him. Our greatest successes are His doing, not His own. Our petty plans are ridiculous when compared with His divine will. Supposedly, it was Woody Allen who said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Hezekiah was right when he said, “You are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15 ESV). But later in life, as he became increasingly more obsessed with his own significance and concerned with his own peace and security, he somehow forgot the fact that God was in control. His petty plans for a safe and secure life took precedence over God's divine will concerning the people of Judah and the glory of His own name. Pride warped Hezekiah's perspective and the same can happen to me today.

Father, pride is a powerful force in my own life. I struggle with it daily. I can become so absorbed with my own significance. I want to think that I somehow have control over my life and can impact my own destiny. But help me to see that the safest place for me to be is humbly submitted to Your sovereign will and willingly resigned to Your gracious plan for my life. You alone are God. You alone know what is best. Amen

Trust in God.

2 Kings 17-18, Galatians 5

On what do you rest this trust of yours? – 2 Kings 18:19 ESV

When everything seems to be falling apart around you, where do you place your trust? Where do turn to for help and hope? It is in the darkest moments of our lives that we truly discover where our trust really lies. And it is in those moments that the enemy surrounds us and taunts us to give up. He tries to cause us to despair and dismiss any notion we may have of rescue by the hand of God as ill-placed and unfounded. Hezekiah, the king of Judah, found himself facing just such a circumstance. The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen, with the people of Israel having been taken captive and exiled to the land of Assyria. Now King Sennacharib's armies stood outside the walls of Jerusalem demanding that the nation of Judah surrender. King Hezekiah was a good king who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done” (2 Kings 18:3 ESV). “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, not among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord” (2 Kings 18:5-6 ESV). Hezekiah enjoyed the favor of God and his reign was marked by success. But the day came when the enemy came against him. The same mighty army of Assyria that had defeated Israel was not outside his walls demanding tribute. Hezekiahttp://www.ccbcfamily.org/wp-admin/post-new.phph would respond by ransacking the temple, even stripping the gold from the doors, in an attempt to appease Sennacharib and buy himself some time. But the Assyrians were not satisfied. They wanted surrender. So Sennacharib sent emissaries to demand the complete capitulation of Judah. Their message to the people of Judah has a familiar ring to it. It is the same one we hear whispered in our ears by the enemy as we face the dark moments of our own lives.

“Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.” Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’” (2 Kings 18:29-35 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

It's that old familiar refrain: Will God really deliver you? Hezekiah's enemy taunted him and mocked him, even speaking directly to the people, demanding that they look at their circumstances realistically. Had any other nation's gods been able to stop the army of Assyria. Hadn't they seen what had happened to their brothers in Israel? What chance did they have against the power of King Sennacharib? Their fate was sealed. The outcome was obvious. The best thing to do was surrender and make peace with the enemy. They even promised “a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die” (2 Kings 18:32 ESV). All they had to do was refuse to trust God and make peace with the enemy, and their lives would be dramatically better off, their circumstances would dramatically improve overnight. But chapter 18 starts off with the reminder that Hezekiah trusted God. He held fast to the Lord. Now that trust was being tested. His grip on God was going to be strained as the forces of evil pulled against him, attempting to let go and give in to what appeared to be the inevitable. The enemy was taunting Hezekiah. Now he had to make a decision as to what he would do. How would he respond? The circumstances could not have been any worse. The situation facing Hezekiah could not have been bleaker. But his God had not changed. His source of strength and power had not left him. God was still in control. He was still present, even though things looked dark and desperate.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Hezekiah was a rare breed in those days. He was a king of Judah who actually loved and obeyed his God. He was faithful and obedient. He was God-fearing and law-abiding. But he still had enemies. He still had to face difficult circumstances. Hezekiah still had to fight against the likes of the Assyrians and the Philistines. He had to sit back and watch as the Assyrians besieged Samaria for three years and then finally defeated the nation of Israel, sending the people of God into permanent exile. He had to wonder about his own fate. He knew the people of Judah had a long history of unfaithfulness and disobedience to God. He was well aware that of their track record of idolatry and spiritual infidelity. There was the constant temptation to take matters into his own hands and solve his problems his own way. There was always the option to turn to another nation like Egypt for help. Even the Assyrians knew about this potential plan B, and warned Hezekiah, “Behold, you are trusting now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him” (2 Kings 18:21 ESV). There will always be seemingly viable options to whatever predicament we face. But the real test is whether or not we will trust God. Even Hezekiah panicked and turned to the treasury of the temple to provide him with a solution to his problem. Rather than trust the God who dwelt in the temple, he turned to the gold and silver that adorned the temple. But at the end of the day, the question remained the same, “On what do you rest this trust of yours?” Hezekiah was going to have to make a choice. He was going to have to trust in God or place his trust in something or someone else. Or he was going to have to listen to the lies of the enemy and assume that he would be better off giving up than holding on to God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

This scenario goes on regularly in the life of every believer. Our situation may not be as dark and foreboding, but the reality is that every one of us faces times in which we have to decide “On what do you rest this trust of yours?” Paul reminds us that it is at those times a battle rages inside us. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17 ESV). In times of difficulty, the Spirit will speak to our hearts, reminding us of the love, power and abiding presence of God. He will attempt to restore our faith in God and fill us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But our flesh will rise up inside us, causing us to doubt the goodness and greatness of God. Our sin nature will speak to us much as the emissaries of Sennacharib did, tempting us to doubt God's faithfulness. But if we listen to our flesh, the results will always be devastatingly destructive. Paul tells us, “the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions,envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV). If we let our sin nature make our decisions for us, we will place our trust in the wrong thing. We will lose our grip on God and miss out on an opportunity to watch Him work in our lives. Hezekiah was faced with a choice. Perhaps you are faced with a similar choice today. Maybe you need to ask yourself the question, “On what do you rest this trust of yours?” Is your God big enough? Is your grip on Him tight enough? Is your trust in Him solid enough? The problem lies not with God, but with us.

Father, I want to trust You more. You have never given me a reason NOT to trust You. The fact that I sometimes face difficult situations is not an indication of Your weakness or absence in my life. You are there. You're always there. My circumstances are simply opportunities to watch You work and to test the strength of my trust in You. May I always be able to answer the question, “On what do you rest this trust of yours?” with the simple words, “My God!”åç Amen

Elementary Principles of the World.

2 Kings 15-16, Galatians 4

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? – Galatians 4:9 ESV

For most of us, the term, “back to basics” has a positive connotation. It carries the idea of getting back to the bare essentials, of simplifying our lives and eliminating anything unnecessary or extraneous. But in the verse above, Paul speaks of a return to the basics that is dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. He accused the Galatian believers of returning to their pagan roots. While they had been set free from their worship of false gods by placing their faith in Jesus Christ, they were once again embracing “the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:9 ESV). Paul reminds them that, before coming to faith in Christ, they were like children, “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” (Galatians 4:3 ESV). But they had been set free from having to live as slaves to the false concepts and empty hopes of their pagan religions. They were no longer to live like they used to live, placing their hopes in rituals and religious rights and regulations. And they were to avoid listening to the claims of the Judaizers, who were claiming that they must adhere to the Jewish laws and religious customs in order to truly be saved. In other words, Paul was warning them that going back to basics was to be avoided at all costs. The elementary principles of the world teach us that redemption is up to man. They would convince us that we play the primary role in our own salvation. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that the eating of the forbidden fruit would open their eyes and make them like God, providing them with a knowledge of good and evil. So the world would convince us that we must take matters into our own hands and do whatever we must do to become like God. We must earn our salvation through our effort and appease God with our ability to keep the elementary principles of this world.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had given the people of Israel a set of laws to follow, not to see if they could do it, but to reveal to them just how holy and righteous He was and just how sinful they were. The sacrificial system was designed to provide sinful man with a means for receiving forgiveness from God and returning to a right relationship with Him – in spite of their continued disobedience and failure to keep His law. The sacrificial system kept the people of God dependent upon Him for their spiritual and physical well-being. God not only gave the law, He gave the sacrificial system. He not only revealed His expectation, He provided a means of expiation or redemption. The law would condemn them as guilty. The sacrificial system would cleanse them and declare them righteous. Man's inability to keep the law was envisioned by God and solved by the regular shedding of innocent blood through the sacrificial system. But this was all designed to be a temporary foreshadowing of something yet to come. The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure’” (Hebrews 10:4-6 ESV). The sacrificial system could never remove sin completely, it could only cover it over. That “elementary principle” was temporary and incomplete. It was a stop-gap measure until “the fulness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4 ESV). Then “God sent forth his son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the way, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 ESV). Under the old covenant, the high priest had to enter the temple year after year, offering repeated sacrifices as a payment for the ongoing sins of men. But Jesus' death was a once-and-for-all-time payment, never to be repeated. “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26 ESV). His sacrifice was sufficient to forgive all our sins and provide us with a permanent status as righteous before God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But for whatever reason, this “good news” just sounds too good to be true for many of us. We continue to believe that there is more that we must do. So we find ourselves falling back on the weak and worthless elementary principles of this world. We listen to the counsel of the enemy and convince ourselves that there is more that we must do to get right with God. And in doing so, we devalue God's precious gift of His Son. We attempt to add to what God has already offered, essentially declaring that Jesus' death was insufficient. It's interesting to note that the Israelites regularly added to God's established sacrificial system, incorporating the practices of the pagan religious around them. In 2 Kings 16, we read of Ahaz, king of Judah, who made an alliance with the nation of Assyria. He traveled to the capital of Assyria and brought back copies of their pagan altar, commanding Uriah the priest to build a replica in Jerusalem. In doing so, he dramatically altered God's plan for the sacrificial system. He desecrated the temple of God, re-purposing the temple furnishings and creating his own sacrificial system. In essence, he came up with his own way for getting right with God. He established his own plan of redemption. God's way was not enough for him. God's sacrificial system was not good enough. Ahaz listened to the weak and worthless elementary principles of this world, and violated the revealed will of God.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul would ask us, “how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Galatians 4:9 ESV). Why would we want to go back to a system of rules and regulations based on man's effort, when we have been given a right standing with God based on the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ? I cannot earn a right standing before God through my own efforts. I cannot please God through sheer will power or any attempts at behavior modification. My right standing with Him is based solely on what Jesus Christ accomplished for me on the cross. His sacrificial death has made me right with God. I do not have to maintain my right standing through human effort. I do not have to earn favor with God through good behavior. Those are nothing more than the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world. They may sound logical and make all the sense in the world from a human perspective. But they are false and enslaving. They rob of us of joy. They enslave us rather than set us free. But Jesus Christ has set us free from sin and death. He has freed us from the trap of human effort and any need for self-made righteousness. The world offers basic principles. God has provided redemption through His Son. One enslaves. The other sets free. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 ESV).

Father, forgive me for attempting to add to what You have already done. I am so easily swayed by the elementary principles of this world. It is so tempting to see my self-effort as somehow essential to my ongoing salvation and sanctification. But I must remember that my right standing with You and my transformation into the likeness of Your Son are both up to You – not me. I can no more sanctify myself than I could have saved myself. I am completely dependent upon You. And that is the only principle I need to understand. Amen

In Need Of A Savior.

2 Kings 13-14, Galatians 3

Then Jehoahaz sought the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him, for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed them. (Therefore the Lord gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly. – 2 Kings 13:4-5 ESV

One of humanity's greatest shortcomings has been its inability to recognize its need for a savior. There is no doubt that men have always sensed their need for salvation – from war, poverty, oppression, disease, defeat, and even death. But the problem has always been that that men tend to seek salvation from all the wrong sources. Rather than turn to God, men have turned to themselves, false gods, military might, and a host of human saviors offering deliverance from whatever problems were facing them. But God never meant for mankind to seek or find salvation from any source other than Him. Yet He has allowed us to repeatedly discover just how unreliable our pseudo-saviors really are by permitting mankind to seek salvation in anything and everyone other than Him. Even God's people were guilty of turning to sources other than God for help in time of need. Yet, when things got bleak and their false saviors failed to deliver, the people of God tended to turn their attention back to God. In the 13th chapter of 2 Kings, we read of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, faced with the unrelenting oppression of Syria, who finally turned to God for help. He “sought the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him” (2 Kings 13:4 ESV). God saw their oppression and “gave Israel a savior so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians” (2 Kings 13:5 ESV). God didn't do this because they deserved it. He didn't save them because they were worthy of salvation. In fact, we're told that Jehoahaz “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 13:2 ESV). And in spite of God's salvation, the people of Israel “did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained in Samaria” (2 Kings 13:6 ESV). God's salvation was not conditional. It was not based on their behavior or merit, but was an expression of His mercy, grace and compassion. It was in fulfillment of His covenant promises to Abraham and David. “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now” (2 Kings 13:23 ESV).

What does this passage reveal about God?

God is gracious, loving, compassionate and faithful. In the face of man's idolatry, spiritual adultery, and persistent unfaithfulness, He continued to show undeserved mercy and grace. That God would provide a “savior” for the people of Israel after all they had done is amazing. Over and over we read of the sinfulness of God's chosen people. Each successive king did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. On rare occasions, we read of the isolated example Amaziah, who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:3 ESV), but his obedience was incomplete and impartial. Nothing really changed. Yet God never fully abandoned His people. He continued to love them, watch over them, and protect them. Even when He eventually sent them into exile for their sinfulness, He never took His hands off of them. He ended up returning them to the land of promise, despite all they had done to rebel against Him. When we read of the history of God's people, it provides us with a backdrop against which to view the amazing grace and mercy presented in the Gospels. The coming of the ultimate Savior of Israel stands in stark contrast to the sinfulness and rebellion of the people of God. John 3:16 reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Elsewhere, Paul writes, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). Even thought Israel so often failed to turn to God for their salvation, God was always there, ready to provide it. And while men have consistently and stubbornly refused to seek God for their salvation from sin and death, God has so graciously continued to offer it to those who would believe.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has an innate need to try and save himself, or at least to determine who his savior might be. The Israelites were guilty of turning to false gods for help. They even turned to other nations, like Egypt, to bail them out of their difficulties. Sometimes they turned to representations of God, like the Ark or the Temple, to find security and salvation. But God has always wanted men to turn to Him in times of need, and the crux of the issue is just that… NEED. We must see our need for God. We must recognize our desperate need for salvation. That was the whole reason God gave the Israelites the law. It was a God-given, written code of conduct that clearly articulated God's moral standard for living. And it was non-negotiable. The law required perfect and complete obedience. It was not enough to obey partially. Perfection was the criteria for success, and no man could measure up. “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Galatians 3:22 ESV). The law was holy and good because it was given by God. It was an accurate depiction of God's righteous standard for holy conduct, but the problem was that no man was capable of living up to that standard because of the presence and power of sin. God's law revealed just how sinful man really was. When Jesus came to earth, He offered an invitation to the Jewish people. He stated, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV). He was speaking to a people worn out and burdened down a lifetime of attempting to keep the law. They were weary. They were laboring under the sheer weight of the law's righteous expectations. But Jesus offered them rest. He offered salvation. All they had to do was admit their own sinfulness and their incapacity to save themselves, and believe in Him.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Man has never been able to earn a right standing with God. Our own sinfulness makes it impossible. God's holiness and righteousness requires that man be sinless and righteous in order to stand in His presence. And while we might convince ourselves that something or someone else might save us from our predicament, it is not until we admit our weakness and sinfulness that we will realize our salvation comes from only one source: Jesus Christ. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ESV). We can't earn our salvation. No one else can provide it for us. We must place our faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ alone. He alone can save. He alone can make us right with God. He alone can provide us with the righteousness we need to stand before God as holy, sinless and fully acceptable in His sight. “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4 ESV).

Father, thank You for the reality of salvation made possible through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank You for doing for me what I could never have done for myself. Now help me to realize that this new life You have saved me to live, is only possible through the power of Your Spirit. I am no more able to live righteously on my own than I was able to save myself from sin. Make me ever more dependent upon You for my daily salvation from sin and self. Amen

Partial Restoration.

2 Kings 11-12, Galatians 2

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:19-20 ESV

Every now and then, we get a feint glimmer of light shining in the darkness that seems to characterize the histories of Judah and Israel. The house of Ahab, the wickedness of Jezebel, and the ongoing dynasty of godless kings is occasionally broken by a single individual who provides a small degree of hope that things might change – that reformation and repentance might come to the people of God. But these moments of spiritual change and national restoration are short-lived and woefully incomplete. In the midst of all the murder, insurrection, and royal intrigue going on in these chapters, we are introduced to the story of Joash, a young boy who had to be hidden from his own grandmother in order to prevent her from killing him along with his siblings. Athaliah, the mother of King Ahaziah, upon learning of her son's murder, decides to make herself the queen of Judah. To secure her reign, she has all the royal family murdered, but her grandson, Joash, is secreted away by the chief priest and hidden in the temple for six years. At the age of seven, he is crowned the king of Judah and given the responsibility to lead the people of God and attempt to restore them to a right relationship with Him. His reign starts off well, as they renew their covenant with God. They even “went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars” (2 Kings 11:18 ESV). Joash would reign over Judah for 40 years, and, for the most part, he would prove to be a good king who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Jehoiada, the chief priest, proved to be a worthy mentor. “Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places” (2 Kings 12:3 ESV). The temple, long neglected during the years when the people were worshiping Baal, was in desperate need of repairs. Funds had been set aside for that purpose, but after 23 long years, the priests had failed to spend a single cent on the repair of the temple. As a result, Joash had to intervene and give the money directly to the workers just to ensure that the work was done.

What does this passage reveal about God?

In chapters 11 and 12, there is no direct mention of God's divine interaction in the events that took place. While we know He is sovereign and in control of all situations, it is interesting to note His perceived silence in all that goes on during the 40-year reign of Joash. Jehoiada, the priest, “made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord's people, and also between the king and the people” (2 Kings 11:17 ESV), but we do not hear anything from God Himself. The efforts of the people to destroy the house of Baal and eliminate the worship of this false god from their midst was admirable, but it appears to have been nothing more than an outward display of faithfulness. Their hearts were still not wholly dedicated to God. They continued to worship false gods and treat the one true God with contempt. As a result, God would allow the Syrians to besiege Jerusalem, prompting King Joash to raid the treasury of the temple and use the sacred gifts to pay off King Hazael. Rather than turn to God for help, they relied on the gifts that had been dedicated to God to buy their protection and safety. Unlike the great king, Solomon, Joash knows no peace during his reign. He is powerless against his enemies and seems to have no hope that God will intervene on his behalf. From what we know of God, He stood ready to help His people at any time, but He required that they return to Him and obey Him faithfully and completely. As long as they worshiped other gods they would find Him distant and unwilling to act on their behalf. Their attempts at reformation would prove inadequate and their redemption and restoration would be incomplete. Joash himself would end up murdered by his own servants.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The apostle Paul reminds us that self-reformation never measures up. It is impossible for man to redeem or reform himself. Joash put in a noble effort, but all his reforms proved inadequate. Regardless of the covenant he and the people made, they would find it impossible to remain faithful to their promises. Like all those who had come before them, they just couldn't muster up the energy to keep their end of the covenant they had made with God. Paul writes, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16 ESV). The Old Testament continually reveals man's incapacity to live in obedience to God's commands. Even the good intentions of some of the best people always fell short. Joash meant well, but he could not reform the nation or restore the people of Judah to a right relationship with God. Neither he or they had it in them. But Paul realized that it was through the law that he discovered his true nature as a transgressor of the law. His efforts to attempt to keep the law only revealed his incapacity to do so. Self reform was never going to accomplish what he needed. Any attempt by man to redeem or reform himself will always fail. Which is why God sent His Son to accomplish what no other man had been able to do. Paul makes it clear that if “righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Galatians 2:21 ESV). If man could reform himself, Jesus never would have had to come and would have never needed to die. But He did.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

My attempt to live the godly life does come from my own self-effort. It comes from Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV). I cannot reform myself. I cannot change myself. I must rely on the grace of God and the power made possible through the indwelling Spirit of God. I must recognize that any reformation on my life is made possible by Christ's death, His righteousness and God's power. I must regularly remind myself that God not only saved me, He must sanctify and change me. I must regularly rely on His strength to do the impossible in my life. Like Joash, I will find myself confronted by the enemies of God, but I must trust in Him to deliver me. I must not attempt to bargain with the enemy or try to buy him off. God wants to give me complete victory over the enemy and reveal His power in my life. But I must continually realize my need for and dependence upon Him.

Father, self reform has never worked for me. Yet I keep trying to do it on my own. Help me to learn the invaluable lesson that the spiritual reformation of my life is a work of the Spirit accomplished through Your power. I must turn to You. I must rely on You. I must acknowledge my own human weakness and rely on Your divine power. Amen

Divinely Appointed.

2 Kings 9-10, Galatians 1

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a ‘servant’ of Christ. – Galatians 1:10 ESV

God had prophesied that He would completely destroy the house of Ahab, the former king of Israel. He had sworn to not only kill Ahab himself, but to “cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel” (1 Kings 21:21 ESV). God was not going to leave a single descendant of Ahab alive. He was also going to bring judgment against Jezebel, the queen, for all her wickedness and her worship of Baal. Her life would end in a gruesome manner. “The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel” (1 Kings 21:24 ESV). But a lot of time had passed since these dire words had been spoken on God's behalf, and Ahab's descendants were all doing fine and well. His son, Joram, was reigning over Israel and continuing in the sins of his father. Joram's mother, Jezebel, was still alive and well, worshiping her false gods and having a negative influence over her son and his kingdom. But God was not done. He would fulfill what He had promised. But He was going to do it through a man. God would appoint a human to accomplish His divine will. God could have easily eliminated Jezebel and all the descendants of Ahab on His own, but He chose to accomplish His will through the means of a man. He handpicked Jehu as His divine instrument of judgment, and Jehu would prove to be zealous in his efforts to eradicate every remnant of Ahab's household from the face of the earth.

What does this passage reveal about God?

What God says He will do, He does. He may delay. He may appear to have forgotten. It may even seem as if He has changed His mind. But God always fulfills His prophecies and promises. For those who remain faithful to Him, like Elisha, it can sometimes be frustrating and confusing to watch from the sidelines and watch as His divine word goes unfulfilled. Elisha had to have wondered when God was going to do something about Ahab and Jezebel. He had to question whether God was going to ever fulfill His divine judgment against the house of Ahab. Baal worship continued to thrive in Israel. Jezebel continued to wield her evil influence and bask in her role as the queen mother. Joram, the son of Ahab, still ruled over Israel, continuing the sins of his father. But God was not done. He had not forgotten. He was well aware of what was going on and He had a plan for accomplishing His divine will. So when the timing was just right, God chose Jehu. He raised up just the right man for the task. Jehu was not a godly or righteous man. But he was zealous and he was thorough. He was a warrior who was not afraid to get his hands dirty, which was going to be important, because the job God had for him was going to be gruesome and grim. He was going to act as God's hand of judgment against the house of Ahab, and so he was going to have to be thorough and unrelenting in his mission.

What does this passage reveal about man?

From the moment he was chosen by God, Jehu seemed to have taken his assignment seriously. He immediately assassinated Joram, king of Israel, and Ahaziah, the king of Judah. He then rounded up the 70 sons of Ahab and had them executed. But he wasn't done. He then wiped out all the prophets of Baal and everyone who worshiped this false god with them. Finally, he destroyed the temple of Baal and turned it into a latrine. Jehu was thorough and complete in his efforts to carry out God's judgment. He was just the right man for the task. But he was far from God's man. The writer of the book of Kings tells us, “But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son Nebar, which he made Israel to sin – that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and Dan” (2 Kings 10:29 ESV). He destroyed all the remnants of Baal worship, but continued to bow down to the false gods that Jeroboam had made. Rather than worship the one true God in the right way, he worshiped a false representation of God in the wrong way. His was a counterfeit faith. Jeroboam had erected the golden calves in order to keep the people of Israel from returning to Jerusalem to worship God. He had made a counterfeit version to replace God's divine plan for men to receive forgiveness for sins. He made his own gods, his own temples, and his own priesthood. “But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10:31 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God can and does use men to accomplish His divine will. Sometimes those men are not always godly men. They are not always faithful men. God used Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, to bring about His divine judgment on Judah. He used the king of Assyria to bring judgment on Israel. God is able to use any and all men to accomplish His will and bring about His plan for mankind. But His desire would be that those who call themselves by His name, would follow Him faithfully and obey Him fully. Jehu had been appointed by God to bring judgment against the house of Ahab, and he performed his task admirably and completely. But God would have preferred that Jehu lead the people back to worship of Him as the one true God. Jehu's decision to persist on worshiping Jeroboam's false representations for God would lead to the eventual downfall of Israel.

In Paul's day, there was a constant threat to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It involved those who wanted to add to the good news of Jesus Christ by requiring Gentile believers to convert to Judaism and keep the laws and rituals associated with it, including the rite of circumcision. Paul called this “a different gospel.” He saw it as a distortion of the truth and labeled it “a gospel contrary to the one we preached” (Galatians 1:8 ESV). He stood so opposed to this false gospel, that he wrote, “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8 ESV). Paul viewed himself as an instrument in the hand of God, bringing His message of salvation and redemption through Christ to the people of his day. He was not preaching a man-made religion or some kind of human version of the truth. The gospel he preached had been given to him by divine revelation. He had received it directly from Jesus Christ Himself, and he was going to faithfully communicate that truth to everyone he met. Just as the Israelites had received the word of God on Mount Sinai, Paul had received a personal revelation from God. But unlike the Israelites, Paul was unwilling to alter that word one iota. Paul had been set apart by God. He had been called by God's grace. God had been pleased to reveal His Son to him. So Paul, like Jehu, took his divine appointment seriously and he accomplished it faithfully. Both were used by God. But the difference between these two men is stark. Paul remained true to His God and refused to accept any false version of the truth. He would not tolerate “a different gospel” or a variation of the truth. He was a defender of the gospel and a proclaimer of the word of God. He took His role seriously and accomplished it faithfully – refusing to fear men or seek their approval.

Father, I want to be an instrument in Your divine hands, faithfully accomplishing Your will and carrying out Your plan. I want to be used by You. But like Paul, I want to proclaim Your truth, not some man-made variation of it. I want to be faithful to Your calling on my life. Unlike Jehu, I don't want to do Your will partially or incompletely. I don't want to try and please men or worry about what they think of me. Rather, I want to be a faithful servant of Yours, carrying out whatever task you have for me . Amen

Seeing Isn't Always Believing.

2 Kings 7-8, 2 Corinthians 13

Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” – 2 Kings 7:2 ESV

Doubting God is almost a national pastime for many believers. We regularly hear the Word of God preached and taught, and we hear repeated messages regarding His power and faithfulness. But we still refuse to believe that what God says is true and that what the Bible teaches us about God can be trusted; especially in times of difficulty. When we are suffering, it is difficult to believe that God can and will deliver us. We can easily begin to doubt His Word and question His ability to intervene on our behalf. In 2 King 6 we read about the siege of Samaria by the Syrian army. They have the capital city of Israel surrounded and, to make matters even worse, there was a severe famine in the land. Things had gotten so bad that the people within the walls of Samaria had resorted to eating their own children. The king of Israel had lost all hope and gone into a permanent state of mourning. He wore sackcloth under his clothes and felt powerless to do anything to remedy the situation. He recognized their trouble as coming from God and didn't believe that God was going to help them in any way. He had come to the point of saying, “Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” (2 Kings 6:33 ESV). But the king was not alone in his pessimism. Others had begun to doubt God as well. Their dire circumstances had caused them to lose hope.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But even in the midst of the extreme difficulties that Israel was experiencing, God was there. In spite of their open rebellion and years of unfaithfulness to Him, God had not given up on them. God, speaking through His prophet, Elisha, told them, “Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria” (2 Kings 7:1 ESV). This news was met with skepticism and doubt. What Elisha was telling them was unbelievable, even ridiculous. For years, food had become so scarce in Samaria, that “a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver” (2 Kings 6:25 ESV). Now Elisha was telling them that all that was going to change – overnight. As bad as their circumstances had become, God was telling them that He had the capacity to change those circumstances – immediately. He had the power to remedy their problem and could do so in no time at all. Their condition was going to go from famine to plenty in less than a 24-hour period.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But many doubted Elisha's words. They just couldn't trust what he was telling them about God. Their circumstances overwhelmed their capacity to trust God and take Him at His word. The king's captain put their doubts into words. “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” (2 Kings 7:2 ESV). This man expressed what everyone else was thinking. He could see no way for God to intervene and change their circumstances overnight. There is a certain degree of sarcasm in his statement to Elisha. It is as if he is saying, “Even if God could open up the windows of heaven and pour out resources from His heavenly storehouse, this couldn't happen.” It was impossible. He saw no way for their conditions to change. It would take a miracle from heaven. And he was right. Elisha told this man that he would see what God was going to do with his own eyes, but he would not get to benefit from it. God was going to work a miracle from heaven, but this man would not get to taste a single morsel of God's gracious provision. And the next morning, much to the surprise of everyone in Samaria, they woke up to find the Syrian camp deserted and all of the food and provisions left behind. “For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.’  So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives” (2 Kings 7:6-7 ESV). God had intervened. He had opened the windows of heaven and poured out a blessing, but in a way that was unexpected and unbelievable. He used the very enemies of Israel, who had come intent to destroy them, to bless them. Their conditions were radically changed. Suddenly, they had an abundance of food. So much so, that the prices for flour and barley plummeted overnight – just as God had said they would. But the king's captain was in for a surprise of his own. When the king discovered the good news regarding their situation, he appointed this very same man to oversee the gate through which the people would pass as the raided the Syrian camp and brought the new-found booty into the city of Samaria. Ironically, this man was trampled in the rush of people storming out of the gates to take advantage of God's blessing.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is also ironic that doubt should come so easy to those of us who call ourselves believers. We say we believe in God. We claim to believe that the Bible is the word of God. But we doubt what it says. We question God's ability to work miracles in our lives. We become focused on our conditions and fixate on what we believe to be the reality of our lives. But believing requires faith and faith requires action. It is not enough to say that you believe. You must put that faith to the test, by trusting in God's love and faithfulness to provide a solution to your need. You must also have faith that God has a purpose behind every circumstance in your life. I doubt that the people of Israel saw any benefit to having their city surrounded by Syrians. They could not have seen any good coming out of a severe famine. But what they needed to understand was that God was in control of all that was going on, and that He had a purpose for what was happening in their lives. He was going to use even these dire circumstances to reveal His power and provide for their needs. The famine was a result of their own sin and rebellion against Him. But had the Syrians never have invaded their land and surrounded their city, their suffering as a result of the famine would have continued. God didn't end the famine, He simply provided them with an unexpected source of good in the midst of it – from the hands of their enemies. The apostle Paul reminds me, “He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4 ESV). When the disciples watched Jesus die on the cross, they thought their hopes and dreams of a new kingdom had died along with Him. They couldn't understand why their Savior had to die. They couldn't fathom why their King had to be killed by the Romans. But it was all part of God's plan. He was in complete control. God would use the Romans, the enemies of the Jews, to accomplish His will and bring new life to the people of Israel. He would use death to bring about life. He would use weakness to accomplish His power. It's interesting to note that lowly lepers were the first to benefit from God's unexpected bounty that morning outside the walls of Samaria. In their desperation and need they risked everything in the hopes of receiving something that might sustain their lives. And they were rewarded with food and treasure beyond their wildest expectations. When we trust God and step out on faith, we too receive far more than we could ever imagine.

Father, forgive me for the many times I doubt You. Forgive me for the many times I express my belief in You, but fail to step out in faith and trust You to do what You have promised to do. I place way too much stock in my circumstances and not enough faith in Your power. I want to see and believe. I want to trust Your character and lean on Your promises. You can turn my enemies into a means for blessing me. You can turn even the darkest moment into an opportunity to see Your light shine and Your power revealed. You are faithful and good – all the time. Amen

Eyes Wide Open.

2 Kings 5-6, 2 Corinthians 12

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” – 2 Kings 6:15-16 ESV

Do you see God at work around you? Is His participation in the daily affairs of life apparent to you, or do you fail to recognize His involvement in what is happening in the world today. In the Old Testament, we see a God who was active and engaged in the lives of His people. He parted water, provided food from the sky, water from a rock, and unlikely victories over more powerful foes. He did this on a fairly regular basis, and yet the people of God continued to doubt His love and His capacity to do great deeds on their behalf. In the case of Elisha, he had witnessed God's handiwork in the life and ministry of his mentor and predecessor, Elijah. Elisha had enjoyed a first-row seat from which to witness the miracles of God. Now, in chapter six of 2 Kings, we see him passing along his understanding of and belief in God's power to one of his own servants.

What does this passage reveal about God?

As a prophet of God, Elisha tended to make a lot of enemies. He spoke on behalf of God, and a lot of his prophecies had to do with the kings of Israel. He sometimes had to say the difficult things that the wayward kings of Israel did not want to hear. But in this case, Elisha had actually been giving King Jehoram some warnings regarding the less-than-loving intentions of the king of Syria. It seems that every time the Syrians made plans to attack Israel, God would let Elisha know in advance so he could warn King Jehoram. Every time the king of Syria would plan a secret raid, the Israelites would find out. He was baffled and thought there must be a spy in his court or a traitor. But when he was informed that it was all because of Elijah, he sent a large army to capture the prophet of God. But God intervened again. Elisha was in the city of Dothan, and the king of Syria “sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city” (2 Kings 6:14 ESV). Things looked bleak. In fact, that next morning, the servant of Elisha woke up to a troubling sight. The city was completely surrounded by Syrian. In a panic, he asked Elisha, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:15 ESV). And Elisha simply responded, “Do not be afraid” (2 Kings 6:16 ESV). Elisha knew something about God that his servant had yet to learn. Rather than trust God, this young man was focusing on his circumstances and assuming the worst. How could they stand up against an entire army by themselves?

What does this passage reveal about man?

Elisha's servant was blind – not physically, but spiritually. So Elisha told him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16 ESV). The text doesn't tell us what the servant's thoughts were at hearing this statement from Elisha. It also does not give us his reaction. But because of what Elisha prayed, we can assume that this young man had a hard time understanding or putting into practice what his master was telling him to do. How could he NOT be afraid when surrounded by so many hostile enemies? He could see them with his own eyes. They were as clear as the nose on the end of his face. But Elisha knew that he was blind to another reality, so he prayed, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17 ESV). The problem wasn't what the man COULD see, but what he COULDN'T see. He was focused on the wrong reality. He could see the army of Syria, but not the army of God. “So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17 ESV). They had not been alone. The army of God was also there, but the young man had failed to see it. This had been a spiritual battle, not a physical one. It was just what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 6:12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It's interesting that the army of God did not attack the army of Syria. There was not a big, epic battle fought outside the city of Dothan that day. Instead, God struck the Syrian army with blindness. While the servant of Elisha could see, but somewhat imperfectly, God completely blinded the eyes of the enemy, and Elisha was able to single-handedly lead the entire Syrian army into Samaria, where there eyes were suddenly opened and they found themselves standing as captives before the King of Israel. Rather than have them slaughtered, God commanded Jehoram to feed them a great feast and then send them on their way. “And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel” (2 Kings 6:23 ESV). No shots were fired. No blood was spilled. But God brought about a great victory that day.

Over the 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul talks about boasting in his own weakness. Surprisingly, Paul took great pride in his weaknesses, not his strengths. He knew that God worked best through his own insufficiencies and weaknesses. God even allowed Paul to experience regular, ongoing attacks from the enemy, so that Paul might learn to trust in God. He was developing Paul's spiritual vision. God had even told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV). God was telling Paul that the circumstances of his life were not the criteria by which to judge God's power or presence. Paul was to see God even in his own weaknesses. Which is what led Paul to claim, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ hen, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV).

Father, I don't want to live my life with limited vision, only seeing what I believe to be is the reality of my life. I want to have spiritual eyesight that allows me to see You in the midst of anything and everything that happens in my life. I want to see Your power surrounding me at all times. You are always there. You are always in control and completely powerful enough to help me in any given situation. Open my eyes that I may see! Amen

God Provides.

2 Kings 3-4, 2 Corinthians 11

If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.. – 2 Corinthians 11:30 ESV

Our God provides. That is the story of the Bible. He provided creation. He provided man with life and a perfect, unblemished relationship with Himself. He provided Adam and Eve with an idyllic environment in which to live. But they sinned, and their actions brought death into the world. But God continued to provide. He provided Abraham with many descendants. He provided the Israelites with a liberator to help free them from slavery in Egypt. He provided them with the Law. He provided them with the Promised Land. He provided them with His presence and power. He provided them a kingdom and, in David, a king who was a man after God's own heart. But they continued to reject Him and live in rebellion to Him. And even though God would be forced to punish Israel for its unfaithfulness, He would provide them with a ticket back to the land He had promised to their forefathers. And while they would continue to live unfaithfully and disobediently, God would eventually provide them with a Messiah. God provides.

What does this passage reveal about God?

In the 3rd and 4th chapters of 2 Kings, we see God provide water for the armies of Israel and Judah. He then provides them with victory over the Moabites. He provided oil for the widow and her son. He provided a son for a childless woman with an elderly husband. And when that son died prematurely and unexpectedly, God provided him with restored life. He provided a remedy for stew that contained highly poisonous ingredients. And during a famine in the land, God managed to provide enough food for 100 men from just 20 loaves of barley bread and a few ears of grain. God is in the providing business. And when God provides, He does it far better than any man could do. He has power and provisions unavailable to us. He can do what no one else could ever dream of doing.

What does this passage reveal about man?

But one of the problems with us as man, is that we tend to want to provide for ourselves. We don't like to wait on God or to have to depend on God, so we step in and attempt to do things on our own. Our pride gets in the way and we find ourselves attempting to provide our own way and meet our own needs. But we will never measure up to God when it comes to providing. He is in a class by Himself. Paul knew that it was when he recognized his own weakness and dependency on God that he really grew stronger. Paul had gone through a lot in his life, suffering all kinds of trials and troubles in his role as a messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.  Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea” (2 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV). Paul was weak and he knew it. But he found joy in boasting about his weakness, because he knew that it was in his own weakness that God's power showed up. God provided when Paul couldn't.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God loves providing for His people. He enjoys showing just how powerful and capable He really is. But we have to allow Him the opportunity to provide. We have to acknowledge and come to grips with our own weakness. We have to be okay with our own inabilities and insufficiencies. But when we are weak and willing to admit it, we stand ready to discover just how powerful God is. Then we get the thrilling opportunity to see God provide in ways that we could never have imagined.

Father, You are the great provider. But I don't rely upon You near enough. Far too often I take matters into my own hands and attempt to meet my own needs. But it is always better to watch You work and to allow You to do what only You can do. Amen

Divine Power.

2 Kings 1-2, 2 Corinthians 10

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 ESV

As believers, we sometimes fail to recognize the power of God in and around our lives. We read stories in the Bible that tell of His greatness and illustrate His mighty power, but they seem so distant and foreign to our everyday life experiences. But our God is the same God that Elijah worshiped. He is just as powerful today as He was then. He is just as able to perform miraculous acts now as He did in the days of the prophets. When we read of fire coming down from heaven and consuming the 50 men who had been sent by King Ahaziah to retrieve Elijah, we are amazed, and perhaps a bit suspicious of the story's validity. Two different times, God's power was displayed through His destruction of the king's emissaries, who were opposed to the work of Elijah and meant him harm. But God was not going to let a godless king bring harm to His prophet. Yet, do we believe that same God is alive and well today? Do we truly believe that His power is available to us in our lives today?

What does this passage reveal about God?

God does not change. There is no difference between the God of the Old Testament and the one we see on display in the New Testament. He is the same God. He is no less powerful, no less opposed to sin and the rebellion of His people, and no less capable of performing might acts on behalf of those who love Him and remain faithful to His cause. The first two chapters of 2 Kings remind us that God is greater than any false gods. King Ahaziah may have wanted to seek the counsel of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, but God was not going to let him succeed. God sent him word through His prophet, Elijah, that King Ahaziah would not be hearing from a false god and would not recover from his illness. We also see that God was greater than any army or potential enemy that stood against His will or opposed to His prophet. He destroyed over 100 men who had been sent by the godless king to bring harm to His prophet. But we also see that God is greater than His own prophet. There came a time when Elijah was removed from service. He had done what God had called him to do and God determined it was time for him to come home. He was replaced with Elisha, the prophet's understudy. God chooses to use us as men, but He is not obligated to do so and is certainly not required to do so. He does not need us to accomplish His will, but graciously chooses include us in His divine will. But we should never assume that we are necessary or indispensable to God's plans.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It is so easy for us to assume that we are essential to God's work. But we must never forget that God is greater than we are. His power is essential to us doing what He has called us to do. Without His help, we are hopeless and powerless to accomplish anything of worth or value. Paul tells us that while we us live our lives in the flesh, in these mortal, weak bodies, we must constantly remind ourselves that what we accomplish in this life cannot be done in the flesh. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). We have a power available to us that is way beyond our capabilities. It is the same power that showed up as fire from heaven for Elijah. It is the same power that allowed both Elijah and Elisha to part the waters of the Jordan River and walk across on dry ground. It is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead – “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 ESV). With that power, we are able “to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT). We have a power available to us that is beyond this world. It is greater than any man, false god, human plan, godless teaching, or strategy of Satan himself. With it, we can accomplish mighty works on God's behalf. We can display His power among those with whom we live, work, and interact. But if we fail to believe in His power, we will fail to witness it's presence in our lives. We will fail to recognize it when it is happening all around us. We will fail to acknowledge our need for it.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The reality of the power of God is not up for debate. We can doubt it, ignore it, and even fail to avail ourselves of it, but that in no way diminishes it. God is as great today as He was in the days of Elijah. He is just as active today as He was then. He wants to reveal His power through our lives and encourage us as we experience His might revealed in real-life situations and impossible scenarios in which we find ourselves out-manned, ill-equipped, and powerless to do anything about it. We live in a world that desperately needs to see the power of God revealed in the lives of men. I want to be one of those men. I want God to reveal His power through me, so that the world may believe He truly exists and is greater than anything or anyone else they may be tempted to turn to for help.

Father, thank You for reminding me of Your power. Thank You for so graciously revealing Your power in my life so many times. I know there are many times I have failed to see it and recognize it. There are other times I have failed to thank You for it. But I am grateful, and I want to see Your power on display more and more in and around my life. Amen

The Self-Destructive Nature of Self-Importance.

2 Kings 14

You have indeed defeated Edom, and you are very proud of it. But be content with your victory and stay at home! Why stir up trouble that will only bring disaster on you and the people of Judah? ­– 2 Kings 14:10 NLT

Pride goes before the fall. Or something like that. We all love paraphrasing this message from the book of Proverbs. It actually says, "Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18 NLT). But regardless of exactly what it says, we enjoy sharing the basic gist of it – especially in retrospect – when someone we know, and usually don't like, has experienced a failure of some kind. It's a very biblical way of saying, "I told you so!" Whatever negative circumstances this person has experienced was well-deserved. They got what was coming to them. Now while we probably misapply this verse more than any other, there is some truth to the idea that pride is destructive. And behind all pride is a sense of self-importance that blinds us to the danger we face when we think too highly of ourselves. Paul provided this warning against being overly self-important. "I gave each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us" (Romans 12:3 NLT).

Self-importance is a dangerous drug that is both addictive and destructive. Little victories and successes, even spiritual ones, can cause us to suffer from inflated self-worth and become overly self-confident. That's what happened to Amaziah. As king of Judah, he experienced some early successes and seemed to have the hand of God on his life. At one point he experienced a decisive victory over Edom, defeating 10,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He also defeated the stronghold of Sela, located in the city of Petra. Fresh off these convincing victories, Amaziah decides to challenge the king of Israel to a battle. He is confident and tad bit cocky. King Jehoash of Israel warns him to think about what he is doing. He compares Judah to a thistle going up against a mighty cedar tree. Not only that, but the thistle ends up getting stepped on and crushed. before it can even attack the cedar tree! But self-importance can make us self-delusional. We can begin to believe our own press clippings and think we are something really special. Which is exactly what happened to Amaziah. He refused to listen to Jehoash and went ahead with his battle plans. Rather than be content with his victory over Edom, he had to have more. He had to prove himself to himself. His self-confidence would end up being self-destructive. "King Jehoash of Israel captured Judah's king, Amaziah son of Joash and grandson of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh. Then he marched to Jerusalem, where he demolished 600 feet of Jerusalem's wall, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. He carried off all the gold and silver and all the articles from the Temple of the Lord. He also seized the treasures from the royal palace, along with hostages, and then returned to Samaria" (2 Kings 14:13-14 NLT).

Amaziah's pride led to his fall and the defeat of Judah. His own self-importance became self-destructive, but also spread to those around him. The effects of self-importance and pride are rarely relegated to self alone. Others are always impacted by our own self-obsession and over-confidence. Nowhere do we read that Amaziah was instructed by God to wage war with Israel. This was his own plan, driven by his own need for self-importance. And the results were disastrous. Jerusalem was left defenseless with broken-down walls. The Temple of God was ransacked and left desecrated. Citizens were turned into slaves. The wealth of Judah became the booty of Israel. All because of one man's self-importance and pride. If Amaziah had only listened to the wisdom of Solomon. "Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the LORD will be happy" (Proverbs 16:20 NLT). The antidote to self-importance is humility and submission to the will of God. When we begin to think we are something special, we need to remind ourselves of the reality of our own self-worth. Paul gives us sobering words to consider any time we begin to think too highly of ourselves. "Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world's eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and use them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God" (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT).

Father, protect me from self-importance and it's offspring – pride. Help me remember that I am nothing without You. My value is found in Christalone. Self-importance is self-delusional and self-destructive. But learning to find my value and worth in Your Son reminds me that I bring nothing to the table. All my worth comes from Him and what He has done for me.  Amen