Monday, June 21, 2010

Ezra Chapters 1-3

Sorry about the long hiatus! It's been crazy around the church.

1:1 - This decree was made by Cyrus around 538BC. King Cyrus boasts in the "Cyrus Cylinder" (an archeological find corroborating the bible - YAY!) that he will allow the people in his kingdom to restore their holy places.

1:2 - How cool is it that Cyrus refers to God as the "Lord, the God of Heaven?" We know for a fact that God is at work in the heart of fact, the theme of the Book of Ezra is God's faithfulness to restore His people. Even after allowing the Israelites to be exiled from the Promised Land because of their rejection of God...He stays true to His promises and brings them back. Ezra is written by a Jewish scholar, so we don't know if Cyrus truly believed in the one and only God or if it was just written like this because the author knew God was behind it all. The "Lord, the God of Heaven" statement could just be a politically correct statement from the king so as not to offend any of the religious people he is sending back to their homelands.

1:3 - Here we see what I believe is Cyrus' real view on God. He holds to the ancient view that a cultures' gods dwell only in their own land. He refers to God as the "God who is in Jerusalem." What Cyrus doesn't realize is that the God he believes is only in Jerusalem is the one who has been working on his heart and the only God that actually exists.

2:62ff - The Jews start returning to their homeland and there are a lot of issues to be worked out. They have been in exile for 70 years and so everyone is trying to establish their lineage, which is important for land holdings and positions in the structure of the priesthood. Understandably, there are occasional gaps in the bloodlines and some of the people are put on hold as priests until they can seek out clarification from God. This is important to note, because they are trying to do everything the right way upon their return. They will not just accept anyone as a priest...they want a pure priesthood to lead in the worship of God. A Christians we can look back on this and understand how incredibly blessed we are - we do not have to prove our worth through ancestry, because we have been deemed the sons and daughters of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are a holy priesthood.

3:12-13 - Why are the older people weeping during this time of great celebration? I can assure you that they are happy to return and happy to be rebuilding the temple of the Lord, but they were around to see the glory of Solomon's Temple and they know this one will never be as amazing. They know the glory of the Israelite nation will never be what it once was. They rejected God and paid a steep price - though God restored them to Israel they couldn't take back what had happened and the consequences of those actions. Sounds like our lives, huh? No matter what we have done, God can bring redemption and restoration, but we often have to deal with the fallout of our sinful choices.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2 Chronicles Chapters 33-36

33:9 - This is a pretty scary verse. Churched/Religious people have greater opportunity to bring evil into the world than pagans, because they know better. When people who claim to be believers live in direct opposition to the truth they claim, they not only commit sin but they bring dishonor to the name of God and live in knowing rebellion.

33:12 - Another picture of the graciousness of God and proof that there is always hope for redemption. Manasseh is an evil man, but when God puts him in a state of distress...he humbles himself before the Lord and turns his life around. Because of human stubbornness, there are many times when God allows us to go through incredibly brutal circumstances to bring us back to Him.

34:3 - What a great example for teenagers! At the age of 16 Josiah is a true seeker of God and a spiritual leader for his nation - at 16! At a time when most guys are still trying by any means necessary to prove their manliness/worth for the approval of others, Manasseh is solely focused on seeking God's approval. Maybe we should expect more of our kids?

34:15/19 - The people of God are in such spiritual disarray...the priesthood has lost the Book of Law! We see that the Israelite people with the guidance and instruction of God's Law are utterly lost and easily swayed by the cultures around them. Josiah is heartbroken when he finally understands exactly how fall they have fallen as God's people. If this doesn't highlight the importance of allowing God's Word to shape your life and mind, I don't know what will.

34:31 - What a great example set by Josiah - he sees something wrong and he does whatever it takes to make things right. The king personally reintroduces his people to God's law and re institutes the covenant. He also lives out the example himself for all the people to see by offering his whole life to God.

35:18 - Josiah shows honor and respect for the spiritual history of God's people by reintroducing the Passover. This celebration highlights the story of the people of Israel and reminds them that they only exist through God's salvation and provision. It is essential that leaders be able to connect the people of God with who they truly are.

35:21 - When I first read this verse I wondered, "How is Josiah supposed to know that the pagan ruler Pharaoh Neco is actually following the prompting of God?" The text does not specifically tell us, so we are left to guess. I would think that a wise, discerning, God-fearing king like Josiah would be able to see God's hand involved in the words of Neco and the wisdom in what he is saying. Neco says, "Hey, my fight isn't with you...I'm just passing through (It's a well known fact that Pharaoh Neco was really into speaking in rhyme)." When a godly leader has an opportunity for a peaceful solution, why not take it?

36:9 - Eight years old and he is utterly evil? Whoa! That sounds kinda crazy - what is going on here (If you are reading in the NIV is probably says the king is 18 years old). The ESV lists the king as eight because that is what the majority of the ancient manuscripts of 2 Chronicles say. I would agree with the commentators and translators of the NIV and say that it was probably a scribal mistake that should be changed to 18 years old. 2 Kings 24:8 tells us that Jehoiachin was 18 when he took over.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

2 Chronicles Chapters 29-32

29:7 - Talk about heartbreaking...the chosen people of God who had been set apart as a holy priest nation to show God to the world have completely forgotten about Him. They have barred the doors to the temple and do not even have practicing priests. Reminds me of times in my life when things have gone so smoothly that I start to forget about my desperate need of God's presence.

29:10 - I'm glad Hezekiah wants to renew the covenant with God, but come on...why does God keep getting into a covenant relationship with these people? For the same reason He keeps forgiving me. God is our gracious creator/father and He wants to b in community with His children.

29:36 - I thought this was cool because it tells us that God was providing for the people, even when they had turned their backs on Him. Do you see what it says - "Even though the sacrifices all came about very suddenly, God has provided greatly for the people." God poured out blessings on his people in the midst of their sin because of the future worship it would bring.

30:5 - The people of God had forgotten who they were - Hezekiah brings back the Passover so that they will remember their great heritage and return to God with all their hearts. It is always important to remember your story with think on what the Lord has done for you.

32:7 - Great line! This could be right out of some great ancient war movie. Imagine it in the gravely voice of Leonidas from "300" - "With Sennacherib is merely and arm of flesh and blood, but the Lord our God fights with us!" This applies to basically every spectrum of life. What is there to fear or worry about when you understand that you walk with the Lord.

32:19 - They treated God as if He were some sort of false, man-made idol...this was utter is offensive to think that the creator of the universe is some human created construct. Even Christians should be very careful to treat the name of God with great reverence...we shouldn't use His name as an exclamation or curse - we would not exist without Him.

32:25 - The full story of the illness is told in 2 Kings 20:1-10. The king gets sick and begs for more life to get his house in order (probably because he knows his son is evil, but that is next chapter), and God gives him another 15 years. Unfortunately, the king celebrates by walking the Babylonians around and bragging about all the wealth he has. He repents of his pride which saves Hezekiah from destruction, but sets the kingdom up to fall after he is gone. Leaders have got to finish strong.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2 Chronicles Chapters 25-28

25:2 - By living in a dual-life spiritually, Amaziah was setting himself up for later failure in life. Things never go well when we don't attempt to give ourselves wholly to God.

25:12 - This seems strange to me - why not just kill them? Why march them up to the top of a cliff and push them off? Is it so they can keep the blood off their own hands? Although either way, they are bringing about the death of their enemies. I don't know - what do you think?

25:14 - This is absolutely absurd! They destroy the people of Seir and then bring idols of the false gods of the people they just destroyed back to worship? What in the world was he thinking? The prophet asks the same question in verse 15 - "Seriously, you're worshipping the gods of the people you just destroyed?" What would be a modern equivalent to this? The first thing that came to mind was religious leaders or politicians that say they have strong feelings on things like - family values, homosexuality, porn, etc...and then end up falling into those sins. What do you think?

25:17 - He probably wants to fight the Israelites because of what happened in verse 13, but unfortunately he started worshipping idols in between and gets his butt kicked.

26:15/16 - It ends verse 15 with, "he was strong." This is actually a dangerous term by which to be described. This means that Uzziah and his people are starting to see Uzziah himself as a source of strength...not God. He built up so much human wealth and power that he starts to believe that he is the reason for the success of the kingdom. Oops. We see in verse 16 that his pride ends up leading to his destruction as he arrogantly walks into the temple to perform the duties only priests could do and gets leprosy.

28:9/13-ff - The people of Israel, who are usually described as the truly idolatrous group in the split between God's people actually choose to listen to a prophet from God. They see that they have dishonored God through their idolatry and do not want to bring any more shame on their heads by enslaving their own Hebrew brothers and sisters. In fact they treat them very generously - they feed them, clothe them, fix their wounds and escort them back to Jericho. On an interesting side note - where do the people return after they have helped their enemies? Samaria. Jesus may have been drawing some on this story when he speaks of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25ff. The real question is - who are your enemies...and what are you doing to treat them with honor?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2 Chronicles Chapters 21-24

21:6 - Jehoram marries a woman who is the daughter of probably the most notorious idolater in the bible - Jezebel. And he allows himself to fall into the same trap Jezebel's husband did - he allows his wife to lead him into worshiping false gods. We must always be careful about who we share our hearts and souls with. True, Christians should befriend and show love to non-Christians, but that doesn't mean that share we should intimately share our lives with people who do not honor God with their lives. That is exactly why 2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us not to allow ourselves to be yoked with unbelievers.

21:17/22:1 - Why is the same person called both Jehoahaz and Ahaziah? Well, the author can do that because they are both versions of the same name. If you are reading int he NIV, it says Ahaziah in both places, but in the ESV it has both names. Kinda like calling me Brandon and Big Head Brando - same guy...different versions of the same name. This is a contradiction!

21:18ff - Talk about a great legacy to leave behind. Everyone of his kids except one is dead...he has some horrific bowel problem that ends up killing him when his bowels burst out of his body...the people don't give him a kings burial and nobody cares that he is dead. What a way to go! In the end it never pays to reject God and serve only yourself.

22:11 - We see God's judgment poured out for a second time in the last two chapters. Every descendant of the rebellious king is killed except for one child in each occasion. God takes very seriously His covenants, and he promised David that his house would go on forever...Joash is spared because God is always true to His word.

23:1-ff - Finally the priest Jehoaida has had enough of the rebellion and idolatry and overall sinfulness of the people of Judah and he decided to do something about it. He leads a holy revolution. The true God-fearers, the remnant, gather together and they change the country. When the people of God see something wrong in the world, they should be driven to do something about it.

23:16 - Man, Jehoaida was a great leader! He leads a holy rebellion, he puts together a crack team of warrior priest to guard the temple as he anoints the rightful king, and he brings Judah back into a covenant relationship with God.

Chapter 24 - the story of the rebuilding of the temple is very similar to the account from 2 Kings chapter 12, so if you have any questions about it you can check out that chapter blog from a couple months back.

24:17 - The young king Joash has only know the life of royalty. There is a pretty good chance he is a spoiled brat with a pretty high opinion of himself. So when his great advisor Jehoaiada dies and then rich people of Judah come to him speaking with great flattery...he follows them right into idolatry. This is yet another example of the incredible need all people have of accountability...and needing friends around them that can pop their big ego filled heads when need be. Who is that for you?

24:21 - Talk about sick and twisted irony. In the same place that Jehoaida rebelled against the rulers of Judah and anointed Joash king of Judah...Joash kills Jehoaida's prophet son because he spoke the truth of God.

24:22 - I thought it was interesting to note the difference between these final words and the words of Jesus Christ and Stephen from the New Testament. I don't think that Zachariah is necessarily speaking out of a need for selfish retribution...I think he is broken hearted about the state of faith in Judah and wants God to make things right - but he cries out for God's justice. Jesus on the other hand is broken hearted by the twisted sinfulness of the people killing him and he cries out to God for mercy saying, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." The way of Jesus was so shocking and powerful and world-changing because it was so others focused.