1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, 1 John 1.

Read 1 Chronicles 16, Zechariah 9, and 1 John 1 today. This devotional is about Zechariah 9.

Israel and Judah were almost constantly at war. Solomon’s kingdom was peaceful but most of the rest of their history in the land was marked by combat with the surrounding nations. Here in Zechariah 9:9-10, God promised that Jerusalem’s king would bring peace.

The peace he would bring would not be a passive (or pacifistic) kind of peace. Verse 9 says he comes “righteous and victorious.” The word “righteous” describes his justice; he would deal properly with every criminal.  The word “victorious” described his relationship with other nations. Like the Babylonians who imposed peace by defeating other nations, this king would bring peace by winning all his wars. Verse 10e says, “His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” That sentence defines the borders of Israel as God intended them to be. Under the king described in this chapter, God’s people would rule the world. Once the world was subject to him, however, the mechanisms of war would be unnecessary. Verse 10a-c says, “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.” This king would not need to use force to enforce the peace as other empires, like Rome, did. Instead, his reign would end warfare on earth.

Despite all the military overtones in this chapter, verse 9 describes this king as “lowly and riding on a donkey.” The word “lowly” means “humble” and depicts a king who is not insufferable in his arrogance. The fact that he arrives in Jerusalem “riding on a donkey” is probably in contrast to riding on a powerful warhorse. The description of this king as both “righteous and victorious” but also “lowly and riding a donkey” teaches us that he will be powerful but approachable; just and loving at the same time.

You may recognize that Matthew (21:5) saw Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the fulfillment of this prophecy. Yet Jesus only fulfilled part of it. The military victory of Jesus as well as the peace and justice he will bring await the literal kingdom that Christ will bring in eternity. This is our hope as believers in Christ. When you see injustice in this world, when you hear about the loss of human life through violence and wars, remember that these are symptoms of an unredeemed world. Christ will finish the work he began in his first advent. We can look forward in hope and eagar expectation to his return, then, even as we celebrate his birth this time of year.

2 Chronicles 24, Zechariah 7

Today’s OT18 readings are 2 Chronicles 24 and Zechariah 7.

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 24:22 “King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son, who said as he lay dying, ‘May the Lord see this and call you to account.’’

Karma is a Hindu and Buddhist concept that, at least here in the West, is interpreted to say that evil things you do will bring evil to you and good things you do will bring good to you.

There are certain precepts of scripture that are similar:
• The law of the harvest: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7)
• “He who digs a pit will fall into it” (Proverbs 26:27)

But the Bible is clear that sometimes bad things happen to good people. God will dispense perfect justice in eternity but injustice sometimes (often?) happens in this life.

So it is with Zechariah here in 2 Chronicles 24:22. Joash had been a good king for Judah while the Jehoiada the priest–Zechariah’s father–was alive (v. 17). After his death, however, Joash changed his ways and he and the people of Judah “abandoned the temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols” (v. 18). Zechariah stood for the Lord and called his people back to obedience (v. 20) but Joash ordered him stoned to death.

If there were perfect justice in the world Zechariah would have lived a long life for his faithfulness to the Lord. God’s will, however, was to allow him to die at Joash’s order. King Joash did die prematurely. He was wounded in battle (v. 25a) and then was assassinated by members of his own government (v. 25b). They conspired against him “for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest” (aka Zechariah) so God did answer Zechariah’s prayer (v. 22) and give him a measure of justice. But Zechariah had to wait for the judgment day to receive his reward.

Remember this when a godly person dies prematurely. God’s word says that there is the promise of long life for those who honor their parents (Eph 6:1-3) but God in his sovereign wisdom makes exceptions as he did in this case. God may will for his servants to suffer injustice in this life but there will be justice someday. Just as Zechariah left vengeance up to God’s will in verse 22 so God’s word tells us to “leave room for God’s wrath” instead of taking revenge (Rom 12:19).

Are you perplexed when God allows something that is seemingly unfair to happen to a good person in this world? Are you holding a grudge against someone who has harmed you? Can you leave it in the Lord’s hands to judge instead of holding a grudge? God’s justice is perfect but, like many things in life, we often have to wait on his timing and will.

The best demonstration of God’s justice was the death of his son for us. Our prayer, then, should be for the salvation of those who have mistreated us just as Stephen, the first Christian martyr prayed for God’s mercy toward those who killed him (Acts 7:60).

1 Chronicles 16, Obadiah

Today’s readings are 1 Chronicles 16 and Obadiah.

This devotional is about the book of Obadiah.

Obadiah wrote this prophecy against Edom (v. 1), a nation that bordered Judah to the south. This nation traced its ancestry to Esau, the twin brother of Jacob/Israel. The Edomites are condemned here for two sins:

Pride: Verses 3-4 describes a smug feeling of invincibility that the Edomites possessed. Then, verses 5-9 prophesied an easy defeat for the nation. Later in verses 18-20 Obadiah prophesied that no one would survive from the family of the Edomites after God’s judgment fell on them.
Victimizing Judah: Verses 10-14 describe how the Edomites responded to the invasion of Jerusalem. Remember that Nebuchadnezzar’s defeat of Jerusalem happened in three stage; those three stages may correspond to Edom’s responses that are described here. At first, Edom did nothing. Verse 11 says, “you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth.” Refusing to try to help God’s people was, according to Obadiah, tacit approval of the invasion. We see that in verse 11 where Obadiah said, “while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” That last phrase, “you were like one of them” equates Edom with Jerusalem’s attackers even though they “stood aloof” (v. 11a) while it was happening.

Let’s focus this devotional on sin #2 described above. Was Edom obliged to come to Jerusalem’s defense? They shared a border with Judah and hundreds of years before their patriarch Esau was brothers with Israel (v. 10a). Normally, I wouldn’t think that those two facts mean much in a context like this. They were now separate nations and their “brotherhood” was ancient history (literally). So were they really obligated to help?

Apparently, yes, they were. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians as an act of judgment for their sins and idolatry. That’s the spiritual/theological reason for their demise. But on a human level, Nebuchadnezzar had no moral right to invade Israel. They were, politically and militarily speaking, victims of Babylonian aggression. Their common ancestry, though ancient, should have caused them to have some affinity for God’s people. Their common border should have caused them to want to help their neighbors to the north.

The argumentation in this passage reminds me of the Good Samaritan. Jesus told that story to teach us that “loving your neighbor” means helping anyone who needs help who is within your reach. The Samaritan was a step-brother (in a sense) the Jewish man who was victimized by robbers. His countrymen, his brothers, who passed by without helping him were “standing aloof” to borrow the image of verse 11a. But Jesus praised the Samaritan for giving assistance when he saw the plight of the Israelite.

The application, then, for us is to understand that God expects us to help when we see someone being victimized. We shouldn’t stand by and do nothing and we certainly shouldn’t join in the victimization as Edom did in verses 13-14. We should help the oppressed fend off the oppressor.

Now, in our globally-connected world, we know about world problems and injustices that people in other eras of time would never have known about. I don’t think God requires us to find every problem in the world and get involved in it. The Good Samaritan, after all, was walking by; he wasn’t like an ancient Batman looking for crime to fight. So the Bible isn’t teaching that we have an unlimited responsibility for everyone else’s problems. Instead, we should understand that it is not acceptable in the Lord’s sight to be a bystander when we see injustice or violence or exploitation.

So, if you saw someone abusing a child or a woman, would you do anything about it? If your neighbor’s land was being polluted by a corporation or seized by the county unjustly, would you try to help? Honestly, this is very convicting to me. My nature is to say, “That’s none of my business” and I can think of some situations recently where I could have tried to help and did not. May God forgive me for that and give me grace to do right in the future.

1 Chronicles 23, 1 Peter 4, Micah 2, Luke 11

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 23, 1 Peter 4, Micah 2, Luke 11. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Micah 2.

This passage begins by announcing “woe to those who plan iniquity.” The “woe” is a prayer or a wish for a curse; it is an announcement, in this context, of sorrow that is coming due to God’s judgment. The object of this sorrow is those who exploit other people. Verse 2 says, “They covet fields and seize them,  and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.” And why do they do these evil things? Because they can: “…because it is in their power to do it.” This suggests either those who hold positions of power in the government or those who are politically well-connected to the government. Undoubtedly there were private citizens in Israel and Judah who had the strength and weapons to exploit others. Had they done so, however, the person who was exploited could appeal to judges for justice. If the judges, however, are corrupt then there is no recourse for justice.

Apparently this is how things went in Israel and Judah. Those who had positions of power in the king’s administration could use that power to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Those who were private citizens but knew who to bribe or how to bribe or had their own cronies in the government could exploit others without fear of accountability. God prophesied (and later brought) judgment on Israel and Judah for these sins (vv. 3-5) and other sins we’ve read about in the prophets. 

Instead of speaking out against these sins, however, there were prophets in Israel and Judah who tried to silence the truth-telling of Micah (vv. 6-7) and speak only of a pleasant, pleasurable future for God’s people (v. 11). A prophet who fails to speak out against exploitation and injustice enables that exploitation and injustice to continue (vv. 8-9). 

This is part of our discipleship that we ought to consider. While we don’t live in Israel and are not God’s chosen people, God hates injustice wherever it lives and will judge those who exploit others in eternity, if not in this life. In our world, the idea of “injustice” has been alleged and used to gain political power and to exploit the innocent. See the irony? “Injustice” as an accusation is now a tool to commit injustice against one’s political enemies under the new, popular phrase, “social justice.” God has not called us as believers to effect social change by taking on social issues. He’s charged us with calling people out of their sins to Jesus in faith and repentance. Part of living for the glory of the Lord, however, is seeking to do what is right in our lives wherever possible. That means, at times, doing justice when we are in a position to do so–such as when we serve on a jury or vote. It also means speaking out if we witness abuses of power against the weak. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow. 

1 Chronicles 7–8, Hebrews 11, Amos 5, Luke 1:1–38

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 7–8, Hebrews 11, Amos 5, Luke 1:1–38. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Amos 5.

Idol worship in Israel was a constant problem after the kingdom was divided. Not all of God’s people neglected the Lord, however. There were some who maintained their worship of the Lord. These people, apparently, were longing for God’s judgment which is often called “the day of the Lord.” That phrase is used about prophetic, end time events in the Bible that are still future to us, but it was also used for days of judgment in the Old Testament that have already happened. Verses 18-20 warns those who wanted to see their countrymen punished: “Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light…” (v. 18). Those who wanted God’s judgment to fall on Israel must have believed that they would be safe. They reasoned, apparently, that performing the rituals of worship that the Lord commanded would protect them for his judgment. They must have been surprised, then, when the Lord said through Amos, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” 

It is quite surprising to see God rejecting the worship of his people, especially since the prophets were constantly calling them to repentance (v. 6). What was the problem with the worship of those Amos is describing in this chapter?

There are two problems. First, they joined with the rest of their idol worshipping countrymen in exploiting others in court (compare verses 7, 10, and 15a with 24). Although these Israelites may have been obedient to the Lord’s commands about worship, they were disobedient to his commands in their ethics and morals. They lived a dual, hypocritical life so that they appeared devout on Saturday but lived like pagans on Sunday through Friday. 

The second problem with this group is that their worship of the Lord was not exclusive and wholehearted. Verse 26 says, “You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god—which you made for yourselves.” The God who had redeemed them from Egypt long before (v. 25) was now just like every other false god they worshipped. They may have kept the ceremonial law of God but they broke the very first law of his commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” 

We face the same kind of temptation—to worship the gods of materialism, worldliness, self-centeredness, or whatever—while showing up faithfully to church on Sunday and performing the outward acts common to Christians. We also can be tempted to worship the Lord with our lips while abusing his children in our everyday life. Let’s look within today and consider whether our devotion to the Lord is complete and whether or not it is reflected in our daily ethics and morals. That’s the kind of worship that God wants because it is the kind of worship that comes from a changed heart.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.

1 Chronicles 1–2, Hebrews 8, Amos 2, Psalm 145

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 1–2, Hebrews 8, Amos 2, Psalm 145. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Amos 2.

Amos chapter 2 continued the Lord’s prophecy of judgment started in chapter 1. This chapter prophesied judgment for Moab (vv. 1-3), Judah (vv. 4-5), and Israel (vv. 6-16). Israel got the longest treatment because of her many sins. In the past several weeks we have read about the sins of Israel and Judah both in 1-2 Kings and in the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Joel. Idolatry was the primary sin of Israel and that sin is certainly present here in Amos 2:8. Verses 6-8a, however, focus on a different category of sin namely, exploitation. God’s people were punished both because they worshipped false gods and because they took advantage of other people. 

The exploitation of others took several forms. Verse 6b said, “They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.” This is the form of exploitation known as slavery. In biblical times people became slaves in one of two ways: Either they (1) were captured in war and their slavery was the price they paid for losing or (2) they sold themselves into slavery to pay debts they could not pay back. Selling the “innocent for silver” indicates that Israel enslaved some people who were not debtors at all. Perhaps they used the threat or acts of violence or maybe they arranged false witnesses to accuse people of debts they did not owe. The second line in verse 7, “the needy for a pair of sandals” indicates how willingly they sold others for very meager profits. 

Verse 7a continued the description of Israel’s exploitation by describing how they treated the poor. This section refers to how the poor were treated in court; our familiar expression they were treated “like dirt” is basically what “They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground” means. The next phrase, “and deny justice to the oppressed” continues the thought. The poor in Israel were abused and what little they had was taken from them by the wealthy and well-connected. When they went to court to get it back, the court sided with the rich and powerful. 

Verse 7b says, “Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.” This is a reference to sexual exploitation. There isn’t enough information to know exactly what is meant here. Were fathers and sons raping their female slaves? Is this a reference to prostitution or wide-spread adultery? We don’t know; one thing is clear: sexual promiscuity was a big problem and men seem to have been forcing themselves on women. 

Verse 8 seems to combine several of these sins. “They lie down beside every altar” is a reference to immoral sexual relations in the idol temples, “…on garments taken in pledge” is a reference to abusing a poor person. Moses’ law forbid Israelites from taking the outer, heavier garment of someone as collateral for a loan. If you were poor enough and desperate enough, however, you’d hand over your coat if it meant enough money to feed your family. People who took these coats as collateral were then using them as bedding for their immoral sexual relations. The final phrase, “In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines” tells us that instead of buying their own wine, the wealthy and privilege in Israel would find a poor man who was violating some minor law and take his wine to pay the fine, then they would consume that wine in their idol temples.

All of this tells us that God is watching how people treat each other. When we pick on the weak because they are weak and cannot fight back, the almighty judge sees. Those who used threats of lawsuits or better lawyers than their opponents could afford or the levers of government to enrich themselves at the expense of the weak and poor will have much to answer for on the day of God’s judgment. 

Let’s be sure that we don’t do something similar by giving a low tip to our waitress or pizza delivery guy, sexually harassing (or worse) someone who is younger or subordinate to us, or being stingy about loaning or giving money to someone we know is legitimately suffering financially. Let’s be sure that, if we serve on a jury, we seek a just result, not one assumes the guilt of the defendant or the correctness of the corporation. All of these things are wicked in the sight of God. Showing kindness to the weak and poor and standing up to the powerful when others are exploited are reflections of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.