2 Kings 24, Haggai 1, John 14

Read 2 Kings 24, Haggai 1, and John 14 today. This devotional is about Haggai 1.

Most of the prophets we’ve read prophesied that judgment was coming for Israel or Judah or both. Haggai was one of the prophets who spoke the Lord’s word after his people were returned from exile.

Here in chapter 1, the Lord challenged the people through Haggai for returning to the land and building their own houses (v. 4) but doing nothing to rebuild the temple (v. 2, 4). Their reasoning for this was, “’The time has not yet come…’” (v. 2).

Undoubtedly there was still a lot of work to be done in Jerusalem. A city that has been destroyed by the Babylonians would take a long time to rebuild. Their plan to leave the temple until “the time comes,” however, suggested wrong priorities. Instead of understanding that their security and prosperity were consequences of faith in and obedience to God, they believed that taking care of business was most important and then, “we’ll get to the Lord’s work when things are humming along nicely again.”

Verses 5-11 explained the outcome of their misplaced priorities. Though they had worked hard (“planted much”) they were struggling to make ends meet (“harvest little… earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it” (v. 6)). This was all the Lord’s doing as he explained in verses 9-10: “‘What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.’” Through Haggai, then, the Lord taught his people to change their priorities and see worship as far more important by rebuilding the temple (v. 8).

Unlike the past, God’s people at this time received the message of the Lord’s prophet (v. 12). Their resolve to rebuild the temple and their obedience to that intention (v. 14) was met with the Lord’s favor: “I am with you” (v. 13b).

  • What struggles are you facing now?
  • Work problems or business struggles?
  • Rebellious children?
  • Strained friendships?
  • A too-tight budget at home?

Maybe you are struggling as part of the Lord’s will for you now to teach you patience and strengthen your faith.

But, have you considered that maybe the Lord is holding too low a priority in your life?

You’re working harder than ever but that leaves less time for prayer and Bible reading. You’re trying to spend more time with your kids but that means you’re choosing recreation over church attendance frequently.

Consider the possibility that the frustrations you face in your life might be the Lord’s discipline in your life and that this passage is calling you to reassess your priorities and put more attention into your walk with God.

Then, do what it takes to give the Lord his proper place. It may seem tough to find time to rebuild your walk with God but remember the Lord’s encouraging promise: “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.”

2 Kings 6, Jonah 4, John 3

Read 2 Kings 6, Jonah 4, and John 3 today. This devotional is about Jonah 4.

At least once in our lives, I’d guess, we all allow someone to talk us into doing something we don’t want to do. Either we don’t want to do the activity itself or we are unsure, skeptical even, if the activity will be fun or productive or helpful or produce whatever result it promises.

We also may be reluctant because we see real risks. We’ve all had that sinking feeling that happens when we are reluctant to do something, do it anyway, then see that the very thing we feared is happening.

Jonah can relate. The people of Nineveh were wicked people. This is why Jonah hated them and resisted coming to preach to them in the first place back in Jonah 1. When he did come, Jonah came to them preaching God’s judgment and offering no grace, as we saw yesterday. As I mentioned in the devotional on Jonah 1. Jonah did not want to preach to Nineveh because they were cruel to people they conquered and captured in war. Maybe some of Jonah’s friends or relatives had been tortured by the Babylonians or maybe he’d just heard enough reports to know how violent they were. Regardless of the specific reasons why, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. He did not want to preach to the people who lived in Nineveh. He did not want to see them respond well to his message. He did not want the king to repent in sackcloth and sit in dirt as he did in Jonah 3:6. Jonah was willing to die—“throw me into the sea“ (1:12)—rather than preach to the people of Nineveh. But God, in his inimitable way, changed Jonah’s mind and persuaded him to go to Nineveh and speak against their sins.

Our reading today tells us why Jonah did what he did in chapter 1 and chapter 3. He went the opposite direction from Nineveh in chapter 1 and preached judgment without grace in chapter 3 because he was afraid the Lord would forgive the Assyrians of Nineveh: “He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity’” (v. 2). In our language, Jonah is saying, “I knew it! I knew this would happen!” If you’ve ever regretted letting someone talk you into something, you know the feeling. But in Jonah’s case, it was the positive result that he feared. He did not want to preach to the people of Nineveh lest they repent and avoid God’s judgment. When exactly what he feared happened, his hatred for the Assyrian people turned into anger at God himself.

God dealt with Jonah by confronting his anger (v. 4, 9). He asked Jonah whether he had any right to be angry in verse 4. Jonah ignored God’s question and went outside the city to see if God’s judgment would fall on them despite their repentance (v. 5a). God was gracious to Jonah, giving him a plant to provide him shade (v. 5b-6). Then God took away the shade (v. 7) and turned up the heat (literally) on Jonah (v. 8). After this object lesson, God asked Jonah again if he was angry (v. 9a); this time he got the answer–of course I’m angry (v. 9b). God then used this object lesson to show how self-centered Jonah was. He was concerned about the plant, but not about the vast number of children (“who cannot tell their right hand from their left”) and animals who would be lost if Nineveh were destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah style.

Verse 11 of our passage is the point of this entire book of Jonah. It was written to bring us face to face with our own poor priorities. We care passionately about things that do not matter at all and can be indifferent (or worse) toward people we hate. This happens when we stop seeing people for what they are–eternal souls made in the image of God but bound as we once were by sin natures that distort everything. When we start to think of people not as individuals but as groups–atheists, Scientologists, Hindus, or whatever–we might lose sight of the fact that they are people. People have strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, beliefs and doubts, parents and children. Generation after generation can be lost to the gospel if we assume that entire groups of people won’t listen to us, don’t care about God, are too proud to repent, or too sinful to desire forgiveness. We notice when the comforts of life are gone and we regret their loss just as Jonah regretting losing his shade. But do we ever consider the eternal destiny of people in groups we are inclined to dislike and avoid?

1 Kings 7, Ezekiel 37

Today’s readings are 1 Kings 7 and Ezekiel 37.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 7:1.

The last verse of 1 Kings 6, which we read yesterday, told us that Solomon spent seven years building the temple of the Lord.” The first verse here in chapter 7 says, “It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace.” The chapter and verse divisions in the Bible are not inspired and were long after both the Old and New Testaments were complete. Someone decided to end chapter 6 with the statement that the temple took seven years. The same person decided to start chapter 7 with the contrasting statement that Solomon’s palace took thirteen years to build. That was an unfortunate decision because the original author meant for these two statements to stand back to back as contrasts. He wanted us to know that Solomon spent much more time on his home than he did on the Lord’s house.

I guess Solomon’s house could have been beset by construction delays but that’s probably not why his house took so much longer to build. If we compare the dimensions that are given in chapters 6 and 7, we will see that Solomon’s house was much larger than the temple. Notice:

1 Kings 6:2 says the temple was 60 cubits by 20 cubits by 30 cubits.
1 Kings 7:2 says the palace was 100 cubits by 50 cubits by 30 cubits.

So the two buildings were the same height but Solomon’s house was much bigger–longer and wider–than the temple he built for worshipping the Lord.

Solomon’s house wasn’t just a residence; it was a government building where he also lived. We can see that in verse 7 where we read about “the throne hall, the Hall of Justice, where he was to judge…” and then verse 8’s statement, “…the palace in which he was to live, set farther back, was similar in design.” But the human author of 1 Kings wanted us to see that Solomon’s palace was much larger and took much longer to build than the temple did. The point is that Solomon did an incredible job building a house for the Lord but he spent even more money building a house for himself. He was self-centered, materialistic, and showed poor priorities in the contrast between these two buildings.

Do our lives reflect the same struggle with priorities or self-centeredness? Do we give our best energy to our career or our hobbies but give leftovers to serving the Lord? Do we spend money lavishly on ourselves while being stingy when it comes to financially supporting the Lord’s work?

Genesis 3, Ezra 3, Psalm 3

Today we’re reading Genesis 3, Ezra 3, and Psalm 3.

This devotional is about Ezra 3, so read that chapter if you can’t do all of today’s reading.

The events recorded in Ezra happened late in Old Testament history. They happened after the kingdoms of Saul, David, and Solomon and after those kingdoms were divided into the Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom). Because of idolatry, God used the Assyrian Empire to scatter the northern kingdom of Israel. Years later, God then used the Babylonians to take the Southern Kingdom into captivity. Daniel and his friends were living in Babylon due to that captivity. Daniel, while reading Jeremiah, realized that the captivity would end after 70 years. Ezra recorded what happened after that 70 years of captivity ended.

First Cyrus the king of Persia was moved by the Lord to send the people of Judah living in exile back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. We read about that in Ezra 1. Ezra 2 recorded the names of those returned. At the end of Ezra 2, yesterday, we read, “When they arrived at the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site” (Ez 2:68). Then, today in Ezra 3 we read that the people “assembled together as one in Jerusalem” (v. 1b). They built an altar and began the routine sacrifices commanded in Moses’ law (v. 3). They also celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 4) and began rebuilding the Temple (vv. 7-13).

One thing that is impressive about this chapter is how quickly the people organized to begin worshipping the Lord together as a group. Verse 1 refers to the “seventh month” but that doesn’t mean seven months after they arrived. It means the seventh month on the Jewish calendar, the month when the Feast of Tabernacles would be celebrated (v. 4, 6). Although Ezra did not say so, the events of verses 1-6 happened probably only 3 or 4 months after the exiles returned to Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem they returned to was a mess. It had been completely destroyed by the Babylonians 70 years before and was uninhabited during that time. When they got there, they had to figure out who owned what property, then repair or rebuild some kind of home to live in. They also needed to make a living, so they also had to begin working to start an economy going again. Verse 3 says that they “had settled in their towns” but that “settling” was only a bare subsistence. They were far from a thriving, vibrant community at that point.

And yet, they began their worship as a nation and their obedience to God’s word pretty quickly. It is true that Cyrus sent them there to rebuild the temple (chapter 1), but it would have been easy to make excuses–very plausible excuses–about the importance of making sure they could survive before they began worshipping God corporately again. They also could have said, “Well, we need to rebuild the temple first, then we can do the sacrifices and feast days.” But the temple took two years to get going (v. 8). Rather than wait, their faith in God and zeal for his glory caused them to obey his word as soon as they could.

All of this indicates what a priority worship was for these Israelites. Unlike their ancestors who worshipped idols and mixed God’s word with pagan gods and rituals, the 70 years of exile had chastened them and had shown them the importance of faith in God’s word and obedience to it.

I wonder if we would respond the same way? If some natural disaster wiped out all of our homes and businesses and leveled our church building, would those of us who survived that want to get together as soon as possible to start worshipping again?

I’d like to think that gathering again as a church family would be very important to us. Maybe a tragedy like that would make it so. But, when I think about how many people in our church attend our Sunday worship here and there, I wonder. Many people are faithful to our worship services Sunday after Sunday but many others attend for a Sunday or two, then disappear for weeks at a time. They all have reasons but how many of those reasons are just excuses laid on top of poor priorities? And that’s just Sunday services we’re talking about. Small group attendance and Calvary Class attendance is even more random and unpredictable.

This passage, and the coming of a new year, give us a chance to think about our priorities and where our time is spent. The fact that you’re reading these devotionals probably puts you in the category of people who are committed to the Lord and his work in our church. But, there is always the temptation to get distracted and let priorities fall out of whack. Don’t let that happen to you and, if you have a chance to encourage someone else who isn’t attending regularly, take the opportunity to speak to them for their good as a believer in Christ.

Proverbs 24:19-34

Today we’re reading Proverbs 24:19-34.

You’ve moved to a new area. Which is more important–finding a home that you love or finding a job that will enable you to provide for yourself and–eventually–find a home that you love?

This is a question about priorities. It is about what needs to happen first in order to enable other things to happen. That’s what verse 27 is telling us when it says, “Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.” In terms of comfort, it is appealing to do it the other way. You build yourself a nice comfortable home. Get out of that tent you’ve been living in and move into a nice, big, warm farmhouse. Then you can get busy being a farmer. A good night’s sleep in a warm home will help you plant and cultivate and reap those crops more effectively anyway, right?

No. That’s a rationalization for operating in your comfort zone rather than doing the wise thing first. If you’re going to be a farmer, you need to till up that soil, plant those seeds, and let them start growing. It takes a long time for that stuff to grow to productivity so the sooner you start on it, the better off you will be. The work you do now on those fields will pay dividends later for years and years. After you have a productive system started, you will have time to build yourself a nice home. You’ll also have the financial resources to pay for it.

How does this apply to us non-farmers? It teaches us to cultivate and work toward the long-term value. It teaches us to sacrifice personal comfort for a time in order to provide for the long term. For young people, start learning to save 10% of your income and tithe 10% of your income from the very first paycheck you receive. Don’t spend everything on a nicer apartment, leasing a new car, subscribing to cable TV and buying whatever new gadget. Sacrifice now to plant seeds in you life that will pay off when you are older and in eternity.

It applies to more than just young people, though. All of us are inclined to feather our nests and make our comfort zone more comfy at the expense of doing work and making sacrifices that will take years to pay off. It is easier to to eat that doughnut today and think about dieting tomorrow than it is to forgo that junk food for a healthy diet. It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch Netflix than it is to go for a run. Do you spend every dollar you have–and more thanks to easy credit–or are you disciplining yourself to set aside money for the future?

Think about something you’ve been neglecting because it will take sacrifices now and won’t pay off until the future? Then, make that your priority. Spend the first hour of your day on it every day, then go about doing the day-to-day stuff that seems urgent but is rarely important. These are some ways to wisely apply ourselves in the present that will benefit us in the future.

2 Chronicles 13, Revelation 3, Haggai 1, John 2

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Chronicles 13, Revelation 3, Haggai 1, John 2. 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 Haggai 1.

As you no doubt have noticed, most of the prophets we’ve read prophesied judgment was coming for Israel or Judah or both. Haggai was one of the prophets who spoke the Lord’s word after his people were returned from exile. 

Here in chapter 1, the Lord challenged the people through Haggai for returning to the land and building their own houses (v. 4) but doing nothing to rebuild the temple (v. 2, 4). Their reasoning for this was, “’The time has not yet come….’” Undoubtedly there was still a lot of work to be done in Jerusalem. A city that has been destroyed by the Babylonians would take a long time to rebuild. Their plan, however, suggested wrong priorities. Instead of understanding that their security and prosperity were consequences of faith in and obedience to God, they believed that taking care of business was most important and then, “we’ll get to the Lord’s work when things are humming along nicely again.” 

Verses 5-11 explained the outcome of their misplaced priorities. Though they had worked hard (“planted much”) they were struggling to make ends meet (“harvest little… earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it” (v. 6)). This was all the Lord’s doing as he explained in verses 9-10: “‘What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.’” Through Haggai, then, the Lord taught his people to change their priorities and see worship as far more important by rebuilding the temple (v. 8). 

Unlike the past, God’s people at this time received the message of the Lord’s prophet (v. 12). Their resolve to rebuild the temple and their obedience to that intention (v. 14) was met with the Lord’s favor: “I am with you” (v. 13b). 

What struggles are you facing now? Work problems or business struggles? Rebellious children? Strained friendships? A too-tight budget at home? Maybe this is just the Lord’s will for you now to teach you patience and strengthen your faith. But, have you considered that maybe the Lord is holding too low a priority in your life? You’re working harder than ever but that leaves less time for prayer and Bible reading. You’re trying to spend more time with your kids but that means you’re choosing recreation over church attendance frequently. Consider the frustrations you face in your life might be the Lord’s discipline in your life and that this passage is calling you to reassess your priorities and put more attention into your walk with God. Then, do what it takes to give the Lord his proper place. It may seem tough to find time to rebuild your walk with God but remember the Lord’s encouraging promise: “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.”

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.