God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 30 - 2 Chronicles 19-23: Jehoshaphat's (Not so Grand) Sons

Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 19-23

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Influenced by Israel, the kings of Judah did not stay faithful to God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Jehoshaphat angered God by helping Ahab.
Jehoshaphat appointed judges and priests and urged them to judge fairly.
Moabites and Ammonites attacked Judah. God caused them to kill each other.
Jehoshaphat died a good king.
Judah's next king, Jehoram, married Ahab's daughter and killed his brothers. God gave him a bowel disease and he died. Judah was glad to see him go.
Jehoram's son Ahaziah, the next king, was killed for not obeying God.
Only Joash survived a horrible massacre of the royal family. Six years later, Jehoiada the priest placed him on the throne. Judah revived their covenant with God.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God was angry at Jehoshaphat for coming under Ahab's influence, not for visiting Ahab.

Jehoshaphat set into motion a bad precedent by working with Ahab. By "cozying up to God-haters" (19:2, The Message), Jehoshaphat gave an example which his children and grandchildren emulated. His son married Ahab's daughter, and things went south for two generations. Jehoshaphat's son and grandson led all of Judah to compromise their standing with God by worshiping Baal. Do not make alliances with those who are not converted to God setting all things right. It may spoil your family for generations to come.

Heed Jehoshaphat's words to the judges and priests.

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States came out with several large rulings. Instead of dissecting the rulings I wish to repeat what Jehoshaphat charged the judges with,
This is serious work; do it carefully. You are not merely judging between men and women; these are God's judgments that you are passing on. Live in the fear of God - be most careful, for God hates dishonesty, partiality, and bribery. … Do your work in the fear of God; be dependable and honest in your duties. When a case comes before you involving any of your fellow citizens, whether it seems large (like murder) or small (like matters of interpretation of the law), you are responsible for warning them that they are dealing with God. Make that explicit, otherwise both you and they are going to be dealing with God's wrath. Do your work well or you'll end up being as guilty as they are. … Be bold and diligent. And God be with you as you do your best. (19:6-11)
Judges, honor God and be above reproach or you are no different than the criminals you judge.

God protected Judah from the Moabites and Amorites because they called out for protection.

I love this part of the story. Jehoshaphat sees they are vastly outnumbered. He calls all of Judah into Jerusalem to do the one thing they know will work—call out to God for salvation. They humbled themselves before God and told God they could survive only through His help. And God protected them. God protects His Chosen People when they call on Him for protection.

Mothers have a large influence over their children's morality.

It may seem strange to see the mother's names when each king is appointed. However, today's reading gives the reason this is important—Ahaziah's mother Athaliah taught him wickedness. She became so self-important that after her son was executed for his wickedness she ruled Israel with an iron fist. She had all of the family of Jehoram killed (except Joash who escaped). Mothers, teach your children that God is setting all things right and we should join Him. Mothers have a unique position in life. No one—not even fathers—can influence children like their mothers.

Sometimes political change back to God takes time.

Jehoiada did not keep Joash in the Temple and immediately call for him to be on the throne. He took time, allowed Joash to grow, created a consensus among the other leaders, and waited until the time was right to bring the change. We do not know what he had to do in the interim with Athaliah on the throne. However, he had a plan all along to set Judah back on the right path. Setting things right in an entire nation takes time. Do not give up on your leaders when they do not make the "right" decision every time.

What bad influences should you remove to protect your family?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29 - 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18: Ahab Receives His Punishment

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You have finished 1 Kings! That makes 16 books.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God protects the righteous king. He punishes the evil king.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Jehoshaphat and Ahab enjoyed peace. Ahab asked Jehoshaphat to help attack Aram. Jehoshaphat wanted God's approve first. Ahab's prophets approved. Jehoshaphat asked for another prophet. Ahab warned, "Micaiah's just a wet blanket."
Micaiah told Ahab that God wanted to send Ahab to his death. He sent Ahab's prophets to encourage him to attack Aram. Ahab locked Micaiah away.
During the battle, God protected Jehoshaphat when he called out for protection. Ahab, in disguise, died in his chariot by a random arrow. Israel's army scattered. Dogs licked up Ahab's blood.
Ahaziah, Israel's next king, outdid his father's wickedness.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Ahab did not like Micaiah because he only spoke what God told him to speak.

Reading Ahab's description of Micaiah I cannot help but chuckle, "As a matter of fact, there is still one such man. But I hate him. He never preaches anything good to me, only doom, doom, doom - Micaiah son of Imlah" (1 Kings 22:8; 2 Chronicles 18:7, The Message). Leaders will only love you if you tell them what they want to hear. Do not be afraid to be disliked for speaking God's word—in love.

God sent prophets to send Ahab to his death.

This is a difficult text, especially after yesterday's reading. Apparently, Ahab did not keep his repentant heart. God allowed an angel to lead his prophets to lie to Ahab so that he would attack Ramoth Gilead to his death. Why would God do such a thing? God will have justice, especially to those who are in power.

Who do you not like listening to because they do not agree with you?

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28 - 1 Kings 20-21: God Punishes a Non-Chosen Person, Forgives an Evil King

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 20-21

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God doesn't protect Israel. God punishes Ben-Hadad. Israel benefits from God's punishment of Ben-Hadad.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Ben-Hadad wanted Ahab's wives, children, gold, and silver. Ahab refused. Ben-Hadad attacked. God protected Israel to show Ahab His Name.
Ben-Hadad's advisors suggested that God was the god of the mountains and not the plains.
God informed Ahab Ben-Hadad would be shown God's power. Over 127,000 of Ben-Hadad's soldiers died.
Ahab allowed Ben-Hadad to live. God told Ahab he would die instead.
Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard. Naboth wouldn't sell. Jezebel had Naboth stoned to death unjustly. Ahab took Naboth's vineyard. Elijah told Ahab that his entire family's corpses would be torn by dogs. Ahab repented and God delayed the punishment.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God protected Israel because Ben-Hadad questioned His Power.

Wednesday and Thursday we read of the wickedness of Ahab and Jezebel. They did not repent and come back to God before these events happened. Instead, God punished Ben-Hadad for questioning God's power, "Because Aram said, 'God is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys,' I'll hand over this huge mob of an army to you. Then you'll know that I am God" (20:28, The Message). God will protect His Name even when His Chosen People are not willing to claim it.
What does this mean for us today? It doesn't matter how righteous God's Chosen People are. If someone doubts God, God will defend Himself. We should not feel beholden to come to God's defense anytime someone ignores/goes against/mocks God's Way. Instead, we should know that God is god and rely on Him to repay. We defend our hope, not our God.

Ahab did not consult God before allowing Ben-Hadad to escape.

The prophet came and notified Ahab that his life would be substituted for Ben-Hadad's. God had judged Ben-Hadad's heart and found it against Him and His Chosen People. Ahab instead listened to his advisors instead of consulting God. God's Chosen People should allow God to direct important decisions.

Ahab could have had a very different life had he found godly people to be around.

Ahab is not the monster I thought he was before reading this passage. He wanted Naboth's vineyard but was not willing to kill for it. Jezebel mocked him for being weak, took it upon herself to forge documents to have Naboth killed, and then told Ahab to take the vineyard. Had Ahab not married Jezebel he could—could, not would—have had a very different life. Remove those who do not want to set things right for God from your life.

God delayed Ahab's punishment because he repented.

Ahab infuriated God more than any other king. God came and told Ahab because of his sin in taking Naboth's vineyard not only would his son not be king, not only would they all be killed, their bodies would be desecrated by the most dirty of creatures (for them), dogs. For Ahab, this proved too much to bear. He could no longer deny God's Authority. So he repented. God delayed punishment for this evil, morally-weak, feckless king. God's punishment is great. God's willingness to forgive is even greater.

Do you believe God can forgive you?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27 - 1 Kings 17-19: These Are the Days of Elijah

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 17-19

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Elijah wants God's name to be protected and honored. God protected and honored Elijah in return.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Elijah confronted Ahab. Israel would have no rain.
God protected Elijah beside a brook. When it dried, God sent him to a widow preparing to die of starvation. God instead gave her unending flour and oil.
Later, her son died. Elijah cried out and God revived him.
God sent Elijah to Ahab again. Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Baal. When Elijah's god prevailed the 450 prophets were executed.
Elijah escaped Jezebel's wrath. God visited Elijah on a mountain. He instructed Elijah to anoint kings over Aram and Israel and Elisha as his successor. Elisha followed Elijah as his right-hand man.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Ahab and Jezebel were antagonistic towards God and all Israel suffered.

Israel suffered a drought that lasted over two years because Ahab and Jezebel openly worshipped another god. Although God saved the widow and her son at Zarephath (who housed Elijah) many others died. It echoes the negative side of leadership: as leaders go, so goes the nation. Leaders set the tone for obedience or disobedience for an entire group.

The widow blamed Elijah for her son's death, not God.

The widow and her son were about to die of starvation. Elijah came and his god helped them survive the terrible drought. However, when her son got sick and died the widow did not blame God, "Why did you ever show up here in the first place—a holy man barging in, exposing my sins, and killing my son?" (17:18, The Message). She humbled herself to think that God's wrath came on her because of Elijah showed it to God. So we, today, should not blame God for bad things that happen. God is not the source of the bad that happens in our lives. Ask that our sins be forgiven instead of what we have returned.

Elijah wanted God's Name to be praised.

In all his interactions, Elijah makes it clear that God's Name is to be praised. The drought was caused by God, not Elijah. The widow at Zarephath would be spared because of God, not Elijah. Her son was revived by God, not Elijah. When he challenged the 400 prophets of Baal, Elijah prayed,
O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I'm doing what I'm doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance. (18:36-37)
God's People want God's Name praised, not their own.

Jezebel was an evil, wicked woman.

Just in case you did not pick it up, Ahab was most likely a henpecked king with Jezebel pulling the shots. She wanted the altars to Baal. She ordered the prophets of God murdered. She ordered Elijah's execution. Why Ahab married her is a mystery. I normally do not point out bad actors in the Bible unless they show some larger way God is setting things right; however, Jezebel is so evil I had to make an exception. Don't be like Jezebel!

God protected Elijah.

Elijah had a difficult life because he lived in a time when Israel had turned far away from God. However, because he was willing to do the hard things—confront the king twice, battle 450 prophets of the state religion—God protected him from harm and disaster. When we are willing to set all things right for God, no matter the consequences, He will protect us.

Compare the worship of God and God's arrival to the prophets of Baal.

The prophets of Baal thought they needed to cry loudly and harm themselves to be heard. They cut their arms until they were covered in blood. All of these things were meant to garner the attention of their god. What came from Baal? Silence.
Elijah, on the other hand, did not cry in a loud voice (although he may have spoken loudly) and only asked God to prove His legitimacy, Elijah's legitimacy, and His steadfast lovingkindness. Then fury was unleashed by God.
When God passed by Elijah, there was a fury before God arrived; however, God arrived in a quiet voice speaking to Elijah. God is not a "god of fury," forcing his followers to perform theatrics to prove their love and obedience. God is a god of stillness, quietness, and uses His Love to prove His Worthiness. We should also be people of stillness, quiet, and using our love to prove our god's authority and worthiness.

Do you obey a theatrical god or the Quiet God?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26 - 1 Kings 15:25-16:34; 2 Chronicles 17: Israel's Revolving Door of Kings

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 15:25-16:34; 2 Chronicles 17

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

While Israel went through many kings who did not serve God, Judah had two kings who obeyed God.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Jeroboam's son Nadab was killed by Baasha. God's promise to Jeroboam was fulfilled.
Baasha was openly evil before God. God punished Baasha the same as Jeroboam.
Israel then went through several kings: Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab. Each became more evil than the previous. Ahab and his wife Jezebel openly worshiped Baal and made God angrier than any other king.
In Judah, Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, became king. He returned Judah to God and tore down the shrines. God blessed Jehoshaphat with a peaceful kingdom. He sent teachers throughout Judah to teach God's Way. Judah prospered greatly under Jehoshaphat.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Judah enjoyed peace while Israel had great upheaval.

As we read yesterday, Judah enjoyed peace, with various military victories in the middle. These kings, Abijah, Asa, and Jehoshaphat were mostly good kings. Israel's kings, Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab each became more evil than the next. They worshipped other gods and appointed non-holy men to be priests. None of them listened to God's word and because of that several entire families were wiped out. When God's Chosen People serve Him there is peace. When God's Chosen People go against God, there is great upheaval.

Jehoshaphat was loved by his people for following God.

Although there was a step or two between Jehoshaphat obeying God and his people loving him, the direction is clear. Jehoshaphat had a heart for God, acted upon that heart, God secured his place as king, and everyone in Judah loved and honored Jehoshaphat. He re-taught the Law to the Israelites in Judah. The entire country prospered because of Jehoshaphat's faith. When leaders give their heart to God and act upon that faith, the people rejoice and love their leaders.

Are you in a time of peace or upheaval?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25 - 1 Kings 15:1-24; 2 Chronicles 13-16: Two Imperfect Kings Call Out to the Perfect God

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 15:1-24; 2 Chronicles 13-16

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The men of Judah, even though they were not perfectly following God's Law cried out and God gave them victory.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Abijah followed his father's wickedness; however, God kept David's promise.
Jeroboam used Abijah's overtures for peace as a military trap. Abijah's soldiers cried out to God and were victorious.
Abijah's son Asa became king next. Asa cried out to God and He gave them victory over the Ethiopians.
Judah revived their covenant with God. Asa took down many idols, but not all. He removed his mother's throne because she made an idol.
Later, he asked Aram to help fight Israel instead of God and was punished. Asa turned sour against God and died in his bitterness. He reigned 41 years.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

When God's Chosen People call out to Him, He gives them victory.

Abijah was not considered a righteous king. He was not worthy of David's promise but God kept him in power anyway. When Jeroboam attacked Abijah from a stronger strategic position, God saved Abijah and his men. Why did God do this? Because Abijah and his men cried out to God. Even when we are not fully converted to letting God set all things right in our lives, God loves and cares for us.
Later, Asa would have a major military victory over the Ethiopians because he cried out to God.

When God's Chosen People call out to Him, He gives them peace.

I love how king Asa cleaned up the country and renewed Israel's vow with God. God, in turn, did not disappoint.
The whole country felt good about the covenant promise - they had given their promise joyfully from the heart. Anticipating the best, they had sought God - and he showed up, ready to be found. God gave them peace within and without - a most peaceable kingdom! (2 Chronicles 15:15, The Message)
Here is the interesting part: Asa did not completely rid the countryside of idols. But God overlooked that issue and granted Judah peace anyway, because "he was well-intentioned - his heart was in the right place, loyal to God" (15:17). Even when we are not fully converted to letting God set all things right in our lives, God will give us peace if we have our hearts in the right place.

When God's Chosen People ignore God, God ignores His Chosen People.

Unfortunately, Asa did not remain a good king all of his life. When Baasha attacked Judah, Asa did not call upon God to save them. He went to Ben-Hadad, king of Aram to ask that he stop backing Baasha. Because he ignored God, God ignored him. To Asa's discredit, he did not react well to the news and punished Hanani for bringing God's message. He did not learn from his mistake, either, and died from an infection. The saddest part was that God was willing to help Asa, "God is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him" (16:9). God will always answer those who call out to Him. He will not answer those who ignore Him.

Do you cry out to God in your moments of need?

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24 - 2 Chronicles 10-12: Rehoboam Loses the Kingdom and Solomon's Riches, Returns to God

Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 10-12

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Rehoboam went down the same path as Jeroboam but changed when God punished him.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Rehoboam became king. Israel asked for lighter work. Rehoboam's elders counseled him to grant the wishes. His peers wanted to intimidate Israel. Rehoboam listened to his peers and lost the kingdom, fulfilling God's promise to Solomon.
Rehoboam built forts throughout his land. At first, God prevented civil war between the two kingdoms. Later they skirmished for years.
All of the God-worshipers moved to Judah to escape Jeroboam's evil. This lasted three years.
Rehoboam stopped worshiping God. Shishak, king of Egypt, plundered Jerusalem and the Temple. Rehoboam repented and God relented.
Rehoboam died with a reputation of not obeying God.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

People will only work hard for leaders willing to be a servant and to accomplish a specific task.

We must be careful reading too much into what happened to Rehoboam, since God was behind everything. However, what the text wants us to see is that Israel was willing to follow Rehoboam like his father but only if they had lighter loads. They had faithfully obeyed Solomon to build the Temple, houses, and other important buildings in Jerusalem. Once he died, they wanted rest from the work. Unfortunately, Rehoboam's peers decided they needed a swift kick in the rear instead of lighter loads. Because he listened to his peers instead of the elders, Rehoboam lost the kingdom. There is so much Rehoboam could have done to keep his kingdom: asked God to remove the punishment, listened to the elders and followed their advice, or quickly rescinded his words once the people began to rebel. Unfortunately, he was too spoiled to do this. It is better for people to follow because they believe in the purpose of the task than obey because they fear the repercussions.

Rehoboam went down the same path as his father.

Rehoboam only learned from his initial setback until he fortified the kingdom. He continued to worship at the shrines his father erected. He abandoned God. So God punished Rehoboam with the loss of the riches Solomon had amassed over his 40-year reign.

Unlike Jeroboam, Rehoboam learned from his mistakes and returned to God.

Shemaiah and the refugees of Israel came to Rehoboam and all repented of abandoning God. Because they repented God blunted the punishment. However, they were not free. God wanted them to see the difference in serving God and serving humans. That lesson taught the people to obey God for the remainder of Rehoboam's life. When we learn from our mistakes and repent God will remove or blunt our punishment.

Have you seen the difference in serving God vs. serving humans?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23 - 1 Kings 12-14: Jeroboam Sets a New Record for Sinning Against God

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 12-14

The Message

English Standard Version

Today we begin the divided kingdom section in the history of the Jews. We now have two kings to keep track of. This becomes confusing, especially since the reigns did not always begin and end at the same time. Since we are reading chronologically, some of the confusion will be taken out. However, the two books (1 Kings then 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles) will overlap. When they do, I will summarize and comment on the life of one king the first day (today will be Jeroboam) and the other king the next day (Rehoboam).

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Jeroboam was taken from nothing, given most of the kingdom of David, the man who received a promise from God, and then caused Israel to worship other gods.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

As promised, God took the kingdom away from Solomon's son. Jeroboam became king over 10 tribes.
Jeroboam worried Israel would reunify. He changed Israel's worship, built two golden calves, multiple shrines and appointed unworthy priests—blatantly sinning against God.
God sent a messenger to condemn the new altar at Bethel. A king would sacrifice its prophets there.
An old prophet of God came and tricked the messenger to his death.
Jeroboam did not change.
Jeroboam sent his wife to Ahijah on behalf of his son. Ahijah told her God would punish Jeroboam's entire household with death. His son died.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Jeroboam forsook God because of his unwillingness to trust God's promise.

God gave Jeroboam a kingdom—David's kingdom. Yet that promise was not sufficient for Jeroboam. He had to prevent Israel from going to Jerusalem to worship. So he instead erected altars to other gods and appointed unholy people as priests for these new gods. Saul's reign ended because he would not wait to worship God the correct way. Jeroboam not only lost the kingdom for his lineage, he forfeited the lives of all his servants! When we regard our position higher than our faithfulness to God we are on the road to death. We may not die as Jeroboam died, but we cannot be on the road to life.

The story of the holy man of God who went to Jeroboam is one of the saddest stories in the Bible.

He is one of the most pitiable people in the Bible. He was willing to stand before the king of Israel and condemn the king's actions. He was willing to obey God's instructions. His problem was believing in the wrong person. The person he believed in told a great lie. Unfortunately it turned out to be the mistake that took his life. Beware when someone, even a person who proclaims to be from God, tells you to go against God's direct commands. It may be a test to see if you trust God.

What is your highest record of sin? (Don't answer that)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22 - Proverbs 30-31: Agur and King Lemuel Present Their Wisdom

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 30-31

The Message

English Standard Version

Congratulations! You have (almost) finished the wisdom literature books and have finished 15 books overall! The 11 remaining psalms will be spread out from now until the end of September. But we'll celebrate now! Way to go!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

A good woman is hard to find but is well worth the search.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Agur's words:
Skeptics deny God's existence and call it freedom.
Believers remain under the all-true God's protection. They ask God to remove all untruths and to give just enough physical blessings to stay dependent on Him.
Treat others with respect. Leeches only take.
Some things are insatiable, mysterious, and intolerable. Others are wonderful and dignified.
King Lemuel repeats his mother's advice:
Stay away from wine and loose women and speak up against injustice.
A good woman is hard to find, but well worth the search. All are blessed by her. Beauty fades, but an admirable woman deserves great praise.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Skeptics and believers cannot see truth the same because they do not understand faith the same.

The biggest difference between the skeptic and the believer is that the skeptic needs tangible or visual proof for everything while the believer trusts in God. Skeptics cannot rely on faith to take them into trust, obedience, and dependence. The believer trusts God to remove all falsehoods from them and to give them enough to remain dependent without dishonoring God's Name.
They have completely different mindsets which lead to two different comfort levels with uncertainty. The believer allows God to fill in the blank spots while the skeptic cannot stand blankness. They almost speak two different languages. There is no surprise in a skeptic not understanding a believer (and vice-versa). They have two differing and opposite worldviews.

A good woman is hard to find but well worth the search.

It is difficult to write about this section of scripture because of the culture war raging about the role of women in churches. The idea that a woman would have different gifts, responsibilities, duties, and rewards than a man is anathema to American hyper-equality zealots. Lemuel's description of the woman "skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, / diligent in homemaking" (31:19) which leads to the husband being "greatly respected / when he deliberates with the city fathers" (31:23, The Message) would seem at odds with what I hear from feminists—I am willing to be proven wrong if you have an example.
What I think much of the feminist conversation lacks is the "team" aspect of a marriage. What I mean by that is in the rush for equality Lemuel's words quoted above are dismissed as "patriarchal" or ignored completely. But what if that is how God has wired many to most women and men? What if many women want to get married early, have children and stay at home? What if their husbands want to honor their wives for being great homemakers instead of career women? Equality as defined by Americans may not be biblical. What most feminists fight against is equally unbiblical; however, I rarely hear those arguments anymore (the last person I heard give an argument against women was a backwoods preacher well into his 70s). Maybe it's time to retire the hyper-dramatic rhetoric and encourage women in the same way Lemuel or Lemuel's mother encouraged women, whether they stay home with their family or go into the marketplace themselves to work:
"Many women have done wonderful things,
   but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades.
   The woman to be admired and praised
   is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-GOD.
Give her everything she deserves!
   Festoon her life with praises! (vv. 29-31)

Have you praised the women in your life who live in the Fear-of-God?

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21 - 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9: Solomon's World-Famous Wisdom and Foreign-God-Serving Wives

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading brings us to the end of Solomon's life. Unfortunately, his life does not end as well as his father's.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Riches did not corrupt Solomon's values. Foreign women who worshiped other gods did.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

The queen of Sheba came to test Solomon. He exceeded her expectations.
Solomon received massive amounts of gifts from the kings who flocked to Jerusalem.
Solomon obsessed over women. He married 700 and had 1000 concubines. He married from the people God warned Israel against. They eroded his faithfulness and he erected shrines to their gods.
God informed Solomon that David's promise kept him on his throne; however, Solomon's son would be the king of only one tribe.
God informed Jeroboam that he would reign over 10 tribes. Solomon's assassination attempt failed.
Solomon reigned in Israel 40 years and died.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God gave Solomon everything he could possibly imagine.

God came to Solomon and allowed his request for wisdom. Because Solomon asked for wisdom and not lesser blessings God granted him all of the other blessings. He became the richest, most respected, and wisest king. Silver was considered gravel it was so common. Kings flocked to Jerusalem not to overtake it but to sit at his table and learn. When God's People learn God's precepts, the entire world will want to sit and learn.

Solomon's downfall came because of foreign women, not riches.

Solomon ignored God's warnings not to marry the people who originally lived in the land of Canaan. God was very specific not to "marry your sons to their women, women who take up with any convenient god or goddess and will get your sons to do the same thing" (Exodus 34:16, The Message). This happened in Israel's early history and they were punished. The problem was not the number of women Solomon married. The problem was his choice of women. God's Chosen People should not marry people who are not converted to God setting all things right.
Let me reiterate what I wrote earlier in the year. The story of Solomon does not focus on your local congregation, denomination, or religion. Solomon's story warns against people who are not willing to join God setting all things right. They join with any group. I think Solomon built these shrines because he wanted to please his wives, not because he was convinced these gods were more powerful than God. Yet because he did this God took the kingdom from his sons and gave 10 tribes to Jeroboam.

What do you think of Solomon's life?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20 - Ecclesiastes 7-12: Solomon Says Live It Up!

Today’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 7-12

The Message

English Standard Version

Ecclesiastes, book 14, is finished today. Enjoy!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Solomon encourages a balanced life in every way.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

A good reputation exemplifies a life worth emulating. Don't pine for the past.
Fear God and deal with all reality.
Full wisdom would drown humans. We mess everything up.
Obey your orders. No one can control everything.
Everyone dies but only the righteous have a full life.
God rejoices with our rejoicing. So make the most of life!
Young people, go for it! However, all intentions are judged by God, so develop a habit of honoring God. Everything else is vanishing smoke.
In the end, there is no better advice than this: fear God and do what He says.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Ecclesiastes presents a hard truth: the benefits of being good are not always evident.

Wisdom is a wonderful addition to a character. However, human wisdom cannot make sense of all things. Solomon, the wisest man of his time, could not answer some of the hardest questions we wrestle with today. For example, why do bad things happen to good people? Solomon's answer is disconcerting—it is unknown, so best not to devote yourself to becoming good or evil. Enjoy life without obsessing over "good" vs. "evil." Remember that all actions will eventually come to light and you will be judged based on your intentions. If you wish for everyone to know what you are doing, do it. If not, don't. However, everyone dies in the end. Being good doesn't give extra life or an easier life. It only gives an inner-peaceful life.

God takes pleasure in our pleasure.

Christians sometimes get a bad reputation (unearned mostly) of being sticks in the mud. Certainly this was true in our Puritan past; however, scripture does not suggest it and Christians now have mostly left that idea behind. Solomon clearly pushes us to live life to the fullest! Take pleasure in life! Each day is God's gift!

Young people should be encouraged to develop a habit of both praise to God and pleasure in life.

One of the main reasons many young people do not see a need for a community of Christians is because they think God takes away pleasure. I don't mean what would be destructive acts, either. Not all young people want to destroy themselves with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, etc. Solomon encourages young people to both enjoy the pleasures of life and honor God. Be impulsive! Pursue that crazy dream! Remember, though, everything is vanishing smoke and everyone's intent must answer to God. When we read all of scripture we understand that life is not so serious that any mistake is the same as a sin.

Too much study will wear you out.

This is easy to comprehend for a student. It is also strange coming from the person who wrote most of Proverbs and has written over five thousand words in this book alone. Too much theoretical study will make a person useless in life. Go get practical knowledge! To summarize his entire book Solomon writes, "Fear God. / Do what he tells you" (12:13, The Message). Other books and/or self-help gurus make happiness sound too complicated. It will all work out for those who want to set things right with God.

Are you enjoying life or trying to live "the godly, chaste life?"

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19 - Ecclesiastes 1-6: Solomon Chases Smoke

Today’s Reading: Ecclesiastes 1-6

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading is the first half of Ecclesiastes, the writings of Solomon about the meaning of life. I'll discuss more about the book in the comments below. We will finish the book tomorrow.

There is now a donation button on the right side of the blog. It goes through PayPal. If you enjoy reading these posts and would like to contribute I would appreciate it. There's no obligation and I won't beat you over the head with requests (I may not mention it again). Thanks and enjoy today's reading!

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Whether you exert yourself in life or not the end is the same—death.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

These are the words of Solomon, who's been around the block.
Life is vanishing smoke.
Nature is a broken record.
Striving to be happy is chasing smoke.
I became the wisest around. Chased smoke.
I tried pleasure. Chased smoke.
Life became meaningless. People who are wise, hard working, successful, and rich chase smoke. Only God ultimately directs life.
There is a time for everything. So what?
Animals and man—both die.
Hard work without enjoyment—chasing smoke.
Injustice will never end. Only God's earth works every time.
Eat, drink, and make the most of your work—that's God's ideal life.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The book of Ecclesiastes is a book of warning against taking life too serious.

"Smoke, nothing but smoke. … / There's nothing to anything—it's all smoke" (1:2, The Message). Solomon is warning everyone not to spend their entire lives focused on the wrong thing. Everything on the earth happens the same way every year. Nothing humans do can change it. Human "accomplishments" are silly. Right now the NBA is crowning a champion. Why get excited? Next year they'll give another one. The lack of meaning in life can lead a person to despair. However, Solomon's purpose is not to take away all meaning of life, Solomon warns that people miss the forest of a godly life for the trees of life seemingly independent of God.

God's earth provides the greatest contrast to the smallness of human accomplishment.

Humans have been through several great ages of development. The past 20 years has seen more innovation than the previous 100. What do we have to show for it: great technology, great healthcare, and discontent? We are waking up to find that all we have accomplished is changing the definition of "busy" as we go toward the grave—from spending all of our time trying to survive to spending all of our time trying to live. On the other hand, Earth continues to go around the sun. The seasons change exactly as they have for centuries. Animals give birth and die in the same ways they did before. Earth still "works" in the same way it has for centuries before us and will for centuries to come. Human's greatest accomplishments pale in comparison to God's average accomplishment—a working world.

Injustice will never end because humans will never be as faithful and honest as the earth.

I chaff when I hear groups spout platitudes about ending hunger, poverty, and the injustice flavor of the month: bullying, human trafficking, global warming, etc. I sneer at their suggestion that a group of people (mostly middle class Americans and Europeans) can change the hearts of every person in the world. They will never be able to "end" hatred in people's hearts, the source of injustice and violence. Our teachings may be great, our practices sound, and our aim high; but in the end only God can set things right on this earth. I support any and all attempts to broker peace between groups. I do not support ideas that humans can completely end injustice independent of or with God limited to a supporting role.

Wisdom, pleasure, hard work, successful careers, and/or riches are meaningless independent from God.

Solomon tried to make a huge deal out of everything: wisdom, pleasure, hard work, success, and riches. Eventually he realized each of those things were meaningless in themselves. Only God gave ultimate meaning, since He is the only sentient being who is fully faithful. His conclusion is troublesome to the driven,
After looking at the way things are on this earth, here's what I've decided is the best way to live: Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life. And that's about it. That's the human lot. Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what's given and delighting in the work. It's God's gift! (5:18-19, The Message)
The disciplined, wise person and the foolish, pleasure-seeker both end up dead and forgotten. Hard working, honest, successful businesspeople and their employees die and give other people their money/businesses just like dishonest, lazy people. Rich people and poor people end with exactly the same thing—nothing. Balance hard work and good pleasure. Both are needed to enjoy a godly life.

What do you make a big deal over?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 18 - Proverbs 27-29: The End of Solomon's Proverbs

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 27-29

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The heart directs all other actions. Good hearts lead to good lives.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Allow others to draw attention to you.
Friendship restores the soul in times of trouble.
Nagging spouses are worse than leaky faucets.
Tests of the heart prove a person's true nature.
A good leader can straighten out a nation—and will be well respected and rewarded in return.
Practicing God's Law leads to wisdom.
God does not listen to one-sided prayers.
Mercy for sins is only found in confession, not in secrecy.
Sage advice can quiet an entire town.
Discipline for children works in their favor and in yours.
Don't help criminals.
Good and evil people will never get along.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Expressions of true feelings are better than silence, even when they aren't encouraging.

Two proverbs back-to-back mention this idea. The first is that a reprimand is better than silence. The second contrasts a wound from a lover to the kisses of an enemy. When a person's true emotions are expressed you learn more about the person. When someone hears no answer from what they do the feel ignored, uncared for, and unable to please. They feel better knowing you did not like what they did than not knowing at all. It is better to reprimand or wound than leave a person not knowing you approve.

Friendship is beautiful.

Friendship has many lovely benefits. Friends refresh each other. Friends are closer than family. Friends sharpen each other. There are few things better than a good friend.

Take care of those things which bring blessings.

Solomon tells farmers and ranchers to take care of their plants and animals. In return they will be greatly blessed. To broaden the advice out, we could apply this to anything we have that brings blessings. Take care of your possessions, especially those that bless in return. Animals, people, things need care.

God has no use for one-sided prayers.

One-sided prayers are when you pray to God for blessings but either close yourself off for God to work in you or do not stop to listen to God's words spoken to you. In essence, the purpose of prayer is not so God will know what is on our hearts but prayer is for us to know what is on God's Heart by submitting our hearts to Him. This is why God has no use for our prayers when we are unwilling to submit to Him.

Sages calm situations down through quiet, reflective advice.

Cynics do not accept wisdom. Because they do not accept any wisdom, they are constantly angry. When they are constantly angry they make accusations which stir up crowds. These stirred-up crowds can cause havoc in the city. Sages, on the other hand, accept wisdom as coming from God. Because they accept wisdom based on God, they are able to have peace. When they have peace, they are able to discern truth in times of havoc. When they discern truth, everyone calms down. Don't cause havoc in your city. Be a sage.

Do you have a reputation for wisdom?

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17 - Proverbs 25-26: Wise Leaders vs. Friendly Fools

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 25-26

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Good leadership bubbles to the top, it does not push itself up.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

These proverbs of Solomon were written down by Hezekiah:
God delights in making puzzles. Man enjoys solving them.
Good leadership separates itself from wickedness and rises honorably.
Level heads instill trustworthiness.
Words are lifesavers or hot air, depending on the source.
Friends and chocolate—moderation is the key to happy living.
Don't make deals with the Devil.
Give to your enemies.
Lack of self control creates hollow lives.
Fools deserve swift punishment—replies that set them straight without inflating their self-inflated egos.
Stay away from other people's quarrels and gossip. Beware jokers.
Enemies should not be trusted.
Evil never prospers.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Good leadership rises naturally.

The unnatural rise of a person to leadership leads to inflated egos and eventual humiliation. Good leadership, on the other hand, rises slowly through removing wickedness and a level head. Good leaders produce what they promise through patient persistence and gentle answers. Do not rush leadership development. Good leaders need time to mature.

Moderation with friends (and candy) makes for an easier life. Cheap friends (and cheap candy) make life harder.

A person too eager to please a new friend wears out their welcome quickly. Relying on others too much and not respecting their private lives/times will lead to a harder, more lonely life.
Cheap friends who gossip, cheat, and lie to get their way are not worth the pain they eventually will cause. Just like cheap candy, cheap friends will leave you feeling worse.

A fool's self-inflated ego knows no bounds. They need swift kicks in the butt to set them straight.

A fool (mentioned often in Proverbs) is a person who would not accept help even if it were offered with no strings attached. Their egos prevent any wisdom from penetrating their thick skulls. Unfortunately, they cannot go unchecked; however, the way they are held in check should not add to their grandiose self-esteem. Do not answer fools like a fool. Swift kicks in the butt (metaphorical and physical) may be the best answer they can hear.

Who are the good leaders in your life?

Sunday, June 16, 2013

June 16 - 1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8: Solomon Organizes His Kingdom

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God would punish Solomon's descendents based on their disobedience but would bless them based on David's obedience.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God impressed upon Solomon the importance of obedience. If Solomon and/or his descendents obeyed God they would be blessed with God's presence. If they disobeyed, God would tear down Solomon's throne and His temple and send Israel into captivity.
Hiram wished for more important cities for his reward; however, he received what he received.
Pharaoh gave his daughter, the wife of Solomon, the land of Gezer. Solomon rebuilt it.
Solomon reinitiated the Canaanite-forced-labor agreement. Full-blooded Israelites manned government positions.
Solomon was greatly blessed with wealth and ships. Hiram sent sailors to help build Solomon's fleet.
Solomon continued to obey God.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God would not spare his own Temple built by the chosen king in the chosen land He gave to His Chosen People.

(Repeated from Friday's comments)
Reminiscent to Moses' words to Israel prior to entering Canaan, God presents both sides of the coin to being His Chosen People. There are great and wondrous promises—land, peace, prosperity, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. They would become an example to the nations, a testament to their god's Awesome Blessings. There are also equally great and wondrous punishments—persecution, captivity, destruction, and ruin. They would become an example to the nations, a testament to their god's Awesome Judgment. Even the Temple that Solomon built would not stand if they did not obey God. Warning: Those who take up with God will be greatly blessed. Those who later take up with other gods will be equally punished. Remember this the next time you consider choosing to be God's Chosen Person on this earth and encourage others to become a Chosen Person on this earth. It is for anyone; but it is not for everyone.

Solomon was greatly blessed because he continued to sacrifice to God.

Sometimes I wonder "how righteous" the people in the Old Testament were. If you grew up in a church you may feel that these men and women were such "superheroes of faith" that we could never match their intensity, dedication, and ability to set things right. Fortunately, scripture does not present these people as "inventors of good" (to turn Paul's phrase on its head). Solomon, the son of the man after God's own heart, was greatly blessed because he "kept to the regular schedule of worship set down by Moses" and "followed the practice of his father David in setting up groups of priests carrying out the work of worship" (2 Chronicles 8:13-14, The Message). If you want to be righteous and do not know where to start, begin with what has been passed down through scripture and your tradition. By doing this you will see ways to mature and add to your worship ways to set things right.

Are you keeping what has been passed down through scripture and tradition?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hallelujah! June 15 - Psalms 134, 146-150: Praise God, Everyone! Hallelujah!

Today’s Reading: Psalms 134, 146-150

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Notice all of the instruments used to praise God.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 134

Come bless God, everyone! May God bless us in turn!

Psalm 146

Hallelujah! Praise God! Do not trust in humans who are limited. Trust in the trustworthy, generous, gracious God who defends orphans and widows. God is in charge! Hallelujah!

Psalm 147

Hallelujah! Praise to our God is beautiful and fits Him perfectly! God put Israel back together from captivity! So we thank the God who controls the earth! Praise God! He has defended Jerusalem and helps them through the winter like no other nation on earth. Hallelujah!

Psalm 148

Hallelujah! Praise God, earth! Animals, elements, plants, weather, people old and young! Let them praise God because He is the only one worthy of praise! Hallelujah!

Psalm 149

Hallelujah! Praise God with dancing, instruments, and new songs because He arrays us in salvation! Lovers, warriors, praise God for defeating your enemies! Hallelujah!

Psalm 150

Hallelujah! Praise God everywhere for He is great! Get all of the instruments together; it's time to praise God! Hallelujah!

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Hallelujah! God is worthy of praise! Hallelujah!

Every psalm today has the same theme. It isn't new and I've commented on it several times, so there is not much to add other than seconding their statements and going back to read them again. Praise God! Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! Praise God! Hallelujah!

Friday, June 14, 2013

June 14 - 2 Chronicles 6-7; Psalm 136: The Hesed of the Lord Never Quits!

Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 6-7; Psalm 136

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading from 2 Chronicles mirrors almost exactly the reading from yesterday. Because of that I will summarize and comment only on what was added at the end of chapter seven.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The Hesed of God never fails!

Summary in 100 Words or Less

After Solomon dedicated the Temple to the Honor of God, God appeared to Solomon and accepted his prayer. He promised to stop any plague in Israel if they would only return to Him and pray. God's name would be stamped on the Temple forever; however, that would not prevent God from destroying His own Temple stone by stone if they would not listen to Him. This also applied to David's promise—if Solomon's sons obeyed God they would stay on the throne. Disobedience meant destruction. God would use them as an example to the nations, this time as a warning.

Psalm (P)Synopsis

Psalm 136

This call-and-answer psalm praises God, the real god in a sea of fake gods, who created everything and took care of His Chosen People. The psalmist ends by reminding the responders how God took care of Israel when they were down and in need. The response after each line is exactly the same each time: "His Hesed (lovingkindness) never quits!"

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God would not spare his own Temple built by the chosen king in the chosen land He gave to His Chosen People.

Reminiscent to Moses' words to Israel prior to entering Canaan, God presents both sides of the coin to being His Chosen People. There are great and wondrous promises—land, peace, prosperity, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. They would become an example to the nations, a testament to their god's Awesome Blessings. There are also equally great and wondrous punishments—persecution, captivity, destruction, and ruin. They would become an example to the nations, a testament to their god's Awesome Judgment. Even the Temple that Solomon built would not stand if they did not obey God. Warning: Those who take up with God will be greatly blessed. Those who later take up with other gods will be equally punished. Remember this the next time you consider choosing to be God's Chosen Person on this earth and warn others before becoming a Chosen Person on this earth. It is for anyone; but it is not for everyone.

God's Hesed Endures Forever!

This word has many translations. In the New American Standard Bible it has 19 different renderings! Unfortunately, the richness of this word is completely lost and often flattened to the highly-overused word "love." We could be grateful, since we would not like to read or repeat "For His devout, faithful, good, kind, loyal, merciful, righteous, and unchanging love endures forever." Yet that is what is being presented here. God's [insert wonderful, amazing and long list of exclamations of greatness] never quits! That is also something to weigh before becoming a Chosen Person of God.

Have you decided to become a Chosen Person of God?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 13 - 1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5: The Pinnacle of Ancient Israel: the Dedication of the Temple

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

This could possibly be the peak for the Israelites as a culture and a nation.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple with multitudes of sacrifices.
God entered the Temple, ending all other work by the priests.
Solomon blessed God for his peaceful kingdom. He prayed:
"God, keeper of all promises if we obey, are You really moving into our neighborhood? Stay forever!
"We will sin. You will punish us with plagues, drought, and captivity. When we return our hearts, return our land. Foreigners, attracted by your majesty and grace, will turn their hearts and prayers to You. Hear their cry, too!"
Solomon charged Israel with these words and sent them home.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Obedience (not perfection) unlocks God's promises and returns God's favor.

Solomon makes this clear when he mentions David's promise, "You'll always have a descendant to represent my rule on Israel's throne, on the condition that your sons are as careful to live obediently in my presence as you have" (1 Kings 8:25, The Message), and in his prayer to God for the removal of punishments,
then they pray at this place, acknowledging your rule and quitting their sins because you have scourged them, listen from your home in heaven, forgive the sins of your servants, your people Israel. Then start over with them: Train them to live right and well. (8:35-36)
Solomon understood that God would punish His Chosen People. But punishment would not be the final word! If Israel learned from their mistakes and tried to follow God again, Solomon called on God to save and return Israel to their land. Obedience brings God's blessings into fruition. If you are being punished, obedience and a contrite heart will restore God's blessings.

God's reputation attracts foreigners.

In his dedication prayer, Solomon specifically mentions the foreigner who "has come from a far country because of your reputation" (8:41). Solomon wants God to bless the foreigner, too, because God blesses anyone and doesn't differentiate between the Chosen and the non-Chosen. The entire world praises Him because of His mighty works!
What does this mean for churches today? At first it seems to be obvious—God blesses anyone who prays to Him, regardless of their "Chosen" status. Although this may seem easy to comprehend the implications of it are difficult for Christians. Christians do not hold a monopoly on God's blessings. We have spent so much time focusing on what Solomon said about Israel that we forget to read the section on foreigners. God's name is famous around the world because of His wondrous works. Anyone who wishes to set things right on this earth does so with His help, even if they do not acknowledge it openly.

Are you bringing God's blessings into fruition?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 12 - 1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4: Solomon Finishes God's House, Builds His Own

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading also has a lot of technical details. However, I do not want you to miss these, since they include the details of how the Temple of God was built by Solomon. If you get bogged down in the detail remember there will not be a test at the end of the reading.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

No expenses were withheld—Solomon made the Temple for God a wonder to behold.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Solomon continued building: a judgment hall lined with cedars, magnificent houses for his wife (Pharaoh's daughter) and himself. Each one spared no expense in the smallest detail. These buildings took 13 years to finish.
Solomon sent for Hiram (the Israelite, not the king of Tyre) to produce bronze furnishings for the Temple. They created several large items out of bronze to support the Temple's weight and to put inside. They made so many utensils from bronze they could not weigh them properly to ascertain the exact value. This finished the construction of God's Temple.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Solomon spared no expense to build his houses.

God blessed Solomon greater than any of his predecessors. Solomon uses this wealth both to build a Temple to honor God and build houses for himself and his wife, Pharaoh's daughter. When God blesses you greatly, after you bless God you can live in luxury, too! All luxurious living is not righteous living; all righteous people do not live in poverty. Neither extreme is correct. If we received our riches honestly and honor God first, luxury can be a blessing from God.

What do you think of Solomon's homes and the Temple?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11 - 1 Kings 5-6; 2 Chronicles 2-3: Solomon Builds a Temple in Honor of God

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 5-6; 2 Chronicles 2-3

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading has a lot of technical details. However, I do not want you to miss these, since they include the details of how the Temple of God was built by Solomon. If you get bogged down in the details remember there will not be a test at the end of the post.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God would reside with the Israelites if they obeyed Him, not if they built Him a lavish house.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Solomon enjoyed peace.
He sent letters to Hiram, king of Tyre, requesting materials and skilled labor to build a magnificent temple to honor God, since God is magnificent. Hiram praised Solomon for his wisdom and sent the needed materials along with Huram-Abi, a highly-skilled man, to supervise. Solomon sent grain and olive oil to Hiram as payment.
Thousands of Israelites readied raw materials. The materials were cut to spec offsite to reverence the site. The work took seven years.
During construction God came to Solomon and gave a covenant that if Israel obeyed God He would live with them.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The Temple honored God's name because God's name is greater than all other gods.

This distinction is important for that time period. Temples were meant to be places where the gods literally lived; however, the Temple Solomon built was meant to honor God or be in God's name. Solomon is adamant about this:
The house I am building has to be the best, for our God is the best, far better than competing gods. But who is capable of building such a structure? Why, the skies - the entire cosmos! - can't begin to contain him. And me, who am I to think I can build a house adequate for God - burning incense to him is about all I'm good for! (2 Chronicles 2:5-6, The Message)
He understood the enormity of his task and asked for Hiram's help. Hiram previously helped David build his house, so Solomon calls on their old family friend to help. God deserved a place to honor His Name because God is greater than all other gods!

Hiram, a non-Israelite, honored God because Solomon honored God.

We have seen non-Israelites honor God in the past. Hiram saw Solomon's wisdom and knew the source—the God of Israel. His reply summarized in 2 Chronicles 2:11, "It's plain that God loves his people - he made you king over them!" provides an excellent example of how people who are not God's Chosen People can understand and honor God when His Chosen People honor Him. When God's Chosen People honor God the whole world will notice.

The importance of the Temple was not its structure but its symbolism.

God comes to Solomon and tells him that the importance of the Temple did not lie in its existence, beauty, or intricate design. The importance of the Temple was the sign that God lived with His Chosen People when they obeyed Him. A temple without obedience would be no help to Israel (as we will see in the months ahead). God would reside with Israel because they loved Him, not because they built a lavish house for Him.
Our temple today, our bodies, should also mirror that sentiment. If we set things right on this earth God will resides in our temples, our bodies. God will not reside with us if our bodies are not used to set things right, no matter how beautiful, strong, or adorned it may be.

Do you set things right on the earth with your temple?

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10 - Proverbs 22-24: Solomon's Thirty Precepts

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 22-24

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading ends the concentrated Proverbs reading. We will pick up with Proverbs in a week to read the last of Solomon's section.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

A lazy man eventually ends up poor.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God made both the rich and the poor.
The poor will be ruled by their creditors.
Generous people are blessed because they give to the poor.
Solomon gave thirty principles on treating the poor, anger, gambling, changing boundaries, excelling at work, good impressions on influential people, getting rich, stingy people, helping fools, cheating orphans, spanking children, respecting parents, envying rebels and bad people, the effects of drinking, whores, building a house, wisdom vs. strength, wise conversations, evil reputations, staying strong, rescuing the perishing, eating wisdom, hurting godly people, laughing at plight, avoiding braggarts, and fearing God.
Naps lead to poverty.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

The rich and the poor are equally made by God.

Solomon has encouraged both the rich and (today) the poor to develop a listening relationship. He warned the rich that riches gained with shady practices are no help. He warned the poor that their bad habits bring on their poverty and servitude. He tells the rich to help the poor and not crush them because they can. Neither the rich nor the poor can laud over the other. They are all equal in God.

The lazy use danger to excuse work to their demise.

Solomon mentions laziness twice in this section. The first is a lazy person terrified of a theoretical lion that could eat him if he went into the fields. The second is the result of these excuses—an overgrown field. Lions did live in Israel. However, the likelihood that a lion would attack while working would be very low (or this proverb would be callous). The lazy person, however, does not allow logic to get in the way of a good day's rest. Fear causes excuses which cause poverty.
Today, we may not fear lions, and tigers, and bears (oh, my!) in the streets, but we do allow fear to prevent us from getting into the lives of others, especially those who may have checkered pasts or may live dodgy lives. We may also allow fear to prevent us from applying ourselves to our jobs and therefore limit the amount of blessings we receive. Do not give in to fear—it will lead to poverty.

People who excel at their work will be highly rewarded.

In a jaded age where we question success, Solomon calls us to remember that successful people are not born overnight. They hone their craft and develop a reputation of success. This reputation helps them become successful. Those who excel at their work will always be in demand.

Disciplining children help them become wise.

There is a thriving debate over whether spanking helps or harms children. To give some perspective on this advice, Solomon has seen three of his half-brothers do terrible things. These terrible events happened because their father was unwilling to correct them. So Solomon's suggestion that "a spanking won't kill them" (23:14, The Message) comes from what he has seen. Discipline your children. If it requires spanking, spank. If it doesn't, don’t. Do not think of this as either a blanket cure-all or a barbarous, antiquated suggestion.

Excuses to not help the perishing are not valid.

I will openly admit I'm a libertarian (with a little "l"). When I read this I recoiled in pain. I know many libertarians (big or small "l") who would disagree with this proverb. However, I would like to put this into context. Solomon has often encouraged not helping a fool because a fool will turn against and fight you. This is a very simple and clear standard: fool = those who fight help, therefore do not help. So I doubt Solomon is contradicting himself here. I believe he is repeating what he wrote a few chapters back that if we have the means we should help someone. If a person is dying, would receive help, and we can help them we are under obligation to help them because of their advocate, not their humanity. Individualism aside, we must help those who in need when we can.

What are your thoughts on the "Thirty Precepts?"

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 9 - Proverbs 19-21: Riches Gained Honestly Help the Poor

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 19-21

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

God examines our inner reasons behind our outer actions.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Wealth is a great help, but only if acquired honestly. Poor people wrongly blame God for their poverty.
Wealth is passed on by parents but a good wife comes from God alone.
Mercy given to the poor is a loan to God. God never defaults.
Too much alcohol is not fun.
Leaders should have a keen eye for shoddy work.
Develop a plan with wise people as your guides.
God will settle scores.
God hates when customers cheat or are cheated.
Clean living is better than religious piety.
Hope for good. Prepare for the worst. Trust God to bring victory.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Riches are a great help—if they are acquired honestly.

Everyone wants to be rich. But lately there is a famous saying going around, "more money, more problems." Solomon would write it differently, "more money gained unjustly, more problems." Riches can be helpful to supply needs, gain friends, and help the poor. What dictates whether riches help or hurt is in the attitude for gaining riches. Riches gained with humility are blessings from God. Riches gained from dishonesty or boasting cause great problems. It is better to be poor than be a liar. However, having riches also gives the opportunity and the resources to help the poor. Riches are God's way of telling you it is time to help others.

Allow angry fools to be trapped on their own.

The problem with helping fools with their anger is that they neither want help nor will accept it when it arrives. They will eventually get angry with you and nothing will be accomplished. It is much better to let them to learn on their own through their own mistakes. Love angry, quick-tempered fools by allowing them to fall on their own.

Do not cheat in the marketplace.

This idea is repeated twice in the same chapter. Solomon wants people to understand—wrong practices which hurt customers or business owners are rejected by God. There are no they-can-afford-it excuses. Wrong practices are always wrong.

Those who search for goodness and life find both!

God is found where goodness and life intersect. If you want to find God, search there.

Do you live an honest life?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8 - Proverbs 16-18: Truth Lies on Both Sides

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 16-18

The Message

English Standard Version

Today's reading begins the unfocused section of Proverbs, meaning each two lines may seem completely unrelated. Therefore, the summaries from here on out will consist of proverbs that stand out to me instead of a true "summary" of what is included in the texts.

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Real truth lies under the surface.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Humans make plans and see the surface only. God's plans are truly good. God has a purpose for everything, even the wicked.
Good leaders bring out the best in their followers by showing them the right way through honesty, seriousness, and gracious speech.
A small amount with peace is better than bounty with fighting.
Generations take pride in each other.
Friends overlook wrongs and stay closer than family.
Talk is cheap; silence makes a fool seem wise.
Selfish loners destroy communities.
Fools choke on their words.
God's Name protects those who humbly submit.
Favors win friends.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

When God is in charge of your plans they come true.

The main idea of the first section is that God can see deeper than people and therefore His plans will always come to fruition. If you want to be successful, begin your plans with God.

Good leaders model godliness.

Followers will do whatever their leaders do. If their leaders do not base their plans on God then followers will not base their plans on God. If leaders lie, cheat, and steal from others their followers will also lie, cheat, and steal from others. If good leaders promote good, truthful advisors, the entire company promotes truth. Leaders, model what you want your followers to do.

Mocking poor people insults God.

Solomon has not given poor people a pass. He has discussed how bad decisions and acts that are not according to God's Way lead people to being poor; however, mocking poor people does not honor God. Solomon understands the causes of poverty and the tragedies it causes. This is why gloating over misfortune is taken seriously. The poor may be poor because of their own doing, but gloating over misfortune only brings reproach on your own head.

Unwise children lead to pain for their parents.

Scattered throughout this section and several sections before is the call to listen and obey parents or shame will come upon them. This is written for both sides—parents should make sure to give their children wise advice and children should listen and obey their wise advice. Solomon does not put the onus on one side or the other. They must both share in setting things right.

Both sides are important in a dispute.

One part of our political system that I find annoying is the constant attempt to silence the other side through filibustering the entire debate time or demonizing the other. Both sides are important to any dispute and should be given a chance to both speak and listen. Businesses should listen to governments and non-profits. Governments and non-profits should listen to businesses. Poor people should listen to rich people. Rich people should listen to poor people. Religious people should listen to non-religious people. Non-religious people should listen to religious people. Parents should listen to children. Children should listen to parents. When we begin by marginalizing one side we end up with one-sided justice—which is no justice at all.

Do you take into account both sides?

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 7 - Proverbs 13-15: The Way of the Wise

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 13-15

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Wise people listen to wise people. Fools listen to daytime television.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Intelligent children develop good conversation skills. They hate false talk and converse in substantial topics. They listen and honor God's Commands. They embrace correction and walk with the wise.
Wise people take care of their mouths and animals. They stay on God's life-track.
Wise people discern truth and cautiously walk forward. They help neighbors and acquire wisdom.
Righteousness can make an entire nation strong but wickedness hurts anyone.
Gentle responses and kind words soothe.
God sees all.
Good advice spreads knowledge.
Intelligent people love being told new truths.
Simple lives with God are better than the high life with evil.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

Wise people welcome wisdom.

Wisdom remains central to the proverbs of Solomon. He mentions this several times: the wise listen to parents, acquire the ability to converse in substantial topics, enjoy correction, and listen to any other wise person. To be wise we must welcome and enjoy listening to those who are wise. If we speak with dullards or read/watch/listen to stories that have little knowledge or wisdom we will eventually become the same. It is best to avoid these types of media/people as much as possible. Cynics cannot accept any form of wisdom—avoid them as well.

Righteousness can lift an entire nation.

Solomon is using the compare-and-contrast method of teaching. He compares the outcome of the righteous to the outcome of the wicked in many different ways. In this case he shows that if right and wrong were ships, righteousness could buoy an entire nation while wickedness could not lift a single person. For this reason individuals, communities, and full nations should invite Lady Wisdom into their homes to help their families, communities, and nations walk in wise ways. Righteousness can lift every person equally. Wickedness can lift no one.

God cannot stand religious theater but loves genuine conversation.

David mentioned a similar idea in Psalm 31. If God cares more for the why of religion instead of the what, religious theater means little. What is significant to Him is connection. This is why true conversation means more to God than anything associated with "religion." God wants you to connect with Him through prayer, not perform the "right" set of rituals.

A simple life with God is better than a flashy life with sin.

George Sanders, the voice of Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, was a talented actor who was good. I remember his captivating performance in All About Eve. I wanted to learn more about him. Unfortunately, what I learned did not impress me. He had no respect for people, especially women. He confessed to being rude and hateful. In April 1972 he committed suicide and his wrote in his suicide note, "Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck." I have never heard of a person coming to the later years of his life and believing God's life was not worth it.

To whom do you listen?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 6 - Proverbs 10-12: Solomon's Proverbs - The Consequences of Righteousness

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 10-12

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

The smallest part of righteousness is appreciated. The smallest part of wickedness is scorned.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

God blesses wisdom, honesty, diligence, and hard work.
The wise discipline their tongues.
God's blessings make a rich life.
The worse nightmares of the wicked come true—they are destroyed, but the desires of good people come true.
God loves fair businesses with down-to-earth, honest people. Principled lives help people save more than money.
Entire villages enjoy having good people. They cheer when bad people suffer.
God knows the difference between good and bad people. Each to their own consequences.
Learn God's discipline and be corrected.
Wise people are mindful of their speech. Worry and laziness lead to trouble.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

God blesses the righteous with money and more.

It is currently chic to look down on successful people or businesses as somehow benefiting from an unrighteous system. Also, to save money is a problem because that money could be used to help the ailing economy. The truth is success is more nuanced than that. According to Solomon, God blesses those with hard-working, honest lives and also those who run honest, upright businesses. At the same time, money is neither the benchmark for success nor the goal of a righteous life. It is the byproduct of righteousness. First develop an honest, diligent work ethic and God will bless you with physical blessings. The second without the first leads to a terrible downfall.

God gives direction and insurance.

Solomon summarizes the interpersonal results of righteousness, "When it goes well for good people, the whole town cheers; / when it goes badly for bad people, the town celebrates. " (11:10, The Message). The insurance and help righteous people get is not directly from God. It comes from their neighbors. Good people have the world on their side when bad things happen. Great illustrations of this principle are found when a natural disaster strikes a community. Those who have a reputation for righteousness are gladly helped. Those who do not are helped begrudgingly.

God gives consequences according to our work.

Those who work well are rewarded with good pay. Those who scrape by in life scrape by financially. Kindness returns kindness and cruelty returns cruelty. If you wonder why people are so mean to you, first consider your actions.

Wise people discipline their tongues.

Solomon has a lot to write about in this area. Wise people keep their tongue in check. They do not spout off, pass rumors, talk too much, or flaunt their strengths. What a difficult, essential part of living a righteous life. Wise people listen discerningly and speak accordingly. That is why the wise survive.

What consequences do you see in your life?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 5 - Proverbs 7-9: Lady Wisdom vs. Madame Whore

Today’s Reading: Proverbs 7-9

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

Both Wisdom and the Seductress give advice. Only one is worth listening to.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

Friend, make Wisdom and Insight your closest confidants.
The Seductress looks for senseless men walking idly. They think sleeping with her safe but instead they die painful deaths.
Wisdom preaches in the square, "Listen up, you blockheads. Want the path to life and great success? God made me before the earth so ignore my words at your own peril. You, in the streets, obey and live well."
Madame Whore also calls out, "Want the good life? It's easy; steal it! You can get away with it!" What her followers do not know, however, is that her followers end up dead.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

What is done in secret never stays secret.

It doesn’t matter how hard a person may try, the sins they commit in secret will not stay secret forever. That is the lesson of the man with an arrow in his liver. One of the main reasons is that sin always lasts longer than expected. The Seductress told the man they were safe for a month. The husband didn't come home early—the man couldn't leave. He was trapped. Beware sins that entice with the perceived cloak of secrecy. They never end up that way.

Lady Wisdom calls out to everyone to live lives that set things right.

Lady Wisdom wants the simpleminded and those who do not know how to live to listen to her. She was created long before the world and knows wisdom that no person could possibly make up. She understands that wealth is not greater than Wisdom and that the obsession for setting things right for God is true sanity. Listen to Lady Wisdom's advice—it leads to life!

Lady Wisdom is not the only one calling.

What a tragedy those who follow Madame Whore become. They believe the secret to success is stealing it from others, or stepping on everyone below to make sure they have no competition at the top. They, too, will become a skeleton in her closet. Do not listen to Madame Whore's call—it leads to death!

Who do you listen to?