2 Chronicles 14-15, Haggai 2

Read 2 Chronicles 14-15 and Haggai 2.

This devotional is about Haggai 2.

This prophet, Haggai, wrote to the people of Judah after they returned from their exile. Over 70 years had passed since Nebuchadnezzar defeated their city, destroyed Solomon’s beautiful temple, and burned the gates of the city with fire. Most of people written about in this book were born in Babylon. They had heard stories from their parents about Jerusalem and the temple but only a few of the oldest people had ever seen it.

Now they returned to Jerusalem and were busy building houses for themselves and rebuilding the temple. The temple of the Lord, however, had been neglected. Haggai 1, which we read yesterday, pointed out the people’s failure to rebuild the temple and the price they were paying for that failure (1:8-9).

Here in Haggai 2, some time had passed. The people had taken to heart the word of the Lord through Haggai in chapter 1, so they began work on the new temple. Unfortunately, the older people who had seen Solomon’s temple were sad; this new temple seemed pathetic by comparison. As verse 3 asked, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?”

Solomon’s temple was a treasure, an architectural sight to behold. The poverty of the people at this point in Israel’s history prevented them from building anything like what Solomon had made. They did the best they could with what they had, but their best wasn’t even close to Solomon’s best work.

God sent the prophet Haggai with this message to encourage the people to keep working. It was true that the new temple would seem like a joke compared to the one it replaced but that was not important. The important thing is that God was with them: “‘For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’”

Then he made promises to them. Verse 7 made the most important promise which was that He would be there; his glory would inhabit the new temple just as it had the old one: “‘I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

Verse 8 told us that he would provide the money for it, too: “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Finally, God said that this temple would someday be greater, more glorious than Solomon’s temple had been: “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.’” That glory might not have been architectural but it would be better–God would work there making peace.

There are times when God’s work seems to take a step (or more than that) backward. What was once exciting, powerful, growing, and wonderful becomes something much less than any of those adjectives. It is naturally discouraging to God’s people when that happens. God, however, wants us to know that he uses small things. When things are weak, God can show his strength.

Are you discouraged about anything in your life because it just isn’t anywhere near what it used to be or could be? This is your opportunity, then, to believe in God and ask him to work. God can take even the most meager things and make them great so ask him to glorify himself that way.

1 Chronicles 15, Amos 9

Read 1 Chronicles 15 and Amos 9

This devotional is about Amos 9:11-12: “In that day ‘I will restore David’s fallen shelter—I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins—and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name[e],’ declares the Lord, who will do these things.”

Things that were once considered great and powerful can, over time, become weak and useless, a shadow of its former self. Sears Roebuck and company was once, and for many decades, a retail giant. How many Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances, and/or DieHard batteries have you owned? But now Sears is in bankruptcy with only a few open stores left.

Great and powerful things can become weak and rickety.

This is what happened to David’s dynasty. David and his son Solomon were blessed immensely by the Lord. David’s “house,” that is, his kingdom passed from one generation to another, split after Solomon died and Judah, the part that was left, became weaker and weaker. Here in Amos 9:11 God refers to David’s house as a “fallen shelter.” This is a word that describes a shack, a temporary dwelling that is not much to look at and not very sturdy. David’s once powerful house was now like house of straw that the first of the three little pigs built in the nursery rhyme.

This verse, however, promises that it will not remain a shack. Instead, God promised to “restore” it repairing “its broken walls and its ruins” and “rebuilt it as it used to be”. God himself would do this restoration and the fulfillment of this promise began with the first coming of Christ.

But verse 12 says something more. In the NIV text it says, “so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name.” But, for reasons too long and complicated to explain here, that might not be the best translation. The alternative translation, which is hiding behind that [e] in the text in BibleGateway, is “so that the remnant of people / and all the nations that bear my name may seek me.” If that is what God originally said in Amos, then his promise is that he will rebuild David’s house so that both Jews “the remnant of people” and Gentiles “all the nations that bear my name” would seek and find God.

This is how the early church understood Amos 9:11-12, too. In Acts, God started saving Gentiles and churches full of Gentiles began to appear. The apostles and early followers of Jesus were uncertain about how to handle these Gentiles. Should the apostles require the men to be circumcised? Should all these new Gentile believers be required to keep the Law of Moses, including the diet of the Jews? The early church wrestled with these questions and, in Acts 15, we read that there was a meeting in Jerusalem to decide the answers. In that chapter–Acts 15–James quoted this passage, Amos 9:11-12 (see Acts 15:15-18). Based on these verses in Amos, the apostles decided that we Gentiles are fully accepted by Christ and are to be treated as equal partners in God’s grace.

Your salvation and mine and the salvation of others all over the world from the time Jesus came the first time until he comes back and restores the kingdom of Israel completely are part of God’s fulfillment of Amos 9:11-12. When Israel was at its weakest point, and David’s house looked like it would be blown over, God promised to rebuild it so that we would hear his call of grace and come to follow him.

Let this fulfillment of prophecy encourage you! Not only are you saved eternally by the grace of God but your salvation was part of the plan of God all along. Now that you’re saved, you are part of the fulfillment of that plan.

1 Kings 1, Ezekiel 32

Read 1 Kings 1 and Ezekiel 32.

This devotional is about 1 Kings 1.

The longer you live, the more information you have about life. Getting older allows you to see how decisions you made when you were young or younger have turned out or are turning out. You can also witness how the lives and decisions of others around you have turned out. The wise pay attention to what is happening around them and learn some lessons as they get older.

The opening verses of 1 Kings 1 suggest that David has learned some things about women. As David aged, he had a hard time staying warm at night no matter how many blankets they stacked on top of him (v. 1). His servants, then, decided he needed a warm body to sleep with. They could have set up a schedule for his many wives to take turns keeping him warm at night but, knowing that he had an eye for a pretty girl, they looked for a newer, younger, prettier model to keep him company instead (v. 2).

While their stated goal was to keep the king warm (v. 2c), the fact that they chose a girl based on her beauty suggests that they wanted to satisfy the king in other ways as well. The girl they found was beautiful and useful according to verse 4a & b, but according to verse 4c, “…the king had no sexual relations with her.” This suggests that David had learned something about the appropriate relationship a man should have with a woman that is not his wife. David’s adultery with Bathsheba, the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon, and the way that Absolom used David’s concubines had, maybe, taught him some respect for women that he did not have when he was younger. At any rate, in this one instance at least, David was able to keep his attraction for Abishag in check. So, perhaps, getting older and experiencing the chastening hand of God in his life had taught the king an important moral lesson.

However, David didn’t learn all the lessons he should have learned. The rest of this chapter described the royal crisis that David’s son Adonijah created when he decided to designate himself king. Before he proclaimed himself to be king, however, Adonijah had developed a habit of self-promotion. Verse 5e says that Adonijah “got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him.” The next verse, verse 6, indicates that Adonijah had done this kind of thing many times before. That is indicated by the words, “His father had never rebuked him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’ in verse 6. Recall that Absolom did this same sort of thing (2 Sam 15:1) before he tried to usurp David’s throne. So David had seen this activity before, but he apparently did not learn much from it. If he had responded to Adonijah when he began acting like Absolom, perhaps Solomon could have become king without any intrigue, without a rushed coronation ceremony, and without the violence that we’ll read about tomorrow.

One of the patterns that we see in David’s life is passivity in certain situations. He showed no reluctance when it came to making war against other nations but he seemed to have great reluctance when it came to dealing with Joab or with his children. He did not confront Amnon when he sinned and raped Tamar. He did not confront Absolom the numerous times that Absolom sinned. And, now, he avoided confronting his son Adonijah or dealing with Adonijah after Solomon became king.

If you look back over your life, you will probably see how sins or just weaknesses in your character or personality have caused you problems again and again. You probably already know what things trip you up repeatedly but you are reluctant to change. Please reconsider; look how costly David’s reluctance to change was in his life and the life of his kingdom. Is it really worth it to let your kids ruin their lives just because you don’t like confrontation? Is the comfort of passivity worth the pain that comes from living on cruise control? What decision do you need to make or difficult conversation do you need to have that you are avoiding? Learn from David’s life and do what you know you should do. Don’t relive the same mistakes over and over again.

2 Samuel 19, Ezekiel 26

Read 2 Samuel 19 and Ezekiel 26.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 26.

Tyre was an amazing place. Located on the coast, the people who lived there excelled in sailing the Mediterranean Sea (v. 17d). As a result, the inhabitants were both productive fishermen and explorers of other areas that boarded the sea. Their explorations of these areas allowed them to trade with the people who lived in these other places, so Tyre became a strategic port for shipping goods by water to and from the Middle East. The location of the city, then, set it up naturally for prosperity.

The city prospered even more due to an economic alliance the king of Tyre formed with David (2 Sam 5:11) and Solomon (1 Ki 5:1). Tyre benefited from the wealth God gave to David and Solomon because they were able to supply materials and services that the growing kingdom of Israel needed. Without necessarily realizing it, the people of Tyre were experiencing one of the promised results of God’s covenant with Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you” (Gen 12:3).

As Israel and Judah gave themselves to idolatry, they declined in power just as God said they would. According to this chapter of scripture, Ezekiel 26, the people of Tyre looked at the defeat and destruction of Jerusalem as an opportunity to prosper even more. Verse 2 says, “Son of man, because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper….” They did not mourn the defeat of God’s people or recognize how the prosperity of Judah produced prosperity for them, too. Nor did they realize that Nebuchadnezzar’s growing power would be a threat to their way of life as well. Because of these thing, God prophesied through Ezekiel that Nebuchadnezzar (v. 7) and “many nations” would attack Tyre and destroy it.

Although the location of Tyre remained desirable, it never regained its former power and prosperity because its people tried to exploit Jerusalem when it was defeated. God does not look favorably on those who abuse his people or on anyone who tries to take advantage of the vulnerability of others. There may be short term gain to preying on the weakness of others but God sees and he promises justice. As Christians, we are called to help those who are weak, to have compassion on those who are vulnerable and to defend and assist them as we have opportunity.

Do you notice and seek to assist others who are in need? Is there someone within reach of you who could use your assistance today?

Judges 7, Jeremiah 20

Today’s readings are Judges 7 and Jeremiah 20.

This devotional is about Judges 7.

God chose some unusual characters to lead Israel in this book of Judges. Those unusual characters used some unusual weapons, too. Gideon fit right in with the other oddballs God used in Judges. He was a weak man from a weak family and a weak tribe in Israel. He had no military experience, and no killer instinct. He did everything he could to shirk the assignment God gave him to rescue Israel from the Midianites.

I think Gideon had enough disadvantages already, but in today’s chapter God weakened his army even more. In verse 3, God told Gideon to announce that anyone who was too scared could go home. Twenty-two thousand men took him up on that offer but God thought Gideon still had too many troops. I’m sure Gideon didn’t think it was funny, but I laughed when I read, “I will thin them out for you” (v. 4). Uh.., thanks?

Anyway, after sending home all the guys who kneeled down to drink, Gideon was left with three hundred men (v. 8). Using nothing but trumpets, torches, jars, and their voices, God defeated the Midianites with those three hundred water-lapping Hebrew men.

The point of this strange approach to fighting was to give glory to God. In verse 2 we read, “The Lord said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, “My own strength has saved me.”’” By choosing a weak man to lead using a small group and an unconventional method, God was able to demonstrate his power to Israel again and call them to trust him and stop worshipping those false gods.

God doesn’t always use weakness and strange methods to do his work, but this certainly wasn’t the only time he worked this way, either. The lesson for us is to rely on God to use us not our superior tools or preparation. I’ve been guilty in my life and ministry of relying on excessive preparation and the best tools possible, at times, while neglecting prayer and faith in the power of God to work. Passages like this remind us that we need God’s power and promises far more than we need human power, ingenuity, and tools.

Have you ever thought or said, “I could never do “x” for God because I don’t have “y?” For instance:

  • I could never teach a Sunday School class because I don’t have enough time to prepare.
  • I could never give my testimony in church because I don’t have confidence to do public speaking.
  • I could never talk to someone else about the gospel because I don’t know every answer to any question they might ask me.

If you’ve ever thought or said something like this, then you should apply this lesson from Gideon to your life. God wants to use you and has promised to do so if you rely on him. What kind of act of faith might he use you for if you trusted him?

Deuteronomy 33-34, Isaiah 60

Read Deuteronomy 33-34, Isaiah 60.

This devotional is about Isaiah 60:21-22.

Why is it that only a few people will be saved compared to the billions of people who have or will ever live? One answer is given here in Isaiah 60:21-22. This chapter continued to hold forth for Israel the promise of God’s kingdom in the future under Messiah. Verse 21a promised in that kingdom that “all your people will be righteous,” indicating that only those redeemed and regenerated by the Lord will be there. Two phrases later in verse 21c Isaiah wrote, “They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands….” Picture this image: God’s kingdom is not like a great oak tree transplanted from somewhere else into the land of Israel. Instead, it is a weak little “shoot,” the tiny sprout of a plant that God himself planted but which grew into something great any mighty and, for the first time in human history, holy like God is. So God’s plan was to make something mighty out of something weak and insignificant. Verse 22a-b tells us that his kingdom will become mighty when it says, “The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.”

But, again, why? Why choose insignificance and only save a few? Verse 21e says, “for the display of my splendor….” It glorifies God to take the weak, the humble, the insignificant and weak and make something great out of it. This is what God will do for Israel when his kingdom is established (again verse 22); and everyone who sees it happen will be amazed at the awesome power of God.

Although this chapter describes what God will do for and with Israel, it echoes a constant theme in Scripture: that God chooses the weak and lowly and insignificant and chooses that to bring glory to himself. This is one reason why only a few are saved. If most people were saved, it would be a common, unextraordiany thing. When God chooses and uses insignificant things and turns it into something great, everyone knows that God is great.

It is troubling at times to be in the kind of minority we find ourselves in as believers in this world. If only more people were believers, we wouldn’t feel so awkward and out of step with the rest of our society. Someday only the righteous will inhabit the world and we’ll fit in just fine then because we too have been justified and sanctified by the grace of God. Until then, we wait for him to glorify himself though us when his kingdom comes.

Numbers 20, Isaiah 9:8-10:4, Psalm 125

Read Numbers 20, Isaiah 9:8-10:4, and Psalm 125.

This devotional is about Isaiah 10:1-2.

America is not Israel and the promises God made to Israel do not apply to any nation at all in this age. However, all of God’s laws teach some kind of principle and many of those principles are morals that transcend all cultures and would apply in any nation. God’s justice, for instance, is an absolute standard. Any nation, therefore, is responsible to create laws that are just and apply those laws justly.

An example is here in Isaiah 10:1 which says, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees.” The word “woe” is an expression of deep agony and it often is used of the pain that will come to those who fall under God’s judgment. Verse 1, then, is saying that those who make unjust laws will cry out in agony when they fall under the judgment of God.

Verse 2 gives some examples of unjust laws that Israel had made. Those examples are:

  • depriving the poor of their rights (to private property, to fair and righteous treatment)
  • withholding justice from the oppressed
  • taking advantage of widows and the fatherless.

These are all groups who have been weakened in one way or another. Being weak made them easy to take advantage of. Unscrupulous neighbors could take their property, for example, without fear of retaliation. Just laws, however, would stand opposed to that kind of theft and a just judge would apply that law justly and award damages to the poor person who was oppressed and taken advantage of by a rich neighbor.

Our American legal system, in theory at least, protects the poor and the rich alike. Both can have their day in court and, all other things being equal, should have a judge who will apply the law impartially.

But we have our favored and disfavored groups in this country, too. Christian bakers and florists, for instance, seem to find themselves at a disadvantage in recent years in court when they are sued for refusing to be hired for a “gay” wedding. This is just one example; I’m sure you can scan the news and find others.

I wonder if it ever occurs to lawmakers or judges that they will give an account to God about whether or not they have governed justly? Again, we are not Israel but justice is an attribute of God’s character and he demands that all people with power use it justly. So God will hold unjust Americans responsible and they will know true “woes” when they stand before a holy God.

But this also applies to us. If you are in a position of leadership and show favoritism or practice injustice, God sees it and will hold you accountable. Since God is just, we his children by faith should strive to be just in all that we do. Woe to us if we refuse.