Notes: Joshua to Esther

JOSHUA

1:1-18  –  For Israel, it was a new beginning. They were leaving the wilderness. That was their past. They were entering the promised land. This was God’s future. For God’s future, there is God’s command – ‘Be strong’ – and God’s promise – ‘the Lord your God is with you’. We wonder what the future holds. We wonder how it will all work out. God says, ‘Don’t be frightened. I will be with you wherever you go’ (9). How can we face the future with confidence? How can we ‘be strong in the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:10)? How can we be sure that the Lord will never let us down (2 Corinthians 3:5)? How can we step out into a future full of His blessing? ‘Meditate on His Word day and night’. Read your Bible – ‘This Book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book’: Which will it be?  (8; Psalm 1:1-3).

2:1-24  –  The story of Rahab is summarized in Hebrews 11:31 – ‘By faith… she gave a friendly welcome to the spies’. A friendly welcome – What an important thing this is!  She spoke the word of encouragement – ‘I know the Lord has given you this land’ (9). This message of faith was taken back to Joshua (24). It was exactly what he needed! Few of us are ‘big name’ spiritual leaders like Joshua. All of us have an important part to play in the Lord’s work. For every ‘Joshua’ we need plenty of  ‘Rahabs’, giving the friendly welcome, speaking the word of encouragement. Let there be no more unhelpful, negative criticism – ‘We cannot do this. We dare not do that. We must not do the other’. Let there be the friendly welcome, the word of encouragement. It will make such a difference – for the better!

3:1-17  –  ‘Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’ (5). ‘Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth’ (John 17:17). Together with the command, there is the prayer. We are called to set ourselves apart for God. We can only do this when we look to the Lord for His strength. We receive His strength through His Word. We give ourselves to the Lord. He gives His promise to us: ‘the Lord will do wonders among you’. His promise of blessing is no guarantee of an easy time. In the promised land, there would be problems – and God: ‘as I was with Moses, so I will be with you’ (7). There would be conflict – and victory: ‘the living God is among you… He will without fail drive out from before you…’ (10). We look beyond Joshua to Jesus – ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23). In Him, we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57).

4:1-24  –  ‘These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever’ (7). When, in the future, the question was asked, ‘What do these stones mean?’(6), Israel would remember what the Lord had done for them (23). Knowing that ‘the hand of the Lord is mighty’, they would be strengthened to face their difficulties with confidence in God. Rejoicing in what the Lord has done – ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes’ – , they would learn to ‘fear the Lord their God for ever’ (24; Psalm 118:23). Israel remembered. We must remember. When you’re going through a hard time, don’t forget – to remember! God has been good to you. He has blessed you. When God seems so far away, remember – and pray that, once again, ‘times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord’ (Acts 3:19).

5:1-15  –  As you read about circumcision (2-7) and the Passover (10), think also of Paul’s words in Romans 2:29 and 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 – ‘real circumcision is a matter of the heart’, ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival… with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’. ‘The Commander of the Lord’s army’ came to Joshua (13-15). Christ comes to us. He calls us to worship. He equips us for battle. ‘Christ, the Royal Master, leads against the foe… At the sign of triumph, Satan’s legions flee… Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise… Like a mighty army moves the Church of God… Gates of  hell can never ‘gainst that Church prevail; We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail… On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory’ (Church Hymnary, 480).

6:1-27  –  ‘The walls came tumbling down’ – What a mighty work of God this was! It was ‘the Lord’ who gave Jericho into the hands of His people (16). His victory was received by faith: ‘By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days’ (Hebrews 11:30). Notice that the declaration of victory comes before the obedience of faith (2,16). We start out from victory. We do not achieve the victory by our own faith. The victory is given to us by the Lord. Faith simply receives the blessing already promised to us by the Lord. Faith expresses itself in obedience. Believing God’s promise, they obeyed His command – and the blessing followed. They walked ‘by faith, not by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7) – ‘It shall be done’, not ‘It can’t  be done’. Let us be ‘devoted to the Lord’ (17-19).

7:1-26  –  This chapter begins with the word, ‘But’ – This is ominous! What comes next? – Sin: ‘the people of Israel broke faith with regard to the devoted things’. The sin was Achan’s, yet it affected the whole people of Israel: ‘the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel’ (1). Sin is like infection – it spreads! What kind of effect do your actions have on other people? Cain asked, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9). His question was an expression of callous indifference. There is no place for this attitude among God’s people: ‘Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother’ (Romans 14:13). Read the story of Achan, and remember this: ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ (Numbers 32:23). Let no one have good cause to ask, ‘Why did you bring trouble on us’ (25).

8:1-35  –  The victory was given by the Lord: ‘I have given into your hand…’ (1). The people still had to claim the victory. Israel’s triumph was a spiritual victory from which we can learn much. We learn, first, that ‘the battle is the Lord’s’ (7; 1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15). Believing the Lord’s promise – ‘the Lord your God will give it into your hand’ (7) – we act upon His command: ‘Do what the Lord has commanded’ (8). God’s work is to be done in God’s way – Believing the promise, Obeying the command (18) – with God’s Word at the centre. We need the whole Word of God – ‘all that is written…’.  In this, we learn from Joshua – ‘He did not leave out one word from everything Moses had commanded’. We need ‘the blessing and the curse’ – the strong warnings as well as the precious promises (34-35).

9:1-10:15  –  Some chose ‘to make war against Joshua and Israel’ (9:1-2). The Gibeonites came, looking for peace. They achieved their objective – ‘Joshua made peace with them’ (9:15). In this story we see the work of Satan, and we may catch a glimpse of the work of God. The ‘peace’ was based on deception. The Gibeonites ‘acted with cunning’ (9:4). The Israelites were easily deceived. They ‘did not ask direction from the Lord’ (9:14). The Gibeonites brought trouble to Israel (10:3-5). There were ‘weeds among the wheat’ – ‘An enemy has done this’ (Matthew 13:25,28). Through the grace of God, the Gibeonites’ ‘curse’ could become a ‘blessing’. Working at ‘the place’ of worship, they could come to know and love the Person who is worshipped (23,27; Psalm 84:4). Let Christ bring you from ‘no peace’ to real peace (Jeremiah 6:14; Romans 5:1).

10:16-11:15  –  God gives the promise. Believing His promise, we obey His command, pressing on to victory (25,6). This is God’s way of victory: ‘go in to take possession of the land which the Lord your God gives you to possess’ (1:11). As we read of  Joshua’s military exploits, we must not lose sight of the spiritual dimension: ‘the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel’ (42). This is what we must learn. The victory does not come from ourselves. It comes from the Lord who fights for us. Through ‘the obedience of faith’ (Romans 1:5), – believing God’s promise, we obey His command – , the Lord’s victory becomes a living reality in our lives. Joshua built on the foundation laid for him by Moses (12,15). Learning from ‘the apostles and prophets’, we build on God’s Foundation, ‘Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11).

11:16-12:24  –  What is the spiritual value of this list of victories? Don’t be sidetracked by the military aspect. This is not about Israel blowing its own trumpet. It is about giving glory to God. In Genesis 12:1-3, we have God’s promise to bring blessing to all nations. Before Christ came as ‘the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42), Israel was to become ‘a great nation’ – ‘a holy nation’, ‘a light to the nations’ (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 49:6). This involved the ‘curse’ on the rebellious peoples who presented a sinful obstacle to God’s saving purpose. The Lord is King! The united people of God won a decisive victory in ‘the whole land’ (11:23). There was, however, still ‘very much land to be possessed’ by the individual tribes (13:1). God’s Word is preached publicly. It must also be applied personally – by you!

13:1-14:15  –  God has given the land to Israel. Still, there was the challenge: ‘there is still very much land to be possessed’ (13:1). ‘God… has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing’. Now, we must ‘lead a life worthy of His calling’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1). ‘Joshua was old and advanced in years’. Caleb was ‘eighty five years old’ (13:1; 14:10).These were men of faith. Forty five years earlier, they had called on the people to trust and obey: ‘The Lord… will bring us into this land… Only, do not rebel against the Lord’ (14:7-10; Numbers 14:6-9). They had persevered: ‘I press on…’. They had been preserved: ‘Kept by the power of God’ (Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 1:5). ‘I am still as strong to this day as I was’,  ‘We will serve the Lord’ (14:11; 24:15). This is faith -for yesterday, today and tomorrow!

15:1-63  –  ‘The land of  Negeb’ had little water. The request was made – ‘Give me also springs of water’. The request was granted. Trusting in the Lord’s promise – ‘the heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him’, we receive His blessing – ‘rivers of living water’ (19; Luke 11:13; John 7:38-39). ‘The people of Judah could not drive out’ the Jebusites. We may contrast Judah’s failure with Caleb’s faith – ‘the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the Lord said’. Learning from Judah’s failure – ‘Do not be conformed to this world’ – , we must build on Caleb’s faith – ‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind’. Let us commit ourselves to doing ‘God’s will – His good, pleasing and perfect will’ (63; 14:12; Romans 12:2). Do His will. Let His ‘rivers of living water’ flow freely.

16:1-17:18  –  Compromise is a poor substitute for obedience. Fail to obey God, and you may have to live with the consequences of your disobedience: ‘they did not drive out the Canaanites… so the Canaanites have dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day (16:10). Settling for anything less than God’s very best will surely lead us far from Him and His blessing: ‘He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). If we are to make real spiritual progress, we must not rest on our laurels’ – ‘We are a numerous people’. We must do the work of God: ‘you shall drive out the Canaanites’. Our obedience must be more than ‘empty words’. We must not live as ‘the sons of disobedience’. We must ‘live as the children of light’ – ‘God’s own people’ (14,18; Ephesians 5:6-10; 1 Peter 2:9).

18:1-19:51  –  ‘How long will you be slack to go in and take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you?’ (18:3). God has given us so much: ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness’. How much are we giving ourselves to Him? – ‘Make every effort to add to your faith… If you do this you will never fail; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 1:3-11). In Joshua, we see a fine example of the Christlike spirit – ‘not to be served but to serve’ (Mark 10:45). After ‘they had finished distributing the… land’, Joshua received his ‘inheritance’. He led with the attitude of a servant. He wasn’t ‘in it only for what he could get out of it’ – the city he chose had to be ‘rebuilt’ (49-50)!

20:1-21:45  –  We read of manslaughter, ‘the cities of refuge’ and the death of the high priest (20:1-6). What does all this have to do with us? We are sinners. Jesus Christ has died for us. He is our Refuge. He is our Great High Priest. In Him, there is ‘no condemnation’. In Him, we become ‘a new creation’ (Matthew 5:21-22; Romans 5:8; 8:1; Hebrews 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Israel’s story is a human story. It is also the Lord’s Story (43-45). We fail God. He never fails us (2 Timothy 2:13). Sin threatens to overwhelm us. The Lord comes to us with His promise of deliverance and victory (Romans 7:21-25; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Our spiritual progress is so slow – ‘little by little’(Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22-24). God does not lose patience with us (Psalm 103:8-13). He never stops loving us!

22:1-34  –  Joshua had heard God’s Word (1:8). Now, he speaks God’s Word to the people (5). To those who ‘have obeyed’ Him, God says, ‘Keep on obeying Me’. This is the way of blessing (1-6). Together with God’s promise of blessing, we need His warning against rebellion: ‘Do not rebel against the Lord’ (19). Why does God warn us against the dangers of ‘rebellion against the Lord’ (16)? It is because He wants us to say with heart and voice: ‘Far be it from us that we should rebel against the Lord and turn away this day from following the Lord’ (29). Our ‘resolution’ seems so weak – ‘I feel like giving up’. The temptation to ‘rebel against the Lord’ seems so strong – ‘I feel like I can’t go on’. Let us pray for a stronger faith in God – ‘The Lord is God’ – and a richer experience of His presence – ‘We know that the Lord is in the midst of us’ (34,31).

23:1-16  –  God has done, is doing and will do great things for us (3-5, 8-10). He calls us to ‘obey’ Him, to ‘hold fast’ to Him, to ‘love’ Him (6,8,11). The pattern of Joshua’s teaching – ‘This is what the Lord has done’ (3-5)  ‘Therefore’ ‘This is what you must do’ (6-8) – is similar to Paul’s approach in Romans and Ephesians. In Romans 1-11 and Ephesians 1-3, Paul grounds his readers in the truth of the Gospel. In Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 4:1, he says, ‘Therefore’. Here are the practical implications. In the light of all that the Lord has done for you, this is how you must live for Him. Be strong in the Lord. In Him, we have the victory (10; Psalm 3:6). Maintain your love for God. Don’t presume on God’s blessing. There is no guarantee of blessing for those who ‘turn back’ from following the Lord (11-13,15-16). He has not failed us (14). We must not fail Him!

24:1-33  –  Close to the end of his life, Joshua commits himself and his family to the Lord (15,29). Moved by his example, the people commit themselves to the Lord (16-18,21,24). For Israel, this was a momentous decision – a definite, public commitment to the Lord (24-27). Note the pattern of Joshua’s preaching. What God has done for Israel (2-13) is followed by ‘Therefore…’ (14). When we are called to make a real commitment, we must ask the searching question, ‘Do I really mean it’ (19-20). We must commit ourselves to the Lord: ‘Fear the Lord, and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness’ (14). Make your own commitment to the Lord. Give your testimony – ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’. Pray that others will also say, ‘We will serve the Lord our God and obey Him (15,24). Let us ‘serve the Lord all the days’ of our life (31).

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JUDGES

1:1-2:5  –  ‘You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? (Galatians 5:7).  Everything seems to be going well – ‘From victory to victory His army He shall lead till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed’ (1-18; Church Hymnary, 481).  Things went badly wrong.  God commanded His people to ‘drive out’ His enemies.  Again and again, they failed (19,21,27-33).  This failure brought a stern rebuke from ‘the angel of the Lord’.  God had blessed His people.  Now, He has to rebuke them – ‘you have not obeyed my command’.  Read of Israel’s weeping, and pray for this: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation’ (2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  ‘Strong in the Lord…’ let us ‘tread all the powers of darkness down… and stand complete at last’ (Church Hymnary, 441).

2:6-3:31  –  What sadness there is in the words of  2:10 – ‘there arose another generation… who did not know the Lord…’!  As the generations pass, we must pass on the Gospel of Christ, praying that those who follow after us will ‘know the Lord’.  In Isaiah 30:21, God says, ‘This is the way, walk in it’.  Here, in the sin and shame of Israel, He warns us, ‘This is not the way, do not walk in it’ (2:11-15).  Don’t be conformed to this world, ‘entangled’ in its ways (3:5-7; Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 2:4).  God is angry with His rebellious people, but He does not cease to love them – ‘the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel (3:8-9).  Read of the deliverers – Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar – and rejoice in our greater Deliverer: ‘Jesus… He will save His people from their sins’ (3:9,15,31; Matthew 1:21).

4:1-5:11  –  Barak is an example of ‘faith’ (Hebrews 11:32-34).  Faith involves believing God’s promise – ‘I will give…’ and obeying His command – ‘Go’ (4:6-7).  God still says, ‘Go… I am with you always…’ (Matthew 28:19-20).  Barak needed Deborah’s help (4:8-10).  Both needed God’s help – ‘Our sufficiency comes from God’ (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).  In Deborah’s song, we learn of the importance of giving all the glory to God: ‘Bless the Lord… To the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord… Bless the Lord’ (5:2-3,9).  We are to repeat the triumphs of the Lord’.  This is our high calling as ‘the people of the Lord’ (5:11).  ‘Awake, awake, Deborah’… Arise, Barak…’ (5:12) – God is still calling His people to wake up, to rise up: ‘Rise up O Church of God, awake!’ (Church Hymnary, 477; Mission Praise, 178).

5:12-6:10  –  ‘The people of the Lord marched down for Him against the mighty (13) – God is still calling His people to march for Him: ‘March on, my soul, with strength, with strength, but not thine own; The conquest thou shalt gain, through Christ the Lord alone’  (Church Hymnary, 614). This is not ‘marching’ for ourselves, for our own cause, trying to get our own way. This is about keeping our eyes on Jesus, living in His strength, living for His glory.  Where self reigns, there is sin – ‘The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord’ – and shame – ‘Israel was brought very low’ (1,6). Where Christ reigns, there is prayer to the Lord and blessing from the Lord. With God’s blessing comes our responsibility – Worship God, listening carefully to His Word and living in obedience to Him (6-10).

6:11-7:14  –  ‘We are weak but He is strong’ (Church Hymnary, 418).  In himself, Gideon was weak (15).  In the Lord, he was ‘a mighty warrior’. Gideon was full of questions.  God said to him, ‘Go… I will be with you’ (6:12-16).  Our true strength does not come from ourselves.   It comes from the Lord – ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8).  Gideon’s true strength came from ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ (34).  We must always remember Jesus’ words, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). Consider Gideon’s weakness. Consider your own weakness.  Rejoice in God’s power.  Never say, ‘My own hand delivered me’.  Our testimony must always be this: ‘…God has given…’(7:2,14).  ‘It is the gift of God…lest any man should boast’ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

7:15-8:35  –  ‘For the Lord and for Gideon’ (7:18).  Notice who comes first.  It is not Gideon.  It is the Lord!  ‘The men of Israel’ attached too much importance to Gideon – ‘Rule over us… you have delivered us’.  Gideon gave all the glory to God – ‘I will not rule over you… the Lord will rule over you’ (8:22-23).  What happens when people make too much of the man and not enough of the Lord? – As soon as the man is taken away from them, they forget the Lord (33-34).  It seems like they were just waiting to turn away from the Lord.  The moment Gideon was no longer there to keep an eye on them, they were back to their old ways again (33)!  We must never let the servant of the Lord become more important than the Lord.  When God’s servant has become a distant memory, we must keep on ‘remembering the Lord our God’ (34).

9:1-49  –  Things were going from bad to worse!  The people of Israel had forgotten ‘the Lord their God’ (8:34).  ‘The enemy’ was ready to ‘come in like a flood’ (Isaiah 59:19).  Abimelech – Gideon’s son by ‘his concubine who was in Shechem’ (8:31) – was very unlike his father.  Gideon had pointed away from himself to the Lord (8:23).  Abimelech was eager to draw attention to himself.  He murdered his seventy brothers, paving the way for himself to become king (1-6).  Abimelech spelt trouble!  Things were only going to get worse with Abimelech.  There was ‘an evil spirit’ at work among God’s people (23).  Where was God in all this? – ‘Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct’ (Romans 1:28).  What kind of person are you becoming?  Each of us must choose!

9:50-11:11  –  With verses 56-57,  read Romans 1:18 – ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth’.  Doing ‘what was evil in the sight of the Lord’, ‘the people of Israel’ brought themselves under God’s judgment (10:6-9).  When Israel began to return to the Lord, He said to them, ‘Mean what you say’ (10:10-14).  When they persisted with their confession of sin, He answered their prayer – ‘In all their affliction He was afflicted… In His love and in His pity He redeemed them’ (15-16; Isaiah 63:9).  God’s answer came in the shape of Jephthah, ‘a mighty warrior’, a man who ‘spoke all his words before the Lord’ (11:1,11).  Thrust out by men (11:1-2), he was loved by the God of grace – His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9)!

11:12-12:15  –  Israel was not looking for trouble – ‘Let us pass… through your land to our country’.  The Amorites insisted on fighting with them.  They had to be faced and defeated (19-21).  The Christian life is like an ‘obstacle race’.  We do not go out looking for problems.  Sometimes, we cannot avoid them.  Obstacles can become opportunities – for spiritual growth (James 1:2-4).  Watch what you say (29-40;  Ecclesiastes 5:2-6).  Watch how you say it (1-6).  The accent is not the important thing.  It is the attitude.  Is the accent on Christ?  Let the attitude be less of self and more of Christ.  Proclaiming the same Christ is more important than pronouncing the words in exactly the same way!  Be slow to say, ‘He is not one of us’.  Be quick to say, ‘Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice’ (Philippians 1:18).

13:1-14:9  –  Samson’s birth was announced by an angel.  Jesus’ birth was announced by angels (13:3; Luke 1:30-33; 2:8-14).  Samson’s death was a great triumph over the Philistines.  Jesus’ death brought the greatest triumph of all – victory over Satan (16:30; Hebrews 2:14-15).  The story of Samson points us to the greater Story of Jesus.  There is, however, a great difference between Samson and Jesus.  Often, Samson was concerned only with what pleased him (14:3,7).  Always, Jesus did the will of God (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).  ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me’ (Luke 4:18) – We expect these words from Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God.  When, however, we read that ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon’ Samson (14:6), we rejoice in the grace of God – ‘while we were yet sinners… the Holy Spirit has been given to us’ (Romans 5:8,5).

14:10-16:3  –  ‘This man receives sinners’ (Luke 15:2).  These are the words of legalistic Pharisees.  They were intended as an insult.  They are also words of divine grace: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15).  Samson was a sinner.  There is no question about that.  Is he any different from the rest of us? – ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).  Samson was a sinner yet, ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him’ (14:19).  We are sinners.  Christ died for us.  God has given us His Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14).  This is divine grace.  Samson often wandered.  Still, the Lord was at work in him.  Prompted by the Spirit, Samson ‘called on the Lord’.  Samson was ‘very thirsty’.  He prayed.  He was ‘revived’ (15:18-19).  ‘Wilt Thou not revive us again…? (Psalm 85:6).  Pray for revival!

16:4-31  –  The story of Samson is a story of tragedy and triumph.  We see Samson’s tragedy – ‘“I will go out at other times, and shake myself free”.  But he did not know that the Lord had left him’ (20).  There is a warning for us here.  Yesterday’s triumphs do not guarantee today’s victory.  Today’s challenge needs today’s grace.  We need to keep close to the Lord – ‘His mercies… are new every morning’ (Lamentations 3:22-23).  We see Samson’s triumph – In his death, he triumphed over the Philistines (30).  What encouragement there is for us here!  How often we feel like Samson – ‘seized… gouged… brought down… bound… in the prison’ – going through ‘the mill’ (21)!  Satan seems to have the upper hand.  We feel so helpless.  Satan will not have the last word.  Take this for your encouragement: Satan will be ‘thrown into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:10).

17:1-18:13  –  Things are not going well – ‘every man did that which was right in his own eyes’ (17:6).  People were doing what suited themselves.  Micah was trying to ‘get the best of both worlds’.  He was worshipping idols (17:4-5).  He was trying to keep on the right side of the Lord – ‘Now I know that the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite priest’ (13).  Micah’s priest was a ‘Yes’ man.  He told Micah what he wanted to hear.  Many people ‘refuse to listen to the truth’.  They prefer to listen to those who ‘tell them what they want to hear’ (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  Many are ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (2 Timothy 3:4).  We must not fall into the trap of ‘trying to please all the people all the time’.  Seek to be like Jesus – ‘I seek not My own will but the will of Him who sent Me’ (John 5:30).

18:14-19:30  –  ‘Keep quiet’ – There is a guilty silence which comes from disobedience (18:18-20).  When God’s people remain silent, things go from bad to worse – ‘Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint’.  We must not be ‘disobedient to the heavenly vision’ (18:30; Proverbs 29:18; Acts 26:19).  Chapter 19 warns us: Sin brings judgment.  God cannot stand sin.  He punishes sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Numbers 32:23).  Sin must be taken seriously.  God takes it seriously (Hebrews 10:29-31).  It is not easy to see the hand of God in the sinful and shameful events of chapter 19.  We must keep on believing that He is present, even when He is ‘most invisible’ (Church Hymnary, 670).  Sometimes, He is present as our Judge.  Judgment is not always immediate.  There may be ‘peace’ before the storm.  ‘Consider’ – and learn (19:20, 30)!

20:1-28  –  God uses a sinful and shameful situation – ‘Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day’ (19:30) – to call His people back to Himself – ‘all the people of Israel… assembled as one man to the Lord’ (1).  God’s call was clear – ‘Put away evil from Israel’.  ‘The Benjaminites would not listen’ to this call for holiness among God’s people (13).  This was a serious situation.  It was not to be taken lightly.  This was no mere difference of opinion, something that would soon be forgotten.  ‘The Benjaminites came together… to go out to war against the people of Israel’ (14).  Three times, God called His people to ‘go up’ against the Benjaminites (18,23,28).  Victory comes from the Lord: ‘I will give them into your hand’ (28).

20:29-21:25  –  Judges ends on such a sad note: ‘every man did what was right in his own eyes’ (21:25).  This situation is not merely political – ‘no king’.  It is moral and spiritual.  The people had no regard for the authority of God and His Word.  In Romans 5:20, we have Good News: ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’.  Here, we have bad news: ‘where grace increased, sin abounded all the more’.  Reading Judges, we become acutely awareof the need for revival in our own day.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we see the way to revival: ‘If my people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’.  Read of human ‘compassion’ (6,15).  Rejoice: God ‘will again have compassion upon us’ (Micah 7:19).

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RUTH

1:1-2:23  –  Ruth meets Boaz. It seemed like a ‘chance’ meeting – ‘she happened to come… ‘ (2:3). It was more than that. God was at work. Ruth had committed herself to the Lord (1:16-17). She was being guided by the Lord (Psalm 37:3-5; Proverbs 3:5-6). Ruth was unassuming and grateful, hard-working and responsible (2:10,13,7,18). She is a fine example of the ‘good wife’, described in Proverbs 31:10-31. In Boaz, she found a good man – godly, generous and sensitive (2:12,14,16). We read about Ruth. We learn about Jesus Christ. When you come to Him, He says, ‘Do not go to glean in another field… ‘ – ‘There is salvation in no one else’ (2:8; Acts 4:12). In Him, there is amazing grace. He loves us. He looks upon us favourably. He takes notice of us. He died for us (2:10; Romans 5:8). Let us follow Him (1:16-17; John 6:67-69).

3:1-4:22  –  Ruth was covered by the ‘garment’ of Boaz, her ‘kinsman-redeemer’ (3:9). Jesus is our Kinsman-Redeemer. He has become one of us. He shares our ‘flesh and blood’, our ‘humanity’. Through His ‘suffering’ and ‘death’, we are brought to ‘glory’ (Hebrews 2:10-11,14-15). In Him, we ‘rejoice’: ‘He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness’ (Isaiah 61:10). ‘Our righteous acts are like filthy rags’. Bring your ‘robes’ to Christ and let them be ‘washed’, ‘made white in the blood of the Lamb’ (Isaiah 64:6; Revelation 7:14). A ‘Moabitess’, Ruth was brought into the house of Israel (4:10-11). In Christ, Jew and Gentile become one (Ephesians 2:11-18). Ruth played her part in leading us to Christ (4:13-17; Matthew 1:1,5-6). May God help us to lead people to Christ.

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1 SAMUEL 

1:1-28 –  Hannah ‘wept’. Hannah ‘was no longer sad’ (7,18). What made the difference? No child had been born. She had not even conceived. These things did not happen until later (21). Why was there such a change in Hannah? She believed. God’s Word had been spoken (17). Hannah believed His Word. She rejoiced in Him. Jesus emphasized the importance of praying with faith (Mark 11:24). We are to ‘ask in faith’, to pray ‘the prayer of faith’ (James 1:6; 5:15). We are also to pray ‘according to His will’ (1 John 5:14-15). God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). God does not always answer our prayers in the way that we want. Sometimes, rather than changing our circumstances, He simply speaks His Word to us: ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Always, He ‘gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

2:1-36 –  What a contrast between the son of Hannah and the sons of Eli – ‘the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord… in the favour of the Lord’, ‘the sons of Eli were worthless men; they had no regard for the Lord (21,26,12). This is the difference between ‘the children of God’ and ‘the children of the devil’ (1 John 3:10). God’s Word speaks to us with a promise and a warning: ‘those who honour Me I will honour and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed’ (30). Let your attitude to the Lord be summed up in the words of Hannah: ‘There is none holy like the Lord, there is none like Thee; there is no rock like our God’ (2). Let us find our joy and our strength in the Lord: ‘My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord’ (1). May the Lord help us to be ‘His faithful ones’ who walk with Him (9).

3:1-4:22 –  The call of  Samuel is a vivid example of what God can do in the lives of children. Samuel’s early response to God set in motion a whole process of events leading Samuel to become ‘a prophet of the Lord’ through whom ‘the Word of the Lord… came to all Israel’ (3:10,19-4:1). Let us ground our children in Christ, encouraging them to have great expectations of what God can do in and with their lives as they grow up, loving Him. The people of Israel were ‘defeated’ by the Philistines. The greatest tragedy of this defeat was the ‘capture’ of ‘the ark of God’: ‘The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured’ (4:10-11,22). We may lose ‘goods, honour, children, wife’ (Church Hymnary, 406). The glory of God among His people – We must not lose this!

5:1-6:16 –  In 5:3-4, we read of God’s superiority over Dagon – ‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King’ (Jeremiah 10:10). ‘The hand of the Lord was heavy’ on those who set themselves against Him (5:6-7,9,11). Let ‘the Lord alone be exalted’.  He is our only ‘Saviour’ (Isaiah 2:17-18; 43:10-11). Through His victory over Dagon, the Lord calls us to be completely devoted to Him:  ‘Down went Dagon, smashed in pieces when the ark of God came in. So shall God destroy those idols that defile our hearts within. Come, Lord, and destroy them’. The return of the ark brought joy (6:13). When the Lord is restored to His rightful place among His people, there is joy. ‘Heaven came down and glory filled my soul’. When the Lord comes to us, we ‘rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Peter 1:8).

6:17-7:17 –  God is ‘holy’ (20). He calls His people to be holy. With His call to holiness, there is His promise of blessing (3). Committed to serving the Lord only and calling on the Lord for His help, Israel wins a great victory over the Philistines (4-11). God’s people give thanks to Him – ‘Until now the Lord has helped us’ (12). The victory over the Philistines was spectacular. There were, however, many ‘ordinary’ days. Here, we may learn from Samuel. He served the Lord ‘all the days of his life’ (15). The spectacular triumphs were few and far between. The ‘ordinary’ days were many – ‘he went on a circuit year by year…’(16). In all his journeys, he did not forget to ‘come home’ (7:17). Other places and other people seem to be so interesting. Don’t forget – There is much work to be done at ‘home’.

8:1-9:10 –  Israel’s demand for a king did not arise from love for God. It was motivated by human pride (8:5,20). Having ‘rejected’ the Lord as King, the people made their choice. They did not choose for God! They ‘chose for themselves’ (8:7,18). God allowed them to have their king but He did not approve of their choice (22,18). Humanly speaking, Saul was well qualified (9:2). There was, however, something tragic about Saul’s reign. From the very outset, it was rushing headlong to its inevitable outcome: ‘I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly’ (26:21). ‘He gave them what they asked, but He sent a wasting disease among them’ (Psalm 106:15). Saul did more harm than good. There was not much blessing during Saul’s reign. God had greater things in store for Israel – but not until Saul’s reign was over!

9:11-10:16 –  The Lord is King: We must never forget this. A human king is no substitute for the divine King (8:7). God was not pleased with His people. They wanted to be ‘like all the nations’ (8:5). God refused to abandon His people. They wanted a king. He gave them their king (15-17). He would wait patiently for His people to make a whole-hearted return to Him. The Lord would wait patiently until ‘a man after His own heart’ would rule over ‘His people’ (13:14). A human king must never forget the divine King. He must not become ‘too big for his boots’. He must not impose his own will. He must submit to God’s will. This is what it means to be ‘a man after God’s own heart’ – ‘Not my will but Thine be done’, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Luke 22:44; Matthew 6:10).

10:17-11:15 –  Everyone was so happy – ‘Long live the king! (24). Everything seemed to be so promising – ‘The Spirit of God came mightily upon Saul’ (6). God’s people were victorious (11). God’s people ‘rejoiced greatly’ (15). This is not, however, the whole story. Things were to get worse, much worse – ‘You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you’ (Galatians 5:7-8). Remember the parable of the sower: ‘Satan immediately comes and takes away the Word… When tribulation or persecution arises on account of the Word, immediately they fall away… The cares of the world and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful’ (Mark 4:15,17,19). Pray – ‘Deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:13).

12:1-13:15a –  To the king as well as the people, God speaks in promise and warning: ‘If both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well… If you will not hearken to the voice of the Lord… then the hand of the Lord will be against you and your king’ (12:14-15). Samuel was not afraid to speak very directly to the king – ‘You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God… Your kingdom shall not continue’ (13:13-14). Saul’s reign was about to end. God’s love continued: ‘The Lord will not cast away His people, for His great Name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself’ (12:22). Saul had become too full of himself and his own importance. He needed to be replaced by ‘a man after God’s own heart’ (13:14). To the divine King be all the glory!

13:15b-14:23 –  Humanly speaking, Israel seemed to be ‘no hopers’ (13:22). There was, however, something else. The Lord was with His people and He would give them the victory (14:6,19,12,23). There is a very important lesson for us here: ‘The weapons of our warfare are not worldly’. We are to ‘put on the whole armour of God’ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Ephesians 6:11-13). The victory does not come from our own strength. It comes from the Lord (Psalms 21:16; 21:7). In all our difficulties, we say, with faith, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?… In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us’ (Romans 8:31,37). Do you want to have this strong faith which rejoices in the Lord, even when life is very difficult? – ‘Wait on the Lord and renew your strength’ (Isaiah 40:31).

14:24-52 –  Making mistakes – it’s part of life for all of us: ‘We all make mistakes. If any one makes no mistakes… he is a perfect man’ (James 3:2). What are we to make of the ‘mistakes’ made by Saul and Jonathan? Saul’s ‘mistake’ was an error of judgment which ‘troubled the land’ (24,29). Jonathan’s ‘mistake’ was unfortunate. In the wrong place at the wrong time, he ‘had not heard’ what had been going on before he arrived on the scene (27). It was almost his last ‘mistake’ (43-44)! How are we to react to our mistakes? We can be like Saul or we can learn from our mistakes. Digging in his heels, Saul blundered on from one ‘mistake’ to another. He acted like he was the ‘perfect man’ who never makes ‘mistakes’. He had got it wrong, and he was the last to see it (44-45)! May God help us to learn from our mistakes!

15:1-35 –  Saul chose convenience rather than obedience. He did what he wanted – not what God commanded (3,9). Saul was disobedient. God was not pleased with him (10). Saul made big claims for himself: ‘I have performed the commandment of the Lord’ (13). This was nonsense. Samuel saw through it immediately – ‘What then is this bleating…?’(14). Saul had done what suited himself. God said one thing. Saul did another. Saul tried to ‘pass the buck’. He blamed ‘the people’ (21). Saul appears to confess his sin. Still, there is this element of ‘passing the buck’. He blames ‘the people’ – ‘They put me up to it. It was their idea’ (24). This was ‘the last straw’. For Saul, this was ‘the end’ – ‘the show was over’. He would be replaced (26-28). Love God ‘with all your heart…’ – not just a part (Deuteronomy 6:5)!

16:1-23 –  ‘Samuel did what the Lord commanded’ (4). Real obedience comes from ‘the heart’. It is more than just ‘keeping up appearances’(7). ‘The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart’ – This is something we must never forget!’. ‘It’s the presence of Your Spirit, Lord, we need’ (Songs of Fellowship, 256) – This is the lesson we must learn from the stories of Saul and David. The great difference between the two men is summed up in verses 13-14: ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David… the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul’. David exerted a good influence upon Saul (23). Sadly, however, Saul’s best days were behind him. He was only a shadow of what he could have become if he had chosen to become ‘ a man after God’s own heart’ (13-14). Don’t settle for second best when you can have God’s very best!

17:1-58 – David defeats Goliath. This is not only a story about David and Goliath. It is about the Israelites and the Philistines. It is about ‘God’ and the ‘gods’ (43,46). Victory comes from the Lord. It is given by grace. It is received by faith (47). Notice the contrast between the attitude of Saul – unbelief -and the attitude of David – faith (33,37). Unbelief is all around us. Don’t be pulled into it. Don’t forget God. Remember what He has done for you and thank Him that He will not fail you now (37). Put off the armour provided by men. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’ (38-40; Ephesians 6:11). We will not win the victory if we fight in our own strength. We must draw our strength from the Lord. He helps us. We are ‘strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man’ (Psalm 121:2; 124:8; Ephesians 3:16).

18:1-30 – ‘Loved’ by ‘all Israel and Judah’ (16,28), David was hated by only one man, the most powerful man in the land – Saul (29). Saul was full of envy (7-8), suspicion (9) and violence (10-11). Saul had been proved wrong (17:33,50), and he didn’t like it! David had more success with the women (7), and Saul wasn’t happy about this! The women shouldn’t have been idolizing David. Saul shouldn’t have been seeking glory for himself. The glory belongs to the Lord – not to David, not to Saul, not to anyone else! ‘Saul was David’s enemy continually’ (29). His real argument was with God. ‘The Lord was with David’ (14,28). This didn’t please Saul – ‘Why am I not getting all this blessing? I’m the king!’. If anyone says, I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar… he who loves God should love his brother also’ (1 John 4:20-21).

19:1-24 – Saul was planning to kill David (1). Jonathan warns David and tries to talk some sense into Saul (2,4-5). Saul took Jonathan’s advice – but not for long (6,10)! Thank God that the ‘like father, like son’ rule didn’t apply here! How much more difficult life would have been for David if he had both Saul and Jonathan for enemies! Sin can be a family tradition, passed on from generation to generation. The ‘father’ chooses a self-centred life. The ‘son’ follows in his footsteps. ‘He’s just his father’s son’! You can be your Father’s son: ‘All who receive Christ become children of God’ (John 1:12). Saul was seeking his own glory. Jonathan gave the glory to God (4-5). Let us not seek glory for ourselves (John 5:41,44). Give all the glory to God (Revelation 14: 7:12; Romans 11:36).

20:1-42 – ‘Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul’ (17). He was ready to die for David (30-33). This is real love and true spiritual fellowship: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’, ‘If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…’ (John 15:13; 1 John 1:7). Where there is real love for the Lord, there will be depth of fellowship among His people. If our love for the Lord is shallow, our interest in other people will be superficial. Don’t be like Saul – ‘backstabbing’, ‘ready to put the knife in’: ‘Any one who hates his brother is a murderer…’ (1 John 3:15). ‘Let there be love shared among us… brotherly love that is real’ (Mission Praise, 411). God will answer this prayer – if we really mean it and don’t just ‘mouth’ it!

21:1-22:23 – ‘Religion’ is no substitute for compassion (21:3-6; Matthew 12:1-4,7). These were difficult times for David. His life was in great danger. He maintained his trust in the Lord. Looking ahead to the future, he speaks of ‘what God will do for me’ (22:3). Saul did not have the upper hand. God was in control. We wonder about the future – ‘What will it bring?’. With our faith in the Lord, we say, ‘I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future’. We look to the Lord and we say, ‘My times are in Thy hand: My God I wish them there… My times are in Thy hand, whatever they may be… Why should I doubt or fear?… I’ll always trust in Thee’. When life is hard, remember the One who suffered for you: ‘Jesus, the Crucified’ – He is our Guard and Guide’ (Church Hymnary, 680).

23:1-29 – Saul imagined that God was with him in his pursuit of David – ‘God has given him into my hand’ (7). He was wrong – ‘Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand’ (14). We may like to think that God supports us in everything we decide to do. We must, however, be honest before Him and recognize that there can be a great difference between ‘what I want’ and ‘what God wants’. We must learn to choose God’s will rather than our own will (Luke 22:42). We ask, ‘What is God’s will?’. God says, ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God wants us to be ‘changed into His likeness’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). He renews our minds, enabling us to live a life that is more truly and more fully in line with His perfect will (Romans 12:2). Do you want your own way – or God’s will?

24:1-22 – Saul recognized that David was a ‘righteous’ man to whom ‘the kingdom’ would be given (17,20). There is a vital connection between godly character and fruitfulness in God’s service. We dare not imagine that we will be fruitful for God if we refuse to give ourselves fully to Him. There is no short cut to God’s blessing which by-passes the dedication of our hearts and lives to Him. We learn this lesson from David. A man, ‘raised up to be king’, he was – first of all – ‘a man after God’s heart’, a man who would ‘do all God’s will’ (Acts 13:22). It was great that Saul recognized David’s righteous character and spiritual potential. It was sad that this made no real difference to the way in which Saul lived His own life. He continued to ‘play the fool’, going his own way rather than God’s way (26:21).

25:1-44 – Forewarned is forearmed. Know where the trouble’s coming from before it hits you and knocks you off your feet. This is the message of verse 25. Nabal was well named – Fool!. He is described as ‘that wicked man’, ‘this ill-natured fellow’, ‘this worthless person’, ‘this man of Belial’. We need to be on our guard with people like this around! In 2 Corinthians 6:15, Paul uses the word, ‘Belial’. It is another name for Satan. It’s hardly any wonder that Nabal was a trouble maker. He was a man of Satan! Be on your guard against Satan. He doesn’t always come ‘as a roaring lion’. Sometimes, he ‘masquerades himself as an angel of light’ (1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14). It’s better to be forewarned and forearmed than to have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, ‘I wish I had known then what I know now’!

26:1-25 – Saul and David were very different. David was wise. He had respect for ‘the Lord’s anointed’ (11). This was grounded in ‘the fear of the Lord’ which ‘is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10). Saul ‘played the fool’. He ‘erred exceedingly’, choosing the way of self rather than the way of the Lord (21). This is not only the story of David and Saul. It’s like looking into a mirror. In David and Saul, we see ourselves. We are at the cross-roads. We must choose. God promises blessing – ‘The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness’ (23). This promise is full of challenge. Choose ‘righteousness and faithfulness’. Choose Christ. Keep on choosing Him. ‘O happy day, that fixed my choice on Thee, my Saviour and my God… That vow renewed shall daily hear’ (Mission Praise, 499).

27:1-28:2 – What a difference there is between fear – ‘I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul’ – and faith – ‘The Lord will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (27:1; 17:37)! These words were spoken by the same man – David. There is a battle going on within each one of us – a battle for faith, a battle against fear. How do we overcome fear? How do we grow strong in faith? – ‘Perfect love casts out fear’. It is God’s love which gives us the victory – ‘We love, because He first loved us’. Strengthened by His love, our faith grows strong, and we say, ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith… Jesus is the Son of God’ (1 John 4:18-19; 5:4-5). ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine’ (Isaiah 43:1). Let faith grow strong and fear be banished!

28:3-25 – Saul sinned against the Lord. He brought God’s judgment upon himself: ‘Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord… the Lord has done this thing to you this day’ (18). ‘Saul disguised himself’’ – he thought he could get away with his sin. He was wrong: ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ (8; Numbers 32:23). There is no hiding from God – ‘Before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do’. God’s Word warns us: ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’. Do not ‘trample the Son of God under foot, treating His blood as an unholy thing and outraging the Spirit of grace’. Don’t fight against God. You will be the loser! Don’t ‘shrink back’ and be ‘destroyed’. ‘Believe’ and be ‘saved’ (Hebrews 4:13; 10:29-31, 39; Acts 16:30-31).

29:1-30:15 – ‘David was greatly distressed… But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God (30:6). Things are going badly. What do you do? Do you start feeling sorry for yourself? That won’t do any good. God’s Word says, ‘Be strong, and let your heart take courage’ (Psalm 27:14). In times of difficulty, where does your strength come from? – ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield… The Lord is the strength of His people…’ (Psalm 28:7-8). How are we to strengthen ourselves in the Lord our God? We must remind ourselves that God is in control: ‘The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as King for ever’. This is the way in which ‘the Lord gives strength to His people!’.This is the way ‘the Lord blesses His people with peace!’ (Psalm 29:10-11). Let us be strong in the Lord

30:16-31:13 – Here, we have tragedy and triumph – the tragedy of Saul (4), the triumph of the Lord (23). What we are, in ourselves, is tragic – ‘all have sinned… the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This is not the full story of our life. There’s something else: ‘what the Lord has given us’ – ‘they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus’: ‘the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (23; Romans 3:24; 6:23). This is the triumph of the Lord. It is not something that we achieve for ourselves. ‘This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes’ (Psalm 118:23). We give all the praise and glory to the Lord: ‘Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph. Let us ‘spread the knowledge of Him everywhere’ (2 Corinthians 2:14).

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2 SAMUEL

1:1-27 – ‘How are the mighty fallen!’ (19,25,27). The tragedy of Saul was there for all to see. He had made a right mess of things! What are we to think when we read of this tragic figure? He started out so well. He ended so badly. There were high hopes – but it all came to nothing. Do we not see ourselves in Saul? – This could happen to me, if I’m not careful. The danger signs are there. Satan is at hand. He is ready to sweep in. He will sweep the feet away from us, if we don’t watch out. We are very weak, but the Lord is ‘able to keep us from falling’ (Jude 24-25). These are things we must never forget – our own weakness and the strength of the Lord. Disaster threatens. Tragedy looms. Jesus draws near. He speaks His Word – ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). By grace, we shall stand!

2:1-32 – It was a new beginning. There was a new king. Saul was gone. He had been replaced by David. One thing had not changed. The Lord is King. To know His blessing – His ‘steadfast love and faithfulness’ – is more important than anything else. We look beyond the servants of the Lord. We look to the Lord Himself (4-7). The names and the faces change – Saul, David, – but the Lord never changes’. Some liked one king – ‘If only we had Saul back again’. Some preferred the other – ‘Things can only get better, now that David’s here’. Some people would never be happy. There was no pleasing them. What is the most important thing of all? – Keep your eyes on the Lord. God’s servants are not in competition with one another. They are not trying to outdo each other. Let God be glorified!

3:1-39 – ‘There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David’ (1) – What a sad situation! It was shameful. It was sinful – a scandalous situation, which brought no glory to the Lord. The conflict seemed to go on and on – it was ‘a long war’. Perhaps, there were times when things didn’t seem too bad. Still, the problem showed no sign of going away. They were at ‘war’ with one another. Is there any hope in a situation like this? We may wonder. Humanly speaking, things seem to go round in circles. There appears to be some progress, then there is another outbreak of violence. There is hope. Our hope is in the Lord. He continues to speak His Word – ‘…I will save My people… from the hand of all their enemies’ (18). Whatever happens, don’t forget the Word of the Lord.

4:1-5:25 – ‘…They came into the house… and slew him…’ (4:7). What are we to make of this kind of thing? – ‘What’s the world coming to?’. Where’s it all going to end?’. It is difficult to maintain real faith in the Lord when this kind of thing is going on. What are we to do? Don’t bury your head in the sand. Don’t pretend that such things are not happening. Don’t imagine that they will just go away. ‘Inquire of the Lord’. ‘Do as the Lord commands’. Keep on believing that there will be a breakthrough – from the Lord (19,23,25,20). Can you ‘hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees’? – ‘The Spirit of the Lord has come down on the earth’. Let us ‘rise, a mighty array, at the bidding of the Lord – The Spirit won’t be hindered by division in the perfect work that Jesus has begun’ (24; John 3:8; Mission Praise, 274).

6:1-23 – ‘When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart’ (16). Michal was a very angry young woman. Her husband had embarrassed her and she didn’t like it! What had David done to deserve this? – ‘I will celebrate before the Lord’ (21). This is really quite pathetic. God’s children are learning to ‘worship Him in Spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23-24). In comes ‘the stiff upper lip brigade’. They have no real heart for worship. They put a dampener on it – ‘This has to stop’. This is not only pathetic. It is sinful. ‘Do not quench the Spirit… Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God… Be filled with Spirit, addressing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart…’ (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30; 5:18-20).

7:1-29 – David was king. God was looking on the next king, Solomon. Knowing the kind of man Solomon would become, God speaks of chastening: ‘When he does wrong, I will chasten him’. This chastening is an expression of God’s ‘steadfast love’: ‘Those whom I love, I rebuke and chasten’. How do we respond to God’s chastening? Don’t be like ‘Saul’. He was ‘put away from’ being king because of his continual disobedience. ‘Be zealous and repent’. When you are being chastened, don’t forget the love of God: ‘The Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives’. Why does God chasten His children? – ‘He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness’. Beyond the ‘pain’ of ‘discipline’, there is ‘the peaceful fruit of righteousness’ (14-15; Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-11).

8:1-9:13 – David was involved in many battles with his enemies. Their antagonism had been aroused by his strong stand for the Lord. David enjoyed many victories. Why? – ‘The Lord gave victory to David wherever he went’ (8:6,14). Jesus said, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). We are not left on our own. Through ‘the kindness of God’, we receive strength (9:3). ‘The heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind’. Through His kindness, He has provided ‘plentiful redemption’. When, through the kindness of God, we enjoy His victory let’s not forget, ‘Every virtue we possess, every victory won, every thought of holiness, are His alone’ (Church Hymnary, 218,336). The ‘victory’ does not come from ourselves. It is ‘the victory of our God’: ‘Sing to the Lord… He has done marvellous things’ (Psalms 44:3; 98:1-3)!

10:1-11:27 – ‘May the Lord do what seems good to Him’ (10:12). This is the attitude we ought to have. This is the ideal: ‘Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven’; ‘Not as I will, but as You will’ (Matthew 6:10; 26:39). Often, we do not live up to the ideal – ‘the thing that David had done displeased the Lord’ (11:27). Throughout life, there are choices between our own will and the will of the Lord. Sometimes, we make wrong choices. We choose our own way rather than the Lord’s way. Throughout life, God is speaking to us. He is trying to get our attention. He wants it to be less of self and more of Him. He is leading us to say from the heart, ‘As for God, His way is perfect’ (22:31; Psalm 18:30). May we have this testimony: ‘I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not done evil by turning from my God’ (Psalm 18:21).

12:1-31 – Here, we learn much about God’s dealings with sinners. In verse 7, there is conviction of sin – ‘You are the man’. In verse 13, we have confession of sin – ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ – and forgiveness of sin – ‘The Lord has taken away your sin’. In verse 20, there is the restoration of the sinner – ‘washed… anointed… changed… he went into the house of the Lord, and worshipped’. These were not easy times for David – ‘the child died’ (18). Later on, ‘a son’ was born (24). Sometimes, good things are happening to us. Sometimes, bad things are happening. ‘The Lord loved him’ (24): ‘Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy’, never forget ‘His love’ (Mission Praise, 702). Our circumstances change. His love never changes. When you’re feeling down, let His love lift you up!

13:1-39 – Lust is very different from love. What appeared to be ‘love’ turned into ‘very great hatred’ – ‘The heart is deceitful… and desperately wicked’ (14-15; Jeremiah 17:9). Things went from bad to worse. The ‘one-off’ event became a consistent and continuing rejection (16). Things continued to get worse. ‘Absalom hated Amnon’. He refused to speak to him (22). Could things get any worse? – Yes. Absalom and Amnon were murdered (28-29). Where is God in all this? His Name does not appear in this whole chapter. Is He absent? – No. He is there. He is warning us. This is what can happen if you forget about God! He is the God of holiness: ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men…’ (Romans 1:18). He is the God of love. He call us to confess our sins and be forgiven (1 John 1:9).

14:1-33 – David loved Absalom – ‘the king’s heart went out to Absalom’ (1). David could not bring himself to forgive Absalom: ‘Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence’ (24). God loves us. God forgives us. We dare not come to Him in pride – ‘I’m really not that bad. I’m really quite good’. We must come to Him with a real confession of sin: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son’. In ourselves, we are ‘lost’. In Christ, we are ‘found’. In ourselves, we are ‘dead’. In Christ, we are ‘made alive’ (Luke 15:21,24; Ephesians 2:1,5). In Christ, we see God’s love. Through Christ, we receive God’s forgiveness. Christ does not leave us ‘out on a limb’. He is preparing a place for us – in His Father’s House (John 14:1-3). This is love – without limits!

15:1-37 – There is a great difference between human popularity and divine approval. Here, we have human popularity – ‘The conspiracy grew strong, and the people with Absalom kept increasing’ (12). In Acts 5:14, we have divine approval – ‘More than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women’. Conspiracy involves man seeking to get his own way. Revival comes when we ‘let go and let God have His wonderful way’. ‘Carry the ark of God back into the city’ (25). In the ark of God, we have the Word of God among the people of God. If the people of God are to enjoy the blessing of God, they must live according to the Word of God. We organize things to suit ourselves. This is conspiracy. God is not in it. Look to God. Listen for His Word. Live in the light of His Word. This is God’s way to revival.

16:1-23 – What is more important to you – your own reputation or the glory of God? ‘Curse David’ – This was the last thing David wanted to hear. It may, however, have been what he needed to hear. Here, we see David’s true spiritual stature. This was not a ‘feel good’ message. David recognized that this might be what the Lord was saying to him (10). He speaks against us so that we might learn to stop speaking against Him. He speaks of His righteousness that we might see our own unrighteousness. He speaks of His judgment that we might see how hopeless our situation is without Christ. He speaks of our sin that we might be brought to Christ for salvation (John 16:8-11; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-2:2). Let there be no more talk of your righteousness. Confess your sins and trust the Saviour.

17:1-29 – Here, we have a tragic train of events. Ahithophel’s advice was ‘not good’. His advice ‘was not followed’. He ‘hanged’ himself (7,23). Without going into detail about this particular suicide, we may make some general comments about coping with life’s difficulties. Things don’t go according to plan. Our hopes are dashed. Nothing seems to work out. Everything seems to go wrong. We allow things to get on top of us. Very quickly and very easily, things can get completely out of control. Everything is out of proportion. It seems like there is nothing worth living for. Suicide becomes a strangely attractive way out. What are we to do when such thoughts fill our minds? – Remember God’s promise: “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

18:1-33 – Some die young. Others live to a ripe old age. None of us can predict what lies ahead of us. There are some things that are beyond our control. We look at what is happening and we say, ‘I wish things could be different’. Absalom had been killed. David wished he could have died instead of him. It was not to be. Each of us must die our own death: ‘No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live on for ever and not see decay’ (Psalm 49:7-9). There is, however, a ‘Man’ who has died for us – Jesus Christ, ‘our Lord and our God’. He ‘gave Himself as a ransom for all’. ‘Christ died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ (John 20 28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 Peter 3:18).

19:1-39 – ‘My lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil’ (27;14:17). Setting God’s servants on a pedestal is a dangerous thing. Don’t imagine that they will always get it right. They won’t. They have their faults and failings as well as everyone else. They need forgiveness just as much as anyone else. They look great – from a distance. The closer you get to them, the more you see that they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. From a distance, they seem like spiritual giants. Close up, they’re not so impressive. Build up God’s servants with unrealistically high expectations, and you’re setting them up for a very great fall. The closer you get to them, the smaller they become. There’s one Man who’s different: our Lord Jesus Christ – The closer you get to Him, the bigger He becomes!

19:40-20:26 – ‘The words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel’ (43). At the heart of all this conflict was Sheba. He was a real trouble-maker. ‘A worthless fellow’, he was up to no good. A complainer, he wreaked havoc among God’s people. He was out to make an impression – and he succeeded. Sadly, it was all negative. He did a great deal of ‘harm’ (1-2,6). How sad it is when there is strife among God’s people! God’s Word speaks out strongly against this kind of thing: ‘While there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh…?’. Strife can arise when we attach too much importance to certain individuals and pay too little attention to the Lord: ‘“I belong to Paul”… “I belong to Apollos”’. Remember – ‘Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth’ (1 Corinthians 3:3-7).

21:1-22:7 – There’s no two ways about it. God’s people were getting it rough. There seemed to be so many problems. Were they to give up hope? – Not a bit of it! Read verse 14 – ‘After that God heeded supplications for the land’. What happened when God heard and answered the prayers of His people? – ‘the plague was averted from Israel’ (24:25). Things would have been an awful lot worse, if it was not for the Lord hearing and answering prayer! Keep on praying. Keep on believing that God hears and answers prayer. He is not a tragic victim of circumstances – ‘Poor God. He can do nothing about it all’. Don’t believe that. That’s the lie of the devil. He is still the living God. Things are not out of His control. He is still on the throne. God can, if we will – ‘If my people…’ (2 Corinthians 7:14). Pray ‘for the land’!

22:8-51 – David’s ‘song’ of praise is also found in Psalm 18. Some things are worth repeating! David is praising the Lord. He is giving glory to Him. We must never tire of praising God. We can never praise Him enough. He is always greater than our inadequate worship. He is ‘worthy to be praised’ (4). Again and again, we must lift our hearts and voices to Him in praise. Think of the Lord. Think of how great He is. Think of how much He loves you. Think of how much He has done for you. Let your song of praise rise to Him: ‘The Lord lives; and blessed be my Rock, and exalted be my God, the Rock of my salvation’ (47; Mission Praise, 306). Some things are worth repeating – when we’re giving all the praise and glory to the Lord! Praising the Lord – We were created for this. We have been redeemed for this.

23:1-39 – By birth, David was ‘the son of Jesse’. By grace, he was ‘the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (1). What we are in ourselves is nothing compared with what we can become through the grace of God! Look at David. Listen to what he says, ‘The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, His Word is upon my tongue’ (2). What had David done to deserve this? What was so special about him? Nothing – This was the work of God, the work of divine grace. In ourselves, we are ‘godless’, good for nothing, ‘like thorns that are thrown away’ (6). In ourselves, we are not ‘mighty men’ (8-9). How can we be changed? – ‘The Lord wrought a great victory’ (10,12). Which of us can be described as ‘a valiant man… a doer of great deeds’ (20) – apart from the grace of God? ‘By grace you have been saved…’(Ephesians 2:8-10).

24:1-25 – Here, we see the spirit of pride. David wanted to ‘know the number of the people’ (2). Why? He wanted to feel important – ‘the big man’. He was not giving the glory to the Lord. He was taking it for himself. Did God give up on David – ‘a hopeless case, too full of himself and his own importance’? Of course not! The Lord, whose ‘mercy is great’, drew David back to Himself. David confessed his sin – ‘I have sinned greatly… I have done very foolishly… I have sinned and I have done wickedly’ (10,17). David was accepted by the Lord – ‘The Lord your God accepts you’. He was brought from pride to praise (23,25). This is what God has done for us. We are ‘accepted in the Beloved’ – ‘to the praise of His glorious grace’ (Ephesians 1:6).

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1 KINGS

1:1-53  –  David’s reign was coming to an end. He would be replaced by Solomon (30). No one goes on forever. Every day takes us one day closer to the day of stepping down and handing over to someone else. We must pray that the future will be ‘greater’ than the past (37,47). Some kings reign for a long time. Some reign for a short time. The important thing is not the length of time. It’s the quality of the leadership. Have the people been brought closer to the Lord? This is what matters more than anything else. In all the changes of life, we must learn to say, ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (48). We do not trust in this man or that man. We trust in the Lord. David’s time was almost gone.  Solomon’s time would come and go. When all God’s servants have slipped into the past, one thing will remain true – ‘the Lord lives’ (29).

2:1-46  –  God’s purpose does not stand still. It moves forward. This was a new beginning for God’s people. Solomon was not to do his own thing. He was to do God’s will: ‘Keep the charge of the Lord your God’ (3). He was to serve God’s purpose: ‘that the Lord may establish His Word’ (4). There are to be no comparisons between one man and another. God’s servants are not to be in competition with one another. Some may have been looking back to the past – ‘How will we manage without David? God had already moved on from there. He was pressing on to the future – ‘If your sons…’ (4). God’s blessing would not come easily. There were obstacles to be removed (13-46). If ‘the Word of Christ’ is to ‘dwell in us richly’, we must ‘put to death what is earthly in us’ (Colossians 3:5,16). God will not bless us if we do not obey Him.

3:1-28  –  Solomon was a complicated man. We wonder what was most important to him – his alliances with the world or his allegiance to the Lord, ‘building his own house’ or ‘building the House of the Lord’ (1-3)? In verses 9-13, we learn that Solomon prized wisdom more than riches. In verse 14, Solomon is reminded that he must keep on loving the Lord: ‘If you will walk in My ways…’. We look at Solomon. We see ourselves. We claim to love the Lord. The world has a ‘fatal attraction’ for us. In each of us, there is conflict, a lifelong conflict between ‘the desires of the flesh’ and ‘the desires of the Spirit’. We are faced with a choice. Will it be love for the Lord or love for the world? Don’t ‘abandon your first love’ (Galatians 5:17; 1 John 2:15; Revelation 2:4). Make it simple: Jesus comes first!

4:1-34  –  ‘God gave Solomon wisdom’ (29). Solomon shared this wisdom with others (32-34). Christ is ‘our Wisdom’ (1 Corinthians 1:30).  Don’t keep Him to yourself. You may not know much about ‘trees… beasts… birds… reptiles… fish’ (33). If you know Jesus, you know all that you really need to know!  You can live a happy life without knowing much about history, geography, science…. You cannot have true happiness without knowing Jesus. He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). You can teach others about many different subjects. You will not help them to find true happiness if you are not telling them about Jesus. The most important lesson is really very simple: ‘Jesus loves me…’ (Church Hymnary, 418). Will you share this lesson with others? You can’t give them anything better than this: the love of Jesus.

5:1-6:13  –  Do you ‘rejoice greatly’ when you hear the Word of the Lord (5:7)? God wants to ‘establish His Word’ among us (6:12). He wants to establish His presence among us. He is ‘the Word made flesh’. He ‘dwells among us, full of grace and truth’. He is ‘Emmanuel’ – ‘God with us’ (John 1:14; Matthew 1:23). As you read about the building of the temple, remember God’s Word: ‘You are God’s temple… God’s Spirit lives in you… God’s temple is holy… you are that temple… your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you… We are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live among them…’(1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). ‘A dwelling place of God in the Spirit’ – That’s what you are (Ephesians 2:22)!

6:14-7:12  –  Solomon took seven years to build ‘the House of the Lord’ and ‘thirteen years’ to build ‘his own house’ (6:37-7:1)! What are we to make of this? Are we more concerned with pleasing ourselves or serving God? Is our life more self-centred than God-centred? These are important questions. They are questions which we cannot sweep under the carpet. Jesus invites us to think about our priorities: Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth… lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also… No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and Money’ (Matthew 6:19-21,24). We are not to be ‘lovers of self, lovers of money… lovers of pleasure! We are to be ‘lovers of God’ (2 Timothy 3:1-5). What kind of person are you becoming ?  Each of us must choose.

7:13-8:13  –  We read about ‘the silver’ and ‘the gold’. We are called to choose between the life of fruitful service – ‘gold, silver, precious stones’ – and the unfruitful life – ‘wood, hay, straw’ (51; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). We read of  ‘the ark of the covenant of the Lord’ being ‘brought to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the House, in the most holy place. We are told that the glory of the Lord filled the House of the Lord’ (6,11). The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord whenever the Word of God is honoured by the people of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1,14). The glory of the Lord fills the House of the Lord when Christ is given the place of highest honour among the people of God. Do you want to experience God’s glory? Honour His Word. Love His Son – the Lord Jesus Christ.

8:14-53  –  The person who leads us in worship, the place where we worship or the God whom we worship – Which is the most important? We know what our answer should be. No person or place is more important than the Lord. Often, we take our eyes off the Lord. Solomon directs our attention to the Lord. Leading ‘all the assembly of Israel’ in worship, he says, ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (14-15). The glory does not belong to Solomon. It belongs to the Lord. In his prayer, Solomon contrasts the place where we worship with the God whom we worship: ‘Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee; how much less this House which I have built!’ (27). We must think big thoughts about God. He is ‘the God of Israel’ (15,17,20,23,25-26). He is more than that. He is our God. He loves all nations (Isaiah 45:22; 49:6; Acts 13:47; John 3:16).

8:54-9:28  –  What is happening when we are gathered together for worship? Is this merely a human thing, something which we do? No! – There is something more. God is at work. He is there to ‘incline our hearts to Him…’(58). Before we have gathered, God is there, waiting for us, ready to speak His Word: ‘Let your heart be wholly true to the Lord your God…’ (61). God wants us to be holy. He wants us to be wholly true to Him. Holiness is no ‘kill joy’ affair. It is a life of joy and gladness (66). There is here a very important lesson: Seek holiness and you will find happiness. Seek happiness in yourself and you will not find it: ‘If you turn aside from following Me’, you ‘will become a heap of ruins’ (6-8). What a mess we make of things when we forget about God! Let’s ‘walk before Him with integrity of heart’ (4).

10:1-11:13  –  ‘King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth’ (23). It sounds impressive – until you look more closely at Solomon’s life! What else does God’s Word tell us about him? – ‘His heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God… Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely… His heart had turned away from the Lord… Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command’  (11:4,6,9-10). When everything seems to be going well, God invites us to look beneath the surface, to look a little deeper. Great words had been spoken about Solomon (10:9). Now, everything had gone sour. Solomon had lost the place. This can happen to any of us. We can lose our way. Read the story of Solomon as a warning: Don’t let this happen to you! Stay close to God.

11:14-12:24  –  Life can be a very slippery slope. You can go downhill very quickly – if you’re not careful! Solomon let things slide – and he was never the same again. He fell – and he never got back up again. After he died, there was ‘rebellion’ – and it lasted for a long time (12:9). It was bedlam. Chaos reigned. The people couldn’t agree among themselves. Everybody was pointing the finger at somebody else. What did God have to say about all this? – ‘Do not go up to fight against your brothers…’ (12:24). God’s Word seems so simple. We’re the ones who make everything so complicated – when we’re looking out for ourselves, when we’re forgetting to listen for God’s Word. We need to stop giving off – ‘This is what I think’. We need to start listening. What are others saying? What is the Lord saying?

12:25-13:34  –  These were dark days for God’s people. They were deeply divided. There was the northern kingdom (Israel). Jeroboam was their ‘big man’. There was the southern kingdom (Judah). Rehoboam was the ‘voice’ of the south. What a shambles it all was! Each side seemed intent on outdoing the other – ungodliness. Sin reigned in the north (13:33-34). Sin reigned in the south (14:22-24). The ‘big man’ was not so big in the eyes of the Lord. The ‘voice’ did not speak the Word of the Lord. Was there any hope? Yes! There was an unnamed ‘man of God’ who spoke ‘the Word of the Lord’ (13:1). In all the confusion of these difficult times, God was planning for a better future. His Word concerned Josiah: ‘a son shall be born…’ (2). We look beyond Josiah to Jesus:  ‘to us a Child is born… a Son…’ (Isaiah 9:6-7).

14:1-15:8  –  It makes depressing reading – a lot of bad news from the north (16), a lot of bad news from the south (22). Many people wondered, ‘Will there be peace in my lifetime?’. Sadly, the hostilities continued for a very long time (15:6). Were there no glimmers of hope? Was there no light at the end of the tunnel? Had God given up on the situation? There is a Word of hope: ‘The Lord will raise up for Himself a king…’ (14). There is good news. God is raising up ‘an army of ordinary people, a kingdom where love is the key’. What part can God’s ‘ordinary people’ play in His extraordinary purpose? – A very important part: ‘The Church is here for healing of the nations’ (Songs of Fellowship, 20,216). Can there be healing? Yes! – if there is love. Don’t give up hope: ‘May the God of hope…’(Romans 15:13)!

15:9-16:28  –  A lot of kings are mentioned here. We soon lose track of their names. With one solitary exception, they are all better forgotten than remembered. Thank God for the one glimmer of light: ‘Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… The heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days’ (15:11, 14). We need more people like Asa. God is looking foe people who will stand out from the crowd, people who will dare to be different. Pleasing the Lord is more important than pleasing people. It is so easy to forget this. We want to be popular. This is all that matters to us. If we are serious about following Jesus, we must be prepared to go it alone: ‘Tho’ none go with me, I still will follow’ (Mission Praise, 272). Let’s honour God – in our attitudes and actions.

16:29-18:16  –  Things were getting desperate: ‘Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him’ (33). What did God do about this? How did He respond to this situation? God sent His prophet, a man who would stand up for God against Ahab. ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’ (Isaiah 59:19). Where did Elijah come from? He came from God! All we know about Elijah’s early life is expressed in the words: ‘Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead’. There is something else we know about him. He was a man of God. He was a man with a message, a man who spoke in the Name of the Lord the God of Israel’ (17:1). Things happened when Elijah was around. This was the Spirit of God at work – in power!

18:17-19:21  –  Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed.  ‘The fire of the Lord fell’.  ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’ (37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’ (4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’ – ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.

20:1-43  –  Sometimes we say, ‘I can’t’, when we mean, ‘I won’t’! We are ‘busy here and there’ – too busy for God, for doing His will, for obeying His Word. Is this a case of ‘I can’t’? No! It is ‘I won’t’. We choose. We decide how we will use our time. God looks at our life. He sees what is most important to us and He says, ‘You yourself have decided it’. He sees that our choices have been self-centred rather than Christ-centred. He says, ‘So shall your judgment be’ (40). Can we change? Yes! God says,  ‘Come, strengthen yourself, and consider well what you have to do’ (12). There is a decision to be made. We must be obedient to God’s Word: ‘Be strong in the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:10). Our strength is not in ourselves. It is in the Lord. Wait on the Lord and renew your strength (Isaiah 40:31). ‘Strengthen yourself’ – in the Lord.

21:1-22:14  –  We read of human sin and divine judgment (21:1-4,15-16,20-24). There is also something else here: the mercy of God – ‘Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days…’(29). The judgment of God will come – but not yet. It is held back by the mercy of God. We live in confusing times. There is much evidence of sin. There are some signs of repentance. What are the servants of the Lord to say? Is there a single message, a Word of judgment, a Word of mercy? Here is what we must say: ‘What the Lord says to me, that I will speak’(22:14). Let us not settle for a one-sided message – preaching judgment without a glimmer of hope, promising mercy without issuing the Gospel warning. May God help us to be like Paul: ‘I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27).

22:15-53  –  Ahab’s repentance (21:27) didn’t last long! He continued to live in sin (22:8). He died in shame (37-38). Ahab’s son – Ahaziah – was just like his father – ‘a chip off the old block’: ‘He … provoked the Lord, the God of Israel to anger in every way that his father had done’ (51-53). Jehoshapat was a different type of king – ‘he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’ (43). Here, we catch a glimpse of our Lord Jesus Christ – ‘I do as the Father commanded Me’ (John 14:31). Don’t be like Ahaziah -‘he walked in the ways of his father… the ways of sin’ (52). Let’s be like Jesus – Walking in the ways of our Heavenly Father. God says to us, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ (Isaiah 30:21). Let us say, ‘As for God, His way is perfect’ (2 Samuel 22:31). Let us pray, ‘Our Father in heaven… Your will be done (Matthew 6:9-10).

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2 KINGS


1:1-2:13 –  ‘He took up the mantle of Elijah’ (2:13). Elijah’s ministry had ended. Elisha’s ministry was about to begin. It was the beginning of a new era. This may have been a new ministry. It was not, however, a new message. Both men preached the Word of the Lord. Elisha continued Elijah’s work. He took up where Elijah had left off. He brought the Word of the Lord to the people. Elisha was not exactly the same as Elijah. He was Elisha – not Elijah! There was, however, continuity. The second ministry built on the work done during the first ministry. The laying of the foundations – This is what Elijah’s ministry had been all about. Now, Elisha would build on this good foundation. He would take the work of God forward. Into the future, on to the second stage – This is what Elisha’s ministry was all about.

2:14-3:27 –  ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ (2:14). Elijah was no longer there – but God was still there! Don’t imagine that God goes away  when there’s a change of ministry. While Elijah had been serving the Lord, Elisha was being prepared for his time. God is always one step ahead of us. We are living in the present day. He is planning for the future. With each succeeding generation, the question is asked, ‘Where is the Lord?’. In every generation, God is looking for those who will serve Him – ‘testifying of the Gospel of the grace of God, testifying of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, declaring the whole counsel of God’  (Acts 20:24,21,27). This is ‘the mantle of Elijah’ (2:14) – the mantle of prophetic ministry. Will you ‘take up the mantle’ for God and the next generation?

4:1-44 –  The situation seemed hopeless – ‘The child was lying dead on his bed’ (32). What did Elisha do? – He ‘prayed to the Lord’ (33). What are we to do when everything seems hopeless? Pray: ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation… Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?’  (Psalm 85:4,6). When we are at our lowest ebb, God is waiting to hear from us. Our prayer may not be eloquent – but it must come from the heart! Perhaps, we can hardly put our prayer into words. God looks beyond our inadequate words. He looks into our hearts. If, in our hearts, we are saying to Him, ‘Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience’, He will hear and He will answer (Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 51:12). You can make a new beginning with God – right now!

5:1-27 –  How are we to receive God’s blessing? Are we to ‘do some great thing’? Are we to prove ourselves worthy of His blessing? No! The Word of God gives this simple instruction: ‘Wash and be clean’ (13). Salvation is not something to be paid for or earned. It’s ‘the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6: 23). We don’t come to God, saying, ‘Look at me. Look at how good I am. Look at my religion. Look at my morality. You’ve got to bless me. I deserve it’. We come to Him, believing His Word – ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ – confessing our sins and trusting in His promise of forgiveness – ‘If we confess our sins, He forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong’ (1 John 1:7,9). Forget about ‘doing some great thing’. Obey the command that really matters: ‘Wash and be clean’.

6:1-23 –  Elisha was ‘the man of God’ (6,9,15). This was the important thing about him. More than anything else, he was ‘the man of God’. We find the same phrase in 1 Timothy 6:11 – ‘But as for you, man of God,… aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’. We are to be people who put first things first. There is nothing more important than this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’. Does this seem too heavenly minded? Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Luke 10:27). We are not to be super-spiritual. We are to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Let there be no conflict between loving God and loving our neighbour. Christ is our Lord. We serve others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).

6:24-7:20 –  We read, in 7:2, of ‘windows in heaven’. Malachi 3:10 also speaks of ‘the windows in heaven’. Calling us to ‘bring the whole tithe (tenth)’ to Him, God invites us to look to Him to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down an overflowing blessing’. In 7:9, we read of ‘a day of good news’. What ‘a day of good news’ it will be when God ‘opens the windows of heaven and pours down an overflowing blessing’. All of our days of good news come from the day of good news: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day… a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11). ‘In Christ’, there is ‘every spiritual blessing’. God has given us so much. Let us give ourselves to Him: ‘Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1).

8:1-29 –  ‘Go to meet the man of God and inquire of the Lord through him’ (8). God’s servants, appointed by Him to serve the people in His Name, play a significant part in leading the people to a deeper knowledge of God. They bring the Word of God to the people. That is what they have been called to do. It is good to have faithful teaching from God’s Word. There needs also to be faithful hearing, reading and doing of God’s Word. God’s servants can take us so far – and no further. You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink! God’s servants say, ‘Here are ‘the wells of salvation’’. It is up to the people themselves to take the next step: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). God’s Word is provided for you. It is delivered to you. What are you doing with it?

9:1-37 –  God’s judgment on Jezebel was awesome (30-37). Why does God’s Word speak to us so strongly of judgment? God is warning us. He is calling us to repent, to return to Him before it is too late, before our opportunity for repentance has gone. Make sure that you don’t reach the point of no return. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near’ (Isaiah 55:6). For you, this may be God’s time. The Lord may never be so ‘near’ again. You are in ‘the valley of decision’: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Joel 3:14; Hebrews 4:7). There is still time – to open your heart to Christ, to trust Him as your Saviour, to become a new creation in Him. Here is a prayer you can pray: ‘Restore us, O God; let Thy face shine, that we may be saved!’ (Psalm 80:3,7,19).

10:1-36 –  Jehu was a proud man: ‘Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord’ (16). He was full of his own importance, a bit special, a bit out of the ordinary, a cut above the rest. God did not share Jehu’s opinion of himself – ‘Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord the God of Israel with all his heart…’(31). Jehu’s attitude was ‘I’m all right, Jack’. He didn’t bother to look too closely at himself. Let God’s Word search your heart: ‘The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). Let this be your prayer to the Lord: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24). Make sure that you mean it!

11:1-12:21 –  Let us ‘make a covenant’ – to ‘be the Lord’s people’, to ‘do what is right in the eyes of the Lord’ (11:17; 12:2). Part of this ‘covenant’ will involve our use of ‘money’. Real covenanting with the Lord will always mean much more than how much money we give to Him. Real giving is a matter of the heart: ‘the money which a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the House of the Lord’ (12:4). ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). Our giving will only be cheerful when it comes from the heart. There are three types of giving: ‘Grudge giving’ – ‘I have to’; ‘Duty giving’ – ‘I ought to’; ‘Thanksgiving’ – ‘I want to’. What kind of giver are you? This is an important question. Is it just ‘the Church always looking for money’? No! There is more: God wants us to give ourselves to Him.

13:1-14:16 –  We love making comparisons. ‘This one’s better’. ‘That one’s better’. Some kings were better than others. What’s the difference between a bad king and a good king? It’s really very simple. The good king does what is ‘right in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:3). The bad king does what is ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (13:11). This is not a matter of popularity. It is a matter of obedience. It’s possible to be popular among the people without being obedient to God. Obedience is more important than popularity. We must choose obedience – even when popularity doesn’t come into it. There is one King who stands head and shoulders above all other kings. Jesus Christ is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16). How does your life look ‘in the eyes of the Lord’? Pleasing Him – Nothing matters more than this.

14:17-15:22 –  Throughout life, we are faced with choices. Some of our choices are very important. Some are relatively unimportant. Everything can seem so complicated. Even the less important decisions appear to be very difficult. It’s very confusing. You wonder what to do. You don’t know which way to turn. In all of life’s decisions, there is no more important choice than this: What will I do – ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:24; 15:9,18) or ‘right in the eyes of the Lord? (15:3). You’re wondering what to do. You’re looking for guidance. Here’s a prayer you can pray: ‘Send your light and your truth. Let them guide me’ (Psalm 43:3). Jesus is ‘the Light’ and ‘the Truth’ (John 8:12; 14:6). Keep looking to Him, asking Him to be your Guide. He will give you wisdom to know God’s will and strength to do God’s will.

15:23-16:20 –  Within every one of us, there is conflict. It is the conflict between good and evil (15:34,24,28; 16:2). Paul experienced this conflict: ‘I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do… When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand’ (Romans 7:18-19,21). What are we to do when we feel this conflict tearing us apart? We are to confess our sin – ‘Wretched man that I am!’. We are to trust in Christ – ‘Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (Romans 7:24-25). While we are in this earthly body, the conflict rages on. We ‘wait in patience for deliverance by the Lord’. When He returns, we will ‘rejoice in His salvation’ (Lamentations 3:26; Isaiah 25:8-9; Hebrews 9:28).

17:1-41 –  ‘The people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt’ (7). What happens when people reject the God of salvation? – They become ‘empty’ and ‘worthless’ because they have chosen to ‘pursue emptiness’ by ‘following worthless idols’ (15). If you don’t have salvation, you have nothing. Jesus makes this perfectly clear when He says, ‘What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36). You can have it all – all that the world thinks is important – and yet have nothing – nothing that really matters! The world has its ‘winners’. They have won ‘the praise of men’. We must be careful: ‘Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God’. It’s better to be ‘God’s friend’ (James 4:4; 2:23)

18:1-37 –  Hezekiah ‘held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him…’ (6). We give up so easily. We start well, then we lose our way. We don’t stick at it. Some people are all smiles – when things are going well. When the going gets tough, they lose their smiles – and you can’t see them for dust! What’s the problem? – They’ve taken their eyes off Jesus. They’re looking around at everyone and everything – except Jesus. Notice how different Hezekiah was! He ‘held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him’. This is what makes the difference – Keeping your eyes on Jesus. What is it that keeps us going?  We are ‘kept by the power of God’ – He ‘is able to keep us from falling’ (1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24). ‘Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:1-2).

19:1-37 –  ‘Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard’ (6). Who are you listening to – the world or the Lord? Sometimes, the voice of the world seems to be so loud – so loud that we can hardly hear the voice of the Lord at all. We need to listen well if we are to hear the voice of the Lord in today’s world. When we are discouraged, we need His Word of encouragement: ‘The zeal of the Lord will do this’ (31). When you feel like saying, ‘I can’t’, remember this: ‘Our God is able’ – ‘able to help those who are tempted’, ‘able to provide you with every blessing in abundance’, ‘able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think’ (Daniel 3:17; Hebrews 2:18; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20). Don’t say ‘I can’t’. Say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me’ (Philippians 4:13).

20:1-21:18 –  ‘Carried off to Babylon’ (20:17) – There’s a real sadness about these words. In Revelation 18:2, Babylon is described as ‘a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit’. In today’s world, it seems like things are going the same way. ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ (Revelation 14:8; 18:2) – Everything seems to be falling round about us. We hear so much bad news. We wonder, ‘What does God think about all this?’. God is looking for people who will stand when everyone else is falling, people who will stand up for Him – ‘Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues’ (Revelation 18:4). Even ‘in Babylon’, there were ‘the chosen’ – people who belonged to the Lord (1 Peter 5:13). Let us be such people – ‘in the world’ but ‘not of the world’ (John 17:11,16).

21:19-23:3 –  You never know what’s going to happen next! There was repair work going on at the House of God (5-6). It seemed so mundane. What happened next was certainly not mundane. Revival broke out! A book was found. It was ‘the Book of the Law’ (8).The rediscovery of God’s Word brought transformation. Everything changed when the Word of God took its rightful place among the people. King Josiah wanted to find out what was in ‘this book that has been found’ (13). He read its ‘words’ to ‘all the people’ (23:2). The words were not only read.They were acted upon: ‘The king… made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep His commandments… with all his heart and all his soul… and all the people joined in the covenant’ (23:3). They returned to ‘the ancient paths’, to ‘the good way’ (Jeremiah 6:16) – and so must we!

23:4-30 –  In 18:5, we read about Hezekiah; ‘There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him’. Here, we read about something rather different – ‘Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him’(25). This seems confusing: Which was the better king – Hezekiah or Josiah? We need to look more closely at these statements. Hezekiah is commended for his trust in the Lord – ‘’Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel’ (18:5). Josiah is commended for his obedience to God. His actions were ‘according to all the law of Moses’ (25). Trust and obedience belong together. Hezekiah’s faith led to obedience (18:6). By his obedience, Josiah showed that he had ‘turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might’ (25). We need both – trust and obedience.

23:31-24:17 –  ‘The king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valour… all of them strong and fit for war’ (24:16). A prisoner of war is taken out of the battle. We have been given ‘the whole armour of God’ (Ephesians 6:11,13). We must use ‘the weapons of our warfare’. We must ‘take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). It is not easy to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ (1 Timothy 6:12). Satan wants to make us his prisoners of war. Satan is a very powerful enemy – ‘the whole world is in the power of the evil one’. We must live as those who ‘are of God’, firmly convinced that ‘He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world’ (1 John 6:19; 1:4). The world seems so strong. The devil seems so powerful. It will not always be so – ‘Hallelujah!’ (Revelation 16:19; 18:21; 20:10; 19:1,6-7).

24:18-25:30 –  ‘Finally, in the end, it came to the point that He cast them out of His presence’ (24:20). There is a real word of warning here. God is patient – ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). We dare not presume upon God’s patience: ‘Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?  God forbid!’ (Romans 6:1-2). There can come a point when God says, ‘This is the point of no return, the end, the final straw’. This is what God’s Word says in Romans 1:21-28 – ‘They did not honour God or give thanks to Him… Therefore God gave them up… They worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator… For this reason God gave them up… Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up…’. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Come to Christ now!

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1 CHRONICLES

1:1-54 –  What are we to make of this long list of names? – A waste of space? Are we wasting our time looking for God’s Word here? No! God has a very important message for us! Do you ever feel insignificant – just one among so many? Here`s God’s Word for you – You are important. A lot of people are named here – God considered every single one of them important enough to be included in this list! Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? To every believer, Jesus says, ‘Rejoice’ – ‘Your name is written in heaven’ (Luke 10:20). ‘Rejoice’ – Your name is included in ‘the Lamb`s book of life’ (Revelation 21:27). Jesus calls us ‘by name’, He gives us His Name – ‘the Name above every name’, the Name of our salvation. ‘Believing in His Name’, we become ‘sons of the living God’ (John 10:3; 20:31; Philippians 2:9; Acts 4:12; Romans 9:26).

2:1-55 –  More names – lots of them! It’s great to have a name! You have a name. You’re not just a nameless person of unknown identity. It’s even greater to have the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, given to us for our salvation. In His Name, we have God`s promise of salvation – ‘every one who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:13). God calls us to have faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. God does not speak to us of salvation without calling us to have faith in Christ. He does not say, ‘Everyone will be saved’. That’s what we might like to hear, but it’s not what God has said. This is what His Word says to us, ‘every one who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved’. Call upon the Name of the Lord. Let Him fulfil His promise: ‘The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe’ (Proverbs 18:10).

3:1-4:23 –  God answers prayer – ‘Jabez called upon the God of Israel, “Oh that You would bless me…”. And God granted his request’ (4:10). Behind the name, ‘Israel’, there are many other names, many faces, many  people, many prayers rising up to the God of Israel, many believers calling upon the Name of the Lord, looking to Him for His blessing. The story of ‘Israel’ is a story of  ‘disobedience’ and ‘mercy’ (Romans 11:25-32). This is the story of our life. We have been disobedient to God. He has been merciful to us. How are we to receive the blessing of God? Pray to God for His mercy: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, a sinner’ (Luke 18:13). Come to Him with this earnest prayer: ‘Oh that You would bless me…’. How much does the blessing of God matter to you? How much do you really want to be blessed by the Lord? Make it the most important thing: ‘Oh that You would bless me…’.

4:24-5:26 –  God wants to lead us in the way of victory (5:22). We dare not take His victory for granted if we are not willing to walk in the pathway of discipleship. As well as the promise of victory, there is also the warning against disobedience. If we are disobedient, we will be defeated (5:25-26). God doesn’t want us to be disobedient and defeated. He wants us to be obedient and victorious. With the promise of victory – ‘From victory to victory His army He shall lead’ – comes the call to discipleship – ‘Stand up! Stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the Cross!’ (Church Hymnary, 481). God is calling us to be faithful. He is warning us – ‘Do not love the world…If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him’. The Lord`s way is better than the world’s way – ‘Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’ (1 John 2:15; Romans 12:2).

6:1-60 –  The names tell a story – the story of what God is doing among His people.  They speak of the faithfulness of God. He loves every one of these people. He loves every one of us. We forget the names. God doesn’t. Everyone is important to Him. We rejoice in ‘the great love of God’. We rejoice in Christ ‘who came to this earth to redeem every one’. In the many names, forgotten by us yet remembered by God, we hear the message, ‘God is love’. Among the many names, we read of those who ‘ministered with song’. We read of  ‘the service of song in the house  of the Lord’. God is calling us to worship Him: ‘Sing aloud, loud, loud! Sing aloud, loud, loud! God is good! God is truth! God is beauty! Praise Him!’ (31-32; Church Hymnary, 415-416).

6:61-7:40 –  Is there no end of names? – The more names we read, the more we wonder at the amazing scope of God’s love: ‘God so loved the world…’ (John 3:16). We read of ‘the cities of refuge’ (67-70). We take refuge in the Lord. He is ‘our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble’ (Psalm 46:1). We have Christ as our Saviour: ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16). When ‘evil’ threatens to overwhelm us (23), we must come to God with this confidence: ‘the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin’. We must ask God to strengthen our faith in Christ: ‘This is the victory that overcomes the world. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ (1 John 1:7; 4:4-5).

8:1-40 –  How sad it is to find the name of Baal, the god worshipped by the Canaanites, appearing in this list of those who professed to be the people of God! The name ‘Esh-Baal’ (33) means ‘man of Baal’ or ‘man of shame’. It is a ‘shameful thing’ that those who are called to be the people of God should lose sight of their high calling and become servants of Baal. The name ‘Merib-Baal’ (34) highlights the sadness of those who lose their way in life. Originally meaning ‘opponent of Baal’, this name came to mean ‘loved by Baal’ or ‘my lord is Baal’. God’s Word warns us against the danger of becoming a ‘double-minded man’ (James 1:8). Trying to live with one eye on the Lord and the other eye on the world is a sure recipe for disaster.  Satan will be be quick to welcome us if we take our eyes off Jesus. ‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:2).

9:1-44 –  In verse 13, we read of ‘very able men for the work of the service of the house of  God’. Some have been called by God to preach His Gospel and teach His Word. All of us have been called to serve the Lord. It may not be preaching and teaching. It will be something you can do for Him. In this chapter, we read of some who were ‘chosen to be gatekeepers’, some who were ‘assigned to take care of the furnishings and all the other articles of the sanctuary…’, some who were ‘entrusted with the responsibility for baking…’ and others who were ‘singers’ or ‘musicians’ (22,29,31,33). There’s something for everybody: ‘There`s a work for Jesus ready at your hand, `Tis a task the Master just for you has planned. Haste to do His bidding, yield Him service true; There`s a work for Jesus none but you can do’ (Redemption Hymnal, 570)

10:1-11:19 –  Saul’s life can be summed up in one word – ‘unfaithfulness’: ‘he was unfaithful to the Lord’. This is a warning: Don`t become like Saul who ‘did not keep the command of the Lord… and did not seek guidance from the Lord’ (10:13-14). David was quite different from Saul. He became king ‘according to the Word of the Lord’. He grew in strength because ‘the Lord of hosts was with him’ (11:3,9). David was helped greatly by his ‘mighty men, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel’ (11:10). These things were ‘written for our instruction’ (Romans 15:4). Praise God for what He has done in the past – ‘Blessed be the Lord for ever!’ (Psalm 89:52). Pray for more of His blessing in the future – ‘O that some one would give me to drink from the well of  Bethlehem’ (11:17; Revelation 22:17; John 7:37-39).

11:20-12:7 –  Here, we read of ‘the mighty men of the armies’ (26), ‘the mighty men who helped him in war’ (1). What are we to learn from this list of names? We must look on from here to 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 where we learn some vitally important lessons regarding spiritual warfare. We learn what our war is not and what our weapons are not: ‘we are not carrying  on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly’. We learn where our strength comes from and what it is to be used for: ‘the weapons of our warfare… have divine power to destroy strongholds’. We learn about the goal of our warfare: ‘We… take every thought captive to obey Christ’, pressing on toward an ‘obedience’ which ‘is complete’. Make this your prayer, “Lord, help me to be ‘valiant…, a doer of good deeds’ (22).

12:8-13:14 –  ‘The kingdom of Saul was turned over to David according to the Word of the Lord’ (23). What was God’s purpose in giving the kingdom to David? ‘In the days of Saul’, there had been spiritual neglect. Now, God was calling His people to return to Him – ‘let us bring again the ark of our God to us’ (3). The people returned to the Lord (4). They rejoiced in Him (13:8). Sadly, their joy was short-lived. Failure to do God’s will lead to the withdrawal of God’s blessing (13:9-10). Where the Word of God remains among God’s people – honoured and given its rightful place – , there will be blessing (13:14). How are we to honour  God’s Word? – ‘Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only’. Pray that you will not be a ‘hearer who forgets’. Pray that you will be ‘a doer of God’s Word’ – obedient to God and blessed by God (James 1:22,25).

14:1-15:15 –  David recognized that it was ‘the Lord’ who ‘had established him king over Israel’ (14:1). David sought  to honour the Lord in everything. We see this in his battles with the Philistines – (a) He  ‘inquired of God’ (10,14); (b) He ‘did as God commanded him’ (16,10-11); (c) He gave all the glory to God – ‘God has broken through… the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations’ (11,17). We must learn from David – Seek the will of God; Do the will of God; Give all the glory to God. David was not only a political leader – a king. He was also a spiritual leader, a leader of worship. He calls us to be sanctified, set apart for the Lord. We will not be blessed by the Lord unless we honour Him in our hearts. Let’s be sure to hear and heed this call to live our lives ‘according to the Word of the Lord’ (15:11-15).

15:16-16:6 –  David called God’s people to worship. They were ‘to raise sounds of joy’, praising the Lord with ‘loud music’. David did not leave it to others. He gave the lead. Along with all the others, he was there, ‘dancing and making merry’. He was a true spiritual leader. He ‘blessed the people in the Name of the Lord’. He called upon the people to ‘praise the Lord’ (16,28-29,2,4). God calls us to worship Him continually’ (6). May God help us to be the kind of people who take ‘delight in the Word of the Lord, meditating on His Word day and night’ (Psalm 1:2). Our meditation on God’s Word is to be accompanied by obedience to His Word – ‘be careful to do according to all that is written in it’ (Joshua 1:8). This is the true ‘spiritual worship’ God is looking for – the dedication of our lives to Him (Romans 12:1).

16:7-36 –  Here, we are called to worship – ‘O give thanks to the Lord… Sing praises to Him… Glory in His holy Name… Seek His presence continually’ (8-11). We are to ‘remember the wonderful works that He has done’. We are to call on others to worship Him – ‘Sing to the Lord , all the earth!’. We ‘worship the Lord’ and, filled with heavenly joy, we say to those around us – ‘Let the earth rejoice… “The Lord reigns!”’ (12,23,29,31). In a book of so many names, this marvellous song of praise stands out. It is a high point. Everything else seems so commonplace. Treasure God’s special high points of praise and worship. Don’t despise the ordinariness of everyday life. Why does God give us His high points? – He wants us to return to our everyday life with renewed strength. ‘Wait on the Lord and renew your strength’ (Isaiah 40:31).

16:37-17:27 –  Sometimes, God’s “No” means “Not now. Later”. David wanted to build a Temple for the Lord. God said, “No” – ‘You shall not build Me a  House to dwell in’ (1-4). This was not God’s last Word on the matter – ‘one of your own sons… shall build a House for Me’ (11-12). One ministry comes to an end. Another ministry begins. We wonder, ‘Has God said, “No”?’. Has He said, “There will be no blessing”?’. God’s “No” may mean “Not yet”. The blessing will come – but not yet. The “No” was spoken to David, yet still, there was the promise of God: ‘the Lord will build you a House’ (10). The true servant of the Lord does not say, “The blessing must come in my time”! God’s servant rejoices in the “not yet” blessing of God – ‘still the vision awaits its time… If it seem slow, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay’ (25-27; Habakkuk 2:3).

18:1-20:8 –  Victory belongs to God. Victory is given by God. This is the great lesson of David’s victories – ‘the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went’ (18:6,13). There are no ‘giants’ able to stand in the presence of God (20:8). Every ‘giant’ must be brought to the ground. There are ‘giants’ standing in the way of our spiritual growth. The ‘giants’ of unbelief, disobedience, spiritual pride and self-righteousness must not be allowed to hinder our growth in grace. We must fight our spiritual battles in the strength of the Lord, confident that , through His ‘divine power’, ‘every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God’ will be brought to nothing (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Let the ‘giants’ come tumbling down. ‘Grow in the grace and knowledge our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’. Give all the ‘glory’ to Him (2 Peter 3:18).

21:1-22:1 –  ‘Satan stood up against Israel…’ (21:1). ‘Satan’ is ‘the devil’ (Revelation 12:7). He is a powerful enemy. We must not underestimate him. In the service of the Lord, we face strong opposition. It is is not merely human  – ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood’. It is much more powerful – ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12). Satan is very powerful. When he wins a victory over you, confess your sin to God and seek His forgiveness, believing that ‘His mercy is very great’ (8,13). Be careful not to overestimate Satan. Christ is more powerful  (Colossians  2: 13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). Christ has won the victory. In Him, we have the victory – ‘they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb’ (Revelation  12:10-11). Keep reminding  Satan of Christ’s victory. Don’t let him forget it!

22:2-23:32 –  We need visionaries. We need managers. We need workers. David was a visionary. He had the original idea of building the Temple. Solomon was a manager. Under his leadership, the vision became a reality. David was important – but he was only involved in the ‘preparation’ for the building of the Temple (22:5). Solomon was important – ‘He shall build a House for My Name’ (22:9-10) – but he couldn’t do everything. The people were important. They were the workers. Without the workers, the work remains undone. Each of us must play our part. We must ‘do the work for the service of the House of the Lord’ (23:24). In this work, there is something we must never forget – ‘thanking and praising the Lord’ (23:30). David, Solomon, the people – they were all important. More important is the Lord. We need Him.

24:1-25:31 –  The work of God was to be done ‘as the Lord God of Israel had commanded’ (24:19). The Lord is our Commander-in-Chief. No-one else can take His place. Never imagine you’re ‘the king of the castle’. We’re only sinners who’ve been saved by the grace of God. We’re ‘the dirty wee rascals’ -’all our righteous acts are like filthy rags’ (Isaiah  64:6). That’s what we are in ourselves – nothing more than ‘dirty wee rascals’. The Lord has done something wonderful for us. He has given us new clothes – ‘the clothes of salvation’ (Isaiah 61:10). Let’s never ‘get too big  for our boots’. There’s only one ‘King of the Castle’. Let us ‘exalt Him’ – ‘You, O Lord are exalted for ever’ (25:5; Psalm 92:8).  ‘The Lord reigns…’. Let’s be content to be ‘Castle Kids’ – ‘children of the living God’ (Psalm 93:1; Romans 9:26).

26:1-27:34 –  We are called to serve God. At the heart of our service, there is this – ‘ministering in the House of the Lord’ (26:12). Part of our worship involves the dedication of ‘gifts for the maintenance of the House of  the Lord’ (26:27). There is more to serving God than worshipping Him in His House. There is more to serving God than supporting the work which takes place within His House. We are to serve Him in the world. When our service of worship ends, our service in the world begins. We must offer our whole life to God – not only the ‘religious’ part. For God’s people, there were responsibilities outside of the House of the Lord – ‘the service of the king’ and ‘the affairs of the king’. We are to serve God in our everyday life. This is part of our obedience to God. Be faithful in ‘all the work of the Lord’, ‘in everything pertaining to God’ (26:30,32).

28:1-29:5 –  Some servants of the Lord complete their ministry without seeing their vision becoming a reality. This is what happened to David. He had the initial idea – ‘I had my heart set on building the Temple…’. He had begun thinking about how the Temple could be built – ‘I made preparations for building’. It was not to be – ‘God said to me, “You may not build a House for My Name”’. This was not, however, God’s last Word to David. There was also a Word of hope – ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build  My House’ (28:2-3,6). Solomon was ‘young and inexperienced’. He was taking on a huge task. He needed God’s Word of encouragement – ‘…the Lord God is with you…’. He needed the support of the people – ‘all the people will be wholly at your command’. Let us ‘dedicate ourselves to the Lord today’ (28:20-29:1,5).

29:6-30 –  The Temple of the Lord did not come easily. It had to be built. This involved God’s people in much sacrificial giving. This was a great challenge. The Lord’s people rose to the challenge. They gave to the Lord – joyfully, generously and wholeheartedly (9). This giving was an expression of their worship. They were saying to the Lord, ‘Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty’ (10). Worshipping the Lord like this transforms our giving. It is no longer a legalistic burden – “Why do I have to give so much?”. It becomes our joyful privilege. Our giving becomes thanksgiving. We thank the Lord for all that He has done for us. Let us give ‘with great gladness’ – ‘Our God, we thank You… Everything comes from You. We give only what has come from Your hands’ (22, 13-14).

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2 CHRONICLES

1:1-2:18 – ‘Give me wisdom’ (1:10). What is the greatest wisdom of all? – It is the ‘wisdom’ which leads to ‘salvation through faith in Christ Jesus’. Where do we find this wisdom? – Read ‘the Holy Scriptures’. Ask God for wisdom – ‘Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful truths in Your Word’. Ask the question concerning salvation – ‘What must I do to be saved?’. God will give you His answer – ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (2 Timothy 3:15; Psalm 119:18; Acts 16:31). Salvation cannot be earned. It can only be received as a gift. It is ‘the gift of God’ (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8). What is wisdom? – It is to say, with Solomon, ‘Our God is greater than all other gods’ (2:5). Nothing else and no-one else can even begin to compare with the Lord. Be wise. Build your life on Him (Matthew 7:24-27).

3:1-5:1 – ‘Work in the Temple of the Lord’ (4:11; 5:1) is no ordinary work. This work is ‘most holy’ (3:8,10; 4:22). Real work for the Lord emerges out of true worship of the Lord. If we are to be the Lord’s workers, we must first be His worshippers. Worship comes first. This is vitally important. Take away worship from the place of highest priority, and you have nothing left – nothing which can really be called the work of the Lord. You may have busy people, doing this, that and the other, but you will not have servants of the Lord doing the work of the Lord – without worship. We sometimes ask, “Where are the workers?”. God asks, “Where are the worshippers?”. Begin to worship the Lord. Keep on worshipping Him. Worship the Lord, and let Him show you ‘what you must do’ (Acts 9:3-6).

5:2-6:42 – Without the blessing of God, our worship is empty. We must look for God’s blessing in the place of worship. What we must pray for is this: ‘the glory of the Lord filled the House of God’ (5:14). We must look for God’s blessing in the pulpit, praying that the preachers of God’s Word will be ‘clothed with salvation’. We must look for God’s blessing in the pews, praying that all of God’s people will ‘rejoice in His goodness’ (6:41). Where does the blessing come from? – It comes from this: God is ‘good’ and ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’ (5:13). All of our praying for the Church can be summed up in this prayer: ‘O Lord God… Remember Your steadfast love…’ (6:42). More than anything else, we must pray for this: ‘God’s love… poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit…’ (Romans 5:5).

7:1-22 – In verse 14, there is a call to prayer and promise of blessing: ‘If My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their hand’. Why is there so little blessing? – ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’. God will bless mightily – when His people pray earnestly. Why does the devil have so many victories among us? – ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’. God will lead us in His way of victory – when we stop tolerating the devil, and start resisting him. Why does God seem so far away? – ‘Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you’ (James 4:2,7-8). God will come near to us – if we will let Him. ‘I stand at the door and knock; if any one… opens the door, I will come in…’ (Revelation 3:20).

8:1-9:31 – In Solomon, we see strength and weakness. He was strong – ‘the House of the Lord was completed’ (8:16). He was also weak. He was infatuated with foreign women, who did not belong among the redeemed people of God. He married ‘Pharaoh’s daughter’, a woman who had no love for ‘the holy places’ of worship (8:11). To the queen of Sheba, a woman who had more love for ‘her own land’ than for life among the people of God, ‘Solomon gave all that she desired’ (9:12). Solomon was a complicated man. He had a real love for the Lord, yet the world still had a strong hold on him. “O let me feel Thee near me: the world is ever near; I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear; My foes are ever near me, around me and within; but, Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin’ (Church Hymnary, 434).

10:1-11:23 – We read here of division among God’s people: ‘Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day’ (10:19). What does God say about this? – ‘Do not go up to fight against your brothers (11:4). Jesus tells us that ‘a house… divided against itself cannot stand’ (Mark 3:25). Paul speaks to us ‘in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. There are to be ‘no divisions’ among us (1 Corinthians 1:10). God’s Word says that we are ‘all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). Far too often, our lives tell a very different story. Division among God’s people is a big problem. We must learn to pray in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer. He prayed that ‘all of them may be one’: ‘May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me’ (John 17:21,23).

12:1-13:22 – ‘He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord’ (12:14). Read these words, and pray – ‘Lord, may these words never be true of me’. These words are a warning to us. Things will only go from bad to worse if we turn back from following the Lord. ‘As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him’ (13:10). Read these words, and pray – ‘Lord, may these words always be true of me’. This is the better way – God’s way: ‘God is with us; He is our Leader’ (13:12). We read about unbelief and disobedience. We read about faith and obedience. “Do not fight against the Lord… you will not succeed’. ‘Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey’ (13:12; Mission Praise, 760).

14:1-16:14 – Keep on going! Don’t give up! Asa began so well – ‘Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God’ (14:2). He led the people to the Lord. Under his leadership, the people ‘entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and all their soul’ (15:12). Everything seemed to be going so well – until Asa let things slide. He acted ‘foolishly’. He ‘relied on the king of Syria’. He ‘did not rely on the Lord his God’ (16:7-9). There were difficult times ahead for Asa. He became seriously ill. Sadly, he did not return to the Lord – ‘even in his disease he did not seek the Lord’ (16:12). ‘No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God’. ‘He who endures to the end will be saved’. ‘Let us go on…’ (Luke 9:62; Mark 13:13; Hebrews 6:1).

17:1-18:34 – In 17:3, we read of backsliding – in David, Asa and Jehoshaphat. ‘Jehoshaphat walked in the first ways of his father David’(Authorized Version). David, Jehoshaphat’s ancestor, started off so well – ‘the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power’. Things fell apart for him when he set his eyes upon Bathsheba (1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 11:2-5). ‘Jehoshaphat walked in the earlier ways of his father’(Revised Standard Version). Asa, Jehoshaphat’s father, began well. He did not finish well (14:2; 16:12). ‘In his early years Jehoshaphat walked in the (good) ways that his father David had followed’ (New International Version). Sadly, he lost his way – ‘he made a marriage alliance with Ahab’, ‘a man… who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (18:1; 1 Kings 21:25). It can happen to anyone! We must be careful!

19:1-20:37 – ‘I have the desire to do what is good , but I cannot carry it out… When I want to do good, evil is right there with me’ (Romans 7:18,21). In 19:2-3, we see the two sides of Jehoshaphat. In his heart, he wanted to do God’s will, seeking and serving Him. Sadly, however, he did not always follow the promptings of God’s Spirit. He allowed himself to be influenced by ‘those who hate the Lord’. The godly side of Jehoshaphat – ‘O Lord… our eyes are upon You’ – was in conflict with his sinful side – ‘Jehoshaphat… made an alliance with Ahaziah… who was guilty of wickedness’ (20:5-12,35). ‘The desires of the flesh… and the desires of the Spirit… are opposed to each other…’. ‘Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature’ (Galatians 5:16-17). May God help us to live His way.

21:1-23:21 – We live in difficult times. Many are choosing to do what is ‘evil in the sight of the Lord’ (21:6). We must make another choice, a better choice. We must choose to ‘be the Lord’s people’ (23:16). In this time of great darkness, we have ‘the lamp of the Lord’: ‘Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (21:7; Proverbs 20:27; Psalm 119:105). We must let His lamp shine brightly: ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). The darkness will not overcome the light (John 1:5). Satan will be ‘slain by the sword’. He will be ‘thrown down’. All God’s people, from every land, will rejoice – ‘Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (23:21; Revelation 12:9; 5:9; 1 Corinthians 15:57).

24:1-25:28 – ‘He turned away from the Lord’ (25:27). Things have not changed. Many are turning away from the Lord. We must search our hearts. We must pray for God’s help: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me, and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24). We read about the kings who ‘turned away from the Lord’. We must learn from their mistakes. These things are ‘recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord’ (Psalm 102:18). If we don’t learn from their mistakes, we will repeat their mistakes. Don’t turn away from the Lord. Turn to Him. May God help us to live as His faithful people – ‘Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong’ (1 Corinthians 16:13).

26:1-28:27 – We must not take God’s blessing for granted. King Uzziah began well – ‘He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… He set himself to seek God’ (26:4-5). Things went wrong – ‘When he was strong he grew proud’ and ‘he was false to the Lord his God’ (26:16). We must choose to live the Lord’s way – King Jotham ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’. Even when we do this, it does not guarantee that others will follow our example – ‘the people still followed corrupt practices’ (27:2). In times of trouble, we can become bitter people – ‘In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord’ – or better people – ‘the God of all comfort … comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble…’ (28:22; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Bitter or better – Which will it be?

29:1-36 – God is calling us to be holy – ‘Now sanctify yourselves, and sanctify the House of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry out the filth from the holy place’ (5). Before there can be true rejoicing in the Lord – ‘they sang praises with gladness’ – , there must be real dedication to the Lord – ‘We have cleansed all the House of the Lord’ (30,18). Before there can be rejoicing, there must be restoration (35-36). We may pray, ‘Restore, O Lord, the honour of Your Name!’. We must also pray, ‘Cleanse me from my sin, Lord’. The prayer for revival begins with the dedication of our own lives to the Lord – ‘O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival – start the work in me’ (Mission Praise, 579, 82, 587). Revival can happen ‘suddenly’ (36). It will not happen without a true return to the Lord.

30:1-31:10 – We are called to ‘return to the Lord’. With this call comes God’s promise: ‘the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you, if you return to Him’ (30:9). Where does the desire to return to the Lord come from? – It comes from the Lord Himself: ‘the hand of the Lord was on the people to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the Word of the Lord’ (12). Returning to the Lord, we hear His Word of forgiveness: ‘The good Lord pardon every one who sets his heart to seek God’. We rejoice in the Gospel – ‘The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives’. ‘ The Lord has blessed His people’. We rejoice in Him – ‘Praise the Lord!… Let the people rejoice’ and ‘let the earth hear His voice’ (18-19; 30:10; Mission Praise, 708).

31:11-32:33 – Seek God and serve God. This is what King Hezekiah did – ‘he did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God,… seeking his God… with all his heart’ (31:20-21). Seek God and serve God. This is what we must do. God was good to Hezekiah – ‘the Lord saved Hezekiah…’ (32:22). God is good to us. He saves us. To ‘all the ends of the earth’, He says, ‘Turn to Me and be saved’ (Isaiah 45:22). He calls us to come to Him through Jesus Christ, ‘the Saviour of the world’ (John 4:42). It is so easy to forget the Lord. Hezekiah was delivered from death yet he did not thank the Lord (32:24-25). We may forget the Lord, but He does not forget us. He waits for us to return to Him and receive His forgiveness – ‘the Lord is merciful and gracious… He does not deal with us according to our sins…’ (32:26; Psalm 108:8-13).

33:1-34:13 – Good work can be very quickly undone – ‘Manasseh… did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… he rebuilt the high places which his father Hezekiah had broken down, and set up altars to other gods…’ (33:1-3). We must be careful to follow the godly example of those who have served the Lord well. In Hebrews 11, we read about God’s faithful servants. They served the Lord in their day. We are to serve Him in our day – ‘surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,… let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…’ (Hebrews 12:1-2). Bad work can also be undone if, like King Josiah, we are ready to make a new beginning with God (34:1-4). He was only ‘eight years old when he began to reign’. Pray that the children will start loving God now and keep loving Him as they grow older.

34:14-35:19 – During the reign of King Josiah, there was spiritual revival (33). Where did this spiritual revival come from? It came from God. It came from the rediscovery of God’s Word. Where was the Word of the Lord found? – It was found ‘in the House of the Lord’ (34:15). God speaks to us through His Word. Beyond the written Word, there is Jesus Christ, the living Word. The Word of God is preached to us. We listen for the Voice of Jesus Christ, the true and living Word of God. God is speaking His Word in power. This is much more than the opening of a book. It is the opening of our hearts to the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5). It is the opening of our hearts by the Spirit of God. Through the Spirit, ‘rivers of living water’ flow out from our hearts (John 7:37-39).

35:20-36:23 – Josiah had been a good king, but ‘he did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God’. His mistake was very costly. He ‘fought’. He was ‘shot’ and ‘badly wounded’. He ‘died’ and was ‘buried’ (35:22-24). Be careful in your listening to God”s Word. Failure to obey His Word will be costly: ‘How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:3). After Josiah’s time, there was terrible spiritual decline. Beginning with Jehoahaz (1-2; 2 Kings 23:31-32), the kings ‘did what was evil in the sight of the Lord’ (5,9,11-12). Was there any hope for the future? – Yes! ‘The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia… to build Him a House at Jerusalem’. Like Cyrus, we must say to our neighbours, ‘Let us go to the House of the Lord’ (36:22-23; Psalm 122:1). His time of blessing may not be far away!

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EZRA


1:1-2:35  –  To ‘all’ of us, God gives His call. We are to ‘rebuild the House of the Lord’. To ‘all’ of us, He gives His strength: ‘Then… all those whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the House of the Lord’ (1:3,5). If the work of God is to be done, every one must play their part. No one must opt out. No one must say, ‘There’s nothing for me to do’. There’s always something to do. There’s something for every one. God has so much work for us to do. We must not fail Him. He is calling you to serve Him. He will give you the strength that you need. Open your heart to Him. Surrender your life to Him. ‘Every person in every nation, in each succeeding generation, has the right to hear the news that Christ can save… Father, I am willing to dedicate to Thee, life and talent, time and money. Here am I, send me.’

2:36-3:13  –  At the heart of God’s work, there is worship – ‘praising and giving thanks to the Lord’. This is our first priority. We must not forget the Lord. We must remember that ‘He is good’. We must remember that ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’ (3:11). Nothing can take the place of worship. This is where serving the Lord begins. It begins with worship. Without worship, we cannot serve the Lord. He must be at the centre of everything we do. This is what serving the Lord means – keeping Him at the centre of everything you do. We look for ‘more love’, ‘more power’, more of God’s blessing in our lives.  We must give ourselves – more fully and more truly – to Him: ‘I will worship You with all of my heart… with all of my mind… with all of my strength’ (Songs of Fellowship, 392). The blessing will come down as the worship goes up!

4:1-5:17  –  God’s work does not always move forward smoothly. We face determined opposition. Where there is opportunity, there will be opposition (1 Corinthians 16:9). The servants of Satan rise up to oppose the servants of the Lord. This is what happens here. The Lord’s enemies had some success: ‘the work on the House of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill’. This was, however, only a temporary setback. God gave new strength to His servants. He sent His ‘prophets, Haggai and Zechariah’. They brought His Word to the people. Strengthened by their ministry of God’s Word, ‘Zerubbabel… arose and began to rebuild the House of God in Jerusalem’ (4:24-5:2). God’s work was back on track. His people were moving forward – again. When your head goes down, let the Lord come to you. He will lift you up!

6:1-7:28  –  God’s work makes good progress when God’s people receive strength from God’s Word. Haggai and Zechariah were faithful in preaching God’s Word to the people. Their preaching ministry was very important. It was just what the builders needed. It inspired them to keep working. God’s House was rebuilt and God’s people rejoiced (6:14-16). The rebuilding of  God’s House was followed by the ministry of God’s servant, Ezra. ‘The hand of the Lord was upon Ezra’ (7:6,28). His ministry was blessed by the Lord. In Ezra’s ministry of the Word, there are three vital elements – studying, doing and teaching (7:10). Ezra did not only study and teach God’s Word. He did God’s Word. Obedience lies at the heart of true ministry. This is the kind of ministry that God blesses – an obedient ministry.

8:1-36  –  The return of God’s people to Jerusalem was not simply a geographical return – moving from one place to another. It was a spiritual return. They were returning to the Lord. They were seeking His blessing  (21). Without God’s blessing, we are nothing. We may have happy memories of better days, recalling ‘the good old days’. We may look back to times of blessing, remembering how the hand of the Lord was upon us. If this is all we have, we have nothing. We are no longer in the place of blessing. We need to return to the Lord. The times of blessing can come again. God gives us His promise: ‘The hand of our God is for good upon all that seek Him’ (22). God wants to bless us. How much do we want to be blessed by Him? If the times of blessing are to return to us, we must ‘return to the Lord’ (Isaiah 55:6-13).

9:1-10:44  –  The return of God’s blessing begins with a real confession of sin – ‘our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens’ (9:6). If God chooses to bless us, it is not because we deserve to be blessed by Him. It is because He loves us and wants more than anything else to pour out His blessing upon us. Despite all of our sin, God’s Word encourages us to believe that the Lord may yet ‘grant us a little reviving’. Pray that God will  ‘grant us some reviving to set up the House of our God’ (9:8-9). This was Ezra’s prayer. It was the prayer of ‘a very great assembly of men, women and children’ (10:1). If prayer for revival is real, it will be much more than pulpit prayer. There will be much prayer, arising from the hearts of many people: ‘If  My people pray… I will heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).

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NEHEMIAH


1:1-2:18  –  ‘You see the trouble we are in’ – How do you react when the going gets tough? Do you collapse in despair and succeed only in making your troubles seem even bigger than they really are? There is a better way of dealing with our problems. Believing that ‘the hand of  his God was upon him for good’, Nehemiah looks at the problem – ‘Jerusalem lies in ruins’ – and sets about solving it – ‘Come. let us build the wall of Jerusalem’ (2:17-18). Our problems may be great. Our God is greater. When your problems threaten to overwhelm you, remember this: God has ‘redeemed us by His great power and His mighty hand’ (1:3-6,10). There is no greater problem than our sin and God has dealt with that problem – Christ has ‘put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9:26). ‘Pack up your troubles’ and take them to Jesus!

2:19-4:23  –  Serving the Lord is not easy. There are always those who ‘mock and ridicule’ the Lord’s servants (2:19; 4:1-3). What are we to do when we encounter this type of thing? We must pray to God and we must work for Him – ‘The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we His servants will arise and build’ (4:4-6; 2:20). When we face determined opposition from the enemies of  Christ and His Gospel, we must pray and we must be practical – ‘we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night’ (4:9). We need to know our God – ‘the people who know their God will be strong’. We need to know our enemy – ‘we are not ignorant about Satan’s scheming’. When Satan comes to us, we must be ready for him and we ‘must firmly resist him’ – in the Name of Christ (Daniel 11:32; 2 Corinthians 2:11).

5:1-6:19  –  What are we to do when we face those who are ‘scheming to harm’ the Lord’s servants and the Lord’s work? – We are to devote ourselves to the ‘work’ of the Lord. We are to ‘pray’ for His strength (6:2; 5:16; 6:9). Critics of the Lord’s work want to argue with us. Are we to ‘come down’ to their level, going round in circles with arguments that lead us nowhere? Nehemiah shows us a better way, God’s way – ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’ (6:3). ‘Completing the work with the help of our God’ (6:15-16) – This is the best ‘argument’ against the critics of Christ and His Gospel. Keep working for God and pray that’ many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord’ (Psalm 40:3).

7:1-73  –  What kind of people are we? Are we ‘faithful and God-fearing’ people’ (2)? It is so easy to lose our way and become ‘unclean’ (64)? What are we to do when we lose our way, when we forget the Lord, when we wander away from Him? We must return to the Lord. We must begin again with Him, confessing our sin, receiving His forgiveness and learning to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. These words may help you to make a new beginning with God: ‘There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin. There’s a door that is open and you may go in: at Calvary’s Cross is where you begin, when you come as a sinner to Jesus’. ‘Cleanse me from my sin, Lord. Put Thy power within, Lord. Take me as I am, Lord, and make me all Thine own…’ (Mission Praise, 682, 82).

8:1-9:5  –  What happens when God’s people ‘gather together’ (8:1)? – (a) We hear the Word of the Lord  (8:2-3,8). We come to the Lord’s House, seeking a fresh understanding of His Word. We look to the Lord, speaking through His Word, to fill us ‘with great joy’ (8:12). (b) We thank God for His Son, our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ  (8:13-18). In ‘the feast of the seventh month’, ‘the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles’, God’s people remembered how much He had done for them (Leviticus 23:34,42). In the Lord’s Supper, we remember that Christ died for our sins  (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). (c) We dedicate our lives to the Lord  (9:2). ‘Do not be conformed to this world’. ‘Be transformed’ by God’s Word (Romans 12:2). (d) We worship the Lord (9:5). Let us ‘praise the Lord our God…’.

9:6-38  –  At the heart of Ezra’s prayer, there is a tremendous description of God: ‘You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’ (17). This is ‘our God’. ‘Our sins’ are great. The love of God is even greater. We look at ‘our sins’, and we feel that everything is hopeless. We look to ‘our God’, and everything changes. We see Him as the ‘gracious and merciful God’, and we are filled with hope. Our life need not be controlled by ‘our sins’. It can be changed by ‘our God’ (31-32,37). Our God ‘delights in steadfast love’. He ‘will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea’ (Micah 7:18-19). How do we know that God loves us? – ‘Christ died for our sins’. Bring your sins to Jesus, and let ‘His blood cleanse you from all sin’ (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 John 1:7).

10:1-39  –  God is calling us to commit our lives to Him. At the heart of our commitment to the Lord, there must be worship: ‘We will not neglect the House of our God’ (39). ‘Worship God’ (Revelation 19:10). This is our reason for coming to the Lord’s House. We come to worship Him. Our worship is to be more than mere words. We worship God when we bring our offerings to Him. God’s people brought ‘the tithe’ (tenth) to Him (37). We meet with the Lord when we worship in His House: ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven’. Through our giving – ‘Of all that You give me I will give You the tenth’ – , let us express our commitment to the Lord – ‘the Lord will be my God’ (Genesis 28:17,21-22).

11:1-12:30  –  Like the walls of Jerusalem, our lives lay in ruins until Christ puts us together again. In Christ, our lives have been rebuilt. Now, we can ‘celebrate’. We can worship the Lord ‘with gladness’ (12:27). We are to build our lives upon Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). This will not be easy. Our faith will be put to the test. Often, we will be tempted to take our eyes off  Christ. We must keep our eyes on Him. He is the solid Rock upon which we must build (Matthew 7:24-27). Again and again, we must make our choice. We must choose Christ. We must choose to be ‘holy’. This is the choice which is ‘blessed’ by the Lord. ‘Many’ choose the ‘other’ way, the way of self. We must choose the way of the ‘few’, the way of Christ, the way of holiness and  blessing  (11:1-2; Matthew 7:13-14).

12:31-13:31  –  God’s  people sang ‘songs of praise and thanksgiving to God’. Where does the song of praise come from? – It comes from the Lord: ‘God had given them great joy’ (46,43). Often, we seek our joy in other people and other things. We forget the Source of true joy – the Lord our God. God sees our self-centred way of life. He asks us to think about the way we’re living: ‘Why is the House of God forsaken?’ (11). We have forgotten Him. Have we any right to expect Him to remember us? Time and time again, we have failed Him. Our many sins have given Him plenty of  reasons for turning His back on us. Does He turn His back on us? No! He remembers us ‘according to the greatness of His steadfast love’ (22) – He sent His Son to die for us. Let His great love fill you with great joy.

__________________________

ESTHER


1:1-2:18  –  This is a very human story. It is the story of a man – Ahasuerus – and two women – Vashti and Esther. It is the ending of one love and the beginning of a new love (1:19; 2:17). It is also a very important part of the Divine Story. God is at work here. This story teaches us about God’s love for His people. It teaches us that ‘all things work together for the good of those who love God’ (Romans 8:28). It was no accident that Esther was chosen to become the Queen of Persia. God had  chosen her for a very special purpose. She was sent there by the Lord. Esther was one of God’s people (2:5-7). She was to serve God’s purpose. She would play an important part in bringing the blessing of God to the people of God. What part will you play in bringing His blessing to others?

2:19-4:17  –  ‘Haman sought to destroy all the Jews’ (3:6). This is the work of the devil. He ‘comes only to steal and kill and destroy’ (John 10:10). To oppose such determined enemies of the Lord is never easy. Esther knew this. She was ready to put her life on the line: ‘If I perish, I perish’ (4:16). She knew that this was not a time for remaining silent. She must speak up for the Lord’s people. She was to serve God’s purpose – the deliverance of His people from death at the hands of His enemies (4:14). Esther was prepared to suffer death for the sake of God’s people. Jesus did suffer death for us. Jesus tells us why He came to this world: ‘I have come that they may have life…’. He tells us why He died: ‘I lay down my life for My sheep…I give them eternal life’ (John 10:10,15,27-28).

5:1-6:14  –  Haman wanted ‘to have Mordecai hanged’ (5:14). Herod wanted to have Jesus killed (Matthew 2:16-18). Neither Haman nor Herod were successful in their evil plotting (6:13; Matthew 2:19-21).  Even when Jesus Christ was ‘crucified at the hands of wicked men’, this was not a victory for the devil. God was in control of the whole situation. Following the death of Jesus, there was the mighty triumph of His resurrection from the dead: ‘God raised Him from the dead’. Christ’s enemies thought that they had triumphed over Him. They were wrong! They could never succeed – ‘It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him’ (Acts 2:23-24)! Mordecai was honoured by the king (6:10-11). Jesus has been honoured by God – He is ‘both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36).

7:1-8:17  –  Esther spoke up for God’s people – ‘spare my people’ (7:3). She spoke out against the enemy of God’s people – ‘A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!’ (7:6). The tables were turned on the enemy of the Lord’s people – ‘they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai’ (7:10). He was replaced by the Lord’s servant – ‘the king took off the signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai’ (8:2). Instead of the gallows, Mordecai received ‘royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a purple robe of fine linen’ (8:15)! For God’s people, this was ‘a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honour’ (8:16). Let’s look beyond Mordecai to Christ. Rejoice! He was crucified for us. He is now exalted to the highest place (Philippians 2:8-9).

9:1-10:3  –  Among God’s people, there was much ‘feasting and joy’. They gave thanks to the Lord – ‘their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration’ (9:17-22). They gave thanks to God for Mordecai – ‘he sought the welfare of his people, he worked for the good of his people’. They rejoiced because of ‘the greatness and high honour of Mordecai, to which the king had raised him’ (10:2-3). We have even more to celebrate. We gather at the Lord’s Table. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We rejoice in Jesus Christ our Saviour. He ‘gave His life as a ransom for many’. His body was broken for us. His blood was shed for us. ‘Redeemed with His precious blood’, we rejoice in Christ – ‘crucified’ and ‘risen’ for us (Mark 10:45; 14:22-24; 1 Peter 1:18-19).

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