Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 15 June 18:
1. 2 Kings 17:7 — “And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God.” In this account, God used the ungodly nation of Assyria to punish Israel for its sins against Him. The Bible reveals that God uses nature, ungodly leaders, ungodly nations, and various circumstances to punish and discipline people. However, most today would reject the notion that world events are used by God to punish and discipline. How has God used life events to discipline you? How is God using world events to punish our nation?
2. 2 Kings 17:8, 9 — “[They] walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city.” When the church or God’s people adopt the ways, practices, customs, and rules of the world, the salt loses is saltiness and the light is dimmed, allowing darkness to grow. A compromised church destroys nations more than corrupt political leaders. Compromise starts when God’s people seek to build for themselves little kingdoms rather than seeking the Kingdom of God and rather than living by the motto, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If the world is growing darker, it is because the light is growing dimmer. The problem is not “them,” it is “us.” As the church goes, so goes the nation. Rather than cursing the darkness, turn up the light. Pray for corporate repentance and revival within the church.
3. 2 Kings 17:12 — “…and they served idols….” Idols are not just little statues representing fake gods. Idols are anything that takes priority in a person’s life before God. Few people in America today worship statues, but nonetheless this generation is just as idolatrous as previous generations. 1 Samuel 15:23 and Colossians 3:5 add to our understanding of idolatry – “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23) “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5) Many Christians are blind to their idolatry which is primarily a worship of self — putting self above others and above obedience to God’s command of selfless love. Jesus said that the first step to truly following Him is denying self, putting God and others above self, regardless the personal cost.
4. 2 Kings 17:13 — “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments.” Obedience that is inspired by genuine love is the proof of holiness and rightness with God. We are saved by grace, but grace is revealed in the heart that genuinely desires and pursues obedience.
5. 2 Kings 17:14, 15 — “But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them.” It takes faith and love to obey. It is not usually that we don’t know what we are called to do; it is that we don’t have the heart to do it. The influences of the world, the flesh, and the devil are more appealing than the influence of God. So, we begin to look and act just like everyone else. How you act reveals what you truly believe and who you are really following.
6. 2 Kings 17:24 — “And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel.” A common practice used throughout history to subjugate a people is to separate them from their land. This is still practiced today, though you might not be paying attention to it. Throughout history, only their faith kept the Jews united as a people in exile. Does your faith keep you united to your family when separated?
7. 2 Kings 17:26 — “Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” Once again, God uses nature and circumstances to control events in ways that people can’t. When you are on God’s side, the powers of the universe are working for you because God controls His creation for His purposes.
8. 2 Kings 17:34 — “To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the Lord, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.” The history between man and God is that God continues to show mercy and grace while man continues to defy God. In the midst of the populations, a few, the remnant remains faithful. This pattern continues to the Book of Revelation where God will finally end rebellion against Him and reward His faithful.
9. 2 Kings 17:41 — “So these nations feared the Lord and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.” Partial obedience is not obedience but disobedience. Jesus warns, you are either all His or not His at all — “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Luke 11:23) “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16) Of the millions who left Egypt into the desert for the Promised Land, only two actually made it, Joshua and Caleb. Why? Because they were wholehearted. Are you wholehearted?
10. 2 Kings 18:5 — “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” If you are truly walking with God, very few, if any, will be walking with you. If you find yourself in the crowd, you had better take pause. Are you willing to walk only with Jesus in this world?
– Hezekiah stood alone in his uncompromised faith. The Bible says that he was surrounded by people who claimed faith in God, but they did not “fear the Lord” enough to honor and serve Him faithfully. (2 Kings 17:34-41) They had a half faith which is really no faith at all, unacceptable before the Lord. Consequently, when crisis came, their false faith failed them, and they lived in subjugation. Now Hezekiah’s faith is put to the ultimate test as the undefeated mighty king Sennacherib besieges Jerusalem. Consider the situation, Sennacherib has already defeated Israel and has taken possession of Samaria, and he has already defeated and taken all of the fortified cities of Judah. Now Sennacherib has surrounded Jerusalem and is claiming that, in fact, he is acting on behalf of God and that he holds the power of life and death, blessings and curses. (Hezekiah 18:25)
11. 2 Kings 18:6 — “For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses.” Hezekiah did not hold lightly to God and His commands. Obedience is not easy in this world, nor has it ever been easy. Are you willing to cling to Jesus when everyone else is chasing after something else? Are you considered a fanatic in your faith by others?
12. 2 Kings 18:12 — “They neither listened nor obeyed.” First you have to commit to listening day-by-day (Bible study, prayer, receptiveness to the Holy Spirit); then you have to be willing to obey the Holy Spirit. Few really listen. Few faithfully obey. Are you among the few?
13. 2 Kings 18:15 — “And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house.” This is where Hezekiah begins to slip. The world (Assyria) demanded of Hezekiah what was God’s, and Hezekiah gave it to him in order to “keep the peace.” At this point, Hezekiah feared man more than he feared God. As usual, this compromise involved money. Look at the church in America today. We pay what we owe to the government and to creditors, but we don’t bring God the tithe, nor do we offer additional gifts and alms which God desires. The church will never be the influence it should be in the world as long as God’s people honor themselves and others with their resources before they honor God who actually owns it all.
14. 2 Kings 18:20 — “Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? In whom do you now trust, that you have rebelled against me?” Each day, everyone will make decisions on whether they trust their own intellect and might or God’s. Sennacherib was a powerful strategist who conquered everyone around him. It took great faith to believe the unseen God was more powerful than the very visible and powerful ruler Sennacherib who openly taunted the Israelites for their faith and apparent weakness. Do you trust God beyond the apparent realities of the visible world? Was it strategy that brought down the walls of Jericho or the power of God? What will you rely on to tear down the walls in your life?
15. 2 Kings 18:22 — “But if you say to me, We trust in the Lord our God, is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed, saying to Judah and to Jerusalem, You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?” Sennacherib uses a common tactic, used by Satan in the garden and used by the ungodly today to weaken the hearts of God’s people — he tried to make them question their own religion and their religious leaders. He suggested that Hezekiah’s faithful acts were really demonstrations of infidelity. He suggested that Hezekiah was merely using religion to control the people. Could you remain strong under such scrutiny? Today, many celebrate sin under the pretense of a greater understanding of religion or a higher revelation. Sennacherib did the same thing — “Moreover, is it without the Lord that I have come up against this place to destroy it? The Lord said to me, ‘Go up against this land and destroy it.’” Do you know the truth well enough to combat the lies?
16. 2 Kings 18:25 — “Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.” God’s enemies seek to undermine the resolve of God’s people by claiming obedience to God in their disobedience. They claim to know God’s will better than God’s people and point to their worldly successes as proof.
17. 2 Kings 18:29-35 — “Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: ‘Make your peace with me and come out to me. Then each one of you will eat of his own vine, and each one of his own fig tree, and each one of you will drink the water of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of grain and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey, that you may live, and not die. And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the Lord should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?’”
– The king of Assyria promised God’s people a comfortable captivity, a bondage with benefits. So does the world today. You will be asked to compromise your faith and obedience to God by the majority around you who claim to be very religious and noble; by those who claim to be on God’s side; by those who will appeal to common sense and reason. You will be told that God’s commands must “evolve” and be re-defined to suit the changing times. You will see many around you surrender to the world and compromise for comfort. Will you have the faith to hold the line and remain obedient to God’s commands though apparently surrounded?
— Psalm 37:39 — The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
— Proverbs 24:10 — If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.
— 1 Corinthians 16:13 — Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
— 1 Peter 3:15 — But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
— Hebrews 11:7 — By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
— Colossians 2:8 — See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
– The world believes that all religions are basically equal, just different paths to God. The world teaches that we should respect all religions equally. Those who accept such notions will ultimately come to the conclusion that Christianity is just as powerless as all the other false religions of the world. Do you understand that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and the only source of true power? When all other beliefs prove false, will you remain unmoved on the Rock of Jesus?
18. 2 Kings 18:36 — “But the people were silent and answered him not a word, for the king’s command was, ‘Do not answer him.’” Don’t waste your time debating with the ungodly or even acknowledging their false doctrines. If they want to hear the truth, they will listen.
19. Proverbs 15:1-7, 23, 26, 28, 30, 33 — “A soft answer turns away wrath…. the wise commends knowledge…. A gentle tongue is a tree of life…. The lips of the wise spread knowledge…. To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!… gracious words are pure…. The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer…. good news refreshes the bones…. The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” Are your answers soft, knowledgeable, gentle, timely, gracious, thoughtful, refreshing, instructional, yet humble?
20. Proverbs 15:14 — “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.” Foolish talkers don’t seek knowledge. Listen and learn.
21. Proverbs 15:15 — “All the days of the afflicted are evil, but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.” You must choose to be cheerful regardless your circumstances. To the cheerful, everyday is a holiday, every march is a parade, and every meal is a feast. To a certain degree, your attitude determines your altitude.
22. Proverbs 15:16 — “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.” Unity with God through obedience and love is the key to contentment and cheerfulness.
23. Galatians 3:24-26 — “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” The law is the word of God, the manifestation of His character and His will. It is not outside of His will. Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law but rather to fulfill it. The law serves as a curb (to keep you on the right track), a mirror (to reveal your sin to you), and a guide (to show you where to go). The law sets boundaries for those who need boundaries. However, the law in itself cannot change a person’s heart. Only Jesus can change a person’s heart. When a person has a heart for Jesus, they no longer need the boundaries of the law because they no longer have a heart for sin. Many obey the law because they are scared not to obey. Many obey the law because they take pride in their self-made righteousness. Many obey the law out of a sense of duty. However, God wants us to love Jesus with all of our hearts so that there is no longer a concern about obeying the law — obedience is the natural product of love. Jesus said that if you obey the Greatest Commandment of Love, the rest of the law will be covered. Likewise, if you disobey the details of the law, you have already disobeyed the law of love. The law cannot save you or change your heart, but if you are disobeying the law you are revealing a problem with your heart that has yet to yield to sanctification. The law does not save, but it still serves as a curb, mirror, and guide where we are not yet perfected in love.
24. Galatians 3:24 — “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” The Law reveals your sinfulness and disobedience which should lead you to repentance and to Jesus. The Law does not save you, but the Law is used by the Holy Spirit to convict you in the process of sanctification, growing closer to God in pursuit of oneness.
25. Galatians 3:25 — “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” Once again, when you are motivated by genuine love for Jesus, you no longer need the law to control you because love will compel you to obey from a genuine desire. Love is always more powerful than duty or fear of punishment. Many themes are repeated on purpose.
26. Galatians 3:25, 26 — “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” A person can never achieve righteousness through their own obedience, nor can the law create unconditional love for God in someone’s heart. All require mercy, grace, and salvation through Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
27. Galatians 3:27 — “…for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Covered in Christ, you are clothed in His righteousness giving you freedom from condemnation and special access to the Father. You are now free and uniquely empowered to follow God in obedience without fear of rejection from Him or separation from His love.
28. Galatians 3:28 — “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christians, Ambassadors for Christ, have no business discussing the politics of race, ethnicity, nationality, or any other man-made social stratification which commonly divides society and distracts people from the only topic that truly matters, Jesus. The physical, geographic boundaries that divided population groups and produced different races and cultures and that promoted distrust have no impact on the spiritual world. Today, people seek to find their identity and seek to identify others by their outward attributes — much ungodly pride is involved here. Race, ethnicity, nationality, and gender are not virtues; do not take pride in any of them or show favoritism because of any of them. Man-made stratifications of people do not factor into God’s economy and are almost always used by people for political purposes. There are two classifications of people in the world, followers of Christ and the unsaved. Your mission is to make disciples of all nations and to seek reconciliation between those who are divided from Jesus and each other.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 June 16: Today, consider why you obey God’s commands. Are you obeying out of fear of the consequences of not obeying? Are you obeying out of pride for your own righteousness? Are you obeying to work your way into Heaven? Are you obeying out of a sense of guilt, hoping to make up for past sins? Are you obeying out of a sense of duty, because you know you should? Or, are you obeying out of love, because you have a heart, a passion to please God. When you obey for any reason other than love, you are not really obeying, because the First Commandment and the Greatest Commandment is to have no other God but God and to love Him unconditionally. Pray that God will continue to create in you a pure heart, that you would be wholehearted before Him and obey out of love. None of us love perfectly, but we should strive for ever-increasing Christ-like love, which grows as we grow closer to Him, the Source of Love.