YEAR 2, WEEK 2, Day 4, Thursday, 12 January 2023

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 12 January 2023:

2 Chronicles 10:1-15 — You need to choose very carefully the people from whom you take advice. If they are not seeking to advise you from their understanding of God’s word, they will mislead you.

2 Chronicles 10:8, 14 – But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him…. And the king answered them harshly; and forsaking the counsel of the old men, King Rehoboam spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men.

How important is it to listen to wise counsel who will not just tell you what you want to hear or attempt to appeal to your ego and pride? At a critical time for the kingdom of Israel, King Rehoboam chose poor counsel, thereby decimating the kingdom. Where do you seek advice for tough decisions? Psalm 1:1, 2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Your primary counsel should be from the Holy Spirit through God’s word. Will you delight in God’s word and meditate upon it all day and night?

2 Chronicles 10:15 — So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the Lord might fulfill his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

The Bible assumes the reader knows what happened in 1 Kings 11. Bible study requires a careful study of the whole Bible. None of it stands alone. Many ere in Bible interpretation because they only lightly study and take verses out of the context of the entirety of God’s word. Hence, the importance of systematic Bible reading programs such as this.

2 Chronicles 10:15 – So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the LORD might fulfill his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Again, God leads the hearts of men to accomplish His purposes which can include both blessings or curses depending upon the fidelity of those with whom He is dealing.

2 Chronicles 10:19 — So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

Solomon’s sin, Rehoboam’s folly, and God’s plan. 2 Chronicles 9 concludes the story of Solomon’s life by telling of his wisdom, and his wealth. Ecclesiastes gives us perspective on all that – “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity…. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 1:12; 12:12-14) Ironically, in his pursuit for wisdom and wealth, Solomon departed from the source of all wisdom and riches, God. Consequently, he failed to fulfill his primary duty: love, obey, and serve God wholeheartedly. Solomon’s story is sobering because it reveals how even the wisest man on earth can drift away from what was once a life of commitment to the Lord due to the influences of the world, the flesh and the devil.

  • Matthew 16:26 — For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

What was God’s law concerning the kings of Israel? “Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:16-20) Despite his great wisdom, Solomon chose to disobey God’s instructions, and his heart turned away from God. Subsequently, Solomon set the conditions for Rehoboam’s folly and the permanent dividing of the kingdom.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17) “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)

Despite Solomon’s sin, Rehoboam conceivably had a chance to rule well, but he took bad advice from his hot-headed buddies, rejecting the godly advice of the older wisemen who counselled Solomon. This is an obvious mistake from the reader’s perspective. However, and more importantly, it would appear that he never went to the Lord in prayer for wisdom, and he didn’t test the advice he had received from God’s word. Rehoboam’s big mistake was that he chose the wisdom of men over the wisdom of God.

“So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the Lord might fulfill his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” 1 Kings 11 explains that God had intended to tear the kingdom away from Solomon – “the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore, the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.’” (1 Kings 11:9-11) God didn’t cause Rehoboam to sin, rather God allowed him to experience the consequences of his worldly decisions.

  • Proverbs 19:21 — Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
  • Isaiah 14:24 — The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand….

Despite our sinfulness and foolishness, the Lord’s plans prevail. Seek God’s plan in your life, not your own. Trust in Him and His word and not your own understanding. Wait upon the Lord. And never lose sight that God’s goal for you is Himself – unity with Him and with others in Him. It’s not what you do that matters most but rather who you are doing it with. Walk with Jesus.

Matthew 9:6 – But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he then said to the paralytic—”Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

God uses miracles to glorify Himself and to validate His messenger, in this case His Son. We often pray for miracles for our reasons, but God uses miracles for His ultimate purpose — to reconcile people to Him.

Matthew 9:8 – When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Jesus transferred His authority to His disciples and said that they would do even greater things than He:

- “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 10:1) 
- “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) 
- “Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority.  Let no one disregard you.” (Titus 2:15) 
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12)

Matthew 9:10-13 – And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

“Jesus reclined at table…. [with] many tax collectors and sinners.” The Pharisees were livid with Jesus for his close, personal relationship with these tax collectors (reclining at table was a demonstration of deep affection). Tax collectors were hated by the Jews because tax collectors (who were also Jews) not only gathered taxes for Rome but also skimmed off the top for themselves (traitors and thieves of their own people). Yet, Jesus had gone so far as to pick Matthew (also known as Levi, perhaps a former Levite who sold out his heritage) the tax collector to be one of His inner-circle disciples!

Many have misinterpreted these verses to suggest that Jesus accepted or condoned sin as ‘no big deal’, and many have used these verses to justify their own complacency with sin and compromise with the sinful world. However, though Jesus invites all sinners to repentance, Jesus was NOT hanging out intimately with unrepentant sinners; He was fellowshipping affectionately with repentant sinners who desired to commit their lives to Him. The other Gospel accounts give us greater details behind this story:

Luke 3 tells us that, when John the Baptist was baptizing, “Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’” (Luke 3:12-14)

Then Mark 2:15 points out, “Many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” These tax collectors were among those who had repented, trusted in Jesus, and decided to follow of Jesus. Sinners, yes, but repentant sinners who had turned away from sin and to the Lord in order to follow Him. Luke tells another story about a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus who also proclaimed repentance and life commitment to Jesus while dining with Him — “’Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:8-10)

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14 — Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
  • Psalm 26:4-5 — I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.
  • 1 John 1:6, 7 — If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

James 4:4 says, “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Is Jesus a friend of the world? While the word “world” in the Bible can refer to the physical universe and people in general (Hebrews 1:2; John 13:1; 1 John 4:9), it most often refers to the humanistic, ungodly systems, mindsets, lusts, and attitudes that are at odds with God (Matthew 18:7; John 15:19; 1 John 2:15-16). Perhaps the most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16 — “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God loves those in the world so much He has invited them out of the world (the community of sin, not the physical world) and has offered them a new eternal life in Christ. However, this is an invitation for sinners to join Him, not Jesus accepting an invitation to fellowship with the sinful world – “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20) Jesus who loves those in the world is certainly no friend to the world (the community of sin), though He lovingly invites all sinners out of the world (the community of sin) into friendship with Him (while still on earth – see John 17). Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) Many tax collectors and sinners opened the door to eat with Jesus. Ironically though, the Pharisees, the religious leaders, refused to recline with Jesus.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Remember the Beatitudes? The Pharisees could not see that they were sick and unrighteous sinners too, like all people. They didn’t feel “poor in spirit” (recognizing their spiritual bankruptcy) or mournful (repentant of their own sins); they did not hunger and thirst for righteousness because they had filled up on self-righteousness (empty calories); therefore, they were not merciful, nor were they pure-hearted peacemakers. On the contrary, they were hard-hearted, mean-spirited accusers of others, no friends of God. They were not guilty because they condemned usury and extortion (as should be done for sake of justice), they were guilty because they condemned sinners — to them these tax collectors were unforgivable – as if forgiveness was theirs to give rather than God’s to give. Remember previously in today’s readings the scribes said, ““This man is blaspheming,” because Jesus said to a paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:1-8) Though they understood that forgiveness belongs to God and were ready to accuse Jesus of blasphemy, they refused to see their own hypocrisy in refusing to forgive as if they had such authority.

Jesus then points out that these ‘experts of the law’ didn’t really understand the law at all, partially quoting Hosea 6:6 which reads in full, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” These Pharisees knew how to do church but didn’t know God. And more than anyone else, these religious leaders should have understood that all people are sinners and God is eager to forgive the truly repentant:

  • Psalm 14:2, 3 – The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
  • Psalm 86:15 — But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

While the Pharisees refused to accept their spiritual bankruptcy, repent, and receive immeasurable, unmerited riches in Christ, many tax collectors and sinners did. Jesus will later offer this parable to the chief priests and elders who challenged Him:

  • Matthew 21:28-32, The Parable of the Two Sons — “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Jesus’ greatest prayer was/is that we would abide in (to dwell in, live in, or remain in) His love, apart from the world, and that we would experience perfect fellowship with Him and with others in His love:

  • John 17:9, 14-19, 20-23 — I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours…. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth…. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

True love and unity can only be found in Christ. Only those who truly appreciate God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness will respond to others with true mercy, grace and forgiveness. Those who truly appreciate God’s love will truly love others accordingly. Those who don’t wont. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47) Also, those who are truly ‘amazed by grace’, will be compelled to proclaim the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus to others.

As humble, forgiven Christians who are spiritually bankrupt apart from the unmerited riches bestowed upon us by Jesus Christ, we must judge sin with a truly fearful and loving heart for the sinner, desiring their repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, while guarding ourselves against compromise and corruption – “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 22, 23) “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)

When you think you are righteous, you have a hard time forgiving others. The self-righteous believe their deeds (such as sacrifices) make them more righteous than others. Mercy comes from the truly humble sinner who understands the price Christ paid for them in mercy and grace. Mercy is a true act of worship. There is not greater indicator of what we really think about God and how much we really love Him than how we treat others. We worship primarily, first and foremost, through relationships. The Bible says, “He who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Love is the evidence of our salvation: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” (1 John 3:14) Jesus said that if we truly love Him, we will obey Him, and the primary commandment He gave us was to love one another – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) How did Jesus love us? “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Therefore, we must ‘lay down our lives’ before those who sin against us and who the world would consider ‘unworthy’ of love, the unlovable. How much we value the mercy and grace we have received through the blood of Jesus is not revealed in songs, rituals, sacrifices, or other religious activities but rather in the mercy and grace we show others. This is how we glorify God: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) This is how we change the world, not through personal successes, parades, conventions, protests, speeches, or politics, but by changing hearts, one heart at a time — “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25) God gave us our mission; it is a mission of reconciliation: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5: 18, 19) The messenger is known for shocking love, mercy, generosity, and holiness: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) This is how we change the world.

Matthew 9:15 – The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Now is the time of fasting. Do you fast along with your prayers?

Matthew 9:18-25 — The woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood made Jesus “unclean” as a Rabbi when she touched the fringe of his garment. (Leviticus 15:25-27) She acted selfishly without considering the needs of others. However, Jesus did not scold her. Now Jesus was unclean, but now Jesus could enter the house of the dead girl and touch her without intentionally making Himself unclean (touching a dead body made priests unclean by Levitical Law). God will not let the sins of others get in the way of Him using them for His glory, and our sins do not change God’s plan. God uses all things, good and bad, for His glory and in accordance with His plan, though we cannot see how all things are coming together.

Matthew 9:36 – When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

You see all types of people in a crowd. Crowds often bring out the best and worse in human nature, some are courteous towards others, and some aren’t. Some people simply hate crowds because of how people act. Jesus had compassion on crowds, understanding that they were simply “harassed and helpless.” How you feel about crowds reveals more about you than the crowd.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 January 2023: Today, endeavor to walk with Jesus and follow His lead rather than just following your own goals and judgment. See what God is doing around you, and be a part of it. Also, share the Gospel with at least one person today

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