Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 29 January 2023:
2 Chronicles 27:2 — But the people still followed corrupt practices.
2 Chronicles 27 is about the life of Jotham, and it is noticeably a very short chapter, which is particularly conspicuous considering Jotham is one of the few kings who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” He is even found in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:9) Why so short? After all, not only did Jotham live an obedient life, “order[ing] his ways before the Lord his God,” he also completed some important construction projects and prevailed in battle against the mighty Ammonites and other kings (2 Kings 15:37) through God’s grace. Perhaps the key point concerning the lack of commentary on Jotham is found in 2 Kings 15:35 – “Nevertheless, the high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.”
Jotham lived well personally and did some big things to support the comfort and security of his people (professional success and relevance); but under his reign, idolatry, corruption, and immorality continued to permeate the kingdom. He didn’t use his power and authority to remove the high places. He did not have the influence he should have had on the kingdom as a messenger and instrument of reconciliation with God. (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21)
God calls us to holiness – “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8) God also calls us to professional excellence – “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23) But most importantly, God calls us to influence — to be ambassadors for Christ, entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, and he has given us the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. (Matthew 22:36-40; Matthew 28:19-20) How we fulfill our calling is crucial.
- Matthew 5:13-16 — “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
- Micah 5:7, 8 — Then the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord, like showers on the grass, which delay not for a man nor wait for the children of man. And the remnant of Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples, like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among the flocks of sheep, which, when it goes through, treads down and tears in pieces, and there is none to deliver.
- Isaiah 58:5-14 — Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in. “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Jotham was a good man who neglected to influence his society for God’s glory as he should have. Another person who failed in this respect was Lot, remember? The New Testament tells us Lot was a righteous man who was greatly distressed and tormented in his soul by the sexual perversion and lawlessness he saw in Sodom. (2 Peter 2:8) Genesis 19:1 says Lot “was sitting in the gate of Sodom,” which means he was a town leader. However, despite his anguished heart and status within the community, he had no significant impact on Sodom’s morality. On the contrary, he and his family were corrupted by and complicit with Sodom’s depravity.
Warned by the angels of the God’s imminent judgment and destruction of the cities, Lot tried to subsequently warn his son’s-in-law (presumably Sodomites), but they thought he was only joking (Genesis 19:14), which says something about Lot’s daily convictions and about what he had communicated to his family and community concerning sin on a regular basis. Furthermore, Lot had become so attached to Sodom that the angels had to physically kick him out of town (for sake of Abraham not Lot – Genesis 19:29). During the destruction, his wife disobeyed the angels, looked back and died. Finally, although Lot’s two daughters survived, they had been so corrupted by Sodom they subsequently got their father drunk and slept with him in order to get pregnant by him! How could a “righteous” man allow such things to happen? Lot was vexed but not valiant and consequently more influenced by Sodom than an influence on Sodom. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12; Romans 15:4)
But today’s New Testament readings also say, “…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) Isn’t this telling you to keep quiet, mind your own business, and leave others to live as they desire? Of course not. Remember, this is written by Paul who took many beatings and lost his life for boldly proclaiming the Gospel to as many as he could (whether they wanted to hear it or not), including important political leaders. This is a call for brotherly love, personal responsibility, and good stewardship of time, energy, effort, resources and opportunities to serve as an instrument of God’s common grace and as a messenger of God’s special grace of salvation. This verse is about being busy rather than a busy body, about lighting candles rather than merely cursing the darkness. This is about setting the example and leading positive change for God’s glory rather than playing the helpless, hapless victim, constantly pointing a finger at others while never lifting a finger to make a difference.
Rather than being a vexed victim, be a valiant victor wherever God has placed you. But be the salt and light God called you to be. If you become a ‘king (speaking metaphorically about being a person of authority and influence over a certain domain),’ spread the gospel throughout your ‘kingdom’ and seek “Thy will be done (the Lord’s will)” as much as you can with whatever God has placed under your control. If you are a stay at home parent, spread the gospel to your children and with those with whom you come in contact. Never accept “corrupt practices.” Make the most of every opportunity. Don’t keep your light under a basket or hide your talent (see Matthew 25:14-20).
2 Chronicles 27:6 — So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God.
Is your life ordered around Jesus? Have you built your house on the firm foundation, the solid rock of Jesus? Is Jesus the Cornerstone of your life? Jotham stuck out among the list of kings because he chose to order his life before the Lord his God. Will you be remembered that way?
Psalm 11:3 — …if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
The basic institutions of society are severely threatened in America today. If the foundations are destroyed, what will you do? God calls His people to be the conscience of society to promote order and stability so that God’s people can spread the Gospel.
Psalm 11:6 – Let him rain coals on the wicked.
This verse describes God’s judgment on the wicked such as what occurred to Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a judgment only God can carry out. Compare this verse with Proverbs 25:21, 22 – “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” What is the point? Do not return evil for evil but rather good, and God will administer justice in ways you could not possibly imagine and also take care of you in ways you could not possibly imagine. Trust the Lord in your persecution. Let Him be your defender rather than you trying to defend yourself. You can’t possibly understand what is the right thing to do.
Psalm 11:7 — The upright shall behold his face.
Not everyone will behold His face.
Psalm 12:1 — Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
The psalmist wanted salvation in a society of people that had lost all goodness. Without the people of God to be salt that preserves and the light that exposes darkness, a society can become a virtual hell on earth. When the whole world turns wicked, will you still be holy, obedient and pure? How about your family. In times like this, when faith is being attacked, you need to double down on obedience.
Psalm 12:3, 4 – May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
Flattery is selfishness disguised by nice words. Flattery always has behind it a selfish motive. Similarly, many will speak of justice to pursue unjust gains; many will speak of love to promote sin; many will call love hate in order to disguise their own hate; many will define the language of an argument in order to win the argument. However, God’s word will prevail, and we need not deviate from it.
Proverbs 29:1 – He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
There can come a place in a person’s life when it is too late to receive forgiveness. God’s patience has a limit.
Proverbs 29:5 – A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
When you tell people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear, you are contributing to their pain and destruction, you are being unloving, and you are sinning.
Proverbs 29:9 — If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
Don’t waste your energy arguing with fools. Proclaim the truth, but don’t argue.
Proverbs 29:10 – Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.
If you stand for truth, you will be targeted.
Proverbs 29:11 – A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Have you ever said something like, “I’m only venting”? Venting your emotions is foolish. Don’t do it.
Proverbs 29:12 – If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked.
Christ’s Ambassadors have an obligation to speak the truth to leaders whether they want to hear it or not.
Proverbs 29:13 – The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.
God is in complete control of your life and the lives of others. He knows what you are going through and will work all things together for good if you are living according to His purpose.
Proverbs 29:17 – Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.
The world looks for leaders with vision, people who can imagine a ‘better’ future and show people how to turn imagination into reality. However, Christians live by revelation, God’s plan revealed in His word. God’s people arrange and live their lives in accordance with God’s word, whether it seems to make sense or not, whether it appears prosperous, and whether it is comfortable. God does intend for us to imagine our future or to create it in our minds and then with our efforts. He knows our future and has already established plans to prosper us. He just wants our loving obedience. His plans for us will be radically different than what we would imagine or even desire. (Isaiah 55:8, 9) Whenever people follow their own dreams rather than God, they “cast off restraint.” They do “what is right in their own eyes.” (see Judges) They set goals for themselves, build their Towers of Babel, and perhaps pray to God to bless their efforts. You don’t discover God’s will for your life; He reveals it to you, and He does that primarily through prayerful, diligent study and application of His word, one day at a time. “Blessed is he who keeps the law.”
Proverbs 29:18 — Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Gods people can serve as a preservative and an influential agent of peace and stability if they have the courage to defy popular opinion and to speak the truth.
Proverbs 29:23 – One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
Pride is the source of all sin – an overly high opinion of yourself. Pride is your enemy, seeking to reduce in your mind the infinite divide between God’s holiness and your sinfulness, reducing your amazement of the grace you have received through Christ and the reality of your complete dependence on His grace. Pride will cause you to demand justice from others (your perception of justice) rather than giving grace to others. Pride will isolate you from both God and others, causing you to violate the Great Commandment of love. Humility is the opposite of pride and positions you to receive the fullness of God’s blessings in your life, to freely receive and give the love of Christ. Don’t be complacent about the pride in your life. Examine yourself carefully, repent, and pray for God to cleanse you of the pride that remains in your life, trusting in His grace where you continue to make self an idol.
Proverbs 29:25-26 — The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the LORD that a man gets justice.
True faith involves trusting the unseen God over all the other visible worldly powers.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 January 2023: Be the influence God prepared you and empowered you to be.