Archive for the ‘12-2 Kings’ Category

1 Chronicles 12:8-18 (Part 2 of 2)

Warriors Join David

One of the features of the success of Clemson football during its greatest decade ever is that they are not afraid to go after the best football players in the high school ranks anywhere in the nation. Since Coach Swinney took over as head coach, they have not shied away from go after athletes that experts feel are a slam-dunk for another major school. However, that’s not the greatest feature. They will go after the best athletes but their athletic prowess is always subject to whether they will fit into the type of program, the culture, of Clemson football and the university. As a result, they often sidestep the #1 guy in a position in the country and get the #2 or #3 guy because the #1 rated guy just won’t fit into the culture of the Clemson football program. There is a high degree of self-accountability established among the players within the program. Leaders among the players are expected to display real leadership and mentor and lead those that are younger than them. Getting their degree must be important to the player being recruited. Growing in a responsible citizen after college is important to the program. There is a sense of family that is instilled in the program where the guys do genuinely seem to really care about each other. I genuinely believe that Coach Swinney and his coaches will pass on a guy that is a behavior problem, a prima donna kind of player, those #1 guys who think the world owes them a favor because they are gifted athlete, even if that kid is one of those once in a generation kinds of talents if they do not fit into the type of program he has established at Clemson.

I think there is a lesson to be learned from Dabo Swinney and from David here. It is that idea of recruiting to the desired culture that came to mind when I read this passage again for the second time. Let’s read 1 Chronicles 12:8-18 once again now:

8 Some brave and experienced warriors from the tribe of Gad also defected to David while he was at the stronghold in the wilderness. They were expert with both shield and spear, as fierce as lions and as swift as deer on the mountains.

9

Ezer was their leader.

Obadiah was second.

Eliab was third.

10

Mishmannah was fourth.

Jeremiah was fifth.

11

Attai was sixth.

Eliel was seventh.

12

Johanan was eighth.

Elzabad was ninth.

13

Jeremiah was tenth.

Macbannai was eleventh.

14 These warriors from Gad were army commanders. The weakest among them could take on a hundred regular troops, and the strongest could take on a thousand! 15 These were the men who crossed the Jordan River during its seasonal flooding at the beginning of the year and drove out all the people living in the lowlands on both the east and west banks.

16 Others from Benjamin and Judah came to David at the stronghold. 17 David went out to meet them and said, “If you have come in peace to help me, we are friends. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when I am innocent, then may the God of our ancestors see it and punish you.”

18 Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, the leader of the Thirty, and he said,

“We are yours, David!

    We are on your side, son of Jesse.

Peace and prosperity be with you,

    and success to all who help you,

    for your God is the one who helps you.”

So David let them join him, and he made them officers over his troops.

In this passage, we see that David was discerning about who was in his rebel army. They had to be “all-in” for David. They could not be there for any other reason than they believed in David as the rightful and proper king of Israel and that Saul’s pursuit of David was just wrong. They had to be sold out to protecting David. They had to believe in his leadership. They had to be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to ensure David’s survival. It was not going to be easy so they had to be sold-out in their belief that the struggle was a worthy one. They had to believe, really believe, that David was the anointed of the Lord for a time such as this one. David was recruiting

In today’s world where there are a limited number of churches that are actually growing out there while most are stagnant or declining, there is a lesson to be learned, like I said from what we see from Dabo and David. In each of these cases, Dabo with the kind of player he recruits and David with who he recruited to be in his army, there is a commonality that we can take from it as leaders of churches. What is common to all these situations is the buy-in to the vision by the people on the team. Everyone on the team must want a vision to unite them. As Solomon said, “without vision the people perish”. That is right there in Proverbs 29:18. The vision must be wrapped around a worthwhile goal and for the church, it must be the common vision of Matthew 28:19 – go and make disciples. There is no qualifiers in that statement.

We must go. That means leaving where we are at. That means leaving where we are comfortable and what we are comfortable with. We must be willing to leave things behind to be in the going. We cannot sit still and rest on the laurels of what we used to be. To reminisce, we have to sit down on a bench to run through memories. We must go and by that I mean, we must get beyond where we are at and our staunch love of where we are at. In the business world, there is a saying, “if you’re standing still, you are falling behind”. If we stay in what we are comfortable with, we will die as churches.

We must make disciples. That statement had no qualifiers upon it. To make disciples, they must be disciples of all kinds, red, yellow, black, white, purple, green, whatever. Our churches, both black and white churches, should be reflective of the community in which we live. We should be not picking who we share the gospel with based on whether they are like us or not. We are called to make disciples. We are called to make disciples of folks that we might think do not deserve to be in our pews. We need to make disciples of people whose political views make our skin boil. We need to make disciples of people who right now are living lifestyles outside the biblical realm. We need to make disciples from all walks of life. In heaven, there will not be separate churches for separate kinds of people. There will be democrats, republicans, blacks, whites, people we didn’t think deserved Jesus here on earth, people that looked different and didn’t do things the way we have always done them. Say what you will about the churches out there that are actually growing, but they are reaching people that we are not. We must analyze what we are doing and be willing to change the methods we have always used so that we can reach more people. That’s every stagnant or declining church out there. To make disciples, you sometimes have to be as Paul said, “a Greek to the Greeks, and a Jew to the Jews!”

Thus, what we see in Dabo and David was that the recruited to the vision. We should be the same in our country’s stagnant and declining churches, our leadership must reflect an all-in willing to go and make disciples, whatever that takes, whatever that looks like, and we must be willing to submit ourselves to that mindset. We will be willing to follow the Matthew 28:19 vision into the wilderness like David’s men, where they were surely uncomfortable, and where things would have been easier in their comfort zones back in town. But they were willing to fight for the rightful king regardless of the sacrifices that needed to be made. Just like the kids that Dabo recruits are willing to submit to the vision he has for his program. We too must be willing to submit to the vision and be willing to follow that vision to the wilderness where sacrifices will need to be made, where we will most definitely be in those places that are not comfortable to us.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 6:31-46

The Temple Musicians

Yesterday, we had our Christmas Sunday service and a major part of it was the music. Although my message, my sermon, was one of hope based on Jesus’ sinlessness even in his conception and birth and a message that I thought was one of my best, it would have all fallen flat if it were not for all the elements of the worship service. Without out the pastoral prayers and corporate prayers, without the hymns, without the special music by the pianist and without the anthem by the choir and the pianist, we would just be left with my message. And that would have been a boring service. We must have it all – the entire combination of elements to a worship service.

Yesterday, our music director, Ann Hudson, is one of the most humble servants of the Lord that you will ever meet. She is just precious. She has been a church musician for decades and has taught piano to probably two generations of people here in the Lamar area and southern Darlington County. She is aging now but man has she “still got game!” Yesterday, during her offertory musical piece, she tore it up. Even though I come from a decade of guitars and drums and modern worship songs, her dedication to her craft and the beauty with which she plays piano is unrivaled. To have a talent such as hers in my first appointment as the lead pastor of a church and for our church to be no larger than it is, my church and I are extremely blessed. She played an embellished version of Oh Holy Night where she simply used the music from the hymn but wow all the stuff she added to it. She brought tears to the eyes of many in the house of God yesterday morning. It was just beautiful no matter what generation you are from. It was amazing. And to watch the intensity on her face as she was playing was as moving as the music she was playing. She was in her own space. We were probably not there to her. She was simply in a zone and worshiping the Lord in a way that only she can. We were just witnesses to it and we were moved closer to God as a result.

That is the purpose of all the elements of worship outside the message. It is to melt away your cynicism and to focus you on the beauty of God. It is to melt away the cares of the world and focus you on what you may have forgotten during the week, that we are placed on this earth to worship our Creator. Music and the other elements of a worship service are to open the locked doors of our heart and allow us to say to our souls, “Ok, let’s listen to God now!” Music and the other elements of worship are essential and equal to the message. They go hand in hand. One without the other and Sunday morning worship is not complete.

It is why my music director and I met once a month to plan out the music for each Sunday in the next up month. In those meetings, I explain to her what each sermon in the coming month is going to be about. We pick hymns that go along with each sermon’s theme. She then plans her offertories and the choirs anthems around that theme. In this manner, each Sunday’s worship service is more cohesive and has a central gathering point theologically. That is the experience that I have been a part of in the two previous churches that I had been heavily a part of over the previous decade. Both of those churches were modern worship style churches but that idea of sitting down between pastor and worship leaders to plan out the music to match the idea of the sermon I brought with me to this traditional style church that I now pastor. Yesterday, reminded me of the power of music to set the stage for the sermon. The last two Sundays, so many of my church’s people have said that the totality of the service was awesome – that everything fit together and complemented one another. And, that, is what a worship service is to do. Soften the heart through music and prepare it for God’s Word and how it applies to our daily life.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read what basically amounts to a hall of fame of the musicians that played at the Temple from David’s reign to the time of the exile. Let us read this who’s who list of musicians at the Temple now here in 1 Chronicles 6:31-46:

31 These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the Lord, after the ark came to rest there. 32 They ministered with song before the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem; and they performed their service in due order. 33 These are the men who served; and their sons were: Of the Kohathites: Heman, the singer, son of Joel, son of Samuel, 34 son of Elkanah, son of Jeroham, son of Eliel, son of Toah, 35 son of Zuph, son of Elkanah, son of Mahath, son of Amasai, 36 son of Elkanah, son of Joel, son of Azariah, son of Zephaniah, 37 son of Tahath, son of Assir, son of Ebiasaph, son of Korah, 38 son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, son of Israel; 39 and his brother Asaph, who stood on his right, namely, Asaph son of Berechiah, son of Shimea, 40 son of Michael, son of Baaseiah, son of Malchijah, 41 son of Ethni, son of Zerah, son of Adaiah, 42 son of Ethan, son of Zimmah, son of Shimei, 43 son of Jahath, son of Gershom, son of Levi. 44 On the left were their kindred the sons of Merari: Ethan son of Kishi, son of Abdi, son of Malluch, 45 son of Hashabiah, son of Amaziah, son of Hilkiah, 46 son of Amzi, son of Bani, son of Shemer,

In this passage, we are reminded that David did much to bring music into worship. He established song leaders and choirs to perform regularly at the Temple (see 1 Chronicles 25). Some of those who served with music in the Temple are recorded here. This passage also reminds us that you don’t have to be an ordained minister to have an important place in the body of believers. Musicians at a worship service are as important to the success of a worship service as the pastor delivering a message that interprets Scripture and applies it to everyday life.

In this passage, we have evidence of how important music was in the biblical era Temple in Jerusalem. They were named as musicians at the Temple. The Holy Spirit guided the writer of Chronicles to They were as important as any lineage of the high priest position. And it reminded me of the fact that Ann Hudson is as important to the success of Sunday morning as any sermon that I preach. Her music and my message are God appointed intersections each Sunday to prepare the heart, to soften the heart, to challenge the soul, to take us to the places of the highest heavens and to see the face of God and then to be challenged by His Word. And then to send us forth emboldened to take on another week in a fallen world in a way that honors the One who we just finished worshiping.

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 2:50b-55

Descendants of Caleb’s Son Hur

What can we learn from another segment of genealogies at the end of this chapter – 1 Chronicles 2? On the surface, it does not look like much until you do a little research. That’s the difference between reading the Bible and studying it. When we don’t understand something that is written, go look up commentaries (as easy as looking up on the internet) to see what you might be missing. That’s the case here today. My question was who was Hur? Never had heard of him or the name except maybe in that movie, Ben Hur, one of those late 1950’s overblown classic films where the costumes were overdone and the acting was as well. Other than that non-biblical reference to a film, I have not encountered this character in the Old Testament. So, who was this Hur? Well, from the first half of Verse 50 that was part of my last blog and this second half of the same verse that appears here, we know that he was the son of Caleb. But which Caleb? There are two as my research found out. There’s Caleb that we know from the story of The Exodus of God’s people from Egypt. And then, there’s this Caleb in this passage. The least famous Caleb here is part of the natural line of descendancy from Judah so this dude is right in there in the tribe that became the tribe from which David arose and later Jesus himself. He’s a pure bred. He is part of the line that goes back to Abraham. He is naturally part of God’s chosen people. Thus, his son Hur is part of that same lineage of the house of David and of Jesus.

But the other more famous Caleb, we know his exploits. The story of Caleb, a faithful man of God, begins in the book of Numbers. After being delivered from bondage in Egypt, the Israelites were led by God to the border of the land of Canaan, a land “flowing with milk and honey” that God had promised they would inherit (Exodus 3:8, 17). Moses had chosen twelve men, one from each tribe, to scout the land before entering. Among them was Caleb, representing the tribe of Judah. The twelve men spied out the land for forty days and then came back to Moses. They reported that the land was indeed fruitful but its inhabitants were the mighty descendants of Anak. Terrified by the size and strength of the Canaanites, ten of the spies warned Moses not to enter Canaan (Numbers 13:23–33).

Caleb silenced the murmuring, fearful men by saying, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (Numbers 13:30). Caleb took his stand because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly (Joshua 14:8–9). Caleb knew of the promises of God to the Israelites, and, despite the evidence of his own eyes regarding the obstacles, he had faith that God would give them victory over the Canaanites. Unfortunately, the people of Israel ignored Caleb and listened to the report of the other spies.

What we forget is that the more famous Caleb was not a natural born citizen of the people of God. The term Kenizzite is also seen in the plural form as the Kenizzites listed in Genesis 15:19, and it’s the same Hebrew spelling that is used of Caleb’s father הַקְּנִזּי haKenizi. Genesis 15:19 speaks of the ten different ethnic groups of people in Canaan that the Hebrews were to dispossess when God brought Israel out of Egypt. We don’t know how Caleb came to be in Egypt enslaved along with the Jewish people but we do have a clue in his name. You see “Caleb” means “dog.” Now, would you call your son or daughter “dog?” No, of course not and parents would be even more unlikely to do that in that culture and time. To call someone “dog” in Old Testament times was a great insult. I mean canines were of no value in that culture, so this name hints at the fact that Caleb was of no value to his parents. It tells us he might have been abandoned, an unwanted child. Perhaps his cruel parents sold him into slavery and that’s how he came to Egypt but in spite of this by the providence of God Caleb was folded into the family of God. And not only that, he was placed in the tribe of Judah, which means he became a member of the Jewish aristocracy because from Judah came the kings the great spiritual, political, and military leaders of the nation. Caleb’s life is a testimony of Deuteronomy 10:18 where it says that God, ” defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” And, Caleb responded to God’s gracious provision. Even though he was a foreigner, he still regarded himself as a faithful follower of the Jewish God. In fact, he followed God whole-heartedly to the very end of his life trusting God more in fact than many of his Jewish peers.

That’s the thing this morning. Just because you are born into the family of God does not guarantee anything. It does not guarantee that you will become some great man of God such as the biblical heroes that we all know so well. Just because you are born in the family of God does not mean even that you will follow God. Earthly birth lineage among God’s people does not guarantee anything. I know my story growing up as a preacher’s kid did not guarantee my own salvation. I did not come to know Christ as my Savior until age 39 and then did not become a full-time pastor until age 55. Now, if you grew up in a household where no one knew Jesus Christ as their Savior and you have lived a life that reflects that, Caleb shows you that there is hope for you among the people of God. Through Jesus Christ, our past is no longer a qualifier or a disqualifer to entrance into the family of God. There is hope for you to be counted among the people of God. With that in mind, let’s read about this less popular Caleb and his son, Hur, and the descendants of Hur in 1 Chronicles

The sons of Hur the firstborn of Ephrathah:

Shobal the father of Kiriath Jearim, 51 Salma the father of Bethlehem, and Hareph the father of Beth Gader.

52 The descendants of Shobal the father of Kiriath Jearim were:

Haroeh, half the Manahathites, 53 and the clans of Kiriath Jearim: the Ithrites, Puthites, Shumathites and Mishraites. From these descended the Zorathites and Eshtaolites.

54 The descendants of Salma:

Bethlehem, the Netophathites, Atroth Beth Joab, half the Manahathites, the Zorites, 55 and the clans of scribes[a] who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, Shimeathites and Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the Rekabites.[b]

In this passage, I found at first glance not too much that I could sink my teeth into. However, a little research always helps. According to my research at http://bible.ucg.org/bible-commentary/1-Chronicles/The-family-of-Israel,-starting-with-Judah/, I found the following:

Caleb, the son of Hezron and of Judah, despite his numerous descendants, is not mentioned as the object of God’s special favor. But if the fragmentary genealogies of Caleb the son of Judah are proof of the existing disorder, God puts these fragments together for a special purpose, and we find a deeper thought in them. Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, is the one whom God has particularly in view, as the Word teaches us; he is the one whom He introduces in so extraordinary a way into the genealogy of the son of Hezron (1 Chron. 2:49). It is in view of him that this genealogy is inscribed next to that of David, as forming part of the tribe of Judah, from whence the royal race comes.

“But what connection does Caleb the son of Jephunneh, whose daughter was Achsah, have with Caleb the son of Hezron? Here we find a most interesting fact which has perhaps not been given sufficient attention. Caleb the son of Jephunneh was not originally of the people of Judah. In Numbers 32:12 and Joshua 14:6, 14 he is called Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite. Likewise, Caleb’s younger brother Othniel, to whom Caleb gave his daughter Achsah as wife, is called ‘the son of Kenaz’ (Joshua 15:17; Judges 1:13; Judges 3:9, 11). Now in Genesis 36:11 we learn that Kenaz is an Edomite name. Hence the conclusion that at some point of time the family of Kenaz, and therefore the family of Caleb the son of Jephunneh, was incorporated into the tribes of Israel just as so many other foreigners, such as Jethro, Rahab, and Ruth, who in virtue of their faith became members of the people of God. This explains a characteristic phrase in Joshua 15:13: ‘And to Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a portion among the children of Judah according to the commandment of Jehovah to Joshua…that is, Hebron.’ And in Joshua 14:14: ‘Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed Jehovah the God of Israel.”

“Thus Caleb, who by his origin really had no right of citizenship in Israel, received this right amidst Judah by virtue of his faith and was incorporated into the family of Caleb the son of Hezron, as it appears in 1 Chronicles 2:49 and in the passages already cited in Joshua. The fragments preserved of the genealogy of Caleb the son of Hezron confirm the place that God assigned to Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and this substitution is one of the important points the Spirit of God calls our attention to here.”

That maybe is the important point of this genealogy of the sons of Hur is that it is through this line of people that David, the greatest king of Israel, springs. And it is through the royal line of David from which the earthly lineage of Jesus Christ is found. Thus, in the line of Jesus, there are those who have been adopted into the family of our Savior. It is that foundation from which we who become children of God through our faith in Jesus Christ are adopted into the family of God. When you look at the earthly genealogy of Christ, there are a cast of characters, a group of misfits, that are part of Jesus’ earthly heritage. What that says to us, we can become part of the family of God even when we have been complete and total screw-ups before we come to know Jesus as our Savior. We do not have to have some perfect life. Jesus’ earthly lines includes murders, adulterers, prostitutes, etc. No matter your background, if you fully believe that Jesus died for your sins and was resurrected because He is the Son of God, then, that’s all the prerequisites that are necessary to become part of the family of God’s chosen people.

Where do you stand? Are you a person that grew up with Christian parents and you are relying on that as your ticket into heaven? We are not measured by our pedigree. God will want to know about our hearts. Were we submitted to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord? That’s the question that matters. That’s the question of eternity. On the flip side of that coin, are you afraid to darken the door of a church? Are you afraid that your past disqualifies you from coming before the Lord and asking Him into your heart and making Him your Savior and Lord? Are you afraid that you have disqualified yourself because of the way you have lived your life so far? Well, there’s good news! All that is necessary to become part of God’s people is to realize that you are totally lost in sin and kneel down and pray to God to forgive you for the mess you have made of your life. Then, ask Jesus Christ to be your Savior because He died for your sins and took your punishment. Then believe that He has given you new life as evidenced by His arising from the dead giving us full confidence that He is the Son of God. That’s all it takes! Leave your past behind you and come join the people of God today!

Amen and Amen.

1 Chronicles 1:24-33

Descendants of Abraham

We all got stuff. We all got family messes. Here in this passage we see the lineage of Abraham. There are three lines of descendants that come from Abraham as we see in this passage. We see the honored line, the descendants of Abraham through his first wife, Sarah. We also though see his descendants through his maidservant/concubine, Hagar. We also see that he had children through a more obscure woman, Keturah who in Genesis is referred to as his wife but here in Chronicles it says she was his concubine. Regardless of Keturah’s status (some think she started out as his concubine and later became Abraham’s wife after Sarah’s death), she is the third woman by which Abraham had children. This used to be stuff only of soap operas on afternoon television. Now, it is a reality of life in our fractured society.

As we know from Genesis, the whole Hagar episode with kids by two women, Abraham had a whole lot of trouble as a result. Sarah became jealous of Hagar almost immediately after she became pregnant. Did Abraham learn nothing from that whole sordid episode at the beginning of Ishmael’s life. It seems not. He went on to have multiple children by a concubine who would later become his wife, after Sarah’s death. No matter what way we look at this thing or try to justify theologically, there was a mess created by all of this. Multiple children by different wives. Inheritance passing only through one line of children. The lineage of God’s people traced through only one line of Abraham’s children. The other two lines of children become nations that either were enemies of God’s people or help God’s people of Israel and Judah to fall into idolatry.

I don’t know about any of you out there reading this, but this stuff is like ripped out of real life in the 21st century. Today, most people nowadays will have on average two marriages in their lifetime. When divorce happens when the children are young, you have kids with different last names from their mothers. If there are children of second marriages, you have further complications with half-brothers and sisters and so on. It can all become very complicated. Not to mention that there are often tensions between first wives and second wives that can cause trouble for everyone. In this way, the Old Testament is very instructive to us in the 21st century. It is us. We are just as messed up as the people and stories of the Old Testament.

Each and everyone of the characters that we consider heroes from the Old Testament all were messed up people with messed up lives. Here, we see Abraham and it reminds us of the whole Sarah-Hagar episode of Genesis. And, yet, Abraham apparently learned nothing from that ugly episode surrounding the rights and privileges that would be granted to Hagar and to Ishmael. What does Abraham do? He takes another concubine/mistress/maidservant (whatever you want to call Keturah) and has kids by her too! How messed up is that? Did he not learn anything? Sure, she became his wife later, but wow did he not learn anything from Sarah’s reaction to Hagar. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, as the old saying goes. We see the same things today. One marriage is dissatisfying so we divorce and remarry expecting different results. We become dissatisfied with the second and go onto a third and wonder why things turn out the same every time.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through the genealogy of the lines of children descended from Abraham. That idea was that Abraham had a family mess with all his kids by three women. But even with all his faults (his weakness for women being only one of them), God used him and he became a hero that we look up in the Bible:

24 So this is the family line descended from Shem: Arphaxad, Shelah,[a] 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu, 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah, 27 and Abram, later known as Abraham.

28 The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael. 29 These are their genealogical records:

The sons of Ishmael were Nebaioth (the oldest), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael.

32 The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine, were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

The sons of Jokshan were Sheba and Dedan.

33 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah.

All these were descendants of Abraham through his concubine Keturah.

In this passage, we see the beginning of the line of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. In this passage, we see that son of Hagar, Ishmael, is prominently in our memory from the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. But guess what, Abraham did not only have children by Hagar but he also had children by Keturah. There has been some debate as to whether Keturah was Abraham’s wife or his concubine, since she is described as each in different places in Scripture. Genesis 25:1 says that Keturah was his wife; 1 Chronicles 1:32 calls her his concubine. Genesis 25:6 also implies that Keturah was a concubine. A concubine was a woman who willingly entered into an exclusive relationship with a man for the purposes of meeting his sexual needs or providing children for him (Hagar was considered a concubine of Abraham’s). The woman was often a slave or a single female without male protectors. A concubine did not have equal status as a wife, but, unlike a prostitute, she was provided for and considered the sole property of the man. Because Keturah was in a monogamous relationship with Abraham, she could properly be considered his “wife,” although she had a lesser rank than Sarah had enjoyed.

It could also be that Keturah had begun her relationship with Abraham as a concubine and was then promoted to official “wife status” after the death of Sarah. This would explain the differing biblical descriptions of her role. However, Keturah, the concubine-become-wife, is never referred to in Scripture with the same respect and honor that is given to Sarah as Abraham’s wife (1 Peter 3:6). You often see that too in our modern-day world where a second wife is often not given the same respect by families as a husband’s first wife for various reasons.

Regardless of the status of Keturah, the bigger idea for this devotion is that Abraham apparently had a weakness for women, just as many of our biblical heroes did. Abraham created family messes for himself with the whole Hagar-Sarah episode and apparently learned nothing from it. So, what does he do? He takes another woman later on in life, in Keturah. Abraham had a fatal flaw it appears and it was women.

The takeaway from today is two things. First, a simple and practical thing. That takeaway is that we must allow God to govern the relationships with have with the opposite sex and govern our marriages. When we are single or divorced and are in the midst of dating, help us oh Lord to depend on you to find our next mate – that person of the opposite sex that you want us to spend the rest of our lives with. Help us to trust you even if it takes a long time to find us our mate. Help us not to trust our sexual desires as defining who it is we are to be with. Sexual desires can blind us to those that we are not compatible with in the long-term. Help us not to let our desires cloud our judgment. Help us to hand that responsibility off to you. Further, help us when married to keep you at the center of our marriages so that we do not wreck our marriages because of our selfish desires and wants.

The second takeaway is that there are many of us out there that think that because we have screwed up our family lives that God would never use us and that churches would never accept us. Just look at the Bible, there are a bunch of screw-ups in there. Abraham is one of them. He was a liar and he had a weakness for women. Yet, at the same time, God helped him overcome all of his shortcomings and he became a father of the nation of Israel. His faith in God is always referenced by future biblical characters that followed him. He was considered a great man of faith. In Hebrews, he was considered one of the great hall of biblical heroes in heaven. So, what that says to me and should say to you is that regardless of the mistakes that you have made in your life, regardless of what your weaknesses are, when we place ourselves at the feet of God and ask Him to take over and help us rid ourselves of our weaknesses that is the beginning of our usefulness to Him. All of us are imperfect beings. Through salvation in Jesus Christ, we can be made wonderfully useful to God’s kingdom. Our mess that we made of our life can then become our message of the wonder of Jesus Christ in our lives. And churches? If they are worth their salt, they are full of broken people who have found life in Jesus Christ. None of them, not one of them, is perfect. Church is simply broken people gathered together singing the praises of their Savior. A church is not a place for perfect people. It is a place where broken people come together to figure out life together through their love of Jesus Christ. A church is and should be a spiritual hospital for broken people not a showplace of perfection. We should glory in the all the imperfect people that have been gathered together in our church. It should testify to the greatness of our God.

There are no perfect people in the Bible NOT NAMED JESUS. There are no perfect people in churches ONLY JESUS.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 25:8-30

The End of Judah

Again, I am reminded today of the ravages of addiction as a comparison to what happened to ancient Israel. The combined kingdoms to the north and now the south are gone. What was once a thriving nation and a regional power in the ancient Middle East is now destroyed and laid low. What was once the home of King Solomon that drew foreign dignitaries from all over Africa, the Middle East and the other regions is now a desolate shell. All the people of Jerusalem are either shipped off to Babylon or have been killed. Only the poor and destitute remain. In the final hours of Jerusalem, things had gotten so bad that during the siege of Jerusalem people starved to death and some resorted to cannibalism. How far Israel had fallen.

I am reminded of how substance addictions can do the same thing to people as did the pride, arrogance, and idol worship did to the people of Israel. Addictions can lead you away from God. Addictions can cause you to worship only the drug of your addiction. It can cause you to lie, cheat and steal to get what you want. Ancient Israel was similar in that there was always political intrigue that led to a weakened nation and led people to do evil things to get or maintain power. They quit worshiping God and began worshiping themselves. They were no longer a set apart nation. They became what they thought they would never become. A pagan nation worshiping idols. Drug addiction consumes who you once were to the point that the person you once knew is no longer. An addicted person will lie, cheat and steal to get and maintain their addictions. They will make alliances with people that will use and abuse them just to maintain their addiction. They will throw away a good life just to get what they want.

The definition of insanity, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You see this in ancient Israel and in an addicted person. In the southern kingdom, they saw the idol worship and intrigue and pride and self-destruction that took place in the northern kingdom that led to its subjugation by Assyria (and then later Babylon when Babylon conquered Assyria). That was not warning enough for Judah to change its ways and return to God. They kept doing the same things that Israel was doing because, well, it’s different for us. We are not like Israel but yet they were exactly the same doing the same things. It led to their ruin as well. You often see addicted persons think that what happens to other addicts will not happen to them because it’s me, I am different from that person.

All in all, you both end up in the same place. Israel and Judah lie in ruins and now have lost everything that ever meant anything to them. The same is true for addicted persons. They will not realize their own destruction until they have lost everything and sometimes are living on the streets or in their car. Sometimes, it takes losing everything to wake a nation up. Sometimes, it takes losing everything to wake an addicted person up to the reality that they have indeed lost everything to their addiction.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read this final passage of 2 Kings and the end of the original united kingdom of Israel as we have known it from the biblical record. Israel/Judah is done. Finished. Never to be the same again. Jerusalem is a shell of the greatness it once had. What can happen from here? This is rock bottom. Their freedom is gone. Their nation is gone. Their prized city is destroyed. They are no more. What can happen from here? Let’s read this final passage, 2 Kings 25:8-30, now:

8 In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 10 All the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon—all the rest of the population. 12 But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.

13 The bronze pillars that were in the house of the Lord, as well as the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 They took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the dishes for incense, and all the bronze vessels used in the temple service, 15 as well as the firepans and the basins. What was made of gold the captain of the guard took away for the gold, and what was made of silver, for the silver. 16 As for the two pillars, the one sea, and the stands, which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord, the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weighing. 17 The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and on it was a bronze capital; the height of the capital was three cubits; latticework and pomegranates, all of bronze, were on the capital all around. The second pillar had the same, with the latticework.

18 The captain of the guard took the chief priest Seraiah, the second priest Zephaniah, and the three guardians of the threshold; 19 from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the soldiers, and five men of the king’s council who were found in the city; the secretary who was the commander of the army who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 The king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah went into exile out of its land.

22 He appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan as governor over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had left. 23 Now when all the captains of the forces and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came with their men to Gedaliah at Mizpah, namely, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah son of the Maacathite. 24 Gedaliah swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid because of the Chaldean officials; live in the land, serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.” 25 But in the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men; they struck down Gedaliah so that he died, along with the Judeans and Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah. 26 Then all the people, high and low,[c] and the captains of the forces set out and went to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.

Jehoiachin Released from Prison

27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, King Evil-merodach of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released King Jehoiachin of Judah from prison; 28 he spoke kindly to him, and gave him a seat above the other seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes. Every day of his life he dined regularly in the king’s presence. 30 For his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, a portion every day, as long as he lived.

In this passage, we see the end of ancient Israel as we have known it from the biblical record with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. It is done. From the height of Israel’s power as a united kingdom when the Temple was completed in 962 BC until now, in 587 BC, 375 years has passed. That’s how quickly the combined kingdoms of Israel and Judah descended from their glory years under Solomon until the disappearance of what was ancient Israel. The temple was destroyed and Jerusalem the crown jewel of the two kingdoms now lay in ruins. It is the rock bottom moment of ancient Israel. The question becomes will Israel return to God? They have lost everything and are now in captivity and subject to the leadership of a foreign power, Babylon. They freedom they once enjoyed is now limited to the whims of the king of Babylon.

This story of the sad trail of destruction for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah so reminds of a substance abuse addiction problem. Israel and Judah got enticed by the self-desires and self-lusts that straying from God will lead you into. Once you get started on that drug of straying from God and feeling that you do not need Him anymore is addictive. Self-determination. Making ourselves our own god. Lusting after the things that we want. Seeing God as holding you back from the desires of your heart are more appealing that simply obeying God. Sometimes obeying God seems the harder thing so worshiping ourselves is the easy way out addiction.

Sometimes the only way to help an addict is for them to realize that they have hit rock bottom. It is only when an addict has lost everything that they can begin to realize the destruction that their chosen substance has wrought in their life. An addiction can become so powerful that it blinds you to the things that you are losing until everything is gone and you even lose the ability to finance your addiction anymore. It is only then, when the addiction has used you up and left you laying literally in the street, that change is possible.

For us in our relationship with God, it often takes getting to the end of ourselves before we realize that we need God’s help. We do not have to be a substance abuser to be an idol worshiper. We can worship ourselves without addictions. We can lust after anything that is not God and those things will ultimately lead us to destruction. It is only often that when we have reached the rock bottom of our life that we can see that we need God. It is only then that when we have reached the end of ourselves and what a mess we have made of our lives that we can see Jesus. It is only then that we can let go of our idols whatever they may be and seek God’s help through Jesus to change our lives from the inside out. It is only then often that we are ready to be a child of God ready to obey Him. It is only then that we can see obedience to God as that which is good for us instead of restricting us. It is only then that we can look up from rock bottom.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 24:18-25:7

Zedekiah’s Reign Comes to an End

This passage is sanitized version of what happened at the end of the reign of Zedekiah, the last ruler of what had been the nation of Judah. From other Old Testament books, we know that during the siege there was famine in the land at the same time. It was during this time that people were literally starving to death in Jerusalem. There is even mention of cannibalism during the siege. The beautiful city of Jerusalem was now the scene of unimaginable pain, sorrow and privation. Much of the pain and sorrow could have been avoided if Zedekiah had willingly surrendered to the Babylonian king. The destruction of Jerusalem was inevitable because of this final rebellion by Zedekiah. The hope for an independent nation of Judah was now just a memory. It had all come crumbling down because of the stubbornness of the people and particularly Judah’s kings. They had become consumed with their self-seeking and idol worship. They had ignored God and his counsel concerning their behavior and its effect on their future.

It reminds us in the modern day of how we can be blinded by pride and become consumed by it. It will become more important than God, than family, than friends. Pride like an addiction to drugs will cause us to lie, cheat, steal, and use people to get what they want and need. In this passage, we see that Zedekiah became so consumed with his own pride that he was willing to allow the siege to continue far longer than it should have. He did not care as long as he was king – even if it was king of nothing. Often those with addictions to pride will trample over the feelings of others just so they can get what they want. Pride makes people very self-centered. Pride causes people to view everyone and everything in their life through the portal of what it can do for them and their ability to feed their own desires.

Here, we are not told why Zedekiah rebelled against the Babylonian king, but it probably had to do with pride and not wanting to be subject the rules of a foreign king – even though Judah was so weak that it could not rid itself of Babylon. The circumstances of the internal decay and giving away the nation’s treasury to foreign kings to maintain some semblance of independence had crushed any ability for Judah to be strong again. But yet Zedekiah rebelled. Even though he would have been better served to just do what Nebuchadnezzar told him to do, he could have continued to live a life of some semblance of being king. But pride got in the way. He was addicted to his own pride of who he was. He wanted to control his own destiny to continue living as he wanted to live – even if it flew in the face of reason. Just submitting to those in authority of you could have spared him his humiliation and eventual death in captivity and spared his people starvation. However, pride was so all consuming that it blinded him to the realities of life.

Have you ever been so blinded by something, addiction, pride, self-seeking, etc. that it caused you to make decisions that are detrimental to you and possibly others? That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 2 Kings 24:18-25:7. When we become consumed in self-centered activities, we drift away from God and make our own desires the god of our lives. When we leave God out of our lives, we make what we want more important that realities of life, relationships with others, and so on. With that in mind, let’s read this passage now:

18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. 19 But Zedekiah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as Jehoiakim had done. 20 These things happened because of the Lord’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Chapter 25

1 So on January 15, during the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon led his entire army against Jerusalem. They surrounded the city and built siege ramps against its walls. 2 Jerusalem was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign.

3 By July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the famine in the city had become very severe, and the last of the food was entirely gone. 4 Then a section of the city wall was broken down. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonians, the soldiers waited for nightfall and escaped[d] through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden. Then they headed toward the Jordan Valley.

5 But the Babylonian troops chased the king and overtook him on the plains of Jericho, for his men had all deserted him and scattered. 6 They captured the king and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where they pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. 7 They made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.

In this passage, we see that Zedekiah’s eyes were gouged out. One can only assume that this act was highly painful and humiliating all at once. Blinding was a common punishment for rebellious captives in the ancient Near East (see Ezekiel 12:13). Zedekiah ignored the counsel of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:14–28). Jeremiah had urged the king to surrender to Babylon because the Lord’s judgment was inevitable. Through a peaceful surrender, Jerusalem could be spared destruction. Zedekiah’s stubborn resistance brought only horrible results for both his family and the people. Zedekiah himself died in Babylon (see Jeremiah 52:11).

When we become addicted to our own desires it pushes God to the side and makes us see people as pawns in our game of self-determination. When we become addicted to our own desires, it blinds us often to the realities of life. It blinds us to what is good for us in the long run as long as we are getting what we want in the short term. It is only through submitting to God that we realize that the world is not solely about us and what we want. We finally see ourselves for what we really are – sinners who use people to get what we want without remorse or care.

Even though the people have been exiled and the land has been lost, God’s spokesmen continue to preach and write to the remnant of Israel. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all have important messages to give to the people of God. The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC is the end of an era, but it is not the end of God’s plan for Israel and the rest of the world. It is a reminder that even though we can destroy our lives at times through our own pride, our own addictions to self-centered activities, we can be redeemed by repenting of our sinful behavior before God, asking for forgiveness, and believing in Jesus Christ as the Lord over our lives. He can redeem even the most utterly destroyed life and making it into something beautiful and useful to the kingdom of God.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 24:10-17

Babylon Captures Jerusalem

As Americans, we live in the wealthiest of nations in the history of mankind. As Americans, we generally think of ourselves as the best at everything and we are miffed if we ever come up short in…anything. We also feel as though our wealth, our international economic and social superiority will last forever. In the ever compressed time frames of the electronic and media age, we have been top dogs for so long that we think it will last forever. Just as fans of college football teams who are dominant for a time always think it will last forever, so are we of that way of thinking as Americans in general about our country.

There were great University of Miami teams from the mid-80’s through the early 2000’s. There were great Florida State University teams during the same time period. Then, those two programs were the class of college football. They were the dominant teams that won 7 national championships between them during that time period. Now, they are two programs mired in mediocrity that struggle to qualify for bowl games each year. They are no longer relevant in the national championship chase each year. Currently and during the past decade, University of Alabama and Clemson University have been the dominant programs. Each of them highly successful. Each of them with multiple national titles. They have played each other for the national championship in three out of the last four years. But this too shall pass. They will cycle downward at some point. It just happens. One day in the future, Alabama and Clemson will lose their stranglehold on the national championship discussions. But in the moment, fans of these teams think that this ride that they are on will never end.

It is the same with our nation in general. The reason that we have experienced such abundance over the centuries is because we have generally been a nation governed by biblical concepts. Sure, there is ugliness in our past that are reprehensible, but in general we have been a nation ruled by biblical concepts. To raise ourselves out of the ugly parts of our past, we have used biblical concepts as our rationale for ending the ugliness. We have been a nation founded on biblical principles. However, for decades now, we in our opulence have begun to drift away from God. We have become spoiled in our opulence and think that we are our own gods. We have removed God from the public square and replaced it with a self-determined humanism. At some point, God is going to withdraw his blessing from our nation. At some point, he will allow other countries to slowly gain greater and greater world power and edge us off the stage as the most relevant and feared nation on earth. It will happen. The greater problem that will allow that to happen in our decay from within. Just as the nations of Israel and Judah became self-involved in power struggles and entertaining themselves and began paying less attention to the world around them, we too shall decay from within. We have become a nation that does not recognize God. We worship ourselves and we decide what is right and wrong in our own eyes. All that we believe in ultimately boils down to what makes us feel good individually. We no longer truly worship God as a nation.

The withdrawal of blessing from Israel and Judah by God led to their demise. It is the same with the United States. That’s what I thought of this morning when I read this passage, 2 Kings 24:10-17, this morning. Let’s read it now together:

10 During Jehoiachin’s reign, the officers of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up against Jerusalem and besieged it. 11 Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived at the city during the siege. 12 Then King Jehoiachin, along with the queen mother, his advisers, his commanders, and his officials, surrendered to the Babylonians.

In the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had said beforehand, Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the treasures from the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace. He stripped away[a] all the gold objects that King Solomon of Israel had placed in the Temple. 14 King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land.

15 Nebuchadnezzar led King Jehoiachin away as a captive to Babylon, along with the queen mother, his wives and officials, and all Jerusalem’s elite. 16 He also exiled 7,000 of the best troops and 1,000 craftsmen and artisans, all of whom were strong and fit for war. 17 Then the king of Babylon installed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s[b] uncle, as the next king, and he changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah.

In this passage, we see that the Babylonian troops were already on the march to crush Jehoiakim’s rebellion, when he died. After Jehoiakim’s death, his son Jehoiachin became king of Judah, only to face the mightiest army on earth at the time just weeks after he was crowned (597 BC). During this second of three invasions by the Babylonians, they looted the Temple and took most of the leaders of the Judean people captive, including the king. Then, Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah, another son of Josiah, on the throne. However, the Jews did not recognize as their true king as long as Jehoiachin was still alive, even though he was captive in Babylon. From this point forward, Judah as an independent nation is no more. This is the beginning of the end of ancient Israel, the northern kingdom already gone and now the southern is now no longer independent and soon to be crushed completely.

This passage reflects that Israel and Judah had strayed so far from God that He no longer blessed these nations. It all begin to unravel at the end of Solomon’s reign and now here we are at the end of two nations that once were one and once were strong. Two nations that were once one that worshipped the Lord and organized their society and ran it according to God’s Word. Now, after eliminating God as the center of their lives and pursuing their own desires and self-interests, they are subjects of a foreign power. They lost what they had. They lost the Lord’s blessing over their nation.

It will be the same for the United States. Our days of glory in the sun was directly related to the general tenor of our nation being one that recognized God as the source of our blessings. Our demise will be caused by our beginning to worship ourselves instead of God. It is a clarion call to us as Christ followers to take note of what happened in 2 Kings to both Israel and Judah. I am sure that there were God fearing people in those times in both nations, but they sat quiet and did nothing as their nation came unhinged. We as Christians can no longer sit quietly as our nation follows the same path as Israel and Judah. We cannot be the frog in the pot of water where the heat is turned up slowly and we just sit there until it is too late. We must become active with our faith. We must change the world one person at a time. We must share the gospel in our spheres of influence. We, too, must begin taking a more active role in running for public office. We need to get our of our comfort of our great rooms and 70 inch flat panel TVs and get involved in the public square and regain this nation’s footing in biblical governance concepts. Otherwise, history will repeat itself. The ride will end when we have been consumed from within and then from without.

Amen and Amen.