Bible Reading Blog
BIBLE READING: 2 Chronicles 24.20-22, Matthew 23.29-36
“Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’” But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 24.20-21)
Zechariah’s message was pointed but it was what the people needed to hear. Their choices had separated them from God. Why didn’t they want to hear that? It was indicting and personal. The reality of his words was overshadowed by their offense at him. Would you want to hear what Zechariah had to say?
When we read that story, we probably don’t put ourselves in the shoes of the murderous mob. Surely, we think, we would have listened. We wouldn’t have treated the prophet this way. We would have turned back to God. That’s what the Pharisees said (Matthew 23.29-30), but Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. In rejecting his message of repentance, they were doing the very same thing their fathers had done to the prophets (Matthew 23.31, 34).
I pray we read these stories with humility for we are not that different than those of the past. Our practice of faith can easily digress into self-assured reliance upon present “goodness.” We must be warned. The scriptures reveal that only a remnant of people is truly faithful to God and rarely do others stand with these kinds of people. These are challenges we must take seriously.
Our faith must be self-aware and repentant. I’m not saying we apply any and every accusation personally, but we must not be deceived about our own goodness. We naturally tend to drift from God and need to be shaken back into reality at times. Our hearts ought to be so geared towards God’s righteousness that we are willing to accept our limitations and failures. This awareness is evident in all people of faith we have seen in Hebrews 11.
Furthermore, this conviction motivated their desire to see others be right with God. Zechariah didn’t elevate himself so others would see his superior faith. Instead, he had no agenda but to reconcile people to God. We must appreciate how true faith compelled these people to act and speak. Our faith ought to be so deeply rooted in God’s rightness that it moves us to make it known.
When God’s righteousness collides with the lives and desires of men, there will always be a fallout. As people of faith, we must see this as part of our refining and our calling. We are salt to preserve the world from judgment and light to expose reality. Let us not fear the fallout but trust what God has promised: he will reward those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11.6).
BIBLE READING: 1 Kings 22
“And [Ahab] said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” (1 Kings 22.8)
We like stories that end as they should. Through scripture, we gain comfort knowing that, by faith, good overcomes evil, justice prevails, and outcomes are resolved. Hebrews 11 serves to ground our hope by letting us see the blessedness of people who lived by faith. But it also reminds that resolved outcomes are not promised in this life. While some ‘enforced justice, obtained promises, and [even] stopped the mouths of lions’ (Hebrews 11.33), others ‘were tortured… suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment’ (Hebrews 11.35-36). This verse challenges us to consider some uncomfortable realities. Faith does not make me immune to suffering. Many times, people of faith endured lonely circumstances. They were mistreated and rejected.
Imagine having the reputation of Micaiah. He was a known man of God whose commitment to speak God’s words got him publicly berated and thrown into prison (1 Kings 22.13-28). His peers were swayed by the power of the king, but Micaiah understood his calling (1 Kings 22.6, 14). Even though he spoke the truth, his staunch faith got him labeled a troublemaker. Like many prophets, his story ends with negativity with him stuck in prison. Surely this wasn’t what he wanted, but it was where faith took him and many others.
Consider the story of Jeremiah. He was thrown in a pit, into prison and put in stocks for sharing God’s message of judgment. He was relentlessly opposed by false prophets with a more pleasant message (see Jeremiah 20.1-6; 28.1-17; 29.24-32). Jeremiah wished he could give a message of peace and hope to his people, but God had told him something very different (Jeremiah 28.5-9). Not only was he personally affected by his commitment to faith, but he had to endure the very atrocities that he foretold on the nation (Jeremiah 39). And yet he remained faithful to God’s calling for him.
The point is this: We mustn’t be delusional about faith’s offering. It settles our heart with peace that is not contingent on present circumstances. By faith, we are on a mission from God to be salt and light in this world. There will be times our work is fruitful and positive. But the reality is, many times it will be difficult. Many people of faith died without justice or resolution because they believed God had prepared something better for them. We must fix our minds in this way. If we focus on the negatives, we are prone to shrink back from the mission of our faith. My friends, we mustn’t be short-sighted.
There are present blessings we can enjoy, but we must not be settled by the temporary. Nothing here will compare to what is coming. When our lives are moved by the calling of God and the hope of his promise, we may experience discomfort; but our hope is in God’s promise of better things beyond this life.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8.18)
BIBLE READING: Hebrews 11.33b
The common theme in our reading this week is those who, by faith, stopped the mouths of lions. A short investigation through a biblical concordance shows that lions are frequently used as metaphors in the Old Testament. Their reputation is one of ferocity and danger. In scripture they are often used as objects of fear, destruction, and terror (see Psalm 7.1-2; 17.12; Proverbs 20.2; 1 Peter 5.8). When David was surrounded by Saul, he compared his situation to being “in the midst of lions” (Psalm 57.4; cf. 1 Samuel 22). In ancient times lions were used as a form of corporal punishment (Daniel 6.16). Even God described his punishment on the nations with lion imagery (Hosea 5.14; 13.7; Nahum 2.11-13). The presence of a lion is a force to be reckoned with.
And yet the writer of Hebrews puts simply that people of faith were able to stop the mouths of lions. This phrase immediately brings to mind the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. When the king banned prayer to other gods, Daniel immediately went home and prayer to the true God (Daniel 6.7-10). For his defiance, the king threw Daniel in the lion’s den. But God sent an angel to “shut the lions’ mouths (6.22), and Daniel was unharmed.
But this wasn’t the first time God stopped the lion’s mouth for people of faith. When attacked by a lion, “the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon [Samson], and he tore the lion in pieces” (Judges 14.6). In preparing to fight Goliath, God, David recounted that God allowed him to deliver his sheep from the mouth of the lions and would deliver his enemy in the same way (1 Samuel 17.34-37). Time and again, the power of God is shown to be greater than that of the lion.
Why do these things matter? King Darius seemed to understand when he brought Daniel out of the lion’s den. “[the living God] delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6.26–27). These events witness to God’s ability to save. As David would say to Saul, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion… will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17.36-37). There is no foe too great when compared to God. But more importantly, it is only by his power that people of faith can overcome the enemy.
We understand that Satan prowls like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5.8). We are called resist him, but how? Being firm in faith knowing that his advances have not only been experienced by brethren throughout history but overcome by the power of God (1 Peter 5.9). We may have to suffer a little while (1 Peter 5.10), but God will rescue and deliver those who put their trust in him.
BIBLE READING: Joshua 21.43-45
Most of Hebrews 11 discusses specific people and circumstances. We are familiar with many of the characters: Abraham, Moses, David— they are viewed as giants of faith. But Hebrews 11.32-38 opens the floodgates of our scriptural knowledge. It invites us to consider the lives of many unnamed others who by faith engaged life with determination and courage.
This week we are considering those that by faith “obtained promises” (Hebrews 11.33b). There are notable examples of this, but the reading in Joshua 21 stands out to me. The language of Joshua 21 clearly echoes the promises of God to Abraham and through Moses (Genesis 13.15; 15.18; Deuteronomy 7.24). These set of verses are a Divine rest stop in scripture for God’s people to reflect on fulfilled promises and be assured of future faithfulness. He didn’t just come through; “Not one word of the good promises that the LORD had made… had failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21.45). He gave them victory and rest.
God’s promises were the anthem of praise and hope for every generation of God’s people (see Psalm 105). By faith, his people rehearsed and received the promises of God. But more importantly, by faith many were motivated to both commitment and change. We must never miss the response we see from people of faith. By faith they were moved to action. This is the admonition of Hebrews 11 to us. In the words of Joshua, “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24.15).
Do you know the promises God has made to his people? More importantly, do you believe the promises of God? Do you trust that every word of God will prove true (Proverbs 30.5; Psalm 12.6-7)? What are you doing in light of God’s promises?
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7.1).
God has promised his people today an inheritance and a future (Ephesians 1; 1 Peter 1). These promised are substantiated by passages like Joshua 21.43-45. By faith, we must reflect on what God has done. We must personalize and rehearse the promises of God to his people. By faith, will grow to love and appreciate the God who keeps his promises. It is his promises that secure our future, promise us peace, and inform our hope. Not one word has failed.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10.23)
“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” (1 John 2.24-25)
BIBLE READING: 2 Samuel 8, 10
“So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people.” (2 Samuel 8.15)
War was par for the course in ancient times (2 Samuel 11.1). But not all war was selfish and power-mongering. By faith, David’s war efforts in 2 Samuel 10 secured the land God had given them (2 Samuel 8.3, 6). But these efforts also executed justice for those who had been shamed by this enemy (2 Samuel 10.4-ff). David would not allow those under his watch to be treated as such without coming to their defense; and his actions were blessed and commended by God (2 Samuel 8.6, 14).
We need to understand how motivated God is by justice. Justice held a central place throughout Jesus’ teaching and ministry. For Jesus, a lack of concern for the marginalized is not a minor oversight but reveals that a person is at odds with God. This is illustrated in the parable of the sheep and goats where the true sheep are those who have a heart for the hungry, the stranger, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned (Matthew 25.35-36).
This is an important yet challenging dynamic of faith. Because faith cares about what God cares about, it also acts to preserve what is right and good. By faith, David administered justice (2 Samuel 8.15; Hebrews 11.33). This is not a call to arms but rather to act for the good of others according to what is righteous and holy. Christians cannot be ambivalent to the need for justice in our world for it is the reason Christ died for my sins (Romans 5.8). Therefore, how we “do justice” (Micah 6.8) is a direct reflection of how we view God’s mercy and grace towards us. For us, justice can be administered in many ways. When we teach our children right and wrong, we are preparing them to do justice. When we serve those rejected and abandoned by society, we are showing justice. When we act according to God’s word to combat wrong thinking and actions, we are promoting justice. As we look at our world, we must be people motivated to do justice: to help the helpless, defend the weak and provide for those in need. Not for the sake of creating societal equality – that is never the point of justice! – but to show the same concern God shows for all humanity.
There will always be those who are helpless and marginalized. And while we seek to serve them, we must always point them to the justice we all receive from Jesus. In him, God is not only “just but the justifier of those who have faith in Christ” (Romans 3.26-27). In what small ways we can, let us honor him by seeking to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6.8).
“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely” (Proverbs 28.5)
"…learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1.17)