Category Archives: Books of History

Nehemiah 9 — God’s grace in the midst of our unfaithfulness

In this passage, we see the people coming before God to confess their sins.  And in this prayer, we see two things.  The unfaithfulness of the Jews and God’s grace. The prayer starts with how God created everything, and then … Continue reading

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Nehemiah 8 – Joy

After the wall was built, the Jews came to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets as commanded by God in Leviticus 23. And on this day, Ezra the priest read the law of God to the people.  Several things strike me … Continue reading

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Nehemiah 7 — Remaining vigilant

The walls of Jerusalem were now completed.  But even so, Nehemiah refused to let his guard down.  He put two men he knew he could trust, his brother Hanani (who had told him of the troubles of Jerusalem in chapter … Continue reading

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Nehemiah 6 — Lies, discernment, and strength

With the walls near completion, the enemies of the Jews made one last attempt to stop the work. First, they tried to lure Nehemiah out of the city where they could ambush and kill him.  Four times they tried to … Continue reading

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Nehemiah 5 — Division

Satan wasn’t having any success trying to stop the Jews’ work on Jerusalem’s walls through outside attacks.  So he tried another tactic.  He brought division between the Jews themselves, namely between the rich and the poor. Essentially, the poor among … Continue reading

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Nehemiah 4 — Rebuilding in the face of opposition

Under Nehemiah, work on the walls of Jerusalem began.  But it wasn’t long before the opposition started.  We see this at the end of chapter 2 when the Jews’ enemies tried to accuse them of rebellion.  That accusation no longer … Continue reading

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Nehemiah 2-3 — Rebuilding the walls

Nehemiah had a massive task ahead of him as he looked to repair the walls around Jerusalem. But it was an important one.  As long as the walls were down, the Jews were defenseless against their enemies.  And so after … Continue reading

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Ezra 4:7-23; Nehemiah 1-2 — The power to change hearts

As I’ve mentioned earlier, the book of Ezra, at least by the interpretation I’ve been going by (namely that Xerxes and Artaxerxes are Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I respectively), is not chronological.  And chapter 4 of Ezra gives us the … Continue reading

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Ezra 9-10 — Marrying ourselves to the world

This is one of the more difficult passages for me to deal with in the sense that God says that he hates divorce, and yet basically Ezra commands those who had taken foreign wives to divorce them.  In some cases, … Continue reading

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Ezra 7-8 — The gracious hand of God

We now return to the book of Ezra.  Xerxes is now dead (he was assassinated by the commander of his own royal bodyguard), and his son Artaxerxes is now on the throne.  At that time, Ezra, a priest of God … Continue reading

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Esther 10 — Working for the good of the people

The book of Esther finishes with a brief passage talking about Xerxes’ greatness and of Mordecai’s. What strikes me here is the last verse where it says,  Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the … Continue reading

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Esther 9 — Celebrating God’s goodness

Feasting.  Joy.  Celebration.  These are words you see again and again in this chapter.  After the Jews succeeded in defending themselves against their enemies, they celebrated their salvation. Not only that, but Mordecai and Esther started the first annual celebration … Continue reading

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Esther 7-9 — The God who defends us

Now we come to the dramatic scene in which Esther reveals her identity and makes her plea for her people before Xerxes.  I’m guessing that by this time, most of her fears are gone, as Xerxes has by this point … Continue reading

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Esther 5-6 — The God who controls chance

Haman threw his lot to determine the day that he would destroy the Jews.  Then God threw his own lot into the picture. After Haman returned from his banquet with Xerxes and the queen, he was on top of the … Continue reading

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Esther 4-5 — Courage

If there was one quality that both Mordecai and Esther had, it was courage.  Whether you agree or not with Mordecai’s decision not to bow to Haman, it did require courage not to do so, especially in the face of … Continue reading

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Esther 3 — Two proud men

It’s very interesting to me that one chapter after I praise Mordecai for honoring the king, I have to criticize him for his pride and stubbornness in not doing so for Haman. The Bible is silent on why Mordecai refused … Continue reading

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Esther 2:21-23 — Honoring those in authority

Having said what I did about Esther and Mordecai yesterday, some of you may think that I have little respect for them. Nothing could be further from the truth.  While I’m not sure I can agree with all of their … Continue reading

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Esther 2 — Working because of us or in spite of us?

As I was looking through one of my commentaries getting background for the book of Esther, one of them mentioned some of the moral issues people have had as they studied this book. It also noted that the name of … Continue reading

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Esther 1 – Honoring your wife

We are now hitting the book of Esther.  I must admit it took me by surprise that assuming, as many people do, that the Xerxes mentioned in Esther is Xerxes I, that these events happened during the time Ezra.  Somehow, … Continue reading

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Ezra 5-6 — When we commit ourselves

It took a long time for the Israelites to commit themselves to the building of the temple, but finally, at the urging of Zechariah and Haggai, they once again got started. And once again, almost as soon as they got … Continue reading

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Ezra 4:4-5, 24; Haggai 1 — Getting our priorities straight

Before I go on, I should make some comments on the chronology of events going forward.  I’ve mentioned before that there is a lot of dispute among scholars about the timing of events, and the more I dig, the more … Continue reading

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Ezra 4:1-5 — Opposition

Things are about to become messy concerning the chronology of Ezra.  I think I’ve got a handle on it now, but as we go through the next several blogs, keep in mind that there is quite a bit of dispute … Continue reading

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Ezra 3 — Joy and regret

In this passage, we see several things.  First, we see the restarting of sacrifices and offerings, and the first Feast of Tabernacles in years. But we also see the start of the rebuilding of the temple.  And after the Israelites … Continue reading

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II Chronicles 36:20-23; Ezra 1-2 — Called by name

And so after about ten months, we finally come to the end of II Chronicles.  Sometimes I thought we’d never get to the end of Kings and Chronicles. But here, and at the beginning of Ezra, we see the return … Continue reading

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II Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34 — Grace

And with one fell swoop, we finish two books, which happen to end with the same story.  We started II Kings way back in June of 2012, and many major and minor prophets later, we finally come to a close … Continue reading

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II Kings 25:22-26; Jeremiah 40:7-41:15 — Failing to heed the warning signs

After the fall of Jerusalem, a man named Gedaliah was named governor of the area by Nebuchadnezzar.  Gedaliah appears to be a good man, and he attempted to calm the fears of the remaining Jews and was successful.  In fact, … Continue reading

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II Kings 25:1-21; II Chronicles 36:11-21; Jeremiah 39: 1-10; Jeremiah 52 — Reasons for the fall

This is one of the few times in scripture that the same event is talked about in four different places.  Jeremiah 52 appears to be a historical appendix, however, and seems to have been added by someone other than Jeremiah.  … Continue reading

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II Kings 24:8-17; II Chronicles 36:9-10; Jeremiah 24 — God’s choice, our choice

The sovereignty of God and the free will of man is one of those things that has been a long-standing debate in the Christian world.  We see this tension in this passage, so we’ll discuss it a bit here, but … Continue reading

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II Kings 23-24; II Chronicles 36; Jeremiah 22 — To know God

The last four kings after Josiah can all be basically painted bad.  Jehoahaz (known as Shallum in Jeremiah 22), Jehoakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah all were miserable failures as kings.  We’ll take a closer look at the latter three later, but … Continue reading

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II Kings 23:29-30; II Chronicles 35:20-27 — One bad choice

Choice.  It is a gift.  And a responsibility.  Every day, we have choices in life that we face.  Some choices are mundane.  What to have for breakfast.  Whether to drive or take a bus or train to work. Other decisions … Continue reading

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II Kings 23:1-28; II Chronicles 34-35 — A superficial repentance

We now come to the beginning of the end for Judah.  Josiah was the last great king of Judah.  And on the surface, it looks like there was true repentance under his leadership.  He destroyed the false idols and altars.  … Continue reading

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II Kings 22:1-2; II Chronicles 34:1-8 — Cleaning out the junk

I’ll admit it.  I’m a pack rat.  I just have a tendency to keep unwanted and unneeded things around.  It’s my nature I guess. I would guess there are many people around like me.  But if there’s one thing that … Continue reading

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II Kings 21:19-25; II Chronicles 33:21-25 — Increasing our guilt

Hey!  Finally!  We’re back in the books of Kings and Chronicles…if only for a short time. The story of Amon, son of Manasseh, is very short, but not very sweet.  Like Manasseh, Amon got into all kinds of idolatries and … Continue reading

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II Kings 21:1-18; II Chronicles 33 — Never too late

“It’s too late for me son.” George Lucas called the Star Wars saga the redemption of Darth Vader.  How a young man got corrupted by evil but was eventually brought out of it through the love of his son. In … Continue reading

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II Kings 20:12-21; II Chronicles 32:24-33; Isaiah 39 — Forgetting God’s grace

It’s amazing to me that after all God had done for Hezekiah, that he still forgot God’s grace in his life.  It says in II Chronicles 32:25 But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness … Continue reading

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Isaiah 36-37; II Kings 18-19; II Chronicles 32:6-23 — Laying our problems before God

Hezekiah had finally turned his heart back to God, but it was still troubling times for the people of Judah, as Assyria was still bent on taking Jerusalem. But with his faith in God restored and perhaps taking heart from … Continue reading

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II Chronicles 32:1-5, 24-26; II Kings 20:1-11; Isaiah 38 — Humbled

Once again, a small caveat on the chronology of events:  I’m purely guessing here.  Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t put in one book, the blow by blow events of what happened.  So all I can do is try to piece together … Continue reading

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II Kings 18:13-16; Isaiah 30-31 — Where our strength and salvation come from

It’s hard to match up the events of history to the prophesies, but I’m guessing these two passages roughly go together. The king of Assyria (Sennacharib) was on the move again, and came against Judah, mainly because Hezekiah had rebelled … Continue reading

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II Chronicles 30-31 — Qualities of a leader

For some reason, the verbs associated with Hezekiah in these two chapters really strike me.  And they’re words that show the qualities God wants in his leaders.  What are they? Hezekiah prayed for his people (30:18).  In this case, there … Continue reading

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II Chronicles 30-31 — A call to repentance

One of the interesting things in this passage was that at a time when there were probably still hard feelings between Israel and Judah, Hezekiah reached out to the remnant that remained in the northern kingdom after the Assyrians had … Continue reading

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II Kings 18:1-12; II Chronicles 29 — Returning to God

It’s been a while since we’ve hit the history books.  Time to get back in it.  And here we run into one of the great kings of Judah, Hezekiah.  The writer of Kings says of him, There was no one … Continue reading

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II Kings 17:24-41 — Serving two (or more) masters

This passage serves as a bit of an epilogue to the end of the kingdom of Israel. After the Israelites were deported to Assyria, other people were brought in by the Assyrians to settle in the Israelite towns.  But soon, … Continue reading

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II Kings 17:1-23 — But I’m not that bad!

In this passage we come to the end of the northern kingdom of Israel.  After a succession of bad kings, it culminates with the reign of Hoshea.  The interesting thing to me is that he wasn’t the worst of the … Continue reading

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II Kings 16:10-16; II Chronicles 28:5-15; Isaiah 8-9 — A rock to stand on; a rock to stumble over.

Compromise.  It’s so easy to do, especially when it comes to our faith.  And God asks us to make a decision.  Will we stand for him?  Or give in to the pressure around us? Two prophets of God, Oded and … Continue reading

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II Kings 16; II Chronicles 28; Isaiah 7-8 — Who do you fear? Who do you trust?

As I mentioned before, when Ahaz son of Jotham took the throne in Judah, he led the people further into idolatry.  It says in Kings and Chronicles that he started making idols for worshiping the Baals and that he even … Continue reading

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II Kings 15:32-38; II Chronicles 27:1-9 — Almost perfect

In this passage, we have a very short account of the reign of King Jotham of Judah.  For the most part, he was a good king.  It says in II Chronicles, He did what was right in the eyes of … Continue reading

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II Kings 15:18-31 — Disobedience, blood, and defeat

At this point, we’ll take a brief break from Isaiah and stick up our heads to see where we are in the book of II Kings. In short, it was the beginning of the end for the northern kingdom of … Continue reading

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II Kings 15:1-7; II Chronicles 26 — Where pride leads

Like father, like son.  That’s the tale of Amaziah and Uzziah (also known as Azariah).  Both started out well, but then gave into their own pride. In Uzziah’s case, he got some godly counsel from a man named Zechariah (not … Continue reading

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II Kings 14:23-29 — The God who remains faithful though we are not

In this passage, we see yet another evil king in the history of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam II.  His life is very unique among the kings listed, in that God helped him despite the fact that he was an evil … Continue reading

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II Kings 14:1-21; II Chronicles 25 — How we respond to God’s word

Pride would be the downfall of Judah’s next two kings, Amaziah and Uzziah.  In the case of Amaziah, his problem can be summed up in II Chronicles 25:2 where it says, He did what was right in the eyes of … Continue reading

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II Kings 13:20-21 — The God who gives life

This is one of the more interesting, if short, stories that we see in scripture.  After Elisha had died and was buried, the Israelites continued to have problems with their neighbors, in this case, raiding bands from Moab. As a … Continue reading

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II Kings 13:10-25 — Respect, or wholehearted devotion?

One wonders at the relationship between Jehoash and Elisha.  Jehoash, according to this passage did evil in the eyes of the Lord and continued the idol worship of his father and the kings before him. But still, there seemed to … Continue reading

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II Kings 13:1-9 — Never too late

Jehoahaz was one of a long line of bad kings in Israel’s (that is, the northern kingdom’s) history.  Like his father Jehu, he continued the worship of the golden calves rather than serving the Lord.  As a result, God allowed … Continue reading

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II Kings 12:17-21; II Chronicles 24:14-27 — The little boy who never grew up

The little boy who never grew up.  Kind of sounds like Peter Pan, doesn’t it? It also describes Joash, unfortunately.  Raised and mentored by Jehoiada the priest, Joash served the Lord for the first part of his life.  He even … Continue reading

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II Kings 12:1-16; II Chronicles 24:1-16 — Getting our temples cleaned up

Joash, under the tutelage of Jehoiada the priest, got off to a good start.  One thing he wanted to do early in his reign was to restore the temple.  The temple had been damaged, probably during the reign of Ahaziah … Continue reading

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II Kings 11; II Chronicles 22-23 — The rightful king

One wonders what Jehoshaphat would have done if he had only seen the future.  He had made an alliance with Ahab’s family through the marriage of his son to Athaliah, Ahab’s daughter.  What would Jehoshaphat have thought if he had … Continue reading

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II Kings 9-10 — Doing the right thing (or the wrong thing) for the wrong reasons

Jehu had a mixed legacy as king of Israel.  On one hand, he fulfilled God’s will in destroying the house of Ahab, for which he was commended.  God told him that because of this, his dynasty would last four generations.  … Continue reading

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II Kings 8:25-27; II Chronicles 22:1-5 — Who to listen to?

There was an old song in the 80s that said, You’ve got to know who to, who not to listen to. They’re gonna hit you from all sides. You’ve gotta make up your mind who to, who not to listen … Continue reading

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II Kings 8-9; II Chronicles 22 — Contradictions?

One interesting thing about trying to chronologicalize the events set forth in Kings and Chronicles is that the details are not always exactly the same.  In fact, there are times when they seem downright contradictory.  The death of Ahaziah (that … Continue reading

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II Kings 8:16-24; II Chronicles 21 — Ignoring God’s warnings

I wish sometimes that the Israelites had been a bit more creative in naming their children.  It gets a little confusing to keep track of sometimes.  First you have Ahaziah, king of Israel, and Joram (short for Jehoram) his brother … Continue reading

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II Kings 8:7-14 — Nothing hidden from God

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  That’s the age old question.  Of course, as Christians, we’d say the chicken. In the case of this story, which came first, Elisha’s prophesy of Hazael’s assension to the throne, or Hazael’s … Continue reading

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II Kings 8:1-6 — God’s perfect timing

The story here is an interesting on a couple of levels.  First, the issue of Gehazi.  The last we saw of him, he had been struck with leprosy for his deception of Naaman in chapter 5.  Now he’s seen here … Continue reading

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II Kings 6-7 — Out of patience, low on faith

The respite that the Israelites gained from the kindness they showed to the Arameans didn’t last long.  Once again, the king of Aram led another assault on Samaria, the capital of Israel, laying siege to it.  No food was coming … Continue reading

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II Kings 6:18-23 — Returning good for evil

“If I ever get my hands on him…” “You won’t know when.  You won’t know where.  But someday…” Have you ever said these things?  When we’ve been hurt, these are common thoughts to have.  But they’re not the way God … Continue reading

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II Kings 6:8-17 — Eyes that see beyond

I can’t say I read this story very often, nor do I think I’ve ever heard it preached on in Japan in the 17 years I’ve been here.  But I’ve got to say it’s probably one of my favorite stories … Continue reading

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II Kings 6:1-7 — Nothing too small

What amazes me about God is that he is concerned even with the minor details of our lives.  There is nothing that he considers too small to bring up to his attention. In this story, some of the prophets were … Continue reading

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II Kings 5 — The salvation that comes from God

As I read this passage, it reminds me of the salvation that we receive from God. First, we learn that it needs to be proclaimed in order for people to receive it.  It’s amazing to me that this girl, who … Continue reading

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II Kings 4:38-44 — The God who preserves, the God who provides

In these two short stories, we see the loving care of God. In the first, in the midst of a famine, Elisha has his servant prepare a stew for a company of prophets that were meeting with him.  But unbeknownst … Continue reading

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II Kings 4:8-36 — Giver of life, restorer of hope

The life of Elisha, in many ways, parallels that of Elijah in terms of the miracles that he performed.  At a guess, this list of miracles was noted to show that Elisha did indeed receive that double portion of Elijah’s … Continue reading

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II Kings 4:1-7 — An unpayable debt

I hate being in debt.  I don’t use my credit cared often, but when I do, I always pay it it off before the end of the month.  My only other debt is the one I owe on my house.  … Continue reading

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II Kings 3 — Doing God’s will, or our own?

Joram, king of Israel, was facing a rebellion by Moab.  After being subject to his father Ahab, the Moabites now refused to pay tribute to Israel, and so Joram allied himself with Judah and Edom to attack the Moabites. Once … Continue reading

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II Kings 2:23-25 — When we defy God’s word in our lives

This is a passage that is an uncomfortable reminder of what happens when we defy God’s word in our lives.  I’m not talking about ignorance of God’s word.  I’m talking about outright defiance. In this passage, Elisha was going up … Continue reading

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II Kings 2:19-22 — Being salt to an unproductive and dying land

This country is a swamp.  In time you will come to see that for yourself.  This country is a more terrible swamp than you can imagine.  Whenever you plant a sapling in this swamp the roots begin to rot, the … Continue reading

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II Samuel 22; Psalm 18 — The God who hears, the God who helps, the God who strengthens

Where is God?  Sometimes as we’re going through trials, we wonder where he is.  Does he see?  Does he hear? I’m sure David went through times when he felt that way.  When he was fleeing from Saul and Absalom in … Continue reading

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Psalm 106; I Chronicles 16:34-36 — A history of disobedience…and mercy

In this Psalm, David recounts the history of Israel.  And it isn’t a very positive one.  It recounts how time and again, Israel turned their backs on God.  In many ways, it also reflects our lives. 1.  They rebelled against … Continue reading

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Psalm 96; I Chronicles 16:23-33 — Declaring God to the nations

God has a purpose for us.  And it’s clearly defined here in this psalm.  What is it? David wrote, 1 Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. 2 Sing to the LORD, praise … Continue reading

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I Chronicles 16:8-22; Psalm 105 — A God who remembers his promises

At the time that the ark was brought into Jerusalem, David wrote a psalm of thanks.  Either it was a medley of three Psalms (96, 105, and 106), or it was all originally one song and David broke it up … Continue reading

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I Samuel 23:19-29; Psalm 54 — When the world seems against you

“Everyone is against me!” Sometimes things seem that way to us, even if it’s not strictly true.  David must have felt that way at times.  The Ziphites, who didn’t even know David, offered to help Saul find and capture David.  … Continue reading

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I Samuel 21:10-15; Psalm 56 — In God we trust

In America, written on all of our coins and bills is a simple phrase written that says, “In God we trust.”  It seems a little ironic to me, considering that nowadays, people tend to trust money a lot more than … Continue reading

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Psalm 52 — Our words and what is behind them

“I really shouldn’t have said that.” How often do we look back and say that?  The tongue is very small, but also very powerful, as the book of James points out.  It has the power to give life, building people … Continue reading

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I Samuel 19:8-24; Psalm 59 — Remembering God’s goodness

“Why is this happening to me?  Don’t you care God?  Where are you?” When bad things happen in our lives, that’s typically how we respond.  And if there were someone who had a right to say that, it was David.  … Continue reading

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Judges 13 — He whose name is Wonderful

It’s amazing how often Jesus seems to appear in the Old Testament.  And this appears to be another case of Jesus appearing as a messenger (the word “angel” basically means “messenger”)  for his Father. This time he appears to a … Continue reading

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Judges 11:29-40 — Interpreting the sacrifice of Jephthah

This is one of the more difficult passages in scripture to interpret.  Did Jephthah really sacrifice his daughter on an altar to God?  And if he did, did God approve of this action? We’ve already addressed the second question in … Continue reading

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