Bible, Bible Study

A Weeping Profit

For years now, I have urged women to read through the Bible using the chronological plan. It’s especially helpful for getting all the historical events of Old Testament history in order so you can understand what precipitated what’s happening in whichever book you’re currently reading.

But there’s another reason it’s helpful. A reason that’s difficult to put into the right words, but one I think is equally important as understanding the historical order of events.

I’ve read through the Bible a few times using the chronological plan, and I started it again this past January. It started out OK, like it always does. You’ve got Creation. You’ve got a bunch of godly patriarchs: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses. You’ve got God rescuing His people from Egypt and bringing them into the Promised Land. And, of course, along the way, you’ve got instances of some pretty heinous sins committed by individuals. But the overall, visceral sense you get is that God is advancing His plan through godly people. He’s working to establish His people in their land and prosper them.

Then, along about the time Solomon’s wives turn his heart away from God and entice him into idolatry, you start getting this sense of foreboding. Things are changing. Something is about to happen and it isn’t going to be good. And that’s exactly what comes to pass. You get slammed with a bunch of evil kings. Oh sure, there’s the occasional bright spot of an Asa, a Hezekiah, a Josiah. But the bad kings keep coming more and more frequently, each one more and more depraved. And God’s people, led by these evil kings, plunge headlong into sin and idolatry that’s worse than that of the pagan nations God had them drive out when they entered the Promised Land.

You sit in the midst of the filth and rebellion of God’s people for months – knowing that, for them, it was actually centuries – feeling your skin crawl at the evil you’re reading about. You hear God cry out to Israel through the prophets, to turn around and come back to Him. You see Him pour out a little bit of His wrath on His people here and there. Just a taste of what’s to come if they don’t repent and return. You sit there, helpless and frustrated, knowing what’s going to happen to these people, aching for them to just stop it! Stop sinning. Humble yourselves. Rend your hearts and not your garments

But they don’t. No matter how many times you read the Old Testament hoping and pleading with Israel to change her ways so that there will be a happy ending, it never works out that way. God’s people continue to forge ahead, inventing new ways of doing evil. Whoring after idols of stick and stone. Abandoning the God who saved them and carried them.

By August (in the chronological reading plan) I’d been watching these people sink lower and lower into degradation and debauchery for the better part of a year. But then I started reading Jeremiah, and I realized another reason he’s often called “the weeping prophet”. Yes, he was probably lonely since God didn’t allow him to marry and have a family for support. Yes, he was grieved that his people wouldn’t turn back from their sin. But after reading the first three chapters of his book, I had to think Jeremiah had yet another reason for weeping. 

The words God put in Jeremiah’s mouth are the words of the broken heart of God:

I remember when you loved Me and were loyal to Me; how we enjoyed sweet fellowship. You trusted Me and I protected you. You followed me and I provided for you. You lifted up my Name, and I lifted up yours in the eyes of the nations.

You’ve never been able to say that I wronged you. I have never let you down. I have never failed you.

And despite all of My love and care for you, you have cast Me aside. You have chosen the sewer over your Savior. Evil over the Eternal One. Hell over Heaven.

I have called you back to Myself time and time again, but you keep running away from Me. Even now, if you will repent and come back to Me, despite everything you have done, I will forgive you. You can enjoy that sweet fellowship with Me once again. I want to tenderly care for you and give you every good thing.

I love you. Come home.

How could Jeremiah – how could we – not weep over the things that break the heart of our good and loving God? How can we not grieve over the things that grieve Him?

And that brings me back to why the chronological reading plan is so helpful. 

You need to not only understand the cold, hard historical facts that led up to this moment, you need to feel in your spirit, know in your heart the weight of sin, the blackness of evil, the depth of God’s love, compassion, patience, and righteousness. And you don’t get that by randomly parachuting into OT books. You have to walk with these people – live with them – and watch what they do over time. You have to sit next to God through His words and see with His eyes, understand how He feels about His people, and stand with Him as He acts in holiness and justice.

“Just the facts, ma’am,” is not enough when it comes to Scripture. We must live it, put it on and wear it, immerse ourselves in it, if we truly want to feast on God’s Word and know God’s heart.

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The Word on Wednesdays

Hi ladies! I hope you enjoyed our most recent Bible study, 1&2 Timothy: The Structure and Spirit of the Church, which we wrapped up recently.

I’ve been taking a break on Wednesdays, getting ready for our new study. I hope you’ll enjoy it and that it will edify you as you seek to grow in Christ and His Word. (The picture above does not mean we will be studying James. :0) I really had planned to start our new study last week, but I’ve had a family situation come up unexpectedly that I need to devote some time and attention to, and that has to come first. My new plan is to start our new study next week- August 28.

So, if you haven’t quite finished with the 1&2 Timothy study, you can use this time to finish up, and I’ll also be posting some articles from the archives that I think you’ll find helpful as we make our way toward our next study. Here is this week’s article:

sunday school

Sunday School: Chronological Study Lessons

During 2014, I led my ladies’ Sunday School class in a chronological read-through of the entire Bible. Each week I taught a lesson from that week’s reading and posted it here on the blog.

If you’re using the chronological one year Bible reading plan this year, here’s the lesson that roughly corresponds with this week’s reading. (And even if you’re not, I hope you’ll enjoy this lesson anyway.)

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 34 ~ Aug. 17-23
Jeremiah 35-50, Psalm 74, 79, 2 Kings 24-25, 2 Chronicles 36, Habakkuk
Idolatry: No Turning Back

idolatry

Background:
Israel is gone, carried off into captivity by Assyria. Judah has managed to hang on a little longer, due in part to Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s godliness, but, now, Nebuchadnezzar has besieged and overthrown the last of Judah’s fortified cities, slaughtered the king and the nobles, and carried nearly all the citizens off to a 70 year exile in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar left a small remnant of the poorest of the poor to continue living in Judah to work the land, and set up Gedaliah as governor over them. Gedaliah was subsequently assassinated by the Ammonites, and the remnant decided -against God’s clear instruction through Jeremiah- to go to Egypt, and to force Jeremiah to go with them. This is where we now find them in chapter 44…Continue reading.

Uncategorized

The Word on Wednesdays

Hi ladies! I hope you enjoyed our most recent Bible study, 1&2 Timothy: The Structure and Spirit of the Church, which we wrapped up recently.

I’ve been taking a break on Wednesdays, getting ready for our new study. I hope you’ll enjoy it and that it will edify you as you seek to grow in Christ and His Word. (The picture above does not mean we will be studying James. :0) I really had planned to start our new study today, but I’ve had a family situation come up unexpectedly that I need to devote some time and attention to, and that has to come first. My new plan is to start our new study two weeks from today on August 28.

So, if you haven’t quite finished with the 1&2 Timothy study, you can use this time to finish up, and I’ll also be posting some articles from the archives that I think you’ll find helpful as we make our way toward our next study. Here is this week’s article:

Wednesday’s Word

Wednesday is Bible study day here on the blog. In my Wednesday’s Word study, you’ll find miscellaneous, one lesson Bible studies from each book of the Bible. One chapter of Scripture followed by study questions. This sampler series demonstrates that there’s nothing to be afraid of when approaching those “lesser known” books and that every book of the Bible is valuable and worth studying.

Wednesday’s Word ~ Obadiah

obadiah 4

 

The vision of Obadiah.

Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the Lord,
    and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”
Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
    you shall be utterly despised.

 Keep reading…

Old Testament, Parenting

Bad Dad David?

I recently finished reading through the life of David during my quiet time. When we think of David, the first thing to jump to mind is probably “and Goliath” or “and Bathsheba” or maybe that he was a king or a psalmist. But have you ever thought of David and the first thing to come to mind was “lousy father”? I haven’t. And the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us that he was a bad dad. And, let’s face it, even the most godly parents in the world can have a kid or two who turn out to be prodigals. But if you look at how some of David’s children turned out, you have to at least wonder about his parenting skills.

First you’ve got Amnon – as disgusting a specimen of a human being as ever walked the planet. He makes himself physically ill lusting day after day for his half sisterTamar. That’s a lot of lust. But at least – at least – he keeps it to himself. For a while, that is.

Amnon’s got an equally disgusting cousin, Jonadab – who, instead of smacking him senseless when Amnon shamelessly confesses his dastardly daydreams – devises a scheme to help Amnon indulge his foul and festering flesh by tricking David into making Tamar available to him. David sends Tamar to Amnon’s house, and Tamar pleads with him not to force himself on her.

(While Tamar is pleading with her pustule of a brother, she says something interesting: “Please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” Now, arguably, it’s likely she was just saying whatever she could think of in the moment to get away from Amnon and didn’t really believe David would allow Amnon to marry her. But if she did believe that to be true, that definitely says something about David. Because, by that time in Israel’s history, intermarriage between two people who shared a parent was big-time illegal with severe consequences for the offenders. And David and everybody else in the kingdom knew that. Did David’s children think he would break the law for them and excuse them from punishment? And for such a nauseating reason?)

But Amnon ignores Tamar’s heartbreaking pleas and forcibly rapes her. He rapeshis sister. David finds out what happened and is understandably angry. But does he follow the law and have Amnon executed? Nope. (So we at least have our answer to the question of whether or not David would break the law for his children.) If David did anything about the situation, the Bible doesn’t record it.

Fast forward two whole years. David has still not made his rapist son face the music, so Absalom, Tamar’s full brother, metes out his own brand of justice, putting Amnon to death.

Fast forward a few more years and Absalom thinks, “I believe I’d make a better king than dear old Dad.” So he sets about manipulating and stealing the hearts of his countrymen away from David and stages a bloodless coup. David ends up having to flee for his life from his own son. Meanwhile, Absalom moves into the palace, sets up a love nest on the roof where everybody can see, and sleeps with David’s concubines. Then, Absalom gathers up an army to hunt David – his father – down in order to kill him and secure his throne.

David’s men fight valiantly for him, risking their own lives. Joab, the commander of David’s army – perhaps considering David’s command to “deal gently” with Absalom as ludicrous after all Absalom has done – seizes an opportune moment, and kills Absalom. David flips out in grief, so much so that Joab has to rebuke him: all these men risked their lives to save you, David, and you’re crying and moaning over this wretch who was trying to kill you! Snap out of it or they’re going to turn on you!Fortunately, David has the sense to listen to him.

After some more wars, some famine, and a “sin-sus,” Adonijah decides he can pull off the coup his brother Absalom so spectacularly failed at. David is old and sickly, and it should be easy for Adonijah to make a grab for the throne. And in the description of Adonijah, here’s what was said that initially got me thinking David wasn’t Dad of the year:

His [Adonijah’s] father [David] had never at any time displeased him [Adonijah] by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” 

Are you picking up what the author of 1 Kings is laying down? David was an indulgent father. He had never at any time questioned his son’s actions or intervened in a way that upset him. He let Adonijah run wild and do what he wanted to do. And the way Amnon and Absalom acted, it’s reasonable to surmise that David raised them the same way, along with all the rest of his children. It’s a miracle Solomon turned out as well as he did (at least until his wives drew him away from the Lord into idol worship). Reading the first nine chapters of Proverbs, I can’t help but wonder if Solomon observed David’s parenting and was determined not to follow his poor example. Listen to my instructions, son. Get wisdom. Don’t be a fool.

Sometimes Bible characters set a great example for us. David, a man after God’s own heart, set many. But sometimes God lets us see their poor and sinful behavior so we can learn not to follow their example. Moms and Dads, let’s make sure we are men and women after God’s own heart when it comes to parenting our kids.

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.


If this article sounds familiar, it’s because you just read it in last Friday’s Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources. A reader asked if I would make it a stand-alone article for easier sharing. :0)
Faith

Throwback Thursday ~ Facing the Furnace

Originally published July 28, 2010

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?

“Now if you are ready…to fall down and worship…very well; But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.

“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.

Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.”

He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.

The…king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.

“Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

Daniel 3:14-29

What a great story. It’s almost Disney-ish in the telling. Three boys rise from virtual anonymity to high and respected places of power and influence. Next– oh no! –there’s a brief period of drama and suspense. But then, as we knew it would, comes the happy ending. Cut and print. That’s a wrap.

Hang on. Rewind.

If you grew up in church like I did, you probably can’t remember a time when you didn’t know the happy ending to this story. Check that. This wasn’t a story. This was a historical event. It was a real situation that happened to real, flesh and blood people, with real feelings, just like you and me. And just like you and me, when these boys were in the middle of their circumstances, they didn’t know what was going to happen next or how things would turn out in the end.

I think we forget that sometimes. We forget how frightening it must have been for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to stand up to this megalomaniacal king and say, “Regardless of the outcome, we’re not going to worship an idol.” They served in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. They had seen what this guy did to people who disobeyed him. Cruel and unusual punishment was his specialty.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego weren’t out to be heroes. They didn’t know that they would be written about and set an example for Bible-readers for thousands of years to come. Their only concern was personal obedience to God. Whether they lived or died. Whether or not anyone else noticed. They were in it for God, and God alone.

But since they were written about, what can we learn from their example?

Truly following and obeying God means trouble is coming our way.
How’s that for an advertisement for Christianity? Jesus didn’t say, “Follow Me so you can have ‘your best life now’.” He said, if you want to follow Me, you’d better realize from the get-go that you’re going to have to deny yourself and prepare to be crucified daily (Luke 9:23). He said, “Look, the world hates Me. If you follow Me, they’re going to hate you, too.” (John 15:18-20) He said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33). Following Jesus is not a skip through the park.

Gird up. Now.
Where do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego got the spiritual fortitude to stand against Nebuchadnezzar? These weren’t guys who just attended church, read the Bible, prayed whenever they happened to feel like it, and had a lackadaisical attitude towards their walk with God. You know how I know that? Because people like that don’t do great things for God. People like that fold when faced with the furnace.

These guys were firmly rooted in the Word and in prayer. They were serious about obeying God, even when it came down to meal time (Daniel 1:8-15). They had such an awe and reverence for God that they feared His judgment more than the furnace. They were able to stand firm because they were already girded up in the faith.

Don’t kick against the trials, embrace them.
God is sovereign. Any circumstance that comes into your life was put there, or allowed there, by Him. Even if it’s a circumstance that is confusing, horrific, or heartbreaking, He is allowing it into your life for His glory and for your good. Maybe He’s trying to reveal something to you about Himself, such as His faithfulness or His power. Maybe He’s disciplining you so that you will repent and obey Him. Maybe He’s trying to teach you a skill, such as patience, endurance, or persistence in prayer. Whatever it is, what greater blessing could there be than the God of the universe wanting to work in your life?

Just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego did not have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the furnace, accept that God has the right to use whatever means He deems necessary to work in your life, and thank Him for even wanting to. (Romans 5:3-5)

Trials allow us to know God in a new way.
It’s one thing to know, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) just because the Bible says so. It’s another thing entirely to know it because you have walked it with your own two feet. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would never have come to know the manifest presence of God had it not been for the furnace, we cannot know Him as Provider without experiencing desperate need. We cannot know Him as Healer without facing disease. We cannot know Him as Comforter without experiencing crushing loss. It is not until we are in the furnace with nowhere else to turn but to God that we can experience the fullness of His promises.

What about Bob?
Or Joe or Mary or Nebuchadnezzar and all his cronies? What effect does the trial you’re going through, your reaction to it, and God’s handling of it, have on the people around you who need to know Jesus? Maybe it’s not just to grow you, but to bring someone else to salvation.

In verses 2, 3, and 27, Daniel gives a detailed list of the heads of state who witnessed this event. That was no accident. In His mercy, God brought each of these officials to Babylon to show Himself to them. Through Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s obedience and subsequent suffering, God’s glory and power, and the fact that He was the only true God, were displayed for all to see. Look at the reaction Nebuchadnezzar had in verses 26-29. In verse 26, this idol builder does a 360 and calls God, “the most high God”. In verses 27 and 29 he says, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego…there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”

Trials aren’t any fun. They can be scary. They can be heart-wrenching. But if God gets glory, how small a sacrifice and how great an honor is our suffering.