II Corinthians 1

Vs. 3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”  In all circumstances, Paul found reasons to praise the Lord.  There was sin in the Corinthian church that had brought much struggle.  Paul opens his letter with candid words that reveal the struggles he also faced (vs. 1-11).  Some had been questioning his leadership and Paul wanted to take the opportunity to respond.  There is a saying, “The higher we climb, the farther down we can fall.”  Paul felt these immense pressures (vs. 8) but was able to put his trust in the Lord.  I love how Paul was so thankful for many of their faithful prayers (vs. 11).  In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 12-24), Paul wrote in response to the reality that he had to change his plans.  Some had accused him of being deceiving them for he was not able to visit them has he intended.  Paul aptly reminds them that their ultimate trust should be in the Lord and it is the Holy Spirit that is God’s testament of faithfulness (vs. 22).  In the end, we must remember that God’s timing isn’t always our timing.

Regarding application…Comfort Others.  Vs. 4, “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  The Greek wordπαρακαλέω (comfort) means “called to one’s side to help.”  Paul took the time to write this letter to bring comfort for those who had been disappointed or were questioning.  It was not by Paul’s might that he could bring comfort, but from the comfort that comes from God.  In essence, God’s comfort to us in our suffering can bring comfort to others.  Rather than wallow in self-pity, we can comfort each other because we all understand what it feels like to live in this sin-filled world.  So the next time we go through trials and tribulations, let’s take comfort in knowing that this will enable us to help others one day.

Introduction to II Corinthians

This is Paul’s second recorded letter we have in the Bible.  Paul likely wrote this letter about six months after I Corinthians in the fall of 56 AD.  It is a response to some issues that arose from the letter along with Timothy’s visit.  It is believed there was a severe letter that was written in between these two letters, but is now lost.  Fortunately, the dust settled from the division in Corinth and Paul wrote to affirm the Corinthians.  Paul speaks of the glory that is found in serving the Lord.

II Chronicles 36

Vs. 21, “The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.”  The chronicler wraps up the history of how God’s people were disciplined through the Babylonian exile.  The last four kings of Judah didn’t bode well as Jehoahaz was exiled to Egypt, while Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah all were exiled to Babylon (vs. 1-14.)   It’s also notable how the evilness of the kings rubbed off on the leaders of the priest and the people (vs. 14).  The prophet Jeremiah had warned Judah of this day, but they would not listen (Jeremiah 25-27).  The chronicler assumes the people knew most of the details from II Kings 25 of the Babylonian invasion (vs. 15-21).

Regarding application…Second Chance.  Vs. 23, “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you—may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.’”  It was the LORD who had prompted Cyrus king of Persia through the prophecies Jeremiah &  Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28) to help restore His people.  The LORD gave His people a second chance (numerous at that) and He also extends that to us.  As the aftermath of Easter looms over us, this is our opportunity to remember the grace of our Lord Jesus in our lives.  Just as He give us second chances and forgives, we are to extend the same to others.  “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13.

II Chronicles 35

Vs. 1, “Josiah celebrated the Passover to the Lord in Jerusalem, and the Passover lamb was slaughtered on the fourteenth day of the first month.”  King Josiah would be a wonderful example for Judah in restoring their relationship unto the LORD.  Following the example set by Hezekiah (Josiah’s Great-Grandfather), he would celebrate the Passover Feast.  Passover was the most important festival for the Jews as they remembered God’s deliverance from Egypt.  Josiah encourages his leaders and all the people to properly prepare themselves (vs. 1-6).  Josiah also sets the example of providing a generous portion of animas for the Passover sacrifice (vs. 7-10).  It was important for the chronicler to remind the exiles of the power of honoring and sacrifice in bringing unity and reform (vs. 11-19).  The latter half of our chapter (vs. 20-27) transpire thirteen years later in 609 B.C.  Tragically, Josiah is killed in battle against the Egyptians at Megiddo.  Josiah’s death was mourned by the nation and it was a grave mistake for Josiah to mettle in the Assyrian/Egyptian conflict with the Babylonians.

Regarding application…Unwise Decisions.  Vs. 22, “Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Neco had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.”  Josiah was adequately warned not to mettle with the Egyptians in their intention to assist the Assyrians.  Question: Why would Josiah engage them in battle?  Most likely he was worried about the alliance of the Assyrians and Egyptians.  Instead of listening to the warning, Josiah unwisely chooses to engage them in battle.  It’s sobering how one unwise decision can be the demise of our lives.  One of my best friends (I was his best man) was driving home after work at was killed by a drunk driver.  The unwise decisions of that drunk driver would kill him and my innocent friend.  Let us be people of wisdom in the choices we make in this life.

II Chronicles 34

***Holy Week suggested additional reading, Matthew 28***

Vs. 1, “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.”  What a perplexing but good thing it is to see that the evil King Amon would have such a godly young son in Josiah.  Josiah sought the LORD at a young age (vs. 3) and was convicted to change the idolatrous ways of his people (vs. 2-7).  Desiring to renovate the temple, Josiah sends his scribe Shaphan, Maaseiah, and Joah to inform the Hilkiah the high priest to start restoring the temple (vs. 8-13).  In the midst of the restoration project, Hilkiah found the Book of the Law (vs. 14-18), which was the Pentateuch, the first five books.  Josiah’s responds with a convicted heart as he sees the error of his people.   In the latter half of our chapter (vs. 19-33), we see King Josiah’s delegation seek a prophecy from Huldah the prophetess (vs. 22).  We are reminded that the Bible has examples for us of women prophets (Miriam, Deborah, Noadiah, Isaiah’s wife, Anna, Philip’s prophesying daughters) as well as women’s testimonies of the risen Lord!  Huldah’s prophecy from God was not one with a happy ending.  Though King Josiah added additional years of peace for Judah, the consequences of God were already in motion.

Regarding application…Lost Now Found.  Vs. 15, “Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan.”  I love the timing in our text today as the Word made Flesh (Jesus) has risen on Easter!  The Book of the Law was found and Jesus is now found to not be lost in death, but alive in victory!  Josiah would have never found the Book of the Law if he did not desire to restore the temple.  We would not find Jesus if we did not have a heart to seek the truth.   Having heard the law, Josiah responds with repentance and action.  A genuine response to God is often followed up by our actions.  He is risen and I pray we respond with joy in our hearts to live out the victory that is found in Jesus!

II Chronicles 33

***Holy Week suggested additional reading, Matthew 27***

Vs. 2, “He (Manasseh) did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”  What a pity that Hezekiah’s son would have such evil practices (vs. 1-9).  Manasseh engaged in atrocious idolatrous acts that even rivaled the enemies of God!  The people of Judah followed in Manasseh’s example.  God would humble this king and have the Assyrians take him captive to Babylon (vs. 10-13).  I have to admit there was a part of me that was relishing the demise of this evil king.  But, God’s gracious hand would come upon Manasseh as he repented of his evil ways.  God accepted his repentance, but unfortunately the consequences of the sins of Hezekiah and Manasseh would soon come to pass.  The latter half of our chapter (vs. 21-25) gives us a very short synopsis of the reign of Manasseh’s son Amon.  Amon followed the evil ways of his father’s early years and his own officials conspired against him causing his assassination after only two years.  Fortunately, the people of the land killed the conspirators and put the rightful heir (Josiah) on the throne.  It was certainly difficult times for Judah.

Regarding application…Learning the Hard Way.  Vs. 12, “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.”  As Gandalf would say, “Fool of a Took!”  Manasseh did not learn from the past and was doomed to repeat the sins of those who came before him.  In the midst of his dire consequences of imprisonment, it touches me deeply to see God’s amazing grace at work.  What a poignant reminder for us as we soberly remember the forgiveness extended to us by the cross.  The early church would wait their Sabbath to realize Jesus conquered death.  We never had to wait to see the extraordinary love that was poured out to us at Calvary.  Take time to pray about what God has and is convicting you in your life right now.  May we not always have to learn the hard way.

II Chronicles 32

***Holy Week suggested additional reading, Matthew 26***

Vs. 1, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself.”  The Assyrian king Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah is one of monumental events for the kingdom of Judah.  Hezekiah wisely prepares his people for imminent battle (vs. 2-5), though he did not know that the LORD would ultimately deliver them.  In a stirring speech, Hezekiah strengthens his people to be strong and courageous (vs. 6-8).  Sennacherib sends them a letter of intimidation as he begins to conquer the land surrounding Jerusalem (vs. 9-19).  By Hezekiah and Isaiah’s prayer, the LORD struck 185,000 Assyrians to protect Jerusalem (vs. 20-23)!  The latter half of our chapter (vs. 24-33) gives us a synopsis of Hezekiah’s pride as he unwisely displayed all his wealth to Babylonian ambassadors.  Hezekiah’s reckless open door policy would start the consequences of Judah being exiled to Babylon.  However, let us not forget the faithfulness of Hezekiah.

Regarding application…Spiritual Victory!  Vs. 8, “With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.”  What a timely reminder on Good Friday as the enemy and the world would have us believe Jesus was defeated on the cross.  But our battle is more than flesh and blood.  Our battle is spiritual and Jesus won the war by being victorious over the arm of flesh!  Hezekiah’s victory over Sennacherib is an example of what God can do when we put our trust in Him.  As we face our own battles into a unknown future.  I pray we would remember the road less traveled through the small and narrow gate.

II Chronicles 31

***Holy Week suggested additional reading, Matthew 25***

Vs. 20, “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.”  King Hezekiah faithfulness to the LORD helped him reestablish the order of the priests and Levites (vs. 1-21).  They would begin the faithful practice of tithes and offerings to help support those dedicated to the temple.  It was important for the chronicler to focus on such details.  His present audience of exiles had also hoped to rebuild a new temple.  What a wonderful picture of success when people put the LORD first in their life!

Regarding application…Setting the Example.  Vs. 3, “The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the Lord.”  We are told that all the people generously gave to help support the temple activity and worship.  Question: Why?  Because King Hezekiah set the example by doing it first.  Any good litmus test for a leader is whether he/she is doing what they are asking others to do.  As a Pastor in ministry, I cannot expect the members of my church ministry to do their devotions if I myself don’t do it.  I cannot expect them to tithe if I am not doing it.  I cannot expect them to sacrifice their time if I am not doing it also.  Brothers and sisters, let us lead by setting the right example as followers of Christ.  We don’t do it for the praises of this world or to somehow achieve good works, but we do simply because we love the Lord.

II Chronicles 30

***Holy Week suggested additional reading, Matthew 24***

Vs. 1, “Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel.”  King Hezekiah did something extraordinary by inviting all of Israel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (vs. 1-11).  The northern nation had been invaded and there were still some remnants in Israel from the captivity.  Sadly, there were those who scorned the invitation, but also some who humbled themselves and attended (vs. 10-11).  Many in Jerusalem also flocked for the Passover bringing unity of mind as they came in repentance (vs. 12-14).  The overwhelming response surprised the priests and Levites as they were not expecting such a heartfelt response (vs. 15).  Some people (perhaps out of ignorance) came without having completed the ritual of cleansing before the Passover.  Hezekiah intercedes in prayer that God would extend grace upon them (vs. 16-20).  The overflow of response in worship was so strong that they extended their festival another week (vs. 21-27).

Regarding application…Low Expectations.  Vs. 15, “They slaughtered the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the temple of the Lord.”  The fact of the matter is; they were not ready for such an outpouring.  Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to not come with a pessimistic heart.  When the church shares the truth and the Gospel, we are never going to know how people will respond.  Some did scorn the invitation to come for Passover, but many also responded positively.  As we consider Jesus’ last Passover this week, we have an opportunity to invite our friends, coworkers and family to our local churches.  We want to share about the lamb’s blood shed for us that saved us, just like the Israelites did for their Passover.  Let’s be ready to pray for others and rejoice as we remember what Jesus did for us!

II Chronicles 29

***Holy Week suggested additional reading, Matthew 23***

Vs. 1, “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah.”  It is no surprise that the chronicler zero’s in Hezekiah’s reign.  Hezekiah’s reforms would have spoken directly to exiles as they were returning from Babylon.  During Hezekiah’s reign, the nation of Israel had already been deported by the Assyrians.  Hezekiah within the first month of his reign instituted a major spring cleaning of the temple (vs. 5-19).  The renewal process of the temple would be highlighted by the efforts of the Levites (vs. 12-17).  Upon completion of the cleansing, Hezekiah leads the whole nation to help and celebrate in the consecration of the temple (vs. 20-36).  We have a fitting reminder of the sacrifices used to atone for their sins as we reflect upon the Holy Week and Jesus.

Regarding application…True Worship.  Vs. 29, “When the offerings were finished, the king and everyone present with him knelt down and worshiped.”  Question: What is the purpose of worship?  It’s to attribute honor and reverence to the LORD!  God’s love over us should inspire within us a natural response; worship is that response.  While worship can encompass all we do, our text here reminds us of the focused purpose in the assembly of God’s people.  Worship comes from the gladness of our hearts (vs. 30).  We have a big opportunity to do that over the Easter weekend.  God’s love compels us to bring worship that is worthy of our Lord and Savior.  I’m excited to worship in the assembly of God’s people on Friday and Sunday!  Come with a joy in your heart!