I Kings 3

Vs. 9, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”  God offered Solomon anything he desired, and Solomon asked for a discerning heart!  Let’s backtrack for a moment; now that King Solomon has established his kingdom, the marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter was a political move to ensure good relations with their neighbors (vs. 1).  Solomon had already married and Ammonite woman and had a baby boy (Rehoboam) by then.  Some biblical scholars speculate Pharaoh’s daughter must have renounced her religion and turned to the God of Israel.  Because the temple was not yet constructed, Solomon travels to Gibeon; an important location in Israel’s early history.  While sacrificing at Gibeon, the LORD came to him in a dream.  Much props to Solomon for his unselfish request!  And the latter half of our chapter illustrates the wisdom God would give Solomon (vs. 16-28).   What a wonderful example of King Solomon’s mercy to help judge a case between two lowly prostitutes.  But most importantly, we see Solomon’s wisdom in his right judgment to ascertain who was telling the truth.

Regarding application…What Do You Want?  Vs. 5, “At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”  This past Sunday, we were reminded from Psalm 23, “…I shall not be in want.”  Yet, here God is asking young Solomon ask me whatever you want.  There is a difference between wanting something and needing something.  However, in Solomon’s case; his wanting was something he actually needed.  What a wonderful thought for us; when we walk with God, our desires/wants become aligned with God’s desires.  A worldly person may want a car because it is new and has all the bells and whistles.  A godly person may want a car because he/she wants to provide transportation for people to be able to come to church.  Both do the same thing, but one has a much more godly intention.  Take time to consider you “wants” and see if they align with what God’s word teaches us.

Acts 7

Vs. 54, “When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.”  Stephen filled with the Holy Spirit gives an amazing speech before the Sanhedrin (vs. 1-53).  It is a stirring message and reminder of how the LORD worked in history.  Question: Why were they so angry?  Stephen was calling them out!  Throughout their history, from the Patriarchs to the Kings, Israel had been disobedient and hard-hearted.  The irony was that they called themselves children of God, but their actions were far from that.  The current Sanhedrin only continued to prove this point by indicting Jesus the Son of God for blasphemy and successfully having Him tried and crucified.  As I reminded my congregation yesterday in our message, we should not be afraid of the things of this world. Stephen stood up courageously!  Stephen would become the first martyr for his faith in the Lord Jesus (vs. 54-60).  His death would help bring in the reality that the Gospel must be given to all; for the Jews had rejected John the Baptist, Jesus the Son of God, and now the first disciple in the early church.  It’s notable that Saul (Paul) was there at the Stephen’s stoning (vs. 58).

Regarding application…God’s Faithfulness.  Vs. 60, “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”  Stephen’s story always gives me goosebumps!  Stephen’s forgiving heart is a testament of his faith.  Question: How did Stephen muster such courage?  When Stephen looked up to the sky for hope, he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father (vs. 55-56).  When Stephen needed the Lord most, God’s faithfulness came through.  Praise the Lord!  What an inspiring reminder that God never leaves us or forsakes us.  As you traverse dangers of this life, don’t ever forget what a wonderful example Stephen was for all of us.

St. Stephen's Gate

Judges 2

Vs. 2, “and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this?”  Sadly, because Israel did not drive out and defeat the pagan nations, this would bring upon consequences from the LORD (vs. 1-5).  Not only did Israel spare the Canaanites, they began to adopt their pluralistic religions.  These nations would become a thorn and trap for Israel (vs. 3).  After the first generation of those who entered the Promised Land passed away, the new generation did not follow in their heritage (vs. 6-10).  How sad to see that Israel as a whole people would begin to forget God.   Because they turned to other gods, The LORD allowed them to be defeated (vs. 11-15).  But the compassion of God heard them in their distress (vs. 15).  So, here we see God raised up judges (deliverers) who would help not only deliver them in military disputes, but also help provide counsel for Israel (vs. 16-23).  It’s important to note that these judges were on a more local scale rather than the nation as a whole.  Sadly, the cycle of their sin would plummet Israel into continued disobedience.  Yet, God’s mercy triumphed over judgment (James 2:13).

Regarding application…God’s Compassion.  Vs. 16, “Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.” God was disciplining Israel for their actions.  Yet, God in His infinite compassion and mercy would still reach out to His people.  There is a part of me that is angered to think that they were taking God for granted.  Yet, the danger for all of us today is to think that we are not like them.  I’m reminded of the passage Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6, “God disciplines those He loves.”  Question: Is God disciplining you today?  How so?  Take time to search the things deep in your heart that you might be putting before God.  While we may not fall into pluralism, there are other “idols” we may be lifting up (money, relationships, status, etc.)  Lord, may we be a people that begin to see your love and compassion more and more!

Deuteronomy 26

Vs. 2, “take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name.”  Notice that it is God who gave the people the Promised Land as their inheritance.  It is only natural to respond with thanksgiving, so God instituted two rituals to have them present the best of their produce.  They would benefit from an agriculturally rich land and these rituals would serve as an outward expression of their love and dependence upon the Lord.  Rituals without understanding are pointless, that is why Moses would have them declare God’s hand of providence (vs. 5-9).  In essence, they were sharing the testimony of not only their lives, but of their lives of their people.  What a wonderful ritual that God instituted to have them bring another tithe three years later to care for Levites, alien, fatherless and widow (vs. 12-15).  And lastly, we read Moses exhortation for complete commitment from all to honor the Lord and follow His commands (vs. 16-19).

Regarding application…We Are Treasured.  Vs. 18, “And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.”  Perhaps you have heard this phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  We were once sinners destined to death.  Now we love the Lord with our heart and soul (vs. 16) and follow His ways.  You are of high value to God.  You are of high value to the church.  Though this is a simple truth, I believe many of us don’t realize this.  Question: Why is church involvement so slim?  Because people undervalue themselves.  Many Christians don’t live for the Lord because they have spiritual low self-esteem.  They have forgotten their value.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that we were bought at a price (I Corinthians 6:20).  That price was the cross.  Take time today to embrace who you are in the eyes of our Lord!  You are loved and treasured! 

Deuteronomy 24

Vs. 1, “If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house.”  In the first section of our chapter we come across the controversial topic of divorce (vs. 1-4).  Bear in mind marriage is a covenant before God.  Though God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), there were stipulations that did allow divorce to transpire.  Though there are differing thoughts as to what was “displeasing”, most biblical scholars point out that it must have been either a sexually indecent act, but not full intercourse or a previous encounter before the marriage covenant.  Jesus makes clear in Matthew 19:3-12 that God allowed divorce due to the hardening of our hearts.  It is my belief that if both parties are willing, reconciliation should be sought if there has been adultery.  In the next section (vs. 6-22), we come across more various laws concerning thoughtful action upon others.  I love how a soldier was given a year to spend strengthening his marriage before he went back to the army (vs. 5)!  There is a sadness that came upon me as I realized some of these laws were to counter against the sinful nature.  Depriving people of their millstones (livelihood) (vs. 6), kidnapping others (vs. 7), treating people with dignity who owed money (vs. 10-15) must all have been made because a precedent had already been set.  The death penalty should not passed onto a father or to a son as a alternative (vs. 16), for this is what pagan nations practiced.  And lastly, the rich should always ensure that they are leaving portions for the poor in their land.  Not only did it provide food for the poor, but it kept the rich from judgment upon them from God (vs. 17-22).

Regarding application…Don’t Forget.  Vs. 22, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.”  The Israelites had been rescued from dire circumstances and enslavement.  Yet, over the years there was a tendency to begin taking for granted where they came from.  While we don’t come from oppressive slavery, we were once enemies to the cross (Philippians 3:18).  We were once slaves to sin (Roman 6:6).  Now that we have been freed, let us not ever forget where we came from.  God goodness and grace is something we now have the task to pass on to others.  When I was young, I used to wait tables at a couple of restaurants.  Now, that is hard work!  I remember how many customers were rude and left no tip.  I worked in a state (Indiana) that paid waiters/waitresses less than half the minimum wage because they figured you would get the rest of your pay by tips.  Thankfully, most states don’t do that anymore.  When I go to dine at a restaurant, I try to never forget how hard they work and what it felt like to be them.  I always tip minimum 15% and more if it is great service!  Just a small example of ensuring we treat others as we ourselves would wanted to be treated!

Matthew 2

Vs. 1, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.”  An estimated two years have transpired; Joseph and Mary are living in Bethlehem.  Magi from the east have come to pay homage to the king of the Jews.  It is believed these Magi (magicians, eastern wise men, astrologers) came from Babylon which is about 900 miles!  We are not given the number of wise men, but they more than likely traveled in quite large groups.  The tradition of three comes from the three types of gifts presented to Jesus (vs. 11).  Question: How would they have known about this?  The dispersed Jews certainly would have shared the story of Balaam (Numbers 24:17) and his prophecy of a star that will come out of Jacob.  Herod felt quite pressured knowing that he was not the true rightful heir of the Jews, because he was only half-Jew.  Herod the Great ruled Judea and had the favor of both Rome and the leading Jews.  Yet, the baby Jesus was under the protection of His Father!  How interesting that Jesus’ life parallels the Jewish history; Jesus would also travel down to Egypt, and would return back to the land of Canaan.  The Holy Spirit guides Matthew in selecting OT scripture that reminds us (especially the Jews) that Jesus is the fulfillment of these prophecies.  The order to kill the baby boys two years and younger (vs. 16-18) would have been an estimated ten to thirty boys because Bethlehem was a very small town.  Lastly we see, Jesus and family return to region of Galilee in the town of Nazareth (vs. 21-23).

Regarding application…A Right Response.  Vs. 11, “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  What a contrast when you compare the magi to the response of Herod and all of Jerusalem (vs. 3).  Though Matthew’s gospel is targeted towards Jews, the ones who respond right are Gentiles.  We don’t know the magi’s hearts when they bowed down to worship or if they even knew the ramifications of it.  However, their response reminds all of us that Jesus is not only the king of the Jews, but came to save the whole world.  Question: How do you respond when you come before the Lord?  God’s response was to give His one and only Son (John 3:16).  Let us consider how we respond.  In a world that is often me-centric, it’s time to be a giver rather than a taker.

Numbers 14

Vs. 3, “Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”  This is one of the most intense chapters in the Bible!  The Israelites are collectively rebelling against God (vs. 1-4) with no shame.  Sadly, this is not the first time (vs. 22) of their rebellions.  We see their hearts for they want to stone Joshua and Caleb (vs. 10) and they rebel against God anyways by going into the land of Canaan (vs. 40).  Though God forgives (vs. 20), that doesn’t stop Him from the consequences of their sins (vs. 23).  Ironically, God gives them what they ask for that they would rather die (vs. 2); be careful what you ask for!  The ten spies (minus Caleb and Joshua) perish at the judgment of God (vs. 37).  God grace is shown through preserving the Israelites by allowing the second generation to enter (vs. 29-31).  Even in the midst of the judgment, we are reminded of God’s character (vs. 18) of being slow to anger and abounding in love!

Regarding application…Foolishness.  Vs. 40, “Early the next morning they set out for the highest point in the hill country, saying, “Now we are ready to go up to the land the Lord promised. Surely we have sinned!”  The Israelites didn’t obey God by going to into the land of Canaan with Him, but now they decide to go without Him.  The Israelites acted foolishly, for they were not truly repentant.  There are times we say, “Sorry” but do not truly mean it.  The author of Hebrews cites that those who did not enter the Promised land did not have faith (Hebrews 4:2).  Brothers and sisters, let us not be foolish.  God has given us profound examples like this chapter to wake us up spiritually!

Numbers 11

Vs. 1, “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.”  Uh-oh, things were going so well, but now the Israelites begin to complain.  It was not easy living out in the desert and now they began to dislike eating manna all the time (vs. 4-6).  The Israelites complain, God gets angry and Moses wants to give up (vs. 10-15); for some reason this is actually comforting.  God does not gloss over the tough times in life and we are given a front-row seat to trials.  Earlier, when Moses was too stressed, it was Jethro (father-in-law) who suggested delegating the tasks to others (Exodus 18).  Now we see God appoint seventy elders to help in assisting Moses (vs. 16-17) and with the Spirit enabled ability to prophecy.  Though God sent quail in the past (Exodus 16), here we God sent quail in such gigantic proportions that the camp was filled with quail as tall as three high and a days walk in all directions (literally, billions to trillions of quail)!  God provided a months of quail, however with grave consequences (vs. 33-34).

Regarding application…God is Omnipotent!  Vs. 23, “The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”  Certainly, the LORD God is using figure of speech to emphasize that He is all-powerful.  Basically, it was nearly unbelievable for Moses to conceive that God would be able to provide such a large quantity of meat!  How interesting that Moses would feel this way, for he witnessed extraordinary miracles from God in the ten plagues, the Red Sea, the Manna, the burning bush, the cloud, etc.  Certainly, this is convicting for us today because we often do the same thing with God.  We see obvious ways of God’s faithfulness, yet when we are troubled we doubt.  This is why we have His word in our lives; it reminds us of the faithfulness and power of the Lord!  Take heart and know God can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13)

Revelation 11

Vs. 3, “And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”  Much is covered in this chapter, but a huge question looms.  Question: Who are these two witnesses?  The book of Revelation has strong differing opinions from biblical scholars.  Some believe that John is approaching this particular chapter metaphorically, while others believe in a more literal approach.  A wide belief over the centuries have been that the two witnesses are Moses (Law) and Elijah (Prophets).  Their purpose is to display the power of God during this time of Tribulation.  The antichrist will seemingly defeat them in the middle of the Tribulation, but God had different plans for them (vs. 7-14).

7th Trumpet

From an historical point of view, the purpose of trumpets were used to acknowledge the ascent of a king to the throne.  This event looks to the future as God’s wrath will be poured out upon the evil that is in rebellion towards God.  We see the ark of God’s covenant which symbolized God’s presence with His people.

Regarding application…Bearing Witness.  Vs. 3, “And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”  In the face of trial and persecution, they set the example for us.  For Jesus Himself gave us the responsibility to bear witness to this world too (Acts 1:8).  The two witnesses remind us that God will give us power.  However, the temporal outcome looked grim.  But God raised them up and He will raise us up too!  Brothers and sisters, let us not grow weary in bearing witness about our Lord and Savior!  What area in your life today can you share the love of Christ?

Leviticus 18

Vs. 4, “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.”  It’s safe to say we live in a very sexually driven culture.  The Israelites were instructed not to be sexually perverted like the nations around them.  The LORD outlined sixteen very clear ways they were to not act like others, most of them under the category of incest.  Even today, many nations have laws against incest relationships.  And we also are reminded of the controversial topic of homosexuality (vs. 22).  It’s important to remember that the act of the sexual sin is punished, not the weakness of having a tendency.

Regarding application…Controversy.  Perhaps nothing can rival controversy more than the topic of sex.  I’m not just alluding to the sex industry and subsequent opinions, but also the topic of sex in the church.  One of the most noted controversies today is the topic of allowing people who act upon their homosexual tendencies to take the pulpit.  No matter your opinion, scripture is clear on this topic of what is not acceptable to the Lord.  Any of these sexual sins acted upon publicly even to this day would be unacceptable for the ordination of a pastor.  Let’s not forget, we are all sinners saved by the grace of God.  Only the Lord knows our hearts.  Don’t forget the original intention of all of these laws; to keep God’s people holy!  Let us live lives that don’t reflect the way the world lives.