II Chronicles 28

***Holy Week suggested additional reading, Matthew 22***

Vs. 1, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  The extent of evil that King Ahaz committed during his reign is shocking!  His evil ways (vs. 2-4) not only mimicked Israel’s wayward kings, but he followed in the practices of the Canaanite’s by sacrificing his own children.  Consequences would come upon Judah as the Arameans and even Israel would successfully invade (vs. 5-15).  But God would send the prophet Oded to rebuke Israel for their actions in taking prisoners of war.  Fortunately, unlike Judah, Israel and its leaders repent of their action in this situation and obey the LORD.  In the midst of border battles, Ahaz would not trust the council of the prophet Isaiah and would align himself with the Assyrians (vs. 16-21).  Instead of trusting in the LORD, the Assyrians would turn on him.  Question: How would Ahaz respond?  He would do the unthinkable and strays even further (vs. 22-25).

Regarding application…Worldly Thinking.  Vs. 23, “He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, “Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.” But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.”  Question: What was the downfall of Ahaz?  His assumption that Aram’s success was because of the god’s they served.  Just because something seemingly works doesn’t mean it is the right way.  King Ahaz put his trust in the world he could see rather than God’s words and promises.  Following the footsteps of another person’s success may bring us temporary success.  But if we are not following the footsteps of the LORD, we will inevitably fail.  Worldly thinking is a more dangerous downfall than we realize.  Let’s put our mind on things above (Colossians 3:2).

II Kings 19

Vs. 34, “I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.”  After Sennacherib’s threat, King Hezekiah does the only thing he could do; turns to the LORD (vs. 1-19).  We should be impressed with such a reaction.  Rather than fight fire with fire, Hezekiah realized he could not defeat the enemy on his own.  Hezekiah’s dependence on the Lord is shown through turning to God’s prophet Isaiah and praying in the temple to the LORD.  The LORD speaks through Isaiah as he writes this poetic response to the judgment that will come upon the Assyrians (vs. 20-34).  There is a sense of a mocking tone towards the overconfident Sennacherib.  It is humbling reality to be reminded that God knows everything!  Our passage ends in dramatic fashion as the LORD Himself smites 185,000 Assyrian soldiers to protect Jerusalem (vs. 35-37).  We also see Isaiah’s prophecy come true as Sennacherib meets his timely death.

Regarding application…You Shall Not Pass.  Vs. 33, “By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD.”  It is a dangerous thing to be threats against the LORD Almighty!  Sennacherib did not realize whom he was messing with.  Losing 185,000 of your troops will certainly cause anyone to retreat.  The LORD works in mysterious ways beyond our understanding.  He uses ungodly people to carry out His will (vs. 25), yet the LORD will not stand for such a brazen attitude in Sennacherib.  There are times in my life where I have patiently allowed others to walk all over me.  However, if my wife or family is threatened, it’s game over!  If we have the “backs” of our loved ones, how much more does our God for us?

II Kings 16

Vs. 3, “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.”  We don’t have to imagine how evil King Ahaz of Judah was; to sacrifice your own son at a pagan alter is horrible thing to do!  It was King Ahaz that Isaiah would share the prophesy of virgin who would give birth to Immanuel (Isaiah 7).  But Ahaz would not listen to the council of God’s prophets and aligned himself with the evil Assyrians.  He even sent all the riches of the temple (vs. 8) as a bribe to the Assyrian King (Tiglath Pileser).  He even commanded Uriah the priest to make an Assyrian alter and place it in temple in Jerusalem (vs. 10-18).

Regarding application…Following Our Own Ways.   Vs. 2, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God.”  King Ahaz was a direct descendant of King David, but this did not guarantee his spiritual success.  Ever since Adam and Eve we have had a conundrum.  Cain and Abel had the same parents and lineage, yet one had a good heart and one had an evil heart.  Question: How can this be?  Ahaz came from the line of Judah and David, yet his heart was evil.  In the end, we all have our own choice to follow the Lord’s way or our own way.  King Ahaz was given chances to turn and trust in the Lord.  Likewise, God is giving you a chance today to turn the page of your life and follow Him!

John 12

Vs. 27, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”  In this chapter, we see Jesus being obedient to the Father by coming to Jerusalem one last time.  Before Jesus would enter Jerusalem, we see a most beautiful picture of love and sacrifice by Mary with the expensive perfume (vs. 1-11).  The anointing of Jesus would symbolize preparation of His death.  The raising of Lazarus and Passover would bring Jesus to entering Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey (vs. 12-19).  All four Gospels record this one-time where Jesus allowed a public demonstration dedicated for Him as He fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 9:9).  The palm branches symbolized peace and the Israelites were hoping that Jesus would bring peace to their people.  The donkey was an animal a king would ride on bringing peace to his people.  The next section of our chapter involves Jesus’ interaction with the Greeks (Gentiles) who came to also worship the LORD (vs. 20-36).  Jesus takes the time to meet with them and shares with them the hour has come (vs. 23).  Like Jesus’ obedience, we too must follow God’s will and call in our lives.   It’s a fitting passage for John’s Gospel reminds us that the Good New is for all!  Sadly, there were still many who would not put their faith in Jesus (vs. 37-50).

Regarding application…What Matters Most?  Vs. 43, “for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.”  It’s an easy thought to quickly frown upon such behavior by leaders who feared the wrath of the Pharisees.  Have a little backbone and courage!  But receiving love from the world is far more powerful than we realize.  Living in a socially connected society, it is naïve to think that we are not affected.  Think about all the things we do to receive the praises of men; academics, college, careers, clothes, makeup, hairstyles, possessions, etc.  God is not impressed by such standards, nor should we.  Take time brothers and sisters to consider what matters most to you!  Let’s live a life that brings glory to God first and foremost!

Luke 4

Vs. 14, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.”  After being led by the Spirit for forty days in the desert (vs. 1-13), Jesus begins His ministry.  Unlike Adam in the garden, Jesus is able to overcome temptation.  The enemy played into Jesus’ hands and this helped reveal some of his tactics.  Satan tried to question God’s love & provision in the first temptation.  And the next two deal with the desires of the flesh and the things we see.  Jesus display’s His love and devotion to the Father’s will and His power over the enemy.  Luke gives us a wonderful brief look into Jesus’ visit to His hometown Nazareth (vs. 14-23).  Jesus reveals that He is the fulfillment of Scripture (vs. 21), not just for the Jew but also the Gentile (vs. 24-30).  Certainly, this enraged the Jewish audience who became an unrepentant and exclusive-minded people.   Jesus leaves the town He grew up in and travels to Capernaum where this would be temporary headquarters during the Galilean ministry.  Though Jesus defeated Satan in the battle of temptation, the enemy and his cohorts were and still are battling.  Luke gives us a vivid picture of the reality of spiritual warfare (vs. 31-44) as Jesus heals and drives out demons.  Question: Why does Jesus rebuke the demons to be quiet about His identity?  Because, Jesus does not need the testimony of the enemy to legitimizGe His ministry.

Regarding application…Temptation’s Test.  Vs. 13, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”  It’s important to note that temptation did not stop with Jesus in the desert, nor does it stop for us.  When we are tempted, this is not sin.  It’s when we give into the temptation’s test.  It’s important to note that God is sovereignly in control of the enemy’s tactics.  Like Jesus in the desert and Job in the Old Testament, there are times when temptation can be allowed by God to test us.  Question: What temptation test’s are in our life these days?  When I was moving up the corporate ladder in the bank a few years ago, I found myself quite tempted at the allurement of making a name for myself.  It was the temptation of pride and independence that began to entice me.  Fortunately, the Lord worked in this prideful heart of mine and in my weakness, I became stronger in Him.  Take time allow the Holy Spirit to convict your heart to lay down anything that is hindering your faith in the Lord.

Luke 3

Vs. 4, “As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”  Luke now takes us forward to the beginning ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus.  Luke gives us some insightful information into the ministry of John (vs. 1-20).  Question: What was the purpose of John’s ministry?  Part of preparing the way (vs. 4) and fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy was to begin softening the hearts of the people.  That is why John preached a message of repentance (vs. 8).  John’s ministry was a beautiful example of how we must give all credit to the Lord (vs. 16).   And in a short synopsis, Luke records Jesus’ baptism by John (vs. 21-22).  The latter half of our chapter is the genealogy of Jesus (vs. 23-38).  Certainly, we notice that Luke’s genealogy is not at the start of His gospel like Matthew’s.  Question: Why record Jesus’ genealogy?  Genealogies were a big part of a person’s identity and the Bible is presenting the facts that Jesus is the Son of God.  Luke’s genealogy goes backwards (present to past) while Matthew goes forward (past to present).  It’s also notable that Luke records Jesus’ genealogy all the way to Matthew.

Regarding application…Produce Fruit.  Vs. 9, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  The ministry I serve in is called “Roots.”  Certainly, it pictures our church and members rooted in the foundation of Jesus.  However, there is a danger in that we are so focused on being rooted on the word, prayer, and attending church, we then forget to do the other half of our Christian life.  We are also exhorted to bear fruit, which is best described as the living evidence of God’s love in our life.  Question: Are you bearing fruit?  Our church has their VBS this week.  It is wonderful to see volunteers doing whatever they can to help produce fruit and love our children.  Find a way to bear fruit in a specific way this week!

Matthew 17

Vs. 2, “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”  We open our chapter with Jesus revealing His glory to inner three (Peter, James & John) on the mount of Transfiguration (vs. 1-13).  Question: What is the Transfiguration?  It comes from the Greek language that gives us our modern day word: Metamorphosis.  All three Synoptic Gospels record this event.  The Transfiguration is a special glimpse into the glory of the Lord as Jesus reveals His true identity.  The presence of Moses (law) & Elijah (prophets) come to bear witness of Jesus’ identity and mission.  Once again, Jesus admonishes them not to reveal what they have seen (vs. 9); at least until He has done His work on the cross. Jesus reminds them the prophecy of Malachi (Malachi 4:5-6) concerning Elijah coming first is fulfilled through John the Baptist (Luke 1:17).  When they come down the mountain they encounter a failed exorcism (vs. 14-23).  Jesus uses this as an opportunity to give us a fresh understanding of what true faith looks like (vs. 20-21).  Sadly, we are reminded that Jesus’ death will come about because of betrayal of the worst kind; betrayal of their own in Judas Iscariot (vs. 22-23).  The Temple tax incident (vs. 24-27) teaches us that though Jesus being the Son of God (vs. 25) does not have to pay it, He does so to prevent the stumbling of others.

Regarding application…Father’s Approval.  Vs. 5, “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  These words from the Father were identical to His affirmation when Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:17).  The caveat is, “Listen to him!”  As children, we sought so hard to find the approval of our parents.  Sometimes they were disappointed, other time we were disappointed.  But deep down inside, we want to hear the praises and approval of our parents.  Jesus was obedient; even obedient to death on the cross (Philippians 2:8).  For my leisure reading, I am reading Peter Criss’ biography (the drummer of the rockband Kiss).  He shares a story when they finally performed in MSG (Madison Square Garden) and he had his parents and family attend.  As they performed he saw the tears and proud looks of his parents and it brought this 30 plus year old successful man to tears as he played the drums that night.  No matter how old we are, we want to make our loved ones proud of us.  Just as the Father approves His son Jesus, He also does for us.  Question: Why?  Because we listened to His son and put our faith in Him.  Jesus’ blood brings the approval of our Father in Heaven.  Thank you Father for loving us so much!

Matthew 16

Vs. 1, “The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.”  Though the Pharisees and Sadducees did not often get along, they would join together for the purpose of being threatened by Jesus and His followers (vs. 1-4).  They challenged Jesus to show them a sign, but signs never saved a person.  Jesus was the Son of God in flesh and they still did not believe.  The next section about comparing the religious leaders to yeast is almost comical (vs. 5-12).  The disciples keep thinking Jesus is speaking literally about bread.  It’s a good lesson for us to understand the context of the Bible less we interpret incorrectly.  When Jesus and the disciples come to the region of Caesarea Philippi (a place known for many pagan worship), Jesus uses this background to ask them a very important question (vs. 13-16).  Peter eloquently declares the identity of Jesus being the Christ (Anointed One) and the Son of the Living God (vs. 16).  It is here that Jesus uses the opportunity to exhort Peter as the leader to help build the church (vs. 17-20).  It is Jesus who is the foundation of the church and Peter is used to help build it.  And lastly, the road to the cross has commenced as Jesus’ Galilean ministry comes to a close (vs. 21-28).  While Jesus predicts His death, the disciples do not understand.  Peter allows his emotions to get the best of him as he rudely tries to speak against Jesus (vs. 22).  Jesus declares Peter does not have the mind of God and therefore rebukes Satan (vs. 23).  We are either for God or against God.

Regarding application…Carrying the Cross.  Vs. 24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Certainly, the meaning of the cross back in Jesus’ time was not a comforting thought.  The cross represented one of the cruelest means of capital punishment.  Question: What are you holding on to?  If we hold on to our own lives, we will lose it.  It is a paradox.  Question: How can we lose our life if we try to save it (vs. 25)?  Yet, the way to save our life is to carry the cross.  Brothers and sisters, Jesus set the example for us.  His death gives us life.  Our spiritual death from sin gives us eternal life!  I believe I’m slowly learning the burdens of walking with Jesus more and more.  The suffering of carrying the cross today is nothing compared to the joys of eternal life with our Savior!

Matthew 15

Vs. 2, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”  Seeing is believing.  The Pharisees and teachers of the law were so focused on the external, that they lost track of the internal.  Over the centuries they developed a system of oral tradition (Mishnah) that expounded upon God’s law.  This oral law became so prevalent that it was held to the same esteem that God’s law was on; sometimes even higher.  Jesus masterfully rebukes them and reminds them of what a clean/unclean person really look like (vs. 1-20).  The issue with supposedly honoring the father and mother in their old age by giving the excuse that the adult children devoted their money to God was outright disrespectful on both the parents and to God.  They would use their money and possessions and declare it to be set aside to God, as an excuse to help support their aging parents.  Sadly, they would still be the benefactors of this declared money & possessions.  Jesus and His disciples retreat to Tyre and Sidon (Gentile areas) possibly as a rest before making the long trek to Jerusalem and the cross.  The Canaanite woman encounter is a beautiful picture of persistence and grace (vs. 21-28).  Remember, Jesus’ mission was to first go to Israel to bring salvation and through Israel, the Gospel would be spread to the Gentiles.  But Jesus makes exception to respond to a woman who had such faith.  The crumbs of a dog example impresses me for she was quite witty and spiritually aware of the benefit of being a dog (Gentile) and still getting something from the bread.  And lastly in our chapter, we see Jesus do another miracle feeding (vs. 29-39).  However, this time Jesus does this miracle in the Gentile region.

Regarding application…Are You Clean?  Vs. 18, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.”  Certainly, we are reminded that the determination of what makes a person clean is the condition of our hearts.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ time determined what make a person clean was their “righteous” acts.  Sadly, their hearts were clogged with sin.  It is a stark reminder for us in the church, for we can relate to the religious leaders more than we would like to admit.  We have the tendency to fall upon the traditions of man (denominations, church practices, etc.).  As people who go to church faithfully all these years, there is the danger of our hearts hardening.  But it hardens not only from sin, but also from disappointment.  We all know the truth about churches; they are not perfect.  Yet the church is a gift from our Lord.  It all comes down to our hearts response; we can either become part of the solution or part of the problem.  Time to do a heart checkup!

Matthew 14

Vs. 12, “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.”  Sadly, John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod Antipas (vs. 1-12).  Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great who had ruled when Jesus was born.  Question: Why was John the Baptist beheaded?  Because John called out Herod’s adulterous marriage with Herodias, the wife of his half brother.  To make matters worse, on Herod Antipas’s birthday, Herodias orchestrated events in which who young daughter danced sensually in front Herod.  Upon being mesmerized by his step-daughter, Herod promises to give her anything she wanted.  She proceeded to demand the head of John the Baptist.  It is sad moment for Jesus as he withdraws to grieve (vs. 13).  Yet, in His grieving, there were many who still were seeking after Him.  Instead of driving away the crowds, Jesus takes the time to meet their needs in the feeding of the five thousand (vs. 13-21).  Matthew’s account of this miracle feeding provides the least amount of detail, but nevertheless reminds us all that God can provide in ways we least expect.  After a long day of ministry with the crowds, Jesus instructs the disciples to go to the other side of Galilee and He will meet them there (vs. 22).  Here we see the account of Jesus walking on water as he meets them that night in the storm (vs. 22-33).  It is touching event of Jesus’ power as the Son of God and His grace upon them for calming the storm.  Lastly, we continue to see Jesus press on towards the mission God called Him to continue spreading the Gospel (vs. 34-36) in Gennesaret.

Regarding application…Keep Your Eyes on Jesus.  Vs. 31, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  Before we give too much grief to Peter, very few of us would have had the faith to step out onto the raging waters.  It was only Peter.  Jesus did not admonish Peter for having no faith, just little faith.  The underlying lesson is to keep your eyes on Jesus.  Peter was walking on water to Jesus, but then probably began to look at everything around him (the storm, the other shocked faces of the disciples, etc.) and began to sink.  Question: Where are your eyes?  I never made the basketball team.  I tried out in junior high but was cut.  However, I managed to convince the coach that I would be the statistician.  I got to go to the practices and all the games!  One of the players on our team ended up getting the Mr. Basketball award in high school for being the top player in the state of Indiana (Scott Rolen).  I remember the basketball coach always instructed the players to keep their eyes on the front of the rim of the basketball hoop.  No matter how much you are going to be tempted to look at the jeering crowds or feel the pressure from the other team or even your own teammates, the key is to not lost focus on keeping your eyes in the right place.  Likewise, let us keep our eyes on Jesus this week!