Bible Reading Challenge continued

Bible Challenge: Day 314

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 1 & Psalm 55

2 Kings 1 records how King Ahaziah accidently fell through the lattice in the upper chamber of his palace. He was seriously injured and sent messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether he would recover. God sent Elijah to admonish him for his apostasy and to tell him that he was going to die. He intercepted the king’s messengers who returned and informed the Ahaziah what they had been told. The king asked them to describe the prophet who had spoken to them and ‘They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”’ Ahaziah sent a captain and fifty soldiers to apprehend Elijah but fire fell from heaven and consumed them at the word of the prophet. The king sent another fifty men, who met the same fiery end. Ahaziah sent another captain and fifty soldiers who pleaded with Elijah to accompany them. After receiving word from God, he did so, and told the king he would not rise from his bed but die. ‘So he died according to the word of the LORD that Elijah had spoken. Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son.’

Psalm 55 is attributed to David, but it anticipated and has been traditionally applied to Christ. The Lord Jesus said after all, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Lk.24:26-27). And so, David’s cries and pleas can rightly be taken for the voice of Jesus in this Psalm. He prays, ‘Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! 2 Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, 3 because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked.’ From his betrayal in the Upper Room and Garden to the Via Dolorosa and his Cross, Jesus experienced the ignominy, false accusations, hatred, mockery, and brutal opposition of his enemies. Like David, but even more so, he could have surely said, ‘For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. 4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5 Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. 6 And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; 7 yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah 8 I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”’ Unlike David, however, Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father from the Cross, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ [vv.9-11]. Like David, Jesus lamented his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve whom he had chosen, a ‘companion and friend’ who had sold him out for thirty pieces of silver! [vv.12-14]. Sadly, Judas’ and others’ thoughts, words, and actions against the Son were evil and emanated from their fallen and rotten hearts [v.15]. Like David, Jesus cried to God (the Father) in faith, trusting his crown would follow his cross [16-18]. His enemies had violated God’s covenant of love and the unrepentant would be held accountable for the evil that they did [vv.19-21]. The Psalmist urges all God’s people to ‘22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.’ He concludes by way of contrast. ‘23 But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.’ Let us eschew evil. Rather let us trust and obey God.

To ponder! who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him… (Heb.5:7-9).

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Bible Challenge: Day 315

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 2 & Psalm 56

2 Kings 2 records Jehoash’s renovation work at the Temple. He reigned for forty years over Judah from Jerusalem, and he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. Like his predecessors, however, he failed to stop some from worshipping at the ‘high places’. He gladly received instruction from Jehoiada, the high priest. And he commanded the priests, “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the LORD, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man's heart prompts him to bring into the house of the LORD, 5 let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered.” Nevertheless, after twenty-three years the work had yet failed to materialise. And so, the king confronted Jehoiada and his fellow priests and demanded to know why they had not renovated the Temple as commanded. He ordered them to take no more money from their donors but to get on with the actual work. Money from worshippers was collected at the Temple and distributed to the carpenters, stonemasons and stonecutters employed. Hazeal, the king of Syria, however, conquered Gath and then turned his attention to Jerusalem. Rather than face him in battle, Jehoash bought him off with the sacred gifts dedicated by Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah his fathers, the kings of Judah, as well as his own sacred gifts, ‘and all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king's house’. Hazeal therefore spared the Holy City. Subsequently, Jehoash (Joash is an alternative spelling) was assassinated by some of his own political advisors or courtiers and was buried at Jerusalem. He was succeeded by his son, Amaziah.

Psalm 56 is a Psalm of David which reflects his experience after being captured by the Philistines at Gath. It can also be applied to Christ, the church, and the individual Christian when faced with trials, troubles, and tribulations. It reminds us of the importance of faith and of our need to trust in God through thick and thin. David cries out to God, ‘Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; 2 my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.’ Again, he looks on his extremity as God’s opportunity. His mental and physical suffering is all too real but in hope he looks to God to deliver him from it. He writes, ‘3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?’ The Lord Jesus would say in the days of his earthly ministry, ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ David’s foes, like Christ’s, were formidable but they are no match for God. ‘5 All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life.’ However, David is confident that they will face God’s judgement. ‘7 For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!’ By contrast, the omniscient God loves and therefore cares for his beloved children. And so, the Psalmist declares, ‘8 You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? 9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.’

He has assurance of God’s favour, goodness, and love. God will not forget or forsake him. ‘This I know,’ he therefore writes, ‘that God is for me.’ Thus, he will remain faithful. He will trust and praise the LORD who will not break his covenant with his people. ‘10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, 11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? 12 I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. 13 For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.’ The same God came in the person of Jesus Christ that we might walk in love in the light. He came that we might have life, enjoy it abundantly, and have it everlastingly. Praise the Lord.

To ponder! The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you and said, ‘Destroy’ (Deut.33:27).

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Bible Challenge: Day 316

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 2 & Psalm 57

In the chaos of combatting Friday’s flood, I mistakenly commented on 2 Kings 12 rather than 2 Kings 2 and so today we turn back to 2 Kings 2 rather than 2 Kings 3. Here Elijah is translated to heaven without passing through death. The prophets of Bethel came out to meet Elijah and Elisha and told the latter, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.” As they approached Jericho, prophets from there too also relayed the same message. At the Jordan River, Elijah rolled up his cloak and struck the water and it parted allowing him to pass over on dry land, accompanied by Elisha. ‘When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”’ While they chatted and made their onward journey what seemed like chariots and horses of fire separated the two prophets and Elijah was carried up into heaven in a whirlwind. ‘And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.’ Elisha tore his clothes and took up Elijah’s cloak. Returning via Jordan, he struck the river, and it parted as it had done for Elijah. And the prophets and people of Jericho saw that the spirit of Elijah now rested with Elisha. He there performed a miracle purifying the water of a nearby spring that the people depended upon. Passing by Bethel some boys mocked him and paid a heavy price when they were attacked by two bears after being cursed by the prophet. He returned to Samaria via Mount Carmel.

Psalm 57 is the prayer of David when he hid in a cave from the murderous intentions of Saul. Like other Psalms it prefigures or foreshadows Christ who willingly faced the storms of destruction for the sin of the world. David pleaded for mercy. ‘Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.’ David’s son and Lord also found refuge in God. And like David, he wholeheartedly trusted in God the Father’s plan and purpose for his mission and ministry. ‘2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.’

David looked to God for deliverance while Jesus looked beyond the cross to his crown. And so the psalmist writes, ‘3 He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!’ Like David, but even more so, Jesus faced the hostility and violent hatred of his enemies – both spiritual and temporal. ‘4 My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts—the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.’ But they both anticipated God being glorified through their deliverance from the cave and tomb. And so, Christ could cry along with David, ‘5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!’ they both recognised the folly of their persecutors who were bring judgement upon themselves by their opposition and oppression towards the LORD’s anointed. Hence, he writes, ‘6 They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah’ Therefore, despite their suffering they both praised the LORD and glorified his name. They rejoiced in him and his faithfulness towards them. They would not only be wholly vindicated but they would be exalted. And God’s name was and is glorified through all the earth. And so, the psalmist concludes, ‘7 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! 8 Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 9 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. 10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!’ Amen.

To ponder! Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings (Ps.17:8b).

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Bible Challenge: Day 317

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 3 & Psalm 58

2 Kings 3 records Moab’s rebellion against Israel during the reign of Jehoram, the son of Ahab. While not as bad as his father, he nevertheless did evil in the sight of the LORD by continuing the idolatrous religious policy and practices developed by Jeroboam. Mesha of Moab reneged on a contract to deliver a sizeable quantity of sheep and wool to Israel. And Jehoram responded my mustering his army and marching against Moab. He persuaded King Jehoshaphat of Israel to join in the assault via the wilderness of Edom. After sevens and in need of provisions, they sought word from Elisha, the prophet. For the sake of Jehoshaphat, Elisha told Jehoram, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’ 17 For thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’ 18 This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD. He will also give the Moabites into your hand, 19 and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.” The next morning around the time of worship, water came from the direction of Edom as prophesied. The Moabite army marshalled its forces and marched against Israel and Judah but were defeated as Elisha had foretold. Mesha sacrificed his own son to his gods but to no avail. And the Hebrews returned to their own land.

Psalm 58 is an imprecatory Psalm in which David prays that justice would prevail against those that do evil, and that God and his ways would be wholly vindicated. He rhetorically asks, ‘Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods? Do you judge the children of man uprightly?’ And he provides the answer, ‘2 No, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence on earth.’ We should note once again, the psalmist’s reference to the heart which speaks of the centrality or core of a person’s being. The fallen nature has corrupted man’s affections, emotions, understanding, and will and the evil give full expression to the sin nature. As the Lord Jesus says, ‘For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander’ (Mt.15:19). And thus our need of a new heart which is ours in the new covenant that Jesus, ratified and sealed through his life, death, and resurrection. ‘3 The wicked, David’s notes, ‘are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. 4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent, like the deaf adder that stops its ear, 5 so that it does not hear the voice of charmers or of the cunning enchanter.’ Comprehending the damage done and the potential danger posed by those that do evil, David pleads with God to disarm, ameliorate, and nullify their power. ‘6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD! 7 Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. 8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun. 9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!’ He prays that the righteous may have cause to rejoice to God’s justice and that their faithfulness will be richly rewarded. ‘10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

To ponder! Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen.18:25).

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Bible Challenge: Day 318

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 4 & Psalm 59

2 Kings 4 records miracles attributed to the Prophet Elisha. He was God’s agent and instrument reminding the children of Israel of their need of God’s grace and of their obligation to walk by faith. He intervened to help a poor widow, who feared losing her sons to slavery due to her inability to meet the demands of her creditors. He ensured that she had an ample supply of oil to pay off her creditors and make ends meet [vv.1-7]. Elisha also returned the kindness and generosity shown to him by a Shunammite woman and her husband who provided him with food, drink, and accommodation. Through the mediation of Elisha (a type of Christ!), God enabled the childless couple to produce an heir, after the woman miraculously conceived [vv.8-17]. When their son was a boy, he appears to have suddenly been struck down dead by a brain haemorrhage or a stroke. The Shunammite woman swiftly travelled to Elisha at Mount Carmel. She persuaded Elisha to return with her. Gehazi, the prophet’s servant confirmed that the boy was dead. God worked through Elisha to restore the boy to life to the great relief of his parents [vv.18-37]. The chapter concludes with a famine at Gilgal and Elisha turning a harmful and therefore inedible stew into a nutritious meal for the sons of the prophets [vv.38-41]. Anticipating the Lord Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 he was also God’s agent there in the multiplication of food to feed a hundred men [vv.42-44].

Psalm 59 like Psalm 58 has obvious Christological overtures, but it was composed by David while Saul’s assassins were watching to take his life. He therefore earnestly prays to God, ‘Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me; 2 deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. 3 For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me.’ David pleads his innocence and herein acts as a type of Christ who alone was and is truly without sin. ‘For no transgression or sin of mine, O LORD, 4 for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.’ The psalmist urges God to intervene. To come to his aid. To punish the wicked and thereby establish justice. He therefore cries, ‘Awake, come to meet me, and see! 5 You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah’ David’s enemies, like the Lord Jesus’ were constantly conspiring to kill him and yet he like Jesus trusted in the sovereignty of God who upholds, strengthens, sustains, and shields his people. ‘6 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city. 7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips—for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?” 8 But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. 9 O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.’ Despite the virulent determination of his enemies, whom he likens to vicious pack of wild dogs seeking their prey, David, like Jesus, trusted wholeheartedly in the steadfast love and goodness of God. He is confident that God will guarantee his ultimate triumph over those that sought to take his life [vv.10-15]. He therefore concludes with adoration, admiration, and acclamation in heartfelt praise, declaring, ‘16 But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. 17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.’

To ponder! Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Ps.2:1-6).

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Bible Challenge: Day 319

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 5 & Psalm 60

2 Kings 5 records the healing of Naaman’s leprosy by the instrumentality of Elisha. Naaman was a courageous and loyal commander in the Syrian army and was well respected by his king and the people of the nation. In his household was a young Israelite female servant who had been a victim of war between Syria and Israel. She informed Naaman’s wife of how the God of Israel worked supernaturally through Elisha and suggested he could cure Naaman of his leprosy. Naaman’s wife told her husband who in turn told the king who wrote to the king of Israel. Naaman took the letter to Israel’s king, along with gold, silver, and clothing. The king of Israel was indignant when he read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” On hearing that the king had tore his rich garments, Elisha enquired into the reason why he had done so which in turn led to his encounter with Naaman. Elisha told Naaman via a messenger, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” Naaman, however, was enraged that Elisha had not received him in person. Disbelieving, he pointed out that there were rivers in Syria he could have washed in! Nevertheless, his servants reasoned with him and persuaded him to do as instructed by the prophet. ‘So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.’ Naaman went to Elisha afterward expressing faith in the God of Israel and as a token of his gratitude sought to lavishly reward him but Elisha refused his gift. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, nevertheless caught up with Naaman, told him a lie, and received two talents of silver and two changes of clothes. Despite his denial, Elisha confronted him on his return and said, ‘“Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.’

In Psalm 60 David earnestly prays to God for Israel’s salvation and restoration in the land. In desperation, he asks, ‘O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; oh, restore us. 2 You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair its breaches, for it totters. 3 You have made your people see hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger.’ David recognises God’s hand in the establishment of the nation and their utter reliance on the LORD for their prosperity and protection. God has temporarily forsaken them due to their folly, but the psalmist looks in hope to recovery by God’s grace and mercy. ‘4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah 5 That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us!’ David takes hold of God’s promises, relying on the LORD’s covenant faithfulness and steadfast love. Expressing complete dependency on the sovereign LORD, he writes, ‘6 God has spoken in his holiness: “With exultation I will divide up Shechem and portion out the Vale of Succoth. 7 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet; Judah is my sceptre. 8 Moab is my washbasin; upon Edom I cast my shoe; over Philistia I shout in triumph.” 9 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? 10 Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go forth, O God, with our armies.’ In faith he therefore beseeches God, ‘11 Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! 12 With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.’ Let us recognise our continual need of grace and walk by faith which is the way of faithfulness and fruitfulness to God’s glory and our common good.

To ponder! For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness. 29 For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. 30 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him (Ps.18:28-30).

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Bible Challenge: Day 320

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 6 & Psalm 61

2 Kings 6 begins with the story of the miraculous retrieval of the iron axe head from the River Jordan by Elisha’s intervention. The prophetic school that grew around Elisha were felling logs at the Jordan for the construction of dwellings when one of the prophets dropped his axe head into a deep part of the river. ‘Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. 7 And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.’ Afterward, Elisha became the focus of the king of Syria’s ire after it was told his that the prophet was relaying the mind and plans of the Syrians to the King of Israel. ‘And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.’ When Elisha’s servant brought word that they were surrounded by the Syrian army, Elisha told him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prayed to God to open the eyes of his servant so that he could behold the host of the LORD. And he saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire. Elisha further prayed to God to render the Syrians blind. He then led them away to Samaria. Elisha told the king of Israel to do them no harm but rather provide them with bread and water and they made their way peacefully back to Syria. Later, King Ben-hadad of Syria besieged Samaria with his entire army. A severe famine followed that resulted in escalating food prices and grave shortages compelling some to resort to cannibalism. The King of Israel was rightly horrified to discover that some in desperation had sacrificed and ate the vulnerable. He tore his clothes and mourned but foolishly attributed blame to Elisha whose head he demanded. The king therefore despatched an assassin but before he reached Elisha, the prophet declared to the elders, “Do you see how this murderer has sent to take off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door fast against him. Is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?” 33 And while he was still speaking with them, the messenger came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the LORD! Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”

In Psalm 61 David cries to God to strengthen and sustain him. His prayer anticipates and foreshadows Christ whom God raised to reign everlastingly. The psalmist pleads, ‘Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; 2 from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, 3 for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.’ David again expresses his need of God’s abiding grace. God is his rock and refuge, his shelter and strength. Without him he is helpless and without real hope. He expresses his chief desire and delight. He says, ‘4 Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah’ He prays in a faith that is experiential. He has experienced God’s goodness. God has answered previous prayers and therefore David prays with confidence and conviction. ‘5 For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.’ He asks the Lord, ‘6 Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! 7 May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!’ And while God blessed him richly, his words found ultimate fulfilment in Jesus Christ, his Lord, and ours. He concludes by praising and promising to faithfully serve God. ‘8 So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.’

To ponder! But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Mt.6:33).

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Bible Challenge: Day 321

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 7 & Psalm 62

2 Kings 7 begins with Elisha prophesying the end of great scarcity. The following day flour and barley would be sold at the city gates of Samaria. The king’s captain expressed scepticism, but the prophet told him, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” Nevertheless, four lepers who sat at the city gate, fearing starvation decided to seek refuge in the camp of the Syrians in the hope of finding relief from the famine. However, they found that the LORD had made the Syrians to flee. Believing that a vast army was approaching they had fled in the night abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and provisions. The lepers ate and drank and made off with silver and gold which they hid. Their conscience awakened, they then returned to Samaria and informed the king’s household of what they had found. The king feared a Syrian trap to capture Samaria but was persuaded to send horsemen to take cognizance of the situation. They returned and confirmed that the Syrians had fled. ‘Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD.’ The captain that had doubted Elisha’s word from God was sadly trampled to death in the crush for food at the city gate fulfilling the prophet’s word.

In Psalm 62 David expresses his complete confidence in God alone. This Psalm, like others, has Christological overtones and is the prayer of the church militant. The psalmist begins, ‘For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.’ David speaks in quiet assurance for the people of God who may well have cause to tremble at times in their lives. However, they do so on the rock that is God who will never give way under their feet. The Christian finds stability and security in him through Christ. David expresses exasperation at the folly of fallen man who ignores God’s word and tramples his neighbour underfoot for power, prestige, and prosperity. He asks, ‘3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? 4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah. By contrast, the psalmist speaks for God’s people when he declares, ‘5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.’ He therefore urges all, ‘8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah’ He furthermore points out the futility and folly of making an idol of wealth. ‘9 Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 10 Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.’ God, he reminds us, is sovereign. We must set our hearts on his steadfast love. All are answerable and accountable to him. ‘11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.’ Amen.

To ponder! For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Rom.8:24-25).

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Bible Challenge: Day 322

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 8 & Psalm 63

2 Kings 8 begins with the restoration of the property and land of the Shunammite woman whose son Elisha had restored to life from death. Elisha had forewarned her, and her household, of the famine that would strike Israel for seven years. She consequently had found refuge in the land of the Philistines. She confirmed what Gehazi told the king about the miracles Elisha had done, and her property was restored by royal assent. Elisha was next confronted by Hazael who had been sent by Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, to enquire of the prophet whether he would recover from an illness that had left him bedridden. Elisha informed him that the king would indeed survive his sickness but would nevertheless die. He wept as he saw in a vision the death and devastation that was to be wrought on Israel by Ben-hadad’s killer and successor. Hazael returned and told the king that he would survive the sickness. Shortly afterwards, however, he suffocated his king and assumed control in his stead. Meanwhile, Jehoram succeeded Ahab as king of Israel at the age of thirty-two. He reigned for eight years and like his father, did evil in the sight of the LORD. His reign saw the revolt of Edom from Judah’s control and political and military turbulence throughout the region. In the twelfth year of his reign Ahaziah became king of Judah. He came to the throne at the age of twenty-two, but he followed the ways of Ahab and only reigned for one year. He joined with Joram in attacking the forces of Hazael of Syria at Ramoth-gilead. There Joram was injured in battle and was taken to Jezreel. The chapter concludes with Ahaziah on his way to visit him.

Psalm 63 was composed by David in the wilderness after fleeing for his life. It expresses his deep love of, desire for, and dependency on God. Like so many of the Psalms it anticipates and foreshadows Christ who triumphed over our greatest foe in the wilderness, and who later rose from the earth to reign over all. It also expresses the praise and prayer of God’s church whose desire and delight is to live ‘coram deo’ – before the face of God. The psalmist reveals his personal yearning for God’s presence. He begins, ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ He prays in faith founded on personal experience reminding us that the Christian life is one of troughs as well as peaks in our earthly pilgrimage. ‘2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.’ David’s soul, his inner person, found contentment in God. Like Augustine of Hippo, his heart found peace, rest, satisfaction, and delight in God who was ever in his thoughts. And so, he writes in faith, hope, and love in anticipation of God’s gracious self-disclosure to him. ‘5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.’ His faith to rooted in and routed to God to whom he adheres. ‘8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.’ And so it is with all that love the LORD. As the apostle reminds us, all things are working for the good of those that love God. ‘9 But, David ends, ‘those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; 10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. 11 But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.’

To ponder! Here’s the first six stanzas of the old Scottish Metrical Version of Psalm 63. I used to regularly sing it to the tune ‘Jackson’, but any common metre tune should work just fine. Singing the psalms helps us to remember their content. These were the hymns that the Lord Jesus sang, and he is revealed therein.

1 Lord, thee my God, I'll early seek:

my soul doth thirst for thee;

My flesh longs in a dry parched land,

wherein no waters be:

2 That I thy power may behold,

and brightness of thy face,

As I have seen thee heretofore

within thy holy place.

3 Since better is thy love than life,

my lips thee praise shall give.

4 I in thy name will lift my hands,

and bless thee while I live.

5 Ev'n as with marrow and with fat

my soul shall filled be;

Then shall my mouth with joyful lips

sing praises unto thee:

6 When I do thee upon my bed

remember with delight,

And when on thee I meditate

in watches of the night.

7 In shadow of thy wings I'll joy;

for thou mine help hast been.

8 My soul thee follows hard; and me

thy right hand doth sustain.

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Bible Challenge: Day 323

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 9 & Psalm 64

In 2 Kings 9 Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to Ramoth-gilead to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, king over Israel. When Elisha’s servant arrived, he called out Jehu from the council of commanders and anointed him as instructed by the prophet. He told Jehu to strike down the entire house of Ahab. He informed Jehu that God said, ‘And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. 10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” Jehu in turn told the commanders what Elisha’s servant had told him and they proclaimed Jehu king. Jehu consequently conspired to murder Joram, who lay injured of wounds of Ramoth-gilead. King Joram and King Ahaziah rode out in their chariots to meet him but he killed Joram with an arrow that penetrated his armour and heart. Ahaziah fled for his life, but Jehu and his men caught up with him and similarly hit him with their arrows. He escaped to Megiddo but died of his wounds there. Finally, Jehu travelled to Jezreel and on arrival ordered that Jezebel be thrown down from her palace window. She died from the violent fall and dogs ate her flesh and licked up her blood in fulfilment of Elijah’s prophecy.

Psalm 64 is another Psalm of David who prays to God, ‘Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy.’ This is David’s response to the pursuit of those that sought to murder him. However, his words are equally and possibly even more applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ who was the victim of an evil conspiracy and the greatest miscarriage of justice ever. Unlike the Lord Jesus however, David asked God, ‘2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, 3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, 4 shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear.’ Jesus nevertheless was the truly and perfectly blameless one who was ever without sin. And hence he was the unblemished Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sin of the world. Like David’s adversaries, Christ’s were determined to destroy him. ‘5 They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” 6 They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep.’ The psalmist’s enemies failed in their wicked schemes because God preserved David. They only succeeded in executing Jesus because it was God’s will for the salvation of Jews and Gentiles alike. Nevertheless, God will judge the unrepentant. The psalmist therefore notes, 7 But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. 8 They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. 9 Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done.’ Let all God’s people ponder his wonderful providences and praise the LORD. ‘10 Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!’ Let us rejoice in the Righteous One. He is the Lord our Righteousness. We have a future and a hope in and through him.

To ponder! The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” (Mt.27:21-23).

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Bible Challenge: Day 324

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 10 & Psalm 65

2 Kings 10 records how Jehu consolidated his reign by murdering his dynastic and political rivals. Ahab’s descendants were thereby annihilated fulfilling the prophecy of Elijah. Jehu wrote to the elders and guardians of the sons of Ahab challenging them to military confrontation but afraid of Jehu’s martial prowess and might they pledged their fealty instead. At his command they slaughtered Ahab’s seventy offspring and sent their decapitated heads to Jehu as proof. But their action did not spare them from Jehu’s sword. He ‘struck down all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men and his close friends and his priests, until he left him none remaining.’ At Beth-eked of the Shepherds Jehu encountered relatives of Ahaziah and their entourage and he similarly had them slaughtered also. He then proceeded to destroy all remaining support for Ahab throughout Samaria. Jehu then assembled all the worshippers of Baal in one place feigning a religious celebration to their god and had them killed by his soldiers. ‘So when they put them to the sword, the guard and the officers cast them out and went into the inner room of the house of Baal, 26 and they brought out the pillar that was in the house of Baal and burned it. 27 And they demolished the pillar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.’ Ahab nevertheless failed to demolish the golden calves that Jeroboam had erected at Bethel and Dan and he did not walk in all the ways of the LORD. He therein caused Israel to continue in sin. During his reign Israel lost territory to the surrounding nations. Jehu reigned for twenty-eight years and was succeeded by his son, Jehoahaz.

Psalm 65 is another prayer of David expressing praise for God’s amazing grace. God alone is worthy of worship and his people exist to glorify him. David writes, ‘Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall vows be performed.’ God is the hearer of prayer, and the psalmist anticipates the new covenant era when all people will bow before him. ‘2 O you who hear prayer, to you shall all flesh come.’ He conveys gratitude for God’s saving grace, saying, ‘3 When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.’ God not only redeems but he restores and renews by bringing people into a right relationship with himself through Jesus Christ our Lord. And so, the psalmist declares, ‘4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!’ He articulates awe at God’s sovereignty and at how he not only saves his people and reaches out to all, but how he also provides for and prospers them. ‘5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; 6 the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; 7 who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, 8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. 9 You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. 10 You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.’ David concludes in exuberant admiration, and adulation at the abundant and abiding riches of God’s grace. ‘11 You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. 12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, 13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.’ Let us do likewise.

To ponder! The LORD is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. 9 Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever (Ps.28:8-9).

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Bible Challenge: Day 325

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 11 & Psalm 66

2 Kings 11 records the murderous power grab by Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah. When she received news of her son’s death, she ordered that all members of the royal family should be put to death. However, Joash was hidden from her death squads by Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram. Athaliah ruled over Judah. After seven years however, Jehoiada, the high priest made a covenant with the captains of the Carites and the guards to protect the rightful heir to the throne. They proclaimed and anointed Joash, king of Judah. Athaliah cried treason but order was given to put her to death and all who had followed her. ‘And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD's people, and also between the king and the people.’ And they proceeded to purge the land of all Baal-worship and associated idols. And the Holy City enjoyed a period of peace.

Psalm 66 is a paeon of praise to God for his awesome grace. Reminding the children of Israel of their call to be a witness to all the nations, and anticipating the New Covenant era, the psalmist invites everyone, everywhere, to ‘Shout for joy to God, all the earth; 2 sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! 3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. 4 All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah’ The psalm then invites all to reflect and rejoice in God’s omnipotence and omniscience with specific reference to what he did for Israel. ‘5 Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. 6 He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, 7 who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah’ The psalmist therefore calls upon all to worship God who powerfully protects and prospers his people. ‘8 Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, 9 who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. 10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.’ The psalmist representing God’s church in the Old Testament era, personally vows to worship and serve the Lord. Hereby reminding us that our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. ‘13 I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you, 14 that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. 15 I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah’ He concludes by inviting all to hear and heed his testimony. The LORD has heard and answered his prayers. And he will receive all in his steadfast love who approach in faith and repentance. Therefore, ‘16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!’ Let us ever draw near to God in and through Jesus Christ, our Mediator, Lord, and Saviour.

To ponder! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Ps.107:1).

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Bible Challenge: Day 326

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 12 & Psalm 67

2 Kings 2 records Jehoash’s instigating and overseeing the renovation of the Temple. He reigned for forty years over Judah from Jerusalem, and he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. Like his predecessors, however, he failed to stop some from worshipping at the ‘high places’. He gladly received instruction from Jehoiada, the high priest. And he commanded the priests, “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the LORD, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man's heart prompts him to bring into the house of the LORD, 5 let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered.” Nevertheless, after twenty-three years the work had yet failed to materialise. And so, the king confronted Jehoiada and his fellow priests and demanded to know why they had not renovated the Temple as commanded. He ordered them to take no more money from their donors but to get on with the actual work. Money from worshippers was collected at the Temple and distributed to the carpenters, stonemasons and stonecutters employed. Hazeal, the king of Syria, however, conquered Gath and then turned his attention to Jerusalem. Rather than face him in battle, Jehoash bought him off with the sacred gifts dedicated by Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah his fathers, the kings of Judah, as well as his own sacred gifts, ‘and all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king's house’. Hazeal therefore spared the Holy City. Subsequently, Jehoash (Joash is an alternative spelling) was assassinated by some of his own political advisors or courtiers and was buried at Jerusalem. He was succeeded by his son, Amaziah.

Psalm 67 is a paeon of praise that we sing periodically in worship to the tune Selma. It celebrates Israel’s commission and witness to the world and thereby anticipates and foreshadows the Great Commission and the witness of the church to the world in our New Covenant era. I write the day after reading that Christians are now a minority in the UK for the first time since the Dark Ages. And so, Christ’s call and commission to his church has rarely been of greater significance. And we need not go to the far-flung places of the earth but concentrate in the first instance on our homeland! The psalmist invokes God’s blessing, for unless the Lord builds the house its labourers build in vain (Ps.127). He therefore prays, ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 2 that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.’ He is reminding us that the church and all who comprise her is utterly dependent on grace – on God’s favour. We are called to go proclaim the gospel in his power. Only God can open hearts and give the increase. And the church must take confidence and find heart in Christ’s promise to build his church. And the goal is that all peoples may know, love and praise God in and through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Therefore, ‘3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah’ God is good and just. He is calling people into a new relationship with him and one another that is rooted and built up in love. He has come into our world in the person of Jesus to put a-right what has been put so badly amiss by the Fall and the resultant sin-nature. And hence the church has good news of reconciliation, redemption, and renewal in Jesus’ name. ‘5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. 7 God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!’ Worship is the ultimate goal. Let all revere and respect the living and true God.

To ponder! And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt.28:18-20).

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Bible Challenge: Day 327

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 13 & Psalm 68

2 Kings 13 records the respective reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoash in Israel and the death of Elisha. Jehoahaz ruled for seventeen years and did evil in the sight of the LORD replicating the religious practices of Jeroboam and causing the people to sin. God’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, whose raiding parties brought much heartache and hardships. Israel’s army was significantly depleted due to military losses and Jehoahaz consequently cried to God for help but failed to abandon his idolatrous ways. He was succeeded by Jehoash [Joash] who reigned for sixteen years. He followed the wicked ways of his father. He was succeeded by Jeroboam [II]. Joash sought Elisha’s intervention with God while Elisha was in poor health and on his deathbed. ‘Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”’ Elisha instructed him to take a bow and arrows and to shoot an arrow eastward assuring him of victory over the Syrians at Aphek. Elisha admonished the king for only striking the ground three times with arrows. He told him, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” Elisha died shortly afterward. The body of a man killed by a marauding party of Moabites was later thrown into Elisha’s grave and the man was miraculously revived. God was gracious and showed compassion to Israel for the sake of his covenant with Abraham. Three times Joash defeated Ben-hadad and recovered the cities of Israel as Elisha had prophesied.

Psalm 68 is a celebration of God’s greatness and grace. David urges God’s church to joyfully praise God who will defeat his enemies and lead his people in triumphal procession [vv.1-3].

‘4 Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! 5 Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. 6 God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.’ The psalmist recounts God’s saving grace in delivering Israel out of Egypt and providing for them in the wilderness. And he meditates and marvels at God’s witness to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai [vv.7-18].

David worships God as Lord and Saviour. ‘19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah 20 Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.’ God will judge the wicked and bring their schemes and opposition to naught [vv.21-23]. The psalmist rejoices with the church in the worship of God [24-27]. He anticipates the day when all the nations will honour the Lord (vv.28-31). And urges all to hear and heed the word of God and praise him in return. He concludes, ‘34 Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and whose power is in the skies. 35 Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God!’

To ponder! I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” (Ps.122:1).

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Bible Challenge: Day 328

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 14 & Psalm 69

2 Kings 14 begins with a record of the reign of Amaziah as king of Judah. He was twenty-five years old when he ascended the throne and he reigned for twenty-nine years. He sought to live by the law of God but like his predecessors he did not prevent the people from offering sacrifices at the high places. He took revenge on those that had conspired in his father’s murder. He led a successful military campaign against the Edomites in the Valley of Salt and captured the city of Sela, renaming it Joktheel. Overconfident after his victory, he then challenged Jehoash of Israel to military conflict. Ignoring Jehoash’s warning, he was defeated in battle by the superior forces of the northern kingdom. He was captured, Jerusalem was sacked, and its treasures pillaged as a result. Released from being held hostage, Amaziah was deposed by a conspiracy and killed at Lachish. His body was returned to Jerusalem for burial, and he was succeeded by his son and heir, Azariah. Jehoash was also succeeded by his son, Jeroboam, who was to reign for forty-one years. He did evil in the sight of the LORD by following the religious policy and practices of his predecessors. God was merciful nevertheless, and Jeroboam II restored and consolidated Israel’s national borders against her enemies. He was followed on the throne by his son, Zechariah.

Psalm 69 is another Psalm of David which the church from the beginning of the new covenant era attributed to Christ’s passion. Jesus himself refers to it, as does the Apostle Paul. He underwent a baptism like no other for the salvation of the world. And so, the words of David are applicable to Jesus when he begins by crying to God, ‘Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3 I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.’ Like David, but even more so, the Lord Jesus could truly say, ‘4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?’ Unlike David, however, there was no folly in Jesus (5). It was for Love’s sake that he suffered and died and rose again (6-8). He came to his own and own received him not! (. Christ again could truly say, ‘9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.’ He humbled himself even to the point of death and bore the shame and ignominy of the people (10-12). However, he remained resolute in faith, hope, and love, looking beyond his cross to his crown (13-18, 29). His comfort and confidence were in God alone (19-20). Despite his grave thirst, he refused their sour wine to ease his suffering (22). While the psalmist calls for justice to be delivered to his enemies, the Lord Jesus called for grace and mercy for those that would repent and believe (22-28). Despite his imminent death, he would yet praise his Father in the land of the living (30-31). And after his resurrection the good news would provide not only life and liberty but would lead to rejoicing throughout heaven and earth (32-33). Therefore, ‘34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. 35 For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; 36 the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.’

To ponder! Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” (Mk.10:38).

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Bible Challenge: Day 329

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 15 & Psalm 70

2 Kings 15 contrasts the political stability of Judah with the political turmoil of Israel. It begins with the reign of Azariah. He was sixteen when he assumed the throne and ruled Judah for fifty-two years. Although the people continued to offer sacrifices at the high places, he was nevertheless a good and faithful ruler in the eyes of God. Leprosy compelled him to live apart from his household however, and his son Jotham carried out public duties in his name. Jotham succeeded him. By contrast Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, came to the throne in Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Azariah’s rule over the southern kingdom but he was king for only six months. He did evil in the sight of the LORD and was murdered by Shallum in a palace coup. His death witnessed the fulfilment of the prophecy of Jehu. He was replaced by Shallum who only reigned for one month. He was murdered by Menahem who was crowned in his stead. His army sacked Tiphsah, sparing not even pregnant woman. He reigned for ten years in Samaria and like his predecessor did what was evil in God’s sight. He exacted a heavy financial burden upon the people of Israel to bribe Assyria not to attack them. Pekahiah, his son, succeeded him but reigned for only two years. He also displeased God by continuing the religious policy and practices of his predecessor. He was similarly killed and replaced in a coup by Pekah, the captain of Israel’s army, who reigned for twenty years. He also failed to correct the cultic practices of Jeroboam I. Assyria forcibly captured territory belonging to Israel during his reign and became an increasing threat to the nation and its dynasty. Pekah was similarly murdered by Hoshea in a conspiracy against his rule, who replaced him as king of Israel. Meanwhile, in the second year of Pekah’s reign, Jotham became king of Judah on the death of his father. He reigned for sixteen years and did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, although the high places were not removed. ‘In those days the LORD began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah.’ When he died, his son, Ahaz, ascended the throne.

In Psalm 70 David cries to God for deliverance. The Psalm has Christological overtones and is the prayer of the church when faced with persecution and oppression in the world. The psalmist begins, ‘Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!’ His earnest plea is a prayer of faith that looks to God to help him and deliver him from the hands of his enemies. It is a witness to God’s omnipotence and omniscience. It is a cry for justice in an unjust world. ‘2 Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonour who delight in my hurt! 3 Let them turn back because of their shame who say, “Aha, Aha!”’ By contrast it is also a prayer of supplication for the church. The psalmist understands that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And so, he expresses his desire that all God’s people may have cause to rejoice in their Lord and Saviour. He prays that the people of God may ever praise the LORD for his grace and greatness. He therefore writes, ‘4 May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”’ He concludes, ‘5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!’ David’s prayer is a model prayer. It is the petition of the humble believer who recognises his or her dependency on God.

To ponder! Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth (Ps.124:8).

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Bible Challenge: Day 330

Bible Reading: 2 Kings 16 & Psalm 71

In the seventeenth years of Pekah’s reign over Israel, Ahaz came to the throne in Judah. He ruled for sixteen years and did evil in God’s sight, going so far as to sacrifice one of his sons to a foreign deity. King Rezin entered a coalition with Pekah of Israel and they waged war on Judah, besieging Jerusalem. The Syrians made advances into Judah, conquering Elath which was later occupied by Edomites. Ahaz purchased an alliance with Tiglath-pileser of Assyria with the treasures of his house to help repulse the invading armies of Syria and Israel. The Assyrians captured Damascus and killed Rezin. Ahaz went to meet Tiglath-pileser at Damascus to thank him for his intervention and to congratulate him on his victory. He was greatly impressed by an altar to a foreign god he discovered at Damascus and despite the teaching of God’s word, he had Uriah, the high priest, replicate it in the Temple at Jerusalem. There he made offerings to God and encouraged others to do likewise. And so, Ahaz made changes to the worship of God not in accord with God’s instructions. Ahaz was succeeded by his son, Hezekiah.

In Psalm 71 the psalmist prays to the Lord our Righteousness as his rock and refuge, his strength and stability, and his help and hope (vv.1-3). David’s words are the voice of the church in every generation. He continues to trust in God and therefore cries out to him to rescue him from the schemes of the wicked. He praises God for grace (vv.4-8). The psalmist’s chief desire is to delight in God – to glorify him in thought, word, and deed. He therefore asks God never to forsake him but rather speedily deliver him from his enemies (vv.9-12). His words hereby anticipate and foreshadow those of Jesus whose enemies caballed and conspired to seize him and have him put to death. The psalmist prays that God would judge his accusers (v.13). His hope is resolute, and he is determined to go on worshipping and witnessing to God (vv.14-18). He enthusiastically asserts, ‘19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?’ Despite his trials and troubles, the psalmist is confident that God will restore and revive his fortunes (vv.20-22). He therefore devotedly declares, ‘23 My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. 24 And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt.’

To ponder! But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor.12:9-10).

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