It has been quite awhile since I last posted. I hope you’re all still reading through the Bible and growing closer to the Lord. I haven’t been posting because it takes me so long to get a post complete. Writing is not a natural thing for me, and so it literally takes me several days to write and then edit. We have started our summer Bible Bee memorization and Bible study, and so with that added into our days I don’t have the time to spend trying to blog. I felt the last couple of posts were not done real well, and so I’d rather do something well or not do it. If anyone has any questions on what we’re reading, I’d love to respond. Keep at it. I love reading through the Bible, and I hope you do too.
We sure have covered a lot of territory in the past five weeks. We’ve read 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. Now we’re into the book of Job. I found out recently that the book of Nehemiah actually is the last book of the Old Testament. The rest of the books of the Old Testament took place during the reigns of the kings. After the book of Nehemiah God was silent for 400 years. When God began to speak to the people again, it was through His Son Jesus. Why was there a 400 year silence? Could it be because of the events during the reign of the kings.
During the reign of Samuel as judge, the Israelites wanted a king so thatthey could be like all the other nations. God had told them before that He was to be their ruler, but they rejected Him. God told Samuel to give them a king, and Saul became the first king of Israel. After Saul came King David and then his son Solomon ruled as king. After Solomon died, Israel was divided into two kingdoms. There was the northern kingdom, Israel, and the southern kingdom, Judah. The northern kingdom had a total of 20 kings, all of whom were bad kings. The southern kingdom had a total of 20 kings, seven of whom were good kings and 13 were bad kings. Could you imagine what it would be like if America had 20 bad presidents in a row? And some of them ruled for decades.
During the period of the kings we see a cycle of walking with God, falling into sin, God sending them into captivity, crying out to God, God delivering them, and then the cycle started over again. This really seems to be the pattern of mankind. One thing that is clear in the Bible, though, this doesn’t have to be the pattern of our lives. We can learn from the Old Testament and choose to follow God wholeheartedly. That doesn’t mean we will never sin, but it does mean that we can live lives that are blameless and upright before Him.
One thing that is so amazing about the Word of God is each time you read through it, things that you never saw before seem to jump out at you. That is because every time we read the Word we are at a different place in our lives. The Bible is a living and active Word. It always deals with where we are in life at the moment. And the things that jump out are from the Holy Spirit. They are what we need to know, understand or obey today. This year I set out on a path to journal certain things as I read through the Bible. I realized very early that my attention is drawn instead to the sin of man and the mercy of God. It has overwhelmed and amazed me as I’ve read it in light of those two things. Overwhelmed me in the sense that I have really wrestled with all the violence, blood and death. And amazed me at the way God, in his mercy, just continues to love humanity and use them.
When I wrote the last post on what I was wrestling with I was reading 2 Samuel 21. There was a famine in the land. David sought the face of the Lord and God told him that the famine was a result of the blood-stained house of Saul. He had killed the Gibeonites unjustly. David went to the Gibeonites and asked what he could do to make it right, and they said nothing. David pressed them and so they asked for seven of Saul’s descendants. King David gives them the seven sons and the Gibeonites murder them and leave their bodies exposed on a hill. What really got to me, though, was what happened next. The mother of two of the sons takes sackcloth (the garments worn for mourning the death of someone) and lays it out on a rock near the dead bodies. She stays there from the time the harvest begins “till the rain poured down from heaven.” I did very little research on how long that may have been, but found that there was an early rain season, a rainy season, the latter rains and the dry season. If we just took the dry season here, we’re talking close to five months. So the Bible says that she stayed there from the time the harvest began until the rains and “did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night.”
Being a mom of two sons, I just could not handle that. Could you imagine living on a rock for several months, keeping anything away from your dead sons bodies? I wanted to cry. Now I try to not question God on how or why He does things, because He is God and I am not, but I do wrestle a lot to understand what I’m reading. I just had to understand why so much violence here. I understand the sacrifices and I understand some of the judgment on those who are in such defiance to God, but why so much killing of people in cold blood who seem innocent.
I ended up talking with a friend that day about it and he was telling me about a sermon he had just listened to that addressed some of that, so I listened to that. I also talked with my pastor who just happened to call (it was really a God thing) and he confirmed that and added to it.
Anyway, the sermon talked about when Cain killed Abel in Genesis. The Lord came to Cain and asked where Abel was. Cain basically said to God that it’s not my business where he is, and God said to him that “his blood cries out for justice.” When blood was shed in violence in the Old Testament, that blood had to be avenged so someone had to die. We see that set out in Leviticus. Not only would they sacrifice the animal but often people died as well. The blood of the Gibeonites had to be avenged and this is how it happened. It certainly doesn’t seem fair, but once again, this is the result of living in a sinful world. As I was talking with my pastor about it later today, he reminded me of that fact, good people suffer for other’s sins. He also said that we live in the Western world where Christianity has taken root. Because of Christianity we don’t live like that anymore. But in many other nations, violence and death are still the way of life.
So to summarize it, blood had to be shed for blood. When a life was taken in violence, there was a life for a life. And often the life would be an innocent person, because of the fallen world we live in. Look at so many nations in the world today. Death and violence is a daily occurrence. That is because they have do not have the redeeming power of what Christ did on the Cross for them. My pastor talked about when the revivals began to happen in Europe and then into America, so much of the violence was done away with. Because of Christ, we don’t have to live with all that violence and death. It’s a reminder of the great nation that we live in. It is also a reminder that so much of the world still needs Jesus so they don’t have to live like that. I hope that this has helped to understand so much of the violence that we see as we go through the Old Testament. It helped me tremendously.
Happy Easter Everyone,
Celebrate Easter. Jesus is alive!
I have not been able to get my post out on David as we have been traveling and have no internet service. We will be in a place in a few days that has it so hopefully I can get it finished and published. Have a blessed Easter.
All I can say, really, is wow! I just stand in awe of God. He is so good to us all the time. I’m working on a post right now but it is going to take a few days and it may come in a couple of parts. I have wrestled with the Lord since the beginning of Genesis about something that I could not understand. I do not question God on why or how He does things because He is God and I am not. His ways and thoughts are so much bigger and higher than mine and I know that everything He ever does is good and right and just. I trust Him completely. But I do wrestle to understand His Word and His ways. I do that a lot! And He is always faithful to answer. So I am trying to get on paper what I have wrestled with Him to understand for three months now.
Let me encourage you, though, to never give up on God for an answer you are seeking. He will answer. He will do it in the time and way that He knows is best for you.
Judges is referred to as the saddest book in the Bible. It is all about the continual rise and fall of the Nation of Israel. It is the story of their fall into sin, oppression by the enemy because of their sin, calling out to God for help, God delivering them, blessing them with prosperity, and then back into a life of sin again. In 350 years they turned their back on God seven times.
For years I found Judges rather depressing. I realized that we are just like the people then. I used to think “there is no hope. We’re just going to continue to rise and fall our whole lives. That’s as good as life gets.” Then one day I realized life doesn’t have to be that way. That doesn’t have to be the pattern of our lives or our nation. Judges should be a strong warning to us on how not to live. God gave us His whole Word, not only to live by, but to learn from. And through the power of the Holy Spirit we can live holy lives on this earth.
Another thing I noticed in the book of Judges, and really with many of the heroes of the Bible, is that most of their children were rebellious! Dad seemed to be great but the kids turned out a mess. Why? Maybe they were too busy trying to run the nation or serving God that they forgot about their family. Maybe the kids thought they could get through on grace alone and the way they lived their lives didn’t matter; after all Dad is in charge. As I read about their lives, though, it gives me more determination to spend the time I have now helping my kids to understand who God is and the plans He has for their lives. It also causes me to look at my own life and the example I am to them.
Godliness doesn’t come naturally or through genealogy. It is a conscious choice each day to make the right decisions. Mark 8:36 says “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” What if we have everything in life we want and we lose our children, like so many of the heroes of the Bible? It is our responsibility to train them up in the way they should go.
Also, do you notice how often God uses the most unlikely people to carry out His plan? Look at Rahab the prostitute. She is in the lineage of Jesus. And then Jephthah the Gileadite in Judges 11. He was the son of a prostitute. His brothers completely disowned him because of where he comes from, yet God raises him up to deliver Israel from the hands of the Ammonites. Two thoughts come to mind here. First, God is willing to use anyone who will surrender to His will. Two, isn’t it often those who consider themselves more righteous than others who are the most judgmental? Look at Sampson. He was a Nazarite and he thought he was indispensable. We need to be careful that we don’t judge the people God uses or think that where we come from can save us or makes us more important. God loves and uses everyone.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Don’t worry, I have not fallen off the face of the earth! Life has been very busy this month and our readings are a little challenging at times. I wish I had hours every day to study the Bible and write this blog!
As I read through Deuteronomy, I was struck by how many times the word ‘obedience’ is used. I found it at least 28 times. And in Leviticus, the word ‘holy’ is used over 90 times. It is definitely the key word in that book. I started to wonder why the first time the law was given it focused on holiness and the second time it focused on obedience.
When God brought the children out of Egypt, He wanted to set them apart from all the other nations of the world. They had been living under the influence of the Egyptians for over 400 years and had a lot to learn about who He was and how they could relate to Him. That is why He gave them the law. The Levites (which included the priests) taught the people the law and carried it out. They taught the people how to relate to a Holy God through the sacrifices and to live a holy life that would set them apart from all the other nations around them.
When we get to Deuteronomy, the Israelites had been wandering through the desert for almost 40 years. The rebellious generation that came out of Egypt have all died. The people who were entering the Promised Land were 20 years or younger when they left Egypt, so it makes sense that Moses would read the law again to remind them of the importance of obeying that law.
As we read Deuteronomy, we see that God is serious about obedience to His Word. He was serious about it then and He is serious about it today. God deals differently with us today than He did several thousand years ago. He doesn’t just open the earth and swallow us up, but there are still consequences for our sins. We shouldn’t look at God, though, as someone ready to hit us over the head when we mess up. Instead we should stand in awe of the mercy that He has on us. We should be so grateful that He chooses to allow us to wake up one more day. We should be thankful that He allows us to breathe and live one more hour. We should want to please Him and obey Him just because He has chosen to give us life through His Son Jesus and give it to us abundantly.
I am grateful beyond words that God does not wipe me off the face of the earth. Jeremiah 17:9 says “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (NLT) And Isaiah 64:6 says “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.” (NLT)
If our hearts are more wicked than we can even understand, and the best things we can do for God are nothing but filthy rags in His sight, shouldn’t it just make us overflow with gratitude that He continues to love us and bless us and cause us to want to obey every word He has written for our benefit? Let’s show our love to Him through our obedience to His word.