Reading #1 – Matthew 2
Reading #2 – Psalms 26
Reading #3 – Ecclesiastes 2
Reading #4 – Isaiah 3
Reading #5 – 2 King 6
2 Kings 6 – Elisha and Aram. Previously, Naaman the commander of Aram’s army was healed by the direction of Elisha. The army was attacking Samaria the capital city of the northern kingdom. The king should have remembered this and withdrawn his attacks yet, he persisted. Every plan the king of Aram enacted, Elisha informed the king of Samaria about what was going on so that he would be prepared. When the king of Aram went looking for Elisha, to capture him and kill him. When his assistant woke up one morning there were the armies of Aram prepared to pounce on Elisha. When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha. “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs (15-16)!” As the armies of Aram advanced, Elisha asked the Lord to blind the attackers and they were blinded. Elisha led them directly to the king of Samaria (19-21). The funny part of this play is that the men of Aram and the king of Samaria (Israel) should have taken on board that this man Elisha was no one to mess with and that the Lord G_d of Israel is G_d and no one else besides Him. Yet, both sides forgot all about it and pursued their attacks. Ben-Hadad of Aram marched against Samaria causing a famine in the kingdom that was so bad that people were eating their kids and refuse just to stay alive. The king of Israel blamed the whole mess on Elisha and sought to kill him (31-33) (Future writing: Sin’s Illusion).
Psalms 26 – A Psalm of David. When we surrender our lives as a daily act of worship, we will have the confidence to face any all attacks against us. This prayer of David was not spoken after the battle not before. It doesn’t take too much to say the words of Matthew “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you (Luke 22:33).” Yet let the first shot be fired and the unprepared will run away. David was a skilled warrior and commander. Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth (2-3). When we ask G_d to put us on trial, we had better be prepared for that trial because it will occur. In the same way, when we ask for “patience”, we will be given trials to strengthen our resolve. Now I stand on solid ground, and I will publicly praise the LORD (12). David’s confidence did not come about because he played the harp beautifully or that he was a brash army man but that he first learned to surrender his life and daily lay it down before the Lord G_d.
Ecclesiastes 2 – The Futility of Pleasure. “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless (1). “Pleasure”, according to Miriam Webster means two things: sensual gratification and frivolous amusement. The teacher was gratifying the desires of his heart by building beautiful things like parks and gardens. Yet, when he got done it turned to sadness knowing that one day it would all be handed over to someone who had not worked for it. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing worthwhile anywhere (11). Many ministers and lay leaders have followed the teacher’s path by developing ministries, attending every outreach, donating large sums of money yet become disillusioned by what has been done because it had no lasting value. There is truth in what the teachers said “all will die” because no matter how skillfully we do our work, how well we sing, or how well we minister we will die and we must come to grips with this.
Isaiah 3 – Judgment Against Judah. Judah or the Southern Kingdom of Israel had fallen into disrepair due to the failure of the kings. Israel or the Northern Kingdom, Samaria, followed the detestable ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat who caused Israel to sin. Due to intermarriage, the practices of sinful Samaria had been incorporated into Judah’s worship. Just as Samaria had fallen so to Judah would fall. Having served the Lord G_d and then walk headlong into sin will not stop us from G_d’s judgment. For Jerusalem will stumble, and Judah will fall, because they speak out against the LORD and refuse to obey him. They provoke him to his face. The very look on their faces gives them away. They display their sin like the people of Sodom and don’t even try to hide it (8-9). Walking in the counsel of Lord G_d does not mean that “we get all of the good and none of the bad” rather, it means that even in bad times G_d will still guide us, still love us, and still watch over us. Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned! But the wicked are doomed, for they will get exactly what they deserve (9-10). Sin has its reward just as righteousness has its reward. The difference between the two is that sin’s reward brings trouble right along with it (Proverbs 10:22). Judah had the temple in its capital whereas Samaria/Israel did not. Judah had all of the relics of David whereas Samaria did not. Judah had the promise of G_d that a descendent of David would always sit on the throne whereas Samaria/Israel had foreigners sitting on the throne. Having all of these things did not stop the destruction of Judah and their fall was felt by kingdoms far away because people came to the kingdom to barter their wares. In time all that would be left of the kingdom would be a stump and a smoldering town as the temple would be burned to the ground. The LORD takes his place in court and presents his case against his people. The LORD comes forward to pronounce judgment on the elders and rulers of his people: “You have ruined Israel, my vineyard. Your houses are filled with things stolen from the poor. How dare you to crush my people, grinding the faces of the poor into the dust?” demands the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies (13-15).
Matthew 2 – The Coming King. Two things rattle a kingdom: attack from the outside and destruction from the inside. Attacks from the outside can be dealt with by improving the army. Attacks from the inside are not as easy to deal with especially when the “new king” was yet unknown. Herod had the prophecy and the visitors talking about the new king of Judah. The problem was that he went looking for the king while the new king was right under his nose and would be overlooked. After all, how could a king be born in a stable? Jesus was born to a poor family who could barely make ends meet; yet, he was rich in the kingdom of Heaven. Mary and Joseph were both from the line of David but were not granted the wealth of David or the wisdom of Solomon. Who has believed our message?
To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care (Isaiah 53:1-3).