Reading #1 – Matthew 3
Reading #2 – Psalms 27
Reading #3 – Ecclesiastes 3
Reading #4 – Isaiah 4
Reading #5 – 2 King 7
2 Kings 7 – Arameans Abandon Camp. When we walk in obedience to G_d, He will counteract every one of the enemy’s plans. The king of Samaria had ordered the arrest of Elisha because he blamed the famine on Elisha when it was due to the siege from Aram. “As a result, there was a great famine in the city. The siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver, and a cup of dove’s dung sold for five pieces of silver (2 Kings 6;25).” Elisha prophesied to the king, “This is what the LORD says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, six quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and twelve quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver.” The officer assisting the king said to the man of God, “That couldn’t happen even if the LORD opened the windows of heaven!” But Elisha replied, “You will see it happen with your own eyes, but you won’t be able to eat any of it (1-2)!” The Lord of Heaven’s armies sent panic into the Aramean camp causing the men to abandon everything and run for their lives although no one was chasing them. When the four leprous men who had been outcasts went into the Aramean camp and found the booty, initially they wanted to hide it but chose the way of honor by sharing it with the camp. The king thought it best to send scouts out to be sure it wasn’t a ploy. The problem was that when the word came that there was food to be had outside the camp everybody made a mad dash to get the food for their families. The officer who was sent to capture Elisha was put in charge of controlling traffic and ended up getting trampled by the starving populace. So everything happened exactly as the man of God had predicted when the king came to his house (18b).
Psalms 27 – A Prayer of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident (1-3). When Saul was hunting David, he had to hide in caverns and had to be constantly on the move. Despite the attacks, David understood with absolute assurance that the Lord G_d he had learned about from his youth would be the same one that would watch over him no matter where he laid his head. This kind of confidence does not come by simply hearing the word, it comes by living in the light of the Lord G_d in and out of the sight of others. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock (5). During the years when he was on the run, no harm came to David, he suffered no loss. When he was about to attack Nabal for mistreating the envoys he sent, Nabal’s wife, Abigail, met him and presented supplies with the hope of stopping him from taking vengeance into his own hands (1 Samuel 25:26).
Ecclesiastes 3 – A Time For Everything. The teacher addressed injustice in the world and that is, we are powerless to stop “Time’s march”. Despite who we are or how much power we hold while we are alive, all of it has an end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God (12-13). If we cannot find happiness in life, we will be unhappy no matter what fortune comes our way or how quickly it is lost. For who can prove that the human spirit goes up and the spirit of animals goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die (21-22).
Isaiah 4 – A Promise of Restoration. When this prophecy was uttered, the nation still had its autonomy, the walls around Jerusalem were still intact, and the king was still on his throne. So, it would be very hard to swallow that this powerful kingdom would ever see a moment of destruction. In Ecclesiastes, the teacher said “What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again (Ecclesiastes 5). No earthly kingdom has ever lasted throughout eternity no matter how big or powerful it may be. In the face of this fact, G_d has a plan of restoration for the descendants of his friends Abraham and David. All who remain in Zion will be a holy people— those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem and are recorded among the living. The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains with the hot breath of fiery judgment (3-4). Today, the US stands at the same precipice having crossed the line and will face the same judgment as Judah received in the time of Isaiah. Then the LORD will provide shade for Mount Zion and all who assemble there. He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day and smoke and flaming fire at night, covering the glorious land. It will be a shelter from daytime heat and a hiding place from storms and rain (5-6).
Matthew 3 – John the Baptist. When John came on the scene, he was dressed like Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). John’s message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (2).” There was excitement in the air because the stories of the coming Messiah of G_d had been told since the time of Isaiah. Of course, when religious things are happening, the religious leaders had to come and see what it was all about so that they could judge if it was true or just another lie. When the delegation arrived, they were not treated according to their standing in the community, they were treated like everybody else. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God (7-8). The religious leaders, like the community, believed they had a connection to G_d simply by throwing out the name of “Abraham” (9). The point was that our connection to G_d is dependent on the name we call ourselves like “Jesus’ kids”. Only when we have repented of our sins and been washed in the blood are we part of his kingdom. “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater than I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire (11-12).” Jesus was not exempt from baptism and nor are we. But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that G_d requires.” So John agreed to baptize him (15).