Reading #1 – Matthew 4
Reading #2 – Psalms 28
Reading #3 – Ecclesiastes 4
Reading #4 – Isaiah 5
Reading #5 – 2 King 8
2 Kings 8 – The Shunammite Woman and Her Testimony. The Shunamite woman had been warned to leave Jerusalem due to a pending famine in the land. After the famine ended, the woman returned with her son that Elisha had raised from the dead. As with all acts of obedience and faith, G_d had already made a way for the woman to get back the property she abandoned during the famine (1-6). Elisha was a respected prophet because what he said, came about. Of course, there will always be people like Hazael who will make prophecy occur. When the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, became ill he sent his servant Hazael to ask Elisha if he will recover from the illness. And Elisha replied, “Go and tell him, ‘You will surely recover.’ But actually, the LORD has shown me that he will surely die!” Elisha stared at Hazael with a fixed gaze until Hazael became uneasy. Then the man of God started weeping. “What’s the matter, my lord?” Hazael asked him. Elisha replied, “I know the terrible things you will do to the people of Israel. You will burn their fortified cities, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women (10-12)!” Hazael was a “nobody” but by murdering King Ben-Hadad, he set the wheels in motion for the downfall of Aram. The kings of both Israel and Judah had been no better nor any worse than the people of Aram. The Edomites, relatives of Esau, had been vassal to Judah under King David have now revolted and re-established their kingdom (22). This is where the stage is set for the destruction of Israel when the sheer numbers are diminished.
Psalms 28 – A Prayer of David King of Israel. David was proficient in his prayer life. That does not mean his prayers were answered by G_d like one would a checklist. Rather, he changes the heart of the person praying which infects other lives for the kingdom. G_d did not remove the wicked person, he changed David’s heart from “destroy them” to “Lord have mercy on them and me”. Praise the LORD! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving (6-7).
Ecclesiastes 4 – The Teacher’s Lesson Plan – Working to Our End. The teacher is bringing the work ethic of the world into view. This is the case of a man who is all alone, without a child or a brother, yet who works hard to gain as much wealth as he can. But then he asks himself, “Who am I working for? Why am I giving up so much pleasure now?” It is all so meaningless and depressing (8). Many Pastors have tried doing every ministry in the church only to lose their joy and their families. The Devil will entice men and women to work either for greed or guilt both ends lead to the same conclusion – quit your post and surrender the church to the wolves. Promises of power through politics is another ethic of mankind. It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. Today people want one thing and tomorrow another. For this reason, the kingdoms of the world have not remained the same for endless generations.
Isaiah 5 – A Song About the Vinyard. The vineyard is the nation, Judah. The Lord G_d through the prophet Nathan promised David that one of his sons would always be on the throne of Israel. The problem is, his lineage was decimated because of sin. In the same way, G_d’s word promises the reader that “I will be with you always even to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20) yet when we disobey Him, that promise stands but an alternate plan is enacted by our choices. He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with the best vines. In the middle, he built a watchtower and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks. Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes, but the grapes that grew were bitter (2). When we sin and walk at odds with the Lord, the fruit of life will grow bitter and people that see our life will judge the quality of our fruit against the promise. When the two do not align, the world judges the god we believe in to be a “lie”; if it is a lie, it can be discarded and it is. The church has had to sell off al that is owned and the property is put to better use in the world’s eyes. The church may cry “G_d why aren’t you fulfilling your promises that we have believed in for so long”? Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah, you judge between me and my vineyard. What more could I have done for my vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes, why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes (3-4)? Judah had all but abandoned its belief in the G_d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in favor of gods of the world. Judah was like a fish tank that when the temperature of the water was increased by a measly 1 degree at a time until the fish were killed. The change did not occur immediately because too much change to quickly would cause “shock”; yet, change it a little bit at a time and the fish acclimate until death occurs when even one dies the whole tank becomes polluted (13-14).
Matthew 4 – The Temptation of Jesus. The first days of Jesus’ ministry could have been his last. Knowing this, the Devil presented the things that would normally trip up the human: power, authority, and meet daily needs (1-11). By not acting on his authority or relying on his wits, Jesus was able to outwit the devil. Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction (Amos 3:3)? Jesus walked in the path of his Father and the two footsteps became one pathway and that pathway was called “obedience”. Certainly throwing himself off of a high pinnacle and being kept from death would have boosted his standing in the community but not the eyes of His Father. Having all of the earthly authority would have made him king for a day but not for all eternity. Turning rocks into bread would have filled his empty stomach but the bread would have become maggots in his mouth (i.e. Numbers 11:30-38). Because he was obedient and did not accept any of the gifts from Satan, Jesus’ ministry news of his healing people reached all of Judah and Syria. People flocked to be healed from their diseases (23-24).