Reading #1 – Matthew 13
Reading #2 – Psalms 37
Reading #3 – Lamentations 1
Reading #4 – Isaiah 15
Reading #5 – 2 King 17
2 Kings 17 – Hoshea the last Israelite king of Samaria. Samaria had crossed over the line by rejecting the Lord’s repeated warnings through the prophets and sacrificed their children in the fire to their god. Samaria had become a vassal kingdom to Assyria which required the kingdom to pay heavy tribute. Hoshea hired Egypt to come and help him eradicate the hold Assyria held on him which woefully failed and Hoshea was put in prison (3). The people of Samaria were exiled to the slums in the cities of the Medes, Gozan, and Halah because “The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the LORD their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city. They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree. They offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, just like the nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the LORD’s anger (9-11).” After Solomon passed away, the united kingdom of Israel and Judah was torn in two and Jeroboam became king of Israel. Jeroboam set up altars to the pagan gods to avert any chance of the people going to Judah to worship at the temple (1Kings 12:25-28). The former occupants of those slums were sent to the beautiful land. The new occupants of Samaria/Israel did not follow the established practices from Moses. When the situation became intolerable, they had the former priests of Israel come in to teach the people about the laws of their G_d (25-27) this did not stop the people from following their customs. So while these new residents worshiped the LORD, they also worshiped their idols. And to this day their descendants do the same (28-41).
Psalms 37 – A Psalm of David. Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither (2). The problem with this statement is that there are three modes “Sunday”, “Monday – Saturday”, and “seven days a week”. If we live “Sunday” to Sunday, the information would be to us “yea the wicked are gone” but when Monday through Saturday mode sets in, the enticement to do evil is stronger than the “Sunday mode”. Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires (3-4). If we desire to live “Holy to the Lord” G_d will open the doorway for us. Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes (7). “Trusting in the Lord” is a concept that is difficult for mankind but to throw in “wait patiently for him to act” and the struggle becomes more intense; yet, if we can grasp that concept, everything else after that flows easily like the sun that starts “dim and then becomes brighter as the day comes to life. We will not stop the evil practices of the world by throwing out the tried but true words of G_d nor will we gain their trust by acquiescing to their practices and inviting them to share ours. Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine, they will have more than enough (18-19). The LORD rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble. The LORD helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him (39-40).
Isaiah 15 – A Message to Moab. Moab was a wicked city and probably the place where you would go for a “good time”. The name “Moab” would become a curse word. Moab came from the incestuous union of Lot and his daughter. Moab was born in the 13th century and destroyed in the 4th century so for 9 centuries the nation carried out its wicked practices. My heart weeps for Moab. Its people flee to Zoar and Eglath-shelishiyah. Weeping, they climb the road to Luhith. Their cries of distress can be heard all along the road to Horonaim (5).
Lamentations 1 – How Deserted Lies the City. Judah the city of David once was full and people lived secure, full, and happy. Through the years, though, the kings tore down the sacred walls, gave away the treasures to avoid attacks, and set up altars and golden calves which lead the people to sacrifice to the creation more than the creator. Jerusalem, once so full of people, is now deserted. She who was once great among the nations now sits alone like a widow. Once the queen of all the earth, she is now a slave. She sobs through the night; tears stream down her cheeks. Among all her lovers, there is no one left to comfort her. All her friends have betrayed her and become her enemies (1-2). Destruction never happens immediately because the Devil is calculating and cunning. When the Devil comes in, he isn’t wearing a red suit and carrying a spear, he is a friend coming with a gift and a secret agenda. Judah had become syncretistic like the greeks. When the visitors came in, they brought their altars and invited the people of Judah to join in the fun. Like the Temple, by the time Judah was taken off to captivity in Babylon, they were an empty shell because the Spirit of G_d had departed from their lives. All the majesty of beautiful Jerusalem has been stripped away. Her princes are like starving deer searching for pasture. They are too weak to run from the pursuing enemy (6).
Matthew 13 – Parables and Our Response. Jesus used parables as a way of conveying difficult concepts. The people were fishermen, farmers, and bakers so the illustrations helped them to understand what Jesus was saying. The issue is hearing the illustration and applying it to our understanding and coming on board. Thousands came to hear Jesus speak just as people thronged to Solomon but only a few in comparison received the message and bore fruit. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t see. They hear, but they don’t listen or understand (12). If we cannot understand the illustration, we cannot hope to understand the concepts of Heaven. While in his hometown, Jesus was ineffective in teaching people and healings were minimal by comparison of the other towns he ministered in. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his hometown and among his own family.” And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief (54-58).