Reading #1 – Matthew 15
Reading #2 – Psalms 39
Reading #3 – Lamentations 3
Reading #4 – Isaiah 17
Reading #5 – 2 King 19
2 Kings 19 – Hezekiah Seeks the Lord’s Help. Mighty Assyria had surrounded Judah, thumbed its nose at the G_d of Judah thinking it to be like the G_ds of the nations they had conquered. Yet, what Assyria had not counted on is that the G_d of Judah is a mighty G_d who can defend his nation. When Hezekiah had read the insults from the commander of Assyria’s armies, he went into the Temple to seek the face of the Lord G_d in humility and sorrow. “It is true, LORD, that the kings of Assyria have destroyed all these nations. And they have thrown the G_ds of these nations into the fire and burned them. But of course, the Assyrians could destroy them! They were not G_ds at all—only idols of wood and stone shaped by human hands. Now, O LORD our G_d, rescue us from his power; then all the kingdoms of the earth will know that you alone, O LORD, are G_d (17-19).” After King Hezekiah’s officials delivered the king’s message to Isaiah, the prophet replied, “Say to your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword (6-7).’” Hezekiah, unlike his predecessors, served and honored the Lord G_d completely. When he had read the insults, saw the massive army, and the conditions within the kingdom, he could have said, “well so much for the kingdom” instead he took the matter to the Lord G_d even after hearing Isaiah’s message. Because Hezekiah chose to seek the Lord, the doors of Heaven opened and the power of the Living G_d descended on the kingdom, and “mighty Assyria” awoke to a large number of corpses and the army departed in haste from Judah. one day while he was worshiping in the temple of his G_d Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with their swords (37). They then escaped to the land of Ararat, and another son, Esarhaddon, became the next king of Assyria.
Psalms 39 – A Psalm of David – For Jeduthun. I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the unG_dly are around me.” But as I stood there in silence— not even speaking of good things— the turmoil within me grew worse. The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words (1-3). We as humans struggle with the mouth. Paul in his discourse in Romans 7 spoke to this struggle. I love G_d’s law with all my heart. But another power within me is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank G_d! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:22-25). Our life is fleeting and we have the choice, live for G_d or sin. When we sin, we have an advocate (1 John 2:1) so we need not beat ourselves up over our blunders. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me (7-8). Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest— a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me.
Leave me alone so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more (12-13).
Isaiah 17 – A Message About Damascus and Israel. Israel’s glory was fading because of sin. For over 300years Israel had been a force to reckon with until it became like the other nations. “On that day Israel’s glory will grow dim; its robust body will waste away. The whole land will look like a grainfield after the harvesters have gathered the grain. It will be desolate, like the fields in the valley of Rephaim after the harvest. Only a few of its people will be left, like stray olives left on a tree after the harvest. Only two or three remain in the highest branches, four or five scattered here and there on the limbs,” declares the LORD, the G_d of Israel (4-6). The nation Israel under King David was not same Israel as it is today. When we turn our backs to G_d by continuing to sin and rebel against Him, what we have will be taken from us sometimes by force. The sin that we committed ourselves to will become the hammer and anvil by which we are crushed until we become beaten and deflated until the only thing that remains is a shell of who we once were. Then at last the people will look to their Creator and turn their eyes to the Holy One of Israel. They will no longer look to their idols for help or worship what their own hands have made. They will never again bow down to their Asherah poles or worship at the pagan shrines they have built (7-8). G_d will let us continue with our worship of idols so that we can see with our eyes how worthless those idols are. G_d will never force us to worship him, bow down at His altar and he will never vie for our attention or love or He would be no better than the world that sets up its market stand and calls out “idols for sale sold dirt cheap”.
Lamentations 3 – Hope in the Lord’s Faithfulness. Judah was broken and its people were led off into captivity. Jeremiah had tried to warn the nation but they would not listen so, G_d’s plan was fulfilled. I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the LORD’s anger. He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light. He has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long (1-3). The leaders thought, “we’ll go to Egypt and stay there” but, the mighty hand of Babylon attacked Egypt so the journey was worthless. Judah went from being a kingdom to a vassal nation with a “governor” that was appointed by Babylon. Only when there was nothing left to hold onto and the gods of the nations polluted the land did the people finally turn their eyes to the Lord G_d. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. For he does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow (31-33). Those who returned from exile and committed their lives to the Lord saw the goodness of the Lord in action. The writer, Jeremiah, received punishment for his warnings in the end, though, he was proved right and the leadership was proved wrong.
Matthew 15 – Jesus Teaches About Inner Purity. Inner purity defies the world’s logic. According to the world at that time, before eating they had to give their hands a ceremonial washing which was a time-honored tradition. “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of G_d (2-3)? From the heart comes the filth that flows from our mouth which defiles us. If Jesus and his disciples had been more concerned with “tradition” then they were about honoring the Father, the people would not have flocked to them, healings would not have occurred, and Jesus would never have gone to the cross. “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you (17-20).”