July 1, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 18:13-19:37

     In the year of King Hezekiah’s reign, the Assyrians under Sennacherib invaded Judah. King Hezekiah sent them a large tribute in an attempt to get them to withdraw. Despite this the Assyrians marched on Jerusalem. The Assyrian representative called out to the people on the walls of Jerusalem telling them that God will not rescue them from the king of Assyria. He further said that God cannot rescue them from the king of Assyria. King Hezekiah and his court officials despaired. King Hezekiah sent some of his court officials to talk to Isaiah. Isaiah responded by telling them that God would act against the King of Assyria and cause him to leave Jerusalem. Further Isaiah told them that Sennacherib would be killed with the sword. Soon afterword King Sennacherib received word that the king of Ethiopia (Cush) is leading an army against him. Before he marched to confront the king of Ethiopia, Sennacherib sent a letter to Hezekiah telling him that the gods of no other country were able to save them from the Assyrians and that God would be no different. Hezekiah goes to the Temple and spreads the letter from Sennacherib out before the Lord. Isaiah gave Hezekiah an answer from God. God’s answer was that all of Sennacherib’s success was part of God’s plan, but now that Sennacherib had defied God Himself, God would put a hook in his nose and a bit in his mouth and lead him back the way he had come. God further told Hezekiah that the Assyrians would not attack Jerusalem, that he would not even lay siege to it. That night 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died in the night and the Assyrians broke camp and marched home. After he returned home, one day when he was worshiping in his pagan temple, two of his sons killed him with their swords.

Acts 21:1-17

     In this passage Luke tells us of Paul’s return to Jerusalem. At several stops along the way, believers prophesied that Paul should not go to Jerusalem, that if he did he would be bound and turned over to the Romans. The believers repeatedly tried to convince Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul remained determined. Paul told them that he was prepared not only to be jailed for his faith in Jesus, but to die for his name. This is an example that we should follow. We should be willing, perhaps even eager, to suffer for Jesus’ name.

Psalm 149:1-9

     The psalmist calls on us to sing praises to the Lord, to praise his name in the assembly of His people. This is another scripture teaching us to gather regularly with our fellow believers to worship and praise the Lord.

Proverbs 18:8

     Most of the proverbs I have been reading over the last while have been somewhat familiar to me, but this one is new to me. It is such a beautiful summation of the nature of rumors. Rumors are hard to resist, but they often lead us to judge people and situations on the basis of things that we do not know to be true. We all want to know “insider” details, so we are more ready to believe rumors that might make us seem to be in the know.

June 30, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 17-18:12

     King Hoshea becomes the last king of Israel. The passage tells us that he did evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as badly as his predecessors. Hoshea’s reign ended when King Shalmaneser of Assyria invaded and took the people of Israel into exile. King Shalmaneser then settled the peoples of other lands in the land of Israel. The passage tells us that the people of Israel were taken into exile because time and again they chose not to follow God’s commands. The Bible is clear that when a people follow God’s commands they prosper, when they do not, they suffer. This is not about what the laws are, but about the actions that the people choose to take. The more the people of a nation follow the path of righteousness the more that nation will do well. Even if the people just pay lip service to righteous behavior the nation will do better than if the people hold up immorality and dishonesty as their aspirations. We get a little of this idea in the passage’s description of what happened to the people who the Assyrians settled in the land. We are told that God sent lions among them to kill them because they did not worship Him. This led the king of Assyria to have a priest of God sent back to the land of Israel to teach the foreigners now living there how to worship God.
     Meanwhile, we are told that Hezekiah succeeded his father Ahaz on the throne of Judah. The author has high praise for Hezekiah. Hezekiah did what was pleasing to God, living up to the standard of King David. We are told that Hezekiah trusted the Lord and remained faithful in everything. He destroyed all elements of idol worship in the land of Judah. He smashed the sacred pillars dedicated to Baal and cut down the Asherah poles. He got rid of the shrines on the high places where the people worshiped God alongside pagan gods. He even destroyed the bronze serpent that Moses had made because the people had begun worshiping it.

Acts 20:1-38

     As Paul prepares to return to Syria, he learns of a plot by some Jews to kill him so he chooses to return by a different route. He travels to Troas, where he speaks to the believers through the night. About midnight, a young man who was sitting on the window sill fell asleep and fell out of the window onto the street below, a three story fall. Luke tells us that he fell to his death. Paul is the first one to get to him and and he tells everyone that the young man is alive. The young man was taken home unhurt. They return upstairs and Paul continues talking until dawn.
     Paul continues on his journey to Jerusalem. He decides not to stop in Ephesus, or any place else in Asia Minor, and sends for the elders of the Church in Ephesus to meet him on the island of Miletus. Luke records Paul’s farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus. Paul summarizes the Gospel as repenting from sin and turning to God and having faith in Jesus. He goes on to describe his motivation in preaching the Gospel, that if anyone suffers eternal death, it will not be his fault, he has done his best to convey the salvation message to everyone he can reach. We should all be so motivated to reach the lost. Paul concludes by telling them that they should follow his example of working hard so as to be able to help those in need.

Psalm 148:1-14

     The psalmist calls on every created thing to praise the Lord. This psalm calls us all to praise the Lord for all that is. Let us praise the Lord while we have breath. Let us praise the Lord for the time He has given us with our loved ones.

Proverbs 18:6-7

     If you often find yourself in trouble with others, perhaps you should give more thought to what you say. A repeating theme of these proverbs is that foolishness is often revealed through what we say. A first step to becoming wise is to not say everything that comes to your mind.

June 29, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 15-16:20

     King Uzziah succeeded his father Amaziah on the throne of Judah. The passage tells us that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, even as his father had done. However, he allowed the people to continue to worship at the high places. It is never quite clear what the problem with the people worshiping at the high places is. This translation refers to them as pagan shrines, but in earlier parts of the Old Testament they are sometimes referred to as places where people worshiped God. My belief is that as time went on, they became places where people combined worship of God with pagan religious practices. We are told that later in Uzziah’s reign, he is struck with leprosy and lives out his life in isolation with his son, and successor, governing in his place.
     Next we are told of a series of kings of Israel who did evil in the sight of the Lord. Several of these kings gained the throne by assassinating their predecessor. During this time, Assyria began to invade the area. One of the kings, King Menahem, bought off the Assyrians and used their support to consolidate his hold on the throne. This only kept the Assyrians out for a few years and under one of his successors the Assyrians again invaded.
     Uzziah’s son, Jotham succeeded his father on the throne of Judah and we are told that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. King Jotham was succeeded on the throne by his son Ahaz. We are told that Ahaz did evil in the sight of the Lord, going so far as to sacrifice his own son to the fires. While Ahaz was king, the kings of Israel and Aram allied to invade Judah. King Ahaz sent a bribe to the king of Assyria to get his help against Aram and Israel. The king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser, conquers Aram. While Tiglath-pileser is in Damascus, King Ahaz visits him there. King Ahaz had the Temple redone to reflect the design of the Assyrian temple in Damascus.

Acts 19:13-41

     While Paul was in Ephesus a group of Jewish exorcists who were traveling in the region began using the name of Jesus to cast out demons. This group was composed of seven sons of a priest. On one occasion when they tried this, the man with the evil spirit acknowledged the power of Jesus and Paul, but rejected their power. The man attacked them and drove them from the house naked and battered. When word of this spread, many who practiced various types of sorcery became believers and gathered their spell books and burned them. Note that they did not burn books that just talked about sorcery, but one’s that contained spells and incantations. Whether the spells and incantations worked or not, the sole purpose of the books was the practice of magic.
     About the time Paul began making plans to leave Ephesus and travel to Macedonia, a silversmith named Demetrius who made his living from the worship of Artemis stirred up other merchants who made their living from this worship against Paul and the believers. Demetrius got them so riled up that a riot began. The crowd rushed to the amphitheater and dragged two of Paul’s traveling companions along. Paul wanted to address the crown, but he was talked out of it. There was confusion among the crowd as to what the cause of the riot was. The Jews in the crowd put forward a spokesman to explain things to people, but he was shouted down. Finally, the mayor of the city was able to get the people to quiet down some. At that point, he tells them that everyone knows about the connection of Artemus with the city and that the men that have been forcibly brought there have committed no offenses against Artemus’ temple. He goes on to say that if Demetrius, or anybody else, has a legitimate complaint against these men, the courts are perfectly willing to here the case. He finishes by telling them that if they continue to riot, the Roman governor is likely to send the legions to restore order. This leads the crowd to disperse.

Psalm 147:1-20

     The psalmist tells us to praise the Lord for He is great. God is so great and mighty that he can count the stars and name each and every one. The psalmist goes on to tell us that God does not favor the powerful and mighty, but instead favors those who fear Him and trust in His love.

Proverbs 18:4-5

     The wise are a source of wisdom to those around them in the same manner that a bubbling brook is a source of refreshing water to any who approach it. When the guilty are let go and the innocent punished a society will suffer.

June 28, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 13-14:29

     Jehoahaz succeeded his father Jehu as king of Israel. Jehoahaz allowed an Asherah pole to be constructed in Samaria and otherwise committed evil acts such that Israel was repeatedly defeated by the kings of Aram and lost much territory to them. We are told that in desperation Jehoahaz prayed to the Lord for help and the Lord granted Israel some peace from the kings of Aram. Jehoahaz’s son, Jehoash succeeded him on the throne. When Jehoash was on the throne, Elisha died. While Elisha was on his death bed King Jehoash went to see him. Elisha prophesies that Jehoash will defeat the king of Aram three times and this does indeed come to pass. We are told that on one occasion after Elisha’s death some Israelites were taking a body out to be buried when they spotted some Moabite raiders. They threw the body into Elisha’s tomb and fled, but when the body struck Elisha’s bones, the dead man revived and jumped to his feet.
     In Judah, Amaziah succeeded his father Joash on the throne. We are told that he did what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, like his father. However, he did not get rid of the high places of worship as David had done. Amaziah had military success against the Edomites and flush with victory went to war against Israel. He was badly defeated by King Jehoash. After twenty-nine years on the throne, Amaziah was assassinated and his son Uzziah was placed on the throne.
     Today’s passage ends with an account of the reign of Jeroboam II. He succeeded his father King Jehoash and continued in the idolatrous ways of his predecessors. The passage tells us that despite this God used him to protect the people of Israel. Jeroboam II expands the power of Israel from the low point it had reached under his grandfather.

Acts 18:23-19:12

     Luke tells us here about Apollos who, like Paul, is a well-educated Jew who has come to believe in Jesus. The account tells us that he taught with enthusiasm and accuracy, but that he only knew John’s baptism. Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and gave him a more thorough understanding. After this Apollos went to Corinth where he took on various Jews in public debates and showed that Jesus was the Messiah using Jewish scripture. I think that many today overstate the influence of Paul on the early Church because Luke chose to follow his missionary journeys and so many of his writings ended up in the New Testament. I think that the reason that Luke mentions Apollos here is because Apollos was another influential leader of the Early Church, who like Paul, and unlike the other apostles, was well-educated in both Jewish law and tradition and Greek philosophy. It seems likely to me that Apollos had similar influence on the early Church to that of Paul. I am not saying that Apollos was as influential as Paul. What I am saying is that Apollos probably taught the Gospel from a similar perspective to that of Paul, whereas most of the other early Church leaders had a much more earthy and less nuanced understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
     While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul returned to Ephesus as he had promised to do. In Ephesus he found some who had already become believers, but who had not yet received, or even heard of, the Holy Spirit. They only knew the baptism of John. Paul pointed out that John had told his followers to follow the one who would come after him, who was Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. This follows a pattern we often see in the book of Acts, people come to believe the full Gospel, are baptized and start to demonstrate the “charismatic” gifts of the Spirit. Paul preached regularly in the synagogue for the next three months until some of the Jews started to actively oppose his message. When that happened, Paul left the synagogue, taking those who were believers with him, and started preaching in a lecture hall nearby. Paul had daily discussions in the lecture hall and it sounds like he drew a pretty good crowd. This must have really gotten under the skin of those Jews who had driven him out of the synagogue.

Psalm 146:1-10

     The psalmist tells us that we should praise the Lord. We should not rely on powerful people because even if they choose to look out for our interests they will only live a short time and then no longer be able to help us. God on the other hand made all that is and will keep His promises for all eternity. The psalmist tells us that God will give justice to the oppressed. That He will protect and care for those with no political power, the foreigner, the widow and the fatherless. This is both a warning to us and a reason for us to praise God. A warning, because the psalmist is telling us that even if we think these people can do nothing to prevent our abuse of them, God will act to protect them and care for them. And a reason for us to praise God, because even when we are powerless God will protect and care for us. Let us praise the Lord.

Proverbs 18:2-3

     When you are debating with someone, make sure to genuinely listen to what they have to say, because it is evidence that you are a fool when you only want to be in a debate in order to air your opinions. You should only debate with others when you are interested in learning from them. If your only interest is in convincing them of your position, you are proving yourself a fool.

June 27, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 10:32-12:21

     After the death of King Ahaziah of Judah, his mother, Athaliah, attempts to kill off all of his sons. However, King Ahaziah’s sister hides his infant son, Joash, and takes him to the priest, Jehoiada. Athaliah, Jezebel’s daughter, ruled Judah for seven years. When Joash is seven years old, Jehoiada organizes a revolt against Athaliah and puts him on the throne. Jehoiada uses his position as the man who put Joash on the throne to destroy the temple of Baal and kill Baal’s high priest. Early in his reign, Joash instructs the priests to take part of the money that is brought as offerings to the Temple and use it to repair the Temple. However, by the twenty-third year of his reign, little to no progress has been made in repairing the Temple. Joash instructs that all money donated for any reason other than as a guilt or sin offering will go into a separate fund exclusively for Temple repair. In addition, he took responsibility for the Temple repair away from the priests and gave it to construction experts.
      I remember when I was young there was a bit of a controversy in the local conference of the Mennonite Church because the financial management for the conference was taken out of the hands of ordained ministers and given to lay persons. The bulk of the controversy was because some people interpreted this move as expressing distrust of the ordained ministers. I remember my father explaining/arguing that ordained ministers have many gifts, but they are selected to be ordained and for conference leadership positions for gifts other than financial management. My father went on to make the case that the Church’s money should be managed by people who are selected for that job because they do have the gift of financial management. Conference finances improved significantly after this change was made and my impression is that the ministries of the conference became more effective as well. I believe that this represents an important point, the Church should select people with ministry gifts for those roles we traditionally consider “ministry” and choose people with the appropriate gifts for those roles that call for other gifts, rather than assume that the guidance of the Holy Spirit will suffice to direct those we have called to the ministry to the proper action in areas where they have not been gifted.

Acts 18:1-22

     After his experience on Mars Hill, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. In Corinth, Paul meets Priscilla and Aquila. He lived and worked with them for awhile because they were tent-makers, as was he. Each Sabbath Paul went to the synagogue and attempted to convince Jews and Gentiles of the truth of the Gospel. When Silas and Timothy joined him in Corinth, Paul spent more time preaching the Word. At this point some of the Jews in the synagogue became hostile to him. Paul stopped going to the synagogue and started teaching in the home of a Gentile who lived next to the synagogue. Luke tells us that even though Paul moved his preaching and teaching from the synagogue, the leader of the synagogue and his household became believers. The Jews who did not believe left Paul alone until there was a change in the governor. At that point they brought Paul before the governor and accused him of teaching things contrary to Jewish law. The governor refused to even listen to Paul’s defense and threw the case out telling them that it was a matter for them to settle themselves and not for his court.
     Paul spent some more time in Corinth and then traveled to Ephesus where he preached for a short time. The Jews in Ephesus asked Paul to stay longer, but he declined, promising to return if the Lord willed. He then traveled to Jerusalem by way of Caesarea. From Jerusalem he returned to Antioch.

Psalm 145:1-21

     The psalmist declares that the Lord is great and the he will praise Him everyday. He tells us that each generation should tell the next of God’s mighty works and raise them to praise Him. The psalmist tells us that God provides for all of creation and protects those who love Him. The psalmist closes by repeating that he will praise the Lord and calls on everyone on the earth to do the same. I will do my best to join the psalmist in praising the Lord everyday.

Proverbs 18:1

     This proverb tells us that people are unfriendly because they care only about themselves. That they will lash out even at common sense suggestions.

June 26, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 9:14-10:31

     As soon as Jehu had the support of the officers with him, he led a force of men to Jezreel, where King Joram was recovering from his wounds. When Jehu and his men approached Jezreel, the city guard told the king that a troop was coming. King Joram sent out a messenger to find out if the approaching men were hostile or not. Jehu ordered the messenger to join his force. King Joram sent out and second messenger with the same result. King Joram had his chariot prepared and rode out to meet Jehu accompanied by his nephew, King Ahaziah of Judah. They met Jehu at the plot of land that King Ahab had killed Naboth over. Jehu killed King Joram and King Ahaziah fled. Jehu pursued King Ahaziah and some of his men were able to wound him as he fled. King Ahaziah was able to escape from Jehu, but died of his wounds. His servants took his body back to Jerusalem for burial. When Jezebel heard that Jehu was coming to the city of Jezreel, she made herself up and sat at the window of the palace. When Jehu entered the city, she called out to him that he would meet the same fate as Zimri, who had killed the predecessor to Ahab’s father. Jehu calls out for Jezebel to be thrown down from the window. Several palace eunuchs follow his command and throw her out, where Jehu tramples her body under his horses’ hooves. Jehu points out to those accompanying him that the death of Joram and Jezebel fulfilled the prophecies of Elijah concerning Jezebel and Ahab. Jehu then has all of Ahab’s remaining sons killed.
     Jehu then declares a great assembly and sacrifice to worship Baal. He summoned all of the Baal worshipers to the assembly. When the Baal worshipers had assembled, he tells them to make sure that no one who worshiped the Lord was there, only Baal worshipers. As the rituals get under way, Jehu orders his men to kill everyone in the assembly. After killing all of the Baal worshipers, Jehu completely desecrated the temple of Baal. The passage tells us that Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship in Israel, but continued the worship of the golden calves that Jeroboam had built.

Acts 17:1-34

     When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, he went to the synagogue service and for three Sabbaths in a row he made the case from Jewish scripture that Jesus was the Messiah. Some of the Jews and many of the God-fearing Gentiles were convinced and joined Paul and Silas. Some of the Jews who did not believe stirred up a mob to drag Paul and Silas before the town council. When they did not find them, they grabbed some other prominent believers and took them before the council. They accused the believers of being part of an insurrection. The city council forced the believers who had been brought before them to post bond and then released them. That night the believers sent Paul and Silas on to Berea. The Bereans were more receptive of the message of Paul and Silas. However, when some Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea and started stirring up opposition to Paul and Silas, they sent Paul on to Athens.
     In Athens, Paul got into debates with various philosophers. Paul appears to have done well in these debates until he started talking about the Resurrection. At this point, they asked Paul to address the assembly of philosophers (the original Greek is ambiguous as to exactly who Paul was asked to address, this is my interpretation of the situation). Paul talked about how the people of Athens worship many different gods and even have an altar to an “unknown god.” Paul told them that the “unknown god” is the God of whom he speaks. Paul said that God has no needs for people to fill, that instead God fills people’s needs. He continued by saying that God had overlooked man’s ignorance of Him in the past, but has now sent Jesus to call people to repent of their sins and follow Him. Paul told them that God proved that Jesus was His messenger by raising Him from the dead. Once again, the Resurrection is a sticking point for many of the philosophers. The response to Paul’s message here is the same as we experience today when we speak to people about the Gospel. Many held Paul in contempt for believing that someone could be raised from the dead, some wanted to debate him some more at another time, and a few believed.

Christian Clip Art

Psalm 144:1-15

     God will provide for our safety and protection if we rely on Him. If we accept God as our Lord and Savior we will experience joy and God will watch over us.

Proverbs 17:27-28

     If an argument you are trying to make will take a lot of words to explain, you should probably refrain from making it. When you are having a discussion with someone and you find yourself becoming angry, it is probably time to stop talking. If you wish to be perceived as wise, keep your mouth shut. The wise speak sparingly and if the foolish do not speak, they will not reveal their foolishness.

June 25, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 8-9:13

     God revealed to Elisha that there was going to be seven years of famine in Israel. So, Elisha tells the woman in Shunem to move out of Israel for seven years. She takes he family and does so. After seven years, she returns. Upon her return she went to the king of Israel to see about getting her land back. When she arrives before the king, Gehazi, Elisha’s former servant, is telling the king the story of Elisha raising her son. Gehazi tells the king that she is the woman and this is the son that Elisha had raised. The king has one of his officials see that she gets all of her land back.
     Elisha travels to Damascus. King Ben-hadad has taken sick. When he hears that Elisha has come to Damascus, Ben-hadad sends Hazael to inquire of Elisha is he will get better. Elisha tells Hazael to tell Ben-hadad that he will recover, but that Elisha knows that Ben-hadad will actually die. Hazael returns and gives Ben-hadad Elisha’s message, but the following day he suffocates Ben-hadad in his bed.
     Next we learn that Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram succeeds him. We are told that Jehoram married one of Ahab’s daughters and followed Ahab’s example rather than that of his own father and did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jehoram is succeeded by his son, Ahaziah. We are told that Ahaziah also followed the evil example of King Ahab’s family. We learn here the importance of who one chooses to marry. We were told that Asa and his son Jehoshaphat were good kings who did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. However, Jehoram followed the eample of his father-in-law Ahab and worshiped Baal. Ahaziah joins his uncle, King Joram of Israel in his war against Hazael of Aram. When Joram is wounded in battle both he and Ahaziah go to the city of Jezreel for Joram to recover.
     After King Joram is wounded, Elisha sends one of the young prophets to Ramoth-gilead to secretly anoint Jehu, one of Joram’s army commanders, king of Israel. When the young prophet arrives at Ramoth-gilead, he finds Jehu sitting with other army officers. The prophet gets Jehu to take him aside and anoints him, telling him that he must destroy Ahab’s entire family. The prophet then opens the door and runs. When the other officers ask Jehu what the prophet told him, he dissembles and calls the prophet a madman. When the officers push further, Jehu tells them that the prophet anointed him king over Israel. The other officers immediately declare their support for him as king.

Acts 16:16-40

     While Paul and Silas are in Philippi, a slave girl that could tell fortunes started following them around shouting out that they were servants of the Most High God who had come to tell them how to be saved. After a few days, Paul became exasperated with her and turned and commanded the demon within her to come out of her in the name of Jesus. The slave’s masters are furious and have Paul and Silas dragged before the authorities. A mob forms against them and the authorities have them beaten and thrown in prison.
     While they were in prison they prayed and sang hymns of praise. The other prisoners were listening to them. There was a massive earthquake that opened all of the gates to the prison and released the chains off of all of the prisoners. The earthquake awakened the jailer, who thought that the prisoners had escaped and prepared to kill himself. Paul assures him that all of the prisoners are still there. The jailer is so overwhelmed by this turn of events that he asks Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. Even though it was the middle of the night he took them into his house and cared for their wounds. He and his entire household were baptized. In the morning, the city officials sent the town magistrates to tell the jailer to release Paul and Silas. When the jailer tells Paul and Silas that they are free to go, Paul replied that they were Roman citizens who were punished without a trial and that they would not leave in secret. The town officials came and apologized to them and begged them to leave the city. Paul and Silas returned to Lydia’s house and met with the believers before leaving the city.

Psalm 143:1-12

     The psalmist here is suffering from depression and talks about how a daily devotional helps him deal with it.

Proverbs 17:26

     A society where those who do good are punished and leaders are discouraged from being honest will not long survive.

June 24, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 6-7:20

     This passage tells of some of Elisha’s miracles. The first one is a story about how the group of prophets was building a new meeting place near to the Jordan river. One of the men dropped a borrowed ax into the river. Elisha causes the ax to float to the top of the water so that the man can recover it.
     Next we are told how Elisha kept thwarting the plans of the king of Aram to raid Israel by warning the king of Israel where he was planning to strike. The king of Aram was convinced that he had a traitor in his midst, but his advisers told him that Elisha was telling the king of Israel of his plans. The king of Aram sends an army to capture Elisha. When they arrive, Elisha’s servant is scared, but Elisha tells him that there are more on their side than there are against them. Elisha prays that his servant can see. The servant sees that there is a mighty force of fiery horses and chariots around them. This is Elisha showing his servant a truth that the writer of 1 John put as “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. “ This is a truth which we must always remember and is further illustrated in this passage. After revealing to his servant the forces of God that surrounded them, Elisha prayed for the Aramean army to be struck blind. This appears to be a figurative blindness, not a literal blindness. Elisha then went out to them and told them that they had come to the wrong city. He led them from there into the midst of Samaria, where they were surrounded by the Israelite army. The king of Israel asked Elisha if he should kill them, but Elisha tells him “No, treat them as prisoners of war. Feed them and send them home.” After this event the Arameans stopped raiding Israel.
     However, some time later, Ben-hadad,the king of the Arameans, mustered his entire army and laid siege to Samaria. I must say that this makes Ben-hadad appear to be a bit of a slow learner. This is the third time that he attacked Israel with the entire force that he could muster and it does not turn out any better than the first two times. Things are very bad in the city and the king of Israel determines to have Elisha killed. When his messenger cannot get in to kill Elisha, the king goes himself. The king confronts Elisha and tells him that with all the misery that they are suffering from the Lord, he sees no benefit in trusting in the Lord any longer. Elisha tells him that by that time the next day, food in the market will be ridiculously cheap. One of the king’s officers replies that that could not happen “even if the Lord opened the windows of heaven!” Elisha tells him that he will see it with his own eyes, but will not be able to eat any of it.
     That night the Aramean army hears what they believe to be a great army arriving nearby. They are convinced that the king of Israel has hired both the Hittite army and the Egyptian army to come relieve the siege. These were the two great powers of the time. They were the equivalent for that area at that time of the U.S. and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. If they both came in on the side of your opponent, you were doomed. The Aramean army fled for their lives, leaving the camp standing with the animals tethered for the night. Four lepers had been sitting in the city gate. They were very hungry and concluded that they had nothing to lose by going out and surrendering to the Arameans. When they got to the Aramean camp, they discovered that the camp was abandoned. They started out by stuffing themselves with food and wine and taking money and luxury goods and hiding them. After a bit, their conscience attacks them and they decide to tell the authorities. They returned to the city and reported what they had found. The gatekeepers shouted this news to everyone. The king of Israel suspects a trap, so he sends scouts out to find where the Aramean army is. The scouts find evidence that the enemy had fled across the Jordan. When the people of Samaria got this news they rushed out to plunder the camp. The king assigned the officer who had not believed Elisha to control the traffic at the gate, but the people trample him to death thus fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy.

Acts 15:36-16:15

     After awhile Paul wants to go back and visit the cities where they had preached on the first missionary journey. He speaks to Barnabas and Barnabas likes the idea. But Barnabas wants to bring John Mark along. Paul is opposed because John Mark left them part way in on the first trip. Paul and Barnabas argue over this and end up going their separate ways over it. This disagreement does not reflect well on Paul, but it did serve the will of God. We know that Barnabas was known as the “son of encouragement” and it seems likely that his support of John Mark grew out of this characteristic. As a result of this dispute, Barnabas set out with John Mark and Paul set out with Silas.
     Paul and Silas’ first stop was at Derbe and Lystra. In Lystra, Paul took under his wing Timothy, the son of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. Timothy’s mother was a believer. Paul arranged for Timothy to be circumcised out of deference to the Jews who lived in the area (the fact that Timothy had not been circumcised until this point becomes significant later). It is interesting that Paul felt the need to take a young man under his wing at this point. Someone who filled a similar role to the one that John Mark had on the first journey. If Paul and Barnabas had stayed together, Timothy would likely have never been taken under Paul’s wing and the Church may have lost a gifted leader. This passage demonstrates how God can even use disputes among believers to further His will.
      Paul and Silas continued their missionary journey, but the passage tells us that on several occasions they were forced to change their plans. The passage does not tell us why they changed their plans, only that the Holy Spirit prevented them from going in a particular direction. As a result they ended up in the seaport of Troas.
     In Troas, Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia asking him to come over and help them. At this point, the author starts to use the first person plural to describe Paul’s journey. This suggests that up until now the author has been relying on the accounts of others, but starting here, he is describing events that he actually witnessed (later he returns to the third person). When they reach Macedonia they traveled through several towns until they reached Philippi. On the Sabbath they went outside the city to a place by the river where they expected to find some people meeting for prayer. The implication here is that Jews in a city without a synagogue would meet by a local river to pray. I wonder if this tradition is related to Psalm 137 where the psalmist refers to the Jews in exile sitting by the rivers of Babylon and weeping as they thought of Babylon?
     They found some women gathered by the river and sat down to speak with them. One of the women was Lydia from Thyatira, who was a wealthy trader in purple cloth (a luxury item of the day). The passage tells us that she worshiped God. She accepted Paul’s teachings and was baptized along with other members of her household. She invited the missionary party come to stay at her house and would not take no for an answer.

Psalm 142:1-7

     The psalmist proclaims that he will plead to the Lord for mercy, that when he is in trouble only the Lord knows the path he should follow. The psalmist complains that no one will help him, that no one cares about him. Then he tells us that when he relies on God, God rescues him and the godly crowd around him. I think this is something to remember, that when we feel all alone, if we turn to God God will guide us to those who can and will help us. Sometimes God performs supernatural miracles to help us, sometimes He performs the natural miracles of showing us who can provide us aid.

Proverbs 17:24-25

     This proverb tells us to keep our eyes focused on the wise course of action. Do not spend time considering all kinds of other ways to do things. It is important that once you have chosen a course of action with due consideration of the guidance of the Spirit, do not spend time thinking of other paths you could have taken.

June 23, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 4:18-5:27

     When the boy that Elisha had predicted for the woman from Shunem was a little older, he grew sick and died. The woman came to Elisha and tells him indirectly of the boy’s death. Elisha sends his servant to lay his staff on the boy, but the woman refuses to return home unless Elisha accompanies her. Elisha does so. On the way, his servant met him and told him that the boy was still dead even though he had followed Elisha’s instructions. Elisha prayed to God and was able to raise the child.
     The passage tells us that there was a famine in the land. During this famine, Elisha performed two miracles that we are told about. The first is that while the group of prophets was making a stew, one of the young man accidentally added some poisonous gourds to it. When some of them tasted it they realized it was poisoned and told Elisha. He put some flour in it and neutralized the poison. Later during the same famine, someone brought a small amount of food to Elisha. Elisha told his servant to give it the people of the town to eat. His servant says that it is not enough for that many people. Elisha tells him that it will not only be enough but there will be leftovers. The servant gives the food to the people and there are indeed leftovers after everyone had plenty to eat.
     The passage then tells us the story of Naaman. Naaman was the commander of the army of the king of Aram. Naaman had leprosy. Naaman’s wife had a slave girl as a maid who had been captured in a raid into Israel. One day this slave girl tells Naaman’s wife that she wished that Naaman would go see the prophet in Samaria, because he would heal Naaman of his leprosy. When Naaman told the king of Aram what the slave girl said, the king sent Naaman to see the prophet with a letter of introduction to the king of Israel and rich gifts. When Naaman gives his letter to the king of Israel, the king of Israel is sure that the king of Aram is seeking an excuse to attack him. When Elisha hears of the king of Israel’s distress, he sends a message to the king telling him to send Naaman to him. Naaman went to Elisha’s house and waited at the door. Elisha sent him a message telling him to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times. Naaman is furious that Elisha did not come out and see him. He expected Elisha to come out and wave his hand over him to heal him. Further Naaman doesn’t understand why he could not wash in one of the rivers closer to his home. Some of his officers point out to him that if Elisha had given him some difficult task in order to be healed, he would have done it, why not at least give washing in the Jordan a shot? Naaman listens to their counsel and washes in the Jordan seven times. The passage tells us that he was healed. Naaman returns to Elisha and offers him the goods he had brought with him. Elisha refuses the gifts. Naaman then swears that he will make no sacrifices to any god but God.
     Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, thinks that Elisha should not have let Naaman go without taking at least some of his gifts. So, Gehazi goes after Naaman and makes up a story about some young men that had come to Elisha that Elisha would like Naaman to give some clothes and money. Naaman gives Gehazi the clothes and money. When Gehazi returns, he hides what Naaman gave him, but Elisha confronts him about it. Elisha tells him that because he has done this, he will have leprosy. Now the thing about this is that leprosy is a contagious disease. It is likely that Gehazi got the leprosy because he was exposed to it through the clothes he took from Naaman.

Acts 15:1-35

     After Paul and Barnabas return from their missionary journey, some Jewish believers come from Jerusalem and begin teaching that the Gentile believers must be circumcised in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them and there were vehement arguments between them. The church in Antioch decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to see what the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem thought. They also sent some local believers along. On the way they stopped in several cities that had believers and shared how God was calling Gentiles. The believers in these cities were delighted to hear this news.
     When Paul and Barnabas got to Jerusalem, the entire church there welcomed them and listened to their report. Then some of the believers insisted that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses. The elders of the church and the apostles met to discuss this issue. After a lengthy discussion where there was apparently little agreement, Peter gets up to talk. Peter tells of his experience being called to preach to the Gentiles. He points out that God made no distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles in the pouring out of His Spirit. He further points out that the Jews, including himself, have been unable to keep the Law and asks why they would burden the Gentiles with a requirement that they themselves has been unable to keep. Finally Peter points out that all are saved by the undeserved grace of Jesus.
     After Peter finished speaking, Paul and Barnabas again told about what they had witnessed God doing when they ministered among the Gentiles. Finally, James gets up to speak. He summarizes the sense of the meeting at that point as that they should only ask the Gentiles to follow a few points of the Law; don’t eat food sacrificed to idols, avoid sexual immorality, avoid eating strangled animals and blood. The Council wrote a letter to the believers in Antioch and sent a delegation to deliver it.

Psalm 141:1-10

     The psalmist calls on the Lord to protect him. In particular he asks God to keep him from wickedness. He asks God to prevent him from even speaking wicked words, to allow the righteous to correct him when he does wrong. The psalmist prays that the wicked suffer for their wickedness, but he also prays that they hear his words and turn from their wickedness. He prays that they fall into the traps and snares they have set for others. We should seek to live and speak so that when the folly of their wickedness is exposed to them. the wicked will heed our words and turn to God.

Proverbs 17:23/a>

The wicked take secret bribes
to pervert the course of justice.

June 22, 2012 Bible Study

     I am using One Year Bible Online for my daily Bible study. For today, One Year Bible Online links here. I have found that by writing this daily blog of what I see when I read these scriptures, I get more out of them. I hope that by posting these ruminations others may get some benefit as well. If you have any thoughts or comments regarding these verses or what I have written about them, please post them.

2 Kings 3-4:17

     After the death of his brother, Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, Joram takes the throne of Israel. We are told that while he did evil in the sight of the Lord, he was not as bad as his father and mother. Joram tore down the sacred pillar of Baal that Ahab had constructed. The king of Moab had given a tribute each year to King Ahab. When Ahab died the king of Moab stopped giving this tribute. When Joram took the throne, he went to war against Moab to enforce this tribute. Jehoshaphat of Judah and the king of Edom joined him in his war against Moab. Joram chose to launch his attack against Moab by a roundabout route through the wilderness. Unfortunately, Joram chose a route that did not have any water along it (at least at this time). After seven days, Joram is desperate and asks the other two kings what he should do. Jehoshaphat asks if there is a prophet of the Lord with them, they can ask him what to do. One of Joram’s officers says that Elisha was with the army and he used to be Elijah’s servant. The three kings go to Elisha. Elisha asks Joram why he has come, he should have gone to the pagan prophets of his parents. Joram replies that no, it was God that called the three kings to this place, so God was the one for them to consult. Elisha then says that he is only talking to them because of Jehoshaphat. He tells the three kings that the valley there will be no rain, but the valley they are in will fill with water. Elisha further tells them that they will utterly defeat Moab. The next morning water started flowing into the valley. The sun shining on the water made it appear to be blood to the Moabite army. This led the Moabites to believe that the three armies had fought among themselves and killed each other. The Moabites rushed in to plunder what they thought was an abandoned camp, when they got there the Israelite army came out to meet them and defeated them decisively.
     Sometime later, a widow of one of the group of prophets came to Elisha to request help because a creditor was threatening to take her sons to sell them into slavery to pay off her debt. Elisha asks her what she has in the house. She replies that she has nothing of any value except for a flask of olive oil. Elisha tells her to borrow as many empty jars from her neighbors as she can. Then she should go into her house with her sons and close the doors. When she has done this she should start filling the containers. She followed these instructions and there continued to be more olive oil in her flask until all of the jars was filled. She then sold the olive oil and paid her debt with money left over for her and her sons to live on.
     Still later a wealthy woman invited Elisha to come eat at her house. Whenever he passed that way he would stop for a meal. After a little bit the woman tells her husband that they should furnish a room for him to stay in as he passes by because he is a man of God. After a while Elisha has his servant ask her what they can do to repay her for her kindness. She replies that she is well cared for by her family. When she has left, Elisha asks his servant what they can do for her. The servant replies that she does not have a son and her husband is elderly. Elisha has his servant call her back. When she comes back, Elisha tells her that by next year at this time she will be holding a son in her arms. The woman is afraid to get her hopes up, but nevertheless by the following year she has born a son.
     These two women had something in common. They both chose to serve the Lord. The one, when she was in need, turned to the community of God (Elisha was the leader of the group of prophets of which her husband had been a member). Elisha gives her instruction on what she should do. She acts on faith and God provides for her. Notice that Elisha does not give her money, he provides her a means to generate the income she needs. She still has to fill the jars with olive oil and sell them. The second has plenty and out of her plenty she shows hospitality. When Elisha asks her what her needs are, she replies that she is well cared for. Elisha then inquires of others what needs she might have. When he discovers that she does not have a son to care for her when her husband will no longer be able to, he asks God to provide her one.

Acts 14:8-28

     While Paul was preaching in Lystra, there was a man who had been crippled since birth listening to him. Paul looks at the man and sees that he has the faith to be healed. So Paul calls out to him to stand up. The man does so and begins walking. The people of Lystra begin talking among themselves that Paul and Barnabas must be gods. They conclude that Paul is Hermes and Barnabas is Zeus. This discussion goes on in the local dialect, so Paul and Barnabas do not know what they are talking about until they see the priests begin the preparations for a sacrifice. Paul and Barnabas tore their clothes and emphatically told the people that they were not gods. They were barely able to restrain the people from offering a sacrifice to them. Shortly after this some Jews came from the last two towns Paul and Barnabas had been at and convinced the crowds to stone Paul and leave him for dead. When the believers gathered around Paul, he got up and went back into town. The next day Paul and Barnabas went to Derbe and preached there. It is interesting how fickle the crown was. When Paul and Barnabas refused to allow the people of Lystra to worship them, they quickly turned on them.
     After spending some time in Derbe, Paul and Barnabas retraced their steps through Asia Minor appointing elders in the local churches. They then sailed back to Antioch of Syria and reported on their trip.

Psalm 140:1-13

     The psalmist here asks God to protect him from those trying to trap him and destroy him with violence. He asks God to not let the wicked become successful in their plots against the innocent. He asks God to destroy them by catching them in the traps they had set for others. The psalmist concludes that God will give justice to the poor and the righteous praise His name.

Proverbs 17:22

     Those who are cheerful always seem to be in better health than those who complain about every little thing. I have noticed that when I am happy pain bothers me less. Admittedly, it is hard to stay cheerful and upbeat when you are in pain, but it is worth trying because it seems to make things better.