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 Chronicles 24-25:28
When Joash got old enough to start acting as king one of the first things he did was to instruct the Levites to go throughout Judah to collect the tax imposed by the Law of Moses and use it to repair the Temple. This was not done and Joash became impatient. He set up a chest at the gate of the Temple for people to put money into. This money was given to men who were given responsibility to repair the Temple. These men hired workmen of all sorts and got the Temple repaired. When the Temple repairs were finished the money left over was used to create new articles for sacrifice and worship services. We are told that as long as Jehoiada, the priest who had raised him and put him on the throne, was alive Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord.
However, after Jehoiada’s death Joash began worshiping Asherah poles and other idols. Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah, confronted Joash about his sin in front of the people. Joash ordered him stoned to death. The following spring the Arameans invaded and plundered Judah. Joash was seriously wounded and a couple of his officials plotted together and killed him. Joash’s son Amaziah took the throne after his death. The chronicler commends Amaziah for only punishing the men who killed his father and not their children. Amaziah then began going to war with the intention of expanding his power. He attacked Edom and conquered it. Along with other plunder Amaziah brought back the gods of Edom and began worshiping them. A prophet confronted Amaziah about this and told him that God had determined to destroy him because he would not give up the idols of Edom. Amaziah then makes war against Israel and is defeated soundly.
Today’s passage from Romans is full of a lot of stuff that is very important. The first thing Paul talks about is offering our bodies as living sacrifices to God. Part of what he is saying is that we should be willing to suffer and die, just as the burnt offering sacrifices died. But I think there is much more to it because of what he says next. Right after telling us to be living sacrifices, he tells us not to conform to this world but instead to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Just as today, in Paul’s time there was a strong element of the culture that emphasized that we are sexual beings and that sexual activity is an inherent part of who we are. That somehow we cannot help but be sexually active (and perhaps promiscuous, although that is generally less explicitly stated). Paul here is telling us that we must not conform to the world’s expectations, but instead keep our bodies pure and holy. Our minds must be transformed by the Holy Spirit to control our bodies.Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Then Paul goes on to another topic. He first tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. There are two sins he is addressing here. The first is thinking we are better than others. The second is just as bad. It is thinking that others are better than us. We should look at ourselves carefully and with “sober judgement”. We should analyze our strengths and weaknesses. Then he tells us to focus on doing what we are good at, what we have been given a gift from God to do. Many times what Paul writes needs to be carefully read and thought about to understand what he is getting at, but not here. From the New International Version:
Paul goes on with more important guidelines for our daily lives. Guidelines that are easy to understand, but hard to follow. He tells us that when those around us are happy, we should be happy with them. When they are sad, we should be sad with them. He tells us to not be too proud to associate with and befriend those that society thinks of as beneath us. This is not quite as easy as it seems. There are places where there are two or more groups that consider all of the other groups as beneath them; no person of true class would associate with that other group. We cannot just say, “Those people look down on these people, so we will only associate with these people.” If we do that then we are doing exactly what Paul told us not to. We are being too proud to associate with that other group because we are better than them by associating with this group that they look down on.
Paul goes on to tell us that we should not seek conflict with others. We should strive to be at peace with others as much as it is within our control. This does not mean that we fail to defend our beliefs when others attack them. It does not mean that we pretend to agree with other people. This is something I struggle with, when does defending my beliefs cross the line and become conflict that I could, and should, avoid?
Finally Paul tells us not to seek “payback” for those who do wrong to us. Not only should we not seek payback, we should strive to do good for those who have done us wrong. Paul gives us two reasons why we should do good to those who do wrong to us. The first is that God has stated, “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” Do we really think we can extract a more fitting revenge than what God will give out? The second reason he tells us to do good to those who do wrong by us is that by doing so, we will make them feel much worse than anything we can do to harm them. But I think there are two other reasons why Paul tells us not to seek revenge. Seeking revenge is bad for us. Have you ever noticed how some people become consumed by their revenge? The desire to make others pay for the wrong they have done us eats into our souls and damages us much more than any harm we inflict on others. I have heard seeking revenge described as taking poison and expecting someone else to become sick and die. The final reason Paul tells us not to seek revenge but to rather seek to do good for those who have wronged us is because it is a good witness to those who see our actions. Several years ago, a man went on a shooting rampage at an Amish school, killing a number of children before killing himself. The story made an even larger national impact than it would have anyway because the immediate
response of the Amish community was to reach out to his family and offer comfort. They went to his funeral. I remember people saying, “What is wrong with these people?” But people were also impressed.
Paul finishes today’s passage with something that we must remember. We cannot overcome evil with evil. If we try, evil will overcome us. The only way to overcome evil is with good. If we respond to evil by doing good, than good will win…even if those who do evil continue to do so.
As I said yesterday, the first half of this psalm contains images that the New Testament writers saw as foreshadowing of the crucifixion. And Jesus just before he died, made reference to this psalm by calling out its opening line, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” As I said yesterday, by quoting the first line, Jesus was calling upon the entire passage. Yesterday we looked at the first half of the psalm where the psalmist was overwhelmed by his trials, just as Jesus was overwhelmed by His suffering. Today we look at the rest of their experience. In the middle of this suffering they declared that, even though they felt abandoned, they were not abandoned by God. That God was standing by them in their trials:For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.
When Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was declaring his immense suffering and pain. But He was also declaring His praise to God and His belief that God would rescue Him. Which indeed God did on Easter morning with the Resurrection. The psalmist told us, and Jesus, when he was hanging on the cross about to die told us, those who seek the Lord will rejoice. In the depths of His suffering on the cross, Jesus rejoiced to be serving God’s plan. There are many stories of martyrs doing the same. During the Reformation, the various government authorities which persecuted those who followed the Bible rather than the religious dictates of the government took to removing the tongues of the martyrs before burning them at the stake or otherwise killing them tortuously because they wanted to stop them from declaring their joy at suffering for following Christ as they died these horrible deaths.
Today we have three proverbs. The first is one that we know is not always true, but it is one that ought to always be true. When it is true, a country will be in the process of becoming stronger and more prosperous. When it is not true, a country will be in the process of becoming weaker and poorer. The second proverb reminds us why we need God’s grace, because we can never be pure enough on our own to approach God. The final is related to the first, if people apply different standards (whether of weight and measure, or of behavior) to favored groups than to disfavored groups, society will suffer.