Monday, October 29, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Kings 21-25

Readings for this week

Monday: 2nd Kings 21
Tuesday: 2nd Kings 22
Wednesday: 2nd Kings 23
Thursday: 2nd Kings 24
Friday: 2nd Kings 25
Saturday: Galatians 1
Sunday: Galatians 2

Introduction to 2nd Kings 21-25

Chapter 21 

Manasseh became king of Judah when he was 12 years old. His reign lasted for 55 years. He was bad. He worshiped other gods. He rebuilt the idols and shrines his father Hezekiah had torn down. He sacrificed his own son. He built new altars inside the Temple of the LORD for worshiping the stars. He put an Asherah pole inside the Temple of the LORD. He practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. The text says, “Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end…” The people followed Manasseh in his evil ways. The text says that the people of Jerusalem had become worse than the pagans who had lived in the land before them. God spoke through many prophets condemning Manasseh’s ways. God said that Judah would eventually be judged as the rest of Israel had been judged.

Amon was king of Judah 2 years. He was bad. His own officials assassinated him. His son Josiah became king after him. 

Chapter 22 

Josiah becomes king when he is only 8 years old. He reigns for 31 years. Josiah arranges to have the Temple of the LORD cleaned and repaired. The High Priest Hilkiah finds “The Book of the Law” while cleaning the Temple. Josiah’s secretary reads him The Law. Josiah tears his robes and weeps because he now knows how far from God Judah has strayed. He orders priests to inquire of the LORD so they might somehow avoid the curses of The Covenant.

The prophetess Huldah’s message: The land is indeed under the curse. God is pleased with Josiah. Jerusalem will be safe during his lifetime.

Josiah reads the Law to the people. The people pledge to be faithful to the Covenant with God. 

Chapters 23-25 

Josiah destroys all of the idols of his ancestors, including the idols Solomon made for his wives, and the “Tophit” used for child sacrifice in the valley. He piles up the skeletons of all the false priests and prophets of the golden calves of Jeroboam on top of the place where the golden calf at Bethel once stood, fulfilling Ahijah’s prophecy. He gets rid of the mediums and spiritists. He has the people celebrate Passover again. The text says, “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.”

As a part of the Deuteronomistic History, Joshua and Josiah book end each other, with Joshua at the beginning and Josiah at the end. They are both king-like figures, both copy the Law, both read it to the assembly, and both celebrate the Passover. Not to mention the obvious similarities in both of their names.

Later, the Egyptians make an alliance with the Assyrians, and Josiah fights against Pharaoh’s army, but is killed in battle.

Jehoahaz became king of Judah and reigned for 3 months. He was bad. Pharaoh Necho captured him and dragged him in chains to Egypt where he died. Necho made Judah his vassal and made them pay tribute to him. He appointed Josiah’s son Eliakim to replace Jehoahaz as king. He changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim.

Jehoiakim was king of Judah for 11 years. He was bad. During his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the land, and Judah became Babylon’s vassal for three years.

After this, Jehoiachin became king of Judah for 3 months. He was bad. During his reign, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem again and took away all the gold from the Temple of the LORD and the royal palace as Isaiah had predicted. Nebuchadnezzar took 10,000 people from Jerusalem and exiled them to Babylon, including the entire army and the royal family. He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Zedekiah was Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet-king over Judah for 11 years. Eventually, Zedekiah rebels against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. And the Babylonian army besieges Jerusalem for two years. An extreme famine breaks out in the city, and the Babylonians finally break through the walls. Jerusalem’s army flees towards the Arabah, but is captured. Zedekiah is also captured, and his sons are executed in front of him, and then Zedekiah’s eyes are poked out, and he is dragged away in chains to Babylon. Almost all of Jerusalem’s people are captured and exiled to Babylon

The Babylonians remove the treasures and holy items from the Temple of the LORD, and destroy what is left. The priests are taken to Babylon and executed in front of Nebuchadnezzar.

A guy named Gedaliah is appointed governor over Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. He ruled over “the poorest of the poor.” Eventually, Gedaliah gets assassinated by zealots, and the people flee to Egypt in fear of Babylonian punishment.

Meanwhile, former king Jehoiachin had spent 37 years in prison, and was finally released when Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon. The king of Babylon honored him and allowed him to eat at the king’s table. Babylonian cuneiform records have even confirmed Jehoiachin’s regular food ration from the royal table.

Monday, October 22, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Kings 14-20

Readings for this week

Monday: 2 Kings 14
Tuesday: 2 Kings 15
Wednesday: 2 Kings 16
Thursday: 2 Kings 17
Friday: 2 Kings 18
Saturday: 2 Kings 19
Sunday: 2 Kings 20

Introduction to 2nd Kings 14-20

Chapters 14-17 

Meanwhile in the northern kingdom of Israel… 

Jeroboam II was king of Israel for 41 years. He was bad. When he died, Zechariah took over as king. He was bad, too. He only reigned for 6 months before he was assassinated by a guy named Shallum and then Shallum became king. He was also bad. He was only king for 1 month before a guy named Menahem assassinated him and took over the throne. Menahem was bad, too. He reigned for 10 years. Israel became a vassal to the Assyrians during his reign.

After Menahem died, Pekahiah became king. He was bad, too. he only reigned for 2 years before he was assassinated by a guy named Pekah, and Pekah became king. He was bad, too, and his reign lasted for 29 years. During his reign, Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria invaded Israel and took many cities, including all of the territories of Gilead and Naphtali. Tiglath-Pileser deported many Israelites to Assyria.

Eventually, Pekah was assassinated by a guy named Hoshea and Hoshea became king. He was the last king of Israel… and yep, he was bad, too. During his 9 year reign, Israel was still a vassal to the Assyrians, but Hoshea refused to pay tribute to them and made an alliance with King So of Egypt. Shalmaneser, the King of Assyria, attacked Israel and put Hoshea in prison. The Assyrians invaded the entire land and laid siege to it for three years. Shalmaneser deported all the Israelites to Assyria, Holah, Gozan, and Media.

The text says, “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt… The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets… But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the LORD their God… They made golden calves to worship… They worshiped all the starry host… They worshiped Baal… They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire… They practiced divination… Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; He afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until He thrust them from His presence… So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there.”

The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. God sent lions to attack the people who had replaced Israel because of the evil things they did. The king of Assyria sent back one of the captive Israelite priests to teach the new people in the land how to worship the God of that land. The people, who came to be known as Samaritans, worshiped Yahweh, but also worshiped other gods, and they sacrificed their children in the fire. 

Meanwhile in the southern kingdom of Judah… 

Amaziah was king of Judah for 29 years. He was pretty good at first. He defeated Edom in battle but got cocky and eh picked an unwanted fight with Israel. The King of Israel captured Amaziah and put him in jail. The King of Israel then raided Jerusalem and the Temple. Later, Amaziah’s own people came and assassinated him.

Azariah became King of Judah at age 16 and reigned for 52 years. He was good, but his subjects worshiped idols. Azariah was a leper and became co-regent with his son Jotham.

When Azariah died, Jotham officially took over and reigned over Judah for another 16 years. He was good. He rebuilt the Temple's Upper Gate. Israel and the Assyrians began to struggle against Judah during his reign.

Ahaz was king of Judah 16 years reign. He was bad. He sacrificed his own son in the fire. There was war with Israel and Aram during his reign, and Ahaz allied himself with the Assyrians. He also dismantled large sections of the Temple and gave all the temple gold to Assyrians. Eventually, the Assyrians sacked Damascus (capital of Aram) and deported the Arameans. The prophet Isaiah spoke against a number of things that Ahaz did. When Ahaz died, Hezekiah became king of Judah. 

Chapter 18 

Hezekiah was one of Judah’s greatest kings. He reigned in Jerusalem 29 years. The text says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” He destroyed the peoples’ idols. Even destroyed the bronze snake of Moses. The prophet Isaiah warns Hezekiah not to ally himself with Egypt and Philistia when they rebel against Assyria. Hezekiah listens at first, but later rebels.

Hezekiah’s wipes out the Philistines. The Assyrians destroy the northern kingdom of Israel during his reign. Later, the Assyrians capture all of Judah’s fortified cities. Hezekiah bribes the Assyrian king Sennacherib with gold and silver from the royal and Temple treasuries to keep him out of Jerusalem for a while.

Later, Sennacherib’s troops surrounded Jerusalem again. The field commander called out to the people of Jerusalem: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? Pharaoh will not be able to save you from us. We will give you a good new land to live in if you surrender to us. Will Yahweh really protect you? Haven’t you been unfaithful to Yahweh? None of the gods of the other nations of the world were able to save their people from our might. Yahweh himself told us to march against Jerusalem and destroy it! Surely you will all eat your own dung and drink your own piss!

The people remained silent as Hezekiah had commanded them. Hezekiah puts on sackcloth and goes to the Temple. He sends for the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz. Hezekiah hoped that God would “rebuke” the Assyrians for their blasphemy and save Jerusalem. 

Chapter 19 

Isaiah gave this message to King Hezekiah:

“This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.”

The Assyrians retreated because of threats of a Cushite invasion from the African continent. As they left, they sent a letter to King Hezekiah threatening that they would eventually come back and conquer Jerusalem and no one would be able to stop them.

Hezekiah’s Prayer:

“It is true that the Assyrians have destroyed the gods of other nations…because they were not really gods at all… Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

Isaiah’s message about Sennacherib, condensed:

“‘Virgin Daughter Zion
despises you and mocks you.
Daughter Jerusalem
tosses her head as you flee.
Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
“Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:
“‘He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.
By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,
declares the Lord.
I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”

The angel of the LORD slaughters 185,000 Assyrian soldiers at night. Sennacherib returns to his capital at Nineveh. His two sons assassinate him. Esarhaddon becomes king of Assyria. 

Chapter 20 

Hezekiah becomes deathly ill. Isaiah’s message: Get your house in order because you are going to die. Hezekiah faces the wall and cries and asks God to remember his faithfulness. Isaiah leaves, but God stops him, sends him back. Isaiah’s new message: God has heard you. God will heal you. God will protect this city from the Assyrians. Hezekiah asks for a sign from God. The sign was the shadow moving backwards up the steps instead of following its normal course down the steps during the day.

Later, King Marduk-Baladan of Babylon is pleased when he learns that Hezekiah has recovered, and he sends envoys with gifts for him. Hezekiah shows off all of Jerusalem’s wealth to the envoys. Isaiah scolds him, and predicts the King of Babylon will one day come to plunder Jerusalem’s wealth. Hezekiah doesn’t care – he figures he’ll be long gone by then

Hezekiah is famous for building an extensive tunnel and water system under the city in order to make sure the city would never run out of water in the event of a long siege.

Monday, October 15, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Kings 7-13

Readings for this week

Monday: 2 Kings 7
Tuesday: 2 Kings 8
Wednesday: 2 Kings 9
Thursday: 2 Kings 10
Friday: 2 Kings 11
Saturday: 2 Kings 12
Sunday: 2 Kings 13

Introduction to 2nd Kings 7-13 

Four lepers leave the starving and besieged city of Samaria to surrender to the Arameans, but they find the Aramean camp is deserted. God had caused the army to hear the sound of chariots so they quickly fled and left everything behind, assuming the Egyptians and Hittites had come to rescue Israel. The lepers start to eat the abandoned food and gather the gold left behind. But they then feel guilty for hoarding and go back to share the good news with the rest of the starving city. The king thinks it might be a trap so he sends his officers out to investigate. But then all the people rush out of the city to get food. And the officer who had scoffed at Elisha is trampled in the stampede and dies.

Later, Elisha journeys to Damascus, the capital of Aram. The king, Ben-Hadad, is very ill, and he sends his servant Hazael to inquire of Elisha. Elisha says, “Your master will die, but tell him he’ll live.” He then stares intently at Hazael until he feels embarrassed. Elisha starts weeping, and he claims knowledge of Hazael’s future crimes against Israel, and he tells Hazael he will replace Ben-Hadad as king of Aram. Hazael returns, and tells Ben-Hadad he will recover. The next day, he takes a wet cloth and suffocates Ben-Hadad.

Elisha sends his servant to anoint Jehu king over Israel. The servant runs into the house, pours oil on Jehu’s head, tells him he must destroy Ahab’s house, and runs off. Jehu’s friends ask what that “maniac” wanted, Jehu’s like, “Oh, you know…” His friends press him, and he confesses he’s now king, and they honor him.

King Joram spies an army coming towards his palace. He sends a messenger, saying, “Do you come in peace?” The messenger returns, saying, “The man in charge must be Jehu – he’s driving like a maniac as usual! He says, ‘What do you have to do with peace, Joram?’” Joram flees, but is shot down by Jehu. Joram’s body is tossed into what was once Naboth’s vineyard. Jehu also kills Ahaziah King of Judah who had been visiting Joram at the time.

We then hear about the death of Jezebel. Jezebel puts on makeup, sits in the second story window, and calls to Jehu, “Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master?” Jezebel’s eunuchs side with Jehu and throw her out the window. Jezebel hits the ground and “her blood spattered on the wall.” Jehu and his men go inside to eat lunch, and their horses trample her. When they return to bury her, they only find her skull, hands, and feet. Elijah’s prophecy is affirmed – “dogs will devour Jezebel...”

The royal servants side with Jehu, and they behead Ahab’s 70 sons, and send the heads in baskets to Jehu, and Jehu piles them up at the gate of Jezreel. Jehu kills all of Ahab’s friends and priests. On the side, he also kills some relatives of Judah’s now former king. 

Jehu tells the priests of Baal he will serve Baal more faithfully than Ahab did, and he invites them all to come to a great sacrifice. After the sacrifice, Jehu slaughters the priests. God promised to reward Jehu for his faithfulness. However, the text says that sometimes Jehu was unfaithful by worshiping the golden calves. Jehu reigned over Israel for 28 years. When he died, his son Jehoahaz succeeded him as king.

Jehoahaz reigned over Israel for 17 years, but he was evil. Israel still refused to repent even after God allowed the Arameans to wipe out most of their army.

Jehoash reigned over Israel for 16 years, but he was also evil. Jehoash visits Elisha who had been sick for a long time and would soon die. Jehoash weeps in Elisha’s presence, saying, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”

Elisha’s last message: “Take your bow and shoot towards Aram – you will defeat them! …Strike the ground with your arrows.”

Jehoash strikes the ground three times, but stops. Elisha is angry, and tells him if he had struck it more times he would have had a greater victory, but now “You will only have three victories before Aram returns.”

Elisha dies and is buried in a tomb. Sometime later, Moabite raiders show up during another funeral for a different family. The family quickly throws the body into Elisha’s tomb and runs. The text says, “When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.” The text says that later Jehoash was only able to defeat the Arameans three times, but God was still compassionate towards His sinful people for the sake of His covenant with Abraham. 

Meanwhile in the southern kingdom of Judah… 

Jehoram reigned in Jerusalem for 8 years. He was evil. He married one of Ahab’s daughters. Edom rebelled during his reign.

Ahaziah reigned for one year. He was bad, too. He teamed up with Israel and went to war against Hazael of Aram, but he died in battle.

After Ahaziah was killed, his mother Athaliah declared herself Queen of Judah. Athaliah was the granddaughter of King Omri of Israel and was Ahab’s cousin. Athaliah made it her goal to kill all of David’s descendants. Joash was the only boy left alive from the house of David. His aunt Jehosheba hid him in the Temple for six years from his crazy grandma Athaliah. The priests proclaimed Joash king on his seventh birthday, and revealed him to the worshipers. They placed a crown placed on head, and gave him a copy of The Law. Athaliah came to the Temple and tried to make a scene, but the Temple guards arrested her and put her to death outside of the Temple. The High Priest Jehoiada made a covenant between the king and the people and between the king and God. The people then destroyed Baal’s temple, and the land had peace.

Joash reigned in Jerusalem for 40 years. He did what was right in God’s sight. Joash set up a fund for Temple repairs. When he turned 30, he saw that the priests had not done a good job in repairing damages at the Temple, so he told the priests to use the money to hire workers who knew what they were doing, and in this way the Temple was finally repaired.

Hazael King of Aram attacked Jerusalem, and Joash emptied the Temple treasury and the royal treasury and gave it all to Hazael to make him go away. One day, as Joash was walking down the road, some of his own officials attacked him and killed him. Joash’s son Amaziah succeeded him as king, and the Davidic Dynasty continued.

Monday, October 8, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to 2nd Kings 1-6

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 150
Tuesday: 2 Kings 1
Wednesday: 2 Kings 2
Thursday: 2 Kings 3
Friday: 2 Kings 4
Saturday: 2 Kings 5
Sunday: 2 Kings 6

Introduction to 2nd Kings 1-6

Structure of 2nd Kings 

2 Kings 1:1–8:29 – Continuation of Israel and the prophets
2 Kings 9:1–12:21 – Revolution and reform
2 Kings 13:1–17:41 – Israel slides into disaster
2 Kings 18:1–23:30 – Judah’s disobedience and reform
2 Kings 23:31–25:30 – Destruction and exile 

Chapter 1 

We begin in the northern kingdom of Israel where we see the LORD’s Judgment on Ahaziah. Ahaziah replaced Ahab as king of Israel when Ahab died. He was evil, too. Ahaziah falls through his roof and injures himself. He sends messengers to consult “Baal-Zebub” to see if he will recover. 

Elijah intercepts them… “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going up to consult Baal-Zebub…?” “Ahaziah will die in his bed.” 

They return with the message from the “man with the leather belt.” Ahaziah realizes it was Elijah and sends 50 soldiers to arrest him. They find him sitting on a hill, and say, “Man of God! The king says, ‘Come down!’” Elijah responds, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Fire consumes them, along with the next 50 soldiers sent. The third detachment begs Elijah to spare them. God tells Elijah to go with them back to Ahaziah He repeats his message, and the king dies on his bed. Ahaziah’s brother Joram takes over the throne. 

Chapter 2 

Elijah and Elisha journey together from Gilgal to Bethel and Elisha refuses to leave Elijah’s side. Some other prophets foretell Elijah’s departure, but Elisha says not to speak of it. They arrive at the Jordan River and Elisha refuses to leave Elijah’s side. Elijah strikes the river with his cloak, and the river parts. Both men cross over on “dry ground” 

Elisha’s request: 
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.” 

Elijah's response: 
“You have asked a difficult thing, yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” 

Chariots of fire then appear, and Elijah taken up to heaven in whirlwind. Elisha cries out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha receives Elijah’s cloak, and uses it to also part the river, and returns to the other prophets. 

The other prophets react and say, “Look! The spirit of Elijah has fallen upon Elisha!” They then begin an unsuccessful search for Elijah against Elisha’s will, and Elisha says “I told you so.” 

Elisha stayed at Jericho and the people told him the water was no good. Elisha threw some salt in the water and the water was “healed.” 

Elisha went from Jericho up into the land towards Bethel. On the way, he was jeered by the boys of the town. They chanted, “Get out of here, baldy!” Elisha cursed them in the name of the LORD. Two bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the boys. Elisha continued on his way. 

Chapter 3 

We then learn that Joram was king of Israel for 12 years. He was evil, but not as evil as Ahab. He fought against Moab because they stopped paying tribute. Judah and Edom joined with him in battle. But they wandered in the desert for a week, and ran out of water. So they decided to inquired of Elisha the Prophet. Elisha can’t stand Joram, but he foretells a victorious outcome. In the morning, the Moabite army sees the sun reflecting off pools of water in the valley, and assumes it’s the blood of their enemies. The Moabites go out to loot, but are quickly surrounded by the three armies. There is a fierce battle that takes place, and the Moabites attempt to kill Edom’s king, but they fail. But then the King of Moab sacrifices his son on the wall and the text says, “The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.” 

Chapter 4 

We then read more stories about Elisha the prophet. A fellow prophet dies, and his widow cannot pay his debts. The collector is coming to take her two sons as payment, and so the widow inquires of Elisha. His instruction is to gather jars from her neighbors, and pour her remaining oil into jars. The oil miraculously never runs out, and it is used to pay the debt. 

Later, Elisha arrives at Shunem. He is fed by a woman and her family, and is invited to come back anytime. They build him a room with a cot on their roof. Later, Elisha inquires of his disciple Gehazi because he desires to repay the woman’s kindness, and he learns she is barren. He prophesies, “In one year you will have a son.” She says, “Don’t get my hopes up like that.” But Elisha’s word comes true. 

When the boy gets older, he works in the fields with his father. But he gets a terrible headache one morning, and dies at noon in mother’s lap. She places her son on Elisha’s bed, and searches furiously for Elisha. She finds him on Mount Carmel, and grabs his feet and weeps. Elisha is unaware of the events, and Gehazi rebukes the woman, but Elisha defends her. Gehazi is then sent to place Elisha’s staff on the boy, but there are no results. Elisha then arrives, shuts door behind him and prays. He lays on top of the dead boy – “mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands” and the text says that the “boy’s body grew warm.” Elisha paces, and tries again, and suddenly boy sneezes seven times and opens his eyes. Elisha gives him back to his mother. 

Later, Elisha had his servant cook up a stew for the prophets. But somebody added poisonous gourds. As the prophets began to eat, they started crying out, “There’s death in the pot!” Elisha added some flour and the stew was fine. 

Later, a man showed up with twenty loaves of bread. Elisha told him to distribute it among the men. There were 100 men present, and after they all ate and had their fill, there was still bread left over. 

Chapter 5 

We then read about an enemy general’s encounter with Elisha. Namaan was commander of the Aramean army… but he had leprosy. His wife’s Israelite slave girl tells her mistress that Namaan should go be healed by the prophet Elisha. The King of Aram gives Namaan permission to go to Israel, and sends a letter of peace to King Joram. Namaan takes gifts of silver, gold and clothing with him. Joram receives the letter and rips his own clothes, saying, “Am I God? …Why is he sending me people to be cured of leprosy?” Elisha told Joram to stop freaking out and to send Namaan his way. 

Elisha tells Namaan to bathe in the Jordan seven times. Namaan leaves angry, saying, “I thought he was going to wave his hand over me and cure me… Aren’t the rivers of Damascus better than the Jordan?” His servants stop him, and ask him to at least try this simple task. Namaan consents, and is completely healed. He declares, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

Namaan tries to give Elisha gifts, but Elisha refuses them. Namaan requests a cartload of Israel’s dirt to bring back to Aram, and he pledges to never again offer sacrifices to any God but Israel’s God… and asks pardon for the times in the future when his own master will require him to assist him in his old age with the worship of his master’s god. Gehazi later goes after Namaan, and tells him Elisha changed his mind about the gifts, Namaan gives them to Gehazi. Gehazi hides them in the house. Later, Elisha confronts Gehazi about this and Gehazi lies to him. Gehazi and his descendants are then cursed with Namaan’s leprosy forever. 

Chapter 6 

All the prophets gather at the river, and cut down trees to build a meeting place. One prophet borrows an ax, and while he’s chopping wood the iron axhead flies off and sinks in the river. Elisha throws a stick in the water, and the axhead floats to the surface. 

The Arameans at war with Israel, and God tells Elisha the Aramean battle plans, and Elisha relays them to King Joram. The King of Aram believes there’s a traitor in his midst, but he is then informed that “Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” The Aramean army sets out to attack the city where Elisha is staying. Elisha’s servant wakes up in the morning to find the city surrounded. Elisha says, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prays that his servant’s “eyes would be opened.” The servant looks up again and sees that the hills are full of a second army – one of fiery horses and chariots to protect Elisha. The Arameans attack, and Elisha prays, and the enemies struck with blindness. Elisha goes to meet them and tells them they’re at the wrong place, and he guides them to Samaria. In Samaria, Elisha prays again, and their sight is restored, and they realize they’ve been trapped. King Joram asks Elisha if he should kill them all, and Elisha says no. Elisha makes Joram feed his enemies and send them back home. After this, many Arameans stop raiding Israel. 

Later, Ben-Hadad of Aram lays siege to Samaria, and the city runs out of food. King Joram walks through the besieged city, and sees a woman calling for help. She says she and another woman agreed to eat their sons, but after they killed her own son and ate him the other woman changed her mind. Joram freaks out and puts on sackcloth, and swears to cut off Elisha’s head that very day. Elisha and the elders gather in a house and lock the door. Joram and his officers arrive, saying, “This disaster is from the LORD. Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?” Elisha tells Joram that food will arrive tomorrow. The King’s chief officer scoffs, and Elisha predicts the scoffer won’t get to eat.

Monday, October 1, 2018

READ IT! - Introduction to Psalms 143-150

Readings for this week

Monday: Psalm 143
Tuesday: Psalm 144
Wednesday: Psalm 145
Thursday: Psalm 146
Friday: Psalm 147
Saturday: Psalm 148
Sunday: Psalm 149

Introduction to Psalms 143-150

Psalm 143 

David writes, “Hear my prayer, O LORD! My enemy has crushed my life. My soul thirsts for you. Teach me the way I should go. Destroy my adversaries.” 

Psalm 144 

David writes, “Blessed be the LORD, who trains my hands for war. O LORD, reach down and rescue me! May there be no cry of distress in our streets.”

Ancient armies were often made up of citizen soldiers called up in times of emergency. These citizens could fight with dedication but were poorly trained and armed and often needed to return home on short order to tend their crops. Armed conflict was indeed a fact of life for the peoples of ancient times. Against this reality David had ample reason to thank God, who trained his hands for war. 

Psalm 145 

This Davidic psalm is an acrostic psalm of praise. He writes, “I will exalt you, my God and King. All you have made will praise you. The LORD is faithful. He is near to all who call upon him.” 

In Jewish practice this psalm was recited twice each morning and once each evening. 

Psalm 146 

The anonymous author of this psalm writes, “Praise the LORD, O my soul! Do not trust in mortal men. The LORD executes justice for the oppressed. He watches over the fatherless.” 

Psalm 147 

The anonymous author of this psalm writes, “It is good to sing praises to our God! He counts the stars. He lifts up the humble. Praise the LORD! He declares his word to Israel.” 

Psalm 148 

The anonymous author of this psalm writes, “Praise the LORD from the heavens! Praise him, sun and moon! Praise the LORD from the earth! Young and old together, praise the LORD!” 

Psalm 149 

The anonymous author of this psalm writes, “Praise the LORD! Let Israel rejoice in their maker. The LORD takes delight in his people. Let swords be in their hands for judgment.” 

Psalm 150 

The anonymous author of this psalm writes, “Praise the LORD! Praise him with trumpet and strings! Praise him with loud cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!” 

All God’s creations that “has breath” – particularly humanity – is called to praise the Lord. The Hebrew word used here applies to all living creatures endowed with life by the Creator.