April 24 — Instability — 2 Kings 14-15. How would you like to have been a king in the years described in these two chapters? Me neither! Although there were godly kings in Judah, there were turbulent times with several of the kings being assassinated by conspirators. Judah’s Amaziah was a godly king who followed the commandments of Yahweh (14:6) but he proved to be unwise, at least in his challenge to fight Israel (14:8). There was no indication that he sought God before doing this. King Jehoash (= Joash) of Israel seemed to be the wiser of the two when he cautioned Amaziah about his challenge. Perhaps another evidence of his unwise leadership was the conspiracy against him that led to his death (14:19). We have very little control today over who leads our nation and how they lead it. But even in times of national instability, God is our ultimate solid and faithful leader.
April 25 — Israel’s Fall — 2 Kings 16-17. God’s patience finally ran out with the northern 10 tribes, as Assyria conquered them, deporting many to faraway places and importing foreign people to take their place. Thus, Samaria and the cities of the north became a melting pot of nationalities and religions. The result was the Samaritans of Jesus’ day who were despised by the Jews. From now on in our readings, we will follow the history of the southern kingdom of Judah until they are also conquered and exiled because of their continued sin. God’s punishment of these two nations reminds me of Paul’s warning to us today: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
April 26 — Wipeout — 2 Kings 18-19. Can you imagine the horror of looking over the wall of Jerusalem to see 185,000 enemy soldiers ready to destroy your city and kill you?! It was terrifying to Hezekiah, too, but his response was to turn to God by going to the temple, to Isaiah the prophet (19:1-2), and to God through prayer (19:15). He did that because his focus was on God. He was Judah’s best king since David (18:3), even removing the high places and destroying Moses’ 700-year-old bronze serpent (18:4). When they looked over the wall the next morning, they saw 185,000 soldiers slain by God’s angel (19:35) in answer to a prayer for help. What threatening force is on the other side of your wall today? Turn to God like Hezekiah did to ask for help and then anticipate looking over that wall again tomorrow morning for His answer!
April 27 — Not All Good — 2 Kings 20-22. Although Hezekiah was the godliest king since David, we find in these chapters that there were some problems with his heart. His prayer for healing seems to be based on his view of his own righteousness (20:3). He showed an apparent lack of faith by asking for a sign rather than being willing to wait for three days to see the answer (20:8). He revealed apparent pride in showing off his wealth to the Babylonians (20:13). He showed some self-centeredness in being satisfied that the predicted misfortune would happen to his descendants but not to him (20:19). We are not all good either. For instance, although we may be showing godly discipline in reading through the Bible this year, we need to check our hearts. Are we doing it in pride, wanting others to see our accomplishment? Let’s read and keep up simply to learn more about God and let Him use it to speak to our hearts about how to walk obediently in His light.
April 28 — Best of the Best — 2 Kings 23-25. David was such a great king that all subsequent kings were compared to him. Hezekiah came in second place with his many reforms. Near the end of Judah’s existence as a kingdom, however, a king even better than David arose—King Josiah. His introduction in 22:2 placed him as David’s equal (“he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of David his father”). But restoring observance of the Passover (23:21) in obedience to the Law surpassed even what David had done (“Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart … nor did any like him arise after him” — 23:25). At your memorial service, how many people would be able to honestly say that they knew no one who turned to the Lord with all their heart as you did?
April 29 — The Chronicles — 1 Chron. 1-3. Today we begin reading 1 & 2 Chronicles, books that retrace much of what we have already read, but adding other significant information. Jewish tradition says they were written by Ezra the scribe who returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. These books focus primarily on the kingdom of David and his descendants who followed as kings in Judah for about 430 years until their exile. The history of the spiritually wayward northern tribes of Israel that broke away during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam is basically ignored. The story of these two books is mostly a religious history and a challenge to follow God.
April 30 — Prayer of Jabez — 1 Chron. 4-6. It was interesting to me that the subject of pain appeared twice regarding Jabez. First, his name was chosen because of the pain experienced by his mother in childbirth (4:9). Jabez sounds like a Hebrew word meaning “he causes pain.” Secondly, in his recorded prayer, he asked to be spared from pain (4:10). This prayer was made famous in the year 2000 when Bruce Wilkinson wrote the short book “The Prayer of Jabez,” encouraging Christians to pray this prayer daily. The book sold 8 million copies in two years. The prayer seems a bit self-centered to me: “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” It was not a bad prayer, however, because God answered it.