July 3 — 2 Kings 5-8 — Great Contrasts (about 849 – 847 BC). There are significant contrasts in the story of Naaman and Elisha. On the positive side, the Syrian army commander was described as “a great man … a mighty man of valor” (5:1) but on the negative side, “he was a leper” (v. 1). He was also a proud man who was angry with the unexpected treatment he received from Elisha, assuming Elisha would make a big display in healing him by coming out of his house to greet him and by calling upon God with wide gestures (v. 11). However, Elisha only sent a messenger outside his door to tell Naaman that the solution to his leprosy was to dip seven times in the muddy Jordan River. Naaman felt this was far below his position and he refused. Thankfully, he had wiser servants (another contrast!) who convinced him that obedience was better than pride. After he did obey, there was a contrasting change in his attitudes. He returned to Elisha to state his acknowledgment of Yahweh’s superiority (v. 15) and to offer a huge material gift to the prophet, which was refused (v. 16). He also humbly asked for Yahweh to pardon him for going into a false god’s temple in service to his master (v. 18). We get swelled with pride, too, but need to recognize its danger of forfeiting future blessings from God. Let’s concentrate on swallowing our pride today and looking for how God will show His pleasure.
July 4 — 2 Kings 9-11 — Falling Temples (about 841 BC). Worship of the god Baal had crept into not only the northern kingdom of Israel but also the southern kingdom of Judah. There were temples built to that god in both kingdoms. Although Elijah had killed 400 prophets of Baal just a few years earlier, another group of false prophets grew up. Jehu, the new king of Israel, conspired to bring together all these prophets of Baal to their temple and put them to death (10:25). Then he had the temple of Baal destroyed and fittingly made a public toilet out of its remains (10:27). There was a new king in Judah as well, the seven-year-old Jehoash (or Joash), rescued and hidden from the wicked queen Athaliah. Under the leadership of the high priest, Jehoiada, the temple of Baal was torn down and its priest was killed (11:18). It was good to see a zeal for Yahweh, the true God, in these stories. It is also a reminder to us that the devil is hard at work to insert his substitute gods to draw people away from worshiping the true God. May God use our zeal for Him to guard others against straying away from the Lord to serve lesser priorities in life.
July 5 — 2 Kings 12-13, 2 Chron. 24 — Influence (about 835 – 812 BC). After the high priest Jehoiada, though his wife, rescued Joash to be the next king of Judah, Joash reigned 40 years and “did what was right … because Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:2). Jehoiada had a great positive influence on Joash and his leadership, which benefited the southern kingdom of Judah. Jehoiada’s influence ended when he died, however, and the situation with Joash and Judah changed drastically. Then, Joash began listening to “the princes of Judah” (2 Chron. 24:17) and they influenced him to abandon the temple and serve other gods and idols. For that, Judah was punished by God with oppression from Syria. Who are you listening to? Are you giving priority to the timeless content of God’s Word or do you find yourself siding with the ideas coming from the current philosophy of the world? God’s blessings remain with those who steadfastly adhere to His Word and His ways.
July 6 — 2 Kings 14, 2 Chron. 25 — Are You Listening? (about 796 BC). King Amaziah was a mixture. He was described as doing “what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart” (2 Chron. 25:2). He did not remove the high places where unauthorized sacrifices were made (2 Kings 14:4). To his credit, he listened to a man of God who warned him about allowing soldiers from Israel to join him to attack Edom (2 Chron. 25:7) and God gave them a great victory because he obeyed. However, he made a fatal mistake by carrying back some of Edom’s idols and began to worship them (v. 14). God sent another prophet to warn him about that, but he would not listen to him and ordered the prophet to stop talking at the threat of death (v. 16). That military victory made him proud enough to challenge Israel to war against the wise advice of the opposing king, “but Amaziah would not listen” (v. 20). The resulting war was devastating to Judah, as Jerusalem was conquered and Amaziah captured (vv. 22-24). God allowed King Amaziah to be killed by his own people because of his idolatry (v. 27). Serving God with a divided heart is both foolish and dangerous. We cannot hope to make the right decisions unless we listen to the Word of God and we cannot avoid God’s discipline unless we obey it.
July 7 — Jonah 1-4 — Motivated by Compassion (about 760 BC). The book of Jonah tells a classic story full of drama, contrasts, irony, and subtle humor. As fantastic as some of the events in the story are, they relate historic events about this real prophet who was mentioned in our reading yesterday (2 Kings 14:25). Jesus also supported that both Jonah and his mission were real (Matt. 12:40-41). Nineveh was located at present-day Mosul, Iraq. The story shows the ability of God to control all things, as He ordered the storm (1:4), prepared the fish (1:17), deposited Jonah on dry land (2:10), and appointed a shady plant (4:6), a worm (v. 7), and a shriveling wind (v. 8). Most of all, it shows God’s universal compassion for all mankind, not just His chosen people. He relented of the disaster planned for Nineveh (3:10) and pointed out the ridiculous contrast between Jonah’s selfish concern for a plant that provided shade versus his calloused apathy toward the people of Nineveh. This story is given to teach us the importance of modeling God’s compassion to others. Will someone notice that kind of compassion by your attitudes and actions today?
July 8 — 2 Kings 15, 2 Chron. 26 — Shifting Credit (about 790 BC). Keeping kings straight in these chapters is difficult until you realize that King Azariah (2 Kings 15:1) of Judah was also known as King Uzziah in verse 13 and in 2 Chronicles. He was a good king (2 Chron. 26:4) until pride got in the way, causing his punishing downfall. His military success depended on his commitment to God: “… as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (v. 5) but his pride led him to offer incense in the temple (v. 16), a privilege reserved for consecrated priests (v. 18). For that unfaithful act, God struck him with leprosy and he spent the rest of his life in isolation. Pride is deceptive, tempting us to shift the credit for God’s accomplishments from God to ourselves. One solution is to force ourselves to be grateful for what God has given us and to regularly thank Him for it. Who wants leprosy, or any other divine discipline, in order to learn that lesson?!
July 9 — Isaiah 1-4 — Things God Hates (about 739 BC). The prophet Isaiah had a long 60-year ministry under four kings of Judah. God’s people were under pressure and attacked by the dominating Assyrians and Jerusalem’s kings vacillated between depending on God and seeking safety in alliances with foreigners. Isaiah pointed out their shortcomings and challenged them to serve the Lord. God proclaimed judgment against Judah’s sin but also promised future redemption. Two things God hates are emphasized in these four chapters. The first is trying to worship with a sinful heart: “I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly” (1:13). This is why Paul challenged Christians about how we approach the Lord’s Table for worship: “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28). The second thing mentioned that God hates is that He had rejected His people “because they are full of things …” (Isa. 2:6), a statement which is followed by a list of things people tend to place in a position of priority over God. In a later day, “the Lord will take away the finery …” (3:18) because they compete with the glory of God.