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Daily Bible Study Summer 2013
By Jan Turrentine
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2013 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
Monday, May 27 2 Chronicles 26:1-5
Setting Yourself to Seek God
How do you prepare your heart to seek God's will?
Uzziah (known as Azariah in 2 Kings 14:21) stepped into Israelite history and the monarchy at what seems to the modern reader to be a relatively young age. His reign was successful, lasting an amazing 52 years. The reign of only one other king in ancient Israel's history lasted longer (Manasseh, 2 Chronicles 33:1).
Uzziah was regarded as a good king because "he did what was right in the Lord's eyes, just as his father Amaziah had done" (26:4). Uzziah also followed in the footsteps of his grandfather Jehoash, who "did what was right in the Lord's eyes as long as Jehoiada the priest was alive" (24:2).
Uzziah and his grandfather Jehoash served God faithfully as long as they had a faithful guide, or someone to hold them accountable. Uzziah had a man named Zechariah who "instructed [Uzziah] in the fear of God" (26:5). Zechariah is a common name in biblical texts. The Zechariah named here is not to be confused with Jehoiada's son, who was killed by Uzziah's grandfather (24:20-21). Neither is he the prophet from the Old Testament book of Zechariah. He is simply the man God placed in young Uzziah's life to guide him.
Having a mentor or an accountability partner is wonderful; but as New Testament Christians, we have someone even better. We have a Guide who walks with us daily. In John 14:16b-17, Jesus promises to send "another Companion ["Advocate," New Revised Standard Version] who will be with you forever. This Companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you."
We understand this Companion to be the Holy Spirit who, Jesus adds, will "teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you" (John 14:26b). He will also "guide [us] in all truth" (John 16:13b), thus never leaving us alone.
"As long as [Uzziah] sought the Lord, God gave him success" (2 Chronicles 26:5b). This reminds us of the people in Psalm 1:2-3 who love the Lord's instruction so much that they recite it day and night! "They are like a tree replanted by streams of water, / which bears fruit at just the right time / and whose leaves don't fade. / Whatever they do succeeds."
Everyone wants to be successful and prosperous. How exciting it is to know that with God's Word and his promised Companion, we never have to face life alone, at any age! As we set ourselves to seek God, let us prepare our hearts by meditating on God's word, seeking wise counsel, and listening for the Holy Spirit within us for guidance.
Prayer: Gracious God, how awesome it is to know that we have not been left alone. Thank you. Amen.CHAPTER 2
Tuesday, May 28 2 Chronicles 26:16-21
From Success to Pride to Destruction
When have you seen success completely change someone's personality?
How exciting it was to read about Uzziah's success in the verses between yesterday's reading and today's. However, as we came to 2 Chronicles 26:15b, we might have gotten a clue that the future was not going to be so bright as we read, "So Uzziah's fame spread far and wide, because he had received wonderful help until he became powerful" (italics added). Our fears were confirmed in verse 16: "But as soon as he became powerful, he grew so arrogant that he acted corruptly."
How sad. Uzziah; his father, Amaziah; and his grandfather Jehoash each came to the throne as godly men, for it was said of each, "[He] did what was right in the Lord's eyes" (24:2a; 25:2a; 26:4a). Sadly, however, for each we could also add, "until ..." For Jehoash, the downfall came from peer pressure (24:17); and Amaziah's heart never fully belonged to God (25:2b). As we have seen, arrogance or pride was Uzziah's ruin. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us that "pride comes before disaster, / and arrogance before a fall." That was certainly true in Uzziah's case.
What prompted Uzziah to enter the Temple that day and attempt to burn incense is unknown. Entering the Holy Place in such a way was to take his life in his own hands. Such an act was strictly prohibited for anyone other than a priest. Numbers 18:7 records God's explicit command: "[Aaron] and your sons must perform the duties of your priesthood for all the matters of the altar and the area behind the curtain. I give you your priestly service as a gift. But an outsider who approaches will die" (italics added).
We must note that judgment did not come when Uzziah approached the Temple. It did not even come when he took up the censer. Judgment came when he became indignant that anyone would dare try to stop him (2 Chronicles 26:19). Had Uzziah listened to Azariah and "eighty other of the LORD's courageous priests" (verse 17), things might have gone differently for him. Instead, he became angry—in essence, hardening his heart—and judgment fell upon him.
However, even in judgment, God in his mercy did not take Uzziah's life. Instead, Uzziah was stricken with a skin disease that some biblical translations render as leprosy. Whether it was actually leprosy or some less invasive skin disease, the Law still required Uzziah to live in isolation (Leviticus 13:46). For the rest of his days, Uzziah's royal authority was delegated to his son Jotham (2 Chronicles 26:21).
Uzziah was a prosperous and successful man in the secular world, but it was not enough; he was deceived by the pride of life. Let us encourage one another every day "so that none of you become insensitive to God because of sin's deception" (Hebrews 3:13b).
Prayer: O God, how easy it is to let pride take control of our hearts. Protect me, I pray. Amen.CHAPTER 3
Wednesday, May 29 2 Kings 15:32-38
Following a Father's Example
Has there been a time when you realized that "little eyes" were watching you?
If we do the math, we can see that Jotham was born when Uzziah was 27 years old, which was likely during the time that Uzziah was serving God faithfully. What a great example for a young boy to see and follow. Jotham "did what was right in the Lord's eyes" (2 Kings 15:34) just like his father, Uzziah, had done, except Jotham did not attempt to offer incense in the Temple as Uzziah had tried to do.
Perhaps watching his father's dedication to the Lord as well as his father's mistakes helped Jotham keep his steps true. As we read, though, verse 35 brings us the dreaded "however." We see that Jotham, like every other king before him, did not tear down the shrines where the people would worship and burn incense.
What were the shrines ("high places," NRSV), and why were they so bad? A shrine, or a high place, itself was not a bad place. These were natural places of worship for all peoples. The first altar after the Flood was on a mountain (Genesis 8:4, 20). In like manner, when Abraham entered the Promised Land, the first thing he did was build an altar on a high place (Genesis 12:6-8).
However, once the Israelites received the Law, they were strictly forbidden to worship anywhere other than where God had designated (Deuteronomy 12:11-14). They were specifically told to tear down the high places of worship and sacrifice to the false gods of the heathen nations (Deuteronomy 12:2-3). God knew that if such places were not totally destroyed, the Israelites would be tempted to participate in the heinous and immoral worship practices that took place there. However, not only were the Canaanite high places not torn down, Solomon added to the problem by building additional high places of worship for his many wives (1 Kings 11:6-8).
Why didn't the godly kings tear them down? I can think of a couple of reasons. One was that the shrines had been around for so long and had become so ingrained in the lives of the Israelites that they did not realize the gross sin that such places perpetuated. They had become numb to the sight of them. Perhaps the kings were simply afraid of the people. Kings had been assassinated for less! Even Roman governors such as Pontius Pilate and Felix were influenced by the masses (Matthew 27:24; Acts 24:27).
We must be careful not to allow immoral practices to coexist with our worship of God. We must be especially careful what we are teaching our children, purposefully and incidentally, for "little eyes are always watching"!
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the examples of faith fathers and faith mothers in my life. Amen.CHAPTER 4
Thursday, May 30 Isaiah 6:9-13
People Dulled to God's Presence
When have God's words puzzled you or frightened you?
In yesterday's reading we wondered why Israel's godly kings did not tear down the idolatrous shrines built for worship of and sacrifice to other gods. We suggested a couple of answers; but whatever the reason, the shrines (or "high places") were allowed to stand, and the people would be judged.
Today's reading follows Isaiah's famous call in Isaiah 6:8, which we will study on Sunday. We may be willing to stand with Isaiah and shout, "I'm here; send me"! However, then to get marching orders such as we read today may leave us second-guessing our call. These words sound strange to us. Why would God tell Isaiah such a thing? This was not simply a command of what Isaiah should say but was also a warning of how the people would respond to the words that he spoke.
The people had heard God's words for many years and had seen God's mighty works. They had even been led by many godly kings. Still, they hardened their hearts and would not change. God would continue to send prophets and continue to protect them (for a time), but God would eventually remove his Spirit so that they would not be able to hear his voice.
John's Gospel applied these words of Isaiah to Jesus when, near the end of his public ministry, after doing so many signs and wonders, so many people still failed to believe in him (John 12:40). This would continue throughout the days of the church. Paul wrote of the "wicked deception of those" who "refused to love the truth that would allow them to be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:10). According to Paul, God will "send them an influence that will mislead them so that they will believe the lie" (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
These are difficult passages to understand. How can a people repeatedly reject the Lord after he has so graciously dealt with them? God does not maliciously make sinners deaf and blind and harden their hearts.
Instead, the more people resist God's word, the less able they are to receive it. However, here we see that Isaiah must proclaim the Word no matter how the people respond.
Then Isaiah asked the question that saints throughout the centuries have asked: "How long, Lord?" (Isaiah 6:11). God's answer may leave us shaken. We cry out at the words in verse 13 that even the remnant will be burned. However, there is still a "stump," we are told, and that "stump is a holy seed." The seed will grow. Isaiah would later write in 43:1, "But now, says the Lord—/ the one who created you, Jacob, / the one who formed you, Israel: / Don't fear, for I have redeemed you; / I have called you by name; you are mine."
You are his, too.
Prayer: Gracious God, I am in awe of your loving provision. Thank you for the holy seed. Amen.CHAPTER 5
Friday, May 31 Joshua 24:14-24
Choosing to Serve a Holy God
When have you had to choose what was most important in your life?
Joshua 24 could aptly be called "Joshua's Farewell Message to the Israelites." Joshua was a young man when he left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. He had wandered those 40 years in the wilderness with Moses and the other Israelites. However, because only he and Caleb had been faithful in trusting God's words (Numbers 14:6-9), they alone of the original group who left Egypt were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:30).
As the time drew near for Moses to die, God appointed Joshua to be Moses' successor (Deuteronomy 31:14). Now, many years later, as Joshua was nearing death, he called the nation of Israel to faithfulness. In these well-known words, he calls us to faithfulness, too.
Many of us have memorized a portion of Joshua's words from Joshua 24:15 from the King James Version of the Bible: "Choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We find these words various places in print, from samplers to bumper stickers, but we often fail to grasp the gravity of the call.
Although we do not have "gods ... beyond the Euphrates" or "Amorites" in our midst (verse 15), we encounter similar obstacles to the faith in our daily lives. To the Israelites, the "gods beyond the Euphrates" were the gods, idols, and pagan ornaments their ancestors had carried out from Egypt. For us, such gods may be attitudes and prejudices that have perpetrated through the generations. The Amorites were the pagans or unbelievers who lived among the Israelites. For us, they are our peers—our neighbors and coworkers whose allegiance is not to God. Our "Amorite gods" are ultimately any distraction that draws us away from the worship of Elohiym, the Supreme God. Joshua admonished the Israelites (and us) to choose which they would serve because they would serve something!
The people answered, "The Lord [Hebrew, Jehovah] is our God [Hebrew,Elohiym]" (verse 17). Jehovah is the Supreme God, the true God, the people said. Joshua was skeptical because he had witnessed the fickleness of the people, but they assured him that they would indeed serve the Lord (verse 24).
We know, sadly, that the Israelites did not always serve the Lord, and neither do we. However, the epilogue found in verse 31 may encourage us: "Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua. They had known every act the LORD had done for Israel."
Godly leaders help us to remain true to our faith; but as we saw in Monday's reading, it is the Holy Spirit within us who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). We must put away our gods and choose to serve the Lord.
Prayer: Dear God, help me face each day with the clear priority of serving you above all else. Amen.CHAPTER 6
Saturday, June 1 Psalm 24
Seeking the Face of God
How can you seek the face of God?
This week we have watched how some of Israel's good and godly kings did "what was right in the Lord's eyes" but still failed to lead the people to serve God with their whole hearts. The result of this failure was a nation of people whose minds were made dull, whose ears were made deaf, and whose eyes were blinded (Isaiah 6:10). However, in the midst of such an obstinate attitude, we were promised that there would be a "holy seed" (Isaiah 6:13) that would grow and once again serve God.
How encouraging that must have been for Isaiah. It is also encouraging to us as we seek God's presence in difficult times. As we read yesterday, Joshua called upon the Israelites (along with us) to put away false gods and choose to serve the one true God.
Today, we find the psalmist proclaiming that everything belongs to the Lord, and God is due worship because God is the one who is Creator of all. The psalmist exclaims, "Who can ascend the Lord's mountain? / Who can stand in his holy sanctuary?" (Psalm 24:3). The word who refers to an individual. We are not talking about heads of state (such as kings) or nations or even remnants here. Instead, this is an individual seeking permission to "ascend the Lord's mountain."
Verses 4-5 provide the psalmist's reply: "Only the one with clean hands and [only ] the one with a pure heart; / [only] the one who hasn't made false promises, / and [only] the one who hasn't sworn dishonestly" (italics added). "Clean hands" denotes our activities—the things that we do. A "pure heart" represents our motives or the intent of our actions. The King James Version translates "made false promises" as "lifted up his soul unto vanity [Hebrew, shav', which means falsehood]" and describes the one whose life is attached to things that are counterfeit. "Sworn dishonestly" indicates that one is engaged in deception.
Excerpted from Daily Bible Study Summer 2013 by Jan Turrentine. Copyright © 2013 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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