Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 32-33:13; Romans 15:23-16:9; Psalm 25:16-22; Proverbs 20:16-18
After Assyria had conquered Israel, they turn their attention to Judah and lay siege to it (2 Chronicles 32:1). We already read this story in 2 Kings 18-20.
Notice that this happens after all the good work Hezekiah did (2 Chronicles 32:1). We often think that we are immune from trouble if we do what God wants. But that is not the story of the Bible. God continually tests us.
Hezekiah took action and also encouraged the people like a great leader should (2 Chronicles 32:5-7) reminding everyone that their enemies were merely human beings but Jerusalem had God on its side. What a great thing to remember when we have problems with people in our lives.
As we’ve learned this year, each nation had its own god in ancient times. King Sennacherib uses this to his advantage. He points out that he has conquered other lands whose gods did not save them. He tries to convince the people of Jerusalem that their God would not be able to protect them either (2 Chronicles 32:13-15).
Doubting God is the tactic Satan used on Adam and Eve. Similarly, Sennacherib tries to get Jerusalem to think God will not protect them. Every temptation from Satan comes with a side-order of doubt. That is why it is imperative for us to read the Bible and learn God’s promises and character. Then we can trust Him and not be tempted into sin (2 Thessalonians 3:3). An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Bible study every day keeps sin away.
The best battle plan against our enemies is prayer. God will respond to prayer just as He did to King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:20).
In 2 Chronicles 32:31 God tests Hezekiah by temporarily withdrawing from him. This is the same thing God did to Pharaoh when the Bible says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This is a very important concept. Our hearts are naturally hard and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). It is only as we draw near to God that He changes our hearts. So when the Bible says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart it doesn’t mean that God intentionally made Pharaoh do evil things. It means that God did not intervene to cause Pharaoh to do good. Rather God tested Pharaoh; to show him where he was at spiritually. Pharaoh failed the test as did Hezekiah.
A teacher doesn’t test us to find out what we know – she tests us so we can find out what we know. God does the same. He already knows what our character is like. But the tests He sends reveal our character to ourselves so we can see how we measure up and make necessary changes.
Sadly, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh undoes all the great work Hezekiah did (2 Chronicles 33:2-9). In response God allows Manasseh to be taken prisoner (2 Chronicles 33:10-11). God tried to warn him, but he ignored God just as people do today. People in hell will not be able to claim that God didn’t try to tell them. They will feel the full responsibility of their decisions.
As terrible as Manasseh was, God was still willing to forgive him (2 Chronicles 33:12) because he sincerely repented. Notice that Manasseh humbled himself. The root of all sin is pride. God allowed Manasseh to experience terrible consequences in order to get him to see his own sin. God’s goal is to humble all of us. As Rick Warren says: “Humility isn’t denying our strengths; it is admitting our weaknesses”. It is only when we realize we are weak that God can work in us and change us. That is His goal. He cannot achieve that goal as long as we are stubborn and prideful. And that answers the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” that so many non-believers ask.
Believers have plans for their lives, but those plans are not always God’s plans. Paul had plans to visit the Roman believers on his way to preach the gospel in Spain (Romans 15:24). But things didn’t work out exactly as planned. Paul went to Rome – but as a prisoner. We read this in Acts. As far as we know, he never made it to Spain.
Believers all over the world owe the Jews a great deal of thanks because it is from them that the Gospel was spread around the globe. Here in Romans 15:26 we see that Gentile churches sent money to poor believers in Jerusalem who were probably being persecuted for following Jesus. We should all be praying for God’s people in Israel daily asking Him to keep them safe from their enemies and to also open their eyes to the truth.
Paul was so humble that he realized that he was dependent on God’s grace and he therefore asks others to pray for him (Romans 15:30-31). There is no shame in asking for prayer. We all need it.
Women were important members of the early church, despite the lies that Satan has put into skeptic’s heads (Romans 16:1,2). Perhaps Phoebe carried this very letter written by Paul to Rome.
In the early days of Christianity there were no central church buildings. People met in each other’s homes (Romans 16:5). Homes were not mansions back then so the gatherings were quite small – much like our home groups.
In the conclusion to Psalm 25 David asks God for mercy (Psalm 25:16) as he takes refuge in Him (Psalm 25:20-21). God is the only source of true strength and deliverance. Sex, drugs, alcohol, television, gossip… none of these things can remove our troubles. Only God can do that.
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