You don’t need to look over your shoulder all the time, waiting for the next crisis. You don’t have to spend your days hiding from the next ambush. Live in the light, God’s got your back.
Archive for September, 2011
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
1 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army during Zedekiah’s ninth year as king, on the tenth day of the tenth month. He made a camp around the city and piled dirt against the city walls to attack it.
2 The city was under attack until Zedekiah’s eleventh year as king.
3 By the ninth day of the fourth month, the hunger was terrible in the city. There was no food for the people to eat.
4 Then the city was broken into, and the whole army ran away at night through the gate between the two walls by the king’s garden. While the Babylonians were still surrounding the city, Zedekiah and his men ran away toward the Jordan Valley.
5 But the Babylonian army chased King Zedekiah and caught up with him in the plains of Jericho. All of his army was scattered from him,
6 so they captured Zedekiah and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There he passed sentence on Zedekiah.
7 They killed Zedekiah’s sons as he watched. Then they put out his eyes and put bronze chains on him and took him to Babylon.
8 Nebuzaradan was the commander of the king’s special guards. This officer of the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem on the seventh day of the fifth month, in Nebuchadnezzar’s nineteenth year as king of Babylon.
9 Nebuzaradan set fire to the Temple of the Lord and the palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building was burned.
10 The whole Babylonian army, led by the commander of the king’s special guards, broke down the walls around Jerusalem.
11 Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, captured the people left in Jerusalem, those who had surrendered to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the people.
12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to take care of the vineyards and fields.
13 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the bronze stands, and the large bronze bowl, which was called the Sea, in the Temple of the Lord. Then they carried the bronze to Babylon.
14 They also took the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes, and all the bronze objects used to serve in the Temple.
15 The commander of the king’s special guards took away the pans for carrying hot coals, the bowls, and everything made of pure gold or silver.
16 There were two pillars and the large bronze bowl and the movable stands which Solomon had made for the Temple of the Lord. There was so much bronze that it could not be weighed.
17 Each pillar was about twenty-seven feet high. The bronze capital on top of the pillar was about four and one-half feet high. It was decorated with a net design and bronze pomegranates all around it. The other pillar also had a net design and was like the first pillar.
Judah Is Taken Prisoner
18 The commander of the guards took some prisoners—Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank, and the three doorkeepers.
19 Of the people who were still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, as well as five people who advised the king. He took the royal secretary who selected people for the army and sixty other men who were in the city.
20 Nebuzaradan, the commander, took all these people and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah.
21 There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them killed. So the people of Judah were led away from their country as captives.
Gedaliah Becomes Governor
22 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon left some people in the land of Judah. He appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, as governor.
23 The army captains and their men heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah governor, so they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. They were Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah son of the Maacathite, and their men.
24 Then Gedaliah promised these army captains and their men, “Don’t be afraid of the Babylonian officers. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and everything will go well for you.”
25 In the seventh month Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama from the king’s family, came with ten men and killed Gedaliah. They also killed the men of Judah and Babylon who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah.
26 Then all the people, from the least important to the most important, along with the army leaders, ran away to Egypt, because they were afraid of the Babylonians.
Jehoiachin Is Set Free
27 Jehoiachin king of Judah was held in Babylon for thirty-seven years. In the thirty-seventh year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon, and he let Jehoiachin out of prison on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month.
28 Evil-Merodach spoke kindly to Jehoiachin and gave him a seat of honor above the seats of the other kings who were with him in Babylon.
29 So Jehoiachin put away his prison clothes. For the rest of his life, he ate at the king’s table. 30 Every day, for as long as Jehoiachin lived, the king gave him an allowance.
Commentary on 2 Kings 25:1-7
Jerusalem was so fortified, that it could not be taken till famine rendered the besieged unable to resist. In the prophecy and Lamentations of Jeremiah, we find more of this event; here it suffices to say, that the impiety and misery of the besieged were very great. At length the city was taken by storm. The king, his family, and his great men escaped in the night, by secret passages. But those deceive themselves who think to escape God’s judgments, as much as those who think to brave them. By what befell Zedekiah, two prophecies, which seemed to contradict each other, were both fulfilled. Jeremiah prophesied that Zedekiah should be brought to Babylon, Jeremiah 32:5; 34:3; Ezekiel, that he should not see Babylon, Ezekiel 12:13. He was brought thither, but his eyes being put out, he did not see it.
Commentary on 2 Kings 25:8-21
The city and temple were burnt, and, it is probable, the ark in it. By this, God showed how little he cares for the outward pomp of his worship, when the life and power of religion are neglected. The walls of Jerusalem were thrown down, and the people carried captive to Babylon. The vessels of the temple were carried away. When the things signified were sinned away, what should the signs stand there for? It was righteous with God to deprive those of the benefit of his worship, who had preferred false worships before it; those that would have many altars, now shall have none. As the Lord spared not the angels that sinned, as he doomed the whole race of fallen men to the grave, and all unbelievers to hell, and as he spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, we need not wonder at any miseries he may bring upon guilty nations, churches, or persons.
Commentary on 2 Kings 25:22-30
The king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah to be the governor and protector of the Jews left their land. But the things of their peace were so hidden from their eyes, that they knew not when they were well off. Ishmael basely slew him and all his friends, and, against the counsel of Jeremiah, the rest went to Egypt. Thus was a full end made of them by their own folly and disobedience; see Jeremiah chap. 40 to 45. Jehoiachin was released out of prison, where he had been kept 37 years. Let none say that they shall never see good again, because they have long seen little but evil: the most miserable know not what turn Providence may yet give to their affairs, nor what comforts they are reserved for, according to the days wherein they have been afflicted. Even in this world the Saviour brings a release from bondage to the distressed sinner who seeks him, bestowing foretastes of the pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore. Sin alone can hurt us; Jesus alone can do good to sinners.
1. The disciple who conspired with his wife to deceive the apostles in regard to the value obtained for their property
Acts 5:1-6: – 1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
The Man Who Kept Back Part of the Price
How opposite Aquila and Priscilla are Ananias and Sapphira, both of whom agreed to a dishonest transaction! They were not compelled to sell their property but because of a recognized custom among the early Christian fraternity of having one common fund to draw upon, these two disciples wanted to maintain the appearance of self-denying liberality. There was no harm in keeping back part of the price – they might have kept back all. Their evil consisted in pretending to give all. Their lying was combined with hypocrisy. A certain part was retained, likely the greater part which would look more like the whole.
Peter, supernaturally endowed to detect and expose the fraud of Ananias and Sapphira, was their instrument of sudden death. Punishment was:
I. Prompt – it followed immediately the committal of sin.
II. Decisive – it marked the magnitude of sin.
III. Conspicuous – it was before many witnesses.
IV. Divine – it was not an act of Peter who simply reproved the two who, united in crime, were not separated in death (Ps. 19:13: –13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression). It was God who punished them.
2. A godly disciple of Damascus to whom was made known the conversion of Saul of Tarsus
Acts 9:10-17: – 10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision,“Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.
14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 22:12: – 12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.
and who baptized Saul.
3. The high priest anointed by Herod
Acts 23:2: – 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.
Acts 24:1: – 1 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor.
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.
Next Jesus let fly on the cities where he had worked the hardest but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way. Doom to you, Chorazin! Doom, Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half of the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you. And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss. If the people of Sodom had had your chances, the city would still be around. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you.
|Simon – A Man Who Tried to Buy the Holy Spirit
IN THE CITYof Samaria, about thirty miles north of Jerusalem, lived a man whose name was Simon. For a long time this man had made the people of Samaria believe he was some great person. He would perform cunning tricks before them, which they could not understand. And they thought he had received power from God to do these things. But Simon was a very wicked man, and he had received power from Satan instead of from God. One day a preacher came to Samaria from Jerusalem. This preacher was Philip, one of the seven men whom the multitude had chosen to help care for the poor widows. No longer was he needed in Jerusalem to do this good work, for the multitude of believers were now scattered, and very few remained in Jerusalem with the apostles.
After Stephen’s death the enemies of Jesus had grown bold and they had tried to destroy the new religion by troubling the believers. Some they had caught and thrown into prisons.
Saul, the young Pharisee who stood by watching when Stephen was being stoned, now became one of the bitterest enemies. He went from house to house, searching for men and women who worshiped with the apostles, and when he found them he shut them up in prison. Because of these things the believers no longer met each day to worship in the temple, and many of them left Jerusalem and went to live in other cities.
The men and women who fled from Jerusalem did not run away to hide like cowards. They did not feel sad because they were believers in Christ. Everywhere they went they talked to other people about Jesus, and soon the new religion began to spread faster than ever. And so it was that Philip came to preach the gospel in Samaria.
The people of Samaria listened closely to Philip’s preaching. They had never heard the gospel story before. Now they saw Philip work miracles among them in the name of Jesus, and they wondered at the great power God had given to him.
Many of them believed in Jesus when they saw the sick and the lame healed through faith in Jesus’ name. And they paid no more heed to Simon, whom they had thought to be a great man before Philip came, for now Philip was doing greater things than Simon had ever done.
Simon, too, came to hear Philip preach and to see the miracles he performed. He watched this preacher from Jerusalem heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. He saw him cause even the lame to walk. And he knew the power Philip had was greater than his own, so he joined the company of believers in Samaria and was baptized with them. But all the while he had never repented of his sins and wickedness.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Philip’s preaching in Samaria had caused many people to accept Jesus as the Savior, they sent Peter and John to visit them. And these two men came to tell them more about the power of God, for as yet none of the Samaritans had received the Holy Spirit. When Peter and John prayed for them and laid their hands on them, God gave the Holy Spirit to the Samaritan believers too.
Simon looked on with increasing wonder when he saw how Peter and John prayed and laid their hands on these people who received for Holy Spirit.
He thought in his heart, “If only I had such power I might again seem to be a great man among these people. Perhaps I can persuade these visitors from Jerusalem to sell this power to me.” So he came to the apostles, saying, “I will give you money if you will sell me this power to lay my hands on whomever I please that they may receive the Holy Spirit.”
But Peter looked at Simon and said, “You wicked person! May your money be lost with you if you think God’s gifts can be bought. You do not have any part in this work, for your heart is not right in God’s sight. Unless you repent of your sins and pray God to forgive your wicked thoughts you will be lost, for now you are bound fast with sin as with a chain.”
Simon was frightened when he heard Peter’s words. Even yet he did not understand, for he did not know how God could make his heart right. So he asked Peter to pray for him, that he might not be lost. But we do not know that he ever repented of his sins and turned to God.
After their visit in Samaria, Peter and John returned again to Jerusalem, passing through other villages along the way and preaching the gospel to all who would listen. And all the while more believers were being added to God’s church; for wherever people believed in Jesus as their Savior from sin they became members of the church of God.
In Jesus’ name
12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
for precious is their blood in his sight.
15 Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
16 Let grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon;
let it thrive like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.
All nations will be blessed through him,
and they will call him blessed.
18 Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.
20 This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.
“His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed” (v. 17). Originally, that was written about Solomon. But as we read this verse, we see that it also refers to Jesus.
It speaks of His name. “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”(Matt. 1:21). That’s what His name means–Savior. What kind of a name is it? It is enduring: “His name shall endure forever” (v. 17). I’m a student of biography. When I go to used-book sales, I buy books about old people–old preachers, missionaries and statesmen–folks who have been forgotten. Have you ever read an old edition of an encyclopedia and thought, Who are these people? I’ve never heard of them. Their names did not endure. In fact, some of the names in the headlines today will be forgotten a few months from now. But not so with Jesus. He has the enduring name, a name that “is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).
Jesus also has an enriching name. “Men shall be blessed in Him.” The names of some people don’t bring blessing–they bring cursing. You certainly wouldn’t call your son “Judas” or your daughter “Jezebel.” But Jesus has an enriching name. It brings blessing. We have been blessed in Him “with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3).
His name also is an enabling name. “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!” (v. 18). God enables us, through the name of Jesus, to do wonderful things. In the Book of Acts we find the name of Jesus on the lips of the apostles. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (3:6). What a privilege it is to know His name. What a privilege it is to have the authority of His name as we pray and serve Him.
There is no other name like Jesus. It is full of power and authority. It is enduring and brings blessing and enablement to those who know His name. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
Different phases of life have different sets of fears. A newborn baby demonstrates fear of falling and of loud noises. Swaddling clothes, used for thousands of years, are still wound tightly around the babies of the Quichua Indian tribe of Ecuador. As soon as a child is born his arms are bound to his sides, his legs straightened in a neat firm package. When this is removed the baby feels insecure and cries.
Adolescent fears about popularity, pimples, and peer pressure give way to adult anxieties about responsibility and life’s major decisions.
As we grow old we are beset by the fear of aging, which may bring us weakness, pain, dependence on others, loneliness. We wake in the early dark and find ourselves the targets of many fiery darts of fear. We may think we are on guard, and suddenly a dart comes at us from an unexpected angle. We can’t cover all the possibilities. We dodge and duck, but some of the fears get to us–unless we take refuge in the Lord. The psalmist calls Him “my encircling shield, my glory.” No need to stare into the darkness, allowing our imaginations to torment us with the “what ifs”–“Now I can lie down and go to sleep and then awake, for the Lord has hold of me” (Ps 3:3,5 JB).
|The Stoning of Stephen
Acts 6:1 to Acts 8:2
THE NUMBER OFdisciples, or believers in Jesus, had now reached many thousands, and among them were Jews from different parts of the world. Some were called Grecians because they lived in countries where the Greek language was used, which they also spoke, and others were called Hebrews because they used the Hebrew language and lived in Palestine. There had been an unfriendly feeling between the Grecian Jews and the Hebrews for a long time. Now in this great company of believers in Jesus this unfriendly feeling tried to show itself. Among the poor widows it seems that the needs of the Grecian ones were being overlooked. Their Grecian friends saw this, and began to complain that they were not being cared for properly.
The apostles heard this complaint, and at once they called the multitude of believers together, and said: “It is not right that we should spend all our time looking after the needs of the poor. We must preach the gospel. There are other faithful men among you who can attend to this matter of caring for the needy ones. Choose out seven wise men who are filled with the Holy Spirit, and let them do this work, that we may have more time to pray and to preach.”
This plan pleased all the people, both the Hebrews and the Grecians, so they close seven faithful men to divide the money among those who had need. These men they brought before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands upon them.
Stephen was the first man whom they chose for this work. Another man was named Philip. These two men were also preachers of the gospel. About the other five we hear but little.
From the first Stephen’s great faith in God showed itself by the miracles he performed among the people. And he spoke boldly about Jesus to those who hated the believers, for the Holy Spirit gave him courage to do this.
In Jerusalem was a synagog where the foreign Jews met together to study the Scriptures. Here Stephen went to preach the gospel. And certain men who were leaders of the synagog argued against this teachings and tried to prove that Jesus is not the Christ.
But they could not prove their argument, for God gave Stephen great wisdom to declare the truth about Jesus. When these evil-minded men saw that Stephen had spoken wisely they were angered, and at once they planned to destroy this faithful man.
Calling some friends who were not careful to speak the truth, they hired them to publish among the Jews that Stephen was teaching against the law of Moses, and was speaking evil words against the temple.
As soon as the rulers and scribes heard this report they caught Stephen and dragged him into the council-room where the apostles had been tried. There they surrounded him, and questioned him about the things they heard.
Stephen was not afraid to speak bravely to these enemies of the truth and right. He talked very earnestly to them about their fathers who had lived long ago. He repeated to them the familiar story of the Israelites, beginning with the time of Abraham. He showed them how their fathers had disobeyed God’s laws and refused to listen to God’s prophets, even when God had blessed them so much.
As Stephen talked, his face began to shine like an angel’s. Those who stood in the council-room saw the heavenly light, but they gave no heed to it. When he told them about the sins of their fathers, the rulers grew angry. Their eyes flashed wickedly, and Stephen knew they were even then thinking how to kill him. Still he was not afraid.
Looking up, he saw the heavens open and Jesus, the Savior, standing by the great white throne. God permitted him to see this wonderful glimpse of heavenly glory that he might have more courage to face his enemies.
Then he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
These words filled the rulers with great fury, and they rose from their seats, stopped their ears, and cried out against him. Then, like blood-thirsty animals, they rushed upon him and dragged him out of the council-room, and outside the city gate.
Here those who had spoken false words against him took off their garments, threw them down at the feet of a young Pharisee name Saul, and picked up stones to hurl at Stephen.
But even here Stephen’s courage did not fail. He raised his eyes toward heaven and prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he knelt down, and while the stones struck his body he prayed, just as Jesus prayed when he hung on the cross–”Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
And after this he fell asleep in death, the first one to be killed by God’s enemies in their effort to destroy the church of God.
Some men who had known Stephen heard about his death, and they took up his mangled body and buried it tenderly. Then they mourned for him with loud and bitter cries, for they had loved this earnest young man who gave up his life to defend the gospel.
Dear Father, thank you for giving me a hope and a future. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for choosing me. Thank you for delighting in me. I invite you to renew my heart and mind to the good plans you have for me.
In Jesus’ Name