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In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 17, Psalm 44

1 Chronicles 17 repeats much of the content in 2 Samuel 7. God’s promises to David, given through Nathan, form the foundation for Israel’s future prayers. When Israel, and especially Judah, cry out in prayer years later during their subsequent tragedies, they appeal to God’s promises to David, which remind Israel that God’s reputation is still at stake in delivering, purifying, and strengthening Israel to fulfill them.

Moreover, 1 Chronicles 17 reveals God’s will for Israel. Here I use the word “will” to mean something like bestowing an inheritance. The writer of Chronicles intends to call the original audience to remember all that God wants to give them and do for them that they might be inspired to live as God’s people. God’s will for Israel invites them to be a generation that returns to God to receive His blessings. Returning to God requires hope for a good result, and 1 Chronicles 17 lays out the good results God intends for David’s line and the people of God.

Today, we also receive promises about turning to God in repentance. For example, by returning we will be in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, Ephesians 4:30), and we are able, even now, to experience a taste of the eternal life offered us in fellowship with Jesus (John 17:3). God’s “will” for His people is still clear. Agapé, let us hear God’s will for us, and let that be an opportunity to return to Him in faith and repentance today.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 15-16, Psalm 43

God’s chosen people certainly had music of their own before David arrived. However, David established music as a central feature in the worship of YHWH. Even in the New Testament when the apostle Paul encourages the church in Colossae to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grace in their hearts, Paul does so as a Jew formed by the songs of Israel written by David.

When he commissions Asaph and his associates to make music, David’s charge could be read as a charge for all musical artists, for all times, who write songs about God (1 Chronicles 16:8-36). In fact, David’s charge to Asaph includes categories for content that would fill the book of Psalms and shape the posture of those who make such music. Praise flows from being amazed at God; thus, David directs the gaze of Asaph and company to God’s goodness. David also speaks of God’s past works in saving Israel so that His former deeds might strengthen Israel in the present and give them godly hope for their future.

Though we still sing the Psalms, when we started Agapé Chicago, I prayed that we would be a church that would make new music to God. We have made two or three new songs in our church’s brief history, and our songs come from the cultural line of David and his work. In the future, when God puts conviction in hearts to write new songs unto Him through our family, 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 offers us solid direction for both musical content and artistic character for this work.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 13-14, Psalm 42

God strikes down Uzzah for touching the ark, seemingly just to keep it from falling. This might seem an excessive punishment for seeking to protect the ark, but we must understand that Uzzah is breaking at least two commandments related to its proper care. First, Israel should have been carrying the ark with the poles that were part of the entire apparatus (Exodus 25:14-15) instead of pulling it behind the oxen (1 Chronicles 15:15 attests that David and Israel learn this lesson). Secondly the ark, when in the tabernacle, was not be seen except by the high priest once a year, and when moved, it was to be protected by three-layers of cloth (see Exodus 26:33, Numbers 4:5-6). Even looking upon the ark as Uzzah and others did was foolish enough, let alone directly touching it.

Formerly, God uniquely manifested His holy presence on earth via the ark. Uzzah is trusted with guiding the ark (1 Chronicles 13:7), and he of all people should have known exactly how to transport God’s earthly dwelling place. Charged with proper care of such a wonderful gift, Uzzah’s neglect makes him culpable.

In like fashion, we as believers are now God’s chosen vessels on the earth. May we have appropriate reverence for the trust we have in our own bodies as those crucified and risen with Christ. We do so when walk in a holiness that reflects the Holy Spirit in us.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 11-12, Psalm 41

Every word of scripture is beneficial to our growth, sustenance, and worship (2 Timothy 3:16), but we don’t enjoy reading all scriptures the same way. I discipline myself to reflect on the genealogies of 1 Chronicles because it helps me understand God’s story, and thus my story, better. In contrast, I have a blast reading the stories of David and his mighty men. These individuals are larger than life and reflect God’s providential hand upon David’s reign in surrounding him with such allies. With these stories, I am glued to the page.

Even as I enjoy reading, I cannot help but reflect that a much greater king would be surrounded by not-so-mighty men. Years later, when Jesus is in need of aid, his closest friends desert Him. When Jesus lacks water on the cross, only enemies surround Him to offer vinegar and gall. As favored as David is, Jesus is God’s shining star. Why, then, such a contrast in the friendly support these two receive?

God provides what David lacks by surrounding Him with mighty men, without whom David would certainly be lost. With Jesus, God shows us what we all lack in courage and constancy and thus provides the true mighty Man for us. Instead of mighty men, Jesus is surrounded by traitors, deserters, and the faithless so that all of us could be rescued by the one able to save from the death, the one and only Almighty Jesus. Now Jesus is surrounded by men and women that he is making mighty in the Spirit, including us, so that Jesus will have even a greater victory.

When we worship as one, we do so with brothers and sisters who are weak in the body, but in Christ are made mightier than the mighty men of David. Instead of defeating Philistines, in Christ, we have victory over Satan and sin, and even death will not take us in the end. Thank God that we have in Christ not mighty men, but the Almighty for us, with us, and in us.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 10, Psalm 40

The writer of Chronicles tells us, “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 10:13). Does that imply that if Saul had been faithful, he would have lived forever? No, the point is that Saul could have enjoyed the victory and blessings due an honorable king of Israel and thus he would have died in peace. Instead, the idolatrous Philistines kill his sons, and Saul commits suicide rather than being taken and executed. All of this happens that God might take the kingdom away from wicked Saul and give David the throne.

Chronicles will tell a repetitive story of leaders ruling and dying, one that we should have some familiarity with at this juncture. The reason this story is repetitive is because human sin, rebellion, and wickedness go on and on and on. The names may change and the details vary, but the temptation towards disloyalty to God remains the same, as do its consequences. Every time they read about a king that rises up like Saul, the post-exilic Jewish readers are receiving a warning. In the midst of the repetition, remember that this is our story, too. Let it cause us to humbly seek God’s protection from the evil practices of leaders and generations that have gone before us.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 9, Psalm 39

2 Kings ended with the leaders of Judah exiled in Babylon along with but a few from the southern kingdom. 1 Chronicles 9 details in brief what the book of Nehemiah will explain in detail. Israelites, Levites, and others charged with caring for temple worship return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. As 1 Chronicles has not been chronicling Israel’s story in chronological order just yet, everything written in this book until today gives a preview of where the writer of the Chronicles is leading us. Tomorrow we will begin a more chronological but different version of many of the same events already covered in the books of Samuel and Kings. The Chronicles will end with Cyrus, King of Persia, encouraging the people of Judah to go back home and rebuild what has been destroyed.

The first readers of the Chronicles would have been those living after the exile. This original audience would read the Chronicles as a story of Israel’s history, triumphs, and tragedies, persuading them to avoid the sins of their wicked ancestors and embrace the God worshiped by their righteous ancestors. This history is given as a warning and an encouragement that God has been true to His promise at the end of Deuteronomy to both bless obedience and curse disobedience.

The message which Chronicles gives to Israel also beckons us to see the misery of prevailing sin and the blessings of obedience. Even if the blessings and curses are different for us, the people of God rescued from the ends of the earth by the blood of Jesus, Chronicles invites us still to embrace the blessings that come from being true to YHWH.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 7-8, Psalm 38

David prays in anguish and credits (blames?) God for the suffering he faces in our psalm reading. David declares that God’s “hand has come down on me,” and “because of your wrath, there is no health in my body.” God isn’t the only one David recognizes for his suffering, as he confesses, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” There is no contradiction when David sings both of God’s judgement and discipline upon him as well as of his own culpability in his suffering. Both are true. Though David realizes his role and God’s in this suffering, David also declares that only one person can grant relief as he cries out, “Come quickly to help me, my Lord and Savior.”

We might get ourselves into a pit while God’s hand places us there, but there is only one person who can relieve the torments we face. Instead of leaning on your strength and ingenuity if you are in pain, frustrated, bewildered, or losing hope, today cry out to your Lord and Savior to rescue you. Your sins, the sins of others, or the suffering due a sinful world all operate under God’s control and form part of our frustration. God and God alone can operate on our behalf to give us the salvation, love, and safety we all need. Seek Him today, for God alone can give.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It - 1 Chronicles 5-6, Psalm 37

Israel (Jacob) had twelve sons, and those sons were the biological pillars for Israel’s twelve tribes. As 1 Chronicles recounts the genealogies for the twelve sons, I have always found it helpful to remember that each tribe had specific places attached to their names in the promised land. (Note: the Levites lived amongst all the tribes, and Manasseh and Ephraim, the sons of Joseph, had elevated status.) These tribes represent not only family names and genealogies but also the regions within the land of Israel, and this helps us to make sense of divisions that occur between the northern and southern kingdoms as well as other conflicts along the way. It might be helpful to equate these tribes to “Iowa”, “Ohio”, or “Illinois”, or truer to scale, “Cook”, “Lake”, “Dupage” and so on.

To better visualize the implications, let me give an example from our reading. When we are told that the Assyrians captured Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, we get a sense of how Assyria attacked (1 Chronicles 5:26). Though all of these tribes lived north of Judah, their most important connection is that they are the three tribes that settled east of the Jordan river. Sadly, at the writing of 1 Chronicles, these tribes were still exiled in a foreign land.

Understanding the geographical connection between tribes and their lives helps to see what is at stake in these brief genealogies. People are forced from homes, settlements are destroyed, and places families have called home for hundreds of years are left behind. The Bible tells the story of a world that is our own, and we do well to pay attention to all the ways this world is unveiled that we may dive into the dramatic story scripture is telling.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 3-4, Psalm 36

In the year 2000, The Prayer of Jabez, based on the brief prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4:10, was published. This book sold millions and made millions simply by dissecting four aspects of this prayer and teaching people to recite Jabez’s words daily. We know that this book found commercial success, but was it successful in showing fidelity to God? God answered Jabez positively in 1 Chronicles 4:10, so isn't it obvious that something about the prayer must be pleasing?

Not so fast! This notion fails to attend to one basic fact given by 1 Chronicles 4:9, that “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers.” This means that Jabez was virtuous of course, but more importantly that he was true to God. Jabez offered a prayer from his heart to a God whom he knew intimately. The secret sauce wasn’t in the prayer, but in the love and faith towards God. The prayer is simply Jabez’s natural response to God and God’s words. In Jabez’s time, God made promises to Israel of blessings for obedience; Jabez knew this, so he simply asked God for what God promised. Today, we also are promised blessings—blessings in Christ. At the same time, we are promised persecution for following our King, Jesus the messiah (Acts 14:22, John 15:20, 1 Peter 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:12).

Many preachers are fond of saying, “Be careful of praying for blessings; God just might give them to you the hard way.” In our day, after Jesus’s death and resurrection, that humorous comment indicates a more responsible way of understanding blessings than simple rote memorization and recitation of Jabez’s famous prayer. Blessings are ours if we seek them. That does not equal land and prosperity in our day, but rather access to the pleasure of God through Jesus Christ in life and in death.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 1 Chronicles 1-2, Psalm 35

While reading the selective genealogies found at the beginning of 1 Chronicles, take some time to reflect on how much scriptural ground you have covered. Many of these names should be familiar to you because you have invested the time to attend to God’s story. Also, use this reading to brush up on what you might have forgotten (e.g., "Oh right, Canaan is a son of Ham"). The names and people groups are important in order to remember what has gone before, but these also prepare us for what lies ahead.

The more we understand about the peoples in the ancient Near East, their family divisions, and their hostilities, the more the stage is properly set for our readings in the prophets and the New Testament. Through these genealogies, we recognize God’s work over a thousand years of history. When we read these names, they rise and fall, but God is the one constant.

And God is still constant for us today, working history out to satisfy His people. This is a list of people with messy stories, with many chaotic events along the way. God’s constancy in working redemption remains. As we read history in the Chronicles we do more than learn; we are given reason to be thankful that God is in charge amid the vicissitudes of history.

 

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 23:26-25:30, Psalm 32

Babylon takes Judah captive, and the line of Judah’s kings comes to an end. 1 & 2 Kings end with one former king of Judah, Jehoiachin, enjoying Babylon’s kindness after he spends significant time in prison. This happens after Jehoiachin's successor and the Babylonian-appointed final king in Judah, Zedekiah, is brutally murdered along with his sons for insurrection.

Judah’s temple has been destroyed, and Israel’s great riches completely plundered. Like so many nations before them and after them, Israel is humiliated and ravaged by their neighboring superpower. But Israel (north and south) doesn’t represent just any nation. This is God’s chosen people, the ones to whom God promised kings forever to sit on David’s throne. These are the people through whom God promised to establish a light for the nations. These are the descendants of Abraham, who was promised kings in his line and uniquely great blessings for the world. These promises to Judah go way back! After this defeat, the prophets and leaders up until the time of Jesus will try to make sense of what God has done to Israel and Judah. And make no mistake, it is God, not Babylon, who ruined Judah; Babylon is just God’s instrument.

The end of the books of Kings invites us to ask if God will establish another line of kings for Israel and how God will work to keep His promises. Thankfully, the story of God and His people continues with surprising answers to those questions.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 22:1-23:25, Psalm 31

Oh, that more people would respond to God’s word like Josiah! When Josiah has the words of the law read to him, he knows exactly what to do. God’s laws have been disobeyed, the covenant dishonored, and Judah faces judgement at the hands of God. Josiah responds with conviction and destroys all of Judah’s idols and all remnants of their spiritual adultery.

Really, this is how any rational person should respond to the words of God, the One who delivered Israel out of Egypt and brought them to the land of promise. However, many kings and many children of Israel before Josiah did not heed God’s law in this way. Today, many people claim to believe that the Bible is the word of God, but they do not read it, and if we read it we do not obey it. Our hearts are not stirred by the scriptures, and we do not cry out for mercy and respond with repentance at revelation of sin.

Today I pray that God would move hearts to heed God’s word at Agapé Chicago like Josiah responds to God’s law. Might God move us with conviction of sin and with desire to rid ourselves of all infidelity towards our God and King.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 21, Psalm 30

Manasseh rules Judah in detestable ways, in stark contrast to how his father, Hezekiah, ruled. However, based on Hezekiah’s actions towards the end of his life, we might have suspected this would happen. In yesterday’s reading, after Isaiah warned Hezekiah that Babylon would take all the temple valuables, Hezekiah foolishly revealed his relief that this would not happen in his lifetime: “‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?’” (2 Kings 20:19) Hezekiah shows in his response his lack of care for Judah’s future beyond his own rule. His son’s actions are the fruit of such disregard.

Don’t hear me blaming Hezekiah for Manasseh’s sins, for Manasseh is solely responsible for all his own evil. Rather I am blaming Hezekiah for his lack of foresight, his disregard for Judah’s long-term status in light of God’s promises to David, and by inference his failure to raise his son in the knowledge of the Lord. Might Manasseh have rejected his father’s teaching? Certainly, we cannot say for sure. Still, I think it more likely that the scripture preserves two of Hezekiah’s main faults in self-preservation and failure to fulfill the role of King in preparing an adequate replacement.

Father-son dynamics are always tricky to assess without lots of information. Regardless of how well Hezekiah reared Manasseh, we can say for certain that Hezekiah did not share God’s heart for Judah’s best, and that is enough to understand Hezekiah’s culpability in the events of today’s reading.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 19-20, Psalm 29

When God denounces Assyria through the prophet Isaiah, He identifies intimately with Judah. God begins by saying “Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you” (2 Kings 19:20). This is a poetic way to say that Jerusalem, the home of Zion, wants nothing to do with Assyria. Why is this? God says to Assyria, “By your messengers you have ridiculed the Lord” (2 Kings 19:23). In threatening Judah, Assyria has ridiculed God and His power; God will not stand for this, and He will protect Judah because they are His.

Judah does not mock Assyria because they themselves are more powerful or greater than Assyria. On their own, Judah would be eradicated by Assyria’s great armies. Rather, Judah mocks Assyria because Assyria has mocked God. Like David, the great king of Judah, Hezekiah trusts in God’s strength to deliver. God delights in such trust and comes to the rescue. This leads me to offer a prayer today:

God may you find us, your church, enjoying our communion with you today in order that we might also rest in the fact that you are on our side. You are for us and not against us. Whatever opposition or difficulty may come, nothing can separate us from your love, and we ask to gladly hope in this truth today. Amen.
Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 18, Psalm 28

After the northern kingdom, Israel, has fallen to Assyria, Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, wishes to defeat Judah in the south. The leadership of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, pleases God, but this does not prevent Hezekiah from having to face the insults of Assyria’s chief prince, the Rabshakeh. Hezekiah’s initial actions to bargain with Assyria are disappointing, but Assyria will not accept anything short of complete surrender anyway. The events that follow, including the insulting speech by the Rabshakeh, are so important that two other books of the Bible record them (Isaiah and 2 Chronicles). As 2 Kings tells this story in different words, I simply want to note one of the Rabshakeh’s lies. In his extended speech demanding that Hezekiah and Judah surrender, the Rabshakeh declares, “The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it” (2 Kings 18:25).

A few years back it occurred to me that this blatant deception has the ring of demonic influence. As we will soon see, this is an outright lie delivered as complete truth by someone who cares little for and believes little in YHWH, God of earth and heaven. The Rabshakeh’s disregard and disrespect for Israel’s God echoes the serpent of Genesis 3.

It is important to sense that this conflict is not just between Judah and Assyria, but is rather a confrontation of demonic powers against Hezekiah, inviting him to distrust God and thus pit YHWH against Judah. Will God and Hezekiah become enemies due the Satanic deception of the Rabshakeh? Stay tuned for your answers.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 17, Psalm 27

You have heard the famous line, “You are what you eat.” Long before this became a popular phrase, the Israelites learned, as G.K. Beale says, “we become like what we worship.” When Israel (the northern kingdom) loses its last king, along with any vestiges of its former power, we are told in succinct fashion what has gone wrong: “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless” (2 Kings 17:15). Israel became like what they worshiped. If we worship sticks and stones, we are completely powerless like them. Or if we were to worship gods that we think command us to sacrifice children to appease them, we would very likely be mistrustful and harsh.

But people today worship other “gods” that don’t typically go by that name. Some worship prestige, and their emotional lives are marked by the ups and downs that come with being captive to the praise of others. On the flip side, if we worship the true God, the God who is love, we will become more loving the more we are dazzled by God. If our hearts are enamored by the holiness of God, we live increasingly in light of His good statutes. We become like what we worship for ill, but also for good. If we wish to become truly good, then we must worship the only true and good God.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 15-16, Psalm 26

The Assyrians begin their captivity of Israel (the northern kingdom), and the king of Judah, Ahaz (over the southern kingdom), wishes to receive protection as a loyal vassal territory under Assyria. Long gone are the days of David and Solomon, along with Israel’s great power and strength.

Though the Assyrian captivity is only described in brief detail in our passage, the tragedies of this time will shape Israelite identity in ways similar to Egyptian slavery and the subsequent Babylonian captivity. For example, the disdain that the northern and southern kingdoms already have towards one another will only increase because of Samaritan assimilation with their Assyrian captors. When we read the new Testament about Jesus and his followers having to navigate long-standing tensions with Samaritans, many of the root causes for the animosity can be traced to the times of Assyrian captivity.

Assyria will also be the first of a long line of foreign captors to humiliate and harm the Israelites. This will cause confusion for Israel relating to the temple, God’s promises to David, and how to live faithfully to God in the midst of more powerful and idolatrous foreigners. These events will also begin to shape and inform the belief that a messiah will return Israel to its past glories by defeating these foreign invaders. Without a grasp on these two chapters, much of what we will read in the prophets and even in the Gospels will make less sense than if we grasp what is at stake when the Assyrians take power.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 13-14, Psalm 25

Some people are known for their kindness or goodness. Names that come to my mind are Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, and Corrie ten Boom. More often it seems, people like Hitler, Stalin, and bin Laden are remembered for their evil. Jeroboam, son of Nebat is remembered throughout Israel’s history as the pattern for kings who do evil. In our reading today, Jereboam is referenced four times as a comparison to a new king who maintains Israel’s idolatrous practices. Unfortunately, it is no surprise to find Jehoash names his own son Jeroboam.

Jeroboam the second is like the first, and so the name Jeroboam is further defamed. For Jews and Christians this name is still associated with evil and only the cruelest of parents would name their child Jeroboam. More to the point of the reading, we note that the kings of Israel (that is, the northern kingdom) have become so accustomed to evil that they imagine good to be evil, and evil to be good. At the time of Jeroboam II’s birth, Israel’s royals view the first Jeroboam positively. This name choice is enough to see the desperate confusion of Israel in that day.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 11-12, Psalm 24

It is hard to imagine a grandmother being much worse than Athaliah, willing to kill her grandchildren and gain power for herself. Israel’s sovereigns and royal families were genuinely messed up. To me, it is fascinating to see the Israelites record in such detail their shameful history instead of only the events of which they can be proud. For one, we don’t have access to as much ancient history as we would like, so it is amazing to get this much detail of events that happened over 2500 years ago about any nation. Secondly, most recorded histories during this time in history by other nations rarely cast negative light on their own people and their own histories. Yet 1 & 2 Kings is a lengthy record of embarrassing family narratives like with the family of Ahab and the dangerous Athaliah.

Though I have said it before, it bears repeating: the Bible is very human, meaning honest and thus, authentic. If you think the stories of Israel’s royalty unusual, just read up on the monarchs of England in the 16th and 17th centuries. Or you could read about the French royalty in different eras, and even some of the great Chinese dynasties to find similar dysfunction.

The difference between Israel and all other nations is their high and unique calling. As Israel fails to live up to this calling, we readers are privileged to read their story and ponder how these lives invite us to live up to our high calling as Christ followers during our few days. May we desire our lives’ stories be more like that of Joash than Athaliah.

Jeremiah Vaught
In Case You Missed It -- 2 Kings 9-10, Psalm 23

Why do people fall into sin after God uses them to do great things? Consider Jehu, a man whom God uses as an instrument of judgement against the house of Ahab. After God works clearly on Jehu’s behalf, we read these unfortunate words, “Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord” (2 Kings 10:31).

Time after time this happens to leaders in Israel. God does mighty deeds for them, through them, and before them, then they fail to obey God’s laws. The reasons why certainly vary from person to person. From the history of Israel and their repeat disloyalty to God, we may glean that we are not all rational as we imagine. If someone were to ask Jehu if YHWH is God alone and superior to the gods of the nations, he would certainly say so and believe so. Jehu knows the right answers and has solid reason to trust God’s power and right to judge. Yet Jehu behaves wickedly.

Jehu’s actions as well as those of many before and after him invite the reader to agree with the prophet Jeremiah’s words, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Jeremiah Vaught