Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bible Challenge: Second Kings, part 1

As we begin the Second book of Kings King Ahab is dead and Elijah is about to ascend into heaven leaving Elisha to take up the task of being the Lord's prophet in Israel.

We see Elisha predicting victory, helping widows and even raising the dead. This draws attention from the General of the army of one of the neighboring nations - who comes to Elisha looking for a cure for the worst disease of the time - leprosy.  Elisha must have been wishing he had kept a slightly lower profile.  But he does end up, with God's help, curing Naaman's leprosy.

There are then several battles and lists of rulers.  Israel is defeated and Ahab's descendants massacred as are all of the worshipers of Baal.  The temple of the Lord is repaired.  All of this is to atone for the sins of the kings who had fallen away from the worship of the Lord.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bible Challenge: First Kings - part 2

In the second half of first Kings we have the story of king Jeroboam.  Don't feel bad if you haven't heard about him, most people haven't.

He is mostly know for God's judgment being poured out upon him.  In spite of this he reigns for nearly 20 years.

The last part of the book is taken up by the story of King Ahab, Queen Jezebel and the prophet Elijah.  Ahab is a pretty weak king, Jezebel a grasping, power hungry queen and Elijah is a prophet of God who does not have a diplomatic bone in his body.  The resulting stories really should be made into (another) Hollywood movie, the script would write itself.

My favorite of the stories is the triumph of Elijah over the priests of Baal in chapter 18.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bible Challenge: First Kings - part 1

First & Second Kings were originally one book.  The books pick up the story of the monarchs of Israel from First and Second Samuel.

We will read primarily about David & Solomon in the first book and later kings in the second.

The books of kings drew from a wide variety of source materials and were edited by many hands over a long period of time.

One theme that runs through the books is that moral and religious failings will lead to loss of the national identity of Israel and eventually it's conquest by other nations.

The first 12 chapters of First Kings cover the death of David and the accession of Solomon, the beginning of Solomon's reign, the building of the temple in Jerusalem and the visit to Solomon of the Queen of Sheba.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bible Challenge: Second Samuel part 2

The second half of the the book of Second Samuel begins with the story of Tamar.  It is not a story that we tell very often.  It's a troubling story that shows us that in many ways the world has not changed very much.  David is faced with the troubling fact that people he loves do evil things and reconciling his role as law-giver and father.

The story ends with Absalom usurping the throne and David having to fight to regain it, killing his son in the process.

The book ends with a census of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bible Challenge: Second Samuel

The second book of Samuel is mostly about the reign of King David.  The book recounts what was the high point of the nation/kingdom of Israel.  For the rest of the Biblical narrative, the people of Israel harken back the reign of King David as the time when they were the most blessed.  David comes to be viewed as the personification of the nation in the same way that Moses is the personification of the law and Elijah is the personification of the prophets.

This week we have the first 12 chapters of the book.

We pick up with David mourning for Saul and for his friend Jonathan we quickly move on to David's anointing as King of Judah and his battle with Gibeon to hold on to his throne.

By chapter 6, David is King over all Israel and has made Jerusalem his capital and he brings the ark of the Covenant to reside in Jerusalem.  He wants to build a temple for the ark - but God sends the prophet Nathan to tell him that he is not worthy to build the house of the Lord, but that his son will do that.

This highlights one of the points of the story of David - that while God makes great and powerful use of him, he is not perfect.  One of the comforting threads that runs through Scripture is that we don't have to be perfect, or even very holy, for God to be able to use us.