Getting on Track with God

November 6, 2022

The Israelites had been in captivity for 70 years. In the book of Ezra we learn some of the Israelites were sent back to Jerusalem. Once there, the people rebuilt the temple. But the city was still in shambles. The wall around the city was down and there were people living in poverty.

The book of Nehemiah follows the book of Ezra and is also written by Ezra. Nehemiah is one of the last books of the Bible written of the Old Testament. There were more than 400 years between this book and the birth of Christ. Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Xerxes of Persia (Nehemiah 2:1). This meant he was a trusted leader in the King’s Court. He was the man who tasted the king’s wine to ensure it was not poisoned. Nehemiah had heard that the Jews, who moved back to Jerusalem, were having problems.  The temple had been rebuilt, but their city wall which gave them protection was still not rebuilt and they were having a hard time (Nehemiah 1:1-3). This saddened Nehemiah and he fasted and prayed for forgiveness of the sins of himself and the rest of the Israelites. He then went to the king, prayed again, and asked the king if he could be sent to Judah to rebuild the city wall (Nehemiah 2:5). The king granted his request, made him governor, and went to Jerusalem. Even with opposition from neighboring cities, Nehemiah was able to enlist the help of others and rebuild the city walls in 52 days. Along with the rebuilding, he helped the poor, which were many because there was not enough grain and many did not have enough money to live and so were in slavery.

After the temple was rebuilt the people’s heart needed to be rebuilt as well, and we will be discussing this from chapter 8 and 9 of Nehemiah.

Once the temple was rebuilt and the residents were settled into town “all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1).

  • Notice that it was the people who asked to have the Word read to them.

Nehemiah 8:2-3 says, “So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.”

  • Remember in Old Testament time, people did not have Bibles. The priest read from a scroll in the temple where the people gathered.
  • Ezra read for about 6 hours (from daybreak to noon). This shows how much the people wanted to hear from God’s Word.
  • Everyone listened attentively.

Nehemiah 8:6 says, “Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen, Amen! Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.”

  • Ezra praised the Lord, and the people showed great reverence to the Lord by bowing down with their faces to the ground.

Nehemiah 8:7-8 says, “The Levites – Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah – instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.”

  • Not only did Ezra read the Law, but the Levites did as well. They also helped the people to understand what was being read.

Nehemiah 8:9 says, “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.”

  • The people were convicted because of their sin and were weeping, but were told not to weep because this was a holy day to the LORD.

Nehemiah 8:10-11 says, “Nehemiah said, Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

  • Again, the Israelites were told to celebrate and enjoy God’s goodness and to not grieve any longer over their sins.

Nehemiah 8:13-14 says, “On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the teacher to give attention to the words of the Law. They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in temporary shelters during the festival of the seventh month and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make temporary shelters” as it is written. So the people went out and brough back branches and built themselves temporary shelters on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.”

  • They listened to what the God’s Word said, and realized they were not following the Law. Instead of fussing, they followed the Law immediately. They put the Word into action.

Nehemiah 9:2-3 says, “They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession an in worshiping the LORD their God…They cried out with loud voices to the LORD their God. And the Levites…said: Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”

  • They continued to have the Word read to them, even though they had heard it before. They asked forgiveness for their sins, and then worshipped and praised the LORD.

After this, the Israelites went into a prayer that described all that had happened to their forefathers in the desert and the sins of the nation and how there were consequences to those sins.

Nehemiah 9:38 says, “In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it.”

  • Like a marriage license has a signature stating that you’re are bound together, this was a binding agreement between the Israelites and God.

What can we learn from reading Nehemiah about getting on track with God?

  1. Read His Word or go to church and get spiritual nourishment.
  2. Get the help from teachers or study Bibles if you need, in order to understand what the Bible is saying.
  3. If you are not following God’s Word or living in sin, ask forgiveness, and then take the necessary steps to live obediently to God.  
  4. Celebrate the “joy of the LORD” because He is “our strength.”
  5. Do not wallow in your sin. Believe God has forgiven you, and then move on.
  6. Pray.
  7. Have the appropriate respect and reverence to the LORD. Worship Him.
  8. Continue to read the Bible, even if you have read it before.
  9. Make a covenant with God, which looks a little different today. A covenant today means a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Where are you in your relationship with God? Do you want to get back in relationship with Him? Maybe you have never had a relationship with the Lord. If you have not and are interested in a relation with the Lord, please let me know and I will walk you through or answer any question you may have.

Next week we will read the entire book of Esther.

Handling Opposition When doing God’s Work

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October 30, 2022

This week we read the book of Ezra. The author also wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles. Remember at the end of Chronicles the people of Judah were taken captive for 70 years by the Babylonians lead by king Nebuchadnezzar. He carried off all the articles from God’s temple, set fire to the temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem.

The Babylonians were then overtaken by the Persians as predicted in Isaiah 44:28. The king of Persia said this, “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”

Thus, because the Jews disobeyed God, they were taken into Babylonian captivity for 70 years. It was God’s plan to then have them released and the temple rebuilt through the orders of Cyrus, the king of Persia, even though he was not Jewish himself.

This caused a lot of excitement amongst everyone. There were many that went back to Judah, and the rebuilding of the temple ensued. The temple altar was made, the people worshipped and sacrificed burnt offerings to the Lord.

After the altar was finished, the foundation was laid for the temple. The people praised and worshipped the LORD saying in Ezra 3:11, “He is good; his love endures forever.”

Everything was looking wonderful for the people of Judah. They were able to go back to their own country again and started to build their temple. They were praising God.

But what happened? Opposition stepped in and tried to thwart the ministry and will of God.

Let’s look at the book of Ezra and see the opposition the people of Judah received, and then how they handled it.

The first opposition the people of Judah face is somewhat hidden. Ezra 4:1-3 states, “When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

  1. The people wanted to distort the truth of God and try to draw you away from His will. These people wanted to help with the building of the temple. That does not seem to be opposition. The problem was they were enemies of Judah and Benjamin. They also were being disingenuous about seeking after God and sacrificing to him. 2 Kings 17:33 states, “They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. ”They wanted the people of Judah to think they were like them, and that stated they wanted to help, but they truly were enemies. We read a warning that relates to situations such as this in Acts 20:28-31, “28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard.”
  2. The people tried to discourage and make them afraid. Ezra 4:4-5 states “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia, and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.” There was further opposition under king Xerxes and Artaxerxes. We do not know exactly what was done to discourage the people but we do know it went on for a long time because it was 16 years from the reign of Cyrus to the reign of Darius.
  3. The people frustrated their plans.  Ezra 4:6 says, “They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
  4. The people falsely accused them. At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes,[b] they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. They even wrote a letter to the king.
  5. They people threaten them. Ezra 4:15 says, “Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer.[e] 14 Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, 15 so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place with a long history of sedition. That is why this city was destroyed. 16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.”

After this Ezra 4:24 says, “Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

They stopped building the temple for about 16 years. Then Haggai the prophet came and prophesied and they started rebuilding the temple again. This was without the knowledge of the king. The new king found the wording that Cyrus wanted the temple built. Ezra 6:14 says “They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.”

I think we can learn something from the book of Ezra and the Israelites.

God had a plan for the Israelites to go back to Judah and rebuild the temple. They started implementing the plan, were excited, and then met opposition.

I know I have felt like the Israelites in the past when trying to accomplish or live by God’s will. I started a ministry, things were going well, and then was met with a lot of opposition. There was a lot of discouragement and fear. Through a lot of prayer the ministry continued, but it was not easy.

Remember, Satan does not want God’s will to prevail and he will try to derail the work of God. God allows it to test our faith. The question is, “how will we respond to opposition?” Do we lose sight of God’s will for us? Do we stop what we are doing? The Israelites had to stop because they were met with physical force. But once they heard from the LORD through the prophet Haggai, they started the work again. Ultimately, they were able to complete the temple as God commanded.

When we are starting something new that God wants us to do, we will have opposition. It may be in the form of distorting the truth, discouragement, fear, frustrated plans, being falsely accused, threats, or something else. Satan does not want God’s plans to continue. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:1, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” We also need to remember what 2 Corinthians 15:58 says: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

When we find opposition to the work of the Lord, we need to stand firm, seek the Lord through prayer, and give ourselves fully to Him. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We also need to seek Him through his Word for encouragement. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

Next week we will read Nehemiah, the entire book.

Will God Forgive Me?

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October 23, 2022

This week we finished reading 2 Chronicles. We read about the different kings and how some were good, and some evil. If you remember, of the 20 kings in Judah, 8 of them were good. This week we are going to talk about an evil king who turned good. His name was Manasseh.

We see how bad this king was in 2 Chronicles 33:1-9, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and regulations given through Moses.” But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.”

King Manasseh basically spit in God’s face. He built altars in God’s temple and worshipped other gods, sacrificed his own children to the god Moloch by having them burned on an altar, and more. He led the people to act more evil than any nation before.

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and the people of Judah through prophets but they did not listen or turn from their evil ways. Because of this, the LORD handed Manasseh over to the Assyrian leaders. 2 Chronicles 33:11 says, “So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.”

The Bible does not say that Manasseh looked to all of the gods he worshipped previously. 2 Chronicles 33:12 says, “In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.”

Manasseh was truly repentant and because of that the LORD listened to him, forgave him, and brought him back to Jerusalem.

Manasseh did not just talk the talk after God forgave him. He changed. 2 Chronicles 33:14-15 states, Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.

15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. 17 The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.”

Manasseh was evil. More so than others we’ve read about in the Bible. God still forgave him. God can also forgive you.

How can you get forgiveness and salvation from God today?

  1. Realize that you are a sinner. In Romans 3:23 the Bible says that we are all sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”
  2. Know that God wants to give you the free gift of eternal life. Romans 6:23 states For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. There is no sin too great for God, and he will forgive you while you are committing sin. If you remember the story of King Manasseh, you will know God will forgive you if you are truly sincere and repentant. Romans 5:8 says that he loves us even when we sin and forgives us. “While were still sinners Christ died for us.”
  4. Ask for forgiveness of your sins in the name of Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, Peter spoke to the crowd about Jesus’ death, resurrection and forgiveness of sins. They asked in Acts 2:37, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
  5. Have faith, believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth: Romans 10:9-10 shows us how we can be “saved”: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

If you want forgiveness like King Manasseh, and are not quite sure how to pray, here is an example of a prayer of surrender from Christianity.com

“Dear God, I come before you today with a humble heart and surrender my life to you. I believe that Jesus Christ was born free of sin, died on the cross as a payment for my own sin, and rose three days later. I believe in your gift of salvation and eternal life because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God, today I repent and turn from my old way of life. Because of your mercy and grace, I can have childlike faith. Today I ask for new life through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you, God for forgiving me and making me brand new. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer, please let me know. I want to support you in your new life. I also encourage you to get involved with a Christian Church so that you can grow in your faith.

Next week we will be reading the entire book of Ezra. Have a blessed week.

The battle is the LORD’s

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October 16, 2022

This week our reading was 2 Chronicles 11-20. These chapters focused on the kings of Judah after Solomon. Out of the 20 kings of Judah, only 8 were considered good kings. The chapters assigned for this week focused on Rehoboam who was evil, Abijah who was evil, Asa who was good, and Jehoshaphat who was good. We are going to discuss Chapter 20, which is when Jehoshaphat was king.  

2 Chronicles 17:3-6 says, “The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. …His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.”

During Jehoshaphat’s reign, he showed devotion to the LORD and turned his people to the Him as well. Even with his devotion, he found that trouble was on the way. This is what I want to delve in to. We can learn the steps Jehoshaphat followed to deal with the problem, and apply them to our lives when we encounter difficulty.

2 Chronicles 20:2 states, “Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea.”

Problem:

  1. An impending attack: Jehoshaphat, even though he had devoted himself to the LORD, found he was going to be attacked by 3 different armies. This was his problem or difficulty. What is the difficulty you may be facing?
  2. Fear: 2 Chronicles 20:3 states the king was “alarmed.” The word in Hebrew means frightened or afraid. Because the people were going to be attacked, the king was afraid. Are you afraid because of the difficulty you are or will be facing?

Steps the king took:

  1. Consult the LORD: 2 Chronicles 20:3 states, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD.” The king did not consult his court, his wife, or his friends. He consulted the LORD. This is something we should do as well.  There are times we go to others first, and if we have not found a solution, we then consult God. Why not consult the LORD the first?
  2. Fast: 2 Chronicles 20:3 states, “he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” This is the first time in the Bible that we see a fast proclaimed by a king. He wanted all to given up a bodily requirement for a time, to be humble and seek the LORD .
  3. Ask others to pray and seek help: 2 Chronicles 20:4 states, “The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD, indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.”
  4. Prays with others and remembers what God has done in the past: 2 Chronicles 20:5-9 states, “Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.”
  5. Be humble, trust, and look to the LORD: 2 Chronicles 20:12 states, “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

God’s response:

  1. He wants us to listen to Him:  2 Chronicles 20:15 states, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! “When we pray to God, we need to listen for His response.
  2. Do not be afraid: 2 Chronicles 20:15 says, “This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the vast army. “
  3. God is the reason we don’t need to fear: 2 Chronicles 20:15 says, “For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” This is one of my favorite verses. We need to give it to God so he can fight the battle for us.
  4. Face the battle, but watch the LORD is with you and will deliver you from the fight: 2 Chronicles 20:17 states, “Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.”

What the people did:

  1. Worshipped and praised the LORD: 2 Chronicles 20:18-19 says, “Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”
  2. Had faith in the LORD and continued to praise Him: 2 Chronicles 20:20-21 states, “Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tedoa. As they set out, Jegoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful. After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as then went out at the head of the army, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.”

God did fight the battle for Jehoshaphat and the people. He and the men of Judah did not have to lift a finger to win this battle and those from Judah were successful.

I don’t know what is going on in your life. What problem or difficulty you may be facing. It could be a physical ailment, or something financial. You could be having relationship difficulty. What ever the issue is, take the steps that Jehoshaphat took. Turn to God first in prayer. Praise the Lord for what he has done already in your life. Listen and don’t worry about the situation. Know that the LORD will fight the battle for you. Don’t run away. Don’t drown your sorrows in things of this world. Fight the battle with the best weapon, the LORD. Worship and praise the LORD and give thanks to the LORD for his love does endure forever.

Will God always answer your prayers with a “yes”, as He did here. He may answer “yes”, “no” or “wait”. Thus, here are a few more tips about praying in a difficult situation.

  1. Pray for God’s will. Pray as Christ prayed in the garden before he was to be crucified.  Matthew 26:39 says, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” We pray in God’s will.
  2. Don’t be anxious: Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Again, give the matter over to God and let Him fight the battle.
  3. Accept God’s will no matter the answer: In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul states, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul prayed 3 times to have this pain taken away, but it was not. Paul accepts God’s “no” as his answer to prayer. There will be times God says “no’ to us as well. Let us try to be as Paul and accept our weakness and let God shine through us.

Are you trying to take control of a difficult situation in your life? Give it to the LORD and let him fight your battle.

Next week we will read 2 Chronicles 21-36. Have a blessed weeks.

Seeking God’s Presence

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October 2, 2022

This week we started 2 Chronicles. This is a summary of what we read in Samuel and Kings. First Chronicles was all about King David. He was not able to build the temple because  “you are a warrior and have shed blood” (1 Chronicles 28:3). David prepared for the building of the temple, but he did not actually build the temple.

David had many sons, but appointed Solomon to be king, as God directed. Solomon built the temple to the Lord. It was filled with gold and worth millions to billions in today’s economy. Once the temple was complete, Solomon said a prayer to dedicate the temple (2 Chronicles 6).

After Solomon prayed, the Lord appeared to him. The Lord said to Solomon, “I have heard your prayer and chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:12-14).

God said to Solomon, “As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel. But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name.”

This says a lot about what is important to God. Solomon spent millions or billions in today’s economy on the temple. This was not important to the LORD. The LORD said that if his people who were called by his name would:

  1. Humble themselves
  2. Pray
  3. Seek God’s face (presence)
  4. Turn from their wicked ways (repent)

Then he would hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.

He said to Solomon, “if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel. But if you turn away and forsake the decrees and commands I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, thin I will uproot Israel from my land, which I have given them, and will reject this temple.”

God did care about the temple, but He cared morre about the condition of the people’s heart and the relationship the people had with Him. If they did the above, God would open his ears and eyes to their prayers. If they did not follow His ways, his ears would be closed. Just like in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

The expectation the LORD had for his people is the same today. The difference is that our salvation through Jesus Christ is through the work on the cross and lasts forever. When we humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and ask for forgiveness (repent) through Jesus Christ, he will forgive of our sins, and we will be saved. Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” This salvation is forever. God will not take it away. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Just like thousands of years ago, God does not care about the things of this world. He cares about you, and your heart and your relationship with Him. He wants you to seek His presence.

How is your relationship with the LORD?  Are you seeking His presence?

Next week we will read 2 Chronicles 11-24.

A contrast between Jesus and the Queen

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September 25, 2022

This week we finished 1 Chronicles. There are events in this book of the Bible about David that are not documented in Samuel or Kings.

I am not going to discuss anything from Chronicles this week.

While singing at church today, God laid on my heart to talk about the death and mourning of Queen Elizabeth and compare that with the death and mourning of Christ.

I am sad the queen has passed. She reined for 70 years and met many leaders throughout the world. She was very accomplished.

According to the BBC, the queen was surrounded by family and passed peacefully. As seen on TV and in the papers, thousands, if not millions came out to pay their respects. People stood in line up to 24 hours to visit the casket. People spent the night to obtain a spot on the lawn so they could watch her casket and the family drive by. I think it is wonderful, the respect and reverence the people of the U.K. and around the world gave Queen Elizabeth.

I then compare that to what happened to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Who was Jesus? According to John chapter 1, Jesus was with God in the beginning, he was God in the beginning, and everything was made through Him. He lived in glorious heaven with the Father. He then made himself a man. Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross
!”

Jesus was God in the flesh! Jesus was 33 years old. He had been in ministry for 3 years with his disciples and others. He had a major following. He healed people physically and he healed them spiritually.

At the end of his life, the Pharisees and Sudducees, the leaders of the Jews, wanted Jesus dead. He was perfect, yet Jesus was falsely accused of a crime and ended up dying on a cross taking on the sins of the world. He died for our sin and then rose again, so we could have everlasting life with Him and the Father.

At his death he was mocked, beaten, and hung on a cross to die with 2 other criminals. All the disciples except for John abandoned Him. Peter denied Him 3 times. After his death he was buried in a tomb. There was no procession. There were no mourners. Even when Lazarus died, there were mourners at the house of Mary and Martha. This was not happening at the home of Jesus’ mother Mary.

What a difference between the respect given to Queen Elizabeth and that given to Jesus Christ.

How could he be treated so bad?

I ask myself today, “Am I respecting and revering Christ today? Am loving Him with all of my heart, soul, and mind?” If I’m honest, I have to say that I do not respect and show Christ love all the time. I continue to sin. I don’t always profess my faith. The list goes on and on. Thankfully, because I have accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, he forgives me, and loves me unconditionally.

I want to do better. How about you? Thus, my prayer for us is that we love and respect the Lord through obedience to Him and love to others and that the Holy Spirit will guide each one of us in this way.

How are you doing in loving and revering the King of Kings?

Next week we will read 2 Chronicles 1-12.

Have a blessed week.

A bold prayer by Jabez

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September 18, 2022

This week we started the book of Chronicles. This book was thought to be written by Ezra. It is a chronicle of the Kings of Judah (from the southern territory). There is a small section that focuses on king Saul, but the majority of the book discussed King David.

The beginning of the book is genealogy from Adam through the kings of Judah. In Chapter 4 there is a pause from this genealogy and a prayer from a man named Jabez. This is going to be the focus of our discussion today.

Here is the scripture from 1 Chronicles 9-10.

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez,[c] saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.”

The preceding text talks about different genealogy, and then Jabez and his prayer are mentioned. He must have really been important for him to be mentioned so specifically.

The name Jabez means “to grieve,” or “he makes sorrowful.” In this day the Jewish tradition was to name the child after someone or something meaningful at their birth. Obviously, something was very painful, sorrowful, or difficult at the time of Jabez birth because 8 days later when he was circumcised and named, his mother said that “I gave birth to him in pain” so will name him Jabez.

Even with a difficult start, Jabez was more honorable than is brothers.  What a great compliment this is to someone. He was a man of honor and respect. Why was this important? Because he was an overcomer. He lived with being reminded of the sorrow he caused, but this did not bring him down. He overcame that and became a better man than his brothers.

Jabez was a man of prayer. He did not call out to the many secular gods that others were praying. He prayed to the God of Israel. He doesn’t just ask God, but cries out to him. According to the Lexicon, this means “to cry out in a loud voice” or “to cry for help.”

He asks God for 4 things:

  1. God’s blessing: he wanted God’s divine favor on him. This could be spiritually or in some other way.
  2. An enlargement in territory: he wanted an increase in his border or land.
  3. God’s hand to be with him: the word in Hebrew for hand means strength or direction. Jabez wanted God to give him strength and provide direction in his life. He wanted God’s plan for his life.
  4. To keep him from harm so that he would be free from pain: the word in Hebrew for harm means evil, trouble, or calamity. The word for pain is grief or distress. Jabez was praying for protection from evil and to deep him free from whatever would cause him grief or distress. This is interesting because his name means grief. So, he was praying for protection against whatever caused him to be named Jabez in the first place.

Verse 10 then says that God answered the pray.

Jabez came boldly to the throne of God and asked God for his needs. And God not only answered the prayer, but he answered with a yes. God heard Jabez’s prayers, and he hears your prayers too.

Let’s prayer this prayer together for ourselves in terminology from today.

Lord, I pray your blessing over me and my family. I pray that you will increase my territory. Lord, give me your strength and direction in my life. Let me hear from you. Lord, keep me from evil and sorrow.

Please let me know if you have other prayer requests. I would be happy to pray.

Next week we will read 1 Chronicles. 20-29. Have a blessed week.

1 and 2 Kings. A historical perspective

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September 11, 2022

Over the past two weeks we finished reading 2 Kings. I am going to summarize 1 and 2 Kings, as these are very important chapters historically and spiritually.

King David (a man after God’s own heart) lead all 12 tribes of Israel and died. He was a great king, even though he had some failures. He then left the kingdom to his son Solomon. Solomon began his reign well by asking for wisdom. He did not end well because he married many women and allowed the worship of other gods.

After Solomon, there was a split between the 12 tribes. Ten tribes went to the north and were called Israel and were ruled by the king Jeroboam. He was not a descendant of Solomon. 2 Kings 12:26-33 says, “26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”

28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.[d]

31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.”

In the northern territory, there were 20 total kings. All 20 kings were evil in the site of the Lord. Because the Israelites did not turn from their ways, God gave them over to the Assyrians. 2 Kings 12:5 says, “The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.” Thus, the northern tribe of Israel was taken over.

2 Kings 12:7-21 says, “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. 10 They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11 At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. 12 They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.”[b] 13 The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.”

14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.”

16 They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence.”

There were two tribes that went into the southern kingdom; Judah and Benjamin. They were called Judah. Judah was ruled by king Rehoboam who was the son of king Solomon. 1 Kings 12:21-24 says, “21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered all Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men—to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.

22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to all Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered.”

In the southern territory there were 20 kings. Out of those 20, only 8 were good kings. Even with 2 great kings, Hezikiah and Josiah, the southern kingdom did evil in God’s sight. 2 Kings 12:19-20 says, “19 and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. 20 Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.” When you read 2 Kings 25, you see that Judah is taken over by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

2 Kings 25:1-“So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

By the ninth day of the fourth[a] month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians[b] were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah,[c] but the Babylonian[d] army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured.

He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

13 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the Lord and they carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. 15 The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls—all that were made of pure gold or silver.

16 The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the movable stands, which Solomon had made for the temple of the Lord, was more than could be weighed. 17 Each pillar was eighteen cubits[e] high. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was three cubits[f] high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its network, was similar.

18 The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. 19 Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of the conscripts who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.

So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.”

After the Babylonians took over Judah, some of the people lived in Babylon. While their country was gone, and many died, there were some left that live with the Babylonian people.

Throughout the years of the kings of the northern and southern kingdom, the prophets were sent by God to try and persuade the kings to do right. The kings did not listen. Thus, both kingdoms were taken over.

In 2 Kings 24, Johoichin (also named Jeconiah) was taken prisoner by the Babylonians. In Chapter 25:27-31, we see that he was allowed to live. “In the thierty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He did this on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings wo were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.”

These last 4 verses of the chapter are very important. King Johoichin was also called Jecohiah.  Matthew chapter 1:12-16 shows how Jesus is in this line of genealogy of David on Joseph’s side of the family.

 “After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13 Zerubbabel the father of Abihud,

Abihud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14 Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Elihud,

15 Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.

17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.”

This is important because there was prophesy that there would be a king from the line of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11:1; Jerimiah 23:5-6). This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus. The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew shows it lineage, as does the genealogy presented in Luke looking at Jesus’ lineage on Mary’s side of the family. There are numerous other scripture in the New Testament that show Jesus is the son of David. Mark 10:47 says, “When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Thus, the prophecy of Jesus coming from the line of David was able to be fulfilled even with the battles that occurred with the Assyrians and Babylonians.

Next week we will read 1 Chronicles 1-19. It sounds like a lot, but the first 8 chapters are all genealogies.

Have a great week, and feel free to comment or ask questions about this. It is very complicated.

The God who Multiplies

The Story of Elisha and the Widow

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August 29, 2022

This week we read 2 Kings 1-10. We see that Elijah the prophet is about to be taken up into heaven and hand over the leadership role of head prophet to Elisha (means God is my salvation). 2 Kings 2:9-10 says, “When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you? “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” The spirit that Elisha was asking for was a spirit filled heart to know God, and he wanted a double portion. He did watch Elijah go up into heaven, so received this double portion. After this, Elisha became the leading prophet.

As we continue into 2 Kings, Elisha performs many miracles. The miracle I want to discuss is the one about the widow in 2 Kings chapter 4.

2 Kings 4:1-2 says, “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

This woman’s husband was training to be a prophet and was someone Elisha knew. He was married, had two sons, and had some debt. When he died, his wife could not pay the debt, and if that happened in that day, the sons would have to be slaves until the debt was paid. The woman had no way to make money either as women did not work. The woman was in a desperate state. She lost her husband and now her sons were going to be forced into slavery.

Elisha says in verse 2, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?

The prophet wants to help her and asks her how he can do this. He does not wait for an answer. He just asks another question. He already knows she is desperate and in need. He doesn’t know what she owns. So he asks.

Verse 2 says, “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

She initially thought she had nothing, but remembered she had a small jar of olive oil. This was worth quite a bit of money in those days as it was used for many things such as food, illumination or lighting, ointment, making soap, and for making anointing oil (theisraelbible.com). She only had a small jar, however.

In verse 3-4, “Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

God wanted this woman to participate in the miracle. He could have done anything for her but wanted her to be a part.

In order for her to be obedient, she first had to humble herself and ask others for a jar. God did not specify the number of jars that she was to get, but that she should not ask for just a few. He was hinting to her that he wanted her to get a lot of jars.

He then had her go inside her home and shut the door behind her and her sons. God wanted this to be a private miracle. Then she poured the oil she had in her one little flask, and filled each of the pots she obtained from the neighbors.  

Verse 5 says, “She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.”

Once the jars were full, the miracle stopped.

She says in verse 7 “She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

God was very generous with this woman. He gave her enough to settle her debt, and then enough for her and her family to live on.

Are you in a difficult circumstance? Maybe you’ve lost a loved one like this woman, or have been struggling financially.

Let’s learn from the prophet’s wife.

Humble: She knew her problem, was humble by asking for help from the Prophet and asking the neighbors for their jars.  

Faithful: She had faith. If she hadn’t, she would not have spent the time doing all this work to get the jars
Obedient: She was obedient to what God called her to do (even though it did not make sense) by pouring the oil into the jars.

Participatory: she did participate by collecting the jars.

Private: she closed the door to the house so other people would not see.

Blessed: she was blessed by God when she received enough oil to cancel her debt and to live on at least until her sons were old enough to work.

When you are feeling down, discouraged or empty, remember this story, and the below verses.

Philippians 4:9 states: “19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

God bless you!

Next read 2 Kings 11-20