God’s & Kings – 1 & 2 Chronicles

Our six-week summer series chronicles God’s kings: David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah and more.

Whether for a nation, a family, or an individual, God’s word gives us principles to live a life that honors Him, regardless of the external circumstances. Living God’s way is the best way.

I & 2 Chronicles was written to reunite the nation around the true worship of God after the Captivity. In these pages, the author reminds the people of their past. He clearly broadcasts his message through one of the best-known verses in Scripture, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (7:14). As we dig into 1 & 2 Chronicles, lets listen to God’s voice and obey him; and receive his redemptive, healing touch.

Dates           Titles            Scriptures                                  

June 20 – A Man after God’s Heart (1 Chron. 11-29)   – David  

June 27 – Asking for God’s Wisdom (2 Chron. 1) – Solomon

July 4 – Seeking God’s Face (2 Chron. 7) – God’s Promise    

July 11 – Rely on God’s Strength (2 Chron. 14-15) – Asa

July 18 – Boldness in God’s Work (2 Chron. 17-21) – Jehoshaphat    

July 25 – Doing Right in God’s Eyes (2 Chron. 29-32) Hezekiah

Posted in God's & Kings - 1 & 2 Chronicles | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mercy of God – Lamentations 3:22-23

Jeremiah turned from contemplating his misery to remembering God’s mercy in chapter 3. He still experienced pain and sorrow, but he also called to mind the faithfulness of the Lord, and this gave him hope.

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24 (NIV)

Max Lucado tells the story of being dropped by his insurance company because he had one too many speeding tickets and a minor fender bender that wasn’t his fault. He received a letter in the mail, informing him to seek coverage elsewhere. As he reflected on how he wasn’t good enough for his insurance company he saw the spiritual tie-in. He writes, “Many people fear receiving such a letter [from God]. Some worry they already have.” Lucado then imagines this correspondence, straight from “The Pearly Gates Underwriting Division:”

“Dear Mr. Smith,

I’m writing in response to this morning’s request for forgiveness. I’m sorry to inform you that you have reached your quota of sins. Our records show that, since employing our services, you have erred seven times in the area of greed—and your prayer life is substandard when compared to others of like age and circumstance. Further review reveals that your understanding of doctrine is in the lower 20 percentile and you have excessive tendencies to gossip. Because of your sins you are a high-risk candidate for Heaven. You must understand that grace has its limits. Jesus sends His regrets and kindest regards and hopes that you will find some other form of coverage.


Angel in charge of Fire Insurance

We’ll never get a letter like that! As Jeremiah puts it, “God’s compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” The English word for “new” in this verse is the Hebrew word “hadas.” It would be translated, “never before experienced.”

God is using Jeremiah to remind us that His mercies—His compassions—His blessings—are always literally NEW. Today’s mercy is different from yesterday or the day before or the day before the day before.  Mark Batterson writes, “Just as the seasonal flu vaccine changes from year to year, God’s mercy changes from day to day. It’s a new strain of mercy. Why? Because you didn’t sin today the way you did yesterday!”

Try this little exercise: Figure out how old you are—not in years but in days. For example, today I am 19,539 days old. That’s the sum total of different kinds of “new every morning” mercy I’ve received in life—to-date.  I’m sure it’s more than that—because I sin more than once a day. But sticking with the daily model, the time you’re twenty-one, you’ve experienced 7,665 unique mercies. When you hit midlife, it numbers 14,600. And by the time you are 65, God has mercied you at least 23,725 times. God is always faithful to forgive!

In Jeremiah’s darkest moment, his hope was strengthened with this assurance: God had been faithful and would continue to be faithful. Jeremiah saw both God’s judgment and God’s steadfast love. In the time of judgment, Jeremiah could still cling to God’s love, just as in times of prosperity he had warned of God’s judgment.

Jeremiah knew from personal experience about God’s faithfulness. God had promised that punishment would follow disobedience, and it did. But God also had promised future restoration and blessing, and Jeremiah knew that God would keep that promise also. Trusting in God’s faithfulness day by day makes us confident in his great promises for the future.

In the 1950’s, a professor at Johns Hopkins University named Curt Richter conducted a series of experiments—and like many researchers he used rats as his test subjects. First, Richter took a dozen domesticated rats, put them into huge jars of water—and basically watched them drown. I know this sounds cruel—but he was trying to discover how long it would take—how long the furry—but friendly—vermin would swim before they gave up. And they did fairly well. Some swam for days before they gave up and sank to the bottom.

For the next part of his rat research, Richter took wild rats—taken straight from the sewers of Baltimore. One by one he dropped each furry but fierce rodent into the water-filled jars—and unlike their tame predecessors—they died very quickly—within minutes. Richter wondered why.

These sewer rats were supposedly renowned for their swimming ability. He theorized that the answer was a lack of hope.  He thought that perhaps the domesticated rats had learned to expect to be cared for—which fostered hope of rescue in their tiny brains. Perhaps this kept them going when the wild ones—who had never experienced that kind of care—gave up.

He wrote, “The situation of these rats scarcely seems one demanding fight or flight—it is rather one of hopelessness. These wild rats are in a situation against which they have no defense and no escape. They seem literally to ‘give up.’”

Richter decided to test his hypothesis. He took more wild rats—one at a time—and put them in one of the jars. But, just before the rat was about to drown, he picked it up, held it a little while, and then put it back in the water.  Well, this small interlude made a huge difference. This time each of the wild rats could swim and swim! He decided that this proved his hypothesis. He said—when these wild rodents learned that they were not doomed, that the situation was not lost, that there might be a helping hand at the ready—that there was hope—they would keep going.

They would not give up, and they would not go under.  At the conclusion of his experiment Richter wrote, “With the elimination of hopelessness, the rats do not die.”

I’m not saying you and I are rats—but like these furry little sewer dwellers, in order to keep going in this fearful world—to keep our heads above the water when the storms of life are raging—we need hope. We need something to cling to. We need a reason to keep “swimming”—something or someone has to motivate us to keep going.

I read a report from National Geographic magazine that says:

Humans can survive for just 2 to 3 minutes without air.

Humans can survive for up to 7 days without water.

Humans can survive for about 45 days without food.

But studies like Richter’s point to the fact that we all go down very quickly without hope.

As someone once put it, “Hope is the oxygen of the soul.” Hope is what we cling to when hurricanes come ashore destroying everything in their path or when doctors give us fearful diagnoses. Hope is what keeps us going when a friend of family member dies—and when job layoffs come our way.

Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet”— Jeremiah learned this principle. He had been through horrible trials. I imagine his life felt like the experience of those last set of rats. Time and time again things got so bad he felt like he was going under, and time and time again God lifted him up and gave him hope.

May God’s faithfulness and mercy give us hope as well.



Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Posted in God & Justice - The Prophets | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Beautiful Expression of Love in a Passage of Judgment – Zephaniah 3:17

What if you knew just how much God loves you? What would that mean to you; how would it change your life? In our post today, I would like to show you something spectacular.

The Setting

1. Zephaniah was a 7th century BC prophet related to the royal family of Judah (the southern kingdom). His message condemns Judah’s leadership (including his own relatives) and calls the people of Judah to repent before the arrival of God’s Day of Judgment.

2. The prophets delivered their messages by preaching and writing. Zephaniah, he must have been a terribly unpopular preacher; the first 75% of the book deals with judgment, destruction and the end of the world.

3. Things were bad in Judah; Zephaniah pronounces God’s judgment on the kingdom, its wicked political and religious leaders, and its wealthy citizens who exploited the poor. Things couldn’t get any worse; the people had abandoned God, rejecting his plan for their lives; they pursued their own interests with no regard for God at all.

4. We can imagine the people’s response to Zephaniah’s message of doom. Things were dismal until, at the end of his message, Zephaniah offers his listeners new hope: a reason to sing and to rejoice. Our interest in this post centers on this message of hope. After six “discourses of doom,” Zephaniah’s listeners are no doubt anxious for some good news.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Notice 5 Beautiful Expressions of God’s love to His people:

1. God is with you!The Lord your God is with you…” When you feel alone or abandoned, remember that God’s presence is with you. This literally means that God is “in the midst of you.” God is not just watching you; He is walking through life with you. He’s not just near you; He’s right in the midst of whatever you’re in the midst of. I love the words of Jesus in John 14:8: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” If you know Jesus through the new birth, He promises to be your constant companion.

2. God is for you! “…He is mighty to save…” God is a mighty warrior and He overcomes all odds to defeat the enemy so we can be free and safe. This word “save” is stated with an emphatic oomph. God is powerful and mighty and is for you! This should give us great assurance. I love John 10:28-29: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

3. God delights in you! “…He will take great delight in you…” The word delight means to be bright and cheerful. Some of us think that God frowns when He thinks of us. Instead of glaring at you; God is glad that He made you! The look crossing your Heavenly Father’s face when He thinks of you is joy. Max Lucado captures this thought well: “God is for you. Had He a calendar, your birthday would be circled. If He drove a car, your name would be on His bumper. If there’s a tree in heaven, He’s carved your name in the bark…”

4. God calms you! “…He will quiet you with His love…” This can be translated as “He will be at rest in His love.” The NASB puts it this way: “He will be quiet in His love.” Most often the love of the Lord is expressed as loyal love, stressing God’s unconditional commitment to us. The word “love” in this passage is an intimate love between a man and a woman. It is used of Jacob’s passionate love for Rachel (Genesis 29:20) and Song of Solomon 2:4,5-7

Isaiah 62:5: “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” This is wedding imagery where God sweeps us off our feet and in the quiet rest of relationship we can cease striving. The idea here is that God contemplates His beloved with wordless adoration and perfect contentment. One commentator said that “The battle cry on the day of judgment will be replaced by the poignant hush of the reuniting of two lovers.”

I love the way some of the older commentators speak. Listen to what Albert Barnes has to say: “The soul, until it hath found God, is evermore seeking some love to fill it, and can find none, since the love of God alone can content it.”

5. God celebrates you! “…He will rejoice over you with singing.” God moves from the quiet rest of being in relationship with us to exuberant rejoicing. The Hebrew word for “rejoice” means “to spin around in joy with great gladness and glee.” When our kids were younger I used to spin them around and we’d giggle together. God is spinning around when He thinks of His sons and daughters as well. The word for singing refers to “a shout or shrill sound.” This is loud singing, not just mumbling or half-hearted lip synching. Do you picture God spinning and shouting in song when He thinks of you? Jared Anderson has written a cool song called “Amazed.” Here are some of the lyrics: “You dance over me while I am unaware. You sing all around, but I never hear the sound…”

Nehemiah 8:10: “…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This verse is commonly misunderstood to suggest that it’s our joy that gives us strength. Look closely. It’s God’s joy that gives us strength. When we picture Him as rejoicing, we can be rejuvenated.

Dennis Jernigan has written a translation of Zephaniah 3:17 from the Hebrew that captures the majesty of this verse: “The eternal self-existent God, the God who is three in one; He who dwells in the center of your being is a powerful and valiant warrior. He has come to set you free, to keep you safe, and to bring you victory. He is cheered, and He beams with exceeding joy and takes pleasure in your presence. He has engraved a place for Himself in you, and there He quietly rests in His love and affection for you. He cannot contain Himself at the thought of you and with the greatest of joy spins around wildly in anticipation over you…In fact, He shouts and sings in triumph, joyfully proclaiming the gladness of His heart in a song of rejoicing! All because of you!”

Bringing It Together

We need to hear the bad news in order for the Good News of the gospel to make sense. That’s why it’s important to use the 10 Commandments when witnessing because people need to see that they’re sinners before they’ll see their need for salvation. I have two steps in closing.

1. Repent of your sins. Zephaniah 3:11-12 describes the haughty and the humble. It’s only the humble who will repent. What’s it going to be? Will you face judgment or will you experience joy when the Day of the Lord comes? 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Yet 2 Peter 3:10 tells us that judgment will surely come: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

2. Receive the Savior. 3:9 refers to those who “call on the name of the Lord and serve Him shoulder to shoulder” with others. 3:13 describes the remnant and verse 15 says that “The Lord has taken away your punishment…” If you’ve never done what Romans 10:9 says, then do so today: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Sure, the Bible has some bad news but the good news overshadows the bad. Here are the facts or promises we can hold on to.

* God’s presence – God is with you!

* God’s power – God is for you!

* God’s pleasure – God delights in you!

* God’s peace – God calms you!

* God’s praise – God celebrates you!



Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Posted in God & Justice - The Prophets | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zephaniah – Overview

Overwhelming grief, prolonged distress, incessant abuse, continual persecution, and imminent punishment breed hopelessness and despair. “If only,” we cry, as we search our mind for a way out and look to the skies for rescue. With just a glimmer of hope, we would take courage and carry on.

Hope is the silver shaft of sun breaking through the storm-darkened sky, words of comfort in the intensive care unit, the first spring bird perched on a snow-covered twig, and the finish line in sight. It is a rainbow, a song, a loving touch. Hope is knowing God and resting in his love.

As God’s prophet, Zephaniah was bound to speak the truth. This he did clearly, thundering certain judgment and horrible punishment for all who would defy the Lord. God’s awful wrath would sweep away everything in the land and destroy it. “‘I will sweep away people and animals alike. I will sweep away the birds of the sky and the fish in the sea. I will reduce the wicked to heaps of rubble, and I will wipe humanity from the face of the earth,’ says the Lord” (1:3). No living thing in the land would escape. And that terrible day was coming soon: “That terrible day of the Lord is near. Swiftly it comes—a day of bitter tears, a day when even strong men will cry out. It will be a day when the Lord’s anger is poured out—a day of terrible distress and anguish, a day of ruin and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (1:14, 15). We can sense the oppression and depression his listeners must have felt. They were judged guilty, and they were doomed.

But in the midst of this terrible pronouncement, there is hope. The first chapter of Zephaniah’s prophecy is filled with terror. In chapter two, however, a whispered promise appears. “Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly. Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you—protect you from his anger” (2:3). And a few verses later we read of “the remnant of the tribe of Judah” (2:7) who will be restored.

Finally in chapter three, the quiet refrain grows to a crescendo as God’s salvation and deliverance for those who are faithful to him is declared. “Sing, O daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment and will disperse the armies of your enemy. And the Lord himself, the King of Israel, will live among you! At last your troubles will be over, and you will never again fear disaster” (3:14, 15). This is true hope, grounded in the knowledge of God’s justice and in his love for his people.

As you read Zephaniah, listen carefully to the words of judgment. God does not take sin lightly, and it will be punished. But be encouraged by the words of hope—our God reigns, and he will rescue his own. Decide to be part of that faithful remnant of souls who humbly worship and obey the living Lord.

Vital Statistics 

Purpose: To shake the people of Judah out of their complacency and urge them to return to God

Author: Zephaniah

Original Audience: The people of Judah (the southern kingdom)

Date Written: Probably near the end of Zephaniah’s ministry (640-621 B.C.), when King Josiah’s great reforms began

Setting:  King Josiah of Judah was attempting to reverse the evil trends set by the two previous kings of Judah—Manasseh and Amon. Josiah was able to extend his influence because no strong superpower was dominating the world at that time (Assyria was declining rapidly). Zephaniah’s prophecy may have been the motivating factor in Josiah’s reform. Zephaniah was a contemporary of Jeremiah.

Key Verse: Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly. Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you—protect you from his anger on that day of destruction” (2:3).

Key Place:  Jerusalem

The Blueprint

  1. The day of judgment (1:1-3:8)
  2. The day of hope (3:9-20)

Zephaniah warned the people of Judah that if they refused to repent, the entire nation, including the beloved city of Jerusalem, would be lost. The people knew that God would eventually bless them, but Zephaniah made it clear that there would be judgment first, then blessing. This judgment would not be merely punishment for sin, but it would also be a means of purifying the people. Though we live in a fallen world surrounded by evil, we can hope in the perfect Kingdom of God to come, and we can allow any punishment that touches us now to purify us from sin.

Day of JudgmentDestruction was coming because Judah had forsaken the Lord. The people worshiped Baal, Molech, and the stars in heaven. Even the priests mixed pagan practices with faith in God. God’s punishment for sin was on the way.To escape God’s judgment we must listen to him, accept his correction, trust him, and seek his guidance. If we accept him as our Lord, we can escape his condemnation.
Indifference to GodAlthough there had been occasional attempts at renewal, Judah had no sorrow for its sins. The people were prosperous, and they no longer cared about God. God’s demands for righteous living seemed irrelevant to the people, whose security and wealth made them complacent.Don’t let material comfort be a barrier to your commitment to God. Prosperity can lead to an attitude of proud self-sufficiency. We need to admit that money won’t save us and that we cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us.
Day of CheerThe day of judgment will also be a day of cheer. God will judge all those who mistreat his people. He will purify his people, purging away all sin and evil. God will restore his people and give them hope.When people are purged of sin, there is great relief and hope. No matter how difficult our experience now, we can look forward to the day of celebration when God will completely restore us. It will truly be a day to rejoice!


Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Source:  Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 1489-1490.

Posted in God & Justice - The Prophets | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment