Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Good King Hezekiah

2 Kings 18-20; 2 Chronicles 29-32

After the people of Israel were carried away into captivity by the king of Assyria, only the tribe of Judah remained of the twelve tribes that had entered the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Hezekiah was the king of Judah at that time.

The kingdom of Judah was very weak when Hezekiah took the throne. For many years it had been ruled by men who were not serving the true God, and they had even shut up the temple of the Lord.

Hezekiah began at once to restore the true religion. He called for the priests and the Levites to come to Jerusalem to cleanse the temple. Then when everything was ready for worship at the house of God, he sent invitations to the people in every part of the land of Judah and Israel, and commanded them to come to the Feast of the Passover, which they had not kept for many long years.

Some of the people laughed when they received Hezekiah's invitation to attend the Feast. They had worshiped idols for so long a time that they did not care to return to Jerusalem again, to worship the true God. But many from the land of Judah came gladly, and there was a great meeting.

Hezekiah destroyed the idols out of his land, and tried to teach his people to do right. He found in Jerusalem the brass serpent that Moses had made in the wilderness. He saw that the people were burning incense before this brass serpent, just as if it were an idol, so he cast it into the fire. He tore down the altars that had been built to worship heathen gods, and did much to strengthen his kingdom.

The King of Assyria had gained power over Judah before Hezekiah took the throne. Every year the people of Judah had to pay Assyria a large sum of money. But Hezekiah was displeased to have his people oppressed by this heathen King. He decided to quit paying the money. He built up the walls of Jerusalem until they were very strong. Then he gathered an army and made ready to fight against the Assyrians.

Hezekiah's army was only a handful compared to the hosts of Assyria. The enemies came into the land of Judah and took one city after another. Then they marched toward Jerusalem, and Hezekiah knew that his soldiers could not keep them away. He realised that he had made a sad mistake when he refused to pay the money that the Assyrian King required of his people. So he sent word to the angry King, promising to resist him no more and to pay whatever that King should require.

The King of Assyria thought: "Now is my chance to spoil this little country of Judah." So he demanded a heavier tax than he had ever asked before. Hezekiah took all the gold and silver that was in his palace, and all that he could find among the people, and even the gold and silver from the temple of the Lord to pay this tax. Still the King of Assyria was not satisfied. He sent a message, saying, "I am going to destroy your city and take you and your people away to a far country, just as I have done to your neighbors who lived in Israel. The gods of other nations did not help them when I came against them, and your God will not be able to save you."

Hezekiah was afraid when he heard this message. He knew that his army was not strong enough to drive away such a powerful enemy. He took the letter that this King had written and went into the temple to pray. There he spread the letter before the altar and asked God to help him and his people out of their trouble. Then he sent some of his princes to visit the good prophet Isaiah and ask him to tell them about God's will.

Isaiah answered, "The Lord has said that the King of Assyria shall not come into this city, nor shall he even shoot an arrow against it. But he shall go back to his own country by the way that he came, and there he shall be killed with a sword."

That same night an angel of God visited the camp of the Assyrian King and caused a terrible sickness to fall upon the soldiers. By morning many of them lay dead. All of the leaders in the army were among the dead men, and the King rose up and hastened back to his own land.

Never again did he return to fight against Hezekiah, for God had heard and answered the prayers of the good King. Years after this, while he was worshiping the temple of his god in Nineveh, two of his own sons killed him.

Hezekiah became very sick, and there was no cure to be found for his sickness. Isaiah, the prophet, came to him and said, "God has commanded that you get ready to leave this world, for you must die." Hezekiah did not feel that he could leave his people. He turned his face to the wall and prayed earnestly that God would make him well again. Then he wept bitter tears, and reminded God how faithfully he had tried to rule the people. And God heard Hezekiah's prayer.

Isaiah was returning to his home when the Lord spoke to him again, saying, "Go back to the King and tell him that I have heard his prayer and seen his tears and now I will add fifteen years to his life. On the third day he shall be able to go up to the temple to worship."

Hezekiah was glad to hear Isaiah's second message. He asked for a sign from the prophet, and Isaiah answered, "The sign shall be according to your choice. Shall the shadow on the sun-dial go backward or shall it go forward ten degrees?"

The sun-dial was the instrument by which the King might know the time of day, there were no clocks as we have now. Hezekiah asked that the shadow might go backward, as it would not seem like a sign for the shadow to move forward. So Isaiah prayed, and the shadow moved backward ten degrees.

Hezekiah was healed of his disease, according to God's word, and he lived for fifteen more years. During that time he built up his kingdom and became very rich. He grew proud of his riches and God chastised him, and he humbled his heart again. When he died all the land mourned for him, because they knew he had been the best king Judah had known.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Sad Ending of the Kingdom of Israel

2 Kings 17

The people of Nineveh believed God's prophet and were ready to ask God to forgive their sins. They repented, and they were not destroyed. The people of Israel did not believe the faithful prophets whom God sent to them, one after another. Some of them believed but many of them did not. Their kings refused to worship God in the right way, and kept the golden calves, which the first king of Israel had made.

Many years passed and God saw that the Israelites would never return to worship him as they had done in the days of David and Solomon. Nineteen kings had ruled in the land of Israel, and many times God had helped those kings out of trouble. Still they would not lead their people back to the true worship.

At last God allowed an enemy to carry them all away to a strange land. Hoshea was king in Israel when the great Assyrian army came down into the land and took possession of it. For a while Hoshea and his people paid a large sum of money each year to the Assyrian nation, and they were allowed to live in their own land. But when Hoshea refused to pay the money and sent to the king of Egypt for help, the king of Assyria sent his army again, and the army took Hoshea and all his people away from their homes and led them into heathen cities to keep them for slaves.

This was the terrible punishment that their sins of idol-worship had brought upon them. They were never again allowed to return to live in their homeland. The Assyrian king now ruled over all of the country where the ten tribes of Israel used to live. He wanted to have some people in that land, so he took some heathen people from cities in the east country and brought them to live in the cities of Samaria. He told them to work the fields and keep the vineyards, and pay him money from the crops they raised in Israel.

The new people in Israel were idol-worshipers. They did not know about the true God at all. After they had been in the land for some time they became afraid of the God of that land, for lions would come out of the woods and kill some of them when they went out to their fields to work.

They believed that the God of Israel was sending the lions among them because they did not know how to worship him. So they sent messengers back to Nineveh to tell the king about their troubles. They asked him to send a priest of the Israelite slaves back to Israel, that he might teach them to worship the Israelites' God.

The king sent a priests of the Israelites, and he went to live in Bethel. He told the strangers about the true God, and they, too, tried to worship Him. But they continued to worship their own gods, and their religion became a mixture of right and wrong. Even today some of the descendants of those people are living in Samaria, and their worship is a mixture of idolatry and the religion of the Jews.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Jonah - The Prophet Who Tried To Run From God

Jonah 1-4

When Elisha was the prophet in Israel, the Syrians were a strong nation and they often fought the Israelites. After Elisha died the Syrian nation grew weaker, and did not trouble Israel any more at all.

Then a new enemy arose from the far east country, the Assyrian king, who was conquering many little countries all around . He was sending his armies nearer and nearer to the border land of Israel and the Israelites were beginning to fear him.

Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, and the home of the great king. It was a great city that had stood for hundreds of years, and it had grown larger and larger until thousands and thousands of people lived inside its high walls. These people did not serve the true God, but worshiped idols. And year after year they became more wicked, until finally God thought he would destroy them all.

God is very merciful. He knew the people of Nineveh had not known about Him as the people of Israel. No prophets had ever come to warn them about their wrong-doings. God sent them a prophet from Israel to tell them that their city would be destroyed because of their awful sins.

Jonah was the prophet whom God chose to send to Nineveh. Jonah did not want to go to that wicked city so far from his homeland. He knew the Assyrians were enemies of the Israelites, and he thought it would be better if God would destroy their city rather than give them a chance to repent of their sins. So Jonah thought, "I will not go to Nineveh. I will take a ship down at the Great sea, and I will sail away toward the west country instead of going toward the east country. Then maybe I can get so far away that God will not talk to me any more about going to preach to those wicked people of Nineveh."

Jonah went down to the seaside and found a ship ready to sail away. He paid his fare, climbed on board the ship, and started with the sailors to go to a city called Tarshish, far to the west. He thought he was very safe now, and he feared no longer that he should have to go to Nineveh. He felt so safe that he went down into the ship and soon fell fast asleep.

But God knew all about Jonah's plans, and God was not willing for his prophet to disobey him. He had called Jonah to go to preach to the heathen people in Nineveh. He sent a storm on the Sea which threatened to wreck the ship. The sailors became frightened and they called on their gods to quiet the winds; but the winds blew harder than before. They did not know what to do. Finally the captain went down into the ship and found Jonah lying there asleep.

The captain woke Jonah and told him to call upon his God for help in this time of trouble. But Jonah did not feel much like asking God to help him when he was running away from the work that God had told him to do. His conscience began to trouble him and when he saw the strong waves crash against the ship and toss it about in the water, he feared that he would never again see dry land.

When the storm continued to rage, the sailors decided that one of them on board the ship must be the cause of the trouble. They decided to cast lots and see which one the lot would fall. And the lot fell on Jonah.

Jonah was a stranger among them and the sailors wondered what terrible thing he had done. They gathered round him and asked, "Tell us, who are you and what is your business?" And Jonah told them that he was from the land of Israel and that he worshiped the God who had made the sea and the dry land. At once they were afraid because they did not know about such a great God, and they thought surely he was angry. Jonah told them how he had tried to run away from God, and they believed that God was trying to punish him. Jonah, too, believed that God had sent the storm on his account.

"What shall we do to you that the storm may cease?" asked the frightened men when they saw that their ship would soon be broken into pieces if the wind and waves continued to toss it about. Jonah answered, "Throw me overboard in the water, and then the storm will end." The sailors did not wish to treat Jonah so cruelly, but when they saw that all would be lost if they allowed him to remain on board the vessel, they picked him up and threw him into the sea.

God was not yet finished with Jonah. He had prepared a great fish, and the fish swallowed Jonah and carried him for three days and three nights before throwing him out onto the land. By that time Jonah was very willing to go to Nineveh and preach God's message to the people there.

When Jonah entered the city he began to cry out: "Within forty days Nineveh shall be destroyed!" On and on he went, for Nineveh was a great city, and in every street where he passed he cried out the same words. And the people stopped to listen to his strange message. They had never seen a prophet of God before. Some of them ran to tell their King about Jonah's words, and the King was frightened. He rose from his throne and took off his rich garments and dressed himself in sackcloth. Then he sat down in ashes and asked for forgiveness of his sins. He commanded all the people of the city to do as he was doing, and to cry earnestly to God to spare their lives.

When Jonah finished preaching he went outside the great walls and waited to see the fire fall from the sky to burn up the enemies of the Israelites. Forty days passed by and no fire fell. The people believed Jonah's message and repented of their sins so God did not destroy their city. Jonah became very much displeased. He feared that people might call him a false prophet, and he wanted to die instead of go back to his own county again.

God taught Jonah a lesson by allowing a gourd-vine to grow up in one night and make a shelter for him from the burning heat of the sun. Then God caused a worm to destroy the gourd, and Jonah became very unhappy. Again he wished that he might die. So the Lord spoke to Jonah and said, "You were sorry to see the plant die, though you did not make it grow. And should I not have more pity on the people of Nineveh than you have on a plant?" Jonah learned that God looks upon people of every nation as being precious in his sight, even though they do not know how to worship Him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jehoash the Boy King

2nd Kings 12 to 2nd Kings 14:16

When Jehoshaphat died his eldest son Jehoram became king. His wife was Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and they we very wicked. Jehoram killed all his brothers in order to get the riches which his father had left to them. He built places in the mountains of Judah and in Jerusalem for the worship of Baal a false god.

He died after ruling for eight years and his son, Ahaziah, became the ruler. He, too, was very bad, and his rule was a short one. When he was killed, his mother saw that no one was left to take over the throne so she planned to be the ruler herself.

Ahaziah had some children, who were her grandsons, and she had other grandchildren too, but she decided that they must all be killed so that she could be made queen. Only one of the grandchildren escaped, a tiny baby named Jehoash. He was hidden away by his father's sister, and was kept hidden for years, in a set of chambers built round the Temple.

Athaliah became the queen, and since she was so willful and powerful, even those who did not approve of her had to pretend that they did. She established the worship of Baal again and even took some of the Temple treasures and placed them in the House of Baal.

Jehoash remained hidden in the temple for six years and was taught all about God and the laws of God by his aunt and her husband, who was the High Priest of the Temple. This is why he could remain hidden in the Temple chambers for so long.

The queen and her court were so wicked that the High Priest of the Temple decided that the only way to save the entire nation from destruction would be to place the young prince on the throne.

He made his plans carefully. He called the Guardsmen and soldiers of the temple together and gave them weapons which had been hidden by David in the Temple. Jehoash was brought out of his hiding place and the assembled gathering proclaimed him king.

Athaliah was very angry when she learned what had happened, but it was too late. She was driven out of the Temple; and as she was trying to escape, she was killed in the excitement.

Jehoash was a good king. He restored the Temple that needed to b repaired because of neglect,and he brought the people back to the worship of God. Jehoash was seven years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty years in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Story of Elisha

2nd Kings 2:15 to 2nd Kings 13

When the young men who were in the schools of the prophets saw Elisha divide the waters of Jordan, they knew that God was with him, as He had been with Elijah they came and bowed down to the ground before him, to do him honor.

They, as well as Elisha, had seen Elijah taken up by the fiery chariot but they thought that God might perhaps have carried him, in that way, to some other part of the country.

So they begged Elisha to let fifty of them go and seek him. Elisha at first forbade their doing so, but at last he gave them his consent. So they looked for Elijah for three days. But they did not find him because he was with God in heaven.

Then the people of Jericho came to Elisha, complaining that, though the situation of their city was beautiful, as he saw, the water was almost poisonous, and the soil was barren.

So he told them to bring him a new bottle, with a little salt in it. And when it was brought, he went to the spring where the water that supplied the neighborhood rose, and throwing the salt into it, he declared that God had taken away the filth from the water, so that from that time neither men nor cattle would be injured by drinking it, nor would it any longer render the soil unproductive, as it had done.

After this, Elisha went to Bethel and when he was near the city, some young men came out ridiculing and insulting him and they mockingly told him "go up," as his master had done.

This was a shocking sin, for it was turning into mockery that great miracle that God had just done, of carrying Elijah, living as he was, into heaven. Elisha knew that God's anger would fall upon them for such wickedness and, turning back toward the young men, he told them that they would be punished. And immediately two fierce female bears rushed out of the wood, and killed forty-two of them.

God enabled Elisha to do many miracles. He brought a dead child to life again. He healed the Syrian general, Naaman, of an incurable disease; fed a hundred of the prophets with a small quantity of bread; and did many other wonderful works.

When Elisha lay dying, Jehoash, king of Israel, came, and wept over him. Then Elisha told the king to shoot an arrow out of the window, and afterward strike the ground with the whole quiver-full, to show the king that he should overcome his enemies, the Syrians.

When he had done this, Elisha died.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Elijah Taken To Heaven

1st Kings 18:41 to 2nd Kings 2:14

Elijah returned with Ahab to Jezreel, a beautiful place where the king had a palace. Jezebel threatened to kill the prophet so he fled for his life out of Israel, into the kingdom of Judah, to Beersheba.

There he left his servant, while he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. Here, weary and worn out with his troubles, he lay down to sleep under a juniper-tree, and begged God to let him die.

While he slept, an angel touched him, bidding him to rise and eat and when he looked, he saw a cake baked on the coals, and a bottle of water by his side. So he ate and drank, and then lay down again.

A second time the angel touched him, and told him rise and eat and that food which God had sent him sustained him for forty days and nights, while he traveled through the wilderness to Mount Horeb. And there, after storm, and earthquake, and fire, God appeared to him in a wonderful manner.

The time came when God would take Elijah to heaven without dying like other men. As he and Elisha,, who was to succeed him as prophet, went on their way, Elijah, knowing what God was about to do for him, tried to persuade Elisha to leave him to go on alone.

But Elisha clung lovingly to his master, and would not leave him. At Bethel and Jericho, scholars of the prophets, who lived there, came out to them, asking Elisha if he knew that God would that day take away his master from him. Elisha answered them, "Yes, I know ;" and again Elijah would have sent him away, but he would not go.

They traveled together till they reached the river, where Elijah wrapped his mantle together, struck the waters, and they were divided, standing on each hand, so that he and Elisha passed over on dry ground.

As they still went on, suddenly there appeared in the air a chariot of fire, with horses of fire, which, parting the two asunder, carried up Elijah in a whirlwind to heaven.

When Elisha saw it, he cried after him, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen !" Then he took the mantle that fell from Elijah as he went up, and turned back to the Jordan and as he stood on its bank, he struck the waters, exclaiming, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?"

Then the waters were divided as they had been before and Elisha went over on dry land.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Elijah Restores the Widow's Son

1st Kings 17:17 to 1st Kings 18:40

Elijah was with the widow of Zarephath, her son fell ill and died. His mother feared it was for some sin of hers that her child was taken from her, and that it was the prophet who had caused his illness.

Elijah told her to bring her son to him and then, lying down with the child on his own bed, he prayed earnestly that God would let its soul come into it again. God heard his prayer, and brought the child to life again and Elijah carried him down to his mother.

Elijah stayed there for three years and six months. God then told Elijah go again to Ahab, for He was now about to send rain upon the earth. At this time Ahab, and Obadiah, the governor of his household, a man who worshiped God, had gone in different directions to seek grass for the king's horses and mules.

As Obadiah went on his way, Elijah met him, and told him to tell his master where he might find him. Ahab, thought it was he that had brought famine upon the kingdom and had angrily sought him in all countries.

Obadiah was unwilling to carry Elijah's message, for he feared that as soon as he had left him, God might command him to go to some other place, and then, when Ahab came and found no prophet there, he himself might be put to death for having misled the king.

Elijah assured him that he would show himself to Ahab that day and then Obadiah went to tell him.

When Ahab met Elijah, he arrogantly asked whether he were not the man that troubled Israel. Elijah answered that it was not he, but Ahab and his family that had brought affliction upon the nation by their wickedness.

He told the king to gather together all the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel, where he would offer sacrifice to God, and they to Baal; and the god whose sacrifice was consumed by fire from heaven should be acknowledged to be the true God.

Ahab did this. The priests of Baal built their altar, and from morning to evening kept crying, "O Baal, hear us!" There was no answer, their false god could do nothing for them!

Then Elijah prepared his sacrifice and he called upon the Lord God, fire came down from heaven, that burnt up the sacrifice, and the wood, and even the stones of the altar. All the people bowed to the earth, exclaiming, "The Lord He is the God! The Lord He is the God!"

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Elijah Fed by Ravens

1st Kings 12:16 to 1st Kings 17

Soon after the separation of the twelve tribes the kingdom of Israel fell into idolatry. Jeroboam, its first king, set up golden calves in Dan and Bethel, the two extremities of his dominions, to prevent his people going up to Jerusalem (which belonged to the kingdom of Judah) to worship God.

Even though the people worshiped these images, they had not entirely rejected the true God. It was under Ahab, the sixth king, a weak and wicked man, whose wife, Jezebel, a bad woman, that the worship of the true God was put down, and that of Baal established in its place.

God was angry both with Ahab and his people for their idolatry and persecution of his priests, who were put to death in great numbers. As a punishment for these sins, He sent Elijah to tell Ahab that for three and a half years no dew or rain would fall in the land of Israel.

As soon as Elijah had foretold this God told him to hide himself from the rage of Ahab in a certain place near where He had commanded the ravens to feed him.

Elijah went and dwelt by the brook, which had water for him to drink while the ravens as God had said, brought him food in the morning and evening. As no rain had fallen, in time the brook dried up. God told him to leave his present hiding-place, and go to Zarephath, near Sidon for He had commanded a widow who lived there to provide for him.

Elijah immediately went to Zarephath, when he came to the gate of the city, he saw the woman gathering sticks. He called her, and asked her to give him some water to drink and as she was going for it, he begged her also to bring him a morsel of bread.

The poor woman turned round, and told him she had no bread. All that she had was a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a bottle, and she had just been gathering wood to cook it for herself and her son after they had eaten it, they must lie down to die, for she did not know where to get more.

Elijah told her do as she had said, but to make him a little cake first, and afterward for herself for God, he assured her, would cause her meal and oil to last till the famine was over. The woman made him the little cake first and he, and she, with her family, was fed out of the handful meal and vessel of oil for many days. Neither of them failed till the day when God sent rain upon the earth and the famine had ended.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Queen of Sheba's Visit to Solomon

1st Kings 10:1-13

Solomon had vast treasures of gold and silver, and precious things of every kind. His people also were rich and happy. Solomon worshiped and served God faithfully and God, as He had promised, blessed him greatly.

When David had wanted to build a temple, for God's worship at Jerusalem, God had told him that his son Solomon should build it. So, when he came to the throne, Solomon built this temple of the richest materials, and in the most costly manner.

Cedar, olive-tree wood, fine brass, pure gold, silver, and precious stones and craftsmen from Tyre, who were famous for their skill, wrought them for him.

The Temple was built on Mount Moriah and took seven years to build. When it was finished, Solomon dedicated it to God in a solemn assembly of the people and the Lord God filled it with His glory, as He had done the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

The wisdom of Solomon was celebrated not only among his own people, but in all parts of the East, whose kings sent messengers to him, that they might hear it for themselves.

The Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem, with a caravan of people, and camels carrying gold, precious stones, and spices, as presents for the great king, so that she might know, by conversing with Solomon, whether he was so wise as had been told her.

When she heard his wisdom, and had seen the splendor of his court and palace, she was so overpowered that she fainted. She said to the king that before she came she did not believe what had been told her in her own land of his wisdom and greatness, but now she saw that not even half of it had been made known to her. Happy were they who served before him, and continually heard his wisdom. She thanked God for having given such a king to his people Israel. When Solomon had also given her costly presents, she and her caravan returned to their own country.

As Solomon grew older, instead of serving and worshiping God as he had done, he began to worship false gods. God, as He had warned let trouble come upon him and his kingdom, so that, after his death, ten of the tribes were taken away from his son, and set up into a separate kingdom, that of Israel, which was never again united to the kingdom of Judah.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Judgment of Solomon

1st Kings 3:16-28

Solomon was the greatest king that ever reigned in Israel and was also one the wisest man that ever lived. When he first came to the throne, God appeared to him one night in a dream, and asked what gift He should bestow upon him.

Solomon prayed that He would give him wisdom to govern his people. God was pleased that he had asked wisdom instead of riches, or conquests, or long life. He told Solomon that because he had done so, not only would He make him wiser than any man who ever lived, but that he should be rich and famous above all kings of the earth. If he would obey Him in all things, long life should also be added to the other good gifts which were to be his.

In those days it was the custom for kings to sit in some public place, where their subjects as had wrongs to complain might plead their cause before them, and obtain justice.

One day two women came before Solomon. One of them told him that she and the other woman both lived in one house, and each had a very young child. In the night the child belonging to the other woman died, and its mother exchanged it for the living one, putting her own dead child in her neighbor's bed as she lay sleeping, and taking the living child to herself.

In the morning, the mother of the living child discovered that the dead child was not her child but the woman whose child was dead would not give up the one that she had stolen. The two women stood there before the king, each one contending that the living child was hers, and that the dead child belonged to the other.

Solomon asked for a sword, when it was brought, he told them to divide the living child in two, and give half of him to each of the women. The woman who had falsely claimed the child made no objection to this decision. But the real mother could not bear it. Rather than have her son killed, she was willing to lose him altogether and she cried out not to harm the child and to give the child to the other woman.

The king saw at once which of them the child belonged and he said, "Give her the living child, for she is its mother."

All the people of Israel, when they heard of this judgment of Solomon, knew that God had indeed given him wisdom to do justice among his subjects and they held him in great awe and reverence.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Solomon Is Crowned King

1st Kings 2:1-11

When Absalom died the people were anxious to bring the king home again, they were so eager, that they quarreled among themselves because the men of Judah, David's own tribe, were the first to bring him on his way to Jerusalem.

The quarrel ended and the men of Israel again revolted from the king. Joab who was a skillful soldier, though he was a very bad man, succeeded in putting down the insurrection.

David's troubles were not over yet. First famine and then bad diseases in which seventy thousand of the people died, came upon his kingdom.

When David was old and feeble, near death, his son Adonijah set himself up to be king after his father instead of Solomon, whom God had appointed to succeed David.

Adonijah had taken upon himself royal status. Joab and other officers of the kingdom were with him, and the people acknowledged him as king. News of this was brought to David, who at once decided to prevent disputes about the succession after his death by having Solomon crowned during his own lifetime.

He called Nathan the priest, Zadok the prophet, and Benaiah the captain of his guard, and told them, with a number of his officers to take Solomon, and, place him upon the king's mule (which it was death for any subject to ride), bring him down to Gihon, a fountain near Jerusalem, and there, with sound of trumpet, anoint, and proclaim him king over Israel.

They took him there and proclaimed him king the people followed and shouted "God save King Solomon!" till the city rang again.

Adonijah and his friends were at this time rejoicing together and while they were feasting, one of his soldiers came and told them that David had made Solomon king of Israel.

When they heard this, they were so frightened that each one ran away as quietly as he could. Adonijah, fearing that his life might be in danger for attempting to seize the kingdom, fled to the altar for protection. Anyone who laid hold of the horns of the altar was considered under God's protection, and therefore safe from his enemies.

Solomon sent for him, promising him safety if he submitted to him. Adonijah went and did homage to his brother, who let him go home peaceably. Soon after this David died, and was buried at Jerusalem.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

David is King

2nd Samuel 1 to 2nd Samuel 18

Saul was severely wounded in his last battle with the Philistines and he killed himself for fear of being captured by his enemies.

After his death the tribe of Judah chose David for their king, and he reigned for eight years. At the end of that time he became king over the whole Israel. He fought and having won, took back Jerusalem from the Jebusites, who had got possession of it. He made it his capital city, and lived there in a fine palace which he built for himself.

He really wanted to build a temple where the ark of God might be placed, and God might be worshiped with more splendor than He had been in the Tabernacle. God was pleased that David desired to do this, but told him that not he, but his son Solomon, who was to succeed him, would build the Temple.

David had many children, and among these his son Absalom was his favorite. He was very handsome and not only his father, but all the people of Israel loved him. Absalom was a vain, worthless young man, and caused his father much sorrow by his wicked conduct. He murdered one of his half brothers. He had been banished for a very long time and then when he was permitted to come again into the king's presence, he very soon raised a rebellion against him, in order to seize the crown for himself. Many people joined Absalom in his rebellion, that David fearing for his life was forced to escape from Jerusalem to the wilderness.

The good king sorely grieved that his favorite son would want to kill him. But he trusted that God, who had so often delivered him, would do so now. He soon drew round him forces enough to meet those of his rebellious son, and a pitched battle was fought between them.

The troops of Absalom were defeated and slaughtered and Absalom tried to from escape from the battlefield. His mule carried him under a large oak-tree and his hair caught in the branches, and the animal galloping off, left him hanging there.

One of David's army, who saw this, instead of releasing him, ran and told Joab, David's chief captain, who, though he had received a strict order from David to spare the life of his son, hastened to him, and cruelly killed him by thrusting three darts through his heart.

When word was brought to David that Absalom was slain, he wept and mourned for him, exclaiming, "Oh, my son Absalom, my son! I would have died for you!"

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

David and Jonathan

1st Samuel 20 to 1st Samuel 26

Saul sent soldiers to try to find and capture David, but they failed to find him. Jonathan meanwhile kept trying to save his friend. When Saul threw his spear at David in his anger, Jonathan realized that his efforts at pleading for David his friend were useless.

Jonathan and David bid each other farewell with a loving embrace. David went into the wilderness, where he soon gathered together a band of followers.

Saul continued his fierce pursuit of David, his life was twice in David's power, who refused to hurt Saul, though his followers urged him to kill the king. On one of these occasions, David, to prove how easily he might have killed Saul if he wanted to, cut off a piece of his robe when he was asleep.

When the king awoke, David showed it to him and told him that if he desired to take his life he could have. Saul's hard heart was softened by his appeal, and he said to David, "You are more righteous than I" because David had returned him good for evil he had shown him.

Saul told him that he knew David should be king after him. He begged that his sons would not be put to death when David came to the throne. David solemnly promised this. Saul stopped pursuing him but David, not daring to trust himself with him, went back to his stronghold in the wilderness.

Saul's reconciliation with David did not last long. He was soon hunting him again with an army of three thousand men. He had pitched his camp in the wilderness; and David, with Abishai, one of his followers, came down to it at night. The people were all asleep, and Saul's tent was set up in the midst of the encampment.

They sneaked to the place where Saul lay sleeping with his spear stuck into the ground by his pillow, surrounded by his guard. Abishai wanted to kill Saul but David would not allow him. To show Saul once again how completely he had been at his mercy, David took the spear and water-bottle away with him to his camp.

When David returned to his camp, he called out tauntingly to Abner the captain of Saul’s army, and the king's guard, asking them if they were not pretty defenders of their master. He told them to send someone to fetch the king's spear from him.

Saul knew the voice and when David complained to him of his merciless pursuit of one who had so often spared his life, he gave his word that he would do David no more harm.

Monday, March 27, 2006

David Plays For Saul

1st Samuel 18 to 1 Samuel 19

Saul and David, and the whole army returned home triumphant after the defeat of the Philistines. The women of Israel as they passed along came out of the cities to meet them with dances and songs of joy.

They danced and played on instruments singing "Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands!”

Saul was very displeased because they were giving more honor to David than they did to their king. From that day he began to treat David with jealousy and distrust.

From the time Saul had sinned against God as to cause Him to give the kingdom of Israel after his death to another, he had become liable to fits of sadness and severe gloom. God had withdrawn His Spirit from him, and he was miserable, almost mad. His servants, who were anxious to comfort him, thought that music would soothe the distressed mind of the king. David played skillfully upon the harp and they decided to have him play before Saul.

Whenever David played Saul was refreshed, and became cheerful again. He had grown envious of David's fame and when David was playing before him, he threw a spear at him to kill him. David, however, escaped unhurt. Saul then tried in various ways to destroy him by means of his enemies the Philistines, setting him on duties that seemed as if they must cost him his life.

God preserved David from the Philistines, and from Saul's own servant, whom the wicked king had commanded to put him to death. Jonathan, Saul's son, having sent David, whom he loved, to a place of safety, pleaded with his father for him, reminding Saul how faithful David had been to him, and what good service he had done the kingdom by killing the Philistine who had so frightened them all. Saul gave in to the pleading of his son, and promised that he would do David no harm.

David returned and served Saul as before.

War soon broke out again between the Israelites and the Philistines, and David again defeated them with great slaughter. This roused all Saul's ill-will against him. Saul was in one of his fits of gloom and David was trying to cheer him with his harp, rose and threw a spear at him with such force that, as David slipped aside, it stuck fast in the wall.

That night David escaped and never returned.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

David and Goliath

1st Samuel 17:1-54

The Israelites and the Philistines were now at war. The two armies were posted on two mountains, with a valley between them.

A giant, named Goliath of Gath, came out of the camp of the Philistines, and challenged any one of the Israelites to come and fight him. If he killed the Israelite, then the Israelites were to serve the Philistines, if the Israelite killed him, then the Philistines would serve them.

Goliath was a huge giant, nine or ten feet high and was covered from head to foot in heavy brazen armor. The staff of his spear was very thick. For forty days this terrible giant came out, defying all the Israelites. Even Saul, the king, who was a brave man, was afraid of him.

The three eldest sons of Jesse were in Saul's army; and their father told David, who was tending his sheep at Bethlehem to go to the camp with some parched corn, and bread for his brothers. He arrived there just as the two armies were advancing to battle. He was talking to his brothers when out came Goliath the giant, defying the Israelites, who ran away at the very sight of him.

David was angry seeing the armies of God's chosen people being mocked and taunted by a heathen. He asked those around him what should be done for the man who killed him. They told him that he would have honors and riches, and that he would marry the king's daughter.

Saul, heard what David had said and sent for him. David told the king that he would go and fight the giant.

Saul reminded him that he was very young, and that the Philistine had been a soldier all his life. David answered that he had killed a lion and a bear that had attacked his flock, and he knew that God would also help him to kill this great giant.

Saul agreed to allow David to fight Goliath. He gave him armor and a sword, but David refused them. He took only his staff and sling, with five smooth stones in his shepherd's bag, and went to meet the giant, who came on cursing and taunting him.

David, ran forward, took a stone from his bag, and slang it at the giant, whom it struck in the forehead! The great giant Goliath fell on his face to the ground, and David cut off his head with his own sword.

The Philistines took to flight when they saw that the giant was dead.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Story of Saul

1 Samuel 9 to 1 Samuel 10:25

Saul was the son of Kish. He was tall, handsome and well built. From his shoulders upward, he was bigger than any of his people.

One day the donkeys of Kish strayed away and were lost. Kish said to his son, "Take one of the servants with you and go find the donkeys." They searched and searched through the countryside but could not find the donkeys.

Saul began to think of returning home because they had been away for a long time, and he feared that his father would be anxious for their safety. The servant suggested that they go to see a wise man who lived in a city near by and who had foretold many things which had come to pass. Together they went to the city and they met some maidens who told them that a sacrifice was being made that day and that the prophet, whose name was Samuel, would be there to bless it.

The Lord had told Samuel that he would send him a man from the land of Benjamin to be the captain and king of all the people of Israel. When Saul appeared, Samuel pointed him out and said to the assembled people, "There is the man."

Saul said to Samuel, "Come up with me to the high place. You shall eat with me today, and tomorrow I will let you go and you shall tell me everything that is in your heart. As for the donkeys they were found three days ago."

Saul was puzzled because he could not understand the honor that was being bestowed upon him, but Samuel gave him no chance to protest. He took Saul and his servant to the feast, and gave Saul the choicest portion to eat.

The next morning Samuel anointed Saul, and led him before all the people and proclaimed him the new king. Saul tried to hide, but as he stood head and shoulders above all the other people, it was easy to see him. The people shouted for their King of Israel.

Friday, March 17, 2006

David Is Anointed King

1st Samuel 8 to 1st Samuel 16:13

When Samuel was very old, he made his sons judges, with himself, over Israel. But his sons took bribes, and did other things that they ought not to have done. The people of Israel became so unhappy that they came to Samuel and asked him to give them a king in place of him and his sons.

Samuel was grieved at this request, he prayed to God to know what he should do. God was displeased with the people for wishing to be governed by a king, like other nations, when He Himself was their king. God told Samuel whom he should choose. This was Saul, the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin.

Samuel anointed Saul King over Israel and when he was brought before them, all the people shouted, "God save the king!"

At first Saul was a good king, and did all that God commanded him. But he soon became disobedient; and as he turned away from God. For this God decided that a worthy king would be chosen after him and succeed to the throne in place of Saul's children.

God told Samuel to take a horn of oil, and go to Jesse, an Israelite who lived at Bethlehem, and anoint one of his sons, whom He would point out to him to be the future king over Israel.
Samuel was afraid of doing this because he thought that if Saul were to find out he would put him to death. God told him go and offer a sacrifice at Bethlehem, and He would show him what to do.

Samuel went and called the chief men of the town, together with Jesse and his family, to the sacrifice. Jesse made his sons pass before Samuel. When he saw the eldest son, Eliab, a tall, fine-looking man, he thought he must be the one whom God would choose to be anointed king. God said He would not have Eliab because He looked at the heart of man, not at his outward appearance. Seven of Jesse's sons one after another, came before Samuel, none of them were chosen by God.

Samuel asked if all Jesse's children were there. Jesse answered he had one more son, David, the youngest, who was away keeping sheep. Jesse sent for David. He was a handsome youth. As soon as he came, God told Samuel to anoint him because he was the one whom He had chosen.

Samuel anointed David king. The Spirit of God then came upon David, and remained with him from that day.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Samuel's First Prophesy

1st Samuel 3 to 1st Samuel 4:18

The high priest Eli had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, and both were priests. They were very wicked men and when the people who came to worship complained to Eli of the wickedness of the young men, he reproved them so gently that they gave no heed to what he said. God was displeased with him for not using his authority to make them do better.

One night, when Samuel had laid down to sleep, he heard a voice calling him and thinking it was Eli, he got up and ran to him, to find out what he wanted with him. Eli told him to go and lie down again because he had not called him.

Again the voice called "Samuel," and again Samuel ran to Eli, who told him he had not called. The third time that Samuel heard the voice, and ran to Eli thinking it was he, Eli became aware that it was God Himself who was calling to the child.

Eli told him go and lie down again, and if the voice called him once more, to answer, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." Then, when he was laid down again, the voice called as before, "Samuel, Samuel."

Samuel answered as Eli had told him, God told him that He was going to punish Eli and his sons in a fearful manner, because the sons had made themselves hated for their wickedness and profanity, and Eli had not prevented it as he should have done.

In the morning Samuel rose, and, as was his job, he opened the doors of the Temple. He did not tell Eli what God had said to him in the night, he was afraid of doing so, it was so very sad.

Eli, however, told him to come to him and tell him what God had told him. When the poor old man knew that it was God's will to destroy him and his family, he only said, "It is the Lord, let Him do what seems good."

Very soon after, the Israelites were fighting against the Philistines, and thinking they should be sure of victory if the ark of God were with them, they brought it into their camp from Shiloh. But for their sins God allowed them to be defeated, the ark was taken, and Hophni and Phinehas, together with thirty thousand of the Israelites, were slain. Poor old Eli meanwhile sat by the wayside, waiting for tidings of the battle.

When word was brought to him that his sons were killed and the ark been taken, he fell of his seat backward, and broke his neck. Some time after Eli's death, Samuel judged Israel in his place.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hannah Dedicates Samuel To God

1st Samuel 1 to 1st Samuel 2:21

Fifteen judges ruled the people of Israel during a period of four hundred and fifty years, from the death of Joshua, till Saul was chosen as their first king. Samuel was the last of these judges, he was a priest and a great prophet, as well as a ruler of the people. His father and mother were Elkanah and Hannah.

They were very good people, and year by year went up from the place where they lived to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle had been set up, to worship and offer sacrifice to God. This all the Israelites were obliged to do after they were settled in the Promised Land.

Hannah had no children and she was very sad, she prayed to God, when worshiping at Shiloh, to give her a son, promising that if He would, she would dedicate him (that is, give him up) to the Lord God, in the service of the Tabernacle, from his childhood.

God granted her request and when the child was born she called him Samuel (which means "Asked of God"), because he had been given to her in answer to her prayer.

The first time after his birth that Elkanah and his family went up, as usual, to worship at Shiloh, Hannah did not go with them. She told her husband should not do so till Samuel was weaned, and then she would take him with her, and leave him with the priests, who might train him to serve God in the Tabernacle.

Elkanah told her to do as she thought best in the matter. So when Samuel was weaned, she took him with her to Shiloh. When she had offered sacrifice to God, she told Eli the high-priest, who was also at that time judge in Israel, that she was the woman whom some time before he had seen praying in the Temple (as the Tabernacle was also called), and that Samuel was the child she had prayed for. And now, as she had promised, she was come to give him to God, that he might be His priest.

When Eli had given his blessing to Hannah and her husband, they returned home, leaving Samuel with him.

The child served in the ministry of the Temple, dressed in a white linen garment that the priests wore. It was called an ephod. Every year that his mother came up to worship at Shiloh, she brought him a little coat, that she had herself made for him.

As Samuel grew, God blessed him and Eli, who was very old and nearly blind, was fond of this good little child whom everybody loved because he was good.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Naomi and Ruth

Ruth 1-4

In the days when the Judges ruled over Israel, there was a famine in the land. A man named Elimelech, who lived at Bethlehem-Judah, together with his wife Naomi, and his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, left their home on account of it, and went to live in the country of the Moabites.

While they were there Elimelech died, leaving Naomi and her sons, who married two women of the country, named Orpah and Ruth. In about ten years the sons also died. Naomi hearing that the famine which had driven them from home had passed away, decided to return home with her daughters-in-law.

They had gone far before Naomi, remembering that she was now poor, as well as a widow, thought it would be better for her daughters-in-law to stay among their own people than to go with her to what was to them a strange land. She kissed them, and told them return to their mother's house, praying God to bless them for their kindness to her and her sons.

Her daughters wept, and refused to leave her, she urged them to do so, till Orpah yielded, and, bidding Naomi a loving farewell, went back to her own home in Moab.

Ruth, still clung to her mother-in-law; and when Naomi would have had her follow her sister-in-law, who was gone to her own people and the gods of her country (the Moabites where heathens, and worshiped the idol Baal), she answered her, " Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! for wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Wherever you die I will die, and there be buried.”

Naomi saw how steadfastly Ruth loved her, and she stopped trying to convince her to return. They went on together to Bethlehem-Judah. When they arrived there all the people of the place were surprised to see them, asking, "Is not this Naomi?" Naomi, full of sorrow for her dead husband and sons, and the poverty that had now fallen upon her, answered them, "Call me not Naomi (which signifies "Pleasant"), but Mara ( that is, "Bitterness"), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”

It was the time of barley harvest when Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem. They were so very poor that Ruth went out into the fields to work with the reapers. Ruth happened to work in a field belonging to Boaz. He was a very rich man.

Boaz, seeing her, asked the man who was over the reapers who she was. The man answered that she was Ruth the Moabitess, who had come to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi, and that she had asked him to let her work in the field. Boaz then spoke kindly to Ruth, and told her not to go to any other fields to work. He told her, when she was thirsty, to help herself to the drink that was brought to refresh his servants.

Ruth felt grateful to Boaz, and asked him how it was that he showed so much kindness to a stranger. He told her that he had heard how good a daughter she had been to Naomi and that she had left her own father, and mother, and country, to come with her into a strange land. He prayed that the God of Israel would bless and reward her.

At meal-time he told her to eat and drink with the reapers. So she sat beside them and Boaz himself set food before her. When she returned to the fields to work he told the reapers to let some handfuls of grain fall on purpose for her, that she might gather the most.

Ruth went home in the evening and she gave her mother-in-law some of her own dinner, which she had kept for her and then she beat out the barley she had collected. There was so much barley that Naomi asked her where she had worked that day. Ruth answered, in the field of Boaz. Naomi was glad when she heard this. She told Ruth that he was their near relation and she must cleverly try to see the great man again, and make him understand that the poor gleaner was nearly related to him.

Ruth did as Naomi told her. Boaz knew who she was, he blessed her and said that he would do for her all that the law of the Israelites required from him as her nearest kinsman. He called together the chief men of the city, and before them, as witnesses, bought back the piece of land that had belonged to Elimelech, and Ruth, as the widow of his son, was the next heir.

He took Ruth for his wife and their son Obed was the grandfather of David, who was afterward the great King of Israel.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Samson and the Gates of Gaza

Judges 14 to Judges 16

Samson married the daughter of one of the Philistines. Her father took her away from him, and, in revenge, he killed great numbers of them, and destroyed their crops and vineyards.

The Philistines then came out in great force against the men of Judah, and demanded that Samson should be given up to them. The men accordingly came to Samson, and said they must give him up to the enemy.

Samson let them bind him with strong cords, and take him to the Philistines. But at that moment God gave him strength to snap the cords and, snatching up the jaw-bone of a donkey, he killed one thousand of them!

After this, Samson went to Gaza, a city of the Philistines, and at night the people shut him in, saying to each other that they would kill him in the morning. But in the middle of the night he got up, tore down the gates of the city, and, throwing them upon his shoulders, carried them to the top of a hill. His enemies now saw that they could not overcome him by force, so they bribed a woman to get from him the secret of his strength.

Samson deceived both her and them several times, but at last told her the truth, that if his hair were cut off, he would not be stronger than any other man. When he was asleep, Delilah cut off his hair and then, calling the Philistines, they took him, blinded him and put him to work grinding corn.

As he toiled in prison, God gave his strength to him again. One day, when the great men of the Philistines were going to worship their false god Dagon, they made Samson entertain them. He begged the boy who led him in to let him rest against the pillars of the building where they were assembled.

Samson prayed to God that He would once more enable him to destroy his enemies. He held onto the pillars, and, bending forward with all his might, pulled the building down, crushing both himself and thousands of the Philistines. Thus it happened that he killed more in his death than in life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Samson and the Lion

Judges 13 to Judges 14:6

The children of Israel made many other conquests after the fall of Jericho. On one occasion God caused both the sun and the moon to stand still in the heavens, that the day might be long enough for them to complete the defeat of their enemies. They had possession of almost the whole land of Canaan, and they divided it by lot among their twelve tribes, the descendants of Israel's twelve sons. Then God gave them rest from the attacks of their enemies round about them and they served Him faithfully.

After the death of Joshua, and those who had come with him into the promised land, the people began to forget God, and to worship false gods. So, to punish them, God allowed their enemies to distress them on every hand.

From time to time, He took pity upon them, and gave them rulers, called judges, under whom they were victorious in war. But, as soon as the judge was dead, they returned to their evil ways; and then God again let them fall under the power of their enemies.

The Philistines were the most powerful of nations that oppressed the Israelites and to help them against these, God gave to them a judge named Samson. Before he was born, an Angel appeared to his mother and told her that her son should begin the deliverance of the people from the Philistines. She did not know it was really an Angel, but told her husband that a man, who looked like an Angel of God, had said these things to her. Manoah, her husband, prayed to God that the man might come again, and tell them how they should bring up their child.

So God sent the Angel again, and they still thought he was a man. When they began to dress food for him, the angel told them offer it to God as a burnt-offering and when they did so, he went up, as it were, to heaven, in the flame that rose from the altar. Then they knew it was God's angel with whom they had been speaking.

When their child was born they called him Samson, and did all that the Angel had said they should do with him. God blessed Samson, and made him the strongest man that ever lived. One day, when he was going with his father and mother into the country of the Philistines, a lion sprang out roaring against him and God gave him such strength that he seized it with his hands and tore it to pieces.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Jephthah's Daughter

Judges 10 to Judges 11

In the land of Israel east of Jordan there lived a man named Jephthah. His brothers despised him and drove him away from their father's home. He went to live in the land called Tob where he became a strong man, and his brave deeds were told by many people and even his brothers heard about them.

At this time the Israelites were in great trouble again. They had stopped going to the tabernacle at Shiloh to worship God. Everywhere in the land they were bowing down before the gods that other nations worshiped. The very nations whose gods they were serving began to trouble them! They began to make war against the Israelites and to take away their riches. The Ammonites came from the east and the Philistines came from the west and ruled over the Israelites. The Ammonites even threatened to take away the homes of the Israelites and to drive them out of their country. This was an unhappy time for the people who had once enjoyed the blessings of God.

After suffering for eighteen years under the rule of their enemies, the Israelites remembered how God had long ago given them all the land and had made them stronger than all the nations who lived around them. So they cried to God for help, and they expected God to send a deliverer, just as he had done at other times when they were in trouble.

God was very displeased with the people, they had turned away from Him to worship the gods of other nations. He said, "Let the gods that you have chosen instead of me help you out of your trouble. I will not be your God when trouble comes upon you if you will not worship me when you have rest from your enemies."

The Israelites became very sorry for having sinned against the true God. They saw that the gods they were serving could never help them at all. They knew that the true God whom their fathers had worshiped could deliver them out of the power of their enemies. So they tore down their idols and began to serve the Lord. They confessed their sins to the Lord and asked Him again to help them.

When the Lord saw that the people were really sorry for their sins, he began to pity them. He told them to gather their soldiers together at a place called Mizpah, to fight against the Ammonites. But they had no leader. Finally some one remembered Jephthah whose brave deeds had been told through all the land. They sent quickly for him to come to lead them to the battle against the Ammonites. Jephthah was not willing to come, not until his brothers had promised to treat him kindly would Jephthah return again with his family to his old home and help his people out of their trouble.

Jephthah knew that only if God were with him he could be victorious over the Ammonites. So he asked God to help him, and he promised to give as a present to God the first thing that should meet him on his return home from the battle. This was not a wise promise, Jephthah did not know what might come first to greet him on his return.

The Ammonites sent a message to the Israelites and wanted them to give up all the land east of the Jordan River, they said this land belonged to them first.. Jephthah sent back an answer that God would be the judge, for he had given the land to the people of Israel. The battle began and the Israelites won the victory.

News of the victory reached Jephthah's home before he returned with the army. Everybody was glad because God had helped them again. Jephthah's daughter, his only child, came hurrying out to meet her father, singing for joy. But her song ended quickly when she saw her father's troubled face. He had remembered his promise to the Lord. Now he believed that he must give his only child as an offering to God. How sorry he felt because he had made such an unwise promise! He tore his clothes and cried out in distress. Then he told his daughter about the promise that he had made.

The people of other nations sometimes gave their children to their gods but the law of Moses forbade the Israelites doing such a thing. Perhaps Jephthah had never heard that part of the law read, and he had often heard about the cruel custom of his heathen neighbors. He believed that he would need to keep his promise, although it was not a wise one. His daughter urged him to keep it. because God had given him the victory over their enemies. But first she asked for two months time to spend alone with her friends in the mountains, weeping because she must soon be taken away from them. Afterwards she returned again to her father that he might fulfill his promise to God.

Jephthah judged Israel for six years after his victory over the Ammonites, and then he died.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Story of Gideon

Judges 6 to Judges 7

The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and He delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years. The Israelites took refuge in dens and strongholds in the mountains, and in caves. At harvest time, when the crops which had been sown by the Israelites were ready for the reaping, the Midianites came with their numbers of camels and ate up the crops. They were so many of them that when they left, the land was bare, with no food for man or the animals.

The children of Israel cried out to God and wanted to know why this great trouble had come upon them, and He sent them a prophet to tell them that it was because He had brought them up out of Egypt, and had delivered them from all oppression, and He had told them not to worship the gods of the country in which they lived, for He was the Lord their God. They had not obeyed Him, and for this they were being punished.

There was a man among the Israelites who did not want to worship any but Yahweh. His name was Gideon, and one day as he sat threshing wheat by the wine-press to hide it from the Midianites. An angel of the Lord appeared and spoke to him, saying, "The Lord is with you, mighty man of valour and you have been chosen to save Israel."

The next day Gideon took ten of his servants and went up to the hill on which an altar had been erected to the false gods whom the people were worshiping. He threw down the false altars, and built an altar to God in the same place, and on it he made a burnt offering to God.

The next morning when the people saw what had been done, they cried out to one another. "Who has done this thing?" they shouted. The men of the city went to Joash, Gideon's father, and they asked him to send his son out, that he might be put to death. Gideon's father refused, saying, "Why should you plead for Baal? If he is a god, he should plead for himself against the one who has wronged him."

All the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, and called a great army together. Before he set out to save Israel, he wanted to be sure that he was the one chosen to do it, so he said to God: "If I am the one chosen to this task, I should like a sign. I will put this fleece of wool upon the earth. If the dew forms on the fleece, but not on the earth, I will know that it is indeed so."

God did so that night. Gideon returned to his army, and prepared for the battle. God told him that his army was far too large, and he asked Gideon to send home all who were fearful and afraid. So twenty-two thousand went home, and ten thousand remained. Yahweh said that it was still too large, and sent home all but three hundred.

That night Gideon went alone to the camp of the Midianites, and he heard one man telling of a strange dream. "I dreamed," said the man, " a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came to a tent, and smote it that it fell and overturned it, and the tent lay along." The other answered, "This is nothing else save that sword of Gideon, for into his hand God has delivered Midian and the entire host.”

Gideon returned to his camp. He called up his three hundred men, and gave each of them empty pitchers and lamps and trumpets. He then led them to the enemy camp. When they came to the camp, the three companies blew with their trumpets, broke the pitchers, so that the lights shone out, and shouted, "The sword of Yahweh and of Gideon." The Midianites were in utter confusion, and Gideon won an easy victory.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Joshua at Jericho

The Israelites only had to cross the River Jordan to enter the Promised land of Canaan.

Moses, for his sin at Meribah, where he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as he was told, had been forbidden to enter it with them. He was only allowed to see it at a distance, from the top of mount Nebo. So, by God's command, he appointed Joshua to be their guide and leader into it. After Moses had done this, he died. He was a hundred and twenty years old.

Then God told Joshua to prepare to pass over the Jordan into the land He had promised to the Israelites. But, before they did so, Joshua sent two spies to the city of Jericho, on the other side of the river.

The people of the city were very afraid of the Israelites, because they had heard what God had done for them from the time they left Egypt. When the King of Jericho sent men to take these spies prisoners, a woman of the city, here the spies had stayed, hid them. She begged that as her reward, when the city would be taken, her life, and the lives of all her family, might be saved.
They promised her this. She lived on the town wall and let them down by a cord through the window, and they returned to the camp.

When the people were about to pass over Jordan, the ark, in which were two tables of stones, was carried before them by twelve priests. As soon as they entered the river, its waters were divided, and all the Israelites went over on dry ground.

Then they camped at Gilgal, before Jericho. There God commanded that the armed men of the Israelites, with the priests carrying the ark, should go round the city for seven days with trumpets sounding. He told them that on the seventh day the walls would fall down before them.

Each day, for six days, as they had been told, they went once round the city. On the seventh day they went round it seven times, as God had said and at the seventh time, when the priest blew a loud blast with the trumpets, Joshua told the people to shout, for the city was theirs.

They gave a great shout, and the walls of the city fell down flat before them. They marched straight into it, and burned it to the ground.

Joshua remembered the woman Rahab, who had hidden the spies, and he brought her and her family in safety out of Jericho into the camp of the Israelites.

Balaam and the Donkey

Numbers 22

The Israelites had to fight their way to the Promised land, and God led them to victory in battle that the nations around were afraid of them.

Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, both came out with armies against them. The Israelites overcame them, and took possession of their territories.

The victorious army pitched their tents in the plains of Moab. Balak, king of that country, fearing he and his people would also be destroyed, sent for Balaam, who was a prophet (that is, one to whom God shows things that are going to happen), to come and pronounce a curse upon the Israelites, which might prevent their taking his kingdom from him.

Balaam at first refused to curse the Israelites because he knew that God had blessed them. But Balak bribed him, promising him power and riches and at last Balaam consented.

The next morning, he saddled his donkey and went with them. But God was angry with him for desiring Balak's riches and power and sent an angel to stand in the way to stop him.

God, who can do whatever He will, caused the donkey that Balaam rode, to see the Angel. The donkey moved aside to avoid him. For this her master struck her. Again the angel stood before him in a path where there was a wall on each side. The donkey, seeing him tried to move aside as before but crushed Balaam's foot against the wall.

Balaam struck her again. A little farther on the angel stood before them a third time. The donkey seeing him fell down under Balaam, who angrily struck her with his staff. God now wonderfully caused the donkey to speak and she asked Balaam why he had beaten her. Imagine how shocked Balaam would have been, a talking donkey!

Then God made the Angel visible to Balaam, standing with his drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed down before him to the ground. The angel corrected Balaam for striking his donkey, telling him that because he had wished to do what God did not will, God had sent His angel to oppose him in the way. If the donkey did not step aside he would have been killed.

Balaam confessed that he had done wrong, and offered to go back. The Angel told him go on to Balak, but to be careful to speak only what God would tell him say.

Balaam continued on. When he saw the camp of the children of Israel stretching far before him, by God's command he blessed the people whom Balak had sent for him to curse.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Brazen Serpent

Numbers 21:4-9

The Israelites at first were very sorry for having so displeased God. But they soon forgot it and the next time that they were without water in their camp, they complained against Moses and Aaron.

God commanded Moses to take the rod with which he had struck the rock in Horeb, and before all the people to speak to a certain rock, which He pointed out, and it should give water for them and their cattle.

Both Moses, and Aaron, who was to go with him, did wrong. They thought that speaking to the rock, as God had said, would not be sufficient. Moses struck it twice with his rod, angrily asking the multitude whether he and Aaron must fetch them water out of the rock.

The water, when the rock was struck, flowed out in such abundance that all had enough to drink. God told Moses and Aaron that because they had not obeyed Him when He told them speak to it only, neither of them would enter into the Promised Land.

Aaron, whom God had appointed chief priest, died very soon afterward, on Mount Hor, and Eleazar, his son, was chosen by God as priest in his place.

The land of Edom, which God had given to Esau, now lay between the Israelites and the way by which they were to go to Canaan. Moses sent messengers to the King of Edom, asking leave to pass through.

The king not only refused to let them pass through, but threatened to lead out his army against the Israelites. So they had to go round Edom. There they met with so many difficulties that they got quite dispirited and as before, complained against God.

God punished them. He sent among them fiery serpents, which stung many of the people and many of them died. The fear of death made the Israelites repent, and confess their sin in speaking against God.

They asked Moses to pray for them, that God would take away those dreadful serpents. Moses prayed and God told him to make an image in brass in the likeness of one of the serpents, and to set it up on a pole, and He promised that every one who was stung should be cured when he looked up to it.

Moses did as he was commanded. And every one who looked upon the brazen serpent was healed.

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