1 Chronicles, chapters 12-15

“Of the tribe of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do, there were 200 of their headmen, and all their brothers were under their command.”
~1 Chronicles 12:32

In the time of David, the tribe of Issachar consisted of 87,000 men registered to fight in his army (1 Chron. 7:5).
200 of them, who were particularly wise, headed the tribe.
If we divide 87,000 by 200, it means there was one commander per every 435 men.
Yet, “all their brothers were under their command.”
The men of the tribe of Issachar acted in unity because they humbly respected their elders’ knowledge and intentions (Prov. 14:8; Eccl. 7:19).

Jesus said of the people he tried to teach: “[…] Why do you not know how to examine this particular time?” (Luke 12:56).

Today’s congregation elders try to make us aware of the times we are living in so we do not fall asleep in a spiritual sense and risk losing our spiritual battle (Ro. 13:11,12; Eph. 6:12).
Most congregations worldwide have much fewer than 435 members each, and they benefit from a body of elders who are wise in years of service toward God and Biblical insight.
If the tribe of Issachar was able to carry out their work in unison, we should be able and willing to do the same in our own congregations.

1 Chronicles, chapters 8-11

Have you ever felt eager to volunteer but then in practice, felt out of place, as if you could be doing more in a different capacity?

First Chronicles chapter nine, verses 22-34 explains how the Levites were divided into sub-groups to perform specific duties.
There were the temple gatekeepers, there were those in charge of the temple utensils, those in charge of the bread, and the singers.
These duties were assigned by genealogy and all those assigned had to live in Jerusalem.
It did not matter if one of the Levites wanted to be a gatekeeper instead of preparing balsam oil. They accepted their assignment as privilege and their responsibility as heads of household.

They are a good example of humility and cooperation for those of us wishing to offer ourselves up to God for greater service within his organization.
We should not be picky when it comes to realizing assigned tasks, but see our “job” as an honor and do it whole-heartedly.

1 Chronicles, chapters 5-7

“[Reuben] was the firstborn, but because he defiled the bed of his father, his right as firstborn was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel […]”
~1 Chronicles 5:1

The “sons of Israel” totaled 12, but the first born was supposed to receive double the inheritance portion of the others.
Israel’s first-born, Reuben, slept with his father’s concubine, thereby forfeiting his right to his double portion of inheritance (Ge. 35:22).
Joseph was Israel’s favorite son, long believed to have died before reappearing in Israel’s life as savior and provider for their entire household (Ge 45:25–46:4).
Also, he was the first-born son of his favorite wife, Rachel (Ge. 29:30; 30:22-24).
Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and Israel prophesied that the younger would dominate the older (Ge. 48:13-20; Jos. 14:4).
The distribution of tribal land was to be divided among twelve tribes (Ge. 49:2-28).
This significant number worked out well when we take into account that the sons of Levi, whose jobs were directly related to the worship of Jehovah, would not receive their own territory (Nu. 18:20).
Therefor, there were thirteen total tribes of Israel, twelve of which had territories.
Israel’s prophecy that the tribe of Ephraim would grow more than his brother’s began to materialize in chapter seven of this week’s reading.
In fact, Ephraim grew so large as a tribe that it eventually came to represent the northern nation of Israel, after the original nation divided in two (Ho. 13:1).
From Ephraim came both spiritual people inclined to serve God, while other Ephraimites became apostates (1 Ki. 12:25-30; 2 Chron. 15:9).
The point I wish to highlight from this reading is that while God can decide our future in general terms, as he did with the tribes of Reuben, Manasseh and Ephraim, it is up to us as individuals to decide whether or not we want to serve him.

1 Chronicles, chapters 1-4

“O that you would bless me and enlarge my territory and let your hand be with me and preserve me from calamity, so that it may bring no harm to me!”
~1 Chronicles 4:10

Jabez is a lesser known Bible personality.
This is the only passage in the Scriptures that makes reference to him.
Upon beginning to read Chronicles, it may seem like a restatement of genealogies and some passages appear to be copied straight out of other books.
However, the writer Ezra, who was both scribe and priest, referenced some seventeen to twenty scrolls of his day that are not currently in existence.
That is why the book of Chronicles provides details essential to developing a fuller faith in Jehovah God and the Bible as a whole (“Chronicles, The Books of.” Watchtower Online Library, Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, June 2015. Web 12 Oct. 2015).
Returning to the story of Jabez, Jehovah heard his prayer and “brought about what he had asked for.”
From this, we gather that to be outstanding in God’s eyes, we do not need to go out and perform great deeds that change the course of history.
Jabez put his faith in Jehovah, not so much in himself, and that distinguished him enough for God to include his account in the Holy Scriptures.

2 Kings, chapters 23-25

“Do not be afraid of being servants to the Chaldeans. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.”
~2 Kings, 25:24

These words were spoken by Gedaliah, the newly appointed governor of Judah, soon after Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon (2 Ki. 25:22).

Gedaliah was accepting Jehovah’s will for the people of Judah.

The nation as a whole had sinned time and again for hundreds of years, showing no respect toward the covenant into which their forefathers had entered into with God (Ex. 24:3-8; 34:6,7,12-16).

Jehovah had sent his people prophet after prophet to warn them of the direction in which they were headed (2 Chron. 36:15,16).

Among these prophets was Jeremiah, who told the remnants of Judah to accept God’s punishment and submit to the king of Babylon (Jer. 27:12).

Some of the people did not like the message, including a man by the name of Ishmael.

Ishmael conspired against Gedaliah and murdered him (2 Ki. 25:25).

As true Christians who preach Christ’s kingdom, we too carry an unpopular message.

Some Christians in the past have given their life for the message they proclaimed, and even today, some Jehovah’s Witnesses risk their lives to take the good news into new cultures.

For example, some of the brothers and sisters whom we had the privilege of serving with in Michoacán, Mexico, were tasked with preaching the good news in Purepecha Villages where the Catholic church would summon all the townspeople, much like a mob forms, and the Witnesses would be incarcerated.

Others, as can be noted in some of our Yearbooks, have lost their lives.

The risks God’s servants are willing to take to proclaim God’s message are worth noting.

2 Kings, chapters 19-22

“Go, inquire of Jehovah in my behalf, in behalf of the people, and in behalf of all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found […]”
~2 Kings 22:13

Josiah was a 26 year old king who had an earnest interest in doing things God’s way (2 Ki. 22:2).

When his scribe, Shaphan, brought him the book of the Law (evidently the original book written by the hand of Moses), he formed a committee to find out what God’s words meant in terms of Judah’s future (De. 31:9).

The committee, despite being made up of prominent men, did not visit any well-known male prophets of the time, despite their vicinity (Jeremiah, Nahum and Zephaniah).

Instead, the committee inquired of the prophetess Huldah. (2 Ki. 22:14).

Huldah’s insight into the reading of the prophecies was never questioned but rather, taken as God’s word (2 Ki. 22:20-23:3).

King Josiah’s humility was hence blessed as he was spared seeing Jerusalem’s destruction or having it collapse under his reign (2 Ki. 22:18-20).

How do I react when given sound advice by a spiritually mature woman?

Do I think she is overstepping her role in the congregation by personally giving me suggestions that typically only congregation elders or overseers give?

When a person delivers God’s message to me, it should not matter that they are male or female, so long as it is God’s word that they are relating.

Other women who prophesied on behalf of Jehovah:

2 Kings, chapters 16-18

When he saw the altar that was in Damascus, King Ahaz sent Urijah the priest a plan of the altar, showing its pattern and how it was made. Urijah the priest built an altar according to all the directions that King Ahaz had sent […].
~2 Kings 16:10,11

Urijah knew that the original plans for the first altar had been given from Jehovah to David.
David’s son, Solomon, had carried out the blueprints precisely as indicated (2 Chron. 3:1; 4:1).
Urijah, however, allowed King Ahaz to overstep his authority and alter Jehovah’s instructions.

King Ahaz was an apostate.
“He did not do what was right in the eyes of Jehovah his God as David his forefather had done. […] He even made his own son pass through the fire,” (2 Ki. 16:2,3).

When King Ahaz returned from his trip, “he moved the copper altar that was before Jehovah from its place in front of the house, from between his own altar and the house of Jehovah, and he put it at the north side of his own altar. […] Urijah the priest did everything that King Ahaz had commanded” (2 Ki. 16:14,16).

When the congregation hands us instructions regarding our worship, do we see their divine origin, or do we consider them to be mere suggestions?
Do we alter Jehovah’s instructions because they do not appeal to us or because we think we can come up with a better form of worship?
And to what extent do we allow others to dissuade us from doing what we know Jehovah asks of us?

Urijah does not stand out in the Bible account as being a faithful priest.
He contributed to the demise of pure worship in his day.

2 Kings, chapters 9-11

“Jehosheba […] took Jehoash […] and stole him away from among the sons of the king who were to be put to death, keeping him and his nurse in an inner bedroom. They managed to keep him concealed from Athaliah, so he was not put to death.”
~2 Kings 11:2

Who was Athaliah, and why was she trying to put baby Jehoash to death?
I have facilitated my own understanding of this passage by drawing out this simple family tree of royal lines in Judah and Northern Israel at that time.

family tree royal lines ancient IsraelAthaliah was the daughter of evil Queen Jezabel and apostate King Ahab of Northern Israel.

She married into Judah’s royal line but did not change her family’s ways (1 Ki. 21:25; 2 Ki. 8:16,18).

When her son, King Ahaziah died, she put all her grandchildren to death, taking over the kingdom of Judah (2 Ki. 11:1).

However, she was unable to put one child to death: Jehoash, who was stolen by his aunt Jehosheba.

Jehosheba was a true worshipper of Jehovah God and she did not fear standing up to the evil Queen Athaliah, even at the risk of her own life.

She and her husband, High Priest Jehoiada, hid the baby prince Jehoash for six years (2 Ki. 11:3).

Then the high priest proclaimed him king (2 Ki. 11:12).

Consequently, evil Queen Athaliah was executed (2 Ki. 11:16).

What I find most encouraging about this passage is the valor and selflessness with which Jehosheba protected her nephew, undeterred by half her family’s bloody history or bad example.

She is a model for those women living in difficult family circumstances in which their faith in Jehovah is tested on a daily basis.

2 Kings, chapters 1-4

“At this the boy’s mother said: ‘As surely as Jehovah is living and as you yourself are living, I will not leave you.’ So he got up and went with her.”
~2 Kings 4:30

The Shunammite woman is worthy of noting because of the fine example of faith, respect and hospitality that she displayed.
She displayed hospitality toward the prophet Elisha by offering him meals and a room to stay in, without expecting anything in return (2 Ki. 4:8-10, 13, 14).
She displayed respect toward her husband’s position as head of the household by consulting him before carrying out important decisions, despite being a “prominent woman,” (2 Ki. 4:8-10, 22, 23).
And she displayed faith in God because when her only son died, she ran and then clung to the prophet until he resolved to go see him (2 Ki. 4:19-21, 27-31).
Years earlier, when the prophet had promised her a son, she had replied, “Do not tell lies to your servant,” (2 Ki. 4:16).
Now, under these tragic circumstances, she firmly told her husband, “Everything is all right,” because she knew Elisha’s predecessor had resurrected a boy under similar circumstances (1 Ki. 17:20-22; 2 Ki. 4:23).
The Shunammite woman’s faith and behavior were compensated when her son’s life was restored to him (2 Ki. 4:35-37).
It is as Jesus stated, “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will get a prophet’s reward,” (Matt. 10:41).
Therefor we should hold fast to our faith in the resurrection and demonstrate our faith with actions.

1 Kings, chapters 21 & 22

“Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself on my account? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the calamity during his lifetime. […]”
~1 Kings 21:29

The point I’d like to highlight of last week’s reading is the mercy Jehovah extended toward King Ahab of northern Israel, despite Ahab’s evil ways.

“[…] There has never been anyone like Ahab, who was so determined to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah, egged on by his wife Jezebel,” (1 Ki. 21:25).

Jehovah is able to see past a person’s sins and give him a chance to change time after time because he sees his full potential.
If someone humbles himself, Jehovah is always ready to make peace with that person.
In Ahab’s case, he did not fully grasp the privilege of being forgiven, for he continued to endanger true prophets’ lives and ended up going to war against God’s will, where he died (1 Ki. 22:26-28, 34, 35).
Truly Jehovah is “good and ready to forgive,” so long as we follow through with repentance by changing our ways of the past (Ps. 86:5).