1 Chronicles, chapters 15-20

“Do you think that David is honoring your father by sending comforters to you? Is it not to make a thorough search and to overthrow you and to spy out the land that his servants have come to you?”
~1 Chronicles 19:3

When Hanash, the king of the Ammonites died, King David sought to comfort Hanash’s son.
However, Hanash’s son, King Hanun, received bad advice from his companions and questioned David’s motives.
This suspicion led him to disgrace David’s messengers (1 Chron. 19:4).
Fed by fear of retaliation, the Ammonites eventually waged war on Israel with the help of Syrian soldiers, 47,000 of whom died at the hands of David’s forces (1 Chron. 19:6-10, 18).
All this damage could have easily been avoided if King Hanun had been less skeptical and more grateful toward David.
This passage highlights the importance of not being hyper-critical.
It is not wise to jump to conclusions and assume that anyone reaching out a hand to me really means to harm me.
If I am always defensive and doubting others, I could bring great harm to myself and the congregation.

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.

Joshua, chapters 12-15

Caleb then said: “To the man who strikes Kir′i·ath-se′pher and captures it, I will give my daughter Achsah as a wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, captured it. So he gave him his daughter Achsah as a wife.
~Joshua 15:16,17

Othniel came to be Israel’s first judge after Joshua, but in this passage we see him rise from anonymity, transforming himself into a valiant man, building his reputation, fighting for his loved ones and what he believes in (Jg. 3:9-11).

Growing up in the shadow of his uncle Joshua, who was very diligent when it came to matters of faith, was without a doubt a strong positive influence on young Othniel.

This is a laudable example of how adult behavior and companionship can have a great, long-lasting effect on the attitudes and confidence levels of the children who look up to them.

Therefor, even those of us who are not parents should take our roles as aunts, uncles, confidants, mentors and role-models very seriously.

Leviticus, chapters 6-9

Last week’s reading covered many details on several types of offerings.

These are:

  • Burnt offerings
  • Communion offerings
  • Sin offerings
  • Guilt offerings
  • Grain offerings
  • Wave offerings
  • Sacred portions
  • Installation sacrifice

I will focus on communion offerings, otherwise known as peace offerings.

Communion offerings could be voluntarily offered at any time as “an expression of thanksgiving,” to praise God or to concert a vow (Lev. 7:12, 16).

The consumption of the offering was shared between the person presenting it, the priests and Jehovah.

The person presenting the offering would offer unleavened bread along with the ceremonial sacrifice of a healthy animal.

Neither the animal’s blood nor fat were for human consumption; the blood was sprinkled around the altar and the fat was burnt, Jehovah symbolically consuming the aroma (Lev. 3:2-5; 7:25-27).

The person presenting the offering could bring leavened bread, but this was not to be presented on the altar, as leaven represents sin and corruption (Lev. 2:11; 7:13).

The leavened bread was for the people’s enjoyment, not God’s.

Tradition states that the person presenting the offering ate the meal in the courtyard of the tabernacle (Insight, vol. II, “Offerings,” par. 9).

The flesh of the animal sacrificed had to be eaten on the same day it was slaughtered (Lev. 7:15).

Otherwise the flesh would begin to corrupt and the people who partook in the communion meal would then be ceremonially unclean, a sin punishable by death (Lev. 7:20).

Today we do not have these types of ceremonies in which we can ‘share a meal’ with Jehovah.

It must have been a very spiritual experience.

We can, however, thank and praise God any day, any time, through words and actions that reflect our faith in the ultimate sacrifice of Christ Jesus, which can be likened to an aroma that is pleasing to God.

 

 

 

Leviticus, chapters 1-5

Every grain offering you make is to be seasoned with salt; and you must not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be missing from your grain offering. Along with every offering of yours, you will present salt.
~Leviticus 2:13

What does salt symbolize?

It has often been used as a preservative and an antiseptic.

Therefor it can symbolize permanence and cleanliness.

As Christians, we put into practice Christ’s words, “You are the salt of the earth,” when we share his message of ever-lasting life (Matt. 5:13).

We also have a “preserving” effect when we positively influence others through uncorrupted moral behavior.

Jesus also said, “Have salt in yourselves, and keep peace between one another,” (Mark 9:50).

In effect, today we do not make food offerings, but rather, we “offer to God […] the fruit of our lips,” (Heb. 13:15).

How do we add “salt” to our praise?

God’s word tells us the answer: Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one,” (Col. 4:6).

In other words, we ought to think before we speak and say things in a considerate manner.

“For God is well-pleased with such sacrifices,” (Heb. 13:16).

Exodus, chapters 15-18

Then Moses said to them: “Nobody should leave any of it until the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. When some men left some of it until the morning, it bred worms and stank, and Moses became indignant at them.

~Exodus 16:19,20

Then Moses said: “Eat it today, because today is a sabbath to Jehovah. Today you will not find it on the ground. You will pick it up for six days, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.” However, some of the people did go out to pick it up on the seventh day, but they found nothing.

~Exodus 16:25-27

It is surprising how careless some of the Israelites were when it came to obeying details.

Moses had demonstrated he was their God-appointed leader and yet, they still questioned his instructions.

Such unwilling attitudes could have disheartened Moses, who had risked his life to go back to Egypt and see them free across the Red Sea.

But Moses kept tending to them as he would have done to his sheep when he was a shepherd, refining his patience on a day-to-day basis.

Concentrating on the Israelites’ lack of faith, this teaches me that I should obey God’s instructions even when the details seem illogical from a human perspective.

Christ has appointed “gifts in men” to serve as shepherds in the congregation (Eph. 4:8).

“And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, to build up the body of the Christ,” (Eph. 4:11).

These men have no personal gain by serving the congregation, other than the satisfaction of having done what is right.

They make arrangements for the well-being of our spiritual-family, knowing that God will provide means to see those arrangements to fulfillment.

These arrangements may not always make sense.

Some members of the congregation may criticize or even refuse to cooperate.

An attitude that constantly questions counsel given in accordance with Bible principles can prove detrimental to our own spirituality and eventually dishearten those who serve us.

Our love for God is tested in the details (Luke 16:10).

Exodus, chapters 7-10

Exodus 10:1,2~

Then Jehovah said to Moses: “Go in to Phar′aoh, for I have allowed his heart and the hearts of his servants to become unresponsive, so that I may display these signs of mine right before him […] and you will certainly know that I am Jehovah.”

God could have saved time and just sent the tenth plague to Pharaoh right at the start.

He already knew Pharaoh was going to be unwilling to cooperate.

At Exodus chapter 4, verse 21, Jehovah God warned Moses regarding what to expect in Egypt: “I will allow his heart to become obstinate, and he will not send the people away.”

But Jehovah did not decide Pharaoh’s fate for him. He gave him at least eleven chances to change his mind about letting his People walk free.

It was Pharaoh who sealed his own fate.

“When Phar′aoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had stopped, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he as well as his servants,” (Exo. 9:34).

This bit about Pharaoh ‘hardening his heart’ happened after the seventh plague.

Even in all his power, Jehovah God did not strip Pharaoh of free will.

Nor does he strip us of our own decision-making power.

There is much suffering in the world today.

Some may wonder why God doesn’t just wipe everything clean and start over.

But he is giving us time to get to know him and change our attitude toward him.

“Jehovah is not slow concerning his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance,” (2 Pet. 3:9).

Today is a good day to ask myself: Am I allowing my heart to become unresponsive to God’s messages?

Exodus, chapters 1-6

When she was no longer able to conceal him, she took a papyrus basket and coated it with bitumen and pitch and put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile River.

~Exodus 2:3

Moses’ mother, Jochebed, had no idea what would happen to her baby once she placed him in the water.

The instructions given to the Egyptians were clear: “You are to throw every newborn son of the Hebrews into the Nile River […]” (Exo. 1:22).

To go against Pharaoh’s orders back then would be today’s equivalent of committing a federal felony. Only Pharaoh was considered to be a god and so he had the power to execute people at will.

Still, Jochebed took her chances and concealed her baby boy for three months.

When she had done all she could, she commended him to Jehovah God and sent his sister to watch and see what would happen to him.

I try to imagine what they must have felt. Was it resignation? Fear? Firm faith? Or a mixture of all three?

Nowadays, it may happen that we are asked by an authority figure to do something inappropriate or unethical.

In those cases, it will be wise to follow Jochebed’s example and do what is right.

What happens after that may be a matter of circumstance, or if God sees it fit, He will intervene.

As we all know, in Moses’ case, things worked out, for Pharaoh’s daughter found him, felt compassion for him, and then hired his own mother to nurse him until he was old enough to be adopted by her and live among royalty.

“She named him Moses [meaning: ‘Drawn Out,’ that is, saved out of the water] and said: ‘It is because I have drawn him out of the water,’” (Exo. 2:10).

Little did they know that 80 years later, God would use Moses to intervene and save in a much greater manner.

Genesis, chapters 43-46

Genesis 45:17,18,20~

So Phar′aoh said to Joseph:[…]”Take your father and your households and come here to me. I will give you the good things of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the richest part of the land.[…] Do not worry about your belongings, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”

Israel’s household went from being on the verge of dying of starvation to living in the most abundant environment available at the time.

This reminds me of the spiritual abundance God’s people enjoy nowadays.

We live in a world that is spiritually deprived.

Although religion is everywhere, most people wonder where God is and they are not sure he listens to them or how to draw close to him.

Some go so far as to try to experience spirituality through fleshly conducts such as drugs or sex.

When some of my friends have participated witnessing in the streets, pastors from other churches have come up to them and asked them for our literature because they do not know what to teach their followers.

It is a blessing to be a part of God’s people- an organization that provides spiritual food in abundance.

This “food” comes in the form of answers to both basic and deep questions:

Who is God?

What is the purpose of life?

Why is there so much suffering?

What happens when we die?

Should I get a divorce?

When will the “end” come?

Does God forgive all sins?

This spiritual abundance is reminiscent of other Bible prophecies:

‘Look! The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah,

‘When I will send a famine into the land,

Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,

But for hearing the words of Jehovah.’

(Amos 8:11)

Genesis, chapters 40-42

~Genesis 41:16

At this Joseph answered Phar′aoh: “I need not be considered! God will speak concerning Phar′aoh’s welfare.”

By the time the prisoner, Joseph, was brought before Pharaoh to interpret the meaning of his dreams, he had undergone a series of tragedies:

His mother died when he was a child (Gen. 35:16-19); growing up, his ten brothers bullied him (Gen. 37:4,5,11); they sold him as a slave when he was 17 and his father took him for dead (Gen. 37:28,33); his master’s wife falsely accused him of trying to rape her after he refused her sexual advances, which caused him to be thrown into prison (Gen. 39:12,17-20).

There, he accurately interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants, but he was left in prison for three more years (Gen. 40:9-14, 20-23).

Joseph was finally brought before Pharaoh at the age of 30 and received prophetic insight into the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams (seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine) (Gen. 41:25-32).

Of course, now we’ve all heard of him and how he forgave his brothers and saved his family, but at the time Joseph stated the words I cited at the beginning, “I need not be considered! God will speak concerning Phar′aoh’s welfare,” he had every reason on earth to be bitter and resentful.

Joseph’s faith is what sustained him through all his trials and even when finally given the chance to state his case and glorify himself, he still channeled all praise and glory to God.

This is definitely one of the greatest examples humanity has to offer of how faith and virtue lead to true success.