The Plundering of God

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 14.14
14 He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.

Reflection: The Plundering of God
By Erin Newton

Israel and Judah were cousins, descendants of Jacob, and called and bound to the Abrahamic covenant. But down the line, they traded brotherhood for hostility—peace for enmity.

The divided kingdom is a story of the darkest hours for God’s people. Not only were nations attacking Israel and Judah from the outside, but the two nations were attacking each other on the inside.

The king of Judah, Amaziah, went to battle against Jehoash, king of Israel. Amaziah was captured by Jehoash, and his family was taken captive.

This story is not drastically different from many of the conflicts between Israel and Judah in Kings. After capturing the king, they followed the common practice of looting the temple. Gold and silver were removed from the house of the Lord.

Looting the temple of God? The opposing army was their family! Did they not worship the same God? Were those vessels not designated for the God they also vowed to serve?

The movement of temple treasures reveals how common it was for items to be taken. An Egyptian king took treasures, and twice that was given to the king of Syria and the king of Assyria. In the midst of this plundering, the temple was twice repaired.

There was a tree in the center of my town. For decades it served as the community Christmas tree. Each December, the city came together to sing carols, drink wassail, and watch the lights burst forth on the tree during the crescendo of the final carol.

Recently, people began to take leaves off the lower branches. When those were gone, small limbs were snapped away. Slowly the tree was stripped bare. A storm came through one winter, coating everything with ice. The tree didn’t survive.

When I think about the plundering of the temple, I think of this tree.

I remember how it was my own neighbors and friends who slowly stripped bare the tree. I think of Israel stripping the temple of their God.

I think of Christians today, so caught up in fighting one another that the house of God is robbed, desecrated, and laid bare by the hands of those who say they love the God that dwells there. 

Before we tear at each other, trading peace for enmity, may we pause and remember that we are bound by the same covenant and are branches on the same vine.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Concerning the commandments, Jesus taught us, saying: “This is the first: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the One, only Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” — Mark 123.29-31

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 14 (Listen 5:06)
Psalms 64-65 (Listen 2:39)

Read more about Conflict’s Aftermath
When did we forget he is the Prince of Peace? Let us ask God to replace the festering anger in our hearts with love.

Read more about Reflecting the Unity of Christ
Prayers for unity and peace from brothers and sisters worshiping in places where violence is as common as bad traffic, are especially to be emulated …

When God Has Mercy…Will We?

Scripture Focus: 2 Kings 14.23-25
23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. 25 He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher. 
26 The Lord had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. 27 And since the Lord had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash. 

Reflection: When God Has Mercy…Will We?
By John Tillman

Jeroboam II became one of the most powerful and prosperous kings of Israel despite his unworthiness. Although he shared no familial line with the first Jeroboam, he shared his sin and wickedness.

The Lord’s compassion for the people, not the righteousness of their leader brought prosperity to Israel. However, that prosperity did not extend to all levels of society. Condemnations in Hosea and Amos record the extreme wealth of Israel’s leaders and the extreme suffering of the poor.

Another prophet serving during this time was Jonah son of Amittai. Chronologically, it is his first appearance. Jonah delivered the good news of God’s mercy to the wicked king of his own country. He carried God’s word to Jeroboam II that God would expand their borders and power. Later, when God wanted to send a message of mercy to Jonah’s political enemies in Nineveh, Jonah refused. His partiality led to his encounter with the fish, but his desire for vengeance remained undigested by the fish’s innards.

Jonah seemed to believe mercy should be limited to his own tribe and country while everyone else burned. How many of us are like him? 

Do we desire mercy for ourselves but not our enemies?
Mercy for our leaders, our tribe, our institutions but not those who oppose us?
Would we say with the sons of Zebedee, “Let us call down fire on them!”? 
Would we say with Jonah, “I didn’t want you to forgive them!”?

Do we mistakenly think we deserve God’s mercy while others don’t? Our leaders are no more deserving, our tribes are no more righteous, our institutions are no more worth saving.

God chooses to have mercy on whom he will. We can be channels of that mercy, like Abram interceding for Sodom, Moses interceding for the people, or dozens of other biblical examples. 
However, standing in the way of God’s mercy to block it is unwise. God’s mercy may overwhelm us like it did Jonah, or it may destroy us like the officer trampled by the crowds running out to the spoils announced by the four lepers.

Jonah held his bitterness so deeply that the depths of the sea couldn’t wash it away and the sun couldn’t burn it away. How deeply will we hold on to ours?
One thing is certain, God keeps his merciful promises, even when we are unworthy vessels and unworthy recipients. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth tremble before him. — Psalm 96.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:06)
2 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:48)

Read more about To Wicked Kings, Foreign and Domestic
We must abandon Jonah’s sinful wish to weaponize God’s wrath.

Read more about Beyond Selfish Thankfulness
A God who does not treat us as we deserve is also a God who often does not treat our enemies as we might feel they deserve.

Praying for Repentance :: A Guided Prayer

Scripture Focus: 2 Timothy 4.3-4
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Reflection: Praying for Repentance :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Paul says that the “time will come,” when people will not put up with sound doctrine. He sounds like he is speaking of the future, but it certainly seems as if there were a lot of Paul’s past experiences in Acts that might be described as people not putting up with sound doctrine.

Being stoned, being beaten, being imprisoned, and being run out of town by mobs doesn’t exactly sound like acceptance or tolerance. Doctrinal diligence is needed in every age of the church. Defending correct doctrine is the task Paul is quite seriously commanding Timothy to prepare for. We need to prepare for it too.

But as we think of these people Paul writes of, who will gather teachers to suit their own desires, we need to think about our desires. As we pray for people who turn their ears away from the truth, we need to think about how often we turn away from facts that don’t fit our paradigms. Let us remember that people are not our enemies, only sin.

Let us pray for our culture and ourselves this weekend, a prayer of repentance. Our prayer today is based on yesterday’s readings from chapter 3, verses 2-5 and Paul’s description of sinful, self-interested people who are lovers of themselves. 

A Prayer for Repentance
Lord we remember your prophecy from yesterday’s reading about how sinful people would become. Empower us to confess and repent of these sins, reversing them in our lives to bless others. 

May we pray this passage not as an accusative attack against our culture, but as a lament for the condition of our own hearts and the heart of Christ’s church.

Lord rather then become like the people Paul warned Timothy of, 
May we be found by you and seen by the world as we are:
Showing love to outsiders
Shunning the allure of money and wealth
Praising others not ourselves
Being humble
Healing others in words and deed
Honoring our elders and parents
Living in gratitude
Being made holy by the Holy Spirit
Indwelt by love beyond ourselves
Truth telling and affirming
Tender and caring
Loving the good
Showing loyalty,
Sharing wisdom,
Shunning the spotlight
And sacrificing our pleasure to serve others.

May our repentance bring glory to Christ and not to ourselves and may Jesus’ name be praised.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Our God will come and will not keep silence; before him there is a consuming flame and round about him a raging storm. — Psalm 50.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:06)
2 Timothy 4 (Listen -2:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 15 (Listen – 6:21), Titus 1 (Listen -2:24)
2 Kings 16 (Listen – 3:46), Titus 2 (Listen -2:01)

Thank You!
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Read more about Confessing, Instead of Weaponizing PropheRather than weaponize Paul’s words to attack our culture with an accusing cry, we should instead cry for forgiveness and mercy as we recognize that these faults are also in us.

#WeaponizingTheBible #ConfessingSin #KingdomOfPriests #Repentance

Read more about Praying as Priests
As followers of God today, a part of our identity is as carriers of the blessings of God that are intended for the world.