Monday: Psalm 30, 32, 33, 2 Kings 24, Acts 13.44-14.7

Psalm 30
Psalm 32
Psalm 33
2 Kings 24
Acts 13.44-14.7

from Pete Williamson

“he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon.” – 2 Kings 24:15

Growing up in the church, I heard a great many Bible stories. I’d hear the stories of Jesus, of course. But also the favorite stories about David, and Moses, and Abraham. I knew about the Exodus. I knew some stories about Elijah. I knew about the Apostles and what they did and wrote.

But it wasn’t really until I started reading the Bible systematically for myself as a teenager that I began to really learn about the exile. Given how central the exile is to the Old Testament, and the world Jesus inhabited, it’s surprising that it’s rarely reflected on in normal church life. I would posit that probably most of the Old Testament is in some way reflecting on the significance of the exile.

The exile is a seventy-year period starting around 586BC when the southern Kingdom – Judah – is conquered by the Babylonians and its people are taken to Babylon as exiles. Seventy years later, once Persia conquers Babylon, God’s people are allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. 

In 2 Kings 24 we get a depressing account of the final days of a nation, with short-reigning kings seeking to find some way to maintain their autonomy. One king – Jehoiakim – becomes a tributary of Babylon, but stages an unsuccessful rebellion. His son, Jehoiachin, reigns three months before Babylon completely overtakes Jerusalem, pillages the city, and takes away the first batch of exiles. Babylon sets up a puppet king – Zedekiah – who also rebels, which precipitates the final destruction of Jerusalem and the ultimate exile.

In this midst of this societal collapse, the words of the psalmist seem to fall flat: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!” – Psalm 33:12. Who would want to be this nation? How is the LORD their God still? What does this make of the Covenant? Has God been faithful? Does this failure of God’s nation mean that God himself has failed?

These are the questions the Old Testament is left to ponder in the midst of the exile. But the consensus is clear. God is faithful to his people. He has not failed, and has in fact orchestrated this sad new reality in response to Israel’s sin. God does his greatest work in the darkest moments, and it is in the ghettos of Babylon that God’s people were forged into a people centered on God’s Word ultimately leading to the Messiah, Jesus.

God truly is always faithful, and we see this in this passage through one insignificant king. Jehoiachin. He’s 18 years old. He reigns until he’s 18 ¼ years old. But this name becomes a significant name in Jewish hope. Not because of his greatness or because of what he did in history. He is, in fact, condemned as an evil king. Rather, his name becomes a symbol of hope that the line of David has not been extinguished, and God’s promise to David was still valid – “Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Jehoiachin is taken into exile and imprisoned. But 2 Kings ends the following chapter with an odd little fact. The new king of Babylon releases Jehoiachin and treats him well. 2 Kings ends – after detailing the demise of a nation – with a tiny seed of hope. But it is this seed – this evil 18-year-old king who barely got to reign – that stands in the lineage of Jesus in Matthew 1, declaring Jesus to be the son of David, whose throne shall be established forever.

With God there is always a Jehoiachin. No matter how desperate things are, or how bad things get. Even if everything seems to be crashing down around us and even when it might be said that God’s promises are becoming void. With God there is always a seed of hope locked away, later to be set free to grow into the fulfilment of what God has promised. God is faithful to his promises, to his covenant to us, and when it doesn’t feel like that to us, maybe the right response is that we need to start looking for our Jehoiachin.

Pete Williamson currently has two sons, currently has one dog, and permanently has one wife. He’s a deacon at CotC and his primary ministry is with grad students at Harvard and Tufts.

Monday: Psalm 8, 11, 15, 16, 2 Kings 18, Acts 10.1-23

Psalm 8
Psalm 11
Psalm 15
Psalm 16
2 Kings 18
Acts 10.1-23

from Jeff Banks

You know you’re in trouble when your college registrar emails you saying that you’re the last person in your class to decide your major and you really need to hurry up.

It was the beginning of junior year and I still couldn’t figure out what I wanted to major in. Majoring in Philosophy would set me down one path in life, majoring in French would set me down another, majoring in English still a third. I couldn’t think through all the potential ramifications and make a decision. It was too much for me to handle. I had analysis paralysis. 

Good thing that God works differently when he calls us to act. God doesn’t always (ever?) ask us to think through every possible outcome for our actions, even as he does call us to count the cost of following him (Luke 14:28-32).  

Take our Scripture passage from Acts 10. God is orchestrating a huge moment in the history of salvation: he is about to reveal to Peter and other Jewish believers that he accepts Gentiles into his family as Gentiles and not as Jewish converts.

Instead of giving Peter the full picture of this plan, though, he comes to Peter in a cryptic vision telling him to kill animals that are being lowered from the sky on a huge sheet. Peter, a faithful Jew, wouldn’t consider eating unclean animals, but the voice telling Peter to rise, kill, and eat persists three times. 

This vision frees up imaginative space in Peter’s mind for what God is going to do when he calls Peter to visit Cornelius: the Holy Spirit will fall on the Gentiles after they hear the good news, and Peter will exclaim, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47). The Gentiles will be included in the family of God as Gentiles.

If God had come to Peter and simply told him, “You are going to preach to the Gentiles and then baptize them because they are mine,” would he have gone as quickly to Cornelius’s house? I don’t know. I could see him feeling too angry, confused, or overwhelmed to do anything except complain. God gives him what he needs to know when he needs to know it, and not more.

In my journey with the Lord, he has acted similarly. I have often felt a strong inclination to go to a certain place, without knowing exactly why. Once there, God does a work in me that is so much bigger than I could have imagined. If he had told me what it would be, then I might have been too overwhelmed to say yes to going!

Even though many of us long for the clear and unmistakable voice of God, do you feel like he is communicating with you in ways that seem incomplete, cryptic, or hard to understand? You’re in good company (at least with Peter and me), because God wants to use our curiosity, confusion, or longing for more to draw us out and do a work in and through us that is far greater than anything we could have imagined. Let’s follow his call and see what happens.

My wife, Anna, and I live in Cambridge with our baby Nora and fur baby Ginger. I did decide to major in English and am so glad it led me to where I am today. Though maybe it would have been cool to study Philosophy, or maybe even something in the sciences…

Monday: Psalm 144, 145, Acts 6.1—7.16 John 14.15-31

Psalm 144
Psalm 145
Acts 6
John 14

from Rebecca Lefroy

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15

Jesus is uncompromising here. The outcome of our love for Jesus (and so the Father) is that we will walk His way. It's easy to underplay the importance of obedience in the Christian life. Time and again though, the Bible is clear: if we love Him, we will live a transformed life; we will follow the examples of great saints before us and ultimately Christ himself, and we will say "no" to our old selves and "yes" to the ways of Jesus. What's particularly striking about this verse though is that this verse implies that obedience is a "natural" outcome of our love for God. As we look more at Christ and see more of His glory, we will step more in line with Him.

If we're feeling discouraged in our spiritual walk, this can evoke feelings of doubt and guilt. It can be easy to despair when we don't see change in our own lives. However, as we read this passage, we see that it's not a cold, distant God that we've being called to obey, but a God who desires relationship with us: "he lives with you and will be in you." And more than that, he sends the Spirit to be our Counselor whom he promises will change us and conform us to the likeness of Christ.

God promises to not leave us by ourselves as we pursue the high calling of obedience. He promises to give us "the Spirit of truth" and that "I will come to you." As we meditate on the privilege and wonder of being invited into relationship with the triune God, and as we wonder at having Christ in us, let us turn to seek Him more clearly and follow His commandments more fully.