Readings

  • 2 Kings 3
  • 2 Kings 4
  • John 6:1-14

Prayer

Pray… for encouragement and engagement with these studies as we continue working through the prophets and kings.

Day 181 – Elisha & the Ditches

Digging ditches for war & the miracle of the bread

 

  • Today, especially in the second passage, we have a glimpse into many of the miracles that God worked through the prophet Elisha. Remember that Elisha asked for a “double portion” for his ministry from God on day 179? We certainly see that in use today!
  • If you’ve got an ESV bible, you may have noticed that 2 Kings 3:1 lists “Jehoram, son of Ahab” as the new king of Israel. This doesn’t seem to match up – wasn’t Jehoram king in Judah, and wasn’t his father Jehoshaphat? Yes – this is a different Jehoram. To complicate things, the NIV refers to him as Joram, as does my “kings timeline” image I shared a week or so ago, so I’m going to refer to this new king as Joram.
  • We’ve already read that Jehoshaphat had been told off for being too close to king Ahab (day 176). Here we can see he also had a relationship with King Joram. Look at 2 Kings 3:13-14. Elisha had little time for evil Joram, but nevertheless helped him (i.e. through the provision of the water) because of Joram’s relationship with Jehoshaphat. Joram benefited because of who he knew. Jehoshaphat was effectively his mediator. Can you think of a situation where we get unmerited grace because of the actions of a “mediator”? In our messed up, sin-filled state God could not look at us, but He treats us with mercy and compassion because we have an unbreakable connection to Jesus.
  • How did God save Jehoshaphat and Joram from the Moabites? Picture the scene! It’s vividly described, isn’t it?
  • In 2 Kings 4 we read of a number of miracles. Throughout this chapter, Elisha is often referred to as the “man of God”.
  • How did God work a miracle for the woman with the oil (2 Kings 4:1-7)?
  • How did the Shunammite woman provide for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-17)? Did she expect anything in return? What did she get? Do you know someone who goes the extra mile to be hospitable to others?
  • God gave the woman a child, but as you’ll have read, later allowed him to die. Why do you think God let this happen? What kind of faith did the woman show after he died?
  • What saved the boy? Was it Elisha’s staff, or Elisha’s prayer?
  • We read a well known story in the New Testament today of another miracle. It, too, was performed by an even greater “man of God”! How is it similar to the story of the oil, and how is it greater?

 

It was interesting to me how John the Baptist was described as “Elijah”, preparing the way for the Lord. Elijah, when he actually lived, preceded Elisha. Elisha did many miracles (including raising the dead and the miracles of food) which were mirrored, in a greater way, by Jesus.

Readings

  • 2 Kings 2
  • John 1:19-28
  • Matthew 17:1-13

Prayer

Pray… that you will seek to do mighty things for God, and ask Him to give you the strength to do so.

Day 180 – Elisha & Elijah

The chariot of fire, passing the mantle, the springs of Jericho & Elijah’s return

 

  • Elijah has been busy at work in the last week of our readings, but today we say goodbye to him as he passes the job of “the prophet to the kings” to his successor, Elisha.
  • Several times Elijah tried to leave Elisha behind in today’s passage from 2 Kings 2. Why do you think this is? Did Elisha know what was about to happen?
  • What did the new man, Elisha, ask of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:9-10? Why do you think he asked for this? Was it a good thing to ask for?
  • How do you think Elisha knew if God had given him what he asked for?
  • Did Elijah die? What happened instead? Do you remember someone we’ve already read about who didn’t die? Can you imagine what the scene looked like?
  • After Elijah leaves, Elisha performs several miraculous acts in this chapter alone. What were they?
  • The final story in our Old Testament reading today (about the bears) was, once upon a time when I was a mischievous youngster, one of my favourite passages. I considered it rather (darkly) humorous, despite the brutal events. What do you think when you read it? Does it seem harsh? How does your study bible notes help you to understand this story better, if you have one? Can you imagine that Elisha might have been quite scared at the large gathering of unruly boys?
  • We see Elijah’s name several times in the New Testament, including in both of today’s other passages. We see him appear during the Transfiguration, which we read in the passage in Matthew. We’ll read about this event later in the reading plan; it was a special one-off event which showed people that Jesus was God’s chosen King. Elijah “appeared”, along with Moses, to point out that the prophets (Elijah) and the Law (Moses) all point directly to Jesus.
  • Elijah also “appeared” in the form of John the Baptist. John isn’t literally Elijah, as he says in the passage in John, but take a look at Matthew 11:12-14 and Malachi 4:5 to get an understanding about how John prepared the way for Jesus. We’ll also read these passages in the New Testament again later in the year.

 

We’re starting to work through 2 Kings, so here’s a little info video which will help prepare you for the studies to come. It’s easy for 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles, to get rather mixed up in your head, so the video might help you to focus on the major events we’re about to read of.

 

Make sure that you have a good basic understanding of Elijah as we leave his story today. The way that John the Baptist had to deny he was Elijah, and the importance of the events of the Transfiguration (in Matthew 17) should show you his influence as a figure in Israel’s history, both in what he did during his life and the way he was remembered after.

 

Readings

  • None… unless you need to catch up!

Prayer

A day off from reading is not a day off from praying or living as a Christian. Pray for something that’s on your heart today.

Day 179 – Day Off

 

 

Have you ever had a really long tiring journey, when you’ve been in a car for hours and hours and you feel sore and bored, or when you’ve trekked up a mountain that never seems to end?

 

You may be finding the readings in a rather similar way. They may feel like a bit of a slog, and you see a sign that says there is still 300 miles to go and there’s a long way to go before the home straight.

 

That won’t be helped by the fact that we’re in the middle of a period in the bible that you just won’t know so well. You may know a little of Elijah and Elisha, but this may be the first time you’ve encountered all these kings, or looked at the history of the spilt of the land into Israel and Judah. Lots and lots of history!

 

But, even though it’s tricky, at the same time I hope you’re finding it fascinating. I am! Learning about all these kings, good and bad, is really interesting I think!

 

Keep reading carefully and studying my notes. Make sure you’re still dedicating 20-30 minutes each day to your readings, prayer time and note making. If you find the you’re getting to the stage where you’re skim reading the passages and only vaguely looking over my notes, stop! Do it properly!

 

And some encouragement for you: by the time you’ve finished the study on Wednesday, you’ll be half way through the entire reading plan. Brilliant work, and well done!

Readings

  • 2 Chronicles 21
  • 2 Samuel 7:16-17
  • Psalm 132:10-12

Prayer

Pray… and thank God that the sin of man – however awful – will never cause God to turn away from His wonderful promises.

Day 178 – Jehoram (Southern King 8 years)

God’s promise to David & Elijah’s letter to Jehoram

 

  • Jehoshaphat’s death (2 Chronicles 21:1) brings his eldest son, Jehoram, onto the throne of Judah in today’s readings. Is Jehoram anything like his father?
  • Notice how Jehoshaphat had been blessed with a large family. This often happens to godly people in the bible. Jehoshaphat clearly loved them all (2 Chronicles 21:3) but Jehoram was the eldest and so was given the throne. But then… what awful act does Jehoram start his reign with? Can you imagine the story in the press if such a thing were to happen nowadays?!
  • Who did Jehoram marry? You might remember this bit of information from a few days ago. Was this a good or a bad marriage? How do you think having Ahab for a father-in-law, and Jezebel for a mother-in-law, would have affected Jehoram?
  • Jehoshaphat had previously had victory over the people of a place called Edom. What did the Edomites do during Jehoram’s time? When Jehoram tried to keep them from revolting, did God give victory to him like He had done with his father?
  • How did Elijah tell Jehoram about God’s displeasure with him? What does Elijah say will happen? Does it happen? It sounds absolutely awful doesn’t it!
  • What stopped God from destroying Jehoram and his descendants for their sin? Look at 2 Chronicles 21:7 as well as both the passages in today’s readings, in 2 Samuel and the Psalms. Why is it such good news that God keeps His promises, despite the sinful inclinations of mankind? Which super Saviour eventually came through David’s descendants?
  • What did the people at the time think of their king? Do you think they had much pity on him when his disease hit, based on what it says in 2 Chronicles 21:19-20? Certainly it seems like the author of the book of Chronicles didn’t!

 

“Like father, like son” goes the famous saying, but it isn’t the case here, is it? Today we read about an awful son who became a cruel king, who ended his days with his subjects hating him.

 

What must God have been thinking, as he saw this descendant of David acting with such flagrant disregard for His Creator and Redeemer? What would you be tempted to do if you were God?

 

It’s perhaps a good job we’re not! God did punish Jehoram, but relented from anything further because of His promise to David. Do you remember reading about them in 2 Samuel 7? God never forgets His promises, or fails in them. God’s patience is really showing here. He is most certainly slow to anger, and He knows that there is a great plan to deal with all these messed up, sinful human lives that we see in these verses.

 

We can also be the beneficiaries of God’s promises, because we know He will keep them, and we know that in Jesus many of those promises were fulfilled. What wonderful, rock solid truth that is!

Readings

  • 2 Chronicles 19
  • 2 Chronicles 20
  • 1 Kings 22:41-50

Prayer

Pray… for courage in difficult situations where you stand up for, and rely on, God.

Day 177 – Jehoshaphat (Southern King 25 years)

Jehoshaphat’s reforms & singers on the battlefield

 

  • Once again we are heading into Chronicles to pick up the story instead of staying in the book of Kings. You’ll be getting the idea that the two books have quite a lot of overlap about the events they detail, although there are differences in information they give.
  • What good things did Jehoshaphat do? What about the weaknesses we can also see in his judgement (we read about one of these yesterday)?
  • Despite the fact the Jehoshaphat wasn’t perfect (no earthly king ever was), God used him to do mighty things. This was partly because he learned from his mistakes and accepted the rebukes he received. Do you learn from your poor choices, like Jehoshaphat? Who else have we looked at who had a similar attitude?
  • When Jehoshaphat heard of the impending threat in 2 Chronicles 20:1-2, what did he do?
  • Look at Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:5-12. What gives him confidence that God will help them? What are Jehoshaphat’s pleas to God?
  • Who assembled together to hear the answer from God? When you go through difficult times, do you involve other Christian friends/family/support to help you? Are you comfortable sharing the pressures you feel with these people, perhaps at a midweek bible study or with a small group of people you trust?
  • What encouraging words did God give Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:15 onward?
  • How did Jehoshaphat use singing and praising God as part of the weaponry of his army? Whilst they were praising, what was God causing to happen amongst the attackers? We can see this from 2 Chronicles 20:24.
  • What song would you sing if you were in that situation?
  • Notice that Jehoshaphat never prayed for the plunder or material reward, but he and his people received it nevertheless, as we can see by the account of the days it took to strip the battlefield of all the things left behind. What can this help to teach us?

 

Jehoshaphat made some poor decisions in his life but God built him up and used him mightily because, as part of his response to his sin, he opened his heart to God and welcomed Him in to work in his life. It might sound odd to say that, but God gives us free will – a choice we have to follow Him, or to walk away. His heart weeps for every person who chooses to turn their back on Him, but there is a party in Heaven whenever someone comes back to him, as the wonderful words of Luke 15:7 teaches us.

 

And so yes – God can use you mightily but you need to make yourself open to being used. That’s done by understanding the words of Scripture, opening your heart to them, putting God number one in what you say and do, and repenting of your sin when you stumble. If that describes your faith then I rejoice too, and I pray that God will do great things in your life and through you.

Readings

  • 2 Chronicles 18:1-4
  • 1 Kings 22:1-40
  • Jeremiah 42:1-6

Prayer

Pray… for wisdom when making friendships with non Christians, so that their (non Christian) values don’t become your values.

Day 176 – Ahab #5

Micaiah’s prophecy, saying what God says & Ahab’s death

 

  • Today is the last story in the sad life of King Ahab. Three years have passed since the events we read about yesterday.
  • Ahab makes an alliance with the new king of Judah, a man named Jehoshaphat. We’ll read more about this southern king tomorrow, but it’s important to know that he is a good king. He is clearly at peace with Ahab following the fighting of their predecessors. Their relationship is such that their families were connected by marriage (one of Ahab’s sons married one of Jehoshaphat’s daughters), as today’s opening passages teach.
  • Ahab wants Jehoshaphat to help him defeat the city of Ramoth-gilead, which is still in the hands of the Syrians. What does Jehoshaphat say in 1 Kings 22:4-5, especially in verse 5?
  • Flick back to 1 Kings 18:19. Notice that there were 450 prophets of Baal (who were killed) and a further 400 prophets of Asherah. It’s likely that the prophets that Ahab called together in 1 Kings 22:6 were these false prophets. This is even more likely when the wiser Jehoshaphat asked for a real prophet in the next verse! This prophet is called Micaiah. Does Ahab want to speak to him?
  • What prophecy does Micaiah bring in 1 Kings 22:13-23? You may be surprised at his words in verses 15-16; it’s likely that Micaiah’s words here were a mocking imitation of the false prophets.
  • Ahab put on a disguise during the battle to help him from being pinpointed and attacked. Did it help him? The author even makes a point of saying that the arrow hit him “at random”, indicating perhaps that the shot was directed by God. Can you remember another recent story of someone who tried to fool God by putting a disguise on? Crazy!
  • Jehoshaphat nearly got killed himself in battle because the attackers thought that he was Ahab. Do you think, now you’ve read the full account, that it was wise for Jehoshaphat to make the close alliance with the ungodly king Ahab?

 

God’s plans will always work out, regardless of what we do to try and stop them. We might try disguising ourselves, or hiding our activities, to hide from God. Or we might ignore the advice we should be listening to, and surround ourselves instead with false-speaking people who tell us what we want to hear. Both were tried in this passage, and of course neither worked.

 

We didn’t read it, but in 2 Chronicles 19:2, Jehoshaphat is rebuked for entering into this alliance with Ahab. It wasn’t wise, and it led to a dangerous situation which he was lucky to escape from. I’ve spoken before of the dangers of romantic relationships with non-Christians, and it would be wise to extend a caution to the regular friendships you have with non-Christians too. This isn’t a call to drop those friendships, for we all have them and you may be the only way they hear the good news of Jesus, but simply to be cautious about allowing yourself to be tempted into ungodly or dangerous behaviour. The desire to fit into a non-Christian friendship circle can easily become a snare which pulls you slowly away from a Jesus-centred life.

Readings

  • 1 Kings 20
  • 1 Kings 21
  • 2 Kings 9:24-26

Prayer

Pray… that you will take advice well, and not sulk!

Day 175 – Ahab #4

Syria’s threats & Naboth’s vineyard

 

1 Kings 20 is rather tough going at points, but stick with it. 1 Kings 21 is perhaps a more useful focus for your notes today.

 

  • Today the focus moves away from Elijah and back to the king of Israel, Ahab. During this time, as we read in 1 Kings 20:1, the king of Aram (a neighbouring region) has got together with many other tribal leaders to attack Samaria. Samaria was the capital of Israel (the northern part, remember), so this was serious news.
  • How does the king, Ahab, react to the messengers from Ben-Hadad? Why do you think he was quick to agree to the demands of the attacking forces (look at 1 Kings 20:3-4)?
  • Does Ahab agree to the next set of demands in verses 5-9? How does Ben-Hadad respond to that?
  • Despite the fact that Ahab was an evil king himself, how does God deliver him and Israel in 1 Kings 20:13:34? How are the Israelite people described in verse 27, compared to the enemy? How many times do the Arameans attack Israel and how many of them were killed?
  • Why do you think God worked in this miraculous way for Ahab and his army? Was it because of Ahab’s faith?
  • In 1 Kings 20:43, Ahab returns home in a “sullen” mood. He sullen again at the start of the next story about Naboth’s vineyard too, isn’t he! Can you imagine an adult – a king even – sulking because he didn’t get his way about some land?!
  • Read the story of Naboth carefully. It’s an astonishing tale of the lengths that people can go to to satisfy their own hearts. Ahab has approached Naboth with what seems like a fair offer for his vineyard. Why was Naboth reluctant to sell the land to the king in 1 Kings 21:3? Do you think the king should have understood Naboth’s reasons, having so recently been shown the power of the God in the battle against the Arameans?
  • What evil act does Jezebel arrange so that her husband got the land he desired?
  • When Elijah hears about what has happened, what stark words does he bring to the royal couple, in the latter part of 1 Kings 21? How does he, and in turn God, respond? Check out the final reading for the culmination of God’s judgement.

 

 

You may have thought that these two passages don’t seem entirely fair. An evil king is saved from an attacking nation, even though God owed him nothing. The same king then demands (and, as events happened, received) land he wasn’t entitled to through the death of a good man, Naboth.

 

God even stops short of punishing Ahab – it’s his son who bears the punishment. Where’s the fairness in that?

 

Well… Ahab was, indeed, later killed in the way that the prophet said he would. And the rebellious people of Israel were, in the end, raided and taken away by the Assyrians. We’ll read about that later in the year. The punishments didn’t happen straight away though.

 

We have turned away from God in our lives too, haven’t we? And if God had the inclination to deal with us instantly and swiftly, He would be right and just in doing so. But He graciously hasn’t done that. Every moment that we have, where we can repent and turn back to Him, is a moment that we have by nothing other than His grace. That grace even extended to welcoming us back through the death of His Son.

 

God undoubtedly dealt with the poor Naboth appropriately, and he may well now be in glory. How amazing is it that through Jesus, we – sinful as we are – have been given that chance to join him!

Readings

  • 1 Kings 19
  • Psalm 103:13-14
  • Romans 11:1-8

Prayer

Pray… that in low moments, or times when you despair, that you will find comfort in God’s Word.

Day 174 – Ahab #3

Elijah’s depression, God’s compassion, the 7000 & Elisha

 

  • Remember back to our reading yesterday, when Elijah “faced off” against the 450 prophets of Baal? Well, today we read the aftermath of that event, and things are tough for God’s prophet.
  • Jezebel, the king’s evil wife, has heard about what happened on the mountain. Did she turn to God after hearing of His deeds with the fire from heaven? Why not? What message did she send to Elijah instead?
  • Have you ever heard someone say “I’ll believe in God if I see a sign”? Jezebel had as clear a sign as one could ever hope for, but she still hardened her heart towards God. Signs don’t always lead to faith, do they? What sign – the biggest of them all – have we had that people still ignore?
  • After everything Elijah had just done in the name of the Lord, are you surprised that he was afraid of Jezebel? Why do you think he felt like that?
  • Elijah seemed to have lost confidence in God in 1 Kings 19:4. He’s tired, and feels his work is fruitless. Do you feel like that sometimes? What situations or times of the day do you find it harder to trust in God’s love?
  • How did God take care of Elijah?
  • What do you think the point of verses 1 Kings 19:11-13 are? Why is God in the small voice, but not in the storm, earthquake or fire? Perhaps God is saying that there is a time for judgement (i.e. the destructive power of storms, etc) but that sometimes we need Him in a close and personal way. You might have your own interpretations.
  • Based on Elijah’s answer to God’s repeated question, do you think he understood God’s message?
  • Who did God prepare to help Elijah towards the end of the chapter? Elijah and Elisha are easy to mistake, so make sure you have them both set properly in your mind.
  • Elisha dropped everything in his life to follow and attend to Elijah. Who is a support to you in your low moments?
  • The verses in the Psalm are comforting. What other comforting verses do you hold on to during tough times? You might like to share them with someone else doing this reading plan.
  • In the passage in Romans, the author, the apostle Paul, is writing about God’s grace to His people when all else seemed lost. In a passage of comfort about seeing God when things around look desperate, he uses Elijah’s appeals to God as the basis of his argument. What, as Elijah discovered, and Paul understood, is the heartening message of these eleven verses?

 

 

Find a quiet moment today to spend time with God – not just a time when you are alone but a time when you can focus on God without distraction. Just enjoy being quiet. You could pray at the start for God to draw near to you, and spend time listening. Bring before him your times of doubt and struggle, and perhaps read Psalm 23 or some other words of encouragement.

 

You don’t have to do or say anything special. Just give five minutes of your time to God tonight, perhaps putting this reading plan into your prayers if you’re struggling with it, and remembering the reasons you have for doing it – to come closer to your Saviour God.

Readings

  • 1 Kings 18
  • 2 Kings 1:1-15
  • Luke 9:51-56

Prayer

Pray… and remember we serve a powerful and mighty God!

Day 173 – Ahab #2

Elijah’s victory, the fires from Heaven & end of the drought

 

  • We’re still in Ahab’s reign (and will be for several more days) but our focus once again is on the prophet Elijah and this amusing story of God’s power compared to false gods.
  • Our passages today open with Obadiah, another prophet. Obadiah served God just like Elijah did, but in a very different way. Can you see an example of what Obadiah was doing to support the other prophets during the evil reign of king Ahab?
  • Obadiah took a “lesser” role than Elijah. It was one of servitude without necessarily being in the limelight. God uses us all in different ways, doesn’t He? How does God use you, and are you willing to do that role even if it might not have the status of other jobs? Can you think of jobs at church which need to be done but don’t get the attention that others do?
  • Look at the conversation between Elijah and Obadiah in 1 Kings 18:7-16. What’s Obadiah scared of doing? Why? Does he do it anyway? What’s the result? Have you ever stepped out in faith, doing something scary, trusting in God to see you through?
  • Elijah does indeed meet with the king, as we read in 1 Kings 18:16 onward. What brave message does Elijah bring to Ahab?
  • The rest of 1 Kings 18 is the fun story of Elijah facing off against the 450 prophets of the false god, Baal. Baal was worshipped by many in the foreign lands that surrounded Israel. What does Elijah do, in 1 Kings 18:19-40, to shows God’s almighty power against the impotence of a false god like Baal?
  • Quite possibly the most withering sarcasm in the bible is found in Elijah’s taunts in verse 27. Read it again if you missed it! Do you imagine prophets could be sarcastic? Do you think Elijah’s taunts were the right thing to do?
  • How did God show his power and might in this passage? Notice that the stones were consumed by fire too – this was more than a freak lightning bolt from the sky. This was God at work!
  • The passage in 2 Kings, which shows events several years later, shows us another story in the life of Elijah. In it we see him calling on God to destroy the armies who had come to try and capture him. What can we learn from this passage? What had Ahaziah’s choice to turn away from God led to? Interestingly, by 2 Kings 1:15, Ahaziah finally got the meeting he requested, but God’s will still prevails and Ahaziah dies.
  • Why does Jesus rebuke James and John in the passage in Luke? You might be wondering why, if Elijah can call down fire from God to destroy people, why they or we shouldn’t try either? Don’t forget why Jesus came though. He didn’t come to bring judgement (that’s going to come next time!). He came to bring a message of reconciliation and grace; a free offer of the gospel. Compelling people into believing God through fear, signs or punishment wasn’t (and isn’t) the order of the day. Jesus’ life and saving act of love on the cross is the best message we can share now, not fire!

 

As we finish, flick back to the first reading again and cast your eyes down to verse 21. Elijah challenged the people to “stop limping between two different opinions”. In other words, the people were continually flipping between following God, perhaps when it was easy or when it suited them, and following Baal. They may have even convinced themselves that they could get away with pretending to do both at the same time.

 

It doesn’t work like that! God is a jealous God, and doesn’t share our affections with anyone else!

 

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be doing the same thing though. I know I do from time to time. Do you praise God at a midweek bible study, and then do things on Saturday evening which betray all you know about the great and wonderful Lord you claim to love and serve? Do you care that you are doing this, or aware that you are doing so? Do you have the conviction in your heart to put Jesus number one in these times?

 

I guess it comes down to a simple question – who have you been truly worshipping this week, and who will you be worshipping tonight?

Readings

  • None… unless you need to catch up!

Prayer

A day off from reading is not a day off from praying or living as a Christian. Pray for something that’s on your heart today.

Day 172 – Day Off

 

 

The next couple of weeks are going to be a bit tough at times, because we’re looking at a lot of kings, many of which you might be unfamiliar with, and many of whom were pretty awful.

 

We’ll be reading especially about Ahab, a bad king, and his evil wife. This week we’ll also be introduced to the prophet Elijah.

 

I hope you enjoy studying and finding out all about how God worked through these messed up kings to continue to bring His promised king. Take your time with your readings and read the passages carefully. You don’t need to remember everything about every king, or the order, or the specifics of who did what. But you should be able to explain the story in your own words at the end of the day and see how we can learn from the situations and people we’re reading about.

 

Enjoy your day off!