A Promise for the Exiles

Bible:

And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, your brothers, even your brothers, your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, all of them, are those of whom the inhabitants of Jerusalem have said, ‘Go far from the Lord; to us this land is given for a possession.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Though I removed them far off among the nations, and though I scattered them among the countries, yet I have been a sanctuary to them for a while in the countries where they have gone.’ Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’ And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 11:14-21 ESV

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12 ESV

Reflection:

My grandmother was born in Germany, but when she was nine years old her mother sent her to the United States to live with her aunt and uncle. My grandmother learned a new language and was able to get an education, but she always felt as if her mother had sent her away because she didn’t love her. She missed her mother and her sister and brothers that had stayed in Germany. It was only many, many years later that she was able to travel back to Germany and see her mother and sister and brothers again. When she saw her family after such a long time, she learned that her mother loved her very much and had wanted her to have a better life. She hadn’t sent her away because she loved her sister and her brothers more than her. Her brothers and sister had always thought that she was the lucky one, because she had been able to come to America.

There were some similar feelings happening among God’s people during Ezekiel’s time. The Babylonians had taken many people away from their homeland and into exile, but some of the poorest people had been left behind in their own country. The people who had been left behind felt that they were God’s favorites and that the Lord didn’t care about the exiles at all. The exiles might have felt the same way, but God spoke through Ezekiel to reassure the exiles of his love for them. He said that even though they had been forced to come to a foreign country to live, God was a sanctuary to them. The Lord himself was with his people in exile, keeping them safe. He promised that some day they would return to their home, and that when they came home they would get rid of all the idols that had ruined their country. God would give his people a new heart and a new spirit so that they would want to obey him and follow his ways. But people who were stubborn and refused to turn back to God, but instead kept on worshiping false gods and goddesses, would be punished for their sins.

We also turn away from God and go our own way when we sin. But no matter how far away from God we go, he loves us and wants to bring us home to him. He came to us in Jesus to die for us and win us back to our Heavenly Father. Because of Jesus, we are never far away from God. He is always ready to forgive our sins and give us new hearts and new spirits so that we want to obey him and follow his ways. Someday he will bring us to our home in heaven, where we will be with him forever.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and bringing us home to you through Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

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A Cruel Tyrant

Bible:

Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:8-15 ESV

Why do the nations rage
 and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.” Psalm 2:1-3 ESV

Reflection:

Long ago the Roman empire was ruled for a few years by an emperor named Caligula. Caligula was a cruel tyrant who often said, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.” Some of the things he did were weird, like making merchant ships form a floating bridge across a bay so he could spend two days galloping back and forth on it, or leading his soldiers to the battle front on the Rhine River or the English Channel and having them fill their helmets with sea shells. But many of the things he did were terribly cruel. For example, he made some of the senators run for miles in front of his chariot. He put many people to death, even for reasons such as mentioning a goat in his presence. After ruling for a few years, he was stabbed to death by military officers. After that happened people said that he “learned by actual experience that he was not a god.”

Nebuchadnezzar was also a cruel tyrant in many ways. When he made a golden image, he passed a law that forced everyone to bow down to it. Anyone who didn’t do that was to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t think he had to answer to anyone, not to God or to any person. When he found out that Daniel’s three friends hadn’t bowed down to his golden image, he was furious with them. He said that there was no way that anyone, human or a god, could save them from the punishment he had prepared for them. Nebuchadnezzar had made himself into a god, and expected everyone and everything to bow to his will and do everything he wanted them to, no matter what it was.

We might think people like Caligula and Nebuchadnezzar were terrible people, but in a way we’re like them. We want to do whatever we want, and we want to make other people do what we want them to do. We don’t want to have to answer to anyone, not even to God. We want to make ourselves into gods, and this is the root of what sin is. Because of our sin and rebellion against God, we deserve God’s punishment forever, and there’s no way we could ever save ourselves. But God came to us in Jesus to save us by dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins every day, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us follow his ways instead of our own.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive our sinful rebellion against you, and help us to follow your ways in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/caligula

The Golden Image

Bible:

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Daniel 3:1-7 ESV

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6 ESV

Reflection:

Long ago in Switzerland the Habsburgs of Austria ruled the Swiss people. A man named Gessler was appointed by the Habsburgs to rule the town of Altdorf. Gessler was a proud and cruel man, and he wanted to make sure that everyone respected and obeyed him. If anyone met him, they had to bow down to him, but that wasn’t good enough for Gessler. He put up a pole in the center of the town, and he put his hat on top of the pole. Everyone who passed by the pole had to bow down to his hat on top of the pole to show their respect. The punishment for not doing this was death, but the Swiss hero William Tell refused to bow down to Gessler’s hat. Gessler punished him by making him shoot an apple off his son’s head with an arrow. We don’t know how much of this story is true, but William Tell is still a hero to the Swiss people today.

A similar thing happened in ancient Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar was the king. He made a huge golden image and set it up where everyone could see it. Then he made a law that all the people and all of the officials of the province, no matter what their language or ethnic group or tribe, would have to bow down to this image when the royal band played its music. If anyone didn’t, he would be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to make sure that everyone in his kingdom respected him, even those who were from different countries. He wanted to show his power and authority, and everyone was afraid to disobey his order. When the music played, everyone bowed down to the statue. They were giving Nebuchadnezzar and the golden image the respect and honor that should only be given to the true God.

This might seem like a strange story to us, but no matter where or when we live there are temptations to give honor and respect to people or things in a way that it should only be given to God. We might worship money, or fame, or power, or success, or look to others who have these things as our example or our help. Sometimes governments pass laws that don’t follow the laws of God. Some people look to stars or crystals or spirits for power and wisdom instead of to the Lord. All of these are ways that we might be tempted to worship a false god instead of the true God. Jesus came to bring us back to the true God, and to die for our sins of worshiping other things instead of the Lord. He destroyed the work of the devil when he died and rose again, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to keep us safe from worshiping false gods that will hurt us, and help us keep our Heavenly Father first in our lives.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying for us to bring us back to our Heavenly Father, and for protecting us from the forces of evil. Amen.

 

An Impossible Task

Bible:

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm—if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” Daniel 2:1-11 ESV

But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:24b-27 ESV

Reflection:

Psyche was a beautiful mortal woman who was married to the god Cupid, but she had accidentally spilled some burning oil on her husband, and he had left her and gone home to his mother, the goddess Venus. Venus was very angry with Psyche, and when Psyche came to her to try to appease her anger, Venus gave her some impossible tasks to do. First she sent her to a huge room filled with different kinds of grains that were all mixed up, and told her to separate the grains into piles according to what kind they were. But Psyche’s husband Cupid felt sorry for her and called on the ants to come and help her finish this task. The next task Venus gave Psyche was to gather a sample of golden fleece from some rams with vicious horns and teeth, but the nearby river god felt sorry for her and told her when and how to complete this task. Finally Venus made Psyche journey to the kingdom of Pluto in the underworld and take some beauty from Proserpine, the queen of the underworld, and bring it to Venus in a box. These were all impossible tasks, but in each case Psyche was able to do them because she had the help of the gods.

This is only a story, but in our Bible reading Nebuchadnezzar seemed to be angry with all his wise men and magicians, because he also gave them an impossible task. Perhaps he wondered if they were really as wise as they said they were, and he wanted to test them. When Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him, he called all his wise men for help. But he wouldn’t tell them what the dream was. Instead, he said that they were supposed to read his mind and tell them what his dream had been, and then tell him what it meant. When all the wise men and magicians asked the king to tell them his dream, he got angry and said that they were just stalling for time. If they were really wise, they would be able to tell him what his dream was, and if they weren’t able to do that, how would they be able to tell the meaning? The wise men all said that they couldn’t read the king’s mind. Only the gods would be able to do what the king asked.

The wise men and magicians of Babylon believed in false gods who didn’t exist and couldn’t help them with this trouble. Only the true God can help when a situation seems to be impossible. The most impossible situation there ever was was when we fell into sin and came under the power of death and the devil. There was no way that we could ever save ourselves, in fact, that would have been the most impossible task of all time. But God came to us in Jesus to save us, because nothing is impossible with God. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead, and he destroyed the power of sin and death and the devil. Because of Jesus, we are God’s children, and he is able to help us no matter what trouble we face.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for saving us and for being with us and helping us every day. Amen.

Source:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/bulf/bulf10.htm

Forsaken

Bible:

“For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them, for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord. Both great and small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried, and no one shall lament for them or cut himself or make himself bald for them. No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother. You shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.

“And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ then you shall say to them: ‘Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Therefore I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods day and night, for I will show you no favor.’” Jeremiah 16:5-13

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34 ESV

Reflection:

There are two things that bring people together–funerals and weddings. We often think of a funeral as a sad and serious thing, but in New Orleans some people have jazz funerals. A band plays sad music while the body is carried to the graveyard, and many people follow it in a solemn parade. After the body is buried, the parade continues, but now the music becomes lively, and the people dance to it. This helps them dance out their sadness and celebrate the life of the person who has died. Some weddings in India have an interesting custom. When the bride and groom go into the place where they will get married, they have to take their shoes off. The bride’s sisters steal the groom’s shoes and hide them, and the groom’s brothers and cousins try to find the shoes. If they can’t find them, they have to pay gold and silver rings and money to get the shoes back!

Funerals and weddings are times when people get together to share sorrow and joy with each other. But as the judgment of the southern kingdom came closer, the Lord told his prophet Jeremiah to stay away from funerals and weddings. The time would soon come when there would be so much disaster and death that there wouldn’t be time to have a funeral for everyone who died, and such terrible times that there wouldn’t be any happy wedding celebrations. When the people saw that Jeremiah stayed away from their important occasions, they would ask him why, and he would tell them words of God’s judgment. The Lord loved his people and wanted to be part of their times of joy and sorrow, but they had turned away from him and worshiped false gods and not followed God’s law. The Lord was turning away from his people because they had turned away from him, and Jeremiah was a picture of God no longer being close to them and part of their lives.

We have also turned away from God and gone our own way, but God sent his only Son Jesus to pay the price for our sins and to bring us back to our Heavenly Father. When Jesus hung on the cross, his Heavenly Father turned away from him, and he was alone with the sins of the world. There was no one who could help him or share his burden. The sky became dark in the middle of the day, and he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But because Jesus was alone with our sins, we never have to be alone. God will never turn away from us, but will be with us always, sharing in our times of sorrow and our times of joy.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us and forgiving us and for never leaving us. Please be with us in our happy days and our sad days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Sources:

https://www.funeralwise.com/customs/neworleans/
http://www.utsavpedia.com/weddings-festivals/joota-chori/

My Joy is Gone

Bible:

My joy is gone; grief is upon me;
my heart is sick within me.
Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people
from the length and breadth of the land:
“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”
“Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images
and with their foreign idols?”
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”
For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded;
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Jeremiah 8:18-21 ESV

O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us.
You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;
repair its breaches, for it totters.
You have made your people see hard things;
you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger.

You have set up a banner for those who fear you,
that they may flee to it from the bow.
That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer us! Psalm 60:1-5 ESV

Reflection:

The Roman empire once stretched from England into Europe to the Euphrates River to the north coast of Africa, but over time it became weaker. Rome fell in 455 to the Visigoths, but in the years before that the imperial capital was sacked by the Vandals, who had moved through present-day Germany, France, and Spain, destroying as they went. A Christian scholar named Jerome lived in Rome, and he wrote about the horrible things that were happening to the Roman empire because of the Vandals. He wrote: “Nations innumerable and most savage have invaded all Gaul. . . . Oh wretched Empire! Mayence, formerly so noble a city, has been taken and ruined, and in the church many thousands of men have been massacred. . . . Aquitaine and the provinces of Lyons and Narbonne, all save a few towns, have been depopulated; and these the sword threatens without, while hunger ravages within. . . . Spain, even, is in daily terror lest it perish. . . . Our tears are dried by old age. . . . Who could believe that Rome, built upon the conquest of the whole world, would fall to the ground?”

Many years before that, Jeremiah mourned for his people of the southern kingdom of Judah. They were becoming weaker and weaker, and their end was near.  People who were living through these terrible times were wondering where the Lord was, and why he wasn’t helping his people. They hoped that their king would keep them safe, but he didn’t seem to be able to. Time had gone by, summer and fall, while the people waited to be saved, but they weren’t saved. The time for judgment had come to Judah because they had worshiped false gods and made idols to bow down to instead of the Lord.

We sometimes live through difficult times, also. When we have troubles and hurts, we can cry out to God to save us and help us. We don’t deserve his help, because we’ve turned away from him in sin and rebellion, but God came to us in Jesus to take the terrible load of sin on himself. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins, and he hears our cries for help and promises to help us in his best way. Sometimes God works through our problems to bring us closer to him and to pull us away from sins that are hurting us. We can’t always understand why things happen the way they do, but we can always be sure of God’s love, not because of anything we’ve done, but because of what Jesus has done for us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving us and for hearing our cries for help because of our Savior, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/fallofrome.htm

Family Sin

Bible:

“As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Is it I whom they provoke? declares the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.” Jeremiah 7:16-20 ESV

And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the Lord is giving you. Deuteronomy 11:13-17 ESV

Reflection:

In colonial times in the United States, most people worked very hard to take care of their needs every day. In a family, everyone had a job to do, even little children. Small kids might weed the garden, wash the dishes, and feed the chickens, even when they were as young as three years old! Both boys and girls would learn how to knit when they were about four years old so they could help make some of the family clothes. Children were also very important to the process of making candles and soap, because their small fingers were good at picking the berries that gave them the wax they needed. Children worked hard, but so did their parents, and everyone in the family worked together to get things done. For example, when a family made clothes for itself, children would gather the materials they needed to make dye for the clothes. Women and girls would spin thread on spinning wheels, while men and boys used looms to weave the cloth. Then women would take the cloth and sew clothes for everyone.

God gives us families to work together and help each other, but when families turn away from God, they sometimes work together to do things that displease the Lord. This was happening in Jeremiah’s time in a terrible way. The people were turning away from the true God to worship false gods and goddesses, including a goddess named Ashtoreth, who was thought to be the queen of heaven and the wife of the false god Baal. One way of worshiping the queen of heaven was to make cakes for her, and this was a job the whole family got involved in. The children would gather the wood, and their fathers would take it to make a fire for their oven, while the mothers would make the dough to bake the cakes. God’s judgment was coming to the people because of what they were doing, and what they were teaching their children to do.

When children have Christian parents who teach them to know and love the Lord, it is a wonderful blessing. But even Christian families fall short of God’s plan sometimes. We might not worship false gods, but we argue and fight and hurt each other. We don’t always help each other or serve God together. But God loves all people, and he sent Jesus to be our Savior. Jesus took all the sins of the world to the cross with him and paid for them there. Because of Jesus, we have God’s forgiveness every day, and we can love and forgive each other, too. It’s the love and forgiveness that comes from Jesus that really makes a Christian family, and helps families to know and worship the Lord and help and forgive each other.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the blessing of our family. Help us to love and help each other, and to worship and serve you together. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

http://www.williamsburgkids.com/dailylife/chores.htm

 

A Curse Comes True

Bible:

Moreover, the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place [Josiah] pulled down and burned, reducing it to dust. He also burned the Asherah. And as Josiah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord that the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. Then he said, “What is that monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things that you have done against the altar at Bethel.” And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samaria. And Josiah removed all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the Lord to anger. He did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. II Kings 23:15-19 ESV

And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’” I Kings 13:1-2 ESV

Reflection:

Have you ever heard of the curse of Tecumseh? Tecumseh was the chief of the Shawnee tribe, and in 1811 American forces, led by William Henry Harrison, went to war with the Shawnees and defeated them. In 1840 Harrison was elected as president of the United States, but he got very sick and died after only one month in office. Years later there was a story that Chief Tecumseh had put a curse, not only on President Harrison, but also on every future president of the United States elected in a year ending in zero. The curse was that that president would die while in office. Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, and he was assassinated in his second term. James Garfield was elected in 1880 and was assassinated, too. William McKinley was elected to his second term of office in 1900, and also was assassinated. Warren G. Harding was elected in 1920 and died of a stroke. Franklin Roosevelt was elected to his third term as president in 1940, and he died in 1945 near the beginning of his fourth term. John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, and he was assassinated. Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, but he didn’t die while he was in office even though he was older than presidents had been in the past. He served two terms and survived when a man shot and tried to kill him. Was the curse broken? Or was it all just a coincidence?

Strange coincidences happen, and sometimes people make up a story to explain them. No one knows that Chief Tecumseh ever put a curse on the presidents of the United States. But there was one curse that we know is true. When Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom, built an altar to the golden calf he had made for his people to worship, a prophet of the Lord came and put a curse on the altar. He said that someday there would be a king from David’s line named Josiah who would burn human bones on the altar and make it unfit to serve any false god again. Many, many years later King Josiah cleared his own southern kingdom of false gods and goddesses, then went north and did the same thing in the area where the northern kingdom had been. He burned the old altar where people had sacrificed to the golden calf, and pulled the bones of the false prophets out of their graves and burned them on top of the ashes. This curse came true because it was from God, and all of God’s words always come true.

In the beginning, when our first parents sinned, they fell under the curse of sin and death, just as God had said they would. But God promised them that he would break that curse. The devil, who had taken the form of a snake to tempt and trick them, was also cursed by God. Someday a man would be born into the human family who would crush the devil’s head and destroy all his works. When that happened, the curse of sin and death would be broken for everyone who believes in God’s promised Savior. Jesus is that promised Savior. He destroyed death and all the forces of evil when he died on the cross and rose again from the dead. Jesus has broken the curse of sin for us, and we are free to be his people, now and forever.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for breaking the curse of sin and death for us and giving us eternal life. Amen.

Source:

https://www.thoughtco.com/tecumsehs-curse-and-the-us-presidents-105440

Terrible Judgment

Bible:

The word of the Lord that came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.

“I will utterly sweep away everything
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will sweep away man and beast;
I will sweep away the birds of the heavens
and the fish of the sea,
and the rubble with the wicked.
I will cut off mankind
from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord.
“I will stretch out my hand against Judah
and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem;
and I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal
and the name of the idolatrous priests along with the priests,
those who bow down on the roofs
to the host of the heavens,
those who bow down and swear to the Lord
and yet swear by Milcom,
those who have turned back from following the Lord,
who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him.” Zephaniah 1:1-6 ESV

The earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and . . . by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. II Peter 3:5b-7, 10 ESV

Reflection:

In 1900 an island city named Galveston in Texas was building up and thriving. It had a population of about 40,000 people on an island that was 30 miles long and several miles wide, and the highest point of the city was only 8.7 feet above sea level. One day in September, a terrible hurricane swept over the city. Winds over 130 miles per hour blasted Galveston, and a storm surge of water 15.7 feet high slammed into it. The devastation was terrible. Eight thousand people were killed and 3600 buildings were destroyed. The deadly storm swept away everything in its path, and to this day the Galveston hurricane is considered to be the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

The prophet Zephaniah gave the people a terrifying message from God during the reign of King Josiah. Zephaniah talked about a terrible disaster that would sweep over the whole earth. It would destroy people and animals and birds and fish all over the entire world. Then Zephaniah focused on the southern kingdom of Judah. He talked about a time of horrible judgment over the people of the southern kingdom who had turned away from the Lord to worship false gods as well as the sun and moon and stars. God said that he would completely cut off and destroy the idols the people were worshiping and serving instead of him. Sometimes the people were mixing their worship of idols with the worship of the true God, and even some of the priests were worshiping false gods and not seeking God or his will. The Lord’s judgment was coming because of this.

The judgment that would come over the kingdom of Judah was a picture of the much greater judgment that will come at the end of the world. There will be a time when Jesus returns and all the people who lived in rebellion against him will be punished, while the world itself is destroyed. This is a very frightening thought. But for people who believe in Jesus, this is not the end of the story. The survivors of Galveston rebuilt their city, and God will renew creation and bring about a new heaven and a new earth. Jesus took all the judgment for our sins on himself when he died on the cross for us, and everyone who believes in Jesus will live forever in the Lord’s new creation.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for taking our judgment on yourself, so that we can be safe from the final judgment and live in the new world to come. Amen.

Source:

http://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/magazine/galv_hurricane/welcome.html

Making Gods out of Wood

Bible:

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:12-20 ESV

Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them. Psalm 115:4-8 ESV

Reflection:

Calvin was playing with his toy tiger, Hobbes. Hobbes was only a stuffed animal, but Calvin believed that he could see and hear and talk and move. Calvin and Hobbes were playing with water, and Suzy wanted to join them. Calvin gave Hobbes a water balloon to throw at Suzy, but since Hobbes was just a toy, when Calvin ran around the house Suzy took the water balloon away from Hobbes and threw it at Calvin. Calvin got very wet, and he was angry with Hobbes for letting Suzy have the water balloon. He had been foolish to trust a stuffed tiger to help him or to save him from Suzy!

God’s people were doing something even more foolish, and the prophet Isaiah tried to warn them about it. They were trusting in idols to save them. Idols were false gods and goddesses that were made out of wood or stone or metal. Isaiah talked about how a wooden idol was made. First an ironsmith made the tool that was needed to carve the idol, getting tired and hungry in the process. Then the carpenter took over. He found the right piece of wood, designed the idol, and carved it, but he didn’t use the whole log of wood for the idol. Part of the same wood he used as fuel for his fire, to warm himself and to cook his food. How silly to bow down and worship something that is all made by a person’s hard work! How foolish to worship one part of the wood, while the other part was burned in the fire! How could a person expect that piece of wood to help or save anyone?

We sometimes trust in other things than God to help us and to save us. We especially trust in our own effort and hard work when we have trouble, and we forget that God gives us everything we have, and that we can’t do anything without his help. This is especially true when it comes to getting rid of our sins and becoming right with God. No matter how hard we try, we can’t get rid of the sin in our lives or do enough good to make up for it. We need God’s forgiveness, a forgiveness we could never earn. But Jesus came to help us by dying on the cross to pay the full penalty for our sins. Because of Jesus, our sins are forgiven, and we are right with God now and forever. We can always trust in God to save us and to help us.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus, our Savior, and for forgiving us and helping us every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Source:

Watterson, Bill Yukon Ho! Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1989, pp. 28-29.