Day 133

by Rev Joel Yong

Ezra 4:1-5
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people who returned from exile were building a temple for the LORD God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of the families. They told them, “We want to help you build because we worship the same God you worship. We have been sacrificing to him since the time of King Esarhaddon of Assyria, who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of Israel’s families told them, “It isn’t right for your people and our people to build a temple for our God together. We must build it alone for the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus of Persia ordered us to do.” Then the people of that region discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to continue building. They bribed officials to keep the people of Judah from carrying out their plans throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius of Persia.

The enemies of Judah claimed to worship the same God as the exile returnees. They claimed they wanted to help build the temple.

But in reality all they wanted was to sabotage it.

How do I know this?
Because the moment Judah and Benjamin shrewdly declined the enemies’ “help”- these enemies began to spout negative speech and discouraged the people from going ahead.

It’s important always to check our motives for what we do as we serve in ministry …
Else we may mask our hidden agendas of building our own kingdom and purposes behind supposedly godly motives …

Sometimes people may object to certain church growth plans not because it is bad for the church but because of the inconveniences it would cause them and they are unwilling to grow.
We ourselves may be such people!
Always important to check my own motives- that is my own reflection on this text today- may what I say match the motives hidden in my heart’s recesses.

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Day 132

by Rev Joel Yong

Ezra 3:6
They started to bring these burnt offerings to the LORD on the first day of the seventh month, even though the foundation of the LORD’s temple had not yet been laid.

In our flawed human logic- if there is no building, no sound system, no visual projection, no working air conditioning, not enough people – it’s not possible, we reason, for worship services to be held.

But that is not what the returnees from the Exile did.
The verse here is clear.

“Before the foundation was laid …”
They got down to the business of worshipping God even though the building was not existent, even though they had a lot of work still to do …

So let us get down to worshipping God …
Even though we have a lot on our schedules …
Even though the building isn’t functional fully …
Even though exams are around the corner for our kids …
Even though the audio and visuals isn’t what we really hope for it to be …

Worship that is unrestrained by such mere superficialities …

Day 131

by Rev Joel Yong

Ezra 1:1-3
The promise the LORD had spoken through Jeremiah was about to come true in Cyrus’ first year as king of Persia. The LORD inspired the king to make this announcement throughout his whole kingdom and then to put it in writing. This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the world. Then he ordered me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem (which is in Judah). May God be with all of you who are his people. You may go to Jerusalem (which is in Judah) and build a temple for the LORD God of Israel. He is the God who is in Jerusalem.

How does a pagan king credit God for his ascent and also decide to build God a temple?

I can imagine how incredulous the biblical readers of this text were.
Jerusem was sacked and destroyed.
The people wondered when they would return and when their ruined city would be rebuilt.

In their minds- perhaps they thought “For the city to be rebuilt, we must first await the end of the Persian empire before we can go about fulfilling those plans.” After all it made sense logically.

Little did they know … God can use a pagan king to restore His city.
He can use a tax collector to write His gospels.
He can use a carpenter to save the world.

He is a God of miracles … as it was then, as it is today and it shall be even so tomorrow …

Day 130

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Chronicles 34:1-2
Josiah was 8 years old when he began to rule, and he was king for 31 years in Jerusalem. He did what the LORD considered right. He lived in the ways of his ancestor David and never stopped living this way.

He became king at 8.
Why?

His father Amon was so evil that he was assassinated by his servants.

So it’s written that Josiah walked in the ways, NOT of his father but of his ancestor David.

So a bad king had a good son.

You and I might not have had good parents like other people.
But it does not mean we are destined to repeat their mistakes.
We can do something new and break out of the mold, for in Christ each day is a new beginning.

Day 129

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Chronicles 21:3-6
Their father gave them many gifts: silver, gold, and other expensive things, along with fortified cities in Judah. But Jehoshaphat gave the kingdom to Jehoram, who was the firstborn. After Jehoram had taken over his father’s kingdom, he strengthened his position and then executed all his brothers and some of the officials of Israel. Jehoram was 32 years old when he became king, and he ruled for 8 years in Jerusalem. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as Ahab’s family had done, because his wife was Ahab’s daughter. So he did what the LORD considered evil.

His father followed God.
You would think that sons of believing fathers would naturally do so too.

But that is where freewill comes in.
We see in the Bible that good fathers can have good sons and bad fathers also can have good sons.
We also read that good fathers can have bad sons and bad fathers too can have bad sons.

There is no formulaic way to ensure your sons follow your footsteps.
But it doesn’t mean that we needn’t lay down a good example for our descendants in our lifetimes. That is the least that we can do.

Jehoshaphat obviously didn’t expect his firstborn to slay all his brothers when he inherited the kingdom.

But he did.

I love the story of Hezekiah and Manasseh though.
Hezekiah was a good king but his son Manasseh was evil-

2 Kings 21:3
He rebuilt the illegal places of worship that his father Hezekiah had destroyed. He set up altars dedicated to Baal and made a pole dedicated to the goddess Asherah as King Ahab of Israel had done. Manasseh, like Ahab, worshiped and served the entire army of heaven.

But God punished Manasseh by allowing the Assyrian invasion and Manasseh was subsequently led away in captivity.

2 Chronicles 33:11-16
So the LORD made the army commanders of the king of Assyria invade Judah. They took Manasseh captive, put a hook in his nose, put him in bronze shackles, and brought him to Babylon. When he experienced this distress, he begged the LORD his God to be kind and humbled himself in front of the God of his ancestors. He prayed to the LORD, and the LORD accepted his prayer and listened to his request. The LORD brought him back to his kingdom in Jerusalem. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God. After this, Manasseh rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David from west of Gihon Spring in the valley to the entrance of Fish Gate. He made the wall go around the Ophel, and he built it very high. He put army commanders in every fortified city in Judah. Manasseh got rid of the foreign gods and the idol in the LORD’s temple. He got rid of the altars he had built in the temple on the LORD’s mountain and in Jerusalem. He built the LORD’s altar and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it. And he told Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.

But while he was in chains, I wonder if he thought about his father’s example and that his father called on God from his sickbed. And it turned him back from the path to doom.

Day 128

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Chronicles 20:1-4
Later the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some men reported to Jehoshaphat, “A large crowd is coming against you from the other side of the Dead Sea, from Edom. The crowd is already in Hazazon Tamar” (also called En Gedi). Frightened, Jehoshaphat decided to ask for the LORD’s help. He announced a fast throughout Judah. The people of Judah gathered to seek the LORD’s help. They came from every city in Judah.

A large army was coming.
What would most kings do?

They would arm themselves and conscript more soldiers.

But what did Jehoshaphat do?
He ordered a fast.

What?!!!!!

Weaken the people before a battle?!!! Who does that?

Those who trust in the Lord.
By fasting- they were saying their dependence was not in food nor in material things, but they depended on God who is their Source of life and not earthly things.

That is why believers fast.
To show that we don’t rely on material sustenance to stay alive.
To remind us of who really is the One keeping us alive.

And here is how God responded:

2 Chronicles 20:14-17
Then the LORD’s Spirit came to Jahaziel. (He was the son of Zechariah, grandson of Benaiah, great-grandson of Jeiel, whose father was Mattaniah, a Levite descended from Asaph.) Jahaziel said, “Pay attention to me, everyone from Judah, everyone living in Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat. This is what the LORD says to you: Don’t be frightened or terrified by this large crowd. The battle isn’t yours. It’s God’s. Tomorrow go into battle against them. They will be coming up the Ziz Pass. You will find them at the end of the valley in front of the Jeruel Desert. You won’t fight this battle. Instead, take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD for you, Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be frightened or terrified. Tomorrow go out to face them. The LORD is with you.”

When was the last time that you thrust yourself wholly into God’s hand in a spiritual exercise like fasting?

Might be good to do so again- so our flawed minds do not forget who and what we place our hopes truly upon in this life.

Day 127

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Chronicles 16:7-12
At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars. Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time. The acts of Asa, from first to last, are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians.

Just a chapter ago, Asa obeyed God’s Word.
But how quickly a man turns to rely on other sources of help!

It is written that he relies on alliances with Syria to try to obtain victory.
Hanani reminded Asa that God had helped Asa triumph over the Libyans and Ethiopians even though they were a mighty army.

There was no need for Asa to turn to a Syrian alliance.
Why did Asa do this?

It sounds to me like he got too big for his own shoes.
Somewhere in his journey as a king, he began to overestimate his own abilities and importance and underestimate the amount of help he needed from God to get this far.
Instead of “Thank you God for getting me this far. I am nothing as king, without you.”
Asa began to say “Thank God I am such an awesome king who can get us thus far.”

No wonder even when Asa fell ill, he even refused to turn to God for help.
He thought “I know best.” And sought aid from whom he ‘knew’ best to be the most ‘reliable’ avenue of help.
What a reminder for you and I … in our growth and development, may we never forget that its God alone who deserves all the credit.