A warning to all heroes?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Kings 10:32-12:21; Psalm 3:1-8

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Kings 11:1-2 (NKJV)
1 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal heirs. 2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being murdered; and they hid him and his nurse in the bedroom, from Athaliah, so that he was not killed.

REFLECT
This really looks like some Korean imperial court drama! (oops, how would I know?!) Hungry for power, or perhaps, fearful for her own life, the queen guards herself by destroying all potential threats – even her grandchildren! Who would stop the extinction of David’s royal line? Not an army general, nor a wealthy tycoon, but a brave woman named Jehosheba, and her husband Jehoiada the priest (see 2 Chronicles 22:11). While their timely intervention helped to preserve Judah’s royal line for now, it would be a matter of time before David’s human kingdom came to an end.
(Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Davidic_line)

RELATE
Throughout history, brave men and women have intervened at just the right moment, saving nations, institutions, and businesses from collapse and demise. Even in the church, brave souls fought the establishment to save the Gospel – like Martin Luther and John Wesley, to name just two. Today, bold leaders and members speak up against their pastors to “save” the church from dying. This is all well and proper. Hopefully, these courageous souls are not mistaken. Yet it might help everyone to remember that (as the sad ending of Joash warns, cf. 2 Chronicles 24:21) all human efforts are subject ultimately to the sovereignty of God.

REST
Lord, may I always remember that there is only one Saviour of the World (and it’s not me).

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What legacy are we leaving behind?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Kings 3:1-4:17; Proverbs 18:11-12

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Kings 3:7 “And he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to battle against Moab?” And he said, “I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

REFLECT
2 Kings 3:7 parallels 1 Kings 22:4: “And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

The “he” refers to Ahab, who was the father of Jehoram in 2 Kings 3. Again, like the father, Jehoram did not inquire any prophet of the Lord until Jehoshaphat mentioned it in the middle of the war campaign (ref: 2 Kings 3:11). Apparently, the father did not teach the children to cherish truth from God’s prophets. How could he, since he himself was a Baal worshipper and very much influenced by his evil queen Jezebel. Such was the tragic legacy passed on from father to son: a sinful and rebellious legacy against the Lord.

RELATE
What are we passing on to our children? What legacy are we leaving behind that demonstrate how obedient are we to the Word of the Lord?

What are we passing on to the younger people whom we are mentoring? What are we passing on to the younger people whom we see each Sunday at church? How are we being good examples to them? Do we take the time guide them in the way of the Lord? Or do we leave them entirely to the so called “experts” in the church; or even worse the “digital nannies” of this age? Are we really in this together as a church to nurture the younger?

As a parent of two young children (8 and 11 years of age), I am constantly reminded through God’s Word that what I say to them is not as important as how I behave in application of God’s truth. I am also reminded of a research study in New Jersey, which showed that children who did not get enough parental attention would have 40% probability of showing signs of psychological distress in the later stage of their life; as compared to 6% probability for children who do get enough parental attention.

May the Lord grant us grace to walk the talk and guide our children and the younger generation in the way of the Lord. This is so that the younger generation can do even better, through the grace of God, to be faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

REST
Help us Lord, to be faithful to You, so as to be faithful in the discipleship of our children / younger generation that You have entrusted into our care. Amen.

Hard truths and the leader

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Kings 22; Proverbs 18:9-10

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 22:15-17 (NKJV)
Then he came to the king; and the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against
15 Ramoth Gilead, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go and prosper, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king!”
16 So the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
17 Then he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’ ”

REFLECT
Do I only want to hear what I like to hear? Yes, it’s tough to hear the hard truth. That’s why the king never invited the real prophet, but depended on false ones to guide his decisions. It might seem laughable for a king to bluff himself in this way. But if we are aware, we might find ourselves doing the same thing e.g. listening only to preachers who agree with us, reading stuff that stroke our egos, and mixing with company that tells us sweet nothings.

RELATE
It’s tough for a leader to hear criticisms, especially when he has put in so much heart and soul into his work. Most leaders have fragile souls, and understandably, because we are but human. Yet, one of the greatest need for leaders is to hear the hard truth about who we are and what we have done. Or we will be deluded and lead people into the ditch. Yes, leadership is a painful task … and the capacity to embrace and transform pain is what keeps the leader sane and sound.

REST
Lord, remind me constantly that I am Your cherished son, before I am Your faithful servant.

Collective vs Individual

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Kings 14:1-15:24; Psalm 147:1-20

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 14:11-14 “Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat, for the LORD has spoken it.”‘ Arise therefore, go to your house. When your feet enter the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.”

REFLECT
Jeroboam’s sin was so great that apart from this one son, everyone else in his house would die without a grave. For us “moderns”, such an idea where the sin of one man caused the harsh punishment of so many could be unthinkable. Our familiarity with “individualism” might make it difficult for us to understand these biblical ideas of “collectivism”. We might think to ourselves: “If it was only Jeroboam who sinned; why was it that his entire household needed to be punished?”

Yet I suspect for the people of Israel, they wouldn’t even be asking such a question; for their worldview was so different from ours. Theirs was of collectivism, or corporate responsibility. It was acceptable that one person’s action (especially of the king’s) was collectively viewed as representative of the community or even nation. People were supposed to watch out for one another. Faith in God was communal; rather than individualistic.

So if the punishment meted out by God was against the entire household because of the sin of the king, it was acceptable. Furthermore, in the context of Kings, it wasn’t as if the rest of Israel was innocent. It was clear that many Israelites also took part in the kings’ idolatrous worship and practices.

RELATE
This episode on Jeroboam reminded me of a question: “As a church, do we tend to view our faith as a collective or as individuals?”

My observation is that we tend to swing towards the latter. If I sin, it is my own responsibility. I am in this all alone. Therefore, I find it difficult to confide in someone since this is viewed as “my own problem”. Or that my faith is my own, therefore you have no right to tell me how to believe or read the Bible. I have my own experience and that is enough. This is the way I do things in church, take it or leave it.

Yet, the reality is that our faith is also a corporate issue. That is why baptisms, membership services and communions are done in the context of public worship. That is why for those physically able, we hear sermons together as a body in Christ. That is why we come together as smaller groups to learn God’s Word together and fellowship in the faith. Even when we sin, it is a corporate issue. When we sin, we affect the people around us. It is likely that our behaviours have consequences, not just for ourselves but for the welfare of others.

Our faith in Jesus is never an individualistic endeavour and it should never be viewed that way. Our Lord never meant to be that way. Otherwise, He wouldn’t have said in John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Let us therefore, read our Bibles and practice our faith as a collective. Let us rely on God and one another more to persevere in the faith so that the world may know that we are indeed, His disciples.

REST
Lord our God, help us to be mindful as like the people of old, that we are not individuals in the faith. We are all in this together as a family of faith. Help us therefore to be authentic, courageous and loving towards one another; so that we can grow in Him and help one another to persevere in Him. Amen.

True Wisdom

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Kings 11:1-12:19; Psalm 146

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 11:1-2
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites … Solomon clung to these in love.

REFLECT
How could this be? The wisest man on planet earth falls prey to his love for women! He loved the women so much that he built them altars to worship their own gods. Understandable. Imagine your 1000 wives plus concubines pestering you each day for permission to fulfil their religious duties. One unhappy wife is sufficient to cause headache – imagine 1000! But did he really “love” them? Or was he merely trying to keep peace in his mini United Nations? The wisest thing he could have done was to keep to one wife. Well, too late. Heart before head, flesh before spirit, pragmatism before wisdom.

RELATE
Wisdom is not sufficient for a blessed life. Wisdom can show me want to do, but it cannot do it for me. In fact, wisdom can make me feel like I am better than the rest. Yet such wisdom is not true wisdom – as it leaves God out of the picture. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) – Solomon knew, but again had ignored. So what is more important than wisdom? Faith in God leading to obedience to His will. That’s true wisdom.

REST
Lord, thank you for such a vivid reminder that we can have everything (even wisdom!) and yet lose our soul. Help us to overcome our weakness and unbelief – by Your amazing grace, power and love!

The precious gift of discernment

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Kings 3:3-4:34; Proverbs 17:27-28

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 3:10-12 “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”

REFLECT
It pleased God that Solomon asked for the ability to discern what is right and what is wrong. It pleased God that Solomon had not asked for wealth, long life and the life of our enemies. It pleased God so much that apart from blessing Solomon with such a gift of discernment, He gave the king what he did not ask for i.e. both riches and honour so that no king can be compared to the glory of his reign (ref: 1 Kings 3:13).

Why was God so pleased with Solomon when he asked for the wisdom to discern between right and wrong? I believe it has to do with God’s character of holiness as well as Solomon’s humility in wanting such a gift. At the heart of God’s character of holiness is the “separateness” of what is right and wrong. When we struggle with being holy as God is holy, we struggle in making choices between doing what is pleasing to God and what is not. Therefore, God was well pleased because Solomon had humbly asked for something that is close to God’s heart. It was a gift that could be of great service to the people as well as to Solomon’s spiritual growth as a king.

RELATE
In this day and age, it seems that such an understanding of what is right and wrong is less valued. For example, many parents in Singapore would rather spend much resources in training their children for academic pursuits rather than the building up of their character. Some of us Christian parents might even pray much more for our children to do well academically; than to acquire wisdom to discern what is right or wrong in a sinful world. Even for the church, I often wonder if we placed much higher value on many other things than the ability to discern what is right and wrong? Or have we even rebuked people who placed an emphasis on the importance of discernment?

In a time when false teachings are getting more prevalent and difficult to detect, I believe the church needs to pay more attention to this aspect of church life. This is so that we can be a people who are behaving and doing things close to the Father’s heart. As the Word of God warned us, Satan can masquerade himself as like the light and deceive us. Hence, we need to have wisdom to discern, be humble to learn and be ready to discard anything that is leading us onto the wrong path. So in the light of how Solomon had asked God for wisdom to discern what is right and wrong, may we as a church also start to pray more fervently, that the Lord will grant us such a wisdom. This is so we can be well pleasing to the Lord on how we are behaving as His followers as well as the stewardship of His church.

REST
Lord our God, forgive us when we bypass such an important understanding (of right and wrong) for less important wants in our lives. Help us as families and churches to grow in our discernment of what is right and wrong, so that we are pleasing in Your sight. Amen.

Who anoints the king?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Kings 1; Proverbs 17:26

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Kings 1:39 (NIV)
Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the sacred tent and anointed Solomon. Then they sounded the trumpet and all the people shouted, “Long live King Solomon!”

REFLECT
The anointing was a sacred act. Note that the oil was taken from the tent, where the Ark of God was housed. The significance of this was that God has made Solomon the new king. But as we read this chapter, it seems that the choice of Solomon was David’s, facilitated by Bathsheba, Zadok and Nathan. So was Solomon the choice of God, or man? The answer has to be … both. Perhaps this best explains Solomon’s eventual success, and ultimate failure.

RELATE
I have always wondered how God chose the kings of Israel. God asked Samuel to anoint Saul as the first king. Saul failed miserably. God then made David king. David did well, but there was the sad episode of Bathsheba. Next came Solomon, whom God loved so much that he was named Jedidiah. Solomon would become the most powerful and glorious king of all time. Then he was felled by women that he loved more than God. Centuries later the Bible tells us that God raised Cyrus the Persian as king. Then, fast forward a few thousand years, we now have Donald Trump as the most powerful man on earth. Was it a mistake, or did God also make him king? The answer has to be yes. But let us remember that while it is God’s business to employ fallen men for His purpose, it is ultimately the choice of human kings to worship God and live, or to ignore Him and die.

REST
Lord, whenever we are tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to – remind us of the kings of this world – few of which are remembered today.