OT: 2 Chron. 19:1-20:37
Well, I finally got some confirmation that Jehoshaphat was not making good choices in his alliance with Ahab and in his decision to go off into battle. In today's reading, a prophet confirms that Jehoshaphat was wrong to ally with Ahab: "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?" (19:2). Exactly. I also thought it was interesting that God seemed to put Jehoshaphat's actions on the scales and take the balance. Though the king had made a bad alliance, the prophet does acknowledge that "there is...some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God" (3). In the past, God has punished men like David for mistakes without seeming to use this "scale" approach. I do think God's actions have a lot to do with the heart of the person with whom He is interacting. Since we don't know the heart of Jehoshaphat (or Saul, or David, or Ahab), we can't see why God chooses to treat them certain ways.
Regardless, before the reading is over, Jehoshaphat is already making another ill-conceived alliance (20:35-37). Some people just don't learn, I guess.
But between the bad alliances comes one of my favorite stories in the OT. In chapter 20, Jehoshaphat gets horrible news that a vast army is coming to attack him and his people. I love so much about this story, but I will specifically highlight my favorite parts:
--20:3--"Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord." I love how prayer was Jehoshaphat's first response. Too often, prayer is what I fall back on when all my efforts fail. And I especially love that he gathered the whole nation to pray together.
--20:12--"...For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." I love the complete dependence on God here. I have been in this position many times before, where I am totally powerless in the face of my concerns, and where I wouldn't know what to do even if I had the power. Faced with his lack of might and knowledge, Jehoshaphat doesn't panic; rather, he takes the opportunity to give the situation completely to God.
--20:21--"After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: 'Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.'" Because the people had faith in God's subsequent promise to deliver them, they were able to sing and praise God as they went out to battle. Rather than cower in terror, they could rejoice. Now, that is faith. And I love the picture that as they were singing, God was delivering them, unbeknownst to them. Only when they viewed the battlefield and saw their completely defeated enemies did they see that God had protected them. Until that point, they treated something that was not as though it was, and the object of their faith became reality.
NT: Romans 10:14-11:12
Paul is still on the question of the Jews and their salvation. In verses 14-21, he first notes that in order to respond to the Good News, you have to hear it (which they did), and you have to understand it (which, apparently they didn't). Then in chapter 11, Paul launches a discussion on what has come to be called "remnant theology." I don't know much about remnant theology, but if I had to guess, the basic gist is that, by saving remnants, God never breaks His promises. I think that included in there is the idea that God loves the remnants, the weak and the oppressed. He loves the poor in spirit and the pure in heart and all those beatitudy people, and He will always be there to save them. So...God did save a remnant of Jews, and Paul is a part of that remnant.
Furthermore (and this is Paul's best argument yet, if you ask me), Paul decides that one of the reasons that Israel was "hardened" was to allow the Gentiles into the deal. Drawing from his own experience of being frustrated with the Jews and moving to the Gentiles, Paul notes that "because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles" (11:11b). And he is very hopeful that the Gentiles' response will "make Israel envious" and ultimately bring them back into the fold. After all, Paul concludes, they have not "fall[en] beyond recovery" (11a). On the contrary, "If their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (12). Paul thus ends today's reading on a hopeful note in regards to his countrymen.
David writes a psalm to God from the perspective of a king. He thanks God and praises His might.
All three of these proverbs were good. Incredibly varied, but good.
The first gives an inadvertent synopsis of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper: "A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing."
The second was my favorite: "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out." I especially want to be that [wo]man of understanding with my children. I want to be able to draw out the purposes of their hearts and to know them as fully as possible.
The third was a little less cheery: "Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" For some reason, I still liked it.