Romans 14:13-23

“Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats” (v20). Paul cautioned those who felt free to eat everything (even foods considered unclean in the Old Testament) to be careful not to urge others to make the same choice. Each one of us must remain sensitive to our own consciences (v14,23). Those who are spiritually strong have the responsibility to protect the weak (v1) rather than insist on total freedom (v17).

“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding” (v19). Rather than causing pain to others by our “freedom,” love calls us to understanding and empathy.

Romans 14:1-12

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (v12). Paul addresses two “gray areas” that were dividing the Jewish and Gentile believers in the Roman church: Sabbath days and food laws. Paul urged the believers not to judge each other but to accept one another and allow freedom of conscience. Both the Jews that observed the Sabbath and avoided unclean foods and the Gentiles who ate everything and regarded every day alike should make sure they were honoring the Lord (v5-6).

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (v7). Rather than worrying about someone else’s choices, we can focus on how our own lives please the Lord.

II Chronicles 24

"Go out to the cities of Judah and gather from all Israel money to repair the house of your God …” (v5). Under the good influence of the priest Jehoida, King Joash began to collect the tithes from the people so that the broken-down, neglected Temple could be repaired. The princes and the people “rejoiced” (v10) to have the opportunity to contribute once again to God’s house, the center of worship and symbol of the covenant. They restored the Temple “to its proper condition” and sacrifices were offered regularly (v14).

The resources for the Temple were collected “in abundance” (v11). When our faith is alive and growing, it is reflected in changed behavior – even how we use our finances.

II Chronicles 23

“But in the seventh year Jehoiada took courage …” (v1). Israel wasn’t an ordinary nation; as God’s people, the priest Jehoiada knew that their existence depended on rejecting idolatry and returning to the covenant. He gathered the priests and Levites loyal to God and, together, they put the young prince Joash on the throne in defiance of his wicked grandmother Athaliah. The priest Jehoida led the people in tearing down idols and proclaiming “that they should be the Lord’s people” (v16).

God calls us to have courage like Jehoida, not to judge the world, but to examine ourselves as God’s people and embrace repentance and renewal (I Peter 4:17).

II Chronicles 22

“For after the death of his father they were his counselors, to his undoing” (v4). King Ahaziah’s own mother (daughter of wicked Ahab) was his “counselor in doing wickedly” (v3), and Ahaziah chose to listen to other evil advisors. As bad as these influences were, Ahaziah could have chosen to follow the example of his courageous sister Jehoshabeath and her husband, the priest Jehoida, who risked their lives to save a royal prince from his murderous grandmother. Ahaziah’s “undoing” came from choosing the wrong friends and mentors.

We tend to “walk in the ways” of people we listen to, spend time with, and admire. Our choice of mentors and close companions either brings us close to God or pulls us away.

II Chronicles 21

“When Jehoram had ascended the throne of his father and was established, he killed all his brothers with the sword …” (v4). Though Jehoram’s father was the godly king Jehoshaphat, the first thing he did upon taking the throne was to murder his brothers. He married the daughter of the pagan king Ahab, and they added idolatry to the sin of violence (v11). God did not destroy Judah (v7), but they were invaded by their enemies and King Jehoram died from a terrible bowel disease.

“You have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father …” (v12). A godly heritage is a blessing, but it is not our salvation. Every generation must choose for themselves to follow God.

Psalm 93

“Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity” (v2). The psalmist reminds us that God is the great unshakeable foundation of all that is. He established our earth, and therefore it is “firm and secure,” part of His plan. God’s strength and stability are greater than the worldly chaos represented by “the floods” – the sea that terrified ancient people because of its power to destroy. God is “mightier than the thunders of many waters” (v4).

Our world is full of the thunder of chaos, but we do not fear. God is “mightier than the waves of the sea” (v4), and He loves us.

Romans 13:8-14

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (v10). Paul said that we are called, as Jesus’ followers, to fulfill the principle of the commandments by loving one another. “The night is far gone; the day is at hand” (v12): in other words, time is short. We can’t afford to remain entangled in things like “orgies and drunkenness, … sexual immorality and sensuality, … quarreling and jealousy” (v13). These behaviors keep us bound and broken, fighting ourselves instead of living freely and joyfully.

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (v14). Jesus wants to cover us with His grace and His Spirit, making us people who reject sin and love one another.

Romans 13:1-7

“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (v7). Even when living under the oppressive (especially for Jews) rule of Rome, Paul urged believers not to regard government as the enemy, but to be good citizens. While disobedience to government is sometimes necessary (protecting the innocent or preaching the gospel, Acts 4), in general, Christians are called to be peaceful contributors to their civic communities, as signs to unbelievers (I Peter 2:15-16).

“… for the sake of conscience” (v5). When we live with integrity and our consciences are clean, our testimony about Christ shines brightly.

II Chronicles 20

“For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you" (v12). King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah were helpless against invading armies (v10), but they put their trust in God. God spoke through the prophet Jahaziel: “Do not be afraid … this battle is not yours but God’s … You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf” (v17).

“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed” (v17). Sometimes the only thing we need to do is to “stand firm,” trusting that our Savior fights for us.

II Chronicles 19

“Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes" (v7). Though King Jehoshaphat erred in making an alliance with Ahab (v2), he promoted righteousness in Judah. He appointed judges and told them to be impartial, “for you judge not for man but for the Lord” (v6). He told leaders in Jerusalem to judge “in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, with your whole heart” (v9).

“Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the upright!” (v11). Whatever our work, we do it as God’s servants, called to give “our whole heart” with honesty and integrity.

II Chronicles 18

“But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?" (v6). The kings of Judah and Israel had allied together against a common enemy, and they wanted to know if God would favor them. Ahab of Israel’s false prophets said God would indeed help them. But Jehoshaphat insisted they hear from the prophet of Micaiah, known for telling difficult truths to those in power (v7). He declared disaster for the battle and even death for King Ahab.

“I saw the Lord sitting on his throne …” (v18). God’s Word does not simply confirm what we want to hear; it reminds us that the Lord is in charge and we are not.

II Chronicles 17

“And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people” (v9). Jehoshaphat’s reign was remarkable because he used his power to spread the knowledge of God’s word. Judah’s Levites and priests were not only active in the Temple; they went throughout the land and taught “among the people.” Jehoshaphat tore down idols in the land and “sought the God of his fathers and walked in his commandments” (v4).

“His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord” (v6). Jehoshaphat didn’t just believe, he acted. Faith united with courage makes us willing to obey God.

Psalm 92

“But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil” (v10). This “Sabbath song” celebrates the victory of God that extends even to us, His children. Morning and evening we are called to sing about the works of God’s hands, His steadfast love, and His faithfulness (v2-4), declaring the truth that God always triumphs over His enemies (v7-9). His “fresh oil” is available to us daily, and in fellowship with Him, our spirits remain “full of sap and green” (v10-14).

“They still bear fruit in old age” (v14). As we remain rooted in God, His victorious life flows through us and out to those still under the shadow of death.

Romans 12:9-21

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (v18). Though the normal human pattern is to fight for what is ours in terms of possessions and honor, Paul tells believers to “leave it to the wrath of God” (v19). We don’t have to live insecurely, on the defensive; if we trust Him as the real Judge, we can even “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (v14). We save our energy for loving one another, showing honor, and being “fervent in zeal” for Jesus (v9-11).

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v21). Jesus showed us the way to “win”: through sacrifice motivated by love.

Romans 12:1-8

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (v1). Paul tells believers that being “a living sacrifice” means that, as our minds are renewed and we know God more (v2), we understand how to function as His people. Instead of envying others or seeking our own glory (v13), we use our gifts – prophecy, serving, encouragement, teaching, leadership, etc – for the whole Body’s benefit.

“Do not be conformed to this world” (v2). The world says that we live in competition with each other, but God says we are a Body, with Christ as our head, and we need one another.

II Chronicles 16

“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” (v8). King Asa had ample evidence that God was quick to save those who relied on Him, but when King Baasha of northern Israel threatened, Asa went to Syria’s king for help. God sent Hanani the seer to declare that Asa had walked away from God’s protection.

“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” (v9). A “blameless heart” is one that depends totally on God’s power and grace.

II Chronicles 15

“The LORD is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (v2). God used the prophet Azariah to speak truth to King Asa, warning him about the dangers of relying on false gods for Judah’s security. God’s people were safe within His protection unless they themselves walked away. Mercifully, God sent a prophet to give Asa an opportunity for repentance and faithfulness. Asa “took courage and put away the detestable idols” (v8) of the land and repaired God’s altar.

“If you seek Him, He will be found by you” (v2). God is always near, waiting to be “found” by us.

II Chronicles 14

"O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak” (v11). Even after the tragic split between northern Israel and southern Judah, God was true to His promises. As long as His people rejected false gods and turned to Him for help, He answered. Faced with the mighty Ethiopian army, King Asa cried out, “Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude” (v11). God’s people take refuge “in His name.”

“You are our God” (v11). If God is “our God,” we will follow His ways, trust His voice, lean on His strength, and call out to Him first in every trial.

II Chronicles 13

“For we keep the charge of the LORD our God, but you have forsaken him” (v11). King Abijah of Judah was confident that God would give them victory against the northern tribes that had rebelled. Those tribes had abandoned the pure worship of the God of Abraham and had instead created a different priest and sacrifice system, worshiping “what are no gods” (9). These false gods were useless in battle, and so Judah prevailed against northern Israel, because “they relied on the Lord” (v18).

“Behold, God is with us …” (v12). Seeking power, security, or comfort apart from God will only lead us to destruction. He is the only one with real power to rescue us from the enemy.