Day 187

The Light of God's Smile of Blessing Is On You

Wisdom Psalm 80:8-19
New Testament Acts 24:1-27
Old Testament 2 Kings 10:1-11:21

Introduction

After the terrifying, appalling and deadly terrorist attack during her concert in 2017, Ariana Grande returned to the Manchester Arena for the ‘One Love Manchester’ concert. Marcus Mumford, lead singer of the band Mumford and Sons, opened the concert by proclaiming that ‘love casts out fear’. In the middle of the concert, Justin Bieber declared, ‘I’m not going to let go of love, not going to let go of God. God is good in the midst of darkness. God is in the midst. And he loves you. And he is here for you.’ It was like a bright light in the midst of the darkness.

St John of the Cross spoke of the ‘dark night of the soul’. I have gone through dark times in my life. There were dark times for the people of God both in the Old and New Testament times. There have been dark periods in the history of the church. But the light of the gospel has never gone out. The light of Jesus will always outshine the darkness around (John 1:5). You have that light within you by the Holy Spirit and wherever you go you bring a light greater than the darkness around you.

Wisdom

Psalm 80:8-19

8 You transplanted a vine from Egypt;
   you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it,
   and it took root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
   the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 Its branches reached as far as the Sea,
   its shoots as far as the River.

12 Why have you broken down its walls
   so that all who pass by pick its grapes?
13 Boars from the forest ravage it,
   and insects from the fields feed on it.
14 Return to us, God Almighty!
   Look down from heaven and see!
   Watch over this vine,
15 the root your right hand has planted,
   the son you have raised up for yourself.

16 Your vine is cut down, it is burned with fire;
   at your rebuke your people perish.
17 Let your hand rest on the man at your right hand,
   the son of man you have raised up for yourself.
18 Then we will not turn away from you;
   revive us, and we will call on your name.

19 Restore us, Lord God Almighty;
   make your face shine on us,
   that we may be saved.

Commentary

The light of God’s smile

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa is famous, among other things, for his smile. His face shines like a light – especially when he smiles. As Mother Teresa put it, ‘The smile is the beginning of love.’

How amazing to think of the light of God’s smile shining on you! Not only is God with you, but you can also enjoy his favour. The psalmist prays:

‘Smile your blessing smile:

That will be our salvation’ (v.19, MSG).

The people of Israel were clearly facing dark times. The ‘vine’ (vv.8,14) is an image for the nation of Israel. God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt. He cared for it like a vine.

But now the vineyard walls are broken down (v.12). It appears that the vine is cut down and burned with fire (v.16a). ‘Trespassers pick its grapes at will... mice nibble away at what’s left’ (vv.12–13, MSG). The people are perishing.

The psalmist cries out to God: ‘Revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved’ (vv.18–19).

As we look at the state of the church in this country its walls have been broken down. It appears in a desperate state. Yet God has restored and revived his people in the past. He can do it again today. Cry out for revival.

Prayer

Revive us again, O Lord, we pray. Fill your people with your Holy Spirit. May the churches again be filled with people serving Jesus with all their hearts. Smile your blessing smile on us.

New Testament

Acts 24:1-27

Paul’s Trial Before Felix

24 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor. 2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented his case before Felix: “We have enjoyed a long period of peace under you, and your foresight has brought about reforms in this nation. 3 Everywhere and in every way, most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this with profound gratitude. 4 But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us briefly.

5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect 6 and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him. \\[7\\] 8 By examining him yourself you will be able to learn the truth about all these charges we are bringing against him.”

9 The other Jews joined in the accusation, asserting that these things were true.

10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense. 11 You can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. 12 My accusers did not find me arguing with anyone at the temple, or stirring up a crowd in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 And they cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me. 14 However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, 15 and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. 16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

17 “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. 18 I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance. 19 But there are some Jews from the province of Asia, who ought to be here before you and bring charges if they have anything against me. 20 Or these who are here should state what crime they found in me when I stood before the Sanhedrin— 21 unless it was this one thing I shouted as I stood in their presence: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’”

22 Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. “When Lysias the commander comes,” he said, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the centurion to keep Paul under guard but to give him some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs.

24 Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.

27 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

Commentary

The light of the gospel

Everywhere Paul went he shone ‘the light of the gospel’. But not everyone could see it. He wrote, ‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).

These were dark times in Paul’s life. He was imprisoned and on trial. The prosecution lawyer, Tertullus, is an example of a sycophantic lawyer. He flattered the governor: ‘We are most grateful in all times and places for your wise and gentle rule’ (Acts 24:2, MSG).

His flattery was followed by false accusations about Paul, suggesting he was ‘time and again disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over the world, the ringleader of a seditious sect called Nazarenes’ (v.5, MSG). The Christian faith was described as a ‘sect’ (v.5) – rather in the way that some people today might dismiss church as a ‘cult’.

Paul makes his defence (v.10 onwards). He deals first with the specific allegations, denying what is not true and admitting what is true. He admits being a follower of Jesus (‘the Way’, v.14). He clarifies what happened at his hearing before the Sanhedrin (v.21). (Sometimes it is helpful to establish what the facts actually are.)

Paul shows the orthodoxy of his beliefs. He worships the God of history (v.14a). He believes everything in the Scriptures (v.14b). He shares the Jewish hope of the resurrection (v.15). He points out that he believes everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets and that he has the same hope in God as the Pharisees, that ‘there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked’ (v.15). He points to his clear conscience (v.16), his ‘gifts for the poor’ (v.17) and his innocence (v.18).

His judge, Felix, was not necessarily evil, but he was weak, dithering, indecisive and politically motivated. He did not want to condemn an innocent man, but he did not have the courage to set him free. As a weak judge, frightened by Paul’s words when he did not know what to do, he simply adjourned the proceedings (v.25).

He kept Paul in prison for two years hoping for a bribe. Then even when a new governor was appointed and there was no financial gain to be had from Paul, Felix still didn’t release him for political reasons (v.27). He used delay as a device in order to avoid making a decision.

But avoiding a decision is a decision in itself. We cannot avoid responsibility by indecision. Indecision is itself a decision not to act. It is a decision to maintain the status quo. It is an action with consequences.

Paul took every opportunity to shine the light of the gospel. Whenever he could, ‘he spoke about faith in Jesus Christ’ (v.24).

Prayer

Lord, help us to make the most of every opportunity. When we are opposed, falsely accused and frustrated, help us, like the apostle Paul, to take every opportunity to shine the light of the gospel in the darkness.

Old Testament

2 Kings 10:1-11:21

Ahab’s Family Killed

10 Now there were in Samaria seventy sons of the house of Ahab. So Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria: to the officials of Jezreel, to the elders and to the guardians of Ahab’s children. He said, 2 “You have your master’s sons with you and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city and weapons. Now as soon as this letter reaches you, 3 choose the best and most worthy of your master’s sons and set him on his father’s throne. Then fight for your master’s house.”

4 But they were terrified and said, “If two kings could not resist him, how can we?”

5 So the palace administrator, the city governor, the elders and the guardians sent this message to Jehu: “We are your servants and we will do anything you say. We will not appoint anyone as king; you do whatever you think best.”

6 Then Jehu wrote them a second letter, saying, “If you are on my side and will obey me, take the heads of your master’s sons and come to me in Jezreel by this time tomorrow.”

Now the royal princes, seventy of them, were with the leading men of the city, who were rearing them. 7 When the letter arrived, these men took the princes and slaughtered all seventy of them. They put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu in Jezreel. 8 When the messenger arrived, he told Jehu, “They have brought the heads of the princes.”

Then Jehu ordered, “Put them in two piles at the entrance of the city gate until morning.”

9 The next morning Jehu went out. He stood before all the people and said, “You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? 10 Know, then, that not a word the Lord has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The Lord has done what he announced through his servant Elijah.” 11 So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor.

12 Jehu then set out and went toward Samaria. At Beth Eked of the Shepherds, 13 he met some relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and asked, “Who are you?”

They said, “We are relatives of Ahaziah, and we have come down to greet the families of the king and of the queen mother. ”

14 “Take them alive!” he ordered. So they took them alive and slaughtered them by the well of Beth Eked—forty-two of them. He left no survivor.

15 After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Rekab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, “Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?”

“I am,” Jehonadab answered.

“If so,” said Jehu, “give me your hand.” So he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot. 16 Jehu said, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.” Then he had him ride in his chariot.

17 When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab’s family; he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah.

Servants of Baal Killed

18 Then Jehu brought all the people together and said to them, “Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. 19 Now summon all the prophets of Baal, all his servants and all his priests. See that no one is missing, because I am going to hold a great sacrifice for Baal. Anyone who fails to come will no longer live.” But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the servants of Baal.

20 Jehu said, “Call an assembly in honour of Baal.” So they proclaimed it. 21 Then he sent word throughout Israel, and all the servants of Baal came; not one stayed away. They crowded into the temple of Baal until it was full from one end to the other. 22 And Jehu said to the keeper of the wardrobe, “Bring robes for all the servants of Baal.” So he brought out robes for them.

23 Then Jehu and Jehonadab son of Rekab went into the temple of Baal. Jehu said to the servants of Baal, “Look around and see that no one who serves the Lord is here with you—only servants of Baal.” 24 So they went in to make sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had posted eighty men outside with this warning: “If one of you lets any of the men I am placing in your hands escape, it will be your life for his life.”

25 As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, he ordered the guards and officers: “Go in and kill them; let no one escape.” So they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal. 26 They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it. 27 They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day.

28 So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. 29 However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan.

30 The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” 31 Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.

32 In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory 33 east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead (the region of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh), from Aroer by the Arnon Gorge through Gilead to Bashan.

34 As for the other events of Jehu’s reign, all he did, and all his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?

35 Jehu rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son succeeded him as king. 36 The time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years.

Athaliah and Joash

11 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. 2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. 3 He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.

4 In the seventh year Jehoiada sent for the commanders of units of a hundred, the Carites and the guards and had them brought to him at the temple of the Lord. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath at the temple of the Lord. Then he showed them the king’s son. 5 He commanded them, saying, “This is what you are to do: You who are in the three companies that are going on duty on the Sabbath —a third of you guarding the royal palace, 6 a third at the Sur Gate, and a third at the gate behind the guard, who take turns guarding the temple— 7 and you who are in the other two companies that normally go off Sabbath duty are all to guard the temple for the king. 8 Station yourselves around the king, each of you with weapon in hand. Anyone who approaches your ranks is to be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.”

9 The commanders of units of a hundred did just as Jehoiada the priest ordered. Each one took his men—those who were going on duty on the Sabbath and those who were going off duty—and came to Jehoiada the priest. 10 Then he gave the commanders the spears and shields that had belonged to King David and that were in the temple of the Lord. 11 The guards, each with weapon in hand, stationed themselves around the king—near the altar and the temple, from the south side to the north side of the temple.

12 Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”

13 When Athaliah heard the noise made by the guards and the people, she went to the people at the temple of the Lord. 14 She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, “Treason! Treason!”

15 Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: “Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be put to death in the temple of the Lord.” 16 So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death.

17 Jehoiada then made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people that they would be the Lord’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. 18 All the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols to pieces and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.

Then Jehoiada the priest posted guards at the temple of the Lord. 19 He took with him the commanders of hundreds, the Carites, the guards and all the people of the land, and together they brought the king down from the temple of the Lord and went into the palace, entering by way of the gate of the guards. The king then took his place on the royal throne. 20 All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was calm, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the palace.

21 Joash was seven years old when he began to reign.

Commentary

The light of young people

Every year in the UK there are Christian summer festivals for young people. Tens of thousands attend these youth events. Pippa and I had the privilege of visiting one of them. It was so exciting to see the faith, passion and enthusiasm of these young people. It is a great sign of hope for the future. It is a bright light on the horizon. However bad things look, there is hope that the next generation will do better.

If you think you are living in a dark world, study this passage and you will see that there have been times in history that are just as bad, or even worse.

This was another dark period in the history of the people of Israel. It was a time when horrific events took place, such as the slaughter of the seventy princes whose heads were stacked in two piles at the city gates (10:7–8). And there were other massacres as well (v.17, MSG). Jehu was praised for not behaving like the worst of the kings of Israel, King Ahab. In particular, Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel.

However, he did not turn away from the precedent set by King Jeroboam: the worship of the golden calf (v.29). He ‘wasn’t careful to walk in God's ways and honour the God of Israel from an undivided heart’ (v.31a, MSG).

In Judah things seemed no better. Athaliah tried to massacre the whole royal family (11:1, MSG). But God protected Joash, in much the same way as he protected Moses and Jesus: Jehosheba ‘hid him and his nurse in a private room away from Athaliah. He didn’t get killed. He was there with her, hidden away for six years in The Temple of God. Athaliah, oblivious to his existence, ruled the country’ (vv.2–3, MSG).

Later, ‘Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”’ (v.12). After this, the king ‘took his place on the royal throne, and all the people of the land rejoiced. And the city was quiet, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the palace’ (vv.19–20).

Joash was only seven years old when he became king (v.21) but this young man brought hope for the future (see 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24), as so often we see hope in young people. Once again God kept a light shining even in the darkest of times.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the children and youth in our own church and the hope they bring. Thank you for the youth movements throughout the world and the light that shines through them. Thank you that even in the darkest of times, you always keep your light shining and that the light of your smile of blessing is on us.

Pippa adds

2 Kings 10:31

‘Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.’

It is hard to remain wholeheartedly committed all the time. Think what Jehu might have achieved for God if he had. We need to keep seeking God first and his kingdom.

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References

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

  • INTRODUCTION
  • WISDOM BIBLE
  • WISDOM COMMENTARY
  • NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE
  • OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARY
  • PIPPA ADDS

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