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QUICKSTOP DEVOTIONALS

pointed biblical thoughts for today and tomorrow

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What shall I give you?

How would you describe the Lord's question to Solomon in 1 Kgs. 3:5? Obviously, it was a good question since God asked it, but what else could or should be said about it?

First Kings
3:3
And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. 3:4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar. 3:5 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask! What I shall give thee?

Which of the following adjective or descriptive phrases do you agree with? Which ones do you think are incorrect? -- Was God's question to Solomon blunt, clear, common, difficult-to-answer, difficult-to-understand, gracious, important, life-changing, logical, merciful, necessary, one-time, open-ended, out-of-the-blue, personal, probing, rhetorical, short, special, stupid, sudden, surprising, thought-provoking, unexpected, unusual, and / or wonderful?

Obviously some of the descriptive terms above are incorrect. God's question was unusual and special rather than common. Also it was difficult to answer but not difficult to understand. The meaning was clear, and it was clear that God expected an answer. So it was not rhetorical. Obviously, it was not a stupid question, but logical may not be a good adjective to use to describe it either. God was not arguing with Solomon. Also it is more correct to say that it was gracious and open-ended rather than merciful, since mercy has to do with God NOT giving us the punishment that we deserve.

Finally, what is the main thing that should be said about God's question? It was gracious for sure, but is that alone an adequate answer? Was the Lord's question also probing? God's words in 3:10-14 seem to show that it was. As a whole, this story shows that God is gracious, but also that it matters how we think, live, and pray.

By the way, the question in 1 Kgs. 3:5 is one of twenty that is included on the "20 Youth Questions in the Bible" chart and study set.

20 Youth Questions

February 27, 2021

The Power of Godliness

There is huge dam on the Tedori River not far from our house. The power generating station associated with it is about a half mile further down the gorge. (See below.) This separation includes a large difference in elevation which allows for much more power to be generated. It is as if the dam were about five times higher than it actually is. The bigger the difference in height, the more power that can be generated.

Similarly, the power of God which comes with genuine godliness requires that the Lord Jesus be honored as God rather than treated as just a friend, or worse still, as someone to be used. Of course, the Lord cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7) and is near in time of need (Psa. 119:151). However, God's closeness can be overly stressed, and Paul predicted that it would be (2 Tim. 3:5). The apostle did not say that people in the last days would lack godly power. Rather he said that they would deny or oppose it.

Genuine godliness which upholds the difference between God and man is opposed today in various ways among church people. Liberalism sees the Word of God as the words of men. Catholicism elevates the saints and Mary so that the difference from the Lord Jesus becomes unclear. And we evangelicals are not without guilt as well!  Our focus in recent decades has been more on the social aspects of evangelism and less on God himself.

Second Timothy
3:1
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 3:2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3:3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 3:4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 

February 23, 2021

Praying Like Daniel

All the events predicted in Daniel chapter 11 were still future when the chapter was written. In fact, there is no other chapter in the entire English Bible which has as many future tense verbs. (There are about 120.) Daniel 11:2-35 is so amazingly detailed about various future rulers such as Alexander the Great (11:3-4) that it sounds a bit like a history book. Only the names and dates are missing.

Because of this great detail, liberals claim that Daniel chapter 11 was written after the fact, by someone pretending to be a prophet. We disagree, of course, because we believe in divine inspiration. There is more to it than that, however. We still need to think about why Daniel chapter 11 seems to be more detailed than what we find in many other biblical prophecies. Was there something special about Daniel or the situation? The answer is in the previous chapter.

Daniel
10:2
In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. 10:3 I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. 
. . . 10:10 And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. 10:11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. 10:12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. 10:13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. 10:14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days. 

Chapter ten show that there was a battle between God's angels and demonic forces before the prophecies of chapter 11 could be revealed. As mere mortals, we can not understand this well, but, for sure, it shows that the revelation in chapter 11 was special in some way. More importantly from a practical perspective, chapter ten also shows that Daniel was greatly beloved. No other prophet is described this way (9:23, 10:11, 19, Cf. John 20:2, 21:7, 20). God's great love for Daniel was probably related to how he humbled himself (10:2, 12).

Ok, but does the New Testament teach us that we must fast for weeks on end like Daniel in order to know the will of God? No, but Jesus taught that we should keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. So, to some degree at least, we should pray and seek the Lord like Daniel did.

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

BONUS QUESTIONS: How high is Daniel ranked on the Bible Top 55 List? Why do you think Jeremiah outranks him? How is Daniel mentioned in Ezek. 14:14 and 14:20?

Bible Top 55 Detailed List

February 20, 2021

"according to his own will"

Many are surprised that the Antichrist is one of the top 55 people in the Bible. Yet, he is mentioned often enough to be ranked #55. For instance, Daniel 11:36-45 is about this powerful man of sin who will be active during the tribulation period.

One of the main things that Daniel said about the Antichrist is that he shall do according to his own will (11:36). Earlier in chapter eleven, the same was foretold of Alexander the Great (11:3) and a powerful Syrian military leader (11:16). These predictions were about military might but also about the unwillness of these three to submit to God's authority. -- Earlier Nebuchadnezzar had been willful and proud as well (4:30), but the Lord humbled him and he acknowledged God's authority and power (4:35).

Daniel
4:35
And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He [the Lord] does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? 
11:3 And a mighty king [Alexander] shall stand up, that shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will
11:36 And the king [the Antichrist] shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 

Alexander was able to do as he pleased for a time, but he died at a young age and his kingdom was divided (11:4). Likewise, the Antichrist will be victorious for a time (11:39-43) but shall come to his end (11:45). Thus Daniel shows that willful rebellion against God will not stand.
. . . Today, modern technology and prosperity have made it is very easy for us all to be willful. For instance, Apple Siri and Google Now are preprogrammed servants who await our every questions and commands 24 hours a day. No wonder, as Paul predicted in 2 Tim. 3:1-5, churches in these last days are filled with those who are proud and headstrong, when compared with past generations.

Bible Top 55 Detailed List

February 19, 2021

Deliverance - Daniel Chapters 6 and 11

Daniel chapter 11 is probably not your favorite chapter in Daniel, unless 1.) you are a lover of Jewish and world history and have a good study Bible to explain the various kings and happenings in 11:1-35 or 2.) you are especially interested in the end times, the tribulation period, and the antichrist (11:36-12:1).

We love the story about the few hours that Daniel spent in the Lions' den (6:1-23), but the prophet wrote much more about what was going to happen to Israel, than he did about his time with he lions. God delivered Daniel in chapter six, but Dan. 11:3-35 is about God sparing the nation of Israel through the turbulent era of history after Alexander the Great (11:3) died and his kingdom was divided (11:4-35). There were about 150 years of turmoil, yet the nation survived.

Moreover, the end of chapter eleven (11:36-45) is about the antichrist who will try to destroy the Jews as surely as other Gentile rulers did earlier in 11:4-35. Yet, again God will deliver his people (12:1). The Lord who was able to deliver Daniel from the lions (6:20-23) will deliver Israel from the antichrist (12:1).

Daniel 6:9b . . . and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? -- Daniel 12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 

To appreciate the core message of Daniel chapter 11, why not think of the two stories of deliverance together? It is very difficult to understand all the details in chapter 11, but it is easy to see that both chapters six and eleven teach that God is able to deliver his people. (Chapter three shows this as well.)

February 16, 2021

The Great Love Chapter

As shown above, we used computer software to count the occurrences of the "love" -- the noun and all the verb forms -- in the Bible and First John chapter four easily came out the winner over First Corinthians chapter 13. Moreover, the First John graph shows that 1 John 4:18-21 in particular is the pinnacle of love in the Bible. So let's think deeply about what these verses mean and how they should be applied.

First John 4:17-21
4:17
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us. 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 4:21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. 

TWO POINTS If we love the Lord as we should, since he first loved us (4:20), and are serving him as we should, we will be confident in him rather than try to hide from him (4:17-18). Moreover, we will love other believers (4:20-21).

TWO QUESTIONS (1) Are we bold and confident in prayer, or are we reluctant to pray? If we are slow to pray, it probably shows that there is a problem in our relationship with the Lord. (2) Similarly, do we enjoy being with and working with other believers, or are we hesitant to do so? If we are hesitant, again it perhaps shows that there is something wrong in our relationship with the Lord. Other factors, such as health may be involved as well, but generally speaking these two questions are a good spiritual checkup.

TWO KINDS OF CHOCOLATE (1) First Corinthians chapter 13 is like milk chocolate because it is more about what love is not than about what love really is. Therefore it is full of negatives, because the proud Corinthians were in love with themselves and did not have much of a taste for genuine self-sacrificial agape love. (2) First John chapter four, however, is like dark chocolate because John's readers were more concerned about being genuine Christians than the Corinthians were. In other words, they had a taste for the real thing that the Corinthians lacked. So John spoke more directly about love to his readers.

LOVE IN 1 CORINTHIANS

CAUTION Of course, there are other passages where love is stressed even though the 'love' word count is not as impressive as in 1 John 4:18-21. One such passage is Peter's great neglected gem in 2 Peter 1:5-7.

LOVE IN 2 PETER 1:5-7

February 13, 2021

MEASURE Your BLESSINGS.

2 Kgs. 4:5 So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. 4:6 And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. 4:7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children on the rest(Second Kings 4:5-7)

The gifts and blessings that God gives keep on giving and keep on being a blessing, often for years or for a lifetime. (For instance, a godly parent, spouse, or coworkers are all such.) Therefore God's blessing need to be measured to include the time factor as well as counted!

If the miraculously provided oil in 2 Kings 4:1-7 had been exactly enough to pay off the widow's debt, it would have been a great blessing but a one-time event. It was more than that, however, since the sale of the oil was also enough to meet the needs of the woman and her two sons for years (4:7), probably lasting until they were old enough to support themselves and their widowed mother. It was not just a big blessing; it was a long-lasting one. (It is even still a blessing to us today as well.)

So let's not just count our blessings. Let's especially be thankful for the long-lasting blessings that God has given. The life of the believer is more than just a series of point-in-time blessing.

February 9, 2021

The Most Encouraging Verse

Debt. 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that goes with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." (Deuteronomy 31:6)

1 Chr. 28:20
And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD. (First Chronicles 28:20)

Josh. 1:9
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:9)

FIRST PRIZE GOES TO DEUTERONOMY 31:6 as the most encouraging verse in the Bible, since it has the highest frequency of common, countable, uplifting phrases and terms. First Chronicles 28:20 is second, followed closely by Joshua 1:9.  -- To fully appreciate the verses, read the chapters they are in.

February 7, 2021

What about Song of Solomon?

Terms concerning women (woman, mother, sister, daughter, virgin, wife, etc.) are used more frequently in the book of Ruth than in any other Bible book, BUT Song of Solomon is not far behind.

Some use Solomon's special book to teach about the love of Christ for the church, but to do so one must broadly "apply" the actual content. Solomon obviously wrote about his love for the Shulamite who was a real woman. He often referred to her as "my sister, my spouse" especially in 4:8-12, perhaps the most intimate passages in the entire Bible, especially when taken together with 4:16 and 5:1.

4:10 How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than spices!  (Song of Solomon 4:10)

Some may argue that since the Shulamite was not Solomon's literal sister, it is ok to look beyond the physical relationship and speak of spiritual intimacy. In part, yes, but I believe there is a better way. -- Why not instead simply say, "If the God-given physical relationship in marriage which is described in Song of Solomon can be so wonderful (4:9), how much BETTER will each believer's relationships be with other believers and with the Lord Jesus in eternity where marriage, physical relations, and sin no longer exist?!"

20:35 But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage:  (Luke 20:35)

Many people either never marry or become single again because of the death of a spouse. Many will lose a loved one (for a while) which is, of course, very difficult, but if they know the Lord, the future in heaven will be far BETTER for them (Phil. 1:23) just like it will be for every believer.

So let's take the Song of Solomon as it was originally intended, to show the emotional and physical nature of courtship and love in marriage on earth, which has it's ups and downs, but in the process let's not forget that eternity in heaven will be far better for every believer, whether they were ever married on earth or not.
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This graph shows where the various terms for women are used in the Song of Solomon. The high points are in 4:8-12 and 6:8-9.

Life Is Not Fair, but...

Feb. 5, 2021

Where are Women Mentioned Most?

Thanks to Bible search programs, this question is now easy to answer. The frequency with which the two key terms woman and women are used is much higher in RUTH than any other book. (First Timothy is a distant second.) Moreover, if additional terms such as mother(s), daughter(s), daughter-in-law, mother-in-law, wife, wives, widow(s), and nurse are included, RUTH stands out even more. -- So what? Well, let's look at the end of chapter two, at the two verses in Ruth in which these terms appear most often.

2:22 And Naomi said unto Ruth her daughter in law, It is good, my daughter, that thou go out with his maidens [young women], that they meet thee not in any other field. 2:23 So she kept fast by the maidens [young women] of Boaz to glean unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law.  (Ruth 2:22-23)

Among other things, Ruth 2:22-23 implies that working outside the home was dangerous for women in Ruth's day. (This is confirmed in the book of Judges.) The young women who worked in Boaz field stayed together, and Naomi said that it was good that Ruth had joined them. In part, this was for safety.

Our modern world is often dangerous as well, especially for a woman who is alone in an unfamiliar place. So it is still important for women and men (!) to have trusted companions and coworkers. God provided such for Ruth. May he graciously do so for each of us as well.

This graph shows where in Ruth these terms occur most. The highest peak is at the end of chapter two.

NAOMI'S NEIGHBORS

Feb. 4, 2021

Miracles & Ordinary Means

38:8 Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king, saying, 38:9 My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city. 38:10 Then the king commanded Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, saying, Take from hence thirty men with thee, and take up Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon, before he die. (Jeremiah 38:8-10)

Why is Daniel more popular than Jeremiah. One of the main reasons is because Daniel’s deliverance from the lions in Daniel chapter six is more spectacular than the somewhat similar deliverance of Jeremiah from the dungeon in Jer. 38:1-13.  Nevertheless, God himself worked to deliver Jeremiah, just as surely as he did Daniel.

Rather than focusing the spectacular, we do well to take notice of God working in our lives through "ordinary means." Did God use someone in your life recently, like he used Ebenmelech to help Jeremiah? Maybe he did, and you failed to even notice.

Feb. 2, 2021

© 2021 by Jon F. Mahar, Hakusan City, Japan