Week 19 – Bible Blog! (1Chron 18 – 2Chron 12)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Wow!  It’s like we’re re-reading history (we are, in a way).  In 1Chronicles 20:1 we read the same phrase as written in 2Samuel 11:1, “The time when kings go out to battle…”  Isn’t this the story of Bathsheba?  It is!  However, the author leaves out all of the details of the story.  Hmm…  Then only one chapter later (21) we read about David’s numbering Israel.  Wasn’t this near the end of David’s life?  It was!  Funny how history gets compressed, isn’t it?  Remember, Chronicles was written from a theological perspective, not an historical one, so the author (probably Ezra) was not so concerned with retelling every historical detail.

When reading this week you might have thought, “David, last week you quoted from chapter 17 and told us the promise of a king to reign on David’s throne forever was about Jesus (1Chron 17:11-14).”  It is!

“Then why do we see in 1Chron 22:9-10 this statement by David about his son Solomon?…”

‘Behold, a son shall be born to you… his name shall be Solomon… He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’ (ESV)

“This clearly describes Solomon as being the child of promise, doesn’t it?”

It does and you’ll see this stated again in 1Chron 28:5-7, but pay close attention to the second half of verse 7 here.  God says, “I will establish his kingdom forever if he continues strong in keeping my commandments and my rules, as he is today.’”  We already know that Solomon doesn’t continue in keeping God’s commandments.  So this prophecy, is about Solomon (in the immediate sense), but also about Jesus (in its ultimate fulfillment).  God promised David to establish his throne forever and He does so through His Son.  In coming weeks we’ll see this same kind of prophecy application in the immediate sense as well as in the future sense, in Christ.

Another very promising passage is just a couple verses away in chapter 28…

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever. Be careful now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.”

This is not only a warning to Solomon that if he forsakes God He will cast him off forever, but an encouragement to Solomon (and us) that God has, is and always will be, about the heart!  He loves to be found by us and encourages us to seek Him.  He is not some rigid and angry Judge just waiting to punish us for any little thing we do wrong.  He loves us and wants us to seek him with all our hearts.

Again about the heart, in 2Chronicles 6:7-9 God commends David for wanting to honor Him by building Him a temple to reside in.  Listen to how Solomon describes it…

‘Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless, it is not you who shall build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ ’

Later in the same chapter (vv. 30-31) where Solomon is asking God to forgive His people when they sin, but then turn back to Him in repentance, he asks Him…

‘…then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind, that they may fear you and walk in your ways all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers.’

His heart is not only for His children Israel, but for the Gentiles, too.  The idea of Gentiles or foreigners (non-Jews, that is) to have a part in the Kingdom of Heaven is not a New Testament thing.  It has been God’s desire all along.  Remember that He promised Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:3).  Israel is only part of Abraham’s line.  Listen to what Solomon says next starting in verse 32…

“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm, when he comes and prays toward this house, hear from heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.”

God’s heart has always been for all the nations.  Not everyone will answer His call, but when we seek Him we will find Him.  He wants to be found by us.  He knows that we’re not perfect (even His nation Israel wasn’t).  Solomon (the wisest man to ever live) could foresee rebellion in the people of Israel, because as he said, “for there is no one who does not sin” (2Chron 6:36).

I, for one, am so glad that God knows the heart.  I’m so glad that He is slow to anger, but abounding in steadfast love.  I’m so glad that His message is consistent throughout Scripture and that He knew that only the sacrifice of His perfect Son could ever redeem a sinner like me.  Praise God that His Promises endure, David’s throne is established forever, for the One to come in the line of David is seated at the right hand of the Father.  Jesus Christ our Lord!

What are your thoughts on this week’s reading?  Let’s hear from you in the comments section, below…

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Week 18 – Bible Blog! (1Chronicles 1-17)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Whew!  It’s been a while… For some of you I’ve already explained this, but I thought if you weren’t aware I’d tell you where the term ‘blog’ comes from.  According to my exclusive & secret sources (read Google) a ‘blog’ is a shortened term for ‘web log’.  It’s a forum for occasional articles to be posted, usually (but not always) by amateurs like me, sometimes with comment sections below for interaction with the author and other readers.

Now, for a term I’ve created… the ‘blag’.  A ‘blag’ is when there is a lag in posting the blog.   ;o)

Yes, it’s been a while, so please allow me to thank you for your patience and grace.  We’ll be caught up soon.  Here’s Week 18’s entry…

1Chronicles 1-17

Genealogies… AGAIN!!  I can almost hear your thoughts, “People, people, people!”  Haven’t we read all these already?  Is history repeating itself?  Well, the books of 1&2 Chronicles (actually only one book in the Hebrew text) do repeat much of the stories of 2Samuel through 2Kings (also one book each in the Hebrew).  However, the books of Chronicles are written more from a theological perspective than an historical one as were Samuel and Kings.

Historians estimate that Chronicles was written in the 5th Century BC (so somewhere between 400 and 500 BC).  In fact it is the last book in the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament).  Some believe it may have been written by Ezra, though it could simply have been a contemporary of his.

Chronicles begins with genealogies, describes the establishment of the Davidic line, gives the history of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) from the establishment of the kingdom, through it’s division into Northern (Isreal) and Southern (Judah), to it’s fall and captivity by Babylon.  It closes with the decree of King Cyrus when captives begin to return home.  This sets up the books of Ezra and Nehemiah where the temple and the city walls (of Jerusalem) are rebuilt.  This is why the books of Chronicles focus more on Judah (the Southern Kingdom) than Israel (the Northern Kingdom).

The first 17

Digging into these first 17 chapters of 1Chronicles we have lots of names to read (or stumble over) in seemingly endless lists.  You may be asking, ‘Why go through these genealogies again?’  Good question.  Scholars believe that these were important to help the exiles returning to their land to be certain of how the land should be divided, by tribe as directed by Moses.  It was also important to determine who were the descendants of Levi as only his tribe was entitled to serve as priests in God’s temple, which they hoped to restore.

Getting past the names there are a few items of interest that may have stood out to you.  The first is in chapter 4 and is often (now) referred to as The Prayer of Jabez.  Verses 9-10 (ESV) read as follows…

‘Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.’

Somehow this brief passage (this is really all there is about Jabez and his prayer) was turned into a book, a 30-day devotional that sold more than 9 million copies in 2001!  [Disclaimer…  I have not actually read this book by Bruce Wilkinson, but…] It’s been reported that author Bruce Wilkinson encourages the reader to follow his 30-day plan of reading this prayer everyday, supposedly so that God will bless them abundantly as a result.

Maybe because it was the beginning of the 911 culture, or because critics were perhaps correct in calling this a ‘prosperity Gospel’ device where people more focused on their own riches than God’s were excited about a Biblical formula for blessing, but whatever the reason there were many additional works created around this book and it’s supposed Biblical applications.  Perhaps this ‘prayer’ did prosper Bruce Wilkinson, but was it really a Biblical principle for the Church to follow?  Based on only one or two verses… what do you think?

In chapter 11 we see Uriah the Hittite (remember Uriah?) again.  This time he is clearly described as one of David’s Mighty Men.  These men are described as ‘giving him strong support’ to make him King over Israel.  This was a man of great character who David murdered to cover up his own sin with Bathsheba.

Finally in chapter 17 we see one the most hope-filled verses in all of Scripture.  Even though David was a flawed individual (he was) he still had a heart that followed after God.  God makes a promise to David that one of his descendants will sit on his throne forever.  Here is 17:11-14 in the ESV…

‘When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’”

Ahhh… Jesus, the coming King!

What are your thoughts and reflections on these 17 chapters?

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Week 17 – Bible Blog! (2Kings6 – 2Kings 25)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Wow!  That’s a lot of kings!  Maybe I should say, that’s a lot of evil kings!  If my count is correct (and it may not be, so check me if you’d like) there were 19 kings of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and 20 kings of the Southern Kingdom (Judah).  The Kings of Israel reigned for about 210 years before being taken into captivity (or exile) by the Assyrians in about 722BC and the Kings of Judah reigned for about 345 years before being taken into captivity (or exile) by the Babylonians in about 586BC.

As I was reading through the book of kings (1Kings & 2Kings) this time I was paying more attention to the description of each of these kings, as to the description of their character.  I knew that many of the kings were described as “doing evil” and only a few were described as “doing right”, but what struck me was that none of the kings of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) were described as doing right… NONE!  I was expecting at least a few to be good, but not one was.  The best description we find is for the last king of Israel, Hoshea son of Elah, who was described this way in 2Kings 17:2, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him (emphasis mine).

So he was bad, but not as bad as the kings before him.  This is the best description for a Northern King.  No wonder they went into exile so much earlier than the Southern Kingdom (Judah).  So was the Southern Kingdom that much better?  Well, in some ways, yes.  The average reign of a Northern King was about 11 years while the average reign of a Southern King was about 17 years.

However the length of reign is not an automatic sign of the character of the king.  While King Uzziah (Azariah) was one of Judah’s great kings and he reigned 52 years, King Manasseh, one of Judah’s worst kings, reigned 55 years!  [By the way, King Uzziah is mentioned prominently in Isaiah 6, if you want to look ahead.]  So the length of reign is not an automatic assurance of good character, but the Scriptures make it clear that 8 of the 20 kings of Judah were good kings, “doing right” by God.  That’s 40% good for the kings of Judah.  In comparison to the Israel that’s a great improvement, but when you consider that 60% were evil, even though they had the Temple (the actual House of God) right there in their capitol city, it’s still not a good number.

While King Ahab (with his wife Jezebel, 1Kings 16-22) was arguably the most evil of all the kings, there were also a couple of incredibly good kings.  King Hezekiah (despite being the son of one of Judah’s most evil kings, King Ahaz) is described saying, “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” (2Kings 18:5)  Now that’s a ringing endorsement!  And after God had already determined that Judah would be taken into exile by Babylon for all of the sins she had committed, we still meet one more very good king, King Josiah!

Josiah comes to the throne at only 8 years old, but while still in his teens he turns his heart fully to the Lord when Hilkiah the priest finds the scrolls containing the Law and reads them to the king.  Josiah is so astounded by the sin of Judah when he realizes God’s standards that he goes about a complete reformation in Judah.  He even tears down the high places that King Solomon had constructed to worship the foreign gods of his foreign wives.  Why had none of the other “good” kings of Judah done this before?!

God’s appreciation for Josiah’s devotion is revealed when He tells him, Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.  Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place. (2Kings 22:19-20)

Josiah is given grace, but the consequences of Judah’s actions cannot be avoided.  This is an important lesson to which we do well to pay attention.  God’s grace and His mercy is always available to us, but the consequences of our actions are sometimes unavoidable once God has decreed them.

Remember David’s first son with Bathsheba (the one which resulted from his initial rape of Bathsheba)?  Despite David’s mourning and humbling himself, God still took the child, but David He had forgiven.  Despite Josiah’s righteous life and his many reforms in Judah, God still sent the Babylonians to take Judah into exile, but Josiah He spared from having to witness it.

So does this mean that there are limits to His mercy?  Yes and no.  The problem we might have is trying to “define” God and what He can and cannot do, but what the Bible (in it’s entirety) makes clear is that God is free!  He is free to act and to do anything that is in accordance with His character.  He cannot lie, for instance, but He can change His plans if we return to Him with our whole hearts.

Remember the Ninevites in the book of Jonah.  They were an incredibly wicked evil people, the enemies of Israel, but when Jonah preached judgment and destruction they whole-heartedly repented and begged God for mercy.  Upon seeing their heartfelt repentance God relented!  He chose not to destroy them at that time.

Throughout the Scriptures the heart of God has been revealed to us as one who is slow to anger, but abounding in steadfast love.  In Micah when the prophet asks what God requires of us he says we are to, “act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8b).  Did you catch that?  We are to love mercy.  Why?  Because God loves mercy!  I love that Micah follows this up with walk humbly.  Why?  Could it be because we’re not good at being humble?  Do we often think more highly of ourselves than we ought?

When Peter asks Jesus if we should forgive someone up to 7 times when they sin against us, he (Peter) thought he was “loving mercy” by suggesting we forgive 7 times, but Jesus’ answer shocked them.  He said not 7 times, but 70 times 7!  In other words forgive until you lose count, because that is how your Heavenly Father forgives you!

So do consequences stand?  Sometimes, but God loves mercy and is eager to forgive even the most vile among us… even us!

So what are your thoughts this week?  Let’s hear from you in the comment section below…

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Week 16 – Bible Blog! (1Kings10 – 2Kings 5)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Yes, it is always about the heart.  That’s where we left off last week and where we’ll continue this week.  In fact, at the risk of being redundant, we could make this our topic every week, as God has always been most concerned about our hearts.

So this week we pick up at 1Kings 10 where we meet the Queen of Sheba.  She has heard of the wisdom and greatness of King Solomon, but she wants to see for herself if the reports are true.  She comes with a great company of officials and more spices than have ever (before or since) been presented to a king of Israel.  We read that she came prepared with hard questions to test him.  However, Solomon is not stumped by even one, as we read, “And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her.” (1Kings 10:3)  When she heard his answers and witnessed the greatness of his kingdom, “there was no more breath in her.”  She was breathless!  He took her breath away!

I wish we were told what her questions were and what his answers were.  Don’t you?

Unfortunately, after a brief description of Solomon’s great wealth (the end of chapter 10) we read in chapter 11 that he turns away from the Lord.  Even though the Law was clear that the Israelites were not to inter-marry with their foreign neighbors, Solomon married foreign wives from seemingly every surrounding nation.  In fact, he had a total of 700 wives!  And 300 concubines!!  The reason God told the Israelites not to marry foreign wives was because they would lead their husbands away from worshiping the One True God!  They would lead them to worship foreign gods, which Solomon did, even building temples to them in Israel!  In other words, their hearts would turn away from God!

Just as David’s great sin against Uriah the Hittite resulted in an ugly division in his family, Solomon’s great sin in turning away from the God of Israel resulted in an ugly division in the kingdom itself.  However for David’s sake, this tearing of the kingdom in two would not happen in Solomon’s day, but in the days of his son (1Kings 11:11-12) Rehoboam.

We quickly see the foolishness of Rehoboam in chapter 12 as the kingdom is torn in two and the 10 northern tribes (often referred to as Israel) follow after Jeroboam as their King and only Judah remains as the southern kingdom.  The same conditional promises are made to Jeroboam as they were to David and Solomon.  If he will follow after God with all his heart and will walk in His ways, God will bless him abundantly and be with him always.

Unfortunately, Jeroboam does not follow after God with his whole heart.  Not even close…

And thus begins the unruly divide between the two kingdoms (they were often at war against each other).  The northern kingdom (Israel) led by Jeroboam and the southern kingdom (Judah) led by Rehoboam…  these two will exhibit a pattern of kings who fail to follow after God with their whole hearts, more so the northern kingdom than the southern kingdom at first.  So let’s start with Judah, the southern kingdom:

The Kings of Judah (the southern kingdom)

Rehoboam, son of Solomon, reigns 17 years ……….. (Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 14:22)

Abijam, son of Rehoboam, reigns 3 years …………. (his heart was not wholly true to the Lord1Kings 15:3)

Asa, son of Abijam, reigns 41 years ………… (did what was right in the eyes of the Lord1Kings 15:11)

Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, reigns 25 years …….. (like Asa, did right in the sight of the Lord1Kings 22:43)

The Kings of Israel (the northern kingdom)

Jeroboam, son of Nebat, reigns 22 years ….. (more evil above all who had gone before him1Kings 14:9)

Nadab, son of Jeroboam, reigns 2 years …… (he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 15:26)

Baasha, son of Ahijah, reigns 24 years ……… (he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 15:34)

Elah, son of Baasha, reigns 2 years ………………….. (murdered by Zimri while getting drunk1Kings 16:9-10)

Zimri, reigns 7 days! …………………………… (commits suicide, evil in the sight of the Lord1Kings 16:18-19)

Omri, reigns 12 years ……….. (father of Ahab, did more evil than all who were before him1Kings 16:25)

Ahab, son of Omri, reigns 22 years – (marries Jezebel, even more evil than his father!1Kings 16:30)

Ahaziah, son of Ahab, reigns 2 years ……………………………. (evil, like his father & mother1Kings 22:52)

Look at that!! Four kings of Judah, only two of them are evil, while two are following God with their whole heart.  At the same time, the northern kingdom, Israel, goes through eight kings, not one of them good!  AND WE’RE NOT EVEN INTO 2KINGS YET!!!

Despite the wickedness of the northern kings, especially Ahab, we still see God’s mercy and grace throughout.  See especially when He sides with Ahab against Syria (1Kings 20) and even responds with mercy to Ahab’s repentances (1Kings 21).

Would you be so forgiving?!?!  Should you be?  Hmm…

The episode with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel introduces us to the most famous of all the prophets, Elijah.  These classic confrontations are filled with drama, comedy (sarcasm and ridicule), bravery and fear.  They show us great moments of faithfulness and great moments of desperation.  My favorite part of the confrontation with the priests of Baal is the clear message…

There is no god, but our God!!

The life of Elijah leads us into 2Kings where we meet his successor Elisha, the pride of bald men everywhere!  These two great prophets of the Lord demonstrate they are His spokesmen through great miracles and wonders (splitting the river to walk through on dry ground) and by raising two children from the dead (one for each of them).  Much of the ministry and miracles we see in these two men we will see again when Jesus comes on the scene 800-900 years later.  Actually, Jesus is already here in these stories.  Did you notice the reference to Him?… The Angel of the Lord! (1Kings 19:7; 2Kings 1:3,15)

What your thoughts or questions this week?

Let’s here from you!  Comment below…

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Week 15 – Bible Blog! (2Sam 16 – 1Kings9)

Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!

Are you suffering a little eye strain from last week’s blog?  Man, that was long.  I thought I talked long, but apparently I type long, too!

Well, let’s keep this one shorter by me and L…O…N…G…E…R… by you!

So we pick up in 2Samuel 16:5-14 where Shimei, one of King Saul’s relatives, comes cursing David and throwing rocks at him and his officials.  In fact it says he pelted them with the stones!

Was David’s reaction what you expected?

That’s one of the things I find fascinating about David.  Even though he sinned greatly (as we discussed last week) his typical actions are of a man with great character.  Here he exhibits great humility, as he’s done many times before.  He and all his companions know the actions of Shimei are sinful and probably punishable by death, but David abstains from action…for now.

Later in 2Samuel 19:12-13 David promises Amasa, David’s relative, that he will serve as commander for life of David’s army, in place of Joab (the current commander).  He even goes so far as to swear an oath saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you are not the commander of my army for life in place of Joab.”  This is a solemn vow.

You may have been wondering, “Why was David intent on replacing Joab?”  Remember in 2Samuel 3:22-39 we read the story of how Abner had come to see David and David had allowed him to leave in peace?  When Joab found out that David had Abner in his presence and allowed him to leave in peace, Joab was indignant.  He, Joab, summoned his men and sent them to pursue Abner and bring him back.  When Joab caught up with Abner he killed him.  None of this was known to David at the time.

When David was told what had happened he was distraught and walked around in mourning for Abner.  He called down a curse on Joab and his family for this evil act.  More than likely this was David’s motivation for replacing Joab as commander and here in 2Sam 19 he promises Amasa that he will be the new commander.

However, before Amasa could be made commander, Joab happens to come across him while pursuing someone else.  In 2Sam 20:8-10 we see the deceptive tactics that Joab uses to kill Amasa and rally the army behind him once again.

[David’s Song of Praise in chapter 22 is awesome as well.  Reread it, because I’m keeping this blog shorter this week!]

Finally, before jumping into 1Kings I wanted to point out a great principle that we see David espouse in 2Samuel 24:24, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing!”  Great words to live by!

Getting into 1Kings 2:5-9 we see David on his deathbed giving Solomon advice about “cleaning things up” at the beginning of his reign.  David advises Solomon to “take care of” Joab.  The euphemism used is, “do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace.”  Just after his instructions about Joab, he now mentions Shimei.  Again he uses a similar euphemism about Shimei when he tells Solomon, “Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.”

Now Adonijah, who had claimed kingship for himself in chapter 1, has shown himself to have evil intentions as he asks to be married to Abishag (love that name!) who was King David’s concubine late in life.  To ask for the hand of the king’s concubine was to make a claim for the throne itself.

So Solomon systematically sends Benaiah son of Johoiada after all three of these men.  After killing each of them (2Sam 2:13-46) the Bible says, “The kingdom was now established in Solomon’s hands.” 

Now you understand why Bathsheba said to David in 1Kings 1:21, “as soon as my lord the king is laid to rest with his ancestors, I and my son Solomon will be treated as criminals.”  Adonijah, who had unjustly attempted to claim the throne for himself, would have most certainly done what he could to eliminate all rivals immediately after David’s death.  Solomon’s kingdom was not established until after the three amigos were dealt with.

It’s interesting to me that all this happened before Solomon prayed for wisdom and his desire was granted, along with fame and wealth, etc.

Our reading ends with the construction and consecration of the Temple.  Did you notice in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication that he kept indicating that Israel would rebel against God?  He kept pleading with God that when the Israelites confessed and pleaded for forgiveness that God would hear them and forgive them.  In fact he tells us in 2Sam 8:46 that, “there is no one who does not sin.”  Hmm… sounds like Romans 3:23, doesn’t it?

Finally, keep in mind that although the Old Testament often makes reference to The Law, and as believers today we can often make the mistake of thinking that the Old Testament was all about The Law, it really is all about the heart.  God is and always has been most concerned and desirous of our hearts.

Look at 2Sam 8:39-40, where Solomon says to God, “Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart), so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.”It’s always been about the heart!

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