Friday, January 19, 2018

Year 8, Day 19: 2 Kings 21

Theological Commentary: Click Here

I’ve always been curious as to why God would punish Hezekiah so harsh just for showing the Babylonians the temple and the wealth of the kingdom.  I get that Hezekiah was prideful.  I get that Hezekiah may have been more interested in financial security and not interested in sharing the greatness of God to the Babylonians.  But I have often felt that those things aren’t as big and significant as all the other things that God has put up with over the centuries since David was king!

In reading this chapter something important comes out.  The perspective that I have is incredibly human.  When I hear God list out punishments, I make the human assumption that the punishments match the crime as recorded.  With God, though, that doesn’t need to be true.  God’s perspective is not linear as is mine!  God knows what is going to happen when Hezekiah dies and his son takes over.  God knows what will happen when Hezekiah’s grandson takes over.

When God tells Hezekiah that the Babylonians will conquer them, but it won’t take effect until after Hezekiah’s reign, it is actually a demonstration of God’s wisdom!  It is a demonstration of God’s foresight!  God knows of all of the awful practices that Manasseh and Amon are going to initiate.  He knows about the defacing of His temple.  He knows about the child sacrifice.  He knows about the worship of the starry host.

On the surface, this chapter is all about the sins of Manasseh and Amon.  Under the surface, though, this chapter is about the magnificence of God.  God knows what is to come well before it happens.  God can set and execute judgment well before it is even required.  From my human perspective, it may seem unfair or unreasonable.  The problem is with me, though, not God.  The Babylonian advance that we heard about yesterday is perfectly fair and perfectly righteous when we have the ability to see the whole story as God does.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Year 8, Day 18: 2 Kings 20

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Today we get a story that fills in a bit of the bigger picture of the story of Hezekiah.  We get an opportunity to see the real Hezekiah, much like we got an opportunity to see the real David.  We see him in his glory, we see him in his faults.

In his glory, Hezekiah is a bastion of faith.  Sick, he prays to God.  He believes God can heal him.  When Isaiah comes to tell Hezekiah that God is going to heal him, Hezekiah is willing to believe it.  Here is a man who understands the power of God and understands the preeminence of God.  He gets it in a very real and personal way.

A neat part of this is that God knows that he gets it.  God heals him.  In fact, it seems to please God to heal Hezekiah.  This is a man who has a positive relationship with God and it shows all around.

That being said, Hezekiah is no perfect man, either.  He makes mistakes.  When some emissaries from Babylon come to see him, he is taken by their concern for his health.  He shows them around.  Like a proud man, he puts on a demonstration of what makes him great.  He never thinks about the idea that these emissaries could go back to Babylon and brag about the wealth the see.  Hezekiah never thinks about the possibility that his pride could lead to the king of Babylon coming to Judah to take that wealth from him.  In Hezekiah, we see a fault of blind pride.

Furthermore, we also see a man who is a bit self-centered.  When he is told about the judgment to come, Hezekiah’s reaction is really interesting.  Hezekiah is okay with the judgment because it will happen after he dies.  I hope the self-centeredness of this reaction is obvious.

Hezekiah is a great man.  He has a great relationship with God.  But he isn’t perfect.  He is short-sighted.  He suffers from pride.  He has flaws.  But in the end, God still loves him.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Year 8, Day 17: 2 Kings 19

Theological Commentary: Click Here

This is a great chapter of the Bible.  Remember what the chapter from yesterday said about Hezekiah?  Hezekiah walked in the ways of the Lord according to David.  That is an epitaph that hasn’t been said since David; it’s very high praise.  It’s worth focusing on.

I think we see something in today’s chapter that should remind us of David.  Hezekiah is full of what looks like doubt.  He goes to the temple and seeks guidance.  He seeks out the prophets.  Hezekiah doesn’t know what is going to happen, but he knows that he doesn’t have the answers and he needs help.  He goes to God especially in the midst of his worry!

Doesn’t this sound just like David?  Hezekiah doesn’t have any more answers than David did!  Hezekiah’s no more perfect than David was.  But he does believe in God.  He does seek God.  He does wish to follow God’s directive.

Unlike many of the kings between David and Hezekiah, Hezekiah doesn’t try to buy help.  He doesn’t place his faith in anything except God.  He goes to the temple and prays for help.

This is the cool part of the story; it’s my favorite part.  Isaiah consoles Hezekiah.  Isaiah tells him that God is on His side and God will force Sennacherib to go home.  Later that night, hundreds of thousands of Assyrians are found dead outside of Jerusalem.  Sennacherib tucks his tail and goes home.  His military failure gets him killed by his own sons, who rise to power.

God lives up to His promise to protect those who truly trust in Him.  He can make our path through the darkness of life.  Hezekiah gives us a great look at what this kind of faith looks like.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Year 8, Day 16: 2 Kings 18

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Today we begin one of my favorite teaching stories on the topic of faith.  We meet Hezekiah the king, who is one of the elite among the faithful kings of Judah.  We hear about Sennacherib, who is one of the great kings of Assyria.  We hear about a great defiance, a lie, and the faithful response of the people.

Before we get to all of this, make sure that we understand the context of what is going on.  The Assyrians have been chosen by God to be His punishment upon Israel.  The Assyrians take possession of the land and pull the Hebrew people of the northern kingdom away from their inheritance.  There has been no nation that has stopped the Assyrians.  Whatever the Assyrians have wanted, they have taken by force.

Now, however, the Assyrians come to Judah and plan to take Jerusalem.  They have even taken many of the fortified cities of Judah.  It looks bleak, especially when no help arrives from Egypt.  The Assyrian army encircles Jerusalem and begins to lay siege against it.

In this context the mouthpiece of Sennacherib comes to the wall around Jerusalem.  He announces their impending doom.  He tells the people of the city, especially the guards upon the wall, that their city will fall and there is no hope on the horizon.  He even indicates that they shouldn’t rely upon God.  After all, what god has any nation believed in that has saved them from the hand of the Assyrian onslaught?

Here’s the thing that Hezekiah understands, though.  He knows that God will deliver them.  He tells the people to not even acknowledge the Assyrians.  He knows that God may have brought Assyria upon Israel, but God has not brought Assyria upon Judah.  Hezekiah holds fast.

I praise Hezekiah for this bold stance.  Here is a faithful response in the face of an overwhelming enemy.  Here is a response where Hezekiah draws a line in the sand and says, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”  He then turns and invites the people around him to stand upon the same line in the stand.  This is what leadership looks like.  This is why the story of Hezekiah is one of my favorite faith teaching stories form among the kings.

Tomorrow we’ll see how the story ends.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Year 8, Day 15: 2 Kings 17

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In 2 Kings 17 we have the fall of Israel.  Israel falls because they followed other gods and sacrificed to them.  Let’s be clear about that.  Yes, Israel was disobedient.  But honestly, how many among us are not disobedient to God.  Even among those who claim to love Him, how many of us are free from the effects of sin? 

What the people of Israel did that was wrong and that God didn’t forgive was that they worshipped other gods and sacrificed to them.  That isn’t permission to be disobedient, but the reality is that God will forgive our disobedience if we are in relationship with Him and acknowledge our wrong.  What God has an issue with Israel’s actions is that they worshipped foreign gods and sacrificed to them.  That should be a lesson to us all.  Disobedience is forgiven with repentance.  Worship of other things besides God is not.

That leads us around to another neat understanding that I honestly don’t remember reading in years past, although I am sure that I did.  Do you hear that the king of Assyria resettles the land?  That’s not the new part.  Do you hear that God sends lions to devour the people because they don’t know Him?  That’s not the new part, either.

What is new is that the priest of God that the king of Assyria sends among the settlers offers them a deal.  The priest becomes an envoy from God and offers them protection.  He offers to rescue them from dangers if they will worship Him.  He basically gives them the same offer that He has given to the Hebrew people!  Of course, they don’t listen.  But that doesn’t change the point!

What’s neat about this is that it shows us the nature of God’s love.  God is willing to make His offer to anyone.  All we have to do is fear and worship Him and not fear or worship other gods.  As we see in this passage, it doesn’t matter who we are or where we’ve come from.  God is willing to embrace us if we simply choose to fear and worship Him.  It’s really that simple.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Year 8, Day 14: 2 Kings 16

Theological Commentary: Click Here

In 2 Kings 16 we meet Ahaz, the next king in the line of Judah.  Unlike the two kings that came before him, Ahaz does not do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.  In fact, he even offers his son as a sacrifice.  He brings back the old religion that was being worshipped by the Canaanites.  The Bible even hints at the fact that such acts were the reason that the Canaanites were kicked out in the first place!

What I find interesting is that Ahaz’s contempt for God is obvious in so many other dynamics.  When Israel and Syria come against Judah, Ahaz turns to Assyria for help instead of God.  Note that he doesn’t turn to his own gods, either.  Ahaz doesn’t have an eye for spirituality; Ahaz has an eye for the natural world and what is best for him.

In fact, when Assyria comes and saves Judah, Ahaz goes to meet the king of Assyria.  Along the way, he sees the altar in Damascus.  These are the altars that initially led to Israel’s fall away from God back when the kingdom split apart.  Ahaz sends the designs back to Jerusalem and orders the priest to duplicate them.  Then, Ahaz goes into the temple of God and begins to repurpose the temple furnishings for his own purposes!

As if this isn’t bad enough, one of the true places of sorrow in this chapter comes here.  The priest goes through with the king’s plan.  Naturally, the priest was probably in a position of listening to the king or losing his position (and perhaps his life).  The priest chooses to keep his position and follow the king’s wishes instead of standing up for the Lord.  It is sad when people choose their own material security instead of spiritual righteousness, but I find it especially troubling when a priest makes that choice.  If anyone should have been able to say no to the king, it should have been Uriah the priest.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Year 8, Day 13: 2 Kings 15

Theological Commentary: Click Here

2 Kings 15 is more of the same.  We have a pair of kings of Judah who do what is right in the sight of the Lord, even if they do let the high places of Ba’al worship remain.  We have more kings in Israel who do not do what is right in the sight of the Lord.  We have leadership changes in Judah passed on by generation in the line of David.  We have leadership changes passed on by treachery and scheming in Israel.  Not much changes.

We do, however, see the end on the horizon for Israel.  Tiglath-pileser comes onto the scene for Assyria and starts making demands.  He starts by conquering a large chunk of Israel and drags the people in the land he captures back to Assyria.  The Hebrew people start to become enslaved in captivity.  We shouldn’t be surprised by this at all.  None of the kings of Israel have tried to uphold God and His ways.  God has given them time to repent and they haven’t.  Judgment comes.

Even in the midst of judgment, though, I think that it is very interesting to look at the human interaction.  When Pekahiah cannot prevent portions of Israel from being carved up by Tiglath-pileser, his captain conspires against him to take over power.  Even in the midst of its decline, people gather like vultures to take their share of what’s left.  Pekahiah is assassinated and Pekah steps up to don the mantle of king over Israel.

There is another thought that I get out of this.  Not only will people grab at any power – even power of a downward spiraling organization – people will also believe what they want reality to be instead of what actual reality is.  The kingdom of Israel is doomed.  It is to be judged.  It is in selfish rebellion against God.  Nobody seems to step up and acknowledge this.  People grab at power and think that they can hold back the tide of God’s judgment.  Pekah thinks that he can do more against Assyria than Pekahiah could do.  He believes in his own version of reality instead of God’s version of true reality.