Friday, 16 May 2014

(137) May 17: 2 Kings 15-17 & John 6:1-21

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider the particular sins Israel are judged for.

To ponder:
Azariah of Judah (also known as Uzziah, 15v5 and 32) did “right,” except for the high places, but was afflicted by God with leprosy (for sin, 2 Chr 26v19-21), causing his son Jotham to act as co-regent.
            From Zechariah, we read he and each subsequent king of Israel do “evil” by “not turning away from the sins of Jereboam.” This theme of continuing or turning from the sins of one’s forefather demonstrates how the acts of one generation can influence subsequent ones – for good or evil. Most kings that follow are assassinated. So God’s promise of Jehu’s line continuing for just four generations is fulfilled, and we see how far the kingdom has fallen from its original stability under David.
            Shallum follows Zechariah, and then Menahem, who does great evil against an Israelite city that didn’t seem to accept his rule. At this time we read of the rising empire of Assyria that Menahem paid off with taxes from Israel, and with no sense of turning to the LORD for help. Menahem’s son Pekahiah succeeded him, and then Pekah. At this time Assyria took much land and deported some of the people. This loss should have rung alarm bells with respect to God’s promise that Israel would only remain in the land if faithful.
            During Pekah’s reign, Jotham reigned in Judah, doing “right” but for the high places. Ahaz succeeded him. He not only followed the evil ways of the kings of Israel, but the ways of the Canaanite nations, even sacrificing his son. However, although Aram and the Edomites then gain land, Aram can’t take Jerusalem, no doubt because of God’s commitment to David (2 Sam 7). Yet rather than look to God for salvation, Ahaz offered himself as a vassal to the Assyrian king and paid him off so he would “save” him. He even redesigned the temple “in deference” to the king, replacing the altar that had been made according to God’s instructions with one patterned on the altar of Assyria’s gods, and using God’s altar for “seeking guidance” – probably the occult practice of divination! Ahaz’s wickedness shows that what was about to happen to the northern kingdom because of her sins could well happen to the south too. It also teaches how easily seeking help or salvation from man can lead to sin in order to gain their favour.
            Hoshea follows Pekah as king of Israel. His reign wasn’t as evil as that of previous kings, showing that what followed was primarily punishment for what had preceded it. Hoshea sought to change his allegiance from Assyria to Egypt, so the Assyrian king Shalmaneser imprisoned him, besieged Samaria for three years, capturing it and deporting the Israelites. This key event is known as the exile of the northern kingdom (722BC), and we are left in no doubt why it occurred: Israel had “not trusted” God, rejecting him and his covenant to follow even the most wicked practices of the other nations, and not turning from Jereboam’s sins. They had received many warnings through God’s prophets and seers, but refused to listen, being “stiff-necked” and so disobeying his commands, especially with respect to idolatry. So “the LORD was angry” and “thrust them” from his all important “presence;” and therefore from the blessing he could give. And this was, of course, all according to his covenant (Deut 28v36-37, 64-68). It’s all a sober reminder we cannot treat God’s warnings lightly.
            The space given to recounting how the foreign peoples who replaced the Israelites were attacked by lions for not worshipping the LORD, affirms the land remained the special place of his presence (17v26). The mix of true and false religion that followed shows how offensive the state in the north then was for God. In noting the Gentiles acted just as the Israelites did, we also see Israel’s history condemns all humanity who would have done no better (Rom 3v20).

Praying it home:
Praise God for his readiness to help and save. Pray that you would look to him in your time of need, and not sin against him in order to gain the favour of others.

Thinking further:
None today.

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