Sunday, 18 May 2014

(139) May 19: 2 Kings 20-22 & John 6:45-71

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

To discover:­­
As you read consider why God promises destruction now on Judah.

To ponder:
Considering how Hezekiah has been commended and the lack of rebuke in Isaiah’s words, we can assume his illness was not due to sin. It reminds us that faithfulness doesn’t exempt us from suffering. Nevertheless, it does mean we can pray as Hezekiah does, looking to Christ just as he faced the temple. He reminds God of his faithful service and God immediately sends word that he would be healed. By stating he is the God “of David,” the LORD affirms he is the God of such faithful kings.
            It seems Hezekiah’s sickness was incapacitating as God promises in three days he will be able to go to the temple himself and live fifteen years more. He also promises to defend and deliver the city for David’s sake. The “poultice of figs” Hezekiah was told to apply to the boil that was the cause of his illness was probably just a tangible token of God’s healing, as when Jesus put mud on people’s eyes. The sign the king asked for was something to immediately reassure him that God would heal him (and no doubt fulfil everything else promised). By whatever means, God performed the astonishing miracle of having the shadow on a stairway recede as if time was in reverse. Hezekiah’s choice of this was because it was difficult. So it proves to us too, that absolutely nothing is beyond God’s power.
            Whether through foolishness or pride, later Hezekiah showed the envoys of Babylonia, the upcoming superpower, everything he had. God then revealed that it would all one day be carried to Babylon, and some of Hezekiah’s descendents would go too, becoming eunuchs to serve the Babylonian king. Hezekiah’s response that this was “good” may not be selfish, but display a king’s gratitude that his kingdom would at least enjoy “peace and security” in his lifetime.
            Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was, however, clearly and supremely “evil,” doing violence against the innocent (21v16), and following and exceeding the practices of the Canaanites by restoring idol worship, sacrificing his son, consulting mediums, and raising idolatrous altars and an Asherah pole in the temple – the place of God’s name and so of his presence and authority. He also led the people astray, causing them not to listen to God’s law. God’s response was to declare he would measure Jerusalem with the same plumb-line with which he measured Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. A plumb-line is a weight on a line that hangs down to determine whether something is truly vertical. The point is that God was measuring how far from upright the people were. In anger he therefore promised “such destruction” as would make people’s ears “tingle.” However, he stressed this was for the culmination of sin ever since the Exodus (21v15). We can be sure that the final judgement will also be exact.
            Mannesseh’s son Amon did “evil” as he did, forsaking God, before being assassinated – a sign of the south following the same trajectory as the north. But his son Josiah was very different indeed. He did “right” not just like some of his forefathers, but like David. He repaired the temple in a similar way to Joash (2 Kgs 12), at which point the book of the law (always referring to Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch) was found. On hearing it read, Josiah tore his robes in mourning and immediately enquired of God because of how great his anger must be at the people’s disobedience to the book. Through the prophetess Huldah God confirmed just this, clarifying that the destruction he was bringing was according to the book itself (see Deut 28, 31v14-29). Making this point was surely why God had the book found, and reminds us how critical it is we accept and hold to the Bible’s teaching as understood through Christ. God also promised that because Josiah humbled himself, he would saved by death from witnessing the destruction, just as we are if we mourn our sin.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his willingness to hear our prayers through Christ. Pray for a return to the Bible throughout God’s church and by both ministers and congregations.

Thinking further:
None today.

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