Archive for October, 2019

1 Chronicles 1:1-24

From Adam to Abraham

As parents, when we go to a graduation, and particularly when the graduation is for a large school, these events are rather long events. For example, some large state universities have their graduations over several days and do it by the colleges of arts and sciences that make up the university so that you do not have to sit through an extended and long graduation ceremony is all degrees were conferred at one time. At a large university like the University of Central Florida, our nation’s largest university, approximately 10, 000 undergraduate and post-graduate degrees are conferred each year. Their graduation ceremonies are held in six different ceremonies over three days. It would take quite a long time to hold their entire graduating class ceremonies in one event. And, it would be exceedingly boring. However, for the parents of a graduating son or daughter, it is a significant event in family life when family of a graduate hears the name of their child called, regardless of whether it is six graduations over 3 days or at one combined event. My oldest child, Meghan, graduated from Clemson University in December 2007. At Clemson, since it is not a small school by any means but it is also not a really large university either. At any given time, Clemson has about 13,000 students so they hold two graduation ceremonies each year. Even then, graduation take time.

As a parent, you have to wade through a long list of graduate names as they are read off and the graduates walk across the stage and receive their undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. You do this and you respect that each graduate has put in the work to graduate from their chosen school. You respect that your child is part of this body of kids who struggled together over 4 or more years to get to this milestone moment in their lives. It is a momentous moment for all parents and families in attendance not just you and your family and child. But, virtually all of the names read are names of people that you have never heard of. You may know some of your child’s friends here and there among the names called. However, when you hear THAT name that you have been waiting to hear, your child’s name. There are few moments in life where you are prouder as a parent as when you hear your child’s name called out as a graduate of their chosen university. You are beaming with pride. They tell you at the beginning of the conferring of degrees to hold your applause til all names have been called and the final conferment languages is read by the president of the university. And, sure, that is the respectful thing to do. However, it is so hard for you and your family NOT to offer up a yelp and a cheer of some sort when your child’s name is called. It means something. It is your child. It is your child reaching a milestone in their lives. It is a moment where they have put in the hard work over a long period of time and are now receiving their reward. It is a moment that signifies that your child is ready to take on the world on their own. It is simply a momentous moment for parent and child and family. It’s hard not to send a quick little family cheer of some sort.

It is also important to note at these graduations that these large institutions actually know and recognize the existence of your child. They are individually known. Their grades are tracked. They progress toward graduation is monitored. They are known by someone or several people in the administration of the school. There are professors that know your child’s work and some that know your child personally. It is recognition by this large university that your child has mattered to them and that their name appears individually on a degree conferred by this university. It gives you as a parent and the graduating child an affinity not just to the friends that they have made here at the school but it provides an affinity to the school itself that is hard to describe. It makes you feel like part of the family of that school, the legacy of that school, it makes you feel like you belong to something special. That feeling is quite real at Clemson University, a school that promotes a culture of family throughout the university even though it is not a small school. The saying that “there is something in these hills” that Clemson people talk about that makes you feel like you are part of a very unique place in the university landscape of our country. You feel like you belong to a special group that is forever tied to this place called Clemson. I am sure that others feel the same way about their kid’s university or college but this is my kid and my kid’s school.

I think about that this morning as I read the lengthy list of names in the genealogy that begins in Chapter 1 of 1 Chronicles and continues for 9 full chapters…9 full chapters of this book of the Bible. But the first thing that you notice in all of this is that names matter. It was the point of Chronicles to make the exiled Jews remember their history as God’s people in a time in their history that they no longer had their own nation. It is important for them to tie themselves to their roots and learn from the past of Jewish history. But for us as 21st century readers, it may just seem a yawner like a parent at a graduation hearing all the names called of children that are NOT their own kids. Those names mean nothing to them other than they are part of your child’s graduating class. It would be weird to be a graduation for just your child. It would not seem as momentous if there were not others whose names are called. The graduation ceremony would not be as elegant or as formal if it were just a graduation of one person, your child. Thus, having all the names read means that your child was part of something bigger, something special, a special group that they will forever belong to. That, to me, is the point, the idea that I walk away from with these first 23 verses, because those first 23 verses show us something unique when you look at who these names are. Let’s read the passage, 1 Chronicles 1:1-23, now:

1 The descendants of Adam were Seth, Enosh, 2 Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, 3 Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, 4 and Noah.

The sons of Noah were[a] Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Descendants of Japheth

5 The descendants of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.

6 The descendants of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Riphath,[b] and Togarmah.

7 The descendants of Javan were Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Rodanim.

Descendants of Ham

8 The descendants of Ham were Cush, Mizraim,[c] Put, and Canaan.

9 The descendants of Cush were Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The descendants of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. 10 Cush was also the ancestor of Nimrod, who was the first heroic warrior on earth.

11 Mizraim was the ancestor of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 12 Pathrusites, Casluhites, and the Caphtorites, from whom the Philistines came.[d]

13 Canaan’s oldest son was Sidon, the ancestor of the Sidonians. Canaan was also the ancestor of the Hittites,[e] 14 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 15 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 16 Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites.

Descendants of Shem

17 The descendants of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.

The descendants of Aram were[f] Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.[g]

18 Arphaxad was the father of Shelah.

Shelah was the father of Eber.

19 Eber had two sons. The first was named Peleg (which means “division”), for during his lifetime the people of the world were divided into different language groups. His brother’s name was Joktan.

20 Joktan was the ancestor of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 21 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 22 Obal,[h] Abimael, Sheba, 23 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were descendants of Joktan.

In this passage, you might initially think it’s a yawner. Something to glide right through without much to glean from it. However, it was the Apostle Paul that said, “All  Scripture  is  inspired  by  God  and  profitable  for  teaching,  for  reproof,  for  correction,  for  training  in  righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, there is something to be learned from these first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles which are nothing but genealogy. This record beginning at 1:1 demonstrates several things. For one thing, this record demonstrates that God is interested not only in nations but also in individuals. Although billions and billions of people have lived since the beginning of man in Adam, God knows and remembers the face and name of each person who has ever lived since the beginning. Each of us is more than a name on a list. We are special persons whom God knows and loves. As we recognize and accept his love, we discover both our uniqueness as individuals and our solidarity with the remainder of the world, both past and present.

In these first verses, we see that all nations are seen and referenced by their roots going back to one of Noah’s sons: Japheth, Ham, or Shem. Japheth is the father of many general nations. Ham is the father of almost all of the “bad nations” on earth. Shem is the bearer of the messianic seed line resulting in Christ

and Israel as well as other nations such as the Ludites, Aramites, etc. Thus, the point of these first 23 verses can be viewed in this way. Descendants of all 3 sons of Noah are present at Christ’s birth, death, the descending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the End Times. It’s a constant reminder of God’s intent to reconcile all nations to Him. All names are important to him. All people are important to God. He wants all of us to be reconciled to Him. At my home church, LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC, they have a saying that let’s people know that they are not just a number and a faceless person at the church. It is that “everyone has a name and every name is important!” It is the same with God. Everyone has a name and every name is important to God. He loves us all throughout time and has offered His love to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. He wants our name to be in the Book of Life. As Christ followers, He will be beaming with pride when our name is announced at our final graduation from this life into the long list of graduates who get to walk through the gates of heaven.

Amen and Amen.

OVERVIEW OF 1 CHRONCLES

Personal Reflection on Overview of 1 Chronicles

This morning, we begin the next book of the Bible, 1 Chronicles. What was once the united kingdom of Israel is now a distant memory. Life is in tatters. Once what was a great nation is now destroyed. Now, they are captives no longer free. They self-involved life that they had lived through Judges and 1 & 2 Kings has now come crashing down upon them. What they once had is no more. They are now at their rock bottom. Now is the time that they must examine their history and get at the root causes of why they are where they are now. One of the key truths that come forward from our coming reading of 1 Chronicles will be that future generations of God’s people must learn from Israel’s history about the priorities and patterns of faithfulness expected of them. The only way that we learn from our past is to examine it. Otherwise, we are destined to repeat it.

Recently, my youngest daughter admitted to herself and to me, for the first time, that she has been hopelessly addicted to mind-altering substances, most recently heroine. She has been in a faith-based recovery program now for almost two weeks. One thing is common about any and all addiction recovery programs is self-examination. One of the steps of the process is to take an honest look at our lives from beginning to now to fearlessly look at all that has happened in one’s life to have come to this: rock bottom. In this process, it is often that a person with an addiction problem finally submits control of their lives over to God. In this process, they often find their value in the Lord. In this process, they often find their calling to help others avoid their own pitfalls. It is my prayer that my daughter finds salvation in the recovery center. It is my prayer that she finds her value in the Lord. It is my prayer that she will find her voice, her own voice, her own unique calling in the Lord.

It got me to thinking about one of the things that I had to do as part of my calling to full-time ministry where it began with applying to seminary and then several times after that where I have had to write down my own salvation story. When we sit down and write our salvation story, it is really no different than what an addict has to do when their do their “searching and fearless moral inventory” as part of step 4 of the 12 step recovery process. We are all addicts to sinful behaviors. Our addictions may not be to mind altering substances but we all are addicted to sin. We all have our sin weaknesses. We all have our fatal flaw sins. Those sins that capture us and captivate us. Those sins that lie to us. Those sins that nearly destroy us. When you sit down and examine your own life from beginning to salvation, you learn what those fatal flaws have been. I learned mine during the process. I was such an approval junkie that I lived my life for the approval of others, particularly women. I defined myself by the relationship that I was in. I defined who I was and validated who I was by the approval of the woman in my life. It led me to make decisions in life that were not God-centered but rather to please my human gods – the women in my life. It was not until that I had completely lost myself and who I was and lost everything that was meaningful to me that I woke up and saw God.

Each of us needs to write down our life history, our real honest life history. We can see all the real, raw sins that we have committed, people we have hurt, destruction we have wrought, and decisions that we could have made differently. We can see where we departed from the right path. We can see where we departed from God and followed Satan’s siren call. We can see our spiral to our knees before God. We can see where God had his hand in our lives even when we were not asking for it. We can see our need for forgiveness and redemption through Jesus Christ. We can see where we made a mess of our lives. And through Jesus we can make our mess in our message to others.

That’s what the purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles. It is a retelling of the same story of 1 and 2 Kings from the point of view of a people that have crashed and burned already. It is a retelling of the searching and fearless inventory of the people of God’s downward spiral to their knees in captivity in Babylon. It is the mess becoming a message. That’s the point of 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles. Do not do was we have done. Follow the Lord so that your lives will not end us as ours has. Letting the mess become the message.

Amen and Amen.

OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF 1 CHRONICLES

This overview is copied from the following website: http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/41779

Purpose:

To direct the restoration of the Kingdom after the exile with special emphases on the unity of Israel, the king, the Temple, and immediate blessings and curses.

Date:

c. 520-400 B.C.

Key Truths:

  • The united Kingdoms of David and Solomon provide models for God’s people as they seek the blessings of God.
  • The fate of each generation of Israel was determined by its adherence to God’s ideals for kingship, the Temple, and the unity of God’s people.
  • Future generations of God’s people must learn from Israel’s history the priorities and patterns of faithfulness expected of them.

Author:

Jewish tradition considered Ezra the primary author of the books of Chronicles (First and Second Chronicles are two halves of one book), Ezra, and Nehemiah. At least two considerations suggest that he was the author of Chronicles:

  • The book was written during the postexilic period near the time of Ezra’s ministry (see “Time and Place of Writing”) and
  • Many passages in Chronicles reveal affinities with the priestly concerns that undergirded Ezra’s work (see “Purposes and Distinctives”).

Other considerations, however, cast doubt on this traditional view of authorship:

  • The date of composition for Chronicles cannot be limited to Ezra’s lifetime (see “Time and Place of Writing”),
  • The Chronicler’s focus on kingship (see “Purposes and Distinctives”) is absent from Ezra’s teaching, and
  • Ezra’s concern with apostasy due to intermarriage is not a prominent theme in Chronicles (2 Chron. 1:1-9:31).

The traditional viewpoint remains hypothetical. No doubt Ezra’s ministry was in harmony with the teachings of Chronicles. He may even have contributed in some way to the composition of the book. Still, neither historical nor Scriptural evidences indicate conclusively that Ezra was the author of Chronicles. As a result, most modern interpreters simply refer to the author as “the Chronicler.”

The Chronicler relied on many written sources as he composed his history:

  • He depended on a number of Biblical texts. He drew heavily from Samuel and Kings and followed portions of the Pentateuch, Judges, Ruth, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah.
  • He also cited several otherwise unknown royal sources: “the book of the annals of King David” (1 Chron. 27:24), “the book of the kings” (2 Chron. 24:27), “the book of the kings of Israel” (1 Chron. 9:1; 2 Chron. 20:34), “the book of the kings of Judah and Israel” (2 Chron. 16:11; 25:26; 28:26; 32:32) and “the book of the kings of Israel and Judah” (2 Chron. 27:7; 35:27; 36:8).
  • He referred explicitly to a number of prophetic sources: the writings of Samuel (1 Chron. 29:29), Nathan (2 Chron. 9:29), Gad (1 Chron. 29:29), Ahijah (2 Chron. 9:29), Iddo (2 Chron. 9:29; 12:15; 13:22), Shemaiah (2 Chron 12:15), Isaiah (2 Chron 26:22) and anonymous “seers” (2 Chron. 33:19).
  • The style and content of many passages also suggest that the Chronicler used other unspecified sources.

Time and Place of Writing:

The final verses of the 2 Chronicles (2 Chron. 36:21-23) indicate that the Chronicler wrote after the release of the exiles from Babylon (c. 538 B.C.). The lack of Hellenistic influences suggests that he composed his history before the Alexandrian period (c. 331 B.C.). Nevertheless, opinions vary over the precise date of composition.

Some interpreters have proposed that the Chronicler wrote as early as the reconstruction of the Temple under Zerubbabel (c. 520-515 B.C.). At least three evidences support this view:

  • The Chronicler consistently presented the Temple and its personnel in close partnership with the royal line of David (see “Purposes and Distinctives”). This emphasis suggests the possibility of composition near the days of Zerubbabel when expectations of royal and priestly partnership were still high (e.g., Zech. 4:1-14).
  • The Chronicler gave much attention to the details of priestly and Levitical duties (1 Chron. 6:1-53). This focus suggests a date of composition during the time when the new Temple order was being established.
  • The Chronicler’s omission of Solomon’s downfall due to intermarriage (1 Kings 11:1-40) stands in striking contrast to Nehemiah’s appeal to Solomon’s difficulties (Nem. 13:26). This omission suggests that the Chronicler may have written before intermarriage had become a major issue in the postexilic community.

The majority of interpreters have held that the Chronicler wrote during or after the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah, in the latter half of the fifth century or the early decades of the fourth century B.C. The main evidence in favor of this view is the royal genealogy in 1 Chronicles 3:17-24, which some interpreters believe extends up to five generations after Zerubbabel, but see the note on 1 Chronicles 3:21.

A specific date of composition for Chronicles cannot be determined. It seems best to accept a range of possibilities from sometime near the days of Zerubbabel to sometime soon after the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah (c. 515-400 B.C.). The major themes of the book fit well within these boundaries.

The Chronicler wrote for historical and theological reasons. His extensive use of historical documents (see “Author”) and devotion to numerical and chronological details (e.g., 1 Chron. 5:18; 2 Chron. 14:1, 9; 16:1, 12, 13) indicate that he intended to give his readers an inerrant historical record. But he did not merely offer information about the past; he also wrote to convey a relevant theological message. Comparing the Chronicler’s history with those of Samuel and Kings reveals that he shaped his account of Israel’s past to address the needs of the postexilic community. He wrote to encourage and guide his readers as they sought the full restoration of the Kingdom after the Babylonian exile.

The people who had returned from exile faced numerous difficulties. The restoration had not brought about the dramatic changes for which many had hoped. Instead, they endured discouraging economic hardship, foreign opposition and internal conflict. These difficulties raised many questions: Who may legitimately claim to be heirs to the promises God gave his people? What political and religious institutions should we embrace? Should we hope for a new Davidic king? What is the importance of the Temple in our day? How may we find the blessings of security and prosperity for our restored community? The Chronicler addressed these and similar questions in his history.

Purposes and Distinctives:

The book of Chronicles was originally untitled. Its traditional Hebrew name may be translated “the annals (events) of the days (time).” This expression appears often in the book of Kings with other qualifications (e.g., 1 Kings 14:29). It also occurs elsewhere in this form without further qualification (Neh. 12:23; Esther 2:23; 6:1). Some Septuagint (Greek Translation of the Old Testament) texts refer to Chronicles as “the things omitted”; i.e., a supplement to the history of Samuel and Kings. Jerome (and Luther following him) called the book “the chronicle of the entire sacred history.” Our modern title stems from this tradition.

The Chronicler’s theological message may be summarized in many ways, but three concerns were particularly prominent:

  • The People of God. Throughout his history the Chronicler identified the people who should be included among the heirs of God’s covenant promises. The prominence of this theme appears in his frequent use of the expression “all Israel” (see notes on 1 Chron. 11:1; 2 Chron. 10:1; 29:24). The Chronicler’s concept of God’s people was both narrow and broad. On the one hand, he looked on those who had been released from exile as the people of God. Representatives of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, who had returned to the land, were the chosen people (see note on 1 Chron. 9:3). As such, they played a vital role in the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.

On the other hand, however, the Chronicler identified God’s people with all the tribes of Israel (see note on 1 Chron. 2:3-9:1). The restoration of Israel was incomplete so long as some of the tribes remained outside the land, separated from the Davidic king and the Jerusalem Temple. As a result, the Chronicler went to great lengths to include both the northern and southern tribes in his genealogies (1 Chron. 2:3-9:1), to present an ideal of a united Kingdom under David and Solomon extending to all the people (see note on 1 Chron. 11:1) and to depict the reunification of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in the days of Hezekiah (see note on 2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). The returnees were the remnant of God’s people, but they had to pray and hope for the restoration of all the people of God. As Hezekiah put it in his day, “If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate” (2 Chron. 30:9).

  • The King and Temple. In the Chronicler’s view, God had organized his people around two central institutions: the Davidic throne and the Jerusalem Temple. These political and religious structures were fundamental to the life of Israel. In his genealogies, the Chronicler gave special attention to David’s lineage (1 Chron. 2:10-17; 3:1-24) and to the organization of the priests and Levites (1 Chron 6:1-81). He emphasized that God had chosen David’s line as the permanent dynasty over the nation (1 Chron. 17:1-27; 2 Chron. 13:5; 21:7; 23:3). The establishment of David’s throne was a demonstration of divine love and blessing for Israel (1 Chron. 14:2; 2 Chron. 2:11).

The Chronicler also focused on the Temple as the dwelling place of the Name (2 Chron. 7:12, 16; 33:7). The joy and splendor of music in Temple worship were chief concerns in the Chronicler’s history (see notes on 1 Chron. 6:31-47, 9:15-16, 28-34, 15:16-24; 16:4-6; 25:1-31; 2 Chron. 5:12-13; 23:13, 19, 29:25-30; 34:12).

The Chronicler drew a close connection between kingship and the Temple in many other ways as well (e.g., 2 Chron. 13:4-12; 22:10-24:27). With this emphasis on king and Temple, he instructed his postexilic readers not to lose sight of either institution. The full restoration of the Kingdom could not take place apart from the Davidic king and the Jerusalem Temple. As the Lord said to David, “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his Kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever” (1 Chron. 17:11-12).

  • Divine Blessing and Judgment. The Chronicler composed his history to show his readers how to receive God’s blessings in their day. He accomplished this end by drawing close connections between fidelity and blessing, as well as infidelity and judgment (1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 6:14; 7:11-22; 15:2; 16:7-9; 21:14-15; 24:20; 25:15-16; 28:9; 34:24-28). The king and the Temple could not in themselves secure God’s blessing for Israel. His blessings depended on obedience to the Mosaic Law (1 Chron. 6:49; 15:13, 15; 16:40; 22:12-13; 28:7; 29:19; 2 Chron. 6:16; 7:17-18; 12:1-2; 14:4; 15:12-14; 17:3-9; 19:8-10; 24:6, 9; 25:4; 30:15-16; 31:3-21; 33:8; 34:19-33; 35:6-26) and to the prophetic/priestly instruction (2 Chron. 11:4; 12:5-8; 20:20; 21:12-19; 24:19-25; 25:7-10, 15-20; 26:17-20). Blessings came to those who upheld the purity of Temple worship (2 Chron. 15:1-19; 17:1-6; 24:1-16; 29:1-31:21; 34:1-35:19) and humbly relied on God instead of human strength (1 Chron. 5:20; 2 Chron. 13:18; 14:7; 16:7-8; 32:20).

When the people of God and their kings turned to sin, the immediate retribution of illness and military defeat often followed (1 Chron. 10:1-14; 2 Chron. 13:1-16; 16:12; 18:33-34; 21:15-19; 25:14-24; 26:19-20; 28:1-5; 33:1-11). Even so, when the people came under God’s judgment, they could be restored to blessing by humbly seeking God through repentance and prayer (1 Chron. 21:1-22:1; 2 Chron. 7:13-15; 12:1-12; 33:10-13). By emphasizing these themes the Chronicler showed his postexilic readers the way to divine blessing in their day. The full restoration of God’s people would come only as they lived in fidelity to the Lord. The prophet Azariah stated the matter succinctly to King Asa: “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2).

As the book unfolds, prominent motifs appear a number of times, but certain themes are emphasized over others in each portion. The history divides into main parts: (1) the genealogies of God’s people (1 Chron. 1:1-9:34), (2) the united Kingdom (1 Chron 9:35-2 Chron 9:31), (3) the divided Kingdom (2 Chron. 10:1-28:27), and (4) the reunited Kingdom (2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). Each part contributes specific elements to the Chronicler’s overall theological purpose.

  • The Genealogies of God’s People (1 Chron. 1:1-9:34). Genealogies in the ancient Near East followed a variety of forms and served many different functions. These variations appear in the Chronicler’s use of genealogies in the first nine chapters of his history. Some passages follow the form of linear genealogies that trace a single family line through many generations (e.g., 1 Chron. 2:34-41); others are segmented and sketch several family lines together (e.g., 1 Chron. 6:1-3). The Chronicler’s genealogies also skip generations without notice, emphasizing persons and events that were important to his concerns (e.g., 1 Chron. 6:4-15). Beyond this, just as other ancient genealogies often included brief narratives highlighting significant events, the Chronicler paused on occasion to tell a story (1 Chron. 4:9-10; 5:18-22).

 In addition to different forms, the function of ancient genealogies also varied. They occasionally sketched political, geographical and other social connections. In some such cases, the expressions “son of” and “father of” had a meaning other than immediate biological descent. In line with these ancient (yet ordinary for that time) functions of genealogies, the Chronicler provided an assortment of lists, including families (e.g., 1 Chron. 3:17-24), political relations (e.g., 1 Chron. 2:24, 42, 45, 49-52), and trade guilds (e.g., 1 Chron. 4:14, 21-23).

The Chronicler included extensive genealogical records in his book to establish that his readers were the legitimate continuation of God’s elect people. He accomplished this end by reporting the special election of Israel from all of humanity (1 Chron. 1:2-2:2), the arrangement of the tribes of Israel (1 Chron. 2:3-9:1), and the representatives of the tribes who returned from Babylon (1 Chron. 9:16-34).

By identifying the postexilic readers as the continuation of the chosen line, the Chronicler pointed to their opportunities and responsibilities. Since they were God’s people, they were offered the opportunity of God’s blessing in the Promised Land. They had a solid basis for hope in the full restoration of the Kingdom. But their identity as God’s elect people also entailed many responsibilities. The Chronicler’s genealogies focused on the breadth and order of the tribes of Israel, emphasizing especially the importance of the Davidic and Levitical families (see note on 1 Chron. 2:3-9:1a). If his readers were to receive the blessings of God, they had to observe these divinely ordained arrangements carefully.

  • The united kingdom (1 Chron. 9:35-2 Chron. 9:31). The Chronicler viewed the reigns of David and Solomon as Israel’s period of glory. He focused on the positive qualities of these kings and chose not to reference many of their well-known shortcomings and troubles recorded in Samuel and Kings (see notes on 1 Chron. 9:35-29:30 and 2 Chron. 1:1-9:31). David and Solomon ruled over all the tribes and territories of Israel (see note on 1 Chron. 11:1); they provided rich blessings through their political structures (1 Chron. 14:2; 2 Chron. 2:11; 9:8) and the Temple (1 Chron. 22:1; 2 Chron. 7:11-22).

For this reason, the united kingdom laid the foundation of hope for the postexilic readers. God had chosen David’s line and the Temple in Jerusalem to be the instruments of blessing for his people through all generations.

But this hope of blessing was conditional. The Chronicler also presented David and Solomon as models to be imitated. The postexilic community had to devote itself to the ideals of the united kingdom. Humble and faithful reliance on God, commitment to Davidic rule and devotion to the Temple were essential to receiving the blessing of God.

  • The Divided Kingdom (2 Chron. 10:1-28:27). The Chronicler’s record of Israel’s history from Rehoboam to Ahaz focuses on events in the Southern Kingdom, Judah. Although he relied on the book of Kings for much of his information, the Chronicler omitted large blocks of material dealing with the Northern Kingdom, Israel. In his view, the important historical events of this period took place in Judah, where the Davidic king and the Temple resided.

In many respects, the Chronicler evaluated the kings of this period according to the ideal of the united kingdom. He applied several criteria to Judah’s kings (see “Purposes and Distinctives: Divine Blessing and Judgment”). Was the king faithful to the Law of Moses? Did he support the Temple order established by David and by Solomon? Did the king listen to prophetic and priestly instruction? Did he rely on foreign alliances, or seek God in humility and prayer? The writer evaluated some kings negatively (Jehoram, 1 Chron. 21:4-20; Ahaziah, 1 Chron. 22:1-9; Ahaz, 1 Chron. 28:1-27) and others positively (Abijah, 1 Chron. 13:1-14:1; Jotham, 1 Chron. 27:1-9). For the most part, however, he distinguished between each king’s years of fidelity and infidelity (Rehoboam, 2 Chron. 10:1-12:16; Asa, 1 Chron. 14:2-16:14; Jehoshaphat, 1 Chron. 17:1-21:3; Joash, 1 Chron. 22:10-24:27; Amaziah, 1 Chron. 25:1-28; Uzziah, 1 Chron. 26:1-23).

The Chronicler reported these events to illustrate how the conditions of Israel depended on her fidelity to the ideals established in the united kingdom. With remarkable regularity, he demonstrated that God blessed his people when they proved to be faithful and chastised them when they turned away from him. Victory, security and prosperity came to those who sought the Lord, but defeat, trouble and illness to those who forgot him (see “Purposes and Distinctives: Divine Blessing and Judgment”).

This portion of the Chronicler’s history addressed the needs of the postexilic readers by explaining their situation and offering them guidance. Just as Judah’s kings had experienced God’s chastisement, the postexilic community suffered difficulties because of infidelity. God’s promises of restoration had not failed; the people had failed. Similarly, just as the kings of Judah were blessed as they turned toward the Lord, the Chronicler’s readers could hope for restoration, security and prosperity if they would do the same.

  • The Reunited Kingdom (2 Chron. 29:1-36:23). Beginning with Hezekiah, Israel entered a new phase of her history. The Chronicler presented Hezekiah as a new David/Solomon; Hezekiah reunited the faithful of Israel and Judah around the Davidic throne through worship and celebration at the Temple (see notes on 1 Chron. 29:1-36:23 and 1 Chron. 29:24). This reunited people experienced several periods of failure: Manasseh’s apostasy (1 Chron. 33:1-10), Amon’s entire reign (1 Chron. 33:21-25,) and the overall reigns of the kings of Judah just before the exile (1 Chron. 36:2-14). But each of these failures was followed by God’s gracious renewal of the people: Manasseh’s restoration (1 Chron. 33:11-17), Josiah’s reforms (1 Chron. 34:3-35:19), and the return from exile (1 Chron. 36:22-23).

This portion of the Chronicler’s history also offered hope and guidance to his readers. Despite the failures of the reunited Kingdom, God continued to grant blessings to his repentant people. These events reminded the readers that God extended his mercy to them, offering them his blessing. At the same time, however, the events of this period demonstrated the requirements placed on those who longed for the full restoration of the Kingdom during the postexilic period. The nation must turn to the Lord in humility and live faithfully before him.

Christ in Chronicles:

Focusing on his concerns for the people of God, for the king and for the Temple, as well as on divine blessing and judgment, the Chronicler wrote his history to bolster Israel’s hope in the coming of the Messiah. His immediate focus was the restoration of the postexilic community, but the New Testament revealed that the Chronicler’s ideal of the restored Kingdom found fulfillment in Christ.

  • The Chronicler’s hopes for the people of God became a reality in Christ. Those who follow Christ are the heirs of Israel’s promises (Gal. 3:14, 29; 4:28; Eph. 2:11-22; 3:6), as were the faithful of the postexilic community. Christ’s Church extends beyond Israel to include the Gentiles (Luke 2:32; Acts 9:15; 11:1, 18). At the return of Christ all of God’s elect will be united under the lordship of Christ (Eph. 2:11-22).
  • The Chronicler’s interest in the restoration of David’s throne was also fulfilled in Christ. Christ was born the Son of David, the rightful heir to the Davidic throne (Luke 1:32; Rom. 1:3; Rev. 22:16). Jesus met all the conditions of obedience placed on David’s line (Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:7-10). In the resurrection, Christ took his throne in heaven (Acts 2:33-35; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil. 2:9; Rev. 3:21). He leads his people into blessing and victory (Rom. 8:37; Eph. 4:7-13) and reigns until all his enemies are defeated (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
  • The Chronicler’s emphasis on the Temple likewise finds fulfillment in Christ. Christ offered himself on the cross as the perfect atonement for sin (Heb. 9:11-28; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:2), and he intercedes in the heavenly palace of God on behalf of his people (Heb. 3:1; 4:14-16; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1). On his return, Christ will bring all his people into the blessed presence of God (John 14:1-4; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).
  • The Chronicler’s focus on divine blessing and judgment also anticipated the work of Christ. Jesus warned his church of the necessity of fidelity to God (Matt. 5:17-20). He suffered death on the cross so that his people might be delivered from judgment (Rom. 3:21-26). He grants them new life so that they may be assured of the reward of eternal blessing (John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:13; 1 John 2:25).
  • The Chronicler wrote to encourage his postexilic readers to renew the Kingdom in their day. But his history also pointed forward to the inauguration of the Kingdom in the first coming of Christ and to the glorious consummation when he returns.

2 Kings 25:8-30

The End of Judah

Again, I am reminded today of the ravages of addiction as a comparison to what happened to ancient Israel. The combined kingdoms to the north and now the south are gone. What was once a thriving nation and a regional power in the ancient Middle East is now destroyed and laid low. What was once the home of King Solomon that drew foreign dignitaries from all over Africa, the Middle East and the other regions is now a desolate shell. All the people of Jerusalem are either shipped off to Babylon or have been killed. Only the poor and destitute remain. In the final hours of Jerusalem, things had gotten so bad that during the siege of Jerusalem people starved to death and some resorted to cannibalism. How far Israel had fallen.

I am reminded of how substance addictions can do the same thing to people as did the pride, arrogance, and idol worship did to the people of Israel. Addictions can lead you away from God. Addictions can cause you to worship only the drug of your addiction. It can cause you to lie, cheat and steal to get what you want. Ancient Israel was similar in that there was always political intrigue that led to a weakened nation and led people to do evil things to get or maintain power. They quit worshiping God and began worshiping themselves. They were no longer a set apart nation. They became what they thought they would never become. A pagan nation worshiping idols. Drug addiction consumes who you once were to the point that the person you once knew is no longer. An addicted person will lie, cheat and steal to get and maintain their addictions. They will make alliances with people that will use and abuse them just to maintain their addiction. They will throw away a good life just to get what they want.

The definition of insanity, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. You see this in ancient Israel and in an addicted person. In the southern kingdom, they saw the idol worship and intrigue and pride and self-destruction that took place in the northern kingdom that led to its subjugation by Assyria (and then later Babylon when Babylon conquered Assyria). That was not warning enough for Judah to change its ways and return to God. They kept doing the same things that Israel was doing because, well, it’s different for us. We are not like Israel but yet they were exactly the same doing the same things. It led to their ruin as well. You often see addicted persons think that what happens to other addicts will not happen to them because it’s me, I am different from that person.

All in all, you both end up in the same place. Israel and Judah lie in ruins and now have lost everything that ever meant anything to them. The same is true for addicted persons. They will not realize their own destruction until they have lost everything and sometimes are living on the streets or in their car. Sometimes, it takes losing everything to wake a nation up. Sometimes, it takes losing everything to wake an addicted person up to the reality that they have indeed lost everything to their addiction.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read this final passage of 2 Kings and the end of the original united kingdom of Israel as we have known it from the biblical record. Israel/Judah is done. Finished. Never to be the same again. Jerusalem is a shell of the greatness it once had. What can happen from here? This is rock bottom. Their freedom is gone. Their nation is gone. Their prized city is destroyed. They are no more. What can happen from here? Let’s read this final passage, 2 Kings 25:8-30, now:

8 In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 10 All the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon—all the rest of the population. 12 But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.

13 The bronze pillars that were in the house of the Lord, as well as the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 They took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the dishes for incense, and all the bronze vessels used in the temple service, 15 as well as the firepans and the basins. What was made of gold the captain of the guard took away for the gold, and what was made of silver, for the silver. 16 As for the two pillars, the one sea, and the stands, which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord, the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weighing. 17 The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and on it was a bronze capital; the height of the capital was three cubits; latticework and pomegranates, all of bronze, were on the capital all around. The second pillar had the same, with the latticework.

18 The captain of the guard took the chief priest Seraiah, the second priest Zephaniah, and the three guardians of the threshold; 19 from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the soldiers, and five men of the king’s council who were found in the city; the secretary who was the commander of the army who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 The king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah went into exile out of its land.

22 He appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam son of Shaphan as governor over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had left. 23 Now when all the captains of the forces and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came with their men to Gedaliah at Mizpah, namely, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah son of the Maacathite. 24 Gedaliah swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid because of the Chaldean officials; live in the land, serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.” 25 But in the seventh month, Ishmael son of Nethaniah son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men; they struck down Gedaliah so that he died, along with the Judeans and Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah. 26 Then all the people, high and low,[c] and the captains of the forces set out and went to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.

Jehoiachin Released from Prison

27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, King Evil-merodach of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released King Jehoiachin of Judah from prison; 28 he spoke kindly to him, and gave him a seat above the other seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes. Every day of his life he dined regularly in the king’s presence. 30 For his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, a portion every day, as long as he lived.

In this passage, we see the end of ancient Israel as we have known it from the biblical record with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. It is done. From the height of Israel’s power as a united kingdom when the Temple was completed in 962 BC until now, in 587 BC, 375 years has passed. That’s how quickly the combined kingdoms of Israel and Judah descended from their glory years under Solomon until the disappearance of what was ancient Israel. The temple was destroyed and Jerusalem the crown jewel of the two kingdoms now lay in ruins. It is the rock bottom moment of ancient Israel. The question becomes will Israel return to God? They have lost everything and are now in captivity and subject to the leadership of a foreign power, Babylon. They freedom they once enjoyed is now limited to the whims of the king of Babylon.

This story of the sad trail of destruction for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah so reminds of a substance abuse addiction problem. Israel and Judah got enticed by the self-desires and self-lusts that straying from God will lead you into. Once you get started on that drug of straying from God and feeling that you do not need Him anymore is addictive. Self-determination. Making ourselves our own god. Lusting after the things that we want. Seeing God as holding you back from the desires of your heart are more appealing that simply obeying God. Sometimes obeying God seems the harder thing so worshiping ourselves is the easy way out addiction.

Sometimes the only way to help an addict is for them to realize that they have hit rock bottom. It is only when an addict has lost everything that they can begin to realize the destruction that their chosen substance has wrought in their life. An addiction can become so powerful that it blinds you to the things that you are losing until everything is gone and you even lose the ability to finance your addiction anymore. It is only then, when the addiction has used you up and left you laying literally in the street, that change is possible.

For us in our relationship with God, it often takes getting to the end of ourselves before we realize that we need God’s help. We do not have to be a substance abuser to be an idol worshiper. We can worship ourselves without addictions. We can lust after anything that is not God and those things will ultimately lead us to destruction. It is only often that when we have reached the rock bottom of our life that we can see that we need God. It is only then that when we have reached the end of ourselves and what a mess we have made of our lives that we can see Jesus. It is only then that we can let go of our idols whatever they may be and seek God’s help through Jesus to change our lives from the inside out. It is only then often that we are ready to be a child of God ready to obey Him. It is only then that we can see obedience to God as that which is good for us instead of restricting us. It is only then that we can look up from rock bottom.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 24:18-25:7

Zedekiah’s Reign Comes to an End

This passage is sanitized version of what happened at the end of the reign of Zedekiah, the last ruler of what had been the nation of Judah. From other Old Testament books, we know that during the siege there was famine in the land at the same time. It was during this time that people were literally starving to death in Jerusalem. There is even mention of cannibalism during the siege. The beautiful city of Jerusalem was now the scene of unimaginable pain, sorrow and privation. Much of the pain and sorrow could have been avoided if Zedekiah had willingly surrendered to the Babylonian king. The destruction of Jerusalem was inevitable because of this final rebellion by Zedekiah. The hope for an independent nation of Judah was now just a memory. It had all come crumbling down because of the stubbornness of the people and particularly Judah’s kings. They had become consumed with their self-seeking and idol worship. They had ignored God and his counsel concerning their behavior and its effect on their future.

It reminds us in the modern day of how we can be blinded by pride and become consumed by it. It will become more important than God, than family, than friends. Pride like an addiction to drugs will cause us to lie, cheat, steal, and use people to get what they want and need. In this passage, we see that Zedekiah became so consumed with his own pride that he was willing to allow the siege to continue far longer than it should have. He did not care as long as he was king – even if it was king of nothing. Often those with addictions to pride will trample over the feelings of others just so they can get what they want. Pride makes people very self-centered. Pride causes people to view everyone and everything in their life through the portal of what it can do for them and their ability to feed their own desires.

Here, we are not told why Zedekiah rebelled against the Babylonian king, but it probably had to do with pride and not wanting to be subject the rules of a foreign king – even though Judah was so weak that it could not rid itself of Babylon. The circumstances of the internal decay and giving away the nation’s treasury to foreign kings to maintain some semblance of independence had crushed any ability for Judah to be strong again. But yet Zedekiah rebelled. Even though he would have been better served to just do what Nebuchadnezzar told him to do, he could have continued to live a life of some semblance of being king. But pride got in the way. He was addicted to his own pride of who he was. He wanted to control his own destiny to continue living as he wanted to live – even if it flew in the face of reason. Just submitting to those in authority of you could have spared him his humiliation and eventual death in captivity and spared his people starvation. However, pride was so all consuming that it blinded him to the realities of life.

Have you ever been so blinded by something, addiction, pride, self-seeking, etc. that it caused you to make decisions that are detrimental to you and possibly others? That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 2 Kings 24:18-25:7. When we become consumed in self-centered activities, we drift away from God and make our own desires the god of our lives. When we leave God out of our lives, we make what we want more important that realities of life, relationships with others, and so on. With that in mind, let’s read this passage now:

18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah. 19 But Zedekiah did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as Jehoiakim had done. 20 These things happened because of the Lord’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Chapter 25

1 So on January 15, during the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon led his entire army against Jerusalem. They surrounded the city and built siege ramps against its walls. 2 Jerusalem was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign.

3 By July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, the famine in the city had become very severe, and the last of the food was entirely gone. 4 Then a section of the city wall was broken down. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonians, the soldiers waited for nightfall and escaped[d] through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden. Then they headed toward the Jordan Valley.

5 But the Babylonian troops chased the king and overtook him on the plains of Jericho, for his men had all deserted him and scattered. 6 They captured the king and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where they pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. 7 They made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.

In this passage, we see that Zedekiah’s eyes were gouged out. One can only assume that this act was highly painful and humiliating all at once. Blinding was a common punishment for rebellious captives in the ancient Near East (see Ezekiel 12:13). Zedekiah ignored the counsel of Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 38:14–28). Jeremiah had urged the king to surrender to Babylon because the Lord’s judgment was inevitable. Through a peaceful surrender, Jerusalem could be spared destruction. Zedekiah’s stubborn resistance brought only horrible results for both his family and the people. Zedekiah himself died in Babylon (see Jeremiah 52:11).

When we become addicted to our own desires it pushes God to the side and makes us see people as pawns in our game of self-determination. When we become addicted to our own desires, it blinds us often to the realities of life. It blinds us to what is good for us in the long run as long as we are getting what we want in the short term. It is only through submitting to God that we realize that the world is not solely about us and what we want. We finally see ourselves for what we really are – sinners who use people to get what we want without remorse or care.

Even though the people have been exiled and the land has been lost, God’s spokesmen continue to preach and write to the remnant of Israel. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all have important messages to give to the people of God. The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC is the end of an era, but it is not the end of God’s plan for Israel and the rest of the world. It is a reminder that even though we can destroy our lives at times through our own pride, our own addictions to self-centered activities, we can be redeemed by repenting of our sinful behavior before God, asking for forgiveness, and believing in Jesus Christ as the Lord over our lives. He can redeem even the most utterly destroyed life and making it into something beautiful and useful to the kingdom of God.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 24:10-17

Babylon Captures Jerusalem

As Americans, we live in the wealthiest of nations in the history of mankind. As Americans, we generally think of ourselves as the best at everything and we are miffed if we ever come up short in…anything. We also feel as though our wealth, our international economic and social superiority will last forever. In the ever compressed time frames of the electronic and media age, we have been top dogs for so long that we think it will last forever. Just as fans of college football teams who are dominant for a time always think it will last forever, so are we of that way of thinking as Americans in general about our country.

There were great University of Miami teams from the mid-80’s through the early 2000’s. There were great Florida State University teams during the same time period. Then, those two programs were the class of college football. They were the dominant teams that won 7 national championships between them during that time period. Now, they are two programs mired in mediocrity that struggle to qualify for bowl games each year. They are no longer relevant in the national championship chase each year. Currently and during the past decade, University of Alabama and Clemson University have been the dominant programs. Each of them highly successful. Each of them with multiple national titles. They have played each other for the national championship in three out of the last four years. But this too shall pass. They will cycle downward at some point. It just happens. One day in the future, Alabama and Clemson will lose their stranglehold on the national championship discussions. But in the moment, fans of these teams think that this ride that they are on will never end.

It is the same with our nation in general. The reason that we have experienced such abundance over the centuries is because we have generally been a nation governed by biblical concepts. Sure, there is ugliness in our past that are reprehensible, but in general we have been a nation ruled by biblical concepts. To raise ourselves out of the ugly parts of our past, we have used biblical concepts as our rationale for ending the ugliness. We have been a nation founded on biblical principles. However, for decades now, we in our opulence have begun to drift away from God. We have become spoiled in our opulence and think that we are our own gods. We have removed God from the public square and replaced it with a self-determined humanism. At some point, God is going to withdraw his blessing from our nation. At some point, he will allow other countries to slowly gain greater and greater world power and edge us off the stage as the most relevant and feared nation on earth. It will happen. The greater problem that will allow that to happen in our decay from within. Just as the nations of Israel and Judah became self-involved in power struggles and entertaining themselves and began paying less attention to the world around them, we too shall decay from within. We have become a nation that does not recognize God. We worship ourselves and we decide what is right and wrong in our own eyes. All that we believe in ultimately boils down to what makes us feel good individually. We no longer truly worship God as a nation.

The withdrawal of blessing from Israel and Judah by God led to their demise. It is the same with the United States. That’s what I thought of this morning when I read this passage, 2 Kings 24:10-17, this morning. Let’s read it now together:

10 During Jehoiachin’s reign, the officers of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up against Jerusalem and besieged it. 11 Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived at the city during the siege. 12 Then King Jehoiachin, along with the queen mother, his advisers, his commanders, and his officials, surrendered to the Babylonians.

In the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had said beforehand, Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the treasures from the Lord’s Temple and the royal palace. He stripped away[a] all the gold objects that King Solomon of Israel had placed in the Temple. 14 King Nebuchadnezzar took all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans—10,000 in all. Only the poorest people were left in the land.

15 Nebuchadnezzar led King Jehoiachin away as a captive to Babylon, along with the queen mother, his wives and officials, and all Jerusalem’s elite. 16 He also exiled 7,000 of the best troops and 1,000 craftsmen and artisans, all of whom were strong and fit for war. 17 Then the king of Babylon installed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s[b] uncle, as the next king, and he changed Mattaniah’s name to Zedekiah.

In this passage, we see that the Babylonian troops were already on the march to crush Jehoiakim’s rebellion, when he died. After Jehoiakim’s death, his son Jehoiachin became king of Judah, only to face the mightiest army on earth at the time just weeks after he was crowned (597 BC). During this second of three invasions by the Babylonians, they looted the Temple and took most of the leaders of the Judean people captive, including the king. Then, Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah, another son of Josiah, on the throne. However, the Jews did not recognize as their true king as long as Jehoiachin was still alive, even though he was captive in Babylon. From this point forward, Judah as an independent nation is no more. This is the beginning of the end of ancient Israel, the northern kingdom already gone and now the southern is now no longer independent and soon to be crushed completely.

This passage reflects that Israel and Judah had strayed so far from God that He no longer blessed these nations. It all begin to unravel at the end of Solomon’s reign and now here we are at the end of two nations that once were one and once were strong. Two nations that were once one that worshipped the Lord and organized their society and ran it according to God’s Word. Now, after eliminating God as the center of their lives and pursuing their own desires and self-interests, they are subjects of a foreign power. They lost what they had. They lost the Lord’s blessing over their nation.

It will be the same for the United States. Our days of glory in the sun was directly related to the general tenor of our nation being one that recognized God as the source of our blessings. Our demise will be caused by our beginning to worship ourselves instead of God. It is a clarion call to us as Christ followers to take note of what happened in 2 Kings to both Israel and Judah. I am sure that there were God fearing people in those times in both nations, but they sat quiet and did nothing as their nation came unhinged. We as Christians can no longer sit quietly as our nation follows the same path as Israel and Judah. We cannot be the frog in the pot of water where the heat is turned up slowly and we just sit there until it is too late. We must become active with our faith. We must change the world one person at a time. We must share the gospel in our spheres of influence. We, too, must begin taking a more active role in running for public office. We need to get our of our comfort of our great rooms and 70 inch flat panel TVs and get involved in the public square and regain this nation’s footing in biblical governance concepts. Otherwise, history will repeat itself. The ride will end when we have been consumed from within and then from without.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 24:1-9

Jehoiakim Reigns In Judah

We were having a discussion at the Bible study that I lead at the church that I pastor last night as we reviewed the Paul’s letter to the churches at Rome, the Book of Romans. In that discussion, I was leading our Bible study group through the themes and theology found in the book. As many of you know, the Book of Romans is pretty much the document from which we draw much of Christian theology. The basic principles of our faith can be found there.

In it, we find our belief in the universal sinfulness of man and how he cannot save himself from himself. We are sinners and are made forever imperfect by our first sin (much less the mountain of sins that we commit after that first one). Because we are tainted by sin, just are first sin is enough to permanently taint us, we cannot exist in the presence of a perfect, pure, holy and sinless God. We would be consumed in his presence because of our tainted sin nature that makes us imperfect. Therefore, we are condemned to hell in and of our own merit. There are no amount of good deeds that we can perform to offset our imperfection caused by our first sin and then all those subsequent to it. We are in a mess and are condemned to hell. Nothing we can do on our own to earn a place in heaven with the Lord. We are in need of an intervention, a reprieve, a stay of execution, a pardon, a payment needs to be made to the judge to redeem us from our rightful sentence. That freedom is granted through Jesus Christ. His death on the cross is the payment that was made on our behalf. God states that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrificial payment for our sins. All we have to do to cash in this payment is earnestly believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was for my sins and to clean my slate in the presence of the righteous judge, God. We must believe that Jesus Christ is more than a man. We must believe He is the Son of God, who is of one and the same essence as the Father in heaven. If we believe that will all earnestness, God will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and daily, step by step, day by day, makes us more and more like the perfect, sinless Jesus every day. When we accept Christ as our Savior and our Lord, we are made clean before God through His imputed grace through Jesus Christ. When God looks at us now, he sees our covering of perfection in Jesus Christ. We are free in Jesus’ covering from the penalty for our sin. We are assured of our place in heaven with God by our belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who rose from the dead to conquer sin and death. However, it does not mean that we will not sin any more. We are flesh and we will sin after salvation. It is through the Holy Spirit that He helps us identify our sins and helps us begin to turn away from each one as we mature in Christ. Some sins are more stubborn for us than others and it takes the Holy Spirit a lifetime to get us to let go of some of them. But as time progresses from the day of our salvation, we are getting more and more like Christ little by little. It is a process and it sometimes hard and painful.

In our discussion of these themes from Romans, one of the profound things that we talked about was the fact that, yes, salvation saves us from the penalty for our sins, hell. However, God never said that he would save us from the consequences of our sins. Even after salvation we will deal with the consequences of our sins – sometimes for a lifetime. Even after we have been forgiven and have repented of sin either before or even after salvation, we will still suffer the consequences of sin. Consequences are part of the governing laws of the universe set forth by God. The universe is governed by the basic law of cause and effect. Our sins are causes that create effects that cannot be changed. I used my youngest daughter as an example. I hope and pray that she finds salvation in Jesus Christ during her time in rehab. That would be an answered prayer that has been prayed for a long time by many. However, her going into rehab, her finding Jesus there (we pray), will not relieve her of the consequences of her life decisions. We all sin. All sins create consequences that cannot be changed and must be dealt with as part of our growing into maturity in Christ. We do not get a free pass on the consequences of our sins even after salvation.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read of the beginning of the end for the southern kingdom of Judah. The consequences of their disobedience to God is that they became a weakened nation that could no longer fend off its enemies. They will eventually be completely overrun. But the decline from independent nation to subservient nation to conquered nation begins here. There has been a long line of evil kings and evil decisions and mistakenly short-sighted and nation-weakening decisions made by Judah’s kings for centuries. The consequences of this disobedience to the Lord and all the self-centered and short-sighted decisions are now coming to roost. Judah is now a weak little nation that cannot defend itself and it is being eaten alive by the surrounding nations. It is a far cry from the ancient Middle East’s leading nation that the united kingdom was under David and Solomon. Sins have consequences that are cumulative and cascading. Cause and effect. A law of the universe created by God. Sin is no different. It has consequences that cannot be changed.

Chapter 24

1 During Jehoiakim’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up; Jehoiakim became his servant for three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. 2 The Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, bands of the Arameans, bands of the Moabites, and bands of the Ammonites; he sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. 3 Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, for all that he had committed, 4 and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to pardon. 5 Now the rest of the deeds of Jehoiakim, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 6 So Jehoiakim slept with his ancestors; then his son Jehoiachin succeeded him. 7 The king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken over all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Wadi of Egypt to the River Euphrates.

Reign and Captivity of Jehoiachin

8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign; he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his father had done.

In this passage, we see that Babylon is now the leading power in the ancient Middle East after overthrowing Assyria in 612 BC and defeating Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. After defeating Egypt, the Babylonians invaded Judah and brought it under their control. This was the first of three invasions of Judah over the next 20 years. The other two invasions occurred in 597 and 586 BC. With each invasion, captives were taken back to Babylon. Daniel was one of the captives taken in the first invasion in 605 BC (see Daniel 1:1-6).

From this passage, we see that Judah is now paying the consequences for its long history of ignoring and disobeying God. May we as Christ followers take heed from the stories of the northern and southern kingdoms (Israel and Judah) and see that sin has its cascading consequences. Sure, a sin may be fun for the moment. It may give us pleasure and a sense of victory, but sins always have consequences. Help us Lord to remember to think twice before we jump into a sin. Let us think about the “down the road” impacts of our sins before we commit them. Is the sin really worth it? Sins are always exposed and they always have consequences. So is it really worth it? Help us Lord to think of the consequences of our sins and help us to turn away from them. Help us to become more and more like you every day so that these decisions about sins are second nature and are easier to make as we mature in our relationship with you.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 23:29-37

Josiah Dies and Jehoiakim Begins to Rule

I don’t know why but this passage reminded me of what I have been going through this past weekend. My youngest daughter, she and I have bee estranged from one another for three years. The lack of contact was of her own making not mine. I have been trying to stay in contact with her frequently over these past three years. The last time we had talked before this weekend was in November 2016 when I gave her a car to help her get back on her feet again. This weekend, she showed up on my doorstep and described what has been happening in her life recently. She has had progressively worse periods of addiction and self-imposed sobriety over the past decade. It has been a cycle of crash-recovery-do well for a while-crash. But over the last few years she has been battling with an addiction to heroine, she said. And her showing up on my doorstep was because she has nowhere else to turn but her daddy. She lost her job, her boyfriend, and her place to live all because of her addiction. She came here seeking shelter because literally she had no one else to turn to.

All day Saturday we had a friend of ours in Spartanburg whose son has been down the same road. Taylor slept most of the entire day while we were discussing options with this friend. Taylor must have been tired from sleeping in her car for the past week or so after running out of welcome with what gal pals she had left. When she finally awoke for a time on Saturday evening, we gave her the option of going to a rehab facility in the mountains of western North Carolina. She seemed open to it so we gave her the number to call and she called it. They said that we needed to be there at 9am on Monday and Taylor agreed to do it.

We just had to get through Sunday with an addict whose demons are strong. During Sunday she started to back out on the idea. We even found that she had snuck out of the house to get to a bottle of wine that she had stashed in her car. When I found all this stuff out on Sunday afternoon, I gave her two choices – either go to the recovery program or she was out on the street. It was the toughest conversation I had ever had with my baby child. It is tough to tell you own child that you either do this hard thing or you are out on the street. You can’t stay here and live like a bum and mooch off us. That was tough. But I had reached the end of my rope with her. Sometimes, you just get that fed up with how your child is acting. Finally, she succumbed to the fact that we were last hope and that a recovery program was not just an option but was necessary.

We took her to the rehab facility on Monday morning. We left home here in Lamar at 5am and got there about 15 minutes before her appointment time at 9am. I dropped my child, my 29 year old child who seems more like a teenager emotionally than a 29 year old, off at this rehab facility. The people were nice and they were openly Christian. We prayed together before we left her there. It was tough to walk away and leave her in the hand of strangers even though it is a faith-based operation run by a non-denominational church that I had only heard of twenty-four hours before. I worried about her being all alone there with strangers and wondered if I had done the right thing. I finally had to resolve that this was what was needed and it was God driven that all these things happened as they did over the weekend. God drove her to our doorstep. God found us the rehab facility that was faith-based through the diligence of a dear friend. God showed us how completely addicted my child is while she was here and thus gave us the resolve to stand firm in what she needed to do. God possibly showed her that she was at the end of the line and what her future might hold without her dad and stepmom as her ultimate fall-back safety net any longer.

Now, we just pray that this year-long commitment that she has accepted at the faith-based recovery program will draw her to the cross to meet Jesus. We just pray that she finds salvation. For it is only through Jesus that she will be able to recover. Now, we have to lay her at the foot of the cross and not run back and pick her up. We have to completely trust in Jesus on this one.

Strangely, that is what I thought of when I read this passage, 2 Kings 23:29-37, yesterday morning and then meditated on it yesterday and this morning. I thought maybe I was just preoccupied with the Taylor situation and was reading something into this passage that is just not there. That’s why I didn’t publish this blog yesterday. I needed to think on it more. But the idea that was in this passage is that Josiah failed to pray over this situation and find God’s will in this situation. It ultimately cost him his life. That’s the thing. When we fail to seek what God wants for us, we end up like Judah. We become subject to the things that we chase after in our own power. Josiah, though a godly man, failed to seek God’s counsel about the Egyptian army passing through his territory. He ended up dead. Then, the Egyptians installed their own preference for king of Judah and Judah became subjects of Egypt (ironically after all this time, they are right back under the thumb of Egypt from which they had escaped hundreds of years before). They were now suffering the results of many hundreds of years of running in the opposite direction from God. They were subject to the decisions that they had made. They occasionally had moments where they had recovery through godly kings. But they always fell back into their old ways. Ultimately, they had become subject to their addictions to their own self-will. Ultimately, they became subject to all the disastrous decisions that they had made. Ultimately, they were no longer free anymore – they were a vassal state of Egypt no longer in control of their own future. Ultimately, their choices came crashing down on them. Ultimately, this is what happens when we follow our demons, our desires, and not God. That, I guess, is why I thought of my youngest daughter when I read this passage. Let’s read it now together:

29 In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; but when Pharaoh Neco met him at Megiddo, he killed him. 30 His servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megiddo, brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. The people of the land took Jehoahaz son of Josiah, anointed him, and made him king in place of his father.

31 Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to reign; he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his ancestors had done. 33 Pharaoh Neco confined him at Riblah in the land of Hamath, so that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and imposed tribute on the land of one hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. 34 Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah king in place of his father Josiah, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz away; he came to Egypt, and died there. 35 Jehoiakim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh, but he taxed the land in order to meet Pharaoh’s demand for money. He exacted the silver and the gold from the people of the land, from all according to their assessment, to give it to Pharaoh Neco.

Jehoiakim Reigns over Judah

36 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. 37 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as all his ancestors had done.

In this passage, we know from extrabiblical sources that this event occurred in 609 BC. Nineveh, the Assyrian capital, had been destroyed three years earlier by the Babylonians. The defeated Assyrians regrouped at Haran and Carchemish, but Babylon sent its army to destroy them once and for all. Pharaoh Neco, who wanted to make Egypt a world power, was worried about Babylon’s growing strength. He decided to march north through Judah to help the Assyrians at Carchemish. But King Josiah tried to prevent Neco from passing through his land on his way to Carcemish. Josiah may have thought that both Egypt’s and Assyria’s army would then turn on him after the battle with Babylon. In this conflict with the Pharaoh’s army, Josiah was killed.

Josiah operated under the false assumption that Neco could not be part of God’s larger plan and it cost him his life. There is no mention of Josiah seeking the Lord in prayer during this passage so it must mean that he relied on his own will in this situation. This passage teaches us that trying to rule our own lives can lead to bad decisions and we can become consumed by those decisions that are not in God’s will. Then we become vassals to the problems in our lives. Our problems rule us. It is only through reaching out to God that we can overcome the messes that we have created for ourselves when we were living our lives outside of His will.

From this passage, I see the choices that my daughter has. She is at the bottom of the barrel right now. Her addictions have taken away everything that had been meaningful in her life. Her making a god of her addiction made it more important than God, more important than family, more important than her boyfriend, more important than her job, more important than shelter, more important than friends. That’s the insidiousness of addiction. It is a demon. It is of the devil. It turns a normal human being with great potential, like my youngest child, into a liar and a destroyer of anything in their path. They use and manipulate people. They become so accustomed to lying that they sometimes mistake it for the truth. Taylor’s addiction became her false idol. Just as Judah worshipped idols which led them to selfishness and personal desires and away from what was good for the country and into making deals with other nations that were expedient but not good long-term. It led Judah to lose everything and become a bankrupt nation subject to a larger more powerful nation. A person with an addiction makes their addiction their god and makes all their decisions based on serving that – even if the decisions cost them family, friends, freedom.

This passage where we see Judah become subject to another nation and lose its freedom is how I see my daughter’s life had become. She was not free when we came to my door. She was living in her car. Everything she was and everything she could be had been lost and she was a slave to her addiction. Her only way out is to turn over control of her life to Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can slay her demons that control her. He is the only one who can give her self-value. He is the only one that can set her on high ground.

My prayer is that she finds Jesus. My prayer is that she gives her life over to Him in a real way and not just in words. My prayer that Jesus will redeem her life. My prayer is that Jesus will make her see that she is a valued child of God. My prayer is that Jesus will give meaning to her life. My prayer is that Jesus will give her a passion and a calling. My prayer is that Jesus will redeem her addiction and make it useful to the kingdom. My prayer is that Jesus will unleash the wonderful potential that I know my daughter has inside of her. My prayer is that she will find that her story of addiction and redemption will be her future calling. My prayer is that she will shout to the world one day about how Jesus redeemed a drug addict that I do not know into a daughter that I do know. My prayer is that she will shout to the world one day about how Jesus turned her life around and helped her find her calling in life from the heap that showed up on my doorstep this past weekend.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 23:21-28

Josiah Celebrates Passover

If you don’t want a cat but you have a weak spot for cute little kittens, don’t go to the pet store or animal shelter and look at cute little kittens. That was never so true for me in the years between my previous marriage and my marriage now to Elena. I was single for six years. Lived alone for six years. And I would have my kids every other weekend til they got of adult age. When my youngest daughter was in the summer between middle school (8th grade) and high school (9th grade), she and one of her friends that was hanging out with her at my place on a Saturday during one of my weekends, they convinced me to go the Greenville (SC) Humane Society and look at the little kitty cats. I told them that I didn’t want a cat. I lived by myself and traveled relatively frequently. They hounded me from Friday night through Saturday morning. So, on Saturday as we were out running errands and such, they kept begging and begging. So, I finally relented and said OK. My youngest, Taylor, you have to give her credit. She was always persistent about the things she wanted. She was unrelenting in focus when it came to that. So, to get them to quiet down, we went. We went back to the “kitten room” where all the cute little, sweet, playful, darling….umm…ok…starting to want a little kitty now…stop….it…Well we were looking at all the cute kitties. After we looked at all the cats in their little individual habitats, I turned around and facing away from the cubes containing the kitties and looked at Taylor and her friend and asked which one they liked the most.

At that moment, I started feeling something tapping my hair at the back of my head. I turned around and it was this cute little kitty cat that thought the hair on the back of my head would be something fun to play with. He was the cutest little tuxedo cat that you’d ever want to see. And, of course, I was smitten from that moment on. That was the kitty! That was the one that we had to have, including me! Thus, I became an owner of a kitty cat on my own for the first time in my life. That cat was the cutest thing ever though. He would rush around my apartment for no apparent reason as fast as he could and that’s how he got his name, Flash. He was my buddy for 10 years before he died. He wasn’t as cute and cuddly as he got older but we were buddies. We understood each other. He was my pal. The consistent thing throughout those years. When everything else changed often, Flash was the steady freddy in my life. But it all started with this little kitty playing with the hair through the gate door to his little cubicle. I should have known back on that day, back in the day, that I could not go into the kitty room at the humane society and NOT come out with a kitty.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage and thought on how Josiah changed the spiritual landscape of Judah. He recognized the sins of his nation and removed all the temptations to worship other gods than the one true God. He took away the temptations. He steered his people back toward God and away from their sinful idol worship. With that idea of removing ourselves from temptations, especially where we are weakest and most susceptible to certain kinds of sin(s), let us read today’s passage, 2 Kings 23:21-28, now:

21 King Josiah then issued this order to all the people: “You must celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as required in this Book of the Covenant.” 22 There had not been a Passover celebration like that since the time when the judges ruled in Israel, nor throughout all the years of the kings of Israel and Judah. 23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah’s reign, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem.

24 Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols,[a] and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the Lord’s Temple. 25 Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.

26 Even so, the Lord was very angry with Judah because of all the wicked things Manasseh had done to provoke him. 27 For the Lord said, “I will also banish Judah from my presence just as I have banished Israel. And I will reject my chosen city of Jerusalem and the Temple where my name was to be honored.”

28 The rest of the events in Josiah’s reign and all his deeds are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah.

In this passage, we see that, when Josiah rediscovered Passover in the Book of the Covenant, he ordered everyone to observe the ceremonies exactly as prescribed. This Passover celebration was to have been a yearly celebration/holiday in remembrance of the entire nation’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 12), but it had not been kept for many years. Josiah is remembered as Judah’s most obedient king. His obedience followed this pattern:

  1. He recognized his sin.
  2. He eliminated the sinful practice.
  3. He attacked the cause of the sin.

This approach for dealing with sin works. Not only must we remove sinful actions, but we must eliminate the causes for sin – those situations, relationships, routines and patterns of life that lead us to the door of temptation.

Looking back at that day when our family added the little man, Flash, it turned out pretty good. Flash became a family institution. He became part of the family. Flash was like a member of the family and we all shed tears when the little man was killed by a wild animal or a dog or something. He was a crafty little guy and survived several moves to new homes and hometowns until that one day when his zig and zagging did not work and he met his end. So, in that case, the succumbing to my weakness for little cute kitty cats did not cause heartache (except at Flash’s death some 10 years later). My flirtation with my weakness for kitties did not cause irreparable harm to my life. There are certainly other weak spots in my life that have indeed caused me long-term harm some of which still effect my life today. We all have our sin weak spots. So, like me having a weak spot for little kitty cats, I should have never gone into the humane society that day. I knew that most likely I would come out of there having adopted a little kitten.

It is the same with us. We need to recognize our sins, particularly those sins where we so little resistance against. For example, if you are an alcoholic or even if you are not defined as a alcoholic but are a weekend binge drinker and end up doing stupid crap that you will regret for a long time or a lifetime, you need to stay away from the bars. If you are a guy who is deeply susceptible to sexual desires for women and you are married, you gotta not put yourself in positions where you could stray. If you have a weakness for gossip that often can destroy other people’s reputations, you gotta not participate in the gossip game. If you have a weakness for spending money on things that are not necessities, stay away from the stores. If you cannot control your spending, cut up your credit cards. Remove yourself and block yourself from being in the same zip code as your sin weak spot. These are just a few examples of how people who know what their sin weak spots are but persist in flirting around the fire, the open flame, toward which they are a moth. At some point, you will get burned and you can’t sit and wonder how or why it happened. If you don’t won’t to get burned, stay away from the fire.

Oh, Lord, help us, through the Holy Spirit, to recognize where we are weakest when it comes to sin and help us to block ourselves through discipline, through accountability partners, through whatever means necessary to keep us from even being tempted in these areas. Help us to mature such that we begin to identify all our pet sins and distance ourselves from them so that one day, when we meet you in heaven, we will be perfect in Christ.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 23:1-20

Josiah’s Religious Reforms

When you watch television here lately, you see how much the world has changed just from a decade ago much less 20, 30, 40 or 50 years ago. As a person who was born at the tail-end of the Baby Boomer generation and the beginning of Generation X, I can remember when there were only the “over the air” networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC and then as an early teenager the addition of FOX network. In those days, televisions were not flat panel, they were pieces of furniture that were often the centerpiece to a den, living room or great room. There were no remotes to TVs in those days other than being a human one when your dad would tell you to get up and change the channel for him. In those days, television stations signed off sometime between midnight and 1am typically. It was not until I was in college that the explosion of 24 hour television and the plethora of cable television networks began. Sure, there are aspects of this increased access to entertainment that I love such as the invention of multiple sports only networks where every college football game at the Division 1 level is televised somewhere on the dial.

However, here in the last decade and even the last five years, the level of things that are allowed for broadcast is so “anything goes” that gives me pause. Certainly, before meeting Christ as my Savior, I lived life on the edge of morality so it’s not like I am a prude or anything. But the things that are broadcast on television these days would make even pre-salvation me blush in embarrassment. There is an advertisement for a show on MTV that runs on other networks that shock me called “Ex on The Beach” that celebrate just plain out, full-on hedonism. It is celebrated. Whose having sex with who and parties where anything goes is the norm in that show. Girls making out with girls and guys screwing around the girls they are supposed to be with. It’s just a celebration of what I imagine the worst parts of what Corinth might have looked like in the days where Paul established the first church there with all its pagan shrine prostitutes and so on. Then there are commercials for products that have nothing to do with medications for those living “alternative lifestyles” such as just normal every day products that seem to celebrate those alternative lifestyles. This, I guess, is done so as to garner support for their business through these subtle affirmations. Although alternative lifestyle participants comprise less than 5% of the total population of our country, watching television today might convince that half or more of our country is living alternative lifestyles.

Christians find these things distasteful and wrong, but we seem powerless to change anything. Is it that we are powerless or we are just not yet willing to get in the fight? Are we not willing to get in the fight as long as we live comfortably? Are we just keeping quiet as long as it does not affect our nice manicured lawns, our two story modern homes, our three cars, our vacations at the beach? Are we disgusted by it in words only as long as we can comfortably live our lives, pay our bills, go on vacation twice a year, have weekend getaways, retire in gated communities? Are we Christians and espouse Christian values as long as it does not make us stand out for ridicule or persecution of any kind? We bemoan the state of our country in 2019 but are we really willing to do anything about it?

That was the same question that James asked Christians in his New Testament letter to the church in Jerusalem. Are you willing to actually get out there and help people and put your faith in Christ into action to change the world in which you live? That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read this passage about Josiah. What a guy he was? When he discovered what was written in God’s Word, he did something about the difference between the Judah he lived in vs. the Judah that God had called them to be. He changed his world because he was brave enough to put his faith into action. With this idea of putting our faith into action, let’s read this passage, 2 Kings 23:1-20, now:

Chapter 23

1 Then the king summoned all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets—all the people from the least to the greatest. There the king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the Lord’s Temple. 3 The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord’s presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. In this way, he confirmed all the terms of the covenant that were written in the scroll, and all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

4 Then the king instructed Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second rank and the Temple gatekeepers to remove from the Lord’s Temple all the articles that were used to worship Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of the heavens. The king had all these things burned outside Jerusalem on the terraces of the Kidron Valley, and he carried the ashes away to Bethel. 5 He did away with the idolatrous priests, who had been appointed by the previous kings of Judah, for they had offered sacrifices at the pagan shrines throughout Judah and even in the vicinity of Jerusalem. They had also offered sacrifices to Baal, and to the sun, the moon, the constellations, and to all the powers of the heavens. 6 The king removed the Asherah pole from the Lord’s Temple and took it outside Jerusalem to the Kidron Valley, where he burned it. Then he ground the ashes of the pole to dust and threw the dust over the graves of the people. 7 He also tore down the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple of the Lord, where the women wove coverings for the Asherah pole.

8 Josiah brought to Jerusalem all the priests who were living in other towns of Judah. He also defiled the pagan shrines, where they had offered sacrifices—all the way from Geba to Beersheba. He destroyed the shrines at the entrance to the gate of Joshua, the governor of Jerusalem. This gate was located to the left of the city gate as one enters the city. 9 The priests who had served at the pagan shrines were not allowed to serve at[a] the Lord’s altar in Jerusalem, but they were allowed to eat unleavened bread with the other priests.

10 Then the king defiled the altar of Topheth in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, so no one could ever again use it to sacrifice a son or daughter in the fire[b] as an offering to Molech. 11 He removed from the entrance of the Lord’s Temple the horse statues that the former kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were near the quarters of Nathan-melech the eunuch, an officer of the court.[c] The king also burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.

12 Josiah tore down the altars that the kings of Judah had built on the palace roof above the upper room of Ahaz. The king destroyed the altars that Manasseh had built in the two courtyards of the Lord’s Temple. He smashed them to bits[d] and scattered the pieces in the Kidron Valley. 13 The king also desecrated the pagan shrines east of Jerusalem, to the south of the Mount of Corruption, where King Solomon of Israel had built shrines for Ashtoreth, the detestable goddess of the Sidonians; and for Chemosh, the detestable god of the Moabites; and for Molech,[e] the vile god of the Ammonites. 14 He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. Then he desecrated these places by scattering human bones over them.

15 The king also tore down the altar at Bethel—the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he caused Israel to sin. He burned down the shrine and ground it to dust, and he burned the Asherah pole. 16 Then Josiah turned around and noticed several tombs in the side of the hill. He ordered that the bones be brought out, and he burned them on the altar at Bethel to desecrate it. (This happened just as the Lord had promised through the man of God when Jeroboam stood beside the altar at the festival.)

Then Josiah turned and looked up at the tomb of the man of God[f] who had predicted these things. 17 “What is that monument over there?” Josiah asked.

And the people of the town told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted the very things that you have just done to the altar at Bethel!”

18 Josiah replied, “Leave it alone. Don’t disturb his bones.” So they did not burn his bones or those of the old prophet from Samaria.

19 Then Josiah demolished all the buildings at the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria, just as he had done at Bethel. They had been built by the various kings of Israel and had made the Lord[g] very angry. 20 He executed the priests of the pagan shrines on their own altars, and he burned human bones on the altars to desecrate them. Finally, he returned to Jerusalem.

Here in this passage, we see that when Josiah realized the terrible state of Judah’s religious life, he something about it. It is not enough to say we believe what is right. We must respond with action doing what faith requires. This what James was emphasizing when he wrote, “Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:20). In context of this passage, it means that we must do more than stand by and say “the world is going to hell in a handbasket” and withdraw into our cocoon of like-minded Christians. We must be willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to change the world in which we live. We must be willing to suffer ridicule and persecution beyond our safe world of Christian friends.

In this passage, we are challenged to be proactive, to be change agents in the world in which we live. We often complain about the fact that we live in a world that is far from the Bible, but that is the end of it for most of us. We want the world to have more Christ-like values but as long as it doesn’t encroach on our cozy lifestyle. In order to change our culture and turn it back toward Christ, we are the ones that are going to have to signal change. We are the ones that need to run for public office. We are the ones that need to stand up for our right to pursue God in the public square. We are the ones that have to influence others toward Christ. It is not going to magically happen. We have to be radical in sharing the gospel and the full truth of it with the world around us. If you and I are quiet and seat in our recliners and do not interact with the unchurched outside our homes and churches, we are going to continue to get what we get. There is that old saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” We cannot continue to hibernate ourselves in our own little Christian circles and complain about the nature of the world in which we now live and expect different results in the world in which we live. We must be out in the world. We must decide that our Christianity is worth the extra effort. We can no longer sit in comfort Christianity and expect the world to change. We must be the change agents.

Oh Father in heaven, help us to awaken from our Christian slumber. Help us to awaken from our comfortable Christianity and truly be the hands and feet on Christ. Help us to be uncomfortable in our Christianity. Help us to be willing to be uncomfortable and stretch ourselves beyond what we think we can do for you Lord. Help us then to rely on you to give us the strength to change our world just as Josiah did his.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 22:1-20 (Part 2 of 2)

Josiah Discovers God’s Law

“God helps those who help themselves.” “This, too, shall pass.” “God wants you to be happy.” “If you work hard enough, you’ll be successful.” “Just follow your heart and believe, and you can do anything.” These are 5 sayings that many people believe, including many mature Christians, come from the Bible. These are innocuous sayings that people often believe are biblical and many use them when they want to sound spiritual in certain situations. They are often fallback quotes for us when we don’t know what else to say in a particular situation. However, they are not biblical. In these cases, they are comforting statements that are not intended to make some grand political statement or social statement. They are just comforting words of non-biblical origin.

However, the scary thing in our world today is that we often make the Bible say what we want it to say. The harmless sayings above are made between friends in situations in life where comfort is needed. But the situations that I am talking about now is when we try to make God’s Word fit our own political and social agenda. In today’s world, even at the organized Protestant denomination level and with the Catholic Church, you often wonder if they remember what the Word of God says. There is such an interest in remaining relevant to the culture in which we now operate that we may well be straying from God’s Word. The Bible warns about trying to fit in with the culture around us when it says:

f you’re feeling tempted to conform and pursue a path that isn’t compatible with the one that God wants you to take, these 10 Bible verses can help bring you back on track.

Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

2 John 1:9 – Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Luke 6:26 – Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

James 4:4 – You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

John 15:18-19 – If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Proverbs 5:20-21 – Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Psalm – 118:8-9 – It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Matthew 7:13-14 – Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The need for relevancy can lead us to avoid things in the Bible that are controversial or antithetical to the culture’s current whims. The need for acceptance by the culture may lead us to re-interpret Bible passages away from the God-inspired truth that the authors were intending for their original audience. The need to be liked by the culture will lead us to change what has been a universally accepted truth that God intended and the Holy Spirit has protected through the centuries. When cultural acceptance and relevancy become primary and abiding in what God’s Word actually says becomes secondary, are we still the church? Can we claim to stand on the shoulders of martyrs through the centuries that have died for the truth of God’s Word in the face of a culture’s insistence on living in the opposite way when we are trying so hard to rewrite God’s Word to be acceptable to the culture? We cannot claim to be the same church as the first century church if cultural relevancy has become more important than the truth of God’s Word. When I think of all of those through the centuries and even those in foreign countries today that would rather die for the truth of the Bible AS IS than comply with the culture, I celebrate their brazen boldness against the tide of culture. I hope that I will have that same boldness when and if the time comes for me to choose between cultural relevancy and the truth of God’s Word.

That is what I thought of this morning. Josiah thought he was a good man and was doing what God would want him to do. Yet, he really did not know God’s Word. It had become a forgotten thing in Israel. Even people that were not participating in the idolatry and were trying to seek after the one true God, they did not themselves really know the Bible. That got me to thinking about our situation today where many churches are saying they know the Bible and are interpreting it in ways that are completely different from the commonly accepted truths of the Bible that have been developed by Christian theologians over 2,000 years. We think we know the Bible but we are changing what it means to fit the culture in which we now operate. Knowing what we think we know is in the Bible but it’s not, apply current cultural sensibilities to the timeless truths of the Bible and avoiding the truths of the Bible are all dangerous to the church and to God’s people. We must know our Bibles, plain and simple, so that we can defend her, so that we can die for her, and so that we can preserve the church as God intended it to be. With that in mind, let’s read 2 Kings 22:1-20 now for the second of two devotionals:

22 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. 2 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.

3 In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and grandson of Meshullam, the court secretary, to the Temple of the Lord. He told him, 4 “Go to Hilkiah the high priest and have him count the money the gatekeepers have collected from the people at the Lord’s Temple. 5 Entrust this money to the men assigned to supervise the restoration of the Lord’s Temple. Then they can use it to pay workers to repair the Temple. 6 They will need to hire carpenters, builders, and masons. Also have them buy the timber and the finished stone needed to repair the Temple. 7 But don’t require the construction supervisors to keep account of the money they receive, for they are honest and trustworthy men.”

8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the court secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the Lord’s Temple!” Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it.

9 Shaphan went to the king and reported, “Your officials have turned over the money collected at the Temple of the Lord to the workers and supervisors at the Temple.” 10 Shaphan also told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” So Shaphan read it to the king.

11 When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. 12 Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser: 13 “Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.”

14 So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to the New Quarter[a] of Jerusalem to consult with the prophet Huldah. She was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, the keeper of the Temple wardrobe.

15 She said to them, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken! Go back and tell the man who sent you, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this city[b] and its people. All the words written in the scroll that the king of Judah has read will come true. 17 For my people have abandoned me and offered sacrifices to pagan gods, and I am very angry with them for everything they have done. My anger will burn against this place, and it will not be quenched.’

18 “But go to the king of Judah who sent you to seek the Lord and tell him: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the message you have just heard: 19 You were sorry and humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I said against this city and its people—that this land would be cursed and become desolate. You tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. And I have indeed heard you, says the Lord. 20 So I will not send the promised disaster until after you have died and been buried in peace. You will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this city.’”

So they took her message back to the king.

In this passage, we see that when Josiah heard the law, he tore his clothes in despair. He immediately instituted reforms. With just one reading of God’s law, he changed the course of a nation. Today, many people own Bibles, but few are affected by the truths found in God’s Word. The Word of God should cause us, like Josiah, to take action to immediately bring our lives into harmony with God’s will as expressed in His timeless Word.

It is particularly important in this day and age for us to know and understand God’s Word and not just take for granted that we know its contents and the meaning of books, chapters, passages and verses contained therein. It is important for us to understand author and the original audience for the book of the bible in question. It is important to understand the cultural and historical context in which a book was written. We must then understand what the author was trying to say to that audience in that day. That truth then is the truth that is timeless that we must analyze for its application to our lives. We cannot and should not come at the Bible with our 21st century sensibilities and impose those on what the author is trying to say to an audience in the first century AD (or a BC audience in case of the Old Testament). We must come at it from the other direction. Understand what the author was saying to that audience (him not having the advantage of knowing what comes next for the next 20 centuries) and that is the truth that we must come to. That is the truth that God wants us to know and bring forward to today and apply it to our lives.

Oh Lord, help us to know your Word by studying it daily and not just reading through without thinking and meditating on it. Oh Lord, help us to know your truth in your Word even if it cuts us to the quick. Oh Lord, help us to know your Word so that we can defend it. Help us to see the general tenor of your Word so that when something comes at us that sounds good but is not of you that we will recognize it as not of you. Help us to be more interested in living by your Word than being culturally relevant. Help us to be different but loving to the world around us. Help us to attract people unto the Real You by us being different from the culture. Help us to be more interested in abiding in your truth than abiding in the false glow of cultural acceptance.

Amen and Amen.