Archive for the ‘12-2 Kings’ Category

1 Chronicles 1:24-33

Descendants of Abraham

We all got stuff. We all got family messes. Here in this passage we see the lineage of Abraham. There are three lines of descendants that come from Abraham as we see in this passage. We see the honored line, the descendants of Abraham through his first wife, Sarah. We also though see his descendants through his maidservant/concubine, Hagar. We also see that he had children through a more obscure woman, Keturah who in Genesis is referred to as his wife but here in Chronicles it says she was his concubine. Regardless of Keturah’s status (some think she started out as his concubine and later became Abraham’s wife after Sarah’s death), she is the third woman by which Abraham had children. This used to be stuff only of soap operas on afternoon television. Now, it is a reality of life in our fractured society.

As we know from Genesis, the whole Hagar episode with kids by two women, Abraham had a whole lot of trouble as a result. Sarah became jealous of Hagar almost immediately after she became pregnant. Did Abraham learn nothing from that whole sordid episode at the beginning of Ishmael’s life. It seems not. He went on to have multiple children by a concubine who would later become his wife, after Sarah’s death. No matter what way we look at this thing or try to justify theologically, there was a mess created by all of this. Multiple children by different wives. Inheritance passing only through one line of children. The lineage of God’s people traced through only one line of Abraham’s children. The other two lines of children become nations that either were enemies of God’s people or help God’s people of Israel and Judah to fall into idolatry.

I don’t know about any of you out there reading this, but this stuff is like ripped out of real life in the 21st century. Today, most people nowadays will have on average two marriages in their lifetime. When divorce happens when the children are young, you have kids with different last names from their mothers. If there are children of second marriages, you have further complications with half-brothers and sisters and so on. It can all become very complicated. Not to mention that there are often tensions between first wives and second wives that can cause trouble for everyone. In this way, the Old Testament is very instructive to us in the 21st century. It is us. We are just as messed up as the people and stories of the Old Testament.

Each and everyone of the characters that we consider heroes from the Old Testament all were messed up people with messed up lives. Here, we see Abraham and it reminds us of the whole Sarah-Hagar episode of Genesis. And, yet, Abraham apparently learned nothing from that ugly episode surrounding the rights and privileges that would be granted to Hagar and to Ishmael. What does Abraham do? He takes another concubine/mistress/maidservant (whatever you want to call Keturah) and has kids by her too! How messed up is that? Did he not learn anything? Sure, she became his wife later, but wow did he not learn anything from Sarah’s reaction to Hagar. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, as the old saying goes. We see the same things today. One marriage is dissatisfying so we divorce and remarry expecting different results. We become dissatisfied with the second and go onto a third and wonder why things turn out the same every time.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through the genealogy of the lines of children descended from Abraham. That idea was that Abraham had a family mess with all his kids by three women. But even with all his faults (his weakness for women being only one of them), God used him and he became a hero that we look up in the Bible:

24 So this is the family line descended from Shem: Arphaxad, Shelah,[a] 25 Eber, Peleg, Reu, 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah, 27 and Abram, later known as Abraham.

28 The sons of Abraham were Isaac and Ishmael. 29 These are their genealogical records:

The sons of Ishmael were Nebaioth (the oldest), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31 Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael.

32 The sons of Keturah, Abraham’s concubine, were Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

The sons of Jokshan were Sheba and Dedan.

33 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah.

All these were descendants of Abraham through his concubine Keturah.

In this passage, we see the beginning of the line of Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. In this passage, we see that son of Hagar, Ishmael, is prominently in our memory from the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. But guess what, Abraham did not only have children by Hagar but he also had children by Keturah. There has been some debate as to whether Keturah was Abraham’s wife or his concubine, since she is described as each in different places in Scripture. Genesis 25:1 says that Keturah was his wife; 1 Chronicles 1:32 calls her his concubine. Genesis 25:6 also implies that Keturah was a concubine. A concubine was a woman who willingly entered into an exclusive relationship with a man for the purposes of meeting his sexual needs or providing children for him (Hagar was considered a concubine of Abraham’s). The woman was often a slave or a single female without male protectors. A concubine did not have equal status as a wife, but, unlike a prostitute, she was provided for and considered the sole property of the man. Because Keturah was in a monogamous relationship with Abraham, she could properly be considered his “wife,” although she had a lesser rank than Sarah had enjoyed.

It could also be that Keturah had begun her relationship with Abraham as a concubine and was then promoted to official “wife status” after the death of Sarah. This would explain the differing biblical descriptions of her role. However, Keturah, the concubine-become-wife, is never referred to in Scripture with the same respect and honor that is given to Sarah as Abraham’s wife (1 Peter 3:6). You often see that too in our modern-day world where a second wife is often not given the same respect by families as a husband’s first wife for various reasons.

Regardless of the status of Keturah, the bigger idea for this devotion is that Abraham apparently had a weakness for women, just as many of our biblical heroes did. Abraham created family messes for himself with the whole Hagar-Sarah episode and apparently learned nothing from it. So, what does he do? He takes another woman later on in life, in Keturah. Abraham had a fatal flaw it appears and it was women.

The takeaway from today is two things. First, a simple and practical thing. That takeaway is that we must allow God to govern the relationships with have with the opposite sex and govern our marriages. When we are single or divorced and are in the midst of dating, help us oh Lord to depend on you to find our next mate – that person of the opposite sex that you want us to spend the rest of our lives with. Help us to trust you even if it takes a long time to find us our mate. Help us not to trust our sexual desires as defining who it is we are to be with. Sexual desires can blind us to those that we are not compatible with in the long-term. Help us not to let our desires cloud our judgment. Help us to hand that responsibility off to you. Further, help us when married to keep you at the center of our marriages so that we do not wreck our marriages because of our selfish desires and wants.

The second takeaway is that there are many of us out there that think that because we have screwed up our family lives that God would never use us and that churches would never accept us. Just look at the Bible, there are a bunch of screw-ups in there. Abraham is one of them. He was a liar and he had a weakness for women. Yet, at the same time, God helped him overcome all of his shortcomings and he became a father of the nation of Israel. His faith in God is always referenced by future biblical characters that followed him. He was considered a great man of faith. In Hebrews, he was considered one of the great hall of biblical heroes in heaven. So, what that says to me and should say to you is that regardless of the mistakes that you have made in your life, regardless of what your weaknesses are, when we place ourselves at the feet of God and ask Him to take over and help us rid ourselves of our weaknesses that is the beginning of our usefulness to Him. All of us are imperfect beings. Through salvation in Jesus Christ, we can be made wonderfully useful to God’s kingdom. Our mess that we made of our life can then become our message of the wonder of Jesus Christ in our lives. And churches? If they are worth their salt, they are full of broken people who have found life in Jesus Christ. None of them, not one of them, is perfect. Church is simply broken people gathered together singing the praises of their Savior. A church is not a place for perfect people. It is a place where broken people come together to figure out life together through their love of Jesus Christ. A church is and should be a spiritual hospital for broken people not a showplace of perfection. We should glory in the all the imperfect people that have been gathered together in our church. It should testify to the greatness of our God.

There are no perfect people in the Bible NOT NAMED JESUS. There are no perfect people in churches ONLY JESUS.

Amen and Amen.

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.