2 Kings 15:23-31

Pekahiah, Pekah and Hoshea Rule in Israel

Weak borders. Decaying morality. Self-absorbed with their own pleasure. Political infighting. What country does that sound like? Oh you thought it was the United States in the current day, but I was talking about the northern kingdom of Israel in biblical times. But, yeah, it does sound like the United States in the current day, doesn’t it?

Why is that nations that have been prosperous end up decaying themselves from within. It has happened repeatedly throughout history. Just look at the Roman Empire. It was the greatest empire that has ever been known to man. However, the empire became a victim to its own success. They stopped expanding the empire and became obsessed with their own pleasures and material wealth. So much so that they began to build borders around the empire with which they had become satisfied. Instead of remaining strong and advancing the empire, they became satisfied and stop growing and expanding.

The next thing that happened that since there was no longer any new revenues coming into the empire from newly captured lands, tax revenue flattened out but yet Romans began consuming themselves with their own pleasures and demanded more and more from their existing conquered lands. The tax burden became ever and ever greater. The social fabric of the Roman empire became such that they had forgotten how hard it was to build the empire originally. They became consumed with the opulence of the empire and thought that it was almost a birthright – that this wealth was something that they deserved rather than having been earned by the hard work of centuries of Romans before them. It’s kind of like Americans and their homes today. When you watch shows on HGTV and see what people consider must-haves and what they complain about a house NOT having, it makes you chuckle a bit. They will throw out a house from their search if it does not meet their 2019 sensibilities. The things that we consider must-haves in our homes today were extreme luxuries just 50 years ago. When you look at homes built in 2019 compared to 1969 or even 1979, what we consider must-haves were way out there luxuries back in the day. Could we today survive in 1969 when houses mainly were built without central air conditioning?

It was that idea of how self absorption can make a nation weak and how that might relate to us as churchgoing Christians in the 21st century as I read of these three final kings of the northern kingdom of Israel in 2 Kings 15:23-31. Let’s read it now:

23 In the fiftieth year of King Azariah of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem began to reign over Israel in Samaria; he reigned two years. 24 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin. 25 Pekah son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty of the Gileadites, and attacked him in Samaria, in the citadel of the palace along with Argob and Arieh; he killed him, and reigned in place of him. 26 Now the rest of the deeds of Pekahiah, and all that he did, are written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel.

27 In the fifty-second year of King Azariah of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah began to reign over Israel in Samaria; he reigned twenty years. 28 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin.

29 In the days of King Pekah of Israel, King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

30 Then Hoshea son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah son of Remaliah, attacked him, and killed him; he reigned in place of him, in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah. 31 Now the rest of the acts of Pekah, and all that he did, are written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel.

In this passage, we see the beginning of the end of the northern kingdom as an independent state. Hoshea was the last of the kings to rule over Israel as an independent nation. The nation had been so consumed with its own political intrigue and self-seeking that it became almost unaware of the changing world around it. Assyrian was becoming a military power in the region. However, Israel was so consumed with itself that it did not concern itself with protecting its borders. With all the factions and strife internally, Israel became weak militarily and could not organize itself as a nation to defend itself. The same has been true of all nations who were once strong. The same fate has occurred with many a world power over man’s history. Infighting and internal strife politically and a nation of people who become obsessed with their own pleasures always leads to a world power to decaying from within – just look at the Roman Empire, once the strongest of all empires in history, fell because it became weak from within.

It also made me think of how the church in America has stagnated for the most part and why it does not grow (with certain rare exceptions). Have we become like the Roman Empire? Have we become like the northern kingdom of Israel? Have we become satisfied with the way things are so that we begin building borders around ourselves rather than continuing to expand the kingdom? Are we more interested in what goes on inside rather than what’s going on outside? That’s the question we must ask ourselves. I liken it to those famous words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but, rather, what you can do for your country?”

Let us be a people that are more consumed with expanding the kingdom that we are with the must-have that we want in our dream house. Let us be a people that are willing to sacrifice our must-haves to make sure that people are hearing the gospel and the kingdom is expanding. Let us be a people who want people to know Jesus and will sacrifice to make sure it happens.

Amen and Amen.

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2 Kings 15:16-22

Menahem Rules in Israel

The thing that this passage reminds me of is how a person who severely addicted to drugs will do almost anything to maintain their supply of drugs and then pat themselves on the back for having done it. They will lie, cheat and steal to maintain their supply line. They will deplete their own resources without thought to the future or what it will do their family’s financial status. That’s kind of what I see here from King Menahem.

He essentially begins draining the wealth of the country, both the nation’s treasury and the wealth of the people themselves. All of it was done to maintain Israel’s independence for Assyria. However, with each financial resource being sent to Ninevah, Israel became weaker. In order to maintain their freedom to seek self-pleasure, Israel began giving away the farm, as the old saying goes. We are often that way with our own lives. We are often so addicted to certain sins that we will do anything to preserve our right to enjoy our self-pleasure and self-destruction. In our personal lives, we often see when we are addicted to a line of action, a sin pattern. Every unrepentant sin requires that we pay tribute to it. It costs us money, time, and resources to maintain. When our leaders become consumed by sin, it not only hurts them but hurts our nation as a whole.

 It reminds you of the Watergate scandal of Richard Nixon when he was President. The last two years of his presidency was consumed with the scandal. There was no time to do what was necessary to govern the nation and to move it forward. The country was in a two year fog where nothing happened. The presidency was spent trying to cover up wrongdoing to the point that they did not have time for much else. Our country suffered for it and became weaker. Even after the presidency of Nixon came crashing down, the country suffered for years after that, throughout the remainder of the 70’s. That self-seeking of a leader to maintain his power still affects us today as a society. They say the 70’s were the me-generation and it began at the top with a rogue president. We cannot condemn Nixon too much. A leader is often a reflection of the temperature of the nation they represent. I often find it funny that we, as a people, often complain about the “bums in Washington”, but we are a representative republic. Those bums in Washington only get there because we elect them and often re-elect them repeatedly. They make promises that we like to hear and then we vote for them. And vote for them again.

That’s what I thought of this morning is that our nation is not too unlike the people of the northern kingdom and its kings. I bet the king was simply a reflection of the people’s desires to maintain their desire to do what they wanted, to seek self-pleasure, to maintain their addiction to the sins that they desired to follow. They were willing to do anything and pay anything to allow themselves to continue seeking their own pleasure. They were willing to sell the farm, so to speak, to do just that. We see it here in this passage of 2 Kings 15:16-22. Let’s read it now:

16 At that time Menahem sacked Tiphsah, all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, he sacked it. He ripped open all the pregnant women in it.

Menahem Reigns over Israel

17 In the thirty-ninth year of King Azariah of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi began to reign over Israel; he reigned ten years in Samaria. 18 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart all his days from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin. 19 King Pul of Assyria came against the land; Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, so that he might help him confirm his hold on the royal power. 20 Menahem exacted the money from Israel, that is, from all the wealthy, fifty shekels of silver from each one, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and did not stay there in the land. 21 Now the rest of the deeds of Menahem, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 22 Menahem slept with his ancestors, and his son Pekahiah succeeded him.

In this passage, we see that Menahem, like the kings before him, led his people into sin. What a horrible epitaph for a leader! Further, as we see here, the slow decline into a conquered nation begins. When King Tiglath-pileser took the throne of Assyria, the Assyrian Empire was becoming a world power and the nations of Aram, Israel and Judah were in decline. This passage is the first mention of Assyria in 2 Kings. Tiglath’s invasion occurred in 743 BC. The result of the invasion was that Israel became a subservient nation and Menahem was forced to pay monetary tribute to Assyria. This invasion was the first of three invasions of Israel by Assyria (see 2 Kings 15:29 and 17:6 for the other two).

The ironic thing here was that I bet that King Menahem probably patted himself on the back for what he did. He maintained the independence of Israel from Assyria but he had to start bankrupting the country to do it. It is so very much like a drug addict that will bankrupt his family to maintain his drug supply but yet continues to pat himself on the back for having maintained his supply. A drug addict will progressively lose all that he has to maintain his supply. A drug addict can go from living in a fine home to living under a bridge but yet only see that he has maintained his drug supply. The nation of Israel is doing the same thing here. They are starting to lose their fine house and begin the slow crawl to being a conquered nation where ultimately the people a dragged off by the Assyrians and dispersed around the kingdom to serve their Assyrian overlords – the equivalent in our analogy of a drug addict losing his home and living under a bridge.

The lesson for us as Christians then would be to examine our own lives to see what we are working overtime on to maintain rather than seeking the Lord? What are those things that we are “selling the farm” to maintain rather than seeking the Lord?

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 15:8-12

Zechariah Reigns in Israel

It was Nikita Kruschev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union, equivalent of being the head of state, the president, of the USSR, once said back in 1961 that “we do not have to destroy America with missiles. America will destroy itself from within!” That statement is what I immediately thought of when I was reading this passage for today, 2 Kings 15:8-12, and already knowing what is to follow in 2 Kings. Israel had been descending into a self-centered, self-involved, idol worshiping nation since the end of Solomon’s reign. Now, here, we see the beginning of the end. With the assassination of Zechariah, it set off a chain of events that so thoroughly weakened the northern kingdom that it was easy prey for conquest by the Assyrian empire. They basically were able to walk into the northern kingdom and take over without shooting an arrow or chucking a spear. Why? Because the northern kingdom was so preoccupied with its own internal power struggles, greed and avarice and the people were so consumed with seeking their own pleasures, that the nation did not focus on its common defense or its national security.

That’s what Kruschev knew about America. We are victims of our own opulence. Just like a wealthy child, we have become spoiled to our own wants and desires. We have become so me-focused that we have lost the ability to place the needs of our country ahead of our own needs. We have become so concerned with own pleasures that we have become soft. We have become so me-centered that we believe only our way is the right way and to compromise would mean that we somehow dismissing our own beliefs. We have become so polarized that we cannot agree to disagree. We have become so polarized that we are willing to stalemate our government than compromise. It might surprise the left and the right of today’s political spectrum that it was compromise that the founding father’s built into our government – on purpose. The way they structured our government was to force compromise toward a more centrist approach to our nation’s response to issues. They wanted a government where it required us to compromise with one another, where no one got everything they wanted and everybody got a little something of what they wanted. Somewhere there in the middle lied the best interest of our country as a whole. Our parents’, grandparents’ and previous generations understood this. Beginning with my generation, with the post-World War II baby boomers forward, our country has become ridiculously wealthy by comparison to the rest of the world. Kruschev knew that our self-indulgence would lead us toward a me-centered society, toward being more concerned with our own rights than the good of our country, toward being wrapped up in our own self-seeking pleasures that we will be like the northern kingdom of Israel – so wrapped up in its own self-seeking that it was easy prey for the Assyrians.

I think it was Edmund Burke who said, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it!” We are the modern-day northern kingdom. We have so discounted the Bible as a source of guidance in our lives. We have so kicked God to the curb in our lives. We have so become just like the northern kingdom of Israel here in 2 Kings. Will we not recognize the similarities and the outcome that befell the northern kingdom? Will we repeat the fate that they had? Will Kruschev’s 1961 prophecy come true?

Let’s read the passage now with an eye toward what’s coming next but also how this passage is a reflection of the spiral downward, morally and nationalistically, of the northern kingdom. From here, in this passage, it only is going to get worse. Read it now:

8 In the thirty-eighth year of King Azariah of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months. 9 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestors had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin. 10 Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against him, and struck him down in public and killed him, and reigned in place of him. 11 Now the rest of the deeds of Zechariah are written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel. 12 This was the promise of the Lord that he gave to Jehu, “Your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” And so it happened.

In this passage, we see the end of the lineage of former king Jehu in Israel. The death of this last king of the dynasty of Jehu saw the end of any legitimacy of the throne in the northern kingdom. Over the following 20 years, six different rulers attempted to govern the northern kingdom, but only one was to die naturally. Anarchy, rivalry and regicide led to terminal bloodshed which fulfilled Hosea’s prophecies (Hosea 1:4). Half a dozen ‘pseudo-kings’ would reign in rapid succession, one murderer replacing another on the throne, as the nation tottered on the brink of anarchy.

Will we ever get to the point that Israel got to here where kings are murdered and people are fighting to grab the throne? No, probably not. Our form of government was designed by our founding fathers to help prevent that. In order for us to have some despotic ruler, we would have to completely scrap the design of our government (which of course has been in placed since the Constitution was ratified by the required majority of states by December 7, 1787) – a system that has been in place for 232 years now. However, the history that we see here of the kingdom of Israel should be a mirror to us that we must return to God. We must put Him first in our lives before ourselves. When we do that, He makes us see the needs of others before the needs of myself. Then, we will be able to say, Nikita Kruschev, you were wrong. The thing that Satan likes is for history to repeat itself. He wants us not to read the Bible so that he can see the same outcomes of man’s behavior throughout history. It is only through God’s Word that we can see our mistakes through the mistakes of the biblical characters and the biblical nations.

May we return to God. May we study the mistakes of the northern kingdom so that we stop right where we are and turn toward God. May we prove Kruschev wrong.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 15:1-7

King Uzziah Rules in Judah

The gun violence in the past week that we have seen raises many questions but better gun control is only a part of the equation. It is not the full answer. Yes, we must figure out what is the most efficient way to keep guns, particularly assault weapons, out of the hands of people that are mentally unbalanced. How to do that and balance people’s right to defend themselves against criminals and against government tyranny is a question that this country has wrangled with for decades. The answer to this debate will continue for many years to come.

However, like I said, gun regulation is not the all-to-end-all solution to the problem (but is part of the solution). There are greater social issues that are part of the equation. The fundamental question is who are these people’s role models? What are their social influences? What was their family life like before leaving home? What are the influences as adults? I think that such blatant displays of pure evil point to a challenge to us as Christians. Instead of joining in the debate about whether people kill people or guns kills people, we must be more involved in a broken society. We must begin again to reach out to our communities in real and substantial ways. Right now, outside of our church properties, Satan is the only one doing the talking.

Reaching out beyond our church properties doesn’t mean that we stand on street corners or get on television and rail and complain about the evil in this world. It does not mean that we sit in our buildings and talk about them out there vs. us in here. Reaching out beyond our church properties means that we must be involved in the communities. It must not just be church initiatives at outreach where we join in with other members of our church to support either with occasional time and money to help those in need mentally, physically and financially in our community. It must be us as Christians taking the initiative on our own to impact the world within our own spheres of influence. We are never going to get rid of evil in this world until Jesus returns but we are called individually as Christians to love the world around us sacrificially.

Certainly, the local church should create ministries to allow us as Christians to work in our communities. Local churches should create opportunities for us to connect with our communities. Local churches should do the things as a collective team that introduce us as individuals to ways that we can help our communities. Local churches should create opportunities with special events also that point us to how we should be living our lives on a daily basis. However, when the events are over, the ministry opportunities set before us collectively are completed for the day, week, etc., we as Christian individuals should be living our lives in a sacrificial manner. Taking the examples that our churches set before in ongoing outreach ministries and one-time events and living that out in our lives on a daily basis.

Sacrificially living calls for us to live uncomfortably. Way too often, we as Christians are willing to do outreach ministries once a week and especially those one-time events. They make us feel good about reaching out. We pat ourselves on the back for reaching out. When I say, we, I include myself in that indictment. We are often willing to contribute money but not time. We are often willing to contribute time on a limited basis. But we are called to much more. We are called to live sacrificially. We are called to live uncomfortably. We are called to minister, each one of us. We are called to get into the lives of those around us. We are called to get messy. We are called to spread the gospel to a hurting world. We are called to be examples of hope and not just to each other.

That’s what I thought of this morning as I read this passage about Uzziah and the examples that he had in his life. That got me to thinking about who the examples were for these two men in El Paso and in Dayton and all the other lone gunmen who have committed mass shootings. We condemn them for their evil and rightfully so, but it should make us examine ourselves as Christians. Do we know someone who needs a role model, a person who cares and loves them away from the brink? Can we be someone’s better example? Let’s read the passage now, 2 Kings 15:1-7, and see the fact that Uzziah spiritual examples were not godly. His fathers incorporated pagan worship into their kingdom or at least didn’t do anything about it. Why would we expect Uzziah to be any different from them? There was no one to intervene and show them a better way, a God-honoring way to live. Therein lies the challenge to Christian individuals when it comes to souls that are turning toward evil.

Chapter 15

1 Uzziah[a] son of Amaziah began to rule over Judah in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel. 2 He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother was Jecoliah from Jerusalem.

3 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. 4 But he did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there. 5 The Lord struck the king with leprosy,[b] which lasted until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house. The king’s son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land.

6 The rest of the events in Uzziah’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Judah. 7 When Uzziah died, he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. And his son Jotham became the next king.

In this passage, we see that, although Uzziah accomplished much (when you read this passage along with 2 Chronicles 26) during his reign, he failed to destroy the pagan shrines in Judah just as his father and grandfather had not. Uzziah imitated the kings he had heard stories about and observed while growing up. Although Uzziah’s father and grandfather were basically good kings, they were poor role models when it came to their spiritual lives. Often in life, we have poor role models to observe and we must rely on God’s Word to provide us with our ultimate role model in Jesus. No matter how you were raised you can move beyond those limitations by taking Christ as your example and consciously trying live as He did. Further, sometimes, the only way a person will be see Christ-like examples is through us getting down into the details and messiness of the lives of people. It is a call to us to push beyond living easy. It is a call to us to live sacrificially.

The tragedy of these twisted souls that commit these atrocities is we collectively as Christians must have missed opportunities to touch their lives. These are sensational displays for evil that pop up sporadically. But there day to day in every town in America, there are desperate people who are living lives under the influence of evil that need our help. That need us to get outside our comfort zone. That need us to live sacrificially. That need us to show them an example that there is a better way. To show them that life does not have to be this way. Our local churches can model ways to do this through outreach ministries and outreach events and YES we should as churches do these things. However, when it’s all said and done, our outreach ministries and events are simply models to spur us to live as givers to the world around us. Our outreach events and ministries should not be the end of outreach. We should take those ideas and live it out day to day. We need to be down in the mess of our communities so that we can be examples of Christ. 95% of the words of Jesus in the Bible were said out in the streets where He was in people’s lives.

That’s thing that I thought of when these shootings happened. Where did we fail these shooters? Where did they begin to think that killing was the solution. Wouldn’t have been great if there had been a better example in their lives. Wouldn’t it have been great if there had been a Christ follower that refused to walk away from their lives. Wouldn’t it have been great if there had been a Christ follower who battled the demons in that persons life? It may have made a difference. At this point, though, we will never know. The deeds are done. Let us be a people that gets messy in the lives of hurting people around us. Let us be a people that goes beyond the convenient and gets into the lives of those that are the difficult cases. Let us be examples of the better way, the hope, the peace that comes from Jesus to those who see nothing of love in this world.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 14:28-29

The End of Jeroboam II’s Reign in Israel

Show me your checkbook and I will show you what you worship. It is an old saying that packs a punch. I think too we should add the sentence, show me your calendar and I will show you what you worship. Between these two phrases, it pretty much sums it up. Whatever our spending priorities are and whatever our time priorities are go a long way toward showing what we worship.

If our finances show that we spend a lot of money on certain things, trinkets, toys, activities, and then give God what’s leftover. Who is it or what is it that we worship? If we purchase houses and cars and jet skis and vacations and other toys that demand so much of our income that we can’t work giving to the Lord into our budget, what is it that we worship. If we are so strapped financially that we cannot assist a friend or even a stranger in need and rationalize it away by saying that the government will help them, what is it that we are worshiping? If a college or pro football team is a determiner as to whether you attend church on Sunday morning, what is it that you worship? If your child’s sports activities prevent you from going to church regularly or participating in weeknight bible study or small group, what is it that we worship? If we cannot spend time with a friend who needs us to listen because we are always on the go, what is it that we are worshiping? If we would love to volunteer for a good cause but we cannot work it into our schedule. What is it that we are worshiping?

That’s the culture that Jeroboam II created in the northern kingdom. Sure, the kingdom did better economically and from a national security standpoint than any other time after Solomon’s reign, but the society had lost its soul. All it cared about was material gain and whoever has the best toys is the winner. That society that he created is the society that we live in now in the grand pursuit of The American Dream. Whomever has the most toys in the end wins. We are seeking things instead of God. We pursue activities that are intended to fulfill us rather than honoring God in how we spend our time. I am not saying that God does not want us to have toys and does not want us to have fun in our lives. He wants us to have a well-balanced life and He is not against us having nice things. However, when we push Him out of the way and make pursuit of things our god, then, it becomes idolatry. We worship what we place greatest importance on.

With that in my mind, we now read of Jeroboam II’s death. It is clear that the period of his reign was unremarkable from a spiritual standpoint. As we have seen, when there is nothing glorifying to God, the author of 2 Kings defers to the secular Jewish history book of the time, The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel and quickly moves onto the next king. There is a lesson for that in and of itself. Let’s read the passage, 2 Kings 14:28-29, now:

28 The rest of the events in the reign of Jeroboam II and everything he did—including the extent of his power, his wars, and how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Judah[a]—are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel. 29 When Jeroboam II died, he was buried in Samaria[b] with the kings of Israel. Then his son Zechariah became the next king.

In this passage, we see Jeroboam II’s death. We know more from other OT books about him that we do from the chronology of kings in 2 Kings. We understand from the books of Hosea and Amos, that Jeroboam II had no devotion to God, yet under his warlike policies and skillful administration, Israel enjoyed a renaissance of sorts for a while in its power and material prosperity. It was the best period for the northern kingdom from an economic sense and from a national security standpoint since the days of Solomon. The prophets Amos and Hosea tell us, however, what was really happening within the kingdom. Jeroboam’s policies ran roughshod over the rights of the poor and oppressed. As a result, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer. The people became self-centered relying more on their own sense of self-reliance (power, security, possessions) than on God. The poor were so oppressed that it was hard for them to believe God noticed their plight.

Material prosperity is not always an indication of God blessing. It can also be a result of self-centeredness. If you are experiencing prosperity, remember that God holds us accountable for how we attain and how we use our wealth. Everything we have really belongs to Him. We must always put God first in our financial thought patterns. We should honor Him first. Give Him our first and best of our resources before satisfying our personal desires. Even in meeting our personal desires, we should ask the question as to whether we are honoring God in how we spend our money after having given to God. Will this be the legacy that we leave?

What are we going to be remembered for? Are we going to be remembered for the toys that we gathered while we were here on earth and the time we spent on gathering them? Are we going to be remembered for the time we spent on selfish desires? Will we be like the long line of kings of Israel and Judah where there was nothing spiritually remarkable to report? How will we be remembered?

May our legacy be one where there are people that are left behind after our death that know Jesus Christ because we were there. May our legacy be one where there are people that see their intersection with our lives as the pivotal moment in their lives where everything changed. That moment where they met Jesus through our witness and everything changed. May our legacy be one that people looked to us for godly advice. May our legacy be one that people knew that God came first in our time and came first in our finances. May our legacy be one where there will be something spiritually remarkable to report.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 14:15-27

Jeroboam II in Israel & Amaziah in Judah

Reading about this seemingly unending spiral downward of the holiness of the people of Israel and Judah and how they thought they were doing what was right in their own eyes while the decline continued has been completely depressing at times. Has it not? With the advantage of being this far into the future from the events depicted in 2 Kings, it is like, for us, watching a car wreck about to happen and there is nothing you can do about it.

From the height of Israel’s power under David and Solomon to the split kingdoms with all their infighting, the decline is noticeable to us as readers. And it’s not over yet. It will ultimately continue when the northern kingdom is conquered and swallowed up by the Assyrian empire (with its capital in Ninevah). That is followed by the conquering of the southern kingdom by the Babylonian empire (with its capital in Babylon and what is now modern-day Iraq and Jordan). The Parthians (previously limited to what is now northern Saudi Arabia and all of Iran) then conquered the Babylonians. The Parthians allowed the Judeans to return to Judah during the time of Nehemiah.

However, they were still under Parthian rule. The next thing that happens is Alexander the Great conquers all of the Middle East (deposing the empires of Assyria and the Parthians). After the death of Alexander the Great, his vast empire was split into four kingdoms by his four top generals. So the Greek rule of the Middle East continued for quite a while. Next up was the Roman Empire that ruled the Middle East. They took over the Middle East when the Greeks were defeated at Corinth (yeah that Corinth from 1 & 2 Corinthians) in 146 BC. Judea and Israel (Israel becomes named Samaria) then soon after become tightly under Roman rule with them installing the local kings that they wanted and then have a Roman governor in the region. Israel and Judah rebel against Roman rule and there is always unrest there as they chaff under another foreign occupying force. That’s the historical timeline that brings us the world of Israel and Judah at the time Jesus was born, lived, preached, and was crucified in approximately 33-36AD.

Just as Jesus predicted, the ultimate end to Judah and Israel began with the Jewish revolt in 66AD. That revolt lasted far longer than Rome wanted it to and they ultimately had enough and crushed what was Judah/Israel in 70AD with the destruction of the Temple that Jesus predicted. After that, what we know of ancient Israel and Judah is no more. The Israelites that were not killed in the revolt of 66-70AD were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and never allowed to return to their ancestral homelands after that.

That is what happened to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The decline is happening right here before our eyes in all the pettiness since the death of Solomon, all of the evil, all the idol worship, all the doing of what was right in their own eyes. These are the things that I thought about when I read this passage is how Israel and Judah got so consumed with themselves and their desires that they forgot about God. It is a warning to us all as we watch this steady decline of Israel and Judah through the pages of Bible. Let’s read the passage, 2 Kings 14:15-27, now:

15 Now the rest of the acts that Jehoash did, his might, and how he fought with King Amaziah of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 16 Jehoash slept with his ancestors, and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; then his son Jeroboam succeeded him.

17 King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah lived fifteen years after the death of King Jehoash son of Jehoahaz of Israel. 18 Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 19 They made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish, and killed him there. 20 They brought him on horses; he was buried in Jerusalem with his ancestors in the city of David. 21 All the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king to succeed his father Amaziah. 22 He rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah, after King Amaziah[a] slept with his ancestors.

23 In the fifteenth year of King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah, King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel began to reign in Samaria; he reigned forty-one years. 24 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For the Lord saw that the distress of Israel was very bitter; there was no one left, bond or free, and no one to help Israel. 27 But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Joash.

In this passage, we see that during this period, many prophets – such as Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah and Isaiah – began collecting their prophecies and writing them down under the Holy Spirit’s supervision. They continued to preach about the worldwide significance of God’s work as they looked forward to the future spiritual Kingdom of God. God would use Israel’s moral and spiritual decline to prepare the way for coming of the Messiah. Because the kingdom and military power of the combined northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah would be stripped away, many people would be ready to hear the Good News that Jesus would bring. If only they would listen.

Here, we see how far the kingdoms have fallen from the height of its regional power under David and Solomon. There was no limit to what Israel could do under David and Solomon. If you remember, under David and Solomon, foreign kings paid visits and made alliances with Israel. All things were going pretty doggone good for the kingdom. However, sinful selfishness led to a split in the kingdom and to idolatry and to disobedience to God’s Word and to moral decline and to, ultimately, as we shall see in the rest of the Bible a slow painful decline of these two kingdoms into nothingness and unimportance on the world stage. They are simply satellite, puppet kingdoms of their occupying overlords from Assyria, Babylon, Parthia, Greece and Rome. Then the various variations of the Arabic/Islamic kingdoms ruled what was Israel and Judah until the Post-World War II push to re-establish the Jewish state that we know today.

That’s what I thought about today is the long history of occupation of the Holy Land by other empires that is about to happen and it was because of the moral decay and the internal pettiness of Israel and Judah right here in 2 Kings. There is a warning to us in the United States here. I see so much of us as a nation in biblical Israel and Judah. We have advanced as a nation so quickly when you compare our history to those of other nations. It is because God blesses nations that follow Him. Sure, America was never perfect and still isn’t but in general over the first three centuries since we landed on the east coast of North America, we have been mightily blessed. By the time the 20th century rolled around the United States though a young country was a major player on the world stage. By the end of World War II, we are the big kid on the block. However, here in the 21st century, you see a nation very similar to Israel and Judah of the biblical era – chasing after what pleases us and disregarding God when his commands get in the way of us pleasing ourselves.

Let us pray that there will be a spiritual awakening in America. Let us pray that there will be a revival of belief in what the Bible teaches us. Let us pray that our self-seeking will be replaced with God-seeking. Let us pray that we do not continue down the path that is so very much like that of biblical Israel and Judah. Let us pray for a return to God.

Amen and Amen.

2 Kings 14:1-14

Amaziah Rules in Judah

One of the dangers early in an appointment in a Methodist church is the “honeymoon period” of being the new pastor. Usually, from what I understand from other pastors, those first few months are often a time when things happen fast, when anything you try is received positively, and there is often growth because of the breath of fresh air that a new pastor inevitably brings – new perspectives, new ways of thinking, just being different from the previous pastor. It is easy to think, as the new pastor, that this is the way it’s always going to be and that anything you touch is gold. That’s the place, the phase of the ministry here at Lamar that I find myself in right now. I am the new pastor. I am the breath of fresh air. Everyone is excited and energized.

The thing that I must remember as I pass through this honeymoon period is that it really is not about me. The growth that we are experiencing in attendance, the energy that is now present among the faithful of our church is not because of me. I am a rookie pastor. I am no expert at this. Yes, I have plenty of experience from my business career that can help me. Yes, I have plenty of background with large churches that can help provide a different view that is helpful to this church. But, it’s not about me. The danger is that it can be easy in the flesh that you can think that it is – about me.

One of the things that I said to the leadership of this church at our first “meet and greet” back in May was that “if we keep our eyes on Jesus, I think we will be OK.” That’s the thing. Anything that I accomplish here, any growth that comes, any energy that comes, any success for the kingdom that comes is because God ordained it to happen. Any success that comes will be because it is pleasing to Him. Any success not based on what is pleasing to God is simply not sustainable. Any success based on bringing glory to ourselves is simply not sustainable. Any success that is personal kingdom building is not sustainable.

We as a church and I as its pastor must always keep our eye on Jesus. When we take our eyes off Jesus we will be like Peter who could walk on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus but sank when he did not. Thus, everything we do, everything that I do as pastor, must be measured by whether it brings glory to Jesus or not. When it brings glory to ourselves, rather than Jesus, then we will fail like Peter did.

That’s what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, 2 Kings 14:1-14. In it, King Amaziah became proud of his own accomplishment. He thought he “was all that and a bag of chips”, as the old saying goes. He thought he was more powerful than he really was. Because of the wars that the southern kingdom had been fighting, the strength of their army was reduced. Further, the northern kingdom was simply bigger, had more people to raise an army from, so Judah picking a fight with their cousins to the north was simply not wise. Add to that, the depleted nature of the Judean army made this easy pickings for the northern kingdom. With all that in mind, let’s read the passage now:

14 In the second year of King Joash son of Joahaz of Israel, King Amaziah son of Joash of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin of Jerusalem. 3 He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like his ancestor David; in all things he did as his father Joash had done. 4 But the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. 5 As soon as the royal power was firmly in his hand he killed his servants who had murdered his father the king. 6 But he did not put to death the children of the murderers; according to what is written in the book of the law of Moses, where the Lord commanded, “The parents shall not be put to death for the children, or the children be put to death for the parents; but all shall be put to death for their own sins.”

7 He killed ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and took Sela by storm; he called it Jokthe-el, which is its name to this day.

8 Then Amaziah sent messengers to King Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu, of Israel, saying, “Come, let us look one another in the face.” 9 King Jehoash of Israel sent word to King Amaziah of Judah, “A thornbush on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife’; but a wild animal of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thornbush. 10 You have indeed defeated Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”

11 But Amaziah would not listen. So King Jehoash of Israel went up; he and King Amaziah of Judah faced one another in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 12 Judah was defeated by Israel; everyone fled home. 13 King Jehoash of Israel captured King Amaziah of Judah son of Jehoash, son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh; he came to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate, a distance of four hundred cubits. 14 He seized all the gold and silver, and all the vessels that were found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, as well as hostages; then he returned to Samaria.

In this passage, we see that this parable compares Judah to a small thistle. King Amaziah had become proud after defeating the Edomites. Here, in this passage, he was trying to pick a fight with the northern kingdom because he was sure that his army was stronger. Jehoash tried to warn Amaziah not to attack by comparing his army to a cedar tree and Judah’s army to a small thistle. Amaziah had overrated his strength. His ambition was greater than his ability. He didn’t listen to Jehoash and was soundly defeated.

Pride in his capabilities blinded the Judean king. Pride made him think that everything he touched was golden and that he would have victory over a larger force. There is a lesson for me in this passage when it comes to ministry. We must always measure our steps by whether what we are doing gives glory to God or to ourselves. We must give God the glory for any success He allows us to have. We must not measure our success in human terms lest we become proud and it becomes all about us. When it becomes all about us, we will fail. Anything that we do in ministry must be viewed from the lens of (1) whether it draws people unto Jesus Christ or (2) once drawn to Him, whether it deepens their relationship with Jesus or not. Otherwise, church becomes about us and what makes us happy and makes us look good. Otherwise, we begin to like pride seep in and think that it’s because we “are all that and a bag of chips!”

Father, help me to remember that you are the one that orchestrated me coming to this place. Help me to remember that you are the one that has specific things to be accomplished here during my ministry here. Help me to remember that together, me and my congregation, can do great things for the kingdom in this community but it will not be because of us but rather because God ordained it to be so. The only way that I, as a pastor, and we, as a congregation, will be successful, by God’s standards, is to keep our eyes on Him. We must measure everything we do by whether it brings expansion in width or in depth to His kingdom. We cannot see any growth as because of us and how cool we are or how attractive our church is. We must always be submitted to the Lord enough to see that it is because God ordained it to happen – we are just doing His bidding and the He is allowing us to do so. Let it not be about me or about us. Let us always keep our eyes on Jesus.

Amen and Amen.