Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 26, 2 Kgs 15-17

Today's readings are 2 Kgs 15-17.

The next king of Judah is the sixteen-year-old Azariah. He was a good king, and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Kgs 15:1-3). Even so, he also failed to remove the high places, and the people of Judah worshiped and sacrificed to other gods. Ahaziah's unwillingness to fully remove pagan idolatry early in his reign along with his growing pride will prove to be his undoing much further down the road as we will see in 2 Chr 26. Jotham, another good king who makes the same mistake of not removing the high places, takes his place (2 Kgs 15:6).

These high places that seem to be a constant presence in Judah are the leaven that will ultimately be part of Judah's downfall.

Next, we see a lengthy line of bad kings in Israel, most of them removed from their thrones early in their reign (2 Kgs 8-27. By this time, God has removed His protection from Israel, and they have become another in a series of conquests by Emperor Tilgath-pileser of Assyria (2 Kgs 15:28-31). Northern Israel is taken captive.

Meanwhile, Jotham, a godly man, becomes a good king of Judah (2 Kgs 15:32-34). Incredibly, Jotham fails to remove the high places (2 Kgs 15:35-36). Evidence of God beginning to remove His protection from Judah surfaces as Syria and Israel attack Judah (2 Kgs 15:37-38).

Jotham’s son, Ahaz, may be the worst king of Judah yet (2 Kgs 16:1-4). When Syria and Israel attack, instead of calling out to God, Ahaz forms an alliance with a dangerous enemy, Assyria. The king of Assyria routs the attack against Judah but at what price? (2 Kgs 16:5-9).

Ahaz has an altar made in Jerusalem that is patterned after one he saw in Damascus. He performs sacrifices there (2 Kgs 16:10-16). He rips the precious metals from the temple and replaces them with stone to pay tribute to the king of Assyria (2 Kgs 16:17-18).

Just as we saw in Joshua as the twelve tribes failed to occupy the land they were given, we are watching the kings of Israel and Judah as they fail to remove the high places.  Both failings have long-term, disastrous results. We see that God's people must be determined to do whatever it takes to purge sin from their lives. Putting up with "a little" sin and tolerating ungodly behavior always tends to allow those influences to expand and grow to cause even greater problems further down the road.

Here are the kings and dates again:

By now, the two kingdoms have turned away from God to a startling extent. It all started with Solomon and some questionable decisions. Now they are fighting against each other, just as Solomon's sons did. They have abandoned God, embraced other gods and are even sacrificing their children to those false gods. They turn everywhere for help - to former enemies, to pagan nations--everywhere but to the one true God.

Right around the middle of Ahaz's time, in 722, Israel, after trying to align themselves with Egypt is taken captive by the Assyrians (2 Kgs 17:1-5). This occurs because they “…walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” (2 Kgs 17:8).

Israel’s fall is complete. All the warnings and prophecies against disobeying God, allowing sin to creep in, intermarrying with pagan people and worshipping idols have been fulfilled. They are now just like the nations they displaced. The Lord completely removes them from His protection and provision (2 Kgs 17:14-18).

Judah is spared but is struggling as well. As they watch what is happening to Israel, they should see this as an act of grace and an ominous warning that the same thing could happen to them if they continue to stray (2 Kgs 17:19-22).

Assyria resettles Samaria with immigrants from other nations they’ve conquered creating a people that are a blend of Jew and Gentile (2 Kgs 17:24-41). This will have an impact on how Judah relates to Samaria far into the future.

Israel’s dreadful fall from grace should earn condemnation and estrangement, yet, we see proof that God has not abandoned His children. There is hope—and there is a remnant! God uses the king of Assyria to send a priest into Samaria to teach the ways of the Lord (2 Kgs 17:26-28).

Once again, we see God's sovereign hand moving among nations outside of Israel and Judah. Once again we see that God's children will always be God's children. However, we also see, once again, that there are worldly consequences for disobedience. God's blessing and protection are removed nearly completely. They are left to fend for themselves. God has not abandoned them, but He has allowed them to become the victim of their own rebellious hearts. There will be redemption. There will be a remnant. But there will be suffering in the meantime.

As believers, we should take this lesson to heart. Much of the Old Testament is comprised of lessons that reveal the character and nature of God. We see, repeatedly, that God will not forsake His people, that He is faithful to His promise and His word. Simultaneously, we see that there is a worldly price to pay for unrepentant sin. Sincere, heartfelt, contrite repentance is always rewarded with grace and mercy. Hard hearts and a callous attitude toward sin are always rewarded with hardship.

God will deliver His people, but, because of their constant falling into sinful ways, their journey will be rough. It's the same for us.  God will bring us into His presence for all eternity. If we insist on sinning and rebelling against Him without godly grief over our stumbles, our journey to heaven will be rough. 

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