Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for May 18, 2 Chr 28-31

Today's readings are 2 Chr 28-31.

Many of the scenarios in these chapters are familiar.  We've seen them before (2 Kgs 16-17) but now, in 2 Chr, we see them with greater detail and in the context of history rather than as a running commentary on current events. 
Here are the kings and dates again.

And here's a map of the region with Assyria is to the Northeast and Babylon to the East.

By now, the two kingdoms have turned away from God to a startling extent. It all started with Solomon and some questionable decisions. Now the kingdoms 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 (2 Chr 28), in 722 BC, Israel is taken captive by the Assyrians. Ahaz is an evil king, one of the evilest yet! Judah is invaded by Syria and Israel. Note, Israel has fallen so severely that the bad kings of Judah are now compared to the kings of Israel (2 Chr 28:2). Tragically, the kings of Israel have become the standard by which evil kings are measured.

But Israel is divided. After God sends a prophet to Israel warning them not to take their brothers captive, the tribe of the Northern Kingdom argue among themselves and send the captives from Judah back to Jericho (2 Chr 12-15).

Incredibly, Ahaz, instead of giving thanks to the Lord, asks the king of Assyria for help. His actions bring more tragedy upon Judah. The Edomites successfully invade as do the Philistines. Judah suffers crushing defeat at their hands. Even Assyria turns on Ahaz and does considerable damage (2 Chr 28:16-20).

Why does all this happen? Because Ahaz gave more honor to the kings around him than he did to God (2 Chr 28:21). He devoted the things that were designed to worship God to the worship of men.

This should cause us as believers to pause and consider everything God gives us, which is everything we have. It all belongs to Him (Rom 11:6). Do we devote our possessions to worshiping Him or someone else? Perhaps, something else? Perhaps, ourselves? Ahaz made the mistake of devoting things that belong to God to someone or something else. Did he know that everything belongs to God? Whether this evil king knew or not, we don’t really know, but there can be no question as to whether we are aware of this fundamental truth.

Another sad-to-read verse shows us the results of all the calamity descending upon Judah and Ahaz:
“In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the LORD—this same King Ahaz.” 2 Chronicles 28:22

Judah’s king bows down before the gods of the people who defeated them while ignoring the God who can deliver and redeem him (2 Chr 28:22-25).  Ahaz dies without honor, and Hezekiah takes his place.

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 from His people. They are left to fend for themselves. God has not abandoned them. He has, though, 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 repeatedly see 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, not eternal, price to pay for the ongoing sins of His people. True, 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 to the Promised Land but, because of their constant falling into sinful ways, the 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.

In 2 Chr 29-31, Assyria has carried Israel away into captivity and inflicted damage upon Judah but does not capture them. Judah is spared. Why?

Judah has a new king, Hezekiah. He is a godly man. He has his faults but does much to turn Judah back toward God. Idols are removed from the country, pagan altars are torn down, the temple restored and the priesthood re-established. Sacrifices are offered up again, and the people fear God. 
Hezekiah’s story is another exhibition of God's matchless grace and mercy. He gives His precious children every chance to repent. Only when they stubbornly refuse to obey Him do they suffer worldly consequences.

This should be a warning and encouragement to us. God has not only graciously given us His word to guide us in living for Him, but He has also sent His Spirit to dwell within us to help us in that effort. If we become conversant in His word, the Spirit will help us keep it. God is not out to exact vengeance for every stumble we make. His grace will cover them all. But repentant hearts and true sorrow over our stumbles are necessary to avoid His chastisement. Blatant rebellion and disregard for His word and the leading of His Spirit will not rob us of our salvation. But, it will make our walk on earth more difficult.  

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