A Price to Pay (2 Kings 15-17)

Thursday, November 10

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2 Kings chapter 15 includes multiple assassinations of rulers, a one month rule, a 6 month rule and a twenty year reign of an evil king. . . makes our U.S. terms of office and system of voting look pretty good – far from perfect – but better than the political system of the Divided Kingdoms.

Of the 7 kings listed in Chapter 15, only two of them are said to have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord: Azariah and Jotham.  It is curious that those are the only two kings listed here in which the author gives the name of the king’s mother.   Young women – never underestimate the importance of the job of raising up a new Godly generation.  Yes, young men – your children will need a Godly daddy, too!!

There is a repeated phrase that we have heard over and over again describing the kings of Israel: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord…he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam.”  I think it is worth reminding ourselves what were the sins of Jeroboam?  When Israel divided after the reign of Solomon, Jeroboam became the ruler of the larger 10 tribes in the north, who would keep the name Israel.  However, they lost the two southern tribes which would be called Judah – as well as the holy city Jerusalem, the home of God’s special temple.  Jeroboam didn’t want his subjects trying to travel to Jerusalem to worship, as prescribed by God.  So he (not God) created new “holy places” for Israel which included golden calves and he selected new priests not from the tribe of Levi.  God’s whole system of worship (which had been carefully laid out in the books of Law) were replaced by Jeroboam – for convenience and ease.  But there would be a price to pay.

In Chapter 17 God sends the Assyrians to capture Israel.  They have used up their chances.  God is fed up with their disobedience.  Scripture says,”They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do’.” (17:15)  There is often great ungodliness – and danger – in blending in with those around us.  God’s people are to stand out as different – dedicated to His Word and commands rather than to what others are doing or what is currently convenient and accepted.  Who are you following?  Any guesses what the consequences (good or bad) are going to be?

Marcia Railton

 

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A Good Start … (2 Kings 12-14)

Wednesday, November 8

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Today’s chapters can get a bit confusing with so many kings coming and going – some from Judah and some from Israel and some from the neighboring lands – most of them evil and lots of them having a name starting with J.  Confusing!  It can be helpful to look up a chart of the kings of the divided kingdom, such as:

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It also can be helpful to compare the accounts of the Kings, with those of the Chronicles as they overlap in telling  the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah.

Joash has a tough but protected start in life  The young baby is hidden away in the temple for 6 years to avoid being murdered by his own grandma, the ruling Queen Athaliah.  When Joash is 7 years old Jehoida the priest determines the time is right to bring him out of hiding, kill Athaliah and set up Joash as king.  2 Kings 12:2 says “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoida the priest instructed him.”  Joash did a lot of good, including collecting money to repair the temple.  However, to get the total picture of Joash, (unlike the chart above) we must look ahead to 2 Chronicles 24:17-25 which shows that after the death of Jehoida Joash began listening to the officials of Judah. They stopped worshiping God and turned to the false god Asherah instead.  They ignored the prophets of God who brought warnings.   Zechariah, the son of Jehoida who had protected and mentored the young king, told the people, “Why do you disobey the Lord’s command?  You will not prosper.  Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.” (2 Chronicles 24:20)   Rather than repenting, King Joash ordered Zechariah to be stoned.  He no longer strived to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord; in fact, he appears to be working hard to do the opposite.

Perhaps you, like Joash, have had a protected start in life.  Hopefully Godly people (parents, SS teachers, youth leaders, pastors) have been there to mentor you, guide you, instruct you and protect you when dangers raged outside.  And if you are reading this there is a very good chance that like young Joash you are seeking to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.  Well done!  That is a great start!  But as we see with Joash, a great start does not guarantee a strong finish.  Beware of who you listen to.  Beware of unGodly advice and anyone who urges you to do or believe what is not pleasing to God.  Keep Godly advisors and mentors in your life.  Studying God’s Word today is a great way to prevent the beginning of the slippery slope in your life tomorrow.

Praying for Your Strong Finish – and Mine,

Marcia Railton

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The End of a Wicked Woman & The Life of a Flawed Man who Does God’s Work (2 Kings 9-11)

Tuesday, November 8

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Jezebel’s end is probably not one of the stories you learned in your preschool Sunday School class; though it’s gruesomeness makes it a winner for middle school boys for sure.  But what is most important about this gory story of a wicked woman being thrown from a window, trampled by horses and eaten by dogs is that it completely followed the prophecy given to Elijah (I Kings 21:23).  Also back in I Kings 21:25 we read that “There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife”.  Not only did she inspire her husband’s evil – she also killed the Lord’s prophets and provided for the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah and promoted witchcraft (1 Kings 18:4, 1 Kings 18:19, 2 Kings 9:22).  She was one unGodly woman.  How sad that when I googled her name -I learned that Jezebel is now the name of an online magazine championing “celebrities, sex, feminism, and issues related to woman’s empowerment” (any guesses who they are rooting for in today’s election?)  And what a role model Jezebel provides for evil.  We definitely live in an age that “Calls evil good and good evil”  (Isaiah 5:20), but then so did Isaiah, and Elijah, and so many others from the time of Eve’s first sin.   We can gain hope in knowing that even while the evil Jezebel was reigning and seemingly “in control” God was still at work in so many ways (such as the Baal vs God showdown on Mt Carmel) and through so many lives (Elijah and Elisha to name a few) .  AND – all the time he was orchestrating and planning what would become the fall of Jezebel – and the feeding of the dogs.  Evil will not last forever.

The other very interesting character in today’s reading is Jehu – chosen by God and anointed by his servant – and so far from perfect – and not just his mad driving was in question.  Jehu though becomes the one to fulfill God’s plan to kill the rest of Ahab’s large family.  And he does this job well.  He also deceptively gathers the prophets of Baal – in order to kill them all.  He tore down the temple of Baal and it became used as a latrine.  He does MUCH to stem the tide of evil idolatry: “You (Jehu) have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do” (2 Kings 10:30) – HOWEVER, he himself “was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.” (2 Kings 10:31).

Any parallels to today?  I think there are many.  Don’t give up on God when you see evil prevailing.  There will be a day when evil is stomped out.  Until then – fight against it.  Watch carefully to see who and what you are following and how it lines up with God’s laws and expectations rather than with whatever appears to be socially acceptable, or from the ruling government at the time.  And, remember, even those who do not keep the law of the Lord can be agents to do his work.

May we be wise as we seek to follow Him today,

Marcia Railton

The God of Angel Armies (2 Kings 6-8)

Monday, November 7

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Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash and Scott Cash wrote a powerful song titled “Whom Shall I Fear” – with the alternate subtitle “God of Angel Armies”.  Perhaps 2 Kings chapters 6 & 7 offered some inspiration as they were writing this song.  The Arameans are attacking Israel and are extremely flustered because it is as if someone keeps telling the king of Israel the battle plans of the king of Aram, foiling his plan of attack time after time.  They are tipped off that Elisha, the prophet of God, just might be the informant and so a large force is sent during the night to surround Elisha’s town to capture him.  In the morning Elisha’s servant is dismayed to see such a large posse ready to pounce.  But this is what the  prophet Elisha says,

“Don’t be afraid.  Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”   Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.                                                         2 Kings 6:16,17

Wow!  What a sight!  And, sure enough, there is NOTHING to fear when you are on the side of God’s Angel Armies!  The Aramean army is struck with blindness and Elisha leads them – right into the presence of the Israelite king.

In the very next chapter the LORD causes the attacking Arameans to be scared away by the sound of a great army – a great heavenly army with many horses and chariots.  (7:6,7) Wow!  What a thunderous sound!  And sure enough, there is NOTHING to fear when you are on the side of God’s Angel Armies!  The long siege on Samaria, which had brought starvation and hyperinflation, is suddenly and miraculously over as the Arameans high-tail it out without looking back.  As an added bonus the Israelites plunder everything the retreating army left behind.

Does it sound too good to be true?  Some thought maybe.  While the city was still surrounded and in the throes of despair Elisha predicts that by the very next day food would once again be abundant and affordable.  One of the king’s officers voices his doubt that this could ever happen – because it indeed did not seem humanly possible.  Elisha said, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it.” (7:2)  And, sure enough, the doubting officer with a negative attitude was serving at the city gates the very next day when the Israelites celebrated the end of the siege and the joyous mob ran out of the city to get a share of the plunder.  He saw it – and was trampled in the gateway before he had a chance to eat of the bounty.  The doubter did not reap the rewards.

You likely will not find yourself facing an attacking foreign king or a city under siege today, but perhaps you will be up against depression, temptation, a negative spirit, a difficult relationship, or struggles at school, work or home.  There is a lot to fear when you get sucked into becoming the doubter who sees things in only human terms – and misses out on the rewards.  But there is nothing to fear when you are on the side of God – and His Angel Armies.

Maybe you have limited your line of sight to what is humanly possible or worldly acceptable.  Pray that your eyes will be opened, and your ears unstopped so that you may see and hear God at work and follow His leading.  He might choose to show you a whole army of angels – or maybe he will show you a wise Biblical counselor to help steer you through a crisis, or a verse to give you direction, or a neighbor for you to share hope with.  May our eyes be opened to see all of the ways God guides and provides!

(Another great “Angel Army” is heard in 2 Samuel chapter 5 – and will actually be retold in our readings next week in 1 Chronicles 14.  Don’t miss it – follow God’s Angel Armies!)

Even When it Hurts or Doesn’t “Make Sense” (2 Kings 4-5)

Sunday, November 6

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There are so many interesting stories and characters and lessons in today’s two short chapters, but here’s a few nuggets that strike me as extremely valuable.

First, there is the wisdom of the widow who faced debt collectors who were going to sell her two sons (her only assets) as slaves.  What a devastating predicament!  She did indeed feel like she had NOTHING.  But she went to a source of Godly wisdom and strength (Elisha), opened her eyes to what she did have (oil), and carefully followed Elisha’s directions – even when it was unclear how this was going to solve her problem.  As it turns out, the size of the miracle God blessed her with was in direct proportion to how much she prepared for a miracle. If she had left Elisha mumbling about how this didn’t seem like useful advice at all, such a waste of time, grumbling about feeling foolish going door-to-door asking for jars, and decided to ultimately just get 2 or 3 jars to give it a try – just enough to be a little obedient – her sons may well have been sold.  Skimping by, just doing the minimal and hoping for the best doesn’t lead to results that glorify God.  Even in a crisis situation – seek Godly wisdom, open your eyes to what you DO have, and throw yourself “all in”as you follow God’s direction – and be prepared to watch for God’s miracles.

The story of Naaman delivers more nuggets.  There was the foreign army commander who humbles himself, follows directions from a Godly prophet even when those directions didn’t appear to make sense.  He receives healing as well as the revelation that “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).  There was also the greedy scheming and lies that turned Elisha’s right-hand man, Gehazi, into a leprous outcast who brought this curse on all of his descendants.  His greed didn’t get him the spoils he was thinking it would.  AND, perhaps my personal favorite – the young Israelite slave girl who remembered God and continued to believe in God’s almighty power and work through His prophets – even though her life had personally seen many heartaches at a young age (stolen from her homeland and made a slave in a foreign land).  Rather than trashing God and becoming sullen and bitter towards God and her foreign master – she shows compassion for her master and courage in speaking up and becomes a witness that leads Naaman to a miracle of healing  and the worship of the One True God.  It appears her trials had put her right in the place God wanted to use her.  May we handle our adversities as well – remaining faithful to the faithful God.  Be a witness of His power and love which just might lead someone else to healing and a new-found belief in Yahweh.

By Marcia Railton

Where Did He Go? (2 Kings 1-3)

Saturday, November 5

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Melissa New
Texts like II Kings 2 can be a problem for us when we are conversing with our friends or family who are convinced that we will go to heaven when we die. They know that we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and, therefore, when the Bible states that “the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind” they think this “truth” should be evident to us. It says plainly that Elijah went up to heaven, does it not? The trouble is that when we explain to them that our understanding of the word “heaven” now in modern times is different from the Hebrew word “heaven” as it is used in this Scripture, they sometimes think we are changing the Bible to go along with what we believe. How unfortunate. That verse could very easily have been written in our English language to say, “the LORD was about to take Elijah up into the sky in a whirlwind.”
There are many things that we just don’t know. Like, for instance, where did Elijah go? Where did Enoch go? But those questions don’t really need to be answered. We may be curious, but it really isn’t that important. What is important to know is what happens to us when we die. Our God would not leave this as a mystery. We can take our friends and/or family to Hebrews 11:37…”Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.” It seems like that verse could very well be speaking of many prophets, including Elijah. The author here says that “they placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection” (11:35) and “none of them received all that God had promised.” (11:39) We can also trust the words of Jesus who said, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) It’s almost as if Jesus were trying to make sure this would be clearly understood.

A Good King Allies with a Bad King (I Kings 21-22)

Friday, November 4

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Melissa New
Israel was suffering under the leadership of their wicked King Ahab. Even when God had obviously given them the victory over the Arameans, Ahab decides to disobey God’s instructions. Ahab is recklessly impulsive. So you might wonder why the good king of Judah, King Jehoshaphat, bothered to visit Ahab. I picture a couple of powerful men getting chummy and having a good time and then, the clever Ahab says, “Hey man, Romath-gilead should be part of my kingdom. What do you say we go to war to recapture it for me?” And Jehoshaphat says, “Why, of course! Let’s first check to see what the LORD’s thoughts are on our plans. That really is the smart thing to do. But brother, I’m already liking this idea.” (Disclosure: this is not how the Scripture exactly reads.) Ahab calls in his prophets because they always say what he wants to hear. Jehoshaphat, in a moment of clear-headedness, says they need a true man of God’s advice. Ahab admits there is a prophet who could consult the LORD for them, but he never says anything good. And Jehoshaphat says, “That’s not the way a king should talk!” (I Kings 22:8) You would think at this point King Jehoshaphat would be having second thoughts about rushing into battle with Ahab. Especially after they hear what Micaiah, the prophet, has to say!!! Ahab must have been a smooth talker. Not only did Jehoshaphat go into a needless battle with him, but he put on Ahab’s king’s robes so that he would look like the perfect target for the enemy. In the end, Jehoshaphat is remembered as a good king who “did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight”, but there is a good lesson here for all of us. We need to be always alert to the warning bells that the company we keep may cause to go off. It may sound like a good time and we may really like the person or people we are hanging out with, but are they following God’s way?