God’s Grace Brings Release (2 Kings 24-25)

Sunday, November 13

jehoiachin

Chapter 23 ended with Jehoiakim becoming king and doing evil in the eyes of the Lord just as his fathers had.  Then moving into chapter 24, Nebuchadnezzar comes onto the scene.  He invaded Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim his servant, to carry out his orders over Judah.  After 3 years Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.  The Lord sent armies against him for the evil he had done and he is killed.  His son Jehoiachin became king and continued doing evil in the eyes of the Lord as his fathers did.  The cycle is continuing.

After Jehoiachin had ruled only 3 months, Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem.  Jehoiachin surrendered and is taken prisoner.  All the treasures of the temple were taken, along with treasures from the king’s house.  All but the poorest people were exiled to Babylon.  Things were as low as they had ever been for Judah.  However, they kept getting worse, and Jerusalem was eventually destroyed.

This seems to just be a story of kings doing evil, and suffering consequences for it.  Fast forward 37 years and Nebuchadnezzar dies and Evil-Merodach becomes king of Babylon.  He releases Jehoiachin from prison and gave him a place of honor.  What a transformation overnight to go from prison to a place of honor with the king.

Have you ever felt that because of some mistake you made or some circumstances, that you can never get past it?  Have you felt that things are just going from bad to worse and you will never get past the problems you have?  I am guessing Jehoiachin felt that he was condemned to being in prison the rest of his life, and lacked hope at times.  However, his life turned around.  Doesn’t this sound like the grace of God?  There is nothing that shows Jehoiachin deserved this improved position, however he was granted it anyways.

Whether our problems are caused by our own mistakes or just circumstances we are in, we can have the hope of God’s grace, and have everything turned around.  We just need to accept God’s gift, along with repentance for our sins.

We can always have hope.

Andrew Hamilton

What Causes the People to Perish? (2 Kings 21-23)

Saturday, November 12

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Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, is the next king of Judah.  And he does not take after his father.  Manasseh built pagan altars in the Lord’s temple and even sacrificed his own son in the fire to Molek – a pagan practice to a foreign false god.  Judah did more evil under Manasseh than the nations that were removed from the land before God established Judah (2 Kings 21:9).  God is not pleased and he foretells a coming “cleansing” of the land: “I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will …give them into the the hands of enemies.” (2 Kings 21:13,14).

Manasseh’s son, Amon, is the next wicked ruler.  He is assassinated.  His assassinators are then assassinated and his 8 year old son, Josiah, is given the crown.  It seems a certain recipe for disaster – civil unrest, kingly assassinations, violence, the son and grandson of some of the worst kings is handed the kingship at the age of 8.  However, somehow, with all these strikes against him, Josiah rises above his past and current circumstances.  It appears he has the benefit of some godly advisors, for we learn, “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord… not turning aside to the right or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2).  Eighteen years into his reign he commissions the cleaning of the temple.  A most valuable treasure is found – the forgotten, neglected, Book of the Law.  When it is read to Josiah he tears his robes, humbles himself and seeks the Lord for he sees how far the people had strayed from God’s will as well as realizing that punishment was getting closer.  Josiah leaps to action.  He calls together all of Judah and reads the holy words to them.  He calls for the people to repent and renew their covenant to the Almighty.  He jumps into action, purging Judah of idolatry and replacing it with the worship of the One True God.

Without God’s Word the people perish – both then and now.  In many communities and lives today God’s Word is forgotten, neglected, absent, dusty.  People are busy serving themselves and false gods.  They will be caught completely unprepared for the “cleansing” that will come.  How can you respond like Josiah?  After reading God’s words – who will you share them with?  How will you jump into action seeking to purge idolatry (in your own life first) and to then replace it with sincere and pleasing  worship of God Almighty?

Seek Him – Seek His Word – And Do it

Marcia Railton

Keep on Praying! (2 Kings 18-20)

Friday, November 11

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Watch out!  The Assyrians who just attacked and captured Israel are now on the doorstep of Judah, ready to do the same to the smaller neighbor to the south.  Judah is shaking in their boots – and wearing sackcloth – and PRAYING.  The Assyrian king sends a letter of doom to Hezekiah, King of Judah, in which he also questions the power of Judah’s God (big mistake).  Hezekiah goes directly to the temple and prays for his country:

Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”      2 Kings 19:15-19

The prophet Isaiah sends a message to Hezekiah that God has heard his prayer.  And sure enough – THAT night a miraculous answer is given.  An angel of the Lord puts to death 85,000 Assyrian soldiers, and the rest run away in the morning.

All looks great – until Hezekiah becomes deathly ill.  And so, Hezekiah prays:

“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

and God hears and answers and Hezekiah is told he will be given 15 more years of life.   When bold Hezekiah asks for a sign to be sure this is true, the shadow cast by the sun moves backward 10 steps!  This healing was no mere coincidence or just really good medicine at work.

Talk about some power in prayer!  Wouldn’t you love to go to a class on prayer taught by Hezekiah.  Prayer is powerful because the God Hezekiah prayed to is so powerful!  There is no enemy or illness too strong for the Almighty God!

So, what about when we faithfully pray for our crisis to be fixed and the answer is no or not now?  The enemy wins or the illness brings death?  Is it because God isn’t powerful enough?  NO.  Or perhaps we weren’t good enough?  NO, not necessarily.  Just a few chapters ago we were reading of Elisha, the God-fearing, power-praying prophet who performed many miracles: parting the water, healing leprosy, feeding a hundred men with just 20 loaves of bread, changing the deadly stew to nourishing, making the ax-head float and the oil over-flowing AND raising a boy from the dead!   Elisha was no doubt a man of God and God answered his prayers in mighty ways time and time again.  However in 2 Kings 13:14 we read “Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died.”  Even on his deathbed he delivers another message from God to the king of Israel.  Then, he died.  And even in death his bones were powerful enough to raise the life of another (2 Kings 13:21).   Sometimes the miracle even comes after death – in the lives of others.

Not only is God all-powerful but He is also all-knowing and all-wise.  And, sometimes that means the good die or the enemy has a victorious day.  In 2 Kings 19 after Hezekiah prays for deliverance for his country, Isaiah delivers a message from God against the attacking Assyrians.  He says: “Have you not heard?  Long ago I ordained it.  In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone…but I know where you stay and when you come and go…and I will make you return by the way you came” (19:25,27,28)

God has got this.  Nothing He doesn’t see.  Nothing He doesn’t know. Nothing He doesn’t know how to handle.  He sees the big picture.  He IS the big picture.  Rest in that knowledge.  Pray big to the Almighty, just as Elisha and Hezekiah did.  You just might  witness a miracle!  Or it might be a day ordained for the enemy to win or the prophet of God to die.  Either way – God is God and He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise.

Keep on Praying!

Marcia Railton

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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

 

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:

allkingsofisrael

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!)