Lions of Judgment

Lions of Judgment

Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them. (2 Kings 17:24-25)

The kingdom of Israel, the ten northern tribes, were conquered as a nation. The brutal Assyrians defeated them and then forced the people of Israel to relocate to different areas of the Assyrian empire. After that, the king of Assyria brought people into the land. The policy of the Assyrians was to remove rebellious, resistant people and to resettle their former lands with people from other parts of the empire.

Lions of Judgment

In doing this, the kings of Assyria hoped to re-populate their conquered lands, bringing in people who had no previous attachment to the area. They wanted the people of the empire to be attached to and loyal to the king of Assyria, and no one else.

But our Bible passage tells us something of these new people brought into the land: they did not fear the LORD; therefore the LORD sent lions among them. When the Israelites were conquered and could not defend the land, God supernaturally defended it – and the LORD sent lions among them to do it!

This shows that there was not only something special about the kingdom of Israel, but also something special about the land of Israel. God demanded to be feared among the people of the land, even if they came from other nations.

Zechariah 2:12 tells us that the land of Israel is the Holy Land. God regards it as something special, and He will hold accountable those who live there and who do not fear Him.

2 Kings 17 goes on to explain that the Assyrians figured out that the lions were sent because they did not honor the God of Israel. It’s amazing that the Assyrian officials seemed to know what the people of the recently-conquered kingdom of Israel did not know – that they had to honor the God of Israel. They even had a priest from Israel come and teach them to fear the LORD (2 Kings 17:28).

You could say, as Charles Spurgeon did, that they were “converted by lions.” But, 2 Kings 17:29-33 explains, it wasn’t much of a conversion. They still honored the corrupt, pagan gods along with the LORD God of Israel.

Coming to God only because you are afraid of judgment – afraid of the lions – is never enough. It might be a good start, but it can’t stop there. We need to come to God and put our trust in Him on the basis of His love for us in Jesus Christ. It is the kindness and goodness of God that leads us to true repentance (Romans 2:4).

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 17

principles of judgment

Principles of Judgment

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria. (2 Kings 17:5-6)

It took a three-year siege, but eventually the king of Assyria conquered Israel, the kingdom made up of the ten northern tribes. We read, the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. This was a long, dedicated campaign to finally crush the rebellious kingdom of Israel, who had defied the power of the Assyrian Empire. Though it took a three-year siege, it was worth it to the Assyrians.

principles of judgment

The walls surrounding Samaria were good – good enough to keep the enemy out for three years. But the strength of the walls could not stand against the judgment of God, and the Assyrian army was in fact an instrument of God’s judgment against Israel. This shows us that when God brings His judgment, He may use human instruments to do it.

When the capital city of Samaria fell, they then carried Israel away to Assyria. This is what the Assyrians did regarding many of the nations they conquered. They deported all but the very lowest classes back to the key cities of their empire, either to train and utilize the talented or to enslave the able.

So, 200 years and 19 kings after the time of Solomon (the last king over a united Israel), the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell. It was not because the God of Israel was unable to help them, but because they had so forsaken God and ignored His guidance and correction that He finally stopped actively protecting them and let them rot and degrade according to their desire.

As they carried Israel away to Assyria, they followed their typical custom.  When the Assyrians depopulated and exiled a conquered community, they led the captives away on journeys of hundreds of miles, with the captives naked and attached together with a system of strings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lips. God made sure they were led in this humiliating manner through the broken walls of their conquered cities (Amos 4:2-3). This shows another principle of God’s judgment: When it comes, it may be humiliating and degrading.

This should give us a sober fear of the judgment of God. Israel had enjoyed a heritage of rich blessing in the past, but that in itself would not protect them from God’s judgment if they continued to mock God and rebel against Him.

More so, it should make us grateful for the work of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross as our substitute, He took the judgment we deserved. God did it through human instruments, and Jesus was (humanly speaking) humiliated on the cross. Jesus bore all that so that those who put their trust in Him would never face God’s judgment.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 17

Worst Kings

One of the Worst Kings

Also he removed the Sabbath pavilion which they had built in the temple, and he removed the king’s outer entrance from the house of the LORD, on account of the king of Assyria. Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? (2 Kings 16:18-19)

Ahaz was one of the worst to reign over Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah. He brought in corrupt pagan innovations to the temple of God. Ahaz took away many of the good things that stood before. The record of 2 Kings 16 tells us some of the story, but not all of it – the rest of the acts of Ahaz are found in 2 Chronicles and a few other places.

Worst Kings

Ahaz did what he could to discourage the worship of the true God at the temple of God. For a time, he even shut down the operation of the temple and established small pagan altars all around Judah (2 Chronicles 28:24-25).

I think that in many ways, Ahaz is a warning to our generation. He could be considered a church leader from the 21st century on several points.

– Ahaz was a man with an artistic sense of style.
– Ahaz was impressed with technology and brought the Babylonian innovation of the sundial to Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:11).
– Ahaz loved innovation and new things, and brought those innovations into worship.
– At the same time, Ahaz seemed to be a nice man. He did not have the persecuting spirit of his grandson Manasseh (2 Kings 21:16).
– Yet, Ahaz had the advantage of great prophets and messengers (such as Isaiah and Micah).
– Ahaz had the blessing of a great deliverance when God spared Jerusalem and Judah from conquest.
– Ahaz also had the influence of a godly father and a godly heritage from the line of David.

Ahaz had man advantages yet was a terrible leader for the people of God. The key to understanding Ahaz is to note that he had no relationship with God. Ahaz destroyed the link that his father Jotham made between the palace and the temple, and this was an illustration of his destroyed relationship with God. With his love of the latest trends and fashion he was the opposite of Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Ahaz had a vague spiritual interest, and that was not enough.

In the end, Ahaz put his trust in himself and in man – instead of the living God who reigns from heaven. Therefore, his reign was a disaster, one of the worst among the kings of Judah.

How can you avoid the same disaster? Don’t put your trust in yourself, in your gifts, in your strengths, in the latest style, or even in good people who want to help you. At the foundation, put your trust in God. Jesus is worthy of our trust.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 16

eternity bethlehem here

From Eternity to Bethlehem to Here

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

Bethlehem was well known as the hometown of David, Israel’s greatest king; yet it was never a great or influential city. It was truly little among the thousands of Israel. Yet God chose it as the birthplace of the Messiah, the Ruler in Israel. This passage pinpoints the birthplace of the Messiah hundreds of years before He was born.

eternity bethlehem here

The Messiah was going to Bethlehem, but He was coming from eternity: Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. This glorious promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and Micah’s prophetic voice declared that though Jesus came from Bethlehem, He did not begin there. His goings forth were from eternity past.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22:13). This means from the very beginning, Jesus was there. There was never a time when the Jesus did not exist. Before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He existed as the Second Person of the Trinity (John 17:5, 17:24). The eternal Son existed before He revealed Himself as “Jesus.”

Knowing that Jesus’ goings forth are from of old, from everlasting shows us some important things:

It shows us the glory of Jesus, that He is far more than a man. Many people are willing to count Jesus as a great man, or even as the greatest man. This is not enough. Knowing what Jesus claimed to be – eternal God in human form. Jesus is the is Lord of all creation – the one from eternity.

It shows us the love of Jesus, that He would leave the glory of heaven for us. It’s hard to move from a great place to a lesser place, and no place is greater than heaven. Yet He left the ivory palaces of heaven, giving leave to heaven out of love for us.

It shows us the nature of Jesus, that He would add humanity to His deity. It’s wrong to think that Jesus was half man and half God, or that He was God on the inside but man on the outside. The incarnation was addition, not subtraction.

It shows us the sympathy of Jesus, that He remains fully man and fully God. 1 Timothy 2:5 reminds us that Jesus is still truly man and truly God. He didn’t give up His humanity when He ascended to heaven. This means that the Savior born in Bethlehem – just as Micah prophesied – has an enduring sympathy with us.

This blessed place of Bethlehem – little among thousands – was specially chosen to bring forth the greatest gift of all: God becoming man. God can use a little place and little people to bring forth great gifts. Receive His gift thankfully.

Click here for David’s commentary on Micah 5

child born son given

The Child and the Son

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

In the computer age, it’s pretty easy to give our words emphasis when we write. You just use a bigger, bolder, or different color font. Ancient writers didn’t have these tools, but they did have emphasis. In the Old Testament, one of the most common ways to make a point was to repeat it, usually using slightly different words.

child born son given

When Isaiah wrote, unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, he used this tool of repetition to emphasize the point. Yet we recognize the hand of the Holy Spirit in the specific wording.

It starts out, unto us a Child is born. This tells us that the victory-bringing Messiah would be a man. Theoretically, the Messiah could have been an angel, or even God without humanity. But only a true man could be our Savior and High Priest as Jesus is. The Child had to be born. What amazing mystery! There is nothing weaker, more helpless, more dependent than a Child.

Isaiah continued: unto us a Son is given. This would be more than a man. He is also the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead. The Messiah wasn’t just a sinless angel or a perfect man like Adam. We needed a perfect, infinite Being to offer a perfect, infinite atonement for our sins. We needed Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14).

Thinking a little deeper, we see that the Child could be born, because the humanity of Jesus had a starting point. There was a time when humanity had not yet been added to His deity. The Son had to be given, because the Second Person of the Trinity is eternal, and He has existed forever as the God the Son – even before He added humanity to His deity.

While Isaiah may have intended the repetition merely for the sake of emphasis, we see that the Holy Spirit beautifully guided every word! Jesus, the Messiah, is fully God and fully man. There was a time when the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, added humanity to His deity. He never became less God, but He added a human nature to His divine nature, and so He became one person with two distinct natures, functioning together in perfect harmony.

If Jesus were not fully man, He could not stand in the place of sinful man and be a substitute for the punishment humanity deserves. If He were not fully God, His sacrifice wouldn’t be perfect and therefore wouldn’t be enough to satisfy God’s perfect standard. If Jesus is not fully God and fully man, we remain lost in our sin. We can say, “Thank you Lord, for the Child born and the Son given.”

Click here for David’s commentary on Isaiah 9