Loving or Hating God's Word

Loving or Hating God’s Word

And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done. (2 Kings 23:37)

Josiah was a ruler over Judah, the kingdom of the two southern tribes of the children of Israel. The cruel Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, but the southern kingdom of Judah lasted more than 100 years after the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel.

Josiah’s reign was a bright light in a dark season. There were bad kings before and after him, but Josiah was different. He loved the LORD, loving and honoring God’s word. The spiritual revival that came in Josiah’s day started when they came back to the Word of God. In the best sense, it was a “back to the Bible” movement.

Loving or Hating God's Word

Eventually, Josiah died in battle against Egypt. Before Josiah’s time, many leaders in Judah thought Egypt would protect them from the rising power of the Babylonian Empire. Prophets like Jeremiah warned Judah not to trust Egypt, and Josiah resisted them – but he died in the fight against Egypt.

After Josiah’s death, the next kings of Judah were terrible. The people pushed and demanded until Josiah’s third oldest son named Jehoahaz was crowned king of Judah. Jehoahaz was a disaster; he was the people’s choice, not God’s man. He reigned for only three months. 2 Kings 23:32 says that “he did evil in the sight of the LORD.” The people’s choice had his reign cut short when the Pharaoh of Egypt removed Jehoahaz from Jerusalem and put him in prison.

Pharaoh then took another son of Josiah – Jehoiakim, one of the imprisoned Jehoahaz’s older brothers – and made him the puppet king of Judah. Pharaoh also forced massive taxes on the kingdom of Judah. Even as they were forced to pay these taxes to Egypt, Jehoiakim selfishly built himself a new palace, and he did it with slave labor.

What 2 Kings 23:37 said about Jehoiakim was true – He did evil in the sight of the LORD. Jehoiakim, like his brother Jehoahaz, did not follow the godly example of his father Josiah.

Jeremiah 36:22-24 describes the great ungodliness of Jehoiakim – how he even burned a scroll of God’s word. You see, the Prophet Jeremiah told King Jehoiakim that God would send the Babylonians to conquer Judah and Jerusalem, and do it to discipline and humble their proud, disobedient rulers and people.

Jehoiakim didn’t like what God said, so he burned the scroll where the word was written. He wasn’t the first one to hate God’s word and try to destroy it – but he didn’t succeed. The Bible tells us that the Word of God lasts forever. No king or mob can destroy it. Instead, those who resist God and His word are ultimately destroyed in their rebellion.

Josiah honored God’s word; his son Jehoiakim literally burned it. We always want to be on the side of those who love God’s word, not those who hate it.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 23

Comfort Greater than Death

Comfort Greater than Death

Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the LORD…. Surely, therefore, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place. (2 Kings 22:19, 20)

The young king Josiah led a significant revival in the latter days of Kingdom of Judah. He had the zeal to repair and restore the temple, and as they did that work they discovered the forgotten book of the law – God’s word through Moses and other early books of the Old Testament.

When Josiah heard the message of those books he was immediately convicted of sin. It was plain how far they had gone from God’s path, and he tore his clothes and mourned as if someone dear to him had died. To his credit, Josiah didn’t stop at a feeling of sorrow, but went on to see what God’s word would say to him. They sought the prophetess Huldah, and she told him judgment was indeed coming on Judah for all their great sins against God and the covenant Israel made with Him.

Comfort Greater than Death

That was bad news; yet there was good news in the midst of it. God made some comforting promises to Josiah, because his heart was tender. Josiah’s heart was tender in two ways. First, it was tender to the word of God and was able to receive the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit. Second, it was tender to the message of judgment from Huldah described in the previous verses.

Here was God’s comfort to Josiah: you shall be gathered to your grave in peace. It is true that Josiah later died in battle (2 Kings 23:28-30), there are at least three ways that this was true.

– Josiah died before the greater spiritual disaster and exile came to Judah.
– Josiah was gathered to the spirits of his fathers, who were in peace.
– Josiah died in God’s favor, even though it was by the hand of an enemy.

God’s comfort was added to Josiah when He said, your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place. This was God’s mercy to Josiah. His own godliness and tender heart could not stop the eventual judgment of God, but it could delay it. Inevitable judgment is sometimes delayed because of the tender hearts of the people of God.

I suppose someone could say, “What comfort was all this? Josiah died anyway, and judgment still came upon the Kingdom of Judah.” That objection forgets that it is our common destiny to die – no one can escape that. Yet, God may show mercy and kindness in both the timing and circumstances of our passing.

Josiah shows us that our humble repentance is never for nothing. God always finds a way to draw near to those who draw near to Him, and to bless those who seek Him.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 22

Huldah the Prophetess

Huldah the Prophetess

So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess…. And they spoke with her. Then she said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants— all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read.’” (2 Kings 22:14-16)

In the days of King Josiah, they found the long-neglected book of the law – the Scriptures, the books of Moses and maybe a few more – in the temple. When they read the book they were deeply convicted of sin, and made confession and repented. But what to do next? The spiritual leaders of Judah needed spiritual guidance.

Huldah the Prophetess

It is fascinating to see that they went to Huldah the prophetess. We know little of this woman other than this mention here (and the similar account recorded in 2 Chronicles 34:22). With the apparent approval of King Josiah, Hilkiah the priest consulted this woman for spiritual guidance.

However, he didn’t go to Huldah for her own wisdom and spirituality, but that she was recognized as a prophetess, and she could reveal the heart and mind of God. She knew the word of God and could declare it.

At that time, there were certainly other prophets in Judah. From Jeremiah 22:15-16 we know that Jeremiah was alive at this time (Jeremiah 22:15-16) – but they didn’t go to him. The prophet Zephaniah was also present (Zephaniah 1:1), but they didn’t knock at his door. For some reason – perhaps spiritual, perhaps practical – they chose to consult Huldah the prophetess.

Her message, at least at the beginning, wasn’t positive. She assured the spiritual leaders of Judah that judgment would surely come. Speaking as a prophetess of God, she gave them this message from God: I will bring calamity on this place and on its inhabitants.

King Josiah and the priests knew that Judah deserved judgment, and that judgment would indeed come. Judah and its leaders had walked against the LORD for too long and would not genuinely repent so as to avoid eventual judgment.

The way God used Huldah to deliver this message reminds us that from time to time, God will use an unusual messenger. There were other faithful, more established prophets God could have spoken through at this point (such as Jeremiah and Zephaniah). Yet God used a simple, otherwise unknown woman, who was filled with His Holy Spirit.

We may never know all the reasons God used Huldah, but I know one big reason. Huldah is a great example to us because she was familiar with all the words of the book. If you want to be God’s messenger, the first thing to do is to put your focus on all the words of the book. It is in the book that God most perfectly reveals Himself to us and we come into real relationship with Him.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 22

Conviction of Sin

The Conviction of Sin

Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. (2 Kings 22:11)

Young King Josiah came to throne when the leaders and people of Judah were spiritually compromised and corrupt. As he took an interest in God’s temple, they found the Book of the Law – what we would call many of the books of the Old Testament – in the temple.

When they read God’s word to the king, it did a spiritual work in King Josiah. It was not merely the transmission of information; the hearing of God’s word impacted Josiah with spiritual power.

Conviction of Sin

When Josiah heard it, he tore his clothes. This was a traditional expression of horror and astonishment. In the strongest possible way, Josiah showed his grief on his own account and on account of the nation. This was an expression of deep conviction of sin, and a good thing.

Revival and spiritual awakening are marked by such expressions of the conviction of sin. Dr. J. Edwin Orr, in The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain, recounted some examples from the great movement that impacted Britain and the world in 1859-1861.

In the town of Coleraine, Northern Ireland, a schoolboy was under so much conviction of sin that he couldn’t continue on in class. From the ministry of another boy in the class, he found peace and returned to the classroom immediately to tell the teacher: “I am so happy: I have the Lord Jesus in my heart!” His testimony had a striking effect on the class, the teacher peeked out the window and saw boys kneeling in prayer all around the schoolyard. The teacher was so convicted that he asked the first converted boy to minister to him. Finally, the whole school was in such a state that pastors came and ministered to the students, teachers, and parents, and people received ministry at the school until 11:00 that night.

A high-ranking army officer described the conviction of sin in his Scottish town: “Those of you who are at ease have little idea of how terrifying a sight it is when the Holy Spirit is pleased to open a man’s eyes to see the real state of his heart… Men who were thought to be, and who thought themselves to be good, religious people… have been led to search into the foundation upon which they were resting, and have found all rotten, that they were self-satisfied, resting on their own goodness, and not upon Christ. Many turned from open sin to lives of holiness, some weeping for joy for sins forgiven.”

This conviction of sin is the special work of the Holy Spirit, even as Jesus said in John 16:8: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin.”

The conviction of sin never feels good, but it leads to something good: forgiveness of sin and getting the life right with Jesus Christ. Don’t despise the conviction of sin.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 22

God's Word

The Power of God’s Word

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it…. Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. (2 Kings 22:8, 10)

2 Kings 22 starts the story of Josiah, one of better kings of Judah. In his time there was a wonderful repentance and revival in Jerusalem and all of Judah. These verses show us that it started when they found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.

God's Word

It’s sad to think that they ever lost God’s word – that it has to be found. According to Deuteronomy 31:24-27, there was to be a copy of this Book of the Law beside the ark of the covenant, beginning in the days of Moses. The word of God was with Israel, but it was greatly neglected in those days.

It was so neglected that 2 Kings 22:8 has to tell us, he read it: It seems remarkable that this was even worthy of mention – that the high priest found the word of God and a scribe read it. That was news worth writing about!

Better yet, Shaphan read it before the king. We see that the word of God spread. It had been forgotten and regarded as nothing more than an old, dusty book. Now it was found, read, and spread. We should expect some measure of spiritual revival and renewal to follow.

Through the history of God’s people, whenever the word of God is recovered and spread, spiritual revival follows. It can begin as simply as it did in the days of Josiah, with one man finding and reading and believing and spreading the Book.

Another example of this in history is seen in the story of Peter Waldo and his followers, sometimes known as Waldenses. Waldo was a rich merchant living in the 12th century who gave up his business to radically follow Jesus. He hired two priests to translate the New Testament into the common language and using this, he began to teach others. He taught in the streets or wherever he could find someone to listen.

Many common people came to hear him and started to radically follow Jesus Christ. He taught them the text of the New Testament in the common language and was rebuked by church officials for doing so. He ignored the rebuke and continued to teach, eventually sending his followers out two by two into villages and marketplaces, to teach and explain the scriptures.

The scriptures were memorized by the Waldenses, and it was not unusual for their ministers to memorize the entire New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament. The word of God – when found, read, believed, and spread – has this kind of transforming power. Read it and believe it today!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 22

 

surprising repentance

A Surprising Repentance

Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh— all that he did, and the sin that he committed— are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Manasseh rested with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza. Then his son Amon reigned in his place. (2 Kings 21:17-18)

Clearly, Manasseh was one of the worst rulers over the kingdom of Judah. In the verses in front of us, it mentions all that he did, and the sin that he committed. These great sins were the terrible legacy of Manasseh, who was the son of one of the better kings of Judah (Hezekiah).

surprising repentance

Yet, there is an interesting clue to the rest of Manasseh’s story in the words, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 2 Chronicles 33:11-19 describes a remarkable repentance on the part of this sinful king.

Because Manasseh and the people of Judah would not listen to the warnings of God, the LORD allowed the Babylonians to bind the king and take him as a captive to Babylon. That is where the story takes an unexpected turn.

In Babylon, when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers (2 Chronicles 33:12) and God answered his prayer and restored him to the throne. In a way he had never before known, Manasseh came to know the Lord.

Manasseh went on to prove that his repentance was genuine by taking away the idols and the foreign gods from Jerusalem, and he commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel (2 Chronicles 33:16).

This is a wonderful example of the principle, train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). Manasseh was raised by a godly father, yet he lived in defiance of his father’s faith for most of his life. Nevertheless, at the end of his days he truly repented and served God. In this way, we can say that it was very true that Manasseh rested with his fathers.

Yet, his repentance was too late to change the nation. It seems that the people were hardened in their ways, and as a whole they did not follow Manasseh’s example of repentance. As far the effect on the people was concerned, the evil Manasseh did had more of an impact than his late-in-life repentance.

What was worse, Manasseh’s repentance was too late to change the destiny of the kingdom. Years later, when Jerusalem finally fell to the Babylonians, 2 Kings 24:34 puts the blame on Manasseh and his sins.

It’s wonderful when people are moved to repentance late in life. Yet, the longer we live in disobedience, the more consequences for sin we are likely to face. It’s another reason to repent sooner rather than later.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 21

 

Progression of Persecution

The Progression of Persecution

Special Note: During this season of the Coronavirus, I’m doing a special daily devotional on YouTube. Click here for today’s video devotional.

Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD. (2 Kings 21:16)

Manasseh was one of the worst kings in the Bible, and his evil reign made judgment upon God’s people certain. Here in 2 Kings 21:16 we read of one of his worst sins – he persecuted the godly people of Judah.

Progression of Persecution

The description, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood puts Manasseh in the same spiritual family as Ahab, king of Israel. Under both of these kings the people of God were persecuted by the false religion of state-sponsored idolatry. The extent of it was so great that it could be metaphorically said, he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another with the blood of his victims.

We see the tragic progression in Manasseh’s sin.

First, idolatry is tolerated among God’s people. 2 Kings 21 tells us the people of God didn’t care about Manasseh’s wickedness and they were seduced by him.

Then idolatry is promoted. Manasseh did that by allowing forbidden altars and places of worship to the idol gods of the neighboring people.

Then idolatry is supported and funded. Manasseh paid for those forbidden altars and even honored pagan gods at the Lord’s temple.

Then the worship of the true God is undermined. When the leaders of a culture reject and replace the worship of the true God, most people follow their example. Faithfulness to the Lord becomes unpopular.

Then the worshippers of the true God are persecuted and murdered. Their godliness and faithfulness are offensive to those who have rejected God. Many in the culture find even the presence of godly people to be unbearable.

Finally, the judgment of God soon comes. God answers from heaven, zealously guarding His glory and avenging the blood of His martyred people. All the evil Manasseh did, he did it in the sight of the LORD. God saw it all and He would not forget.

It’s true – Manasseh did much evil in the sight of the LORD. By tradition, one of the evils done by Manasseh was the murder of Isaiah the prophet. Many people think that Hebrews 11:37 (they were sawn in two) is a reference to the martyrdom of Isaiah.

Reading how bad it was in the days of Manasseh makes us think of our persecuted brothers and sisters all around the world who face terrible persecution. It seems that there is not a week that goes by without reading about believers being murdered just because they were Christians. In the western world, we are grateful that we don’t face the same – but we recognize that it could come.

Today, remember to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters all around the world. Remember that whatever evil is done to the people of God is done in the sight of the LORD – it doesn’t escape His view.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 21

 

salt and light

They Paid No Attention

Special Note: During this season of the Coronavirus, I’m doing a special daily devotional on YouTube. Click here for today’s video devotional.

So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?” Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah— all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city— are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place. (2 Kings 20:19-21)

Through the prophet Isaiah, God warned King Hezekiah that judgment was coming upon his descendants. Hezekiah had a strange reaction, saying the word of the LORD which you have spoken is good. This was a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announced coming judgment, and all he could respond with was relief that it would not happen in his lifetime.

salt and light

Manasseh also raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image (2 Kings 21:3). Instead of imitating his godly father, Manasseh imitated one of the very worst kings of Israel: Ahab. He set up the same kind of state-sponsored idolatry.

Even worse, Manasseh worshiped all the host of heaven and served them (2 Kings 21:5). He brought in new forms of idolatry. He also corrupted the true worship of God at the temple when he built altars in the house of the LORD (2 Kings 21:5). It is horrible to even think of it, but Manasseh also sacrificed his own son to the Canaanite god Molech, who was worshipped with the burning of children (2 Kings 21:6).

Manasseh directly invited Satanic influence when he also practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums (2 Kings 21:6). Manasseh made the temple into an idolatrous brothel, dedicated to the goddess Asherah (2 Kings 21:7).

When all these terrible things happened, where were the people of God? 2 Kings 21:9 tells the terrible truth: they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil. This described the basic attitude of the people of Judah during the 55-year reign of Manasseh. They paid no attention to the generous promises of God, promising protection to His obedient people. In addition, they were willingly seduced by Manasseh’s wickedness and were attracted to do more evil.

Manasseh was indeed a wicked king, but perhaps the greater sin was on the part of the people who accepted this seduction willingly. 2 Chronicles 33:10 says, And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. God spoke to both the people and the leader, but they rejected His word.

The culture changed from something generally God-honoring to something that glorified idolatry and immorality. In general, we can say this happened because the people wanted it to happen. They didn’t care about the direction of their culture.

May God help you to be salt and light wherever He has placed you. With the love and grace of Jesus Christ, we need to preserve like salt does, and shine like light does. Let it never be said of us, “they paid no attention.”

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 21

Hezekiah's Tunnel

A Sad End to a Good Life

Special Note: During this season of the Coronavirus, I’m doing a special daily devotional on YouTube. Click here for today’s video devotional.

So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?” Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah— all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city— are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place. (2 Kings 20:19-21)

Through the prophet Isaiah, God warned King Hezekiah that judgment was coming upon his descendants. Hezekiah had a strange reaction, saying the word of the LORD which you have spoken is good. This was a sad state of heart in the king of Judah. God announced coming judgment, and all he could respond with was relief that it would not happen in his lifetime.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

In this, Hezekiah showed himself to be almost the exact opposite of an “others-centered” person. He was almost totally self-centered. All he cared about was his own personal comfort and success. Hezekiah didn’t care if His sins helped to bring judgment upon his descendants, just so long as it spared him.

Yet, these verses also tell us of something good Hezekiah did. He made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city of Jerusalem. This was an amazing engineering feat. Hezekiah directed the building of an aqueduct to bring fresh water inside the city walls even when an army surrounded the city. It was more than 650 yards long (643 meters) through solid rock, begun on each end and meeting in the middle. It can still be seen today, and it empties into the pool of Siloam. If you have never walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel, it’s a lot of fun – just remember you’ll walk through the water that still flows in the tunnel and it’s really dark.

At the end of it all, Hezekiah rested with his fathers. There is no doubt that Hezekiah started out as a godly king, and overall his reign was one of outstanding godliness (2 Kings 18:3-7). Yet his beginning was much better than his end; Hezekiah did not finish well. God gave Hezekiah the gift of 15 more years of life, but the added years did not make him a better or a godlier man.

Time or age doesn’t necessarily make us any better. Consider that time does nothing but pass by, hour by hour and day by day.

We sometimes say, “Time will tell,” “Time will heal,” or “Time will bring out the potential in me.” But time won’t do any of these things. Time will only come and go. It is only how we use time that matters. Hezekiah didn’t make good use of the extra time the Lord gave him. God helping us, in Jesus we can make better choices, and finish strong in our latter years.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 20

trap of success

The Trap of Success

Special Note: During this season of the Coronavirus, I’m doing a special daily devotional on YouTube. Click here for today’s video devotional.

At that time Berodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures— the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory— all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them. (2 Kings 20:12-13)

God was so good to King Hezekiah that he gave him 15 years more of life. But it was up to Hezekiah if those years would be lived out in wisdom, and to the glory of God. This was a challenge that Hezekiah did not meet very well.

trap of success

After his recovery, the king of Babylon sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. Apparently, this was a gesture of kindness from the king of Babylon, showing concern to Hezekiah as fellow royalty.

Hezekiah was pleased with these gifts. We can imagine that this was flattering for King Hezekiah. After all, Judah was a lowly nation with little power, and Babylon was a junior superpower. To receive attention and recognition from the king of Babylon must have really made Hezekiah feel he was important.

So, Hezekiah showed them the house of his treasures. Hezekiah probably wanted to please these envoys from Babylon and wanted to show them that they should be impressed. So, he did everything he could to impress them, and showed them the very best riches of the royal household – and he showed them everything (There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them).

As the coming rebuke from Isaiah will demonstrate, this was nothing but proud foolishness on Hezekiah’s part. He was in the dangerous place of wanting to please and impress men, especially ungodly men.

Hezekiah faced – and failed under – a temptation common to many, especially those in ministry: the temptation of success. Many men who stand strong against the temptations of failure and weakness fail under the temptations of success and strength.

We might say success led Hezekiah to sin in at least five ways:

Pride, in that he was proud of the honors the Babylonians brought.
Ingratitude, in that he took honor to himself that really belonged to God.
– Abusing the gifts given to him, where he took the gifts and favors to his own honor and gratification of his lusts (2 Chronicles 32:25-26).
Carnal confidence, in that he trusted in the coalition he had made with the king of Babylon.
Missing opportunity, in that he had a great opportunity to testify to the Babylonian envoys about the greatness of God and the LORD’s blessing on Judah. Instead, he glorified himself.

As God gives you success, be grateful – but also be careful. Watch out for the trap of success.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 20