Promises to the Servant

Promises Made and Received

Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem to make war; and they besieged Ahaz but could not overcome him. (2 Kings 16:5)

At the time of 2 Kings 16, the 12 tribes of Israel were divided into two kingdoms for more than 200 years. They always seemed to compete with each other, and sometimes they made war. Here, we see the ten northern tribes led by Pekah, the king of Israel, attacking the two southern tribes of the kingdom of Judah, led by Ahaz.

Promises to the Servant

The king of Israel was afraid of the rising Assyrian Empire, and hoped that attacking Judah would make them stronger against Assyria. In Isaiah 7:6 we learn that the real goal of this attack was to remove Ahaz and to set up another king over Judah.

We know from 2 Chronicles 28:5-8 that on the whole, Judah suffered terrible losses from this attack. King Ahaz lost 120,000 Judean soldiers and 200,000 civilian hostages in these battles with Israel and Syria. It was a dark time for Judah, and it looked as if the dynasty of David would soon be extinguished, as happened so many times with the ruling dynasties of Israel.

Yet, they did not defeat Judah. They besieged Ahaz but could not overcome him. The armies of Syria and Israel were strong enough to capture many cities of Judah, but not strong enough to defeat Jerusalem and overthrow the government of Ahaz.

Do you remember the remarkable Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 7? There, God promised: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. That prophecy of Isaiah 7 – including the announcement of the Immanuel sign – came from Isaiah to King Ahaz during this invasion from Israel and Syria. Despite this promise, Ahaz refused to trust in the LORD and instead put his trust in the king of Assyria. Yet for the sake of David, God did not allow this disastrous attack on Judah to prevail. He would not allow this Satanic plot against the Messianic dynasty of David to succeed.

These great promises really didn’t bring King Ahaz much peace, because he didn’t believe them. The promises of God do us little good if we don’t believe them. Even when God is faithful to the promises and rescues us (like He did Ahaz and Judah), we don’t enjoy the peace and comfort we could have if we only believed.

What promise of God do you need to believe today? God promises peace to those who give their attention to Him (Isaiah 26:3). God promises release from anxiety in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). God promises abundant life in Jesus Christ (John 10:10). God promises forgiveness when we confess and repent of our sins (1 John 1:9).

There are many, many more precious promises of God – but they only do us real benefit as we believe them and receive them.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 16

Choosing Bad Examples

Choosing Bad Examples

But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree. (2 Kings 16:2-3)

2 Kings 16 begins by telling us about the reign of Ahaz, who was the son of a good king (Jotham) and the grandson of a better king (Uzziah). Yet, for some reason, Ahaz refused to walk in the example of his father and grandfather. Instead, he walked in the way of the kings of Israel.

Choosing Bad Examples

Ahaz had plenty of good examples, but he embraced the ungodly ways of the northern tribes. The southern tribes of the Kingdom of Judah had a mixture of godly and ungodly kings; the Kingdom of Israel had onlyungodly kings, and Ahaz followed their pattern. This is the first time we see Judah imitating Israel’s apostasy.

It was so bad that King Ahaz made his son pass through the fire. This describes Ahaz’s participation in the worship of Molech, a pagan god. Molech was honored by heating a metal statue representing the god until it was red hot. They then placed a living infant on the outstretched hands of the statue, while beating drums drowned out the screams of the child until it burned to death.

I know that is a terrible thing to read, and I almost sorry to write it. But it’s important to know how evil Ahaz was, and how sad it was that he rejected the good examples of his father and grandfather and embraced the evil of the norther kingdom.

Long before, God pronounced the death sentence against all who worshipped Molech, saying: I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name (Leviticus 20:3).

One of the great crimes of the northern tribes of Israel was their worship of Molech, and it led to the Assyrian conquest (2 Kings 17:17). King Manasseh of Judah gave his son to Molech (2 Kings 21:6). Up to the days of King Josiah of Judah, Molech worship continued, because he destroyed a place of worship to that idol (2 Kings 23:10).

In imitating the ways of the northern tribes, Ahaz really imitated the ways of the Canaanites. All this was according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel. The Canaanite nations that occupied Canaan before the time of Joshua also practiced this terrible form of human and child sacrifice. God would judge Judah for their continued practice of these sins.

It all began with a man following a bad example. What examples will you choose to follow? Ask God for the wisdom and strength to follow the best examples.

 

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 16

House of God

Safety in Fellowship with God

In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign…. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. However the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. He built the Upper Gate of the house of the LORD. (2 Kings 15:32, 34-35)

After the reign of Uzziah, his son Jotham because king. In general, he was a good king – he did what was right in the sight of the LORD. In a time when there was chaos and wickedness in the northern kingdom, there were some good and godly kings in Judah. His father Uzziah set a good example for Jotham, and He did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. A godly father, even if flawed, can have a tremendous positive impact upon his sons.

House of God

One thing that Jotham did catches our attention: he built the Upper Gate of the house of the LORD. This was always a positive sign in Judah. When kings and leaders were concerned about the house of the LORD, it reflected some measure of spiritual revival.

In particular, it seems that Jotham rebuilt the link between the temple and the palace. Most likely, this was access between the royal palace and the temple. Jotham wanted there to be a strong link between the royal house and the house of God. We can say that this was one of the keys to his prosperity and success.

Jotham’s father Uzziah misunderstood the link between the royal house and the house God when he demanded priestly authority (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). Many kings before Jotham wanted no link between the royal house and the house of God. Jotham understood that he was a king and not a priest, yet he wanted a good, open link between the palace and the temple.

2 Chronicles 27:6 says, So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God. The building of this link between the palace and the temple was one of the chief ways that he prepared his way before the LORD. That access between the palace and the house of God – a link without control – provided better security for Judah than a mighty wall around Jerusalem. In a time when the northern kingdom of Israel was attacked by the Assyrians, during the reign of Jotham Judah was safe.

The safest place we can be is in obedient communion with God. That was the key to Jotham’s success. How is your access to the house of God? Has it broken down? Are you missing true Christian fellowship? Ask God for the wisdom and opportunity to build your own “Upper Gate” to the house of the LORD, the community of God’s people.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 15

uzziah in the temple

The Sad End of a Good King

Then the LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death; so he dwelt in an isolated house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the royal house, judging the people of the land. (2 Kings 15:5)

King Azariah (also known as Uzziah) was one of the better kings of Judah. In many ways he honored God and he had a lot of success and power. Yet even good kings have their problems, and Uzziah didn’t end well. He died a leper and a disgrace – because he could not handle his success and power.

uzziah in the temple

2 Kings 15 tells us it happened, but we learn a lot more about the tragedy of Uzziah’s end from 2 Chronicles 26. There, we read this about King Uzziah who was marvelously helped till he became strong (2 Chronicles 26:15). 2 Chronicles tells us about Uzziah’s pride, seen when he was strong and successful: but when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense (2 Chronicles 26:16). The priests tried to stop him, but the king insisted on forcing his way into the temple to offer incense.

Uzziah (Azariah) violated what had become a general principle in God’s dealing with Israel: that no king should also be a priest. It was God’s plan that the offices of prophet, priest, and king should not be combined in one man – until the Messiah, who fulfilled all three offices.

In his last days, he dwelt in an isolated house. Uzziah came into the temple as an arrogant king, but he left as a humbled leper. Indeed, he hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him (2 Chronicles 26:20). The actual penalty for violating the sacred place of the temple was death (Numbers 18:7). Instead, God struck Uzziah with leprosy, a disease that has been described as a living death.

Even with his tragic end, God used Uzziah even in his death, when he rested with his fathers. His passing contributed to the call of the prophet Isaiah: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD sitting on a throne (Isaiah 6:1).

Therefore, when Isaiah wrote that he was called in the year King Uzziah died, he said a lot. It was to say, “In the year a great and wise king died.” But it was also to say, “In the year a great and wise king who had a tragic end died.”

The prophet Isaiah had great reason to be discouraged and disillusioned at the death of King Uzziah, because a great king had passed away, and because his life ended tragically. Yet despite it all, he saw the enthroned LORD God who was greater than any earthly king.

Can you see God, enthroned and greater than all your disappointments?

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 15

except the high places

Except the High Places

And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done, except that the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 King 15:3-4)

These words concern a king over Judah named Azariah (2 Kings 15:1-2). He was also called Uzziah in 2 Kings 15:13 and many other places in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and the writings of the prophet Isaiah. Azariah (Uzziah) was a good king – he did what was right in the sight of the LORD. The blessing of the LORD was on this king, and he was rewarded with a long reign of 52 years.

except the high places

Azariah came to the throne in a difficult time. When his father Amaziah died, Jerusalem was in chaos. A significant section of the city’s wall was destroyed. The palace was emptied of many of its treasures, and some people of Judah had been seized by enemies as hostages.

Considering all that, it’s amazing to see what a good king Azariah was, and how much he accomplished. 2 Chronicles 26 tells us more about the successful reign of Uzziah (Azariah):

– He began his reign when he was only 16 years old (2 Chronicles 26:3).
– He reigned during the ministry of Zechariah the prophet (2 Chronicles 26:5).
– He defeated the Philistines and took many of their cities, and also kept the Ammonites in tribute to Judah (2 Chronicles 26:6-8).
– He was internationally famous as a strong king (2 Chronicles 26:8).
– He was an ambitious builder and skilled in agriculture (2 Chronicles 26:9-10).
– He built up and organized the army, introducing several new items of military technology (2 Chronicles 26:11-15).

It’s easy to look at the reign of Azariah and think he was one of the best kings of Judah, because he did so much good. However, the Bible goes on to say that the reign of Azariah didn’t end well. The seeds for that bad end were sowed much earlier in his life. We see it in 2 Kings 15:4: except that the high places were not removed. Notice that word: except.

As with Jehoash (2 Kings 12:3) and Amaziah (2 Kings 14:4), the reforms of Azariah did not reach far enough. Each of these kings stopped short of removing the high places, these traditional places of sacrifice to the LORD. We could say that these idolatrous high places were King Azariah’s except – what’s yours?

Many of us have an except in our life. God has done much in our life, and we walk in a generally faithful way. None of us is perfect, and every day we stand before God not in our own faithfulness, but in what Jesus did for us on the cross. Yet, there is something wrong when we know in our heart that we hide an except that God wants to deal with.

Confess your “except” to God, receive His forgiveness for Jesus’ sake, and leave it at the cross.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 15

surprising blessing

Surprising Mercy

He restored the territory of Israel from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet who was from Gath Hepher. For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. And the LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. (2 Kings 14:25-27)

These verses tell us about the reign of Jeroboam, king of Israel. 2 Kings 14:24 tells us that “he did evil in the sight of the LORD.” Yet, we can see three surprising things through what God did in the days of Jeroboam.

surprising blessing

First, we see a surprising prophet: According to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which He had spoken through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet. This is almost certainly the same Jonah who was famous for his missionary trip to Nineveh. Apparently, he also had a ministry among his own people, not only in Nineveh as recorded in the book of Jonah. It’s good to remember that God did much more through these ancient prophets than we commonly think.

Second, we see the faithfulness of God: the LORD did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel. Even though Israel had been unfaithful to God many times, He would not stop being faithful to them. He worked through even an ungodly man like Jeroboam to rescue them when there was no helper for Israel.

Finally, we see the surprising mercy of God: He restored the territory of Israel…for the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter. Out of great mercy, God showed kindness to a disobedient Israel ruled by an evil king. This merciful restoration came in many ways. Israel regained lost territory, and they also enjoyed a great season of prosperity.

This is confirmed by archaeology. Digs of ancient Israelite cities show how in Jeroboam’s reign they built bigger houses with more luxuries. When Israel deserved destruction and deprivation, God gave surprising mercy through the wicked king Jeroboam. But the book of Amos shows that Israel did not handle this prosperity well, and the wickedness they showed under the prosperity of Jeroboam II actually built up more judgment against them.

Friends, God has shown us great mercy – surprising mercy – in Jesus Christ. He has forgiven our sins and restored us to relationship with Him, because of what Jesus did on the cross. God has restored territory taken from you by the world, the flesh, and the devil and God has prospered you in many ways.

How will you respond to His surprising mercy? Please remember to submit to God and honor Him when He shows great mercy to you.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 14

unnecessary trouble

Unnecessary Trouble

Then Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah…and [Jehoash] went to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem…. And he took all the gold and silver, all the articles that were found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 14:13-14)

Amaziah was the king of Judah, the realm of the two southern tribes of the descendants of Israel. In general, he was a good and godly king (2 Kings 14:3). The Bible tells us of his obedience and great victories. Yet he also fell into unnecessary trouble, and 2 Kings 14:13-14 give us the consequences of his foolishness.

unnecessary trouble

Amaziah foolishly attacked the king of Israel, the realm of the ten northern tribes. Because of his foolish, unnecessary attack on his northern brothers, Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah and he lost his freedom and for a time became a prisoner of the king of Israel. 

Jehoash warned Amaziah (2 Kings 14:8-11) but he would not listen. He asked Amaziah, “why should you meddle with trouble so that you fall?” (2 Chronicles 14:10) Maybe he would not listen because his army was battle-tested and mighty. Yet, God gave Israel the victory over Judah to rebuke the idolatry of Amaziah. 2 Chronicles 25:20 tells us it was because Amaziah started worshipping the gods of Edom.

So king Jehoash went to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem. This was unnecessary trouble. Because of his foolish attack, Amaziah saw the defenses of Jerusalem broken down. Not only did they lose the battle, but they were also weaker against future attacks. 

When Joash came to Jerusalem, he took all the gold and silver. This was unnecessary trouble. Because of his foolish attack, Amaziah lost the treasure of God’s people. Amaziah didn’t have the wisdom to see how losing this battle would hurt others as well as himself. 

This even extended to hostages who were taken from Jerusalem to Samaria. This was unnecessary trouble. Amaziah made the decision to attack Israel, but the cost of the foolish attack was paid by the whole kingdom of Judah. This is a sober warning to all leaders, to consider how their foolish decisions bring unnecessary trouble to many other people. 

Amaziah heard the warning, “why should you meddle with trouble so that you fall?” He heard it, but he didn’t listen. Many of us fall into the same trap. We meddle with a lot of unnecessary trouble that we should leave alone, and it hurts not only us but others close to us.

The name “Amaziah” means, “Strength of Yahweh.” But 2 Chronicles 25:11 tells us, “Amaziah strengthened himself.” When you find your strength in yourself, you will eventually find yourself in trouble, unable to save yourself. Instead, remember the meaning of Jesus’ name: “Yahweh is Salvation.” As we trust in Jesus, God is our strength and wisdom, saving us from many unnecessary troubles.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 14

Life from Tombs

Life from a Tomb

Then Elisha died, and they buried him. And the raiding bands from Moab invaded the land in the spring of the year. So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (2 Kings 13:20-21)

Elisha became sick, the illness ran its course, and Elisha died. He was not carried up into heaven the way his mentor Elijah was. That was not God’s plan or will for Elisha. Like countless others before and after him, Elisha simply became old, sick, and then died. Then they buried him.

Life from Tombs

Some time after Elisha was buried, a strange thing happened. As some Israelites were burying a man, a group of violent thieves (raiders) came upon them. In a hurry, they put the man in the tomb of Elisha. Now for the strange thing: When the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.

This is one of the more unusual miracles in the Bible. There is no explanation about how or why this happened, and this silence suggests that there was no magic in the bones of Elisha to bring anyone else to life. If there was, there would be a long line of people bringing their dead loved ones to Elisha’s tomb! Instead, this was a unique, one-time miracle to bring honor to the memory of this great prophet. 

As such, this passage should never be used as an excuse for the superstitious practice of the veneration (or worship) of relics. In churches all over the world, there are what are claimed to be the bones or bits of this or that saint, or pieces of the cross, or whatever. These should be regarded as frauds that invite idolatry.

As well, this passage should never be used as an excuse for the bizarre practice of laying upon or touching the graves of men or women of God from the past, thinking that some kind of magical power can come through such contact.

As Adam Clarke wrote, “This is the first, and I believe the last, account of a true miracle performed by the bones of a dead man.” The strange incident of 2 Kings 13:20-21 was the beginning and the end of it.

Yet, there are two wonderful points of application. First, we can also be brought to life by our contact with these dead prophets — not through their bones, but through their words. Read what God gave us through the apostles and prophets; read God’s word. God brings the dead to life through a word.

Second, remember there is a tomb that brings life — but this is the empty tomb of Jesus, risen from the dead. We’re grateful that there are no bones in the tomb of Jesus, and that in Him we are promised eternal life.

 

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 13

Shooting Arrows

Keep on Shooting

Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.” (2 Kings 13:18-19)

The King of Israel was with the dying prophet Elisha, and Elisha told him to shoot some arrows out a window in the direction of Israel’s enemy, Syria. In telling him to do it, Elisha made a connection between the shooting of the arrows and the opportunity for a victory to come over the Syrian army. Each arrow represented a battle won, the LORD’s deliverance of Israel against Syria.

Shooting Arrows

But when King Joash had the opportunity to boldly take this promise of God and gain much, the king shot three arrows and stopped. He did not sense what he should have – that each arrow represented a victory in battle over the Syrians, and he should have received the prophet’s invitation with more boldness. 

Because King Joash did not seize the strategic moment, the man of God was angry with him. The prophet Elisha was angry because now Israel would enjoy only three victories over the Syrian army, instead of the many more they could have enjoyed.

There are many situations in which we should keep “shooting the arrows,” but we content ourselves with a small effort. God wants us to press forward, and we hold back. So, don’t hold back!

– Keep shooting in the battle against sin.
– Keep shooting in the pursuit of Christian knowledge.
– Keep shooting in the attainment of faith.
– Keep shooting to do more for the kingdom of God.
– Keep shooting because the world, the flesh, and the devil will not stop shooting at you! 

When God invites us to take something by faith, we should receive it boldly, and honor God by not falling short, by receiving all He wants to give. We should ask Him knowing that He is a great King and giver who is honored by bold, reverent requests.  

We think of all the excuses that Joash could have made; yet none of them were valid.

– “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to be presumptuous and ask for too much.”
– “I stopped shooting because I’m not a very good archer.”
– “I stopped shooting because Elisha didn’t help me more.”
– “I stopped shooting because I thought three was plenty.”
– “I stopped shooting because I didn’t think it would do any good.”
– “I stopped shooting because I wasn’t in a shooting mood. I didn’t feel like it.”
– “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to get over-excited.” 

Brothers and sisters, when God opens a door or gives you an opportunity, make the most of it. “Keep shooting” until God tells you to stop!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 13

Hands on the Bow

Hands on the Bow

And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. (2 Kings 13:15-16)

Elisha, one of the great prophets of Israel, was about to die. Though he was a man of God who healed many others, he was about to die from an illness (2 Kings 13:14).

As his death drew closer, Joash the king of Israel was worried. Israel was a small nation that faced many enemies (just like today!). At the time, their biggest threat came from the Syrians. But King Joash somehow understood that the real strength of Israel wasn’t in their armies, horsemen, or chariots; the real strength of Israel was in their close and faithful relationship with God. Prophets like Elisha kept that connection strong, so he was part of the real strength of Israel – but he was about to die.

Hands on the Bow

At that moment, Elisha told him to take a bow and some arrows. Through an illustration of arrows shot through a window, the prophet would show the king that the arrow of the LORD’s deliverance (2 Kings 13:17) was still present, and all Joash had to do was to shoot the arrow in faith.

King Joash began to do what the prophet told him to do. We can imagine the scene. Joash positioned himself in front of the window that faced the general direction of Syria. A servant brought him a bow and arrows. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow.” As Joash put the arrow in place on the bow and stood in front of the window, something unexpected happened.

Elisha came up behind the king, and as Joash began to stretch the bow and prepare to shoot, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. Like a father helping his child to shoot a bow, the prophet would guide the hands of Joash.

I think this whole scene is amazing and we can look at it in greater depth. But just consider this part: The prophet’s hands on the king’s hands, drawing the arrow back on the bow and pointing it in the right direction.

If you aren’t strong enough to “bend the bow” for whatever God has in front of you to do or experience, then ask Jesus to fulfill the sense of this picture for you. As illustrated in this scene from 2 Kings 13, ask Jesus to put His hands on yours, to give you the strength to do what He tells you to do, and to give you the skill to aim it all in the right direction.

Many times, I have felt too weak to do what I should; but with His hands on mine, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 13