When the Enemy Makes Sense

When the Enemy Makes Sense

Then the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust? You speak of having plans and power for war; but they are mere words. And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me?”’” (2 Kings 18:19-20)

The field commander of the Assyrian army (who had the title Rabshakeh) represented the Assyrian King Sennacherib. When the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem, he did his best to get King Hezekiah to surrender. He stood in a public place and spoke to all who would listen.

When the Enemy Makes Sense

The Rabshakeh seemed to be in complete command of the situation. He could walk right into the city of Jerusalem, and stand at the crucial water supply – which was Jerusalem’s life-line in a siege attack. As he stood there, three officials from Hezekiah’s government came to meet him.

With all listening, he said this: What confidence is this in which you trust? We might wish that Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, and the Rabshakeh mocked his trust in God. Instead, Hezekiah put his hope in an alliance with Egypt, and the Rabshakeh wanted him to lose confidence in that alliance.

It was a great temptation for Hezekiah during this time to make a defensive alliance with Egypt, which seemed to be the only nation strong enough to protect Judah against the mighty Assyrians. As a prophet, Isaiah did everything he could to discourage Hezekiah and the leaders of Judah from putting their trust in Egypt (Isaiah 19:11-17, 20:1-6, 30:1-7). The LORD wanted Judah to trust Him instead of Egypt.

In this sense, the Rabshakeh spoke the truth. God wanted Judah to have no confidence in Egypt at all. But the Rabshakeh did not do this to bring Judah to a firm trust in the LORD, who could and would deliver them from the Assyrians. He did it to completely demoralize Judah and drive them to despair.

Satan often attacks us the same way. The devil may tell us the truth – something like, “You are such a rotten sinner!” But Satan never does it to lead us to a firm trust in the LORD our God. When we hear that we are rotten sinners, we should reply like this: “Jesus died for sinners, so if I am a rotten sinner, Jesus died to forgive and free me!” Instead, Satan’s strategy – even if he tells us the truth – is always to demoralize us and drive us to despair.

From the perspective of the unbeliever, Sennacherib asked a valid question: And in whom do you trust, that you rebel against me? Those who don’t yet believe can’t understand the trust we have in God – the trust that makes us live different than the world. We can’t expect them to understand the strength God can give us to rebel against the world, the flesh, and the devil. God helping us – we will!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

No Deal with the Devil

No Deal With the Devil

So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 18:15-16)

Hezekiah was a good king over the people of God. In fact, he was one of the better kings of Judah, but apart from Jesus Christ no king is perfect. Here we see one of the bad or foolish things that Hezekiah did.

No Deal With the Devil

When the king of Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, he attacked the southern kingdom of Judah next. He conquered many of the fortified cities. The mention of Lachish is important to historians and archaeologists. The British Museum displays the Assyrian carvings depicting the siege of the city of Lachish, which was an important fortress city of Judah. Lachish was thirty miles (50 kilometers) southwest of Jerusalem.

In the British Museum there is a wall carving from Sennacherib’s royal palace in Nineveh. It shows King Sennacherib on a throne in his military camp outside Lachish. Captured Judean prisoners of war march by on foot, and all the booty from the city is displayed on wagons.

After Lachish, only Jerusalem was left. If Assyria captured Jerusalem, it was all over. So, King Hezekiah sent a message to Lachish for the King of Assyria. In the message he humbled himself before the pagan king. He apologized and offered to pay a large tribute to Sennacherib so that he would not conquer Jerusalem.

Maybe Hezekiah thought that since the Northern Kingdom was recently conquered and that all the fortified cities of Judah had been captured, God had demonstrated that He would not intervene on behalf of Judah. Maybe this made Hezekiah feel that he had to do something himself.

It could be that this idea was strengthened in Hezekiah when he remembered the wickedness of his own father Ahaz. Maybe Hezekiah thought that because of their prior sin, Judah deserved such judgment.

What did Hezekiah do? So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. Hezekiah hoped that this policy of appeasement would make Judah safe. He was wrong, and his policy only impoverished Judah and the temple and made the king of Assyria bolder than ever against Judah.

King Sennacherib took all the silver and gold that Hezekiah gave. But it didn’t buy him off. He took it all and still wanted Jerusalem and Hezekiah’s throne.

Don’t think you can ever make a deal with the devil. You can try to “buy him off” with small compromises and sins. But Satan will never be satisfied with those things. He will take them – and then go after your soul. Do what Hezekiah should have done: trust the LORD instead.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

Hear and Do

Hear and Do

Because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His covenant and all that Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded; and they would neither hear nor do them. (2 Kings 18:12)

We don’t know the exact human author of the books of 1 and 2 Kings. However, we do see that in this verse, the human author wanted us to understand why the northern kingdom of Israel – the kingdom of the ten northern tribes – was conquered by the cruel Assyrian Empire.

Hear and Do

Simply said, it was because they did not obey the voice of the LORD. Yahweh was the covenant God of Israel, but Israel transgressed His covenant and they broke the laws given through Moses the servant of the LORD.

These are all themes we have seen before in 2 Kings. What catches my attention in this verse is the line, they would neither hear nor do them. Their disobedience and ultimate destruction were connected to their refusing to hear the word of God and to do the word of God.

First, we hear God’s word. We hear it proclaimed in preaching and Bible studies. We hear it by reading the Bible aloud. We hear it by singing the Bible. We hear it in our minds as we read the Bible.

But we don’t stop at hearing; we then must do God’s word. We do it by repenting and believing. We do it by worshipping God. We do it by much prayer. We do it by the hard work of Christian community. We do it by reaching a lost and broken world.

The command to not only be hearers, but also doers of God’s word, comes to us again in the New Testament (James 1:22). It reminds us that we must receive God’s word as those who do, not only as those who hear.

Jesus used this same point to conclude His great Sermon on the Mount. He said that the one who heard the word without doing it was like a man who built his house on the sand, but the one who heard God’s word and did it was like a man whose house was built on a rock and could withstand the inevitable storms of life and eternity (Matthew 7:24-27).

In many churches there are hearers who admire; hearers who love to hear, hearers who are devoted – yet all the time they are unblessed hearers, because they are not doers of the word.

Remember that by blood, the people of the Northern Kingdom were not any less Israelites and descendants of Abraham than were the people of the Southern Kingdom. Therefore, this clearly showed Judah that when they also stopped to hear and to do the word of God, they would also face judgment.

Put your attention on God and His great truth – hear. Then, relying on the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, set yourself to do His will as revealed in His word.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

A Great King

A Great King

He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. (2 Kings 18:5-6)

The Kingdom of Judah – from the two southern tribes of the twelve tribes of Israel – had more than 15 kings over almost 350 years. The king described in 2 Kings 18 was special, and his name was Hezekiah. Look at all the things that made him a great king:

A Great King

He trusted in the LORD God of Israel: The first thing said about Hezekiah’s relationship with the LORD was that he trusted. What a wonderful thing to say about anybody! When we trust someone, we believe they are reliable. When we trust someone, it is easy to love them. When we trust someone, it honors them.

He held fast to the LORD: For Hezekiah, there was no turning back. He had decided to trust in the LORD, and he never let go of that trust. Many kings before him did not hold fast, but Hezekiah was in for the long journey with God – he did not depart from following Him.

But kept His commandments: Hezekiah lived a life of obedience. It wasn’t perfect obedience, but it was real obedience. He realized that God gave commandments, and they were not up for negotiation. Because Yahweh (the LORD) was the covenant God of Israel, what the LORD had commanded Moses was important to obey.

In all this, Hezekiah was unique in his passion and energy of his personal trust in God and for promoting the true worship of God. The great words that described his life were trust, hold, and keep. This is even more remarkable when we consider that his father Ahaz was one of the worst kings Judah had (2 Kings 16:10-20).

How do we explain this? How could a man with such a bad father be such a good king?

Maybe the best answer is to understand that Hezekiah was influenced by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1). His name is mentioned in the book of Isaiah more than 30 times. Since Isaiah the prophet was a messenger of God’s word, we can say that Hezekiah put himself under the influence of God’s word – and it changed his life, making him different. The same needs to be true of us. We must bring ourselves under the influence of God’s word, and see it change our heart, our mind, our life.

One last thing. Hezekiah was a great king, but He wasn’t actually the greatest King of the Jews. There is a King who perfectly trusted the LORD. This King perfectly held fast to the LORD. This King perfectly kept God’s commandments.

As good as Hezekiah was, he fell far short of perfection. Jesus Christ – the King of Kings – never falls short and never disappoints.

 

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

Nehushtan

When Good Things Become Idols

He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4)

After the fall of the kingdom of the norther tribes in 2 Kings 17, chapter 18 begins the story of Hezekiah, one of the best kings of Judah. In verse 3 it simply says of him, “He did what was right in the sight of the LORD.” Then we read about many of the right things that he did – beginning with his work against the idolatry in Judah.

Nehushtan

We read that Hezekiah removed the high places. These were popular altars for sacrifice set up as the worshipper desired, not according to God’s direction. Many other kings of Judah – even some of the good ones – allowed these unapproved places for sacrifice.

We read that he cut down the wooden image, which was probably some wooden pillar used in the immoral rituals intended to honor the pagan goddess Ashtoreth.

Finally, we read in verse 4, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made. What was this all about?

Numbers 21:1-9 describes how during a time of a plague of fiery serpents upon the whole nation, Moses made a bronze serpent for Israel to look upon and be spared death from the snake bites. This statement in 2 Kings tells us that this particular bronze serpent had been preserved for more than 800 years, but Hezekiah looked at it and called it “Nehushtan.” Because he was so zealous to honor God, Hezekiah broke in pieces this bronze artifact and put an end to the idolatrous worship of this object.

This bronze serpent was a wonderful thing – when the afflicted people of Israel looked upon it, they were saved. It was even a representation of Jesus Christ, as Jesus Himself said in John 3:14-15. Yet people could take something so good, and so used by God, and make a destructive idol out of it.

In the same way, sometimes good things become idols and therefore must be destroyed. For example, if some precious artifact from Bible times was discovered, and then became an object of idolatry for many, it would be better to destroy that thing.

God’s people must likewise be on guard against idolatry today. There are many dangers of idolatry in the modern church:

– Making leaders idols.
– Making education an idol.
– Making human eloquence an idol.
– Making customs and habits of ministry an idol.
– Making forms of worship an idol.

The name Nehushtan means “piece of brass” and is a way to make less of this object that was made an idol. It’s always good for us to look for idols in our heart and mind, and to cut them down to size.

God alone deserves our worship and our ultimate obedience.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 18

they feared the lord, yet

They Feared the Lord, Yet…

So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods — according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. (2 Kings 17:32-33)

God brought His judgment against the kingdom of Israel – the ten northern tribes – through the army of Assyria. The Assyrians forced them to relocate to other parts of the empire. Then they brought in the conquered from other lands, to re-populate the now empty land of Israel.

they feared the lord, yet

But these foreign newcomers to the land of Israel didn’t honor the God of Israel. The LORD, Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, sent His judgment against these newcomers for their idolatry. So, the Assyrians sent a priest from among the Israelites removed from the land, sending him to teach the newcomers about the LORD. The newcomers did what the priest told them to do – in part. Not completely.

1 Kings 17:29 says that “every nation continued to make gods of its own.” The priest-for-hire brought in by the Assyrians did not tell the new inhabitants of the land that they must only worship the LORD God of Israel. He did not teach it because, coming from Israel, he did not believe it.

1 Kings 17:33 says it well: They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods. This described the pagan peoples that the Assyrians brought in to populate the area of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They gave a measure of respect to the God of Israel – after all, they did not want to be eaten by lions. Yet they also served their own gods and picked and chose among religious and spiritual beliefs as it pleased them.

– This accurately described the pagan newcomers who re-populated Israel.

– This accurately described the Kingdom of Israel before they were conquered and exiled.

– This accurately describes common religious belief in the modern world – today.

Don’t you know many people like this? They give some respect to God, and maybe even attend church. Others might look at them and think, “that is someone who fears the Lord.” Despite all that, they serve their own gods.

Charles Spurgeon said this in 1876: “Is not worldly piety, or pious worldliness, the current religion of England? They live among godly people, and God chastens them, and they therefore fear him, but not enough to give their hearts to him.” What Spurgeon said of England is true of many more nations.

Is it true of you? F.B. Meyer wrote, “Are you sure this is not a true description of your own position? You pay an outward deference to God by attending his house, and acknowledging his day, whilst you are really prostrating yourself before other shrines.”

We can bow down before many of our own gods. Ask God to examine your heart and life for hidden idolatry.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 17

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