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

Start of Christmas

The Start of Christmas

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened; burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.  Then I said, “Behold, I come; in the scroll of the Book it is written of Me.  I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within My heart.” (Psalm 40:6-8)

Christmas doesn’t start on Black Friday or on Cyber Monday. It didn’t start with Santa Claus or even Saint Nicholas. The start wasn’t with Mary and Joseph in a stable. To go to the start of Christmas, we have to leave earth and go the throne room of God. There, before the foundation of the world, in the eternal counsels of the One God in three Persons, is where Christmas started. It started in heaven when God the Father agreed to send; when God the Son agreed to go; and when God the Holy Spirit agreed to guide.

Start of Christmas

Psalm 40 takes the words of David and shows us the heart of God’s own Son as He came into the world. This passage tells us about the start of Christmas.

Christmas started because something was lacking. We read, sacrifice and offering You did not desire. Sin made sacrifice and offering necessary. Yet the sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament were not enough – and whatever sacrifice we make in our life is not enough to take away our sin. Because sacrifice and offeringare not enough, God knew that we needed Christmas.

Christmas started because Someone was willing. We read, My ears You have opened. According to the ancient custom in Israel, this means Jesus was a devoted servant out of love, not obligation. This is also reflected in the words, I delight to do Your will, O my God. Jesus was willing to be the servant we needed to gain our salvation. He was willing not only to feel the feelings of a servant, but to also do the doings of a servant. That is why Psalm 40 says, Behold, I come. Those are doing words, not feeling words.

Christmas started because Someone loved. Love is all over these verses. My ears You have opened – and only love could make Jesus do this for us. In the scroll of the Book it is written of Me – and only love could promise such a plan. God planned it long ago; and He delighted in this plan so much that He couldn’t keep it to Himself. He had to put it in a Book so we could read about it. I delight to do Your will – only love could make the suffering Jesus endured His delight.

When we think where Christmas started – in the heaven of heavens, in the secret councils of the godhead – it should fill our heart with true worship. It should make us humbly ask forgiveness for every time we have doubted God’s love. It should make us acknowledge that we are unworthy, but that His love is even greater than our unworthiness.

Click here for David’s commentary on Psalm 40

king and priest

A King and Priest

And when the king came back from Damascus, the king saw the altar; and the king approached the altar and made offerings on it. So he burned his burnt offering and his grain offering; and he poured his drink offering and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. (2 Kings 16:12-13)

King Ahaz of Judah gave his allegiance to the king of Assyria, and it was a shameful thing for a leader of God’s people to bow down to a pagan ruler. Ahaz also took note of the design of the altar at the idol temple in Damascus and brought that design back to Jerusalem. All of that was bad, but what Ahaz did next was worse.

king and priest

We read Ahaz burned his burnt offering and his grain offering; and he poured his drink offering and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. In Israel it was a strict law that kings should not be priests, and priests should not be king. But Ahaz was so bold in his rebellion that he served as a priest at the altar of his own design. Since he made his own place of worship, it also made sense that he would disregard God’s command that a king must not serve as a priest (Numbers 18:7).

Ahaz’s grandfather Uzziah also dared to enter the temple and serve God as a priest (2 Chronicles 26). Yet at least Uzziah falsely worshipped the true God. Ahaz falsely worshipped a false god of his own creation.

It was so bad that even Urijah the priest agreed to accept King Ahaz as a priest (2 Kings 16:16). Urijah not only allowed Ahaz to do this; he participated in his evil and idolatrous plans. This was in dramatic contrast to the priests in the days of King Uzziah, who did all they could to restrain the madness of the king (2 Chronicles 26:17-18). It is a sad fact that corrupt political leaders have almost always been able to find corrupt religious leaders to help them.

All this was terrible. Yet even this, in the way of contrast, points us to Jesus Christ. One of the many sins of Ahaz was his demand to be a priest, which God clearly prohibited. That is, until the offices of king, priest, and prophet would all be combined in the messiah, Jesus Christ. He is the prophet, being God’s last word (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus is the priest, being a High Priest forever (Hebrews 3:1). Jesus is a king, being the king of kings (1 Timothy 6:15).

It’s also true that God will so work in His people that it is their destiny to be kings and priests with Jesus (Revelation 1:6 and 5:10). The glory that Ahaz pursued in a disobedient and ungodly way is actually reserved for the people of God. But it is only because they are, by faith, connected to Jesus Messiah – who is the true king and priest.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 16

God's Altar

Rejecting God’s Altar

Now King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus; and King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the design of the altar and its pattern, according to all its workmanship. Then Urijah the priest built an altar according to all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus. So Urijah the priest made it before King Ahaz came back from Damascus. (2 Kings 16:10-11)

King Ahaz decided he would rather surrender to the king of Assyria than to the King of Kings. He rejected God and looked to the pagan ruler for help. So, it wasn’t strange that he decided to visit Tiglath-Pileser and make official his submission to the king of Assyria.

God's Altar

When he was there, Ahaz saw something that pleased him: he saw an altar that was set at Damascus. He liked it so much that King Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the design of the altar and its pattern. Using the plans sent from Ahaz, Urijah imitated the pagan altar at Damascus and had it ready by the time Ahaz returned from Damascus. Ahaz did this both to please his new master, Tiglath-Pileser, and to bring the latest trends in altar design to God’s temple in Jerusalem. 

2 Chronicles 28:23 explains why King Ahaz was attracted to what he saw in Damascus: For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.

Think of it: a king over the people of God actually set up a pagan altar at the temple in Jerusalem. He did it because he knew it would please the pagans, because he liked the fashionable design of the altar, and because he thought it would bring him success.

Doesn’t that sound like a lot of churches today? Many church leaders today put their trust in the tools, the techniques, and the principles of worldly success. They think the gods of Damascus will give them victory. We want to please the world as Ahaz wanted to please the king of Assyria. We are impressed with the fashionable designs of what comes from the world. We think imitating the world will bring us success. It’s sad when the church goes to the world for its methods and principles.

The sin of Ahaz didn’t end with Ahaz. We read, Urijah the priest built an altar. Of course, Ahaz bore the greater blame in this matter, but the high priest Urijah was also at fault. Together, they brought in something that was their ruin and the ruin of Israel.

That’s the problem with the kind of compromise Ahaz allowed and promoted. Like Jesus warned, it is like leaven or yeast spreading through a whole lump of bread dough. Let’s look to the LORD more, and to the world less!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 16

surrender crown

Come Up and Save Me

So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and save me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who rise up against me.” And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent it as a present to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 16:7-8)

King Ahaz of Judah saw the combined armies of Syria and Israel come against him, and in a panic,  he begged the king of Assyria for help. Ahaz did this, even though Isaiah offered him a sign for assurance of God’s help in the struggle against the combined armies of Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:1-12). Sadly, Ahaz refused under the excuse of not wanting to test God, when he really wanted to trust the king of Assyria.

surrender crown

Ahaz said to the pagan king: “I am your servant and your son. Come up and save me.” It is sad to see a king over God’s people bow down to a pagan king. Ahaz surrendered to one enemy in order to defeat another. He refused to trust in the God of Israel and instead put his trust in an enemy of Israel.

It wasn’t enough for Ahaz to bow down to the king of Assyria. Next, Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and sent it as a present to the king of Assyria. Essentially, Ahaz made Judah a subject kingdom to Assyria. Ahaz now took his orders from the Assyrian king, and he sacrificed the independence of the kingdom of Judah.

Imagine the blessing that would have come if Ahaz had surrendered and sacrificed to the LORD with the same energy and heart that he surrendered to the Assyrian king. Ahaz was willing to trust in and humble himself before a pagan king, but not before the God of Israel.

What a contrast this was to Ahaz’s royal ancestor, David. David said, “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried out to my God” (Psalm 18:6).  We all have a choice in a crisis. We can trust things set against God, or we can trust God. In the case of Ahaz, his surrender to the king of Assyria worked in the short term but was a disaster in the long term. His wrong choice was bad for him and for Judah.

Yet, look for something good in this. When anyone cries out to God saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and save me,” then God will answer. Appeal to God on the basis of your service to Him, and His adoption of you – then humbly ask Him to rescue you. God loves to respond to those who surrender to Him and to His will.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 16

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