2 KINGS 16:1 – 18:37 and JOHN 12:12–50
2 Kings 16
This chapter begins by introducing Ahaz, the son of Jotham to the throne of Judah. It is in the 17th year of Pekah who is king over Israel. Ahaz was 20 when he began and ruled for a period of 16 years. The Bible indicates that he did not walk after David but after the kings of Israel. He allowed for abominable practices like having his son passing through the fire which was a heathen custom. When one looks at these sins of the kings it is clear that there is the violation of the 1st commandment where they were not to serve other gods. Idolatry is one of the more prominent transgressions that is seen in the kings from both kingdoms.
To make matters worse Ahaz allowed for sacrifices in the high places. These transgressions open the door for enemies from other nations to attack as is seen with King Rezin from Syria. It really is no secret as to why there are problems. The laws and statutes of God are being violated pure and simple; one violation then leads to another. Ahaz, seeing that he is under siege seeks help from Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria to help defend against Syria and Israel. The usual price for such help is a dispensing of treasure from the house of God (vs 8).
Ahaz, in appreciation for all that the king of Assyria has done pays him a visit and observes an altar that he found to be impressive. Ahaz has Uriah the priest fashion an altar according to its dimensions so that it can be duplicated in Jerusalem. He commanded that the morning and evening offerings be performed upon this new altar. It was a total redesign of worship and how one would approach to God. It is a clear cut example of what happens when we seek to bring the ways of the world into the church. This is a clear warning for the church of our day. It is not hard to make similar parallels seeing as how the world has crept into the modern church. The laws that Moses spoke to the people clearly addressed this matter of false worship.
The Book of Leviticus made clear the means by which man can make approach unto God. It has to be done on God’s terms, not man’s. If we were to read and reread Leviticus and Deuteronomy we would be spared the judgements that came upon Israel and Judah. It is no secret why we see such problems today; man gives little regard to the things of God. His laws are seen as cumbersome and outdated in lieu of sugar-coated alternatives. Sadly, these alternatives are taking a stronger hold upon the church. These alternatives are not obvious but oftentimes subtle and hard to discern. It is one thing when the opposition to what God is doing is seen in blatant and in your face terms; it is another when it becomes difficult to discern the anointing. The world is in the church and its roots are gaining a stronger foothold. It is a reflection of the heart and it is a reflection of what man is truly longing for. The bottom line is that the spirit of King Ahaz is alive and well in today’s church. We do well to take good heed and learn.
2 Kings 17
In the 12th year of the reign of Ahaz the next king of Israel comes to the throne. His name is Hoshea who is the son of Elah. His reign will last for 9 years. His reign is an evil one but not to the extent of his predecessors. It may be that judgement has already been determined upon Israel due to its sins from the time of Jeroboam. It may also be that Hoshea was taken into captivity due to seeking help from Egypt while giving no present to the king of Assyria as has been the norm for some time. The king of Assyria besieged the land of Samaria which officially brought an end to the monarchy of the Northern Kingdom known as Israel. This was clearly not what God had in mind when looking to establish a kingdom amongst the nations. They had been given their chance to reign and they failed miserably. The reasons for Israel coming under bondage are summarised in verses 7-12. They could never break free from the foundations that Jeroboam the first had put into place. The self-appointed altars of worship and appointment of priests set the stage for the disaster seen in this line of kings. They practiced the very things that God told them to drive out through Moses in the exhortations in Deuteronomy. In fact, they became even more abominable than the nations they were called to impact.
It is easy to point the finger at Jeroboam for the foundations he put into place but we could source this sin to a higher level. King Solomon, who knew better and began from a position of Rest and Glory help to put into motion the problems that are now being manifested in its fullness. The Law of Kings was violated which opened the doors for the sad situation being seen at the fall of the Northern Kingdom. Is it any wonder that we see God taking time in the preparation of the true king/priests of the last days? Are we patient and open in allowing the Lord to develop and cultivate these fruits within us or are we like Ahaz in seeking to emulate the world and its practices as seen in the previous chapter?
The Lord reminds Israel and Judah that He had constantly warned through prophets that they were to keep the commandments and judgements of God and to turn from their ways. The result was that they hardened their hearts and would not turn. They rejected good counsel and instead followed after vanities and the heathen practices to their detriment. The description of what Israel did is quite exhaustive but it is cited to warn future generations from not making the same mistakes. They became very strong Baal worshippers (vs 16) which culminated during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. The kingdom of the North could no longer stand, it had exhausted the long suffering arm of the Lord (vs 18). This now only left Judah as the kingdom that the Lord would work through. There would be a higher standard that would come upon Judah due to the judgements being realized upon the northern Kingdom of Israel. Will Judah learn from the lessons of its northern kingdom brethren?
2 Kings 18
The focus now turns to Hezekiah, son of Ahaz as he comes to the throne. Hoshea, the last King of Israel is in the third year of his reign. Hezekiah was 25 when he began his reign and it lasted for 29 years. He was a good king who did that which was right; he also tore down the high places. He had a deep relationship with God that exceeded any of the kings yet to come (vs 5). Most importantly, he walked closely with God while keeping His commandments as given by Moses. He was able to stand against the King of Assyria while the kingdom of Israel yielded. In the 4th year of his reign the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrians. The Lord reiterates as to the reason the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in verse 12. It really is no secret and it is not complicated, it is due to not obeying the voice of the Lord. It’s times like this when old familiar verses come to mind, like the following:
1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
I have come to appreciate the above verse in greater measure while studying the life of the kings. If we could simply learn to obey God’s voice our outcomes would be much different. It is clear and vividly illustrated throughout scripture. A thorough deliberative meditation in the Book of Deuteronomy would help to establish the people of God on stronger footing; to withstand and discern the tactics of the enemy.
Assyria, fresh off its assault and capture of Israel now makes a move towards the southern Kingdom of Judah. In verses 14-15 we see Hezekiah apologizing to Sennacherib, King of Assyria for offending him in some area. It may be he did not pay tribute money. In any case, it was a sign of weakness against a king and nation that was in the ascendancy. He paid a high price to try and relieve the pressure but it was short-lived. Assyria is imposing its will upon Judah by fierce intimidation. Sennacherib and his armies are like an unstoppable force. We now see an amplified mouthpiece and voice adding to this assault. It is a man by the name of Rab-shakah who seeks to bring Judah into a state of paralysis by way of threatening. You can see the fullness of pride bursting forth as his words swell with intimidation. It was God who allowed them to become strong as an instrument of judgment upon Israel. Sennacherib and Assyria are now unable to contain and withhold themselves in their boasting. Rab-shakah, on behalf of the king mocks the God of Hezekiah (vs 19-20) and warns him to not trust in Him. He derides their ability to even put enough men on horses to fight against Assyria (vs 23). There is no doubt that in the natural this was an impossible situation. It resembles the picture that David painted in Psalm 37.
Psa 37:35 I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
One of the enemy’s most potent weapons is that of fear; he invokes fear through impossible scenarios. If fear grips a heart it empowers the enemy while limiting the ability for faith to arise. The enemy feeds on fear; it is one of his favourite meals in the life of a believer. The spirit of fear finds a resting place in the soul of a man. It can be countered by the empowering of the Spirit man which feeds upon the Word of God. What God says will trump any natural circumstance no matter how dire.
This is how Jesus was able to finish his course upon earth. This assault upon Hezekiah and Judah is a full frontal one and the enemy is not holding back. Interestingly, Rab-shakah sends notice to Judah that it was God who was sending him to Judah (vs 25). This helps us to see how God governs in the affairs of men. God probably did put it into their heart to come up so that they (Assyria) would be judged. We saw this with Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. God put it into the hardened heart of Pharaoh to come against Israel; it was for the purpose of destroying Pharaoh and Egypt (Exo 14:4). The words of Rab-shakah challenged the people to not put their trust in Hezekiah the king. He demanded some sort of pledge with the promise that they will be taken care of (vs 31). They probably now saw that this would be a never ending extortion so they kept silent. This is an important key at a critical time. They could have responded in the flesh in panic or defiance and neither would have helped the matter. They were instructed to “hold their peace” and not answer the threats. This was a commandment of King Hezekiah and it was a good one. There is a portion of an old charismatic song that comes to mind. “If I hold my peace and let the Lord fight my battle, victory victory shall be mine”. We saw that fear is one of the more potent weapons of the enemy. The fruit of Peace is its counterpart. Remember the earlier verse concerning how David saw the enemy in Psa 37:35? What was the remedy for this event?
Psa 37:36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.
Psa 37:37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.
The above verses are most appropriate when considering this event. The matter is now in the hands of King Hezekiah. It will be here where we will see a strong link with one of the Major Prophets. The prophet Isaiah will become involved in this matter. It will be covered more extensively in 2 Chronicles as well as Isa 36-38. We will now begin to see the Word of God link together as we tie various kings to prophets. The Bible is indeed a “Living Word”.
This portion will be a fulfilment of an Old Testament prophesy spoken by Zechariah.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal f an ass.” (Zec 9:9)
One of the reasons why Jesus was so popular with the crowds was due to the recent raising of Lazarus from the dead (vs 18). He makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on a donkey where the people were proclaiming Him as King of Israel. They were laying palm branches before Him attributing Him as being a righteous king. It is amazing to consider how different things will be within a few days’ time. The Pharisees concern with regard to His popularity was becoming more acute. They are now seeing the world going after Him. The miracle of Lazarus caught the attention of many and the Pharisees were envious and desperate.
There were some Greeks which came up to worship as well. What would the disciples of Jesus do concerning these gentile enquirers? They go to Jesus and He responds by speaking that His time had come to be glorified. Jesus then speaks more concerning His death by illustrating the fruitfulness of a corn of wheat dying (vs 24). A corn of wheat dies alone and becomes isolated but in its death as a seed it brings forth abundant fruit. It is a beautiful illustration of what the death of Christ represents. He has to die as a solitary figure due to taking on the sin of all mankind. No other man could be that sacrifice. Yet, in His death this solitary man will bring forth much fruit onto the glory of God (John 12:24). The key to fruitfulness is a dying. This will be illustrated in greater detail in John 15. The Lord also puts emphasis on the dangers of living for this world. We must learn to lose our life when it comes to the thing of the world and choose to “follow” the Lord. In order to follow the Lord we must learn to be a servant to Christ and to mankind. This truth is powerfully illustrated in John 13.
The Lord’s soul is troubled and under great pressure as He realizes His time is very near in becoming sin and going to the cross. The troubling He is experiencing here is a picture of what will come later when He is in the garden battling in the area of His will (Luke 22:42). This is the time, the moment, for which he had come to earth as the Son of Man. This battle is real and can in no wise be minimized. The Lord’s focus and energies are now entirely focused on what is to come. He cries out publicly the following words: “Father, glorify thy name” (vs 28). The time is at hand when the glory of the Father will be demonstrated through Christ to all of mankind. It will be the fulfilment of a beautifully crafted plan of redemption for the sin of man. In this glorification of the Son of Man the serpent, the prince of this world will be defeated. He also states that as He is lifted up from the earth then all men will be drawn unto Him (vs 32).
If one were to closely examine the recent miracles and testimonies of what the Lord is saying they would see and understand the message of the Cross. He was giving indicators and insights to its message in a number of ways. The Apostle John is able to present the scene of the time and what is represented due to his many years of observation. This is what experience can do. It should never be dismissed or minimized. The same is true regarding our walk with God as a whole. The Bible is more of a blueprint for living than we realize. Moses could not have been any clearer regarding the instruction given to Joshua and Israel as they went into the land of their inheritance. This same blueprint is available to us as well.
Jesus once again points to Himself as the light as He answers a question that was posed about the Old Testament statement of Christ living for ever. They were clearly missing the point that the eternal Son of God was in their midst and that as the Son of Man He had to die. They did not understand the concept of God becoming man. The Lord revealed that aspect of being light and that it would be in their interest to hear and take advantage of the Light while He was available. The Lord departed from them and hid for some time from the people. There were those who saw the miracles and yet did not believe. Why was this the case? The Lord Himself answers and says that it was due to their blinded eyes and hardened heart. It was Peter who said that we will not be able to see afar off if we are lacking in any of the 8 graces seen in 2 Pet 1:5-8. At the same time there were many who did believe but could not state it publicly due to their love for public praise. They chose the praises of men over the praises of God (vs 43). This can happen when we as leaders make allowances for compromise. We do this due to not wanting to offend people even though it may violate one of God’s precepts. Whom do we seek more; the praises of men or God? We all will give account before God.
The Lord now gives a short but powerful exhortation and teaching (vs 44-50).He refers to Himself as Light in contrast to the darkness that was seen and will be seen in the last days. He also speaks that it will be the Word that will ultimately serve as our judge and our willingness to keep it and obey it. If God’s Word is rejected then the Word shall serve as the judge. The Word is what conveys the Father’s commandment. The Word, the Lord and the Father are one. Jesus was a true messenger of the Father and a faithful ambassador of His Word; this is why He can speak with such great authority. The Lord will later pray that this same level of relationship would be realised by His disciples (John 17). It will be a prayer that will feature the person of the Holy Spirit and His appointed ministry. Jesus is preparing for that moment that was ordained before the foundation of the world, a moment that impacts the whole of mankind. We need to know and understand the attributes of Christ as the Son of man to fully appreciate His greatness.