Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2 KINGS+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).

2 Kings 1:3 "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you go to inquire of Baal- Zebub, the god of Ekron?" Ahaziah the son of Ahab succeeded his father upon the throne of Israel. He was not so strong a personality as his father, but he gave himself wholly to the abominable worship and service of Baal. In the midst of difficulties—war with Moab and being bedridden from a bad fall, Ahaziah sought counsel from Baal-Zebub, literally "Lord of the Flies," a god worshiped in the Philistine city Ekron. Then the prophet Elijah, who had been in seclusion, suddenly appeared and asked the highlighted question. It is vibrant with satire, for Baal-Zebub was no god since the God of Israel is God, and beside Him there is no other. Ahaziah, removed by his wickedness from the true God, sought the counsel of one who was no god. Men and women cannot live without some kind of traffic with supernatural powers: that which is superior to themselves. When they are cut off from direct communication with God, they turn to false methods of dealing with the supernatural, such as spiritism. Those methods are all, and always, destructive. Sooner or later, God breaks in again upon the soul, if not in healing revelation following repentance, then in swift judgment, as soon came upon King Ahaziah.

2 Kings 2:12 "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" Elijah in his last days was accompanied by Elisha, his appointed successor in ministry, and watched closely by the other God-honoring prophets as he moved about from place to place. It seems as though Elijah was endeavoring to escape into solitude for that translation he knew was at hand, but Elisha was loyally determined to stand by him to the last. He was granted the privilege of seeing Elijah taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, and the highlighted text reveals what he said when seeing that wondrous sight. Surely it tells us something of what Elisha saw, but also how he felt about Elijah. He realized that the strength of his nation had been the presence of that faithful prophet of God. Many years later when Elisha was on his deathbed, a king of Israel would utter the exact same words about Elisha himself (2 Kings 13:14). The last line of strength in national life is never that of munitions, money, or men. It is the Word of the living God, declared, interpreted, and applied by messengers whom He calls and sends. It is by this Word that men and women are to live, grow strong, and overcome. Without the guidance of the Word munitions, money, and men are employed to no purpose. Under the direction of the Word, they all contribute to national strength and stability.

2 Kings 3:14 "If I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you." The ministry of Elisha stands in contrast with that of Elijah, for there is a gentleness about it. Instead of suddenly appearing at a critical moment, he seems mainly to have moved among his people, doing good wherever he came. It is the contrast between Jesus and John the Baptist foreshadowed. Elisha, however, like Jesus, did not lack sternness where needed in word and work. That kind of sternness Elisha demonstrated here in his highlighted response to King Jehoram (sometimes spelled Joram) of Israel, who was continuing in the evil ways of his father, Ahab, and recently deceased brother, Ahaziah. Jehoshaphat of Judah was a good king who wanted to know the will of God, but was not always a wise king, as seen by his temporary alliance with Jehoram. For the sake of Judah and Jehoshaphat, Elisha acted as the interpreter of God's will and the instrument of divine blessing. His words to Jehoram solemnly demonstrate that if a man turns from God to idols, the true prophet of God has no other message for him than that of denunciation. This refusal to answer is never that of angry resentment, but of absolute justice. It reflects divine consent to human choice.

2 Kings 4:44 "According to the Word of the Lord." In this chapter we have 4 events in the ministry of Elisha that show his beneficial work among the people: 1. His miraculous provision for the need of the widow whose creditors were threatening her, 2. His kindness to the hospitable Shunammite woman whose son he raised from the dead, 3. His making edible a big pot of stew accidentally made with a poisonous ingredient during a famine (he was alerted by the unforgettable exclamation, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!"), 4. His feeding 100 men with 20 loaves of bread. The highlighted words are connected with the last miracle, but apply to them all. Elisha's ministry was wholly a ministry of the Word. Everything he did was in obedience to God's Word as he taught and applied it to the nation. By all this activity, Elisha was demonstrating to those who had the spiritual capacity to apprehend just how good and beneficial were God's thoughts and intents concerning His people. During  this time Elisha was the head of the school of the prophets, and as he journeyed from place to place, he was known as the messenger of God. Elisha's deeds were expositions of his message; his life was of utmost simplicity yet full of dignity. A ministry "according to the Word of the Lord"—interpreting God's will and illustrating it by deeds of goodness—is independent of all but the simplest of needs, and full of sublime influence.

2 Kings 5:27 "Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you." This was the punishment of a man who, in answer to selfish desire, obtained advantage to himself and lied to his master. The deepest wrong that came from Gehazi's greed was that it sullied the beautiful testimonies of God given to Naaman the Syrian general by his little Israeli servant girl and by the prophet Elisha. Their actions were completely unselfish and for the glory of God. The girl witnessed the power of God through His prophet Elisha and expressed her hope that by him God would heal her suffering master of his leprosy. Elisha's attitude throughout was that of dignified loyalty to God. He resolutely refused to accept any kind of personal reward for the healing that came from the hand of God. Elisha's servant, Gehazi, had the opposite attitude. He decided to take advantage of God's work for personal enrichment, but God's judgment was swift and terrible. This story searches the soul like an acid. While we clearly see and intellectually condemn the sin of Gehazi, when we consider his motives and then our own, we surely realize how tempted we also can be by greed. We must also realize that what was true then is true now: to exploit any work of God for our own material and personal advantage is a grievous wrong, principally by devitalizing the testimony to God's grace that such works are intended to bear.

2 Kings 6:17 "O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see!" Elisha, along with an unnamed servant, were in a city surrounded by the Syrian army. Its objective was to seize Elisha, whose prophesying was rendering it ineffective against Israel, but Elisha knew he had nothing to fear. His servant, however, was filled with fear because he loved his master and assumed the powerful Syrian army would have its will. Then the prophet prayed for him and God answered. What that servant saw was what Elisha saw all along: "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.... Behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:16-17). How often we need to pray this prayer for ourselves: "Lord, open our eyes that we may see!" To the servants of God there are hours when circumstances point to defeat with forces in opposition gathered around in strength, and there seems no way of escape. All such seeming is false since it is always true that "those who are with us are more than those who are with them," or to express that truth in another way, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). That kind of faith and awareness maintains the heart in strength, courage, and quietness on the day when there would otherwise be panic. He or she who sees Him who is invisible will endure. That is the true function of faith, which is the secret of endurance and the method by which we take hold of all sources of strength. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Biblical faith is never imagining what is not real. It is grasping things that cannot currently be demonstrated to the senses, but are indeed real. The horses and chariots of fire were actually there. God is not a myth.

Never Wise to Limit God!
The Siege Is Lifted, But...
2 Kings 7:2 "Behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?"  This is a curious statement so let us look carefully at the situation. Samaria, the capital of Israel in the north like Jerusalem was capital of Judah in the south, was long besieged by the Syrian army and now reduced to famine. When a cannibalistic mother appealed to the king, he unreasonably became angry with Elisha, sent a man to take off his head, experienced a stab of guilt, and followed the man to rescind his hasty order, blurting out in despair before Elisha, "Behold, this evil is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?" (2 Kings 6:33). Elisha had the great privilege of comforting the distraught king with good news from God: Deliverance was at hand and food would be plentiful by the next morning. The shaky king was silent but the officer he was leaning on for support was not, responding with a "behold" of his own: the incredulous reply highlighted above. His question is very much like that of those who "spoke against God" in Psalm 78: "'Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Behold, He struck the rock so that waters gushed out.... Can He give bread also? Will He provide meat for His people?' Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath" (verses 19-21). God was full of wrath this time too and told that officer through Elisha that since he seemed to think seeing was believing, he would see it, but would not taste it. The next day the officer who mocked was trampled to death at the city gates by the crowds of starving people rushing out to enjoy what God provided from the abundance left behind by the fleeing Syrian army (verses 17-20). That officer had some kind of belief in "the Lord"; he knew God was able to do what pleased Him, but his faith failed to travel to a logical conclusion. He figured there was only one way food could be supplied so fast: supernaturally, "windows in heaven," but of course there would be no such interference. How often faith breaks down like that! It knows God is and that He can act, but it sees only one way and refuses to believe that such a way will be taken. The supply came in this situation without the opening of heaven's windows. It is good to trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him, never assuming we know exactly how He will or will not act.

2 Kings 8:11 "The man of God wept." This is another evidence of Elisha's greatness and his similarity to Jesus. He arrived in Damascus, where Ben- Hadad, king of Syria, was seriously ill. The king sent his servant Hazael to Elisha to inquire whether he would recover from his sickness. Elisha's reply was a strange one. He declared that the king would recover, but he would die: he affirmed his death would not come by his sickness, but would come soon in another way. As a matter of fact, the death of Ben-Hadad came almost immediately at the hands of this very servant. Elisha looked long and fixedly into the eyes of Hazael, whose name means "God sees." He saw far more in the soul of that man than any other had seen, perhaps more than the man himself was fully conscious of. He gazed until Hazael was ashamed, and then he broke out into tears. Elisha received insight from God that Hazael would be the instrument of terrible chastisement to Israel in days to come, and he provided grim details. Elisha's weeping demonstrated he understood the necessity for those severe judgments upon the guilty nation, but also showed his deep love for his people. By those tears Elisha spoke for God as surely as he did in uttering the doom. That foreshadows the One who bore the same double testimony to the truth about God when He wept over Jerusalem even as He pronounced its coming desolation.

2 Kings 9:22 "What peace, as long as the immorality and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?" The hour had struck for carrying out the sentence of God upon the house of Ahab. Of this judgment, Jehu was the instrument. He was known as a man of furious driving, which became a symbol of his character. He halted at nothing, but swept like a relentless whirlwind from point to point until he accomplished his purpose. In his highlighted words,  answering Ahab's son King Jehoram's question, "Do you come in peace?" Jehu showed he understood the righteousness of the judgment he was called upon to execute. That is a truth of persistent application. Peace is not merely a cessation of hostilities based on compromise with evil. The words of a later prophet are for all time: "'There is no peace for the wicked,' says the Lord" (Isaiah 48:22). In the presence of widespread and deep-rooted corruption, God's rule is no longer that of tenderness and compassion, but of scorching and destructive fire. Evil men and women will seek for peace to gain ease, quietness, and an end to suffering, but God never seeks peace except through purity that brings true cleansing and healing. We do well to remind ourselves of the reasonableness, justice, and benefit of that fact. It is because God is always seeking true peace for humankind individually, socially, and racially that He destroys their godless shrines and shrivels with flames the things that tend toward disintegration and disturbance.

2 Kings 10:16 "Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord!" These were the words of Jehu to a man he invited to accompany him on his mission of judgment. They are revealing words, showing in a sudden flash the central pride of his spirit. That Jehu was the instrument of divine judgment there is no question. With terrific speed and thoroughness he swept out the posterity of Ahab. Having accomplished that, Jehu turned himself against Baalism. With a thoroughness that was ruthless, he broke and destroyed it. It was when initiating that later work that he spoke the highlighted words. Jehu was proud of his own zeal. How subtle the peril! Wherever such pride exists, it leads to other evil things. While Jehu did carry out judgments of God against Israel, he was in his own life corrupt. We are told, "But Jehu was not careful to walk in the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam" (the golden calves, verse 31). When self-glorying is the central fact of a person's life, even though there may be zeal for doing God's work in destroying certain evils, there will always be toleration of other evils that appeal to personal desires. Such a person, apart from sincere repentance, cannot have fellowship with God. Jehu's story is a sad one that reveals a man or woman may be used by God for a specific purpose, yet not be in personal communion with Him because of self-deception about some cherished sin.

What an Assortment of A and J Names!
2 Kings 11:1-2 "She proceeded to destroy all the royal offspring. But..." The key word here is but. It marks the futility of evil in its campaign against the purposes of God. Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and shared his moral corruption and strong personality. When Jehu killed her son, King Ahaziah of Judah (named after her dead brother, King Ahaziah of Israel from chapter 1), she seized the throne for herself by destroying her competitionor so she thought. Athaliah's own daughter or step-daughter Jehosheba rescued her brother's infant son Joash and cared for him in the Temple complex, over which her godly husband, Jehoiada the priest, presided during the 6 terrible years of Athaliah's reign. The unveiling of that boy a year later would swiftly bring Athaliah's ruin. Thus evil always breaks down. It is extremely clever in a ruthless sort of way; it calculates on all foreseeable changes and seems to leave no unguarded place, but with unvarying regularity it overlooks something small or fails to cover up its tracks. God moves His purpose forward in the pity of a woman's heart or some other simple and natural circumstance. Evil is always limited in its outlook since it cannot take in all the facts or possible contingencies. God alone sees everything and knows the end from the beginning. His final triumph is inevitable. In the day when it seems as though the forces of evil have done everything and must succeed, rest assured that somewhere there is a but: God is finding His vantage ground amid the events even of that dark hour.

2 Kings 12:2 "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years that Jehoiada the priest instructed him." Joash (also spelled Jehoash) was made king when he was 7 years old, and he occupied the throne of Judah for 40 years. In his early reign he was the symbol of restoration in Judah, and the govern- ment of the people was really in the capable hands of Jehoiada. As the years passed on, the responsibility necessarily fell upon the king himself, but he had the great advantage of the friendship and guidance of this holy priest. So long as this continued, Joash did what was right in God's sight. The Temple was repaired through the correction of official abuses and the institution of a voluntary system of giving. Joash's reforms, however, were not complete since the high places were not taken away and therefore they remained an ongoing temptation for self-styled worship and idolatry. The story of good in this reign is the power behind the throne. Joash himself was not a strong person, but under the influence of a good man his actions were right. When that influence was removed, we see Joash's weakness in this chapter when, threatened by Hazael of Syria, he gave up all the Temple treasures without any fight to secure very temporary safety. Men and women who are naturally weak prove their wisdom when they consent to be guided by a godly, strong personality. The trouble often is they are too proud to do that. Perhaps we can pray no more important prayer than that God will teach us our weakness, and make us willing to seek the help of those who are stronger and better in what matters.

2 Kings 13:19 "The man of God was angry with him and said, 'You should have struck five or six times.'" This chapter switches attention back to Israel and to another King Joash, the son of Jehoahaz and grandson of Jehu. Alas, like all the kings of Israel, he kept up with the political and religious expediency of Jeroboam's golden calves, but Joash had the good sense to have respect for the ministry of Elisha, visiting the venerable prophet on his deathbed and lamenting his imminent passing with the same words Elisha used of Elijah: "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!" (verse 14). Joash recognized that the true strength of his nation was not its military equipment, but its access to the Word of God. Elisha, although sick and feeble, was still keenly alive to all matters of true national interest, and sought to bless the king by helping him enact a prophetic sign of deliverance from Syrian oppression using a bow and arrows. King Joash, however, lacked the vision, patience, passion, and consecration necessary to the full accomplishment of the sign. His was a literal obedience, devoid of faith and enthusiasm. A mechanical obedience will carry us only so far, but it always breaks down short of fulfillment. Willingness to act needs the reinforcement of passion if the thing at hand is to be done well. One of the chief reasons for ineffectiveness in ministry is this lack of fire.

2 Kings 14:27 "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." The arresting fact about these words is the amazement suggested by the fact of God's patience with the sinning nation. It had continued persistently in its evil courses, with the necessary result that it knew affliction of the most bitter kind. Nevertheless, it showed no signs of returning to the Lord. To the eyes of man, it might seem the only course left open to God was blotting out Israel as a nation, yet that is precisely what we are told He did not do. He saved them for a time through the deeds of King Joash's son and successor, Jeroboam II, great-grandson of Jehu and the next-to final fulfillment of God's promise to Jehu for punishing Ahab's household: "your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation" (2 Kings 10:30). Jeroboam II restored to his people a measure of freedom and regained lost territory. Still today God has not blotted out the people or nation of Israel. He has not lost them nor abandoned them. While they walk amid deep shadows resulting their own infidelities, He watches and guards. In His own time, when afflictions have accomplished His purposes, He will raise up for them their one Savior, who will deliver them from their sins and join them with redeemed Gentiles as one olive tree or people of God (Romans 11).

2 Kings 15:37 "In those days the Lord began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah." These next few chapters deal with one of the most terrible times in Israel's history. As the nation bearing its name wound down to its bitter end at that time, man succeeded man to the throne by murder, and none lasted long. What a commentary upon that first clamor for a king, when the people rejected God from the place of immediate government! Israel was now under despotic military rule, downtrodden and oppressed, yet sinning still with a high hand. The state of affairs in Judah was not much better, for one of their worst kings, Ahaz, ascended to the throne as a young adult while tyrants ruled in Israel. At that time a confederacy was formed against Judah between Syria and Israel under their respective kings, Rezin and Pekah. From Isaiah 7 we learn that although they planned to set up a king over Judah of their own choosing, neither of those kings or their kingdoms would outlast Judah. Nevertheless, the historian writing 2 Kings tells us in our highlighted verse it was God who sent those kings against Judah. The divine overruling of all the affairs of nations is persistent in these sacred writings. The plans and policies of men and women, their hatreds and their intrigues, are unveiled before our eyes, but behind them all we see God, holding them within the grasp of His own government.

2 Kings 16:7 "So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, saying, 'I am your servant and your son.'" In the hour of difficulty created by the confederacy of Syria and Israel against him, King Ahaz of Judah turned to Assyria for help. From the standpoint of policy that trusts to human wit and shuts God out of its calculation, it was perfectly natural thing to do. But the folly and weakness of such a policy is revealed in the method it had to adopt. Notice Ahaz's own words in the highlighted text: he deliberately put his neck under the yoke of the Assyrian king, offering to become his slave. This led down a path that included setting up a blasphemous altar within the Temple court. Refusal to submit to God is acceptance of some destructive yoke. Those who submit to the rule of God never bend their necks to any tyranny. The dark history of this time is illuminated by the prophetic books. From them we learn Isaiah was preaching during this period, as was Micah. So far as Israel and Judah were concerned, the testimony of God's truth seemed lost and the very name of God was being blasphemed among the nations. But that testimony was kept alive by the ministry of those prophets, and through it a believing remnant was being instructed and nourished. At this period, when the king of Judah was content to describe himself as a vassal to the king of Assyria, teaching was being given to loyal souls about the coming of One who would be called Immanuel, meaning "God with us," the Servant and Son of God, through whom the final freedom of His people would come.

2 Kings 17:23 "The Lord removed Israel from His sight." In these words the historian refers to the carrying away into captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel. They are not to be taken with extreme literalness, for there is a sense in which God's people are never out of His sight, even when through disobedience they are excluded from His fellowship. Nevertheless, the highlighted verse helps us realize how great was the disaster overtaking them. The Israelites were to exist for a period as though God had no care for them. They had refused Him, and now they were to endure a time when they would have no communication from Him. This chapter movingly explains things from God's point of view; the reasons for the removal of Israel from the promised land are explicitly stated: 1. Disobedience to the Lord, 2. Conformity to nations from which they had been separated, 3. Secretly practiced abominations, 4. Public idolatry. They did all those things despite God's patience and warning, for "the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, 'Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.' Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God" (verses 13-14). Their sin was first against law, but finally against love.

2 Kings 18:5 "Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Ju- dah, either be- fore him or after him." This is high praise, well justified. Of all the kings of Judah, from Rehoboam the first to Zedekiah the last, Hezekiah stands out as the one who got closest to the divine ideal of kingship. That fact is all the more remarkable when realizing he was the son of Ahaz, one of Judah's worst kings. One great benefit Hezekiah had all his life was being under the influence of the great prophet Isaiah. Our highlighted text reveals the secret of Hezekiah's success: he trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. In that trust he lived, doing right in God's sight in all his personal choices, and in that same trust he instituted reforms more widespread and thorough than any that had been attempted by his predecessors. Hezekiah finally dealt with the high places that had been such a snare to the people since even the time of King David! So low had the people sunk spiritually, the bronze serpent Moses made at God's command to bring healing (which had been carefully preserved), was turned into an idol. Hezekiah described it accurately—Nehushtan, "piece of brass"—and broke it into pieces. A greater illustration of Hezekiah's faith is how he behaved in the presence of Sennacherib's invading army from Assyria. Through his obedience to the prophetic Word, which came from his trust in God, the nation was delivered. But Hezekiah's obedience followed a period of vacillation and fear.

2 Kings 19:19 "So now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, I pray, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone are God." These were the closing words of Hezekiah's prayer in response to a blasphemous letter detailing the final Assyrian threat to his kingdom. It reveals what mattered most to Hezekiah. Of course, he wanted his people delivered from their mighty oppressor, but the deeper concern of his heart was a sincere zeal for the honor of God. When the peril that Hezekiah, in an hour of weakness, attempted to buy off now came to face him, he turned to his trusted friend Isaiah, who sent him this good news from God about Sennacherib: "I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, where I will cause him to fall by the sword" (verse 7). The Assyrian king soon left Judah, but he left behind his army, whose insolent officials sent word to Hezekiah not to entertain futile hope that God would rescue Judah. Upon receiving that letter Hezekiah went up to the Temple and spread it out before the Lord as he prayed over the situation. His prayer was heard and answered swiftly and powerfully: 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were slain in the night by just one angel, and Sennacherib was assassinated in his capital city of Nineveh by his own sons "as he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god" (verse 37). Judah was never troubled by Assyria again. Hezekiah's prayer is a model for us that the one true passion of the human heart is that God be magnified or glorified before the watching world. It is when the heart is purged from selfish motives that it reaches the true place of safety, for God is glorified in serving and rescuing those who place their trust in Him and "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Here is the law of fellowship between man and God: man is always and only to seek the glory of God, and God is always and only seeking the blessing of man. God in Christ empties Himself and endures the cross to save men; man denies himself and takes up his cross daily to glorify God.

He Showed Off His Stuff...
...To the People Who Would Take It Away!
2 Kings 20:13 "Hezekiah showed them all his treasure." In this chapter we have the account of Hezekiah's last days. From an almost-fatal sickness he was delivered in answer to his fervent prayer and by the intervention of Isaiah. Again, however, Hezekiah manifested weakness in how he responded to imperial officials, this time before representatives of the new power in the East: the Babylonian Empire. Hezekiah showed them all the treasures of his kingdom, and was sternly rebuked by Isaiah for doing so. The prophet told him that the things they had seen they would ultimately carry away. The surface reason for the Babylonians' visit was to congratulate the king on his wondrous recovery from his illness. Probably the real reason for the visit was political: Babylon wanted to overthrow the Assyrian Empire, and what nation was more likely to help them than the one that so utterly humiliated them by God's power? When the delegation arrived, Hezekiah was flattered and pleased, receiving them with excessive cordiality. Evidently he was inclined to agree to the alliance they sought. The chronicler gives us an illuminating word about this action when he tells us that Hezekiah's "heart was proud" (2 Chronicles 32:25). Hezekiah responded to the impulse of pride in a way that appealed to his own judgment. In this he was not seeking the glory of God or His guidance. That was the secret of the failure. This account warns all godly men and women of the need for persistent watchfulness, as do these words from our Lord: "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

2 Kings 21:9 "Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites." Now we come to the worst king of Judah and our text tells us why. Manasseh reigned for 52 long years and his wicked son Amon reigned for 2 years after that. Amon merely continued in the evil ways of his father, until his servants conspired against him and killed him in his own palace. The sin of Manasseh was not only personal wrongdoing, but also the deliberate undoing of what his father, Hezekiah, had been at such pains to accomplish. King Manasseh seduced his people to unthinkable evil: doing worse than the nations God cast out of the promised land! Nothing can be clearer as a vindication of the absolute righteousness of the judgment that soon fell upon them: like Israel before them, they were vomited out of the land (a warning that came from the days of Moses—Leviticus 20:22). Alas, all that Hezekiah had done was on the surface of things only, in spite of his personal devotion to God. The vast majority of his people did not share that devotion. When the opportunity came, their corrupt hearts returned to all the evil courses that were bringing about their ruin. The Kingdom of God is the only government where men and women can be guarded from what would otherwise destroy them, and nurtured to their fullest potential for God's glory and their delight.

2 Kings 22:8 "I have found the Book of the Law in the House of the Lord." With the accession of Amon's 8-year-old son Josiah came the last attempt at reformation before the final sweeping away of Judah into captivity, and the end of that kingdom. Despite his wicked father and grandfather, by God's grace this boy "did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his [spiritual] father David," who apparently was Josiah's hero (verse 2). When Josiah was a young adult, he inaugurated a major restoration of the Temple. All that followed resulted from it. In the course of this work came the discovery of the Book of the Law. The condition of affairs in Judah may be gathered from the fact of such a finding. The nation had become abjectly corrupt during the 54 years covering the reigns of Manasseh and Amon. The Temple had been neglected and deserted; it it seems neither king nor priest knew the whereabouts of this holy Book. What a far cry from Moses' command in Deuteronomy 17:18 for each king of Israel to write himself a personal copy of that Book for daily study! The effect the Book had on King Josiah when he heard it read revealed his ignorance of its contents. It became obvious to him how far the nation had wandered from the divine ideal, and how terrible were the curses pronounced upon them for their disobedience. Having a quick and sensitive conscience, Josiah at once realized the danger threatening them and its cause, so he turned for counsel to the prophetess Huldah. Speaking on divine authority, she recognized both the sincerity of the king and the ongoing corruption of his people despite temporary reformations. Divine punishment would therefore come soon, but Josiah would be spared having to live through it. The most penetrating fact of the whole account is that the Book of the Law was lost in the Temple of God. When that is so, nothing can save from ruin.

2 Kings 23:3 "The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and keep His commandments." The figure of Josiah is heroic yet pitiable. From consultation with Huldah, he knew that the people were so corrupt that there would be no lasting value in their reformation. That fact, however, did not give him the right not to follow the light that had come to him. Josiah carried out his work of reformation with enthusiasm and energy. He personally read out loud the Book of the Law before everyone gathered together in Jerusalem, and then made the highlighted covenant of obedience. The Temple was purged of items associated with false religions; from one end of the land to the other, idolatrous shrines and altars were swept away. Following that, the Passover feast, long neglected, was observed with all its ancient glory. As far as Josiah was concerned, this whole procedure was the outcome of his sincerity and loyalty to God. His people, however, were simply following the lead of their king, not acting under any sense of repentance and return to the Lord. Therefore God did not turn from the judgment that had to come to bring about true cleansing. Nevertheless, Josiah the king and Jeremiah the prophet (who advised him and his successors) were true heroes because both were faithful to the will and Word of God, even though they could not save their nation.

2 Kings 24:3 "Surely at the command of the Lord it came upon Judah." After the death of Josiah, the judgments of God fell upon the nation in rapid succession. Jehoahaz, his 23-year-old son, succeeded to the throne as the people's choice and turned immediately to evil courses in his brief reign of 3 months. Pharaoh Neco, who killed Josiah in battle, rejected the people's choice and put Jehoahaz's brother, Eliakim, on the throne instead. As a common way of displaying mastery in those days, the pharaoh changed his vassal's name, to Jehoiakim. He also did evil in the sight of the Lord and reigned for 11 years, first as a puppet for Israel's old enemy, Egypt, and then for Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar decisively defeated Egypt. This continuity of evil made respite impossible, and  the solemn words are written, "The Lord would not pardon" (verse 4). Calamity upon calamity fell upon the people until completely broken and humiliated, they were carried away into captivity. The historian in our highlighted verse tells us this all came by God's command. An abiding truth is that men and women cannot escape from God. We are always under His control. Our attitude towards His rule determines our experience of it. If we recognize His dominion and obey His law, He commands blessing. If we disregard His dominion and break His law, He commands calamity. In either case, the inspiration of His action is love.

2 Kings 25:12 "The captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vine- dressers and plowmen." What a record of the last things in the history of the kingdom! Jehoiachin, who succeeded his father, Jehoiakim, repeated history by doing evil in God's sight and reigning only 3 months before being taken away as a captive. Along with him went the men of war and the rulers—all who were likely to rebel against Babylon. Zedekiah, another of Josiah's sons, was placed in authority by Nebuchadnezzar as his representative and vassal. He occupied his position for 11 years, during which he continued in wicked ways. Then Zedekiah rebelled but was captured and taken to Babylon. The picture of him is tragic. With eyes put out and bound in chains, he was carried to the court of the conqueror, a symbol of the people who had rebelled against God. The good and pleasant Promised Land, the God-appointed home of the people chosen to be His witnesses to the nations, is seen occupied by the poorest of the people, whose lives had become nomadic and agricultural. Thus on the human side, the record that began when the people clamored for a king like the nations, ends in disastrous failure. To those whose eyes are fixed upon the eternal throne, however, it is certain that in spite of all such failure, the divine purpose in and through these people will yet be accomplished.

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