Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bible for Dummies - Completing 1 and 2 Kings (Chapter 10, Part 4)

Hello friends,

We conclude our look at 1 and 2 Kings (and 1 and 2 Chronicles) by examining Elijah's confrontation with Ahab on Mr. Carmel, discussing Elijah's life after this confrontation, and looking at two of the most successful kings of Judah.

We also consider some of the valuable lessons learned from our study of the kings.  Things like, "No one leads in a vacuum...leadership always has consequences on the people being led."

I hope that God blesses you as you respond to His Word. not be a hearer of the Word, only. Be a doer of the Word.  - KM

Chapter 10 – A Tale of Two Kingdoms
1 and 2 Kings; 1 and 2 Chronicles
Part 3

** Elijah – My God is Yahweh

·      A Tishbite (from Tishbe, Upper Galilee)…came to be a euphemism for “stranger” (similar to how we use our word, “Indian”…not someone from India, but a native American)

·      Prophet in the Northern Kingdom who is best known for defeating the prophets of Baal (Canaanite god) and Ahab at Mt. Carmel.
·      First, God predicts through Elijah that Israel (Northern Kingdom) would experience a three-year draught (1 Kings 17:1). So Elijah is to flee to Wadi Cherith (location unknown – though Rembrandt had a famous drawing of Elijah drinking from the stream at Cherith). Here, ravens brought Elijah bread and meat to eat during the draught (1 Kings 17:6)
·      Next, Elijah goes to the widow in Zarephath (in Phoenicia, between Tyre and Sidon) who is instructed by God to care for Elijah.  Here, Elijah heals the son of the widow who had died (read 1 Kings 17:20-22). This is a significant witness to the widow.

Elijah versus the prophets of Baal – 1 Kings 18

·      As a result of God’s judgment over Israel, he sends a draught.
·      After three years, Elijah is to go to Ahab and declare to Ahab God’s purpose in the draught.
·      Side note…Obadiah, who was in charge of Ahab’s palace but, ironically, faithful to the Lord at the same time…and who was responsible for saving 100 prophets of God from Jezebel’s killing spree, met Elijah on the road when Elijah was on his way to see Ahab.  They recognize each other.
·      Elijah instructs Obadiah to tell Ahab that he wants to see him…Obadiah takes this as a death sentence (1 Kings 18:11-14), but Elijah assures him that he would be fine.
·      Obadiah arranges the meeting.

Now…let’s read 1 Kings 18:17-40 for the rest of the story.

** God then brings rain…again, to prove he is God. (read 1 Kings 18:41-46)

** Then Ahab whines to Jezebel about what Elijah had prophesied and done, so Jezebel threatens Elijah.  (1 Kings 19:2). Elijah escapes to Beer-sheba (in Judah) out of fear for his life.

·      Sitting under a solitary tree, he asks God, “Why am I so alone in this ‘prophet’ thing?” In essence, he throws himself a pity party. (1 Kings 19:4ff)
·      But an angel (some think God himself) appears to Elijah, feeds him, then instructs him to go to Mt. Horeb – aka: Mt. Sinai (19:8)
·      At Horeb, Elijah has an encounter with God. God asks, “What are you doing here?” (19:9)
·      After a litany of excuses and justifications about how much he (Elijah) had sacrificed to serve God, and how hard it is to be the lone prophet, etc., God said to Elijah
o   You are not alone…there are 7,000 like you in Israel (1 Kings 19:18)
o   Go to Damascus and anoint Hazael king over Aram
o   Also, anoint Jehu as king over Israel
o   And anoint Elisha as the prophet who will take your place.
·      Now…as we know from the example of David’s life, the anointed do not always take charge immediately…so after the anointings take place, we have the confrontation between Ahab with Ben-hadad of Aram (that we covered last week)…then Ahab’s disobedience and God’s word that Ahab and his clan would be destroyed (20:42)
·      Elijah confronts Ahab in Naboth’s vineyard telling him of God’s punishment. Also, Jezebel, because she directed the deaths of God’s prophets, will be eaten by dogs. (1 Kings 21:17ff)
·      Ahab dies in battle against the Arameans, as the word of the Lord had predicted. (1 Kings 22:37-38)

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: Passing the Torch to Elisha – 2 Kings 2

**  It’s time for Elijah to pass the prophetic baton…
·      Elijah and Elisha meet and begin to travel together because Elisha knew that Elijah’s days were numbered. (2 Kings 2:3)
·      Having crossed the Jordan River by simply touching his cloak to the water and having it open (a la Moses and Joshua), they cross the Jordan.
·      Then Elijah is taken up into heaven by the Lord in a whirlwind riding a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire. (2 Kings 2:11)
·      Note: this “death” of Elijah is important…
o   …it allows for the hope of the return of “Elijah” which is foretold by Malachi (Malachi 4:5) and fulfilled by John the Baptist.
o   …also, remember that it was Elijah who, along with Moses, appeared with Jesus at the story of the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9)

Application:  What can we learn and use in our lives from Elijah’s life?

1.     Even when we feel like we’re the only faithful followers of Jesus, there are always others.
2.     God will always provide our deepest needs.
3.     God can overcome our pity parties when we follow his lead.
4.     Don’t let your experience die with you…disciple someone else to take your place. (And pray about who that should be so God can show you.)
5.     Stand up to corruption when the Lord gives the opportunity.  Don’t be afraid to be prophetic.

2 Kings

2 Kings can best be summarized as a downward cycle of deteriorating and ineffective leadership of the kings of Israel and, somewhat, in Judah.

** Pretty much every king of Israel is evil in the sight of the Lord.

** In Judah, there are some good kings and bad kings.

                        King                                                    Assessment                                         Prophet

·      Jehoshaphat (870-848 BC)                 Good
·      Jehoram (848-841)                              Bad
·      Ahaziah (841)                                     Bad
·      Athaliah - queen (841-835)                 Bad
·      Joash (835-796)                                  Good mostly                                       Joel
·      Amaziah (796-767)                             Good mostly
·      Uzziah (767-740                                 Good                                                   Isaiah, Micah
·      Jotham (740-732)                               Good                                                   Isaiah, Micah
·      Ahaz (732-716)                                  Bad…the worst perhaps                    Isaiah, Micah
·      Hezekiah (716-687)                            Good…really good                             Isaiah, Micah
·       Manasseh (687-642)                           Bad…the worst perhaps      Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah
·       Amon (642-640)                                 Bad…the worst perhaps      Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah Josiah (640-608)                              Good…really good              Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah Jehoahaz (608)                                 Bad                                       Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah Jehoiakim (608-597)                                 Bad…really bad                       Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah
·      Jehoiachin (597)                                  Bad                                           Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah Zedekiah (597-587)                            Bad                                           Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah

** The Babylonians conquered Judah and razed Jerusalem (including the destruction of the First Temple) during Zedekiah’s reign, and the Jews were taken into captivity in Babylonia.

Two of the Really Good Kings – Hezekiah and Josiah

Hezekiah – 2 Kings 18

The hallmark of Hezekiah’s reign is his attempt to eliminate the trappings of paganism in Judah.

** Was 25 years old when he began to reign.  Is the grandson of Zechariah.

·      His “claim to fame” – “He did what was right in the sight of the LORD just as his ancestor David had done.” (2 Kings 18:3)
·      Note there are no qualifiers to Hezekiah’s devotion.
·      He showed his faithfulness by…
o   …removing the temples and sacred poles in the high places where pagan worship was so prevalent
o   …destroying the Moses’ bronze serpent (used to heal people of the serpent bites in the wilderness) because it had become a false idol to the people
o   …trusting God more than any other king or leader of Judah before him or after him
o   …keeping the commandments of God
o   …not serving, but defeating the kings, especially Assyria.  Assyria is defeated when an angel of God kills 187,000 Assyrian soldiers as they tried to capture Jerusalem. 

§  Note: This is significant as Israel (in the north) had been defeated and conquered by Assyria in 722-21 BC, marking the end of their existence forever! Thus, the northern tribes become historically known as the “Lost Tribes of Israel.”

** The end result of Hezekiah’s reign is prosperity.

“The Lord was with him; wherever he went, he prospered.”  - 2 Kings 18:7

Josiah – 2 Kings 22-23

** Josiah is Hezekiah’s great-grandson and was 8-years old when he became king.

** Josiah’s legacy was especially strong since it was juxtaposed to Manasseh’s, whose was reign was completely evil in God’s sight. Josiah’s work included…

·      …taking care of the Temple (which had fallen into disrepair under Manasseh)
·      …fulfilling the words of the Lord as found in a scroll in the Temple and interpreted by prophets. In particular, Josiah…
o   …fulfilled the words spoken against Jeroboam (300 years earlier) by invading the northern land of Israel, destroying the altar at Bethel, destroyed the image of Asherah and the high places (just like Hezekiah), and killed the pagan priests,
o   …removed from the royal stables even the horses and chariots that his predecessors had dedicated to pagan gods.
o   removed all pagan idols in Jerusalem and Judah, and outlawed the mediums
·      Perhaps the most drastic act of obedience was the burning of the bones of the ancestors of the northern kings (2 Kings 23:16). This would, in the superstition of the Jews, denied them the privilege of the resurrection since they believed in the literal resurrection of their earthly body (which is why Orthodox Jews do not practice cremation, even today.)

** Sadly, all of Josiah’s faithfulness was not enough to “save” Judah as we read, after all of Josiah’s efforts –

 “Still the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him.  The Lord said, ‘I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel; and I will reject this city that I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.’” – 2 Kings 23:26-27

** So weak is Judah’s resolve that, after Josiah’s death in a battle with Egypt, Judah limps into destruction. They are played with like a cat plays with a dying goldfish out of water.

** When Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar, took control of the region by defeating Egypt, Judah was vulnerable to be conquered.  The last four kings of Judah were evil in God’s sight, so God gave Judah up to Babylon, which defeated Judah in 587BC, taking Judah into captivity.

** In the end of 2 Kings, both Israel and Judah are defeated, the Temple is destroyed, Jerusalem lays in ruins, God’s people are now exiled subjects of the Babylonian king…in other words, the future does not look good.

1 and 2 Chronicles: Same Story…Different Style

** The books of Chronicles essentially report on the same history as the books of Kings, but tell the story from a latter perspective.  They start with a chronology of the Jews starting with Adam, move to the time of Saul’s death and the rise of David as King, but end (in difference to 2 Kings) with a word about the Persian king’s (Cyrus) edict to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem to restore the city walls and rebuild the Temple.  Hope returns because God has not forgotten Israel/Judah, even though he punished them in exile.

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom and also declared in a written edict: “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up.” - 2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Lessons Fit for the Kings

1.     No one “rules” in a vacuum…leadership matters.
2.     God takes his Word seriously…so should his people, as well as their leaders.
3.     We worship a patient God.
4.     God always has a plan and it will be fulfilled. So we can either join in with his plan or…

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