Kings of Israel: The Unrepentant King – Ahaz

 
ISRAEL’S KINGS:   THE UNREPENTANT KING       –        AHAZ           –        23/09/2018
 
Memory Verse
‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. ‘ (Romans 12:1).
 
Reading: 2 Kings 16:1-4 ‘Ahaz son of Jotham began to rule over Judah in the seventeenth year of King Pekah’s reign in Israel. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done. Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel, even sacrificing his own son in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree.’- https://my.bible.com/bible/116/2KI.16.1-4   –
 
Contents

CONCLUSION.. 5

 

INTRODUCTION

In his most recent novel – “Living with the gods”– Neil MacGregor writes about humanity’s age-old quest – to reach out to God. The book starts with wit a 40,000-year-old statuette of a man with a lion’s head, carved out of mammoth ivory and found in a German cave. The earliest known representation of something outside human experience, it bears traces of an organic substance, possibly blood, around the mouth. The author proposes that it was used in communal rituals. Another specimen of worship identified in the book is a stone knife, gorgeously ornamented, which an Aztec priest would use to cut open a human victim and, reaching up into the body cavity, tear out the heart, still beating, while an audience of thousands cheered and danced. One objective of this ceremony, MacGregor proposes, was to terrorise subject nations into submission, and prevent the carnage of all-out warfare. So, though it may seem brutal to us, human sacrifice, concludes the author, can carry “a deep ethical charge”.
 
While most, including Christians, may feel that this is stretching religious toleration too far, and yet one of the most famous biblical encounters, is the story of God instructing Abraham, to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Wow! The difference is of course, that this was meant to be a test of Abraham’s loyalty only, as the rest of the story relates (Genesis22:1-18). ‘Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am”’ (Genesis 22:1). God never intended for human life, to be a sacrifice to him, all through the Bible. The first sacrifices mentioned in the Bible were brought before God by Cain and Abel. We read this account in Genesis: ‘And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat …’ (Genesis 4:3-4). Two things, to note. Firstly, an offering is a sacrifice that is presented to God. And secondly, God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering and rejection of Cain’s, points to His preference of blood sacrifices, over the alternative. And this principle of a “blood sacrifice” carries through from OT to NT.
 

1.      THE UNREPENTANT KING

King Ahaz is one of the few kings of Judah scripture described as an evil king, because of the deplorable practices of worship he introduced to Judah. ‘Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done’ (2 Kings 16:2). What were those things that did not please God, which Ahaz did.

  1. He departed from David’s Example
  2. He copied the evil worship practices of Israel
  3. He imitated the abominable idol worship of other nations
Ahaz’s last two actions, offended God the most. He even used his own children as human sacrifices offered to idol deities. ‘He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel’ (II Chronicles 28:3). The result of this rebelliousness, was God’s rejection of Ahaz and Judah. God allowed them to be defeated by the Assyrians, and Israel in succession. ‘Therefore the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria. They defeated him, and carried away a great multitude of them as captives, and brought them to Damascus. Then he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who defeated him with a great slaughter.’ (II Chronicles 28:5). The massacre of Judah was so atrocious we read in v6 that in a single battle, in one day, Pekah the king of Syria killed over 120 000 soldiers of Judah, and carried thousands more as prisoners of war. Despite all this wrath of God, Ahaz was unrepentant, and led Judah into even deeper moral decline upto the time of his death with dire consequences for the nation. ‘For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord ‘ (II Chronicles 28:19). Likewise, when we are convicted of our sins and refuse to repent, we provoke God’s wrath, judgment awaits us when we die. When people die in their sin, the Bible teaches that God condemns them to everlasting damnation – the second death. ‘…And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death‘ (Revelation 20:13-14).
 

2.      ETHICAL ISSUES

Two contentions issues in our time today, warrant special attention and reflective thought, in view of our theme today, on human sacrifice. First of all, the Bible teaches that all human life is God’s work, sanctified by Him. The Psalmist writes: ‘I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well’ (Psalms 139:14). Secondly, murder or the taking of one human life by another, is expressly prohibited by God. “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus20:13). God gave clear instruction against homicide – the killing of a fellow human – to mankind through the moral law. Leviticus 24:21, lays the foundation for the law against the ending another person’s life: “thou shalt not kill”.

  1. Abortion

Abortion (aka induced miscarriage) is the termination of pregnancy by removal of the embryo or foetus, before it can exist outside the womb. The scale of abortion today is staggering! 56 million unborn babies lose their lives prematurely globally due to abortion. The Christian worldview is unequivocally that abortion constitutes murder.    Proponents for abortion argue mainly that at the time of gestation termination, the foetus does not constitute human life. And yet, God speaking through the Psalmist has this to say on the contrary: ‘For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb’ (Psalms 139:13). In v15, scripture discloses that God foreknew mankind, before conception in the womb, reiterated by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah1:5). ‘“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations”’ (Jeremiah 1:5).

  1. Euthanasia
Euthanasia (assisted death) is the practice of intentionally ending human life, to alleviate protracted pain and suffering. Its proponents argue that it is paramount to afford humans a dignified death, should they choose to do so. The Christian worldview is that euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.
 

3.      GOD’S HUMAN SACRIFICE

God being the creator of human life, also has the sole remit, to allow its termination. A process called death – whether physical or spiritual. Talking of physical death, the writer of Hebrews states: ‘And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27). God is therefore the only one who has absolute and sole authority to end human life, and also use human life as sacrifice. In fact the only human sacrifice God uses is, like Abraham, His very Son Jesus to atone for the sins of the world (John3:16). In the OT, the first encounter with human sacrifice, is God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son (Genesis22:1-18). Of course, this was a mere test, but it served as a precedent and a pointer to the New Covenant – the NT. God’s sacrifice of His son Jesus. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). God accomplished two things, with this test. Firstly, he tested the allegiance by faith of Abraham. Hebrew6. Secondly, he also provided a clue – a foreshadow – that His own Son, would one day be sacrificed in order to save mankind from its own sin.
 
ATONEMENT Atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death, to earn our salvation. Scripture points to two causes, that led to Christ’s coming to earth and dying for our sins: the love and justice of God. The love of God as the premise of the atonement is seed in the most familiar passage in the Bible: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). But, the justice of God also required that God find a way that the penalty due to us for our sins would be paid (For He could not accept us into fellowship with Himself, unless the penalty was paid). Paul explains that this was why God sent Christ to be a “propitiation” (Romans 3:23). A propitiation is a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath so that God becomes “propitious” i.e. favourably disposed toward mankind. It was “to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Romans3:25). Here, Paul says that god had been forgiving sins in the OT but no penalty had been paid – a fact that would make people wonder whether God was indeed just and ask how he could forgive sins without a penalty. Yet when God sent Christ to die and pay the penalty for our sins, “it was to prove at the present time that He Himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Therefore, The Cross of Christ demonstrates that both the love and the justice of God were the ultimate cause of the atonement. Both the love and the justice of God were equally important because without the love of god, He would never have taken any steps to redeem the world. Yet without the justice of God, the specific requirement that Christ should earn our salvation by dying for our sins would not have been met.
 
THE BLOOD OF JESUS Scriptures emphasis on the Blood of Christ also shows the clear connection between Christ’s death and the many sacrifices in the OT that involved the pouring out of the life blood of the sacrificial animal. These sacrifices all pointed forward to and prefigured the death of Christ.
SACRIFICE To pay the penalty of death that we deserved because of our sins, Christ died as a sacrifice for us. “He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
 
REPENTANCE This is our expected response, to God’s sacrifice. When we reject our sinful life, and accept the atoning offer of Christ as a gift unto righteousness and salvation. ‘For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death’ (II Corinthians 7:10).
 

CONCLUSION

We can apply these lessons to leaders of our nations, and for all mankind to come to repentance, praying always (1Thes.5:17), for our rulers. ‘Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, ‘ (I Timothy 2:1-3).   Let’s Prays:    Lord we pray for our Leaders – political – personal space – providential –  Show them and keep them in your grace to lead with your authority & wisdom. Let us pray for our nation, that … the hope and assurance in Christ …. In Jesus’ Name We Pray! Amen!

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Kings of Israel: The Unrepentant King – Ahaz


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Kings of Israel: The Unrepentant King – Ahaz


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Kings of Israel IV – Hope Again

ISRAEL’S KINGS:   HOPING AGAIN    –        KING ASA    –       29/07/2018

MV:    

‘For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” ‘(II Chronicles 16:9).

Reading:        

And Asa had an army of three hundred thousand from Judah who carried shields and spears, and from Benjamin two hundred and eighty thousand men who carried shields and drew bows; all these were mighty men of valor. Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So Asa went out against him, and they set the troops in battle array in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah. And Asa cried out to the Lord his God, and said, “ Lord , it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. And Asa and the people who were with him pursued them to Gerar. So the Ethiopians were overthrown, and they could not recover, for they were broken before the Lord and His army. And they carried away very much spoil. Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them. They also attacked the livestock enclosures, and carried off sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem.’

  • II Chronicles 14:8-15 https://www.bible.com/bible/114/2CH.14.8-15         –

Contents

INTRODUCTION

  1. THE PURPOSE OF JUDAH
  2. THE PARDON OF GOD
  3. THE PROMISE OF GOD
  4. THE PATIENCE OF GOD

CONCLUSION

 

INTRODUCTION

God does not condone the idea, that “the end justifies the means.” He is just and perfect in all his ways. People, on the other hand, are far from perfect. That a bond can exist between a loving and merciful Creator and his rebellious creation is as great a miracle as creation itself.

 

As king, Asa came very close to being good. he travelled a long way with God before getting off tack. Hi s sin was not so much deliberate disobedience as choosing the easy way, rather the right way.

King Asa’s reign was marked by peace because he “he did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God.” This refrain is often repeated in Chronicles – obedience to god leads to peace with #god and other. In the case of Judah’s kings, obedience to god led to national peace, just as God had promised centuries earlier.

In our case, obedience may not always bring peace with our enemies, but it will bring peace with God and complete peace in His future Kingdom. Obeying God is the first step on the path to peace.

 

1.      THE PURPOSE OF JUDAH

Judah existed, as the Southern Kingdom, when Israel was split in two parts, when first Solomon, then his son Rehoboam, failed to follow God’s law. Solomon reigned over Israel for forty years, starting off well, but ending quite disastrously, worshipping the many idols of his several wives.

‘And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods’ (I Kings 11:8).

As a result, God to passed judgment, that the Israel would now exist as a split territory of two kingdoms – the Southern (Judah), and the Northern (Israel).

‘However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen”’ (I Kings 11:13).

A) The Promise to David

We found out earlier that David’s life was so pleasing to God, that God called him, “a man after my own heart.

Being a man after God’s own heart, meant that David made the commitment not only to follow God’s law, but also to always according to God’s goodness. God made this Promise to him, as an eternal reward.

‘And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” ’ ”’ (II Samuel 7:16).

Likewise, God intended for the kingdom of Judah and its successive kings, to glorify Him, through godly leadership providing godly guidance to the nation, just like David had.

Reference is made continually, to David’s exceptional relationship with God:

Likewise, Christians today, are there to reflect the glory of God to the world.

‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).

B) Jerusalem is God’s Choice

It is David whose understanding of God’s will stirs him to desire to build a permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant, which until this time, has been kept in a semi-permanent tent – the Tabernacle.

 

Although the task of building the Temple as the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant is assigned to his son Solomon, a good part of design, planning and materials were prepared by David.

When the Temple is finally built, it fulfils God’s will in Scripture.

We read these words:

‘then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord’ (Deuteronomy 12:12).

Jerusalem, what that place, that the Lord God Himself chose, as the resting place for the Ark of the Covenant. The Temple of the Lord was built there by Solomon, and all Israel offered sacrifices to honour God there.

 

2.      THE PARDON OF GOD

The story of the Nation of Israel, is one that is marked by the mercy, grace and patience of God repeatedly. The failure of Solomon to follow God’s law like David, did not mean an end to the Dynasty of David, because of an unfit king, who ended up worshipping false gods. Infact, in the Providential plan of God, the split of the territory into two kingdoms presented Israel with a double opportunity to follow God, in a way that would honour God. Out of the 20 kings of the Northern Kingdom, not even one of them provided royal leadership and religious guidance that honoured God. None of them. And yet, the mercy of God still prevailed over judgment!

Israel – the Northern Kingdom – was allowed to exist for almost two hundred years, despite its fruitlessness in providing a godly king, out of its twenty successive rulers. None of them had the fear of God in them! But God still showed them mercy.

 

Similarly, the Southern Kingdom – Judah – had twenty rulers over its almost 350 years of existence. Of the twenty rulers, only 4 were godly leaders. The rest were as flawed as their Northern counterparts. As a result of the goodness of the 4 leaders of Judah, God showed them His mercy, extended the reign of Judah’s kings by another 135 years more than that of Israel.

 

It is God’s character to be merciful. The story of Judah’s and Israel’s dynasties, teaches us, God shows us, Believers, His goodness and mercy to the extent to which we are willing to follow Him through righteous living. Even when we fail Him, as we will surely do sometimes, His mercy is always available for us, to open for us another opportunity to right our wrongs.

Listen to these encouraging words from Lamentations:

‘Through the Lord ’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness’ (Lamentations 3:22-23).

 

What lessons can we learn from the leadership and life of King Asa?

 

3.      THE PROMISE OF GOD

When we are loyal to God, He fulfils his promises in our lives, and sometimes even in our children’s children.

‘For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” ‘(II Chronicles 16:9).

Wise decisions, are based on following the ways and Word of God, including the Prophets of God.

A) The Obedient King

When the odds seemed impossible in the battle with the Ethiopianns, Asa recognized the need to depend on God. By praying to God, he managed to defeated one of the most feared kingdoms of the time, with an army of 1m soldiers, almost twice that of Judah.

‘Then Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah, and the Ethiopians fled'(II Chronicles 14:9,12).

Following this victory, God’s promise of peace based on obedience spurred the king and the people of Judah to many years or right living.

B) Religious Reform

Asa started his rule by carrying out a reform exercise to abolish idolatry, and focus worship on the Only One and True God.

‘Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images’ (II Chronicles 14:2-3).

He went further, with his audacious reform plan to depose of his grandmother, Maacah, because of her extreme idolatrous worship.

‘Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron'(II Chronicles 15:16).

And God honoured that.

The positive outcomes of Asa’s leadership were not accidental, but a direct result of his intentional choices to follow God.

 

4.      THE PATIENCE OF GOD

Despite the successful and peaceful start to Judah, Asa tests the patience of God through his rebelliousness and disrespect of God’s messengers.
A) Alliances with Foreign Kings

Years of animosity between Asa and Baasha king of Israel took an ugly turn. Baasha, was building a fort that threatened both the peace and the economic prosperity  of Judah. Asa thought he saw a way out – he used God’s treasures to bribe King Benhadad of Aran to breach his alliance with King Baasha. The plan worked well – almost perfect – but, it offended God. God sent a messenger, Hanani to warn Asa and bring him to repentance:

‘In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars” ‘(II Chronicles 16:9).

B) Dishonour of God’s Prophets

When the prophet Hanani confronted Asa, he flew into a rage, jailed Hanani, and took out hi sanger on his people. Asa rejected correction and refused to admit his error to God. Hi s greatest failure was missing what God could have done with his life if he had been willing to be humble. His pride ruined the health of his reign, and his personal health suffered too. His stubbornness made God strike him with an incurable disease which affected his legs until his death.

‘And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord , but the physicians'(II Chronicles 16:12).

 

CONCLUSION

We can apply these lessons to our own lives as Christians. God not only  reinforces good, he confronts evil. Efforts to follow God’s plans and rules always yield positive results. How well a plan works is no measure of its rightness or approval by God.

 

Let’s Prays:    Lord we pray for …grace to lead righteous lives, without compromise.

Let us pray for our nation, that … the hope and assurance in Christ …. In Jesus’ Name We Pray! Amen!


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He rose again the third day…. 1 Corinthians 15:4


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