Saturday, August 24, 2013

Covering 480 Years of History

So, since I last wrote I've covered somewhere near 480 yrs of history in the Old Testament.  I've plowed through Kings, Chronicles, and all the prophets up to the fall of Jerusalem.  Have I mentioned how much better I like reading the Bible chronologically.  I have several questions that have cropped up trying to reconcile the two accounts, and what they mean, but on the whole it makes so much more sense to me.  Of course I am a history major.  So I started writing this blog about all the amazing things I have learned reading through the kings of Israel and Judah, but quickly realized this was WAY too big for a single post.  So I've decided to divide it up.  Tonight I'm just going to post about the Kings of Judah.

The first one that really caught my attention was King Abijah.  In I Kings 15:3 it says that he walked in the sins of his father and that his heart wasn't perfect, and basically tells that he wasn't a good king.  However, there is one shining ray of light in his life that is recorded in II Chronicles 13.  When Jeroboam goes out to battle with 800,000 men against Abijah with 400,000 men, Abijah calls Israel out for the worship of the two golden calves they have made.  He says that we continue to worship the Lord, and that "God himself is with us for our captain."  While Abijah wasn't the model king, he did call up on the Lord, so for David's sake "God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah: and God delivered them into their hand."

The next king of Judah is Asa.  He had a great time of peace which he used to build defenses and make ready for times of trouble, and in time they did have trouble. He prepared for battle, and prayed, "Lord it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power:  help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in they name we go against this multitude.  O Lord, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee." (II Chronicles 14:11)  The Lord blesses him and sends him the message not only will He fight for him now, but if he will follow after Him, then He will bless him.  However, if Asa forsakes God then He will not be with him.  And even after the Lord defeated their enemies in such a mighty way, when Israel comes to attack rather than repeating the same course, he panics and sends to Syria for help and paid him from not only his own treasury but out of the Lord's house.  When the seer comes to point this out, Asa flies into a rage and imprisons him, and Judah is defeated.  Then again shortly before his death he has an affliction in his feet, and at no time does he call upon the Lord, but only seeks what man can do for him.

Jehoshaphat likewise follows after God even when confronted with a mighty enemy - the Moabite, Ammonites, and men of Seir.  He gathers all of the people to encourage and strengthen them, and prays to God, a prophet then answers with the Lord's word that the battle is His and that they won't need to fight.  The next morning he gathers them all together again and prays and worships,
"O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever." (II Chronicles 20:20-21)
When in the midst of this the enemy begins to fight one another and completely destroys one another to the last man, so that nothing but dead bodies remained.  Throughout his life Jehoshaphat demonstrates this zeal and faithfulness to God.  And yet, even he made mistakes.  He joins in an alliance with King Ahab three times:  through military alliances, in a business partnership, and by marrying his son to Ahab's daughter.  At times you just want to ask him what was he thinking?

Then later Joash began reigning at 7, and followed the Lord as long as the priest Jehoiada was alive.  Joash's grandmother was the evil daughter of Ahab and Jezebel.  She influenced her husband and youngest son during their reigns and at his death, killed all of her grandchildren and seized the throne.  Joash being a newborn was smuggled out, hidden in the temple and raised by the priest.  Until Jehoiada overthrew her reign and reinstated Joash on the throne.  He helped to restore the damage to the Temple, everything went fairly well during his reign.  But when Jehoiada died, others lead him astray and when the prophets came to him, he ignored them.

Another story that caught my attention was that of Amaziah.  Here is a King of Judah that has to do battle against the Edomites.  He calls to the kingdom of Israel to help, and they send men which he then pays.  Only to have the man of God come to him and tell him that he isn't to use them.  So, in obedience he separates them out and sends them home.  He then defeats the Edomites, and brings their idols home.  But he doesn't stop there, they weren't merely some sort of trophy "see our God is greater than their gods."  No, he brings home the "gods" of a defeated people and worships them?!?  And of course,
...the anger of the LORD was kindled against Amaziah, and he sent unto him a prophet, which said unto him, Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand? And it came to pass, as he talked with him, that the king said unto him, Art thou made of the king's counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel. (II Chronicles 25:15-16)
Then there is the account of Uzziah. He followed the Lord and the Lord greatly blessed and helped him (in fact his name means "Jehovah Helps"). He built strong towns, waged mighty battles, and improved farming. He has the longest reign of the kings at 52 years. However, "when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense." (II Chronicles 26:16) The priest moved to rebuke him, but he was so puffed up in himself that he responses angrily rather than being called to his senses.  It is then that the Lord strikes him with leprosy, because of which his reign ends and his sons begins. He eventually dies of the disease.

Another really interesting account is that of Hezekiah. He was a man "He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him." (II Kings 18:5). He begins his reign by spending 8 days repairing and rededicating the temple.  Judah saw a great revival, even having people come out of Israel to worship the Lord. Later he prayed to God when the Assyrians came insulting the Lord, and the Lord won a mighty battle for them, by his own hand, and not through the people of Judah but the Lord himself (II Kings 19:35). Then still later on his death bed he cried out to the Lord to remember him, and the Lord heard his prayer and granted him 15 more years of life (II King 20:1-6). However, the Lord allowed Hezekiah to be tested, and his pride got the best of him. The Lord had blessed him greatly (II Chronicles 32:27-31), and rather than give the Lord the credit when the men from Babylon came to visit, he showed off all of his treasures. Isaiah came to him, and asked him what he had done, and said that in punishment all that he owned, and one day all of his children would be carried off into captivity in Babylon. And Hezekiah more or less says one of the saddest statements in the Bible, well at least I won't live to see it.

One of our songs in the song book, that I just love tells "That sacred flood, from Jesus's veins, Was free to take away, A Mary's or Mannasah's stains, or sins more vile than they" (Beneath the Sacred Throne of God, sung to the tune of Avon, CM). I'm sure the author had King Mannasah in mind. He had to have been the worst king that Judah had. God said that he was worse than the Amorites that he drove out of the land (II Kings 21:11). For Mannasah, and all that he lead the people into, God pronounced the ultimate judgement that was coming on the people. He built up the groves, and idols, and altars all over the land, he killed many of the priest and prophets, and Jewish traditional holds that while Isaiah was hiding in a log he had it sawed in half killing him. He even sacrificed his own son to Molech (II Kings 21:6). However, as horrible as he was, and he was horrible without doubt, in the end after being carried off by the Babylonians into captivity,
..he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, And prayed unto him: and he was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. ...And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places,yet unto the LORD their God only. (II Chronicles 33:12-17)
Josiah (a name I really like for a boy, but Gary hates on by the way) is the last God-fearing King of Judah. He begins reigning at the age of 8, "And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him." (II Kings 23:25). At 16, he began to seek after God, and at 20 he began to purge the land. He had a wicked father and grandfather, and he didn't know the law of God because when he was 26, and began the repairing of the temple they "found the book of the law in the house of the Lord." (II Kings 22:8). Josiah quickly realized that the Lord would utterly destroy the nation for all their sinfulness, he is struck to the core and rends his garments, and inquires of a prophetess. She confirms it all, but gives the message that the Lord has seen his heart, and his humble repentance and will spare him, in that it will not come to pass in his lifetime. Afterward, he read the word to the people, and worked even harder to stamp out idolatry. He re-instituted the Passover and the care of the priest, and the people all gave willingly. It was said, "there was no Passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a Passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Israel that were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." (II Chronicles 35:18)

Now I shared all of these stories with you, to be able to share the little bit of light I have seen by reading about these men, after all that's the purpose, if "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. " (II Timothy 3:16-17) I believe everyone of these men were Children of God, but not a one of them was perfect. Some were much worse than others, but each have valuable lessons for us. Abijah's "heart was not perfect" (I Kings 15:3), but he still acknowledged that only the Lord has the power to win our battles. We should always be quick to voice to others that He is the source of our power, our strength. We are we so often afraid to share our experience. I know I have been afraid at times that my mistakes were just too much, how could anyone find me credible. But the Lord doesn't tell us to be more concerned with our packaging than with sharing the good news of what He has done for us. Think of the instruction he gave to Moses, and other prophets that felt they weren't up to the job.

Asa again affirmed that our help comes from the Lord, even though he succumbed to fear and anger and turned away from God. One of the Bible verses Britt has memorized says, "What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee" (Psalms 56:3). The Lord understands that we have fears, and often he sends others to us to remind us that we can turn to Him. The correct response is to humble ourselves in prayer, and give it over to Him.  But way too often we get angry at the messenger, or even worse at God, rather than being angry with our own foolishness and changing it.

Jehoshaphat was one of the most pious kings, never doubting God's power but becoming unequally yoked with an evil man. We should always remember that we are not to be tangled up with worldliness, because it will bring us down too. Whether we are talking about God's children that are living like the rest of the world, or those who aren't His, the message is clear that while we can be a light to them, pointing them in the right direction, we shouldn't condone their actions by supporting them. The long term consequences of his actions can be felt all the way down to his great-grandson's life (Joash).

From Joash we see that the examples of those who raise us, isn't enough. When we become adults we need to make our faith real to us. My father and grandfather are great men of faith in my mind, but if I never read and studied, if I never applied that faith in my own life, then when others came to flatter me and lead me away I would have no grounding like Joash (II Chronicles 24:17-18). Not only that, but it is important for us to remember God even in prosperity. To often we get to thinking that everything is going great and that we have no need of God, but we need Him every bit as much during peace as we do in hardship. Aside from that, what sort of foundation will we have when the rains come, if we have failed to look to them in time of peace?

Amaziah reminds us that the Lord doesn't take lightly when we don't give Him the credit that He is due. The Lord doesn't want anything to take our attention and our devotion from Him. How often do we try to implement and use the same dumb things that the world uses. We can see it doesn't work for them, we ask God to help us out, and then we go running back to the world's solutions? These things should not be so. 

Uzziah shows us that no matter how wonderful we are, how Godly we may be, how good we might act, we can't do it all. Sometimes the best deacons get into their mind that they should be preachers, and they don't make good preachers because that wasn't the job that God had for them. Uzziah was a great king, but he wasn't to be a priest. We all have areas in life that God has given us, our own portion of the vineyard, so to speak, to work in and we are to do our very best - no matter how hard or easy the job, no matter how good or rough the ground, no matter if we receive praise or obscurity. We will only prosper when we are where God would have us to be. Hezekiah teaches us that pride in ourselves is empty. The Lord would take it all away, that His people couldn't have pride in themselves and what they had. Another of our hymns "Till then, nor is my boasting vain, till then I boast a Saviour slain" reminds us just as this story does that we have nothing in and of ourselves to boast in, but only in God alone (Jesus and Shall it Ever Be, sung to the tune of Corinth, LM). Additionally, I also see in him the lesson that we should be less concerned about not living to see punishment, but in striving to leave the world, our community, the Church, whatever area the Lord has given us to work, in a better situation for those who come after us. Why would we not take care of a little problem before it can take root, rather than let it go out of control and destroy those who come after us? Do we not rather desire to give our children good gifts rather than our messes to clean up?

To me the story of Mannasah is one of the most beautiful, because it shows us that no matter how bad we are and how little we do to deserve it that God's grace is all sufficient. Mannasah wasn't trying to "get right" with God, he wasn't good enough, he was pretty rotten. Yet, the Lord loved him, and spoke to him. He even allowed Mannasah to return to his home and at that point he "knew that the LORD he was God." No matter what, the Lord can and will save His own. That is a great comfort to me, especially when I am reminded of my own many, shortcomings.  And yet, how sad it is that it is only at the end of his life, that he understood and recognized God.  When for 50 years he had lead the people astray and they didn't return from their errors.  When others are watching us, whether that be ministers who have members looking to them or just as parents with little eyes watching us, we should remember the grave responsibility that we have to be sure that we aren't leading them away as Mannasah did  (II Chronicles 33:9).

Finally Josiah is an example of true repentance. The Lord punishes us here in time for our actions. Just as I have to punish the kids because I don't want them to grow up and be the unruly and immoral folks we read about in the news, like those who shot a man because they were "bored." I often tell them I love them too much to let them behave that way. They don't understand it yet, I didn't at that age, but I do now. Like that old country song that makes me cry every time I hear it, I can see the "Love in Daddy's Hands". In the very same way our Heavenly Father loves us too much to let us behave anyway we want to. No matter what we do, we will always be His children, always within the palm of His hand, but we can miss out on the blessings He has for us here in this life when we don't live the way that He instructs. Likewise, when we repent, as Josiah did, and seek to follow Him, he will bless us for our efforts. I one time heard a minister at the Mt. Zion Association say that Josiah experienced an "Indian Summer" so to speak. Summer was gone, and nothing was changing the fact that winter was coming, but his repentance and faithfulness delayed the coming judgement, just as you can get that last glimpse of summer late, before the cold winds set in. The Lord can always ease our burdens, we just need to go to Him sooner and more often.

Sorry for the length on this post, but I just had to share all the beautiful things I've seen over the last few months in my reading.


Dianne said...

Danielle, I haven't been to ANY of my 'fav' blog sites recently and when I commented on this, it ran me through hoops to make sure I wasn't a robot. I couldn't remember my had to create a new one...then, came back to my comment and it was gone. I LOVED your blog. I love your young mind that allows you to see so much better than I am able to. I try hard. I get rewarded for that, I believe. I have read, shook my head, at these kings and their bad-ness, their attempts at good-ness and I always wonder WHY did God make us such imbeciles (but, capable to learning) and put us here in this timely world where we stumble and fall and get up and stumble and fall...I know there is a purpose and I can read and study and RELATE to these books in His Word because I have their humanity in me but I have God's love in me in spite of...what a study and what a great recollection, "light" you saw and told of. God bless you.

lydia said...

I enjoyed your thoughts. It goes to show that our interest and the way our brains are geared can affect what we are able to absorb. I am not at all history-minded (for lack of a better term), so it's a struggle for me to read through the OT and enjoy the history. I am much more of a poetic, inspirational person. So, I enjoyed reading your summary and what you've gleaned from your studies. It helps me to make sense of what I'm reading.