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Tripped up by pride! — 2 Kings 20:1-19

Tripped up by pride! — 2 Kings 20:1-19
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 18. 2018

A religious leader was talking to a group of people who were about to enter a new phase in their lives. They had been poor and restricted in opportunities and were headed for lives of unparalleled prosperity. These people also had made recent commitments to the Lord. The leader warned they would face new temptations of pride when they became successful and began to accumulate material things. They would congratulate themselves on their abilities and forget the Lord. The speaker Moses proved to be correct. Most of the Hebrew people in their pride forgot God.

These verses show how King Hezekiah responded to God’s miracle of healing in his life. Instead of remaining humble and grateful to God, he became filled with pride and focused on his possessions and his prestige. What occurred with Hezekiah can happen to any of us when we forget that what we enjoy in life is graciously given to us by the Lord God. Let’s discover what happened and how to remain humble before the Lord instead of being tripped up by pride…

READ: 2 Kings 20:1-19

Isn’t it interesting that when folks who never give a hoot or a holler to their relationship with God in life all of a sudden desperately want a beneficial answer from him when life goes bad? Perhaps our pride gets in the way? We see this with…

I. Hezekiah’s prayer! (2 Kings 20:1-3)

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

1. Sennacherib had been stabbed to death by his own sons while he was worshipping. Israel was safe for the time being. The writer of 2 Kings tells us that “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death.” We later learn it was a disease that caused skin boils. (Eww…) What would Hezekiah do? Who could he turn to during this desperate time of need? Most illnesses during these times resulted in a person’s death; medical science not being what it is today. I often laugh at how some folks put so much trust in old time or natural cures when in fact most do not do anything at all. We discover however that “The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him”. I am sure that when Isaiah first showed up in the king’s court he was seen gladly. Perhaps he had a message from God that would cure Hezekiah? And yet any serious rejoicing was soon dowsed when Isaiah said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Wow, Isaiah does not have very good bedside manner, does he! Just what a sick person wants to hear from someone whom you hoped would bring you an answer. It is kind of pathetic and sad because this great king does what most folks would probably do in this situation: “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD”! Who else could he rely on if Israel’s prophet brought him such horrible news? Hezekiah does what he should have done all along, he prays, “Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” He reminds the Lord that he tried his best to walk with him even if he did stretch the truth of his relationship just a bit. But isn’t this how most of us view ourselves? And then the realization of what is going to happen and the words of the Prophet Isaiah sink into his prayer and “Hezekiah wept bitterly.” It is never the least thing we can do; it is the most important thing to do. We should never be so prideful that we cannot pray!

EXAMPLE: Why do you pray? Do you see prayer as a means to perhaps change God’s mind on an outcome in life you disagree with? Do you pray in order to discover more about the Lord and develop your relationship with him? Or do you pray because it is expected of you and you have a list to check off each day? Prayer is to be our constant conversation with the Lord when we seek his face and discuss with him his will and his ways. We should never be so prideful that we wait to pray only when we have a desperate need. Pride should never get in the way of our prayers.

We forget that God does indeed answer the prayers of his people. He can say “yes”, “no”, “wait”, or say nothing at all. He often does not give us an answer when we already know it. Hezekiah’s prayer results in an unexpected answer. When one is willing to humble their selves and seek God’s face God will answer them. We find the answer from the Lord in…

II. Hezekiah’s healing! (2 Kings 20:4-11)

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?” Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.” Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.

1. God answers Hezekiah’s prayer almost immediately. We discover that “Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, “This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.’” Notice God qualifies his answer to this king: “tell the leader of my people”. This was the God of his “father David” answering his prayer and not some false god or idol. “I will heal you.” No sweeter words were ever spoken to this mighty king. When God answers he gives us specifics. He never makes us guess. God is not some game show host making us try to discover what he wants. God bluntly tells Hezekiah through Isaiah, “On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.” God wasn’t just healing Hezekiah because he liked him; he was healing him and rescuing his people “for my sake and for the sake of my servant David”! God had made a promise to David that out of his linage the Messiah would come, and God was going to fulfill that promise in spite of Hezekiah. Isaiah commands that a “poultice of figs” be prepared and applied to Hezekiah’s boils and he recovers. Hezekiah’s curiosity gets the better of him and he asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?” There is no better place to be than in the center of the will of God. Hezekiah’s pride was getting in the way again, but God is patient. Isaiah answered him, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” Not seeing how God is working fully Hezekiah remarks, “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps, rather, have it go back ten steps.”   The Lord had heard Hezekiah’s prayer and had seen his tears. God saw the king’s outward appearance and also his heart and knew the words expressed his heart’s deep desires. God said, “I am healing you.” Yet Hezekiah wants proof. When God answers our prayers our pride should not get in the way of our healing!

EXAMPLE: There are those who think they can make a deal with God. Hezekiah was truly humbled by his ailment. We forget that everything is for the glory of God. Our life, all of creation and everything that happens is part of the work and will of the Lord. We have a tough time when it involves violence, an act that we cannot fathom, or an act of nature that destroys everything we own. We wonder how a good God can allow bad things happen to good people. We forget that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)” Our pride should not get in the way like it did with Hezekiah’s healing!

How do you respond when God answers your prayers but it isn’t the way you wanted? Hezekiah received a deathbed healing from God! The king should have remembered this healing and past blessings and deliverances from God with humility and gratitude so as to avoid becoming puffed up with pride. Past blessings are God’s accomplishments, not a person’s achievements. We see it in…

III. Hezekiah’s pride! (2 Kings 20:12-19)

At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses–the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil–his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.” The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”

1. Often when we become ill folks will respond. Especially if the one who is sick is a leader of a nation like a king or President! Interestingly we learn that “At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness.” Remember Assyria had been a threat and now we discover visitors from Babylon bringing “letters and a gift” to a sick king of a tiny but strategic nation. Is Hezekiah cautious? Nope. “Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses–the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil–his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.” Is his guy dense or so full of himself that he simply cannot help it? God’s Prophet is not so stupid and he goes to Hezekiah and asks, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” Hezekiah responds, “They came from Babylon!” The king of Babylon heard of Hezekiah’s illness and sent letters and a gift. The Babylonian king also wanted to learn more about the miraculous sign of the shadow moving backward (2 Chron. 32:31). In addition he probably was trying to enlist Hezekiah’s help in resisting Assyria or how well defended Israel was. They now knew how rich this little nation was; a prize for the picking. The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” Hezekiah was focused not on how God had blessed him but on what he thought he had accomplished; including his healing. Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood that will be born to you will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” We learn that “Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 32:25 NIV) Hezekiah referred to his blessings as “my treasures”. Hezekiah’s heart was prone to sinful pride. God had made Hezekiah successful in everything he did because of his devotion to the Lord. Yet Hezekiah failed to attribute all of this to the Lord. Thus the Lord’s wrath was on him because of his sinful pride.

EXAMPLE: Did Hezekiah weep again? Did he seek God’s face? Nope. He pragmatically responds, “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” for he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” Hezekiah’s response can be understood in three possible ways. Perhaps he was being smug and self-serving. Or, he was praying the disaster would be delayed as long as possible. Or, he accepted the inevitability of judgment but was grateful it would not come until after his death. The last response seems to fit the king’s character. Though Hezekiah’s motives may not have been totally pure, he did humbly accept the Lord’s correction of his pride. Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD’s wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:26 NIV)”

Conclusion:

Instead of remaining humble and grateful to God, Hezekiah became filled with pride and focused on his possessions and his prestige. What occurred with Hezekiah can happen to any of us when we forget that what we enjoy in life is graciously given to us by the Lord God. We learned this in Hezekiah’s healing, Hezekiah’s prayer, and Hezekiah’s pride.
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Trapped by sin! — 2 Kings 17:5-12, 16-20

Trapped by sin! — 2 Kings 17:5-12, 16-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 4, 2018

Two men were members of the same church. Both were active and were positive witnesses to the presence of God. One grew as a Christian vividly. God gave him victory over various sins committed before becoming a Christian. He became a strong, positive Christian influence in his workplace and community. The other man did not make worshiping and serving God his highest priority. Instead, he began giving into temptations seeking pleasure and possessions instead of a relationship with the Lord. Eventually, he gave up any visible identification with believers and the Lord.

All 20 kings who ruled northern Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. None of them worshiped God only. None were descendants of David to whom God promised his family would always rule over God’s people. Ahab and Jezebel made Baal worship legal. God disciplined his people, but nothing turned them to the Lord. God sent prophets Elisha, Amos, and Hosea to warn Israel of its sin and call the nation back to him. Israel continued to sin and fall deeper into bondage. Finally, God sent Assyria to destroy Samaria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell. Israel was trapped by sin, let’s see how…

READ: 2 Kings 17:5-12, 16-20

When Shalmaneser succeeded Tiglath-pileser as king of Assyria, he attacked Hoshea the king of Israel and made him pay tribute. When Hoshea turned to the king of Egypt for help, Shalmaneser invaded Israel, and captured Samaria. Samaria fell because of the people’s sin against the Lord.

I. The downfall of sin is bondage! (2 Kings 17:5-6)

The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.

1. During the time Ahaz was king of Judah and Hoshea king of Israel, Shalmaneser was king of Assyria. Shalmaneser invaded Israel, which eventually fell into Assyrian bondage. Before this time, Israel had been progressively losing its freedom. Israel’s government was highly unstable. After Jeroboam II’s reign of approximately 40 years, five kings followed him in rapid succession. When Hoshea became king at first he paid Assyria tribute (bribe) money. Then he rebelled, quit paying what amounted to “protection money” to Assyria, and turned to Egypt for help — big mistake! Considering Hoshea to be a traitor, Shalmaneser (who succeeded Tiglath-pileser as king of Assyria) invaded the whole land of Israel. Israel’s fall had been slow but sure in coming. “The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria (Northern Israel’s capital) and laid siege to it for three years.” The downfall of personal or national sin is bondage; bondage to one’s sin, bondage to others who begin to control you because of your sin. Jesus related the same thing when he taught about how a rich man’s money keeps them in bondage just like sin in that “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money (your sin). (Matthew 6:24 NIV)” There is always consequences for one’s sin. When we try to say we honor God but keep part of our lives in sin we suffer. Sadly, when nations or leaders of nations do this it can affect a lot of folks! “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.” The Northern Kingdom became captive slaves because of their leaders past sins! The downfall of sin is bondage!

EXAMPLE: This past week we have seen how sin can enslave people and be used as an excuse to do horrendous acts. Murdering people because of who they are, firebombing buildings because of politics, or trying to blame others for people’s actions are feeble attempts to excuse sin. Like chains that enslave us, sin is just as binding. Peter wrote that “by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.” He goes on to write that if one has escaped the corruption of the world by faith in Jesus but then returns to it they are like a dog returning to its vomit or a sow that is washed and goes back to her wallowing in the mud. (2 Peter 2:18-22 NIV) The downfall of sin is bondage!

Israel’s downward slide to bondage moved from being made a vassal nation that paid tribute (bribe) money to Assyria to its people’s being exiled. The slaves who were once set free from Pharaoh are enslaved again! People who fail to obey God will experience spiritual bondage. We discover that…

II. Believers can suffer because of their disobedience! (2 Kings 17:7-12)

All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that provoked the LORD to anger. They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, “You shall not do this.”

1. We discover that “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh King of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.” Some of those “practices” included sacrificing their children by burning them alive in fire; practicing divination, witchcraft, and sorcery; interpreting omens; casting spells; and going to mediums or spiritists to try to contact the dead. Do any of these practices ring a bell when you observe the practices of people today, even some who are professing Christians? Walking spiritual mazes, speaking in tongues, chanting certain phrases over and over, being superstitious, worshipping nature or the environment are just some ways folks have diluted their faith. Believers can suffer because their disobedience! Not all of Israel’s sins were public sins. “The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done.” Families had begun to make their own backyard altars to any deity or dead relative! They had sexual relations with cultic prostitutes to honor fertility gods and goddesses! These horrible practices, done in the name of worship and in the name of God, “provoked the LORD to anger”! Like many Christians today “They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, ‘You shall not do this.’” We often think we have the right to do whatever we want whenever we want as long as it makes us feel good about ourselves, and nothing could be further from the truth! Believers can suffer because of their disobedience!

EXAMPLE: “The data suggests this is the fastest growing religious group in America, are people who don’t hold any firm religious beliefs,” Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Teixeira was discussing a recent Pew Research Center poll that found 62 percent of Americans hold New Age beliefs, such as astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in trees or mountains. The survey also found that those who identify as Christian were more likely than atheists and agnostics to hold at least one New Age belief. Sixty-one percent of respondents who identified as Christian said they held at least one New Age belief, compared with 22 percent of atheists and 56 percent of agnostics who said the same. Sixty-seven percent of mainline Protestants, 47 percent of evangelicals and 70 percent of Catholics said they believed in a New Age belief. And we wonder why churches are not growing. We learn here that believers can suffer because of their disobedience!

God has commanded his people to worship only him. Not trees,, mountains, or images we have made. These commandments are stressed repeatedly throughout Scripture. But people refuse to listen or obey. Disobedience was the reason God brought judgment on the Israelites and allowed Assyria to conquer their nation; therefore we should learn…

III. The lesson is to worship God only! (2 Kings 17:16-20)

They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.

1. Again we discover that the Israelites “forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire.” God has terms about how we are to worship him. It is to be centered on him and not ourselves! When we make it about ourselves then worship begins to be about how we feel. Our worship becomes syncretism: the combination of different systems of philosophical or religious belief or practices! We see this with roadside altars to those who were killed or the belief in ghosts. Other pagan practices were widespread throughout Israel. Some parents sacrificed their sons and daughters by fire! They practiced divination and interpreted omens. The practice of divination and omens involved efforts to know and thus manipulate the future by human means instead of trusting the God of history. The practice astrology by bowing down to the “starry hosts” and it included such pagan activities as seeking omens or signs, telling fortunes, forecasting the future by examining animal organs, and trying to communicate with the dead. Does any of this sound familiar? People without God can only use human means to try to understand what’s going on in the world and in their lives. The people of Israel had God, but they ignored him and turned from him to the futile means that pagans used. In doing so they “sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger”! Even though the people did not care, God did! “So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence.” The only group that was left was Judah to the south “and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.” Wow! The lesson is to worship God only!

EXAMPLE: God’s evaluation of Israel was that they sold themselves to do what was evil, thus provoking the Lord to anger. Instead of dedicating themselves wholly to the Lord, they gave themselves to practices that were characteristic of the people around them but were evil in God’s sight. God did not ignore his people’s pagan worship or practices. God’s anger is not a selfish anger. His discipline operates in our best interests. It is designed to bring us back to him because he desperately loves us. Remember, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)” God would provide a way back to him and he still does! The lesson is to worship God only!

Conclusion:
The downfall of sin is bondage! Believers can suffer because of their disobedience! The lesson is to worship God only!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Condemned by conformity! — 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16

Condemned by conformity! — 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 28, 2018

I used to go fishing for crawdads. As we caught them we would put them in a bucket of water. As the bucket got full of crawdads they would try to crawl out but the ones trying to get out were pulled back in by others trying to get out. As parents we warn are children about the influence of peer pressure. Peer pressure can be just like those crawdads that pulled others back into the bucket. I have learned however that peer pressure does not end in childhood, it continues into our adult life. There are those in our Christian lives who try to pull us back into conformity rather than live the lives God desires.

2 Kings 14–15 contains a brief history of the reigns of 3 kings over Judah and 6 kings over Israel. Their reigns were characteristic of life in Judah and in Israel. The reigns of the kings of Judah did okay but they compromised God’s requirements. They allowed people to offer sacrifices and offerings in the high places instead of in the temple in Jerusalem. Their disobedience resulted in Judah moving further away from God. And the six kings of Israel all did evil by worshiping golden calves and Baal. Both kingdoms went to war against one another and the final result of their unfaithfulness led to their conquest by Assyria. They were condemned by their conformity! Let’s discover why…

READ: 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16

Believers who disobey God, who do not worship him, and who do not repent will suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. This is true for common folks as well as leaders of nations. Here we learn that…

I. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! (2 Kings 14:8-14)

Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, with the challenge: “Come, meet me face to face.” But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah, however, would not listen, so Jehoash king of Israel attacked. He and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth Shemesh in Judah. Judah was routed by Israel, and every man fled to his home. Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.

1. Let’s break down what’s going on for the Israelites during this time. Amaziah the king of Judah to the south did some things right in God’s sight but not like his forefather David. He did evil by not removing the high places where people worshipped idols. David permitted no worship except that of God and no sacrifices except those offered in the temple in Jerusalem. Embolden by his military success against Edom, Amaziah challenged Jehoash to the north by telling him “Come, meet me face to face.” Jehoash was no dummy and responds by telling Amaziah, “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant.” Jehoash of Israel answered Amaziah’s challenge with a fable! Judah was just a small, weak weed and Israel as a strong Lebanon cedar. Jehoash’s army would be like the wild animal. Amaziah would be trampled to death in battle. Amaziah had become arrogant in his victories. Was he truly going to threaten northern Israel? Jehoash advised Amaziah: “Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah refused to listen and “so Jehoash king of Israel attacked… at Beth Shemesh in Judah”. Jehoash did not stop there, he “went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.” What occurred was because in his pride “Amaziah… would not listen, for God so worked that he might hand them over to Jehoash, because they sought the gods of Edom. (2 Chronicles 25:20 NIV)” Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!

EXAMPLE: Many mainline churches today that had been spiritually great in the past are mere shadows of what they once enjoyed. They sent missionaries around the world with the Gospel. They fed the poor and helped the weak but now more often than not they are more involved in socialism than the spreading the Gospel. Arrogantly they depend upon spreading liberation theology than sharing the good news of Jesus Christ thinking that mankind can change the sinful condition of the world. Mankind can’t only the good news can. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!

Pride often leads to disastrous consequences. Pride led Amaziah to declare war on Israel, one in which he suffered a humiliating and disastrous defeat. Not only did Amaziah suffer personally but also he brought disaster on his people, the city, the temple, and his palace. Pride should not be found among God’s people. As we continue we learn that…

II. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! (2 Kings 15:10, 13-14)

Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah. He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king… Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned in Samaria one month. Then Menahem son of Gadi went from Tirzah up to Samaria. He attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.

1. “Shallum son of Jabesh” of Israel, whose name means “retribution”, was originally a captain in the army of King Zechariah and now he “conspired against Zechariah”. He wanted to be king himself. And so we learn that “He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” See, politics haven’t changed much in thousands of years! This is the culmination of ungodly spiritual conformity that goes back to Jehu. He was a king who had “destroyed Baal worship in Israel” (2 Kings 10:28). However, he was warned that because of his spiritual conformity of not turning “away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan” his descendants would only be in power for 4 generations. Jehoahaz, Joash, Jehoram, and Zechariah were his successors until it was abruptly ended by Shallum! However what goes around comes around and even though “Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah” we quickly learn that “he reigned in Samaria one month”! And we think that our elections are so bad. They are nothing compared to those ungodly men who decided against following God and decided on their own to usurp power for themselves. Shallum was opposed and slain by Menahem, who, according to the historian Josephus, was the commander of the forces, which, on the report of the king’s murder, were besieging Tirzah, a town twelve miles east of Samaria, and formerly a seat of the kings of Israel. Stopping the siege, he marched directly against the usurper, “attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!

EXAMPLE: How often have we seen as large ministries or churches fall because of their leadership? The scandals that plague the Joel Olsten’s of the world are rife. Basic Youth Conflicts was one such organization. Here locally we had a fast growing mega church that was lead by one man fall into ungodliness. The Senior Pastor and his relatives made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was later caught involved in ungodly perverted behavior and is serving time in prison for his crimes. We have seen the same kind of corruption in the history of the Catholic Church and other denominations when they become full of themselves rather than following the Lord. It is easy for those caught in the corruption of sin to acquiesce and excuse their ungodly behavior. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!

Many atrocities occur in today’s world. God’s people should renounce these brutalities that often characterize the ungodly. Christians should do what they can to help defend people who are helpless before such atrocities. These people include the unborn as well as children, youth, women, and elderly people who are abused. We discover that…

III. Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response! (2 Kings 15:16)

At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates and he sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.

1. Before WWII churches were becoming complacent in Germany and the rest of the world. Some even took the posture that National Socialism was a good thing for Germany and perhaps the rest of the world! When the first reports of Jewish genocide reached the shores of America many did not believe it was occurring. Some reported it was a false narrative. Sadly it was not. Spiritual leaders simply refused to stand against the evil they saw rising around them. This is exactly what occurred in both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The nation of Israel should never have been split into two separate nations. It should have remained true to God. What occurred afterwards is a horrendous example of what happens when God’s people do not remain true to him. Being a military man and only knowing aggression and the horror of war Menahem used his knowledge to subjugate Israel: “At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.” What a horrendous act! He was a horrible leader and led his people into debauchery and ungodly worship: “In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. (2 Kings 15:17-18 NIV)” It is a sad commentary to the outcome of the once great nation Israel! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!

EXAMPLE: Believers who disobey God, do not worship him, and do not repent suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. We live in a time when there is societal pressure to shame believers into accepting perversion as normal and godly. TV shows like Young Sheldon offer viewers a distorted view of Christianity. The Pastor of the family’s church is often ridiculed and displayed as a dolt. The church secretary is seen as a chain-smoking crass elderly woman; and the mother is displayed as a hypocritical weakling who doesn’t have a clue about Christianity. What mainstream media desires is that Christians conform to their worldview or suffer the ridicule of their peers. Paul reminds us that “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)” Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!

Conclusion:

Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Go the distance! — 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25

Go the distance! — 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 21, 2018

During an elementary school track meet a young boy ran three of the laps in a race very fast and was out among the leaders. But on the last lap, instead of staying on the track and rounding the end to get to the finish line, he left the track, cut across the football field to the track on the other side, and then finished. Someone asked him why he cut across, he simply said, “I got tired.” Though he ran well, he did not finish well and was disqualified. He failed to go the distance.

There is a definite need in America today for God’s people to serve the Lord with all one’s heart. Some of Northern Israel’s kings rendered admirable service to the Lord for a while, but in time their obedience was well rather incomplete. They sinned and did what they wanted rather than following the Lord. Their examples illustrate the importance of serving God with wholehearted consistency and persistence. Today we will take a look at why it is so important for believers to go the distance…

READ: 2 Kings 13:4-6, 14-19, 24-25

Why do some Christians start well in their relationship with God but then do not serve with wholehearted consistency and persistence? Why don’t they go the distance? We can blame it on a lot of things but whatever the reason God calls his people to go the distance! We discover that…

I. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings! (Vv. 4-6)

Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.

1. When Jehoahaz became king of Israel, he continued his predecessors’ practices. He approved of and took part in the worship of the golden calves set up by Jeroboam at Dan and Bethel. Because the people followed their leader’s example and as punishment for their sins, God kept Israel under the oppressive power of the Aramean kings Hazael and Ben-hadad. This condition continued during Jehoahaz’s 17-year reign. “Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.” While we are not always faithful, God always is. The word “sought” carries the idea of turning to God in weakness or helplessness. God heard Jehoahaz because God saw the oppression Hazael, king of Aram, inflicted on Israel. The Hebrew word translated “heard” means not only that God listened to the prayer of Jehoahaz but also that He answered his prayer: “The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.” Just like in the Book of Judges God once again sent someone to deliver his people. He acted to deliver the Israelites and restore them to a time of peace. They were able to live in their own tents or homes as before. Sometimes, people never learn from their mistakes. This can be true of a nation as well. “But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.” God’s deliverance did not motivate the Northern Kingdom Israel to turn back completely from idolatry and worship him only. Israel continued to practice the sins that Jeroboam, Israel’s first king, initiated when he set up calf worship in Israel. The nation also kept the Asherah pole standing as a symbol and place for the worship of the female goddess Asherah. An Asherah pole was a wooden pole erected to the Canaanite goddess of fertility. May poles that some dance around nowadays are the remnants of this paganism. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings!

EXAMPLE: I enjoy being in the company of people who have a sense of humor. Lighthearted conversation sprinkled with laughter is always enjoyable. I also like serious discussions about important spiritual, moral, and political issues, especially when the participants express different points of view with intensity and feeling. I must confess however that I don’t enjoy conversations when I am being rebuked. It’s hard to face my failings. As I look back on my life, however, I must confess that some of the reprimands have brought me moral and spiritual benefit. I remember my uncle who was “disappointed” in me because I took a shortcut in weeding my grandmother’s garden. I remember a coworker telling me he wasn’t satisfied with the job I did. Both made me a better person. Rebukes hurt, but they are helpful. To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings!

Jehoahaz was wise to go to God in prayer for help. The worship of Baal and Asherah had not brought his nation deliverance from Aram. When God delivered the Hebrew people, they should have turned to him in gratitude and served him with all their hearts. However, they fell short spiritually. They accepted God’s favor but continued in their evil ways. We discover that…

II. Persistence pays off in going the distance for God! (Vv. 14-17)

Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”

1. What was a king to do? His army had been reduced to 50 horsemen, 10 chariots, and only 10,000 foot soldiers. His nation was suffering from the incursions of the Arameans and was spiritually corrupt. Now, the Nation’s top prophet “Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died.” The names of the kings here might be confusing. “Joash” and “Jehoash” are two ways of spelling the same name. This confusion is complicated because Israel and Judah both had kings with this name and their reigns overlapped. In verse 10 the king of Judah is called Joash and the king of Israel is called Jehoash. For clarity’s sake, this is how the names will be used. So we find that the “Jehoash king of Israel went down to see (Elisha) and wept over him. ‘My father! My father!’ he cried.” He saw Elisha as his nation’s spiritual father. The word also implies a master, a protector, an advisor, or a governor. God had made Elisha a spiritual leader to Israel! Through the years, Israel had defeated its enemies by depending on Elisha, not by depending on the nation’s military strength. So now the king cries, “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” Though Elisha was very ill, he answered Jehoash’s request for help. Elisha tells him “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. “When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.” The prophet’s action symbolized that God would have his “hand” on the king in battle against Aram. Jehoash would have to face the Arameans, but God would guide him in the battle. The prophet’s next instructions were to open the east window. The Arameans were located in the area east of Israel, which included the area across the Jordan. Pointing the arrow out of the window toward the east, Elisha commanded Jehoash to Shoot! When the king shot the arrow, Elisha declared, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha promised Jehoash would receive victory over the Arameans at Aphek a city east of the Jordan and near the Sea of Galilee. What circumstances tempt believers to think ministry for the Lord is no longer possible? In what area will you continue to serve the Lord regardless the circumstances? Even while very ill Elisha continued to serve the Lord. Persistence pays off in going the distance for God!

EXAMPLE: A. J. Cronin a doctor who was forced by illness to take a leave of absence from his medical practice decided to write. He became discouraged when half done and threw his manuscript into the garbage. Later when Cronin was walking the Scottish Highlands he met a man digging in a bog, to drain it for use as a pasture. As Cronin talked with him, the man related, “My father dug at this bog and never made a pasture. But my father knew and I know that it’s only by digging you can make a pasture. So I keep on digging.” Feeling rebuked Cronin went home, picked his manuscript out of the garbage can, and finished it. That novel, Hatter’s Castle, sold three million copies! There are times we may feel trapped by circumstances that demand persistence. Are we willing to keep digging away at whatever “bog” God has assigned to us? Persistence pays off in going the distance for God!

Elisha rendered persistent service to the Lord, even when he was suffering from a terminal illness. Elisha’s actions remind us that the Lord wants believers to continue serving him as long as they are able, regardless of what they are experiencing. We learn that…

III. We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience! (Vv. 18-19, 24-25)

Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”… Hazael king of Aram died, and Ben-Hadad his son succeeded him as king. Then Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured from Ben-Hadad son of Hazael the towns he had taken in battle from his father Jehoahaz. Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns.

1. Elisha instructed the king to “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Now here is the key to understanding what the king should have done, how he failed Elisha’s direction, and therefore failed to follow through with his trust in God! “Strike the ground” with the arrows Elisha told him but the king struck the ground three times and stopped. How many arrows did Jehoash have in his hand? We do not know but if he had followed through he would have been completely successful! Jehoash could have held all the arrows in his hand and struck the ground three times, or he could have shot three of the arrows into the ground. I believe he had a lot more arrows and he had failed to strike the ground the number of times the arrows represented. God desired to give him a complete victory but now he would only enjoy a partial one. How often does this occur in our lives when God asks us to trust him and we only partially follow through? Elisha became angry when Jehoash stopped after striking the ground only three times. The prophet said he should have struck five or six times. If he had, then he would have defeated Aram totally, until he put an end to them. But because he struck the ground only three times, he would strike down Aram only three times. The king’s actions reveal half-heartedness in accepting Elisha’s word from God. The king’s actions suggest a lack of faith and determination to be all he could be in the hands of Almighty God. We learn that after the king of Aram’s death Jehoash seized the opportunity to recapture from Hazael’s successor, Ben-hadad, the towns Hazael had taken from Jehoash’s father Jehoahaz. In the battles for those towns, Jehoash was able to defeat the Arameans under Ben-hadad but only three times, thus fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy. What task or challenge are you facing right now for the Lord in which you are tempted either to ignore or to face half-heartedly? What steps can you take to go the distance with God in this challenge? Jehoash was not limited in his success by the strength of the Arameans but by his own lack of wholehearted obedience. God had promised complete victory, but the king had not been committed to obeying and serving God obediently. God would have gone the distance and defeated the Arameans if only Jehoash had gone the distance with him. We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!

EXAMPLE: After getting home from church a little boy’s mother asked what they had taught him in Sunday School. He sighed and responded, “Obedience… AGAIN!” We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience! Oswald Chambers wrote: “The Lord does not give me rules, but he makes his standard very clear. If my relationship to him is that of love, I will do what he says… If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself.” Cindy Casper writes: “When we are obedient, we show God that we love him and have more faith in him than we do in ourselves. Arthur W. Pink said that love is ‘a principle of action, and it expresses itself . . . by deeds which please the object loved.’ To obey God means to relinquish what we want and to choose to do what he asks.” We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!

Conclusions:

To go the distance we need to look at our spiritual shortcomings! Persistence pays off in going the distance for God! We can go the distance with wholehearted obedience!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Line up with God’s purposes! — 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12, 15-20

Line up with God’s purposes! — 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12, 15-20
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 14, 2018

Sam was the president of the bank in his town. He and his wife enjoyed the excitement and popularity of their community positions. In the eyes of many he was a successful husband, father, and community leader. However, almost every time Sam passed a church on his way to and from work, he felt a twinge of guilt. He knew he and his family were not living up to the standards his father and mother had taught him. Though he and his wife were nominal church members, they were not actively working in the church to accomplish the Lord’s will in their community. Each year, that fact weighed more heavily on his conscience. Believers are called to yield to and act in line with God’s purposes in the world and in their lives.

The verses we will look at this morning we will discover two women, one of whom pursued an agenda directly opposed to the purposes of God. The second woman determined to act in line with God’s purposes and planned her actions accordingly. How do you define success? What is the relationship between success and taking actions to fulfill God’s purposes? Why is pursuing one’s own agenda without regard to God’s purposes wrong? Let’s find out this morning…

READ: 2 Kings 11:1-3, 12, 15-20

I. We will face challenges to God’s purposes! (Vv. 1-3, 12)

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.

1. This is a sordid tale of murder, scheming, and downright ungodly behavior! The background for this account is God’s promise to David that his descendants would rule over his people forever. When Jehoshaphat of Judah was king, he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son Jehoram marry Ahab’s daughter Athaliah. Jehoram then became the next king of Judah. A son born to Jehoram and Athaliah, Ahaziah, became Judah’s next king and Athaliah the queen mother. At Ahaziah’s death, she usurped Judah’s throne for herself and became queen. Following the death of Ahaziah, his idolatrous mother then began to murder any of his descendants she could find: “When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.” Her action would have ended the rule of David’s descendants over God’s people, which God had promised would be forever. Do you think Satan was active in this? More than likely, however, an unlikely person steps forward in bravery, courage, and strength. Jehosheba, Ahaziah’s little sister, took the dead king’s small child Joash and his nurse and hid them from Athaliah. Now least you misunderstand what is going on here let me remind you that Athaliah was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel and now as Judah’s only reigning queen and the strongest Baal advocate among Judah’s rulers, she would bring about a surge in paganism, ungodly worship, and behavior just like Jezebel. She was just as horrendous and murderous as her mother Jezebel. Israel now faced dark times unless someone stepped forward to do what God desired. And she did: “But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.” In these verses we discover that as God’s people we will face challenges to God’s purposes!

EXAMPLE: When Jehosheba realized Athaliah was killing the king’s children, she protected one child, Joash. Perhaps she did this out of compassion for the child. Or perhaps she was aware she needed to save at least one descendant of David. Both Jehosheba and Jehoiada exhibited great courage when they chose to embrace God’s purposes and save the life of Joash. They could not let Athaliah defeat God’s purpose to have a king from David’s house on the throne. At great risk they hid Joash, removed Athaliah, and installed Joash as Judah’s king. We too may face great risks in taking God’s purposes and agenda as our own. We will face challenges to God’s purposes!

What risks have you seen Christians take in pursuing God’s purposes and agenda? What encourages you to take such risks? What discourages you from taking such risks? Whatever happens in our lives…

II. We are to fulfill God’s purposes! (Vv. 12, 15-20)

Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”… Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: “Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be put to death in the temple of the LORD.” So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death. Jehoiada then made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people that they would be the LORD’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. All the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols to pieces and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars…The king then took his place on the royal throne, and all the people of the land rejoiced. And the city was quiet, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the palace.

1. The priest Jehoiada then began making plans to rid Judah of Athaliah and make Joash Judah’s king. He conspired against Athaliah with the temple guards, the army, and the Carites who were mercenary soldiers. Under tight security, Jehoiada brought out Joash from his hiding place and presented him to the people. He put the crown on the young king’s head, gave him a copy of the testimony, and proclaimed him king. “They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, ‘Long live the king!’” The noise of the people’s shouts and the trumpets’ blasts reached the palace and the ears of Athaliah. Going to the temple, she found Joash standing in the king’s customary place wearing the crown of the throne of Judah. Joash was surrounded by guards and by people rejoicing and blowing trumpets. She tore her robes and cried out, “Treason! Treason!” But she was taken prisoner. Then “Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: ‘Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.’ For the priest had said, ‘She must not be put to death in the temple of the LORD.’” Because the temple was a holy place and human blood was not to be spilled there. “So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death.” Though gruesome to read, these events stress the awesome responsibility to embrace God’s purposes rather than to oppose them. People do not defeat God’s purposes; they defeat themselves trying to go against God’s purposes. Following Athaliah’s death, Jehoiada made a threefold covenant: “Jehoiada then made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people that they would be the LORD’s people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people. All the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and tore it down.” To implement their covenant, the people tore down the temple to Baal that Athaliah had erected. They also “smashed the altars and idols to pieces and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars.” Joash began a 40-year reign at age seven because of the courage and desire in the heart of Jehosheba and her husband Jehoiada to do what they could to fulfill God’s purposes. Through their actions, a descendant of David was returned to Judah’s throne. We are to fulfill God’s purposes!

EXAMPLE: To avoid recriminations by the devotees of Baal, Jehoiada posted guards at Solomon’s temple. At the end of the coronation ceremonies the people led by Jehoiada and his guards conducted the new king to his palace where he sat down on his throne. The people of Judah as a whole rejoiced greatly that once again a descendant of David ruled and that the worship of Yahweh was again made official. They could not let Athaliah defeat God’s purpose to have a king from David’s house on the throne. At great risk they hid Joash, removed Athaliah, and installed Joash as Judah’s king. We too may face great risks in taking God’s purposes and agenda as our own. We are to fulfill God’s purposes!

Conclusion:

We will face challenges to God’s purposes! We are to fulfill God’s purposes!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Respond to God’s direction! — 2 Kings 8:1-2; 9:1-6, 10b-13

Respond to God’s direction! — 2 Kings 8:1-2; 9:1-6, 10b-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 7, 2018

On March 23, 1775, the second Virginia convention met in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. This convention moved that the colony be armed. In defense Patrick Henry spoke these passionate words: “Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace! Peace!’ But there is no peace! The war is actually begun! … Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!” Patrick Henry expressed publicly the thoughts of many that God was concerned about what happened to the colonies. Because of the courageous decisions and actions of Henry and others, we enjoy freedom in our nation.

These verses are about how a Shunammite woman responded to a command from Elisha, how an unnamed prophet obeyed Elisha and carried out a dangerous mission, and how some military leaders made a courageous decision in the face of danger. These examples are designed to move believers to follow God’s direction. In fact we will discover that God offers us guidance and expects us to follow it. Let’s see how we can respond to God’s direction…

READ: 2 Kings 8:1-2; 9:1-6, 10b-13

God’s directions either come to us directly from Scripture or they are in harmony with Scripture and its teachings. Here we discover that…

I. Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices! (2 Kings 8:1-2)

Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the LORD has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.” The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.

1. God is concerned about widows and orphans and other needy people. The woman and her son were the same woman and son whom he raised from the dead after he suffered sunstroke. God had promised this lady a boy and he had come through and now Elisha was watching over her family. Elisha told the woman to take her household and find a place outside Israel where she could stay during the next seven years. The prophet announced that the Lord had called for a seven-year famine in the land. Evidently the woman was now widowed. When Elisha instructed the woman and her family to leave Israel, they did as the Lord directed. They left their home, their farm, and their friends. They left Israel and stayed in the land of the Philistines for seven years. The direction Elisha gave the woman was in keeping with God’s will and plans. Believers need to be sure the direction they receive is God’s and is either directly from or is in harmony with the Scriptures, which reveal God’s will. We do not all of a sudden receive directions from God that are inconsistent with his will and ways. Sometimes God’s advice may seem difficult, hard, or impossible but when God gives us directions we must be willing to make the hard choices and follow him. Later events in the Shunammite woman’s life proved that God takes care of those who respond obediently to him. Has there been a time when God asked you to follow him, what did you do? Was it difficult to follow his desire for your life? Often when we follow the plan of God it can be difficult just like it was for this woman and her son to pick up and leave their home, farm, and family and go to a foreign place. But she was willing to do so. Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices!

EXAMPLE: While the woman was away, the state had taken control of her property. Without a husband to reclaim it when the family returned, she went to the king. In the providence of God, the king was talking to Gehazi, Elisha’s former servant, about how Elisha raised this woman’s young son from the dead. While the king and the prophet’s former servant were discussing that event, the woman and her son came before the king. When Gehazi identified her, the king ordered an official to give the woman back everything that belonged to her plus any income derived from her land while she was gone. God honored her obedient response to Elisha by working out the problem that her obedience cost her even though it was seven years later. God honors obedience, though that does not always happen immediately. Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices!

A second choice about God’s direction concerns making a courageous response. Some responses involve possible dangerous consequences. In those situations we discover that…

II. Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him! (2 Kings 9:1-6)

The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” So the young man, the prophet, went to Ramoth Gilead. When he arrived, he found the army officers sitting together. “I have a message for you, commander,” he said. “For which of us?” asked Jehu. “For you, commander,” he replied. Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the LORD’s people Israel.

1. One of the “sons of the prophets” responded to Elisha’s instruction with admirable courage. He was to complete the charge God gave to Elijah by anointing Jehu as king of Israel. Jehu was to reestablish God’s rule over the Northern Kingdom. He was also to bring the judgment that God had told Elijah to prophesy on the house of Ahab and Jezebel for their sins against Naboth, the Lord’s prophets, and Israel’s people. His three commands to the unnamed prophet were to “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead.” He was to go, run, and anoint! Elisha tells him, “Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” Can you imagine doing something like this nowadays? If the messenger wanted to live he needed to get Jehu alone. Ahab or Jezebel would surely have had him killed for delivering the anointing of God that threatened their power. The prophet was to leave that inner room immediately and flee. He was not to wait around for anything. His mission was urgent and potentially dangerous. The young prophet promptly obeyed Elisha, going to Ramoth Gilead as instructed. Whatever anxious thoughts this young man may have had about this mission and journeying to the scene of the war, he disregarded. Jehu was consulting with his officers. Possibly, they were discussing military strategy for the war. Jehu left his officers and went into the house where they could be alone. Once inside that inner room, the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head. Then he delivered the message from God. He promptly and courageously responded in obedience to God’s direction through Elisha. Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him!

EXAMPLE: Obeying God’s direction to us often requires courage on our part. The prophet’s mission to anoint Jehu as king was dangerous because Israel already had a king, Joram. Elisha was involving this young prophet in an action to replace Joram as Israel’s leader. If God had not instructed Elisha to anoint Jehu, this action would have been highly questionable. Elisha had to have courage for the same reasons the young prophet needed courage. Jehu also had to make a courageous response to accept God’s anointing him to be king with Joram still alive. Sometimes God’s direction may involve personal danger. We should respond to God’s directions immediately, in a courageous manner, and with trust in the Lord. Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him!

A third kind of response to God’s direction is doing so publicly. Elisha and the prophet had both made public responses. Believers know about public responses because they generally begin their Christian lives making some kind of public response to Christ’s invitation to salvation. We learn that…

III. Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly! (2 Kings 9:10-13)

As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’“ Then he opened the door and ran. When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this madman come to you?” “You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied. “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.” Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’“ They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”

1. We also discover God also had a task for Jehu. The Lord’s message revealed that Jehu was to destroy Ahab’s house and avenge the deaths of the Lord’s prophets and his servants who Jezebel had killed. Jehu was to destroy every descendant of Ahab and bring about the death of Jezebel. After delivering such a frightful and important message, the young prophet opened the door and ran like the wind, just as Elisha instructed. When the prophet left, Jehu’s officers asked if everything was all right. They wondered why a crazy person, a madman, had come to him. Jehu was evasive at first and answered their questions by reminding them that they knew about prophets, how they behaved, and what kinds of things prophets said. They could have had various reasons for calling the prophet a crazy person. The Hebrew word means “mad” and was used in a derogatory sense. Prophets often wore unusual clothing and spoke weird things concerning God. And this “madman” prophet had made a mad dash into and then out of their camp. The officers refused to be put off. They said, “That’s not true!” Those three words translate one Hebrew word that means “lie.” The officers did not know what the prophet had said, so they demanded, “Tell us!” Answering them, Jehu first said that the prophet had declared his message was what the Lord says. His message was from the Lord through Elisha and then through the young prophet as Elisha’s messenger. “I anoint you king over Israel.” The officers responded quickly. They expressed the decision of their hearts by what they did. Each person threw his garment under Jehu on the steps where he was standing. Then, they blew the trumpet for all to hear and shouted “Jehu is king!” Their public actions contained meaningful symbolism. One’s garment or outer cloak was a symbol of power and personality. Through their actions, the officers were showing their personal agreement with Jehu’s becoming king and their willingness to take necessary action so he could begin his reign. Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly!

EXAMPLE: When God gives a direction, he wants those to whom he speaks to be prepared to respond in an appropriate, visible manner. The officers’ response was visible. Everyone around them saw and heard what they did and said. Their response was appropriate. Placing their cloaks under Jehu and blowing the trumpet were appropriate ways to indicate publicly their response to Jehu as the new king. Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly!

Conclusion:

Responding to God’s directions can involve making any of several choices! Responding to God’s directions calls for us to be courageous in obeying him! Responding to God’s call may mean doing so publicly!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22

Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2018

There are those men and women who look beyond their circumstances in life and see God working right in the midst of every situation. I would like to think that I am such a person but I confess this is not always the case. However in those times when it is difficult for me to see the hand of God working in my life I am reminded of this incident in the life of Elisha and kind of find comfort in how he deals with his servant. The reason I do is because more often than not I am like Elisha’s servant and I need to learn to look with faith.

When the king of Aram sent a large military contingent against Elisha, the prophet did not fear because he saw by faith that God had sent him protection and help. God had provided a large spiritual contingent that was more powerful than even the Aramean army. God protected Elisha when the Aramean king sent his forces to surround Dothan and capture Elisha and in the process taught those around him to look with faith, let’s discover how this morning…

READ: 2 Kings 6:8-22

We need to view every situation in life with faith. God desires us to see him and his resources are always available for every experience in life. This incident recorded in the life of Elisha teaches us that…

I. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! (Vv. 8-12)

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

1. Arameans were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with Israel during the years of Elisha’s ministry. At the time of this particular incident the Arameans were making profitable surprise raids into Israel. So we are told that “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The dates for these events are not clear. Therefore the names of the kings of Aram and Israel are uncertain. History tells us that Hazael or Ben-Hadad were two possibilities for the king of Aram. Jehoram, who was also called Joram, might have been Israel’s king at the time. Whenever the Arameans set up for such an attack, God would reveal the Aramean’s plans to Elisha. Thus God’s prophet always knew where the Aramean forces were waiting to ambush Israel’s forces, or where they were planning to attack Israel. Then the man of God would tell the king of Israel about the Arameans’ movements and what they planned. Elisha was Israel’s early warning system! “Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.” This failure and frustration “enraged the king of Aram”. He did not recognize God was at work through Elisha’s supernatural knowledge of the Arameans’ troop movements. The Hebrew word translated enraged means “to storm.” The Aramean king’s first reaction was to suspect a traitor among his officers. So he “summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” One of Aramean officers told his king that no one of the officers was a traitor. The person responsible for leaking information about the king’s raiding plans was Elisha, the prophet in Israel. Elisha could tell the king of Israel even the words the Aramean king spoke in his bedroom! Elisha knew even the innermost secrets of the king! These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

EXAMPLE: These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. Such a conclusion was understandable for surely the king knew about or even had experienced the work of traitors. His conclusion was reasonable and humanly possible. He chose to look at the problem from a human viewpoint and through human reasoning. The king did not know God was working. However, the Aramean servant saw the situation differently. The passages do not explain how or why the servant saw their problem was the result of Elisha’s work. Whether the Aramean was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. His actions teach us that when we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!

Whether the Aramean soldier was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. This officer’s actions illustrate the biblical truth of this lesson that seeing life through the eyes of faith is both a choice and God’s gift. In fact we learn that…

II. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! (Vv. 13-17)

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

1. To his credit the Aramean king believed his officer and ordered all of his officers to go into Israel and see where Elisha was. The king began making plans to capture the prophet. This Aramean king was another of many kings who tried to silence prophecy that was not in their favor. After a period of time a report came to the king that Elisha was in Dothan, a city about 12 miles south of Israel’s capital city of Samaria. “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” The “strong army” translates a Hebrew word meaning “strength” like the strength of an army. The king sent a powerful military force to capture one scruffy man of God. “They went by night and surrounded the city.” By sending them at night, the king thought they could slip up on Elisha. The forces moved to encircle Dothan to keep Elisha from escaping. The king was still looking at the situation only through physical sight and reasoning through human reason. He did not factor God into the situation at all. Elisha’s servant was the first to report their situation. In a panic he rushed to Elisha and said, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The Aramean king wasn’t the only one looking at the situation through human eyes, so was Elisha’s servant. The servant’s exclamation “Oh” can mean “Oh, no!” Seeing the enemy forces all around them, the servant could only react in hopelessness and fear. He was looking through eyes of human sight and not of spiritual faith. He saw only the overwhelming enemy, not the more than adequate resources of help available from God. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” “Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Where the servant only saw the enemy’s mighty forces, Elisha saw God’s mightier forces. Both forces were there but God’s were stronger. God answered His prophet’s prayer, and the servant was able to see the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. The servant needed his eyes of faith opened so he could see God’s protecting presence. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

EXAMPLE: Enemy troops really did surround Dothan, which frightened the servant. But Elisha was right. God’s protecting forces really did surround Elisha and Dothan as well. Both were acting realistically. The servant either didn’t know or had forgotten that God is always present with his people; just like we can when we are in the midst of life’s circumstances. The servant needed to stop looking at situations with human sight alone. The psalmist said, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalms 34:7 NIV). When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!

Looking through the lenses God provides requires that we walk with him by faith. We cannot always we see the outcome but we can always rest assured God has our back and desires the best for our lives. In fact we discover that…

III. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working! (Vv. 18-22)

As the enemy came down toward him, “Elisha prayed to the LORD, Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”

1. We discover this must have been a firsthand account because of the detailed personal information given. We learn that “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’” Elisha and Israel did not have a great army nor did they have the resources to wage an ongoing campaign, all they had was their dependence on the Lord. That was enough and in fact more than they needed because God held the victory. “So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” Think of a situation in which you had difficulty seeing any evidence God was at work. Did you eventually believe He was at work? How can that experience help you begin to view each situation today with faith? After God answered Elijah’s prayer to strike the Arameans blind, Elisha led these sightless soldiers the 12 miles from Dothan into the heart of Samaria. “Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ On entering Samaria, Elisha prayed again. This time he asked God to open the eyes of the men of Aram so they could see. When their sight returned, they saw “they were inside Samaria”! This city was encircled with a defensive wall. The Aramean military force was surrounded by Israel’s forces and enclosed within Samaria’s walls. And he led them to Samaria.” Seeing his enemy helpless before him the Israelite King asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” Calling him this showed his respect for Elisha and he could have had the soldiers released, enslaved or killed. Yet this was not the King’s victory, it was the Lord’s! Elisha’s answer revealed the prophet (and God) had other plans for the Aramean forces. Elisha wanted to show mercy to them, not vengeance. Also, he wanted to make the point both to the king of Aram and the king of Israel that God’s horses and chariots of fire had captured and defeated the enemy. Elisha wanted the Israelites and the Arameans to see the hand of God in the situation. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

EXAMPLE: Instead of having the enemy soldiers killed, the prophet instructed the king of Israel to prepare a great feast for the conquered forces (v. 23). After the feast was over, Elisha instructed Israel’s king to release the captives and allow them to return to their master; his instructions to refrain from killing them and to feed them and let them go free was a demonstration of God’s mercy. Showing mercy and offering forgiveness are expressions of God’s nature and reveal what He prefers to extend to all people. Elisha wanted God to receive the glory for what had happened and his actions teach us that when we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!

Conclusion:

When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
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This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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