Sunday, January 22, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “Good Kings, Bad Kings, Good Things, Bad Things”

“Good Kings, Bad Kings, Good Things, Bad Things”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
January 22, 2017 :: 2 Kings 14:1-16:20  

While you’re turning to 2 Kings 14, let me ask you a question. And you can be honest with me. Are you getting a little of tired of all the kings?

It wouldn’t surprise me if you were, because I think I am a little myself. I think we’re supposed to feel that way when we read it.

Because it’s like a biblical broken record, right? And the song isn’t very happy.

This week, Marilynn was reading today’s chapters trying to find a theme to put on the front of the bulletin, and she said told me that all she could see was “Bad Kings Doing Bad Things.” And she suggested once again that I use that as the title for my sermon.

There is a lot of sad repetition in the Books of Kings.

And we’re going to see more of it today.

We’re coming close to the end. And in some ways, the broken record is going speed up. We’re going to look at 10 different kings today. Both North and South.

And the general direction is downward. Many more thumbs down than thumbs up.

And soon all of those thumbs down will catch up with the kingdoms.

And they will be dealing with exile.

But there are some good kings sprinkled in here.

And some good things, too.

So with apologies to Dr. Seuss, this is the title that I finally landed on for today’s message:

“Good Kings, Bad Kings, Good Things, Bad Things”

Because it’s all in there. And, in fact, this week’s stories bring those four Seussical-sounding items together in some pretty unexpected ways.

We’re going to read three chapters of God’s Word this morning, but I only have 3 points that I want to make as we do. Here’s number one:

#1. GOOD KINGS CAN DO BAD THINGS.

And the case in point is King Amaziah. 2 Kings chapter 14, verse 1.

“In the second year of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel [who we learned about last week], Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem [in the South] twenty-nine years. His mother's name was Jehoaddin; she was from Jerusalem.”

Here’s the big question. Thumbs-up or thumbs-down?

He’s not from the North so there is a chance that he’ll be thumbs-up. And he is! V.3

“He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.”

This guy was a good king. At least one thumb-up because of the first part of verse 3.

Why does there almost always have to be a second part? He was more like his father Josah, the boy who king who started well but then crashed and burned than he was like David, the man after God’s own heart.

He worshiped correctly at the start but he didn’t make a clean sweep.

And it came back to bite him.

When will we ever learn that God wants our whole hearts?

Verse 3 didn’t have to read that way. These kings didn’t have to choose half-heartedness. But so many did.

He started out well. Verse 5.

“After the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, he executed the officials who had murdered his father the king. Yet he did not put the sons of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses [Deuteronomy 24:16] where the LORD commanded: ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins.’”

Good for you, Amaziah! You are a good king.

But that doesn’t mean that he can’t do bad things. V.7

“He was the one who defeated ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and captured Sela in battle, calling it Joktheel, the name it has to this day.”

That’s a big victory! But, apparently it went to his head. He began to get prideful and cocky. I think that foreign gods played into, as well, if you read the synoptic account in 2 Chronicles, but what the author of Kings brings out is his cockiness.

He thinks he can lick the world. Including his near neighbor to the North. V.8

“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.’ [This is the guy we were just reading about last week. The guy who only poinded the ground 3 times with the arrows.] 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?’”

You see how this is? A little trash-talking both directions. “I don’t think you want a piece of this.”

“Oh yeah, yes I do!”  V.11

“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. [Here’s how bad the defeat was.] 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.”

Which king won this battle, the thumbs-up guy or the thumbs-down guy?

It was the thumbs-down guy.  Same God. God gives the victory to the guy in the North who was two thumbs down. When the guy in the South started out at least with one thumb up.

Because good kings can do bad things.

Now put yourself in the shoes of Amaziah for just a second.

When you see this picture of the thumbs, do you ever put yourself in the kings shoes and ask yourself are you thumbs-up or thumbs-down?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to assume that I would do better.

I would be thumbs-up!

I wouldn’t be perfect, but I would understand that there was just one job and I needed to do it.

I need to trust and obey Yahweh and lead others to do the same.

And I want to.

So, I hope I would be a thumbs-up king.

But it’s right then that I can fall. It’s right when I begin to see myself as good, as “a winner for God,” that I can get prideful and cocky like Amaziah.

The Bible says, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!”

Amaziah would not listen, and paid for it.

Don’t think that you are above it all.

You and I are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love.

Good Christians can do bad things.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are safe and can play around with fire.

There is only one Good King who never did any bad things, and that’s the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.

Verses 15 through 22 tell the rest of the story for both Amaziah and his northern opponent. V.15

“As for the other events of the reign of Jehoash, what he did and his achievements, including his war against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?  Jehoash rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel. And Jeroboam his son succeeded him as king. Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah lived for fifteen years after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel [the one who had captured him]. As for the other events of Amaziah's reign, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?

They conspired against him [the good king] in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish, but they sent men after him to Lachish and killed him there. He was brought back by horse and was buried in Jerusalem with his fathers, in the City of David. Then all the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in place of his father Amaziah. He was the one who rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah after Amaziah rested with his fathers.”

Now, we turn to Jeroboam, the second, king of Israel. V.23

“In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. [Now note this, this is the third generation after Jehu. How many did God say there would be? How many generations for Jehu? Four. Is this guy thumbs-up or thumbs-down? Hint: He’s a king in the North. V.24]

He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

Two. Thumbs. Completely. Down.  He’s like his old namesake, Jeroboam I son of Nebat.

But, here’s the twist. The Lord used him for good.

#2. GOD CAN USE BAD KINGS TO DO GOOD THINGS.

Here’s what he did. Verse 25.

“He [Jeroboam II] was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.”

Yes, that Jonah!

This is the period when Hosea and Amos are also doing their prophet thing.

Elijah and Elisha are gone, but there are still prophets, and these are writing prophets! We still have Hosea, Amos, and Jonah.

Now, we don’t know exactly what the LORD had said through Jonah, but it included a promise that the boundaries of the northern kingdom would be restored for a time.

Now, did they deserve that?

Did Jeroboam somehow get a half a thumb up and deserve this kind of treatment?

No. It’s mercy. It’s more compassion. It’s more covenant keeping compassion from the Lord. Look at verse 26.

“The LORD had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. And since the LORD had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.”

The two thumbs-down king.

Now this is no reason to go out and become a bad king type person because you know that God can still use you.

We shouldn’t sin all the more so that grace may abound.

But...this should help us when we look around and we see bad things happening, bad situations unfolding, and we can’t imagine how anything good could come from them.

Friends, God can use a bad people to accomplish His good purposes.

That’s the story of the Bible.

That’s Joseph’s brothers intending his kidnapping for evil, but God intending it for good.

That’s wicked foreign kings like Xerxes we studied in Sunday School today ending up making laws that protect the Jews.

That’s wicked kings like Herod and rulers like Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin conspiring to crucify our Lord so that, ultimately, we can be saved.

Now, that does not excuse any sinful behavior. And it doesn’t get Jeroboam II off of the hook for his sins. It doesn’t whitewash him at all!

But we can rest assured that God, in His sovereign providence, can work together all the evil actions that swirl around us and are even directed at us and turn them to our good and to His glory.

Verse 28.

“As for the other events of Jeroboam's reign, all he did, and his military achievements, including how he recovered for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Yaudi, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Jeroboam rested with his fathers, the kings of Israel. And Zechariah his son succeeded him as king.”

Now we turn our attention again to the South. Chapter 15, verse 1.

“In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. [This fellow has another name that he goes by that might be more familiar to you. It’s king Uzziah.] He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother's name was Jecoliah; she was from Jerusalem.

He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. [At least one thumb-up.] The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. The LORD afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house. Jotham the king's son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land. As for the other events of Azariah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Azariah rested with his fathers and was buried near them in the City of David. And Jotham his son succeeded him as king.”

You know what that was?

That was the year King Uzziah died. And it was the beginning of the ministry of Isaiah. He saw the Lord, high and lifted up.

Fifty-two stable years in Judah.

But it’s the opposite in Israel. They now are going to become very unstable. V.8

“In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned six months. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his fathers had done. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.

Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah. He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king. The other events of Zechariah's reign are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel."

Catch this!

"So the word of the LORD spoken to Jehu was fulfilled: ‘Your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.’”

King Zechariah was the fourth generation. God keeps His promises. Promise kept!

Does that mean that the LORD approved of Shallum’s assassination?

Nope. It just means that He used it. God can use bad kings to do good things.

Including keeping His word.

Shallum fared even worse. V.13

“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. The other events of Shallum's reign, and the conspiracy he led, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of 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.

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.

Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom. Menahem exacted this money from Israel. Every wealthy man had to contribute fifty shekels of silver to be given to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer.”

This Pul, king of Assyria, also goes by another name. It might be familiar to you. It’s “Tiglath Pilesar III.” You might have heard of him from your World History classes in school.

And his arrival on the scene marks the beginning of the end for the northern kingdom of Israel.

A new threat that spells bad news.

From here to the end of the book the word Assyria will be repeated 48 times.

This evil man Manahem buys Pul off for the time being, but it won’t last forever. V.21

“As for the other events of Menahem's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Menahem rested with his fathers. And Pekahiah his son succeeded him as king.

In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years. Pekahiah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.

One of his chief officers, Pekah son of Remaliah, conspired against him. Taking fifty men of Gilead with him, he assassinated Pekahiah, along with Argob and Arieh, in the citadel of the royal palace at Samaria. So Pekah killed Pekahiah and succeeded him as king.

The other events of Pekahiah's reign, and all he did, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel.

In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.

In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria.

Then Hoshea son of Elah conspired against Pekah son of Remaliah. He attacked and assassinated him, and then succeeded him as king in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah. As for the other events of Pekah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?”

Here’s the third and last point that I want to make today. It’s not as surprising as the first two, but it’s still important for us to get

#3. BAD KINGS TURN TO THE WRONG THINGS.

Do you hear the broken record?

The new thing is how many assassinations there are. More kings are getting assassinated in the north at this point than are succeeding their fathers to the throne.

But the old thing, the very old boring repetitious and banal thing is that they guys don’t turn.

“He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat.”
“He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat.”
“He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat.”
“He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat.”

They kept turning in the wrong direction.

And it’s going to turn out bad for them.

That’s what Hosea and Amos are preaching about at this point. Read their books!

Turn! Turn! Repent! Don’t go that way!

Don’t follow idols. Don’t turn your back on justice.

Turn!

The Hebrew word for repent is “Shuv.”

Walt Kaiser used to say, that the Old Testament prophets kept wanting to give Israel a “Shuv.”

Turn!

Jotham is little bright light in a dark time for both kingdoms. V.32

“In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham son of Uzziah king of Judah began to reign. [This would be during the ministry of Isaiah and of Micah.] He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother's name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok.

He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the LORD. As for the other events of Jotham's reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? (In those days the LORD began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah.) Jotham rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David, the city of his father. And Ahaz his son succeeded him as king.”

Thumbs-up or thumbs-down? What do you know about King Ahaz?

He’s in the South, so there is a chance that he’s good. His daddy was good.

But, alas, he is two thumbs down. Chapter 16, verse 1.

“In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God.

He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.

Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him. At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the men of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day.”

This is the crisis that we learned about two years ago at Christmas-time.

The story is also in Isaiah chapter 7 and 8. 

And the prophet Isaiah warns King Ahaz that he should not rely on anyone but God to deal with the problem he has with Rezin and Pekah.

And Isaiah gives Ahaz a sign.

Do you remember what it is?

It has something to do with a virgin having a baby.

And the name Immanuel.

But see King Ahaz is bad king and he turns to the wrong thing. He turns to Assyria for help! V.7

“Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, ‘I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.’

And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. [Oh ok. Sure. While you’ve got money, I’m your friend.] The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.

Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and [boy, did he like it! He] sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. [A pagan altar from Syria where the Assyrians are now in charge. And David’s great-great-great-however-many-greats grandson wants an altar  in Jerusalem just like they have there. V.11] So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned.

When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings on it [himself! The king, not a priest!]. He offered up his burnt offering and grain offering, poured out his drink offering, and sprinkled the blood of his fellowship offerings on the altar. The bronze altar that stood before the LORD he brought from the front of the temple–from between the new altar and the temple of the LORD–and put it on the north side of the new altar.

King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: [I’ve got a new idea.] ‘On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king's burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Sprinkle on the altar all the blood of the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.’”

And his leaders just enabled him to carry on like this. V.16

“And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered. King Ahaz took away the side panels and removed the basins from the movable stands. He removed the Sea from the bronze bulls that supported it and set it on a stone base. He took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the LORD [get this!], in deference to the king of Assyria. As for the other events of the reign of Ahaz, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Ahaz rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king.”

Hezekiah will set a lot of this back to rights. He’ll be another bright light in a dark time.

But King Ahaz was a sad failure.

He kept turning to the wrong things. Not just to idols, which was bad enough, but to trusting in the power of another nation.

And trusting in his money to get him out of a jam.

Bad kings turn to the wrong things.

Do you see how he lives to please his new masters?

“I am your servant and vassal. Let me change our worship to please your worships.”

He wants to become like them.

He acts like Jeroboam re-designing his worship to fit his tastes.

But more than that, he changes to become like his foreign masters.

Here’s the question for you and me.

What are we turning to?

Examine your heart. What are you trusting in? What you leaning on?

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand?

All other ground is shifting sand.

It’s easy to throw stones at Ahaz. He’s an easy target.

But how often do we turn to the wrongs things for our safety and security and identity?

What might “Assyria” be for you?

How are you changing to become like the world?

Whom are you trying to please?

Bad kings turn to the wrongs things, but so can we.

Turn.

Turn back to lean on Jesus.

Not just for salvation–though that’s incredibly important.

But everything that really matters. For safety, security, identity, satisfaction.

Turn back to lean on Jesus.

When all around my soul gives way. When Pekah and Rezin are threatening me, Jesus is all my hope and stay. On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, all other ground is shifting sand.

Shuv. Turn.

Not just once but as often as it takes to fully find ourselves trusting and hoping in Him.

Because He’s the Good King that never did a bad thing.
The Good King that can take all of the bad things and work them to our good.
The Good King whom we can trust fully with all of our hearts.

The King of Kings, Jesus Christ

.
***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel
21. LORD, Open Our Eyes!
22. "If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven"
23. "I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants"
24. "Long Live the King!"
25. God Is Good Even When the King Is Bad

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “God Is Good Even When the King Is Bad”

“God Is Good Even When the King Is Bad”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
January 15, 2017 :: 2 Kings 13:1-25  

Last week, we returned to our series that we call, “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and our attention was focused on King Joash the boy king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He was rescued by the brave Jehosheba and crowned and mentored by the brave Jehoiada to make a good start as a thumbs-up king, but ultimately turned out to be a thumbs-down king who failed to restore Judah to faithfulness.

In today’s chapter, our attention turns again to the northern kingdom of Israel. This kingdom has been ruled by King Jehu who was anointed by the prophet Elisha back in chapter 9 to kill and overthrow wicked King Joram and all of the house of wicked king Ahab including his wicked wife Jezebel to avenge the blood of the LORD’s prophets whom they had wickedly slain.

And the LORD promised the new King Jehu in chapter 10, verse 30, that at least four generations of his family would sit on the throne of the northern kingdom of Israel.

King Jehu has died, and now his son (second generation) King Jehoahaz is going to take the throne. And then his son (the third generation) is going to take the throne next (in this chapter as well).

And the big questions is, as it always is, will these kings be thumbs-up or thumbs-down?

And the answer is, unfortunately, thumbs-down.

They are kings of the north, after all. And every single king in the northern kingdom of Israel has been and will be thumbs-down.

Not every king is as bad as they could be, but they are all bad.
In the eyes of the LORD.

Now, we’ve reached the last leg of our journey through these Books of Kings. There are still 13 chapters left to go, but they are all pretty much a straight march to the bottom, to the unhappy ending of the exile.

Most of you know, I assume, that there is no happy ending to these books.

2 Kings is not going to have a happy satisfying ending.

Both kingdoms are headed to disaster.

The northern kingdom is rushing headlong and will get there first.

But the second kingdom is not that far behind.

Things are gonna fall apart. These thumbs-down kings represent thumbs-down kingdoms, and the LORD has promised thumbs-down consequences for their choices.

Exile is on the way.

And yet even in the midst of thumbs-down kings and thumbs-down kingdoms, God is still at work. God hasn’t changed. God is still merciful, just, gracious, and faithful.

God is still God.

So, today, as we read 2 Kings 13, I want to point out who God is no matter who the king is and think together about how we should relate to that unchanging God.

Here’s the title of this message:

“God is Good Even When the King Is Bad.”

There’s a popular saying that Christians use. I don’t know who started it. I learned it at Promise Keepers. It was featured in the movie God’s Not Dead. You’ve probably heard, and used it. It’s really good.

It goes like this:

God Is Good. All The Time.
All the Time? God is Good.

And that’s right. That’s true.

It doesn’t always feel like it. In fact, it often doesn’t feel like it.

That’s why we have to remind ourselves of it.

God is Good. All the Time.
All the Time? God is Good.

Even when the king is bad.

I almost titled this message, “Thumbs Down-Kings but Thumbs-Up God.”

But I thought that kind of sounded dumb to say that God was “thumbs-up.”

That’s not good enough. God is good. Even if the king is bad.

I think we’ve seen this again and again as we’ve trekked through the books of Kings. Some kings are faithful and some are faithless, but God stays the same. He’s always faithful. No matter what.

And that’s going to be increasingly important to remember as these two kingdoms continue their downward slides.

Things are going to get bad. They’re going to go from bad to worse. But God is not going to change.

Now, I’ve read your posts on social media. Some of you believe that this week we are leaving the worst American presidential administration ever. And some of you believe that this week we are entering the worst American presidential administration ever.

The point of this message is that regardless of whether either of you are right or either of you are wrong, God is still good. The LORD is still merciful, just, gracious, and faithful. He has been good, He is good, and He will be good forever. And we should respond to Him accordingly.

Let’s look at the details. 2 Kings chapter 13, verse 1.

“In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah [whom we learned about last week], Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the LORD's anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.”

Is Jehoahaz thumbs-up or thumbs-down? He’s thumbs down.

God promised that Jehu’s kid would sit on the throne, so there he is.

But he’s not leading Israel back to YHWH.  He’s following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat. That means golden calves at Bethel and Dan. That means unauthorized, unorthodox, ungodly worship.

And it makes God mad.

Did you see that in verse 3? “The LORD’s anger burned against Israel.”

That’s a scary sentence.

God doesn’t change, and that’s a good thing.

But it also means that His holiness leads to wrath.

He hates idolatry, and He hates injustice.

So He raises up the power of Aram to bring judgment on Israel.

Elisha said that that would happen. The prophet told Hazael that he would be perpetual thorn in the side of Israel all the days he lived.

And that lived on into his son's reign.

By the way, Hazael named his son after the king that he had murdered and deposed. That’s bad dude who would name his son Ben Hadad when he himself had killed a Ben Hadad!

Life was tough under this thumbs-down king Jehoahaz.

And then...it wasn’t.  V.4

“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.”

Huh. Didn’t see that coming.

Jehoahaz humbles himself and asks Yahweh for grace.

And the LORD, out of His great mercy, answers His prayer.

Why? V.4 says that “he saw how severe the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.”

In other words, He had compassion. He was moved by the plight of His people. Even though they deserved it and He had been the one moving the pieces to bring that oppression.

Here’s application point #1.

#1. CALL FOR HELP.

Jehoahaz called out to the LORD for help, and he received it.

Even though he didn’t deserve it. Even though he was a bad-old, thumbs-down king!

Why? Because God is merciful.

The LORD is compassionate.

It’s a big part of Who He is. Right?

Remember what He told Moses when He passed by?

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7a).

The Hebrew in verse 4 when it says, “he saw how severely Israel was oppressed” is the exact same wording as back in Exodus when God saw how Israel was oppressed  by Egypt.

He cared then. He cares now.

Call for help.

So often we wait and wait thinking that we’ve got to get cleaned up enough to deserve the help before we ask God for it.

But we never will.

And God loves to answer our cries for aid.

He is compassionate.

Do you believe that?

If you don’t think that God is compassionate, you don’t know the God of the Bible.

The prophet Jonah hated how compassionate he knew God to be.

He didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he was sure that God was going to forgive those people and show them grace and mercy.

That’s how compassionate God is.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to call on Him.

Just humble yourself and do it.

This thumbs-down king of Israel humbled himself and pleaded with God for mercy, and he received it.

God provided a deliverer. It doesn’t tell us who that was.

It might have been the prophet Elisha. We’ll see in a second that he’s still alive.

But it doesn’t say. The point is not who the deliverer is here but that God sends deliverance.

Sadly, Jehoahaz’s humility did not last. And he did not repent. V.6

“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. Nothing had been left of the army of Jehoahaz except fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten thousand foot soldiers, for the king of Aram had destroyed the rest and made them like the dust at threshing time.”

That’s really sad. Because it didn’t have to be that way.

Here’s application point number two.

#2. TURN FROM SIN.

They didn’t turn away, but they should have.

This is a cautionary tale. This is a warning for us.

Turn away from sin. Turn away from idolatry. There is nothing good that comes from going in that direction.

Last week, I asked the question, “What is the biggest threat to your walk with God in 2017?”

Another way of saying that is “What are your potential idols?”

What is the “Asherah pole” in your life?

It’s still standing there. Jehu was king. He took out all of the priests of Baal.

But here’s still an Asherah pole standing in the middle of the square in Samaria.

And look how decimated they were because of it!

The army was made “like dust at threshing time.”

How would you like to have your army turned to dust?

Now, we look at that say, “Why didn’t Jehoahaz turn? Why didn’t he cut that pole down and burn it for firewood? Why didn’t he return the country to Yahweh? I don’t understand.”

But Jehoahaz might look at your life or mine and say, “Why do they hold on to those idols? Why don’t they turn away from those habits, those temptations, those relationships, those choices? I don’t understand. Don’t they see where that will lead?”

It doesn’t matter if the king is good or bad, what matters is if God has the hearts of His people.

Repentance is not something you do once and then you’re done.

Martin Luther used to say that life is a race of repentance.

Repentance is a daily, regular choice we make to turn away from sin and pursue righteousness. To walk with God.

So let me ask you again. What is the biggest threat to your walk with God in 2017?

God is calling for you to do something about it. Take whatever drastic measures you have to, but turn away from it.

Because that way leads to danger.

Call for help.
And turn from sin.

#3. ASK FOR MORE.

More grace that is. I’ll show you what I mean. V.8

“As for the other events of the reign of Jehoahaz, all he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? [The old familiar story.] Jehoahaz rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoash his son succeeded him as king. In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash son of Jehoahaz became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. [He was also two thumbs-down.]

He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them [He didn’t learn anything from what I just said.]. As for the other events of the reign of Jehoash, all he did and his achievements, including his war against Amaziah king of Judah [which we’ll learn about next week], are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?  Jehoash rested with his fathers, and Jeroboam succeeded him on the throne. Jehoash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.”

Not very encouraging, huh?

Not much good to say about this guy, was there?

It’s interesting that he has the same basic name as the king of Judah, and that they end up about the same, too.

But there was one important moment in this king’s life. It was the time he interacted with the prophet Elisha.

Verse 14 takes us into a flashback to tell us about that time.

Old Elisha was about to die. V.14

“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!’”

Does that sound familiar?

That’s what Elisha said on the last day he was with his mentor Elijah.

It’s a compliment. It means, “You are the true army of Israel. You’re worth more than an armored tank division. You are the true chariots and horsemen of Israel.”

Of course, verse 7 tells us that his father hadn’t left much of an army for poor Jehoash. But Elisha was the best defense the nation ever had. And now he was dying.

And old “chariots and horsemen” Elisha has one more victory to give to Israel. V.15

“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 [towards Syria, towards Aram]. ‘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.’

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.’”

That’s why I say, “Ask for more.”

Because God is still gracious. Still generous. No matter who the king is.

And this king should have known it.

He should have asked for more.

I don’t know why he stopped. But it’s clear that he shouldn’t have.

And he should have known better.

It was clear to Elisha that Jehoash was not asking for enough.

He wasn’t seeing God as generous and overflowing with grace.

I don’t think that he just wasn’t paying attention. He was half-hearted. He wasn’t believing. He wasn’t trusting.

Elisha wouldn’t have gotten mad if it was just slip up.

Jehoash should have asked for more.

Here’s why: Because God loves to do more.

Remember Ephesians 3:20-21. I think that might have been our first hide-the-word verse.

“To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

God gets the most glory when we ask Him to do more.

This is the point that I needed to hear this week as I prepared.

I think, too often, I settle for too little of God’s grace.

I know that I don’t deserve any of it.  So I don’t ask.

But I should know that God gets more glory when He gives more grace.

So I ought to be asking Him for more.

Now, I’m not talking about dollars. Not primarily, at least. More dollars, I suppose, if they are needed.

But I am talking about blessings. I am talking about grace. I am talking about souls.

As the 2017 gets underway, I need to be praying that God would give us more blessings as a church.

And not just pound the arrows three half-hearted times and walk away.

But to ask God to give us more.

More of Him.
More knowledge of Him.
More disciples for Him.
More glory to go to Him as He gives more grace to us.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Ask for more.

James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (4:2).

Pound that arrow. Because no matter how bad the king is, God is good.

All the time? God is good.

God is gracious.

Here’s how gracious and powerful He is. He gives resurrection life.  V.20

“Elisha died and was buried [probably in a cave]. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.”

Can you imagine?

I don’t know who was the most surprised. The men doing the burying or the man being buried!

Elisha might have been dead, but the LORD was not. He is life.

And that’s just a foretaste of the glory to come.

Why wouldn’t we ask for more, if God can raise the dead?

That’s power.

Elisha may be dead (the last of the great prophets of the books of kings, he may be dead) but the LORD is not. And neither are His promises.

#4. TRUST THE PROMISES.  V.22

“Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them [WHY?] because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.”

Why weren’t they completely destroyed?

Because they didn’t deserve it?

No, because God had made some promises, a covenant.

And as we saw last week, God always keeps His promises.

No matter who is king.

Even if they are the absolute worst.

Hazael and his son Ben-Hadad should have finished Israel off.

But somehow they always managed to survive. And that’s because God was faithful.

Not because Jehoahaz or Jehoash were faithful. They weren’t.

But God was.

And still is.

And always will be.

So we can trust Him. V.24

“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.”

Why three times?

Because that’s how many times God said (through Elisha) that they would defeat them!

God always keeps His promises.

Last week I asked you what promise(s) from God you were going to begin to cling to in a greater way in 2017.

What was your answer?

What did you do about that this week?

What promise are you making your own?

Maybe writing, “Long live the King!” at the bottom of a 3x5 card with that promise on it.

The promises we need are right here.

All of them. The apostle Peter said, “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises...”
Trust them. Learn them then trust them.

This story is going to get worse.

Elisha is now dead. It’s the end of an era. They’ve lost the “chariots and horsemen of Israel.”

And each king of Israel will continue to be two thumbs down until Assyria swoops in and takes them away.

But even if the king is bad, God is still good.

He is still merciful, so call for help.
He is still holy, so turn from sin.
He is still gracious, so ask for more.
He is still faithful, so trust the promises.

God is good–all the time.
All the time? God is good.


***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel
21. LORD, Open Our Eyes!
22. "If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven"
23. "I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants"
24. "Long Live the King!"

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sunday, January 08, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Long Live the King!"

“Long Live the King!”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
January 8, 2017 :: 2 Kings 11:1-12:21  

Our ongoing series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and this is message number 24 in that series.

It’s been over a month since our last message in this series, so I don’t expect anybody to remember where we are in the story.

Let me try to catch you up.

Our last message had the happy title, “I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants.”

Do you remember that one? It was not boring. It was many things but it was not boring.

In that story told in chapters 8, 9, and 10, the LORD raised up a messiah (small-m, messiah, an anointed one) named Jehu who brought the justice that the story had been crying for since 1 Kings 17.

The prophet Elisha sent Hazael to take over the kingdom of Aram from Ben-Hadad in Syria, and he sent Jehu on a mission to take over the northern kingdom of Israel, destroying the house of Ahab by killing Joram and Jezebel and avenging the blood of all of God’s servants whom Ahab and Jezebel had killed.

Does that sound familiar?  Is it coming back to you?

Jehu obeyed. He drove his chariot like a madman and in one day killed, not just the king of Israel, but also the Ahaziah, the king of Judah because they were together that day in the valley of Jezreel.

And he killed more people, too. I think he got kind of carried away. He killed Jezebel, and he killed Ahab’s family, and then relatives of Ahaziah, and then all of the priests of Baal.

In one fell swoop, Jehu changed the political landscape of both kingdoms.

Now, in the next two chapters, the spotlight swings to the South, to the Southern kingdom of Judah.

We’ll return to the North in due course, but the focus, the question, for today’s two chapters is what will happen to the Southern kingdom now that their king has been killed?

Because there are some promises that are on the line.

Remember that God has made some big promises to King David about how he will always have a descendant who will carry the promises of the kingdom.

Even when the kingdom split in two, back in 1 King chapter 11, the LORD promised again about Solomon, “I will give one tribe to [Solomon’s] son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name” (1 Kings 11:36).

But now the Davidic king has been killed by Jehu.

Will David’s line continue or be cut off?

It’s a big question. If you follow along in the parallel books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, you find out that Ahaziah didn’t have very many Davidic family members. His dad, King Jehoram had been eliminating any potential rivals. So Ahaziah didn’t have any uncles left to follow him as king when he died. And like I said, Jehu had killed a bunch of Ahaziah’s family.

There aren’t that many left. But he has several sons, and at least one newborn.

A newborn son. Ahaziah had a newborn in the palace.
He could become king on day.

But he has an enemy.

And his enemy is his grandma.

2 Kings chapter 11, verse 1.

“When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.”

Athaliah was probably Jezebel’s daughter.

And she acted like it.

She was from the North (Israel), in the line of Omri but she had married into the royal family of the South (Judah).

She had married the old Davidic King and she was the mother of the dead Davidic King, but she hated the rightful new Davidic King.

She wanted all of the power of the kingdom to herself.

And when her son was killed, she saw her opportunity and started having everyone else in her way killed, too.

All of the royal princes who were next in line for the throne.

Verse 1 says, “She proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.”

Remember that stump?

Remember the stump of Jesse that we learned about during Advent season?

Well, this is a stump moment.

The whole line of David is about to be cut off.

And what does that do to the promises?

Verse 2.

“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.”

God has a plan, doesn’t He?

And he’s got a person on the spot to enact that plan. This lady, Jehosheba, is one of the unsung heroes of the Old Testament.

We should be naming our daughters after her.

When everyone else was running for their lives, Jehosheba ran for Joash, her tiny little nephew.

And she found a tiny little room to stash him away in in the temple complex.

And we never hear from her again.

It’s quite possible that Jehosheba died that day, saving little Joash.

And saving the kingdom and protecting the promises made by God.

Now, I want you to think about the next six years for just a second.

Because for six years, Athaliah ruled the land.

It looked like she had won.

It felt like she had won.

For all intents and purposes she had won!

Everybody knew that her reign was illegitimate, a sham, but nobody knew that the rightful king was still alive. Almost nobody.

There were probably hints and whispered secrets about it.

But the common man in Judah said, “It’s a stump. God’s promises are dead because all of David’s sons are dead. God’s promises have failed.”

Six years.

Do you feel that?

Six years they thought that the promises were dead.

Do you feel sometimes like God’s promises are dead to you?

If not “dead,” then “duds.”

“These promises to me are duds. They just aren’t working. I can’t see this coming together.”

Six years!

But then the big reveal. V.4

“In the seventh year Jehoiada [the high priest, and actually, Jehosheba’s husband] sent for the commanders of units of a hundred, the Carites and the guards and had them brought to him at the temple of the LORD. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath at the temple of the LORD. Then he showed them the king's son.

He commanded them, saying, ‘This is what you are to do: You who are in the three companies that are going on duty on the Sabbath–a third of you guarding the royal palace,  a third at the Sur Gate, and a third at the gate behind the guard, who take turns guarding the temple–and you who are in the other two companies that normally go off Sabbath duty are all to guard the temple for the king.

Station yourselves around the king, each man with his weapon in his hand. Anyone who approaches your ranks must be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.’

[You’re the secret service detail. Guard this boy with your life. You know who he is!]

The commanders of units of a hundred did just as Jehoiada the priest ordered. Each one took his men–those who were going on duty on the Sabbath and those who were going off duty–and came to Jehoiada the priest. [Then he handed out the weapons.] Then he gave the commanders the spears and shields that had belonged to King David and that were in the temple of the LORD.

The guards, each with his weapon in his hand, stationed themselves around the king– near the altar and the temple, from the south side to the north side of the temple. 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!’”

That’s our sermon title for today.

“Long live the king!”

Six years. Six years of Athaliah’s wicked rule.

But now it comes out.

The king is alive. “Long live the king!”

And everybody is so happy. Except for Athaliah, of course. V.13

“When Athaliah heard the noise made by the guards and the people, she went to the people at the temple of the LORD. She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, ‘Treason! Treason!’”

It’s hard to believe she could say that with a straight face!

Because she was the one was treasonous. V.15

“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.

[And then they started living it out.]

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. Then Jehoiada the priest posted guards at the temple of the LORD. He took with him the commanders of hundreds, the Carites, the guards and all the people of the land, and together they brought the king down from the temple of the LORD and went into the palace, entering by way of the gate of the guards. 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. Joash was seven years old when he began to reign.”

“Long live the king!”

Now, there’s a lot of things that I could point out about this story that are really interesting.

One of them is that when Joash is crowned, he’s also given his own copy of the covenant or the testimony. When I think of these brothers from the Gideons that we have here today, I think how important it is for each of us to have our own personal copy of the Scriptures. Here in America, we can have so many personal copies. I don’t know how many I have, especially if you include digital ones.

But they didn’t all have their own back then. But the king definitely got one, and it should have been his delight.

There’s lots of things I could point to that are interesting here, but I really want us all to feel this one lesson about who God is, and I hope it’s awfully familiar to you:

#1. GOD ALWAYS KEEPS HIS PROMISES.

That’s the like the theme of the whole Old Testament.

How many times as we’ve trekked through Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, now 2 Kings, have we said, “God always keeps His promises?”

Probably not enough times.

Because we need reminded.

Because often we live in those “six years” when it doesn’t seem like the promises are working.

Are you living in “Athaliah period” right now in your own life?

“It just doesn’t seem like the whole thing is working.

Where is God and where are His promises?”

Well, they are right here, all along.

The rightful king was in the temple the whole time.

God was still keeping His promises, and He always will.

Do you need to hear that this morning? One week into 2017.

“Long live the king!”

God always keeps His promises.

Let me give you a challenge today. Here’s some homework.

What promise of God will you begin to cling to a greater way in 2017?

What has God promised us as His people that you can personally take to heart and cling to in a new and fresh way for this year that is opening in front of us?

Think about that.

Think about what you are facing right now this year and think about what promise if you believe it could make a big difference in how your year goes.

I was visiting with one of you this week, and you said, “I feel alone. But I know that I am not alone.” “Because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” “I am with you always even to the end of the age.” “Nothing can separate us from the love of God...”

What promise do you need to claim and cling to for 2017?

Do you know what God has promised us?

That’s the first step, and then memorize it or put it on a 3x5 card or a post-it note, and get it in front of you, and pray it, and maybe write under it, “Long live the king!”

I’ll tell you what mine is. It’s the same as it was last year. 

John 16:33–“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

“Love live the king!”

Does this story remind you of anything?

There are a number of times in the Bible when they try to kill the little children to stamp out the promise.

Moses in the bullrushes, right?

And what Herod and the Magi?

This weekend is the traditional time to remember the visit of the Magi in Matthew chapter 2. They were looking for the newborn king whose star they had seen in the East.

And Herod said, “Well, I’m told that he’ll be in Bethlehem. Let me know if you find Him, because I want to worship Him, too.”

Herod was just like Athaliah. And he had all of the little kids in Bethlehem killed to try to stamp out the promise of God.

But God always keeps His promises.

He always has a Davidic King.

So the Magi and then Joseph outsmarted Herod. They were the Jehosheba and Jehoiada of the New Testament.

And King Jesus was spirited away to be a refugee in Egypt.

To later be revealed.

“Long live the king!”

Now, we’ve been doing these Books of Kings long enough to know that after a king is crowned, the next thing is to answer the big question, right?

What’s the question?

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Does this king do his one job or does he fail to do his one job?

In verse 17, at the age of 7, King Joash got off to a good start.

They basically reboot the entire nation.

“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.”

Remember who you are and what you are supposed to do.

And then just stick with it.

How did King Joash do? Thumbs or thumbs down?

Chapter 12 tells us that he was at least one thumb up. At least at the start. Chapter 12, verse 1.

“In the seventh year of Jehu, Joash became king [7 years old!], and he reigned in Jerusalem forty years [“Long live the king!”]. His mother's name was Zibiah; she was from Beersheba. Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him [hmmm]. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.”

Well, he’s at least one thumb up just because of verse 2. “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD...”

However...there is a rider on that statement, isn’t there? “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD...all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him.”

The Chronicles make it even clearer that after Jehoiada died, things went downhill.

But at least at first, aside from the high places (which were an longstanding problem) things started out very well.

In fact, Joash did something that none of kings of Judah had done since King Solomon–he took care of the temple.

We haven’t much about the temple ever since Solomon built it in all of it splendor.

Granted, we’ve spent a lot of time in the North, but there just hasn’t been anything about the temple for chapter after chapter.

And it’s fallen into disrepair. Joash means to fix that. Verse 4

“Joash said to the priests, ‘Collect all the money that is brought as sacred offerings to the temple of the LORD–the money collected in the census, the money received from personal vows and the money brought voluntarily to the temple. Let every priest receive the money from one of the treasurers, and let it be used to repair whatever damage is found in the temple.’

[He cares! And when it doesn’t happen. He does something. V.6]

But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple.  Therefore King Joash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests [lit a fire under them] and asked them, ‘Why aren't you repairing the damage done to the temple? Take no more money from your treasurers, but hand it over for repairing the temple.’ The priests agreed that they would not collect any more money from the people and that they would not repair the temple themselves.

Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in its lid. He placed it beside the altar, on the right side as one enters the temple of the LORD [where everybody could see it, total transparency]. The priests who guarded the entrance put into the chest all the money that was brought to the temple of the LORD. Whenever they saw that there was a large amount of money in the chest, the royal secretary and the high priest came, counted the money that had been brought into the temple of the LORD and put it into bags.

When the amount had been determined, they gave the money to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. With it they paid those who worked on the temple of the LORD–the carpenters and builders, the masons and stonecutters. They purchased timber and dressed stone for the repair of the temple of the LORD, and met all the other expenses of restoring the temple.

[And just the temple.] The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the LORD; it was paid to the workmen, who used it to repair the temple.  They did not require an accounting from those to whom they gave the money to pay the workers, because they acted with complete honesty.

[Don’t worry, the priests were still taken care of. V.16]

The money from the guilt offerings and sin offerings was not brought into the temple of the LORD; it belonged to the priests.”

One big thumb up for Joash!

Well done.

But. He didn’t stick with it.

When things got difficult and when his mentor had died, the thumb turned downward. V.17

“About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it. Then he turned to attack Jerusalem.”

Does that name sound familiar?

He’s the guy whom Elisha sent to depose Ben-Hadad. He’s the newer ruler of Aram, and Elisha said that he would be a headache and a threat to the Jewish people. And he was. Just like Elisha predicted.

In fact, he’s come to attack Jerusalem.

What does King Joash do in this situation?

He sends him a bribe. He tries to buy him off. He appeases and placates the aggressor. V.18

[Hazael turned to attack Jerusalem...] But Joash king of Judah took all the sacred objects dedicated by his fathers–Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah, the kings of Judah–and the gifts he himself had dedicated and all the gold found in the treasuries of the temple of the LORD and of the royal palace, and he sent them to Hazael king of Aram, who then withdrew from Jerusalem.”

Oh man.  All of that money that he had been raising for the temple, he sent to Hazael?!

It worked! But at what cost?

Is that what Solomon said that the king should do if Jerusalem was attacked?

Do you remember the dedication of the temple, and what Solomon said that God wanted when Jerusalem was being attacked?

It wasn’t send them the money. Send them the treasury.

It was pray to God and God will deliver.

God always keeps His promises.

Don’t try to pay them off. You’ve got God! You belong to Him!

But Joash forgot all of that bailed. And failed his one job.

Here’s the lesson to take home with us. It’s a reminder.

#2. GOD ALWAYS WANTS OUR WHOLE HEARTS.

He doesn’t just want a piece of our hearts.

He doesn’t want half-hearted obedience.

He wants all of us.

He wants our whole hearts.

Psalm 86, verse 11 turns that into a prayer: “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

Or as the hymn puts it:

Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

God always wants our whole hearts.

Here’s a question for you for 2017. What are the biggest threats to your wholehearted  faith and obedience in the coming year?

What threatens to take you down?

When I look at Joash, I think that Joash never made his faith his own.

When Jehoiada was living, he lived like Jehoiada wanted him to.

But when Jehoiada was gone, there wasn’t anything there in Joash.

We see this a lot with kids. They are good apparently Christian kids until they hit about 18 or 19 or 20. And then where did they go?

It’s because you have to make your faith your own or you don’t really have faith.

And we parents need to pray that they make their faith their own because they can’t get to heaven on our faith. God has no grandkids. God is not a grandfather, just a father.

And when I look at Joash, I think that Joash never prepared for the hard times.

He should have.

The way his life started?

But he got comfortable. And when Hazael came knocking, he ran in fear to the treasury instead of in faith to the LORD.

What is the biggest threat to your whole-hearted faith in 2017?

What do you need to lay aside or do battle with so that the LORD has your whole heart, your whole attention, your whole you?

Identify it and then take action.

Don’t let it fester.

Don’t let it wait.

The author of 2 Chronicles gives us a lot more of the gory details of where Joash went wrong.

By the time, he died, he was two thumbs down. He even had Jehoiada’s son Zechariah killed. That might have been the son of Jehosheba, his aunt and savior!

So he ended poorly. V.19

“As for the other events of the reign of Joash, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? His officials conspired against him and assassinated him at Beth Millo, on the road down to Silla. [The first southern king to be assassinated.] The officials who murdered him were Jozabad son of Shimeath and Jehozabad son of Shomer. He died and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. And Amaziah his son succeeded him as king.”

Two things going on there at once.

One, he dies an ignoble death because he failed to have a whole heart. And God always our whole hearts.

But, did you catch who the king was after him? Amaziah his son.

There still remains a son of David on the throne.

God always keeps His promises.

We’ve learned again and again that when these kings are at their best, they remind us of Jesus.

But we’ve also learned when these kings are not at their best, they remind us why we need Jesus.

We need a Son of David who does not die, or at least comes back from the dead.

We need a Son of David who has a whole heart of faith and never fails to do His one job.

Because we have failed and we will fail.

And we need a perfect King to take our place and pay for our sins on the Cross, in His body on the Tree.

So that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.

King Joash reminds us that we need King Jesus.

That baby hunted by Herod?

He grew up, live a perfect life, taught about the kingdom of God, and then died on the Cross to pay for our sins.

But He didn’t stay dead.

He was resurrected on the third day.

And now He lives forever with His saints to reign.

Long Live the King!


***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel
21. LORD, Open Our Eyes!
22. "If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven"
23. "I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants"

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Sunday, January 01, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified"

“Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
January 1, 2017 :: 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

Next week, Lord-willing, we will return to our series on the Books of Kings. But as today is the first day of a new year and the first Sunday of a new year and a communion Sunday and the first Sunday of the year in which we celebrate our 125th anniversary as an organized church, I thought we would start the year with something a little different.

Our church was founded in February of 1892, so this year we will be celebrating our 125th birthday as a church. We have a few special events planned to mark that occasion. In February we’ll share a birthday cake and reminisce a little together. In October, the president of the EFCA, Kevin Kompelien, and his wife Becky are going to visit our church for a special weekend celebration. And when they’re here, we’re going to have an Open House and invite back old friends and church family from years before. And have a good old church family reunion weekend.

Another thing that I want to do to mark this 125th year is to preach a special set of sermons, over the course of the whole year, that revisit and reflect and reconnect with the core values that have undergirded and shaped our church for the last 125 years.

I’m going to call this series, “Gospel Roots (1892-2017)” because it’s about our going back to the  basics, back to the foundational root system that our church is based upon and gets its life from.

I want us to remind ourselves again and again who we are, where we came from, and what we are here together for. Our Gospel Roots.

There will be messages about our history, about what we believe, about our worship, about our purpose, about our involvement in missions, about our congregational polity, about why we pray so much, why I preach the way I do, and lots more of that sort of thing.

My hope is that this series (not every sermon in 2017 will be in this series but many of them will, my hope is that this series) will be good not just for the old-timers like myself (I’ve been the pastor here for 19 Christmases!) but also really good for the newcomers to our church family.

We have a lot of new people here, and I’m so glad about that.

Welcome! And I want us all to be on the same page. For us all to know what our gospel roots are and how they affect everything that we are and do.

And here’s the biggest root at the very center, at the very bottom of all the roots:

It’s the Person and Work of Jesus Christ Himself.

We are, fundamentally, faith-followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us.

Our message title for today is “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.”

Which comes from 1 Corinthians chapter 2, verse 2.

We’re going to make that our Hide the Word Verse to start off our year.

Let’s read it out loud together:

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Those are the words of the Apostle Paul.

He is writing to the church of God at Corinth, and he’s reminding them how single-minded he had been when he had first visited them.

Well, it’s time for New Year’s Resolutions.

Do you do those?

Some people do, and some people don’t.

I’m one of those guys who definitely use the turning of the new year to make some changes myself.

These days, I try to make the changes things that are smaller and do-able. More like mid-course corrections than U-turns or big goals.

In the past, I’ve tried to make bigger changes, and sometimes succeeded but often failed.

How about you? Do you have some New Year’s resolutions?

For many people, it’s to lose weight, especially following the Christmas holidays with all of the cookies and fudge stuff.

Many people sign up to get more exercise. Curt, this is your biggest time of the year at Planet Fitness, isn’t it?  I’ll bet you sell more memberships around now than any other time of year.  And then, the question is, do people show up or not after they sign-up, right?

For some people, the new year’s resolution is to save more money or spend less money or make more money. I always try to work on our family budget in January, and that’s definitely my time for making those goals.

Some people make career resolutions this time of year. What they want to do at work. What sales goal they want to hit or what rung on the career ladder they want to climb to.

And some people make resolutions for education at this time of year. What classes they are going to take, what degree or certification they are going to work towards or  what books they are going to read. I just got 6 new books for Christmas, and I want to read them all right now. But I’ll have to make some room in my schedule if I’m going to do that.

Well, the apostle Paul also made a resolution when he came to minister to the Corinthians. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. But it was a resolution which he certainly did keep.

And when he wrote his first letter back to the Corinthians, he reminded them of it. Because it was an example for them to follow in their own lives.

It was a resolution...to know nothing.

Except for one thing: Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

2 Corinthians 2:2, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

Now, I don’t think that he means “know nothing” in an absolute sense.

He’s talking about his preaching, his teaching, the focus of his ministry.

And he’s saying that the focus of his ministry was the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.

He’s not saying that he never talked about anything else.

“How’s the weather, Paul?” “Jesus Christ and him crucified!”

How do you think the Steelers will do this year? “Jesus Christ and him crucified!”

What kind of a year will 2017 be? “Jesus Christ and him crucified!”

I don’t think that’s what he was saying.

He was talking about the center of His life and ministry.

And how everything revolves around Jesus Christ.

D.A. Carson says it this way, “[This does not mean] that Paul was devoted to blissful ignorance of anything and everything other than the cross. No, what he means is that all he does and teaches is tied to the cross. He cannot long talk about Christian joy, or Christian ethics, or Christian fellowship, or the Christian doctrine of God, or anything else, without finally tying it to the cross. Paul is gospel-centered; he is cross-centered” (The Cross and Christian Ministry, pg. 38).

He is Christ-centered.

That’s what Paul is talking about when he says that he resolved to know nothing else among them.

And it wasn’t a new resolution, either.

It’s not like this was something new that Paul was trying in Corinth that he hadn’t done everywhere else.

He’s just reminding them that he was absolutely committed to it.

These were his all important values.

This was the center of his message and lifestyle.

This was the root at the bottom of everything that he was and did.

If you didn’t “get” this about him, then you didn’t “get” him.

This was the main thing.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, right?

That’s what Paul is saying.

And it was the opposite of what the world was saying, of what they all expected. Look back at verse 1.

“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.”

That’s how everybody else rolled. That’s how everybody else did it.

They came with eloquence and worldly sophistication.

They came as professors and pundits.

They came as skilled speakers and philosophers.

They came on their own power and persuasive abilities.

They said things that made sense to people.

That’s important.

He doesn’t just mean that they used philosophy like a professor at Penn State. We might all dismiss that.

What Paul is saying is that the rest of the world says things that make sense to the rest of the world.

They are they guys on TV that are masterfully giving their opinion, and people are nodding their heads and saying, “Yeah, that make some sense to me.”

“That sounds wise, I think. That’s the way to do things. The way to get things done.”

“That’s a position of strength.”

Paul says, “I didn’t come from a position of worldly strength and worldly wisdom when I came to share the good news about God.”

“I just talked about Jesus.

And I talked about how He was killed.”
In fact, the world thinks that’s crazy.

“Cray, cray,” as the kids say these days.

Paul says that the world thinks that the gospel is (his word for it is) “foolishness.”

It’s foolish to focus on the message of the cross.

“That’s just ridiculous!”

That’s what the world thinks.

And if it isn’t true, then they’re right.

But if it is, then it’s “wiser than man’s wisdom...and stronger than man’s strength.”

I believe that the world should think that you and I are at least a little bit crazy.

We want the world to admire us and think well of us Christians.

But actually Paul says that we will actually be despised and laughed at for what we center our lives around.

The world may respect us for our love and service if we are loving servants, but if they are paying attention they will probably think that we are at least a little bit crazy.

Because if we are fools, we are to be fools for Christ.

If we are to be seen as crazy, let us be crazy for Christ!

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

So, here are two resolutions for us to make today.

Not just as New Year’s resolutions but as every day commitments.

And not just as individuals but as a church family going back again and again to our gospel roots.

#1. RESOLVE TO KNOW JESUS CHRIST.

Jesus Christ is the most compelling person in all of history.

He is the most compelling person in the whole universe.

Resolve to know Him more and better.

Last month, I got to read this book on the Doctrine of Christ. It’s called God the Son Incarnate, and it was all about Who Jesus Is.  467 glorious pages of knowing better who Jesus Christ is.

That’s going to be the focus our district Stay Sharp conference next month with Greg Strand. “The Doctrine of Christ.” What the Bible teaches about the identity of Jesus Christ.

Resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ.

That is to say how everything relates to Jesus Christ!

That’s what all of our songs were about today, right?

What the choir sang?  “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” “Run, Shepherds, Run and See the Baby!” “Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to Christ, the newborn king!”

“My Lighthouse!”
“We Believe in God the Father, We Believe Jesus Christ!”
“Jesus Paid It All!”

Jesus did.

Everything we do should relate to our resolution to know Jesus Christ.

How are you going to know Jesus Christ better in 2017?

Let me give you a hint, it’s going to take your Bible.

And it’s going to take prayer.

I was talking yesterday with a Christian friend who feels like he has stumbled in his faith.

He’s stopped reading his Bible, he’s stopped praying, he’s stopped coming to church.

Actually, he hasn’t stopped, he’s just slowed down and given up. He’s fallen off.

But he’s getting back up again now to know Jesus Christ.

Do you know how to grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Our Sunday School classes are great for that. Even though we’re studying the Old Testament, every session connects what we are learning with Jesus Christ.

Heather and I just read a great book that shows you how to do that for yourself at home, too. It’s called Hungry: Learning to Feed Your Soul with Christ.

What do you need to plan now to do to know Jesus Christ better and deeper and more fully?

To make knowing Him the main thing?

He is so worth knowing!

Everything we learned last month about the Root and Shoot of Jesse? That’s Jesus!

Unlimited Spiritual Power, Faultless Justice, Perfect Peace.

That’s our Gospel Root! That’s Jesus.

Get to know Him.

Our church exists to bring people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

To know nothing except Jesus Christ.

...and Him crucified.

#2. RESOLVE TO KNOW JESUS CHRIST CRUCIFIED.

Because if you don’t know Him through His crucifixion, you don’t really know Him.

Because it’s not just Who Jesus is, but what Jesus did that is so amazing and so important.

Jesus died on the Cross for our sins.

The world thinks that’s crazy.

Paul says in chapter 1, “[W]e preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).

You don’t understand Jesus unless you understand His crucifixion.

He was changing everything.

He was solving everything.

He was saving us. He was reconciling us to God.

He was taking our place.

He was paying our debt.

Jesus Paid It All
All to Him I Owe
Sin Had Left a Crimson Stain
He Washed It White as Snow

We don’t believe that Jesus was just a great teacher.
We don’t believe that Jesus was just a great prophet or spokesman for God.
We don’t even believe that Jesus was just God in the flesh.

We believe that Jesus was God incarnate to die in the flesh in our place.

And we believe that there is nothing else more worthy of knowing.

Resolve to know Jesus Christ crucified.

Crucified for you and for me.

We believe in the crucifixion!
We believe, we believe!

And that’s why we worship around this table.

To remember.

To resolve to know Jesus Christ crucified.

We don't "pretty up" Jesus.

We don’t make Him presentable.

We present Him as bloody and suffering and dying on the Cross to save us from our sins.

We resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

And we always have.

This is the first communion set for Lanse Free Church.

Our historians have dated it back to the founding of the church in 1892.

In my mind's eye, I imagine those first few ten families with the last names Swanson, Gustafson, Danielson,  Nelson, Alhquist, Olson, Johnson meeting in the home of A. J. Palmquist and taking bread off this plate and saying, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me” and taking up this cup and saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

And everybody resolving that this church would always stay cross-centered, gospel-centered, Christ centered.

That they and those of us to follow would resolve to know nothing while we are together except Jesus Christ and him crucified.