The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
March 5, 2017 :: 2 Kings 23:31-25:30
We’ve been in the Books of Kings now for 30 messages. On and off now for 11 months from the beginning of April 2016 to the beginning of March 2017.
And all of that time, the Books of Kings have been particularly repetitive.
There is a broken record playing throughout the Books of Kings and the song is not, for the most part, a happy one.
This book is, after all, a tragedy.
Today, we’re going to read the ending, and it is NOT a happy one.
In fact, I think it would be easy to argue that these chapters chronicle the saddest event in Israel’s history between the Fall of Genesis 3 and the trial of Jesus Christ.
These are the worst days of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.
These are the days when the southern kingdom, called Judah, went into exile, “went into captivity away from her land” (2 Kings 25:21).
This tragic day has been coming for a very long time.
If you think about it, ever since Abraham was given the promises of offspring, land, and blessing, the story of Israel was on the rise.
In 2003, we began studying that Big Story of the Old Testament. And in Genesis, we saw the promises be fulfilled slowly but surely.
Offspring. Blessing. And Land.
In Exodus, the people grew and grew. And the LORD blessed them.
And then in Numbers, they marched to the Promised Land.
And God promised them that if they obeyed the Law, if they were a thumbs-up people, He would continue to bless them. And they would possess the Land.
And then in Joshua they actually began to possess the land.
But then the downward spiral began. The book of Judges.
There were bright spots along the way like Ruth and Boaz and even Samuel.
But they were never quite what they ought to be.
And the threat of exile began to gather like storm clouds on the horizon.
God gave them a king after His own heart in David.
And then David’s son was given wisdom and a glorious golden kingdom.
That was the highpoint of the fulfillment of all of the promises so far.
But then it began to unravel.
The kingdom was torn in two. Everything we’ve read now for the last year.
And the two kingdoms went up and down. The northern kingdom much faster than the southern kingdom. But both of them failing to keep the covenant.
Always, God has a remnant. He’s always at work caring for His people. We saw that in Elijah and Elisha and every thumbs-up king.
But the slide has been ever downward. And now we’ve reached the bottom.
Last week, we read about one of those bright spots along the way. Godly King Josiah who led a biblical reformation in Judah.
But even his biblical godliness was not enough to stem the tide of what was to come.
And now he’s dead, and his son Jehoahaz has become king. In less than 25 years from Josiah’s death, Judah will have run through 4 bad kings, and the whole nation will be destroyed.
This is that sad story.
The title of today’s message is “The Table of the King,” but I’m not going to explain it until the very end.
Hang with me, and I’ll explain it when we get there.
I don’t think you’ll be surprised by what we learn today of what we can apply to our lives.
I have four headings that I want to tell this story under and they should all be very familiar for those who have tracked with me throughout this sermon series. They are all things we’ve talked about again and again and again throughout the Books of Kings.
Here’s the first one:
#1. THE EYES OF THE LORD.
What matters most is in any given situation is God’s evaluation of it.
We’ve seen this phrase again and again. “The eyes of the LORD.” It appears here in verse 32. Let’s start in verse 31. 2 Kings 23:31.
“Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. [Thumbs-up or thumbs-down?] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done.”
How many times have we asked the question, “Thumbs up or thumbs down?” over the last year?
Like a broken record! Unfortunately, the rest of these kings of Judah are all thumbs-down. No more good ones.
This one only makes it 3 months.
And why is he thumbs-down?
It’s not because he wasn’t smart.
It’s not because he wasn’t politically savvy.
It’s not because he didn’t have good ideas about how to run a big organization.
It’s not because he lacked royal skills.
It’s because (v.32), “He did evil in the eyes of the LORD.”
That’s why he’s thumbs down.
His great-grandpa Manasseh ruled for 55 years. He must have been pretty good at the king thing.
But he was thumbs-down, too.
Because he didn’t do his one job in the eyes of the LORD. He had just one job, and he didn’t do it.
It’s what God thinks about you or me or about anything that is the most important thing.
It doesn’t matter what the world thinks.
It doesn’t matter what our friends think.
It doesn’t matter what our co-workers think.
It doesn’t matter what our family thinks.
It doesn’t even really matter what we think.
Like it matters what God thinks!
What really matters in life is how things stand in the eyes of the LORD.
If we truly get that, we will live very differently. Amen?
What if all you cared about ultimately was the Lord’s opinion?
And you lived for Him and Him alone?
That’s how Jesus lived. He wasn’t controlled by anything but bringing glory to His Father whom He loved.
Remember, when these kings are at their best, they remind us of King Jesus.
But not Jehoahaz. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done.
Not his daddy. King Josiah had been two thumbs-up.
But Jehoahaz went the way of so many of the rest of his forefathers and continued their thumbs-down ways. V.33
“Pharaoh Neco put him in chains at Riblah in the land of Hamath so that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and he imposed on Judah a levy of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah king in place of his father Josiah and changed Eliakim's name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz and carried him off to Egypt, and there he died.”
Here’s where it’s gotten to–the king of Egypt is deciding who will be the king of Judah!
Jehoahaz is out, and his brother renamed Jehoiakim is in.
And he’s a real stinker.
If you want to know how bad Jehoiakim was, then read the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is prophesying during this time period.
Jehoiakim is living under Neco’s thumb and levies a great big tax on the people, but he still finds enough money in the budget to build a big palace for himself. And he kills prophets. And he tears up the word of God and burns it in a fire to keep himself warm.
He’s nothing like his dad. V.35
“Jehoiakim paid Pharaoh Neco the silver and gold he demanded. In order to do so, he taxed the land and exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land according to their assessments. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Zebidah daughter of Pedaiah; she was from Rumah. And he did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his fathers had done.”
Now, here’s the second thing we’re going to see. I’d be willing to bet that some of you could nail if I gave you a second.
Here it is:
#2. THE WORD OF THE LORD.
How many times have we seen that?
God has promised some things.
God has said some things.
And those things will happen. For certain. You can count on it.
Chapter 24, verse 1.
“During Jehoiakim's reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. The LORD sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by his servants the prophets.”
This is just what God had said.
God has promised that Judah will be destroyed, and He will see to it that it happens just as he said.
By the way, this is when Daniel and his friends get taken into captivity in Babylon.
Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Or as they were also called “Shadrach; Meshach, and Abednego.”
Taken into captivity during the failed reign of King Jehoiakim.
Things got really bad.
But it wasn’t because Nebuchadnezzar was so powerful.
It’s because the LORD had threatened (which is a kind of promise) that this would happen. V.3
“Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD was not willing to forgive.”
They had reached the limit of God’s longsuffering patience.
And He had to keep His promises.
Because God is faithful.
All of those things that God said He would do in Deuteronomy, if the nation forsook Him and broke the covenant? He had to do those things or He wouldn’t have been faithful to His end of the covenant!
See, we should be glad that God keeps His threats, because it’s another proof that God is faithful to keep His promises.
One of the biggest themes that runs through the whole Old Testament, we’ve seen it again and again, is that God always keeps His promises.
He doesn’t ever say, “I know I promised that but J/K. I was just kidding.”
And if He never carried out His threats, it would bring His faithfulness into dubiety.
So it’s good news for us. But it was bad news for Jehoiakim and Judah. V.5
“As for the other events of Jehoiakim's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? Jehoiakim rested with his fathers. And Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king.” v.7
“The king of Egypt did not march out from his own country again, because the king of Babylon had taken all his territory, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River.”
By the way, that’s called the “Battle of Carchemish.” You might have heard about it in your world history classes. It was kind of a big deal.
Egypt never recovered from that. Nebuchadnezzar was now the big dog of the whole region. V.8
“Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan; she was from Jerusalem. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father had done.
At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it.
Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner.”
By the way, this is when the prophet Ezekiel was taken into captivity himself.
He begins his ministry in the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s exile (Ez. 1:2).
You see how all of the Bible is coming together and fits together?
Why did all of these bad things happen to them? Was it random chance? V.13
“As the LORD had declared [it’s because of the word of the LORD], Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the LORD and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the LORD.
[Do you remember all of that gold? It’s gone.]
He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans–a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left.
Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. [Remember that. We’ll come back to that.] He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king's mother, his wives, his officials and the leading men of the land. The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand craftsmen and artisans.”
And now he makes the decision about who the king of Judah will be. The king of Babylon decides who will be the king of Judah. V.17
“He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah. [Last one. Ready? Thumbs up or thumbs down?] He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done. It was because of the LORD's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence.”
#3. THE ANGER OF THE LORD.
All of this did not happen because Babylon was so great.
It happened because God was so angry.
Righteously, justly, perfectly, virtuously angry.
We have trouble with that because our anger goes so wrong so often.
We’re not that familiar with righteous anger.
But God does anger perfectly.
And this was His perfect righteous anger at work.
Now, you need to know that Zedekiah was a wimpy king. He was one of those put a finger to the wind to decide what to do kind of guys.
He was evil like Jehoiakim or Manasseh, but he was evil because he just did what he thought was politically expedient, not what was righteous.
For example the last sentence of verse 20, “Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.”
That sounds good! But if you read the book of Jeremiah, you find out that that’s the exact opposite of what God had told Zedekiah to do through the prophet.
God had told them to submit to Babylon, so of course, Zedekiah does the opposite!
And now the flood of judgment comes. Because of the anger of the LORD. Chapter 25.
“So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. [That’s two years. And there is no last second rescue by the angel of the LORD.]
By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king's garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him.
They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. [Last thing he ever saw.]
On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.
He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down.”
Remember when they built that temple?
And all that it stood for? The very presence of God?
They are being thrust out of His presence.
He’s left town, and they are being forced out, too. V.10
“The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.
[They dismantled the temple.]
The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried the bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls–all that were made of pure gold or silver.
The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the movable stands, which Solomon had made for the temple of the LORD, was more than could be weighed. Each pillar was twenty-seven feet high. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was four and a half feet high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its network, was similar.”
Remember when they built that? The gold, the silver, the bronze.
It’s all gone. It’s all undone.
You feel like there should be some judgment to come on Babylon for this.
(And there will be. The book of Habbakuk tells us there will be.)
But this is judgment on Judah. And it’s devastating. V.18
“The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of his men who were found in the city. [What did he do with them?] Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed. So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.”
That is one of the saddest sentences in the whole Old Testament.
This afternoon, you should read the book of Lamentations to see how Israel felt at this very moment.
There’s a whole book in your Bible just to record how sad they were about this event.
We are missing what God has to say to us if we don’t feel some of the sorrow of this tragic moment.
“So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.” V.22
“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to be over the people he had left behind in Judah. [He’s not a king. He’s a governor. And he’s not a son of David. There is now no son of David on the throne in Judah.]
When all the army officers and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah–Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite, and their men. Gedaliah took an oath to reassure them and their men. ‘Do not be afraid of the Babylonian officials,’ he said. ‘Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.’
[That’s the message that Jeremiah sent to them as well. V.25]
In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood, came with ten men and assassinated Gedaliah and also the men of Judah and the Babylonians who were with him at Mizpah. At this, all the people from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians.”
Everything has fallen apart.
The worst thing ever has happened.
God has, in His righteous anger, destroyed the temple, destroyed Jerusalem, and sent Judah into exile.
If you want to know more about this, read the last few chapters of Jeremiah and all of Lamentations. Because you really feel just how terrible these events truly are.
The anger of the LORD.
But we’ve got one more. And it’s just a little glimmer of light, but on a dark day, a little glimmer shines bright.
#4. THE GRACE OF THE LORD. Look at verse 27.
“In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah [remember him?], in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon [Nebuchadnezzar’s son], he released Jehoiachin from prison on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king's table. Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.”
That’s where I get the title for today’s message. V.29, “The King’s Table.”
One the one hand, it’s a table of dishonor and defeat.
Jehoiachin is in exile and has no power or authority in Judah.
He lives off of the king of Babylon’s table.
But I also think there is ray of hope here, too.
Because of how he’s treated. This guy has been in exile for 37 years and living as a prisoner.
He actually outlives Nebuchadnezzar.
It’s weird to think about it, but Daniel is at work in this kingdom as an official this whole time.
And his king is in prison this whole time. And until 37 years after he was sent into exile, he is called up, given new clothes and treated, kind of royally.
He’s a Son of David who is treated as the rightful king.
I think there’s some grace here.
I don’t think you’re supposed to get all excited about it. Because the main thing we should be feeling at the end of 2 Kings is sadness and sorrow and lamentation.
But seeing this old king, this thumbs-down king, being given a seat of honor and provision at this king’s table, makes me think that God is still at work.
God is still keeping His promises, including the promise of Davidic King.
God is still being kind and gentle and not giving everything that His wayward people deserve.
God is still showing mercy and kindness and steadfast love.
Do you see that there?
And you know what I’m going to say next.
It also reminds me of a much greater King and His table.
The table that we are going to eat at right now.
Because when these kings have been at their best, they have reminded us of Jesus.
But when they have been at their worst (and they have been at their worst!), they remind us of why we need Jesus.
It’s because of the eyes of the LORD that we need Jesus.
We have been evaluated and found wanting.
It’s because of the word of the LORD that we need Jesus.
God has promised to punish sin.
It’s because of the anger of the LORD that we need Jesus.
Because “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness...” (Romans 1:18).
What happened to the temple and to Jerusalem is a shadow, a picture, of the judgment to come.
The anger of God poured out on the disobedient.
That’s why we need Jesus.
And that’s why He came.
This Table represents the Cross.
Where the King of Glory took on our sin.
He was forsaken. He was condemned.
In our place.
Jesus absorbed the righteous wrath of God.
And He turned the ultimate tragedy into an ultimate victory.
For all who will put their faith in Him.
This is the Table of the King of Kings.
Hallelujah, What A Savior!
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
26. “Good Kings, Bad Kings, Good Things, Bad Things”
27. The Last King of Israel
28. "You Alone, O LORD, Are God"
29. "I Have Found the Book of the Law"