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Sunday, January 29, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “The Last King of Israel”

“The Last King of Israel”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
January 29, 2017 :: 2 Kings 17:1-41

When I was a student at Moody Bible Institute, I was taught that 2 Kings 17 was one of the top 13 key chapters of the Old Testament.

My Old Testament professor gave us a list of 11 foundational books that told the Big Story of the Old Testament (hint: I’ve been preaching through them since 2003).

And we had to memorize one (and for some books 2) key chapters that captured the highpoints (or lowpoints) of the Old Testament storyline:

Genesis 12
Exodus 12 and 20
Numbers 14
Joshua 6
Judges 2
1 Samuel 8
2 Samuel 7
1 Kings 12
and 2 Kings 17

(as well as 2 Kings 25, and Ezra 6 and Nehemiah 6).

So this chapter contains one of the turning points of the whole Old Testament.

It’s been coming for some time, and it’s finally here.

It’s the story of the “The Last King of Israel.”

And it’s the story of Israel’s exile to Assyria.

2 Kings 17 is where the broken record for the northern kingdom finally skips off the turntable.

And we come to the end of that sad, sad song.

Unfortunately, the ending of the song is just as sad as the middle was.

2 Kings 17, verse 1.

“In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah [the last guy we read about last week], Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years.”

Here’s the guy. He starts out like every other one of them.

And we ask the big question.

Thumbs-up or thumbs-down?

Remember, he’s a king from the north, and they’ve all been?

Thumbs-down. V.2

“He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him. [Apparently, he wasn’t as bad though he had assassinated his predecessor.  But it was too little, too late. V.3] Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser's vassal and had paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison.”

Do you see how the author keeps repeating the phrase, “the king of Assyria?”

Assyria just dominates in these chapters. It looms over everything.

King Hoshea had tried to switch sides. First by playing it both ways and then by switching over allegiances from Assyria to Egypt.

But it didn’t work. The newest king of Assyria got wind of this, condemned Hoshea for treachery and threw him into prison.

But even worse, he came and laid seize to Samaria (the capital of Israel) and then took the bulk of the people into exile. V.5

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

The people of Israel had to go into exile.

Mass deportation. From their own homeland.

We saw last week in chapter 15 that some had already been taken away.

But this was the bulk of the nation. Imagine if another nation beat our country in war and then moved just about our whole population to their country and moved some of their people here into our homes.

That’s what happened.

They had to leave their homes and be moved somewhere else.

Now the big question that this raises, of course, is WHY.

Why did this exile happen?

Was it because King Hoshea wasn’t a very good politician?
Was it because King Hoshea wasn’t a very good diplomat or military strategist?

Or was the reason a defect in Israel’s god?

I’m sure that Assyria thought that that was what it was.

Assyria’s gods were obviously more powerful than Israel’s god. Right?

This is a very sad thing. Why did this very sad thing happen?

I think that, in some ways, the entire Books of Kings were written to explain why this sad thing happened. V.7

“All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.”

Why did the exile happened?

Because Israel had sinned against the LORD.

Because they had bad kings who led the nation to do bad things.

It’s not that they weren’t smart or savvy or clever.

It’s that they didn’t love the Lord their God and lead the people to love Him, too.

They had just one job, and they failed it.

Now, I have four points this morning. And I want them all to be God-focused.

Because we can get stuck on the bad kings and the bad things, but this book is here to reveal our God to us.

The same God of the last king of Israel is the same God that we are worshiping here today.

And He is revealed in these pages.

Here’s point number one.

#1. THE LORD IS HOLY.

The God of 2 Kings 17 is a holy God.

Israel was choosing to sin against a God who was utterly holy.

You can only really sin against holiness.

You can’t really sin against sinfulness.

V.7 again. “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God,” [That was their mistake! And it was a sin of ungratefulness. Ingratitude. Because this was the God Who v.7] who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

This is one long story. They forgot their own story.

They forgot the Exodus. They forgot their rescue.

The ignored it.

A holy God had revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush and He had said, “Go get my people and bring them out. I’m going to rescue them and give them the Land I promised their Father Abraham.”

And He did!

And this is how they repay Him?!

Verses 8 through 12 are a quick summary of what we’ve reading about in these books since June.

There are no surprises here. The author just reminds us of the case against Israel. V.8

“They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them [in the book of Joshua], as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced [like Jeroboam son of Nebat!].The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. [As if the Holy One of Israel couldn’t see?!] From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that provoked the LORD to anger. They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, ‘You shall not do this.’”

In other words, they sinned against a holy God.

And made Him an angry God.

You see God is not naturally angry.

He is not by nature angry.

But He is by nature holy.

And that means that He must become angry when He encounters sin.

And that’s a good thing! You don’t want a god who feels ambivalent about bad things. You don’t.

When He see injustices: “Oh well. I hope that gets worked. Or not. Whatever.”

We all long for a God who is good. Perfectly good. Who loves what is right and hates what is evil. Who gets righteously angry about the right things.

Except when we’re the ones who are doing the sinning, of course.

Then we’re not so sure we’re happy that He’s holy.

But He is holy.

He is holy, holy, holy.

And that means this wickedness that the nation of Israel had perpetrated was going to provoke the LORD’s anger.

But not too quickly. Because:

#2. THE LORD IS PATIENT.

He took His time. V.13.

“The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.’”

He is patient. He’s longsuffering.

He warns them.

That’s why 1 Kings and 2 Kings feel so long. Like they just go on and on.

It’s because the LORD is being patient.

He’s sending prophets with warnings.

Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea.

“Turn!” “Shuv!” “Repent!”

“Come back to me!”

God does not have a hair trigger.

He is not just waiting for a chance to pounce on unbelievers.

“Ha! Caught you!”

No, “Turn! Don’t go there! Come back!”

See God is both holy and patient.

Most of us want God to be either one or the other.

Sometimes we want God to be patient with us and righteously angry with someone else.

But God is perfect holy and perfectly patient.

Same God in the New Testament.

2 Peter 3, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

He’s holy. You need repentance. He’s seeking repentance from sin. “Turn.”

But He’s allowing time. He’s longsuffering. He’s patient. V.14

“But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them [warning after warning after warning]. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.”

Think about that for a second.

There’s a biblical principle at work here that we become like what we worship.

Have you ever thought about that?

If you truly worship the Lord, you will become like Him.

But the opposite is true, too. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.

You are what you eat.
You are what you dream.
You are what you think about.

You become what you worship.

So be careful what you worship.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. V.15

“They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do,’ and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do.”

They were supposed to be holy!

They were supposed to be different.

You and I are supposed to be holy and different, too.

Do we stand out from the world around us or do we do the exact same things they do?

Are we just as angry, just as scared, just as mean, just as impatient, just as unforgiving?

Or do we stand out as loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, faithful, self-controlled?

Do we chase after the same gods as the world does?

You become what you worship. V.16

“They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts [astrology], and they worshiped Baal. They [even] sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.”

There was an end.

He was patient. But His patience is perfectly long and no longer.

Because He’s holy. V.18

“So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence [what a sentence]. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced.”

That’s a little foreshadowing of what’s to come in the rest of this book.

Judah is behind Israel in badness, but they’re following and catching up.

But Israel is basically no more. V.20

“Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.

[And just in case you’re still wondering why this happened, he goes over it again.]

When he tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the LORD and caused them to commit a great sin. The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the LORD removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there.”

We would say, “At the time of writing they are still there.”

Do you remember the prophet Ahijah?

I’ll bet you don’t.

Not Elijah, not Elisha, but Ahijah.

He is the one that Jeroboam’s wife went to see in disguise.

But he just greeted her at the door. He knew who she was.

He told her that this was going to happen. That Israel would go into exile.

1 Kings chapter 14.

But He waited about 200 years to do it.

The LORD is patient.

Take comfort in that. And use the time that God allows to reach people for Jesus’ sake.

Because He’s being patient right now with the world.

But don’t mistake it for slowness or weakness, especially moral weakness, in God.

God is holy and He will not be patient forever.

The very next verse in 2 Peter 3 after telling us that God is patient tells us that the day of the Lord will come like a thief.

He can move fast when He wants to. At the right time.

Don’t mistake His patience for complacency.

Israel refused to repent. They persisted in their sins. And they came back to land on them.

Israel went into exile.

Now this next part of the story is interesting history but it’s really sad, too.

Because the king of Assyria didn’t just take the Israeli people out of Israel, he resettled pagan people back in it. V.24

“The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. [There He goes with the lions again. You never know when there might be a lion attack in the Books of Kings.]

It was reported to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires.’ [Interesting that these pagans are more concerned with God’s requirements than God’s people had been with God’s requirements!]

Then the king of Assyria gave this order: ‘Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.’ So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.”

Now, how good a job do you think they did of that?

These northern priests weren’t worth very much before the exile.

And I doubt they were that great now. Look where they settled. Bethel. That’s one of the sites of the golden calves, right?

I don’t think they’ve learned their lesson.

Here’s the lesson they should have learned:

#3. THE LORD IS JEALOUS.

What is the first commandment?

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

How’re they doing at that one? Not so good.

And these people now in the land don’t do very well either. V.29

“Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. The men from Babylon made Succoth Benoth, the men from Cuthah made Nergal, and the men from Hamath made Ashima; the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.

[Notice it says that they made these gods. Let me tell you: any god that you can make is worthless. V.32]

They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither [truly] worship the LORD nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands that the LORD gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. [They had just one job and they failed it. V.35]

When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: ‘Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. [Do you sense a theme here?] Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.’

They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did.”

And that, my friends, is why they are in exile. Why they are in trouble.

Because the LORD is jealous. He will not give His glory to another.

You know what the application is of that?

“Do not worship other gods.”

We still need to be told that today.

Nobody worships Succoth Benoth or Nergal or Ashima or Nibhaz or Tartak today.

But they do worship Money, Pleasure, Power, Popularity, Security, Pride, Possession.

The apostle John said to New Testament Christians, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”

“Do not worship other gods.”

One of the biggest reasons why we have the Old Testament is to show us how zealous God is for His own glory and to warn us to put Him absolutely first in our affections and worship.

“‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’

Jesus replied: ‘'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

This is the first and greatest commandment’” (Matthew 22:36-38).

In other words, “Do not worship other gods.”

What are the other gods that you are tempted to worship today?

What are idols of the heart that threaten to capture your attention and capsize your walk with the Lord?

Don’t wait. Topple them. Fight them. Kill them. Destroy them.

Take a chain saw to that Asherah pole. Don’t give it a foothold.

Don’t “persist” in your sins like these folks did. It only led to grief.

I’ve got one more point for you.

I know we’re out of text in chapter 17.

But I haven’t told you yet about the last king of Israel.

Because it wasn’t Hoshea even though he was the last Hebrew king there for a very long time.

The next human person in the Bible to be called the King of Israel doesn’t come until the New Testament.

Can you guess who it is?

It’s Jesus, right?

John chapter 1, Nathanael coming to realize it and declare it, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Or on Palm Sunday, as the crowds swelled around him, they shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the King of Israel!"

Here’s point number four. It needs to stay in the mix. Because it’s the rest of the story.

#4. THE LORD IS LOVING.

He’s on the hunt for people to show His love to.

You know what they came to call these people that lived up north in the former Israel. The few that were left behind after the exile who married into the people that got moved in?

Do you know what they called those people that lived around Samaria?

They are the Samaritans, right?

And remember when the Lord Jesus came through Samaria. He had to come through Samaria?

And He met a woman by a well in Sychar?

And He showed Her the love of God.

And He told her that the Father was seeking worshipers.

God was on the hunt for people to show His love to.

And she got it. She realized this was the Messiah they had been waiting for.

And like her whole town came to believe in Him.

And they said, “we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

Jesus is the last king of Israel. And He’s all the king that Israel will ever need.

2 Kings 17, while important, is not the end of the story.

It’s not the end of the story for the Books of Kings.

And it’s certainly not the end of the Bigger Story that it’s a part of.

2 Kings 17 ends badly and sadly.

But the Bigger Story does not.

In the Bigger Story, the King of Kings comes and makes everything all right.

The King of Kings comes and gets recognized by some as the true King of Israel.

But others reject Him as the King of Israel and send Him to be Cross.

On the Cross, they make fun of Him for claiming to be the King of Israel.

But three days later He proves that He is.

He comes back from the dead.

And one day, He will come back again from heaven as the rightful heir of all of the promises, including the promises to David and be the King that Israel always needed.

Because the LORD is loving.

He’s not just holy, He’s not just patient. He’s not jealous.

He is all of those things. Perfectly.

That’s why we need the Cross.

Why we need Evangelism.

Why we need repentance and faith.

But He is also loving. Perfectly so.

And He’s on the hunt for people to enjoy His love forever.

Jesus is the King of Kings.


***

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”

My 2017 Annual Report for Lanse Free Church

Lanse Evangelical Free Church exists to glorify God
by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ
through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service.

The Annual Pastoral Report
Pastor Matt Mitchell
Year in Review: 2016

Dear Church Family,

It is a joy to be your pastor. Thank you for giving me the privilege to serve as a shepherd among and alongside you these many years. I am grateful to be able to give an overview of the highlights of the last year from a pastor’s perspective.

If I had to sum up 2016 in a word, it would be “missional.” The overarching theme for 2016 was that we, as a church, are “Sent on a Mission.” In our first Sunday message of the year, we went back to the Great Commission to remind ourselves what we are all about as a church. Our message is the gospel, and our mission is to make disciples–people who have a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. We are sent to be disciples and to make disciples both here and around the world.

This theme of being sent pervaded our ministry this year. Our new Sunday School curriculum, “The Gospel Project,” calls us each week to make missional applications to our daily life. On Mother’s Day, my sermon was about “mission-minded moms” who mother disciples of all nations. We tried to envision how all of our callings in life feed into this mission. Our youth got a triple-dose of “missionalness” at the 2016 Challenge Conference where the theme was “Live Sent” and the mission was tied to our relationship with the Triune God. Because God is Father, Son, and Spirit, we are a family of servant missionaries. And on Christmas, the last Sunday of the year, we were reminded that our mission comes from Jesus’ mission. Jesus was sent to us so that we might live in Him and love like Him.

And we didn’t just talk about it in 2016, we lived it out. We sent John Forcey and Roper Houston back to Oaxaca to minister to the people there. We reached out to our community with a (rebooted) Wild Game Dinner, Family Bible Week, and Good News Cruise. We sent people each week back into their workplaces, families, schools, and neighborhoods to be salt and light and snap up opportunities to make disciples of the people around them. We continued to offer week-to-week discipleship programs aimed at growing children, youth, and adults in a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. We had a dedicated group of prayer warriors that prayed each Wednesday and also at monthly Harvest Prayer Times, especially for lost people. And we sent thousands of dollars out to mobilize missions near and far–including two new missionary families, whom our church adopted this year. Read the stories from our various ministries in the rest of this annual report to get a taste of all the ways in which God has been using us in His grand plan. We are learning together to live sent and stay on mission for Him.

As your pastor, I am grateful for each and every one of you, especially those folks who give of their time, treasure, and talents to serve the church in leadership roles. I’m thankful for every elected officer, appointed leader, staff person, and ministry volunteer who sacrifice a lot to see our church family succeed in our shared mission (their names are sprinkled throughout this report but some still succeed in hiding anonymously behind the curtain–you know who you are!). In particular, I’m thankful for our 2016 Elder Team for their investment of heart and soul in leadership, for Marilynn Kristofits with her tireless devotion to “administry,” and to our second year intern, Hunter Galley, who learned a lot of new things about leadership and service last Summer.

It was a joy to have Hunter back for a second year as an intern, especially as it culminated in Hunter preaching his first public sermon. Hunter also led the youth to the Challenge Conference and facilitated a great deal of the work for Family Bible Week. I’m excited to see how the Lord will use Hunter in the years to come.

Our church took on seven new members this year. I’m sure the Lord will use them in special ways in the coming days. In spite of our membership growth, our average attendance at worship on Sundays dropped to 139 people (down from 143 the previous year). The highest attended gathering was Resurrection Sunday with 253 people worshiping our Risen Lord.

Pastoral Ministry

Here are some of the highlights from the three main areas of my pastoral ministry in 2016:

Preach the Word

We finished Romans! After my surgery, it seemed like it might never happen, but we completed our 37 message series on the letter to the Romans in February. In March, we focused on the Cross of Christ with a short series called “Jesus Paid It All.” For the remainder of the year, we returned to our long term trek through the Big Story of the Bible finding the Lord Jesus Christ in “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings” which I expect we’ll complete sometime early this year. During Advent, we meditated on the prediction of the Messiah in Isaiah 11 and got to contemplate Jesus as “The Root and Shoot of Jesse.” It’s a great privilege to teach and preach the Word of God to you.

In the course of the year, I also got to share God’s Word with the West Branch Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Time-Out Student Ministry at UP-Johnstown, Hope Church in Spencer Iowa, the West Branch Lenten Luncheon group, the 75th annual conference of CLC USA, the Father & Son Retreat at Miracle Mountain Ranch, and the Deep & Wide Conference at Faith Evangelical Free Church in Deep Creek, Maryland.

I’m thankful that whenever I was out of the pulpit, we had good men it. Keith Maurer, Dave Learish, Henoc Lucien, Chris Grella, Tim McGill, Hunter Galley, Tim McIntosh, Mark Brenner, Donnie Rosie, and Jeff Powell faithfully shared God’s message with us on Sundays in 2016.

Equip the Saints

A big part of my job is meeting with church leaders to help them do their ministry. It’s not very glamorous activity–attending meetings, listening to concerns, coordinating communications–but the church is people, so it’s incredibly important.  I’m thankful that I don’t do all of the ministry; I help the church family do the ministry.

In 2016, I started meeting with a new cohort of church leaders (1 elder, 2 facilities team members) for spiritual leadership training. We are learning together about sound doctrine and biblical counseling principles. I’m excited about the closer working relationship that is developing between the Elders and the Facilities Team and enjoyed attending a good number of the Facilities Team meetings in 2016. And I taught my first preaching class with three eager students.

I also got to equip folks beyond our local church, especially through EFCA-related district and national ministries. In 2016, I continued to chair the Allegheny District Constitutions and Credentials Board, coordinate the Stay Sharp theology conference, and attend a regional pastors’ group. I continued to serve as the book review coordinator for EFCA Now for whom I also wrote a book review article on preaching (which referenced Hunter’s sermon). Our own Schenley Pilgram also wrote a book review for EFCA Now that I got to coordinate and promote. I continued to serve as a member of the EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee and attend the EFCA Theology Conference last January in Iowa. Thank you for encouraging me to have a broader ministry on both regional and national levels.

I’m also encouraged that my book, Resisting Gossip, continues to be used in ministry internationally, as well. It was already out in English, Spanish, and French, and in 2016, it was translated into Russian and Korean to be made available very soon to readers in Belarus and Korea.

Shepherd the Flock

My favorite part of pastoral ministry is walking side by side with people in personal relationships. It’s a great privilege to come alongside you in the good times and in the bad.

In 2016, I had the opportunity to spend personal time with just about every family in the church–whether it be counseling, discipleship, or visitation. My favorite kind of pastoral visit is getting to meet a newborn in the hospital, and we had a big bunch this year (7!). It’s not as fun, but it’s just as significant to walk alongside grieving families. In 2016, I also got to officiate at the wedding of Lucas &Ashley Kristofits and baptize both Hunter Galley and Aspen Galley on Resurrection Sunday. What a privilege it is to be a people-shepherd!

Thank You for Your Prayers

Thank you for praying for me and for my family and walking alongside us. This year, Heather was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and we appreciate all of your support and prayers for us as we adjust to these new realities. We’re thankful, especially, for the Pastoral Prayer Team who receive regular email updates and intercede for us at the throne of grace. It’s a joy to be your pastor!

Vision for 2017

This year, we are celebrating 125 years of God’s faithfulness to us as a church. Our congregation was founded on February 13, 1892, and we are going to mark this milestone throughout the year.

In February, we’ll eat cake to celebrate our 125th birthday, and then in October we’ll have a special weekend to observe the special anniversary more extensively. President Kevin Kompelien and his wife Becky are going to visit us and bring a special message from the EFCA national office. We will have an open house and some special meetings planned by our church historian and her team. I look forward to a time of remembrance with some of the people who have made us who we are today.

The best way to honor those on whose shoulders we stand is to recommit to the fundamental values that have formed and shaped us as a church for a century and a quarter. I call those values our “Gospel Roots” and plan to preach an episodic sermon series that revisits our spiritual DNA throughout 2017. My hope is that we not only look backward in gratitude but also understand better who we are today and look forward to a gospel-centered missional future.

The first and most central of our Gospel Roots is the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In 2017, we are making the same commitment as did the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2–“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  Whether in upcoming big events such as the Louisiana Missions Trip (March 12-18), Wild Game Dinner with Zeke Pipher (March 18-19), Family Bible Week (July 10-13, 16), and Good News Cruise (August 20) or in the ongoing weekly ministries, in all that we do, we want Jesus Christ to be known and get the glory He deserves.

In His Grip,
Pastor Matt

Saturday, January 28, 2017

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!"