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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

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