2124.) 2 Chronicles 31

June 22, 2017

King Hezekiah re-establishes regular worship on a proper footing, and provides for the regular income of the priests and the Levites, all according to the law of the Lord.

2 Chronicles 31   (NLT)

Hezekiah’s Religious Reforms

1When the festival ended, the Israelites who attended went to all the towns of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, and they smashed all the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherah poles, and removed the pagan shrines and altars. After this, the Israelites returned to their own towns and homes.

What Hezekiah had started is now carried out by the people — and not only the people of Judah, but the people of the Northern Kingdom as well! Can you sense that the euphoria of the double Passover celebration continues as places of idolatrous worship are destroyed.

2 Hezekiah then organized the priests and Levites into divisions to offer the burnt offerings and peace offerings, and to worship and give thanks and praise to the Lord at the gates of the Temple. 3 The king also made a personal contribution of animals for the daily morning and evening burnt offerings, the weekly Sabbath festivals, the monthly new moon festivals, and the annual festivals as prescribed in the Law of the Lord. 4 In addition, he required the people in Jerusalem to bring a portion of their goods to the priests and Levites, so they could devote themselves fully to the Law of the Lord.

5 The people of Israel responded immediately and generously by bringing the first of their crops and grain, new wine, olive oil, honey, and all the produce of their fields. They brought a large quantity—a tithe of all they produced.

King Hezekiah did not present this as an option for the people of Judah. They were commanded to fulfill their obligations under the Law of Moses to support the priesthood through their tithes (Numbers 18:21-24).

As God said in Numbers 18:21, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel. God commanded the tithes (a giving of ten percent of one’s income) be given to the Levites for their support. This establishes the principle that the tithes belong to God (He said I have given, so they are His to give), but He gave them to the Levites.  When an Israelite failed to give their tithe, they were not robbing the Levite. They were robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10), because God received the tithe from the giver, and He gave it to the Levite.

Some today think the tithe, since it went to support the Levites (who were, in a sense, government workers in ancient Israel), is covered by government taxes of today, and that free-will giving mentioned in the Old Testament answers to the New Testament emphasis on giving. We can say that the New Testament nowhere specifically commands tithing, but it certainly does speak of it in a positive light, if it is done with a right heart (Luke 11:42).

It is also important to understand that tithing is not a principle dependent on the Mosaic Law; as Hebrews 7:5-9 explains, tithing was practiced and honored by God before the Law of Moses.

What the New Testament does speak with great clarity on is the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9).

Since the New Testament doesn’t emphasize tithing, one might not be strict on it for Christians (though some Christians do argue against tithing on the basis of self-interest); but since giving is to be proportional, we should be giving some percentage – and ten percent is a good benchmark — and starting place! For some to give ten percent is nowhere near enough; for others, at their present time, five percent may be a massive step of faith.

If our question is, “How little can I give and still be pleasing to God?” — our heart isn’t in the right place at all. We should have the attitude of some early Christians, who essentially said: “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!” Giving and financial management is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one (Luke 16:11).

–David Guzik

6 The people who had moved to Judah from Israel, and the people of Judah themselves, brought in the tithes of their cattle, sheep, and goats and a tithe of the things that had been dedicated to the Lord their God, and they piled them up in great heaps. 7 They began piling them up in late spring, and the heaps continued to grow until early autumn. 8 When Hezekiah and his officials came and saw these huge piles, they thanked the Lord and his people Israel!

9 “Where did all this come from?” Hezekiah asked the priests and Levites.

10 And Azariah the high priest, from the family of Zadok, replied, “Since the people began bringing their gifts to the Lord’s Temple, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare. The Lord has blessed his people, and all this is left over.”

11 Hezekiah ordered that storerooms be prepared in the Temple of the Lord.

Hezekiah knew he had to deal responsibly with the gifts that were coming in.  He implements procedures and plans so that everything can be done decently and in order, thereby honoring both God and the generous givers.

When this was done, 12 the people faithfully brought all the tithes and gifts to the Temple. Conaniah the Levite was put in charge, assisted by his brother Shimei. 13 The supervisors under them were Jehiel, Azaziah, Nahath, Asahel, Jerimoth, Jozabad, Eliel, Ismakiah, Mahath, and Benaiah. These appointments were made by King Hezekiah and Azariah, the chief official in the Temple of God.

14 Kore son of Imnah the Levite, who was the gatekeeper at the East Gate, was put in charge of distributing the voluntary offerings given to God, the gifts, and the things that had been dedicated to the Lord. 15 His faithful assistants were Eden, Miniamin, Jeshua, Shemaiah, Amariah, and Shecaniah. They distributed the gifts among the families of priests in their towns by their divisions, dividing the gifts fairly among old and young alike. 16 They distributed the gifts to all males three years old or older, regardless of their place in the genealogical records. The distribution went to all who would come to the Lord’s Temple to perform their daily duties according to their divisions. 17 They distributed gifts to the priests who were listed by their families in the genealogical records, and to the Levites twenty years old or older who were listed according to their jobs and their divisions. 18 Food allotments were also given to the families of all those listed in the genealogical records, including their little babies, wives, sons, and daughters. For they had all been faithful in purifying themselves.

19 As for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who were living in the open villages around the towns, men were appointed by name to distribute portions to every male among the priests and to all the Levites listed in the genealogical records.

20 In this way, King Hezekiah handled the distribution throughout all Judah, doing what was pleasing and good in the sight of the Lord his God. 21 In all that he did in the service of the Temple of God and in his efforts to follow God’s laws and commands, Hezekiah sought his God wholeheartedly. As a result, he was very successful.

Matthew 6:33   (King James Version)

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

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Music:

HERE,  in his song, “I Refuse,” Josh Wilson encourages us to step up to the plate and do what God wants done, as Hezekiah did in this chapter.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
appreciation.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/200×150/14/27/13/1427134593121cd0cff18fe0cd09f8de.jpg
10%.   http://socialnorms.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ten-706887_1280.jpg
piles of grain.   https://thedailychapter.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/grain-piles-market-harvest.jpg
the kingdom of God.    http://cpointechurch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/kingdom_of_god_795x300.jpg

2123.) 2 Chronicles 30

June 21, 2017

The Passover, or Seder, plate of today usually includes a hard-boiled egg (then going clockwise), lettuce, a roasted lamb shank,  charoset (a mixture of apples, wine, nuts, and spices), bitter herbs (often horseradish), and parsley (to dip in salt water).

2 Chronicles 30   (NLT)

Preparations for Passover

1 King Hezekiah now sent word to all Israel and Judah, and he wrote letters of invitation to the people of Ephraim and Manasseh. He asked everyone to come to the Temple of the Lord at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel.

The Passover is significant from the Chronicler’s point of view for two reasons. First, commemorating as it does Israel’s escape from Egypt in her earliest days as a nation (Exodus 12f.), it comes to symbolize release from the bondage of an overlord in more general ways. As he moves towards the story of the fateful Babylonian captivity, he lays stress on the fact that this need not be the end of the nation. In the Chronicler’s day, the story would have sown hope of a still future resurgence of Israel from under the yoke of Persia.

The second major point which the Chronicler makes out of Hezekiah’s Passover concerns the nature of Israel. Notice that the king’s appeal is not to Judah alone, but to “all Israel and Judah.” The point is stressed by the reference to letters written to Ephraim and Manasseh. As it was under David and Solomon, the people are invited to be united. Many of the Northern Kingdom had been taken as captives to other parts of the Assyrian Empire; for the Israelites who remained, the only possible link with their historical traditions was via Jerusalem.

–J. G. McConville

2 The king, his officials, and all the community of Jerusalem decided to celebrate Passover a month later than usual. 3They were unable to celebrate it at the prescribed time because not enough priests could be purified by then, and the people had not yet assembled at Jerusalem.

4 This plan for keeping the Passover seemed right to the king and all the people. 5 So they sent a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north, inviting everyone to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, the God of Israel. The people had not been celebrating it in great numbers as required in the Law.

6 At the king’s command, runners were sent throughout Israel and Judah.  They carried letters that said:

“O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he will return to the few of us who have survived the conquest of the Assyrian kings.

The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen and all that remained after exile to the Assyrians was the remnant of you who have survived. Yet Hezekiah still believed in the concept of the Children of Israel, those of all the tribes of Israel descended from the great patriarchs.

–David Guzik

(This reminds me of the many Christians in South Korea who hold all-night prayer meetings every Wednesday night to pray for their fellow Koreans in the North, who are suffering so terribly under the leadership of the last several decades. Such self-sacrificing love for their brothers and sisters whom they cannot reach in tangible ways!)

7 Do not be like your ancestors and relatives who abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and became an object of derision, as you yourselves can see. 8 Do not be stubborn, as they were, but submit yourselves to the Lord. Come to his Temple, which he has set apart as holy forever. Worship the Lord your God so that his fierce anger will turn away from you.
9 “For if you return to the Lord, your relatives and your children will be treated mercifully by their captors, and they will be able to return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful. If you return to him, he will not continue to turn his face from you.”

Celebration of Passover

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Music:

As Hezekiah and his people celebrate a renewal of the Old Covenant, we can rejoice that Jesus has established a New Covenant. And because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is still true that “the Lord your God is gracious and merciful.”  HERE  is a beautiful Passover song — “New Covenant”  by the artist Shira. She is a grandmother from Texas.

_________________________

10 The runners went from town to town throughout Ephraim and Manasseh and as far as the territory of Zebulun. But most of the people just laughed at the runners and made fun of them. 11However, some people from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem.

Not the response Hezekiah had hoped for —

12 At the same time, God’s hand was on the people in the land of Judah, giving them all one heart to obey the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the Lord. 13 So a huge crowd assembled at Jerusalem in midspring to celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 14 They set to work and removed the pagan altars from Jerusalem. They took away all the incense altars and threw them into the Kidron Valley.

15 On the fourteenth day of the second month, one month later than usual, the people slaughtered the Passover lamb.

This shamed the priests and Levites, so they purified themselves and brought burnt offerings to the Temple of the Lord. 16 Then they took their places at the Temple as prescribed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. The Levites brought the sacrificial blood to the priests, who then sprinkled it on the altar.

17 Since many of the people had not purified themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord. 18 Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon those 19 who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” 20 And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people.

“It was a motley crowd which assembled, and multitudes of the people were utterly ignorant of the Divine arrangements for preparation. Hezekiah’s tenderness was manifested in the pity he felt for these people, and in the prayer he offered on their behalf.”

–G. Campbell Morgan

21 So the people of Israel who were present in Jerusalem joyously celebrated the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. Each day the Levites and priests sang to the Lord, accompanied by loud instruments. 22 Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites regarding the skill they displayed as they served the Lord. The celebration continued for seven days. Peace offerings were sacrificed, and the people gave thanks to the Lord, the God of their ancestors.

23 The entire assembly then decided to continue the festival another seven days, so they celebrated joyfully for another week. 24 King Hezekiah gave the people 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep and goats for offerings, and the officials donated 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep and goats. Meanwhile, many more priests purified themselves.

Psalm 50:23   (NIV)

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
and he prepares the way
so that I may show him the salvation of God.”

25 The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced, including the priests, the Levites, all who came from the land of Israel, the foreigners who came to the festival, and all those who lived in Judah. 26 There was great joy in the city, for Jerusalem had not seen a celebration like this one since the days of Solomon, King David’s son. 27 Then the priests and Levites stood and blessed the people, and God heard their prayer from his holy dwelling in heaven.

These are the words God gave the first High Priest Aaron to use when blessing the people.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Passover seder plate.    http://www.reformjudaism.org/sites/default/files/styles/article_inline_image/public/%E2%80%A2SederPlate_silh_color_preview.png?itok=WEtSf92o
lamb.    http://www.lauriedonahue.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/lamb.jpg
offering plate.    http://ugospel.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/church-offering-plate-300×199.jpg
“May the Lord bless you  . . . ”   calligraphy by Timothy Botts.    http://www.prestoimages.net/graphics07/1098_pd320419_1.jpg

2122.) 2 Chronicles 29

June 20, 2017

“A true love of God must begin with a delight in his holiness.” –Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

2 Chronicles 29   (NLT)

Hezekiah Rules in Judah

Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became the king of Judah,

“May you live in interesting times,” the old Chinese curse (fortune?) goes. Certainly Hezekiah lived in interesting times! Three years after he came to the throne, the Assyrians set siege to Samaria, the capitol of the Northern Kingdom. Three years later, Israel fell. What a clear lesson to the young king! See what happens when God’s people dismiss God’s Word and worship idols!

and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. 2He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done.

Hurray!  Another good king!

2 Kings 18:5   (NIV)

Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.

Hezekiah Reopens the Temple

3 In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. 4 He summoned the priests and Levites to meet him at the courtyard east of the Temple. 5 He said to them, “Listen to me, you Levites! Purify yourselves, and purify the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove all the defiled things from the sanctuary. 6 Our ancestors were unfaithful and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord our God. They abandoned the Lord and his dwelling place; they turned their backs on him. 7They also shut the doors to the Temple’s entry room, and they snuffed out the lamps. They stopped burning incense and presenting burnt offerings at the sanctuary of the God of Israel.

8 “That is why the Lord’s anger has fallen upon Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, horror, and ridicule, as you can see with your own eyes. 9 Because of this, our fathers have been killed in battle, and our sons and daughters and wives have been captured. 10 But now I will make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not neglect your duties any longer! The Lord has chosen you to stand in his presence, to minister to him, and to lead the people in worship and present offerings to him.”

12 Then these Levites got right to work:

From the clan of Kohath: Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah.
From the clan of Merari: Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel.
From the clan of Gershon: Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah.
13 From the family of Elizaphan: Shimri and Jeiel.
From the family of Asaph: Zechariah and Mattaniah.
14 From the family of Heman: Jehiel and Shimei.
From the family of Jeduthun: Shemaiah and Uzziel.

15 These men called together their fellow Levites, and they all purified themselves. Then they began to cleanse the Temple of the Lord, just as the king had commanded. They were careful to follow all the Lord’s instructions in their work. 16 The priests went into the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to cleanse it, and they took out to the Temple courtyard all the defiled things they found. From there the Levites carted it all out to the Kidron Valley.

17 They began the work in early spring, on the first day of the new year, and in eight days they had reached the entry room of the Lord’s Temple. Then they purified the Temple of the Lord itself, which took another eight days. So the entire task was completed in sixteen days.

Eight days just to carry out all the rubbish and trash and stuff. Reminds me of “Hoarders” on television . . .

The Temple Rededication

18 Then the Levites went to King Hezekiah and gave him this report: “We have cleansed the entire Temple of the Lord, the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the table of the Bread of the Presence with all its utensils. 19We have also recovered all the items discarded by King Ahaz when he was unfaithful and closed the Temple. They are now in front of the altar of the Lord, purified and ready for use.”

20 Early the next morning King Hezekiah gathered the city officials and went to the Temple of the Lord. 21 They brought seven bulls, seven rams, and seven male lambs as a burnt offering, together with seven male goats as a sin offering for the kingdom, for the Temple, and for Judah. The king commanded the priests, who were descendants of Aaron, to sacrifice the animals on the altar of the Lord.

22 So they killed the bulls, and the priests took the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. Next they killed the rams and sprinkled their blood on the altar. And finally, they did the same with the male lambs. 23 The male goats for the sin offering were then brought before the king and the assembly of people, who laid their hands on them. 24 The priests then killed the goats as a sin offering and sprinkled their blood on the altar to make atonement for the sins of all Israel. The king had specifically commanded that this burnt offering and sin offering should be made for all Israel.

Look at how carefully King Hezekiah works! He gets up early to take care of things. He orders the work to be done according to the instructions of God. He includes more than the required sacrifice, and he does not forget praise and worship . . .

25 King Hezekiah then stationed the Levites at the Temple of the Lord with cymbals, lyres, and harps. He obeyed all the commands that the Lord had given to King David through Gad, the king’s seer, and the prophet Nathan. 26 The Levites then took their positions around the Temple with the instruments of David, and the priests took their positions with the trumpets.

27 Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offering be placed on the altar. As the burnt offering was presented, songs of praise to the Lord were begun, accompanied by the trumpets and other instruments of David, the former king of Israel.

Psalm 43:4   (NIV)

Then I will go to the altar of God,
   to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
   O God, my God.

28 The entire assembly worshiped the Lord as the singers sang and the trumpets blew, until all the burnt offerings were finished. 29 Then the king and everyone with him bowed down in worship.

To WORSHIP is to:

  • quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,
  • feed the mind with the truth of God,
  • purge the imagination by the beauty of God,
  • open the heart to the love of God, and
  • devote the will to the purpose of God.

–William Temple

30 King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the psalms written by David and by Asaph the seer. So they offered joyous praise and bowed down in worship.

31 Then Hezekiah declared, “Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord, bring your sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings to the Temple of the Lord.”

Hebrews 13:15-16   (NIV)

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

So the people brought their sacrifices and thanksgiving offerings, and all whose hearts were willing brought burnt offerings, too. 32 The people brought to the Lord 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 male lambs for burnt offerings. 33 They also brought 600 cattle and 3,000 sheep and goats as sacred offerings.

34 But there were too few priests to prepare all the burnt offerings. So their relatives the Levites helped them until the work was finished and more priests had been purified, for the Levites had been more conscientious about purifying themselves than the priests had been. 35 There was an abundance of burnt offerings, along with the usual liquid offerings, and a great deal of fat from the many peace offerings.

So the Temple of the Lord was restored to service. 36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because of what God had done for the people, for everything had been accomplished so quickly.

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Music:

Time to worship. May it always be a blessed time, a joyful time, a cleansing time.

George Askins was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States as an adult. A Methodist, he became an itinerant preacher, mostly in Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. He died in 1816.  HERE  is one of his pieces, “Brethren, we have met to worship.” It is sung in bluegrass gospel style by the MacDonald Family Singers

1 Brethren, we have met to worship
And adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power,
While we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit
Of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna
Will be showered all around.

2 Brethren, see poor sinners round you
Slumb’ring on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving,
Can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers,
And our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna
Will be showered all around.

3 Sisters, will you join and help us?
Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners
Who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior,
Tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna
Will be showered all around.

4 Let us love our God supremely,
Let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners,
Till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to heaven,
At His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself, and serve us
With sweet manna all around.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
worship.    http://blogatsouthpointe.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/worship.gif
interesting times.   https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-qc9qyLWaBOg/V_97xT06dkI/AAAAAAABf7E/35pI4yll0hk/may-you-live-in-interesting-times1_thumb%25255B7%25255D.png?imgmax=800
king.    http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/4700/4782/king_16_lg.gif
junk truck.    http://media.independent.com/img/photos/2008/02/07/1800gotjunk_t479.JPG?ad14627618f647f3902aa65ed5ac8237c798b1ef
songs of praise in the temple.   http://www.searchingthescriptures.net/main_pages/articles/instrumental_music_in_church/artwork/music_temple.jpg
Hallelujah music.   http://storage.cloversites.com/lifespringchurchsbc/site_images/sub_page185_picture0.jpg

2089.) 2 Chronicles 28

May 4, 2017

King Ahaz shuts the door of the temple!

2 Chronicles 28   (NLT)

Ahaz Rules in Judah

Another account of the worst king of Judah.

1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done. 2 Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. He cast metal images for the worship of Baal. 3 He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. 4He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree.

The ‘Valley of (the son of) Hinnom’ descended eastward below the southern edge of the city of Jerusalem. Here some of Judah’s most revolting pagan practices were performed (2 Chronicles 33:6). It was later defiled by King Josiah and converted into a garbage dump for the city (2 Kings 23:10). Consequently, the perpetual fires of ‘Gehenna’ became descriptive of hell itself (Mark 9:43).

5 Because of all this, the Lord his God allowed the king of Aram to defeat Ahaz and to exile large numbers of his people to Damascus. The armies of the king of Israel also defeated Ahaz and inflicted many casualties on his army. 6 In a single day Pekah son of Remaliah, Israel’s king, killed 120,000 of Judah’s troops, all of them experienced warriors, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors. 7 Then Zicri, a warrior from Ephraim, killed Maaseiah, the king’s son; Azrikam, the king’s palace commander; and Elkanah, the king’s second-in-command. 8 The armies of Israel captured 200,000 women and children from Judah and seized tremendous amounts of plunder, which they took back to Samaria.

So, Ahaz, all this idol worship — How is that working for you??

9 But a prophet of the Lord named Oded was there in Samaria when the army of Israel returned home.

A strange and wonderful event is about to happen! —

He went out to meet them and said, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, was angry with Judah and let you defeat them. But you have gone too far, killing them without mercy, and all heaven is disturbed. 10 And now you are planning to make slaves of these people from Judah and Jerusalem. What about your own sins against the Lord your God? 11 Listen to me and return these prisoners you have taken, for they are your own relatives. Watch out, because now the Lord’s fierce anger has been turned against you!”

James 2:12-13   (NIV)

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

12 Then some of the leaders of Israel—Azariah son of Jehohanan, Berekiah son of Meshillemoth, Jehizkiah son of Shallum, and Amasa son of Hadlai—agreed with this and confronted the men returning from battle. 13 “You must not bring the prisoners here!” they declared. “We cannot afford to add to our sins and guilt. Our guilt is already great, and the Lord’s fierce anger is already turned against Israel.”

14 So the warriors released the prisoners and handed over the plunder in the sight of the leaders and all the people. 15 Then the four men just mentioned by name came forward and distributed clothes from the plunder to the prisoners who were naked. They provided clothing and sandals to wear, gave them enough food and drink, and dressed their wounds with olive oil. They put those who were weak on donkeys and took all the prisoners back to their own people in Jericho, the city of palms. Then they returned to Samaria.

Proverbs 25:21-22   (NIV)

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
   if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
   and the LORD will reward you.

Ahaz Closes the Temple

16 At that time King Ahaz of Judah asked the king of Assyria for help. 17 The armies of Edom had again invaded Judah and taken captives. 18 And the Philistines had raided towns located in the foothills of Judah and in the Negev of Judah. They had already captured and occupied Beth-shemesh, Aijalon, Gederoth, Soco with its villages, Timnah with its villages, and Gimzo with its villages. 19The Lord was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz of Judah, for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord.

20 So when King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria arrived, he attacked Ahaz instead of helping him.

Tiglath-Pileser III was a prominent king of Assyria in the eighth century BCE (ruled 745–727 BCE)who introduced advanced civil, military, and political systems into the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

Tiglath-Pileser III seized the Assyrian throne during a civil war and killed the royal family. He made sweeping changes to the Assyrian government, considerably improving its efficiency and security. The Assyrian army, already the greatest fighting force in the world, now became Assyria’s first professional standing army. 

Tiglath-Pileser III subjugated much of the Near East region; to the south, his fellow Mesopotamians in Babylonia and Chaldea, and further south still, the Arabian Peninsula. In the south west, Israel, Judah, Philistia, Samarra, Moab, Edom, the Suteans and Nabatea fell. To the north, Urartu, Armenia, and Scythia in the Caucasus Mountains, Cimmeria by the Black Sea, and in the north west much of eastern and south western Asia Minor, including the Hittites, Phyrigia, Cilicia, and Caria. In the west, the Greeks of Cyprus and Aram (modern Syria), and the Mediterranean City States of Phoenicia/Canaan were subjugated. To the east he subjugated Persia, Media, Gutium, Mannea, Cissia, and Elam, and later in his reign, Tiglath-Pileser III was crowned king in Babylonia.

Tiglath-Pileser III discouraged revolts against Assyrian rule with the use of forced deportations of thousands of people all over the empire. He is one of the most successful military commanders in world history, conquering most of the world known to the Assyrians before his death.

–Wikipedia

21 Ahaz took valuable items from the Lord’s Temple, the royal palace, and from the homes of his officials and gave them to the king of Assyria as tribute. But this did not help him.

22 Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord. 23 He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him, for he said, “Since these gods helped the kings of Aram, they will help me, too, if I sacrifice to them.” But instead, they led to his ruin and the ruin of all Judah.

24 The king took the various articles from the Temple of God (that is, Solomon’s temple) and broke them into pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord’s Temple so that no one could worship there, and he set up altars to pagan gods in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 He made pagan shrines in all the towns of Judah for offering sacrifices to other gods. In this way, he aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of his ancestors.

So ended the reign of perhaps the worst king of Judah. Micah -– who prophesied during the reign of Ahaz –- describes the man who works to successfully do evil with both hands (Micah 7:3). The idea is that the man pursues evil with all his effort, with both hands. He may very well have had King Ahaz in mind.

–David Guzik

26 The rest of the events of Ahaz’s reign and everything he did, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. 27 When Ahaz died, he was buried in Jerusalem but not in the royal cemetery of the kings of Judah. Then his son Hezekiah became the next king.

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Music:

How fortunate we are to live where we are free to gather together to worship the Lord! For thousands of Christians in our world today, doing so is a dangerous act. All the more reason for us, then, to be faithful in attending church and Sunday School and working for the kingdom of God!  HERE  is the Oslo Gospel Choir and “Come, Now Is the Time to Worship.”

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
 Ahaz shuts the door of the temple.   http://biblestudyoutlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/king-ahaz-shut-the-temples-door.jpg
photograph showing location of Hinnom Valley.   http://www.itsgila.com/images/gehenna8.gif
mercy.   https://lloydstebbins.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/mercy.jpg
agape love.    http://christianitymalaysia.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/agape.jpg
Tiglath-Pileser.   http://alittleperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/tiglath-pileser-iii.jpg
the joy of worship.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/8514f-thejoyofworship.jpg

2078.) 2 Chronicles 27

April 19, 2017

Jotham Rules in Judah

Are you sitting down? This is a story of a GOOD KING!! I know you are shocked! But it won’t take long — it is only 9 verses long, so here it is without interruption.

Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother was Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok.

2 Jotham did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. He did everything his father, Uzziah, had done, except that Jotham did not sin by entering the Temple of the Lord. But the people continued in their corrupt ways.

3 Jotham rebuilt the upper gate of the Temple of the Lord. He also did extensive rebuilding on the wall at the hill of Ophel. 4 He built towns in the hill country of Judah and constructed fortresses and towers in the wooded areas. 5 Jotham went to war against the Ammonites and conquered them. Over the next three years he received from them an annual tribute of 7,500 pounds of silver, 50,000 bushels of wheat, and 50,000 bushels of barley.

6 King Jotham became powerful because he was careful to live in obedience to the Lord his God.

7 The rest of the events of Jotham’s reign, including all his wars and other activities, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. 8 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. 9 When Jotham died, he was buried in the City of David. And his son Ahaz became the next king.

We will honor Jotham by viewing his name in the account of Jesus’ ancestors in Matthew 1:

Matthew 1:6-11   (ESV)

 And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham . . . 

I love verse 6:   King Jotham became powerful because he was careful to live in obedience to the Lord his God.

Here is a story from colonial America about another leader who walked in obedience with the Lord.

A skeptical newcomer arrived in the village, and heard stories of the pastor walking with God. He became determined to discover what kind of man the pastor really was since he seemed to disappear on Fridays. The next Friday morning the newcomer hid near the pastor’s house, watched him rise, say his prayers and put on the clothes of a peasant. He saw him take an axe and go into the forest, chop down a tree and gather a large bundle of wood. Next the pastor proceeded to a shack in the poorest section of the village, home to an old woman and her sick son. He left them all the wood. which was enough for the week. The pastor then quietly returned to his own house. The story concludes that the newcomer stayed in the village and became a believer in the pastor’s church that Sunday. And whenever he hears one of his fellow villagers say, “On Friday morning our pastor ascends all the way to Heaven,” the newcomer quietly adds, “If not higher.” 

Lord, give us hearts that are careful, intentional, and joyful — to live in obedience to You!  In fact, who needs me to help them by gathering wood (or whatever the job) today?  To whom can I show Christ today?

_________________________

Music:

“It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit.”     ~Ellen G. White, 1898

“Lord, I Want to Be Like Jesus,” for he was perfectly obedient to God, even to death on the cross.  HERE  it is sung by one of my favorites, Fernando Ortega.

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Luke 11:28.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/6e439-luke11-28.jpg
gathering wood.    http://americangallery.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/gathering-wood.jpg?w=620&h=500

1987.) 2 Chronicles 26

December 13, 2016
His pride proves to be his downfall.

His pride proves to be his downfall.

Uzziah Rules in Judah

1 All the people of Judah had crowned Amaziah’s sixteen-year-old son, Uzziah, as king in place of his father. 2After his father’s death, Uzziah rebuilt the town of Elath and restored it to Judah.

3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother was Jecoliah from Jerusalem. 4 He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Amaziah, had done. 5 Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who taught him to fear God. And as long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success.

I think I would have liked Uzziah. We read of him seeking God, building the nation’s strength, receiving tribute, winning in war, enjoying peace, and farming! Here is a man with the big picture in mind, and a wide range of interests.

6 Uzziah declared war on the Philistines and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh, and Ashdod. Then he built new towns in the Ashdod area and in other parts of Philistia. 7 God helped him in his wars against the Philistines, his battles with the Arabs of Gur, and his wars with the Meunites. 8 The Meunites paid annual tribute to him, and his fame spread even to Egypt, for he had become very powerful.

9 Uzziah built fortified towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate, and at the angle in the wall. 10 He also constructed forts in the wilderness and dug many water cisterns, because he kept great herds of livestock in the foothills of Judah and on the plains. He was also a man who loved the soil. He had many workers who cared for his farms and vineyards, both on the hillsides and in the fertile valleys.

11 Uzziah had an army of well-trained warriors, ready to march into battle, unit by unit. This army had been mustered and organized by Jeiel, the secretary of the army, and his assistant, Maaseiah. They were under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officials. 12 These regiments of mighty warriors were commanded by 2,600 clan leaders. 13 The army consisted of 307,500 men, all elite troops. They were prepared to assist the king against any enemy.

14 Uzziah provided the entire army with shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and sling stones. 15 And he built structures on the walls of Jerusalem, designed by experts to protect those who shot arrows and hurled large stones from the towers and the corners of the wall. His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful.

Uzziah’s Sin and Punishment

16 But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar.

Prophet — Priest — King

Azariah violated what had become a general principle in God’s dealing with Israel: that no king should also be a priest, and that the offices of prophet, priest, and king should not be combined in one man – until the Messiah, who fulfilled all three offices.

17 Azariah the high priest went in after him with eighty other priests of the Lord, all brave men. 18They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The Lord God will not honor you for this!”

19 Uzziah, who was holding an incense burner, became furious. But as he was standing there raging at the priests before the incense altar in the Lord’s Temple, leprosy suddenly broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the high priest and all the other priests saw the leprosy, they rushed him out. And the king himself was eager to get out because the Lord had struck him. 21 So King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in isolation in a separate house, for he was excluded from the Temple of the Lord.


His son Jotham was put in charge of the royal palace, and he governed the people of the land.

22 The rest of the events of Uzziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded by the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord . . . “

This connection between Isaiah and Uzziah is noted in Isaiah 6:1, when the death of the king contributed to the call of the prophet:  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne.

It is important to consider the reign of Uzziah in totality:

  • He began his reign at only 16 years of age.
  • He reigned for 52 years.
  • Overall, he was a good and strong king who led Israel to many military victories and who was an energetic builder and planner.
  • Despite all this, Uzziah had a tragic end.

Therefore, when Isaiah wrote that he was called in the year King Uzziah died, he said a lot. It is to say, “In the year a great and wise king died.” But it is also to say, “In the year a great and wise king who had a tragic end died.” Isaiah had great reason to be discouraged and disillusioned at the death of King Uzziah, because a great king had passed away, and because his life ended tragically. Yet despite it all, he saw the enthroned Lord God who was greater than any earthly king.

–David Guzik

23 When Uzziah died, he was buried with his ancestors; his grave was in a nearby burial field belonging to the kings, for the people said, “He had leprosy.” And his son Jotham became the next king.

2chron26-burial_inscription_uzziah

In a Russian Orthodox monastery located on the Mount of Olives, an inscription was discovered in 1931 bearing the name of King Uzziah. The inscription reads: “To this place, the remains of Uzziah, King of Judah, were placed. Do not disturb.”

This is a valuable non-biblical reference to the existence of a king of David’s line. The plaque is now in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem Collection.

_________________________

Music:

It is my hope that during those last years, Uzziah repented of his pride and confessed it as sin to the Lord. God, of course, would have welcomed him back and perhaps worked further goodness and righteousness into Uzziah! And isn’t that a pattern for us all? We confess our sin, and God works in us to bring forth fruits of the spirit and the image of Christ!

HERE  is “Amen,”  by Bob Fitts, which expresses the same idea.  Who knows, maybe some day we will be singing AMEN to Christ together with Uzziah!

For every good thing
God is doing within me
That I cannot see
A – men
And to the healing virtue of Jesus
That’s flowing in me
A – men
For every hope that is still just a dream
By trusting You Lord it becomes reality
I stake my claim seal it in faith
I say amen

A-men (amen)
A-men (amen)
So be it Lord
Your Word endures
A-men

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Uzziah sturuck with leprosy.   https://obscurecharacters.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/uzziah-leper.jpg
Proverbs 16:18.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/proverbs16-181.png
“I saw the Lord.”  https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/isaiah-6.jpg

1965.) 2 Chronicles 25

November 11, 2016

“Half-Hearted Cookies” are one thing! Half-hearted obedience to God is quite another.

2 Chronicles 25   (NLT)

Amaziah Rules in Judah

Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Jehoaddin from Jerusalem. 2Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not wholeheartedly.

3 When Amaziah was well established as king, he executed the officials who had assassinated his father. 4 However, he did not kill the children of the assassins, for he obeyed the command of the Lord as written by Moses in the Book of the Law: “Parents must not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their parents. Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes.”

2chron25-moses

He obeys the law of Moses.  So far, so good.

5 Then Amaziah organized the army, assigning generals and captains for all Judah and Benjamin. He took a census and found that he had an army of 300,000 select troops, twenty years old and older, all trained in the use of spear and shield. 6 He also paid about 7,500 pounds of silver to hire 100,000 experienced fighting men from Israel.

7 But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, do not hire troops from Israel, for the Lord is not with Israel. He will not help those people of Ephraim! 8 If you let them go with your troops into battle, you will be defeated by the enemy no matter how well you fight. God will overthrow you, for he has the power to help you or to trip you up.”

9 Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?”

The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” 10 So Amaziah discharged the hired troops and sent them back to Ephraim.

It is unsettling that he hires mercenaries and that he thinks first of the money he spent rather than faithfulness of God. But he obeys the prophet, even at a loss of profit! Good for him.

This made them very angry with Judah, and they returned home in a great rage.

11 Then Amaziah summoned his courage and led his army to the Valley of Salt, where they killed 10,000 Edomite troops from Seir. 12 They captured another 10,000 and took them to the top of a cliff and threw them off, dashing them to pieces on the rocks below.

13 Meanwhile, the hired troops that Amaziah had sent home raided several of the towns of Judah between Samaria and Beth-horon. They killed 3,000 people and carried off great quantities of plunder.

14 When King Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought with him idols taken from the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down in front of them, and offered sacrifices to them!

What?!  An ungrateful, even irrational response!

15 This made the Lord very angry, and he sent a prophet to ask, “Why do you turn to gods who could not even save their own people from you?”

16 But the king interrupted him and said, “Since when have I made you the king’s counselor? Be quiet now before I have you killed!”

This further ungrateful response is a direct rejection of God.

So the prophet stopped with this warning: “I know that God has determined to destroy you because you have done this and have refused to accept my counsel.”

17 After consulting with his advisers, King Amaziah of Judah sent this challenge to Israel’s king Jehoash, the son of Jehoahaz and grandson of Jehu: “Come and meet me in battle!”

He doesn’t like this counsel, so he goes elsewhere to get the advice he wants / to confirm his own intentions.  (Where have we seen this before in 2 Chronicles?  –or in my own heart?)

18 But King Jehoash of Israel replied to King Amaziah of Judah with this story: “Out in the Lebanon mountains, a thistle sent a message to a mighty cedar tree: ‘Give your daughter in marriage to my son.’ But just then a wild animal of Lebanon came by and stepped on the thistle, crushing it!

19 “You are saying, ‘I have defeated Edom,’ and you are very proud of it. But my advice is to stay at home. Why stir up trouble that will only bring disaster on you and the people of Judah?”

20 But Amaziah refused to listen, for God was determined to destroy him for turning to the gods of Edom. 21 So King Jehoash of Israel mobilized his army against King Amaziah of Judah. The two armies drew up their battle lines at Beth-shemesh in Judah.

Now let’s guess what will happen.  How about humiliating defeat and loss of national wealth?

22 Judah was routed by the army of Israel, and its army scattered and fled for home. 23 King Jehoash of Israel captured Judah’s king, Amaziah son of Joash and grandson of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh. Then he brought him to Jerusalem, where he demolished 600 feet of Jerusalem’s wall, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. 24 He carried off all the gold and silver and all the articles from the Temple of God that had been in the care of Obed-edom. He also seized the treasures of the royal palace, along with hostages, and then returned to Samaria.

25 King Amaziah of Judah lived on for fifteen years after the death of King Jehoash of Israel. 26 The rest of the events in Amaziah’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel.

I must confess:  I have always thought it was unfortunate that these ancient books were lost.  However, now that we are deep into 2 Chronicles, I am thinking it is a good thing. How depressing to read even more of these records of half-heartedness, unfaithfulness, idolatry, revenge, disobedience, assassination, destruction, stupidity . . .

27 After Amaziah turned away from the Lord, there was a conspiracy against his life in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But his enemies sent assassins after him, and they killed him there. 28 They brought his body back on a horse, and he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David.

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Music:

It is a short distance from Amaziah’s half-hearted devotion to God —  to my own.  How grateful I am that I can find God’s grace and forgiveness “At the Cross.”  HERE.

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New Living Translation (NLT)   Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
cookies.    http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0159/1210/products/half_hearted_cookies_lg_1024x1024.jpg?v=1343686898
Moses and the law.    http://www.clipartkid.com/images/837/clipart-moses-with-the-ten-commandments-2-YKygDg-clipart.jpg
money flying away.    http://coolsunlight.com/wps/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/money-flying-away-loosing-broke-bankrupt-100613674-primary.idge_.jpg
cat.    http://www.toptenz.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/what_are_you_doing.jpg
I did it my way.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2016/11/2b0ce-ididitmyway-proverbs16verse25.jpg
It won’t work.    http://lucyinnovation.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/failure.gif
sad face.    http://inlandpolitics.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Sad-Emoticon.jpg