Synopsis 2 Kings 15:32-16:5 9/20/2019
Jotham became king over Judah. He reigned for sixteen years. After his death, he was succeeded by his son Ahaz.
King Ahaz performed many evil acts. Among these, he offered one of his own sons as a sacrifice to a false god. Additionally, he made sacrifices to the idols located on the hills and under various trees in the countryside of Judah.
During the reign of King Ahaz, King Pekah of Israel made a pact with King Rezin of Aram. Together they marched to Judah in order to besiege Jerusalem. However, the two kings were unable to force a battle with Ahaz.
Ahaz and Alliance
King Ahaz made an alliance with the king of Assyria for protection in exchange for money. Even though the prophet Isaiah discouraged Ahaz, the kingdom of Judah paid Tiglath Pileser money in exchange for protection against all enemies.
In a certain way, it seemed like a matter of survival. Assyria was an aggressive nation under King Tiglath-pileser that was quickly expanding as an empire. Tiglath-pileser threatened both Aram and the northern kingdom of Israel. So, although Aram and Israel were traditional enemies, they came together to resist Assyria’s efforts to take over the region.
Accordingly, the two nations wanted Ahaz to join them. And when he would not, they combined their forces and invaded Judah in an effort to either force Ahaz to join them or else, to install a new regime.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the news. Everywhere, it seems, there are huge global problems. And, each one is so big that it seems to threaten the very existence of the planet. It’s hard to know what to do with all of this information.
I could isolate myself and simply not pay attention. Or, perhaps it’s better to say I could try to do that. But the truth is that anyone with an agenda is vying for my attention. And this doesn’t stop simply because I disconnect my phone or my TV.
I cannot stop their voices. And so, like Ahaz, I am inevitably forced to decide where to put my trust.
With no intent to disrespect God, he chose Assyria as his protector.
So, I face a similar question. When this day is all said and done, will have chosen to trust God first?
“Some rely on chariots, others on horses, but we on the name of the LORD our God.” Psalms 20:8
Synopsis 2 Kings 15:11-20 9/18/2019
King Zechariah was killed by one of his generals. His killing fulfilled a prophecy given to King Jehu that his dynasty would last through four generations. Zechariah was the fourth in Jehu’s line.
Shallum was the general who killed Zechariah. Afterward, he made himself king. But his rule lasted only one month. After that, he was likewise assassinated by a rival general named Menahem, the son of Gadi.
Menahem ruled for ten years. But he didn’t repent from the kind of evil that his predecessors committed in leading Israel away from the Lord.
During Menahem’s reign, King Pul of Assyria invaded Israel. However, Menahem paid one thousand talents of silver. With this, he retained control over the kingdom.
The money paid to Pul was technically a ransom payment that represented a sum of fifty shekels of silver for every well-to-do citizen of the kingdom.
Shallum and Menahem
Jeroboam was the longest reigning king in the history of Israel. This was also one of the most economically successful times in the history of Israel.
And Zechariah was the son of King Jeroboam. Even so, he served as king for only six months before being assassinated by Shallum, one of his own military leaders. And, in his turn, Shallum ruled as king for only thirty days before being assassinated by Menahem, a rival military leader. After this, Menahem stabilized the kingdom and ruled for ten years.
Despite forty-one years of stable government under Jeroboam, political leadership remained the purview of brutal, self-serving men.
Brutality and Violence
I don’t usually think of Jesus as violent.
And yet Jesus taught lessons that sometimes referenced the kind of violence common as the ancient kings of Israel vied for power. He taught that entry into the kingdom of heaven requires persistent and focused determination. And He taught that it takes my willingness to risk everything to achieve my goal.
It’s sometimes pleasant to think that we might effortlessly fall into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that both fulfills and saves. But that doesn’t really seem to be what He said.
Evidently, converting what I might potentially achieve into my actual experience of life won’t happen accidentally.
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force.” Matt 11:12
Synopsis 2Kings 14:28-15:10 9/17/2019
King Jeroboam, son of Joash, led Israel during a resurgence of national success. Under his reign, Israel enjoyed prosperity. And, under his military leadership, Israel regained control of Damascus and Hamath. And then, after ruling for forty-nine years, Jeroboam died.
Meanwhile in Judah, Azariah had become king. Azariah was only sixteen years old when he began to reign. And, he ruled Judah for fifty-two years. He was remembered as a man who did well by God even though idolatry was not entirely eliminated during his reign.
Azariah was a leper. He lived apart from his family in a separate house. During the time of his leprosy, his son Jotham served as the master of the king’s palace and ruler over the people.
Back in Samaria, the capital of Israel, Jeroboam was succeeded by his son Zechariah. King Zechariah ruled for only six months. During this time, he did evil in God’s sight. And so, he was assassinated by one of his generals named Shallum.
Stability and Prosperity
Jeroboam’s reign was long. And with this long period of stability, Israel is said to have experienced a time of remarkable prosperity. But the stability that secured the potential for prosperity came at the expense of the poor. This was also a time when the rich became very rich and the poor could not easily escape poverty.
So, there was subsequent political unrest that emerged with the end of Jeroboam’s reign. And this may have contributed to the assassination of Zechariah.
Poverty is not ubiquitously experienced. Sometimes poverty is universal – everyone in the community is experiencing poverty. Sometimes poverty is chosen – like Francis of Assissi. He embraced material poverty is exchange for spiritual wealth.
But sometimes poverty – even extreme poverty – happens in the midst of extraordinary affluence. It’s the case where the wealthy become wealthier and the destitute become hopeless. The wealth of the elite actually crushes the spirits of the poor.
It feels like an injustice. And injustice it may be. But whether or not a system of moral failure has led to the cultural condition, this kind of poverty breaks the solidarity of the community. And the discontent of the disenfranchised grinds them.
And it’s in the context that the poor look for a savior.
I am a professed believer in Jesus Christ – my Lord and Savior. So, I guess the question for me is: What savior are they likely to find? And what does that have to do with me?
“Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor, will themselves call out and not be answered.” Prov 21:13
Synopsis 2 Kings 14:15-27 9/16/2019
King Joash of Israel died. And his son Jeroboam succeeded him as king.
Joash’s counterpart in Judah was King Amaziah. During their lifetimes, King Amaziah led Judah in a failed attempt to war with King Joash of Israel. The result was the sacking of Jerusalem. Even so, King Joash of Israel allowed Amaziah to return to power in Jerusalem.
In the end, Joash died. But Amaziah lived for another fifteen years after his death. King Amaziah was killed by assassins from his own administration. Still, as was custom, he was buried in the city of David. Afterward his son, Azariah, became king at the young age of sixteen.
Meanwhile, back in Samaria, Jeroboam began his rule. King Jeroboam was the second king to share this name. And, like many kings from the north, the writer specifically criticized him for continuing the practices of false worship first began by his namesake (Jeroboam son of Nebat).
Even so, Jeroboam was successful in re-establishing Israelite rule in portions of the land which had been lost by his fathers. This resurgence in power and authority was prophesied by the prophet Jonah.
Amaziah’s Disastrous War
Amaziah experienced a victory over the Edomites. So, he was filled with confidence. As a result, he challenged King Joash from Israel.
For his part, Joash worked to avoid the conflict. But, because Amaziah goaded him, he eventually brought out the army of Israel to engage with the army of Judah. Of course, Israel won the battle and Amaziah was captured.
The defeat was a disaster for Amaziah. Joash exposed Jerusalem by breaking down a critical part of the city’s walled defenses. Not to mention, the conflict cost Amaziah most of the wealth of both the temple and royal treasury.
Incremental Steps to Disaster
It is written, “Love never fails.”
Eventually, every bully is beaten.
“The start of strife is like the opening of a dam; check a quarrel before it bursts forth!” Proverbs 17:14
Synopsis 2 Kings 14:6-14 9/13/2019
Amaziah was the son of King Joash from Judah. Joash was assassinated by two of his closest advisors. So, Amaziah became king after him. And once he was king, he was careful to execute the men who had killed his father in accordance with the law of Moses.
After this, Amaziah defeated the Edomites in battle at Salt Valley. And then Amaziah reached out to King Joash of Israel. He wanted to meet face-to-face. But King Joash of Israel did not consider Amaziah worth meeting. So, he sent a message dismissing the new king.
But Amaziah persisted with his demand. Eventually, he provoked King Joash such that the Israelites invaded Judah. And so King Amaziah was defeated in battle at Beth-shemesh. What’s more, King Amaziah was captured in the battle.
So, King Joash marched on Jerusalem. There he took the wealth of the city and destroyed a large portion of the wall surrounding the city. He also took all the gold and silver from the temple and royal treasuries.
Amaziah miscalculated both his strength and his circumstances. He concluded based on his own past experience that he had what was necessary to prevail in battle over the king of Israel.
However, he failed to recognize that even if he controlled a well-positioned, superior military force, there were no guarantees in battle. And there never are. No person can certainly control the outcome of battle.
Like most things in life, only God really controls the outcomes of battle. And so, his appetite for military conquest brought destruction and loss. As a result, both he and the nation of Judah suffered.
Who’s Team Am I On?
God is the God of Creation. It is a foundational tenant of our faith that all things were made through Jesus Christ. So, God, through the processes of creation, is directing the formation of galaxies and the ordering of the most miniscule sub-atomic particles.
And yet, somehow, I have the idea that He should be on my side. I think that because I want Him to do something for me, that He should do it.
The equation is flipped upside down. The real question is: Am I own His side? Are my actions in harmony with the God of all creation.
It is only in the moments when I have yielded to Him entirely, that I am wholly available for use. And it is only in such moments that the God of Creation can pour power through me to affect His purpose in my life and in the universe of creation.
“…for the battle is not yours but God’s.” 2Chron 20:15
Synopsis 2 Kings 13:20-14:5 9/12/2019
Elisha died. However, even after his death, the power of God remained mysteriously in his body. At one point, there were men who were burying their dead when Moabite raiders approached. The men dropped the dead person’s body such that it landed on Elisha’s bones. And the person miraculously came back to life.
Meanwhile, King Hazael or Aram persecuted the Israelites. And when Hazael died, he was replaced by Ben-hadad as king. And King Ben-hadad also persecuted Israel.
But King Joash of Israel fought back against Ben-hadad. Eventually, he beat Aram in three battles. And this gained relief for the Israelites.
Back in Jerusalem, Amaziah succeeded his father as king. He reigned twenty-nine years
Elisha’s Bones To Life
Elisha’s body continued to have the power to heal even after he died. Somehow, in accordance with the wisdom of God, the residue of his holiness remained with his physical body.
Bones to Life
So, we all know that this scripture is generally referred as the basis for understanding the phenomena of holy relics. God may choose to channel power through the bones of a perfected saint.
But what catches my imagination focuses on human potential. If God could work through Elisha’s body as a willing vessel even after death, what’s possible in my life?
“I declare: “Gods though you be, offspring of the Most High all of you,” Psalm 82:5
Synopsis 2 Kings 13:10-19 9/11/2019
After King Jehoahaz died, his son became the new king. This was Joash.
Once again, the king of Israel and the king of Judah shared the same name. But this condition lasted for only a couple of years before King Joash, of Judah, died. After this, Amaziah became king over Judah.
As the prophet Elisha was sick and neared death, Joash came to see him. Elisha intended to bless the king before he died. So, he asked Joash to show him his bow. And he also asked him to shoot an arrow out of this window. Finally, he asked King Joash to pound the ground.
The king pounded the ground three times. But this displeased Elisha, who was hoping for a more forceful response. As a result, Elisha prophesied that Joash would decisively defeat Aram three times.
However, because of Joash lukewarm response, Aram would not be entirely defeated in Joash’s time.
Joash’s Spiritual Encounter
Elisha’s final encounter with the king of Israel was strange.
The strangeness isn’t that King Joash was upset at losing Elisha. For Joash was the son of Jehu, whom Elisha had installed as king. So, Joash’s despair makes perfect sense.
Still, this final meeting was strange. Specifically, Elisha asked the young king to perform certain strange, symbolic acts. These included shooting an arrow out of the prophet’s window. Additionally, Joash was directed to “beat” the ground with the remaining arrows. And somehow these symbolic actions represented the future of warfare against Aram, Israel’s archenemy.
However, the scene is not unlike a conversation that Elisha once had with his own servant. At one point, the Arameans decided to capture Elisha. And so, they surrounded his camp in the night. Gehazi, his servant, was worried at the prospect of being surrounded by the Aramean army. But Elisha prayed that God would open Gehazi’s eyes. And so, God did. And Gehazi was suddenly aware that an army of angels stood ready to defend Elisha. For a moment, the servant was given direct access to the unseen spiritual reality around him.
Like the servant Gehazi, King Joash failed to recognize the spiritual dimension of his encounter. Still, he obeyed to the best of his natural reasoning.
But the result was muted. He did not enter into the possibility that God had prepared for him because he failed to recognize the essentially spiritual nature of the encounter. More importantly, he failed to recognize that the spiritual reality of his situation is what determines the actual experience of his circumstances.
Spirit Before Actuality
I’m like Joash in this respect. I’m sometimes willing to obey even if I don’t understand. I go to mass even though I don’t understand every aspect of what’s going on. And this affords some positive outcome.
But God does not intend that I remain blind. He isn’t forever interested in my ignorant obedience. He intends that I learn. And He intends that I grow into the capacity to see the utter reality of the mass – and especially the Eucharist. He intends that I grow from a basic trusting that is mediated by the insight of another. He wants me to experience a mature understanding of who the Christ is and what it means to the ordinary reality of my life to have access to him.
“Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” John 6:53
Synopsis 2 Kings 12:24-13:9 9/10/2019
After reigning for thirty-nine years, King Joash of Judah was assassinated. He was killed by two of his own officials. One was named Jozacar and the other Jehobad. After this, Amaziah became king over Judah.
Meanwhile, Jehoahaz became king over Israel after his father, King Jehu, died. And King Jehoahaz reigned as king for seventeen years.
In the course of his reign, he sought out the Lord because the people of Israel were suffering so badly under the oppression of the Arameans. As a result, even though he was left with a very small military force, he was famous for God’s promise to send a savior, who would liberate Israel from Aramean control.
Jehoahaz died. And he was succeeded by his son Joash, king of Israel.
Cry of An Incomplete Repentance
Jehoahaz cried out to the Lord because of the suffering of the people. And God responded to this cry even though Jehoahaz never fully repented for the sins of the nation. Still, God sent a savior to relieve the nation from the oppression of the Arameans.
My Incomplete Repentance
I don’t come to God with clean hands. I am a sinner. And there are consequences that naturally follow from my sins. It’s like what’s written in Proverbs: “Their own folly leads people astray; [yet] in their hearts they rage against the LORD.” (Prov 19:11)
So, often I cry to the Lord for help in my moments of distress. And amazingly, I find substantial relief.
Yet, I find my repentance is always incomplete. Once the pressure of circumstances is relieved, I tend to revert. Sometimes, I openly wonder if God was really a part of the relief. Or, I question if there was really any connection between my unbelief and my suffering.
But God loves me anyway. He heals me despite my unbelief. And as I work through the experiences of my own life, this has become my confidence.
Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” Heb 13:5
Synopsis 2 Kings 12:12-20 9/9/2019
King Joash took control of all temple maintenance and repairs. He made it a part of his administration to hire and manage the workers who conducted the work of maintaining the temple. After the temple had suffered many years of abuse by his forefathers and his grandmother, taking care of the temple had become his passion.
Sometime after the completion of the repairs, Jerusalem was attacked. King Hazael had sacked the Philistine city of Gath. And Jerusalem was a tempting target along his return route to Aram.
To thwart the attack, King Joash paid a ransom. He sent most of the wealth from both the temple treasury and his royal estate to King Hazael. The Aramean king accepted these and returned to Aram without actually fighting against the city.
Taking Care of the Temple
Joash was concerned for the temple. He had good reason.
It was, after all, his first home until he was aged six. And, it was also the traditional place where God’s presence dwelt with the children of Israel. It was the center of worship for the nation.
But the temple was also the “goose that laid golden eggs”. It was a source of revenue.
And the revenues were not limited to the sacrificial portions committed to the priest under the law of Moses. People traveled from all over the Mediterranean to worship God at the temple Solomon built. And so, as pilgrims arrived for feasts and other opportunities to worship, travelers became a regular source of that fueled the economy of Jerusalem.
For this reason, King Joash was even willing to give away most of his wealth in order to protect the temple from being sacked, and possibly destroyed, by an invading army.
Real Treasure Brings a Return on Investment
A basic concept in modern finance is that an investment should produce a regular return. It keeps on generating additional wealth. For the ancient Israelites, Solomon’s temple was like this.
But relationship with God is also like this. The value of knowing God is, by itself, a continuous return on investment.
“For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” Matt 6:21
Synopsis 2 Kings 12:1-11 9/6/2019
Joash was only seven years old when he became king over Judah. He administered the kingdom well with the help of the priest Jehoiada.
Because he had been raised in the temple, Joash was passionate about keeping God’s house in good condition. So, he commissioned the priests to perform the necessary repairs. And, he provided additional money and resources for the purpose. He wanted the structure and the tools to be well maintained.
But even after many years, it became apparent to Josiah there was a problem. The priests were not maintaining the structure. So, he brought the priests together. And they conferred about the problem. Eventually they all agreed that the priests would no longer be responsible for the condition of the temple. And, the resources formally given to them for this purpose would be given directly to tradesmen, who would perform the work.
Joash Fixes Temple
It seems pretty clear that Joash loved God. And, he loved God’s house.
Of course, he had been raised in the temple for his first six or seven years. So, this was his first home.
Accordingly, it’s no great surprise that he was frustrated by the priests. He gave them resources to keep the temple in good repair. But, they didn’t do the work. And they didn’t hire anyone else to do the work. They just kept the resources.
The priests did not share Joash’s passion to keep the temple in excellent repair. But he did not condemn them. Instead, he simply redirected the resources to affect the change he knew God wanted from him.
Not Everyone Shares Your Passion
I’ve learned to love God. And so, I want others to share this passion. More than that, I want them to participate in my passion. I want them to love God in the way I do.
So, it can be discouraging when they don’t. I feel the natural temptation to doubt the sincerity of their faith. And, I feel the temptation to mistake their indifference to my charismatic manner of passion with damnable “luke-warmness”.
But the call is to love. My calling is to love. More specifically, my calling is to love the one who is in front of me.
Not to judge. Not to enlist. And not to condemn.
“So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.” Mark 12:17