As you have been reading have you wondered how God’s people can seem to be so blind? Whether they were kings or ordinary folks they all seemed to miss the simple fact that when they were obedient to the commands of the Lord, things went pretty well for them. The Lord fought for them against their enemies, the land prospered, often there was peace, they worshiped in the temple of the Lord, and overall life was pretty darn good. When the Assyrians came knocking on Judah’s door, Hezekiah sought the Lord. And the Lord promised He would keep the Assyrians out of Jerusalem. Because the king turned to Him, God was faithful to His people. And 185,000 Assyrians were killed. But we have seen that as the king goes, so go the people. There was king Jehoshaphat who tried to get a truce going with the northern kingdom. In meeting with king Ahab of the north Jehoshaphat sought to inquire of the Lord before they went into battle. The prophet of the Lord did not have good news but that didn’t stop king Ahab from fighting anyway. He was mortally wounded and king Jehoshaphat went back to the southern kingdom. He was chastised for uniting with the northern kingdom in battle but he redeemed himself by beginning a religious revival. He also turned to the Lord when enemies were about to attack the southern kingdom. And as with Hezekiah, God delivered His people from their enemies. Jotham was also a good king but we know little about him other than he walked in the ways of his father Uzziah. Lastly there is King Josiah. He was eight when he took the throne but he quickly became a royal powerhouse. He walked like David did. He destroyed all the idols in Judah. He continued with the Passover celebrations that his father Uzziah started and he discovered the book of the laws of Moses. That only fueled his desire to help all of Judah return to the Lord in worship. In the end he ignored a couple of warnings from the Lord and he was killed in battle. All in all he did pretty well. Twenty kings and five of them were righteous. These five have one thing in common that the other fifteen did not have and that is a relationship with the Lord. They had a desire to worship Him and give Him thanks and praise for who God is and what God has done. Each of them restored His house, celebrated the holy days and revered the law He gave to Moses. They were rich and powerful as well but much of that came because God blessed their faithfulness.
Many of you have commented about all the killing. Not only did the armies of the northern and southern kingdoms kill thousands of their enemies but they killed each other. There were civil wars between the north and the south. There were young men who became king who killed off the rest of their families so they would have no competition for the throne. Sometimes it was the sons who killed their fathers and once it was the grandmother who did the killing. It seems like killing was a way of life then and there was very little trust among people and within families. Part of the killing game was the ultimate embarrassment and humiliation of those you defeated. Whether it was cutting off beards and clothes or beheading rulers and hanging their bodies on the city walls as trophies the more humiliation you could heap on the losers, the better.
Going hand in hand with the killing was God’s promise to always have someone from David’s line on the throne. In spite of the people’s unfaithfulness, God remained faithful. That is not only who God is but also what He does. God is God…holy, set apart, sovereign, faithful. He executed judgement on His people when they were disobedient but there was always a remnant of the faithful left. When we look at Joash, the son of Ahaziah, grandson of Athaliah, he was a remnant. After his father was killed and his grandmother killed off the rest of his family, Joash was the ONLY member of the royal line of David left. That makes for a very small remnant. But God was faithful and kept His promise.
Another thing you may have noticed is that it wasn’t just the kings who didn’t seem to get it that if they were obedient to the Lord things went much better. The people really were like sheep without a good and competent shepherd. Often in scripture God’s people are referred to as sheep. Jesus often referred to his followers as sheep. And He called Himself the Good Shepherd. But here’s the thing. Sheep are some of the dumbest animals around. You cannot drive sheep because they will scatter all over the place, running every which way. Sheep have to be led. If the shepherd is good, the sheep will be led to green pastures and still waters. The water has to be still and not running because running water spooks the sheep. But if the shepherd is bad and doesn’t care about his sheep, they will be led into many different places that are not good for them. The kings or shepherds in the northern kingdom were all bad shepherds and they led their sheep astray, far from the good things of the Lord. And as I wrote earlier most of the kings of the southern kingdom were just the same. Today when we think about sheep and shepherds you and I are called to look like sheep from the front and shepherds from the back. That means we are to follow someone who is a shepherd to us but we are also supposed to be a shepherd for someone else.
From Genesis 3:15 on we have seen the promise of one who will come to rescue His people. The covenant God made with King David was that there would be someone on his throne forever. We know this to be our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That is good news for us and so many others. But we don’t look much different than the folks of Hezekiah’s day sometimes. We stray too. We are disobedient and we sin. Sometimes we are easily led astray because we follow the wrong person. But Old Testament or New, God is faithful. He is the only God ever to pursue His people when they stray or get lost. He wanted a relationship with His people then just as He does today. He made the same promise to His people 3,000 years ago as He has made to us…I will never leave you or forsake you. That is a promise we hang onto, sometimes because it seems that is all we have. And when that happens, it is enough.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W