His Strength and Battle Plans

2 Kings 18:9-19:37 and Psalm 46, 80 & 135

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David was a small man compared to Goliath. Based on some Egyptian recordings, men of the time would stand around 5.5 feet tall. Now Goliath was either 6’9” or 9’9” depending on if you look at the Septuagint or the Masoretic texts. Either way, David was significantly smaller than the champion of the Philistines, yet God gave him the power to triumph over the giant. We have a few similar stories in the conquest of the Levant (the region where the Israelites were led to settle by God). When Joshua led Israel to defeat Jericho, there was no reason to believe that a small army could conquer such a well-fortified city, so God conquered for the Israelites. The defeat of king Og is another story of the Israelites conquest against a giant, and again, God conquered for the Israelites.

This story of Judah versus Assyria is really a story of David versus Goliath. Assyria was the ancient near east’s most powerful nation. The Assyrians turned Ninevah into a wealthy city and a center for culture and art. They also coerced all the surrounding nations into vassalage in order to fund these massive feats of architecture. This essentially means that the king of Assyria demanded large sums of gold and silver from the nearby kings in exchange for the “protection” of the Assyrians, which is a euphemism for, “Give me money or I’ll kill you and enslave all your people.” It’s a pretty good setup they’ve got going on. At the beginning of the passage you’ll see that Hezekiah is one of those kings who is a vassal to Sennacherib. Judah manages to cough up 10 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold. That’s a lot of money. Even with that generous donation, Assyria couldn’t leave Judah alone. Assyria lays siege to Jerusalem, mocks their God and insists that they will be forced to eat their own excrement if they stay on the side of God.

Choosing to stay on God’s side usually isn’t that difficult for me, but when the cost is eating your own filth, it certainly adds some weight to the decision.  Many kings of Judah and certainly most, if not all, of the kings of Israel would have submitted to Sennacherib’s will, but not Hezekiah. Isaiah tells Hezekiah that God will take care of everything, like he always does. Once again, God conquers for the Israelites.

We often want God to act through us, to perform some mighty feat of strength or wisdom with ourselves as the focus. However, God often chooses to do things without us so that we can know that the glory is his and his alone. We want to be like David, to be a man after God’s own heart, but also to be like David, a man who performed valiant feats. Let us remember that it is God’s will that will be done and not ours. We can build up fortresses for ourselves but they won’t save us. Our God is a mighty fortress, an ever present help in trouble. Nothing we create will ever be as effective a shield as Him.

 

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Kings+18%3A9-19%3A37%3B+Psalm+46%2C+80%2C+135&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Isaiah 49-53 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76

I will defend this city and rescue it because of Me and because of My servant David._

In Isaiah 36-37, we read more about the good king Hezekiah. Like we learned last week, Hezekiah worked hard to take down the idols in the land and point the people back to God. In Isaiah 36, Judah came under attack from the neighboring nation of Assyria. Hezekiah then undergoes a battle for the minds of the people as he argues against King Sennacherib and the people of the court. In these two chapters, the Rabshakeh, a high-ranking military officer, tries to convince the people to forsake their kingdom and God. In his three speeches, we may see some similarities between what he says and the way that we are tempted today. At the heart of all of his speeches is a desire to turn Judah away from trusting solely in God. 

In the Rabshakeh’s first speech, he points out one of Israel’s insecurities. He says in Is. 36:4-6, ‘What are you relying on? Your strategy and military preparedness are mere words. Look, you are trusting in Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff that will enter and pierce the hand of anyone who leans on it.’ Israel and Judah had both sought protection and manpower from Egypt as we read about in Is. 31. Now the Rabshakeh was pointing out that weakness and mocking them for it! We’ve all experienced a time when we have had our insecurities pointed out. I’m a terrible volleyball player. When I would have to play volleyball in gym class, I remember one of the cute guys at my school saying to me ‘You just have to hit the ball like this. It’s not hard!’ You can imagine that in that moment – when a shortcoming of mine was pointed out – all I wanted to do was for someone to take that problem away from me quickly! In my gym class that meant sitting out the next game, but the Judeans didn’t have that option. The Assyrians gave them the option instead to give him 2,000 horses if they could supply riders for them (v. 8). Again, this pointed out the lack of manpower and ability for the Israelites to protect themselves. 

At this point, we would probably say, ‘Well, that’s fine! Israel doesn’t need to protect themselves – they should trust in God!’ The Rabshakeh thought of that too. In verse 7, he says, ““Suppose you say to me, ‘We trust in the LORD our God.’ Isn’t he the One whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You are to worship at this altar’?” The Rabshakeh twisted the actions of Hezekiah to make it seem like he had done something against God rather than something that God wanted. He even goes so far as to say in v. 10, “Have I attacked this land to destroy it without the LORD’s approval? The LORD said to me, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’ In his second speech, the Rabshakeh describes how he had destroyed the gods of the surrounding nations, which would just show that God himself wouldn’t deliver the people either (v. 18-20). 

This is some powerful psychological warfare! We know the Judeans had trust issues to begin with. Now, someone is coming and laying out all of their insecurities for the world to see (right before they try to march in and destroy their kingdom)! The heart of all of the Rabshakeh’s temptation can be summed up with what he said in Is. 37:10, “Don’t let your God, whom you trust, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem won’t be handed over to the king of Assyria.” He basically says ‘Did God really say that he would save you?’ which may sound eerily reminiscent of another ancient tempter (Gen. 3:1). At this point, if someone had tried to break our trust in God in this way, we may have caved and believed them. However, Hezekiah does what we all should do when we have people who try to break our trust in God. He prays and then reminds himself of God’s unchanging character. 

God hears his prayer and we read about the victory that God brings in Isaiah 37:36-38 when an angel of the LORD strikes down the Assyrian army and the king is killed in the temple of his god, Nisroch.

When we face temptations and challenges that try to break our trust in God, we need to be reminded that he is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. We can trust in what the Bible says. We can trust in the promises of God. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – Isaiah 37-39 & Psalm 76.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Isaiah 40-43– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chron. 29-31, & Psalm 48

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Hey everyone!

We are currently living in a very crazy time – am I right?! COVID-19 has taken over our daily lives, the political climate is VERY sticky and people are turning against one another (even within Godly communities) to prove their point and/or push their ideas of what they believe to be true. We are continually becoming more and more divided with each passing day. It is scary. Exhausting. Overwhelming. Frustrating. And those are only a few of the many adjectives I could throw out there right now to describe what is going on around us.

Let’s be honest here… all of this is A LOT to balance…. And I know, personally, as a flawed human being who continually makes mistakes and cannot seem to ever fully pull it all together, I constantly fall short when attempting to manage all of these changing circumstances and emotions. In times like this, I always find it helpful (and encouraging) to look back on examples set before me of Godly men and/or women who have managed to handle things a whole lot better than I am.

Our readings for today bring Hezekiah into focus. In 2 Kings 18:1-8 Hezekiah (son of Ahaz) comes to reign as the king of Judah. Hezekiah was a king who had a very close relationship with God and he is an example of how the faith of one man can change the course of an entire nation. During his reign Hezekiah pursued God with his whole heart. Hezekiah remained faithful and diligent throughout the highs and the lows of his time – he repaired the Jewish temple that had been previously impacted by wickedness, removed false Gods from the land, destroyed places where pagan worship was still in practice and restored the Passover as a national holiday.

Because King Hezekiah put God first in everything he did, God prospered him. Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord and did not stop following Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses and therefore the Lord was with him and he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 King 18:6-7). In his time of need, Hezekiah came forth and prayed for relief, guidance and support from the Lord and the Lord was quick and gracious to give of these things and reward Hezekiah for his faithfulness.

The example that Hezekiah sets forth during his reign reminds us of the importance of remaining faithful and obedient to God and His word regardless of what is happening around us. I encourage all of us to follow the example of Hezekiah in the time we currently find ourselves in today. Pray. Remain faithful. Stay diligent. Honor God by doing the right thing…..

While things around us are ever changing and continually confusing, we can rest assured that God will remain faithful and reward our diligence just as He has promised.

Love and miss you all – stay safe and healthy. I absolutely cannot wait for the day where we are all reunited again and can honor God together.

~ Kass Sipka

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to on Bible Gateway – 2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chron. 29-31, & Psalm 48.

Tomorrow, we continue reading about the history of Judah and Israel in Hosea 1-7– as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

2500 Years Later

Sunday Intro by Graysen Pack

God's Word RemainsLiving & Active

As we continue our readings in Proverbs (Chapters 22-26 this week), we are going to be leaving a collection of sayings by Solomon that contrast the wise and the foolish.  We’ll then move into a new section of Proverbs, the sayings of the Wise.  These proverbs, unlike previous ones, aren’t written down by Solomon directly but put down to paper by the servants of King Hezekiah years later.


This reveals one of the defining characteristics of Wisdom literature as it’s found in Scripture: it is a product of the dynamic tension that ancient people faced in their day to day lives.  These are sayings that were passed down for generations from the time of Solomon to the days of Hezekiah and then put to paper.  Unlike some portions of the Hebrew Bible, the Wisdom literature found in Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job, and Ecclesiastes are intrinsically shaped by the ways that the Jews of ancient Israel were trying to understand the role of faith in their daily actions.

 

This is what makes these scriptures deep, meaningful, and particularly relevant to the struggles we still face today.  So, as we explore the Proverbs this week, I encourage you to not see them as a detached set of sayings from a time long gone, but as markers laid out by individuals of faith who found themselves in older variations of the exact same challenges we encounter in our own lives some 2500 years later.

God’s Grace

2 Chronicles 30-32

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Friday, December 2

Just a couple quick things to notice in these readings. One is that our readings this week have covered more than 200 years of Israel’s history. To put it in context of United States history, George Washington would have been president when this week started and most of you will be retired by the end of tomorrow’s reading. Just imagine how much has happened that we know nothing about. If you remember your readings in 1 and 2 Kings, you’ll notice differences in the story. I was surprised that this account does not include the sun moving backwards as a sign of  Hezekiah’s healing, nor does it give as dramatic an account of the defeat of the Assyrian king Sennacherib.

I want to focus now on 2 Chronicles 30:13-22. The back story is that Hezekiah is determined to celebrate the Passover like it had not been done since the time of Solomon. He is not content to celebrate only with those loyal to David in Judah, but has reached out to the northern tribes, many of whom have already been defeated and carried away captive by the Assyrians. Many have refused to come, but Judah graciously welcomes those who do.

Notice verses 18-20. “For a multitude of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the passover otherwise than as prescribed. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “The good LORD pardon all who set their hearts to seek God, the LORD the God of their ancestors, even though not in accordance with the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” The LORD heard Hezekiah, and healed the people.”

We have noticed throughout our readings that God gave strict instructions as to how his feasts were to be celebrated. Yet here we see grace, first in inviting those who were outside the faithful of Judah to celebrate the feast, and then in pardoning their mistakes in celebrating the feast. God understands human weakness.

We might imagine a person visiting our church who does not know how to behave in church. Perhaps she doesn’t know how to dress, perhaps he uses language that many would consider inappropriate. They don’t know the words to the songs, don’t know when to stand, when to sing, when to be quiet, what communion is about. Can we be glad they are with us, rather than focusing on their mess ups? How can we gracefully communicate that we are glad they are with us, welcoming them as Christ welcomes us?

-Greg Demmitt

Lessons from the Kings

2 Chronicles 26-29

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Thursday, December 1

In today’s passage, three out of four kings are more good than bad for a change, however one intriguing thing happens during the time of a bad king, while two good kings have different experiences in the Temple of God.

 

During the time of evil King Ahaz, Israel wins victories over Judah, but when they intend to treat people from Judah as slaves. a prophet of God who lives in Israel, then leaders of Ephraim also defend the captives (2 Chronicles 28:8-18). This shows that there can be people who fear God amongst those who do not. Think about how difficult it was for them to live amongst a rebellious people.

 

Two kings have different experiences in the Temple. Uzziah begins to reign at the age of 16 and starts out great, but becomes arrogant as he became more powerful. He decides that he will offer incense in the Temple, even though only the priests are supposed to do so. He ends up being afflicted by leprosy. In the end of today’s reading we read about Hezekiah’s great effort to purify the Temple. We might read both and wonder why God places so much emphasis upon ritual. I think it is good to take time to think about this. When we get to our readings in Hebrews we will read much more about this, but for now, just take time to think about why God gives such specific teaching about how the Temple is to be maintained.

-Greg Demmitt

Keep on Praying! (2 Kings 18-20)

Friday, November 11

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Watch out!  The Assyrians who just attacked and captured Israel are now on the doorstep of Judah, ready to do the same to the smaller neighbor to the south.  Judah is shaking in their boots – and wearing sackcloth – and PRAYING.  The Assyrian king sends a letter of doom to Hezekiah, King of Judah, in which he also questions the power of Judah’s God (big mistake).  Hezekiah goes directly to the temple and prays for his country:

Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”      2 Kings 19:15-19

The prophet Isaiah sends a message to Hezekiah that God has heard his prayer.  And sure enough – THAT night a miraculous answer is given.  An angel of the Lord puts to death 85,000 Assyrian soldiers, and the rest run away in the morning.

All looks great – until Hezekiah becomes deathly ill.  And so, Hezekiah prays:

“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

and God hears and answers and Hezekiah is told he will be given 15 more years of life.   When bold Hezekiah asks for a sign to be sure this is true, the shadow cast by the sun moves backward 10 steps!  This healing was no mere coincidence or just really good medicine at work.

Talk about some power in prayer!  Wouldn’t you love to go to a class on prayer taught by Hezekiah.  Prayer is powerful because the God Hezekiah prayed to is so powerful!  There is no enemy or illness too strong for the Almighty God!

So, what about when we faithfully pray for our crisis to be fixed and the answer is no or not now?  The enemy wins or the illness brings death?  Is it because God isn’t powerful enough?  NO.  Or perhaps we weren’t good enough?  NO, not necessarily.  Just a few chapters ago we were reading of Elisha, the God-fearing, power-praying prophet who performed many miracles: parting the water, healing leprosy, feeding a hundred men with just 20 loaves of bread, changing the deadly stew to nourishing, making the ax-head float and the oil over-flowing AND raising a boy from the dead!   Elisha was no doubt a man of God and God answered his prayers in mighty ways time and time again.  However in 2 Kings 13:14 we read “Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died.”  Even on his deathbed he delivers another message from God to the king of Israel.  Then, he died.  And even in death his bones were powerful enough to raise the life of another (2 Kings 13:21).   Sometimes the miracle even comes after death – in the lives of others.

Not only is God all-powerful but He is also all-knowing and all-wise.  And, sometimes that means the good die or the enemy has a victorious day.  In 2 Kings 19 after Hezekiah prays for deliverance for his country, Isaiah delivers a message from God against the attacking Assyrians.  He says: “Have you not heard?  Long ago I ordained it.  In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone…but I know where you stay and when you come and go…and I will make you return by the way you came” (19:25,27,28)

God has got this.  Nothing He doesn’t see.  Nothing He doesn’t know. Nothing He doesn’t know how to handle.  He sees the big picture.  He IS the big picture.  Rest in that knowledge.  Pray big to the Almighty, just as Elisha and Hezekiah did.  You just might  witness a miracle!  Or it might be a day ordained for the enemy to win or the prophet of God to die.  Either way – God is God and He is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise.

Keep on Praying!

Marcia Railton

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