SOAP Journal – 30 April 2018 (2 Kings 16)

Ahaz [was] twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David [had done].

2 Kings 16:2

After Judah had a short streak of good kings, along came Ahaz to ruin the whole thing. While the kings before him had been mitigated good kings, Ahaz was an unmitigated bad king. He worshiped false gods and went so far as to cause his son [to] pass through the fire. Not a good person and not a good king. There is, as far as is recorded in this chapter, not one thing that mitigates Ahaz’s evil.

What am I to do with this? Take Ahaz as a cautionary tale. Ahaz is an example of what not to do. Instead of following in the footsteps of unrighteous men — even (perhaps especially) unrighteous men in positions of power and prestige — I should follow in the footsteps of those who have lived righteous lives.

The mention made in this chapter is of David. David was not perfect. David made mistakes and sinned. David also repented. David did not start worshiping other gods or changing the things that God Himself had specified (as Ahaz changed the altar). David, instead, gathered materials in preparation for the building of the temple. David organized the choir for praise to be sung. David, imperfect man that he was, sought to please God and to serve God.

Let me follow the examples of righteous men (being a man myself) and note the way that unrighteous men walk so that I do not walk in those paths.

Father, thank You for examples both good and bad in Your Word. Please give me a heart that pursues the way of the righteous examples and shuns the way of the unrighteous examples.

SOAP Journal – 26 April 2018 (2 Kings 15:8-38)

Now the rest of the acts of Jotham and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

2 Kings 15:36

Most of this chapter is dedicated to a series of kings who are recorded more because they were, in fact, kings than because they had done anything particularly noteworthy. There were conspiracies and conspirators; thrones inherited and thrones taken by force; unGodly kings (mostly) and a Godly king or two.

Most of us, as I feel I have noted before, live footnote lives. As far as history is concerned, we are not worthy of note. There are those that history chooses to remember; people of significant greatness or terribleness, but the vast majority live unremarkable lives and pass into the next world without causing too much of a splash. Or do we?

There is, in Chaos Theory, the idea of the Butterfly Effect. Every little change effects more significant change in some other place and time. These kings may not have been particularly impactful in their time, but their examples — good and bad — have been used to speak to generations. There have been powerful evangelists like Billy Graham and D.L. Moody who were raised by someone and witnessed to by someone and those nameless someones are as important to the ministries of those evangelists as the evangelists themselves. Who can go unless he is sent?

I am encouraged afresh and anew by the footnote kings in The Bible. Though they may have done nothing particularly noteworthy in their time, still they are recorded and remind me that someone ruled in between the remarkable kings. Some ruled well while others ruled poorly. Some were Godly while others were not. I am reminded and exhorted to be faithful where I am and with the work that God has put my hands to.

Father, thank You for the reminder that everyone fills a role and a place, whether we live remarkably or not. Thank You, also, for the reminder that just being faithful in my sphere can have huge implications. Please cultivate faithfulness in me, that I might be faithful where You have placed me.

SOAP Journal – 25 April 2018 (2 Kings 14:17-22, 15:1-7)

He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done.

2 Kings 15:3

Uzziah (Azariah) is made king after his father, Amaziah, is killed by conspirators. Uzziah was, according to Kings, a good and Godly king. The year that Uzziah died also happens to be the year that the prophet Isaiah had his vision of the LORD sitting on is throne. 2 Kings 5:5 states that the LORD struck the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, but gives no more color or context than that. 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 gives the full story, recording Uzziah going in to the temple to offer incense himself, instead of bringing incense to one of the priests to offer, and being stricken by God for his (Uzziah’s) presumption in doing so.

Uzziah, like so many of the Godly kings, stands as a reminder that even Godly people are flawed. Uzziah was not perfect, yet he is counted as a good king.

I will think more deeply about this king when I get to the portion of Chronicles that records his deeds. For now, I will be encouraged that good men can and do still need grace.

Father, thank You for this encouragement that Uzziah was not perfect and was still accounted as a good king and a man who did right in Your sight. Please keep me mindful that I do not need to be perfect to be accounted a man who does right in Your sight.

SOAP Journal – 24 April 2018 (2 Kings 14:15-16, 23-29)

For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, [which was] very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel.

2 Kings 14:26

The verse pairs of fifteen and sixteen and twenty-eight and twenty-nine neatly bookend a portion of Israel’s history. On the one end, Jehoash dies and his son takes the throne. This is one of the more peaceful successions in this section of the book of Kings. On the other end, Jeroboam son of Jehoash dies and his son, Zechariah succeeds him. In the middle of this portion of the northern kingdom’s history — verses seventeen through twenty-two — is a note about the beginning of Uzziah (Azariah)’s reign in Judah which I will leave for the next time I journal.

Jehoash had been a military king. He had been victorious over the nation oppressing Israel and had recovered cities taken by them. He had also been victorious against the king of Judah. All told, Jehoash had done what ancient nations expected of their king in troubled times: he had gone out to the field of battle and been victorious. This meant that his son had a tough spot to step in to. To make matters worse, we are told that there was neither bond nor free, which I understood was a bad thing, but did not grasp the severity of until I checked a few commentaries. Most commentaries I checked agreed that this essentially meant that there was no one in any walk of life who was ready, willing, and able to help Israel.

Enter Jeroboam. This king arrives and is greeted with prophecy from Jonah (yes, that Jonah) who prophesies of Jeroboam’s victories, thus spurring the new king to take to the field of battle and effect deliverance for the Israelites. This deliverance came not as a result of the Israelites crying out to God or of sackcloth an ashes repentance or of any such thing. The deliverance came because God saw how pitiable their situation was and felt pity for them. That was it. The compassion of God moved Him to deliver the Israelites.

The same is true for me and for every person who comes to faith. God was moved to redeem us not because we had done anything that was deserving of it or because we asked for it, but because He felt compassion for us. He died on the cross for me and everyone else because He took pity on us.

What this means after coming to salvation is that God being at work in my life is no guarantee that I am in the right place. It is just as possible that God may be working in spite of me as opposed to working in and through me. I need to regularly pray with the psalmist that God would search me and know my anxious thoughts and reveal any offensive way in me and lead me in the everlasting way (Psalm 139:23-24).

Father, thank You for this reminder that the work seen in my life could be Your compassion as much as it could be my compliance. Please, as the psalmist wrote, search me and reveal the wrongness in me that I might turn from it and follow You as You deserve.

SOAP Journal – 23 April 2018 (2 Kings 14:1-14)

In the second year of Joash son of Joahaz king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah became king.

2 Kings 14:1

Amaziah turns out to be one in a streak of good kings that rule over Judah. He is not perfect — the high places remained intact during his reign — but he is recorded as doing right in the sight of the LORD. He accomplishes three things that are noted specifically: (1) he executed the conspirators who killed his father, (2) he managed a military victory over Edom that resulted in reclaimed territory, and (3) he grew proud because of the victory over Edom and challenged the king of the northern kingdom which resulted in Amaziah being defeated and taken captive.

The first item is made more noteworthy by Amaziah being obedient to The Law and executing only the conspirators. Several others have been recorded as killing the conspirators and every living relative, but Amaziah sticks to punishing the guilty parties.

The second item is not as noteworthy as it could be. There are many kings who managed to effect a military victory or two. The king of Israel even responded to the king of Judah that he (Amaziah) should enjoy the pleasure that victory brings instead of spoiling for a fight.

The third item is a sobering reminder that victory in one arena does not guarantee victory in all arenas. Just because Amaziah was victorious over Edom did not make him victorious over the northern kingdom. The old Christian cliché that the battle belongs to the LORD comes from a verse wherein the one receiving the promise (Jehoshaphat) had been trying to live peacefully and trouble came to him (2 Chronicles 20:15). If I go around spoiling for a fight, then the fight does not belong to God, but me. It is when I stand for God that He stands for me.

The account boils down to these three things: obey God’s Law, listen to wise counsel, and do not take victory for granted.

Father, thank You for these reminders. May I be obedient to Your Law — the Law of Grace which bids me love You and love others. Please give me ears that are attentive to wise counsel, whatever its source. Please give me a peaceful spirit — one that seeks to live peaceably with others and is not spoiling for a fight.

SOAP Journal – 19 April 2018 (2 Kings 13:14-25)

Elisha died, and they buried him.

2 Kings 13:20a

The verses that close out chapter thirteen include the final prophecy, death, and posthumous final miracle of the prophet Elisha.

The final prophecy of Elisha is made concerning the victory of Joash/Jehoash, king of Israel (not Judah), over the king of Aram. J(eh)oash apparently heard about Elisha’s illness and went to visit him. While J(eh)oash was visiting Elisha, the prophet told the king to take some arrows and fire one out the window, then to hit the ground with the rest. The king hit the ground three times and stood up. The prophet was not happy, telling the king that he should have hit the ground five or six times and the prophecy would have been complete victory. Instead, there would be three victories. This prophecy was fulfilled after Elisha’s death and that fulfillment is recorded in verses twenty-two through twenty-five.

Elisha’s death is recorded as all death really should be: Elisha died, and they buried him. Just the facts. We can go on about how a person died, speculating on whether the death was a “good” death (whatever that means) or if it was premature or whatever. We can talk about the funeral and how the remembrance was beautiful and the body looked so peaceful (that is just good makeup work) and all of that claptrap. In the end, the simple truth is that we will all die and someone else will be left to dispose of our remains.

In the same verse that gives the simple truth that Elisha died and was buried, mention is made that Moabites would invade in the spring each year and that a group of people happened to be burying a man when the marauders showed up. The burial crew panicked and tossed the body into Elisha’s grave. When the dead man’s body came in contact with Elisha’s bones, the dead man was resurrected. God did one last miracle through Elisha and Elisha was not there to see it.

This leaves me with three thoughts.

One, I need to be clear on what God is saying. J(eh)oash heard Elisha tell him to hit the ground with the arrows and did not stop to ask what it was about or how many times he should hit the ground or how hard or anything. If God is speaking to me, then I need to take the time to be clear on what He is saying and what He is not saying. About a year ago, my wife and I bought a house and this purchase moved us a fair distance from the fellowship we have been a part of since we were we. This move has put a strain on serving and even attending services (one of our children gets loudly and obnoxiously whiny about car rides). We have prayed and stayed involved in the ministries we were a part of as much as opportunity allowed. Now, it seems that God is telling us to stand by. Not to step down or walk away so much as to stand aside for a moment while He does something. And we keep praying for clarity, because we do not want to leave a vacuum that God meant us to fill.

Two, everyone is subject to the same facts of life. We all have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some middles are shorter than others; some ends more abrupt. Regardless of the details, we all begin and end. It would serve me well and make me a better servant to my God if I focused on the commonalities between myself and others rather than the differences.

Three, God does not need me. God performed a miracle with Elisha’s bones. The prophet had gone on to Heaven. God had no need for Elisha and God has no need of me. God allows me to serve Him. He permits my imperfect efforts because He loves me. Just as I work with my children and often (not always, I am not perfect) welcome them into the work I do around our house — gardening, building things, to name a couple examples — so, too, does God welcome me into His work. He could do it faster and better without my involvement. But He loves me and that shared activity is fellowship. That shared activity builds the bond between my Heavenly Father and his very Earthly son (me).

Father, thank You for this account of Elisha’s final prophecy, death, and posthumous miracle. Thank You for the encouragement and exhortation that each is to me this morning. Please keep me mindful that I need to be clear on what You are saying to me and that You really do not need me to accomplish Your work.

SOAP Journal – 18 April 2018 (2 Kings 13:1-13)

Then Jehoahaz entreated the favor of the LORD, and the LORD listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Aram oppressed them.

2 Kings 13:4

The first thirteen verses of chapter thirteen recount the reigns of two kings in the north who did the same sorts of evil things as Jeroboam. Even so, during the reign of one of these kings, the LORD was called and He answered. Jehoahaz, the first of the two kings written about, started off doing all the evil things that Jeroboam had done, but called on the LORD when he (Jehoahaz) saw how bad conditions were becoming in the northern kingdom of Israel. The Arameans were regularly victorious in battle against Israel and living conditions in Israel were in decline. So, Jehoahaz entreated the favor of the LORD, and the LORD listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel. It bears note that is was not for anything that the people or the king had done that God answered, but because He had regard for the oppression of Israel. In fact, the following verses tell me that they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel sin, but walked in them (v. 6). God delivered them from trouble and they continued on in their idolatry.

Paul wrote that the Old Testament was written for our instruction (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). So, what am I to take away from this? It is possible to call on the LORD and for Him to answer without me ever repenting. God is careful of His Name and faithful to His promises. He will not go back on His promise and He will not leave His Name to be maligned. Whether or not I repent and do righteously afterward (or even before) is not implied by God answering. God’s faithfulness, not mine, is the standard by which His responses can be judged.

Father, thank You for this reminder that Your response does not rest on my faithfulness. You answer because of Your faithfulness. Even so, please create in me a clean heart and a faithful character that responds to Your faithfulness with faithfulness from me.

SOAP Journal – 16 April 2018 (2 Kings 12)

They gave the money which was weighed out into the hands of those who did the work, who had the oversight of the house of the LORD; and they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders who worked on the house of the LORD; and to the masons and the stonecutters, and for buying timber and hewn stone to repair the damages to the house of the LORD, and for all that was laid out for the house to repair it. 

2 Kings 12:11-12

The accomplishment of Joash recorded in the book of Kings is that the temple was repaired under his rule. Previous kings had let the temple fall into disrepair. Joash, who had spent some of his childhood in the temple, recognized that it needed maintenance as much as any other building. So, he spoke with the priests and had them start collecting money to repair the temple. When he saw that the repairs were not progressing, he looked into it and he and the priests changed the way things were done so that the repair work progressed. The chapter closes with a note that Joash was killed by conspirators and that his son became king in his place.

The account itself is pretty straightforward. I note that the king took an interest in the things of God. Not all of his predecessors had any interest in the things of God outside of some of them wanting guidance from God. Sometimes, the king would raid the temple treasury to pay off some enemy or another, but seldom is a king recorded as looking after the care and maintenance of the temple. More, the funding for the repair work did not come from the king but from the people’s regular offerings. The High Priest actually created an offering box by drilling a hole in the lid of a chest and putting it in a convenient place for people to drop coins in. When the chest got full, he and the king’s scribe would count out the money and give it to those responsible for the upkeep of the temple. No meters. No rallies. Just a simple box and the visible progress that was made on the temple’s repair to spur people on to give.

The application is as follows: (1) I need to take an interest in the things of God, even if I am not someone who is obviously serving, (2) people will give toward a project that they believe in, I do not need to try to stir up people’s enthusiasm or post some meter to spur on those who are excited and shame those who are not.

Father, thank You for kings like Joash, who take an interest in Your things. Thank You for recording that interest and the results that followed. Please give me an interest in Your things and show me where and how You would have me use my energies and time.

SOAP Journal – 12 April 2018 (2 Kings 11)

So [Joash] was hidden with [Jehosheba] in the house of the LORD six years, while Athaliah was reigning over the land.

2 Kings 11:3

When Ahaziah was killed, his mother, Athaliah, decided to stage a government takeover. She killed all of the potential successors to the throne. But she missed one: Joash. Joash, based on the math (Athaliah reigned for six years and Joash was seven when he was declared king), was only one year old when Athaliah — Joash’s grandmother — killed all of his siblings. It was only because Jehosheba — Joash’s aunt — took him to the temple of the LORD that Joash was saved. The account does not mention anything that Athaliah did during her rule. She is a footnote ruler. Worse, she was a person without natural love. She killed her own grandchildren. Everything that is recorded about her leaves the impression that she was the worst variety of person. Athaliah was so far removed from any worship of the LORD that it never even occurred to her in six years to just wander into the LORD’s temple. Not. Once.

I want to look at Joash, but his reign really begins in the next chapter, so I need to consider what Athaliah’s footnote reign and shriveled little heart have to teach me.

The worship of idols leads to the death of all affection for others, including natural love. Athaliah is selfish in taking the throne, that is a fact, but killing her own grandchildren to do so is a step beyond. So, it should not surprise me when people who are worshiping one idol or another do things that baffle me; things that betray a lack of natural love. The first example that comes to mind is women who kill their unborn children in the name of convenience. I am thinking of abortion, but a specific case. I am not thinking of women who are forced to make the agonizing choice between preserving their own life or their unborn child’s. I have compassion for them and wish I knew how to save them both. I am thinking of the women who have an abortion because the child is inconvenient. We in Westernized society have created a cult of convenience and we worship whenever it is convenient for us to do so. Men have destroyed their marriages and families in the pursuit of something they might not be able to name. All idols ultimately reflect us. We want what we want and we metaphorically carve the image to match. And all our love for others dies on that altar.

By contrast, worship of the LORD leads to love for others. Not worship of Who I think the LORD is, but of the LORD as He is. If I worship Him as I think He is or how I want Him to be, I am merely setting up another idol. But worshiping God as He is — in all of His holiness and righteousness and justice and compassion and love and mercy — will lead me to love Him and to love others, for God is love (1 John 4:7-8). And my God is not the milquetoast version of love portrayed in media — that is yet another idol — but the strong, enduring, ferocious love of the LORD Who would come and allow Himself to be crucified by His own creations in order that He might redeem us and cleanse us and win some of us to Himself.

Any idol would only bid me do as I wish and sate my desires for the moment — the idol is, after all, crafted in the image of me and my desires. The True and Living God bids me do as He does: take up my cross, follow Him, and He will make me like Him — i.e. I will learn to really Love.

Let me examine myself and see if I, like Athaliah, am worshiping some idol or another that is killing love in me. If so, let me tear it down and turn myself back to the True and Living God that I might Love.

Father, thank You for the examples in Your Word — even, and sometimes especially, for the bad examples. Please search me and reveal any idolatry in me. Tear those idols down and enable me to Love as You Love.

SOAP Journal – 10 April 2018 (2 Kings 9-10)

The LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, [and] have done to the house of Ahab according to all that [was] in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin.

2 Kings 10:30-31

Elisha told one of the sons of the prophets to get some oil in his flask and go anoint Jehu king over Israel. So the son of the prophets did as instructed and Jehu was anointed king. He happened to be with some of the commanders of the army when it happened and they asked about it. He told them the truth and they all accepted him as king. He then went on to exterminate all of Ahab’s descendants, just as had been prophesied. He even went so far as to bring all of the Baal worshipers together and exterminate them. He stopped short of correcting all of the errors in the northern kingdom’s worship system. He left the golden calves in place. But his zeal to do all that God had said would be done was commendable. In fact, God Himself commends that zeal in this morning’s verses.

Am I as zealous to do what Jesus Christ has commanded me? It needs to be said that there are a great many zealous Christians who are zealous about all the wrong things. We somehow get muddled and think it is our job to tell non-believers about their sin. The Bible is quite clear that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convince and convict people of their sin.

What, then, is my job as a Christian? Jesus was once asked which commandment is the greatest. Jesus replied that the first command is to love the LORD my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and that the second — which should really follow naturally on the heels of the first — is to love my neighbor as myself. If I truly love God, then I will love those that He loves by extension. And He loves everyone.

The notion that loving others will follow with loving God I know to be true because I love my wife and I find that I love those that she loves by virtue of the fact that she loves them. There was not much effort required on my part. I may not like all of them, but the command was not to like my neighbor as I like myself, but to love my neighbor. Which is excellent, because I sometimes do not like myself at all and my neighbors would be in dire straits if I liked them in so fickle a way.

Let me consider whether or not I am zealous to love God. Jehu was zealous to carry out the LORD’s words against the house of Ahab. Let me be likewise zealous to love God with all that is within me.

Father, thank You for examples of zeal for Your word. Jehu was not perfect, but he remembered Your Word and did his part to bring to pass what You had said. Let me be so zealous to love You; to love my wife; to love my children; to love my brothers and sisters in You; to love all of those You love in the way You love them. Please make me a conduit for Your love to flow into this world.