SOAP Journal – 04 May 2018 (2 Kings 18:13-19:37)

Has any one of the gods of the nations delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they delivered Samaria from my hand? Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem from my hand?

2 Kings 18:33-35

Hezekiah had rebelled against the king of Assyria. Judah had been paying tribute and Hezekiah decided to stop. Then the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, sent a few leaders and some of his army over to Judah to get the payment that he (Sennacherib) thought he was due. Hezekiah agreed to pay the money, but Sennacherib was not content with that, deciding instead to conquer Judah and take the people captive. He had one problem: he and his generals had conquered so many people who thought that their gods would save them that they were unprepared to square up with the LORD, Who actually does save. And that is precisely what happened. God took the fight to the Assyrians and they ended up withdrawing and not returning.

That tremendously condensed version of the events skims past the leaders of the Assyrian army openly threatening and making hollow promises to the inhabitants of Jerusalem specifically and Judah as a whole. It also skims past the threatening letter sent to Hezekiah by the leaders of the Assyrian army and the agonizing that Hezekiah and the people went through on account of these events.

Hezekiah is noted in the opening verses of chapter eighteen as having been different than any king before or after him in the best way possible. He was a righteous man who trusted in the LORD, not perfect, but righteous. And still he faced difficulties. Still his enemies squared up with him.

It is a popular conception in some branches of Westernized Christianity to think that following Christ will somehow make all of our problems vanish. The reality is quite different. The problems of sin and death are dealt with, but the rest of our problems remain. We are still just as flawed and in need of our Savior as we were the moment before conversion; our relationships still as broken as they were; our lives still permeated with the difficulties they contained before — both those we created and those that just happened.

This account leaves me with two reminders.

The first is the one that is most often pointed out in this portion of scripture: God will take care of those who are His. God dealt with the Assyrians, but it is important to notice that the Assyrian leaders were talking trash about God. They threw down the gauntlet in front of God and He walloped them with it. I need to be mindful that not every conflict in my life is one that God needs to resolve for me. Sometimes, I made a mess and I need to clean it up. Sometimes, people are just hostile to God Who is working in my life.

The second is the reminder that the life of a believer is not always easy. There will be nail-biting moments where all I can do is go to God and wonder how He is going to sort this thing out. There will be times when He is silent until the last possible moment. There will, in short, be times of difficulty in the life of every believer.

Thank You for this reminder, Father. Please keep me mindful of these things.

Advertisements

SOAP Journal – 03 May 2018 (2 Kings 18:1-12)

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

2 Kings 18:3

Judah cycles from an unrighteous king in the person of Ahaz to a righteous king in the person of Hezekiah. And Hezekiah was all in. He did not just follow the LORD, but he removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it (v. 4). He is recorded as being a king who clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses. (v. 6). Hezekiah was not perfect. He made mistakes. He did unwise things. But his devotion to the LORD resulted in being prospered by God everywhere he (Hezekiah) went (v. 7).

This first part of the life of Hezekiah is an exhortation to examine myself and see if I, too, am all in for God or if I am, like so many of the kings before Hezekiah, holding something back. Is there some high place in my life that I am unwilling to remove? Is there a sacred pillar I refuse to cut down? Obviously, these would not be literal high places or sacred pillars, but things that impede or pollute my worship of the LORD. God prescribed one place and one method of worship to the Israelites and the high places and pillars were still feeble attempts to worship God, but to do so on terms that the people could manage or understand. Maybe I do not understand why God wants Christians to do certain things or behave a certain way. Maybe God has told me personally to walk away from some activity or habit. God’s stated purpose in The Bible is to make me holy, that is to set me apart for His purposes and make me someone different than I was — someone more like Him. But I impede the process and interfere with God’s efforts when I hold back.

Hezekiah prospered on the battlefield after he got his spiritual house in order. If I want to be victorious battling against the temptations that come my way and the other spiritual foes that arise, I need to get my spiritual house in order and make sure that I worship God on His terms.

Father, thank You for this exhortation; for the challenge that Hezekiah presents me with. Please forgive me for being less than fully devoted to You. Please change my heart so that I, too, am all in for You.

SOAP Journal – 01 May 2018 (2 Kings 17)

They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and [went] after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the LORD had commanded them not to do like them.

2 Kings 17:15

Chapter 17 is the last straw for the northern kingdom. Israel’s king did not fear the LORD and the people also did not fear the LORD. So, when the king stopped paying tribute to the king of Assyria, there was no help for him (the king of the northern kingdom) or his people. But the chapter does not end there. The account continues on to the king of Assyria settling other people in the land and those people having trouble — God sent lions among the new inhabitants of the land. Not good times.

The running theme of the chapter is that of partial obedience. When the Israelites lived in the land, they did some of the things that would be considered worshiping the LORD and they obeyed some of His commands, but they ignored some or more of God’s commands — particularly the commands about having no other gods before Him and about not making any graven images. When the settlers placed in the land by the king of Assyria lived in the land, they realized that the land belonged to the LORD, but they did not go all-in as far as obeying the LORD. They still did what they had done in the places they had come from, but added a little bit of God’s Law and worship into the mix.

This begs the question of where I am in my worship of God. Am I doing as He commands or am I mixing in bits of how the world does things? It is sometimes difficult to see where the line is and I am called to examine myself.

Father, thank You that You are clear on what it is You want from me with regard to obedience and worship. Please search me and see if there is any offensive habit in me and lead me in Your way.

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.