Good morning! Last time I preached it happened to be father's day. Well it happens to be father's day in Australia today, so I want to wish any Australian fathers a happy father's day.
That was a completely irrelevant introduction to the continuation of our series in 2 Kings, today looking at Chapter 14. Please turn that up. We're going to be doing a lot of reading today, so if you normally ignore suggestions to open a bible, can I urge you to grab a bible and turn up 2 Kings 14. 2 Kings, on face value, appears to be a history of Israel, but it's not that first of all. It's actually a history of God. It's a history of his dealings with his people and it has a single purpose – it reveals his faithfulness to the promises he made to them hundreds of years earlier. It's intended for a people living after them to know the God who they now serve and its intended to convey how those who came before them responded – both rightly and, mainly, wrongly. And so, it's intended for us.
As we've looked at 2 Kings week on week we've seen the situation in Israel and it's southern little brother Judah go from good to bad, or from bad to worse, and only occasionally from bad to good. That is especially true for Israel. 2 Kings 14 starts 130 years after the split of the kingdom which came after the death of King Solomon, the son of their great king David. In all of the time that has passed, for 13 kings, there has not been a single king in Israel that is called good by the writer of 1 and 2 Kings. Every single one has been declared evil or wasn't in power long enough for anyone to make a call. And because of that persistence in rejecting God they're in a precarious state. By the end of this chapter they're just 30 years from the end of the northern Kingdom as a nation in its own right. The children living in Israel in ch 14 will go into exile because of their continual rejection of God.
The southern Kingdom Judah, on the other hand, has been almost schizophrenic in their obedience to God. In Judah king A may be good, but king B, his son, is evil. Or as the wrier puts it one "did right in the eyes of the LORD" while the next "did evil in the eyes of the LORD". Judah will follow Israel into exile, but that's still 200 years away.
Here in Chapter 14 we're faced with a good king in Judah and, true to form, an evil king in Israel. If you traced the trajectory of evil and bad kings in previous chapters then you'd reasonably expect that we'll read that everything goes well for Judah and its king, and everything goes very badly for Israel and its king. You would be reasonable, but you'd be wrong, because there's a surprise in store for us. And the surprise is a good one, since through it we get a wonderful insight into the character of God – especially his faithfulness – and what it means for us here at HTG to be the people of a faithful God.
Here's what we learn: God's faithfulness should drive us to righteous fear and godliness and at the same time give us immoveable comfort.
Let's start with 2 Kings 14:1. There is room on the service sheet to take notes. The first thing we see is the Jealousy and Judgement of a Faithful God and that's my first point. The Jealousy and Judgement of a Faithful God.
1. The Jealousy and Judgement of a Faithful God (2 Kings 14:1-21; 2 Chronicles 25:14-20)
Read with me from v1.
1 In the second year of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel, Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign.
Now, you may remember from ch 12 where we looked at Joash king of Judah, father of Amaziah who we are going to look at – Joash was the one who collected money to repair the temple and was declared good, but in the end he turned to false gods and died at the hands of assassins. So at the murder of his father Amaziah comes to the throne, as it goes on:
2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for twenty-nine years. His mother's name was Jehoaddin; she was from Jerusalem.
3 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash.
4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.
5 After the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, he executed the officials who had murdered his father the king.
6 Yet he did not put the sons of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where the LORD commanded: Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins.
So there's good things here – the justice he meted out to his father's murders was restrained and obedient to God's Law, but there's compromise here since he didn't deal with the high places – the places of worship of false gods. There's no suggestion he was worshipping there, just that as ruler, he didn't protect his people by having them removed.
As it continues in v7 we read of a great military victory over their enemies that will prove a turning point in the life of Amaziah,. Read with me
7 He [Amaziah] was the one who defeated ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and captured Sela in battle, calling it Joktheel, the name it has to this day.
8 Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, [an evil] king of Israel, with the challenge: Come, meet me face to face.
9 But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, 'Give your daughter to my son in marriage.' Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot.
10 You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?
11 Amaziah, however, would not listen, so Jehoash king of Israel attacked. He and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth Shemesh in Judah.
12 Judah was routed by Israel, and every man fled to his home.
13 Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate— a section about six hundred feet long.
14 He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.
So a great military victory results in Amaziah getting a big head and deciding Judah can now take on their bigger brother Israel. But he's shamed in defeat as he's captured and his people taken hostage, 200m of the walls of the capital Jerusalem torn down and the temple and palace looted. This was destruction on a grand scale. Amaziah's life ends just as his father's did – at the hands of assassins.
If we're going to learn anything from this passage, then it's good for us to ask the question why? Why does a king who did right in the eyes of the LORD end up instigating an humiliating defeat to God's people. And why did that happen at the hands of a king of Israel who did evil in the eyes of the LORD all his life? The events as described here suggest it was simply a case of pride comes before a fall, but there's a story behind the story and we find out about that in 2 Chronicles.
Put your finger in this passage and flick over a couple of books to 2 Chronicles 25. 2 Chronicles is another take on the kings of Judah. Read with me 25:14
14 When Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them.
It's scary how he does what his father does. We see God's response next
15 The anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and he sent a prophet to him, who said, Why do you consult this people's gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?
16 While he was still speaking, the king said to him, Have we appointed you an adviser to the king? Stop! Why be struck down? So the prophet stopped but said, I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.
17 After Amaziah king of Judah consulted his advisers, he sent this challenge to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel: Come, meet me face to face.
As we've read the king of Israel tries to talk him out of it and the end result is in v20:
20 Amaziah, however, would not listen, for [and take note of this as it's the punch line] [for] God so worked that he might hand them over to Jehoash, because they sought the gods of Edom.
So here we have it. This was not purely pride before a fall. This defeat came because it was God's judgement on Amaziah and Judah for worshipping false gods. God worked and handed Judah over to Jehoash and he did it because Judah had rejected him. You see, our God is a Jealous God. He wants and deserves the full attention of his people. Back in Exodus they had been told "Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." Like a husband rightly jealous for an adulterous wife, God is jealous for his people. He won't allow his precious people to prostitute themselves with false gods. They're his people and he deserves their full attention. He's right to be jealous and right to be angry. He wants them back. And here we have the Jealous God in action, judging them, disciplining them. But did you notice as well that he doesn't reject them. He doesn't wipe them out. And that's because they're his people come what may. He judges them, but even as he does his actions show his faithfulness; even when they are faithless, he remains faithful and will keep his promises to them. His judgement shows his commitment to them extends beyond even their worst behaviour. He wants them back, he wants their holiness.
Ultimately this looks forward to a king who was also like his father, but not a father who was tarnished by idolatrous worship. This king was tempted just like Amaziah, but rebuked the idea of rejecting God. Jesus didn't need to be disciplined, but instead he received our judgement and was forsaken for us. And so as we look at this passage we see a judgement that will never be our own because of Jesus, and we must be greatly thankful for that expression of God's faithfulness to us.
But does that mean we will never sit under the discipline of God? Well, no it does not. Indeed, quite the opposite: God says that if he were not to discipline us he would not be loving toward us. He says that in Hebrews 12
My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.
Why does he discipline us? Hebrews 12 goes on
God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
God disciplines us, like he did for Judah, for our holiness. He desires to see us turn from sin and produce a harvest of righteousness and peace. The Hebrews passage is written in response to opposition from sinful men – persecutors, and so this was real physical, mental, emotional and spiritual discipline. And as with them, we must regard hard times we face, at least in part, as God seeking our holiness. If that is you now, he urges you to take heart that he is treating you like sons and daughters. If tomorrow you face difficulty, remember he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in holiness. He loves you, he is faithful to you.
God's jealously for the undistracted attentions of his people should also drive us to a righteous fear and a pursuit of holiness and godliness. All too often we don't take sin seriously. We mistake living by faith as not needing to be bothered too much with our sin. Or we adopt a standard of living that is governed by those around us – our fellow Christians at best. But that was Amaziah's problem wasn't it – in everything he followed the example of his father, including in compromising on the high places and then idol worship. Jerry Bridges comments on this in his classic book the Pursuit of Holiness. He says
Many Christians have what we might call a "cultural holiness". They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God.
Is holiness a bolt-on for you? Is there a scale of acceptability? Or do you see the God of Amaziah, the God of you, who will drive out sin in your life because he utterly hates it? Maybe you are bothered by sin, but it's not for the right reason. Jerry Bridges continues
"Our first problem is that our attitude towards sin is more self-centred than God-centred. We are more concerned about our own "Victory" over sin than we are about the fact that our sin grieves the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God".
But sin is deeply offensive to God. And God will discipline his people to bring about a harvest of holiness, righteousness and peace.
As a very practical aside, for those of us with children now or may do in the future, this is where our thinking on discipline has to start. We can turn to books for wisdom, but we must always start with thinking about how our Father God parents if we really are going to understand what we should do in discipline and instruction, and the way we should be doing it. It's clear, for instance, that physical discipline is something that God does. So anyone who denies that is a right form of loving discipline for our children is simply wrong. On the other hand, God doesn't only discipline physically, so anyone who says, based on one passage in proverbs, for instance, that the only right way to discipline is spanking with a rod is simply wrong. No, God is our supreme role model for parenting. End of aside.
What is it we see here in the first part of 2 Kings 14? It is the Jealousy and Judgement of a Faithful God. He wants a faithful people and he disciplines his people, he disciplines us here at HTG, that we may share in his holiness.
The second thing we see is the Mercy of a Faithful God and that's my second point. The Mercy of a Faithful God.
2. The Mercy of a Faithful God (2 Kings 14:23-27)
Back over in 2 Kings, read with me from v23 where we head north to the kingdom of Israel.
23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel [who humbled Amaziah as we just read; his son Jeroboam] became king in Samaria, and he reigned for forty-one years.
Now Jeroboam the first was the king who helped split the nation Israel and was the first king of the northern kingdom. He was the one who installed all these high places for the worship of idols that became the bane of the nation and he did it so that the people wouldn't go down to Jerusalem in Judah to worship God. He deliberately led the people away from the worship of God in order that he would have political power. So naming your son Jeroboam is like naming your son after a spiritual version of Hitler. So we wouldn't expect much of Jeroboam II, and that's what we find in v24
24 He [Jeroboam] did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat [the first Jeroboam], which he had caused Israel to commit.
Once again we have an evil king over Israel. And so if Amaziah was declared generally ok, but suffered like he did, with the walls in ruins and the temple looted and then finally murdered, what would Jeroboam get? I wonder how you would write the script?
Let's see what happens. Read v25.
25 He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.
Now, the expansion of Israel through God's word wasn't in my script for evil king Jeroboam II, I wonder if it was in yours? And, by the way, yes that is Jonah of Jonah and the big fish fame. Don't get distracted by that though – the big question for us is "Why does that happen? Why does God bless the kingdom of an evil king?" How could a good God do that? We get the answer in v26
26 The LORD had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no-one to help them.
27 And since the LORD had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.
So we're given two reasons for this blessing of Israel under the evil Jeroboam II: first, that God saw their helplessness; and second he remembered his promise to them that they would not be blotted out.
He saw their situation and had pity on them. It reminds me of the time Jesus looked at the people around him and had pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And here in the kingdom of Israel, weak and suffering and an opportunity to wipe out their evil and where the whole world would expect judgement and condemnation by God, we find the surprising mercy of God. And where we would expect 130 years and 14 kings with evil on their hands to be wiped out of the promises of God, we see the surprising and relentless faithfulness of God when it comes to his promises to his people.
While through Amaziah, king of Judah, we saw a faithful and jealous God disciplining a people that they would not turn from him, we see through Jeroboam, king of Israel, a faithful and merciful God, blessing his people and remembering his promises to them, even when they take sinfulness to the extreme.
And so we must take great encouragement from this when we sin. Every Sunday we take time confessing our sins and we're then reminded of the promises of God that he forgives those who turn to him. Well here we see that God at work. We see him forgiving as he remembers his promises. We see him making good on his promises to them. And so when doubts come into our own minds about our status before God and his willingness to forgive, then Jeroboam II is a powerful reminder of the God who forgives. This is the character of God we need to know when doubts come into our minds. Will God really forgive me again? Will he not run out of patience with me? Will he not walk away? When Jesus returns, will his promises really include me? And the answer will always be God will forgive again, he will have mercy again, he will look at you and see your helplessness and remember his promises and he will bless you, because he is the God who blessed Jeroboam, king of Israel. That is who our God is, and he does not change.
Now I wonder if you noticed the words in v27 that
"the LORD had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven"
They are particularly powerful because of what Jesus says in Revelations to his Church – to us. Rev 3:4 says
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
I will never blot out the name of the one who overcomes the world. Here is a promise you can list with others from Jesus. I will never leave you or forsake you. I will come again. I am coming soon. I will never blot out your name from the book of life.
He is faithful to his promises and he is merciful to his people.
So what do we see here in 2 Kings. Do we see a good king gone bad and an evil king blessed? Yes, we do. But more than that, so much more, we see the jealousy and judgement of a God faithful to his people. We see a God who wants a holy people, an uncompromised people, an unadulterated people. And we see a merciful God faithful to his promises. We see the character of our God, the God who showed us these things here in 2 Ki once more and in infinitely greater ways in Jesus. We see a God who is faithful. This is our God.