Friday Night Genesis, Friday, January 4, 20132 KingsIntro to the bookIn 1 Kings we saw how Israel split into two after the reign of Solomon. Ten tribes to thenorth which continued to be called Israel, although they are also referred to as Samariaand the Northern Kingdom, and Judah to the south. 2 Kings continues to follow thehistory and successive kings of both of these kingdoms until they are both conqueredand the population dispersed. In 1 Kings we also got to follow many of the adventures ofprophet Elijah. In 2 Kings Elijah is taken into heaven and during the first half of the bookwe follow the ministry of his successor – Elisha. As the kings are moving on, and thesituation in both kingdoms is generally deteriorating, God seems to be sending anincreasing number of prophets. Almost all the prophets in the Old Testament, startingfrom Isaiah and clear through the end of the Old Testament are from the time periodcovered in the book of 2 Kings. There are only a handful of exceptions – prophets wholived during the return from the exile, a time period which we’ll cover in the books of Ezraand Nehemiah.We begin 2 Kings with the unfortunate king Ahaziah of Israel who played humpty-dumptyand died from his injuries. His death is dated around 849 BC. So 2 Kings continues fromsomewhere around that point and follows the history to the exile of both kingdoms. Israelwas conquered by the Assyrians, and the end of the kingdom is marked by the fall of itscapital Samaria which happened in 722 BC. Judah seemed to have better kings, and soit carried on a bit longer until it too was conquered by Babylon, first in 597 BC when theking became a vassal to Babylon and then again in 586 BC when king Nebuchadnezzarof Babylon pretty much trashed the country and took complete control of the territory.Jews will eventually return to their land but Israel will never again be seen on the mapuntil 1948 AD, when the UN once again created a country by that name in the MiddleEast. So the book of 2 Kings covers a period of around 260 years.2 Kings also includes the first description of a Chicago driver. A lookout reports in 2Kings 9:20 “The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a maniac.” Iactually looked up the etymology of this and this is indeed where we get our expression“to drive like a Jehu”.2 Kings – God gets our attention.Scripture reading: Matthew 23:33-37Last month we looked at an important question – how do we know whom to trust? Welooked at a couple of examples in 1 Kings where choosing the wrong advice among anumber of competing voices proved very tragic for those making the decisions. We sawthat God wanted us to take the time and examine the available evidence and askquestions. He was willing to provide the evidence and be patient with us as we put it alltogether.This month we look at a question that in many ways precedes last month’s question.How do we even know we should be looking for evidence? We may be perfectly happyin the place where we are at, with the beliefs that we have, and never even think that
there may be a problem with them. So how would we know that we should venture outand gather evidence for or against our current beliefs?Have any of you seen the movie “The King’s Speech”? If you have seen the movie youmay remember that before seeing Lionel Logue, Prince Albert went to a number of topspecialists in order to find a cure for his stutter. One of the remedies prescribed by thesedoctors, you may remember, was to smoke cigarettes “to open up his larynx”. Smokingwill cure you was the prescription of the top specialists of the day! Since this is what thescientific community is telling you, how would you even know that you should continueresearching the effects of smoking? In the end, it was smoking that in 1952 caused thepremature death of King George VI, one of the most beloved kings of the UnitedKingdom.The short answer to this question is – God will get your attention. 2 Kings is LOADEDwith attention getters. As Israel and Judah were drifting away from God, God wassending prophet after prophet to warn them of the error of their ways, and since itseemed that the prophets were largely ignored, God resorted to some commando tacticsto get people’s attention and take His messengers seriously. When some youths calledElisha “baldy” it seems very harsh to send out bears to kill them as punishment. After all– “Sticks and stones may break my bones – but names will never hurt me”. Didn’t Godand Elisha ever hear that saying? But imagine the situation – these kids have just seenElijah taken up into heaven, and then watched as Elisha took Elijah’s coat, rolled it upand struck the waters of the river Jordan, which caused them to part, so he could crossover it on dry land. They had witnessed all of that, and their only response was toirreverently taunt Elisha: “Why don’t you go up too, baldy?” As the word of this incidentspread, you can bet your boots people paid more attention to what Elisha had to say!But the story I’d like to look at this evening is the story found in the very first chapter of 2Kings. King Ahaziah fell through the balcony railing and took a tumble from the upperroom of his palace and seriously injured himself. Unsure of his prospects for recovery,he sent a delegation to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron. God informed Elijah ofthis and sent him on an intercept course with this message: “Is it because there is noGod in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Thereforethis is what the LORD says: You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You willcertainly die!” (2 Kings 1:3,4). When the delegation returned prematurely with the badnews, Ahaziah dispatched a company of 50 armed men led by a captain with a shortmessage for Elijah: "Man of God, the king says, Come down! " (2 Kings 1:9). This iswhere things take an interesting turn. Rather than go with the armed troop or say ‘no’,Elijah said: "If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume youand your fifty men!" (2 Kings 1:10). And sure enough, fire came down from heaven andconsumed the captain and his fifty men. Not to be denied, Ahaziah then sent anothercaptain and his 50 men. Except this time the message was “Come down at once!”. Andthe same thing happened. Ahaziah then sent a third captain with his 50 troops. At leastthis guy took Elijah seriously. He didn’t command Elijah to come down, he just pleadedwith him. I know what happened to the previous 2 captains and their men. Sir, I’m justfollowing orders and would like to survive today. Please spare me and my men. Elijahthen went with him to king Ahaziah and repeated the “you will die” message and kingAhaziah did.What does one make of a story like this? We are going through the Bible asking thequestion: what does this tell us about God? So what does this tell us about what God is
like? That He would not heal a king because he dared consult someone else? That Hewould burn up a hundred men and their 2 captains, just because He didn’t like the toneof their voice? On first blush, it is certainly not very flattering, and would make onewonder whether spending eternity with a God like that is even a good idea.So let’s try to break down this story and see if we can make more sense out of it, sincethis story is only a sampling of similar incidents recorded in 2 Kings and elsewhere.Starting at the very beginning – who was Ahaziah? He was the son of king Ahab andqueen Jezabel. You may remember those two from 1 Kings. It was during king Ahab’sreign that Elijah had to gather the people of Israel on Mount Carmel and ask them tomake a choice between God and Baal. On that day, God was the only one whoanswered and the answer came in the form of fire from heaven. Ahaziah would not havebeen unaware of these events. In fact, when the delegation that set off to Ekron returnedearly and described the man who intercepted them, it is king Ahaziah who identified himas Elijah. So even though he was obviously familiar with Elijah and the God whom Elijahserved, when he needed to consult a deity, Ahaziah instead elected to send a delegationto inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron. Ekron, just for the record, is a major Philistinetown, and Baal-Zebub is the god of flies. This doesn’t make sense on so many levels!Why would you send a delegation to a foreign country to inquire of a foreign god? Justfrom a purely tactical point it is stupid – you are tipping off your enemies that you areincapacitated and could not fight should they attack! Secondly, why inquire from a god offlies about your own health? Finally, as Elijah had helped demonstrate so forcefully onMount Carmel – God was the only real God, since He was the only one who actuallyresponded. Was Ahaziah honestly expecting an answer from a god who had previouslyfailed to respond? It may have been a long wait….And so God interjects and provides an answer. He may not have been asked, but God issending a clear reminder. “Is there not a God in Israel?” He provides the answer to kingAhaziah’s question, reminding him that He was the only God who does answer.What about the 2 captains and their men that perished? The original message did getAhaziah’s attention, but obviously made no difference to his attitude. So God continuesto pound the message. Ahaziah is not a man who is to be denied, and he has themuscle to back it up. God dramatically shows him that all his armies are no match for thetrue God. The manner in which this happened, with the fire falling down from heavenshould have rung a bell with Ahaziah. It was fire coming down from heaven thatconsumed the sacrifice at Mount Carmel and showed Lord to be the true God during thereign of his father Ahab.But Dave, you may say, those poor innocent troops that were just carrying out orders –they got fried! I admit, it was not pretty, but it is even more horrifying to me that this didnot make a blind bit of difference to Ahaziah! Rather than stop in his tracks, Ahaziahsent out a second and even a third company of soldiers, knowing full well what hadhappened to the first company, and with no variables to suggest a different outcome.How is God supposed to reach a person like that, who in their stubborn rebellion willknowingly send their men into certain death? But God did not stop trying.As we consider the fate of these poor soldiers who wound up as pawns in the tug of warbetween God and Ahaziah, it would also be helpful to pull back and consider the bigger
picture. Are there any people from that period of time that are still kicking around?Except for Elijah, who was taken to heaven, there is no one from that period of time whois still alive – they all died sooner or later. We all do. But the Bible tells us that this is notour final death. All will be resurrected by God from this death. And so God is in a uniqueposition that He can undo what has been done. If there have been God-fearing men inthose companies of soldiers, they will be resurrected to eternal life. They will not lose outon anything. What God is concerned with is the eternal. Reaching a person as stubbornand hardened as Ahaziah was, required some desperate measures, especially since hewas in a position to lead the entire nation into destruction. God can and will restore ourlife after we pass away, but our eternal life is in our own hands. God can pursue us andhound us to change our mind, and accept eternal life from Him, but that is all He can do.If we ultimately reject it – there is nothing that He can do. There is only one catch to Hisoffer of eternal life. Life, eternal or otherwise, is only possible within the framework ofGod’s law of love. This is the law of nature. As that well known verse in Romans 6:23says: “For the wages which sin pays is death, but the free gift of God is eternal lifethrough Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23). And so God will do everything He can toget us to realize this reality and put us on the path of eternal life.For some it will not work. But for some it will. 2 Kings 21 talks of a Jewish king by thename Manasseh. There he is described as the worst of the bad kings they had. Isaiahthe prophet spent most of his ministry speaking out against the things Manasseh wasdoing. His final memory of life on this earth will be, according to legend, of Manassehplacing him inside a hollow log and sawing him in half. However, if you flip over to 2Chronicles 33 which was written a good deal later than the book of Kings, you will findthat Manasseh did in the end change his ways. Assyria conquered Judah and carriedManasseh off in chains as a common prisoner. This is magnitude of what it took to finallyget his full attention and change his ways, but God did it and was glad to acceptManasseh’s heart-felt repentance. I get goose bumps when I imagine what astupendous surprise it will be for Isaiah to see Manasseh in heaven. He may even thinkGod made a mistake somewhere!So as we deal with some of these difficult and supernatural stories, many of which wefind in 2 Kings, there are 2 things that I believe are helpful to remember.1. What is the end goal here – temporary, earthly or eternal?2. God will do everything he can to get our attention and get the message through: “Youare on the wrong path!” We do not need to fear that God will let us perish in ourignorance. He will send messages, He will make the heavy metal axe head float inwater, send bears, rain fire from heaven, send adversity, even make the sun gobackwards – anything He can think of that would make us sit up and pay attention.No one will be lost at last because they were oblivious to their condition. Apostle Paulsays in Romans 1:19 that “what may be known about God is plain to them, because Godhas made it plain to them.” Every step of the way you will find our persistent Godhounding you with messages, such as this one sent through prophet Ezekiel, who alsolived during the final period covered by 2 Kings: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live,declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but ratherthat they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die,people of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11) And if sending message after message doesn’t work,God will not shy away from whacking you upside the head with a proverbial 2x4. One
way or another God will get your attention. Whether it will make any difference is up toyou.