Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 2: 2 Kings 20 – 22:2; Psalm 150; Proverbs 18:9-10; Acts 21:17-36



Overview

            2 Kings: In Judah: Hezekiah became ill and was about to die. Isaiah came and told him to get ready to die. But Hezekiah prayed and the Lord had Isaiah go back and tell him he would live another 15 years and he would also save Jerusalem from the king of Assyria. He was to choose the sign that it would happen, either have the shadow go forward or backward on the steps. Hezekiah said it was easy for the shadow to go forward so he asked for it to go backward. The Lord caused it to go backward.
            The king of Babylon heard Hezekiah was ill so he sent envoys to him. Hezekiah showed him everything in his kingdom. Isaiah told him that the days were coming when all that they saw would be taken to Babylon along with some of his descendants as eunuchs.
            Hezekiah died and was succeeded by his son, Manasseh who reigned for 55 years. Manasseh did evil and rebuilt all the idols, participated in the forbidden occult activities, and sacrificed his son. He did everything the Lord commanded Israel not to do. The Lord sent prophets saying that because of Manasseh, he would bring disaster on Jerusalem and Judah. Manasseh died and his son, Amon took over.
            Amon reigned two years in Jerusalem. He did evil just like Manasseh. Some servants killed Amon and the people of the land killed the conspirators. Josiah, his son, was made king at 8 years old. He reigned 31 years and did right in the eyes of the Lord.
            Psalm: We are to praise the Lord. We praise him in every place because he is there. We praise him because of all he has done because he does it excellently. We are to praise him with all sorts of musical instruments. All creatures with breath are to praise him.
            Proverbs: Not doing a good job at work is similar to liking to wreck things. The Lord is a safe place for a righteous person.
            Acts: When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he visited with James and the elders. He related what God had done and they glorified God. They then informed him that thousands of Jews were believers and were also zealous for the Law. They had been told that Paul taught Jews among the Gentiles to forsake Moses and stop obeying their customs. To show that this wasn’t true and that Paul observed the Law, they told Paul to pay the expense of having four men fulfil their vows. That wouldn’t change what they had already agreed concerning Gentiles. Paul went with the men and purified himself.
            When the days of purification were almost over (7 days), Jews from Asia saw Paul with some Greeks and supposed he took them into the temple. They started beating Paul and a riot ensued. The Roman commander heard and took centurions and soldiers. They arrested Paul and rescued him from the beating. They carried Paul to safety but couldn’t understand why they were beating Paul as different people said different things. The mob followed yelling to have him killed.
           

What Stood Out

            2 Kings: “And Hezekiah answered, ‘It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps’” (2 Kings 20:10).
            Psalm: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord” (Ps 150:6)!
            Proverbs: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Prov 18:10).
            Acts: “And they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs’” (Acts 21:20-2).

Insight

            2 Kings: In the middle of this historical accounting of Judah’s kings. There is this incident of Hezekiah’s illness and healing. It demonstrates to us that God answers prayer. We may think that the Lord gave Hezekiah 15 more years because of his goodness. But the Lord said it was his tears. We need to remember that God hears us because of his compassion and goodness toward us. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about our righteousness. Just look at his judgment on Jerusalem and Judah because of Manasseh.
            In addition to seeing that God cares for us, we can see his omnipotence. He gave a sign to Hezekiah that he would live by moving the shadow on the stairs back 10 steps. How can that physically happen? Hezekiah knew that all he had to do was wait a few minutes and the shadow would continue to go forward, but to go backward would take and extreme miracle of nature. In those days, it would seem to them that the sun would have to move backward in the sky. However, we know that means that God had to stop the rotation of the earth, rotate it backwards, then start it going forward again. He would have to do that without disturbing any of the surface of the earth or tearing the earth apart. You try stopping a revolving ball the size of the earth with objects traveling 1,000 miles per hour at the equator. How awesome is our God! How powerful is our God! There can be no doubt as to his power.
            Now there are some who would say this never happened. It was a myth. If you don’t believe God did this, then you probably don’t believe that God created in six twenty-four-hour days. Quite frankly, if you don’t believe these, then you have no right to believe that Jesus walked on water or was resurrected. You have no assurance that Jesus’ death paid for your sins and that you have eternal life. This is because you have decided what to believe or not in the Bible and that makes you the judge of God’s word. You might as well be one like Manesseh.
            But the truth is that God did all these things and when you believe you will have assurance that you are saved.
            Psalm: When we think of God sending the shadow back ten steps, it should make us praise the Lord. We can’t fathom all his deeds or his greatness. He is way beyond anything we can imagine and worthy of all praise. Even animals are to praise the Lord. That is an interesting way to end the book of Psalms. It would be easy to imagine a day when the earth is restored to even better than the Garden of Eden and the animals would be able to speak and praise the Lord. It would be like the imaginary but allegorical depiction of God’s kingdom by C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. Wouldn’t that be cool?
            Proverbs: The safest place in all of creations is in God’s arms. When we turn to him for salvation, he gives us eternal life and becomes our protector (John 10:28-29). The wicked can’t claim that kind of promise. In fact, the Lord is against the wicked and their memory will not endure (Ps 34:16).
            Acts: I really have a hard time with Paul’s visit with the James and the elders. They tell Paul that thousands of Jews are now believers in Jesus and are zealous for the Law. They then have Paul go through the purification rites so that they will know that Paul lives according to the Law. This seems to set up a scenario where salvation for Jews also requires them to observe the Law. That means all the sacrifices, etc. While I can see that they would like to continue with traditions like celebrating, Passover, Pentecost, Yom Kipper, and other holidays, being zealous for the Law implies that they still believe they must do this in order to have their sins forgiven. This just doesn’t seem to track with what Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Galatians. We are now all one family; the dividing wall has been broken down and the law of commandments and ordinances have been abolished (Eph 2:14-15). If keeping the Law could produce righteousness then Christ’s death was needless (Gal 2:21). Paul didn’t live according to the Law because he rebuked Peter in Galatia for withdrawing from eating with Gentiles because some of the circumcision party arrived (Gal 2:11-14).
            Was Paul being a hypocrite or was he doing what he said in 1 Corinthians 9:20 and being a Jew to Jews and living under the Law even though he didn’t need to do that? His actions seem inconsistent with what he preached among the Gentiles and the way he lived among them.

Application

            It is good to really stop and think about God. He is Creator and in total control of all that he has created. It is mind-blowing to think about what he did for Hezekiah to assure him that he would be healed. It is also comforting to know that he is the Lord whom we can run to for salvation and be 100% secure in him. It is also good to know that we do not have to fulfil all the requirements of the Law to be saved.

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