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Date: Jul. 26, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

2 Kings 14:1-15:38

Key Verse: 2 Kings 14:27

“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.”

Does anyone here still use white out? During grade school, I used to keep a bottle of white out in my desk, and when the liquid would dry out, I’d go and buy a new bottle. I’m not sure if people these days still use white out. Now there’s white out tape you can buy so you don’t have to wait for the paint to dry. Does anyone remember how long it took for the paint to dry? Sometimes I’d get impatient, and then start writing, and smear the white out all over the paper. Nowadays everything’s done on computer, even this message. If you want to blot something out, you delete it. If not, it will be saved to a file. Maybe that’s why white out sales are declining. Before the time of ink pens and notebook paper, people wrote with reeds or feathers on parchment paper. Parchment paper is made of dried and stretched animal skin, usually sheep or goat skin, and it could be reused by scrubbing it clean. If someone wanted to blot something out, they could either take a pen knife and scrape off the ink, or take a sponge and blot out the ink. The concept of blotting something out means to erase it, to wipe it off of the record. While we may have the power to remove something on paper, the Lord has the power to remove entire nations out of existence. Yet the Lord shows longsuffering patience, kindness and mercy, especially to Israel. He would not blot out their name from under heaven, that is, to wipe them out, but he saved them in order to give them a chance to repent.

Look at v.1, “In the second year of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel, Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign.” The passage begins with a king of Judah. This king is the 9th generation descended from King David. Between those generations, one third of them (Abijah, Jehoram, Ahaziah) did evil in the eyes of the Lord. God, in his great mercy however, did not blot out David’s descendants, but allowed them to successively ascend to the throne. From Amaziah to Azariah to Jotham, these 3 successive kings of Judah in this passage were all credited with doing right in the eyes of the Lord, but all of them also had this one stain: that they did not remove the high places from Judah. When the Israelites first entered the land of Canaan, God had commanded them all to seek the place he chose to worship. He told them “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way (Deut 12:4).” God had specified his temple to be the only place to worship, but the Israelites did not listen, and continued to worship God in the high places. Although they did not worship idols, they did not obey God’s command, and to this time none of the kings of Judah used their power to stop this.

It was this indifferent attitude toward the Laws of God that would be a snare and a stumbling block for Judah time and time again. King Asa, who led many reforms, later in life did not rely on the Lord. When a prophet rebuked him he became angry and put him in prison. King Jehoshaphat formed an alliance with King Ahab, who was the most wicked king in Israel. The alliance was established through the marriage of King Jehoram to Ahab’s daughter. In Jehoram’s time, Judah was in great decline, and Edom, which had been subjected for over 100 years, revolted and established their own king.

Amaziah was Jehoram’s great grandson. It took 3 generations before Judah begins to expand. Amaziah begins to grow in power, and I believe it is thanks to the firm foundation laid by his father. His father instituted a nationwide collection to fund the restoration of the Temple. When Amaziah was established as king, his first order of business was to avenge his father’s death. Look at v.5-6, “After the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, he executed the officials who had murdered his father the king. Yet he did not put the children of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where the Lord commanded: ‘Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.’” In a time where the Law was not obeyed fully, the author finds it remarkable that Amaziah obeys this law, so he mentions it. However, we still have the problem of the high places. James 2:10 tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” While it is commendable that Amaziah keeps the command about lawful execution, he stumbles in the Temple worship, and that is exactly what leads him to disaster.

Amaziah continued to grow in power. 2 Chronicles 25 tells us that he had at his disposal an army of 300,000 men fit for military service. He marshalled all of his troops and went to overthrow Edom, defeating 10,000 of their soldiers and captured one of their cities, renaming it Joktheel. Joktheel means “subdued by God.” In 2 Chronicles we see something shocking. After this great victory, Amaziah takes home the gods of Edom, sets them up as his own personal gods and worships them. It is hard to imagine why the Israelite’s hearts were so inclined towards idolatry and the gods of their neighbors, especially when their God had done so much for them. But the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, no one can understand it (Jer 17:9). God, in his mercy, sent a prophet to Amaziah, saying, “Why do you consult this people’s gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?” But while he was still speaking, Amaziah said to him, “Have we appointed you an adviser to the king? Stop! Why be struck down?” Wow, what insolence! What a proud and arrogant heart the king had against God and his word. Because he rejected the prophet’s counsel, God has determined to destroy him.

Look at v.8-9, “Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, with the challenge: ‘Come, let us face each other in battle.’ But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: ‘A thistle in Lebanon said 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.’” This scene is kind of like a little chihuahua trying to pick a fight with pitbull, or like me trying to pick a fight with a professional football player. There is absolutely no chance I will win. The thistle was King Amaziah, he was like a little useless thornbush. The cedar was King Jehoash. King Jehoash had just recaptured towns from the mighty nation of Aram. Little did Amaziah know, that God had set this up to destroy him. Israel and Judah fought, and Judah was routed. Jehoash captured Amaziah, then went to Jerusalem, and broke down a 600 foot (or 183 meters) section of the wall. That’s the length of 2 football fields! Not only that, but he plundered the gold and silver from the temple and took hostages. It was utter humiliation and defeat for Amaziah. His life ended by assassination.

Azariah, his son, succeeded him to the throne of Judah when he was sixteen years old. Azariah is also known as Uzziah, so you will see the name being used at the end of Ch. 15, as well as in 2 Chr 26. Look at v.22, “He was the one who rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah after Amaziah rested with his ancestors.” Elath is all the way to the south, right by the Red Sea. Here we see Judah extends its borders to the southern extent that Solomon reached. Even in the aftermath of the sin of Amaziah, Judah continued to grow in size, strength and power. He subdued the Philistines, the Ammonites brought him tribute, and his fame spread as far as the border of Egypt, because he had become very powerful (2 Chr 26:8). He upgraded and trained the military, fortified towers and invented new weapons to defend them. He also may have rebuilt the walls that were torn down during his father’s time. He also dug cisterns, used to hold water, and had people work the vineyards and fertile soil. It was as if Judah was entering a new age of prosperity. However, as it says in 2 Chr 26:16, pride led to his downfall. He entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. Only priests were allowed to do this, but Azariah, perhaps wanting access to the Lord on his own terms, bypassed the priests. This was unlawful. The priests came in to confront the king, and with burning incense in his hand, he began to rage against them. Just then the Lord afflicted him with leprosy, and he had leprosy until the day he died. He never again could enter the temple, and had to live in isolation because he was a leper.

Jotham, the son of Azariah, succeeded him as king. He is the 11th generation from king David. He also did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Azariah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord (2 Chr 27:2). The high places were still not removed. He continued to fortify and strengthen Judah, and rebuilt Upper Gate of the Temple of the Lord. Nothing is said about him in 2 Kings or 2 Chronicles like his fathers – it was recorded that he fell into pride or idolatry. We are just told he walked steadfastly with the Lord and grew in strength. If there was anything negative, it was that the high places remained, so the people continued in their corrupt practices which the king did not see a reason to put an end to.

Now we turn to the kings of Israel, the northern kingdom. 8 out of the 11 kings of Judah did right in the eyes of the Lord, even if only in the beginning. But none of the kings of Israel have this commendation. All of them did evil in the eyes of the Lord – even one the most prosperous of them all, Jeroboam II. Look at v.23-24, “In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.” Jeroboam was the great grandson of Jehu, who purged Baal worship from Israel, and was named after the first king of Israel. So he is also called Jeroboam II. What made the sin of Jeroboam I so great, that almost every sin of the king of Israel referenced his sin? It was that he made the golden calves at Bethel and Dan, and told the people to worship at those places instead of Jerusalem. So Jeroboam I cut off true worship at the Temple in Jerusalem for the people of Israel, and he made images of gold to worship, violating the second commandment. This thing became a sin in Israel. None of the kings saw it necessary to take down these places of worship and go back to Jerusalem, so they all caused Israel to sin.

Jeroboam II ushered in a great time of prosperity. In v.25 we see that he restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea. Lebo Hamath was to the north of Israel, as far as the Euphrates River. It was the original limit of Solomon’s kingdom to the north. If we take a step back and look at the kingdom of Judah, to the south, during Azariah’s reign, and then look at the kingdom of Israel, to the north, during Jeroboam II’s reign, you can see that the size of the kingdom had been restored temporarily to the height of it’s glory and power it enjoyed during the time of King Solomon. But something was different, something was missing. At the core of Solomon’s reign was the dedication and commencement of worship at the Temple, ruled by a king who did not ask God for riches or wealth but for wisdom. At the core of the split kingdoms the heart was dark. There was idolatry in the land, and corrupt practices and lifestyles were found everywhere. Worship at the Temple was abandoned by 90% of the population. God had given them hardship. He had disciplined them by other nations. He brought famine to the land. Still the people would not repent. Still they practiced idolatry. Still they would not turn to God. But God in his great mercy and patience gave the people yet one more chance to repent. He poured out his grace on them, gave them prosperity and power, and maybe in his kindness they might repent.

Can we read v.26-27, “The Lord had seen how bitter everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. 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.” Everyone was miserable in Israel. Hazael, the king of Aram, had oppressed them for many years. Their land was being raided by the smaller nations that once were subject to them. Their army dwindled to a pitiful fifty horseman, ten chariots and ten thousand foot soldiers. Some of our college campuses today outnumber this army. Israel was about to perish because of their sin, but since the Lord had not said he would blot the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them. Jeroboam extended the territory as far north as it ever was, and the people began to prosper greatly. We see here though, that prosperity does not always reflect spiritual health or faith, as we see that the people are spiritually bankrupt. Prosperity does not always mean the favor of God; it may mean that judgment is imminent, and coming soon.

We can get some insight into the state of Israel through the prophets Jonah, Hosea and Amos. All three of these prophets are contemporary to Jeroboam. Jonah prophesied to Jeroboam, in v.25, about the prosperity coming to Israel. The extension of the northern boundaries and the judgment coming by the Assyrians might help make sense of why Jonah went to Ninevah, a city in northern Assyria, to preach repentance. We all know the story of Hosea well. God told him to marry a prostitute as an object lesson on the unfaithfulness of Israel. God compared Israel to a prostitute. But at the end of the book of Hosea he writes, “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips”… “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them.” (Hos 14:1,2,4).

Amos writes about the sin and decadence of Israel during the reign of Jeroboam. He writes about how in Israel, people sell the innocent for silver, trample on the heads of the poor, deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl, and in the house of their gods, they drink wine for “punishment.” Taxes were imposed on the poor for their straw and grain, so that people have built stone mansions. Lush vineyards were planted. Amos also writes a lament and a call to repentance, “Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no one to lift her up,” and “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go do Gilgal…Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it.” (Amo 5:2,4-6). Toward the end of the book of Amos, he writes of a plumb line, used to make things straight. The Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” He also said showed Amos a basket of ripe fruit and said, “The time is ripe for my people Israel, I will spare them no longer.” (Amo 7:8, 8:2). Israel had tried God’s patience for a very long time. During their trials, God sent prophets such as Elijah and Elisha to call people back to God. During this time of grace, God sent prophets like Amos, Hosea and Jonah to call people back to God. Very soon though, the time of judgment is coming, and in the next few Israelite kings, you can see the kingdom of Israel unraveling very quickly.

Look at ch.15 v.8, “In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned six months.” He only reigns six months, because after that, Shallum arises and assassinates Zechariah in front of the people. Immediately you see the degradation of the Israelite society. Assassinations used to happen in secret, behind closed doors, but here was an attack in the open. The fact that Shallum became king after such a public attack meant that there was some popular support to overthrow Zechariah. Whether he intended to or not, this fulfilled God’s prophecy, that Jehu’s descendants would rule to the fourth generation. Zechariah was Jehu’s great great grandson, and the word of the Lord was fulfilled.

Shallum’s reign though, was pretty shallow. He only reigned one month, and was overthrown by Menahem, an officer of Zechariah. Shallum’s was the second shortest reign of the kings of Israel, only Zimri’s reign was shorter: 7 days. Shallum seemed to be a nobody, so perhaps Menahem thought it would be a good and easy opportunity to take the throne, and he reigned in Israel 10 years. He ruled by terror. One city, Tiphsah, did not recognize his authority. They refused to open their doors to him, so he attacked the city and ripped open their pregnant women, as a lesson and a warning for any other city that did the same. The violence and brutality has significantly increased in Israel. Assyria, the instrument of God’s judgment had arrived in Israel. Menahem bought them off, by exacting money from the wealthy to pay a tribute to Assyria, but this would only offer temporary relief. Assyria seemed like a hungry dog ready to come back for more.

Menahem seemed to have died a natural death, and his son Pekahiah succeeded him as king. But only after a short 2 years, Pekahiah was overthrown by Pekah, one of his own chief officers. Perhaps Pekah was tired of paying tribute to Assyria, or sought to control Israel. There was no longer an established monarchy in Israel, but it seemed to decline into warlords struggling for power. Pekah also joined with Rezin, the king of Aram to cause trouble for Judah. In his time, Assyria already began taking cities in Israel and deporting people to Assyria. The judgment has come. Eventually, Hoshea would conspire against him and assassinate him, to become the last king of Israel.

God was not willing to blot out the name of Israel from under heaven just yet, he saved them in order to give them another chance to repent. God, however, had every right to do so. They had caused so much destruction by their sin. In Deut 29:18-20, Moses renews a covenant with the Israelites, that if they turned to other gods, and persist in their own way, they will be cursed and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. This is the old covenant; it is the covenant based on the Law. As we learned from the kings of Judah and the kings of Israel, from the people of Israel both great and small, we cannot keep God’s law perfectly. They had all failed in keeping the Temple worship, and we would too. But God is patient, he is merciful, and though he threatens to blot out your names from the book of life, he will try to save you first. God is just, so sin must be punished, but not before he gives you a chance to right your sins.

Moses, the one who gave the Law of God, was also familiar with grace. While the Israelites were in the desert, in the third month after they escaped from Egypt, they created a golden calf and began to worship it. Moses saw it and was furious. He said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” (Ex 32:30-32). What a love, what a heart for his people! That he should be cut off for their sake! Moses here only echoed the true atonement, the true sacrifice for our sins – Jesus Christ. While he was hanging on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:34)” By this Jesus established a new covenant in his blood. We cannot become righteous by obeying the Law. That is the old covenant. But we are made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ. That is the new covenant.

Jesus said to the church in Sardis, in Rev 3:4-5, “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. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” Who is the victorious one? The one who hears Hosea’s call: “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God…say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously that we may offer the fruit of our lips.’ (Hos 14:1,2)” Who is the victorious one? The one who hears Amos’ call: “Seek me and live…Seek the Lord and live. (Amos 5:4,5)” The one who believes in Jesus, by faith. Jesus says to them, “I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” They have been saved by Jesus Christ for all eternity.

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