Today’s Bible reading: 2 Kings 15-16:20; Acts 19:13-41; Psalm 147:1-20; Proverbs 18:4-5
King Uzziah, who we meet in 2 Kings 15, was a good king except that he did not destroy the pagan shrines. If he did, it would have deterred the people from worshipping false gods (2 Kings 15:3-4). Possibly Uzziah had a divided heart and did not recognize God as the only God. Or maybe he was afraid of the people.
The latter is how many politicians rule today. They do not lead according to God’s word. They decide what will get them the most votes and side with majority (to borrow a 1992 quote from then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton).
Uzziah is followed by two kings who reign very briefly: Zechariah (6 months) and Shallum (2 months). Both of these kings were assassinated showing just how rampant violence and dissatisfaction were in Israel at this time. (Two more assassinations of kings happen later in this chapter as well.)
We need to remember that God allowed these things to happen. God allows people to exercise our inherent evil in order to get our attention so that we turn from sin. Sadly, we tend to find excuses for our sin instead.
The next king, Menahem, pays off the king of Assyria to avoid being conquered (2 Kings 15:19). This type of “solution” can only keep the enemy at bay temporarily. Sin should be addressed immediately otherwise it will keep returning, as we will see.
After a string of a few kings who were pretty good, Judah gets a very bad king in 2 Kings 16. King Ahaz was more like the kings of Israel even sacrificing his own son to Molech (2 Kings 16:3).
God allows Edom to recover some land in 2 Kings 16:6. Here we see God allowing Israel’s enemies to have victory over them. He also reduces their territory. Similarly, God might take away someone’s wealth or health in order to get them to turn away from sin and towards Him.
King Ahaz submits himself to the king of Assyria in 2 Kings 16:7 rather than trusting in God. When we trust in someone/something other than the Lord we are just inviting trouble into our lives. Only God has our best interests in mind.
Unbelievably Ahaz also redesigns the Temple, removing the design of God in exchange for a pagan design (2 Kings 16:14-18). He did this because he was more dedicated to the king of Assyria than he was to the true God. How often we rearrange our lives to accommodate our sin rather than filling our minds and time with the things of God. Rather than meditating on Scripture, rather than praying, rather than building up someone in Christ we, watch TV or work longer hours, or have sex.
In Acts 19 many people become aware of their own sin. The give up their demonic-related possessions and practices in exchange for the word of God (Acts 19:20). This is just the opposite of what we saw in 2 Kings today and is exactly what God is asking us to do.
However, this caused much anger in Ephesus as businessmen who made a living selling idols to Artemis realize that they will lose income (Acts 19:25). This is really a great testimony to the work that Paul and his associates were doing. Their teaching had a great effect. But these men were not interested the eternal destiny of the people. They were interested in their own short-term wealth.
How true is that today with organizations such as Planned Parenthood which make their living killing unborn babies. People put many things before God that they do not want to give up: money, sex, pornography, status, alcohol, drugs. They reject the message of God because they are more interested in their own addictions or material comfort than they are in the things of God.
But the lesson here is clear: teaching people about Jesus – even the most hardened non-believer, can have a great impact on an entire society. That comes not from us, but from the power of God. We are simply the messengers.
Isn’t it cool that God knows how many stars there are and has a name for each one (Psalm 147:4)? God is not impressed with our wisdom or physical strength – compared to Him we are nothing (Psalm 147:10). Instead, God is impressed with people who put their hope in Him rather than the false-hope offered by things of this world.
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