The Beginning of the End

Posted: July 29, 2010 in 2 Kings

2 Kings 20-21, “The Beginning of the End”
—————-

The last several chapters have had quite the ups & downs in the history of the Israelites! We’ve seen the northern kingdom of Samaria (Israel) conquered & carried off into captivity by Assyria (the Imperial superpower of the time). We’ve also seen our Omnipotent God wipe out the army of that superpower overnight during the reign of Hezekiah of Judah. If the book of 2 Kings had ended with Ch 19, we might be left with the impression that although the northern kingdom is gone, revival broke out in the south & Judah lived happily ever after.

Obviously history gives us another picture & the book of 2 Kings isn’t over yet. The northern kingdom isn’t the only kingdom of Israel to be taken into captivity – a similar fate awaits Judah, and will be announced by God in Ch 20-21. The real question is how the people handle the news: will they repent & seek the Lord – or will they continue to sink in rebellion against Him?

2 Kings 20 (NKJV)
1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’ ” 2 Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

A. How did Hezekiah handle the news? From a NT perspective, perhaps badly. After all, death has no more sting for the believer – we might grieve, but we don’t grieve as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus! But from an OT perspective, Hezekiah’s reaction is perhaps understandable. Death isn’t dealt with much in the OT, other than the idea of judgment and/or resting with one’s fathers. Hezekiah (like many people today) feared death, and pleaded with God not to go through with it.

B. Are you ready? Is your house in order? Death is not a mere possibility; it’s a reality for every person. Appointed to man once to die, then the judgment (Hb 9:27)… The only people exempt from death are those going through the rapture – but even then we need to be ready to see our Lord at any moment.

C. Death is a reality, but it need not be feared! For the Christian, death is merely physical & passing: John 11:25-26 (25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [] We have the glorious promise of everlasting life in Christ Jesus!

4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.” ’ ”

A. Quick answer to prayer! Before Isaiah had even gotten out of the palace complex… [] What a wonderful privilege & promise we have that God hears our prayers! God sees our tears & knows our deepest needs. Jesus said our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we even ask (Mt 6:8) – the Bible tells of the privilege we have in Christ to boldly go before the throne of grace to ask for mercy & grace in our time of need (Hb 4:16) – Paul wrote of the peace that passes understanding when we lay our requests before God in prayer (Phil 4:6-7). We may not get as immediate an answer as Hezekiah did – but we can be assured that our God hears us when we pray!

a. So what’s stopping you? Pray!!

b. Knowing that death isn’t to be feared, and knowing what Hezekiah does after his prayer, was it wrong for Hezekiah to pray for healing? No (though he didn’t demonstrate much faith through it). Hezekiah’s problem is going to come with what he does with the 15 years God grants him… But prayer itself was not the problem. Our problem with prayer is actually doing it in the 1st place!

B. “deliver…king of Assyria”: Gives us an idea as to the timeframe. Apparently Hezekiah had gotten sick prior to the siege by Sennacherib & the Assyrian army. As a part of God’s guarantee that Hezekiah would recover from his illness, God also promised that He would deliver & defend Jerusalem from the Assyrian attack. (Which God did, via His angel annihilating 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night!) Why would God defend Jerusalem? Was it because Hezekiah had been (in his own words) “good in the sight” of God? No. God gave two reasons which had nothing to do with Hezekiah. He’d defend Jerusalem:

a. For His own glory – “for My own sake.” God always works according to His own glory. Jesus was sent for the glory of God – we are saved to the praise of His glory – our ongoing sanctification take place in order that we would better glorify God with our lives. We live for HIS glory! God (being God) deserves everlasting glory – and there is no higher cause than for God to do something for His own sake.

b. For His promises – “for the sake of My servant David.” Goes back to the idea of the covenant promises. Hezekiah was indeed a good king; but God’s covenant wasn’t made with Hezekiah; it was made with David. And because God made a promise, He was going to keep it. God always keeps His word – whether through Abraham, Moses, David…or Jesus. We have a sure covenant with God based upon the blood of Jesus Christ & we can be sure that God will NEVER break His word!

7 Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. 8 And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?”

A. Why ask for a sign?! It seems that Hezekiah had a lapse of faith in God. He’d already been given the word of the Lord through Isaiah; that should have been enough. The fact is God had ALREADY given Hezekiah a sign by telling him to go up to the temple on the 3rd day to be healed. And yet Hezekiah asked for more. Although Hezekiah was a really good king, apparently he had his own ups & downs in faith – he was at a point where he had a hard time trusting the Lord & needed something else to rely upon.

a. The same thing happened with Jesus when the Pharisees questioned His authority. Jesus had already given plenty of signs of His power through healings, prophecy & more – yet the scribes & Pharisees asked for more. In response, Jesus told them that evil and adulterous generations ask for a sign, and the one sign would be the resurrection (Mt 12:39)

B. Do we take God at His word? Are His promises enough? God has already shown forth His power – if He never showed forth any other miracle in our lives, the fact that He saved us by His grace ought to be enough for us to forever trust God at His word. Any other miracle He performs is an additional expression of His grace…

a. God gives that grace to Hezekiah. Even though an additional sign should not have been necessary, God gives it anyway. See vs. 9…

9 Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.” 11 So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

A. Gotta give a little credit to Hezekiah here. Moving the shadow forward on the sundial (or perhaps a staircase that acted as a sundial) is tough enough – but when given the choice, he goes for the truly impossible: moving the shadow backwards.

a. God is capable of the impossible! He’s the Creator God… Nothing is too hard for Him! (Jer 32:27) … Don’t let anyone tell you that the supernatural “disproves” the Bible. The entirety of our faith is grounded in a single supernatural act: the resurrection…and there’s more proof for historicity of the resurrection than any other event in antiquity!

B. Question: what exactly happened here? People debate this a bit. Did planet earth physically turn backwards? (Unlikely – inertia would have ripped the planet apart & even if God supernaturally superseded the laws of physics, other cultures should have recorded something that unusual.) We have a clue in that a very specific sundial was mentioned (“the sundial of Ahaz”); it’s possible that God caused the single shadow of the sundial to move backwards while the normal shadows continued to move forward. Either way, it was certainly a show of supernatural power; there was no doubt God had heard Hezekiah’s prayer & answered it.

12 At that time Berodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures—the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory—all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.

A. This was incredibly foolish! Imagine getting a call from someone you didn’t know (but perhaps knew of), and while they were visiting you, you pull out all your bank statements, social security cards, stock portfolios, etc., and then pat them on the back & send them on their way. That’s essentially what Hezekiah did.

B. WHY? Why would a king who prior to this point was so faithful to God, do such a foolish thing? One word: pride. 2 Chronicles 32:24-25 (24) In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the Lord; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. (25) But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem. []God had delivered Hezekiah from death – God had delivered Hezekiah from the Assyrian army – God had even told Hezekiah how many years he had left to live. The king likely thought he was relatively invincible, and had nothing to lose. Besides, he had been visited by the royal Babylonian envoy…if the Babylonian king was interested in Hezekiah, surely Hezekiah must have been important! Solomon well observes that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18) – Hezekiah is going to find this out the hard way.

a. The problem with pride is that we think we’re dependent upon ourselves, rather than understanding we are fully dependent upon God for everything. … Without Jesus, we can do nothing (Jn 15:5), yet through Jesus we can do all things because He strengthens us (Phil 4:13). Every good & perfect gift comes from God (Jas 1:17). The humble Christian is the one who understands that everything we have, everything we are, and everything we can do all proceeds from the hand & grace of God – and then we seek to honor Him with everything!

14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?” So Hezekiah said, “They came from a far country, from Babylon.” 15 And he said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.” 16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: 17 ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. 18 ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ ”

A. Babylon came 1st to browse; they’ll be coming back later to conquer.

B. Is Hezekiah to blame for the coming conquest? No. Hezekiah was foolish in this instance, but overall he was one of the best kings ever to reign in Jerusalem. God has very specific reasons for sending Judah into captivity (some of which we’ll see in Ch 21); at this point God is simply telling Hezekiah what is going to happen. The Babylonian captivity is not a possibility at this point; it’s an assured fact. The only thing that Judah doesn’t know at this point is when it will take place.

a. Likewise with the Tribulation & the judgment. No man knows the day nor the hour; but we know it WILL come.

19 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “Will there not be peace and truth at least in my days?”

A. How can this possibly be a good word!? Is this extraordinarily self-centered on Hezekiah’s part? Or, is Hezekiah simply resigned to the perfect will of God, and rightfully grateful for at least the mercies shown to him during his lifetime? Scholars differ on what Hezekiah’s reaction means here – in assuming the best of him, perhaps it’s best to think that he merely submitted himself to the will of God.

B. At the same time, perhaps there was a better response to be had: repentance. Even the heathen citizens of Ninevah understood that it was better to repent in the face of a declaration of judgment than to do nothing. Jonah 3:8-9 (8) But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. (9) Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? []

i. One of the best things the people of God can do is encourage others to repent & seek the face of God! Is judgment coming? Yes. Will anything stop it? No. Yet individuals can still be saved from the judgment of God when they put their faith & trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. May we be those who plead with others to flee from the wrath that is to come!

20 Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah—all his might, and how he made a pool and a tunnel and brought water into the city—are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 21 So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place.

A. Much more written about Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles. He had a lasting impact on Jerusalem; his tunnel is still in existence today. (1777 ft. long!)

2 Kings 21 (NKJV)
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years [longest of any king in Israel’s history!] in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.

A. As much as Hezekiah was good, his son Manasseh was evil. Truly evil! Manasseh isn’t merely compared to other evil kings of Judah or Israel, but he’s evil on the order of the nations that God had kicked out of the land of Canaan when He first brought Joshua in during the conquest.

3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.

A. What were Manasseh’s crimes? He had a slew of them!

a. Paganism: Manasseh rebuilt the high places & altars for Baal. He gave people opportunities to continue in the false worship of the false gods that had been originally removed from the land.

b. Idolatry: He built a wooden image, causing people to worship the created rather than the Creator.

c. False religion: He went so far as to corrupt the true temple of God by putting up false altars for the stars (Zoroastrianism? Astrology?).

d. Other abominations such as human sacrifice & various forms of witchcraft and supernaturalism…

B. Keep in mind, these are all things still taking place today! Anytime we substitute the true worship of the true God, we’re going to end up in one of these places. [] This stuff isn’t merely a personal choice in how to worship; it’s “evil in the sight of the Lord.” WHY? Because ultimately it’s a rejection of the true God – it’s spitting in the face of the God of the Universe who provided for your forgiveness in sending His only Son Jesus Christ to die in your place. If there was any other way for us to have been forgiven, God would have shown us & Jesus never would have died. … There WAS no other option; Jesus ALONE is our salvation!

7 He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; 8 and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers—only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.”

A. Manasseh didn’t merely set up false altars in the Temple; he went so far as to set up a carved image (an idol) there. (Not terribly unlike what will take place with the abomination of desolation…Dan 9:27, Mt 24:15, 2 Ths 2:4)

B. This was God’s house! If there was any sacred place to have been left undefiled, it was the temple of God. This was a place consecrated by the Lord Himself, and the place where His name was to be known & proclaimed.

a. This isn’t the duty of any physical building today; this is the privilege of the Church itself. WE are the temple of God – and it is not to be defiled under any circumstances. The Church is not to mix with witchcraft (the “Secret”) – idolatry (worship of stuff/pastors) – paganism (diluting the worship of God to follow after worldly pursuits & entertainments), or anything else. The Church is to be sanctified (set apart) for the worship & glory of God alone! When the Church starts worshipping itself or becomes entertainment driven, or driven by anything other than Jesus Christ, we’re engaging in the same sins as Manasseh.

C. God had made a covenant with David regarding the temple. Israel would continue to worship God in His holy temple forever…but on one condition: if they kept the law & covenant of Moses. God kept His word for the blessing; He would also keep His word for the judgment. Manasseh (along with many other kings) had abandoned the covenants God made through Moses & David – God would soon cause Judah to wander again & be unable to worship at the temple.

a. Israel had a conditional covenant through Moses & David; we have an unconditional covenant through Jesus Christ! Our promises are based solely upon the work of Christ.

9 But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.

A. Apparently no one stood up to Manasseh (or at least very few). The whole nation was swayed by him to engage in evil. [Sin is contagious…]

B. What a massive change from Hezekiah! Under their previous king, the people had engaged in true worship of the true God. Under Manasseh, the people engaged in uninhibited idolatry. Under the 2nd king after Manasseh, revival will again go through the land (as we’ll see next week).

i. People are fickle! And people will remain fickle unless we are grounded upon the sure word of God…

10 And the LORD spoke by His servants the prophets, saying, 11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols), 12 therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab; I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.

A. With Hezekiah, God foretold about the facts of the coming Babylonian captivity; with Manasseh, God foretells how it’s all going to take place, and basically lays the blame at his feet. Manasseh wasn’t the only evil apostate king of Judah, but he was by far one of the worst! Manasseh took part in the very practices that caused the Canaanite nations to fill up on the full measure of the wrath of God. The original conquest by Joshua was not done merely to give the Hebrews the promised land of inheritance, but to pour out judgment on the wicked nations that were previously there. Manasseh’s reign was evidence that the Jews were no different than the nations that had come before.

B. The illustrations God uses are vivid! Like a cymbal that crashed so loudly in your ears, leaving them ringing for hours – that’s the effect that the calamity will bring. With the same measurement that God used in designing the destruction of Samaria, God would use it with Judah. Like cleaning out a dirty dish, so would God cleanse His land from the filth of His people.

a. “This is pretty harsh!” True, but so were the people of Judah towards God. God had made a covenant with them to bless them for obedience, and to bring curses & discipline for disobedience. God loved His people enough to spank them when necessary – and they needed it badly!

14 So I will forsake the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become victims of plunder to all their enemies, 15 because they have done evil in My sight, and have provoked Me to anger since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.’ ”

A. Is God saying He wouldn’t leave ANY remnant of His people? No – there is always a remnant of faithful followers of God. The idea here is that between Samaria & Judah (the once united kingdom of Israel), Judah WAS the remnant after Samaria was taken into captivity. Now Judah would also by judged & be taken away just like the northern kingdom.

B. Why did God do it? Because they “provoked [God] to anger.” Can we provoke God today? To be honest, I’m not sure I want to find out! As a Christian, the wrath of God we would have faced has been placed upon Jesus Christ…and for that, we can be eternally grateful.

16 Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD. 17 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh—all that he did, and the sin that he committed—are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 18 So Manasseh rested with his fathers, and was buried in the garden of his own house, in the garden of Uzza. Then his son Amon reigned in his place.

A. Ends with the reiteration that Manasseh was just a really bad, evil king. Interestingly enough, the account in 2 Chronicles 33 goes further to show when Manasseh actually repented from his sins, put his trust in God alone & encouraged (though only somewhat successfully) national repentance.

B. The only time it’s too late to repent is when you’re 6 feet underground. Some people think, “I’ve lived my whole life this way – if I trusted Christ, I’d be a hypocrite…” Or: “It’s too late for me; there’s no way God could forgive all the things I’ve done by this point…” Wrong! Absolutely wrong! As long as you draw breath, you have an opportunity to repent & trust Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins – to receive Him as your personal Lord & Savior.

19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah. 20 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done. 21 So he walked in all the ways that his father had walked; and he served the idols that his father had served, and worshiped them. 22 He forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and did not walk in the way of the LORD.

A. Amon learned from his father’s wickedness; but not from his repentance. (Underscores the need for parents to set good examples for their children!)

B. Keep in mind that the king of Judah was supposed to be (along with the priests) a representative of God to God’s people. For the king to forsake God is nothing less than mutiny & treason against God. Amon may have just thought (like so many today), “Who cares? I just don’t believe in God.” It wasn’t up to Amon to decide whether or not he wanted to believe in God; Amon’s sole responsibility was to act as God directed him to act. Just as a cabinet member serves at the pleasure of the president, so the king was to serve at the pleasure of God.

a. It’s easy for people to read these accounts & think “So what’s the big deal? As long as the king isn’t murdering anyone, it’s not that bad of a thing. After all, it’s only idolatry.” Please understand this from the Scriptures: only idolatry is not a small matter. To engage in idolatry & to ignore God Almighty is to ignore the One who gave you breath this morning & strength to rise out of bed. The very atoms in your physical body are held together solely by the will of God. To think that ignoring God is a minor matter shows a complete lack of perspective. How many parents think it’s ok for their children to merely ignore them? How many soldiers would assume it’s ok to ignore their CO? How much more the King of Kings?

b. This gives us an indication of the righteousness of Hell. “How can Hell be righteous?!” Think of what God gave for mankind in order that we would NOT go to Hell: His only begotten son, Christ Jesus. The only price that would overcome our rebellion & treason & affront to God’s holiness was the blood of the Son of God – and Jesus willingly paid it on our behalf. To ignore that precious gift is unspeakable tragedy…

23 Then the servants of Amon conspired against him, and killed the king in his own house. 24 But the people of the land executed all those who had conspired against King Amon. Then the people of the land made his son Josiah king in his place. 25 Now the rest of the acts of Amon which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 26 And he was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza. Then Josiah his son reigned in his place.

A. Unlike his father, apparently Amon never repented. He paid the wage for his sin: death. Amon seems to have died one of the only assassinations that Judah ever experienced.

B. The good news here is that Josiah’s coming…and revival is coming with him!

Conclusion:
Hezekiah started out great, and ended up in pride & seeming selfishness. Manasseh started out terrible & repented to end life trusting the Lord. Which best describes you? There are a ton of Christians who rely on the relationship they “used” to have with God. It’s always about the “good old days” & what they used to do in ministry or in their prayers, or whatever. Be careful! That’s similar ground to Hezekiah…

For others, they’ve lived in constant rebellion against God, and willfully have rejected Jesus Christ in the past, but you’re unsure how to respond to Him today. Be assured that it’s never too late to repent & put your faith in Christ! Like Manasseh, as long as you draw breath, you can still repent…don’t wait another moment…

For the rest of us, our call is to faithfulness. Fix your eyes upon the author & finisher of our faith, and walk humbly submitted to His Lordship & empowered by His Spirit. God’s desire is to glorify Himself through your life – and you’ll see that take place as you walk faithfully with Him. May God give us the grace to do exactly that.

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