Heed the warnings….

4 10 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-NINE : 2 Kings 16 v. 1 – 17 v . 41; Acts 26 v. 24 – 27 v. 12; Psalm 81 v. 8 – 16

2 KINGS
Ahaz King of Judah –
Ahaz is a bad king ‘in the eyes of the Lord’! He becomes king aged 20 and rules for 16 years. He abandons the ways David ruled (‘even sacrificing his son in the fire’, and offering sacrifices on the high places). Judah comes under attack from Israel and Aram, so turns to Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria. He offers Assyria’s king the sacred silver and gold from the temple and palace. The king of Assyria attacks Damascus and seizes it. King Ahaz of Judah sees an altar in Damascus which he likes the look of, sketches it out, and sends instructions to replace the altar in their temple. Uriah the priest oversees this so that when Ahaz returns, the altar is replaced, the side-panels, the basins and the giant Sea are also removed.
‘He took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entrance outside the temple of the Lord, in deference to the king of Assyria’.

Ahaz systematically took apart those aspects of the temple which had been specifically ordained by God – preferring deference to Assyria’s king than to the King of kings ! NOT a good idea !

Read more about Ahaz in the annals of the kings of Judah. He is buried in the City of David and his son, Hezekiah succeeds him as king.

Hoshea Last King of Israel –
a bad king ‘in the eyes of the Lord’, who reigned for nine years. He was branded a traitor by king Shalmaneser of Assyria, for paying tribute to king So of Egypt rather than Shalmaneser, so the Assyrian king attacks Israel, and after a three year siege, Samaria is captured, the Israelites deported into Assyria.

Israel Exiled Because of Sin –
The writer is clear to say that this Assyrian attack, and the fall of Samaria was a direct result of the Israelites displeasing God, after all He had done in bringing them from Egypt into the Promised Land. Their worship of other gods, and secretly doing things against the Lord God (building high places and towers, sacred stones and Asherah poles). ‘The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees.’
But they would not listen…stiff-necked people.
They rejected the covenant and all God’s decrees.
‘They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless’.
They forsook God’s commands, make idols (calves), bowed down to the stars, worshipped Baal, sacrificed sons and daughters, practised divination and sorcery, and sold themselves to do evil.
‘So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His presence.’
Judah remained faithful for a time, but not wholly, and some adopted the practices from Israel (handed down from Jeroboam, right at the start when the lands were split from king David).
This is why Israel is plundered, thrust from God’s presence, and the Israelites are taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria.

Samaria Resettled – once Samaria is captured, Assyria’s king resettles people from Babylon, Cuthah and other places into Samaria, taking over the towns in that region. As they did not worship God, He sent lions in among them and some were killed. Word gets back to Assyria’s king that because these resettled people don’t know who or how they are to worship in their new land, the lions have attacked.
So the king calls for one of the exiled priests to be brought back to teach the people who and how to worship.
But the peoples from different regions each brought their own customs in worship, their own gods. So they worshipped the Lord, and they worshipped their own gods too, with their various practices.
To this day, we are told, they continue with these practices, and thus break the command not to worship any other gods. They do not listen to the words of the covenant, but continue to try to worship both the Lord God and their own deities.


ACTS
Paul Before Festus –
Festus interrupts Paul’s great speech, accusing him of being mad – ‘Your great learning is driving you insane’.
Paul defends his sanity and honesty in the report he is giving. Paul turns to Agrippa and asks him directly, ‘Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.’
Agrippa’s reply is, ‘Do you think that after such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’
Paul states that whether it takes a short or a long time, his prayer is that everyone comes to know Christ (‘becomes what I am….’)
As the royal party leave, they are discussing the situation, and find no reason to condemn Paul to death. Indeed, had Paul himself not insisted on seeing Caesar, Agrippa would’ve suggested he is simply set free.

Paul Sails for Rome –
along with some other prisoners, Paul boards a ship for Italy. They are in the charge of Julius, Roman centurion from the Imperial Regiment. Aristarchus is along with them too on the ship.
The ship stops at Sidon, and Paul is allowed to see his friends there ‘so they might provide for his needs’.
The route passed Cyprus to Myra in Lycia. There they changed ship, boarding an Alexandrian vessel for Italy. It was a difficult journey for several days, the strong winds affecting their route considerably. Eventually they came to a place called ‘Fair Havens’.
Paul then warns the men not to set sail for now because it had become so dangerous. However the centurion and the ship’s pilot and owner wanted to press on, ignoring Paul’s warning – they wanted to beat the oncoming winter.

We shall see that it was right that Paul warns them not to set sail. Sometimes we get a sense of people about to take a wrong turn, and need the courage of our convictions to send out a warning message….maybe that sense is God-given, whether people hear or heed it, or not.

PSALM (from ‘My Psalms’)
‘Listen to me, my people, hear my warnings to you –
listen, listen, listen.
Don’t bow down to any other god – foreign gods are nothing.
I am the only Lord, your God.
I rescued you from the Egyptians.
I have filled your stomachs with daily bread.
Why don’t you listen to me?
Why won’t you surrender your will to mine?
I watch your stubborn hearts lead you to destruction –
your ways, your plans.

If only my people would pay attention to me,
if only my chosen ones (Israel) would let me lead,
then they would see famous victories against their enemies,
those who detest the Lord would suffer eternal punishment;
but you, my people, my chosen ones would dine in style –
finest bread, and honey from the rock –
mmm, with good food I would satisfy you completely.”
AMEN.


whole-life discipleship thoughts :
‘LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN TO ME’ – there’s just such a strong sense of God urging His people to pay attention to His words, His decrees, and there is a warning to those who don’t do what He’s instructed. Israel falls into the hands of Assyria, Paul’s co-travellers are heading into a disasterous storm, and the psalmist lays out the choice of ‘dining in style’ or ‘eternal punishment’ dependent upon our response to His call, His direction.

Father God, in EVERY situation today, in work, at home, in the community, help me to LISTEN, and to ACT according to Your will, Your way, even if, in doing so, I draw attention to Your presence in me; there’s a time to speak out, and to act in a way which communicates something of You to others.
I even pray that You would give me a prophetic voice, if a warning is needed, to promote Your coming kingdom of justice and righteousness.
Embolden me, Lord God; strengthen the Light that is in me.
AMEN.

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