2 Kings 15

A short chapter about 7 Kings.

This is how I remembered Kings. Nothing much more than footnotes about ancient Kings’ reigns that teach us not a lot. It’s actually been much more of a blessing than I expected so far.

2 Kings of Judah. They do right by God, but very little noted about their reigns other than some of the rebuilding they did and the fact that the father, Azariah, who is confusingly called Uzziah later in the chapter, had leprosy.

5 Kings of Israel. They make the point that the royal lines keep getting usurped in the north. No house lasts longer than a few generations, unlike Judah which is the smaller kingdom, but the house of  David survives though thick and thin.

One of the Israel Kings only lasts one month before being toppled.

The cruel violence of another against pregnant women is noted.

It’s just a matter of time before strengthening neighbours like Assyria annex Judah. One king buys them off with gold and silver for a while. The last surrenders lots of land to them.

The question becomes “what next?”

There seems to be no replacement for the prophet Elisha.

Most Kings are bad and even the godly ones are ineffectual.

We’re holding out for a hero, God! Perhaps we’re looking in the wrong places.

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2 Kings 14

The Lord doesn’t let the culture and the land completely die, but by now Israel and Judah are hopelessly weak and average kingdoms.

They break the pattern of obedient Kings being blessed and evil Kings failing and having shorter reigns.

Amaziah is king in Judah, and he loves Jehovah. But, the writer sadly notes, not like David. He doesn’t move decisively against other religions. He has a bit of a victory, but then launches into a failure civil war and his successor has to rebuild.

The king of Israel is not a follower of Jehovah but wins the civil war and God is merciful to his son, restoring some of their prosperity and land.

The theological signficance of the kingship seems to be slipping away, and we are just getting reports of the waxing and waning of ordinary politics.

It’s depressing. You forget how much God can do with even a tiny amount of faith, you start to crave a tiny bit of faith.

Give me the faith to respond in unpredictable ways to the promptings your word and spirit father, and not live a life of transparently ordinary motivations.

2 Kings 13

Read the chapter, read the commentary. Don’t really understand, don’t really want to. 

We are looking at Kings of the northern kingdom. They all start with J. One is the father one is the son, one has the same name as the southern kingdom’s king and seems to be used interchangeably with the son. 

In the middle Elisha dies. It’s fairly low key, he is old and gets ill, unlike Elijah before him who went up to heaven in a chariot.

The king(s) semi respect him. They see him as a man of God, but they don’t stop worshipping God the wrong way. 

This half hearted faith shows in a story about lacking boldness, where dying Elisha gets the king to symbolically claim future victories by banging arrows on the ground. The king doesn’t really get it, and doesn’t get the blessing of victory he could have got. 

Fits with the theme of Kings which is how half hearted compromised lives of faith mean richness of God’s blessing forfeited.

Good wants bold faith. The kind that says “the odds may be impossible, but God’s message is clear so I’m going ahead anyway”. 

2 Kings 12

The reign of Kings Jehoash – raised in the temple, king for 40 years from the age of 7. He didn’t remove the cancer of worshipping other gods – the high shrines, but he rebuilt the temple.

Its a delicate story, only very sketched in.  He was raised by priests, and he gave them the job of rebuilding the temple but after 23 years, nothing had been done.  The passage details how he overcame their mismanagement without seemingly judging them.

Ironically the mismanagement of the building program for a period of decades may have contributed to the treasury of the temple being well stocked with gold which, he uses to buy the safety of Jerusalem when it is later attacked. But that is not viewed as god’s provision, and the writer then flatly notes that he was assassinated.  I’m sure there is quite a story there, but the writer of Kings is not interested.

The narrator is looking for God’s intervention, and seems to find none in Jehoash’s story other than the way he became king.

Its like a sense of despair has settled over the kingship.  They were excited about God’s hand in making sure the line of David didn’t actually die out, but there is no general hope for the people coming from this story of the long reign of even a quite godly king.

2 Kings 11

The lamp becomes a flicker

One theme that runs though the of testament is the live of David, Jesus’ line. In kings it is called the lamp of Judah.

It’s a very slow and often frail salvation plan, and here it comes down to just one hidden boy.

Last chapter king Jehu of Israel – not a godly man, but the means of judgment – aggressively usurped and stamped out evil king Ahab’s line. He missed his daughter who was mother in law of the king of Judah. When her son the king is killed she rules herself for a number of years and keeps power by mercilessly killing the heirs of David, some of her own grandchildren.

One boy is hidden in the temple by a wise and bold woman Jehosheba the wife of the priest . It’s sort of a tale of two women. 

After 7 years the priest and other godly people run a coup that installs the boy as king. It’s a great story.

The lamp flickers but doesn’t go out. A new leaf is turned over.

When Jesus talks about faith the size of a grain of mustard I think of this woman’s act. Grace pops out all over in these stories – when the kings are worst, the most blessed prophets arise.  In a forest of evil, a good person plants one seed of salvation against all odds. Never give up hope on what is right, never.

2 Kings 10

Jehu the violent King continues to ensure the slaughter of every child (70!) of the bad King Ahab, and every worshipper of Baal, who he tricks with lies about claiming to love Baal.

He talks about his “zeal for the Lord” and is aware of bringing about the judgment pronounced by Elisha.

However, his dedication to Jehovah doesn’t play out in his life, he continues to allow the calf worship that Elisha & Elijah before him have strongly denounced to previous kings. During his reign various parts of the empire are stripped away by rebellions, which Elisha also saw when he wept upon meeting the foreign future king Hazael.

God’s judgment, god’s purposes, coincide with a season of power for Jehu.  But there is no real connection. For Jehu his religious talk is opportunistic. His trust is in his own, fleeting, strength.

Its a good lesson in the relationship of politics and religion: proceed with caution.

2 Kings 9

Children of  Ahab of Israel have power in both Israel and Judah. You’d think the promised land is close to being united again, however that is not God’s plan, in fact we’ve already been told that Ahab’s line will completely disappear, because he was the worst of the Kings, who introduced the Baal worship.

While they are still reigning, Elisha anoints Jehu to be King of Israel, from Jehosophat’s line, and he is instantly supported, and does relentlessly stamp out all Ahab’s line including Ahab’s corrupt wife Jezebel, who dies violently and ignominiously as predicted.

Jehu is not a Godly king mind you.  Elisha’s merely saw that he was the means by which judgment would come to Ahab’s line.

I read it all as sadness. The seeming overwhelming nature of evil.

2 Kings 8

We’re shown that the King knows all about some of Elisha’s miracles and believes them.

Elisha knows the truth about everything but cannot affect everything.  He cries when he meets a foreigner named Hazeal because he knows he will become a King who will visit much suffering on Israel.

He’s watching God’s judgment and the evil of men.

The godly King in the southern Kingdom, Judah is succeeded by a King married to one of Ahab’s daughters.  He allows Ahab’s calf worship – his reign is summarised by weakening of the empire, lands are lost to rebellion, and a repeat of the promise that God preserves a “lamp” – the line of David will not be allowed to fail.

The chapter ends with the reign of the next Judah King, who we are told only lasts a year. He isn’t dead yet, but wounded by the very foreigner, now King, mentioned above who Elisha wept when he saw.

Jesus, like Elisha, could sometimes only weep.

 

2 Kings 7

Elisha tells the king, who came to kill him, the famine and seige of the capital will be over by morning. God scares away the army who are laying seige with a convincing soundtrack of an attacking army.  The people plunder their supplies. Boom, so easy for God.

The King planning to kill Elisha out of frustration has a sort of sneaking respect for God. But he’s too proud to repent. The guard who came with the king to kill Elisha is a more straightforward unbeliever who just thinks Elisha’s prediction that the problem will be solved in a day is ridiculous. 

Elisha also sees judgment for the guard, which the text notes came to pass. God did magic away the practical problem, but the larger problems of pride and disbelief are resistant. Ironically, though he died, it seems more likely to me that the guard found faith. 

I can’t understand the hardness of the kings heart in the context of this sightly fable-like telling of history. But I see it all the time around me still.

Praying for the world in the sadness that follows natural disasters and evil acts.

2 Kings 6

2 instances of help and one of no help.

Elisha is presented as being able to call on God for wonders and miracles. When they drop an axe head in the river, he calls on God to make the iron float and they find it.

A neighbouring king comes to kill him because his prophesy is like having a spy reporting his every move. Elisha calls blindness on the troops and they give up.

Yet when the capital is under siege so extreme that parents resort to eating their children, he does nothing. At the end of the chapter the king confronts him.

It raises the question of God’s intervention in human affairs. Why doesn’t he fix everything?

Signs and wonders are pointers not problem solvers. If God magiked all the practical problems away, we would still not have found truth, which is the most important problem.

I think the one he does solve, the hardness of our hearts, he is saying is the only really important one. Which is a hard, hard teaching when you are faced with canabalism and similar.