2 Kings 17 has some strong lessons on the power of leadership. Hoshea becomes king and “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. We’ve heard that one before, haven’t we? But the people followed Hoshea’s lead and suffered mightily and we learn that “this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God”. They were suffering because a leader was off course and did evil and they followed. Yes it was their choice that caused the actual sin, but they had an easy route because of leadership.
“The people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right”:
- “built for themselves high places
- set up for themselves pillars and Asherim
- made offerings on all the high places
- did wicked things
- served idols”
Let’s face it, they were not on God’s path. God gets a bit angry and tells them “turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets”. Want to guess what happened? “They would not listen, but were stubborn….they abandoned all the commandments of the Lord their God”.
Do you see what is happening here? The leader leads poorly. The followers follow diligently without any regard for what is right. “Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight”. They were connected to their past and “walked in the customs….the people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did”. The truth is that they didn’t learn from Hoshea, and now do the same thing with Jeroboam who replaced him. They had no filter. So it really comes down to this….
“They would not listen, but they did according to their former manner”. It is extremely hard to change the ways of the past. We are creatures of habit, and it is very difficult to change how we live. These people were enduring amazing issues, and God made it clear that they were facing them because of their disobedience. The obvious fix was to straighten up and obey, but that didn’t happen. They continued on living in sin. But here is the sad part, and the reality that we need to pay close attention to today: “Their children did likewise, and their children’s children – as their fathers did, so they do to this day”. Don’t ever believe that parenting doesn’t matter. It does, is very important and quite honestly matters a lot. We must take that responsibility very seriously!
2 Kings 16 gives us a little further look at Ahaz, king of Israel. He took the throne at age 20, and ruled for 16 years, and as we learned yesterday, “he did not do right in the eyes of the Lord”. He in fact did everything wrong. And he basically spit in God’s face and destroyed all that had been done previously to create a strong relationship with God by David. Oh how foolish this king was. “He walked in the way of the kings of Israel”. It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen what was right, he deliberately chose to do wrong.
He was way off course. “He even burned his son as an offering”. It isn’t that he grew up void of knowing God. He chose not to follow. He got in a pinch leading his people when two other kings laid siege to Jerusalem. He lost some ground and was fearful of what might happen, so he reaches out to the king of Assyria for help, offering up all sorts of treasure. That worked as the king of Assyria came and defeated the armies that were laying siege to Jerusalem, but it also carried a heavy cost.
King Ahaz made a trip to thank the king of Assyria and deliver all sorts of treasure he robbed from God’s House. And while there, he viewed the altar and worshipped there. But he went further and sent plans to Uriah the priest to build one just like it in Jerusalem. And to tear out the altar of God and offer sacrifice to the gods of other lands. He gutted the House of the Lord of the altar and stopped the worship and sacrifice to the one true God so they could worship idols and false gods.
But he went further and “cut out the frames of the stands….and the covered way for the Sabbath….because of the king of Assyria”. Ahaz did all he could to remove anything that resembled the worship of God. He was not only caught up in the worship of false gods, he destroyed the temple so that there was no connection to the God of David. He was on a mission to not only change worship, but to run as fast and far from God as he could. The influence of the wrong people can truly cause us to make horrible mistakes in judgment and choices that lead us far from God. We must carefully choose who we will associate with, and even more carefully evaluate who we will follow.
2 Chronicles 28 has us learning about Ahaz who was king of Judah who “did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord”. Not only did he not do right, “he had made Judah act sinfully and had been very unfaithful to the Lord”. He was bad news and led the people away from the Lord. This is where leadership really shows poorly. King Ahaz was self absorbed and spent his time doing whatever he wanted and pushed his sinful ways onto his people. He worshipped idols and did all sorts of evil things.
God doesn’t take that stuff lightly. “Therefore the Lord his God gave him into the hand of the king of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus…..killed 120,000 from Judah in one day, all of them men of valor, because they had forsaken the Lord”. God just turned the enemy loose on them, and they wiped out 120K in one day. They also captured 200K more and led them to their homeland, but that’s when wiser minds interceded.
A prophet names Oded confronted the group and suggested it was a bad idea to bring these 200K in as slaves. They were still God’s people, even though they had been estranged and living against God for years under Ahaz’s leadership. It was still a bad decision to make them slaves, and after Oded made that clear, a handful of other wise leaders stood behind him and suggested they not proceed. Rather they took the spoils and cared for these people and as Oded suggested they “send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken”. It was a wise choice as it prevented the wrath of God from coming upon them.
Ahaz gets even crazier and decides to try and shut down anything to do with God completely. “He shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem”. He went from dumb to dumber and really provoked the anger of the Lord. How is it that we can be so blind to the reality of our ways? Ahaz did many stupid things, all of which did not end well, and yet he continued to do even more evil and get further onto the bad side of God. Oh how shortsighted we can be. God doesn’t change. His righteousness and holiness does not adjust to our desires. We need to walk in His way doing things that He directs. It doesn’t happen the other way around!
Micah 7 paints the picture that sure seems to resemble what we live with today. “The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net”. People focused on themselves, taking advantage of each other, totally consumed with self, and living without God. Does that seem familiar to you? It sure does to me. Some days it seems like there are no godly people left. There are none who walk humbly with God.
But there are, and we just need to seek them out. And we need to be that person ourself. Micah was. He said “as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me….when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me”. That is the sign of a true relationship with God – Micah is walking humbly with Him. He knows where the source of power is. He knows where to look for direction. He is tuned in to God and communicating with Him. They are in relationship – deep relationship and Micah gets his light from God.
It doesn’t mean that all is perfect. Why? Because of sin. Micah goes on to say: “I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me”. There is a price to pay for sin, even if we are walking with God. He can’t ignore it, but He has made provision for us. He has created a way to plead our case through the blood of Christ. We are covered in that blood as a Christ Follower and we will be able to deal with judgment as a result.
God wants us to be saved. Micah lets us know that when he says “who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love”. But God can’t pass over sin and set us free without some payment for that sin. He knew we couldn’t make it on our own, so He sent Christ to the cross to provide a way. That is where our pardon will come from. That is how our transgressions will be passed over and His anger will be set aside. Jesus is the way! Have you made that commitment? Today is the day!
Micah 6 has a couple key lessons for us. First Micah delivers God’s condemnation and reminds them that He has done great and amazing things for them, yet they forget. “For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery….that you may know the saving acts of the Lord”. God has acted on the people’s behalf. We can look back and see it clearly through the pages of scripture. And we wonder how they could be so stupid and forget all that God has done. Right?
But here is the truth. God is stall at work doing things just like this for us today. And all the people from the last pages of scripture until today. He has been active and making things happen since time began. Yet we forget. We act like nothing has happened. We act like we are responsible for all that He has done. We are no different. We forget, and get consumed with self. We fail to see God’s hand at work around us and we fall prey to the idea that it all revolves around us. Nothing truly does, it is all God’s, but we convince ourselves somehow that we are key to the world around us.
We totally miss the boat in how we should live. God needs to come first. We need to obey and walk with Him. Scripture gives us a plan in a sentence. Check it out: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”. It is obvious, or should be, that God has already told us what is required. He gave us the Book, the manual for life and living, and yet we fail to read it, study it, learn it, and live it. We mostly ignore it, and do what we want, and then wonder why things don’t go well.
Not only has God told us, but it is spelled out clearly. We are to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Three things that scripture tells us God requires of us. That is a pretty strong word, but it is accurate and true. These things are not optional. Obedience is not something we can choose if we like it and ignore it if we don’t. We have to live this way. We must walk in obedience, if we want to receive His blessing and not face His punishment. Bottom line is that it is about a personal relationship – Micah say “your God” – and we need to walk with Him in a personal relationship!
Micah 4 has a look at the future. Micah talks about God’s plan to redeem and restore His people. He tells us that we will go into the house of the Lord “that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths”. Isn’t that what we need to be doing today? We need to be in God’s presence as we have our personal quiet time each day seeking His ways and clarity around His path. And that should be our motivation for attending church too. Far too many of us want to sit in the pew and be told how awesome we are, when in fact we need to hear God’s truth which means we will need to take action and likely change.
Society has become focused on hearing soft messages and things about how good we are rather than being willing to listen to God’s correction and training in righteousness. God has already written the Book. He has given us the manual for how we are to live. So we don’t have an issue with having the information, although to know what it says we actually have to open the Bible to read and study it. No, the issue is that we don’t want to hear things that require us to change how we live. We want to ignore those things that convict us, and the best way to do that is to not hear them in the first place, or not read them so we might be changed.
But the fact is that God isn’t giving up on His mission of making us like Jesus. He isn’t going to ignore the rules He wrote in His Book. And the goal remains, that “we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever”. It’s about obedience my friend. And that is the measuring stick we will be compared to at judgment day. We can have every excuse ready under the sun, but when God asks us what we did with our sin and the grace of Christ, and then follows up with how we did in living our life in obedience to His direction, we better have answers.
If we do – if Christ has been made Lord of our life – we’ll enter heaven. And if we have been good stewards of what God has entrusted to us and lived a life pleasing to God – we’ll be rewarded. “You shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies”. God desires us to be set free from the burden of sin and rewarded for our walk with Him. That is why He sent Jesus, so that we could come into fellowship with Him and live a victorious life. But He also is not afraid to deal with those who don’t respond to Jesus. “But they do not know the thoughts of the Lord; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor”. The day is coming. Are you ready?
Isaiah 9 has prophecy of what is to come. It contains some of the most famous verses in all of scripture about the coming Messiah. God is delivering this truth through Isaiah at a time when his people were on the wrong tracks. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined”. They aren’t listening or paying attention. They aren’t focused at all on walking with God. And when we choose disobedience, we live without the light.
But in spite of how poorly we treat God and how self-centered we are, God still loves us. And He gave Isaiah a prophecy to remind us of that reality, even in the midst of a people who were ignoring His commandments and just doing their own thing. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”. God promises the coming of His Son Jesus, and Isaiah prophecies it here. Jesus is the answer to our sin problem.
Isaiah goes on to say “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore”. God is going to establish an eternal king. Talk about legacy, this establishes it. Jesus will be sitting on the throne for eternity. And His kingdom will grow and multiply and never end. It is a perfect kingdom and the crazy thing is that we will have the opportunity, with some conditions, to be part of it.
So how might that happen? By building a relationship with the Savior and then spending eternity with Him. It is about starting with an acknowledgement of who Jesus is, followed by an understanding of what He did. He came into this earth in human form to walk among people and then be falsely accused, punished, and crucified for sin other than His own. He went to the cross for your sin and for mine. He died carrying our burdens on His shoulders. But the rest of the story is that He overcame death and was resurrected. He came back to life and offers us that opportunity as well, to arise and spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We have to receive His gift and make it our own, but we can know our eternal destination for certain if we will only receive, believe and then live for Him. Are you ready to do that? The people in Isaiah’s time were not. They continued to live a rebellious life. They continued to be absorbed about self. “For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still”. And God continued with the punishment as they failed to repent and come to Him. Don’t make that mistake. Run to Him. Let Him set your legacy in stone!
Amos 6 has some strong words for the people. “Woe to those” is how he begins. That can’t be a good message. Yet it is one that we often need to hear. Unfortunately for many of us in the church today, the focus is not on woe but grace. We’ve moved away from the reality that God is a just and holy God and there will be punishment for our sin. We focus on the grace and mercy and love nature of God, and completely ignore the truth that he also is holy. But not Amos, he is front and center with the message that things are not going to slip through unnoticed.
What was going to cause woe? “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain….who lie in beds….eat lambs….sing idle songs….drink wine….annoint themselves with the finest oils”. Woe is coming because they are focused on self and being consumed with their own comfort. They fell prey to the lie of the enemy that they were the source of their own blessing. It is not the case. God is the giver of all good things. He alone is the source of goodness and we must never lose sight of that. The minute we start to believe that we do anything to bring it upon ourselves and dwell in the midst of self, we’re on a very slippery slope.
Amos calls them out about what they were focused on. They were at ease and enjoying themselves, but were “not grieved over the ruin of Joseph”. God’s desire is that we are overcome with our sin. Jacob’s sons were living it up while they put Joseph into a pit and then sold him into slavery. To top it off they lied to their father. Amos gives God’s word to this sin: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it”. God doesn’t ignore sin. He deals with it.
We tend to twist things to our own benefit. “You have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood”. We make excuses for our actions and convince ourselves that God will let it go. But He won’t. He can’t. And we will come face to face with Him some day having to answer the question of why we lived as we did and chose to disobey and sin. It won’t be a good conversation, and unless we have something beyond our own lame excuses, it will be short and decisive. Amos warns us of what lies ahead. Sin will be addressed. Are you ready for that conversation?
Amos 5 has some pretty strong words from the sheepherder turned prophet. The real message comes at the end of the chapter when he tells the people that God will “send you to exile”. This isn’t going to end well. But why? What is driving God’s punishment? Well it is pretty basic blocking and tackling stuff. In a word, it is disobedience. But let’s break it down. Amos tells God’s chosen people that they were “fallen, no more to rise…..forsaken on her land”. They have really messed up in their journey with the Lord. And there is punishment coming.
So what’s that look like? “The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left”. This is some serious downsizing that God is going to do. 90% of the people will be gone. It’s going to be only a remnant that remains. It is serious business, and the future does not look bright. God is serious about obedience. He doesn’t just close His eyes and look the other way. And when we choose to disobey, He will find a way to get our attention. And that may not be much fun.
Amos gives the simple solution to the issue. “Seek me and live….Seek the Lord and live…. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live….Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice”. This isn’t rocket science, same message, same God, same set of expectations throughout scripture. It comes down to obedience. We live in the midst of a war between good and evil. There is a constant battle going on between the two. That will never change until the Lord returns. So it comes down to choice on our part. Will we choose good and seek the Lord, or will we choose evil and endure the consequences? It really is that simple.
God knows that as humans, we’re going to mess up. “For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins”. He doesn’t get pleasure in that, or the punishment that must follow. But He knows our hearts and our tendency toward sin. So it boils down to the reality that He is a holy God, and His nature and character is one filled with righteousness and justice. He can’t ignore what we do. It will be dealt with. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. Justice is coming. It flows out of the nature of God. The question is – are you ready to face that? If not, it is time to get right. Jesus came to make it possible to have right standing with God. Are you ready?
2 Kings 15 has a long list of kings that reigned in Judah and Israel. The kings of Judah “did what was right” while the kings of Israel “did what was evil”. Those who believe leadership doesn’t matter only need to read the stories in Kings and Chronicles to see just how important that leadership really is. The impact of good leadership, or bad leadership, impacts not only the current people, but for generations. This chapter is filled with conspiracy and death as one king is killed and replaced by a power grabbing other.
The words that really continue to jump out that drive home the importance of how we lead are these. As it describes a long list of kings, it says “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord….he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam”. Jeroboam has been dead for some time. But the impact of his sin and the things he put upon the people are still causing impact on Israel generations later. They were living in a way that was not pleasing to God, but it was what they had been taught and it was engrained into society so they kept on. They didn’t realize just how much pain it was causing.
When we consider just how much God demands obedience, let’s look at Azaria, king of Judah. He began to reign at age sixteen for fifty-two years and “he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” according to scripture. But it wasn’t complete obedience. We learn that “the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places”. He was doing most things right, but not all. So “the Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house”.
Seems like a pretty big consequence to a guy who was doing what was right, well almost right. But here is the reality of obedience. Close doesn’t count when it comes to obedience. 99% is not enough. Most isn’t the standard. We either are obedient, or we aren’t. Azaria was close, he did most of what was expected, it was enough to be generalized as doing what was right. But he missed the mark. That is what sin is all about. Sin means we fall short of God’s requirement of perfect obedience. We all have this same sin problem that Azaria had. That’s why Jesus had to come. That’s why we need a Savior. Just like Azaria, we are going to come up short when we stand before God. We may not be struck with leprosy, but we do have an issue with sin. Have you dealt with yours?