2 Kings 25 has the end of this book about the kings and the consequences of disobedience and provocations against God. We’ve seen a long string of kings who were evil and did things that put God at odds with the people in both Israel and Judah. The punishment of that disobedience continues in this chapter as Nebuchadnezzar lays siege to Jerusalem during the reign of King Zedekiah. It went on for a couple years and “the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land”.
Finally, the breach was made in the city, and Zedekiah is captured. “They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon”. He was king of God’s chosen people, and yet like many before him, suffered a cruel death because of his choices – that of being disobedient to God and His commandments. And those choices by this king and many before him, caused the people to go astray and God’s punishment was spread throughout the land on all.
In this case, King Nebuchadnezzar, sends in Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard to clean up and finish the destruction. “He burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down….broke down the walls around Jerusalem….the rest of the people who were left in the city….carried into exile”. God’s chosen people are destroyed and looted once again, all because of the evil leadership of the kings and the following of that evil by the people. The end result: “Judah was taken into exile out of its land”. They are prisoners in another land.
There is one rather strange turn that happens as this book ends. “In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah….Evil-merodach king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s son who just took the throne) ….graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison….he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon”. So dad has Jehoiachin locked up for decades and now his son not only frees him but makes him part of the kings table. This ties into the last four verses in Jeremiah 52 where we are told the same story with a few more details.
2 Kings 24 now has us a couple kings from Josiah, one who had followed the Lord to the best of his knowledge, to Jehoiakim who becomes Nebuchadnezzar’s servant for three years. The Babylonians had taken over Judah but soon Jehoiakim decides he doesn’t like to be a servant to that king so “he turned and rebelled against him”. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it wasn’t. Judah was still at odds with the Lord because of their present leadership, and what Manasseh had done some decades earlier when he led the people as far from God as possible.
So “the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets”. God has had enough, and was on a mission “to remove them out of His sight….according to all that he (Mannaseh) had done”. Jehoiachin takes the throne from his father Jehoiakim as the long line of very bad kings continues.
Jehoiachin carries on and “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. He’s just experienced captivity and attack from four nations and yet he can’t connect the dots that how they are living is the problem. Nebuchadnezzar came and sieged the city and takes Jehoiachin and “his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials” as prisoners. He also came in and took all the treasures form the king’s house as well as anything of value from the temple of the Lord. He ransacked the place.
“He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land”. There wasn’t much left in the kingdom of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar puts another guy on the throne, whom he names Zedekiah, to manage his conquered land. It was “because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence”. Yet still, these kings and leaders don’t get it, that their circumstances are because of their sin and evil ways.
2 Kings 23 continues in its description of Josiah as king of Judah. He was very focused on walking with God once the Word was discovered in God’s house. He called all the people together and “He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord”. Josiah was passionate about knowing God’s truth and making sure all the people in his care knew it as well. They had gone for decades without hearing it, and he is changing that in Judah.
But he goes well beyond just reading and knowing God’s word. He wants it to change his life and his country. He “made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul”. Josiah was all in for God. And he was going to lead his people to be that way too. He systematically went through the nation and destroyed other gods, other worship, other idols and anything that was not lined up with God’s Word. He broke things, burned things, and killed priests and people who were leading the people away from God.
Scripture describes his passion for God this way. “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him”. That is some pretty high praise. Josiah was consumed with returning the people to obedience to God. And yet, in spite of all those efforts, “Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him”. The sins of the past were too great to be overcome by Josiah’s obedience. God had some work to do.
Josiah was a great king, but his life was ended when “Pharaoh Neco killed him at Megiddo”. He had lived wholeheartedly for God. But now, as his son Jehoahaz takes the throne, and shortly thereafter his son Joehoiakim follows, we see that both of these sons, from two different mothers, “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. How can that happen? They grew up watching their dad King Josiah totally consumed by his desire to please God. But obviously he didn’t intentionally pass that passion on to his kids. They go 180 degrees the opposite way and return Judah to a nation without God.
2 Kings 22 has Josiah coming to the throne in Judah at age 8. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left”. The boy obviously had some good mentors and parental instruction as he follows God carefully. But that was based on what he knew. Ten years after taking the throne, he instructs one of his main men to go to the Lord’s house and on some business and while there Shaphan is given the Book of the Law.
Hilkiah the high priest says “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord”. It’s been lost for many years and Josiah had never heard the words it contained. Shaphan read it before the king and “when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes”. Josiah had been doing what he knew to follow God, but he had never read God’s Word and knew he was missing the mark. So he wants to seek God to find out what his status as leader was, as well as the fate of his kingdom.
So Josiah tells his leadership team to “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us”. No sense guessing what their status is. Josiah wisely wants to hear directly from God. And the answer not good. God says “I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants”.
God goes on to tell Josiah why. “Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore my wrath will be kindled against this place, and it will not be quenched”. God is a jealous God, and consistently pours out anger when his people lose their way and worship other Gods. Josiah is given a little consolation because of his attempt to walk with God. “I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place”. Obedience matters, but it needs to be based on God’s Word and His way not what we think it should be.
2 Kings 21 has the new king on the throne. Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. Remember that he was following Hezekiah who did what was right in the sight of the Lord. Manasseh turned the other way as “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”. It amazes me how short people’s memories are. They had just experienced some great years under Hezekiah and now the very next king – his very own father – is completely ignored and the new king, a twelve year old son, goes 180 degrees the other way.
We need to remember that Hezekiah did make a mistake toward the end of his reign that explains this turn of events. Remember that he had basically given away the information about the financial well being of his country, and the Babylonians were going to take it away. That led to God’s frustration and anger with him. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Manasseh would go astray. And he did – “he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah”.
So what did God do? “He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger”. God is not happy. He had given direction to His people many generations before, to David and to Solomon his son. But “they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel”. The power of leader to influence people to do good or evil is amazingly strong. Leaders must be careful to walk carefully with the Lord.
God says “I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle”. God is going to hold them accountable. He says “I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab….I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down”. God has a requirement, and He measures people against it. If we don’t measure up, we’ll fall short of His measurement and without a Savior, we’ll fail the test and not be able to spend eternity with Him. God has a plumb line for our lives just like He did for the people of Judah.
2 Kings 20 has Hezekiah king of Judah sick and on the edge of death. Isaiah the prophet “came to him and said….Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” While Hezekiah wanted to know what his future held, that isn’t the answer any of us would want to hear. So he does what has been his action every time he faced something that was difficult and out of his control. We can learn much from this king who did what was right in God’s eyes. Going to God is the only response we should have too in light of every situation.
“Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying….please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight”. Hezekiah doesn’t just ask God to heal him. He reminds God of how they hwave walked together and the depth of the relationship they have. Hezekiah talks about his faithfulness to God – a complete and wholehearted walk that has led to God’s being pleased. The foundation of his request for healing was their relationship, not simply that he wanted to live longer.
So as Isaiah was walking away from the palace after delivering the message of Hezekiah’s coming death, God hears Hezekiah’s prayer and turns Isaiah around to give Hezekiah the new reality. “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you….I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city….I will defend this city.” What started as a simple request to extend Hezekiah’s life has resulted in a promise of much more from the God he served. That’s just like God – full of mercy and grace and abundance for those who walk with Him. Hezekiah asks for proof that what Isaiah has said will happen.
First is the manner of healing God uses. “Isaiah says….Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover:” God chooses a very specific way to remove the disease from Hezekiah. But God goes much further. He causes the sun to go backward in the sky – “let the shadow go back ten steps”. This was a reference to the sundial that was used to keep time for the city. By making the shadow of the sundial move backward, it gave more time in a day – just as God gave Hezekiah more time. It’s just like God to do miraculous things to assure his people, even at the individual level.
God’s assurance was just the miracle Hezekiah needed to prove to everyone that he was indeed walking with God. He does some boneheaded things like showing some spies from Babylon where his wealth was hidden which leads to their capture of the kingdom in the future, but overall he walks in obedience. Hezekiah was granted 15 more years and did some amazing things during his life including making “the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city”. He served God and his people well. God hears our prayers when we walk with Him. And He is more than able to respond to those requests. It doesn’t mean He’ll always answer our way, but He definitely will hear us when we come to Him as faithful servants that chose to walk in obedience!
2 Kings 19 has Hezekiah responding to the news from his leadership team that the King of Assyria was threatening to destroy Judah. So what does Hezekiah do? What each of us should do when faced with overwhelming situations. Actually what each of us should do all the time. He went to God. “As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the Lord”. He didn’t hesitate or wait and see what he could figure out. He got the news and went to the Lord asap.
But he did more. He also sent his leadership team to the prophet Isaiah. He went to God’s main man on earth as well as directly to God in heaven. And he describes it as a day of:
Isaiah is up against some tough stuff and the day was not going well at all.
But for God, none of this was a surprise nor a challenge He could not overcome. God gives his word saying “I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land”. God’s got this. But he doesn’t act immediately, and the enemy sends letters to other kings telling them what is going to happen. This is as much a war of words and trying to make God look bad as it was a battle of men fighting in war.
So Hezekiah shows his true stripes again and “went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord….prayed before the Lord….save us, please”. There’s a prayer most of us have said a few times. God, we’re in trouble, please save us. But it wasn’t out of character for Hezekiah. He had gone to God much earlier to seek His protection and help, so as the war of words continues and the reality of a real battle of men was approaching, Hezekiah returns to the God he knows will save him.
Was Hezekiah right to trust God. Check out what happens. God says “I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David”. God is taking this personally and there isn’t going to be any destruction of Judah at this time. And without picking up as much as one sword by Hezekiah and his army, “the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians”. This they got the message that it’s not safe to mess with the God of Judah? The King of Assyria goes home and “as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down”. The prophecy comes true and God has stood by His people yet again.