2 Kings 17:1–18:12
It’s heartbreaking to realize, but Hoshea is the last ruler of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It’s during Hoseha’s reign that the Assyrians come to surround the city of Samaria, and after three years carry them away.
The Assyrians were a cruel people, they put hooks in the mouths of their captives and led them away to foreign lands like animals. They would maim their captives, gouge an eye, cut off an ear, or a limb and carry them away. They would decapitate the heads of the leaders of the land and heap up mounds at the city gates. They would even impale the leaders of the land to strike terror into the hearts of the people. God allowed His people to be conquered by the Assyrians in the ninth year of Hoshea’s reign.
The children of Israel had turned from the LORD their God, rejected His statutes and commands, and committed idolatry. They murdered their babies…and more.
2 Kings 17:17–18 (NKJV) “And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. 18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone.
The king of Assyria not only carried Israel away captive, he repopulated the land with foreigners who eventually came to be known as the Samaritans. The Samaritans eventually developed a religion that became a mixture of Judaism and paganism.
2 Kings 17:33 (NKJV) “They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.”
As a side-note, we will see later in the New Testament that the Jews despised the Samaritans; had no dealings with them (John 4:9). But Jesus reached out to the Samaritans. The Apostles eventually reached them with the Gospel (Acts 1:8; 8:4-14).
As our heart breaks over the captivity of Israel, we see a glimmer of hope in the southern kingdom of Judah. King Hezekiah rises to power and becomes one of Judah’s best king they ever have. We read of him in:
2 Kings 18:5–6 (NKJV) “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.”
Lord willing, we’ll read more about King Hezekiah next time, and see how his faith and love for the LORD gave him and his nation victory over Assyria.
After 3 years in Ephesus, the Lord leads Paul on to Greece where he would check on the churches, strengthen the saints, and receive an offering for the poor in Jerusalem. It’s a blessing to read of all these guys who were representing their cities and providing that accountability, ensuring that the funds did indeed go to the people they were intended to go to – and not some bureaucracy of brothers, or a choice chariot for Pastor Paul.
Paul was a follower of God – and that made him a leader.
Paul was a Philanthropist – and that made him a helper.
We get a glimpse into what it was like in the various cities as Paul preaches into the wee hours of the morning. It’s a bit understandable that the young man Eutychus fell asleep and fell out the window. It almost ended in tragedy, but thankfully Paul was there, who mimicked the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, he fell on the young man, embraced him, and brought him back to life.
Paul was a “Physician” – and that made him a healer.
Of course we know that God was the one with the healing power – Paul was merely a vessel, but what a blessing to know that the Lord used him to bring healing throughout his ministry – body, soul, and spirit.
Paul has set his heart to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost, he therefore has to hurry past Ephesus, so he calls the elders of the church to meet him at Miletus, and in the process gives us the greatest pastor’s conference ever (Acts 20:17-38).
Paul had been an example to them, by humbly serving the Lord and His people. Ministry is not easy, so there were many tears and trials, but it didn’t stop Paul from preaching and teaching God’s Word. His hands were clean from the blood of all men, for he had not shunned to declare to them the full counsel of God. The past had been tough, and the future was going to be even tougher, but it didn’t stop him or even slow him down, he was bound in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem and finish his race.
Paul was fearless – and that made him a finisher.
Paul looks to his past, he looks to his future, but he also considers the future of the church…the elders needed to be ready. In Acts 20:28 we have the ministry of heeding, leading, and feeding the church, for which Jesus died, bleeding there on Calvary, purchasing His bride with His own blood. Wolves would come in and wolves would rise up – Paul had warned them night and day with tears.
Sandy Adams said this, “False prophets will come from two directions – from within and without. Make sure the flock is well grazed and well-guarded.”
Paul commended them to the Word, which is the scepter by which King Jesus leads His church; Paul had provided them with a genuine example – to be givers, and not takers.
What a beautiful relationship they had with each other, for we read in:
Acts 20:37-38 (NKJV) “Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.”
Warren Wiersbe wrote, “One day, life will end, and we will have to give our farewell speech. Can we look back without regret and look ahead without fear?”
It seems as if all creations praises God, with the exception of that portion of creation made in His image.
The stars, the angels the sea and its creatures all yield to His word.
The elements of nature, the fire and hail, snow and clouds, the wind…all fulfill His Word.
The mountains and trees, beasts and domestic animals, creeping things and flying fowl all bow before Him.
If all creation praises and obeys…shouldn’t we? Kings, princes, judges, and all people – young and old – you and me, let’s be sure to praise the Lord!
As Christians we are graced to be able to be so near and dear to Him (Psalm 148:14) – what a wonderful and awesome God He is, may we praise Him today!
V. 6 – How many physical fights have started with words someone should have never said?
I like the way the NLT says it, Proverbs 18:6, “Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating.”
It gets even worse in the next verse – beyond the realm of the physical – and into the spiritual…even to the eternal.
V. 7 – This is not as light as one might think – this is destruction to the point that one’s soul is snared!
James 3:6 (NKJV) “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”
This is probably pointing to overall madness with our mouths, dirty talk from dirty hearts, the noise, the chaos, the full-on foolishness. We can speak snares for our souls. I’m reminded of:
Mark 5:17 (NKJV) “Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.”
Words that they’d regret for all eternity!
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.