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The Good and The Bad

MORNING MESSAGE: John Cline

Scriptures: Acts 2:17-31; 2 Kings 14 

Reader: Ceres Guerrero

Are you tired yet of hearing me preach through the history of the kings and queens of Israel and Judah and coming to the realization that there were 0/19 “good” kings in Israel and only 8/19 in Judah? Disappointment in this section of OT history is understandable but don’t fret, summer is coming, and I will soon be done! One positive realization that I hope you have arrived at is the important role of the prophets. They were God’s spokespeople. Not the kings, but the prophets. Starting today, I will be mixing in the writings from the books of the OT prophets to show their historical connection and their chronological setting in the lives of the kings.

Judah’s King Joash, after the death of his mentor, the priest, Uncle Jehoiada had certain court officials who sensed their opportunity to fill the void of influence caused by Jehoiada’s death. Seizing the opportunity to turn the nation, those court officials convinced Joash to re-establish idolatry as the state religion and to turn away from YHWH God. In response, YHWH sent prophets to ask King Joash what good idolatry had done for him or his nation. While Joash and his friends felt so modern and edgy by having turned to those idols/false gods, YHWH’s prophets pointed out the problem with their doing so. It was this: in His love and respect for them, God would honour their wish to have Him out of their lives but that meant they would no longer have God’s protective hand of covering over them. Because of their turning away from YHWH and worshipping idols/false gods, misery, militarily defeats, and financially poverty had all come to Judah. The prophets warned Joash that if they continued in that vein, and did not repent or return to God, the consequence would be that Judah would bring about its own destruction and its people taken away into foreign captivity.

One of those prophets who spoke God’s word to the kings and people was Joel, whose book of prophecies is found in the OT. Now, the prophecies in Joel’s book are put down in a 4-part sequential, chronological order to them. First, Joel brings a warning about a coming “Day of the Lord”. When the Babylonian army then came and destroyed Judah and its capital Jerusalem, that action was a fulfillment of that first section of prophecies. But, in his second set of prophecies, Joel switches to a softer, more hopeful message by telling the people that after the destructive “Day of the Lord”…

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12)

If the people would repent, and historians have stated they did (and, you have heard me stated many times) with the proof being that during their time in Babylonian captivity, the Jews forever after did away with their sin of worshipping idols/false. If they repented, God promised,

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25)

The Jews were restored to their land and repaid by God for their faithfulness. Thus, the second part of his prophetic book ends in hope. Momentarily moving now beyond the third part of his book, I will mention that Joel’s fourth set of prophecies concern events at the time of the end of the world but the third section of his prophecies concerned God sending His Spirit upon all peoples. “Afterward”, Joel says, in other words, “after” the turning of the people back to God and the restoring of the people to their land, God would send His Spirit upon everyone. The fulfillment of that third set of prophecies happened at the time of Jesus, just after the completion of his ministry on earth and his ascension to heaven. Jesus told his followers that once they had seen him ascend from earth to the heaven above – a thing they did see happening – that they were to go into Jerusalem and wait for the gift God was about to give them, the Holy Spirit on all people, a gift that Joel had prophesied. The disciples obeyed and…

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?…We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-8,11b,12)

The apostle Peter explained that what the people were seeing and experiencing was a fulfillment of that eagerly anticipated prophecy God had given through the prophet Joel, who had written:

“’In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:17-33)

When the people heard Peter’s explanation and realized that it was a fulfillment of Joel’s long hoped-for prophecy, 3,000 of them “accepted his message and were baptized.” Thus, the tie-in of Pentecost Sunday and the birth of the church with the prophet Joel was clearly made.

Scholars believe Joel gave the prophecy in a time in which there was no king in Judah, which fits in during the six years that Athaliah was an illegitimate, usurper queen in Judah, followed by Joash at age seven being crowned king but it being a kind of co-regent kingship in that he was guided and controlled by his mentor, his priestly Uncle Jehoiada. That would have been about a 20–25-year period and that explains why Joel, alone of all the prophetical books, does not nail down a specific time for him writing down his prophecies, a thing done by the other prophets who identified which king was in power at the time of their prophecy.

After Jehoiada the priest died, Joash’s mind was turned by a group of court officials who had not liked Jehoiada’s stranglehold on Joash’s thinking nor his devotion to YHWH God and the Temple. Those court officials persuaded Joash to modernize, and scrap Jehoiada’s stuffy, old beliefs. So, Joash forsook YHWH God and reinstated the worship of idols/false gods in his nation. God sent His prophets to warn Joash to stop and repent, but they had no success. Finally, God sent to Joash one last prophet, his cousin Zechariah, the son of his Uncle Jehoiada, but Joash became so angry with what his cousin had to say that he had him put to death. Joash’s murder of Zechariah would have repercussions, though, as it led to certain officials getting revenge for all the misery that had come upon their nation, and they killed Joash.

Zechariah’s death, by the way, would find its way to the pages of the NT, when in Matthew 23:25, Jesus warned that just as the righteous Zechariah’s death came back on the head of his murderer, so those religious leaders in his time who were trying to put him to death would likewise experience negative repercussions by having his death turned back upon their heads. That prophetic word by Jesus was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Roman army levelled the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, thus wiping out the only place where the Jewish sacrificial system could be performed, making irrelevant the religious leaders who oversaw it by ending forever Judaism’s sacrificial system. That sacrificial system and the roles of those priests will never return because Jesus’ sacrificial death is sufficient forever, claims the NT, and the Temple will never be rebuilt, a Third Temple no matter what some romantic, hopeful, and ill-advised people may claim because we Christians, again according to the NT, are now God’s dwelling place on earth, His Temple.

Thus, we can be assured that the blood-thirsty ways of those opposed to God’s agenda, though they may succeed at first, will never go without negative consequences long term. Not surprisingly, therefore, Joash’s murdering of the righteous prophet Zechariah, and then Joash’s officials subsequent and retaliatory murdering of him would not be the end of things, as we will see next when we read about the new king of Judah, Amaziah.

In the second year of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel, Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. After the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, he executed the officials who had murdered his father the king. (2nd Kings 14:1-5)

Joash’s son, Amaziah, though considered to be one of Judah’s 8 “good” kings, was not fully righteous as is seen in: 1., his allowing of the “high places” of idolatry to remain, and 2., his executing (a word implying torture and murder) the court “officials” who had murdered his father, King Joash.

Yet he did not put the children of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where the Lord commanded: “Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.” (2nd Kings 14:6)

So, give credit where credit is due. But, then Amaziah went to war against Edom, a nation south of Judah and the Dead Sea, as we read,

He was the one who defeated ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt and captured Sela in battle, calling it Joktheel, the name it has to this day. (2nd Kings 14:7)

Puffed up by pride over his having defeated the Edomites, Amaziah then decided he was pretty much invincible and so he challenged King Jehoash of Israel to a war, even though Israel with its much larger population and army, was much stronger than Judah. Jehoash mocked him.

Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, with the challenge: “Come, let us face each other in battle.” But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” (2nd Kings 14:8-10)

“Whoa, stand down, Amaziah. Enjoy your victory over Edom but don’t be a fool by trying to pick a fight with us”, was Jehoash’s response.

Amaziah, however, would not listen, so Jehoash king of Israel attacked. He and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth Shemesh in Judah. Judah was routed by Israel, and every man fled to his home. Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate—a section about four hundred cubits long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria. (2nd Kings 14:11-14)

Amaziah’s nation of Judah defeated, the precious gold, silver, and treasures of his palace and the Temple taken, and many of his people kidnapped to Israel, Amaziah shrugged his shoulders and carried on, unrepentant.

Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah lived for fifteen years after the death of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel. As for the other events of Amaziah’s reign, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? (2nd Kings 14:17,18)

Oh, the Bible does add more detail about Amaziah’s life. The people, their military leaders, and court officials had had enough of him, so…

They conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish, but they sent men after him to Lachish and killed him there. He was brought back by horse and was buried in Jerusalem with his ancestors, in the City of David. Then all the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in place of his father Amaziah. (2nd Kings 14:19-21)

Azariah, better known as Uzziah, we will study next week, along with his contemporary in Israel, King Jeroboam II. But from today’s passages, are there any lessons we can learn? I count at least 3:

1.The prophets were God’s spokespeople during the time of the kings and queens of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The importance of God’s prophets in the story of Judah and Israel cannot be overstated. God, in His mercy and love, continually reached out through them to His people to return to Him and be blessed.

2.The events of Pentecost Sunday started at the time of the kings with Joel’s prophecy of God sending His Spirit upon all.

Joel would have been amazed at this word of God through him, for in his time, God spoke only through His prophets. Thus, a time when God would dwell in and speak through everyone was an astounding word.

3.The human tendency towards vengeance and violence will always result in bad things coming back upon oneself.

As worshippers of YHWH – and followers of Jesus – we must embrace Him and commit to being in a full and close relationship with Him and not be led astray by those who scoff at God or His word and try to lead us down a rabbit trail that ends up in modern-day idolatry and false worship and service of Him. When we do that, God will be pleased to dwell with us, His Spirit will fill us and flow from us, and we will experience God’s richest blessings in our lives. That doesn’t mean everything in life will be easy, but God’s presence with us will still make living worthwhile and blessed.s

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