Three Kings Of Judah

The rulers of Judah after Jehoshaphat were as thoroughly flawed as the rulers of Israel, until the time of Uzziah (or Azariah), who reigned in Jerusalem for five decades (15).  Like Solomon before him, Uzziah accomplished many wonderful things during the early years of his reign.  God made him prosper because he continually sought to honor God as his king.

But later, again like Solomon before him, Uzziah began to assume credit for his accomplishments, rather than giving credit to God.  For abuses of Temple worship, God sternly disciplined Uzziah.

Uzziah was succeeded as king of Judah by his son, Jotham.  During his 16-year reign, Jotham continued many good things initiated by his father.

But Jotham would not enter the Temple, perhaps fearing that he, too, might be disciplined by God as his father had been.  This lack of leadership was interpreted by his subjects as permission to live corruptly rather than to seek God’s holiness.

Hezekiah was the next God-fearing king of Judah.  In the first years of his reign, Hezekiah cleansed the Temple of God in Jerusalem; then he restored the Levitical priesthood & the worship of God — including the keeping of Passover, to remember how God had delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt during the time of Moses.

Subsequently, Hezekiah trusted God for victory over Assyrian invaders of Judah.  But ultimately, in an all-too-familiar pattern, Hezekiah began to assume credit for God’s mighty acts, so that God eventually withdrew his favor from the king.

Sustaining God, please help me to love being sustained by You alone.

(15) 2 Kings 8-20, 2 Chronicles 21-32

 

Prophets Before The Fall Of Israel

God repeatedly sent prophets to call Israel to return to him (14).  Jonah was an Israelite prophet who is best known for his reluctant ministry in the Assyrian city of Nineveh.

Jonah inspired many Ninevites to cast off the worship of pagan gods & turn to the worship of the God of Israel!  Jonah was also used by God to direct Jeroboam to restore Israel’s borders.

About the same time, a shepherd from Judah named Amos was used by God to call the people of Israel to return to him.  Amos proclaimed that all nations who rebelled against God would suffer consequences, even Judah!  His popularity declined, however, when he said Israel would also be punished for its sins.

Hosea was directed by God to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him!

God used Hosea’s pain in this relationship to illustrate how Israel’s lack of faith was breaking God’s own heart.  But God’s direction for Hosea to take back his unfaithful wife indicates that God will ultimately show mercy toward Israel.

Joel was used by God to call all his chosen people to return to worshiping him, especially in the temple of Jerusalem.  God promised he would forgive their sinful rebellions & fill them with his Holy Spirit, if they would repent & return.

God also used Micah to plead with his people in Samaria & Jerusalem to return to him.  Micah reminded them that God expects justice, kindness & humility to be the defining characteristics of his people.

Through Micah, God promised to send a shepherd to keep the people of Israel & Judah in God’s care – a good shepherd we know as Jesus.

Holy God, please help me to love walking humbly with You.

(14) Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Joel, Micah

Conquest Of Israel By Assyria

God had directed Elisha to anoint Jehu as king of Israel (13). On his way to the throne, Jehu slaughtered all descendants of the former king Ahab; executed Ahab’s former queen Jezebel; assassinated the two kings who reigned after Ahab; and executed all remaining prophets of the pagan god Baal, whom Ahab had served.

But when Jehu subsequently turned away from God, God turned away from him.

In time, a second Jeroboam became king of Israel & ruled forcefully for four decades, but he, too, did nothing to lead God’s chosen people back to God.

Subsequent kings of Israel also continued to rebel against God, and the people of Israel persistently chose to worship the false gods of the very people God had expelled from the Promised Land!

Finally, after 200 hundred years, God allowed Israel to be invaded & defeated by the armies of Assyria, an empire then located at the junction of modern Syria, Iraq & Turkey.

Many Israelites were taken captive & resettled in Assyria, and many Assyrians were resettled in Israel, mainly in the region known as Samaria — eventually resulting in the mingling of bloodlines of Hebrews & Assyrians there.

Throughout the 200-year history of the northern kingdom of Israel, God had not ignored the spiritual darkness into which his chosen people had strayed.  Indeed, God had repeatedly sent prophets to call the Israelites back to him.

Patient God, please help me to love You as sovereign Lord of my life.

(13) 2 Kings 8-17

From Elijah To Elisha

God had directed Elijah to anoint Elisha as his new prophet in Israel (12).  In order to perform his office faithfully, Elisha asked for a double portion of the blessing that God had given Elijah.  As Elisha saw Elijah being taken to heaven on chariots of fire, he knew his request was granted by God.

Elisha was subsequently used by God in the working of many miracles in Israel, demonstrating God’s power to accomplish any & all things:

  • The poisonous waters of a well were cleansed.
  • A great military victory over Moabite invaders was achieved.
  • A poor woman’s debts were paid with oil from a jar that never ran out.
  • Though her husband was old, a Shunammite woman gave birth to a son.
  • When the Shunammite woman’s son had died, his life was restored
  • During a famine, a pot of poisonous stew was cleansed.
  • During the same famine, a small amount of bread fed 100 men.
  • The leprosy of a Syrian military commander was cleansed.

  • For his greed & deceit, Elisha’s servant was inflicted with leprosy.
  • An axe head that had fallen into the water floated to the surface.
  • A servant was allowed to see an army of angels protecting Israel.

  • An army of Syrian invaders was struck blind, averting Israel’s defeat.

By such signs, God repeatedly sought to renew the faith of the people of Israel, but they repeatedly chose to persist in their sinful rebellions against God.

Powerful God, please help me to love depending on Your power.

(12) 2 Kings 1-7

Northern Kingdom Of Israel

Jeroboam was chosen by God to serve as king of Israel (11).  In return for his faithful devotion, God promised to bless the new king & his people.  But Jeroboam refused to let his people worship God in the temple at Jerusalem, for fear of their defection to Judah.  Instead Jeroboam built two new temples in Israel, and required his people to worship golden calves in those temples.

Prophets sent from God warned the king of God’s anger at his rebellion, to no avail.  All succeeding kings of Israel continued these sinful ways, rebelling against God at every turn.  But when another pagan, Ahab, eventually succeeded to the throne of Israel, God intervened in a new & powerful way.

God’s prophet Elijah was inspired to challenge the 450 prophets of the pagan god Baal (to whom Ahab was devoted).  Ahab’s prophets would call on Baal to send fire from heaven to burn their sacrificial offering of worship; Elijah would call on God to send fire from heaven to burn his sacrificial offering of worship.

When Baal failed & God’s power was demonstrated before all Israel, the people could worship God again.  This infuriated Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, who vowed to kill Elijah.  As Elijah fled for his life, God protected him & spoke to him in a still, small voice, rebuking his fear & renewing his faith.

Now Ahab’s downfall had begun.  In a subsequent military campaign against Syria, Ahab was killed, having been judged by God.  Not long afterwards, God meted out a similar punishment to his wicked queen, Jezebel.

Ever-speaking God, please help me to love listening to You in silence.

(11) 1 Kings 12-22

Southern Kingdom Of Judah

Because his chosen people continued drifting away from him, God determined to discipline them (10).  King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son & successor, foolishly tried to take by force the people’s loyalty that his father had won by wisdom.  God used this conflict between king & people to allow the division of Israel into two separate kingdoms: Judah in the south & Israel in the north.

Subsequently, God allowed Judah to be invaded & plundered by Egypt.  Rehoboam’s son & successor, Abijah or Abijam, followed the foolishness of his father.

But the next king of Judah, Asa, was a godly man.  After obtaining from God a great victory over Ethiopian invaders, Asa began reversing some of the spiritual decline over which his immediate predecessors had presided.  Priests of false gods were banished, and idols of false gods were destroyed.

By the word of a prophet, Azariah, God encouraged Asa to pick up the pace of spiritual renewal, and Asa did so.  However, when facing the threat of a subsequent military invasion, Asa sought help from Syria rather than from God—thereby ending his usefulness to God.

Judah continued to draw closer to God & to prosper during the reign of Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, another godly man.  More military victories were won, trust in God was restored & pagan practices were ended.  But Jehoshaphat was eventually enticed into an unwise military alliance with the kingdom of Israel.  After being rebuked for this by God’s messenger, Jehoshaphat led his people in humbling themselves before God & renewing their devotion to him.

Eternal God, please help me to love Your rebukes & Your renewal.

(10) 2 Chronicles 10-20

King Solomon

The 40-year reign of Solomon as king of all Israel is presented in 5 Bible books (9).  The first two chapters of 1 Kings describe Solomon’s anointing as king and David’s instructions to his son & successor to the throne; thereafter the accounts of Solomon’s reign in the books of 1 Kings & 2 Chronicles are parallel.

Solomon’s initial humility before God is reflected in his request for godly wisdom in serving as Israel’s king; in appreciation, God promised the young king not only wisdom but also riches & honor.

Solomon built a great Temple in Jerusalem for the worship of God, and there the Ark of the Covenant with Moses was installed. Solomon prayed that God would always hear the prayers of his people from the Temple. In response, God promised to hear the prayers of all those who faithfully turned from sin & served God alone.

Solomon wrote many Proverbs, encouraging God’s people to purse godly wisdom instead of worldly folly.  Solomon also wrote a Song praising the passionate love shared by a man & a woman, which many have seen as imaging the passionate love God desires with his people.

Later in life, Solomon began experimenting with various forms of worldly happiness, as described in Ecclesiastes; Solomon wisely concluded that true happiness is found only in serving God.

Nevertheless, the king gradually lost his focus on God and became more infatuated with worldly wealth than with godly wisdom – an infatuation passed on to his son & successor.

God of Wisdom, please help me to love Your wisdom before my own.

(9) 1 Kings 1-11, 2 Chronicles 1-9, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon