2 Kings 14:23-15:38
Jeroboam II became king of Israel and he was just as evil as the first Jeroboam (2 Kings 14:24).
However, God had promised not to blot out Israel from under heaven. He saw how bitterly everyone in Israel was suffering and that there was no-one but Him to help. He supported Jeroboam II to restore the boundaries of the country (2 Kings 14:26-27). Jesus, the son of God, died for us all while we were still sinners. God loves us no matter how enmeshed in sin we are.
Azariah, son of Amaziah, became king of Judah and ‘did what was right in the eye of the Lord’ (2 Kings 15:3). However, he was afflicted by leprosy until the day he died and lived in a separate house. Jotham, his son, was in charge of the palace. Jotham governed the people and succeeded him.
Zechariah succeeded Jeroboam II as king of Israel. He carried on with Israel’s evil ways. He was publicly assassinated by Shallum, who then succeeded him as king. Shallum only lasted one month before being assassinated by Menahem, who also brutally attacked the city of Tiphsah.
Menahem was yet another evil king of Israel. The country was invaded by the Assyrians and Menahem gave Pul, King of Assyria, one thousand talents of silver that Menahem had extracted as a tax from wealthy Israelites. The Assyrians then withdrew from Israel.
Pekaniah, Menahem’s son, followed the standard template: he ruled briefly in an evil manner and was assassinated.
Pekah, Pekaniah’s assassin, reigned for twenty years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. During Pekah’s reign, the new king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, invaded a large area of Israel and deported the inhabitants to Assyria. Pekah was then assassinated by Hoshea.
Meanwhile in Judah, Jotham son of Uzziah began a sixteen-year reign. He followed the Lord (apart from not removing the high places). He rebuilt the Upper Gate of the Temple of the Lord. God started to send both the king of Aram and Pekah, the king of Israel, against Judah.
These kings showed a distinct pattern of behaviour. Israel’s kings were consistently evil in the tradition of Jeroboam I. However, God refused to let his chosen country be overthrown completely even though he allowed the Assyrian empire to harass them. The Israelites at first paid the Assyrians a fortune to leave them alone but eventually they lost territory and people to them.
The kings of Judah followed the Lord – but never manage to eliminate worship at the high places, allowing evil idolatry to cling on in their country. God did not give Judah rest and allowed neighbouring countries to harass them. Neither Judah or Israel were enjoying a settled or peaceful time.
King Agrippa and his sister, Bernice, along with other leaders came to hear Paul’s testimony. Festus admitted that Paul had done nothing deserving of death. Festus would send him to Rome for a trial but didn’t know what charges he should document in an accompanying letter to the emperor.
Paul started his defence by praising King Agrippa (Acts 26:2-3). Paul explained that he was a Pharisee and that the only reason he was on trial was that he had ‘hope in what God has promised our fathers’ (Acts 26:6).
Paul admitted that he used to persecute Christians, imprisoning them and voting for them to die. He had tried to force them to blaspheme and was so obsessed with persecuting them, that he had even travelled to foreign cities to capture them.
He told the audience about his road to Damascus encounter with Jesus. Paul had been ‘kicking against the goads’ i.e. making his life much harder than it needed to be when he had fought Jesus (Acts 26:14). He shouldn’t resist Christianity; he should become a Christian and go with the changing tide.
Paul was appointed as a ‘servant and as a witness’ (Acts 26:16) and sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes. He preached and wrote his inspired letters to turn us from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Jesus’ death allows us to receive forgiveness for our sins and a place among those sanctified by faith in him (Acts 26:18).
Paul preached that we should repent, turn to God and ‘prove our repentance by our deeds’ (Acts 26:20).
Paul confidently stated that he was saying nothing beyond what Moses and the prophets had predicted. Christ would suffer, be the first to rise from the dead and proclaim light to both the Jews and the Gentiles (Acts 26:23).
This was an amazing speech because it came from the Holy Spirit. Paul delivered it as the mouthpiece of God. We should never worry about what to say when we are brought before governors and kings. The Spirit of our Father will speak through us (Matt.10:19-20).
Today, we have the timeless advice that pride comes before a fall (Prov.16:18).
It is a blessing to mix with the oppressed. It would be an empty life just sharing plunder with the proud.
We will prosper if we are humble enough to heed instruction and gain priceless understanding.
We should pray to the Holy Spirit for the gifts of wisdom and discernment.
Pleasant words promote teaching and are ‘sweet to the soul and healing to the bones’ (Prov.16:24).
The speech from an evil scoundrel is like scorching fire. If we follow what seems right to man, rather than to God, it will lead us to death.
I am blessed because I trust in the Lord (Prov.16:20).