Hezekiah, King of Judah, threatened by Assyria / Paul shipwrecked. July 9th 2021

2 Kings 18:1-19:13

The Northern Kingdom (Israel) had been exiled to Assyria due to their unrepentant, evil ways. ‘They neither listened to the commands (of God) nor carried them out‘ (2 Kings 18:12).

The kings of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) had annoyed God less. The most God-fearing Judean kings had enjoyed relatively long reigns. God had so far preserved Judah from being conquered by hostile powers.

Hezekiah now became king of Judah and he was particularly righteous. He actually took down the high places – which none of the other respectable kings had done. He eliminated idol worship from the land and even broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses had made. About time too, because the Israelites had named it and had been burning incense to it. Hezekiah received the ultimate biblical accolade for a king – he did what was right ‘just as his father David had done’ (2 Kings 18:3-4).

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord and there was no-one like him among the kings of Judah – either before or after him (2 Kings 18:5). He kept the Lord’s commands and the Lord was with him. Hezekiah successfully rebelled against the king of Assyria (for four years) and he defeated the Philistines.

Eventually, the formidable king of Assyria, Sennacherib, attacked the fortified cities of Judah and captured them. Hezekiah had to pay him three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.

Sennacherib then sent a large army to threaten Jerusalem. His commander shouted at the men on the wall of Jerusalem and Hezekiah’s officials that they should not let Hezekiah deceive them by persuading them to trust in the Lord for their deliverance. He said that no God of any nation had ever delivered his land from the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:33). He advised the people of Jerusalem to make peace and choose life not death. He unwisely blasphemed and slandered God by doubting his ability to deliver Jerusalem.

Hezekiah tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the Lord. He sent officials wearing sackcloth to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah told them that the Lord had heard the blasphemies against him and that the commander would return to his own country and be cut down with a sword.

This happened as prophesied. The Assyrian army commander heard that the king of Assyria had left his capital, Lachish, and so withdrew from Jerusalem. The king had started an alternative military campaign against Libnah.

Sennacherib sent Hezekiah threatening messages again blaspheming God’s ability to save Jerusalem. It would not be long before God responded and showed His power to deliver those who are faithful to Him.

Acts 27:13-44

The sailors, taking Paul to Rome, were tempted out of harbour by a gentle south wind only to be caught out in a hurricane force wind along the shore of Crete. I went on holiday to Crete in 2019 in September and the weather was terrible. There was a North-East gale blowing all week and the main beach was a death trap. My advice – if you are contemplating a holiday in Crete – is to go to Rhodes instead.

Paul’s ship took such a violent battering from the storm that they began to throw the cargo overhead. Neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the sailors had given up hope of being saved. However, Paul was confident that God would spare them. Paul lecturered the ship’s company that they should have listened to him, which might not have gone down well after a long time without food. However, he prophesied that they would all be saved. Only the ship would be destroyed. An angel had appeared to him and told him not to be afraid, that he must stand trial before Caesar. As mentioned yesterday, this storm was probably demonic in origin. Satan was attempting to prevent the gospel arriving in Rome. Paul declare his faith that they would be delivered just as the angel had told him and that they would run aground ‘on some island’ (Acts 27:26).

After two weeks the sailors sensed they were approaching land. The sailors were going to escape in a lifeboat but Paul advised the soldiers that they would not be saved unless the sailors stayed. The soldiers cut the ropes and let the lifeboat fall away.

Paul urged them to eat some food. Taking bread, giving thanks, breaking it and eating it in front of them, he encouraged them to eat. When all 276 people on board had eaten, they threw the remaining grain into the sea. Now, they had no lifeboat and no food. They were completely dependent on God in the midst of the storm.

When daylight came, they saw a sandy beach but the boat became stuck on a sandbar and was broken to pieces. The centurion stopped the soldiers from killing Paul and the other prisoners. Everyone reached the land in safety either by swimming or floating on planks. God was protecting Paul and everyone he travelled with from the devil’s wrath. Paul had shown himself to be full of faith in God no matter how bad the circumstances were. Despite being a prisoner, his shining faith made him the leader that everyone looked to when danger threatened.

Psalm 82:1-8

This is a particularly interesting Psalm which could set us off down an intriguing rabbit hole of myth and legend.

As Michael Heiser (2015) points out, the same Hebrew word for God is used the first two lines so we have ‘God {elohim} stands in the great assembly; he administers judgement in the midst of the gods {elohim}’ (Psalm 82:1).   

Many people have postulated that in addition to making the angels, a third of whom fell and became demons, God also made a heavenly council of lesser ‘gods’ to help him rule the earth. It’s an intriguing theory because it explains many strange verses in the Bible such as Genesis 6:1-4 which refers to the ‘sons of God’ or Job 38:4-7 when the ‘sons of God’ shouted for joy when God laid the cornerstone of the earth. This theory would also explain the entire mythology of the Egyptian, Greek and Roman pantheon in that the ‘gods’ these ancient people worshipped actually existed and were rogue members of the divine assembly / ‘sons of god’ who started to impregnate human females and run riot on the earth before God judged them and imprisoned them.

Were the Canaanite deities, that the Israelites were seduced into worshipping, part of this heavenly council or demons? Modern-day exorcists such as Stephen Rossetti find that entities such as Baal still possess people today. As they react to prayers of exorcism we can safely categorise them as demons. The last of the giants, slain by David’s men in 2 Samuel 21:15-22 may have been the last few ‘superhumans’, who had been formed by liaisons between the heavenly council and human females – before God stopped this from occurring.    

There is little point dwelling on this matter because even if there used to be supernatural members of the ‘heavenly council’ interfering in human affairs, they don’t seem to be around anymore. If they existed, they have been judged and restrained by God. The Church is silent on this matter but they would hardly want to validate ancient worship traditions. The safest position is to agree with someone like John MacArthur (2021) and assume that the gods referred to in Psalm 82:1 are ‘earthly leaders, to whom He (God) has delegated authority, and (is) condemning their injustices’.  

Modern day humans are overlooked by the Holy Trinity, angels (and their fallen brethren, demons) and the communion of saints.

In fact, Jesus does confirm this more mundane explanation by quoting Psalm 82 in John 10:34-35 ‘Jesus answered then, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are ‘gods’’. God is in ultimate control of everything both in heaven and on earth, he sits in judgement over all and calls everything in his creation to account.

We all need to defend the cause of widow and orphans and maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. As ambassadors of God on this earth, it is our job to rescue the weak and needy and to deliver them from the hands of the wicked (Ps.82:4).

We must pray that the leaders of our country will not become arrogant and realise that they are not immortal. They will die like every other person and face judgement. We don’t want them to know nothing / to understand nothing and walk around in darkness.

We pray for all leaders, that they will walk around in light filled with wisdom by the Holy Spirit. They must defend the weak, promote justice and not show partiality to the wicked.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/6851736927

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