Josiah Cleanses Judah and Renews the Covenant / Paul writes to the Romans: July 12th 2021

2 Kings 23:1-24:7

Josiah, the King of Judah, read the newly rediscovered Book of the Law to all the people of Judah. He renewed the covenant with the Lord and all the people pledged themselves to it (2 Kings 23:3).

Josiah ordered the priests to remove all the pagan articles from the temple. They were burned outside Jerusalem. He ‘did away’ with the pagan priests. He desecrated the high places and broke down the shrines and thoroughly purged the country of other heathen worship sites. Chapter 23 is a comprehensive list of all the altars and shrines that the kings of Israel had built to vile and detestable deities. King Solomon had started the rot by building high places on the ‘Hill of Corruption’ even though he was supposedly the wisest man ever (2 Kings 23:13).

Josiah also cleaned up Samaria and Bethel in the north of the country while the people of this region had been deported to Assyria (2 Kings 23:19). The king then gave the order to all the people to celebrate the Passover, as it was written in the rediscovered Book of the Covenant. The Israelites had not celebrated Passover since the time of the Judges.

Josiah turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength – as we should do (2 Kings 23:25).

However, it was too late to turn the Lord away from his fierce anger. God was planning to remove Judah from his presence, just as he had done to Israel. He would reject His city and His temple (2 Kings 23:27).  However, at least Josiah died with a clean conscience. He had tried to make his people right with God, but we know from the Book of Romans that righteousness can never be earned by human actions.

Josiah was killed in a skirmish with the Egyptian army.

Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, was anointed king and managed to do evil in the eyes of the Lord even though he only reigned for three months. Pharoah Neco, who had killed Josiah, his father, put Jehoahaz in chains and deported him to Egypt. He appointed another one of Josiah’s sons, Eliakim / Jehoiakim, as king and demanded a hefty levy of gold and silver which Jehoiakim exacted as tax from the people of the land.

Jehoiakim reigned for eleven years and carried out evil deeds. Josiah’s sons had obviously learnt nothing from their relatively righteous father. It was now time for the end of Judah. The country was invaded by the Babylonians. Jehoiakim became the vassal of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, for three years and then unwisely rebelled. The Lord sent raiders to destroy Judah. The earlier reign of the evil King Manasseh had sealed Judah’s fate and even the reforms of Josiah had been insufficient to assuage God’s wrath. Manasseh had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood and, at this time, the Lord was not willing to forgive his evil deeds (2 Kings 24:4).

The king of Babylon took over the whole of the country (2 Kings 24:7).

Romans 1:1-17

Today, we start Paul’s letter to the Romans. He wrote this letter from Corinth around AD 56 towards the end of his third missionary journey as he was preparing to visit Jerusalem. The letter was eventually delivered by Phoebe to the Roman believers, some of whom may have been converted on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem before eventually settling in Rome.

Romans isn’t an easy read and so we will take it slowly. MacArthur describes it as the ‘preeminent doctrinal work in the New Testament’. One of its main themes is that we can’t buy our way into heaven with our good behaviour – eternal life is an unearned gift of love (grace) from God. God justifies us guilty, condemned sinners through our faith in Christ. We were made righteous in God’s eyes through the shedding of Jesus’ perfect blood when he died for us on the cross.

Paul described himself as a (willing) servant of Jesus set apart for the gospel (the good news) of God. Paul was a servant out of love and respect for his master. God had long promised us this good news throughout the holy Old Testament scriptures. Paul regarded himself as an ‘apostle’ – one who is sent. Jesus had personally commissioned him and started him on his personal mission than all the other apostles.

Jesus – in his human nature was a descendant of David. There are two genealogies in the gospels. The one in Luke 3:23 was actually the genealogy of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The version in Matthew is his father Joseph’s genealogy. MacArthur (2021) points out that ‘the royal line is passed through Jesus’ legal father, and his physical descent from David is established by Mary’s lineage’. So Jesus was not descended from Solomon – who went rogue. Jesus was descended from David’s third child with Bathsheba, Nathan an older brother of Solomon. Jesus was both fully human (from Mary) and fully God (from the Holy Spirit) – so he could both die in our place and be a high priest who can relate to humankind.

https://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/library/bqa/id/184/why-does-jesus-have-two-different-genealogies-matthew-11-16-luke-323-38.htm

It was Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that proved that Jesus was the Son of God (Romans 1:4). When we are baptized, the same Holy Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, comes to live in us so that He can also raise us to eternal life.

We, like all the Gentiles, are called to the obedience that comes through faith. Paul wanted to come to Rome so that he and the Roman Christians could be ‘mutually encouraged by each other’s faith’ (Romans 1:12). We all learn and benefit from different Christian communities coming together to worship, work, teaching and relaxation.

Paul was never ashamed of the gospel: ‘It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’ (Rom.1:16). The gospel revealed that we can be made righteous with God through our faith in his son, Jesus Christ and his life, death and resurrection. This is an undeserved gift that we cannot earn. It is beyond price.

Psalm 84:1-7

As Christians, we know that we are not yet in our ‘forever home’. We are alien visitors to this worldly planet, a completely new species and never quite feel at home. We long to see the living God in his dwelling-place (Ps.84:1). We have an unquenched spiritual hunger for God.

Blessed are the saints who have already made it to heaven and are waiting to intercede on our behalf. They are for ever praising God (Ps.84:4).

When we ask Jesus into our hearts as our personal saviour, we are starting on our pilgrimage back home to God. We will go from strength to strength because our strength is in Jesus, the Creator of the world. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is forever within the baptized. He refreshes us and enkindles his fire within us so we can be renewed and burst forth with power.

Image: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/st-paul-saint-iconography-painting-2176669/

Josiah and the Book of the Law / Paul Preaches in Rome: July 11th 2021

2 Kings 21:1-22:20

Manasseh became king after his father, the relatively righteous Hezekiah. Manasseh was terrible. He reinstated the pagan worship sites that his father had destroyed. He built idols and worshipped the ‘starry hosts’. He performed child sacrifice and practised sorcery and divination. He provoked God to anger but unusually reigned for a long time (fifty-five years) for someone so evil.

Manasseh defiled the Lord’s temple with pagan altars and idols. Manasseh led the people astray (2 Kings 21:9). It is incredible that a son can act so badly and not follow the shining example of his father. It is a worry to all of us who have children. However, we have to let our children forge their own relationships with God. We can only provide a good example for them and be always willing to counsel them.

God pronounced his judgement on Manasseh through his prophets (2 Kings 21:11). God would bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah ‘that the ears of everyone who hears about it will tingle’ (2 Kings 21:12). Manasseh had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood from end to end and God would not forgive this (2 Kings 21:16).

God would wipe out Jerusalem ‘as one wipes out a dish’ (2 Kings 21:13-14). We can’t buy our way into heaven with our good behaviour – eternal life is an unearned gift (grace) from God. God justifies us guilty, condemned sinners through our faith in Christ. We were made righteous in God’s eyes through the shedding of Jesus’ perfect blood when he died for us on the cross. However, these passages show that our bad behaviour can incite God to punish entire nations.

Amon succeeded his father, the evil Manasseh. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord as well. It is amazing that the kings of Judah after Hezekiah had learnt nothing from the inhabitants of Israel being exiled to Assyria due to their sins. Amon was assassinated by his officials, who were in turn killed by his former subjects and his son Josiah was crowned in his place.

Josiah was a good king who followed the Lord (2 Kings 22:2). He organised repairs to the temple, trusting the supervisors to faithful manage the funds.

Hilkiah the High Priest ‘found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord’ (2 Kings 22:8), presumably during the repair work. It may have been Manasseh or earlier evil Judean kings who had tried to destroy all copies of the law. MacArthur (2021) notes that the scroll Hilkiah found ‘could have been the official copy laid beside the ark of the covenant in the most Holy Place (Deut.31:25-26)’. Imagine if we had lost all copies of the Bible and then someone found one buried in a pillar in a cathedral generations later. It would be a sensation.  

The Book of the Law was a revelation to King Josiah who tore his robes in anguish as he realised how angry God must be with them. (2 Kings 22:13).

Josiah consulted the ‘prophetess’ Huldah, who confirmed that things were as bad as he thought. Note that the gift of prophecy was not just confined to men in the Old Testament. These days we probably aren’t allowed to use the word ‘prophetess’ just as we can’t use ‘actress’. The prophet Huldah said that God’s anger could not be quenched due to all the idol worship the people of Judah had engaged in. As Josiah had been personally horrified at the nation’s failure to conform to the law and had humbled himself and wept, he would not experience God’s full wrath. The Lord would bring ruin on the people of Judah after his death.

The countdown to disaster had started.

Acts 28:17-31

Paul preached at Rome even though he was under guard. He called together the leaders of the Jews. He told them that the Romans had wanted to release him but that it was ‘because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain’ (Acts 28:20).

Paul’s accusers had not followed him to Rome – unsurprising considering the gruelling nature of the journey. The Jewish leaders were eager to hear what Paul’s views were because everyone was slandering Christianity – which they considered a ‘sect’ (Acts 28:22).

From morning to evening Paul preached to the leaders and some believed. They began to disagree with other and leave after Paul quoted Isaiah: hearing but not understanding and seeing but never perceiving. Many people today have calloused hard hearts. They hardly hear with their ears and have closed their eyes. We are blessed when the Holy Spirit moves into our bodies and gives us a heart of flesh rather than stone.

I was reading about Eucharistic miracles yesterday. The Mother Church has declared throughout two Millennia that the bread and wine at the Holy Mass are transformed into the actual body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This can’t generally be perceived by the general public. However, after I was confirmed into the church, I could feel waves of radiation coming from a consecrated piece of bread (host) when I sat in front of it.

On rare occasions, God allows us to miraculously experience with our human senses that transubstantiation has occurred. Scientists have tested samples of the miraculous tissue that the bread has turned into. The most comprehensive study was carried out on a host that transformed in 1996 in the parish of Saint Mary in Buenos Aires. The bread had transformed into heart muscle, from the left ventricle – the muscle that gives life to the whole heart and body. The transformed host was proved to be living heart muscle. The Buenos Aires human tissue (transformed from the bread) revealed it had come from someone who had gone through intense pain, had experienced long periods of time when he could hardly breathe, had immense strain on his heart and had been stabbed in the left side. The tissue had white blood cells in it – which shows it was alive and pulsating. Consecrated hosts that have had their blood group tested indicate that Jesus had AB blood. AB is the rarest blood group and is the universal recipient for other people’s blood but for plasma, it is extra special. It is the universal donor. https://dowym.com/voices/5-incredible-eucharistic-miracles-from-the-last-25-years/

Millions of people do not believe that they can experience the real physical presence of Jesus in a Catholic mass and take him into our bodies so we physically transform into him. They need to understand with their hearts and turn to Jesus so that he can heal them.

Paul proclaimed that God’s salvation had been sent to the Gentiles and they would listen (Acts 28:28). Do all Christians actually listen and more importantly obey the word of the Lord?

Paul boldly preached without hindrance the word of God for two years in his own rented house, welcoming all who came to see him.

Proverbs 16:28-17:4

‘Gossip separates close friends’ (Prov.16:28). Pope Francis says that ‘gossip is worse than Covid’ and the devil is the “biggest gossiper” seeking to divide the church with his lies.  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/06/pope-francis-says-gossip-is-a-plague-worse-than-covid

Unlike the wicked and the liars, we should try not to listen to those with evil lips and we should pay no attention to those with malicious tongues (Prov.17:4). We should ignore the enticements of violent men.

Grey hair is attained by a righteous life and is a crown of splendour (Prov.16:31). It’s amazing how many people dye their grey hair when the Bible says we should be proud of it.

If we purse our lips we are bent on evil (Prov.16:30). I will remember to stop in my tracks and reconsider my intended actions if I ever purse my lips again. People who wink are plotting perversity. Solomon knew what he was talking about when he wrote these proverbs.

It is a blessing to remain patient and to be able to control one’s temper.

Strife can ruin many a hectic family celebration even when there is plenty to eat and drink. It is lovely to sit quietly in the peace of nature even though we may only have meagre rations (Prov.17:1).  

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/32495192@N07/10807709276

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