Thursday, January 9, 2014

Living Lessons from Dead Kings - 15 - “Hezekiah: The Test of Success” - Isaiah 38-39

Lesson 15 - “Hezekiah: The Test of Success” - Isaiah 38-39
ID: Inductive Questions (Asking the text questions like who, what, where, when, why, & how?”)
CR: Cross References (Comparing Scripture to Scripture, understanding the vague by the clear.)
WS: Word Study (Understanding definition, theological meaning, and usages in other passages.)
The WORD: What does the Bible say?
Context:  Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."  In this lesson we study what success revealed about Hezekiah’s heart.  Hezekiah’s sickness and reception of the Babylonian delegation are summarized in 2 Chronicles 32:24-33 and recorded in more detail in Isaiah 38-39 (also in 2 Kings 20).
1.     ID:  (Isaiah 38:1-2) What reasons did Hezekiah have to despair about his situation?  What was his response?
2.     WS:  (Isaiah 38:3)  Hezekiah based his prayer on having walked before God “in truth/faithfulness ('emeth ) and with a loyal (shalem) heart” and having done good in God’s sight.  Can think of things in Hezekiah’s life that would support (or contradict) that assertion? 
3.     ID:  (Isaiah 38:5-8)  What did Isaiah say moved God to answer Hezekiah’s prayer?  What does verse five teach us about how and why we pray?
4.     ID: (Isaiah 38:5-8)  What three things did Isaiah tell Hezekiah that God would do?
5.     ID:  (Isaiah 38:10-20)  Make observations about Hezekiah’s thoughts about his sickness and impending death in vv. 9-14 and then about his changed attitude about his sickness and responses to the Lord after he had been healed in vv. 15-20.
6.     ID:  (Isaiah 39/ 2 Kings 20:12-19)  What was given as the reason for the visit by Merodach-Balabon?  Does the text give any hints to why Hezekiah was so pleased/glad with the emissaries that he showed them all he had?  (2 Chronicles 32:31)
The WALK: What should I do?
1.      What does 2 Kings 20:7-11’s description of the use of medicine in a healing that was promised by the Lord teach us about the combination of medicine and faith?
2.      Do you think 2 Kings 20:10 describes audacity or great faith?
3.      Have you seen God answer prayer in a similar way?  (2 Kings 20:5-10)  Have you ever felt complete peace that a prayer was going to be answered?  (Was it?)
4.      What principles can we glean from Hezekiah’s response to the Babylonian visit about how we should think about and respond to attention from important people?
5.      What did Hezekiah’s reply to Isaiah’s prophecy in 2 Kings 20:19 (21:1-2) say about his commitment to his children, grandchildren, etc.?

By Robert Godfrey, professor of church history and president of Westminster Seminary California

The whole article is a good and worthwhile read.  Here is a short excerpt:
The first thing we notice about Hezekiah's second prayer is that the very fact that he prays is a remarkable sign of the faithfulness of Hezekiah. Think how desperate his situation is. He feels sick unto death. He has had the prophetic word that he is going to die. How would you have reacted? I suspect that for many of us there would be a tendency not to pray but to be very angry, or simply to be in a state of numb despair. “OK, I'm going to die; what's the point of anything? I'll just roll over and die.” But that is not Hezekiah's attitude. In his prayer we see the man of faith, the man of God, revealed to us. In the midst of his sickness, in the midst of this terrible situation that he confronts, in the midst of distress about as serious as anyone can face he is a man of prayer. Here is an expression of the very heart of faith that in distress, it turns to God, not away from God. In facing problems, faith seeks help in God. It does not doubt God’s presence or despair of his goodness.
Hezekiah’s prayer flows from a mind fined with Scripture. I believe that he had in mind a psalm of David, Psalm 34. Let me read some verses out of Psalm 34 to show how well they fit with the situation of Hezekiah, and how knowing these promises would have encouraged the man of faith to turn to God in prayer: I sought the Lord and he answered me, and answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (v.4) “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out all his troubles.”(v.6) “Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and lips from speaking your deceit. Depart from evil and seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evil-doers to cut off their memory from the earth. The cry and the Lord hears, and delivers them out all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out them all. ft (v.12-19)
Here are the kinds of promises of the Word of God that encourage Hezekiah. The Lord has promised to hear the righteous. The Lord has promised to deliver the righteous. So Hezekiah turns to the Lord in prayer and says, “Lord, I have been faithful. I have kept your covenant. I have been one who has sought to walk in your ways.”
Was Hezekiah saying that he was perfect? No! It is clear from Scripture that Hezekiah does not claim to be perfect. In Isaiah 38:17 we read another prayer of Hezekiah.
We know that the only one who is truly righteous and the only one who keeps God's law and covenant is Jesus, the Messiah. And so we understand something about the covenant of grace even more deeply and more fully than Hezekiah did. When we pray, we are careful to come to God only in Jesus name. We come in the name of the one who is truly righteous, the one who perfectly kept God's covenant in every way. Yet like Hezekiah, those of us in Jesus Christ can come to God saying, “I am a covenant keeper. I am not perfect, but out of the intention of my heart, renewed by your grace, I am striving to live for you, to serve you. I am your child. I am part of your covenant. O Lord, show me your mercy; show me your goodness.”

Living Lessons from Dead Kings - 14 - Hezekiah: King in Crisis - 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37

Lesson 14 - Hezekiah: King in Crisis - 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37
ID: Inductive Questions (Asking the text questions like who, what, where, when, why, & how?”)
CR: Cross References (Comparing Scripture to Scripture, understanding the vague by the clear.)
WS: Word Study (Understanding definition, theological meaning, and usages in other passages.)
The WORD: What does the Bible say?
Context:  Fourteen years into Hezekiah”s rule the advancing Assyrian Empire brought a crisis of epic proportions to Hezekiah and Jerusalem.  The harrowing challenge and desperate faith of Hezekiah are recorded in 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 36-37.  We suggest you read 2 Kings 18 and Isaiah 36 first and then 2 Kings 19 and Isaiah 37 second.  (There is a shorter account in 2 Chronicles 32:1-23.)
1.     ID: (2 Kings 18:7; 2 Chronicles 32:1-8)  Why did Assyria invade Judah?  What things did Hezekiah do to prepare for the invasion by Sennacherib?
2.     ID:  (2 Kings 18:22, 24-25; 31-35)  What arguments did Rabshakeh make for why the LORD would not deliver them?
3.     ID:  (2 Kings 18:36-19:2)  What was the response to Rabshakeh’s threats?
4.     ID:  (2 Kings 19:14-19)  Study Hezekiah’s prayer.  What were the main points of his appeal to the Lord for help?
5.     ID:  (2 Kings 19:20-26)  What questions did God ask Assyria through Isaiah’s prophecy?  What was the point(s) He was making with those questions?
6.     WS:  (2 Kings 19:22, 31)  What special names did Isaiah use for God?  How were those names for God especially meaningful in their context here?
The WALK: What should I do?
1.     2 Kings 18:6 says that Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord: he did not depart from Him.”  What have you learned from Hezekiah’s life about holding fast during difficult times?
2.     In 2 Kings 18:21/Isaiah 36:6 Rabshakeh told Jerusalem that it was futile to trust in Egypt.  What are things we depend on for our security (a job, retirement account, connections)?  Can we depend on these AND trust the Lord?  How?
3.     Have you ever been in a situation where only intervention by the Lord could help?  Did you pray?  Who was able to offer you encouragement and hope?
4.      A large part of Hezekiah’s prayer was based on the Lord’s reputation.  Does your life ever put God’s reputation at stake (for better or worse)?

Food for thought:
Most commentators have concluded that Hezekiah’s sickness, healing, and visit by the Babylonian emissaries, grouped thematically in Isaiah 38-39, probably occurred before the Assyrian invasion of Judah.  Did you observe any indications in your reading for this week that the promise in Isaiah 38.5-6 affected Hezekiah’s actions during the invasion and siege of Jerusalem?

Extra Articles
The pressure Hezekiah was under must have been almost overwhelming.  Biblical Training website has a 2,200 word article, “Hezekiah,” that gives many helpful insights into the geopolitical pressures on Judah and Hezekiah.  It also includes the entry about Hezekiah from the 1915 edition of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 
If you have an interest in ancient history, HistoryNet has a fascinating 3,300 word article, “Assyrian March Against Judah,” (originally published by Military History magazine) that puts this event in its larger historical context.  Here is an excerpt.
“Judah's importance to Assyria was geographic — it was located between Phoenicia and Philistia. The kingdom itself was of negligible value, but the Assyrians believed that their gods had given them a mission to conquer the world. In defying that mission and challenging Assyrian pride, King Hezekiah too would have to be made an example.
Hezekiah's decision to revolt seems strange because in the process of wreaking havoc on Israel, Tiglath-Pileser III had saved Hezekiah's father, King Ahaz, from certain doom. When the kings of Aram and Israel allied against Judah, Ahaz had sent for help, paying Tiglath-Pileser for his aid. As the Hebrew Bible goes on to tell it — and Assyrian records confirm — Tiglath-Pileser swooped down on Judah's enemies to save the day for Ahaz.
Hezekiah, however, had a different temperament than his father. The Hebrew Bible describes Ahaz's apostasies at length, alleging that the king passed his son through fire like the abominations of the nations. Ahaz is depicted in 2 Kings 16 as a man who went out of his way to stray from the tenets of traditional religious beliefs. Hezekiah, in contrast, is one of but two kings of Judah that the authors of the books of Kings praise unstintingly (the other being Josiah, late in the 7th century bc). Hezekiah won strong praise for his piety (in 2 Kings 18:3-6), and it is accounted part and parcel of his virtue that the Lord being with him, he went forth to war and achieved success in rebelling against the king of Assyria, whom he would not serve, as stated in 2 Kings 18:7.
Thus if we follow this retrospective judgment, it is Hezekiah's religious orientation — one of the intangibles of history — that distinguished him from his father and led him to revolt, supported enthusiastically by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 38:4-8). The resulting conflict, then, was regarded as a holy war by both sides.”

Living Lessons from Dead Kings - 13 - Hezekiah’s Renovation and Reform - 2 Chronicles 29-31

Lesson 13  Hezekiah’s Renovation and Reform  2 Chronicles 29-31
ID: Inductive Questions (Asking the text questions like who, what, where, when, why, & how?”)
CR: Cross References (Comparing Scripture to Scripture, understanding the vague by the clear.)
WS: Word Study (Understanding definition, theological meaning, and usages in other passages.)
The WORD: What does the Bible say?
Context:  Hezekiah’s life is recorded in 2 Kings, Isaiah, and 2 Chronicles 29-32.  This lesson will focus primarily on the Chronicles account of Hezekiah’s assumption of power and celebration of the Passover.
1.      ID:  (2 Kings 18:1-7a; 2 Chronicles 29:1-2; 31:20-21)  How does the narrator summarize Hezekiah’s accomplishments and general spiritual condition?  Who was Hezekiah compared to?   Why?
2.      ID:  (2 Chronicles 29)  What were some of the challenges to setting in order "the service of the house of the Lord” (v. 35)? 
3.      ID/CR: (2 Chronicles 29:20-24)  What was the purpose(s) of the burnt offerings and sin offerings mentioned in these verses?
4.      ID/CR:  (2 Chronicles 30)  What were the unusual or remarkable things about Hezekiah’s Passover celebration?  (Numbers 9:1-14)  What other king of Judah is specifically said to have celebrated the Passover? (2 Chronicles 35)
5.      ID/CR: (2 Chronicles 31:1)  Who does the word “Israel” refer to in this verse?   What was different about this destroying of the pillars, altars, etc. from previous times? (2 Chronicles 14:1-4; 17:3-4; 19:1-3)
6.      ID/WS: (2 Chronicles 31:2-6)  What three reforms are recorded in these verses?  What is the difference between firstfruits (re'shiyth) and tithes (ma`aser)?
7.      ID:  (2 Chronicles 31:21)  What in chapters 29-31 would you point to as indications that Hezekiah was seeking the Lord with all his heart?
The WALK: What should I do?
1.      In 2 Chronicles 29:10-11 Hezekiah wanted to make a covenant with the Lord so that His wrath would be turned away.  Is this a proper motivation for NT Christians?  If so, is it the best motivation?  Why?
2.      The covenant that Hezekiah and Judah made with God reminds us that each generation (and individual) must covenant to follow God?  (Joshua 24:15) Do you remember a time or times that you have done that?
3.      Does 2 Chronicles 30:9-11 remind you of a time you have shared the Gospel?  How can these verses encourage us today?
4.      What are some principles we can draw from the collection, handling and distribution of the firstfruits and tithes in 2 Chronicles 31:7-19?
5.      Chapter’s 29-31 lists over thirty people with little more than a function they performed.  Why do you think the Bible names people like this?  Is there a lesson for us there?
It is interesting to note that 2 Kings 18-20 and Isaiah 36-39 say nothing of Hezekiah restoring the temple or celebrating the Passover.

Answer: Many Christians struggle with the issue of tithing. In some churches tithing is over-emphasized. At the same time, many Christians refuse to submit to the biblical exhortations about making offerings to the Lord. Tithing/giving is intended to be a joy and a blessing. Sadly, that is sometimes not the case in the church today.
Tithing is an Old Testament concept. The tithe was a requirement of the law in which all Israelites were to give 10 percent of everything they earned and grew to the Tabernacle/Temple (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:26; Deuteronomy 14:24; 2 Chronicles 31:5). In fact, the Old Testament Law required multiple tithes which would have pushed the total to around 23.3 percent, not the 10 percent which is generally considered the tithe amount today. Some understand the Old Testament tithe as a method of taxation to provide for the needs of the priests and Levites in the sacrificial system. The New Testament nowhere commands, or even recommends, that Christians submit to a legalistic tithe system. Paul states that believers should set aside a portion of their income in order to support the church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
The New Testament nowhere designates a percentage of income a person should set aside, but only says it is to be “in keeping with income” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Some in the Christian church have taken the 10 percent figure from the Old Testament tithe and applied it as a “recommended minimum” for Christians in their giving. The New Testament talks about the importance and benefits of giving. We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the church. Every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in tithing and/or how much to give (James 1:5). Above all, all tithes and offerings should be given with pure motives and an attitude of worship to God and service to the body of Christ. “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Answer: Firstfruits was a Jewish feast held in the early spring at the beginning of the grain harvest. It was observed on Nissan 16, which was the third day after Passover and the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Firstfruits was a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision.
Leviticus 23:9-14 institutes the firstfruits offering. The people were to bring a sheaf of grain to the priest, who would wave it before the Lord. A burnt offering, a meal offering, and a drink offering were also required at that time. Deuteronomy 26:1-10 gives even more detail on the procedure of firstfruits.
No grain was to be harvested at all until the firstfruits offering was brought to the Lord (Leviticus 23:14). The offering was made in remembrance of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt, the Lord’s deliverance from slavery, and their possession of “a land that floweth with milk and honey.” The day of the firstfruits offering was also used to calculate the proper time of the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16).
In the New Testament, the firstfruits offering is mentioned seven times, always symbolically. Paul calls Epaenetus and the household of Stephanas “the firstfruits of Achaia” (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15). His meaning is that, just as the firstfruits offering was the first portion of a larger harvest, these individuals were the first of many converts in that region. James calls believers “a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18). Just like the sheaf of grain was set apart for the Lord, so are believers set apart for God’s glory.
The firstfruits offering found its fulfillment in Jesus. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus’ resurrection has paved the way for our resurrection. Significantly, if Jesus was killed at Passover, then His resurrection on the third day would have fallen on Nissan 16—the Feast of Firstfruits.
The firstfruits offering is never directly applied to Christian giving in the New Testament. However, Paul taught the Corinthian believers to set aside a collection “on the first day of the week” (1 Corinthians 16:2). And, just as the offering of firstfruits was an occasion of thanksgiving, so the Christian is to give with gladness.
In summary, firstfruits symbolizes God’s harvest of souls, it illustrates giving to God from a grateful heart, and it sets a pattern of giving back to Him the first (and the best) of what He has given us. Not being under the Old Testament Law, the Christian is under no further obligation than to give cheerfully and liberally (2 Corinthians 9:6-7