Reading #1 – Matthew 14
Reading #2 – Psalms 38
Reading #3 – Lamentations 2
Reading #4 – Isaiah 16
Reading #5 – 2 King 18
2 Kings 18 – Hezekiah Rules In Judah. In the third year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel, Hezekiah became king of Judah after his father’s untimely demise (1). He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan (4-5). Before his death, Ahaz had struck a deal with the Devil, Assyria, and became a vassal kingdom to Assyria. Hezekiah refused to pay the tribute and broke the agreement as the king, as it was his prerogative. Breaking a “vassal agreement” is something that is not taken lightly because the one holding the strings has the right to attack and demand the payment. The person breaking the trust, the king, must have a reliable fortress to lean on or he has foolishly let his kingdom be taken away. Hezekiah’s “strong fortress” was the Lord G_d and he trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. When the commander of the Assyrian army surrounded Judah, he mocked the G_d of Judah because he believed that the “G_d was the Asharah poles and the pagan gods that Hezekiah had destroyed. Hezekiah paid the Assyrian commander the back payment of 11 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold by taking it from the Temple. The commander used the Devil’s ploy when he tried to coerce the people into leaving Judah for “a land just like theirs” (32). What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did any god rescue Samaria from my power? What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem from me (34)?”
Psalms 38 – A Psalm of David – Repentance. When we sin, we hurt those we love and become the “Jester” in Satan’s kingdom. “Dance drunkard, dance,” says the Devil and so we dance. You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance. Meanwhile, my enemies lay traps to kill me. Those who wish me harm make plans to ruin me. All-day long they plan their treachery (9-12). When we repent of our sins and tell G_d the whole truth, Satan’s demons will be the first ones to laugh at us “Dance little Christian” they say but we do not dance. G_d has the ultimate authority to forgive us and break the binders that hold us because we are his children. But I am deaf to all their threats. I am silent before them as one who cannot speak. I choose to hear nothing, and I make no reply. For I am waiting for you, O LORD. You must answer for me, O Lord my God. I prayed, “Don’t let my enemies gloat over me or rejoice at my downfall (13-16).” Breaking the Devil’s grip on our life is the first step to healing but then we need to make things right with the ones we love.
Isaiah 16 – Lament Over Moab. Moab had as many shrines as it had people and for a while, there was peace in the kingdom. Consider the credit card, when you first get it, you think you will never use it until you get the urge to buy something or have an immediate need. Then you pull out the credit card. When you do this often enough, it becomes 2nd nature. When you get the bill, you see the balance and the amount owed which is called the “minimal payment” which only pays the monthly interest but the balance is not reduced by more than a few dollars. When you can no longer make the payments, the card is taken away from you and your “free easy life” is immediately altered. For Moab, sin became a way of life and they reveled in it. When Moab was conquered by Babylon in 582, the nation was decimated and disappeared from history. The people of Moab had thumbed their noses at the world, were now in need of a savior. The women of Moab are left like homeless birds at the shallow crossings of the Arnon River. “Help us,” they cry.
“Defend us against our enemies. Protect us from their relentless attack. Do not betray us now that we have escaped. Let our refugees stay among you. Hide them from our enemies until the terror is passed (2-4).” In the same way, when we sin and go to the cross, some stay only long enough for things to return to normal and then we go back to our old way of life. Sin has stages and each one is harder than the previous one by 1 degree. When we reach the final step, death, we are like a fish lying dead in the bowl because of the heat us. o now I weep for Jazer and the vineyards of Sibmah; my tears will flow for Heshbon and Elealeh. There are no more shouts of joy over your summer fruits and harvest. Gone now is the gladness, gone the joy of harvest. There will be no singing in the vineyards, no more happy shouts, no treading of grapes in the winepresses. I have ended all their harvest joys. My heart’s cry for Moab is like a lament on a harp. I am filled with anguish for Kir-haroseth (9-11). Sin breaks the heart of G_d because He has so many plans for our lives but sin takes it all away. The LORD has already said these things about Moab in the past. But now the LORD says, “Within three years, counting each day, the glory of Moab will be ended. From its great population, only a feeble few will be left alive (13-14).”
Lamentations 2 – Fallen Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city of David the center of his former kingdom. Until after the time of Solomon, the kingdom was catered to by the world. Regretfully, the nation had become corrupt because of the kings who introduced pagan worship through intermarriage with Israel and with vile kingdoms like Lodebar. G_d never intended the kingdom to crumble but the choices made by the kings and the people led them to the brink and with the Devil’s help were pushed over the edge. The Lord in his anger has cast a dark shadow over beautiful Jerusalem. The fairest of Israel’s cities lies in the dust, thrown down from the heights of heaven. In his day of great anger, the Lord has shown no mercy even to his Temple (1). G_d is concerned for one temple “our heart”. When we yield our heart to sin, G_d takes his protection off of us and the Devil will move in quickly to desecrate our heart so that we are of no use to G_d. Yes, the Lord has vanquished Israel like an enemy. He has destroyed her palaces and demolished her fortresses. He has brought unending sorrow and tears upon beautiful Jerusalem (5). For G_d take up residence in our life, our temple needs to be destroyed to the foundation. When he rebuilds it, it will not look like the previous Tempel in size or shape.
Matthew 14 – The Death of John The Baptist. John had become the enemy of the state because he dared to confront Herod for his illicit marriage (1). When we are confronted with sin, we have two choices, “surrender (repent)” or “kill the one confronting us”. Herodias wanted John to be dead thinking, “if he is dead, I can do what I want and no one will know about it”. But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. So John was beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother (6-11).