Reading #1 – Matthew 16
Reading #2 – Psalms 40
Reading #3 – Lamentations 4
Reading #4 – Isaiah 18
Reading #5 – 2 King 20
2 Kings 20 – Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery. King Hezekiah became ill that was leading to death and the message of Isaiah confirmed it (1). When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, “Remember, O LORD, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly (2). The Lord heard Hezekiah’s plea and healed him. What happened next, though, is how this story takes a sad turn. Hezekiah wanted a sign as if healing wasn’t enough. Isaiah replied, “This is the sign from the LORD to prove that he will do as he promised. Would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten steps or backward ten steps?” “The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” So Isaiah the prophet asked the LORD to do this, and he caused the shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz (9-11)! Hezekiah chose to have the time moved back 10 steps to the time of Ahaz. In the time of Ahaz, Judah was a vassal to Assyria and the King of Assyria moved his palace to Babylon. Hezekiah received the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them (13). Because of the vassal agreement, everything in Hezekiah’s kingdom would be taken from them and his offspring would be eunuchs or servants to the King of Babylon.
Psalms 40 – A Psalm of David. In David’s time, he witnessed the power of G_d, His punishment, His forgiveness, and His mercy. In his youth, David was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel/Judah (1 Samuel 16:13). David served in Saul’s court and would eventually lead the armies of Israel into battle. In the end, David became the next king of Judah and then Israel all of this took time so understood “I waited patiently for the Lord (1). But the Devil, who also is patient, will put traps down to capture us and turn our eyes from the Lord G_d. David’s trap came in the person of Bathsheba the wife of Uriah a trusted soldier in David’s army. When we walk into the trap, our life takes a turn for the worst so our pathway is altered. LORD, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me. Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles surround me— too many to count! My sins pile up so high I can’t see my way out. They outnumber the hairs on my head. I have lost all courage (11-12). G_d is never without a plan that will bring glory to him even when all we can see is “darkness”. From our deepest pits, comes the greatest praise of our life because living righteous brings peace, joy, and contentment but when we are forgiven we understand his mercy. But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness in you. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, “The LORD is great!” As for me, since I am poor and needy,
let the Lord keep me in his thoughts. You are my helper and my savior. O my G_d, do not delay (16-17).
Isaiah 18 – A Message About Ethiopia. Ethiopia is located on the Gulf of Aden about 1400 miles from Egypt and 1600 miles from Jerusalem. The Nile River runs south to north from the port of Sudan to the Mediterranean sea. The reference to verses 1 and 7 is to Nigeria which is located on the northwest side of Africa on the Atlantic ocean. At one point in time, Nigeria was powerful and Judah feared them but G_d’s message through Isaiah was “do not be afraid of them”. This was the same message given to Ahaz (Isaiah 7). In this world, there are powerful people and nations but when we put our trust in the Lord and not in the present situations, G_d will make a way that does not exist presently. G_d does not move “immediately” so we have to wait patiently (Psalms 40:1); when we do, we will see the glory of the Lord arising over our situation like the Nigerians over the Assyrians.
Lamentations 4 – G_d’s Anger Satisfied. The picture painted by Jeremiah was one of a kingdom that once had the best of everything and now is decimated. In their heyday, the nation Judah had wealth and prosperity but squandered it on sin and would end up giving it all away. See how the precious children of Jerusalem, worth their weight in fine gold, are now treated like pots of clay made by a common potter (2). Israel/Samaria would be crushed never to arise again. Judah, on the other hand, would arise from the ashes albeit much smaller and less in control of their destiny. But now the anger of the LORD is satisfied. His fierce anger has been poured out. He started a fire in Jerusalem that burned the city to its foundations. Not a king in all the earth— no one in all the world— would have believed that an enemy could march through the gates of Jerusalem. Yet it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the sins of her priests, who defiled the city by shedding innocent blood (11-13). The reference in 11-13 is to Manassah the vile king son of the “Righteous King Hezekiah (2 Kings 21). Our king—the LORD’s anointed, the very life of our nation— was caught in their snares. We had thought that his shadow would protect us against any nation on earth (20)! Nations like Edom cheered Jerusalem’s fall not realizing that as one nation fell so others would fall because of sin.
Matthew 16 – The Leaders Demand a Miraculous Sign. The religious leaders made it no secret that they abhorred Jesus, they didn’t trust him, and they didn’t like him. By asking for a “sign” or some proof of his authenticity, they were in essence saying “we don’t believe you are the Messiah but give us something to judge you by.” “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah (2-4).” By saying, “be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees”, the disciples became anxious thinking “oh no we will starve who brought the bread”? Peter’s confession, as one teacher put it, was saying something through the Spirit of G_d without knowing all of its implications. “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven (17-19).” When Jesus talked about going back to Jerusalem and the events that would unfold, Peter, rebuked him trying to reason with him. “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap for me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s (23).” This was the same scenario as the two opposing viewpoints of the spies that Moses sent out (Numbers 13); 12 spies went out, 2 had good news and 10 had horrible news. The 10 with bad news spread the rumor and fear set in the camp. Jesus knew what awaited him but was not afraid. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom (25-28).”