Reading #1 – Matthew 17
Reading #2 – Psalms 41
Reading #3 – Lamentations 5
Reading #4 – Isaiah 19
Reading #5 – 2 King 21
2 Kings 21 – Manasseh and Amon Rule in Judah. Manasseh became king in Judah following Hezekiah’s death. All of the pagan altars and Asherah poles that Hezekiah destroyed, Manasseh rebuilt. Manasseh built altars to Baal in the house of the Lord. In essence, Hezekiah’s request for the sundial to go back 10 steps to the time of Ahaz was honored (2 Kings 20:10). Ahaz was a wicked king and so were Manasseh and Amon. Manasseh also sacrificed his son in the fire. He practiced sorcery and divination, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the LORD’s sight, arousing his anger (6). When Amon became king in Judah following Manassaeh’s death, he followed the ways of his father. This set the stage for Judah’s demise. So this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I will bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of those who hear about it will tingle with horror. I will judge Jerusalem by the same standard I used for Samaria and the same measure I used for the family of Ahab. I will wipe away the people of Jerusalem as one wipes a dish and turns it upside down. Then I will reject even the remnant of my people who are left, and I will hand them over as plunder for their enemies. For they have done great evil in my sight and have angered me ever since their ancestors came out of Egypt (12-15).” Amon would only reign for two years before he was assassinated by his officials and Josiah son of Amon would be the last king of Judah.
Psalms 41 – A Psalm of David. Serving the Lord G_d of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob does not mean that we will never be sick, see hard times, or become the source of gossip. What it does mean is that through all of it, the Lord G_d will be with us and His Spirit will hold us through the storms. Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor! The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble. The LORD protects them and keeps them alive. He gives them prosperity in the land and rescues them from their enemies. The LORD nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health (1-3). Despite what the world sees and hears about us, we can trust the Lord and if we refuse to let go of his hand, he will do mighty works through us (Psalms 65:5-6). When we become ill or have committed sin, the world imagines the worse because, when we were upright the light from our heart shined on the darkness of their heart and made them uncomfortable and afraid their sins will be unearthed. LORD, have mercy on me. Make me well again, so I can pay them back! I know you are pleased with me, for you have not let my enemies triumph over me. You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever. Praise the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and amen (10-13)!
Isaiah 19 – A Message About Egypt. In the time of this message, Egypt was a force to be reckoned with. Its officials and counselors were bringing the king down the road to destruction. The counselors got their information from mediums and spiritists who spoke to the dead. When destruction would come upon Egypt in the years to come, the kingdom would be in a civil war. “I will make Egyptian fight against Egyptian— brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, province against province. The Egyptians will lose heart, and I will confuse their plans. They will plead with their idols for wisdom and call on spirits, mediums, and those who consult the spirits of the dead. I will hand Egypt over to a hard, cruel master. A fierce king will rule them,” says the Lord, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies (2-4). G_d does this not to put his thumb on mankind to force him into subservience but to bring people to their knees and lead them to repentance so that they would be whole and useable for the Kingdom of G_d. The LORD will strike Egypt, and then he will bring healing. The Egyptians will turn to the LORD, and he will listen to their pleas and heal them. In that day Egypt and Assyria will be connected by a highway. The Egyptians and Assyrians will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. On that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing amid the earth. For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will say, “Blessed be Egypt, my people. Blessed be Assyria, the land I have made. Blessed be Israel, my special possession (22-25)!”
Lamentations 5 – Prayer for Restoration. Jerusalem was empty all that remained were burned out homes, buildings, and the Temple. Judah was a wealthy kingdom in the time of Hezekiah but it was squandered by Manasseh and Amon. The kingdom had a short period of light in the time of Josiah but was quickly quelled by his son. LORD, remember what has happened to us. See how we have been disgraced! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We are orphaned and fatherless. Our mothers are widowed. We have to pay for water to drink, and even firewood is expensive. Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are exhausted but are given no rest (1-5). The community that once was vibrant now is quiet only the sounds of crickets could be heard. It was as if Hezekiah never existed and the destruction started by Ahaz was passed onto Manasseh and then Amon. But LORD, you remain the same forever! Your throne continues from generation to generation. Why do you continue to forget us? Why have you abandoned us for so long? Restore us, O LORD, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had! Or have you utterly rejected us? Are you angry with us still (19-22)? Restoration, unlike destruction, takes time and G_d is patient and will use as much of our time as is needed.
Matthew 17 – Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus led Peter and the two sons of thunder Jams and John up on the mountain. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus (2-3). We are not told what Moses and Elijah had to say but we can make inferences based on what Jesus would soon face. The four men were told not to say anything about the account until after Jesus was raised from the dead (9). The important thing to remember is, “But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him (5).” When Peter was asked by the temple servants if Jesus was paying the “Temple Tax”, he went to Jesus to ask him. “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their people or the people they have conquered?” “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us (25-27).” Peter could have thought to himself “Jesus is nuts ‘go throw in a line, catch a fish, and you will find a coin in it’”. But, again, we can make inferences that Peter was faithful and so he found the coin and paid the tax. Why didn’t Jesus take out a coin from his pocket or change his mind and claim to be a “citizen” and be exempt from the tax? The reason is, that takes no faith and is an easy answer; going fishing and finding the coin exactly where he said it would require faith to do the unimaginable which goes back to what the Holy Spirit told the four men “this is my beloved son listen to him”.