Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 18 2019 - 2 Kings 18:1-16 – King Hezekiah

The prophets had warned the northern kingdom of Israel that their lack of faithfulness to the Lord would lead to judgment and to them losing the land which God had given them. In today's passage we read that:

[In] the seventh year of Hoshea … king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. At the end of three years the Assyrians took it… The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the River Habor and in towns of the Medes. This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant – all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded. They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out. (2 Kings 18:9-12)

Hezekiah was king of Judah at this time and he was a man who "trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel" (v.3), and who wanted the nation to be faithful to the Lord their God:

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (vv.3-4)

Indeed, it is recorded of him that, "There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him… And the Lord was with him" (vv. 5,7).

Hezekiah destroyed the idols which had led the people of Judah astray. The "high places" were the sites of Baal worship – you stood a better chance of catching the attention of a god on a mountain top! Sacred stones marked traditional places of idol worship and Ashterah poles were kind of totem poles – carved trees – dedicated to the Ugaritic mother-goddess Ashterah. The destruction of these is quite understandable, but Hezekiah also "broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made." This snake on a brass pole had been made by Moses at God's command and had been a symbol of the healing power of God – and an anticipation of the cross of Christ. But this sacred object had become the focus of idolatrous worship and so it too was destroyed by Hezekiah.

This incident is recorded as a warning to us. Symbols, such as a cross, which can be helpful in reminding us of all that God has done for us, may become objects of superstitious reverence when they are viewed as having virtue in themselves rather than pointing to Christ. We always need to watch over our own lives that the focus of our faith is always upon our Triune God and his saving power and not upon anything which has been made by human hands.

Hezekiah's trust in the living God enabled him to win notable battles against the Philistines and to resist the power of the Assyrians. But in the fourteenth year of his reign, "Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them" (v.13). Hezekiah, fearing that Sennacherib would attack Jerusalem, stripped the temple of gold, even the gold coverings of the doors and doorposts. Along with an apology for resisting Assyria's power, Hezekiah sent about ten tons of silver and a ton of gold to Sennacherib – imagine the contemporary worth of such treasure! But, As we shall see, these costly treasures did not prevent Sennacherib from continuing to threaten Jerusalem.

Faithfulness to God does not guarantee freedom from trouble – maybe even costly trouble. We need to trust God as our help in time of trouble knowing that though we may suffer the loss of many things, we cannot lose his love and the place he has purchased for us in his family.

Father God, teach me to trust in you and in you alone in days when all seems to go well and in days when I suffer all kinds of threats, trials and loss. Help me to know that you are unchanging in your faithfulness, goodness and love.

Jul 18 2013 - Romans 4:13-5:5 – The God who gives life to the dead

God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, yet he was nearly one hundred years old and still did not have a child. His body, and that of Sarah, were now as good as dead when it came to the matter of procreation. Nevertheless, Abraham placed all his faith and hope in what God had said, “being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:21). He believed in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls the things that are not as though they were” (4:17).

Paul draws a parallel with the Christian faith. We also believe in “the God who gives life to the dead and calls the things that are not as though they were.” We believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead and who has given us life that we might be children of the living God. His Spirit has spoken words of promise into our hearts and has given us a sense of the wonder of his great love for us (5:5). This gives us confidence that God will do for us all that he has promised and so we rejoice in hope of the glory of God (5:2) – we rejoice in the prospect of one day seeing him in all his resurrection glory and sharing in that glory.

Faith rests in the character and the power of God. It trusts that he will do what he has said even when circumstances seem to make such faith seem foolish. Such faith is grounded in God’s proven track record; he raised Jesus from the dead.

As we have mentioned before, Paul is writing to a church of Jewish and Gentile Christians. There were tensions between the two groups and the Gentile Christians may have been accused by some of not being God’s people in the same sense as the Jews. There may be times also when we are filled with doubts and fears, how can we claim to be children of the living God? Paul reminds them and us that “God … calls the things that are not as though they were.” We have become the children of God, not through our own worth or effort – by nature we are among “the things that are not.” God has made us his own through the death and resurrection of Christ and the call of his Spirit. He has made us his own. Paul reminds the Christians at Rome that the covenant God made with Abraham embraces all who have a faith like that of Abraham – who trust in the God who gives life to the dead, who raised Jesus from the dead.

We who trust in him, whether Jew or Gentile, are all heirs of the promises God made to Abraham. And what promises they were! Did you notice what Paul writes in 4:13? He says “Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world.” In Genesis God promised Abraham that he would give him and his offspring the land that he was leading him into. But Paul sees this as a picture of God’s greater purpose to redeem a people for himself from every nation and language-group and to make them co-heirs with Christ to a renewed creation. We are heirs of the world – of the cosmos! Paul will have more to say on this amazing theme in Romans 8.

God’s purposes and plans are BIG. They encompass the whole world – all its peoples and the very fabric of the universe itself.

Father God, the scale of your purposes for us takes our breath away. We recognise that Jesus Christ is Lord and that it is your purpose to bring every knee to bow to him and to bring all of creation under his dominion. Thank you that, in your grace and goodness, you have embraced us in your redeeming plan. Help us to recognise not only that we belong to you but also that we belong to one another that we might praise you together, and together serve your purposes in this world.

Peter Misselbrook