TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- 2 KINGS 15:1-16:20
Azariah, also called Uzziah (2 Kings 15:13, 30), is the son of Amaziah and Jecoliah. At the age of 16, he begins his 52-year reign as King of Judah. Like his father, Amaziah (14:3-4), Azariah offers a compromised obedience. He is credited for doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord, rightly relating to God through faith in the Promise, yet he fails to confront the prevailing idolatries of his times. “The high places were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices there.” (2 Kings 15:4).
How easily people commit spiritual adultery against their betrothed bridegroom. They profess faith in the risen Christ, but they participate in pagan idolatries. They easily accommodate practices that are inextricably bound to false belief systems, like yoga of Hinduism, or new age doctrines that put self in the center of their worship.
We will read more about Azariah (Uzziah) in 2 Chronicles 26. Uzziah saw the beginning of the prophet Isaiah’s ministry. We learn that he grew in pride and had to withdraw from royal duties when the Lord afflicted him with leprosy in his later years (2 Chronicles 26:21). He had to be quarantined and relieved of his royal duties.
The northern kingdom of Israel continues to have a string of kings that do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord. They disregard the instruction of His Word and pursue their self-styled religion, continuing in the practice commenced by Jeroboam, the worship of golden calves at Bethel and Dan. King Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, reigns for six months and is assassinated by Shallum, whose reign lasts for only one month before he is killed.
This fact highlights the vanity of people’s lust for power. Shallum had great hopes for a long successful reign as King and went to a great effort to publicly assassinate the existing leadership. In a month’s time he was assassinated by Menahem who succeeded him as king.
The horrors of Menahem’s proud and rebellious reign are made clear through his loathsome deeds, such as tearing open all the pregnant women. He appeased his oppressor, Pul, the king of Assyria, by giving him a thousand talents of silver, which he exacted through his wealthier citizens.
Menahem reigns for ten years and is succeeded by his son, Pekahiah, who reigns for two years before being assassinated by one of his chief officers, Pekah.
Pekah reigned for 20 years and is assassinated by Hoshea, son of Elah.
During Pekah’s second year, the southern kingdom of Judah experiences a transfer of power from King Uzziah to his son Jotham. (This is the year that Isaiah had a vision of the Lord- Isaiah 6:1). Jotham reigns for 16 years. During Jotham’s years, both King Rezin of Aram (Syria) and King Pekah of Israel attacked Judah but were not able to overcome Jerusalem.
Ahaz succeeded Jotham as King of Judah in the 17th year of Pekah. He is one of the kings of Judah that DID NOT do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He adopted the pagan religions of the northern kingdom Israel, and even sacrificed his son in the fire (2 Kings 16:3).
King Ahaz appeals to Tiglath-Pileser, the King of Assyria, when attacked by both Syria and Israel, offering him as a gift the silver and gold and treasuries of the temple. The king of Assyria complies and kills King Rezin of Aram in Damascus. In Damascus, King Ahaz sees a pagan altar and wants to have one like it in Jerusalem. He moved the God-ordained bronze altar to the north side of the temple to make way for the new altar that he had coveted from his pagan neighbors.
King Ahaz remodels the temple of the Lord according to his own design, rather than according to the Word of the Lord.
God mercifully provided Judah with another king, who will be a significant improvement- Hezekiah.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – ACTS 19:13-41
We read the account of the seven sons of Sceva, men who claimed to be able to drive out evil spirits. When they attempt to do so, using the name of Jesus as if it were a magic pass to accomplish anything they desire, they find themselves overpowered. It is a reverse exorcism. Instead of taking authority over the demons, the demons overtake them. It is a picture of the enemy’s desire to destroy. The seven sons of Sceva, attacked by demons, left the house, humiliated, naked and bleeding from their defeat.
The evil spirit answered, “Jesus, I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”
This begs the question, “Is our name known in hell?” Certainly, the name of Jesus is. And so are the names of Jesus’ true followers, such as Paul. Are we any threat to the work of the devil?
Quite a revival takes place in Ephesus during Paul’s 3-year tenure there. The name of the Lord Jesus is glorified and approximately 6 million dollars’ worth of occult material is burned.
The idol-making business of Demetrius, a silversmith, is threatened by the Christian revival. He stirs up dissension, rightly claiming that Paul’s preaching is discrediting their business. With the chant, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” they stir the whole city into an uproar. Paul’s companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, are dragged into the theater. Paul wants to speak to the crowd, but his friends deter him.
The city clerk intervenes and calms down the crowd by publicly affirming his loyalty to the false god, Artemis (Diana) of the Ephesians.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PSALMS- PSALM 147:1-20
God heals the broken-hearted! (Psalm 147:3)
What does the Lord delight in? Our natural strength? No. Our faith. “The Lord delights in those who fear Him” (147:11).
Cherish the Lord’s special revelation. “He has revealed His Word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.” God gave special revelation of His plan of salvation to the Jews.
The Apostle Paul echoes this. The Jews have the oracles of God (Romans 9:4).
“He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.” (147:2)
He has revealed His Word to you also. What will you do with this privilege?
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- PROVERBS 18:4-5
Proverbs 18:4-5 4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. 5 To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS- Gujarat, India
(From Operation World p. 424-425 and website) Gujarat remains a place of religious tension and persecution. The state government and the police support Hindu militant groups that intimidate Muslims and Christians in Dalit and tribal groups. Gujarat was the birthplace of the leader, Gandhi. Pray for the peace and tolerance he promoted to become a reality here. An anti-conversion law passed here in 2003 makes evangelism and church-planting very difficult to do legally, but no such constraints are in place on aggressive Hinduization of tribal Christian groups such as the Dang.
PRAYER: Father, we want to be presented to Your Son, our heavenly bridegroom, as a chaste virgin, not given to the adulterous practices of our age. Help us to hold fast to our profession of devotion to Him. We ask that Your Holy Spirit instruct us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. Help us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, knowing that it is You who work in us what is pleasing to You. May it not be said of us that we failed to remove the high places of idolatries. Give us boldness to share the gospel even if it angers the idol-manufacturers of our age! In Jesus’ Name.