Intro to 2 Kings–Cared for in Exile by Yahweh

  1. Introduction
    As we now return to a study in the books of the Kings, known as 1 & 2 Kings, I’d like to point out some distinctions and observations useful for our upcoming series of sermons.
  2. Time of Writing, Author, and Purpose
    1 & 2 Kings was written likely around 550 B.C. in the middle of the Babylonian exile that resulted from the apostasy from Yahweh which began in 850 B.C. with Solomon until the the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The human author is unknown, but he lived likely in the exile with the rest and had sources with him to write. Whoever the author was he or they compiled the matter in the book of Kings from sources named in 1 Kings 11:41; 14:19, 29 and they have a unified perspective (evidencing the Spirit’s work) on the events with a specific purpose in mind, namely to detail the cost of apostasy to the exiles so that upon their return they would not merely return to a land, but to Yahweh himself who alone is God.
  3. Major Themes
    Apostasy, Universal Sin, the Word of God, and Hope in Christ

    • Apostasy leads to division and deportation
      The exiles needed to know what caused their plight, namely leaving Yahweh. This lead to their division as a people and their deportation.
    • The kings largely represent the people and are like the people’s hearts
      People get the kings they want largely speaking. There are a few exceptions, but this is the case throughout. It was usually an evil king with evil people. Sometimes it was a good king with an evil people. But most of the time it was unified evil.
    • God keeps his promises revealed by his prophets against the kings
      In the midst of this, the safest place to be is with God’s Word. God upholds his prophets and speaks his Word through them with authority and fulfillment.  God’s Word continually brought is an evidence of God’s love to sinners.
    • Hope in Christ
      There is always a line to Christ in God’s Word, and it appears in the books of Kings. Jehoiachin released from prison in 2 Kings 25:27-30 is one example, as we see God showing him mercy in the end. So the exiles can hope for the same if they repent and turn to God as their king. Mercy is found in Christ alone to whom Jehoiachin points. Besides, is Yahweh not still taking care of them in exile?
  4. Distinctions from Chronicles & Purpose
    Chronicles only covers Judah’s kings and includes many details about them, and is written after the exile.However, Kings covers both Israel and Judah (the entirety of the kingdom) and tells the account from a vantage point of what would be helpful for the exiles to know and is written during the exile. At times one reads “the rest of the acts” are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? (this may be another book altogether), but the point is that Kings is not including everything, or aiming to, but has a unified aim to tell things to the exiles to prepare them to return to both Land and to Yahweh of the Land and all the earth where they are.
  1. The Goal: Get and appreciate God’s grace—really!
    The real goal is that we learn that the exiles needed to return to Yahweh before they returned to the Land. Their hearts had to come to the point of confession like Daniel prays in Daniel 9. And the books of Kings is meant to facilitate this and give them hope that they are still cared for by God in a foreign land, and they will be returned to the Land of Promise. So he is with them in exile and he is with them in return. He never leaves them, even though they and their leaders have left God. The book is meant to inspire faithfulness in times of consequential unfaithfulness. We love because really we first were loved. This book shows how God loved the exiles in spite of their apostasy and prepared their hearts for return fortifying them from further apostasy. God loves and tangibly cares for his people in the midst of even exile. Add to this that a motivating factor is to see the demonstration of God’s grace throughout and the cost of despising that grace. Be wise when it comes to grace, it is not ever meant to be abused, and will not be without consequence; yet God never stops caring. He cares enough to show his people what grace is all about; its about living in obedience to him.

Memory Verse and Catechism

Memory Verse
James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Baptism Catechism
Question 7
What is God?
Answer
God is a Spirt (John 4:24), infinite (Job 11:7,8,9), eternal (Ps. 110:2), and unchangeable (Jas. 1:17) in his being (Ex. 33:14), wisdom (Ps. 147:5), power (Rev. 4:8), holiness (Rev. 15:4), justice, goodness, and truth (Ex. 34:6).

The Human Means

Words of Divine Comfort— Octavius Winslow, 1872

“Thus says the Lord, make this valley full of ditches…That valley shall be filled with water, that you may drink.”–2 Kings 3:16, 17

The Christian requires no little spiritual intelligence and skill in accurately balancing the means and the blessing–the part which belongs to him, and the part which belongs to God. The Word of God nowhere encourages a spirit of inactivity and indolence in us. We are not to fold our arms, sit down, and do nothing. Hence, the varied means the Lord has graciously appointed for our use. We must not forget that the means are as much ordained as the end; and that, if these means are carelessly and willfully neglected, we have no right to expect the Divine blessing. The power of the divine does not preclude or dispense with the employment of the human.

You will generally find that, in the performance of His wondrous miracles, Christ, as it were, stood at one end, and man at the other. See this thought illustrated in the raising of Lazarus from the dead–“Jesus said, Take away the stone.” Man was to have some share in this marvelous resurrection; he was to remove the stone that lay upon the dead, as this formed an impediment to the working of the miracle. While, then, we are instructed that the POWER is His, we are at the same time taught that the MEANS are ours. It is man’s to dig the well and prepare the ditches; it is God’s to fill both with the living water of His Spirit. “Thus says the Lord, make this valley full of ditches…That valley shall be filled with water, that you may drink.” What, O my soul, are these “ditches,” and how are they made?

In the forefront must be placed the eye, simply and only fixed upon Jesus. We may sink the well, and dig the trench, and plough the soil, but all will be in vain if we do not this from a sense and conviction of our present spiritual standing in Christ. Thus we shall work from life, and not for life! Oh, with what celerity we run the way of the Lord’s commandments, with what zeal do we His work, and how we prize the means of grace, with a sweet sense of pardon–of acceptance–of a present salvation in all its completeness, fullness, and certainty, in our souls!

We dig the “ditch” in the valley of prayer. Communion with God, while it is the most elevating, is at the same time the most humbling employment of the soul. When thus we lie the lowest, then are we the most exalted. When, in the confession of sin, and the abasement of self, we come before God, “looking unto Jesus,” oh! what a channel we have prepared for the rain of God’s grace, far down in the deep valley of our conscious need and nothingness. Be much in secret, closet prayer, O my soul, and God will rain down abundantly His quickening, fertilizing grace. Pray–pray–PRAY–and your fleece shall never be dry, your soul shall never lack the dew of God’s Spirit. Dig deep, dig wide, dig constantly the channel of PRAYER–earnest, persevering, believing prayer–and He who has promised to be the “Dew unto Israel,” and to “come down as rain upon the mown grass,” as with “showers of blessing,” will fill that channel to overflowing with His grace.

In a few words–such, too, is the diligent study of God’s word–such a devout and frequent meditation thereon–such the public means of grace–such the appointed ordinances of Christ’s house, and the “communion of saints.” Omit not, O my soul, the valley of affliction, of trial, of temptation, in some of which your deepest ditches are often dug, and the richest blessings often flow. “I will open fountains in the midst of the valleys,” says the Lord; and to this end He sends bereavement, and sickness, and suffering, and adversity–all of which are but designed to open channels through which His tender love, and soothing sympathy, and increasing grace, and quickening Spirit, might fully and freely flow. “Blessed is the man who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also fills the pools.” Oh, seek large supplies of this living water! Make the trench deep and broad, for in proportion to your large requests will be your blessing. Ask much, believe much, expect much, and it shall be unto you according to your faith. “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

The Lord a Wall of Fire

 

  • Words of Divine Comfort— Octavius Winslow, 1872

“For I, myself, will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem, says the Lord. And I will be the glory inside the city!” Zech. 2:5

This metaphor is, probably, taken from the practice of travelers in eastern countries, who kindle fires by night around their encampments, to guard them from the approach of prowling beasts of prey. How precious and comforting the truth it illustrates–God, the divine defense and Protector of His people, even a wall of fire round about them by night and by day; so that their enemies, like roaring lions and hungry wolves, seeking to alarm and devour, cannot come near to them, but as He permits. O, my soul! carefully and devoutly consider this precious, this sanctifying truth.

You are traveling hence, through a waste howling wilderness, filled with wild and ferocious beasts; often pitching your tent enshrouded by the darkness and danger of the night, where the roaring lion and the hungry wolf, emerging from their lairs, go forth in quest of prey; and your soul is filled with terror and dismay. But fear not. Greater is He that is for you than those who are against you. He who went before the Church in the wilderness, a pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night–He who encircled Elisha with horses and chariots of fire, when the King of Syria came against him with a huge host, and He who placed the cherubim and a flaming sword to keep the garden of Eden, when man was driven from its Paradise–is a wall of fire round about you; and no foe shall approach you, no threat shall alarm you, no assault shall reach you, no fiery dart shall wound you, not a hair of your head shall be injured, for Israel’s covenant God is a wall of fire round about you by night and by day, and the “beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him.”

Such a wall of protection to His people is the Lord Jesus.“Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” What can be more secure? Thus guarded, the work of grace in your soul can never fail. The pulse of spiritual life may beat feebly–the spark of divine love may glow faintly–the principle of faith may act irresolutely–nevertheless, Jesus, who paid too costly a price for your redemption, a part of whose “purchased possession” you are, will never permit the lurking foe, strong and savage and cruel though he be, to hurt you. All His divine perfections–all His gracious safeguards–all His providential dispensations–are round about you. Let this encourage you, O my soul, to be prayerful, and watchful, and circumspect; remembering that, the Lord’s care is not to encourage our carelessness; that, Christ’s intercession is not to supersede our prayerfulness;that, the Savior’s watchfulness is not to throw us off our guard–but, rather to stimulate and encourage us to a vigilant, holy, and close walk with God. Fear not, then, O timid believer, trusting in Jesus. Before Satan can pluck you from His hands, or sin condemn you to hell, or man swallow you up, they must–braving their inevitable destruction–break through this Divine wall of flame, perishing in the very attempt, “for our God is a consuming fire.”

The subject of our present reflection has a solemn, heart-searching bearing towards the unconverted, unsaved soul. If God in Christ is not a wall of fire round about us, He must be, as we have just read, a “consuming fire” against us. And if we are not safe in Jesus, our soul is inevitably and eternally exposed to the burning and unquenchable fire of God’s righteous anger. “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” Not one poor sinner who has fled from the wrath that is to come, and is hidden in a cleft of the Divine Rock, Jesus Christ, wounded, bruised, and smitten for us.

Divine Acceptance

Words of Divine Comfort– Octavius Winslow, 1872)

“I will accept you with your sweet savor.”–Ezek. 20:41

There is not an essential truth of the Gospel more dimly perceived or imperfectly estimated, and yet not one more clearly revealed or more unspeakably precious, than the doctrine of God’s acceptance of the believing sinner. An error here is destructive of the scheme of salvation, and fatal to our eternal happiness. May the Holy Spirit open it up in all its scriptural clearness to our minds, and apply it in all its saving, sanctifying sweetness to our hearts!

First, there is the Lord’s acceptance of our PERSON. “I will accept you.” Our person must first be the object of God’s favor and delight before He regards with favor and delight the offerings we bring. It was the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ which gave such virtue, efficacy, and acceptance to His sacrifice. Because He was Divine and sinless, His Godhead imparted dignity and perfection to His Atonement–the Sacrifice of Christ resting, as its basis, upon the Person of Christ. This marked the essential difference between Cain and Abel. Cain brought his offering of fruits and flowers without a personal acceptance, and God rejected both him and his offering. Abel “brought of the fatlings of his flock,” “and the Lord had respect unto Abel,”–first to his person, and then to his offering.

My soul, are you personally accepted in the Beloved? Before bringing to God any flower or fruit of your fancied merit, springing from the stock of your unregenerate nature, have you brought your sins to Jesus–to His blood to be cleansed, to His grace to be subdued? Have you put on in faith Christ’s righteousness, “which is unto all and upon all those who believe?” And have you tasted of the honey that flows from that precious, glorious declaration of the Apostle–“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ?”

“I will accept you with your sweet savor.” And now comes God’s gracious delight in, and acceptance of, the sweet savor of our spiritual offerings! And what are these savory offerings, thus so acceptable to God? What a “sweet savor” to Him is prayer! The prayers of the saints are “vials full of odors,” sweet incense perfumed with the yet sweeter incense of their Savior’s divine and precious merits, and so presented by Him with acceptance to God. Pray on, dear saint! If afflicted, pray; your words may be few–your utterances stammering–your faith weak–yet pray on. God having accepted you in the Person of Jesus, will, on the ground of His worthiness, accept the “sweet savor” of your prayers.

What a sweet savor to God are our praises! “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me.” What strong ground have we for joy, what rich material for praise! Were we to rejoice in the Lord all the day, and praise Him all the night–as before long we shall without weariness or pause–it would not be a too exaggerated expression of the greatness of our salvation of grace here, and of the preciousness of our hope of glory hereafter.

What a fragrant offering to God is the dedication of our intellect–the contribution of our wealth–the consecration of our rank, influence, and time–all, all is a “sweet savor” to God, acceptable and accepted through the sweet savor of Christ’s atoning merits. Such, too, is the ministry of those who preach Christ. “We are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in those who are saved, and in those who are lost.” There is a divine savor and power, in that preaching which exalts the Savior that no other preaching has. Oh for more of the savor of His Name in the pulpits of our day! Truly His Name would then be as ointment poured forth, delighting all who love Him. And such too the liberality of the saints towards the Lord’s ministers–“an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God.”

Approach, my soul, the mercy-seat, robed in the righteousness of Christ; and when you have presented His blood and righteousness, then lay your own offerings at His feet, for your covenant God and Father has said–“I will accept you with your sweet savor.”

The Nearness of God

Words of Divine Comfort– Octavius Winslow, 1872

“A God at hand, says the Lord.”–Jer. 23:23

More saints than Luther have felt a personal interest in the forty-sixth Psalm–“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble;” thus drinking with him of the “river the streams whereof make glad the city of God.” My soul, are you not one of them? Has not your praiseful exclamation often been, “You are NEAR, O Lord!” God is everywhere, but it is only His own children who forcibly feel, and gratefully acknowledge, and holily exhibit, not His omniscience only, but His especial and personal presence. Look at this precious truth, my soul, in connection with two or three features of your varied experience.

He is a God at hand in the person of Christ. The Lord Jesus brings God very near to us. He is not only the revealed One of God, but He is in His own person really and absolutely God–“He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.” Could a mere creature, a man only, say this? Impossible, with any truth, and without blasphemy. Oh, how near to us has Jesus brought the Father! Come to Jesus, look at Jesus, listen to Jesus, and realize that in so doing you approach to, gaze upon, and hear the voice of, God your Father in heaven.

God is near in the work of Jesus. The blood brings us sinners near to God, as it brings a sin-pardoning God near to us. “You that were afar off are made near by the blood of Christ.” See then your true and present standing, O my soul! Nothing comes between you and God but the atoning blood of Jesus. His blood annihilates all your sin and guilt. Robed in His imputed righteousness, you are to God nearer than the highest angel in heaven–and nearer you can not be–and God draws near to you and speaks–“A God at hand, says the Lord.”

God is near at hand when you do approach Him in prayer. Oh, comforting truth! A God at hand to hear the softest breath of prayer–to listen to every confession of sin–to every cry of need–to every utterance of sorrow–to every wail of woe–to every appeal for counsel, strength, and support. Arise, O my soul! and give yourself to prayer; for God is near at hand to hear and answer you. Listen to His word, “Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto Me? says the Lord.” “You meet him that rejoices and works righteousness, those who remember You in Your ways.”

A God at hand is He in every time of trouble. “A very present help.” Not far have you to travel for the guidance and deliverance you need. If forsaking the Lord your God you go down into ‘Egypt’ for help, and trust in the chariots and horses thereof, then will you be ashamed of your confidence. But why fly to creature help, when the Lord your God is near unto you in all that you call upon Him for? Cease from man; for God in Christ is very near, and one step of believing prayer will bring you to His feet.

Oh, live as in His presence! Be your life a life of communion, doing and enduring, toiling and suffering, as beholding Him who is invisible. In a little while we shall pass from our partial and imperfect realizations of His presence when on earth, to enjoy His full, unclouded, and eternal presence in heaven! Then shall our eyes see the King in His full unveiled beauty, not as now, through a glass darkly, but then face to face. And, oh transporting thought! we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Guard vigilantly and strive prayerfully against that which creates a conscious distance between God and your soul. Is it the world?–come out of it. Is it the creature?–relinquish it. Is it the flesh?–mortify it. Is it sin?–forsake it. Is it unbelief?–nail it to the cross. Oh, let nothing separate you from Christ–no earthly good or carnal delight cause a distance, or coldness, or shyness between God and your soul. Give Jesus your undivided heart, and let God be your all in all. Then shall your happy experience be–“You are NEAR, O Lord.”