Script for the May 12th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.

Introduction

Welcome to the May 12th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. 

Today’s reading is in 2 Kings 15-16 and John 3. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.

2 Kings 15

This chapter begins by focusing our attention on the southern kingdom, the kingdom of Judah. We’re told that Azariah became king. He also went by the new Uzziah. He is now the 10th ruler over the southern kingdom since it split during the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son.

King Azariah reigned for fifty-two years in Jerusalem. He generally lived a godly life. When we get to 2 Chronicles 5-6, we will read about some of his great accomplishments. Yet, the Chronicler tells us that, because of his pride, the Lord brought him to an early death that Isaiah mourned in Isaiah 6.

So, how did he die? 

2 Kings 15:5 (CSB): “The LORD afflicted the king, and he had a serious skin disease until the day of his death. He lived in quarantine, while Jotham, the king’s son, was over the household governing the people of the land.” 

As we would gather from the previous verse, King Azariah died and his son, Jotham, became king of Judah.

Now, the spotlight moves north to the kingdom of Israel again.

As we look at this next king of Israel, realize that God is about to wipe his hands clean of them. There were only 5 more kings after this, and they all had reasonably short reigns. Then, God will discipline them by sending them off to captivity by the Assyrians.

King Zechariah reigned over Israel from the city of Samaria for only six months. We’re told that he was wicked in what he did.

So how did he die after only reigned for six months? Once again, we observe another assassination.

2 Kings 15:10 (CSB): “Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah. He struck him down publicly, killed him, and became king in his place.”

Then we read that God sent a warning to the people of Israel and their king…

2 Kings 15:12 (CSB): “The word of the Lord that he spoke to Jehu was, ‘Four generations of your sons will sit on the throne of Israel,’ and it was so.”

Israel’s judgment for their wickedness is much, much closer than they realize.

As God’s patience has virtually run out with the kings of Israel, how long did king Shallum reign?

2 Kings 15:13-14 (CSB): “In the thirty-ninth year of Judah’s King Uzziah, Shallum son of Jabesh became king; he reigned in Samaria a full month. 14 Then Menahem son of Gadi came up from Tirzah to Samaria and struck down Shallum son of Jabesh there. He killed him and became king in his place.”

What we are observing in each of these accounts of Israel’s kings is that a wicked nation creates a climate where instability and assassinations become the norm. The monarchs had better keep looking over their shoulders and increase their budget for the army and police if they wanted to stay alive.

Just listen to the promise God had given the people of Israel about what would bring them peace:

Leviticus 26:3,6 (CSB): “3 If you follow my statutes and faithfully observe my commands, … 6 I will give peace to the land, and you will lie down with nothing to frighten you. I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword will pass through your land.”

So the high turnover rate of kings, according to God’s Word, is directly tied to the nation’s disobedience to the Lord.

Verse 17 tells us that Menahem ruled over Israel for 10 years. When we look in this text at the brief description of Menahem’s reign, we read that he, like so many who had gone before him, “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight” (v.18). One evil thing that we are told that he did was: “He ripped open all the pregnant women” (v.16).

In verses 19–20, we read that the king of Assyria invaded the land. In order to appease the king and get him to withdraw, King Menahem of Israel gave him a boatload of money. To get this very large amount of money, he “taxed” each of the prominent men in Israel.

Honestly, this is pretty sad. Israel is being depleted of all of its wealth. The glory of Solomon is definitely gone. And this action is only delaying the inevitable. Assyria is going to attack the nation of Israel very soon and take thousands of its people into captivity. But rather than cry out to the Lord in repentance, they continue disobeying Him.

Friend, this is what sin does to us. When I was a child, I was told that I needed to be obedient to the Lord and do what He said in His Word. In my young mind, I thought that it was a burden, that I had nothing to gain from obeying God’s laws. Then, I grew in my faith and realized that each of God’s wonderful commands is intended for human flourishing. If we obeyed God’s Word completely from our hearts, we would be able to create such a wonderful environment in which people feel loved, valued, safe, and so much more as people are able to reach their God-given potential. 

So, as we observe Israel spiraling into a pitiful excuse for what it used to be, we understand that this is simply what happens when people fail to comply with God’s good commands.

In verse 22, we read that King Menahem died and his son, Pekahiah, became king of Israel.

In verse 23, we read that King Pekiahiah only reigned for two years over Israel. Then we read about what has become so commonplace for the kings of Israel…

2 Kings 15:24 (CSB): “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight and did not turn away from the sins Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to commit.”

Once again, we hear of another assassination. A country, led by its leaders, has jumped off the moral cliff. They then were forced to reckon with the consequences of that choice.

2 Kings 15:25 (CSB): “25 Then his officer, Pekah son of Remaliah, conspired against him and struck him down in Samaria at the citadel of the king’s palace—with Argob and Arieh. There were fifty Gileadite men with Pekah. He killed Pekahiah and became king in his place.”

So, King Pekahiah dies, and King Pekah is now the king of Israel.

King Pekah reigned over Israel for 20 years. That’s a long time, but King Pekah used that time to continue to pull Israel away from the Lord.

And one thing worth noting is that there is only one more King of Israel before God’s final judgment finally falls upon them. But as a precursor to Assyria’s final death blow to Israel, we read that Assyria was attacking and capturing various Israelite cities and regions and deporting the people to Assyria.

This is what Assyria did to the nations they captured. Assyria would transplant large populations of people to other regions so that they lost their sense of national pride and identity. They were much easier to control and manipulate if they were transplanted into other locations.

So what happened at the end of King Pekah’s reign over Israel? How was his throne vacated? Did he die of natural causes? Hardly!

2 Kings 15:30 (CSB): “Then Hoshea son of Elah organized a conspiracy against Pekah son of Remaliah. He attacked him, killed him, and became king in his place in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah.”

While the southern nation of Judah would continue on for about 145 years from the beginning of Hoshea’s reign, Hoshea would be Israel’s very last king.

So the thought of Hoshea’s reign being the very last of Israel’s kings before they are utterly destroyed by Assyria is just too much. So the author of 2 Kings now focuses the spotlight back on the southern nation of Judah. And what we read of King Jotham is so refreshing.

2 Kings 15:33-34 (CSB): “33 He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. 34 He did what was right in the Lord’s sight just as his father Uzziah had done.”

Wow! What a great thing to hear after so many kings of Israel were said to have done what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Of course, Jotham had his faults. We’re told that some of the people of Judah continued to worship pagan deities.

Then, Jotham died and his son, Ahaz became king of Judah.

2 Kings 16

As we look at King Ahaz of Judah, we need to remind ourselves that all of Israel’s kings were bad. But it was hit-and-miss with the kings of Judah. Some of them were really good, and some were really bad. As we look at King Ahaz, we come to one of the really bad ones.

2 Kings 16:2-4 (CSB): “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. He did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God like his ancestor David 3 but walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. He even sacrificed his son in the fire, imitating the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites. 4 He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.”

Did you get that? With all of the other acts of blatant disobedience to his God, King Ahaz sacrificed his own children in the fire. He burned them alive to some god that is unmentioned in this text. It certainly wasn’t the God of the Bible. He found this practice utterly abhorrent. The people of Canaan did this, and that’s one of the reasons God sent Joshua with the Israelite army into the land to wipe out its inhabitants. Those Canaanites were utterly wicked, but the Israelites and residents of Judah are doing the same thing.

We are not surprised when God sends the kings of Israel and Aram against Judah. Divine judgment could not remain silent in the face of such evil.

At this time, Judah’s king was acknowledging that Assyria was a force to be reckoned with. So King Ahaz sent messengers to Assyria to save him from Israel and Aram. Assyria was asked to defeat Israel’s and Aram’s armies. We aren’t told that he so much as offered up one prayer to the Lord. The king of Assyria was more than willing to comply. He was going to do it anyway.

In verses 10-18, we read about some of Ahaz’s acts. He went to Damascus to meet with the king of Assyria and saw an altar there that he liked. He sent the plans back to Jerusalem, and one was made, replacing the altar that had previously been built. King Ahaz instructed the priest to continue offering up the sacrifices, prescribed in the Law, but to do them on this foreign altar.

Essentially, King Ahaz wanted to set his own terms on how he would worship the Lord. And obviously, he was merely going through the motions of religiosity. His actions demonstrated that he cared nothing for the Lord.

Then, we read that King Ahaz died.

2 Kings 16:20 (CSB): “Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and his son Hezekiah became king in his place.”

John 3

In John 3, we are introduced to a Pharisee that we cannot help but like. And his questions give cause for Jesus to say things that are so precious and profound, not least of which is John 3:16.

John 3:1-2 (CSB): “1 There was a man from the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to him at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform these signs you do unless God were with him.’”

It is interesting that Nicodemus started the conversation by calling Jesus “Rabbi” or “Teacher.” This was a sign of respect, especially from someone like a Pharisee, and it may have also been a demonstration of humility.

Then, Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus was sent by God and he points to the miracles that Jesus was doing as evidence. Nicodemus is curious, he has questions, and he has come to Jesus with a desire to listen and learn so that he can make up his own mind about what he was to think of Jesus.

Then, Jesus brings up the doctrine of the new birth.

John 3:3 (CSB): “Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”

Seeing and entering the kingdom of God is a language that is used for those who are saved. They enter the Kingdom of Heaven where Jesus is the King, and all of us are His willing subjects. But Jesus said that it requires a new birth to enter that Kingdom, to be saved.

The biblical doctrine of the new birth tells us that getting saved isn’t merely a mental assent to some facts. It’s also not a mere human attempt to try to be good. Instead, it teaches that we are born spiritually dead. We are born separated from God. And the only remedy for us is to be born a second time. We are already physically born, but we need to be born spiritually. We need God to regenerate us, to make us alive in Jesus so that we become something new. 

So someone who is saved isn’t the same person just trying their best to be like Jesus. Instead, they are a different person who has been given divine resources to enable them to want to be like Jesus and make good on those desires.

One a side note: I really think that I will slow down next year and spend time just going through passages, verse-by-verse. There is so much in John 3 that we have to just skip over because of time constraints.

So, let’s skip over some really good stuff and land on a verse that I want to highlight…

John 3:14-15 (CSB): “14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

In these previous verses, Jesus was referring to the story in Numbers 21:4-9. The people of Israel grew impatient with God and Moses and did something that God can’t tolerate – they grumbled.

So, God sent poisonous snakes to bite them. Some of them died because of the snakes. Yet, when the Israelites cried out for help, God told Moses to build a bronze replica of what their problem was. He built a bronze snake and put it on a bronze pole. When they looked at a replica of what their problem was, they were healed.

In John 3:14-15, Jesus drew a parallel between that bronze snake on the pole, and Him. Humanity’s biggest problem is sin. It is destroying us and will send us all to Hell. Yet, when we cry out for the Lord’s help and mercy, He caused His Son to become sin, hanging on a cross. So that as we looked at Him, who became sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), we are saved.

Then, of course, we have the incredible Gospel verse…

John 3:16 (CSB): “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

Many years ago, a member of the church I was pastoring at the time asked a really good question about this verse. He said, “I thought that every person who is saved becomes a child of God. So how is it that John 3:16 says that Jesus is the “only begotten Son” or “one and only Son.”

Fortunately, I had taken Greek in college and seminary, and this very topic had come up previously. The Greek word in John 3:16 that is translated as “only begotten” or “one and only” is the Greek word “μονογενής.” It literally means “unique” or “one of a kind.” So Jesus isn’t God’s only Son. According to John 1:18, anyone who believes in Jesus has the right to be called a child of God. But Jesus is a Son of God in a way that is completely unique from us. We are sinners saved by grace who are God’s kids. Jesus is God the Son who is also God’s Son. There is no comparison.

Then, we get to a verse that, at least for me, caused me to quit trying to figure out how God’s free will and our free will can be viable and yet not interfere with each other. The Bible clearly teaches that God predestines and elects. But it also teaches that people are personally responsible for whether or not they choose or reject Jesus. When we look at verse 18, we observe that Jesus didn’t say that someone who goes to Hell gets there because God didn’t choose them. Instead, it was their own fault. Just listen.

John 3:18 (CSB): “Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God.”

The one point I want to highlight in verses 22-30 is what John said in response to news of Jesus’ growing ministry. Honestly, it would be wonderful if we could personally embrace John’s attitude.

John 3:30 (CSB): “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

Are we content for Jesus to be glorified if it means that we will be pushed into the shadows? Are we content to lose standing with those around us if it means that Jesus would be exalted in our life? Honestly, we should be!

As we conclude our survey of this chapter, there is one verse of incredible consequence that I want to end on.

John 3:36 (CSB): “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”

If we place our trust in Jesus as the remedy for our sin problem, then we are given the life of the Eternal One. God’s Holy Spirit actually comes within us to live.

But if we reject Jesus, if we refuse to place our trust in Him and refuse to yield to His Kingly rule over our lives, then “the wrath of God remains on” that person. God, who is a very good judge, cannot remain indifferent to lawlessness. He cannot remain indifferent to sin, which destroys people and destroys His creation. 

But God is also compassionate and gracious. That’s why He warns us of His anger. He doesn’t want us to experience His judgment and anger. That’s why He sent Jesus and then wrote the Bible through the pen of about 40 men. God’s Word tells us how to stay on the good side of the Divine Law, be forgiven of our sins, and be embraced by Him as a loving child, not a lawbreaker who must be punished on the Day of Judgment.

Prayer 

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth to make the Father knowable. Thank You for paying the sin debt of all who will place their trust in You. And thank You for giving us Your Holy Spirit to help us live in obedience to the Father’s commands as we prepare to stand before You on the Day of Judgment. We want to live in such a way that You will say, “Well done!” We pray this in Your Name, Amen.

Closing

I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you tomorrow!