Script for the June 7th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the June 7th 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 Chronicles 28-29 and John 17. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.
2 Chronicles 28
Ahaz was 20 years old and reigned over Judah for 16 years. He was one of Judah’s wicked kings. This chapter recounts one of the unspeakably evil things that he did.
2 Chronicles 28:3 (CSB): “He burned incense in Ben Hinnom Valley and burned his children in the fire, imitating the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites.”
This sounds horrible, but it’s worse when we actually understand what King Ahaz did. It is thought that a bronze statue of the god, Molech, was set up in the valley of Hinnom just to the south of the City of David. According to some sources, a fire was lit under the statue. That fire was stoked until the statue would glow from the heat. Children would then be bound and placed upon the outstretched arms of the bronze statue. They screamed as they felt the fire, and their flesh began to melt. The screams would stop after a minute or two as the fire stole the child’s life from them. But the flesh continued to burn, putting off a nauseating aroma.
Now, realize that as demonic as this act was, Ahaz placed his own children in the fire. Their eyes would have looked to him as their protector, pleading for him to rescue them. But he was the one who had placed them in the fire.
This is the act that King Ahaz did that illustrates the kind of wicked heart that he had. A man who was capable of doing this to his own children was capable of doing anything.
So, how did God respond? God handed King Ahaz and his people over to the king of Aram and Israel. God used other nations to bring divine judgment upon the king and people of Judah.
So, the Lord sent a prophet to speak truth and bring about repentance. But the prophet wasn’t sent to Judah. He was sent to the people of Israel. The prophet warned them that when they had carried out God’s justice upon Judah, they were guilty of going too far and had acted unjustly against the people of Judah. So he told them to make things right, or God’s anger would be poured out on them.
The leaders of Israel took this warning seriously. They went out to the returning Israelite army and told them they could not bring the captives of Judah into their territory. They were greatly afraid of God’s wrath coming upon them if they received the captives.
The army of Israel left the captives in the care of the Israelite leaders. They also left the plunder from the battle. The leaders cared for the captives by feeding them, giving them something to drink, dressing their wounds, and taking them into the territory of Judah to a city called Jericho. Then, the Israelite leaders returned home.
At about this same time, the Edomites attacked Judah and took some captives. The Edomites resided south of the Dead Sea and were descendants of Esau. In order to get the Assyrians to help him, King Ahaz raided the Lord’s Temple and his palace and gave the treasures to the king of Assyria. But the king of Assyria took the plunder and then raided Judah anyway.
How did King Ahaz of Judah respond? He became even more unfaithful to the Lord. He demonstrated his disdain for the Lord by sacrificing to the gods of Aram instead of crying out to the Lord.
King Ahaz wasn’t content to have a heart of contempt for the Lord. He kept his people from worshipping the Lord as well. He shut the Temple and set up pagan gods everywhere in Judah. He was intentionally leading the people away from the Lord.
Finally, he died. He had created so much trouble for his people that Judah was ready for its next leader. Fortunately, his son, Hezekiah, became the next king. Hezekiah would do much to undo the damage that his father had done in Judah.
2 Chronicles 29
Now, we begin to read about one of the better kings of Judah.
2 Chronicles 29:1-2 (CSB): “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done.”
Almost as soon as King Hezekiah began his reign, he started to undo all of the horrible things his father had done. In the first month, we’re told that he opened the Temple back up and repaired it so that worship to God could resume in that place.
But the Temple wasn’t merely a location. It was an experience. The Levites and priests worked in that place to serve the Lord and His people. So, after opening the Temple and repairing it, King Hezekiah told the Levites and priests to consecrate themselves and the Temple. To “consecrate” merely means to go through the process of getting cleaned up and ready to serve the Lord. Sometimes, there were specific action steps mentioned in the Law of God for how to render someone or something morally clean after it had fallen into sin and disrepair.
As King Hezekiah talked to the Levites and priests, he was honest about the sin problem that had enveloped Judah. He noted that their ancestors had rejected the Lord and stopped worshipping in the Temple. The place of worship was collecting dust.
This might seem like a small problem to others, but it was huge to God’s people. According to Hezekiah’s words, they realized that God was angry at them, and it was playing out in tangible ways.
2 Chronicles 29:8-9 (CSB): “Therefore, the wrath of the LORD was on Judah and Jerusalem, and he made them an object of terror, horror, and mockery, as you see with your own eyes. Our fathers fell by the sword, and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity because of this.”
Hezekiah was a doer. He wanted to fix the problem and lead Judah back to experiencing the Lord’s favor. So he told the Levites and priests that he wanted to make a covenant to the Lord, which is a solemn vow. He wanted to affirm his allegiance to his God. Further, Hezekiah encouraged the religious leaders to do all that the Law required of them. Worship to Almighty God was going to resume during his reign.
When King Hezekiah finished speaking, the Levites stood up. They consecrated themselves and went to work in the Lord’s Temple.
The priests took all that was unclean out of the Temple and placed it in the Temple courtyard. The Levites then took those items from the courtyard to the Kidron Valley, a valley that ran north and south alongside the eastern perimeter of Jerusalem. And under their care, the consecration of the Temple was started and completed.
It’s not difficult to imagine the excitement of the Levites and priests as they reported back to King Hezekiah. They told him of everything they had done to consecrate the Temple and get it ready for the people to worship in again.
King Hezekiah got up early the next morning and participated in a sacrifice at the Temple. This was intended to pardon the sins of God’s people. The structure had been repaired, but now hearts had to be made right.
In verses 25-26, we read that Hezekiah instructed the Levites to play music in the Temple as the Levites had done during David’s reign. Temple worship was to be an experience to be enjoyed, and music would be a part of it.
Then, King Hezekiah orchestrated an Old Testament worship service. As the sacrifices were offered up, “the whole assembly was worshiping, singing the song, and blowing the trumpets.” After the sacrifice, Hezekiah had the Levites “sing praise to the Lord” with one of David’s psalms. The people “sang praises with rejoicing and knelt low and worshipped.”
This is what Christian leaders in the church and secular spaces do. They don’t merely bemoan a problem. Instead, they see a problem and work to get people back to a place where they can experience God’s favor. In the church, it will include a call to love and serve the Lord. In the secular space, it will look more like the leader providing a godly example of integrity as they implement tried and true biblical principles that allow employees to thrive, integrity to be valued, productivity to be celebrated, and so much more.
After the sacrifices had been offered, Hezekiah pronounced the people to be consecrated. He then told them to bring their own sacrifices to the Temple. They did.
The religious leaders in the Temple were staying busy. The Levites helped the priests to prepare the sacrifices for burnt offerings.
2 Chronicles 29:35-36 (CSB): “… So the service of the LORD’s temple was established. Then Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced over how God had prepared the people, for it had come about suddenly.”
Obviously, God was doing a work in the people’s hearts because of how quickly and resolutely they joined in to get the Temple up and running again.
As we read Jesus’ words in John 14:31, we hear Him say, “Get up; let’s leave this place.”
But in John 18:1, it says: “After Jesus had said these things, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley…”
So, it appears that Jesus prepared his group to leave the upper room, but they did so after He spoke John 15-17. That means that the prayer in John 17 was probably said in the presence of the eleven Apostles.
One other point of note before we proceed. Many have called the prayer that begins “Our Father in Heaven…” the Lord’s Prayer. They see value in reciting it as a prayer. But I want to point out two things:
First, it was never intended to be recited. We never read anyone in Scripture reciting that prayer. Instead, it was intended to be a model prayer, or a skeleton of prayer topics that we could personalize.
Second, it certainly wasn’t the Lord’s prayer. He never prayed it. If we want to look at a prayer that Jesus actually prayed, we end up in the chapter that we are looking at right now – John 17. This is actually the Lord’s prayer.
As we begin to listen to Jesus’ prayer, we realize that within the Trinity, there is a desire to glorify each other. Glorifying simply means to demonstrate and highly value the goodness of each other.
As we continue deeper into this prayer, we hear Jesus plainly describe the essence of eternal life. Eternal life is what we get when we trust in Jesus, right? So what is eternal life?
John 17:3 (CSB): “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.
Eternal life is, plain and simple, an enjoyable, experiential relationship with the Trinity. The word “know” in the original language is a Greek word that is used of a knowledge that is only possible through experience. So, eternal life isn’t merely being forgiven and getting ready for Heaven. Instead, it is an invitation into the divine relationship where we can go deeper and find greater joy as we experience the Lord in our lives.
Well, since Jesus had glorified the Father by making salvation available to mankind, Jesus asked the Father to restore His glory that He had before the world existed. In fact, we understand from the writer of Hebrews that Jesus was able to endure the horrific spiritual battle on the cross because He was looking forward to His glory being restored in Heaven.
Hebrews 12:2 (CSB): “… For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
After Jesus prayed about matters that pertained to Him and the Father, He moved on to a part of His prayer where He prayed for His followers, specifically those who were alive at that time.
Jesus noted that He had taught the people that the Father had given to Him. They had believed and were equipped to carry on the work even as Jesus left and went back to Heaven.
So Jesus prayed for them. He prayed for their protection, but even more specifically, their protection from the evil one. He prayed that they would experience His happiness as they embraced the words He had given to them and complied with them. But He also prayed that they would be sanctified in the truth.
John 17:17 (CSB): “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
“Sanctify” simply means to set apart for God. Jesus acknowledged that the means by which we are set apart for God in our thinking, motives, attitudes, words, and actions is the truth of His Word. Friend, there is no such thing as microwave Christianity. If we are to grow in godliness and be more set apart for the Lord than we are right now, it will come as we spend much time in our Bibles. The Holy Spirit will enable us to understand and apply the Word even as He works within us to make us more useable to Jesus for His Kingdom purposes.
Then, Jesus’ prayer moves on to another topic. In verse 20, He begins to pray for people who haven’t yet heard the Gospel but will. In essence, He’s praying for you and me!
One of the major themes in Jesus’ prayer is unity. Four times in His prayer, He says something like “may they be one.” He is not praying for uniformity in which we all look and act the same. Instead, He is praying for unity where all of us who are different will work together for the advancement of the Kingdom.
It is a beautiful thing when a church can work together, and when churches work together, for the purpose of sharing the Gospel and making disciples. Again, when we read Jesus’ words in this prayer, unity is huge. So it is no stretch of the imagination to think that the Lord gets furious when someone steps in to undermine and destroy unity among believers. Don’t be that person.
As Jesus concludes His prayer, He expressed His desire to enjoy being with those who are saved. He wanted them to experience His glory, something that will make Heaven unspeakably enjoyable.
Jesus also expressed His intent to continue making the Father knowable to people following Him. Why? So that they (we!) would be able to experience the Father’s love for them (us!).
John 17:26 (CSB): “I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”
Friend, once again, we hear the Lord saying that Christianity isn’t merely a religion. It’s not merely a set of rules. It is a relationship to enjoy. Sure, it has aspects of religion, but every ounce of that religion is infused with the potential happiness of enjoying a relationship with our God. Don’t miss it! This is where the happiness for each Christian can be found – in a soul-satisfying relationship with the Lord!
Lord Jesus, thank You for making the Father knowable to us. A truth that unbelievers do not realize is that knowing and experiencing You is a source of happiness so much greater than anything else we could ever experience. Being with You is precisely what will make Heaven Heaven! So, help us, Lord, to never be satisfied in our current knowledge and joy in You. While we strive to be content in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, help us never to be content in our happiness in You. Help us to always want more of You. We pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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.
If looking over the script for this podcast would be beneficial to you, hop on over to my website at mattsmusings.net. I will provide a link in this episode’s show notes.
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!