"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 30

    

     

    

    

Chapter 30: A Summary of God's Judgments

for the Divided Kingdoms

    

Chapter 30 Contents

30.1 Introduction

30.2 The Northern Kings

30.3 The Southern Kings

30.4 Comparing the two kingdoms

30.5 The Mystery of God's Inaction

30.6 The Big Picture of God's Will

   

  

30.1 Introduction

 

I am aware that in some ways the last five chapters have been heavy going as we have sought to examine in some depth the lives of the kings of both the northern and southern kingdoms

 

Whenever we have considered judgments in earlier chapters we have always sought to identify the wrongs that brought the judgment of God down on individuals or groups of people and then the nature of any judgment that follows.

 

Remember, we said from the earlier chapter in this book, the objective of disciplinary judgments were to draw Israel back into a right relationship with the Lord and for the nation to again be a ‘light to the Gentiles' i.e. to reveal God to the rest of the world.

 

Where hearts were so set by pride or occult activity, those disciplinary judgments sometimes turned into terminal judgments. Let's look at both kingdoms and see if we can summarise in an easy-to-read form what happened:

 

    

30.2 The Northern Kings

 

Here are the sins and judgments of each king of the northern kingdom:

 

King

Sin

Judgment

1. Jeroboam

He ignored God's prophetic help and when he became king he established a replica religion with idols.

His family will be wiped out. Defeated by Judah . No record of his mode of death.

2. Nadab

Bad as his father

Killed by Baasha

3. Baasha

 

Did nothing to improve Israel 's spiritual state & was thus condemned.

Rebuked by prophet Jehu. Later died but no record of mode of death

4. Elah

Same as his father

Killed by Zimri

5. Zimri

Followed the idol worship

Zimri committed suicide after a week of rule

6a. Tibni

No mention

Killed by others

6b. Omri

Was worse spiritually than the others

No record of any judgment

7. Ahab

Ahab was worse than any others.

He died trying to outwit the word of God, by being killed by a stray arrow in battle.

8.Ahaziah

Followed idols like Jeroboam

Died from a fall, confirmed by Elijah

9. Joram

Ditto but not quite as bad as his father

Killed by Jehu

10. Jehu

Ditto

Rebuked but no record of his mode of death

11. Jehoahaz

Ditto

Oppressed by Aram . No record of mode of death

12. Jehoash

Ditto

No record of mode of death or other judgment

13. Jeroboam II

Ditto

No record of mode of death or other judgment

14. Zechariah

Ditto

assassinated by Shallum

15. Shallum

Ditto

assassinated by Menahem

16. Menahem

Ditto

submitted to Assyria , no record of death

17. Pekahiah

Ditto

assassinated by Pekah

18. Pekah

Ditto

assassinated by Hoshea

19. Hoshea

Ditto but not as bad as the others

deported by king of Assyria . No record of death

   

Their Sins

   

They each take their lead from Jeroboam who established idol worship which remained throughout the existence of the northern kingdom. With only slight variations so that all fall to the same condemnation.

  

Their Judgments

  

Of these 20 kings we have observed in the northern kingdom, 11 of them died violent deaths and 9 of them there is no record of how they died.

We also note that the Lord used the following nations to discipline individual kings: Judah – Jeroboam / Aram – Jehoahaz / Assyria – Menahem / Assyria – Hoshea

 

It would appear that often the Lord simply let this northern kingdom get on without much interference but also often allowed the sinful nature of powerful men to kill other powerful men.

 

No doubt the state of the nation rarely changed from ‘bad' as none of the kings sought to bring about any substantial restoration.

 

     

30.3 The Southern Kings

 

Here are the sins and judgments of each of the kings of the southern kingdom.

 

King

Sin

Judgment

1. Rehoboam

Caused breakup of the kingdom

Was unfaithful to God so disciplined

King of Egypt attacked and took land

2. Abijah

His heart was clearly not fully committed to the Lord

No judgments on him

3. Asa

Sought help from Aram and not the Lord against Israel . Did not seek the Lord's help in illness in old age.

Foot disease possibly from the Lord and possibly died from it.

4. Jehoshaphat

Later allied himself with Ahab by marriage – Failed to clear the land of idol worship. Made alliance with king of Israel , built a fleet with him,

Rebuked by God for alliance with Ahab.

Rebuked for another alliance with Israel and fleet shipwrecked

5. Jehoram

Walked in ways of kings of Israel (badly!) and did evil, and led his people to worship other religions.

Was disciplined by the Lord using Libnah and the Philistines and eventually a lingering cancer.

6. Ahaziah

Committed idolatry, fought alongside sinful Israel

Executed by Jehu

7. Athaliah

A bad queen

Eventually murdered

8. Joash

After Jehoiada's death led astray, abandoned the Lord and reverted to idol worship

Disciplined by Arameans and murdered by own officials

9. Amaziah

A half-hearted king. Wanted to hire Israelites to fight against Edom . Took Edomite gods and worshipped them

Rebuked by prophet twice

10. Uzziah

When he became powerful he became proud and foolish

Confronted by priests for his bad behaviour and afflicted by leprosy by which he eventually died.

11. Jotham

Unfortunately his people were not faithful to God

No failures = no judgments

12. Ahaz

A bad king turning to idolatry, did not rely on the Lord

Handed over to Aram and later into the hands of Israel .

13. Hezekiah

Pride in showing of his wealth to the envoys of the king of Babylon

Rebuked for showing off. Warning of Israel 's destiny

14. Manasseh

Did evil in every way possible

Disciplined by being carried to Babylon

15. Amon

Did evil

Was assassinated

16. Josiah

Mostly nothing wrong

Died after battle he did not need to fight

17. Jehoahaz

3month reign, presumably bad

Deposed by Egypt

18. Jehoiakim

Did evil

Taken to Babylon

19. Jehoiachin

Did evil

Taken to Babylon

20. Zedekiah

Ignored the Lord & did evil

Refused the Lord, taken into exile in Babylon

 

This is a much less clear picture than that of the northern kingdom. Let's try and simplify the above table even more:

 

1. Rehoboam

Unfaithful to God

Pressured by Egypt

2. Abijan

Not fully committed to God

No judgments

3. Asa

Twice didn't seek God's help

Foot disease

4. Jehoshaphat

Made 2 bad alliances with Israel

Rebuked for alliances

5. Jehoram

False worship, did evil

Pressured by Libnah and Philistines

6. Ahaziah

Ditto, fought alongside Israel

Executed

7. Athaliah

Wicked queen

Executed

8. Joash

Good but later abandoned the Lord

Pressured by Aram , murdered

9. Amaziah

Half-hearted, worshipped Edomite gods

Merely rebuked

10. Uzziah

Later became proud & foolish

Afflicted by leprosy

11. Jotham

A good king

No judgments

12. Ahaz

Worshipped idols, did not rely on God

Pressured by Aram and Israel

13. Hezekiah

Mostly good but later proud

Rebuked for pride

14. Manasseh

Seriously bad

Carried off to Babylon (but returned)

15. Amon

Did evil

Assassinated

16. Josiah

Best king of both kingdoms

No judgments (self-destructed in battle)

17. Jehoahaz

Probably bad

Pressured by Egypt

18. Jehoiakim

Did evil

Carried off to Babylon

19. Jehoiachin

Did evil

Carried off to Babylon

20. Zedekiah

Ignored God & did evil

Carried off to Babylon

 

Trying to summarise their lives:

 

i) As a general assessment

 

Only 2 kings could be considered really good : Jotham & Josiah

 

4 others were mostly good – Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah & Uzziah although

  • Asa twice failed to seek God's help
  • Jehoshaphat had a tendency of making bad alliances with Israel
  • Hezekiah was good until later he exhibited pride
  • Uzziah was the same

 

1 other should be mentioned as just half-hearted – Abijah, and got away without rebuke or judgment

 

ii) In terms of the discipline/terminal judgment they received:

 

3 got away with no rebuke or judgment in any form: Jotham, Josiah & Abijah,

 

3 were rebuked only – Jehoshaphat, Amaziah, Hezekiah

 

5 were disciplined by being put under pressure from neighbours (in the style of discipline that we have observed previously in Judges) – Rehoboam, Jehoram, Joash, Ahaz, & Jehoahaz

 

4 were killed, either assassinated or executed - Ahaziah, Athaliah, Joash, & Amon

 

4 were disciplined by being carried off to Babylon – Manasseh, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, Zedekiah

 

     

30.4 Comparing the two Kingdoms

 

As we have gone through the chapters of 1 & 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, various things stand out:

 

1. Both kingdoms succumbed to terminal judgments:

  • The northern kingdom with the fall of Samaria in 722BC (a 208 year life)
  • The southern kingdom with the fall of Jerusalem and start of Exile occurred in 587BC (a 343 year life)     

                after the breakup of the kingdom after Solomon about 930BC

 

2. The difference in ‘constancy':

  a) the northern kingdom was constantly in a state of idol worship and none of the kings appeared spiritual or sought to change the spiritual state of the nation.

  b) the southern kingdom varied immensely.

  • Some kings were no better than the kings of the north
  • Some kings were good throughout
  • Some kings were good as long as they had a good mentor
  • Some kings were mostly good but failed later in life, either by drifting away from God of falling to pride.

 

3. The lengths of reigns

  • The lengths of reigns in both kingdoms appear to have NO correlation to the spiritual state of the land or the spiritual state of the king

Northern

Southern

1. Jeroboam (22)

1. Rehoboam (17)

2. Nadab (2)

2. Abijah (3)

3. Baasha (24)

3. Asa (41)

4. Elah (2)

4. Jehoshaphat (25)

5. Zimri (1 week)

5. Jehoram (8)

6a. Tibni (unknown)

6. Ahaziah (1)

6b. Omri (12)

7. Athaliah (6)

7. Ahab (22) ****

8. Joash (40)

8. Ahaziah (2)

9. Amaziah (29)

9. Joram (12)

10. Uzziah (52)

10. Jehu (28)

11. Jotham (16)

11. Jehoahaz (17)

12. Ahaz (16)

12. Jehoash (16)

13. Hezekiah (29)

13. Jeroboam II (41)

14. Manasseh (55) ****

14. Zechariah (6m)

15. Amon (2)

15. Shallum (1m)

16. Josiah (31)

16. Menahem (10)

17. Jehoahaz (3m)

17. Pekahiah (2)

18. Jehoiakim (11)

18. Pekah (20)

19. Jehoiachin (3m)

19. Hoshea (9)

20. Zedekiah (11)

 

We have given a 4-star rating to the two apparently worst kings, one in each kingdom – Ahab and Manasseh – and the incredible thing is that their reigns were so long, in fact some of the longest in their kingdoms.

 

Only Jeroboam II and Jehu had longer reigns in the northern kingdom than Ahab.

No other king reigned as long as Manasseh in either kingdom.

 

In Manasseh's case it is thought that he was taken to Babylon somewhere about three quarters of the way through his reign before being returned and so possibly something like the last ten years might have been the additional years of grace after he repented in Babylon . Even taking that period away that would have meant that his reign which was spoken about negatively so strongly, was still at least forty years.

 

      

30.5 The Mystery of God's Inaction

   

God's involvement

   

I can hear the likes of Richard Dawkins saying, “See, it just proves there is no God. Nothing happened when it should have done. It just goes to prove there is no God or of there is one he doesn't care!”

 

But that would ignore the number of times God spoke through His prophets and warned them what He was going to do – which He did – if they did not repent. (see Chapter 26 Appendix 1). Throughout the chapters of these three books there is an awareness of the presence of God watching over all that is happening. He is there and He interacts with the kings through His prophets again and again.

    

Reason for Inaction: 1. Revealing sin

   

As we commented in earlier chapters sometimes it seems as if God is reluctant to impose Himself on the life of a nation but rather leave us to work through our national lives, and in so doing reveal to the world the foolishness of mankind and the grace of God through the things that go on.

 

Observing these centuries when Israel was a divided kingdom, as you read through the chapters you see that there are times when the king was good and presenting a good example but the people were worshipping idols and were far away from God. On the other hand the spiritual life of Israel clearly fluctuated greatly and we see that especially when one of two of the good kings of the south call their people back to God and much is made of it. However, much of the time, the general national consensus seems to indicate a people who care little for God most of the time. Although that seems the general outlook, there are always a minority who remain faithful to God (which we'll see in the next chapter).

   

Reason for Inaction: 2. Allowing sin to built up

   

This aspect of God holding back was seen even in the early days of Abram:

 

Gen 15:13-16 "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure ."

 

  • The whole of the families immediate history is mapped out – a 400 year wait.
  • At the end of it the Lord would punish Egypt through them
  • Then He would use them to take the land of Canaan
  • Yet it almost seems as if He is allowing both Egypt and Canaan to go deeper and deeper into sin before He eventually steps in to deal with them.
  • Is it that God allows mankind to ‘do their own thing', to reveal their own stupidity, or to seek Him, so that on the last Judgment Day there will be no room for excuses – the truth will be blatantly obvious to see.
  • It is true of the history of Israel
  • It is true in our own histories

     

Reason for Inaction: 3. Desire for Repentance

    

Perhaps we should also remind ourselves of something we saw in the early chapters, a threefold declaration in Ezekiel that God does not delight in death but much prefers repentance that can then release His blessing on His people. (Those references were Ezek 18:23,32 & 33:11). Throughout the historical books we have been examining, God's desire has been for repentance, a restoring of the relationship between His people and Him and that we see through every prophetic word.

    

Reason for Inaction: 4. Allowing the ‘repentance process' time to work

   

We should also remind ourselves of a means that God uses to bring disciplinary judgment, where He lifts off His hands of restraint or protection in order to allow discipline to come so that eventually repentance might flow. The principle of this is seen in Romans 1, the national practice in Judges, and in individual example in 1 Cor 5:1-5 and 2 Cor 2:5-11.

Let's remind ourselves again of the basic New Testament teaching encapsulated by the apostle Peter: “ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9) That is a primary reason for God's apparent inaction; it is the realization that sometimes repentance takes a long time to come. There are times when it never comes but in those situations the guilty person on the day of judgment can never say I didn't know or I wasn't given enough time!

 

     

30.6 The Big Picture of God's Will

 

An Overall Understanding

  

Looking at these four reasons above, note the first two are about allowing mankind to express their free will which is so often seen in the form of Sin – self-centred godlessness resulting in unrighteousness – and where this freedom is unrestrained there are a number of illustrations in the Bible of how it continues to grow. The Lord sometimes steps back, lifts off His hands of restraint and protection, simply to allow mankind to be revealed for what it is. Unless we see the reality of mankind's sin, we will not see either the need for salvation or God's grace which holds back.

 

Ignoring the sin is no answer; it will not just get better, the evidence is there to the contrary. Although God has provided a way for Sin's guilt to be dealt with through the death of Jesus Christ, yet that way can only be applied when repentance occurs which involves the individual or nation, to face their sin, face their guilt and plead for forgiveness.

  

An Example of a Sinful Lifestyle

 

While a person or nation is set in their self-centred godlessness, they can never be open to receive God's goodness which always involves coming in line with God's design for us. Let's give a practical example. A man is running his business and in a variety of ways is corrupt – giving and taking bribes, bullying staff, avoiding paying taxes, cheating on his accounts and so on. Now apart from all those things being wrong, they create negative undercurrents which will work against the company's long-term success; for example, a hostile staff, angry customers and suppliers, and a tax man watching from the side line just waiting for an opportunity to examine the books and prove corruption and cheating.

 

Now add a spiritual dimension: this man is living and working with a style of life that is directly contrary to God's design which involves truth and integrity, honesty and goodness, and God sees that this man can be polluting the lives of others over whom he has influence, which is unjust. God cannot bless such a state of affairs and will ultimately one day hold that man to account on the final day of judgment. In the meantime in His wisdom, God may see this man's vulnerability and see that with a little pressure on him, his empire of corruption can be brought down and the man brought to repentance. In His wisdom the Lord may wait, either watching for that man's life to come to an end, or for circumstances to come in line to achieve that bringing down and subsequent repentance. The Lord Himself may act to reveal that corruption. Now His sovereign activity my simply be to bring an end to that unrighteousness or it may be to bring about repentance if he sees that is possible (and only He knows if that IS possible in every case.)

 

Viewing Israel

 

Now if we apply this example to the activities of Israel – northern or southern kingdoms – we can suggest that God acts – or does NOT act - in accordance with

what He knows can be brought about, on one hand, and

what He wants to reveal to a watching world on the other hand.

 

His hope – and His activity – will always be in the light of either of these two outcomes, because His desires, as revealed in the Bible, will always be to bring good and counter evil and for His heart to be revealed to those with eyes to see who may then respond to Him. It is, if you like, a double desire to

Protect His world AND

To draw people on this world to Himself to receive His love and goodness.

 

The ongoing life of the divided kingdom of Israel has been complex, involving lots of different people, all of whom express their humanity in different ways. A few express it in a clear desire to know God and conform to His design for us, while a majority express their sinful natures in a variety of ways.

  

Ongoing?

   

The more we ponder over these chapters, the more we will see the folly of the sinfulness of mankind AND the wonderful grace of God.

 

Because the end of these chapters bring us to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people, we would be unwise if we did not go on to consider in much greater measure the motivation, activities and outcomes of God's two major mouthpieces at this time – Jeremiah and Ezekiel – so that we may understand even more fully God's heart that led up to that apparent catastrophe for Israel. That is where we will go in the next chapter.

  

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