Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 14-15 and Luke 12

2 Kings 14 – In Judah, Amaziah, son of Joash of Judah, begins his reign. He reigns for 29 years (800-783), and does “what was right in the sight of the Lord” (14:3), but not completely. Again, he leaves the “high places” alone. As soon as he is securely in power, he kills the servants of his family that had been involved in the death of his father; but he spares their children. In this he is praised for following the dictate of Moses: “The parents shall not be put to death fort the children or the children be put to death for the parents; but all shall be put to death for their own sins” (14:6).
He kills 10,000 Edomites. Then he sends to King Jehoash of Israel and says, “Come, let us look one another in the face” (14:8). This is an invitation to battle apparently. Jehoash thinks Amaziah’s victory over the Edomites has gone to his head.  I don’t know—the message is mysterious.  When Amaziah insists, they face off at Beth-shemesh and Judah is defeated. Amaziah is taken captive, and Jehoash comes to Jerusalem where the wall from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate (400 cubits of wall) is broken down. Jehoash seizes all the gold and silver to be found in the temple and the palace and returns to Samaria with hostages. Apparently Amaziah is left in Jerusalem, for the next chapter continues with him there. Jehoash dies and is succeeded by his son Jeroboam II (786-746).
The people of Judah are not happy with Amaziah.  Fifteen years after Jehoash’s death, a conspiracy is hatched against him.  He flees to Lachish, but they pursue him there and kill him.  His son Azariah (Uzziah) is made king. Azariah rebuilds Elath and restores it to his kingdom. He reigns from 783 to 742.

2 Kings 15 – Uzziah is 16 when he takes over.  He will rule Judah 52 years and will go “what is right in the sight of the Lord” (15:3). The high places will remain, but other than that, he will reform. Sometime in his reign he is struck with leprosy. His son Jotham becomes the public face of the monarchy, but it is thought that Uzziah remained the brains and power behind his son.
In Israel, Zechariah (746-745), son of Jeroboam begins his reign. “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. . .He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam. . .which he caused Israel to sin” (15:9). He is killed in public by Shallum (745), but Shallum reigns only one month. Then, he too is struck down—by one Menahem of Tirzah. He is remembered for sacking the city of Tiphsah because they did not accept him. “He ripped open all the pregnant women in it” (15:16). Menahem reigns ten years (745-738 ??) and does what is evil. When king Pul of Assyria comes against them, he gives him tribute so that he will be able to remain in power. Menahem exacts the tribute from the wealthy of Israel. Pekahiah, his son, succeeds him and reigns two years (742-740). He too does what is evil. Pekah, the son of his captain Remaliah, conspires against him with 50 Gileadites and kills him. Pekah rules for 20 years (744-732 ??) and does what is evil again. It is during his reign that Tiglath-pileser of Assyria comes and captures part of the land—Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee and all the land of Naphtali. The people there are carried off to Assyria. Then Hoshea, son of Elah (732-722) kills Pekah and takes over.
In Judah, Jotham, Uzziah’s son, reigns for 16 years. His mother is Jerusha, daughter of Zadok. He did what was right. . .just as his father Uzziah had done” (15:14). He built the upper gate of the temple.  During his rule, kings Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel come against Judah. Judah has refused to join in an alliance to fight against the Assyrians—in part because Isaiah has denounced the idea. When Jotham dies, his son Ahaz succeeds him.

Luke 12 – The crowds are so huge, they trample on one another.  Jesus tells his disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees—the hypocrisy [of superficial legalism] that pollutes the whole. Then he speaks of the eventual revelation of all things, much as Mark spoke of in his chapter 4.  The people who kill the body are not to be feared as much as He [God] who “has authority to cast into hell” (12:5). But then he turns around and assures them that not one person is forgotten in God’s sight (12:6), and that they should “not be afraid” (12:6). Is this message a little inconsistent?

 I think there is in Luke a much sterner tone, a much more critical tone than in Mark.  This is not to say there are not also beautiful, loving parables like the prodigal son or the woman who was a sinner, but the extravagance of love poured out by God sets up a more extravagant sense of the insult given when man does not respond. He is especially disturbed at the unresponsiveness of the Jewish leaders and people.  He taxes “this generation” not only with their unresponsiveness but with the failing of the people over all their history.  It starts when Jesus gives his first sermon and points out the greater faithfulness of the widow from Sidon and the Syrian, Naaman and then continues until they are charged with the blood of all the prophets slain from Abel to Zechariah in chapter 11.

Luke has a doublet then of a thought he had in 9:26, but here it is even tougher. The Son of Man will acknowledge before the angels of God those who acknowledge him (Jesus) before others here in this life. But if you speak a word against the Son of Man it can be forgiven; words spoken against the Holy Spirit, however, “will not be forgiven” (12:10).                 

A man asks Jesus to tell his brother to divide the family inheritance with him.  Jesus is impatient, claiming to have no place being an arbiter between them, but at the same time he is annoyed at the hint of material acquisitiveness in the request. He launches forth on the topic of greed: Life “does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (12:15). He tells a parable about a man who tears down a small barn and builds larger ones to hold more so he can “eat, drink and be merry” (12:19). God makes it clear to this man that “Those who pile up riches for themselves” are not making themselves “rich in God’s sight” (12:21); they do not make themselves secure by just piling up material wealth.
“I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (12:22-23): God knows we need these things. Strive instead for God’s kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well (12:30). “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions, and give alms.  “Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (12:32-34).
Jesus then tell s a number of parables that all have the point that we should live our lives alert to the fact that we do not know the timeline of God. We must stay alert and be responsible in doing the things God charges us to do. There is a measure of anxiety in Jesus’ words here. He knows he has “a baptism” (of death) to endure and he is “distressed . . . until it is over (12:50). Hard times are coming - times of division, (12:51) and trouble. Be ready. Be alert. Be faithful.

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