Friday, June 8, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 20-21 and Luke 15

2 Kings 20Hezekiah becomes sick—he has some kind of boil—and Isaiah comes to tell him he should set his house in order; he is going to die.  He turns “his face to the wall” and prays that the Lord will “remember . . . how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight” (20:3).

As Isaiah is leaving, the Lord comes to him and tells him to go back and say to Hezekiah that He has heard Hezekiah’s prayer, seen his tears and will add fifteen years to his life (20:6). Furthermore, he will deliver Jerusalem and the king out of the hands of the Assyrians. Hezekiah wants some kind of sign from the Lord that this prophecy will be realized, and Isaiah tells him the shadow on the sundial will retreat rather than advance for ten intervals as a sign that God fully intends to make the prophecy come true.
The king of Babylon, Merodach-baladan, sends letters and a present to Hezekiah when he is ill. Hezekiah responds by showing his envoys all the treasure he has – foolishly revealing everything of any value he has. Isaiah asks him about it and tells him at the end that in the future Babylon will carry everything away, even his sons.  Rather than getting disturbed by this prophecy, Hezekiah gives a rather short-sighted [and self-centered in my opinion] answer: “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (20:19). When Hezekiah dies, his son Manasseh succeeds him.

2 Kings 21 – Manasseh is just twelve years old when he succeeds his father; he will serve 55 years (687-642) as king and will do what is evil.  He backtracks on everything his father did. He rebuilds the high places, erects altars for Baal everywhere (21:3). He even makes his son “pass through fire” (21:6); he practices soothsaying, augury and other such magical arts. 

The Lord sends his prophets to tell him that because of these things, “I will bring such a disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that everyone who hears about it will be stunned. I will punish Jerusalem as I did Samaria, as I did King Ahab of Israel and his descendants. I will wipe Jerusalem clean of its people, as clean as a plate that has been wiped and turned upside down. I will abandon the people who survive, and will hand them over to their enemies, who will conquer them and plunder their land” (21:13-14).

Manasseh also sheds much innocent blood.  When he dies, he is succeeded by his 22 year old son Amon (642-640). He also does what is evil. He is killed by servants of his, but they are caught and killed by the “people of the land” so his son Josiah comes to the throne.

Luke 15 – The Pharisees and Scribes who spend their lives dedicated to the Law and the religious life of the community, complain that Jesus is always eating with sinners and outcasts.

Jesus responds with a beautiful parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them – what do you do? You leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the pasture and go looking for the one that got lost” (15:4). And if you find it, of course you rejoice! “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (15:7). Likewise, a woman with ten coins who loses one, will “light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it” (15:8).
Then Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son: A man has two sons. One of them asks for the property that will one day be his, and he goes off and squanders it “in dissolute living.” When it is all gone, a famine comes and he is reduced to dire need.  He ends up caring for pigs and envying the pigs their food. But he finally “comes to himself” and thinks of his home—how even the hired hands there have bread to spare.  So he resolves to get up and return in shame. “I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands’” (15:18-19).

He returns home, and his father sees him coming. Seeing him, his father is “filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him” (15:20). Then the son says the words he has rehearsed, and the father throws a lavish party.  At this the elder son become angry (15:28) and refuses even to enter the house.  When he speaks to his father, he complains that he never did what the younger son did but his father never threw him such a joyous party.  The father says, “’Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.  But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found’” (15:31-32.)

The father tries to make him appreciate the miracle of his brother’s repentance and return, but one is left with a feeling that those who are habitually obedient will never understand the miracle of repentance and return that can happen after making terrible life-choices, or the depth of love in people, parents especially and in our Lord, that makes it possible.

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