Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kings & More Kings

The Story of Scripture: Kings & More Kings 1/23/11
I Kings 15:1-8, II Kings 18:1-8, Luke 4:14-30

You may have heard the phrase: Jumping Jehosaphat. Have any of you used that phrase before? Euphemism for Jehovah and a way to avoid taking the Lord's name in vain. It is one of the American colloquialism's similar to egad (o God, and Jeez, for Jesus). Jumping is found in American literature in 1850’s.

But Jehosaphat was a real person, one of the Kings of Israel. Last week, we talked about the first three kings: Saul, David and Solomon. They are the most famous, and the most is written about them in the Bible.

It seems clear from the Bible that God never wanted Israel to have a king. God wanted to be their king…so that they could be provided for, and be a blessing for the world.

A King, by definition, would have his interests, as well as his people’s protection in mind. The king wouldn’t be concerned with the world, but rather, his land and his people.

But God had brought about the existence of Israel for a whole other reason: By you all nations of the world will be blessed. In the nation of Israel, there were twelve tribes, and one of them was the tribe of priests who would pray and sacrifice on behalf of the whole nation. Well, the nation of Israel was to be, from God’s perspective, priests for the whole world. They were to bring blessing and honor the name of God, so that all nations might walk in light. Having a king was a direct contradiction to what God had wanted.

Today, we highlight that the nation of Israel has other kings in addition to the main three we highlighted last week. In fact, there are kings for about 700 hundred years before the world empires such as the Greeks and the Romans rule Israel.
During those hundreds of years, there are good kings and bad kings. And there are prophets who confront kings when their behavior is bad. In our Bibles, prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel confront kings for their wrongdoing. So much of the literature of the Hebrew Scripture was written about and during the era of the kings.

Our two readings today provide an example of a good and bad king. The structure of the records is pretty common to the Bible. There are four books that highlight the kings after Solomon: I & II Kings and I & II Chronicles. Each Kings important contributions are recorded in the annals of the Kings of Judah or the annals of the kings of Israel. For after Solomon, Israel has a civil war, and breaks into the north (called Israel) and south (called Judah).

In our readings about Abijah and Hezekiah, we see how large a figure King David was. Generations after David had died, he is still the measuring stick for all the other kings.

Abijah provides a good example of what happens during many of the reigns.
--He continues the sins of his father
--His heart is not devoted to God.
--God is patient during the wicked reigns because of his promise to David.
--that kings reign in the midst of forces beyond their control.
--you can’t reign forever.

Hezekiah provides a good example of how a reign can bring hope and help.
--he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
--he remembered what David had done.
--he removed idols from the land.
--he even parted with something significant in Israel’s history that had started to have a negative life of its own: the bronze snake.
--he trusted in the Lord.
--he keeps on the right path and does not give up.
--he keeps the commands of the law, given to Moses.
--he does not bow to other kings but bows to his king, the Lord.

And for the ways he honored God,
--his name is remembered and honored among the generations
--the Lord was with him.
--and he was successful in all that he undertook.

Jesus: God’s Good Reign

Deep reverence in worship and respect for tradition
The Spirit of the Lord, and being anointed by the Spirit for service
The preaching of good news (for the poor)
The proclamation of liberty (for the imprisoned)
The recovery of sight (for the blind)
The release of oppression
The proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favor.

The surprise element in the message of Jesus:
Bold to proclaim: I am he.
Reminding Israel, the chosen people, that ultimately God is the one choosing, and he will surprise the comfortable in his choices.
Wanting to throw him off a cliff, he walks through them, and scorns their little perception of power.

God’s surprise and judgment is always directed at those who thought they were on the inside.
Are we insiders today: familiar with the message, comfortable with our perception.

Our call is to do the work of Jesus in this world. We are to be a blessing to the nations. The blessing we share is the message of Jesus. The message will surprise the world, and surprise those who proclaim the message.

To whom do we bring the message of Jesus: the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed.

When we listen to that: is that someone else? Or is it me?

Because Jesus said that is who he was coming for. And I want to be someone Jesus comes for.

In Jesus Christ, God has announced to the world that his favor will rest on humankind.

Those who oppose that message will ultimately be silenced. Even if it’s a bunch of kings. And to those ‘foolish’ enough to accept God’s kingdom, they will someday reign, as sons and daughters of the living God.

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