These are notes collected from studying with Matt Lantz and Matt Roefer. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!
Bible Project: Israel’s Kings Track Record
2 Kings 1-4: Signs and Wonders
2 Kings 1-4 is simply and utterly stunning. I want to see churches go through these. Though I recognize how overtly bad the conditions were in the backdrop too
2 King 6: Prophetic Ministry
And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (2 Kings 6:12)
When I first read this back in college, I was so touched by the power of the prophetic ministry. I’ve seen similar stories yet today, and am still so rocked each time someone knows “the words you speak in your bedroom” by the power of the Holy Spirit
2 Kings 18: Hezekiah
As the Bible project points out well we do not exactly have a plethora of great kings to look at here but one is Hezekiah. He is inspiring.
Check out 18:5-7- He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord had commanded Moses. And the Lord was with Him; wherever He went out He prospered.”
Seems like a guy to try to model after…
2 Kings 20: Hezekiah’s Healing
And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord on the third day?” And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz. (2 Kings 20:8-11)
This floors me…it seems like such a HUGE miracle for a request that seemed to me trivial (“how will I know in 3 days I will get better?”)…BUT…as I write this I do wonder how big of a deal this would be for a king of Israel in the time of a major Assyrian attack to know about his future health (for purposes of leading the whole community and planning the future at this very vulnerable time).
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19)
Even a relatively righteous king is still self-centered. How much this must be true in us and we don’t even realize it at times—Lord forgive and heal us!
Josiah’s Purging & Discovering
An observation about them finding the Bible in the days of Josiah: it seems like the FIRST thing they did was undo a lot of bad. THEN they were in a position to build good. Something to think about as we seek to build proper foundations: “like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock” (Lk. 6:48) — notice how much had to be removed before they could start building a house? The foolish house never removes the sand atop the rock, they just try to build. We really need to consider how people need to repent and remove things in their life before we start having proper foundations to build on from there.
Another brief observation:
- The judges began OK, but got worse and worse
- The kings began good with David, but got worse and worse
- Adam was born innocent and full of life (lived 900+ years), but through time people have grown worse and worse (his son murdered his brother)
- Jesus began the church as the Perfect King, but the church grew worse for a while, then I think God used the reformation to start anew
- this same phenomena has been described in Colleges and other institutions – they start good, but go bad. In fact, you can almost measure the level of compromise in main-line denominations by how long they’ve been around (the longer they’ve been around, the more compromise).
Saying this, the hope I see is that Jesus didn’t go away. He still lives. It’s like having King David still with us to reign and rule (only WAY better). The problem comes when we ignore Him and don’t seek Him. So it’s like having King David in a retirement home where we barely visit, even though he’s full of power and wisdom (again — Jesus is WAY better than David). This gives me hope today that we don’t have to go the way of decline. The 1st and Best remains with us. We need to rely on Him though and go to Him if there’s any hope!
Do works make us righteous?
I will admit as I read through the book I found myself struggling in going back to with my works based faith orientation. It seems in the rare instances a leader/king followed the Lord they prospered and the Lord blessed them mightily and every time a king was wicked they died or life turned out terribly for them (or their sons).
1Chronicles 10:13-14 is another example where it seems to just reinforce this further. I.e. Saul was wicked in seeking out mediums and not following the Lord and therefore He put him to death.
I was reading something else this week along these lines about how we do not want to think God’s love is conditional but scripture says otherwise. He loves those who love Him and follow His commands. He is just and we often neglect this. The OT points to it over and over.
I would love any of your thoughts on this, as it is deeply rooted in my Baptist upbringing and I have a hard time disconnecting from this line of thinking i.e. sin bring punishment and good works bring favor.
Let’s start with 2 principles that might help unpack this:
- God is just. As such, He rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. This has always been true and always will be true. The gospel upholds this truth, but adds grace and love to justice in that Jesus willingly made a decision as a righteous Man/God to take on the punishment owed the wicked. As a result, God’s just standard is met of punishing the wicked (= the cross, where sin/we were punished) in Christ, and of blessing the righteous (Jesus’ atonement covers us with his righteousness, so now we get the blessing He deserved through faith in Him). But notice that the principle stands: God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.
- There is a difference between “relative” and “absolute” righteousness. The gospel speaks to the absolute. We are absolutely wicked compared to God’s standard. We deserve absolute punishment (hell). Christ is absolutely righteous (the only One to be so), and through His imputed righteousness we receive absolute reward (eternal life). But a lot of the Bible deals with relative wicked and righteousness. For instance, you are more wicked than others around you. Or you do something more righteous than those around you. A good way that Rich Geer has taught me to think about it: imagine you have a high-jumping contest. You might be able to jump 4 ft, another 1 ft, and another 5 ft. You can jump higher than some, but others jump higher than you. Relatively speaking you have better and worse jumpers. But now imagine God’s absolute standard of good/bad sets the high jump bar on the moon. It sort of becomes irrelevant if you jump 4ft or even 10 ft when it’s on the moon, you know? All to say, a lot of the rewards and punishment you see based on righteous/wickedness in this lifetime (like in the Kings) is on a relative scale, not absolute. God still relatively punishes relative wickedness and relatively rewards relative righteousness in different ways (sometimes in this life, sometimes in the life to come — see 1 Cor. 3 and 1 Tim. 5 for instance). This is part of his love, discipline, sanctification, etc. This is also what I think of when I think of the Kings. He is showing relative punishment and rewards. I think even today this could become obvious when you think about the fact that if you only have sex with 1 partner after marriage, don’t abuse drugs and alcohol, be a good steward of your spirit, soul, body, etc. you will generally live a better quality of life and longer life than others. To me, that’s not that much different than relative rewards for choosing righteous ways over unrighteous ways.
I’d add that our realization of how incapable we are of doing any absolute good on our own is KEY to relative goodness in this life. Gal 2:20 – “not I, but Christ”…he goes on to say how the life he lives is one lived by faith and dependence on God’s Spirit in him. Or David talks of the power of broken and contrite hearts. Pharisees think relative righteousness is outward. Truly it starts with us seeing our sinfulness and repenting as we see it, and trusting less and less in us, and more and more in God’s Spirit within
Don’t mean to make this longer than needed, but would add:
- a lot of rewards / punishments type of stuff is seen later, at the final judgment–so we miss it if we look in this lifetime (Psalm 73 is great for seeing this)
- our idea of reward / punishment doesn’t always match God’s. For instance, Heb. 12 talks about the blessing of receiving discipline and suffering from God. When God doesn’t do this to you, you should be concerned. Unless you are truly perfect (as we will be in heaven) and it’s no longer needed…but we will never be that way this side of eternity! Similarly, in Rom. 2 it shows that unfaithful people were given “blessing” in order to turn them to repent: “God’s kindness draws us to repentance”.
Like most things, there is nuance involved and we miss it when we look for a quick explanation / formula. We need the Lord’s discernment (as always)!
2 Kings Observations
2 Kings rocked me in unsuspecting ways…
Namely, we are face-to-face with some of the most raw displays of God’s power ever recorded within human affairs:
- an axe head brought to float
- God’s fire coming down to consume armies
- God sending chariots to take up Elijah
- Waters completely clearing out (2 times)
- Prophecies where people’s names and activities were known hundreds of years before they were born
- A dead man’s bones bringing people to life by the power of God
- You get the picture
Matt Lantz adds: “Yes this really hit me too! Re- reading chapter 4 and crazy to see Elisha doing these amazing miracles ie stretching himself out on the shunammite woman’s dead son and bringing him back to life!!! What?!”
Honestly, it feels like taking the “red pill” in the Matrix. It makes me look at life in all different ways and see how there is no “impossible” with God and our surroundings. This means that instead of saying, “I can’t do such-and-such because of X,” we actually should be looking to God since he can change “X” at will.
I really want to go through 2 Kings (at least the first part), with our house church at some point. I think/hope it would rock us to have a much bigger vision of God acting in our life.
I’d only add something that Rich Geer has pointed out…
the time of prophecy and power came when Israel was in the midst of GREAT wickedness and falling away from the faith. As they became more overtly wicked, God acted in more overt ways.