2 KINGS 20:1-22:2 | ACTS 21:18-36 | PSALM 150:1-6 | PROVERBS 18:9-10
Hezekiah is indeed a good king, and has seen the Lord’s hand many a time during his reign. But now he has fallen ill, and is on his death bed.
And so, Hezekiah does what he has done many times before: he prays to the Lord, and this is the Lord’s message to him though Isaiah, the prophet: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
This does indeed come to pass. Continuing on with Hezekiah’s story, there is a strange account of a king of Babylon who extends tokens of friendship toward Hezekiah and sends to him envoys bearing gifts. Hezekiah reciprocates in kind by giving the envoys a tour of his kingdom’s treasuries.
Little does he know until Isaiah, the prophet, comes to tell him that a day will come when his people will be carried away as prisoners of war to the land of Babylon. Hezekiah is saddened that it does not appear that in his lifetime he will achieve widespread and lasting peace in the land. After Hezekiah’s passing, his son, Manasseh, succeeds him as king.
Manasseh is only twelve years old when he becomes king of Judah, and you would think he would have continued in his father’s ways—his father, Hezekiah, being a most circumspect king in the way that he upheld the Lord’s ways. But Manasseh is the worst possible king to date. He goes back to the old ways with a vengeance, performing idolatry and worshiping every known and unknown god, and creating new ones along the way.
So terrible is this abomination that he is the cause for the Lord’s grave words: “I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies; 15 they have done evil in my eyes and have aroused my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until this day.”
Manasseh is succeeded by his son Amon who is a spitting image of his father. The text tells us this about him: 21 He followed completely the ways of his father, worshiping the idols his father had worshiped, and bowing down to them. 22 He forsook the LORD, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him. Amon dies an unexpected death, killed by his own officials. The only good thing that come from this is that his son Josiah, eight years old is appointed as king. This boy-king is also, like the previous boy-king by the same name, a good king. The text tells us this about him: 23 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.
Turning now to our reading in the book of Acts, we learn of the continued travels and ministry of Paul. By now, Paul has gained a solid reputation as one of the pioneer missionaries who started out with Barnabas, then Silas, and then several others, planting small church communities throughout Asia Minor.
Paul has made no distinction between Jew and non-Jew, i.e., Gentile, and has preached the same gospel of Jesus Christ to one and all. Over the years, this has caused some confusion and conflict among the more devout Jews who believe that Paul’s teachings are diluting the Judaic laws and practices at best, and is outright blasphemous at worst. This happens to be one of those times when while in Jerusalem, Paul is confronted by some of the other Jewish elders who express concern about these matters.
Paul is very conciliatory and prepares to take measures to participate in many of the Jewish customs so as to allow the believers among the Jews to not lose face with the non-believing members of the community. But even as he does all this, there are some others who are not satisfied, and before you know it, they are calling for Paul to be done away with.
Charges of blasphemy are leveled at him, and the crowd is so whipped up into a frenzy that they begin to beat him to death. It just so happens that a Roman guard is made aware of this and comes just in time to break up the mob and to arrest Paul so as to protect him.
The crowds cries of “Get rid of him!” is so very reminiscent of the cries of another mob at another time who charged an innocent man and had him executed on the cross.
Turning next to our psalm for the day, we find one that I have long had committed to memory from my early childhood, thanks to my mother. I reproduce Psalm 150 it in its entirety in the King James version in which I was taught to memorize it:
1Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
4Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs, both unrelated in meaning, but worthy of record and rumination:
9 One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.
10 The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.