Hey there, Relentless Students! I hope you were all able to get outside today and enjoy the weather. The wife, baby and I spent the day adventuring and being out of the house, it was quite nice. Now, today we will be continuing our inspired journey through the scriptures. Our stop for today is 2 Kings. In the first book, we saw Solomon, the son of David, rise to power, his death, the split of Israel, and some not so great kings. So, today's book contains some more the not so great kings and some pretty baller ones as well.
To begin we are going to heavily focus on the rest of the prophet Elijah's life(he was introduced in the last book) and 2 of the kings during this time and. Let's start by saying, all of the kings of Israel (the 10 tribes that split off) were evil. They didn't want to follow God, at least not only Him. They didn't follow any of the commandments and for their sins, they received punishment nationwide (not so by your side now, are they?). So, Israel becomes the captives of the Assyrians and are forced to leave their homes as a show of dominance on the part of Assyria. With this, we turn to Judah. During this time Judah had a lot of evil kings as well. Ones that would turn the focus from God to other idols and gods. But there were a few who were good and they turned the people back to God. Within those, there are two I want to highlight: Hezekiah and Josiah.
First, the prophet Elijah. In 1 Kings he was the prophet who reminded the people of God's power when compared to other gods like Baal. He had many false prophets slaughtered and then had to go into hiding with a death threat looming. God protects him, he picks up a mentee and then the story continues in 2 Kings. We see more miracles and then he peaces out. The way he peaces out though is what intrigues so many people. In 2 Kings 2:11, we see the end of Elijah, the verse says,
"And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. "
*Poof* He's gone. He didn't die, he was basically raptured. The physical body and spirit lifted into heaven. Like, holy cow. This kind of "death" is only listed in one other place and it's how God takes Enoch in Genesis 5:24 "Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him." Enochs moment isn't recorded like Elijah. For Elijah, there were witnesses, at least 51, his mentee Elisha and 50 prophets who followed them.
Hezekiah was renowned for his trust in the Lord. He is listed in 2 Kings as being the king with the most trust in God, including those before and after him. He smashed all the idols and brought the people back to worshipping the one true God. He defied the Assyrians, keeping Judah from falling as captives like those in Israel. But the part of his story that pops the most is what happens around the 14th year of his reign. Assyria is again trying to siege Judah and Hezekiah has fallen ill. He prays for healing and the prophet at the time (Isaiah) tells him that God will heal him while also saving the people from Assyria. A sign is asked of God to show that he truly means to heal him. Hezekiah asks that the shadow on his sundial be turned back 10 steps. We see how this plays out in 2 Kings 20: which says,
"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."
During the time this was written the people didn't have watches or clocks. They were able to tell time by the positioning of the sun. Time was then determined by the shadow cast on some sort of structure. We don't know the exact structure, but it was some form of sundial, believed to be in the shape of a tower and there were literal steps up that the shadow would be cast onto. So, for the shadow to move back ten steps would require the Earth to stop spinning and change directions. Any person who has taken middle school geology could tell you that it would be catastrophic. Yet, everything was fine and Hezekiah saw that God would make good on His promise to heal him and deliver Jerusalem. This is an amazing example of God's mercy being enacted.
Our next king is Josiah. Josiah started quite young, becoming the king at 8 years old. What were you doing at 8? I was living in Colorado learning how to play cards and ride a horse, but this guy became king...talk about your overachiever... Just kidding, it wasn't his choice, he was next in line. So, as was still growing he was under the aid of a council of elders that helped train him how to be a king. This was no Simba situation, Josiah could have waited to be king. Fast-forward to when he was 18. At this point, he was well trained and doing his thing. A priest at the synagogue found the book of the law, A.K.A. the laws we went over the last week. Josiah was told of all the laws found there and could see how evil the kings and the people before him had been. He was filled with grief and tore his clothes as a sign to God of his repentance. His heart for God pushes reform in worship and bringing back the law that had been forsaken. Josiah was seen as David, a man after God's own heart.
Now, after Josiah, the kings are all terrible and lead the people down the wrong path. This lands them in exile, just like Israel. They disobeyed the law and turned a blind eye to the evil that was happening within their walls. Thus, God allowed the Babylonians to invade and take into captivity all of the inhabitants of Judah.
For more info on 2 Kings check out this video: