Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2 Kings 18-19 -- Who is faithful to their word?

18:1 – Hezekiah – son of Ahaz. He reigned for 29 years (715-687 BC) over Judah (10 years the throne was shared with his son Manasseh) doing what was right before the LORD as his father David had done (18:3; for a paralleled alternate account of the reign of Hosea see Isaiah 36:1-39:8). He carried out religious reforms by removing the high places, smashing the sacred stones, cutting down the Asherah poles (18:4), repairing the Temple of the LORD, appointing priests, and celebrating Passover with both Judah and Israel (2 Chron.29-31).

18:4 – Nehushtan the bronze snake Moses had made in Numbers 21:4-9 was kept until the reign of Hezekiah and was being worshipped until he had it destroyed. Why did Judah keep it? The name Nehushtan is thought to come from combining the Hebrew words for ‘snake’ (nahash) and ‘bronze’ (nehoshet)– (see Hobbs WBC 252; Konkel NIVAC 599).

18:7 – Why should Hezekiah bring about the possible turmoil of Judah through reforms and his rebellion against Assyria? Because he trusted the LORD (18:5-6).

18:9-12 – Why is their repetition of the material presented already in 2 Kings 17:1-6? It may be to remind the reader of the consequences of disobedience to the word of the LORD in light of the imminent invasion by Assyria. Will Judah go into exile as Israel? Will Judah trust in the LORD in the face of seemingly impossible odds?

18:13 – In 701 BC Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah (after having finally settled its four year struggle against Babylon…though this would prove only temporary). He had just previously conquered Tyre and replaced its king, as well as conquering numerous other cities and nations. He is reported to have conquered 46 walled cities of Judah and many other smaller towns as well as deported 200,000 Judahites and surrounded Jerusalem (see Pritchard ANEP 371-373).

18:14-16 – While Hezekiah paid Sennacherib approximately one ton of gold and 30 tons of silver from the Temple treasuries, he also reinforced the walls of Jerusalem and built a water aqueduct system in order to preserve the city in case of siege (2 Chron.32:1-5, 30).

18:21 – What does it mean for Egypt to be a splintering staff of reed? (Isa.36:6; Eze.29:6-7)

18:22-25 – Is the field commander (the Rabsheka) of Assyria correct about the LORD?

18:26-28 – Why did the Rabsheka speak in Hebrew instead of Aramiac? He did this in order for those on the walls of Jerusalem to hear and understand the intimidating propaganda of Assyria.

18:29-35 – Why does the Rabsheka say, “Do not let Hezekiah…” and “Do not listen to Hezekiah…”?

18:31-32 – Assyria makes promises to Judah which the LORD will fulfill, but does so in order to usurp the place of the LORD towards the people.

19:1 – What is Hezekiah’s response to the threats? He needs a word from the LORD.

19:6-7 – The word of the LORD through Isaiah is both clear and concrete—Sennacherib will die for his blasphemy and Jerusalem will not be besieged and taken (19:8 demonstrates the first part of the LORD’s answer already coming to pass).

19:14-19 – What is the main thrust of Hezekiah’s prayer? He prays that there might be a universal confession of the LORD as God alone.

19:21-28 – A dirge or lament against Assyria (much like the one found in Isa.10:5-19). The LORD will lead Assyria by His own “hook” in their “nose” because of their treatment of Him and His people (see Amos 4:2).

19:29-31 – What is the “sign” to Hezekiah and what does it mean?

19:32-34 – Why did the LORD spare Jerusalem?

19:35 – 185,000 Assyrians were killed by the angel of the LORD, but King Sennacherib of Assyria and many with him survive and return to Ninevah. In 681 BC, King Sennacherib was assassinated by his two older sons, Adrammalech and Sharezer apparently after making his younger son Esarhaddon king ahead of them.

The following is Lord Byron's The Destruction of Sennacherib that happens to be one of my favorite English poems.

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

"The Destruction of Sennacherib" is reprinted from Works. George Gordon Byron. London: John Murray, 1832.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Apostle's Creed and the Assemblies of God

I've been teaching our congregation from the Apostle's Creed since some time last Spring (though not weekly and often only taking a short 10-15 minutes before we move into our intensive time of prayer for the remainder of our time together).  I have personally been deeply enriched by this study which is definitely outside of the norm for Assembly of God fellowhips.  In fact, I don't remember ever hearing anything about the creed in the numerous Assemblies that I've attended since childhood and most certainly we never confessed it together (that would have seemed to be too 'liturgical'...or in otherwords...too 'religious' and not nearly Pentecostal enough).  It is troubling to me to consider my wider Fellowship's failure to study, teach, preach, confess, and pray this creed (as well as the other ecumenical creeds).  I believe we have done ourselves a deep disservice and separated ourselves from the wider Church by doing so. 

The founders of the Assemblies of God (more specifically, the early Pentecostals) desired to cut out any creed as being 'man-made'. After but a few years, however, they formulated what they considered to be a Biblical statement of beliefs (though the language of a 'creed' was excluded, because there was still a rejection of things creedal as being 'human').  This was a say the least.  In rejecting credalism (which I believe may justifiably be rejected), our fellowship rejected the historic creeds of the Church and replaced them with our own (non-)creeds (which in some degree bore a similar structure to elements of the historic creeds, but in a less memorizeable, less confessional, and less ecumenical form). 

The form which the 'Fundamental Truths' (the title of our doctrinal statement) took was utterly lacking in memorability and thus incapable of truly serving a catechetical function (not to mention the numerous doctrines which may receive more emphatic clarity than is Biblically warranted and serves a more distinguishing purpose rather than a more ecumenical one). 

I was pleased to discover that the Assemblies of God has recently released an abbreviated form of the 'Fundament Truths' (intended for children and fitted onto a single small wall-poster) which moves in a positive direction for actually making our confession to be more readily memorizeable.  While this is a long-awaited move that may in fact enhance the confessional nature of our statement of faith, this still stands in place of such confessions as the Apostle's Creed which are central to the life and history of the wider Church (and which the Assemblies seems oblivious towards).  Perhaps in this move there will be a wider embracing of a confession which is better suited to discipleship (if it can be adapted to adult curriculum), but I would personally like to see the Apostle's Creed incorporated into our confession of faith as central and our distinctives as remaining in a more secondary/supportive role (and in this way these distinctives may be rightly emphasized as important, but also recognized as not holding the same status as the core of the Gospel).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

2 Kings 16-17 -- The LORD’s Presence—Promise and Threat

16:1 – Ahaz – son of Jotham. He reigned for (3 years as coregent then another) 16 years (735-715 BC) over Judah. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD unlike his father David and even acted like the kings of Israel (16:2; II Chron.28:1-2). He made idols and worshipped them (16:4; II Chron.28:2, 4, 24-25), offered his son (or sons – II Chron.28:3) in the fire (16:3 – apparently as an idolatrous act – see Deut.12:31; 18:9-10). Ahaz suffered a great defeat (II Chron.28:5-15 even though the captives of Judah were eventually returned) and while under siege by Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Aram he refused to trust in the LORD rejecting the word of the LORD through Isaiah the prophet and instead relied upon Tiglath Pileser III of Assyria (16:5-9; Isa.7-8) by bribing him (16:8). While delivering the bribe to Tiglath Pileser III he noticed the Assyrian altar and commanded a replicas immediate construction by Uriah the priest (see also Isa.8:2) and placement in the Temple of the LORD. This new altar was meant to replace the original altar which was then used by Ahaz for his own sacrifices (16:10-16) to the gods of Damascus (II Chron.28:22-23). In some sense Ahaz was following other Priestly-Kings like David (II Sam. 6:17-18) and Solomon (I Kings 8:63) – albeit in a wicked manner – so he seemed to emulate more especially Jeroboam I of Israel (I Kings 12:32-33).

17:1 – Hoshea – son of Elah. He assassinated Pekah king of Israel and reigned for 9 years (732-722 BC) over Israel doing evil in the eyes of the LORD, but was not considered as bad as others before him (17:3). Hoshea payed Shalmaneser V king of Assyria tribute for some time but quit and sent instead for help from Egypt (17:3-4) which was weak at this time due to many internal conflicts and therefore not able to help appropriately. His trust in Egypt was against the word of the LORD (Isa.30-31) and thus Hoshea was captured by Shalmaneser V, Samaria fell after a three year siege, and Israel was deported into exile according to the word of the LORD (see Lev.26; Deut.27-28; I Kings 14:14-16; Jer.31:15).

17:7-23 – The author of Kings makes explicit (just in case anyone already missed the critique) why all of this happened…Israel (and Judah was included in this prophetic sermon) had ultimately broken the covenant with the LORD and disobeyed all of the prophets sent to call back to faithful obedience (17:13, 20).

17:8, 11, 15 – “as the nations”? Israel is accused of acting like both the nations the LORD drove out of the land and as the nations all around them. Is this the struggle also of the Church…to be a people who belong peculiarly to the LORD who live differently than the people of the world? (see Deut.10:15; I Sam.12:22; Titus 2:14; I Pet.2:9)

17:9 – “The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God”? (If “secretly” is the correct translation – see Konkel NIVAC 577) Does the LORD see things done in ‘secret’? (see Ps.90:8; Matt.6:18; Eph.5:12)

17:24-28 – The Gentiles newly settled in the land of Israel appear to have a better understanding of the relation of the LORD to the land and the necessary obedience, but this is only short lived (17:29-41).

17:33, 44 – They “worshipped (feared) the LORD, but…”? (see Hos.6:4-10)

17:39 – To who are the LORD’s promises directed? (see II Sam.7:7-17; Isa.6:11-13; Hos.11:8-11; Amos 9:11-15) There is a promise of a “remnant”; thus the naming of Shearjashub (meaning “a remnant will return”) son of Isaiah (Isa.7:1-10). The promise is ultimately fulfilled in “Immanuel” meaning “God with us” (Isa.7-8; Matt.1:22-23). The presence of God is essential to the promise being fulfilled, but it must be remembered that the one who is both a “promise” is also simultaneously a “threat.” “The choice is not whether God will be present; the choice is only in the response to that presence” (Konkel NIVAC pg. 569).