“Then the Lord awoke from sleep” (Psalm 78:65). When the Lord awakes from sleep, there is awakening. In 2 Kings 4:32-35, we see an example of such awakening – resurrection from the dead. How does such awakening come? It comes when the Lord’s people pray earnestly, with actions as well as words, “The Lord’s will be done” (Acts 21:14). To say this and mean it will be costly: “I am ready … to die … for the Name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
Elisha was known as “the man of God” (2 Kings 4:40,42; 2 Kings 5:8,14-15,20; 2 Kings 6:9,15). What a marvellous description – “the man of God.” To Paul, the call of God came – “You will be His witness” *Acts 22:15). Called to be a “man of God”, called to be “His witness” – what a high calling this is! Being a “man of God, being “His witness”, involves calling on the Lord: “How long, O Lord? Will You be angry for ever? … Help us, O God our Saviour, for the glory of Your Name” (Psalm 79:5,9).
“Go to meet the man of God. Consult the Lord through him” (2 Kings 8:8). The servants of the Lord were appointed to serve the people in the Name of the Lord. God’s servants are to lead the people to a deeper knowledge of God. The Lord said to Paul, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). God gives a ministry to His servants. He gives them courage to fulfil this ministry. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
The Word of God speaks of judgment. The judgment upon Jezebel was an awesome judgment (2 Kings 9:36-37). God’s Word also speaks of salvation. This is not simply the safety spoken of in Acts 23:24. It’s the eternal salvation, which is suggested to us in the Psalmist’s prayer: “Restore us, O God, make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:37).
How important it is to make a covenant to be the Lord’s people (2 Kings 11:17). In our faithfulness to God, we “believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14). We do, however, move beyond this to the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. We speak “about faith in Christ Jesus” (Acts 24:24). When we pray, “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:19), we are asking God to turn towards us in speaking His Word to us, the Word which leads to the renewal of the covenant of salvation.
The kings were compared with earlier kings – the evil king, Jeroboam (2 Kings 13:11), the good king, David (2 Kings 14:3). We may learn from this one and that one but, above all, our faith centres upon Jesus (Acts 25:19). Even the best of kings can never begin to compare with Him. He is the King of kings. He is the Lord of lords.
Here, we have the record of seven reigns – five in Israel, two in Judah. The five in Israel “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:24; 2 Kings 15:9,18,24,28). The two in Judah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 15:3,34). There is, however, one criticism of these two kings of Judah: “The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there” (2 Kings 15:4 ,35). “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall … blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (Proverbs 16:18,20). There is a choice to be made – Do “evil in the eyes of the Lord” or do “right in the eyes of the Lord.” When we read Paul’s testimony, in Acts 26, we learn that there is a great difference between religious pride which brought him “to the ground” (Acts 26:14) and trust in the Lord who says, “I am Jesus … get up and stand on your feet” (Acts 26:15-16).
“They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless” (2 Kings 17:15). There is no god who can compare with the Lord (Psalm 81:9-10). He alone is worthy of praise. He alone gives value to our lives by bringing fulfilment to them: “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10). When we give our Christian testimony, we offer this fulfilment, in Christ (Acts 26:28-29), to our hearers.
“Do not let the god you depend on deceive you” (2 Kings 19:10). The Lord alone is worthy of our trust. He alone will prove trustworthy. There is no god like the Lord – “God presides in the great assembly: He gives judgment among the gods” (Psalm 82:1). God will not fail us. He alone is Lord. With gladness, we confess our faith in Him: “I have faith in God” (Acts 27:25).
“Now, O Lord our God, deliver from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God” (2 Kings 19:19). Here and now, we have begun to experience our deliverance from Satan’s power. When Christ returns in the fullness of His power and glory, we will know the fullness of our deliverance from Satan’s power. On the island of Malta, Paul was delivered from the poison of “the snake” (Acts 28:4-5). The snake is a symbol of the cunning devil – Satan – who opposes God (Psalm 833:2-3). God will let His enemies know that He “is the Lord … the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18).
The rediscovery of the Book of the Law (2 Kings 22) revealed the standard from which Israel had fallen, the standard to which Israel was called. The apostolic preaching had the same twofold effect, speaking of both sin (Acts 28:26-27) and salvation (Acts 26:28). “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). God’s Word reveals to us the inadequacy of a worldly way of living and the better way of resting in the Lord and His Word.
“Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did …” (2 Kings 23:25). Like Josiah, Paul was a man who was unashamed of his Lord; “ I am not ashamed of the Gospel …” (Romans 1:16). Where does this strength come from? It comes from “the living God.” It is given to those who say from the heart: “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).
Babylonian captivity – The words are full of symbolic significance regarding the power of evil at work in every generation. Romans 1:18-32 describes the ‘cause and effect’ of ‘Babylonian captivity’: They did not glorify God and “God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts” (Romans 1:21,24). In the midst of ‘Babylonian captivity’, God remains faithful to His promises: “O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in You” (Psalm 84:12).
In Nineveh, God works in mighty power. “Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry” (Jonah 3:10-4:1). To this proud attitude, God says, “You … have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else” (Romans 2:1). He calls for a change of attitude: “Do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness … ?” (Romans 2:4). Rather than complaining about God’s goodness – ‘What right has He to bless these people, of all people?’, we are to cry to God that we ourselves may also be revived: “Restore us again … Will you not revive us again … ?” (Psalm 85:4,6).
God is perfectly holy. He cannot stand sin. This is clear in both Amos and Romans. It is stressed in Proverbs, which emphasizes that sin is not so much sin against man but “contempt for their Maker” (17:5). Proverbs 17:9 tells us that we are to “promote love.” This love is to be modelled on the love of God. He is always the One who is sinned against. He is never the One who has done the sinning. Nevertheless, His love remains constant. It is the divine pattern for our living in love.
Scripture speaks honestly about sin – “You have not returned to Me” (Amos 4:6,8,9,10,11); “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). God’s reply to sin is salvation – “Surely His salvation is near those who fear Him, that His glory may dwell in our land” (Psalm 85:9).
Religion is not salvation. “Sacrifices and offerings” (Amos 5:25), circumcision (Romans 4:9-12) – All of this can be “works” which are given to God as a means of earning His favour. The Gospel shows us another way – “righteousness apart from works” (Romans 4:6). This is the way of which the Psalmist speaks: “You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to You” (Psalm 86:5).
Amos was commissioned by the Lord – “Go, prophesy to My people Israel” (Amos 7:15). The purpose of such prophecy, in our generation, is to declare the Gospel: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). If this message of love is to be brought to the people, the preacher must pray: “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth …” (Psalm 86:11).
Christ restored what Adam lost (Romans 5:15). The Garden of Eden was devastated, but God promises to restore the garden (Amos 9:13-15). This is a prophecy – “The days are coming … “ (Amos 9:13). It is fulfilled in Christ, through whom we receive eternal life (Romans 5:21). In Christ, there is the great blessing of forgiveness – “acquitting the guilty”, but there is also the warning to those who imagine themselves to be innocent – “condemning the innocent” (Proverbs 17:15). There is no innocence in ourselves. Guilt can only be removed by Jesus Christ.
The grace of God is amazing – “I will show My love to the one I called ‘Not My loved one …’” (Hosea 2:23). We are now to live as those who have received grace (Romans 6:1-2). We put the past, with its sin, behind us. We look to the future – the fullness of God’s salvation (Psalm 87:3).
The sin of God’s people is described thus: “A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 5:4). This is not God’s way – “You used to be slaves to sin … You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Psalm 88 could be viewed as a vivid description of the way in which the “Lord, the God who saves me” (Psalm 88:1) puts to death the sinful nature so that the new nature might arise (Romans 7:4-6).
God longs to redeem us (Hosea 7:13). This is the deep desire of His hearts for us. His intention is to train and strengthen us (Hosea 7:15). This great purpose of God is not easily fulfilled in our lives. There is a great conflict going on within us (Romans 7:25). What are we to do? – “I call to You, O Lord, every day” (Psalm 88:9b).
Hosea 8:1-9:17; Romans 8:1-17; Proverbs 17:25-18:6
”Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces” (Hosea 8:14). When man forgets God, he builds monuments to his own glory. There is, however, a better way which brings glory to God – “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires … The mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6). We must come often to “the fountain of wisdom” (Proverbs 18:4) if our minds are to be controlled by the Spirit. It is the Spirit’s work to lead us to Christ, the living Word, through Scripture, the written Word. Through Scripture, we are made “wise for salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15). In Christ, we find “wisdom”, true wisdom, the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30).
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). God’s purpose of love will not be thwarted. Whatever trouble He may have with us – “My people are determined to turn from Me”, He will not give up on us – “How can I give you up …? … All My compassion is aroused … I am God … The Holy One among you, I will not come in wrath. They will follow the Lord” (Hosea 11:8-10). God is determined to bless us. This creates in us a response – “They will follow the Lord.” At the heart of this response, there is worship and witness (Psalm 89:1).
God longs for men and women to be saved (Hosea 14:1-2; Romans 9:1-5). He has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in His heart” as He considers the sins, the waywardness of man (Romans 9:2; Hosea 14:2,4). When He saves, His people “sing for joy at His Name”, singing, “Your arm is endued with power, Your hand is strong, Your right hand exalted” (Psalm 89:12-13).
So many names! We have names. We are called by name. God calls us His people, “sons of the living God” (Romans 9:25-26). He gives us His own Name. We are in Christ. We “rejoice In His Name all day long” (Psalm 89:16).
More names! It’s great to have a name – and not to be a nameless person of unknown identity. It’s even greater to have the Name of the Lord given to us for our salvation. “Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are saved” (Proverbs 18:10).
When we speak of “Israel”, as Paul does in Romans 22, we must not think of a nameless and faceless crowd of people. Behind the word “Israel”, there are many names and many faces to whom the Lord shows His mercy (Romans 11:31-32). The best name is the Name of the Lord – “My faithful love will be with him, and through My Name his horn will be exalted” (Psalm 89:24).
The names tell a story – the story of the historical development of the Lord’s purpose with His people. The many names, stretching over a vast expanse of time, highlight the greatness of God and the great work He is doing among His people. They draw out from us a response of heartfelt worship: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! …” (Romans 11:33). As we think of a progression over the course of many centuries, we realize the depth and dependability of God’s faithful love: “I will not take My love from him, nor will I ever betray My faithfulness” (Psalm 89:33).
Is there no end of names? As we read so many names, we wonder at the amazing scope of the Lord’s love – “God so loved the world … “ (John 3:16). When we consider the universal scope of the Lord’s great love, we are strengthened in our obedience to His Word: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Romans 13:9). There are times when we find it difficult to see that God loves us (Psalm 89:38-45). In such times, we must not lose hold of Him. We must hold on to our limited awareness of His love. We must pray that a renewed sense of His love will return to us.
1 Chronicles 10 tells of the death of Saul – “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord …” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Romans 14 speaks of the strong and the weak. Physically, Saul was strong. Spiritually, he was weak. Maintaining our spiritual strength, our relationship with God, is to be the great priority of our life: “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). There is a physical harvest. There is also a spiritual harvest: “The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:20-21).ne Year Bible