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Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Story - Chapter 17

The Story is a chronological treatment of the entire Bible. The sermons are provided for each of the 31 weeks of The Story in both video format and text. An outline for your notes is also provided. The Titanic received a number of warnings that icebergs were ahead. What would have happened if the captain of that ship had heeded those warnings? Are there some things about your life and your relationship with God in which He is giving you some warnings? Are you heeding those warnings? That's what we will be looking at in this message; "The Kingdom's Fall."
Series:Sermon

“The Kingdom’s Fall.”

Series: “The Story: Headed South”

January 20, 2013

Selected verses from the book of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles

“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” 5 In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger. . . 9 But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.  10 The Lord said through his servants the prophets: 11 “Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. 12 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. 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 hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, 15 because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day.” 16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord. . . . The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. (But, God gave the people one final warning.  He raised up a prophet, Jeremiah.  God said to Jeremiah;) Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.  (Jeremiah had a task to perform.  He was to preach God’s word of judgment) Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. . . I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.)  But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.  12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. 13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. . . The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. . . I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

 

On the evening of April 14, 1912, radio operators of the RMS Titanic received a message that the ship was heading toward a dangerous ice field.  Later, a nearby ship also sent a message via Morse Code that they were approaching an ice field.  However, the radio operators were preoccupied.  In a day when there were no cell phones, the radio operators were busy sending messages from the ship’s passengers to loved ones back home that they were having a wonderful time aboard the world’s most luxurious ship.  The operators had such a long list of messages that when the nearby ship sent the warning message, the radio operator responded in Morse Code.  “Shut up; shut up.  I am busy.” I think you know the rest of the story. [1]

 

What we have been seeing again and again as we traced this history of the Northern and the Southern Kingdom was that the kings and the people were

 

  1. I. Ignoring All the Warning Signs

 

  1. A. God had warned the people of Israel

 

It wasn’t that God hadn’t warned them.  He sent them messages upon messages that they were approaching an ice field.  God sent them 9 prophets but do you think the people listened?  Noooo.  God sent the Assyrians to the Northern Kingdom, 185,000 strong, but do you think the people listened?  Noooo.  The people of the Northern Kingdom were carried off into exile never to be heard from again.  The attention was turned to the Southern Kingdom, to Jerusalem.  Do you think maybe the people of Jerusalem got word of what the Assyrians did to the Northern Kingdom and they would have seen that as a warning, that they would have changed their evil ways?  Do you think the people listened?  Noooo.  Do you think the people listened when that Assyrian army of 185,000 were camped outside their doors?  Noooo.  It took an angel of the Lord killing off that huge army.  Surely the people would listen then.  But, Noooo.  They didn’t heed the warning, although there was a huge glimmer of hope in the form of Good King Hezekiah who returned the people to the Lord.  Then, in our reading from last week we come across Manasseh.  Manasseh was King Hezekiah’s son.  Manasseh probably experienced the Assyrian siege.  He saw how his father served the one true God.  You’d think Manasseh would have learned.  But, Nooo.  Here’s what we read of Manasseh;

 

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.”  2 Kings 21:2

 

He rebuilt the pagan altars, bowed down to the starry hosts and made an Asherah pole.  Those Asherah poles will get you every time.  He built an altar to Baal even in the temple that Solomon built, the temple dedicated to the one true God.  He practiced divination, consulted spiritists, and even threw his own son into the fire of a sacrifice to Baal.  That’s pretty bad, don’t you think, that is unless that was a really bad son.  So God made it as plain as day.  Listen to how the Bible details this warning of the people of the Southern Kingdom;

“Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. 12 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. 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 hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes, 15 because they have done evil in my eyes and have provoked me to anger from the day their forefathers came out of Egypt until this day.”  16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” 2 Kings 21:11-16

Talk about a warning!  Talk about a message that an ice field is coming!  Would you not have thought that Manasseh got it then?  But, Noooo.  Would you not have thought that the people of the Southern Kingdom would have gotten it?  But, Nooo.  Listen;

“The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.” 2 Chronicles 33:10

The Assyrians came and Manasseh was captured and they put a hook in his nose—ouch—and carted him off to Babylon and finally, finally, Manasseh did get it.  It must have been the hook in his nose.  He did repent and return to God, but the people didn’t.  The downward spiral continued.  The Babylonians came on the scene next.  They captured a portion of the people of the Southern Kingdom and took them off into exile.  The prophet Ezekiel was one of them.  From exile, Ezekiel prophesied;

“I am about to bring a sword against you, and I will destroy your high places. 4 Your altars will be demolished and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will slay your people in front of your idols. 5 I will lay the dead bodies of the Israelites in front of their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. . . . and you will know that I am the Lord.” Ezekiel 6:3-5,7

Again and again, God warned the people of the Southern Kingdom.  The icebergs are coming!  The icebergs are coming!  But, the people kept saying, “I’m too busy.  I want to do what I want to do.  There are other gods out there.  I want to worship them.”  The people paid no attention.  They didn’t heed the many warnings God had given them.  Now, could I stop a moment and ask you a question;

  1. B. Has God been warning you about something?

Has God been warning you about some of the things you have been doing and

  1. 1. Have you gotten the message?

In a quiet moment—or when the pastor brings it up in the sermon—would you be able to admit that maybe there are some warning signs out there, some icebergs in your life, that you are ignoring?  Maybe you have been flying off the handle quite a bit lately.  Maybe you find yourself losing your temper.  Has anyone suggested that maybe this is something that needs to be addressed?  Has God sent you a warning sign?  Maybe you are quick to cut someone down.  Do you find yourself getting defensive and your response is to attack?  Have you found that people tend to shy away from you?  Is that a warning sign?  When you watch TV and you see people brag about the amount of liquor they can handle, is that a warning sign for you?  Is God asking if you have been drinking too much?

Or, is God warning you about making idols in your life?  An idol is not just a little carved figure or the celebrated Asherah pole.  An idol is anything or anyone you put before God.  Jesus told the story of the rich young ruler.  The rich young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to receive eternal life.  Jesus told him to give away his money and the rich young ruler walked away sad because he had much money.  His money was more important than eternal life to him.  Is God warning you about making idols in your life?  Idolatry is the sin under which all other sins fall.  Lust is making sex your god, your idol.  Materialism is putting money on the throne of your life, wanting money more than anything.  It is making Money your idol.  Worry is making your comfort your god.  It is making comfort your idol.  Instead of looking to God for comfort, do you look to food?  Instead of looking to God for significance, do you look to your job?  Instead of looking to God for security, do you look to money?  Instead of looking to God for joy, do you look to your marriage?  Instead of looking to God for hope, do you look to politics?  (Boy, will you be disappointed in that one, but I digress.)  Instead of looking to God for truth, do you look to academics or your own feelings?  Has God been warning you that you need to put Him first on the throne of your life, that in your church attendance and in your giving and in the use of your time, He needs to come first?  Is God warning you?  Is what I am talking about right now a warning for you?  Do you need to do a gut check, some soul searching, to see if God is saying to you in this or another way, the icebergs are coming!  The icebergs are coming!  Now, for the people of the Southern Kingdom God had

  1. II. One Final Warning

 

Enter the prophet Jeremiah.  First, let’s look at

 

  1. A. God’s call of Jeremiah

 

God’s word came to Jeremiah and said to him;

 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

 

Wow!  How would Jeremiah have been feeling hearing those words from God?  Before you were even a glimmer in your father’s eye, I knew you and called you and set your path out for you as my prophet, my servant.  Would that not have affirmed Jeremiah in his role?  But, that is God’s Word to you.  God has said to you, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. . .” Say that; “Before God formed me in the womb, God knew me, before I was born, God set me apart. . .”  Paul said it this way;

 

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” Ephesians 1:4-5

 

Take that in, will you?  God chose us, He chose you, before He even created the universe, He chose you to be His own.  He chose you to be holy and blameless.  He chose you to be His child, a Christian.  He predestined you to be adopted in Christ Jesus.  God chose you!  Before He made Adam and Eve, God chose you as His very own.  And God has a role for you to play.  God chose Jeremiah.  Jeremiah needed to hear that because God was sending him to warn that Southern Kingdom, to warn them to change their evil ways.  Jeremiah must have known the magnitude of what God was calling him to do.  He had some excuses.

 

  1. B. Jeremiah’s excuses

 

Jeremiah said that he was too young, that he was only a child.  He said he was afraid.  He said, “Not today.  I have to watch the Baltimore Ravens beat the New England Patriots.”  Any of those excuses sound familiar?  Have you used them?  “I’m too old, too young, too busy, too unqualified to share my faith, sit on council, take on a new ministry.”  Have you used these excuses?  Jeremiah had his excuses but God kept assuring Him that He would be with Him and provide all he needed.  God had Jeremiah’s back.  I wonder if that can be our assurance when God calls us to a task.  God is saying to you, “You are not too young or too old or too anything.”  God is saying to you, “I have chosen you for this task and I will provide what you need to get the job done.”  Jeremiah would need God’s assurances because of the message he was to deliver.  Here is

 

  1. C. Jeremiah’s message

“Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. . . I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.)  But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.  12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. 13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:4, 9, 11-13

The people of the Southern Kingdom have changed gods.  They gave up the One true God for worthless idols which are not gods at all.  They are worthless pieces of clay.  The people have forsaken God and dug their own cisterns.  They decided for themselves what is right and what is wrong.  Jeremiah’s message was God’s final warning to the people of the Southern Kingdom.  It is hard to get any plainer than.  Still, still, still, the people did not heed the warning.  Still, the kings went from bad to worse.  They did evil in God’s sight.

  1. D. God came to the end of His line.

Listen to some of the saddest words of all Scripture;

“The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36:15-16

Underline the words, “and there was no remedy.” Finally, God had had enough.  There came a time when God comes to the end of His line, when there was no remedy.  And so, on the horizon was an army from Babylonia under their king Nebuchadnezzar.  He marched against Jerusalem and besieged it for 2 years.  The people had nothing to eat.  The famine was great.  Finally, Nebuchadezzar’s army broke through the city’s walls and Jerusalem’s army fled.  So did the king, Zedekiah.  Nebby caught up with Zedekiah about 30 miles from Jerusalem near Jericho.  He put to death Zedekiah’s sons in front of his eyes.  Then, he gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes so that the last thing he saw was his sons being killed.  He then took Zedekiah off into captivity and with that, the Southern Kingdom fell.  There came a point where

  1. 1. God could no longer bless the bad behavior of the people of the Southern Kingdom.

They had done so much evil for so long that God had to bring this to a halt. The Southern Kingdom fell for the same reason that the Northern Kingdom fell; because of sin.  God would no longer bless their bad behavior because 1. That behavior was not good for them and 2. It was not a good witness for other people to see how poorly people lived who were supposed to be God-followers lived.  Instead of foreigners being drawn to God through the witness of His people, they were repulsed.  God could no longer bless the bad behavior of the people of the Southern Kingdom.  That is

  1. 2. What the warning signs should do for us.

God may be delivering a warning to us to change something about our lives because what we are doing is not good for us or because people around us might look at how we are living as God-followers and might not want anything to do with Jesus.  The bottom line is that

  1. 3. God warns us because He loves us and He wants the best life possible for us.

There was a woman at my church in North Carolina who didn’t warn or discipline her children.  When I went to visit her one day, I found her 2 kids jumping up and down on top of the dining room table.  Momma and grandma told them to get down but they wouldn’t.  Their behavior wasn’t good for them.  Momma was a single mom and she let the kids stay up as late as they wanted.  The kids sometimes didn’t get to bed before 2am.  Many days they were very late in coming to school at our Day School at our church.  The kids were not being warned and it was not good for them.

God is not out to make our lives miserable.  He is not out to keep us from having fun.  But, here is what we need to learn if we are to have a good life; God’s way is the best way.  Finding our comfort in God rather than food is good for us.  Finding our significance, our worth in God’s estimation of us rather than in a job, allows God to be the most important thing in our lives and that is the best thing for us.  Finding truth in God’s Word rather than in the latest and greatest fad or the New York Times best seller or in what politicians or the news media tell us allows us to know real truth.  God’s way is the best way.  God warns us because He loves us and He wants the best life possible for us.

Basing our relationship with God on grace and grace alone is the best thing for us.  If our relationship with God is based on how good we have been, if, in order to gain God’s love, we have to be a good boy or a good girl, if we have to do good works in order to inherit eternal life, then how do we know when we have been good enough, good enough to merit God’s love and good enough to get into heaven.  God warns us because He loves us and He wants the best life possible for us.

Martin Luther is such an example here.  Luther entered the monastery in order to get God to love Him.  But, as long as Luther believed that if he just said more prayers or if he just beat himself or slept without covers in the middle of the winter, if he would just do these religious acts, then, then God would love Him, then he would merit salvation.  All that was so bad for Luther.  For while he believed that, he never did know if He was good enough.  When God’s grace came through to Luther, when He came to know that His salvation was not based on His good works but it was based on God sending His only begotten Son to die for Him and in his place, when Luther realized that God loved him with an unconditional love, that His love for Luther was without conditions, when Luther realized that, he was freed up.

Knowing that Jesus died for us is the best way.  It is the only way.  In Jesus, you are freed from guilt.  In Jesus you have the assurance that you will be with Jesus for eternity not that you have to wonder if your were good enough.  In Jesus, you can know that you are loved.  God’s way is the best way.  God warns us because He loves us and He wants the best life possible for us.

God warned the people of the Southern Kingdom.  He warned them through the prophets and through the Assyrians and through the Babylonians.  He warned them through Ezekiel and through Jeremiah yet the people didn’t respond.  They didn’t listen.  And so, they were taken into captivity.  But—and this is huge—God had made a promise.  He had made a promise that the Southern Kingdom, the people of Judah, would return from captivity.  He had a made a promise that they would not become extinct like the Northern Kingdom but that the Messiah would come from them.  God had made a promise that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah.  And so, Jeremiah delivered a message of hope to the people of Judah even while they were in exile.    In speaking for God Jeremiah said;

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:  22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:20-23

Even though the people of the Southern Kingdom had not heeded God’s warnings, even though they wouldn’t listen, even though now, because of their sin, they were in captivity in Babylon, even though the people of the Southern Kingdom worshipped idols and forsook God, still God was faithful.  He was faithful to His prophecy that a Messiah would come from the people of Judah.  He was faithful that a His ardent desire to bring His people back to Him.  He was faithful that He would love these people with an unconditional love.

  1. E. God is faithful

What would it mean for you that God is always faithful?  What would God’s faithfulness mean that there is no sin too great for God to forgive?  What would God’s faithfulness mean that all things will work for good for those who love the Lord?  What would God’s faithfulness mean that your God will be with you for forever?  God is faithful.  That is so good to hear.  When you are like the people of the Southern Kingdom, when you stray after other gods and don’t live as God would want you to live, when you don’t listen to His warnings, still God is faithful, why?  Because He loves you.  He loves you in Jesus.  Sing that hymn with me;

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou changest not: They compassions, they fail me;

As Thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;

Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me.

 

In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Adapted from “The Heart of the Story” by Randy Frazee, pg. 149

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