Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 100. Hoshea Last King Of Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 100
Hoshea Last King Of Israel

Today we meet Hoshea, the last king of Israel before the nation is taken into captivity by Assyria.

2 KINGS 17:1-6
Hoshea isn't a complete stranger to us because we heard something about him in Chapter 15. He was part of a conspiracy against King Pekah of Israel. He assassinated the king and took the throne. 

Earlier in the week we studied the reign of King Ahaz of Judah and during his reign King Pekah of Israel and King Rezin of Aram came against Judah to try and overthrow it and take it for themselves. The Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz to tell him not to fear these kings. The Lord promised him that these kings would not accomplish their goals against Judah. Ahaz only needed to fear the Lord, not these mortal men. But he refused and instead allied himself with the king of Assyria who conquered Damascus and put King Rezin to death, something he may have already had an interest in doing. And now we see that King Pekah, whom Ahaz so feared, is put to death by one of his own countrymen. The Lord knew both these kings would be taken out of the way soon.

"In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him." (2 Kings 17:1-2) Hoshea is not a good man. He doesn't live by God's laws. But evidently he doesn't continue the state-sponsored worship of the golden calves as the kings before him. It could be he has no regard for any god: not the God of his ancestors, not the golden calves that Jeroboam I set up in place of the God of his ancestors, not Baal, not Molech, not any god of the nations. The author does not tell us whether Hoshea adheres to any religion or not, but he gives the impression that although Hoshea is evil, he's not as evil as some of the kings before him.

During the time of King Ahaz of Israel, he allied himself with Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria, to defend Judah against the Arameans. Now Tiglath-Pileser is deceased and his son, Shalmaneser, reigns in his stead. The king whom Ahaz placed his trust in is gone, demonstrating the folly of placing our security in anyone or on anything but the Lord who lives forever. "Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser's vassal and had paid him tribute." (2 Kings 17:3) Ahaz of Judah is not the only king who was ever subject to Assyria, although he subjected himself to that nation willingly. Hoshea of Israel is subject to Assyria because one of his predecessors, King Menahem, paid King Pul of Assyria off when Pul invaded Israel in Chapter 15. Since that time Israel has had to pay tribute to Assyria.

But Hoshea doesn't want to be subject to Assyria and is attempting to form an alliance with the king of Egypt. "But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria. as he had done year by year." (2 Kings 17:4a) Shalmaneser, like his father before him, was willing to allow Israel to exist as a more or less sovereign nation, ruling its own people and making its own laws, as long as Israel continued paying tribute. But Hoshea believes the change of kings in Assyria is a good time to revolt. So he sends envoys to the king of Egypt for help. The king named as here as "So" is Osorkon IV. Egypt itself was falling apart at this time, just as Israel was. Osorkon IV will be no help to Israel against Assyria and will barely manage to protect his own people from Assyria during the reign of Shalmaneser's successor. Hoshea is looking for help in all the wrong places. Israel's strength has never been in her alliances. Her strength has always been her God and now, as the northern kingdom enters her death throes, she has abandoned her God.

When Shalmaneser hears of Hoshea's treason against him, "Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison. The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Harbor River and in the towns of the Medes." (2 Kings 17:4b-6) It takes Shalmaneser three years to capture the capitol city of the kingdom of Israel, but at last he breaks through the heavily fortified double wall around the city. 

The prophet Hosea and the prophet Micah both speak of the terrible desolation Shalmaneser brought on the people of Israel. Hosea tells us that the king of Assyria killed the resistance fighters with the sword, that he ripped open the pregnant women, that he dashed infants against the stones. Micah tells us that Shalmaneser left Samaria as nothing but a heap of rubble, with her stones torn apart and her idols shattered. These idols stand mute as the enemy pours in like a flood, unable to save themselves, unable to save the people. For centuries now the people have brought sacrifices and offerings to these idols for nothing. Any god but the living God is a lie. It's an illusion. It's nothing but smoke and mirrors. When trouble comes, only the living God, the God of Israel, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, is able to help. But the people turned their backs on Him a long time ago and even now, in a time of unbelievable oppression and cruelty, they do not call on His name. What happened to Israel frightens me for my own nation. The discipline God allowed to fall on Israel could well fall on us too. But even in these dark days of Scripture we see the mercy of God. He doesn't allow the people to be conquered because He intends to destroy them as a nation. He allows them to be conquered so they will realize their false gods are false gods, unable to do anything good or bad. He allows them to be taken captive so they will remember the God who rescued the captives once before, when He brought them out of Egypt. He allows them to lose their sovereignty because they have not made Him sovereign over their lives. 

The Lord said this about the reason for the coming destruction, "Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of these people, 'The offer human sacrifices! They kiss calf-idols!' Therefore they will be like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears, like chaff swirling through a threshing floor, like smoke escaping through a window." (Hosea 13:2-3) Because of her sins, the Lord is about to allow Israel to be swept away just as a man might sweep chaff from his threshing floor.

This should be a warning to us all. If we forsake the living God to serve anyone or anything else, discipline will fall on us. In the USA we may not find many bowing down to literal idols but we possess here the idols of wealth, fame, sex, power, and any other thing which satisfies the carnal desires but leaves the desires of the soul unfulfilled. We need to pray like never before for revival, for a turning back to God, lest He say of us what He said of Israel, "Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him." (Isaiah 1:4) 

Please join with me in prayer: Father God, both we and our fathers have sinned. (Psalm 106:6) We have sinned against You as individuals and we have sinned against You as a nation. We stand before You without excuse, without defense. You are the God who settled us here in a land of plenty, a land of prosperity, and we have allowed our prosperity to make us complacent. We have kept silent while Your name was reviled. We have kept silent while Your laws have been broken. We have worshiped at the altars of comfort and ease while the nation has fallen into spiritual decay. Lord God, forgive us! You alone are God and there is no other! There is no one who can help, no one who can save, but You. For the sake of those who have a little strength and have not denied Your name (Revelation 3:8), please don't take Your protective hand off our country. For the sake of those whose sins are covered by the blood of Your dear Son, please spare us the discipline we deserve. We cry out to You, the one and only living God, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You alone are God. You alone are God. It is You who made us and not we ourselves. (Psalm 100:3) Without You we can do nothing. Without You we are nothing. Revive us, Lord. Turn hearts back to You and heal our nation. We ask this in the saving name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!

We conclude with this worship song.

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