*September 7 - 13
The Last Days of the Northern Kingdom
MEMORY TEXT: "Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets" (2 Kings 17:13).
THE FUNERAL MARCH FOR A NATION. This week begins the funeral march for the northern kingdom. Actually, the march began near the beginning of this quarter, with Jeroboam making the golden calves. Things pretty much went from bad to worse since. Indeed, after a tragic history of a little more than two hundred years (921-722 B.C.), Israelborn in a spirit of rebellionended under the oppressive weight of the brutal and merciless Assyrians.
No wonder. Twenty kings, each ruling on an average of about ten and a half years, sat upon Israel's throne. Seven had murdered their predecessors in order to reach the top spot. All promoted an idolatrous cult of Yahweh, while others added Baal and Asherah to their pantheon of pagan abominations. From the tireless ministry of Elijah, Elisha, and others, no one can say the people had not been warned. They had been, more than once; they just did not listen.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What happened in the reigns of Jehoahaz and Jehoash? If people are not watchful, what can time, itself, do to truth? What was the role of Elisha? How did Baal worship, so thoroughly eradicated by Jehu, creep back into the nation?
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 14.
Sunday September 8
"And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom" (2 Kings 13:2).
"And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin: but he walked therein" (2 Kings 13:11).
Ttheir dynasty, whothough quite fanatical about eradicating Baal worshipnevertheless clung to a particular home-grown version of idolatry (2 Kings 10:31), thus continuing the downward spiritual momentum that eventually destroyed the northern kingdom.
How could this happen?
Plato, in his Republic, helps give an answer. In this book, Socrates recounts the "magnificent myth," a tale that would help the people accept whatever their social status happens to be. The myth went like this: When God created people, He created some with gold in them, some with silver, and some with bronze. Those with gold were to be the Guardians, the highest political and social level in the nation. Those with silver would be the Auxiliaries, the next level. Finally, those with bronze would be the lowest class. If the people believed this myth, he said, they would be content with whatever their station was in life, because it was ordained by God. When asked, "Do you know of any way of making them believe it?" Socrates's response was one of the most frightening, and insightful, in all ancient literature. "Not in the first generation," he said, "but you might succeed in the second and later generations."
In other words, give any lie or myth enough time, and eventually people will believe it.
|How does this story from the Republic fit with today's lesson? Israel's sin with the golden calf after the Exodus (Exodus 32) was one of the worst spiritual moments in its history. However, generations later, Jeroboam set up a whole cult around what had been a terrible religious apostasy. How could something so bad be deemed by later generations as something good? What does that tell us about the power of time alone to dilute, or even pervert, truth? What examples of this principle can we see today in our own church, our own families, or even our own lives, and what can we do to reverse it?|
Imagine being Elisha, called to the prophetic ministry during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, while his predecessor, Elijah, leaves the scene in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2).
Despite the terrible moral conditions of the nation and the many challenges he faced, Elisha stayed faithful to his calling: "Thus the man of God continued to labor from year to year, drawing close to the people in faithful ministry, and in times of crisis standing by the side of kings as a wise counselor. The long years of idolatrous backsliding on the part of rulers and people had wrought their baleful work; the dark shadow of apostasy was still everywhere apparent, yet here and there were those who had steadfastly refused to bow the knee to Baal. As Elisha continued his work of reform, many were reclaimed from heathenism, and these learned to rejoice in the service of the true God. The prophet was cheered by these miracles of divine grace, and he was inspired with a great longing to reach all who were honest in heart. Wherever he was he endeavored to be a teacher of righteousness."Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 259.
Read 2 Kings 13:14-21. Joash, an idolatrous king, comes to weep over dying Elisha? It was not a common event, that of a king coming to visit a dying prophet. Why would he care about Elisha? Or did he? Notice that he called him not only "my father" but the "chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." What, possibly, did he mean by that? Keep in mind the context of the moment: Israel was being threatened by the Syrians.
What does this scene indicate about the influence of Elisha, even on those who apparently did not listen to him? What other examples exist in the Bible of those who, while the prophets were alive, ignored or even attacked them, only to hail and praise them after they were gone? Think, for instance, of Moses and how Israel acted after he had died (see Deuteronomy 34). Listen to these words of Jesus to the religious leaders of His time: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets" (Matt. 23:29, 30).
|Have we, in our own lives, mocked or scorned or ignored someone while he or she was around, only laterafter this person is gonebegun to realize just what a blessing he or she had been? In what ways do we "garnish the sepulchres" of those we might have stoned, had they been with us?|
After the death of King Joash, Jeroboam II (as if one had not been enough) ascended to the throne. He reigned for what were, in many ways, 41 very prosperous years in which the nation had both political and material success. As with his predecessors, however, he "did evil in the sight of the Lord: he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin" (vs. 24, NKJV).
Read 2 Kings 14:25-28. Notice the military success of Jeroboam II. He took back land lost to foreign powers in the region. What reason did the Lord allow them to have these successes? Vss. 26, 27.
It was about this time that both Hosea and Amos arose in the northern kingdom to rail against the sins that were eating away at the moral fabric of the nation and leading it to inevitable doom.
What were some of the evils these prophets warned against?
Hos. 4:1, 2 ____________________________________________________________________________
Hos. 6:10 _____________________________________________________________________________
Amos 2:6, 7 ____________________________________________________________________________
Amos 3:10 _____________________________________________________________________________
Amos 4:1 ______________________________________________________________________________
Among the corruptions mentioned by the prophets, Hosea (2:8, 13, 17) mentions Baal worship. Where did that come from? Had great-grandfather Jehu not eliminated that problem thoroughly after he took the throne and killed the king and all his family, threw Jezebel's body to the dogs, eradicated "all the worshippers of BaaI" (2 Kings 10:21, 25), destroyed the temple of Baal, and turned it into a garbage dump? The resurgence of Baal worship, however, should not be surprising. Sin, by nature, is not self-restricting. Once the door is open to one sin, others, often worse, easily follow.
|Why is it that many peoplethrough the indulgence of one "little sin" (after all, worshiping Yahweh, even as a golden calf, is "better" than worshiping Baal)suddenly find themselves trapped in things that are much worse?|
Read 2 Kings 15:8-31; 2 Kings 17:1-4.
When Jeroboam II died, he was succeeded by his son Zechariah, who "did evil in the sight of the Lord,.. . he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat" (2 Kings 15:9, NKJV); unlike his father, however, who ruled for 41 years (14:23), Zechariah was deposed within six months, thus ending Jehu's dynasty (see 2 Kings 15:8, 12). He had been murdered in front of the people by "Shallum the son of Jabesh" (vs. 10, NKJV), who then seized the throne but before long was murdered by Menahem, who seized the throne and reigned ten years in the northern kingdom (vs. 17).
Read 2 Kings 15:19, 20. What challenge did Menahem face, and how did he respond? Was he ultimately successful?
After the death of Menahem, Pekahiah, his son, took the throne, and he "did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin" (2 Kings 15:24, NKJV). However, after two years, he was murdered and replaced on the throne by Pekah (vs. 28, NKJV). He ruled about twelve years before he was murdered and replaced by "Hoshea the son of Elah" (vs. 30, NKJV).
According to the text, Hoshea "did evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the kings of Israel who were before him" (2 Kings 17:2, NKJV, emphasis supplied). The text does not specify what that different evil was. In the end, it really does not matter; sin is still sin, whatever version it manifests itself in.
What did Hoshea do to try to save his kingdom, and did it work? 2 Kings 17:4.
"This was Israel's suicide. Egypt had at the time broken up into a number of unimportant rival states and was in no position to help anyone. . . . No real aid could be expected from him [the king of Egypt], and none came. In 724, Shalmaneser attacked. Hoshea, who apparently appeared before his master hoping to make peace, was taken prisoner."John Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981, third edition), p. 275.
|Reviewing what you have studied of the northern kingdom this quarter, if you could describe, in one or two sentences, what caused its downfall, what would you write?|
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them" (Deut. 31:16).
Even the most cursory reading of the history of Israel, the northern kingdom, should reveal one simple point that, even today, God's people seem to have a hard time grasping, and that is, God says what He means, and He means what He says. Again and again the Lord said, Repent, confess, forsake your evil ways, and I will forgive, heal, and restore. "'Seek Me and live" (Amos 5:4, NKJV). "Seek good and not evil, that you may live" (Amos 5:14, NKJV). "Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us" (Hos. 6:1, NKJV). The problem was, however, that the people did not listen.
Read 2 Kings 17:5-17. Write down the specific sins that Israel had committed:
Vs. 7 ______________________________________________________________________________
Vs. 8 ______________________________________________________________________________
Vs. 9 ______________________________________________________________________________
Vs. 10 _____________________________________________________________________________
Vs. 11 _____________________________________________________________________________
Vs. 12 _____________________________________________________________________________
Vs. 15 _____________________________________________________________________________
Vs. 16 _____________________________________________________________________________
Perhaps what is so amazing about these sins is that most are the ones the Lord had, specifically, warned them about in Deuteronomy (see Deut. 8:19, 20; 9:l6; 12:2, 3, 30, 31; 29:17, 18).
|Notice how much of the evil came to Israel from outside influences. Do we, either as a church or as individuals, have any reason to think that we are any more immune to dangerous outside influences than they were?|
In the terrible judgments brought upon the ten tribes the Lord had a wise and merciful purpose. That which He could no longer do through them in the land of their fathers He would seek to accomplish by scattering them among the heathen. His plan for the salvation of all who should choose to avail themselves of pardon through the Saviour of the human race must yet be fulfilled; and in the afflictions brought upon Israel, He was preparing the way for His glory to be revealed to the nations of earth. Not all who were carried captive were impenitent. Among them were some who had remained true to God, and others who had humbled themselves before Him. Through these, 'the sons of the living God' (Hosea 1:10), He would bring multitudes in the Assyrian realm to a knowledge of the attributes of His character and the beneficence of His law."Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 292.
J. H. Zachary
Zachariah hated Christians and wanted none in his village in eastern India. When he discovered that his wife was a Christian, he sent her back to her parents, but when she returned, Zachariah beat her.
After three days of fasting and prayer, she again tried to enter his home. This time he beat her, then he grabbed his knife to kill her. But before he could strike the fatal blow, he saw a bright light above her.
Suddenly he found himself lying on the floor, looking into the light. He saw a person in the light, a person with a kind face. The Being stood close to the fallen man and reached out as if to embrace Zachariah.
Zachariah cried out, "Who are you?"
"I am the One you are fighting against," the Being answered.
Zachariah began to weep. When he opened his eyes, the light was gone. Only he and his wife were in the room.
Zachariah testifies that "At that moment my whole life changed. Anger drained from my body." The very next Sunday Zachariah was in church. He went to the pastor whom he had so often mistreated and asked forgiveness.
To his wife's great joy, Zachariah allowed her to remain in their home. He began to pray with her, and after several weeks, he was baptized.
Zachariah's family rejected him and tried to beat his wife. The couple had to move to another village.
Zachariah met a Protestant pastor and began assisting him in evangelistic outreach. Because he no longer could work in his family's business, he became a full-time pastor. He has organized churches in three villages that now have 160 members.
Then early in 2000, he met an Adventist Christian who pointed him to the Bible Sabbath. Zachariah began studying the Bible with an Adventist doctor who often visited his village. Zachariah and his wife accepted the new Bible truths they discovered, and both were baptized.
Zachariah attended a training session for pastors who have con-vetted to the Adventist Church from other faiths. He now shares his new Bible knowledge with his three churches in the hope that these sincere Christians will follow the new light he has found.
The modem-day Saul-turned-Paul rejoices in God's love for His erring people, even the most cruel and stubborn among them.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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