May 17, 2015

 II Kings 20-21
Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz paid him a visit and said, “Put your affairs in order; you’re about to die—you haven’t long to live.” Hezekiah turned from Isaiah and faced God, praying:
Remember, O God, who I am, what I’ve done!  I’ve lived an honest life before you,  My heart’s been true and steady, I’ve lived to please you; lived for your approval. And then the tears flowed. Hezekiah wept.

Isaiah, leaving, was not halfway across the courtyard when the word of God stopped him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, prince of my people, ‘God’s word, Hezekiah! From the God of your ancestor David: I’ve listened to your prayer and I’ve observed your tears. I’m going to heal you. In three days you will walk on your own legs into The Temple of God. I’ve just added fifteen years to your life; I’m saving you from the king of Assyria, and I’m covering this city with my shield—for my sake and my servant David’s sake.’”...

“This will be your sign from God,” said Isaiah, “that God is doing what he said he’d do: Do you want the shadow to advance ten degrees on the sundial or go back ten degrees? You choose.”  Hezekiah said, “It would be easy to make the sun’s shadow advance ten degrees. Make it go back ten degrees.”  So Isaiah called out in prayer to God, and the shadow went back ten degrees on Ahaz’s sundial....

The rest of the life and times of Hezekiah, along with his projects, especially the way he engineered the Upper Pool and brought water into the city, are written in The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah. Hezekiah died and was buried with his ancestors. His son Manasseh became the next king.

Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king. He ruled for fifty-five years in Jerusalem....In God’s judgment he was a bad king—an evil king. He reintroduced all the moral rot and spiritual corruption that had been scoured from the country when God dispossessed the pagan nations in favor of the children of Israel.... And God was angry.

As a last straw he placed the carved image of the sex goddess Asherah in The Temple of God, a flagrant and provocative violation of God’s well-known statement to both David and Solomon, “In this Temple and in this city Jerusalem, my choice out of all the tribes of Israel, I place my Name—exclusively and forever. Never again will I let my people Israel wander off from this land I gave to their ancestors. But here’s the condition: They must keep everything I’ve commanded in the instructions my servant Moses passed on to them.”...

God, thoroughly fed up, sent word through his servants the prophets: “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these outrageous sins, eclipsing the sin-performance of the Amorites before him, setting new records in evil, using foul idols to debase Judah into a nation of sinners, this is my judgment, God’s verdict: I, the God of Israel, will visit catastrophe on Jerusalem and Judah, a doom so terrible that when people hear of it they’ll shake their heads in disbelief, saying, ‘I can’t believe it!’...

The final word on Manasseh was that he was an indiscriminate murderer. He drenched Jerusalem with the innocent blood of his victims. That’s on top of all the sins in which he involved his people. As far as God was concerned, he’d turned them into a nation of sinners....  Manasseh died and joined his ancestors. He was buried in the palace garden, the Garden of Uzza. His son Amon became the next king.

Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king. He was king for two years in Jerusalem.... In God’s opinion he lived an evil life, just like his father Manasseh. He followed in the footsteps of his father, serving and worshiping the same foul gods his father had served. He totally deserted the God of his ancestors; he did not live God’s way.  Amon’s servants revolted and assassinated him, killing the king right in his own palace. But the people, in their turn, killed the conspirators against King Amon and then crowned Josiah, Amon’s son, as king.

Luke 2 -   
So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census.  As a descendant of David, he had to go there.  He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.  While they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  She gave birth to a son, her first-born.  She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger because there was no room in the hotel.  

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood.  Suddenly, God’s angel stood among the night watchmen and God’s glory blazed around them... The angel said, “Don’t be afraid.  I am here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide.  A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.  This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.  After a host of angels sang God’s praises, the sheepherders talked it over.  “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.”  They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.  Seeing was believing.  They told everyone they met what the angels had said about the child.  All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.  Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself.

When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived.  Then when the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s law....In Jerusalem, at the time, was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel.  And the Holy Spirit was with him.  The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died.  Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple.  As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law.  Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God...”With your own eyes, I have seen your salvation:  It’s now out in the open for everyone to see.  A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, and of glory for your people Israel.”  Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words.  Simeon went of to bless them, and he said to Mary his mother, “This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many in Israel.  A figure misunderstood and contradicted--the pain of a sword thrust through you---But the rejection will force honesty as God reveals who they really are.”  

Anna, the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher.  She was by now a very old woman.  She had been married for seven years and a widow for eighty-four.  She never left the Temple area, worshipping night and day with her fasting and prayers.  At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.  When Mary and Joseph finished everything required  by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth.  There the child grew up strong in body and wise in spirit.  And the grace of God was on him.

Every year Jesus’ parents traveled to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.  When he was twelve years old, they went up as they always did for the Feast.  When it was over, and they left for home, the child Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents didn’t know it.  Thinking he was somewhere in the company of pilgrims, they journeyed the whole day and then began looking for him among relatives and neighbors.  When they didn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for him.  

The next day they found him in the Temple seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.  The teachers were all quite taken with him, impressed with the sharpness of his answers.  But his parents were not impressed:  they were upset and hurt.  Mary said,”Young man, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been half out of our minds looking for you.”  Jesus said, “Why were you looking for me?  Didn’t you know that I had to be here, dealing with the things of my Father?”  But they had no idea what he was talking about.  So he went back to Nazareth with them, and lived obediently with them.  His mother held these things dearly, deep within herself.  And Jesus matured, growing up in both body and spirit, blessed by both God and people.