May 15, 2016

II Kings 15-17
 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah became king in Judah. He was sixteen years old when he began his rule and he was king for fifty-two years in Jerusalem... He did well in the eyes of God, following in the footsteps of his father Amaziah. But he also failed to get rid of the local sex-and-religion shrines; they continued to be popular with the people. God afflicted the king with a bad skin disease until the day of his death. He lived in the palace but no longer acted as king; his son Jotham ran the government and ruled the country...

In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king over Israel in Samaria. He lasted only six months. He lived a bad life before God, no different from his ancestors. He continued in the line of Jeroboam son of Nebat who led Israel into a life of sin. Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against him, assassinated him in public view, and took over as king...That completed the word of God that was given to Jehu, namely, “For four generations your sons will sit on the throne of Israel.” Zechariah was the fourth.

Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah. He was king in Samaria for only a month.  Menahem... attacked Shallum son of Jabesh and killed him. He then became king.... & opened his reign by smashing Tiphsah, devastating both the town and its suburbs because they didn’t welcome him with open arms. He savagely ripped open all the pregnant women... He ruled from Samaria for ten years. As far as God was concerned he lived an evil life. Sin for sin, he repeated the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who led Israel into a life of sin....

In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king of Israel. He ruled in Samaria for two years. In God’s eyes he lived an evil life. He stuck to the old sin tracks of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who led Israel into a life of sin.  And then his military aide Pekah...conspired against him—killed him in cold blood while he was in his private quarters in the royal palace in Samaria.... After the murder he became the next king....He ruled for twenty years. In God’s view he lived an evil life; he didn’t deviate so much as a hair’s breadth from the path laid down by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who led Israel into a life of sin....But then Hoshea son of Elah mounted a conspiracy against Pekah son of Remaliah. He assassinated him and took over as king. This was in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah.

In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham son of Uzziah became king in Judah. He was twenty-five years old when he became king and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem...  He acted well in God’s eyes, following in the steps of his father Uzziah. But he didn’t interfere with the traffic to the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines; they continued, as popular as ever.... 

In the seventeenth year of Pekah, Ahaz son of Jotham became king of Judah. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king and he ruled for sixteen years in Jerusalem. He didn’t behave in the eyes of his God; he wasn’t at all like his ancestor David. Instead he followed in the track of the kings of Israel. He even indulged in the outrageous practice of “passing his son through the fire”—...

King Ahaz went to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria in Damascus. The altar in Damascus made a great impression on him. He sent back to Uriah the priest a drawing and set of blueprints of the altar. Uriah the priest built the altar to the specifications that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus. By the time the king returned from Damascus, Uriah had completed the altar.  The minute the king saw the altar he approached it with reverence and arranged a service of worship with a full course of offerings:... But the old bronze Altar that signaled the presence of God he displaced from its central place and pushed it off to the side of his new altar....

Then King Ahaz proceeded to plunder The Temple furniture of all its bronze. He stripped the bronze from The Temple furnishings, even salvaged the four bronze oxen that supported the huge basin, The Sea, and set The Sea unceremoniously on the stone pavement. Finally, he removed any distinctive features from within The Temple that were offensive to the king of Assyria.

In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel. He ruled in Samaria for nine years. As far as God was concerned, he lived a bad life, but not nearly as bad as the kings who had preceded him.  Then Shalmaneser king of Assyria attacked. Hoshea was already a puppet of the Assyrian king and regularly sent him tribute, but Shalmaneser discovered that Hoshea had been operating traitorously behind his back—having worked out a deal with King So of Egypt.... In the ninth year of Hoshea’s reign the king of Assyria captured Samaria and took the people into exile in Assyria....

The exile came about because of sin: The children of Israel sinned against God, their God, who had delivered them from Egypt and the brutal oppression of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They took up with other gods, fell in with the ways of life of the pagan nations God had chased off, and went along with whatever their kings did. They did all kinds of things on the sly, things offensive to their God, then openly and shamelessly built local sex-and-religion shrines at every available site.... They had accumulated a long list of evil actions and God was fed up, fed up with their persistent worship of gods carved out of deadwood or shaped out of clay, even though God had plainly said, “Don’t do this—ever!”

God had taken a stand against Israel and Judah, speaking clearly through countless holy prophets and seers time and time again,... But they wouldn’t listen. If anything, they were even more bullheaded than their stubborn ancestors, if that’s possible.... They lived a “nothing” life and became “nothings”—just like the pagan peoples all around them. They were well-warned: God said, “Don’t!” but they did it anyway....

God was so thoroughly angry that he got rid of them, got them out of the country for good until only one tribe was left—Judah. (Judah, actually, wasn’t much better, for Judah also failed to keep God’s commands, falling into the same way of life that Israel had adopted.) God rejected everyone connected with Israel, made life hard for them, and permitted anyone with a mind to exploit them to do so. And then this final No as he threw them out of his sight....
21-23 Back at the time that God ripped Israel out of their place in the family of David, they had made Jeroboam son of Nebat king. Jeroboam debauched Israel—turned them away from serving God and led them into a life of total sin. The children of Israel went along with all the sins that Jeroboam did, never murmured so much as a word of protest. In the end, God spoke a final No to Israel and turned his back on them. He had given them fair warning, and plenty of time, through the preaching of all his servants the prophets. Then he exiled Israel from her land to Assyria. And that’s where they are now...

But each people that Assyria had settled went ahead anyway making its own gods and setting them up in the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines that the citizens of Samaria had left behind—a local custom-made god for each people:... they didn’t pay any attention. They kept doing what they’d always done. As it turned out, all the time these people were putting on a front of worshiping God, they were at the same time involved with their local idols. And they’re still doing it. Like father, like son.

Luke 1:26-1:56 - 
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David.  His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary....Mary was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that (Good morning, you are beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out!  God be with you.).  But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear.  God has a surprise for you.  You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus”....Mary said to the angel, “But how?  I’ve never slept with a man.”  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you.  Therefore, the child you bring forth to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.  And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is?...Nothing you see, is impossible with God.”  And Mary said, “Yes, I see it all now.  I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.  Let it be with me just as you say.”

Mary didn‘t waste a minute.  She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly, “You are so blessed among women, and the babe inside your womb also blessed!...The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, the babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.  Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!”

And Mary said,  “I’m bursting with God-news.  I’m dancing the song of my Savior God...I am the most fortunate woman on earth.  What God has done for me will never be forgotten,...His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him...He knocked tyrants off their high thrones, pulled victims out of the mud.  The starving poor sat down to a banquet, the callous rich were left out in the cold...It is exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.