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The Story, Chap. 16:  “The Beginning of the End”

May 14, 2017

The Story, Chap. 16:  “The Beginning of the End”

 

Children’s Sermon:  Tugging on Mom (Choose a “mom”.  Have kids surround her with needs and voice them - loudly. Talk about the hard part of being a Mom.  Pray for our Mom’s - ask them what they want to pray for?

 

Things to say:  I’m hungry.  I want to go home.  I’m bored.  He hit me.  I want to watch TV.  Let me keep sleeping.  I need some water.  Read to me.  

 

About Israel/Judah and Captivity

Had Israel stayed faithful to God, they would have had an easier life.  There would still have been war - people would have attacked them, but there would be victory instead of defeat and captivity.  But like us, they made their choices and lived into the consequences.  

 

2 Kings 17:5-12

As this week’s chapter of The Story begins, with the activity we find in 2 Kings 17:5-12, we find that Israel is now exiled to Assyria.  This means that they are no longer free, but forced to live under the authority and power of the Assyrian government.  And it all happened, we are told in v. 7, because the people of Israel worshiped other gods.  

 

Lets take a step back and look at our own lives.  Are you living free or are you feeling that you are a captive of some other entity?  Say a job? A relationship? The expectations of others? A debt?  What got you into that situation?  If you look carefully, you may discover that it began with making something else a priority over your relationship with God.  We are not unlike Israel.

 

2 Kings 17:35-41

God made a covenant.  He would be Lord and Protector of his people if they would be loyal to him.  But distracted by other gods and practices they turned away.  How often this week was your heart distracted from God?  God made a covenant with us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We remembered that covenant with communion last week.  I shared my word with you, God made it clear that I was to spend the week focused on the first commandment.  God even helped by having the theme of my devotions be on what it means to love God.  And do you know what?  The days I invested in our relationship and fed my mind, soul, and heart on the idea of loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind, I was able to keep a short reign on my wandering thoughts, words and deeds.  But the days I chose to not feed my mind on truth - I wandered.  And the results were not very pretty.  I allowed myself to get in the way of relationships and choices.  I rejected the covenant God made with me because I wasn’t thinking about it and I lived with the consequences. I urge you to invest in time with God so that you can live with the benefits of the covenant and not the consequences of breaking it.

 

Now remember that the kingdom has been divided.  Israel is captive in Assyria but the southern tribe of Judah is still free.  They have a new king, Hezekiah and a prophet named Isaiah and together they are leading the people in obedience to God.  Not perfectly, but Hezekiah does seek God and Isaiah tells Hezekiah what God would have him believe, trust and do and when the king obeys - good things happen.  So while the king of Assyria is talking smack about our God, Isaiah encourages Hezekiah and the people of God with the words that come from the mouth of God.  In 2 Kings 19:32-37 we read God’s decision and action on the king of Assyria.  Read

 

 

What is a prophet?

This seems like a good time to take a break and look at the role of the prophet during the OT. 

 

From bible.org: God in His wisdom chose men who would obey Him faithfully and He gave them authority to speak on His behalf. Prophets were not chosen or elected by men, and they were not permitted to inherit the title or regard it as an official post to be filled by a man specially trained for it. So it might be a person you least expect who would be called by God to be his voice.  Following is a list of the types of things prophets did in the OT.  In there role they were to:

  1. To reveal the nature and attributes of God to men.

2. To make known to men the laws of God.

3. To call the people back to obedience to God’s laws.

4. To exhort the people to sincerity in worship.

5. To warn them of Divine judgment upon sin, both personal and national.

6. To foretell future events which God had willed.

7. To foretell the coming of the Messiah, the Savior.

8. To record the history of God’s dealings with men.

9. To record the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.

 

Our Call to Worship, Confession and Assurance were all based on Isaiah 6 which describes Isaiah’s call to be the prophet of God.  It is a serious undertaking that God calls particular people to.  They words they speak may not come about immediately and then there is room for doubt and accusation.  The prophet of God had to be firm in their relationship with God and willing to speak words that to some would seem like nonsense.

 

Did the People of God Need a Prophet? 

I think you will agree, based on what we’ve read so far in The Story that the people were in constant need of a prophet!  They were constantly wandering away from God and needed to be turned around.  They easily forgot who God was.  They disregarded the call to be true worshippers of the One True God.  They were living in a hopeless situation and needed to be encouraged by the promise of a coming Savior.  So glad that our generation is completely different!!! (Ha!). 

 

God gave the people the words they needed to hear from him through the mouths of the prophets.  They had the choice to hear and respond or ignore.  History tells us the outcome of each choice.

 

Look with me at Isaiah 53:1-12.  As I read, be aware of who comes to mind.

 

The people were without hope and they needed a word from God that would restore hope.  So God gives Isaiah a vision of the Messiah he would send to see his people from oppression.  It would be costly.  The Messiah would be treated unjustly on behalf of a guilty people, but it would accomplish salvation.  This prophetic promise was given to the people of God 700 years before it would come to be realized in Jesus of Nazareth. Some held onto it and passed it down to their children and those who believed it could see it when they witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  Others ignored it.

 

What are the parallels between God’s people then and now?

 

What are we in captivity to, that keeps us from God?

As a nation we are a mess.  Doesn’t matter what political side you stand on, I think we can all agree on this one statement:  We are a mess.  And I would suggest we are a mess because as a people - in and out of the church - we have pursued many things which are not the heart of God.  As individuals we have been distracted; as the church, the people set apart for God, we have been distracted; and leaders of nations have become distracted.  For now, lets just worry about ourselves.  How have you been distracted from following God?  If your answer is, “Oh, I’m doing pretty good!” then tell me how you are at constant peace with no worries.  Tell me about the people that are asking to follow this God of yours. Tell me about the joy that spills over in every area of your life because you are constantly where God wants you to be.  If you don’t have those stories, then it may be there is a little area yet of your life that is controlled by something other than God.  And if all of that just really disturbed you, I would love to have a conversation with you about that this week!  Come see me! (or text or call).

 

Do we need to hear a prophets voice now? 

Are we in need of the prophet’s word today?  Do we need to hear God’s truth?  Do we need to be corrected and challenged to live according to the Word of God rather than societal norms?  And when we hear the prophet speak will we respond or turn a deaf ear as Israel did? 

 

Someone asked the question last week, “Do you think there are still prophets today?”  Alan Hersch is someone who has taken a new look at the five fold apostolic ministries written of in Ephesians 4:11-13 which says:

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Just reading what the purpose of these gifts are, do you think we still need them in the church today?

 

Alan Hersch writes: PROPHETS know God's will. They are particularly attuned to God and his truth for today. They bring correction and challenge the dominant assumptions we inherit from the culture. They insist that the community obey what God has commanded. They question the status quo.

 

I think we still need to hear the voice of the prophets today.  We need those who will call us back to the truth.  We need to pray that those whom God has called to be that voice would acknowledge their call as Isaiah did and stand with him to say, “Here I am!  Send me!”  Let’s be about praying that God would raise up the leaders he has established.

 

What word do we need now?

Isaiah spoke of many things, but the underlying theme was this:  You have ignored God and the consequence is an existence outside of his desire for you.  You will be defeated and imprisoned and exiled.  You will suffer.  BUT . . . I will send you a redeemer.  I will not leave you forever.

 

On this side of the OT, we know that the Redeemer came.  We know that he died and rose to save the lost, heal the broken, and return the hearts of humanity to their Creator.  Are you convinced of this truth?  How are you living with it? How is God calling you to proclaim it?

 

Tom Abrams and I had a brief discussion this week about the state of our nation and the world.  Our agreed upon conclusion?  We’re a mess.  Jesus came to heal and save.  Where should we place our hope and energy?

 

This is what King Hezekiah prayer in 2 Kings 19:14-19

O Eternal One, Israel’s God, who sits above the winged guardians, You alone are God of all the kingdoms on earth, the One who made heaven and earth. 16 Eternal One, open up Your ears and Your eyes so You may hear and see. Listen to the words Sennacherib uses to reject the living God. 17 Eternal One, I certainly know that the Assyrian kings have destroyed the nations and lands. 18 I know how they have thrown the gods of the nations into the flames of the fire and destroyed them, but those gods were created out of wood and stones by men. 19 Eternal One, our True God, I pray You save us now from Sennacherib’s conquest—the fate that all the other nations have suffered—so that every nation on earth will know that You alone, Eternal One, are God.

Amen.