TiO 45 – The Story – The Beginning of the End

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The Main Idea

The Kingdom is divided and God has effectively withdrawn his blessing. Prophets, like Isaiah, are speaking of the fall of the Kingdoms but with a continued call for repentance. The Kingdom of Israel (Northern) is captured by Assyria and that seals their fate for the rest of time. The Kingdom of Judah (Southern) continues to resist the Assyrian invasion and with Hezekiah as a faithful King they enjoy some of the blessing of God. However, there is not much good to look forward to in their fortunes. It seems that defeat is just around the corner.

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: What is your preference: ancient ruins, old architecture & buildings, or modern architecture & buildings? Why?

Q2: When you consider the history of your family, would you characterize it as godly or not? Talk about the history of following God in your family.

Q3: Were there questions or insights that came out of Todd’s message on the weekend that you’d like to discuss with your group?

Dig a Little Deeper

The people of Israel continue to deteriorate as followers of God and as a political nation. As was prophesied by Amos and Hosea in chapter 15, at the beginning of chapter 16 the Kingdom of Israel (Northern) is overrun by Assyria and we never hear from it again as a political force. Over and over God had warned both Israel and Judah that rebelling against God and following the gods of the other nations was going to lead them to a bad end and now this has begun. But in the midst of this terror and chaos a king arises in Judah who follows God and throughout his reign Judah is able to withstand the advances of Assyria. This faithful king Is Hezekiah.

Here is some information which is relevant to this story:

1) Up to this point the people of Israel have been divided into two Kingdoms, the northern, which is Israel, and the southern, Judah.

2) In this chapter Israel is captured by the Assyrians and its people are taken and placed into slavery.

3) After chapter 16, the Kingdom of Israel is never heard from again. In fact, at the time of Jesus (about 700 years later) what is left of that Kingdom is the province of Samaria. We learn from history and from the story of the Samaritan women in the New Testament (John 4) that by the time of Jesus there is a sharp division between Samaritans and Jews and that they do not associate with each other. However, there are memories in the religious practices of the Samaritans of being part of the people of Israel and Jesus goes out of his way to preach good news to them.

4) The Kingdom of Judah, with its capital city of Jerusalem, is the source of both the ancient (first century) as well as the modern people of Israel.

Introduction (pp. 219-220)

“The LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence.”

And so the slow decent into captivity and exile began. In chapter 16, Israel is invaded and its people subjected to Assyria. Under Hezekiah, Judah resists the advance of Assyria and it will last another 130 years before it falls to Babylon—that’s a spoiler about chapter 17. And from that point forward the people of Israel, the Jews, will not exist as an independent political entity until 1948.

Act 1: The Reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah (pp. 220-224)

“[Hezekiah] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.”

At 25, Hezekiah showed a maturity that most of his predecessors had not. After Solomon, even those kings who were seen as followers of God had failed to cleanse the land of the places of worship built for the gods of the surrounding nations. But Hezekiah did: he purged the land of those idols and practices he knew would draw the people away from the true God.

Hezekiah defied the king of Assyria and trusted in God and was rewarded for that: his land, the land of Judah, was not conquered while he was king. And, eventually Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was assassinated and, for a time, the Assyrian threat was removed.

Act 2: The Words of Isaiah (pp. 224-230)

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I [Isaiah] saw the Lord, high and lifted up, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”

During the reign of Hezekiah a prophet named Isaiah came to prominence. Through Isaiah, God had a lot to say about his people: he spoke curses on Assyria for defying the supremacy of God and his people; he spoke doom in the future of Judah (the only remnant of the “people of Israel”); and he prophesied about a coming redeemer, the Messiah, who would free God’s people from oppression and make the world new again.

Looking back at the story of Hezekiah and the prophecies of Isaiah, we see both the effect of a righteous leader on the people and the beginning of the final consequences of 250 years of rebellion against God—that is the number of years that passed between the death of David and the birth of Hezekiah.

Q1: Why was it important for Hezekiah to “remove the high places smash the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles” and not simply tell the people to stop worshipping there?

The traditional role of the Old Testament prophet was two-fold: 1) To speak God’s truth to the people (and to the King); 2) To declare the future—the certain future or the possible future (possible future is dependent on the response of the people).

Q2: Looking at the prophecy on page 225-226, what is the message from Isaiah? Is this future certain or possible?

There are a set of prophecies that have been interpreted by Jewish scholars as Messianic, that is, talking about God’s promised redeemer. Christians know that the Messiah is Jesus, but Isaiah did not know the identity of this redeemer, only that God promised he would come.

Q3: What does the prophecy on pages 228-230 tell us about the Messiah?

Next Steps

God is a God of patience and love but also of stern warning and judgement. After centuries of warning the people of Israel that they would be judged for their disobedience and rebellion that judgement came. Israel fell and was never heard from again. In chapter 16 we see that the only reason Judah did not suffer the same fate is because its king, Hezekiah, was faithful. He was faithful not only to worship God but also to rid the land of bad influences. This must have been hard, not only because it was inconvenient and took work but also because there would have been resistance to this move.

Change is hard, but it is doubly hard when the temptations from past habits or lifestyle choices remain: try to eat healthy when your cupboards are full of cookies and chips.

Q1: What areas in your life would you like to change? 

Q2: What obstacles to change do you need to remove from your environment? Friends? Habits? Hangouts? 

Q3: Knowing that removing obstacles will leave voids in your life that need to be filled, what will you fill those voids with?

We all want to be devoted to God. Pray together that you would be able to make changes that will move you toward full devotion to him.

 

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