Sermon preached on 2 Kings 14:23-29 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 08/30/2020 in Novato, CA.
We return again to see what is going on in the northern kingdom of Israel after spending some time in the last passage looking at what was going on in Judah under King Amaziah. As we return to look at the post-Ahab Israel, we might be surprised to see that they even still exist. Remember, God had raised up the swords of Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha against Israel because of their great Baal worship and idolatry. Yet, God had also promised that in the aftermath of such a three-pronged judgment that he would preserve a small surviving remnant from which to rebuild the nation. It was Elisha’s dying prophecy to King Jehoash of Israel to signal the beginning of that rebuilding of Israel. King Jehoash was granted to strike the Syrians three times and finally throw off the yolk of King Hazael of Syria. So then, our passage begins with King Jehoash’s son Jeroboam beginning to reign. And it is really under King Jeroboam’s reign, who much like his name, seems like a bit of a restart to the northern kingdom of Israel. By the way, historians will typically refer to this Jeroboam as Jeroboam the II, but as I’m sure you understand he is not actually related by blood to the first King Jeroboam since God had allowed his lineage to be blotted out.
So then, let us begin in our first point for today to recognize that Israel under King Jeroboam II enjoyed a time of great national renewal and prosperity. We can see some of that in our passage for today and also in other places in Scripture. In our passage, for example, it highlights the military success that Israel had under King Jeroboam that allowed them to regain many of their previously lost territories. In verse 25 we see that Israel’s borders were restored from Lebo-hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, AKA the Dead Sea. In other words, from the north-west to the south-east, all their traditional borders get restored at this time. Even the key Syrian cities of Damascus and Hamath are taken by Israel, according to verse 28. So, there was great military success during this time.
In verse 25 we might also note that this military success was actually prophesied by the prophet Jonah. This is the same prophet with the Biblical book named after him – you know the one that reluctantly preached to Nineveh after being in the belly of the great fish for three days. Don’t miss how wonderful that is. Think of what the prophets most often seemed to do in Israel. It seemed they often brought and oracle of God’s impending judgment upon Israel. But here God brings a prophecy of salvation through the prophet Jonah. And that prophecy came to pass and was fulfilled under the time of King Jeroboam II.
Well, we might also reference the prophets of Hosea and Amos during this time. While they are not mentioned in this passage, those prophetic books record that their prophetic ministries were conducted during this time of the reign of King Jeroboam II. They also reference these extended borders (c.f. Amos 6:14) and paint a picture consistent with a nation that was in many ways growing in materialism and certain forms of outward prosperity. Amos 6:4-6 speaks, for example, of their ivory beds and abundant meals from the flocks and the glut of wine and their use of the finest oils. Likewise, Hosea 10:1 speaks of Israel becoming like a luxuriant vine that yields much fruit which were then used on building projects.
And in case this was not clear already, I refer you to verse 27 to note that God brought this salvation and time of prosperity through King Jeroboam. There in verse 27, it says that God saved them from their enemies by the hand of King Jeroboam. This language is again reminiscent of how God raised up judges in the former time of the judges to save and deliver Israel from the Gentiles that oppressed them. Here, Israel had long been battered by Syria and others. Now God raised up a deliverer in King Jeroboam to give them a tremendous among of freedom as a nation that would allow them great liberty in the pursuit of happiness and prosperity. This all being said, what must not be misunderstood here is to think that God raised up King Jeroboam because he was a godly savior. He was not according to verse 24. He did what was evil in God’s sight, specifically by continuing in the idolatrous practices instituted by his predecessor by name, the first King Jeroboam. The golden calves of Bethel and Dan by which they called Israel to worship the LORD still were maintained.
So then, that brings us to our second point to consider the reason why God saved Israel like this under King Jeroboam II. If it was not because King Jeroboam was a godly king, then why did God save them then and there? Well, the reason is actually given to us in verse 26. Verse 26 says, “For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel.” Now in general, that references God’s compassion. It does not reference Israel’s righteousness nor any repentance on their part. It certainly doesn’t reference anything good in the king either as God’s reason for saving them. It was God’s compassion and mercy and pity on the fact that Israel was so downtrodden by its enemies. God saw that they had become helpless to save themselves. That’s why God raised up a deliverer for them.
However, the reason given in verse 26 is actually more than simply a statement of God’s compassion. What I mean is that it is also a reference back to the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:36. That song is too often under appreciated by Christians in terms of its prophetic value for the coming history for the nation of Israel. But at that point in the Song of Moses it basically is prophesying how one day in the future Israel was to suffer great defeat at the hand of pagan nations because they had turned aside to idols. God would use these pagan nations to chasten Israel because of their waywardness. But this reference in the Song goes on to say that the nations would then be haughty in their victory and fail to recognize that the LORD had sold out his people, not their own strength themselves. Consequently, the Song of Moses then prophesies that when God sees that Israel has reached rock bottom, that they are out of power, and no one remaining bond or free – that is when God would have compassion on them and deliver them and save them from these pagan nations that had been afflicting and subduing them.
So then, this passage in 2 Kings sees the prophecy of the Song of Moses finding fulfillment there in that time under King Jeroboam II. And like this passage in 2 Kings, so it’s the case in the context of the Song of Moses, that there is no reference to Israel repenting or returning to the LORD when God shows this compassion to them. Deut. 32:36 “For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.” So, the Song of Moses like this passage in 2 Kings simply says that Israel’s fortunes would turn so bad, so desperate, that God out of mercy and compassion on them would finally save them.
Of course, if you are Israel, how should you respond to this reason for why God saved you? Let me repaint the picture. As a nation you had gone astray greatly. God warned you with prophet after prophet. Finally, he allowed the nations to afflict you greatly as a wakeup call. Your suffering and affliction became so great that God finally sends a prophet to give you “gospel”. He delivers the good news of a coming mighty deliverance because of his great compassion and mercy and love for you. Then that deliverance comes, and good days start to roll in. How should you respond to this mercy of God? Well, the verse that comes to my mind is Romans 2:4 that says that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. If God graciously comes and grants you a great salvation when you didn’t deserve it, then repentance toward God and love and gratitude toward him seems the appropriate response.
Unfortunately, when we look at the oracles of the prophets Hosea and Amos, we see that such kindness did not lead them to repentance. Rather, their prosperity became an opportunity for their further waywardness and wickedness. For example, Hosea 10:1 says that they spent their financial profits on building more altars and pillars to their false gods. Likewise, Amos gives various examples of how the rich and prosperous among Israel used their wealth to bribe judges or otherwise afflict the poor so that they could get richer at the expense of the poor (see Amos 2:7, 4:1, 5:11, 8:4, and more). Sadly, they used their freedom to multiply their sins, instead of turning back toward God in gratitude.
In this second point we’ve seen that the reason God saved Israel here under Jeroboam was because of his compassion on them, and not because of repentance on their part. What I’d like us to look at now in our third point is a sort of supplemental fact about God’s compassion here. Look at verse 27. After the text had just said that God’s reason for saving them was due to God’s compassion, verse 27 further explains his compassion here. It clarifies about God’s compassion by saying that, “the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven”. That’s a rather serious statement said almost in passing. The idea that God might blot out Israel completely should be sobering to any Israelite! That’s actually a rather ominous statement if you stop and think about.
What do I mean? I mean that us humans tend to downplay our sins. We’re good at getting riled up about other people’s sin and maybe even blowing their sins out of proportion. But when it comes to our own sin, we can tend to rationalize it and downplay how egregious it is. And so, if you are Israel, you might be sitting around thinking of how God has chastened you, but you might not be thinking that at all that God might actually just completely wipe you out as a people. That probably doesn’t even come into your mind. Now, to clarify, verse 27 says, at that time, God hadn’t ordered them to be blotted out completely. That’s why God saved them here. If he had ordered them to be blotted out completely, he wouldn’t have saved them. But the very fact that this is being discussed should be concerning for an Israelite. It implies a real threat that yet Israel could in the future end up blotted out because of their sin.
Let me give you an example. I’ve unfortunately remembering being at a wedding once where I recall an awful lot of talk about divorce — it was a non-Christian wedding. There were comments repeatedly made about how this couple surely had what it took to stay together and not get divorced. When I heard those comments, I was rather taken aback. I thought, “Why would you even be talking about that at their wedding?” Why is “divorce” even an option up for discussion? Let alone on their wedding day!
Well, when you come back to this passage and see that God says he has compassion because he hadn’t yet declared to just blot them out, then that should remind them that such was a very real option. There is that option that Israel could just be completely wiped out off the face of the earth because of their sin. For God here to say that he hasn’t said he’d blot them out, means that God might yet declare that they would be blotted out.
Let me develop this further. This theme of God blotting someone or something out, is a sobering topic raised throughout the Bible and even a foundational part of Israel’s history. Just go back to the start of Israel’s national covenant with God. Go back to Moses and Mt. Sinai. When Moses was up on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments, what did Israel do? They sinned egregiously with the golden calf incident. That’s when Aaron made the people a golden calf to worship the LORD while they had grown impatient with Moses being so long on the mountain. What they didn’t know at the moment, is that God was so angry about this that on the mountain he then told Moses that he was prepared to completely wipe out Israel and restart his covenant promises through Moses. Moses recounts this in Deut. 9:14, recording God as saying to him, “Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.” Moses then intercedes on their behalf. Amazingly, we find in Exodus 32:32 Moses begging God to forgive Israel. He says there to God, “But now, if you will forgive their sin– but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” Moses offers himself to be blotted out of the book of life if God won’t otherwise forgive the people. God didn’t take Moses’ offer, but what a commendable offer on Moses’ part!
So, realize that when today’s passage speaks of this threat of Israel possibly being blotted out – it was not simply theoretical. God had already threatened this at the very beginning of his relationship with Israel at Sinai. And God through Moses in Deuteronomy 29 goes on to give a warning as Israel came into the Promised Land, that if they forsook the Lord and went after false gods, that God would blot out their name from under heaven, Deuteronomy 29:20. There in Deuteuronomy 29:20, there is an explicit threat hung over Israel of being blotted out by God.
So then, connect the dots. God back at Sinai almost blotted out Israel. Why? Over just one golden calf. He then warned them that going forward the concern of being blotted out still hung over them if they forsook God. Now, they have two golden calves. And they have had them for about a century and a half. I don’t know what is more shocking to me. The threat implied here in verse 27 that God might yet blot them out, or the fact that he hadn’t yet blotted them out. There had been and would continue to be extremely great patience on God’s part with this northern kingdom of Israel. God’s great compassion here when they hadn’t deserved to be saved should only further heighten the threat that they might yet be blotted out if they don’t repent.
Let me further paint this ominous threat by pointing to the ministry of Jonah son of Amittai that was referenced in verse 25. Jonah would go on to be sent by God to the evil Assyrians, at their capital of Nineveh. Basically, God has Jonah tell the Assyrians that God is going to blot them out because of their great wickedness. Because God sends Jonah to them, the Assyrians repent at Jonah’s preaching and are spared at that time – they’re not blotted out. God has compassion on them as they repent of their wickedness. But remember the history after that. It would be the Assyrians who then ultimately come along and largely blot out Israel from under heaven when they destroy the northern kingdom in 722 BC. So then, while God uses Jonah here to declare undeserved compassion to Israel, they don’t repent and return to God. God then uses Jonah to save Assyria from being blotted out, who then in the providence of God would blot out Israel. The righteous hand of God’s judgment should be sobering to consider.
Brothers and sisters, this passage reminds us that we all have had the great need for our sin to be blotted out, so that we won’t be blotted out. So many Scriptures speak of God’s wrath in terms of blotting peoples out. God declares for the Amalekites to be blotted out in judgment in Deuteronomy 25:19. God threatens to blot out Egypt in judgment, Ezekiel 32:7. More examples could be given. Or remember that this is what God told Noah he was doing at the flood – blotting out wicked mankind from the face of the earth, Genesis 6:7. Well, God has said that the final day of judgment for this present world would be like those days of Noah. There is the threat of a might blotting out of humanity due to our great sin against a holy God. We all have had the great need for our sin to be blotted out, so that we won’t be blotted out.
This is the prayer found in Psalm 51:1 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.” And in Psalm 51:9, “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.” Or as Acts 3:19 urges, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”
And so, we praise God for his compassion and mercy because that is exactly what we have received in Jesus Christ. Our sins are blotted out in Jesus Christ as we repent and turn to him for grace and forgiveness. While Moses had offered himself to be blotted out in the place of Israel, he could not be the lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. But Jesus was that perfect lamb that was the fulness of God in bodily form, and the perfect sacrifice to atone for the idolatries and all the sins of God’s people. Jesus himself came under the blotting out wrath of God, endured it, and overcame in resurrection for us and our salvation! So then, we have now what is recorded in Col. 2:14, that Jesus’ work on the cross was in, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”
So then, we who have found salvation in Christ Jesus have the promised held out in Revelation 3:5, that God will never blot out our name from the book of life! Instead, Revelation goes on to describe a blotting that we will get to experience. Revelation 21:4 says that in the glory that awaits us, he will blot out every tear from our eyes.
Let us then not forsake our gracious and compassionate Lord. May his great kindness and compassion indeed lead us to renewed repentance and continued trust in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.