OT: 2 Kings 20:1-22:2
Today, Hezekiah seemed selfish to me. For one, when he heard that he was going to die, he beseeched God using an interesting tactic. Rather than humble himself and beg for God's mercy, Hezekiah seemed to insinuate that God should spare him b/c he deserved to live. In his own words, "Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes" (20:3). Then, he "wept bitterly" (4). This does not seem like the typical sackcloth-and-ashes, "I'm not worthy" response that God seems to usually prefer from the recipients of bad news (see: Ahab). Instead, it seems like Hezekiah is saying, "How can you do this to me, God? I'm awesome, remember?"
And surprisingly, this tactic works. God gives Hezekiah another fifteen years and even tacks on a victory over the Assyrians (6). Rather than say thank you, Hezekiah then insists on a sign, and the unusually pliable Isaiah assents to this demand, and even gives him a choice. He chooses a shadow moving backwards by itself (b/c anyone can make a shadow move forward by itself, right? Right?).
The text then jumps immediately to the arrival of a Babylonian envoy. Upon reading of the Babylonians, part of me looked back at God's gift of the victory over Assyria with new eyes. Suddenly, that guarantee looked like a lot smaller of a blessing, knowing what will happen with the Babylonians. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First of all, Hezekiah brazenly shows off all of his riches, which also seems like a selfish act to me. Of course, that one comes back to bite him: Isaiah quickly informs him that Babs will be back for all that stuff, as Hezekiah's tour apparently had the unintended affect of stirring up their greed.
Hezekiah's reaction to this disturbing news is his third selfish action of the reading. He basically thinks, "Well, who cares? It's not going to happen in my lifetime!" Nice.
Hezekiah is followed by Manasseh, who by all accounts, is a real peach of a king. In his seemingly interminable 55 year reign, he manages to undo all the good that Hezekiah had done, and then some. Forget comparisons to earlier evil kings; Manasseh is worse than the pagans who had lived in the land before the Israelites even got there (21:11)! Furthermore, "Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end" (16). When he finally kicked the bucket, his son reigned for a short two years, only to be assassinated by his officials, who replaced him with his son. So, to recap, this new king is the grandson of the lovely Manasseh, and the son of the also-evil Amon. And who might this new specimen be? Someone even more lurid than his fathers? No...
It was JOSIAH! Josiah! That's just crazy to me. Could Josiah be more opposite of his lineage? From the text today, it would appear that Josiah is not only a good king, but the best king since David. After all, 'He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning to the right or to the left" (22:2). Wow. I'm pretty sure the text has not compared a king favorably to David until now.
NT: Acts 21: 17-36
Today was one of those times where I typed a whole paragraph about my confusion on an issue, only to have my questions answered through the very act of typing. (See, this is why I blog.) My initial confusion was over what I viewed as the seeming hypocrisy of the elders in Jerusalem. They didn't want to give the appearance that Paul was telling people not to be circumcised, even though they had all earlier agreed that Gentiles did not to need to be circumcised. However, when I was typing out the exact quote, I saw that their concern was over the Jews not being circumcised, rather than the Gentiles not being circumcised. As verses 21 and 25 make explicit, the elders distinctly differentiated between those two groups. So they weren't being deceptive, after all. However, my dawning awareness opened up a whole new can of worms.
Mainly, what role did the Law play in the early church? I thought that Christ was the fulfillment of the Law, so why are people still following it? I guess that as a Jew, you can't just suddenly erase the whole basis of your life. Their customs and rituals where very important to them. They certainly did not understand Christ's actions as erasing all that had come before. And yet, in a way, it kind of did. The purpose of the Law, after all, was to bring people into right standing with God. Christ's sacrifice forever accomplished that purpose, which then rendered the Law somewhat obsolete. In fact, Paul had stern words for the Galatians, who thought that the Law helped to justify them. Paul made it clear that it was not the Law, but Christ's sacrifice, that justified people before God. Thus, Christ's death and resurrection did kind of rob the Law of its power. It would be one thing to continue to live by the Law, simply because it was what you knew and its customs were important to you. But it also seemed important to acknowledge that the Law no longer saved you. I guess that is my issue with the Jerusalem elders and Paul. It seemed like their zeal for the continued following of the Law kind of undermined the fact that Christ's death and resurrection fulfilled the purpose of the Law.
Psalm 150: 1-6
A simple praise psalm.
Proverbs 18: 9-10
I LOVE the first proverb today: "One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys" (9). This proverb is a real slap at half-heartedness, at complacency, and at laziness. It is not enough just to do something. God wants you to do it well. When you do it half-way, you are in league with those who do harm, not those who do good. At least, that was my take on the verse.