The Book of 2 Kings
The Rector’s weekly letter to the congregation for Sunday, May 26, 2019
The Book of 2 Kings
The two books of the Kings were originally one book. Second Kings continues the story of the now two kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south, starting from where 1 Kings left off. The book of 2 Kings has 25 chapters and 719 verses. The book is the tale of a nation that adamantly ignored God’s prescription for life and went its own way, causing itself immense suffering. Author T.R. Hobbs puts it well in his book 2 Kings. He says “2 Kings….is the tragedy stuff. The nation, chosen by God, saved by God from slavery, settled by God in a land of plenty, loses everything because of its consistent tendency to chase after other gods.” (1985: xxvii)
The book of 2 Kings reports on the rule of each king in both Israel and Judah, starting from Joram of Israel and Jehoram of Judah, some kings receiving more coverage than others. The two kingdoms each had 20 kings. All the 20 kings of Israel were evil. A king’s being evil consisted mainly of worshiping gods other than Yahweh, even if the same king accomplished excellent social programs. For example, Jeroboam II was an evil king according to 2 Kings 14:24, yet during his time Israel impressively prospered economically more than under any other king except Solomon. Israel also expanded its territory under him. But his killer flaw that negated all the advancement he brought to the nation was that he continued the apostasy of the nation by keeping in place the religious framework instituted by Jeroboam I. In 1 Kings 12:26 – 33, it is reported that Jeroboam I prevented the people of Israel from going to worship in the temple in Jerusalem, which was in Judah. He reasoned that if people went to Jerusalem for worship, they could be swayed to switch allegiance to the dynasty of David which ruled in Judah. So, he set up an alternate system of his own and made two golden calves and told the people, “These are the gods that brought you out of Egypt.” He chose for priest anyone that wanted to be a priest and not exclusively from the tribe of Levi as the Lord had directed. Israel never recovered from this apostasy until it was overrun by Assyria in 722 BC.
Judah had eight good kings, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash (Jehoash), Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. But even those eight had character flaws. They were good only because they worshiped Yahweh, although some of them together with worshiping Yahweh, left in place the shrines erected to other gods by other kings. The shrines were not broken up perhaps because they had become popular among the people due to weak and shallow faith in Yahweh, and the kings were wary of being politically incorrect, lest they lose favor with the masses. Some kings though were willing to be hated by the masses and did the right thing. These kings made a concerted effort to erase such worship out of the nation. Jehu tried in Israel (2 Kings 10:18 – 29), and Josiah in Judah (2 Chronicles 34).
Some kings went overboard in worshiping other gods. King Ahaz of Judah, for example, closed the temple and nailed two by four wooden bars across the doors to prevent people from entering it to worship Yahweh. He broke into pieces the articles that were used in temple worship and built altars to pagan gods across the nation (2 Chronicles 28:24 – 25).
Both kingdoms met a tragic end. Israel was captured by the Assyrian Empire in 722, and its people scattered among other people ostensibly to prevent them from organizing themselves into a fighting force. The Assyrians brought other peoples and settled them in Israel. The few Jews that managed to escape capture later intermarried with the new peoples producing a race that was not pure Jew. Their capital was Samaria. So, they came to be known as the Samaritans.
Judah did not fare any better. She was conquered by Babylon in 586 BC in a most brutal fashion. The Babylonians put a siege on Jerusalem for two years. Zedekiah who was king later attempted to slip out of the city and run for it but was captured by the Babylonians. They slaughtered his sons as he looked on. They then gouged out his eyes, put him in chains, and took him to Babylon. The Babylonians burned down Solomon’s beautiful temple and smashed its pillars and took the bronze of which they were made. They also took the articles that were used in the temple some of bronze and others of gold. A tragic end indeed (2 Kings 25).
We learn from this that willful and unrelenting rebellion against God will eventually be punished by Him. God is patient and gives time to individuals and nations to change course and return to Him. But if they stubbornly refuse to leave their waywardness and instead get entrenched in it and become incorrigible, God’s punishment will come and it can be harsh.
We do well to realize that in every age and in every society and nation, there’s an insidious current flowing quietly and undetected downward away from the Lord, attempting to sweep everyone to flow with it. The challenge of those who would remain faithful to the Lord is to live with an alert presence of mind to detect that current and to consciously and determinedly swim against it at all cost even to themselves. It’s a battle between Christ and Lucifer. Everyone must choose a side.
Secondly, we should remember that, again, in every age, the community of Yahweh has to prepare to contend with other worldviews and alternate ways purporting to lead to life. The community of Yahweh must be careful not to be enmeshed and sucked into the popular thinking of its time. The message of God must be protected, taught without let or fear, lived out in full irrespective of the culture’s trend, and passed on intact and unadulterated to the next generation. There’s no such thing as living a simple, sweet, uncomplicated, and undisturbed Christian life. Forces will appear and will be loud trashing traditional teaching of the faith and introducing assertions foreign to the Bible and even contradicting it. The traditional faith will be accused of being archaic and no longer worth consideration by people of modern times with sane minds, so it will be put. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” NLT. Enjoy reading 2 Kings, and relish walking in holiness.
Protestant Christian Evidences
by Bernard Ramm (1953:45 – 46)
IN ORDER TO PROCEED with a positive argument, it will be necessary to indicate the anti-supernatural mood of contemporary thinking and something must be said in refutation. The root of the current anti-supernaturalism can be readily traced back to the birth of modern science (Galileo) and modern philosophy (Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes). The development of the modern scientific mentality has been traced by such scholars as J. H. Randall, Jr., in his The Making of the Modern Mind, and E. A. Burtt in his The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science. A new secularist mentality has emerged. There is now endemic upon the masses of civilized people today such plagues as atheism, dialectical materialism, and secularism. In such schemes, there is no room for the supernatural and transcendental.
After science was well under way it was able to increase the number of well-founded empirical laws and to bring more and more phenomena within the scope of the explanatory powers of these laws. With the maturation of the sciences and the increase of the scope of the sciences increased veneration for law itself and for the scientific method. Eventually, such veneration gave birth to twentieth-century scientism, e.g., materialism, positivism, naturalism, pragmatism, and new realism.
Bringing up another flank against the lines of the supernaturalists were the philosophers. Hume laid down terrible mortar fire on miracles and the attributes of God, whereas Kant thundered out like a big Bertha against all speculative metaphysics. He sent his huge projectiles crashing and exploding with dreadful effect into such time-honored items as proofs for the existence of God, proofs for the existence of the soul (paralogisms), and proofs for a natural theology (antinomies). As if to say that the ranks of supernaturalism must not only be beaten back but decimated, came the Cossacks of radical criticism riding hard and roughshod with glistening swords over every single book of Sacred Canon. Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and Jesus were not spared the thundering hoofs or the cut of the sword. Prophecy was reduced to ethical preaching; miracles were declared hindrances rather than helps; the divine authenticity and authority of the Bible was cut asunder to joints and marrow; traditional theological formulations were laughed out of court for, as Schleiermacher said, we are no longer children that we should believe in fairy tales. In less than a hundred years great and honored universities, hundreds of important seminaries, and thousands of ministers capitulated to the “modern mentality.” It seems as if there was a willfully plotted effort for every conceivable department of human knowledge to rise up and denounce Biblical supernaturalism. Has there ever been in the history of humanity such a revolution of such measure and such success in such a short span of time?
“Modern mentality” means that man is no longer central to the interpretation of the universe but is accidental. Moral, ethical, spiritual and aesthetic maxims are judged as personal preferences due in the main to social conditioning. High ideals are of purely human origin. Everything that cannot be stamped with the purple ink of scientific approval is either spurious or not to be trusted or of inferior grade. God, our heavenly Father, is replaced by Nature, our earthly Mother. However, men may believe in God but with the reservation that fervent religious activity and belief is undesirable, and “evangelism” is really proselyting and is, therefore, unethical.
OBJECTIONS FROM SCIENCE
The scientist opposes the supernatural on two counts:
A. He opposes the supernatural on the basis that the supernatural is contradictory to natural law.
B. On the grounds that miracles do not fit into the universe the scientist works on.
A. However, the concept of natural law is not as simple as appears on the surface. Although the scientist may handle the law as a simple axiomatic notion, it does not admit of such simplicity upon analysis. The first premise of every natural law is the principle of the uniformity of nature. If the uniformity of nature is not predicated the law is meaningless, i.e., it becomes provincially true of one experiment or a cluster of experiments at one point of time in one section of space. It is the principle of the uniformity of nature that universalizes laws so that what is discovered at one place and time may be predicated of many spaces and times.
Not only is natural law dependent on the principle of uniformity, but all prediction is dependent on it. There is no demonstrable method of proving that the future shall be like the past. It can only be assumed in terms of the principle of uniformity.
It is recognized that the principle of the uniformity of nature is a dictum that comes from the medieval period. It was a theological tenet which stated that in that God was an orderly Person the universe must reflect His orderliness. The original source of the principle is to be found in the theistic undergirding of Nature. Now by the strange concourse of events, the uniformity of nature is used to controvert theism. In the theistic system, the principle of the uniformity of nature finds its rational justification and metaphysical undergirding in the character of the Almighty God.
Further, although the Christian may locate the source of the principle in his theistic metaphysics, the scientist has no method of proving the principle. There is no single experiment that proves it for it is the premise of all experimentation. To extend the principle from one experiment to all is to use the principle to prove itself. There are two ways out. The scientist may give the principle full metaphysical status as a pervasive feature of reality, but in so doing he has become a metaphysician. Or, he may with positivists state that the principle is one of the assumed principles of scientific investigation which one takes as true but does not bother to prove. In this case, the question is begged or dodged. Another variety of the positivistic position is to assume the truthfulness of the principle on pragmatic grounds. But if grounded pragmatically it cannot be used viciously to exclude the miracle of Biblical history. Pragmatic verification leaves possible that other situations may occur in which the principle does not hold.
Finally, the Christian theist insists that the uniformity of nature is not the point of argument at all. For the daily routine of life, for the regular procedures of science, and for the practical needs of the commercial world, the principle of uniformity holds true. As will be noted in the discussion of miracles, the Christian insists on a regular order in nature for the very detection of the “irregular.” That is to say, the Christian theist is not arguing for a chaotic or spontaneous or a haphazard universe when he argues for the supernatural. At this point, he only insists that science does not mercilessly and blindly extend uniformity to all human history without a full appreciation of the nature of scientific knowledge itself, and the worthy contentions of Biblical theism.
The Christian attitude toward the principle of uniformity is this: For the general routine of life and existence the principle is granted its validity. Its ultimate grounding is in the consistency of God’s nature. But the principle is not to be used to mercilessly rule out all conceivable supernatural events if for other sound and rational arguments such events can be shown to fit into the entire system of the universe. (To be continued next week if Jesus doesn’t return prior.)