November 26, 2015

Holding on to Hope

2 Kings 17:6–18:12, Ephesians 1:1–23, Proverbs 8:9–18

Towards the end of the time of kings in Israel, their loyalty to God continued to deteriorate. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria. According to Assyrian records, the Assyrians deported 27,290 inhabitants of Israel to distant locations.

“This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right.”

They built high places, set up pillars and Asherim, and made offerings to their idols. The Lord warned both Israel and Judah by every prophet: “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”

But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. “They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them . . . “ They even “burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord” so none was left but the tribe of Judah, but Judah also disobeyed God and followed what Israel had done. (2 Kings 17:6-19)

When the king of Assyria repopulated the cities of Samaria, God sent lions among them. The king was told it was because “they do not know the law of the god of the land” so he sent an Israelite priest to teach them, but every nation still made gods of its own, serving their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day. (2 Kings 17:41) These were the origin of the NT Samaritans.

Meanwhile, Hezekiah son of Ahaz, began to reign. “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it . . . . He trusted in the Lord . . . there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.” (2 Kings 18:1–7)

Judgment on Judah was delayed because Hezekiah obeyed the words of Solomon: “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.” By wisdom, he reigned and decreed what was just. (Proverbs 8:13–15) Yet eventually, most of the OT people of God failed. They were not able to look ahead in faith to the promised Messiah and struggled to love God and persevere in faithfulness.

When the Messiah came, the Apostle Paul described some of what God’s people have in Jesus: an inheritance, predestined according to God’s purpose, and hope in Christ to the praise of his glory. He also said that in Christ, when we hear the gospel of our salvation and believe it, we are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it. All this is also to the praise of his glory.

Paul prayed for the new Christians at Ephesus: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.” (Ephesians 1:11–19)

While OT believers had faith in the Messiah, many of them did not hold on to that hope until He actually came. Because of what Christ has done, my confidence is that the Holy Spirit will keep me holding on until He actually comes again!

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