Bible reading for Nov 10.
2 Kings 23.
"And the king went up to the house of the LORD, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD." (2 Kings 23:2)
REVIVAL IN THE LAND. King Josiah now involves the elders of Judah, and then assembles all the people. The revival began in Josiah's heart through the hearing of God's law. Now God's word is read publicly to all the people (vv 1-2; cf 1 Tim 4:13; Col 3:16). They make a covenant to follow the Lord (v 3) and then proceed to remove the idols and every form of false worship in the land. [See the NETBible notes on this chapter for more detail.] "Asherah" was a fertility goddess (known by various names), and the Ashtoreth (plural of Asherah) likely referred to the the carved poles (or sacred trees) used in her worship. All of these are destroyed. [For more detail see "Asherah" at internationalstandardbible.com.] This remarkable time in Jewish history was sparked by the effective hearing of God's word, first by the king, and then by all the people. Conviction of sin followed, and the people then desired to be restored to covenant relationship with the Lord. Removal of false worship followed.
REVERSING APOSTASY. Hearing the Word, conviction of sin, covenant faithfulness, repentance, and removal of idols are enduring themes in the Bible. In the NT this effect is produced by the gospel when received in faith: "...how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1 Thess 1:9; cf Acts 19:19, 26-27). The Apostle John writes, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21). And Paul writes, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming" (Col 3:5-6). There is the idolatry of materialism and knowledge today, thinking that our wealth and technology can ultimately bring us salvation and lasting joy. There is still goddess worship today, even in the enlightened, secular west, taking such forms as radical feminism and pornography. The idol-factory which is the human heart hasn't changed over the millennia. We must be hearing God's word regularly in order to identify the idols of our hearts and hands!
"And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him..." (Hebrews 5:9)
BETTER THAN... In calling his readers to be faithful to their confession of Christ, the author of Hebrews is showing the superiority of Jesus over all the main figures in the OT: angels, Moses, Joshua, and now Aaron the high priest. Jesus is a different kind of priest. He is human and sympathetic, yes, but also eternal and without sin. In his human nature Jesus learned obedience (vv 7-10; cf Luke 2:52). Two very key passages from the OT are cited here: Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. The NT writers will refer often to these Davidic psalms that speak of Christ's kingly and priestly roles.
SLIDING INTO APOSTASY. The readers are reproved for the sluggishness and immaturity (vv 11-14). There's a common theme in today's two readings, that of apostasy. Judah had apostatized from the true worship of God (2 Kings 23), and the Jewish believers addressed in Hebrews are sliding into apostasy, about to fall away from Christ. We learn that the rediscovery and reading of God's word stimulated revival in the first case (2 Kings) and the neglect of the word stunted growth toward maturity in the second case (Heb 4-5), which led to lack of discernment and the danger of apostasy. God's word searches us, and reveals ourselves to us (Heb 4:12-13). Many people only want to read the positive, uplifting parts of the Bible, and avoid the more painful, heart-searching, conscience-probing portions. Many believers still live on baby food, so to speak (vv 12-13), and have not matured sufficiently to accurately discern good and evil: "But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." (v 14) Their neglect of the means of grace -- Bible reading, serious study and application, fervent prayer, and the accountability of church fellowship -- had made them ripe for the slide into apostasy. We'll read more in the next chapter.
REFLECT. As I study the Bible I see the assurances that the Lord knows those who are his, and that the Lord will bring all his children safely home (John 6:37-40; 10:27-29; Rom 8:29-30). We rest upon his promise of eternal security in Christ, his ability to keep us, but we do not carelessly presume upon this and become sluggish. The Bible also teaches the necessity of the perseverance of the saints (Rom 11:22; 1 Cor 15:2; Phil 3:12; Rev 21:7). This is a gift which we must see fulfilled in our experience. We must humbly realize that apart from our full involvement in Christian growth we are capable of almost any sin in the book. We must ask ourselves, have we taken seriously how vulnerable we are and how quickly (or gradually) we might fall away from the Lord?
Image credit. Photo from pulpit of Sandown Old Meetinghouse (1773), Sandown, NH, by Paul Wainwright, courtesy colonialmeetinghouses.com. We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. One recommended resource is NETBible.org, a ministry of bible.org.