Sermon ; Pentecost 11C, Story Week 16
The Fall of Israel, The beginning of the end
Romans 13:1-7, Matthew 6:28-34
Psalm 146: 2-3
2 I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. 3 Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.
Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Don’t you hate it when you happen to hear one of those catchy tunes sometime in the morning and it lodges itself in your brain and you cannot get it out of your head for the rest of the day!? The most catchy tune that seems to do this every time I happen to hear it is, “Don’t Worry; Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin!
That song was huge. It obviously struck a chord with people. It touched on that illusive thing we all crave to gain; “happiness”. Every human being has the need to seek and find happiness.
You get a great result on your term report. You begin a new relationship. You receive a promotion and are extremely proud. As the day goes by, you share your great news with your loved ones and find yourself feeling increasingly happy.
Fast forward a week later, and although you are still feeling proud, the happiness you initially felt is dwindling, and your success has become just another tick on your list. You are not sure why, but you know this is a cycle you find yourself in often — a cycle where your happiness seems to be temporary and your success is short lived.
Here’s what I read this week about this short-lasting happiness…
“This form of happiness is not true happiness, which is why it did not last. True happiness exists within and does not waver regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in. ….. Everyone is born with happiness, but as you experience life, it becomes tainted by situations or people. Getting to a point where you are again tapping into your true happiness can be very challenging……. but here are seven steps to help make the process easier for yourself”.
Step 1: Let the past go
Step 2: Accept yourself and others
Step 3: Connect to your source
This is having a clear understanding of your own beliefs and matching your actions as you give yourself permission to live as who you are.
Step 4: Trust in yourself
This means trusting your inner truth.
Step 5: Take responsibility
Step 6: Adapt an attitude of gratitude
Your attitude paves the way of your path.
Step 7: Create change
Instead of waiting for something to happen, go out and make things happen.
Rosa Medina-Fassett From <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rosa-medinafassett/7-steps-to-start-tapping-into-your-true-happiness_b_5666984.html>
Are you feeling at home in this advice or are you beginning to smell a rat? You might be because it is the dominant belief of our 21st Century Western society. But I hope you are beginning to smell a rat.
This advice is absolutely empty in the end. Why? Because it is completely centred on self. It really suggest that everything is about you and up to you. The belief that happiness or anything good is only to be found by your own effort and inside yourself is crushing.
For that reason this over-trust in the human spirit and will ends up in ruin. We can’t deliver the goods from within or by ourselves. That is the direct and disarming truth of the Scriptures.
We have seen this misplaced trust in self being played out again and again in the story of the long line of kings in The Story.
Right from when he reluctantly allowed the people to have their request for a king met, the Lord knew the human capacity to misplace their heart’s love. People relied on the King more than the only King of all kings.
Eventually, the nation split into two smaller, weaker nations; Israel in the north – the larger (10 tribes), and Judah in the south (The tribe of David – Judah, and Benjamin).
During the time of the divided kingdom there were 38 kings. Only 5 were faithful kings. God sent 9 prophets to the northern kingdom over a span of 208 years and the people refused to hear and obey.
The Northern Kingdom, named ‘Israel’, fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The 10 tribes in the north were conquered and sent into exile by the Assyrians. They become known as “the lost tribes of Israel.”
God “removed them from his presence.” (2 Kings 17:18)
So what is the solution? Give up on happiness and mope around in dark despair?
Here’s the Jesus, King of all kings’ alternative way to live. Not with too much trust in ourselves or others but all trust in him and his Father and the moving Spirit at work among us.
Step 1: 1 Praise the Lord.
Step 2: Praise the Lord, my soul.
Step 3: 2 I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Step 4: 3 Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. 4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Step 5: 1 Praise the Lord.
Step 6: Praise the Lord, my soul.
Friends, we are being called to NOT our ultimate allegiance or trust to any human being or institution. Political leaders, church leaders, marriage partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, youthful years and looks, wealth, flash cars, big motorbikes, good hair, good body, good wine – even kings and princes are human, with all the faults and limitations that are common to humans.
We are all humans and will return to the humus.
Can we be happy? Maybe that is the unhelpful question. Maybe we would be better to ask, Can we live fully?
Yes. In Psalm 146 we hear that free and fully living people trust that their help (for the present) and their hope (for the future) are with the Lord their God. The Lord is the creator of the heavens, the earth, and the sea, who speaks to them and lives with them.
Verse 6 says that God keeps faith forever and executes justice for the oppressed and the hungry. “Happy” or “blessed” is the person who responds to this God in love!
Jesus of Nazareth is our peace, our hope, our life, our present and future. He proclaims sight for the blind, freedom for the captive, hearing for the deaf and release for those captivated by the pursuit of happiness (Luke 4).
This is where true happiness and well-being are found – in him not us.
So, with his presence, power and promise, what we do with kings, princes, partners, teachers, principals, politicians, advertising executives, TV producers, culture shapers, local leaders and even iTunes developers…?
Support them where and when we can – for the good of everyone, the just and unjust.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
(1 Timothy 2:1-4)
The beginning of the end of Israel came about because of misplaced trust and disordered love for self.
But God still loves. In his undying loving acceptance he speaks to us and he transforms us and our disordered loves into his love.
Happiness is loving him; him getting the first fruits, the first praise, the longest breath of thanks.
We serve and pray and love in his name – from the PM to the Pauper.
Chapter 16, the beginning of the end
Timeless Truth: god deals with disobedience, but his compassion never ends.
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
For 209 years, the northern kingdom of Israel had endured one evil king after another. Their failure to keep God’s covenant meant they would be expelled from the covenant. They had been chosen to be a blessing to all other nations, but now they would be delivered over to those very nations.
Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, set up a puppet government for the northern tribes of Israel and appointed Hoshea as king. Hoshea was as defiant of Shalmaneser as he was of God, the true King of Israel. He stopped paying tribute and as a result, the Assyrian army destroyed the capital city of Samaria and captured Hoshea. The king, along with many of his fellow Israelites, was deported by Shalmeneser’s successor, Sargon II. By resettling them throughout Assyria, God was settling His own accounts. Idolatry, disobedience, and stubbornness provoked God’s anger and led Him to expel the northern kingdom from His land.
Meanwhile, just to the south in the kingdom of Judah, godly King Hezekiah was nervously watching these world-shaking events on his northern border. Hezekiah stands out from all of the other kings of Judah for his efforts to remove every vestige of idolatry in the land. He rebelled against the new Assyrian king Sennacherib. The Assyrians sent envoys, claiming that they wanted to negotiate a peaceful surrender with Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Their reasoning was faultless: What other nation had been able to stand against the Assyrian might? Had not God Himself commissioned them for this task? Sennacherib’s commander appealed directly to the populace of Jerusalem, speaking to them in Hebrew.
King Hezekiah trusted in the LORD and prayed for deliverance. The prophet Isaiah promised that God would deliver them. What faith it must have taken to trust the prophet’s prediction! The angel of the LORD swept through the Assyrians army as they slept. The next morning Sennacherib’s camp was littered with 185,000 dead Assyrian soldiers. The army retreated and Judah was saved.
Isaiah had been called to be a prophet during the last year of King Uzziah’s life. In a majestic vision of the LORD, he was commissioned to speak for God to turn the people of Judah away from sin and toward their God. He warned that Judah was walking in her sister Israel’s footsteps and therefore would reap similar judgment. Unfortunately, he seldom found a listening audience.
The threat of foreign exile failed to curb the widespread social injustice, moral decay, and religious apostasy. Judah’s pride would be her downfall; God loved His people too much to allow their sin to go unchecked. And although He warned of judgment, He also promised a future restoration. When Israel perceived herself as forsaken and forgotten, her compassionate God would fully restore her. The whole world would know that the LORD is their Savior and Redeemer.
What a comfort Isaiah’s prophecies must have been to the faithful remnant of Judah: God’s Upper Story of redemption would triumph over the sin of His people. Even the godliest of kings could not overcome the sin nature of mankind. In his most memorable passage, Isaiah described a Suffering Servant, who was “pierced for our transgressions.” Looking down from the Upper Story, we can see that this was a description of the true King, who would suffer for all mankind.
Icebreaker Question: Can you think of a time when you suffered an unjust punishment or consequence? What about a time when you deserved a consequence for your actions but were “let off the hook”?
- Why did God send the northern kingdom into captivity? (See 2 Kings 17:7-17 for more details.) Compare God’s actions against Israel to Moses’ warning in Deut. 28:45-50 and 30:1-5. What do you discover?
- God frequently reminded Israel of examples of his faithfulness, such as their deliverance from Egypt (p. 219). What past experiences have you had that remind you of God’s faithfulness? (See Romans 8:31)
- How have you seen people respond when they receive just consequences for sinful actions? How should a Christian respond to the consequences of sin and the discipline of God?
- King Sennacherib of Assyria sent his envoy to Jerusalem to persuade King Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem to surrender peacefully, claiming he came on the LORD’s orders (p. 221). Isaiah’s message to Hezekiah said otherwise. How do you evaluate people who claim to have a word from the LORD?
- What is King Hezekiah’s view of YHWH the God of Israel (p. 223)? What is the result of a correct understanding of God?
- What about the vision of God in the temple made Isaiah realize that he was a sinner? Compare Isaiah’s response with Peter in Luke 5:8 and John in Rev. 1:17. What are the implications?
- According to Isaiah’s prophecy (p. 225-226), what was the southern kingdom of Judah like? What did he say that God would do as a result?
- Isaiah’s prophecy predicted punishment and captivity for Judah, as well as return and restoration (p. 227-228). How did Zion (Jerusalem and Judah) react to this message?
- List the qualities of the Suffering Servant (p. 228-230). (See Matthew 8:16-17, 26:63-67; 1 Peter 2:22-25; Romans 5:19; Luke 22:37 for further insights.) What does this teach us about God’s Upper Story?
In the time remaining ask your group members to share any of their personal reflection insights from their journal entries.
Chapter 17, PREPARATIONS – The kingdom’s fall
Journal your answers to these questions as you read through the chapter this week. You may wish to read one day and journal the next, or spread the questions over the whole week.
- List the evil practices of Manasseh that aroused the anger of the LORD. Can you find examples of any of these practices in our own community?
- Where did Manasseh set up his altars and Asherah poles? According to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, where is the temple of God now? What are the implications for you personally?
- What does Manasseh’s redemption teach you about God? About people?
- Look up 2 Chronicles 33:14-20, 23. What was Manasseh’s response to the grace of God?
- God told Ezekiel, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious,” (p. 236). Have you ever been fearful to speak the truth?
- What must it have been like to be Jeremiah as Jerusalem was destroyed? How did he view God’s Upper story and His Lower story, according to his lament (p. 243-245)?
- List the specific promises that God says He will do for Israel (p. 245-246). According to the text, what is the result of God’s Spirit in you? How does it affect your life to have the Spirit in you?