We need to know history. It has been said that those who forget history are apt to relive it. The psalmist devoted a long discourse on the history of God’s people, Israel.
Before beginning his review of Israel’s journey, the writer reminded them of the importance of teaching God’s law to their children; that they might also teach their children. He started his review with their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. The psalmist reminded them of their complaints in the wilderness and of God’s care for them by providing water, manna and meat. He also wrote of God’s displeasure with their lack of faith and how that they had been punished by spending forty years in futility and fear. Punishment would bring Israel back to God and in His compassion, He would forgive them. BUT their repentance was short-lived as they would forget Him again. He reviewed the plagues brought against the Egyptians and the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea.
Even as God led His children like sheep into the promised land, they continued to rebel. They erected unauthorized places of worship and turned to idols instead of the Living God. David was then chosen to lead the children of Israel. Even in all of their rebellion, God continued to mercifully forgive them when they repented.
The psalmist approached God with thanksgiving for His many blessings. Since the Lord looks with disdain upon the proud and boastful, they were admonished to refrain from their acts of pride. In due time, God’s judgment will be pronounced upon the earth with each person receiving his just reward or punishment. The wicked will be brought down while the righteous will be exalted.
God desires to hear our songs of praise and thanksgiving. The psalmist cited various occasions in which the Lord had protected His people from their oppressors. As the psalm concluded, man was urged to keep his vows and to give praise and fear to the Lord God.
NOTE: The following Psalms were written many years earlier by Asaph, one of King David’s chief musicians. However, they are inserted in our journey at this point because of the command of Hezekiah for the words of Asaph to be sung at the restoration of the temple of God (II Chron. 29:30).
Ps. 73:1-28; 77:1-20
Rain falls upon the good and the evil. God’s other enormous blessings are enjoyed also by both the good and the evil. The Psalmist, Asaph acknowledged that God had been good to Israel, but at some point in time, he had observed what seemed to be an abundance of blessings upon the evildoers. In his mind, that seemed to be unfair and that his righteous life of obedience was unrewarded. However, he kept his thoughts to himself instead of causing doubts among the faithful. When the poet went into the sanctuary, the answers came to him. He realized that this world’s riches are only temporary. The wicked will be destroyed. It is good to draw near to God and to put one’s trust in Him.
The psalmist was in extremely deep anguish as he had cried out to God. His troubles prevented him from sleeping at night and had left him speechless. One sometimes questions the Lord during those times of despair. Asaph remembered the blessings of deliverance from Egypt and raised a series of pointed questions regarding God’s continued presence and care. He concluded that God’s power and mercy in the past will deliver him from his troubles of the present.
II Kin. 18:1-12; II Chron. 29:1-31:21
“A new broom sweeps clean” is a statement that I have heard many times referring to the diligence of a newly hired worker. During the approximately two hundred years since the death of Solomon the worship of God in the temple had become nonexistent. Previous “new brooms” had failed to clean up the dirt that had been left by their predecessors. However, Hezekiah was different.
As King Hezekiah followed his wicked father, Ahaz, he immediately began in the first month of his reign to restore proper respect and worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel. He removed all of the idols and their places of worship. The bronze serpent that Moses had raised in the wilderness to prevent death from the fiery serpent bites had become an object of idol worship. It was destroyed. That was an example of something good being misused and turned into an object of evil.
Hezekiah ordered the priests and Levites to consecrate themselves and to begin the repair and restoration of the temple. That included carrying “out the rubbish from the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God…” The people worked hard and soon the work was finished and they were ready to renew the worship as commanded by the law of Moses. “So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order.”
When Israel was carried into Assyrian captivity, a remnant of Israel’s population was somehow left behind. In his zeal to resume the proper worship to God, Hezekiah called for those people of Israel to join them in Jerusalem for the Passover observance. The king’s invitation was met with mixed results as some laughed and mocked while others did humble themselves and went to join with their Judean brothers in worship.
Due to time constraints, all things were not complete for the Passover in the first month as commanded, but God allowed the observance to take place in the second month. That was a rare exception that was permitted by God. “So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.”
God had made provision for the tribe of Levi to be supported by tithes from the people. Hezekiah restored the Levites to their proper role in the worship of God and commanded that the tithes be contributed for their care. More than enough was given. “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah…he did it with all his heart. So he prospered.”
Observe that the national revival of Judah had been started by one individual and that his influence carried it throughout the entire nation. Let us use our influence for good also.
II Kin. 17:5-41
“Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight…” Those were sad words written about God’s chosen people. They were a people that He had rescued from Egyptian slavery, nourished throughout a forty-year wilderness wandering and settled into a land that He had provided by fighting their wars for them.
Israel just didn’t get it. For hundreds of years later, they were a perfect picture of ingratitude as they murmured, complained and rebelled against all of the rules that God had set for them. Instead of worshipping the Lord according to His will, they worshipped the lifeless idols of the people around them. He had sent prophets to warn them of destruction if they did not turn and obey Him, but those warnings fell upon deaf ears.
God used the king of Assyria to inflict His punishment upon Israel. They were besieged during the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign and taken from their land as captives into Assyria. The Assyrian king then relocated people from other places to inhabit the land that had belonged to Israel.
The new inhabitants of Samaria soon found that they too were being punished because they were worshipping idols instead of worshipping the God of the land. An exiled priest from Israel was brought in to teach the people the rituals of the God of the land. They became like so many people today in that they tried to hold on to a relationship with God while continuing to hold to the customs around them.
II Kin. 17:1-4; Is. 28:1-29:24
Hoshea became king of Israel after he had led a conspiracy against King Pekah and killed him. That occurred during the last years that Judah’s kings, Jotham and Ahaz had reigned together. As the result of an attack against Israel by King Shalmaneser of Assyria, Hoshea was required to pay a yearly tribute to the Assyrians.
In an effort to get relief from the Assyrian tribute, Hoshea conspired with the king of Egypt instead of looking to God for His help. After being discovered by Shalmaneser, Hoshea was imprisoned and Israel’s destruction was about to begin.
Isaiah pronounced a series of woes against Israel and Jerusalem as he addressed the leaders of Israel as drunkards. “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim…” Lovers of strong drink promote it as a means of enjoying life to the fullest. They fail to present the true picture of fading flowers losing their glorious beauty as drunkards with dulled senses are being trampled underfoot. “They err in vision, they stumble in judgment. For all tables are full of vomit and filth; No place is clean.”
“Woe to Ariel (Jerusalem), to Ariel the city where David dwelt!” Judah, under King Ahaz had fallen into the same sinful practices that had been prevalent in Israel. Isaiah prophesied of great and disastrous destruction that would come against Judah because of their sins. Even Judah’s attackers who fought against Mount Zion would also be brought to ruin and Jerusalem would be restored.
Another woe was pronounced upon those who would seek false counsel instead of relying upon the words of the Lord. Many today seek the approval of men and their guidance instead of searching the Scriptures to learn God’s commandments.
Isaiah continued to prophesy of a new kingdom in Zion (Jerusalem); one that would have a tried and true cornerstone. As a farmer uses tried and true practices of land preparation, sowing and reaping, God had a proper plan for His spiritual house. That spiritual house would not be a physical kingdom as before, but would be a spiritual kingdom, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord through Micah called upon the people to plead their case and defend themselves against His wrath. He reminded them of their exodus from Egypt under the leadership of Moses and of their shortcomings since that time.
Micah stated that God required His people, “But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God.” Instead, they had stored up treasures of wickedness by using short measures and deceitful weights in their dealings with their fellow man. The consequences of their actions would be dissatisfaction of their possessions and failure to benefit from their labors.
The prophet took upon himself the role of the penitent people and acknowledged their sinfulness as they waited for God’s deliverance from their enemies. They would return and rebuild their walls. He would care for them as in the days of old remembering His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to bless the nations of the earth through their seed, the Messiah.