Please join me as we delve into a subject many people believe in—but refuse to acknowledge.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
2 Kings 15:1-16:20. Today we read about Israel’s kings in rapid-fire succession…
King Azariah is also listed under a variety of names: Uzziah (verses 13 and 30), Uzziahu (verses 32 and 34), and Uzza (2 Kings 21:18). He brought spiritual revival and economic prosperity to Judah like few kings before him.
In Isaiah 6:1, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” King Uzziah’s death was a significant moment for Israel because he represented stability in every sphere of life. The people knew his son Jotham was no Uzziah. Yet, in the midst of an uncertain future, God wanted them to know he was still on the throne. You can learn more about Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26.
Israel, on the other hand, became the picture of instability. While King Jeroboam II of Israel had brought economic stability to the country, the violent overthrow of kings after him brought rapid instability.
King Ahaz of Judah (Uzziah’s grandson), did not follow in the way of his successors, introducing more evil into Judah than probably any other king. The New Bible Commentary explains how Ahaz’s refusal to cooperate with King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel nearly brought an early end to the royal line of King David:
Further light is thrown on these events by Isaiah 7:1–6. The picture which emerges is that Rezin and Pekah wanted to create an anti-Assyrian coalition including Judah. Unable to persuade Ahaz to join them, they proposed to remove him from the throne and replace him with their own nominee (Ben-Tabeel; Isaiah 7:6). Their success would have brought the Davidic dynasty to an end.
As a result, Ahaz asked Assyria for help, emptying the temple treasuries (which meant nothing to him). This, in turn, would have a detrimental effect on Judah’s spiritual climate.
Acts 19:13-41. In the midst of the mass hysteria for converting many followers of Diana, notice that Paul did nothing to disparage his opposition. In Acts 19:37, the city clerk of Ephesus reminds the rioters: “You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.”
Because Paul acted respectfully toward people of other faiths, his accusers were quickly silenced. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Two ironies strike me in this passage:
1. The seven sons of Sceva may not have been followers of Jesus, yet they started a domino effect that resulted in a spiritual breakthrough and mass conversions. This affected the artisans who benefitted from the people who purchased Artemis-related memorabilia. The worship of Artemis (Diana) was the largest religion in the Roman Empire.
2. Despite the people’s fervent belief in Artemis’s importance what did they yell? “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Obviously, Artemis was no match for Jesus. Artemis was so “great” that her followers felt the need to defend her.
Psalm 147:1-20. You know what brings pleasure to God? Verses 10-11 tell us:
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
God delights when we take him seriously and place our trust in the fact that his love never fails.
Proverbs 18:4-5. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4). Our words reveal our hearts. If you want to know what resides in the heart of another person, listen. If you want to know what’s resident deep inside, listen to yourself.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Probably one of the most politically incorrect beliefs in the Christian church is our belief in Satan, demons, and hell. I’m astounded by the blindness in our world when atrocities are committed on a regular basis. Where on earth did they begin? They didn’t. They began not here but in hell.
Reading through the Gospels, it quickly becomes apparent that Jesus directed a great deal of his ministry against demons. We also witness their presence—and influence—in the book of Acts. While reading the story of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19, a few thoughts came to mind:
1. Power resides in the name of Jesus. According to our reading, Paul used the name of Jesus to cast out demons from people. The sons of Sceva tried imitating Paul, much to their chagrin. Which brings us to the next insight…
2. Jumping into a ministry like this while unprepared can be dangerous. Dealing with demons isn’t something you don’t want to do if you don’t know what you’re doing. The sons of Sceva walked away from their experience with demons a bit scarred (and scared).
3. A relationship with Jesus not only ensures that you don’t need to walk in fear, but that you can delve into this with confidence and authority. The men were sons of a Jewish chief priest—but that wasn’t enough. They needed to know Jesus—and be submitted to his authority. Paul, on the other hand, seemed unfazed by the demons control over Sceva’s sons.
4. Success over evil spirits can result in spiritual breakthroughs that affect others. As a result of the spiritual breakthrough, people began burning their books. This may not be politically correct to say, but destroying evil influences can break their grip on a person. We then read, “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (Acts 19:20).
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How have you experienced power in the name of Jesus?
- What demonic influences do you need to destroy?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.