Devotions

Mattaniah to Zedekiah

Pastor Josh Combs

“And the king of Babylon made  Mattaniah,  Jehoiachin’s  uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.”  2 Kings 24:17

As the kingdom collapsed, the glory days of David and Solomon were faint and distant memories. To the citizenry of Judah, those days of safety, prosperity, prominence, and glory must have seemed like an impossible and implausible fairy tale. From approximately 590 BC to 586 BC, the nation of Judah had been ransacked by Babylonian forces. More than a century earlier, the nation of Israel had succumbed to the Assyrian Empire. And now the nation of Judah has been crushed by the supreme empire on the planet, Babylon. The final king of Judah was Mattaniah. He was the youngest son of King Josiah and uncle to the former king, Jehoiachin. Although the legitimacy of the nation and the role of monarch is questionable, historically, he would be the final Jewish king. His predecessor (uncle) had rebelled against the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar, only to be quickly removed from power and taken away as a captive and prisoner.

To demonstrate his sovereignty and rule over the puppet kingdom and king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar placed Mattaniah on the throne and, as was common in these cases, changed his name. In 2 Kings 24:17, the author matter-of-factly states, “The king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.” As every baby truly is, Mattaniah means “gift of the Lord.” However, as was rare in the case of name changes, the pagan king did not change his new subject’s name to reflect a Chaldean deity. Mattaniah was able to maintain a Jewish name rooted in Yahweh. Zedekiah means “righteousness of the Lord.”

But rather than being a righteous leader of his people, he continued the pattern of idol worship and rebellion against God. “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord,” the Bible says, “according to all that Jehoiachin had done” (2 Kings 24:19).  His name may have meant “righteousness of the Lord” but his life, leadership, and actions were anything but in line with God’s holy standards. His name meant one thing, but his life was something completely different.

This reminds me of when Jesus confronted the religious leaders    in the temple. In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus’ final sermon to the scribes and Pharisees reveals the truth of their genuine character and motives. They pretended to be righteous for the crowds, but, Jesus said, “Within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (verse 28).

The irony of these two accounts is that God’s impending judgment is at the proverbial door of the nation. Nine years after Zedekiah took the throne, he too would rebel against Babylonian rule, only to suffer a worse fate than his nephew, the previous king. Nebuchadnezzar, the Bible says, “Slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon” (2 Kings 25:7). Roughly 40 years after Jesus’ appeal to the religious leaders, the Roman empire would decimate the nation of Israel in AD 70. God’s unrelenting judgment would not stand by as idol worship, hypocrisy, religious abuse, and open rebellion against God’s Word went unchecked.

Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Throughout the world, America is regarded by many as a Christian nation. Yet so often wickedness remains unchecked. The role of the church, of God’s people as leaders, is to shine the light of the Gospel, but not by simply claiming the name of Christ or self-labeling as Christians. We are called to live truly righteous lives before the Lord, our neighbors, and our world. Jesus despised the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the Lord is still disgusted by our hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is not inconsistency, but acting or pretending. Zedekiah’s name meant righteousness, but his life didn’t match. We claim the name of the risen Lord Jesus. Does your life match?

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 24:17–25:7; Matthew chapter 23;

Proverbs 14:34

Eliakim to Jehoiakim

Pastor Josh Combs

“And Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim.” 2 Kings 23:34

Nearly 600 years before Christ would come to Earth, more than 200 years before the birth of Alexander the Great, and centuries before the rise of the Roman empire, Babylon and Egypt were two of the greatest empires in the world. Sitting nearly right between them was the nation of Israel, which had at this point in history become two nations, one being Israel and the other Judah. In 722 BC, the Assyrians had decimated Israel and taken them into captivity. Judah, however, would survive as a nation until around 586 BC.

The rival kingdoms of Babylon and Egypt would each conqueror nations, tax the people, take natural resources, and turn citizens into slaves, all for the purpose of building their empires. As these two kingdoms grew and the spiritual rebellion of Judah persisted, Egypt captured the King of Judah, Jehoahaz, removed him from power, and took him to Egypt, where he died. In his place, Pharaoh Neco II placed Jehoahaz’s older brother in power.

His name was Eliakim, which means “God has established.” And truly, God had established this royal line. The Scripture says of his father Josiah, “There was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses…” (2 Kings 23:25). But Josiah’s son Eliakim “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 23:37). Not only did he do evil before the Lord, but his very name was changed as a demonstration of his change in allegiance.

The Pharaoh of Egypt, rather than allowing this new king’s  name  to continue to reflect God’s authority in establishing kingdoms, changed his name to Jehoiakim, meaning “the lord has established.” In a different context that name could mean the Lord of Heaven, but in this case it refers to the lord of Egypt, Pharaoh Neco II. The ruler of the Egyptian empire wanted this puppet king’s name to reflect the glory of Pharaoh and Egypt’s power. However, rather than disdaining this dishonor to God, he embraced his power. The king of Judah’s allegiance had changed, his lord had changed, and now his name change demonstrated those facts.

Who is your lord? Where does your allegiance lie? Those are crucial questions to answer. In closing the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord….’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you’” (Matthew 7:22-23). The lordship of Christ is a fundamental facet of salvation. Jesus must be both our Lord and our Savior. He will not be our Savior if He is not our Lord. Nor will He be our Lord without saving us from the consequences of our sin or eternity in Hell. Romans 10:9 is crystal clear: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (emphasis added).

Today’s Bible Reading: 2 Kings 23:31-24:6; 2 Chronicles 36:1-4

Lucifer to Satan/Devil

Pastor Josh Combs

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” Isaiah 14:12 (KJV)

The angel Lucifer was created by God to be a guardian of the glory of God. Being part of a unique class of angels, He was given the privilege of being near to the throne of God. Ezekiel chapter 28 details the exquisite array of jewels with which Lucifer was adorned. “Every precious stone was your covering,” the prophet writes, including the “sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings” (verse 13). The breathtaking relationship between this angelic being and Jehovah God is mind blowing. The image that is being described portrays Lucifer as being adorned with priceless jewels, which when illuminated by the light of God, reveal the extraordinary being that Lucifer was, while simultaneously reflecting the magnificent glory of God back to the Lord and all of Heaven.

The name Lucifer means “light bringer.” Yet, Lucifer was not content to reflect both the light and praise of Heaven back to God. Lucifer desired to be the center of attention. He longed to ascend above the throne of God, seizing the worship of Heaven and the throne of the universe for himself. The Scripture says of Lucifer’s fall, “Your heart was proud because of your beauty” (Ezekiel 28:17). Lucifer became filled with pride, which led to his destruction and expulsion from Heaven.

C.S. Lewis calls pride “the complete anti-God state of mind.” That’s precisely what Lucifer had. The sin of pride utterly ruined his created purpose and transformed him into a monster.

He ceased to be named the light bringer and became Satan, which means “adversary.” Pride changed him.

The same is true for you and me. The sin of pride changes us. Pride blinds us to truth, wisdom, and common sense. Pride even creeps into our spiritual life, robbing us of gratitude toward Christ when we’ve begun to believe we earned or deserved salvation or God’s blessings in any way.  That reflection of gratitude back to Christ      is lost when we become prideful. Our worship, rather than being all-consuming, becomes a slight periodic nod to God’s superiority. Like Lucifer, we have been  created  to  reflect  God’s  glory,  but  in doing so, we see how special, unique, and splendid God has created us. Within God’s holy light, our gifts, skills, and talents are most beautifully shown. Our beauty and purpose are illuminated in God’s presence, which brings glory back to the Creator.

I often consider the moon. I walk out into our dark backyard sometimes to look out and see the moon nearly illuminating the field where I’m standing. Yet the moon in and of itself produces no light. The moon merely reflects the sun. Without the sun, we would be unable to see the moon and appreciate the incredible celestial rock that it is. Again, the same is true for us. Without the Son, we and others are unable to see how special and unique we are. Without standing in the Son, others are unable to see the glory of God.

We’ve been designed by God to stand in His light, reflect His majesty, and see His extraordinary creation in ourselves.

Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19; Proverbs 15:25; 16:5, 18; 21:24

Hadassah to Esther

Pastor Josh Combs

“Hadassah, that is Esther…had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at…” Esther 2:7

Orphaned, exiled, and now the “winner” of a kingdom-wide search for a new queen is how we are introduced to Hadassah. Following the death of her parents, she would be raised and cared for in the home of her cousin Mordecai. They were Jews living in exile in the land of Persia. Hadassah, meaning “myrtle,” would be brought to the palace, where she would find favor with the king and be crowned queen. The previous queen had been deposed for refusing the command of her husband, Ahasuerus (Xerxes in Greek). When Hadassah, a Jew, now known by her Persian name of Esther, reaches the heights of power, she is soon informed of a plot to annihilate her native people.

Esther had been plucked from obscurity and powerlessness to a place of luxury, privilege, and authority. Her cousin states very plainly, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” But to intercede on behalf of her people, she will have to tread on extremely thin ice. The previous queen had displeased and embarrassed the king and was removed. If she dares to approach the king without a royal invitation, will she suffer the same fate? Will all the Jews then be exterminated? A choice lies before this beautiful woman. Either she must embrace her new Persian identity as queen, which affords her safety and privilege, or put all that on the line, sacrificing herself and her life of luxury   for the sake her people. Hadassah chooses sacrifice rather than safety. God intervenes and rescues the Jews, Mordecai, and the Jewish-born Persian queen.

The name Esther comes from the Persian word for “star” and probably is homage to the chief Babylonian (now Persian) goddess, Ishtar. This goddess of love and fertility was, according to one source, “fearsome, often violent…known as the ‘Lady of Battles.’” Hadassah on the other hand, as noted, means “myrtle.” The myrtle “is an attractive evergreen shrub or small tree…. [Its] leaves, bark, and berries are also fragrant. Manufacturers use them in making perfume.” Sacrifice is a beautiful perfume—dare I say, the most fragrant to the Lord.

From prison, the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Philippi thankfully telling them, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).

When you and I sacrifice our comfort, privilege, time, money, resources, and ultimately ourselves, we offer to the Lord what amounts to an intoxicating aroma that is pleasing to the Lord. It is the perfume of sacrifice. Conversely, what does selfishness or self-preservation smell like to the Lord?

Hadassah was a myrtle. More than just attractive, she was used by the “manufacturer” to make a stunning perfume.

Today’s Bible Reading: The whole book of Esther

Sources:

The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology World Book Encyclopedia

Mara to Naomi

Pastor Josh Combs

“A son has been born to Naomi.” Ruth 4:17

The book of Ruth could just as well be called the book of Naomi. The tragic and triumphant story that unfolds begins and ends with her. This widow and the mother of two deceased sons has returned home childless and with her foreign-born daughter-in-law Ruth in tow. Without protection and a financial provider, these two ladies are in serious danger of starvation. Ruth, as a young foreign woman, is in imminent danger of being sexually assaulted. But God, in the midst of this seemingly merciless catastrophe, is doing something extraordinary for the ages. A beautiful love story unfolds between Ruth and a wealthy close relative of Naomi named Boaz.

This union, however, was not unopposed. Boaz was forced to negotiate with another relative who had a greater, closer claim on the widow and all that she owned. Boaz redeemed (bought back) Naomi and Ruth, making this young Moabite widow his wife. Naomi and Ruth’s future is secure, their needs are provided for, and their safety is made sure. Yet, God’s redeeming plan isn’t over. God makes Naomi a grandmother. It is in that moment that the town no longer calls her Mara or sees her as a bitter old woman. She is once again Naomi.

The women of the town, while celebrating, exclaim, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Naomi becomes a grandmother and the neighborhood celebrates, “A son has been born to Naomi!” (Ruth 4:14–17). Naomi’s life had truly been redeemed. She would become the great-great grandmother to King David and part of the lineage of Jesus Christ. Naomi’s name was once again sweet.

This small book of the Bible is a story of redemption—a woman crushed by unspeakable tragedy brought back to a life of sweetness. This is what God does for us in Jesus Christ. Followers of the Lord Jesus can confidently proclaim, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). Boaz serves as a type of Christ. Jesus redeems us from our sin, securing our eternal home in Heaven, providing all    of our needs according to His inexhaustible riches, and protecting us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The bitterness of sin had devastated our peace and joy, but in Christ we have been given “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” and a “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (Philippians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:8). Naomi is a testimony to God’s redeeming power and hope in the midst of tragedy.

Today’s Bible Reading: Ruth chapters 3–4



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