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Home > Church Family > Sermon Summaries > 18 Apr 2009, Norman Tew - The Good Bad King and The Bad Good King

The Good Bad King and The Bad Good King

18 Apr 2009, Norman Tew

(Norman is a member of Thornleigh church)

Title - The Good Bad King and The Bad Good King

1.  This is NOT a script for the sermon, but notes from which the sermon was preached.
2.  Scripture sections list here were not necessarily read in full during the sermon.                         

There was a great Pharaoh of Egypt named Rameses II 

He left Egypt littered from one end to the other with monumental statues of himself.
And by monumental I mean Big - Double, treble and up to six times life size.

He left historical records carved on temple walls boasting of his exploits

In his fifth year as sole ruler he led an expedition against the Khatti in the north, and thoroughly defeated them.

It was only later that the Khatti were identified with the newly rediscovered Hittites and then their record of their victory at the same battle was found.

Putting the two stories together and "reading between the lines" it appears that Rameses was lucky to escape with his life.

A few of decades later he actually made a treaty with "the great prince of the Khatti"  and took his daughter as one of his wives.  We have Rameses II boasting records of the beauty of this wife,  and her powerful father (whom he had supposedly destroyed years earlier!)

This is one way in which the Bible is different from the other ancient records

It does not only praise its heroes but shows their failings as well as their successes

And so we come to the title of this sermon "The Good Bad King   &   the Bad Good King"

There are two Bible stories that can be compared and contrasted.  And they can have a lesson for us today

One was about the failings of a Good king, the other was about the good deeds of an otherwise failing king

Let us set some background for the Bad Good King

(2 Ki 18:1-7 NRSV)  In the third year of King Hoshea son of Elah of Israel, Hezekiah son of King Ahaz of Judah began to reign. {2} He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi daughter of Zechariah. {3} He did what was right in the sight of the LORD just as his ancestor David had done. {4} He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole. He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan. {5} He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him. {6} For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. {7} The LORD was with him; wherever he went, he prospered. . . .

He opened and cleansed the temple.
He arranged for the Levites to receive the tithes and teach the people
He removed heathen temples
He held a notable Passover feast to which people came from both Judah and Israel
He was the king for whom God destroyed the armies of Senacherib

But at the end of his life there was a sorry story.
He became Sick.
The prophet came and told him from God that he should set his affairs in order to die
He prayed earnestly and God decided to give him some more years of life.

(2 Ki 20:1-11 NRSV)  In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover." {2} Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD: {3} "Remember now, O LORD, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight." Hezekiah wept bitterly. {4} Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: {5} "Turn back, and say to Hezekiah prince of my people, Thus says the LORD, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. {6} I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake." {7} Then Isaiah said, "Bring a lump of figs. Let them take it and apply it to the boil, so that he may recover." {8} Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD on the third day?" {9} Isaiah said, "This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he has promised: the shadow has now advanced ten intervals; shall it retreat ten intervals?" {10} Hezekiah answered, "It is normal for the shadow to lengthen ten intervals; rather let the shadow retreat ten intervals." {11} The prophet Isaiah cried to the LORD; and he brought the shadow back the ten intervals, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz.

There is much we could comment on here.

Was this God's plan A?  or did God allow this to show what happens when His will is NOT accepted

This event was noted elsewhere

(2 Ki 20:12-17 NRSV) (cf Isa 39:1-6)  At that time King Merodach-baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick.

{13} Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armoury, all that was found in his storehouses; there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.

It is a very brief story.
We are not given any details.
How much did he say of his healing and God's power?
We do not know - it is not mentioned.

{14} Then the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, "What did these men say? From where did they come to you?" Hezekiah answered, "They have come from a far country, from Babylon." {15} He said, "What have they seen in your house?" Hezekiah answered, "They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them."

So far it might be a good story, but see what Isaiah says next.

{16} Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD: {17} Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the LORD.

It was a very sad story.

But let us turn back the pages of history three hundred years. To the time of King Solomon.

Let us look at his story.

Solomon started well, the Lord came to him in a dream and asked what he would desire and Solomon answered wisely
He became the wisest king, and gave good judgements.
But he also became rich and powerful, in direct opposition to the counsels of the writings of Moses he multiplied horses
He had political marriages with heathen wives for whom he built pagan temples.
He lost his grip on his faith.

But he had visitors too.

He did not have a miracle story to tell

But let us see the story.

(1 Ki 10:1-2 NRSV) (cf 2 Chron 9:1-12) When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, (fame due to the name of the LORD), she came to test him with hard questions. {2} She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind.

Where did she come from?

I have been shown the ruins of her palace outside of Axum in Ethiopia

I used to think it was more likely that she came from southern Arabia,
and there is a lot of evidence for that.

David Down will tell you she came from Egypt  He quotes Christ

(Mat 12:42 NRSV) (cf Luke 11:31) The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!

The King of the South in the Bible usually refers to the king of Egypt There is evidence in Egyptian history about a queen who went on an expedition to Punt

While we usually think of Punt as being modern Eritrea, the things that she brought back are those listed in Solomon's story and Punt can be translated as the Holy Land, I understand.

But really where she came from is not the important part of this story.

The important part is her response to her visit.

(1 Ki 10:3-9) Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. {4} When the queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, {5} the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit in her. {6} So she said to the king, "The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, {7} but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Not even half had been told me; your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard.

Now we come to the important part of the story in my opinion.

{8} Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom!
{9} Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel!
Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness."

What a testimony!

What had Solomon said that made her ascribe his wisdom to God?

What had Hezekiah not said in the later story that the response was different?

In many ways Babylon and Egypt had a similar relationship to Israel.  They were the oppressors from opposite directions

{10} Then she gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again did spices come in such quantity as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. . .  {3} Meanwhile King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba every desire that she expressed, as well as what he gave her out of Solomon's royal bounty. Then she returned to her own land, with her servants.

What a contrast between the two stories!

But what has this to do with us, or what can we learn from these two stories?

We are not rulers of kingdoms expecting royal delegations.  But of course we still meet people from day to day.
What impression do we make on them of our God?

For surely that is the moral of these two stories.

Reading between the lines it would appear that Hezekiah told his visitors of the wealth and possessions of the kingdom
Solomon told of the glories of His God.

Now the stories do not say that.  But the response of the visitors indicates that they saw different things.

The Babylonians saw wealth that they could come and steal

The Queen saw a God to praise
She saw great wealth, but she did not appear to covet it
She went home and built a temple like that Solomon had made (if David Down is right in his views)
She certainly praised the God of Solomon as the source of Solomon's skill.

What about a modern application ?       

But there is another story

It was written by Dennis Porter who used to work in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

He wrote it in the newsletter for retirees in England under the title of "Notes from a Small Denomination"

He tells of a female member of one congregation of which he was a member.

"The young people in the church also incurred her wrath, having, according to her mind, broken all of the chairs in the church by sitting on them!  She was, however, involved in what, in my opinion, must have been an intervention of Divine providence.  A young man, who had been interested in Adventism by his music teacher (another interesting lady who never arrived at church until almost the end of the sermon and who always walked right to the front row) decided to attend church for the first time.  Either he arrived early, or - more likely - the person who should have unlocked the door in advance was late, but when he arrived there was only one other person waiting outside.  It was this lady.  Thinking of what could have happened almost makes one's blood run cold ("How dare you come to church dressed like that?" I don't know how he was dressed but I imagine it was not in a black suit.  "We don't want more young people to break more chairs").   Fortunately - or providentially - she was in one of her benign moods and he thought her a "nice old lady".  That young man went on to become a life-long pillar of the Adventist Church in Britain and has had an immense influence upon generations of young people but it could so easily have ended right there."

We all can still make mistakes and mis-represent our God, sometimes God over-rules but we cannot count on that.

Fortunately God forgives our failings if we repent  but how much better to represent Him properly from the start

Home > Church Family > Sermon Summaries > 18 Apr 2009, Norman Tew - The Good Bad King and The Bad Good King