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2 Kings 15:1-38 - Homilies By D. Thomas

Some lessons from the history of kings.

"In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam," etc. The mighty Governor of the universe is represented as saying to the Jewish nation, "I gave thee a king in mine anger" ( Hosea 13:2 ). And truly, with a certain number of exceptions here and there through the ages, kings have proved malific scourges of the race. In this chapter there are mentioned no less than seven of those men who are called kings, but who, instead of having one grain of moral royalty in their souls, were contemptible serfs to the last degree, slaves to their passions of sensuality and greed. How many conventional kings in all ages are moral paupers and vassals of Satan! Glance for a moment at each of the kings before us. Here is Azariah , elsewhere called Uzziah, who was the son and successor of Amaziah. Here is Zachariah , the son and successor of Jeroboam II . King of Israel, who reigned only six months, and then fell by the hand of Shallum. Here is Shallum , the fifteenth King of Israel, and the murderer of Zachariah, and who in his turn was murdered. Here is Menahem , the son of Gadi, who, having slain Shallum, reigned in his stead ten years—a reign characterized by ruthless cruelty and tyrannic oppression. Here is Pekahiah , the son and successor of Menahem, who reigned two years over Israel, and then was assassinated by Pekah. Here is Pekah , who was a general of the Israelitish army, and assassinated King Pekahiah in his palace, and usurped the government, reigning, according to the existing text, twenty years. Here is Jotham , the son and successor of Uzziah, the eleventh King of Judah, who reigned for sixteen years. He, perhaps, was the least wicked of all these princes. The whole chapter reminds us of several things worth note.

I. THE EXISTENCE OF RETRIBUTION IN THIS LIFE . Here we discover retribution in the leprosy of Azariah, and in the fate of the other kings. Of Azariah it is said, "The Lord smote the king, so that be was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house" Of all physical afflictions, perhaps that of leprosy is the most painful and revolting. It eats out the life of a man and dooms him to solitude. Disease strikes princes as well as paupers. Then see how the other wicked doers fared. The murderer is murdered, the slayer is slain; Shallum strikes down Zachariah; Menahem strikes down Shallum; and Pul, the King of Assyria, strikes Menahem with a terrible blow of humiliation and oppression; Pekah smites Pekahiah, and reigns twenty years when he is himself struck down by the blow of an assassin. Truly, even in this life," with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again." Though retribution here may not be complete and adequate, still it is at work everywhere in human society: It comes as a pledge and a prophecy of that realm beyond the grave, where every man shall be dealt with according to his works.

II. THE MIGHTINESS OF RELIGIOUS ERROR . In this chapter there is the record of long periods and of great changes. Battles are fought, revolutions are effected, monarch succeeds monarch, and the years come and go; but one thing remains, that is, idolatry" The high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burnt incense still on the high places" (verses 4 and 34). Among the many evil tendencies of man there is none so mighty and influential as the pseudo-religious . Two facts will account for this.

1. The strength of the religious element in man . Burke and others of the wisest of the race have designated man as a religious animal. Religion with man is not a faculty, but the substratum in which all the faculties inhere; it is the core and the root of his nature. Hence, wherever man is found, if he has no home, he has a shrine; if he has no friend, he has a god.

2. The might of selfishness in man . What man needs most presents the greatest motives to human avarice and ambition. Hence the creation of bodies of priests to bolster up false religions, and derive position and wealth from them. Corruptio optimi pessima . It is most sad when men seek to" make a gain of godliness."

III. THE CRAVEN - HEARTEDNESS OF ENSLAVED PEOPLES . Had the peoples of Judah and Israel been really men worthy of their humanity, would they have tolerated for a day such monsters as we have in this chapter? The existence of tyrants is the fault of the people.—D.T.

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