Jeroboam II, Uzziah, Menahem, Jotham, Tiglath-pilesar, Pekah, Ahaz, Shalmaneser, Hoshea, Sargon, Hezekiah, Sennacherib, Eliakim, Shebna, Joah, the Rabshakeh.
Somehow these names don’t seem to matter much to most Christians today. Indeed, it is very difficult to figure out how any of them factor in to the day-to-day decision making of our busy lives. What practical application can we glean from these ancient biographies that will help us to achieve greater [fill in the blank here] in life? How will the lessons learned from a paragraph here or a paragraph there from within the biblical record change my approach to standing in line, bleary eyed on Monday morning, at the local Tim Horton’s coffee shop?
Well, quite frankly, Sennacherib did not really help me that much this morning. My day probably would have unfolded much the same way whether or not Sennacherib had devestated Judah and forced Hezekiah into a nail-biting test of faith in the eighth century BCE.
Herein lies the great challenge of preaching, or receiving the preaching, of much of the Bible. The form of the evangelical sermon requires managable bite-sized preaching texts tagged with clear life shaking application. This happens to work well with Paul’s epistles. And yet, I doubt that the author of 2 Kings was too concerned to make sure that every paragraph of his historiography ought to be super relevant for the average evangelical in 2015 Canada.
At this point it is helpful to remind ourselves that man does not live by bread alone but by EVERY Word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4). Is 2 Kings 18 any less the Word of God than Romans 5? By our approach to reading and preaching the Bible, it might seem as though we should say that it is. And yet, we know better. Moreover, lest we forget or are unaware, the history of 2 Kings 18 seems to be very important to God. After all, He repeats it no less than three times in the Old Testament: 2 Kings 16-20, Isaiah 36-39, and 2 Chronicles 28-32.
I am thankful that I preach to a local church that is hungry for the Word of God. They permit me to take 65 minutes to read to them five chapters from 2 Kings on a Sunday morning. Why? Because they want to understand and apply the book of Isaiah to their lives and they trust that without the political-historical background of 2 Kings 16-20, Isaiah remains a sealed book that is impossible to understand. They are willing to do the heavy lifting because they trust that the end is more than worth the work. And for that, among a great many other things, I dearly love them.