Sabbath, February 23, 2019

Lesson 8 – The Kingdom of Judah

“To the ‘profane wicked prince’ had come the day of final reckoning. ‘Remove the diadem,’ the Lord decreed, ‘and take off the crown.’ Not until Christ Himself should set up His kingdom was Judah again to be permitted to have a king. ‘I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it,’ was the divine edict concerning the throne of the house of David; ‘and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him.’ Ezekiel 21:25-27….

“The remnant of Judah were to go into captivity, to learn through adversity the lessons they had refused to learn under circumstances more favorable. From this decree of the holy Watcher there could be no appeal.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 451, 453.

Five faithful kings

1. Who was one king of Judah, the southern kingdom, who acted faithfully, as did his forefather David? What positive testimony is given of his son as well?
1 Kings 15:9, 11; 22:41, 43 And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel reigned Asa over Judah…. 11And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father…. 22:41And Jehoshaphat the son of Asa began to reign over Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel…. 43And he walked in all the ways of Asa his father; he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the eyes of the Lord.

“During the greater part of this time of apostasy in Israel, Asa was ruling in the kingdom of Judah. For many years ‘Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God: for he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the sun [margin] images: and the kingdom was quiet before him.’ 2 Chronicles 14:2-5….

“In his efforts to rule wisely, Jehoshaphat endeavored to persuade his subjects to take a firm stand against idolatrous practices. Many of the people in his realm ‘offered and burnt incense yet in the high places.’ 1 Kings 22:43. The king did not at once destroy these shrines; but from the beginning he tried to safeguard Judah from the sins characterizing the northern kingdom under the rule of Ahab, of whom he was a contemporary for many years. Jehoshaphat himself was loyal to God…. Because of his integrity, the Lord was with him, and ‘stablished the kingdom in his hand.’ 2 Chronicles 17:3-5.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 110, 190, 191.

2. After a time of apostasy under various monarchs, what three kings of Judah are mentioned as being faithful to God?
2 Kings 12:1, 2; 14:1, 3 In the seventh year of Jehu Jehoash began to reign; and forty years reigned he in Jerusalem…. 2And Jehoash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all his days wherein Jehoiada the priest instructed him…. 14:1In the second year of Joash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel reigned Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah…. 3And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did.

“The tabernacle, as afterward the temple, was erected wholly by freewill offerings; and to provide for necessary repairs and other expenses, Moses directed that as often as the people were numbered, each should contribute a half shekel for ‘the service of the tabernacle.’ In the time of Nehemiah a contribution was made yearly for this purpose…. From time to time sin offerings and thank offerings were brought to God. These were presented in great numbers at the annual feasts. And the most liberal provision was made for the poor.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 526.

3. Who was another descendant of David who has a good report in the Scriptures? 
2 Kings 15:1, 3 In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign…. 3And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 

“The long reign of Uzziah [also known as Azariah] in the land of Judah and Benjamin was characterized by a prosperity greater than that of any other ruler since the death of Solomon, nearly two centuries before. For many years the king ruled with discretion. Under the blessing of Heaven his armies regained some of the territory that had been lost in former years. Cities were rebuilt and fortified, and the position of the nation among the surrounding peoples was greatly strengthened. Commerce revived, and the riches of the nations flowed into Jerusalem. Uzziah’s name ‘spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.’ 2 Chronicles 26:15.

“This outward prosperity, however, was not accompanied by a corresponding revival of spiritual power. The temple services were continued as in former years, and multitudes assembled to worship the living God; but pride and formality gradually took the place of humility and sincerity. Of Uzziah himself it is written: ‘When he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God.’ Verse 16.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 303, 304.

Spiritual cleansing and reformation

4. What king surpassed the previous rulers and was famous for his integrity in following the Lord’s will?
2 Kings 18:1, 3, 5-7 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign…. 3And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father did…. 5He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. 6For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the Lord commanded Moses. 7And the Lord was with him; and he prospered whithersoever he went forth: and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.

“In sharp contrast with the reckless rule of Ahaz was the reformation wrought during the prosperous reign of his son. Hezekiah came to the throne determined to do all in his power to save Judah from the fate that was overtaking the northern kingdom. The messages of the prophets offered no encouragement to halfway measures. Only by most decided reformation could the threatened judgments be averted.

“In the crisis, Hezekiah proved to be a man of opportunity. No sooner had he ascended the throne than he began to plan and to execute. He first turned his attention to the restoration of the temple services, so long neglected; and in this work he earnestly solicited the cooperation of a band of priests and Levites who had remained true to their sacred calling. Confident of their loyal support, he spoke with them freely concerning his desire to institute immediate and far-reaching reforms.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 331.

5. After the apostasies of a number of kings, whom did the Lord bless in bringing about a thorough reformation in the kingdom of Judah, the southern kingdom?
2 Kings 22:1, 2; 23:3, 4 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty and one years in Jerusalem…. 2And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left…. 23:3And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant. 4And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.

“With the accession of Josiah to the throne, where he was to rule for thirty-one years, those who had maintained the purity of their faith began to hope that the downward course of the kingdom was checked; for the new king, though only eight years old, feared God, and from the very beginning ‘he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.’ 2 Kings 22:2. Born of a wicked king, beset with temptations to follow in his father’s steps, and with few counselors to encourage him in the right way, Josiah nevertheless was true to the God of Israel. Warned by the errors of past generations, he chose to do right, instead of descending to the low level of sin and degradation to which his father and his grandfather had fallen. He ‘turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.’ As one who was to occupy a position of trust, he resolved to obey the instruction that had
been given for the guidance of Israel’s rulers, and his obedience made it possible for God to use him as a vessel unto honor.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 384.

Fall of Judah

6. Although the kingdom of Judah survived for a while after that of Israel, did the people and the last kings learn the lesson that the Lord had given to the northern kingdom? What happened in the time of Zedekiah, the last king of the southern kingdom?
2 Chronicles 36:11, 12, 17, 18 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. 12And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord…. 17Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. 18And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. 

“The children of Israel were taken captive to Babylon because they separated from God, and no longer maintained the principles that had been given to keep them free from the methods and practices of the nations who dishonored God.
The Lord could not give them prosperity, He could not fulfill His covenant with them, while they were untrue to the principles He had given them zealously to maintain. By their spirit and their actions they misrepresented His character, and He permitted them to be taken captive. Because of their separation from Him, He humbled them. He left them to their own ways, and the innocent suffered with the guilty.” –(Review and Herald, May 2, 1899) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1040.

7. What ended with the fall of Judah under a direct descendant of King David? Nevertheless, what hopeful, glorious plan did God promise for the future?
Jeremiah 13:18 Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.
Lamentations 5:16 The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!
Jeremiah 33:15-17 In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. 16In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness. 17For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel.

“Zedekiah was faithfully instructed through the prophet Jeremiah, how he might be preserved from the calamities that would surely come upon him if he did not change his course and serve the Lord. The calamities came, because he would not, through obedience, place himself under the protection of God. With his eyes put out, he was led in chains of captivity to Babylon.  “What a sad and awful warning is this to those who harden themselves under reproof, and who will not humble themselves in repentance, that God may save them!” –(Letter 281, 1905) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1040.

“The dark years of destruction and death marking the end of the kingdom of Judah would have brought despair to the stoutest heart had it not been for the encouragements in the prophetic utterances of God’s messengers. Through Jeremiah in Jerusalem, through Daniel in the court of Babylon, through Ezekiel on the banks of the Chebar, the Lord in mercy made clear His eternal purpose and gave assurance of His willingness to fulfill to His chosen people the promises recorded in the writings of Moses. That which He had said He would do for those who should
prove true to Him, He would surely bring to pass. ‘The word of God … liveth and abideth forever.’ 1 Peter 1:23.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 464.

For additional study

2 Chronicles 21:7
The Great Controversy, p. 19.
Prophets and Kings, p. 113.

“Because Israel had been chosen to preserve the knowledge of God in the earth, they had been, from their first existence as a nation, the special objects of Satan’s enmity, and he had determined to cause their destruction. He could do them no harm while they were obedient to God; therefore he had bent all his power and cunning to enticing them into sin. Ensnared by his temptations they had transgressed the law of God and thus separated from the Source of their strength, and had been left to become the prey of their heathen enemies. They were carried into captivity to Babylon, and there remained for many years. Yet they were not forsaken of the Lord. His prophets were sent to them with reproofs and warnings. The people were awakened to see their guilt, they humbled themselves before God, and returned to Him with true repentance. Then the Lord sent them messages of encouragement, declaring that He would deliver them from their captivity and restore them to His favor.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 468.