Copied from the sermon notes of Pastor Don Elmore
August 23, 2020
Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 21:1-3:
1) “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah.
2) And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.
3) For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.”
What is one thing that you know about Manasseh’s father—Hezekiah? Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the LORD God; his son did just the opposite. Hezekiah ruled for 29 years over the kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was taken captive by Assyria by the end of Hezekiah’s sixth year of reign. The northern kingdom was placed in the land of Assyria where they eventually went on to the lands of the northwest. Why were they captured? Because “…they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed His covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them” (2 Kings 18:12).
But what happened to the southern kingdom? Eight years after the northern kingdom was taken captive, Assyria took all the fenced cities of Judah and took them captive too (2 Kings 18:13). Assyria then asked for tribute from Hezekiah, who was in Jerusalem. So, Hezekiah gave to Assyria all the silver that was in the temple of the LORD and removed the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD and gave it to the king of Assyria. But it was not enough.
The king of Assyria then made several threats to Hezekiah. These threats included insults to the LORD God of Israel. He said that the LORD God of Israel could not save them from the king of Assyria.
The king of Judah then called Isaiah, the prophet of God. He knew of nothing else to do. The situation was hopeless. But Isaiah prophesied of the defeat of the Assyrian armies. Just the opposite of what the Assyrians’ had said.
Who was right—the Assyrian rulers or Isaiah the prophet?
Would the Assyrians destroy Jerusalem? or
Would the LORD God of Israel destroy the Assyrians?
The story is repeated in Isaiah, chapters 36 and 37. While Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed together for the victory over the Assyrians, the LORD God stated that He “…would defend this city to save it for Mine own sake, and for My servant David’s sake” Isaiah 37:35.
The angel of the LORD came and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand (185,000); and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. The leader of the Assyrians went home and was assassinated by his two sons. The LORD God saved His city from the Assyrians.
But what happened next?
The kingdom of Judah had been saved from total conquest. Assyria, who was the most powerful nation of the world at the time, was destroyed in one night. And the people of Judah didn’t kill one Assyrian. The army of the most powerful nation in the world was destroyed in one night by the angel of the LORD.
But most readers are not aware that the king of Judah became terminally ill at this time.
Isaiah 38:1: “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.”
When did this happen? How long did Hezekiah reign? 29 years. What year was Jerusalem threatened by the Assyrian army? In the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign. When Hezekiah heard that he was going to die, he prayed unto the LORD God and asked that his life be extended. The LORD God granted his request and he lived an additional 15 years.
Hmmm. 14th year of his reign + 15 extended years equals 29 years of his reign.
But there is more. Do you remember how old Hezekiah’s son was when the king of Judah died? How old was Manasseh, his son, when he began his rule? He was 12 years old. Since Manasseh was 12 years old when his father, Hezekiah died, he had to have been born three years after his father should have died. Remember, his life was extended for 15 years.
If Hezekiah would not have asked for more time to live, he would have died without any sons. Manasseh would not have been born. Would Judah, in a little more than 100 years, be taken in to captivity, too?
Manasseh was the direct opposite of his father, Hezekiah. He was the longest reigning king in Judah’s history—55 years. And he was the worst.
He is credited with committing 16 sins by the Dake Bible:
He committed all the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out of Palestine for such sins (2 Kings 21:2),
He built again the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed (v. 3),
He built altars to Baal again,
He made a grove,
He worshipped all the host of heaven,
He served the host of heaven as gods,
He built altars for all the host of heaven in the temple (v. 4),
He made his sons to pass through the fire,
He observed times,
He used enchantments,
He dealt with familiar spirits and wizards,
He wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD to provoke Him to anger,
He set up a graven image in the temple,
He seduced Israel to commit more sins than the nations which had been destroyed out of Canaan (v. 8, 11),
He committed more wicked sins than the Amorites (v. 13),
He shed much innocent blood (v. 10).
Manasseh was an evil king. Verse 9 says “But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.” This is not said of any other king of Judah. He not only sinned himself but spent time and effort to seduce others to join him in his sinning.
A writer describing this time in history wrote, “He encouraged a pagan worship that involved whole communities in sexual orgies. He installed cult prostitutes at shrines throughout the countryside. He imported wizards and sorcerers who enslaved the people in superstitions and manipulated them with their magic. The man could not do enough evil. There seemed to be no end to his barbarous cruelties. His capacity for inventing new forms of evil seemed bottomless. His appetite for the sordid was insatiable. One day he placed his son on the altar in some black and terrible ritual of witchcraft and burned him as an offering (2 Kings 21).”
Does this sound like our nation today? Is our nation as evil as Judah was? If it is not, then it is a close second.
Can our leaders not do enough evil? Are there wizards and sorcerers (pharmacies) who are enslaving our people in superstitions and are manipulating them with magic. Are they continuously inventing new forms of evil and vaccines?
What did our LORD God do in Judah? What is our LORD God doing today? Did he allow His covenant people to just pass away in evil? No. They still are in existence today. So, what did he do? He must have had a secret, mysterious plan.
A SPECIAL, MYSTERIOUS PERSON IS BORN
There was a person who was born in the last decade of Manasseh’s evil rule. This was the world in which as an infant he learned to walk and talk and play. No worse environment in which to raise a child can be imagined. It was a slum society.
When the child was about 10 years old, King Manasseh died. Fifty-five years of rampant misrule brought the faith close to oblivion. Some old people remembered prophetic oracles and acts of true worship. Rumors of holiness were no doubt whispered about. Judah had hidden pockets of faithful people, but they maintained a fugitive existence. King Manasseh’s son succeeded him. His name was Amon.
Amon was just as evil as Manasseh had been. For two more years, Judah continued its evil, evil ways.
2 Kings 21:21 and 22 sums it up best:
21) “And he [King Amon] walked in all the way that his father [King Manasseh] walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them:
22) And he forsook the LORD God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the LORD.”
So when the child, whom we have not named yet, was about 12 years old, Amon was assassinated by his servants. He was one of twelve kings of Israel who were assassinated. They had more kings assassinated than we have had presidents killed. Then the people of the land, assassinated the assassinators. Who became king after King Amon’s death? But before I reveal who became the next king of Judah--
Let’s review the recent ancestry of this new king:
His grandfather was Manasseh: Manasseh began to reign when he was just 12 years old. He was the son of godly Hezekiah, but he became the worst king of all.
His father was Amon: Amon was just as wicked as his father, Manasseh. His son was the next king. How wicked was he?
The new king started to reign when he was just eight years old. But surprisingly, he became one of the godliest kings ever.
So, we can conclude that a righteous father may produce a very wicked son; and a wicked father may produce a godly son. The new king was named Josiah.
But we still have the unnamed mystery child. When the unnamed child was about 25 years old, he was asked to be a prophet of God. The unnamed child refused. He answered, “I am but a youth.” But he became a prophet for the next half century throughout Judah’s most chaotic and confused history. The nation was captured and lost its kings. The unnamed child’s name was Jeremiah, the prophet. He was the author of two books that are in the Bible today.
Jeremiah was shown two visions, through which the LORD God convinced His servant, that all would be well with him if he became a prophet of God. The first vision was an almond tree. It convinced Jeremiah that the Word of God bursts with wonders and that its wonders are not illusions. The second vision was the boiling pot. It convinced Jeremiah that the world is very dangerous but that the danger is not catastrophic. Jeremiah was taught to not underestimate God and not to overestimate evil.
When Jeremiah was about 30 years old, Josiah’s servants discovered the law when they found a hidden book (Deuteronomy) in the temple that was being repaired. Josiah read the book and was shocked at how far the nation had strayed from the laws of God. From reading this book, Josiah led a revival in Judah. He made a covenant with God.
2 Kings 22:3, 8:
3) “And it came to pass in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, that the king sent Shapan the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, the scribe, to the house of the LORD, saying,
8) And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shapan, and he read it.”
2 Kings 23:3:
3) “And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant between 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.”
So, Jeremiah, who was in his twenties, no doubt stood to the covenant along with the rest of the nation. The nation of Judah began to obey their LORD’s commands. They burned all the vessels and many of the priests of Baal, destroyed all the idolatrous altars and gods, destroyed all the high places, destroyed the houses of the sodomites and Josiah even restored Passover. No LGBTQ+ people were out of their closets in Josiah’s reign.
3) “From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, even unto this day, that is the three and twentieth year, the word of the LORD hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye have not hearkened.
4) And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, not inclined your ear to hear.
5) They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever:”
So, how did Jeremiah do when he started preaching? Jeremiah had started five years before the king’s workers found the book of the law in the basement of the House of the LORD. Was Jeremiah the most popular prophet or not?
1) “Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.
What were the things that Jeremiah was preaching that Pashur didn’t like?
15) “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all here towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.”
What did Pashur, the chief governor of the house of the LORD, do to Jeremiah?
Jeremiah 20:2, 3:
2) Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.
3) And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib.”
There was one man in Jerusalem who was not impressed by Pashur. Jeremiah couldn’t stomach him. In angry exasperation Jeremiah cried out, “From prophet to priest everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:10, 11). Jeremiah’s task was to challenge the lies and speak the truth.
But Pashur, of course, heard what Jeremiah was teaching. Pashur arrested him and put him in the stocks. Jeremiah was humiliated, but not intimidated.
It was Josiah’s reform that cleaned up the country and made the truth of God known and the worship of God popular. Jeremiah was one of the preachers of the reform. He was, no doubt, delighted that people were thronging the temple. He could hardly fail to be pleased that Scripture was once again known and preached.
But he wasn’t the most popular preacher in Jerusalem during those years. The most popular preacher was the chief overseer in the temple in Jerusalem, a man of prominence. When you saw him at the head of the flourishing religious establishment, the temple, you could not help feeling better. His enthusiasm was electric. When he stretched out his arms in blessing, everyone, from the least to the greatest, knew that they were included. Everyone loved to hear him: he was positive, affirmative and confident. He had the ability to draw out the best from everything. He was able to search the Scriptures and find texts that made the darkest days bright.
There were, to be sure, a few problems:
An inordinate amount of crime,
Scandalous reports of injustice, and
A widening gap between the rich and the poor.
And even though the religious life of the people had been cleaned up in public, it was an open secret that all the old fertility rites were being practiced in out-of-the-way places in the country (“…besides every green tree, and on the high hills, on the mountains in the open country”)—Jeremiah 17:2, 3.
What the reform movement had managed to do was to get the scandalous behavior out of sight and make temple-going popular again. But that did not daunt the positive thinking of Pashur. The people loved him. They crowded the temple to be reassured by his baritone voice and to be cheered by his dazzling smile: “God loves you…Peace, peace, peace.”
Wait a minute. Who was God’s prophet? Was it Jeremiah or was it Pashur? Pashur was the most popular. Pashur was the most positive. Pashur was saying that there was peace. Pashur was the one smiling. But Pashur was telling lies. Jeremiah was saying what was the truth. And he was put in stocks.
Jeremiah suffered an enormous amount of abuse during those years. He faced mockery and rejection and imprisonment. He wrestled with stretches of discouragement and pits of despair and thought of quitting. But God was with Jeremiah. Jeremiah is known today, few know of Pashur.
But would the people say that Jeremiah was successful in his preaching? For twenty-three years Jeremiah got up every morning and spoke God’s word to the people. For twenty-three years the people slept in, sluggish and indolent, and heard nothing. What?!
After twenty-three years of the preaching of Jeremiah, Jehoiakim was king.
650 Jeremiah was born in the last decade of Manasseh
627 In the thirteen year of Josiah’s reign would be when Jeremiah began to preach (640 -13 = 627). Jeremiah would about 23 years old.
Son of Josiah.
Son of Josiah.
604 In Jeremiah’s twenty-third year of preaching (627 - 23 = 604) the people of Judah hadn’t been paying any attention to what he was saying.
We were 18 years from Judah’s total captivity. What happened during Jehoiakim’s, one of the sons of Josiah, reign?
“Jehoiakim was appointed king by Necho II, king of Egypt, in 609 BC, after Necho’s return from the battle in Haran, three months after he had killed King Josiah at Megiddo. Necho deposed Jehoiakim’s younger brother Jehoahaz after a reign of only three months and took him to Egypt, where he died. Jehoiakim ruled originally as a vassal of the Egyptians, paying a heavy tribute. To raise the money, he taxed the land and exacted the silver and gold from the people of the land according to their assessments.
However, after the Egyptians were defeated by the Babylonians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar II besieged Jerusalem, and Jehoiakim changed allegiances to avoid the destruction of Jerusalem. He paid tribute from the treasury in Jerusalem, some temple artifacts, and handed over some of the royal family and nobility as hostages. In the Book of Daniel, Daniel is described as being one of these.
Jehoiakim was a godless tyrant who committed atrocious sins and crimes. He is portrayed as living in incestuous relations with his mother, daughter-in-law, and stepmother, and was in the habit of murdering men, whose wives he then violated and whose property he seized. He also had tattooed his body.
The prophet Jeremiah criticized the king’s policies, insisting on repentance and strict adherence to the law. Another prophet, Uriah ben Shemaiah, proclaimed a similar message and Jehoiakim ordered his execution (Jeremiah 26:20-24).”
[They fetched him out of his exile from Egypt and returned him to Jerusalem where they killed him by the sword. Nevertheless, Jeremiah remained hidden from the king’s wrath and was spared.]
“Jehoiakim continued for three years as a vassal to the Babylonians, until the failure of an invasion of Egypt in 601 BC undermined their control of the area. Jehoiakim switched allegiance back to the Egyptians. In late 598 BC, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II invaded Judah and again laid siege to Jerusalem, which lasted three months. Jehoiakim died before the siege ended. The Book of Chronicles recorded that ‘Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon ... bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon.’”
Now, let’s go back to the time of the Battle of Carchemish, in 605, when the Babylonians decisively defeated the Egyptians and the remnant of the Assyrians. Jeremiah delivered an oracle against Egypt. Realizing that this battle made a great difference in the world situation, Jeremiah soon dictated to his scribe, Baruch, a scroll containing all of the messages he had delivered to this time. The scroll was read by Baruch in the Temple. Subsequently it was read before King Jehoiakim, who cut it into pieces and burned it. Jeremiah went into hiding and dictated another scroll, with additions.
Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son Jeconiah (also known as Jehoiachin). After three months, Nebuchadnezzar deposed Jeconiah, fearing that he would avenge his father’s death by revolting, and installed Zedekiah, Jehoiakim’s younger brother, as king in his place. Jeconiah, his household, and much of Judah's population were exiled to Babylon.
What happened to Jeremiah after Zedekiah was taken captive to Babylon. The king’s eyes were put out after he witnessed the murder of all his sons.
[But, as a quick side note, according to the Book of Mormon, a religious text in the Latter Day Saints Movement, not all the sons of Zedekiah were killed. He had a son, name Mulek, who escaped death and traveled across the ocean to the Americas, where he founded a nation, the Mulekites, which later merged with another Israelite splinter group, the Nephites, to form one nation who retained the name Nephites. But that is nothing more than a false doctrine.]
Zedekiah died in Babylon. But where was Jeremiah? Judah was destroyed. When the siege of Jerusalem was temporarily lifted at the approach of an Egyptian force, Jeremiah started to leave Jerusalem to go to the land of the tribe of Benjamin. He was arrested on a charge of desertion and placed in prison. Subsequently he was placed in an abandoned cistern, where he would have died had it not been for the prompt action of an Ethiopian eunuch, Ebed-melech, who rescued the prophet with the King’s permission and put him in a less confining place. King Zedekiah summoned him from prison twice for secret interviews, and both times Jeremiah advised him to surrender to Babylonia.
When Jerusalem finally fell, Jeremiah was released from prison by the Babylonians and offered safe conduct to Babylonia, but he preferred to remain with his own people. So he was entrusted to Gedaliah, a Judaean from a prominent family whom the Babylonians appointed as governor of the province of Judah. The prophet continued to oppose those who wanted to rebel against Babylonia and promised the people a bright and joyful future.
After Gedaliah was assassinated, Jeremiah was taken against his will to Egypt by some of the Judahites who feared reprisal from the Babylonians. Even in Egypt he continued to rebuke his fellow exiles. But what happened to Jeremiah next?
Did he die in Egypt or Palestine or someplace else?
Did he do something else for God’s plan?
Why did Jeremiah have two of the daughters of King Zedekiah with him?
Did he take the daughters to Europe? One married a king in Spain, the other married a king in Ireland. The two were from the Zerah line. The two they married were from the Pharez line. The breech in the line of the twin sons of Judah was completed. Maybe, this is what all the difficult times Jeremiah suffered was for.
Do you think it would take a special man to accomplish this? How long could you go on preaching with almost no one believing what you said? How long could you go if what you preached was charged as treason? How long could you go if what you preached you were put in the stocks? How long could you go if you were born in one of your nation’s lowest points? Jeremiah was chosen and accomplished what God wanted him to do. He was chosen first.
We have as our speakers at this conference, Dan, Everett, Lawrence, Charles, Dave, Jim and me. Let me ask you a few questions about us:
Have any of us been thrown in jail because of what we taught? At least one of us has.
Have any of us lost our jobs because of what we taught? Several of us.
Have any of us been more popular than many of the universal or Judeo-Christian preachers? None of us are more popular.
How many of our churches were shut down due to the governor’s edict? Most, if not all of our churches, remained open.
Have any of us thought about quitting preaching like Jeremiah did? I don’t know for sure, but it could be unanimous.
Why do we continue? Preaching to a such small remnant of people. I’m thankful that I have a room full of faithful people to preach to. I am thankful for my church. Everyone doesn’t have to believe everything that I believe. But there is one thing that a church should demonstrate:
A church must love each other. What if you are insulted by another member? Have you ever insulted our LORD God? Did he forgive you? Have you forgiven the member?
Have you ever thought that your minister taught something that was wrong, but it wasn’t a major doctrine? No minister is perfect. Did the LORD’s disciples misunderstand everything that our Savior was teaching? Did he forgive them?
Have you been cheated out of something by a brother? Would it be best to just give it up, after talks with him proved negative?
What if you needed help to move? There are clothes to pack, many articles of furniture to move; much, much work to do. Does the church help, if they can?
What happens when someone you love dies? Is the church there to help you grieve?
What happens when one of the ministers requests a change in the preaching situation? Do you agree to move your spot to another week?
What if you or someone you love is ill? Is the church there to pray for you and help you? Are the elders ready to lay their hands on you?
I John 4:19-21:
19) “We love Him, because He first loved us.
20) If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21) And this commandment have we from him. That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
Did God love us first? Yes. And since He did, how can we not love our brothers? Everyone in the church has a gifts that are given them by God. Some have nursing skills, some have rulership skills, some have electrical and mechanized skills, some have analyzing skills, some have cooking skills, some have hospitality skills, some have social skills, some have teaching skills, some have a host of other skills; the main question is do they use them?
Think of Jeremiah and who he loved and hated. Did God love Jeremiah first? Yes. Did Jeremiah love everyone without exception? No. Were there popular preachers that he could not stomach? Yes. Were there kings that he rebuked? Yes. Was he put in stocks? Yes. Was he put in the cistern to starve to death? Yes. Did he love our God? Yes.
There is only one Jeremiah. And we can belong to only one church body. Are we acting correctly as pastors, deacons, and members of our local church? Blessed be the members that God has chosen to be in each and every one of our churches. May we demonstrate the love to one another, because our LORD God loved us first.
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel.