2 Kings 17:1-20 : How to Lose a Kingdom

Harry Chapin's song, 'Cats in the Cradle'

A child arrived just the other day.
He came into the world in the usual way.

But there were planes to catch and bills to pay.
He learnt to walk while there was a way.
And he was talking before I knew it.
And as he grew he said,
"I'm gonna be like you, Dad.
You know I'm gonna be like you."

And the cats in the cradle and the silver spoon.
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When are you coming home Dad?"
"Don't know when, but we'll get together then son,
You know we'll have a good time then."

Well, my son turned ten just the other day.
He said "Thanks for the ball Dad, come on lets play.
Can you teach me to throw?"
I said "Not today, I've got a lot to do."
He said, "That's OK"
And he walked away with a smile that said,
"I'm gonna be like him, you know I'm gonna be like him."

And the cats in the cradle and a silver spoon.
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When are you coming home Dad?"
"Don't know when, but we'll get together then son,
You know we'll have a good time then."

Well, he came home from college just the other day,
so much like a man I just had to say,
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and said with a smile-
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys,
see you later, can I have them please?"

And the cats in the cradle and a silver spoon.
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When are you coming home Dad?"
"Don't know when but we'll get together then son,
You know we'll have a good time then."

Well, I've long since retired, my son's moved away.
Called him up just the other day.
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said "I'd love to Dad if I could find the time.
You see my new jobs a hassle and the kids have the flu..."

But its sure nice talking to you Dad, its sure nice talking to you.
And as he hung up the phone it occurred to me,
My boy was just like me, my boy was just like me.

And the cats in the cradle and a silver spoon.

Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When are you coming home Dad?"
"Don't know when but we'll get together then son,
You know we'll have a good time then."

How to lose a kingdom (or 'How to lose a business, lose a family, lose a partner, lose your children, lose your soul'), for the principles are the same. The steps to losing a kingdom are the same steps as losing your soul. I want us to break this passage into three sections.

1. How They Lost the Kingdom (2 Kings 17:1-6)
2. Why They Lost the Kingdom (2 Kings 17:7-17)
3. What They Lost (2 Kings 17:18-23)

Add a post script or conclusion: Having shown how to lose a kingdom, I want us to consider from our New Testament reading,

4. How to Find the only Kingdom that Matters (John 10:7-13)

1. How They Lost the Kingdom (2 Kings 17:1-6)
Read 17:1-6. The writer describes the devastating geo-political consequences of a disastrous decision made by Hoshea, king of Israel who refused to pay tribute to Assyria and sought a military alliance with Egypt. The King of Assyrua, Shalmaneser, beseiged Samaria, imprisoned Hoshea and deported the Israelites enmasse to Assyria. So marks the ignoble end of the Northern Kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel. What had gone wrong? If we take a step back into history, we remember how, two weeks ago, David pictured for us, the Israelite Empire at its zenith under the wise leadership of Solomon.

1.1 A Kingdom United by a Wise King (1 Kings 10:23-29)
Read 1 Kings 10:23-24. The description of Israel is one of great wealth and prosperity, extended borders, a great army with chariots, exporting both weapons and horses to neighbouring kingdoms.

1.2 A Kingdom Corrupted by Pagan Idols (1 Kings 11:33)
Read 1 Kings 11:33

1.3 A Kingdom Humbled by a Sovereign Lord (1 Kings 11:34-39)
Read 1 Kings 11:34-36, 39. God was in control.

1.4 A Kingdom Divided by Foolish Leaders (1 Kings 12:10-16)
Read 1 Kings 12:13-15. As we discovered last week Solomon was given great mind and godly wisdom but it did not extend to all parts of his anatomy. And it was most certainly not hereditary. Four historical observations about how they lost. (Summarise). But political explanations do not go deep enough. There were more fundamental theological reasons why they lost the kingdom. Read 17:7. "All this took place because..."

2. Why They Lost the Kingdom (2 Kings 17:7-17)

Three reasons.

2.1 They Disobeyed God's Word (17:13-16)

They Ignored God's Warnings (17:13)
They Doubted God's Promises (17:14)
They Rejected God's Law (17:15)
They Forsook God's Commands (17:16)
They disobeyed God's Word consistently, wilfully, systematically and repeatedly.

2.2 They Idolised Worthless Substitutes (17:7-16)
Notice that in each of these verses we are told how they ignored, how they doubted, rejected and forsook God's Word. But in each verse we are also told what they did instead. If they were not in church worshipping God on Sunday they were worshipping someone else or something else instead. We are told,

They worshipped other gods. They built high places.

They set up sacred stones. They erected Asherah Poles.
They imitated the nations around them.

Why? Because they thought that Baal and Asherah would give them a better deal than God? What did they want? What most people want today. Security. How do you achieve it? Prosperity, virility, fertility. They were materialists and pragmatists just as people today. But they were also superstitious too. So they tried everything just in case this pagan deity or that foreign god might give them a better deal or more favourable terms than the Lord God himself. Its farcical isn't it, and yet, and yet, people do it every day.

What are the contemporary Baal's and Asherah's today? How about the idols made of science or technology guaranteed to solve all our environmental problems? How about the idols of medicine and health and beauty - sure to find the cure for every disease and promise the secret of eternal youth?
How about the idols of Military superiority? Does having the best army, navy, airforce and police in the world make you any more secure or sleep more peacefully at night?

What about the cult of material prosperity? The adoration of the latest film star, pop idol or football team? What about the worship of the Stock Exchange? Or the prayers uttered during the screening of the National Lottery? Are these not contemporary idols? Worshipped with the same fervour and same intensity as any Hindu god? The reason is the same. Our need for security. The lesson is this.

There is no such things as a religious vacuum in the human heart. There is no spiritual neutrality, or security apart from the Lord God. If you turn your back on God, you will idolise some worthless substitute. They disobeyed God's word and they idolised something else. As Bob Dylan puts it in one of his songs, "You are going to have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you are going to have to serve somebody." That is the reason why, thirdly, when Baal and Asherah failed to give them what they wanted,

2.3 They Practised Divination - They Slept with the Enemy (17:16-17)
They identified with the enemy. It says they bowed down to the starry hosts, they practised divination and sorcery. They thought the stars or maybe the dead or perhaps the unseen spirit world controlled their destiny and could give them what they craved - power over the forces of nature - security. See the progression? Turn your back on God and you will pretty soon idolise something else or someone else. But you will be dissatisfied, unfulfilled, insecure, fearful and before you know where you are you are sleeping with the enemy.

What are the contemporary equivalents of the starry hosts or divination? Horoscopes, ouija boards, tarot cards, seances, mediums, astral guides. The label may be new but the content is the same. How to lose a kingdom? How to lose a family? How to lose a soul? Three simple steps. Turn you back on God, don't read the Bible, idolise something else and sleep with the enemy. Because behind every substitute, every alternative to the Lord God stands Satan. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord but you are going to have to serve somebody. We've seen how Israel lost their kingdom and why they lost it. Lets now consider what they actually lost.

3. What They Lost (2 Kings 17:15-23)
The first thing they lost was their self esteem, their respect, their worth, created in the image of God.

3.1 They Degraded Themselves (17:15)
The first thing that happened was that in worshipping worthless idols they became worth less. When we indulge in degrading behaviour we are degraded. Sometimes when we hear that people have behaved like animals, I think its a slur on animals. They degraded themselves.

3.2 They Sacrificed their Children (17:17)
This is ironic. In their quest for virility and fertility Satan demanded their first born. Whereas the Lord God taught that the first born was consecrated to serve Him, Satan, through the pagan deities demanded the first born must die for him. Satan hasn't changed his bill, just made the terms appear more palatable. He still wants our children but we can now pay by credit card.

Think of the news stories this week - The criticisms made by Iceland, Norway, Sweden Denmark and Finland about the pollution of their fish stocks with uranium from the Sellafield reprocessing plant. The staff accused of falsifying records of emissions. What about last week and the cyanide spill from the Australian gold mine in Rumania. The slick is now 40 kilometres long, flowing through Romania into Hungary and Yugoslavia. It has already killed 80% of fish stocks. Optimists say it will take 10-12 years to recover.

In our pursuit of material prosperity, what kind of mortgage are we taking out that our children must pay? And what about the credit card bills of the fathers who claim they must work such long hours, why they must be away from home for such long periods. Ironically when challenged they will often say its for the sake of his children. Yet who pays for our life style? At what cost? In a recent survey of 400 children aged 11-16, 60% could not recall a single thing Jesus said - not a sentence, a story, a promise. I wonder whether there is any correlation. They degraded themselves and sacrificed their children. Worst of all

3.3 They were Excluded from God's Presence (17:18)
Pretty depressing isn't it. How to lose a kingdom? a business? a family? a soul? Simple. Put God second, ignore his word, worship something else and sleep with the enemy. But that is not the end of the story. We're not only shown how to lose a kingdom, we're shown,

4. How to Find the only Kingdom that Matters (John 10:7-13)

If the way to lose a kingdom, a family, a soul, is to put God second, the way to win his Kingdom is just as simple - put God first. Put God first in everything. The clues to their rescue are there in the text. Read 2 Kings 7:13. "Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees..." This was simply a reiteration of the same promise made Hoshea's father, Solomon,

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
(2 Chronicles 7:14)

Jesus, both true son of David and Son of God, makes this incredible promise. Read John 10:9-10. Jesus came that you might have life, God's life, have life to the full, abundantly, eternally. You, your children and your children's children. How? Put God first, humble yourself and pray, seek God's face, and turn from your wicked ways and God promises to hear from heaven, will forgive your sin and heal your land, your family, your reputation, your soul.