Reading 1 - 2Ki 17
In 2Ki 17, "Hoshea conspired against Pekah, and ascended the throne with the connivance of Assyria (2Ki 15:30). Thus he had to pay homage and tribute to the Assyrian Power. Having successfully conspired against Pekah, he also tried to doublecross Assyria, ignoring the warnings of the prophet (2Ki 17:4; Hos 10:14), and brought destruction on himself and the nation. He was attacked by Shalmaneser V, who died unexpectedly during the siege. Sargon (Isa 20:1), his successor, continued the attack. 'In the first year of my reign,' boasted Sargon in his annals, 'I besieged and conquered Samaria.' He claims to have led away into captivity 27,290 people. Sargon settled foreigners in Israel, and recorded: 'People of the lands, prisoners my hand had captured, I settled there. My officials I placed over them as governors. I imposed tribute and tax upon them as Assyrians.' Thus, by ruthless dictators, the Israelites were rooted out of their land and transported elsewhere. It was a grave time of apostasy in Judah as well as in the northern kingdom. So 2Ki 17:20 records that Judah followed the wicked example of Israel. Baal-worship under Jehoram, Ahab and Athaliah, were also the sin of Ahaz, Manasseh and Amon. Not only so, but there was a twisting of teaching and doctrine, instituted by those who deliberately misquoted and misapplied the Word (see v 32). There was a terrible perversion, in which the true religious was tainted by worldliness and tardiness in spiritual issues. Consequently 'the nations feared Yahweh, and served their graven images' (v 41). There is a great need to remain constant and true to our high and holy calling today" (GE Mansfield).
Reading 2 - Eze 7:23
"Prepare chains, because the land is full of bloodshed and the city is full of violence" (Eze 7:23).
The chains suggest restraint, slavery, bonds, and yokes (Jer 27). It was the practice of the victorious invader to chain the captives together, so as to transport them away to their places of slavery: "Lots were cast for her nobles, and all her great men were put in chains" (Nah 3:10). In making chains, Ezekiel would be reminding his countrymen that this would be the fate of those in the land of Judah who had ignored Yahweh.
Reading 3 - Luk 3:19,20
"But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison" (Luk 3:19,20).
"From a certain point of view, it is saddening to think of such a man as John the Baptist in the hands of such creatures as Herod and his paramour; and sadder to think that his life should be sacrificed to the feminine malice created by John's upright attitude as a preacher of righteousness. But the sadness is only for a moment. It is the lot of divine things and divine men to be under the heel of wickedness in the day of sin's ascendancy. We can comfort ourselves with the thought that they do not come under the heel by chance, or before the appointed time. It is part of the process by which they are prepared for, and ultimately introduced to 'an eternal weight of glory'. And there is the further consolation that to the victims of the oppression, the triumph of the enemy is 'but for a moment'. Death is the best thing that can happen to them. Their trials and distresses are annihilated at a stroke: and in a moment, they are face to face with the glory for which their distresses prepare them, for the simple reason that in death there is no knowledge of time, and therefore no conscious interval to the resurrection" (Robert Roberts, "Nazareth Revisited" 25,26).