Translate

Thursday, July 16, 2015

2 CHRONICLES+—An Illustrated Summary of Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible by G. Campbell Morgan

"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).


2 Chronicles 1:3 "God's tent of meeting was there." We now come to the chronicler’s account of how Solomon entered into full possession of his kingdom, and took up the great work entrusted to him. He began by gathering his people to a sacred act of worship. Although the Ark was in a temporary tent in Jerusalem that David had prepared for it, the Tabernacle of Moses’ day—here called the Tent of Meeting—was still at Gibeon, along with its bronze altar. That is where Solomon called the people to meet God with him, for that what the Tabernacle was all about: meeting with God after sin had been dealt with, not a congregational meeting place (although that took place as well). This gathering of the people around that Tent was according to divine order. Even though the Ark was not present, as it was in the days of Moses, God still met with Solomon there and communed with him, blessing him with wisdom to rule the people. Soon enough, all the holy objects of Moses’ Tabernacle would be joined together in the Temple Solomon was commissioned to build.

2 Chronicles 2:6 "Who is able to build a house for Him?" This profound question is included in Solomon’s letter to Hiram the king of Tyre, proposing an equitable trade for large quantities of timber and a skilled worker for overseeing the Temple’s craftsmanship. It is evidence of the greatness and truth of Solomon's conception of God, as the words following the question show: "Heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Him." Yet Solomon was about to build a house for God. He declared its value as he understood it: to offer incense and sacrifices before Him. Solomon was under no delusion about God, and therefore made no mistake about the Temple. He did expect and later received clear manifestations of God's presence in that house. Its chief value was it provided sinful men and women a place to deal with their sin and then worship Him. Jesus said to a woman in Samaria, "Believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father" (John 4:21). He was referring to a false center of worship in Samaria and a true one in Jerusalem, but declaring that neither was necessary for worship. That was and is true not only because of the one-time sacrifice for the sins of His people that Jesus would make, but also because He went on to say, "An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth" (John 4:23). Temples, churches, and other such buildings have always had and still have their place and value, but they never were nor are the only places where God may be worshiped.

2 Chronicles 3:1 "Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father, David." Solomon here was carrying out the instructions and intention of his father. The site chosen for the Temple was, as explained in 1 Chronicles 22, a place where judgment was merged with mercy. In this chapter and the next, we have the account of the building and furnishing of the Temple. Its proportions and relations were identical to those given by God to Moses for the Tabernacle, but it was larger—its symbolism was exactly the same, though its material magnificence was far greater. Not one detail of its exquisite ornamentation interfered with the express command that no attempt  be made to make anything as a likeness to God. The Temple was representative of how sinful men and women were to approach God, not a declaration of His essential nature. "When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). Then He explained Himself, for this Son was "the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Hebrews 1:3). In Him judgment merged in mercy. Thus did the Lord Jesus Christ become all the Temple symbolized, and infinitely more than it was ever permitted to suggest. He is the way of approach to God and the revelation of God.

2 Chronicles 4:22 "Its inner doors to the Most Holy Place, and the doors of the main hall of the Temple, were gold." These doors were additions to the Tabernacle plan, in which veils of thick fabric covered the entries to both the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. Those veils were still present in the Temple, or at least the one before the Most Holy Place was because we have record that it was supernaturally torn in two from top to bottom when the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified (Matthew 27:51)—the one-time sacrificial act by which direct access to God was made possible. The golden doors Solomon put in the Temple were extra protections for the building itself, and full of symbolic meaning. Specifically we are told that they were made of olive wood,  overlaid with gold, and hung on golden hinges (1 Kings 6:31-32; 7:50). Gold in Scripture consistently represents divine glory and perfection. Those approaching the sacred enclosures were thus reminded of that glory. These golden doors pointed forward to the Glorious One who said of Himself, "I am the Door" (John 10:9). Would we view God's brightest glory, we must look in Jesus' face.

2 Chronicles 5:1 "Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated." The Temple work being complete, Solomon with filial and godly care carried into the sacred enclosure all that his father dedicated to that great work. It was a rich and varied collection. Glancing back to 1 Chronicles 29 we find David's own account of his gathering these treasures: "I have prepared with all my might... gold... silver... brass... iron... wood... precious stones." He also said, "I have set my affection on the house of my God.... I have a treasure of my own.... I give it... over and above all that I have prepared." What devotion and dedication! First, of his kingdom David gathered all the treasure he rightfully could for this great spiritual and national enterprise. Second, he withheld nothing of his own, but impoverished himself by pouring all his possessions into the same treasury. Giving like that results from a great passion. Imagine what was going through Solomon's mind as he gathered up and conveyed to the new Temple all that wealth, doubly sacred because it represented his father's heart for the great work that had now been carried to successful completion. Let us note for ourselves the two elements in David's giving: he prepared what he gave with all his might and he set his affection toward it. The inspiration of love and the activity of strength are the keys to making our dedication complete and our offerings worthy.

2 Chronicles 6:20 "That Your eye may be open toward this house day and night." In his inaugural prayer at the completion of the Temple, Solomon reflects the same high view of God he had at its beginning: "Will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built" (verse 18). Realizing the inadequacy of any house built by man to contain God, he uttered the suggestive and beautiful petition highlighted above. Solomon earnestly desired that the watching eyes of God might always rest upon the house he just built, where the Lord had promised to put His name. It was the place where the people would offer their petitions together in the regular exercises of worship, in special seasons of need because of sin, in battle, in drought, and in famine. As he prayed, Solomon pictured the Temple perpetually watched by God so that whenever worshipers approached, they were seen by the God whose help they sought. That this might indeed be so is what Solomon humbly requests. It was a figure of speech, but one that found its perfect fulfillment in "Jesus the Son of God," to quote from the Book of Hebrews, who has "passed through the heavens" to "appear in the presence of God for us." Being identified with Christ through faith in Him, we who are believers are invited "to come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." The eyes of God are always upon His  Son in satisfaction and delight, and we are seen in Him and so accepted.

2 Chronicles 7:10 "He sent the people to their tents, rejoicing and happy of heart because of the goodness that the Lord had shown to David, to Solomon, and to His people Israel." What a wonderful conclusion to the Temple dedication festivities! The ceremonies had created a profound consciousness of the goodness of God that filled the people with joy. They identified themselves as a people personally governed by God. Had they and their present and future kings kept that true perspective, their history would have been very different. This whole story is a lesson on the true value of public recognition of God in national life. The method of such recognition may be difficult today, but it is the duty of the Church, the whole Church, to watch for and to seize every opportunity for public testimony to the goodness of God as manifested in His overarching rule over the affairs of our individual nations. As in the case of Solomon, such ceremonial occasions should open and close with sacrifice—remembrance of the One Sacrifice since Christ's resurrection—and have at their center the holy exercises of praise and prayer. The methods have changed, but the spiritual obligation abides.

2 Chronicles 8:11 "My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy where the Ark of the Lord has entered." Those are words of compromise. Solomon's marriage to the daughter of the king of Egypt was a purely political act, arising out of an alliance made between Israel and Egypt (1 Kings 3:1). Such an alliance was wrong because God had delivered His people from Egypt, and there was never the slightest need, either military or economic, for such an alliance. It was a political seduction that persistently threatened the nation and more than once cost them dearly. Having made the blunder of marrying Pharaoh's daughter, Solomon here sought to safeguard against possible religious damage by building her house away from the City of David. This compromise was a failure, as compromise inevitably is. It led to the abysmal situation described in 1 Kings 11 of Solomon building places of idol worship in Jerusalem for all his foreign wives. Compromise is a pathetic thing in that it always testifies to a conviction of what is high and true, but yields to the low and false. It is an evil thing, for inevitably the low and false gain the ascendance while what is high and true is abandoned. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "If your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light" (Matthew 6:22). Uncompromising devotion to the right is the only way to ultimate deliverance from evil. To tolerate wrong in any degree is ultimately to become its slave. To build a house for Pharaoh's daughter outside the Holy City is to open the gates of that city eventually to Pharaoh's gods.


2 Chronicles 9:30 "Solomon reigned forty years in Jerusalem over all Israel." The story of Solomon is one of the most tragic in biblical history. He was the third and last king over Israel as one nation. He came to the throne with everything in his favor. The kingdom had been brought into unity and remarkable strength under the reign of his father. Wonderful preparations had been made for the great work of Temple building. In himself, Solomon was richly endowed with conspicuous natural ability. Special wisdom was bestowed upon him by God in answer to his own high choice. His opportunity and equipment were incredible! In spite of everything, Solomon failed miserably as a king. Yielding to lower aspects of his nature, he became a slave to them and dragged down his nation with him. So long as he remained on the throne, the people were solaced and drugged by material magnificence. Underneath, however, the spirit of rebellion and revolt was at work, ready to break out into the open when Solomon was out of the picture. Solomon's life illustrates that opportunity and privilege, even God-bestowed, are not enough in themselves to assure full realization. They involve personal responsibilities of watchfulness and constant devotion. Everything under the sun is of divine origin, but if a man or woman forgets or is ignorant of things beyond the sun, he or she will be led into folly since "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).

2 Chronicles 10:8 "He forsook the counsel of the elders...and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him." The elders counseled Solomon's successor, Rehoboam, to treat his people with compassion and understanding by reducing some of the burdens imposed upon them during Solomon's reign. Rehoboam rejected that wise advice and added to his folly by allowing himself to be influenced by the advice of hot-headed cronies who counseled him to rule even more autocratically than Solomon. The advice of the elders was inspired by their desire for the nation's well-being. That of the youth was inspired by their selfish ambition for power over others. The situation was delicate: Solomon was very popular for being wise and gifted, but he had been an autocrat with an iron fist under the velvet. Some of the worst tyrants the world has ever seen, such as Lorenzo de' Medici  and Charles I of England, have robbed their people of their rights and kept them passive by the drug of gorgeous display. With the death of Solomon, men breathed anew and discovered their chains. Now was the time for a bid for freedom. Jeroboam returned from Egypt to be the spokesman of this movement. Here was Rehoboam's chance, but he missed it by taking wrongly motivated advice. The result was immediate: 10 tribes revolted. The nation was torn in two, and the kingly tribe of Judah was on the verge of a war that would have ended in its defeat and subjugation. Then God interfered. No human folly has ever been permitted to continue long enough to thwart His purposes. Shemaiah, a prophet sent by God, declared to Rehoboam that the revolt was in the divine plan. Rehoboam submitted and the period of the two kingdoms began.

2 Chronicles 11:16-17 "Those from all the tribes of Israel, such as set their heart to seek the Lord God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah." Whatever there may have been of right in the revolt of the 10 tribes from the despotism of Rehoboam, that movement was misdirected from the beginning. Jeroboam was a strong man, but was motivated by the low-level policy of expedience rather than by faith. He commenced his reign over the Northern Kingdom by setting up a new center of worship and a new order of priests that excluded the Levites. He attempted to adapt religion in the interest of the State, and thus destroyed both. The subjects from his kingdom who were determined to obey what the Scriptures declared about worship and government moved down to the Southern Kingdom, as our highlighted text declares. In those 10 northern tribes were faithful men and women who knew that the most important aspect of their national existence was their obedience to God and His Word. This remnant of loyal souls, gathered out of all the tribes, left their own country and went to Judah. Thus the Southern Kingdom was strengthened in the best way by the addition of faithful souls. These are the people who, in every age, have been the real strength of human history and through whom God has continued His onward march toward the realization of His high purposes. They count their relationship to Him and loyalty to His will more important than family, friends, king, or country. Exodus and emigration have very often been the ways of God's advance in the course of time. They always involve sacrifice, but they have been deliverances.

2 Chronicles 12:1 "When Rehoboam had established the kingdom and had strengthened himself ... he forsook the Law of the Lord." What tragic words are these, and how perpetually the fact they record has been repeated in human experience! The influx of godly men and women from the Northern Kingdom helped make Rehoboam and his kingdom strong. In fact, "they strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam the son of Solomon for three years, for they walked in the way of David and Solomon" (2 Chronicles 11:17). Now, feeling that strength but misapplying it to himself, Rehoboam stopped walking that way. The Scriptures steadily teach that a man or woman's real strength is always that of complete dependence on God—it is a derived strength. Direct strength becomes independent and self-contained, easily leading one astray. There is profound truth in the apostle Paul's declaration, "When I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). When those who are supposed to be serving God depart from the straight way of obedience to His Law, He adopts the appropriate chastisement. The scourge came now in the person of Israel's ancient foe, the king of Egypt. When the prophet Shemaiah confronted Rehoboam and the princes of Judah with the reason for their punishment, they humbly concluded that "the Lord is righteous" (verse 6). The Lord was moved by their repentance to limit the judgment, but the Southern Kingdom did pass for a time under the yoke of Egypt. It was saved from complete destruction because God is patient, and in Judah there yet was some good (verse 12). God's judgments are always characterized by careful consideration.

2 Chronicles 13:18 "The children of Judah prevailed because they relied on the Lord God of their fathers." The account here of the victory of Judah is a striking revelation of God's readiness to respond to a genuine cry to Him for help, even on the part of those who are far from worthy. Rehoboam's successor, King Abijah, "walked in all the sins of his father" (1 Kings 15:3). Here, however, he is speaking and acting for the good of his nation by attempting to persuade Israel to submission. His address in itself is a strange mixture of misrepresentation and religion. The misrepresentation is attributing the revolt of Israel and crowning of Jeroboam only to the influence of evil men in Rehoboam's life, ignoring Rehoboam's own responsibility for choosing to rule harshly. Abijah's attempt to prevent conflict by this address was clever, but utterly futile. Deliverance and victory came to Judah over forces twice their size when, faced by sudden attack from two fronts, they cried out to the Lord. That cry was sincere, the answer of God was immediate, and complete victory the result. The whole story is another illustration of the unfailing grace of God and His willingness to forgive and deliver those who call upon Him in truth, despite all their unworthiness. Honestly to rely upon God is to prevail over opposing enemies.

2 Chronicles 14:12 "So the Lord struck the Ethiopians before Asa." In the reign of Abijah's son Asa we find a welcome break in the evil that so persistently characterized the succession of kings. His was a long reign, and though the reforms he instituted were not as thorough as those carried out by later kings, he yet gave the nation glimpses of a better order. Asa started by breaking down false worship and commanding obedience to God's Law. As a result, the land enjoyed a lengthy period of rest. He took advantage of those peaceful years to build up and wall the cities. Then suddenly came the Ethiopian invasion in great strength, threatening the very life of the nation. The prayer of Asa, as recorded in this chapter, is a model of simple directness. Its strength lay in Asa's loyalty to God and his complete confidence in Him. As with his father, Abijah, the answer was immediate. Through the much smaller army of Judah, God operated for the shattering defeat of the invading Ethiopians, who were not in a position to invade again. How unfailingly the patience of God is upheld in these chronicles! The repetition of that fact is almost monotonous, but a glorious monotony, like the perfect music of heavenly hosts who never cease to proclaim His holiness and love.

2 Chronicles 15:2 "The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." This chapter chronicles with greater detail the occasion and value of the reforms wrought in Judah under Asa's reign. It is, however, chiefly remarkable for this highlighted prophetic insight, uttered by the otherwise unknown prophet Azariah. He revealed an inclusive philosophy of life under the control of God. Suddenly anointed by the Spirit of God, Azariah appeared to the king and in this message gave direction to his remaining life and reign. Although brief, its principle is  weighty and of perpetual application. It represents God as unchanging, for all apparent changes on His part are really changes in the attitude of men and women toward Him. Man with God finds God with him. Man, forsaking God, finds that he is forsaken by God. Those are the extremes of the truth. Between them—not contradicting them, but complementing them and completing them—is the declaration that if a man seeks God, He will be found by that man. A recognition of those truths at once gives direction to life and inspires the heart with courage. It certainly did so in the case of Asa.

2 Chronicles 16:7 "Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand." This is a very sad chapter, telling as it does about the lapse and failure of a king who, for 36 years, had been remarkably true to God. When Asa was threatened by King Baasha of Israel's attempt to block Ramah, the northern access to Jerusalem, he turned not to God, despite all the help he had received from Him through the years, but to Ben-hadad, the king of Syria. It seemed, moreover, to have been a successful policy since Ben-hadad captured several key cities in Israel, forcing Baasha to stop his blockade. Yet such seeming was false because it was the result of short-sightedness. Things that appear successful on the surface may prove disastrous to a life of faith. It was so in this case. The Syrians were, as a matter of biblical fact, far more dangerous foes of Judah than Israel ever was. Hanani the seer explains to King Asa in the highlighted text that by his faithless act, Asa essentially lost his opportunity to avoid that greater threat. How perpetually men and women defeat their own ends when, either through lack of faith or overconfidence in their own cleverness—which are practically the same thing—they attempt to do by policy what God is prepared to do for them in answer to their obedient faith! Asa's story here is the more sad because there seems to have been no repentance on the part of the king. He persecuted the prophet, flinging him into prison, and oppressed other people as well. Surely no one is safe from falling spiritually, however long loyalty to God has lasted. To the end there is need of watchfulness.

2 Chronicles 17:9 "They...had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people." With the accession of Asa's son Jehoshaphat to the throne, a bright period of spiritual reformation commenced within the Southern Kingdom. We are given an account of his own relationship to God and the great blessing that came to him and his people as a result. Our highlighted text tells what made the big difference: Jehoshaphat had the Law of God made known throughout the land. The method adopted was teaching teams of priests, Levites, and his officials who traveled throughout the cities of Judah. The king put into practice himself, and by this method helped all his people put into practice the principle that the prophet Azariah taught Asa: believing that God was with the men and women who were with Him in obedient faith. This had an effect on their enemies round about by creating a dread in them to make war against Jehoshaphat's God and people, and a willingness to maintain cordial relations by giving tributary gifts. The king used that opportunity to strengthen his kingdom by building fortresses and store cities. This story has present value. No better service can be rendered to a nation than by proclaiming the Word of the Living God to its people in every city and small town. By faithful proclamation people's hearts are turned to God by the power of His Word, and He will then do for them all that is in His heart with blessings that will flow throughout the nation.

2 Chronicles 18:33 "A certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king." This chapter begins shockingly, "Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor, and he allied himself by marriage with Ahab," the worst of all the kings of Israel. Good King Jehoshaphat was not always wise, especially later in the chapter when Ahab talks him into joining in a war against Syria. Ahab knew the Syrian king would be looking for him on the field of battle, so in cowardice he had Jehoshaphat mount his chariot in kingly robes, but he himself dressed plainly in another chariot. The ruse was completely successful as far as Syria was concerned. Their captains were deceived and chased after Jehoshaphat (who called upon the Lord and was protected by Him). Ahab was safe, if there were no eyes other than those of men watching him. He was not hidden from the eyes of God: the unnamed man in our highlighted text "drew his bow at random and struck the king." It was something that man did without any special intention other than carrying on in his duty as a soldier. Little did he know that this particular arrow, surely one of many he shot throughout the battle, would be guided through the fog of war straight to the most important mark, by the unerring knowledge and power of God. Men may hide themselves so that other men may never find them, but when the hour of their judgment comes, God takes hold of some ordinary event and makes it the highway on which He carries out the sentence of His purpose. "It just happened" says the man of the world. "God did it" says the man of faith.

2 Chronicles 19:6 "Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord." Jehoshaphat's alliance with evil Ahab is a sad lapse in an otherwise outstanding history. It was indeed strange company for a man like Jehoshaphat, who was unquestionably a man of God. It put his life at risk so that he was delivered from death only by the direct intervention of God. This chapter opens with his return to Jerusalem from that disastrous battle, where he was rebuked by Jehu, son of the seer Hanani, in solemn words we all do well to bear in mind: "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?" (verse 2). Evidently Jehoshaphat realized his wrong, and his repentance was manifest in a new mission of bringing his people back to the Lord and establishing the internal administration of the kingdom in righteousness. The highlighted words are his charge to the judges, but are of perpetual application. Those who are called upon at any time, and in any way, to administer justice are acting for God, not just for man. They are not to seek to serve men, but to maintain the cause of justice, which is to be measured by divine standards. With God there is no sin, no partiality, and no taking of bribes. So it must be with those who act as judges. Only then are the true interests of men served. To seek to please men is to be unjust to men. To seek to please God is to be just to men.

2 Chronicles 20:13 "All Judah was standing before the Lord, with their infants, their wives, and their children." This chapter gives us a story that reveals most graphically the simplicity, and therefore the maturity at this point, of Jehoshaphat's faith. His kingdom was threatened with powerful and terrible invasion. In his extremity he gathered his people about him and prayed. It is a great and arresting picture highlighted here of the king and all his people big and small in a genuine national act of simple and direct acknowledgement of God. In an hour of national danger, the nation sought the help of the one true King. Jehoshaphat's prayer on their behalf was a powerful outpouring of a soul in need. He recalled the past evidences of God's faithfulness, confessed his own inability to cope with the danger, and asked God directly to help. The answer was not delayed. The Spirit of God came upon Jehaziel, and in the name of the Lord he made a promise: all Judah had to do was stand still and see the salvation the Lord would provide. Then followed united worship from the people, who eagerly praised God. The spectacular fall of their enemies came soon after by their being led to slay one another. It was a moment bright with light amid great darkness. This is ancient history, but we have seen in the past century events that can have no other explanation. When after stress and strain in the world wars, for example, nations that humbly called on God saw Him bring deliverance with a suddenness and completeness that amazed them.

2 Chronicles 21:20 "He departed with no one's regret." Strange indeed is the human heart. It can turn to evil and pursue it persistently, yet it never really loves those who lead it in evil ways. That fact is remarkably exemplified in the reign of Jehoshaphat's son and successor, Jehoram, who was of an utterly evil nature. He attempted to make his throne secure by the murder of his brothers, and was strengthened in wickedness by his marriage. The chronicler explains, "He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab did, for Ahab's daughter was his wife, and he did evil in the sight of the Lord" (verse 6). Even worse, the people followed Jehoram's lead by straying from the Lord and following the false gods of Ahab's house. Another period of darkness and degeneracy set in for the kingdom of Judah. In the midst of this wickedness, a message came to King Jehoram from the fiery prophet Elijah, who had exercised so powerful an influence against Ahab in the kingdom of Israel. It contained a terrible message of judgment that was fully carried out. When Jehoram died in agony, "He departed with no one's regret," as the highlighted text says. Love is inspired by goodness only. Men and women will follow those who lead them into corruption, but such following is inspired by selfishness or curiosity, never by admiration or love. When the evil leader falls, there is no pity for him—he departs to no one's regret. Even in the midst of uttermost corruption, God preserves a consciousness of the value of goodness, and a witness to the superiority of His governing hand.

2 Chronicles 22:9 "The house of Ahaziah had no power to keep...the kingdom." Ahaziah was the youngest son of Jehoram. Immediately succeeding his father, he reigned for one brief year, during which he was completely under the evil influence of his mother, Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab. In the highlighted words of the chronicler, we are reminded of the inevitable powerlessness of evil. There are hours in human history when it seems as though evil were almost all-powerful. It entrenches itself in great strength, it builds up mighty structures, it inaugurates policies characterized by utmost craft and cleverness. It seems to be able to bind together an invincible domain. All this is fleeting, for there is no finality or security in the apparent might of iniquity. Sooner or later, irrevocably and inevitably, the trenches are broken through, the walls are broken down, the policies fail, and the federation that seemed so secure is dashed in pieces by the strength of God, which is the strength of righteousness and goodness. Neither powerful dictator nor mighty confederacy of statesmen can establish an empire by fraud, violence, or corruption. Nothing will hold a kingdom or commonwealth together in lasting strength other than truth, justice, and purity. Those are the things of goodness, which are of divine origin. Once again, this is ancient history, but it is as modern as the breakup and disintegration of great powers in our day that we have seen crumble to dust.

2 Chronicles 23:13 "When she looked, there was the king standing by his pillar at the entrance." There is tremendous dramatic power in that sentence. Evil Queen Athaliah had done everything within her power to secure her own position and gain her own ends. With vindictive cruelty she had, as she thought, destroyed all the royal heirs through King David's line. She was wrong. No evil passions, however thorough their methods, are able to frustrate divine purposes. Against the wickedness of that one woman, God had set in motion the compassion of another: Jehoshabeath, who rescued baby Joash and cared for him under the shelter of the Temple for 6 years with patient persistence. Now at last the day had come when the well-kept secret should be divulged. The boy king was brought out, anointed, and crowned amid an enthusiastic crowd. Athaliah, hearing the joyful shouting, came to the Temple and saw her young rival standing there with popular support. Then she knew the powerlessness of evil. In vain she cried out, "Treason! Treason!" Her own treason against the true and everlasting King was defeated. Thus, sooner or later, and perhaps in ways just as dramatic, the moment arrives when those who plot and plan against heaven and righteousness find themselves looking at the evidences of God's triumph over all their wickedness.

2 Chronicles 24:17 "But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them." Those are very simple words, but they are inexpressibly sad. Under the reign of King Joash, real reformation was achieved in Judah, but it was wholly due to the influence of Jehoiada the priest, Jehoshabeath's husband. The chronicler is unequivocal on that point, stating plainly at the beginning of this chapter, "Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest" (verse 2). Nevertheless, during this period it is evident that Joash was zealous in his endeavor to reestablish the true worship of God. The reform centered on the Temple, for they restored the house of God to its original splendor, and regular times of sacrifice and worship faithfully took place throughout Jehoiada's lifetime. After his death, corrupt officials of Judah approached King Joash with a very different agenda. Sadly, he chose to listen to them and this was the result: the Temple was forsaken and idolatry was again established in the land. Joash, who had been zealous in reform, now became determined in wickedness—even to the point of silencing the prophetic voice of Jehoiada's son Zechariah by murder in the Temple courtyard! Joash is a striking illustration of how a weak man is so easily influenced. Strong individual character is created only by direct dealing with God. However valuable the influence of a good man or woman may be, if a person has nothing more to lean on than that, collapse is inevitable when that influence eventually ceases. All foundations fail, except the divine one. When the will of a person is yielded wholly to the will of God, and no other competing authority is sought or permitted, that person is safe. Where that is lacking, every change of circumstances will change one's focus  in life.

2 Chronicles 25:2 "He did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart." Those words give us the key to all that follows in this chapter's account of Joash's successor, King Amaziah. The general aim of this man was right, but its execution was spoiled by his divided interests. Only a whole or undivided heart is pleasing to God because nothing else accomplishes His will in a man or woman. Amaziah's reign started off right: the punishment of his father's murderers was tempered with justice. The division in his heart is seen first in his unholy alliance with mercenaries from the Northern Kingdom  and then the readiness with which he obeyed the voice of a prophet and broke off that alliance, even at high cost to himself. Returning from his conquest over the Edomites, however, he brought back with him the idols of his defeated foes so he could worship them! When another prophet rebuked him for such folly, Amaziah threatened him and persisted in his wickedness. Punishment soon followed in a particularly humiliating defeat for Judah by Israel. Some chamber of Amaziah's divided heart was closed against the true Indweller. It was retained for self. What particularly it was in the case of Amaziah we are not told, but despite the general right direction of his life, his whole heart was clearly not set upon doing the will of God. Personal indulgence, ambition, or perhaps carelessness interfered. Within a fortress, one chamber possessed by the enemy is the greatest threat. Sooner or later, the dweller of that chamber will open the door for the enemies outside.

2 Chronicles 26:15-16 Uzziah "was marvelously helped until he was strong. But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly." Uzziah was one of the most remarkable kings of Judah. He had strong character, and the early period of his reign was characterized by true prosperity. He was victorious in his campaigns against the enemies of his people, and particularly successful in developing the internal resources of the Southern Kingdom. At once a man of war and a lover of good tilled earth, Uzziah was an ideal ruler for his nation's troubled times. During the first years of his reign he went quietly forward in dependence on God. Gradually there came a change over the man, summarized by our chronicler in the highlighted verses. History is a persistent witness to the subtle perils created by prosperity. It is easier to become blighted by it than by adversity. Man, dependent on God, is independent of all else. The moment when the heart begins to feel independent of God because of personal strength or advantage, that very strength becomes weakness. Unless there is repentance and return, ruin will follow. Prosperity always puts the soul in danger of pride, which comes "before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). The pride of Uzziah led him to an act of sacrilege: he violated the Word of God concerning his access to the Temple and the offering of sacrifices. Immediately he was afflicted with leprosy and obliged to live in isolation for the rest of his life.

2 Chronicles 27:6 "Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God." Uzziah's son Jotham managed the kingdom while his father was in isolation, and became king when Uzziah died. Not much is said about his reign other than his continuing with his father's building projects and achieving a successful outcome in a war with the Ammonites. We know there was no spiritual reform during his reign since we are told "the people continued acting corruptly" (verse 2), but Jotham himself seems to have gone quietly forward. Notice the highlighted verse: he achieved true strength by ordering His ways according to God's way. Perhaps three things helped this man. First, he reigned during during a time when the prophet Isaiah was ministering to his nation. Second, his mother appears to have been from the godly priestly line of Zadok. Third, Jotham obviously profited by his father's example in that he followed the good and shunned the bad. All good influences are to be valued, but the ultimate note is personal: "He ordered his ways before the Lord." If a man will do this, he will profit from every experience and observation he has, distinguishing between good and evil, and making choices according to the will of God.

2 Chronicles 28:22 "In the time of his distress this same King Ahaz became yet more unfaithful to the Lord." The reign of Jotham's son Ahaz was a period of terrible and rapid degeneracy in Judah. With appalling fearlessness King Ahaz restored all the evils of idolatry, even including the horrific offering of children as sacrifices to Moloch. It is likely his own son was a victim. As difficulties gathered around him, he turned to the king of Assyria for aid, attempting to get help from him by giving him treasure from the Temple. His extreme evil is seen in that national disasters did not produce the effect in him that they did so often in his predecessors: a willingness to abandon his sin. Ahaz was evil by deliberate choice, persistent in evil despite calamity, and defiantly blasphemous despite direct prophetic warnings. Moreover, Isaiah 7 informs us that Ahaz openly and deliberately rejected any sign from God (but God gave him a dramatic one anyway). His is a solemn and searching story, revealing how possible it is to yield one's life so completely to evil that prosperity merely feeds its degeneracy, and adversity only hardens the will in wickedness.

2 Chronicles 29:31 "Now that you have consecrated yourselves to the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the house of the Lord." With the accession of Ahaz's son Hezekiah to the throne, a great change came over the life of Judah. For a period there was a definite arrest in the process of degeneration. The reformation he successfully carried out by God's Spirit began with a deep awareness of his people's wretched spiritual condition and the reason for it. We see that plainly in his address at the beginning of this chapter to the priests and Levites he gathered before the defiled Temple he intended to purify. Not once did he suggest that the calamities their nation suffered were in any way unjust. To the contrary, he traced the story of their sin, declaring that what came from it was the wrath of God expressing itself righteously in their disasters. Hezekiah then began the work of restoring the true order of worship, the first order of business being a literal cleansing of the Temple. Some idea of the nation's calamitous condition may be gained from the fact that the Levites were occupied for 16 days in removing unclean items from the sacred precincts. Once that was done, there followed a ceremony of re-dedication, preceded by the highlighted comment from Hezekiah. It demonstrates his true sense of procedure. Sacrifices and thank offerings are acceptable only when those offering them are themselves consecrated to the Lord. We find the same principle in the apostle Paul's description of a poor but generous church: "They first gave themselves to the Lord and then to us by the will of God" (2 Corinthians 8:5). Contributions to God's work are valuable only as gifts from people who are themselves yielded to God.

2 Chronicles 30:10 "The couriers passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them." This chapter gives us an extra glimpse into what made Hezekiah a man of such great character. For a long time the ordained feasts of the Lord had been neglected, both in the Northern Kingdom and his own Southern Kingdom. When Hezekiah determined to arrange for the keeping of Passover, it is moving to see that his heart went out to the whole nation. Therefore he sent messengers throughout Israel as well as Judah to invite people to come celebrate in Jerusalem. The hopeless corruption of Israel as a whole is seen in the highlighted statement that those couriers were treated with disdain and mockery. The action of the king was justified and rewarded, however, because a remnant came to Jerusalem to take part in the sacred observance. It was a motley crowd that assembled, and most were completely unaware of the divine arrangements for preparation. Hezekiah's tenderness is seen in the pity he felt for those people and the prayer he offered on their behalf. His prayer was answered, and the imperfect preparations were pardoned because these were people who set their hearts on seeking God. This largeness of heart always characterizes men and women who truly enjoy fellowship with God, for it is in harmony with the Lord's own heart. Such action may be misunderstood by the majority of those on whose behalf it is inspired, but it glorifies God in the opportunity it gives loyal souls to avail themselves of it.

2 Chronicles 31:21 "Every work he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered." This chapter gives an account of the work that followed the worship. The reconstruction of national life flowed from the return to God expressed in the great celebration of the Passover feast. Before the remnant from Israel returned to their ancestral homes, they joined Hezekiah and his people in destroying all that remained of idolatry throughout the cites of Judah and even some in Ephraim and Manasseh. The king then set in order the courses of priests and Levites, rearranged the sacrificial offerings according to God's Law, and "commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might devote themselves to the Law of the Lord" (verse 4). The people responded graciously and positively. Our chapter concludes with the highlighted verse. The special value of every work King Hezekiah undertook was the thoroughness with which he carried it out. Notice his purpose, method, and  result. His purpose was to "seek his God," an expression equivalent to what Jesus commanded in the Sermon on the Mount: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). His method was completion devotion "with all his heart." The result was prosperity or success in every work he attempted. A right purpose and a true method always produce the highest results.

2 Chronicles 32:1 "After these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah." These are the surprising words that immediately follow the high summary of King Hezekiah's works. It seems a strange response from God to the faithfulness of His servant that a strong enemy should at this moment invade the Southern Kingdom. From 2 Kings 18 we learn that Hezekiah cast off the Assyrian yoke that his father Ahaz had sought out to wear. Sennacherib responded by invading Judah, and in a moment of weakness Hezekiah paid him a ridiculously heavy tribute and yielded to his rule, hoping to buy him off. The result was not what he desired, for Sennacherib now demanded an unconditional surrender. In this hour of crisis, resulting partly from his own vacillation, his faith and courage were renewed. He took immediate action to hinder his foe by removing their access to water, strengthening his fortifications, mobilizing his army, and finally by assuring his people that "the One with us is greater than the one with him" (verse 7). Then, in answer to further threatening, he and the prophet Isaiah prayed together. The answer was quick and final: the Assyrian army was completely destroyed and King Sennacherib returned home in shame. The lessons of the story are clear. If amid general faithfulness there is any measure of unfaithfulness, difficulty will come. A return to complete fidelity is always answered by deliverance. God always demands complete loyalty from His servants, and when that is given from the heart, He never fails to be to them all they need.

2 Chronicles 33:13 "Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God." This is an insightful chapter about the two kings who followed Hezekiah: Manasseh and Amon, father and son. Both followed the way of wickedness. One under discipline repented and was forgiven; the other refused to humble himself and was cut off without remedy. The repentance of Manasseh was evidently the chief subject in the mind of the chronicler because God's response provides a clear picture of the divine character. Notice the highlighted text: Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God, a reference to divine forgiveness and restoration in response to human prayer and repentance. The readiness of God to pardon is a picture of light and beauty in the midst of prevailing darkness, for the sins of Manasseh are grimly chronicled, but God is always gracious toward a truly penitent soul. To paraphrase Ezekiel 18:32, God has no pleasure in the death of a Manasseh, but declares instead Repent and Live! Nevertheless, if an Amon will not humble himself before his God, there is no escape from retribution for his sins. The rule of God is fixed in righteousness. Manasseh and Amon were both in His power. One found healing by yielding; the other found destruction by rebelling. By His readiness to forgive, God is known in all the fullness of His power. But men and women who refuse to learn that while they live will learn by His just judgments in His wrath.

2 Chronicles 34:29 "Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem." That underline tells us something important about Josiah, the amazingly good king who followed Manasseh and Amon. It draws attention to the fact that Josiah went on with the work of spiritual reformation, even when he knew that nationally it was doomed to failure. The story of his life and reign is full of brightness. Ascending the throne when only 8 years old, we are told he began to seek after God when he was 16. Four years later he set himself to the actual work of reformation. At 26 he turned to the work of repairing the Temple, which was when the neglected Book of the Law was discovered. Filled with dread over what he learned about how extensively his nation was violating the revealed Word and will of God, he consulted Huldah the prophetess. She distinctly told him there would be no true repentance on the part of the people, and therefore judgment was inevitable. It was then that the heroic strength of Josiah manifested itself because he went on with his work, fulfilling his obligations as he saw them. Jeremiah the prophet began his ministry when Josiah was 21 years old (Jeremiah 1:2), a fact that may help to account for the action of the king. No pathway of service is more difficult than representing God's Word and work among people who are unresponsive or hostile. Josiah and Jeremiah surely encouraged one another to be faithful, and God richly rewarded them both.

2 Chronicles 35:22 "Nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God." This is one of those arresting illustrations we find in the Old Testament that nations and kings outside the people of the Theocracy were under the government of God, and in some sense conscious of that fact. The highlighted words of the chronicler attest to the accuracy of what the Egyptian pharaoh Neco claimed in the message he sent to King Josiah, who was tempted to interfere in Neco's war with another nation. In the message Neco specifically wrote, "What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you" (verse 21). Josiah's not listening to that message cost him his life. Such a story rightly makes us pause and wonder if we are justified in refusing to consider a word claimed as a divine message, even when it comes from unexpected sources. How are we to know if that which claims divine authority has any right to make the claim? So far as this story is concerned, the answer is plain. Josiah had no right to be fighting for Neco's enemy. His only reason for doing so must have been for some supposed political advantage. Against that kind of action the prophets were constantly warning the kings. A word claiming to be from God, forbidding what God has already forbidden in His Word, has a weight of moral appeal. Thus may we test such messages. If they contradict divine revelation, we may rest assured the claim is false. If they agree, we do well to heed them since God may speak in many and unexpected ways.

2 Chronicles 36:21 "To fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah." Jeremiah conducted a prophetic ministry in Judah for 40 years, but—as God told him beforehand—without success in directing the people back to God. Through stress and strain against keen hostility, Jeremiah continued to declare the Word of the Lord to a stubborn and rebellious people. In the highlighted words our chronicler reminds us that both God and Jeremiah were vindicated by the sad march of events recorded in this chapter. All the things Jeremiah had foretold in obedience to God were literally fulfilled. The writings of this great prophet, preserved for us, show he had no joy in the sorrows that befell his people through their sins, but rather the acutest suffering. Nevertheless he must have had great satisfaction at last that he had been true to the Word of the Lord, which proved true in and of itself. The Word of the Lord is always fulfilled. Happy indeed, in the deepest sense of the word, is the person who never fails or falters in proclaiming God's Word. It is not the selfish joy of seeing things turn out as he or she predicted, but rather the high joy of being honored to serve as a messenger to deliver the Word that cannot fail.

 

No comments:

Post a Comment