Lectures on 2 Chronicles 13-20

 •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Abijah follows (chap. 13.), and he sets the battle in array against Jeroboam, and calls upon the men of Israel to follow. “But Jeroboam caused an ambushment,” and, in consequence, we find Judah looking back; but they cried unto Jehovah, and He was with them, and “God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. And the children of Israel fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hand,” spite of all their prudent arrangements and their numerous host. “So there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men.” The slaughter was prodigious, and not only so, but Abijah pursues his advantage and takes cities from them, so that Jeroboam never recovered strength again. Jehovah was against him.
Thus we see that God, after reproving the fault of Rehoboam by tying up his hands, was pleased to judge the fault of Jeroboam with a complete destruction of his men of war—the very thing in which he prided himself. God's government is always righteous. I am speaking now of His providential ways, and, I say, they are always wise and good.
Then in chapter 14 we have Asa. “And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of Jehovah his God: for he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: and commanded Judah to seek Jehovah God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him. And he built fenced cities in Judah.” And, further, we find that he was blest of God in his day of trial when the Ethiopians came against him. “And Asa cried unto Jehovah his God, and said, Jehovah, [it is] nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that hath no power: help us, O Jehovah our God, for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Jehovah, thou [art] Our God; let not man prevail against thee. So Jehovah smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled. And Asa and the people that [were] with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before Jehovah, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil. And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of Jehovah came upon them; and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them.”
Nevertheless, Asa has a warning, from Azariah who says, “Jehovah is with you while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. But when they in their trouble did turn unto Jehovah, God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. And in those times [there was] no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations [were] upon all the inhabitants of the countries. And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity. Be ye strong, therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded” (chap. 15). Asa takes courage from this for the time, and puts away still more the abominations out of Judah and Benjamin. And, further, he even put down his mother from being queen—no doubt a most serious trial to the son; but she was an idolatress. “And Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burned it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless, the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.” He was sincere, upright. “And he brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels.”
But Asa's day of failure comes (chap. 16.). When Baasha, king of Israel, came up against Judah, and built Ramah in order to hinder the Israelites from going up to the temple, Asa makes a league with Syria. He has recourse to Benhadad and says, “There is a league between me and thee, as there was between my father and thy father; behold, I have sent thee silver and gold; go, break thy league with Baasha, king of Israel, that he may depart from me.” Ben-hadad accordingly stopped the building of Ramah by the king of Israel. “And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa, king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on Jehovah thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thy hand.”
How remarkable is the government of God. Whatever wrong step we do to accomplish an end, not only does it not accomplish it, but it brings its own chastening with it. The very thing we least desire comes upon us. God would not only have hindered Israel, but Syria. Instead of this, the host of the king of Syria escaped out of his hands. The consequence was that, convicted of his folly as well as of his sin, Asa was wrath with the seer and put him in a prison-house: and as one evil leads on to another, Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time. But God oppressed him, or, at any rate, chastised him, for he was diseased in his feet; and the same unbelief that sent him to Ben-hadad sent him now to men when he ought to have looked to Jehovah. We must remember that the grand point in Israel was that they had God to care for them. It was not like the case of men now who look to God to bless the means that are at hand; but in Israel there was a special testimony of God being looked to in every trouble; and in this, Asa, although he had been a faithful man, failed seriously, and very solemnly too, at the close. I do not say that he was not a man of God, but I do say that there was great and grievous failure.
Jehoshaphat his son reigns (chap. 17). And here we find very beautiful grace and piety. I should say that piety more particularly is what characterizes this good son. He was a man; too, whose heart was towards the Lord. Jehoshaphat is established by Jehovah in the kingdom, and all Judah brought him presents, and he had riches and honor in abundance. But although all this is true, “His heart was lifted up in the ways of Jehovah: moreover, he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.” Nevertheless, there was no removing of all the evil. There was a greater fidelity than had been found before. “And they taught in Judah, and had the book, of the law of Jehovah with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people.” It was a very important thing. “And the fear of Jehovah fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah.” So there was a very great moral effect produced.
Still there was, as we see in the next chapter (18), a feebleness in Jehoshaphat that showed itself in this way, that he made affinity, not with Syria, but with Israel. This was a grievous sin in the sight of God, for although it was an enormous thing to form a league with the Gentiles offensive and defensive, it was a most serious thing to take ground with an idolater. I do not speak of making use of the Gentiles. That was right. But Israel stood in a peculiar position (with its golden calves set up in Bethel and Dan!) so that Jehoshaphat's affinity with Ahab its king was in a certain sense more guilty than a league with Syria. Why? Because they were the people of God in an idolatrous state. It is just the same thing now in tampering with Romanism, because the gravamen of the guilt of Romanism is not merely because Romanists are idolaters, but because they are idolaters professing Christ, and baptized in His name. That is what makes them much more guilty in the sight of God than any heathens who have not heard his name and glory.
So it is in this case then Jehoshaphat having formed this league comes into nothing but trouble through it, though, apparently, there might be an outward prosperity. A messenger is sent to him (chap. 19) who warns him solemnly, but in vain. He suffers the consequence of it. The king of Israel was smitten. The king of Judah returns and dwells at Jerusalem.
God, however, graciously met his faith when greatly tried, as we find in the 20th chapter, where the Moabites and Ammonites and others came and a beautiful instance of the piety of faith is shown us here in this way—for I shall only mention one single feature in this mere sketch of these chapters. It is that in going forth they went singing the song of victory. It was not like the Greek who raised his paean to frighten the enemy; but here it was the piety that Ventured and counted upon the Lord. How blessed is faith in the people of God! The consequence need scarcely be told. “The children of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of mount Seir, utterly to slay and destroy [them]; and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, every one helped to destroy another.” So that when the men of Judah came there was nothing to do but to reap the fruits. And well might they call it the valley of Berachah—the valley of praise. “For there they blessed Jehovah: therefore the name of the same place was called the valley of Berachah unto this day.”
So then ends the course of Jehoshaphat with one solitary tale more, namely, the attempt to join with “Ahaziah, king of Israel, who did very wickedly. And he joined himself with him to make ships to go to Tarshish: and they made the ships in Ezion-gaber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying,
Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, Jehovah hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, and they were not able to go to Tarshish (20:35-37).
What a contrast with Jehoshaphat going forth and the victory made ready to his hand by the Lord God. And this is all-instructive to us. May the Lord keep us true to His name and glory! [W.K.]
(To be continued)