Lectures on 2 Chronicles 32-36

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
But now we find the Assyrian (chap. 32). “And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, he took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water. Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David; and made darts and shields in abundance. And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is Jehovah our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (vers. 2-8).
So Sennacherib sends his servants with a most insulting message, and these letters and oral insults were meant to alarm and stir up the people even against the king. “For this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz prayed and cried to heaven. And Jehovah sent an angel which cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he was come into the house of his god, they that came forth of his own bowels slew him there with the sword. Thus Jehovah saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib.”
We are told very briefly, also, of the sickness of Hezekiah and of the Lord's marvelous recovery of him. “But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up"; and even this good king thus brings wrath upon Israel. Again, it is the king that decides all. How blessed when there is a king reigning in righteousness, when all will be decided in favor of the people without a flaw. That is the purpose of God, and these kings on whom the burden rested then were the witnesses of the King that is coming; for I trust that all here believe that the Lord Jesus will not only be exalted in heaven but in the earth. It is a great failure in the faith of any man, and a sad gap in the creed of those who do not believe that the Lord Jesus is going to reign over the earth. What has God made the earth for? For the devil? It would look like it if the Lord is not going to reign, for Satan has had it his own way ever since sin came into the world. Is the earth for Satan even in the midst of God's people? Oh, no! All things were made for Christ. All things are by Him. In all things He will have the preeminence.
In the dispensation of the fullness of times all will be gathered under the headship of Christ—not merely things in heaven, but things on earth; and then will be the blessed time which people vainly hope for now—the time when nation will not war against nation, and when men will learn war no more.
There will be such a day; but it is reserved for Christ, not for the church. It is reserved for Christ when the church is out of the world. In fact, so far from the church correcting the world she has not been able to keep her own purity. The church has sold herself to the world, and is now merely like all unfaithful spouses that have betrayed their true husbands. Now the world is tired of her, and is beating her away with shame and scorn. This is going on in all lands. The days are fast coming when there will not be a land in the world where the church —for which Christ gave Himself—is not cast off. I do not say that to excuse the world, but I do say it to take the shame of it to ourselves. For, undoubtedly, had the church walked in purity, she would never have sought the world's glory, nor have been in the world's embraces, and would never have been exposed to the world's casting her off as a wretched and corrupt woman.
Well (chap. 33.), Manasseh follows this pious king, who now has been called to sleep. The ways of Manasseh were first, a most painful outburst of all abomination; yet of the mercy of God at the last; for this very Manasseh after his sin—after he had made Judah and Jerusalem to sin, and do worse than the heathen, is taken by the king of Assyria and carried to Babylon, and there taught with thorns; but in affliction he humbles himself before the God of his fathers and prays to Him; and God heard and brought him back again. “Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah he was God” (ver. 12). This is a history most peculiar. Others, alas had begun well and ended ill. He began as ill as any had ever done, and worse than any before; but he had a blessed end. He took away the strange gods and idols which he had himself set up, and the altars that he had made, and he repairs the altar and offers peace-offerings and thank-offerings, and commanded Judah to serve Jehovah. And “so Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house; and Amon his son reigned in his stead.” But Amon did that which was evil, according to his father's beginning, not according to his end; “and his servants conspired against him and slew him in his own house, and made his son Josiah king in his stead.”
Josiah was a king as remarkable for conscientious service of God as any man that ever reigned in Judah. How remarkable—not, alas! that a pious king should have an impious son, but that an impious father should have a pious son. This indeed was grace.
Josiah, then, and his reformation is brought before us (chap 34). He was young when he began to reign—only eight years old—and “in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence, and the images that were on high above them, he cut down: and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars” —nothing could be more thorough—going than this action against the false gods— “and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so did he in the cities of Manasseh and Ephraim and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about. And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.”
For, you observe, he goes beyond his own sphere. He goes out into “the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali.”
There is amazing vigor in this young king. “And in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land, and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of Jehovah his God.” And God shows him signal mercy, for there it was that the priest Hilkiah found the book of the law of Jehovah given to Moses. “And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of Jehovah. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan.” The king hears of it, and just as I have said, his conscience is the remarkable part of this good king, for when he hears the words of Jehovah he rends his clothes. Had he not been pious? Had he not been faithful? Yes, but he forgot the things that were behind, and he pressed towards those that were before. He did not think of the good that he had done, but of the evil that, alas! was still around him and of the good that he had not done and that remained before him.
So he sends, saying, “Go, inquire of Jehovah for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found, for great is the wrath of Jehovah that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of Jehovah, to do after all that is written in this book.” And God answers his desires. “And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvath,” and she gives the answer from Jehovah, and the king acts upon it, and humbles himself before the Lord. “And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.”
He, too, keeps a passover (chap. 35.). He kept it, as we are told, on the fourteenth day of the first month, for now things were more in order as far as this was concerned. The preparations were made more orderly than in the hurried preparations of king Hezekiah, which they were obliged to keep in the second month. This chapter gives us a full account of this striking passover. There was no passover, we are told, like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet. Of Hezekiah's it was said there had been none such since the days of Solomon; but of Josiah's it is said, “since the days of Samuel.” We have to go up to earlier times to find with what to compare it. The reformation, therefore, was remarkably complete in appearance. Alas! what was beneath the surface was corrupt and vile—not in Josiah, nor in certain godly ones that gathered in sympathy round the king, but in the mass of the people: and Josiah himself shows, after this, the usual failure of man, for he goes out unbidden against the king of Egypt when he had come against Charchemish; and, though he is warned by Pharaoh that he does not wish to fight with him, Josiah would not turn back. “He disguised himself that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and cattle to fight in the valley of Megiddo. And the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away, for I am sore wounded. His servants therefore took him out of that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchers of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.” Yet not they only; there was one heart more true than any—Jeremiah. Jeremiah knew from the Lord that there was buried the last worthy representative of the house of David. All that followed was only a shame and a scandal. It was but the filling up of the measure of their sins that they might be carried away into Babylon. Josiah was taken from the evil to come. “Jeremiah lamented for Josiah; and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel; and behold they are written in the Lamentations.”
“Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz” for, indeed, it could not be said to be God now in any sense: “The people of the land took Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, and made him king in his father's stead in Jerusalem. Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem” (chap. 36.). And his brother, or near relative at any rate, Eliakim, was made king, with his name changed to Jehoiakim. But as the king of Egypt made him king, so the king of Babylon unmade him, for he comes up and carries him to Babylon, and sets up Jehoiachin his son in his stead. And he too did what was evil and was brought to Babylon; and Zedekiah his brother, as we are told, was made king over Judah and Jerusalem. He brings the disasters of Jerusalem to their last crisis, for he it was who was sworn by the oath of Jehovah, and broke it, and gave the awful spectacle before the world, that a heathen had more respect for the name of Jehovah than the king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar trusted that that name, at least, would have moral weight. Zedekiah feared it less than Nebuchadnezzar. Impossible, therefore, that God should allow such a stain to remain upon the throne and the house of David; so destruction came to the uttermost, and the last portion of Judah was swept away by the Chaldees, and the land must enjoy her sabbaths, “for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath to fulfill threescore and ten years.” And thus we see them in captivity till God raises up Cyrus to make the way back for a remnant of Judah.
W.K.
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