Thoughts on 2 Chronicles 12-16

2 Chronicles 12‑16  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
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Now for a season Israel's glory is gone. Satan had succeeded in causing it to depart, but could not annul God's purpose concerning Christ. Therefore is Judah preserved, and prophets are sent if they have ears to hear. Ephraim rebelled against David's house, Judah rejected Christ, the greater Son of David; they hated Him without a cause. Cæsar, even Barabbas, was preferred to Him.
In revolting against Rehoboam Israel cut themselves off from the governmental channel of blessing, and as if to close up every means of communication from God one of the first acts of Jeroboam was to set up calves for Israel's worship. We know how the mercy and patience of God rose above even this insult. He sent them prophets, notably Elijah and Elisha. Did not some of the kings of Judah do as bad, or worse; setting up the idols of the Gentiles, and shutting up the temple of the Lord? Yet guilty as they were, even exceeding Israel in their abominations, they are kept and watched over by God, and Judah never rebelled against the house of David—not till Christ came; and then all their sin culminated in this, We have no king but Cæsar.
Until the captivity there were transient glimpses of light in their dark downward course. For in the longsuffering of God, a king who did right in the sight of the Lord sometimes sat upon the throne of Judah, and after the return of the remnant from Babylon, prophets were sent both to cheer the godly, and warn the wicked. But God was working for His name's sake. And the key to His forbearance is that Christ was to come of the tribe of Judah, and if this is the key to God's infinite patience and longsuffering, the key to Judah's persistent and increasing sin is that Satan was trying to make Judah's sin, if possible, exceed the forbearance of God. And apparently, he succeeded, for we do read— “until there was no remedy.” God did indeed send His last, His best: what other remedy could there be? Only we know that Satan's apparent triumph at the cross is God's real victory. “Now is the prince of the world judged.”
The rest of Chronicles is but the record of Judah's rapid descent from the sin of Solomon to the exceeding wickedness of the sons of Josiah, all which called forth the denunciation of the prophets and caused the misery which made Jeremiah weep.
How short-lived is the glory that depends upon the faithfulness of man! The temple that Solomon built is spoiled and robbed in the days of his son. For gold there is brass. When He comes and brings back glory to Israel, this will be reversed, “For brass I will bring gold” (Isa. 60:1717For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. (Isaiah 60:17)). God takes pleasure in undoing the work of sin, symbolically expressed by the prophet, though doubtless true literally, for the gold and the silver are His.
But God was beginning to pour out His wrath, and He brings them under that same power from which He with a mighty and outstretched arm had at the beginning delivered them. Their sin and rebellion against God had been the fruitful cause of internal division (ten tribes gone) and external disaster (Shishak the Egyptian). But the God of all grace says that, if they cry to Him and own His righteousness, He will give them deliverance. “I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” (12: 6-8). Mercy lingered over the already doomed city; and while it waited, sin increased. Rehoboam's life is summed up in the words, “he did evil.” But is it not said that he walked wisely during the first three years of his reign? Yea, but the prophet says, “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die” (Ezek. 18:2424But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die. (Ezekiel 18:24)). The days of his wisdom are not mentioned, and the judgment of God upon him is “he did evil.” Was it not a very special act of disobedience to make constant war against Jeroboam when the Lord had expressly forbidden him to fight?
The Levites showed their fidelity by leaving their possessions and going to Jerusalem, but it was equally a proof that the whole system established under David, and instituted by the Lord, was broken and gone. For they had their appointed possessions in all the coasts of Israel. It was one of the external marks of God's order in Israel; to forsake them would be disobedience to God's command. But when that order was broken by the nation's sin, it was according to God's mind to leave their possessions which had become now defiled, and to assemble at the place where the Lord's name was still recorded. So now, when we find defilement and sin sanctioned in that which pretends to the Lord's name, absolute and complete separation from evil, whatever its appearance, is the true path for every Christ-honoring believer.
Abijah comes, and follows in his father's steps as to war with Israel. His battle with Jeroboam, and God's deliverance of Judah and judgment upon Israel, is all that is recorded under his rule, unless it be summed up in ver. 21 (ch. 13.). Abijah reasons with the revolted tribes. Was this mere human policy, an attempt to win back Israel to himself, or real concern as to their condition before God? Be his motive what it may, it was no less a call to Israel to return to the Lord God of their fathers. Israel heeded not, but even sought to destroy this testimony and set an ambush against Judah. Judah cries, and God delivers. Is not this deliverance equally a call to Judah? A reminder of God's faithfulness “if they cry to me I will hear;” if we may so speak, it is God redeeming His pledge, His mercy and truth rising infinitely above their transgression, however low and fallen they might be; if they called, God would hear. So Solomon prayed.
In the beginning of Asa's reign the deepening gloom is stayed for a brief moment. A gleam of light shoots across the dark scene, and reveals how great the darkness. The idols that were in Judah and Benjamin he puts away. How evident the spread of idolatry, how greatly increased, to require a law to put it down! In his zeal he decrees that “whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death.” Did you ever know idolatry, or any sin, put away by commandment? It may hide its head: idolaters may seem to throw their idols to the moles and the bats, but it exists and is rather strengthened by repressive laws. Its seat is in the heart and the idol is only the outward symbol, the visible index of the heart's enmity against God. And so in Judah when a good king would uproot it out of the land, it always burst forth with increased power when an evil king succeeded. (Chap. 15:17). The heart of Asa was perfect all his days, perfect outwardly in zeal against idolatry. But a more searching test awaits him, and this exposes the state of his heart; for while things that look well, and have a fair appearance, may win a good name among those that cannot look beneath the surface, He Who searches the heart, and knows what man is, brings out to view sufficient at least that saints and godly men may have a true judgment of things in their reality. Perhaps not now every hidden evil, but in the great coming day every secret thing will be revealed. When the believers' hidden, perhaps unsuspected, evil is made known before the judgment seat of Christ, all will be to the glory of His grace. But when the books are opened, and the sin and hidden evils of those who live and die in the rejection of the Savior, it will be for their everlasting condemnation.
The attempt of Baasha against the kingdom of Judah, brings out the want of faith in Asa's heart, that he had no confidence in God. His unceasing activity in zeal against idolatry had no reality in his soul. The sun arose in the form of Baasha's invasion, and this outward piety withers away, because there was no depth of earth. He goes to the king of Syria for help, there is not even the appearance of going to God. Asa has brought silver and gold into the house of God; now he gives these treasures to Benhadad, and adds thereto treasures from his own house. All this is glory of the kingdom departing from the house of David; it may be a Jeroboam, a Shishak, or a Benhadad, but God is accomplishing His own will, though every succeeding stroke of His judgment had its immediate occasion in the king's increasing sin. And now we see Asa outwardly zealous against idols, inwardly no faith in God, (and without faith it is impossible to please Him); and when reproved by the prophet Hanani, he puts him in prison, and at the same time oppresses some of the people. How evidently the king and the people are departing from God, for those that remain faithful to Him, are oppressed and imprisoned. These were some of that remnant which God always, even in the darkest times, reserved for Himself. God, Who waits patiently until the measure of iniquity is filled, applies another test to the unfaithful king, a bodily personal trial. The result is the same, and his want of faith appears in another aspect. Not God's merciful interposition, but man's aid; first the Syrian, Gentile help against Israel, now he goes to the physicians. Two years before he died he was diseased in his feet and it became exceeding great. Yet he sought not the. Lord but went to the physicians (xvi. 12): pregnant words. His unbelief is not in simply applying to the physicians, in using providential means, but looking only to man, and in forgetting God. But the physicians could not help him. “And Asa slept with his fathers.” How solemn and graphic the words of scripture! He is diseased, goes to a physician, and dies! Yea, now, as well as then, if God be forgotten, vain is the help of man!
So far we mark the descending steps of Judah. First, idolatry creeping into the king's house, then becoming general among the people insomuch that Asa in the early years of his reign makes a law against it. What a change in a comparatively short time from the bright early days of Solomon! Yea, what a change from Asa first to last, from the time when he did not spare even his own mother (xv. 16) to the time when he put Hanani in prison and oppressed some of the people. So forgetful of God, of His mercy and of His promise, and His claims upon them, that he seeks aid from the Syrian, and we have this wonderful, even monstrous thing, Judah seeking and purchasing with Jehovah's treasures Gentile help against Israel. This tells their evil condition before God. Well, if they would worship the Gentiles' God, why not seek the Gentiles' aid? How different all is from the time when the Gentile brought tribute and presents, and kings came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
Hitherto how manifest the longsuffering and patient waiting of God. His partial judgment on the kings and nation, as well as His great mercies are His gracious calls to them to turn from their idols. And these calls ceased not till the hardness and perversity of their heart was shown to be evidently indomitable. “Why should ye be stricken any more?” So the whole nation after Jonah's death, took a deeper, we may say headlong, plunge into the darkest abyss of iniquity that an Israelite at that time could. I say at that time, for now apostate Christendom is sinking deeper than apostate-Israel did or could. And the rebellion of Israel against Jehovah their king is succeeded by Christendom practically denying the Lord that bought them while pretending to honor Him.
Yet let us remember, while we may be astonished at Israel's folly and wickedness, as the prophet calls upon the heavens &c. (Isa. 1:22Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:2)), that Jehovah was working all through for His name's sake, controlling their wickedness that His great name, as declared to Moses—longsuffering and gracious—might in the end shine forth in all the splendor of His majesty and in all the boundlessness of His love. And where are these two seen? In the cross where mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, met together, never to be seen apart forever.