Thoughts on 2 Chronicles 24-25

2 Chronicles 24‑25  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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The reign of Joash is summarized in chap. 24:18, and his life is condensed into three facts. (1) He left the house of the Lord, (2) he served idols, (3) wrath came. The nation follows the king. But God is still patient with Joash and with his people. He sends prophets to them, for though the judgment is so near, and as certain as their iniquity, He remembers His covenant with them. His mercy and long-suffering is most manifest toward Joash; for a special messenger is sent to him, one who naturally has some considerable claim on him, and who would be heard and attentively listened to beyond all others. The All-wise God knows how to use natural feelings for His purposes of mercy, and when these feelings are outraged, so much the greater evidence of the power of Satan over man. Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, and a cousin of the king, is the bearer of God's message and reproof. The life of the king, humanly speaking, is due to Jehoshabeath, and the king will (if from no other feeling than gratitude) listen to her son, though he heed not Him Who sent the words. And how then was God's message received? Just as the most hardened sinners receive it. “And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones, at the commandment of the king, in the court of the house of the Lord.” Joash forgat Jehoiada's kindness; and when Zechariah was dying he said “The Lord look upon it and require it.” A righteous cry, that which the Lord did look upon and require; but if we look for a gracious cry, which agrees with Christianity, hear it in the last words of Stephen, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” Little did Jehoshabeath think that she was hiding and preserving the murderer of her own children. Divine retribution is sometimes slow but always sure. About a year after the death of Zechariah, he is himself slain on his bed; his slayers did not commiserate him in his great diseases.
But while retribution is an essential element in the government of God, and plainly appears in ver. 25, there is something more important still than any such requital. The line of kings, of the sons of David, though for the time being so iniquitous (their position increasing their guilt), must be preserved until He, the great Son, comes Who shall reign in righteousness.
Amaziah succeeds his father, in mercy to the people, but in faithfulness to His covenant with Israel. The stream of iniquity from Solomon to Zedekiah is frequently turned aside, but not uninterruptedly as in the case of the revolted apostate tribes, where, from Jeroboam to Hoshea, all did evil. And we see in this how the Lord Jehovah rises above the provocation of the sins of Judah. The great end which God has purposed within Himself is ever before Him, and to this He makes everything here below to tend, not the irresponsible creation only, but responsible and accountable man. Joash was righteously requited for the killing of Zechariah; the Lord required it of him, so that man is individually responsible and righteously judged, while every, the minutest, event is in His hand to control and direct as He shall please. How can man dare to pronounce upon such wisdom as this? Rather let us bow our heads and adore.
That an evil-doing son should succeed a righteous father is a proof that an evil nature is not made good by righteous example or precept, though that evil nature may become apparently worse through unrighteousness being constantly presented and enforced by example and precept. But that a son even in such circumstances should do that which is right in the sight of the Lord, when a righteous son succeeds a wicked father, is a proof of the interposition of God in the power of His grace. So in this case Amaziah, who did right, succeeds Joash his father who at last did wickedly. It was a little brightness for Judah, but only a short time; for “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.” And before he died, the little brightness passed away, and domestic treachery deals with him as with his father.
Notwithstanding the exceeding wickedness found among the sons of David, imperatively calling for divine vengeance, the true Heir, the promised Son, must sit on David's throne, and the kingdom must be established in righteousness. For much more than that kingdom hangs upon the coming of the Son. The world waits for His coming to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and for the display of the glory of God; for not only Israel and Judah are to be one kingdom then, but the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Hab. 2:1414For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14)). And more than these, there is His glory as the head of the church, as the great Firstborn from the dead. We speak not of His coming with grace, bringing salvation; but of His coming in glory completing our salvation. There was a due time for the former, there is also for the latter. If, as the prophet says, it was but a little thing to gather Israel compared to the being God's salvation to the ends of the earth, so we may with the utmost reverence say, that His glory filling the whole earth is but a little thing compared with the glory of redeeming the church, giving Himself for it and cleansing it from every spot and stain and blemish, and then presenting it to Himself, and making it the vehicle of His glory to the delivered world.
As the evil of man, and the persistent malignity of Satan become increasingly prominent, we also see how both are used of God to show forth the richness of His grace toward man and the Almightiness of His power and control of all the attempts of Satan; and that in spite of all these, yea, and sometimes by using them, God is bringing to pass His own immutable purpose. In this history in the Chronicles, we learn the patient long-suffering of God, His constant rising in goodness and mercy over all the evil in Judah till—in crucifying the Lord—it reached and touched the throne of God. Then there was no remedy, no more patience (save for the few disciple's whom the Lord would gather out of Jerusalem, and hide them during the storm of wrath and vengeance, as He did, in old time, save Lot from the overthrow of Sodom), no reason why the threatened judgment should any longer be delayed. In pursuing this history we see—perhaps plainer than elsewhere—not only how vain, but also how untiring, Satan was in all his attempts to destroy the family of David, or to make it so vile that God in His righteous anger might destroy it. See his attempts in Solomon's declension, Jeroboam's rebellion, and Rehoboam's folly. The checkered history of Judah since Rehoboam; the forsakings of the temple, the consequent invasions of the land by enemies, then outward repentance; the stupid iniquity of conquering a people and then worshipping the gods of the vanquished nation;—is not Satan's hand discernible in all this? But there is worse to come.
Notwithstanding, the wisdom of God knew how to combine His purpose of grace with His righteous government. Each evil king as a responsible man is judged in righteousness; in which all the unsaved will be judged. But the decree founded on grace is eternal and unchangeable. The Son of David shall, must, reign. The government shall be upon His shoulders, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
Amaziah begins well. He did well in not slaying the children of his father's murderers, in appointing captains over thousands, over hundreds throughout all Judah and Benjamin; but when he hired soldiers out of Israel, it was not well. Jehoshaphat was rebuked for giving aid to Ahab, to Israel; Amaziah seeks aid from Israel, and hires apostates. In the former, there was the appearance of Judah's superiority; now under Amaziah there is more marked indifference to the name of God, and to the associations of His people. As a nation they were in a weaker condition, for Jehoshaphat giving help to Ahab is certainly greater than Amaziah receiving soldiers from Israel. Later, the king of Israel in his conscious superiority compared himself to a cedar in Lebanon, while he contemptuously likened Amaziah to a thistle, that a boar out of the wood could trample on. Amaziah felt the truth of this afterward (ver. 22).
Jehoshaphat made friendship with the enemies of God; as the professing church has joined affinity with the world in many things. We know who has said “The friendship of the world is enmity with God.” And when the professing church helped Constantine to the throne of the world, it was not the church overcoming the world, but yielding herself (i.e. the professing mass) as a stepping stone to the world's power and grandeur. The world and the church shook hands over the cross, and thus cemented their friendship (unfaithfulness with hypocrisy) which has continued ever since. This was surely high treason against our Lord and Master. The world smiles upon the professing mass—Christendom—and they love to have it so. Christendom sleeps in the arms of the world and rests there, subsisting by the world's power.
So Amaziah, professing right, and indeed doing right at first, seeks to strengthen himself by means of the haters of God; and the nominal church has followed in the wake of Amaziah and Judah. In all this history we see the rapid sinking of Judah into the mire of idolatry; but we see also that Christendom has plunged as deeply into worldliness. When the body calling itself Christian gave up its place of separation from the world and took that of affinity with it, prostituting its power and influence to the service of the world, and receiving in return the world's smiles and riches (as was really the case when the famous edict of Milan in A.D. 319 or 313 was published, which places Christianity and paganism on the same level, i.e. an “act of toleration,” the world in its wisdom began to tolerate the name of Christ), the so-called Christian church was like the ten tribes that followed Jeroboam. They no sooner left the temple than they worshipped golden calves. Christendom has forsaken the place of pilgrims and sojourners, assigned to them by the rejected Lord, and made obeisance to the world.
Upon being rebuked by the prophet, Amaziah thinks of the hundred talents; must he lose them in sending away the Israelitish soldiers? The prophet removes his anxiety. “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” God rewards his obedience, imperfect as it is, and gives him victory over Edom; and he takes many captives. His treatment of them was barbarous; the Holy Spirit does not sanction it, but relates the fact (25:12). But if his obedience to the divine command was due partly to the assurance that he should not lose his hundred talents, his obedience was not with a perfect heart. And he has to feel the consequences of his error. The dismissed soldiers soon showed their true character; they were mere mercenaries. Whether for or against Judah it mattered not, it was plunder they wanted; therefore no wonder that they were angry, for they expected abundant booty. They had their revenge on the cities of Judah.
But there is a higher stand-point whence to look at the hiring of these Israelites. The Lord was not with them, and the incorporating of them with the army of Judah was obliterating the mark of distinction which had been made by God (as worshippers in the temple at Jerusalem, and as worshippers of the two calves), save as He mercifully remembered them, and sent prophets unto them, notably Elijah and Elisha. Would it not be a triumph for Satan, if he could not join all the tribes in a general apostasy, to amalgamate their armies? For then whatever victory the Lord would give to Judah must be shared by apostate Israel. This the Lord would not permit, and His word is, Send them home. If we give occasion to the enemy to mix himself up with the affairs of the church in ever so small a matter, under whatever pretext, we are sure to suffer. In the righteous government of God, the evil consequences of previous folly may appear, even though that folly, or sin be repented of and forgiveness received. David repented and was forgiven; the Lord put away his sin, but the consequences were felt all through his life. He felt the sword in his bitter wail for Absalom (2 Sam. 18:3333And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33)), in the insurrection of Sheba the Ephraimite, and in his last days the futile attempt of Adonijah to usurp the crown which God had given to Solomon. All these were but the accomplishment of the Lord's word by Nathan. “The sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Sam. 12:1010Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. (2 Samuel 12:10)).
Now comes (ver. 14) the most amazing folly. He returns victorious over the Edomites, and with extreme brutishness worships the gods of the people he had vanquished. One could perhaps better understand how a heathen would bow down to the gods of his conquerors. But that Amaziah who began his reign well though not with a perfect heart, should worship the idols of those that he had conquered, is an act of folly and stupidity; which can only be accounted for by the fact that Satan was behind it all, hurrying king and people to their ruin, and that God in judgment permitted blindness to fall upon them, which in a succeeding reign was judicially decreed (Isa. 6).