Thoughts on 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The purging qualities of fire are often used symbolically to foretell Israel’s cleansing in the latter day. God’s judgments are a fire that will consume the wicked and purge the righteous. “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call upon my Name, and I will hear them, I will say it is my people and they shall say Jehovah is my God” (Zech. 13:99And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. (Zechariah 13:9)). “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto Jehovah an offering in righteousness” (Mal. 3:33And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)). The prophet’s vision of the angel cleansing his lips with a live coal, and the righteous remnant refined like silver and gold over the furnace, are correlative. Isaiah represents the righteous remnant, and they are symbolically purged with a flaming coal from the altar; in the future God will refine and purge the remnant of Israel.
Looking at the historical fact, the prophet is lifted out of his “undone,” “unclean,” condition, and sent with Jehovah’s message to the guilty men of Judah— “Go tell this people.” Even Moses at the burning bush shrank from being sent to Pharoah.
Here Isaiah, who had just bewailed his uncleanness, no sooner hears Jehovah saying “Whom shall I send? and who will go for us?” than he answers in the power of the Spirit, “Here am I: send me.” Cleansed from his iniquity, purged from his sin, he is empowered to bear Jehovah's words. What efficacy in that live coal!
But the time is coming when not merely a cleansed individual, though a prophet and representative withal, shall be the Lord's messenger, but a chosen remnant who are also called His brethren (Matt. 25:3131When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (Matthew 25:31) &c.), not to Judah who hearing shall not hear, and seeing shall not perceive, nor understand, but also on whom God's heavy judgment must fall. These future messengers carry a different message to a different people; they preach the King and invite to the kingdom. Then it will be good news of the kingdom and blessing for those that receive it. But the message by the prophet is a decree of judgment, the shutting, for a time, of the door of mercy. The people, as a nation, are set aside. “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.” Judah, like Ephraim, is given up.
Seasons of merciful interposition may yet be given after the judgment is decreed. And though the judgment is pronounced, this does not prevent God's promise of His Son even to “that king Ahaz,” not for the sake of the guilty people, but for the sake of the righteous. They thought that if king Uzziah was a leper, then all was ruined; but the promise reveals the King that is coming, of Whose kingdom there should be no end. The glory and magnificence of this promise may have been but dimly seen and felt, but there was strength and cheer for them. God knew how to comfort, and reveal His own purpose; and He has ever known how to provide and care for His own individual sheep while carrying on His great purpose of redemption, or taking vengeance on His enemies. With Him is neither variableness nor shadow of turning; for when Sodom was destroyed, not having ten righteous men within its gates, God did provide for the safety of one, and Zoar, a little city, was spared for his sake. And the Lord Jesus says that the days of great tribulation shall be shortened for the elect's sake. God controls and guides the storm for their sake. Worse and fiercer the storm of sin during the first of Manasseh's reign, and mingled with the predicted judgment under the sons of Josiah; yet what a merciful and blessed season the righteous had in the times of Hezekiah, and of Josiah! God provided an ark for Noah, spared Zoar for Lot's sake, and now calls upon His people, His elect, to enter into their chambers until the indignation be overpast (Isa. 26:2020Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. (Isaiah 26:20)).
The bright seasons in the reign of Hezekiah and of Josiah were to sustain the faith and cheer the hearts of the righteous, not to set aside or annul the judgment. Even Josiah's tender heart and piety could do no more than bring him peace in his own day. But the judgment would surely come in his son's day. If the people could and would have heard and seen and understood, who is to say that it could not then have been, as it will be when the words of the psalmist are made good to Israel in the coming day? “And He remembered for them His covenant, and repented according to the multitude of His mercies” (Psa. 106:4545And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies. (Psalm 106:45)). But the prophet enters into the mind of God and does not pray that the judgment may be averted, nor for forgiveness as Solomon did, that God would hear from the heaven of heavens, and, when He heard, forgive. The people were to be deprived of contrite hearts and broken spirits (to which God pledged Himself to look), lest they should be converted. The prophet recognizes the righteous judgment, and merely asks “How long” this unparalleled judgment is to last. And the irrevocable answer is “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and Jehovah have removed men far away and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land” (Isa. 6:1111Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, (Isaiah 6:11)). But the judgment is not yet past; the land is desolate, for Israel's blindness is not yet removed. When the veil is taken away, they will turn to the Lord (2 Cor. 3), their enemies shall be destroyed, and the waste cities shall be inhabited (Isa. 54:1-101Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. 2Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; 3For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. 4Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. 5For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. 6For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. 7For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer. 9For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. 10For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. (Isaiah 54:1‑10)).
But all through this time of wrath the line is preserved among them, even as the seed remains in an oak or a teil tree that is stripped of its leaves, cut down, and only a stump remaining; through the scent of water it will yet bear boughs like a plant (cf. Job 14:77For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. (Job 14:7)). How small the remnant at the time of the Babylonish captivity! If the oak tree was shorn of its leaves then, nothing but the stump is left now.
“High-minded” Christendom, looking at the scattered people, exclaims in unbelief akin to derision, “Can these dry bones live”? Yea, whether looked at as dry bones, there will be the shaking and the breath from the four winds, and they will stand up an exceeding great army; or whether as the stump of the tree but whose substance (life) is in it, the scent of water will cause it again to bear boughs. Among the stricken mass of captives that Nebuchadnezzar brought to Babylon, there were Daniel and his three friends, and others doubtless; and they were kept from Babylon's idolatry. And in due time Ezra and Nehemiah appear, and bring back to Judea the “tenth” that the prophet speaks of. For this “tenth” is by no means significative of the godly remnant, but of the portion of Judah that should historically bear the name of Jews; “tenth” used indefinitely as a small portion compared with the nation. The “tenth” it was that crucified the Lord and so more guilty than those of Manasseh's day, or in the days of Josiah's sons. But they shall be eaten, consumed, or devoured a second time. God's righteous remnant were in their midst but really the life was in the godly ones. The holy seed was in them, but they had dwindled down to a very small number when the Lord Jesus came, such as Zacharias, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary and others that followed Him. But the grace and truth that came by Him was like the scent of water that Job speaks of. There were goodly boughs from the stump of Judah, shooting over the wall. But Judah, the returned “tenth,” rejected Him, and the leprosy of (Uzziah seemed evermore fixed on them, and so it would be but for the wisdom and power of God. For the leprosy that smote the people typically in Uzziah will be cleansed by Him Who had but to touch and say “I will: be thou clean;” and in the future, as in the past, the leprosy will immediately depart.