Wednesday, 4 June 2014

(156) June 5: 2 Chronicles 13-19 & John 14

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note what is commended about Judah’s kings.

To ponder:
Rehoboam was succeeded by his son Abijah. 1 Kings focuses on his sins, but here some good is recorded. Outnumbered two to one by Jeroboam, he shouts out how God had given “the kingship of Israel” to David’s line, so resisting him is to resist “the kingdom of the LORD.” He then contrasts Jeroboam’s alternative and so false religion with the faithful adherence of Judah to worshipping God at the temple. Abijah is therefore confident “God is with” Judah so Jeroboam is fighting “against the LORD” and will “not succeed.” And so Judah was victorious “because they relied on the LORD.” The point is clear. The ideal king Judah needs must be one who perfectly trusts and obeys. Moreover, God is for his people when they do so. Indeed, to stand against them is to stand against God. So we can be reassured the world, the flesh and the devil will not overcome us.
            Asa, Abijah’s son did “right,” removing Judah’s means of idolatry and commanding the people to seek and obey the LORD. However, although he removed the high places in Judah he didn’t in the northern towns he inherited (14v5, 15v17, see 1 Kgs 15v14). Again the emphasis is on God blessing those who seek him. Asa declares for this reason God has given them “rest on every side.” And his prayer makes clear why the LORD struck down the Cushites: He “called to the LORD,” affirming he “helps the powerless against the mighty,” and asking his help because he and Judah “rely” on him and he is their God. Azariah’s prophecy affirms this: As was seen in the time of the judges (probably the reference in 15v3-6) “the LORD is with” those who are “with him.” If people “seek him” he “will be found” by them, but if they “forsake him, he will forsake” them. And so Asa should “be strong” and confident his work in reforming the kingdom “will be rewarded.” He therefore continued it, removing idols, repairing the altar, and leading the people into a covenant to “seek the LORD” with “all their heart and soul” and execute any who don’t. God clearly approved this as we read “he was found by them” and “gave them rest on every side” (see also 15v19). We should remember that in Israel’s unique context the law prescribed the death penalty for idolatry in order to preserve faith and so the good of the people and the fulfilment of God’s promises (Ex 22v20, Deut 18v2-7). As Jesus implies (Matt 7v7) to “seek God” is therefore to seek his favour and help, and to “find” him is to have him act for you because he has become yours. These are astonishing blessings, but are only ours if we trust and obey.
            Asa didn’t always do quite as well, being rebuked for paying off the king of Aram to help him against the king of Israel rather than relying on God (see notes on 1 Kgs 15v18-22). The prophet Hanani reminds him of how the LORD had helped him previously, affirming his “eyes” roam the earth looking for those “whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Yet rather than repenting, Asa imprisoned Hanani, oppressed some of his people, and didn’t even seek God’s help when diseased. We can guard against turning away as he did by remembering God’s past faithfulness to us and his constant awareness of the state of our heart.
            God was with Asa’s son Jehoshaphat in the early years of his reign, as he “walked” as David had, being “devoted” to God’s ways, removing aspects of false religion (although not the high places when they were re-established, 20v33), and even commissioning officials to teach the people God’s law. Jehoshaphat was therefore able to fortify his cities and given strong control of the kingdom, receiving tribute from Judah, as well as Philistines and Arabs, and enjoying peace because the nations feared the LORD. His compromise was to align himself with the wicked Ahab by marriage and aid him in battle (see notes on 1 Kings 22v1-36 for chapter 18). Through the prophet Jehu God therefore pronounced his wrath against him for “helping the wicked” and loving “those who hate the LORD.” Although we are to love the wicked by doing them good, we are not to love them by aiding their wrongdoing.
            The final note on Jehoshaphat perhaps reflects this experience. He appoints judges, instructing them to judge without injustice, partiality or bribery, and so for God not man, “who is with you whenever you give a verdict.” Likewise Jesus promises to be especially present when the church judges Christians in sin (Matt 18v15-20). Jehoshaphat also appoints priests and Levites to administer the law and settle disputes, urging them to be faithful and warn people against sin so that God’s wrath doesn’t come upon them as leaders. Surely this is a word to today’s ministers when tempted not to speak plainly about sin and its consequences.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his readiness to act for his people. Pray that you would seek him in times of need, and never turn from trusting and obeying him with all you heart.

Thinking further:
None today.
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