Sunday, 8 June 2014

(160) June 9: 2 Chronicles 26-28 & John 17

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

To discover:­­
As you read consider the relationship between the kings and the temple.

To ponder:
Uzziah was another who started well, “seeking God” when instructed by Zechariah. And the principle we’ve learnt from other kings is clearly stated so we don’t miss it: “As long as he sought the LORD, God have him success.” So God helped him against numerous enemies, with some bringing tribute, his fame spreading, he himself becoming powerful, organising the defences of his kingdom and even the tilling of its land. These are the marks of a blessed kingdom under a faithful king. But Uzziah’s pride led to his downfall, seen particularly in an irreverent attitude to the temple, burning incense as God had instructed only the priests to do, and then raging against the priests when confronted. With great irony, he became leprous meaning he had to be excluded from the temple and from having charge of the kingdom. It brings the point home so helpfully. He’s not the one through whom God’s promise to David will be fulfilled (1 Kgs 17v11-12).
            Jotham, however, did better than his father, seeking to rebuild the temple rather than compromise its worship. And these same blessings marked his kingdom. He fortified the land, conquered his enemies, received tribute and grew powerful, all because he was said to “walk steadfastly before the LORD his God.” But Jotham’s problem was that he couldn’t ensure that the people did the same. Instead they “continued their corrupt practices.”
It all highlights that only a king with a perfect attitude to God and so to Israel’s worship can keep the throne as God had promised one of David’s offspring would. But he must also be able to change the hearts of the people, so they share his attitude. Of course, we see both in Christ, who renews hearts by his Spirit. And the blessings that marked the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham are fulfilled perfectly in him. He conquers all God’s enemies, even death. His fame spreads to all nations from whom he is brought tribute through faith. And he exercises God’s own mighty power, ensuring the security and fruitfulness of his kingdom.
Ahaz is the antithesis of the king God’s people needed, not only following the idolatry of the kings of Israel, but sacrificing his sons like the Canaanite nations. And, consistent with the influence of kings, we read “Judah had forsaken the LORD” (27v6, 19). And so the security enjoyed under Jotham and Uzziah was lost. God handed Ahaz over to Aram, with 120,000 killed including leading men. Indeed, Judah experienced a sort of mini-exile, with 200,000 wives and children taken to Samaria with much plunder. But God intervened through his prophet Oded, clarifying he had handed Judah over to Israel in anger, but that Israel should send the people back as God was angry at them for their sin too. This anger was no doubt at Israel’s idolatry, but may also have been at her slaughtering Judah and her desire to enslave the people in contravention of God’s law (Lev 25v39-53). In response, some Israelite leaders ensured the captives were freed, provided for, nursed, and returned home. To the first readers this was a reminder that their own return from exile was by God’s hand, and that he was well able to ensure a remnant of his people endured no matter how oppressed they became.
Ahaz, however, looked to the Assyrian king rather than God for help against his enemies, receiving trouble despite trying to placate him with treasures from the temple, palace and princes. He even sacrificed to the gods of his enemies, judging that was why he was defeated - rather than because of God’s anger. He then plundered and shut the temple, setting up altars and high places to false gods throughout the land. Likewise, in the face of advancing false religions and worldviews those in the church can be tempted to somehow incorporate them into their worship as if their rise suggests they have power, rather than being a reflection of God’s judgement on our nation (Rom 1v18-32).

Praying it home:
Praise God that through Christ we are not subject to such a fickle king or insecure kingdom. Pray that Christians would not be fooled into serving false religions or worldviews, but honour only God.

Thinking further: The point of 1 and 2 Chronicles
God’s promise to David was to “establish” his offspring’s kingdom and throne forever. It implies not just an existent kingdom, but a thriving, secure and enduring one - and one marked by the king’s concern for the temple in particular (1 Chr 17v11-12). What is therefore critical to understand in Chronicles, is that just as from Genesis 3 we keep looking for the serpent-crusher with each new character introduced, so with every king who disappoints and whose kingdom is threatened, we look to the next to see if he will fulfil these traits and be the one through whom God’s promise is fulfilled. Indeed, with each that does well, hope is given to the post-exilic community that their kingdom need not always be a shadow of what it once was, but that God would bring an even greater king in the end.
This is why the temple is such a dominant theme in the books. The faithfulness of kings is assessed by their attitude to the worship of God and so the temple. Indeed, the long awaited king who will establish God’s everlasting kingdom is expected to display a concern for these things to the extreme. In this sense the books build an appreciation of Jesus’ rule by contrast with the kings of Judah. And here we might recall how Jesus drove people from the temple in his day because “zeal” for God’s house “consumed” him (Jn 2v17). This act was yet another proof that he was the Christ, the descendent of David who would build a house for God (2 Chr 17v11-12). The surprise was that the temple he built was that of his body, raised from the dead (Jn 2v19-22), and the church comprising all united to him through faith (Eph 2v21-22).
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