Recently, I wrote a series of blogs on 1 and 2 Chronicles and plan to one day turn them into a Bible Study. What I discovered is that studying 1 and 2 Chronicles can be fun. In some ways, it's like doing your genealogy research on ancestry.com or other sites and finding out how those who came before you lived their lives. Don't you love it when you find something written about them or even a letter written by them?
The neat thing is that you can learn from their choices. Bad choices that negatively affected your parents or grandparents don't have to continue. With God's help, you can reboot the ungodly patterns of life and start fresh approaching life God's way.
Until I get the study written, it seemed a good idea to offer the articles I wrote for you to glean as you study these books on your own. Follow the outline given. Read the chapters and make your own notes. Then, read the article related to those chapters for additional insight and more food for your own learning.
Look at 1 and 2 Chronicles with fresh eyes. See God's patience with real people and how He gives everyone a chance to reboot from bad choices.
Being a Memorable Woman
After spending a semester studying Psalms in a local women's Bible study, I thought I would delve more into the time period during which nearly all of the psalms were written. The time of Israel as a kingdom under David and his successors. So, I started reading 1 Chronicles. Seeing that the first nine chapters were mostly names—genealogies of all the tribal families and especially of David's family, I decided I would mark every woman mentioned and any significant details about them. You know what I found out? There are 53 women listed by name as distinctive mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters. That reminded me of the women we study in the Everyday Women, Ever-Faithful God Bible Study.
Now, in an agrarian society, and in genealogies spreading through several hundred years, to be mentioned specifically in the historical record meant you were someone or did something that was memorable. How many of us will be memorable after 4oo years?
One woman in particular named Sheerah has quite a tribute written about her. Her ancestor was Ephraim, Joseph's son. "His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah." She built three towns, one of whom is named for her?! That just leaped off the page at me. How come I have never heard about Sheerah before?
The two Beth-horons (Joshua 10:10) were apparently Canaanite towns that the Israelites captured and destroyed in the conquest (Joshua 16:3 Joshua 16:5). "Built" may mean rebuilt, or restored, or fortified (Joshua 6:26; Psalms 102:16; 2 Chronicles 11:6). Two of the three cities, Lower Beth-Horon and Upper Beth-Horon were on a hillside, one high above the other.
Somehow Sheerah is credited with rebuilding these towns on the edge of Ephraim's allotted territory in Israel after it was conquered. Perhaps she received the land as an inheritance (like Caleb's daughter Acsah did) and enlarged it for family reasons. Or, was it her descendants who rebuilt them? For some reason, Sheerah got the credit. The Holy Spirit made sure her name was in there. That made me smile.
Here's what "Matthew Poole's English Annotations of the Bible" said,
Who built Beth-horon, i.e. rebuilt or repaired, which possibly she did in Joshua’s time. And this work may be ascribed to her, because these works were done either by her design or contrivance, or by her instigation and influence upon her husband and brethren who did it.
Her design or contrivance. Or, her instigation and influence on others who did the building. Either way, Sheerah made an impact on her time and her community that was remembered hundreds of years later. All of us can do that in some small way. Whether by work we do or by influence that we have.
Looking forward to more discoveries in 1 Chronicles. Stay tuned…
The Strong Support of Friends
Surround yourself with people who will give you strong support. That's what jumped out at me from 1 Chronicles 11-12. David as King became powerful because God was with him. And, one of the ways God was with him was by sending strong, noble, and faithful men to surround David. Are you a leader of a work team, a family, or a small group? Surround yourself with people who will give your leadership strong support like David's "Mighty Men" did.
David's Mighty Men. I love that title! They were strong warriors who took their stand in the middle of the fray and defended their territory to bring victory. God sent those men to David. 1 Chronicles 12:18 says, "Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said, 'We are yours, O David! We are with you, O son of Jesse! Success, success to you, and success to those who help you, for your God will help you.'" God-directed men and God-directed words. Who wouldn't want to be surrounded by friends who said those words to you on a regular basis?! Verse 22 of that same chapter says that, "Day after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God." If you are surrounded by godly people whom God sends to surround you, that is in a sense being supported by the army of God. And some had special discernment of what to do next. 1 Chronicles 12:32 says, "Men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do" were also with David. 200 of them. What a great feeling to have that kind of support! 1 Chronicles 12:40 says that at the beginning of David's reign there was great celebration and feast "for there was joy in Israel."
I've seen this happen at a recent women's retreat. Women who were hurting and needing fresh support, even coming to the retreat alone and feeling alone beforehand, were completely surrounded by a whole army of women who said, "We are with you!" The lonely began feeling supported by God's army of women. And, I've seen evidence of that support continuing beyond the retreat. That creates a sense of joy in everyone involved—the needy ones and those coming alongside to support them. I look forward to seeing how God continues His work there.
Yep. We all need someone to have our backs. God does have our backs already as He goes before us, behind us and all around us (Psalm 139). And, He uses people to do that work for Him. Thank you, God, for those people in my life!
Study more of David's life in Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study.
Doing it God's Way the FIRST Time
You've likely seen the movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The Nazis want the Ark of God because they think it has some magical power. They capture it then find out that God doesn't like His Ark to be touched by anyone except in the manner He has expressly chosen. Well, that happened to David as well. After King David got settled in Jerusalem, he thought that it would be the will of God to move the Ark of God from the farming community of Kiriath Jearim to the new capital of Israel--Jerusalem. So, he called his officers and the assembly of Israel together to celebrate the Ark coming to Jerusalem. He thought it would be God's will to bring the Ark to Jerusalem and that God would be pleased. He forgot one thing: God's instructions on how to properly move the Ark. Instead, David used the method that the Philistines used to return the captured Ark back to Israel. God wasn't pleased with that way of approaching Him, and someone got hurt. David let a seemingly good idea from a surrounding culture influence him to supposedly "please" God by doing the same thing. That happens today, doesn't it?
About seventy years earlier (1 Samuel 4-6), the Philistines were beating the Israelites badly in a battle. The Israelite commander thought the answer was to bring the Ark to the battlefield from Shiloh (where it had been properly sitting inside the Tabernacle). Like the movie, the Ark was seen as a magical box. The Philistines captured the Ark and brought it to their territory. However, the Ark represented God's holy presence with Israel. God made life miserable for the Philistines until they returned it back to Israel. The Philistines put it in a new cart with newly yoked cows (the Philistine way to please their gods) to return the Ark to an Israelite border town. It was eventually moved to the home of Abinadab (a Levite) in Kiriath Jearim where his son Eleazar was put in charge of guarding the Ark.
The method had worked safely. So, David used that same method to move the Ark—a new cart—rather than carefully following God's instructions given to Israel in Exodus 25:12-15 that required only Levites to carry the Ark with poles through the rings on the side so that no one would touch it. The procession included crowds of people praising God with all kinds of worship music. You would think that God would be pleased with their good intentions. According to 1 Chronicles 13:9-10, the oxen stumbled, Uzzah touched the Ark to steady it which angered God. God ended Uzzah's earthly life.
Now, before anyone gets mad about this, Uzzah knew better. His family had carefully housed the Ark for all those years! Keeping everyone away from it. Can you imagine that responsibility? Had familiarity removed the sense of awe that the Ark deserved? Were they thinking of the Ark as a piece of furniture representing God rather than God's holiness Himself? David got angry and afraid of God (1 Chronicles 13:11-12), but he had put Uzzah in this dangerous position. David had used the world's method to do something honorable, and he thought God would be pleased. Uzzah became the bad example of how not to treat God and His holiness. It certainly captured the people's attention.
David stewed about this for 3 months. But, he also consulted God's Word about doing it right. In 1 Chronicles 15, David prepares a place for the Ark, calls together the High Priest and the leaders of all the Levites (the ones who were supposed to move the Ark in the first place), and has them all dedicate themselves to God personally before coming together to move the Ark. This is what David said in 1 Chronicles 15:13, "It was because you, the Levites, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of Him about how to do it in the prescribed way." The priests and Levites did everything right "in accordance with the word of the Lord (1 Chronicles 15:15)" and successfully moved the Ark to the tent inside Jerusalem that David had pitched for it. Again, all this was accompanied by rejoicing, worship music and praise before God. Huge celebration! It must have been a fantastic sight and sound. They approached this task God's way rather than the world's way. They did it right. Rejoicing not lamenting this time.
How often do we take something from our culture that seems to provide a good solution to our challenges in life (parenting, marriage, surviving in a workplace, relationships, sinful behavior) and think that the logical outcome will be pleasing to God even if the choices we make are not in agreement with what God says in His Word? God gives clear directions on how to approach life His way rather than the world's way. It's our responsibility to inquire of Him through the written word accessible to everyone. This story is a great reminder.
Study more of David's life in Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study.
Praises, Prayers and Promises
After David moved the Ark to Jerusalem, settling it in its own tent, David appointed a prayer team and orchestra to appear daily before the Lord. I had not seen the prayer team part before. 1 Chronicles 16:4 says, "He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the Ark of the Lord, to make petition, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel." My friends, that's a prayer team! Incorporated in that prayer team were also musicians playing stringed instruments (lyres and harps), brass instruments (trumpets), and percussion (cymbals). That's an orchestra. It reads as though the same group did both. Or, perhaps the list of men refers to the ones overseeing those praising God regularly through prayer and music. Either way, praying for Israel's needs was a team effort.
On the day the Ark was settled into its tent, David committed to his worship leader Asaph a psalm of thanks to the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:7-36). This psalm combines parts of three psalms found in the book of Psalms--105, 96, and 106. It is a beautiful combination of praise for how God brought the nation of Israel together to be His very own people, praise for who He is, and thanksgiving for what He has done. What it brought to mind is that David used words He had written before that meant so much to him already and combined them to fit the occasion. We see this often in Psalms--phrases and whole sections of one psalm repeated in several others. The familiarity of words helps with worship, at least it does for me. When you know the words already and have grown to love them, you get to enjoy saying them or singing them over and over again. I think that's why I enjoyed the choruses of the 80s and early 90s. They were taken directly from Scripture (mostly Psalms), set to music, and still come to mind when I run across them while reading Psalms. A constant barrage of new worship songs at church frustrates me, especially when accompanied by difficult-to-sing music. Enough of that. 🙂
Another thought on 1 Chronicles 16. Verse 39 says that David left the Tabernacle of the Lord at the high place in Gibeon. I kept wondering why he didn't go ahead and move it to Jerusalem and use that to house the Ark of the Lord as it was meant to do. As I was pondering that this morning, I was reminded how big that tabernacle area was. Perhaps there wasn't room in Jerusalem yet for it. Or, maybe David wanted the people to keep going to where they had been going for their 3 annual feasts. Then, why bring the Ark to Jerusalem instead of returning it to the Tabernacle at Gibeon? Protection for it? David perhaps wanted to make sure it would not be misused again and captured by an enemy army. Perhaps the Tabernacle was pretty fragile by this time and could not easily survive a move. After Solomon built the Temple, he had it packed up and moved to Jerusalem and stored safely in the Temple. If he asked God about this, we don't have a record of it.
In 1 Chronicles 17, David expressed his desire to build a temple for God in Jerusalem. God's answer was, "No. I haven't asked for that yet." I found this helpful insight in Dr. Tom Constable's Notes on 1 Chronicles,
"The main reason God did not allow David to proceed with his plans to build Him a house (temple) was that God, not David, was sovereign. A secondary reason was that David was a man of war (22:8; 28:3). God reserved the right to choose who should build such a place, as well as when and where he should build it. It was inappropriate for David to decide these things, though his desire to honor God in this way was certainly commendable."
All along, God moved with His people wherever they went. It would be God's decision if, when and where a permanent dwelling place for His earthly presence would be built. Then, He promised to subdue all their enemies so Israel would have peace in her land. And, God would establish David's kingdom (house) forever and have His earthly dwelling place built by one of David's sons.
Then, I read this in 17:13, "I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor." That last part bothered me. I compared that to the parallel passage in 2 Samuel 6. Sure enough, the same words were there. So, I looked up the word translated "love" there. It's the Hebrew "hesed" referring to God's lovingkindness and faithfulness as His special favor bestowed on someone. It was God's favor (grace) toward Saul as king that was taken away. That would never happen to the ultimate descendant of David--the Messiah. The context of that passage seems to point to the Messiah and not just David's successor. New Testament writers applied this to Jesus at His baptism.
David followed this message from God with a beautiful time of humble praise and thanksgiving to God. He wasn't mad at God. He accepted God's sovereign decision as he should. Verse 26 says, "O Lord, you are God! You have promised these good things to your servant." A good reminder to all of us. God is God; I am His servant. I must trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do even if what I am asking for seems like such a good and God-honoring thing to do. Thank you, God, for your goodness to me and my house as well. Amen.
Study more of David's life in Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study.
Highs and Lows
"The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went." That's what 1 Chronicles 18:6 and 13 say. Chapters 18-20 recount Israel's victories under David's leadership over foes to the west, north, and east. Through these victories, it seems like David gained control of nearly all the territory that God had promised to Israel coming out of Egypt. But, not only land. In each victory, David gained tribute and labor--resources preserved for the future Temple. Although David was not allowed to build the Temple himself, he intentionally stockpiled the resources Solomon would need to do so. He was still onboard with God's plans because he loved God.
1 Chronicles 18:7-8 says, "David took the gold shields" to Jerusalem and "a great quantity of bronze, which Solomon used to make the bronze Sea, the pillars and various bronze articles." After another defeated king brought "all kinds of articles of gold and silver and bronze (verse 10)", "King David dedicated these articles to the Lord, as he had done with the silver and gold he had taken" from other nations (verse 11). The defeated Philistines, Moabites, Arameans, Edomites, and Ammonites all became subject to Israel's king and thus a source of menial labor for building projects "with saws and with iron picks and axes (1 Chronicles 20:3)." Each victory brought more riches to the King, the national coffers, and the Lord's work. "David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people (1 Chronicles 18:14)." Well, except for what happened in Chapter 21.
That whole incident about the census has always confused me. Why was taking a census so evil? Even Joab, his army commander, was against this idea and tried to talk David out of it. But, David insisted on counting the fighting men. There is some missing information here, no doubt. I've read several commentaries on this incident, and most attribute the census taking to David's pride in his army and their exploits, forgetting that God was the one who gave victory. It seems out of character, though. Joab did the passive-aggressive thing by not counting 2 of the tribes in the numbering. That made me chuckle. But, the people of Israel suffered because of David's sin. That was no laughing matter. Seventy thousand of those numbered men died (verse 14). It is amazing how many seemingly innocent people can be affected by one very public sin!
David sees the angel of the Lord with his drawn sword over Jerusalem. Along with the elders, David mourns his sin and pleads with the Lord to spare the "sheep" of Israel and instead punish the shepherd-king (and his family!). God sent a message to David through a prophet to go to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (the people David conquered to get Jerusalem) and build an altar. This spot just "happened" to be on Mount Moriah where Abraham had taken Isaac to sacrifice to God (Genesis 22:1-2).
David obeyed. Araunah looks up while just threshing his wheat, and he sees not only King David coming to him but also the angel of the Lord with his drawn sword overhead. Scared that guy and his four sons for sure! David bought the spot from Araunah (with lots of that gold he got as tribute) so he could obey God's Word and build an altar to the Lord right there. "He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath (1 Chronicles 21:26-27)." Fire from heaven to light the altar--I thought that only happened in the time of Elijah on Mt. Carmel. No, it happened here years before Elijah. God uses fire from heaven to make a statement for sure! As a result, David declared that site would be the location for the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1). God worked something good out of something awful. Because He does that from His grace. God spared Jerusalem, gave David and anyone else watching a sign from heaven that they could not ignore (angel with drawn sword and fire from heaven lighting up the altar), and Gentiles (Araunah and his sons) got to see the God of Israel in action and received unexpected payment from a God-honoring King for their land that he could have taken from them for nothing. That's grace.
Study more of David's life in Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study.
The Gift of a Skillful Organizer
I like to organize people as well as stuff. Especially stuff. But, when I read this section of 1 Chronicles (chapters 22-25), I was blown away by King David's skill at organizing the kingdom for future success. David was an organizer. A very gifted man. Poet, musician, statesman, leader, delegator, administrator. And, a man after God's own heart as well. Yet, hardly a perfect man. He messed up in some big ways yet bounced back to success. Wow!
David included large groups of people to lead Israel in every area—especially worshiping God. In 1 Chronicles 24:3, he consulted with the top priests to give order to the priestly family of God's servants. He divided the gifted Levites for the the worship band (singers, harps, lyres, and cymbals) into groups of 12 who would serve for 2 weeks at a time as praise and worship leaders. Through all this organizing, David gave Israel a cohesiveness it did not have before this. Organization adds stability and security. Those especially involved in the worship of God were given specific job descriptions that could be followed. David was able to be successful at this because God was with him. God was with him because David was with God. David served God and led Israel to serve her God knowing that was the only path to success and peace.
I wonder how well it worked after David died. 🙂 We do know that the priest Abijah (1 Chronicle 24:10) had descendants who were still serving on a rotation because Zechariah in Luke 1 was Abijah's descendant. A family rotation still in place after nearly 1000 years! That's organization that works!
Study more about David's life in Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study.
The One Who Is Trustworthy
Marching through 1 Chronicles, I see a lot of names mentioned. I wonder if anyone has ever counted all the different people (men and women) who are mentioned by name? And, many of them have special notations about their character or their purpose in the kingdom. 1 Chronicles 26:14 mentions "Zechariah, a wise counselor." In 1 Chronicles 27:6, Benaiah "was a mighty man among the Thirty and was over the Thirty." Later, in verse 32, "Jonathan, David's uncle was a counselor, a man of insight and a scribe." Then, there's Obed-Edom. His name keeps popping up from 1 Chronicles 13-27. Lots of times. Yet, he is pretty-much unknown by us Christians except for Old Testament scholars. After reading the various references, my conclusion was that this man was one thing especially—TRUSTWORTHY.
I first read Obed-Edom's name in 1 Chronicles 13:13-14. After David's first disastrous attempt to bring the Ark of God to Jerusalem, David "took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom, the Gittite. The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had." He wasn't a random person whom David chose to get the Ark off of his hands for a few months. Obed-Edom was a Levite who had already demonstrated his faithfulness as a "gatekeeper"—the job assigned to his particular branch of the Levites. According to 1 Chronicles 9:22, "The gatekeepers had been assigned their positions of trust by David and Samuel the seer (prophet). They and their descendants were in charge of guarding the gates of the house of the LORD" (the Tabernacle). Several at a time served for seven-day periods. Some guarded the four sides; others "were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasures in the house of God (verse 26)." Some were also in "charge of the articles used in the temple service; they counted them when they were brought in and when they were taken out (verse 28)." They even had the key to open and close the Tabernacle morning and night. Obed-Edom had been in charge of the South Gate and the storehouse, probably for several years, and had proven that he could be trusted to guard the Ark in his own house. He did that faithfully for 3 months! He was trustworthy.
When the Ark was finally moved to Jerusalem, Obed-Edom was part of the praise team, playing his harp during the celebration parade (1 Chronicles 15:21; 16:4-5). I picture a man whose reputation was that he loved God and loved praising God. And, Obed-Edom was designated to be one of the 4 gatekeepers for the ark in its new tent (verses 18, 24). This man was trustworthy.
A man of character like that usually has an impact on his own family. In 1 Chronicles 26:4-8 describes his family. He had numerous sons "for God had blessed Obed-Edom" (verse 5). His firstborn son also had sons "who were leaders in their father's family because they were very capable men…All these were descendants of Obed-Edom; they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the word—descendants of Obed-Edom, 62 in all (verses 6-8)." Wow! What an impact! Leaders. Capable. Strength. Sons, grandsons, and relatives. The legacy of a trustworthy man.
I hope the Lord considers me trustworthy. I hope I have such a legacy in my descendants. The legacy of a trustworthy woman.
Commission to the Next Generation
As I finish out 1 Chronicles, I read how David so diligently tried to prepare for the building of the Temple and the passing on of his love for God to his own successor (Solomon) and the people who would be surrounding him. One of the reasons he made such extensive preparations was because he had wanted to build that Temple himself but now knew that his young son Solomon (late teen) needed that help to get going on the project. David wanted God's house to be "of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it (1 Chronicles 22:5)." David gathered huge stockpiles of materials for the building of the Temple and workers to do the labor. 1 Chronicles 22:2 talks about his appointing stonecutters from among the non-Israelites in the land (those whose nations he had defeated and were now subject to the king's work, in this case quarrying stone!). He also provided many craftsmen—masons, carpenters, ironworkers, goldsmiths, silversmiths--"craftsmen beyond number" (verses 15-16). There would be no excuse not to get started building the Temple.
In 1 Chronicles 22, David called Solomon to his side and commissioned him with the building of the "house for the Lord, the God of Israel (verse 6)." But, that's not all. In verses 12-13, David says this to Solomon, "May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous." When I read that, my first thought was that David planted the seed in Solomon's mind to desire discretion and understanding (wisdom) as king. He already had peace and prosperity. When God told Solomon later to ask whatever he wanted, Solomon responded with "wisdom." That's David's influence in his son's life. However, Solomon must still obey God to maintain peace, prosperity, and success as king. Then in verses 17-19, he called together the leaders of Israel and commissioned them to devote their own hearts to the Lord, help his son Solomon, and build that Temple for God! This was David's commission to the current generation as well as the next generation. Put God first!!!!
Flipping over to 1 Chronicles 28, David knows his time to die is very near so he basically repeats the same commission but with a new twist. He summons all the tribal leaders, government officials, army commanders, priestly leaders, and his palace officials together for a fundraiser and further commissioning to build God's Temple. In front of this huge group of Israel's leaders of every area of life, he reconfirms God's choosing of him to be king and God's choosing of Solomon to be his successor. In front of the whole crowd, David turns to Solomon and says, "acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work (verses 9-10)." What a commission! God first. God's house first. Then, in front of everyone, David gives Solomon "the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind" for all parts of the physical Temple itself (verse 12), the divisions of all those who would work at the Temple (verse 13), and even the weight of precious metals to be used for each article that goes into the Temple (verses 14-18). David completes this commission with these words in verse 19, "All this I have in writing from the hand of the Lord upon me, and He gave me understanding in all the details of the plan." That is depending on the Lord! It was God's house to be done God's way. David's heart was with God all throughout his life. Once again David confirms to the young Solomon that God is with him. Just do the work!
In 1 Chronicles 29, David leads his leaders to give of their own treasures to the Temple project by bringing out his offerings. The leaders all give generously. And, David's beautiful prayer that follows affirms that "everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand (verse 14)." If we would only see our wealth that way. He goes on to say in front of all of Israel's leaders (current and future) that God will "test the heart" and is "pleased with integrity (verse 17)." Then he asks, "keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever and keep their hearts loyal to you. And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands…and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided (verse 19)." David leads his people in praise and worship of God and reminds them to stay strong in their faith as he has done in his life. They are to also support their next king and carry on the legacy of faithfulness to God. It's David's commission to the next generation. Put God first, and everything else will fall into place. Well done, David.
Study more of David's life in Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study.
Ready, Set, Build!
As I started reading 2 Chronicles 1, several things jumped out at me. In verse 3, the whole assembly of national and tribal leaders assembled in front of the Tabernacle at Gibeon. This large tent and wooden pole assembly was more than 400 years old! Had any of the linen fabric been replaced? What about the poles with silver caps? Or, had this magnificent portable "tent of meeting" withstood the elements of heat and cold, rain and drought, to still be standing 400 years after it was initially created? Perhaps the Levites in charge of keeping it up really did a good job. And, I think it had been moved a couple of times, too. Wow!
READY: At the Tabernacle, Solomon inquired of the Lord (verse 5). Don't know what he asked. That night God appeared to him and offered Solomon anything he wanted (verse 7). I think this was a heart test. Like the genie in a bottle. Solomon wisely asked for wisdom and knowledge to lead "this people of yours" (verse 10) recognizing who really was King over Israel. I think this response from Solomon had been planted in his mind by his wise father David several years earlier (1 Chronicles 22:12). God was pleased with Solomon's heart desired so God gave him what he asked (verse 11-12).
SET: In 2 Chronicles 2, Solomon does the prep work for building the Temple. He seeks the best consultants to make sure the Temple is magnificently done. The one sent to him by Hiram, king of Tyre, is Huram-Abi—a man whose mother was Jewish (verse 13). Did that give him more of an interest to do this complicated job? God had gifted this man with training, experience and artistic skill (verse 14)—metalwork, weaving, embroidery and engraving. He "can execute any design given to him." What a resume! And, he is able to work with others. "He will work with your craftsmen." The massive labor force was set to work in quarries cutting and dressing stone then transporting it to Jerusalem. 153,000 men doing that back-breaking labor.
BUILD: 2 Chronicles 3-4 describe the building of this spectacular structure. It must have been absolutely breath-taking when completed! [Like some of the old cathedrals of Europe still standing today except that God never took up residence in those buildings except through His people gathering for worship.] The craftsmen got to see the inside of the Most Holy Place while it was being built. Those 15 feet tall cherubim guarding the place for the Ark to rest. The cedar-lined walls adorned with gold and precious gems. The thick, embroidered curtain hanging down. All the shiny objects and engravings in the Holy Place (the main hall of the Temple). Once the Temple was finished and God had taken residence in it, only the High Priest would get to go into the Most Holy Place once a year. Only the priests could be inside the main hall of the Temple (the Holy Place). If the doors were kept open during the day, people on the outside might get a peek inside, but they couldn't go inside.
It took 7 years to build the Temple. Solomon was a young man of around 22-23 when he started the project. He would have been about 30 when it was finished. During those 7 years, Solomon grew up and gained experience as a leader. During that time, he also had relative peace from other major challenges to Israel--especially attacks from enemies. Nothing distracted him from his building purpose. God did that for him. The future looks bright for Israel, doesn't it? Sadly, we know the rest of the story. But, at least for now, we can imagine the beauty of that Temple and the joy it brought to the people whenever they were in the Lord's presence there. I wish we had a 360˚ video tour of it. 🙂
The Joy of God's Presence
"When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple…When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the Temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord (2 Chronicles 7:1-3)." God's presence came to dwell in this earthly Temple—declaring it to be His own. Very visible. Very memorable. I've always loved this passage as well as the similar event in Exodus where God comes to dwell in the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38). The Ark of God was present both times—representing the holiness and power of God plus His covenant with Israel. In 2 Chronicles 5:4, the Ark was visible to everyone in Jerusalem that day—a huge crowd including the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, all the men of Israel, the Levites and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, including the king (verses 2-4). During the Exodus from Egypt, the Ark had been visible to everyone present in the desert (men, women, children, foreigners and Jews alike) whenever the camp moved. The Levites carried the Ark in procession to the next location. When the cloud of God lifted up, the Tabernacle was packed up, and the camp moved following the cloud to the next location. Everyone saw that. Here, only those present in Jerusalem saw the procession moving the Ark of God to its resting place in the Temple, the fire from heaven to the altar, the glory of the Lord above the Temple, and the cloud filling the Temple. Those who remained at home could only hear about it. I felt sad for them. There was no YouTube video they could watch of this event. I wish I was there!
After Solomon's very public act of installing the Ark in its proper place, he praised God for fulfilling His promises to Israel (2 Chronicles 6:4-11), especially those God had made to David (Solomon to be king, the Temple to be built). Solomon is choosing to submit to God as his own ruler and to His covenant with Israel. He follows this declaration with a beautiful prayer for all of Israel and all the situations in which Israelites might find themselves--both personally and nationally. In verse 40, Solomon calls God "my God."
Sadly, we know what happens later in Solomon's life when he does not stay faithful and obedient to "my God." Faith is a matter of loving God wholeheartedly so that you want to approach life His way in obedience. Faith involves elements of hope in the unseen and risk at believing that God is enough to meet any need. Faith does not require seeing the glory cloud or the golden Ark in front of my face in order to believe that God is real. In fact, many of those who saw God's physical presence on a daily basis didn't become obedient followers of God. Those Israelites in the desert who saw God's presence constantly front and center did not obey God and march into their Promised Land to conquer it when given the first opportunity to do so. They rebelled. Having an "experience seeing God" doesn't guarantee a heart of faith. Solomon saw God, heard directly from God in a dream and through prophets, yet still went against God's ways later in his life.
Often I wish I could have been there on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was given (Acts 2). God inaugurated His new Temple (individual believers) with a visible fire. Though I don't see the flames of fire on the heads of new believers now, I certainly see the presence of God in them (including myself) when I see changed lives--men and women who are "on fire" for Jesus. Today, we don't need to go to a Temple building or pray in a certain direction toward a Temple building to see God. He is inside each of us. I am in His presence all the time because I am His temple. Whenever I am with my Christians sisters and brothers, I am in the presence of God. When they love God wholeheartedly, it shows in their lives. And, there is joy!
The Choice to Embrace or Forsake God
There is a choice. Embrace or forsake. There is no inbetween. In 2 Chronicles 7, the Lord appears to Solomon at night. It's during that appearance when He makes the promise often claimed by Christians today (7:14) calling for prayer, humility and repentance on the part of a sinful nation in need of forgiveness and healing. The choice is to embrace God and forsake sinful ways. God describes the opposite in verse 22. "Because they have forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers…and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them." When Israel made that choice, the consequence would be loss of their land, their temple, and their reputation. We know this happened 500 years later. For 500 years, God in His goodness sent prophets repeatedly to His people to draw them back to embrace Him when they would forsake Him and stray away. Finally, He had enough. The only thing that would bring them back to their senses was total loss of what they held dear, more dear than loving Him. God wants His people to embrace Him and forsake what is not Him.
What causes a people to forsake their God who has been so good to them? The influence of those around them. We read in 2 Chronicles 8:7-8, "All the people left from the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivies and Jebusites (these people were not Israelites), that is, their descendants remaining in the land, whom the Israelites had not destroyed—these Solomon conscripted for his slave labor force." Cheap labor for all those building projects. The magnificent Temple. Jerusalem's mighty buildings. Fortified cities. The temple probably would not have been built without them. But, bad idea to keep those people hanging around. By keeping those Canaanites around, they can reproduce and continue worship of their own gods (Baal, Asherah) on the high places. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Bad company corrupts good character." Even David as king had not made all those Canaanites move to another land that worshiped their gods or encouraged them all to worship YHWH. The country was more united under David than it had ever been. But, these pockets of pus remained, especially in the 10 tribes located farthest away from Jerusalem.
Then Solomon married wives from each of these people and all the other surrounding nations. Every one of them brought their own gods into his palace (1 Kings 11:1-2). God had forbidden that, and for every good reason. See what happens! "As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not full devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been (verse 4)." He even built worship spots on the high places for each of their gods and offered sacrifices to those gods there. He became a cosmopolitan ruler. Anything goes. A little bit of Yhwh, Chemosh, Molech and Baal. Solomon had forsaken "my god" and embrace other gods as his own. When your leader is doing this, that gives permission for you as a people to do it as well. So when Solomon died after a 40-year reign as king, the kingdom is divided into north and south (chapter 10) with no hesitancy on the majority of the northern 10 tribes to forsake God and embrace idols instead, sacrificing to them on high places. Most of those remaining Canaanites were dwelling in the tribal areas that became the northern kingdom. Their influence infected Israel badly.
Why is that? What is the allure of bad character that draws us down? A friend and I were talking about this the other day. If you hang around a group of women for several days who aren't embracing Christ and approaching life His way, it is more likely that you will pick up their bad ways of being negative, critical and mean than that they would pick up your good ways of being kind and compassionate toward each other. It is like an infection. The only way to stay healthy is to embrace God fully and forsake anything that is not God, that is not His way of approaching life. That's a pre-decision—a choice made ahead of time knowing that you will be exposed to infection. Solomon didn't do that like David his father had done. Solomon got infected. So did many of the people who were influenced by him. Sad.
Political Pressure Sharpens Our Focus
The political pressures on the people described in 2 Chronicles 10-12 resonate with today’s realities. In 2 Chronicles 10:6-16, newly-crowned King Rehoboam chose the bad advice of his peers rather than the wisdom of the elders who were the advisors and leaders of people in his land. There was already bad blood between the northern 10 tribes and the southern two tribes (Judah and Benjamin). The farther away the tribes settled from the central point of worship first at Shiloh then at Gibeah and now at Jerusalem, the less the people were engaged in true YHWH worship. Eighty years earlier, the northern tribes took 7 years to embrace David as their king. Finally they did. David and Solomon maintained unity through victory over enemies, resulting in peace and prosperity. But, was it ever unity of heart to serve God together?
Here in 2 Chronicles 10:1-5, Rehoboam calls together all Israel including Jeroboam (whom God had chosen to lead the northern ten tribes already). What they say puzzles me. “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” I thought only the non-Israelites had done the harsh labor on all Solomon’s building projects. Apparently, that was not so. Perhaps the complaint was on high taxes to pay for all that building and Solomon’s extravagant lifestyle. What were they really seeking from Rehoboam? Did they really want to serve him and keep Israel united? Or, was this a trap? What was their focus?
Regardless, Rehoboam consulted the elders who advised him to be kind to the people and give them a favorable answer (v .7). “Endear yourself to them; stimulate a desire in them to serve you as king.” Did these elders know Rehoboam’s character well? Was his tendency to be harsh and unkind? Rehoboam, who was 41 at this time—no 20-something like his father was at coronation—didn’t like that answer. He “rejected” it! Not even considered it. His mind was already made up. Then he consulted “the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him (verse 8).” Men of his generation. Not teenagers but full grown men. Their advice was for Rehoboam to be even more harsh than Solomon had been. “Be the big bad king, Rehoboam!” My first thought was that these peers were rich-kid, spoiled brats who were totally out of touch with the reality of the people. They weren’t supporting Rehoboam to be the servant leader that David’s support team did. Negative peer pressure. Only bad things happen with negative peer pressure. My second thought was, “Rehoboam’s mother was an Ammonite (2 Chronicles 12:13).” Ammonites didn’t worship God. It matters who "your mama” is!
Rehoboam answered harshly to the northern tribes. They left for home, making Jeroboam their king, and began spiraling down toward pagan idolatry. Verse 17 says this fulfilled the word of the Lord to Jeroboam. God knew Rehoboam’s character. This was no surprise to God. God knew the nation was already divided in heart. His plan provided a leader for the northern tribes before this happened—Jeroboam. Yet, they remained a rebellious people. Chapter 10 ends with, “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.” Though David had tried to be the priestly king for all the tribes, leading them to worship God with their hearts, many people just refused to change their hearts. But, God used that political situation for His good.
In 2 Chronicles 11, we read that Rehoboam wanted to fight Jeroboam and get his people back. God said, “No!” “Do not go up to fight against your brothers. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.” My limited scope of understanding doesn’t see how a nation divided is better than a nation united. But, I see God’s plan is to provide a remnant for Himself and root out the infection of the rebellious hearts. Jeroboam (God’s own appointee!) didn’t want the people to go to Jerusalem any longer for their worship. So, he set up his own worship center, made goat and calf idols for the worship center, began sacrifices to them, and appointed his own priests. He set up a substitute religion! They were already prone to this (see previous post). The opportunity sharpened their focus on God-substitutes. Didn’t God know Jeroboam’s heart?! Jeroboam might have started out responsive to God’s call, but when placed in a position of power, his arrogance led him away from God. But, those who wanted to stand firm with God did not put up with it. The priests and Levites from those northern tribes abandoned their ancestral properties and came to Judah and Jerusalem (verses 13-14). “Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices to the Lord,” strengthening the kingdom of Judah (verses 16-17).
Rehoboam’s heart was no better than Jeroboam’s. Chapter 12:1 tells us that he “abandoned the law of the Lord.” For whom or what? You don’t leave 1 worship without replacing it. Probably for his own way of approaching life. So God abandoned them for a time and allowed Shishak, the king of Egypt, to attack Judah (verse 5). Sadly, all those beautiful treasures of the Temple were carried away to Egypt. The Ark, too? All that work of Solomon destroyed in an instant! Only after this did Rehoboam and Judah’s leaders humble themselves and turn to the Lord. God’s answer to their prayer was, “I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance…They will become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands (verses 7-8).” Forsake God and become subject to another ruler. Ah ha! So they may learn the difference…
The political situation leading to the divided kingdom, as awful as it looked, served to further God’s purposes for Israel. He does that today as well. God places His people in tough situations so they must choose whether to trust Him or rebel against Him. God causes all things to work together for good. That’s confirmed in 2 Chronicles 12:12, “Indeed, there was some good in Judah.” We don’t like controversy or conflict. But, it is during those times that the “cream rises to the top.” The remnant of faithful God followers emerges. That kind of political pressure sharpens our focus.
Leave No Room for Excuses
Several things popped out at me as I read through the accounts of Abijah's and Asa's reigns as kings of Judah. The first thing jumped out of 2 Chronicles 13:7. When addressing Jeroboam and the northern tribes, King Abijah claimed that his father Rehoboam was "young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist" the "worthless scoundrels gathered around him" to oppose him when he first became king. Give me a break—Rehoboam was 41 years old! 41 is not young nor inexperienced! Since Solomon his father reigned as king for 40 years, Rehoboam must have been born shortly before Solomon became king. He had 40 years of watching and somewhat participating in the running of a government engine. He knew what he was doing, and he was a fool at 41. He would have been a fool at 61. The son Abijah tried to make excuses for him, to make it sound like the splitting of the kingdom wasn't his dad's fault or even God's idea. Not surprisingly, Abijah only lasted 3 years.
The second thing that jumped out at me came from the progression of Asa's reign from fully committed to disengaged in chapters 14-16. 1 Kings 14:4 says that the Lord raised up Asa to be like David on the throne. Asa's heart was aligned with God's heart—for most of his life. "Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord (verse 2)."
In verses 3-5, we see the actions that proceeded from that good heart. He led the people to forsake their idols. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord and to obey God's laws. God gave the land rest from attack for 10 years. When attacked, he called upon the Lord for rescue. God answered and prospered them in the victory (verses 9-15). So far so good. Then, in chapter 15, a prophet from God is sent to give Asa some word of guidance. "The Lord is with you when you are with him…be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded (verses 2, 7)."
As a response to this revelation, Asa assembled the people to renew their covenant with God. By then, "large numbers had come over to him from Israel (northern tribes) when they saw the Lord was with [Asa] (verse 9)." So, this was a very public large national gathering of the remnant of God-followers. The people responded well. "They had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So, the Lord gave them rest on every side (verse 15)." Asa even deposed his unrighteous, idol-worshiping grandmother as queen mother—removing her influence from the court (verse 16). This was some serious house cleaning!
For 25 years, Asa stayed true to God. Then, in chapter 16, he made a choice that reflected a decline in his trust of God over time. Sadly, this similar pattern is seen throughout Kings and Chronicles. The question that came to mind was, "Do rest and prosperity (which God gave to Solomon and Asa) lead us to relax our trust on God and rely too much on our experiences?" When his land was threatened by the King of Israel, Asa may have thought he had enough experience to work out a plan on his own. It did work. He just didn't pass it through God first.
Throughout his 40+ year reign, he had prophets of God available to him to speak on God's behalf. Yet, he didn't consider going to God first this time. God sends a prophet to Asa to remind him that God had not failed him yet. In 16:9 God says, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." When confronted with his mistake, Asa got angry. He was enraged rather than humbled. That was not like David at all.
Interestingly, 3 of Asa's descendants did the same foreign alliance thing and were chastised for it. Foreign alliances were the world's way of dealing with your enemies, not God's way for Judah to do it. The king and the people were to trust in God, who had never failed them yet! I can hear the excuses being made in Asa's mind. "I had a brilliant idea, and it worked. I saved your people, God." God said to him, "I didn't need you to save them. That's my job. I'll do it my way."
Is this a typical human pattern, especially for those who have a position of power and authority? Do we become more vulnerable to relying on our own experience more than on God as we grow older? That bothers me a lot because I am getting older. I have been asking the Lord to not let that happen to me. Stop me if I rely more on myself and my skills/experience more than on Him. Especially when it comes to doing His work—which is my whole life because there is no sacred/secular division in a Christian woman's life. All of life is ministry for the Lord—work, play, church, social, and personal.
"For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."
God reminds Asa and us that there are no favorites with God. If your heart is fully His, He will strengthen you in whatever job you do. King, engineer, servant, mom, dad, teacher, landscaper, IT professional. Leave no room for excuses. Stay fully committed to Him.
Old Testament Disciple-Making
Ever since first being introduced to Jehoshaphat (reading through 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles), I've been drawn to the life of this man. He loved God and tried to be a disciplemaker for God with the people in his sphere of influence. Right up front in 2 Chronicles 17:3-4, it is declared that the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he sought God and "followed His commands rather than the practices of Israel." Guess who was leading Israel at this time. Yep, the very wicked Ahab and Jezebel. Jehoshaphat's life provided a stark contrast between good and evil. God established the kingdom under Jehoshaphat's control so much so that it made the surrounding lands fear the Lord more. Verse 6 says his "heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord." Devoted. How devoted? Well, he organized the discipling of all his people by taking the Word of God to the people where they lived. He sent officials, certain Levites, and a couple of priests with copies of the Books of Moses (first 5 books of the Bible). "They went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people (verse 9)." Now that's intentional disciplemaking — going to the people so everyone can hear, not just those who travel to Jerusalem for festivals.
As a boy and a young man, Jehoshaphat's father Asa was committed to God. I think that certainly helped Jehoshaphat to get a good start. But, as king, he made the choice to continue following God. That doesn't mean he did everything right. In 2 Chronicles 18, we read that he allied himself with Ahab by marriage of his son to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. Probably to avoid being attacked by Israel. That marriage would come back to haunt his descendants later! For now, Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat to join him in battle against a common foe. Jehoshaphat wanted to seek the Lord's counsel first. So, Ahab called in all his "prophets." Jehoshaphat didn't trust them one bit and had the discernment to ask, "Is there a real prophet of God in the house?" There were several true prophets still living in Israel sort of like missionaries. God is never totally shut out of a place, no matter how dark! Micaiah was called upon and would not compromise the truth. In his counsel from the Lord, he sees the Lord sitting on His throne determining how to end Ahab's life. (Interestingly, before reading this passage, I was praising God for His sovereignty not knowing it would be woven throughout my reading for the day!) This situation is a case of a believer and a nonbeliever linked together in a joint venture, which usually results in disaster. Yep! Deceptive Ahab disguised himself as a plain soldier so as not to be recognized as king, probably thinking Jehoshaphat would be the target for enemy attack instead. Verse 31 says Jehoshaphat cried out to the Lord and was protected. But, God's plan for Ahab could not be stopped. "But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel [Ahab] between the sections of his armor (verse 33)" killing Ahab. Our sovereign God accomplished His purpose. You can't hide from God. Ahab was more afraid of the Arameans than he was of the sovereign God.
God was not happy with Jehoshaphat's choice to go with Ahab. His palace prophet came to challenge him, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord (2 Chronicles 19:2)"? Wow! That is a great question. And, an even better question might have been, "Why didn't you ask God before you let your son marry Ahab's daughter or allied yourself with Ahab in battle?" All these kings had prophets of God available to them for seeking God's counsel on every personal and national decision. If I had that kind of access today, would I also forget to use it? Hmmm. At the end of Jehoshaphat's reign, he did it again—made an alliance with his wife's brother, Ahab's son. God wasn't happy about that, either, and brought disaster to their project. Some of us never learn the first time!
Overall, Jehoshaphat was a hands-on leader with his people. In 2 Chronicles 19:4-10, he visited all the regions of his kingdom to encourage his people to follow God only. In chapter 20, when Israel was threatened by enemies, Jehoshaphat went to God in front of and on behalf of all the people gathered there in Jerusalem. His prayer for deliverance (verses 6-13) is beautiful and humble. "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are upon you (12)." I feel that way on many days, don't you? Verse 13 just jumped out at me. "All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord." Not just the men praying together for the nation. Families were together praying. The little children heard the king pray for deliverance. So, when God answered, the whole family could give Him praise. I love that! Maybe instead of having individuals sign up for prayer times at church (for the service), have whole families do it together. 15 minutes of family prayer for the church. Who knows how that will impact the families!
In 2 Chronicles 20:15-17, God's answer basically was, "Don't fight. Stand firm. Just be there. I've got it." And, He sure did. The army approached the battle field with a choir in front singing praise songs before their enemies. God caused the enemies to destroy each other. Then, the king and his army returned joyfully to Jerusalem and had a praise and worship service after the victory as well (verse 21-27).
Jehoshaphat wasn't perfect as a king. Just like us, he made a few poor decisions. But, his heart remained committed to God throughout his life—like GGGGrandfather David's had done. He responded with humility when chastised. "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (verse 32)." Sadly, "The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers (verse 33)." Asa tried to remove the high places (where the idols were worshiped) during his time (2 Chronicles 14:3-5). Some might have been removed and then returned or only some were permanently removed. Then, Jehoshaphat "removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah (2 Chronicles 17:6)" early in his reign. But, pagan worship was extremely resilient. People like religion. Had there been synagogues at this time, like during Jesus' time, I wonder if those would have satisfied the people's need for hands-on religious practice enough to entice them away from the idol worship. Jehoshaphat did his best to disciple his people, and some responded with increased faith. But a lot of the people just would not give up their God-substitute.
It Matters Who Your Mama Is
"He passed away, to no one's regret." What a sad epitaph!
Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, was a bad dude. In 2 Chronicles 21:4, he killed all his brothers along with some other princes of Judah (likely David's descendants). Get rid of the rivals and any other claimant to the throne of David. Why was he so wicked when his father had been so good? One clue is in verse 6, "He married a daughter of Ahab." Athaliah, Jehoram's wife, was the daughter of a wicked man (Ahab) and his even more wicked wife (Jezebel). It matters who your wife is! It matters who your mama is! And for a man, the mama of his children. Athaliah's influence over Jehoram was bad. He had co-ruled with his father Jehoshaphat for 5 years. But, as soon as that godly influence was gone, Jehoram made quick work of evil. In just a few short years (<6), he rebuilt the high places, leading the people of Jerusalem astray. Mother-in-law Jezebel and wife Athaliah were both strong Baal worshippers. Women who manipulated their husbands and children for Satan's purposes rather than for God's purposes. The prophet Elijah, by this time an aged man, spoke God's words to Jehoram by a letter basically saying, "You made a bad choice with your life and destroyed men better than you. The consequences of your sin will be severe." He was hated by his people. He wasn't even buried with the other kings. "He passed away, to no one's regret (verse 20)."
But God protected 1 descendant (that's all He needs), the one influenced for the least amount of time by his father—Ahaziah, age 22. All Azahiah's older brothers had been killed by raiders. Yet, poor Ahaziah was manipulated by his wicked mother. "He too walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for after his father's death they became his advisers, to his undoing (2 Chronicles 22:3-4)." It matters who your mama is! Jezebel and her daughter were horrible influences on their husbands and their sons. Bad wife. Bad mama. Ahaziah's life was cut short; he ruled as king for only 1 year. He was executed according to God's plan. But, the manipulation of wicked women doesn't end here…
Athaliah—daughter of wicked Jezebel, wicked influential wife of Jehoram and wicked influential mother of Ahaziah—takes over the throne as queen as soon as she hears her son Ahaziah is dead. The first thing she did was to kill all her grandchildren! Oh my! This woman had no heart at all! "She proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah (22:10)." Thankfully a godly priest and his wife (Ahaziah's sister from another mother) stole the youngest boy away and kept him hidden for 6 years, preserving the Davidic dynasty. God always preserves a remnant for Himself. This boy was likely the only descendant of David left who could be eligible for the throne. Satan tried to wipe out David's line to end the promise of the Messiah. God is more powerful! Praise you, Lord!
Because of the influence of 3 women, very bad things happened to Israel and Judah. You probably know a woman today who is wrecking her family. Blowing it up. Women have tremendous influence over men. In Mark 6, King Herod didn't want to kill John the Baptist. Who manipulated the execution? A woman and her daughter. Dear women, make sure you are not allowing evil influences to control you in how you influence the men in your life. Be the godly mama, not the bad mama.
I remember the first time I read about Joash, the boy who became king of Judah as an 8-year-old. When our children were young, we read from the Muffin Family Bible Series every night as a family. One night we read about Joash, and his story fascinated me. His grandmother Athaliah killed all her grandchildren except for this one boy who had been hidden away as a toddler by his Aunt Jehosheba and Uncle Jehoiada (the High Priest). Keeping a small child hidden at the temple for 6 years was no small feat! I suppose Aunt Jehosheba passed him off as her own child. When Joash was brought out 6 years later and presented to the people as their king, was there any question as to whether he was really the former King Ahaziah's son? Even if Joash were Jehosheba's child, he was still David's descendant. God's promise to maintain David's throne is preserved. Joash was presented to the people during one of the 3 festival times. Since apparently Yahweh worship had been banned in favor of Baal worship in Jerusalem, this might have been deemed a safe time for the people to gather without creating a stir in wicked Queen Athaliah's mind. The coup was successful, Athaliah was executed, and the people worshiped Yahweh again openly. Hooray!
Uncle Jehoiada, though in his 80s-90s, was a better mentor for Joash than his own father would have been so God didn't need Ahaziah alive. But why leave wicked Athaliah alive? I guess it is so Joash would be a bit older and not just a toddler when he took the throne. Yeah, here's your king still in diapers. Probably wouldn't go over very well. And, maybe the people needed to experience Athaliah's wickedness to prepare their hearts to accept an 8-year-old as their next king. By now, I think they trusted Jehoiada. Jehoiada was a great High Priest. Powerful. Faithful to God. He was running the show as Joash grew up. And, he did a great job. "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years of Jehoiada the priest (2 Chronicles 24:2)." Joash put a lot of effort into repairing the Temple during his early years as king. As long as Jehoiada lived, Joash outwardly conformed to God's commands. But, where was his heart during that time?
AfterJehoiada died (age 130, mind you), Joash turned from God. His DNA from wicked great-grandparents, grandmother and father kicked in! But, he wasn't alone in his fickleness in serving God. "After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the Lord…and worshiped Asherah poles and idols (verses 17-18)." That tells me Joash was only conforming on the outside all those years. His heart was not touched though he had the best mentor he could have had. And, God kept sending communications to the king and to the people. They were not left without a continual Word from the Lord. "Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to Him…they would not listen (verse 19)." Halfheartedness is self-determined. God is constantly wooing. Then the Spirit of God came upon Jehoiada's son Zechariah with a message for Joash, "Why do you dispobey the Lord's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, the Lord will forsake you (verse 20)." The king ordered Zechariah to be stoned! Yes, his own cousin. Son of the uncle who saved his own life! "King Joash did not remember the kindness Zechariah's father Johoiada had shown him but killed his son (verse 22)." That is ungratefulness! God's judgment on Joash came swiftly. Joash was executed by the end of the year by some of his officials who hated what he had done to Zechariah. At least someone was paying attention.
Sadly, Joash's son Amaziah wasn't much better. In 2 Chronicles 25:2, we read, "He did was was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly." That sounds like his dad. Like father, like son. Early in his reign when he made a rash decision to hire mercenaries from Israel, a prophet came to him and said not to do it because God would not give him success in battle. So, Amaziah obeyed and sent those guys back home. But, that made those mercenaries so angry that they destroyed and plundered the land on the way back to Israel (verse 13). I couldn't believe what I read next. "When Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them (verse 14)." Say what?! Why worship the gods that lost the battle? That's illogical! In fact, that's what God said to Amaziah through a prophet (verse 15). Why worship gods "which could not save their own people from your hand?" Yet, Amaziah ruled for another 15 years. He was hated by the people of Jerusalem (probably for that idol worship) and assassinated by them. God carried out His judgment through others. That 15 year wait allowed a one-year-old son Uzziah to grow up and be old enough to rule at age 16. The sovereign God had His plan.
Both of these men did what was right in their younger years. But, even then, it was not wholehearted. Outward conformity doesn't touch the heart. When the outward pressure or restraints are removed, the true nature of a man or woman is revealed. The goal of parenting should not be outward compliance but true obedience from the heart. Same holds true for discipling new Christians. The heart relationship with God is primary over behavior. Establish someone in a love relationship with their God, and they will want to live a life that pleases Him out of love and gratitude for what He has done for them. Otherwise, you might get halfhearted obedience.
That Boastful Pride of Life
God is so gracious in holding each person accountable for his own sin and not for the sin of his father. However, what is modeled by the parent almost always shows up in the son—eventually. This was the case in Uzziah's life. King Uzziah began to rule when he was 16 years old. He started out doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Chronicles 26:4) as his father had done. "He sought God during the days of Zechariah [not the prophet], who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success (verse 5)." Zechariah must have been a godly priest or counselor. And, that's all God asks from us is to seek Him in faith. Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? But our boastful pride of life gets in the way.
Like Solomon, Uzziah was a builder (verses 9-10). He improved farming practices because he "loved the soil." He supplied his army well from the national armory (verse 14). And, he had engineers design and build better defenses for the walls around his capital city Jerusalem. "BUT after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense (verse 16)." That success opened the door for the boastful pride of life to rear its ugly head. He believed the lie that he was the author of his success. Disregarding God's instructions for who can enter the Holy Place of the Temple (only consecrated priests and levites), he did it. When confronted by 80 priests, Uzziah got angry. "While he was raging at the priests…leprosy broke out on his forehead…the Lord had afflicted him (verse 19-20)." Having leprosy for 10 years removed him from public influence. Now he couldn't even go to the Temple courts. Uzziah got a long "timeout" for his bad behavior. He was not even buried in the kings' tomb with David's other descendants. What a way to ruin a life! That boastful pride of life.
Thankfully, Jotham (Uzziah's son) did not follow his father's bad example. At 16, he became co-ruler with his dad. In 2 Chronicles 27:7, we read, "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the Temple of the Lord." For 10 years, Jotham saw the consequences of his father's sin (leprosy) and must have determined in his heart not to do that sin of pride and rage. He "grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord, his God (verse 6)." But, he wasn't able to lead his people spiritually to give up their corrupt practices (verse 3). The people were still using high places to supposedly worship God with their own sacrifices, however this degraded into inclusion of Baal worship alongside Yhwh worship. How many kings up until now (300-400 years after David) had tried to remove the high places only to have them show up again when the pressure was off? It is so hard to root out bad traditions. Like today's practice of incorporating the surrounding culture into the church. It looks harmless but isn't.
Sadly, Jotham didn't live very long. He must have been ill or weak. During his last 3 years as king, his son Ahaz was the acting king. But equally as sad, Jotham did not raise his son to be faithful to God. Reading through 2 Chronicles 28, you see quickly that Ahaz was very, very wicked! He made idols for Baal worship and worshiped them, and he sacrifice his own son to idols (verses 1-4), something God forbid and never wanted His people to do. Why? What would make a man do this?! To go along with the people rather than fight against them? Bad leader. I'm wondering who his mother was, perhaps one of those foreign idol-worshiping women. It matters who your mama is.
Ahaz went from horrible to worse, if that's possible. The Lord lifted His hand of protection from Judah so enemies attacked. This was to humble the king and draw him back to God. Yet, "in his time of trouble, King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him (verses 22-23)" trying to get those gods to help him. "He shut the doors of the Lord's Temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger (verses 24-25)." Sounds like he was either angry at God or running scared. Panicking. I see fear of the Arameans and Assyrians motivating him. There is no mention of connection in his mind between his bad behavior and the consequences (enemy attacks). No going to the Lord for help through a prophet. Was there no faithful High Priest or prophet to give him counsel at this time? Was there no better son of Jotham to rule? He was 20 when he started ruling. Surely his bad character was evident by then.
Ahaz's boastful pride of life ran his life and directed his decisions. He did no one any good, least of all himself. The officials of Jerusalem must have hated him for closing the Temple. When he died, he wasn't buried with the other kings. Though the chronicler didn't say it here, I bet there was no regret when he died. That's the legacy of letting the boastful pride of life take control of your heart and direct your decisions. Not a good result.
Fear of Consequences Motivates Obedience
God's people were His children. And, like any good parent, God demonstrated His love for his children over and over again—teaching them, providing for them, protecting them, and giving them guidance. Yet, the children rebelled again and again. Finally, the ones living in the Northern Kingdom called Israel were attacked by Assyria and taken away into captivity. The repercussions of that horrific event reverberated throughout the southern kingdom of Judah. And, the fear of that happening to them motivated them to finally obey their father God—under the leadership of their godly king, Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became king. His father Ahaz was very wicked. When you trace back the chronology, Ahaz must have been only 12-15 when Hezekiah was born. A teen father. Immature. Yet, Hezekiah's mother was the daughter of a very godly man (2 Chronicles 29:1) so Hezekiah's mother was likely a godly woman. It matters who your mama is! Thankfully, Hezekiah chose to follow his maternal side rather than his paternal influence. He was a true son of David (2 Chronicles 29:2). Hezekiah's first priority was to repair and reopen the Temple (ravaged and shuttered by his father). So, he brought together those responsible for maintaining and operating the Temple and the worship of God—the priests and Levites (verse 4-5). In his challenge to them, Hezekiah rightly held accountable the previous generation of leaders and people for being unfaithful to God, which led to Israel's captivity (verses 6, 9). It was time for a fresh start, and he needed all the religious leaders onboard for this, reminding them of their purpose. "My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him (verse 11)." The priests and Levites purified themselves and jumped into the task. It took 16 days to clean the filth from the Temple (verse 17). 16 days! Must have been a total wreck! Hezekiah then called together all the local leaders and publicly confessed the sins of the nation, just like on the Day of Atonement. His message to them was, "We cleaned the Temple, so now let us get ourselves clean before God." This was followed by worship through offerings, singing, band playing, reading of the Psalms and hearts filled with gladness (verses 27-31). What a glorious day! The leadership of Judah was going in the right direction at last!
In 2 Chronicles 30, Hezekiah invited all the people of the land including those Jews left behind in the northern kingdom to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover (verses 1-5). An attempt to unite Israel into one nation again after 215 years of separation. His letter of appeal said, "People of Israel, return to the Lord…that He may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria…If you return to the Lord, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn His face from you if you return to Him (verse 6, 9)." Hezekiah knew the character of God. The captives still belonged to God, who still loved them. You would expect an overwhelmingly positive response to that, right? Well… Some of the people in the north "scorned and ridiculed" the couriers (verse 10). They didn't want God's compassion. That's foolishness. Others "humbled themselves and went to Jerusalem (verse 11)." That's repentance.
And, God gave the people of Judah "unity of mind to carry out what the king and his officials had ordered following the word of the Lord (verse 12)." As a group, they cleaned Jerusalem of its idolatrous filth that King Ahaz had done to it. Hezekiah prayed for God's grace upon the people who really didn't remember how to purify themselves. "'May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God…even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.' And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people (verse18-20)." That's grace. That's what God does. We can never really clean ourselves. God cleanses the heart of faith. There was much rejoicing that day, "including the aliens who had come from Israel and those who lived in Judah (verse 25)." That's Gentiles! Gentiles joined the assembly of God's people and were accepted by God that day by faith. Foreshadowing of the future. Thank you, God!
So, what was the difference this time compared to previous attempts to bring the people back to God? Their response. The people responded with obedience to God, not just compliance to the king's commands. This is what is recorded in 2 Chronicles 31:1, "When all this had ended, the Israelites who were there went out to the towns of Judah, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars throughout Judah and Benjamin [southern kingdom] and in Ephraim and Manasseh [northern kingdom]." The response to grace was obedience. The people destroyed the idolatrous worship centers that had led them astray. Reminds me of the Ephesian Christians who created a bonfire with all their sorcery books and tools (Acts 19). Peeling back the layers, why were the people so willing to do this? Fear. Fear of the consequences of continuing their wicked lifestyle. The threat of captivity. They knew what happened to the 10 tribes of Israel through the brutality of Assyria and the dragging off of hundreds of thousands of people to who-knows-where as slaves. That was the motivation. God didn't want to do that. He sent prophet after prophet to woo His people back to Him. They wouldn't pay attention. They spurned His grace and His love and His protection. But, His love didn't end…
God gave the people a leader. Hezekiah did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord. In everything he did for the Temple and for restoring God's law in the land, "he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered (2 Chronicles 31:20)." And the nation prospered so people had abundance to bring as offerings to the Lord (verses 9-10).
We can all learn wisdom from watching the mistakes of others and choosing not to do that! It's much better to approach life God's way. In this case, a healthy fear of consequences can motivate selfish people to follow God instead.
The Disconnected Leader
I just don't get it. Hezekiah's son Manasseh followed the pattern of his wicked grandfather Ahaz (whom he never knew) rather than what was modeled before him in his godly father Hezekiah. Where was the disconnect? Manasseh experienced the siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib when he was about 10 years old. Whether or not he was aware of his father and Isaiah praying over that letter sent by Sennacherib demanding surrender, I am sure he heard about it afterwards and the miraculous response of God. You don't have an army of 100's of thousands surrounding your town get wiped out by an angel and retreat without the news spreading and being talked about for months. Hezekiah had prepared the water sources and the defense systems beforehand (2 Chronicles 32:3-5), but God put on the show. Manasseh must have heard his father praising God as greater than any enemy (verses 6-8) more than once in his young life. Granted, Hezekiah got a little prideful afterwards which angered God. But, then Hezekiah repented and was restored to God's good favor again. When Manasseh was 12, he began to co-rule with his father and did so for 10 years until Hezekiah died. Ten years of growing up beside someone who was on God's side, not apparently modeling pagan religious practices. So, why did Manasseh so quickly jump into such wicked behavior as a leader? As a parent, I just don't understand the disconnect.
In 2 Chronicles 33, we read in verse 1 that Manasseh was not only 12 when he began to rule but that he ruled for 55 years. But, he did evil (verse 2). Verse 3-7 describe how he undid all the good work of his father. Why? And, why did he get to rule for so long? He had plenty of promptings from God to straighten his act. Verse 10 says he ignored the prophets and chose to be like Ahaz. Why would Ahaz's fame of horrible leadership be attractive to this young man? Not only was Manasseh a horribly wicked leader for his people, leading them back to idolatry, his practices were more wicked than any of the surrounding pagan nations (verse 10)! It's like he was trying to be the worst he could be to make a name for himself. It makes no sense whatsoever. But, there are always consequences to wicked behavior, and God stayed faithful to his promise to David by disciplining Manasseh.
When I read 2 Chronicles 33:11, I was rather surprised. Manasseh king of Judah was taken prisoner by the Assyrians to Babylon with a hook through his nose and shackles on his ankles. A king humiliated in such a way! That must have captured Manasseh's attention big time! We read in verses 12-13 that he came back to Jerusalem a changed man. I would hope so! And, during the last 8-10 years of his reign, he did the right things in God's eyes. Sadly, his evil influence over his son Amon during his son's formative years resulted in disaster for Amon. He started ruling as king at the age of 22 years and was dead 2 years later, assassinated by the people—who hated him.
I still don't understand what happened with young Manasseh. His mother's name from 2 Kings 21:1 sounds Jewish. So, it doesn't seem to be a foreign mother's influence. The fact is that even the best parents have no control over their adult children's decisions. Hezekiah loved the Lord; his son didn't. Each one of us comes to God on our own merits not our parents' merits. Being raised in a godly home with God-honoring parents is a true blessing to children who choose to follow their leading. Even those raised in ungodly homes can learn to love God well and break the wicked cycle, hoping their children will continue the faithfulness. All we as parents can do is our best before God and trust the results to God, hoping there won't be a disconnect between our generation and the next.
God's Steadfast Love
I already knew that the ending of 2 Chronicles would be sad. People of Judah and Jerusalem would be taken captive to Babylon, the city ravaged, and the Temple destroyed. But, God's sovereignty and His love used these awful things to purify a remnant for Himself of people faithful to Him. He didn't want to take such drastic measures. Yet, the wickedness of those whose purpose was to represent God on earth and proclaim His glory and holiness to the pagan nations around them demanded that God take action. God's wrath cleans and restores. It is an extension of His love. I know that sounds crazy. Stiff-necked humans let themselves get absolutely filthy. But, God's love provides a way for those who want to get cleaned up and restored to their purpose. That's what happened to the Jews.
When Josiah became king at age 8, he must have had a child-like faith despite his wicked father. Maybe he had a great mother. We know that Hilkiah the High Priest was a strong influence in his life. 2 Chronicles 34:3 says that as a 16-year-old, he began to seek God. I've seen that happen in teens and young adults when they turn the childhood faith they got from their parents into a personal faith for themselves. Josiah sought God for himself as a teen. By the time he turned 20, he was ready to act as a godly leader for his people—purging Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry (verses 3-4). At 26, he tackled restoring the Temple (verse 8). He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. And, for his people. In cleaning the Temple, the books of Moses were found (verse 14) and read to the king. This so moved him that he inquired of the Lord what to do. God's answer through the prophetess Huldah spurred him to bring the people together so he could read God's Word to the people (verse 30-31). Don't you love that? After reading it, he renewed the covenant with God for himself (verse 31) then had the people do it for themselves (verse 32). That's a good leader. As long as he lived, the people obeyed God (verse 33). Leadership makes such a difference to the direction people take. During this time also, the Passover was celebrated in huge fashion with great attention to detail (2 Chronicles 35). Yet, at the age of 39, Josiah acted against the better judgment of even a pagan ruler who said Josiah was opposing God by engaging him (Pharaoh Neco) in battle. Josiah was killed in battle leaving his nation reeling in shock and mourning, unprepared for what would take place next.
Then comes the downward spiral. 2 Chronicles 36 recounts the short reign of Jehoahaz (3 months) who was taken captive to Egypt (verses 2-4). Pharoah then placed his older brother Eliakim on the throne (name changed to Jehoiakim). Jehoiakim did evil in God's eyes for 11 years (verse 5). By that time, Babylon was in charge of Judah so Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim captive to Babylon along with a bunch of temple treasures (verse 6). Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin on the throne, who did evil in God's eyes, too, though ruling for only 3 months before being taken to Babylon along with more temple treasures (verses 9-10). Do you see a pattern here? Who would have willingly raised his hand next to become king? Not me! Well, Nebuchadnezzar made the choice—Josiah's son Mattaniah (who would have been about 6 when his father died)—and gave him the name Zedekiah (verse 10-11), establishing his authority over him. The prophet Jeremiah was actively bringing God's Word throughout the 11 years Zedekiah was on the throne. God offered through Jeremiah to spare Zedekiah, his family, and the whole city of Jerusalem from destruction if Zedekiah would simply surrender to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 38:17-18). He could have saved the lives of many people and the Temple from being destroyed! But, he refused to follow Jeremiah's counsel! Zedekiah "became stiffnecked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord. Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful following all the detestable practices of the nations (verses13-14)." He ended up being blinded, his family killed in front of him, the city ravaged and the Temple completely destroyed. Bad choice, Zedekiah!
Within 20 years of Josiah's death, the evil cancer of idolatry had returned. God had to clean up the filth. The wicked and unrepentant died at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar while those whose hearts were pliable were taken captive to Babylon for 70 years. There, they learned to trust God alone and give up any idolatrous tendencies. After the 70 years, the faithful were allowed to return to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and their homeland. God's steadfast love brought back a remnant of faithful Jews to regain their land and their purpose to once again be a light for the Gentiles. Israel clung to their God for the next few hundred years, thus preparing them for the coming of their Messiah. I would have given up on such a stiff-necked people. God didn't. Thankfully in His steadfast love, He is still wooing those whose hearts are pliable towards Him.