1. Ezra, or whoever wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles, had a different aim than the writers of the books of Samuel and Kings. This is indicated, both by the materials he omits and the additional material he provides. The Chronicler focuses primarily upon the kingdom of Judah and on David and his descendents who succeeded him on the throne. He does not mention the northern tribes, (commonly known as "Israel" in distinction from the southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Simeon, known as "Judah", even though the southern tribes are, in the original sense, members of the nation of Israel) except when they come into contact with the house of David. In 2 Chronicles, he omits the stories of Elijah and Elisha because these two prophets ministered in Israel rather in Judah. More material is provided 2 Chronicles concerning the kings of Judah than we found in 1 and2 Kings. The activities of a number of prophets new to the Biblical narrative are found in this book because of its focus on the southern kingdom, such as Shemaiah, who spoke to Rehoboam,and Azariah the son of Oded who exhorted king Asa to "be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work." (15:7) The "work" Azariah mentions was to remove idolatry from Israel and restore the proper worship of God.
2. The books of the Chronicles are supplementary to the books of Kings, just as the Gospels are supplementary to one another, filling in blanks as well as providing a different, but complementary, perspective on the events and characters they share in common. For instance, in 2 Chronicles we learn, for the first time, of Joash's apostasy from the Lord after the death of Jehoiada, the high priest. In 1 Kings we were told that Joash "did right in the sight of the LORD all his days in which Jehoiada the priest instructed him." (12:2) In 2 Chronicles that we learn what Joash did after the death of Jehoiada, and it is not a pleasant account. Other events that appeared in the books ofKings are given shorter treatment in the Chronicles, such as the wicked deeds of Ahaz and Manasseh. The apostasy of Solomon is entirely omitted. In general, the Chronicler brings out the good deeds of the kings of Judah and how Judah prospered greatly when king and people were obedient to the Law of God. As we saw above, it also shows how a king's failure to lead the people in righteousness proved the undoing of the good things with which God had blessed His people during their times of faithfulness. But again, in general, the Chronicler's eye is on the positive in order to encourage the returning Israelites to follow the good examples they had in their former history. Now, that they were back in the Land but no longer had a prince, only a governor appointed by the Persian emperor, the responsibility naturally fell more to the priests and the people. They would need to take the initiative in living for God and keeping His commandments but they could still derive instruction and inspiration from the good examples made by some of their kings.
3. For the New Testament people of God these examples are also instructive. Our Savior has given us His laws, which are an extension and enhancement of the abiding moralcontent of the Law God gave to the people of Israel through Moses. Many Christians today, by wrongly interpreting some of the words of Paul, suppose that Christ came to do away with law altogether, to make the Law of God irrelevant except as a means to show we are all guilty before it. But the Prophets of the Old Testament foretold that the Messiah would indeed teach God's commandments and would cause people to keep them.Isaiah 2:2-4 says that in the "last days" when the Messiah comes, "Many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.'" And why is this to happen? "For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." The result will be that "they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." (see also Micah 4:1-4) In Isaiah 9:6-7 we read of the child who will be born "and the government will rest upon His shoulders… There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…" The Messiah will govern and must therefore deliver wise and just laws for His subjects to obey. In Isaiah 11:1-10 we read of a "shoot" from the "stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots that will bear fruit", upon whom will rest the "Spirit of the LORD", that is, "the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD." He will judge fairly and render just decisions so that there will not be any who "hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" because "the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious." In other words, the Messiah will effectively rule according to His law. In Isaiah 42:1-4 we find a wonderful prophecy of how the Messiah will bring forth "justice to the nations", not by loud words or condemning the guilty but by His patient persistence in pursuing justice and His ability to inspire people to do the same so that "the coastlands[a term meaning "the nations"] will wait expectantly for His law." In Jeremiah 23:5-6we read that the "days are coming" when God will "raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, 'the LORD our righteousness." (See also Jeremiah 33:14-16) He will reign as king; that means He will bring a law for His subjects to obey. Not only will He bring His law but He will also cause it to be followed, for He will make a "new covenant" by which He will put His law within men and write it upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34). In Ezekiel 11:19-20, speaking of the days after the Messiah comes, "I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. (see also 36:26-27)" This shall take place because of the coming of the Messiah, whom God calls "David" not only because He is the descendent of David but because in Him is found the perfect embodiment of all the good things that were in David. Because this David will reign over the people, "they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them." (Ezekiel 37:24; see also34:23-24) In Daniel 2:44-45, we read that in the last days God will set up His kingdom which will crush and put an end to the despotic empires of men and will endure forever. A kingdom is no kingdom without laws. Then, in 7:13-14 we read that the "Son of Man" will receive from the "Ancient of Days… dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed." If men serve this King, it must be according to the laws which He gives them to follow. In Daniel 9:24-26 we read of "the Messiah the Prince", the time of whose coming is precisely foretold and coincides perfectly with the year in which Jesus was baptized in the Jordan by John and presented by that prophet to the people as the Messiah. Notice that the Messiah is "the Prince", that is, the King (not, as we tend to use the word, as the son of a king who is waiting in the wings to succeed him). Again, if He is King, so He has laws for us to obey. Then, in Zechariah 9:9-10 we read of the coming of the king who is "humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey." It is He who will "speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth." His dominion means that His laws shall be made known and shall be obeyed.
4. So we see that the Messiah does not merely die for our sins (as symbolized in the sacrifices offered according to the Law and as prophesied in Isaiah 53) but also causes those who trust in Him to keep His commandments. Jesus did give us commandments which He expects us to obey. The Sermon on the Mount is one example of this. In that sermon, He promises that those who obey His teaching will be like those who built their house upon the rock and which remained standing after the winds blew and slammed against it, whereas those who did not obey His teachings are like those who built their house upon the sand and which fell when the winds blew against it (Matthew 7:24-27).Those who fully trust in Jesus will find that they are able to keep His word, for He is the fulfiller of His own law. To those who deny this, I reply - "Where is this taught in Scripture?" They will no doubt point to Romans 7, forgetting that it is set in the context ofRomans 6 and 8 which both unequivocally teach that the believer is set free - not to break the Law but to fulfill it! Romans 7 is Paul's contrast of the life lived under the tyranny of the flesh with the life of those who are walking in the Spirit.
5. The book of 2 Chronicles can be simply divided into three parts with the middle part taking up the lion's share of the book:
I The Reign of Solomon - 1:1-9:31
II The Kings of Judah - 10:1-36:14
1. Rehoboam - 10:1-12:16
2. Abijah - 13:1-22
3. Asa - 14:1-16:14
4. Jehoshaphat - 17:1-20:37
5. Jehoram - 21:1-20
6. Ahaziah - 22:1-9
7. Athaliah (Queen, and her overthrow by the priest, Jehoiada) - 22:10-23:15
8. Joash - 23:16-24:27
9. Amaziah - 25:1-25
10. Uzziah - 26:1-23
11. Jotham - 27:1-9
12. Ahaz - 28:1-27
13. Hezekiah - 29:1-32:33
14. Manasseh - 33:1-20
15. Amon - (33:21-25)
16. Josiah - 34:1-35:27
17. Jehoahaz - 36:1-3
18. Jehoiakim - 36:4-8
19. Jehoiakin - 36:9-10
20. Zedekiah - 36:11-14
III The Destruction of Jerusalem and Exile of Judah - 36:15-23
6. The main object of 2 Chronicles is to point out the blessings that the kings of Judah obtained by being faithful to the law and will of God. While passing over some of the evil deeds of some of the kings, beginning with Solomon, the author does note the evil deeds of several of the kings and shows the disasters that followed upon their disobedience. If we keep in mind that the Old Testament was a teaching demonstration that prepared the way for the New Testament, we will see how these lessons apply to us today. Under the Old Testament, the rewards of obedience and the punishments for disobedience were primarily material and temporal whereas under the New Covenant, they are both primarily spiritual and eternal. Whereas God promised the Israelites that they would dwell in security and prosperity in their own land if they obeyed His commandments, the Lord Jesus told His disciples that they should not look for security in this life. He said, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves… Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." (Matthew 10:16, 21-22) On the night He was betrayed, He again warned His disciples, "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me." (John 15:18-21) The disciple of Jesus, therefore, must keep his eyes on the eternal prize, joy everlasting in the kingdom of God. This does not mean, however, that there are no temporal blessings for the New Covenant child of God. Right now we experience the foretaste of heavenly glory for, in its essence, the kingdom of God is not a glorious place but a glorious state of the mind: "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) While what we experience of this state of mind in this life is but a tiny drop of that vast ocean of bliss which will be ours in eternity, it is enough to assure us that it is very worth preparing for in our fleeting time on earth. This does not mean that the New Testament believer is oblivious to the world or the affairs of this life - far from it! It is in this life that we prepare for eternity and if we are not living in the foretaste of the kingdom here and now, we have little reason to suppose that we will enter into its fullness hereafter. Jesus said to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt and thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-21; 19:21; Luke 12:21, 33; 18:22) We do this by providing the goods of this world to the poor and needy, letting our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Thus by making friends through the generous use of "unrighteous mammon" (worldly wealth) we will have friends to receive us into "eternal dwelling-places" when unrighteous mammon shall be no more! (Luke 16:1-9) But what of material blessings; are there no material blessings that come from obedience to God's will for the New Testament believer? God's law will naturally produce great good, both material and spiritual, both temporal and eternal, for God's law is simply the surest path to the highest good, known only to God and revealed to us by Him. As believers follow His will, they will enjoy better health, longer lives, financial gains - provided these are, in the wisdom of God, consistent with the highest, long-term good. If people are honest, they will be entrusted with the goods of this world by those who esteem their honesty. If they take joy in providing excellence in their service or product, people naturally desire that good or service and reward them for it. If people turn away from harmful substances and pastimes, they are rewarded with good health. This is the natural result of doing what God wants us to do. In addition, God does delight in rewarding obedience, even here in this life and will often encourage His children with rewards in this life. But if He sees it best to withdraw some worldly goods, the New Testament believer is not without solace. Indeed, he knows that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
I. THE REIGN OF SOLOMON - 1:1-9:31
The book of 2 Chronicles covers the same period as do 1 and 2 Kings and yet is shorter because it focuses exclusively upon the southern kingdom of Judah except when Judah comes into contact with Israel (the northern tribes thereof) or with surrounding or invading nations. The first nine chapters cover the reign of Solomon but the author leaves out the spiritual decline of Solomon into idolatry in his later years. The accent in 2 Chronicles is on the positive side of obedience to God, the blessings that came to the nation when it was led by a righteous king and the people did what was right in God's eyes. The negative side is mentioned but not as often as in the books of Kings. He does want to show the evil that came to Judah because of their defections from God but his hope is to motivate the returned exiles more by the benefits of obedience to God than by the bad results of disobedience.
There are natural results that come from obeying or disobeying God and then there are the additional incentives and disincentives that God adds as the One who presides over the moral government of the universe. What is important to realize is that the ultimate natural results are the reasons God forbids certain things and commands others. In fact, there is some overlap between natural results and the sanctions He imposes when His commands are disobeyed. It is said that virtue is its own reward. This is true. It is also true that vice is its own punishment. The Bible says that God's punishment consists, essentially, in allowing disobedient souls to go on being disobedient.
In Romans 1:18-32, Paul shows how mankind descended into greater and greater sin after turning away from God, for they "exchanged the truth [of God's existence and divine nature] for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature [created things]rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." (verse 25b) The punishment God visited upon them was that He "gave them over" (verses 24, 26, 28) to a depraved mind and to a continued pursuit of evil. The essence of sin is selfishness, seeking one's own pleasure above the pleasure of God and the highest good of His creation. It is the opposite of loving God supremely and one's neighbor as oneself. Ironically, those who pursue their own happiness as an ultimate end find that they, sooner or later, become miserable. If they become wise, they repent of this but if not, they make even greater efforts to secure their own happiness. The result is a steadily reduced capacity for happiness.
Apart from God's intervention, this depraved state of mind will become permanent, and can even get to the point where no amount of God's grace can save a soul from its own destruction. This is the "second death" of which the Apostle John speaks in the book of Revelation (20:6, 14; 21:8) and the "hell" or "Gehenna" of which Jesus speaks (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). The image of fire and brimstone is meant to convey the awful suffering of an immortal soul whom God has left to itself forever. As C. S. Lewis observed, in the end there are but two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done" and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done."
Those whose chief joy is in the service of God and His creation will find that they will be given an unlimited and ever-increasing scope for such service, both in this life and in the life to come. That, ultimately, is their great reward. As before noted, the essence of the kingdom is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). When you are fulfilling the "royal law" to "to love your neighbor as yourself" (James 2:8) then your conscience is at peace. Instead of accusing you of pride, selfishness, covetousness, etc., it smiles upon your conduct. This is why God gave us a conscience and informs it by the revelation of His will and the reasons why we ought to do it. Added to this is the sense of God's approval, which also promotes a sense of peace. Joy also results from fulfilling the royal law as you see the good that your actions produce. When your chief desire and design is to be used by God to bring Him glory and bless your fellow creatures then when those ends are achieved or show promise of achievement, your joy overflows! Real joy comes from loving and being loved.
Those who say that they are going to heaven when they die but who do not seek first the kingdom of heaven and God's righteousness (Matthew 6:33) while on earth are only kidding themselves. Salvation is not something in addition to living for God, it is living for God! If God has saved us it means He has persuaded us to seek first the interests of His kingdom and the paths of His righteousness. It does not necessarily mean we always obey or always put God first in our lives but it does mean that we sincerely want to do so and are easily returned to a right frame of mind whenever we go astray. We may become distracted or cast down by the subtle stratagems of Satan but the Holy Spirit is right there to remind us and His gentle reminder is all we usually need. That is the character of a true child of God and one who will not fail to move forward in their pursuit of "the prize ofthe upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14) Heaven is to them, not pearly gates, streets of gold, a mansion by the crystal sea or the mere absence of sorrow, pain and death. It is, above all, the chance to live the life of loving and being loved forever, without hindrance from the flesh, the world or the devil.
Now, coming back to the reign of Solomon, as conveyed to us from the pages of 2 Chronicles, we see something more than what we saw in 1 Kings concerning God's appearance to Solomon when he went to offer sacrifice in Gibeon before the old tabernacle, still there after David moved the ark to Jerusalem. We learn that it was not just Solomon and his immediate retinue who were gathered there but that he had summoned all the leaders of Israel to that place. (1:2-3) God wants us to see in this circumstance that Jesus Christ, the greater Solomon (Man of Rest) wants all His disciples to receive wisdom from on high for the great work they are called to do. It is not enough that Jesus is all-wise; He wants His servants also to partake of God's wisdom. Our calling is to serve the body of Christ and to extend the kingdom of God to every person in every nation. Yes, there are special "leaders" in this work but they are not to do it alone. Every believer ought to be a leader and therefore needs God's wisdom.
2 Chronicles spreads before us the period when Solomon was humble, obedient and intent on doing the will of God as did his father, David. It shows the benefits that he and the nation received for this, in particular, vast wealth (1:14-17). Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a "treasure hidden in the field" and to "a pearl of great value" (Matthew 13:44-46). He said that those who found the treasure and the pearl sold everything they had to acquire them because they were worth far more than all their other worldly goods. The point is that the kingdom of God is living within the will of God with the promise of continuing to live within His will forever and that this is worth more than all wealth this world could provide us. Jesus taught us that a man would suffer infinite loss if he were to gain the whole world and lose his soul. (Matthew 16:26) Yes, following Jesus requires us to give up everything that we have (Luke 14:33), that is, to give up the right to everything we have and surrender it to God's control. He may require us to give it all away (Luke 18:22) or He may allow us to keep some of it (19:8-10) but it must be placed entirely at His discretion as to its use. The thing to remember is that living within the will of God is salvation, so when Jesus requires us to surrender all to Him that we might be His disciples it is not a quid pro quo, something we do for God to obtain salvation from Him. Rather, it is necessarily the thing without which salvation is impossible. It is like saying, "I want to swim but I don't want to get into the water" or "I want to fly but I don't want to leave the ground." And so, coming back to this question of the kingdom's value, it is worth infinitely more than all the wealth this world could bestow upon us. To surrender what little part of that wealth we currently hold in our hands is nothing as compared to the treasure of living with God and in harmony with His revealed will. Adam and Eve once sold it for a piece of fruit and every human being since then, except Jesus of Nazareth, has sold it for some comparable trifle. Those who have "buyer's remorse" for selling their birthright for a pot of "lentil stew" (Genesis 25:27-34) have God's wonderful offer to exchange it back for the "weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17). This is because Jesus died to make this offer possible. There is a way back. Will you take it?
2 Chronicles gives us a wonderful account of what happened after the temple was completed. Again, Solomon is walking in obedience to the Lord and carries out the will of God in building a glorious temple where not only Israel but all nations can seek and find God. God shows His great pleasure in Solomon's obedience by filling the temple with His glory, a glory so great the priests could not stand to minister. They fell on their faces before God's presence in the cloud that filled the temple! (5:11-14) This is a wonderful picture of what happens to the believer when they are walking in obedience to the Lord. Peter says that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). When our hearts are submitted to God we are vessels through which God can pour out His goodness and reveal His glory. It is a blessed thing to have in us a "well of water, springing up to eternal life" (John 4:14) but an even greater thing to have from our "innermost being… flow rivers of living water." (7:37) In the former, we are blessed but in the latter we are a blessing to others. This is a figure of speech Jesus uses to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer's life. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, says the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 6:19). While we walk this earth we have the wonderful privilege of manifesting the glory of God in our bodies through the Holy Spirit's indwelling! The display of His glory in us will draw others to God so that they too can taste the goodness of the Lord and enjoy the blessings of His kingdom.
In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, the Lord says to Solomon, "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." This wonderful promise to the nation of Israel has often been quoted in relation to the need for revival.Under the Old Covenant, this is speaking of material blessings withheld because of disobedience. But from a New Testament perspective, this is a promise to reach the lost through the church when the church gets right with God. All around us in the world today we see the prevalence of unbelief, sin and unrighteousness. But that should not surprise us. Jesus said that we, the church, are the "salt of the earth" and "the light of the world." (Matthew 5:13-16) In the days of Jesus, there was no refrigeration. If you wanted to keep meat from decaying you had to preserve it with salt. If we look around at the world in general or to our nation in particular and see much evidence of moral and spiritual decay we must not simply shake our heads in consternation and reproach at the world. Rather, we should remember our Lord's teaching that we are the salt of the earth and if we have lost our saltiness, in that we have become more like the world than like true followers of Jesus, then of course the unbelieving world will not benefit from our being among them. In Jesus' day, light at night was provided by oil lamps. No one who wanted to see in the darkness would put a lamp under a bushel basket. But that is just what we have done by obscuring the light of Christ within us through our spiritual apathy and disobedience to His command to proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). If the world is in darkness, we must not blame the world but ourselves! We are its light but we have hidden our light from the world through cowardice and love of worldly approval. Of course the world will not applaud us when we tell them the truth about their need of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But only when we are faithful to proclaim and live out His truth will the world have the opportunity to repent and turn to God. Many a sinner has at first scoffed at and treated rudely, if not violently, the messengers of the gospel God sent to him but upon seeing their patient forbearance and consistency of conduct, they have in time come to receive the truth in love and enter into the lists [old term for an arena of combat] on the side of Christ. I was once such a scoffer so I know it from personal experience.
II. THE BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE ILLUSTRATED BY THE KINGS OF JUDAH - 10:1-36:14
King Rehoboam's reign (10:1-12:16) shows God's mercy to those who repent, even when that repentance is not all it should be. Because of his disobedience to God and that of the people of Judah, God sent the Pharaoh Shishak against Judah with an immense army, intent upon destroying Judah and Jerusalem. But because Rehoboam humbled himself, along with the people and said, "The LORD is righteous", that is, right in sending so great a judgment upon them, He limited the damage that Shishak did to the kingdom. This shows us that God is ready to encourage even the most tentative turning toward Him. A greater good would be accomplished once a king and people arose who fully followed the Lord but damage was limited here by even a partial turning to God.
King Abijah's reign (13:1-22) shows that those who obey the Lord have an advantage in war over those who have forsaken Him, in this latter case, Jereboam and the northern tribes of Israel. The New Testament believer is not called to physical warfare with physical enemies but spiritual warfare with spiritual enemies for the souls of men (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We look around us today at a culture and a people who are rapidly forsaking much of what the Lord has revealed to be His will. But they will not prevail if God's faithful people rally to the standard of Christ and press the battle. In the end, truth will win. This is not because human beings will inevitably progress but because God wills the triumph of His truth over all error.
King Asa's reign (14:1-16:14) contains a wonderful illustration of how those who are obedient in the Lord and trust in His power are enabled thereby to overcome what would seem to be overwhelming forces intent upon their destruction. (14:2-15) Hear Asa's wonderful prayer: "Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You." (verse 11) Against us, indeed, are arrayed a host of enemies, both within and without us, who would drag us back into captivity to sin if they prevailed. But we can put on the "whole armor of God" and prevail in "the evil day". (Ephesians 6:10-18) Remember, we have two basic objectives in this war to which we are called as followers of Christ: 1) to stand, and not fall before our spiritual enemies and 2) to rescue other souls from the clutches of the enemy so that they turn sides against the devil and for Christ. We pray to God, "And let not Satan prevail against You." God has repeatedly promised ultimate victory for the kingdom of His beloved Son. We must lay claim to those promises and remind God constantly that it is not right that He should lose to Satan.
One other thing to notice is God's word to Asa through the prophet Azariah (15:1-7). God describes the terrible sufferings that happened to Israel when they forsook Him in the past, how "Nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress." This reminds us of Jesus' words to the people of Israel concerning the time that should soon come upon them because they rejected Him and His teaching concerning the "things that make for peace" (Luke 19:41-44; 21:10-11) But notice also God's encouraging word to Asa: "But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work." (2 Chronicles 15:7) Jesus, likewise encouraged His followers to be faithful despite all the troubles that would soon come upon the nation of Israel and the Roman Empire. You must realize that this is God's word to you as well. Because men are disobedient, times of suffering may have to come but you should take courage and do His will for there will be reward for your work.
King Jehoshaphat's reign (17:1-20:37) shows forth many blessings that came to him and his kingdom because he was obedient to the Lord - until he made an alliance with wicked king Ahab of Israel. This is a strong warning for us not to "be unequally yoke together with unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) This does not mean that we are to stand aloof from unbelievers for our Lord set the example of going among them and sharing God's love with them. But what it does mean, at the very least, is that we are not to accept them as members of the church until they have ceased their rebellion against the Lord. Many a church has lost its ability to shine for Christ and advance His cause because they have become a "mixed multitude" of both disciples and those who have not yet taken up their cross to follow Christ. In King Jehoshaphat's case, God sent the prophet Jehu to warn him (19:1-4) and he seems to have profited by it, for he was able to bring back many Israelites, even in the northern kingdom, to God. But a bigger test lay ahead.
Chapter 20 contains an account of how Jehoshaphat faced a huge army composed of several enemy kingdoms. His response was perfect. He called together the people and prayed before them all, calling on God to help them. Right in the assembly, following Jehoshaphat's prayer, God filled a man with the Spirit and spoke through him, saying, among other things, "You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem." So, the next morning, Jehoshaphat assembled the people against and said, "Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed." (verse 20) Then, instead of assembling the army, he assembled the singers and musicians to praise the Lord and while they were praising the Lord, He set the armies of the three different kingdoms to fighting with each other until they utterly defeated themselves!
What is the application here? There is one that I think is highly instructive to us as believers in Christ. Jesus has taught us to love our enemies, to overcome evil with good rather than returning evil for evil. Many Christians limit this to personal squabbles but if you take into account the prophecies concerning the Messiah's influence over men that will bring them to turn their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks so that nation will not go to war against nation nor learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4 and many other passages) and you consider that Jesus was teaching a third way besides collaboration with the Romans and armed revolt against them, then it would be ridiculous to limit Jesus teaching on non-resistance to the purely personal sphere. The early Christians understood this and when they were criticized for not fighting in the army to defend the Roman Empire they replied that they did more to overcome Rome's enemies by fighting on their knees [in prayer] than all of Caesar's armies did on their feet. O - if only we had tried Jesus' way when Al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11! Of course, had our President suggested we do that he would have been immediately impeached. The sad part is that Christians would probably have been the most ready to impeach him! We have got a lot to learn. We must learn to trust in God and in His ultimate Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes it will appear the height of folly but if God says it, we should do it. Then we will prosper and then we will have success.
The reign of Jehoram (21:1-20) is one of the negative examples. This king of Judah copied the mistakes of the kings of Israel, even marrying the daughter of Ahab, one of their kings. His rule was marked by many losses and tragedies and he came to his grave through a terrible illness. (This fatal illness was prophesied beforehand by Elijah as a punishment for Jehoram's many sins, including the murder of his brothers "who", says God, "were better than you." We know that Elijah was a prophet to northern Israel, mainly, but here he was sent to the king of Judah) The final word on him is, "and he reigned in Jerusalem for eight years; and he departed with no ones' regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings." The lesson here is that living for the devil makes for a terrible legacy! On the other hand, those who serve God leave behind a lot of people who will really miss them and perhaps an even greater number waiting on the portals of heaven to receive them!
Despite Jehoram's grievous disobedience to God and the disasters consequent upon this, the Chronicler is careful to point out that "the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David because of the covenant which He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and his sons forever." (21:7) This statement shows that God's covenant with David was unconditional, at least as to its final fulfillment. His covenant with David is the logical extension of His covenant with Abraham for in that covenant He promised that through Abraham, that is, through his "seed all the nations [or families] of the earth shall be blessed." (12:3; 18:18; 22:18) This blessing refers back to the "curse" God placed upon mankind because of the sin of Adam (Genesis 3:17-19) and the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, Satan (3:15) and thus liberate mankind from his tyranny. While "seed" refers to all the descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it refers particularly to the Messiah. The promise God made to David that he would never lack a descendent to sit upon the throne of Israel points to the specific descendent in whom this promise would be forever fulfilled, Jesus, the son of David and the Son of God. It is through this Seed of the woman, of Abraham and of David that mankind would be delivered from the power of sin, the curse of death and the tyranny of Satan.
The reign of Ahaziah (22:1-9) shows us another sad instance of disobedience to the Lord. He lasts only one year upon the throne before he is killed by Jehu who has a commission from the Lord to wipe out all the house of Ahab, the wicked king of Israel whose sons were following in his footsteps. Ahaziah should not have been in Israel or collaborated with that persistently disobedient kingdom. Hear why he was destroyed: "He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly. He did evil in the sight of the LORD like the house of Ahab, for they were his counselors after the death of his father, to his destruction." (verses 3-4) We must be careful who we listen to. The blessings of obedience will be lost to us if we listen with credence to those who are disobedient to the word of God. Look at their lives. Are these counselors full of God's peace and contentment? Are they filled with His joy and abounding in His loving-kindness? What is the fruit of their lives? All Ahaziah had to do was see the results of their wicked policies. That would have told it all. Instead, he listened to their boasts and empty claims and so was deceived. Let us therefore receive only godly counsel, that which is consistent with the word of God: "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a true firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." (Psalm 1)
Upon Ahaziah's death , Athaliah (22:10-23:15), his mother, murdered all his male children. Imagine such a grandmother as that! It was as if she had ice water in her veins instead of blood. But, by God's providence, one of Ahaziah's daughters, Jehoshabeath, who was married to the high priest, Jehoiada, hid Joash, a new-born son of Ahaziah in the temple. There he stayed for six years, hidden from his murderous grandmother. In the seventh year, Jehoiada and the Levites, brought him out and seated him upon the throne and put Athaliah to death. Her reign perpetuated the idolatry and wicked disregard of God's law followed by her son.
The reign of Joash (23:16-24:27) brought about the beginnings of a return to God in Judah. Joash ordered that the temple be repaired, that its articles needed for worship be returned from where the priests of Baal had taken them and that proper worship in the temple be restored. So long as Jehoiada the high priest remained alive, Joash served the Lord. But when Jehoiada died, at the ripe old age of one hundred and thirty, Joash began to listen to ungodly counselors who led him to worship idols and set up the old pagan altars. God sent prophets to warn him and the people but they would not listen. Finally, the Spirit of God came upon the priest Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, who said, "Thus God has said, 'Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you.'" (24:20) They could not prosper because they had forsaken God and broken His commandments. That is the main lesson of this book. Obedience brings blessing and disobedience results in destruction. A wonderful summary of this principle is found in Isaiah 3:10-11, "Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, for they will eat the fruit of their actions. Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him." For the New Testament believer the blessings of obedience are mainly spiritual and eternal, as we have already seen, but they are also material and temporal, as they were for the Old Testament believers, to the extent that God sees they are consistent with these higher blessings provided for us under the terms of the New Covenant. After a forty year reign, Joash's servants conspired against him and murdered him, just as he had conspired against and murdered Zechariah, the son of his greatest friend and benefactor, Jehoiada. What he had sowed, he now reaped.
The reign of Amaziah, son of Joash, (25:1-25) is another of the mixed variety in regards to obedience to God. Right away, he showed respect for God's law by executing only the ones who had murdered his father and not their children. Deuteronomy 24:16says that the children shall not be put to death for the misdeeds of their fathers. Yet the Chronicler says that that Amaziah did not serve the Lord with his whole heart (25:2). This lack of a whole-hearted commitment to the Lord is a problem with us today as well. Amaziah's divided heart showed itself when he hired soldiers from the northern tribes of Israel to augment his army. God sent a prophet to him who told him that he should send them away because God is not with the disobedient and he would suffer defeat because of them. Amaziah protests that he would have to pay them for nothing but the prophet replies, "The LORD has much more to give you than this." (25:9) This is a wonderful lesson. Whatever we give up to serve the Lord, He has much more to give us! We cannot lose when we obey God. Amaziah did not learn this lesson. Although he did send the Israelites away and God did give him a resounding victory over the Edomites, he then set about to worship the gods of the very people he had just defeated! God sent a prophet to him to point out the stupidity of this response to His goodness but he would not listen. Next time, when he faced the king of Israel in battle, he suffered a humiliating defeat. The Chronicler says that from the time he turned away from the Lord, a conspiracy against him developed that eventually brought about his death.
The reign of Uzziah (26:1-23) shows both the blessings that flow from obedience to God and the damage that comes from disobedience. Uzziah starts off very well as one who "did right in the sight of the LORD" and who "continued to seek God". The results were good: "as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him." (26:5) He enjoyed great victories in battle, wisdom in raising soil and animal productivity, creativity in the invention of defensive machinery so that his fame traveled far, "for he was marvelously helped until he was strong." God was with him and helped until he became strong. And yet the strength and success that God gave him became the seed of his downfall, for then he forgot who had given him his success and why. Waxing proud and arrogant, he decided to enter the temple and offer incense before the altar, an act that only a priest of Aaron was allowed to do under the Law of God. When confronted with his misdeed by the priests, he raged at them until they began pointing at his forehead, exclaiming "Leprosy! Leprosy!" Sure enough, God had struck him with leprosy and he had to remain quarantined for the rest of his life while his son took over effective control of the kingdom. For the New Testament believer, blessings of spiritual strength and effectiveness flow from obedience to the law of Christ but pride must be guarded against. We may forget where our strength comes from and presumptuously depart from conformity to God's law. The result will be that our strength will leave us and our ability to do good in the world and for the kingdom will vanish. We will be, morally and spiritually, a leper, cut off from effective ministry for Christ. By the way, it was "in the year of king Uzziah's death" that Isaiah saw his wonderful vision of the "Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple." (read Isaiah 6) The Apostle John says that "the Lord" whom Isaiah saw was none other than Jesus (John 12:40-41)! The doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation are both implicit in John's testimony here.
The reign of Jotham (27:1-9) shows how, though the king may be right with God, the people may not be. Isaiah's words indicate the people were far from God at that time (Isaiah 6:5, 9-12). The king, however, "became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God." (27:6) The ability to conquer and subdue kingdoms by a king of Judah translates into the New Testament into a believer's ability, says Jesus, to "tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy [Satan and the demons]" so that "nothing shall injure you." "Nevertheless," says Jesus, "do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:19-20) Our eternal inheritance in heaven is a greater thing than the effectiveness of our ministry on earth but as we remain humble and trustfully submissive to God's will, our effectiveness to overturn the kingdom of the enemy of God and man will remain strong.
The reign of Ahaz (28:1-27) marks a sharp contrast with that of his father Uzziah's. He made idols and worshiped the false gods even to the extent of burning his sons in the fire "according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel." (28:3) God blessed Uzziah's reign even though the people were wicked but now nothing stood in the way of the dire results of that wickedness: "Wherefore the LORD his God delivered him into the king of Aram; and they defeated him and carried away from him a great number of captives and broughtthem to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted him with heavy casualties." (27:5) The sons of Israel also started to take away many captives but God, through a prophet, forbade them and they were persuaded to release them. Their kind treatment of the captives is a wonderful example of how non-combatants and refugees should be treated in times of war. But for the New Testament Christian it is, above all, a reminder that "our struggle is not with flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) We are at war with a spiritual enemy who has taken captive the minds and souls of men. Therefore, "we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses." What are these "fortresses"? "We are
destroying speculations and every lofty thing [in men's minds] raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ…" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Instead of restraining sin in his kingdom, Ahaz "brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the LORD." (28:19) He had hired the king of Assyria with treasure from the temple to come against his enemy, the Arameans, but this backfired as the king of Assyria, "afflicted him instead of strengthening him." And did this distress lead him to repentance? No, it did not, for king Ahaz "became yet more unfaithful to the LORD." (28:22) He even started worshiping the gods of Aram his enemy but "they became the downfall of him and all Israel." (28:23) A popular saying is that insanity is continuing to do the same things and expecting different results. By this standard, Ahaz was certainly insane. But that is the default condition of all human beings, for the Bible says, "the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives." (Ecclesiastes 9:3) Only God's gracious visitations of the Holy Spirit to the souls of men are capable of giving us periods of lucidity in which we may turn from our wicked ways and onto the path of wisdom. But if we remain obdurate even under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, there is no hope for us. This is indeed the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" for which Jesus said there is no forgiveness, either in this world or the next (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10) for the obvious reason that we will not repent unless we receive these gracious illuminations of the Spirit for what they are and respond accordingly.
The reign of Hezekiah (29:1-32:33) registers a one hundred and eighty degree turn back to righteousness of which not only the king but also the people partook. Again, reform begins with the house of God as Hezekiah commands its cleansing from the pollution of idols and a restoration of proper worship in it according to the will of God. Then, Hezekiah sent messengers throughout Judah and even into the territory of Israel where those who remained after Assyria took away the leading citizens gave a mixed response, some heeding and some scoffing at his invitation to come up to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover. As for those of Judah, "The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD." (30:12) That first Passover after the restoration of the temple produced "great joy in Jerusalem, because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel." (30:26) During Hezekiah's reign the idols were removed, not only from the territories of Judah and Benjamin in the south but also in those of Ephraim and Manasseh in the north. The tithes for the support of the Levites and priests were gladly offered and brought in during his reign. The overall evaluation of Hezekiah was that he "did what was good, right and true before the LORD his God." Moreover, "Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law and in commandment, seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered." (31:20-21) But did this shield him from all adversity? No, it did not. Nor shall obedience to God shield us from all adversity. We must be tested in this life. Without testing there is no strengthening in righteousness, just as muscles will not grow stronger unless they are exercised. (1 Timothy 4:7-8; 1 Peter 1:6-7)
God, in His love and wisdom, permitted Hezekiah and his kingdom to suffer a terrible assault by the king of Assyria. All the cities of Judah were captured, except for Jerusalem. But Hezekiah did the right thing in seeking God for deliverance, which came about through a plague that killed so many of the enemy that they retreated back to Assyria where the king was eventually assassinated by some of his own children. God may permit Satan to buffet us severely for a season but if we seek Him instead of forsaking Him, we shall triumph in the end. The victory actually takes place when we refuse to "curse God and die" as Job's wife told him to do when he suffered terrible afflictions (Job 2:9) for the object of Satan's attack is to pry us loose from God and if he fails in that, we triumph! But there will come a time, after we leave this vale of tears, when we shall look down on our thoroughly defeated foe and watch him slink away into eternal darkness never again to trouble us. The next time we shall see Him will be at the general Day of Judgment where he and his cohorts shall have to answer for all their crimes against God and his creation.
Hezekiah's final years showed the great fruit of his faithfulness to God: riches, honor, prosperity in fields and flocks, great works of building and improvement such that he was "exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter." (32:23, 27-30) A period of spiritual declension did occur at this height of success and Hezekiah, like Uzziah before him, succumbed to pride. But then Hezekiah humbled his heart, as did the people and God forestalled, temporarily, the judgment that He had threatened.
The reign of Manasseh (33:1-25) again brought a reversal back to disobedience by both king and people. Manasseh rebuilt the "high places" (unauthorized places of worship generally dedicated to idolatry) which his father, Hezekiah had torn down. He set up altars "for all the host of heaven" (the stars) in the temple precincts and "made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom…" Witchcraft, divination and sorcery all flourished during his reign. He topped it off by placing a carved image in the very house of God! "Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel." (33:9) But God had mercy on Manasseh by sending him to prison in Babylon where he humbled himself and cried out to God for deliverance. God answered and returned him to his kingdom. The result: "Then Manasseh knew that the LORDwas God." (33:13) He got rid of his idols and even the people reformed somewhat for though they still worshiped in the high places, they did so "only to the LORD their God." (33:17) Still, as regards the ultimate fate of Judah, God saw that only the destruction of Jerusalem and exile would bring about a sufficiently deep and lasting change among the children of Israel. This would come about shortly but the reigns of several kings would come and go in the meanwhile, one or two good but the rest evil.
The reign of Amon (33:21-25) lasted but two years and "he did evil in the sight of the LORD as Manasseh his father had done, and Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he served them." Unlike his father, he never humbled himself or repented. Finally, his servants conspired against him and put him to death. Might he have repented had he lived longer? Only God knows that.God is under no obligation to extend the time of our probation on earth in order that we might have occasion to repent of our sins and turn to Him. He alone knows how best to manage the mess that sin and sinners have created in His kingdom. Judgment serves the highest good as well as mercy. We must leave to Him this incredibly difficult job and focus upon our own area of responsibility. The question should never be concerning God's goodness but our own. Are we still breathing? Then we must conclude that God has given us time to repent, grow and eventually become, by His grace and power, what He desires us all to be: forever joyful in His presence, perfectly reflecting the beauty of His holiness.
The reign of Josiah (34:1-35:27) marks the high point for Judah and the dynasty of David in terms of obedience to God. Once again, idolatry is removed from Judah, and even among the remnants of Israel to the north. The temple is cleansed and renovated, the priesthood revived. But what marks this revival of obedience especially notable is the part played by the rediscovery of a copy of the Law of God, probably the book of Deuteronomy, as they cleansed and renovated the temple. Apparently, this portion of the Pentateuch had not been consulted since the days of Amaziah (25:4) and its graphic depiction of the punishment that God would visit upon Israel if they did not obey God's law (Deuteronomy 28:15-68) powerfully affected both king and people. To make sure that this really was God's word and that it did apply to them, Josiah's advisors brought the book to Huldah the prophetess who confirmed its authenticity and added to its testimony God's word to the present king of Judah, assuring him that because his heart was "tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you… Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants." (34:27-28) We must not neglect the reading of the Holy Scriptures for, under the gracious illumination of God's Spirit, they become the "sword of the Spirit", the very "word of God" to us (Ephesians 6:17) which is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword… piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) We are in constant need of such surgery to remove the cancer of sin upon our souls and we can ill afford to avoid the surgeon's knife, the Holy Scriptures as wielded by the Holy Spirit.
The need to listen to God is further underscored by how Josiah met his end. When the king of Egypt came into the land on his way to battle with the king of Assyria, Josiah presumed to meddle in big power politics by coming against Pharaoh in battle. He may have been motivated by great zeal and his belief that God was behind him because of his obedience to the Law. But what he apparently did not do was consult with God first before launching himself presumptuously and precipitously into this audacious attack on Pharaoh. God, however, still tried to warn him through the words of Pharaoh: "What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you." The Chronicler adds that Josiah "did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God…" (35:21-22) Perhaps he did not think that God would speak through the mouth of this foreign king. But did he not remember that God spoke through the mouth of a false prophet, Balaam, and even through that prophet's donkey?! (Numbers 23-24) In the New Testament, we see that God spoke through the mouth of the high priest even though he was a wicked man and was urging his colleagues to put Jesus to death (John 11:47-53). In any case, Josiah had stopped seeking God's wisdom and presumed that his plans were the same as God's. This is a mistake frequently made by us, the New Testament followers of Jesus Christ. In the flush of past successes and in a presumptuous notion that we and God are so alike that we think alike, we do not stop to humbly ask for God's direction. When we fail to heed His written word He sometimes graciously attempts to speak to us by other means and yet we fail to heed even these warnings. A parent or a friend or even someone we don't like may give us advice that is sound and which we should have thought of ourselves but for our mindless zeal. God may also caution us by His Spirit, giving us a sense of the questionable nature of our course of action. We ignore these messages at our peril, as Josiah's case clearly reveals. He was mortally wounded by an arrow in his battle with Pharaoh, even though he disguised himself to avoid attracting special attention from Pharaoh's archers. How many of God's children today are wounded and removed from effective service because they stopped listening to God and listened only to the counsel of their own hearts?
The reign of Jehoahaz (36:1-3) lasted only three months. Necho, Pharaoh of Egypt, who had taken Judah into his sphere of control through his defeat of Josiah, decided Jehoahaz should go and be replaced by his brother. We are not told if he did good or evil, obeyed God or didn't. Perhaps he did or said something to make Pharaoh think he might rebel. As New Testament believers we are told to "be in subjection to the governing authorities." Why is this? "For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." (Romans 13:1-2) We must never obey them when they require us to disobey God (Acts 5:29) but in all other respects we are called to submit to their authority. The people of Judah, and their kings, forgot why they had fallen under the authority of these outsiders. It was because of their sins and so they ought to have waited on God for the freedom He would provide. Many years later, after enduring years in exile and many more years under the rule of foreign kings, they finally did rebel and God was with them for the king they were then under was a cruel despot absolutely determined to make them live in gross disobedience to God's will. But now, after Josiah, they should have wisely submitted to Pharaoh and later, to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. By rebelling, they sealed their fate.
The reign of Eliakim, renamed Jehoiakim by Pharaoh (36:4-8) lasted eleven years and showed that Judah was ripe for destruction, for they continued to walk in disobedience to the Lord. The Babylonians were now in control, having defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. In 598 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, having found Jehoiakim untrustworthy, hauled him off to Babylon, along with some valuable articles from the temple in Jerusalem for use in his temple in Babylon. Incidentally, this was when Daniel and the other Hebrew boys were brought to Babylon to serve Nebuchadnezzar.
The reign of Jehoiakin, Jehoiakim's son (36:9-10) followed thereafter. He reigned only three months and ten days. Installed by the king of Babylon, he soon proved a problem and was, like his brother, removed to Babylon along with still more valuables from the temple. Again, he did evil in the sight of the Lord.
Zedekiah was Jehoiakin's uncle, his father's brother and he was next placed on the throne by the king of Babylon (36:11-14). He reigned eleven years and he "did evil in the sight of the LORD his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the Lord." Not only was the king bad but also the people for "all the officials of the priests and the people were very unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations; and they defiled the house of the LORD which He had sanctified in Jerusalem." It was now time for God to bring upon them the catastrophe He had long threatened.
III. The Destruction of Jerusalem and Exile of Judah - 36:15-23
Since the time of Moses, nearly a thousand years before, God had warned the children of Israel about what would happen if they did not keep His commandments but "The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling-place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy." (36:15-16) God is very patient and long-suffering but when He sees there is no other remedy, He executes judgment. Now they must suffer the destruction of their city and the temple and go into exile until the "seventy years" prophesied by Jeremiah (25:11) during which Judah would be under the rule of the Babylonians, was completed. This period began with the accession of Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC and ended with the return of the Israelites under Darius the Mede in 536 BC. The destruction of Jerusalem happened earlier in this period, in 586 BC. The period of the exile lasted 50 years, during which the land of Judah "enjoyed its Sabbaths" but the overall period during which Judah was under the heel of Babylon was 70 years.
The Chronicler had the privilege of living during the time shortly after Judah's exile in Babylon came to an end and a large number had returned to the Land to begin rebuilding the temple, Jerusalem and the cities they had vacated. He wrote the Chronicles in order to give these returnees and the ones still in exile the right perspective on all that their people had experienced during the time from the reign of the first king of Judah and Israel until the last reigning king of Judah, Zedekiah. They were to draw from this wealth of experience the lesson that it is always better to obey the Lord than to rebel against Him, that He rewards those who serve Him and punishes those who do evil.
2 Chronicles concludes with Cyrus, the king of Persia's decree: "The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!" The book of Ezra will begin at this point and take us through the period after the Jews return from their exile in Babylon and the struggles they went through to fulfill this decree of Cyrus as well as to make a clean break with their past of disobedience.
The book of 2 Chronicles is meant to be an encouragement to us to turn from our foolish pursuit of self-glory and self-gratification and to give our lives unreservedly to God and to His service. As we have seen, the rewards offered for this under the Old Covenant were mainly of this world and of material goods but the rewards offered to us under the New Covenant are mainly spiritual and eternal. God gives us the example of His goodness to those under the Old Covenant so that we may see how faithful He is to keep His promises of reward and, though contrary to His highest desire, to administer His discipline or punishment. The history of God's dealings with the people of Israel provides for us a this-worldly example which we can apply to God's dealing with us as we pursue God's eternal rewards. As Paul says, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (1 Corinthians 10:11)
The "ends of the ages" are the overlapping ends of two ages: this age and the age to come.
The Old Testament people of God lived exclusively in this age, so that their interest in God was mainly in this world, although there are indications here and there that some of them were aware of a greater reward than just a piece of property in the Middle East secured for their physical posterity. But since the coming of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus, we live in two ages at once, this one and the age to come. Our prize is infinitely greater. Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will eat, what we will drink or what we will put on but to seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness with the calm assurance that all these other needs will be met. (Matthew 6:33)
A great summary of the lesson of 2 Chronicles is found in Paul's words, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh from the flesh will reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:7-10) We are not under the Law of Moses but we are under the Law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21) and when we "bear one another's burdens" we are fulfilling that law (Galatians 6:2). Yes, we must refrain from having other gods, worshiping idols, using God's name in vain, profaning the Sabbath, dishonoring our parents, murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false witness and coveting what doesn't belong to us but we are also to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as we do ourselves. It is a law that commands us to do good as well as to refrain from doing evil and so applies to every waking minute of our lives. The Apostle John assures us that God's "commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." (1 John 5:3-4) Those who have been born again through faith in Jesus Christ find that they want to keep God's commandments and that they are a delight and not a drudgery to fulfill. That does not mean that it is always easy; far from it. But the strong desire to stay with God and do His will constantly compels them to fight the good fight and continue in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Selfish, carnal desires may still win some battles but they are losing the war for "Mansoul" (from John Bunyon's allegory called "The Holy War").
What spurs us forward is faith in Christ's promise that "those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled." A wonderful part of our great reward is that we shall one day be beyond the reach of temptation and beyond the power of the evil one and that all the treasures we have laid up in heaven will be ours to enjoy forever - the souls of those brought to salvation through our deeds of kindness and words of faith (1 Thessalonians 2:19). But beyond these wonderful goods will be the ever-increasing, always-expanding capacity to love and be loved by the glorious Trinity - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Even here, in this life, we can experience the foretastes of these heavenly delights and thereby receive encouragement to keep on our way to heaven where the full and unfettered enjoyment of them will be ours forever.
The Promised Land of Canaan was the great reward of God's people under the Old Covenant and keeping the commandments God gave to them through Moses was the condition of entering and remaining in that land. When they continued to fall away and disobey His Law, God finally gave them the sternest of chastisements by sending them away from the Land into exile. In a sense, the motivation for doing right under the Old Covenant was extrinsic, it rewarded one thing by giving another thing. But under the New Covenant, the reward is intrinsic; the thing done is its own reward. The New Testament believer longs to do God's will and God offers to him the prospect of inheriting a condition in which he will never do anything but God's will and never see anything but the doing of God's will. The heart of the prayer Jesus gave His followers was "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10) Jesus said that His nearest relations were not His literal brothers, sisters and mother but those who did His Father's will (12:46-50). Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of My father who is in heaven will enter." And He assures us that there will be those at that time who will say to Him, "'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'" (7:21-23)
It is not that we are saved by works of the Law, as the Pharisees believed. We are not saved by our works but we are God's "workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10) Regeneration by the Spirit provides us with a heart that longs to do God's will and is prepared to do it. Such a heart will be burdened by any sense of remaining sin and struggle to be free of it and lay hold of every means God gives to overcome temptation. The reward of the righteous is to do what is right. The reward of those who seek God is to find Him. The reward of the one who loves his neighbor is to see his neighbor blessed. The reward of those who seek God's glory is to glorify Him. The reward of those who struggle for purity of heart is to find their hearts are pure. This is no mercenary enterprise, no quid pro quo, no barter with God of one thing for another. In the final accounting, the blessings of obedience are all found to be intrinsically bound up in the doing of it.
Now, what kind of a heart do you have? Was it once alive with desire to do God's will but now has grown cold and indifferent? Regeneration you may have experienced in the past but now you need its revival in the present. Perhaps you have never known what it means to be given a new heart that yearns for, and seeks to do God's will above all else. In either case, you need to come to Christ to receive a new heart from Him. It is, in reality, His heart, the heart that was pierced for you upon the cross, the heart that longs for you to be forever with Him. Won't you come to Him now?