Kings of Judah
A Pledge to the Lord
2 Chron.34.31 (LB)
The evil continued in Ahaziah's one year reign which followed until Jehu of Israel killed him.
Eventually the Lord had vengeance upon Athaliah, Ahab's daughter, cause of all the evil, when in zeal for the Lord, Jehoida the priest had her killed after seven years reign.
Joash was crowned king, being the one royal descendant who had been rescued from murderous Athaliah. He tried hard to please the Lord during Jehoida's lifetime but after his death the leaders of Judah led him astray to idol worship. Here we have a lesson in not leaning on other human beings in our service of God. We must all jealously guard the privilege given us by the Lord of direct access to him (through Christ) and continue in the conviction that he deals with us individually. The proof of His individual care of each of us is not long in coming and second hand Christianity cannot save us. And so, due to their unfaithfulness a large Judean army was defeated by a small Syrian army, Joash was wounded and subsequently killed in his own bed in retribution against him for having Jehoida's son killed for preaching righteousness.
Joash was succeeded by Amaziah who "did what was right, but sometimes resented it" (2 Chron.25:2 LB). This resentment was his sadness at having spent much money in hiring mercenary soldiers from Israel and then receiving a message from the Lord that he must not use them. "But the money!" whined Amaziah (2 Chron.25:9). "The Lord is able to give you much more than this," the prophet replied. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," says Matthew 6:21. Amaziah then went on to conquer the Edomites, brought back their idols and worshipped them; though they had not saved Edom! Eventually his own people conspired against him and killed him in Jerusalem. (2 Chron.25:27)
Uzziah (or Azariah as he is called in 2 Kings 15:1) followed as king at the age of only sixteen. He was, in general, a good king in the Lord's sight. (2 Chron.26:4) As long as he followed the path of God, he was blessed. A man called Zechariah who had revelations from God was a great help to him. He manufactured engines of war and when he was very mighty, he became proud. He entered the forbidden sanctuary of the Temple and offered incense and was rebuked by Azariah the priest. Instead of withdrawing he became angry and the Lord struck him with leprosy. We need to be beware of feeling we are so blessed of the Lord that we cease to need the offering of our priest or to seek His will and guidance constantly, carefully heeding all the instructions of His word.
Jotham's reign followed and he followed his father's generally good example. However. 2 Kings 15:35 tells us he did not destroy the shrines on the hills where the people sacrificed and burned incense.
Ahaz followed and his was an evil reign for he pursued the worst idol worship practices including sacrificing his own children in the fire. More significantly, he nailed the Temple door shut.
Hezekiah turned over a new leaf and, within a month of his reign commencing, he re-opened the Temple doors, cleaned the Temple up and restored Temple worship. The Passover was celebrated late but for 14 days, instead of 7, such was the people's enthusiasm. Then there began a massive campaign against idol worship. (2 Chron.31:1). The reign of Hezekiah is most noted for the attack of King Sennacherib of Assyria upon Judah. This culminated in Hezekiah spreading Sennacherib's letter before the Lord in the Temple and praying for help. (2 Kings 19:14-19) And so the Lord sent an angel to destroy the Assyrian troops sending Sennacherib home in shame. We take from this account great encouragement to trust God in our extremities. However, do we take notice of 2 Chron.32: 23-26? The respect and gifts which came to Hezekiah following the Lord's salvation brought pride to his heart and he did not respond with proper thanksgiving when the Lord miraculously cured him of sickness. He was cured by a fig cake upon his boil. Was the Lord saying He wanted a fruitage of obedience and praise to Him to cure the national sickness? Eventually he and the people humbled themselves before the Lord and delayed the effects of His wrath.
Hezekiah's son Manasseh reigned next, coming to the throne when only 12 years old. His reign was evil and it was for 55 years. That would have been a long time to engrain evil in the land. He did not shut the Temple like Ahaz. He used it for idol worship! However he did come to his senses while under punishment in captivity. He then acknowledged the Lord as God and subsequently re-instated the Temple for its proper purpose. What a lesson in the Lord's mercy and forgiveness to the repentant.
Manasseh's son Amon, however, was wicked but his own officers assinated him after only two years reign.
This meant that his son Josiah came to the throne at the age of only eight years. He was a good king. At sixteen years old he began to search for God and carefully followed David's example, his ancestor. He removed idol worship from the land. He restored the Temple. When the scroll of the laws of God was found, Josiah fell into a state of deep distress as he realised how far they had departed from God's requirements. This is what caused him to make his pledge to the Lord. Josiah's 31 year reign ended abruptly when he fought the Egyptians when they came to attack Assyria. Josiah was mortally wounded in the battle. 2 Chron.35:22 says that Josiah refused to believe that King Neco of Egypt had a message from God when he warned Josiah not to meddle in his mission against Assyria. Josiah does not appear to have sought the Lord's will in this matter which brought his downfall.
After this there are four evil reigns.
reigned for 3 months until deposed by the King of Egypt.
Eliakim or Jehoiakim
reigned 11 years until taken in chains by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon.
succeeded him but for only 3 months and 10 days.
made an oath of loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar but broke it by
rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar. He refused the Lord's counsel through
Jeremiah. This brought David's line of kings to an end, and resulted in the
destruction of the Temple, palaces and walls of Jerusalem.
Why were the people of Judah so fickle? They enjoyed many wonderful blessings as promised by the Lord when they served Him but there was no lasting response of love and gratitude or consistent leadership for good. They lacked faith and therefore failed to please God.
All the kings failed. Saul was fearful and did not wait for the Lord's aid through Samuel and so David succeeded him. God promised to establish his house and kingdom before the Lord for ever. Yet there were none of his descendants good enough.
2 Kings 23:25 testifies of Josiah, "There was no other king who completely turned to the Lord." David and all his successors sinned to a greater or lesser degree, even the best of them! They were afflicted by being drawn aside to idol worship like Solomon, forgot to seek the Lord's guidance in all things like Asa, or compromised with evil like Jehoshaphat. In other cases they only did right when propped up by a God fearing person, like Joash, were half hearted in serving God like Amaziah, became proud like Uzziah, failed to give thanks for deliverance from sickness like Hezekiah and took a long time to believe the Lord is God like Manasseh. Even Josiah was mortally wounded pursuing an unblessed war with Egypt.
And so Judah followed the rest of Israel in going under foreign domination until He should come whose right it is to reign over them. (Ezek.21:27.) The Lord said that to Zedekiah. So the world still waits for the revealing of the Son of David to all Israel. He has stood among them, yet they knew Him not! Yes, God's perfect Lamb came and presented Himself, pledging His eternal service. In the words of Psalm 40:7&8 Jesus says, "Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." Previous sons of David were under the law covenant which made nothing perfect (Heb.7:19) and were subject to death. This Son of David shall reign until all things are in "subjection under His feet" (Heb.2:8). "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He hath set judgement in the earth". (Isaiah 42: 4) Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Let us review what we have learned from these accounts of Judah's kings. Firstly the changeable nature of Judah's worship can be strongly contrasted with our understanding of our pledge of consecration. Consecration to do the will of God in Christ is not to be undertaken lightly. Once the commitment is made it is for ever, with no going back. Thus Solomon and Joash were not finally pleasing to the Lord in spite of good beginnings for they forsook the Lord in favour of idol worship. So Jesus says, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62. Thus our pledge to the Lord is forever.
Saul was concerned when he saw his troops scattered in fear and the word of the Lord through Samuel delayed to come. Even in spite of our pledge to the Lord and His commitment to hold our hand, and keep us (Isaiah 42:6), are there times when we look in fear on the apparently impossible odds building around us? Let us then remember the Lord may be testing us to see if we truly trust Him to care for us.
Our pledge to the Lord is accompanied by His pledge not to fail us or forsake us. (Deut.31:6). Rehoboam experienced this when the Lord brought him back to him by punishment and a prophet's word when he went astray. The Lord also brought circumstances to bear on Manasseh to make him acknowledge that the Lord is God in spite of the evil of the early part of his reign.
David too experienced the Lord's corrections and punishment in respect of his sins concerning Uriah the Hittite and numbering the people.
Our pledge to the Lord means relying wholly on Him in all times of difficulty and need. Thus the Lord did not let down Abijah when pressed by the superior numbers of Israel in battle. Little Judah defeated Israel. But the Lord was not pleased with Asa when he "put his trust in the king of Syria" or with Jehoshaphat when he became so closely involved with sinful Israel.
Our pledge to the Lord cannot be fulfilled if we become proud like Uzziah and Hezekiah when made powerful and repenting. Let us never forget how very much we constantly need the Lord's help and in humility watch lest we should think we could ever do anything worthwhile outside the Lord's will and lest we should forget to give thanks for His mercies.
Our pledge involves an enthusiastic and consistently wholehearted zeal to serve the Lord. We are reminded again of Amaziah who did what was right but sometimes resented it! The Lord has no desire for lukewarm servants (Rev.3.15-16). He requires the Josiah spirit. 2 Kings 23:25 (RSV) testifies, "Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might." Can that be said of our zeal for our God, and our following in the steps of the Master? (1 Pet.2:21)
Thank God for His king, the Son of David, fulfilling all His Father's pleasure, leaving us an example to which we can conform our lives. Let us continue to look unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith that we might realise God's promise to make us kings and priests unto Him. (Rev.5:10)