2 Chronicles 27: Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God

1 Apr

Jotham was Uzziah’s son and he became king at the age of twenty-five. It is noted that whilst God favoured him and he followed the Lord – “he did not enter the temple of the Lord.” This is a man who learnt by seeing what happened to his father.

Jotham’s mother was a descendant of Zadok one of the priests whom David gave key responsibilities too, and this must have added to his focus on God which he learnt from his father. The heading comes from verse 6 and it is good to read however verse 2 has this sentence:
“The people, however, continued their corrupt practices.”

So again we see the split between the leadership of the king and how the people are moving away from God. Even with a king like Jotham who successfully wages war against the Ammonites and receives tribute from them – the people still turn away from God.

Even though Jotham serves God with favour he only rules for sixteen years, dying at 41 which seems young to me.

These last few chapters have been really interesting because of the strong emphasis on the relationship between God and the kings of Judah. It is more marked because we see the kings who follow God are not always able to make the people follow Him. It is like the Temple and the Palace are for God and then the people have their own gods and agendas.

Do we sometimes see some parts of life as “about God” and some that are nothing to do with Him? Are some aspects of society the government and church’s problems or mission and also not in our personal goals?

I believe that is not good enough – God is in everything or we lose Him from it all.  We cannot keep God ring fenced in some parts of our lives and society and ignore Him in others. We see how Judah followed Israel into ruin as the people lost there focus on God even with kings working under His direct favour. Every person is accountable for their relationship with God and each person takes God with them in every part of their lives.

2 Chronicles 26: “for he was greatly helped until he became powerful”

31 Mar

This is the last part of verse 15 and in others versions it is more clear saying that God helped Uzziah to become strong and powerful and famous. This is about King Uzziah who ruled Judah from when he was sixteen until he was sixty-eight.

Uzziah followed God and was very successful in both building prosperity for the land and in military campaigns. Various military advances in weaponry and defence are listed as part of his reign’s successes.

The verse I used in the title of this blog interests me because it is different from the descriptions of other kings. Although the succession of kings who follow and ignore God seems to be an endless wave of failures and victories, each one has a story and this verse summarises the uniqueness of Uzziah for me.

This was not a quick and easy single battle to fame and glory, Uzziah had God’s help as he built his kingdom up again over a long reign. Uzziah stuck with God and became famous. But – there is always a but – this is when Uzziah failed. It appears to be quite late in his reign, but it is not entirely clear, Uzziah decided he was able to enter the Temple and burn incense to God. Azariah the priest and his fellow priests begged him to stop and leave. Uzziah became angry and so did God. While the king was standing in anger in the Temple before the incense altar he was stricken with leprosy.

Uzziah then left the Temple and lived in a separate house until he died. The contradiction of a man who had been greatly helped by God (and who must have worked with God to receive that help) and the man who burnt anger when he wanted to burn incense in the Temple are frustratingly familiar. Perhaps it is easy to trust God when one has nothing to lose because one is at the start of one’s career, and this trust does not indicate how one will treat God when one has been given it all by God.

2 Chronicles 25: Lessons of History

30 Mar

I find history fascinating – I mean anything from Biblical history to archaeology and paleontology to more recent stuff over the past 2,000 years. Two things I learn from history; the one is that people are people and whilst customs and social norms change people haven’t changed; the second is that because people haven’t changed we can learn from history. We can learn from the Bible about God’s love and patience and also His judgement; we can learn how to lead good lives and avoid bad ones. From biographies of leaders we can learn to overcome adversity and we can learn how to live with others and make a difference in the world.

It seems to me that while chroniclers were recording the history of the kings of Judah and Israel the kings themselves seldom reflected on their predecessors’ lives. Even between father and son the lack of awareness of consequences of actions is almost mesmerising. The way king after king repeats the foolish behaviour of turning away from God and picking wars with other kings is simply crazy. Even if they did not read, I am sure there were people repeating David’s virtues and prophets calling out doom and reminding the kings of the covenants with God and the consequences of their actions. But they stubbornly pursued evil. Just like today, there is a shiny allure to evil and idolatry that snares people.

So today’s king is Amaziah; the twenty-five year old son of Joash who had just become king. His mother was from Jerusalem and seems to have had a good effect on her son – since she was chosen by Jehoiada one can assume she followed the Lord. It is recorded that he followed God but not wholeheartedly. He did kill the officials who had assassinated his father but their children according to Mosaic Law.

But very quickly he was enticed into war. He called up an army and counted his fighting men – which is always a bad sign. He also bought mercenaries from Ephraim to bolster the army. A prophet told him he must not fight with the soldiers from Israel, he promised that God would give him more than he had spent on the mercenaries. Amaziah dismissed the troops from Ephraim who were rather angry and raided Judean towns in revenge.

However Amaziah went on to inflict a great defeat on Edom. He then chose to take the Gods of the people of Seir back to Jerusalem, which not surprisingly made God mad. A prophet from God told Amaziah that God would stop him because he had ignored the messages from the Lord.

Amaziah simply decided to go to war against the Israelites. Jehoash was the son of Jehoahaz, son of Jehu who had killed Ahab’s family line to become king. Jehoash was reluctant to fight but ridiculed Amaziah. Amaziah took the battle to Jehoash. Jehoash returned to Jerusalem with Amaziah and broke down the city walls and plundered the treasuries. He surprisingly left Amaziah alive and went home to Samaria.

Amaziah was assassinated fifteen years after Jeoash died. He had lived with his defeat in a ruined city. He was buried in Jersualem.

2 Chronicles 24: Joash – Jekyll and Hyde

28 Mar

Joash was seven when he became king. I guess this was part of Jehioada’s delay in opposing Athaliah. He had to balance gaining enough power and stopping Athaliah with Joash’s youth. Jehoiada lived to the age of 130! So he was not probably over 100 when he in effect became regent of Israel, guiding the young king.

Jehoiada did all he could to guide Joash, even choosing his two wives for him. As long as Jehoiada was alive Joash did what was right in the eyes of God. He was zealous about rebuilding the Temple. Although Jehoiada ensured that through out his life the daily sacrifices were made, he had not been able to rebuild the Temple even when Joash asked him to collect the moneys due to do so. So Joash organised that a chest be placed at the Temple gates and a proclamation be issued across Judah that the tax due to God under the law of Moses was to be brought to the Temple.

The Levites collected and guarded the money. Under the watchful eye of the king, repairs began on the Temple. It was repaired to its original design and then new sacred objects needed for worship were made. Athaliah’s sons had stolen the ones in the Temple to use for worshiping Baal.

But then Jehoiada died and Joash switched sides. He was guided by the people and they abandoned the Temple and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. God sent prophets to warn Joash and he ignored them. Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son, came to warn Joash and he had him stoned to death in the Temple courtyard.

Before the end of that year, the Arameans attacked Judah and Jerusalem. They killed all the leaders, wounded Joash and took much plunder back to their king. An Ammonite and Moabite killed Joash while he was in bed with his injuries. He was buried in Jerusalem but not in the tombs of the kings. Amaziah his son succeeded him.

It is not clear how long the respective Jekyll and Hyde sides of Joash each lasted. Again God was initially patient but nothing would make Joash revert to his previous dedication to God. Could all his zeal have been from Jehoiada? We all need to be wary and vigilant knowing that our faith in ours and not inherited, and careful of complacency. But this seems more extreme than a backsliding midlife crisis. It is implied that Joash first of all listened to Jehoiada and then listened to the leaders of Judah. Again we have the twist that it is no longer the king leading the people in faith but the people choosing to turn away from God. The people could have chosen not to stone Zechariah to death too.

2 Chronicles 23: Athaliah verses Jehoiada, Joash and God

27 Mar

Athaliah ruled for six years. Jehoiada bided his time and made covenants with the commanders of the army. He has Azariah son of Jeroham, Ishmael son of Johanan, Azariah son of Obed, Maaseiah son of Adaiah and Elishaphat son of Zicri on his side. They went through Judah and gathered the Levites and leaders to Jerusalem to make a covenant with Joash.

Jehoiada then appointed Levites and the army commanders to guard the king in the Temple 24/7. Jehoiada armed the men with the spears and shields that King David had made for the Temple. (I thought these had been carted off as bribes and booty already?)

When Jehoiada and the army crowned Joash king in the Temple, Athaliah heard the noise and came running out. Jehoiada decreed that she and her followers should be killed. Then the people of Judah went and destroyed the temple of Baal and smashed the altars and idols and killed the priest of Baal.

Joash accepted the people’s covenant with him and they took him into the palace to sit on the throne. It is recorded that the city was quiet because Athaliah was dead.

You can understand where the wicked witches from stories come from. Jezebel has the very bad press as Queen of Israel but I think her daughter Athaliah definitely gave Jezebel some competition. Jezebel did not succeed in ruling without Ahab for seven years, after massacring the royal family. Yet God used the situation to good because Joash was removed from a royal family that was deeply allied to Ahab’s ways, and Joash was placed within the Temple itself under the guardianship of the high priest. What better way to re-align the royal family of Judah with God?

Another theme that is highlighted for me is that of complicity. Athaliah could not have achieved all she wanted without people complying. If Jehoiada was rebelling for six years, others must have also been opposing her – but no one except Jehosheba opposed her when she killed the royal family. And we shall see how people let holy goods leave the Temple for use in the Temple of Baal – did Jehoiada allow this in order to keep Joash and his own rebellion hidden? Where were the Temple guards before Jehoiada reinstated them? These roles had been ordained by family and were transferred from father to son, why did they allow themselves to be side tracked from God?

Maybe it started as a way to keep their heads safe from Athaliah and then became the way they lived … when can we justify complicity? Do we take the minor slips of our allegiance to God and beg his forgiveness and strength to follow Him next time?

2 Chronicles 21: He passed away to no one’s regret

26 Mar

The title of this blog comes from verse 20 in the New International Version:

“Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.”

Jehoram was Jehoshaphat’s first born son who he married to Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah. This incredibly stupid alliance that his father entered into, set the tone of his rule. Jehoram followed Ahab’s ways not his own father’s. His father had judges and Levites teaching the law all over Judah but his son turned away from it completely. Not only that but he murdered his brothers once he had become king, and some of his brothers in law too.

He was a man when he became king and hence had seen Jehoshaphat’s journey with God and yet he turned away.

His death was one that could be entered into the Horrible Histories‘ version of the subject. Elijah wrote to him – he did not even bother to confront him in person as he had with Ahab. In the letter Elijah pointed out the reason for God’s judgement upon him and told him he would be dealt a heavy blow which would strike against everything that was his including his people, wives, children and treasures. Elijah also said he would then become very ill with a disease of the bowels ultimately causing his bowels to come out.

Needless to say, it all came to pass as Elijah had said. All Jehoram’s family except his youngest son Ahaziah were taken by the Philistines and Arabs. Then he died as foretold.

God tolerated all of this king’s behaviour because he had promised David to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants forever, but in the end He punished Jehoram.

2 Chronicles 22: Jehu kills Ahaziah

25 Mar

We end the previous chapter with Jehoram dying an agonising death having lost all his family except one son – Ahaziah in an attack from the Philistines and Arabs. (However somehow Athaliah (Jehoram’s wife and daughter of Ahab and Jezebel) and Ahaziah’s mother escaped the attack or managed to get back to Judah because she is back in play in this chapter.)

Ahaziah was made king at the age of twenty-two. His mother encouraged him to follow Ahab’s ways. How did she get back to Judah? Why did God let her escape the raid? Anyway Ahaziah did evil in God’s eyes. He then made an alliance with Joram, son of Ahab, to fight Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead.  This sounds very familiar – rather familial – grandson of the king of Judah and son of the king of Israel fighting son of the king of Aram years after the previous battle ended badly for Judah and Israel.

Joram was wounded and went to Jezreel to recover. Ahaziah went to visit him. However God had sent Jehu to king Joram, which he did. Jehu then found Ahaziah and other princes of Judah there, so he killed them too. Jehu allowed Ahaziah to be buried as a descendant of Jehoshaphat because Jehoshaphat had sought God with all his heart.

Athaliah then killed everyone left in the royal family of Judah. However one of Ahaziah’s sisters, Jehosheba, saved Joash Ahaziah’s son by taking him to the temple. Jehosheba was married to the high priest Jehoida. Somehow a daughter of Jehoram, the man who no one regretted dying, had become the wife of the high priest and followed God. Perhaps her grandfather had an a large impact on her life. They hid Joash in the temple for six years and Athaliah ruled the land.

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