TWO GODLY KINGS 2 Chronicles 14–20
“As for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded”(2 Chron. 15:7).The activities of two godly kings identify characteristics of spiritual revival we can apply to our personal lives, and to our churches. Mistakes of each king warn us away from spiritual dangers.
Asa relied on the Lord when Judah was invaded (14:1–15), and led his nation to swear fresh allegiance to the Lord (15:1–19). In old age Asa became autocratic and failed to rely on God (16:1–14). Jehoshaphat showed zeal for the Lord, and Judah became wealthy and powerful (17:1–19). His error was in allying himself with Israel’s evil Ahab (18:1–19:3). Yet Jehoshaphat remained committed to God and worked to implement Moses’ Law in Judah (vv. 4–11). He also relied on the Lord when invaded (20:1–17), and demonstrated faith by praising the Lord even before the subsequent victory (vv. 18–30). He lived and died a godly king (vv. 31–37).
Understanding the Text
“Seek the Lord . . . and . . . obey His laws” 2 Chron. 14:1–7. The chapter begins with a general evaluation of Asa and describes Judah’s prosperity. Spiritual commitment is the foundation for national as well as personal well-being. Seeking the Lord is the first step in every revival. “Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on You” 2 Chron. 14:9–15. The second step in revival is seen in Asa’s response to an invasion by the Cushites, or Ethiopians, then dominated by Egypt. He called on his people to rely on the Lord. Asa’s active trust in God was well founded, as the Lord gave Judah a decisive military victory. “Do not give up” 2 Chron. 15:1–19. Seeking God and relying on Him are only the first steps. As Azariah the prophet reminded Asa, we must be persistent in our commitment. This quality was demonstrated in Asa’s call to all Judah and the many Hebrews who had left apostate Israel and settled in the south. The nation gathered at Jerusalem in Asa’s 15th year, and wholeheartedly agreed to actively and eagerly seek the Lord and to serve Him only. Revival may be stimulated by an individual, but comes only when God’s own, as a people of God, achieve a shared commitment to the Lord. Yet how important the leader and his or her full commitment is! This quality is shown by Asa, who deposed his grandmother as Queen Mother, a very significant role in ancient court life, because she went after idols rather than sought the Lord (vv. 11–18). If God is to use us to bring revival to His people, you and I must cleanse our lives of everything contrary to godliness. “Because you relied on the king of Aram, and not on the Lord” 2 Chron. 16:1–14. Even a vital, spiritual revival is no guarantee of continuing godliness. We must be careful to keep our hearts fixed on God. Some 17 years after Asa stimulated revival in Judah, the king himself failed to seek or to rely on the Lord. Rather than trust God for victory when threatened by Israel, Asa paid the Arameans (Syrians) to attack them, not knowing that the Syrians would become an even greater threat in the future. When rebuked by a prophet, Asa imprisoned him. He began to oppress others, and even when he contracted a severe disease Asa failed to turn to the Lord. What a warning for us. Just because we relied on the Lord in the past is no guarantee of the future. The only way to ensure continued blessings is to actively seek and trust God each new day. “Only from the physicians” 2 Chron. 16:12. This criticism of Asa does not mean we should not go to a doctor when ill. Asa was not wrong to seek help from physicians. He was wrong to seek help “only” from physicians. We Christians rely on God, who often chooses to work through medicines and the medical profession. “His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord” 2 Chron. 17:1–6. Jehoshaphat too is introduced with a brief summary of his spiritual commitment. While not blameless, he too was a godly man concerned with the spiritual well-being of his people. “They taught throughout Judah” 2 Chron. 17:7–19. The text introduces us to yet another characteristic of spiritual revival. Revival is rooted in a return to the Word of God. Jehoshaphat stimulated revival by organizing “Bible studies” in all the towns of Judah! Once again building on solid spiritual foundations led to national prosperity and strength (vv. 10–19). “He allied himself with Ahab” 2 Chron. 18:1–19:3. Jehoshaphat’s error was to “help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord” (19:2). The believer who seeks revival is not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. While Jehoshaphat remained personally committed to God (cf. 18:6), his close association with the evil Ahab led to a disastrous military defeat. Later the Israelite princess he married to his son, Athaliah, would murder their descendants so she could take the throne for herself (22:10). The lesson is a vital one for us. “Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality” 2 Chron. 19:4–11. Jehoshaphat saw to it that the Word was taught throughout Judah. But he did more. He established officials to administer the Law. That is, he saw to it that the Law was lived in Judah. To maintain revival it’s not enough to know the Word of God. We must put it into practice, as our rule and guide to daily life. “Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord” 2 Chron. 20:1–13. Again the text returns to the theme of relying on the Lord. When Judah was invaded, the king called on his people to actively seek God, and led his nation in prayer. “We have no power to face this,” the king confessed. And so “our eyes are upon You.” Revival is kindled and maintained by a sense of our deep personal need for God’s help always. Keeping our eyes on the Lord as sole source of help is a vital key to spiritual renewal. “He did what was right” 2 Chron. 20:31–37. King Jehoshaphat was not without flaws. The text reminds us of this by telling of another time when he unwisely entered into a joint venture with Israel (vv. 35–37). And despite his efforts and his example, the people failed during his reign to set their hearts on God (v. 33). Yet he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” This, the epitaph of all the godly kings of Judah, is an epitaph we might well desire for ourselves. We may accomplish less than we set out in life to do. But if we do what is right in the eyes of God, we have lived successfully and well.
Praise before Victory (2 Chron. 20)
I suppose we all know that it’s appropriate to thank and praise God for His goodness even though we sometimes forget. This passage, however, points up an unexpected aspect of praise. We can praise before we experience His goodness. We can praise before we receive what we request. Threatened by a massive invasion force, Jehoshaphat called on all of Judah to look to God. The king himself led in prayer, confessing Judah’s lack of power and expressing total reliance on God. In response God spoke through the Prophet Jahaziel and promised victory. “The battle is not yours, but God’s,” the prophet proclaimed. “Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. . . . Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (v. 17). Immediately after receiving this word from God, the king and the people fell down to worship. And then in a “very loud voice” some of the Levites stood up and began to praise God. The danger was still ahead. The invading army still threatened. But God’s people began to praise Him before the promised victory was won! The next day God did provide victory. Ancient armies were often composed of a variety of peoples, some hired as mercenaries and others engaged as allies. In this case God caused the various peoples who composed the invading force to annihilate each other before Judah’s army even arrived! The praises that resounded over the slain enemy were so loud and heartfelt that the place was given a new name: Beracah, the “Valley of Praise.” One day when final victory is won, as we stand with Jesus in God’s eternal kingdom, our shouts of praises too will be loud. Yet we too are called to praise now. When we’re afraid, we’re called to praise. When we’re discouraged, we’re called to praise. When we face any enemy, we’re called to praise. And praise we can! For we too have the promises of God. You too can “go out and face [difficulties] tomorrow.” You too can know that “the Lord will be with you.” And this, the assurance of God’s presence with us, is cause for praise. Praise even before victory.
When discouraged or afraid, praise God that He most surely will be with you.