JEHORAM TO HEZEKIAH 2 Chronicles 21–28
“Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to Him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen” (2 Chron. 24:19).The text of Chronicles highlights the righteous acts of Judah’s kings. Yet it’s clear that the spiritual condition of Judah after the time of Asa and Jehoshaphat did deteriorate. The flaws in Judah’s kings serve as warnings for you and me.
The focus on Judah’s kings continues, with reviews of the reigns of a series of morally and politically weak rulers: Jehoram (21:4–20), Ahaziah (22:1–9), Athaliah (v. 10–23:10), Joash (v. 11–24:27), Amaziah (25:1–28), Uzziah (26:1–23), Jotham (27:1–9), and Ahaz (28:1–27).
Understanding the Text
“He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel” 2 Chron. 21:1–20. Earlier kings showed that seeking and serving God was the path to national and personal blessing. Jehoram, who murdered his brothers and chose idols over the Lord, shows us that forsaking God leads to disaster. Though warned by the Prophet Elijah, Jehoram gave no thought to repentance. The resulting national disaster saw the rebellion of subject nations (vv. 8–10) and attacks by other hostile peoples (vv. 16–17). Jehoram himself died in agony of an “uncurable disease of the bowels” (vv. 18–19). “His mother encouraged him in doing wrong” 2 Chron. 22:1–9. One source of Jehoram’s evil was his marriage to Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel who was as committed to evil as her wicked mother. Athaliah dominated her 22-year-old son, who ruled only one year before being killed by Jehu, who exterminated the family of Ahab in Israel. Ahaziah’s short life was so evil that he was accorded burial only because he was a descendant of godly Jehoshaphat, who was was still remembered with affection in Judah. When we have parents and grandparents who set different courses in life, we can choose which example to follow. Ahaziah chose to be influenced by his mother. He did not have to choose her pathway. “She proceeded to destroy the whole royal family” 2 Chron. 22:10–12. With her son dead, Athaliah decided to take the throne for herself. This broke tradition, but Athaliah was a determined as well as an evil woman. She killed all members of the royal family (except for a baby who was rescued and hidden away), and with no rival left, claimed royal power for herself. She held that power for some seven years, until the hidden child was revealed and crowned. Then she was killed by her own palace guards at the command of the high priest, Jehoiada. Athaliah must have been an exceptional and forceful woman to have held the throne against all precedent. Yet how insecure any power gained and exercised by the wicked. “Jehoiada the priest” 2 Chron. 23:1–21. The high priest, aware that God had promised to provide rulers for Judah from David’s family line, protected the hidden prince, Joash. He also organized a rebellion against Athaliah. It is significant that his uprising included all the priests and all the Levites as well as all off-duty palace guards. Yet not one betrayed the conspiracy to Athaliah! Athaliah undoubtedly reigned by terror and murder. The leader who sets himself or herself up as the enemy of his or her people creates a fear and hostility that ultimately leads to an uprising in self-defense. “After the death of Jehoiada. . . . they abandoned the temple of the Lord” 2 Chron. 24:1–27. Joash served God only as long as Jehoiada lived. The influence of this high priest is seen in that he chose wives for the king, the traditional role of a parent (vv. 2–3), and in the concern shown in Joash’s early years for the temple. But when the positive influence of Jehoiada was withdrawn, Joash’s personal character was revealed. We can judge a person’s character only after he or she has matured and begins to make his or her own choices. The choices Joash made led to disaster for him and defeat for his nation. “But not wholeheartedly” 2 Chron. 25:1–26. The next king, Amaziah, did choose the Lord, but failed to follow Him wholeheartedly. His reliance on God was shown by dismissing a hundred thousand hired Israelite mercenaries when told to do so by a prophet. Because of his obedience, Judah won a great victory. But Amaziah inexplicably began to worship the gods of the nation he had defeated! Despite another prophet’s warning, Amaziah went to war with Israel and suffered defeat. Amaziah was taken and apparently kept captive in Israel. He was returned, possibly to create internal problems, as his son had been crowned king of Judah while he was captive. In the political infighting that followed Amaziah was forced to flee to Lachish, where he was killed. A brief, early flare of faith is no substitute for lifelong commitment. Our only protection from potential disaster is consistent, daily commitment to the Lord. “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success” 2 Chron. 26:1–23. Uzziah, who is also called Azariah, is yet another example of a king who was successful only as long as he remained committed to the Lord. He was a vigorous and active person who restored Judah to power (vv. 6–15), but when powerful was “unfaithful” to the Lord. Uzziah’s contempt for the Lord is shown by his violation of laws governing temple ritual. The king was stricken with leprosy while in the temple, and lived in isolation the rest of his life (vv. 16–21), while royal business was conducted by his son, Jotham (v. 21). “Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God” 2 Chron. 27:1–9. Jotham’s 16-year reign was a time of blessing, marked by dominance over nearby nations. While the Lord blessed the nation on account of Jotham, “the people . . . continued their corrupt practices.” True revival must touch the people of God as well as leaders. “He . . . made cast idols for worshiping the Baals” 2 Chron. 28:1–27. The catalog of the sins of Ahaz is truly terrible, including the fiery sacrifice of his own sons. National disasters followed, as Judah was successfully invaded by the Syrians and the Israelites. Only intervention by the Prophet Oded kept the Israelites from taking thousands of the people of Judah to Israel as slaves. These defeats did not turn Ahaz to God, but rather led him to beg Assyria for help against Syria and the Philistines. The Assyrians were only too happy for an excuse to expand westward—a movement which “gave [Ahaz] trouble instead of help.” The text says that “in his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord.” How true this always is. Under the pressure of troubles, human beings tend to reveal what is in their hearts. The believer is drawn closer to the Lord. The unbeliever turns against him in anger and frustration (see vv. 24–25).
Borrowed Faith (2 Chron. 23–24)
I was brought up in a Christian home, rich in love and acceptance. I went to church, lived a moral life, and believed in Jesus. It wasn’t hard to do. After all, I was surrounded by people who believed; people who in simple, quiet ways, lived their faith. Yet after two years in the Navy I realized that I had to make personal decisions of my own. Influenced by the teaching of Donald Grey Barnhouse, I began to study my Bible. I started and led a noon Bible study on my base. And I became active in a nearby local church. I realized that at home I’d been living on borrowed faith. Out on my own, I learned that I had to develop and nurture a faith of my own. This is a lesson that the life of Joash teaches as well. Joash was a good and godly king—as long as he was surrounded by people who believed, like the priest Jehoiada who raised him. It wasn’t hard for him to live a good life, or even to “believe.” But when Jehoiada died, Joash found that a borrowed faith is never enough. When Joash began to make decisions on his own, he made wrong ones. He abandoned the temple of the Lord and worshiped idols. He and his people refused to listen to the prophets who warned them. Joash even killed the son of the man who had raised him, when that son confronted him concerning his sins. Ultimately, because king and people had forsaken the Lord, disaster came. Joash, who chose evil, was killed in his bed by officials who conspired against him. The story of Joash underlines two important truths. First, we can’t tell from a child or young person’s early life what his future will hold. So, while we can rejoice in signs of early spiritual growth, we can’t afford to become complacent. We need to keep on praying for our children, that as they mature they will develop their own personal and growing faith in God. Second, we need to examine our own lives, to make sure we’re not living on borrowed faith. For faith to be real, you and I need to take responsibility for our own choices—and to make sure that our choices are guided by a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.
How do your daily choices reflect your own personal commitment to God?