A Turn for the Worse

32 In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. 34 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done. 35 Nevertheless, the high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. He built the upper gate of the house of the Lord. 36 Now the rest of the acts of Jotham and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 37 In those days the Lord began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah. 38 Jotham slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Ahaz his son reigned in his place.

1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him.2 Kings 15:32-16:5 ESV

In the northern kingdom of Israel, they were going through kings so quickly that the royal palace needed revolving doors to handle the high traffic volume. In just 14 years, they had gone through six different kings, most of whose reigns ended because of assassination. But back in Judah, it was a different story. Azariah (Uzziah) had served as king for 52 years and for the last 11 years of his reign, his son, Jotham served as his co-regent. Their sharing of the kingly role had been necessitated because Azariah had contracted leprosy and was confined to his home. His disease required that he be quarantined and made governance of the nation almost impossible. So, “Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land” (2 Kings 15:5 ESV). The sad reality is that Azariah’s condition was the direct result of his own pride and his decision to violate the Mosaic law. His disobedience incurred God’s divine wrath and judgment, in the form of leprosy. But despite his condition, Azariah was able to continue ruling over the nation of Judah, with his son’s assistance. This also provided Jotham with on-the-job training that helped prepare him for the day when the monarchy would become his alone.

While the final 11 years of Azariah’s reign were marked by leprosy and forced isolation, he had been a good king. For the majority of his 52-year rule, he had done “what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5 ESV). And it seems that Azariah’s love for God was far more infectious than his disease because the author lets us know that Jotham “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done” (2 Kings 15:34 ESV).

But the author of 2 Chronicles adds a few pertinent details that paint a slightly darker image of this young 26-year-old king.

…except he did not enter the temple of the Lord. But the people still followed corrupt practices. – 2 Chronicles 27:2 ESV

The first part of that statement seems to reflect Jotham’s anger at Yahweh for having struck his father with leprosy. One of the results of Azariah’s contraction of this dreaded disease was that it rendered him unclean and, therefore, unable to enter the temple of God. The book of Leviticus provides the specific command detailing the isolating aspect of the disease.

“Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp. – Leviticus 13:45-46 NLT

It would seem that Jotham’s decision to avoid the temple was either out of resentment for God’s harsh treatment of his father or out of fear that he might suffer a similar fate.  It’s interesting to note that Jotham “built the upper gate of the house of the Lord” (2 Kings 15:35 ESV). According to Thomas L. Constable, the upper gate was “an opening between the outer and inner courts on the north side of the temple near the altar of burnt offerings.” This becomes more relevant when you consider that Jotham’s father had been punished by God because he had “entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16 ESV). In doing so, he assumed the role of the priest, in direct violation of God’s law. Now, his son had built a gate that made entrance into that area of the temple more accessible than ever. Perhaps Jotham intended this construction project to be a not-so-subtle statement about his father’s actions and subsequent punishment.

While Jotham accomplished a variety of noteworthy renovation and expansion projects, he also failed to remove the high places on which the people sacrificed to false gods.  As a result, “the people still followed corrupt practices” (2 Chronicles 27:2 ESV). So, while he was busy making improvements to the temple grounds, the people continued to worship idols. But, for the most part, Jotham proved to be a faithful king who tried to honor God. And this brought about the blessing of God.

Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God. – 2 Chronicles 27:6 ESV

And yet, we also begin to see glimpses of God’s coming judgment against the nation of Judah. While the southern kingdom had managed to remain far more faithful than its northern neighbor, there was still a growing sense of spiritual infidelity among its inhabitants. And we see God responding to this unfaithfulness by allowing the nation of Judah to experience His disfavor in the form of foreign powers who begin to harass and test them.

In those days the Lord began to send Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah against Judah. – 2 Kings 15:37 ESV

Eventually, Jotham dies and his son, Ahaz takes his place on the throne of Judah. But Ahaz does not share his father’s love for God. In fact, the author’s mention of God sending foreign powers against Judah is a kind of foreshadowing. The nation is about to take a dark turn for the worse. Under Ahaz’s reign, the spiritual fortunes of Judah will decline sharply. He will not continue the godly legacy of his father and grandfather. Instead, he will emulate and even eclipse the sins of the kings of Israel.

He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord his God, as his ancestor David had done. Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel, even sacrificing his own son in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree. – 2 Kings 2-4 NLT

Ahaz “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 28:2 ESV). And his decision to fully embrace the false gods of the Canaanites would cost him dearly. This was a man who became so sold out to idolatry that he regularly “burned his sons as an offering” (2 Chronicles 28:2 ESV). He was willing to sacrifice the lives of his own children in order to win the favor of the gods. But while spilling the blood of his sons failed to garner the attention of his false gods, it did manage to bring down the judgment of Yahweh.

Because of all this, the Lord his God allowed the king of Aram [Syria] to defeat Ahaz and to exile large numbers of his people to Damascus. The armies of the king of Israel also defeated Ahaz and inflicted many casualties on his army. In a single day Pekah son of Remaliah, Israel’s king, killed 120,000 of Judah’s troops, all of them experienced warriors, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors. – 2 Chronicles 28:5-6 NLT

God would use the Syrians and the Israelites as His instruments of judgment against Ahaz and the people of Judah. But despite Ahaz’s blatant displays of unfaithfulness, God would not allow these outside forces to completely destroy Judah. The situation quickly became a cycle of sin and judgment. Ahaz’s worship of his false gods would bring the judgment of Yahweh in the form of the Syrians and Israelites. These attacks would cause Ahaz to intensify his efforts to gain the favor of his many gods. His desperation to find a solution would produce further idolatry and result in additional judgment from God. But in his stubbornness, Ahaz never stops to consider that repentance and a return to Yahweh might be the best answer to his problem.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

The Influence of the Godly

1 In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba. And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.

Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the Lord, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the house of the Lord, let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered.” But by the twenty-third year of King Jehoash, the priests had made no repairs on the house. Therefore King Jehoash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests and said to them, “Why are you not repairing the house? Now therefore take no more money from your donors, but hand it over for the repair of the house.” So the priests agreed that they should take no more money from the people, and that they should not repair the house.

Then Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in the lid of it and set it beside the altar on the right side as one entered the house of the Lord. And the priests who guarded the threshold put in it all the money that was brought into the house of the Lord. 10 And whenever they saw that there was much money in the chest, the king’s secretary and the high priest came up and they bagged and counted the money that was found in the house of the Lord. 11 Then they would give the money that was weighed out into the hands of the workmen who had the oversight of the house of the Lord. And they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders who worked on the house of the Lord, 12 and to the masons and the stonecutters, as well as to buy timber and quarried stone for making repairs on the house of the Lord, and for any outlay for the repairs of the house. 13 But there were not made for the house of the Lord basins of silver, snuffers, bowls, trumpets, or any vessels of gold, or of silver, from the money that was brought into the house of the Lord, 14 for that was given to the workmen who were repairing the house of the Lord with it. 15 And they did not ask for an accounting from the men into whose hand they delivered the money to pay out to the workmen, for they dealt honestly. 16 The money from the guilt offerings and the money from the sin offerings was not brought into the house of the Lord; it belonged to the priests. 2 Kings 12:1-16 ESV

Joash, referred to as Jehoash in this chapter, became the next king of Judah at the age of seven. This young child found himself bearing the heavy burden of leadership over God’s people. But for the first six years of his life, he had lived in the temple of God, where Jehoiada the priest served as his father figure and spiritual mentor. This faithful servant of God continued to guide the young king during the early years of his reign, and his influence had a powerful impact. The innocent young boy who ascended the throne at seven would rule for four decades, and the author summarizes his reign with the words, “Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:2 ESV).

After reading the sordid history of the kings of Israel, this statement comes as a much-needed breath of fresh air. All was not lost. There was still a remnant of the faithful living in the land of Judah, and Jehoiada the priest reveals how God uses His servants to protect and preserve His people. In the midst of all the paganism and idolatry that infected the nation, this one man had remained at his priestly post, serving his God and ministering to the spiritual needs of his people. And when the time had come to protect the God-appointed heir to the throne of David, Jehoiada had willingly put his reputation and his life on the line.

The story of Jehoiada is a timely reminder not to underestimate the influence of one individual who chooses to remain faithful to God in the face of overwhelming odds. His determination and perseverance made a world of difference. Like Elijah and Elisha, Jehoiada was thrust into an isolated and lonely role that required him to stand against the forces of evil in his day. By making the fateful decision to hide the young heir to the throne, Jehoiada risked bringing down the wrath of Queen Athaliah. It could have cost him his life. But for six long years, he willingly took the risk and was used by God to preserve the hope of Israel: An heir to sit on the throne of David.

But sadly, the day came when Jehoiada’s influence over the king abruptly ended. The faithful priest died.

But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died. He was 130 years old at his death. And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house. – 2 Chronicles 24:15-16 ESV

This one man had made a tremendous impact on the king, the house of God, and the people of Israel. And his death left a gaping spiritual void in King Jehoash’s life. With his mentor gone, the king himself listening to the advice of those whose intentions were less-than-honorable and far from godly.

Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. – 2 Chronicles 24:17-18 ESV

With faithful Jehoiada out of the way, the ungodly princes of Israel took advantage of the situation to promote their anti-Yahweh agenda and lead the nation back into idolatry. And King Jehoash heeded their counsel.

The next 13 verses of chapter 12 appear to chronicle what happened in Israel as long as Jehoiada remained alive. King Jehoash had ordered repairs to be made to the temple of God. He had a vested interest in the welfare of this building because it had served as his home and sanctuary for the first six years of his life. But in the 23rd year of his reign, he discovered that no repairs had been made. The people were required to make an annual contribution to the temple treasury and Jehoash had ordered that part of those funds should be used to make repairs to the temple. But for some unstated reason, the priests had failed to disperse the funds to the workmen. So, no repairs had been made.

To remedy the problem, the king and Jehoiada set up a different system that allowed the transfer of the funds directly to the workmen responsible for the repairs. The priests were removed from the process altogether. Jehoiada set up a large wooden chest at the entrance to the temple. The people would place their offering in the box and the money would be periodically collected and distributed to the workmen.

Then they gave the money to the construction supervisors, who used it to pay the people working on the Lord’s Temple—the carpenters, the builders, the masons, and the stonecutters. They also used the money to buy the timber and the finished stone needed for repairing the Lord’s Temple, and they paid any other expenses related to the Temple’s restoration. – 2 Kings 12:11-12 NLT

With this new system in place, the repairs to the house of God were made without any graft or corruption taking place. The honesty and integrity of the workmen eliminated any need for a reconciling of the funds.

No accounting of this money was required from the construction supervisors, because they were honest and trustworthy men. – 2 Kings 12:15 ESV

This simple statement speaks volumes. The spiritual influence of Jehoiada could be seen in the way the people conducted their lives. The king wasn’t the only one who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. There was a contagious spirit of honesty and integrity that permeated the culture. And as long as Jehoiada remained alive and had the ear of the king, the nation seemed to thrive. But it seems that Jehoiada died not long after the repairs to the temple were completed. And, as we have seen, his departure made an immediate impact on the nation.

They decided to abandon the Temple of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. Yet the Lord sent prophets to bring them back to him. The prophets warned them, but still the people would not listen. – 2 Chronicles 24:18-19 NLT

In Jehoiada’s absence, God sent His prophets to call the people to repentance. But they would not listen. So, eventually, God sent Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, with a final warning of judgment.

“This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands and keep yourselves from prospering? You have abandoned the Lord, and now he has abandoned you!” – 2 Chronicles 24:20 NLT

And King Jehoash, angered by the words of Zechariah, chose to kill the messenger.

Then the leaders plotted to kill Zechariah, and King Joash ordered that they stone him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s Temple. That was how King Joash repaid Jehoiada for his loyalty—by killing his son. Zechariah’s last words as he died were, “May the Lord see what they are doing and avenge my death!” – 2 Chronicles 24:21-22 NLT

Don’t miss the significance of this statement. King Jehoash, who had been raised by Jehoiada in the temple of God, had the son of Jehoiada stoned to death in the temple courtyard. In doing so, he desecrated his former home and the house of Yahweh he had painstakingly repaired. The very one whom God had preserved so that he might sit on David’s throne proved to be as wicked as the woman he replaced. Without the godly influence of Jehoiada in his life, King Jehoash was exposed as an empty suit, a man with a crown on his head but without a heart for God.

The death of Jehoiada drives home the truth found in Proverbs 29:2:

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

Different Brothers of the Same Mother

In the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa began to reign over Judah, 10 and he reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. 11 And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as David his father had done. 12 He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13 He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron. 14 But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was wholly true to the Lord all his days. 15 And he brought into the house of the Lord the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels.

16 And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. 17 Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 18 Then Asa took all the silver and the gold that were left in the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house and gave them into the hands of his servants. And King Asa sent them to Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria, who lived in Damascus, saying, 19 “Let there be a covenant between me and you, as there was between my father and your father. Behold, I am sending to you a present of silver and gold. Go, break your covenant with Baasha king of Israel, that he may withdraw from me.” 20 And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. 21 And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah, and he lived in Tirzah. 22 Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah, none was exempt, and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber, with which Baasha had been building, and with them King Asa built Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah. 23 Now the rest of all the acts of Asa, all his might, and all that he did, and the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? But in his old age he was diseased in his feet. 24 And Asa slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father, and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place. 1 Kings 15:9-24 ESV

The men who inherited the thrones of Judah and Israel were not doomed to repeat their predecessors’ mistakes. Their fate was not predetermined just because their fathers happened to model ungodly behavior. Though most of these men inherited kingdoms and legacies marked by sin and rebellion against God, they each had a choice to make. But as will become increasingly clear, few of them seemed to make the right choice. The sins of a father can have a powerful influence over his son. And the manner by which he conducts himself while performing his royal duties will make a strong impression on the one who follows in his footsteps – for better or worse.

In the case of Abijam, he was succeeded as king by his younger brother, Asa. These two brothers shared the same mother: Maacah the daughter of Abishalom [Absalom], and they had both had grown up in the household of Rehoboam. But they would each prove to approach their kingly responsibilities differently. While Abijam “walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 15:3 ESV), Asa “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (1 KIngs 15:11 ESV).

The book of 2 Chronicles provides further details concerning Asa’s reign.

In his days the land had rest for ten years. And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars. And the kingdom had rest under him. He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace. – 2 Chronicles 15:1-6 ESV

This young man had born to the same pagan mother and had lived through the wicked reigns of his father and older brother, and yet he had managed to maintain a semblance of his faith in Yahweh. In fact, the author of 1 Kings declares that he “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, as his ancestor David had done” (1 Kings 15:11 NLT). Perhaps he had managed to develop a close relationship with his grandfather David before his death. Or it could be that he had grown up hearing the stories of David’s many exploits and of his close relationship with God. It’s likely that he was intrigued and influenced by God’s description of David as “a man after his own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14 ESV).

Something was triggered in Asa that led him to take a different path than that of his father and brother. After two decades of leadership that had promoted further idolatry and propagated a spirit of rebellion among the people of Judah, Asa appeared on the scene and determined to right the wrongs of his predecessors. And he got off to a great start.

He banished the male and female shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his ancestors had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother because she had made an obscene Asherah pole. He cut down her obscene pole and burned it in the Kidron Valley. – 1 Kings 15:12-13 NLT

These radical reforms must have been met with stiff opposition. After 20 years of worshiping false gods, the people of Judah had grown comfortable with the licentious and immoral nature of idolatry. They must have enjoyed the no-rules nature of these pagan religions. These man-made gods allowed them to satisfy their basest desires and offered a tempting alternative to the more legalist and restrictive laws that accompanied the worship of Yahweh. So, it seems likely that Asa’s reforms were not welcome with open arms.

But, in spite of any opposition he may have encountered, Asa attempted to redress the sins of his father and brother by removing all the pagan shrines they had built and restoring the worship of Yahweh. He made an effort to renew the nation’s commitment to the temple as the dwelling place of God and the only place where the worship of God was to be practiced.

he brought into the house of the Lord the sacred gifts of his father and his own sacred gifts, silver, and gold, and vessels. – 1 Kings 15:15 ESV

This seems to indicate that Asa and his brother had both been guilty of offering expensive gifts to the many false gods of Judah. But now that he was king, Asa was righting that wrong. He ordered the collection of all those valuable items and had them placed in the treasury of the temple. This very public act was both a demonstration of repentance and a very visible reminder that there was only one true God who was worthy of man’s worship and deserving of such gifts of honor and praise.

Asa’s reign would last 41 years, and while he “was wholly true to the Lord all his days” (1 Kings 15:14 ESV), he would find it difficult to completely eradicate all the vestiges of idolatry in the land. The author of 2 Chronicles states that he “commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment” (2 Chronicles 14:4 ESV), and that he “took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars” (2 Chronicles 14:5 ESV). But 1 Kings reveals that his removal efforts were incomplete: “But the high places were not taken away” (1 Kings 15:14 ESV).

That little statement speaks volumes. It acts as a soft whisper of warning, providing a foreboding omen of what is to come. Asa’s, while sincere and well-intentioned, would prove to be incomplete. Asa’s failure to remove all the high places was like a doctor failing to locate and remove all the cancer cells from the body of his patient. Those few sacred sites that were left standing would continue to lure the people of Judah away from God, and the apostasy they produced would continue to spread like cancer throughout the nation. His partial obedience, while praise-worthy, would in the long-run prove insufficient. And there were other signs that Asa’s love for God, while strong, had been influenced by the actions of his father and brother.

The author of 2 Chronicles states that Asa“ had no war in those years, for the Lord gave him peace” (2 Chronicles 14:6 ESV), and yet 1 Kings 15:16 paints a slightly different picture.

…there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. – 1 Kings 15:16 ESV

This is not a contradiction, but simply a recognition that the animosity between the northern and southern kingdoms had not abated. Thirty-six years into his 41-year reign, Asa found himself facing a threat from Baasha, the king of Israel. This man had murdered Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, and crowned himself king. And then, in an effort to secure his hold on the throne, he executed Jeroboam’s entire family (1 Kings 15:29). His actions seemed to have spawned a mass-exodus of people who began to cross the border into Judah in order to escape his reign of terror. So, as a preventative measure, Baasha built a fortified city along the border that provided a military presence to deter any further desertions.

What happens next provides a further glimpse into Asa’s heart and how he viewed his relationship with God. When faced with this increased military presence at his border, Asa decided to seek outside help. Notice that he did not seek assistance from God. Instead, he took the sacred treasures from the house of God and sent them to “Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Syria” (1 Kings 15:18 ESV). In essence, he sent a bribe to the king of Syria, in the hopes that this pagan king would come to the aid of Judah. And his ploy worked.

And Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali. And when Baasha heard of it, he stopped building Ramah – 1 Kings 1:20-21 ESV

Asa ordered the immediate dismantling of Baasha’s military outpost and peace was restored. But there’s more to the story. The book of 2 Chronicles reveals that Asa’s decision to make a covenant with the king of Syria had been outside the will of God. The prophet of God delivered a stinging rebuke to Asa.

“Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.…You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.” – 2 Chronicles 16:7,9 ESV

This news angered Asa and he had the prophet thrown in prison. And his anger did not abate. His frustration with God manifested itself in the form of cruel oppression of his own people. In time, he became a bitter man, driven by rage and suffering from poor health.

In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but sought help from physicians. – 2 Chronicles 16:12 ESV

The great reformer had become an angry and self-reliant ruler who refused to turn to God for healing or help. His reign lasted 41 long years but ended in pain, suffering, and alienation from God. And then, he died. Yes, he proved to be a better king than his brother but, in the end, they both suffered the same fate. Their sins had left them separated from God and both men ended up leaving less-than-stellar legacies. Of Asa, the author simply states, “in his old age he was diseased in his feet” (1 Kings 15:23 ESV). And what a fitting description for the end of Asa’s life. Forty-one years earlier, he had begun his reign walking in the footsteps of his grandfather David. He had been faithful and eager to be a man after God’s own heart. But by the end of his life, Asa’s walk with God had taken a devastating detour. And now, he found himself unable to walk at all, a fitting symbol of his greatly diminished spiritual condition.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Light in the Darkness.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. – 1 John 1:6

John used the theme of light and darkness repeatedly. In his gospel, referring to Jesus, he wrote,  “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5 ESV). “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11 ESV). The imagery of darkness and light was a common one among the Jews of John’s day. Darkness was associated with evil. Even in the creation account recorded by Moses in the book of Genesis, it describes the state of the universe by using the imagery of light and darkness. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2 ESV). Darkness was the prevailing state. It permeated everything. But God did something. He was not content to leave things as they were. And Moses records, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:3-4 ESV). In his letter, John describes God as light. Light is not just an expression of God’s power, it is the essence of His being. It speaks of His holiness and righteousness. It describes His penetrating, permeating nature. Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness and light cannot coexist. At the beginning of creation, darkness prevailed. But God penetrated the darkness with His very being. His presence changed the condition of the world. He created physical light to eliminate the darkness. He separated one from the other. And this is the very same thing God did when He sent His Son into the world. The apostle Paul tells us, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV). The state of affairs when Jesus arrived on the scene was marked by spiritual darkness. So God penetrated that darkness with His presence once again. But John records, “the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:19-21 ESV). Jesus came into the world as the very light of God. He came to expose sin by expressing the holiness of God. He lived without sin (Hebrews 4:15) in order to demonstrate the kind of righteousness God’s holiness required. He lived the kind of life that God demanded. And His example exposed the darkness that was so prevalent at the time – even among the people of God. But Jesus didn’t come simply to expose darkness. He came to deliver men from it. He said, “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46 ESV). Darkness was not intended to be the norm. The presence of darkness is evidence of the absence of light. Jesus came to change all that. And John makes it clear that because God is light, He cannot tolerate darkness. “In him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 ESV).

Yet in John’s day, there were those who claimed to have a relationship with God, but who were living in darkness – in sin. John said that to say one thing and do another was to “not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6 ESV). There was a disconnect between their expressed beliefs and their behavior. They claimed to be in the light, but lived lives characterized by darkness. These same individuals were even claiming to be without sin. They were denying any darkness in their lives. And John said there were self-deceived and void of the truth in their lives. Light exposes darkness. The closer we get to the light, the more flaws get revealed. Increasing intimacy with God makes our sin all the more evident. But John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV). Jesus came to pay for our sins. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2 ESV). Our sins have been paid for. But we must still acknowledge them. We must allow the light of God to penetrate our lives and expose them. We are to confess them and turn from them. Our lives are to be marked by light rather than darkness. Our behavior is to reflect our beliefs and our fellowship with God and His Son. The apostle Paul would remind us, “Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them” (Ephesians 5:11 ESV). “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5 ESV). “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:12 ESV).  “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true) and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10 ESV).

2 Chronicles 35-36, Philemon 1

Our Persistent Compassionate God.

2 Chronicles 35-36, Philemon 1

The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 ESV

The days of the kingdom of Judah are quickly coming to an end. In spite of the reigns of kings like Hezekiah and Josiah, the downward spiral of the kingdom continued. The unfaithfulness of the people became increasingly evident. Even the reforms of Josiah would not prevent the inevitable spiritual decline of the people. While Josiah had proven himself to be a good and godly king, he too failed to fully trust God. He had gone out of his way to reestablish the proper worship of God, reinstituting the Passover ceremony. But when he found himself facing a possible threat from the Egyptians, he took matters into his own hands and refused to listen to the words of God. His stubbornness and rebellion results in his own death. From there, things went downhill fast. Josiah was followed by his son Jehoahaz, but his reign would last only three months. He was deposed by the king of Egypt and replaced by his brother, Jehoiakim. He would be defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and taken captive. Jehoiachin replaced him as king of Judah, but his reign would last a mere three months and ten days. He too would be taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah, his brother, would replace him as king. But “he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 36:13 ESV). And all during this time, God had been sending His words of warning and calls to repentance through the prophets. He had repeatedly sent men like Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk and Jeremiah. These men had been His ambassadors and spokesmen, delivering His message to the kings and the people of Judah. They warned of things to come. They called the people to repentance. They expressed God’s desire to restore them if they would only return to Him. But rather than listen, the people mocked God’s prophets, “despising his words” spoken through them. They scoffed at these men, rejecting their messages, “until there was no remedy.”

What does this passage reveal about God?

God persistently, compassionately gave His children opportunities to return to Him. He begged them to repent. He warned them of what was going to happen if they refused to turn from their wickedness. He gave them ample proof of His power and goodness when they did things His way. But they just couldn’t seem to trust Him. Even the good kings each eventually ended their reigns on a sour note. They started well, but ended poorly. But God’s compassion never failed. Jeremiah the prophet would write of God, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV). When reading these closing chapters of 2 Chronicles, we must remember that they were written to the people of Judah who had just recently returned to the land of promise after having spent 70 years in exile in Babylon. They had been allowed to return to the land, in spite of all they had done for generations. The chronicler had spent chapter after chapter reminding them of their less-than-flattering history as a people. He had made it painfully clear that their fall had been their own fault. But he had also gone out of his way to make sure they understood their return was undeserved. They were back in the land, not because they had done something to deserve it, but because God was merciful, loving and faithful. The chronicler closes his book with a reminder of the most recent events in the history of the people of God. “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up”’” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23 ESV. God had done a miracle. He used the king of a pagan nation to return His people to the land. Cyrus would not only decree that the people of Judah return to the land and rebuild the Temple of God, he would fund the entire operation. God made that happen. God was faithful to keep His Word and restore His people to the land He had promised to Abraham all those years ago.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man is inherently unfaithful. Even those who have enjoyed the blessings of God and been the recipients of His power and presence can find themselves refusing to live in faithful obedience to Him. In spite of His goodness and grace, we tend to return the favor with a stubborn determination to do things our own way. We are rebellious by nature. The prophet Isaiah reminds us, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6 ESV). All of us have sinned against God. All of us are guilty of open rebellion against a holy and righteous God. But in spite of us, God provided a plan to redeem us. He sent His own Son to die in our place and satisfy His own just demands that someone pay the penalty due. None of us deserved it. None of us had earned it. It was the gracious, merciful gift of a loving God. Paul reminds us, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). Like the people of Judah, we must be reminded of God’s amazing love and mercy, showered on us in the midst of our disobedience, while we were living as slaves and captives. Jeremiah knew of the compassion of God and he tried to let the people of Judah know that God would never let them go completely. “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (Lamentations 3:31-32 ESV). In spite of us, God just keeps loving us.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

In the story of Philemon and Onesimus, we have a picture of God’s amazing love, forgiveness and compassion modeled in a real-life scenario. Paul was writing to Philemon, who was a Christ-following slave owner. No where in the text does Paul speak against slavery. It was a part of the cultural context in which the Christian in his day lived. Paul neither condoned or condemned it. He did not address the moral, ethical or spiritual implications of slavery. But he did encourage his readers to treat those who found themselves living as slaves in a different way. Paul’s desire was not to revolutionize or change the institution of slavery, but the hearts of those involved in it. Onesimus, a runaway slave, had become a believer, probably through Paul’s ministry. He had been ministering to Paul during his imprisonment in Rome. But Paul knew that Onesimus needed to make things right with Philemon, his master. So he appealed to Philemon to accept Onesimus, not as a guilty, runaway slave deserving of punishment, but “more than a slave, as a beloved brother…both in the flesh and in the Lord” (Philemon 1:16 ESV). Paul infers that the relationship between these two men had been radically changed because of Onesimus’ acceptance of Christ as His Savior. While he was technically still a slave, according to the laws of the land, Onesimus was now a brother in Christ. And in reality, Paul, Philemon and Onesimus were all slaves to Christ. They all had a new Master. Paul’s appeal to Philemon’s compassion was based on the compassion shown to each of them by God through Christ. Elsewhere Paul would write, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV). We are to love as we have been loved. We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. We are to show compassion to the same degree that we have received it from God Himself. What a difference it would make if we were able to live this out in everyday life. What a testimony we would have to the world around us if we could model the compassion, love, mercy and forgiveness of God in our everyday relationships. 

Father, help me to fully grasp the magnitude of Your amazing grace in my life. Show me how to express that kind of grace to all those around me, not just because they deserve it, but because I have been the recipient of it from You. I want to love like You love, forgive like I have been forgiven, and show compassion in the same You have shown it to me. Not based on the other person’s merit, but simply because You have called me to do so. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Chronicles 31-32, Titus 2

Faithful, Yet Surrounded.

2 Chronicles 31-32, Titus 2

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself. 2 Chronicles 32:1 NLT

We can sometimes falsely believe that our faithfulness to God somehow inoculates or protects us from trouble. It is easy to assume that if we do what God has called us to do and live as He has called us to live, we will enjoy a trouble-free life. But Hezekiah’s life is a great illustration that this philosophy is not only unbiblical, but dangerous. Chapter 31 of 2 Chronicles outlines Hezekiah’s efforts to restore the people of Judah to a right relationship with their God. He ordered the destruction of all the pillars and high places where false god had been worshiped throughout both Judah and Israel. He cut down the Asherim poles and destroyed all the altars where idol worship had taken place. And he did this not only in the nation of Judah, but in Israel as well. Then he reestablished proper worship of God by reorganizing the priests and Levites, and reinstituting the tithing system designed to support these men and their families. Hezekiah “did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 ESV). But this extremely positive assessment of Hezekiah and his faithfulness is followed by the somewhat surprising news that “after these things and these acts of faithfulness,” Hezekiah found himself faced with the prospect of being invaded by the Assyrians. At first blush it would seem that his faithfulness got him little more than an extra dose of trouble. So how would he respond? What would his reaction be to the news that his prosperity was suddenly being confronted with adversity?

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had never promised His people that they would be free from trouble. He had not offered them a trial-free existence devoid of conflict. But He had promised to be with them and to fight on their behalf. Even Jesus had told His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV). Paul told the believers in Rome, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39 ESV). A relationship with God does not exempt us from experiencing the difficulties associated with life in this fallen world. There will always be enemies who stand against us. There will always be trials that test our faith and expose the true condition of our hearts and measure the level of our trust in God. It is one thing to remain faithful when everything around us is going well. But when trouble raises its ugly head, we tend to get a much truer barometer of our faith.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Hezekiah did not overreact to his circumstances, but he did act. Rather than stand back and whine about his troubles, he took positive steps to prepare for them. We are told that “he planned with his officers and his might men” (2 Chronicles 32:3 ESV). The chronicler makes it clear that Hezekiah “set to work resolutely and built up…” (2 Chronicles 32:5 ESV). He built. He strengthened. He made. He set. He encouraged. Hezekiah got busy. He told the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 ESV). Even when Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, began to taunt Hezekiah and mock God, Hezekiah held his ground. The enemy was attempting to get the people to doubt God’s salvation and reject Hezekiah’s leadership. But instead of buying into the lies of the enemy, Hezekiah took his situation before the Lord. He had done his part in preparing for the possibility of an invasion, but he knew that God was the key to their ultimate success. And God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and answered by sending an angel who struck down 185,000 Assyrians in the middle of the night. We’re told that Sennacherib returned home in shame, only to be murdered by his own sons. Hezekiah had been faithful. But the enemies of God are relentless. In this lifetime we will always have to deal with opposition and difficulty. We must always remember that the Lord our God is with us, helping us fight our battles.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Life can be difficult. But God has not left us alone. He has provided us with salvation through His Son. He has filled us with power made possible by His Spirit. He has equipped us with His reliable, infallible Word. Paul reminded Titus that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV). We are surrounded. We are threatened on all sides by an enemy who mocks our God and taunts us to give up hoping in His ability to save us. We are constantly being encouraged to pursue ungodliness and worldly passions. But God has said that it is possible to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives – even in this present age. Those of us who have placed our faith in Christ as our Savior, must remain faithful even in the face of all the adversities of life. We must wait faithfully for our blessed hope. God is not done yet. He has not finished what He started. Our ultimate hope is not in this world, but in the one to come. But in the meantime, I must not lose sight of the fact that God is purifying for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works  – even in the midst of all the trials and troubles of life.

Father, help me keep my focus on You. Don’t let me get defeated or deflated by the troubles I encounter in this life. You are with me and You will fight any battles I face for me. But I must be prepared. Like Hezekiah, I must be willing to do my part. Then I need to trust You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Chronicles 29-30, Titus 1

The Need For Godly Leadership.

2 Chronicles 29-30, Titus 1

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Titus 1:9 ESV

Hezekiah was a like a breath of fresh air in the stagnant spiritual environment that had so long plagued Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel had already fallen to the Assyrians and the people had been taken into captivity. Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, had closed down the Temple of God, and led the people of Judah in the worship of false gods. He had built high places for the worship of these false gods all over the land of Judah. But then Hezekiah took the throne, and he proved to be a leader of a different sort. One of his first acts as king was to reopen the Temple. He recommissioned the priests, commanding them to consecrate and cleanse themselves so that they could properly care for and cleanse the Temple. Evidently, since the Temple had been shut down, these men had neglected their duties as the spiritual leaders of Judah. But Hezekiah ordered them to take seriously their God-given responsibility and cleanse the Temple. Then they were able to reinstate the sacrificial system and the worship of God. But one of the most amazing acts of spiritual leadership Hezekiah performed was his call to the remnant left in Israel to return to God. He sent messengers all throughout the land of Israel, begging those who had been left to repent and return. “O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that he may turn again to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria” (2 Chronicles 30:6 ESV). He reminded them that “the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him” (2 Chronicles 30:9 ESV). Hezekiah not only had a heart for God, but a heart for God’s people – even those who were living in open rebellion to Him.

What does this passage reveal about God?

As Hezekiah had told the people of Israel, God is gracious and merciful. He is always willing to forgive. Even after all that the people had done to offend Him, God was still willing to forgive them. He was even willing to pardon those who ate the Passover meal even though they did so in an unworthy manner. It seems that many of the people showed up for the Passover having not properly consecrated themselves. They were ritually impure or unclean. But Hezekiah prayed, “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness” (2 Chronicles 30:18-19 ESV). And God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and graciously pardoned the people. His concern was the condition of their hearts. Their heartfelt desire to return to Him and worship Him was far more important than whether they had kept the letter of the law. God has always been concerned about the condition of the heart. He had made it clear that adherence to rules and rituals without the heart was worthless. Through the prophet, Isaiah, God had accused the people of Israel of going through the motions. “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13 ESV). Many years later, Jesus Himself would say, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Matthew 15:19 ESV). God looks at the heart. He knew the heart of Hezekiah. He could see the hearts of the people. He knew they were sincere and desired to worship Him, even though they may have failed to keep the letter of the law.  

What does this passage reveal about man?

Hezekiah was not just a political and military leader. He was a spiritual leader and he took his role seriously. He knew that the health and future well being of the nation was directly linked to their relationship with God. So he lead the people in returning to God. He called them back to a right relationship with the only one who could save them and protect them. But not everyone was willing to follow Hezekiah’s leadership. Many of those living in what was left of the kingdom of Israel refused his invitation to return to the Lord. Even though they had suffered greatly at the hands of the Assyrians and watched as their relatives and friends were taken into captivity, when Hezekiah’s messengers arrived inviting them to the Passover, “they laughed them to scorn and mocked them” (2 Chronicles 30:10 ESV). But there were those who did accept Hezekiah’s offer and returned to the Lord. Not everything a godly leader does will appear successful. Not everyone will follow. The prophets of God are a perfect illustration of that truth. They faithfully followed the commands of God, telling the people the words of God, but the people would refuse to listen. The people would reject their calls to repent and return. They would ignore their warnings of God’s impending punishment. But the prophets remained faithful to their God-given commission. Paul would command Titus to appoint elders in all the towns and villages where churches had been established. And he gave Titus clear criteria concerning the qualifications of these men. They were to be above reproach, not arrogant, quick-tempered, prone to drunkenness, or greedy. Instead, they were to be hospitable, lovers of good, self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. But more than anything, these men needed to be able to “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9 ESV). God’s people require godly leaders – men who are not afraid to speak the truth of God, boldly and unapologetically. Hezekiah was that kind of man.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The church today is in desperate need of godly leaders. It is filled with complacent and casual Christians who have compromised their faith by growing comfortable with the world. There are many who go through the motions, attending church, even going to Bible studies and other seemingly spiritual activities, but their hearts are far from God. They are ignorant of the truth of God. They remain unrepentant of their sins and their hearts are far from Him. There is a need for godly leaders who will step up and speak out. The people of Judah needed Hezekiah. Had he not lead, the people would have continued to live according the example of Ahaz. Without Hezekiah’s leadership, the priests and Levites would have remained unconsecrated and, therefore, unqualified to serve the people. The doors of the Temple would have remained shut and the sacrificial system unavailable. It took a godly leader to turn things around. I pray that I might be that kind of leader. I pray that God will raise up more men and women like Hezekiah in our day. We need leaders who are more committed to the cause of Christ and the call of God than the applause men.

Father, raise up more godly leaders in our day. The church is in an unhealthy state. There are many who claim to be Your people, who “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works” (Titus 1:16 ESV). May You raise up leaders who are unafraid to speak Your truth boldly and call Your people back to You. May our greatest desire be to call the people of God back to a sound faith and a firm commitment to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Chronicles 27-28, 2 Timothy 4

The Consequences of Compromise.

2 Chronicles 27-28, 2 Timothy 4

…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 ESV

When Jotham took over the throne from his father, Uzziah, he was only 25-years old, but he would prove to be a king who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 27:1 ESV). He would become a powerful king, “because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 27:6 ESV). But sadly, he would refuse to enter the Temple of God, perhaps because his father, Uzziah, had been banned from entering it due to his leprosy. And while Jotham appears to have been a good and somewhat godly king, “the people still followed corrupt practices” (2 Chronicles 27:2 ESV). As king, he failed to lead the people well or influence them toward faithfulness to God. He compromised his God-given authority and allowed the sins of the people to go unchecked.

His son, Ahaz, would prove to be an even worse example as king. “He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord…but walked in the ways of the kings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 27:1-2 ESV). Ahaz took the sin of compromise to a whole new level, making altars to Baal and even burning his own sons as sacrifices to false gods. And even when God brought punishment on Him for his sins, allowing the Syrians, Israelites, Edomites and Philistines to attack and defeat Judah, Ahaz “became yet more faithless to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:22 ESV). Rather than turn back to God, he worshiped the gods of the nations who had defeated him, and locked the doors of the Temple of God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The kings of Judah found themselves constantly surrounded by enemies. There were always threats to the security of their kingdom. Edomites, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Assyrians, and other nations were a constant presence and provided a real-life opportunity for the kings of Judah to either trust God and allow Him to provide protection, or to compromise their convictions and turn to someone or something else for deliverance. God had promised to be there for the people of Judah – if they would remain faithful and worship Him alone. But if they chose to worship other gods, He had vowed to punish them. He had warned the people of Israel that when they entered the Promised Land, they would need to completely eradicate the pagan nations that occupied the land. Otherwise, the people of God would be tempted to compromise their faith by worshiping the gods of their enemies. And that is exactly what happened. When faced with a difficulty, rather than trust God, Ahaz would turn to the Assyrians for help. When defeated by the Syrians, he would worship their gods rather than the one true God, justifying his actions by thinking, “because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me” (2 Chronicles 28:23 ESV). But his actions would prove futile, doing nothing more than provoking God to anger and bringing further judgment on himself. God would not tolerate his compromise. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Compromise is always a danger for the people of God. We will always find ourselves surrounded and threatened by the enemies of God. That reality should never surprise us. But we need to recognize that our God is greater than our enemies and more powerful than any perceived threat on our existence. Ahaz could have placed his faith in God and allowed Him to provide deliverance in his time of need. He could have trusted God and watched as He miraculously stepped into his circumstances. But it was easier for Ahaz to compromise his convictions and place his faith elsewhere. Paul would warn Timothy that a time was coming when even Christians would compromise their convictions, rejecting sound teaching based on the Word of God, and seeking out teachers who would tell them what they want to hear. These people would go out of their way to find teachers and preachers willing to sell out the Word of God in order to peddle half-truths and outright lies that appealed to the personal passions and sinful desires of the masses. But Paul warned Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete and patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV). Paul wanted Timothy to stand firm and to fight the good fight, standing strong even while all those around him caved in and compromised their faith out of convenience and self-gratification. Paul wanted Timothy to keep the faith, always remembering that his reward was laid up for him in heaven – a crown of righteousness that would be awarded to him by Christ Himself. But many will fail to remain faithful. Many will give in to the temptation to compromise their faith. But even if we find ourselves standing alone and completely deserted by those who have claimed to be followers of Christ, we must take to heart the words of Paul. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Compromise is always a real possibility in my life. It is so much easier to give in than it is to stand firm. And my compromises can sometimes be very subtle and self-deceiving. I can find myself listening to the messages of this world and allowing them to make sense when, in reality, they stand diametrically opposed to the Word of God. When faced with difficulties, it is so easy to turn to someone or something else other than God. I can find myself placing my hope, faith, trust and confidence in the things of this world. Like Ahaz, I can convince myself that world’s ways really do work. But when I start trusting the ways of this world, I am no longer trusting God. I am compromising my convictions and placing my hope in the wrong things. I want to fight the good fight. I want to finish the race. And while there will always be the temptation to sell out and blend in to the world around me, I pray that God will give me the strength to stand firm, keeping my eye on the prize: “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 ESV).

Father, help me remain true to You regardless of whatever trials and troubles may come into my life. Don’t allow me to compromise my convictions or place my hope and trust in anything or anyone other than You. I can’t remain faithful without Your help. I need Your Holy Spirit’s strength to stay the course and to remain faithful to the end. Help me keep my eye on the prize and focused on the reward to come. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Chronicles 25-26, 2 Timothy 3

The Power of Pride.

2 Chronicles 25-26, 2 Timothy 3

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT

Joash is replaced on the throne of Judah by his 25-year old son, Amaziah. We are told that this young man “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2 ESV). He was not entirely devoted to God. Early on in his reign, he hired 100,000 mercenaries from Israel, paying them each 100 talents of silver. But he was warned by a man of God not to follow through with his plan, but to trust God instead. “Why should you supposed that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down” (2 Chronicles 25:8 ESV). Amaziah would listen to the warning and send the 100,000 Israelites away, and he would enjoy a great victory in battle. But God would also allow him to suffer the consequences of his ungodly alliance with Israel, when the mercenaries raided the unprotected cities of Judah while Amaziah was busy fighting the Edomites.

It doesn’t take long to see what the chronicler meant when he wrote that Amaziah did not display whole-hearted devotion to God. “After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them” (2 Chronicles 25:14 ESV). This young man turned his back on God, and when warned by the man of God, he refused to listen. In his pride and inflated self-worth, he would challenge the Israelites to battle, and ultimately lose, because God stood against him. Sadly, his son, Uzziah, would follow in his footsteps. He would start out well, doing “what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” but he would end poorly, marked by pride, arrogance, and a facade of religious fervor.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Both Amaziah and Uziah were to have been God’s royal representatives. The king was to rule on God’s behalf, mediating the sovereignty and power of God. He was answerable to God. He was to protect and lead the people on behalf of God and according to His will, not his own. But Amaziah and Uziah both became full of themselves. Their God-given power and authority went to their heads. They overstepped their bounds and determined that they knew better than God. As kings, they had been told by God to obey His law. “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” ( Deuteronomy 17:18-20 ESV). Keeping God’s law would prevent the king’s heart from becoming “lifted up above his brothers.” In other words, the Word of God, coupled with a healthy fear of God, would keep the king’s ego in check. But virtually every one of the kings of both Judah and Israel would struggle keeping this command of God. Their reigns would be marked by pride, disobedience, unfaithfulness, and the rejection of God. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Uzziah was blessed by God. He benefited from having a spiritual mentor in the form of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. And we’re told  that “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5 ESV). He become strong and powerful. He enjoyed God’s help in battle. He amassed a powerful army and his fame spread throughout the land. But then we read these sobering words: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16 ESV). His success went to his head. He began to see himself as the sole source of his own power and prestige. Soon it was not enough for him to be king. Now he wanted to be priest. So he entered the temple of the Lord and attempted to take on the role of the priest by burning incense to God. But like Saul, the first king of Israel, he would learn that this was not God’s will. God had established a divine order when it came to his kingdom. The king was to rule on behalf of God, the prophet was to speak on behalf of God, and the priest was to minister on behalf of God. And each was to act as a mediator between God and the covenant people. These three roles provided a kind of checks and balances in God’s kingdom. We see repeatedly that when the king would stray, God would send His prophet to warn them and call them back. When the king sinned, he had to offer sacrifices for his sin through the priest of God. He could not do it on his own. But Uzziah decided that he was fully capable of performing both roles. Even when he was confronted by the priests with his open rebellion against God, rather than repent, he became angry. And God struck him with leprosy. His condition would end up separating him from the people of Judah, as he was forced to live in isolation for the rest of his life. But worse than that, he could no longer enter into the Temple of the Lord, separating Him from God and preventing him from being able to have his sins atoned for.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul warned Timothy that “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1 ESV). He told him that, as time progressed, things were going to get progressively worse. These “last days” would be marked by a litany of ungodly characteristics. People will love themselves, money, materialism, and pleasure – all more than they love God. Through their lifestyle, they will actually scoff at God; but will also put on a facade that they are actually religious. They will have the appearance of godliness, but deny the One who could provide the power to make it real in their lives. Paul describes a people who claim to be religious, but who are self-centered and narcissistic. Their world will revolve around themselves and their own desires. They will have all the appearances of godliness, but lack any of the power that should come with it. Uzziah attempted to burn incense in the Temple. Burning incense was a God-ordained activity, but Uzziah was doing it in an ungodly manner. And doing godly things in an ungodly manner will never bring honor from God. He is never pleased with outward attempts at godliness that are not based on obedience to His will and in keeping with His Word. Going through the religious motions means nothing to God. He wants our hearts – our whole hearts. Uzziah’s main problem was that he was not whole-hearted in his devotion to God. He loved himself. He loved his power. He loved his influence. He became prideful and his pride would lead to his own destruction. The king was to keep a copy of the Law of God with him at all times, reading it daily and obeying it faithfully. I am to keep God’s Word with me at all times. Paul reminds me, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). God’s Word is the greatest antidote to pride. It reminds us of His power, holiness, and righteousness, but also of His love, mercy, and amazing grace.

Father, self-love is an ever-present reality in my life. I can so easily become infatuated with my own self-worth and take credit for my own successes. But I have to constantly be reminded that You are the source of not only my existence, but of my salvation. I am nothing without You. I can do nothing without You. Please protect me from becoming like those whom Paul describes. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of Amaziah and Uzziah. May I learn to love and serve You whole-heartedly and willingly all the days of my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Chronicles 23-24, 2 Timothy 2

The Power of Influence.

2 Chronicles 23-24, 2 Timothy

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22 ESV

For six years Joash, the lone surviving son of King Ahaziah, was hidden in the temple of God by Jehoiada the priest. During those six years, Joash was under the influence of Jehoiada and his wife. He would have been raised to love and respect God. He would have been taught the laws and commands of God. He would have been protected not only from the threats of his own grandmother, Athaliah, the queen, but also the evil influences of the world around him. At the age of seven, Joash was presented to the people as their king. Knowing that there was still a possible threat on his life, Jehoiada arranged for a permanent security force to protect the young king. He positioned armed Levites in the temple. He provided the captains of the army of Judah with spears and shields. “And he set all the people as a guard for the king, every man with his weapon in his hand…” (2 Chronicles 23:10 ESV). During the early years of King Joash’s reign, his mentor, Jehoiada would have a strong influence over his life. Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people with the king, that they would be the Lord’s people. He arranged for the destruction of the house of Baal. He even had Athaliah, the queen, executed. And we’re told that “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2 ESV). Joash would go on to restore the house of the Lord, the very place where he had found refuse for six years as a young boy. He would reinstate the temple tax and reinstitute the sacrificial system. But then we read, “But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died” (2 Chronicles 24:15 ESV). Joash lost his mentor. And it wouldn’t take long for him to fall under the influence of others. “Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols” (2 Chronicles 24:17 ESV). In practically no time at all, Joash would find himself negatively influenced by his peers and falling away from the godly instruction of his mentor, Jehoiada. And the results would be devastating to both Joash and his kingdom.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had miraculously provided Jehoiada to protect the life of Joash so that he could become the next king of Judah. He was the only surviving descendant of David who would qualify to sit on the throne of Judah. It was essential that Joash live so that God could keep His covenant promise to David. “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 ESV). It was essential that God orchestrate the preservation of Joash because the ultimate fulfillment of His promise to David was about far more than just an earthly successor to the throne of David. God was going to send His own Son, in human flesh, born into the line of David, to become the ultimate and final King of Israel. When God promised David, “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV), He was referring both to Solomon, the son of David, and to Jesus, the coming Messiah. So there was far more to God’s promise than an earthly king sitting on a throne in Jerusalem. God was talking about the Savior of the world. So God preserved Joash, and one of the ways He did this was by providing this young man with a protector and spiritual mentor. God arranged for Joash’s life to be spared and his future to be secured by the influence of one single godly man. Paul would prove to have the same kind of influence on the life of Timothy. He would play a major role in Timothy’s spiritual development, providing him with much-needed wisdom and sound counsel that would protect this young man from the evil influences of the world around him. Joash needed Jehoiada in his life. Timothy needed Paul in his life. We all need spiritual mentors and influencers in our lives. And God has a way of providing them all along the way.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We are not meant to live isolated, independent lives. Joash was only as strong as his relationship to his god-given mentor. As long as he listed to Jehoiada, he prospered. But when Jehoiada disappeared off the scene, Joash fell prey to other influences. He sought other counsel. And it would prove to be his undoing. Paul knew that Timothy would be prone to this same problem, so he encouraged and warned him. He told him to find his strength in the grace of God. He reminded Timothy that success in the Christian life required total dependence upon God for all things. He challenged Timothy to see his role as that of a soldier in God’s army, and as a good soldier, he needed to be willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. He would have to remain unencumbered by the distractions of life. He would need to make his goal in life to please his commanding officer. And he would need to remain diligent and hardworking. Timothy was young. He was susceptible to wrong influences. He would find himself easily distracted by the cares of this world and the passions of his own sin nature. So Paul told him to “do you best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the world of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV). Paul’s greatest desire for Timothy was his ongoing sanctification. He wanted to see Timothy mature in his faith and grow in his likeness to Christ. He wanted to see Timothy develop an increasing dependence upon God, so that when the day came that Paul was no longer able to be there for Timothy, he would be able to stand firm, strengthened by his own personal relationship with God. Paul wanted Timothy to be a “vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

We all need godly mentors in our lives. But the goal of those mentors should be to point us to greater and greater dependence upon God. It may have been that Jehoiada spent too much time making Joash dependent upon him, when he should have been building Joash’s dependence upon God. Paul knew that he had influence over Timothy, but he would use that influence to make Timothy more dependent upon God. He knew that Timothy’s future success and ultimate spiritual health was going to be reliant upon his relationship with God. As spiritual mentors, we need to remember that we are always to point those under our care to God. We are to encourage them to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV). We cannot provide those things for them. We can model them. But only God can make them possible. We must make sure that those under our care are students of the Word of God, “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV). We must go out of our way to ensure that those we mentor understand that their sanctification is God’s doing, not ours. We cannot make anyone holy. That is completely up to God. Making anyone dependent upon us is a dangerous mistake to make. But we must always understand that we have incredible influence over certain individuals who God has placed in our lives. We must teach them, encourage them, model Christ-likeness for them, and point them to God for His grace, mercy, love and life-transforming power. 

Father, I want to be a positive influence in the lives of others. I want to point people to You, not me. I want to mentor well and model Christ-likeness effectively. Never let me forget that I have the power to influence others for good or for bad. I want to live in such a way that my life is a constant influence on others, showing them their need for Christ and their total dependence upon You for everything in their lives. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org