The Book of 2 Chronicles - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
There was the tent of meeting of God.
2 Chronicles 1:3
We now come to the chronicler's account of how Solomon entered into full possession of his kingdom, and took up the great work entrusted to him. He commenced by gathering his people to a sacred act of worship. Although the ark was in a temporary tent in Jerusalem which David had prepared for it, the Tent or Tabernacle, and the brazen altar, were still at Gibeon. Thither, therefore, the king and his people resorted. The description of the Tabernacle in these words is arresting, and helps us to see the value of the change the revisers made when they rendered "Tent of Meeting," instead of "Tabernacle of Congregation." "There was the Tabernacle of the Congregation of God," as the Authorized Version has. it, conveys an inadequate impression, as it suggests that it was a place where the people assembled. It was that, but it was much more. It was "the Tent of Meeting of God"; that is, it was the place where the people met with God. That is always the idea; not the meeting of the people with each other, but their meeting with God. This gathering of the people around that Tent was according to Divine order, and it is interesting to note that notwithstanding the fact that the ark was not there, God met with Solomon and communed with him. Thus we have a revelation of the value of observing a true Divine order, and at the same time an illustration of the fact that where obedience is sincere, God is not bound by any strict letter, even of His own law.
Who is able to build Him a house? - 2 Chron. 2:6
These words occur in the record of the appeal which Solomon sent to Hiram the King of Tyre for a skilled worker, and for timber. They afford evidence of the greatness and truth of Solomon's conception of God, as the words immediately following show; "seeing heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him." Yet he was about to build a house for God. He declared its value as he understood it, "only to burn incense before Him." Solomon was under no delusion about God, and therefore made no mistake about the Temple. He never conceived of it as a place to which God would be confined. He did expect, and he received, manifestations of the Presence of God in that house. Its chief value was that it afforded man a place in which he should offer incense; that is, the symbol of adoration, praise, worship, to God. This was always so. When Jesus said to the woman of Samaria: "The hour cometh, when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father," He referred to a false centre, Mount Gerizim, and a true one, Jerusalem, and declared that neither was necessary for worship. In saying this, He was not referring merely to the new privileges to be created by His work. This is seen in what He added: "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth." Temples, buildings, set apart, have always had, and still have, their place and value; but they never were, nor are they yet, the only places where God may be worshipped.
Then Solomon began to build the House of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father.
2 Chronicles 3:1
In this, Solomon was carrying out the instructions and intention of his father. The site chosen, as we observed in a previous note, was full of suggestiveness. In the place where judgment was merged in mercy, the House of God was to stand. In this chapter and the next, we have the account of the building and furnishing of the Temple. In all fundamental essentials, it was on the pattern of the Tabernacle which Moses had made according to the pattern given him by God. Its proportions and relations were identical, but it was larger. Its symbolism was exactly the same, though its material magnificence was far greater. Nothing of ornamentation was admitted which would have interfered with the express command that no attempt was to be made to make anything as a likeness of God. Its structure was representative of the way of man's approach to God, rather than revelative of His nature. That was a mystery beyond the comprehension of the finite mind, and it was a distinguishing element in the Hebrew religion that it made no attempt to explain. "When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman." Then, He explained Himself, for this Son was "the effulgence of His glory, and the very image of His substance." In Him judgment merged in mercy. Thus He became all the Temple symbolized, and infinitely more than it was ever permitted to suggest. He is the way of approach to God, and the revelation of God.
As for the entry of the house, the inner doors thereof for the Most Holy Place, and the doors of the house, to wit, of the Temple, were of gold.
2 Chronicles 4:22
These doors were additions to the Tabernacle plan. Therein, the entrances were veils, both to the Holy Place, and to the Most Holy. These veils were still present in the Temple, or at least "the Veil" between the Holy and the Holy of Holies remained, for it was rent in twain when our Lord was crucified. The doors which Solomon put in the Temple were extra protections for the Temple building, and for the inner shrine which was the very Sanctuary. The statement that they were "of gold" must be interpreted by that in Kings, where we are told that the doors were of olive-wood and overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:31,32); and that the hinges were of gold (1 Kings 7:50). We can never rightly apprehend the suggestiveness of these stories, if we fail to bear in mind the uniformity of the methods of Biblical symbolism. Gold was ever the emblem of Divine glory and perfection. Thus it will be recognized that when Solomon added to the veils these doors all golden, he intended to symbolize the Divine glory. Those approaching the sacred enclosures were thus reminded of that glory. It was in perfect harmony with all the spiritual significance of this Temple that its doors should be of gold. Our Lord said of Himself: "I am the Door"; and we know that:–
- Would we view God's brightest glory,
We must look in Jesus' face.
Solomon brought in the things that David his father had dedicated.
2 Chronicles 5:1
The work being completed, with filial and godly care Solomon carried into the sacred enclosure all that his father had dedicated to the House of God. It was a rich and varied store. If we glance back for a moment to 1 Chron. 29:2,3, we find David's own account of his gathering of these treasures. He first said: "I have prepared with all my might ... gold ... silver ... brass ... iron ... wood ... stones." He then said: "I have set my affection on the House of my God ... I have a treasure of mine own ... I give it ... over and above all that I have prepared." This was complete devotion and dedication. There was first the systematic gathering of treasure of all sorts from all sources, and this was done with all his might. Then, when that was completed, he withheld nothing of his own, but impoverished himself by pouring all his possessions into the same treasury. This is the kind of giving which results from a great passion. It is easy to realize with what reverence Solomon would gather up and convey to the House of God all that wealth, doubly sacred because it was the expression of the devotion of his father's heart to that great work which had now been carried to successful completion. Let us note for ourselves the two elements in David's giving: "I have prepared with all my might; I have set my affection." The inspiration of love, and the activity of strength, will ever make our dedications complete, and our offerings worthy.
That Thine eyes may be open toward this house day and night.
2 Chronicles 6:20
Again, Solomon in this great prayer of dedication, revealed his true understanding of the greatness of God, as he said: "Will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have builded?" Realizing the inadequacy of any houses built by man to contain God, he uttered this suggestive and beautiful petition, that the watching eyes of God might ever rest upon the house he had built. It was the place where God had said He would put His name. It was the place to which the people would repair to offer their petitions, in the regular exercises of worship, in special seasons of need through sin, in battle, in drought, in famine. The vision of the king created his prayer. He saw the Temple perpetually watched by the eyes of God, so that whatever worshippers approached they were seen by the God Whose help they sought. That this might be so, he prayed. It was a figure of speech, but one full of suggestive beauty. For us, the great ideal has found perfect fulfilment through "Jesus the Son of God," Who has "passed through the heavens"; "now to appear before the face of God for us." We "draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace," and we do so in Him, the Beloved. The eyes of God are ever upon Him in satisfaction and delight; and so in our approach we are ever seen, but we are seen in Him, and so accepted.
He sent the people away unto their tents, joyful and glad of heart for the goodness that the Lord had shewed unto David, and to Solomon, and to Israel His people.
2 Chronicles 7:10
These words give an account of how the wonderful ceremonies of the dedication of the Temple ended. The ceremonies had created a profound consciousness of the goodness of God, and this filled the people with joy and gladness of heart. So they went back to their tents, filled with a sense, a true sense, of the greatness of their national life. It consisted wholly in the governance of God. Had the future of king and people only been true to the high altitude on which they stood that day, their history would have been a very different one. In this whole story there is a revelation of the true value of public recognition of God in national life. It serves to keep alive the consciousness of the matters of supreme importance in that life, which are always those of the government of God, and so of His goodness to His people. The method of such recognition may be in some senses difficult today, through the unhappy loss of the sense of the unity of the Spirit, which makes for schism, and therefore for ineffectiveness in the witness of the Church. Nevertheless it is the duty of the Church, the whole Church, to watch for and to seize every opportunity for public testimony to the goodness of God as manifested in His overruling of the affairs of the nation. As in the case of Solomon, such ceremonial occasions should open and close with sacrificial remembrance of the One Sacrifice, and have at their centre the holy exercises of praise and prayer. The methods may have changed, but the spiritual obligation abides.
My wife shall not dwell in the house of David, king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come.
2 Chronicles 8:11
These were the words of compromise. Solomon's marriage with the daughter of the king of Egypt was a purely political act, arising out of the fact that he had made affinity with her father (1 Kings 3:1). There can be no question that such affinity was wrong. God tad delivered His people from Egypt; and there was never the slightest need, either military or economic, for such affinity. It was a political seduction which persistently threatened the nation, and which more than once cost them dear. Having made the blunder, and become affianced to this woman, Solomon sought to safeguard against the possible religious danger, by building her house away from the city of David. This compromise was a failure, as compromise invariably is. Let a paragraph in 1 Kings be read (chapter 11, the first eight verses), and it will be seen that presently he built places of idol worship in Jerusalem for "all his foreign wives." Compromise is a pathetic thing, in that it always is a witness to a conviction of what is the high and the true, and an attempt to ensure its realization, while yielding to the low and the false. It is an evil thing, for its invariable issue is that the low and the false ultimately gain the ascendance, and the high and the true are abandoned. It is when the eye is single that the whole body is full of light. The way of uncompromising devotion to the right is the way, and the only way, of ultimate deliverance from evil. To tolerate wrong in any degree is ultimately to become its slave. To build a house for Pharaoh's daughter outside the Holy City is to open the gates of that city sooner or later to Pharaoh's gods.
Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years.
2 Chronicles 9:30
The story of Solomon is one of the most tragic in Biblical history. He was the third, and the last, of the kings of Israel as one nation. He came to the throne with everything in his favour. The kingdom had been brought into unity and remarkable strength under the reign of his father. Wonderful preparations had been made for the doing of the great work of Temple building. In himself he was richly endowed with conspicuous natural ability. Special wisdom was bestowed upon him by God, in answer to his own high choice. His opportunity and equipment were remarkable. In spite of everything he failed miserably as a king. Yielding to certain lower things of his nature, he became a slave to them, and dragged his nation down with him. So long as he remained on the throne, the people were solaced and drugged by material magnificence; but underneath, the spirit of rebellion and revolt was at work, ready to break out into open manifestation directly he was removed. The story is perhaps one of the most striking illustrations of the fact that opportunity and privilege, even God-bestowed, are not enough in themselves to assure full realization. They involve personal responsibilities, of watchfulness and constant devotion; and if these are not fulfilled, the most ghastly failure will inevitably result. Everything "under the sun" is of Divine origin; but if a man forget the things beyond the sun, fail to recognize 'that the fear of Jehovah continues to be the chief thing - is wisdom - he will be overcome by folly, and his life-story will be one of failure, at least so far as his work is concerned.
He forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and took counsel with the young men that were grown up with him.
2 Chronicles 10:8
The old men had counselled Rehoboam to conciliate the people by yielding to their appeal for relief from burdens imposed upon them by Solomon. His folly was manifested in his allowing himself to be influenced by the advice of the hot-headed youth of his court, who counselled him to rule autocratically, and to impose still heavier burdens on the people. The advice of the elders was inspired by desire for true national well-being. The advice of the young men was inspired by selfish passion for place and power. The whole situation was a difficult one. There is no doubt that Solomon had been an autocrat, and had ruled with a hand of iron under the velvet. Some of the worst tyrants the world has ever had have robbed the people of their rights, and kept them passive by the drug of gorgeous display. So did Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, and so did Charles I. With the death of Solomon men breathed anew, and discovered their chains. Now was the time for a bid for freedom. Jeroboam returned from Egypt to be the spokesman of this movement. Here was Rehoboam's chance, and he missed it by taking wrongly-motived advice. The result was immediate. Ten tribes revolted. The nation was rent in twain, and, judging by human calculation, Judah was on the verge of a war which would have ended in her defeat and subjugation. Then God interfered. No human folly has ever been permitted to continue long enough to thwart His purposes. Shemaiah, a prophet of God, declared to Rehoboam that the revolt was in the Divine plan. He immediately submitted; and the period of the two kingdoms commenced.
Out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the Lord, the God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah.
2 Chronicles 11:16,17
Whatever there may have been of right in the revolt of the ten tribes from the despotism of Rehoboam, that movement was misdirected from the first. Jeroboam was a strong man, but actuated by policy on the low level of human cleverness, rather than by faith. He commenced his reign over the Northern Kingdom by setting up a new centre of worship and a new order of priests. He attempted to adapt religion in the interest of the State, and thus destroyed both. One of his acts was that of casting the Levites out of the land. They passed down into Judah. Then the thing happened recorded in these words. In all those northern tribes there were those to whom the deepest things of the national life, those, namely, of its relation to Jehovah; were of most importance. This remnant of loyal souls, gathered out of all the tribes, left their own country and went to Judah. Thus the Southern Kingdom was strengthened in the best way by the accession of faithful souls. These are the people who, in every age, have been the real strength of human history, and through whom God has continued His onward march toward the realization of His purposes; the people who count their relation to Him, and loyalty to His will, more than kith or kin or country. Exodus and emigration have very often been the ways of God's advance in the course of time. Such movements have always been sacrificial, but they have been deliverances.
When the kingdom of Rehoboam was established, and he was strong ... he forsook the law of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 12:1
What tragic words are these; and how perpetually the fact they record has been repeated in human experience! The influx of godly souls from the Northern Kingdom had made Rehoboam and his kingdom strong; and for three years they had gone in the way of David and Solomon (see chapter 11:17). Then in his strength, "he forsook the law of Jehovah." Man's real strength is ever that of complete dependence upon God. That is to say, it is derived strength. Directly it becomes independent, self-contained, it leads him astray. There is the profoundest truth in the Apostle's words: "When I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). The sequel to this declaration of Rehoboam's deflection is found in the rest of the chapter. God never abandons His purposes or His servants. When those who serve Him depart from the straight way of obedience to His law, He adopts the methods of chastisement. The scourge came now in the person of Israel's ancient foe, the king of Egypt. But the patience of God is ever manifest in His dealing with His people. The repentance of Rehoboam produced the staying and limitation of judgment. The kingdom of Judah passed for the time under the yoke of Egypt. It was saved, however, from complete destruction, not principally for the sake of the king, but because, "in Judah there were good things found" (verse 12). God's judgments are always characterized by fine discrimination.
The children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord, the God of their fathers.
2 Chronicles 13:18
This is really a most interesting chapter, and this account of the victory of Judah is a striking revelation of the readiness with which God ever responds to a genuine cry to Him for help, even on the part of those who are far from worthy. This king Abijah "walked in all the sins of his father" (1 Kings 15:3). Here, however, in his address, in which he attempted to persuade Israel to submission, he was speaking and acting for his nation. This address in itself was a strange mixture of misrepresentation and religion. The misrepresentation is found in his statement of the reason of the revolt of Israel, which culminated in the crowning of Jeroboam. He attributed the whole thing to the influence of evil men, whereas it arose out of the despotism of Rehoboam, and was misdirected by evil influences. His attempt to prevent conflict by this address was clever, but utterly futile. Deliverance and victory came to Judah, not through this action on the part of the king, but because, when Judah found themselves caught between two armies, "they cried unto Jehovah." It was a poor business, in that it was a last resort, but it was sincere; and the answer of God was immediate, and complete victory resulted. The whole story is another illustration of that truth, to which the Scriptures and human experience bear persistent testimony, of the unfailing grace of God, and of His willingness to forgive and deliver those who call upon Him in sincerity, notwithstanding all their unworthiness. Honestly to rely upon God is ever to prevail over opposing foes.
So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa.
2 Chronicles 14:12
In the story of the reign of Ma, we find a break in the continuity of naughtiness which so persistently characterized the succession of kings. His was a long reign, and though the reforms he instituted were not as thorough as some which were carried out by subsequent kings, he yet gave the nation some glimpses of a better order. He commenced by breaking down false worship s o far as he was able, and by insisting on the observance of the Divine law. As a result, the land had "quiet before him." He took advantage of the peaceful years to build and wall the cities. Then suddenly came the Ethiopian invasion in great strength, threatening the prosperity, and indeed the very life, of the nation. The prayer of Asa, as recorded in this chapter, is a model of simple directness. Its strength lay in the loyalty of this man to his God, and in his perfect confidence in Him. The answer was immediate. Through the hosts of Judah, God operated for the discomfiture and defeat of the invaders. How unfailingly the patience of God is manifested in these records! The repetition of this fact in notes of exposition, becomes almost monotonous. Yet it is glorious monotony, like to that of the perfect music of such as with veiled faces ceaselessly chant the story of His holiness and His love. The condition of the people of Judah at this time was a very sad one. Yet immediately man or nation turned to God with repentance, and in need, He responded with pardon and deliverance.
The Lord is with you, while ye be with Him; and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you; but if ye forsake Him, He will forsake you.
2 Chronicles 15:2
This chapter chronicles with greater detail the occasion and value of the reforms wrought in Judah during the reign of Asa. It is, however, chiefly remarkable for this word of prophetic interpretation. Azariah, who uttered it, only appears here. He is mentioned nowhere else. Yet, in an introductory word so brief that it only occupies half a verse in our Bibles, he revealed an inclusive philosophy of life under the control of God. Suddenly anointed by the Spirit of God, this man appeared to the king, and in this message gave direction to all his life and reign. If the message was brief, it was indeed weighty. The rest of the address consisted of illustration of the application of the principle it declared to the then existing conditions; and of a direct appeal to the king. The principle declared is of perpetual application. Let it be well considered. It represents God as unchanging. All apparent changes on His part are really changes in the attitude of men toward Him. Man with God, finds God with him. Man, forsaking God, finds that he is forsaken of God. These are the extremes of the truth. Between them - not contradicting them, but complementing them and completing them - is the declaration that if a man seek God, He will be found of that man. A recognition of these things must at once give direction to life, and inspire the heart with courage. It certainly did so in the case of Asa.
Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and hast not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.
2 Chronicles 16:7
This is a very sad chapter, telling as it does the story of the lapse and failure of a man who for six-and-thirty years had - considering the conditions under which he lived - been remarkably true to God. When Baasha, king of Israel, commenced to build Ramah with the express purpose of troubling Judah, Asa, who had so often been led and delivered by God, turned to Benhadad, the king of Syria, for help. It seemed, moreover, to have been a successful policy, for Benhadad spoiled the cities of Israel, and Baasha was compelled to leave off his building of Ramah. Yet such seeming was false. It was the result of shortsightedness, failure to see the long issues. Things which appear successful may, in the life of faith, prove to be most disastrous. It was so in this case. The Syrians were, as a matter of fact, far more dangerous foes of Judah than was Israel. As Hanani, the seer, told the king, by this act they had escaped out of his hand. How perpetually men defeat their own ends when, either through lack of faith, or overconfidence in their own cleverness - which are practically the same thing - they attempt to do by policy what God is prepared to do for them in answer to their obedient faith. The story is the more sad in that there seems to have been no repentance on the part of the king. He persecuted the prophet, flinging him into prison. Surely none is ever safe from falling, however long loyalty has lasted. To the end there is need of watchfulness.
They went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught among the people.
2 Chronicles 17:9
With the accession of Jehoshaphat to the throne of Judah, a period of very definite reformation commenced within the kingdom. In this chapter we have, first, the account of his own relationship to God, and the resulting blessing that came to him. Then follows this most interesting account of how he made known the law of Jehovah anew throughout the land. The method adopted was what in these modern times we might describe as the holding of Special Missions throughout the cities of Judah, for the specific purpose of proclaiming and interpreting "the book of the law of Jehovah." Those who went forth to this work were priests, Levites, and representatives of the princes. Thus Jehoshaphat put into practice himself, and, by these special methods, provoked his people to put into practice, the principle which Azariah had declared to his father. Coincident with this activity within the kingdom, a remarkable fear of Jehovah fell upon their enemies round about, so that they ceased to make war upon Jehoshaphat. Thus God was with the man who was with Him. The result was that there was opportunity for strengthening the kingdom within, by the building of castles and cities, by commerce, and by the carrying out of many works. This story has a present value. No better service can be rendered to the nation than that of proclaiming the Word of Jehovah to the people, in cities, towns, villages, and hamlets. By such proclamation the heart of the people may be turned to Jehovah, and so He be enabled to do for them all that is in His heart.
A certain man drew his bow at a venture.
2 Chronicles 18:33
This is a most suggestive and significant statement, revealing great facts of life which are too often unrecognized by men. Ahab had done everything he could think of, to secure his own safety in the day of battle. In arrant cowardice he had caused Jehoshaphat to enter the field in his kingly robes, thus rendering him conspicuous, while he had disguised himself. The ruse was completely successful as far as Syria was concerned. The captains of the king of Syria were deceived. Ahab was saf6, if there were no eyes other than those of men watching him. He was not hidden from the eyes of God. One nameless man "drew his bow at a venture," that is, as the margin reads, "in his simplicity." It was not even a venture in the sense of an attempt, or a gambling against odds, in the hope of killing the king of Israel. It was done "in his simplicity," that is, artlessly, without any special intention other than that of "carrying on" in the ordinary sense of that word. Probably this man had already during the day shot many arrows, and he went on in his simplicity, little knowing that this particular one was to be guided through all the confusion straight to its mark, by the unerring knowledge and power of God. Yet so it was. Thus it is seen how the refuge of lies never hides from the eyes of God. Men may secrete themselves so that other men may never find them; but when the hour of their judgment has come, God takes hold upon some ordinary event, and makes it the highway upon which He comes to carry out the sentence of His purpose. "It just happened," says the man of the world. "God did it," says the man of faith.
Consider what ye do; for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord.
2 Chronicles 19:6
The story of the affinity which Jehoshaphat made with Ahab is that of a sad lapse in his history. Ahab was perhaps the most evil king who ever occupied the throne of Israel. It was indeed strange company for a man like Jehoshaphat, who was unquestionably a man of God. It imperilled his life, so that he was only delivered from death by the direct intervention of his God. On his return to Jerusalem he was rebuked by Jehu, the son of Hanani, in words full of solemnity, which it would be well for all of us perpetually to bear in mind: "Shouldst thou help the wicked, and love them that hate Jehovah?" Evidently Jehoshaphat realized his wrong, and his repentance was manifest in this new mission which he undertook, to bring his people back to Jehovah, and to establish the internal administration of the kingdom in righteousness. These words addressed to the judges are full of value, and of perpetual application. Those who are called upon at any time, and in any way, to administer justice are acting for God, and not for man. They are not seeking to serve men, but to maintain the strict cause of justice, which is to be measured only by Divine standards. With God there is no iniquity, no respect of persons, no taking of bribes. So must it be with those who act as judges. Thus, and thus only, are the true interests of men served. To seek to please men is to be unjust to men. To seek to please God is to be just to men.
And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
2 Chronicles 20:13
This chapter gives us a story which reveals most graphically the simplicity, and therefore the perfection, at this point, of the faith of Jehoshaphat. His kingdom was threatened with powerful and terrible invasion. In his extremity he gathered his people about him, and prayed. It is indeed a great and arresting picture this, of the king surrounded by the whole nation; fathers and mothers with their little ones - that is, the very little ones, the babies; and their children - that is, the elder sons and daughters. It was a genuine national act of simple and direct acknowledgment of God. In the hour of national danger, the nation sought the help of the one true King - Jehovah. The prayer of Jehoshaphat was a powerful outpouring of the soul in the consciousness of need. He pleaded the past evidences of the faithfulness of Jehovah, confessed his sense of his own inability to cope with the danger, and definitely sought the help of God. The answer was not delayed. The Spirit of God came upon Jahaziel, and in the Name of Jehovah he uttered a promise, and made the announcement that all Judah had to do, was to stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah. Then followed the united worship of the people and the solemn chanting of the praise of God. Discomfiture fell upon the foe. It was a moment bright with light amid the darkness. This is ancient history, but we have seen in our days events which can have no other explanation. When after stress and strain our own nation did definitely cry unto God, He heard and wrought deliverance, and that with a suddenness and completeness which amazed us.
He departed without being desired.
2 Chronicles 21:20
Strange indeed is the human heart. It turns to evil, and pursues it persistently; and yet it never really loves those who lead it in the way of evil. This fact is remarkably exemplified in the story of the reign of Jehoram, as told in this chapter. With the passing of Jehoshaphat, another period of darkness and degeneracy set in for the kingdom of Judah. Jehoram was of an utterly evil nature. He attempted to make his throne secure by the murder of his brothers. He was strengthened in wickedness by marriage with the daughter of Ahab. This the chronicler makes clear in the declaration: "He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab; for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife." Nevertheless the people followed him, going a-whoring at the high places and wandering from the ways of Jehovah. In the midst of this wickedness a message was brought to him from Elijah, the prophet of fire, who had exercised so powerful an influence against Ahab in the kingdom of Israel. It contained a terrible message of judgment, which was fully carried out. "He departed without being desired." Love is only inspired by goodness. Men Neill follow those who lead them in the ways of corruption, but such following is always inspired by evil selfishness, and never by admiration or love. When the evil leader falls, there is no pity for him; he departs without being desired. Thus, even in the midst of the uttermost corruption, God preserves a consciousness of the value of goodness, and a witness to the beneficence of His government.
The house of Ahaziah had no power to hold the kingdom.
2 Chronicles 22:9
Ahaziah was the youngest son of Jehoram. Immediately succeeding his father, he reigned for the brief space of one year, during which he was completely under the evil influence of his mother, Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab. In these words of the chronicler we are reminded of a truth of invariable application, that, namely, of the powerlessness of evil. There are hours in human history when it seems as though evil were almost all-powerful. It entrenches itself in great strength; it builds up great ramparts; it inaugurates policies characterized by the utmost craft and cleverness. It seems to be able to bind together a kingdom which is invincible. All this is false seeming. There is no finality, no security, in the apparent might of iniquity. Sooner or later, irrevocably, inevitably, the trenches are broken through, the ramparts are flung down, the policies fail, and the kingdom which seemed so secure is dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel, by the strength of God, which is ever the strength of righteousness and goodness. Neither powerful autocrat, nor mighty confederacy of statesmen, can establish a kingdom or an empire by fraud, by violence, by corruption. Nothing will hold a kingdom or an empire or a commonwealth together in strength other than truth and justice and purity, the things of goodness, which are the things of God. Once again we have to say this is ancient history, but it is as modern as the break-up and disintegration of those great powers hich in our day we have seen crumble to dust.
She looked, and, behold, the king stood by his pillar at the entrance.
2 Chronicles 23:13
There is tremendous dramatic power in that sentence. It is a further proof of the truth emphasized in the words of our previous note, that of the powerlessness of evil. Athaliah had done everything within her power to secure her own position, and to gain her own ends. With vindictive cruelty she had, as she thought, destroyed all the seed-royal of the house of Judah. She was wrong. No evil passions, however thorough their methods, are able to frustrate Divine purposes. Against the wickedness of one woman, God had set in motion the compassion of another. Jehoshabeath had rescued Joash, and for six years with patient persistence had cared for him under the shelter of the Temple. Now at last the day had come when the well-kept secret should be divulged. The boy was brought out, anointed, and crowned amid the plaudits of the people. Athaliah, hearing the shoutings, came to the Temple, and: "She looked, and behold, the king stood by his pillar at the entrance." Then she knew the powerlessness of evil. In vain she cried: "Treason! Treason!" Her own treason against the true and abiding King of the nation was defeated. Thus, sooner or later, and in ways equally dramatic, the moment arrives when those who plot and plan against Heaven and righteousness, find themselves looking at the evidences of the triumph of God and of goodness over all their wickedness.
The king hearkened unto them.
2 Chronicles 24:17
These are very simple words, but they are inexpressibly sad, and full of arresting power and suggestion. Under the reign of Joash real reformation was achieved in Judah, but it was wholly due to the influence of Jehoiada the priest. This is clearly indicated in the statement of the chronicler that: "Joash did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah all the days of Jehoiada the priest." Nevertheless, during this period it is evident that Joash was honestly zealous in his endeavour to reestablish the true worship of God. The reform circumferenced the Temple: "They set up the house of God in its state, and strengthened it." The worship was maintained while Jehoiada lived. After his death, the princes of Judah, evidently corrupt men, came to the king, and he "hearkened unto them." The house of God was forsaken, and idolatry was again established in the land. Joash, who had been zealous in reform, now became determined in wickedness. The study of the story of Joash offers a striking illustration of how a weak man is easily influenced. It emphasizes the need of strong individual character, which can only be created by direct dealing with God. However valuable the influence of a good man may be, it remains true that if a man have nothing more to lean on than that, if it should fail, collapse is almost inevitable. All foundations fail, save one. When the will of man is yielded wholly to the will of God, and no other authority is sought or permitted, that man is safe. Where this is lacking, every changing tide of circumstances will change the currents of life.
He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart.
2 Chronicles 25:2
These words give us the key to all that follows in the story of Amaziah. The general aim of the man was right, but execution was spoiled by imperfection. Nothing is wholly satisfactory to God save the perfect heart, because nothing else can possibly produce the best in man. His punishment of his father's murderers was tempered with justice. The imperfection of his heart was manifested in his alliance with Israel; and then again his right desire, in the readiness with which he obeyed the voice of the prophet, and broke off that alliance, even at cost to himself. Returning from his conquest over the Edomites, he brought back with him the gods of his defeated foes. Again the prophet visited him, and the unutterable folly of such action is revealed in the question asked: "Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which have not delivered their own people out of thy hand?" Punishment for this followed in the defeat of Judah by Israel. What, then, we may ask, as we consider this story of Amaziah, is a perfect heart? The root idea of the Hebrew word rendered "perfect" is that of being whole or complete. An imperfect heart is a divided heart. Imperfection of heart consists in incomplete surrender. Some chamber of the temple is closed against the true Indweller. It is retained for self. What it was in the case of Amaziah we are not told, but the fact is patent, that notwithstanding the general rightness of the direction of his life, either through personal indulgence, or ambition, or carelessness, his whole heart was not set upon doing the will of God. Within the fortress, one apartment possessed by the foe is ever the gravest peril. Sooner or later, the dweller in that chamber opens the door for foes without.
He was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up.
2 Chronicles 26:15,16
Uzziah was one of the most remarkable of the kings of Judah. He was a man of strong character, and the early period of his reign was characterized by true prosperity. He was victorious in his campaigns against the enemies of his people, and eminently successful in his development of the internal resources of the nation. At once a man of war and a lover of husbandry, he was an ideal ruler for those troublous times. During the first years of his reign he went quietly forward in dependence upon God. Then there came a change over the man, and the story of it is told by the chronicler in these words. How significant they are! The history of men affords persistent witness to the subtle perils which are created by prosperity. More men are blasted by it than by adversity. Man, dependent upon God, is independent of all else. In the moment when the heart begins to feel independent of God, because of personal strength, that very strength becomes weakness; and unless there be repentance and return, ruin is inevitable. Prosperity always puts the soul in danger of pride, of the heart lifted up; and pride ever goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. The pride of Uzziah led him to an act of sacrilege. He entered into the sacred courts, and violated the ordinances of God concerning the offering of sacrifices. He was smitten with leprosy, and the last years of his life were spent as a prisoner, isolated from his fellowmen.
Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God.
2 Chronicles 27:6
We have very few details of the reign of Jotham. In all probability the sixteen years referred to by the chronicler cover a period in which he was exercising authority, while his father Uzziah was still alive, though excluded from the kingly office on account of his leprosy. He continued the work of his father in the strengthening of the internal conditions of the kingdom by building; and he was successful in a campaign against the Ammonites. While there was no definite national reform during his reign, he seems to have gone quietly forward along true lines, and his strength is attributed to the fact that he ordered his ways before Jehovah his God. Perhaps three things helped this man. First, he reigned during the early period in which Isaiah was exercising his prophetic ministry. Second, his mother was almost certainly the daughter of Zadok the priest. Third, he profited by his father's example - both good and bad, following the good and shunning the evil. All good influences are to be valued, but the ultimate note is always personal. "He ordered his ways." If a man will do this, then he will ever profit by all the influences brought to bear on him, distinguishing between good and evil, and choosing according to the will of God.
In the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord, this same king Ahaz.
2 Chronicles 28:22
The reign of Ahaz was a period of terrible and rapid degeneracy in Judah. With appalling fearlessness the king restored all the evils of idolatry, even including the ghastly offering of children as sacrifices to Moloch. In all probability his own son was a victim. As difficulties gathered around him, he turned to the king of Assyria for aid, attempting to procure help from him by giving him treasure out of the house of God. The utter evil of the man is seen in the fact that calamities did not produce the effect in him which they had so often done in the case of his predecessors, that of bringing him to the abandonment of his sin. He was a man evil by deliberate choice, persistent in evil in spite of calamity, blasphemously rebellious not-withstanding the direct warnings of Isaiah. Moreover, as we know from the Book of Isaiah, he openly and deliberately rejected any sign from God. It is certainly a solemn and searching story, revealing, as it does, how possible it is to yield the life so completely to evil, that prosperity only ministers to its degeneration, and adversity only hardens the will in wickedness.
Now ye have consecrated yourselves unto the Lord, come near and bring sacrifices and thank-offerings into the house of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 29:31
With the accession of Hezekiah a great change came over the life of Judah. For a period there was a definite arrest in the process of degeneration. The reformation which he carried out began in his deep consciousness of the wretched condition of the people, and the reason thereof. This is most graphically set forth in the words he addressed to the priests and Levites when he called them together. There was no suggestion on his part that the calamities which had fallen upon them were in any way unjust. On the other hand he traced the story of their sin, and declared that the result of that sin was that the wrath of God had expressed itself righteously in their disasters. He then commenced the work of restoring the true order of worship, and the first business was that of cleansing the actual Temple. Some idea of the calamitous condition of the national life may be gained from the fact that the Levites were occupied sixteen days in cleansing the accumulation of filth from the sacred precincts. When this was done, there followed the ceremony of rededication; and in these words we discover Hezekiah's sense of the true order of procedure. Sacrifices and offerings are only acceptable when those offering them are themselves consecrated to Jehovah. The same principle is found in Paul's words in the Corinthian letter: "First they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God." Contributions to the work of God are only valuable as they are the gifts of those who are themselves yielded to God.
So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulun; but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.
2 Chronicles 30:10
This chapter gives us a side-light on the character of Hezekiah which shows how great a man he was. For a long time the ordained feasts of Jehovah had been neglected, both in the northern kingdom of Israel and in his own kingdom of Judah. When he set himself to arrange for the keeping of the Passover, it is very beautiful to see how his heart went out to the whole nation as within the Divine purpose. He sent messengers throughout Israel as well as Judah, inviting them to come to Jerusalem and take part therein. The hopeless corruption of Israel as a whole is manifest in the statement that the people laughed the messengers to scorn and mocked at them. The action of the king was justified and rewarded in the fact that a remnant responded, and gathered to Judah in order to take part in the sacred and solemn observance. It was a motley crowd which assembled, and multitudes of the people were utterly ignorant of the Divine arrangements for preparation. Hezekiah's tenderness was manifested in the pity he felt for these people, and in the prayer he offered on their behalf. His prayer was answered, and the imperfect method was not punished in the case of such as set their whole heart to seek Jehovah. This largeness of heart is always characteristic of men who are really in fellowship with God, for it is in harmony with the heart of God. Such action may be misunderstood by the majority of those on whose behalf it is inspired, but it always produces some results in the opportunity it gives to loyal souls to avail themselves of it.
In every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.
2 Chronicles 31:21
This chapter gives in general terms the account of the work which followed worship; the reconstruction in the national life which eventuated from the national return to God which had been expressed in the great celebration of the Passover feast. It.is very significant that the remnant gathered from Israel became the pioneers in the work of destroying all that remained of idolatry throughout the cities of Judah, and also in Ephraim and Manasseh. The king set in order the courses of priests and Levites; rearranged the offerings according to the Law; and called for the payment of the tithe. The response was general and generous. The special value of the work was the thoroughness with which Hezekiah carried it out, and this is declared in this final verse. These words reveal his purpose, his method, and the result; and form a revelation of abiding value to all who are called upon to perform Divine service in any form. His purpose was "to seek his God"; and the expression is exactly equivalent to that with which we are familiar: "Seek ye first His Kingdom." His method was that of complete devotion, "with all his heart." The result was that of prosperity, that is, of success in the very work which was attempted. A right purpose and a true method always produce the highest results.
After these things, and this faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came.
2 Chronicles 32:1
One is almost inevitably halted by these words. It would seem to be a strange answer of God to the faithfulness of His servant, that a strong foe should at this moment invade the kingdom. The story needs more details than are found in this record. They may be found in 2 Kings 18:7-16. From that passage we find that Hezekiah had flung off the yoke of the king of Assyria which his father Ahaz had consented to wear. Then Sennacherib had invaded Judah; and in a moment of weakness Hezekiah had paid him a heavy tribute, and again yielded to his rule in order to buy him off. The result was not what he desired, for Sennacherib now demanded an unconditional surrender. In this hour of crisis, resulting from his own vacillation, his faith and courage were renewed. He took immediate action to embarrass the foe, by stopping the supply of water, by strengthening the fortifications, by mobilizing his army, and finally by assuring the people: "There is a Greater with us than with him." Then, in answer to further threatenings, he took refuge in prayer, in fellowship with Isaiah. The answer was quick and final, and consisted of the rout of the enemy and the salvation of the people. The lessons of the story are patent. If amid general faithfulness, there is any measure of unfaithfulness, the results are inevitably those of difficulty; but a return to complete fidelity is always answered by deliverance. God ever demands from His servants complete loyalty; and when that is yielded, He never fails to be to them all they need.
Then Manasseh knew that the Lord He was God.
2 Chronicles 33:13
This is a wonderful chapter, giving us the account of two men. Manasseh and Amon, father and son. Both followed the way of wickedness; but one under discipline repented, and was forgiven; while the other "humbled not himself," and was cut off without remedy. The repentance of Manasseh was evidently the chief subject in the mind of the chronicler, and that because the action of God afforded an unveiling of the Divine character. This is evident from these particular words: "Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah He was God." The "then" refers to the account of the Divine forgiveness and restoration, in response to the human repentance and prayer. It is a picture full of light and beauty in the midst of prevailing darkness, this of the readiness of God to pardon. The sins of Manasseh are faithfully described, and revealed in all their hideousness; but this is background, flinging up into clearer relief the ready and gracious attitude of God toward a truly penitent soul. It is always so, if men will have it so. God never willeth the death even of Manasseh, but rather that he should return to Him and live. Nevertheless, if Amon will not humble himself before his God, there is no escape from retribution for his sins. The rule of God is fixed in righteousness. Manasseh and Amon were both in His power. The one found healing by yielding; the other found destruction by rebelling. By His readiness to forgive, God is known in all the fullness of His power. But if men will not learn thus, then it must be that they learn by His just judgments in wrath.
Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 34:29
The underlining in that sentence, as printed, is mine. By its use I desire to draw attention to the fact that Josiah went on with the work of reformation, even when he knew that nationally it was foredoomed to failure. The story of his life and reign is full of brightness. The conditions of the national life were indeed terrible, but in this boy-king, as he developed to manhood, testimony was borne to the government of God, which was unmistakable. Ascending the throne when only eight years of age, at the age of sixteen he began to seek after God. Four years later, at the age of twenty, he set himself to the actual work of reformation. Then at the age of twenty-six he turned to the work of repairing the house of God, and it was in connection with this that the Book of the Law was discovered. Filled with consternation at what it revealed of the will of God, and so of the appalling degradation of the people, he consulted Huldah the prophetess. She distinctly told him that there would be no true repentance on the part of the people, and therefore that judgment was inevitable. It was then that the heroic strength of Josiah manifested itself, in that he went on with his work, fulfilling his obligations as he saw them. Jeremiah began his ministry when Josiah was twenty-one years old (Jer. 1:2), and this fact may help to account for the action of the king. No pathway of service is more difficult than that of bearing witness to God, in word and in work, in the midst of conditions which are unresponsive.
The words of Neco, from the mouth of God.
2 Chronicles 35:22
This is one of those arresting illustrations which we find in the Old Testament Scriptures, of the fact that the nations and kings outside the people of the Theocracy were under the government of God, and in some sense at times conscious of the fact. These words of the chronicler constitute a simple statement, which admits the accuracy of what Neco had himself claimed in the message he sent to Josiah by ambassadors, when he said: "God bath commanded me to make haste; forbear then from meddling with God, Who is with me, that He destroy thee not." The fact that Josiah did not hearken to this message, cost him his life. Such a story must, to say the least, give us pause, and make us enquire as to how far we are ever justified in refusing to consider a word which is claimed as a Divine message, even when it comes from sources from which we should least expect to receive it. It may with reason be asked: How are we to know whether that which claims Divine authority has any right to make the claim? So far as this story is concerned, the answer is plain. Josiah had no right of any sort to be helping the king of Assyria. The only reason for doing so must have been some supposed political advantage. Against that kind of action the prophets were constantly warning the kings. A word claiming to be from God, forbidding what was already forbidden, had a weight of moral appeal almost amounting to certainty. Thus may we, too, test such messages. If they contradict Divine revelation, we may rest assured the claim is false. If they agree, we do well to heed to them, for God may speak in many and unexpected ways.
To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah.
2 Chronicles 36:21
Jeremiah conducted a prophetic ministry in Judah for forty years, and - so far as producing any result in the directing of the people back to God - without success. Through stress and strain, and as against the keenest hatred and hostility, he continued to declare the word of Jehovah to a rebellious and stiff-necked people. As we said in speaking of King Josiah, in whose reign Jeremiah began his work, such service is the most heroic. In these words the chronicler reminds us that he was vindicated in the march of events. All the things he had foretold, the foretelling of which had stirred the anger of the people, were literally fulfilled. The writings of this great prophet, preserved for us, show that he had no joy in the sorrows that befell his people through their sins, but rather the acutest suffering. Nevertheless he must have had great satisfaction at last in the fact that he had been true to the word of Jehovah delivered to him. The word of Jehovah is always fulfilled, by whosesoever mouth it is proclaimed. Happy indeed, in all the deepest senses of that word, is that man who never fails nor falters in the delivery of that word. It is not so much the selfish joy of seeing things turn out as he predicted; but rather the high joy of realizing that he has been honoured in being the messenger appointed to deliver the Word which cannot fail.