BEWILDERMENT, BEDAZZLEMENT, BEDEVILMENT
OR THE BEAUTY OF
The COUNSEL THROUGH HISTORY
CONQUEST THROUGH FAITH
Survey and Scan of 7 Kings between Two Great Kings
from II Chronicles 21-29, with Siting of Ultimate Significance
For Part II,
see Ch. 4 below.
I. EXCURSION INTO HISTORY
The day of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah was one of strength, wealth and counsel; except that he had a terrible tendency to be influenced by a desire to relate to Ahab, the ungodly king in Israel to the North, not only marrying his daughter, but on occasion causing trouble and real danger, by military alliance for short periods.
This is a terrible lesson to us, since by marriage he had allied himself with the vastly corrupt King of Israel, Ahab, who became notorious. On Jehoshaphat's death, one of his sons, Jehoram, killed all the rest, so becoming murderer of six. He even followed the evil ways of the northern kingdom which, after all, was the one in which his mother had been brought up. One cannot too greatly stress the need for marriage to be godly, to none but to a Christian, devoted to the Lord, earnest with His word, both called to such a unity. It is in this, as in all, the Lord who must direct: we who are Christians, are not our own, but bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:20). This not merely sacrifice, but wisdom. If the Lord is the key to one's life, let it open every door.
What other sort of attitude would one expect towards one's very Maker, and what less than love with it, to the One who is also the Redeemer by excursion not to Normandy, but to Calvary!
Jehoshaphat for his part, as king of Judah, was merciful and mighty, diligent and godly, but his flaw of character in this regard had profound consequences. First of all, he was nearly killed when his father in law tricked him into going into a joint battle of theirs, dressed as a king, whilst the other dressed inconspicuously. Naturally, the enemy troops sought to kill the 'king', but the Lord delivered him, though he had been made a special target by gross trickery (II Chronicles 18:28ff.).
Later with a son of Ahab, Jehoram, who became King of Israel, King Jehoshaphat was nearly ruined in a drought situation as they travelled together as allies, on the way to a battle, and Elisha had to note that if it had not been for Jehoshaphat, he would not even have taken notice of the other king, in this excursion - his ungodly partner (II Kings 3:14). God does not regard hypocrisy, but looks to the one who fears Him and trembles at His word. Partnership of any kind with the ungodly is like stroking a snake (II Cor. 6:14ff.).
It is smooth ? yes, if you have time to experience that. The coat is strong ? remarkably, and pretty ? in a way. The serpent seems easy to meet, nothing strong and resistant ? to a great degree, yes. Its bite can be death conferred by a work of seconds ? That also, it is the case. By all means join Romanist and Protestant, Islamic and New Age or any other partnership you like: but know this, that in the end, it will bite with all the festering poison of the lower grade, the rebellious sinuosity with which you embarrass yourself. To minister to need is one thing, to be a partner, it is entirely different.
2 WAVES OF FOLLY - with some relief
Now, our plan is to look at the 7 kings from Jehoshaphat to Hezekiah, both kings of commitment and courage.
Jehoram murderous King of Judah, we have already noted. So great was his sinful decline, his folly as leader that Elijah, presumably now a very old man, sent to him a letter, describing his end with bowel disease ending in protrusion of his intestines. So did rapid murder lead to slow death. For his decline, he WOULD decline! and he did, dead at 40.
Ahaziah his son, came next. Following the advice of his father's counsellors (yet we should follow the GOOD, not the near), he co-operated with Jehoram of Israel, Ahab's son, and made war against Syria, returning wounded (ANOTHER base partnership!). These two kings together then spent time while Ahaziah was recuperating. Meanwhile God anointed Jehu of Israel to replace Jehoram of Israel, and he came in his chariot and soon had killed both the wounded king and his visitor from Israel!
The mother of Ahaziah was also ambitious. She killed the heirs of the King, and took power herself. One child, hidden from her, was secretly raised until the high priest having arranged a coup, he replaced her, and she was killed as murderess. The lad, Joash, was crowned king, and while the priest in charge, Jehoiada, brought him up, and was there for counsel, his conduct was impressive, for he even repaired the house of the Lord.
However, on the death of his mentor, he followed the young blades or old blades, but in any event the mutant leaders, and went after images and idols, things not meant for worship, but yet treated as gods, just as is the case with Mary now who is by Romanism treated in ways permissible only for God, the incomparable Christ the one Mediator (I TImothy 2) in the work between GOD AND MAN. As surely as one God and one mankind, is this! Add to that and you subtract from the glory of Christ (against Ephesians 1:21 and 1:18 of Colossians). ALL such works are to be avoided (Romans 16:17), as are their religious services and their teaching, fellowship and partnerships in all things (I Cor. 5:9ff.).
One of Jehoiada's sons rebuked him for his two-timing religious life and for this he was murdered (a fact trenchantly noted by Christ - Matthew 23:24-25). This was the work of that King Joash, himself an escapee from murder through the good offices of this same Jehoiada. What! this refugee from death now bursts into manhood by killing the son of his deliverer! and becomes a murderer even of a prophet of the Lord, even when told his sin! A conspiracy followed and they stoned him! Forgetting the kindness of the priest, killing his son the prophet, he ended undesired! The Lord look on it, said the dying son of the priest, and repay! He did!
Meanwhile, the Syrians, and this is the point to remember, in terms of the Lord's own chosen counsel, came and routed a superior army of Israel, leaving Joash severely wounded. His servants killed him on his bed. So did calamity multiply itself against a king who seemed to become a two-faced weakling.
Next came Amaziah as King of Judah. His role was entirely different, as he spared the children of the murderers of Joash, killing only those guilty. He fought Edom, followed the advice of a prophet, and won, but foolishly, perhaps carried away, he brought back with him some of the gods of the Syrians (whom he had DEFEATED! how perverse can mankind be, and how provocative to the Lord ...). Result ? A prophet rebuked him, but this man he put in prison!
Pride seems then to have worked in him and he sought a confrontation with Israel to the North, a thing not sanctioned earlier when the LORD had decided to bring out those 10 tribes from the other two as a penalty for Solomon's sin. In this needless war, Amaziah lost. Temple treasures were taken. He was humiliated. Advice: consider well what you do in the Lord, and why, and what HIS WORD says FIRST! only then act.
3 DEPTHS BEFORE HEIGHTS
Next came King Uzziah of Judah. Like his father, he went well, but like him also, had one cardinal fault. First however, note some of his accomplishments. He received tribute from the Ammonites, succeeded against the Philistines and showed initiative. Alas, on the other side, he even presumed to enter the temple and burn an offering, prerogative of the priests. Warned by the priest, he became furious - and to his horror, was found to be a leper, so being required to live apart! What a sad result for such a good beginning; but though this humbled him, it did not remove him from the kingdom, his son handling events to the extent required.
Then followed Jotham, who did well, overcoming enemies, restoring some of the strength of Israel, only to be followed by Ahaz. Here was the masterpiece of trickery. It is he who, confronted by a pair of nations, Israel AND Syria, would find his people very afraid at their predicament.
God intervened, sending the prophet Isaiah with a huge message of divine support. It was Isaiah who offered him ANYTHING needed, to the heavens for height, to the depths for lowness, if only he would take it. ASK! He challenged the king. What an offer, what an opportunity, what a provision, how startling a gift lay in store, ONLY ASK.
I will not tempt the Lord, cried the canny and unbelieving King. He tried to make it appear a virtue NOT to act in faith; and it is to many that this is a message. It is so easy to become slovenly in Christian things, as if the LAST thing were to ask for what is PROMISED (found by checking HIS WORD, the Bible – cf. Mark 11, II Peter 1), and then acting on this as your obedient life leads to your having various needs. For this devious ditching of hope, naturally God rebuked him.
“Is it a small thing,”
said the prophet Isaiah,
in answer to this foolish failure to take what God offered so freely, God whose is all power! “for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also!”
This led to his rebuke, and a worse enemy, Assyria, was announced to come in due course; but it also led to the prophecy of the Messiah to come (Isaiah 7,9). ONLY HE could stand, and in HIM are we all advised to weigh all our moves, avoid all fickleness and folly, exercise consistent faith, and waiting on his counsel, with care to walk the ways of life.
CONCENTRATION OF THE GREAT
DEPTHS AND EVEN GREATER HEIGHTS
EXPOSED IN THE CASE OF KING AHAZ
What a vast gift this Ahaz missed, and what a lesson this gives us on the folly of being unready to receive opportunity, to use talent, to accept deliverance through simple wilfulness. But let us consider how great was the scope of what God would do, in terms of what He did in response to Ahaz, in terms of notifying the House of David, of His coming intentions.
|"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:|
|Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,|
|and shall call His name Immanuel."|
Before we come to this part of the answer given Ahaz, however, let us consider further the SON to be given with limitless powers, through this same House of David (cf. II Samuel 7, Psalm 72). He is seen repeatedly (cf. Isaiah 51) in CONTRAST of power, purity and performance, with Israel and her contributions.
In fact, God often brings out this point, and one good example is found at the end of Isaiah 41, as it leads into Ch. 42 (note the contrast below, in red).
For I looked, and there was no man;
I looked among them, but there was no counselor,
Who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
Indeed they are all worthless;
Their works are nothing;
Their molded images are wind and confusion.
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
“He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”
Israel failed God. The Messiah did not. That is the first difference. Israel had none to offer; God had one to present. That is the second difference.
God will establish justice in the earth through the Messiah; Israel will not. That is the third difference.
GOD will establish of Israel, that which comes to Him; the Messiah is the way to Him. That is the fourth difference.
In Israel, as is, God has no delight: it does not serve Him while it denies His sacrifice sufficient for all, adapted to all, an adequate cover for all, for sin and for establishment where the tempest does not destroy (Isaiah 32), where pardon has deep employ (Isaiah 61:1-3), where the folly of human cultural decrees and devices is no more the human toy! (Isaiah 11).
In Christ, unchanged, the Father had delight, and covered by Him, those within His body are perennially in life, the resurrection itself, the very uttermost of the heights, since it is to be with HIM as Shepherd, and of Him as child, there is perpetual peace. The relevance of this ? It is this: the offer to Ahaz not only went to the UTTERMOST that could be, in the grand sweep of its scope, but almost at once after his cunning retreat from faith, which amounted to a twisted form of rejection, was told, with the rest of the house of Judah, the part of Israel not to be dispersed, concerning this Messiah.
Here was the One to whom and through whom what man failed to attain, would be GIVEN, God with us, Immanuel Isaiah 7:4).
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
God with us was the import of this delightful person. As seen in further denotations concerning this child, two chapters on in Isaiah, the reason for this was simple: He, as God, would be with us, the incarnation of deity. The name in Isaiah 9 is extended, the focussed face of the child its feature, the giant of wonder the joy of His name in one staggering revelation:
"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
"Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
Prince of peace with never folding government, in the format of a man, this is the One who is thus named in a vast sweep and swoop over much of humanity, the rest (Isaiah 61) to receive their due receipts in judgment. In this action, we learn that there is no limit to His relevance, coverage and rule, His kingdom being subject to no demarcation but that of faith in Him (Isaiah 53:1, 9-11), EITHER in extent or in time. He is timeless in His rule, relevance and regality. As such, His name, looking backwards from this, its end, to the beginning 'wonderful' absorbs necessarily all the other features in the series.
As the One whose shoulder is to be used to bear government, who must contribute a name other than that of God in heaven, in order to BE on earth and so in view, and in focus, He MUST absorb the title 'prince of peace.' You cannot add the term 'God' to the text as in the Targum without running the gauntlet of Proverbs 30:6, and of blasphemous arrogance and presumption. If God speaks, be quiet! Even man does not enjoy your adding words to his, when you are making a contract, and calling them his own!
You have only what is WRITTEN. When once the term 'prince of peace' is given to the One to have on earth a shoulder and to be of the house of David, that is, one present on earth, not absent in heaven, the One named therefore on earth and not in heaven: then all the rest of the titles of Isaiah 9:6, the commissioning titles from heaven to earth, is indivisibly operative of Him likewise. Not what is already known about God in heaven, but what is now SHOWN about this Prince on earth is the subject of the unspeakable joy traced from the end of Isaiah 8 to these verses in Isaiah 9 (1-7) at His advent.
Here is the strength, the wonder, the transforming marvel, the cause of war being bypassed, of peace visible and majestic in a name above all names, in fact, 'wonderful', for the beginning of the name is as much warranted as the end, and the middle, like meat in a sandwich, can only be removed by an act of piracy.
Avoid these facts, in the text as it stands, and you are having a God in heaven talking about a child on earth in terms of the God in heaven as the subject. This is the opposite of naming, for it becomes a mere subterfuge to have God talk about God in heaven, when the topic is the One who is to be active on earth as a man. Only by having the 'prince of peace' as the prelude to the personal adjective "His" before "government" can you avoid this dichotomy and confusion.
How hard do men try (cf. Bible Translations 20) to avoid the Son of God, whether as Israel's authorities killing Him, or resisting (in vain, to be sure) His counsel, or Roman authority resisting justice EXPLICITLY in order to satisfy the mob and ruin the testimony of truth, or later 'translators' trying to conquer with words what others sought to betray with injustice or destroy with false charges. It is ever so with God: you condemn yourself when you try to remove or change Him, His word or His works. Be your words querulous or a quibble, bibulous or strident, avoidance of Him who is God, the Son in whom He is well pleased, if avoidance of life; for truth and life are inseparables, design and Designer, reality and reason, authority and plan, grace and its depiction, pardon and its performance criteria, on the Cross (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).
Ahaz was a prelude to such efforts to evade the Christ, just as many today are in the final fallout.
For the immediate present, then in his own day, Ahaz having failed in faith, no deliverance came. The nation bypassing deity, found all too much of humanity, inhumane and distorted humanity. After all, as to asking without faith, or even AVOIDING, this is the very recipe for having nothing to receive (cf. James 1:6, 2:17). Remove your base from the tray reach of the tip-truck and no cargo is yours, only the thought of what might have been!
Meanwhile, Syria and Israel, the latter of which Isaiah predicted would in 65 years cease to be a nation, were allowed to ransack Judah with vast slaughter, and it was only because a prophet in Israel to the North, warned them to return 200,000 captives whom they could have sold as slaves, that this further evil was avoided. That prophet, Oded, at least did this much for both nations; but the end for Israel was now near, though Judah to the South, despite all these things, would continue. This teaches us that however hard may seem the disciplines of the Lord, never let us show the folly of becoming dispirited, for God is merciful as well as just, and pardons as well as reproves (Micah 7:19ff., Ezekiel 33:11, Isaiah 55).
Notice carefully that not only did Isaiah offer this vast opportunity to Ahaz to ASK to any extent, but he also warned this: “If you will not believe, surely you will not be established” (Isaiah 7:7). In Hebrew there is here a play on words, something like this: If you will not make firm, you will not be made firm! It is like a huge clamp: if you will not have it surround and impress you, then you will hang loose. If on the other hand, Ahaz had taken the offer, he could have indicated just WHAT he wanted. Personal living before a personal God is a personal thing, and time must be spent far more than with this spurious, furious world and its TV and profits, amorality and infidelity.
Remember also that we have this day looked at the kings between the reigns of the fine Kings Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah, and even there was the well-favoured Jotham to be found. Nevertheless, it is wise to fear the Lord, avoiding presumption like boiling tar, and negligence like cancer, acting at all times by faith, as you follow Him in spirit, and His word in mind and heart. On the positive side, both Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah (II Chronicles 17:9, 30:6) were active in teaching and reaching with the word of God, Hezekiah even encouraging missionary service, reaching out to troubled Israel before its doom, with messengers: these not content to doze in repose, but on fire for the Lord, acting as living flames. Not flamboyance but fearless faith is needed; not silence but speech, not formality but faith that acts!
In fact, the Lord is good, and whatever the nations do, it is us as soldiers of the cross to keep our ways clear of pollution, our hearts with all diligence, and to respond to every opportunity the Lord provides with delight and indeed, to delight ourselves in the Lord. Such had been the way of King David (cf. Psalm 37), and it is no different today, except that now the Lord having come as our priest and sacrifice, we are replete. Rejoice therefore in Him, and follow Him!
But what of those who reject with Ahaz quizzically, or with Ahab grossly, or with Judas treacherously, yes with Joash impetuously, or in any other way, this same Messiah, the criterion of the Bible, the centre of salvation, the site for the centrifuge of the lost ? It is just that: they are lost. God has created (cf. The Bible ... Chs. 4 - 5, The gods of naturalism have no go!), and man has become miscreant, adding endless follies on a daily basis to a distorted earth, a tormented conscience and a variety of boorish governments, vile thieves through government of power and purity, and the other accomplices of unreason, unrighteousness and unwariness.
It is so easy to be lost. As the song has it, just continue on your own way, there is really nothing to it. Ahaz knew perfectly how to do it, as did Joash, as did Judas. Think of a number, make it you, and follow it.
It never fails.
However the good news is this, that it can be intercepted. This brings the folly into the field of truth and the soul to the finale of blindness, with the awakening of sight, the eyes anointed with the best sight of all, the Saviour, the Messiah, the Prince of peace, of whose government there will be NO END for ever, nor shall it fail to increase.
The site for the sight is the Cross of Calvary. On this, hear Paul in Galatians 6:14, and on the focus, see Isaiah 45:22-23, and on the nearer view, see Isaiah 50-53. Its aftermath, the resurrection is the dawn following that magnificent Son-set, which yielded to the destruction of death in the morning light, with the Son's arising, the Champion over death (Hosea 13:14, Matthew 28:1ff., Hebrews 2, I Corinthians 15 cf. above, Ch. 1)