AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH - August 3, 2008
OF THE ORIGINAL THRUST AND BASE OF
THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA,
ON CHANGELESS BIBLICAL LINES …
The COUNSEL THROUGH HISTORY
CONQUEST THROUGH FAITH
Sermon Notes: From II Chronicles 21-29
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.).
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.
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.”
Ahaz having failed in faith, no deliverance came, for asking without faith, or even AVOIDING it is the recipe for nothing to receive (cf. James 1:6, 2:17).
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 for 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!