2 Chronicles 18-23 continues the revolving door of kings and leaders in both Israel and Judah. As we found out last week with Asa, Judah primarily had good and faithful kings – yet towards the end of their lives, they revealed their human depravity and left the LORD. However, we find that God is always faithful. He continues to keep His covenant what he made with David. Judah is the benefactor of that covenant; for at times Judah was no better and no worse than Israel who had been led astray into Baalism by Jeroboam. Sometimes I think through the lives of these Old Testament kings and leaders and reflect on their testimony. History and the Bible have captured the good, the bad and the ugly of their lives. It would be easy for us to throw stones and insults their way saying that “we would never have done such evil.” Hum, I think we boast too pridefully about our own thoughts of ourselves. The bible tells us that none seek after God, no not one [Romans 3:10-18]
Jehoshaphat comes on the historical scene for Judah – 2 Chron. 17, the LORD was with him, for he followed after the Lord like David did; and did not follow after Baals like Israel did. Whew! Finally we have someone in leadership that has gotten it right. Great testimony of how God blessed King Jehoshaphat and how God established his kingdom. God blesses faithfulness; but he also abhors disobedience and idolatry. God is both merciful and gracious; but He also is just. We read how God established Jehoshaphat’s kingdom and bestowed on his riches and honor.
We also read how Jehoshaphat led a “discipleship” thrust where the priests and Levites went around teaching the ways of the Lord. He tore down the idols and established the Law as the Law of the Land. We find that the neighboring lands were in dread -fear because it was obvious that the Lord God Jehovah was with Judah and to fight against them would be to fight against God. How many times have we read about how the enemies of Israel and Judah were in fear because of what they witnessed God doing in His people. Victory after victory was given by God over the enemies such as Assyria, Egypt and Philistines. The dread of the nations was so real that God gave peace to Judah, and the nations did not fight against God’s people. Awesome and great is this story. BUT . . .
2 Chronicles 18:1 -“Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor; and he allied himself by marriage with Ahab.” What in the world is wrong with Him? Why in the world after tasting of the riches of God would he turn and inter-marry with the devil himself? Ahab was king of Israel; we know him better as the wimpy husband of Jezebel, who caused Israel to sin greatly against God and sought to kill Yahweh’s prophets [Elijah] There was no need for Jehoshaphat to enter into any marriage alliance with Ahab. As we read through the rest of Jehoshaphat’s story, noting good came from his reign.
Ahab paid great honor and reverence to Jehoshaphat, but what is that to the honor and riches that God had already showered? I find in most concerting that we believers are to soon to forget the blessings of God and pursue the praise of the world. Scripture tells us Not to love the world, nor the things in the world – 1 John 2:15-17. This would be a sad story if it ended here.
God has his spokesman in Jehu, just like he did with Nathan and David. It is good to read the whole story and find that Jehoshaphat returned to God and led the people back to God. I am sure that every single one of us have had periods of “prodigalness” in us. The great story of when the prodigal son came to his senses, he knew where to go. Oh, that we too would come to our senses as a people and a nation to return to God of our salvation and have a great revival of serving the LORD!
Genesis is quite an interesting book – in that it is the first book of the Bible and holds some many intriguing stories of early mankind adds to its uniqueness. If I was writing the Bible, there are definitely certain stories I would leave out – frankly they are very embarrassing. Yet Our Heavenly Father has seen fit to expose mankind for who he really is – both the good and the bad. The stories of failure to honor God is one thing, but the way humanity treats each other is appalling. Looking back we find that jealousy caused Cain to kill his brother, then play games with God about the very act he did. “Am I my brothers keeper?” It reminds me of the many times that I was caught doing some sort of mischievous act and got caught, needless to say I tried to lie and finagle my way out of doing anything wrong – it didn’t work for me and it still doesn’t work with God! In our reading this week we are confronted with the repeated sins/rebellion from previous generations. Like it or not our children learn to do our wrongs, rather than our rights. Early on we find that Isaac lies about Rebekah being his wife because he is afraid of being killed by none other than the same Abimelech that Abraham lied to about Sarah. Technically Abraham was right when he said Sarah was his sister [half-sister], but Isaac just plain lied. I wondered what King Abimelech thought about the Hebrews and their lying? Just as Abraham listened to Sarah and took and had a child by Hagar, and all the problems that caused, we find that Isaac is very passive in his position as husband and father. Rebekah is the strong one in the family. Isaac seems to be only interested in satisfying his appetite for venison stew! The deceit that is evident between Isaac and Rebekah shows up in the lives of Esau and Jacob. Obviously each parent is guilty of favoritism. Isaac loves Esau, probably a burly type of man; whereas Rebekah loves Jacob, a definite “Mamma’s boy.” Sad part about the Esau/Jacob saga is that these men were 40 years old! I know that Jacob is a trickster, but where did he learn this? He isn’t innocent, but his mother sure is an accomplice. It is her suggestion after hearing the plans of Isaac to bless Esau [which was right] to put into motion her plan to get “Her boy” blessed instead. I know that God was in this from the point that Jacob was the choice for Israelite nation to come; but the way it was done is outright wrong. Jacob lies over and over, he fears being caught, and Rebekah says she will take the blame. I really can’t help think that Isaac knew what was going on, but rather than resist, he goes along with it. Talk about your dysfunctional family! When the ploy is accomplished, here comes Esau – the brunt of the plan. I wondered about Isaac a lot, he acted like he was going to die within a few months, Isaac lived another 80 years! Did he not regard his privileged place in the plan of God very high? Could Esau have gotten his character trait from this ambivalence? [Hebrews 12:16] Well, Esau is coming after Jacob to kill him, quick Isaac send Jacob to my brother – Bethuel! Rebekah lost both boys on the same day. She never saw her beloved Jacob again. When Jacob gets to Haran, he runs into Laban – long story for a future time, but Rebekah and Laban are two peas in a pod! On the way, Jacob who is just as lost and Esau has an encounter with God – Bethel becomes a prominent place in the future, God extends the promises made to Abraham and Isaac to Jacob – then we get a “Let’s Make a Deal” remark from Jacob – “If you will ______” then you will be My God. Why is it we are like this even today – we try to bargain with God? God is obviously with Jacob, he winds up with 12 children from four women and is subjected to the “tricks” of his uncle Laban. Jacob has not met his match in Laban, this next week we will see that the cycle of lies, deception and trickery continues in the first family of Israel. The moral of the stories is this – bad parenting results in continued cycle of rebellious prodigal children – true then true today!
Our reading this week is Amos 2-6, but I will talk about chapter one as well. Amos is a wonderful book. All total Amos probably only preached his sermons over a four to five-hour length. There is a significant impact that God used Amos, someone who was not a prophet in the religious sense, but a common man. He also was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Now most people do not tolerate people of their own kind telling them what is wrong and exposing their sins. But to have an outsider – a sheep herder and fig handler from the South infuriated the Northern Kingdom. They wanted and tried to send Amos packing back to the South. We are given a hint of when Amos wrote by the phrase “two years before the earthquake.” I couldn’t find much about the event, other than to say it was significant enough that Amos needed to give no other details. I guess we could compare it to say 9/11 or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So with that point, Amos wrote around 706 BC. The King of Judah was Uzziah and Jeroboam [North] so then Amos would be a contemporary of Isaiah. We even get a reference to Mount Carmel drying up – which should make us think of Elijah and the Baal prophets in 1 Kings 18. So there is enough warning from God about the judgment and indictment of Israel’s sin.
I found it very interesting that the vision of Amos starts condemning all the Gentile nations for their sins against the people/tribes of Israel. I can almost hear the applause from both Judah and Israel over the pronounced wrath of God on their enemies. The statement “for three sins and for four I will not revoke my punishment – this indicates there are limits to the long-suffering and mercy of God. There comes a time when God will act so as not to bring down His name and character. It is one thing for believers especially today to hear how God is going to judge the sins of society and the lost. It is quite another to be included in the conversation. This is exactly what God did; after pronouncing judgment on the Gentile nations, he began speaking to the off-spring of Jacob. God closes the vision to Amos by bringing indictment against Judah and Israel. This should have been a wake up call. Amos indicted everyone with 3-4 verses, however Israel is given 10 verses which outlined their sin and judgment. There is a New Testament parallel passage found in Romans 1 and 2. Here the Apostle Paul does the same thing; he brings the sins of the Gentiles to light; and the Jewish readers I am sure were rooting Paul on as he condemned their behavior and idolatry. But just as Amos switched to Israel, Paul switches to the Jews. The bottom line – God is against ALL sin, not just SOME sin. It is normal for mankind [even believers] to enjoy the finger-pointing of someone else’ sins; for it keeps the light off our own. Paul outlines the Romans Road from his exposition; a road to return to God for ALL. Amos also does this in chapters 3-4. Israel could return, but were too proud and stubborn.
No less than 5 times the LORD brings cause against Israel – “Yet you have not returned to Me.” Even though God has tried to chastise them into coming back, the hardness of their hearts prevented them. If I am Israel and I read chapter 5 – I say “Woe is Me!” I hear many today that are praying for the Lord to Come Back. Be careful what you ask for – verse 18-20 surely speaks that it will be judgment for ALL. Israel has never fully loved God – even in the Wilderness they carried their idols they made. [5:26-27] Here is the irony – Israel did not stop doing the LAW – they continued in the sacrifices and the festivals, yet they were not worshiping God, but their own works, while playing idolatry with the pagans gods. What a sad message Amos brings, no wonder they tried to kill him. Yet even sadder is the 20/20 hindsight that Israel [Northern Kingdom] would be obliterated from the earth. Israel becomes the “Lost Tribes” for they would not heed the message of repentance. Woe unto us that look for God to judge the unrighteousness of our generation and think He will look past our [believers] sins.