Pride goes before a fall
2 Chronicles 26: Arrogant and proud, he fell.
Uzziah is just a teen when he becomes king of Judah. By and large, he does a good job as king and his long reign is a good one for his nation. From the beginning he seeks God. The Lord is pleased with him and blesses his life with successful building projects and a strong army. Then, when it seems Uzziah will be one of the rare kings who have nothing but positive things on their record something ugly happens. His successes go to Uzziah’s head. We don’t know the full story but Uzziah decides, like Saul did many generations earlier, to take over the worship activities. He takes the one role in the nation that’s denied him – going into the Temple and acting as priest of God. The legitimate priests, descendants of Aaron, try to stop Uzziah, but he ignores them. With the holy censor in hand, he refuses to hear the objections of the priests. Then, God objects, and when he objects, he can’t be ignored. The dreaded disease of leprosy breaks out on Uzziah’s hand as he holds the censor. This is God’s judgment. It’s too bad isn’t it. Uzziah comes so far and does so many things right. His downfall comes, not as a result of some big temptation or some great threat. Instead, it’s brought about by his success. When things are going right and it’s clear that God is blessing us we need to remember Uzziah. Here we see a lesson in how success can lead to failure.
Take Away: The distance from impressive success to dismal failure is shorter than we might think.
I was w-w-w-wrong
2 Chronicles 25: But what about all this money – these tons of silver I have already paid out to hire these men?
The “chronicler” starts off telling us that Amaziah “lives well” and “does the right thing” and then begins an accounting of all the foolish blunders he makes. It’s likely that Amaziah handled things just fine until things begin to unravel near the end of his reign. At one point he’s preparing for war. After numbering his army he concludes that he needs more soldiers so he turns to Israel for help, paying a great deal of money to mercenary soldiers to fight on his side. However, the Lord sends word to him that this is a huge mistake. These soldiers won’t be helped by the Lord because they don’t trust in him. Amaziah’s response is reasonable. He wants to know about all the money he’s already spent on these fighters. The man of God reminds him that it’s better to have God’s help than it is to have a bigger army. The king yields, writing off the wages already spent as a bad investment. This account doesn’t earn Amaziah stellar marks, but it does earn him a passing grade. Failure, in this case, would have been throwing good money after bad. The lesson here is one well learned. Those of us who are of a strong will tend to lock our jaws and press on even when it’s more and more apparent that we shouldn’t have started down a certain path in the first place. Our argument is the same one the king used: “I’ve come too far and invested too much to turn back now.” No one believes in perseverance more than I do, but sometimes perseverance is just a flimsy cover up for pride. At some point a heaping helping of humble pie is in order. “I thought I was right and that this would work, but I was wrong.” Write it off and get on with life.
Take Away: Better to write off a loss than to compound the situation by doubling down on a bad decision.
The Boy King
2 Chronicles 23: They were to be God’s special people.
Anyone who thinks these “king books” of the Old Testament are dull needs to turn on their imagination and read some of these passages anew. A wicked woman rules Judah and for six years she terrorizes those who seek to serve God. Right under her nose at the Temple a baby boy, the rightful heir to the throne, is being raised in secret. When the boy turns seven the supporters of righteousness decide that they have to act before Queen Athaliah finds out about the child and takes his life. A plot that involves mostly priests and Levites is put into place. There are secret meetings and an ancient cache of weapons dating back to Joash’s great ancestor, David, is prepared for battle. In hopes of attracting as little attention as possible the work schedules at the Temple are manipulated. Armed men secure the Temple grounds and guards escort the boy to the entrance of the Temple where he’s crowned King of Judah. The people cheer their release from oppression. Queen Athaliah hears the commotion and rushes to the Temple shouting “Treason!” Before long she’s dead and the Boy King sits on the throne of Judah. The old priest Jehoiada guides the lad and his subjects in their steps back to God. Worship activities are restored at the Temple and revival sweeps the land. Now, I know that Joash’s story doesn’t end well, but it certainly has an exciting beginning. Our kids know about David and Goliath, maybe we need to tell them about how a seven-year-old boy became the King of Judah.
Take Away: The Lord delights in using unlikely people to do great things.
2 Chronicles 22: And Jehu killed him.
The stories of the kings of Israel and Judah don’t always leave us feeling encouraged and uplifted. There’s a whole lot of ugly stuff and even when we read devotionally we don’t come away with anything like a cup of sugar! Jehu’s role in the story is an interesting one. He’s called to be God’s avenger. Because of Ahab of Israel’s wickedness Jehu’s given the job of hunting down and killing all his family. Now, Ahaziah becomes king of Judah and he stupidly follows in the footsteps of his father. Rather than looking to his grandfather, Jehoshaphat, for an example he connects himself to Ahab’s clan and, in the words of this passage, “attended the sin school of Ahab, and graduated with a degree in doom.” That puts him on the radar screen of the man who’s mainly been concerned with cleaning up the wickedness associated with the throne of Israel. Now, as the king of Judah enters into the orbit of Ahab, Jehu takes note. When he has the opportunity God’s executioner corners Ahaziah and kills him. As I said, some of these stories don’t make us feel all warm and fuzzy! Ahaziah foolishly associated himself with the wrong people, was then counted as one of them, and then paid the same price that they paid. A take away from this less-than-encouraging passage is that we’d better be careful in choosing our best friends and who we allow to influence our lives.
Take Away: Choices have consequences.
The funeral service was poorly attended
2 Chronicles 21: There were no tears shed when he died – it was good riddance!
Jehoshaphat fathers five sons and he leaves them each an inheritance of wealth. Additionally each one is given a fortified city to rule, basically setting them up for life. His oldest son, Jehoram, gets the throne. This could work out as the most successful handoff of power since Solomon took the throne from his father, David. Instead, there’s murder and abandonment of God. This wicked man murders all his brothers and leads his subjects away from God. The Lord, in turn, is disgusted with him. There are rebellions and then a humiliating and destroying illness. After eight years of failure Jehoram is dead. And no one cares. What a pitiful life story. How sobering it is to think that the untimely death of a person is considered a favor of God to those under his influence and authority. What an important reminder to realize it all started when he turned his back on God. Each life journey arrives at key forks in the road. When I arrive at such a place I make a fresh decision concerning the type of person I will be. That decision will impact not only me, but those who are closest to me, and in some cases, even people I’ll never know. Because of the importance of how I handle those big moments in my life, I want to practice for them by dealing with the little stuff in the right way. Little things lead to big things. Big things lead to eternity.
Take Away: We become the people we are by the decisions we make along the way.
2 Chronicles 20: Everyone in Judah was there – little children, wives, sons – all present and attentive to God.
It’s not as though Judah is a world superpower or anything like that. It’s a small nation surrounded by other small nations that are situated between some very big players on the world scene. When Jehoshaphat receives word that some of the neighboring countries have united to attack Judah he knows he’s in big trouble. We’re told, “Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed.” Not only does the king pray but he calls his nation to prayer and fasting. They cry out to God to literally save their lives, reminding the Lord that they’re descendants of Abraham. It’s a desperate crowd that gathers in Jerusalem to cry out to God. And everyone’s there. It’s not just the soldiers or the leaders or even the heads of households. Everyone comes: men, women, and children. I can just imagine the children looking on wide-eyed as their parents and all the other adults cry out to God for his intervention. I know that the purpose of this story isn’t for me to think about children and prayer meetings and such, but the topic does come to mind. In most churches today we tend to divide families. Children go to some program organized just for them and teens are placed under the ministry of some capable youth leader. The adults, then, have “their” Bible study or prayer meeting. Generally speaking, I’m all for it. After all, I don’t want to see the kids just marking time while the parents talk about things that are meaningless to the boys and girls. Still, there’s something powerful in children seeing their parents pray heartfelt prayers or watching their parents be involved in a passionate discussion about the things of God. They might not understand all that’s going on but they understand that these spiritual things matter to the grownups. I’m not suggesting that we do away with Children’s Church or the Youth program of the church but I do think that we ought not to be in too big a hurry to dismiss them from all adult oriented activities of the church.
Take Away: If children never see their parents pray intercessory prayers and worship from the depths of their hearts how will they ever learn to do such things?
God takes my best and makes it better
2 Chronicles 19: And God be with you as you do your best.
Jehoshaphat receives good marks for his leadership of Judah. He’s right on target in how he oversees the legal system of his kingdom. His judicial appointees are charged by the king to take their work seriously, reminding them that ultimately they must give an account of themselves to the Lord. Jehoshaphat gives a similar charge to those given authority over Temple business. They’re to be dependable and honest in all they do. Jehoshaphat’s bottom line to these powerful people is this: “God be with you as you do your best.” One reminder I see in this passage is that God expects me to give my best to the responsibilities that are mine. Positions of authority carry with them an equal portion of accountability. Also, I see that my best is all that I can give. Even when it’s not really good enough I can’t do any better than my best. When I’ve done that, I’ve come to the end of myself and I’ve done all the Lord expects of me. At that point, my best may be seen as acceptable by others or it may be time for me to move on, handing the responsibility over to someone else, but I have no reason to be ashamed when I’ve given all I have to give. Finally, though, there’s good news here. God’s help is promised. When I’ve done all I can do and, frankly, it isn’t enough, rather than coming to the end, I might just come to the beginning; that is, the beginning of God. He delights in taking unlikely people and using them to accomplish great things like killing giants or feeding thousands. It’s pretty cool. I bring my best to the table, as meager as that might be, and then God steps in, lifting me and what I have to offer to dizzying new heights. Rather than ending up humbly handing the keys over to some more capable person, I sometimes find myself amazed at what God has done.
Take Away: The Lord delights in using unlikely people.
Finding good advisers
2 Chronicles 18: I’ll get all the prophets to lie.
Jehoshaphat has no business being in Samaria, much less meeting with its wicked king Ahab. He’s treated to a meal “fit for a king” that’s intended to soften him up a bit. When Ahab thinks the time’s right he suggests an alliance between Israel and Judah against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat is hesitant and suggests that they consult the Lord. The result is a pre-arranged prophetic display from some of Ahab’s hand-picked prophets. Jehoshaphat knows what’s going on and asks for a second opinion, this time from a real prophet of God. It’s now that we meet Micaiah. I picture him as a little fireball of a fellow. In fact, his feistiness has already gotten him on the bad side of Ahab. Micaiah says this campaign will end in massive defeat, especially for Israel. When pressed on the matter he gives an imaginary scenario in which the Lord calls a meeting of his angelic advisors. The Lord wants their ideas of how to get Ahab to make the foolish decision to attack Ramoth Gilead. Finally, one angel says it won’t be hard to do; he’ll just get all of Ahab’s paid prophets to lie to him! As you can imagine all these so called prophets don’t take kindly to being called liars and pandemonium breaks out. Ahab has Micaiah thrown into jail and proceeds with his battle plans. It’s his last battle. It’s really not hard to find people who agree with us. Some folks really like us and think we can do about anything; they tell us to go for it. Others want to score points with us, or are afraid of us, or really don’t care one way or another. The trick is to find people who know what they’re talking about and who will risk telling us the truth, even if it’s not what we want to hear. One person who will do that is worth a dozen of the other sort.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for good friends who tell us the truth in love.
Over the long run
2 Chronicles 17: He was a seeker and follower of the God of his father and was obedient to him.
Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, comes to the throne of Judah and he does a pretty good job, both militarily and spiritually. One thing he does that’s interesting is that he puts together a team to go out and conduct what might be called revival meetings across his country. These men teach the people how they’re to live as a people of God. The king’s approach is successful both at home and, so some extent in the nations surrounding tiny Judah. The peoples of those nations develop a healthy respect for “God’s people” in Judah. Not only are they hesitant to make trouble with these neighbors, but they want to be on the good side of them and their God. Amazingly, the Philistines, their enemies across the centuries, come with gifts for Jehoshaphat. His reign looks like a smaller version of that of his ancestor Solomon. I think it’s neat to be able to sit here in the comfort of my favorite chair literally thousands of years after these events and see how Jehoshapaht’s decision to seek, follow, and obey the Lord impacts his life as the years pass. Even as ripples spread from a stone tossed into a pond so do blessings spread through a life when a person decides to seek, follow, and obey the Lord.
Take Away: The impact of a decision for the Lord reaches farther than we ever imagine.
2 Chronicles 16: You were foolish to go for human help when you could have had God’s help.
These words are addressed to the man who prayed the wonderful prayer of 1 Chronicles 14. Now 26 years have passed and Asa’s nation is once again threatened. This time, though, he turns to the king of Aram for help, sending a “king’s ransom” to him in exchange for his support in the war. The combined force of Judah and their hired army is victorious and the enemy is defeated. As Asa celebrates this God’s man Hanani shows up. He tells Asa that God’s not pleased with him. In fact, the Lord’s insulted that Asa would trust in Ben-Hadad instead of himself. The consequence will be a series of wars, one round after another. I wonder if I, like Asa, insult the Almighty. Do I turn anywhere but heavenward in dealing with the issues of life? The very same God who saw me through in the past stands ready to see me through the issues of this day. In fact, that’s his preference! The Lord doesn’t say, “When you’ve tried everything else without success, I’ll help you.” Instead, his message is a wonderful word of commitment. He promises that if I call he’ll answer. God doesn’t want to be my last chance. Rather, he wants to be my Partner in every issue of life.
Take Away: Don’t make God your last resource…he wants to be your first.