The modern church has leveraged personal testimonies as a major mart of its evangelistic efforts. Sometimes those plans have brought fruit. Other times, there was no fruit at all. The interesting thing is that the Bible doesn’t really show people giving their testimony much at all. When the church was born on the Day of Pentecost, Peter did not describe the things that he felt Jesus did in his life. Instead, Peter explained that Jesus was the Son of God and Messiah using the scriptures to validate the truth. The response to Jesus’ testimony was that many were saved. When Paul gave his testimony to the Corinthian church, it was not to express the amazing things God did in his life. Instead, it was to validate his authority to speak the truth of the Word of God. Paul spent most of his time teaching Jesus’ testimony since it is the name of Jesus that saves, not the names of the men and women that Jesus saves.
There is another problem when focus turns to personal testimony in place of scripture. The Bible shows that God does great things no matter who the person is. In other words, the things that take place in a person’s life are not a measure of God’s approval of that person. God does good work through those who are saved by faith and also does good work through the lives of those who do evil in His sight. The Bible explains that ALL things work together for God for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. This doesn’t mean that all things will be good, but that God will ensure that the outcome of all things resolves in His approval. Thus, while “bad” things might take place, God is able to make use out of those things in order to be helpful to fulfill the goodness of His eternally unconditional promises. This means that bad people will do bad things, but God will produce a good effect out of it anyway. This means that people cannot necessarily look at the things that people do as a measure of a person’s standings with the Lord. God’s people can only examine the fruit of saving faith to really know if a person is in good standing with the Lord. To examine a person’s works of success and determine a person’s standing in the Lord is to make a big mistake. Thus, testimonies of people can be confusing.
An example of this truth can be seen in the testimony of Jeroboam II. In 2 Kings 14:23-29 the Bible explains that after Joash died, his son Jeroboam became king in the northern kingdom of Israel. This took place in the fifteenth year of Amaziah’s rule in the southern kingdom of Judah. While the Bible explains that Jeroboam II ruled for forty-one years, the Bible also explains that Jeroboam did evil in the sight of the Lord. Jeroboam II lived in the same manner of Jeroboam I. Both men were idolaters. Both men took it upon themselves to make up their own worship systems and religious practices in order to gratify and justify the wicked desires of their flesh. They ignored the holiness of God, denied the righteousness of God, mocked the judgments of God, and did whatever they wanted. This goes to show that the length of a king’s rule in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean that God was pleased with that person’s conduct. Just because Jeroboam II ruled for forty-one years doesn’t mean he had God’s approval. He did not have God’s approval. Many ask then, why did God let such a wicked man rule over His people for so long. The answer to this question is best addressed through the Book of Romans:
“For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.” – Romans 1:20-26
The Apostle Paul explained that God will “give people up” when they cross the threshold of His patience and mercy. Paul wrote that there were many that understood the concept of God’s power and holiness, but denied His existence and righteousness in order to live according to their own fleshly passions. They did not accept the wisdom of God, but instead made up their own wisdom as fools. They did not honor the glory of God, but instead tried to duplicate it by their own hands. They did not live according to God’s standards of righteousness, but instead made up their own forms of righteousness that were abominations to the Lord. When people live in this manner for extended periods of time, continually rejecting God, His mercy, and His offer of forgiveness, God will give people up to the “vile passions” that they pursue instead of God, allowing them to experience the consequences of such unrighteous pursuits. God did not allow Jeroboam II to remain king for so long because he was doing such a good job. He was evil in the sight of the Lord. Rather, Jeroboam’s extended reign is evidence of God giving the people up to their wicked desires and allowing them to experience the consequence of such foolishness.
This is not the end of Jeroboam’s testimony however. The testimony of Jeroboam goes on to reveal the magnitude of God’s faithfulness, mercy and grace. As God swore upon Himself to make Israel a great nation, enabling them to dwell safely in the Promised Land, and that the blessing of all the families of the earth would come through them, God ALWAYS did the work that needed to be done to ensure the fulfillment of that promise. God was just to disciple His people when they lived wickedly, but never allowed His discipline to compromise His ability to fulfill His promises. Many people of the children of Israel died for disobedience. Nevertheless, God preserved the nation of Israel as a whole so that His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could be fulfilled. The testimony of Jeroboam II proves this as true.
Though Jeroboam II did evil in the sight of the Lord, the Lord actually gave Jeroboam II great military victories and increased the size of Israel under his reign. Jeroboam II was successful in fighting against the Syrians to regain and restore territory from the entrance of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah. Additionally, God provided a prophet to encourage the people by His Word. The Bible explains that when Jeroboam II became king, Israel suffered greatly from their affliction levied on them by the Syrians. Joash fought against the Syrians and was defeated by them repeatedly so that the Israeli army was depleted almost to nothing. The northern kingdom of Israel was very bitter in their spirit, and the Bible explains that there was no helper among the people to encourage them. The truth is, when examining the testimony of the northern kingdom of Israel, God was just to allow His people to live in this condition. Israel had denied the Lord and rejected His promises. They deserved what they were getting.
The testimony of 2 Kings 14:23-29 explains that God saw their affliction and responded to bring a helper. The Lord sent the prophet Jonah (the one who was later sent to the Assyrians in Nineveh and swallowed by a great fish) to speak encouraging words to the children of Israel. Jonah prophesied to the people that, despite their evil, God would provide victory and increase their land according to His eternally unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When the people live according to their own standards and compromised God’s promises, the Lord took it upon Himself to speak “good news” concerning work He would do, despite the absence of merits from the people. God has always revealed Himself this way! The Bible testifies of God’s perspective concerning Israel by stating:
“The Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.”
The Law of God explains that God would chastise and disciple His people for disobedience and unbelief. He NEVER said that He would completely blot out His people from His sight and presence. God NEVER said that He would eliminate and disqualify the children of Israel as beneficiaries to His promises. While there are many individual Jewish people that will not inherit the promises made to Abraham on account of unbelief and wickedness, Israel as a nation, made up of the faithful remnant that God preserves, will be heirs of those promises. God’s judgment against the wicked is the pruning work that God does to remove corruption from the faithful. Once the corruption is removed, God will fulfill His goodness to Israel. Therefore, God was obligated to preserve the overall integrity of the children of Israel in the north, even though they were terrible to God. Moreover, God used Jeroboam II to preserve His people! This is like a person using dirt to clean a house! This is the awesome power of God when it flows through the channel of His faithfulness, mercy, and grace!
It is true that Jeroboam II was an evil man in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord used him to do good things for Israel. This shows that we cannot examine the results of Jeroboam’s works and assume that he won battles and had success because God was pleased with him. The Bible is clear to show that God gave Jeroboam success because He was being faithful to Israel. God is able to use dirt to manifest purity, but then get rid of the dirt in judgment at the same time. Who but God can do such a thing? Therefore, while it is a bad idea to look at the success rate of people’s works in personal testimonies to measure a person’s standing with God, it is a good idea to see any success in life as the manifestation of God’s incomprehensive and awesome faithfulness, mercy, and grace! Jeroboam went on to do things that were good to the Lord’s eternal plans, lived contrary to God’s holiness and righteousness the whole time, then died without repenting. God’s ways are truly unusual. Jeroboam II doesn’t seem to fit the qualifications of a successful leader, but God’s mercy and grace is such that He makes it work anyway. This is a slight to those who would live as Jeroboam II, but praise to God who is able to produce good, no matter the quality of the vessel He uses to fulfill His promises.
This history of the Bible shows that when individuals aren’t willing to be accountable to the Lord and His righteousness as individuals, things can get pretty decisive and chaotic pretty quickly. The body of Christ can look like a mangled mess rather than the glory of the Lord in a hurry! This is why it is critically important for the individuals that make up the body of Christ to be focused on the Lord and His righteousness at all times. The scriptures explain that the Christian walk is like a marathon race – one requiring great endurance. The scriptures additionally explain that faith in the identity and purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ is the means by which we endure. Hence, if God’s children stay focused on the Lord through the Word, in fellowship, and prayer, we will have the necessary strength and endurance to finish the race, unto the glory of the Lord. However, if the focus of God’s people sways to other places – even places that seem like the Lord’s work of ministry – the human mind and heart has a way of building idols out of other things, separating from the Lord in pride and self-righteousness, at which point, God’s people are doing what seems right in their own minds, rather than doing the will of God. When this takes place, God’s people become separated, isolated, and can be destructive against one another.
The Bible uses the history of the children of Israel to prove this Biblical principle as true. The testimony of Amaziah shows that when one person takes their eyes off the Lord and “leaves their first love,” terrible things happen quickly, and that terror can spread to many people in the blink of an eye. The testimony of 2 Kings 14:15-22 explains the events that surrounded the deaths of both the king of the northern kingdom of Israel and the king of the southern kingdom of Judah. The king of the north, Joash, died first. The Bible simply explains that he died and that his son took over as king in his place. The scriptures explain that Joash’s son’s name was Jeroboam, who was later known as Jeroboam II. He eventually became a terror to the people of God like the first Jeroboam, but that testimony is documented later in scripture.
The scriptures state that Amaziah died fifteen years after Joash died. The Bible also gives details as to the manner in which Amaziah died. He did not die a peaceful death by old age. Amaziah was assassinated by his own people. The Bible testifies that the people of Judah formed a conspiracy against Amaziah. When Amaziah heard about the conspiracy, he fled to another city called Lachish, but the people followed him there and killed him in Lachish. The testimony of 2 Kings 14:15-22 simply explains that Amaziah was later buried in the city of David with his fathers, and that the people who killed Amaziah led a campaign to make his son Uzziah in his place. Uzziah was sixteen years old when they made him king instead of his father.
Knowing this is how Amaziah’s life ended, it is important to understand what led up to this revolt against him. Those details can be found in the parallel account of Amaziah’s life in 2 Chronicles 25:25-26:2. There the Bible provides more details to fill in the blanks that the testimony of 2 Kings presents. Recall that when Amaziah became king, he fought against the people of Edom. He was able to have victory over the Edomites, and those victories caused him to be prideful so that he also desired to fight his own brethren in the kingdom of Israel in the north. However, that is not all that happened to Amaziah. The testimony of 2 Chronicles explains that when Amaziah became prideful over his victories against the Edomites, he also became self-righteous to adopt the idols from the people of Seir as his own. Though his reign began by his administration of God’s justice against murderers that had not yet been punished, he took his eyes off of the Lord to pursue his own selfish agenda. The victories that the Lord provided cause Amaziah to feel as if he could be the captain of his own ship so to speak. The Bible calls this pride, and that pride led to self-righteousness so that he did not govern his life by the standards of God’s righteousness in the Law anymore, but instead worshiped idols from foreigners.
Amaziah might have considered that his victories over Edom were on account of his obedience to one point in the Law at one time in his life. However, Amaziah’s perception of his own righteousness was exposed to be a fraud since he soon became a constant offender of the first commands that God ever gave. He tried to hold the Law over people in one sense while he pursued his own selfish affections in another sense. The people eventually grew tired of his hypocrisy, and so plans were made against him. This was the cause of the conspiracy against Amaziah. The testimony of 2 Chronicles explains that the people sought to get rid of Amaziah because of his idolatry. His idolatry was a reflection of his pride and self-righteousness, and that pride and self-righteousness later caused Judah to be horribly defeated and looted after they went to war against Israel. The people didn’t want to be victims of Amaziah’s foolishness any longer and so they set plans against him to take his life and put his son as king instead. That plan was executed, and Judah’s desire to purge Amaziah’s pride and self-righteousness was successful.
Here, it is important to consider the details that the testimony of 2 Kings 14:15-22 offers. There, the testimony of Amaziah shows that it was his own people that formed against him in his own hometown. Consider the full context of Israel’s condition at this point in their history. They were a divided kingdom, though God desired for them to be one people governed by Him. The children of Israel were split between the people of the north and the people of the south in Judah. The people of the north were led by idolaters and had quickly adapted to the ways of the surrounding pagan nations and suffered dearly for that. As time went on, the people in Judah fell to the same fate. Later, when Amaziah became king, he desired to fight against his brethren in the north. Though King Joash advised against that, Amaziah persisted so that the separation of God’s people was manifested through a literal civil war that resulted in many of God’s people killing themselves, stealing from one another, and so forth. After Judah’s defeat, Judah became frustrated with its own leadership and they conspired to kill their own king. Amaziah was later killed.
Notice how the circumstances played out. Two kings wanted to live lives according to their own personal standards. Since God was not at the center of those standards, the standards of the two kings opposed one another. They could not get alone. They could not see things the same way because they had different worldviews governed by the desires of their flesh. Without the Lord, there is no consistency in standards of righteousness so that individuals make up their own standards. At some point, those self-prescribed standards ultimately conflict with others. Unless all of God’s people acknowledge Him and His righteousness as the standard being in “one accord,” division and separation will ultimately take place. Later, when Israel and Judah were done fighting each other, the division and separation persisted still in Judah. Amaziah, seeking to do things his own way, did not provide benefits to God’s people. As Amaziah opposed God to do his own thing, he also opposed God’s people who sought to do God’s thing. Those people took it upon themselves to respond. Whether or not their actions are justified doesn’t matter. The point is, when God’s people are set to do their own thing and live their lives by their own standards rather than God’s proclaimed Word, division will take place. Jesus plainly taught that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Since Amaziah was divided from God through pride, he was not able to continue to stand as king, and the people of God that should have been a blessing to all the families of the earth, were a ruinous wreck, and primed for enemy attacks.
The Bible teaches that God resists the proud and that an arrogant spirit comes before a destructive fall. When people allow pride to come into their lives, this situation causes God to be distanced from them. The reason why is because pride causes a person to think that they don’t need God. Pride causes a person to be dependent on their own wisdom, power, and resources rather than God. The Bible explains that self-righteousness is a natural bi-product of pride as well. Therefore, when a person is prideful and comes to an eventual and inevitable point a failure, pride has a way of convincing people that the failure in the eyes of God is justifiable. Pride has a way of causing people to think that inadequacy before God is acceptable if their success is greater than the success of others. Additionally, pride has a way of causing people to think that their successes are the results of their own efforts, absent God’s mercy, grace, and patience. Therefore, when prideful people see any form of success in their lives, there is a tendency to make small issues into large fanfare. At this point, it is common for prideful people to pursue greater successes by their own efforts, only to experience a destructive fall at some point in time. When people live trusting in self rather than God, they will not have the protection, power, wisdom, mercy, or grace of God to go before them. Thus, it is only a matter of time until that spiritual reality is manifest in a tangible, experiential, and physical manner.
This truth is well documented through the testimony of Amaziah in 2 Kings 14:7-14. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Amaziah, the king of Judah, had some success fighting off the Edomites. After executing justice for the murder of his father, Amaziah took up arms to fight against the Edomites. The Bible explains that Amaziah was able to lead to the destruction of over ten thousand Edomites. The Bible shows that Amaziah’s reign started with great success. However, here, it is important to remember that the Bible said that Amaziah was an idolater. He did not rule the people of Judah like King David. He did not exclusively worship God. Amaziah did not lead the people back to the Lord, but instead, allowed them to engage in worship, sacrifices, and offerings to false gods. He did not see a problem with letting the people do their own thing rather than God’s thing. In a way, Amaziah adopted the philosophy of: you can do what you want however you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. This attitude was the result of compromise. This compromise was the result of self-righteousness. This self-righteousness was the result of pride.
Since the issues of Amaziah can be traced back to pride, it means that Amaziah was distanced from God. This means that Amaziah was distanced from the protection, power, wisdom, mercy, and grace of God. Though Amaziah had victory over the Edomites, those victories would run dry soon because of the attitude of Amaziah. In fact, it was the victories against the Edomites that caused Amaziah to grow more prideful. Amaziah, being distanced from the Lord, trusted that his victories against the Edomites were on account of his own strength, wisdom, and resources. Amaziah had to find out the hard way that this was not true. Amaziah had to experience a destructive fall on account of the prideful spirit that went before him.
The scriptures explain that after defeating the Edomites, Amaziah turned his eyes towards the northern kingdom of Israel to fight against them. This is an odd desire for Amaziah considering his standards of living. First, there was no conflict between Amaziah and Joash until Amaziah desired to provoke a fight. Secondly, when the northern and southern kingdoms fought each other, it was usually under the provocation of the northern kingdom because of their idolatrous ways, and allegiances to pagan nations. Thirdly, the desire of Amaziah cannot be considered as a righteous crusade against the idolatry of Joash because Amaziah was an idolater as well. When examining these truths, it should be clear that Amaziah wanted to fight the northern kingdom of Israel simply because he was proud of the victories he had gained against the Edomites and wanted to see more success. He wanted to grow his kingdom and do something that had never been done. He wanted to be the man to show great power to destroy the king of the north and reunite the children of Israel. The Bible never shows that God gave this command, implanted this idea, or approved of this desire.
When Amaziah went to pick his fight, the scriptures show that Joash, the king of northern Israel, tried to get Amaziah to stand down. Joash compared Judah to a weak and brittle thistle while comparing his kingdom in the north to a giant and strong cedar. This is an ironic statement as well. Recall that Joash had to plead with Elisha on his deathbed for mercy and favor from God because of the threats of the Syrians. Recall that at that time, Joash’s army consisted of just a few chariots, just a few horsemen, and just a few foot soldiers. It is true that Joash was able to gain a few victories over the Syrians on account of God’s mercy, but his language towards the king of Judah shows that Joash also felt himself to be much greater than he really was. Joash’s victories over the Syrians were on account of God’s mercy and faithfulness to His own promises – not the strength and wisdom of Joash. Without God, Joash was pitiful and weak. In fact, the victories that Joash gained were limited on account of the unbelief that he had in the Lord who ultimately gave His victories. Yet Joash spoke to Amaziah as if he was a great military power and mind. It was true that Israel was larger in territory, but even the little strength they had at that time was on account of God’s mercy.
With all that said, Amaziah did not heed the words of Joash. He didn’t care that Israel was more populated. He didn’t care that Israel was coming off of great victories against the Syrians. Being blinded by the foolishness of His pride, Amaziah could not see that God was giving favor to the children of Israel in the north. Therefore, Amaziah waged war against Joash and the northern kingdom anyway. He was ultimately squashed! The army of Judah was defeated and humiliated. Amaziah himself was captured, as well as his son. Joash was able to go into Judah and pillage the temple complex, taking the gold and silver articles that were found in the house of the Lord and the house of the king. Joash would later use those articles to pay off the Assyrians to make peace with them. This shows that the pride of Amaziah caused a destructive fall indeed! Amaziah was humbled by being personally defeated and captured as a prisoner of war in a fight that he instigated. Amaziah’s son was also captured. Amaziah’s house was looted. The temple of the Lord was ransacked. The army of Judah was defeated and deflated. The treasures of the Lord ultimately ended up in pagan hands.
Amaziah figured that he had strength. Does the outcome of his efforts display strength? Amaziah figured that he had wisdom. Does the outcome of his efforts reflect wisdom? Even Joash, the king of Israel felt that he was strong and wise, but he was also defeated and humiliated in the process. When examining history, what good does it do to trust in self? What good does it do to admire our participation in the work of God as if our own efforts and resources were responsible for any measure of success? What good does it do to ignore God’s involvement in the provision of our ability and the outcomes of our efforts? What good does it do to ignore and reject the mercy and grace of God as the cause of any of our progress? This is what Amaziah and Joash did and neither of their testimonies end in a positive light, especially from the Lord’s perspective. The Bible shows that when people live in pride, it not only separates from God, but ALL of the benefits that He provides, whether we are His children or not. Therefore, it is best to recognize that God give more grace to the humble, and just live according to the humble understanding that without the Lord’s mercy, we are nothing, lest we live in pride and become nothing.
The Bible teaches that when a person responds to the faith that God implants into the hearts of His people according to the Gospel, they are justified by that faith and sanctified unto the Lord. This is a tricky concept to understand. God’s work in salvation is centered on the concept of “justification.” This means that God declares a person as righteous even though they will still sin in this life. The faith that they have in the identity, purpose, and promise of Jesus Christ is good enough in the eyes of the Father so that He would consider a sinner to be “righteous” on account of the righteousness of His Son. In this example, Jesus’ righteousness as the Son of God is accredited to the believer. The Bible also teaches that at the exact moment a person is justified by faith according to God’s grace, that person is also sanctified unto the Father. This means that they are separated from the world unto the Lord. This is where it gets tricky because believers still live here on earth, but are spiritually separated from the flesh and the condemnation of the world as the possession of the Father. From God’s perspective, we are already in His hands as His children and heirs of His kingdom because He trusts in His work to see that desire accomplished. Who will oppose God to keep Him from doing so? At the same time however, we live in this life and continue to make mistakes. We continue to fall into temptation. We continue to succumb to the flesh. We continue to indulge in worldly affections. While we may desire to live like Jesus, we find that we frequently resemble the same wretched person we were before we came to faith.
The scriptures teach that our understanding of God’s sanctifying work is critical to this problem. The more we understand our nature as God’s possession and child, the more willing we are able to walk according to the Spirit rather than the flesh. We begin to value the things of the Lord more than the things of the world through this understanding. This is also why idolatry is such a big deal to the Lord. The Bible shows that idolatry creates competition in the lives of God’s people between the world and God. When we continue to pursue worldly affections, our wicked hearts will build up desires for things and ideas that take priority over the Lord. That imbalance in affection subtly becomes idolatry, and soon enough, we resemble the evil that we were before we came to the Lord. Hence, the Bible encourages and exhorts the people of God to flee from idolatry as one would flee from an active shooter. Idolatry presents far worse dangers! The scriptures reveal that the subtlety of idolatry can encourage God’s people to compromise in their faith, thereby creating severe weaknesses and deficiencies. Though this manner of living, God’s people might look good in one area of life, but be miserable witnesses of the Lord in other areas. While we might have successes in one area, our walk can resemble a rollercoaster of spiritual highs and lows. This is not what God desires for His people. Though the believer might be justified by faith and escape the wrath of God on account of God’s mercy and grace, God is not pleased with the testimony of the person that leverages one good work to validate the multiple errors in idolatrous living.
An example of this truth is seen through the testimony of King Amaziah. Recall that the southern kingdom of Judah also had a king named Joash. When he died, his son named Amaziah became the king of Judah. Recall that Joash’s reign had mixed results. He did well when the priest Jehoiada was alive because Jehoiada was a righteous and godly example and influence to Joash. When Jehoiada died, Joash lost his godly influence and ended up living according to his own standards of righteousness. After Jehoiada died, the self-righteousness of Joash led him to become an idolater. Joash didn’t seek to find more godly examples and did not pursue righteous fellowship with other men of God. As a result, he followed the wicked example of the kings of the north and gave into the pagan practices of the surrounding nations in the second half of his life and reign. When this started to happen, one of the sons of Jehoiada approached Joash the king to rebuke him and called him to repent. Jehoiada’s son sought to follow in the righteousness of his father and wanted Joash to go down the same road. Though the two men grew up as brothers, Joash was offended to the point where he had Jehoiada’s son killed. When the servants of Joash found out about what Joash did, they were so offended by his audacity. Joash’s servants could not believe that Joash would kill the son of the man who saved his life and took him in as his own son just because his son sought to steer him in a good direction. Those servants ultimately conspired against Joash and killed him.
When the testimony of Amaziah starts in 2 Kings 14:1-6, the Bible explains how Amaziah dealt with this issue. The scriptures testify that Amaziah, like his father, had mixed results in his kingship. Amaziah did well in the sight of the Lord in some areas, but was not totally faithful to the Lord. In the parallel testimony of Amaziah in 2 Chronicles 25:1-4, the Bible explains that Amaziah was “not loyal” to the Lord. This means that, while Amaziah did some things right, there were issues in his life that kept him from fully pleasing the Lord. There were issues in Amaziah’s life that were strongholds that kept him from pleasing the Lord according to His standards of righteousness. As a believer, Amaziah trusted the Lord in some areas of his life, but ultimately failed in other areas of his life because of idolatry.
The scriptures declare that Amaziah did well in the circumstances dealing with the death of his father. Joash was a murder victim. According to the Law of God, murderers were to be put to death. When Amaziah became king, one of the first things he did was execute the righteous judgment of God according to the Lord. He sought after the men that killed his father and had them put to death. The scriptures go on to explain that Amaziah did not go after the families of the men that killed Joash. In other words, Amaziah killed only the men that were directly responsible for the death of Joash. Amaziah sought to execute God’s justice, not his own vengeance. While the leaders of Israel were known for leading according to the flesh, Amaziah showed great restraint to keep from abusing his authority. He did what God’s Law called for, and that was it. God’s righteousness was administrated perfectly.
This righteous action did not make up for the errors that Amaziah made in his life. The testimony of 2 Kings 14:1-6 explains that Amaziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not like King David. The Bible testifies that David was a man after God’s own heart. He worshiped God and only God. He fought against those who worshiped idols and did well to keep Israel from idolatry while he was king. It is true that David made many mistakes in his life, even as king, but he never departed from the Lord. David desired the Lord more than anything else in life so that even when he made mistakes, he quickly repented and continued his pursuit of the Lord God Almighty. David desired God’s will more than his own. Though he made mistakes, David eventually corrected those mistakes to try and keep his life in line with God’s will and purposes. Amaziah didn’t do this. He did well to exact God’s justice concerning his father, but he still struggled with idolatry.
Amaziah was quick to exact justice in one area, but let unrighteousness remain in the land. He did not destroy the high places and altars that were built in Judah, and allowed the worship of false gods to continue in the land. The people continued to offer sacrifices to God AND to false gods and idols. Though Amaziah knew, he did nothing about it. He allowed the people of God to remain corrupted. He did not seek to lead them in pure righteousness. He executed one part of God’s Law, but missed the supreme point of God’s Law documented in the first two commandments God gave:
"I [am] the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. "You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness [of anything] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth [generations] of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” – Exodus 20:3-6
This is why God’s people MUST be saved by grace and not by works. Had the salvation of Amaziah been based on “works” of righteousness, he would have failed. His “good works” would not have out-weighed his evil. He did good to judge the murderers of Joash, but allowed the people in his kingdom to break the first two commandments God have for the twenty-nine years that he was king! This is why salvation is based on justification. The Father looks to the impeccable righteousness of His Son since it isn’t tainted in any sort of way at all. If the Father were to judge people based on our own righteousness, He would see corruption and defilement all over. Our good does not outweigh our evil, especially when our evil is usually centered on idolatry, which the Bible candidly refers to as spiritual adultery (like cheating on God). Additionally, the testimony of Amaziah shows that when God’s people allow idolatry to remain in our surrounding areas, it will have an infectious effect in our lives so that our good works will be soiled by the evil we allow to creep in through idols. Our affection for God will grow cold and the righteous testimony that we give of God through our lives will be weak and sporadic like Amaziah.
The Bible shows that God is faithful well beyond human comprehension. In fact, the mercy and grace of God can be viewed as the bi-product of God’s faithfulness. God made certain promises and covenants in the scriptures, and swore upon Himself to fulfill those promises. Since mankind is undeserving of the favor that God desires to distribute through His promises, God must show mercy in order to fulfill those promises. God must show patience with His people and restrain from total judgment and wrath against the constant evils that His people commit. Additionally, the Bible shows that God has historically taken massive steps towards the fulfillment of some of His most fundamental promises. For example, God has fulfilled His promise to offer forgiveness of sins through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Bible explains that Christ died for the world “while we were yet sinners.” This means that, though God extended favor, we as His people were undeserving of that favor. This is grace.
This means that, if God’s people understand the essence of God’s promises and covenants according to the scriptures, God’s people are more likely to recognize, appreciate, and cherish the mercy and grace of God. God’s people will more easily see just how faithful God is based on the magnitude of mercy and grace God shows to takes steps towards the fulfillment of His eternally unconditional promises. Proof of this concept can be seen in the testimony of Joash, king of the northern kingdom of Israel. In 2 Kings 13:22-25 the Bible explains that the Syrians oppressed the northern kingdom without relenting during the entire reign of Jehoahaz. However, things dramatically changed when his son, Joash, became king. Recall that when Joash heard that Elisha the prophet was sick and dying, he went to visit him, pleading with him to extend favor from the Lord. Joash informed Elisha of the pitiful condition of the military in the northern kingdom, and hoped that Elisha would intercede to God in hopes to gain God’s favor against the Syrians. Elisha told Joash that God would indeed offer mercy and provided a prophetic illustration to assure Joash of God’s promise. Elisha and Joash shot an arrow in the direction of the Syrians as a sign of God’s deliverance. Elisha told Joash to beat the ground with the rest of his arrows as a sign of the zeal and passionate enthusiasm he should have had for God’s promise. Not feeling very passionate or enthusiastic, Joash only hit the ground three times. Elisha was displeased with Joash’s indifference, but sent him off with the guarantee that God would bring victories equal to the number of times Joash beat the ground – three times.
The testimony of 2 Kings 13:22-25 explains that when Joash became king in the northern kingdom, the tides shifted in dominance between the Syrians and Israel. The wicked king of Syria named Hazael had died, and his son named Ben-Hadad had taken over. Ben-Hadad ruled Syria while Joash ruled in Israel. When Ben-Hadad tried to extend his father’s dominance over Israel, he failed. The Bible explains that Joash was able to defeat the Syrians just as Elisha had promised on behalf of God. God promised that Joash would have three major victories according to the number of times that he struck the ground. The testimony of 2 Kings 13:22-25 explains that Joash was able to defeat Ben-Hadad to retake three major cities in Israel that Hazael had previously taken from Jehoahaz.
There is an important detail to consider in this portion of scripture. The Bible states the reason that God provided victory for Joash. The scriptures plainly state that the Lord was gracious to the northern kingdom. This means that God was extending favor towards the children of Israel in the north, even though they didn’t deserve favor. The Bible explains that God extended grace because He had compassion on them and regarded them on account of the covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joash did not deserve the favor of God. The faithfulness of Elisha was not sufficient to help Israel. The Bible candidly explains that, even though God’s people remained unfaithful and wicked, He showed compassion and grace on account of the eternally unconditional promises that He made to the patriarchs well before the time of Joash. When God made His promise to Abraham, He ratified the promise on His own in Genesis Chapter 15. Abraham was not part of the ratification process so that God swore upon Himself because there was none greater (Hebrews 6:13). The promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was an extension of grace within itself. God promised the seed of Abraham favor, but it was not favor that Abraham earned. The behavior and conduct of Abraham’s descendants shows that they never deserved God’s favor, but God was faithful to do what He said.
Joash was a beneficiary of the incomprehensive faithfulness of God. People don’t treat other people like God treats people. God always has bigger things in mind, whether He’s administrating judgment or mercy and grace. Joash was a wicked man, and the Bible is clear to show that he did evil in the sight of the Lord. His increase and his victories were not a sign of God’s approval of Joash. The success of Joash was not proof that God was pleased with Joash. Joash beat the Syrians because God felt compassion for the pitiful condition of the people He swore would be a great nation by His providence and power. The Bible is clear to teach that God provided favor because He remembered the promises He made to Israel in the Book of Genesis, and was motivated by His own faithfulness and righteousness, not the actions of wicked people. This means that the human race benefits from God’s faithfulness FAR more than people give God credit for. People sometimes have the tendency of thinking that a job promotion, an increase in pay, deliverance from a health condition, or success from other types of difficult circumstances is a sign of God’s approval and favor towards that person. Clearly the testimony of Joash shows that thinking to be flawed. Just because a person gets a victory here and there doesn’t mean that God is in favor of that person. Those victories just show that God is faithful to His eternally unconditional promises, and the bi-product of that faithfulness is distributed to people through mercy and grace. Knowing this, God’s people should be EXTREMELY thankful that God is who the Word says He is, seeing that we get victories we don’t deserve. This should compel God’s people to walk in fear of the Lord, humility towards the Lord, and gratitude unto Him.
The Bible teaches that God is the Almighty God. He is the One True Living God and transcends all other created beings. The Bible teaches that God is eternally self-existing and self-sustaining. As the Creator of ALL things, He maintains sovereign control over every facet of creation in both heaven and on earth. The Bible also teaches that the Lord is triune in nature. This means that God is one God, but exists in three distinctly different forms in order to reveal Himself and provide for His creation. God is referred to as “the Father,” referring to the will and creative intent of God. God is referred to as “the Son,” who is Jesus Christ, and is the physical manifestation of God’s will, making Him the means by which God’s will is physically manifested. God is also referred to as “the Holy Spirit,” which refers to the means by which as transcendent God connects with mortal and corrupted people. Each facet of God’s being is equally powerful and shares the same attributes; they are simply made manifest in different forms. The reason that this is important to recognize is because, each facet of God is unified in purpose and power, and being transcendent above all things, is all-present to execute every purpose He has unto perfection. Since God is the author of goodness, then the presence of God will inevitably result in goodness. Where God’s presence is denied, goodness will be denied as well. This means that where the Father is accepted or denied, goodness will be accepted or denied. Where the Son is accepted or denied, goodness will be accepted or denied. Where the presence of the Holy Spirit that dwells among God’s people is accepted or denied, goodness will be accepted or denied just the same.
This truth is powerfully illustrated through the death circumstances of the prophet Elisha. In 2 Kings 13:20-21 the Bible documents two important events that took place soon after Elisha’s death. The scriptures state the Elisha got sick, and the disease that he caught in his old age was the thing that killed him. It was nothing unusual in any point in history. Many old people have died from various diseases; some exotic, some simple. The means by which Elisha died was very ordinary. However, the effects of Elisha’s death were very extraordinary. Recall that the Bible frequently referred to Elisha as “the man of God.” This title was frequently used to describe Elisha in contrast to the wicked kings he often dealt with. While Elisha wasn’t the only man of God in Israel at the time he lived, the Bible shows that he was one of the primary tools that God used at that time to preserve His righteousness among the children of Israel in the northern kingdom. The northern kingdom of Israel had its fair share of corrupted men leading as kings, but the Lord preserved Elisha and his ministry in order that His own righteousness would preserve the spiritual integrity of His people.
A simpler way to explain the ministry and purpose of Elisha is this way: Elisha was the man that God used to keep His presence in the midst of His people in order to fulfill His promises. The kings of the northern kingdom frequently led the God’s people away from the Lord through idolatry and paganism, but God stayed connected with His people through Elisha. God leveraged His Spirit to motivate and equip Elisha as His prophet, not only to speak God’s Word, but also to teach younger prophets the ways of the Lord, and to uphold the standard of God’s righteousness according to the Law. As time went on, Elisha was sought less and less. When Jehu became king, Elisha was largely ignored. The Bible doesn’t mention Elisha at all after Jehu became king, during the rule of his son Jehoahaz, and all the way through the end of Elisha’s life when Jehu’s grandson Joash became king. This represents a time frame of over forty years! So while God used Elisha to bless Israel with His presence, God’s presence was ignored for that time frame in the northern kingdom. Therefore, when Elisha died, the northern kingdom not only lost a great man of God, but the very means by which God revealed Himself to His people at that time.
The Bible testifies that as soon as Elisha died, and the man of God that desired the presence of God was gone, the enemy found opportunity to strike. The Bible explains that soon after Elisha died, the Moabites began to conduct raids and invade the northern kingdom of Israel. Recall that King Joash desperately sought the comfort of Elisha before he died on account of the depleted military resources in Israel. The disobedience of Israel caused God to strip Israel of their power and resources. Israel’s disobedience had taken a toll so that they only had a handful of soldiers, chariots, and horsemen. They were already fighting the Syrians to no avail. They were not able to at all to deal with the raids of the Moabites. This is an important spiritual principle to recognize. Since Elisha was a symbol of God’s presence in the northern kingdom, but God’s presence was not sought towards the tail end of Elisha’s life, Israel suffered greatly from enemy attacks. Denying God’s prophet was parallel to denying God’s own presence and righteousness, which resembled the children of Israel forfeiting God’s provision, protection, and power. They were a weak people before they went into the Promised Land, and were only able to take the land on account of the victories that God provided. Without the Lord, Israel was nothing. Ignoring Elisha, God’s presence was pushed off and the enemies of Israel exposed the weak nature of God’s people when God’s people live separated from Him.
The timing of the raids of the Moabites was not coincidental. Everyone knew of Elisha and his connection to the Lord God Almighty. Everyone knew that without Elisha, Israel was not connected to the Lord, the protection He provides, and so Israel was susceptible and weak. Moab attacked after Elisha died because they knew they would win. Moab recognized the weakness of Israel without Elisha, especially as they saw the Syrians running through God’s people with ease. This is what happens when God’s people separate from God’s presence. The enemy and other forms of opposition find opportunity to run God’s people into the ground. When God’s people deny God’s presence, they also deny His protection, His provision, and His power, and are then susceptible to be exposed as weak and pitiful. Attacks and raids will come from all angles and God’s people will be left to deal with various physical, financial, mental, emotional, and spiritual invasions of various kinds that leave God’s people humiliated and empty until there is repentance and a genuine desire for God’s presence.
The second phenomena that took place in relation to Elisha’s death was a profound illustration that revealed the quality of power and value that Israel had ignored in Elisha. About a year after Elisha died and was buried, men were working to bury another dead man. As they were working, the Bible testifies that they saw a band of Moabite raiders coming into their area. The men that were burying the dead man sought to flee immediately, but because they could not finish the grave they were working on in time, they just put the body of the man in the closest grave they could find. That grave happened to be the grave of Elisha. The Bible testifies that when the body of the dead man touched the bones of Elisha, the man came to life again! The scriptures declare that the man who was dead and being buried, touched the bones of Elisha on accident, but was able to stand up and flee with the other men from the Moabite raiders! This shows that even the dead bones of Elisha had the power of God’s presence still radiating from them. This proves that the power of God transcends death itself! Though the soul of Elisha had long expired, and the flesh of Elisha’s body had long decayed, the remnant of God’s presence in Elisha was sufficient to bring life back to the dead.
This is an awesome testimony of the power of God and the lingering effects of His presence. God’s New Covenant promises state that those who trust in the means by which He fulfills His eternally unconditional promises (exclusively through Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Messiah), will NEVER die. The testimony of Elisha’s bones prove that God is easily able to bring life back to the dead. As the Creator of all things, God is the Author of life, and death has no power over Him as proved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The power of God’s presence was so strong that it was sufficient to restore life to a dead man from the bones of one that walked with the Lord long before. This testimony of resurrection – even in the Old Testament times – is a prophetic picture of God’s New Covenant promises. Elisha then becomes a picture of Jesus as the Messiah. As Elisha was the man of God in whom God’s presence dwelt to preserve the spiritual integrity of His people, Elisha was the focal point for Israel to seek as the conduit to seek God. Since Elisha was just a man, he died. Nevertheless, the quality of life that God promises was proven true as the dead bones of Elisha were functionally active to instill life into others. Though Elisha died, he remained able by the power of God! This was merely a picture of the total work that Jesus would do. Jesus is THE focal point for ALL of God’s people to seek as the conduit to seek God because Jesus is God. However, as Jesus died too, He rose from the dead and lives forever more. So if God promises to give eternal life to those who trust in the identity, purposes, and promises of Jesus, God’s promise must be true since Jesus died but rose from the dead while Elisha died and stayed dead; yet was still functionally active and able through his bones on account of the transcendent power of God! If God can bring life through the dead bones of a mere man, how much more is He able to bring life through the Son of Man?
The Bible explains that in the last days, many will come to Jesus and expect one thing, only to be sorely disappointed and condemned on account of a miserable relationship with Him. Jesus testified, “Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:22-23).” This teaching from Jesus poses a big problem for many people. It shows that many people think they know Jesus, but will come to find out in the end that they never knew Him and He never knew them. Though there be many that minister in churches, pray for the hurting, give in charity, and sing songs of praise using the name “Jesus,” many do so in vain, not knowing the identity, character, and attributes of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. In fact, in Matthew Chapter 9, the Bible testifies that Jesus walked along following a man named Jairus in order to heal his daughter. Along the way, a woman that had a bleeding issue for twelve years sought Jesus, trusting that a simple touch of the hem of His robe would be sufficient to heal her and end her suffering. While hundreds, if not thousands thronged against Jesus, the woman touched Jesus and was healed. Jesus responded to the disciples that He felt power go out of Him and inquired about who touched Him. Jesus later confirmed that the faith of the woman to pursue Jesus in such a manner was sufficient to bring healing. However, while hundreds, if not thousands touched Jesus at that time, only one woman had faith in the identity and attributes of Jesus as the Son of God to receive His benefits at the Messiah. Many pursue Jesus, but few with the understanding of His identity, character, and attributes as the Son of God and Messiah.
This was not a new problem for the children of Israel as it is not a new problem that exists today among many. The testimony of King Joash, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel, shows that many have pursued the benefits of God, not knowing who God really is. Thankfully, the nature of God, whether people know Him to be or not, is merciful and gracious. Therefore, many throughout history, including the wicked King Joash, were beneficiaries of God’s mercy and grace, even in their unbelief and ignorance. In 2 Kings 13:14-19 the Bible explains that the Prophet Elisha was on his death bed. He had caught a disease, and the Bible explains that the disease he caught would be the manner in which Elisha ultimately ended up dying. His ministry lasted over sixty years, which was about three times the length of Elijah, but he would die like any other normal man. While God is merciful and gracious, clearly, He is not a respecter of persons.
When Joash heard that Elisha was dying, he quickly and desperately went to visit him before it was too late. Here, it is important to recall that Joash was not a follower of God. Joash was proclaimed as a wicked king that did not to what was right in the sight of the Lord. Joash was a man that went the way of Jeroboam, who made up his own religious practices to justify and validate the wicked lifestyle he wanted to live in order to gratify his fleshly desires. Thus, the urgency that Joash pursued Elisha with was not on account of a deep and intimate relationship that the two men had as followers of the Lord. Joash went to Elisha in desperation because Israel was getting destroyed by the Syrians. Earlier in the testimony of 2 Kings Chapter 13 the Bible explained that the northern kingdom of Israel had been picked apart by the Syrians so that they only had fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers. Israel’s army had been decimated by the Syrians. When Joash went to see Elisha, he greeted Elisha in this manner: “O my father, my father!” However, his greeting was also sure to mention the pitiful state of Israel’s army. Joash had selfish reasons for pursuing Elisha.
Joash, being a worshiper of the same false gods and idols as the Syrians, was let down by those gods and idols. Trusting in those pagan deities, his kingdom was depleted and his stature was diminished. Those gods and idols were futile and offered help in no way, shape, or form. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was Joash’s only hope; and Elisha was the only man that Joash likely knew of that would access Him. Elisha was Joash’s bailout plan. Elisha was the means by which Joash could pursue a functional solution when his normal manner of living ultimately failed him. In the eyes of Joash, Elisha was God, and was necessary since all of Joash’s other resources had failed him and his ultimate demise was on the horizon. The death of Elisha meant the death of hope for Joash. If Elisha died, where would Joash go to access the One True Living God? This point shows that Joash didn’t know God himself. He knew Elisha as a man of God and simply sought His benefits through Elisha when it was convenient or obviously necessary. This is why when Joash arrived to see Elisha, he quickly mentioned the depleted condition of Israel, seeking mercy on account of their miserable condition. He honored Elisha in title, but really just wanted help to get out of his desperate situation.
As the king introduced himself, Elisha commanded the king to take a bow. As a king that was heavily involved in skirmishes with the Syrians, Joash was likely very skilled with a bow. Elisha told the king to point the bow and an arrow outside of the east window in order to shoot it. Elisha commanded Joash to point his bow out of the east window because that was the direction that the Syrians were invading from and the region from which they were headquartered. Though Joash was likely very skilled with a bow as a warrior, and likely more skilled that an old dying prophet, Elisha placed his hand on top of Joash’s before letting him shoot the arrow. Here, the scriptures picture the hand of Elisha acting as the guiding hand of a father teaching his son to shoot a bow. Even though Joash would have been well skilled with the bow, Elisha placed his hand upon Joash’s hand in order to signify two things: Joash would have to physical fight the Syrians, but his fighting would be directed by divine influence unto victory. Elisha’s hand was like the hand of God in this prophetic picture. God used this illustration to assure Joash that He would bring victory over the Syrians. God would be the administrator of victory, but Joash would have to surrender himself to the Lord’s use as His instrument. He would have to physically engage though God assured victory in the spiritual realm. After placing his hand upon Joash’s, Elisha commanded him to shoot the arrow and then proclaimed, “The arrow of the deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.” The arrow was the sign of God going before Joash to mercifully bring victory against the Syrians if Joash would be willing to engage them at Aphek.
After this illustration and prophetic proclamation, Elisha told Joash to take the rest of the arrows and strike the ground. Here, the Bible is vague about the reason for Joash’s actions, but explains that he was ignorant of the Lord he sought nevertheless. When Elisha commanded Joash to strike the ground with the arrows, Joash only struck the ground three times and then stopped. Elisha quickly rebuked him and explained that Joash should have struck the ground five or six times to signify the extent of beating they would apply towards the Syrians. Yet, because Joash only struck the ground three times and stopped, the extent of his victory against the Syrians would be limited. This shows that Elisha had spiritual purpose in the shooting of the arrow and also the beating of the ground. Joash didn’t understand either principle or prophetic picture. Elisha instructed Joash to beat the ground with the arrows as a sign of his zeal based on the assurance of victory that God promised. If the arrow was the victory of Israel and the deliverance form the Syrians, and the ground was the defeat of the Syrians, then passionate zeal for God’s promise would have caused him to beat the ground many times to signify the extent of beating he would wager against the Syrians under the trust of the Lord’s guarantee.
Since Joash only hit the ground three times shows a few things about Joash’s ignorance and unbelief. Joash could have been reluctant to engage the Syrians with great force and zeal against them. Having adopted their pagan manner of living, it could have been that Joash was too attached to his own enemy, dependent on them to gratify his selfish ambitions, so that he would not see them done totally away with according to the Lord’s command. This shows that Joash did not understand the Lord, His holiness, His righteousness, and His judgments according to the promises previously declared to Moses, Joshua, and King David. God did not want His people engaging with pagans such as the Syrians and so commanded them to wipe them off of the face of the earth in His judgment. Clearly Joash didn’t understand this principle of God. Joash might have desired to show mercy towards the Syrians, whom themselves never showed mercy, and where even God commanded previous rulers before Joash to show no mercy towards these people.
It is also possible that Joash found the whole exercise to be ridiculous. Joash sought wisdom and advice good for battle and yet had the hand of an old dying prophet guide his seasoned hand on a bow, and then was told to beat the ground with arrows. The king possibly could have found the whole exercise foolish and childish so that he hit the ground lightly three times just to appease the prophet. In this case, Joash would have demonstrated his ignorance of God’s frequent desire to proclaim His will through prophetic pictures. This possibility also shows that Joash was ignorant of the extent of God’s power and purposes according to recent history as it related to Elisha – the man that Joash first proclaimed as “my father.” Previously in his ministry, Elisha helped a widowed woman survive by commanding her to borrow as many jars as possible from neighbors in order that the Lord would provide enough resources for her to live. The woman heeded the advice of Elisha to gather as many as she could, at which point she gathered enough to live AND pay off all of her debt! She trusted in the Lord’s greatness and didn’t short change Him to be a small God. Her faith in His greatness was demonstrated by her willingness to get as many vessels as she could, not really knowing what the Lord would do with them. The Lord filled as many vessels as she collected, which was a great amount, enabling her to live in abundance.
Joash clearly didn’t understand the greatness of God that he figured Elisha’s exercises to be childish and foolish. Had Joash been zealous about God’s promise of victory, he would have hit the ground one thousand times with force as a demonstration of the beating he would administer to the Syrians under the Lord’s divine guidance. Instead, the three strikes to the ground proved that Joash figured God to be small, unwilling, unable, and unfaithful. As a result, Elisha explained that, while God would be merciful to provide some victory, Joash would not be successful to get rid of the Syrians overall. Joash sought the Lord, but didn’t know the Lord he was seeking as evidenced by the way that he engaged with Elisha. Elisha’s response further proves Joash’s ignorance. While many people like Joash was God’s benefits, those who do not know Him will not find favor from Him once they burn through the mercy God first offers. While victory might appear to be there for a moment (on account of God’s mercy), ultimate victory will elude those whose relationship with the Lord is vain and fickle.
When God’s people are not on the same page, there will inevitably be divisions and quarrels that lead to miserable circumstances for both parties involved. The Bible teaches that when the church was born in the Book of Acts on the Day of Pentecost, the people gathered together “in one accord.” These people had the same mind and the same goal. When people have the same mind and motives, they’re going to think of the same goal, though they may find varying ways to get there. When the people are servants of the same Master, they will conduct their business in the same manner and temperament. When the people have the same goal, they will eventually arrive at the same place. However, when God’s people have different focuses due to personal affections and desires of the flesh, there is no oneness. Without oneness, there is division. When there is division, there is bitterness, competition, and destruction.
The testimony of Israel’s history proves this idea to be true. The testimony of the northern kingdom’s King Joash explains that, though the children of Israel were supposed to be one great nation according to God’s eternally unconditional promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they were divided and fought one another. In 2 Kings 13:10-13 the Bible documents the events that took place after King Jehoahaz died in the northern kingdom of Israel. The scriptures explain that his son Joash took reign in his place. Here, it is important to know that there were actually two men named Joash that ruled at the same time in Israel. Recall that the first Joash was the man that was rescued from the evil of Athaliah, raised properly by the priest Jehoiada, and became king under his tutelage at age seven. This Joash was responsible for the repairs of the temple, but eventually turned from doing right in the sight of the Lord when his mentor and leader Jehoiada died. Later, in the thirty-seventh year of Joash’s reign (he reigned a total of forty years), another Joash became king. This Joash was the son of Jehoahaz and ruled in the northern kingdom, while the other Joash ruled for three more years in Judah.
This is a fitting detail in the testimony of the two kingdoms. The testimony of 2 Kings 13:10-13 explains that Joash, king of the northern kingdom of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord as well. The Bible explains that this man also lived in the manner of Jeroboam. This means that he lived primarily pursuing the affections of his flesh. He did not consider the things of God to be a priority at all. He did what he wanted and found ways to validate and justify his carnality through worldly wisdom, religious practices, and so forth. This shows that there were two men, both named Joash, but neither man followed the righteousness of God. The Bible explains that the two men fought each other. Though the children of Israel were to be the unified treasure of God, they fought in civil war for the sixteen years that the northern King Joash reigned.
The reason that the children of Israel in the north fought with the children of Israel in southern Judah was because the people of the north were under the control of the Syrians. Recall that they had previously been conquered by Hazael and Ben-Hadad, and that Hazael was so successful in his raids that he was able to penetrate pretty deep into Judah as well. Here, it is important to remember that the people of Samaria began to adopt the pagan habits and religious practices of the Syrians during the rule of Ahab. As they became friendlier with the Syrians, the children of Israel ultimately departed from the Lord – especially His protection. They began to let their guard down and were first taken down in their spiritual and moral strongholds that the Lord built up. Without spiritual and moral strongholds, eventually their mental and physical integrity were compromised as well since it is one’s connection to the Lord spiritually that enables one to receive God’s mental and physical capacity. As these three facets of their lives were broken down, they had no chance and ultimately became slaves to that which they volunteered themselves to.
Upon subjecting themselves to spiritual slavery by following the evil religious practices of the Syrians, they ultimately became literal slaves of the Syrians. They were depleted of any spiritual resolve, had no mental or physical fortitude, and were forced to do that which the enemy Syrians commanded. Therefore, they were forced to fight against their brethren. One man named Joash fought another man named Joash. Neither man sought the Lord, and so both men ironically pursued different affections in life, with different motives, and different goals, although they shared the same name. Even more ironically, the name Joash means, “Given by the Lord.” Neither of these men lived up to their name, and so while they shared the same name, their lack of affection and connection to God caused them to be enemies of one another.
This fighting continued on well after Judah’s King Joash died. When his son Amaziah became king, the northern kingdom’s Joash continued to be used as a pawn of the enemy Syria, and the north continued to fight the south. The glory that God desired to give His “special treasure” was nowhere near apparent. Instead, as each king pursued the affections of his own heart rather than the righteousness of God, each was made subject to different difficulties and consequences of sin. This is what happens when one becomes a slave to the flesh rather than a servant to the Lord. Each person does what seems right in their own minds, and the result is always chaotic division and destruction. It is sad to see that while God wanted to make Israel a great nation and bless the world through them, they were willing to forfeit such a privilege in order to pursue affections of their flesh that they felt were more valuable than God’s promises. As a result, they fought, they strived, the destroyed, and they suffered. Examining this short testimony of Israel’s history, God’s people should ask themselves: Is it really worth my own personal desire to risk such great destruction and division?
The mercy of God is something that few people really understand, and fewer actually appreciate. The reason for this is because the Bible teaches that people are naturally self-righteous, which means that as people, we have a natural tendency to think we are better than we really are. Some people actually believe that they don’t deserve punishment from God. Some people actually feel they can match the righteousness of God by abstaining from serious crimes and self-defined standards. The problem is that such a belief system in it of itself is grounds for the wrath of God. The Bible teaches that none are righteous, no not one. Hence, the belief that we can escape God’s judgment and wrath by any other means different than God prescribed (Jesus Christ) is grounds for condemnation unto hell. However, even God’s own children have seasons where we feel we’re doing “okay.” The problem is that God sees a very different picture, being able to look at the hearts of all people and know the motives and true intents of all people. He sees the true darkness that really exists. Yet we’re all still here. This is why God’s mercy is hard to fathom. If we could see what God sees in terms of mankind’s evil, we’d be disgusted! Yet God relents from punishment for a time in order to allow His people a chance to repent. So, while life can be hard on account of consequences stemming from our depravity, nothing is as bad as it could be, or as it should be!
This truth is bluntly stated in Psalm 103:10 where it says, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.” This truth is illustrated in the testimony of Jehoahaz in 2 Kings 13:1-9. The Bible explains that Jehoahaz took rule after Jehu died in the northern kingdom of Israel. This took place during the twenty-third year of Joash’s reign in Judah; right about the time when Joash was trying to restore and renovate the temple in Jerusalem. Jehoahaz became king in the northern kingdom before Hazael laid his siege against Judah, but felt the full effects of Hazael’s evil desires to torment the children of Israel. The testimony of Jehoahaz begins by stating that he continued in the evil that Jehu and even Jeroboam committed long before. Like the evil kings that went before him, Jehoahaz was an idolater and was a man focused on setting his own standards of righteousness in order to justify the corrupted and selfish actions of his flesh. His religion was based on his own self-proclaimed morality and those standards were contrary to God’s standards.
As a result, the Bible explains that the Lord handed the northern kingdom of Israel into the hands of Hazael and the Syrians. Jehoahaz reigned in the northern kingdom for seventeen years, and each of those years, Hazael was fighting against Jehoahaz unto Israel’s defeat. After Hazael died and Ben-Hadad took over as king of Syria, Ben-Hadad continued the oppression against the children of Israel, and the Lord allowed him to have success as well in order to discipline the children of Israel. Their misery was self-inflicted. The law and covenant of God promised that if God’s people were to follow Him with all of their hearts and obey His standards and commands, He would ensure their protection, provision, and prosperity. Since the children of Israel were determined to rebel against God’s standards in order to make up their own and live according to their wicked flesh and carnality, God’s covenant assured the people that they would be punished. The oppression of Israel during the reign of Jehoahaz was a clear illustration of God’s faithfulness to fulfill both facets of His promises. He will bless when His people are faithfully obedient to His commands. However, there are curses and oppression that comes to those who deny the Lord’s righteousness, living unfaithfully, and chose to go their own way. History shows that God will certainly inflict pain to those who deny Him. The suffering of Israel was well deserved.
Nevertheless, God’s faithfulness can be seen in the testimony of Jehoahaz as well. The scripture state that as the oppression lingered on in Israel, Jehoahaz pleaded with the Lord for mercy. While Jehoahaz didn’t repent from his sin and fully pursue the Lord, he did acknowledge the Lord’s power and sovereignty and sought His mercy. He knew that the Lord was angry and wanted to see if he could receive favor from the Lord. The scriptures state that the Lord actually listened! Though Jehoahaz remained an evil man, He still responded to the cry of His creation and had compassion for His people. Recall that even when Ahab humbled himself before the Lord for a short time, the Lord relented in His punishment and judgment against Ahab as well, and distributed the full brunt of His anger onto other generations so that Ahab would be able to bear the difficulty unto his eventual death. Ahab certainly deserved far worse, as did Jehoahaz and the rest of the children of Israel; but God was compassionate and merciful towards His people, remember His promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David concerning the Messiah. Therefore, God was willing to pull back on the pain and ease up on the pressure so that Israel could bear the load of their punishment without being fully destroyed.
The testimony of Jehoahaz explains that God sent a deliverer so that they were able to escape the hand of the Syrians. It is true that the children of Israel were severely depleted in their military resources. The had only a few horsemen, chariots, and infantrymen left over, and so were unable to protect themselves from any foreigner. However, the Lord heard the cry of His people, and in order to remain faithful to His own promises, God did not allow the Syrians to utterly wipe out the northern kingdom. God sent his deliverer to provide mercy and a bit of success so that they were able to at least dwell in tents in the land. They were severely punished for their sins, but things could have, and should have been FAR worse!
Unfortunately, as is the custom for mankind, the children of Israel in the north, including Jehoahaz, did not learn their lesson and live according to gratitude for the Lord’s mercy. They continued to live in sin. They continued to walk according to the sin of the house of Jeroboam, making up their own standards of righteousness, pursuing evil affections and desires of the flesh, and developed religious practices to justify those corrupted ideals. God knew His people would respond this way because God knows everything. Nevertheless, He provided mercy on account of His compassionate nature. This is how it goes for all people. God knows that our hearts are filthy and wretched, but He relents in administering the full justice and punishment that we all deserve. Sure, life is hard on account of the consequences for our abundance of sins; but we have not received ALL of the punishment we deserve. The testimony of Jehoahaz shows that things could be, and should be worse than they are! The testimony of Jehoahaz shows that Psalm 103:10 is historically validated and while God’s mercies are renewed every morning, we’ll never really understand just how much mercy the Lord is ACTUALLY giving us. Ponder this for a while…
The Bible teaches that God’s people are created by God for the purpose of living as individual members as limbs of a body. This is an important concept to understand in order to function properly according to God’s purposes. God made it so that each individual person functions in a unique way according to a unique purpose that God ordained since before the formation of the earth. However, like a human body, each limb and body part is intimately connected to other parts and are dependent on them in order to function properly. If the finger wants to point, it cannot just determine itself that it wants to do so, and then do so on its own. There are commands that it needs to receive from the nervous system, functionality from the muscular and skeletal system, proper blood flow, and so forth. Thus, the “body of Christ” is made up of many members that are individual in nature, but without connection and dependency on one another through Christ, Christians don’t function properly. Like a body part, when a Christian is removed from the body, it will shrivel up and die. Therefore, it is imperative for the children of God to be connected to the body of Christ, unified in purpose to glorify God, otherwise one’s purpose in the Lord is severely compromised.
An example of this truth is displayed through the testimony of King Joash. In 2 Kings 12:17-21 the Bible documents the political circumstances in Judah under the reign of King Joash. The Bible explains that while Joash was king, Hazael the king of Syria waged war against Judah, and had pretty good success. He was able to successfully penetrate Judah all the way down to the city of Gath, which is only about twenty miles southwest of Bethlehem. Here it is important to recall the prophecy of Elisha regarding Hazael. When the prophet Elisha predicted that Hazael would take over as king of Syria, he also prophesied that Hazael would rape and pillage in brutal fashion. Therefore, it was not just as if Hazael moved into cities, but also that he was brutally murdering men, women, and children, setting homes on fire, and plundering in devastating ways. Hazael’s actions were severe and were a serious threat to Judah and Jerusalem.
The Bible explains that Joash responded to these threats in fear and panic. When he learned about how close Hazael was to Jerusalem, and that Hazael was planning to attack Jerusalem, Joash went into the temple and the king’s residence and looted both locations. He took all of the sacred things that Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, and Ahaziah collected and made a part of temple worship. He also went into the king’s residence and did the same, plundering all of the sacred things dedicated to the king and the temple in order to bribe Hazael to relent in his attacks. When Joash heard about the threats of Hazael, he did not inquire of the Lord, but instead took from the Lord’s possessions to pay off Hazael out of fear, and then he fled from Jerusalem.
There are two important points to remember regarding the response of Joash. Recall that Joash was raised by Jehoiada the priest. Jehoiada was a righteous man and did as God commanded according to the Law. When Ahaziah and his mother Athaliah were corrupting Judah, Jehoiada stood firm in his faith and continued to serve the Lord faithfully. He successfully led a rebellion against Athaliah to restore the throne of Judah according to God’s prophetic plans. He took Joash under his wing in order to raise him in the ways of the Lord and the Bible declares that while Jehoiada was alive, Joash did well in the sight of the Lord. When Joash was connected to the godly counsel and leadership of Jehoiada, he did well. When Jehoiada died, Joash did not do well. Though Joash was raised in a Godly home to know God’s righteous standards, he was disconnected from Godly fellowship and so began to decay in his faith as evidenced by his fear of Hazael.
The second point to consider is that Joash plundered the temple in order to pay off Hazael. This is the same temple that Joash sought to restore for twenty-three years. This is the same temple that Joash sought to use Judah’s census money for in order to restore it unto its previous glory. Recall that Joash tried to employ the priests to manage the renovations of the temple but they failed. It was after their failure that Jehoiada intervened to set up a different pay structure, which then enabled the temple to be repaired successfully according to Joash’s original desire. Yet, when faced with challenges that posed threats, Joash was quick to undo the good work that he desired to do earlier in his life when he had the right kinds of friends and leaders in his life. It is true that Joash made mistakes even when he was partnered up with Jehoiada. However, the support he received from the Godly men that surrounded him was effective to produce success that ultimately glorified God. When Jehoiada died, Joash seemingly disconnected himself form Godly fellows and began to rely on his own wisdom and understanding, proving that a member that is severed from the body cannot function properly according to God’s purpose. The good work that Joash previously did was undone by his own hands under these circumstances.
The scriptures go on to explain that Joash was later killed in a conspiracy composed by his own servants. The reason for this conspiracy is documented in the parallel account of Joash’s testimony in 2 Chronicles 24:25-27. There, the Bible explains that Joash began to make foolish choices in idolatry after Jehoiada died. One of Jehoiada’s sons tried to rebuke Joash and the elders that followed the corrupted leadership of Joash, at which point Joash became offended and had the man killed. The servants of Joash were very offended. Joash had killed the son of the man who had been like a father to Joash. Jehoiada saved Joash’s life from the murder spree of Athaliah, rebelled against her, and risked his own life to put Joash into the seat of King David according to God’s will. Joash repaid Jehoiada by killing one of his sons after Jehoiada died. This was a terrible form of betrayal and so the servants of Joash sought to exact their own vengeance against Joash and ultimately killed him. He was later buried in the city of David and then his son Amaziah reigned in his place.
The testimony of Joash is really the tale of two different lives: one life in fellowship with Godly men unto righteous works that glorified God; and one life without fellowship with Godly men unto idolatry, self-righteousness, corruption, fear, and death. The life of Joash is a candid historical illustration of what happens when God’s people decide they don’t need to be linked up with other men and women that are striving to please God according to His righteous commands. The life and testimony of Joash is a clear illustration of what takes place when God’s people seek to live life according to their own wisdom as independent members of a body. Self-severed members are dysfunctional according to God’s purposes, and will shrivel up and die in a miserable manner. The good works that might have taken place at one time while a child of God was in Godly and Biblical fellowship is quickly undone when that fellowship is removed and God’s people are cast aside. If a physical body part cannot accomplish its purpose and survive when separated from the body, how can a member of the body of Christ?