The Bible teaches that when God’s people take sin lightly through compromise, terrible things happen over time. Things that people never imagined of themselves become regular practice. As more people become more tolerant towards ungodliness, even the people of God find it easier to practice ungodliness. The conscience becomes numb to the convictions of the Spirit on account of the increase in perversity. This lascivious manner of thinking can quickly permeate into the homes of God’s own people so that people begin to interpret God’s holiness through flawed human rationale. Over time these people become practitioners of abominations against God, defining their own sense of righteousness, and susceptible to serious judgments from God. The history of the Bible shows that this pattern happens time and time again. No generation is immune to this issue. Many people have suffered greatly on account of simple compromises that blew up into major abominations. While God is merciful, patient, and gracious, He is also just to do the things that He swore concerning judgment.
An example of this sort of issue is presented in the testimony of King Ahaz in 2 Chronicles 28:1-4. Ahaz was the son of Jotham and took over the throne of Judah after his father died. Recall that Jotham did what was right in the sight of the Lord. Jotham sought to obey God’s commands and genuinely sought the wisdom and leadership of the Lord. The Bible says that Jotham was “upright” before the Lord, meaning that Jotham made regular conscious efforts to ensure he was walking in the ways of the Lord by faith in the supremacy of His righteousness. There were some areas of compromise in Jotham’s life however. While Jotham himself didn’t suffer the full consequences of those compromises, those compromises did have an effect on the people of Judah, especially his own family. The scriptures state that while Jotham did well to manage his own faith, he did not exercise his authority as king to remove the “high places” where the people of Judah were sacrificing to idols, worshiping false gods, and committing other abominations towards the Lord, sexual and otherwise. Jotham did well to keep those things out of his own life, but since he did not do well to remove those things from his domain, they eventually had an infectious effect on his home.
When Jotham died, his son Ahaz took over as king at age twenty. He reigned for sixteen years and the Bible states that during that time, he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord. He did not walk according to the faith of King David or his own father. Instead, the Bible teaches that Ahaz walked according to the wicked kings of Israel instead, who had adopted the pagan ways of the Syrians as their normal manner of living. The people of the northern kingdom of Israel had long departed from the Lord. The man named Pekah was king of the northern kingdom during the reign of Ahaz, and while Pekah was king, the people of Israel founded their lives on idolatry. Here, it is interesting to consider that Pekah and the Syrian king Rezin had formed a partnership to attack Ahaz and the people of Judah. Though the people of Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel were enemies of Judah, Ahaz adopted their spiritual manner of living anyway. The evil of Ahaz became so bad that the testimony of 2 Chronicles 28:1-4 confesses that Ahaz sacrificed his own child to a pagan god by burning him on an altar. What can cause a man to do such a thing seeing that he came from a godly household?
Recall that when Jotham was king, he allowed the high places in Judah to remain. This means that Jotham gave people the choice to follow the God of Israel or to worship false deities in order to gratify the desires of their flesh. The testimony of Jotham explains that while Jotham did right in the sight of the Lord, the people of Judah did not. They did not follow Jotham’s leadership. They did not seek the Lord like Jotham did. The scriptures explain that a great number of people in Judah were worshiping idols and making use of the high places more so than the temple. In fact, many of the prophets of God wrote about how the people of Judah tried to sacrifice to false gods and to idols as if it were all the same. Jotham compromised in one area. That compromise enabled the people of Judah to compromise. The compromises of the people of Judah became commonplace over time. Since that influence became the normal manner of living for the people of Judah, it became acceptable for Ahaz when he became king. The Bible shows that when a person becomes accepting of certain evils, it is not long before they become a participant in those same evils.
Eventually Ahaz would have to sell off his household and most of the temple treasuries to enslave himself to the king of Assyria in order to pay him to fend off the northern kingdom of Israel and the Syrians. The miserable circumstances of Ahaz’s life were simply the effects of his decision to adapt to his environment that was corrupted and sinful. He did not have the resolve that his father did. Perhaps in his young age he figured the acceptance of paganism was appropriate for the times. Either way, the scriptures explain that Ahaz became engulfed in paganism to where he was offering sacrifices and burning incense to false gods and idols in the same high places as the other evil people of Judah, and under every tree (sacred places) in Judah.
This is likely not a life that Jotham envisioned for his son. This is certainly not the quality of leadership that God wanted for His people. Still, since the human soul is depraved and craves sin, those who compromise in one small area are actually paving the way for much greater evils to take over. The Bible shows that it doesn’t take much for a person to become consumed in darkness to the point where they totally depart from the Lord. History confirms the Bible as true. The testimony of Ahaz shows what can happen when people lightly consider the depravity of the human heart. The heart is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” When people don’t take this Biblical truth seriously, sin finds opportunity to sneak into the life of the individual, then the household, then the community. In the case of Ahaz, it was Jotham’s acceptance of the wicked standards of the people who dwelt in his domain that later influenced Ahaz. The abominations of Ahaz were not ideas that Ahaz came up with at a whim. They were things that had been percolating into the heart and mind of Ahaz over time because the true extent of evil in the community was not properly dealt with according to God’s righteous standards. When God’s people don’t trust in the seriousness of God’s Word and the warnings of it concerning sin, these are the types of things that happen. Thus, the Bible shows that compromise is simply the bi-product of unbelief. We give in because we don’t think things are truly as God says. This should not be so.
When building a structure, it is important to make sure that things are level and square. An uneven foundation can lead to serious structural problems as the rest of the building is erected. If the foundation is level but the frame is not perpendicular to the foundation, the rest of the structure will be crooked and the structure will be unsound, weak, and unsafe. These are basic and fundamental principles of building and need to be considered with the utmost care in order to ensure the integrity of the structure being built. The Bible actually uses the same sort of language to describe the means by which God’s people should seek Him to ensure sound integrity to our relationship with the Lord. There are certain fundamental things that the Bible instructs God’s people to do in order to ensure sound connection and stability with the Lord. Thankfully, the Bible reveals the testimonies of some of God’s faithful men and women so that we can look to them as examples to see what it looks like to have a strong foundation and connection to the Lord.
The testimony of Jotham is one of those testimonies. In 2 Chronicles 27:1-9 the Bible explains that Jotham became king of Judah after Uzziah died. Jotham was the son of Uzziah and was helpful to his father in the tail-end of his kingship since he had to rule from a distance on account of the leprosy God inflicted him with. Uzziah was quarantined from the people of Judah, and Jotham was helpful to rule as Uzziah’s proxy until he died, at which point Jotham took over for his father full-time. The Bible explains that when Jotham became king, he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. This means that Jotham did according to the Law of God, and abstained from idolatry. The scriptures are specific to mention that while Jotham did well in the manner of his father, he did not make the same mistake as his father, entering the temple to exercise the authority of king and priest. Jotham learned from his father’s mistake and kept from usurping the authority of God’s anointed. He minded his business as king and let the priests to that which they were appointed to do.
This does not mean that all was good in Judah. It is true that Jotham did well concerning his own individual relationship with the Lord, but like other good kings before him, failed to tear down the high places where others were still practicing various abominations of idolatry. This allowed many of the people of Judah to offend the Lord. Though Jotham wasn’t guilty of committing these offenses, he allowed the offenses to continue. As a result, the Bible teaches that while Jotham did well, but the rest of Judah did not follow his lead. The people of Judah lived according to their own standards of righteousness and many of them committed many evils in the sight of the Lord, living corruptly and immorally. The parallel account of Jotham documented in 2 Kings 15:33-38 explains that God began to use the northern kingdom of Israel and Syria as His instrument of judgment to inflict Judah with suffering through various attacks and invasions.
Still, the testimony of 2 Chronicles 27:1-9 speaks well of Jotham as a king. Though the people were evil and ignored the righteous leadership of their king, God made Jotham successful in his endeavors. Jotham was able to build up Judah and increase the value of the land by erecting cities in the mountains, building up the wall of Jerusalem with gates, and defeating the Ammonites. The scriptures state that Jotham became a mighty king, and explains the reason why God made him mighty. The Bible says that Jotham “prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” The word “prepare” in the original Hebrew language is a term that describes uprightness. It literally refers to one element being perpendicular to another. In terms of “uprightness,” it describes the process of ensuring a supporting structure is level, perpendicular, and properly secured to its foundation. It describes a supporting structure that is straight and likely to do its job with sound integrity. This was the manner in which Jotham sought the Lord.
In order to ensure the uprightness of a beam to its foundation, it is important to properly measure, pay attention to its position, and fasten the beam properly with purpose, attention, and care. Jotham sought the Lord in the same manner. He was considered “upright” in the eyes of the Lord, referring to the approval that God attributed to Jotham on account of faith. The faith of Jotham is evident by the care that he took to nurture a solid relationship with the Lord. Jotham properly measured his conduct by paying attention to the standards of God’s righteousness in the Law. Jotham ensured that his conduct and manner of thinking were fixed upon the foundation of the Law as the supreme standard of righteousness. Jotham was fastened to the righteousness of God through the Law by keeping the Law with purpose, paying attention to the Lord, and approaching the statutes and ordinances of the Law with great care. The affection and attention was the result of Jotham’s faith that God’s righteousness was supreme. Jotham was so affectionate towards the things of God that the scriptures are clear to communicate that Jotham considered the Lord his own personal God. In other words, Jotham had a personal relationship with the Lord according to Jotham’s faith in the supremacy of God’s righteousness, and his diligence to walk uprightly in the ways of the Lord.
The testimony of Jotham is short even though he reigned for sixteen years. The scriptures are sure to explain the most important points of Jotham’s life – at least from God’s perspective. While Jotham led well and was successful in build up the cities of his people, his success was on account of his relationship with the Lord. Still, this doesn’t mean that Jotham had a comfortable life of simplicity. Jotham fought wars. Jotham dealt with rebellious people that denied God. Jotham suffered the resonating consequences of God’s judgment concerning the spiritual indifference of God’s people. Though Jotham himself was upright before the Lord, the circumstances around Jotham were crooked and corrupted. Thankfully, the Lord promises to preserve the spiritual integrity of those who walk uprightly with Him so that regardless of the surrounding circumstances, the spiritual integrity of God’s people is sound and secure, being properly fixed to the Rock of salvation as the foundation of life!
When God created the heavens and the earth, He made everything mature in its ability, but the ability that each living thing demonstrated was the direct result of God’s own provision. God made trees and other forms of vegetation on the third day, and on that day, they were already mature and able to grow fruit. However, the fruit that those trees and plants produced was on account of God’s own ability. The same could be said of the sea creatures, the birds of the air, and the living animals that dwelt on the planet’s surface. The same is especially true of mankind. When God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, Adam was a mature man. Adam was created with the physical makeup to walk, talk, work, and reproduce. However, it was not until God breathed upon Adam that his body was given functionality. The scriptures teach that God breathes life into all living things by His Spirit. In Job 33:4 the Bible says, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” This means that, if not for the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, filling our lungs and engaging our hearts, we wouldn’t be able to do anything, no matter the physical condition of our bodies.
This is an important principle to understand, especially as it relates to humility and meekness. Jesus taught that the meek will inherit the earth as beneficiaries of His own inheritance. Meekness is described as the forfeiture of strength when strength could be demonstrated. It goes along the lines of humility to describe someone that could show something of themselves to bring attention to self, but decides not to. The quality of meekness that Jesus referred to describes someone who could physically get through a day without any major trouble, but instead decides to depend on the Lord, not leaning on their own understanding, ability, or experience. This sort of person would confess that, while they might be physically and mentally able, that ability cannot exist unless the Lord provides it. This way of thinking is one of the keys to walking with the Lord in a fruitful manner. Those who truly know who the Lord is and walk with Him understand that it is impossible to walk in any sort of manner unless God provides the ability. Since this is true of simple physical things, how much more concerning deep spiritual things?
Unfortunately, this is a simple truth that many people throughout history have struggled to keep in mind, thereby taking it upon themselves to live life according to their own understanding, ability, and experience. When people do this, disaster usually follows at some point in time. History shows that people have a tendency of thinking too highly of self, making rash decisions by habit, living outside of the parameters of God’s will, and suffering terrible consequences as a result. This is exactly what happened to King Uzziah. The testimony of King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 explains that Uzziah had a tough time dealing with the success and prosperity that God brought to him. The scriptures explain that Uzziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He considered God’s commands and did his part to do what God said in the Law. More importantly, Uzziah sought the Lord, meaning that his obedience to the Law was not merely outward performance to look religious. Uzziah valued the righteousness of God and sought to do things God’s way because he felt they were supremely good.
As a result, God prospered Uzziah and Judah. The Lord “helped” the people of Judah by relieving them of the difficulties that they experienced previously because of their idolatry. God had depleted Judah’s military, shrank their influence, and diminished their resources. Under Uzziah, God’s “help” was made manifest through the 100-fold increase of their military resources and power, the manufacturing of structures for their protection, the expansion of their reach of influence, and overall God was glorified by the success He gave to Uzziah. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 explains that Uzziah soon forgot that it was God providing all of the increase, prosperity, growth, and success. The scriptures state that Uzziah’s heart was “lifted up.” This means that he became proud within himself, considering the growth and prosperity of Judah to be the work of his own hands rather than God’s. As a result, Uzziah thought of himself more highly than he was and did things that were beyond God’s will for him. This got Uzziah into trouble to the extent that he suffered the rest of his life from the consequences of his pride.
When Uzziah recognized the growth that God provided, he did not thank God, praise God, or attribute glory to God. Instead, Uzziah got caught up in the hype and excitement of the growth and restoration so that he figured his own hand to be strong to do certain things. One of the things that Uzziah felt he was qualified to do was to give offerings in the temple. The Bible explains that when Uzziah’s heart was lifted up, he took it upon himself to burn incense on the altar of incense in the temple. While Uzziah might have been physically able to perform this simple task, the Bible provides very clear instruction about the manner in which these offerings were to be given. The Law was clear to state that only the Levitical priests were permitted to burn incense on the altar of incense. God had appointed specific people to conduct specific duties in the temple. These appointments were not a secret to anyone, especially Uzziah. Still, Uzziah took it upon himself to abuse his authority as king to usurp the authority of the priests.
When the priests heard that Uzziah was doing this, they went to warn him and tried to get him to stop. Uzziah would not heed their words. He figured that since he was physically able to do the work, and had been used to do great things for the people of Judah, that he was entitled to offer his own offerings and perform his own rituals. Uzziah had forgotten that without the ability that God provided, he would not have had the ability to breathe, let alone prosper Judah. Since he had forgotten this fundamental truth, he took it upon himself to do what he felt was right in his own heart rather than consider the holiness, righteousness, and power of the Lord God Almighty. To remind Uzziah about who He is, God struck Uzziah with leprosy as the priests were telling Uzziah to stop burning the incense. Uzziah swung the censer used to burn the incense at the priests because he was offended, and as he did so, the Lord made leprosy break out on his face! The priests became terrified, and their fear made Uzziah concerned. Uzziah’s concern led him to realize what the Lord had done.
Uzziah was not only kicked out of the temple that day, but for the rest of his life on account of his leprosy. The Bible teaches that Uzziah’s leprosy never left him. In fact, since those who suffered from leprosy had to be quarantined, Uzziah had to engage in the duties as king of Judah through his son Azariah as a proxy. Uzziah eventually died after fifty-two years of reigning in Judah, but the end of his kingship was bitter and sad. Had Uzziah sought the Lord in the end of his life as he did at the beginning, he likely would have not grown prideful about the work that the Lord was doing through him. As a result, Uzziah would not have considered himself to be able to do anything he pleased, would have humbled himself before God, kept from doing the work of the priests, and would have never contracted the leprosy that caused him to be despised and separated for the rest of his life. Here, the scriptures teach that when people think too highly of themselves, there is a tendency to do things outside of God’s will. People feel they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. That is not true. Those who remember the truth of scripture, that unless God breathes life into us and enables us, we are mere dirt and clay, are those who remain humble and are more likely to keep from going outside of the bounds of God’s will and purposes. God truly resists the proud as seen in the testimony of Uzziah. Thankfully, God also gives grace to the humble who acknowledge that without Him, we are nothing.
There is an incorrect belief that God helps people who help themselves. This belief not only reflects ignorance to the scriptures, but also ignorance to the identity of the Father, the Son, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Bible indeed teaches that God is a Helper. In Psalm 37:40 the Bible teaches that God provides help by delivering His people from wickedness. In Psalm 54:4 the Bible teaches that God’s help is sufficient to uphold the soul. In Isaiah 41:10 the Lord promises to help His people – the children of Israel – with the right hand of His righteousness, referring to the Messiah. Later in that same chapter, the Lord explains that the help He provides will come by the means of Israel’s Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. In all of these scriptures that refer to the help of the Lord, the circumstances of those who receive the help of the Lord resemble those who are totally depleted of strength, wisdom, and ability. How can God help those who help themselves if those how are supposed to help themselves lack the ability to do so? According to the Bible, the Lord helps those who trust in His strength, wisdom, and ability through meekness and humility. Thus, those who seek the Lord and His righteousness are those who receive the help of the Lord, not those who trust in self as if they can match the ability of the Lord.
Part of the reason God’s “help” has been misunderstood is because many people fail to consider how God offers help. Many times, people desire the “help” of the Lord in order to get a little extra push toward the direction of selfish ambition. In other words, people desire the affections of their flesh and expect the Lord to offer “help” by enabling the fulfillment of those desires. That is not how the Bible describes the Lord’s help. Though the help of the Lord sometimes involves changes to physical circumstances, the scriptural description of God’s help shows that His chief aim is to enable rest for the human soul through forgiveness of sins by His Holy One of Israel, the Messiah Jesus Christ. The Lord’s “help” transcends circumstances though it will often affect circumstances. Proof of these principles can be clearly seen through the testimony of Uzziah, which is documented in 2 Chronicles 26:6-15.
The historical narrative of Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:6-15 documents some of the victories that Uzziah enjoyed during his kingship. The beginning of Uzziah’s testimony explained that he did right in the sight of the Lord by keeping God’s commands, but also sought the Lord in his heart. Uzziah didn’t just have an outward form of religion to look pious in front of others, but genuinely desired the Lord and His purposes. According to God’s covenant of the Law of Moses, God swore that He would increase those who sought His righteousness through the Law by faith. This doesn’t mean that those who followed commands simply to check off boxes of tasks would receive the Lord’s favor. God examines the heart, and is not focused on outward appearance. Instead, God promised to increase those who obeyed the Law because they trusted in the supremacy of God’s righteousness and sought to please the Lord rather than receive praises from others. This is how Uzziah lived through the majority of his kingship.
As a result, God showed His faithfulness by increasing Uzziah and making him “prosperous.” The prosperity of Uzziah was made manifest through the success God provided for him according to his responsibilities as the king of Judah. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 26:6-15 explains that Uzziah fought against the Philistines and had success and victory. Since Uzziah was able to defeat the Philistines, he was able to expand the boarders of Judah, built up towers and strongholds, and strengthen Judah’s military. The Bible explains that Uzziah built up towers in Jerusalem and that the Lord increased the army of Judah to a great number. Uzziah had chief officers numbering 2,600 and an army that grew up to 307,500. Uzziah created new fighting weapons that projected arrows from towers in ways that had never been seen before, and Judah was feared by the neighboring peoples once again.
In addition, Uzziah was able to expand the agricultural growth of Judah as well. The scriptures state that Uzziah was interested in farming. He loved the soil and did well to take care of the farming land in Judah. The cattle of the people multiplied and the vinedressers flourished under the leadership of Uzziah. The Bible explains that all of Judah thrived under the rule of Uzziah on account of the prosperity that God brought to him. Uzziah sought the Lord and His righteousness, and as a result, the Lord fulfilled His promise to increase His people in order to exalt His own name as the source of Judah’s increase.
The scriptures describe the prosperity of Judah in an interesting manner. The Bible explains that the Lord “helped” Uzziah. The original Hebrew word for “help” is the Hebrew word “azar,” which means to succor or support. The English dictionary defines the word “succor” as something that furnishes relief. This teaches that God’s help comes in the form of “relief.” This teaches that the increase that God provided to the people of Judah, while is referred to as “prosperity,” came in the form of “relief.” In order to make sense of this description, it is important to recall the condition of Judah before Uzziah became king.
What was God relieving Judah from that His work in Judah during the reign of Uzziah was considered “relief?” Recall that Uzziah’s father Amaziah did right in the sight of the Lord in outward appearance, but was an idolater at heart. He desired the praises of men and women more than he desired to please the Lord. Amaziah struggled with trusting the righteousness of God as supreme so that he spent much of his life compromising God’s values and morals through idolatry. As a result, God brought judgment to Judah. All of Judah suffered because Amaziah’s idolatry was exemplary of most of the people of Judah. The scriptures explain that Judah was defeated in battle. The borders of Judah shrank. The military resources in Judah were severely depleted. The people of Judah were occupied by unrighteous peoples, even their own brethren from the northern kingdom of Israel. The people of Judah were made poor and Amaziah eventually became a prisoner in his own capitol and then killed by his own people.
When Uzziah became king, he was only age sixteen, but depended on the Lord and His righteousness to do his job as king. As a result, the Lord provided “help” by relieving Judah of the circumstances that plagued them on account of unfaithfulness, idolatry, and self-seeking. It is important to notice that, while Uzziah enjoyed circumstantial increase, the increase that God provided as “help” was the manifestation of God’s faithfulness to previously made promises. Recall that God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the children of Israel would be a great nation, dwelling safely in the land, as a blessing to all the families of the earth on account of Messiah. Notice how the expansion of Judah’s borders, the increase of Judah’s resources, and the increase of Judah’s influence in the region resembled God’s progress towards the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This shows that the help God provided was not simply to increase Uzziah and the people of Judah, but to prove Himself faithful and able to fulfill His covenants. While Uzziah and the people of Judah were beneficiaries of God’s help, the help that God provide was made manifest through the relief of the weakness that sin brought to His people.
This is why the Bible associates God’s help with the Messiah so often. God’s chief aim is to “help” His people by providing relief from the weaknesses that sin causes in the lives of His people. Though God’s “help” sometimes improves physical circumstances, that is only a fringe benefit of the greater work that God does concerning the souls of His people in order to exalt His good, right, and faithful name. God “helped” Uzziah by delivering them from the weaknesses of Judah’s sin that came through God’s judgments. God “helped” Uzziah by increasing Judah in ways that He previously promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. God increased Judah as a testimony to His own mercy, grace, patience, and faithfulness to reveal His glory through the children of Israel, especially in Judah and Jerusalem. This is the means by which God offers help as our Deliverer, Redeemer, and Savior. God is not interested in enabling His people to fulfill selfish desires for the sake of their personal comforts and affections. God desires to relieve His people from the burdens and weaknesses that we experience because of sin and depravity. When God helps people in this way unto the benefits of our souls, then God’s people are genuinely compelled to praise His name and worship His eternally holy and awesome purposes. Those who seek the Lord in the manner that Uzziah did are those who receive the benefits of God’s help in this way.
In the Sermon on the Mount documented in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things shall be added unto you.” The key word to this phrase deals with the command to “seek.” The word “seek” describes a persistent pursuit. It requires the one seeking to look for something until that thing is found. The word “seek” requires one to look into by thinking, meditating, reasoning, and inquiring into. When Jesus gave the command to “seek,” He was not instructing His followers to be passive, nonchalant, or indifferent in their pursuit. Instead, true followers of Jesus Christ are to pursue the kingdom of God (His eternal purposes and the fulfillment of His eternally unconditional promises) and His righteousness. This requires the people of God to think about God’s righteousness and His promise to administrate His righteousness through His kingdom. We are to meditate about God’s righteousness and His promises concerning the revelation of Messiah so as to consume our minds with this future hope. We are to reason within ourselves to consider the value of God’s promises delivered through Jesus and through Israel. We are to inquire into God’s righteousness and His promises by examining the scriptures to understand why God is so good.
This sort of seeking requires time, energy, and effort. When we commit this sort of time, energy, and effort into the pursuit of God’s righteousness and His eternal purposes, we are demonstrating an inward faith that we trust God’s righteousness and His eternal purposes to be supremely valuable. Instead of pursuing selfish ambitions and personal goals or desires, we forfeit those liberties in order to seek the Lord and His purposes because we trust that they are supremely good and valuable. This is not just a New Testament principle. This has always been the means by which God desires His people to demonstrate faith in His righteousness and His promises. When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, He assured His followers that when we live to pursue the Lord, He will ensure all of our basic needs are met. In other words, God will equip and reward our pursuit. This has always been God’s manner of work and how God demonstrates His goodness as evidenced through the testimony of King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:1-5.
The testimony of King Uzziah teaches that he became king of Judah at a young age. His father Amaziah was killed when Uzziah was only sixteen years old. Therefore, Uzziah (also referred to as Azariah) was forced to become king quickly. Recall that Amaziah did not finish his kingship well. At the end of Amaziah’s life, he fell into idolatry, became proud in his selfish ambitions, and put Judah in a miserable state of defeat. He fought against the northern kingdom of Israel, lost the battle, was taken captive in Jerusalem, saw Israel destroy a major section of the Jerusalem wall, and many people were plundered and killed. The southern kingdom of Judah was in a very weakened state on account of the sins of the people. This is the environment that Uzziah became king at the age of sixteen. How could a boy succeed as king at such a young age in such circumstances? Here, the Bible proves that when God’s people seek Him first, He is able and willing to equip His people for ANY job that He appoints, no matter the difficulties.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 26:1-5 explains that Uzziah was able to reign for fifty-two years! This is an incredible number when considering the length of the other kings of Israel and Judah. This was the longest rule of any king in Judah or Israel, and the reign started when he was only sixteen years old. While the length of Uzziah’s reign and the success of it was ultimately the results of God’s grace, the testimony of Uzziah does make a compelling statement to consider in the context of the length of his rule. The Bible teaches that Uzziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord in the likeness of his father Amaziah. Here, it is important to recall the testimony of Amaziah. Amaziah obeyed the laws and commands of God. Though his heart became more affectionate for the things of his flesh as his life went on, the Bible explains that Amaziah sought to do what was right in the sight of the Lord according to His commands in the Law for the most part. Where Amaziah was flawed was in that he tried to serve the Lord AND himself at the same time; seeking to please God by obedience to statutes while also seeking to please people to gratify his ego. For Uzziah, he sought to obey the commands of the Lord too, only with a more loyal heart fixed on pleasing God internally, not just outwardly through religious works.
The Bible provides details about Uzziah’s righteousness. It says that Uzziah sought the Lord, especially in the days of Zechariah, a prophet that had great understanding concerning the revelation of God. When Uzziah had access to God’s truth, he was stirred up in his heart to desire the things of God and was willing to forgo the affection of his flesh in order to do what God said. When the Bible says that Uzziah “sought God,” it uses a very strong Hebrew word to describe the conduct and attitude of Uzziah concerning God. The Hebrew word describing Uzziah’s pursuit of God literally means “to frequent.” It refers to treading a path frequently, or even to “beat the path.” This word would describe a person that is walking down a road with purpose, so as to be confident in the direction of their steps, and is even repeatedly going down this same path so as to “beat it” or “trample it.” This is how Uzziah sought the Lord.
Uzziah went down the path of God’s will. Uzziah followed the revelation of God as it was given to him from prophets like Zechariah. Uzziah repeatedly went down the road of God’s righteousness so as to follow His footsteps and walk according to His direction and purposes. Uzziah walked in this direction with confidence. Thus, while Uzziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord by obeying commands of the Law, he did so because he trusted in the supreme nature of God’s righteousness. His obedience to commands was not merely outward religious performance to impress others around him. Uzziah’s commitment to the Law was a reflection of his inward faith; that he believed God’s ways, His path, His direction, His righteousness, His kingdom, His purposes and promises were supremely good and valuable. Long before Jesus gave the command to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” Uzziah was doing it!
This doesn’t mean that Uzziah was perfect in all that he did. The Bible explains that, while he abstained from idolatry, he failed to destroy the high places where idols were worshiped in Judah, and overstepped his authority later in his life. Nevertheless, the overall rule of Uzziah was good and God responded according to His faithfulness to His promises in the Law. Since Uzziah sought the Lord and His righteousness in the right manner (with his heart), God kept up His end of the covenant of the Law. God made Uzziah prosper. This doesn’t necessarily mean that God made Uzziah rich. It means that God made Uzziah successful in the things that he did. Since Uzziah sought to walk the road that God led by, God enabled Uzziah to do so. The success that God provided Uzziah is made tangibly evident by the length of his kingship. Though Uzziah came into the throne with no experience in life, let alone as a king, he endured the difficulty of ungodly circumstances for longer than any other king in Jewish history! Uzziah’s prosperity didn’t mean that his kingship was easy. Uzziah dealt with some incredible difficulties throughout the duration of his rule. Still, God ensured that Uzziah was successful in the ways that he dealt with those difficulties because Uzziah sought to do things God’s way for the most part.
The success of Uzziah is not measured by the increase of his riches or even his influence. The success of Uzziah is Biblically measured by the endurance and wisdom God provided to overcome difficulties and successes according to God’s own righteousness because Uzziah sought to do things God’s ways instead of His own. This is what it is to seek the Lord. This is what it is to prosper while doing so. This is ultimately what Jesus referred to as well in the New Testament to show that God’s preferences, purposes, and promises never change.
When people turn from following the Lord to pursue their personal and selfish ambitions that are contrary to God’s purposes, nothing good happens. The result of these sorts of pursuits always ends in calamity. The Bible teaches that God is the essence of goodness. The Bible teaches that the essence of God is light. The Bible teaches that God alone is wise. The Bible teaches that God is the essence of love. When people depart from the Lord to pursue selfish ambitions that aren’t in line with God’s purposes, they will inevitably separate themselves from goodness, light, wisdom, and love. As a result, their lives will become more and more filled with evil, darkness, foolishness, and bitterness. Life will become full of chaos, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and stress. Unless there is repentance, the changing of the mind to depart from selfish ambition in order to turn to the Lord and His eternally-centered purposes concerning the Gospel, life will continue to grow darker and more dissatisfying unto destruction.
Evidence of this truth is found in the testimony of King Amaziah. In 2 Chronicles 25:17-28 the Bible testifies that Amaziah’s desire to receive praises from people and to be exalted by others had consumed him. After the Lord provided mercy and grace to Amaziah to defeat the Edomites, Amaziah grew prideful, which fed into his pursuit of flattery and a pursuit to receive praise. Amaziah adopted the pagan practices of the Edomites and worshiped their gods even though the Lord was merciful to send a prophet to warn him of the consequences of his foolishness. Though the false gods of the Edomites were not strong enough to help the Edomites against the Lord, Amaziah was stimulated by their appearance and began to worship them. This shows that when people begin to feel more highly about themselves and their abilities, esteeming themselves in their own minds, there is a natural tendency to place an emphasis on the value of that which can be seen rather than the spiritual and eternal things of God.
When the Lord sent his prophet to warn Amaziah, the king was offended and sent him away, at which point the man of God prophesied that God was determined to destroy Amaziah because of his idolatry and unwillingness to repent. Amaziah’s rejection of the prophet was evidence of his inward rejection of God’s mercy and grace. Those who reject God’s mercy and grace through an unwillingness to repent from sin to confess fault and receive forgiveness are guilty of rejecting God Himself. Thus, God’s determination to destroy Amaziah was merely the natural effects of what happens when people desire darkness instead of light. Since Amaziah was not willing to seek the counsel of God’s prophets, he sought the wisdom and counsel of men who spoke flattery. Amaziah wasn’t interested in hearing truth. He was interested in having his ears tickled by men who advised things that seemed pleasing to his selfish ambitions.
The scriptures explain that Amaziah asked advise from the men that flattered his personal goals, who then advised him to fight against the northern kingdom of Israel. Recall that when Amaziah obeyed the commands of God before, to send the mercenary men of Israel back home rather than fight with them, those mercenaries plundered the cities of Judah on their way home, killing three thousand people and robbing homes along the way. God never commanded Amaziah to exact revenge, but the advisors of Amaziah counseled him to do so anyway. Seeking the approval of men rather than God, Amaziah accepted the unwise counsel from his advisors and set out to fight against King Jehoash and the northern kingdom of Israel. The king of Israel, Jehoash, tried to talk Amaziah down. Jehoash told Amaziah that he would be crushed like a wild beast trampling over a small tumbleweed. Even the ungodly king of Israel recognized that Amaziah’s desire to fight against Israel was on account of pride. Jehoash knew that Amaziah was prideful about his victory over the Edomites, but that he would not be able to win against Israel. God even used Jehoash to provide Amaziah mercy as Jehoash tried to talk Amaziah out of the fight. Amaziah would not accept the wisdom of Jehoash and sought to fight Israel anyway.
The scriptures explain that Amaziah was defeated just like Jehoash warned. The army of Judah was scattered and humiliated. Amaziah himself was captured by Jehoash, taken to Jerusalem as a captive, and was forced to watch the people of the northern kingdom of Israel destroy a major section of the wall in Jerusalem. Jehoash took many people hostage in Judah and Amaziah was completely embarrassed and humbled as a prisoner of war and defeated foe. Eventually, Jehoash died and Amaziah lived fifteen years after the death of Israel’s king. After Jehoash died, his son Jeroboam II became king and at some point, let Amaziah free from his captivity in Jerusalem. However, because Amaziah never repented, the Lord’s determination to destroy him remained. The Bible testifies that some of Amaziah’s own servants conspired to kill him after he was released from his imprisonment, and even though he tried to flee, his servants eventually caught up with him and killed him. He was then buried in the city of David as was customary for the kings of Judah.
The scriptures provide an interesting detail regarding Amaziah’s decision to fight against Jehoash. The loss to Jehoash was a devastating event in Amaziah’s life that caused a downward spiral of darkness unto his death. Had Amaziah kept from fighting Jehoash, he might have not suffered as greatly as he did. Yet the testimony of 2 Chronicles 25:17-28 explains that Amaziah would not heed the warning of Jehoash because God wouldn’t let him. In other words, God kept Amaziah from exercising wisdom. God kept Amaziah from doing what was right. The scriptures clearly state that God was determined to destroy Amaziah, and would use the hand of Amaziah’s enemies to do so. God simply amplified the pride of Amaziah, which caused him to reject wisdom, walk down the road of foolishness, and suffer destruction.
The Book of Romans teaches that when people continue to reject God in order to live life by their own standards, pursuing the praises of people rather than God, the Lord gives them over to a “debased mind.” This description refers to a mind that is cast away and rejected because of it is unfit or unproved. A person that is determined to live by their own standards does not meet God’s approval without repentance. Those who continue to reject God’s mercy and offer of forgiveness are those who are eventually given over to the natural consequences of a debased mind. Since a debased mind is unapproved by God, it is unable to receive the benefits of God’s goodness, direction, wisdom, and love. Thus, a debased mind is only able to produce bad ideas, plans that lead to chaos and destruction, foolishness, and darkness.
This is what happened to Amaziah. Amaziah was once afraid to fight against the Edomites because of the inadequacy of his own army. He sought to leverage the strength of Israel’s army for help, yet later sought to fight against Israel with an army that he once viewed as inadequate and weak. This doesn’t make sense. This is because a debased mind doesn’t make sense. A debased mind will convince a person that foolishness is wisdom. A debased mind will convince a person that wrong is right. A debased mind will convince a person that dark is light. This is what happened to Amaziah so that he couldn’t recognize the truth of his circumstances even when he was warned. He was blinded by his selfish ambitions and the people he surrounded himself with to encourage his pride. As a result, he suffered the consequences of his rebellion against God. After Amaziah rejected the offer of God’s mercy from the prophet, the evil of Amaziah’s heart was confirmed and God simply gave Amaziah over to the natural consequences of that evil. God exercised His sovereign control to use the army of Israel to exact judgment against Amaziah, and because Amaziah never repented, he suffered the destruction that God was determined to do. This is the life of the unrepentant.
Historically, human beings have proven that we don’t do well with admitting fault. Time has shown that people don’t like seeing their faults and then confessing weakness or failure. This can become a massive issue in terms of our relationship with the Lord. The Bible teaches that none are righteous, no not one. This means that there isn’t a single person that is able to do right in the sight of God. In order to be pleasing to God, we must first admit our faults as the Lord reveals them. This is difficult because we as people have a natural habit of hating to hear about our faults. We don’t want to hear about our weaknesses. We don’t like to think about our deficiencies. The pursuit of mankind has always been to hide faults with the pursuit of self-made glory through the fulfillment of personal dreams and aspirations. Unfortunately, history, whether Biblical or otherwise, proves that hiding faults doesn’t do any good. When God reveals a flaw in our thinking or our conduct, the Bible teaches that we should confess those faults and repent; not try to hide or ignore. When people don’t receive the correction of the Lord, people grow distant from God, which is never a good thing.
This idea can be clearly seen in the testimony of Amaziah. Recall that when the testimony of Amaziah began, the Bible said that he did what was “right in the sight of the Lord,” but did so with a “disloyal” heart. This means that he did what God’s Law commanded, but his heart was never set on submitting to the Lord and His righteousness. Amaziah had an outward appearance of religion, but no genuine spiritual connection to the Lord Himself. More often than not, the Bible attributes pride and self-righteousness to the cause of this problem. God resists the proud. Hence, those who are pridefully content to set their hearts on personal affections rather than humbly submitting to the Lord and His purposes in dependency on Him, are likely to be distant from Him. This was the case for Amaziah. While he might have appeared to be a religious person doing things related to God’s Word, his heart was set on doing things his own ways in order to exalt himself by his own standards. Amaziah was unwilling to confess his depravity as a sinner in order to allow his works to be done by humble faith. As a result, his relationship with the Lord was corrupted.
Amaziah’s pride is candidly exposed in the testimony of 2 Chronicles 25:14-16. Here, the Bible states that Amaziah fell into the temptation of his flesh and consciously distanced himself from God as a result. The Bible testifies that Amaziah went out to fight against the Edomites. At first he was insecure about the size of his army and so he paid one hundred talents to mercenaries from the northern kingdom of Israel to fight with him. God sent a prophet to call Amaziah to shed his original plans and fight the Edomites without the men from Israel. God’s reasons for this was that the men from the northern kingdom of Israel were corrupted men that had fully given their lives over to paganism. They were unequally yoked with the men of Judah. The men of Judah had issues with idolatry as well, but they were not yet as far removed from God as the men from Israel. God wanted to preserve His relationship with the men of Judah, and so He commanded Amaziah to send the men of Israel home.
Amaziah was taken aback at first, but eventually complied to God’s command. Amaziah accepted the loss of payment that he had previously made to the men of Israel and went out to fight with only the men of Judah. The Lord was faithful to bring him victory, but Amaziah didn’t handle the victory well. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 25:14-16 explains that Amaziah found idols and false gods among the spoils that they took from the Edomites. Rather than destroy them, Amaziah began to grow affectionate towards them and worship them. Though the Lord had been merciful to Amaziah and shown him favor, Amaziah’s heart quickly grew cold to the Lord and affectionate towards silly idols and things that were pleasing to his eyes. God was not pleased with this. Though God would have been right and just to destroy Amaziah at the moment his heart turned towards those false gods, God was patient and merciful again. He sent another prophet to Amaziah to provide another warning about his current course, commanding Amaziah to repent again. Amaziah did not respond with the same obedience as before.
The scriptures testify that when the man of God approached Amaziah about the idols, Amaziah grew offended very quickly. Amaziah didn’t consider how the Lord was restraining His anger. Amaziah didn’t consider how the Lord was delaying judgment. Amaziah didn’t consider how the Lord was extending mercy. Amaziah didn’t consider the grace that was being offered through the opportunity to confess fault, seek forgiveness, and walk in repentance. Instead, Amaziah was angry in return because of the point that the prophet made about the idols Amaziah grew fond of. Amaziah didn’t like that the prophet was criticizing his decisions and personal tastes. Still, the divine message and logic of the prophet’s charge were right. The prophet said to Amaziah, “Why have you sought the gods of the people, which could not rescue their own people from your hand?”
The question is perfectly sound. The question that the prophet posed to Amaziah isn’t accusatory, but logical. Why walk down the road proven to lead to destruction? Why undertake a lifestyle that is proven to fail? Why identify with the foolish? Why live among the dead? Why would Amaziah be affectionate for gods that were proven to be failures by the works of his own hands? This is the plea that God would make to all people living at all times. He is God and there is no other. Why put trust in any other thing? God is eternal and the world that we live in and know is passing away. Why put trust in anything of this life? Though the natural desires of our flesh is to trust in self and cling to things of this world, we are wrong. There isn’t a single soul that has ever lived (other than Jesus) that hasn’t been wrong in this area. Since we are all wrong, the manner in which we respond to this understanding is critical.
Amaziah did not respond appropriately. The Bible explains that he let his anger and offense consume him. Amaziah was offended with the prophet pointing out the flaws of his decisions. Amaziah didn’t like being told that the things he was doing were foolish and fruitless. Instead of confess his fault, he rebuked the prophet and sent him away, ultimately denying the mercy and grace that God was extending. Amaziah told the prophet, “Have we made you the king’s counselor? Cease!” In other words, Amaziah rejected the wisdom of the prophet saying something along the lines of, “Who do you think you are?” This is a common response from many people, and has been a common statement for many unrepentant and hard-hearted people. The prophet of God never made any mention of his own authority. The prophet of God never spoke in a manner that elevated himself above Amaziah. Simply put, Amaziah didn’t like his flaws being exposed. Therefore, he sent the prophet and God’s mercy away.
When the prophet left, he let Amaziah know how his decision would play out. The prophet confessed that God was determined to destroy Amaziah. The prophet knew that God doesn’t tolerate idolatry and does not tolerate the rejection of His mercy and grace. He is patient, but His patience doesn’t last forever. Those who continually reject the opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness by refusing to confess and admit fault, will one day find that God’s offer of grace is too distant to find. A life spent walking away from the Lord makes His grace hard to see when consumed by the darkness of “self.” The prophet said that Amaziah would suffer God’s judgment, not just because of his idolatry, but also because he didn’t repent. People have always been idolatrous in nature. If God’s favor was only available to those who weren’t idolatrous, no one would receive God’s favor. The expectation of God is not to make corrections ourselves unto righteousness. We aren’t righteous so can’t produce righteousness on our own. Instead, God wants us to receive the revelation of His righteousness, confess our faults and that we can’t measure up to His righteousness, and turn to Him in humility and dependency on His righteousness. Amaziah didn’t do that. He wouldn’t confess his fault. He wouldn’t admit that he was wrong. He wouldn’t depart from his natural affections and ways of thinking. He would humble himself and turn to God. Thus, he wouldn’t receive the benefits of God’s mercy and grace.
Often times people make plans only to find out that the plans that were made were bad plans. How do we respond to those realizations? The scriptures teach that people are extremely limited in understand. Without the Lord, we don’t have wisdom. Additionally, God’s ways are not like our ways and His thoughts are not like our thoughts. This means that we can make plans and decisions that seem like the Lord’s will, only to find out later that we were wrong. The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Often times, our plans reflect personal and selfish ambition, but we are often able to discern this truth. Sometimes we can be knee deep into our plans only to find out once we’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and money that we’re going the wrong way. Our plans were not God’s will. Our actions were reflective of personal ambition, not God’s purposes. How do we respond to the circumstances when we discover these things? The Bible explains that God’s people should respond in humility. God understands that that we often make foolish decisions and go in the wrong direction. He is patient and merciful with us to turn us into the right direction, but that is only helpful to those who heed the Word and warnings that the Lord gives. Thus, God’s people are expected to submit to God’s warnings and leadership, forsake the incorrect ways we were going, and trust the Lord concerning any losses incurred. This isn’t always easy, but is right nonetheless.
An example of these types of circumstances can be seen in the testimony of King Amaziah. In 2 Chronicles 25:5-13 the Bible explains that Amaziah sought to war against the people of Edom. The Bible doesn’t explain what Amaziah’s motives were. The scriptures don’t show that God commanded Amaziah to fight against Edom, and doesn’t state that the Edomites were causing any sort of issues at that time. The cause of the fight is not the focus of scripture. Instead, the Bible focuses on explaining the way that Amaziah handled the fight. When Amaziah set out to fight against the Edomites, he gathered his men that totaled about three hundred thousand. First, it is important to consider this number. In 2 Chronicles Chapter 17 the Bible explains that God increased the power and strength of Judah’s army and provides the number of captains and mighty men that King Jehoshaphat had access to at that time. The scriptures testify that Jehoshaphat counted 1,160,000 besides those who were regularly employed to protect the fortified cities in Judah. This is a much greater number than the meager 300,000 that Amaziah could amass to fight the Edomites. This goes to show the tragic consequences of sin. Clearly, sin weakens the people of God, not only spiritually, but mentally and physically as well. Though the size of Amaziah’s army seems like a decent number of soldiers equipped for war, it is reflective of great weakening that God had been doing over the previous generations.
This reality didn’t discourage Amaziah. However, Amaziah did recognize that his three hundred thousand men were insufficient to take into battle in his mind. Therefore, he took one hundred talents of silver and paid one hundred thousand more men from the northern kingdom of Israel and hired them as mercenaries to fight alongside the armies of Judah. This is a problem. Recall that, even as far back as the time of Jehoshaphat, that the northern kingdom of Israel was an idolatrous nation. God had judged most of their kings and warned Judah’s kings several times to keep away from the people of the north. In fact, most of the hardships that Judah experienced were on account of the ungodly relationships that Judah’s kings had with the wicked kings of Israel. Jehoshaphat engaged in a military partnership with Ahab and suffered for it. Azariah made the same mistake. Here, Amaziah is again, unequally yoking himself to men that rebelled against God and sought to live according to their own self-righteous standards. Those plans didn’t turn out well in the past. There was no reason to believe that God would cause that sort of thinking to prosper at the time of Amaziah.
The Bible explains that God was patient and merciful with Amaziah. He sent a man to speak a warning to Amaziah. While God would have been right and just to judge Amaziah for his foolishness to partner with the mercenaries of Israel, He instead sent a man to call Amaziah to turn from his foolishness. The man of God told Amaziah that God was not pleased with the partnership he had engaged in. The man of God told Amaziah that if he were to go and fight the Edomites with the hundred thousand men from the northern kingdom of Israel, they would surely lose the battle. God would see to it. The man of God told Amaziah to send the men of Israel home and go out and fight with just the three hundred thousand men. Amaziah was frightened by the idea. He had learned that all of his plans were wrong. He thought it was clever and helpful to hire the men of Israel. He found more confidence in the strength of his army because of the men of Israel. He spent one hundred talents of silver on the men of Israel, equally more than $3 million in funds already spent! The man of God told Amaziah that his plans and decisions were all wrong and that he needed to immediately change course.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 25:5-13 shows that while Amaziah was reluctant and concerned, he did what God said. First, he asked the man of God about the money that was spent to hire the mercenaries from the northern kingdom. Amaziah’s concern was valid. He spent millions of dollars and likely promised a part of the spoils to the men of Israel. Still, the man of God assured Amaziah that the Lord is able to give far more than Amaziah would have lost. Though Amaziah was expected to sacrifice that $3 million, God is not poor. If Amaziah needed that money later for something else according to God’s will, God would ensure that he had it. The loss of money, regardless of the amount, would not be a factor concerning the future work of God. The Lord is not dependent on monetary funding to do His work. Everything in the world is His, including the various currencies the world uses to do its business. If God’s people need money to do the work He desires, He will ensure that it is available. Amaziah’s concern was valid because of the sum, but not valid concerning the ability of God. The Lord is able to give far more than money to ensure His purposes are done. In other words, Amaziah was instructed to stop worrying about the money and just trust the Lord. God would be the means by which His people succeeded in victory, not funding or resources.
Amaziah did as God commanded. He sent the men from Israel home and went out to fight the Edomites with just three hundred thousand men. The Bible explains that Amaziah defeated the Edomites, killing ten thousand, and taking ten thousand more captive. The Lord was faithful to give Amaziah success even though his initial plans and decisions were wrong. The Lord was faithful to protect and strengthen His people even though their numbers were fewer than in the past. Though the circumstances didn’t match Amaziah’s expectations and hopes, God got the job done anyway. This shows how patient and merciful and compassionate God is with His people. He knows that our thinking and planning is flawed. He knows that our ideas are wicked in nature. He knows that our understanding is limited. He knows that our ability is weak. He knows that we can’t see all that He sees. He knows that we struggle in trusting Him. Still, the Bible shows that God nurtures His people and works with them like a loving father with a young child. The Lord was not quick to judgment, wrath, anger, frustration, or criticism. God sent His Word through His servant and enabled His people into circumstances that allowed them to learn and experience His mercies and compassions through the victory He provided. God proved Himself faithful, able, and willing.
At the same time, the Bible shows that there are still consequences to be paid for our initial unbelief and foolish decision-making. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 25:5-13 shows that the men who were hired from the northern kingdom of Israel were angry to be sent home. It is true that they were already paid, but men who were defiant against the Lord in almost every facet of life, likely longed to participate in destructive activities. Not to mention, it would have been likely for the mercenaries to have been given a portion of the spoils of victory. Having been sent home before the battle, they would not have had the opportunity to kill or plunder. The scriptures state that they sought opportunity to kill and plunder anyway, but against the people of Judah. The men of the northern kingdom of Israel made their way back to their homes but stopped along some of the cities in Judah to kill and plunder those cities. The scriptures state that they killed three thousand people and took a great deal of spoils from their brethren. Had Amaziah considered the righteousness of God beforehand, he would not have engaged those men to begin with, stirred them up, and would have never incurred those losses. Though Amaziah was able to enjoy the Lord’s victory against the Edomites, he was still forced to pay the consequences of his foolishness committed before. Nevertheless, the losses incurred there were not equal to the amount that was gained through the victory that God brought. Though the consequences we pay for our foolishness and ungodliness is great, it does not compare to the victory that God brings as a result of His patient mercies and compassions for those who repent and trust in Him!
The Bible teaches that God desires mercy instead of sacrifice. The Bible also describes God’s nature as merciful. His mercies are new every morning! In terms of sacrifice, it is impossible to come to God without sacrifice, but it is not as if sacrifice excuses the absence of mercy. God desires mercy instead of sacrifice in the sense that He wants people to reflect His character and nature rather than just fulfill points of the Law with indifference. The Law called for the children of Israel to offer sacrifices for certain things, but those sacrifices didn’t excuse pride, self-righteousness, and unjust anger. God desires the hearts of His people to be like His so that if sacrifices are given, they are given in fear, repentance, humility, and desire for God’s grace. When people fulfill points of the Law as if they are simple task items, God is not pleased. God wants the hearts of His people to be focused on Him, reflecting His own essence and nature as part of the sacrifice or offering. If the hearts of God’s people don’t reflect the character and nature of God, then the works done by His people don’t reflect His righteousness, so that they are without spiritual value.
This is why the people of God cannot be saved by works of the Law. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. If not for the work of God to change the hearts of His people, the offerings and sacrifices of God’s people would be worthless. This is why God provides the candid testimonies of His people in order to show that, while His people might do well to do certain things that His Law commands, it is not enough to please Him. If God’s people merely follow commands with indifference to His righteousness because their hearts are set on wickedness, God is not pleased. This truth is made evident through the testimony of King Amaziah. Amaziah was the son of Joash. He became king after the death of his father at twenty-five years old. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 25:1-4 explains that Amaziah had a good and long kingship for twenty-nine years, until the age of fifty-four, but there were issues that made life difficult.
The testimony of Amaziah begins by stating that he actually did what was right in the sight of the Lord. In other words, Amaziah lived according to the standards of God’s law, and for the most part, abstained from worshiping false gods and idols. This was evidenced by the work that he undertook when he first became king to exact justice for the murder of his father. Recall that Joash was murdered by his own servants on account of the conspiracy that Joash exacted against Zechariah. Zechariah was the son of Jehoiada, the man that was responsible for saving Joash’s life, raising him well, anointing him as king, advising him as king, and teaching him the righteousness of God. Though Jehoiada did all of this for Joash, he did not treat the memory of Jehoiada well. The Lord used Zechariah to rebuke the unrighteousness of Joash, at which point Joash became angry with Zechariah and had him stoned to death in the courtyard of the temple of the Lord. Some of Joash’s servants were greatly offended by the way Joash treated the son of Jehoiada based on the favor that Jehoiada gave to Joash. When Joash was ill, the servants killed him.
One of the first things the Bible explains Amaziah did as king was administrate justice for the murder of his father. However, the scriptures are clear to show that Amaziah did well to exact justice instead of revenge. Amaziah had the murderous men killed, but spared their children in light of the commands of the Law. The Law of God stated that the children of transgressors should not be punished for the sins of their parents, nor the parents punished for the sins of their children. Each person should be held individually accountable for their transgression. Amaziah exacted justice against the men who committed murder, and though those men killed his father, Amaziah did not seek to kill anyone else out of fleshly vengeance. The Bible commends Amaziah in this way.
Though Amaziah did good in this regard, the scriptures do not show that Amaziah was blameless in the sight of the Lord. The Bible does say that Amaziah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but also that he did not do so “with a loyal heart.” In fact, the parallel testimony of Amaziah in 2 Kings 14:1-6 explains that Amaziah lived by some measure of faith, but not that equal to King David. Instead, Amaziah lived like his father Joash. The Bible teaches that Joash fell in love with the approval of people more than the approval of God. He desired the praises and recognition of people through flattery more than the righteousness of God. Joash sought to do things that made him seem like a nice guy and good guy in the eyes of others regardless of the compromises he had to live by concerning God’s standards. Joash may have had some regard for the Lord, but regarded the respect of persons more highly. Amaziah lived in the same manner.
While it was good that Amaziah did justly with the men that murdered his father, the mention of his disloyalty to God is a sharp criticism that can’t be overlooked. Here, it is important to understand that God does not look at the list of good things we do to measure them against the evils we do. God does not weight the good verses the bad. God looks at the heart to see if there is genuine faith or not. Amaziah did what was right according to the statutes of the Law in one regard, but having a disloyal heart was not sufficient to totally please God. The description of Amaziah’s “disloyalty” refers to the indifference he had towards God generally. This description refers to one that has an outward form of religious appearance but inwardly is not connected to the Lord by fear, repentance, humility or faith. The scriptures teach that without faith, it is impossible to please God. How then can the “right works” of Amaziah please God if the root of his heart is founded on unfaithfulness?
God is not pleased with those who seek the approval of men and women more than His own approval. Since faith is the only means by which we can receive God’s approval, faith must be the center of our focus – not the works we do. If the works we do are not rooted in Biblical faith, then those works are like a clanging cymbal – loud noises that provide no benefit. The Lord is not pleased with a heart that is indifferent to His nature, character, essence, eternal purposes, and promises. Those who are focused on pleasing people at the expense of God’s eternal purposes and promises are not those who reflect the heart of God. Since God desires “mercy instead of sacrifice” then those who simply go through the motions of “do’s and don’ts” aren’t meeting God’s expectations. Amaziah felt he was doing what God said though his heart was set to gain praises from men rather than use his heart to praise God. Such disloyalty is not sufficient to please God and the testimony of Amaziah will prove that this quality of faith does not provide the joy and peace that God promises to those who trust in Him and depend on Him.
The Bible explains that God will repay people according to their sins. He will judge people in eternity, but will also administrate consequences in this life for the transgressions committed against Him. Since the Lord is sovereign and in control of all things, the scriptures show that God is able and willing to interrupt the circumstances of the ungodly in order to bring suffering and devastation into their lives on account of pride and self-righteousness. While it might look like some people are getting away with pride and self-righteousness, the Bible shows that God is always going to even things out before the end. The Lord may take some time to administrate His justice, but the testimony of scripture shows that God knows how to deliver consequences for sins into the lives of the unrepentant, using anything and everything at His disposal to show that His ways are superior, and the road of self-righteousness leads to destruction.
The testimony of Joash is a perfect example of God’s ability to judge this way. In 2 Chronicles 24:23-27 the Bible describes one of the last major events of Joash’s life. The scriptures state that the Lord sent the Syrian king Hazael into Judah to fight against them. God sent this foreign king against Judah as a form of discipline in order to judge the wickedness of the leaders in Judah as well as Joash’s own ungodliness. The Bible testifies that after Jehoiada died, the leaders of Judah fell into idolatry because of their desire to gratify their selfish and personal ambitions. They turned to flattery in order to gain the favor of Joash, and Joash, loving the flattery of people more than the approval of God, followed their unrighteous example. God sent prophets to warn the people about their evil, but they would not listen and repent. God sent a man named Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, a man that was like a brother to Joash, to provide a stern warning about their conduct. The Bible explains that Joash was offended with Zechariah. Joash didn’t want to hear that his desire to have his ears tickled was wrong. Joash didn’t want to hear that his affection for praise from people was wicked. Joash didn’t want to hear that his idolatry was a manifestation of his selfishness. Joash didn’t want to hear that his desire to be liked and accepted by people was corrupting his faith. Therefore, Joash had Zechariah stoned to death in the courtyard of the temple of the Lord. Though Jehoiada saved Joash’s life, raised him, counseled him unto godliness, and supported his kingship, Joash paid no respect to Jehoiada and had his son killed.
God knew everything that had taken place. Though it appeared as if Joash was going to get away with murder that that his pursuit of selfish ambition was going to pay off, God did not let his evil go unpunished. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 24:23-27 states that God exercised His sovereign hand by sending the Syrian army into Jerusalem. The attack of the Syrians was not a coincidence. The Syrians didn’t target Jerusalem at that time because of perceived opportunity. God stirred up the heart of Hazael to go out and fight against Joash even though the circumstances might have shown that to be a bad idea. For example, the testimony of scripture explains that Hazael went into Judah with an army much smaller than the army of Judah, yet they were victorious and successful. Typically, the Bible shows that God would provide miraculous victories for the out-manned children of Israel. This time, God showed that He is not a respecter of persons. This time, God enabled the weaker enemy in order to inflict discipline against His own people. The Syrians went into Judah with a smaller and weaker army, and yet God enabled them to interrupt and destroy the circumstances that Joash and the leaders of Judah had grown accustomed to.
The Bible states that when the Syrians went into Judah, they targeted the leaders of Judah. Since God was using the Syrians as His rod of correction, it was appropriate that the Syrians targeted the very men that led the people into idolatry and self-seeking. The parallel account of this event that is documented in 2 Kings 12:20 explains that the Syrians were so fierce that Joash and the elders had to pay them off in order to bring peace back into Judah. The scriptures explain that Joash took all of the valuable items of the temple of the Lord and of the king’s treasury that was built up by Jehoshaphat and Jehoram, and paid off Hazael with those resources. God had brought those riches into Judah in order to increase the greatness of His people at one time. God used faithful men who trusted in the Lord to plunder their surrounding enemies and increase the wealth of Judah. Yet, God took that same treasure away from His people on account of unbelief and selfishness, and gave it back to the enemies of Judah.
This testimony shows the extent of God’s control and the fairness of His judgments. God does not let His people get away with evil just because of His promises. He is faithful to keep His promises to Israel and Judah, but is not unwilling to discipline them. The bribe that Joash had to give to Hazael in order to send the Syrians away shows that the things God uses to increase His people are always in His hands and under His control. Just as easily as God can give, He can also take away. The increase that He provides on account of His grace can easily be taken away on account of His judgments. No one is exempt from God’s discipline, and the manner in which God administrates His discipline can be quite shameful when God’s people refuse to repent. Not only did Judah volunteer their riches back to the enemy, surrendering their resources out of fear, but they did so with an army that was smaller and weaker in nature. Though they should have been qualified and able to handle the Syrians, God made it so that they were unable, proving that He alone determines victory and defeat. Those who seek to fulfill and gratify self rather than praise and worship God according to His righteousness as God purposes, will eventually be shamed in defeat by the hand of God in some way.
The scriptures also explain that Joash was wounded in the confrontation with the Syrians. Since he was wounded, Joash was confined to his bed for a time, at which point some of his own servants conspired against him and killed him. The scriptures state that these men were upset about Joash’s disloyalty to Jehoiada and the murder of Zechariah. Those men could not believe the audacity of Joash to kill the son of a good leader, and one that was so influential and helpful to Joash himself. The men took it upon themselves to kill Joash while he was laid up in his bed, unable to defend himself. Clearly the Bible shows that God doesn’t let people get away with anything. God used the Syrians to discipline all of Judah, especially the leaders and Joash the king. In addition, God used Joash’s own servants to kill Joash for the murder of Zechariah. Here, it seems fitting that Joash was killed by men that were trusted to be loyal since Joash was found to be disloyal to Zechariah. The same evil characteristic that motivated Joash to kill Zechariah was the same evil characteristic that inspired Joash’s servants to kill him. God knows how to make all things equal and fair and just in the end. For those who refuse to repent, God will administer justice rather than mercy at some point in time. The testimony of Joash proves this as true.