Practical Application of the Word of God
We in the ekklesia have been led astray by the well-worn and deeply-entrenched viewpoint, preached by the church of God organizations, that the Old Testament either applies to Old Testament – and carnal – Israel, including Judah, or to the present world outside of the ekklesia. The New Testament, on the other hand, ironically including Paul’s letters and Christ’s letters to the seven congregations in Asia Minor in Revelation 2-3 (but these are cherry-picked or ignored when they are strongly corrective of the ekklesia, applies to those of us now whom God has called, chosen, and handed over to Jesus Christ.
It’s another layer of the us and them mentally that we see pervade the corporate organizations (within the organization, for the most part, this is the mindset toward you and me of those who are in the ministry).
This whole idea is absolutely wrong and it could be spiritually fatal if we don’t see the entirety of the Word of God as a mirror that we must be looking into deeply, prayerfully, and daily, and responding to what God shows us about ourselves through His word.
What kind of epithet would you want God and Jesus Christ to apply to you and your life when you die and when you stand before Jesus Christ to give an account for your life based on God’s word alone?
II Chronicles focuses on the kings of Judah, beginning with David and Solomon, before the kingdom split under Rehoboam, who unlike all the kings of Israel, from time to time kind of, sort of, for the most part, followed God.
It’s interesting to note that David is the human standard against which these kings are measured in their epithets at the beginning of the book, but as the history progresses, it’s as though the author, inspired by God, gets to a point where the king’s epithet simply acknowledges at least a little obedience to God in the legacy of the later kings (you will see the phrase “like his father __________”).
Almost, to a king listed in this list of kind of, sort of, for the most part, obedience, there is the first part of the epithet, followed by the key words but or until.
Only one king was doing nothing but grievous evil in the sight of the Lord in the beginning of his life, but then, after God corrected him, he repented and obeyed God for the last part of his life (II Chronicles 33).
In almost every case of but or until, pride in their power, their wealth, and their strength – numbers – is the cause for the king’s disobedience (Joash is the only exception and his reason for forsaking God’s way is something that is particularly important for each of us to consider deeply in the current atmosphere where we are being encouraged – and led astray by – to pledge our loyalty to human organizations and the humans who are in leadership positions and to follow them, instead of what God’s word says, which is that our loyalty must be to Him and Jesus Christ alone and we are to follow them alone).
This same attitude of pride in power, wealth, and strength (numbers) is the same things we see in many of those in top leadership positions in the sea of church of God organizations that exist today.
And, as a result, at best, compromise with God’s word, and, at worst, disobedience of God’s word have crept into each of the organizations in one way or another, and and many of us affiliated with each of these organizations have passively accepted the compromises and the disobedience and have followed right along, just like the people of Judah – and the people of Israel, for that matter – followed the lead of their kings, whether completely evil or kind of, sort of following God (there’s an interesting verse in II Chronicles 33 during Manasseh’s reign about the people and their worship of God that is very relevant for us now and that I will highlight when I talk about Mannasseh).
Let’s briefly go through the list – I encourage each of us to actually go study II Chronicles in depth and consider each of ourselves – honestly looking deep into who we are, what we believe, what we think, what we say, and what we do – in terms of the epithet applied to each of these kings.
Every time I go through II Chronicles, these epithets jump out at me and I think about them in terms of myself – where I am in relationship to God and Jesus Christ and the converting that still needs to take place in my own life (and I pray for this daily) so that some of these epithets won’t be applied to me at the end of my life (some of them, which I mourn about, still do because living God’s way is the battle of my life, but I take heart in David’s assertion in Psalm 138:8 that God and Jesus Christ will be faithful in completing their work in me, with my full participation and cooperation, because I am willing and longing for this to be done in me).
The first king listed in II Chronicles who followed God is David’s son Solomon (II Chronicles 1-9). Solomon’s but is detailed in I Kings 11:4-10, but Solomon is often included with David as the examples of kings who followed God on several occasions here in II Chronicles, which suggests that Solomon may have repented before he died.
Only God knows that, but I hope so because Solomon is someone I would really like to get to know and to talk at length with because the words God inspired him to write and which God preserved for us really get to the heart of the matter for each of us in this converting process.
Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, who ended up with Judah, Benjamin, the Levites, and various people from throughout the tribes of Israel who were committed to obeying God, followed God for three years.
What I just wrote is why studying God’s word, which is living, aided by God’s spirit in us, is so central to each of our lives. I have read II Chronicles 11 and II Chronicles 12 several – maybe 10 or 20 – times in my life.
This was the first time I noticed that Rehoboam obeyed God for three years (I guess I assumed because he was so heavy-handed when he took the throne that he was antagonistic to God).
It was also the first time I noticed that the Levites came to live in Judah, as did people among the tribes of Israel who were committed to obeying God (again, I assumed that the two kingdoms were a black and white split, with everybody in the 10 tribes that followed Jeroboam buying into his apostasy, while only the people of Judah and Benjamin stayed with Rehoboam).
The point is I learn something new every time I study God’s word, no matter how many times I’ve read it. And it makes me ask questions, not just about what I’m reading, but about myself, and that’s how we learn from God.
The question I asked after reading II Chronicles 11:1-17 was “why did they follow God for only three years? (note too that verse 17 says they followed God by walking in the ways of David and Solomon)”
The two-fold answer is in II Chronicles 12:1 – pride – and II Chronicles 12:14 – he did not set his heart to seek the Lord (God’s word is where we find the Lord and seeking Him requires prayer, studying God’s word [this includes reading and writing], and meditating on it, something God said every king from His chosen people should do all the days of their lives).
Are you a king? Am I a king? Not now.
But that’s in God’s plan for us and that’s why we’re in this work process with Him and Jesus Christ to learn, to understand, to apply, to grow, and to fully mature into our role as an heir with Jesus Christ, so everything about kings in God’s word is something we should take to heart because it applies to you and me.
(As a side note, consider the service of our King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ, when he was here on earth and then compare that with the “rod of iron” and “we’ll whip ’em shape” language that you often outright hear or is strongly implied when you hear sermons on this subject. The two are on opposite ends of the spectrum and I want to serve the way Jesus Christ served when He was here on earth.)
Two things stand out about Abijah.
This first, which we see in II Chronicles 13, is that he says all the right things – outward appearance.
The second, which we see in I Kings 15, is that his actions didn’t match his words because he walked in all the sins of his father (Rehoboam), which means he followed a human example instead of following God, and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God.
There wasn’t a deep down commitment to God and to God’s way on Abijah’s part. He gave lip-service to it and, probably sort of made a surface pass at some of it, but it was not a part of who and what he was.
That’s a mirror we all need, from time to time, take a long look into to ensure that we’re not doing the same thing that Abijah did.
But then, way down the road in Asa’s reign, in II Chronicles 16, we see a change in Asa (although these verses about Asa puzzle me: II Chronicles 15:17 and I Kings 5:14) as he turns from God and His way.
In II Chronicles 16, we see that he looks to humans for protection instead of God. When God corrects him, Asa gets angry and throws Hanani, God’s prophet, in prison. And when severe disease hit him in old age, even then he did not seek God’s help, but the help of humans only.
That doesn’t look like a blameless and loyal heart to me, but that’s what God’s takeaway on the whole of Asa’s life is, and I guess that, from one perspective, helps us to understand that we can’t possibly see or know about another person what God sees and knows, but, the other perspective is that we don’t ever want to get to the point in our lives where we are making choices that appear to be repeatedly rejecting God.
Jehoshaphat is a mixed bag as a king of Judah who followed God.
He started out absolutely committed to following God (II Chronicles 17:3-9).
But then in II Chronicles 18, we see two things about Johoshaphat tied together: great wealth and honor (pride?) and alliance with Ahab, one of the most wicked kings of Israel, by marriage. And it is here that Jehoshaphat begins to be spiritually unstable.
God sends Jehu to correct Jehoshaphat for marrying into Ahab’s family and then helping Ahab fight the war he died in (II Chronicles 19:1-3). And, it is in this correction that we see Jehoshaphat’s epithet: “there is some good in you.”
But after God delivered Jehoshaphat and Judah from Moab and Ammon, Jehoshaphat again made an alliance with the king of Israel (II Chronicles 20:35-37), something God had already corrected him for once before.
Joash is the only king of Judah where pride was not at the root of why he started out following God and then abandoned following God somewhere down the road.
But Joash is someone we should pay attention to, because it turns out that Joash was actually following a human being (Jehoida, who did actually follow God quite zealously, and if you read through the text carefully, you’ll see that it is Jehoida who actually initiates most of the spiritual reforms in Judah, not Joash), instead of following God.
When Jehoida dies, Joash, it seems immediately, did a 180-degree turn away from God right into wickedness (killing Jehoida’s son, among other things), apostasy and idolatry (II Chronicles 24:17-27).
Simply following somebody or something – or showing up at services every week and every holy day and attending every event available, looking good and looking involved – does not make us a Christian, godly, or committed to God and Jesus Christ.
And that is what Paul is talking about in II Corinthians 13:5 (although this seems to get trotted out only in the few weeks before Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread in the “you have X number of weeks to examine yourself” sermons, it is something we should be doing deeply and thoroughly every day we breathe air because it is so incredibly easy, as Paul Simon sang, to believe we’re gliding down the highway when instead we’re slip-sliding away).
The epithet of the next king of Judah who followed God with caveats belongs to Amaziah. In II Chronicles 25:2, we’re told that Amaziah did right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a whole heart.
In other words, Amaziah went through the motions of obeying God, but it – and God – wasn’t part of who and what he was at the core of his being.
That is the reason why we find Amaziah in II Chronicles 25:14-16 turn away from God and into idolatry.
Uzziah comes next in the line of Judah’s kings who followed God with a caveat.
Like many of the other kings on this list, Uzziah starts out well (II Chronicles 26:4-5). God blessed Uzziah and made him and Judah powerful, wealthy, and with a large army.
But then, down the road, Uzziah’s forgot that God had done all this and began to believe it was all his doing. Uzziah’s epithet is in II Chronicles 26:16: “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”
This pride led him to forsake God and offend God (II Chronicles 26:16-21), and there was no repentance, so Uzziah became a leper until his death, cut off from God, the temple, his family, and essentially Judah.
We’re given very little information about Jotham, Uzziah’s son, who was the next king of Judah who followed God.
While he didn’t do a lot of spiritual reform in the nation (II Chronicles 27:2 says the people of Judah were still acting corruptly), Uzziah has this epithet recorded about his life in II Chronicles 27:6: “So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God.“
Hezekiah is next in the line of kings in Judah who followed God with a caveat. Again, here is a man who started out very well, actually meeting the standard of David (II Chronicles 29:2).
Hezekiah cleans up the nation of Judah spiritually (II Chronicles 29 through II Chronicles 33) and he is faithful to God.
We know from II Chronicles 32 that Hezekiah humbled his pride, but II Kings 20 details the mortal illness and the incident with the Babylonians and Hezekiah’s response to Isaiah about God’s judgement on this matter, which is “Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Is it not so, if there will be peace and truth in my days?'”
God had told Hezekiah that his children would be taken into captivity by the same Babylonians, and Hezekiah’s reaction is basically, “well, it won’t happen in my lifetime, so it’s all good.” This is selfish and not a godly attitude toward his children.
We’re also told in II Chronicles 32 that God left Hezekiah alone to test what was in his heart. It’s important to think about when God left Hezekiah alone and for how long.
Was it 15 years, the amount of time God extended Hezekiah’s life after Hezekiah prayed not to die? Probably not, but for some period of time, God stood back and just watched Hezekiah.
Did God see something in Hezekiah’s heart that was defective and this is why God extended Hezekiah’s life? I’ve said before that Hezekiah had an unblemished record with God up until he begged God to not let him die, and getting more time in this corrupt flesh, which, for us all, falls way short of God’s glory, was just buying trouble.
I don’t know for sure, but it bears thinking about in terms of our own lives.
Manasseh is the next to last king of Judah who followed God with a caveat (II Chronicles 33).
This chapter has a lot for us in the ekklesia to seriously think about today, because many people in leadership positions in local congregations have willingly chosen to worship God, claiming that God has placed His name there, in places that have pagan symbols and pagan idols.
God placed His name in the temple in Jerusalem.
Manasseh, who started his reign of Judah, badly and got worse and worse (II Chronicles 33:1-6) until finally: “Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, ‘In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever;'” (II Chronicles 33:7).
Did God overlook or excuse what Manasseh did? Was it okay with God because Manasseh knew it was just a dumb idol?
Read II Chronicles 33:9-11.
But Manasseh came to himself in Babylon and did a 180-degree turn to God, His word, His way, and His law (II Chronicles 33:12-16), and God delivered him out of Babylon and he followed God faithfully the rest of his life and ordered the nation of Judah to do the same.
II Chronicles 33:17 is the people of Judah’s caveat and it is something that we as the people of God need to think about: “Nevertheless the people still sacrificed in the high places, although only to the Lord their God.”
Josiah (II Chronicles 34) is the last king of Judah to follow God and his commitment to God, His word, His way, and His law was genuine and unwavering.
His epithet is the one that I would like see God write about me when my life is all said and done: “He did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (II Chronicles 34:2).
What will God’s epithet for you be?