"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 27

    

     

    

    

Chapter 27: The Sins & Judgments of the Southern Kingdom

Part 1: Rehoboam to Jehoshaphat

   

    

Chapter 27 Contents

 

27.1 Introduction

27.2 The Early Kings

27.3 To Summarise the three ‘Early Kings'

27.4 Jehoshaphat

27.5 Summary-Conclusions

 

 

27.1 Introduction

 

In the previous two chapters we considered the activities of the kings and their kingdom, the northern kingdom simply referred to as ‘ Israel ' comprising ten tribes. Essentially we saw the first king get it wrong and then every king who followed him doing exactly the same creating an unblemished record of godless idolatry!

 

When we come to the southern kingdom, comprising Judah and Benjamin the picture is not so clear because their responses to the Lord were mixed and varied. Because it is difficult to keep in your mind's eye twenty kings, we will consider them as follows:

 

A. The Early Kings 2 Chron 10-16 (930-872 = 58 yrs – 3 kings)

B. Jehoshaphat 2 Chron 17-20 (872-853 = 25 yrs)

C. The Middle Kings 2 Chron 21-28 (853-715 = 138 yrs – 8 kings)

D. Hezekiah 2 Chron 29-32 (715-697 = 29 yrs)

E. The Last Kings 2 Chron 33-36 (697-586 = 111 yrs – 7 kings)

 

This division is purely for administrative purposes but Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah stood out to us, simply because there were three chapters each for their activities. In what follows, in each grouping we will provide a simple note summary outline of what they did and then go on to consider how they were described in their relationship with the Lord.

 

As you will note from the references, 1 & 2 Kings focuses mostly on the northern kingdom while 2 Chronicles focuses mostly on the southern kingdom

   

 

The Southern Kings

(and the lengths of their reigns)

1. Rehoboam (17)

2. Abijah (3)

3. Asa (41)

4. Jehoshaphat (25)

 

5. Jehoram (8)

6. Ahaziah (1)

7. Athaliah (6)

8. Joash (40)

9. Amaziah (29)

10. Uzziah (52)

11. Jotham (16)

12. Ahaz (16)

13. Hezekiah (29)

 

14. Manasseh (55)

15. Amon (2)

16. Josiah (31)

17. Jehoahaz (3m)

18. Jehoiakim (11)

19. Jehoiachin (3m)

20. Zedekiah (11)

 

 

    

27.2 The Early Kings 2 Chron 10-16 (930-872 = 58 yrs – 3 kings)

 

1. Rehoboam

  • foolishly provokes rebellion and division (10:1-11:4)
  • strengthens his position (11:5-23)
  • is humbled by Egypt (12:1-16)

    

Rehoboam's folly

   

We have seen previously how he brought about the division of the kingdom, a judgment on Israel in itself:

2 Chron 10:15
So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from God , to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

   

The kingdom strengthened

   

There is also an interesting insight here:

 

2 Chron 10:13-16 The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him. The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD. And he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols he had made. Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel , followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers.

Note the truths revealed here:

  • Jeroboam rejected God's Levites and priests and so they all went to Jerusalem
  • Others who wanted to worship the Lord also went to Jerusalem
  • It would appear that godly Israelites went south which

    a) strengthened the south spiritually and

    b) meant those in the north were already those turning away from the Lord

   

Rehoboam falls away and is punished

  

2 Chron 12:1-4 After Rehoboam's position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD . Because they had been unfaithful to the LO RD, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt , he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem .

He abandons the Lord and so the Lord disciplines him using the king of Egypt

     

Confrontation, Repentance & limited blessing

   

Prophetic confrontation

2 Chron 12:5-9, 12-14 Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, "This is what the LORD says, `You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.' "

Repentance

6 The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The LORD is just."

Limited discipline, limited blessing

7 When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the LORD came to Shemaiah: "Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands." 9 When Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem, he carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields Solomon had made.

  

Summary

   

12 Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the LORD's anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed. Indeed, there was some good in Judah . King Rehoboam established himself firmly in Jerusalem and continued as king. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem , the city the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother's name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite. He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.

   

To Summarise Rehoboam

   

  • His folly led to the division of Israel
  • Despite that the priests and Levites came to Jerusalem to strengthen the kingdom
  • After a while Rehoboam drifted away from the Lord
  • The Lord disciplined him with judgment of the Egyptian invasion
  • His evil was that he never sought the Lord

 

 

2. Abijah

  • calls on the Lord in battle (13:1-22)

 

This simply summary above is worthy of investigation:

   

Abijah's defence of the kingdom

    

i) Confronts Jeroboam with his revolt against David's kingdom

2 Chron 14:4-18 Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim , in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, "Jeroboam and all Israel , listen to me! Don't you know that the LORD, the God of Israel , has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, an official of Solomon son of David, rebelled against his master. Some worthless scoundrels gathered around him and opposed Rehoboam son of Solomon when he was young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist them. "And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the LORD, which is in the hands of David's descendants.

ii) Confronts him with his idolatry

8b You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods. But didn't you drive out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make priests of your own as the peoples of other lands do? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods.

iii) Declares their faithfulness to the Lord

10 "As for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the LORD are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the LORD. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the LORD our God. But you have forsaken him. God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. Men of Israel , do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you will not succeed."

iv) Jeroboam appears strong but is defeated

13 Now Jeroboam had sent troops around to the rear, so that while he was in front of Judah the ambush was behind them. Judah turned and saw that they were being attacked at both front and rear. Then they cried out to the LORD. The priests blew their trumpets and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The Israelites fled before Judah , and God delivered them into their hands. Abijah and his men inflicted heavy losses on them, so that there were five hundred thousand casualties among Israel 's able men. The men of Israel were subdued on that occasion, and the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers.

  

Abijah's limitations

   

Nevertheless 1 Kings shows the other side of him:

 

1 Kings 15:3-5 He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life--except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

  • His heart was not fully given over to the Lord
  • Although we may wonder if he just used the name of the Lord against Jeroboam, the Lord nevertheless upheld and supported him against the north.

   

To Summarise Abijah

  

  • He did gloriously stand for the Lord against the enemy, Israel , and the Lord gave him victory for it
  • Yet his heart was not fully for the Lord
  • Any blessing on Jerusalem was really only because of David.

 

 

3. Asa

  • starts out well and clears the land of idols (2 Chron 14:1-8)
  • beats the Cushite army in his 10 th year (14:9-15)
  • leads the people into covenant with God (15:1-19)
  • makes an alliance in his 36 th year with Aram (16:1-6)
  • rebuked by the Lord (16:7-9)
  • responds badly and dies from a disease. (16:10-14)

    

Spiritual summary of Asa from 1 Kings

   

1 Kings 15:11-14 Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as his father David had done. He expelled the male shrine prostitutes from the land and got rid of all the idols his fathers had made. He even deposed his grandmother Maacah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive Asherah pole. Asa cut the pole down and burned it in the Kidron Valley . Although he did not remove the high places, Asa's heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life.

  • Overall he did right (v.11)
  • He cleaned up the land (v.12)
    He even took his grandmother out of power for her idolatry (v.13)
  • He didn't remove the high places but otherwise his heart was committee to the Lord (v.14)

   

His success

    

2 Chronicles shows us that earlier in his reign he did rely on the Lord in battle

 

2 Chron 14:9-14 Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with a vast army and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. Asa went out to meet him, and they took up battle positions in the Valley of Zephathah near Mareshah. Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, "LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you." The LORD struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the LORD and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder. They destroyed all the villages around Gerar, for the terror of the LORD had fallen upon them.

  • Clearly as a strong army came against them, Asa called on the Lord and the Lord gave him victory.
  • On his return from this victory the Lord brought him encouragement:

 

2 Chron 15:1-8 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. But in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel , and sought him, and he was found by them. In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage

  • He lays down a principle: seek the Lord and He will be found, forsake Him and He will forsake you (v.2)
  • That is proved by Israel 's past history (v.3-6)
  • Now you sought the Lord (implied by context) and He is with you (v.7)
  • As a result of this, he cleansed the land and rebuilt the altar in the temple (v.8)
  • He then called Judah together to meet with the Lord (v.9) and
  • Celebrated what appears to be the Feast of Weeks (v.10,11) and
  • Entered into a fresh covenant with the Lord (v.12-15)

     

His failure

   

  • However we also note that in the 36 th year of his reign there was war with the northern kingdom (16:1a)
  • The north prevented anyone moving north-south (v.1b)
  • He used gold and silver to buy the friendship of Aram against the north (v.2-6)
  • For this he was rebuked by the Lord (see below)

 

2 Chron 16:7-9 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: "Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war."

  • His failure was in not relying upon the Lord but on another nation

 

This same failure of not relying on the Lord was seen at the end of his life:

 

2 Chron 16:12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.

    

To Summarise Asa

  

  • He started well in his reign cleaning up the land spiritually
  • He remained committed to the Lord, i.e. never turned to other ‘gods'
  • When he was attacked by Egypt from the south, he called on the Lord and the Lord gave him victory.
  • He brought the nation back to God at a glorious celebration where they recommitted themselves to the Lord.
  • Yet later on he did not rely on the Lord when oppressed by the northern kingdom and sought help from Aram and was rebuked by the Lord.
  • He also failed to seek the Lord's help when he was ill in old age.
  • He started well but didn't do so well in old age.

 

     

27.3 To Summarise the three early kings

 

Rehoboam started badly and caused the division of the kingdom

  • When the priests and Levites came from the north, the kingdom was strengthened
  • Later he fell away from the Lord and the Lord disciplined him with an attack from Egypt
  • This appeared to bring repentance and the Lord limited the effect of Egypt 's attack
  • Yet he never sought the Lord.

 

Abijah stood up for the Lord against the north and the Lord gave him victory

  • Yet his heart was not fully for the Lord

 

Asa started out well and relied on the Lord against Egypt

  • He carried out a great restoration within Israel
  • Yet later when attacked by the north he relied on Aram and not the Lord.
  • In old age when ill, he did not rely on or call on the Lord.

 

  • What we find with each of them is the Lord stepping in to a) discipline Judah and b) protect Judah .
  • His protection came when they were attacked and relied on Him. When they drifted from Him He brought disciplinary judgment in the form of attacks from others.
  • Even thought the Lord was clearly there for them, none of the three comes out strongly throughout their entire lives for the Lord. Each one was blessed and each one failed in some way by not being whole-hearted for the Lord throughout their lives

 

    

27.4 Jehoshaphat 2 Chron 17-20 (872-853 = 25 yrs)

  • strengthens himself and the land in the Lord (2 Chron 17:1-13)
  • goes and visits Ahab and was drawn into a war (18:1-3)
  • suggests seeking the Lord (18:4-15)
  • Micaiah prophesies Ahab's death (18:16-27)
  • goes to battle - Ahab being killed (18:28-34)
  • rebuked for being part of all this (19:1-3)
  • sets up godly judges (19:4-11)
  • attacked from the south (20:1,2)
  • seeks the Lord and triumphs (20:3-30)
  • makes an alliance with Ahaziah (20:31-36)
  • rebuked for it (20:37)

   

Blessing in the early days

   

2 Chron 17:3-6 The LORD was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel . The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. His heart was devoted to the ways of the LORD; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah .

Note the basics of this early assessment:

  • He walked in God's ways, rejected the idols, sought the Lord and followed His ways (v.3,4)
  • Thus the Lord was with him and established him (v.3a,5a)
  • Seeing this the people brought gifts and made him rich (v.5b)
  • He was devoted to the Lord, and removed the signs of idol worship in the land

   

Even more blessing

 

2 Chron 17:1012 The fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah , so that they did not make war with Jehoshaphat. Some Philistines brought Jehoshaphat gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought him flocks: seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred goats. Jehoshaphat became more and more powerful; he built forts and store cities in Judah

Again note the elements of this blessing:

  • God's fear came on the surrounding nations (v.10)
  • This resulted in peace (v.10b)
  • Philistines and Arabs even brought him great wealth (v.11)
  • Thus he became stronger and stronger (v.12)
    i.e. because of the Lord, Jehoshaphat became stronger and richer and richer

 

However, rashly he later allied himself with Ahab by marriage.” (18:1) which led him to visit Ahab and get involved in fighting alongside Ahab. We have seen how eventually Ahab was killed.

   

Rebuke

   

For thus getting involved, the Lord rebuked Jehoshaphat:

2 Chron 19:1-3 When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God."

i.e. God is angry about this, but you have done some good.

    

More Good

  

Whether because of this rebuke or simply because his heart was basically for the Lord, Jehoshaphat's subsequent administrative activity had the Lord at the heart of it:

 

2 Chron 19: 4-10 Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem , and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and turned them back to the LO RD, the God of their fathers. He appointed judges in the land, in each of the fortified cities of Judah . He told them, "Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." In Jerusalem also, Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites, priests and heads of Israelite families to administer the law of the LORD and to settle disputes. And they lived in Jerusalem . He gave them these orders: "You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the LORD. In every case that comes before you from your fellow countrymen who live in the cities--whether bloodshed or other concerns of the law, commands, decrees or ordinances--you are to warn them not to sin against the LORD; otherwise his wrath will come on you and your brothers. Do this, and you will not sin.

So again, let's take note of what happened here:

  • He purposefully turned the people back to the Lord (v.4)
  • He established judges in the land and instructed them to be godly in their judgments (v.5-7)
  • He appointed Levites, priests etc. in Jerusalem to judge and be godly in their judgments (v.8-10)

  

Seeking the Lord & success without fighting

 

2 Chron 20:2-4 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom , from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar" (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah . The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

  • i.e. when threatened he sought the Lord with all the people (see his prayer v.6-12)
  • The Lord then prophesies success (v.14-17) The response is worship (v.18)
  • They go to battle full of faith (v.20) and set singers to lead them (v.21)
  • As they sang the Lord set the enemy against each other and they destroyed each other (v.22,23)
  • The result – praise and worship (v.26-28)
  • God's fear over other nations provided ongoing peace (v.29,30)

  

And yet the people….

  

2 Chron 20:33 The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers.

1 Kings 22:43,46 In everything he walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD . The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there….. He rid the land of the rest of the male shrine prostitutes who remained there even after the reign of his father Asa.

These varied records show us that Jehoshaphat

  • Still had a people inclined to alien worship, and
  • Although his heart was for God he didn't entirely clear the land of remnants of the old worship

  

A final lack of judgment

   

2 Chron 20:35-37 Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel , who was guilty of wickedness. He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, "Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what you have made." The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade

  • He made an alliance with the ungodly king of Israel (v.35)
  • They agreed to construct a fleet of ships (v.36) for which he was rebuked by the Lord (v.37)
  • The ships were subsequently wrecked (v.37b)

 

     

27.5 Recap-Conclusions

 

So, we have observed the reigns of Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa and Jehoshaphat

 

In each of them we have observed good and not so good, shown in the table below

 

King

Good

Not so good

1. Rehoboam

Appeared to repent after discipline

Caused breakup of the kingdom

Was unfaithful to God so disciplined by Egypt

2. Abijan

Stood for the Lord in battle and was therefore victorious

Yet his heart was clearly not fully committed to the Lord

3. Asa

Does right, cleaned up the land, his heart committed to the Lord.

In battle against Egypt he cried to the Lord who gave him victory.

Called the people back to God and into a new covenant with Him

Sought help from Aram and not the Lord against Israel

Did not seek the Lord's help in illness in old age.

4. Jehoshaphat

Devoted to the Lord, cleared out idols, blessed by God, made strong with peace with other nations. Turned the people back to God and set up godly administration. Sought the Lord when attacked by Edom and given victory without fighting

 

Later allied himself with Ahab by marriage – rebuked by God for it. Failed to clear the land of old idol worship. Made alliance with king of Israel , built a fleet with him, rebuked for it and fleet shipwrecked

 

And so to summarise these men:

 

Rehoboam was foolish and largely unfaithful to God

Abijah shines bright in a battle but otherwise not wholly for God

Asa does incredibly well in earlier years but fails to rely on the Lord in older age

Jehoshaphat mostly does incredibly well but has a weakness of wanting to appear good to the north and enters into two bad alliances with two of the kings of Israel with highly questionable consequences.

 

Even the two good ones of these early kings of Judah have their flaws.

 

It's time to move on to the ‘Middle Kings' of Judah in the next chapter.

 

 

 

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