Sunday, December 23, 2012

2 Chronicles 27-28: Faithfulness and Backsliding

2 Chron 27:6 Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God. 

2 Chron 28:1-6, 22-25 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals... Therefore the Lord his God handed him over to the king of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hands of the king of Israel, who inflicted heavy casualties on him. In one day Pekah son of Remaliah killed a hundred and twenty thousand soldiers in Judah — because Judah had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers... In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, "Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me." But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel. Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and took them away. He shut the doors of the Lord's temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger.

The history of the kings of Judah makes depressive reading. One king was faithful and the next king simply unravelled the good accomplished by the former king. It is an endless cycle of faithfulness to the Lord leading to victory over the enemies and backsliding from the Lord leading to defeat at the hands of the enemies. In 2 Chronicles 27:6, we read that Jotham "grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God" and in 2 Chronicles 28:2-4, we read of his son's apostasy to Baals: "He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree."

Ultimately, Judah and Israel even made God their enemy because of their more-on-than-off love affair with the idolatrous world which resulted in their deportation and exile in foreign lands. As the apostle James reminded us: "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). In Galatians 6:7-8  Paul warns us not to be self-deceived: "God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." What we read about the kings of Israel and Judah are object lessons for us all. They are not OT history that is irrelevant to NT believers. They are recorded to teach us what to do and what not to do: "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Cor 10:11-12).

The new covenant is a better covenant because it is not based on the letters of the Law but the life in the Spirit. We have the Holy Spirit within--all the more we have no excuse for failing to keep God's commands and align our lives with God's agenda on earth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of missions & evangelism: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). If we claim we are walking by the Spirit, then we will also be compelled by God's love to walk in the missional agenda of God.

Father, help us learn from the positive and negative examples of the history of Judah and Israel--what to do and what not to do. May we be instruments of Your Kingdom. May Your Kingdom come in us and through us. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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