Week 30, July 25-29
2 Chronicles 11-27
The remainder of the book focuses almost entirely on Judah, because that is where most of the religiously significant events take place. The covenants that have come down the line from Abraham, Moses, and David will continue to be fulfilled through the faithful remnant in the southern kingdom of Judah. Chapter 10 ends with, “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.”
Rehoboam wants to rule harshly, and he ostracizes those Israelites who are farthest from him. The kingdom splits in response. And we see here the importance of reading Kings and Chronicles together. In 1 Kings 11, the prophet Abijah tells Jeroboam that he will reign over the northern ten tribes. Jeroboam is a skilled artisan in charge of the temple workers. Because of this prophecy, Solomon wanted to kill Jeroboam, so he fled to Egypt.
Now with Solomon dead and his son Rehoboam coronated, Jeroboam returns to Jerusalem to confront Rehoboam with his oppressive tactics. Because the religious life is primary, it’s important to us that Jeroboam removed all of the legitimate priests from the northern kingdom once he created his own throne. The priests flocked to Jerusalem, along with those people (read, the remnant) who truly loved and obeyed the Lord, “the god of their fathers,” David and Solomon.
But for all the priestly presence, Rehoboam continued in disobedience. The nation of Egypt came in and sacked Judah as a divine judgment. Though Rehoboam was generally judged as evil at the end of his life, we do see here a moment of humiliation that led to a successful and peaceful Judah for a period of time. It is proof that humility before God leads to peace.
Rehoboam’s son Abijah reigns in his place. The only mention of Abijah is 2 Chronicles is a major battle where half as many of Abidjan’s men defeat Jeroboam’s men. It is evidence, again, of the faithful remnant in the south. Of the 800,000 of Jeroboam’s men, only 300,000 walked away. God is defending his own name by defending his people.
When Abijah dies, his son Asa becomes king. Asa will be a generally good king, but the focus is still on the covenant God made with David. David will have a son on the throne. Asa begins in a faithful manner, but he does not end so well. Throughout all of these kings, the point is to see God’s faithfulness amidst his peoples’ faithlessness. He does begin a series of reforms by destroying the idols in the land of Judah and Benjamin. We’re told that he entered into a covenant with God, but this is really a covenant renewal. There is no additional “Asaianic” covenant. Covenant renewal is a common Old Testament theme, so it is fitting that it appears in a book about religious interpretation of history. But the good things that Asa does stand out among his fellow kings.
During the final days of Asa’s reign, his contemporary in Israel, Baasha, builds up some critical cities to keep Judah from selling and trading. Asa enlists Ben-hadad king of Syria for help. He convinces Ben-hadad to break any covenant or treaty with Israel so that Israel is forced to retreat. Because Asa sought help from foreign kings instead of God, God will make Asa’s last days full of war.
Scripture continues on listing out the history of Judah’s king’s. Some of the kings truly sought the Lord and sought to reform the religious life of Judah. Jehoshaphat “walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices for Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4). The religious significance is that idolatry was tampered down, the king obeyed the law, and the southern kingdom was not like the northern.
We even see collaboration between north and south for a moment. King Ahab in the north seeks out help from Jehoshaphat in the south against Syria. It is a gesture of goodwill from Jehoshaphat, but it turns out to be judgment on Ahab. The prophets tell Ahab that this is a design from God to draw Ahab out into a battle to remove him from the throne. Ahab is a schemer, so he disguises himself to hide from the king of Syria, who has told his army to only go after Ahab and no one else. God actively protects Jehoshaphat and sends a “random” arrow between Ahab’s armor.
The collaboration between north and south was not the good that God intended. The Chronicler wants to make sure that we see the northern kingdom of Israel has truly turned into a pagan society. They hate God. Jehoshaphat found out there is such a thing as practicing discernment in generosity. It may be difficult, but not everyone is in need of your help. This awakening sends Jehoshaphat into reform mode. He sets us good judge to ensure the law of God is practiced justly and courageously. God blesses the kingdom with military protection and goods.
Jehoram was a wicked king who brought the judgment of God on his people. He rebuilt the altars used for idol worship throughout the land. The prophet Elijah to tell Jehoram that God’s judgment will be in the form of a plague on the people and his own family. Jehoram himself will become so sick that he dies. He’s the only king who gets the epithet, “And he departed with no one’s regret” (2 Chronicles 21:20). This is the result of idolatry.
Jehoram’s son Ahaziah follows in his father’s footsteps, as if he had learned nothing. But in that day, in the pagan world, a new king meant that a new god could be worshiped. The king stood in the “image” of a god. So if Ahaziah simply changed the name of the god or gods whom the people worshiped, we understand, at least intellectually, why he made the same mistakes. He refused to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and instead chose to worship a false god.
Athaliah’s mother wants him to be king instead of the rightful king, Joash. But Joash’s sister hides him to protect him until he’s older. Seven years later, Joash’s family forms an alliance with the priests and commanders to remove Athaliah from the throne. He is executed, and Joash becomes king at seven-years-old. The rightful king is now in place. The Davidic dynasty is a promise.
Joash is a good king and begins repairing the temple, which has sat in disuse while wicked kings practiced idolatry. The only stain on his reign that’s mentioned is his refusal to stand up for the priest Zechariah. Zechariah had preached against the sin of the people, the people revolted, and Joash permitted the people to stone him. In judgment, God permits the Syrian army to kill Joash. When the king permits the people to live in sin, one can hardly expect anything other than God’s judgment. The religious implications are that preaching must not hide from naming sins found among the people, and those in authority must not prevent that from happening.
Amaziah, much like many other kings, begins well. He follows the law of Moses and calls the people to do so, as well. He is noted as a courageous king who can capture thousands of enemies. But after a series of successes, Amaziah becomes full of himself and begins worshiping false gods. He wants to be the same as the nations around him, so he sets himself up as one who bears the image of pagan gods. But in his patience, God sends a prophet to call him to repentance. Instead of repentance, Amaziah interrupts the prophet and threatens to kill him. Now the prophet simply pronounces God’s judgment which will not change; God will destroy Amaziah. God’s judgment will come swiftly.
Amaziah seems to want to fight the northern kingdom. Israel does not want to fight, so king Joash of the north tells Amaziah to go home. But “it was of God”, so Amaziah insists on fighting, and he loses dreadfully. Joash wipes the temple treasury clean and takes home gold and silver. He returns home wealthier than when he came. Judah is defeated.
Amaziah’s life ends in destruction, as God promised. The people are furious that their king has led them to a slaughter. He flees, but they pursue him and kill him. But because he was a king, as with all the others, he was buried with the other kings.
And because of the covenant nature of Jerusalem’s king, he must be in the lineage of David. It is right that Amaziah’s son Uzziah become king. Like Joash, he was a young king, only sixteen years of age. Zechariah is still a prophet, as he was with Uzziah’s father. Under the guidance of Zechariah, Uzziah sought the Lord. He rebuilt major cities and his military, all the things you expect a king to do. But in a time of peace, he grew prideful.
Since the time of David, no king would also be a priest. Those who were two distinct roles fulfilling different purposes. Combining them would usher in a host of problems. But Uzziah took it upon himself to burn the priestly incense in the temple. He was not content to have governmental authority; he wanted religious authority, as well. Pride always convinces us that we deserve more. What’s interesting is that there seems to be no initial disciplinary measure besides being told of his wrongdoing. But Uzziah is angry, and it’s only when he became angry with the priests did he show to have leprosy. It was clear this was a judgment of God, and he was leprous for the rest of his life. There could hardly be a more embarrassing situation for a king, whose entire life was public. Now he must seclude himself. He would remain king, but his son Jotham served in the name of his father. When Uzziah died, he was buried away from the other kings because of his leprosy. The prophet Isaiah mentioned in 26:22 is the same prophet who wrote the book of Isaiah. But the book mentioned is not this prophetic book but another one we do not have. Isaiah received his call to be a prophet in the final year of Uzziah’s life (Isaiah 6:1).
Jotham’s reign is given little attention. But it is clear that he is to seen in stark contrast to his father. It is to Jotham’s credit that he receives such a commendation from the Chronicler. He lived a holy life, took care of the city and the people, and was rewarded by God through the generosity of foreign nations.
Paul goes to Jerusalem, visits James, arrested in the temple, speaks to the people, before the tribe, before the council
Paul is head for Jerusalem. He knows that there will persecution if he goes, but he cannot disobey the Holy Spirit. He would rather die that drive the Spirit of God. This becomes even more difficult for him, because his peers do not want him to go. They are well aware of the intentions of the Jews in Jerusalem. A prophet even confirms what Paul already knows: this is the beginning of the end for him.
In Jerusalem, it makes sense that Paul would want to visit with the elders of the church. There is still some resentment among the Jewish Christians that the Gentiles Christians are not required to keep the Jewish law. But neither are the Jewish Christians! The problem is that it would be difficult to say that both groups are Christians, but the very thing that has been the core of your identity is no longer in force. You, as a Jew, might feel as though your whole life has been a sham. So to assuage the resent of the Jewish Christians, the Jerusalem elders have Paul pay for the sacrifices that would normally end a vow taken by a Jew of some of the local Jewish Christians. Paul is happy to do so. He will not unnecessarily offend anyone.
The paying of vows takes place with the priests in the temple. Some non-Christian Jews see him enter with these four men, and they think he is bringing unclean Gentiles into the temple. This would of course normally be a great violation. But they are simply confused, or they might be attempting to get rid of Paul. If it’s no longer necessary to obey the law, so they think Paul says, then it stands to reason he’s laissez faire about who can go in the temple, as well.
From this point on, Paul is on the defensive. “All the city was stirred up, and the people ran together” (21:30). A mob forms because of the lies being spread about Paul. When a lack of order erupted, the Roman soldiers took over. One of the soldiers in charge is surprised that Paul knows Greek, but he’s even more surprised to find out that Paul is a Roman citizen. All Paul wants to do is address the Jews who started the mob, and the Roman tribune permits him to do so.
Paul this this opportunity to recount the Lord meeting him on the road to Damascus. The people are willing to entertain Paul’s history, to a point. Once he mentions that he’s been sent to preach to the Gentiles, insinuating they are equal before God with the Jews, they can stand it no longer. They want him dead. The Jews get the centurion holding custody of Paul to beat him, but Paul again tells this man that he’s a Roman citizen. Beating a citizen was not permitted, so if the centurion and tribune continued, they would possibly be in danger of losing their own lives. The most they can do is detain him.
The tribune is flabbergasted as to why Paul is causing such a hysteria. He seems to be meek, not saying anything that is worthy of the mob. As he’s before the Jewish council, Paul takes off the gloves. Though he should not have spoken so harshly to a priest, he is right to call him a whitewashed wall—clean on the outside, dead on the inside.
Paul finally gets to answer that he is on trial because of his message, that Jesus died and rose again. As if it wasn’t already heated enough, the two groups that made up the council, Pharisees and Sadducees, completely disagreed about the truth of the resurrection. The Pharisees affirmed the resurrection of the dead in the age to come while the Sadducees disagreed. The situation again turns violent, and the tribe gets Paul out of there. Let the Jews fight their own fights
Paul is reassured by the Lord himself. The confession of the faith is based not on feelings or emotions, but on facts. Christ tells him that Paul has “testified to the facts about me”. Nothing Paul has said was untrue. Christianity is based on objective truth, not experience or emotion.
But locking Paul won’t stop the mob from being a mob. They want him dead and will stop at nothing to accomplish that. Paul’s nephew catches wind of the plot and gets a message to him. Because of Paul’s Roman citizenship, the tribune knows that he must keep Paul safe at all costs. He’s already on thin ice by detaining him. He needs to get Paul out of there to keep him safe; also, Paul’s case is a bizarre one.
The tribune sends an entourage with Paul to the local governor, Felix. The tribune relates the short history he has with Paul in a letter. Not only will Paul get to address the governor, but so will his detractors. They will have a proper day in court. Paul is kept under close watch while everyone waits for the Jews to arrive.
Only the high priest, a spokesman, and a group of elders came to accuse Paul in court. They charge him, in front of Felix, with disrupting the peace and profaning what they held sacred. Paul is permitted to give a response. His basic argument is that even if the Jews don’t like what he has to say, he’s done nothing to disrupt the peace. If anything, these Jews are the ones disturbing the peace. Paul’s message lines up perfectly with their own Scriptures. Can the elders actually point to an instance of breaking the law, or are they just furious with Paul?
For two years, Paul is kept in prison. Well, his prison is more of a light house arrest. Basically, Paul is determined to not be a flight risk. Felix had a basic understanding of Christianity, so he wasn’t going to be too hasty in making a decision. He liked what Paul had to say. Now what Paul has to say is beginning to alarm him. Not only will there be a resurrection, but the resurrection precedes the final judgment. But Felix’s wife was Jewish, so he’s not going to completely disregard the Jews in this case. He’s going to leave Paul is prison so as not to aggravate them.
Another group of priests and elders of the Jews attempt to kill Paul. They want to ambush him. Festus takes over after Felix leaves office. Festus wants to meet Paul, as well. It is in this travel time that the ambush has been planned, so Paul is given plenty of security on the way. Paul again argues for his innocence and the truth of the gospel message. He’s getting impatient after these couple of years on house arrest, because no official charges have been laid against him. So he finally insists that his case go to Caesar. His life is in danger, and no one cares to do anything about it.
Nothing in government moves too quickly, then or now. Paul is still waiting to go to trial before Caesar when King Agrippa (kind of like a governor of governors) and his wife Bernice visit Festus. Festus tells Agrippa about Paul, and he peaks Agrippa’s interest. Soon, Paul will relate the same essential testimony again to Agrippa.
Psalm 146: Trust in the Lord, not any earthly power.
Psalm 147: God cares for those who have been brought low.
Psalm 148: All of creation will praise the Lord.
Psalm 149: God will bring justice to the earth.
Psalm 150: Praise God for all that he has done!
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