II Chronicles 15

 

 

This chapter is something like an oasis in our history, and was perhaps such

in the real life of Asa also. Presumably it covers a period of some twenty

years. Reading between the lines, and indeed chapters, we may very well

suppose that the mission of “Azariah son of Oded” to Asa now was one of

all mercy. Great salvation had been shown to him and his people, and as

time went on they might forget the Saviour, and imagine the work was all

their own. Moreover, their own proper work had tarried, and beside

caution and humility (in season for him as a returning and conqueroring king,

v. 2), Asa needed stimulus; perhaps the Lord’s loving-kindness knew that he

needed every kindly encouragement. For there are not wanting signs that

he was before his people, and felt the drag of them upon him as Moses

himself did. These are the features of the physical geography, so to say, of

the chapter, which comprises:

 

·         the rousing warning of Azariah the prophet (vs. 1-7);

·         Asa’s renewal of the altar in its own structure, and in worthy

sacrifices upon it (vers. 8-11);

  • his and his people’s hearty re-consecration of themselves (vs. 12-15); and
  • his own personal, practical carrying out of reform, though his people

apparently did not keep pace with him (vs. 16-19).

 

1 "And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded:"

The Spirit of God came. For “came,” read the literal Hebrew

“was,” as also in our ch. 20:14, where instead of “God” (אְלֶהִים), we find

the Lord” (יְהוָה). In our ch. 24:20, we have again “God,” with the verb

“clothed” (לָבְשָׁה). The grand original of the expression is, of course, found in

Genesis 1:2, where the name is “God.” Compare Pharaoh’s question in Genesis

41:38; Exodus 31:3; 35:31; Numbers 24:2; Judges 3:1; 6:34 (the verb “clothed”

is used in this last); five other times in Judges we have the Spirit of the Lord;

in Samuel six times, and “the Spirit of God” another six times; in Kings,

three times “the Spirit of the Lord.” These passages exhibit incontestably

the function, and the manifold function, of the Spirit! Azariah the son of

Oded. The Vulgate and Alexandrian Septuagint read here simply Oded;

and Movers (p. 261) has suggested that “Oded the son of Azariah” is the

correct reading for what now stands in the text; these are contrivances to

meet the difficulty which the eighth verse occasions, and they are not so

simple certainly as the proposal of Keil and Bertheau (following the Arabic

Version) to omit altogether from v. 8 the repetition of the name of the

prophet, under the plea that the words, “of Oded the prophet,” may so

conceivably be owing to a copyist’s meddlesome marginal reminiscence of

v. 1. It would have been, perhaps, a yet simpler method of overcoming

the difficulty to account that the words, “Azariah the son of,” had through

a copy error slipped out of the text, except that the previous word, “the

prophecy,” is not in the construct state, and this favors Keil and

Bertheau’s suggestion (see our ch. 9:29), or rather the suggestion of the

Arabic Version, which before them omits the words, “of Oded the prophet.”

The Vatican Septuagint has the readings in both verses as Englished in the

Authorized Version. Some think Oded may be one with Iddo of (ch. 9:29;

12:15; 13:22; pointing out that the Hebrew characters would permit it, if we

suppose a vau added to the name Oded.  This conjectural attempt to give this

Prophet Azariah for son to Iddo seems to gain no great point. Of this Azariah

nothing else is known; he is described as “son of Oded” probably to distinguish

him from Azariah the high priest, son of Johanan (see Dr. Smith’s Bible

Dictionary,’ 1:142, second column, 3). (For the rest on this subject, see note

on v. 8.)

 

2 "And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa,

and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be

with Him; and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you; but if ye

forsake Him, He will forsake you."  He went out to meet him; literally, into

his presence; but the Authorized Version rendering is very correct, as well as

happy in expression (see I Chronicles 14:8; also see the remarkable and

interesting verse, here ch. 28:9). The prophet was the leader, the

teacher, the suggester of the right and opportune thing to the people, but

to the prophet the Lord Himself was Leader, Teacher, Prompter, and it was

exactly so now. To the very moment, the quickened moment of new

thought and for new deed, divinest instruction and suggestion are

ministered. The Lord is with you… (if disobedient -[ will forsake you).

The original occasion of the beautiful language and word of covenant in the

heart of this second part of the verse is enshrined in Deuteronomy 4:29 (see

also I Chronicles 28:9; ch. 24:20; Jeremiah 29:11-14). It is just

conceivable that these words by themselves are what are designated “the

prophecy” (and “the prophecy”) in v. 8. They may be in the first place

regarded as ancient quotations. They are also characterized by a certain

self-containedness and weightiness of matter as compared with the historic

illustrations of the following four verses. No corroborative external

evidence of this conjecture, however, is forthcoming.

 

 

God’s Presence and Departure (vs. 1-2)

 

It is characteristic of the Hebrew prophet that as the king comes back

flushed with victory he meets the conqueror, not with honied words of

congratulation, but with faithful words of admonition. What he says to the

king may be taken as applicable to the servant of God generally.

 

  • A PROPHETIC CONFIRMATION OF THE GOOD MAN’S

EXPERIENCE. “Jahve was with you (has given you the victory) because

ye were with Him (held to Him)” (Keil). So far fidelity to Jehovah had

proved to be the condition of prosperity. Under His banner they had

marched to victory; while they were true to Him, He had been in the midst

of them, and had been there to bless them. This is the common, indeed the

constant, experience of the good. The service of God is always a success.

It means:

 

Ø      rest of soul at all times;

Ø      calmness and a wise joy in prosperity;

Ø      resignation and comfort in the time of trouble;

Ø      strength for duty and courage for temptation;

Ø      excellency in life and

Ø      hope in death.

 

To be with God in the sense and spirit of self-surrender

to His will is to have His gracious presence with us, shedding light

and gladness on our path. This is the testimony of the good.

 

  • A PROPHETIC PROMISE OF THE GOOD MAN’S HERITAGE. “If

ye seek Him, He will be found of you.”  Behind us is a part (larger or

smaller) of our life, and we thank God for all that he has been to us as we

have held on our way. But before us is another portion; it may be a very

serious, it may be even a critical, passage of our life. We shall want not

only our own resources at their best, and the kindest and wisest succor of

our friends, but the near presence and effective aid of our heavenly Father.

We shall want:

 

Ø      His guidance, that we may know the path we should take;

Ø      His guardianship, that we may be preserved from the wrong-doings,

from the errors and mistakes, into which we shall otherwise be betrayed;

Ø      His illumination, that we may tightly discharge our duties and rise to

the height of our opportunities; and

Ø      his sustaining grace, that we may bear ourselves bravely and meekly

in the day of our adversity and defeat.

 

All this we shall have if we seek it truly. And that means if we seek it:

 

Ø      in moral and spiritual integrity, our heart being set on the

service of Christ;

Ø      with our whole heart, earnestly and perseveringly;

Ø      believingly, building our hope on His Word.

 

  • A PROPHETIC WARNING OF THE GOOD MAN’S DANGER. “If

ye forsake Him, He will forsake you.”

 

Ø      There is a practical danger of spiritual and, therefore, of moral

declension. Such is our nature, that we are apt to let love become cold; to

allow zeal to wane and wither; to permit our best habits to be encroached

upon by the pressure of lower cares and pleasures and in the process

to forsake God. The records of Christian experience contain only too

many instances of such departure.

 

Ø      We have, then, to fear:

 

o        the withdrawal of God from us;

o        the loss of His Divine favor,

§         His indwelling Spirit,

§         His benediction and reward.

o        Therefore let us watch and pray, that we enter not into the outer

shadow of condemnation.

 

3 "Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God, and

without a teaching priest, and without law.  4 But when they in their trouble

did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found of

them.  5 And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to

him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants

of the countries." Now for a long season. This translation is wrong; translate

rather first, And many the days to Israel to not have true God, and to not

have teaching priest, and to not have Law. So far no tense is limited,

however naturally through the very drift of the passage it may seem that

experience is being challenged, and so necessarily the past tense

desiderated, not, however, in aorist shape, but in what some French

grammarians call present perfect. For Azariah may well contemplate his

illustration as good from long of old, to the very moment he was speaking.

The unfortunate wealth of illustration to hand of his position may pardon

the doubtfulness of commentators as to the source from which it may be

supposed he would have drawn his most effective instances. It will not be

the unlikeliest guide to follow the triple description of the alleged apostasy,

misfortune, or iniquity “of Israel,” e.g. (say) it happened to them to not

have the true God; happened to them to not have teaching priest;

happened to them to not have the Law (this meaning, to not have it

authoritatively proclaimed, taught, ministered). When did these three things

happen altogether most notoriously? They describe, not the transgressions

of an individual king, but the state of the people and kingdom as a whole.

If it were possible to conceive the description as a flagrant anachronism, a

retrospective post-Captivity amplification, which the writer (in his glow of

work and thought) was unconsciously and irresistibly betrayed into putting

into the lips of the Prophet Azariah, all doubt would end; for the

description would suit no state of things and no period better than that of

the divided kingdoms, especially applying to the career of the separate

kingdom of Israel. Our account, unfortunately, is unchecked just here by a

parallel. It is, however, impossible to suppose this without any tittle of

external authority for it, much less enough to proceed upon. Some so crave

the illustration that they are prepared to suppose all the tenses of these

verses present and future rather than past and “present perfect.” But, in

fact, no doubt the history of Israel since the death of Moses illustrated the

language of Azariah passim to a degree beyond all “that is written” or that

we know. And then we may certainly consider that the expression chosen,

“many days” (which some translate “many a day,” “many a time “), even

the word “years” not being employed, leaves it open to us to go to short

episodes of an irreligious and disastrous character in the history of Israel.

Lastly, the long stretch of fully three hundred years, extending throughout

the Book of Judges (its last five chapters in right order or wrong)into the

opening seven chapters of 1 Samuel, provides one running comment,

superabundant almost to repetitiousness, for the illustration of our vs. 3-

7; in many cases absolutely picking out the very colors to match (e.g.

Judges 5:6; 20:29,31, compared with our v. 5). To distinguish and

separate the very numerous references that might be made is merely

supererogatory, and spoils the unmatched mosaic work of the history

(Judges 2:15, 18-19; 3:12-15; 4:1-3; 5:6, 19-21,31: 6:1-5, 7-10; 9:32-

37; 10:6-16; 11:19-20; 12:5-6; 17:5-6, 13; 20:29, 31; I Samuel 2:30-35;

4:9-22; 7:3, 8; 13:19-22). It is a long-stretched-out history of a

practically atheistic, priestless, lawless life; divided into narratives of

invasion, oppression, servitude (sevenfold, the Mesopotamian, Moabite,

Canaanitish, Midianitish, Ammonitish, Philistine, and, it may be added, in

order to comprehend all internal strife, Ishmaelitish larger and lesser, yet

surprisingly general), smart, cry for help manifestly more the cry of pain

and cowardice than of penitence and repentance, resolution and vow, and

— for another trial and still another — of Divine pity, forbearance, and

deliverance

 

6 "And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them

with all adversity."  Among other patent instances, not the least remarkable are

found in Judges 20:35-45; 9:44-47; these forecast and heralded that final rupture

of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, which showed the “house divided against itself,”

and the sure consequences thereof.

 

7 "Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall

be rewarded." Work… rewarded (so Jeremiah 31:16-17; Ecclesiastes 4:9; Proverbs

11:18; and compare with them the crown of all the rest, Genesis 15:1).

 

 

A Conqueror’s Welcome (vs. 1-7)

 

  • A MESSAGE FROM GOD  (vs. 1-2.)

 

Ø      Its bearer. Azarlah, “Whom Jehovah aids,” the son of Oded; mentioned

only here. Jehovah may, and often does, transmit messages of moment

through humble and obscure messengers. What fitted Azariah to be the

bearer of the Divine announcements was the coming upon him of the Spirit

of Eiohim, the Spirit being the Revealer and Interpreter of the Divine will

to the soul of man (Numbers 11:26; Job 32:8; Ezekiel 2:2; I Corinthians 12:8).

That the Spirit of God came upon a man did not prove him to have been a

good man, Balaam (Numbers 24:2) and Saul (I Samuel 10:10) being witness;

though there is no reason to doubt that Azariah was a true prophet of Jehovah.

The Spirit came by measure upon him, as upon other holy men of the old

dispensation through whom God spoke to His people; on Christ, through

whom God’s highest and last message has been sent to mankind, the Spirit

was poured out without measure (Isaiah 11:2; John 3:34; Revelation 3:1).

Hence the supreme importance attaching to the gospel.

 

Ø      Its recipients. “Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin.” God claims a right to

address sovereigns as well as their subjects. Between princes and peasants

in His sight is no difference (Acts 10:34; 1 Peter. 1:17). God’s messages

in the Law and the gospel are directed equally to all. The monarch is as

much under the Law as the subject; the subject has as valid a title to the

provisions of the gospel as the monarch. Asa and his warriors were

returning from a victorious campaign, when Jehovah’s prophet interposed

with notes of warning. These were timely, since the king and his veterans

were in danger of self-laudation and self-confidence — of ascribing their

recent splendid exploits to their own skill and prowess, and of trusting to

their own valor to protect them in future, without troubling themselves to

think about Jehovah, His religion, or His help. So men (not excepting

Christians) are never more in peril of forgetting God than when fortune

smiles upon them (Deuteronomy 8:13-14), and never more need to be

admonished than when rejoicing in deliverances wrought for them by God.

 

Ø      Its contents. A doctrine, a promise, a warning.

 

o        The doctrine. That Jehovah was with them, while they were with Him.

With all God is as to His immanent presence, since He fills heaven and

earth (Jeremiah 33:24), and besets all individually behind and before                              VV

(Psalm 139:1-12); but with His people He is, in the special sense of

gracious manifestation to:

 

§         accept (Numbers 17:4),

§         protect (ch. 20:17; Jeremiah 42:11),

§         assist (I Chronicles 22:18; Haggai 1:13), and

§         bless (Exodus 20:24).

 

Only His presence with them is ever conditioned by their being with

Him in the sense of:

 

§         believing in,

§         loving, and

§         obeying Him (John 14:23).

 

o        The promise. That if they sought Jehovah, Jehovah should be found of

them. If they sought Him in the way of penitence, faith, love, obedience,

He should be found of them in the way of acceptance, grace, assistance.

This promise, always true of Jehovah in His relations with Israel

(I Chronicles 28:9; here ch. 30:19; Psalm 119:2; Jeremiah 29:13;

Amos 5:4), is equally true of His relations with believers on

Christ (Hebrews 11:6; James 4:8).

 

o        The warning. That if they forsake God, God would forsake them. If

they went back from the path of reform upon which they were entered,

He also would withdraw His countenance and aid from them. So Moses

(Deuteronomy 31:16-17) and Joshua (Joshua 24:20) had warned

their contemporaries and David his son Solomon (I Chronicles 28:9).

The same condition is addressed to all (Jeremiah 17:27; Hebrews

10:38).

 

  • A LESSON FROM HISTORY (vs. 3-6.)

 

Ø      The possibility of lapsing into RELIGIOUS APOSTASY!   Such times had

formerly existed in Judah, and hence in the future might reappear

(Ecclesiastes 1:9; 3:15). Whether Azariah’s language depicted the

condition of Judah then (Grotius), or in the future (Luther), or in the past,

in the days of Rehoboam and Abijah (Syriac, Arabic), or in the period of

the judges (Vitringa, Bertheau), is open to debate. As the prophet has not

definitely stated the time, he may have designed to express truths of force

at  all limes (Keil). Of such days as the prophet alludes to, Judah and Israel

had both before had experience. The description of them is peculiarly

affecting.

 

o        No true God; i.e. no knowledge of the true God; or, what is worse, the

knowledge of the true God, but not His worship or service. Such times had

existed soon after the death of Joshua (Judges 2:10-15; 10:6), and were

yet to reappear in Israel under Ahab (I Kings 18:20-21), and in Judah

under Ahaz (here, ch. 28:1-6). “Without God” — a correct

characterization of the unbelieving world (Job 21:14; Psalm 10:4;

Ephesians 2:12).

 

o        No teaching priest; i.e. the priests they had either no knowledge of the

true God, of His character and requirements, and so could not teach the

people; or, if they did, they were satisfied with the mere performance of

their altar duties, without caring for the spiritual welfare of the people. If

the first, they were disqualified for being priests by reason of their

ignorance (Malachi 2:7); if the second, they were chargeable with

indolence (ibid. ch. 1:6) or hypocrisy (Nehemiah 9:34), or both. If,

under the old covenant, priests were required to instruct the people in the

tenets and precepts of religion, much more is it incumbent on Christian

pastors to be also teachers (Ephesians 4:11). A ministry that does not

preach or teach ipso facto stands condemned.

 

o        No Law; i.e. the Torah of Moses, unknown, or forgotten, or disobeyed.

When men or nations depart from God, they begin by pulling down his

altars, and end by trampling on His commandments. And if there be no

God, this is just as it should be. If God is not, to pretend to worship Him

is a farce, and ministers of religion may be dispensed with; if God is not,

there is no Supreme Authority to claim from man obedience, and man may

at once assume lordship over himself. But if God is, it will be more

prudent to let His altars remain, to see that His ministers teach, and take

order that His precepts be obeyed.

 

Ø      The certainty that RELIGIOUS APOSTASY will be followed by NATIONAL

DISASTER!   So it had been in the past, and so it would be in the future.

 

o        Social disturbance, danger, and violence had been, and would be, the

order of the day. “And in those times there was,” or is, “no peace to him

that went out or to him that came in.” Such had been Israel’s condition in

the days of Shamgar the son of Anath (Judges 5:6), and under the

oppression of the Midianites (ibid. ch. 6:2). IRRELIGION necessarily

gravitates towards VIOLENCE!  He that breaks God’s commandments

without a qualm of conscience seldom scruples about making havoc with

man’s when opportunity occurs. Exemplified in the age of Noah (Genesis

6:4, 11-12), in the last days of Greece and Rome, and in the French

Revolution of 1798.  (We are experiencing a taste of this in our

racial and immoral unrest in the 21st Century!  CY - 2016)

 

o        Political anarchy had commonly attended these times in the past, and

would more than likely do so again on their recurrence. “Great vexations

came upon all the inhabitants of the countries, and nation was destroyed

 of nation, and city of city” — literally, “and they were broken in pieces,

nation against nation and city against city;” “for God did,” or does, “vex

them with all adversity.” The language, descriptive of such a reign of terror

as commonly accompanies civil war, was verified in a form comparatively

mild in the war of the tribes of Israel against Benjamin (Judges 20:20),

and in the struggle of the Gileadites with Ephraim (ibid. ch.12:4). Amos

(Amos 3:9) depicted such commotions, confusions, tumults, as

occurring, or about to occur, in Samaria in his time. In the final overthrow

of the two kingdoms, the prophet’s words received their most startling

illustration (Isaiah 9:18-20). In the ultimate destruction of all peoples

hostile to God, they will, obtain their highest and fullest realization

(Zechariah 14:13; Matthew 24:7).

 

Ø      The only way of escaping from the miseries and horrors of such evil

times, viz. by repenting and TURNING TO JEHOVAH!  “But when in their

distress,” etc. So had it been in the days of the Egyptian oppression

(Exodus 2:23), and in those of the Midianite supremacy (Judges 6:6).

So had it been in the experience of Asa himself, whose cry unto

Jehovah on the field of war had been heard (ch. 14:11). So

would it be again, if in the season of their calamity they remembered God

(ch. 7:14). The doctrine here enunciated holds good of individuals as well as

of nations; e.g. David (II Samuel 21:1; Psalm 18:6; 34:4; 138:3), Jehoshaphat

(ch. 17:4, 10), Uzziah (ch. Chronicles 26:5). The ear of God is open to every

cry of a distressed soul (Psalm 34:15). “Fools, because of their transgression,”

 etc. (Psalm 107:17-19).

 

  • AN EXHORTATION FROM A PROPHET (v. 7.)

 

Ø      The counsel. Action.

 

o        Vigorous. “Be strong therefore.” Courage in conceiving and doing the

right thing was the special demand of the hour. The right thing at that

moment in Judah was to adhere to Jehovah, reform the abuses that

during the previous reigns had crept into His worship, and exterminate

the idolatrous rites that had been introduced by earlier king. More

disastrous for the country had these been than Zerah’s invasion.

Nothing more required of the followers of God and soldiers of Jesus

Christ in any age or land than:

 

§         an heroic determination to resist sin  and follow holiness,

§         oppose error and defend truth,

§         renounce idolatry and cleave to the worship of the Father

(Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:7; Psalm 27:14; I Corinthians

16:13; II Timothy 2:1).

o        Persevering. “Let not your hands be weak” Not enough to begin well;

to continue well is indispensable. Weariness in well-doing a frequent

phenomenon, much needing to be guarded against (Galatians 6:9).

Steadfastness in the faith and in the maintenance of good works

expected of Christians (I Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 4:1;

Colossians 1:23; II Thessalonians 3:13; II Timothy 3:14;

Hebrews 10:23).

 

Ø      The encouragement. Recompense. “Your work shall be rewarded.”

 

o        With inward satisfaction, as being in itself a right work (Proverbs

14:14). This an invariable accompaniment of well-doing, and, apart

from further consequences, ample remuneration.

 

o        With Divine approbation, as being a work God regards with favor.

Already expressed in the Word (Hebrews 13:16), this will eventually

be proclaimed by the mouth of God (Matthew 25:21, 23).

 

o        With ultimate success, as being a work destined to triumph over every

form of evil. The cause of God and truth, of Christ and the gospel, may

be long and bitterly opposed, but ultimate victory rests with it

(Revelation 11:15).

 

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The superiority of the new dispensation in having God’s Son as its

Messenger (Hebrews 1:1-2).

 

Ø      The equity of Gods dealings with men in providence and in grace

(I Samuel 2:30; Ezekiel 18:29).

 

Ø      The miserable state of the heathen world, as destitute of the true

knowledge of God (Ephesians 2:12; 4:17-18).

 

Ø      The value of affliction as a means of religious improvement (Job

33:17-19; Psalm 119:67,71; Ezekiel 20:37; Lamentations 3:27;

II Corinthians 4:17; Hebrews 12:11).

 

Ø      The secret of national prosperity — RIGHTEOUSNESS

(Proverbs 14:34).

 

Ø      The duty of persevering in religion (John 15:4; Acts 11:23;

II Timothy 1:14; I Peter 5:9; Revelation 2:27).

 

Ø      The certainty that faith shall not lose ITS REWARD

 (Luke 6:35; I Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 10:35).

 

 

Spiritual Strength a Sacred Obligation (v. 7)

 

“Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak.” This is in the

imperative mood; it is a commandment. Strength is represented as a sacred

duty; and weakness, consequently, as a culpable failure. To be spiritually

strong is an obligation as much as an endowment. It may, indeed, be urged

that there is;

 

  • CONSTITUTIONAL WEAKNESS, which is to be borne with rather

than to be blamed. Some human spirits are less fully endowed than others;

some bring with them sad consequences of their progenitors’ sin

(Exodus 20:5). It requires tenfold more spiritual courage and exertion

on the part of these to be loyal and faithful than on the part of their

brethren who are more richly equipped or less heavily weighted. We need

to know much before we judge men. Only the Divine Father, who knows

us altogether, who knows, therefore, the limitations and the propensities of

our nature which we have received from Himself or from our ancestors, can

say how much we are to be blamed, how much to be pitied. But

undoubtedly there is;

 

  • MORAL WEAKNESS, for which we are responsible, of which we are

guilty, “Let not your hands be weak.” But how often THE HAND IS

WEAK because THE LIFE HAS BEEN LOW and because THE

HEART HAS BEEN WRONG!   All vice leads down to weakness.

And not vice alone, but all folly; the foolish and blameworthy disregard

of the laws of our mind and of our body. Not only excessive indulgence

in any one direction (mental or physical), but unregulated and ill-proportioned

activity, ends in weakness; so that he who might have been an active and

efficient workman in many a good field of usefulness is helpless; his hand

hangs down; there is “no strength in his right hand,” because there has been

no wisdom in his mind.

 

  • SPIRITUAL STRENGTH, which we are under obligation to acquire.

There is much of real, effective strength which it is open to us all to obtain

if we will. God is saying to us, “Be ye strong;” and if we do what He gives

us the means of doing, we shall be strong. What are the sources of spiritual

strength?

 

Ø      Christian morality. And this includes

 

o       the care of the body,

§         the regulation of its instincts and craving,

§         ministering to its necessities;

o        the culture of the mind — increasing its knowledge and nourishing

its power;

o       the training of the heart.

 

Ø      Sacred service. Our capacity for serving Christ and man depends very

largely indeed on our making a continuous effort to serve. “To him that

hath is given” (Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:25), i.e. to him that puts out his

talent is given another; to him that expends his strength in paths of holy

usefulness is given multiplied power to speak and strike for God and

truth. Our present strength depends upon our growth in power; and

that depends upon the measure of our exercise in the field of sacred

work.

 

Ø      Divine communication. “Thou answeredst me and strengthenedst me

with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3); “In Christ who strengtheneth

me” (Philippians 4:13).. Strength is one of the “good things” our

heavenly Father will give to “them that ask Him” (Matthew 7:11).

 

 

                                    The Reward of Christian Work (v. 7)

 

“Your work shall be rewarded.” The very words recur in the prophecies of

Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:16); and the sentiment is frequently expressed by

our Lord and by His apostles. It appears distinctly in the solemn statement

of Jesus Christ, “The Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father…

and then He shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew

16:27; see also Romans 2:6-7; I Corinthians 3:8; Revelation 22:12). What is the

reward for which we are to look? Not :

 

  • THE REWARD OF HIRED LABOR. Hired labor is rewarded

precisely and particularly. So much money for so much work, measured by

the hours occupied or the work done. There is a nice calculation of what

has been wrought on the one hand, and of what is given in exchange on the

other. It is supposed that the one is the equivalent of the other. But our

Divine Saviour does not call us into His field on this arrangement. We are

not His day-laborers, engaged at a certain price; we are His fellow-workers

— employed under Him, indeed, but engaged with Him in the completion of

His great “work.” He is not treating us as slaves or even as common

servants, but as children and as friends — as those whom He loves and

desires to bless with true well-being. We aspire to:

 

  • THE REWARD OF THE LABOR OF LOVE. Our Divine Master

invites us to stand by His side and work out with Him the redemption of our

race. He charges us to be as He was in the world; to work as He did, in the

spirit of entire self-surrender, of whole-hearted love; to put forth our

strength in His service and in the cause of righteousness and human

elevation; and He tells us that we shall secure a “full reward.” We shall find

that in:

 

Ø      The possession of His good pleasure. The true soldier finds his best

reward in the commendation of his commander; the true scholar in the

approval of his teacher; the true workman in the smile of him in whose

service he is engaged. We, as Christian workmen, look for our deepest joy

in the smile and the approval of our Lord. We hope for no moment of

keener ecstasy than that when we shall hear Him say to us, “Well done,

good and faithful servant!” To live in the known and felt possession of

Jesus Christ’s benediction is one of the purest, as it is one of the most

appreciated, rewards, we can receive.

 

Ø      The enlargement of our own powers of service. As we work in the cause

of heavenly wisdom and of spiritual well-being, our power for action is

constantly enlarging, until feebleness becomes strength, and strength

becomes might. The more we do the more we are capable of doing (see

previous homily).

 

Ø      The expansion of our sphere of service. “Thou hast been faithful in a

few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21).

“I will ask for no reward, except to serve thee still;” or, may we not say,”

except to serve thee more “? — to serve thee in that broader sphere, with

those nobler opportunities into which thou wilt introduce me. For our

Master does thus enlarge us now, as one fruit of our labor; and He will

soon reward us by a far more generous enlargement, when He “cometh

with His Father” and when “his reward is with Him.”

 

8 "And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the

prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of

all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he

had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the

LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD."

These words and the prophecy. In addition to what is said

under v. 1 on the question of the occurrence here of the name Oded,

where we should have looked for the name Azariah, it may be noted that it

is open to possibility that “these words” certainly referring to the language

of Azariah, the “prophecy” may have in view some quotation more or less

well known from Oded, satisfied by the latter part of v. 2 or by v. 7.

This is not very likely; still, the conjunction “and” would thereby better

account for itself. Nevertheless, it would still remain that the word

“prophecy” is not in construct but absolute state, and we cannot count the

difficulty removed, comparatively unimportant as it may be. He took

courage, and put away, etc. These words may express either Asa’s

accomplishing of the reforms spoken of in the former chapter (vs. 3-5),

or quite as probably his perseverance and renewed diligence and vigor in

the same; the language, “he took courage,” favors this latter view. The

cities which he had taken from, etc. Some say that the reference here and

in ch. 17:2 also must be understood to be to Abijahs victory and spoils

(ch. 13:19), and that these two places must accordingly be in slight error.

If this passage had stood alone, this view might have been more easy to accept,

but the words in ch.17:2 explicitly state that Asa had taken such cities, and the

mere fact that the history does not record when, nor even show any very

convenient gap into which Asa’s taking of such cities after conflict with

Israel might well fit in, can scarcely be allowed to override the direct

assertion of ch.17:2 (compare ch. 16:11). At the same time, the

work that would devolve on Asa in holding the cities his father Abijah had

first taken, may easily account for all, and have been accounted Asa’s

taking, in the sense of taking to them, or retaking them. Renewed the

altar. The altar, the place of which was before the porch, was the altar of

burnt offering. The Hebrew for “renewed” is חִדֵּשׁ. The Vulgate translates

insufficiently dedicavit. Bertheau thinks the renewal designs simply the

purification of it from idolatrous defilements, although he admits that this is

to assume that it had been defiled by idolatrous priests. Keil says the altar

might well need genuine repair after the lapse of sixty years from the

building of the temple. Of the nine occurrences of the word. five are

metaphorical(as e.g. Psalm 51:10), but of the remaining four distinctly

literal uses, including the present, three must mean just strictly “repair”

(ch. 24:4, 12; Isaiah 61:4), and the probability may therefore be that such is the

meaning now. Many, however, prefer the other view. The work of Asa, as

described in ch.14:3-5, was one of taking away, breaking down, and cutting down;

but this item shows it now, in his fifteenth year, become also one of renewing and

repairing.  The porch of (so ch. 29:17; I Kings 7:6-7, 12; Ezekiel 40:7); איּלָם,

though in construct state, the kametz impure.

 

9 " And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with

them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they

fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the

LORD his God was with him."  He gathered. As the following verses go

on to show, Asa wisely gathered all beneath his sway, with a view to sacrifice

and to record anew hallowed resolve as a nation. The strangers. It is a significant

comment on the estranging effect of religious schism (for the schism was

religious even beyond what it was national) that so comparatively soon

these of the tribes of Israel should have become called “strangers” by the

side of Judah and Benjamin. They fell to him… in abundance.

Another significant comment on the sameness of human nature in all time;

the weak and the multitude will see, learn, do duty, less under pure

conviction of right, than under the strong commanding influence of

observation of where and with whom success goes, even if that success

necessitate the owning of the Divine blessing as its cause (ch.11:16 and

I Chronicles 12:19). It should be noted, not for the sake of

satire of human nature, but for the inculcation of the infinite importance of

godly influence and example. Out of Simeon (see also ch. 34:6). The “lines”

of the Simeonites fell to them originally (Joshua 19:1) within Judah. The

difficulty suggested by their being called, apparently, “strangers,” and being 

certainly classed with the comers from “Ephraim and Manasseh,” may be

variously overcome, either by supposing that they had become more estranged

from Judah in religious position than it was possible to them to have become in

merely geographical; or that they had in some degree outgrown their own proper

habitat, and had to some extent colonized a more northerly region (Genesis 49:7);

or that, though, indeed, our compiler’s composition undoubtedly places the

Simeonites summoned, among the strangers, through mentioning them

after Ephraim and Manasseh, yet this location of their name be held

accidental, rather than due to special design.

 

10 "So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third

month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa." In the third month.

The “Feast of Weeks” began about the sixth of this third month Sivan (June).

In the fifteenth year. It has been conjectured from ch. 14:1 that Zerah the

Ethiopian, or Cushite, invaded Judah in Asa’s eleventh year. The present

sacrificial festival, in his fifteenth year, evidently was held very shortly after

the close of Asa’s victory over Zerah This infers a rather longer duration of

the war than is otherwise to be gathered from the face of the history. The interval,

it is true, may be explained by supposing that Asa lingered long to restore the

state of things where Zerah’s vast host had unsettled it.

 

11 "And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which

they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep."

These offerings were probably chiefly of the nature of peace

offerings (Leviticus 7:11-21). In the mention of the “spoil” (ch. 14:13, 15)

nothing is said of oxen. Seven hundred… seven thousand. The number seven is

common when the sacrifices were in units (as e.g. Numbers 29:32; I Chronicles

15:26, etc.), but uncommon in hundreds and thousands, for see I Kings 8:63;

here ch. 35:7-9, comparing, however, ch. 30:24.

 

12 "And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their

fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;" They entered into a

covenant. For the original, see Exodus 24:6-8; Deuteronomy 4:29; for two

other solemn renewals of it, see II Kings 23:1-3; here ch. 34:29-33; where,

however, the stringent engagement of the following verse, though sufficiently

to be inferred, is not notified. To seek; Hebrew, לִדְרושׁ. (for similar use of לְ,

with infinitive after, etc., see Nehemiah 10:30; Jeremiah 34:10).

 

13 "That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be

put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman."

Whosoever would not… should be put to death (see Exodus 22:20;

Deuteronomy 13:9; 17:2-6).

 

14 "And they swear unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with

shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets."  The loud voice, the

shouting, and the trumpets, and cornets, spoke alike the determination,

and the united joyful determination of the people (ch. 23:13; Nehemiah

12:27, 42-43).

 

15 "And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their

heart, and sought Him with their whole desire; and He was found of

them: and the LORD gave them rest round about."  For the probable

duration of the rest round about, spoken of in the last clause, see under

v. 19.

 

 

The Secret of Joy in the Service of Christ (vs. 14-15)

 

How comes it to pass that the service of Christ should be associated in any

mind with austerity and gloom? How is it that every one does not connect

that service in his thought with gladness of heart and brightness of life?

This misfortune may be attributable to misconception, to a mental error, to

the misreading of some words of the Master or of His apostles; or it may be

the consequence, physical as much as spiritual, of a particular

temperament; but it is most frequently caused by lack of thoroughness in

the service of the Lord.

 

  • THE MISTAKE OF HALF-HEARTEDNESS IN THE SERVICE OF

CHRIST. During the reigns of Rehoboam and Abijah, when king and

people both showed much abatement of zeal in the worship of Jehovah, we

do not read of any record like that of the text. Of Rehoboam we find that

“he fixed not his heart to seek the Lord” (ch. 12:14, marginal

reading). Abijah could say nothing more for himself than that he had “not

forsaken the Lord” (ch. 13:10), and his later days, like his grandfather’s,

were apparently darkened by indulgence. There was no fervor of piety, and

there was no fullness of joy in the land. And we find that everywhere and

always it is so. Half-heartedness in holy service is a profound mistake.

It gives no satisfaction to our Lord Himself. It leads to no height of Christian

worth, to no marked excellency of character. It fills the soul with no deep

and lasting joy. It is very likely to decline and to expire, to go out into the

darkness of doubt, or worldliness, or guilt.

 

  • THE WISDOM OF WHOLE-HEARTEDNESS. “All Judah rejoiced at

the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought Him with their

whole desire… and the Lord gave them rest.” There was no imaginable

step they could have taken which would have caused so much elation of

heart and ensured so enviable a national position. Asa and his people

showed the very truest wisdom, something more and better than sagacious

policy or statecraft, when they sought the Lord with all their heart. They

did that which gave them a pure and honest satisfaction in the present, and

which, more than any other act, secured the future. And though we

certainly are not invited to manifest the thoroughness of our devotion in

the same severities that characterized their decision (v. 13), we do well

when we follow there in the fullness of their resolve. For to seek Christ the

Lord with all our heart and our “whole desire” is the one right and the one

wise thing to do.

 

Ø      It secures to us the abiding favor and friendship of the Eternal; He is

then “found” of us.

 

Ø      It brings profound personal rest; then Christ speaks “peace” to us His

peace, such as this world has not at its command.

 

Ø      It secures a feeling of friendship toward all around us: “rest round

about.” The heart is filled with that holy love which desires to bless all

who can be reached.

 

Ø      It fills and sometimes floods the heart with sacred joy. The full

realization of the presence and love of Christ, the fervent worship of the

Lord of all grace and truth, earnest work done in His Name and in His

strength, — these are a source of enlarging and ennobling joy. The true

key-note of the Christian life is this: “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and

again… rejoice.”

 

16 "And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he

removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a

grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at

the brook Kidron."  Maachah the mother of Asa; i.e. the grandmother

(II Chronicles 11:20-22; 13:2; I Kings 15:2, 10, 13) of Asa; and the

statement amounts to this, that Asa removed her from the dignity she had

enjoyed, with all its influences of “queen-mother.An idol in a grove.

This, probably, literally translated, says, an hideous fright for, i.e. in place

of Asherah, i.e. Ashtoreth, or Astarte; but some translate to Asherah. The

word we translate “an hideous fright” (מִפְלָצֶת) occurs only here and in

the parallel (I Kings 15:13), and its derivation root guides to this

rendering; but some give it the idea of an object of reverent fear among

idols. Asa cut down. So it was enjoined (Exodus 34:13-15). And

stamped it; Hebrew, וַיָּדֶק; hiph. of דָקַק; the meaning being “stamped it”

in the dust, from its upright position, finally burning it. The word is used in

ch. 34:4, 7; II Kings 23:6, 15; Exodus 30:36; Micah 4:13. The word used in the

parallel is “cut off;” or “cut down; of course also preparatory to burning.

At the brook Kidron. The Kidron was a torrent rather than a brook. It flowed

between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, and finally emptied itself into the

Dead Sea. The references to Kidron in the Old Testament are interesting, but all

reinvested with heightened interest from those in the New Testament (John 18:1,

compared with what the parallels infer; Mark 14:26; Luke 22:39).  The first two

references in the Old Testament are II Samuel 15:23; I Kings 2:37. Passing these,

the present place, with its parallel, brings the Kidron valley next under notice as,

the place of destruction for Maachah’s obscene phallic abomination, and then

(II Kings 11:16) as the place where Athaliah was destroyed. Its associations are

similar when spoken of in II Kings 13:4, 6, 12; here, ch. 29:16; 30:14,

becoming the “regular receptacle for the impurities and abominations of the

idol-worship, when removed from the temple and destroyed by the

adherents of Jehovah.” In the time of Josiah, this valley was the common

burying-place of the city (II Kings 23:6; Jeremiah 26:23; 31:40). (For

Robinson’s description of the modern state of the Kidron valley, see Dr.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary,’ 2:14-16).

 

17 "But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless

the heart of Asa was perfect all his days." The high places were not taken away

out of Israel. It is possible, but scarcely tenable, that, by Israel, the northern

kingdom may be here intended. But for the apparent discrepancy with those

 places which say that Asa did take away “the high places” (ch.14:3, 5), see

notes under them.  “The high places” were hills on which sacrifices were

illegitimately offered instead of at the chosen place — at Jerusalem. The

heart of Asa was perfect all his days. The words, “with Jehovah,”

following after the word “perfect” in the parallel (I Kings 15:14),

makes the already plain plainer. The exact meaning is that Asa was

consistently free from idolatry to the end.

 

18 "And he brought into the house of God the things that his father had

dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels.

Except for an unimportant difference of the Keri and Chethiv

kind in one word, this verse is identical with the parallel (I Kings 15:15).

The silver, gold, and vessels were, of course, for the repair,

restoration, and replacing of the revered fittings and ornaments of the

temple. From what sources and after what victories the father of Asa and

Asa himself had drawn these supplies is not given either here or in the

parallel, but it is natural to suppose that Abijah’s victory over Jeroboam

(ch. 13:16) and Asa’s over Zerah would have been the chief

occasions to finnish them.

 

19 "And there was no more war unto the five and thirtieth year of the

reign of Asa."  There was no more war. The Hebrew text should be adhered

to, which simply says, there was not war unto, etc.  The five and thirtieth

year. There can be little doubt that the text originally said “twentieth,” not

“thirtieth” (see also ch. 16:1). The parallel, after the identical

words of the previous verse already noted, goes on emphatically to speak

of the fact that “there was war between Asa and Baasha all their days;” and

the same statement is repeated in the thirty-second verse of the same

chapter (I Kings 15:16, 32). The following verse (33) says that

Baasha’s twenty-four-year reign began in Asa’s third year. Putting the

various and apparently somewhat varying statements together, they must

be held to say, first, that a state of war was, indeed, chronic between Asa

and Baasha (which way of putting need not disturb the correctness of here,

ch. 14:5-6, and of the fifteenth verse of our chapter), but that in the

six and twentieth year of Asa, which would be the last or last but one of

Baasha’s life, latent war gave place to active hostilities, and Baasha (here,

ch.16:1) came up to Judah to invade it, and to build Ramah — a

course of conduct which was the beginning of the end for him (compare

I Kings 16:8; our v. 10; and ch. 16:1, 9).

 

 

Ancient Covenanters (vs. 8-19)

 

  • SERIOUS PREPARATIONS (vs. 8-11.)

 

Ø      The purgation of the land from idols. Encouraged by the words of the

son of Oded — not Oded, as in the text — Asa, on reaching his capital,

determined to convene a national assembly, and enter into a solemn league

and covenant to carry out the work of reformation so auspiciously begun

(ch. 14:2-5), and so manifestly owned of Jehovah in the splendid victory

He had granted over the Cushite invader (ibid. v.12). As a preliminary, he

“put away the abominations,” i.e. the idols, “from the whole land of Judah

and Benjamin, and out of the cities he had taken from the hill country of

Ephraim.” In the same spirit acted Jacob, before going up to meet with Jehovah

at Bethel (Genesis 35:2); and Moses, before the interview of Israel with

Jehovah at Sinai (Exodus 19:14); Hezekiah, before he celebrated the Passover

(ch. 30:14); and Josiah, before he renewed the covenant (ibid. ch.34:3-7).

If such preparation on the part of Israel was needful to qualify her for

an interview with Jehovah even in external celebrations (Amos 4:12),

much more is a similar preparation of the heart indispensable on the part of

souls who come before God in any act of spiritual worship (ch. 19:3; 20:33;

I Samuel 7:3; Psalm 57:7; Luke 1:17).  In particular, all known sin must be

abandoned (Isaiah 1:16-17).

 

Ø      The renewal of the altar of the Lord. The great brazen altar of Solomon

(ch. 4:1) had probably been defiled by idol-rites during preceding reigns,

and required reconsecration (Bertheau); while, after sixty

years of service, it almost certainly stood in need of repairs (Keil). Most

likely Asa’s renovation of the altar was of both kinds — an external

reparation and a religious consecration. It is commonly a sign that a

Church or nation is in earnest in entering upon religious reformation when

it attends to the externals as well as to the internals of religion — when it

corrects abuses, repairs defects, and adds improvements in the outward

means of grace, as well as endeavors to impart to these fresh

attractiveness and zeal.  Individuals begin not well who neglect to engage

all their powers of body, mind, and heart in the work, or to seek for these a

new and gracious baptism from above (Romans 12:1).

 

Ø      The invitation of the people to a national assembly. Without the hearty

consent and cooperation of the people, reforms of no kind can be effected

— as little religious as political or social, and just as little these as those.

Accordingly, all Judah and Benjamin, with such Israelites as sympathized

with the new movement, were summoned to Jerusalem on a certain day to

covenant to seek Jehovah. As early as the days of Rehoboam, strangers

from the northern kingdom had found their way into the southern (ch. 11:16);

Asa’s victory over Zerah having been accepted as a proof that Jehovah was

on the side of Judah’s king, the number of these immigrants largely increased

(v. 9). What was wanted then in Judah and Israel to rally the pious is demanded

still — a leader, who has God upon his side, because he is on the side of God.

 

Ø      The gathering of the pious in Jerusalem. It showed the spirit of the

people that they responded at once to their monarch’s call. Followers that

will not follow are a hindrance to those who would lead in reformations in

either Church or state, Union is strength, and generally victory; disunion

weakness, and always defeat.

 

  • SOLEMN TRANSACTIONS (vs. 12-14.)

 

Ø      The presentation of the spoils. These, seven hundred oxen and seven

thousand sheep, formed part of the plunder taken from Zerah’s army

(ch.14:14-15), and were now presented to Jehovah; as Abraham

gave tithes to Melchizedek on returning from the slaughter of the kings

(Genesis 14:20); as the Israelites in the wilderness after the slaughter of

the Midianites levied a tribute unto the Lord (Numbers 31:11-47); as

Saul said he intended to sacrifice unto the Lord the sheep and oxen he had

reserved from the spoil of the Amalekites (I Samuel 15:21); and as

victorious generals among the Romans were accustomed to dedicate to

Jupiter part of the spoils taken from the enemy (Adam’s Roman

Antiquities,’ p. 327). As Asa’s victory had been achieved solely through

Divine help, this was becoming as well as right. Those whom God renders

successful in their callings should honor Him with the first-fruits of their

increase (Proverbs 3:9). Every man as God hath prospered him, a rule

of Christian giving (I Corinthians 16:2).

 

Ø      The formation of a covenant.

 

o        The object — twofold. 

 

§         “To seek the Lord God of their fathers,” etc. (v. 12) —

a right thing for nations and individuals to do — yea, for all,

whether they covenant with and swear to one another

concerning it or not. To seek God, a nation’s and individual’s

life (Isaiah 55:3, 6; Psalm 69:32; Amos 5:4), and the only source

of true prosperity for either (Psalm 70:4; 119:2; Lamentations

3:25). That the god a nation or an individual seeks

is the god of his or its fathers, is no proof that that god is the true

God; but, being the true God, He possesses an additional claim on

the worship and homage of both individual and nation, from the

fact that He is and has been their fathers’ God. If God is to be

sought at all, it should be with the whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13).

Nothing short of this is religion (Deuteronomy 11:13; 13:3;

Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30, 33; Luke 10:27).

 

§         To “put to death,” etc. (v. 13). Under the theocracy religious

      toleration was impossible, for the reason that idolatry was high

      treason.   (It still is!  CY - 2016)  A theocratic government is a

     government of constraint. Freedom of conscience would have

     been an unmeaning sound under the Jewish economy” (Pressense,

    Early Years of the Christian Church,’ vol. 1. p. 36).  Church and

     state in Judah were one. No such identification existed among

     heathen nations, though approximations towards it were often

     seen. Nor does such identification exist under the gospel. Hence

     neither Church nor state now has authority to put to death those

     who decline the religion prescribed by either. The reformed

     Churches of England and Scotland were slow in perceiving that

     the extermination of heretics by the sword of the civil magistrate,

     however legitimate under the Jewish theocracy, was not

                                         permissible in the Church of Jesus Christ. Under the gospel God

                                         alone is Lord of the conscience; and to each man pertains the right

                                         of choosing his own religion, his own creed, and his own worship,

                                         without dictation, not to say coercion, from either king or parliament

                                         — being answerable for the choice he makes in the first place to

                                         his own conscience, and in the last place to God, whose creature

                                         and subject he is. This is the doctrine of religious equality, which

                                         should be carefully distinguished from that of religious toleration,

                                         which proceeds upon the erroneous assumption that Church and

                                         state possess the right, but decline to exercise the power of

                                         coercion, and agree to allow, what they might justly put

                                         down, diversity of faith and practice in religion.

 

o        The form — simple. “They sware unto the Lord;” i.e. bound

themselves with an oath to carry out the twofold purpose above

described.  This they did with enthusiasm (v. 14), which is always

good in a good thing (Galatians 4:18), and especially good in religion

(Luke 13:24; John 9:4; Ephesians 5:16; Hebrews 6:11).

 

o        The scene — impressive. In more points than one this high transaction

under Asa had a parallel in the National Covenant, which was formed

by the Scottish people in Edinburgh on the last day of February, 1638,

when in the churchyard of Greyfriars, in the grey dawn, a parchment

was spread upon a gravestone, and one by one the nobility, gentry,

burgesses, ministers of religion, and common people, with uplifted

hand and solemn oath, affixed to it their names, engaging with one

another to maintain the Presbyterian form of Church government,

and, at the point of the sword, to exterminate the prelatical.

 

  • SIGNIFICANT RESULTS (vs. 15-19.)

 

Ø      The joy of the people. (v. 15.) This proved they had been in earnest.

They exulted in the unanimity and heartiness with which the covenant had

been made, and in the prospect thus opened up for the attainment of its

objects.

 

Ø      The zeal of the king. (vs. 16-18.)

 

o        The deposition of the queen-mother, Maachah, the mother of Abijah

and grandmother of Asa. High rank, venerable age, and near

relationship to Asa had given her at court and in the land commanding

influence, which she exercised in the interest of idolatry. Her removal

by Asa showed him sincere in desiring to effect a reformation (Luke

14:26).

 

o        The destruction of her abominable image. This, which was made of

wood, and is supposed by some to have been an obscene figure,

pudendum, representing the productive power of nature — which is

doubtful (Bertheau and Keil) — was an object of horror and detestation

to the Hebrews; its destruction was another indication of the spirit by

which Asa was actuated. The only defect in his reformation activity,

was that he did not at the same time abolish the high places connected

with the worship of Jehovah.

 

o        The introduction into the temple of the dedicated gifts of his father and

of himself. The former, consisting of the spoils Abijah had taken in the

war with Jeroboam (ch.13:16) — silver, gold, and vessels — had

been used by the conqueror either to adorn some heathen temple or to

enrich the royal treasury, but were now surrendered by Asa to the house

of the Lord. The latter, composed of similar materials plundered by

himself in the Cushite war (ch 14:14-15), he also presented to their

 rightful Owner, Jehovah. To restore the former was as much a duty

as to give up the latter. “Asa, like a good son, pays his father’s debts

and his own” (Bishop Hall).

 

Ø      The approbation of Jehovah. Intimated by the fact that for the next

twenty years the land enjoyed rest (v. 19). “When a man’s ways please

God, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs

16:7, Psalm 81:13-16)). Were nations to please God by their ways, He would “make wars

cease to the end of the earth” (Psalm 46:9).

 

  • LEARN:

 

Ø      The stimulus good men derive from God’s Word, exemplified in the

effect produced upon Asa by Oded’s prophecy (v. 8).

 

Ø      The purifying power of true religion on the soul — symbolized by Asa’s

purgation of the land (ibid.).

 

Ø      The attractive influence upon others of those who have God with them

— seen in the rallying of the pious round Asa (v. 9).

 

Ø      The supreme duty of individuals and nations to seek the Lord (v. 12).

 

Ø      The necessity in religion of proving the heart’s sincerity by the hand’s

activity and liberality (vs. 11, 18).

 

 

 

The Hour of Happiness Improved (vs. 1-19)

 

Perhaps we are not warranted to say that it was immediately after Asa’s

victory over Zerah, or able to say how soon it was after it, that Azariah the

son of Oded came with his message to him and “all Judah and Benjamin,”

under that direct and ever-typical leading of “the Spirit.” Nor does the

parallel enlighten us on this point. The history, however, here follows on

with the account of Azariah’s appearance to Asa, and gives us the

impression that it was at a certain favorable crisis, in happy quickened

hours, due to the fresh memories of the divinely given victory, the manifest

and most merciful interposition of Heaven, that the prophet came. Coming,

he did thus the very thing the prophet is ever ordained to do. He breaks in

on the lower life, on the life prone to forget, on the life able enough

nevertheless to take higher ground and onward action, and reminds it, in

plainest fidelity and undoubting firmness of speech, of such great realities

as these.

 

  • ITS ABIDING PRIVILEGE — GOD’S DWELLING PRESENCE, HIS

CONSTANTLY RESIDENT PRESENCE, HIS HABITUAL

INDWELLING, ON THE ONE SUPPOSITION AND CONDITION OF

HIS PEOPLE’S ALLEGIANCE. “The Lord is with you, while ye be with

Him.” It is a simple, powerful, ever-necessary reminder for the earliest,

opening intelligence of the baptized; for the unfolding, growing, intelligent

piety of the confirmed; for the devoutness and all the trembling awe of the

communicant; and for all the Church, individually or collectively, in the

dangerous, doubtful, fickle, forgetful, tempted course of human life. He is

faithful, his mercies fail not, his memory is ever fresh, punctual and to be

relied upon, and — wonderful assurance to lay to heart — it is not we who

have to wait for Him!

 

  • ITS PERPETUAL OPPORTUNITY — THE OPPORTUNITY OF

OBTAINING, SIMPLY FOR THE SEEKING, DIVINE

INTERPOSITION. Life and human character need and have the special

and occasional as well as the abiding and daily, the exceptional as well as

the familiar, hill and valley as well as the level way, dark trial and deep

grief as well as the wonted discipline of earth for imperfect creatures, joys

as well as peace, and in a word abounding vouchsafes of grace and

strength, as well as the unbroken stream of day after day.

 

  • ITS TREMBLING DANGER — THE DANGER OF BEING

FORSAKEN OF ITS CHIEF GOOD, THROUGH FORSAKING ITS

GOD. How lightly men treat the love which is most sensitive as well as

most needed — liable to be grieved, offended, quenched, or absent none

can tell how long, as none can tell where the sin and the folly that drove

that love, shall cease to drive their victim! To be forsaken of God is

absolutely:

 

Ø      the worst forsakenness,

Ø      the dreariest solitariness,

Ø      the poorest poverty.

 

And the sentence, “Let him alone”  (Hosea 4:17), or “Let them alone,”

how its echoes wander and trail — sometimes endlessly!

 

  • ITS SUPREME EXERTION OF ENERGY. There are times, and

there are enterprises, where no outer energy, no inner devotion, can be

misplaced. Resolution, courage, and covenant, mutual exhortation, meeting

together, edifying one another, and “the speaking oft to one another” on

the part of them “that fear the Lord” (Malachi 3:16) vowing to the Lord and

praying to Him, and praising Him with singing and music, and “with all the

heart, and all the desire,” “putting away the idols, stamping them to dust,

and burning them,” “renewing the altar and renewing ever the sacrifices

thereof,” — this enthusiasm becomes certain occasions and spreads a holy

contagion.  The life that is devoid of it has missed its way and its joy on

earth even; the lives that are destitute of it have doomed themselves. Other

associations, other bonds, other enterprises, may make them sport, but can

scarcely fail in the very act to make them their sport! Now, Asa and his

people had found and were following the better way; and oh that such a

heart may continue in them! Grateful, happy, and inspirited hours of life

were used by the prophet and the king and his people for thinking greater

things, resolving on greater things, and carrying them into execution. They

should be similarly utilized by us. In hours uplifted by genuine healthful

happiness, in periods of higher feeling and tone of thought, we should gladly

seize the opportunity to raise the standard of our own conduct, and then fix

the standard to which to work, and from which, even in lower mood, we

shall, with God’s help, not depart.

 

 

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