2 Chronicles 34-36

2 Chronicles 34-36…Exile.

Exile — the loss of one’s homeland and forced deportation to a foreign country — was a horrific reality for the ancient Israelites, and it remains so for displaced peoples today. Unlike other exiles, however, Israel’s exile teaches a theological lesson when considered in relation to the exile from Eden. God made Adam, put him in a beautiful garden, and promised to bless him if he kept covenant (Gen. 2). But Adam was faithless, refusing to live in grateful obedience to our Creator, and he was cast out of the garden — exiled from the Lord’s blessed presence. God made Israel, gave the nation a good land, and promised to bless His people if they kept covenant (Deut. 11). But though there was a faithful remnant in Israel, the people as a whole were faithless, refusing to heed the prophets and honor their covenant Lord, Yahweh. Consequently, they were exiled from God’s blessed presence in the Promised Land (2 Chron. 36:1–21).

Even though the citizens of Judah returned to the Promised Land beginning around 538 BC, the restoration did not take place as God had foretold — on account of impenitence. Hundreds of years after the return, He sent His one and only Son to initiate the restoration of all things. Since that day, God has been working to renew creation, using His church to bring the gospel to bear on all of life and proclaim the coming of His kingdom.

2 Chronicles 31-33

2 Chronicles 31-33…Jesus is our representative.

The books of Chronicles were written to the Israelites after the Babylonian exile to show them what they needed to do to have their kingdom restored. In this section of 2 Chronicles, we read of Manasseh, an Israelite king who was so wicked that God eventually sent him into exile in Babylon. While in Babylon, Manasseh repented and was restored to his throne. Here Manasseh is being used as a representative for the nation, specifically Judah, for this was later the experience of the whole people when they were exiled into Babylon for their sins (2 Kings 25). The Chronicler is telling the ancient Israelites that if they repent just as Manasseh did, they would be preserved in their restoration after Babylon and regain their kingdom.

Israel as a whole failed after returning from exile, but the principle of representation ensures that the Son of David can fulfill Israel’s mission and thus the mission given to Adam. Thanks be to God that this Son of David (Jesus) represents us as well. Because Jesus stands in our place before the Father, what can be said of Him can also be said of us. Jesus’ record is clear of sin and full of righteousness, and this is what the Father sees when He looks upon us in His heavenly courtroom. This is an essential truth of the gospel, and it assures us that we are free from the penalty of sin if we are in Christ and that we need not fear approaching the Lord with all of our hopes, fears, and needs.

2 Chronicles 28-30

2 Chronicles 28-30…Hezekiah.

Through Hezekiah, God brought both reformation and revival to Judah. In addition to renewing the temple, the king also renewed the celebration of the Passover. Setting aside recent strife in favor of a deeper covenant unity, he even invited people from what remained of northern Israel to come and join in. The letter he sent showed his heart: he wanted the entire nation to return to God, reunite in repentant worship centered around the temple, and be restored to the Lord’s covenant favor. Though many mocked the messengers, some responded openly and humbly.

Hezekiah changed the date of Passover, mainly on practical grounds, since there was insufficient time to prepare the priests and gather the people. In fact, the Law was flexible on this point (see Num. 9:10-11). Despite the delay, many participants still had not purified themselves, but the king prayed for their forgiveness and God graciously “healed the people” (2 Chronicles 30:20). The entire occasion was a high point in post-Solomon Israelite history. This was no short-lived emotional rush, but a genuine recommitment followed by a zealous campaign to wipe out places and practices of idolatry. Hezekiah did everything with careful attention to the Law, following David’s and Solomon’s worship examples.

2 Chronicles 25-27

2 Chronicles 25-27…Uzziah.

Unfortunately, Uzziah forgot the One who made him strong towards the end of his life. Instead of humble reliance on the Lord, Uzziah let his strength get to his head and took it upon himself to burn incense on the altar of incense, which was the prerogative of the priests alone (Ex. 30:1–10). The priests warned the king against his foolhardy course of action, but Uzziah persisted and broke out with leprosy from the hand of God, finally dying in disgrace (2 Chron. 26:17–23).

As believers today, it is no longer possible for us to disobey the Lord at the altar of incense simply because there is no altar of incense today. Still, as incense represents the prayers of God’s people, there is still a warning in this text about how we should approach our Creator in prayer. We can never stand before Him in pride and demand that He answer us because of our own goodness or strength. Neither can we proudly think we are so strong that we have no need to pray to Him. On the contrary, we must always come before Him with humility, not boasting of our own strength but relying on Him alone.

2 Chronicles 22-24

2 Chronicles 22-24…Joash

The same spirit driving our giving today motivated the Israelites’ giving in the days of Joash. He launched a project to restore the temple, which had fallen into disrepair. Athaliah had actually taken articles from it and used them for Baal worship. Though Jehoiada and the Levites were slow to act, the people themselves were ripe to return to the Lord. They demonstrated their changed hearts by filling the box at the temple door with their gifts again and again. Workers were immediately hired to do the construction and refurbishing—they were men of integrity, since they honestly reported a financial surplus after the work was finished.

Unfortunately, Joash’s godliness was explicitly linked to the influence of Jehoiada. When his mentor died, the king was unable to stand for righteousness by himself. Did he depend too much on the priest? Or did Jehoiada keep him on too short a leash, never really developing his leadership skills? What was going on behind the scenes at the start of the temple restoration? We’re left with many unanswered questions. One thing we know is that Joash succumbed to pride. He then fell into idolatry, ignored a warning from God, and experienced judgments, a pattern we’ve seen before. Worst of all, he arranged for the murder of Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah—this event triggered Joash’s assassination, showing that God’s justice cannot be forestalled. Tellingly, Jehoiada was buried with the kings; Joash was not.

2 Chronicles 19-21

2 Chronicles 19-21…Jehoshaphat.

If Ahab was wrong in defying the prophet Micaiah’s warning from God and going into battle, wasn’t Jehoshaphat guilty of disobeying God too? And what was this good king doing linking up with Ahab in the first place?

We find some answers in 2 Chronicles, where more details of Jehoshaphat’s reign are recorded. He had allied himself with Ahab through marriage (2 Chron.18:1)-a very common diplomatic tactic in that day. So the occasion at which Ahab persuaded Jehoshaphat to help him take back Ramoth was a visit to the “”in-laws”” (18:2).

However, God was not pleased with this alliance, and Jehoshaphat was rebuked by a prophet when he returned to Jerusalem after barely escaping from the battle with his life (2 Chron. 19:1-3).

Aside from this piece of bad judgment, Jehoshaphat was a religious reformer and a king who wanted his people to know and obey the Scriptures. He sent teachers with God’s Law in their hands to the various towns of Judah (2 Chron. 17:7-9), and God honored the king for his devotion.

And much like Joshua before him, Jehoshaphat once won a great battle without ever firing an arrow (2 Chron. 20:1-30). An invasion by the Moabites and Ammonites, two traditional enemies of God’s people, may have been part of the discipline God brought on Jehoshaphat for his alliance with Ahab.

But the king and people of Judah humbly sought the Lord. God promised that the battle would be His, and the people were told to take their positions and watch what God would do. As they sang and praised, God Himself wiped out their enemies. Jehoshaphat’s reign was largely a time of revival and peace (2 Chron. 20:30).

2 Chronicles 16-18

2 Chronicles 16-18…Devoted to the word.

Like his father Asa, King Jehoshaphat started strong, following the ways of the Lord and fighting idolatry. God rewarded him with peace and prosperity. Obedience doesn’t guarantee positive outcomes, but they would have reminded the nation that covenant obedience brought blessings while disobedience brought judgment. In addition, this time of peace would have been a direct contrast with the later years of Asa, during which God punished Judah with war. In effect, He used the events of history, which illustrates His unending sovereignty, to call the nation back to Himself.

Jehoshaphat understood that one key to spiritual thriving is God’s Word. Knowledge of it can be the first step towards revival. So he also sent out priests, Levites and government officials to teach (or re-teach) people the Scriptures and to remind them about God’s covenant with His people and His care for them through history.

We need to follow this model, and allow God’s word to shape our hearts and minds. In doing so, our lives will grow in conformity to Christ’s. But, we need to choose our teachers very carefully. There are many false teachers, and it can be difficult to discern which ones are to be avoided. A quick litmus test is this: Does the teacher you follow take single verses or passages out of context? This is a very dangerous, but popular thing to do, especially amongst prosperity teachers.

2 Chronicles 13-15

2 Chronicles 13-15…A big God should stir a big faith.

These chapters demonstrate the almighty sovereignty and power of God, as well as the faith of Asa. The odds against Asa were enormous. There were a million men in arms against him, and three hundred chariots. It seemed impossible to hold his own against those numbers. There were no allies who would come to his help: his only hope therefore was in God. It may be that your difficulties seem overwhelming, and so this is why God’s word must be our daily bread. We cannot be shaken by small-minded faithlessness. We have a Father who desires our trust, and will sustain us. He may not take our trial away in this life, but He is able to strengthen and preserve us spiritually.

2 Chronicles 10-12

2 Chronicles 10-12…With humility comes wisdom.

Civil war, brother against brother, is an ugly thing. How did the nation of Israel, so soon after the golden age of David and Solomon, find itself on the verge of civil war? The seeds of this situation lay in discontent with taxation and forced labor, a result of decades of building projects. Jeroboam led a delegation asking Rehoboam, the new king, to take it easier. Rehoboam wisely asked for a delay to seek counsel, but then foolishly took the wrong advice. His friends apparently thought that authority and power were the same thing, and that power was shown in exploiting others. The idea of a king as the shepherd of his people and responsible before God had been lost somewhere.

God worked through the expression of Rehoboam’s foolishness; in fact, the Lord had already promised Jeroboam the northern kingship (10:15). He also sent His prophet Shemaiah to prevent armed conflict from breaking out, though Rehoboam still set up defensive posts. To his credit, he obeyed the prophet, though otherwise he didn’t show much respect for the Lord. Like his father, he took many wives, in violation of the Law (11:21; cf. Deut. 17:17). To the north, things were not much better. Jeroboam appointed his own priests and worshiped animal idols (11:15; cf. Lev. 17:7). Therefore, the priests and Levites headed south, and Jerusalem and the temple remained the spiritual heart of the divided nation.

A wise application from today’s reading is to consider carefully from whom you seek advice. Rather than heed the reasonable counsel of experienced men, Rehoboam chose to follow the advice of his peers. Were they “yes men”? Inexperienced or immature? Proud or aggressive? We don’t really know. But their advice was foolish and the results of following it proved disastrous. Are the counselors in your life more like them or more like the first set? Make sure you listen to the truth-tellers God has put into your life.

2 Chronicles 9

2 Chronicles 9…The Queen of Sheba.

The Queen of Sheba came to Solomon with difficult questions. She came to the right place, for Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in wisdom. They all wanted to hear the wisdom that God had put into his heart. And so we should do the same, and bring our hard questions to Christ. He is greater than Solomon, and He has perfect, eternal wisdom. Therefore, we need to seek His word for direction.

She came in the right spirit, bringing Solomon gold and spices and precious stones. When we approach Christ we must be willing to give to Him. There must be a reciprocity because there is a great cost in following him. She also came to a right conclusion. He answered all her questions, and she returned congratulating his servants and blessing God. To each of us, life is full of perplexities, to which we can find no solution. However, there are answers in Christ. We may not know exactly why God is placing us in a particular circumstance, but we can generally know that it is for our spiritual good. His will is always to grow us, and He uses trials to do so in many instances.