Friday, May 6, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 89. Amaziah King Of Judah, Part1

Prophets And Kings
 Day 89
Amaziah King Of Judah
Part 1

We begin ours study of King Amaziah, the son of King Joash of Judah.

2 KINGS 14:1-6, 2 CHRONICLES 25:5-10
"In the second year of Jehoash son of Jehoahaz king of Israel, Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother's name was Jehoaddan; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father David had done. In everything he followed the example of his father Joash." (2 Kings 14:1-3) Joash did a lot of good things for Judah and he brought his son up in the faith. So we find Amaziah following in his father's footsteps, but not in his ancestor King David's footsteps. The reason the author points that out is probably because of what is in this next verse, "The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there." (2 Kings 14:4) Now that there was a temple in Jerusalem, King David would not have allowed the old high places to remain. They have proven to be a temptation to the people to put distance between themselves and God. Because the high places are still there, the people have an excuse not to go down to the temple for worship. This separates them from the main assembly of believers and it separates them from the teaching of the priests. 

Satan loves it when we fall out of step with the body of Christ. We are like the gazelle that falls behind and is attacked by the lion. This is why the Apostle Peter warns us that Satan is like a lion hiding in the weeds, waiting for an opportunity to attack, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peters 5:8) Sometimes we get stressed out and feel like isolating ourselves from others but this is the very thing we must not do. There are days when I feel tired or I have things on my mind and my instinct is to withdraw into myself. But because this is a tactic our enemy uses, we have to resist the temptation. The Lord created us with the need for social contact, with the need for close friends, with the need for the encouragement we find in fellow believers. There's no quicker way to fall farther into discouragement than to shut ourselves up in the house and turn the phone off and refuse to answer messages. It's the gazelle who breaks off from the group that gets eaten by the lion. The lion is crouched in the weeds, watching for that one stray soul, waiting to pounce. Let's not give him this advantage over us. In the Scriptures, the only time we find Jesus in isolation is when He is praying to the Father, which means He really wasn't alone because the Father was with Him. 

You may recall from our study several days ago that Amaziah's father was assassinated by men who blamed him for their defeat at the hands of the Arameans. Amaziah takes revenge on the men who killed his father. "After the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, he executed the officials who had murdered his father the king. Yet he did not put the children of the assassins to death, in accordance with what is written in the Book of the law of Moses where the Lord commanded: 'Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin." (2 Kings 14:5-6) Men who are willing to assassinate God's anointed king would be willing to do anything. It's really not safe for Amaziah and his family to leave these men alive. But he is obedient to the law of Moses which says a person is not to be punished for the sins of someone else. If a child commits a deadly sin, the parents are not to pay for it. If the parents commit a deadly sin, the child is not to pay for it. There is some risk in leaving the sons of Joash's assassins alive but Amaziah is faithful to the law by refusing to harm them.

The king now looks to building his army. "Amaziah called the people of Judah together and assigned them according to their families to commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He then mustered those twenty years old or more and found that there were three hundred thousand men fit for military service, able to handle the spear and the shield." (2 Chronicles 25:5) 

In addition to the able-bodied men of his own nation, Amaziah seeks to add hired soldiers to his army. "He also hired a hundred thousand fighting men from Israel for a hundred talents of silver." (2 Chronicles 25:6) There's nothing unusual about hiring fighting men. It was common in the ancient world. But spiritually speaking there is something wrong with it and a prophet is about to point this out.

"But a man of God came to him and said, 'Your Majesty, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the Lord is not with Israel---not with any of the people of Ephraim. Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overthrow.'" (2 Chronicles 25:7-8) The northern kingdom, though it was made up of ten tribes, is often simply called Ephraim by some of the Old Testament prophets. Ephraim was the largest tribe, situated pretty much in the middle of the kingdom. This is similar to the way the Scriptures refer to the southern kingdom as Judah when it was actually made up of both Judah and Benjamin. Judah was such a large tribe and Benjamin was such a small tribe that the southern kingdom became known as Judah.

The anonymous prophet states that the Lord is not with Israel and Amaziah shouldn't ally himself with the northern kingdom. The author doesn't expressly spell out why the Lord isn't with Israel but we have already seen that even the kings who rid the land of Baal worship refused to rid the land of the golden calves at Dan and Beersheba. The people are persisting in bringing offerings and sacrifices to these calves instead of to the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem. Because at this time Israel is not fully committed to the Lord and to His commands, He is not with her. So far Amaziah has been a faithful king and the Lord doesn't want him to be tempted by the idolatry of the northern kingdom.

I think this is another example of the principle of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2 Corinthians 6:14) Amaziah is a believer and his southern kingdom is more fully committed to the Lord than the northern kingdom. The Bible tells us, for our own good, not to enter into any type of close partnership with an unbeliever. This applies to marriage and to business partnerships and, in today's passage, to military alliances. The Apostle Paul's use of the "yoke" was something easily understood by the agricultural society of his times, so we will use that example here. Let's assume you are a farmer from ancient times and are about to go out and plow your fields. You are going to need to put two oxen in the yoke that pulls the plow. That means you are going to need to select a pair of oxen as identical in size and strength as possible. If you put a large muscular ox on one side and a weak scrawny ox on the other side, your plow is not going to make very straight lines. The oxen won't pull together evenly because they are poorly matched. This is why in any partnership it's so important that a believer is yoked with another believer. They will be closely matched in spiritual size and strength. They will be able to pull together as a unit, doing the best job possible. We can see how vital this is in a marriage, that both husband and wife are equally devoted to the Lord and to their family. We can see how vital this is in a business partnership, that both parties are committed to running the business ethically according to the word of the Lord. In a military alliance, it's important because in the Scriptures we find the Lord giving victories to those who are devoted to Him, to those who call on His name and trust in Him for their help. But His favor is not on those who bow their knees to idols. This is why Amaziah must not be unequally yoked with the northern kingdom.

Like any practical man, Amaziah is upset at the thought of wasting money. "Amaziah asked the man of God, 'But what about the hundred talents I paid for these Israelite troops?'" (2 Chronicles 25:9a) The best thing for Amaziah to have done was inquire of the Lord before making this arrangement with the troops and giving them money. But since he did not, he is about to lose what amounts to well over three tons of silver. That's a huge amount of money, then and now. And it's not just his money; it's the money of the citizens of Judah that they paid to the government in taxes. Naturally the king dreads the thought of having paid so much money for nothing. He feels bad about it personally and he feels bad about it for his nation.

But the prophet makes a beautiful statement, "The man of God replied, 'The Lord can give you much more than that.'" (2 Chronicles 25:9b) It hurts Amaziah to part with so much money without getting anything for it, but his help is in the Lord, not in these troops from Israel. Yes, it would have been better not to have made this arrangement in the first place, but it's not too late to avoid being unequally yoked with these soldiers. He can still turn the situation around, even though it means giving up the money. It's better to obey the Lord than to rush headlong into trouble. Amaziah will suffer some loss but it's better to lose the money than to lose in battle. 

Following Jesus will cost us something. Being obedient to His word will cost us and if it does not, we need to take stock of where we are spiritually. It may cost us at work because we refuse to do things that are dishonest. It may cost us socially because we refuse to join in with immoral carousing. But "the Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness". (1 Samuel 26:23) Will He make us rich if we didn't get promoted at work because we are a Christian? Not necessarily, but He has promised to "meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus". (Philippians 4:19) When it comes to a choice between being promoted for doing something wrong, or losing the promotion for doing what the Lord says is right, I believe our righteous God will see and reward us for our obedience. He will make sure our bills are paid and our kids get what they need for school and our bellies are filled with food on the table. When we say no to carousing wickedly with our fair-weather friends, the Lord will be faithful to bring godly friends into our lives, people who will stand by us even in our worst times. 

Amaziah obeys the word of the Lord and says goodbye to his three tons of silver, trusting that the Lord is able to reward him for his obedience. "So Amaziah dismissed the troops who had come to him from Ephraim and sent them home. They were furious with Judah and left for home in a great rage." (2 Chronicles 25:10) These men receive their pay without having done any fighting. But they are still angry because more riches were expected in battle. They would have been able to plunder the camps of any army they defeated. They would have taken the spoils from any city they conquered. Had these soldiers truly understood what's going on here, they would have been grateful to be sent back home. The Lord was not with them. They would have been defeated in battle and a lot of them would have lost their lives. Instead they have come away from Judah with their lives and with money they didn't even have to work for. We don't know whether Amaziah explained to them why he was dismissing them from military service, but if he did they haven't taken it to heart.

There will be times when we have to turn down things that look good to us. We will have to say no to opportunities that promise big bucks for doing something wrong. We will have to stay home alone because we said no to friends who asked us to go out partying with them. We may not be promoted, we may not receive recognition or fame, we may not win Homecoming Queen or be captain of the football team, we may not be the most popular person at school or at work. But the Lord can give us much more than that! He has promised to supply the needs of those who are His in Christ. We can rest easy at night knowing we kept our integrity, knowing God is going to give us jobs that pay the bills. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves alone in front of the TV at night, God urges us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together with believers. (Hebrews 10:25) We can join a good church and get involved in the classes and activities, making friends who share our faith and who will invite us along for wholesome adventures. If we have given up anything to follow Christ, He is able to reward us with what will be far more satisfying. King Solomon said it's better to enjoy a dry crust of bread in peace than to feast and carouse where there is strife. (Proverbs 17:1) And if we are living in sin, strife is guaranteed to us, for Solomon also said, "the way of a transgressor is hard". (Proverbs 13:15) 

I would rather eat a piece of bread with a clear conscience than enjoy the finest of food that was bought with money I earned sinfully, wouldn't you? I would rather bow my head over it in thankfulness than to toss and turn all night knowing I'm living in disobedience to my Redeemer. We never know what temptations we will be faced with in life. We never know what our obedience may cost us. But it's better to be on the right side, the winning side, with Jesus.

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