Saturday, May 7, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 90. Amaziah King Of Judah, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 90
Amaziah King Of Judah
Part 2

Yesterday we saws Amaziah do the right thing by being obedient to the Lord. Today him haves a huge victory over the Edomites and lets it go to hims head. This is where things begin to go wrong for him.

2 CHRONICLES 25:11-16
Amaziah, while building his army, had hired some Israelite soldiers in yesterday's passage but a prophet came and told him to send them home. He said the Lord wasn't with Israel and that having these men in the Judean army would bring defeat. So Amaziah obeyed even though he lost well over three tons of silver that he had paid the hired soldiers.

Today he takes his Judean troops and makes war with the tribe known as the men of Seir, who are Edomites. These are people descended from Jacob's brother Esau. Earlier in our study we learned that the Edomites are at this time subject to Judah but they don't want to be under Judean rule. They have already rebelled several times against Judah and have been unsuccessful. The author doesn't tell us this is why Amaziah brings troops against the Edomites today but many Bible scholars believe there is a current rebellion going on and Amaziah marches out to stop it. "Amaziah then marshaled his strength and led his army to the Valley of Salt, where he killed ten thousand men of Seir. The army of Judah also captured ten thousand men alive, took them to the top of a cliff and threw them down so that all were dashed to pieces." (2 Chronicles 25:11-12) This battle is brutal, as most battles are.

The hired Israelite troops who were angry yesterday at being sent home turn up again to make trouble. "Meanwhile the troops that Amaziah had sent back and had not allowed to take part in the war raided towns belonging to Judah from Samaria to Beth Horon. They killed three thousand people and carried off great quantities of plunder." (2 Chronicles 25:13) Amaziah made some fierce enemies in these men. Although they got paid without ever going to battle for him, they had expected much more as time went on. Men who won battles were free to plunder the camps and the towns of their defeated enemies and so these Israelite troops expected to gain riches along the way. Because they did not, they make raids into Judah and steal from its citizens, killing anyone who resisted. This is uncalled-for behavior. They have already been highly compensated for doing nothing but showing up and then being sent home. If only Amaziah had consulted the Lord before hiring these troops, this tragedy could have been avoided, but still it isn't right what these Israelite soldiers are doing.

Amaziah is in Edom while Judah is being raided and he returns victoriously with much plunder. "When Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them." (2 Chronicles 25:14) I think maybe Amaziah's original intention in bringing the gods back could be because they were plated in gold or jewels or it could be because taking a nation's gods was a way of making one last stab at them. It's like a final sticking out of the tongue at the enemy. Whenever King David's men took the gods of their enemies, they burned them. Nobody set them up as idols and it's puzzling why Amaziah does so. Up til now he has more or less been obedient to God and has followed in his father's footsteps. But something in his heart must have been cold toward God or else he couldn't turn away from Him to idols. Was something about the Edomite gods more attractive to him than the living God? Were their requirements less strict? Were they more approving of his desire to go his own way? One thing is certain, none of these idols is going to stand up and point out any wrong attitudes or any sins. Amaziah can worship these with a clear conscience, knowing none of his idols will ever send a prophet to him to condemn any of his actions.

But the God of Abraham is still the only God who exists and He is not willing to let this idolatry go unnoticed. It's bad enough that the king has fallen into it but his example will lead the people astray. "The anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah, and He sent a prophet to him, who said, 'Why do you consult this people's gods, which could not save their own people from your hand?'" (2 Chronicles 25:15) This prophet is the voice of reason. It's illogical for the king to bow down to gods that were unable to save the people who worshiped them in Edom. Why serve a god who cannot save? There is no point. If our Almighty God could not hear us or help us, would we pray to Him? In that case our time would be better spent in trying to figure how to solve our own problems. If our God didn't have the power to save our souls, would we serve Him? In that case there would be no reward in serving Him, not in this life or in the next. In fact, there would be no next life and, as the Apostle Paul said, we would be "of all people most to be pitied". (1 Corinthians 15:19) Or as the KJV puts it, "of all men most miserable". It would be a waste of our lives to bow down before a God who cannot save us, who cannot see us or hear us or help us, but we don't have a God like that. We have a God who inclines His hear at the cry of His children. We have a God who is mighty to save. We have a God who is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. We have a God who is unwilling that any should perish but that all would have eternal life in His Son. 

But the king doesn't want to listen. Right in the middle of his speech, the king interrupts the prophet, which is really the same as interrupting the Lord. "While he was still speaking, the king said to him, 'Have we appointed you an adviser to the king? Stop! Why be struck down?'" (2 Chronicles 25:16a) Amaziah is saying, "Who died and made you the boss of me? You'd better hush up right now. I don't want to have to kill you." The rejection of the prophet's counsel is a rejection of the Lord's counsel. When Amaziah refuses the advice of the prophet he is refusing the advice of the Lord. He is rejecting the Lord's authority over him. 

Knowing that to continue means his death, the prophet gives up trying to reason with the king. God is merciful in sending this faithful prophet to Amaziah. Amaziah could have taken the words to heart and could have turned from his sinful ways. He will never be able to stand in the judgment and claim that the Lord never tried to bring conviction on him for his sins. He will never be able to say the Lord didn't give him an opportunity to repent. "So the prophet stopped but said, 'I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.'" (2 Chronicles 25:16b) God is about to take His protective hand off the king. This verse reminds me of something the late C S Lewis said, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'" If Amaziah had taken heed to the prophet's words he could have repented and turned away from his sins. If he had said to the Lord, "Thy will be done," and had been obedient to Him, things would have gone differently. But instead Amaziah refused the counsel of the Lord to his own harm. So the Lord said to him, "Fine. Thy will be done." 

In tomorrow's passage we will find Amaziah instigating a war against the will of God. He will be lifted up in pride and will believe he can do anything he wants. But this attitude will bring defeat.

There is only one God deserving of our worship. In the United States, there may not be many who bow to literal idols, but many of us have bowed down to less tangible idols. We have put other people and other things before God. We have put ourselves before God. Our culture teaches us to follow the money, to always keep climbing the ladder, to make much of ourselves and to be continually involved with self-improvement. Over the centuries Satan has had to modify the idols he presents to mankind. I don't personally know anyone who would bow down before a golden image but haven't we violated our principles here and there to get what we want? All the idols of ancient times and all the idols of our own times are really just a form of self-worship. Satan would love for us to fall on our knees and worship him but failing that, he wants us to worship anyone or anything but God. And it's easier to get us to worship ourselves than to get us to worship anything else. We want what we want. Our carnal nature tempts us to violate our principles to get ahead. Our natural desire for comfort and pleasure tempts us to do whatever makes us feel better about ourselves and about our social position in life. But when we start to serve ourselves instead of the living God, we are serving useless idols just as Amaziah is serving useless idols. We can't save ourselves any more than the idols of Edom were able to save them. Again we come back to the question: why serve a God who cannot save? Why serve a God who cannot help? When we deny the Lord in favor of our own carnal natures, we are serving ourselves, and we cannot help or save ourselves. This is foolishness, every bit as foolish as Amaziah bowing down to the idols of Edom. 

The Lord Jesus tells us how to avoid making gods of ourselves, how to avoid making gods of money, how to avoid ceaseless worry about paying the bills or putting food on the table. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  

Below is a song about our God, the God mighty to save, the God who loves us. Why bow down to a false god that can be held in the hand or placed on a stand? A god like that cannot save. But we have a God so big we can't even comprehend Him. And He is the only God.

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