Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!
This week’s passage begins with Abijah (of Judah) heading out to war against Jeroboam (of Israel). Notice how Israel has twice as large an army as Judah (800,000 versus 400,000 – all valiant men). This reminded me of Jesus telling the large crowd in Luke 14 that when a king is heading out to war he must determine if he is able with an army of 10,000 to defeat his opponent who has an army of 20,000. Again, twice as many. This is a calculation any wise king should make before heading out to war when outnumbered.
In this case, Jeroboam was an evil king who set up false gods in the Northern Kingdom for the people to worship. The Lord God was with the Southern Kingdom and would fight on the side of Abijah and his 400,000 valiant men. Abijah even warned them that God was on their side and that they were worshiping false idols, which were not real gods at all. Nonetheless Jeroboam engages Judah in war and we read…
“Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord, the God of their fathers… Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah. And the Lord struck him down, and he died. But Abijah grew mighty.” (2Chron 13:18-21a)
We’ll see this theme carry on through this week’s readings, the theme of God providing, fighting, and prospering,… continuing with Asa, son of Abijah. In chapter 14 Asa, who is described as doing, “what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God…,” is being threatened by a mighty and powerful Ethiopian army.
Asa has an army of 580,000 total mighty men. The king of Ethiopia comes at him with an army of 1,000,000 men and 300 chariots!! Asa cries out to God saying, “Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” What a great prayer, when coming from the heart! So God does! He defeats the Ethiopians and they flee!
God sent His Spirit into Azariah and he spoke to Asa and all of Benjamin and Judah saying, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2Chron 15:2b) Uh, oh… It always seems like a little foreshadowing when we see the “but” in these kinds of statements. Let’s see…
In Asa’s later years we see him make a covenant with the King of Syria to break their covenant with Israel and then attack them on Judah’s behalf! (2Chron 16) As a result God sends a ‘seer’ to Asa and tells him this…
“Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians… a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”
It seems we’ll never learn…
When Moabites and Ammonites came against Jehoshaphat, Judah’s armies were once again seemingly outnumbered. However, when they cried out to the Lord, God raised up a Levite to speak for Him. He said,
“Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s… You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” (2Chron 20:15-17a)
In the morning Jehoshaphat said to them, “Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe His prophets, and you will succeed.” Hmm… Sounds to me like, “Trust God and believe His Word (the Bible).” So they did…
“And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.” (2Chron 20:22)
Did you catch that?! When they began to worship… God went to battle! God fought for them! This battle (that they didn’t actually fight in) reminds me of Revelation 19 where Jesus (the rider on the white horse) is gathered against the enemy with all the armies of heaven behind Him on horses. The enemy is defeated, it says, “by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse”.
God (Jesus) spoke all creation into existence. John in his Gospel and here in Revelation 19 calls Jesus the Word of God. The Word of God is referred to as a sword in Hebrews 4:12 as well as in Ephesians 6 where Paul describes the armor of God. When the temple guard came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane they asked Him if He was Jesus of Nazareth. He said, “I am.” When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.’ (John 18:6)
It is God Who fights. The battle is His and He’s not all about making sure we all follow the letter of the Law. It isn’t primarily about what we do. It is first and foremost about the condition of our hearts!
When Hezekiah reinstituted the observance of the Passover he realized that many had not taken the time to ritually purify themselves. They were unclean. Hezekiah, counting on God’s grace and mercy, prayed this…
“May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
You see? Again (and again and again) God makes clear to us that it is all about the heart! He wants our hearts, not just our outward behaviors. It’s a matter of the heart… and it’s the heart that matters!