The Bible in a Year – 2 October

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

2 October. 2 Chronicles chapters 25-27

These chapters tell of the reigns of three successive kings of Judah: Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham. Broadly speaking, they are remembered as being “good kings” who honoured God, although each of them at some point in his reign did something that displeased the Lord: Amaziah by bringing idols back as part of his war booty and worshipping them, Uzziah by presuming to act as a priest as well as a king; and Jotham by letting the people follow “corrupt practices” (probably idolatry, though other sins could be intended).

The name of Uzziah is more familiar than most of the other kings of Judah, because of the prophecy of Isaiah (who is in fact mentioned here at 26:22), who dates his vision of the glory of God to “the year that king Uzziah died” (Isaiah 6:1).  In fact, the beginning of the book of Isaiah states that his ministry covered the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  Isaiah, perhaps along with Ezekiel, is considered the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, and the fact that God raised him up at this time to prophesy the coming destruction of the kingdom shows that the end was already near for Israel and Judah.

Perhaps the clearest sign that this was so, was Amaziah’s apparently unprovoked challenge to king Joash of Israel (25:17). Joash does not want to enter into battle but is forced into it, wins, and sacks the city of Jerusalem.  From then on there can be no peace between these kingdoms that had once been “one nation under God”, nor any alliance between them when external threats arose, as they surely would.  Jesus may have had this in mind when he said that “a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste” (Matthew 12:25).

Here in 2017 we are living in a time when division rather than union is the spirit of the age. Just this week, the Catalan region of Spain has held an “illegal” referendum on independence with accompanying police brutality, and the Kurds in Iraq have likewise voted for separation (which is unlikely to be recognised). Britain continues to negotiate the best of a bad deal having decided by a slim majority to leave the European Union; and the politics of the “United” States (also founded as “one nation under God”) is becoming increasingly polarised. Other countries that have split in the last ten years include Sudan and Serbia.

So where are the prophets of our day who will challenge kings and presidents, “freedom fighters” and “resistance movements”, to tell them that God’s will is for all humanity to live in peace, and in particular for all those who acknowledge him to live as brothers and sisters?

It may be a little early for Christmas carols, but the words of one seem very apposite just now:
But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring; –
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

The Bible in a Year – 28 September

If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.

28 September. 2 Chronicles chapters 11-14

Sadly, with these chapters we return to the old story of war between the peoples of the near east.  The history is clearly written from the viewpoint of Judah, reigned during this time by three descendants of David – Rehoboam, Abijah and Asa.

Rehoboam is pictured as someone who starts off listening to God (taking the advice of the prophets not to start a civil war against the tribes that had broken anyway) but later in life turns away from God and is therefore defeated by the North Africans, an alliance of Egyptians, Libyans and Ethiopians  with “countless” infantry and 60,000 cavalry.

Abijah reversed his father’s policy towards Israel and fought against Jeroboam’s 800,000 “mighty warriors”.  Despite being outnumbered, and caught in a pincer movement, the fact that Abijah worshipped the true God while Rehoboam allegedly worshipped idols and “goat demons” meant that God gave victory to the Judeans.

In Asa’s day, this ‘good’ king did all he could to root out idols, destroying their places of worship. As a result, God gave him victory over, this time, an Ethiopian army numbering a million!

I’m sure these tales of derring-do and contrast between faithful worshippers of Yahweh and idolatrous worshippers of goat-demons are propaganda that have to be taken with a larger pinch of salt than covered Lot’s wife.  The bit that rings true to me, though, is the word of God to Rehoboam through the prophet Shemaiah: “You shall not go up or fight against your kindred. Let everyone return home, for this thing is from me.” (11:4).  That is God’s true nature: to call on people to be reconciled, not to gather armies and fight.  Human nature is always to seek revenge and turn to conflict, but as Jesus famously said several centuries later, “blessed are the peacemakers”.  Of these three kings, Rehoboam seems to have been the most godly.