2 CHRONICLES 16:1 – 18:34 and ACTS 10:1–48
2 Chr 16
We now enter the 36th year of King Asa’s reign. The first 35 years of Asa has been filled with the Fear of the Lord, the pursuit of God’s law and commandments and a general sense of uprightness. Baasha, king of the northern kingdom had built up a barrier city named Ramah to prevent traveling between the two places. It appears that Baasha felt threatened by the blessing and prospering of Judah that he did not want their influence to flow into the northern kingdom. Asa made an arrangement with Ben-hadad, king of Syria to break his agreement with Baasha so that he would depart from Ramah. In order to secure this Asa released silver and gold out of the treasures of the house of the Lord. This is another one of the downfalls of the kings of Judah. We mentioned earlier that they had problem with multiple wives but they also had this problem of releasing valuable gold and silver from God’s house on numerous occasions. King Hezekiah, who was a good king, did this as did many others. In this case it denotes man’s trust in silver and gold more than in the arm of the Lord to save. The objective was achieved but at what cost? King Asa is about to visited by a prophet who will bring forth a word of rebuke.
Asa had an opportunity to destroy both the forces of Syria and Baasha’s forces of Israel which would have put Judah in a very strong position. He made an agreement with a lesser of two evils which only serves as a temporary stopgap. The prophet reminded him in how the Lord through a few was able to defeat the Ethiopians in a previous battle (vs 8). There is a very familiar verse that is often quoted which we can put into context here.
2Ch 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.
The Lord looks for opportunities to reveal His power and might. Imagine how the Lord feels when a king does not use such an opportunity to avail of His might and delivering hand. There is a New Testament verse which can be applied here as well.
Luk 18:8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
God is looking for the fruit of Faith through which to work and move through. It is what draws His attention. We see this with Jesus when he responds to the woman with the issue of blood (Math 9:20). Faith gets His attention. Asa had an opportunity for an even greater victory if he would have only sought the Lord. He sought a worldly remedy to the situation as many of us do today. It is a regrettable matter for Asa seeing how his initial 35 years were faithfully served.
It becomes even more regrettable the way Asa responded to the Word of the prophet. He put him in a prison while at the same time oppressing some of the people. Asa later contracted a disease in his feet in his 39th year affording him an opportunity to again seek the Lord for remedy to a dire need. Sadly, he sought out physicians and not God for healing. It is a sad ending to a good king who could have been a great king. What was the primary turning point for him? It seems that the faith he had in his early years diminished somewhat over time. He utilized worldly means to obtain an objective. He did not see or prepare his heart to see the bigger picture of what God had in store for him. The devices of man will never accomplish the objectives of God. The releasing of treasures of God’s house to secure an agreement signifies a problem. In the final years of Asa it was a diminished trust in God to meet the need; as it related to Judah and to his own physical need. May we learn from his example!
2 Chr 17
Jehosophat is next in line to be king. He strengthened his forces against Israel as well as the fortifying of the cities of Judah and Ephraim which his father had taken (vs 1-2). God established Jehosophat due to his adhering to the ways of David. It is noted that he resisted the ways of Balaam which was very dominant under King Ahab to the north. He sought the Lord, walked in His commandments and stayed away from the influences of Israel. We note this now in the early part of his reign because something surely changed a bit later. For now, he did all things rightly before God. He commanded the respect of Judah as they brought to him and the house of the Lord riches and abundance. His heart was lifted up towards the things of God and he removed all the high places and idols. To further solidify his hold within Judah he sent teachers (Levites) to teach on the Law of God and His ways (vs 8-9).Like his father Asa, Jehosophat established a solid foundation in the early years of his reign. This approach resulted in the Fear of the Lord falling upon the nations and surrounding lands; no one dared to make war with Judah during this period.
The usual enemies of Judah even brought presents to Jehosophat such as silver and flocks and other assorted goods. Like Joseph in the days of the famine in Egypt, Jehosophat stored up much of the abundance that was received (vs 12). In verses 13-18 there is a record of the men of war that Jehosophat was able to put into place. These were men of valour and they were strategically placed throughout the cities of Judah. They were faithful to the king and they helped to secure his position as king.
It is amazing to see the early rule of both Asa and Jehosophat. They looked to have done everything right. They removed the high places, elevated the priests by placing them in teaching positions while putting an emphasis on the keeping and doing of God’s laws. In the life of Asa we saw a period where he opened the treasures of the house of the Lord in seeking to secure the services of the Syrians in Judah’s struggle with Israel. He put his trust in man instead of God at a crucial time. God wanted to allow Asa to have a victory over both the Syrians and Israel in this battle. It seems that after a period of peace and rest Asa was not able to come to a higher level. He then sought a physician instead of God when his feet became diseased a few years later. He turned a deaf ear to the Word of the Lord, imprisoned the prophet and had a sad ending to his life. This was after a tremendous beginning. How often has this been seen in many of the leaders? David is another example of one who had a great beginning. He came into a position of Rest and it was there where he allowed himself to sin with Bathsheba. This tendency is seen in Asa and it will also be seen in Jehosophat. It is a warning to us of our need to be ever vigilant, especially in the crucial days in which we live.
2 Chr 18
The beginning of this chapter dives right into the point of Jehosophat making an alliance with Ahab. This is inconceivable after what we just read about him in the previous chapter. It gets even harder to believe when coming to understand the nature of King Ahab of Israel. How in the world could King Jehosophat even think of making any kind of alliance with such a wicked king? He reinforces this alliance by making the following statement in verse 3. “I am as thou art, and my people as thy people, and we will be with thee in war”. He was making an alliance with this wicked king on behalf of the entire nation in saying they were willing to go to war together.
King Jehosophat even gave deference to Ahab to seek the Word of the Lord on their behalf. Where is the discernment? Where is the fear of the Lord? He did ask for another prophet after hearing the 400 some prophets of Ahab who counseled the kings to go up to war at Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab makes reference to a man who was a known prophet and not very popular with him and others due to the true words he would give. He always prophesied that which was true and right but it was a word the king did not like to hear. He delighted in the prophets who tickled his ear and confirmed what was in his heart.
This solitary prophet (Micaiah) spoke the true word; a word that was rejected due to its reflection of what was on God’s heart. It is not what Ahab and most other people wanted to hear. The other prophets encouraged Micaiah to prophesy as they did and he simply responded that he will speak what God tells him. He too gave assent to go up against Ramoth-Gilead (vs 14). The next verse (vs 15) is interesting because Ahab was not expecting for Micaiah to speak as he did. You get the sense that Ahab knew the truth simply because his 400 prophets spoke to him what he really wanted to hear. The fact that Micaiah said the same thing made him very suspicious. Micaiah then gives a clear description of what he saw in the heavens that brought about his word. This is a fascinating insight into a glimpse of the administration of heaven. God allowed a lying spirit to speak through the 400 prophets to entice Ahab to go up to Ramoth-Gilead. One gets the sense that this is not a one off scenario. There comes a time when God will allow people to receive answers to their prayers that are in their hearts. Let’s consider a few verses from Ezekiel:
Eze 20:25 Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;
Eze 14:7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:
Eze 14:9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.
God may well answer us according to the uncircumcised areas of our heart. This is what is occurring in this account with Ahab and Jehosophat. It is amazing that even after the declaration of Micaiah both Ahab and Jehosophat went up against Ramoth-Gilead. This is why there needs to be the message of circumcision of heart. If we continually allow these areas to be unaddressed there can come a time when we stumble or God will answer to that area of uncircumcision (see Eze 14:7 above). There are way too many prophets who tickle the ears of people in this manner. There are many teachers behind pulpits who do the same thing. Paul warns about this in one of his last statements to the church. People will search out teachers and prophets who will speak to their itching ears and hearts (2 Tim 4:7).
What is so sad in this whole account are the actions of Jehosophat. This response opened a door for a diabolical plot of the enemy to almost succeed. We will see this shortly. They went to war which resulted in Jehosophat becoming wounded and Ahab losing his life. This was a fitting judgement to Ahab for the wickedness he wrought as King of Israel. This was not the place for Jehosophat but he involved himself anyway which nearly cost him his life. Jehosophat, by his actions and by his alliance to Ahab opened a door to the enemy. This is the danger of a leader of high reputation who allows walls to be broken down. He started so well but along the way there was compromise that entered in. There are many Jehosophat’s in the church today. These are good men who somewhere in their ministry make allowance for compromise. It can be subtle and small at first but it opens a door. We must be on guard and vigilant in these last days.
We are introduced to a man named Cornelius who resided in Caesarea. He was a centurion of the Italian band and a man who was devout, feared God and had a very consistent prayer life. He had a vision where an angel came to him where he was told that his prayers and alms giving came before the Lord as a memorial. It should be stated that this man had a glorious visitation in large part due to his consistent manner of prayer and godly living. A consistent devotional life helps to position us to hear from God in an enhanced manner. In this visitation he was told to send men to Joppa and ask for Simon, a tanner whose house was by the seaside. He called his household servants and sent them to Joppa as instructed.
Peter was in prayer on a housetop and became hungry. He went into a trance and saw unfold before him a white sheet which had all kinds of four footed beasts, fowls and things that would normally be unclean to eat. A voice instructed Peter to kill and eat but he refused due to their being unclean. This scene repeated a few more times with the voice telling Peter that which God has cleansed call no more unclean. He awoke from this dream and considered its meaning. It was at this time that the household servants of Cornelius arrived to where Peter was at. What we see at this time is a convergence of two separate visitations; one given to Cornelius and the other to Peter that brings them now together. There is a great significance in what is about to take place. The early church world is now changing. The Gospel is being introduced to the Gentiles and it takes two separate divine interventions to bring this moment into being. Peter needed to have that dream of the unclean animals with the voice speaking to him that if God makes them clean they are clean. There was no consideration on Peter’s part prior to this of the gospel being released beyond the Jewish shores. It took a visitation of the Lord to a righteous man (Cornelius) to arrange this encounter with Peter. It was the fruits of a dedicated prayer life coupled with generous alms giving that moved the heart of God on his behalf. It is here where we have a merging of the Jew with Gentile in the matter of the Gospel.
Peter is convinced that this arrangement is of God and proceeds to share the gospel to Cornelius and a gathering of other believers. This sharing is reflected in verses 34-43. In the midst of his speaking to the group the Holy Spirit comes upon them whereby many spoke in tongues. This amazed the Jews to now see Gentiles speaking in tongues and glorifying God. They immediately were water baptized as well. In just mere moments there were gentile believers baptized in water and baptized in the Holy Ghost. The early church thrust just came to a new level.
Acts 10 is significant on many points seeing now that the Gospel is now going forth to other nations and regions. We saw hints of this through the ministry of Jesus when he ministered and cited many non-Jewish people for their works. It is a fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures such as Joel 2:28 where the Lord says that He shall pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. It is amazing to consider everything that has taken place since Pentecost. In just a short period of time, what started as a small gathering of people in an upper room is now flowing out in power throughout the known world. It is no longer contained amongst the Jewish brethren but now becoming accessible to the Gentiles. The preaching of Peter, John and others is resulting in thousands coming into the kingdom daily. This has been made possible by the ministry and person of the Holy Spirit. It is good to consider and meditate on the early chapters in Acts and think of the ministry role of the Holy Spirit. It helps to set the pattern and expectation for what awaits the people of God in the church for our day. There is so much being accomplished so quickly. In one meeting alone where Peter preaches to Cornelius and the others who are gathered there are salvations, water baptisms and the baptism in the Holy Ghost. The time has come to know the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit in a greater way.