2 CHRONICLES 28:1 – 30:27 and ACTS 14:1–28
2 Chr 28
Ahaz, the son of Jotham comes to the throne at the age of 20. His reign lasted for a period of 16 years and it was likened to the wicked kings of Israel who made molten images of Balaam. He burnt incense to strange gods and caused the children to be burnt in fire after some of the traditional heathen practices. The Lord delivered him into the hand of the Syrians as judgement for his actions. Ahaz and Judah also suffered a humiliating loss before Israel who smote them with a great slaughter. The reason for all of this was because they had forsaken the Lord God. King Ahaz lost his son to Zichri who was a mighty man of Ephraim while he himself escaped. The children of Israel, who were great idolaters themselves, were able to enslave Judah consisting of about 200,000 men, women and children (vs 8).
The Word of the Lord came to the host that was camped at Samaria and delivered the following words concerning their brethren from Judah. They were instructed to deliver the captives; to set them free knowing that God’s anger was upon them. What Israel did was a violation of a Levitical law as shown below:
Lev 25:39 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
Israel responded to the Word of the Lord while also making sure to clothe them, to give them food and drink, anointed them while carrying the feeble among them to Jericho. After doing this the men of Israel returned to Samaria. This was a most gracious act on their part. Did Ahaz learn his lesson? The Edomites make another assault upon Judah as they did in the days of Jehoshaphat; carrying away captives in the process. The Philistines also penetrated into the cites of Judah in the south due to the breach that had taken place under Ahaz. He sought help from the Assyrians but was not given any help even though he gave them money from the house of the Lord. In the midst of all these battles and threats from enemy nations how did Ahaz respond? Did he repent in sackcloth in ashes? Sadly, he reverted back to the heathen practices from before. He sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus who were already destroying them. Ahaz is a morally depraved king at this stage. He adds to his sin by gathering the vessels of the Lord and cutting them into pieces while spreading them throughout the corners of Jerusalem in the form of altars. Virtually all of Judah had been contaminated under his reign which further provoked the anger of the Lord. His 16 year reign now mercifully comes to an end. The wicked reign of Ahaz will now be contrasted with the righteous rule of his son Hezekiah.
2 Chr 29
Hezekiah comes to the throne at the age of 25 and reigns for a period of 29 years. His rule was a righteous one where much of what he did was likened to David. Hezekiah did not take long in beginning to institute reforms throughout Judah. In fact, he began the process in his very first year. In verses 4-11 he puts the priests and Levites to work to help bring the house of the Lord and the nation back into order. They had the responsibility of cleansing the house of the Lord as well as the filthiness in the holy place. You get the sense of depravity of Ahaz’s rule in seeing the magnitude of work that needed to be done. Once again you cannot help but note the role and responsibility of the priests in bringing things back into order and then maintaining the order. The priests had to intercede and cry out to God for mercy, forgiveness and healing. Hezekiah was not a priest but as king fully recognized the role and responsibility of the priests. This approach helped to ensure a solid foundation as he undertook his reign. In verses 12 through 19 the Levites and priests go about the work that was commissioned to them by Hezekiah. The process of cleansing the house of the Lord was over a period of 8 days. There is also special mention of the work that was needed to be done in the holy place per the words of the Lords and the king (vs 15).
For some reason I am reminded of a particular work my pastor and I were asked to be involved in many years ago. There was a home that was owned by a godly lady who wanted the house to be cleaned up and presented for sale. The only problem was that her home had been occupied by a son who had many spiritual and moral problems. The first sight of walking into this house was unlike anything I had ever seen. Never in my life had I seen such a mess coupled with a hellish stench and accompanying evil presence. The immediate thought we had was that this house needed to be bulldozed as oppose to being cleaned. This account comes to mind due to the contrast seen between this godly mother who happened to be a pastor and her demonically bound son. Eventually the work was able to be completed and the house put up for sale. Hezekiah wasted no time in seeking to put things back into order. This is encouraging because it demonstrates God’s ability to restore even the basest of situations provided it is done according to God’s precepts.
In verses 20-36 King Hezekiah continued the restoration process of that which his father had destroyed. Together with the priests he institutes the offerings which were for the purpose of atonement for the people and the nation. This is covered in verses 20-24. It was an extensive process due to the nature and level of sin that needed to be atoned for. The next part of the restorative process was in the area of worship. Hezekiah set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, psalteries and harps in the manner that David had established. The combination of sacrifice and offerings with praise was brought forth by the people which continued till the burnt offering was finished. It was at this time when the king and all the people bowed in worship. The level of sacrifices that was required was more than the priests available; Levites were added to assist in this effort. The result of this quick and deliberate process was a time of great rejoicing and glory (vs 35-36).
This chapter is a beautiful picture of restoration after the vile and degrading reign of Ahaz. The process is noteworthy and serves as an excellent template in the implementing of true restoration on God’s terms. First, Hezekiah wasted no time in beginning the work. He opened the doors to the house of the Lord and began an immediate work of cleansing. Secondly, he employed the priests in their proper role in the work of re-sanctification of the house of the Lord. Third, they brought forth the required offerings for the atoning of the sins of the people and of the nation. Fourth, he established a model of true worship and praise. This process enabled Judah to be brought back into favor with God. It also provides the platform for God to work and to move on their behalf in the challenging assaults that would come upon the kingdom. We will soon see the account of Hezekiah’s appeal to the Lord when Assyria comes down upon them. We know how God vindicated them but we need to appreciate what Hezekiah did in preparation for this moment. 2 Chronicles 29 is an essential chapter in coming to know the basis for what God looks for in a nation and in a leader; especially after the wicked example of Ahaz. We need to adapt and take to heart this process in order to see true restoration in our day.
2 Chr 30
King Hezekiah sends a letter throughout all of Israel that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the upcoming Passover. This was not done since the beginning of the divided monarchy when Jeroboam established altars in Betel and Dan with base men as priests instead of going to Jerusalem to keep the yearly feast. Jeroboam was fearful of losing people to Judah instead of coming back from Jerusalem to Israel after the feasts were over. King Hezekiah, after making the needed changes in the house of the Lord is now in a strong position to make such an appeal. He desired to see a restoration of that which was severed at the time of Rehoboam and Jeroboam.
This initiative was pleasing to the people of the congregation so they set forth a decree to all of Israel to come and be part of the keeping of the feast. The letter went forth and appealed to them on the basis of being children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were brethren and there was no need to be divided any longer. The letter warned them to not be stiff necked like their fathers of old but rather to yield their members to the Lord and serve in the sanctuary. This would turn away the wrath from God which was surely about to come for all of their sins. The pattern that Hezekiah employed in bringing about restoration in Judah could also be applied to Israel. He tells them that if they turn unto the Lord they would find compassion seeing that He is gracious and merciful (vs 9).
The couriers went throughout many of the tribes of Israel with their message but were laughed and mocked at (vs 10). There were some who did respond favourably and humbled themselves and returned to Judah. The priests went about their work in providing burnt offerings and the sprinkling of the blood for sanctification. There were many who did respond and they needed this work of sanctification. Hezekiah prayed for the people in conjunction with the work of the priests and God responded according to his prayer (vs 20). The king encouraged those who taught the good knowledge of the Lord which was an essential in the restorative process. This all culminated into a period of great rejoicing seeing that many from Israel had come back to Jerusalem for the appointed feast as spoken by Moses.
Hezekiah was not successful in restoring all of Israel back into the fold but his decree did make a significant impact upon many. It was an opportunity that God was presenting to Israel in being able to atone for the gross sins of Jeroboam and all of his successors. It was a clear act of God’s mercy. Sadly, the majority mocked at Hezekiah’s initiative and we soon find that this is the last opportunity that they would have. If Israel would have responded the assault from the Assyrians would have ended differently. The same Assyrians would later come against Judah but they will be preserved by God. The difference between Israel and Judah is the work and ministry of Hezekiah. If Israel would have responded I feel that they then would have come under their covering of protection. In these last days we need to closely watch which covering is over us. Israel was left exposed to the Assyrians because they laughed and mocked at their last opportunity to come under God’s protection through Hezekiah. Thankfully, there were many who did respond. There are many lessons that can be gleaned from these last two chapters. It helps to give a greater appreciation of Hezekiah as a king. There are reasons why his kingdom succeeded; he knew the process of God’s restoration. Do we?
Paul and Barnabus continue to work together as they now enter a synagogue at Iconium where both Jews and Greeks were congregating. There were those unbelieving Jews who opposed the doctrine and teachings of Christ while seeking to cause a stir amongst the people. In spite of this Paul and Barnabus continued to speak boldly on behalf of the Gospel. Their message brought conviction accompanied by signs and wonders. There was developing however a deep division between those who held with the unbelieving Jews as opposed to the apostles. The opposition continued to grow which put the lives of the brethren in danger.
After becoming aware of the plot they moved further south to Lystra and Derbe. While in Lystra there was a man who was never able to walk. He heard the teaching of Paul and was captivated by his message. This man captured Paul’s attention and he noticed within this man that he had faith to be healed (vs 9). This is an important key regarding faith. This man was affected by the teaching and as a result faith arose within him. Paul sensed that there was an appropriate measure of faith which could bring forth healing for this man. This was the key to the miracle of the woman who had the issue of blood and others. The Word that was preached was mixed with faith; this faith was received into the heart of this man who was crippled from birth. Paul then directed this man’s faith to action by commanding him to stand up and walk, which he did. Naturally this miracle captured the attention of the people who witnessed this event. They declared Paul and Barnabus to be gods which they quickly refuted. They attributed the names of Jupiter to Barnabus and Mercurius to Paul. The even went so far as to seek to offer sacrifices to their gods for this incredible miracle seen through the ministry of the two men. Paul and Barnabus were vehement in denying worship to themselves as they sought to direct their attention to the living God. The people were quite adamant in holding to their position of offering sacrifices to them.
The situation began to escalate further as the opposition of Jews once again caught up with them (vs 19-20). They could not allow these men to gain a following. The Gospel has now been introduced to the Gentiles and the enemies are rising up. Many of the same people who rejoiced over the miracle of the lame man being healed were now caught up in the frenzy resulting in the stoning of Paul. He was left for dead; even to the point of being dragged through the streets. In verse 20 we see the Apostles gathered around him when he suddenly rises up. This was a miracle in itself and it was clear that Paul had much yet to do for the kingdom. This was not his time to die. He was doing what the Lord had put before him and he was preserved. There were many times when the enemies of Christ sought to take His life but they could not do so before the time. We come into danger when we step outside God’s ordained path or when we disobey or walk in sin. If we seek to do his will and walk in His path there is protection; even in the midst of the most vehement opposition.
What did Paul and Barnabus do after such a traumatic event? They naturally went right back to boldly declaring the Gospel in the same places where they had been (vs 21). Their message was one of continuing in the faith and enduring to the end even through much tribulation. They also took time to seek out good brethren that they could ordain as elders in the churches they visited. We are now getting glimpses inside Paul’s missionary training strategy. He sought to find good capable men that could be entrusted with leadership within the church. They journeyed through several other cities teaching on the grace of God wherever they went.
They returned to Antioch and to take stock of their missionary trip. There was great rejoicing in seeing how the Gospel had now opened up to the Gentiles. They gave a comprehensive account of all they had experienced which no doubt brought great comfort and joy to the church. The missionary reports that are given to local church assemblies serves as a means of great comfort and encouragement; especially to those who may not be able to go out on such expeditions. The home base must be strong and supportive so that the missionary objectives can be secured. A good testimony reinforces the strength and support of the local base. Both are very much needed; one cannot be successful without the other. There is much to be gained in seeing how Paul and Barnabus functioned on this their first missionary journey together. There is also much to be gained in seeing how the base at Antioch was sustained. Paul and Barnabus will now spend some time at the base to be refreshed and to stand with the local church as they are put into the position of answering questions and countering challenges to those who oppose the work of the Gospel.