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CRITICAL NOTES.] A prophetic warning (2 Chronicles 15:1-7). Asa’s reforms (2 Chronicles 15:8-11); renewal of covenant (2 Chronicles 15:12-19), and deposes Maachah.
2 Chronicles 15:1-7.—Azariah warns Asa. Spirit upon A. (cf. Numbers 24:2). Oded, by some Iddo, prophet and historian of two preceding reigns. Names differ very slightly in Heb. Seek him (cf. 1 Chronicles 28:9; Jeremiah 29:13), as they had done in battle (2 Chronicles 15:3-6). A future condition predicted according to some. “Israel here is used generally for the whole people of God; and the reference is especially to the many apostasies in the days of the Judges (Judges 3:7-12; Judges 6:1; Judges 8:33; Judges 10:6), which were followed by repentance and deliverance” [Speak. Com.]. Priest, succession unbroken, but occasions when none taught true religion. 2 Chronicles 15:5. Peace, free communications interrupted; commotions, great vexations (Amos 3:9; Deuteronomy 28:20). 2 Chronicles 15:6. Destroyed, different provinces crushed one another by contentions among themselves. 2 Chronicles 15:7. Strong, i.e., be firm, continue faithful to Jehovah. Reward will follow, as in conquest of Zerah.
2 Chronicles 15:8-11.—Asa’s religious reforms. Earlier reforms only partial success. Animated by Azariah, he became more zealous, extirpated abominations in his own kingdom, in cities which his father had taken from Jeroboam, and renewed altar of burnt offering before porch. 2 Chronicles 15:9. Gathered. Pious Israelites drawn into the territory of Judah by reformed worship, for solemn renewal of national covenant. 2 Chronicles 15:10. Third month, Sivan, corresponding with June. 2 Chronicles 15:11. Same time, Heb. in that day; the day on which the festival was celebrated, sixth of third month, the Feast of Weeks. Offered peace-offerings, in communion with Jehovah and with one another (Leviticus 7:11-21). Spoil, brought by them as thank-offerings (cf. ch. 2 Chronicles 14:13).
2 Chronicles 15:12-19.—Renewal of national covenant. Seek the Lord and to execute with vigour laws which make idolatry punishable with death (Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 17:2-5; Hebrews 10:28). 2 Chronicles 15:15. Oath taken in solemn and joyful emotion. God was found, because sincerely sought, and gave them rest (2 Chronicles 15:15). 2 Chronicles 15:16. Maachah (cf. 1 Kings 15:13) “held honoured place of queen-mother, like Sultana Walide of East,” withdrawn from rank and her idol destroyed. 2 Chronicles 15:17. High places, hills on which sacrifices were offered, were not entirely destroyed by people, though intended by the King. 2 Chronicles 15:18. Things, for ornament and repairs. 2 Chronicles 15:19. War. As B. died in the 26th year of Asa (1 Kings 16:8), it appears, from 2 Chronicles 15:10 and from ch. 2 Chronicles 16:1-9, that the date here ought to be, not the 35th, but the 25th year at Asa. This allows a period of repose after the reform of Asa [Murphy].
RECIPROCAL FELLOWSHIP.—2 Chronicles 15:2
The prophet met Asa in returning from victorious pursuit. Signal success a proof of God’s presence; victory the reward of implicit trust in him. Keep close to God and he will bless you; forsake him and you reap the fruits of apostasy. As you deal with him he will deal with you.
I. A distinguished privilege. God’s presence with them. In the ordinances of his house, in special providence, and covenant engagements. God owns them as his people, protects them from enemies, and prospers them in all things. This a glory and happiness beyond description. Not in good things common to them with the world, but the distinguished privilege of God’s people, to possess his favour and enjoy his presence. “Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”
II. The conditions on which this privilege is enjoyed. “While ye be with Him.” Nothing bestowed arbitrarily nor kept without care. The duration and degree of happiness on certain conditions.
1. Reasonable conditions. If we do not seek, nor care for God, is it likely that he will be with us? “How can two walk together except they be agreed?”
2. Scriptural conditions. A doctrine of Scripture that God’s continual favour depends upon obedience and perseverance, “continuance in well-doing.” “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.” “Ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
3. Wise conditions. To put us on guard and caution against danger. To comfort in sorrow and encourage in effort. Seek and ye shall find. Serve and you shall succeed. Forsake God and present triumphs, present enjoyments are not secure.
DARK SHADOWS ON A BRIGHT DAY.—2 Chronicles 15:1-7
Azariah did not congratulate Asa on splendid victory, nor indulge in flattery to court princely favour. The speech appears unsuitable for the occasion. Whether it unfolds future apostasy or describes past history, it is a prophetic warning, a gloomy picture on a bright day. It proves necessary connection between God’s service and human weal, and dwells on apostasy with its fearful consequences.
I. The awful apostasy. Turning away.
1. Practical atheism. “Without the true God.” A God of truth (Jeremiah 10:10), “the God of Amen” (Isaiah 65:16). Idols not true, nonentities. “An idol is nothing in the world.” Hence true here not only opposed to error and idolatry, but to emptiness, deceit, and God’s character. Everything else a lie, and idolatry the greatest lie. Practically to be without God, to be in darkness, error, and uncertainty.
2. Deprived of priestly function. No instruction and guidance for ministers, or no reverence and regard for their office. Sad when the light of ministry is darkened. “Without a teaching priest” descriptive of spiritual destitution. For duty of a priest is to “keep” (store up and distribute) “knowledge, and they (people) shall seek the law (God’s will) at his mouth, &c.” (Malachi 2:7-8).
3. Prevalence of moral disorder. “Without law.” Where no direction is, no law can govern. God’s law forgotten, and every one a law to himself. Right neither taught nor practised. Rectitude perverted, and whatever straight made crooked. Natural conscience and God’s command defied, and as in age of Nero nothing unlawful.
II. The terrible judgments which followed apostasy. Consequences of forsaking God set forth in expressive terms.
1. Widespread anarchy. “No peace to him that went out” (2 Chronicles 15:5). No free intercourse nor safe abode in any village. “The highways were unoccupied,” i.e., rested from noise of chariots, and the feet of the travellers walked (for safety) through by-ways (winding, unfrequented ways) (Judges 5:6). In times of public panic resort to subterranean hiding-places (ch. 2 Chronicles 6:2).
2. Civil dissensions. Vexations in various regions of the land. “Nation was destroyed of nation,” beaten in pieces by oppression and war. Gilead against Ephraim, and Benjamin against other tribes, until almost exterminated (cf. Judges 12:4; Judges 20:33-48; illus. by Wars of the Roses, the Commonwealth, and American Civil War).
3. General calamity. “For God did vex them with all adversity, confounded them with all kinds of oppressions,” social and national. Depth of corruption brought severity of chastisement. Idolatry and evil-doing most provoking; judgment most crushing and bitter, retribution like a consuming fire. “Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land darkened (with smoke, 2 Chronicles 15:18), and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire” (Isaiah 9:19).
“Take heed: for God holds vengeance in His hand
To hurl upon their heads that break His law” [Shakes.].
III. The way of escape from these judgments. “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him, &c.”
1. This a fact in Divine procedure. Proved in days of Judges, division of the two kingdoms, recent victory, and in all periods of national history. “Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath forsaken you.”
2. This a warning for the future. Victory over Zerah should teach something. God’s blessing upon all who steadfastly adhere to him, but abandon him and he will abandon you. Hence be quickened in your work (2 Chronicles 15:7). Resolve with energy to carry it on amid opposition. The most blessed results to yourself and others will follow. “If thou seek him he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him he will cast thee off for ever.”
ASA’S CONTINUED REFORMS.—2 Chronicles 15:8-19
The warning had influence. Asa obeyed, took courage, and entered upon measures judicious, decisive, and extensive.
I. The character of the reforms upon which he entered. Destructive of evil and establishment of good.
1. He sought to extirpate idolatry. “Put way the abominable idols. (a) Idolatry most prevalent. In his own territory, “the land of Judah and Benjamin;” in cities taken by his father (2 Chronicles 15:8). (b) Idolatry most abominable. Idol of king’s mother horrible, of some monstrous kind; so obscene that it was publicly burned under the walls of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 15:16). We should purify our hearts and land; destroy gods material, literary and moral, worshipped in our days.
2. He engaged in needful repairs. “Renewed the altar, &c.” (2 Chronicles 15:8). Reconstructed a temporary altar like that of Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:7), for extraordinary sacrifices on special occasions; or renewed, embellished the one desecrated in reigns of Rehoboam and Abijah. All reforms began here. Prophets and reformers of O. T. especially concerned for the altar and restoration of Divine worship. Decayed altars signify neglected sacrifices, perverted religion, and practical apostasy. In revivals, offerings, and thanksgiving restored.
3. He pledged the nation to solemn covenant. “They entered into a covenant.” Humble for sin, they renewed their obligations; joined together in pledges to keep the law and punish disobedience, (a) To seek the Lord. Seek the laws, favour, and help of their father’s God, whom they had forsaken. Seek with heart and soul, with diligence and energy. Naturally without God, he must seek in faith, penitence, and under guidance of Holy Spirit, (b) To punish idolators. Punishment severe, “put to death;” impartial, “small or great, man or woman;” universal, “whosoever, &c.” Must not go too far in penalty and severity. Christianity advances by charity, not by persecution. “We do not find this engagement expressly made in other renewals of the covenant. It would, however, be implied in them, since it was one of the commandments (see Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13:9-15; Deuteronomy 17:2-7) [Speak. Com.].
II. The spirit in which he carried out these reforms.
1. A spirit of vigour. No trifling with the occasion. His foundation broad, and the policy built upon it gracious, energetic, and complete.
2. A spirit of impartiality. Gods of high places and gods of groves; images from the city and of the palace. He would not allow even his mother to keep an idol. Many are great reformers in national, not in private matters. Earnest before the public, too lenient at home. Asa knew nothing about father or mother, partiality or concession. The royal grove cut down, the favourite god stamped upon, consumed in the flame, and its ashes thrown into the brook.
3. A spirit of gratitude. He presented votive offerings in the temple. “The things that his father had dedicated,” spoils from Abijam’s victory over Jeroboam; spoils of his own from Zerah, the Ethiopian, were presented as thank-offerings to him by whose power they had been gained, and to whom all silver and gold belong. Things dedicated to holy use should not be desecrated nor withheld. Our vows should be performed and our first-fruits offered to God. Gratitude helped by the vow of it. “Vow and pay to the Lord your God; let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.”
“THE SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT.”—2 Chronicles 15:10-15
“Entered into the covenant.” It is evident that a covenant existed before this; they renew it with gladness and enthusiasm. “Solemn renewals of original covenant made in the wilderness (Exodus 24:3-8) occur from time to time in Jewish history after intervals of apostasy. This renewal in reign of Asa is the first on record. The next falls 300 years later, in reign of Josiah (2 Kings 23:3). There is a third in the time of Jeremiah (Nehemiah 10:28-29). On such occasions the people bound themselves by solemn oath to observe all directions of the law, and call down God’s curse upon them if they forsook it” [Speak. Com.].
I. The assembly by which it was ratified. Representatives from Judah and Benjamin, strangers from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon. The king’s own subjects and those who had transferred allegiance to him from Israel. Outsiders invited, welcomed, and encouraged to acquaint themselves with God and walk in his commands.
II. The solemnities by which it was accompanied. Besides rededications of themselves and stern but wholesome league against idolatry—
1. Innumerable sacrifices. “They offered unto the Lord seven hundred oxen and seven hundred sheep.”
2. Exultant joy. “With shouting, with trumpets, and with cornets.” People testified unbounded satisfaction with loud voice and instruments. The revival of religion, the manifestation of God’s presence, a source of pure and permanent joy. “When his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 15:1-2. Inspiration and duty.
1. An inspired man is qualified to give a message. Suitable, intelligent, and timely.
2. An inspired man will give his message fearlessly and successfully.
3. Inspired men, men taught of God, not time-servers, required now.
2 Chronicles 15:2. If ye seek him.
1. A fact in national history;
2. A truth in Christian experience;
3. A correction in general tendencies. Neither to presume nor to despair.
2 Chronicles 15:3. A picture of utter destitution in spiritual life. “Without the true God.” Then Israel had false gods! Yes, innumerable gods even Israel acquired, notwithstanding the commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” “It is not a commandment that can keep a man at home. No bill of stipulations can convert your children and make them filial. We may have a time-bill for the action of the whole day, but the world was never yet saved by commandments. Israel trampled ten of them under foot, and we have trampled ten thousand. We can do despite unto the spirit of grace; we can insult God. ‘Without a teaching priest,’—not an ornament, nor a ceremonialist, but a teaching priest. A man whose business it was to expound the law and make the people understand it. So they preached in olden time; they took the law syllable by syllable, explained it word by word, and sentence by sentence; they analysed it, took it member from member. They put it together again and hurled it upon the people like a thunderbolt from heaven. They had naught else to expound, because they thought nothing else worthy of exposition. We are lost in details. Any man may get up a lecture, if he has great quoting power. It is almost impossible not to get up a lecture; the temptations are innumerable, and in many cases irresistible. Only one speech is worth listening to, that is the speech which begins in eternity, sweeps down through time, leaves behind it immortal lessons, and ascends to the fountain of origin. Demand the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. Be in earnest. ‘Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, &c.’ ” [Dr. Parker].
2 Chronicles 15:8-10. The influence of a great example. When Asa entered earnestly upon reform—I. He drew others to his side. The halting decide, the half-hearted kindle, before a zealous man. “They fell to him out of Israel in abundance.” Armies often perish, churches decay for want of leaders. II. He succeeded in his efforts. Success not given to hesitancy and idleness. Asa positive, determined, rallied others round him and accomplished great things. III. He gained freedom from attachment. “And the Lord gave them rest round about.” A bold, defiant attitude frightens the foe. Numbers and God’s help will overcome them and ensure peace.
“Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.”
2 Chronicles 15:15. Heart service.
1. God will not accept a divided heart. This useless. The whole or none. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
2. God requires the whole heart. “With all their heart.”
3. This requirement eminently reasonable and fit.
4. The heart must be willingly given. Devotion only true when free. When King William (Rufus) tried to force Anselm to a certain course, he replied, “Treat me as a free man, and I devote myself and all I have to your service. Treat me as a slave, and you shall have neither me nor mine.” “The servant (bondslave) of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1).
5. When thus sought and served he will be found. “Search me, O God, and prove me.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 15
2 Chronicles 15:1-7. God’s presence. Walking together is a very common action of human fellowship; much interchange of thought and opinion takes place in the long daily walks of two friends, but this implies a certain evenness and similarity of gait; for “how can two walk together except they be agreed?” In common parlance this is spoken of as “keeping step;” and that this very thing is required of us, we see in a very striking and reiterated warning in Leviticus 26:12; Leviticus 26:21-28, where God promises to “walk among His people,” ready, as it were, for this steady, even step. “But if ye walk contrary unto me,” or as in margin, “If ye walk at all adventures with me;” or by another reading, “If ye walk at haphazard with me,” in a jerking, spasmodic, contrary fashion, such as, alas! we know too well, then “will I also walk contrary unto you” [Mrs. Gordon].
“My business now is with my God to walk,
And guided by His holy eye to go;
Sweet fellowship with Him to cultivate,
And His unclouded countenance to know”
[J. F. Elwin].
2 Chronicles 15:12. Covenant. Charles Kingsley wrote, on entering his 22nd year: “My birth-night. I have been for the last hour on the seashore; not dreaming, but thinking deeply and strongly, and forming determinations which are to affect my destiny through time and eternity. Before the sleeping earth, and the sleepless sea and stars, I have devoted myself to God—a vow never (if He gives me the faith I pray for) to be recalled.”
2 Chronicles 15:15. The Lord gave rest. In 1815, when the British Parliament were voting honours and emoluments to Wellington, and considering “the measures necessary towards forming a peace establishment,” suddenly all their plans were interrupted and their peace prospects dissipated by the intelligence that Napoleon had escaped from Elba. Nothing like this will occur during the rest which God gives. His enemies once subdued will be subdued for ever.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 15". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17