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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
2 Chronicles 15

 

 

Verses 1-7

2 Chronicles 15:1-7

And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah.

Dark shadows on a bright day

We have here shown the necessary connection between God’s service and human weal.

I. The awful apostasy. Turning away.

1. Practical atheism. “Without the true God.”

2. Deprived of priestly function.

3. Prevalence of moral disorder.

II. The terrible judgments which followed apostasy.

1. Widespread anarchy.

2. Civil dissensions.

3. General calamity.

III. The way of escape from these judgments. “The Lord is with you while ye be with Him,” etc.

1. There is a fact in Divine procedure.

2. This is a warning for the future. (J. Wolfendale.)

Inspiration and duty

I. An inspired man is qualified to give a message.

II. An inspired man will give his message fearlessly and successfully.

III. Inspired men, men taught of God, not time-servers, required now. (J. Wolfendale.)

Verses 2. The Lord is with you, while ye be with Him; and if ye seek Him.

When and how long the Lord is with His people

I. What it is for the Lord to be with His people.

1. Not His general or essential presence.

2. Nor His being with His creatures in a providential way; for so He is with all men.

3. Nor His special presence in a providential way with His own dear children.

4. But it is God’s gracious presence, which Moses so earnestly entreated: “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence”; and of which David deprecates the loss: “Cast me not away from Thy presence.” To enjoy His presence in this sense means--

II. When or how long will God be with His people.? “While ye be with Him.”

1. While you keep close to Him in a way of duty; while you are with Him in prayer particularly.

2. While we have communion with them that fear the Lord. God is with them that fear Him; and those who keep company with such persons may expect His presence. Spiritual conversation is like putting fuel to fire; and prayer is like the bellows which blows up the flame.

3. While ye be with Him in public worship and attend the ordinances of His house (Acts 2:1-3).

Inferences:

1. The presence of God with His people is a most amazing instance of Divine goodness.

2. There is nothing so desirable to a gracious soul as the presence of God. (J. Gill, D.D.)

When will the Lord be found by His people?

I. God is to be found by His people--

1. In conversion.

2. At the throne of grace.

3. In His public ordinances.

II. When is God to be found by His people thus? When He is sought through the Lord Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life.” (J. Gill, D. D.)

Being with God

To be with God is--

I. To preserve in our minds a reverent sense of His being, presence, and government.

II. To keep close to His laws.

III. To stand on His side against the opposite power of darkness and sin. (Abp. Seeker.)

God with us

I. What is meant by God with a Church? Luther used to say that there was a “great deal of divinity in prepositions.” This word “with” has diversity as well as divinity in its meaning. It means--

1. To be present. God present, seeing and hearing all that is said and done.

2. Blessing. A helping, gracious presence. “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man.”

3. Divine protection.

II. What is meant by a Church with God?

1. It is a Church faithful and fearless in proclaiming God’s Word. “Strike, but hear!” said a philosopher to an angry disputant. “Laugh, strike, kill, but hear the Word of God!” is what the Church says to mockers and persecutors.

2. It is a holy Church. The Emperor of Rome issued a command that all houses, shops, and public institutions, ships or boats, named after members of the Royal Family, should be kept clean, or forego the right to the name. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

3. A Church with God does God’s work. A Church tries to be to men all that Christ was, the earthly organ of His Spirit, the instrument of “the mind of Christ.”

4. It means a Church in which every member lives in personal communion with God. (J. M. Gibbon.)

The happiness and condition of the presence of God

I. The happiness of the Jewish Church at that time. “The Lord is with you.” God’s presence as applied to all righteous people implies--

1. An owning and acknowledging them to be His own peculiar people. God’s love to His peculiar people includes in it all relations: that of a--

2. His assisting them and prospering all the works that they put their hands to (1 Chronicles 11:9).

3. His protection and defence of them against all their enemies (Genesis 15:1; Zechariah 2:5; Isaiah 4:5; Isaiah 46:7; Numbers 23:1-30; Romans 8:31).

Inferences:

1. Let us notice what are the greatest mischiefs and who are the chief authors of all the evils which can possibly befall a kingdom, even they that would rob us of our God.

2. From hence we may learn the surest way to have our tranquillity and peace secured to us.

3. If we sincerely serve God, we may comfortably and securely rest upon Him to defend and protect us against all dangers {Proverbs 18:10; Matthew 10:29; Numbers 14:9). Luther tells a famous story of a Bishop of Magdeburg, against whom the Duke of Saxony was preparing to wage war; the bishop, having notice of it, betakes himself presently to his prayers and the reforming of his Church; and when one told him what mighty preparations were making against him, he replied, “I will take care of my Church, and then God will fight for and take care of me”; which, when the duke heard of, he disbanded his forces and acknowledged himself too weak to deal with that man who had engaged God on his side (Psalms 3:6).

II. The condition upon which the happiness of God’s presence is to be enjoyed, while we are with Him. To be with God is to be a holy people. Clemens Alexandrinus speaks of a temple upon which was written, “No unholy thing must come near this place”; and this is God’s inscription (Hebrews 1:13). Conclusion: ‘Tis reported of the Prince of Orange at the Battle of Newport, that he said to his soldiers, when they had the sea on one side and the Spaniards on the other, “You must either eat up the Spaniards or drink up the sea”; so we must either conquer our lusts or drink down the devouring fire of God’s wrath. Let us apply ourselves to the service of God sincerely, and then the “Lord will be with us.” (E. Lake, D. D.)

God’s presence with His people the spring of their prospe

rity:--

I. God may be said to be with men--

1. In respect of the omnipresence of His essence (1 Kings 8:27; Psalms 139:7-12).

2. In respect of personal union. “God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

3. In respect of the covenant of grace.

4. In respect of providential dispensations. This is twofold.

II. A people’s abiding with God is twofold.

1. In personal obedience.

2. In national administrations.

III. Observations.

1. All outward flourishing or prosperity of a people doth not always argue the special presence of God with them. The things required to make success and prosperity an evidence of the presence of God are--

2. Even great afflictions, eminent distresses, long perplexities, may have a consistency with God’s special presence. (J. Owen, D. D.)

The presence of God

I. Let our first use be to instruct us particularly.

1. What this special presence is, and wherein it doth consist.

2. What it is for us to abide with God, so as we may enjoy it.

(a) Ask counsel at His hand, look to Him for direction in all our affairs;

(b) trust in Him for protection;

(c) universally own God’s concernments in the world. His presence with us is the owning of our concernments; and certainly He expects that we abide with Him in the owning of His. “The Lord’s portion is His people.”

II. Look on this presence of God as our main concernment (Psalms 4:1-8.).

III. Whilst we have any pledge of the presence of God with us, let us not be greatly moved, nor troubled by any difficulties we may meet with.

IV. Let us fix our thoughts on the things which lie in a tendency towards the confirming of God’s special providential presence with us. (J. Owen, D. D.)

The Divine protection promised only to an obedient people

I. A grand promise. “The Lord is with you while ye be with Him.”

1. God is said to be with any people--

2. A nation is with God--

II. An awful threatening.

1. There are several ways in which we may forsake God. But that against which it is most necessary to warn Christians is the forsaking of God by a wicked life, by dissolute manners, by living as if there were no God, or as if we were not to stand before Him in judgment.

2. God forsakes a people, thus unworthy of His presence, by the calamities and miseries with which He visits them. (S. Partridge, M.A.)

The prophet’s maxim recommended and confirmed

(a missionary sermon):--

I. It may tend to recommend this Divine maxim if we consider--

1. The effect it had on him to whom it was addressed.

2. The blessing it brought down on those who regarded it.

II. Let us confirm the prophet’s axiom. The Lord is with them, and with them alone, who are with Him. Consider--

1. The evils which would result from the blessing of God being on our labours while we are not with Him.

2. The pleasing results which would follow if God were to be with a people for so long a period as He was with this people.


Verses 1-19

Verse 3-4

2 Chronicles 15:3-4

Now for a long season.

The schism of the ten tribes

These words--

I. Suggest a warning. A land “without teaching priests” soon realises the rest of the text by becoming “without the true God, and without law.”

II. Give encouragement to send “teaching priests” on their holy mission to bring the people “to the law and to the testimony,” so that they may hear “the whole counsel of God.” (Joseph B. Owen, M.A.)


Verse 7

2 Chronicles 15:7

Be ye Strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak.

Religious resolution

I. That resolution is necessary in promoting the cause of religion. Resolution is the essence of that mental strength which gives energy to all the powers and faculties of body and mind. It is composed of love, zeal, and confidence. Such resolution has always had a principal influence in effecting all the great things which have ever been effected by the men of the world. Necessary in religion. The Scriptures inculcate it (2 Chronicles 19:11; Ezra 10:4). Examples of resolution: Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, John the Baptist, Peter and John, Paul, Luther, Calvin, etc.

II. That the friends of God have good ground for such unshaken resolution in promoting such a great and good design.

1. The friends of God have often been succeeded in their sincere attempts to promote His glory in the salvation of sinners.

2. The promotion of religion is such a noble and laudable design that it is even glorious to fail in the attempt.

3. Those who espouse the cause of religion have reason to expect the peculiar presence and assistance of God in their pious exertions.

4. They also have the approbation and prayers of all good men.

5. They are equally sure of the esteem and affection of all those whom they shall be instrumental in converting.

6. Their efforts shall finally meet a glorious recompense of reward.

III. Inferences.

1. That the friends of God have been very negligent in promoting His cause in the world.

2. That none will ever do much to forward the work of spreading the gospel without a large share of Christian zeal and resolution. (N. Emmons, D.D.)

Strong hands

In the Bible, the human hand is often used as a figure to express actions of life. As a symbol, Elisha poured water over the hands of Elijah; meaning that he would henceforth be his servant, and minister unto him in deeds of kindness. The reason why the hand represents so many things is because of its manifold uses. What firmness in its grasp, and what delicacy in its touch! It can forge an anchor or make a needle; fell a tree or feel to read the Bible; and do a thousand things which would seem very wonderful if they were not so familiar. “Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak.”

I. That man will have strong hands who regularly lifts them up in prayer. If you lift up your hands in prayer as the apostles did, you shall have strength to do great deeds for God.

II. Let your hands be strong in cleaving to the Cross of Christ. (W. Birch.)

Success the certain fruit of faithful labours

Applying these words to the work of Sabbath schools, consider--

I. The work.

1. Its object is the benefit of the rising generation.

2. Its tendencies as to the interests of society at large are beneficial.

3. It accords with the spirit of Christianity and the predictions of sacred writ (Isaiah 11:9).

II. The exhortation.

1. To faith.

2. To union.

3. To perseverance.

III. The reward. This is to be found--

1. In the satisfaction of your own minds.

2. In the success of your efforts.

3. In the approbation of your Lord. (N. Hutchings.)


Verses 12-15

2 Chronicles 15:12-15

And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers.

The covenant renewed

“Entering into a covenant” is what we name “a revival”; they made it a national act, we separate it entirely from political affairs.

I. The preparations for revival.

1. The persons who led. A faithful prophet and an obedient king. Of Azariah we know nothing beyond the short record of this chapter. This suggests that a man is important to the world only for the work he does. The king was ready to learn from this obscure prophet and to lead the people to consecration. Happy the pastor who finds the wealth, authority, and zeal of his Church willing to receive the sacred message humbly from his lips and faithfully lead where he points the way.

2. The truths they used. The same that inspire every true revival (verse 2). Divine faithfulness, human responsibility, mercy for the penitent, punishment for the hardened.

II. The revival. In this blessed work there was--

1. Repentance.

2. Atonement (verse 11).

3. Consecration.

III. The joy of reconciliation (verse 15). Lessons:

1. The reformer must begin at his own house.

2. Service for God may cost pain.

3. The true leader is called of God.

4. Every true leader is a rallying-point for others (verse 9). (Monday Club Sermons.)

A revival

I. We see here that the heart of a revival lies in a renewal of the covenant of the Church with God. An awakened Church is the pioneer of an awakened world,

2. A second feature in this ancient revival of religion was a public proclamtion of a revived faith before the world. Religious men are too much in earnest to be still about it. They are moved by a great power. It will express itself as becomes a great power. It is the instinct of religious faith to bear its witness to the world.

III. The old Jewish revival was attended with a great influx of converts from without. So commonly works a pure revival upon the world. Very rare is the exception in which the heart of the world does not respond to the heart of the Church.

IV. A fourth feature of a true revival of religion is a thorough reformation of public and private morals. To put away idolatrous worship was what we should call a reformation in morals. Idolatry was immorality concentrated in its most hideous forms. No religious zeal could have been genuine in a monarch which did not sweep the land clean of them.

V. Such awakenings are often followed by periods of temporal prosperity. “The Lord gave them rest round about.” No other civilising power equals that of true religion. It never hurts a man for any of the right uses of this world to make a Christian of him. (A. Phelps.)

A revival: an imperious necessity

The text gives an account of the ancient revival of religion under King Asa. Other revivals are portrayed by the sacred writers. From these we learn--

I. That revivals are by no means new things. Nor are they things of modern invention.

II. That the progress of religion is not in a uniform steady line.

III. That revivals of religion ordinarily commence in humble and obscure ways, and are ordinarily helped on by the humblest instrumentality.

IV. That they are ordinarily accompanied by a great deal of what people are pleased to term excitement.

V. That true revival of religion are marked by marvellous transformations of character and reformations in the life. (G. E. Reed.)

And all Judah rejoiced at the oath.

Judah’s solemn engagement

I. The solemn engagement into which they entered, and the temper they manifested therein.

1. They bound themselves to nothing new. It was to seek the Lord God of their fathers.

2. They swore to do this.

3. They entered into this engagement with great sincerity and with great cheerfulness.

II. The happy consequence of judah’s solemn engagement. “The Lord was found of them.” (Job Orton.)

And He was found of them.--The search that always finds:--

I. The seeking. The highest bliss is to find God, the next highest is to seek Him.

1. Our text lays emphasis on the whole-heartedness of the people’s seeking after God. One reason why the great mass of professing Christians make so little of their religion is because they are only half-hearted in it. If you divide a river into two streams the force of each is less than half the power of the original current; and the chances are that you will make a stagnant marsh where there used to be a flowing stream. “All in all or not at all” is the rule for life in all departments.

2. “They sought; Him with all their heart.” That does not mean that there are to be no other desires, for it is a great mistake to pit religion against other things which are meant to be its instruments and its helps.

3. The one token of seeking God is casting out idols. There must be detachment if there is to be attachment. If some climbing plant, for instance, has twisted itself round the unprofitable thorns in the hedge, the gardener, before he can get it to go up the support that it is meant to encircle, has carefully to detach it from the stays to which it has wantonly clung, taking care that in the process he does not break its tendrils and destroy its power of growth. The heart must be emptied of base liquors if the new wine of the kingdom is to be poured into it.

II. The finding which crowns such seeking.

1. Anything is possible rather than that a whole-hearted search after God should be a vain search. For there are in that search two seekers--God is seeking for us more truly than we are seeking for Him.

2. This is the only direction for a man’s desires and aims in which disappointment is an impossibility.

3. Our wisdom is to make this search. What would you think of a company of gold-seekers, hunting about in some exhausted claim for hypothetical grains--ragged, starving--and all the while in the next gully were lying lumps of gold for the picking up? And that figure fairly represents what people do and suffer who seek for good and do not seek after God.

II. The rest which ensues on finding God. We have no immunity from toil and conflict, but disturbance around is a very small matter if there be a better thing--rest within. A vessel with an outer casing and a layer of air between may be kept at a temperature above that of the external atmosphere. So we may have conflict and strife, and yet a better rest than that of my text may be ours. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Happy earnestness

This verse represents well the happy combination of sacrament and life. It brings before us whole-heartedness for God, with special regard to two of its features.

I. Joy. “And all Judah rejoiced at the oath,” etc. A wholeness of devotedness to God is consistent with every department of activity and every form of interest which is not in itself sinful. It is as a soul to the body of all secular occupation, however absorbing. The wide onward lift of the tidal wave in mid-ocean does not more interfere with the commerce of the countries, the heightening sun of the springtime does not more embarrass the progress of the land over which it smiles, than the full-hearted service of God breaks in upon the lawful interests of a man among the engagements of his every-day existence. This joy implies--

1. Enthusiasm. This may be reckoned the atmosphere which surrounds the joy of whole-heartedness for God.

2. Willingness. A wide compliance with a competent and kindly force that presses on us from without. Predominant willingness contributes largely to a Christian man’s joy.

3. Rightness. The approval of conscience.

4. Undividedness of affection.

II. Prosperousness. “And He was found of them: and Jehovah gave them rest round about.” This signifies--

1. That we find what we seek. There are neighbourhoods where the mists lie so often and so long upon the grand outlines of the landscape, that a clear day is in some sense a day of discovery, of “finding,” though nothing is there then which was not there always. There have been those who for years have looked through a filmy dimness of eyesight upon those they loved, whose movements were to them like the movements of featureless shades; when the films were one day purged from the eyes was it not almost more than a figure of speech they spoke when they said they had “found” those loved faces and forms again? So this energising of the heart for God restores vision, and vision restores reality. God in Christ becomes near.

2. That we miss much that we had hitherto found. Hostile movements from around are comparatively allayed, and the hush that has fallen upon these reflects itself upon the soul in restfulness. (J. A. Kerr Bain, M.A.)


Verse 17

2 Chronicles 15:17

Nevertheless, the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.

Spiritual backsliding

We learn from the text that we cannot always infer the state of the heart from external symptoms.

I. You may have the appearance of something wrong while the heart is sound. This was Asa’s case.

II. Conversely you may have the heart unsound whilst as yet there is but little trace of it in the heart and life. In tracing this disease, consider--

1. Its working.

2. Its symptoms. There was a time when you felt God to be your “chief good”--do you feel Him less so now? There was a time when you delighted in prayer--has it become more of a task now? Once you thought much of the work of Christ and longed to be with Him in heaven--are you now more contented with earth and more disposed to say, “It is good for us to be here”? Once you found sufficient scope for fervent affections in secret communion with God, in meditating on His perfections, and in admiring His love in the gift of His Son--now do your affections seem stifled unless you have some showy work on which to fasten them, some dazzling novelty with which to engage them? (H. Melvill, B.D.)

Caution in judging others

How ready are we to condemn and find fault with our neighbour, if his conduct do not seem in every respect consistent with his Christian profession! How soon we think he may be nothing but a hypocrite if we observe certain things in which he fails to carry out the principles of the gospel, though perhaps we know little or nothing of his peculiar circumstances, dangers, and temptations! It is enough for us that the “high places” are not “taken away”; immediately we condemn Asa, and infer that his heart cannot be right with God. Let the text teach charity first; and while we are not to shut our eyes to what is wrong, or count it matter of indifference whether or not the “high places are removed,” when the removing is that to which the Christian stands pledged, let us be cautious of judging our brethren, and delivering a verdict against them, when we are told, though “the high places were not taken away out of Israel, nevertheless, the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.” (H. Melville, B. D.)

Perfection, limited by power

Some of you might, indeed, be ready to make a wrong use of our text. You may say, “If Asa’s heart was perfect with God, though he did not remove the high places, so may ours be, though you may see things in our conduct which may not be wholly consistent with a Christian profession.” Yet, before using the case of Asa to justify the assertion that your heart may be right whilst your conduct is wrong, it may be as well to observe how far Asa had gone in the extermination of idols. The text merely says that the “high places” were “not taken away out of Israel.” Asa was king of Judah, but not of Israel; though he would seem to have possessed much influence in that kingdom. There was no reason to doubt that, where his power was clear, he had exerted it in restoring the worship of the true God; if he had not he would not have punished his nearest relations. You read that he removed Maachah, his mother, being queen, “because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron.” You learn, in like manner, what was done with the idol of the high priest. So that, if he did not carry reform into Israel, he was vigorous in its application in his own fancily and household. When you can say as much--when you can say that, to the utmost of your power, you have laboured to serve God in your own family and household and neighbourhood, maintaining His cause among all those who come more immediately within the sphere of your influence--then you may hope that, as with Asa, the heart is perfect with God, though there are high places yet, in far distant lands, whose overthrow you have not attempted. (H. Melville, B. D.)

Unsoundness of heart suspected on insufficient grounds

And yet, in speaking on the case of the backslider in heart, it becomes us to take heed that we make not those sad who may be disposed, without sufficient cause, to write bitter things against themselves. It is not every person who suspects himself of unsoundness of heart who is really a backslider. We must declare there is commonly much greater cause for fear with your forward, confident, bustling professors, who would be quite offended if suspected of spiritual decline, than with the timid, scrupulous individual who is always ready to think worse of himself than others think of him. Tried by conscience--alas! what hardens conscience like contact with the world?--it may still make a man accuse himself of backsliding who is all the while “pressing toward the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ.” Bodily sickness may be regarded as the taking away of the quickenings of the Spirit; the clouding of the understanding, and the clogging of the affections, will often make a believer fearful of spiritual relapse; he mistakes the infirmity of the body for disease of the soul--a decay of memory for a decay of piety; as though there must be less of devotedness, of abhorrence of sin, of meek reliance upon Christ in our dangers, our confusions, our difficulties in spiritual exercises, because of that unenlightenment of mind which is but the result, or symptom, of declining strength. Though a person may be quite correct in calling himself a backslider, yet the probabilities are greater for him who has no fears and no suspicions that he is really a backslider than for another who does not wait to be charged, but is painfully apprehensive of being in fault. For certainly, as a general rule in religion, to advance is, in some senses, to appear to go back. To grow in grace is to grow in knowledge of ourselves; and, alas! who can know himself better, and not think himself worse? If, however, we would not have the timid unduly severe in accusing themselves, we would have all diligent, and him “that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (H. Melville, B. D.)
.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 15:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-chronicles-15.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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