2 Chronicles 15 – Revival and Reform in Judah
A. Azariah brings a warning from God.
1. (1-2) Asa is exhorted to seek God.
Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”
a. Azariah the son of Oded: This was one of the lesser-known prophets in the early years of the kingdom of Judah. He came and bravely spoke a word to a king who was flushed with success after the great victory over the Ethiopians.
b. The LORD is with you while you are with Him: King Asa and the kingdom of Judah had just enjoyed a significant victory over a mighty army. It would be easy to think that they had a permanent claim to God’s favor and blessing. Speaking through the prophet Azariah, God wanted Asa to know the importance of abiding in the LORD.
c. If you seek Him, He will be found by you: This is an important principle repeated many times in the Bible. The idea is that when we draw near to God, He reveals Himself to us. God does not hide Himself from the seeking heart.
· You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
· And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
· Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
i. The converse is also true: if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. Ultimately, God gives us what we want from Him. God grants to the heart that seeks Him what it wants; He also grants the heart that forsakes Him what it desires.
ii. “He revealed an inclusive philosophy of life under the control of God…. The principle is of perpetual application. It represents God as unchanging. All apparent changes on His part are really changes in the attitude of men toward Him. Man with God, finds God with him. Man forsaking God, finds that he is forsaken of God.” (Morgan)
2. (3-7) The exhortation in light of the past disobedience of Israel.
“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their trouble they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them. And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands. So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”
a. Without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law: The prophet Azariah describes the bad state of Israel in their overconfidence and distance from God. They had rejected God, those who teach them the word of God, and the law itself.
i. Without a teaching priest reminds us that the priesthood and the Levites did much more than administer the sacrificial system. They were to be scattered throughout the tribes of Israel to teach the word of God to the people.
ii. “The priests’ teaching role was vital to the moral and spiritual quality of national life (cf. e.g. Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 33:10; Malachi 2:7; 2 Chronicles 17:7-9), but when it was neglected, the truth about God declined and the fabric of covenant society was undermined.” (Selman)
iii. “His words about the ‘long time’ when ‘Israel was without the true God’ probably refer to the lawless, and often faithless, days of the Judges (Judges 21:25).” (Payne)
b. But when in their trouble they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them: The Chronicler used this message from the prophet Azariah to remind the people of Israel in his own day (Ezra’s days of the return from exile) that even when the people of God were set low because of their disobedience, God would restore them when they turned to the LORD God of Israel.
c. Be strong…for your work shall be rewarded: In spite of the great trouble that God had visited on His previously disobedient people, King Asa should be encouraged at God’s heart for forgiveness and restoration.
i. “This prophecy is unusual in that it is an exposition of earlier parts of the Old Testament though as an example of the speeches in Chronicles it is not untypical. Its style is sermonic, but its prophetic character comes through in the immediacy of its final imperative.” (Selman)
B. The reforms of King Asa.
1. (8-9) King Asa cleanses the land and gathers the nation together for worship.
And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the LORD that was before the vestibule of the LORD. Then he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those who dwelt with them from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, for they came over to him in great numbers from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.
a. He took courage, and removed the abominable idols: This was the good and godly response. Instead of becoming fatalistic or passive, King Asa took action based on the open heart of God to restore and forgive.
i. Some believe that the forgiving nature of God gives one a reason to sin, based on the idea that we can sin now and simply ask forgiveness later. Asa’s reaction to the word of the prophet shows the correct response to the forgiving nature of God – to respond with a greater love and a greater passion for obedience.
ii. We should notice that this took courage for King Asa to do. He had to combat against:
· The entrenched interests in favor of idolatry.
· The unseen spiritual forces in favor of idolatry.
· The example of his predecessors and neighboring tribes to the north in favor of idolatry.
· His own fleshly inclinations in favor of idolatry and compromise.
· The lethargy of compromise and indifference that supports idolatry.
iii. Many well-meaning reformers accomplish little because they lack the courage to really stand for their godly convictions.
iv. “What is important is that it touched the entire nation, including the queen mother (2 Chronicles 15:16), all Judah (2 Chronicles 14:5), and even the north (2 Chronicles 15:8-9).” (Selman)
b. And he restored the altar of the LORD: King Asa did more than remove the wrong; he also restored the right. This is an important part of any reform, and any time of renewal must be more than speaking out against the evil. It must also take positive steps towards the good.
c. They came over to him in great numbers from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him: King Asa’s bold obedience to God earned the respect of the godly remnant among the apostate northern tribes that made up the kingdom of Israel. They wanted to be part of a committed return to God.
i. The Chronicler recorded these events – not included in the history of King Asa found in 1 Kings – as an encouragement to the returned exiles in his own day. They could believe that if they obeyed God courageously as King Asa did, that God would also gather a faithful remnant to their small number. They could see that courageously obedient believers attract others.
ii. “Chronicles constantly highlights the opportunities for reunification (cf. 2 Chronicles 11:13-17; 30:11; 34:6), which always arose in the context of worship rather than as a result of military force (cf. 2 Chronicles 11:1-4; 13:8, 13:13-14).” (Selman)
2. (10-15) A public covenant made at Jerusalem.
So they gathered together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they offered to the LORD at that time seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep from the spoil they had brought. Then they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; and whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. Then they took an oath before the LORD with a loud voice, with shouting and trumpets and rams’ horns. And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around.
a. They offered to the LORD at that time seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep from the spoil they had brought: They rightly recognized that their victory came from God, so they gave back to Him from the spoil of the victory over the Ethiopians (2 Chronicles 14:12-15).
i. When we recognize that what we have comes from God, it is much easier to give to Him out of what He has given us. A lack of generosity is often rooted in refusing to recognize that God is the ultimate provider and every good and perfect gift comes from Him (James 1:17).
ii. “Such assemblies are typical of a number of kings in Chronicles, including David (1 Chronicles 13:2-5; 15:3; 28:8; 29:1ff), Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:3; 5:6), Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:5, etc.), and especially Hezekiah (e.g. 2 Chronicles 29:23; 29:28; 30:2; 30:25).” (Selman)
b. They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul: After sacrifice, they committed the matter to a covenant between them and God. This was after the pattern of the covenant the people of Israel originally made with God at Sinai (Exodus 24:7-8).
i. This covenant was deliberately connected with these past covenants (to seek the LORD God of their fathers). This was their way of saying, “LORD God, we want the same relationship with You that our great forefathers enjoyed. We want to be bound to You with the same kind of covenant.”
ii. This covenant was supported by the threat of punishment (whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel was to be put to death) and with a public oath (they took an oath before the LORD with a loud voice). This combination of a public oath and a promised punishment made the whole community accountable to keep this promise they made. This was a demonstration of the fact that it was a covenant made with all their heart and with all their soul. It was not a half-hearted or half-way covenant that no one could be held accountable to.
iii. “Do not think too much of entering into and keeping a covenant with God; but remember that the Lord Jesus, on our behalf, has entered into covenant relation with the Father, and the Father with us in Him. This is the new covenant.” (Meyer)
iv. “Should be put to death, by virtue of all those laws which command that such persons should be cut off, and in pursuance of that law, Deuteronomy 17:2.” (Poole)
c. All Judah rejoiced at the oath: The seriousness of the covenant became a source of joy for the people. There was a sincere and true joy in being fully committed to God and accountable for that commitment in the community.
d. And He was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around: Through the prophet Azariah, God had promised Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:2: If you seek Him, He will be found by you. This was the fulfillment of that promise. Not only the king himself, but the nation as a whole found the LORD when they sought Him this way.
· They sought Him together, having gathered together at Jerusalem.
· They sought Him through sacrifice, trusting in God’s promise of atonement through the blood of an innocent victim.
· They sought Him through covenant, made with a view to God’s working with His people in the past (to seek the LORD God of their fathers).
· They sought Him completely, with all their heart and with all their soul.
· They sought Him in an accountable way, promising punishment upon themselves if they were to forsake this covenant.
· They sought Him publicly, having taken a public oath together.
· They sought Him joyfully, rejoicing in the oath they had taken.
i. Their reward for seeking God in this way was both that they found the LORD, and when they found Him, He gave them rest all around. Some fear to seek the LORD this diligently because they are afraid that should they really find God, it would be more of a burden than a blessing to them. The Chronicler wanted us to know that when we seek God in this radical way and find Him, the reward is rest all around.
3. (16-19) The extension of the reform into the king’s own household.
Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron. But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days. He also brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated and that he himself had dedicated: silver and gold and utensils. And there was no war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.
a. Also he removed Maachah the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah: This demonstrates the thoroughness of Asa’s reforms. He was able to act righteously even when his family was wrong, in particular his own grandmother. “It is in a man’s own family circle that his faithfulness is put fairly to the test.” (Knapp)
i. 1 Kings 15:12-15 makes it clearer that Maachah was actually the grandmother of King Asa. “Maacah was apparently the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah (2 Chronicles 13:2) and Tamar (2 Samuel 14:27), hence the granddaughter of Absalom, David’s rebellious son.” (Patterson and Austel)
ii. An obscene image: “This image is described as ‘obscene’ in our English translation, but the Hebrew word is closer in meaning to ‘frightening,’ ‘horrible,’ or ‘abominable.’ Some commentators believe it was some sort of phallic symbol consistent with the fertility cult of Asherah.” (Dilday)
iii. “From the whole, it is pretty evident that the image was a mere Priapus, or something of the same nature, and that Maachah had an assembly in the grove where the image was set up, and doubtless worshipped it with the most impure rites. What the Roman Priapus was I need not tell the learned reader; and as to the unlearned, it would not profit him to know.” (Clarke)
iv. “The Jews imagine that Maachah repented, and her name became changed into Michaiah, daughter of Uriel of Gibeah; and that this was done that there might be no mention of her former name, lest it should be a reproach to her.” (Clarke)
b. But the high places were not removed from Israel: 2 Chronicles 14:3 says that Asa did remove the high places, but it mentions these high places in connection with altars of the foreign gods. Therefore Asa removed the high places that were dedicated to idols, but not the ones that were dedicated to the LORD.
i. “More probably, however, the addition of from Israel (cf. 1 Kings 15:14; cf. 2 Chronicles 15:8) suggests that the Chronicler distinguished between the high places in Judah (2 Chronicles 14:3, 5) and those in Israel (2 Chronicles 15:17).” (Selman)
ii. “It was also a more extensive removal, ‘from the whole land’; for it included areas Asa ‘had captured in the hills of Ephraim’ during the five years of hostility that had immediately preceded.” (Payne)
c. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days: Asa’s loyal heart was shown in his reforms against idolatry and state-sanctioned perversion, and in his restoration of certain silver and gold utensils to the temple.
i. There was no war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa: “For though there were continual skirmishes between Asa and Baasha and their people all their days, 1 Kings 15:16, yet it did not break forth into an open war till Asa’s thirty-fifth year; i.e. till that was ended.” (Poole)