Part of my regular scripture reading for the last several months has been making my way through the Old Testament, a thing which I recommend highly to all. Most Christians do little enough Bible reading, and rarely read systematically through the New Testament, much less the Old. But, as I hope to point out here, there is precious insight into the story of the Gospel, God’s character, and humanity to be learned through the reading of the first half of the Lord’s word to mankind. A few weeks ago I finished 2 Chronicles, and as I completed the book spent several minutes skimming what I’d read and mulling over several major themes that stood out to me, which I thought were worth sharing. So, for what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts from my reading of 2 Chronicles.
Godly leadership is essential
Both 1 and 2 Chronicles are records of Israel’s cycle of turning away from God to idolatry, God disciplining them, Israel repenting and returning to the Lord, and then doing it over again. From the viewpoint of the inspired writer of the Chronicles, it is the country’s leaders that determine the path Israel takes. The nation prospers under Solomon’s rule, but Rehoboam, the succeeding King, turns from God. “When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.” (2 Chronicles 12:1) Over and over again, the leader’s actions and character have a massive impact on whether the people follow the Lord or not.
It’s no different in our day. As the leader goes, so go the people. Oh how essential it is that we be men and women who are conscious of how our actions direct those around us! Surely Rehoboam didn’t intend for his worship of idols to lead to all of Israel turning away and the Lord bringing Egypt to crush them into repentance, but as the ruler of the country his example set the tone for his people. My friends, let your character be such that when it is imitated it will drawn those around you closer to Christ.
God is sovereign over every part of history
Despite the fact that the majority of rulers in the Chronicles openly reject the Lord and worship idols, it is made clear that God is completely in control of what is taking place. The Lord uses nations that are Israel’s enemies to discipline them in their waywardness, and yet continually prevents their destruction. Scenes like 2 Chronicles 12:1-12, where God says that he is going to turn Israel over to Shishak, king of Egypt, and then declares, “They have humbled themselves. I will not destroy Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak” when Rehoboam and the other leaders repent show the way that God uses the nations as instruments to enact his will, even in their opposition to him.
This doctrine is one that is made little of in our day and age, but is amazingly precious due to the way it gives God’s people confidence in the midst of a chaotic earth! We must know that we serve a God who sits in heaven and does as he pleases, directing all of history for his glory and the good of those who are his if we are to be a people who go boldly into the most deadly places to bear Christ’s name. No government or world leader is able to do anything apart from God’s sovereign will, for as Proverbs 21:1 declares, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”
Godly councilors are crucial.
God is indeed sovereign over all events in history, but this does not exempt man from the responsibility of his actions, therefore it is necessary for all men to seek the right path in their lives. All throughout the scripture it is made clear that there is “a wisdom in a diversity of council.” When we follow only our own minds, we often end up straying far from the path that the Lord has set for us. Uzziah’s life is a very practical outworking of this principle.
At the outset of his reign the Chronicler declares that Uzziah, “set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.” (26:5) Note the qualifier “in the days of Zechariah.” Uzziah reigns very successfully, winning numerous military conquests and increasing the prosperity of Israel so long as he follows the council of the godly man Zechariah. However, “when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction” (26:16)
When we grow proud and decide that we have outgrown the need for the council of others, our destruction is not far off. This is particularly crucial for young leaders such as myself to grasp. We are desperately in need of the consistent guidance and reminder of the ways of the Lord, lest we “think more highly of ourselves than we ought” and bring about our own destruction by rushing headlong into positions that we are not prepared for.
Godly leadership fails if it doesn’t train up the next generation
Hezekiah is one of the bright lights in the midst of the darkness of 2 Chronicles. He is introduced by the declaration, “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done,” (2 Chron. 29:2). Hezekiah cleanses the temple, reinstates the priesthood and worship, restores the Passover, and does numerous great works throughout his lifetime. The writer of Chronicles says that, “since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 30:26) However, as with all humans, Hezekiah eventually dies.
Chapter 33 begins with Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, taking the throne in his father’s stead. Manasseh’s reign is a terrible contrast to the previous ruler, with the Chronicler recording that he,
did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asherahs, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them…. And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (2 Chronicles 33:2-6 ESV)
The principle here is one that is critical for us to grasp; Godly leadership fails to have any lasting effect if it does not train someone to take its place. We don’t know what Hezekiah did or didn’t do in raising his son, but it is clear that Manasseh had not been trained to walk in the ways of the Lord. As a result, all of his father’s reforms and restoration of the worship of God were destroyed in an amazingly short amount of time.
Take this to heart, parents, pastors, leaders, and all Christians. We may reform our culture and live righteous lives today, but if we do not intentionally pass what we have received from the Lord to the next generation, all our labor will have been in vain. I see in our own day a growing reformation of the church and Christianity as we return to the sufficiency of the gospel, the need for both the Spirit and the Word, and the church being a community of believers who live in imitation of Christ rather than a Sunday meeting. However, if these reforms are not consciously and carefully passed on to the following generations, all the good we have done will collapse.
God actively judges sin.
Lastly, 2 Chronicles makes it explicit that we serve a God who actively judges sin, a doctrine particularly relevant in light of all the recent hullabaloo about Bell’s Love Wins and other similar books. My friends, we cannot attempt to tame God’s wrath and judgment of both sin and sinner without also crushing the power of his salvation.
2 Chronicles 22:7 declares, “it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram.” 25:20 reads, “it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hands of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom.” 28:5 says, “Therefore the Lord his God have him into the hand of the king of Syria.” In each of these verses, God is the actor, turning his people over to their enemies because of their sin.
And lest we think that this is a concept old an old covenant God who is somehow different today, Paul writes such statements as, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” and, “Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity,” and, “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind” in Romans 1 and elsewhere.
We serve a God who takes sin seriously, so much so that he will use one nation to discipline another for their sin. We must not to take such things lightly. Instead, the only appropriate response is to do as Hezekiah does in 2 Chronicles 32 and humble ourselves, repenting of our sin and casting ourselves upon God’s mercy, remembering that the same God who viciously judges sin has also graciously sent his Son to bear the judgment in our place.
Oh, the riches of the depths of the wisdom of the God who is all-sovereign, all-just, and all-loving! From the darkness of the human rulers of first and second Chronicles emerges the longing for a king who will truly lead his people well, rescuing them from not only their mortal enemies but from the eternal enemy of death and sin. From the failures of Abishai and Rehoboam, we look desperately for a ruler who will do good and serve the living God. From the riches and rightness of rulers like Solomon and Hezekiah, we look eagerly for a good king who will not pass away. All of these longings are fulfilled in Christ, who is, “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,” and who, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the father.” As we read and see, and experience both good and evil rulers in our lives, let us constantly be drawn to Christ and declare our allegiance to him as King over all, for he alone is able and he alone is worthy.