Unit: History of Israel (1-2 Kings; 2 Chronicles)
Theme: A Troubled Kingdom
Lesson Text: 2 Chronicles 15:1-8, 14-15; 34:14, 29-33; 35:1-2, 18-19
Supplemental Text: 2 Chronicles 34; Jeremiah 7:2-7
Aim: Return to the Lord, for he hears the prayers of his people.
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By Mark Scott
It did not take many years for the wisdom of Solomon to unravel and the kingdom to be divided. The narrator of Chronicles is kind to Solomon, but the narrator of Kings told how Solomon’s wives turned his heart away from God (1 Kings 11:1-4). Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam, abandoned the Lord (2 Chronicles 12:1) and the kingdom split—ten tribes against two.
The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom (and their wicked kings) continued in a downward spiral until their Assyrian captivity in 722 BC. The two tribes of the Southern Kingdom followed suit, but from time to time they had moments of reform and spiritual health. Second Chronicles primarily traces the history of the Southern Kingdom. Two good kings, Asa and Josiah, led the call for godly reforms in Judah. The selected passages from 2 Chronicles give us three ingredients for reform.
Seeking the Lord
2 Chronicles 15:1-8, 14-15
The Spirit of God came on a prophet named Azariah, and he gave a strong exhortation to the third king of Judah (Asa) as well as the Southern Kingdom (designated as Judah and Benjamin). The God of the Bible is the “withness” God—he is “with us” (Matthew 1:23), but our lesson text points out we are called to also be with (beside) him. The prophet promised the king that if he would seek God, then God would allow himself to be found. If Asa forsook (left off) God, however, then God would forsake him.
The prophet also acknowledged that God’s people had been wayward. They had turned to other gods and had not listened to the priests sent to teach the law. But dissatisfaction can be a great impetus to revival. In Israel’s distress (sorrow) they turned to the Lord. A great truth of Scripture is that God is not good at hide-and-seek. He desires that people find him (cf. Acts 17:27). In his permissive will, God allowed turmoil in the land and strife between kingdoms and cities. But the prophet called the king to be strong and not give up his efforts at reform.
Asa removed the detestable (abominable or filthy) idols in his area and repaired (renewed) the altar of burnt offering in the temple. Great numbers of people followed their godly king in this reform. They sacrificed 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep as part of renewing the covenant of the Lord. Alongside of their sacrifices they brought their praise. This included loud shouting and blasts from trumpets and horns. They sought God, and he was found by them.
Reading the Word
2 Chronicles 34:14, 29-33
We move forward almost 300 years from one of the earlier kings to the last good king of the Southern Kingdom. Josiah became king when he was 8 years old (2 Chronicles 34:1). He reigned for 31 years and did what King David had done. When he was older, Josiah initiated a reform to repair the temple, which had fallen into disarray. In the process of those repairs, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord. Some scholars suggest this was just a portion of Deuteronomy, but there is no good reason to suggest the whole Pentateuch is not being considered. The section that perhaps was especially convicting was Deuteronomy 17:18-20, which speaks of the king rewriting the Law when he comes to power.
When Josiah heard the reading of the Book of the Covenant (The Ten Commandments?), he had himself a good Bible cry. He quickly gathered his spiritual directors and inquired what he and the people could do. A prophetess and her husband (Huldah and Shallum) ultimately were enjoined to give their counsel. The prophetess said God’s judgment would come, but that Josiah’s days would end in peace since he humbled himself before the Lord. There is no substitute for the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13) in bringing about reform. Josiah renewed the covenant and pledged his obedience to God.
The people followed the examples of these two kings. The people were at rest in Asa’s reforms, and they were at peace in Josiah’s reforms.
Remembering Our Roots
2 Chronicles 35:1-2, 18-19
Seeking the Lord and reading the Word produced celebration. The nation of Israel was birthed in the Passover in Egypt. Successful revivals occur when people remember their roots. So Josiah’s people returned to their roots by observing the Passover.
This chapter describes the extent to which Israel celebrated this Passover. The celebration was extensive and complete. In fact, it reminded the people of how Passover was celebrated during the days of Samuel. Once again, the path forward was accomplished by going backward.
Dr. Mark Scott serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin, Mo. He retired in May after more than 30 years as professor of New Testament with Ozark Christian College in Joplin.