Text:MHC Concise 2 Chronicles
|Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary : 2 Chronicles|
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS|
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Commentary on the book of 2 Chronicles
Solomon's choice of wisdom, His strength and wealth.
SOLOMON began his reign with a pious, public visit to God's altar. Those that pursue present things most eagerly, are likely to be disappointed; while those that refer themselves to the providence of God, if they have not the most, have the most comfort. Those that make this world their end, come short of the other, and are disappointed in this also; but those that make the other world their end, shall not only obtain that, and full satisfaction in it, but shall have as much of this world as is good for them, in their way. Let us then be contented, without those great things which men generally covet, but which commonly prove fatal snares to the soul.
Solomon's message to Huram respecting the temple, His treaty with Huram.
Solomon informs Huram of the particular services to be performed in the temple. The mysteries of the true religion, unlike those of the Gentile superstitions, sought not concealment. Solomon endeavoured to possess Huram with great and high thoughts of the God of Israel. We should not be afraid or ashamed to embrace every opportunity to speak of God, and to impress others with a deep sense of the importance of his favour and service. Now that the people of Israel kept close to the law and worship of God, the neighbouring nations were willing to be taught by them in the true religion, as the Israelites had been willing in the days of their apostacy, to be infected with the idolatries and superstitions of their neighbours. A wise and pious king is an evidence of the Lord's special love for his people. How great then was God's love to his believing people, in giving his only-begotten Son to be their Prince and their Saviour.
The building of the temple.
There is a more particular account of the building of the temple in 1Ki 6. It must be in the place David had prepared, not only which he had purchased, but which he had fixed on by Divine direction. Full instructions enable us to go about our work with certainty and to proceed therein with comfort. Blessed be God, the Scriptures are enough to render the man of God thoroughly furnished for every good work. Let us search the Scriptures daily, beseeching the Lord to enable us to understand, believe, and obey his word, that our work and our way may be made plain, and that all may be begun, continued, and ended in him. Beholding God, in Christ, his true Temple, more glorious than that of Solomon's, may we become a spiritual house, a habitation of God through the Spirit.
The furniture of the temple.
--Here is a further account of the furniture of God's house. Both without doors and within, there was that which typified the grace of the gospel, and shadowed out good things to come, of which the substance is Christ. There was the brazen altar. The making of this was not mentioned in the book of Kings. On this all the sacrifices were offered, and it sanctified the gift. The people who worshipped in the courts might see the sacrifices burned. They might thus be led to consider the great Sacrifice, to be offered in the fulness of time, to take away sin, and put an end to death, which the blood of bulls and goats could not possibly do. And, with the smoke of the sacrifices, their hearts might ascend to heaven, in holy desires towards God and his favour. In all our devotions we must keep the eye of faith fixed upon Christ. The furniture of the temple, compared with that of the tabernacle, showed that God's church would be enlarged, and his worshippers multiplied. Blessed be God, there is enough in Jesus Christ for all.
The ark placed in the temple.
The temple filled with glory.
The ark was a type of Christ, and, as such, a token of the presence of God. That gracious promise, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world, does, in effect, bring the ark into our religious assemblies, if we by faith and prayer plead that promise; and this we should be most earnest for. When Jesus Christ is formed in a soul, the law written in the heart, the ark of the covenant settled there, so that it becomes the temple of the Holy Ghost, there is true satisfaction in that soul.
God took possession of the temple; he filled it with a cloud. Thus he signified his acceptance of this temple, to be the same to him that the tabernacle of Moses was, and assured his people that he would be the same in it. Would we have God dwell in our hearts, we must leave room for him; every thing else must give way. The Word was made flesh; and when he comes to his temple, like a refiner's fire, who may abide the day of his coming? May he prepare us for that day.
--The order of Solomon's prayer is to be observed. First and chiefly, he prays for repentance and forgiveness, which is the chief blessing, and the only solid foundation of other mercies: he then prays for temporal mercies; thereby teaching us what things to mind and desire most in our prayers. This also Jesus Christ hath taught us in his perfect pattern and form of prayer, where there is but one prayer for outward, and all the rest are for spiritual blessings. The temple typified the human nature of Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. The ark typified his obedience and sufferings, by which repenting sinners have access to a reconciled God, and communion with him. Jehovah has made our nature his resting-place for ever, in the person of Emmanuel, and through him he dwells with, and delights in his church of redeemed sinners. May our hearts become his resting-place; may Jesus Christ dwell therein by faith, consecrating them as his temples, and shedding abroad his love therein. May the Father look upon us in and through his Anointed; and may he remember and bless us in all things, according to his mercy to sinners, in and through Christ.
--God gave a gracious answer to Solomon's prayer. The mercies of God to sinners are made known in a manner well suited to impress all who receive them, with his majesty and holiness. The people worshipped and praised God. When he manifests himself as a consuming Fire to sinners, his people can rejoice in him as their Light. Nay, they had reason to say, that God was good in this. It is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, but the sacrifice in our stead, for which we should be very thankful. And whoever beholds with true faith, the Saviour agonizing and dying for man's sin, will, by that view, find his godly sorrow enlarged, his hatred of sin increased, his soul made more watchful, and his life more holy. Solomon prosperously effected all he designed, for adorning both God's house and his own. Those who begin with the service of God, are likely to go on successfully in their own affairs. It was Solomon's praise, that what he undertook, he went through with; it was by the grace of God that he prospered in it. Let us then stand in awe, and sin not. Let us fear the Lord's displeasure, hope in his mercy, and walk in his commandments.
Solomon's buildings and trade.
--It sometimes requires more wisdom and resolution to govern a family in the fear of God, than to govern a kingdom with reputation. The difficulty is increased, when a man has a hinderance instead of a help meet in the wife of his bosom. Solomon kept up the holy sacrifices, according to the law of Moses. In vain had the altar been built, in vain had fire come down from heaven, if sacrifices had not been constantly brought. Spiritual sacrifices are required of us, which we are to bring daily and weekly; it is good to be in a settled method of devotion. When the service of the temple was put into good order, it is said, The house of the Lord was perfected. The work was the main matter, not the place; the temple was unfinished till all this was done. Canaan was a rich country, and yet must send to Ophir for gold The Israelites were a wise people, but must be beholden to the king of Tyre for men that had knowledge of the seas. Grace, and not gold, is the best riches, and acquaintance with God and his law, the best knowledge. Leaving the children of this world to scramble for the toys of this world, may we, as the children of God, lay up our treasure in heaven, that where our treasure is, our hearts also may be.
The queen of Sheba.
Solomon's riches, and his death.
This history has been considered, 1Ki 10; yet because our Saviour has proposed it as an example in seeking after him, Mt 12:42, we must not pass it over without observing, that those who know the worth of true wisdom will grudge no pains or cost to obtain it. The queen of Sheba put herself to a great deal of trouble and expense to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and yet, learning from him to serve God, and do her duty, she thought herself well paid for her pains. Heavenly wisdom is that pearl of great price, for which, if we part with all, we make a good bargain.
The imports here mentioned, would show that prosperity drew the minds of Solomon and his subjects to the love of things curious and uncommon, though useless in themselves. True wisdom and happiness are always united together; but no such alliance exists between wealth and the enjoyment of the things of this life. Let us then acquaint ourselves with the Saviour, that we may find rest for our souls. Here is Solomon reigning in wealth and power, in ease and fulness, the like of which could never since be found; for the most known of the great princes of the earth were famed for their wars; whereas Solomon reigned forty years in profound peace. The promise was fulfilled, that God would give him riches and honour, such as no kings have had or shall have. The lustre wherein he appeared, was typical of the spiritual glory of the kingdom of the Messiah, and but a faint representation of His throne, which is above every throne. Here is Solomon dying, and leaving all his wealth and power to one who he knew would be a fool! Ec 2:18, 19. This was not only vanity, but vexation of spirit. Neither power, wealth, nor wisdom, can ward off or prepare for the stroke of death. But thanks be to God who giveth the victory to the true believer, even over this dreaded enemy, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The ten tribes revolt from Rehoboam.
--Moderate counsels are wisest and best. Gentleness will do what violence will not do. Most people like to be accosted mildly. Good words cost only a little self-denial, yet they purchase great things. No more needs to be done to ruin men, than to leave them to their own pride and passion. Thus, whatever are the devices of men, God is doing his own work by all, and fulfilling the word which he has spoken. No man can bequeath his prosperity to his heirs any more than his wisdom; though our children will generally be affected by our conduct, whether good or bad. Let us then seek those good things which will be our own for ever; and crave the blessing of God upon our posterity, in preference to wealth or worldly exaltation.
Rehoboam forbidden to war against Israel.
A few good words might have prevented the rebellion of Rehoboam's subjects; but all the force of his kingdom cannot bring them back. And it is in vain to contend with the purpose of God, when it is made known to us. Even those who are destitute of true faith, will at times pay some regard to the word of God, and be kept by it from wrong actions, to which they are prone by nature.
When the priests and Levites came to Jerusalem, the devout, pious Israelites followed them. Such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, left the inheritance of their fathers, and went to Jerusalem, that they might have free access to the altar of God, and be out of the temptation to worship the calves. That is best for us, which is best for our souls; in all our choices, religious advantages must be sought before all outward conveniences. Where God's faithful priests are, his faithful people should be. And when it has been proved that we are willing to renounce our worldly interests, so far as we are called to do so for the sake of Jesus Christ and his gospel, we have good evidence that we are truly his disciples. And it is the interest of a nation to protect religion and religious people.
Rehoboam, forsaking the Lord, is punished.
--When Rehoboam was so strong that he supposed he had nothing to fear from Jeroboam, he cast off his outward profession of godliness. It is very common, but very lamentable, that men, who in distress or danger, or near death, seem much engaged in seeking and serving God, throw aside all their religion when they have received a merciful deliverance. God quickly brought troubles upon Judah, to awaken the people to repentance, before their hearts were hardened. Thus it becomes us, when we are under the rebukes of Providence, to justify God, and to judge ourselves. If we have humbled hearts under humbling providences, the affliction has done its work; it shall be removed, or the property of it be altered. The more God's service is compared with other services, the more reasonable and easy it will appear. Are the laws of temperance thought hard? The effects of intemperance will be found much harder. The service of God is perfect liberty; the service of our lusts is complete slavery. Rehoboam was never rightly fixed in his religion. He never quite cast off God; yet he engaged not his heart to seek the Lord. See what his fault was; he did not serve the Lord, because he did not seek the Lord. He did not pray, as Solomon, for wisdom and grace; he did not consult the word of God, did not seek to that as his oracle, nor follow its directions. He made nothing of his religion, because he did not set his heart to it, nor ever came up to a steady resolution in it. He did evil, because he never was determined for good.
Abijah overcomes Jeroboam.
--Jeroboam and his people, by apostacy and idolatry, merited the severe punishment Abijah was permitted to execute upon them. It appears from the character of Abijah, 1Ki 15:3, that he was not himself truly religious, yet he encouraged himself from the religion of his people. It is common for those that deny the power of godliness, to boast of the form of it. Many that have little religion themselves, value it in others. But it was true that there were numbers of pious worshippers in Judah, and that theirs was the more righteous cause. In their distress, when danger was on every side, which way should they look for deliverance unless upward? It is an unspeakable comfort, that our way thither is always open. They cried unto the Lord. Earnest prayer is crying. To the cry of prayer they added the shout of faith, and became more than conquerors. Jeroboam escaped the sword of Abijah, but God struck him; there is no escaping his sword.
Asa's piety, He strengthens his kingdom.
--Asa aimed at pleasing God, and studied to approve himself to him. Happy those that walk by this rule, not to do that which is right in their own eyes, or in the eye of the world, but which is so in God's sight. We find by experience that it is good to seek the Lord; it gives us rest; while we pursue the world, we meet with nothing but vexation. Asa consulted with his people how to make a good use of the peace they enjoyed; and concluded with them that they must not be idle, nor secure. A formidable army of Ethiopians invaded Asa's kingdom. This evil came upon them, that their faith in God might be tried. Asa's prayer is short, but it is the real language of faith and expectation from God. When we go forth in God's name, we cannot but prosper, and all things work together for the good of those whom he favours.
The people make a solemn covenant with God.
--The work of complete reformation appeared so difficult, that Asa had not courage to attempt it, till assured of Divine assistance and acceptance. He and his people offered sacrifices to God; thanksgiving for the favours they had received, and supplication for further favours. Prayers and praises are now our spiritual sacrifices. The people, of their own will, covenanted to seek the Lord, each for himself, with earnestness. What is religion but seeking God, inquiring after him, applying to him upon all occasions? We make nothing of our religion, if we do not make heart-work of it; God will have all the heart, or none. Our devotedness to God our Saviour, should be avowed and shown in the most solemn and public manner. What is done in hypocrisy is a mere drudgery.
Asa seeks the aid of the Syrians, His death.
--A plain and faithful reproof was given to Asa by a prophet of the Lord, for making a league with Syria. God is displeased when he is distrusted, and when an arm of flesh is relied on, more than his power and goodness. It is foolish to lean on a broken reed, when we have the Rock of ages to rely upon. To convince Asa of his folly, the prophet shows that he, of all men, had no reason to distrust God, who had found him such a powerful Helper. The many experiences we have had of the goodness of God to us, aggravate our distrust of him. But see how deceitful our hearts are! we trust in God when we have nothing else to trust to, when need drives us to him; but when we have other things to stay on, we are apt to depend too much on them. Observe Asa's displeasure at this reproof. What is man, when God leaves him to himself! He that abused his power for persecuting God's prophet, was left to himself, to abuse it further for crushing his own subjects. Two years before he died, Asa was diseased in his feet. Making use of physicians was his duty; but trusting to them, and expecting that from them which was to be had from God only, were his sin and folly. In all conflicts and sufferings we need especially to look to our own hearts, that they may be perfect towards God, by faith, patience, and obedience.
--Jehoshaphat found his people generally very ignorant, and therefore endeavoured to have them well taught. The public teaching of the word of God forms, in all ages, the great method of promoting the power of godliness. Thereby the understanding is informed, the conscience is awakened and directed. We have a particular account of Jehoshaphat's prosperity. But it was not his formidable army that restrained the neighbouring nations from attempting any thing against Israel, but the fear of God which fell upon them, when Jehoshaphat reformed his country, and set up a preaching ministry in it. The ordinances of God are more the strength and safety of a kingdom, than soldiers and weapons of war. The Bible requires use to notice the hand of God in every event, yet this is little regarded. But let all employ the talents they have: be faithful, even in that which is little. Set up the worship of God in your houses. The charge of a family is important. Why should you not instruct them as Jehoshaphat did his subjects, in the book of the law of the Lord. But be consistent. Do not recommend one thing, and practise another. Begin with yourselves. Seek to the Lord God of Israel, then call upon children and servants to follow your example.
Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahab.
--This history we read in 1Ki 22. Abundant riches and honour give large opportunities of doing good, but they are attended with many snares and temptations. Men do not know much of the artifices of Satan and the deceitfulness of their own hearts, when they covet riches with the idea of being able to do good with them. What can hurt those whom God will protect? What can shelter those whom God will destroy? Jehoshaphat is safe in his robes, Ahab killed in his armour; for the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. We should be cautious of entangling ourselves in the worldly undertakings of evil men; and still more we should avoid engaging in their sinful projects. But, when they call upon him, God can and will bring his faithful people out of the difficulties and dangers into which they have sinfully run themselves. He has all hearts in his hand, so that he easily rescues them. Blessed is the man that putteth his trust in the Lord.
Jehoshaphat visits his kingdom.
--Whenever we return in peace to our houses, we ought to acknowledge God's providence in preserving our going out and coming in. And if we have been kept through more than common dangers, we are, in a special manner, bound to be thankful. Distinguishing mercies lay us under strong obligations. The prophet tells Jehoshaphat he had done very ill in joining Ahab. He took the reproof well. See the effect the reproof had upon him. He strictly searched his own kingdom. By what the prophet said, Jehoshaphat perceived that his former attempts for reformation were well-pleasing to God; therefore he did what was then left undone. It is good when commendations quicken us to our duty. There are diversities of gifts and operations, but all from the same Spirit, and for the public good; and as every one has received the gift, so let him minister the same. Blessed be God for magistrates and ministers, scribes and statesmen, men of books, and men of business. Observe the charge the king gave. They must do all in the fear of the Lord, with a perfect, upright heart. And they must make it their constant care to prevent sin, as an offence to God, and what would bring wrath on the people.
The danger and distress of Judah.
Jahaziel's prophecy of victory.
The thanksgiving of Judah.
Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahaziah.
In all dangers, public or personal, our first business should be to seek help from God. Hence the advantage of days for national fasting and prayer. From the first to the last of our seeking the Lord, we must approach him with humiliation for our sins, trusting only in his mercy and power. Jehoshaphat acknowledges the sovereign dominion of the Divine Providence. Lord, exert it on our behalf. Whom should we seek to, whom should we trust to for relief, but the God we have chosen and served. Those that use what they have for God, may comfortably hope he will secure it to them. Every true believer is a son of Abraham, a friend of God; with such the everlasting covenant is established, to such every promise belongs. We are assured of God's love, by his dwelling in human nature in the person of the Saviour. Jehoshaphat mentions the temple, as a token of God's favourable presence. He pleads the injustice of his enemies. We may well appeal to God against those that render us evil for good. Though he had a great army, he said, We have no might without thee; we rely upon thee.
The Spirit of prophecy came upon a Levite in the midst of the congregation. The Spirit, like the wind, blows where and on whom He listeth. He encouraged them to trust in God. Let the Christian soldier go out against his spiritual enemies, and the God of peace will make him more than a conqueror. Our trials will prove our gain. The advantage will be all our own, but the whole glory must be given to God.
Jehoshaphat exhorted his troops to firm faith in God. Faith inspires a man with true courage; nor will any thing help more to the establishing of the heart in shaking times, than a firm belief of the power, and mercy, and promise of God. In all our trust in the Lord, and our praises of him, let us especially look at his everlasting mercy to sinners through Jesus Christ. Never was an army so destroyed as that of the enemy. Thus God often makes wicked people destroy one another. And never was a victory celebrated with more solemn thanksgivings.
Jehoshaphat kept close to the worship of God, and did what he could to keep his people close to it. But after God had done such great things for him, given him not only victory, but wealth; after this, to go and join himself with a wicked king, was very ungrateful. What could he expect but that God would be angry with him? Yet it seems, he took the warning; for when Ahaziah afterward pressed him to join him, he would not, 1Ki 22:49. Thus the alliance was broken, and the Divine rebuke had its effect, at least for a season. Let us be thankful for any losses which may have prevented the loss of our immortal souls. Let us praise the Lord, who sought after us, and left us not to perish in our sins.
The wicked reign of Jehoram.
Jehoram's miserable end.
Jehoram hated his brethren, and slew them, for the same reason that Cain hated Abel, and slew him, because their piety condemned his impiety. In the mystery of Providence such men sometimes prosper for a time; but the Lord has righteous purposes in permitting such events, part of which may now be made out, and the rest will be seen hereafter.
A warning from God was sent to Jehoram. The Spirit of prophecy might direct Elijah to prepare this writing in the foresight of Jehoram's crimes. He is plainly told that his sin should certainly ruin him. But no marvel that sinners are not frightened from sin, and to repentance, by the threatenings of misery in another world, when the certainty of misery in this world, the sinking of their estates, and the ruin of their health, will not restrain them from vicious courses. See Jehoram here stripped of all his comforts. Thus God plainly showed that the controversy was with him, and his house. He had slain all his brethren to strengthen himself; now, all his sons are slain but one. David's house must not be wholly destroyed, like those of Israel's kings, because a blessing was in it; that of the Messiah. Good men may be afflicted with diseases; but to them they are fatherly chastisements, and by the support of Divine consolations the soul may dwell at ease, even when the body lies in pain. To be sick and poor, sick and solitary, but especially to be sick and in sin, sick and under the curse of God, sick and without grace to bear it, is a most deplorable case. Wickedness and profaneness make men despicable, even in the eyes of those who have but little religion.
The reign of Ahaziah, Athaliah destroys the royal family.
--The counsel of the ungodly ruins many young persons when they are setting out in the world. Ahaziah gave himself up to be led by evil men. Those who advise us to do wickedly, counsel us to our destruction; while they pretend to be friends, they are our worst enemies. See and dread the mischief of bad company. If not the infection, yet let the destruction be feared, Re 18:4. We have here, a wicked woman endeavouring to destroy the house of David, and a good woman preserving it. No word of God shall fall to the ground. The whole truth of the prophecies that the Messiah was to come from David, and thereby the salvation of the world, appeared to be now hung upon the brittle thread of the life of a single infant, to destroy whom was the interest of the reigning power. But God had purposed, and vain were the efforts of earth and hell.
Joash crowned, and Athaliah slain.
--To look upon ourselves and each other as the Lord's people, should make us earnest in the discharge of our duty both to God and man. Thus was this happy revolution brought about, and the people rejoiced. When the Son of David is enthroned in the soul, all is quiet, and joyful. See 2Ki 11.
Joash falls into idolatry, He is slain by his servants.
Joash is more zealous about the repair of the temple than Jehoiada himself. It is easier to build temples, than to be temples to God. But the repairing of places for public worship is a good work, which all should promote. And many a good work would be done that now lies undone, if active men would put it forward.
See what a great judgment on any prince or people, the death of godly, zealous, useful men is. See how necessary it is that we act in religion from inward principle. Then the loss of a parent, a minister, or a friend, will not be losing our religion. Often both princes and inferior people have been flattered to their ruin. True grace alone will enable a man to bring forth fruit unto the end. Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, being filled with the Spirit of prophecy, stood up, and told the people of their sin. This is the work of ministers, by the word of God, as a lamp and a light, to discover the sin of men, and expound the providences of God. They stoned Zechariah to death in the court of the house of the Lord. Observe the dying martyr's words: The Lord look upon it, and require it! This came not from a spirit of revenge, but a spirit of prophecy. God smote Joash with great diseases, of body, or mind, or both, before the Syrians departed from him. If vengeance pursue men, the end of one trouble will be but the beginning of another. His own servants slew him. These judgments are called the burdens laid upon him, for the wrath of God is a heavy burden, too heavy for any man to bear. May God help us to take warning, to be upright in heart, and to persevere in his ways to the end.
Amaziah, king of Judah.
Amaziah worships the idols of Edom.
Amaziah's rash challenge.
Amaziah was no enemy to religion, but cool and indifferent friend. Many do what is good, but not with a perfect heart. Rashness makes work for repentance. But Amaziah's obedience to the command of God was to his honour. A firm belief of God's all-sufficiency to bear us out in our duty, and to make up all the loss and damage we sustain in his service, will make his yoke very easy, and his burden very light. When we are called to part with any thing for God and our religion, it should satisfy us, that God is able to give us much more than this. Convinced sinners, who have not true faith, always object to self-denying obedience. They are like Amaziah; they say, But what shall we do for the hundred talents? What shall we do if by keeping the sabbath holy we lose so many good customers? What shall we do without this gain? What shall we do if we lose the friendship of the world? Many endeavour to quiet their consciences by the pretence that forbidden practices are necessary. The answer is, as here, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this. He makes up, even in this world, for all that is given up for his sake.
To worship the gods of those whom Amaziah had conquered, who could not help their own worshippers, was the greatest absurdity. If men would consider how unable all those things are to help them, to which they look whenever they forsake God, they would not be such enemies to themselves. The reproof God sent by a prophet was too just to be answered; but he was bidden not to say a word more. The secure sinner rejoices to have silenced his reprovers and monitors; but what comes of it? Those that are deaf to reproof, are ripening for destruction.
Never was a proud prince more thoroughly mortified than Amaziah by Joash king of Israel. A man's pride will bring him low, Pr 29:23; it goes before his destruction, and deservedly brings it on. He that exalteth himself shall be abased. He that goes forth hastily to strive, will not know what he shall do in the end thereof, when his neighbour has put him to shame, Pr 25:8. And what are we when we offer to establish our own righteousness, or presume to justify ourselves before the Most High God, but despicable thistles, that fancy themselves stately cedars? And are not various temptations, is not every corruption, a wild beast of the desert, which will trample on the wretched boaster, and tread his haughty pretensions to the dust? A man's pride shall bring him low; his ruin may be dated from his turning from the Lord.
Uzziah's good reign in Judah.
Uzziah's attempt to burn incense.
As long as Uzziah sought the Lord, and minded religion, God made him to prosper. Those only prosper whom God makes to prosper; for prosperity is his gift. Many have owned, that as long as they sought the Lord, and kept close to their duty, they prospered; but when they forsook God, every thing went cross. God never continues either to bless the indolent or to withhold his blessing from the diligent. He will never suffer any to seek his face in vain. Uzziah's name was famed throughout all the neighbouring countries. A name with God and good people makes truly honourable. He did not delight in war, nor addict himself to sports, but delighted in husbandry.
The transgression of the kings before Uzziah was, forsaking the temple of the Lord, and burning incense upon idolatrous altars. But his transgression was, going into the holy place, and attempting to burn incense upon the altar of God. See how hard it is to avoid one extreme, and not run into another. Pride of heart was at the bottom of his sin; a lust that ruins many. Instead of lifting up the name God in gratitude to him who had done so much for him, his heart was lifted up to his hurt. Men's pretending to forbidden knowledge, and seeking things too high for them, are owing to pride of heart. The incense of our prayers must be, by faith, put into the hands of our Lord Jesus, the great High Priest of our profession, else we cannot expect it to be accepted by God, Re 8:3. Though Uzziah strove with the priests, he would not strive with his Maker. But he was punished for his transgression; he continued a leper to his death, shut out from society. The punishment answered the sin as face to face in a glass. Pride was at the bottom of his transgression, and thus God humbled him, and put dishonour upon him. Those that covet forbidden honours, forfeit allowed ones. Adam, by catching at the tree of knowledge which he might not eat of, debarred himself of the tree of life which he might have eaten of. Let all that read say, The Lord is righteous. And when the Lord sees good to throw prosperous and useful men aside, as broken vessels, if he raises up others to fill their places, they may rejoice to renounce all worldly concerns, and employ their remaining days in preparation for death.
Jotham's reign in Judah.
--The people did corruptly. Perhaps Jotham was wanting towards the reformation of the land. Men may be very good, and yet not have courage and zeal to do what they might. It certainly casts blame upon the people. Jotham prospered, and became mighty. The more stedfast we are in religion, the more mighty we are, both to resist evil, and to do good. The Lord often removes wise and pious rulers, and sends others, whose follies and vices punish a people that valued not their mercies.
The wicked reign of Ahaz in Judah.
--Israel gained this victory because God was wroth with Judah, and made them the rod of his indignation. He reminds them of their own sins. It ill becomes sinners to be cruel. Could they hope for the mercy of God, if they neither showed mercy nor justice to their brethren? Let it be remembered, that every man is our neighbour, our brother, our fellow man, if not our fellow Christian. And no man who is acquainted with the word of God, need fear to maintain that slavery is against the law of love and the gospel of grace. Who can hold his brother in bondage, without breaking the rule of doing to others as he would they should do unto him? But when sinners are left to their own heart's lusts, they grow more desperate in wickedness. God commands them to release the prisoners, and they obeyed. The Lord brought Judah low. Those who will not humble themselves under the word of God, will justly be humbled by his judgments. It is often found, that wicked men themselves have no real affection for those that revolt to them, nor do they care to do them a kindness. This is that king Ahaz! that wretched man! Those are wicked and vile indeed, that are made worse by their afflictions, instead of being made better by them; who, in their distress, trespass yet more, and have their hearts more fully set in them to do evil. But no marvel that men's affections and devotions are misplaced, when they mistake the author of their trouble and of their help. The progress of wickedness and misery is often rapid; and it is awful to reflect upon a sinner's being driven away in his wickedness into the eternal world.
Hezekiah's good reign in Judah.
Hezekiah's sacrifice of atonement.
When Hezekiah came to the crown, he applied at once to work reform. Those who begin with God, begin at the right end of their work, and it will prosper accordingly. Those that turn their backs upon God's ordinances, may truly be said to forsake God himself. There are still such neglects, if the word be not duly read and opened, for that was signified by the lighting the lamps, and also if prayers and praise be not offered up, for that was signified by the burning incense. Neglect of God's worship was the cause of the calamities they had lain under. The Lord alone can prepare the heart of man for vital godliness: when much good is done in a little time, the glory must be ascribed to him; and all who love him or the souls of men, will rejoice therein. Let those that do good work, learn to do it well.
As soon as Hezekiah heard that the temple was ready, he lost no time. Atonement must be made for the sins of the last reign. It was not enough to lament and forsake those sins; they brought a sin-offering. Our repentance and reformation will not obtain pardon but in and through Christ, who was made sin, that is, a sin-offering for us. While the offerings were on the altar, the Levites sang. Sorrow for sin must not prevent us from praising God. The king and the congregation gave their consent to all that was done. It is not enough for us to be where God is worshipped, if we do not ourselves worship with the heart. And we should offer up our spiritual sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, and devote ourselves and all we have, as sacrifices, acceptable to the Father only through the Redeemer.
The passover celebrated.
The feast of unleavened bread.
Hezekiah made Israel as welcome to the passover, as any of his own subjects. Let us yield ourselves unto the Lord. Say not, you will do what you please, but resolve to do what he pleases. We perceive in the carnal mind a stiffness, an obstinacy, an unaptness to compel with God; we have it from our fathers: this must be overcome. Those who, through grace, have turned to God themselves, should do all they can to bring others to him. Numbers will be scorners, but some will be humbled and benefited; perhaps where least expected. The rich mercy of God is the great argument by which to enforce repentance; the vilest who submit and yield themselves to the Lord, seek his grace, and give themselves to his service, shall certainly be saved. Oh that messengers were sent forth to carry these glad tidings to every city and every village, through every land!
The great thing needful in attendance upon God in solemn ordinances, is, that we make heart-work of it; all is nothing without this. Where this sincerity and fixedness of heart are, there may yet be many things short of the purification of the sanctuary. These defects need pardon ing, healing grace; for omissions in duty are sins, as well as omissions of duty. If God should deal with us in strict justice, even as to the very best of our doings, we should be undone. The way to obtain pardon , is to seek it of God by prayer; it must be gotten by petition through the blood of Christ. Yet every defect is sin, and needs forgiveness; and should be matter to humble, but not to discourage us, though nothing can make up for the want of a heart prepared to seek the Lord.
Many prayers were put up to God with the peace-offerings. In these Israel looked to God as the God of their fathers, a God in covenant with them. There was also abundance of good preaching. The Levites read and explained the Scriptures. Faith cometh by hearing, and true religion preaching has abounded. They sang psalms every day: praising God should be much of our work in religious assemblies. Having kept the seven days of the feast in this religious manner, they had so much comfort in it, that they kept other seven days also. This they did with gladness. Holy duties should be done with holy gladness. And when sinners humble themselves before the Lord, they may expect gladness in his ordinances. Those who taste this happiness will not soon grow weary of it, but will be glad to prolong their enjoyment.
Hezekiah destroys idolatry.
--After the passover, the people of Israel applied with vigour to destroy the monuments of idolatry. Public ordinances should stir us up to cleanse our hearts, our houses, and shops, from the filth of sin, and the idolatry of covetousness, and to excite others to do the same. The after-improvement of solemn ordinances, is of the greatest importance to personal, family, and public religion. When they had tasted the sweetness of God's ordinance in the late passover, they were free in maintaining the temple service. Those who enjoy the benefit of a settled ministry, will not grudge the expense of it. In all that Hezekiah attempted in God's service, he was earnest and single in his aim and dependence, and was prospered accordingly. Whether we have few or many talents intrusted to us, may we thus seek to improve them, and encourage others to do the same. What is undertaken with a sincere regard to the glory of God, will succeed to our own honour and comfort at last.
The invasion of Sennacherib, His defeat.
Hezekiah's sickness, His prosperous reign, and death.
Those who trust God with their safety, must use proper means, else they tempt him. God will provide, but so must we also. Hezekiah gathered his people together, and spake comfortably to them. A believing confidence in God, will raise us above the prevailing fear of man. Let the good subjects and soldiers of Jesus Christ, rest upon his word, and boldly say, Since God is for us, who can be against us? By the favour of God, enemies are lost, and friends gained.
God left Hezekiah to himself, that, by this trial and his weakness in it, what was in his heart might be known; that he was not so perfect in grace as he thought he was. It is good for us to know ourselves, and our own weakness and sinfulness, that we may not be conceited, or self-confident, but may always live in dependence upon Divine grace. We know not the corruption of our own hearts, nor what we shall do if God leaves us to ourselves. His sin was, that his heart was lifted up. What need have great men, and good men, and useful men, to study their own infirmities and follies, and their obligations to free grace, that they may never think highly of themselves; but beg earnestly of God, that he will always keep them humble! Hezekiah made a bad return to God for his favours, by making even those favours the food and fuel of his pride. Let us shun the occasions of sin: let us avoid the company, the amusements, the books, yea, the very sights that may administer to sin. Let us commit ourselves continually to God's care and protection; and beg of him never to leave us nor forsake us. Blessed be God, death will soon end the believer's conflict; then pride and every sin will be abolished. He will no more be tempted to withhold the praise which belongs to the God of his salvation.
Manasseh's and repentance.
Amon's wicked reign in Judah.
We have seen Manasseh's wickedness; here we have his repentance, and a memorable instance it is of the riches of God's pardon ing mercy, and the power of his renewing grace. Deprived of his liberty, separated from his evil counsellors and companions, without any prospect but of ending his days in a wretched prison, Manasseh thought upon what had passed; he began to cry for mercy and deliverance. He confessed his sins, condemned himself, was humbled before God, loathing himself as a monster of impiety and wickedness. Yet he hoped to be pardon ed through the abundant mercy of the Lord. Then Manasseh knew that Jehovah was God, able to deliver. He knew him as a God of salvation; he learned to fear, trust in, love, and obey him. From this time he bore a new character, and walked in newness of life. Who can tell what tortures of conscience, what pangs of grief, what fears of wrath, what agonizing remorse he endured, when he looked back on his many years of apostacy and rebellion against God; on his having led thousands into sin and perdition; and on his blood-guiltiness in the persecution of a number of God's children? And who can complain that the way of heaven is blocked up, when he sees such a sinner enter? Say the worst against thyself, here is one as bad who finds the way to repentance. Deny not to thyself that which God hath not denied to thee; it is not thy sin, but thy impenitence, that bars heaven against thee. (2Ch 33:21-25)
Amon's father did ill, but he did worse. Whatever warnings or convictions he had, he never humbled himself. He was soon cut off in his sins, and made a warning for all men not to abuse the example of God's patience and mercy to Manasseh, as an encouragement to continue in sin. May God help us to be honest to ourselves, and to think aright respecting our own character, before death fixes us in an unchangeable state.
Josiah's good reign in Judah.
--As the years of infancy cannot be useful to our fellow-creatures, our earliest youth should be dedicated to God, that we may not waste any of the remaining short space of life. Happy and wise are those who seek the Lord and prepare for usefulness at an early age, when others are pursuing sinful pleasures, contracting bad habits, and forming ruinous connexions. Who can express the anguish prevented by early piety, and its blessed effects? Diligent self-examination and watchfulness will convince us of the deceitfulness and wickedness of our own hearts, and the sinfulness of our lives. We are here encouraged to humble ourselves before God, and to seek unto him, as Josiah did. And believers are here taught, not to fear death, but to welcome it, when it takes them away from the evil to come. Nothing hastens the ruin of a people, nor ripens them for it, more than their disregard of the attempts made for their reformation. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. The current and tide of affections only turns at the command of Him who raises up those that are dead in trespasses and sins. We behold peculiar loveliness, in the grace the Lord bestows on those, who in tender years seek to know and to love the Saviour. Hath Jesus, the Day-spring from on high, visited you? Can you trace your knowledge of this light and life of man, like Josiah, from your youth? Oh the unspeakable happiness of becoming acquainted with Jesus from our earliest years!
The passover kept by Josiah.
Josiah slain in battle.
The destruction Josiah made of idolatry, was more largely related in the book of Kings. His solemnizing the passover is related here. The Lord's supper resembles the passover more than any other of the Jewish festivals; and the due observance of that ordinance, is a proof of growing piety and devotion. God alone can truly make our hearts holy, and prepare them for his holy services; but there are duties belonging to us, in doing which we obtain this blessing from the Lord.
The Scripture does not condemn Josiah's conduct in opposing Pharaoh. Yet Josiah seems to deserve blame for not inquiring of the Lord after he was warned; his death might be a rebuke for his rashness, but it was a judgment on a hypocritical and wicked people. He that lives a life of repentance, faith, and obedience, cannot be affected by the sudden manner in which he is removed. The people lamented him. Many mourn over sufferings, who will not forsake the sins that caused God to send them. Yet this alone can turn away judgments. If we blame Josiah's conduct, we should be watchful, lest we be cut down in a way dishonourable to our profession.
The destruction of Jerusalem.
The proclamation of Cyrus.
The ruin of Judah and Jerusalem came on by degrees. The methods God takes to call back sinners by his word, by ministers, by conscience, by providences, are all instances of his compassion toward them, and his unwillingness that any should perish. See here what woful havoc sin makes, and, as we value the comfort and continuance of our earthly blessings, let us keep that worm from the root of them. They had many times ploughed and sowed their land in the seventh year, when it should have rested, and now it lay unploughed and unsown for ten times seven years. God will be no loser in his glory at last, by the disobedience of men. If they refused to let the land rest, God would make it rest. What place, O God, shall thy justice spare, if Jerusalem has perished? If that delight of thine were cut off for wickedness, let us not be high-minded, but fear.
Verses 22, 23
God had promised the restoring of the captives, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, at the end of seventy years; and that time to favour Zion, that set time, came at last. Though God's church be cast down, it is not cast off; though his people be corrected, they are not abandoned; though thrown into the furnace, they are not lost there, nor left there any longer than till the dross be separated. Though God contend long, he will not contend always. Before we close the books of the Chronicles, which contain a faithful register of events, think what desolation sin introduced into the world, nay, even into the church of God. Let us tremble at what is here recorded, while in the character of some few gracious souls, we discover that the Lord left not himself without witness. And when we have looked at this faithful portrait of man by nature, let us contrast with it that same nature, when recovered by Almighty grace, through the justifying and soul-adorning righteousness of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
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