Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 22

 2 Chronicles 22 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Earlier, when the Arabs led a raid against Judah, they killed all of Jehoram's sons, except Ahaziah, the youngest one. So the people of Jerusalem crowned him their king.
  2. He was twenty-two years old at the time, and he ruled only one year from Jerusalem. Ahaziah's mother was Athaliah, a granddaughter of King Omri of Israel,
  3. and she encouraged her son to sin against the LORD. He followed the evil example of King Ahab and his descendants.
  4. In fact, after his father's death, Ahaziah sinned against the LORD by appointing some of Ahab's relatives to be his advisors. Their advice led to his downfall.
  5. He listened to them and went with King Joram of Israel to attack King Hazael and the Syrian troops at Ramoth in Gilead. Joram was wounded in that battle,
  6. and he went to the town of Jezreel to recover. And Ahaziah later went there to visit him.
  7. It was during that visit that God had Ahaziah put to death. When Ahaziah arrived at Jezreel, he and Joram went to meet with Jehu grandson of Nimshi. The LORD had already told Jehu to kill every male in Ahab's family,
  8. and while Jehu was doing that, he saw some of Judah's leaders and Ahaziah's nephews who had come with Ahaziah. Jehu killed them on the spot,
  9. then gave orders to find Ahaziah. Jehu's officers found him hiding in Samaria. They brought Ahaziah to Jehu, who immediately put him to death. They buried Ahaziah only because they respected Jehoshaphat his grandfather, who had done his best to obey the LORD. There was no one from Ahaziah's family left to become king of Judah.
  10. As soon as Athaliah heard that her son King Ahaziah was dead, she decided to kill any relative who could possibly become king. She would have done just that,
  11. but Jehosheba rescued Joash son of Ahaziah just as the others were about to be murdered. Jehosheba, who was Jehoram's daughter and Ahaziah's half sister, was married to Jehoiada the priest. So she was able to hide her nephew Joash and his personal servant in a bedroom in the LORD's temple where he was safe from Athaliah.
  12. Joash hid in the temple with them for six years while Athaliah ruled as queen of Judah.

With the death of Jehoram, king of Judah, his son Ahaziah took the throne. Ahaziah's reign completed Satan's control of the two kingdoms, a circumstance that began with the rule of Ahab in Israel influenced by his marriage to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, who influenced Ahab and Israel to serve and worship Baal. This influence for idolatry was passed on to Judah with the marriage of Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah, to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. When Jehoram succeed his father, he proceeded to bring the return of idolatry to Judah, and his son, Ahaziah, the subject of chapter 22, increased this involvement in idolatry.

It would seem that idolatry is really a disguised form of Satanism which distances its worshipers from God and opens the door to allow Satan's entry. He was the true motivator behind Jezebel and her daughter Athaliah, and we see his work come into full swing in this chapter.

As a young king who was 22 years of age, Ahaziah was easily influenced toward evil by his mother, Athaliah and his uncle, Joram, who was king of Israel. Verses 3 and 4 tell us that his mother gave him evil advice which he followed to his destruction. As a result, he ruled in Jerusalem only one year. His mother's evil advise influenced him to join his uncle, Joram, king of Israel to fight against king Hazael of Aram. This fight resulted in the wounding of Joram. While he was recovering from his injury he was visited by Ahaziah. Meanwhile, God was preparing Jehu to destroy the house of Ahab and become king of Israel. Ahaziah's visit to Joram made a convenient opportunity for Jehu to kill both kings. He made his move, killing Joram but Ahaziah escaped to Samaria. Jehu sent his soldiers after Ahaziah who brought him back to Jehu and he also was killed as were his nephew's who were serving him.

These events opened an opportunity for Athaliah to take things in hand and "she proceeded to annihilate all the royal heirs of the house of Judah." (22:10) This allowed her to take rule in Judah. Her actions can be seen as an attempt by Satan to cut off the messianic line through which Jesus was to come. But the plan failed, as all Satan's plans will ultimately be the case with all his plans. Ahaziah's sister, Jehoshabeath hid away one of the royal heirs who was just an infant, and Athaliah was not able to kill him. Jehoshabeath kept the child hidden in the temple for six years while Athaliah ruled in Judah.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 21

 2 Chronicles 21(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jehoshaphat died and was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem, and his son Jehoram became king.
  2. King Jehoshaphat had seven sons: Jehoram, Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariah, Michael, and Shephatiah.
  3. Jehoshaphat gave each of them silver and gold, as well as other valuable gifts. He also put them in charge of the fortified cities in Judah, but he had chosen his oldest son Jehoram to succeed him as king.
  4. After Jehoram had taken control of Judah, he had his brothers killed, as well as some of the nation's leaders.
  5. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he ruled eight years from Jerusalem.
  6. Jehoram married Ahab's daughter and followed the sinful example of Ahab's family and the other kings of Israel. He disobeyed the LORD by doing wrong,
  7. but because the LORD had made a solemn promise to King David that someone from his family would always rule in Judah, he refused to wipe out David's descendants.
  8. While Jehoram was king, the people of Edom rebelled and chose their own king.
  9. Jehoram, his officers, and his cavalry marched to Edom, where the Edomite army surrounded them. He escaped during the night,
  10. but Judah was never able to regain control of Edom. Even the town of Libnah rebelled at that time. Those things happened because Jehoram had turned away from the LORD, the God his ancestors had worshiped.
  11. Jehoram even built local shrines in the hills of Judah and let the people sin against the LORD by worshiping foreign gods.
  12. One day, Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet that said: I have a message for you from the LORD God your ancestor David worshiped. He knows that you have not followed the example of Jehoshaphat your father or Asa your grandfather.
  13. Instead you have acted like those sinful kings of Israel and have encouraged the people of Judah to stop worshiping the LORD, just as Ahab and his descendants did. You even murdered your own brothers, who were better men than you.
  14. Because you have done these terrible things, the LORD will severely punish the people in your kingdom, including your own family, and he will destroy everything you own.
  15. You will be struck with a painful stomach disease and suffer until you die.
  16. The LORD later caused the Philistines and the Arabs who lived near the Ethiopians to become angry at Jehoram.
  17. They invaded Judah and stole the royal property from the palace, and they led Jehoram's wives and sons away as prisoners. The only one left behind was Ahaziah, his youngest son.
  18. After this happened, the LORD struck Jehoram with an incurable stomach disease.
  19. About two years later, Jehoram died in terrible pain. No bonfire was built to honor him, even though the people had done this for his ancestors.
  20. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he ruled eight years from Jerusalem. He died, and no one even felt sad. He was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the royal tombs.

Jehoshaphat died and his son Jehoram became king. From this point forward Judah spiraled toward destruction. Jehoram was a wicked king and wasted no time in establishing his wickedness. Jehoshaphat could surely have seen his son's tendencies toward idolatry and evil, influenced by his wife who was daughter of Ahab. This was a time to dispense with tradition and skip over the eldest son as his successor to the throne, but this was not what he did.

As king, Jehoram moved swiftly to kill all his brothers and assure that he had no threat to the throne. In his spiritual blindness he failed to see that this move, intended to strengthen his position as king, actually weakened it. He proceeded, then, to do "what was evil in the Lord's sight," as the kings of Israel had done. (21:6) This led to discontent as the Lord stirred up other nations against Judah. It began with Edom and Libnah, nations under Judean rule, becoming unhappy with Judah's domination over them and rebelling. Later God sent the Philistines and the Arabs to attack Judah.

The Lord's judgment on Jehoram then struck him very personally. The prophet Elijah sent a letter to Jehoram telling him of what was going to happen to him because he had walked "in the way of the kings of Israel" and had caused Judah to "prostitute themselves" with idols and had killed his brothers. He and his family, the letter said, would be "struck with many illnesses, including a disease of the intestines, until your intestines come out day after day because of the disease." (21:15)

Before Jehoram was struck with the illness, the Philistines and Arabs attack Jerusalem and "carried off all the possessions found in the king's palace and also his sons and wives; not a son was left to him except Jehoahaz, his youngest son." (21:17) Jehoram lost everything, then he was struck with the illness. It must have been an excruciating illness. It went on for two years, and in the end, it is said that "his intestines came out because of his disease." (21:19) When he died he was not honored by the people as had been the case with his father and grandfather. Neither was he buried with the other kings of Judah. Every effort he made to establish his greatness did just the opposite. There is no real greatness apart from God.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 20

 2 Chronicles 20 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Some time later, the armies of Moab and Ammon, together with the Meunites, went to war against Jehoshaphat.
  2. Messengers told Jehoshaphat, "A large army from Edom east of the Dead Sea has invaded our country. They have already reached En-Gedi."
  3. Jehoshaphat was afraid, so he asked the LORD what to do. He then told the people of Judah to go without eating to show their sorrow.
  4. They immediately left for Jerusalem to ask for the LORD's help.
  5. After everyone from Judah and Jerusalem had come together at the LORD's temple, Jehoshaphat stood in front of the new courtyard
  6. and prayed: You, LORD, are the God our ancestors worshiped, and from heaven you rule every nation in the world. You are so powerful that no one can defeat you.
  7. Our God, you forced out the nations who lived in this land before your people Israel came here, and you gave it to the descendants of your friend Abraham forever.
  8. Our ancestors lived in this land and built a temple to honor you.
  9. They believed that whenever this land is struck by war or disease or famine, your people can pray to you at the temple, and you will hear their prayer and save them.
  10. You can see that the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Edom are attacking us! Those are the nations you would not let our ancestors invade on their way from Egypt, so these nations were not destroyed.
  11. Now they are coming to take back the land you gave us.
  12. Aren't you going to punish them? We won't stand a chance when this army attacks. We don't know what to do--we are begging for your help.
  13. While every man, woman, and child of Judah was standing there at the temple,
  14. the LORD's Spirit suddenly spoke to Jahaziel, a Levite from the Asaph clan.
  15. Then Jahaziel said: Your Majesty and everyone from Judah and Jerusalem, the LORD says that you don't need to be afraid or let this powerful army discourage you. God will fight on your side!
  16. So here's what you must do. Tomorrow the enemy armies will march through the desert around the town of Jeruel. March down and meet them at the town of Ziz as they come up the valley.
  17. You won't even have to fight. Just take your positions and watch the LORD rescue you from your enemy. Don't be afraid. Just do as you're told. And as you march out tomorrow, the LORD will be there with you.
  18. Jehoshaphat bowed low to the ground and everyone worshiped the LORD.
  19. Then some Levites from the Kohath and Korah clans stood up and shouted praises to the LORD God of Israel.
  20. Early the next morning, as everyone got ready to leave for the desert near Tekoa, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, "Listen my friends, if we trust the LORD God and believe what these prophets have told us, the LORD will help us, and we will be successful."
  21. Then he explained his plan and appointed men to march in front of the army and praise the LORD for his holy power by singing: "Praise the LORD! His love never ends."
  22. As soon as they began singing, the LORD confused the enemy camp,
  23. so that the Ammonite and Moabite troops attacked and completely destroyed those from Edom. Then they turned against each other and fought until the entire camp was wiped out!
  24. When Judah's army reached the tower that overlooked the desert, they saw that every soldier in the enemy's army was lying dead on the ground.
  25. So Jehoshaphat and his troops went into the camp to carry away everything of value. They found a large herd of livestock, a lot of equipment, clothes, and other valuable things. It took them three days to carry it all away, and there was still some left over.
  26. Then on the fourth day, everyone came together in Beracah Valley and sang praises to the LORD. That's why that place was called Praise Valley.
  27. Jehoshaphat led the crowd back to Jerusalem. And as they marched, they played harps and blew trumpets. They were very happy because the LORD had given them victory over their enemies, so when they reached the city, they went straight to the temple.
  28. (SEE 20:27)
  29. When the other nations heard how the LORD had fought against Judah's enemies, they were too afraid
  30. to invade Judah. The LORD let Jehoshaphat's kingdom be at peace.
  31. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem for twenty-five years. His mother was Azubah daughter of Shilhi.
  32. Jehoshaphat obeyed the LORD, just as his father Asa had done,
  33. but he did not destroy the local shrines. So the people still worshiped foreign gods, instead of faithfully serving the God their ancestors had worshiped.
  34. Everything else Jehoshaphat did while he was king is written in the records of Jehu son of Hanani that are included in The History of the Kings of Israel.
  35. While Jehoshaphat was king, he signed a peace treaty with Ahaziah the wicked king of Israel.
  36. They agreed to build several seagoing ships at Ezion-Geber.
  37. But the prophet Eliezer warned Jehoshaphat, "The LORD will destroy these ships because you have supported Ahaziah." The ships were wrecked and never sailed.

The events of chapter 20 would seem to be a result of Jehoshaphat's alliance with Ahab for which he was rebuked by the Lord and told that "the LORD's wrath is on you." (19:2) Though this invasion of Judah by a large army from Edom may have been a disciplinary action because of Jehoshaphat's unwise involvement with Ahab, it also served as a test of his faithfulness to the Lord. Would he depend on the Lord and seek His help or look to other sources for help?

Jehoshaphat was found faithful in the face of this test. When he received news of the approaching military force, he "resolved to seek the Lord," and proclaimed a fast for all of Judah. (20:3) Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord vowing his reliance on the Lord for deliverance and asking Him to judge "this vast multitude" against which Judah was "powerless." (20:12)

As Jehoshaphat was praying, "the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel" a Levite and he prophesied victory for Judah from the Lord's hand. Judah's army was to go down against this enemy and position itself, and then to "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." (20:14, 16) At these words, "Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD to worship Him." (20:18)

The next morning as Judah's forces prepared to march out to face the enemy, Jehoshaphat encouraged the people to believe in the Lord. He also positioned singers in front of the armed forces singing praises to the Lord as they marched to battle. Once they began their praises to the Lord, the Lord began to do His work. He caused confusion among the enemy forces and the Ammonites and Moabites fought against the Meunites annihilating them and then they turned on themselves, Ammonite against Moabite, and destroyed each other. When Judah arrived on the scene all they saw were corpses lying across the wilderness. None of the enemy fighters had escaped. Judah gathered plunder from the bodies of the fallen soldiers for three days and then gathered in the Valley of Beracah and praised the LORD. They returned to Jerusalem still praising the Lord.

Jehoshaphat enjoyed peace the remainder of his reign. However, two negative comments are made by the Chronicler concerning his leadership in the final years of rule. Although he had rid Judah of pagan worship at the high places, some had apparently been restored and he failed to do anything about it. The other negative was another unwise alliance with Israel. This time with Ahab's son, Ahaziah. They entered a venture together to build ships evidently for the purpose of trade. But the Lord was not happy with the alliance and wrecked the ships before the venture got underway.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 19

 2 Chronicles 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jehoshaphat returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem.
  2. But the prophet Jehu son of Hanani met him and said: By helping that wicked Ahab, you have made friends with someone who hates the LORD. Now the LORD God is angry at you!
  3. But not everything about you is bad. You destroyed the sacred poles used in worshiping the goddess Asherah--that shows you have tried to obey the LORD.
  4. Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, but he often traveled through his kingdom, from Beersheba in the south to the edge of the hill country of Ephraim in the north. He talked with the people and convinced them to turn back to the LORD God and worship him, just as their ancestors had done.
  5. He assigned judges to each of the fortified cities in Judah
  6. and told them: Be careful when you make your decisions in court, because these are the LORD's people, and he will know what you decide.
  7. So do your work in honor of him and know that he won't allow you to be unfair to anyone or to take bribes.
  8. Jehoshaphat also chose some Levites, some priests, and some of the family leaders, and he appointed them to serve as judges in Jerusalem.
  9. He told them: Faithfully serve the LORD!
  10. The people of Judah will bring you legal cases that involve every type of crime, including murder. You must settle these cases and warn the people to stop sinning against the LORD, so that he won't get angry and punish Judah. Remember, if you follow these instructions, you won't be held responsible for anything that happens.
  11. Amariah the high priest will have the final say in any religious case. And Zebadiah, the leader of the Judah tribe, will have the final say in all other cases. The rest of the Levites will serve as your assistants. Be brave, and I pray that the LORD will help you do right.

Jehoshaphat's alliance with king Ahab of Israel to fight against the Arameans is a puzzle. His trip to visit Ahab is understandable since his daughter-in-law was Ahab's daughter, but to go to battle with him against the counsel of the prophet Micaiah is the real puzzler. It raises concern that Jehoshaphat was turning away from the Lord. However, upon his return to Jerusalem he was met by the prophet Jehu who rebuked him for his involvement with Ahab saying, "Do you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD?" (19:2) Though the Lord's wrath was on him because of his actions, in his favor was his removal of the Asherah poles from Judah.

Jehoshaphat repented and returned to his reform of the nation to faithfulness toward the Lord, going throughout Judah bringing "them back to the Lord God of their ancestors." (19:4) Next he appointed judges across the nation to uphold the law, reminding them that they did not "judge for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the matter of judgment." (19:6) He appointed Amariah, the chief priest, to be over the judges in matters related to the Lord, and Zebadiah, the ruler of the house of Judah, to be over them in matters related to the king.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 18

 2 Chronicles 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jehoshaphat was now very rich and famous. He signed a treaty with King Ahab of Israel by arranging the marriage of his son and Ahab's daughter.
  2. One day, Jehoshaphat went to visit Ahab in his capital city of Samaria. Ahab slaughtered sheep and cattle and prepared a big feast to honor Jehoshaphat and the officials with him. Ahab talked about attacking the city of Ramoth in Gilead,
  3. and finally asked, "Jehoshaphat, would you go with me to attack Ramoth?" "Yes," Jehoshaphat answered. "My army is at your command.
  4. But first let's ask the LORD what to do."
  5. Ahab sent for four hundred prophets and asked, "Should I attack the city of Ramoth?" "Yes!" the prophets answered. "God will help you capture the city."
  6. But Jehoshaphat said, "Just to make sure, is there another of the LORD's prophets we can ask?"
  7. "We could ask Micaiah son of Imlah," Ahab said. "But I hate Micaiah. He always has bad news for me." "Don't say that!" Jehoshaphat replied.
  8. Then Ahab sent someone to bring Micaiah as soon as possible.
  9. All this time, Ahab and Jehoshaphat were dressed in their royal robes and were seated on their thrones at the threshing place near the gate of Samaria, listening to the prophets tell them what the LORD had said.
  10. Zedekiah son of Chenaanah was one of the prophets. He had made some horns out of iron and shouted, "Ahab, the LORD says you will attack the Syrians like a bull with iron horns and wipe them out!"
  11. All the prophets agreed that Ahab should attack the Syrians at Ramoth and promised that the LORD would help him defeat them.
  12. Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah whispered, "Micaiah, all the prophets have good news for Ahab. Now go and say the same thing."
  13. "I'll say whatever the living LORD my God tells me to say," Micaiah replied.
  14. Then Micaiah went up to Ahab, who asked, "Micaiah, should we attack Ramoth?" "Yes!" Micaiah answered. "The LORD will help you capture the city."
  15. Ahab shouted, "Micaiah, I've told you over and over to tell me the truth! What does the LORD really say?"
  16. Micaiah answered, "In a vision I saw Israelite soldiers wandering around, lost in the hills like sheep without a shepherd. The LORD said, 'These troops have no leader. They should go home and not fight.' "
  17. Ahab turned to Jehoshaphat and said, "I told you he would bring me bad news!"
  18. Micaiah replied: I then saw the LORD seated on his throne with every creature in heaven gathered around him.
  19. The LORD asked, "Who can trick Ahab and make him go to Ramoth where he will be killed?" They talked about it for a while,
  20. then finally a spirit came forward and said to the LORD, "I can trick Ahab." "How?" the LORD asked.
  21. "I'll make Ahab's prophets lie to him." "Good!" the LORD replied. "Now go and do it. You will be successful."
  22. Ahab, this is exactly what has happened. The LORD made all your prophets lie to you, and he knows you will soon be destroyed.
  23. Zedekiah walked over and slapped Micaiah on the face. Then he asked, "Do you really think the LORD would speak to you and not to me?"
  24. Micaiah answered, "You'll find out on the day you have to hide in the back room of some house."
  25. Ahab shouted, "Arrest Micaiah! Take him to Prince Joash and Governor Amon of Samaria.
  26. Tell them to put him in prison and to give him nothing but bread and water until I come back safely."
  27. Micaiah said, "If you do come back, I was wrong about what the LORD wanted me to say." Then he told the crowd, "Don't forget what I said!"
  28. Ahab and Jehoshaphat led their armies to Ramoth in Gilead.
  29. Before they went into battle, Ahab said, "Jehoshaphat, I'll disguise myself, but you wear your royal robe." Ahab disguised himself and went into battle.
  30. The king of Syria had ordered his chariot commanders to attack only Ahab.
  31. So when they saw Jehoshaphat in his robe, they thought he was Ahab and started to attack him. But Jehoshaphat prayed, and the LORD made the Syrian soldiers stop.
  32. And when they realized he wasn't Ahab, they left him alone.
  33. However, during the fighting a soldier shot an arrow without even aiming, and it hit Ahab between two pieces of his armor. He shouted to his chariot driver, "I've been hit! Get me out of here!"
  34. The fighting lasted all day, with Ahab propped up in his chariot so he could see the Syrian troops. He stayed there until evening, and by sundown he was dead.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, prospered because the Lord was with him. He had sought the Lord throughout his reign and the Lord had blessed him. From his years of seeking the Lord it would seem he should have acquired sufficient wisdom and discernment not to go to battle with the ungodly king Ahab of Israel.

Jehoshaphat's son had married Ahab's daughter forming an alliance of sorts with Israel leading eventually to a trip to Samaria, the capitol of Israel, for a visit and a huge feast. The feast, no doubt, was designed to entice Jehoshaphat to join Ahab against the Syrians. And it worked. When asked to go with Ahab to Ramoth-Gilead, Jehoshaphat said, "I am as you are, my people as your people." (18:3) But he also said, "First, please ask what the LORD's will is." It is curious why Jehoshaphat asked to inquire of the Lord but then didn't abide by the word he received from the Lord.

After hearing Ahab's prophets unanimously tell them, "March up, and God will hand it over to the king." (18:5) Jehoshaphat asked if there wasn't a prophet of the Lord. When the Lord's prophet, Micaiah, was brought to them, he said, "the LORD has pronounced disaster against you." (18:22) But then the two king's went to Ramoth-gilead anyway. What was Jehoshaphat thinking?

Ahab evidently put some credence in Micaiah's prophecy, because he disguised himself in an attempt to avoid recognition by enemy forces. But the Lord's plans will not be diverted by our schemes. An arrow, shot at random, found its way through a joint of Ahab's armor, and he was killed. Though foolishly joining Ahab in this venture, Jehoshaphat was spared any harm.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 17

 2 Chronicles 17 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king and strengthened his defenses against Israel.
  2. He assigned troops to the fortified cities in Judah, as well as to other towns in Judah and to those towns in Ephraim that his father Asa had captured.
  3. When Jehoshaphat's father had first become king of Judah, he was faithful to the LORD and refused to worship the god Baal as the kings of Israel did. Jehoshaphat followed his father's example and obeyed and worshiped the LORD. And so the LORD blessed Jehoshaphat
  4. (SEE 17:3)
  5. and helped him keep firm control of his kingdom. The people of Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, but even after he became very rich and respected,
  6. he remained completely faithful to the LORD. He destroyed all the local shrines in Judah, including the places where the goddess Asherah was worshiped.
  7. In the third year of Jehoshaphat's rule, he chose five officials and gave them orders to teach the LORD's Law in every city and town in Judah. They were Benhail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah.
  8. Their assistants were the following nine Levites: Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-Adonijah. Two priests, Elishama and Jehoram, also went along.
  9. They carried with them a copy of the LORD's Law wherever they went and taught the people from it.
  10. The nations around Judah were afraid of the LORD's power, so none of them attacked Jehoshaphat.
  11. Philistines brought him silver and other gifts to keep peace. Some of the Arab people brought him seventy-seven hundred rams and the same number of goats.
  12. As Jehoshaphat became more powerful, he built fortresses and cities
  13. where he stored supplies. He also kept in Jerusalem some experienced soldiers
  14. from the Judah and Benjamin tribes. These soldiers were grouped according to their clans. Adnah was the commander of the troops from Judah, and he had three hundred thousand soldiers under his command.
  15. Jehohanan was second in command, with two hundred eighty thousand soldiers under him.
  16. Amasiah son of Zichri, who had volunteered to serve the LORD, was third in command, with two hundred thousand soldiers under him.
  17. Eliada was a brave warrior who commanded the troops from Benjamin. He had two hundred thousand soldiers under his command, all of them armed with bows and shields.
  18. Jehozabad was second in command, with one hundred eighty thousand soldiers under him.
  19. These were the troops who protected the king in Jerusalem, not counting those he had assigned to the fortified cities throughout the country.

Jehoshaphat succeeded his father, Asa, and is said by the chronicler to have had two main emphases: building up Judah's military strength, and seeking the Lord. He was held up to two standards by the chronicler: "he walked in the former ways of his father David," and he did not walk "according to the practices of Israel." So he sought after the Lord like David and was not an idolater like Israel.

While his father Asa had brought spiritual reform to Judah in the early days of his reign by ridding Judah of idols and symbols of pagan worship, Jehoshaphat went further by sending officials and Levites throughout Judah teaching the people "the book of the LORD's instruction." And even though Asa had cleaned out the idols and pagan worship objects from Judah, Jehoshaphat still had cleaning to do when he took the throne. Idolatry seems to have been like weeds, that if not pulled regularly tend to overgrow and choke out everything else.

What is it about other religions that kept pulling Judah and Israel away from the Lord after He had so dramatically delivered them on so many occasions? At least one key reason that comes to mind is that of control. Worship of God involves not only regular occasions of showing obeisance to the Lord through formal worship, it also involves bringing our lives in line with His instructions and entrusting our lives to His guidance. While other religions may have rather strict ritual observances in order to placate the god of their worship, the behavior and personal practices of the worshipper are not normally affected. The worshipper lives as he wishes and has only to regularly placate his god to supposedly keep the blessings of that god coming his way. Moral uprightness is not typically a part of the package as is the case with worship of the true God whom Israel and Judah worshipped. With Him it is more than religious observances. It is a lifestyle. A lifestyle in which one comes to live life fully as intended by the Creator.

Because Jehoshaphat sought after the Lord, "the LORD established the kingdom in his hand." (17:5) Not only did Judah give him tribute, other nations surrounding Judah also gave him tribute. This was because "The terror of the LORD" was on these other nations. (17:10) Even Israel's archenemy, the Philistines, brought tribute of silver to Jehoshaphat. Under his reign Judah was once again prosperous and strong, hailing a military of over 1 million soldiers. This military strength could be dangerous for Judah, though. If she ever came to depend on her military strength rather than the Lord, she would be in trouble.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 16

 2 Chronicles 16 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. In the thirty-sixth year of Asa's rule, King Baasha of Israel invaded Judah and captured the town of Ramah. He started making the town stronger, and he put troops there to stop people from going in and out of Judah.
  2. When Asa heard about this, he took the silver and gold from his palace and from the LORD's temple. Then he sent it to Damascus with this message for King Benhadad of Syria:
  3. "I think we should sign a peace treaty, just as our fathers did. This silver and gold is a present for you. Would you please break your treaty with King Baasha of Israel and force him to leave my country?"
  4. Benhadad did what Asa asked and sent the Syrian army into Israel. They captured the towns of Ijon, Dan, Abel-Maim, and all the towns in Naphtali where supplies were kept.
  5. When Baasha heard about it, he stopped his work on the town of Ramah.
  6. Asa ordered everyone in Judah to carry away the stones and wood Baasha had used to fortify Ramah. Then he fortified the towns of Geba and Mizpah with these same stones and wood.
  7. Soon after that happened, Hanani the prophet went to Asa and said: You depended on the king of Syria instead of depending on the LORD your God. And so, you will never defeat the Syrian army.
  8. Remember how powerful the Ethiopian and Libyan army was, with all their chariots and cavalry troops! You trusted the LORD to help you then, and you defeated them.
  9. The LORD is constantly watching everyone, and he gives strength to those who faithfully obey him. But you have done a foolish thing, and your kingdom will never be at peace again.
  10. When Asa heard this, he was so angry that he put Hanani in prison. Asa was also cruel to some of his people.
  11. Everything Asa did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah and Israel.
  12. In the thirty-ninth year of his rule, he got a very bad foot disease, but he relied on doctors and refused to ask the LORD for help.
  13. He died two years later.
  14. Earlier, Asa had his own tomb cut out of a rock hill in Jerusalem. So he was buried there, and the tomb was filled with spices and sweet-smelling oils. Then the people built a bonfire in his honor.

King Asa started well in his reign but did not finish so well. His reign raises the question of whether it is in one's best interest to have no difficulties in life? The events of chapter 15 come early in Asa's reign and represent a high note in his leadership and walk with the Lord. He had depended on the Lord for protection against his enemies and led extreme spiritual reform in Judah, ridding the nation of idolatry and bringing the people to make a covenant with the Lord to always seek Him. This was followed by years of peace and prosperity.

Then toward the end of Asa's reign Israel raised a threat against Judah. Might the Lord have brought this break in peace as a test of Asa's faithfulness. If so, he failed the test. Had his years of peace led him to depend on himself and his own devises rather than on the Lord? When Baasha, king of Israel, started building a fortified city on the border between the two nations, Asa interpreted this as a threat to Judah. And, indeed, the chronicler interprets it as such. However, it is presented as primarily a move to stop defectors from leaving Israel to go to Judah.

What did Asa do to address this threat from Israel? Did he call out to the Lord for help as he had done against the Cushites who brought an army against him that was twice the size of his own? Hardly. Instead, he withdrew treasuries from the Lord's temple and used them to pay King Ben-hadad of Aram to break his treaty with Israel and force Baasha's hand to withdraw from Judah. Ben-hadad attack Israel in the north forcing Baasha to withdraw his forces from the southern border, allowing Asa to tear down the fortified city Baasha was building and use the materials to build his own fortified cities along the border.

This did not sit well with the Lord. Not only had Asa looked to a pagan king for help instead of the Lord, he used treasuries from the Lord's temple to pay him. A 'seer' - an ancient name for prophet - by the name of Hanani went to have a talk with Asa about his dependence on Ben-hadad instead of the Lord. Though it is not mentioned that the Lord sent him, this was surely the case. Hanani reminded Asa of his dependence on the Lord when the Cushites and Libyans came against him with vast armies and of the Lord's deliverance in those instances. In his message to Asa, he stated an important truth, saying, "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His." (16:9) This says to me that the Lord is always looking for opportunities to demonstrate His strength, but He can only do so when He finds someone whose heart is completely His. We cannot be double-minded going back and forth between seeking God and depending on our own resources. As James points out, "Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!" (James 4:8)

The prophet Hanani told Asa, "You have been foolish in this matter, for from now on, you will have wars." (16:9) Did Asa thank Hanani for setting him straight and repent before the Lord? No. Instead, he became angry and threw the prophet in prison and then further took his anger out on the people by mistreating them. Three years later Asa developed a severe foot disease which evidently led eventually to his death. Again he did not turn to the Lord for help, but depended only on his physicians. One can only guess that he died a somewhat bitter man. A pity considering his earlier time of blessing because of his dependence on the Lord.

Despite his unhappy ending, Asa had been one of Judah's better kings, and at his death the people honored him greatly.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 15

 2 Chronicles 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Some time later, God spoke to Azariah son of Oded.
  2. At once, Azariah went to Asa and said: Listen to me, King Asa and you people of Judah and Benjamin. The LORD will be with you and help you, as long as you obey and worship him. But if you disobey him, he will desert you.
  3. For a long time, the people of Israel did not worship the true God or listen to priests who could teach them about God. They refused to obey God's Law.
  4. But whenever trouble came, Israel turned back to the LORD their God and worshiped him.
  5. There was so much confusion in those days that it wasn't safe to go anywhere in Israel.
  6. Nations were destroying each other, and cities were wiping out other cities, because God was causing trouble and unrest everywhere.
  7. So you must be brave. Don't give up! God will honor you for obeying him.
  8. As soon as Asa heard what Azariah the prophet said, he gave orders for all the idols in Judah and Benjamin to be destroyed, including those in the towns he had captured in the territory of Ephraim. He also repaired the LORD's altar that was in front of the temple porch.
  9. Asa called together the people from Judah and Benjamin, as well as the people from the territories of Ephraim, West Manasseh, and Simeon who were living in Judah. Many of these people were now loyal to Asa, because they had seen that the LORD was with him.
  10. In the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa's rule, they all met in Jerusalem.
  11. That same day, they took seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep and goats from what they had brought back from Gerar and sacrificed them as offerings to the LORD.
  12. They made a solemn promise to faithfully worship the LORD God their ancestors had worshiped,
  13. and to put to death anyone who refused to obey him.
  14. The crowd solemnly agreed to keep their promise to the LORD, then they celebrated by shouting and blowing trumpets and horns.
  15. Everyone was happy because they had made this solemn promise, and in return, the LORD blessed them with peace from all their enemies.
  16. Asa's grandmother Maacah had made a disgusting idol of the goddess Asherah, so he cut it down, crushed it, and burned it in Kidron Valley. Then he removed Maacah from her position as queen mother.
  17. As long as Asa lived, he was faithful to the LORD, even though he did not destroy the local shrines in Israel.
  18. He placed in the temple all the silver and gold objects that he and his father had dedicated to God.
  19. There was peace in Judah until the thirty-fifth year of Asa's rule.

After becoming king, Asa had taken some very positive steps toward reforming Judah spiritually by ridding the nation of many of its idols and pagan altars. He had also, with the Lord's help, experienced a huge victory over an army that was twice as large as his. The Lord was with Asa. To encourage Asa toward continuing what he had begun, the Lord sent the prophet Azariah to him with a message. In this message the Lord affirmed that Asa was with the Lord and the Lord was with him and then assured him that as long as he sought the Lord, He would be found. The opposite would be true as well. If he abandoned the Lord the Lord would abandon him.

The Lord, through Azariah, reminded Asa of Israel's history of turning from the Lord and being distressed during those times with no peace. But that whenever the nation turned to Lord He was found. Then the Lord told Asa, "But as for you, be strong; don't be discouraged, for your work has a reward." (15:7) A comparable verse to this in the New Testament is found in 1 Corinthians 15:58, "Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord's work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

These words from the Lord spurred Asa on to complete his task of reform. He continued ridding Judah of idols, not only removing them from Judah but also from cities he had captured in Ephraim. Asa's reform brought an interesting result. People from the northern tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon defected from Israel to Judah because they saw that the Lord was with Asa.

Asa didn't stop with removal of the idols. He then gathered all Judah along with the people who had defected from the northern tribes in Jerusalem to worship the Lord and to make a covenant. They sacrificed a large number of cattle and sheep from the spoils of war they had had and then they covenanted "to seek the LORD God of their ancestors with all their mind and all their heart. Whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel would be put to death, young or old, man or woman. They took an oath to the LORD in a loud voice, with shouting, with trumpets, and with rams' horns." (15:12-14) This covenant was made by Judah "with all their mind." And because of the genuineness of their oath "the LORD gave them rest on every side." (15:15)

Asa was not yet finished, however. Next came his own family and perhaps the most difficult action in all his reform. His own grandmother had been an idolater and so he removed her from her position as queen mother. Idolatry could not be tolerated at any level if this covenant was to be upheld. Asa remained faithful to the Lord throughout his life, and experienced peace during his reign for the next 35 years.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 14

 2 Chronicles 14(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Abijah died and was buried in Jerusalem. Then his son Asa became king, and Judah had ten years of peace.
  2. Asa obeyed the LORD his God and did right.
  3. He destroyed the local shrines and the altars to foreign gods. He smashed the stone images of gods and cut down the sacred poles used in worshiping the goddess Asherah.
  4. Then he told everyone in Judah to worship the LORD God, just as their ancestors had done, and to obey his laws and teachings.
  5. He destroyed every local shrine and incense altar in Judah.
  6. The LORD blessed Judah with peace while Asa was king, and so during that time, Asa fortified many of the towns.
  7. He said to the people, "Let's build walls and defense towers for these towns, and put in gates that can be locked with bars. This land still belongs to us, because we have obeyed the LORD our God. He has given us peace from all our enemies." The people did everything Asa had suggested.
  8. Asa had a large army of brave soldiers: Three hundred thousand of them were from the tribe of Judah and were armed with shields and spears; two hundred eighty thousand were from Benjamin and were armed with bows and arrows.
  9. Zerah from Ethiopia led an army of a million soldiers and three hundred chariots to the town of Mareshah in Judah.
  10. Asa met him there, and the two armies prepared for battle in Zephathah Valley.
  11. Asa prayed: LORD God, only you can help a powerless army defeat a stronger one. So we depend on you to help us. We will fight against this powerful army to honor your name, and we know that you won't be defeated. You are the LORD our God.
  12. The LORD helped Asa and his army defeat the Ethiopians. The enemy soldiers ran away,
  13. but Asa and his troops chased them as far as Gerar. It was a total defeat--the Ethiopians could not even fight back! The soldiers from Judah took everything that had belonged to the Ethiopians.
  14. The people who lived in the villages around Gerar learned what had happened and were afraid of the LORD. So Judah's army easily defeated them and carried off everything of value that they wanted from these towns.
  15. They also attacked the camps where the shepherds lived and took a lot of sheep, goats, and camels. Then they went back to Jerusalem.

Abijah, as recorded in the previous chapter, had boasted to Jeroboam of Judah's faithfulness to the Lord. But from the beginning of his son's reign following him, we learn that his and Judah's faithfulness to the Lord was mostly a show. His son, Asa, succeeded him and implemented true religious reform. This involved removing considerable pagan altars and high places along with shattering sacred pillars and chopping down Asherah poles. He also told the people of Judah to seek the Lord. These actions brought peace to Judah "because the LORD gave him rest." (14:6)

Verses 6-10 record Asa's efforts to build up his military capabilities by establishing fortified cities throughout Judah and building up his army to 580,000 spearmen and bowmen, even though it was the Lord who was responsible for their peace and the Lord, not their military might, that delivered them from the Cushite army as told in verses 11-15. Zerah of Cush brought an army of 1 million men, including 300 chariots, to attack Judah. Asa marched his much smaller army out to meet them. He cried for the Lord give them victory and He did. The Lord routed the Cushite army "until they had no survivors." (14:13) While they had this momentum going, Judah's army went on to attack some Philistine cities and plunder them.

It is obvious that Judah's victory over the Cushite army did not involve their fortified cities nor was it due to the size of their army, for their army was nearly one-half the size of the Cushite's. Thus, Asa's efforts to strengthen the nation militarily seems to have been a contradiction to his faith in the Lord. This is not a point for which to be critical of Asa, but one of which to take note. How much in the lives of any one of us is contradictory to our faith? We speak of our trust in the Lord and but expend considerable effort on doing things that speak of trust in something other than the Lord.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 13

 2 Chronicles 13(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Abijah became king of Judah in Jeroboam's eighteenth year as king of Israel,
  2. and he ruled from Jerusalem for three years. His mother was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel from Gibeah. Some time later, Abijah and King Jeroboam of Israel went to war against each other.
  3. Abijah's army had four hundred thousand troops, and Jeroboam met him in battle with eight hundred thousand troops.
  4. Abijah went to the top of Mount Zemaraim in the hills of Ephraim and shouted: Listen, Jeroboam and all you Israelites!
  5. The LORD God of Israel has made a solemn promise that every king of Israel will be from David's family.
  6. But Jeroboam, you were King Solomon's official, and you rebelled.
  7. Then right after Rehoboam became king, you and your bunch of worthless followers challenged Rehoboam, who was too young to know how to stop you.
  8. Now you and your powerful army think you can stand up to the kingdom that the LORD has given to David's descendants. The only gods you have are those gold statues of calves that Jeroboam made for you.
  9. You don't even have descendants of Aaron on your side, because you forced out the LORD's priests and Levites. In their place, you appoint ordinary people to be priests, just as the foreign nations do. In fact, anyone who brings a bull and seven rams to the altar can become a priest of your so-called gods.
  10. But we have not turned our backs on the LORD God! Aaron's own descendants serve as our priests, and the Levites are their assistants.
  11. Two times every day they offer sacrifices and burn incense to the LORD. They set out the sacred loaves of bread on a table that has been purified, and they light the lamps in the gold lampstand every day at sunset. We follow the commands of the LORD our God--you have rejected him!
  12. That's why God is on our side and will lead us into battle when the priests sound the signal on the trumpets. It's no use, Israelites. You might as well give up. There's no way you can defeat the LORD, the God your ancestors worshiped.
  13. But while Abijah was talking, Jeroboam had sent some of his troops to attack Judah's army from behind, while the rest attacked from the front.
  14. Judah's army realized they were trapped, and so they prayed to the LORD. The priests blew the signal on the trumpet,
  15. and the troops let out a battle cry. Then with Abijah leading them into battle, God defeated Jeroboam and Israel's army.
  16. The Israelites ran away, and God helped Judah's soldiers slaughter
  17. five hundred thousand enemy troops.
  18. Judah's army won because they had trusted the LORD God of their ancestors.
  19. Abijah kept up his attack on Jeroboam's army and captured the Israelite towns of Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron, as well as the villages around them.
  20. Jeroboam never regained his power during the rest of Abijah's rule. The LORD punished Jeroboam, and he died, but Abijah became more powerful.
  21. Abijah had a total of fourteen wives, twenty-two sons, and sixteen daughters.
  22. Everything Abijah said and did while he was king is written in the records of Iddo the prophet.

When Solomon's son, Rehoboam, succeeded him as king the kingdom split in contention between followers of David's descendants among the southern tribes and followers of Jeroboam among the northern tribes. A civil war prevailed between them throughout the reign of Rehoboam in the south and was picked up by his son, Abijah who succeeded him. It appears Abijah determined to settle this contention once and for all through persuasion if possible and through force if persuasion was not possible. Thus he took his army of 400,000 up against Jeroboam's army of 800,000. With the two armies facing each other, Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim and addressed Jeroboam and his army.

Though we know from the account of 1 Kings 15:3 that Abijah "walked in all the sins his father had done before him," he boldly stood before Jeroboam's army and told of Judah's superiority over Israel because Judah continued to worship the Lord while Israel had gotten rid of the Lord's priest and established their own. The Israelite army, he said, was a vast multitude that had come up against the army of Judah depending on "the golden calves that Jeroboam made for you as gods." (13:8) Judah, on the other hand, he said, had not abandoned the Lord, but continued to have the descendants of Aaron and the Levites ministering to the Lord and faithfully carrying out the prescribed rituals. Therefore, Abijah asserted, "Israelites, don't fight against the LORD God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed." (13:12) A fight against Judah, he claimed, was a fight against God. Abijah had reasonable grounds for this assertion since he was the ruler God had intended for Israel as a descendant of David, and since Judah continued to worship the Lord in the prescribed manner. However, his lack of complete devotion to the Lord left him on somewhat shaky grounds.

Nevertheless, the Lord came through for Abijah. Not only was his army outmanned 2 to 1, while he was speaking Jeroboam had manuevered a division of his army around behind Abijah's army and had him surrounded. When Abijah started to sound the trumpets for attack he discovered "the battle was in front of them and behind them." In his delimma, Abijah wisely cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord "handed them over to them." So Israel fled before Judah and 500,000 Israelites were killed in the battle. Over one-half of Jeroboam's army. Judah also succeeded in capturing some Israelite cities.

The Lord had dealt with Jeroboam and his idolatry. Jeroboam never regained his power and the Lord later "struck him and he died." (13:20) meanwhile, Abijah prospered but followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather to acquire a number of wives.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 12

 2 Chronicles 12(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Soon after Rehoboam had control of his kingdom, he and everyone in Judah stopped obeying the LORD.
  2. So in the fifth year of Rehoboam's rule, the LORD punished them for their unfaithfulness and allowed King Shishak of Egypt to invade Judah.
  3. Shishak attacked with his army of one thousand two hundred chariots and sixty thousand cavalry troops, as well as Egyptian soldiers from Libya, Sukkoth, and Ethiopia.
  4. He captured every one of the fortified cities in Judah and then marched to Jerusalem.
  5. Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah had gone to Jerusalem to escape Shishak's invasion. And while they were there, Shemaiah the prophet told them, "The LORD says that because you have disobeyed him, he has now abandoned you. The LORD will not help you against Shishak!"
  6. Rehoboam and the leaders were sorry for what they had done and admitted, "The LORD is right. We have deserted him."
  7. When the LORD heard this, he told Shemaiah: The people of Judah are truly sorry for their sins, and so I won't let Shishak completely destroy them. But because I am still angry,
  8. he will conquer and rule them. Then my people will know what it's like to serve a foreign king instead of serving me.
  9. Shishak attacked Jerusalem and took all the valuable things from the temple and from the palace, including Solomon's gold shields.
  10. Rehoboam had bronze shields made to replace the gold ones, and he ordered the guards at the city gates to keep them safe.
  11. Whenever Rehoboam went to the LORD's temple, the guards carried the shields. But they always took them back to the guardroom as soon as he had finished worshiping.
  12. Rehoboam turned back to the LORD, and so the LORD did not let Judah be completely destroyed, and Judah was prosperous again.
  13. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king, and he ruled seventeen years from Jerusalem, the city where the LORD had chosen to be worshiped. His mother Naamah was from Ammon. Rehoboam was a powerful king,
  14. but he still did wrong and refused to obey the LORD.
  15. Everything else Rehoboam did while he was king, including a history of his family, is written in the records of the two prophets, Shemaiah and Iddo. During Rehoboam's rule, he and King Jeroboam of Israel were constantly at war.
  16. When Rehoboam died, he was buried beside his ancestors in Jerusalem, and his son Abijah became king.

It seems that the primary pursuit of mankind has always been to rule one's own destiny, so to speak, and not be subservient to anyone. But this pursuit is an exercise in futility. We do not have the option of ruling our own destiny, only to choose whom we will serve. All our efforts to be in control just become manuevers to dodge the control of another. Whether our actions are proactive or reactive, they are designed, nevertheless, to avoid the control of another and to have control for ourselves. But eventually circumstances build to the point that we can no longer avoid being under the control of either another or of the circumstances our choices have brought to pass.

In the case of king Rehoboam, we are told in chapter 12 that he chose not to serve the Lord. Therefore, verse 2 says that because he was "unfaithful to the Lord . . . Shishak king of Egypt went to war against Jerusalem." But the Lord always gives us opportunity to reverse course. After the Egyptian army had penetrated deep into Israel and come to the city of Jerusalem, the Lord sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam to tell him and his leaders that, "You have abandoned Me; therefore, I have abandoned you into the hand of Shishak." (12:5) This was Rehoboam's chance to reverse course, and he took it. Verse 6 says, "the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, 'The LORD is righteous.'"

As a result of Judah's repentance, the Lord modified their punishment, but they still had a lesson to learn. The Lord wanted Judah to "recognize the difference between serving Me and serving the kingdoms of the land." (12:8) So He caused Judah to become the servants of Egypt. The Egyptians broke into Jerusalem and stripped the kingdom of most of the gold that had been amassed by king Solomon. How long Judah remained subservient to Egypt is not known, but it evidently did not last to the end of Rehoboam's reign.

Unfortunately Judah did not learn the lesson the Lord intended them to learn from serving Egypt. Verse 14 says that, "Rehoboam did what was evil, because he did not determine in his heart to seek the LORD." It does not say that he determined to do evil, but whether by default or by intent, he made that choice. This evil heart toward the Lord characterized his reign and escalated Judah's decline toward destruction.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 11

 2 Chronicles 11(Contemporary English Version)
  1. After Rehoboam returned to Jerusalem, he decided to attack Israel and regain control of the whole country. So he called together one hundred eighty thousand soldiers from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.
  2. Meanwhile, the LORD had told Shemaiah the prophet
  3. to tell Rehoboam and everyone from Judah and Benjamin,
  4. "The LORD warns you not to go to war against the people from the northern tribes--they are your relatives. Go home! The LORD is the one who made these things happen." Rehoboam and his army obeyed the LORD's message and did not attack Jeroboam and his troops.
  5. Rehoboam ruled from Jerusalem, and he had several cities in Judah turned into fortresses so he could use them to defend his country. These cities included
  6. Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa,
  7. Beth-Zur, Soco, Adullam,
  8. Gath, Mareshah, Ziph,
  9. Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah,
  10. Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron. After he had fortified these cities in the territories of Judah and Benjamin,
  11. he assigned an army commander to each of them and stocked them with supplies of food, olive oil, and wine,
  12. as well as with shields and spears. He used these fortified cities to keep control of Judah and Benjamin.
  13. The priests and Levites from the northern tribes of Israel gave their support to King Rehoboam.
  14. And since Jeroboam and the kings of Israel that followed him would not allow any Levites to serve as priests, most Levites left their towns and pasturelands in Israel and moved to Jerusalem and other towns in Judah.
  15. Jeroboam chose his own priests to serve at the local shrines in Israel and at the places of worship where he had set up statues of goat-demons and of calves.
  16. But some of the people from Israel wanted to worship the LORD God, just as their ancestors had done. So they followed the priests and Levites to Jerusalem, where they could offer sacrifices to the LORD.
  17. For the next three years, they lived in Judah and were loyal to Rehoboam and his kingdom, just as they had been loyal to David and Solomon.
  18. Rehoboam married Mahalath, whose father was Jerimoth son of David, and whose mother was Abihail the daughter of Eliab and granddaughter of Jesse.
  19. Rehoboam and Mahalath had three sons: Jeush, Shemariah, and Zaham.
  20. Then Rehoboam married Maacah the daughter of Absalom. Their sons were Abijah, Attai, Ziza, and Shelomith.
  21. Rehoboam had eighteen wives, but he also married sixty other women, and he was the father of twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters. Rehoboam loved his wife Maacah the most,
  22. so he chose their oldest son Abijah to be the next king.
  23. Rehoboam was wise enough to put one of his sons in charge of each fortified city in his kingdom. He gave them all the supplies they needed and found wives for every one of them.

The scenario described in chapters 10 and 11 with Rehoboam's ascension to the throne in Israel is a very different one from when his father became king. The Lord was behind Solomon's rule blessing him with the offer of requesting whatever he wanted and the Lord would grant it. When Rehoboam became king there was only strife. Instead of blessing Rehoboam and enabling him in his task as king, the Lord had to restrain him from bad decisions.

This was largely due to the state in which Solomon left the kingdom having introduced pagan worship. The great wisdom he had been granted by the Lord did not serve him so well in regard to his restraint in taking on more and more wives whom he allowed to influence him toward idolatry. This only affirms what his father wrote in the Psalms, that "fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." As it turned out for Solomon, "with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases." (Ecc 1:18) Apart from God wisdom loses its advantage to benefit man. It is more likely to lead to sorrow.

So Solomon left his son with a kingdom ready to split and it did split when Rehoboam made the unwise decision to continue to rule harshly as did his father. In reality, though, we must acknowledge that the split was of God. So the beginning of Rehoboam's reign is characterized by fear of attack all around him and the establishment of fortified cities in a ring around Judah. Secondly, his reign is characterized by the taking on of many wives and concubines much as his father had done. Rehoboam does not give the appearance of being a strong leader.

On the other hand, Jeroboam in the north, does appear to be a strong leader but although he was placed as king over the northern tribes by God, he led those tribes away from the Lord. He got rid of all the priests and Levites who served "as priests of the Lord," and appointed his own priests, establishing high places where they worshiped idols. This resulted in all the priests of the Lord who lived in the north leaving their lands and possessions and moving south to Judah.

After the glory years of David and Solomon's reigns, suddenly things did not look so good for Israel. It seems that few if any can handle affluence without transferring their sense of security and dependency to it rather than to the Lord.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 10

 2 Chronicles 10(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Rehoboam went to Shechem where everyone was waiting to crown him king.
  2. Jeroboam son of Nebat heard what was happening, and he returned from Egypt, where he had gone to hide from Solomon.
  3. The people from the northern tribes of Israel sent for him. Then together they went to Rehoboam and said,
  4. "Your father Solomon forced us to work very hard. But if you make our work easier, we will serve you and do whatever you ask."
  5. Rehoboam replied, "Come back in three days for my answer." So the people left.
  6. Rehoboam went to some leaders who had been his father's senior officials, and he asked them, "What should I tell these people?"
  7. They answered, "If you want them to serve and obey you, then you should be kind and promise to make their work easier."
  8. But Rehoboam refused their advice and went to the younger men who had grown up with him and were now his officials.
  9. He asked, "What do you think I should say to these people who asked me to make their work easier?"
  10. His younger advisors said: Here's what we think you should say to them: "Compared to me, my father was weak.
  11. He made you work hard, but I'll make you work even harder. He punished you with whips, but I'll use whips with pieces of sharp metal!"
  12. Three days later, Jeroboam and the others came back.
  13. Rehoboam ignored the advice of the older advisors. He spoke bluntly
  14. and told them exactly what his own advisors had suggested. He said: "My father made you work hard, but I'll make you work even harder. He punished you with whips, but I'll use whips with pieces of sharp metal!"
  15. When the people realized that Rehoboam would not listen to them, they shouted: "We don't have to be loyal to David's family. We can do what we want. Come on, people of Israel, let's go home! Rehoboam can rule his own people." Adoniram was in charge of the work force, and Rehoboam sent him to talk to the people. But they stoned him to death. Then Rehoboam ran to his chariot and hurried back to Jerusalem. Everyone from Israel's northern tribes went home, leaving Rehoboam to rule only the people from Judah. And since that day, the people of Israel have been opposed to David's descendants in Judah. All of this happened just as Ahijah the LORD's prophet from Shiloh had told Jeroboam.
  16. (SEE 10:15)
  17. (SEE 10:15)
  18. (SEE 10:15)
  19. (SEE 10:15)

A quip attributed to Woody Allen comes to mind in reading this passage. It says, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." The players in the events recorded in chapter 10 may have thought they were "pulling the strings" to bring about their intended outcomes, while all along events were transpiring as God had planned. But it was He who was pulling the strings.

Rehoboam no doubt thought he was making a wise move by going to Shechem for his coronation and thus appease the northern tribes who had become disenchanted with the yoke his father had placed on them. But the northern tribes wanted more than a conciliatory gesture. They wanted specific promises and Rehoboam was not wise enough nor secure enough as a leader to know how best to address their concerns. Therefore he chose, as insecure leaders tend to do, to assert his authority by force.

1 Kings 11 gives a background for Jeroboam's actions and why he was living in Egypt waiting for the death of Solomon. It also informs us that this split in the kingdom that took place on this occasion was of God as does verse 15 of this chapter. 1 Kings 11 tells how God informed Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah that he was to eventually rule the 10 northern tribes of Israel. Solomon evidently got word of this and sought to kill him. Therefore Jeroboam fled to Egypt and lived there until he heard of Solomon's death. The reason God gave for the split in the kingdom and giving the larger portion to Jeroboam was because of Solomon's apostasy in bringing pagan worship to Israel. Had it not been for God's promise to David to keep a descendant of his on the throne, the whole kingdom would likely have gone to Jeroboam.

Chapter 11 tells of Jeroboam showing up for Rehoboam's coronation and leading a contingent to challenge Rehoboam concerning the type rule he would have over them. If he was going to continue the heavy yoke of his father, they wanted no part in it. If he was not going to continue with the heavy yoke they pledged their loyalty to him. Rehoboam sought counsel both from his wiser and older leaders and also from his peers with whom he had grown up. He accepted the counsel of his peers over that of the elders probably because it was what he wanted to do anyway.

With bluster Rehoboam announced to the northern tribes that "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I, with barbed whips." At this announcement an immediate split occurred with the ten northern tribes seceding from the kingdom. Rehoboam had to run for his life back to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 9

 2 Chronicles 09(Contemporary English Version)
  1. The Queen of Sheba heard how famous Solomon was, so she went to Jerusalem to test him with difficult questions. She took along several of her officials, and she loaded her camels with gifts of spices, jewels, and gold. When she arrived, she and Solomon talked about everything she could think of.
  2. He answered every question, no matter how difficult it was.
  3. The Queen was amazed at Solomon's wisdom. She was breathless when she saw his palace, the food on his table, his officials, all his servants in their uniforms, and the sacrifices he offered at the LORD's temple.
  4. (SEE 9:3)
  5. She said: Solomon, in my own country I had heard about your wisdom and all you've done.
  6. But I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes! And there's so much I didn't hear about. You are greater than I was told.
  7. Your people and officials are lucky to be here where they can listen to the wise things you say.
  8. I praise the LORD your God. He is pleased with you and has made you king of Israel. God loves the people of this country and will never desert them, so he has given them a king who will rule fairly and honestly.
  9. The Queen of Sheba gave Solomon almost five tons of gold, a large amount of jewels, and the best spices anyone had ever seen.
  10. In return, Solomon gave her everything she wanted--even more than she had given him. Then she and her officials went back to their own country. Hiram's and Solomon's sailors brought gold, juniper wood, and jewels from the country of Ophir. Solomon used the wood to make steps for the temple and palace, and harps and other stringed instruments for the musicians. Nothing like these had ever been made in Judah.
  11. (SEE 9:10)
  12. (SEE 9:10)
  13. Solomon received about twenty-five tons of gold each year,
  14. not counting what the merchants and traders brought him. The kings of Arabia and the leaders of Israel also gave him gold and silver.
  15. Solomon made two hundred gold shields that weighed about seven and a half pounds each.
  16. He also made three hundred smaller gold shields that weighed almost four pounds, and he put these shields in his palace in Forest Hall.
  17. His throne was made of ivory and covered with pure gold.
  18. It had a gold footstool attached to it and armrests on each side. There was a statue of a lion on each side of the throne,
  19. and there were two lion statues on each of the six steps leading up to the throne. No other throne in the world was like Solomon's.
  20. Solomon's cups and dishes in Forest Hall were made of pure gold, because silver was almost worthless in those days.
  21. Solomon had a lot of seagoing ships. Every three years he sent them out with Hiram's ships to bring back gold, silver, and ivory, as well as monkeys and peacocks.
  22. Solomon was the richest and wisest king in the world.
  23. Year after year, other kings came to hear the wisdom God had given him. And they brought gifts of silver and gold, as well as clothes, weapons, spices, horses, and mules.
  24. (SEE 9:23)
  25. Solomon had four thousand stalls for his horses and chariots, and he owned twelve thousand horses that he kept in Jerusalem and other towns.
  26. He ruled all the nations from the Euphrates River in the north to the land of Philistia in the south, as far as the border of Egypt.
  27. While Solomon was king, there was silver everywhere in Jerusalem, and cedar was as common as the sycamore trees in the western foothills.
  28. Solomon's horses were brought in from other countries, including Musri.
  29. Everything else Solomon did while he was king is written in the records of Nathan the prophet, Ahijah the prophet from Shiloh, and Iddo the prophet who wrote about Jeroboam son of Nebat.
  30. After Solomon had ruled forty years from Jerusalem,
  31. he died and was buried in the city of his father David. His son Rehoboam then became king.

Chapter 9 provides confirmation of the Lord's promise to Solomon that He would give him wisdom and knowledge and also "riches, wealth, and glory, such that it was not like this for the kings who were before you, nor will it be like this for those after you." (2 Chronicles 1: 12)

Confirmation of Solomon's wisdom is provided in this chapter through the visit of the queen of Sheba who traveled over 1,200 miles to verify the reports she had heard of his wisdom. She had many questions for him of which he was able to answer all. Though she had not believed the reports without seeing it for herself, she told Solomon the reports had not "even told half of your great wisdom!" (9:6) She acknowledged that Solomon's God must have loved Israel to give the nation such a wise king, but she did not credit his God with giving him his wisdom.

The queen of Sheba gave Solomon many gifts including 4 1/2 tons of gold along with spices and precious stones and many other items. It is hard to imagine her traveling 1,200 miles across the desert in a camel caravan with this much cargo. Though her gifts to Solomon were extravagant, his gifts to her were even more extravagant, giving her "whatever she asked for." (9:12)

The chapter goes on to tell of Solomon's increasing wealth through annual recepts of 25 tons of gold along with tribute paid him by merchants, traders, and "All the Arabian kings and governors of the land." (9:14) Gold was so plentiful for Solomon that nearly everything, down to his drinking cups, was made of gold. Solomon was also given innumerable horses and chariots which he stationed in chariot cities around the kingdom.

Despite Solomon's greatness, death came to him as it does to all. After a 40 year reign as king, he "rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David." (9:31) His son Rehoboam succeeded him as king.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 8

 2 Chronicles 08(Contemporary English Version)
  1. It took twenty years for the LORD's temple and Solomon's palace to be built.
  2. After that, Solomon had his workers rebuild the towns that Hiram had given him. Then Solomon sent Israelites to live in those towns.
  3. Solomon attacked and captured the town of Hamath-Zobah.
  4. He had his workers build the town of Tadmor in the desert and some towns in Hamath where he could keep his supplies.
  5. He strengthened Upper Beth-Horon and Lower Beth-Horon by adding walls and gates that could be locked.
  6. He did the same thing to the town of Baalath and to the cities where he kept supplies, chariots, and horses. Solomon had his workers build whatever he wanted in Jerusalem, Lebanon, and anywhere else in his kingdom.
  7. Solomon did not force the Israelites to do his work. Instead, they were his soldiers, officers, army commanders, and cavalry troops. But he did make slaves of the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who were living in Israel. These were the descendants of those foreigners the Israelites did not destroy, and they remained Israel's slaves.
  8. (SEE 8:7)
  9. (SEE 8:7)
  10. Solomon appointed two hundred fifty officers to be in charge of his workers.
  11. Solomon's wife, the daughter of the king of Egypt, moved from the part of Jerusalem called David's City to her new palace that Solomon had built. The sacred chest had been kept in David's City, which made his palace sacred, and so Solomon's wife could no longer live there.
  12. Solomon offered sacrifices to the LORD on the altar he had built in front of the temple.
  13. He followed the requirements that Moses had given for sacrifices offered on the Sabbath, on the first day of each month, the Festival of Thin Bread, the Harvest Festival, and the Festival of Shelters.
  14. Solomon then assigned the priests and the Levites their duties at the temple, and he followed the instructions that his father David had given him. Some of the Levites were to lead music and help the priests in their duties, and others were to guard the temple gates
  15. and the storage rooms. The priests and Levites followed these instructions exactly.
  16. Everything Solomon had planned to do was now finished--from the laying of the temple's foundation to its completion.
  17. Solomon went to Ezion-Geber and Eloth, two Edomite towns on the Red Sea.
  18. Hiram sent him ships and some of his experienced sailors. They went with Solomon's own sailors to the country of Ophir and brought back about seventeen tons of gold for Solomon.

In chapter 8, the chronicler reviews the first 20 years of Solomon's reign. It was all very grand. He had built or rebuilt a number of cities, some as fortified cities to strength his defenses and others as storage cities as well as chariot cities and cavalry cities. He did all of this with forced labor from among the various Canaanite tribes who remained in the land, using his own people as supervisors over the labor. Israelites also served as soldiers, commanders of his captains, and commanders of his chariots and his cavalry as well as rulers over the people.

Solomon's greatest achievement, however, was considered to be the building of the temple which he completed just as the Lord had instructed his father, David. Along with being faithful to the designs of the temple he also maintained the divisions of priests and Levites as his father had established through the Lord's instructions. Plus, he observed all of the sacrifices and offerings connected with the religious calendar.

By most appearances, Solomon maintained his religious fervor throughout these first 20 years of his reign. That is, by most appearances, but not all. A brief reference is made by the chronicler, however, in verse 11 about the wife he had acquired who was the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Though he had married her, he recognized that as a foreigner and a pagan it was not appropriate for her to live in the palace he had inherited from his father because of its proximity to the ark of the Lord. Therefore, he built a house for her in which to live. It was as if he had come to faithfully observe all of the proper religious practices but his heart was not in it as it should have been.

It seems that Solomon's heart had wondered to other desires. Though the Lord had given him great wisdom he did not allow it to guide him in all of his affairs, particularly his affairs with foreign women of whom the Lord had strictly instructed the kings of Israel to stay away from. Why? Because foreign wives would lead them to foreign gods which is exactly what happened with Solomon. God is not a cruel God who wants to restrict our pleasure, but a loving God who wishes to give us what is best and help us avoid what will keep us from the best.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 7

 2 Chronicles 07(Contemporary English Version)
  1. As soon as Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and burned up the offerings. The LORD's dazzling glory then filled the temple,
  2. and the priests could not go in.
  3. When the crowd of people saw the fire and the LORD's glory, they knelt down and worshiped the LORD. They prayed: "The LORD is good, and his love never ends."
  4. Solomon and the people dedicated the temple to the LORD by sacrificing twenty-two thousand cattle and one hundred twenty thousand sheep.
  5. (SEE 7:4)
  6. Everybody stood up during the ceremony. The priests were in their assigned places, blowing their trumpets. And the Levites faced them, playing the musical instruments that David had made for them to use when they praised the LORD for his never-ending love.
  7. On that same day, Solomon dedicated the courtyard in front of the temple and got it ready to be used for worship. The bronze altar he had made was too small, so he used the courtyard to offer sacrifices to please the LORD and grain sacrifices, and also to send up in smoke the fat from the other offerings.
  8. For seven days, Solomon and the crowd celebrated the Festival of Shelters, and people came from as far away as the Egyptian Gorge in the south and Lebo-Hamath in the north.
  9. Then on the next day, everyone came together for worship. They had celebrated a total of fourteen days, seven days for the dedication of the altar and seven more days for the festival.
  10. Then on the twenty-third day of the seventh month, Solomon sent everyone home. They left very happy because of all the good things the LORD had done for David and Solomon, and for his people Israel.
  11. The LORD's temple and Solomon's palace were now finished. In fact, everything Solomon had planned to do was completed.
  12. Some time later, the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream and said: I heard your prayer, and I have chosen this temple as the place where sacrifices will be offered to me.
  13. Suppose I hold back the rain or send locusts to eat the crops or make my people suffer with deadly diseases.
  14. If my own people will humbly pray and turn back to me and stop sinning, then I will answer them from heaven. I will forgive them and make their land fertile once again.
  15. I will hear the prayers made in this temple,
  16. because it belongs to me, and this is where I will be worshiped forever. I will never stop watching over it.
  17. Your father David obeyed me, and now, Solomon, you must do the same. Obey my laws and teachings,
  18. and I will keep my solemn promise to him that someone from your family will always be king of Israel.
  19. But if you or any of the people of Israel disobey my laws or start worshiping foreign gods,
  20. I will pull you out of this land I gave you. I will desert this temple where I said I would be worshiped, so that people everywhere will think it is only a joke and will make fun of it.
  21. This temple is now magnificent. But when these things happen, everyone who walks by it will be shocked and will ask, "Why did the LORD do such a terrible thing to his people and to this temple?"
  22. Then they will answer, "It was because the people of Israel rejected the LORD their God, who rescued their ancestors from Egypt, and they started worshiping other gods."

Earlier, when the furnishings had been moved into the new temple, the Lord's glory had filled the temple in a cloud. Now, when Solomon had finished his prayer of dedication, fire descended from heaven consuming the burnt offerings and the Lord's glory again filled the temple. There could be no doubt that the Lord was pleased with the temple and planned to dwell there.

It is hard to imagine the magnitude of the sacrifice made that day which involved 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep. A special area of the courtyard had to be prepared to handle this sizable sacrifice. We are never given the details of what was involved in such an undertaking, but for this amount of animals to be sacrificed must have taken the priests considerable time to prepare, though a large number of priests were no doubt involved.

After 14 days of festivities which included seven days for the dedication of the altar plus another seven days for the Feast of Tabernacles, Solomon sent the people home on the 15th day. That night the Lord appeared to Solomon and told him He had heard Solomon's prayer and had chosen the temple for "Myself as a temple of sacrifice." (7:12) Then the Lord made a covenant with Solomon promising that whenever He sent punishment on Israel because of their sin He would "hear from heaven, forgive their sin" if they would "humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways." The Lord also promised to "establish your royal throne, as I promised your father David: You will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel." (7:18) But this promise had a condition. If Solomon were to "turn away and abandon My statutes and My commands that I have set before you and if you go and serve other gods and worship them," then the Lord would "uproot Israel from the soil that I gave them, and this temple that I have sanctified for My name I will banish from My presence; I will make it an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples." (7:19, 20)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reflections on 2 Chronicles 6

 2 Chronicles 06(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Solomon prayed: "Our LORD, you said that you would live in a dark cloud.
  2. Now I've built a glorious temple where you can live forever."
  3. Solomon turned toward the people standing there. Then he blessed them
  4. and said: Praise the LORD God of Israel! He brought his people out of Egypt long ago and later kept his promise to make my father David the king of Israel. The LORD also promised him that Jerusalem would be the city where his temple will be built, and now that promise has come true.
  5. (SEE 6:4)
  6. (SEE 6:4)
  7. When my father wanted to build a temple for the LORD God of Israel,
  8. the LORD said, "It's good that you want to build a temple where I can be worshiped.
  9. But you're not the one to do it. Your son will build the temple to honor me."
  10. The LORD has done what he promised. I am now the king of Israel, and I've built a temple for the LORD our God.
  11. I've also put the sacred chest in the temple. And in that chest are the two flat stones on which is written the solemn agreement the LORD made with our ancestors when he rescued them from Egypt.
  12. Earlier, Solomon had a bronze platform made that was about eight feet square and five feet high, and he put it in the center of the outer courtyard near the altar. Solomon stood on the platform facing the altar with everyone standing behind him. Then he lifted his arms toward heaven; he knelt down
  13. (SEE 6:12)
  14. and prayed: LORD God of Israel, no other god in heaven or on earth is like you! You never forget the agreement you made with your people, and you are loyal to anyone who faithfully obeys your teachings.
  15. My father David was your servant, and today you have kept every promise you made to him.
  16. You promised that someone from his family would always be king of Israel, if they do their best to obey you, just as he did.
  17. Please keep this promise you made to your servant David.
  18. There's not enough room in all of heaven for you, LORD God. How could you possibly live on earth in this temple I have built?
  19. But I ask you to answer my prayer.
  20. This is the temple where you have chosen to be worshiped. Please watch over it day and night and listen when I turn toward it and pray.
  21. I am your servant, and the people of Israel belong to you, and so whenever any of us look toward this temple and pray, answer from your home in heaven and forgive our sins.
  22. Suppose someone accuses a person of a crime, and the accused has to stand in front of the altar in your temple and say, "I swear I am innocent!"
  23. Listen from heaven and decide who is right. Then punish the guilty person and let the innocent one go free.
  24. Suppose your people Israel sin against you, and then an enemy defeats them. If they come to this temple and beg for forgiveness,
  25. listen from your home in heaven. Forgive them and bring them back to the land you gave their ancestors.
  26. Suppose your people sin against you, and you punish them by holding back the rain. If they stop sinning and turn toward this temple to pray in your name,
  27. listen from your home in heaven and forgive them. The people of Israel are your servants, so teach them to live right. And send rain on the land you promised them forever.
  28. Sometimes the crops may dry up or rot or be eaten by locusts or grasshoppers, and your people will be starving. Sometimes enemies may surround their towns, or your people will become sick with deadly diseases.
  29. Please listen when anyone in Israel truly feels sorry and sincerely prays with arms lifted toward your temple.
  30. You know what is in everyone's heart. So from your home in heaven answer their prayers, according to what they do and what is in their hearts.
  31. Then your people will worship you and obey you for as long as they live in the land you gave their ancestors.
  32. Foreigners will hear about you and your mighty power, and some of them will come to live among your people Israel. If any of them pray toward this temple,
  33. listen from your home in heaven and answer their prayers. Then everyone on earth will worship you, just as your own people Israel do, and they will know that I have built this temple in your honor.
  34. Sometimes you will order your people to attack their enemies. Then your people will turn toward this temple I have built for you in your chosen city, and they will pray to you.
  35. Answer their prayers from heaven and give them victory.
  36. Everyone sins. But when your people sin against you, suppose you get angry enough to let their enemies drag them away to foreign countries.
  37. Later, they may feel sorry for what they did and ask your forgiveness. Answer them when they pray toward this temple I have built for you in your chosen city, here in this land you gave their ancestors. From your home in heaven, listen to their sincere prayers and forgive your people who have sinned against you.
  38. (SEE 6:37)
  39. (SEE 6:37)
  40. LORD God, hear us when we pray in this temple.
  41. Come to your new home, where we have already placed the sacred chest, which is the symbol of your strength. I pray that when the priests announce your power to save people, those who are faithful to you will celebrate what you've done for them.
  42. Always remember the love you had for your servant David, so that you will not reject your chosen kings.

The temple construction was completed, the furnishings moved into place, and the Lord's presence had filled the new edifice. Then Solomon climbed atop a bronze platform especially constructed for the occasion. From there he prayed a lengthy prayer of dedication. While his prayer covered several topics, the substance of it all can be expressed in the words: hear and forgive.

Might the Lord hear the prayers of Israel when prayed toward this place, the temple, and also hear the prayers of foreigners who go to the temple to seek the Lord's face. And when the Lord hears these prayers might He forgive. In addition, Solomon prayed that the temple would be the place where God would adjudicate wrongs. An example being in verse 23, "May You judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing what he has done on his own head and providing justice for the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness."

Why should God hear these prayers and forgive? Solomon covered this in verse 14, "LORD God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven or on earth, keeping His gracious covenant with Your servants who walk before You with their whole heart."