Spitirual Decline: Amaziah

Amaziah succeeded his father Joash upon his assassination. He was twenty-five years of age when he came to the throne of Judah, not a child, but a man who was able to consider the responsibilities attaching to the high office which was now his. The Holy Spirit, through the chronicler, gives a brief resume of his reign, 2 Chron. 25. 2, drawing attention to the fact that “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord”, adding a qualification, “but not with a perfect heart”. A similar qualification is given in the parallel account in 2 Kings 14. 3 — here the qualification is “yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did”. This qualification is followed by an illustration of how it worked, “the high places were not taken away: as yet the people did sacrifice and burnt incense on the high places”. This does not necessarily indicate idolatry, but it does point to worship in unauthorized places and unauthorized ways, and this in turn shows that although there was a desire to do well, the Word of God did not have supreme authority.

Evidence of his desire to do that which was right is given in his actions in relation to those who had murdered his father. They were dealt with in accordance with the law, but it is noted that he spared the children of the murderers, 2 Kings 14. 6, simply because the law of Moses commanded this action. In this Amaziah departed from the normal custom of the rulers of those days who usually destroyed not only the criminal but also the family. So the Holy Spirit points to his good start. Attention is then drawn to Amaziah’s preparation for a campaign against Edom, 2 Chron. 25. 5. Details of his own army are given and then we are told of an army of Israelitish mercenaries totalling 100,000, for whose services he paid one hundred talents of silver. This would have seemed a sensible step to take were it not for the fact that the spiritual position of Israel at that time was one of apostasy from the Lord. Concerning Jehoahaz the king of Israel it is recorded in 2 Kings 13. 2, “he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord”, and in spite of chastening, the northern nation still continued to walk in the “sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin”. How could God approve the union between one who “did that which was right”, and one who “did that which was evil”? A messenger was sent to Amaziah with a warning as to the consequences of such a union. The message was plain — go in dependence on your own forces and you will fail, “for God hath power to cast down”. This presented the king with a problem and a challenge to faith. The hiring figure of one hundred talents had already been paid and could not be recovered. To lose this money and send the mercenaries home was not an easy thing, but the prophet assured the king, “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this”. To his credit it is recorded that he did that which God required of him and sent the men of Israel away causing great anger on their part.

The question may well be asked, Why did not God send the warning to Amaziah before the deal with Israel had been settled and the money paid over? Why wait until things were complicated by the completed transaction? It may well be that God deliberately timed the test to challenge the willingness of the king to trust Him even though loss was involved in the decision, and the king’s response shows that he still desired to do that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, even though there was a measure of reluctance to forego the advantages that the increased forces would have given him. It is a well established principle in God’s dealings with men that “them that honour me I will honour”, so we are not surprised to read that Amaziah was successful in his campaign against Edom, although he had only his own army to fight for him.

The next stage in his story as recorded in 2 Chronicles 25 reveals incredible folly. In his victory over the Edomites, Amaziah had seen clearly demonstrated the inability of the gods of Edom to give their devotees the help they desired, and yet it is recorded that “he brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them”. Again we say, what incredible folly! Jehovah had proved to Amaziah His willingness and ability to help the one who trusts Him, and had proved the utter helplessness of the gods of Edom, yet he turns aside from the God who had given him victory to worship the defeated gods of his enemies. The faithful warning of the prophet of God was rejected, and the rejection led to a response from the prophet which reminds us of God’s sovereignty in history, “I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this”. The record leads on to the reckless challenge to the king of Israel (possibly prompted by pride in view of his recent triumph) which was to lead to Amaziah’s ignominious defeat. Amaziah was alone responsible for his foolish challenge, because of his refusal to listen to the voice of reason, but behind all his actions can be traced the controlling hand of the One who “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will”. It is well to keep in mind in these days of rapidly changing circumstances, and constantly deteriorating standards, that God is still in control and working His purposes out. It is still true that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will”, Dan. 4. 17.

Verse 27 of our chapter, 2 Chron. 25, seems to indicate a further falling away from the Lord some years after the disaster of defeat, but no indication appears in the record to show what had happened in between, a period of at least fifteen years; see verse 25. His life ended in tragedy. His own people made a conspiracy against him and slew him, and there can be little doubt that there is a very close connection between “Amaziah did turn away from following the Lord”, and “they made a conspiracy against him”.

Looking back over the inspired record of this man and remembering that at the beginning he did “that which was right in the sight of the Lord”, we must ask again, What went wrong? We find the answer in the divine comment, “not with a perfect heart”. He had a place in his heart for God, but not only for Him. It was a matter of divided loyalties, and this meant that he was not prepared to submit himself completely to the authority of God’s Word, but rather he preferred to go the way of his own chopsing, dictated by human wisdom. God will not share the temple of the heart with other gods. Dagon must bow before the ark of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 6. 16 makes this plain, “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God”. There is no agreement. Did not the Lord Jesus say most plainly, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the othpr; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”, Matt. 6. 24. It is easy to sing,

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be;
Help me to tear it from Thy throne
And worship only Thee,

but it calls for constant vigilance to maintain this position, and only the Spirit of God working within can really secure it. Idols take many forms and can be very attractive. They can be found in the realm of the home where a loved one exercises undue sway in spiritual matters, and the child of God defers to the wishes of the dear one rather than to “what saith the scriptures”. They are found in the business realm where legitimate business interests exercise a dominating influence in the life, and the things of God take second place. They are found in the world of relaxation, where what pleases us can have preference over what pleases Him. Even in spiritual work the idols can be found as we cling to our ways of service because they are our ways. The list is legion. May God give us grace to face up to the problem, to examine it thoroughly and then, aided by the Holy Spirit, to say very humbly in the words of Theodore Monod’s lovely but searching hymn, “None of self but all of thee”.

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