Bible reading for Dec 23.
2 Chronicles 27-28.
"So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God." (27:6)
GOOD KING, BAD KING. The next two kings of Judah are polar opposites. Jotham (ch 27) and Ahaz (ch 28) each reigned sixteen years, but by different standards and with different consequences. Jotham "ordered his ways before the Lord" (27:6), which reveals his priorities. Ahaz, on the other hand, did "not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord" (28:1). Under Jotham the nation experienced strength and blessing, though many of the people continued in pagan practices. Under Ahaz the nation suffered loss and defeat. The moral of the story is not simply that God rewards good and punishes evil, but that he is being faithful to the terms of the Mosaic covenant stated in Deuteronomy chapters 27 and 28 (e.g., Deut 28:7, 25). Even in judgment God shows compassion to the nation of Judah. After war with the northern tribes the Judeans were spared the humiliation of slavery by their kinsmen. The Lord does not abandon his people, or forsake the royal line of David, but he brings judgment upon them, being true to his covenant promises, in order that his people would turn back to him (Prov 3:11-12).
REFLECT. I have often noticed how people from the same family, with the same upbringing and environment, can be so diametrically opposed regarding the things of God. How could Jotham (the father) and Ahaz (the son) respond so differently? And then we'll see in the next chapter that Ahaz's son, Hezekiah, will do what is right before the Lord. Go figure! Our Lord said that this would be true also among the families of those who follow him (Luke 12:52-53). One thing about Ahaz stands out to me: "...he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, 'Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me'" (28:23). How often in the pastorate I have met with people who have professed faith in Christ but were giving it up because the Lord did not help them in the way they expected. They came to the Lord, but with definite ideas about what he would do for them. Later, they would say something like, "I tried it. I had faith. I followed the Lord and brought my problems to him, and then this happened." The solution or answer never came, or something worse happened. Or, it "just didn't work". Often, the problems they were experiencing had been a long time in the making, and they expected a quick release. Or, perhaps, they viewed faith pragmatically as a kind of unspoken agreement with God, "I'll do this, if you'll do that." Like Ahaz, they are setting themselves up for even more disappointment. Following the true God will involve humility, painful discipline, and patience with God's timing. But false gods always lead to a bad end: "...they were the ruin of him and of all Israel" (28:23). So we must ask ourselves, what are my expectations in my walk with God? Is my trust in him a personal reliance upon him, his character, and his word -- or is it more of a practical arrangement? How am I expecting God to treat me?
"Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus." (14:12)
A SONG, AND SMOKE. We see again the 144,000, introduced in Rev 7:4. They have come through the great tribulation as "firstfruits," and have been given a new song to sing (cf Exodus 15). There are many details in this chapter over which students of the Bible differ in their interpretations, and so, I point you again to Tom Constable's notes on Revelation in the NET Bible, which will address some of those issues. One thing that stands out clearly in this chapter are the two destinies graphically portrayed: a world of music and song where the redeemed enjoy God's presence (vv 1-7), and a final judgment of wrath, with the smoke of torment going up forever and ever (vv 8-11). Those who are martyred for Christ will "rest from their labors" (v 13), but those who followed the Beast will "have no rest, day or night..." (v 11). These statements, of course, are referring to the destinies of groups during the tribulation, but the principle holds true for all humanity -- we're on our way either to a song of worship or to the smoke of torment (Matt 25:46; John 3:36; Rom 6:23). This calls for the endurance of the saints!
Image credit: photo by Julie Wilson on Unsplash. We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. One recommended resource is NETBible.org, a ministry of bible.org.