Morning Light – December 2nd, 2015

MLx250Today: [2 Chronicles Fifteen] Asa Covenants with God. In this chapter a prophet stands before Asa and compels him to purge his kingdom. Asa had been a good king but there were still pagan altars in the land. Asa rises up and makes a full end of the high places and the groves. He even goes so far as to impeach his own mother from being queen because she was an idolater. Then he gathers the people and brings them into a terrible oath that if they do not serve the Lord they will be put to death. This is the power of the Old Testament economy of God. Obey or die. For us we are given to know that yes we have disobeyed but Jesus has died in our place so that we can be forgiven and restored.

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[2Ch 15:1-19 KJV] 1 And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: 2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD [is] with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 Now for a long season Israel [hath been] without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law. 4 But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. 5 And in those times [there was] no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations [were] upon all the inhabitants of the countries. 6 And nation was destroyed of nation, and city of city: for God did vex them with all adversity.

In this chapter we meet the prophet Azariah. We don’t know much about him other than the implications of his name. The first person mentioned in the bible by the name Azariah was one of the prophet Nathan’s sons who was an officer in David’s army. It is very possible that the Azariah in this chapter was a near kinsmen to king Asa because his father’s name Obed was also familiar to the lineage of the kings of David. Azariah prophesies and calls Judah to a season of national repentence. The timing of this is interesting because Asa has just one a great battle against a superior invading force from Ethiopea. You would think this would be a time for celebration and rejoicing but Azariah brings in a sobering note to provoke the king and the people to consider that they were invaded because they had lapsed in their fidelity to God in certain key areas.

Azariah flatly tells Asa and the people that if they seek God they will be blessed but if they forsake God they will be rejected. In the afterglow of a great victory there was surely not one person listening who was thinking “I am going to reject God now…” However it was not overt rebellion Azariah was suggesting but rather comprimises and conditions of idolatry that were being tolerated and overlooked by Asa that constituted rebellion against God by default. In our own life if we are not diligent and thoughtful we will find ourselves tolerating the intolerable and then lamenting and not understanding when trouble comes as a result.

Azariah also reproves the king for the situation in the northern territories. Asa apparently had gained and held terroritories captured by his father from Jeroboam – but had not fully destroyed and taken away the pagan altars there. The result was no peace and great insecurity and danger in Israel to the point that the people could not travel freely or be safe in their own homes. The answer from Azariah’s prophecy was a directive given to the king to send teaching priests to re-establish the worship of the one true God.

7 Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded. 8 And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that [was] before the porch of the LORD. 9 And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God [was] with him. 10 So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11 And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil [which] they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. 12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;

Azariah gives dire warning to Asa and the points him in the direction that God wanted him to go. Here we see the difference between Holy Spirit conviction and mere condemnation. Condemnation brings heaviness, guilt and shame without any redress or escape. Conviction of the Holy Spirit first and foremost points to an action or decision that must be made in order to fulfill the mandate of the kingdom in your life. In Asa’s case while he had made inroads in dealing with idolatry in the southern kingdom, now redoubles his efforts. He not only removes idols and groves from about Jerusalem, but throughout all Judah and Benjamin who has now defected from the northern tribes and joined with him. He also banishes pagan worship from Ephraiam, Manasseh and Simeon – additional northern tribes who also ceded themselves from Jeroboam and Samaria because they saw the blessing of God upon Asa’s rule.

Now when these northern tribes came to Asa we remember that they were previous enemies. Ephraim was the largest northern tribe by far and comprised no doubt the bulk of the northern army that came against his father Abijah. Yet now they came to Asa and enter along with the remainder of the people into a covenant to seek the Lord their God with all their heart and all their soul. This speaks to the forgiving nature of Asa but also to his prudence in dealing with former enemies. There is no tribute exacted of these former enemies but neither are they embraced to the point they are allowed to join the army or to serve in Asa’s administration and rule. There will be times in your life that people set themselves in enemity against you and then later because they see God is with you they want to associate themselves with you. We remember one former adversary who made the statement “if God isn’t mad at you I can’t be mad at you …” While that is in a measure a good thing it is a tepid response as though they would prefer to disapprove but cannot because they see that God is blessing your life. What do you do in situations like this? What do you do when people who have held themselves aloof from you or have sought to damage you in some way come back around and seek to enter fellowship once again? First of all you love them. You forgive them and you bless them. However you bear in mind that the relationship is vulnerable and that only time and happenstance will reveal the strength of the restored fellowship. As David went in and out wisely with king Saul you trim your words and maintain your boundaries so you don’t create a problem for yourself through a lack of discretion on your part.

13 That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. 14 And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets. 15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about. 16 And also [concerning] Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from [being] queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped [it], and burnt [it] at the brook Kidron. 17 But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days. 18 And he brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated, and that he himself had dedicated, silver, and gold, and vessels. 19 And there was no [more] war unto the five and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa.

The covenant that Asa and the people entered into with the Lord was very strict. If there were those in their midst that would not seek the Lord they would be put to death. This was according to the dictates of the law of Moses. In three places the law is quoted regarding offenders if they are discovered let them “die the death…” What about today? Does the death, burial and ressurection of Jesus have any bearing on this mandate? Are we to punatively judge the offenders in our midst or out in the world? Are we justified to consider sinners or sinful Christians worthy of death? This is more of a relevant question than we realize or may want to admit. Many times there may be a believer who is living a morally obnoxious lifestyle and then upon suffering some grievous end the community of saints nods their heads in knowing recognition that they got what they deserved. Is this justified? If so then we serve God not beause we love Him primarily but also we serve Him on pain of death and suffering. What is God’s view on such things?

[Eze 33:11 KJV] 11 Say unto them, [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

The prophet Ezekiel in the verse above makes it very clear. God does not find satisfaction in your suffering. Isa. 53:10 states that God was pleased to bruise Jesus but only as the propitiation for our sin and our suffering. In other words he suffered because God’s desire is to deliver us from suffering. At the great conclusion of hte great judgment God is not going to come out of his judgment chambers to receive a standing ovation from the saints. There is nothing in God’s character that is satisfied or gratified to see you or anyone else suffer including your own worst enemy. Therefore when we see people suffer and somehow feel elated or that a sense of justice has been satisfied we should fear God. If those we deem wicked get their just deserts in our eyes then what makes us think we are exempt when our own righteousness is as filthy rags?

Matthew 25:41 tells us that hell was not made for man but for the devil and his angels. Many teachers today look at the character of God and decide there is no hell or if there is a hell that no one will permanently suffer there after death. This is a very thin arguement in light of scriptures. The reality of hell and hell for eternity is a very difficult thing to grasp. We don’t want to imagine that anyone we have loved or care about will ever go there. This is compounded by the fact that the biblical hell and the Christian hell contrived more conceptually from the Middle Ages and Dante’s inferno could actually be the same thing. There are no demons prancing with pitchforks in hell tormenting the damned. Demons don’t want to go to hell anymore than you do. Demons or Satan himself do not rule in hell like wardens in a prison. That is a lie perpetuated by popular culture. Yet we know from the teachings of scripture and specifically the teachings of Jesus that hell exists and once there – there is no reprieve. This is cause for sober reflection and not standing ovations before prancing preachers denouncing the sinful of the world. Remember that they are those for whom Christ died just as you as well.

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