Amaziah: Not With a Whole Heart

Dr. Ligon Duncan, Speaker

2 Chronicles 25 | July 22 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
July 22
Amaziah: Not With a Whole Heart | 2 Chronicles 25
Dr. Ligon Duncan, Speaker

It’s always a joy to be with you saints here at Christ Covenant. If you would take your Bibles in your hands and turn with me to 2 Chronicles, chapter 25. I love it that your pastor is working through this section of the history of God’s people with you. It’s a portion of Scripture that probably doesn’t get as much attention as other parts of Scripture, even in the Old Testament, and it’s a very, very important section. I do want to bring greetings to you from your own pastor. I’ve been in contact with Kevin pretty regularly over the last few days as they prepared for the funeral of his father-in-law and he wanted me to tell you that he’s praying for you and asking for the Lord’s blessing on the services today and that he can’t wait to be back with you and then soon to be back in the pulpit preaching God’s Word to you. So as you pray for Kevin, and for Trisha, and the comfort of their hearts and their family, please know that they’re praying for you and they can’t wait to be back with you.

Well, a few words about this passage before we read it. It’s a depressing passage, isn’t it? In fact, a lot of this material that you’ve been working through, there’s a sadness to it. And there are really important points in that for us. For one thing, have you noticed how Scripture does not candy-coat history? I think there are a lot of people, you know, who love our country, for instance, who think that you can never, ever say anything bad about the history of our country or you really don’t love the country. Well, they’ve obviously not read the Bible much, huh? Because clearly the authors of Scripture care about the history of Israel and of God’s people, and yet they give full warts biographies of the kings of Israel and of Judah. They’re very, very frank in how they assess the performance and the life and the character of these kings of Israel, and in doing so, they’re, they’re not in any way denigrating God’s work, God’s covenant, God’s purposes, in His people, God’s promises to, His blessings on His people, but remember especially in 2 Chronicles, this is the last book of the Hebrew Bible in the order of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible runs from Genesis to Chronicles. Our, our English Bibles have Malachi as the last book and there’s a reason for that, too, but the Chronicles are the last picture given to the people of God under the old covenant assessing especially the history of the kings of Israel, and of course, 2 Chronicles runs from Solomon to the end, from Solomon to the end of the Davidic kingship, and the chronicler is especially asking this question over and over: How did we get to where we’ve gotten? How did we get here?

Remember, God had made a promise all the way back in the time of Abraham to plant His people in the land, and then in 2 Samuel chapter 7 He had made a promise to David that he would never lack an heir on the throne of Israel. But when you get to the end of Chronicles, what’s happened? Israel is out of the land in exile, and there is no king of David on the throne. It’s, it’s the great theological crisis in the history of Israel. How can there not be a Davidic king on the throne, and how can we not be in the land? How can we be in exile? Have God’s promises failed? Has God’s Word fallen? This is the great theological crisis of its time, and 2 Chronicles is very much answering that question. How did we get here? Did we get here because God’s promises failed? And over and over, the author of 2 Chronicles will be saying no, that’s not what happened. That’s not how we got here.

The author of 2 Chronicles will make much of four themes: God’s sovereignty, the kings’ idolatry, the kings’ lack of repentance, and God’s judgment. And so it’s made very clear that the end of the Davidic line and the exile of God’s people is not a result of God’s promises failing, but instead it is a manifestation of God’s sovereignty in justice and He will bring His promises about in another way.

So it’s made very clear through the chronicler that God’s promises have not failed, but God’s kings have been unfaithful to Him, they have gone after other gods, they have committed idolatry, and so God in His sovereignty will bring judgment on them in light of their lack of repentance.

And these four themes flow throughout these passages. I’m sure you’ve already seen these as these passages have been opened up for you in the last number of weeks. The author of 2 Chronicles is giving a theological assessment of the history of the kings of Israel, and especially in 2 Chronicles from Solomon into the divided kingdom all the way to the end.

Now again, before we read the passage, let me point to five sections in the passage that we’re going to study. Just be on the lookout for these as we read through them together. Vengeance averted, false alliance, shocking idolatry, prideful folly, and an inglorious end.

First, vengeance. You’ll see this in verses 3 and 4. The king is going to take vengeance. Remember how the story of the previous king ended? Assassination, right? His own servants assassinate him. And this king’s story is going to begin with him taking vengeance on the people who killed his father. You’ll see that in verses 3 and 4.

Then, in verses 5 to 13, the king wants to hire soldiers from the northern kingdom of Israel to fight with him against the Edomites. Now the Edomites are the descendants of Esau and they are enemies of Judah, and he wants to fight against them, but he wants to hire mercenaries from the northern kingdom. Now what is explicitly forbidden to kings of Judah over and over again by the Lord through the words of His prophet? Making an alliance with the northern kingdom. Don’t make an alliance with Israel. Now you might think why? I mean, they’re, you’re, they’re all the same. No. Because ever since the time of Jeroboam, what’s been going on in the northern kingdom? Idolatry. And so in order to protect Judah from that idolatry, the kings of Judah are told don’t make an alliance with the northern kingdom. Don’t even hire mercenaries from the northern kingdom. And so a prophet comes to avert this false alliance, in verses 5 to 13.

Then third, Amaziah is going to do something absolutely mind-blowing, in verses 14 to 16. He is going to commit idolatry in the most shocking sort of way. So we see vengeance, an averted false alliance, and then a shocking idolatry in verses 14 to 16.

Then in verses 17 to 25 you’re going to see a prideful folly on the part of Amaziah. He wins that battle against the Edomites and he kind of starts thinking he’s something. And so he, he pokes at a king who is more powerful than he is, and the king tells him “don’t poke, don’t poke, this won’t end well for you,” and he pokes anyway, and it doesn’t end well. You see that in verses 17 to 25.

And then finally you see his inglorious end in verses 26 to 28. So be on the lookout for those things as we read God’s Word.

Let’s pause now and pray and ask for His help and blessing.

Our heavenly Father, we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. The grass withers, the flowers fade and fall, but Your Word stands forever. Sanctify us with truth. Your Word is truth. All Scripture is given by inspiration and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness that we may be equipped for every good work, so speak Lord. Your servants listen. We ask this In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This is the Word of God. Hear it in 2 Chronicles, chapter 25, beginning in verse 1: “Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. He did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart. Now it came about as soon as the kingdom was firmly in his grasp that he killed his servants who had slain his father, the king. However, he did not put their children to death, but did as it is written in the law in Law, in the Book of Moses, which the Lord commanded, saying ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for sons, nor sons be put to death for fathers, but each shall be put to death for his own sin.'”

“Moreover, Amaziah assembled Judah and appointed them according to their fathers’ households under commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds throughout Judah and Benjamin and he took a census from those from twenty years old and upward, and found them to be 300,000 choice men, able to go to war, and handle spear and shield. He hired also 100,000 valiant warriors out of Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him, saying, ‘O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel, nor with any of the sons of Ephraim. But if you do go, do it, be strong for the battle. Yet God will bring you down before the enemy for God has power to help and to bring down.’ Amaziah said to the man of God, ‘But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?’ And the man of God answered, “The Lord has much more to give you than this.’ Then Amaziah dismissed them, the troops which came to him from Ephraim to go home. So their anger burned against Judah and they returned home in fierce anger. Now Amaziah strengthened himself and led out his people forth and went to the Valley of Salt and struck down 10,000 of the sons of Seir. And the sons of Judah also captured 10,000 alive and brought them to the top of the cliff and threw them down from the top of the cliff so that they were all dashed to pieces. But the troops whom Amaziah sent back from going with him to battle raided the cities of Judah, from Samaria to Beth-horon, and struck down 3,000 of them and plundered much spoil.”

“Now after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them and burned incense to them. Then the anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah and He sent a prophet, who said to him, ‘Why have you sought the gods of the people who have not delivered their own people from your hand?’ And he was talking with him, the king said to him, ‘Have we appointed you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?’ Then the prophet stopped and said, ‘I know that God has planned to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.'”

“Then Amaziah king of Judah took counsel and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, the king of Israel, saying, ‘Come, let us face each other.’ Joash the king of Israel sent to Amaziah, the king of Judah, saying, ‘The thorn bush which was in Lebanon sent to the cedar which was in Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage,’ but there passed a wild beast that was in Lebanon and trampled the thorn bush. You said, ‘Behold you have defeated Edom,’ and your heart has become proud in boasting. Now stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you, even you, would fall, and Judah with you?’
“But Amaziah would not listen, for it was from God, that he might deliver them into the hand of Joash because they had sought the gods of Edom. So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other in battle at Beth-shemesh, which belonged to Judah. Judah was defeated by Israel, and they fled, each to his tent. Then Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him into Jerusalem and tore down the walls of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate, 400 cubits. He took all the gold and silver, and all the utensils which were found in the house of God, with Obed-Edom, and treasuries of the king’s house, hostages also, and he returned to Samaria.”

“And Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Joash, son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. Now the rest of the deeds of Amaziah, from first to last, behold, are they not written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel? From the time that Amaziah turned away from following the Lord they conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish. But they sent after him to Lachish and put killed him there. Then they brought him on horses, buried him with his fathers in the city of Judah.”

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy inspired and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

This passage is a gigantic warning against idolatry. True worship is giving praise to our God who is the most valuable thing in this world. Idolatry is valuing anything other than the one true God more than Him and following after that false God and idolatry always leads to destruction, because we were not made to worship idols, we were made to give glory to the living and true God who created us, and we were redeemed to give glory to Him, and this great passage is a warning against idolatry and it is a picture of the destruction to which idolatry leads.

Let me walk through very quickly this story with you in each of those five parts that I’ve already pointed to. First look at verses 3 and 4. Here’s how the story begins. The story begins with Amaziah restraining his vengeance on the people who had killed his father in accordance with the law of Moses, so vengeance in verses 3 and 4 is checked by the Word of God. You see what happens. When the kingdom was firmly in his grasp, verse 3, he killed his servants who had slain the father, his king. Now that he had consolidated power around him, now he was ready to bring vengeance against the people who had killed his father and he did that, but you’re told immediately in verse 4 that he did not put their children to death, but he did as is written in the law of God, the law of Moses forbade those kinds of generational vengeances; only those who have done wickedness should die for that wickedness. Their children, their families, should not suffer their same fate for their particular crimes, and apparently Amaziah, if he had done what the kings of David were supposed to do in Jerusalem, what would have been his first act as king, writing down his own coyp of the law of God, the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, the law of Moses, and he would have read in that law that the sons are not to die for the crimes of the their fathers and apparently the reading of the law of God checked him from the vengeance that he might have taken otherwise on the families of the servants of those who had killed his father.

And yet already in this passage, look at verse 2, we’re told that Amaziah is half-hearted in his following of the Lord. It’s, it’s an interesting assessment. He did right in the sight of the Lord, and you read the passage and you say “well, he didn’t do much right in the sight of the Lord.” But here’s the assessment: He did right in the sight of the Lord yet not with a whole heart. That’s actually a gentle assessment of Amaziah. You could have put it much worse than that.

Interestingly, if you’ll turn with me over to 2 Kings chapter 14, Amaziah’s story is told there as well. And here’s how it’s put there, 2 Kings, chapter 14, verse 3: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like David, his father.”

So in Kings, over and over, the David is the plumb line. He’s the one against whom all the reigns of all the subsequent kings are measured. Did you do it like David, who was a man after God’s own heart? And yet, of course, if, if you read 2 Samuel, if you read 1 Kings, you realize that even David is a sinner, and even David does wrong, but in comparison to all the later kings, David is the plumb line.

And by the way, go down a couple of verses, look at verse 4 in 2 Kings chapter 14. The high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places, so idolatry was still a problem in Israel under Amaziah.

But the author of Chronicles is 2 Chronicles 25 verse 2 wants you to know from the very outset that his assessment of Amaziah was that he was half-hearted. He did not wholeheartedly follow the Lord, and this will be borne out in the story that he tells.

Now here’s the second section. Look at verses 5 to 13. This is interesting because it’s not found in 2 Kings 14. In 2 Kings 14 you get one verse about Amaziah’s victory over the Edomites. In 2 Chronicles 25, you get verses 5 to 13. You get this long section describing what happens when Amaziah goes after the Edomites, and I think one reason that it is here it is designed to show you Amaziah’s heart aspirations that led him wrong. It, it, I think it’s showing you the origin of his eventual idolatry and judgment in this particular aspiration to go to war against Edom.

Look at verses 5 to 13, because here we’re going to see an aspiration unchecked by the will of God that leads to a strategy that begins a ripple effect leading to disaster for Amaziah and for Judah.

Amaziah first of all gathers together and numbers his people. Now that’s always a bad sign. Remember David? David numbered the people and that was a big problem in his own time. Right? Why? The whole point is simply this: The king is supposed to trust not in chariots and horses and fighting men, but in God. So already there’s a, there’s a trust issue with Amaziah. He’s trusting in the number of fighting men that he has rather than trusting in God. He finds out that he’s got potentially 300,000 fighting men, but that’s not enough. He hires 100,000 more from Israel. And when he does, God in his kindness sends him an unnamed prophet. We’re simply told, look at verse 7, “a man of God came to him,” and basically said “don’t do it, don’t do it. Don’t make an alliance with Israel. If you make an alliance with Israel and take these soldiers into battle, you’ll lose.”

But then it’s kind of funny. Amaziah says back to him “but look, I’ve already paid all this money. I paid, I paid a lot of money for these guys.” And the prophet says “what you will get in victory will be far more than you lose by having paid those soldiers that aren’t going to fight with you now, but if you, if you take them, you’re going to lose.” And so Amaziah sends the soldiers off.

Now you’re going to see this is going to be a big problem, because the Israelite mercenaries are angered, 100 talents of silver is not a lot of money actually for that many soldiers. The way they’re going to make their money is through plunder, and so when they’re sent home, they’re mad about it, because they’ve, they’ve lost their real opportunity for, for profit and so what they end up doing, if you’ll go down to look at verse 13, is they end up plundering Judah.

Now it may just be that even though Amaziah won a great victory against the Edomites, the fact that these mercenaries from the northern kingdom sacked his own people may have made him less inclined to listen to the words of the prophets that were being spoken to him. Get the logic: Even though he wins the great victory just as the man of God tells him, his own people get sacked. And Amaziah’s thinking could have gone something like this: “Well, I did what the prophet said, and what did it get me? Three thousand of my own people killed, a lot of my villages and towns plundered.”

What should he have been thinking? “How stupid it was what I did. I, I entered into that mercenary alliance and what happened? Because of what I did, my people got killed, my cities got plundered.” But Amaziah apparently does not think of it that way. He thinks of this as something that’s due to the prophet of the Lord.

Meanwhile, look at the ferocity and the cruelty of his treatment of the Edomites. He not only kills 10,000 of them in battle, he captures 10,000 of them and throws them off of cliffs to their death. Matthew Henry says it would have been far better if he had thrown the idols of the Edomites off of the cliffs and spared the captured Edomites. But what he does is he throws these Edomites off of the cliffs.

And then if you’ll look at verses 14 to 16, he does, and this is the third section, he does something absolutely inconceivable. His idolatry is revealed in verses 14 to 16 as he worships false gods. But not just false gods, the false gods of the people who he has just conquered. The false gods of the people that he’s just beaten in battle.

You know when we see Ahaz worship the false gods of the people who have conquered him, we kind of can understand that. You know, the idea would be “well, your gods beat my God, so I’m going to worship your gods since they beat my God.” Even though that’s not what happened in the story of Ahaz. The people of the false god beat Ahaz because of his own idolatry, but here Amaziah beats the Edomites and worships their gods. It makes no sense.

Unless, maybe, he feels guilty for the violent death of his captors. And maybe he wants to avert the anger of their gods, and so he brings their gods back to Jerusalem and worships their gods in order to avert their anger.

Well, my friends, all he did was fuel the righteous wrath of the only one true and living God. Amaziah’s worship of false god is explicitly said in this passage to be the root of his destruction.

Look at verse 20: “Amaziah would not listen for it was from God that He might deliver them into the hand of Joash because they had sought the gods of Edom.”

Amaziah’s idolatry, his seeking after the gods of Edom, is the root sin that brings judgment in this passage, and you see that especially in verses 14 to 16.

Then we see a fourth scene. Look at verses 17 to 25. Now Amaziah has heard from the last prophet. He heard from a man of God in verse 7, he heard from a man of God in verse 15, a prophet of the Lord. Now as far as we know, he’s never going to hear from a prophet of the Lord again. But he still hears the Word of God, this time from the mouth of his enemy. God sends counsel to Amaziah from his enemy that would have spared his destruction if he had listened to it. And so the king of Israel says “don’t fight me, you’ll lose, and I’ll defeat you and I’ll plunder Judah.” And that is precisely what the Lord had said to him through the prophet, and he hadn’t listened to him, but, and Amaziah doesn’t listen to the king of Israel either, and that’s why we read again, look at verse 20, “Amaziah would not listen for it was from God.”

Now let me just stop right there. Isn’t it interesting that we’re told that Amaziah’s not listening was from God. What does that remind you of? It kind of reminds you of Pharaoh, doesn’t it? The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh would not let God’s people go. Why did He harden Pharaoh’s heart? To display His sovereignty and His justice on Pharaoh.

The same thing happens to Amaziah. You see, in the history that the chronicler tells you about, God is absolutely in control. The king of Israel is not off of the throne, the Davidic king is not off of the throne, and the children of Israel are not in exile, because God is not in control. The Davidic king is off of the throne and the people of God are in exile because God is in control. And Amaziah is going to be judged for his idolatry because God is in control and he uses this false aspiration, this pride that has built up in Amaziah, so that he launches against the king of Israel.

And of course what happens? He’s defeated in battle and he’s captured and he’s taken back to Samaria as a prisoner.

Then the story ends after the death of Joash, the king of Israel. Amaziah comes back to Jerusalem. But when he comes back, Uzziah is already reigning and the people don’t really want to have Amaziah back. And in fact, we’re told that for many years, from the time that Amaziah had started worshiping the false gods, a plot had been building against him. And he found out about it and he escaped about 30 miles away to Lachish, one of the defensive cities around Jerusalem, but did that spare him? No. They went and they found him there and they killed him and they brought him back and buried him with his fathers, the kings of Judah.

It’s a sad, sad story, but here’s, here’s the picture. God’s purposes come to pass and Amaziah’s idolatry finally meets its full just punishment and judgment in the end of this story when he’s killed by his own people. You see, half-heartedness never stays that way. Half-heartedness goes one of two directions: You either turn back to the Lord or you turn away fully from the lord.

And Amaziah, isn’t it sad? Look at verse 27: “From the time that Amaziah turned away from following the Lord.” You see, there, there’s the final verdict on Amaziah. Instead of turning back to the Lord, he turned away from the Lord. His half-heartedness turned into complete rejection of the Lord, turning away from the Lord.

My friends, this picture of the king’s idolatry is meant to explain to the children of Israel how did you get here? We got here because we did not worship the one true and living God.

And that is meant to be a warning to us, brothers and sisters, of what will happen to us if we turn away from the one true and living God.

Now, isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ ministry, go look at the Gospels, go look at Mark, for instance. How does Jesus’ ministry begin? It begins with announcing the coming of the kingdom of God and then what is His first message? Repent. Which means what? Turn back to God. The kingdom of God is coming. Turn back to God.

The chronicler shows you a picture of a king who has turned away from God into idolatry, judgment has come upon him, judgment has come upon God’s people, Jesus comes saying “the kingdom of God is here, repent, turn back to Him.”

It reminds us why we need a greater king than Amaziah or even David, but it also reminds us that the great battle we fight in the Christian life is the battle of idolatry, because we may never have worshipped Edomite gods, but we are all tempted to think that there is something better than God out there, and when we do, it will always lead to hard hearts, nonrepentance, and final judgment.

But if we harken to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, if we trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation as He has offered in the Gospel, if we turn away from our sin, if we turn back to God, blessing awaits.

Those are some of the lessons of this sad, sad story of Amaziah.

May God write His eternal truth on all our hearts.

Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the sober warning that we find here in Your Word, and we ask now that You would turn us back to you, that You would turn our hearts to You, and that You would enable us to worship You wholeheartedly forever in Jesus’ name. Amen.