The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Amaziah was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem.Amaziah
2 Chronicles 25
THE most remarkable feature in the character of Amaziah is his half-heartedness. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign; he reigned nine-and-twenty years, and was murdered at Lachish by conspirators. He was neither all bad nor all good. His day was made up of cloud and glory. He was neither wise nor foolish; yet he was both. He came as near as any man in history ever came to be that mysterious fountain that can send forth both sweet water and bitter.
"And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart" (2Chronicles 25:2).
That is the history of the Church in a sentence; that, too, is the history of many a man who sometimes wonders whether he will die, or live; whether he will fall over the abyss into the bottomless pit, or whether he will take wing and fly away to the gate of the morning. The Scriptures insist upon knowing and revealing the state of the heart. Everything depended upon that in the estimate of biblical judges; and everything depends upon that in the appraisement of God himself,—not what is the intellect, the head, the genius, the acquisition, the treasure held by the hand; but what is the supreme emotion, the uppermost wish, the dominating desire, the purpose that struggles through all things that embody the life. Our answer to that question settles everything. Could we have a perfect heart we should know the meaning of consecration. We are not consecrated until the heart is filled with divine fire, sanctified by divine ministry, permeated by the Holy Ghost. So we are called upon to grow, to advance, to become wiser, to add to our faith virtue, and to continue the mysterious addition until the pillar of a noble life is crowned with the capital of brotherly kindness and charity. What a marvellous thing is a double life! Men are not all insincere who are adjudged to be double-minded. There is a psychological mystery about this, as well as a spiritual enigma. Let us beware of rough-and-ready estimates of characters. Many a man wants to be good who cannot; that is to say, he cannot realise all his desire and purpose. No one can tell what he suffers; we see the things which he does, but we do not see the temptations which he has resisted; we see when he has gone one mile towards the wrong place, but if he had gone at the speed dictated by the satanic impulse which was focussed in terrific temptation, he would have been there, he would have been all the way, he would have been in the very centre of the flame. It is easy to judge men, saying how imperfect they are, how poor in knowledge, how feeble in character, how mixed in the quality of motive and purpose. Only God knows what some have to do in order to go to church at all. It is almost like winning in a wrestle with death; it will be set down among the battles of the universe which have been crowned with victory. Blessed be God, man is not judge; the Father keeps the judgment in his own hand; and with what graciousness must his face be irradiated when he sees some men moving in the direction of the sanctuary, how reluctantly soever; and when they cross the threshold, who can tell the joy that is in heaven? Judging one another thus, if we judge at all, there will be found to be many better men in the world than we have often reckoned. The statistics are all wrong that are not founded upon charity, love, comprehensiveness of feeling, yea, that sacred enthusiasm which will not let any man be outside who can possibly be brought within. "In my Father's house are many mansions"—many compartments, many chambers, many provinces; they have not all the same aspect or the same garden-land, they do not all accommodate the same wealth of summer; still they are included within the golden circle, and men may grow out of them up into higher possessions—for heaven is but another name for progress.
Amaziah being thus double-minded felt the less difficulty in working out a certain law:—
"Now it came to pass, when the kingdom was established [or, the sovereignty (power) was confirmed] to him, that he slew his servants that had killed the king his father [After establishing his own government he punished the murderers of his father with death; but, according to the law in Deuteronomy 24:16, he did not slay their children also, as was commonly the custom in the East in ancient times, and may very frequently have been done in Israel as well.—Keil]. But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin" (2Chronicles 25:3-4).
Here we find two opposing forces—revenge on the one side, and forbearance on the other. It is here that human criticism so often fails. It is hard not to deal one blow at the son as well as the father. It is almost impossible to distinguish between the one and the other. It requires divine faculty to discriminate, and to use a sword with fineness of justice. Who has not been offended with the son because of something the father has done? Who has not renounced the whole family because one member of it has been found guilty of offence? God doth not thus judge us. He has one in a house, and two in a family, and three in a commonwealth; he will not confound the wise and the unwise, the good and the bad; as he hath himself two hands, so he will make two divisions—on the one side shall be the sheep, and on the other the goats, and he will prepare for the destiny of each. Our criticism is rough; we condemn whole nations. If we find that a man who has done something wrong belongs to a certain nationality, we simply send the whole nation down to the bottomless pit. Again, blessed be God, man is not the judge. He will, with fingers of justice that cannot mistake, take the sister from the side of the brother; two women shall be grinding, the one shall be taken, and the other left; yea, two shall be in one bed, and one shall be taken and the other left; it is in this discrimination, this individualisation of judgment, that God shows the fulness of his wisdom and the majesty of his sovereignty. Observe how all this is declared and established in the law of Moses, which is in very deed the law of God. The Lord has trained men by certain dispensations to the use of this very criticism which is so easily abused. "The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers." When the Lord laid down that law he taxed human forbearance to the uttermost. It may not seem to be so in reality, but test the matter by human consciousness and by human action. Have we not wronged whole families? Have we not often thrown in the child as if he were part of the father, and let both be crushed by the mill of revenge? When a man is in hot blood it is difficult to stop with the death of the father: another life would gratify him; he is mad enough to slay a whole house now, and if he should strike the whole family with the sword he will explain himself by a reference to his ill-temper at the moment,—as if ill-temper could ever excuse or mitigate any offence! But it is just thus, by calling a sudden Halt! that God educates men to self-control, to nobleness of conduct, and trains them to distinguish between justice and injustice—justice precisely administered, and justice roughly dealt out. It is in the fineness of the discrimination that we reveal the extent of our spiritual education.
A most gracious word is the last in the fourth verse, "Every man shall die for his own sin": literally, Every man shall die in his own sin. Where, then, the foolish law that says a man shall die because somebody has sinned; that is to say, shall die eternally, and never know the joy of forgiveness, because some man has somewhere at some time offended against God? One thing we cannot help: every man suffers when any one connected with him sins. No one can help the working of that law. It is a beneficent institution. From some points of view it seems to be severe, but the severity of one aspect is the beneficence of another. No man can do good and keep all the issue of it to himself. If sometimes we would slay the son because the father has been bad, at other times we welcome the son to hospitality because the father was a brave, chivalrous soul to us in the days of the wilderness and in the storms of the winter. For thy father's sake, we say, come in, and tarry long: would God he were with thee at this moment, for then the joy of thy presence would be doubled! The way of the Lord is equal. He has not a motion of one hand only. The Lord is, so to say, ambidextrous; if he deals severely he also will deal graciously:—"God is a consuming fire:" "God is love": who can connect those two sentences? Yet they are connected, and in their union they make up a complete revelation of the most high God. When it comes to a question of eternal destiny every man stands upon his own feet. "Every one of us shall give account of himself to God." No one is judged for another. Why, then, this repining, this impious criticism, about being damned because Adam sinned? "Every man shall die for his own sin." Yet there is the law, and we cannot explain it away, and the bedizening of our fancy comes off like an ill plaster ill laid on. The father cannot sin, and the son be unscathed. The curse that falls from the father's lips blights the little flower that blooms at his feet. We can only relieve ourselves in the presence of such mysteries by saying that the blessing which falls from the father's tongue settles like dew on the flower of his house; the child is blessed because of the father's goodness.
Again we see how double-minded was Amaziah by reading 2Chronicles 25:5-10 :—
5. Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and made them captains over thousands [rather, arranged them by the houses of their fathers under captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds], and captains over hundreds, according to the houses of their fathers, throughout all Judah and Benjamin; and he numbered them from twenty years old and above [compare Numbers 1:3; 1Chronicles 27:23. Twenty was regarded as the military age], and found them three hundred thousand [Asa's army had been nearly twice as numerous (ch. 2Chronicles 14:8). The great diminution of force must be ascribed to the Edomite, Arabian, Philistine, and Syrian wars (ch. 2Chronicles 21:8-16; 2Chronicles 24:23-24), and in part to the general decadence of the kingdom, attributable mainly to moral causes] choice men, able to go forth to war, that could handle spear and shield.
6. He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel [from the northern kingdom] for an hundred talents of silver.
7. But there came a man of God to him, saying, O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel, to wit, with all the children of Ephraim.
8. But if thou wilt go [But go thou alone, act, be strong for the battle; God shall then not make thee to fail] do it, be strong for the battle: God shall make thee fall before the enemy: for God hath power to help, and to cast down.
9. And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army [troops] of Israel? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.
10. Then Amaziah separated them, to wit, the army that was come to him out of Ephraim, to go home again: wherefore their anger was greatly kindled against Judah, and they returned home in great anger.
He was going to war, so he hired a hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel for a hundred talents of silver—say, forty thousand pounds of our money. All his arrangements were made, but they were stopped—"There came a man of God to him, saying, O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee: for the Lord is not with Israel, to wit, with all the children of Ephraim. But if thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle: God shall make thee fall before the enemy."
The best critics say that a word has been omitted there, and that we should read—"God shall not make thee fall before the enemy." So the reading must be thus: If thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle: God hath power to help, and to cast down; he will be with thee in this, but he does not want thee to go; he will not leave thee defenceless, but he wishes thee to hold thine hand from this alliance and this battle. Or it may be read precisely as we find it in the text: If thou wilt go, do it, make thyself as strong as possible for the battle: but when thou hast strengthened thyself at every point God shall touch thee, and thy knees shall melt, and the strength of thy muscles shall be as molten lead. But, said the king, what am I to do? I have invested a hundred talents: what about the money? I have committed myself, the money is already paid: what do you say to that? The man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this: let the money go; better obey the divine law than follow the issue of money that was spent without calculation and without judgment. That is grand advice! It applies to every living man. Who does not say, But I have money in it; I have money risked upon it; if I could have the money returned I should willingly obey the law, but I have gone so far, and therefore I must go farther? Such is the foolish reasoning of men; yea, they have turned this reasoning into a proverb, and laughed over their own epigrammatic cleverness; they have said, "As well be hung for a sheep as a lamb;" "In for a penny in for a pound:" we have signed the document, we have deposited the money; how can we go back? This was precisely the position of Amaziah. How few people like to forfeit the deposit! Yet in saving the deposit they may lose the sum-total. The reasoning of the man of God turned into modern language would run thus:—Better suffer a little loss than the loss of everything; better endure the wrath of man than the wrath of God; the first loss may be the best loss; no man ever yet obeyed the right and did the good without God finding bread and water for him as long as bread and water were needed; and even if there were no promise of bread and water, do the right. The true gain is the gain of self-approval, not in any sense of vanity, but in the highest moral sense, gaining the glad conviction that all life has been guided by one light, inspired by one motive, and directed to one issue. What a part "the man of God" plays in all this tragedy of life! We meet him at unexpected corners. Why has the Lord instituted this ministry? How it troubles the conscience, how it interferes with the easy working of plans, how it causes disquiet and bubbling and foaming upon the fluency of an otherwise oily course! This man of God is always importing into human counsels great moral judgments, calling men to be measured by spiritual standards; he is a "theorist," an "enthusiast:" but for him we could enjoy the feast. Yet there he is— hated. Still there is a fascination about him all but irresistible. We want to see him and to hear him, and we are not easy until we know his mind; but every word he says strikes us like a dagger. How comfortably society would proceed but for this rough, hairy, shaggy man, coming up from the wilderness, leaving his banquet there that he may trouble our feast here! He lives on locusts and wild honey, and he so digests them as to turn them into the strongest manhood that fears nothing and that would as soon snub a king as a peasant. We cannot all live on locusts and wild honey. The meat we eat turns to timidity: the meat he eats turns to lion. He says to kings, "You are wrong;" to the proud drunken ruler, "It is not lawful for thee to have her." The king says to him, "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" There is the man of God, sometimes mighty in prayer, sometimes mighty in judgment, sometimes ruthless in criticism, coming down upon compacts and treaties and alliances with a crushing and tremendous power that grinds everything to powder. We plead with him, and say, What about the hundred talents of silver? And he spurns forty thousand pounds as if they were forty thousand feathers. He has no money of his own; there is no bank in the wilderness; there is no stock-taking in the rocks. We cannot awe him by forty thousand times forty thousand, for he knows nothing about arithmetic. Yet there he is! Such are the miracles of God. What a comfortable house we could have but for the Bible! Even if we neglect it, it becomes a judgment. We cannot shut it respectfully; we cannot hide it, for it has a way of rubbing the dust off itself, and uttering mute claims. The bad man never opened the Bible at a pleasant place: whenever he opened the Bible he burnt his fingers, saying, "There is fire there!" There are moral influences in life, judgments, criticisms, standards; there are voices that are only whispers, but they are whispers that chill the marrow. Amaziah consented. It was to be as the man of God had said; and when he detached himself from the evil alliance he came from the slaughter of the Edomites, and "brought the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them." Here we have the double-minded man again. Yesterday he obeyed, and to-day he disobeyed; a week ago he listened to the voice from heaven, and seven days after he brought a whole houseful of gods up from Pagandom, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them; and if they had been gods with the slightest grain of intelligence they would have laughed at the fool. Our life runs precisely upon these lines. It is not for us to sneer at the old king of Judah. On Sunday we sing hymns, and on Wednesday we cheat the unwary, and when they close the door of the place of business we smile at them; then on Thursday we sing another hymn. Human life is all double. We are body and soul; outside and inside; carcases that can be weighed and spirits that can fly.
"Wherefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against Amaziah, and he sent unto him a prophet, which said unto him, Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand?" (2Chronicles 25:15).
This is the ruthless mockery of righteousness. God always accuses the sinner of being foolish. Said he to Amaziah: "The gods you have stolen could not deliver their own people: what good can they be to you? "The sinner is a bad logician; the sinner is not only a criminal, he is a fool. How God crushes this poor king!—"Why hast thou sought after the gods of the people, which could not deliver their own people out of thine hand?" Sin will not bear cross-examination. The sinner makes a bad figure in the witness-box. We have only to listen to him, and we have no need of further evidence. Subpoena no witness, and ask for no other affidavit; let the man tell his own tale, and when he has done you will say that he has made out a case against himself to which there is no answer. Spirit of the living God, pity us! Who can stand in judgment? God be merciful unto me a sinner! Do not ask me any questions. Give me standing-room at the cross. If I may but touch the hem of the Sufferer's garment I shall be healed!
Thou only, O blessed One, art the fountain of joy. Thou hast invited us to come to the fountain and be satisfied with the gladness of God. An open way hast thou provided, even Jesus Christ thy Son, who himself declares thy love and reveals the fulness of thy resources, and bids us welcome to the river of God, which is full of water. Thou canst make all men glad, if they will be made glad. But some are sullen, obstinate, self-willed, yea, the children thou hast nourished and brought up have rebelled against thee, and have fallen below the ass and the ox, which know their masters and do their will. Come to us still in tenderness and pity and love; cast us not away in thy wrath; for when thou dost cast men away, who can find them again? We cannot tell where thou dost cast the apostate—behind thy back: but who can measure the distance from the light? We mourn, we wonder, we pray that our souls may not come into that secret. We would stand before God's face and be blessed with the light of his benediction, inspired and comforted by all the tenderness of his heart. That we have such a desire is a proof that thou hast not forsaken us, for as thou dost make the field fruitful so dost thou make the human heart to respond to all thy goodness. Surely we should be blind if we denied the presence of thy care and love and activity in all the scheme of life which comes under our review? We ourselves are living monuments of thy goodness; thou hast put our bones together, and strung our sinews, and set our heart a-pulsing. Behold, we did not make ourselves. We are the work of thy hands, and not the work of our own invention. We can destroy, but we cannot create; we can take down the temple, but in three days we cannot build it again. We work under God: there is one builder: we are but fellow-labourers with God. Help us, therefore, to look to the Creator for redemption and sanctification, for the completion of his own work in brightness and beauty and glory. Thou wilt not leave the tower half-built; thou wilt not forsake the work of thine own hands; thou wilt not turn thy back upon us, and thus plunge us into infinite night. Our hope is in the living God; our sin shall not separate us for ever from our Father, for the blood of Jesus Christ thy Son cleanseth us from all sin. May we read thy Providence aright; may we know that thou art training us for some purpose; may we understand that when thou dost quicken our faculty it is for use; when thou dost enlarge our outlook it is that we may be inspired to do more work; when thou dost gladden us with peculiar vision it is that we may be assured that the tabernacle of God is with men upon the earth. Pity our poor little lives; they seem to be on the surface, so much so that a footstep could crush them. Pity our erring hearts; they find a kind of intermediate joy in serving the devil. We are fearfully and wonderfully made: we do not drink the cup to the dregs, but we drink much of it, and it is in very deed sweet to our taste. God forbid that we should drink the death portion. Stand by us; give us a light above the brightness of the sun to shine upon the mystery of our life; and lead us, past every temptation, past the dwelling-place of the serpent, past the black river which we call death, and land us all in heaven. This prayer we say in the name of Jesus—name to sinners dear. Amen.