This chapter is something like an oasis in our history, and was perhaps such in the real life of Asa also. Presumably it covers a period of some twenty years. Reading between the lines, and indeed chapters, we may very well suppose that the mission of "Azariah son of Oded" to Asa now was one of all mercy. Great salvation had been shown to him and his people, and as time went on they might forget the Saviour, and imagine the work was all their own. Moreover, their own proper work had tarried, and beside caution and humility (in season for him as a returning conqueror-king, verse 2), Asa needed stimulus; perhaps the Lord's loving-kindness knew that he needed every kindly encouragement. For there are not wanting signs that he was before his people, and felt the drag of them upon him as Moses himself did. These are the features of the physical geography, so to say, of the chapter, which comprises the rousing warning of Azariah the prophet (verses 1-7); Asa's renewal of the altar in its own structure, and in worthy sacrifices upon it (verses 8-11); his and his people's hearty reconsecration of themselves (verses 12-15); and his own personal, practical carrying out of reform, though his people apparently did not keep pace with him (verses 16-19).
2 Chronicles 15:1
The Spirit of God came. For "came," read the literal Hebrew "was," as also in our 2 Chronicles 20:14, where instead of "God" ( אְלֶהִים ), we find "the Lord" ( יְהֹוָה ). In our 2 Chronicles 24:20, we have again "God," with the verb "clothed" ( לָבְשָׁה ). The grand original of the expression is, of course, found in Genesis 1:2, where the name is "God." Compare Pharaoh's question in Genesis 41:38; Exodus 31:3; Exodus 35:31; Numbers 24:2; 3:1; 6:34 (the verb "clothed" is used in this last); five other times in Judges we have the Spirit of the Lord; in Samuel six times, and "the Spirit of God" another six times; in Kings, three times "the Spirit of the Lord." These passages exhibit incontestably the function, and the manifold function, of the Spirit! Azariah the son of Oded. The Vulgate and Alexandrian Septuagint read here simply Oded; and Movers has suggested that "Oded the son of Azariah" is the correct reading for what now stands in the text; these are contrivances to meet the difficulty which the eighth verse occasions, and they are not so simple certainly as the proposal of Keil and Bertheau (following the Arabic Version) to omit altogether from verse 8 the repetition of the name of the prophet, under the plea that the words, "of Oded the prophet," may so conceivably be owing to a copyist's meddlesome marginal reminiscence of verse 1. It would have been, perhaps, a yet simpler method of overcoming the difficulty to account that the words, "Azariah the son of," had through a copy error slipped out of the text, except that the previous word, "the prophecy," is not in the construct state, and this favours Keil and Bertheau's suggestion (see our 2 Chronicles 9:29), or rather the suggestion of the Arabic Version, which before them omits the words, "of Oded the prophet." The Vatican Septuagint has the readings in beth verses as Englished in the Authorized Version. Some think Oded may be one with Iddo of 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22; pointing out that the Hebrew characters would permit it, if we suppose a vav added to the name Oded. This conjectural attempt to give this Prophet Azariah for son to Iddo seems to gain no great point. Of this Azariah nothing else is known; he is described as "son of Oded" probably to distinguish him from Azariah the high priest, son of Johanan (see Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 1.142, second column, 3). (For the rest on this subject, see note on verse 8.)
2 Chronicles 15:2
He went out to meet him; literally, into his presence; but the Authorized Version rendering is very correct, as well as happy in expression (see 1 Chronicles 14:8; also see the remarkable and interesting verse, 2 Chronicles 28:9). The prophet was the leader, the teacher, the suggester of the right and opportune thing to the people, but to the prophet the Lord himself was Leader, Teacher, Prompter, and it was exactly so now. To the very moment, the quickened moment of new thought and for new deed, divinest instruction and suggestion are ministered. The Lord is with you … will forsake you. The original occasion of the beautiful language and word of covenant in the heart of this second part of the verse is enshrined in Deuteronomy 4:29 (see also 1 Chronicles 28:9; 2 Chronicles 24:20; Jeremiah 29:11-14). It is just conceivable that these words by themselves are what are designated "the prophecy" (and "the prophecy") in Deuteronomy 4:8. They may be in the first place regarded as ancient quotations. They are also characterized by a certain self-containedness and weightiness of matter as compared with the historic illustrations of the following four verses. No corroborative external evidence of this conjecture, however, is forthcoming.
2 Chronicles 15:3
Now for a long season. This translation is wrong; translate rather first, And many the days to Israel to not have true God, and to not have teaching priest, and to not have Law. So far no tense is limited, however naturally through the very drift of the passage it may seem that experience is being challenged, and so necessarily the past tense desiderated, not, however, in aorist shape, but in what some French grammarians call present perfect. For Azariah may well contemplate his illustration as good from long of old, to the very moment he was speaking. The unfortunate wealth of illustration to hand of his position may pardon the doubtfulness of commentators as to the source from which it may be supposed he would have drawn his most effective instances. It will not be the unlikeliest guide to follow the triple description of the alleged apostasy, misfortune, or iniquity "of Israel," e.g. (say) it happened to them to not have the true God; happened to them to not have teaching priest; happened to them to not have the Law (this meaning, to not have it authoritatively proclaimed, taught, ministered). When did these three things happen altogether most notoriously? They describe, not the transgressions of an individual king, but the state of the people and kingdom as a whole. If it were possible to conceive the description as a flagrant anachronism, a retrospective post-Captivity amplification, which the writer (in his glow of work and thought) was unconsciously and irresistibly betrayed into putting into the lips of the Prophet Azariah, all doubt would end; for the description would suit no state of things and no period better than that of the divided kingdoms, especially applying to the career of the separate kingdom of Israel. Our account, unfortunately, is unchecked just here by a parallel. It is, however, impossible to suppose this without any tittle of external authority for it, much less enough to proceed upon. Some so crave the illustration that they are prepared to suppose all the tenses of these verses present and future rather than past and "present perfect." But, in fact, no doubt the history of Israel since the death of Moses illustrated the language of Azariah passim to a degree beyond all "that is written" or that we know. And then we may certainly consider theft the expression chosen, "many days" (which some translate "many a day," "many a time "), even the word "years" not being employed, leaves it open to us to go to short episodes of an irreligious and disastrous character in the history of Israel. Lastly, the long stretch of fully three hundred years, extending throughout the Book of Judges (its last five chapters in right order or wrong)into the opening seven chapters of 1 Samuel, provides one running comment, superabundant almost to repetitiousness, for the illustration of our verses 3-7; in many cases absolutely picking out the very colours to match (e.g. 5:6; 20:29, 20:31, compared with our 20:5). To distinguish and separate the very numerous references that might be made is merely supererogatory, and spoils the unmatched mosaic work of the history ( 2:15, 2:18, 2:19; 3:12-15; 4:1-3; 5:6, 5:19-21, 5:31 : 6:1-5, 6:7-10; 9:32-37; 10:6-16; 11:19, 11:20; 12:5, 12:6; 17:5, 17:6, 17:13; 20:29, 20:31; 1 Samuel 2:30 -35; 1 Samuel 4:9-22; 1 Samuel 7:3, 1 Samuel 7:8; 1 Samuel 13:19-22). It is a long-stretched-out history of a practically atheistic, priest-less, lawless life; divided into narratives of invasion, oppression, servitude, smart, cry for help manifestly more the cry of pain and cowardice than of penitence and repentance, resolution and vow, and—for another trial and still another—of Divine pity, forbearance, and deliverance
2 Chronicles 15:6
Among other patent instances, not the least remarkable are found in 20:35-45; 9:44-47; these forecast and heralded that final rupture of Rehoboam and Jeroboam, which showed the "house divided against itself," and the sure consequences thereof.
2 Chronicles 15:7
Work … rewarded (so Jeremiah 31:16; Ecclesiastes 4:9; Proverbs 11:18; and compare with them the crown of all the rest, Genesis 15:1).
2 Chronicles 15:8
These words and the prophecy. In addition to what is said under 2 Chronicles 15:1 on the question of the occurrence here of the name Oded, where we should have looked for the name Azariah, it may be noted that it is open to possibility that "these words" certainly referring to the language of Azariah, the "prophecy" may have in view some quotation more or less well known from Oded, satisfied by the latter part of verse 2 or By verse 7. This is not very likely; still, the conjunction "and" would thereby better account for itself. Nevertheless, it would still remain that the word "prophecy" is not in construct but absolute state, and we cannot count the difficulty removed, comparatively unimportant as it may be. He took courage, and put away, etc. These words may express either Asa's accomplishing of the reforms spoken of in the former chapter (verses 3-5), or quite as probably his perseverance and renewed diligence and vigour in the same; the language, "he took courage," favours this latter view. The cities which he had taken from, etc. Some say that the reference here and in 2 Chronicles 17:2 also must be understood to be to Abijah's victory and spoils (2 Chronicles 13:19), and that these two places must accordingly be in slight error. If this passage had stood alone, this view might have been more easy to accept, but the words in 2 Chronicles 17:2 explicitly state that Asa had taken such cities, and the mere fact that the history does not record when, nor even show any very convenient gap into which Asa's taking of such cities after conflict with Israel might well fit in, can scarcely be allowed to override the direct assertion of 2 Chronicles 17:2. At the same time, the work that would devolve on Asa in holding the cities his father Abijah had first taken, may easily account for all, and have been accounted Asa's taking, in the sense of taking to them, or retaking them. Renewed the altar. The altar, the place of which was before the porch, was the altar of burnt offering. The Hebrew for "renewed" is חִדֵּשׁ . The Vulgate translates insufficiently dedicavit. Bertheau thinks the renewal designs simply the purification of it from idolatrous defilements, although he admits that this is to assume that it had been defiled by idolatrous priests. Keil says the altar might well need genuine repair after the lapse of sixty years from the building of the temple. Of the nine occurrences of the word. five are metaphorical(as e.g. Psalms 51:10), but of the remaining four distinctly literal uses, including the present, three must mean just strictly "repair" (2 Chronicles 24:4, 2 Chronicles 24:12; Isaiah 61:4), and the probability may therefore be that such is the meaning now. Many, however, prefer the other view. The work of Ass, as described in 2 Chronicles 14:3-5, was one of taking away, breaking down, and cutting down; but this item shows it now, in his fifteenth year, become also one of renewing. and repairing. The porch of (so 2 Chronicles 29:17; 1 Kings 7:6, 1 Kings 7:7, 1 Kings 7:12; Ezekiel 40:7); איּלָם, though in construct state, the kametz impure.
2 Chronicles 15:9
He gathered. As the following verses go on to show, Ass wisely gathered all beneath his sway, with a view to sacrifice and to record anew hallowed resolve as a nation. The strangers. It is a significant comment on the estranging effect of religious schism (for the schism was religious even beyond what it was national) that so comparatively soon these of the tribes of Israel should have become called "strangers" by the side of Judah and Benjamin. They fell to him … in abundance. Another significant comment on the sameness of human nature in all time; the weak and the multitude will see, learn, do duty, less under pure conviction of right, than under the strong commanding influence of observation of where and with whom success goes, even if that success necessitate the owning of the Divine blessing as its cause (2 Chronicles 11:16 and 1 Chronicles 12:19). It should be noted, not for the sake of satire of human nature, but for the inculcation of the infinite importance of godly influence and example. Out of Simeon (see also 2 Chronicles 34:6). The "lines" of the Simeonites fell to them originally (Joshua 19:1) within Judah. The difficulty suggested by their being called, apparently, "strangers," and being certainly classed with the comers from "Ephraim and Manasseh," may be variously overcome, either by supposing that they had become more estranged from Judah in religious position than it was possible to them to have become in merely geographical; or that they had in some degree outgrown their own proper habitat, and had to some extent colonized a more northerly region (Genesis 49:7); or that, though, indeed, our compiler's composition undoubtedly places the Simeonites summoned, among the strangers, through mentioning them after Ephraim and Manasseh, yet this location of their name be held accidental, rather than due to special design.
2 Chronicles 15:10
In the third month. The "Feast of Weeks" began about the sixth of this third month Sivan. In the fifteenth year. It has been conjectured from 2 Chronicles 14:1 that Zerah the Ethiopian, or Cushite, invaded Judah in Asa's eleventh year. The present sacrificial festival, in his fifteenth year, evidently was held very shortly after the close of Asa's victory over Zerah This infers a rather longer duration of the war than is otherwise to be gathered from the face of the history. The interval, it is true, may be explained by supposing that Ass lingered long to restore the state of things where Zerah's vast host had unsettled it.
2 Chronicles 15:11
These offerings were probably chiefly of the nature of peace offerings (Le 2 Chronicles 7:11-21). In the mention of the "spoil" (2 Chronicles 14:13, 2 Chronicles 14:15) nothing is said of oxen. Seven hundred … seven thousand. The number seven is common when the sacrifices were in units (as e.g. Numbers 29:32; 1 Chronicles 15:26, etc.), but uncommon in hundreds and thousands, for see 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 35:7-9, comparing, however, 2 Chronicles 30:24.
2 Chronicles 15:12
They entered into a covenant. For the original, see Exodus 24:6-8; Deuteronomy 4:29; for two other solemn renewals of it, see 2 Kings 23:1-3; 2 Chronicles 34:29-33; where, however, the stringent engagement of the following verse, though sufficiently to be inferred, is not notified. To seek; Hebrew, לִדְרוֹשׁ . (for similar use of לְ, with infinitive after, etc; see Nehemiah 10:30; Jeremiah 34:10).
2 Chronicles 15:13
Whosoever would not … should be put to death (see Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13:9; Deuteronomy 17:2-6).
2 Chronicles 15:14
The loud voice, the shouting, and the trumpets, and cornets, spoke alike the determination, and the united joyful determination of the people (2 Chronicles 23:13; Nehemiah 12:27, Nehemiah 12:42, Nehemiah 12:43).
2 Chronicles 15:15
For the probable duration of the rest round about, spoken of in the last clause, see under 2 Chronicles 15:19.
2 Chronicles 15:16
Maachah the mother of Asa; i.e. the grandmother (2 Chronicles 11:20-22; 2 Chronicles 13:2; 1 Kings 15:2, 1 Kings 15:10, 1 Kings 15:13) of Asa; and the statement amounts to this, that Asa removed her from the dignity she had enjoyed, with all its influences of "queen-mother." An idol in a grove. This, probably, literally translated, says, an hideous fright for, i.e. in place of Asherah, i.e. Ashtoreth, or Astarte; but some translate to Asherah. The word we translate "an hideous fright" ( מִפְלָצֶת ) occurs only here and in the parallel (1 Kings 15:13), and its derivation root guides to this rendering; but some give it the idea of an object of reverent fear among idols. Asa cut down. So it was enjoined (Exodus 34:13-15). And stamped it; Hebrew, וַיָּדֶק ; hiph. of דָקַק; the meaning being "stamped it" in the dust, from its upright position, finally burning it. The word is used in 2 Chronicles 34:4, 2 Chronicles 34:7; 2 Kings 23:6, 2 Kings 23:15; Exodus 30:36; Micah 4:13. The word used in the parallel is "cut off;" or "cut down; of course also preparatory to burning. At the brook Kidron. The Kidron was a torrent rather than a brook. It flowed between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, and finally emptied itself into the Dead Sea. The references to Kidron in the Old Testament are interesting, hut all reinvested with heightened interest from those in the New Testament. The first two references in the Old Testament are 2 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 2:37. Passing these, the present place, with its parallel, brings the Kidren valley next under notice as, the place of destruction for Maachah's obscene phallic abomination, and then (2 Kings 11:16) as the place where Athalish was destroyed. Its associations are similar when spoken of in 2 Kings 13:4, 2 Kings 13:6, 2 Kings 13:12; 2 Chronicles 29:16; 2 Chronicles 30:14, becoming the "regular receptacle for the impurities and abominations of the idol-worship, when removed from the temple and destroyed by the adherents of Jehovah." In the time of Josiah, this valley was the common burying-place of the city (2 Kings 23:6; Jeremiah 26:23; Jeremiah 31:40). (For Robinson's description of the modern state of the Kidron valley, see Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 2.14-16).
2 Chronicles 15:17
The high places were not taken away out of Israel. It is possible, but scarcely tenable, that, by Israel, the northern kingdom may be here intended. But for the apparent discrepancy with those places which say that Asa did take away "the high places" (2 Chronicles 14:3, 2 Chronicles 14:5), see notes under them, and §7. 1, pp. 16; 17; of 'Introduction to 1 Chronicles.' "The high places" were hills on which sacrifices were illegitimately offered instead of at the chosen place—at Jerusalem. The heart of Asa was perfect all his days. The words, "with Jehovah," following after the word "perfect" in the parallel (1 Kings 15:17), makes the already plain plainer. The exact meaning is that Asa was consistently free from idolatry to the end.
2 Chronicles 15:18
Except for an unimportant difference of the Keri and Chethiv kind in one word, this verse is identical with the parallel (1 Kings 15:15). The silver, gold, and vessels were, of course, for the repair, restoration, and replacing of the revered fittings and ornaments of the temple. From what sources and after what victories the father of Asa and Asa himself had drawn these supplies is not given either here or in the parallel, but it is natural to suppose that Abijah's victory over Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:16) and Asa's over Zerah would have been the chief occasions to finnish them.
2 Chronicles 15:19
There was no more war. The Hebrew text should be adhered to, which simply says, there was not war unto, etc The five and thirtieth year. There can be little doubt that the text originally said "twentieth," not "thirtieth" (see also 2 Chronicles 16:1-14.-1). The parallel, after the identical words Of the previous verse already noted, goes on emphatically to speak of the fact that "there was war between Asa and Baasha all their days;" and the same statement is repeated in the thirty-second verse of the same chapter (1 Kings 15:16, 1 Kings 15:32). The following verse (33) says that Baasha's twenty-four-year reign began in Asa's third year. Putting the various and apparently somewhat varying statements together, they must be held to say, first, that a state of war was, indeed, chronic between Asa and Baasha (which way of putting need not disturb the correctness of 2 Chronicles 14:5, 2 Chronicles 14:6, and of the fifteenth verse of our chapter), but that in the six and twentieth year of Asa, which would be the last or last but one of Baasha's life, latent war gave place to active hostilities, and Baasha (2 Chronicles 16:1) came up to Judah to invade it, and to build Ramah—a course of conduct which was the beginning of the end for him.
2 Chronicles 15:1-19
The hour of happiness improved.
Perhaps we are not warranted to say that it was immediately after Asa's victory over Zerah, or able to say how soon it was after it, that Azariah the son of Oded came with his message to him and "all Judah and Benjamin," under that direct and ever-typical leading of "the Spirit." Nor does the parallel enlighten us on this point. The history, however, here follows on with the account of Azariah's appearance to Asa, and gives us the impression that it was at a certain favourable crisis, in happy quickened hours, due to the fresh memories of the divinely given victory, the manifest and most merciful interposition of Heaven, that the prophet came. Coming, he did thus the very thing the prophet is ever ordained to do. He breaks in on the lower life, on the life prone to forget, on the life able enough nevertheless to take higher ground and onward action, and reminds it, in plainest fidelity and undoubting firmness of speech, of such great realities as these.
I. ITS ABIDING PRIVILEGE—GOD'S DWELLING PRESENCE, HIS CONSTANTLY RESIDENT PRESENCE, HIS HABITUAL INDWELLING, ON THE ONE SUPPOSITION AND CONDITION OF HIS PEOPLE'S ALLEGIANCE. "The Lord is with you, while ye be with him." It is a simple, powerful, ever-necessary reminder for the earliest, opening intelligence of the baptized; for the unfolding, growing, intelligent piety of the confirmed; for the devoutness and all the trembling awe of the communicant; and for all the Church, individually or collectively, in the dangerous, doubtful, fickle, forgetful, tempted course of human life. He is faithful, his mercies fail not, his memory is ever fresh, punctual and to be relied upon, and—wonderful assurance to lay to heart—it is not we who have to wait for him!
II. ITS PERPETUAL OPPORTUNITY—THE OPPORTUNITY OF OBTAINING, SIMPLY FOR THE SEEKING, DIVINE INTERPOSITION. Life and human character need and have the special and occasional as well as the abiding and daily, the exceptional as well as the familiar, hill and valley as well as the level way, dark trial and deep grief as well as the wonted discipline of earth for imperfect creatures, joys as well as peace, and in a word abounding vouchsafements of grace and strength, as well as the unbroken stream of day after day.
III. ITS TREMBLING DANGER—THE DANGER OF BEING FORSAKEN OF ITS CHIEF GOOD, THROUGH FORSAKING ITS GOD. HOW lightly men treat the love which is most sensitive as well as most needed—liable to be grieved, offended, quenched, or absent none can tell how long, as none can tell where the sin and the folly that drove that love, shall cease to drive their victim! To be forsaken of God is absolutely the worst forsakenness, the dreariest solitariness, the poorest poverty. And the sentence, "Let him alone," or "Let them alone," how its echoes wander and trail—sometimes endlessly I
IV. ITS SUPREME EXERTION OF ENERGY. There are times, and there are enterprises, where no outer energy, no inner devotion, can be misplaced. Resolution, courage, and covenant, mutual exhortation, meeting together, edifying one another, and "the speaking oft to one another" on the part of them "that fear the Lord," vowing to the Lord and praying to him, and praising him with singing and music, and "with all the heart, and all the desire," "putting away the idols, stamping them to dust, and burning them," "renewing the altar and renewing ever the sacrifices thereof,"—this enthusiasm becomes certain occasions and spreads a holy contagion. The life that is devoid of it has missed its way and its joy on earth even; the lives that are destitute of it have doomed themselves. Other associations, other bonds, other enterprises, may make them sport, but can scarcely fail in the very act to make them their sport! Now, Asa and his people had found and were following the better way; and oh that such a heart may continue in them! Grateful, happy, and inspirited hours of life were used by the prophet and the king and his people for thinking greater things, resolving on greater things, and carrying them into execution. They should be similarly utilized by us. In hours uplifted by genuine healthful happiness, in periods of higher feeling and tone of thought, we should gladly seize the opportunity to raise the standard of our own conduct, and then fix the standard to which to work, and from which, even in lower mood, we shall, of God's help, not depart.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 15:1, 2 Chronicles 15:2
God's presence and departure.
It is characteristic of the Hebrew prophet that as the king comes back flushed with victory he meets the conqueror, not with honied words of congratulation, but with faithful words of admonition. What he says to the king may be taken as applicable to the servant of God generally.
I. A PROPHETIC CONFIRMATION OF THE GOOD MAN'S EXPERIENCE. "Jahve was with you (has given you the victory) because ye were with him (held to him)" (Keil). So far fidelity to Jehovah had proved to be the condition of prosperity. Under his banner they had marched to victory; while they were true to him, he had been in the midst of them, and had been there to bless them. This is the common, indeed the constant, experience of the good. The service of God is always a success. It means rest of soul at all times; it means calmness and a wise joy in prosperity; it means resignation and comfort in the time of trouble; it means strength for duty and courage for temptation; it means excellency in life and hope in death. To be with God in the sense and spirit of self-surrender to his will is to have his gracious presence with us, shedding light and gladness on our path. This is the testimony of the good.
II. A PROPHETIC PROMISE OF THE GOOD MAN'S HERITAGE. "If ye seek him, he will be found of you." Behind us is a part (larger or smaller) of our life, and we thank God for all that he has been to us as we have held on our way. But before us is another portion; it may be a very serious, it may be even a critical, passage of our life. We shall want not only our own resources at their best, and the kindest and wisest succour of our friends, but the near presence and effective aid of our heavenly Father. We shall want his guidance, that we may know the path we should take; his guardianship, that we may be preserved from the wrong-doings, from the errors and mistakes, into which we shall otherwise be betrayed; his illumination, that we may tightly discharge our duties and rise to the height of our opportunities; his sustaining grace, that we may bear ourselves bravely and meekly in the day of our adversity and defeat. All this we shall have if we seek it truly. And that means if we seek it
III. I PROPHETIC WARNING OF THE GOOD MAN'S DANGER. "If ye forsake him, he will forsake you."
1. There is a practical danger of spiritual and, therefore, of moral declension. Such is our nature, that we are apt to let love become cold; to allow zeal to wane and wither; to permit our best habits to be encroached upon by the pressure of lower cares and pleasures; to forsake God. The records of Christian experience contain only too many instances of such departure.
2. We have, then, to fear the withdrawal of God from us; the loss of his Divine favour, of his indwelling Spirit, of his benediction and reward.
3. Therefore let us watch and pray, that we enter not. into the outer shadow of condemnation.—C.
2 Chronicles 15:7
Spiritual strength a sacred obligation.
"Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak." This is in the imperative mood; it is a commandment. Strength is represented as a sacred duty; and weakness, consequently, as a culpable failure. To be spiritually strong is an obligation as much as an endowment. It may, indeed, be urged that there is—
I. CONSTITUTIONAL WEAKNESS, which is to be borne with rather than to be blamed. Some human spirits are less fully endowed than others; some bring with them sad consequences of their progenitors' sin (Exodus 20:5). It requires tenfold more spiritual courage and exertion on the part of these to be loyal and faithful than on the part of their brethren who are more richly equipped or less heavily weighted. We need to know much before we judge men. Only the Divine Father, who knows us altogether, who knows, therefore, the limitations and the propensities of our nature which we have received from himself or from our ancestors, can say how much we are to be blamed, how much to be pitied. But undoubtedly there is—
II. MORAL WEAKNESS, for which we are responsible, of which we are guilty, "Let not your hands be weak." But how often the hand is weak because the life has been low, and because the heart has been wrong! All vice leads down to weakness. And not vice alone, but all folly; the foolish and blameworthy disregard of the laws of our mind and of our body. Not only excessive indulgence in any one direction (mental or physical), but unregulated and ill-proportioned activity, ends in weakness; so that he who might have been an active and efficient workman in many a good field of usefulness is helpless; his hand hangs down; there is "no strength in his right hand," because there has been no wisdom in his mind.
III. SPIRITUAL STRENGTH, which we are under obligation to acquire. There is much of real, effective strength which it is open to us all to obtain if we will. God is saying to us, "Be ye strong;" and if we do what he gives us the means of doing, we shall be strong. What are the sources of spiritual strength?
1. Christian morality. And this includes
2. Sacred service. Our capacity for serving Christ and man depends very largely indeed on our making a continuous effort to serve. "To him that hath is given," i.e. to him that puts out his talent is given another; to him that expends his strength in paths of holy usefulness is given multiplied power to speak and strike for God and truth. Our present strength depends upon our growth in power; and that depends upon the measure of our exercise in the field of sacred work.
3. Divine communication. "Thou answeredst me and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul" (Psalms 138:3); "In Christ who strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). Strength is one of the "good things" our heavenly Father will give to "them that ask him" (Matthew 7:11).—C.
2 Chronicles 15:7
The reward of Christian work.
"Your work shall be rewarded." The very words recur in the prophecies of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:16); and the sentiment is frequently expressed by our Lord and by his apostles. It appears distinctly in the solemn statement of Jesus Christ, "The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father … and then he shall reward every man according to his works" (Matthew 16:27; see also Romans 2:6, Romans 2:7; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Revelation 22:12). What is the reward for which we are to look? Not—
I. THE REWARD OF HIRED LABOUR. Hired labour is rewarded precisely and particularly. So much money for so much work, measured by the hours occupied or the work done. There is a nice calculation of what has been wrought on the one hand, and of what is given in exchange on the other. It is supposed that the one is the equivalent of the other. But our Divine Saviour does not call us into his field on this arrangement. We are not his day-labourers, engaged at a certain price; we are his fellow-workers—employed under him, indeed, but engaged with him in the completion of his great "work." He is not treating us as slaves or even as common servants, but as children and as friends—as those whom he loves and desires to bless with true well-being. We aspire to—
II. THE REWARD OF THE LABOUR OF LOVE. Our Divine Master invites us to stand by his side and work out with him the redemption of our race. He charges us to be as he was in the world; to work as he did, in the spirit of entire self-surrender, of wholehearted love; to put forth our strength in his service and in the cause of righteousness and human elevation; and he tells us that we shall secure a "full reward." We shall find that in:
1. The possession of his good pleasure. The true soldier finds his best reward in the commendation of his commander; the true scholar in the approval of his teacher; the true workman in the smile of him in whose service he is engaged. We, as Christian workmen, look for our deepest joy in the smile and the approval of our Lord. We hope for no moment of keener ecstasy than that when we shall hear him say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" To live in the known and felt possession of Jesus Christ's benediction is one of the purest, as it is one of the most appreciated, rewards, we can receive.
2. The enlargement of our own powers of service. As we work in the cause of heavenly wisdom and of spiritual well-being, our power for action is constantly enlarging, until feebleness becomes strength, and strength becomes might. The more we do the more we are capable of doing (see previous homily).
3. The expansion of our sphere of service. "Thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things" (Matthew 25:21). "I will ask for no reward, except to serve thee still;" or, may we not say," except to serve thee mor "?—to serve thee in that broader sphere, with those nobler opportunities into which thou wilt introduce me. For our Master does thus enlarge us now, as one fruit of our labour; and he will soon reward us by a far more generous enlargement, when he "cometh with his Father" and when "his reward is with him."—C.
2 Chronicles 15:14, 2 Chronicles 15:15
The secret of joy in the service of Christ.
How comes it to pass that the service of Christ should be associated in any mind with austerity and gloom? How is it that every one does not connect that service in his thought with gladness of heart and brightness of life? This misfortune may be attributable to misconception, to a mental error, to the misreading of some words of the Master or of his apostles; or it may be the consequence, physical as much as spiritual, of a particular temperament; but it is most frequently caused by lack of thoroughness in the service of the Lord.
I. THE MISTAKE OF HALF-HEARTEDNESS IN THE SERVICE OF CHRIST. During the reigns of Rehoboam and Abijah, when king and people both showed much abatement of zeal in the worship of Jehovah, we do not read of any record like that of the text. Of Rehoboam we find that "he fixed not his heart to seek the Lord". Abijah could say nothing more for himself than that he had "not forsaken the Lord" (2 Chronicles 13:10), and his later days, like his grandfather's, were apparently darkened by indulgence. There was no fervour of piety, and there was no fulness of joy in the land. And we find that everywhere and always it is so. Half-heartedness in holy service is a profound mistake. It gives no satisfaction to our Lord himself. It leads to no height of Christian worth, to no marked excellency of character. It fills the soul with no deep and lasting joy. It is very likely to decline and to expire, to go out into the darkness of doubt, or worldliness, or guilt.
II. THE WISDOM OF WHOLE-HEARTEDNESS. "All Judah rejoiced at the oath; for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire … and the Lord gave them rest." There was no imaginable step they could have taken which would have caused so much elation of heart and ensured so enviable a national position. Ass and his people showed the very truest wisdom, something more and better than sagacious policy or statecraft, when they sought the Lord with all their heart. They did that which gave them a pure and honest satisfaction in the present, and which, more than any other act, secured the future. And though we certainly are not invited to manifest the thoroughness of our devotion in the same severities that characterized their decision (2 Chronicles 15:13), we do well when we follow there in the fulness of their resolve. For to seek Christ the Lord with all our heart and our "whole desire" is the one right and the one wise thing to do.
1. It secures to us the abiding favour and friendship of the Eternal; he is then "found" of us.
2. It brings profound personal rest; then Christ speaks "peace" to us—his peace, such as this world has not at its command.
3. It secures a feeling of friendship toward all around us: "rest round about." The heart is filled with that holy love which desires to bless all who can be reached.
4. It fills and sometimes floods the heart with sacred joy. The full realization of the presence and love of Christ, the fervent worship of the Lord of all grace and truth, earnest work done in his Name and in his strength,—these are a source of enlarging and ennobling joy. The true key-note of the Christian life is this: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again … rejoice."—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 15:1-7
A conqueror's welcome.
I. A MESSAGE FROM GOD. (2 Chronicles 15:1, 2 Chronicles 15:2.)
1. Its banter. Azarlah, "Whom Jehovah aids," the son of Oded; mentioned only here. Jehovah may, and often does, transmit messages of moment through humble and obscure messengers. What fitted Azariah to be the bearer of the Divine announcements was the coming upon him of the Spirit of Eiohim, the Spirit being the Revealer and Interpreter of the Divine will to the soul of man (Numbers 11:26; Job 32:8; Ezekiel 2:2; 1 Corinthians 12:8). That the Spirit of God came upon a man did not prove him to have been a good man, Balaam (Numbers 24:2) and Saul (1 Samuel 10:10) being witness; though there is no reason to doubt that Azariah was a true prophet of Jehovah. The Spirit came by measure upon him, as upon other holy men of the old dispensation through whom God spoke to his people; on Christ, through whom God's highest and last message has been sent to mankind, the Spirit was poured out without measure (Isaiah 11:2; John 3:34; Revelation 3:1). Hence the supreme importance attaching to the gospel.
2. Its recipients. "Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin." God claims a right to address sovereigns as well as their subjects. Between princes and peasants in his sight is no difference (Acts 10:34; 1 Peter 1:17). God's messages in the Law and the gospel are directed equally to all. The monarch is as much under the Law as the subject; the subject has as valid a title to the provisions of the gospel as the monarch. Asa and his warriors were returning from a victorious campaign, when Jehovah's prophet interposed with notes of warning. These were timely, since the king and his veterans were in danger of self-laudation and serf-confidence—of ascribing their recent splendid exploits to their own skill and prowess, and of trusting to their own valour to protect them in future, without troubling themselves to think about Jehovah, his religion, or his help. So men (not excepting Christians) are never more in peril of forgetting God than when fortune smiles upon them (