We often comment about the destabilising effect of good and bad kings throughout the history of Israel and the ongoing effect on the spiritual barometer of the people. But it’s not about highs and lows when we look at 2 Chronicles 25—it’s a chapter about the results of mediocrity—a king who had every opportunity to serve God fully and encourage his people to serve God faithfully, but he plateaued from motivation to mediocrity!

Although he had a lengthy reign of 29 years, it is glossed over in just one, single chapter of unexceptional kingship. In fact, he reigned exactly the same time as King Hezekiah, but significantly Hezekiah has five times more detail recorded about his life and accomplishments. Sadly, Amaziah’s reign was summarised with a question mark and not an exclamation point! The overall goal of his life sizzled out because he became half hearted. He began with the right spirit—seeking justice, and condemning those who assassinated his father—but he allowed the nation to spiral down into civil war and revolution and, finally, Amaziah ended up being assassinated by his own people—a sad, dismal and disappointing conclusion to what could have been a remarkable reign. While his name means “Yahweh is mighty”, he certainly did not place God in that position during his kingship. 2 Chronicles 25:2 provides an initial summary of his life: “He did that which was right in the sight of Yahweh, but not with a perfect heart”. Another translation says, “but not wholeheartedly”. His behaviour seems to echo the pattern of his father, who started so well under the influence of Jehoiada the priest, but then disintegrated into an uninspiring, lacklustre leadership, which further deteriorated with him turning completely aside and even slaying the sons of the priest who at one time was a father figure to him. Amaziah’s heart condition is identified immediately in the narrative, and even before any details of his life or the circumstances he faced are revealed, we’re told he had a serious heart problem. At the beginning it was undiagnosed and unobservable in the initial stages, and went uncorrected, resulting in a life story which was not just uneventful, but actually became self-destructive. The record in Kings comments: “He did that which was right in sight of Yahweh yet not like David his father: he did according to all things as Joash his father did” (2 King 14:3). A similar comment is made of King Solomon as a contrast to David: “It came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 King 11:4). The great grandson of David, Abijam, was also compared to David: “He walked in all the sins of his father…and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father…Because David did that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 King 15:3-5).

A perfect heart

From these quotations we note the record consistently says that David had a “perfect heart”. Did he? In the light of what we know about his life? Would we have defined all the behaviour of David as “perfect”?

So this prompts the question: what does a “perfect heart”mean? Does it mean to be absolutely “without any fault”? Does it mean serving God 100% of our time? How can we possibly do this? We all have a range of everyday responsibilities and daily tasks—caring for our family, working at our places of employment, running domestic errands— and similarly David had daily tasks he attended to in the administration of his kingdom. So like David, and in view of our inherent bias to sin, what does having a “perfect heart” before God mean?

Being “perfect” in the biblical sense is not defined as to whether we may have committed a sin or not.

Having a “perfect heart” (like David) refers to our attitude and the state of our heart towards God. At all times He is to be the centre point and priority in all that we do, and there are a number of aspects to having or developing a “perfect heart”.

It’s an open heart—that is transparent and honest before God and others. It is not a closed heart that is unwilling to receive correction or is intent on closeting a deceitful life. It is wanting to do things for the right reasons. There is transparency, openness and sincerity in all relationships—especially with God, just as the Psalmist declared: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psa 139:23-24). So it means a 100% respect of God’s principles; a 100% acceptance of His wisdom, rightness and providence in our lives.

It’s a broken heart—that is emotionally connected to God’s truth and sensitive to His corrective influence. “Yahweh is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and seventh such as be of a contrite [crushed] spirit”(Psa 34:18).“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa 51:17).

It’s a trusting heart—a perfect heart is not a heart full of guilt and condemnation but rejoices in the opportunities for forgiveness and mercy. James 4:8 says: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you who are (double minded KJV ) half-hearted towards God” (Weymouth).

It’s a spiritually growing heart—in Hebrews 6:12, Paul says: “Don’t become half-hearted (sloth- ful KJV), but be imitators of those who through faith and patient endurance are now heirs to the promises” (Weymouth). Our relationship with God is not about a one-off Sunday morning event; nor is it about 45 minutes, or an hour, or 2 hours that we may spend at our meeting hall or going through the routine of the memorials. It is about letting God into every single area of our lives—about growing spiritually whenever we can, and gradually developing a purity of heart and a revulsion of sin and its consequences. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22).

So, a perfect heart is possible, but it needs nurturing, development and focus, as Hezekiah acknowledged: “I beseech thee, O Yahweh, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore” (2 King 20:3).

It is certain Amaziah did some good things, but his heart wasn’t where it ought to have been. There’s a lot of “buts” in our lives too…but we’re fortunate to be able to come each Sunday to recalibrate our heart so that it can be restored to a “perfect state” before God. So perhaps we need to do a spiritual cardiovascular test and ask the question as to why we present ourselves at the memorials? Do we go only because we have a task to perform, or because we’re involved in Sunday School, or we have family or friends we want to catch up with, or perhaps we are lonely, or we want to look good, or maintain our name on the roll etc? Or, is it because we truly love God and want to show Him our respect and appreciation and by a process of self-examination and meditation on the Scriptures, can maintain a perfect heart?

Amaziah started so well

Sadly, Amaziah started so well: the narrative shows his good start…

His justice—verse 4 shows that he knew his Bible and particularly comments: “But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where Yahweh commanded, saying…” and then the narrative of Deuteronomy 24:16 is cited: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” This is clearly a contrast to the standard practice in the ancient world of executing not
only the guilty party in such a murder, but also their family members. Amaziah went against the standard conventional practice of his day and obeyed the Word of God instead. There are times when we don’t always adhere to that principle. Some families get a reputation they don’t always deserve when a family member goes astray, and good parents may have aspersions cast at them because one of their children misbehaves, and even ecclesias get a “reputation” for actions by their members which may well be beyond the control and knowledge of the arranging brethren. Like Amaziah, we need to be just as careful in how we deal with such situations.

He defended the nation against the Edomites and he took appropriate action to protect his people (v5).

He accepted God’s direction not to involve Judah with idolaters (v7).

He originally took the precaution of hiring some of the northern tribes to support him, but then had the distraction of a loss of his finances (v9), and the repercussions of his bad decision (v13). This then spiralled down into idolatry (v14), the rejection of God’s counsel (v15-16), an overconfidence in himself (v17-18), civil war (v19-21), Jerusalem was invaded (v23), the Temple was plundered (v24) and eventually he lost his life through assassination (v27).

Note that in all his organisational skills and his plans to defend the nation, God was missing—and so seven times in verses 7-9 the words “God” and “Yahweh” are emphasised. Meanwhile Amaziah lost focus and was more worried, in verse 9, about his financial loss—“If I just send them home, then I’ll have lost all this cash!” How many times have we heard variations on this theme? “I’m not going to put any internet protection on my home computers—it’ll cost me $80 a year”; “I know the job has a terrible impact on my spiritual life and I’ll miss Wednesday night studies, but where else am I going to make this much an hour?”

While Amaziah focused on the immediate problem of the loss he had incurred, the prophet reassured Amaziah that “God is able to give you much more than this”. We have this constant and wonderful reassurance in Scripture as well:

“Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).

“But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30).

Amaziah’s heart is stress tested

Like Amaziah, doing the right thing doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be tough times we have to face, and for the moment those pressures came upon him. Verse 13 shows that some of the dissatisfied hired mercenaries plundered the towns of Judah on their way home, and similarly we need to recognise that God will take care of us, but it may not always appear to be immediate. We should not be surprised when we maintain God’s principles and things seem to get tougher for a while. Peter writes about this: “My friends, do not be surprised at the painful things you are now suffering. These things are testing your faith. So do not think that something strange is happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12 ICB).

When Amaziah returned victorious it seems incredible that he installed idols and worshipped them, and it’s in this sad moment we clearly see that Amaziah’s heart was not “perfect” before the Lord. Verse 14 says: “Now it came to pass, after that Amaziah was come from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he 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”. Amaziah’s achievement seemed to bring out the worst in him and whereas he had previously showed a good response to God’s counsel, he now turns to idolatry, persecution, revenge, intransigence, pride, and apostasy.

(To be continued)