What about your heart?

Right in the middle of defending the nation, Amaziah gets side-tracked into serving the very gods of the people he has just defeated. These gods weren’t able to deliver the Edomites, but incredulously, he brought them back and put them in his house – they became a BIG part in his life. We look at that response as totally illogical, however, we perhaps need to watch ourselves. There’s a lot of bad stuff out in today’s world and we need to be careful we don’t allow it to mislead or hoodwink us, so we end up having it in our homes and bowing down to it – much like Amaziah. Paul reminds us of the strong distractions of the world when he says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal 6:1). None of us are immune to the deceptiveness of this world. It’s good and right to be helping each other, and we need to assist, direct, and counsel the person who has become caught in sin. But we also need to be careful we don’t fall into the same pit as the person we’re helping.

Amaziah’s behaviour seems bizarre, but do we replace the proper worship of God with activities of the world? We need to be careful that the lifestyle and gods that consume this world don’t consume us. When I was young, nobody I knew went compulsively to the gym 24/7. This world worships fitness, and the current younger generation have been called the fitspo generation – because of their obsession on the “physicality of exercise”. I had never heard of exotic desserts like “Goat’s milk cheesecake, with elderflower and apple, and garnished with pickled blackberries and smoked candied walnuts”, but now there’s a consuming focus on exotic food! Entertainment in previous generations was frowned upon but now the statistic is that people generally spend around five hours each day watching everything from video games, YouTube, and other social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). A recent headline said that Australians spend eight times more hours per week looking at their screens than time with their loved ones. The warning is that many of us are spending far too much time bowing to the gods of this world, like Amaziah did, rather than showing a love and preference for the things of God.

From bad to worse

God then intervened and sent another prophet who questioned Amaziah’s behaviour, to which Amaziah’s response was for him to mind his own business, because as king he would do what he wanted to do. He trivialised both God’s message and messenger and threatened to kill him: “Have we made you a royal counsellor?” (2 Chron 25:16 ESV). Another translation says, “As the prophet spoke, Amaziah said to him, “We never gave you the job of advising the king! Stop, or you will be killed. I didn’t ask for your advice, you’re not qualified for it; not only will I shun the advice I’ll put you to death”. This abusive response was a complete rejection of God’s mercy to Amaziah. God was merciful in sending him a correcting prophet – he’d already sent one earlier in verse 7 and here he despatched another one! Perhaps we need to be careful with some of the advice we receive, and rather than disdainfully discarding it, we should be thankful for sound advice when a faithful, respected, and well balanced brother or sister provides it – because it takes courage to give advice and humility to accept it. From this response, it is clearly seen that Amaziah is a king who can’t handle being rebuked for his foolishness. Ecclesiastes 4:13 declares, “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished” (ESV “take advice”).

Regrettably he does take advice – but not godly advice: “Then Amaziah king of Judah took advice, and sent to Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, Come, let us see one another in the face [in battle]” (v17). Amaziah had won a decisive victory over Edom, and it inflated his ego to the point where he thought he was undefeatable. In a vein of insolence, he now moves to take on King Joash of Israel, possibly with the demand of re-uniting the two kingdoms under his own monarchy. He still bore a grudge over the loss of 7000 pounds of silver to Joash as a rental payment for 100,000 of his elite troops in his war against Edom. Joash kept the payment of silver, which infuriated Amaziah and further to his annoyance, the 100,000 disgruntled Israelite troops looted and pillaged many of Judah’s towns and villages on their way home.

Joash sent a reply back to Amaziah in the form of a parable about a thistle bush (v18-19). A little prickly thorn bush decides it’s going to make the big time and arranges a treaty by a political marriage with the huge, majestic cedar tree. But before anything else happens, a wild animal comes by and tramples the little thorn bush. The point? Amaziah is no bigger than a little thorn bush compared to the large, majestic towering kingdom of Joash. If Amaziah doesn’t watch out, he might get trampled to death. Joash intimidates Amaziah by saying anybody could beat him blindfolded, with both their hands tied behind their back! With this little story and its application, he advised Amaziah to be content with his previous victory over Edom and to stay at home and not involve himself in something way out of his league.

Disaster strikes

It is shocking to see how divided the Hebrew people had become. The formerly united kingdom of David and Solomon, was now a divided kingdom, not just of separated families, but of antagonistic adversaries. And now this incident had turned into a hostile division of intimidation, hatred and hostility. Foolishly, Amaziah disregarded the warning, engaged in war and was seriously defeated to the point that King Joash invaded the land all the way to Jerusalem, the very home of the king. Verse 23 describes that as a cautionary warning he “brake down the wall of Jerusalem from the gate of Ephraim for 400 cubits”. The wall was a protection around the city from attack, but now there’s a frightening 200 metre gap! This was a standard practice of the victor, as a way of keeping the city defenceless for some time. But why would Joash destroy that particular section of the wall? Because he had a strong message to deliver to Amaziah about his powerful army that easily penetrated Amaziah’s defences – they were from Ephraim (v7,10)! In today’s modern colloquialism the message would be, “don’t mess with us!” This part of the wall was on the north side of the city (and later part of the broad wall rebuilt by Hezekiah and Nehemiah) and was a critical part of the city’s defence. Joash was illustrating that Jerusalem was defenceless and with a significant northern breach, the army of Ephraim from the north could enter Jerusalem any time – at will. It would have taken years to repair and rebuild this wall, thus Jerusalem would lay vulnerable for a long time.

Not only did Joash break the wall, but the financial gain that Amaziah was hoping to achieve in this battle turned into a dreadful loss! Verse 24 indicates that, additionally, Joash “took all the gold and silver”, so this wasn’t just a loss of Amaziah’s personal wealth (treasuries from the king’s house), but because of his foolish threat against Israel, Amaziah lost all the vessels and operational items from the temple. These vessels would be taken back to Samaria, melted and used to adorn
the Golden Calf shrines and whatever other images and idols that might suit King Joash. And further, the record indicates the plunder extended to people – possibly significant members of the king’s house were taken hostage and led captive from Jerusalem to Samaria.

Some translations render the silver, gold and vessels in verse 24 as, “under the care of Obed-edom”. Obed-edom means “the servant of Edom”; so the narrative contains a derogatory term against King Ahaziah, who once had victory over Edom (v14) but then made himself a servant of their gods! The king hadn’t “cared” at all for Yahweh’s temple and had installed many gods and idols there! Other translations put an edge of sadness to the narrative and render it “where the descendants of Obed-edom stood guard”. Historically back in the times of the great King David, Obed-edom took the Ark into his house for three months while David figured out what to do with it. Later Obed-edom and his family became faithful “door- keepers” or “guards” in temple (1 Chron 26:4-8).

A dismal summary

The remaining 15 years of his reign were insignificant as is made clear by the lack of any specific events for this period noted in the chronology by the divine narrator. Amaziah reigned 29 years – so with 15 years remaining, this was the halfway point. And there’s nothing of significance that is recorded for the rest of his reign! It was an ever expanding downward spiral of nothingness – a lifeless life. And to add to the emphasis, he’s missing in the chronological record of Matthew 1. There’s nothing recorded in this whole period except one event – his untimely death. And even then, he did not die a natural death – the people conspired to assassinate him, perhaps because there was a continuing unhappiness with his lacklustre reign: 15 years of nothingness.

An imperfect heart destroyed a king’s great potential. In summary:

  • He didn’t put his whole heart into the reality of worshipping God – This led to his clouded judgment and confused motives.
  • He lacked any form of gratitude and instead of being thankful to God he became distracted by the gods of his world.
  • He stubbornly refused sound advice and godly counsel and in doing so became overconfident and proud.
  • The end result was that he wasted half his life in doing nothing.

The lesson for us

Are you at the halfway point of your life? We might think we’re young and have plenty of time, but if Christ is returning soon, then all of us have lived more than half our life, with so many opportunities wasted, and perhaps good counsel that has been discarded. It’s time to challenge our own mediocrity by thinking about the reason we’re at the memorial table. It’s to measure our life against the one we aspire to become, our hero and our king – the Lord Jesus Christ. We love everything about him and want to be like him in every way we can. He definitely had a perfect heart – for at the tender age of 12 he firmly stated, “I must be about my father’s business”. Psalm 40:8 illustrates his continuing mind-set throughout his life: “I delight to do Thy will O my God, thy law is within my heart”. He had no clouded judgment or confused motives, there was no downward spiral into nothingness, but rather an effective, powerful, transforming life we meet to remember and celebrate each week.

So, when we are on our way to work, or in the kitchen, or reflecting on life at the end of the day, this is the statement we need to reiterate: I’m creating a perfect heart for the God I love, and despite the worries of the day, and the pressures of life, which at times seem overwhelming, I believe in the statement of 2 Chronicles 25:9, “The Lord is able to give me much, much more than this”!

May the Father soon impart to us all the immeasurable gift of His grace, in the presence of His Son.