PART TWO ‘B’ – The Southern Kingdom
Struggles of Israel Meditations: 18. And so to the South
2 Chron 13:1,2,5,8,10 Abijah became king of Judah… There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam…. Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? … And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the Lord… As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him.
Back to the Beginning: We have followed the kings of the north through to their end and so now we have to pick up on the southern kingdom. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, reigned in the south in Jerusalem after Solomon’s death and the scripture testifies of him, “he and all Israel (that is the south) with him abandoned the law of the Lord,” (2 Chron 12:1) and “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord,” (v.14) Because of this, “Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam,” (v.2) yet, “Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed. Indeed, there was some good in Judah.” (v.12) Nevertheless, it was clearly not a happy time because, “There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.” (v.15) He had been 41 when he started his reign, reigned for 17 years and then died, presumably at 58. His son Abijah then ruled.
Victory for Abijah: So twice we’ve seen there was war between the north and the south. Rehoboam had not been able to prevail but Abijah is different. When Israel come to fight them, as our verses above from chapter 13 indicate, Abijah shouts out to Jeroboam and his army (twice the size of that from the south), that God is with the south. Jeroboam is canny and sends troops to attack Judah from behind as well as the front. Judah’s response? “Then they cried out to the Lord. The priests blew their trumpets and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. The Israelites fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hands…. and the people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors.” (2 Chron 13:14-16,18) A promising start to the kingdom of the south after its initial shaky beginning.
Next – Asa: After Abijah dies after only a three-year reign, his son Asa takes over and we read, “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him.” (2 Chron14:2-5) This is better. Abijah may have declared for the Lord but he clearly didn’t do anything to clean up the land after the years of apostasy under Solomon, his son Rehoboam and even under his grandson Abijah. The fruit of this approach? “He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest.” (v.6) Putting the nation right spiritually means an end to the physical struggles.
Testimony & Triumph: Asa is clearly for the Lord and the land is blessed as a result: “Let us build up these towns,” he said to Judah, “and put walls around them, with towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered.” (2 Chron 14:7) But then we read, “Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with an army of thousands upon thousands and three hundred chariots.” (v.9) Cush is thought to be part of Egypt and so twice the southern kingdom have been attacked from the south, but with the second attack the Egyptians are facing a very different adversary, for this one calls on the Lord for help (see v.11) and, “The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah.” (v.12).
On the way back, “The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you…. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (2 Chron 15:1,2,7) These words further encouraged Asa and, “When Asa heard these words …. he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.” (v.8)
Further Trials: “In the thirty-sixth year of Asa’s reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah,” (2 Chron 16:1) but sadly this time Asa sends to Aram for help, for which he is rebuked: “At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him: “Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” (v.7-9) Asa does not respond well and three years later he has a foot infection but does not call on the Lord and so two years later he dies. A good start to his reign but it tapered off at the end.
Recap: Let’s summarise
a) The first southern kings:
- Rehoboam – Caused breakup of the kingdom, was unfaithful to God so disciplined as the King of Egypt attacked and took land.
- Abijah – Declared for the Lord but his heart was clearly not fully committed to the Lord and failed to clean up the land. No judgments on him.
- Asa – A very good start with a heart after God and cleaned up the land and the Lord gave him peace. When a group from Egypt came and attacked, he called on the Lord and the Lord gave him a great victory. Later on Israel attacked him and he sought help from Aram (and not the Lord) against them. Did not seek the Lord’s help in illness in old age – a foot disease possibly from the Lord – and possibly died from it.
b) Their Battles
In the reigns of these three kings we see the spiritual state of the monarchy improving greatly and as a result of that, peace coming on the land. Spiritual impacting physical!
- Rehoboam was godless and so the Lord used Egypt to chastise him.
- Although Abijah did not clear up the land, he called on the Lord in battle when attacked by Israel and the Lord delivered him.
- Asa sought the Lord and the Land was strengthened and given peace. Yet in his reign two conflicts occurred: in the first, against Egyptians, Asa called on the Lord and the Lord gave him victory. In the second, against marauding Israel, he simply sought help from Aram and was rebuked for it.
And So? In our investigating the ‘struggles of Israel’ we have seen four battles:
- Egypt being used by the Lord to discipline and chastise Rehoboam.
- Israel simply attacking Judah – possibly the Lord allowing this to prove Abijah who turns up trumps by calling on the Lord and being given victory.
- Egypt attacking Asa who calls on the Lord and is given victory. Again, perhaps the Lord allowing this to prove to Asa that He is there for him.
- Israel then attacks Asa but he relies on Aram and not the Lord and is rebuked.
And Us? What can we learn from this?
i) In this fallen world the Lord sometimes allows the enemy to discipline us when we turn from Him and stop relying on Him, in order to bring us to our senses.
ii) When we turn to the Lord He will be there for us.
iii) Sometimes the Lord appears to allow attacks to strengthen us (see Jas 1:2-4) and prove us. His resources are always there when we turn to Him, overcoming the temptation to think and reason our way out and rely on the world’s resources instead.
Lessons the wise do well to learn.