Recent Bible reading has taken me to 2 Chronicles were the subject matter has to do with leadership in Judah after the division of the nation under Rehaboam between Israel (to the north) and Judah (to the south). This tragic separation spawned a whole series of problems for both nations in this period that eventually led to their demise, at least for a time. It didn’t happen quite as quickly for Judah, the focus of this piece of biblical history, as it did for Israel. The record indicates that it seemed to be “one-step-forward and two-steps-back” repeated over time. And the key to this dismal national pattern had to do with its checkered quality of leadership.
As I slowly and repeatedly read of the kings’ leadership of this time, I couldn’t help but see the parallels to our own time on many different levels, in our personal lives, but particularly in the life of the church, both in its larger and local spheres. The division between these two nations happened in the first place, initially because of Solomon’s departure from exclusive devotion to Jehovah God (as recorded in 1 Kings 11). But the falling-out between these two parts of Israel didn’t happen during Solomon’s time. It happened later, during the reign of his son Rehaboam whose harsh policies caused ten tribes to follow the wicked Jeraboam. At first, Rehaboam was humbled before the Lord by this event. But eventually, he abandoned the Lord who then allowed Shishack of Egypt to attack Jerusalem taking many treasures from the temple and making Judah his subject.
Abijah, Rehaboam’s son, only reigned for three years, but he was a more godly king and even challenged the northern kingdom under Jeroboam emphasizing that they (Judah) were God’s true people. In the midst of the eventual battle between them, Abijah called on the Lord and inflicted heavy losses on Israel “because they trusted in the Lord.” His son, Asa, was basically a godly king who, under the influence of a prophet called, Azariah, served the Lord diligently for many years. But in the end he put his trust in the King of Aram, instead of the Lord, and suffered the consequences. His son, Jehoshaphat did better. In fact, he seemed even more diligent than his father in serving the Lord for most of his life, even taking pains, through the Levites, to teach the people about knowing and following the law of the Lord. Several chapters are devoted to his unusual reign of goodness, of the appointment of just judges throughout the land, and about his conquest of a large army who attacked as he called on the Name of the Lord. His down-fall was that he made an unholy alliance with the wicked king, Ahaziah, of Israel for which God brought him into judgment.
Jehoshaphat’s son, Jehoram, was a power-hungry despot, who killed all of his brothers soon after he became king. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord encouraging the people to give honour to idols. He was defeated in battle by the Edomites as well as the Philistines. And he died a terrible death from a severe intestinal disease after reigning for only eight years. His son, Ahaziah, was even worse, only reigning for one year before his wicked mother, Athaliah, became ruler of the land for six years. She tried to kill every heir to the throne, but Joash escaped her wicked plot through the help of the former king’s sister, Jehosheba, who stole him away and managed to hide him in the temple for six years. And under the direction of the godly priest, Jehoiada, the day came when the people were ready to crown the boy king and to rid themselves of the evil Athaliah. Under Jehoiada’s godly advisement Joash served the people according to God’s ways and with His blessing. But as soon as the godly Jehoiada died at 130 years old, the leaders of Judah persuaded Joash to abandon the worship of the Lord and to turn to idols. And when Jehoiada’s son, Zachariah, who followed his father as priest, protested this change, he was stoned to death by order of none other than King Joash! This led to an invasion from the Arameans with a very small army whom God helped in defeat of Judah. And Joash himself was assissinated by his own leaders in his own bed as he lay wounded from battle.
The next king, Amaziah, at first listened to the Lord as He spoke to him through a prophet, but in the end he turned to worship the gods of Edom, and so God arranged for his demise at the hand of the king (Jehoash) of Israel. He lived for awhile after his defeat but was eventually also assissinated by enemies from within his own land.
That’s about as far as I’ve gotten in my reading at this time in this series on the kings of Judah after the time of Solomon. In this brief survey, it seems so obvious that leaders and people did well when they were careful to worship the Lord and follow His ways and that they did poorly, were overcome by enemies, and died terrible deaths when they abandoned the Lord. It seems like such a simple cause-and-effect relationship. I know it may not always be that simple in terms of some of the difficulties Christians and Christian leaders experience for other reasons. But in general, I’m sure this cause and effect relationship has a lot of validity. If church leaders/pastors are humble before the Lord and are careful to keep Him central, God blesses them and their people. But if they begin to abandon His life and truth as presented in the Scriptures for questionable practices, God will allow division, attack from strange places, and the church’s demise.
May God be pleased to make us the kind of people who are diligent to follow Him, and to give us godly leaders in our denominations and churches in these days who are humble before Him and diligent to follow His ways as so clearly outlined in His Word. Then we and they will prosper and the churches they lead will be blessed.