The Rewards of Righteousness
“The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness;
According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me.” (Psalm 18:20)
There are two notable epithets in the Old Testament about two successive kings: Abijah, the father; and Asa, his son. King Abijah was the second king of Judah, and the great-grandson of King David, the same David who slew Goliath. King Asa, his son, was the third king of Judah.
In regard to King Abijah, it was written:
And he walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, like the heart of his father [forefather] David. (1 Kings 15:3)
However, in regard to King Asa, it was written:
And Asa did what was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father. (1 Kings 15:11)
How unfortunate that Abijah would have such words recorded in the Bible so that for the rest of all time, everyone would know that God had not looked with pleasure upon his life. It’s interesting to note that while Abijah received only one disappointing notation, his son, Asa, received two five-star reviews, the one above and one in 2 Chronicles.
King Abijah liked his religion watered down. He didn’t want to commit completely to God; he preferred instead to have one foot in the faith of his fathers, and one foot in the idolatry of the day. Although King David (considered by God to be the greatest king in all of the Old Testament because of his devotion to Him) was Abijah’s great-grandfather, idolatry had infiltrated the royalty of Israel with David’s son, King Solomon, and was as firmly entrenched in the lifestyles of the Israelites during Abijah’s day as celebrity idolatry is today. Therefore, Abijah had learned from his father to call on God only in extreme cases such as war, pestilence or famine.
Actually, calling on God during war was a little iffy as well. Abijah’s principal adversary was Jeroboam, king of Israel. You see, only two generations earlier, the entire kingdom of Israel (all twelve tribes including Judah) had been under King Solomon. However, because he had indulged in idolatry to please his foreign wives who had been brought up with the heinous practice, God told Solomon that He was going to rip the kingdom out of his son’s hands, and leave him only two of the twelve tribes under his reign. God explained that He would not do it during Solomon’s time, because of His great love for David, Solomon’s father. So unfortunately, Solomon’s son would pay for the sins of his father.
Therefore, what was once a united kingdom devoted to God, became two kingdoms, one called Judah (consisting of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin), and the other called Israel, consisting of the other ten tribes. Since the people of Judah and the people of Israel all came from the same Israelite clan that circled in the desert for 40 years, calling on God for victory would be like asking God to let you win in a battle between one church and another.
After the division of the kingdom, the two resulting kingdoms nipped at each other’s heels for years. Abijah’s father, Rehoboam, first king of Judah, was at war with King Jeroboam, king of Israel, all of Abijah’s life. Abijah never knew peace in the kingdom, and never went to sleep without the fear of ambush or assassination.
In fact, when Abijah succeeded his father as king, the battle simply continued with his father’s arch enemy. Only when Abijah went to God and wholeheartedly asked for His help against King Jeroboam, did he finally get victory over him, and in an absolutely miraculous way. Abijah had 400,000 men and Jeroboam had twice that amount, yet Abijah was victor. Why? Because Abijah finally got smart and turned to the Lord his God. God actually fought for them.
As I established earlier, this is not because Abijah was wholly devoted to God. It was more because Jeroboam was even less devoted to God and had invited His wrath by constructing two golden calves for the people to worship, inferring that they were the gods that originally brought them up from the land of Egypt. He might as well have spit in God’s face. Despite the fact that Abijah had not always been monotheistic, he made the right choice in proclaiming to Jeroboam and his entire army of 800,000 soldiers where their loyalty was:
“But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken Him.” (2 Chronicles 13:10a)
Now God is no fool. He knew Abijah’s heart and while he may not have necessarily completely forsaken Him, he had never loved Him with reckless love, either. Nonetheless, God’s holy reputation was at stake, and God will always guard that. God will never stand by and let the team with the idols win the victory. Throughout the Bible, in battle after battle, the scorecard always looks like this: God’s team: 1, Idol team: 0. So even though King Jeroboam came up with a great plan, wherein he stationed part of his army in front of Judah, and then planned an ambush behind them, God thwarted them.
(Sorry for leaving you with this cliffhanger, but I’ll feature more of Chapter 3 in my next installment.)