Today we continue on in Chapter 3. If you are just joining us, be sure to check out the other parts of my book, “Living in the Light of God’s Lamp.”
When Judah was attacked both front and rear, they raised a war cry. The Bible doesn’t say what they said, but it must have been something like this: “God, get ‘em!” (Or maybe something a little more manly.) Whatever it was, as soon as that war cry rang out, God went into action. He “smote” all Israel before Abijah and Judah. “Smite” means to hit or strike. He did it “before” them, in front of them. With little to do except gape at the wonder of God fighting for them, you can bet Abijah and his army were watching with their mouths open.
In other battles where God has lent a hand to help out, He has used things like killer hailstones or the blaring sound of trumpets reverberating all around them. While it doesn’t state how God smote Israel, Judah didn’t even have time to wonder if He was going to show up. Before they knew it, God delivered Israel into their hands, and all they had to do was run them through with their swords and call it a day. Remember, the odds were two to one, and they still walked away with enough time to have a hot chocolate with whipped before retiring to bed.
I believe there’s another reason why Abijah was the victor, even though he, like Jeroboam, had flirted with idolatry: he had continued to follow the commandments of God.
When Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim with his army as they faced the army of Israel, he shouted out a laundry list of all the things Jeroboam and his people had done that would bring about their defeat, and the one thing he, Abijah and his people, had done right:
“So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the LORD through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you.
“Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, and made for yourselves priests like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams, even he may become a priest of what are no gods.
“But as for us, the LORD is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the sons of Aaron are ministering to the LORD as priests, and the Levites attend to their work.
“And every morning and evening they burn to the LORD burnt offerings and fragrant incense, and the showbread is set on the clean table, and the golden lampstand with its lamps is ready to light every evening; for we keep the charge of the LORD our God, but you have forsaken Him.” (2 Chronicles 13:8-11)
The word “charge” in the sentence above is translated from the Hebrew word “mishmereth” which, among its definitions are “safeguard, command, law.” Abijah had kept the commandments of God, and in so doing, had actually safeguarded himself and his army. Isn’t it amazing that the laws of the Lord God are a safeguard to us?
God gives us commandments so that we will prosper, be victorious, and be at peace. Look at the following scripture that supports this point:
“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.
“If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17b-18)
God doesn’t give us commandments to put us in a straight jacket. He gives us commandments so that we will profit, and have a life of good works that bring us peace and well-being. And while King Abijah didn’t understand this concept completely, when his son, King Asa, came to the throne, he had a burning desire for God pulsing through his veins.
Who knows what turned the heart of Asa to God, when a multigenerational sin of idolatry had clogged the hearts of his predecessors just as surely as cholesterol does today? All we know is that when Asa took over the throne, he commanded Judah to rid themselves of their idols, and to once again seek the LORD God of their fathers, and observe the law and the commandments given by God. Asa removed all the idols his fathers had made, and got rid of the male cult prostitutes. In fact, he did such a thorough house cleaning that he even dethroned his grandmother, the queen mother Maacah, because she had made a “horrid image as an Asherah.” (1 Kings 15:13) Asherah was a goddess widely worshipped, in contradiction to the first and second of the Ten Commandments. If you’ve ever seen a picture of the ancient Asherah idols, she is not attractive in any way. She is nude and wears a bumpy skull cap of sorts on her head, and holds her hands beneath her breasts. If Asa’s mother Maacah made a “horrid” image as an Asherah, you can only imagine how hideous it was. Asa took the image, cut it down and burned it. He removed the “high places” and the incense altars throughout the cities of Judah where the people would go to worship and make sacrifices to the gods, but unfortunately, the people simply restored them:
But the high places were not taken away; nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the LORD all his days. (1 Kings 15:14)
Note where the emphasis is on the verse above. It is not on how much Asa managed to accomplish, but on the condition of his heart. How lovely that we should stand before God one day, and not have Him denounce our failures, but look only at our hearts and how much we loved Him, and praise and reward us for that, and that alone.
More from Chapter 3 in the next installment.