Meanwhile, back in Judah, “Amaziah son of Joash began to rule over Judah in the second year of the reign of King Jehoash of Israel. Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. Amaziah did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, but not like his ancestor David. Instead, he followed the example of his father, Joash. Amaziah did not destroy the pagan shrines, and the people still offered sacrifices and burned incense there” (II Kings 14:1-4, NLT).
Compared to the crummy rulers that preceded him and his father Joash – Jehoram, Ahaziah and Athaliah – both Amaziah and Joash were good kings. However, Joash ruined his record when he allowed himself to be wrongly influenced after the death of Jehoiada the priest.
Joash’s decline into evil was so great that he even ordered the murder of Jehoiada’s son Zechariah who had delivered God’s message condemning Joash’s and the people’s turning from the Lord. Zechariah had “stood before the people and said, ‘This is what God says: Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands and keep yourselves from prospering? You have abandoned the Lord, and now He has abandoned you!’” (II Chronicles 24:20b).
God warned Israel as He warns us today: we cannot disobey Him and expect to prosper in His ways. Do you recall how Joash died? He was wounded during an attack by the Arameans, but “his own officials plotted to kill him for murdering the son of Jehoiada the priest. They assassinated him as he lay in bed” (II Chronicles 24:25b).
“When Amaziah was well established as king, he executed the officials who had assassinated his father. However, he did not kill the children of the assassins, for he obeyed the command of the Lord as written by Moses in the Book of the Law: ‘Parents must not be put to death for the sins of their children, nor children for the sins of their parents. Those deserving to die must be put to death for their own crimes’” (II Kings 14:5-6).
As the assassins had done in the case of Amaziah’s father Joash, Amaziah dealt only with the guilty parties, just as stated in Deuteronomy 24:16 and quoted in the passage above. “Amaziah also killed 10,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt” (II Kings 14:7a). And it was this military victory that led to Amaziah’s downfall.
“When King Amaziah returned from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought with him idols taken from the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down in front of them, and offered sacrifices to them! This made the Lord very angry, and he sent a prophet to ask, ‘Why do you turn to gods who could not even save their own people from you?’” (II Chronicles 25:14-15).
“Why do you turn to gods who could not even save their own people?” The prophet of God asked a very good question. Over and over we see people obsessed with wealth, fame, or off-the-wall religious movements come to disastrous ends, and yet people continue to pursue these fleeting attractions. It’s the same today as it was in Amaziah’s day. As the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
If you read Second Chronicles 25:5-13, you’ll see how Amaziah organized Judah’s army and then hired Israeli mercenaries to pad his chances against Edom. However, heeding on this occasion God’s warning through an unnamed prophet, Amaziah sent the mercenaries away and went to war with only the soldiers of Judah. Because of his obedience to God’s warning, he was given victory over the Edomites.
And now he’s worshiping their idols? How will Amaziah respond to the prophet’s chastisement? We’ll find that out tomorrow.
“Spiritual pride is the illusion that you are competent to run your own life, achieve your own sense of self-worth, and find a purpose big enough to give you meaning in life without God.” (Tim Keller)