These few thoughts arose while reading 2 Chronicles 25:5-11.
The meditation was a blessing to me as I saw afresh the simple truth concerning BIBLICAL SEPARATION and its blessing and cost.
Am I wrong in thinking that a right view of this truth has been largely lost to this generation? I think not.
For that reason I trust that, simple as the study may be, it will prove useful to some.
Sincerely in Christ’s name,
BIBLICAL SEPARATION – an essential truth for a believer’s wellbeing
“Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together, and made them captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, according to the houses of their fathers, throughout all Judah and Benjamin: and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them three hundred thousand choice men, able to go forth to war, that could handle spear and shield. He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver.
But there came a man of God to him, saying, O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the LORD is not with Israel, to wit, with all the children of Ephraim. But if thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle: God shall make thee fall before the enemy: for God hath power to help, and to cast down.
And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of God answered, The LORD is able to give thee much more than this. Then Amaziah separated them, to wit, the army that was come to him out of Ephraim, to go home again: wherefore their anger was greatly kindled against Judah, and they returned home in great anger. And Amaziah strengthened himself, and led forth his people, and went to the valley of salt, and smote of the children of Seir ten thousand,” 2 Chronicles 25:5-11.
Sadly, what is said of Amaziah in verse 2 of this chapter, is something that can be said of most, if not all, of us. “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a perfect heart.” How flawed we are at our best. We see this sad truth in David, in Solomon, in Jehoshaphat, in Peter and the other disciples, to name but a few of the examples set before us in the Bible.
A truthful survey of our own hearts will produce the confession: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23.
Bearing this mind, let us humbly learn from what is said in the verses at the head of this article regarding Amaziah’s experiences.
I. LET US SEE THE NATURAL THINKING OF THE HEART
“He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver,” verse 6.
He had “three hundred thousand choice men, able to go forth to war, that could handle spear and shield” (verse 5) of his own men but that was not deemed enough. Above this, he had the help of the Lord for such help is ever promised to those who serve and obey Him. “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed,” Deuteronomy 31:8.
But such promised help was not at the forefront of Amaziah’s mind and heart. He thought as does a carnal man, thinking only in earthly terms and of earthly strength. Therefore he felt that there was ‘safety in numbers’, rather than relying upon the Lord and the army that He had given him out of his own kingdom.
That is a common mode of thinking, both in the spiritual realm and in the secular. It was a truth that Gideon had to learn.
“And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me. Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place,” Judges 7:2-7.
Amaziah was ready to pay dearly for the help of the ‘arm of the flesh’! The Lord freely gives us His ever successful, always victorious, help. Help from the evil kingdom of Israel was costly. “He hired also an hundred thousand mighty men of valour out of Israel for an hundred talents of silver.” That amounts, I believe, to some 6,600 lbs, or to put it in modern parlance, 2994 kilograms!
I learn that at today’s price of silver, £633 per kilo, that comes to £18,95,202. Surely that is what we would call a ‘king’s ransom’!
What a contrast this is with what the Lord charges us for His help. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Romans 6:23.
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee,” Psalm 84:11-12.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God,” 1 Corinthians 2:12.
How many, many more verses that set out the unfathomable mercy of God’s free grace to His people could I not add to this list?
How foolish was Amaziah to forget this great truth and also we, when we act in the same fashion. His folly cost him, as we see in the narrative. He was told that if he went ahead with the arrangement with the ungodly soldiers of Israel, he would forfeit the presence and blessing of the Lord.
“But there came a man of God to him, saying, O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the LORD is not with Israel, to wit, with all the children of Ephraim. But if thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle: God shall make thee fall before the enemy: for God hath power to help, and to cast down,” 2 Chronicles 25:7-8.
I can but imagine how welcome would have been this preacher and his blunt message from the Lord. Yet, in truth, he was a messenger of mercy and one whose words were the means of delivering Amaziah and his kingdom from ruin.
How foolish are God’s people when they reject God’s words of warning and take out their anger on the messenger! It has been the trend throughout the ages. I read in the previous chapter of 2 Chronicles, the prescribed chapter for Tuesday’s reading, of just such an incident.
“And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it,” 2 Chronicles 24:20-22.
Forgetting the mercy of God and the wonderful benefits that obedience to His Word brings us, ever results in a bitter and costly harvest!
II. PLEASE LEARN THE PRICE OF SEPARATION
“And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of God answered, The LORD is able to give thee much more than this. Then Amaziah separated them, to wit, the army that was come to him out of Ephraim, to go home again,” verses 9-10.
It does not take too much by way of imagination to understand the struggle that went on in this man’s heart and mind when faced with this choice.
It was going to cost him personally. He had made a decision as a king and now he was required to acknowledge he was wrong and reverse his decision. Those who have observed, to any degree, the ways of politicians and leaders know that such a path does not come easy to those who value above all, their standing in the eyes of men! Politicians would have us believe that they are ‘infallible’ in their decisions and policies. We, the general public, have to pay the monetary price of such folly! That is the case at present in our land. The United Kingdom generally is paying a high price for the wrong decisions of men. Here in Ulster, we are paying constitutionally as well as financially for the stupidity of past political decisions taken by those who considered it better to set aside God’s truth and follow their own devices. Despite the blatantly obvious folly of past decisions which we see wrought out in the realm of politics and morality, proud and witless politicians persist in pressing on in the path of defiance of God!
It was going to cost him financially. I have already indicated the value of the silver he paid for the mercenaries from the northern kingdom of Israel. The Lord told him that he would simply have to forfeit that as a price of his folly if he was to have the Lord’s blessing.
That is ever the case. When a person separates from an apostate denomination, they invariably pay a price in the loss of friendship and the enmity that oftentimes arises within the family circle. Indeed, the longer a person has persisted in putting off the decision to obey the Lord, the higher the price becomes, for it will be cast up against them that they seemed content with their affiliation with the church for a long time! Indeed, the thought of facing that ridicule is the cause of many remaining in disobedience of God and the distressing of their conscience.
He had the Lord’s assurance that in the end, He would undertake for any loss. “The LORD is able to give thee much more than this.” It NEVER costs us to obey the Lord. That path is one strewn with blessings and joys and rewards. The truth of this is plainly stated in that wonderful portion in 2 Corinthians in which the apostle Paul states the essence of true separation unto God.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty,” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
That is reward for separation indeed — “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” What a rich heritage the separatist has!
III. PLEASE NOTE THE ANIMOSITY DIRECTED AGAINST AMAZIAH FOR THIS DECISION
“Wherefore their anger was greatly kindled against Judah, and they returned home in great anger.”
They would have been angry because they perceived that they were being slighted. They recognised that they were not good enough to fight alongside Judah. That, of course, was the case for the Lord had said: “ O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the LORD is not with Israel, to wit, with all the children of Ephraim,” verse 7. Because of the idolatry of the ten northern tribes, the kingdom of Israel, the Lord was not with them or with any who allied themselves with them.
That underlines the folly of those evangelicals who seek to stay within the apostasy and attempt to work some good by their efforts and witness. The Lord will be against them because he is against that with which they foolishly associate themselves. Had not Lot separated from Sodom, he would have perished with the sodomites. “And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city,” Genesis 19:15.
The animosity of the soldiers of Israel became vicious and cruel. “But the soldiers of the army which Amaziah sent back, that they should not go with him to battle, fell upon the cities of Judah, from Samaria even unto Bethhoron, and smote three thousand of them, and took much spoil,” verse 13. How shallow, at best, was their allegiance to Amaziah. In an instance, considering themselves to have been slighted, they became vicious murderers and plunders.
That aspect of their being would likely have been unobserved by Amaziah when he hired them though a little discernment would have enable him to see this in them. The witness of the prophet Elisha against the sins of the northern kingdom ought to have been well known to all. A consideration of the spiritual climate in Israel during the days of Elisha may be seen in the record given us in 2 Kings chapters 2 to 13. Israel was a God-defying people during this period and Amaziah should never have contemplated any form of alliance with them.
Sadly, all too often such matters are not taken into consideration when Christians are seeking a way forward. The reason of the human heart and the knowledge of the human eye is preferred above that truth of God. Chaos is the result. The moral, financial and political mess we have here in Ulster is a testimony to that truth!
It may be asked with sorrow — ‘When will we ever learn’??
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
22nd December 2022