Sermon preached on 2 Kings 14:1-22 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 08/23/2020 in Novato, CA.
If you’ve known my sermon style when it comes to Old Testament passages, you know that I’m not a fan of those kinds of sermons that just seem turn the passages into moral character studies. You know the kind that primarily treats a character in the text as an example to either follow or avoid. Such sermons tend to say things like we need to “be more like Daniel” or “don’t be like King Saul”. I’m not opposed to occasional applications along those lines, but it tends to not be the main thrust of my sermons. And yet, here we come to King Amaziah and find that in verse 3 he gets described in comparative terms to others. Verse 3 says that he lived like his father Joash, but he did not live like his predecessor David. And, unfortunately, in his case, these comparisons for him were meant to be critical and not complimentary of him. So then, today we’ll spend some time thinking about how King Amaziah was like King Joash but not like King David. From there, we’ll look at the applications we can draw for ourselves from these comparisons.
Let me begin with a little reminder about King Joash of Judah. This was from 2 chapters back, in 2 Kings 12. Remember, he was the king who survived Queen Athaliah trying to wipe out all the male heirs in the house of David. The high priest Jehoiada and his wife had hid Joash away until he was old enough to be restored to the throne. What we then saw in Joash’s reign was a good beginning. He successfully oversaw much needed repairs to the temple. But then his mentor the high priest Jehoiada died and his obedience to the Lord turned greatly astray. He started worshipping Asherah poles and other idols. He ignored prophets and even killed one – the very son of his late mentor! God raised up the Syrians against him in chastisement and yet he still didn’t seem repentant. Ultimately, he was conspired against by his own people and assassinated. Outwardly a good beginning, but he definitely did not finish the race well.
I did want to offer a clarification on my previous sermon about King Joash. During that sermon you might recall that I said that the course of his life might suggest that Joash maybe never really knew that LORD – that maybe he was actually never truly regenerate. The clarification I wanted to offer here is that the text doesn’t actually give us the answer to that question one way or another. Its focus is on reporting the actions of King Joash and how that did or didn’t measure up to God’s laws. So then, looking at how he conducted himself with such a major departure from godliness late in his life, certainly raises the possibility that he wasn’t truly regenerate. His good deeds in his early days might have only been outward adherence to God’s law, not done from a born-again heart. Yet on the other hand, the other possibility is that he was truly a born-again believer, but just had a very major waywardness late in life, filled with many grave theological errors. So, while we might consider the possibilities, I don’t believe we can be dogmatic on either side. That’s just not a question the text is trying to raise for us. However, the text does want us to consider those aspects of the king’s conduct that were commendable, and which aspects were not. Here we have the opportunity to do that again in the context of the life of his son, King Amaziah. And in fact, we’ll see that Amaziah’s life is much like his father’s – a good beginning with a very bad ending. Something which again, like Joash, is brought out here in 2 Kings in a restrained way but is brought out much more fully in the 2 Chronicles parallel account (2 Chronicles 25).
So then, we see two things positively told to us about Amaziah, that like his father, are commendable in terms of keeping with God’s Word. First, we find in verse 5 that he executed those people who had been the conspirators and assassins against his father. He strikes them down and kills them. I think here of how the book of 1 and 2 Kings began. There we found David’s dying instructions to Solomon on specific people he needed to deal with in terms of justice. Solomon followed his father’s instructions carefully, using wisdom in the process, and executed such justice. And the text rightly commended him for it, because that is what the kings of God’s people were supposed to be doing. They were to administer justice and righteousness in the land. They were to reward the righteous and condemn the wicked. Here, in verse 5, we find that King Amaziah condemned the wicked people who had assassinated the king in violation of the law of God.
But not only that, verse 6 adds further to this note. Verse 6 says, “But he did not put to death the children of the murderers, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, where the LORD commanded, ‘Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin.’” That’s a quote from Deuteronomy 24:16. This also is a principle of justice that God taught his people. Yet, it was not uncommon for shrewd kings to not only wipe out their enemies but all the children of their enemies. But God’s law taught that such, in itself, was unjust. Amaziah shows biblical restraint in his adhering to this law of God and for that we can commend him.
One other good beginning to Amaziah’s reign is seen in verse 7. In a rather brief statement, we learn that he re-subdued the Edomites. Previously, the Edomites had been a vassal state under Judah, but then they had revolted. But here Amaziah subdues them again in this military battle. In fact, he renames the Edomite stronghold Sela to Joktheel which means something like “God subdued”, and thus he gives credit to the victory to God. In fact, that’s what the longer account in 2 Chronicles 25 tells us. There we learn that when Amaziah was preparing for this battle against Edom, he had at first hired the Israelites to help. After he already paid them, a prophet came to Amaziah to confront him about this. The prophet said that God was not with those wicked Israelites and so Amaziah shouldn’t bring them along in the battle. The prophet exhorted Amaziah to have faith that God would give Judah the victory by his own strength, and he didn’t need the wicked Israelites in order to win. Amaziah had to lose the money he gave the Israelites to comply with the prophetic word. But Amaziah did comply, and that is the point. In Amaziah’s early years, he shows himself doing the right thing in God’s sight – the things God commanded him to do. Like how his father Joash began well, so too with Amaziah.
And yet, that leads us to our second point, to see the other way that Amaziah was like his father Joash. Not only did Amaziah begin well in obedience to the LORD, but he also had a very bad ending in terms of his faithfulness to God. In our passage, the turning point is in verse 8. But before we get there in his chronology, there is something more we should add here from the 2 Chronicles account. There we find that after Amaziah defeated the Edomites, he actually took home their Edomite idols and started worshipping their false gods, apparently in addition to worshipping the LORD. God then was angry with Amaziah and sent him a prophet who confronted Amaziah with the very obvious question of why would you want to worship the Edomite gods who obviously couldn’t help the Edomites from the recent battle. Sadly, Amaziah’s response then to the prophet, so similar to his father’s in a similar circumstance, was to reject the prophetic word. He even threatened to kill the prophet if he didn’t stop prophesying. So, Chronicles gives us a lot more detail about how Amaziah’s later years were so similar to Joash’s in terms of his great disobedience of God and disregard for God’s Word.
And so, while we don’t see that waywardness of Amaziah explicitly recorded here in 2 Kings, we definitely see the fruit of it. I’m referring to the record here of both the great military defeat from Israel and also his own later assassination. We should understand these troubles as a result of God’s chastening hand upon Amaziah after his turning away from God in worshipping the Edomite gods and in rejecting his prophets.
So, we see that first fruit of a major defeat to Israel starting in verse 8. There, it records Amaziah contacting King Jehoash of Israel and basically calling him to come out to fight each other in a military battle. Now, again, the account here is very brief. If you just read this, you might assume that Amaziah was the instigator of this. And while he was to the degree of trying to ratchet things up to a full-scale military confrontation, the 2 Chronicles account tells us a little bit more. There we find that after Amaziah had sent home the Israelite army that he at first hired to help him fight Edom, that they were upset for being sent home and so they raided Judean towns on the way back. So, here Amaziah seems to be trying to respond to those actions.
The Israelite King Jehoash then responds to Amaziah’s call to battle with a parable. Verse 9, “A thistle on Lebanon sent to a cedar on Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son for a wife,’ and a wild beast of Lebanon passed by and trampled down the thistle.” It seems that the Israelite king considers his nation Israel as a great and mighty cedar, and Amaziah and Judah in comparison as just a tiny powerless thistle. Interestingly, the parable would then paint Amaziah as having first offered to Israel to enter into a peace treaty with them through a marriage alliance. If that’s true, Amaziah seems like he had first sought peace. But the Israelite king basically scoffs at that and says that Judah is so weak and little that they are not a worthy ally for Israel. The Israelite king then warns that Judah could get trampled down by some wild beast at any moment – probably a reference to how another more-powerful Gentile nation might at any point walk all over them. The Israelite king then in verse 10 basically accuses Amaziah of pride – that he has become puffed up because of his recent victory over Edom. Jehoash basically warns Amaziah that pride goes before a fall, and just because of one victory of Edom he shouldn’t think he is invincible.
Ironically, the very accusations of the Israelite King sort of seem like the pot calling the kettle black. As we see later in this chapter and in last chapter, Israel themselves had been a small struggling nation until somewhat recently, and were finally on an upward spiral after some victories against Syria. The Israelite king’s response is full of great pride himself. And yet, that being said, the words of the Israelite King were obviously not wrong. The 2 Chronicles account in 25:30 says that Amaziah ignored the words of the Israelite king because it was of the Lord, that God might punish him for going after the Edomite gods. And that is in fact what happens. Israel massively defeats Judah. They capture King Amaziah. The break a portion of the wall of Jerusalem and sack the city. They plunder treasures from the palace and temple. They take hostages, in other words, prisoners of war, who likely became slaves back in Israel. What a disaster for Amaziah. And here this fruit of disobedience is also like his father Joash. As God had raised up Hazael of Syria to humble him in military conflict, here God uses Jehoash of Israel to likewise humble in combat.
Well, apparently Amaziah eventually is freed from his capture by Israel. Possibly when King Jehoash of Israel dies and King Jeroboam succeeds him. But at some point, we then see the final events of his reign in Judah in verses 19-20. Again, like his father Joash, his own people conspire against him in Jerusalem. This time, he is able to get out of town and flee to Lachish. But they eventually catch him and put him to death there. He is then returned to Jerusalem – in a coffin. The 2 Chronicles account says that the conspiracy began the moment that he had turned away from the LORD. So, again, this conspiracy is a fruit of his great disobedience where sadly he showed himself to be like his father Joash.
So then, having seen the positive and negative ways in which Amaziah was like his father Joash, let’s briefly consider how he was not like his forefather King David. We can begin by pointing out the obvious. David was not a perfect man. While described as a man after God’s own heart, he was nonetheless a sinner like all of fallen humanity. Yet, despite his struggles with sin, we never see David going after other gods or engaging in idolatry. In that, Amaziah is not like David.
Furthermore, when we reflect on David’s most infamous sin with Bathsheba, we remember how he responded when God sent the prophet Nathan to confront him. David humbly heeded the prophetic word. David became a broken man and repented of his sin. In response to Nathan’s prophetic rebuke, David prayed to God saying, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” He asked that God would hide his face from his sins and blot out all his iniquities. He prayed that God would create in him a clean heart, acknowledging that God desires a broken and contrite spirit over any mere sacrifice. And God heard that prayer and forgave David. God brought chastening to David because of this sin, but did forgive him. And in such chastening, David humbly grew instead of stubbornly entrenching himself in his sin. Likewise, we remember later in David’s life, at the incident when he sinned in the matter of the census. Again, David’s heart pricked him for his sin. God sent the prophet Gad to deal with David. Again, David responded positively in humility to God’s Word through his prophet. In both those examples, we see the humility of David to acknowledge his sin and look to turn from it, especially when God’s sent prophets to confront him with his sin. This is the way Amaziah began but not at all how Amaziah ended his life as king. Amaziah was not like David in this regard.
I think of even how Amaziah wasn’t like David in terms of the matter of the conspiracy. Recall, David also had to flee Jerusalem when the conspiracy instigated by Absalom threatened his life. Unlike Amaziah, David did overcome the threat of that conspiracy, and did return in safety back to Jerusalem and resume his reign. And when we look at David’s attitude during that time where had to flee Jerusalem into exile for his life, it continued to show a man who was humbled before the LORD and acknowledged the LORD as right in all his ways.
So then, with these brief examples, we can see a clear difference between Amaziah and David. Amaziah was, indeed, not like David. And yet, God had promised that from David’s line would come a king who would be king over an everlasting kingdom. What an amazing promise and a glorious hope! Yet, it was not to be Amaziah. But realize this. That promised king of such a kingdom would ultimately need to be someone who was not just like another King David. He would need to be better than King David. Yes, David was a godly example in so many ways. But yet he needed the chastening of the LORD at various points because of the reality that he too was a sinner. The descendants of David needed to look beyond David as the measure. They need to look to live better than David. And not just David’s descendants. God’s people as a whole needed to look beyond a King David. God’s people as a whole need a king who is better than David. And in fact, we have such a king. We have the perfect and sinless King Jesus, the Christ. Jesus who was like David and far better than David. This is our Savior and Lord. The righteous king who also boldly acted as a prophet himself in bring the Word of God to us – and how much he delighted to bring the Word of God! And this king also humbly road into Jerusalem to go to the cross to pay for our sins so we could be a part of his glorious and perfect kingdom. He is our king and his kingdom is our kingdom, if we humbly acknowledge and repent of our sins and humbly put our faith and trust in him.
Saints of God, having found such a king, let us endeavor ourselves not to be merely David-like, or Paul-like, or Mary-like, but Christ-like! Yes, in so far as human leaders show commendable lives, they can be examples for us. But the best of such human examples are ultimately going to be pointing us to Christ. The Bible calls us to the pursuit of Christ-likeness. It’s what is commanded of us as Christians. It is also what is promised to us as Christians. God calls us to be like Christ and promises that he is at work in our lives to make us like Christ. Let us then, in faith, look to put on Christ as we live our lives for the Lord. Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
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