Our reading today begins with the reign of Joash’s son Amaziah (25:1). He was a “good” king, though he did not follow God whole-heartedly (v. 2). In verse 4, the chronicler is sure to point out that Amaziah followed the Law of Moses concerning the children of the conspirators, who we are told he killed in verse 3. Here is the question: is verse 3 part of not following God whole-heartedly, or is it part of following the Law. I think that the chronicler (or the Holy Spirit) is showing us that it’s both; it is possible to follow the letter of the Law without whole-heartedly following God.
In verse 5, we are told of the army of Judah. Note that the army is far smaller than it was under Jehoshaphat (17:14-19). God is using circumstances on earth to ready Judah for the spiritual reality they will face at the captivity. To Amaziah’s credit, when God sends a prophet to him to warn him about alliance with Israel (vv. 7-8), he heeds the warning (v. 10), though Judah suffers somewhat for the alliance between God’s people and wicked Israel (v. 13).
In verse 14, we see that Amaziah’s half-hearted commitment to YHWH results in idolatry. Think about this. He heeds the prophet and trusts YHWH for victory against Edom (vv. 10-11), and God gives him the victory (vv. 11-12), but because of his idolatrous heart, Amaziah ignores this prophet (vv. 15-6). Why? Because he was not committed to YHWH. Amaziah missed what God had done and grew prideful. This would be a valuable lesson for the chronicler to teach the returning remnant. Verses 17-28 parallel the account of 2 Kings 14. Note that Amaziah suffered the same fate as his father, dying at the hands of his own people (v. 27).
Chapter 26 begins the reign of Amaziah’s son Uzziah (26:1). He is called Azariah in 2 Kings 15:1-7, where we get only a very brief look at his life and reign. Here, we get much more detail (though much goes unrecorded for a reign that lasted 52 years!). Uzziah was one of the “good” kings (v. 4). He sought God (v. 5). And as long as he did, God prospered him. He invaded and took over Philistine lands (v. 6) which was an act of God (v. 7). He subdued the Ammonites (v. 8). He expanded Jerusalem’s defenses (v. 9). He improved Judah’s agriculture (v. 10). He built up Judah’s military (vv. 11-15).
However, like his father, the blessings of the Lord made Uzziah proud (v. 16). We see here that Uzziah was “unfaithful’ because he burnt incense on the Altar of Incense (v. 17). But wait! David, Solomon, and other kings acted as priests to God before, and had offered burnt offerings to him. Why is this act of Uzziah an issue? It is because of Uzziah’s pride (v. 16). Previous kings offered on the altar of burnt offering in the court of the Temple. The Altar of Incense was in the Holy Place, right outside the Holy of Holies. Uzziah apparently felt that he deserved to approach God’s very presence. He could not because of his pride, and that he did reveals his pride. The issue is inward, not outward. The priests attempt to correct him (vv. 17-18), and his pride makes him angry with them (v. 19). And we see that as a result of the anger (the inward!), God strikes Uzziah with leprosy (v. 19), which excluded him from taking part in any worship of God (v. 21).
In the account of Uzziah’s death, we have a reference to Isaiah the prophet. Remember, Isaiah’s ministry began at the end of Uzziah’s reign (see Isa 1:1). We have the account of Isaiah’s calling from the year that Uzziah died (see Isa 6:1). And what was the message of Isaiah? He would prophesy to a people doomed to defeat and captivity (see Isa 6:9-13). The chronicler is pointing out that the degeneration of Judah, led by the sin of her kings, had by this point in time sealed their fate. The remnant would be familiar with Isaiah’s writings – both the predictions of captivity and the call to repentance. The chronicler is pointing them to not repeat the mistakes of their ancestors, and embrace repentance.
Chapter 27 records the reign of Uzziah’s son Jotham. Note that he did not enter the Temple (27:2). This is perhaps because of what happened to his father (26:16). Judah prospered under him (vv. 3-4), but they still practiced idolatry (v. 2 – see 2 Kings 15:35). That he fought with Ammon (v. 5) would indicate that following Uzziah’s death they rebelled against Judah (see 26:8). All of Jotham’s prosperity came because of his devotion to YHWH (v. 6). The contrast between him and Uzziah would be a lesson for the remnant.
Chapter 28 records the reign of Ahaz. He was a wicked king (28:1). He worshipped Baal and Molech (vv. 2-3). Note that in verses 2 and 3 the chronicler subtly equates Israel with the displaced nations of Canaan. The account of the war against Syria and Israel parallels 2 Kings 16, but here we get the record of the prophet Oded (v. 9). Note that even though God brought Israel against Judah to chastise Judah, Israel was still responsible for their actions (vv. 9-11). We also see that even among those of Israel – now a pagan nation – there were still those that followed YHWH (v. 13). In these four men, we have here a picture of the “Good Samaritan” (v. 15).
In verse 17 we see a foreshadowing of the captivity. God is chastising Judah to call them back to Him. So too, in verse 18, we see that God is allowing foreign nations to take over parts of Judah. Verse 19 explicitly tells us that God was allowing this to humble Judah. But Ahaz, rather than turning back to YHWH, turns to the gods of Syria (vv. 22-25). Again, the message to the remnant is crystal clear. They had been chastised by God. He is now calling them back. What would they do?