2 Chronicles 25:1-28
Sometimes God asks us to do things that will cost us a great deal. In today’s story Amaziah had made a mistake. He had hired soldiers from Israel (the disobedient Kingdom to the North) to bolster his own military power.
There are two reasons why this was a wrong decision. First, building up military strength was a demonstration that the king was trusting in his own army to protect the kingdom, rather than in the power of God. We saw that trip up great kings like David and Solomon. Second, hiring Israelites demonstrated that Amaziah was willing to compromise his own values in order to accomplish something that he had convinced himself was right. Too many times we fall into that trap. We will make ethical compromises in our decision making if we believe the end result will “advance the Kingdom.” In our success-oriented culture, the church has many times bought into the sub-conscious belief that “success covers a multitude of sins.” It was wrong for Amaziah to hire ungodly warriors to fight for God’s people. It demonstrated that He didn’t think God was strong enough to make up for the physical weakness of Judah’s present army.
Before we beat up on Amaziah too harshly, let’s examine our own hearts. It is so easy to evaluate our current situation by purely physical standards. Here’s what typically happens in many churches. We want to accomplish great things for God, so we stop and evaluate our “horse power.” Then we realize that we are just a rag-tag group of common folk who don’t have a lot of money, aren’t strikingly attractive, and aren’t bristling with television-quality talent. After assessing the troops we think, “wow, with this sad bunch we won’t be able to do diddly for God’s Kingdom.” So, using the same physical lenses that we used to evaluate our own troops, we scour the countryside looking for “10’s” who we can hire to come in and lead us into the battle field. The danger here is that our lenses have already been skewed to the physical realities before our search even started. Then we hire people based upon physical qualities, people who can “produce.” The problem is that the “production” is flowing from the physical resources which got them hired. The next thing you know, the church is growing and thriving, but it is bearing the fruit of physical realities.
So what is the alternative?
Let’s revisit the dialogue between the man of God and Amaziah (with a little artistic, interpretive license)
“Amaziah, stop the insanity! Send these soldiers back. Your standards and values are totally whacked and you need to start fresh.”
“You want me to do what? Do you know how much I have invested in these soldiers? I’ll lose my shirt if I backtrack now.”
“You’ll lose more than your shirt if you don’t do the right thing, right now. Don’t you think that God can cover your loses if you simply obey Him and trust Him?”
Amaziah did obey, and it cost him. He lost money, and he also made enemies…but he did what was right.
This theme comes up again throughout Jesus’ teaching. The rich young ruler was unwilling to give away all that he had to enter the Kingdom. Jesus said that, to be a disciple one had to count the cost. The plowman could not look back when he left the plow. The spiritual pilgrim had to enter the narrow gate and climb the steep and difficult path. It is not easy, or cheap being a follower of Jesus, but it is free.
There are two lessons from today:
- We cannot use physical lenses to evaluate the “horse power” of our church. Remember the Kingdom of God is a Spiritual reality. It is a matter of the heart. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. When did God ever use the “qualified” applicant to do His great and mighty work? He gave a son to an elderly couple. He chose a stuttering murderer to lead His people out of slavery. He chose a ruddy shepherd boy to create an eternal dynasty. He became a simple Galilean carpenter, surrounded by a band of backwater fisherman, radicals, tax-collectors and prostitutes, to change the world. It is God’s Kingdom and He distributes His gifts, to the people He chooses, and works through them in the way that He wants. As a church, it is not our job to “make things happen”, it is our job to seek the face of God, be filled with His presence, discern the overflow, and jump into it.
- Remember that, from physical standards, it will probably cost us everything to walk according to the Kingdom of God. If you are entrenched in a physically dominated mode right now, and you are holding on to your power, possessions, prestige, and profit, then you will have to give them up in order to realign yourself with God’s Kingdom. The alcoholic will have to leave alcohol behind. The sexual offender will have to trash the internet connection and/or cut off the relationship where sex has entered before marriage. The coveter will have to release the idea of ever having anything more than she currently has. We have to give something up, and it will cost us everything. But then…only then, after we have been stripped clean of the barnacles of life, God will open up the storehouse of the treasuries of His kingdom and His glory that far outshines anything that you thought the physical realities you clung to could have ever offered.