2 Chronicles 16-18: Man’s Religion

Chapter 16

Unfortunately, the covenant of salt described in chapter 13 is ignored by Asa in the latter years of his life.  For fear of Baasha, king of Israel (and in spite of the various victories won by Asa against the Ethiopians and the people who did not agree with the oath to love the LORD with all their heart), he sacrificed the silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the LORD and the king’s house (v.2) to re-affirm the heretical covenant (v.3) with Ben-hadad king of Syria.  Instead of remembering the covenant of salt, the oath and covenant that he re-affirmed with the LORD with Azariah’s help, he would rather break Baasha’s sinful covenant with Ben-hadad with another Christless covenant.  As Hanani said to Asa – “Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen?” – and Asa’s victories still came from the LORD.  Yet, Asa forgot the steadfast love of the LORD; he lost his first love (v.11-14), just as we do when we face current troubles and forget how He has not ceased to faithfully rescue us in our walks with Him.

Chapter 17

However, the son of Asa, Jehoshaphat, walked with the LORD as in the earlier ways of David (v.3).  Unlike the spontaneous reforms and oaths of Asa, Jehoshaphat laid the seeds of the gospel in the hearts of the Israelites as led by the Levites (v.8), teaching throughout Judah the book of the Law of the LORD and to Whom the law points towards (v.9-10).  In their understanding of the gospel witnessed in the Mosaic law, they chose not to rebel against their lord Jehoshaphat, fully understanding the true significance of the covenant between the LORD and the house of David.  Unsurprisingly, the evangelistic and missional effect of clinging closely to Jesus is truly felt once the law has been intentionally preached throughout Israel, that gospel peace is once again attained when the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah (v.10).

Chapter 18

Even in Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab, one of the first pictures of unity between Israel and Judah since the days of Solomon, Jehoshaphat does not cease to remind Ahab the importance of inquiring first for the word of the LORD (v.4).  Unlike the four hundred “prophets” which Ahab surrounded himself with (v.9-11), Jehoshaphat knew that the true word of the LORD could only come from a true prophet (v.6) – that being Micaiah the son of Imlah who does not fear the king of Israel and therefore does not speak words of empty flattery (v.7, 13, 17).  The clear irony which the narrator is trying to portray is the juxtaposition of the image of Ahab and Jehoshaphat sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes (v.9) surrounded by ridiculous prophets; and that of the glorious LORD sitting on his throne (v.18) and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left, clarifying that one of the LORD’s spirit has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all of Ahab’s prophets (v.21-22) to entice Ahab and lead him to disaster.  Yet, is this picture not all too familiar of that of the Sanhedrin’s inquisition of our LORD Jesus Christ?  The false teachers, Pharisees and Sadducees weighing the substance of Christ and instead of taking His word seriously would rather question His authenticity and His Spirit?  Thus Ahab’s false religion and prophets go to the grave with him (v.28-34) just as the modern religion of Judaism is but a remnant and not even more than a shadow of the Messianic Judaism of the Old Testament as preached by Jehoshaphat.  Jehoshaphat’s naked and childlike cry (v.13) is enough to warrant the LORD’s protection; Ahab’s thick clothing of a false priesthood and disguise are but useless before the the LORD’s throne.

 

 

2 Chronicles 16-18: Man’s Religion

2 Chronicles 13-15: Covenant of Salt

Chapter 13

Here, the rivalry is again described overall as the tension between the house of David and the house of Jeroboam, with the intention of the narrator being very clearly one of “priesthood versus heresy”.  Verses 3-12 is a beautiful proclamation made by Abijah, stating clearly what has been implied in Jeroboam’s removal of the Levitical priests in 2 Chronicles 11 (c.f. v.9-12).  Solomon’s household, as well as Rehoboam’s, were portrayed as the elected household in v.5 – “…the LORD God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt“.  This phrase “covenant of salt” is used in two other instances – Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19.  In my commentary of the book of Numbers, the covenant is explained as such:

“Salt is commonly used in two analogies: the covenant between LORD and man; and negative connotations (C.f. Ezekiel 47:11 and Zeph 2:9).  Leviticus 2:13 makes the point that all the grain offerings shall have the covenant of salt.  When placing this covenant alongside Lot’s wife who turned into a pillar of salt, it is simultaneously an imagery of God’s sanctification/separation.  In 2 Kings, the usage of the salt is for purification of the water; in Ezekiel, the imagery of the salt is that of dirt and uncleanness.  The prophecy of Ezekiel 47:8 makes a distinction between fresh and salt water – and no doubt, the salt water being the water of punishment from the deluge from the window above heaven (c.f. Genesis 7 and 2 Peter 3), but the fresh water being the water on earth.

 

To bring these two imageries together, the feeding on the holy flesh (cow/sheep/goat) and the unmistakable “covenant of salt”, the picture is a two-fold manifestation of Christ’s work on the cross.  Through his blood, we can now feed continuously of the flesh represented by the communion bread as sanctified priests, symbolized by the anointing and separation of the covenant of salt.  It is by this covenant of salt that David and his sons were given the kingship over Israel forever?  Undoubtedly this salt-covenant to David and his sons is a conscious foresight of the Son’s eternal kingdom, an act of purification, just as the salt waters burst through the heavens to purify the world of the wicked creatures.”

This covenant of salt is a synonym to the gospel work completed through David’s lineage and not to Jeroboam’s lineage.  Jeroboam’s failure to see the importance of the Temple, of the Levites, of Jesus’ heritage are all the essence of all heresies – the failure to connect the dots in the Old Testament which all point towards the cross and not to oneself’s creation of truth.  “Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed” (v.12).  Indeed, David, Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijah are not the head of Israel – the LORD God Himself is the Head, and Jeroboam is challenging not Judah, nor Abijah, but the LORD Himself.

This explains Jeroboam’s utter debacle and loss in v.13-20, whereas Abijah grew mighty under the wings of the LORD.

Chapter 14

Again, chapter 14 records another victory achieved solely by relying on the LORD, in fulfillment of Solomon’s prayer in chapter 6.  This time, it is not Jeroboam, but the Ethiopians (who have clearly forgotten the blessing of Solomon through their early Queen of Sheba in chapter 9) who challenged Israel with more men than Jeroboam (an army of a million men vs. Jeroboam’s 800,000 men).  Asa’s cry is similar to that of his father’s: “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak.  Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude.  O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.

Chapter 15

Upon the filling of the Holy Spirit, Azariah the son of Oded reminds king Asa of the “Golden Age” of Israel’s rule under David and Solomon, when the gospel was clearly communicated amongst the Israelites, all of whom were looking forward to the day of the Messiah’s first coming.  Azariah’s comment that “For a long time Israel was without the true God” (v.3) is an observation of Israel losing its way in the period since Rehoboam to Asa, due to the removal of the formal priesthood and compliance with the Mosaic statutes under the divided rule of Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  The only comfort of the Israelites was through their oral teaching and remembrance of the LORD’s steadfast love in their times of distress (v.4).  However, Azariah wishes for the Christian walk to be filled with peace (v.5), and not to only call upon the LORD in times of brokenness (v.6).  Asa’s subsequent actions and reforms (v.8-15) are indeed the actions of a righteous Christian king, drawing in more and more of those previous defected (those from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon v.9) with his testimony of the LORD.  It is with their collective sacrifice (v.11) and the covenant and oath (v.12-14) that the LORD gave them rest all around (v.15-19) between his tenth year (when he defeated the Ethiopians) and 35th year as king.  The LORD’s steadfast love to the house of David means that Asa’s compliance with the Spirit’s prompting is a key step towards ensuring the survival of Israel until the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled.  Although man has forgotten the law and priesthood, the LORD will never forget.  Although man may even forget the promise of the Messiah as their true hope, the LORD will never stop working to ensure the Messiah will come from the line of David and crush the Satan who leads His sheep astray time and time again.

2 Chronicles 13-15: Covenant of Salt