Of Kings and Chronicles – Abijah, king of Judah

Two Boats

The books of Kings and Chronicles described chronologically the various rulers of Israel (the chosen people of God) but they covered different perspectives about them. In their accounts, the kingdom of Israel was later divided and became Israel and Judah, and covered a period of about 400 years. The book of Kings started with the end of King David’s reign and the book of Chronicles spent the first nine chapters on the genealogies of the chosen people’s key characters, and then began relating the story from King David onwards.

Initially, I expected just a historical account of what happened to the chosen people that God had made a covenant with Abraham about. However, I was disturbed by the sheer number of kings who had turned away from God and followed other gods, made idols and kept the `high places’. These kings were either pure evil, power hungry, lustful, drawn by possessions, proud or influenced by such people both within and outside the kingdom.

The good kings were also not all good and only a rare few could be said so. Let’s take a closer look at one of the better kings like Abijah. I must stress  I am using the terms good and better loosely here.

After King Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided under the reign of his son Rehoboam. So the kingdom became Israel under Jeroboam, and Judah under Rehoboam. They were at war with each other and when Rehoboam died, his son, Abijah became king of Judah.

What kind of king was Abijah? He walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God (1 Kings 15:3 ESV). Nevertheless, when he called upon God to help in the battle against Jeroboam, God gave them victory in the battle where 500,000 were slained by Abijah’s army (2 Chronicles 13:17 ESV). It was because “for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem” (1 Kings 15:4 ESV). It was also clear that it was not because of Abijah that the battle was won, since his heart was not wholly true to God.

Reflection

I took quite a while pondering on king Abijah and his son Asa (whom I will share in the next post). It was easier to see the failings of Abijah compared to his son. For one, Abijah was not wholly true to God. It’s like he was standing on two boats going in different directions and he mainly took his leg out from the boat that followed God.

On the one hand, Abijah made an impassioned speech when he faced the battle against Jeroboam’s people. He condemned their idolatrous calf worship and reminded them of the covenant of God with King David, their father (2 Chronicles 13:4-11). On the other hand, he walked in all the sins that his father, Rehoboam did who “built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim… and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.” (1 Kings 14:23-24 ESV).

I saw that this was similar to times where I find it convenient to call upon God when troubles, trials or challenges come. Then when the situation becomes rosy or smooth, I would go on to focus on the pleasures of life or selfish pursuits putting God back on the shelf or worse, a locked store room. God has become like a product on the shelf of a convenience store. When used, you can just throw or chuck it somewhere to be forgotten but looked for again when needed.

My prayer is from Psalm 139:23-24 (ESV) “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” That I may learn to fear and love God truly.

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