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Nobodies of the Bible: Amaziah, the half-hearted king
Amaziah, King of Judah and direct descendant of David himself, certainly never thought of himself as a nobody. His life becomes a very practical lesson for us today only if we regard him as an average working stiff who got up every morning and labored at the family business.
Just as his completely anonymous subjects worked in the fish business or farming business or cattle business, he just inherited the king business. As kings go, he was not particularly distinguished. The Bible says he did right, but not wholeheartedly. James warns the double-minded not to expect anything from God.
Amaziah's father Joash had been just the same sort of middling king. Raised in the temple by the priest Jehoiada, he reigned as a marvelous, godly king as long as Jehoiada lived. Then he started doing stupid things like setting up idols in the temple. When prophets, including Jehoiada's son, called him to account, he had them murdered. So his own servants murdered him.
Obeying God wholeheartedly means living by faith. It always leads to success. Obeying God halfheartedly means acting in doubt and always leads to failure. Amaziah obeyed God not as David had, but as Joash had.
In his first act, avenging his father's death by executing his murderers, he very properly did not execute their children. He followed the letter of the law, but half-heartedness could have very naturally triggered irritation, resentment, and desire for more complete revenge every time he saw them. Failure to deal with offenses and get rid of them sabotages victories in other, seemingly unrelated areas.
Besides doubt and offense, Amaziah demonstrated fear when he discovered he had an army of 300,000. According to 2 Chronicles 26:13, his son Uzziah, a man of faith, had a "powerful army" of 307,500. Amaziah didn't think his was powerful enough and hired mercenaries from ungodly Israel.
A prophet warned him that if he took Israel's army to war, he would lose, but promised victory if he went alone. Amaziah had already paid them. What about the money? The prophet reminded him that God could give him back more than he had spent. However reluctantly, Amaziah dismissed his hired troops.
The behavior of Israel's army shows them as a type of Satan:
•They came eagerly when called.
•They left unwillingly when dismissed.
•They sought revenge, even though they had been paid in full, and so no wrong was done to them.
•They did not change sides and attack Amaziah's army. Instead, they picked on defenseless civilians like cowards.
This last point provides a strong indication that when Amaziah conducted his census, he did not follow all of the procedures specified in the law (Exodus 30:12-16) and reaped the promised curse for his disobedience.
Even though he won a great victory, the loss of the 100 talents and the sting of the mercenaries' attack on his cities counted for more. Although these setbacks resulted directly from his half-hearted obedience, it certainly appears he became angry with God.
After all, he was the king and therefore special. No prophet or god or anyone else could boss him around. God had butted in where Amaziah hadn't invited him and really messed things up. So Amaziah brought the idols of the nation he defeated to Jerusalem and set them up in the temple.
Half-hearted obedience turned to full scale rebellion. When people reject the living God, they can turn nowhere else except to defeated, discredited idols. In the natural, Amaziah had already defeated these gods. In the spirit, Jesus defeated them and all like them on the cross.
Sinful humans naturally find it easier to worship idols than the living God. Idols appeal to the flesh and make no demands that simple rituals cannot fulfill. The rituals nearly always feel good. Of course, some idols demand the sacrifice of your children, but even that is easier and more comfortable than giving up sin and drawing near to God in the spirit.
Amaziah's issued a challenge to Joash, the king of Israel, marking the end of an alliance that had lasted for five generations of kings of Judah and two dynasties of kings of Israel. Amaziah's cause was just, and Israel appears to have been weaker militarily.
(Take a look at 2 Kings 13:7, describing the weakness of this Joash's father and compare it with 2 Kings 14:26-27, the power of his son).
With that combination, we should expect that Amaziah would defeat Joash, but he was in a state of unrepentant sin. Nobody can expect to win anything in that condition. Amaziah suffered not only defeat but thorough humiliation. It did not occur to him to repent and turn back to God.
Amaziah spent the rest of his reign running from rivals who apparently could not stand being ruled by such a loser. They finally caught him and killed him at Lachish. Up until the end, he must have done what was right half-heartedly if at all, wondering why God never helped him.
Abraham heard from God--promises that were hard to believe. He believed and acted on his belief and became a hero of faith for all time. Amaziah heard from God--promises that were easier to believe. He did not believe and made only a half-hearted stab at acting on what he was promised. He became a loser.
According to Isaiah 1:19-20, "If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." It's never too late to repent, if only we recognize our need.