In my last blog we briefly defined ecumenism and then looked at an example of it in Ezra 4. I’d encourage you to check out that blog (at least the introduction of it before reading this one). Now we’re going to look at another example from the life of Amaziah, king of Judah…
2 Chr 25:1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, but not with a loyal heart.
Other versions say he obeyed God, but not wholeheartedly or not with his whole heart; he’s a great picture of half-hearted devotion to God. The problem with half-hearted devotion is it leaves half of your heart for something else and we’ll see that play out in Amaziah’s life.
3 Now it happened, as soon as the kingdom was established for him, that he executed his servants who had murdered his father the king.
Amaziah’s father was Joash, and in the previous chapter you can read about him being assassinated. Amaziah punished the men who murdered his father.
4 However he did not execute their children, but did as it is written in the Law in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall die for his own sin.” (Deut 24:16)
You might wonder why there’s discussion about him sparing the children of the men who murdered his father, and the reason is the standard practice in the Old Testament involved executing the children as well to prevent any of them from later taking revenge. God strictly forbid that though and to Amaziah’s credit he obeyed God in this area, which was a big deal because of how hazardous it was to let the children live. Basically, he put his faith in God to protect him instead of taking matters into his own hands
Bible scholar C. Knapp said, “He made a good beginning in thus adhering closely to the law. Happy would it have been for him and for his kingdom had he continued as he began.”
5 Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together and set over them captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, according to their fathers’ houses, throughout all Judah and Benjamin; and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them to be three hundred thousand choice men, able to go to war, who could handle spear and shield.
He’s getting ready to go to war against Edom and he has 300,000 soldiers, but he felt like this wasn’t enough so…
6 He also hired one hundred thousand mighty men of valor from Israel for one hundred talents of silver (approx. 4 tons).
Here’s the ecumenism!!!
Amaziah decided to hire an additional 100,000 soldiers, or mercenaries, from the northern kingdom of Israel as well. 4 tons of silver is 120,000 ounces and silver is valued at about $35 per ounce, so this would be around $4.2 million today.
More than likely most of this money was paid to the king of Israel who ordered the mercenaries of Israel to aid Amaziah against Edom. In other words, the mercenaries probably didn’t receive any money; their pay would come from the plunder of the battle.
7 But a man of God came to him, saying, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel—not with any of the children of Ephraim.
“man of God” is a technical term used about 70 times in the Old Testament to refer to people who spoke for God.
Ephraim was the largest tribe in the northern kingdom of Israel, so sometimes Israel was simply called Ephraim.
The man of God came to Amaziah and told him he couldn’t go to battle without the 100,00 mercenaries he just hired, which means he’ll be out the money he spent. Now why didn’t God want Amaziah using these mercenaries from Israel? There are probably two reasons…
First, Amaziah’s great-grandfather was King Jehoram, and King Jehoram’s father was King Jehoshaphat (Amaziah’s great-great-grandfather). They both got into a lot of trouble for working with Israel. Specifically, Jehoshaphat made an alliance with Ahab, the king of Israel, husband of Jezebel. If you took a poll of the wickedest men in the OT, Ahab would be near the top of every list.
To seal the alliance between Jehoshaphat and Ahab their children (Jehoram, Jehoshaphat’s son and Athaliah, Ahab’s daughter) married. Obviously nobody should marry a woman whose mother’s name is Jezebel. If you took a poll of the wickedest women in the OT, Athaliah and Jezebel would be number 1 and 2 on every list. They make Delilah look godly. Jezebel is the woman who slaughtered hundreds of God’s prophets and had Naboth murdered for his vineyard. Her daughter Athaliah murdered all her own grandsons (except for one that sovereignly survived to continue the Messianic line), so she wouldn’t lose the throne to them.
The point is that by now Israel was really wicked and God didn’t want Judah having anything to do with them and Amaziah should’ve known that. In fact, when Jehoram was king, you’d think Judah would’ve been stronger because of their alliance with Israel, but they actually became weaker because their real strength didn’t come from political alliances, but spiritual health. Judah is about to go to war against Edom, who used to be vassals to Judah. Edom actually rebelled against Judah during Jehoram’s reign, because his relationship with Israel weakened the nation so much they were no longer afraid of Judah.
The other reason God didn’t want Judah working with Israel is because he wanted them to depend on Him, and not some other nation for support. If Judah succeeded in defeating Edom (which is what’s going to happen) it would have looked like it was because of Israel’s help instead of God’s help.
The point is God doesn’t want His people working with anyone and everyone just for the sake of success.
Some people say, “Sure God wouldn’t want us working with Muslims and Buddhists, but He must be okay with Christians working with groups that call themselves Christians.” Consider this: God wasn’t discouraging Judah from working with some foreign nation like the Assyrians, Babylonians, Moabites, etc. He was discouraging the Jews from working with Israel, their brother nation!
8 But if you go, be gone! Be strong in battle! Even so, God shall make you fall before the enemy; for God has power to help and to overthrow.”
First the man of God tells him if he goes he’s going to lose, then he uses some sarcasm and says, “If you go and take those mercenaries, you better be strong, because God won’t be with you.”
I like the way he says this. Don’t you feel like saying this to people sometimes? You suspect people are going to do what they want to do anyway, so you say, “If this is what you want to do, then go ahead and do it.” It’s like when Jesus told Judas, “Go and do what you want to do.”
9 Then Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?”
And the man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.”
Amaziah was more concerned with the money he’d lose than obeying God. We might be quick to judge Amaziah, but I remember feeling this way after I became a Christian when I had to throw out a lot of movies, music, books and fitness magazines I had. It’s completely worth it though because there’s no amount of money worth being able to lay your head down at night and know you’re obeying God.
Besides: don’t worry about the money. God isn’t broke. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. You say, “I’ve already invested so much…there have already been all these expenses…we already formed a partnership…I’ve went to such great lengths already.” It would be better to forfeit all that for God.
Let’s say you’re at work and you’ve got the opportunity to make more money, but it involves being deceitful, shortchanging someone, stepping on someone to make progress…it would be better to swallow the financial loss and obey God. This is one of the great lessons from the passage that obeying God might mean giving some things up, maybe even losing some money sometimes, but if you honor God, you’re going to be in a better place.
It surprises me when people who say they believe in God aren’t upright in their finances as though their compromise will leave them in a better place:
- Sometimes people are deceitful on their tax returns. I feel way safer being upright with my taxes and trusting God to provide for us than be deceitful and maybe make a little more money, but not obey God.
- We knew a guy who called himself a Christian and his son messed up his truck. He lied to the insurance and said he was driving to save some money and I thought, “Wow, you’re that concerned about money and now you think you’re in a better place financially after taking yourself outside God’s will?”
If you ever face a situation where you want to obey God, but it involves some sacrifice, remember the prophet’s words: “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” I’ve quoted this to people numerous times in counseling when they wanted to make a compromising decision based on greed or covetousness.
Think about Moses’ example. Hebrews 11 says, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, he thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures in Egypt; for he looked ahead to his greater reward.” Moses was willing to give up so much to be in God’s will, including a life of tremendous luxury and wealth in pharaoh’s palace.
10 So Amaziah discharged the troops that had come to him from Ephraim (or Israel), to go back home. Therefore their anger was greatly aroused against Judah, and they returned home in great anger.
To Amaziah’s credit he obeyed the prophet, lost the money and sent the mercenaries home.
These mercenaries were angry for two reasons:
- They were probably insulted at being hired and then sent home like there was something wrong with them
- They were counting on additional plunder and spoil from the battle as income.
11 Then Amaziah strengthened himself, and leading his people, he went to the Valley of Salt and killed ten thousand of the people of Seir.
Seir is where the Edomites live, so to say, “the people of Seir” is to refer to the Edomites. So Amaziah had a huge victory with thousands of less men! He experienced great success with much less favorable circumstances.
The application for us in ministry is we shouldn’t look at numbers. We shouldn’t try to produce more favorable circumstances for ourselves. We should obey God and trust Him to make us successful.