A Reform God Desires


Sermon Text: 2 Chronicles 14-20

Main Points:
I. The core of Asa and Jehoshaphat’s reformation
II. The flaw in Asa and Jehoshaphat’s reformation
III. God at the centre of revival

Asa and Jehoshaphat were kings of Judah. They reigned over Judah in the 10th and 9th centuries BC. As father and son, Asa and Jehoshaphat are rare cases among the kings of Judah who carried out spiritual reformation. 2 Chronicles 14-20 record what they did, and you’ll see why these kings of Judah are unique in terms of their works of renewing the hearts of God’s people. Through their labour, they turned the way of Judah around and led them to God for more than a half century.

What these kings have done is a great commentary to us of how to live in holiness. The reformation Asa and Jehoshaphat led in Judah is an outstanding example of how the earthly church could experience a true and spiritual revival.

For this reason, it is worth considering their works of reformation because, as individual Christians, you and I are to live a holy life and, as the body of Christ, this church and every church on earth that calls on the name of the Lord Jesus needs a reformation – I mean, restoration of our faith and growing in living a Christ-centred life.

As we do a case study of these two kings and their works, we need to examine first of all what is the core of their reformation. Then, we examine a flaw in their reformation which became a stain or stigma in their achievements. And lastly, we must find God in this case study of a revival and remember how He blesses His people.

So, let us begin and consider the core of the reformation Asa and Jehoshaphat carried out. The core of their reformation is, in a word, to turn their eyes, hearts and souls to God and focus on hearing His word and following it. In other words, Asa and Jehoshaphat led the people of Judah to turn their eyes away from pagan idols. That’s what these kings did and, more specifically, they removed the so-called ‘high places’ from Judah.

‘High places’ mean altars and shrines built on top of hills and mountains in Judah. Tearing them down and destroying them were what these kings did, reminding people that worshipping God at high places was an abomination to God’s eyes as He had commanded them the way to worship Him, that is, the temple on the holy hill in Jerusalem.

I see this as the most radical thing we read from the history of the OT Israel since the time of David. Even the great King Solomon worshipped God on one of the high places. We know well that having given a thousand burnt offerings to God on that high place in Gibeon, God came to see him in his dream and spoke with him. After Solomon, his son Rehoboam followed his father and so did Abijah, Solomon’s grandson. Then, Asa followed to reign over Judah but did not follow his father or grandfather. He instead removed high places from Judah, and his son Jehoshaphat continued his father’s reformation.

Removing high places was a radical reformation because not only those kings of Judah since Solomon but also all people of the nation did worship God at those places. Consider for a moment what it might’ve been like, if you were one of those people of Judah in the time of King Asa and King Jehoshaphat. You used to visit one of the nearest high places and worshipped God there year after year as your father and his father had done. If you wanted to go to the temple in Jerusalem, you could’ve walked several days to get there and the same number of days on your return trip. You could’ve easily spent at least a week – or even two if you counted the time for preparation before the trip and restoration after it. But if you headed toward a nearby high place, it could’ve been a day’s trip to get there and return home before dusk. Asa and Jehoshaphat forced the whole nation to stop their visit to these places and, instead, imposed a heavy as well as costly burden of travelling to and from Jerusalem. Removing high places was a dangerous and radical reformation. Such a change was not an easy thing to achieve for even a powerful monarch.

By the way, what is a high place? The high place in the OT was an ‘unsanctioned’ place of worship. Israel’s worship at high places was, in a word, a result of the nation’s religious syncretism or fusion of Israel’s faith and pagan idol worship. Israel learned from their neighbours and adopted their practice of giving sacrifices to their idols at shrines and altars built on hill tops and mountain tops. So, they abandoned the way God had commanded them, that is, to come to God and worship Him at the temple in Jerusalem.

Sacrificing at high places was a great sin of Israel. Listen to the prophets who declared God’s warning and urge for repentance from this specific sin. Amos 7:9 says, “The high places of Isaac shall be made desolate.” Hos. 10:8 declares, “the high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed.” Eze. 6:3 announces God’s judgment upon this idolatry, saying, “You mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord God to the mountains and the hills, to the ravines and the valleys: ‘Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places.’” Asa and Jehoshaphat removed such places of sin and abomination, and led God’s people to turn their eyes to the temple in Jerusalem. This is the core of the reformation of Asa and Jehoshaphat. What a radical reformation it was! As they removed high places in Judah, God gave them rest, protecting them from their enemies and making them prosper. It was a time of a great revival in the Lord!

What does this tell us? We must hear this message that God requires of us to tear down every high place that surrounds us. What are the high places we have? Anything and everything that would cause us to compromise our faith in Jesus. Pragmatism is the first high place I’d like to point out because it advocates convenience and efficiency, thus, alters the faith we’ve received from the Lord as delivered by His apostles.

Let me list a few examples of high places built in pragmatism. If more people could be brought to church, alter the meaning of observing Christian Sabbath on the first day of the week and worship God on any day of the week. If the empty pews could be filled, remove from teaching and preaching some offending words like sin, sinner, repentance, damnation or hell but tell people that Jesus would love everyone unconditionally and ready to bless everyone and He would save all people and bring all to heaven, and so on and on. Pragmatism has built various high places in the life of Christians that attract many eyes and legs.

Individualism is another idol that has built multiple high places in and around us. These high places of individualism break Christian unity Jesus established among believers in His church as well as among churches. These high places encourage people to think and say, ‘I’ll mind my own business and you do yours, and we never cross the line.’ Many Christians nowadays consider church membership insignificant, thus, the authority of elders set over Christ’s church.

But the way of the Bible which is sanctioned by Jesus’ blood is that we’re to each other brothers and sisters and fellow members of the Father’s household. We’re inseparably united and will inevitably live together forever. Meanwhile, we’re especially commanded to build each other up in Christ.

Tearing all such high places down and turning the eyes of God’s people to the temple of God where He promised to meet us and feed us in His grace and mercy was the core of the reformation Asa and Jehoshaphat carried out. And what is this temple of God? The answer is Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. He is the temple we all must turn to. While He was on earth, He talked about tearing down the temple and rebuilding it in three days, and He meant His own body. He died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins but on the third day, He rose from the dead for our eternal hope and joy. As the OT temple was the symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people, Jesus came to us to be our Immanuel, that is, ‘God with us’! So, we’re to turn our eyes to Jesus alone and worship Him alone. This is the reformation God desires from us; this is the reformation Jesus’ church needs. The same was the core of the reformation in Judah at the time of Asa and Jehoshaphat.

Sadly, however, there was a flaw in such a good and amazing spiritual revival in the time of Asa and Jehoshaphat. And that flaw caused a series of ill effects on those kings and the people of Judah. Ironically, that flaw was to not remove the whole high places but leave some.

You read from 2 Chron. 15:7 and 20:33 that both Asa and Jehoshaphat did not take all but left some high places. What it means is that these kings of Judah were not consistent in their reformation. Their zeal for renewal of heart faded away as time flew and their first love for the Lord waned.

The same is the common trouble found among us Christians. For example, a Christian begins walking with the word and the Spirit, and does it faithfully and vigorously. But as time passes, he finds that zeal and vigour for the Lord almost only in his memory, and no longer does he have the same joy. Repentance used to be deep, and each sin was taken out from his heart and placed before the cross of Christ. Then, hearing God’s gracious words of forgiveness of sins, his heart melted with thanks and filled with hope. He smiled at everyone in his church and on the streets; he served fellow members of Jesus’ church while humming of praises continued in his heart and mouth. But no longer does he sing, rarely serve others. Removing high places in his heart and life has been slowed down significantly, if not totally.

Similar things might also happen to the life of a church. The gospel of Jesus has become something ‘for members only.’ The doors are open for a few instead of all people on the streets. Worship gatherings and fellowship events have become for the regulars, having few new faces. Leaving some high places in us would cause some serious ill effects like these!

Now, coming back to King Asa, he had begun a wonderful reform, but did not remove all high places in Judah. An ill effect came upon him and his people. One day a trouble arose and he sought help not from God but from man. The northern kingdom Israel attacked Judah. Then, Asa bribed Syrian king and asked him to attack his enemy from behind. What 2 Chronicles tells us is that God regarded Asa’s dependence on man rather than God a serious sin, and sent His messenger to him. But in anger, Asa imprisoned God’s messenger and rejected the word he had brought to his ears!

Asa’s son, Jehoshaphat, did a similar thing. He did not remove all high places in Judah. Although he was one of the most highly regarded kings of Judah, he sought not the hand of the Almighty God but of man. He allied with Ahab, the most evil king of Israel, through marriage. It was a serious sin in the eyes of God. That’s because Ahab was an enemy of God who killed God’s prophets and persecuted God’s priests, while leading the people of Israel to idolatries. About this, 2 Chron. 19:2 records God’s warning in these words, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD.”

This does not tell us that we must always be faithful to God if we want no trouble. No, that’s not what the troubles of Asa and Jehoshaphat teach us. The message for us is that we should continue in the reformation God desires from us, that is, removing all ‘high places’ in us, we seek the Lord Jesus alone, hear His voice alone, and depend on Him alone.

The good news is that we can seek the Lord and depend on Him alone. We can do it all! Because it is God who begins it in us and guides us in all these. He is the powerhouse of our revival, reformation, restoration. In His zeal, He enables us and that is His joy!

Let me prove it to you by going back to the stories of Asa and Jehoshaphat. 2 Chron. 15:8 tells us that Asa began his reformation in Judah as God had strengthen him. This verse says, “As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the Son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities.” The same is for Jehoshaphat, Asa’s son, as 17:3 says that the Lord was with him.

God is at the starting point for His elect, and He initiates a reformation in the life of His beloved. Furthermore, He provides him/her strength at every moment. God never leaves His child alone, nor turns His eye away from him, but always is at the centre of her heart and life. Listen to 1 Thess. 4, our first Bible reading for today, especially v. 3 to see whether it is true – it says, “this is the will of God, your sanctification.” V. 7 emphasises it again and says, “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” 1 Thess. 5:23-24 underscore this so firmly by saying, “may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus. He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it”! Not only the Father but also the Son Jesus proves, saying this in Jn. 6:39, “this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day.” And He repeats the same twice more in the same chapter in John’s Gospel.

What a joy it is to know that God is at the centre of every Christian’s life, your life and mine, especially in removing of every high place and coming to the only temple to worship God, that is, Jesus Christ!

So, this conclusion, my friends, that we repent from our sins, remove every thought that is contrary to God’s word, while we come to Jesus Christ, our Immanuel. In doing this, let us encourage each other; let us help one another so as to come to Jesus side by side. This is the reform God desires from us. ***

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