1 In the second year of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel, Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, became king. 2 He 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. 3 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like his father David; he did everything as his father Joash had done. 4 However the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (2 Kings 14:1-4)

However the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places

Time and again the Lord puts this similar remark when describing the Kings of Israel and Judah. It was as if it was red mark on the report card of the king.

What were these ‘High Places’?

In biblical times, pagan religions built holy shrines to their plethora of gods on top of high hills to show their importance and so that all could see them. The land around Jerusalem was very hilly and many of these shrines to false gods dotted the landscape.
When the Israelites conquered the Promised Land—land promised to them by God—He warned them to avoid acting like the natives in that land. God told them to destroy all forms of idol worship and images of false gods.

The Need to Blend – Inculturisation

Many Israelites obeyed this command, but many others “felt the need” to blend in with the culture of the conquered country. Some left the high places standing and in time started using this pagan system to worship the pagan gods and sometimes even try to “honor” the one true God. They did this despite God’s direct command to never do it! Even today, Christian leaders are doing these very things in the name of ‘Inculturisation’

The “high places” survived for many generations. The Bible records how various kings of Israel did not remove them—whether they were “dedicated” to the God of Israel or to other foreign gods of the land. King Hezekiah was an exception to the list of kings who neglected their duty before God (2 Kings:18:1-7

In our modern times we don’t often consider these things. Yet the principles involved in these ancient trends still apply today. The nature of humanity has not changed. Historically we see over and over that radical, positive reform and a complete return to the true God of the Bible did not happen without the total destruction of the sinful high places of the past. God was not pleased even when the Israelites “worshipped” Him by using pagan, idolatrous practices to do so—because that pseudo-worship was built on traces of sin.

Modern high places

Today, we may not have physical shrines or idols to various gods, but we do have “high places” in our lives. What are high places in today’s Christian life?

5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians 10:5-6)
The high places in the Christian’s life today are “those things that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” Anything that voices contrary to the Word of the Lord are high places. We need to tear them down like Hezekiah.

He killed ten thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt, and took Sela by war, and called its name Joktheel to this day. (2 Kings 14:7)

2 Chronicles 25:5-16 gives more background to this event. Amaziah gathered a huge army in Judah to go against Edom – three hundred thousand choice men, able to go to war, who could handle spear and shield. He also hired 100,000 mercenary soldiers from Israel. But a prophet came and warned him to not use the soldiers from Israel, because God was not with that rebellious and idolatrous kingdom. Amaziah was convinced to trust God, send the mercenaries from Israel away, and accept the loss of the money used to hire them. God blessed this step of faith, and gave them a convincing victory over the Edomites.

Amaziah trusted God for the victory over Edom; but immediately after the victory his heart turned from God: Now it was so, after Amaziah came from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the people of Seir, set them up to be his gods, and bowed down before them and burned incense to them. (2 Chronicles 25:14)

Learning to Maintain the Victory

Amaziah had gained victory but he had to learn to maintain that victory. This is where he failed. One of the ways to maintain your victory in the Lord is to keep doing those things that brought you the victory in the first place. Amaziah’s victory did not come through his military might but by obedience to the word of the Lord. he failed to do this and let pride rule him instead.

8 Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us face one another in battle.” 9 And Jehoash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, “The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son as wife’; and a wild beast that was in Lebanon passed by and trampled the thistle. 10 You have indeed defeated Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Glory in that, and stay at home; for why should you meddle with trouble so that you fall—you and Judah with you?” (2 Kings 14:8-10)

Pride the Reason for Failure

Proud from his success against Edom, Amaziah decided to make war against the northern kingdom of Israel. Pride was the reason for his failure

Again, 2 Chronicles 25:5-16 gives more background to this event. When Amaziah sent away the Israelite mercenaries, they were not happy – even though he paid them for not fighting against Edom (they probably counted on receiving much more from the spoil of battle). As they returned to Israel, they raided the cities of Judah from Samaria to Beth Horon, killed three thousand in them, and took much spoil (2 Chronicles 25:13). This was the political motivation for Amaziah’s attack against Israel.

He had reason to believe he would be successful. He had recently assembled a 300,000 man army that killed 20,000 Edomites in a victory over Edom (2 Chronicles 25:5, 11-12). Jehoahaz seemed very weak, having only 50 horsemen, 10 chariots, and 10,000 foot soldiers after being defeated by the Syrians (2 Kings 13:7).

And he took all the gold and silver, all the articles that were found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 14:14)

Hostages were also taken from Jerusalem to Samaria. The decision to attack Israel was his alone, but the price paid for the foolish attack was paid by the whole kingdom of Judah. It is a sober warning to all leaders, to consider how their foolish decisions affect many other people.

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