Today’s reading: 2 Chron 26:1–28:27, 1 John 2:1–6, Ps 103:15–22
Today’s theme: Strength
Today we look at the true meaning and quality of strength. Our God is strong and calls us to be strong in Him. We are warned of the pitfall strength presents and the concept of controlled strength.
2 Chronicles 26:1–28:27
Prosperity (strength) is conditional
He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper. 2 Chronicles 26:5 (ESV)
Prosperity from the Lord is conditional. As king Uzziah set his heart to seek God while under the instruction of Zechariah, we read that God made him prosper and later that God helped him (verse 7).
As we serve and honour the Lord He will cause us to be prosperous. This is not a golden ticket to material wealth and freedom from suffering, no, this is true fruitfulness and real prosperity.
Consider the word prosper, here we see the essence of the word is to be strong, effective, powerful and successful. The Hebrew word Salah is also used in the context to hurry (rush), to prevail, to thrive, to accomplish and to be useful.
So God conditionally caused the king to be strong. It is the same for our lives, God will empower us to be strong, effective and successful as we serve Him.
This theme of strength from God is all over the New Testament. Paul picks this up in Romans, at the start of the letter in Romans 1:11 he states “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” later at the end of the letter he affirms in Romans 16:25 “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and …”
God helps us be strong
In Jerusalem he made machines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. 2 Chronicles 26:15 (ESV)
All this prosperity and help from the Lord ultimately made Uzziah strong.
We should not take God’s help for granted, it is a wonderful grace to us that God helps us. Without God’s help we will not be able to do anything meaningful for his kingdom. See Ephesians 3:16 and 1 Peter 5:10.
In one sense God helps all people as Jesus teaches us He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). In another sense God’s own people receive very particular and special help to fulfil God’s purposes.
God helps us through the Helper, God The Holy Spirit.
Jesus said in John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” In verse 26 we learn that the Helper will teach us. In 15:26 we read that the Helper will bear witness about Jesus and in 16:7 Jesus encourages us it is to our advantage that He leave so the Helper can come.
We should not rely on anything in this world for help, God is our Helper, we are reminded of this in Hebrews 13:5-6.
Pride, strength’s pitfall
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 2 Chronicles 26:16 (ESV)
We need to be on our guard, we need to keep a close watch on our hearts through our responses and attitude, because one of the greatest pitfalls of the enemy and our own flesh is that the strength, success, prosperity and resulting accomplishments can quickly leave us open to pride. (1 Corinthians 10:12).
This happened to king Uzziah. The success and strength God had granted him caused him to become proud and he, in a season of madness, forgot that it was all God. God had made him strong for God’s own glory.
If we do not commit our hearts to serve God for God’s own glory and not our own purpose then we will fall foul to this pitfall.
As we grow and progress in the faith, if we do not recognise that without Him we are nothing and that He is our very source of life, we will become cold and uncaring (leprosy) as we look down on all the weak people from the lofty heights of our strength (which we think we accomplished ourselves.). See John 15:5.
In God’s kingdom, to help keep us all humble, the bible teaches that the strong should bear the burdens of the weak (Romans 15:1) and the greatest leader is a servant of all (Mark 9:35).
We should use the strength God so lovingly provides to humbly serve one another in Jesus’ name to the glory of God.
Order = Strength
So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God. 2 Chronicles 27:6 (ESV)
Jotham became strong because he ordered his life in God’s ways.
In the same way that athletes need to exercise and watch what they eat, leading very ordered lives in order to compete well and win. As soldiers need to lead very orderly and disciplined lives in order to serve well, so do we need to order our lives.
Our faith is not a random collection of thoughts or private opinions. God has given us examples in His word and given us Himself in the person of the Helper so that we can rightly order our lives.
The prerequisite to an orderly life is submission to God’s word. Paul encourages Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to rightly divide God’s word so it can be applied to everyday life.
We also need to submit to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit. Romans 8:14.
Thirdly we need to make use of God’s other normal means of grace like scheduled times of prayer, worship, fasting and service.
Let’s determine to have orderly, disciplined lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. God’s order in our lives will make us healthy and strong for the work of the kingdom.
But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out to meet the army that came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven. 2 Chronicles 28:9 (ESV)
Even though God used these men to perform His judgement on the people, they had no control in their use of strength. The prophet said their rage had reached to Heaven and God sent the prophet to tell them they had gone too far and they should let the captives go.
We need to have controlled strength in our dealings with one another. Even if we need to correct someone we should do it in meekness which is controlled strength.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Paul tells us in Colossians 3:12 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,”.
1 John 2:1–6.
Our strong Advocate
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John 2:1 (ESV)
We have the best lawyer possible, Jesus. If we make mistakes (if you sin not when you sin) like using the strength God provides for our own ends, we can turn and cry out to Jesus to plead our cause with the Father so that that we can be forgiven.
This should fill us with comfort and strengthen our faith. We are not in this alone, we are being backed up by Jesus our great and strong advocate.
The picture of Jesus as an advocate making intercession for us should also highlight the seriousness of sin and do away with any bad understanding of grace, forgiveness or confession. For example in the Roman Catholic church confession is seen by some as a cleansing act clearing them to sin again, this is wrong.
Evidence of true conversion
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 2:3–4 (ESV)
I like John, he speaks really plainly in this letter. The evidence that we are truly “saved” is that our desire will be to keep Gods commands. We will not be drawn to sin in the same way we were before, instead sin presents us with pitfalls, traps and stumbling blocks, but we do not live in it and feast on it.
Our nature has been changed by the Helper, God the Holy Spirit. If our natures are changed then so are our appetites, we will now supernaturally desire to do what is right.
The Holy Spirit strengthens true believers to live for God.
Those who consciously live in sin and claim to be Christians are simply liars.
But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. Psalm 103:17–18 (ESV)
Thank God for His steadfast love which is a wonderful reward for keeping His commandments as we just read in 1 John. Here we see that our children benefit from us serving the Lord.
The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19 (ESV)
We praise our mighty King, He is the Sovereign God and His throne is in heaven, surrounded by the mighty Angels who He sends to perform His word.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
The Gospel Coalition on 1 John 2