The clouds of war gathered.
The king was ready for battle.
He had organized his troops, assembled his military staff, appointed generals and captains.
The army was well-trained – 300,000 soldiers who knew how to fight.
He also paid 100,000 more experienced troops from Israel.
King Amaziah (Ama-zi-ah) is not a well-known figure in the Bible. We read very little about him. What we do read is a decidedly mixed verdict on his character.
The chronicler of the Old Testament kings writes that Amaziah obeyed God, “but not with a perfect heart” (II Chronicles 25:2).
Amaziah wanted to do what was right. He wanted to honor God. He wanted to please him.
He wasn’t too principled about this however.
He had a serious blind spot.
Amaziah was an ethical corner-cutter. He was a rationalizer. He was a justifier of his moral accommodations.
This king found an excuse when he thought he needed one.
Victory over his enemies – the Edomites – was the paramount thing.
When he employed various questionable campaign tactics against his opponents, a young Richard Nixon told friends, “the important thing is to win.”
Amaziah figured the same.
When “a man of God” challenged his reasoning, Amaziah got defensive.
These nameless “men of God” show up at the most interesting times in the Old Testament. Because they’re prophets, they nearly always pose some uncomfortable yet unavoidable truth, as prophets invariably do.
Their righteousness could be annoying.
In this case, the man of God tells Amaziah he should not have paid soldiers from Israel to join him in battle.
This is wrong.
“The Lord is not with Israel” (II Chronicles 25:7).
Israel was a spiritually compromised nation at this time in its history. God would not bless it until it repented. Nor would God bless any nation that went into alliance with apostate Israel.
That included Judah.
Send them back, the man told the king. If Amaziah didn’t, he and his army would be defeated, no matter how well-organized and determined and hard-fighting they were. No matter how righteous their cause or how evil the enemy.
This was a bridge too far.
The king was a practical man.
“But what about all that silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?” (verse 9).
Amaziah had made a strategic decision and it cost him to do it. He had invested his resources. He felt this was the right thing to do. He was convinced the paid alliance would bring him victory – and this, after all, is what mattered.
Why does God get in our way and frustrate our best-laid plans with all this confusing and inconvenient morality?
Wouldn’t it be better to keep it simple?
We’re right. They’re wrong.
We must defeat them for the sake of all that is good and noble and just.
Whatever this takes, let’s do it. The stakes are way too high not to. After all, if we don’t we’ll lose. And losing is the greatest sin.
The man of God answered King Amaziah.
Emphatic in his pronouncement, clear in his judgment, certain of this truth and profound in his meaning, the prophet told the king:
“The Lord is able to give thee much more than this” (verse 9).
More than this? More than victory? What could be more than winning?
A clear conscience.
An unblemished character, perseverance in what’s good and right, principles strong and intact – even if we lose in this world.
Pleasing God, not with half a heart but a whole one.
A Christian witness to the faith we claim to believe.
What is mere silver to God? What is mere military – or political – victory?
Compared to obeying God and doing the right thing?
Are not these divine compensations of far greater worth?
Sometimes we must compromise in order to achieve some greater good; sometimes we must give in and give up so as to attain a certain positive and worthwhile result – a transcending goal.
There are times when the choice before us is not what we’d ever want or expect. Still we must choose.
There are questions:
How much do we compromise? How much do we surrender? How much do we accommodate? How much do we excuse and ignore, or rationalize?
How far do we go before we’ve gone too far? Where do we draw the line before it’s rubbed out of recognition by our greed and ambition; made faint and finally indistinguishable by our pride and self-righteousness?
The ends – just, good and at any cost – render the means irrelevant.
We employ carnal, sub-Christian weapons and don’t even know it. Soon we’re accepting levels of immorality that violate nearly every divine commandment we claim to revere and embrace.
The irony is tragic.
Jesus poses his own rhetorical question: what have you and I truly won if we’ve gained the whole world but in the process lost our soul? (Mark 8:36).
What is the value of that? What is the exchange?
King Amaziah heeded the prophet’s warning. They were angry with his decision, but he sent the soldiers home.
He went on to win.
Amaziah was a very modern kind of guy – more practical than principled. We may profit from his cautionary example.
Let us resist the temptation to sell our spiritual birthright for a bowl of unsavory worldly stew.
It’s not worth it.
The Almighty God who reigns supreme over men and nations is able to give us much more than this.