God's assessment of the faithfulness of the kings of Judah and Israel
because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uri'ah the Hittite. 1 Kings 15:5 (RSV)
11And Asa did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, as David his father had done. 12He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. 13He also removed Ma'acah his mother from being queen mother because she had an abominable image made for Ashe'rah; and Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron. 14But the high places were not taken away. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly true to the LORD all his days. 1 Kings 15:11-14 (RSV)
22 In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel. 2 Chronicles 28:22-23 (RSV)
20Thus Hezeki'ah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. 21 And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered 2 Chronicles 31:20-21(RSV)
How God graded the various kings of Israel and Judah
Let's look at some examples of both good and bad kings, according to how God assessed them. We cannot look at them all, as there are so many. But we will consider a number. In each case, note carefully the characteristics God focuses on, and also those that He doesn't focus on, when assessing people. We shall begin by looking at King Jehoshaphat of Judah:
3The LORD was with Jehosh'aphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father; he did not seek the Ba'als, 4 but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the ways of Israel. 5Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought tribute to Jehosh'aphat; and he had great riches and honour. 6 His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD; and furthermore he took the high places and the Ashe′rim out of Judah.
7 In the third year of his reign he sent his princes, Ben-hail, Obadi′ah, Zechari′ah, Nethan′el, and Micai′ah, to teach in the cities of Judah; 8 and with them the Levites, Shemai′ah, Nethani′ah, Zebadi′ah, As′ahel, Shemi′ramoth, Jehon′athan, Adoni′jah, Tobi′jah, and Tobadoni′jah; and with these Levites, the priests Elish′ama and Jeho′ram. 9 And they taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the LORD with them; they went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. 2 Chronicles 17:3-9 (RSV)
Note also the positive consequences for the people of Judah that came from Jehoshaphat’s faithfulness and also the rewards that came to Jehoshaphat personally:
10 And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, and they made no war against Jehosh′aphat. 11 Some of the Philistines brought Jehosh′aphat presents, and silver for tribute; and the Arabs also brought him seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred he-goats. 12 And Jehosh′aphat grew steadily greater. He built in Judah fortresses and store-cities, 13 and he had great stores in the cities of Judah. He had soldiers, mighty men of valor, in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 17:10-13 (RSV)
That was God's verdict on the reign of the godly King Jehoshaphat of Judah. But, note that God never even mentions his abilities or his achievements, as almost all of us would do. Instead, God's attention is focused on the fact that:
a) he did not serve or worship the Baals. (These were the pagan gods that the Canaanites worshipped. Their occult practices had spread into both Israel and Judah)
b) he sought instead for God, i.e. he worshiped only the true God.
c) he walked in the commandments, i.e. he was obedient to God's written Word.
d) His heart was “courageous in the ways of the LORD”
e) He made it a priority to send out some of his best people to teach God’s Word (the book of the law of the LORD) in all the cities of Judah.
Those are the things God focused on when evaluating the reign of Jehoshaphat. That speaks volumes about what our priorities should be. Now let's look at God’s assessment of King Amaziah of Judah. He began well and showed some faithfulness. However, his problem was that his faithfulness was not sufficiently wholehearted:
Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart. 2 Chronicles 25:1-2 (NASB)