Friday, September 6, 2013

Daily Old Testament and Early Christian Writings: 2 Chronicles 14-15 and Augustine's Treatise on Profit of Believing 19

2 Chronicles 14 – Abijah is buried in the city of David, and his Asa becomes king. The “land had rest for ten years” (14:1) He did “what was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God. He took away the foreign altars and the high places, broke down the pillars, hewed down the sacred poles, and commanded Judah to seek the Lord . . .” (14:2-3).

During these peaceful years, he built fortified cities and had a large army (300,000 from Judah and 280,000 of Benjamin). An Ethiopian army of 1,000,000 men and 300 chariots came against them led by Zerah; they got as far as Mareshah (east of Hebron). Asa relies on the Lord’s strength and they are defeated. They pursued them to Gerar (southeast of Mareshah) and killed them a great many. They looted the area around Gerar, towns and tents “for the fear of the Lord was on them” (14:14). Then they returned to Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 15 – Azariah, son of Obed and prophet is impelled by God’s spirit to go out and meet Asa. He says “The Lord is with you, while you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you abandon him, he will abandon you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them” (15:2-4).

The people of God can sometimes lack the human resources they need to properly conduct their affairs as God’s people; but if they desire him and continue to seek him, the human failing will not defeat them.

Azariah’s words comfort Asa. He completed destruction of the idols and repaired the altar of the Lord.  He gathered all the people—from Judah, Benjamin and all alien residents from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon. They sacrifice to the Lord in Jerusalem 700 oxen and 7000 sheep. “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and with all their soul” (15:12). Anyone who did not could be put to death—young, old, man, woman.

Asa even deposed his grandmother Maacah (a worshipper of Asherah) from being Queen mother (note that she is not killed). The high places remain in Israel, though. There is no more war until the 35th year of his reign (15:19).

Augustine’s Treatise on the Profit of Believing
19 - The case standing thus, suppose, as I said, that we are now for the first time seeking unto what religion we shall deliver up our souls, for it to cleanse and renew them; without doubt we must begin with the Catholic Church. For by this time there are more Christians, than if the Jews and idolaters be added together.

But of these same Christians, whereas there are several heresies, and all wish to appear Catholics, and call all others besides themselves heretics, there is one Church, as all allow: if you consider the whole world, more fulfilled in number; but, as they who know affirm, more pure also in truth than all the rest. But the question of truth is another; but, what is enough for such as are in search, there is one Catholic, to which different heresies give different names whereas they themselves are called each by names of their own, which they dare not deny. From which may be understood, by judgment of umpires who are hindered by no favor, to which is to be assigned the name Catholic [universal], which all covet. But, that no one may suppose that it is to be made matter of over garrulous or unnecessary discussion, this is at any rate one, in which human laws themselves also are in a certain way Christian. I do not wish any prejudgment to be formed from this fact, but I account it a most favorable commencement for enquiry. For we are not to fear lest the true worship of God; resting on no strength of its own, seem to need to be supported by them whom it ought to support: but, at any rate, it is perfect happiness, if the truth may be there found, where it is most safe both to search for it and to hold it: in case it cannot, then at length, at whatever risk, we must go and search some other where.

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