Judah was blessed to enjoy God’s presence in their midst. In Jerusalem, any Jew could look to the highest hill and see the monumental structure of Solomon’s temple standing tall against the sky, and he could know his God had promised to dwell there among His people. If a priest walked into the temple, he would find it dazzlingly beautiful–but empty of any form of presence. No physical image lived in this temple because God is spirit. A Jew knew God lived there only through faith.
After Solomon’s son Rehoboam assumed the throne, he did not walk in the righteousness of David nor in the wisdom of Solomon. During Rehoboam’s reign “Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem and took away the treasuries of the house of the LORD…” (2 Chr. 12.9), including the gold shields Solomon had made. Instead of crying out to God for help, Rehoboam accepted the loss and replaced the gold shields with bronze replicas, settling for less than the best. Indeed, without God we must settle for less than the best.
Instead of trusting in God for help, Rehoboam’s grandson Asa took “silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king’s house and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria” in order to make a treaty with Syria against Israel. Can you imagine taking what is God’s and giving it to a pagan king in order to protect yourself? Asa did that.
After Asa came Jehoshaphat. While Scripture does not record his jumping habits, it does record his abiding righteousness and faith. When the nations of Moab, Amon, and Edom simultaneously threatened Judah, Jehoshaphat prayed to Yahweh God from the Temple. His prayer contains a wealth of riches:
Then Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said: “O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them—here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chr. 20.5-12)
Though all these kings lived with reference to the temple, some defiled the house of the Lord and some adored and honored God’s house. Faith made the difference. Many of the kings of Judah were not men of faith and righteousness; they were not interested in following God’s commandments or keeping the covenant. But a few loved God, loved His presence, loved living close to His house.
Where would you like to live? How would you like to live in God’s house? Jesus said in John 14.2, “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” In His presence we shall live!