The Expository Files


 Doing Right, But Not With a Whole Heart

2 Chronicles 25:2

Amaziah was king of Judah, and was said to have done "what was right in the sight of the Lord..." But, unfortunately, that is not all that was said about him. There was a problem worth mentioning because it is a very common problem today as it was then. "And he did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart." (2 Chronicles 25:2). Other translations have not with a "loyal heart" or "perfect heart" or "blameless heart" or "wholeheartedly". (The word "whole" here translates the Hebrew word shalem which means finished, complete, whole.

We must not settle for Amaziah's attitude toward God! Many think it is enough. It is not. In contrast to Amaziah, who had less than a wholehearted commitment to God's will, we can consider such ones as Joshua and Caleb. "None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully." (Numbers 32:11,12). See the contrast? Amaziah followed the Lord, but not with a whole heart, but Joshua and Caleb followed the Lord fully.

Jesus said those who were pure in heart are blessed because they will see God. This is a part of what it means to be "pure in heart" (Mt. 5:8): to be single-minded in our devotion to God and in our determination to do His will, to "love one thing." When we purify our hearts we put God and His will first like Joshua and Caleb. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:8).

King Saul's Mistake
The Amalekites were an evil and corrupt society living in the Land of Canaan. They posed all kinds of threats to Israel; moral, spiritual and physical. God ordained that the nation be destroyed, and appointed King Saul to do the job. When God instructed Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites, Saul chose to do most of what he was commanded. But Saul set aside a very small part of God's commandment. Later, he would explain he did so only with the best and noblest of intentions. He suggested that his way would actually be an improvement over what God had commanded.

I would hope all can see that is wrong headed thinking.

Saul spared the king and some of the sheep. To do this thing was just a small matter in Saul's eyes, but it was evil rebellion and pride in God's eyes. People often look at "minor" disobedience differently than God does. We assume that thinking "it is no big deal" will mean that God will think that as well. Saul seemed surprised at God's anger. We note this so that one day we will not also face God's anger with surprise because we, too, looked at a commandment or two of His as "no big deal". Instead of developing "reasonable" explanations as to why our way is best, it is better to simply obey the Lord. (See Saul's reasoning in 1 Samuel 15:7-9,13-23).

Becoming Guilty of All
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law." (James 2:10,11).

We need to be clear on what this passage teaches, and what it does not teach. The passage does not teach that no matter how devoted one is to the Lord - no matter how diligently one strives to obey the Lord - one inadvertent transgression makes one as unrighteous in God's eyes as the worst sinner. (i.e. That if you get angry and say something you should not have said, then God will consider you an adulterer, liar, murderer, thief as well).
A clear distinction is made in the New Testament between those who are honestly trying to serve God and make mistakes and those who are not trying - (1 John 1:6-10). But the point is that God has given us His whole will and it is not up to us to choose to disregard any part of it. None of us are above God's commandments. We are not judges of the law of God but will be judged by the law. We are told to So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:12; see also 4:11).

Some think that obedience in most things will compensate for disregard in a few - but no amount of "good works" will compensate for a lawless attitude - (Matthew 7:21-23). We must respect the commandments of God fully and completely. This means I must put aside my preference, my opinion, my convenience, my desire and say "yes" to the Lord's will fully and completely. If and when this loyalty to the Lord puts me at odds with popular opinion, then I must choose the commandments of the Lord. If we set aside God's will when it conflicts with our own, then we are not "obeying" God even when we do what He has said, because we are only doing that we already want to do. It is as if we are saying, "Lord, I'll do whatever you command as long as I agree with it." That is not enough! We will be "transgressors of the law" (James 2:11).

Some Practical Applications
The proper application of this lesson would be to search the word of God and apply it to our lives (James 1:22-25). It would be for each disciple to become a diligent, active participator in the gospel (Philippians 1:5). It would be to worship the Lord full heartedly in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). It would be to daily pattern all of our words and actions by the word of Christ (Colossians 3:16).

Those who truly and completely devote themselves to the gospel of Christ aim to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). God is God and the Originator of all His will. We simply cannot disregard any of it without disregarding God Himself! We need to be like Joshua and Caleb; to follow the Lord with the whole heart, and receive the blessings of God.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 13.6; June 2006