It is said about a number of the southern kings, as it was said about Azariah: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away” (15:3,4). This is a very real, historical situation in which the king goes a long way in pleasing the Lord, but not far enough. I guess that’s another way of saying that, though he does much good, still he falls short of the standard of a holy God. And, of course, the same can be said of us. That’s why we need a perfect substitute, who not only pays the penalty for our sins, but also gives to us his righteousness, which is full and complete and perfect.
These chapters also tell of the fall of the northern kingdom: “The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria” (17:22-23). In this context, the writer reminds us of the promises of God to his people: “You shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, but you shall fear the Lord your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies” (17:38-39). But they did not fear the Lord, and the Lord delivered them to their enemies. If only they had listened and obeyed! If only they had turned to God! These words still ring true. We must never forget: If we will fear the Lord and turn to him, he will deliver us even from our greatest enemy, sin.
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine:
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget! --Rudyard Kipling (1897)