Friday, April 1, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 54. The Deeds Of King Jehoshaphat Of Judah, Part 1

Prophets And Kings
Day 54
The Deeds Of King Jehoshaphat Of Judah
Part 1

We are going to spend a few days studyin a good king of Judah and the things him dids during hims reign.

1 KINGS 22:41-44, 2 CHRONICLES 17:1-19
"Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother's name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. In everything he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. Jehoshaphat was also at peace with the king of Israel." (1 Kings 22:41-44) When we studied Asa, we found that for most of his life he was obedient to God and was zealous about removing idolatry from the nation. In his later years he became concerned about the strength of King Baasha of Israel and sent gifts to make an alliance between himself and Ben-Hadad the king of Aram so they could combine their forces against Israel. The prophet Hanani confronted Asa with his sin of trusting in an idolatrous king to help him instead of trusting in the Lord. Angry, Asa had Hanani put in prison. He also lost some of his integrity in the way he treated the people of Judah in his final years. But overall Asa was one of Judah's better kings and he managed to raise a godly son.

The author of 2nd Chronicles tells us, "Jehoshaphat his son succeeded him as king and strengthened himself against Israel. He stationed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah and put garrisons in Judah and in the towns of Ephraim that his father Asa had captured." (2 Chronicles 17:1-2) Jehoshaphat was determined not to make the mistake of his father in relying on a foreign king to help him defend Judah against her enemies. 

"The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed His commands rather than the practices of Israel. The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor." (2 Chronicles 17:3-5) The Lord blessed Jehoshaphat for his faithfulness. The king's material blessings showed the nation that the Lord was pleased with him, pleased that he stayed true to the God of Abraham, pleased that he did not engage in idolatry.

"His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah." (2 Chronicles 17:6) Above, in the passage from 1st Kings, we were told he left the high places and the people continued to sacrifice and burn incense there. I don't think this is a contradiction because there were two types of high places in Judah. Before the ark was brought to Jerusalem, the people were in the habit of building altars to the Lord on the hilltops and worshiping Him there. We saw the prophet Samuel sacrificing on the high places when we studied 1st and 2nd Samuel. These altars were consecrated to God and evidently were the ones Jehoshaphat did not remove. He would have done well to remove them because sacrifices and offerings should only have been made at Jerusalem where the ark was and where the temple was. Leaving any high places in Judah was a temptation to the people not to come to the temple. I believe the high places we are told Jehoshaphat did remove are the pagan altars, for the author of 2nd Chronicles mentions them in conjunction with Asherah poles. 

"In the third year of his reign he sent his officials to Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel and Micaiah to teach in the towns of Judah. With them were certain Levites---Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tob-Adonijah---and the priests Elishama and Jehoram. They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people." (2 Chronicles 17:7-9) What a wonderful missionary system Jehoshaphat established! What a noble pursuit! By sending these godly teachers out, the entire nation could hear and understand the word of God. Hearing the law taught them about a holy God and what He expects of man. It gave them a pattern to live by. Rather than passing his own laws and making certain the nation understood them, Jehoshaphat passed around the law of God to all the territories of his kingdom, making certain the nation understood them. 

"The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat. Some Philistines brought Jehoshaphat gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought him flocks; seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred goats." (2 Chronicles 17:10-11) There is power in the life of a believer and the surrounding nations recognized that Jehoshaphat's God was with him. They understood that the strength and prosperity of his kingdom came from the Lord. It seemed prudent to them to make friends with the king of Judah. This could be the reason he was at peace with Israel, because the king of Israel saw it was in his best interests to be at peace with Jehoshaphat. 

"Jehoshaphat became more and more powerful; he built forts and store cities in Judah and had large supplies in the towns of Judah. He also kept experienced fighting men in Jerusalem. Their enrollment by families was as follows: From Judah, commanders of units of 1,000: Adnah the commander, with 300,000 fighting men; next, Jehohanan the commander, with 280,000; next, Amasiah son of Zikri, who volunteered himself for the service of the Lord, with 200,000. From Benjamin: Eliada, a valiant soldier, with 200,000 men armed with bows and shields; next, Jehozabad, with 180,000 men armed for battle. These were the men who served the king, besides those he stationed in the fortified cities throughout Judah." (2 Chronicles 17:12-19) This was a great army, reminiscent of the military might of King David's times. Jehoshaphat depended on the Lord to help him but this doesn't mean he sat idly on a couch in the palace, doing nothing to help himself. The Lord expects us to use what He has provided, and in Jehoshaphat's case He had provided hundreds of thousands of brave men and the materials for the manufacture of weapons and shields. 

The Lord expects us to participate in our victories. He intends us to use what He has blessed us with, along with our prayers and our trust in Him, to give us success. The Lord doesn't call us to be lazy recruits but to be experienced fighting soldiers. I am reminded of the quote by the English minister William Lonsdale Watkinson, "It is far better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." How foolish it would be of us to sit unhappily in the dark when the Lord has provided us with a candle. Jehoshaphat wasn't about to do that. The Lord had provided him with the intelligence and the wealth to employ and train a vast army and to supply them with the proper armor and weapons. Jehoshaphat recognized the foolishness of falling into laziness and complacency when Judah was surrounded by enemies. He understood the value of being ready for battle.

In our times we may not all be called to go onto the literal battlefield, but every day the Christian is on a spiritual battlefield. The last thing God wants is for us to become spiritually lazy. He has called us into His army and has equipped us with all the armor we need to stand firm against any enemy, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:10-13) Our strength is in God and in His mighty power, but we are to wear the armor He has given us. The Apostle Paul says, "after you have done everything", meaning we are to do what God has called us to do, as much as is humanly possible, depending on Him to do the rest. Jehoshaphat used what God had provided him in order to make the nation secure, then he depended on God's divine help for what man could not do. This doesn't mean we are to seek human help first and God's help last, because I believe Jehoshaphat was a man who always sought God first, but training and arming the soldiers against enemies could be compared to us shutting and locking the doors on our homes against thieves. The Lord has provided us with places to live, places with doors and locks, and it would be silly of us not to use them. Likewise, the Lord has provided us with armor to protect our minds and our hearts and our souls, along with weapons to stave off the lies of our enemy the devil, and it would be silly of us not to use them. 

The Apostle Paul went on to say, "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kind of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." (Ephesians 6:14-20) The Lord has given us His truth to live by, the righteousness of Christ to protect our hearts, and the peace that comes from knowing the gospel. He has given us a shield of faith to hold up in front of us to deflect the fiery darts of our enemy Satan. The Lord has outfitted us with a helmet of salvation to protect our minds and the sword of His word so we can fight back against the enemy. And He has given us the mighty weapon of prayer, perhaps the most powerful weapon of all. Why sit and curse the darkness when He has given us enough candles to light up the world? His word is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. (Psalm 119:105) His light is going to get us all the way home. 

No comments:

Post a Comment