Saturday, April 2, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 55. The Deeds Of King Jehoshaphat Of Judah, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 55
The Deeds Of King Jehoshaphat Of Judah
Part 2

We continue ours study of a godly king, Jehoshaphat of Judah.

We spoke yesterday about how Jehoshaphat took steps to strengthen Judah against any enemy that might want to come against her in battle. He trained hundreds of thousands of soldiers and supplied them with armor and weapons, plus he made peace with King Ahab of Israel so he would not have any problems with him. In addition, he solidified his alliance with Israel by connecting his family to Ahab's by marriage, "Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage." (2 Chronicles 18:1) We will find when we get to 2nd Kings that Jehoshaphat's son was married to Athaliah, a daughter of Ahab. However, in time this will prove to be a bad decision because she will lead her husband astray just as her mother Jezebel led Ahab astray.

We studied last week about Ahab's death in battle against Ben-Hadad of Aram. Because of their peace treaty and family connection, Jehoshaphat had joined forces with Ahab to fight their common enemy and retake Ramoth Gilead, a part of the promised land that Ben-Hadad refused to return to Israel even though he had agreed to do so. The Lord was not pleased that Jehoshaphat gave aid to a wicked king like Ahab and when he returned to Jerusalem, the Lord had these words of rebuke for him, "When Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned safely to his palace in Jerusalem, Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is on you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God." (2 Chronicles 19:1-3) Though Jehoshaphat was one of Judah's best kings, he also made mistakes. His heart was set on seeking God just like the heart of King David, but also like King David he messed up sometimes. I've always been so thankful that the Bible presents people just like they were, with all their faults, because it gives me hope that the Lord can use me too, with all my faults.

Apparently Jehoshaphat's sin was in caring for Ahab because they were of the same people and because of their connection by marriage. He automatically responded to Ahab's request for help, putting his own troops from Judah in danger and creating enmity between the people of Judah and the king of Aram. Because the nation of Judah still had the temple and had not fallen nearly as far into idolatry as Israel, the Lord intended for Jehoshaphat to distance himself from Ahab's troubles. The Lord was going to use Ahab's stubborn pride to bring him down and Jehoshaphat needed to stay out of it. Nevertheless, the Lord commended Jehoshaphat's removal of the high places and idols in and the fact that Jehoshaphat had settled it in his heart to worship God alone. Trouble will come into his life to teach him a lesson about allying himself with the wrong people, but the Lord preserved his life in battle and brought him safely home because of his faithfulness.

"Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and turned them back to the Lord, the God of their ancestors." (2 Chronicles 19:4) We are not told what Jehoshaphat said in reply to the words of rebuke from the prophet, but his actions prove he is willing to be obedient to the Lord. He now stays within the borders of his own nation, witnessing to the people about the Lord and turning their hearts back to Him. He has apparently already made at least one journey like this before, because the Bible tells us "he went out again". Jehoshaphat is like an old-time circuit preacher, traveling throughout the land proclaiming the truth of God's word. What a wonderful ministry. 

"He appointed judges in the land, in each of the fortified cities of Judah. He told them, 'Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the Lord, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.'" (2 Chronicles 19:5-7) Jehoshaphat reminds these judges that the eyes of God are upon them and He will know whether they judge fairly. They are to judge according to the laws of the Lord, as He would judge, and accept no bribes and consider no one's wealth or fame when making decisions. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the USA could have a president like Jehoshaphat and judges who are sternly cautioned to judge as the Lord would judge? Our constitution basically forbids this, as the government cannot enforce or endorse any particular religion, but just take a minute and imagine what our nation would be like if all our leaders and judges honored the Lord and sought Him above all else. But we are not hopeless, no matter what the leaders of our government choose to do, because as Christians it is our duty to pray for those in power and for the citizens of our country. On behalf of those who honor Him, I believe the Lord will hear the prayers for the nation. 

There is something beautiful and comforting in what Jehoshaphat says to the judges and I don't want us to miss it, "With the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." Our righteous and faithful God cannot be swayed to judge wrongly, God has promised those who are His that He will repay our enemies for their evil toward us. (Deuteronomy 32:35) When the time comes to judge our enemies, their status on this earth won't mean a thing. They won't be able to buy their way out of receiving a penalty. Their worldly influence will be as nothing before the powerful Judge. God knows every injustice that has ever taken place since the beginning of time and we can rest peacefully in the assurance that He will judge fairly. God will not believe a false story. He will not let the guilty go free. He won't choose someone else's word over ours just because of who they are or how much money they have. God will judge according to what is right and we can trust Him.

"In Jerusalem also, Jehoshaphat appointed some of the Levites, priests and heads of Israelite families to administer the law of the Lord and to settle disputes. And they lived in Jerusalem. He gave them these orders: 'You must serve faithfully and wholeheartedly in the fear of the Lord. In every case that comes before you from your people who live in the cities---whether bloodshed or other concerns of the law, commands, decrees or regulations---you are to warn them not to sin against the Lord; otherwise His wrath will come on you and your people.'" (2 Chronicles 19:8-10) Jehoshaphat appointed godly men as judges at Jerusalem. In all cases, big or small, they were to judge faithfully according to the law of the Lord. They were also to give spiritual instruction and advice to all who came before them with cases.

Jehoshaphat went on to say, "Amariah the chief priest will be over you in any matter concerning the Lord, and Zebadiah son of Ishmael, the leader of the tribe of Judah, will be over you in any matter concerning the king, and the Levites will serve as officials before you. Act with courage, and may the Lord be with those who do well." (2 Chronicles 19:11) The chief priest would be head of any case involving religious matters and the leader of the tribe of Judah would be head of any civil case. In all things these men were to be aware that they have a Judge over them who is righteous and holy, who will know if they fail to judge properly according to God's laws and the laws of the king. 

Jehoshaphat ends his speech by urging the men of God to act courageously. When we know we are in the will of God, we can be courageous. "The righteous are bold as a lion." (Proverbs 28:1) When we know we are doing what is right in the eyes of God, life won't necessarily be easy, but we can take heart knowing our God is with us. Jehoshaphat bestows a blessing on all who walk fearlessly in the will of God, "May the Lord be with those who do well." 

Jehoshaphat is walking in the footsteps of his ancestor David and we will conclude with some words of King David that go along with what Jehoshaphat said today, "Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry." (Psalm 34:11-15) 

Let's go out today and act with courage, and may the Lord be with those who do well. 

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