Sunday, April 3, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 57. The Deeds Of King Jehoshaphat Of Judah, Part 4

Prophets And Kings
Day 57
The Deeds Of King Jehoshaphat Of Judah
Part 4

Today we concludes ours look at King Jehoshaphat. When we left off yesserday him weres facin a huge army comin against Judah and hads prayed for the Lords help. Today we finds out what great victory the Lord gives him.

2 CHRONICLES 20:18-30, 2 CHRONICLES 20:34-37, 1 KINGS 22:45-50
In Sunday's blog we learned the Lord answered Jehoshaphat's prayer through a prophet who promised the king that the Lord would fight for Judah. At this good news, "Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice." (2 Chronicles 20:18-19) Is there any better feeling than knowing our prayers have been answered? Is there any greater sense of relief than having God say yes to our requests? No wonder the people fell on their knees in thankfulness. No wonder the priests began to shout for joy.

"Early in the morning they left for the desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful.'" (2 Chronicles 20:20) I can relate to what I think is the reason for Jehoshaphat's instructions. Have you ever felt in the spirit that the Lord was saying yes to your prayers, or had an experience with the living God in which you felt certain something wonderful was about to happen? And if so, were you assaulted by doubts soon after? King Jehoshaphat knows that we have an enemy who loves to come along and snatch the praise right out of our mouths and wrest our confidence away from us. The people have had an awesomely uplifting experience in front of the temple but Jehoshaphat knows that Satan wants nothing more than to attack their faith as they leave the house of God. It's one thing to shout praises while standing in church; it's much more difficult to shout praises when standing on the battle line. Jehoshaphat is telling the people not to lose heart, not to fall into doubt, and not to listen to any lies of the enemy. He knows when they see the great army coming against them their hearts may fail for fear if they do not stand firm in faith.

"After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: 'Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.'" (2 Chronicles 20:20-21) This has to be one of the most unusual battle plans in the history of the world: placing singers at the head of the army instead of the fiercest fighting men. 

I think Jehoshaphat did this for two reasons. First, this is intended to keep the people's courage up. Sometimes we go to church with a downcast spirit, feeling discouraged about something that's going on in our lives. Then, after we start singing the praises of the Lord, suddenly we feel a whole lot better. Our problem is still there but we take courage in the God who fights for us. Singing about the Lord reminds us of His great power and might. It reminds us of His love and faithfulness. What better way to strengthen the faith of the soldiers than to have men singing about the deeds and goodness of the Lord as they march into battle?

Second, I believe Jehoshaphat wanted to offer advance praise to the Lord. Praising Him ahead of the victory displays a great deal of faith that what God says about Himself is true and that He is going to do what He said He would do. Not long ago I picked up a book that I had been reading and I noticed the back of it had a heading that said "Advance Praise" and underneath were several endorsements of the book by other authors. I thought to myself, "How can a person give advance praise for a book that isn't even out yet? How can they know whether the book will be good or bad?" In order to give advance praise for a book that hasn't been released yet, we would need to already know something about its author. We would have to either know the author personally or else be familiar with his or her previous works. We would need some sort of assurance about the author to feel confident about going ahead and praising a new work we haven't even read yet. And that's when God used this random little thing on the back of a book to teach me something important about giving Him our advance praise. We can feel safe praising Him in advance because we know Him. We know who He is and the things He has said about Himself. We know His precious and beautiful promises to us. We know He shows Himself faithful to those who are faithful to Him. We are certain of His love because He sent the holy and sinless Lamb of God to pay our penalty so we can spend eternity with Him. We know that God is good all the time and that all His works are good. These things are what grant us the confidence to give God our advance praise. Jehoshaphat believed he knew God well enough and knew God's word well enough to go ahead and praise Him for victory.

"As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated." (2 Chronicles 20:23) As the people praise, the Lord is at work against their enemies. He sets ambushes and we don't know exactly what this means but it appears to be something supernatural. For some reason, these three allied armies turn against each other on their way to fight Judah. "The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another." (2 Chronicles 20:22-23) It could be that the Lord allowed spirits of confusion and discord to come upon them. We learned last week that the Lord allowed a deceiving spirit to tempt the advisers of King Ahab into prophesying falsely, so it could be that in today's passage He allows deceiving spirits to tempt Judah's enemies into some type of vicious quarrel. Satan and the other fallen angels constantly desire to "steal and kill and destroy", according to the Lord Jesus in John 10:10. God holds them back from a great deal of the things they would like to do to mankind, but occasionally He lets them do what comes naturally to them when it suits His purposes. He allowed them to tempt wicked prophets and wicked King Ahab because He had determined to use that situation to judge the rebellious hearts of the bad prophets and the bad king. In today's passage, it could be He used a similar method in bringing to nothing the schemes of Judah's enemies. Judah was being attacked without cause. Judah was living in peace, not bothering any of her neighbors. And so God used some means we don't fully understand to eliminate the enemy.

"When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value---more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day." (2 Chronicles 20:24-26) The Lord had promised through the prophet Jahaziel that Judah would not have to fight this battle. When they arrive at the battle scene, it's already over and their enemies are defeated. The people praised the Lord so much for the victory that the valley there was named Berakah, which means praise.

"Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets. The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side." (2 Chronicles 20:27-30) A great celebration takes place when the army arrives back at Jerusalem in victory, carrying all the plunder they took from their enemies. They march right up to the temple and give thanks to the God who rescued them. When word of this miraculous deliverance gets out it causes the surrounding nations to fear the God of Israel and His powerful might on behalf of His people. They are afraid to try and make war with God's people and so Jehoshaphat and Judah are able to enjoy a time of peace.

We will finish with concluding comments about Jehoshaphat from both the books of 2nd Chronicles and 1st Kings, "The other events of Jehoshaphat's reign, from beginning to end, are written in the annals of Jehu son of Hanani, which are recorded in the books of the kings of Israel." (2 Chronicles 20:34) "As for the other events of Jehoshaphat's reign, the things he achieved and his military exploits, are they not written in the books of the annals of the kings of Judah? He rid the land of the last of the male shrine prostitutes who remained there even after the reign of his father Asa. There was then no king in Edom; a provincial governor ruled." (1 Kings 22:45-47) The reason the author of 1st kings mentions there being no king in Edom is because Jehoshaphat will build a fleet of ships in Edomite territory. At that time their territory must have been subject to the kingdom of Judah.

"Later, Jehoshaphat made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel, whose ways were wicked. He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, 'Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.' The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade." (2 Chronicles 20:35-37) The author of 1st Kings gives a less detailed account of why the ships were wrecked, "Now Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail---they were wrecked at Ebion Gezer. At that time Ahaziah son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, 'Let my men sail with yours,' but Jehoshaphat refused." (1 Kings 22:48-49) Some critics have attempted to prove that these two accounts contradict each other, claiming that one book says Jehoshaphat did make an alliance with Ahaziah and one book says he didn't. But I think these passages read as if events took place like this: Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah teamed up to built a fleet of trading ships in Edomite territory for the purpose of bringing gold from Ophir as Solomon did. But the Lord was not pleased that Jehoshaphat had become "unequally yoked" with a godless man. (2 Corinthians 6:14) The Lord doesn't tell us we can't have friends and co-workers who are unbelievers, but He does tell us not to enter into intimate partnerships with unbelievers, such as in marriage or in business. Because the Lord was displeased with the alliance, He sent a prophet to confront Jehoshaphat with his sin and with the news that the business venture would not be successful. The Bible doesn't tell us how the fleet was wrecked, but it goes on to say that at that time Ahaziah proposed the idea of a combined navy, and I think this means Ahaziah wanted to try again to build a fleet. This time Jehoshaphat wisely said no, having taken heed to the words of the prophet and having repented. To me, there is no contradiction in these passages. It's simply that Jehoshaphat learned his lesson the first time and, after the wreck of the fleet, rejected Ahaziah's idea of a second venture. 

"Then Jehoshaphat rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the city of David his father. And Jehoram his son succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 22:50) Several times the Bible refers to David as Jehoshaphat's father due to the custom of naming the most renowned ancestor in a person's lineage. Though not literally Jehoshaphat's father, I believe the life and the writings of David had a tremendous impact on Jehoshaphat. We have seen a number of similarities between the two men. They both purposed in their hearts to seek God above all things. They were faithful to the Lord and walked in His ways. They were good kings who set a godly example to follow. Both men were human and therefore made some mistakes, but both were quick to repent upon realizing they were in the wrong. I think the author deliberately intended to draw a parallel between the faith of King David and the faith of King Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat's real father Asa was one of the good kings of Judah, but instead the author keeps referring to David as Jehoshaphat's father. It's my opinion that this is because David was more of a father in the faith to Jehoshaphat than his own father was, though they never knew each other in life. Asa stumbled in the faith in his final years and we are not told that he ever repented of it, dying instead of a lingering illness and failing to seek the help of the Lord at the end of his reign. He did not finish well. So the author, and perhaps Jehoshaphat himself, enjoyed the honor of comparing Jehoshaphat to David.

Being called a son of David was a great honor to the kingly line. Those who were of David's lineage and followed in David's footsteps in the faith could proudly call themselves a son of David. The phrase "Son of David" was also used as a Messianic title for the One who was to come. The Lord promised David a man to sit on the throne forever, a man who would come of his own lineage, a man who would rule in perfect righteousness, and that is why the Lord Jesus holds the title of Son of David. Jesus has the right to the throne by human lineage and He has the right to the throne by the will of God, by spiritual lineage. The godly kings of Judah set some great examples of faith for us to follow, but even they pale in comparison to the example the Lord Jesus set for us. And someday this perfect, holy, and righteous King will sit on David's throne and rule the world. Times were good in Judah when godly kings sat on the throne. Just imagine what this world will be like when our Lord sits on the throne!

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