2 Chronicles 21:1-20

Jehoram Reigns in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

When you look back at your life, you can do one of two things. You can either blame other people for how your life played out or you can own it and see how the decisions you made caused the actions and reactions in our lives.

There have been some particularly low points in my life. These low points coincided with the ending of my previous marriages. And after the second marriage ended and I was just wiped out emotionally and spiritually and just tired of life. I was 42 years old, flat broke, and living at my parent’s lake house. I could blame all my problems on these two previous wives and certainly there were things that they did to make my life miserable and often it was done on purpose to manipulate and control. However, ultimately, I played a role in how those marriages played out. I could have been more of leader of my household among many other mistakes made in those marriages. Further, in both those cases, I did not allow God to choose my mate for me. In each case, it was passion mistaken for enduring love. In each case, it was a cure for loneliness. In each case, it was for a need to be accepted. I could have allowed God choose my mate. I could blame my parents for the fact that I grew up moving every few years as a child and teenager as a Methodist preacher’s kid. I could blame them for the resulting need to be accepted in a life where attachments to people and places did not last long. I could blame them for it making me a chameleon just fitting into my environment, changing colors, adapting, making myself whatever needed to be to fit in. All those things were things that I could blame. However, through the grace of God, He allowed me to see that circumstances do not define you, other people do not define you, and sometimes you just have to accept the things that you grew up in and you have to accept ownership of the mistakes you made yourself. Then, by grace, move on in His forgiveness and attempt to live life according to His standards from this point on.

It is that idea of accepting responsibility and moving on that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 21:1-20. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

Chapter 21

1 When Jehoshaphat died, he was buried with his ancestors in the City of David. Then his son Jehoram became the next king.

2 Jehoram’s brothers—the other sons of Jehoshaphat—were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael, and Shephatiah; all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Judah.[a] 3 Their father had given each of them valuable gifts of silver, gold, and costly items, and also some of Judah’s fortified towns. However, he designated Jehoram as the next king because he was the oldest. 4 But when Jehoram had become solidly established as king, he killed all his brothers and some of the other leaders of Judah.

5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. 6 But Jehoram followed the example of the kings of Israel and was as wicked as King Ahab, for he had married one of Ahab’s daughters. So Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. 7 But the Lord did not want to destroy David’s dynasty, for he had made a covenant with David and promised that his descendants would continue to rule, shining like a lamp forever.

8 During Jehoram’s reign, the Edomites revolted against Judah and crowned their own king. 9 So Jehoram went out with his full army and all his chariots. The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he went out at night and attacked them[b] under cover of darkness. 10 Even so, Edom has been independent from Judah to this day. The town of Libnah also revolted about that same time. All this happened because Jehoram had abandoned the Lord, the God of his ancestors. 11 He had built pagan shrines in the hill country of Judah and had led the people of Jerusalem and Judah to give themselves to pagan gods and to go astray.

12 Then Elijah the prophet wrote Jehoram this letter:

“This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: You have not followed the good example of your father, Jehoshaphat, or your grandfather King Asa of Judah. 13 Instead, you have been as evil as the kings of Israel. You have led the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship idols, just as King Ahab did in Israel. And you have even killed your own brothers, men who were better than you. 14 So now the Lord is about to strike you, your people, your children, your wives, and all that is yours with a heavy blow. 15 You yourself will suffer with a severe intestinal disease that will get worse each day until your bowels come out.”

16 Then the Lord stirred up the Philistines and the Arabs, who lived near the Ethiopians,[c] to attack Jehoram. 17 They marched against Judah, broke down its defenses, and carried away everything of value in the royal palace, including the king’s sons and his wives. Only his youngest son, Ahaziah,[d] was spared.

18 After all this, the Lord struck Jehoram with an incurable intestinal disease. 19 The disease grew worse and worse, and at the end of two years it caused his bowels to come out, and he died in agony. His people did not build a great funeral fire to honor him as they had done for his ancestors.

20 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Jehoram’s reign was marked by sin and cruelty. He kills his own brothers, all six of them. He married a woman that who worshiped. He allowed and even promoted idol worship. Yet, he died by a lingering and painful disease. Punishment for sin is not always immediate and/or dramatic. However, if we ignore God’s law, we will eventually suffer the consequences of our sin. Many of us will blame others or circumstances, but often when we look back it is due to sinful decisions that circumstances played out the way they did. It was our choice to make sinful decisions and we must live with the consequences of those decisions.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we have an awakening experience when we accept our value through Jesus Christ. Once we do that, we can begin to quit blaming others for what happened in our lives. When we find our value in Christ, we can take ownership of our own mistakes and grow from them. Learn from them. And most of all, learn to seek God’s will for our lives instead of going headlong into sinful behaviors that we think are going to make us happy. Let God light your path instead of your own lamp. Let God lead your decisions.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 20:31-37

Summary of Jehoshaphat’s Reign

Opening Illustration/Comments

My mentor pastor, my inspiration for going in full-time ministry, and just one really cool dude in the faith, Pastor Jeff Hickman, the founding and senior pastor of LifeSong Church in Lyman, SC had a simple prayer that he shared with us, his staff, all the time. It was, “Dear Lord, keep me clean and close at all times!” It is a prayer that asks God to help him stay away from temptations and sins that dishonor God. He prays that he will always be close to the Lord. It is a simple prayer and it is a prayer that all of us should pray.

There is always a temptation of Satan that whispers, “oh, this one time won’t hurt anything!” As we see with Jehoshaphat, it only takes a few exceptions to God’s commands to mar the description of this king. As we traverse through the Jehoshaphatian passages in 2 Chronicles, we are thankful in these readings that there is finally a back to back set of good kings in Judah. He and his dad did their best to follow the Lord. However, this Jehoshaphatian passages end with two negative things. That’s the wrap up to his sequence of passages in 2 Chronicles. He is remembered in the end of these passages for two final mistakes he made in following the Lord. Isn’t that the way it is with us too? We can be a godly man or woman for all of our lives but if we have a lapse of integrity, morality, or other failing, that’s what people will remember about us. Just look at all the high profile pastors that have come crashing down because they got off course for a moment. And that’s all it takes for you to be canceled out in your effectiveness as a leader in the Christian faith or even as a day-to-day Christ follower. And Satan smiles when we have those lapses that taint our witness. Satan smiles when we he can tear down a once highly effective Christ follower into a disgraced Christ follower who loses his or her influence because of a moment of moral weakness. Lord keep us clean and close.

Is there some thought or temptation not yet acted on but you are allowing room to germinate in your mind? Are you allowing the thrill of the idea of a temptation run around in your mind? Are you contemplating a shortcut around your integrity at the moment? Are you thinking about throwing someone under the bus to save your own face? Are you thinking about doing something that could damage or destroy your witness to the world (and even worse to destroy your leadership if you are a Christian leader)? Are you willing to throw the years of building your integrity, your witness, your trustworthiness, your influence because you are a valued man or woman of God, for a momentary end around on your integrity or morality? That’s where Pastor Jeff Hickman’s prayer is so simple but yet so profound! When we are Christ followers and particularly Christian leaders, Satan takes aim at us. And usually it comes at us in the subtle temptations to make exceptions to maintaining godly character.

It is that idea of staying clean and close at all times that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 20:31-37. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

31 So Jehoshaphat ruled over the land of Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi.

32 Jehoshaphat was a good king, following the ways of his father, Asa. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. 33 During his reign, however, he failed to remove all the pagan shrines, and the people never fully committed themselves to follow the God of their ancestors.

34 The rest of the events of Jehoshaphat’s reign, from beginning to end, are recorded in The Record of Jehu Son of Hanani, which is included in The Book of the Kings of Israel.

35 Some time later King Jehoshaphat of Judah made an alliance with King Ahaziah of Israel, who was very wicked.[g] 36 Together they built a fleet of trading ships[h] at the port of Ezion-geber. 37 Then Eliezer son of Dodavahu from Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat. He said, “Because you have allied yourself with King Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy your work.” So the ships met with disaster and never put out to sea.[i].

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that there are several detractions to the reign of Jehoshaphat. The fact that he did not completely eradicate the practice of pagan religions and the fact that he again near the end of his reign made an alliance with an evil king of the northern kingdom. In the first problem, this passage says that he did not remove all the pagan shrines but 2 Chronicles 17 and 2 Chronicle 19 says he did. What may infer from this apparent contradiction is that Jehoshaphat may have destroyed the evidences of idol worship but he did not go far enough to eradicate the practice of this pagan religions. Therefore, the practitioners of this pagan religions probably rebuilt the shrines and idols each time Jehoshaphat destroyed them. In the second area, was Jehoshaphat just that naïve to think that God would bless an alliance with an obviously evil king from the northern kingdom? Or was it that he made exceptions for things that were expedient to him. In both cases, it is apparent that he took his faith only so far, but when it interfered with keeping the peace or with financial gain then he made exceptions to the commands of God.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that it takes only once for your reputation, your integrity and your influence as a Christ follower (and particularly as a Christian leader) to be significantly damaged or completely destroyed. Often, we may make some semblance of recovery for a lapse in Christian judgment but the stain of our past mistakes always stay with us. Often, we may rise above it, but it is likely that we will never have the influence that we had before that one momentary moral lapse. That’s why we have to stay clean and close to the Lord at all times. Satan has put a target on us so as to come after us. He wants to discredit us and make us ineffective. He doesn’t care about the sideline or armchair Christian who you can’t tell from the non-believer. He goes after those who are people of influence in the Christian faith whether it be just in your town, or in your region, or in your state or nationally or internationally. The larger your influence the harder that Satan comes after you.

He whispers in our ears to make an exception. He whispers that nobody will know. He whispers that it’s OK just this once. Once he gets you to nibble on that lure, it becomes easier and easier to slide down that slippery slope to discredit and destroyed influence. That’s why we must pray to the Lord daily to keep us clean and close. We must pray that God leads us away from temptations or even coming close to them. We must devour God’s Word on a daily basis so that Satan cannot beguile us with his twisting of Scripture. We must have people in our lives that love us dearly that are willing to speak the plain truth to us. We must actively keep our eyes open to the temptations out there that would damage or destroy our witness for the Lord. Lord, keep us clean and close AT ALL TIMES! Cause it only takes once to destroy it all.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Judah’s War with Moab, Ammon and Edom

Opening Illustration/Comments

There’s a Christian contemporary song that is popular currently sung by Elevation Worship entitled, “See A Victory” and its lyrics go as follows:

The weapon may be formed but it won’t prosper

When the darkness falls it won’t prevail

Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph

My God will never fail

My God will never fail

Chorus

I’m gonna see a victory

I’m gonna see a victory

For the battle belongs to You Lord

I’m gonna see a victory

I’m gonna see a victory

For the battle belongs to You Lord

There’s power in the mighty name of Jesus

Every war He wages He will win

I’m not backing down from any giant

I know how this story ends

I know how this story ends

Repeat Chorus

Bridge

You take what the enemy meant for evil

And You turn it for good

You turn it for good

Repeat Bridge 2x

Repeat Chorus 4x

Repeat Bridge 2x

Trusting in the Lord to fight our battles is a tough one on so many levels. First, it sounds kind of defeatist or ambivalent doesn’t it? Are we to just sit back and let God fight our battles for us and what does that mean? All the control freaks out there are freaking out over this, I bet! All the couch potatoes out there are probably saying, “Now, we’re talking, Lord!” I think that’s the thing here is that God will fight our battles for us but we are not to go home and sit on the couch and wait for the results. God wants to be a participant and witness to what He is doing in us, through us and for us. In this passage, we see a key element of God’s fighting for us is at verse 15 where Jahaziel says, “Listen, all you people of Judah” and they are reminded again by Jehoshaphat in verse 20 where he says, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God and will be able to stand firm!” It is clear from these two declarations within this passage that we, like the Judeans, must stop and listen to what God is saying to us through the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. That way we don’t tear off into a reaction to a problem or temptation under our own power. What we think is the best solution may not be God’s desire for us. In order for us to have God fight our battles for us, we must first stop and listen for His voice in our soul. And we must make sure what that voice is telling us is consistent with God’s nature and with His Word. Sometimes, we confuse what our ego is telling us with what God’s will for our lives is. We must always check what we hear in our heads and from others as to what to do is consistent with the nature of God and with God’s Word. But in order to make that discernment, we first must stop and listen and seek God’s voice.

The next aspect of this is to obey what the voice of God through the Holy Spirit is telling us. It’s one thing to hear what God is telling us to do, check it against the nature of God and His Word, but it is another to obey. There are so many things in life where we know from God as to what to do in a situation but we toss it aside and do what we had in mind because (1) it seems the easier course of action and (2) it preserves our human pride. Even Christ followers are not immune to the bullheadedness syndrome – doing what we want to do anyway even when God has spoken to us through our soul or through the words of trusted and more or equally mature Christ followers. Sometimes, what God asks us to do proactively or reactively in a situation is the tougher road. Sometimes, we don’t want to do the harder thing to solve a situation but in order for God to fight our battles for us we must trust him and then we must obey Him when He tells us what to do.

Then, even when we don’t know what’s going to happen and even when God’s solution sounds incredibly weird or incredibly impossible, we must not be afraid. We follow His plan of action and we may have questions about the wisdom of the course of action (that’s just the natural part of being a human) but we must not be afraid. We know that we believe in a mighty God. We must let Him be just that. When we are afraid, it is saying that we do not trust the Lord. Sure, like I said, we can say, “I don’t know about this Lord…but let’s go ahead with this…” When we refuse to act on what God has told us to do because of fear, then, that means we really don’t trust Him. It means that His Sovereignty is meaningless to us, ultimately. We say we trust in a mighty God who is the Creator of All Things and who has dominion over all things and who existed before all of creation (including Satan), but do we really believe that? Do not be afraid to do what the Lord asks of you in the battles of our lives. Believe in a mighty, all-powerful Creator God.

It is that idea of not trying to do God’s job for Him in the trials and tribulations of our lives that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

20 After this, the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites[a] declared war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army from Edom[b] is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea.[c] They are already at Hazazon-tamar.” (This was another name for En-gedi.)

3 Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. 4 So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.

5 Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the Lord. 6 He prayed, “O Lord, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7 O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war,[d] plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’

10 “And now see what the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir are doing. You would not let our ancestors invade those nations when Israel left Egypt, so they went around them and did not destroy them. 11 Now see how they reward us! For they have come to throw us out of your land, which you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

13 As all the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their little ones, wives, and children, 14 the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men standing there. His name was Jahaziel son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite who was a descendant of Asaph.

15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”

18 Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. 19 Then the Levites from the clans of Kohath and Korah stood to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud shout.

20 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm. Believe in his prophets, and you will succeed.”

21 After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:

“Give thanks to the Lord;

    his faithful love endures forever!”

22 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. 23 The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other. 24 So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.

25 King Jehoshaphat and his men went out to gather the plunder. They found vast amounts of equipment, clothing,[e] and other valuables—more than they could carry. There was so much plunder that it took them three days just to collect it all! 26 On the fourth day they gathered in the Valley of Blessing,[f] which got its name that day because the people praised and thanked the Lord there. It is still called the Valley of Blessing today.

27 Then all the men returned to Jerusalem, with Jehoshaphat leading them, overjoyed that the Lord had given them victory over their enemies. 28 They marched into Jerusalem to the music of harps, lyres, and trumpets, and they proceeded to the Temple of the Lord.

29 When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the Lord himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them. 30 So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Jehoshaphat’s prayer contained several essential ingredients. First, he committed the situation to God, acknowledging that only God could save Judah. Second, he sought God’s favor because his people were the people of God. Third, he acknowledged God’s sovereignty over the current situation. Fourth, he praised God’s glory and took comfort in His promises to the Israelites. Fifth and finally, he humbled himself before the Lord and expressed his complete dependence on God for deliverance and not himself.

As the enemy bore down on Judah, God spoke through Jahaziel who told the Judeans that they battle was the Lord’s battle and not theirs so they should not be afraid. We may not have to fight in a military battle (though some do, but most of us do not) but every day we battle temptations, pressures, and the spirits of evil who want us to rebel against God. However, we must remember that we have the Holy Spirit living in us. If we ask for God’s help when we face struggles, God will fight for us just as did for the nation of Judah. God knows whether we are fully devoted to Him or not and He works all situations for good for those who love, honor, and obey Him (see Romans 8:28). Weapons of evil formed against us will not prosper (see Isaiah 54:17) for those who prostrate themselves before the Lord and seek shelter under His wings (see Psalm 91:4). We will have victory in the manner which God desires for us. It may not take the form of victory that we see in our human limitations but we trust that the Lord sees the grander, long-term picture of our lives.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we are not alone in the trials, temptations, and tribulations of our lives. So often, we go off on our own trails in response to what happens in our lives – even as Christ followers. Maturity in Christ comes from really trusting Him to fight our battles for us. That does not mean that we sit on the sidelines and watch God do something. God requires that we participate in our lives. Then, how do we participate in God fighting our battles for us? We have to do three things. First, we have to stop and listen to His voice. Second, we have to obey what His Spirit is telling us to do – even when it’s the opposite of what we want to tear off and do. Third, we must not be afraid to follow through with what God is telling us to do. Then, in the humility of prostrating ourselves before God and doing what He tells us do (no matter if it seems weird, unlikely, and against our ego-driven needs), we will see the victory that God will bring to the battles of our lives. Because the God we serve knows only how to prevail.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 19:1-11

Jehoshaphat Appoints Judges in Judah

Opening Illustration/Comments

Do we lead in our local churches like eternity depended on it? Do we lead our local church’s ministry as if we were accountable to God for that leadership? These questions are big ones.

One of the things that I have learned in these past two and a half years of full-time ministry, and particularly in the last year and 3 ½ months as a solo pastor, is getting people to passionately serve the Lord through their local church. The question that keeps flowing through my mind is whether a person appointed to a position of leadership, whether it be in my non-denominational past or my denominational present, sees it as truly important from an eternal impact perspective.

The thing that I would love to see in churches today is for people in leadership positions in ministry be so passionate about their ministry that they bombard me with things that they want to do through their ministry. And then it would be my job to rein them in and get them to whittle their ideas down to that which gives the most glory to God, that which is in alignment with God’s vision for this church at this place at this time in its life cycle, and that which will be feasible and doable. Would that not be the ideal situation? To have to rein in the passion of a ministry leader! Let us pray for revival among the lay people of our local churches to gain a passion for their ministries.

Let us pray that they see that they have been given a high responsibility as if from God to faithfully execute the jobs to which they have been appointed. When we stand before God and be judged (and, yes, we Christ followers will be judged … for what we did with our salvation), will we be able to say as leaders that we executed our leadership of a ministry of a local church as if we were doing it for God or will we be able to stand before God and say the things that we say now. Examples such as “I have a job and kids so I don’t have time to really lead a ministry” or “it’s only church” or “we’ve got children’s sports this weekend”. Will we as leaders of a ministry be able to say to the Lord that we thought more about not spending our ministry budget as if that was the goal of the ministry. Will we be able to say to the Lord face to face that we thought all of this was the pastor’s job anyway? Let us pray that ministry leaders beg to be appointed as the leader of a particular ministry rather than just accepting a job because no one else was passionate enough about the ministry to lead it. Let us pray for ministry leaders to emerge that want a position and will lead it as if they were working for God and that want to do ministry rather than being pushed toward it.

It is that idea of awakening ministry leaders to the God honoring execution of their ministry leadership position rather than just holding a title that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:28-34. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

28 So King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah led their armies against Ramoth-gilead. 29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “As we go into battle, I will disguise myself so no one will recognize me, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

30 Meanwhile, the king of Aram had issued these orders to his chariot commanders: “Attack only the king of Israel! Don’t bother with anyone else.” 31 So when the Aramean chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat in his royal robes, they went after him. “There is the king of Israel!” they shouted. But Jehoshaphat called out, and the Lord saved him. God helped him by turning the attackers away from him. 32 As soon as the chariot commanders realized he was not the king of Israel, they stopped chasing him.

33 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses[a] and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of the chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”

34 The battle raged all that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. In the evening, just as the sun was setting, he died.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Jehoshaphat delegated some of the responsibilities for ruling and judging disputes, but he warned the appointees that they were accountable to God for the standards they used to judge others and their actions. Jehoshaphat’s advice is helpful for all leaders. His advice included the following concepts:

  1. Realize that you are appointed to your position to represent the values and ideals of our God.
  2. Be impartial and honest.
  3. Be faithful in executing your duties in ways that honor God.
  4. Measure your actions according to the Word of God so as to please Him and not to please people.

These values are incredibly important for those appointed to positions of leadership within the church. They must see their position as being given to them by God. Thus, they must execute their given job with passion, fervor, and a sense of duty toward God rather than seeing it as an additional burden to their lives.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we have revival in our local churches where people are set on fire for the Lord. Help us pastors, Lord, to create the embers that start the fires that emblazen our people. Help us to get the coals so hot that the following things are what we have to see in our local churches.

Where we have to choose from among several candidates for every ministry leadership position. Where we have people in those positions that you have to keep under control and focused on God’s vision rather than having to check their pulse as to what’s going on in their ministry. Where we have people that take their ministry leadership position seriously such that they prioritize it in the top of their priority list and not just fit it in when it’s convenient. Where people see the eternal impact of the decisions that they are making about their ministry. Where people spend money wisely in their ministry but do not see that the goal of their ministry is to have spent the least amount of money possible. Where people measure the totality of their leadership of a ministry by whether they are pleasing God by the way they lead, by whether their ministry is active, by whether people are being discipled into ever deeper relationships with Christ regardless of how long they have been a Christian, by whether their ministry is reaching or promoting the reaching of people outside our doors.

That’s the dream that we pray for. That’s a church that has eternal impact. That’s a church that is being obedient to the Lord. And those are leaders to which the Lord will adjudge, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” You have lead your ministry as if you were accountable to me, Your Lord and Savior.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 18:28-34 (Part 2 of 2)

The Death of Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

Over the weekend, I decided to run my credit report for the first time in 2-3 years. I have known for some time that my credit rating and score was pretty darn good as in the past four or five years (1) we have had no trouble getting mortgages and so on and (2) we get very few of those too incredible to be true credit card offers or offers for credit cards for those with bad credit. However, I was not sure exactly what our score was. So as to maintain my privacy here, let’s just say that my score was in the exceptional range (within 30-35 points of having a perfect score). The only rap against my credit by the credit services was that my credit file was now thin. It means that we have paid off virtually all our debts. Since I am a United Methodist Church pastor now, we no longer have a mortgage since we live in a parsonage. Further, both of our cars, though old, are reliable and the best part is that they are both paid for. We only have two bank issued credit cards and we pay them off every month. The only real debt that we have to speak of is the student loans related to my current pursuit of my doctor of ministry degree.

The all began with a prophecy that the Lord gave my wife 11 years ago. In my previous job, as the lead financial executive of a division of a global electronics company. In that position, bonuses were paid based on the performance of our company in comparison to budget. From my second year there until I went into full-time ministry two and half years ago, I received a bonus every year by the blessing of God. Eleven years ago, I was of a different mindset than now when it came to money. I had been through two divorces and money was always thin and I spent money when I had and spent on things that made me happy. Tax refunds went to pay for nice vacations and so on. You know the mindset. You see advertisements on TV every year around Feb-Mar to entice people with refunds to blow their money on something. I was one of those people. Having been married twice to women who seemed to think money grew on trees or that they wanted lifestyles I could not afford and my own penchant, too, for wanting to live a life higher than my circumstances allowed, my credit rating was for crap, somewhere in the low 500s.

However, the prophecy given to Elena, the final wife for this man, that we should do whatever it took to clean up my credit as God had a plan for us (an unrevealed future plan at that time). We began by seeking out all the charge-offs on my credit report and making deals with them to clean up those items. We made offers to those medical provider charge offs, old credit card chargeoffs, and a car write-off. The Lord provided us with my bonus that met exactly everyone of those charge offs. Then we began working on past due accounts. Then, we began paying off credit cards on a monthly basis. Instead of using bonuses and refunds from that point on, I no longer felt the need to spend them on temporary or lavish pleasures and began tithing on them and then putting them away in savings. We even paid off my student loans for both my master’s degrees (one dating back to 2000 and the other in 2014). We downsized our lifestyle and were able to be generous to our church and to others in need when the need occurred. We have been mightily blessed by an amazing God. And we were ready when the time came to go into full-time ministry on much less income.

It all began with a very practical prophecy given to my wife. Get control of your finances and begin living simply and generously. When you obey a prophecy over your life, it leads to doors being opened that most assured would have remained shut. What a difference it makes when God gives you a prophecy and you react to it in a way that God wants instead of rebelling against it. Where would we be today if we had not obeyed the very practical prophecy given to Elena. To me, this blog post is not about improving my credit rating by paying off old debts and living much more simply (living at or below 90% of our income and saving money wherever we can). It is about obeying God when He commands you to do something in a very real and tangible way or if it is just a general feeling that He gives you about something, anything. It is obeying His direction because when we obey it opens up the path that He has for us. When we do the hard thing that He calls us to do, when we don’t do the selfish thing and choose to obey Him, He will open other doors that He has intended for you. It can all start with obedience in some seemingly unrelated area. How could obeying God in cleaning up my credit report lead a couple into full-time ministry? It can. One obedience in a seemingly unrelated thing, led to trusting Him more and more in other commands, and then here we are. That’s what this blog is about.

It is that idea of heeding the prophetic words given us by God that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:28-34. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

28 So King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah led their armies against Ramoth-gilead. 29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “As we go into battle, I will disguise myself so no one will recognize me, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

30 Meanwhile, the king of Aram had issued these orders to his chariot commanders: “Attack only the king of Israel! Don’t bother with anyone else.” 31 So when the Aramean chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat in his royal robes, they went after him. “There is the king of Israel!” they shouted. But Jehoshaphat called out, and the Lord saved him. God helped him by turning the attackers away from him. 32 As soon as the chariot commanders realized he was not the king of Israel, they stopped chasing him.

33 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses[a] and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of the chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”

34 The battle raged all that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. In the evening, just as the sun was setting, he died.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Micaiah had prophesied death for Ahab so he disguised himself to fool the enemy. However, his disguise did not change the prophecy. A random arrow found an open place in his armor and killed him. God fulfills His will despite the defenses people try to erect. God can use anything, even an error, to bring His will to pass. This is good news for Christ followers because we can trust Him to work out His plan and keep His promises no matter how desperate our circumstances are. Ahab did not repent and seek God’s forgiveness and this negative prophecy was fulfilled. God only wants us to obey Him so that we can operate in the space that He designed us to operate in.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that sometimes God gives us a chance to obey Him and it’s against what your selfish desires are, it is a hard decision. However, obedience to the Lord and what He calls or commands us to do will always bring joy to your life. And joy does not come from blowing your money on yourself. It comes from obeying the Lord and sometimes it starts with a small, seemingly insignificant thing in the grand scheme of your life. But when we start obeying Him in the small things, it can lead us to obey Him in the larger things and it leads to doors being opened that would have remained closed and there comes the joy. When we are obedient, He leads us to what He had intended for us all along. When we are operating in the space that God wants us to be and designed us to be in, then we find our sweet spot. We find the joy of doing what God called us to do. That does not mean that it will be some financially rewarding thing but rather some soul-satisfying, kingdom-oriented thing that He has called us toward and for which He designed us to operate in.

For us, it began with obeying a very practical prophecy.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 18:28-34 (Part 1 of 2)

The Death of Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

In this story Jehoshaphat is really naïve as it would seem to a cynical person. He never seems to question the motives of Ahab. I guess the reason that I feel sorry for Jehoshaphat is that he is just being used by Ahab so that Ahab could get what he wanted. Jehoshaphat should have never trusted Ahab to begin with.

That just reminds me that in life we are forced by the dents that we have acquired in our armor from the actions of others that we become more and more jaded. We go from innocence to cynicism over time. We go from exuberant idealism to cynicism over time. That is why I don’t want to grow up. Jehoshaphat should have been more cynical about Ahab. He had to have known of his reputation as a wily, crafty, evil king. However, Jehoshaphat chose to trust him anyway. I want to be like Jehoshaphat and not be cynical about people, but it inevitably happens, it seems. We get hurt by people. We get a little jaded. We get hurt by people again. We get a little more jaded. Then, sometimes, things you do with the best of intentions or at least with no ill will or malice in your heart, get misinterpreted and you hurt other people. You get a little more jaded. As we move along in life, we become more and more jaded about people such that we lose our joy for living.

The sad thing is that in this world, being the fallen world that it is, people are going to hurt you and you are going to hurt people, either unintentionally or intentionally. It just happens because of us being sin-filled and thus selfish creatures ultimately at our core. There are seven billion souls out there seeking their own self-interest and all these atoms of souls are banging against each other, hurting each other. That’s the reason that the world is such a mess and will get worse til the end of time – the cumulative and current effects of all souls having sinned against each other. Pretty depressing, huh?

However, that’s the thing here this morning, is to make that Jehoshaphatian choice to not lose your joy in a cynical sin-filled world. Joy is a choice. It is that idea of choosing to be joyful that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:28-34. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

28 So King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah led their armies against Ramoth-gilead. 29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “As we go into battle, I will disguise myself so no one will recognize me, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

30 Meanwhile, the king of Aram had issued these orders to his chariot commanders: “Attack only the king of Israel! Don’t bother with anyone else.” 31 So when the Aramean chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat in his royal robes, they went after him. “There is the king of Israel!” they shouted. But Jehoshaphat called out, and the Lord saved him. God helped him by turning the attackers away from him. 32 As soon as the chariot commanders realized he was not the king of Israel, they stopped chasing him.

33 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horses[a] and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of the chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”

34 The battle raged all that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans. In the evening, just as the sun was setting, he died.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that Jehoshaphat’s trouble began the moment that he trusted the sly, wily and evil King Ahab. He should have been more cynical about Ahab’s motives. We must always pray about things that our friends or “so-called” friends ask us to do. Are they using us to protect or advance their own self-interests, or are their motives above board and simply need our help. We must consider through prayer how to respond to the requests of others. Does it make sense? Is the end result of their request biblical? These are the questions we need to asking for the Lord’s assistance in. That way, we can maintain our joy if we seek God in prayer about our decisions beforehand. If we are really seeking God, He will reveal to us what we need to know and when we need to know it. In that there is comfort. In that, there is safety for our souls. In that, there is maintained joy.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that in a real, deep, and ongoing relationship with God, we can have joy despite living in sin-filled, self-destructive world. Let us trust in the Lord to reveal to us what need to be revealed. We must seek Him daily and hourly and by the minute in moments of prayer and in ongoing conversations with him each day. Surprisingly, when we do that – have a real, serious, ongoing, intimate relationship with God, it is amazing how He reveals to us things about people that need to be revealed. If more people did that, there would be less hurt between human beings (because we would see the world from not just our own self-interests anymore) and there would be more joy. However, for those who have that intimate relationship with God, there is the ability to have joy in a sin-filled world. We place our trust in the Lord that He will protect us from harm and even in those situations that we define as harm to us that He will guide us through it and will have taught us something from the experience. Don’t you want that kind of joy. That just base-level kind of joy that puts a smile on your face regardless of the situation. The only way to have that is through a real, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 18:9-27

Micaiah Prophesies Against Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

As Christ followers, we live in an unprecedented time in America. We often hold beliefs, now, that are not popular with the culture. More often than not, we are and will be ridiculed for speaking God’s truth about situations in our society. We will be shamed into the fringes by the mainstream culture. It is called, now, the “cancel culture”. If you do something (either presently or in your past) that is in opposition to the prevailing cultural beliefs of our secularized society, you will be chastised, reprimanded, maybe even lose your job and other ramifications for saying or doing something that is antithetical to the cultural mores of our day.

In our culture today, often, we point at symptoms rather than the root causes because the root causes run deeper than we want to go. It’s fashionable to say this symptom needs to stop. And we often say that because it really needs no investment of time, talents, or resources to say some symptom needs to end. For example, we want to defund the police. Well, at least that’s what gets all the headlines. However, as the father-in-law of a police officer, I have a fundamental problem with that.

My son-in-law has been a police officer for about two decades now. And, in his various jobs, he gets to see us, society at our worst. He gets to see the underside of society that the rest of us want to ignore. He gets to see us shoot each other over stupid things. He gets to see the effects of drug addiction. He gets to see wives who get punched around by their husbands like a punching bag. He gets to see abused children. He gets to see the ravages of alcohol on families and individuals. He has been called into tense situations where he could have been harmed or killed himself during the process of enforcing the law. And, you know what, my son-in-law is a well-trained, self-motivated and a person who is a deep thinker about the law. He really should be a lawyer instead of a police officer but this is his calling. So, is the solution castigating police when the 99.9% of cops are good guys who know and understand the law and how far they can go with their authority. The overwhelming majority do not want to use killing force and would rather de-escalate a situation than pull their weapons and use them.

Is the greater problem really a societal one where the police are caught at the back end of a larger social problem? There are bigger social problems that we must address and these problems are not based on race at all. There is the issue of poverty. There is then the issue of lack of access to good education in areas wracked by poverty. Poor education then reinforces the poverty. Fatherless homes of any race or economic level is a rampant problem in our country. God designed families to be led by fathers and for fathers to be present in the lives of their children. However, across racial lines, in our society in general, over 25% of kids live in homes where their father is not present. And, the further you go down in income levels, the higher than percentage goes. Fathers are part of God’s plan in children’s lives. They are the balance to the role that mothers by nature play in a child’s life. Mothers are designed to give children unconditional love and be a child’s safety net, their safe haven, their nest. Fathers on the other hand are designed to teach kids about the toughness of the world outside the doors of the home and how we must be able to handle it. In the absence of that balance, we have many social ills that result. And one of the results too of fatherless homes is that it reinforces poverty. Even if a family was middle class before a father leaves a home, they fatherless home is likely to drop into or near poverty as a result.

Add to these ills, the fact that our society has drifted from God altogether and celebrates that which is unbiblical in all aspects of life. In a society where the church has been marginalized or allowed itself to be marginalized is a far greater problem. Without the guiding principles of biblical foundation, our society has drifted into unhealthy views on all levels of human interaction. Thus, without the accountability of being part of a fellowship of believers, everything is open season now in the name of the god of individual rights. The pursuit of individual rights and self-expression now takes precedence over the good of society. Even if my desired individual rights tear at the fabric of society, the pursuit of what I want and what I need is supreme. This is not who is in the white house problem. This is our society for the last 50 years.  

With all these social problems and civil unrest out there and people really not focusing on what the real and deeper fundamental problems of our country are, we in the church are at a crossroads. We can just go along with the culture just so we can not stand out and be ridiculed. And on some issues, the church has done just that. Or we can stand out and go about the business of solving the real problems of society from the ground up.

It is that idea of speaking God’s truth when the culture is focused on dragging everyone along with it in believing something that is the opposite of God’s truth that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:9-27. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

18 Jehoshaphat enjoyed great riches and high esteem, and he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son marry Ahab’s daughter. 2 A few years later he went to Samaria to visit Ahab, who prepared a great banquet for him and his officials. They butchered great numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle for the feast. Then Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to recover Ramoth-gilead.

3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah.

Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.” 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, when you want to please or impress someone, it is tempting to simply tell them what they want to hear rather than the truth. Ahab’s 400 prophets did just that, telling Ahab’s 400 prophets did just that. They were rewarded for making Ahab happy. Micaiah told the truth and got arrested. Obeying God does not always protect us from evil consequences. Speaking the truth of God may, in fact, provoke people to shame us, to attack us, maybe physically harm us, maybe imprison us, and maybe even kill us. It has happened to God’s people throughout history and it continues today. We must never grow weary of doing what God says is right. We must be willing to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. If the world is acting in an unbiblical way and wants us to acquiesce to their way of thinking, we must stick to our beliefs that spring from the pages of Scripture and that have been confirmed by 2,000 years of believers, regardless of consequence. Is it better to live and have compromised our biblical beliefs or to die having remained true to God’s Word?

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that the church must be compelled not just to go along with the headlines. Nor should be wash our hands of society and retreat into our Christian cocoons. We need to solve the real problems of our society at the fundamental levels. We need to be helping the poor get out of poverty permanently. We need to be in our schools and assisting kids to learn. We need to be stepping into families where fathers are not present. We need to be stepping into fathers who live away from their kids and speak into their lives about being a real parent to their kids. We need to step into society and address the impacts of a society that has so many negative impacts of pursuing our individual rights as our god and teach it about the fact that we are subject to a higher authority in Jesus Christ. We must not be afraid. We must do this. If we get ridiculed for addressing the real problems so be it. I know that my son-in-law, the cop, will appreciate the church stepping into society instead of sitting on the sidelines bemoaning what once was.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 18:1-8 (Part 3 of 3)

Jehoshaphat and Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

I don’t remember what movie it was or if it was a TV show or something, but there’s this memory of a guy wishing that God would give him a visible sign of what decision he should make about something. And, humorously, there appear obvious signs to us, the audience, that God is giving this guy a message. One of these messages was like a big pointing finger to something that symbolically represented what God wanted him to do. However, the guy steps over, through, around and otherwise is completely oblivious to the signs being given. It was funny. I just wish I could remember where I saw it so I could include the link.

Similarly, we sometimes pray for God to give you an answer to a tough question. You know those times when you just don’t know what to do. When you ponder your choices on your own, there are major downsides to any decision that you make on the issue. You want to throw up your hands because you don’t know what to do. Then, you go to God with it and ask Him what to do. God will give you the answer through that answer that comes to your mind and heart or He will give it to you through the advice of a trusted friend or He will give it to you through something you read, see or watch. He communicates with us both directly and indirectly and sometimes both. Yet, when it’s not what our personal desire is, we complain that God is not giving us an answer! I’ve done that and I am sure you have to.

Too often, we want to make God confirm what our personal desires are. We think that our opinion is God’s will just because we are known as a good Christian. We think that just because we are fully devoted to Christ that every thought we have is pure Christian gold. We, therefore, think that because we have been a Christ follower for x number of years that our opinions, our positions on things, and our thoughts are, indeed, the will of God. We then go to God in prayer and just assume that God will confirm what we are thinking as the right thing to do. When he communicates His actual will through His direct and indirect methods, we complain that God is not answering our prayers and then proceed with our own desired action anyway. Have you ever done that?

It is that idea of confusing our desires with the true will of God that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:1-8, again. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

18 Jehoshaphat enjoyed great riches and high esteem, and he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son marry Ahab’s daughter. 2 A few years later he went to Samaria to visit Ahab, who prepared a great banquet for him and his officials. They butchered great numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle for the feast. Then Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to recover Ramoth-gilead.

3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah.

Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.” 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that the wicked king of the northern kingdom, Ahab, asked Jehoshaphat to join forces with him in battle. Before making that commitment, Jehoshaphat rightly sought God’s advice. However, when God gave His answer through the prophet Micaiah, Jehoshaphat ignored it. It does no good to seek God’s advice if we ignore when it is given. Real love for God is shown, not merely by asking for His direction, but by following that direction once it is given, regardless if it the course of action that we preferred ourselves or not.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we must always check our desires to make sure we are not confusing them with the true will of God for our lives. We must considered whether our desires are consistent with Scripture or not. Even if we have been a Christian for 50 plus years, we are still made of flesh. We are still sinful people after we have been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. We still commit sins daily whether by thought, deed, or both. Thus, every thought we have as to courses of action in life must be checked against God’s Word. Further, we must seek God’s will even if it is contrary to our own opinions and desires. God will never steer us into actions that inconsistent with Scripture. We must remember that every thought we have is not pure as the driven snow even if we have been a Christian since we accepted Christ as our Savior when we were a kid. We have evil thoughts. We have plans that will hurt people. We have plans that are self-serving. We have plans that protect our pride. We have plans that Satan will try to twist into a sweet sounding spiritual truth but yet is inconsistent with the nature of God as revealed in His Word.

Let us then make sure that we do not confuse our personal desires with the will of God. Let us be open to the fact that God’s will may be not even in the same zip code as our personal desires (sometimes we are way off base between our personal desire and God’s will). Let us be open to admitting that we are sinful and humbly coming before God and seeking His will and even if that means we have to change direction, even if that means we may have to say, my desires were not aligned with the will of God. Let us be willing to see God’s advice whether it be direct or indirect and actually follow that course of action. Doing things God’s way is always better.

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 18:1-8 (Part 2 of 3)

Jehoshaphat and Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

There is an old saying that says, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result each time.” I remember back in the day when Danny Ford was the coach of the Clemson University football team, he was a firm believer in having a punishing running game on offense and having a stifling and attacking defense. It was a great formula most of the time. He recruited big boys for the offensive line and have a bevy of running backs at his disposal. His teams would average over 250 yard rushing per game. They would just wear down and wear out an opposing defense with the relentless blocking of the huge offensive line. On defense, he recruited boys that just like to hit people and they were big and fast. He won more than 75% of his games as coach of the Tigers with this basic approach – methodical offense that chewed up bigger and bigger chunks of yards as the game progressed, and a hard-hitting, fast, and turnover seeking defense.

However, there were those 25% of his games that he lost. Often it was caused by the old turnover thing (the team with the fewest turnovers in a football has been statistically proven to win the game 78% of the time). But there were times, when Clemson ran up against a team here and there that was as big and as fast as they were. In some of these losses, when it was blatantly obvious to everyone that Clemson could not run the ball, Coach Ford would keep at it no matter what. In those days, Clemson quarterbacks probably threw the ball no more than 15 times a game. Ford was in love with running the ball and when Clemson could not do that during his tenure, they lost. But he never adjusted his strategy regardless of the obvious facts. Therein lies the definition of insanity. There were times when it was obvious while watching them on TV that you would yell, “Throw the dang ball a couple of times, would ya?” It would drive you crazy as a fan. But you put up with his crazy dedication to the running game because it worked over 75% of the time.

It is that idea of not listening to advise that is realistic and continuing with a track that will lead to ruin that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:1-8, again. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

18 Jehoshaphat enjoyed great riches and high esteem, and he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son marry Ahab’s daughter. 2 A few years later he went to Samaria to visit Ahab, who prepared a great banquet for him and his officials. They butchered great numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle for the feast. Then Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to recover Ramoth-gilead.

3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah.

Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.” 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that, often, the evil kings of the Bible did not like God’s prophets who brought messages of condemnation and doom for the sinful way in which they ran their kingdoms. Many of them, then, hired so-called prophets who would tell them what they wanted to ear. The Bible is littered with such false prophets (e.g., Isaiah 30:10-11, Jeremiah 14:13-16, 23:16, and 21:30-36 just to name a few). These men would give the kings a sense of security that what he was doing was fine and that there was no need to change course. The true prophets such Isaiah, Jeremiah and others was to challenge the kings of Judah and Israel to repent of their sinful courses of action and steer the nation back toward God. However, the kings rarely wanted to hear the truth about their actions or lack of action.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is there is something here in this passage for both Christ followers, individually, and for churches, as the collective version of Christ followers. For individual Christians, we need to be able to hear things that “step on our toes” and examine what they are saying rather than get mad at a someone within the fellowship of your local church. Too often in churches, when there is conflict between people in the local church or conflict between people in the church and their pastor, people will just disappear and never deal with the issue. In our workplaces, we are able to have hard conversations, why are we so unable to do that in churches? Now, certainly, there are situations where what the person may be saying to you is not worthy of consideration. However, we must examine those tough conversations to see if the person was being hateful or was sincerely trying, in love, to help you grow and mature in Christ. There’s an old saying too about conversations, “take what you need, and throw away the rest!” That’s a quick way of saying that (1) we examine if the hard conversation was simply hatefulness or whether it was said in love and (2) take what we may need to consider more deeply in prayer from that conversation and then leave the rest floating in the air like leaves to the wind.

As churches, we must also be able to adjust our game plan when the running game is not working and be willing to hear that what we are currently doing is not working. As churches, as we move into the 2nd 1/5 of the 21st century, we stick to our guns on the timeless truth of God’s Word but how we package that and how we deliver this timeless message has to be examined to see what we may do differently. We live in a different age that we did 50 years ago in Christianity. Back in those days, it was just part of the culture of America, particularly in the South, to go to church on Sunday and to be there for weekly events during the week or on the weekend. Church was just ingrained into the culture. We did not really have to try that hard. The running game was popping holes wide open for the running backs. We invited people. They came. Sometimes, they just came on their own. It was all very easy compared to the current day.

Now, you are talking about 2nd and 3rd generations of families that have never darkened the door of any church for any reason. People today know of and create their own idea of what and who Jesus is and was because he is a well-known historical figure. Not because they know anything about Him at all in His true identity as the Son of God. He is just a philosopher to many. A radical rabbi and anti-establishment hero to others. Now, people see church as a option at best and as irrelevant to their lives at worst. They do not see any need for a Savior because they see themselves as good people and that’s enough for them. Many see Christianity and other religions as being responsible for much of the oppression of the past millennia and half.

In this environment, then, it is obvious that we have to quit trying to run the ball up the middle endlessly when its not doing anything to draw people into our midst so that they can encounter Christ, the real Christ. We need to examine how we are interacting with the world around as a corporate body and as individual Christians. Are we doing the same old thing and expecting different results? Are we expecting the world to passionately respond to us when we are not passionate to reach them? We live in an age where people are not going to come to us organically like they did in the 1970’s and prior to that. They are not going to come running when the doors open. Let us examine ourselves, have those hard conversations on the sidelines of the game, and then adjust the game plan. Maybe, Danny Ford would have won over 85% of his games if he had been able to listen to those hard conversations and change the Tiger game plan when they could not run the ball effectively. We have to be able to have those hard conversations as churches to see where we need to adjust our game plan to match this new era in which we live. The message of Jesus Christ is timeless and never changes but the way in which we build our game plan to achieve victory may need to be adjusted to match the new kind of defenses against which we are running our offense!

Amen and Amen.

2 Chronicles 18:1-8 (Part 1 of 3)

Jehoshaphat and Ahab

Opening Illustration/Comments

This short passage of only 8 verses has got so much good stuff to blog about in it, that this will be a 3-blog visit to his passage before we move on to the next passage. Here is today’s first of these three blogs…

As many of you know, I am a Star Trek nerd. The three main franchises of the genre are Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS), Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), and Star Trek: Franchise Reboot (movies only). TOS and TNG all had movies that started coming out after the weekly television serieses ended. And it was one of these post-series movies that I think of this morning. It was the second movie for the TNG group of actors. It was Star Trek: First Contact and it was released in 1996.

There is a famous line from that movie uttered by Jean Luc Picard, the captain of the TNG series’ USS Enterprise. In that movie, Picard is lamenting the losses of the Federation to the relentless Borg (a cyborg race that attacks and assimilates planets of people into their robotic, emotionless, collective society). As the Borg now have their sights set on Planet Earth, Picard is fed up with retreating and cowering away from the Borg when he says this:

NO! NOOOOOOOOO!!! [smashes a display case in anger; Both pause, shocked] I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already, too many retreats. They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!

The line must be drawn here! This far! No further! Classic line. I still repeat it when I get the opportunity in the right situations. It was passionate statement of no compromise. A line about being of the mind that you would rather die defending my honor and freedom than to cower and submit to that which we know will enslave us.

Why do I mention this scene this morning? It’s because life is about choices. Here in this passage, we have a king that has a choice. The choice is thinking that if we dive into a pool that we won’t get wet. The choice is thinking that if we drop ink into a clear glass of water that the water will not be permanently changed in color and content. The choice is thinking that if we have long term relationships with unrepentant sinners that we won’t get burned by it. Sure we are supposed to witness to unbelievers but there comes a point at which we must say, the line must be drawn here! This far, no further!

It is that idea of Christ followers compromising our beliefs just to have relationship with unrepentant non-believers that I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 18:1-8. Let us read through it this morning, together, with that idea in mind:

Scripture Passage

18 Jehoshaphat enjoyed great riches and high esteem, and he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son marry Ahab’s daughter. 2 A few years later he went to Samaria to visit Ahab, who prepared a great banquet for him and his officials. They butchered great numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle for the feast. Then Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to recover Ramoth-gilead.

3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah.

Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.” 4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the Lord says.”

5 So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?”

They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

6 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the Lord here? We should ask him the same question.”

7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Jehoshaphat replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say.”

8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah son of Imlah.”

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see that although Jehoshaphat was deeply committed to God, he arranged for his son to marry Athaliah, the daughter of wicked King Ahab of Israel, and then made a military alliance with him. Jehoshaphat’s popularity and power made him attractive to the cunning and opportunistic Ahab. This alliance had three devastating consequences:

  1. Jehoshaphat incurred God’s anger (see 2 Chronicles 19:2).
  2. When Jehoshaphat’s grandson died, Athaliah seized the throne who almost destroyed all of David’s descendants (see 2 Chronicles 22:10-12).
  3. Athaliah introduced the pagan religious practices of Israel into Judah, which once introduced could not be fully eradicated and it was a growing cancer within Judah and led to the nation’s downfall.

Although Jehoshaphat was a godly man, this decision to align himself with another king he knew to be evil was not a wise decision. It was a politically expedient decision to meet the needs of the moment. He did not think of the long-term implications of the decision. The Bible warns us not to yoke (align) ourselves with non-believers, but yet at the same time, we are called to be witnesses to non-believers. The issue comes down to one of compromise. We are to be witnesses to and have relationships with non-believers but we are never to be so interested in those relationships that we compromise our beliefs simply to have relationships with them.

Life Application

I think the thing that we need to takeaway this morning is that we have choices to make in our lives, who we marry, who we work for, who we hang out with and so on. We should be wise as to who we have serious relationships with as Christians, particularly those relationships in which we spend significant amounts of time. When we marry an unbeliever, we cannot down the road act all shocked and distraught about what to do. When we are dating and considering if this person is a person that I can live with day in and day out, the first concern should not be how good looking they are, how sexy they are, how much money they make, what they do for a living, it should be whether they are a Christ follower or not. We should find out if they are a real Christ follower or just claiming to be a Christian. This one should be the first line deal breaker. If they are not Christ followers and appear to have no intention of accepting Christ as their Savior and Lord, that’s a deal breaker for whether to marry them or not.

My mother-in-law has a saying that has stuck with me over the years, “Don’t put up with, for one day, that which you are not willing to put up with the rest of your life!” I understand that we are to witness to non-believers and we are certainly called to do that, but marriage is a whole ‘nuther ballgame. This is who you sleep with, this is who you spend all your non-committed hours with, this is your home base relationship. Here, an unwilling and unrepentant non-believer is simply not marriage material for a believer. Plain and simple. It is a relationship for which you have an upfront choice.

It is the same in our other most significant relationship, our jobs. We have an upfront choice as to whether we are going to work for this company or that. We must do our homework when looking for jobs. Is this a place that does its business in an ethical and Christ-like manner. Does it expect its employees to operate in the same manner. Does the company encourage and enforce Christ-like behaviors? We can’t act all shocked a few years down the road when we are asked to do unethical things or there is this spirit of unethical behavior in the business. As well, if the business has a reputation of harboring and promoting non-marital relationships between co-workers, don’t act all shocked a few years down the road when you see affairs happening all over the building or that you succumb to the behavior yourself. We have a choice up front in who we work for. We must do our homework on potential employers.

Between work and our spouse, these are the two things that claim the most of our time in life. We should be discerning about who we marry and where we work. Outside of that, are we not called to witness to an unbelieving world. Yes, we are, but we are not to compromise our beliefs just to win someone to Christ. We are love people to life in Christ but we are not to go against God’s Word to achieve some cheap conversion. Let us be wise with whom we spend the most time and let us be wise in how we represent the gospel message.

Amen and Amen.