2 Chronicles 20:31-37 – The Hickman Prayer: Keep Me Clean and Close at All Times!

Posted: September 11, 2020 in 12-2 Kings

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.

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