The funeral service was poorly attended
2 Chronicles 21: There were no tears shed when he died – it was good riddance!
Jehoshaphat fathers five sons and he leaves them each an inheritance of wealth. Additionally each one is given a fortified city to rule, basically setting them up for life. His oldest son, Jehoram, gets the throne. This could work out as the most successful handoff of power since Solomon took the throne from his father, David. Instead, there’s murder and abandonment of God. This wicked man murders all his brothers and leads his subjects away from God. The Lord, in turn, is disgusted with him. There are rebellions and then a humiliating and destroying illness. After eight years of failure Jehoram is dead. And no one cares. What a pitiful life story. How sobering it is to think that the untimely death of a person is considered a favor of God to those under his influence and authority. What an important reminder to realize it all started when he turned his back on God. Each life journey arrives at key forks in the road. When I arrive at such a place I make a fresh decision concerning the type of person I will be. That decision will impact not only me, but those who are closest to me, and in some cases, even people I’ll never know. Because of the importance of how I handle those big moments in my life, I want to practice for them by dealing with the little stuff in the right way. Little things lead to big things. Big things lead to eternity.
Take Away: We become the people we are by the decisions we make along the way.
2 Chronicles 20: Everyone in Judah was there – little children, wives, sons – all present and attentive to God.
It’s not as though Judah is a world superpower or anything like that. It’s a small nation surrounded by other small nations that are situated between some very big players on the world scene. When Jehoshaphat receives word that some of the neighboring countries have united to attack Judah he knows he’s in big trouble. We’re told, “Shaken, Jehoshaphat prayed.” Not only does the king pray but he calls his nation to prayer and fasting. They cry out to God to literally save their lives, reminding the Lord that they’re descendants of Abraham. It’s a desperate crowd that gathers in Jerusalem to cry out to God. And everyone’s there. It’s not just the soldiers or the leaders or even the heads of households. Everyone comes: men, women, and children. I can just imagine the children looking on wide-eyed as their parents and all the other adults cry out to God for his intervention. I know that the purpose of this story isn’t for me to think about children and prayer meetings and such, but the topic does come to mind. In most churches today we tend to divide families. Children go to some program organized just for them and teens are placed under the ministry of some capable youth leader. The adults, then, have “their” Bible study or prayer meeting. Generally speaking, I’m all for it. After all, I don’t want to see the kids just marking time while the parents talk about things that are meaningless to the boys and girls. Still, there’s something powerful in children seeing their parents pray heartfelt prayers or watching their parents be involved in a passionate discussion about the things of God. They might not understand all that’s going on but they understand that these spiritual things matter to the grownups. I’m not suggesting that we do away with Children’s Church or the Youth program of the church but I do think that we ought not to be in too big a hurry to dismiss them from all adult oriented activities of the church.
Take Away: If children never see their parents pray intercessory prayers and worship from the depths of their hearts how will they ever learn to do such things?
God takes my best and makes it better
2 Chronicles 19: And God be with you as you do your best.
Jehoshaphat receives good marks for his leadership of Judah. He’s right on target in how he oversees the legal system of his kingdom. His judicial appointees are charged by the king to take their work seriously, reminding them that ultimately they must give an account of themselves to the Lord. Jehoshaphat gives a similar charge to those given authority over Temple business. They’re to be dependable and honest in all they do. Jehoshaphat’s bottom line to these powerful people is this: “God be with you as you do your best.” One reminder I see in this passage is that God expects me to give my best to the responsibilities that are mine. Positions of authority carry with them an equal portion of accountability. Also, I see that my best is all that I can give. Even when it’s not really good enough I can’t do any better than my best. When I’ve done that, I’ve come to the end of myself and I’ve done all the Lord expects of me. At that point, my best may be seen as acceptable by others or it may be time for me to move on, handing the responsibility over to someone else, but I have no reason to be ashamed when I’ve given all I have to give. Finally, though, there’s good news here. God’s help is promised. When I’ve done all I can do and, frankly, it isn’t enough, rather than coming to the end, I might just come to the beginning; that is, the beginning of God. He delights in taking unlikely people and using them to accomplish great things like killing giants or feeding thousands. It’s pretty cool. I bring my best to the table, as meager as that might be, and then God steps in, lifting me and what I have to offer to dizzying new heights. Rather than ending up humbly handing the keys over to some more capable person, I sometimes find myself amazed at what God has done.
Take Away: The Lord delights in using unlikely people.
Finding good advisers
2 Chronicles 18: I’ll get all the prophets to lie.
Jehoshaphat has no business being in Samaria, much less meeting with its wicked king Ahab. He’s treated to a meal “fit for a king” that’s intended to soften him up a bit. When Ahab thinks the time’s right he suggests an alliance between Israel and Judah against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat is hesitant and suggests that they consult the Lord. The result is a pre-arranged prophetic display from some of Ahab’s hand-picked prophets. Jehoshaphat knows what’s going on and asks for a second opinion, this time from a real prophet of God. It’s now that we meet Micaiah. I picture him as a little fireball of a fellow. In fact, his feistiness has already gotten him on the bad side of Ahab. Micaiah says this campaign will end in massive defeat, especially for Israel. When pressed on the matter he gives an imaginary scenario in which the Lord calls a meeting of his angelic advisors. The Lord wants their ideas of how to get Ahab to make the foolish decision to attack Ramoth Gilead. Finally, one angel says it won’t be hard to do; he’ll just get all of Ahab’s paid prophets to lie to him! As you can imagine all these so called prophets don’t take kindly to being called liars and pandemonium breaks out. Ahab has Micaiah thrown into jail and proceeds with his battle plans. It’s his last battle. It’s really not hard to find people who agree with us. Some folks really like us and think we can do about anything; they tell us to go for it. Others want to score points with us, or are afraid of us, or really don’t care one way or another. The trick is to find people who know what they’re talking about and who will risk telling us the truth, even if it’s not what we want to hear. One person who will do that is worth a dozen of the other sort.
Take Away: Thank the Lord for good friends who tell us the truth in love.
Over the long run
2 Chronicles 17: He was a seeker and follower of the God of his father and was obedient to him.
Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, comes to the throne of Judah and he does a pretty good job, both militarily and spiritually. One thing he does that’s interesting is that he puts together a team to go out and conduct what might be called revival meetings across his country. These men teach the people how they’re to live as a people of God. The king’s approach is successful both at home and, so some extent in the nations surrounding tiny Judah. The peoples of those nations develop a healthy respect for “God’s people” in Judah. Not only are they hesitant to make trouble with these neighbors, but they want to be on the good side of them and their God. Amazingly, the Philistines, their enemies across the centuries, come with gifts for Jehoshaphat. His reign looks like a smaller version of that of his ancestor Solomon. I think it’s neat to be able to sit here in the comfort of my favorite chair literally thousands of years after these events and see how Jehoshapaht’s decision to seek, follow, and obey the Lord impacts his life as the years pass. Even as ripples spread from a stone tossed into a pond so do blessings spread through a life when a person decides to seek, follow, and obey the Lord.
Take Away: The impact of a decision for the Lord reaches farther than we ever imagine.
2 Chronicles 16: You were foolish to go for human help when you could have had God’s help.
These words are addressed to the man who prayed the wonderful prayer of 1 Chronicles 14. Now 26 years have passed and Asa’s nation is once again threatened. This time, though, he turns to the king of Aram for help, sending a “king’s ransom” to him in exchange for his support in the war. The combined force of Judah and their hired army is victorious and the enemy is defeated. As Asa celebrates this God’s man Hanani shows up. He tells Asa that God’s not pleased with him. In fact, the Lord’s insulted that Asa would trust in Ben-Hadad instead of himself. The consequence will be a series of wars, one round after another. I wonder if I, like Asa, insult the Almighty. Do I turn anywhere but heavenward in dealing with the issues of life? The very same God who saw me through in the past stands ready to see me through the issues of this day. In fact, that’s his preference! The Lord doesn’t say, “When you’ve tried everything else without success, I’ll help you.” Instead, his message is a wonderful word of commitment. He promises that if I call he’ll answer. God doesn’t want to be my last chance. Rather, he wants to be my Partner in every issue of life.
Take Away: Don’t make God your last resource…he wants to be your first.
What a wonderful promise!
2 Chronicles 15: If you look for him he will let himself be found.
The name “Azariah” appears often in the Old Testament, but I think this is the only incident in which we hear from this particular prophet of God. Asa has just won a miraculous battle and is returning home to celebrate his victory when he’s met by this man of God. Azariah has a message from the Lord for Asa. The Lord has good things in mind for Asa and for his kingdom. If Asa will keep his head screwed on straight and keep his eyes on God he’ll be blessed with the unfailing presence of the Lord throughout his reign. Asa takes this message to heart and goes all out for God. He calls his subjects to “seek God…wholeheartedly, holding nothing back.” The result is just what the Lord promised. God shows up bringing peace and prosperity to the kingdom. This is a wonderfully encouraging passage. God wants to bless us and help us and be with us. He promises to make himself available to those who seek him. A family, church, or nation that covenants to seek God wholeheartedly gets God’s attention and receives his blessings. I’m not thinking so much of health and wealth here as I am about spiritual well-being. Still, I think that living in an intimate relationship with God brings blessings that often spill over into our lives in unexpected, pleasant ways. Either way, the promise of God’s presence and his willingness to be “found” ought to excite us and stir us to action.
Take Away: The Lord isn’t playing hide and seek with us. Rather, he makes himself wonderfully available to all who seek him.
Don’t waste the blessings of life
2 Chronicles 14: While we have the chance and the land is quiet, let’s build a solid defense system.
Asa’s one of the good guys to lead Judah. He enjoys 10 years of peace in the early part of his reign and he takes full advantage of it. Now only does he clean house, getting rid of the idols, etc. that have crept into his kingdom he also persuades his subjects to join him in fortifying the major cities of Judah. Any nation should be thankful for 10 years of peace. After all, peace is an all too rare national condition. Sorry to say but history proves that the “war to end all wars” is yet to be fought. So even when peace is achieved and we’re tempted to dismantle our defenses and focus on other things, reality calls us to take advantage of the current situation by preparing for whatever comes next. Not only is this true on the national scale, it’s true of our individual lives as well. Life has both good and bad days. When things are going well we need to be careful we don’t foolishly act as though hard times are gone forever. Most certainly they aren’t. On one hand, I want to enjoy the good things that come to me. I want to look toward heaven and say a sincere word of thanks and live as though I really appreciate the blessings that come. On the other hand, I want to be aware that life won’t always be easy. As much as I’m able I want to prepare for the day when it’ll be my turn to experience some of the hardship of life. Asa’s a good king because he doesn’t “waste the peace.” From a personal point of view, I don’t want to “waste the blessings” either.
Take Away: Live wisely.
God’s on my side
2 Chronicles 13: Can’t you see the obvious? God is on our side; he’s our leader.
Abijah, king of Judah is making a speech to the vast army of Jeroboam, king of Israel. From his hillside pulpit he reminds them that their nation has rejected God Jehovah. They’ve kicked out his priests and named priests for their man made idols. As have national leaders for thousands of years, Abijah claims that God’s on his side and, because of that, resistance is futile. Meanwhile, Jeroboam has his army pretending to politely listen. Actually, he has a large contingent sneaking around to the back of Abijah’s forces. When they’re in place, the army of Judah will be crushed. As the trap is sprung Abijah finds himself in a position to put his “God’s on our side” rhetoric to the test. The scripture says “they prayed desperately to God.” Know what? He’s right! The smaller army of Judah, in spite of their tactical disadvantage, routes the army of Jeroboam. This humiliating defeat spells the end of Jeroboam’s reign. It also provides us yet another example of what God can do when we trust in him. Of course, if I want God to be on my side I need to pay attention to one little detail: I’ve got to be on his side.
Take Away: The Lord is faithful to his people.
Visiting the graveyard, looking at tombstones
2 Chronicles 12: God was not important to him.
Here’s a story of the man who, because of pure stubbornness, split Israel into two Kingdoms. Under his grandfather, David (a man after God’s own heart), Israel became a united and successful nation. Under his father, Solomon (a man who asked God for wisdom), great things were accomplished and prosperity came to the land. Under Rehoboam (a man who thinks God is unimportant) there is civil war, invasion from Egypt, and spiritual decline. As his obituary is written this phrase stands out: “God was not important to him.” Such a charge states volumes. In fact, when the final story of any life is told, how a person responded to God is the most important fact about them. It remains true today. How I respond to God matters and honestly, God won’t be ignored. In every life, God has the last word.
Take Away: What will be the Lord’s last word on my life?