AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH January 13, 2008
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST
AND BASE OF THE
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
INPUTS, OUTPUTS AND OUTREACH
II Chronicles 17-21
Jehoshaphat was a great king. To be sure, he became rich, his children were too, and one of them killed the others (II Chronicles 21:4). There is a message in that. Their upbringing included such choice morsels as their father marrying the daughter of one of the most dissolute characters of all time, Ahab of Israel; and worse, that whole country had formal idols in gold, calves, an ironic reference INSTEAD OF FAITH to the follies of their hearts' lingering leaving of Egypt.
That would not help the kids. Again, this rich king Jehoshaphat gave great gifts to his children, not always wise; and worse again, he actually joined his father-in-law in a battle in which, quite justly, he nearly lost his life. If you play with snakes, you tend to get bitten. But we'll come to all that.
For the moment, we simply want to note that this King as we read in 19:4, was zealous in outreach, going to the mountains of a neighbouring country (the northern segment of original Israel, which retained the name 'Israel'). He went out among the people of a vast range in the territories of Israel and brought many back to the Lord. What a work for a king! What a great king he was, to take so seriously the power and peace of all who know Him...
That was the ultimate outreach, broad and zealous. He set up judges, exhorting them to be just and keen, and to consider well what they were doing. He appointed men to determine controversies. The work of the Lord was to be done in equity and peace, and its scope to be increased. This is what is to be desired, not retraction but expansion of the kingdom, not narrow little programs involving your 'faith' if it is one, but that natural application which betokens a living and a true faith, not the bogus artificiality which James so justly condemns in his epistle.
Jehoshaphat however did not reach this beauty quickly, and on the way there were terrible mistakes, as we saw above, which may well have brought the disaster on his children of one of them after the King died, becoming murderer of the rest. Let us then look well to what we do, to the seed we sow, and avoid compromises and conveniences which are not holy in any field and at any time. Crops tend to come from seed.
It is good for us to see how close to destruction this Jehoshaphat for all his godliness, came in one of his illicit slackness phases.
Ahab, the father in law had told him of a battle he himself had to fight, and Jehoshaphat with an almost mad haste, agreed to fight with him. It is rather like rushing off to fight in Iraq without questioning whose war it is, and why. This is just that tendency for fellowship with what is as far from godliness as idolatry from truth, which you see in many churches today.
These either promote sexual perversion, like the Uniting Church, or tolerate it in its ranks, like the Anglicans, so that the Archbishop of Canterbury had a special communion for people of this persuasion, who are church workers, while the Primate of Australia at one recent time indicated that it is not necessary, if you want God, to come by Jesus: a blasphemy total and antichristian, unbiblical and unfounded. In this, there is nothing short of a declaration of war on Jesus Christ (John 14:6), and yet the Church remain with him, and he with them! … as their Primate. If the skies should fall, would they notice, when the truth lies slaughtered before them, who remain in fellowship as a denomination with a crash attack on Christ! Does light have fellowship with darkness ? asks Paul, as in the verses next noted.
It can be most costly like all disobedience (cf. II Corinthians 6:14ff. I Corinthians 5:9-13, Ephesians 5:1-7, II Corinthians 11, I Timothy 6, II Chronicles 19:2 to which we come shortly, Isaiah 8:20, II John 7-11, and of course Romans 16:17ff.). It is not permitted, it is impure, it is putting man's impotent desires above the fruitful ones of God. Indeed, it was only through divine mercy that Jehoshaphat was not killed by treachery during the battle with Ahab at his side, which followed. That would have cut short all his good works, once and for all! To trade on the mercy of God, however, is less safe than playing with uranium, as it is purified for the bomb. God does not like deceptive deviousness and wilful arbitrariness (Proverbs 16:18 - "pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall" - NASV).
Already Jeshoshaphat had been zealous in many practical ways for the Lord (II Ch. 17). Now he is tested. Going then to battle alongside his gross and evil father-in-law, he finds a suggestion. Before they actually fight, the latter tells his son-in-law, this Jehoshaphat, that he for his part will fight in ordinary dress, while his son could fight in full regalia. Obviously, this would distinguish for the enemy a TARGET and probably lead to his being sought and killed, while the plain clothes king, who gained help in his war from an innocent party, his relative, would escape. Play with radioactivity and expect radiation disease; or death. Play with the commandments of God and expect them to work on you!
It was a great mercy alone which saved him, and that through no goodness of his own. As the enemy, seeing their target from his clothes, closed in on him, he cried to the Lord. Here is another lesson. EVEN IF you have done some crazy thing, like continuing in fellowship with a church which is against the word of God in any basic matter or adds to its word, yet in the midst of your troubles, cry to the Lord. OF COURSE separate from it, from the evil, but in the meantime, CRY.
God heard him and delivered him. Indeed, He did more. The evil and ungrateful Ahab who in a very broad sense was simply making use of his son in law, was given his come-uppance. Despite his guile and selfishness, his cunning and heartlessness, God took him. Thus an enemy soldier, deciding to shoot upwards into the heart of the opposing troops (rather an odd thing), did so and it hit Ahab the king. What a coincidence ? Not at all. God knows what he is doing. He knows how to protect his own and expose subtlety. Besides, Ahab had done so much evil, that the time was up. Wounded, he was carried off to die. Jehoshaphat escaped.
There was, however, an input for trouble, despite the deliverance. God does not reward oafishness, though he hears prayer for pardon.
Into this mêlée, now there comes a personal word from God for Jehoshaphat. This, incidentally, reminds us NOT to take lightly what is said or shown to us from time to time. It is altogether too easy to dismiss some sound counsel or advice, because we THINK we have a case covered, or are too sure of ourselves. The listening ear definitely has its points.
In this case, the speaker was the prophet Jehu. Returned from battle, having wrought amiss, Jehoshaphat now faces another battle. This fearless prophet let a word from God penetrate the ear of the king.
"Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord ?
Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you,
in that you have removed the wooden images from the land,
and have prepared your heart to seek God."
What was the response of the King to this daring confrontation from the man of God (whose jugular was as vulnerable as ever) ? We read of it in II Chronicles 19:4, the verse with which we started. This King became EVEN MORE zealous than he had been, even more consistent in his spiritual work, missionary now and with great outreach and he increased his concern for justice.
That was a good answer, that was indeed to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. Praise God for such a response as that. Instead of mingling with evil, as if it could not hurt him and he could help it in general senses, even among his relatives, he now mingled with good and reached out with it, to extend the very kingdom of heaven. Luke 14:26 puts the point crisply! It stands and many fall on it.
Then, thus prepared, when later Ammon and Moab together decided to attack his land, the southern sector of the original Israel, now called Judah from one of the tribes in it, he was given a role which has gone down in history as one of the most amazing wars of all time. SO does the Lord reward good with goodness, and contrition with counsel.
What did the King do this time, faced with his own foes, but use FAITH and purity of heart as the preliminary in meeting their challenge. This is his prayer.
"O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You? Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever? And they dwell in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’
"And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them— here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit.
"O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."
Notice his method. He presents the truth concerning who God is and how great is His power, he reviews the relevant history of the case and God's part in it (if you are a Christian, you should be continually consulting the Lord so that your history is overwhelming precisely what He has given for you to do). He brings up a promise, regarding the temple as a symbol of the presence of God, its patterns depicting the divine name (Christ at last to BECOME the temple and BE the sacrifice for sin needed); and he ASKS God to hear and to judge the unjust neighbours who return evil for good and who are trying to dispossess them of the land which God gave them.
LIFE IS MORE THAN PUT-PUT
The Lord heard. They went to battle with singers in order, praising God and when they reached the site, the enemy had gone because ... they had fought each other, each nation against others in the union of nations invading. Hence Israel found not fighters but booty. They then continued to praise God, and so the nations feared the people whose God could do such things.
Even more, Jehoshaphat in his power, was careful neither to parade it nor rely on it, but to put glory where alone it is. Thus before the battle, did not a prophet, find had liberty to speak to his people, these memorable words:
"Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem! Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you."
I have put in red, as above, the words which are such a stimulus, give such an insight to ourselves today. It is the same God. Position yourselves in HIS side with HIS people to do HIS will and to FOLLOW His WORD, be bold, and rely on the Lord. This is the prelude to exploits such as great and small have done since the Church began, and His people were called.
Life is more than inputs and outputs. It is RELIANCE on the REALITY OF THE LORD. It is action according to His gracious word; it is to trust in Him and follow Him, not as a poetic interpreter of commands, as if DO NOT HAVE FELLOWSHIP with spiritual or physical harlotries meant,
Do as you please, just try to be nice!
It is to stand and fight for the children currently being assaulted daily in schools with vicious anti-Christian propaganda, with neither a cent of truth nor reality in it. It is to love your enemies, but NOT to follow them!
May God give to us a heart that can learn from the life of Jehoshaphat, to follow the good example and avoid the mix! Are we not here to learn, from the Lord, to hear, heed and so!