*August 10 - 16
The Good and the Bad Days of King Jehoshaphat in Judah
MEMORY TEXT: "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chronicles 20:20).
JEHOSHAPHAT IN JUDAH. Nothing is boring about the days of King Jehoshaphat in Judah. His reign from 872-848 B.C. is filled with spiritual highs and lows, moments of great success followed by disaster. Who of us can, in some ways, relate?
What is most interesting about this week's lesson are, in fact, the ups and downs of this Judean ruler. As you study the biblical texts, ask yourself, How can someone go from one extreme to another and then back again? What were the circumstances that caused him to waver as he did? What lessons can we learn from his highs and lows? Whatever the causes of his spiritual journey, his story presents an interesting case study that, probably, in some ways, reflects the spiritual walk of all of us.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: Why was King Jehoshaphat praised in the Bible? What formed the foundation and basis of his early attempt to bring a revival and reformation to Judah? How well did he succeed? What mistake did he make early on, and what were the results? What was the basis of his judicial reforms? What threat did Judah face right after the reforms went into effect? What was the key to the people's successful defense against this threat? How can we apply the principles behind these stories to our own lives and experiences?
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, August 17.)
Sunday August 11
The first six verses of chapter 17 say so much. God was with Jehoshaphat, not because Jehoshaphat was divinely chosen even before his birth, not because he had great leadership skills, not because of some inherited tendencies to goodness but simply because the king obeyed, walking in the "ways of his father David" (vs. 3).
Here, too, is revealed what has also been called the "blessing/ retribution" motif, outlined so clearly in the book of Deuteronomy (see especially chapter 28) and appearing again and again in the Kings-Chronicles saga. What it means is this: If the people obey, they will be blessed; if they disobey, they will suffer retribution.
It does not get any simpler.
How does the "blessing/retribution" principle apply today, to us in our own personal lives, or to us as a church? Though we would not apply, for example, the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28 literally to our church or to ourselves, how is the principle applicable still? Look at the following texts from the New Testament. In what ways can you find this "blessing/retribution" motif there?
Matt. 23:37-39 _________________________________________________________________________
Gal. 6:7, 8 ____________________________________________________________________________
Phil. 3:16-19 ___________________________________________________________________________
Heb. 2:1-3 ____________________________________________________________________________
Perhaps the most exciting verse in 2 Chronicles 17 is verse 6, which reads in the Hebrew: "And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the Lord." Though the Hebrew word for "lifted up" often carries a negative meaning, that of arrogance, here it refers to something positive. The heart of Jehoshaphat was lifted up; that is, it exalted and rejoiced in the ways of the Lord. In other words, he was happy to do God's will. Perhaps he had seen the devastation that disobedience had caused, both to the nation as a whole or in individual lives. Whatever the reason, no doubt he could proclaim with David: "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart" (Ps. 40:8).
|A key to having our hearts "lifted up in the ways of the Lord" (2 Chron. 17:6) is found in the just-quoted psalm. What is that key, and how can we experience that joy ourselves? See also Jer. 31:33.|
"And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people" (2 Chron. 17:9).
A king, alone, does not make a revival and reformation. Jehoshaphat, apparently, knew that whatever changes he wanted to make, however much he desired to have God's blessings upon his nationhe could not do it alone. Thus, the text specifies that he sent teachers throughout the land with the "Book of the Law." Though commentators are not sure which specific book or books were used, the point is that the Written Word, the Scriptures, were at the basis of this revival and reformation.
How do you understand the role of the Scriptures here when contrasted with Jesus' words: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me"? (John 5:39)? Are the Scriptures an end in themselves or the means to an end? If a means to an end, what is that end?
Jehoshaphat's heart was right with the Lord; as a result, he obeyed. His faith was manifested by his works, as must always be the case for those who claim to have a saving faith: "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone" (James 2:17).
Indeed, because we are saved by faith and not by works, it does not mean that works have nothing to do with saving faith, as the case of Jehoshaphat shows. That we can never trust in our good works for salvation does not mean that works do not play a part in the experience of salvation. Works are an outward expression of an inward relationship with our Creator and Redeemer. Works express faith, works are the personification of faith, works are the heart and soul of faith, works are the human manifestation of faith. Works are faith made real, belief made tangible, our words and profession made flesh. Works are a means of expressing, even strengthening, faith, Jehoshaphat being a great example of this crucial spiritual reality.
|Read through the first nine verses of 1 Kings 17. Take note of the works that Jehoshaphat performed because of his faith. Notice that it involved two aspects: that of doing certain things, as well as of stopping certain things from being done. Applying that principle to your own life, answer this: You say you have faith-but what about your works?|
This has to be one of the most bizarre stories in the Old Testament. First, Jehoshaphat, who "sought the God of his father" (2 Chron. 17:4, NKJV), marries his son Jehoram to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab (that is the Ahab, as in Jezebel's husband) in order to help cement a political alliance, a move that "was not in the order of God" (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 195). Next, he agrees to form a military alliance with Ahab against Ramoth Gilead, another move that God did not approve. However, perhaps feeling some unease, Jehoshaphat wants to know if the Lord will be with them before going to war. Four hundred prophets in the north tell him "Go" (2 Chron. 18:5). Unconvinced by the chorus of pagan shamans, Jehoshaphat asks, " 'Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of Him?' "(vs. 6, NKJV). Micaiah, a prophet of the Lord, is brought before them. At first, he tells Ahab what he thinks Ahab wants to hear. Ahab, probably detecting the sarcasm, demands to be told the truth. Micaiah obliges and says specifically that they should not fight. Ahab, angry, has Micaiah tossed into jail. Meanwhile, Jehoshaphat, though he heard the warning from the Lord, goes to war anyway. Before they fight, Ahab disguises himself but tells Jehoshaphat to fight in his royal robes. For whatever reason, Jehoshaphat agrees, and in the battle, he is surrounded by the enemy that is about to kill him when he cries out for deliverance, and "the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him" (vs. 31). Later, a random shot from a Syrian bow kills Ahab. Jehoshaphat returns home, where he is rebuked by Jehu the son of Hanani the seer, who says, "Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you" (2 Chron. 19:2, NKJV).
Read through 2 Chronicles 18 and write down all the wrong things that Jehoshaphat said and did; contrast them with all the good things he said and did. What conclusions can you draw from the comparison?
What could have prompted Jehoshaphat to have made the doomed alliance with Ahab to begin with? See 2 Chron. 18:1-3.
Compare 2 Chronicles 18:1 with 1 Kings 3:1. What parallels exist?
|Look at Jehu's rebuke (2 Chron. 19:1-3). What did he mean by saying," 'Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?' "(NKJV). What principle is seen there, and how can we apply it in our own lives?|
Though Scripture does not say, Jehoshaphat, rebuked for his previous folly (the military alliance with Ahab), probably determined to follow the Lord more than ever, which could explain his desire to reform the nation's legal system according to God's will. Whatever the reason, Jehoshaphat decided that the court system needed a major overhaul.
Describe Jehoshaphat's judicial reforms (2 Chron. 19:4-11). Compare these reforms with the instructions in Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:8-13.
The emphasis of the judicial reformation was on the moral values of the system." 'Consider carefully what you do' "(2 Chron. 19:6, NIV), "'judge carefully' "(vs. 7, NIV), "'no injustice or partiality or bribery' (vs. 7, NIV), " 'serve faithfully' " (vs. 9, NIV), " 'warn them not to sin against the Lord' "(vs. 10, NIV), and" 'act with courage' "(vs. 11, NIV).
Look carefully at verse 7. What is Jehoshaphat saying here? What do the following verses say that help us understand the principle that Jehoshaphat was trying to teach the judges?
Deut. 10:17 ______________________________________________________________________
Job 34:19 ________________________________________________________________________
Eph. 6:9 _________________________________________________________________________
1 Pet. 1:17 _______________________________________________________________________
Obviously, the Lord wanted the judges to reflect the character of Himself, that of being impartial and fair with those whom they needed to judge.
Look carefully at verse 10 of 2 Chronicles 19. Notice what Jehoshaphat is telling these leaders: In the cases that you hear, you must warn the people about the consequences of their sins or else you will also be held accountable, and wrath will come upon you, as well.
Most of us, of course, are not professional jurists; we all, however, find ourselves in positions where we can be temptedeither by "bribes" or by the lure of money or of power or positionto be unfair in how we treat others. How can we fortify our minds so we do not get caught in that common pitfall?
Chapter 20 begins on an interesting note: "It happened after this" (NKJV), meaning that after Jehoshaphat instituted all these good reforms, the nations faced a great threat. In other words, right after the king and the nation started to better serve the Lord, they were confronted with a test of faith. How many people, even in their personal lives, can attest to the same thing happening to them?
What did Jehoshaphat and the nation do in response to the crisis? The king feared (vs. 3), he sought the Lord (vs. 3), he proclaimed a fast (vs. 3), he gathered the nation together (vs. 4), he prayed (vss. 5-13), he and the nation worshiped (vs. 18), and then the people praised the Lord (vss. 19-21). Now they were ready for whatever was coming.
"Jehoshaphat was a man of courage and valor. . . . He was well prepared to meet almost any foe; yet in this crisis he put not his trust in the arm of flesh. . . [instead of in] a living faith in the God of Israel."Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 198, 199.
Read verse 4 of 2 Chronicles 20, which says that the people came "to seek the Lord." How did they seek the Lord? What does it mean "to seek the Lord"? How can we, today, seek the Lord? Write down practical steps that we can take in our own lives as we seek the Lord:
Read Jehoshaphat's prayer (vss. 6-12). Of all that he says, two major points come through: the power of God and the weakness of the people. Notice the difference here in Jehoshaphat's attitude and actions compared to Ahab's and the ill-fated battle against Ramoth-Gilead.
"Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2 Chron. 20:20). Think of examples in your own life and experience where you have seen this promise fulfilled. At the same time, have you had experiences where it seemed that it was not fulfilled? Or, is it possible that our concept of what it means to be "established" or what it means to "prosper" needs revising? Discuss.
Jehoshaphat's reform movement did much good in Judah. He eliminated most of the high places and destroyed the practice of male prostitution that was part of Baal worship (1 Kings 22:46). He was a good military leader and a good politician who ran the country well. "Throughout the kingdom the people were in need of instruction in the law of God. In an understanding of this law lay their safety; by conforming their lives to its requirements they would become loyal both to God and to man. Knowing this, Jehoshaphat took steps to ensure to his people thorough instruction in the Holy Scriptures. . . . And as many endeavored to understand God's requirements and to put away sin, a revival was effected."Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 191.
Jehoshaphat tried his hand at overseas commercial ventures (1 Kings 22:48) but without much success, primarily because it was a joint venture with people of whom God did not approve.
He redid the judicial system in Judah and established just laws for all (2 Chron. 19:4-11). Overall, the Lord commended him for what he did (2 Chron. 19:3).
For instance, Ellen White comments on his reaction to the attack by the southern coalition recorded in 2 Chronicles 20: "In conformity to the divine requirements there is a transforming power that brings peace and good will among men. If the teachings of God's word were made the controlling influence in the life of every man and woman,.. . the evils that now exist in national and in social life would find no place."Prophets and Kings, p. 192.
What could lead a mother to kill herself and her own daughter?
Maria* was desperate. A single mother living in Peru, she worked long hours to provide for her teenage daughter, Angela,* and herself. Maria worried as her innocent child became a rebellious teenager. Maria seemed powerless to change the path Angela's life was taking. Angela stayed out night after night, rebelling against Maria's values.
Then it happened. Maria noticed Angela's health was failing. She tried to deny it, but the truth was evident: Her daughter had contracted AIDS. Heartbroken, Maria sought help to reverse her daughter's disease, but she found no help. Angela's health continued to decline until she was bedridden in great pain.
Maria was so depressed and heartsick that she could see only one way out. Desperate, she decided to end her daughter's pain by killing her, then turn the gun on herself and end her own life. She purchased a gun and hid it in a desk drawer, awaiting the day that she had appointed for the murders.
On the given day, Maria opened the desk drawer and removed the gun. But then something happened that changed her mind. Maria explains in her own words.
"I don't believe in miracles, but this morning, as I prepared to carry out my plan, an extraordinary thing happened. As I opened my desk and removed the revolver, the clock radio came on, and a voice said, 'In the midst of suffering and pain, Jesus understands, because He suffered just as we do.'
"I sat down and listened. It seemed as if the voice was directed at me personally. I felt a peace in my heart that I had not known. The program ended with a phone number. I called the number and asked the person who answered to tell me what to do."
The number Maria called was the Voice of Hope, and the person who answered the phone listened to Maria's story then promised to visit Maria and her daughter. In fact, several staff members visited the family, sharing God's Word and weeping with them through their suffering. Sadly, the disease had taken its toll, and Angela died.
Maria grieved over her daughter's death. But she was strengthened by God's promises and drew courage from her newfound faith in Christ and the support of her Christian friends. She was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church and now longs for the day when she will be reunited with her daughter at Jesus' soon coming.
*Not their real names. Don Jacobsen is president of Adventist World Radio.
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