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2 Chronicles 19:1-9
And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem.
Jehoshaphat’s declension and recovery
I. God makes a difference between a backslidden child and an apostate.
1. He preserves the life of the child (2 Chronicles 19:1).
2. God reproves in grace His backslidden child (2 Chronicles 19:2-3).
3. God commends His backslidden child for the good he has done.
II. Jehoshaphat exemplifies the true spirit in which we should receive Divine reproof.
1. He received the Divine reproof without resentment and with real contrition for his sin.
2. He sought to make amends for past misconduct by greater personal efforts to promote the spiritual interests of his people.
III. Jehoshaphat lays down rules for the judges of the people which are applicable and essential to our own times.
1. That a true judge must have reference to God in his decisions (2 Chronicles 19:6).
2. That a true judge should be a real Christian (2 Chronicles 19:7).
1. Unholy alliances are fraught with the greatest danger to every child of God.
2. In his backslidden state the child of God should at once heed God’s warning and reproof through His servants.
3. God requires personal efforts for the promotion of His cause from the rich as well as poor; from those in the highest positions of State as well as from the obscure and lowly. (D. C. Hughes.)
Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?
I. The friendship of wicked men one of the most dangerous temptations to which Christians are subject. Modern life in cities illustrates this with special force.
1. The wealth of the world is largely in the hands of men who are not friends of Christ.
2. In many communities intelligence and culture are possessed mainly by the irreligious.
3. Interests of business sometimes create similar peril.
4. In a higher circle of life professional success often tempts young men of aspiring mind to ally themselves with those who love not God.
II. While Christian principle requires no narrow or ascetic seclusion from the world, yet it forbids seeking worldly friendships and alliances for selfish ends and to the peril of religious usefulness and religious character.
III. The irreligious friendships of religious men violate the ruling spirit of the Scriptures.
IV. Entangling alliances with the world often involve immense sacrifice of Christian usefulness.
V. Christian alliances with the wicked do not command the respect of the very man for whose favour they are formed.
VI. Loving those that hate God inflicts a wound of great severity on the feelings of Jesus Christ. It is from Calvary that the voice comes to each in our solitude, “Shouldest thou love them that hate the Lord?” (A. Phelps.)
Jehoshaphat’s connection with Ahab
I. What is that intimacy with the ungodly which God forbids?
1. An alliance with them.
2. A conformity with them.
3. An unnecessary association with them.
II. Why is it so displeasing to God?
1. On account of the state of mind it implies.
2. On account of its pernicious tendency.
3. On account of its Opposition to His revealed will. (J. Chapin.)
Associating with the ungodly
It is told of a sweet-voiced canary that it forgot how to sing by having its cage hung outside where it was constantly surrounded by sparrows. It gave up its once sweet notes and learned to chatter the meaningless, tuneless notes of the sparrow. The constant association with the Christless is apt to make our hearts grow Christless.
Jehoshaphat; or the dangers of indecision
I have to describe to you a man, not lost, but continually in danger of being lost; a man not wicked, but weak; a man possessing in his character much that was good, but allowing his goodness to be sullied by approach to evil and evil men. I have to show you how one ill-considered step, in the earlier part of his career, embarrassed his whole reign. Affinity with Ahab’s family affected more or less the whole life of Jehoshaphat. This should make us cautious.
I. In such serious matters as forming family connections, or partnerships in business.
II. In what appear minor things. Observe the man who is over-persuaded to what he believes to be evil; the man who consents to do what is wrong, and justifies himself by saying some good will come of it; the man who frequents the society of the vicious, yet believes that he can escape corruption; the man who enjoys the jest of the profane, yet supposes that his mind can retain its reverence for holy things; the man who is silent when he should declare openly his disapprobation of evil; the man who runs himself into temptation, yet trusts that God will find him a way out of it. All these persons do, in their measure and degree, expose themselves to danger--commit acts of indecision--take a step which may necessitate others, against which they may exert themselves in vain--impress a stain on their conscience which it may require years to efface--and plant on the soil of their souls a weed so vivacious, so self-spreading, so absorbent of moisture and nutriment, that by and by it may choke the growth of all Christian graces and virtues. (J. Hessey.)
Nevertheless there are good things found in thee.--
The stimulus of an encouraging word
The Lord will analyse a man’s disposition and a man’s character, and will assign to him all that is due. What man is wholly bad? Surely in the very worst of men there are excellences, and it ought to be our delight to consider these, and where possible, with due regard to justice, to magnify them and to call the man’s attention to them. A man may take heart when he sees some of his best points. Here is a lesson for parents, magistrates, and teachers and monitors of every name and position. Tell a boy that he has done something well. We are too much afraid of what is called flattery, forgetting that flattery is a lie; but we are called upon simply to state the truth, and to state it with affection and emphasis, that it may become an encouragement to hearts that are very easily cast down. (J. Parker, D.D.)
Good and bad things in moral character
Is a man whose character is good to the extent of six-sevenths to be pronounced a bad man? Is there not a spiritual arithmetic which looks into majorities and minorities of a moral kind? Will God, then, at last drive away from Him men who have had six good points out of seven? As business men, suppose a man be recommended to you in these terms: This man has seven qualities, and six of them are really admirable; the only thing about him is that you cannot trust him with money. Would you take him? Six points are good out of seven: will you go by the majority or by the minority? Another man is also good in six points, admirable; the only fault he has is that you cannot believe a word he says. Will you take him into your business? There is a minority greater than any majority can be. That is the doctrine which we have omitted when we have been criticising eternal providence and wondering about the issues of human action. Amongst ourselves it is right that we should say of one another, “He is a good man take him on the whole.” But what is the meaning of the reservation? Is it a grace, a posture that may be taught by a hired master? Or is it a morality, the want of which turns the whole being into a bog on which you cannot rest with security? (J. Parker, D. D.)
We may very well admit that the nearer we get to God and to His sunlight the more freely and fully we shall admit that there is no good thing to be found in us. But yet God sometimes allows His angels to say of a mortal man, “There are good things in him,” without any frown of supreme displeasure. This should--
1. Comfort us. Our good deeds are not useless, not forgotten.
2. Encourage us. If God speak so like an indulgent master to a trying servant, then we need not fear Him. We need dread no impatient frowns upon our insufficient strivings.
3. Humble us. We are perhaps not so good as Jehoshaphat. For his one backsliding ours, perhaps, are many.
1. Mutual forbearance. Let us not set down any of our neighbours as altogether bad.
2. Let us see that our good qualities are definite and discoverable.
3. Let us pray earnestly, agonisingly, that the good in us may overcome the evil. Evil must not for a moment be tolerated. Christ must reign. (S. B. James, M. A.)
2 Chronicles 19:5-11
And he set Judges in the land.
Good government should be the result of piety in rulers
Alfred the Great was a distinguished statesman and warrior, as well as zealous for true religion. St. Louis of France exercised a wise control over Church and State. On the other hand, Charlemagne’s successor, the Emperor Louis the Pious, and our own Kings Edward the Confessor and the saintly Henry VI were alike feeble and inefficient; the zeal of the Spanish kings and their kinswoman, Mary Tudor, is chiefly remembered for its ghastly cruelty; and in comparatively modem times the misgovernment of the States of the Church was a byword throughout Europe. Many causes combined to produce this mingled record. The one most clearly contrary to the chronicler’s teaching was an immoral opinion that the Christian should cease to be a citizen, and that the saint has no duties to society. This view is often considered to be the special vice of monasticism, but it reappears in one form or another in every generation. In our own day there are those who think that a newspaper should have no interest for a really earnest Christian. According to their ideas, Jehoshaphat should have divided his time between a private oratory in his palace and the public services of the temple, and have left his kingdom to the mercy of unjust judges at home and heathen enemies abroad, or else have abdicated in favour of some kinsmen whose heart was not so perfect with Jehovah. (W. H. Bennett, M.A.)
The origin and right of human judicature
The administration is for the Lord.
I. The power of the judgment is God’s right.
II. The matter of the judgment is God’s cause.
III. The issue of the judgment is God’s end. “Is with you in the judgment.” (Dean Young.)
2 Chronicles 19:7
Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you.
I. His sin. This was--
1. Helping in an ungodly enterprise, against which the prophet had warned him.
2. Forming an alliance, of which the influence on himself, his family, and people could only be bad. It fills one with a kind of despair to see how, among those who profess to regard religion an all-important, friendships and alliances discussed and fixed without this ever coming into view.
II. The rebuke which followed the king’s sin.
III. The king’s repentance.
1. He received reproof with meekness.
2. He kept aloof from occasions of fresh sin.
3. He did what he could to repair the wrong his example had done.
IV. What made jehoshaphat so prompt to return to the right path when once he had left it? His deep sense of God and right appreciation of His character. “Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.” Nothing so controllingly underlies what a man is and does as his cherished thoughts of God. (Monday Club Sermons.)
2 Chronicles 19:11
Deal courageously, and the Lord shall be with the good.
The blessedness of the good
I. Who are the good? The Scripture points out two things on this subject.
1. The only way in which men become good--by faith in Christ and the consequent reception of the Holy Spirit to create us anew.
2. The principal ingredients of the goodness of the regenerate.
(1) Integrity of character.
(2) Benevolence of character.
(3) Piety of character.
II. The meaning of this declaration and how its truth is supported. “The Lord shall be with the good.” This means that the Lord will be with them in the supply of His Spirit, in providing for them in providence, preserving them from trouble, supporting them in it, or delivering them out of it, and blessing others for their sakes. This truth is justified--
1. From the purposes of God and the relation in which His people stand to Him.
2. By the promises of Scripture.
3. By all experience and by all history.
1. He shall be with the good nationally if they act consistently and faithfully.
2. He shall be with them individually. Fear not that He will ever leave His work of grace unfinished in you. (J. Leifchild.)
A tonic promise
Explain what is meant by “good.” The melancholy fact that all men are not good. The promise of the text justifies three inquiries.
1. Why should the good be fearful? “They that be with us,” etc.
2. How can bad designs finally prevail?
3. How are men to know that God is surely with them?
The answer involves character: “the good.” God identifies Himself with all that is good in thought as well as in act; in purpose as well as in service. Even when the godly man ceaseth God will maintain the cause that is “good.” This promise, like all the promises of God, is designated not as a sedative, but a stimulant. Deal courageously! See how the text might have read: The Lord shall be with the good, therefore sit still; the Lord shall be with the good, therefore let wickedness have its own way in the world; the Lord shall be with the good, therefore pay no attention to self-discipline. The text reads contrariwise. The Lord is with the good, therefore deal courageously. Goodness is not to be merely passive--it is to be aggressive, defiant of all evil. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Probably few of us ever sufficiently consider the value and need of courage in order to any high condition of character. There are to be found in one of the letters of one of the most interesting men of modern times these words, “How rare is it to have a friend who will defend you thoroughly and boldly! Mr.
missed an opportunity of doing this for me, and has not the courage to do it now as he ought to do, leaving me in consequence defenceless against a slander, though I put the proof into his hands. How indispensable strength is for high goodness-strength moral or intellectual, neither depending necessarily on physical strength.” Many a man neglects to live a Christian life not because he lacks Christian sympathies, sentiments, and feelings, not even because he has no Christian ideas, but simply for lack of courage to put himself where he properly belongs. This lack of courage denotes, of course, either want of confidence in himself or want of depth of feeling as to religious truth, or fear of some man or men, which fear has too much influence over him to allow him to act conscientiously and in the line of his best sympathies.
1. In speaking of courage let us recognise that there is animal courage as well as intellectual and moral courage. Animal courage is of the lowest kind. Oftentimes it is nothing more than bull-dog ferocity. It oftentimes makes men good soldiers, successful pugilists, stalwart seamen--even daring adventurers. Men may have it without any intellectual or moral courage. A little of it is good. An excess tends to brutality. This form of courage--the courage to take physical punishment without flinching--is of a kind which the most uncultured and unrefined can appreciate. It will always have an attraction for the coarse, undeveloped, and unrespectable classes of society.
2. Intellectual courage is of another order, and indicates a superior type of man. It means practically the ability to think for one’s self, and to follow out one’s thinkings to their inevitable conclusions. It is necessary, however, to guard this language. Taking opinions into one’s mind is not thinking. There is a period in our life when we have more conceit than wisdom, and more independence than politeness. We say to ourselves and others that “we mean to do our own thinking,” which often amounts to this--that we mean to assert ourselves as not agreeing with certain persons who are said to be narrow and exclusive, and agreeing with those who shake themselves free from everybody else except a few intellectual rakes and dandies. Alas, how silly it all seems when we get a little older! Then it appears to us that it was the want of ability to think which made us so impertinent and ridiculous. Of course all young birds have to learn to do their own flying, and, after rolling and tumbling about for awhile, they settle down to do it precisely after the fashion of the old birds. So, also, with thinking. From the beginning even until now it has been done in exactly the same way. The process has consisted of the discernments of comparisons and contrasts, likenesses and unlikenesses, of induction, deduction, and inference. Every man has to do his own thinking to some extent, as every man has to do his own sating and his own digesting. There is no possibility of any one eating our food for us, or digesting it for us. And no man can possibly begin at the beginning of things, and think out each problem of life as if no one had been on the earth before him. The present is so related to the past, as that the past is in it and the future is in it. Everything is in the present. We inherit the earth, not as it first came out from the hands of the Creator before man was on it, but as it is, modified by man’s co-operation with God. So of everything--that which is moral and mental as well as that which is material. In each department of things there are men who have thinking power and erudition far, far beyond what is possible to us. In each department they are our helpers, our instructors; yes, our masters. That independence which we assume in youth is only ignorance, foolishness, unthinkingness. The greatest men the world has ever known have been the most receptive and dependent men; the most diligent students, the aptest learners. If I am to learn painting it would be folly indeed if I said, “I am going to be independent of Murillo and Raphael, of Turner and Correggio and Rubens and all other artists who have gone before me.” So in music the man who thinks for himself and never appropriates the science of others is idiotic. So everywhere in all departments. Not less so in theology, the revelation of God and of man, and of the relation of the human to the Divine. If I set up on my own account, and did not open my mind to the thinkings of others, the name of “Verdant Green” would be the only name that could fit me. I would have our younger people distinguish between two ideas which are very distinct, and yet are often confounded the one with the other--viz., thinking for one’s self and cultivating a spirit of truth. The truth is that which corresponds to the fact. As a fact reports itself to your mind that is the truth for you. By and by as your mind grows it may report itself somewhat differently, then there will be something added to the original impression, and that will be the truth. Now, intellectual courage consists in this perfect truthfulness--this faithfulness to report what you see and recognise. It may sometimes put you in seeming inconsistency with yourself. It may subject you to being accused of inconsistency. But never mind. God does not ask us to be consistent--on that shallow view of consistency--but to be faithful and true. There is a deeper consistency--a nobler consistency. If I see a thing very partially in youth, because of the undeveloped condition of my mind, and see it more completely in manhood, because I have had more experience and more vision; if I truly say what I saw then and truly say what I see now, though I see now more than I saw then, am I not consistent--more nobly consistent--than I should be if I were afraid, under more experience, to contradict my former self? What is life for if not to educate us into deeper and larger views of truth? Only we must take good heed that they are deeper and larger. Many people change, but their change is not growth. Let us recognise that, in order to be assured of the leading of the Spirit of God into all truth, we must have intellectual courage--the courage to follow the truth wherever it leads and to own up to believing that it is the truth. Often it takes even sublime courage to do it. Every child ought to read the story of the martyrs of old. It is dreadful to think how little the religion of some of us means. The loss of the ability to grow deep-rooted convictions, and the loss of courage to be faithful in owning to them, is, wherever it occurs, a dreadful loss. It means the loss of that nobility of soul the possession of which is one of the surest marks of our being children of God.
3. But of all kinds of courage, moral courage is the noblest. Of course it enters into intellectual courage. The two are not distinct, and yet while intellectual courage implies thinking power and faithful following where the light seems to be, moral courage does not necessarily mean the courage of the crack thinker, but the courage of character; the courage which acts conscientiously in trying circumstances. For instance, the liar is always the coward. A man lies because he has not the courage to speak the truth and take the consequences. There is one exception to that rule. It is conceivable that a really truthful man might need courage to tell a lie which he thought would shelter a friend from injury or harm. My intellect may sometimes stand in contradiction to my conscience, “but conscience is given me to act by. In matters of duty, therefore, I am bound to obey my conscience rather than my intellect.” Hence moral courage amounts pretty much to this--the steady, persistent following of the light which is in conscience. It involves, of course, the bringing of the conscience into the light, where it may be illuminated, for conscience is a light receiver, not a light originator. Courage, and much of it, is needed to act always and everywhere conscientiously. Intelligence is needed to distinguish between conscience and prejudice. Many a man assumes to be acting conscientiously when he is really acting only from prejudice and feeling. If he quietly took himself to task, he would recognise his true motive. Conscience represents God’s judgment throne. The very fact that a man condemns himself in spite of his natural unwillingness to do it, proves that the voice of conscience is not his own voice.
4. But how are we to get the courage we need--intellectual courage to follow the truth wherever it leads, to utter it always in love, but to utter it; and the moral courage to obey conscience? Where did those apostles in the early Christian days get theirs? Few of them were more than average men. At the approach of calamity all the disciples forsook Jesus and fled. If there was an exception it was John. Peter disgraced himself pitifully. Yet within a few weeks we find men of such sublime courage that we hardly recognise them as the same men. Not Luther himself at the Diet of Worms, challenging the old ecclesiastical order of centuries, was braver. Not the Prince de Conde was braver as he stood before the King of France when given the choice of three things--first, to go to Mass; second, to die; third, to be imprisoned for life. He replied with regard to the first, “I am fully determined never to go to Mass; as to the other two I am so perfectly indifferent that I leave the choice to your Majesty.” These are illustrations of the noble courage of noble men. They seem phenomenal and unusual. But there may be here amongst us men and women, yes, and children, capable of as determined a courage if put in similar circumstances. None of us can tell what we should do in any condition till we get there. It requires as much courage to suffer and be quiet and self-controlled as it does to act. Nothing is more admirable than the quiet domestic courage which many illustrate. I am inclined to adopt and endorse the words of one who has written, “few persons have courage enough to appear as good as they really are.” That is the essence of moral courage. The religious life of business men is very shy and timid. There are men in this and every congregation who feel and believe more--far more--than they act. Sydney Smith has said that a great deal of talent is lost to the world for the want of a little courage. With more truth still we may say that a great deal of influence is lost to the Church for want of a little courage. I believe that few persons have the courage to appear as good as they really are. Courage is opposed to the spirit of compromise--the spirit of indolence--the spirit of silence when silence will be interpreted as consent on our part to what we do not believe. The spirit of fear, of indolence, of compromise, of guilty silence has to be overcome. How? The Spirit of God is granted to every seeking soul that the soul may overcome. (Reuen Thomas, D.D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany