Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
(Psalm 20:6-8 NIV)
Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 17:1 – 20:37
Someone once said that the definition of insanity is when you repeat the same behaviors over and over again, each time expecting different results. Many of us do that. We continue the way we always have and hope that someday we will hit the mother load of fulfillment and happiness and joy. Maybe it’s time we stop repeating ourselves but instead learn from our past and change our behavior.
George Santayana was right when he said, “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” To repeat the past is insanity when we desperately need different results. For that reason we have plunged into this mini-series — “The Tales of the Kings.”
God had a mission for the tiny nation of Judah, that they should be a beacon of light in the darkness, that they should point the way to a savior to all the peoples around them. God has given us the same mission, that we might learn from their successes and failures?
Today Life lessons are from King Jehoshaphat. “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed” (2 Chronicles 17:3 NIV).
Lesson Number One – Start strong
This is especially a lesson for young people. Get a solid start. Dive into life with a plan and go for that plan with your whole heart. Remember that direction trumps intention. It doesn’t matter how big your dream is if you don’t spend every day moving toward it. Without vision, the people perish. When you are young ask God for his dream for your life and then begin to take steps every day that will move you toward that dream.
Remember that there is a difference between having a dream and being a dreamer. The difference is “action.” Don’t forget – Direction trumps intention.
Lesson Number Two – Even if you follow the Lord you may screw up.
I’m so happy there is a lesson number two. How many times have we messed up only to have an enemy whisper in our ear that we are no longer worthy or loved.
It turns out that this king is no different. “Now Jehoshaphat had great wealth and honor, and he allied himself with Ahab by marriage” (2 Chronicles 18:1-2 NIV). Can you believe it? King Jehoshaphat, who started out so well, marries the daughter of Ahab who committed more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. Jehoshaphat didn’t just screw-up, he screwed-up really bad.
The Bible says that bad company corrupts good character and that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t long before Jehoshaphat’s father-in-law asked him join him and attack Ramoth Gilead. When you read the story it’s almost comical how King Jehoshaphat gets conned into forming an alliance with Ahab and going to battle. It ends in tragedy. Ahab is killed and Jehoshaphat limps home to Judah, utterly defeated.
Evil Ahab was killed but Jehoshaphat’s life was spared. Apparently, even when you screw up, God doesn’t reject you. Sometimes the godly fail and follow evil. The good news is that God doesn’t judge your character by the isolated good deed or screw-up, but by the condition of your heart.
So here is a question for you and for me. Who has your heart? Aren’t you glad that losing your temper, or losing your patience, or even losing your way for awhile doesn’t mean that God will give up on you?
Lesson Number Three – If you fail the test you’ll have to take it again.
Sometime later some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom.” Oh, Oh! Here comes another test. Listen, friends. Life is a series of tests. God’s plan is to continually bring us tests, and as we pass each test, we move on to the next. Each test brings us closer to being someone Jesus can spend eternity with in constant fellowship. Often we don’t see life from God’s perspective. Circumstances come into our lives and we wonder… where is God and if he loves me why would he let this financial problem or this relationship problem into my life?
I picture Jehoshaphat in heaven with Jesus. They are talking about Jehoshaphat’s life. Jesus tells Jehoshaphat how he saved him from being killed in that ill-advised battle when he was allied with Ahab because he saw his heart and he knew that he loved God even though he had made some terrible decisions. I envision Jesus saying, “Jehoshaphat, I was so proud of you the way you handled that situation when the Moabites and Ammonites came to make war with you.” “I was afraid,” Jehoshaphat says, “and for a moment I was even tempted to think that I was being punished for my earlier sins.” Jesus laughs. “You know I don’t work that way. You were merely retaking a failed test, and I love how you passed it the second time. I’m so proud of you.”
Let’s look at how Jehoshaphat handled this second test:
“After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him” (2 Chron 20:1-4 NIV).
The Apostle Peter had to take some tests over and over before he passed. He jumped out of that boat faster than you can say ‘Simon says.’ He walked on the water but then took his eyes off Jesus. Jesus picked him out of the drink and plopped him soaking wet back in the boat. Test number one for Peter — fail. Jesus didn’t write him off when he failed; Peter just had to take the test again.
Test number two for Peter came in that garden courtyard as Peter turned the air blue with obscenities, yelling three times that he didn’t know Jesus. Test number two — fail.
Peter was pretty thick-headed. He had to take some tests over and over, just like you and I. For test number three, Peter found himself before the religious leaders who are warning him and threatening him because he had healed a man. Peter’s response to the religious leaders:
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’” (Acts 4:8-12 NIV). Test Passed! What happened that he failed the first two tests but passed the third test? After failed test number two, Peter went to Calvary; he met the savior, a redeemer whose relentless love would not give up on Peter and won’t give up on you or me either.
Some of us go through life taking the same spiritual test over and over again. But there is good news. When you pass the test, there is a brand new chapter with God just on the other side. When you pass the test, you are one step closer to glory. Christian, you are going to keep getting the same test until you pass it because he loves you too much to give up on you.
Jehoshaphat failed his first test. His second test A+:
“Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: ‘O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. O our God did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.”’” (2 Chronicles 20:5-9).
The prayer meeting turns into a worship meeting. They go out to battle, leaving their swords at home and just wear their choir robes. They go out singing “give thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever.” They face an impossible enemy and they find the crisis has been eliminated by a God who loves to come through at the last minute for his people. To pass the test is not to conquer our problems, but to stand and face them, confident that the greater the crisis the greater the miracle for them who believe.
Prayer: Lord, help us to learn the lesson from King Jehoshaphat. Help us to know that when we fail, you will never leave us or reject us, that even when we mess up and try to handle life without you, you will keep working with us until we pass the test. Lord help us to become a people that you can enjoy forever.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518QFzxScCL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″] Amazon #1 bestselling author Bob Saffrin lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Barb and their beagle Rocky. He and Barb have two children and four grandchildren. Bob loves the outdoors and has been on many backpacking trips in the rugged Boundary Waters area of Minnesota including winter camping.
Check out Bob’s book, [easyazon-link asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us”]Psalms, The Sunrise of Hope[/easyazon-link]