May 15, 2019

With God's Commands, There is No Middle Ground!


TEXT : 2Ch 18:1  Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab. 2Ch 18:2  And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramothgilead. 2Ch 18:3  And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramothgilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war.
After the death of Asa, his son Jehoshaphat takes over the kingdom. Asa a godly king, has the blessing of having a godly son to carry on the work of God with Israel. As we have seen, a godly king does not always produce a godly son, neither does an ungodly king necessarily mean an ungodly son will follow. Still, in Asa's case, Jehoshaphat follows his example and is blessed by the Lord. His kingdom is blessed with riches and honor.
He also institutes a ministry to teach the people to seek the LORD, and in so doing, secures the blessing of the LORD in protecting Judah. It was the fear of God falling on the surrounding nations that delivered Judah, not Jehoshaphat's wisdom or the might of his army.
"Jehoshaphat found his people generally very ignorant, and therefore endeavoured to have them well taught. The public teaching of the word of God forms, in all ages, the great method of promoting the power of godliness. Thereby the understanding is informed, the conscience is awakened and directed. We have a particular account of Jehoshaphat's prosperity. But it was not his formidable army that restrained the neighbouring nations from attempting anything against Israel, but the fear of God which fell upon them, when Jehoshaphat reformed his country, and set up a preaching ministry in it. The ordinances of God are more the strength and safety of a kingdom, than soldiers and weapons of war. The Bible requires use to notice the hand of God in every event, yet this is little regarded. But let all employ the talents they have: be faithful, even in that which is little. Set up the worship of God in your houses. The charge of a family is important. Why should you not instruct them as Jehoshaphat did his subjects, in the book of the law of the Lord. But be consistent. Do not recommend one thing, and practise another. Begin with yourselves. Seek to the Lord God of Israel, then call upon children and servants to follow your example." [Matthew Henry]
However, Jehoshaphat has a weakness in his otherwise righteous life. Specifically, he joins Ahab - one of Israel's most wicked kings as we have already seen, and agrees to help him in his war with the Syrians. We may speculate as to why he joined this wicked king and his reasoning for so doing, but one of the more likely reasons is his son Joram's marriage to Ahab's daughter Athaliah. Joram [or Jehoram] will go on to become one of Judah's wicked kings, the Bible stating a causal relationship between Joram's wickedness and his marriage to Athaliah.  "And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD." 2Ch 21:6 Here, we see a direct corollary between Joram's ungodliness and wicked nature related to Ahab's daughter  - "for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife."
In Joram's marriage, we learn two things. First, the power of influence is greater than the power of authority. Second, a godly man does not always produce a godly son. Everyone chooses for himself or herself what they will be in life. Joram did not follow his father as Jehoshaphat followed Asa. Primarily, as the text of 2nd Chronicles 21:6 states, Joram's ungodly behavior is due to the influence of Athaliah. Hence, we learn the power of influence, and the price of compromise. This is why the Bible is specific about the company we keep. It is due to the nature of influence, and its power to corrupt good behavior.  The Apostle Paul wrote - "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners." 1Co_15:33 
"The word rendered "communications" means, properly, a being together; companionship; close contact; converse. It refers not to discourse only, but to contact, or companionship." [Albert Barnes]
The truth behind this verse in 1st Corinthians is that associations, contacts, connectio ns, affiliations, and bonds affect behavior. Hence, we see relationships have a powerful bearing on what we think, say, and do. This provides confirmation for the adage - "better to be alone than in bad company."
"There were two dry logs of wood, and one green log; but the dry logs burnt up the green log." There is no difficulty in this saying; he who frequents the company of bad or corrupt men will soon be as they are. He may be sound in the faith, and have the life and power of godliness, and at first frequent their company only for the sake of their pleasing conversation, or their literary accomplishments: and he may think his faith proof against their infidelity; but he will soon find, by means of their glozing speeches, his faith weakened; and when once he gets under the empire of doubt, unbelief will soon prevail; his bad company will corrupt his morals; and the two dry logs will soon burn up the green one. [Adam Clarke]
Also, we now understand why the Master forbids anyone to usurp His place as first in our lives.
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." Luk 14:26 
"He whom we love the most is he whom we study most to please, and whose will and interests we prefer in all cases. If, in order to please a father or mother who are opposed to vital godliness, we abandon God's ordinances and followers, we are unworthy of anything but hell." [Adam Clarke]
Also, the words of John - " Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1Jn_2:15
Even our own wives, husbands, children, friends, etc. cannot come before our loyalty and dedication to the LORD. We understand why when we learn the power of influence  and its ability to corrupt the Word of God in us. Influence, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is - "the capacity to have an effect on the character or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself. It's origin is from the Old French, or from medieval Latin influentia ‘inflow', from Latin influere, from in- ‘into' + fluere ‘to flow'." [OED]
Anyway, more than likely it was Jehoshaphat's son's marriage to Ahab's daughter that caused Jehoshaphat to join Ahab in his war with the Syrians. If not for the divine hand of God, Jehoshaphat would have perished as Ahab eventually did. Compromise with anyone is never good for the man or woman of God. Or, to quote Miguel Cervantes from his famous book "Don Quixote De La Mancha" - "Whether the pitcher hits the stone or the stone hi ts the pitcher, it goes ill with the pitcher." Compromise is never good for the godly.
God's commands know no middle ground. We either obey or disobey. There is no gray, only black and white. Even God's promises are yes and amen. "For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." 2Co_1:20
We know that with God there is abundant mercy and grace. However, there is no negotiation of the Bible. God does not change His Word for sinners. He is not in the business of permitting men and women the luxury of amending, editing, or correcting His Word. Again, we know from the Scriptures and by experience, God is full of mercy. Yet, that is far different from changing His laws and principles. Therefore, compromise is not permissible with regard to God and His Word.
After the battle of Ramothgilead and Ahab's death, Jehoshaphat is reproved by God for his alliance with Israel's wicked king through the prophet Jehu. "And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD." 2Ch 19:2 
"Jehoshaphat had already had experience of this wrath, when in the battle of Ramoth the enemy pressed upon him (2Ch_18:31), and was at a later time to have still further experience of it, partly during his own life, when the enemy invaded his land (2 Chron 20), and when he attempted to re-establish the sea trade with Ophir (2Ch_20:35.), partly after his death in his family (2 Chron 21 and 2Ch_22:1-12)." [Keil and Delitzsch]
Although Jehoshaphat was, and remained a godly king, there was judgment on his life for the compromise with Ahab. Again, I assert it came through Joram's marriage with Athaliah, for we see after Jehoshaphat's death, the kingdom becomes utterly corrupted through his son. No godly man wants a legacy of ungodly children. Yet, partly because of the concession for his son to marry Athaliah, and partly because he himself attempted to find the [nonexistent] middle ground with Ahab, Jehoshaphat suffers a measure of God's judgment.
This brings up a point found in 1st Peter 4:18 that says -
"And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" 1Pe 4:18 
That is, if with great difficulty the people of God living by faith make Heaven, what will become of those who willfully disobey God? John Gill comments.
"where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? the profane sinner, the Christless, impenitent, unbelieving, and unregenerate man; otherwise all men are sinners, in themselves; but here it means such as are destitute of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit, and the justifying righteousness of Christ, and that live and die in their sins: where shall such ap pear? not in the congregation of the righteous; nor at the right hand of Christ; nor in heaven, into which no defiled sinner shall enter; nor even on earth, among and under the rocks and mountains, which will not be able to hide them from the face of the Judge, and his wrath, when he shall come; but at Christ's left hand, and in hell, and among the devils and damned there."
We all, with caution, should learn a lesson from Jehoshaphat. Since God is no respecter of persons, [Acts 10:34] with great humility and meekness we should seek God's grace to help us not to compromise with anyone, regardless of who they may be, or how we are related to them. Jesus words though challenging, provide our security. We reserve total commitment only to God. Everyone else must be second. This way we retain our peace and safety. For not all men have faith, nor are all worthy of the salvation of God.
Mat 10:11  And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. Mat 10:12  And when ye come into an house, salute it. Mat 10:13  And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. Mat 10:14  And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Mat 10:15  Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city. Mat 10:16  Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Act_13:46  Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.
We must understand that God's commands are designed for our protection, and there is no middle ground t o change them. Count the man or woman wise who understands this truth.
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