There are many people who seek the favor of God, but often times not with understanding. There are many out in the world that try to earn God’s favor. The Bible does not teach that God gives favor to people on the basis of merits. People sometimes say that God helps those who help themselves. That is not a Biblical teaching it is a made-up philosophy. God does not provide favor to people who work hard. God does not provide favor to those who are “good people.” If the Lord really gave His favor to those who worked hard and were good people, no one would receive His favor because the Bible teaches that it is impossible to do anything without Him and none are righteous. Hence, the Lord’s favor comes on account of grace. God gives favor, but it is never deserved when He gives it. Those who receive God’s favor haven’t done anything to impress God or please Him to receive it. God gives favor because His nature is merciful and gracious, not because people are impressive and deserving.
This principle is proven true through the testimony of Jehoshaphat. In 2 Chronicles 19:1-4 the Bible explains that Jehoshaphat paid consequences for the partnership he tried to orchestrate with the wicked King Ahab. Jehoshaphat married into Ahab’s family in hopes to have friendly relationships with the king of the northern tribes of Israel. Ahab became friendly with Ahab and his family even though they were idolaters and evil self-seeking individuals that abused God’s people to receive personal gain. According to the Bible, Jehoshaphat was not supposed to be yoked up with Ahab for business purposes, military purposes, or personal purposes. Jehoshaphat was a man that sought after God, but also aspired to achieve spiritual results according to his own workings and understanding. Jehoshaphat desired for the two kingdoms of Israel to be unified, but was willing to compromise in order to facilitate unity. This was not what God wanted and God made sure to communicate that to Jehoshaphat clearly.
In the testimony of 2 Chronicles 19:1-14 the Bible states that God sent a prophet to Jehoshaphat to warn him about his actions. God was not pleased that Jehoshaphat partnered with Ahab. God was not pleased that Jehoshaphat continued to pursue a partnership and relationship with Ahab even after seeing the excessive worship of Baal and hearing the Lord’s rebuke and judgment from the prophet Micaiah. God provided ample opportunities for Jehoshaphat to separate from Ahab but Jehoshaphat went so far as to go to battle with Ahab and even disguise himself as Ahab in the battle, putting his own life in danger. Though God delivered Jehoshaphat safely from this battle, He was sure to explain the full extent of His displeasure with Jehoshaphat’s rebellion and foolishness.
The prophet went to Jehoshaphat and said, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord?” The prophet was talking about Jehoshaphat’s relationship with Ahab. Jehoshaphat “loved” Ahab in the sense that he continued to pursue a relationship with him even though Ahab’s conduct and lifestyle were contrary to the Lord and His righteousness. Ahab was an idolater of the worse king. Clearly, God saw that Ahab hated the Lord. Since Jehoshaphat loved the Lord, how could he engage in a relationship with a person that was committed to opposing the Lord? How could Jehoshaphat partner with someone that lived life in a manner contrary to his own? The prophet pointed out this flaw of Jehoshaphat’s and plainly said that God’s wrath was upon him. God’s wrath was upon Jehoshaphat, and rightly so, because Jehoshaphat loved the approval of men more than the approval of God. Jehoshaphat wanted to be liked by people more than he desired to be holy in the eyes of the Lord. Jehoshaphat was quickly able to shelve his convictions concerning God in order to go about his own way to unify the kingdom with wicked people. Jehoshaphat’s faith in the Lord was corrupted by his desire to live by human standards, being accepted by the people of the world, denying the warnings of God, and even endangering his life in order to do so.
The warning of the prophet shows that God desired to judge Jehoshaphat and would have been right to do so. God’s accusation against Jehoshaphat revealed that he was guilty of violating several commandments. The most obvious violation of Jehoshaphat was that he disobeyed God’s command to keep from fighting the Syrians. God told Ahab and Jehoshaphat that they would lose the battle and that Ahab would be judged. The warning that God spoke through the prophet Micaiah was loud and clear but Jehoshaphat went to go out and fight with Ahab anyway. This was rebellion against the command of the Lord. In addition, God said that Jehoshaphat “loved those who hate the Lord.” This means that Jehoshaphat gave Ahab the affection and praise that is supposed to be exclusively directed towards God in worship according to Deuteronomy 6:4-5. In this way, Jehoshaphat was guilty of breaking the greatest command to love the Lord God with all of his heart, soul, and strength. God would have been just to judge and destroy Jehoshaphat for this alone. When he was told that God’s wrath was upon him, there was no reason to doubt that as true. God had a right to be angry.
However, God did not destroy Jehoshaphat. The prophet went on to explain that the Lord would relent in His judgment. Though God was angry and would have been just to deliver His wrath, the prophet explained that God would be merciful and gracious. God extended favor to Jehoshaphat even though He should have extended judgment. God spared Jehoshaphat’s life even though He should have ended it due to the offense and guilt of his sin. The prophet explained why God was willing to respond in favor instead of judgment. God considered the faith of Jehoshaphat. The prophet spoke of the “good things” that were found in the heart of Jehoshaphat. This does not mean that Jehoshaphat was a good person. God’s wrath wouldn’t have been upon him to begin with if he was truly a good person. The Bible contextually explains that the faith Jehoshaphat had in the Lord was equal to having “good things” in his heart. The “good things” that were in Jehoshaphat’s heart were that he destroyed the idols in Judah and also “prepared his heart to seek the Lord.” This means that Jehoshaphat set his heart on the Lord and fixed his affections on God and His righteousness. Though Jehoshaphat could not live perfectly and made mistakes according to the flaws of his flesh, God looked at Jehoshaphat’s heart and saw faith with works.
Notice that the faith of Jehoshaphat was sufficient to spare him from the wrath of God. God did not make mention of any personal achievements of Jehoshaphat. God didn’t acknowledge the amount of people Jehoshaphat might have helped. God didn’t reference the quality of house, job, or family that Jehoshaphat had. God looked at the heart. Like with Abraham, God saw faith and accounted it to him as righteousness even though faith is not equal to righteousness. Jehoshaphat’s conduct proved that he was unrighteous; but Jehoshaphat’s heart showed that he trusted in the Lord God as supremely righteous and holy. That was sufficient to please God so that God gave Jehoshaphat favor he didn’t deserve and preserved him from wrath. Jehoshaphat’s works were simply representative of the effects of Jehoshaphat’s faith. He destroyed idols because he believed in the supremacy of God. Jehoshaphat didn’t destroy idols to be saved from God’s wrath. Jehoshaphat destroyed idols because he believed God was holy. The faith of Jehoshaphat directed his conduct in an outwardly public way. Jehoshaphat’s faith was not merely an inward conviction but was also a public confession. God saw this as good and was therefore willing to spare him of the judgment he deserved.
Jehoshaphat’s mistake proved that he wasn’t perfect and that his flesh was set on doing things contrary to God’s righteousness even though he understood God’s holiness. God showed mercy and grace to Jehoshaphat because he believed. Jehoshaphat had faith in who God was as was evidenced by his desire to make the Lord the only God in the land. It was not Jehoshaphat’s ability to keep God’s commands that pleased God. It was the conviction that Jehoshaphat had about the supreme goodness, righteousness, and power of God that pleased Him. Though Jehoshaphat could not totally live his life in line with his faith and had lapses in judgment, God showed mercy and grace. This is what drives God to show favor. God is not interested in the performance of His people because He knows His people can’t perform up to His expectations. Instead, God shows favor to those who believe upon Him as the One True Living God according to the truth of His revelation by the Word. For Jehoshaphat, that revelation of God’s righteousness came through God’s Law. Today, the revelation of God’s righteousness comes through the Lord Jesus Christ – God in flesh – the Lord Our Righteousness.
The Bible frequently refers to God as “the Lord of Hosts.” This is one of the traditional Old Testament “names” or title of God. In Hebrew, it is the title, “Jehovah Sabaoth.” It means that God is the Lord of armies. He is the Master and Commander of all military resources both in heaven and on earth. The title is especially used in the writings of the prophets because it is a title that identifies and describes the sovereignty of God. God is supremely in control of all things and all people. He does not report to people. He is totally independent in His actions and His influence. He has the power to control anything and everything according to His purposes and desires. To some people, this concept is offensive because it attributes God to have power to that equal of a puppet master, making people like puppets in the hands of God. Whether offensive or not, this idea actually has a great deal of truth to it. Thus, it is critical that God’s people understand the true magnitude of God’s control, influence, and power so as to submit to His purposes and receive the benefits of them, otherwise face the risk of judgment.
The extent of God’s sovereignty as “the Lord of Hosts” is illustrated in the testimony of Jehoshaphat. In 2 Chronicles 18:18-34 the Bible describes God’s involvement in the plans and lives of Jehoshaphat and Ahab to a degree that is startling to many people. The scriptures state that Jehoshaphat was a faithful and righteous king, but made a miserable mistake by seeking to please people in the name of unity. In an effort to unite the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel, Jehoshaphat married into the family of King Ahab, the king of the northern tribes of Israel. The Bible candidly explains that Ahab was one of the worst and most evil kings in all of Israel’s history – especially his wife Jezebel. Jehoshaphat had no business partnering with Ahab, but in his foolishness, agreed to go out and fight against the Syrians with Ahab as military partners. Ahab had selfish intentions to fight against the Syrians and Jehoshaphat gave into the temptation to help him. Though Ahab was a self-seeker and a worshiper of idols, Jehoshaphat volunteered himself to be unequally yoked to Ahab’s selfish ambition and paid a heavy price for it.
Though Jehoshaphat agreed to fight alongside Ahab, he wanted to receive confirmation from the Lord about whether or not they should fight against the Syrians. Jehoshaphat had good habits to inquire of the Lord before making moves to do things. Since he was not pleased with the flattery of the false prophets of Baal that Ahab first brought into the room, Ahab sent for one of the few remaining prophets of God that lived in Samaria. A man named Micaiah spoke before the kings about God’s will. He was a man of truth and did not fear the consequences of his proclamations. He understood that his words were unpopular to Ahab because Ahab sought to live contrary to God’s will. When Micaiah went forward to explain the vision God gave to him about the battle Ahab wanted to incite, his words were startling to the kings.
Micaiah said that he saw that Israel would be scattered as a result of the battle. God would not permit Israel to beat the Syrians despite the flattering words the prophets of Baal tried to encourage with. Micaiah gave proof to the substance of his words. He explained that he saw a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne in heaven and all of the armies of the spirit realm were on His right hand and left. This reference shows that both angels and demons were standing before God. The Bible frequently refers to those on the right hand of God as those who have favor with God. This would mean that those on the left would not have favor. Since Micaiah saw “hosts” in “the heavens” shows that he was able to see armies of demons that don’t have favor with God, as well as armies of angels that do have favor with God. Notice that both the angels and demons report to God, stand before Him, and submit to Him. Though demons are frequently referred to as rebellious entities, they are not so rebellious that they are out of the control of the Lord God Almighty! They are not able to do as they please. They do not sneak around under the radar of God’s wisdom and knowledge. God is in charge of both the evil and the good to ensure that both are working according to His will. Even those who rebel against the One True Living God don’t have the authority and power to oppose God’s purposes. Those who rebel against the Lord might despise God’s purposes, but God’s sovereignty is so great that He will still use rebellious hearts to work all things together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purposes.
When Micaiah described this vision, he said that he also heard a conversation. God asked for a volunteer to deal with Ahab. God had previously declared judgment against Ahab for the evil he committed against a man of whom Jezebel killed in order to give that man’s land to Ahab. Ahab was doomed already and God was going to use the circumstances of the war with the Syrians to fulfill His promise of judgment. The scriptures state that one spirit volunteered to be a “lying spirit” in order to influence the prophet of Baal to encourage Ahab to go into war, which would ultimately lead to his demise. In that the spirit identified himself as a “lying spirit” shows that this spirit was a demon. Notice also that the spirit was the liar, not God. God is not a liar and God does not tempt people in any way, shape, or form. Still, since there are lying spirits that influence people to oppose God, He exercises His sovereign control to make use of this evil in ways that ultimately results in His righteousness and justice.
God commanded this spirit to go into the earth and influence Ahab’s false prophets. Notice also that it was the false prophets that the lying spirit influenced. Lying spirits are likely to have success against other liars since liars are spiritually blinded from the truth. What better target to influence evil than those who already pursue it and live according to it? According to the Bible, the prophets of Baal sought to speak flattery to Ahab and Jehoshaphat to fight the Syrians because God sent a demon that volunteered to lead Ahab to death. The demon sought destruction and God used that evil to execute His righteous judgment. The false prophets were usable vessels to spread lies because the very nature of their lives and profession was based on idolatrous lies and darkness.
When Micaiah informed the kings of this vision, Ahab and the prophets were not happy to hear this. It was obviously offensive to the prophets of Baal that their encouragement to the king was influenced by the motivation of a demon. One of the false prophets went up to Micaiah and struck him. Immediately after, Ahab called for his guards to take hold of Micaiah and put him in prison with “the bread and water of affliction.” Micaiah was not to be released until Ahab returned from the battle with the Syrians. Though Micaiah prophesied God’s Word and testified of a vision that confirmed the prophesy, Ahab was determined to do his thing anyway. This just goes to show that no matter how much knowledge people have of God’s plans and the workings of the devil, people will do what they want to do. Micaiah tried to explain to Ahab that his desire to fight the Syrians was on account of God’s sovereign control to judge and that he would not survive the battle. Micaiah even assured Ahab that he would certainly die on the battlefield before being thrown into prison. Ahab didn’t care. He fell for the bait of his prophets of Baal and received the encouragement of lying spirits because it comforted his selfish ambition.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 18:18-34 states that even though Jehoshaphat heard the same testimony as Ahab, he still volunteered to fight with Ahab against the Syrians. Though God had assured the people that the Israelites would lose in war, Jehoshaphat continued to subject himself to dangers and temptations. Jehoshaphat was a faithful and righteous man, but not a smart one that was able to discern evil. Before going out to fight, Ahab told Jehoshaphat to put on his armor so that Jehoshaphat would look like Ahab and Ahab would look like Jehoshaphat in battle. Here, Ahab tried to see if he could fool the Lord. If the Lord were going to judge Ahab on the battlefield, Ahab hoped that he could trick the Lord by disguising himself. This is the extent of foolishness people demonstrate when rebelling against the Almighty God. On the other hand, Jehoshaphat was blinded by his desire to please people in the name of unity that he actually agreed to trade armor.
The scriptures explain that the king of Syria didn’t care about anyone else except for Ahab. He instructed his men not to waste time, energy, or resources fighting other men, but instead to seek out Ahab and kill him only. When the Syrians saw Jehoshaphat dressed like Ahab they immediately attacked him sending Jehoshaphat into a panic. It was likely that most of the Syrian military targeted Jehoshaphat alone according to the king’s orders, so when Jehoshaphat saw this, he fled quickly in great terror. Thankfully, the Lord’s sovereignty as “the Lord of Hosts” was able to preserve Jehoshaphat. God exercised the same control He has over spiritual armies over the Syrian armies so that they recognized Jehoshaphat was not Ahab and drew back. Instead, the Bible says that an archer shot an arrow at random that found its way through a seam in Ahab’s armor and pierced him while he was standing in his chariot. He bled out and died hunched over in his chariot that day according to the Word of the Lord.
The scriptures CLEARLY show that God has charge over all things. This is why He is able to fulfill EVERY bit of His Word. No matter how people might despise or reject God’s Word, no one is able to oppose it with success. Ahab figured he could overpower God. He was wrong. Ahab figured that he could trick God. He was wrong. Even Jehoshaphat had his issues with the Lord. He trusted in the Lord, but only to a certain degree. Jehoshaphat felt that his duty was to unite the kingdoms. God is the Prince of Peace, and Him alone. It is not the responsibility of God’s people to bring together things that He has determined to separate. Jehoshaphat had good intentions, but the Bible shows that even good intentions can be contrary to God’s will. Jehoshaphat was caught relying on his own understanding of “good” rather than God’s and put himself in a position of threat and danger as a result. There was no reason for Jehoshaphat to fight alongside Ahab, yet Jehoshaphat’s foolishness produced situations that tempted him to do evil and then almost killed him in the end. If not for the mercy and grace of God, exercised by the sovereign hand of the Lord, Jehoshaphat would have been dead, and for foolish cause. This shows that God exercises His sovereignty to judge the wicked and preserve the righteous and is able to control EVERY facet of reality – physical and spiritual – to ensure His Word is fulfilled perfectly.
The Bible teaches that bad company corrupts good morals. Every believer that strives to do well to please the Lord has someone around them to influence them to evil. It is a challenge in this life that has existed from the beginning. The challenge intensifies when God’s people compromise in these relationships. Doing the will of God becomes harder when God’s people surrender themselves to bad company. God’s people put themselves in danger when they willfully subject themselves to evil influences. Therefore, it is critical for God’s people to trust in the Lord for the enduring strength and resolve to separate from people that seek to lead astray. The truth of the matter is, the Bible shows that God’s people have the same human habits as non-believers. God’s people desire to be liked and accepted by people just as much as anyone else. Therefore, we are all prone to subject ourselves to evil company and bad influences for the sake of having friends, fun, or fulfillment. This means that we must trust in the Lord to give us ability we wouldn’t otherwise have; the ability to separate from those who seek to corrupt our relationship with God.
An example of this truth is seen in the testimony of Jehoshaphat. The Bible explains that Jehoshaphat did well to please the Lord. The Bible explains that Jehoshaphat walked in the good manner of his father Asa, and even compares his delight in the Lord to King David, a man after God’s own heart. Jehoshaphat did well to purge Judah of sin, especially idolatry. He destroyed high places. He killed pagan temple prostitutes, male and female. He destroyed idols, statues, and images of false gods. Jehoshaphat did his best to ensure that the people of Judah were discouraged from worshiping idols and only worshiped God according to the Law. However, the Bible shows that Jehoshaphat errored in one key area. He took a wife that made life difficult for him. Jehoshaphat engaged in a relationship that caused him to compromise in certain areas that not only threatened his walk with the Lord, but also his life.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 18:1-17 explains that Jehoshaphat married someone that was related to Ahab, the king of the southern kingdom of Israel. Ahab was one of Israel’s worse kings. He not only practiced the same wicked idolatry as Jeroboam, but also married the evil woman named Jezebel. Jezebel was the daughter of a priest of Baal and influenced her husband to do terrible things against God’s people. Jezebel herself raised up four hundred fifty prophets of Baal and four hundred prophets of Asherah to serve God’s people. She slaughtered God’s prophets and priests that remained in the northern kingdom and took from God’s people to give to her husband. The family of Ahab was eventually judged in a dramatic manner. God ensured that his entire family was purged from His people. Yet Jehoshaphat took it upon himself to “strategically align” himself with Ahab through marriage. Though it may have seemed like a good idea to unify Judah with Israel again, God NEVER approves of those who seek to align themselves with people of the world for the sake of “unity.”
As a result of his marriage, Jehoshaphat grew close to Ahab. The testimony of 2 Chronicles 18:1-17 explains that Ahab sought to create a military partnership with Jehoshaphat so that he could conquer the city of Ramoth Gilead from the Syrians. Jehoshaphat agreed to partner with Ahab in the name of unity but sought to inquire of the Lord to ensure God wanted them to fight with Ramoth Gilead. Here, it is important to see that Jehoshaphat had good Godly habits, but those habits become tainted when practiced in the presence of carnal people for the sake of partnering with them. God warned that His people should not be unequally yoked with non-believers since people who walk according to the flesh are contrary to those who desire to walk according to the Spirit. There is no unity there. There cannot be agreement. There is no similarity in objectives and goals. Still, Jehoshaphat sought to adapt his Godly habits to his surroundings in hopes that he could follow the Lord and His wisdom while also pleasing those who walk according to the flesh.
Jehoshaphat asked Ahab if there were any prophets so as to inquire of the Lord about attacking Ramoth Gilead. Ahab responded by calling four hundred prophets of Baal. Ahab inquired of those prophets who then encouraged Ahab and Jehoshaphat to go fight. They played to the egos of the kings. The false prophets simply boasted of the strength of Ahab and stroked his pride to suggest he could not be defeated. They told Ahab what Ahab wanted to hear. Jehoshaphat was not impressed, but made no efforts to separate himself from the evil influence. After the prophets of Baal spoke, Jehoshaphat asked Ahab if there were any prophets of the Lord God Almighty. Clearly Jehoshaphat was not fooled by the words of the false prophets. Clearly Jehoshaphat was not as easily tickled by the words of the prophets of Baal. Still, when Jehoshaphat saw that Ahab relied on the wisdom of false prophets to make his decisions, he should have left. God’s people should not partner with those who seek to educate and encourage themselves with the words of liars and people-pleasers. God’s people should not surround themselves with those who seek to fill their ears with flattering words that support and encourage selfish ambition. God’s people should surround themselves with those who seek the truth of God’s wisdom according to His Word, whether it be flattering or not.
Ahab did admit that there was a prophet in the area that his wife had not yet killed. It was a man named Micaiah. Ahab confessed that he hated Micaiah because of the words that Micaiah spoke. According to Ahab, Micaiah only spoke evil concerning Ahab. In other words, Micaiah didn’t seek to flatter the king and just spoke the truth of God’s Word concerning Ahab’s evil. Jehoshaphat rebuked Ahab for hating Micaiah, the prophet of God. Jehoshaphat admitted that it was not good to hate the messengers of God. Still, Jehoshaphat didn’t separate himself from Ahab. When Jehoshaphat saw that Ahab simply surrounded himself with people who encouraged his selfish ambition and hated the true speakers of God’s Word, he should have left. God’s people have no business engaging in partnerships and intimate relationships with those who despise the truth and hate the communication of God’s Word.
Jehoshaphat would not go fight against Ramoth Gilead with Ahab until he heard from Micaiah so Ahab sent for the prophet. When the servants of Ahab brought Micaiah, they encouraged him to speak the same flattering words that the prophets of Baal spoke. The people tried to convince Micaiah that it would be best to just agree with the masses to please Ahab, whether it was true or not. Micaiah, a true prophet of God, stated that he would not compromise. He would speak only the truth that God put in his mouth, whether it was in agreement with someone else or not. The servants of Ahab figured that the words of the false prophets were “encouraging” to the king because they were in line with what he wanted to hear according to his fleshly desires. Micaiah essentially stated that he didn’t care. He would speak truth no matter how offensive or discouraging it was to Ahab’s ambitions.
When Micaiah addressed the two kings, he began by sarcastically agreeing with the prophets of Baal. Ahab quickly picked up on the sarcasm and demanded Micaiah to speak truthfully. Here, it is critical to see that those who oppose God and His will are usually conscience that they are doing so. Ahab knew when Micaiah was just speaking flattery and not truth because Micaiah’s words didn’t oppose Ahab’s plans. This goes to show that Ahab knew his plans weren’t in line with God’s desires. In that Micaiah didn’t immediately oppose Ahab, he was able to discern that Micaiah wasn’t being truthful. Ahab knew that his desire to fight against Ramoth Gilead was wrong so that when Micaiah encouraged the kings to go fight, Ahab knew something was wrong. After demanding the truth, Micaiah spoke the truth of what God really intended to be said. Micaiah said that he had a vision of Israel beings scattered in the mountains like sheep without a shepherd. In other words, Micaiah saw that the children of Israel would be defeated by Syria if they were to go fight them. This was obviously contrary to the words of the false prophets. This was obviously contrary to Ahab’s personal desires and goals. This was obviously difficult for Jehoshaphat to digest. He would have to make a decision…
This is why the people of God have no business engaging in intimate relationships and partnerships with those who live contrary to God according to the desires of the flesh. God judges the wicked. Why would God’s people want to connect to those walking the path of judgment? Ahab’s reputation spoke for itself. Jehoshaphat had no business partnering with Ahab. Jehoshaphat had no business making alliances with Ahab, especially through marriages. Though Jehoshaphat sought to do well by unifying the two kingdoms in purpose, those who live according to the flesh don’t have the same purposes as those who desire to live for the Lord. This is because the Lord’s purposes oppose the flesh. The Lord’s purposes oppose carnality. Ahab and his false prophets clearly stated their purpose and then Micaiah revealed that God’s intentions are totally contrary. It is true that Jehoshaphat was put in a tough place of temptation, but he took himself there. Had he not connected himself to Ahab, but separated himself from evil like God said, he wouldn’t have to decide whether he would fight with Ahab to please him, or walk away to please God. When Jesus came, He said He did not come to bring peace, but instead bring the sword. Jesus came to separate the righteous who live by faith from the unrighteous. He intends to separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the chaff. If this is the work that Jesus ultimately desires to do to sanctify His people unto Himself, then God’s people would be wise to allow Him to do so now.
The Bible teaches that it is the Lord God Almighty that adds increase. It is the One True Living God that provides wisdom and goodness. Apart from the Lord, no good thing can come. Thus, when we examine the events of life and see things that are genuinely good (according to the holy standards of scripture), then we know that God has provided it. This does not necessarily mean that God approves of the person or circumstances in which He provides goodness. God Himself is good so ALL of the effects of His work and provision are good. The Bible teaches that He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The manifestation of God’s goodness is always an extension of grace since none are righteous and all fall short of the glory of God. The scriptures teach that the goodness of God leads to repentance, meaning that God will often pour out His goodness in order to accomplish that point. However, it is important to understand what God considers “good” and what the appropriate response to God’s goodness should be.
The testimony of Jehoshaphat shows that God did a lot of “good” things. The Bible is clear to explain that Jehoshaphat delighted in the Lord, not to get things from God, but because he loved the Lord for who He was. Jehoshaphat sought the Lord diligently to exalt His name above all other names and did so with pure intentions. God increased Jehoshaphat and his kingship in powerful ways, but not necessarily as a reward for Jehoshaphat’s faith. Since Jehoshaphat sought to elevate and revere the name of the Lord, the Lord increased Jehoshaphat knowing that His own name would be exalted as a result. God knew that Jehoshaphat wouldn’t take the increase that He provided and glorify himself by it. God knew that Jehoshaphat would glorify God for the good things that He was doing in the kingdom of Judah. In this way, the scriptures show that God is willing to increase those who seek to exalt the name of the Lord without the influence of selfish ambition. God will uplift those who uplift the name of the Lord so that when they are lifted up, the name of the One True Living God is exalted and glorified.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 17:7-19 proves this principle to be true. The Bible says that in the third year of Jehoshaphat’s rule he did something unique in Judah that had never been done before. Jehoshaphat raised up leaders in the major cities of Judah to serve as teachers of God’s Law. The Book of Deuteronomy explains that God Himself desired to teach His people about the principles of His righteousness through the Law. God also commanded the children of Israel to “teach” their children and strangers that dwelt with them concerning God’s righteousness through the Law. Jehoshaphat took this command seriously and went an extra step further to employ teachers of the Law. God wanted to ensure that the people understood, perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts of God’s character – His righteousness. Jehoshaphat wanted to make sure the people knew and understood the principles of God’s righteousness and justice.
How can someone follow a command that they’ve never heard? Jehoshaphat wanted to make sure the people heard. Why would someone diligently follow God if they don’t know Him? Jehoshaphat wanted to ensure that the people knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How would someone understand God’s purposes unless someone taught them according to God’s revelation? Jehoshaphat made efforts to ensure that the people understood the commands of God AND His purposes for them. In Romans Chapter 10, the Apostle Paul wrote:
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" – Romans 10:14-15
Jehoshaphat understood this principle and made it a point and focus in the kingdom of Judah to make sure the people heard and understood the Word of God. The people that Jehoshaphat appointed taught in Judah according to the Book of the Law that God provided and the Lord was with them. The teaching of the Word of God went throughout the land and into the people. Jehoshaphat delighted in the Lord and that as proven by the motivation he had to ensure God’s Word and revelation were taught properly. Jehoshaphat knew the Lord and desired Him to be exalted and exalted the name of the Lord in the way that God wanted to be exalted – through the teaching of the Word. The good things that came to Jehoshaphat were given to him by the grace of God, but on account of the actions that Jehoshaphat instituted like this. God increased Jehoshaphat because Jehoshaphat clearly sought to increase the knowledge and understanding of God. Knowing that Jehoshaphat would use resources to promote and teach about God’s righteousness, God increased him to further enable him according to his righteous desire.
As a result, the testimony of 2 Chronicles 17:7-19 states that the fear of the Lord moved throughout the region and the surrounding regions. As the people learned about the righteousness of God through the Law, they learned about who God is. They learned about the holiness of God. They learned about the justice of God. They learned about the mercy and grace of God. They learned about the forgiveness of God. They learned about the wrath of God. Becoming more acquainted with the character, nature, and attributes of God, the people were humbled unto fear. They didn’t just have a reverent respect for God, but they had dread and terror. How could such a God like Yahweh be so involved and faithful to such a people like Israel, especially considering the condition they were in at that time? The people humbled themselves before God according to God’s desire. This is why He wants the teaching of the Word to be a chief focus of His people. The teaching of the truth of God’s Word according to His righteousness causes the people to fear Him in humility. God gives grace to the humble, and the grace that is received glorifies His name in the end.
When God saw the fear and humility of the people, He provided more increase. The Bible testifies that God added to the military resources of Judah during the reign of Jehoshaphat to the point where surrounding nations volunteered tribute to him. For example, the Philistines suddenly brought gifts and tributes of silver to Jehoshaphat. The Bible doesn’t say that Jehoshaphat made any demands or threats. The Bible doesn’t say that Jehoshaphat desired the neighboring nations to honor him through tribute. Nevertheless, the sovereign hand of the Almighty God caused this to happen in order to add to the greatness of His people according to His promises. God was pleased to increase Judah during the reign of Jehoshaphat at this time because Jehoshaphat took delight in increasing the name and knowledge of God according to the Word through the teaching of it.
There are certain foods out there that are just good all by themselves. They don’t need the help of sauces, seasoning, or other ingredients to have flavor. When prepared properly, they can stand all on their own and are delicious. Often times the way we eat in our modern culture though; many people are cheated out of that genuinely natural taste. So much food is prepared in ways that changes the original nature and essence so that it becomes difficult to know what actual foods taste like on their own. This same kind of issue exists with the Lord unfortunately. The Bible says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” The problem is that modern church culture has add so much artificial “sweetness” and “seasoning” with the raw essence of scripture that it’s hard to know where God actually is in many places. The modern church often adds so many other ingredients to a “church” service, that it can be difficult to discern where the Lord is in the “recipe.” How can we “taste and see” that the Lord is good if so many other substances are being added to His goodness, confusing people about the raw goodness of God?
This is part of the reason why many people miss out on receiving the joy of the Lord. For many people, joy must be tied to circumstantial improvements or emotional stimulation. The Bible teaches that the joy of the Lord transcends circumstances and is not founded on emotions. The Bible shows that God’s goodness is greater than the circumstances we live in because God is greater than everything. This principle is proven true through the testimony of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 17:1-6. In this portion of scripture the Bible provides a summary of Jehoshaphat’s kingship. Jehoshaphat was the son of Asa and took over as the king of the southern kingdom of Judah after Asa died. The Bible states that Jehoshaphat enjoyed a fruitful kingship. When his father died, the northern kingdom of Israel waged constant war against the southern kingdom. The Lord brought conflict to the people of Judah on behalf of Asa’s unbelief and self-righteousness. When Jehoshaphat became king, these were some of the issues that he had to deal with. Yet the Bible explains that the Lord provided wisdom and protection to Jehoshaphat to enable him unto success.
The scriptures explain that the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the former ways of his father King David. Jehoshaphat was not an idolater. He did not follow the ways of the northern kingdom of Israel. The northern kingdom of Israel had adopted many pagan practices into their worship of God. The northern kingdom of Israel had assimilated into the surrounding secular cultures of the people that surrounded them. God was not pleased with this and sent many judgments to the kings of the north and to the people that lived there. While the southern kingdom of Judah had its fair share of kings that ruled in a similar way, Jehoshaphat was not one of them. He remained separate from secular culture and pagan worship. He, like King David, lived as a man after God’s own heart. He desired God and made the pursuit of God his chief focus in life. Thus, God was with him in all that he did.
The scriptures state that the Lord established Jehoshaphat as the king of Judah and used Jehoshaphat as an instrument of His own righteousness. The Bible plainly states that Jehoshaphat “delighted in the Lord.” His heart took “delight” in the Almighty God. The original King James Version of the Bible explains that Jehoshaphat’s heart was “lifted up” towards God. In other words, Jehoshaphat’s “delight” in the Lord was the result of his desire to exalt the name of God in his life, not his own personal agenda. Jehoshaphat was proud of the God of Israel. Jehoshaphat recognized the greatness and goodness of God and was passionate about the things of God in his life. Jehoshaphat exalted the will of God in his life above his personal ambitions because he legitimately took joy in seeing the will of God fulfilled. Jehoshaphat didn’t seek God with selfish ambition. Jehoshaphat didn’t worship God with the hope of getting something from Him according to his fleshly desires. Jehoshaphat didn’t try to please or appease God in order to gain circumstantial favor. The Bible states that Jehoshaphat was genuine towards God in his heart, appreciating the essence of God for who He is.
The interesting thing is that God responded to Jehoshaphat’s “delight” by overwhelming him with riches and resources. The Bible testifies that God gave Jehoshaphat great abundance during his rule. The context does not teach that God gave Jehoshaphat this abundance because of Jehoshaphat’s delight. It is not as if those who delight in the Lord are promised riches in this life. Instead, the scriptures suggest that God overwhelmed Jehoshaphat with abundance because Jehoshaphat didn’t seek God for abundance. Jehoshaphat sought God for the presence of God – not His stuff. This is similar in principle to the work God did in Solomon’s life. When God asked Solomon what he wanted, Solomon didn’t ask for riches or long life. Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people rightly. Since Solomon’s heart was not set on riches of the world, but the wisdom of God, the Lord gave Solomon both His wisdom AND riches. These concepts of the Bible show that God provides abundance to those who don’t lust after it. God gives riches to those who don’t worship them but worship Him because they value and treasure the Lord more than gain. These testimonies show that God gives abundance to those who will treat abundance as God’s own resources with the attitude of a steward; not someone with selfish intentions.
This doesn’t mean that those who receive abundance from the Lord always act righteously with God’s possessions. Many of Israel’s kings received increase from the Lord, not caring much for it at the beginning, but later in life were adversely affected by it. The point of Jehoshaphat’s testimony is not to provide a formula to get stuff from God. The point of Jehoshaphat’s testimony is to show that those who delight in the raw essence of God are used by God as instruments of God’s righteousness. Jehoshaphat exalted the Lord because he loved the Lord like King David; not because he wanted something from God. Jehoshaphat just wanted God. Thus, God gave Himself to Jehoshaphat by using him as a tool to display his own wisdom, power, glory, righteousness, and faithfulness. God increased Jehoshaphat, not as a reward for faith, but to exalt His own name the way Jehoshaphat desired. The increase of Jehoshaphat was an illustration of God’s own greatness. The success of Judah was a testament to God’s faithfulness to the promises He made to Israel. Since Jehoshaphat delighted in God’s goodness without added substance, God used Jehoshaphat as a tool to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises towards Israel. When God’s people delight in Him for who He is, in humility and without a sense of entitlement to rewards, He will use them as tools to manifest His faithfulness, His goodness, and as instruments that lead towards the fulfillment of His eternally unconditional promises. When God uses His people this way, it further proves just how good God is all on His own…
One of the greatest commands to Christians in the entire Bible is the command to endure in faith. The Bible doesn’t call for people to grow in strength because Christians are supposed to rely on the strength of the Lord. The Bible doesn’t call for people to grow in wisdom because Christians are supposed to rely on the wisdom of the Lord. While the faith of God’s people is supposed to mature, this maturation only takes place when God’s people abide in Jesus Christ. This means that God’s people are to remain connected to Him until the end. God’s people are to be dependent on Him until the end. God’s people are supposed to trust Him until the end. Unfortunately, the Bible shows that there are MANY people who trust the Lord for a season, but as time wears on, the faith of those people dies down. They trust in the Lord for a time at the beginning of their walk, but over time grow cold to the Lord, grow comfortable in personal circumstances, and lose sight of the Lord so that they don’t trust Him and depend on Him in the end as they did in the beginning. This is a tragic habit that all people have and should be aware of.
This truth is illustrated through the testimony of King Asa. In 2 Chronicles 16:1-14 the Bible explains the events that took place in the last four years of his life. The scriptures declare that Asa ruled in the southern kingdom of Judah for forty years, but the last four years of his life were defined by turmoil on account of the unbelief he displayed in one area, which ultimately ended up spreading into other areas of his life and kingship. The Bible states that in the thirty-sixth year of his rule, Baasha the king of the northern kingdom of Israel set out to attack the people of Judah. Baasha sought to strangle key resources from the people of Judah by building up a dividing wall in the city of Ramah in order to cut off supplies to the people. When Asa learned of this issue he relied on his own wisdom and understanding of the situation. He did not consult the Lord. Asa responded according to his own personal experience, natural habit, and fleshly thinking. To address the problem, the Bible teaches that Asa dipped into the Lord’s treasury in the temple and into the king’s treasury that King David and King Solomon had built up. Asa took all of the silver and gold from those places and approached the king of Syria named Ben-Hadad. Asa sought to bribe Ben-Hadad to fight against Baasha from the north in hopes that such a war would put a stop to Baasha’s aggression against Judah.
The logic of Asa seemed sound. The Syrians were north of Baasha where there were fewer military resources to protect them. An attack from the Syrians in the north would have been crippling and would have caused great panic in the northern kingdom of Israel. Asa knew that Baasha would not be able to fight two wars at once, and since the Syrians posed a greater threat than Judah, Asa figured Baasha would have to relent against Judah to protect himself against Syria. Asa was right in one sense. When he approached Ben-Hadad to form this treaty, Ben-Hadad received Asa’s payment and fought against the northern kingdom of Israel. The scriptures testify that Baasha indeed panicked and relented against Judah. Baasha stopped building the wall in Ramah and Asa was able to dismantle it in order to reopen the access to critical resources. In fact, Asa was even able to take the resources used to build that wall and reuse them in other places for good purpose.
Asa’s logic might have been successful in one sense, but was ultimately a demonstration of unbelief in the eyes of the Lord. According to the testimony of 2 Chronicles 16:1-14 the Lord was not pleased with Asa’s actions. God sent a seer to Asa to communicate His anger. The Lord was not pleased with Asa’s lack of trust in the Lord. Though it seemed like Asa exercised good wisdom because the results of his actions seemed to have accomplished a good result, he did not consider things from God’s perspective. Asa had taken that which He had given to the children of Israel and used it as a bribe for the people of Syria. Those resources were not bartering chips for Asa to play with. The silver and gold that Asa used as a bribe were possessions of the temple of the Lord. Those were the resources that God provided as spoils of war to increase the greatness of His people according to His promises. Asa had no right to use those resources, even if it seemed like it was for good purpose.
The scriptures plainly state that Asa had misplaced his trust. He did not trust in the Lord. Asa placed his trust in the Syrians to deal with his problems, not the Almighty God. Asa had done well in the past to trust the Lord concerning issues from foreign nations. Recall that the people of Cush had assembled an army twice as large as the army of Judah and Asa cried out to the Lord in desperation. The Lord God responded in favor and destroyed the larger army giving Asa a tremendous and miraculous victory. The scriptures also explain that God did a similar work against a people group called the Lubim. When God sent the seer to judge Asa, He reminded Asa of the strength He showed to destroy the enemies of His people in the past. Had God grown weak? Was God unaware? Had God grown tired or unable? Did God take a day off? If God had proved Himself in the past, why would God’s people not continue to depend on Him in the future?
God was not pleased with the fact that Asa had shown so much trust in the Syrians to the degree that he took all of the temple treasury and gave it to Ben-Hadad. The amount of money paid and the source from which it came shows just how much trust Asa put into the strength and wisdom of men rather than God. The Lord was extremely disappointed and offended. The seer reminded Asa of this powerful truth concerning the character of God:
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”
Asa had robbed God of His opportunity to show Himself strong because he didn’t show that he had a loyal heart towards God. Asa’s heart was loyal to self-righteousness and worldly wisdom. Though Asa demonstrated faith at one point in his life, he did not continue in that faith. Though the Lord was actively looking for opportunities to fulfill His promises through His people in order to manifest His glory and strength through them, Asa’s unbelief cheated God out of an opportunity to glorify Himself in Judah with another miracle. How many miracles of God have been sacrificed on the altar of human wisdom and logic? Since God was offended by Asa’s desire to trust in men rather than Him, God swore that Asa would have to deal with the consequences of trusting in men. God judged Asa by declaring war in Judah for the rest of his days. The very people that Asa trusted in to solve his problems would eventually be the root of his problems according to fickle human nature.
The judgment of God made Asa more bitter towards God. Asa did not seek God’s mercy in repentance. Asa didn’t seek forgiveness from God for unbelief. Asa’s heart grew colder towards the Lord. Though he had faith in the beginning to lead an amazing spiritual revival in Judah, Asa did not endure in that faith. Asa did not continue in his fear of the Lord. Asa did not abide in the Lord. Asa became angry at the seer because of the things God communicated through him. Here, it is important to recognize how easy it is for people to lash out at God’s communicators because of their hate and displeasure with God. Though God was the One that spoke, the seer was the one that suffered because of Asa’s rejection of God. The seer was placed in prison and the people were oppressed by Asa as a result. The judgment of God caused Asa to grow bitter and cold, not only towards God, but also towards God’s people. In the last year of his rule, Asa contracted a disease in his feet and lived in great pain until he died. The scriptures again testify that Asa did not trust in the Lord regarding this matter either. Asa didn’t seek God for mercy and healing but instead trusted in the physicians he had access to. Asa continued to live his life according to his own understanding and flawed wisdom. Asa lived by faith for a time but as time went on, lived according to self-righteousness. He died in pain and disappointment having dedicated his life to the wisdom and strength of men in the last four years of his rule. The scriptures teach that Asa was buried in the City of David as was tradition for the kings, but his life ended on a low note. The trust he placed in himself, his peers, and his resources made him bitter against God and against others. Though he served the Lord by faith for the bulk of his kingship, no one wants to end the race in such a pitiful condition so as to leave some asking a disturbing and uncertain question – did he finish the race so as to attain the prize?
The Bible teaches that the Word of God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. The Bible teaches that the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword in order to pierce the spirit and discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. The Bible teaches that faith without works is dead, but that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The Word of God is the means by which God’s people know what right is and are encouraged to do right. The Word of God is the means by which God’s people learn about God’s righteousness, are convicted about our depravity, and seek the Lord to change our condition in order to please Him. The Word of God is the means by which God’s people come to understand the holiness and righteousness of God and then are empowered to live according to it by faith. It is the Word of God that causes fruitful changes in the lives of God’s people. It is the Word of God that facilitates God’s blessings. It is the Word of God that brings peace and rest to God’s people.
This truth is illustrated through the historical narrative and testimony of King Asa. In 2 Chronicles 15:9-19 the Bible explains that Asa made tremendous reforms in Judah. The reforms of Judah resulted in social, civic, financial, and political improvements, but those were only the bi-products that branched off of the spiritual changes that Asa made. The scriptures testify that God sent a man named Azariah to speak encouragement to Asa. Asa had begun making changes in Judah to get rid of idolatry in the land. Asa’s father permitted the worship of many other gods so that the worship of Yahweh Elohim was perverted and corrupted. Asa spent the first ten years of his kingship seeking out idols, altars built for false gods, and other pagan worship objects and destroyed them. God sent Azariah to encourage Asa in the midst of his crusade. As the Word of God was communicated to Asa, the Bible explains that Asa was empowered to institute more reforms that caused the people to rally together with encouragement, resolve, and praise of God. This attitude in Judah caused the people to enjoy one of the greatest eras of peace and rest in the land that has ever taken place in their history.
According to 2 Chronicles 15:9-19 after Asa heard the Word of God from Azariah, he continued to remove the abominable idols from all of the land of Judah and Benjamin. He continued to break down altars. He continued to destroy idols. Asa also restored and purified the altar of the Lord to re-sanctify it unto the Lord since the people were using the Lord’s altar to worship Him while their hearts were fixed on other wicked things. The work of Asa was profound and stirred up the hearts of the people. The Bible explains that people from the regions of Simeon, Ephraim, and Manasseh heard about the awesome and bold things that Asa was doing. Many of them moved from their homes in those regions to join in the spiritual revival that God was instituting through Asa. The people were greatly encouraged, excited, and motivated to repent and redirect their lives to the Lord without any compromise.
The scriptures state that these events climaxed in the fifteenth year of Asa’s rule. Though the testimony is only a few verses, the scriptures document Asa’s diligent and disciplined efforts to purge Israel of idolatry for a long time! Asa didn’t just move through Judah and Benjamin in a week. The people weren’t encouraged by Asa’s leadership in a day. Asa’s efforts were extended and patient. It took a great deal of time for Asa to destroy the impurities from the land and for the people to accept their new manner of living. Thankfully, the patience that God implanted into Asa by His Word took effect so that the people came together with great resolve. The scriptures explain that the people renewed their acceptance of God’s covenant according to the Law. The people eventually became excited about repentance to where they gathered together to form a covenant with each other, holding each other accountable to the commands of God. Those who did not seek the Lord were killed. The people agreed that this was the way things needed to be. Asa did not force this manner of living on anyone. Over time, the people recognized the goodness of God and got rid of their idolatry to the point that they each became offended at the idea that anyone in Judah would deny the Lord in place of a false god.
The oath that the people took before the Lord was serious, but it was also a celebration. The people took their faith seriously, but desired to celebrate the goodness of God in the process. They all shouted in one accord in regards to the oath that they took. They blew trumpets and rams horns to celebrate their rejuvenated relationship with the Almighty God! The people acted as if they had just won a war because they had destroyed the enemy of “self” by abolishing idols and false gods, exalting the name and commands of the One True Living God, and swore to help each other live according to God’s righteousness. Asa was so sincere in his leadership that he and Azariah even removed Maachah from her position of influence. Maachah was Asa’ grandmother according to the parallel account of 1 Kings Chapter 15. Asa removed his own grandmother from the people because she was an evil influence on the people, having built up an Asherah pole to encourage the people to worship false gods and demons. The people did not compromise. The people did not play favorites. The people sought to live holy because they learned over time that God was holy. The Word of God was sufficient to start this revival, fuel it, and encourage rejoicing in the midst.
Asa also made efforts to restore some of the things that were removed from the temple. The scriptures state that Asa was “loyal” to the Lord all his days. The Hebrew word for “loyal” is the word “shalem,” which refers to completeness. Asa was satisfied with his work. Asa was content with his life. Asa experienced fulfillment because he desired to do the things of God and then did them. Asa executed his purpose that God appointed to him as the king of Judah. Asa made his life all about God’s business and became a promoter and encourager of God’s Word. Asa was considered “loyal” in the eyes of the Lord because he led humbly by encouraging repentance. Asa despised idolatry like the Lord and received the Word of God to keep Judah pure. God rewarded Asa with “completeness” in his heart so that Asa was fulfilled. This in turn led the rest of the people of Judah to experience the same benefits. This had a positive effect on the people’s relationships with each other, with other nations, and with the land. The Bible explains that there was no war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s rule and that the people sought the Lord through that time as well.
The truth of God’s Word was sufficient to cause this change. The truth of God’s Word was sufficient to encourage the people. The truth of God’s Word revealed the depraved nature of the people and the holiness of God. The truth of God’s Word reminded the people of God’s righteousness and exhorted the people to live according to it. The truth of God’s Word called for the people to turn from their evil and seek the Lord with all their hearts. The people received the Word, delighted in it, and enjoyed the benefits.
The Bible is filled with wisdom and commands from God. Though God’s people are not rescued from condemnation by our ability to keep and do these things, God’s wisdom and commands should be most cherished anyway. Without God’s wisdom, people would have no sense of what is truly right and wrong. Without God’s wisdom, people would have not a real sense of direction or hope. Without God’s commands, people would have no clue as to what righteousness and justice actually look like. Without God’s commands, people wouldn’t have any indication that something is wrong with us, and the need to be corrected. Without God’s commands, people wouldn’t have any insight as to how God provides that correction. The only thing wrong with God’s wisdom and commands is that people think they can be wise like God and make up their own righteous standards apart from Him, but somehow match His glory, righteousness, justice, and so forth. For example, the scriptures frequently exhort God’s people to “be strong.” Unfortunately, many people have interpreted this in such a way that they try to define their strength by self-righteousness. This is not what God means. This is not what God’s commands and wisdom are intended for.
Since God alone is wise, our understanding of the Bible needs to come from His own explanation. Since God alone is righteous, our understanding of His commands needs to come from His own illustrations. In 2 Chronicles 15:1-7 the Bible shows one of those instances where God exhorts His people to “be strong.” However, the context of the scriptures explains exactly what that means so that we can identify what strength is according to God’s wisdom, thereby being able to understand the purpose of His righteous command. In 2 Chronicles 15:1-7 the Bible states that the Spirit of God came upon one of the prophets in Judah. The Holy Spirit was not poured out on people as in the days of the acts of the apostles, but occasionally the Old Testament shows that God took hold of people by His Spirit to do particular things. This is how the scriptures were penned. In the testimony of 2 Chronicles 15:1-7 God overtook a man named Azariah by His Spirit in order to speak a strong exhortation to King Asa.
When Azariah spoke to Asa, he assured Asa by confirming the presence of the Lord. It is always a good thing when someone else can recognize the presence of the One True Living God in your life. When God does such a powerful work that is obviously eternally and spiritually centered on accomplishing the Word that others take notice, it is evidence that God’s presence is there! This was the case of Asa. Recall that Asa had led a reformation of sorts in the land of Judah. His father was an idolater, but God got a hold of Asa’s life so that he did not follow the ways of his father, but instead, followed the commands of God without compromise. Asa spent ten years of his life removing idols from Judah, destroying altars, bringing down high places, and retraining the people according to the uncorrupted standards of God’s Law. This isn’t to say that Asa was perfect. Nevertheless, his desire to do things according to God’s Word without any perversion or corruption was obviously one of the chief things in his heart. According to the words of Azariah, this was evidence that God’s presence was with Asa. Since none are righteous and none seek after God, those who desire to do the things of God in purity for His glory above all other things must be those who are influenced by His presence since the natural person will not desire these things. This was true of Asa.
Azariah encouraged Asa that the Lord would continue to be with him so long as he sought the Lord. This principle shows that God doesn’t leave or forsake His people. When God’s presence is not evident in the lives of people, it is because those people have departed for the Lord to pursue their own selfish ambitions, not His holy purposes. Azariah assured Asa according to the promises of God in His Law, that as long as he continued to seek God, the Lord would continue to be with him and move through him to do these great works of righteousness. Azariah assured Asa that as long as Asa kept seeking the Lord, the Lord would be found. On the contrary, Azariah also warned Asa that if he were to forsake the Lord, the Lord would forsake him. This is not contrary to God’s promises that He will never leave or forsake His people. Once again, God doesn’t move from His position. He is seated in the heavens above all things and people, and as the Most High God, does not change and is not swayed to do anything differently than He has already determined. If there is distance between God and His people, it is not because God moved. It is because His people voluntarily and purposefully forsook the Lord to live their ways instead of His. Azariah’s warning was intended to instruct Asa that, so long as he continued to do the things of the Lord, the Lord would be with him; but if he sought to live life by his own standards and according to his own affections, God would be distant.
Azariah continued to encourage Asa by explaining how good it was for Israel that Asa sought the Lord. Azariah reminded Asa that the presence of God had not been sought in Judah for a long time. The people of Judah did not seek the One True Living God. They sought false gods and idols; and while they offered sacrifices to Yahweh Elohim, their hearts did not honor Him because they also worshiped their own ambitions and goals. The Bible states that the people of Judah were without a “teaching priest” for a long time as well. This means that Judah had no real spiritual leadership. They had men that dressed up in the uniform and looked the part, but did not lead in worship and praises according to God’s holy and righteous standards. The priests offered sacrifices but did not teach the meaning. The priests did their jobs, but only as jobs, not in spiritual service to the people to intercede between them and God with all their hearts, souls, and strength. Asa was making reforms in order to get things right again and the Lord spoke through Azariah to commend him.
God reminded Asa about all of the troubles Judah had experienced up until the point that Asa made his spiritual reforms. God was clear to state that the hardships of Judah were His own doing. Here, it is important to notice a very powerful truth about difficulties and hardships in the lives of God’s people. The text does not say that God “allowed” difficult things to take place in the lives of His people. The wars, battles, conflicts, oppression, turmoil, and absence of peace did not happen in Judah because God “allowed” it. Instead, the Bible is clear to show that God was the direct cause! God admits that He was the One that incited wars and conflicts in order to inflict oppression, turmoil, and remove peace. God clearly communicated to His people that if they depart from Him, there would be consequences. God is patient and merciful with His people, but God is also faithful to His promises, and sometimes His faithfulness results in disciplinary action. God reminded Asa that there is consequence for forsaking Him. His people made the choice to pursue their own personal affections rather than Him. God reminded Asa that while we think we have the freedom to do so, that freedom ultimately leads to bondage.
This is where God told Asa to “be strong.” God also told Asa to work hard. God specifically said, “Be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your works shall be rewarded!” Verses like this MUST be considered in their proper context for it is the context that defines both “strength” and “works.” Without considering the full context of God’s exhortation through Azariah, there is great temptation to redefine “strength” in human terms and consider “works” to be something that enables people to please God. This is not what the scriptures mean. Recall that the basis of God’s address to Asa was to commend the SPIRITUAL reform that Asa had conducted by the power of God’s own influence. In other words, Asa’s reforms were simply the manifestation of God’s work through him. Remember, God’s presence was with Asa inspiring and enabling Asa to do the things that God considered righteous. Asa’s “good works” were merely the results of God’s own righteous works through Asa.
This is why Azariah emphasized Asa’s need to seek the Lord. Notice that before Azariah told Asa to “be strong” and work hard, he told Asa to seek the Lord. Asa was not commended for his own strength because the full context of scripture plainly teaches that people don’t have strength without the Lord. It is when we are weak that we are “made strong.” Asa was not commended for his own works because they were good. God was praised because He was with Asa. Without the motivation and manufacturing of the Lord in our lives, our righteousness is like filthy rags in His eyes.
This means that the command to “be strong” and work hard is fulfilled simply by seeking the Lord. Being strong does not mean muster up resolve and determination to do things that people praise. Being strong means that we seek the Lord FIRST and His righteousness through the Word. Being strong means that we do not forsake the Lord for our personal ambitions and desires. Being strong means that we build our lives upon the rock of Jesus Christ as our God, Lord, Master, Commander, and Savior. Thus, the works that we do that garner rewards from God are not works that we have the liberty to define based on our own abilities, interests, or traditions. If we’re seeking the Lord above all things, then the works that God refers to are works of faith. Since we trust in the supremacy of God and His righteousness, we look to His Word to govern our lives, trusting that we of ourselves don’t have the ability to do as He says because we’re not righteous. Our “works” resemble our pursuit to exalt God and His holy standards as the supreme governing force of our lives concerning all things. We undertake our own reforms like Asa did to remove any and all idols and false ideologies that compete and corrupt God’s righteousness.
These things are not easy. We must first be willing to wage war against our “self” within our own minds to do what God says rather than what we want. Then we must be willing to make sacrifices in our lives to actually do the things God says. Thankfully, God is faithful that He will not leave or forsake His people. Clearly, God will show up to encourage us. God will enable us as He did with Asa. God will exhort us to keep going and empower us to do so for His glory. This manner of living is not simple, but when God’s people are willing to humble themselves, pick up their cross, and live by faith in the manner of Jesus Christ – the Son of God and Messiah – then God proves that His goodness is supreme! He brought rest and peace to the people to prove Himself true. In addition, God assured Asa that his continuance to live in this manner would assure him even more rewards! When God’s people submit their lives to the eternally awesome and great God, we as His children get the benefits of His eternally awesome and great reward, which is in heaven!
The Bible teaches that God’s people should place all cares and concerns upon the Lord. The reason for this is because God is able to bear our burdens. Jesus commanded His disciples to cast their yoke upon Him and to take up His yoke instead. Jesus proved that He is able to bear our burdens and promised that His yoke is easy and light. He proved His strength by overpowering death itself in the resurrection. If Jesus can overcome death, is there a problem too big for Him? The scriptures are FILLED with examples of God proving Himself as able and trustworthy. He demands that He be the center of our worship and praise because He’s uniquely worthy of such affection, seeing that He desires to leverage His omnipotence for the benefit of His people. It is not just that the Lord desires to bear our issues for us, but it is also important to consider the magnitude of issues that the Lord wants to address. God doesn’t just want to clear our financial woes and eliminate debt. God wants to purge sin from our lives so that we don’t have to pay the debt of sin in condemnation. God doesn’t just want to deal with our relationship issues. God wants to ensure we are one with Him unto eternal life and spiritually connected to others in the body of Christ for our edification. God doesn’t just want to take away fear and anxiety over physical issues. God wants to provide us with a better hope in a new body that is able to endure eternal life. It is true that God desires to fight on our behalf and take our burdens away from us, but it is important to remember that God desires to do so for reasons that are usually far greater than we often consider.
This is why the Bible documents the extent of miracles that God worked for the children of Israel. God expects His people to trust in Him to deal with the spiritual issues that cause our physical, mental, and emotional distress, but proved that He is up to the task. The magnitude of miracles and greatness of victories that God provides in the Bible is proof that the Lord is able to do what He says concerning our minds, our conscience, and our souls. For example, the testimony of 2 Chronicles 14:9-15 documents a tremendous victory that God provided for the people of Judah during the reign of King Asa. The scriptures explain that the people of Cush (modern day Ethiopia) went out to fight against the people of Judah. Recall that Asa made great efforts to purge sin and idolatry from the region of Judah. He smashed idols, altars, and pillars. Asa did the best he could to take away the opportunity for the people to seek other gods. The Lord was pleased and gave the people of Judah rest in the land for ten years! After this time, seeing the people of Judah relaxed and peaceful, the people of Cush sought to attack, possibly figuring them to be soft.
The scriptures testify that the people of Cush formed an army of a million men and three hundred chariots. This means that the army of Cush was well over twice the size of Judah and Benjamin. The scriptures previously stated that the people of the southern kingdom of Judah were able to grow in greatness and power during their ten-year peace period and expanded their army to about five-hundred thousand. Though this might have been a large number for just two of the twelve tribes of Israel, Asa and the people of Judah were severely out numbered. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop Asa from doing his duty to defend the land God gave them and the people that God entrusted to him. Asa did as a good and faithful king should, and went out to fight the people of Cush regardless of the circumstances.
Upon arriving at the battlefield, the Bible says that Asa cried out to the Lord his God. Asa publicly confessed that God was almighty, stating that it would require no effort at all from God to help with a problem of the magnitude that he faced. Though Asa was greatly out-numbered, he knew that God could easily bring victory and utterly destroy their enemies. When Asa got to the battlefield, he didn’t look to his seasoned generals for military strategy. Asa didn’t rely on his experience to pull him through. Asa didn’t try to provide some rally speech to inspire the men to fight with resolve and determination. Asa understood where the fight truly was taking place. God would either permit the people of Judah to win or He would cause them to lose. The fight was in God’s hands and so Asa sought God’s favor. Asa confessed that God had the power to help, no matter how great the odds were against them. Asa asked the Lord to demonstrate that power against the people of Cush and sought to rest in the Lord. Asa asked the Lord to bring victory for His own namesake. Asa didn’t desire a great military conquest to make himself famous. Asa wanted God’s name exalted. Asa wanted the people to know the power and faithfulness of God. Asa wanted to prove that he was right to destroy all of the idols and altars of false gods, showing that the Lord is God and there is no other.
The testimony of 2 Chronicles 14:9-15 explains that God heard the prayer and supplication of Asa and struck the people of Cush. The people fled and Asa and his men pursued them to scatter them all over. Asa and the people of Judah were able to win the battle, push the people of Cush back to their land, gain ground, prove a huge point about the power of God, and enjoy an excessive amount of spoils all at once! God proved that He’s not just able to win fights. God proved that He’s able to fulfill His promises in circumstances that seem to be counterproductive to His promises. The circumstances of Asa looked like Judah was going to be wiped out. Only a few men were sent to fight over a million men with bad intentions. Yet God was able to destroy the enemies of His people, send the remaining enemies away, and take their resources and give them to His people. God didn’t just give a win, He also increased His people through the win that initially looked like it should have resulted in defeat. This is what God does when His people trust Him. This is what God does when His people seek Him and Him alone. Though the circumstances of life might seem overwhelming and impossible to overcome, God is the Lord God of hosts! He is the Lord of heaven and earth. He is almighty. He is omniscient. He is faithful. He is merciful. He is gracious. He is unchanging.
The scriptures clearly show that God is able to fight on behalf of His people and bring miraculous victories. These are the types of victories we need God to bring on a daily basis, simply to overcome the enemy of our flesh, temptation, and the wiles of the devil that cause us to stumble. Our flesh desires all things contrary to God’s righteous will for our lives. We need God’s supernatural victories to win against the passions of our flesh that often times resemble fires that are out of control. We need God’s supernatural victories to win against various temptations that appeal to our flesh, that seem good in one sense, but are dangerous to our souls. We need God’s supernatural victories to destroy the works of darkness that come from the devil aimed at inspiring compromise and blasphemy. The extent of victory that God gave to Asa in 2 Chronicles 14:9-15 proves that God is able to do the miraculous for those who call upon His name in humble faith and dependency. Still, that victory is just one of many that all pale in comparison to the victory that Jesus gained over the grave on our behalf!
The world has an interesting philosophy concerning the concept of rest. The world tradition teaches that those who work hard earn rest. People labor intensely for prolonged periods of time in order to earn enough money to go on a vacation. People labor intensely for their whole lives for the hopes of enjoying “retirement” that is filled with leisure and rest. Even those who don’t do anything and “rest” through laziness don’t have peace and contentment. Therefore, while the world seeks rest from labor, there is really only one kind of “rest” that is satisfying; and it’s not the brand of rest that is promoted in the world. The world’s version of rest fails to take into consideration the curse of sin as documented in the Bible. According to the Bible, sin brought a curse that enslaves all people into bondage. That bondage is laborious, and the wages of that labor is death. Therefore, no matter how hard someone works in this life, the quality of satisfying and peaceful rest will never come. God and God alone is able to give rest that satisfies with peace because He is the only One that is separated from sin, the bondage of sin, and the wages of sin. In order to have legitimate rest and contentment in it is through the Lord God.
The Bible is clear to explain how this works through the testimony of King Asa. In 2 Chronicles 14:1-8 the Bible provides a quick summary of the first ten years of Asa’s kingship. Asa was the son of Abijah and became king after his father’s death. He reigned for a total of forty-one years, but 2 Chronicles 14:1-8 only documents the first ten years. The Bible explains that Asa started his kingship well. He was not a product of his environment. Though his father did not do well in the sight of the Lord, the Bible plainly states that Asa did well in the sight of the Lord. In fact, Asa spent much of the first ten years of his kingship undoing all of the evils that his family had promoted in Judah that were against the righteous commands of God. When Asa became king, he made a concerted effort to purge sin from the people of Judah by attacking the places of religious compromise that were offensive to God.
The scriptures state that Asa removed the altars, the foreign gods, and the high places that people had set up since the days of Solomon to worship false gods. The Bible says that Asa broke down many sacred pillars that people had set up to worship pagan philosophies. He cut down wooden images and smashed various altars. In fact, the parallel testimony of Asa in 1 Kings 15:8-12 states that he even had his own grandmother removed from the courts and stripped her title and influence from the people of Judah because she had become one of the main encouragers of idolatry. Asa was serious about his affection for the Lord and didn’t even let honored family members pervert the name of the Lord. Asa was diligent and had great resolve to do what the Word said in the exact manner that it was written.
Here, it is important to remember the testimony of Abijah. Recall that when Abijah went to war against Jeroboam and addressed the warriors of the northern kingdom, he boasted about how the people of Judah were worshiping God in the temple through the priests and Levites that God had appointed. Abijah was so proud of his heritage and connection to the temple and the sacrifices that the people did on a daily basis. However, the testimony of Asa shows that those sacrifices were corrupted. The worship of God was tainted and offensive to God. When Asa broke down idols, altars, and pillars, he broke down structures that had been erected for many years. These things were going on at the same time that the people were “worshiping” God. The details of scripture show that the people thought they could worship God AND adopt pagan and worldly practices and habits at the same time. The people figured that if they went to the temple and brought their sacrifices to the people who looked the part, God would be pleased and would bless their personal pursuits that were symbolized by the idols and false gods they worshiped. Yet, the scriptures state that Judah was in constant conflict, division, and was involved in various fights that kept them from enjoying the benefits of their fleshly pursuits.
When Asa became king, he tried to put an end to the religious compromise. Asa made it so that the people only had God as an option to worship in Judah because he had destroyed all of the other images of false gods. Asa took heart to the greatest command, which states that, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength.” Asa took to heart to the first three commandments of the Ten Commandments that dealt with the worship of false gods and idols. Asa took heed to God’s proclamation of Him being a “jealous” God. Asa seriously considered the proclamations of God when He spoke the truth that He alone is God and there is no other. Asa exercised all of the influence that God had given him to lead the people according to these truths. Asa likely offended many people. Asa likely created many enemies while attacking the personal affections, goals, aspirations, and culture of many people. Asa obviously didn’t care. Asa did what was right because God said it was right.
The scriptures state that God responded by bringing peace and rest into the land for the ten years that Asa spent purging sin and idolatry from Judah. The Bible says that Judah was “quiet.” Though Judah spent eighteen years fighting with the ten northern tribes previously, God saw the heart of Asa and rewarded Judah with quietness. There was no more fighting and conflict. There was no more death from the sword. There was no more civil war for that time because God enabled the people to enjoy the benefits of His grace. Asa sought the Lord and led the people to observe the commandments of God and God alone. As a result, the people AND the land had rest. The anxiety of conflict and threats was gone for a whole decade! The scriptures are clear to state that the reason Judah thrived during this time was because they sought the Lord God without compromise. Judah was able to build up during this time because there weren’t interruptions. Judah was able to enjoy the fruit of their labor with peace and satisfaction. Judah was even able to build up its army and defenses. Judah not only appeared to grow in strength and power, but also enjoyed the process of it with satisfaction, contentment, and peace. Those who seek the peace of God must seek the One True Living God, and Him alone, without compromise.