The Redeeming Value Of Punishment!

-Free Speech!

I read recently about an interesting ruling, by a judge in Missouri, regarding the practice of flashing your headlights to warn oncoming traffic that there was a speed trap ahead; something, that’s considered illegal in many states! But, a federal court, in Missouri, has ruled that penalizing drivers for the headlight flash violates their 1st Amendment right to Free Speech! In his ruling, the Missouri Judge said that the flashing of headlights was essentially a good thing, “…sending a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law—whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution.” I share that with you, for it’s illustrative value, as I considered a Bible text, from 2 Chronicles, that I read last week!

-A Bleak Time In History!

To say that it was a bleak time, in Israel’s history, would be an understatement! Following the time of King David’s reign & the early part of King Solomon’s reign, the nation had endured a civil war that split Israel into 2 separate kingdoms— the Northern half, known as “Israel”; and the Southern half, known as “Judah.” We’ve already discussed, in some recent posts, how the lengthy list of kings moving forward had been mostly one bad king after another! So, by the time we get to the end of 2 Chronicles, the Northern half, of Israel, had already faced the judgment of God, having been taken captive, into exile, by Assyria! And, the Southern kingdom of Judah, despite a temporary revival under good King Josiah, had returned to their idol worship & their evil kings! They, too, find themselves on the verge of being captured & exiled to Babylon.

-Misunderstanding God’s Judgment!

I find, in my conversations with many people, that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the judgment of God! Often, they accuse Him of being harsh & insensitive; which, interestingly, kind of makes them God’s judge, doesn’t it? And, if they haven’t read the Word of God from cover to cover, they’re actually judging God falsely, without all the evidence. I know that in many conversations with people, who’ve read through the Bible for the first time, they have a new perspective on the way that God works with people! When you begin reading in Genesis you see that God gave Adam & Eve every opportunity to do the right thing & He warned them what would happen if they disobeyed! The soul that sins would die! But, even AFTER they disobeyed & brought God’s curse upon the earth, God still showed love, mercy & grace; and, provided covering for their sin!

-He Is A Good God!

Read a little further, in the Scriptures; and, you see that God heard the cries of the Jewish people as they were beaten, enslaved & terribly mistreated by the Egyptians. He sent them Moses to lead them out of Egypt & He gave them a new land… because He is a GOOD GOD! But, again He warned them that He would judge them by uprooting them & sending them into exile in the same way that He dispossessed the wicked nations, of the land, that lived there before them, if they disobeyed Him.  The continuing message, of Scripture, is that God uses everything in life— even the times when He spanks us— to accomplish His ultimate purpose in our lives! And, His ultimate purpose for everyone is redemption! He purposes to redeem the world He created from sin; and, to transform everyone, who repents, into the likeness of Jesus! It’s because God loves us that He punishes our sin to bring us to brokenness; so, that He can redeem us!

A Heart Devoted To God!

-Qualities Of A Good King!

In my last post I talked about the Old Testament descriptions of kings who were said to be either “good” or “evil.” Either they did that which was “good” in the sight of God; or, they did that which was “evil.” We talked, at length, about King Jehoshaphat; and, some of the reasons he was said to be a “good” king! In today’s post, I want to continue pointing out some of the qualities that made him a “good” king! The Scriptures also claim that he was good; because, his heart was devoted to the Lord— ”His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord…” 2 Chronicles 17:6.  That literally means that his heart was “devoted” to the LORD! Above every other thing, in his life, he was COURAGEOUS in his devotion to the ways of the LORD!

-Jesus: 1st Place In Everything!

The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Corinth about where Jesus needs to fit in our live:  “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” Col 1:17-18. We need to be devoted to Jesus in the same way that King Jehoshaphat was devoted to the LORD! 1st PLACE in everything! We need to be honest about this, Church! We give a lot of lip service to Jesus having 1st PLACE in our life; but, does He have 1st PLACE in our lives when it comes to reading the Scriptures every day? Or, does that only happen if you can find time to squeeze it in? If He has 1st PLACE you’ll make reading Scripture to be PRIME TIME in your day! Does He have 1st PLACE in your Sunday morning when it comes to gathering for worship with the rest of your faith community? Are you ready to worship at the start of that service? What about the Sunday School hour? Does He have 1st PLACE during that time slot in your week? Are your kids getting the Bible training during the Sunday School hour that they so desperately need?

-Have You Been Lying To Yourself?

Does He really have 1st PLACE? Or, have you just been lying to yourself? We need to get real with ourselves, Church! We need to get real with God! We need to get real with each other! We need to identify the idols that are pushing Jesus out of that 1st PLACE position in every part of our lives! King Jehoshaphat’s devotion to God was so deep and true that he longed to know God through His Word! In 2 Chronicles, chapter 18, there’s an incident where he had interaction with King Ahab.

-He Sought His Father’s God!

Now, King Ahab was classified by God, in Scripture, as an “evil” king in Israel! And, when he showed interest only in what the false prophets of Baal had to say about a situation, Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing the Word of God from Micaiah, the prophet of Yahweh. And, that was the pattern of King Jehoshaphat’s life! Though he failed to always keep God’s Word, he had an affinity for it! He loved it! So, again, he provides us with another great example to follow. If you don’t long to know God’s Word; if, you’re not hungry for it, you’re not in a good place spiritually! You need to pray for God’s Spirit to help you! What made King Jehoshaphat a good king? Well, his story clearly reveals that he wasn’t a perfect man! He sinned! He was guilty of indiscretions. Not all of his decisions were wise ones! But, God called him a good king because he humbly repented when he was faced with his sin! The world needs men like King Jehoshaphat!

Good King Jehoshaphat!

-In The Eyes Of The Lord!

Over and over, in the Old Testament books of the Chronicles & the Kings, the authors identify each new king as “good” or “evil”— this king “…did that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord” and that king “…did what was good in the eyes of the Lord.” As I read it I find myself asking, “what makes a good king good?” In what way does the text describe him that would cause God to declare him “good”? In fact, the Scriptures often do tell us what good kings do; and, in turn, we find for ourselves a godly example to follow! In His Word, God does tell us, often, to follow the godly examples of those individuals who are being led well, by the Spirit, to follow Jesus!

-Imitate Me As I Imitate Christ!

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church of Corinth, “Be followers of me, even as I follow Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  Some of your translations say, “IMITATE me as I IMITATE Christ.” And, that’s NOT prideful as some unbelievers have claimed! That’s actually humility! That’s a disciple, of Christ, helping other disciples follow Jesus well! There’s another godly example, to follow, in Israel’s “good” King Jehoshaphat! His story is mostly told in 2 Chronicles, chapters 17-20. In summarizing his reign, as king of Judah, it says, “…he did what was right in the LORD’S sight” (ch 20, v. 32).  So, what did he do that that statement would be his legacy? What does it look like to live your life in such a way that God would declare, “…he did what was right in My sight”? I hope to answer that question over my next couple posts!

-Dependence On God For Everything!

What we find is this general principle:  “God calls the life ‘good’ that depends on what God can do & not what you can do.” It was the pattern of King Jehoshaphat’s life to live in utter dependence on God for everything! That was his manner of life. And, while he didn’t live that out perfectly, no one does! We’re all broken and depraved! But, he modeled a dependence on God both in his victories; and, in his failures! Here’s what Scripture says about him:  “Now the Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he walked in the former ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals but sought the God of his father and walked by His commands, not according to the practices of Israel. So the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. Then all Judah brought him tribute, and he had riches and honor in abundance. His mind rejoiced in the Lord’s ways, and he again removed the high places and Asherah poles from Judah” 2 Chronicles 17:3ff. What encouraging words!

-He Sought His Father’s God!

After reading all the horrible stories of so many of Israel & Judah’s kings, before him, Jehoshaphat is like a breath of fresh air entering your lungs, isn’t he? So, what made him a good king? The writer is inspired, by God’s Spirt, to write that, “…he followed in the ways of his good father…” And, the reference is 1st to King David, isn’t it? Interestingly, it says, “…he walked in the FORMER WAYS of his father David…”  What does that mean? Literally, it means, “…the FIRST WAYS of his father David…” BEFORE his sexual sin with Bathsheba! And, then it refers to his father, Asa:  “…he sought the God of his father…”  David was his great grandfather 5 generations back; and, Asa was his biological father! I think it’s worth noting that following in the ways of your father is not common among sons! But, to Jehoshaphat’s credit, he obeyed the Word of God—he HONORED his father! And, he recognized & appreciated his godly heritage!  A great quality!