Friend of the World, Enemy of God?

(Today’s post by Wayne Bunting)

2 Chronicles 17-18

apple snakeIn 2 Chronicles 17-18 Jehoshaphat, king of the southern kingdom of Judah (at this time the northern kingdom was Israel because the two, formerly one, split after Solomon), begins to enact some serious reforms in Judah. Judah’s previous kings allowed the nation to descend into the darkness of paganism, and the people traded the God of their ancestors for the pagan gods of the surrounding nations. They had forgotten the God of their covenant. God blessed Jehoshaphat because he honored the Lord and he became a very well respected king. Because of these reforms the nations around Judah feared God and Judah’s military became extremely strong.

In light of this, Jehoshaphat gave his daughter over to marry the king of Israel, Ahab. By doing this he was probably trying to unite the two kingdoms, north and south, and create a peace between the two of them. But the major reason was because Israel and Judah shared a common enemy, Assyria, who was a great threat to both of them. However, Ahab was not a king who feared or honored the Lord. He was a wicked king who did his own thing and not what God wanted. Bad things have happened in the history of God’s people when they align with ungodly people or nations instead of relying solely on the Lord. Jehoshaphat was a righteous king who feared God, but this decision to align with Israel through marriage and political unity shows that he was headed down the wrong path.

Further evidence of this comes to light in verse 18:3 when Jehoshaphat agrees to go to battle alongside the wicked king Ahab. Jehoshaphat, fearing the Lord, says that he wants to ask the Lord what He should do. Ahab brings out 400 prophets, and all of them say that the Lord will give them victory. Interestingly, Jehoshaphat realizes right away that these prophets are not speaking for God. It may be because Israel was following the god Baal, and that these 400 prophets were all prophets of Baal. Imagine what that would have looked like. Imagine the demonic presence that must have been there in the midst of all of these people seeking after and giving their hearts over to a false god, and therefore a demon? In light of this Jehoshaphat asks if there is a prophet of God who can speak on God’s behalf. Ahab suggests a man named Micaiah who was a prophet of the Lord. Ahab hates him because he speaks only bad things about Ahab because he is a wicked king. Micaiah, after some coaxing by Jehoshaphat, finally gave a true prophecy from the Lord

(By the way, a prophecy is best understood as a message from the Lord speaking directly into the situation of a person, people, or nation. It can be guidance, warning, or exaltation from the Lord, and it is not solely the foretelling of the future. Only 10% of Old Testament prophecy relates to future events. The importance lies in understanding that prophecy is the Lord speaking into the lives of His people).

Micaiah then tells Jehoshaphat not to go out to fight alongside Ahab. Jehoshaphat seeks the Lord, but ultimately decides to do his own thing and disobeys the words of the Lord that the prophet Micaiah spoke. Jehoshaphat goes to battle alongside Ahab where Ahab dies in a seemingly freak accident with an arrow, just as the prophet said. Because of this, Jehoshaphat’s disobedience causes him a lot of trouble later on.

However, Jehoshaphat was a great man of God. He reformed what amounted to a pagan Judah, turning it around to worship the Lord who made them. It was a tremendous task, one that involved walking down a road where not many tread. Jehoshaphat truly feared and loved the Lord, and desired to follow Him and be a good shepherd of Judah. His reforms turn Judah towards the Lord and cause a huge amount of blessing and favor to fall on Jehoshaphat and His kingdom.

But Even though Jehoshaphat showed that he honored God in much of what he did, he was still making what amounted to a deal with the devil with King Ahab. Likewise our hearts towards God must be pure of aligning ourselves with the world. In our pursuit of God we must maintain a constant focus on what is right, and make sure that we stay on the straight and narrow. We live in a constant state of being bombarded with things that could potentially pull us away from the Lord. More and more the church looks different from the world around it and this many times causes strain for those who follow God. But we are meant to persist. The world rains its pressure down on those who seek to carve out who God is in the world, and bring the kingdom of God to its doorstep. The story of Jehoshaphat is a lesson for us who want our lives to be a monument to the Lord. Our focus must be a constant gaze on who the Lord is and not on the world. The two are polar opposites. James 4:4 says that “friendship with the world is enmity with God. Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

We must realize that the world seeks to tear down the church. It hates us because it hates Christ. The standards of the church must be maintained so that we can call the world to repentance. If we allow the world to tear down the church then we have lost the standard of Christ from which we call the world to repentance. This does not mean that we should separate ourselves from the world, but that the truth of Christ must be maintained in spite of the darkness that we find ourselves in midst of. There is no other option if we are to be who we are born again to be. Satan seeks to dumb down what we do, and relegate our standards to that of the world. He attacks with spirits of postmodernism that cripple the truth in the church. Some seek to promote this lie in the church, but they are nothing more than false teachers.

The Bible is rich with examples of how the church is meant to be against the flow of society. We are meant to resist the lies of Satan and the world, to stand up for Christ and who He is, and face whatever consequences come as a result. I know this is easier said than done, but I want the church to stand up and realize that in order to show the world who Christ is it can no longer just go with the flow of society and expect to see its efforts come to fruition. It can no longer just exist within society and be the church. We must learn to face the opposing forces of darkness head on with the battle cry that Christ has put in all of us. We must learn that in order to preach who Christ is to the world in the same way as before we must be willing to be persecuted. The church in the western world right now is at a crossroads. It is very rapidly being faced with opposition, and because of this Christians are left with the choice of either dumbing down Christ within them for the sake of fitting in with the world, or standing firm, exalting Christ, and weathering whatever inevitable storms that may come their way.

Eternity is a long time…and this life is very short. What we do in this life will echo throughout eternity.

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