Take Delight in the Ways of the Lord
1989 Commencement Address
Donald J. Wolfram
Early in the reign of Judah's King Jehoshaphat, which lasted twenty-five years, "his heart took delight in the ways of the Lord." (2 Chronicles 17:6, NKJV) Don't you like that phrase, "took delight in the ways of the Lord"? It wasn't a matter of doing what was right in some sort of grudging way, because he had to, but having joy and satisfaction in serving the Lord. It reminds us of the important verse in Nehemiah (8:10) that the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Not only did King Jehoshaphat take delight in the ways of the Lord himself, he wanted all of his people to be taught in the ways of the Lord. He sent teams of princes and Levites throughout the land to teach the people the Word of God. Notice these two impressive verses:
So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people. And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. (17:9-10)Even the traditional enemies, the Philistines and the Arabians, brought to the King presents of silver and flocks of goats. At the same time, he was wise enough to realize that he must keep up his defenses, and built fortresses and storage cities, and stationed his captains with their "mighty men of valor" in the fortified cities throughout all the land.
All seemed to go well for some years. I wonder if Jehoshaphat then became careless and indifferent to spiritual things, and allowed himself to become enamored of the trappings of his court. We read that "he had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab." (18:1) What does that last phrase mean, that he "joined affinity with Ahab"?
Another version states that "by marriage he allied himself with Ahab." It appears that his daughter married a son of the wicked king, Ahab. That was a sad step downward, was it not? Soon Ahab was asking his help in a battle against his enemies. "Will you go with me?" asked Ahab, and he agreed to do so. Yet he wanted to be sure that the Lord was pleased with this move.
Ahab had a ready answer. He gathered together four hundred "prophets" and asked them whether he should go up against Ramoth Gilead. With one accord the "prophets" replied, "Go up, for God will deliver it into the king's hand." (18:5) That seemed like convincing proof, did it not?
One of these "prophets" even put on a little show for the dignitaries seated before him in their kingly robes. He "made horns of iron, and said, "Thus saith the Lord, With these thou shalt push Syria until they be consumed." But there was something questionable in all this to Jehoshaphat, and he asked if there was not "still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of him."
There was indeed such a prophet, Micaiah, by name, but Ahab hated him. Why? "He never prophesied good unto me, but always evil." Jehoshaphat said to Ahab, "Let not the king say so." (18:7)
The king's messenger went to Micaiah and urged him to "speak good," as all the other "prophets" had done, but he was determined to tell the truth at any cost. "As the Lord liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak," was his reply.
Would you not have liked to be there to see the two kings, clothed in their royal robes, and sitting on their thrones, surrounded by their officers and the four hundred "prophets" as Micaiah came before them? He in turn was asked whether they should go up against Ramoth-gilead to battle, and he replied, no doubt with cutting irony, "Go ye up and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand." (v. 14)
At once Ahab knew that he was being mocked, and said, "How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?" That sounded very pious, did it not? But it was not sincere. Micaiah then went on to say: "I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace."
If Jehoshaphat had been "prayed up" and spiritually alert, he would have withdrawn his support from Ahab and returned home with his army, but he allowed that wicked king to imprison the man of God, there to be fed "with the bread of affliction and the water of affliction," (v. 26) not a very pleasant diet!
The battle was a disaster for Ahab and his army, as the prophet had foretold, and Ahab was slain, not in some honorable and courageous combat, for he had disguised himself, but when "a certain man drew a bow at a venture." (v. 33) What a tragic end to his wicked life!
Jehoshaphat returned in peace to Jerusalem, where he was met by Jehu, another man of God, who reproved him for what he had been doing. "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord." (19:2) The seer, or prophet, went on to say that there were good things found in the king, for he had taken away the groves for the worship of idols out of the land, and had prepared his heart to seek God.
The king accepted the reproof of the prophet and mended his ways, instructing judges to do their duty in the fear of the Lord, "faithfully, and with a perfect heart." (v. 9) Would to God that all our judges today were so instructed by those who appointed them!
Soon after, the Ammonites and the Moabites came against the king in battle, a great multitude. What was he going to do? He "set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah." (2 Chron. 20:3) In view of the many great and perplexing problems facing our nation, and all nations, is it not appropriate that all Christians set themselves to seek the Lord, and to fast and pray that the forces of evil be defeated by the Lord?
We are thankful for the many Presidents throughout our history, backed up by members of Congress, who have called the nation to prayer. Unfortunately, the daily newspapers, in the cities I am familiar with, have neglected to alert their readers of the National Day of Prayer, even on page 32, let alone on page 1, where headlines in bold type should proclaim the Day of Prayer!
When the people of Judah were called to
prayer they responded. "All Judah stood before the Lord, with their little
ones, their wives, and their children." (v. 13) Isn't it wonderful when
children at an early age learn the importance to themselves and to the
nation of seeking the Lord and obeying His Word?
2Chr 20:14-29 (KJS) The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah . . . , a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the congregation; And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the LORD unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle [is] not yours, but God's. . . . Ye shall not [need] to fight in this [battle]: set yourselves, stand ye [still], and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the LORD [will be] with you.