Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. UNDESERVED MERCY TO THE SOVEREIGN. (Ver. 1.)
1. Jehoshaphat returns from Ramoth-Gilead. Having gone thither without the Divine sanction - indeed, against the Divine will - he might have been left there and not permitted to return. But God preserves the going out and coming in of his people (Psalm 121:8), even when they walk not in his ways.
2. Jehoshaphat returns to Jerusalem. Having left his capital and kingdom on an errand to which he was not called, he might have found both taken from him and barred against him on his return. But Jehovah, always better to his people than they deserve, had watched over both while Jehoshaphat was absent.
3. Jehoshaphat returns to his house in peace. Very different might his home-coming have been (Isaiah 59:8); not alive and in safety, as Micaiah had predicted (2 Chronicles 18:20), but as Ahab was brought to Samaria, dead; shot by an arrow from a Syrian bow like the King of Israel, or smitten by the Syrian charioteers as himself nearly was, and certainly would have been had Jehovah not interposed. But, again, God is faithful to his covenant, even when his people are not faithful to their duty (Psalm 111:5; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 10:23).
II. DESERVED REBUKE FROM THE SEER. (Vers. 2, 3.)
1. ,4 severe reprimand. Charged by Hanani's son Jehu with a twofold offence:
(1) Helping the ungodly. Aiding the wicked in their necessities or enterprises, when these are not sinful, never was a crime against Jehovah in Old Testament times (Leviticus 19:18, 34; Deuteronomy 22:1; Job 22:29; Zechariah 7:9), and is not prohibited but commanded in the gospel (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8); but then, as now, sympathizing with them in their wicked thoughts, joining with them in their wicked ways, and assisting them in their wicked projects, is interdicted to all who profess to be followers of God and of Christ (Psalm 1:1; Psalm 24:4; Psalm 141:4; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:11; 2 Timothy 2:19, 21, 22; 1 Peter 2:11, 12).
(2) Loving them that hate God. This also permissible in the sense in which God himself and Christ loved and still loves sinners, pitying their misery, compassionating their frailty, grieving over their iniquity, and seeking their recovery and salvation. But in the sense of extending affection and confidence, sympathy and support, to such as are private and public enemies of God, despisers of his religion, deserters from his worship, violators of his commandments, oppressors of his people, opponents of his cause, is a stretch of charity which neither then was nor now is allowable. Rather among Hebrew saints to hate Jehovah's enemies was accounted the supreme virtue (Psalm 139:21, 22). If Christian saints may not hate the persons, they are still enjoined to hate the works and ways of the Lord's enemies (2 Corinthians 12:21; Ephesians 4:26; Philippians 3:18). (On Hanani, see 2 Chronicles 16:7.)
2. An alarming sentence. "Wrath from before Jehovah" should come upon Jehoshaphat certainly and speedily. This was inevitable, since Jehovah, as a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24), could by no means allow such declension to pass without some manifestation of displeasure. Besides, Jehovah, by covenant engagement with David, had expressly bound himself to chastise with rods any defection on the part of David's successors (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 139:30). In the same way, though God, for Christ's sake, forgives the transgressions of believers, so that they shall not come into ultimate condemnation, he does not in every instance exempt them from suffering on account of their offences, but rather, as a rule, causes them, when they go astray, to feel such inward rebukes upon their consciences, and such outward inflictions upon their persons or estates, as to make them sensible of his holy anger, if not against their souls, against their sins (Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:11). Already at Ramoth-Gilead Jehoshaphat had experienced a foretaste of Jehovah's wrath (2 Chronicles 18:31). Additional evidence thereof was soon to follow, in a Moabitish invasion (2 Chronicles 20:1, etc.).
3. A merciful mitigation. While condemning the king's sins, Jehu did not forget to make candid acknowledgment of the king's virtues. To praise another for good qualities is not so easy as to blame another for bad ones. In others, faults are more readily discerned than favourable points; in ourselves, the latter more quickly than the former. Happily, the great Heart-searcher, while noting his people's shortcomings, overlooks not their well-doings. If Jehoshaphat's conduct in contracting alliance with Ahab was denounced, his behaviour in removing the groves from his land and preparing his heart to seek Jehovah was not forgotten. So of Christians, "God is not unrighteous to forget their work and labour of love" (Hebrews 6:10), even though obliged to correct them for doing wrong (Hebrews 12:10); while Christ, sending his messages to the Churches in Asia, with one exception never omits to notice in each case excellences worthy of commendation (Revelation 3., 4.).
1. Gratitude for mercy.
2. Submission to rebuke.
3. Repentance for sin.
4. Watchfulness in duty.
5. Charity in judging others. - W.
I. HOW FAR OUR FREEDOM EXTENDS. It surely extends to:
1. The interchange of common courtesies. "Be courteous" is a maxim that will apply to every one. "Civility brings no conclusions," and may be shown to all people, without implying any sanction of their heresies or immoralities.
2. Fidelity in service and equity in negotiation. It was once thought right to take advantage of a man if he were a Jew or an infidel. But unrighteousness can never be anything but hateful to God and injurious to man, and justice and fair-dealing can never be otherwise than commendable. Moreover, the Christian servant or slave was urged by the apostle to show a right spirit "not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward" (1 Peter 2:18).
3. Succour to those who are in need. Pity for those who are in distress, and the helping hand stretched out to those that are "ready to perish," can never be contrary to the mind and the will of Jesus Christ.
4. Alliance for the promotion of a good common end. Here it may be objected that this would justify Jehoshaphat in his "offensive alliance" with Ahab, as they were seeking the lawful common object of crippling Syria. But it must be remembered that by helping to sustain the kingdom of Israel Jehoshaphat was perpetuating the division between the twelve tribes, the dismemberment of the country; and he was sustaining a power which was recreant to its high mission, and was positively and seriously hostile to sacred truth, to the kingdom of God. We may lawfully associate with ungodly men as fellow-citizens who are united in such rightful objects as saving life, as promoting health, as providing food, as extending trade and commerce. In so doing we are not in any way compromising principle or sustaining wrong; we are not "helping the ungodly" or "loving them that hate the Lord."
II. WHERE THE LINE OF PROHIBITION IS DRAWN. We have clearly no right to ally ourselves with sinful men when by so doing:
1. We advance the cause of unrighteousness or ungodliness. Better sacrifice anything we have at heart, better leave our personal preferences or our temporal interests entirely disregarded, than do that which will give an impetus to the cause of infidelity or immorality. In such a case we should certainly draw down God's displeasure; we need no prophet to say to us, "Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord."
2. When we show ourselves indifferent to the honour of our Divine Saviour. Jehoshaphat's ostentatious companionship with such an enemy of God as Ahab amounted to a tacit intimation that he could, when he wished to do so, be forgetful whose servant he was; he laid by that consideration to serve his momentary purpose. There may be some one who is a very pronounced enemy of Jesus Christ who seeks our friendship. To be very intimate with him is to put a slight upon our attachment to our Lord; it is to put him in the second place. Then fidelity to Christ will keep us at home; will lead us to seek other intimacies, to find our friendships with those who do not "hate the Lord."
3. When we expose our own character to serious risk. For one who is of a weaker mind and will to be associated intimately and for any length of time with an enemy of the Lord, can have but one result. It must issue in spiritual degeneracy; it may, indeed, end in spiritual ruin. Let those who contemplate the formation of a lifelong friendship beware how they trust their souls to any one who can be called "ungodly," how they "love them that hate the Lord." A sensitive, yielding spirit had better be "drowned in the midst of the sea" than be immersed in an atmosphere of worldliness or of unbelief, where all true piety and all living faith are daily being weakened and are constantly withering away. - C.
he went out again through the people... and brought them back unto the Lord God of their fathers." He could not have done anything worthier of himself, or more likely to result in permanent good to the people over whom he reigned.
I. THE ROYAL MISSION. Possibly, as Matthew Henry suggests, the tie which bound the people to Jehovah had been somewhat relaxed by their observance of the familiarity between their sovereign and the idolatrous court at Jezreel; if this were so, Jehoshaphat, after Jehu's rebuke (ver. 2), would feel constrained to do everything in his power to strengthen the attachment of his subjects to the living God. But whatever may have prompted him, he did well to
(1) interest himself personally in this vital subject;
(2) to take vigorous practical measures to effect his purpose; and
(3) to go through his self-appointed task with the energy and the thoroughness which command success. He "brought back," etc. It was a royal mission that reflected great honour on the later years of his reign.
II. THE HEAVENLY MISSION of which it may be said to be a hint. Jesus Christ "came to seek and to save that which was lost" He saw mankind separated by a sad spiritual distance from the heavenly Father, from the living God; he laid upon himself the holy and heavenly task of "bringing him back unto the Lord." For this noblest, Divinest purpose he
(1) stooped to creaturedom, to our poor humanity, to poverty, to utmost humiliation;
(2) "endured amazing loss," pain, sorrow, spiritual agony;
(3) died upon the cross. By so doing he
(a) made the way open for man's return;
(b) provided the spiritual force which is lifting a degraded nature to heights of holiness and wisdom.
In this heavenly mission is he now engaged, bringing back to God the race that has left his side and lost his likeness and forfeited his favour.
III. A MISSION WORTHY OF ALL IMITATION. This deliberate action of leading men back to God was royal; it is heavenly, Divine; it may be common to every Christian man.
1. Around us are those who have left the God of their fathers. It may be that they are of those who have been long estranged and have determinately refused to hear his fatherly invitation to return; or it may be that they have sought and found reconciliation with him and have wandered into half-hearted service, or into indifference, or into some positive transgression.
2. These are within our knowledge and our reach. They may be beneath the roof under which we dwell, or worshippers in the sanctuary where we bend the knee in prayer, or nominal workers in the field where we are labouring; or they may be where we shall find them if we seek them, as Jehoshaphat found the objects of his royal care as he "went out through the people from Beersheba to Mount Ephraim." But they are where we can find them, and can lay the kind, arresting hand of holy love upon them.
3. To such we can render an inestimable service. We can bring to bear upon them a gracious, winning influence. We can make an earnest, brotherly appeal to them. We can urge them to return to the Lord God of their fathers on every ground; on the ground
(1) that he, their Father and their Friend, is grieved with their obduracy or their defection, and is longing for their return;
(2) that they are remaining where their life is a long disobedience, a continued sin and wrong;
(3) that their return will issue in a peace and a joy, in a spiritual blessedness, the depth and duration of which they cannot measure or imagine;
(4) that if they do thus return they will give boundless satisfaction to the fathers whose God they have forsaken or neglected, to all those human friends and kindred whose love is true and deep, who will welcome them with fullest joy to the fold of Christ, to the kingdom of heaven. - C.
I. AN OLD WORK RESUMED. The reformation of religion (ver. 4).
1. The reformer. Jehoshaphat. Whether the work was done by special plenipotentiaries, as in the former instance (2 Chronicles 17:7, 8), or by the king in person, or, as is most probable, by both, the mainspring of this movement, as of the former, was Jehoshaphat; and for a sovereign of Judah it was certainly much more becoming occupation than feasting with Ahab or fighting with Benhadad. Such as are kings and priests unto God should study to walk worthy of their name and vocation (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27), and, for them, furthering the interests of religion amongst themselves and others, at home and abroad, is nobler employment (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9; Titus 3:1; 3 John 1:8) than revelling and drunkenness, chambering and wantonness, strife and jealousy (Romans 13:14), after the example of the world.
2. The reformed. The people from Beersheba to Mount Ephraim. The king's efforts, though doubtless beginning at, were not limited to Jerusalem, but extended through the whole country from its southern to its northern limit. So Christ commanded his apostles, though beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47), to go into all the world and preach the gospel unto every creature (Mark 16:15).
3. The reformation. A return to the worship of Jehovah, the God of their fathers. This work, auspiciously begun some time before (2 Chronicles 17:3-9), but interrupted by the Ramoth-Gilead expedition, was now resumed by the humbled, presumably also enlightened and repentant, monarch. A good work in itself, it was likewise a right work, since he and his people were pledged by covenant to worship Jehovah (2 Chronicles 15:12); a necessary work, if the kingdom was to be established and prosper; and a work which should neither be interrupted nor delayed, but completed with convenient speed.
II. A NEW WORK BEGUN. The establishment of courts of justice in the laud (vers. 5-11).
1. Provincial courts.
(1) The seats of the judges. The fortified cities throughout the land, because these were "the central points for the traffic of the districts in which they were situated" (Bertheau).
(2) The work of the judges. To administer justice, not for man, but for Jehovah, i.e. to dispense not merely what man might reckon equity, but what was truly such in God's sight - cases submitted to them to decide, not at man's dictation, or in compliance with man's wishes, but "in the name and according to the will of the Lord" (Keil).
(3) The duty of the judges. To act conscientiously, as in Jehovah's sight, having the fear of Jehovah and the dread of offending him constantly upon their spirits (Exodus 18:21; 2 Samuel 23:3), especially shunning injustice and corruption, remembering that with Jehovah is no respect of persons or taking of bribes (Deuteronomy 10:17; Job 8:3; Job 34:19; Ephesians 6:9; 1 Peter 1:17).
(4) The Keeper of the judges. Jehovah. As the judgment they should give should be practically his judgment (Proverbs 29:26), it must be beyond suspicion, commend itself to all who heard it as righteous (Psalm 129:137), and be accepted by them to whom it was delivered as final (Romans 3:4; Romans 9:14; Revelation 16:5; Revelation 19:2). Hence, if they entered on their duties in a right spirit, Jehovah would be with them to guide them in forming, speaking, and maintaining their judgments (Psalm 25:9; Psalm 46:5; Proverbs 2:8; Proverbs 3:6).
2. A supreme tribunal.
(1) Its locality. Jerusalem, the capital of the country, the proper seat of such a court.
(2) Its object. For the judgment of the Lord and for controversies (ver. 8), or for "all matters of Jehovah," and "for all the king's matters" (ver. 11); i.e. for the hearing of appeals, and the settlement of disputes referred to it from the lower courts concerning religious or ecclesiastical affairs, as e.g. causes depending on decisions "between law and commandment, statutes and judgments," or on the interpretation and application of the laws of Moses; and, again, for similar verdicts in purely civil cases, as e.g. cases of murder and manslaughter, of consanguinity and inheritance, etc., all of which may be included in the phrase "between blood and blood."
(3) Its constitution. Three orders of members - Levites, priests, heads of fathers' houses. Its courts two - an ecclesiastical, or religious, and a civil. Its presidents two - in the ecclesiastical court, Amariah the high priest, "described in 1 Chronicles 5:37 as the fifth high priest from Zadok, the contemporary of David" (Bertheau), though this is doubtful (Keil); in the civil court, Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the prince of the house of Judah, i.e. the tribal prince of Judah. Its assistants and servants, the Levites, i.e. such of them as had not been elected judges.
(4) Its working. When a cause came before the judges, these were to warn the litigants not to trespass against Jehovah (which would practically be the same thing as putting them on oath to tell the truth), lest by sinning against Jehovah they should bring wrath upon themselves and their brethren; whilst the judges were themselves to dispense judgment in the fear of the Lord, or reverentially, faithfully, with a perfect heart or sincerely, and courageously - four qualities indispensable for an ideal judge - in which case the Lord would be with them to uphold their verdicts. Learn:
1. The precedence that belongs to religion even in a commonwealth. Jehoshaphat cuts down idol-groves before he erects courts of law.
2. No administration of justice can be trusted that is not based on religion and the fear of God.
3. He that sits in a judicial chair should be sage, saint, and soldier, learned, devout, and courageous, all in one.
4. No system of dispensing equity can command confidence that does not admit of appeal from inferior to superior courts.
5. Judges should remember that they themselves also must one day be judged.
6. How much the jurisprudence of modern times is indebted to the Bible! - W.
I. UNTO THE LORD. They were to do all "in the fear of the Lord" (ver. 9); they were to judge "not for man, but for the Lord" (ver. 6). This is an anticipation of the instruction given by Paul in his letter to the Church at Colosse, where he bids the slaves serve their masters "not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God;" whatsoever they do, doing it "heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:22, 23). There is nothing in which we are engaged, of the humblest kind and in the lowliest sphere, which we may not do and which we should not do for the Lord" or "unto the Lord," by acting "faithfully and with a perfect heart," in such wise as we are assured he will approve, and with the distinct view of pleasing and honouring him; thus doing we "make drudgery Divine," as George Herbert tells us.
II. WITH HIS FELT PRESENCE AND HIS DIVINE AID. The Lord "is with you in the judgment" (ver. 6); "the Lord shall be with the good" (ver. 11). If we can but feel that God is "with us," that our Divine Master is by our side, with his sympathizing and sustaining presence, then we are satisfied, then we are strong. The position we occupy may be very humble, the situation may be a lonely or a perilous one, the opponents may be numerous and their opposition may be severe, the duties may be very onerous; but Christ is with us, his smile is upon us, his arm is working with us and for us, his reward is in his hand; we will go happily and cheerily on our way.
III. IN HIS OWN WAY. "For there is no iniquity with the Lord our God" etc. (ver. 7). They were to judge even as God himself did, in the same spirit and on the same principles; as impartially, as righteously, as he did. And our Lord calls upon us to elevate our earthly life, to make every part of it sacred and noble, by introducing into everything the spirit and the principles which are Divine. "Be ye perfect," he says, "even as your Father in heaven is perfect, "Be ye holy, for I am holy;" "As I have loved you, that ye also love one another;" "Follow thou me." It is, indeed, a very excellent and positively invaluable enlargement and ennoblement of this human life that every hour and every act of it may be spent and wrought as God is spending his eternity and is ruling in his Divine domain. The very same principles of purity, righteousness, and equity, the very same spirit of unselfishness and love, of gentleness and considerateness, which he displays in his government of the universe, we may be manifesting in the lowliest paths in which we walk from day to day. As he is, so may we be. His life we may be living. There need be nothing mean or small about us, for we may be everywhere and in everything "the children of our Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:45). In every walk of life we may be closely following Christ. - C.