Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Chronicles 16:2) for help against Israel, he would have been open to just rebuke as Asa was; but in keeping his own fortresses in good sound condition, in seeing that they were well manned and fortified, he was simply acting with that practical sagacity which is not condemned but commended of God (Luke 16:9, 10). The words suggest to us some lessons concerning the wisdom of spiritual fortification.
I. THE SUPREME QUESTION. Are we in the enemy's country, in a strange land; or are we in our own true home? Are we in a state of spiritual bondage or dependence, or are we enjoying true spiritual liberty? Is God our only Sovereign, and are we rejoicing in his gracious, benignant sway?. Are our souls right with him, and, being right with him, are they free from the tyranny of all other lords? Is our spiritual estate one of honourable loyalty to God and of honourable freedom from all servitude and subjection?
II. THE NEXT VITAL CONSIDERATION. Are we taking wise measures to" strengthen ourselves" against our natural or probable enemies? It is most unwise to assume that, because it is well with us now, it must always be well with us. "Final perseverance" as a sacred obligation is an excellent doctrine, but not as a mere comforting assumption.
(2) the numerous well-attested facts we have read and those we have witnessed;
(3) the weakness of which we are conscious; - all these considerations urge us to consider what we should do to "strengthen ourselves," what steps we should take that the neighbouring enemy may not encroach, that the estate which God has given us to guard may be held inviolate. Of what kind shall be our -
III. SPIRITUAL FORTIFICATION. HOW shall we "place forces in our fenced cities," and "set garrisons in the land"? We shall do this:
1. By forming wise habits of devotion.
(1) Of public and also (and more particularly) of private devotion;
(2) such habits as will encourage the greatest possible measure of spontaneous and spiritual communion;
(3) such habits as will secure the twofold communication - God speaking to us and our speaking to him.
2. By entering on a course of sacred usefulness. Nothing is so likely to keep the flame of piety alight on the altar of our hearts, to preserve our own moral and spiritual integrity, as doing, regularly and methodically, some real service to other souls.
3. Maintaining a right attitude of soul. The attitude of humility, and therefore of conscious dependence on God; the attitude of wariness and watchfulness against the first uprising of evil against us or within us; the attitude of thoughtfulness; the disposition to let our mind go toward those things which are highest and worthiest, toward the truth of God, toward the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. With such "fenced cities ' as these in the soul, we shall be strong against the enemy whom we have most to fear. - C.
I. THE DATE OF HIS CORONATION.
1. The thirty-fifth year of his age. He was thus born in the sixth year of Asa's reign (2 Chronicles 16:14), during the ten years of quiet. His mother was Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi (1 Kings 22:42). A man of mature years when he ascended the throne, he was better qualified to bear the load of responsibility his father's decease had, in God's providence, cast upon him.
2. The fourth year of Ahab King of Israel (1 Kings 22:41). If Judah was fortunate in getting such a sovereign as Jehoshaphat, Jeshoshaphat was unfortunate in having such a neighbour as Ahab (1 Kings 16:30-33). Man is always more or less influenced by his surroundings, and especially by his neighbours. These, when good, are a blessing; when evil, a curse. In the latter case, if he cannot improve them, they will deteriorate him (2 Chronicles 18:1).
II. THE RENOWN OF HIS THRONE. The throne:
1. Of a prosperous kingdom. Judah, if small, was valiant and religious. Under the preceding reign it had achieved brilliant feats in battle, and advanced considerably on the path of religious reform.
2. Of a good father. With all his imperfections, Ass was one of the best of Judah's kings, and it was no slight honour that Jehoshaphat should have descended from and succeeded such a parent. Noblesse oblige: it entailed on Jehoshaphat the duty of walking in his father's footsteps as man and king.
3. Of a famous ancestor. The throne he ascended had come down from David, the second king of united Israel, in direct and unbroken succession, whereas the throne of Israel had thrice changed dynasties and always for the worse (1 Kings 15:27; 1 Kings 16:10, 22).
4. Of a great God. The throne Jehoshaphat obtained was Jehovah's, and Jehoshaphat was merely his viceroy and representative.
III. THE PRUDENCE OF HIS RULE.
1. He considered Israel as an enemy. This was wise. If Baasha had been hostilely disposed towards Judah all the days of his father Asa, Ahab was not likely to be more peacefully inclined. Cautious men should understand the situations in which they are placed. No good can come from mistaking enemies for friends.
2. He strengthened himself against Israel. He planted garrisons throughout Judah and in the cities of Mount Ephraim his father had captured from Baasha (2 Chronicles 15:8), and located forces in all the fenced cities of Judah. "The prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; the simple pass on, and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3; Proverbs 27:12). "The prudent man looketh well to his going" (Proverbs 14:15), especially when Ahabs are abroad.
1. All-powerful, as his father Asa once believed (2 Chronicles 14:11), as David had often sung (Psalm 66:3; Psalm 76:6, 7; Psalm 89:8), as Moses had long ago taught (Deuteronomy 7:21), as Miriam had chanted on the sea-shore (Exodus 15:8), and as Jehovah himself had once reminded Abraham (Genesis 18:14).
2. Omniscient, as Hanani the seer had on a memorable occasion told his father (2 Chronicles 16:9), and as he perhaps remembered, having been then a boy of ten years of age; an ally who could assist in every strait for which his aid was wanted (Proverbs 15:3) - yea, who could detect straits and emergencies in which his aid would be wanted before the individual himself should see them, and who would be forward with reinforcements even before their need was discerned.
3. Unchanging. Benhadad broke his league with Baasha (2 Chronicles 16:4), as doubtless he would have done with Asa had more powerful inducements been offered him by Baasha or another. When Jehovah covenants with his people, he changes not (1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 111:5; Isaiah 54:10; Jeremiah 33:20, 21; Malachi 3:6).
4. Gracious. Benhadad required to be bribed. Jehovah grants his friendship and aid free, stipulating only that they whose ally he becomes shall be true to him (2 Chronicles 15:2). Motley, somewhere in his 'Dutch Republic,' says that when William of Orange was advised to seek the help of European sovereigns in his struggle with Philip of Spain, he replied that he had formed a league with the King of kings.
V. THE QUALITY OF HIS RELIGION.
1. Personal. Jehoshaphat as a man, not merely as a monarch, was pious. He, and not only his temple officials, sought Jehovah. Religion nothing, if not personal. Kings as well as subjects are under law to God.
2. Practical. Jehoshaphat's piety was not limited to state proclamations, or official acts of homage to Jehovah in the temple, but extended to the domain of his own individual walk.
3. Ancestral. It had been the religion of his father Asa and of his renowned ancestor David in their best days, of Asa before he took the first false step in leaving Jehovah for Benhadad, of David before and after he sinned in connection with Bathsheba.
4. Scriptural. It was the worship of Jehovah as prescribed by the Law of Moses, and not the service of idols as practised by the northern kingdom; in particular not the adoration of golden calves like those at Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28). Scripture the only directory of worship for the New Testament Church.
5. Reformatory. Not content with abstaining from idolatrous worship, Jehoshaphat abandoned the position of neutrality and compromise his father had occupied (2 Chronicles 15:17); he "took away the high places and groves out of Judah." Neutrality in religion always an impossibility (Joshua 24:15), is less a possibility now than ever (Matthew 12:30).
VI. THE REWARD OF HIS PIETY.
1. Jehovah established the kingdom in his hand. Jehovah had done so to David (2 Samuel 5:12) and to Solomon (1 Kings 2:46), according to his promise (2 Samuel 7:12, 13; 1 Kings 9:5). In continuation of that promise, he now confirms the government of Judah in the hands of their descendant. The only real King-maker and Throne-establisher is God (Proverbs 8:15; Psalm 2:6; Psalm 61:6; Hosea 13:11). No monarch can keep his crown when God wishes to uncrown him; no throne can be upset until God grants permission to throw it down.
2. His subjects did him homage by presenting gifts. (Ver. 5.) Hardly taxes, but free-will offerings over and above, in expression of loyalty and good will, as appears to have been customary on the accession of a king (1 Samuel 10:27). It augurs well for a reign when it begins with God's blessing and the people's favour. No ruler's title is complete, wanting either of these seals.
3. He had riches and honour in abundance. This accorded with the promise given to the good man (Psalm 112:1-3). God never fails to honour them who honour him (1 Samuel 2:30), or to enrich, if not with material yet with spiritual treasures, such as serve him with fidelity and fear (Proverbs 3:16; Proverbs 22:4). See this illustrated in the lives of David (1 Chronicles 29:28), Solomon (1 Kings 10:24, 25, 27; 2 Chronicles 9:23, 24), and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:7).
VII. THE HAPPINESS OF HIS HEART. This was "lifted up in the ways of the Lord" (ver. 6), not with pride, but:
2. With earnest resolution. The elevation of spirit he experienced impelled him to labour for the reformation of his country and the improvement of his people. Sincere piety ever seeks to extend itself. Genuine goodness always aims at doing good to others. Christ commands his followers to do good and communicate (Matthew 10:8). Learn:
1. The responsibility of high station.
2. The duty of earnestness in religion.
3. The profit of true piety.
4. The joy of godliness. - W.
him we have an example; in it a promise for ourselves.
I. THE WISE CHOICE, WHICH IS AN EXAMPLE TO US. Jehoshaphat:
1. Preferred the true God to the false deities; he "sought to the Lord God of his father," and he "sought not unto Baalim." Moreover, he set before him, as that which he should copy:
2. The best part of the best man's life. Not the life of the less perfect Abijah or Rehoboam, or even Solomon, but David; and of his life, not the latter part, which was more luxurious and less pure, but "the first ways of his father David," which were lees luxurious and more pure than the last. Herein he showed an excellent judgment. He could not have done a wiser thing, as he certainly could not have done anything more solemnly and stringently binding upon him, than resolve to cleave to the "God of his fathers" - the God who had called both king and kingdom into existence, to whom he and his people owed all that they were and had. There were certain fascinations connected with the worship of Baalim appealing to their lower nature; but what were these to the weighty and overwhelming considerations that bound him to Jehovah? And he could not have done better than choose for his exemplar the devout and faithful David; and, choosing him, to select the earlier and worthier part of his very checkered and somewhat uneven life. Before us is a similar choice, and we must make up our mind what we will decide upon.
(1) We have to choose what God we will serve; whether the Lord God of our fathers, whether the heavenly Father, the Divine Saviour and Friend of our souls, or whether this passing world with its lower interests, its fading honours, its transient joys.
(2) We have to determine in whose steps we will follow; whether those of the ambitious, or of the pleasure-seeking, or of the aimless man, or those of the reverent and earnest man; and again, if we choose the last, whether we will direct our eye to those elements in his character and to those portions of his life which are not the second-best, but the noblest and worthiest of all.
II. THE HAPPY COURSE, WHICH IS A PROMISE FOR US. Jehoshaphat had all that a king could well wish for.
1. A sense of God's favouring presence (ver. 3).
2. A sense of growing security throughout his kingdom (ver. 5).
3. The testimony of his people's attachment to his person (ver. 5). 4- Honour as well as abundance (ver. 5).
5. Elation of heart, great and continuous gladness in the service of Jehovah (ver. 6).
6. The expenditure of his power m further cleansing usefulness (ver. 6). What rewards of the king's fidelity were due to his royal position we, of course, cannot look for. But if we make the wiser choice we may reckon upon a life of true and real blessedness. To us there will be secured
(3) the peace which, not as the world gives, Christ gives to his own, and the joy which no man taketh from us;
(4) the spiritual conditions of holy usefulness, the means and opportunity of exerting a pure and elevating influence on many hearts, and thus of uplifting and ennobling many lives;
(5) the hope that maketh not ashamed. - C.
I. STRENGTH IN INSTRUCTION. It is well for a land to have its strong, unassailable fortresses, its well-garrisoned towns, its frontier of steep mountain or of precipitous rock. But the strength of a nation does not reside in such defences as these; it lies in the intelligence, the vigour, the courage, the patriotism, of its people. All material munitions will fail to keep out the enemy when "the people" are corrupt and enfeebled. Without any remarkable fortifications constructed by human art and labour, a free, brave, godly nation will be respected and preserved. And such a nation will be only found where there is knowledge and consequent intelligence. You cannot build anything durable on ignorance. Ignorance means folly, indulgence in the lower pleasures, feebleness, decline. "Knowledge is power" in more ways than one.
II. INSTRUCTION IN SACRED TRUTH. Power needs to be rightly guided; misguided, it is the source of greatest evil. Everything depends on the way in which intelligence is directed. Genius, working towards an evil end, is a force that is simply terrible. The world can suffer no sadder infliction than a man or a community possessed of the power of highly cultivated intelligence, but unregulated by righteous principles, abandoning itself to unworthy impulses. Therefore was it of the first importance that those who went "throughout all the cities of Judah" should "teach the people" from "the book of the Law of the Lord." Thence they would gain those directing truths, those commanding principles which would lead in the ways of holiness and heavenly wisdom. Therefore is it of the first importance, here and everywhere, that throughout all our cities and all our towns and villages we should not only have "the schoolmaster abroad," but have the Christian teacher also, busily, earnestly, faithfully making known the will of God, the truth and grace of Jesus Christ, basing all character on sound morality, and basing all morals on their only sound foundation, Christian truth.
III. SACRED TRUTH SUPPLIED IN EVERY OPEN WAY. Jehoshaphat did not think it enough to leave things to be done by existing institutions. Like a wise and an earnest man, he east about for additional methods, he looked in all directions for competent men to effect his pious purpose. And he called out:
1. The man who brought the weight of his social position - the prince (ver. 7).
2. The man who carried the influence of his sacred office - the priest (ver. 8).
3. The man who contributed the strength of special training - the Levite (ver. 8). Thus wisely and effectively are we to work. In our country there is:
(1) Scope for much Christian instruction throughout the land. There are the young coming up to be taught; there are the neglected and spiritually ignorant multitudes crowded in our great cities; there are uninstructed numbers needing to be taught the way of life, scattered through the rural districts of the land. There is ample room yet for the work of the teacher.
(2) Ample teaching material from which to draw. Those who can contribute social rank, or intellectual power, or special religious training, or exceptional spiritual fervour, or even the ordinary knowledge and common zeal of the members of our Christian Churches. There is available on every hand a very large measure of capacity for religious instruction; and this the Christian Church should, like the King of Judah, enlist on behalf of the country. Then may we look for
(3) the most excellent results; for a country covered with Christian teachers, and saturated with heavenly truth, will be a nation walking in the fear of God and resting under his smile. - C.
I. ITS PROMULGATION.
1. By whom? Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa and King of Judah. Kings and parliaments should care for the education of the people. No better means of promoting social order.
2. When? In the third year of his reign. Jehoshaphat postponed not a work so excellent, but assigned it a precedence, answering to its importance. Of greater consequence was it for the prosperity of his dominions and the peace of his reign that his subjects should be instructed, than that his armies should be drilled or his garrisons strengthened.
3. For what end? The religious improvement of the people. Under the Old Testament economy that formed part of the duty of the Hebrew state, because state and Church were then one. Under the New Testament economy, when state and Church are not coextensive, the obligation to provide religious education for both old and young rests exclusively upon the Church; the furtherance of secular instruction being the department that properly belongs to the state. If, however, the state is not required to directly furnish teaching in religion, it is not at liberty to hinder the Church, but is bound to afford her free scope for discharging the special work committed to her care.
II. ITS CONSTITUTION.
1. Three orders of teachers.
(1) Laymen of high rank - princes, of whom the names were Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethaneel, and Michaiah, but of whom nothing more is known. If they were "princes" in the sense of being related to the royal family, then to none could the work be more fittingly assigned; if heads of families or fathers' houses, the propriety of appointing them was still more evident; if governors of districts, it was not dimmed.
(2) Levites, nine in number - Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tob-adonijah, all now equally unknown.
(3) Priests, two in number - Elishama and Jehoram.
2. Three kinds of instruction. This at least probable from the appointing of three classes of teachers.
(1) Civil law, and the constitution of the kingdom, were pro-sumably taught by the laymen.
(2) Ritual law, and what pertained to the worship of the temple, by the Levites.
(3) Moral law, with the nature and obligation of religion, by the priests. "Thus the nation became thoroughly instructed in their duty to God, to the king, and to each other" (Adam Clarke).
III. ITS OPERATION. It was put in force:
1. Immediately. Good resolutions cannot be too soon carried out, or good schemes too quickly set on foot. Quite as many noble projects are ruined by procrastination as by undue haste.
2. Universally. The teaching deputies went through the land, visited the cities and villages, and left no part unblessed by their labours. 3. Earnestly. They taught the people; not simply opened schools, and read dry and uninteresting lectures on civil, ecclesiastical, and religious history, but saw that the people understood and practised what was taught. Learn:
1. The true glory of a king - to care for the welfare of his subjects.
2. The value of secular, but especially of religious, instruction.
3. The best spring of prosperity for a people-knowledge of the Law of the Lord.
4. The true function of a teacher - to cause the people to understand.
5. The ultimate end of education - obedience. - W.
I. JEHOSHAPHAT'S NEIGHBOURS.
1. Afraid of his greatness. As on the cities round Jacob and his sons when they fled from Shecham (Genesis 35:5), the terror of Jehovah was on Jehoshaphat's neighbours. Regarding Jehoshaphat as under the protection of Heaven, they hesitated to try conclusions with him on the field of war.
2. Solicitous of his favor. This some sought by means of gifts. The Philistines brought presents and silver of tribute, or "silver a burden," i.e. a great quantity (Bertheau, Keil); the Arabians offered flocks - 7700 he-goats, and 7700 rams.
II. JEHOSHAPHAT'S BUILDINGS.
1. Castles, or palaces. Oriental kings commonly attested their magnificence by temple and palace building; e.g. Solomon (2 Chronicles 8:1, etc.).
2. Store-cities. Arsenals or magazines for supplying the garrisons. In them Jehoshaphat had much property (Keil).
III. JEHOSHAPHAT'S WARRIORS.
1. Those who served in Jerusalem.
(1) Their battalions, five - three belonging to Judah, two to Benjamin.
(2) Their captains. Of Judah's divisions, Adnah the chief, Jehohanan, and Amasiah the son of Zichri, "who had willingly given or offered himself to the Lord," perhaps in the performance of some mighty deed. Of Benjamin, "Eliada a mighty man of valour," and Jehozabad.
(3) Their numbers. Of Judah, under Adnah, 300,000; under Jehohanan, 280,000; under Amasiah, 200,000; in all, 780,000 men. Of Benjamin, 200,000 with Eliada, and 180,000 with Jehozahad; in all, 380,000. For the kingdom 1,160,000, upwards of one million and a half of able-bodied soldiers - a huge incubus for so small a kingdom.
(4) Their duties. They waited on the king, i.e. were disposable forces at his command, ready to take the field when he should give the word.
2. Those who served in Judah. The officers and companies distributed throughout the different garrisons in the land. Learn:
1. The influence of true religion even on the wicked.
2. The superior glory of good character, as compared with great condition.
3. The dignity implied in being a soldier of Jesus Christ. - W.
I. THE CHARACTER OF AMASIAH'S SERVICE. By the phrase here employed it was probably meant that he entered upon his work as a captain of Jehoshaphat's army in a spirit of religious devotedness. We need not be surprised at that. The idea of the essential wrongness of war is modern, is Christian. It would not occur to the mind, and would not therefore trouble the conscience, of any man living in that age. There would be no reason, in his mind, why he should not give himself up to the soldier's profession, and go through all military duties of every kind in the spirit of self-surrender to the service of God. And whatever we may think on this subject, we should certainly conclude, and act upon the conviction, that, in determining our course of life, we should seek and find that to which we can give ourselves with religious earnestness. There is no reason why any profession should not be a vocation; that to which a man feels himself called of God; that in which he may be continually serving God and honouring his Name; that in which he will make every effort to illustrate the essential graces which Jesus Christ has commended to us, both by his words and by his example.
II. AN ESSENTIAL FEATURE OF ALL ACCEPTABLE SERVICE. It must surely be recorded in the "book of life" concerning every heir of heaven, that he "offered himself willingly unto the Lord." For what other service than that is worthy of acceptance?
1. The submission and surrender of our will is the act of entrance upon the life which is Divine. It is not knowledge, it is not feeling, it is not compulsory action, or action wrought for recompense, that constitutes true childhood; all of these may exist, and yet there may remain estrangement from God. But however slight be the knowledge, and though emotion be but small, and before any deeds of service have become possible, if a man bows his will to the will of God and resolves to surrender himself to the service of his Saviour, then he has entered the kingdom; he is one of the redeemed of the Lord; his feet are found in the path of life eternal; he has only to go on in the way in which he is walking.
2. Our daily service is excellent and acceptable in proportion to its cheerful willingness. To do the right thing with indeed the consent of our will, but only with a reluctant and struggling acquiescence, places the servant at one end of the scale. To do the right thing with alacrity, with cheerfulness, with earnestness of spirit, with an animating eagerness and abounding joy, places the servant at the other end of the scale of Divine acceptableness, commendation, and reward. "God loves the cheerful giver; "not only the giver of his money, but of his time, of his strength, of his intellectual resources, of all the forces of his soul, of all the opportunities of his life. - C.