Jumping Jehoshaphat!   3 comments

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

 2 Chronicles 20: 1-30

Is it just me, or is society becoming increasingly self-centred? Sure, there are many acts of kindness taking place out there, and people give up time and money to raise huge sums for charity, taking part in telethon extravaganza, or just turning up to volunteer for a few hours a week. Having been a regional co-ordinator for my son’s charity for children with upper limb deficiencies, ‘Reach’, I know that not everyone is motivated by Christian concern to take part in various voluntary events, and that those who volunteer from humanistic principles are often more reliable than those who seek to draw attention to themselves within a local church setting.

However, what makes me most upset (it’s more despair than anger) about the current attempt by the UK Government to redefine marriage is not so much the false dichotomy it seeks to draw between church and state, between the civil and religious, or even the arrogant assumptions it seeks to make on behalf of Gay and bisexual Christians as part of its so-called ‘consultation process’. I am even open to persuasion that there is a genuine issue of human rights and equality which requires the Law to be changed to go beyond the contracting of civil partnerships between same-sex couples. I certainly believe there is an issue arising from the exclusion of heterosexual couples from this new right.

No, what upsets me most is the lack of focus on ‘faithfulness’ as the central concept in any human relationship, and especially in marriages which involve the creation of children and new family life. Attitudes to marriage  reveal that for many, not just Gay couples, it has already been redefined purely as a right, not as a solemn duty or a responsibility which needs constant commitment, a continual renewal of promises and a life-long ethos of friendship, companionship and co-operation.  Society seems obsessed with sexual gratification, rather than gratitude for  God‘s grace. We promise to be faithful to one another, to love, cherish and, yes, even to obey each other, without the first idea what these promises mean. For example, there is much talk about ‘equality’ in marriage, but the New Testament idea, developed in Paul’s letters is of faithfulness which requires the subjugation or sacrifice of both people to each other. It’s not a balancing act based on prenuptial financial transactions, nor is it biased to one party, that faithfulness means the other person being faithful to me, not me being faithful to the other person.

I recently took part in a campaign called ‘Faithfulness Matters’, in an attempt to expose the operation of web-sites set up to cash in on marriages in difficulty by helping spouses to commit adultery. To understand what is meant by faithfulness we need to look way beyond the human idea that it means seeking sexual gratification, even with just one life-long partner, and look at the divine picture of it.

, American religious figure.

, American religious figure. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Faithfulness as a fruit – God’s faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness:

This is the title of one of the great hymns of the last century, written in the USA in early twenties, and made popular in Britain through Billy Graham crusade of 1954, which my dad was involved in. It’s now the fourth most popular hymn in the UK. Written by Thomas Chisolm, a Methodist minister from Kentucky, it first gained popularity by being frequently

Moody Bible Institute

Moody Bible Institute (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

used on the radio station of the Moody Bible Institute, set to music by William Runyan. George Beverly Shea sang the hymn on the radio and then, as lead singer at Billy Graham’s rallies, helped to popularise it across America. The opening verse is directly based on scriptural affirmations of the Almighty. Lamentations 3.22 and 33 proclaim that ’his compassions fail not. New every morning they are great: great is thy faithfulness’ and James (1:17) declares that ‘every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.’

 

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with thee;

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not,

As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness!

Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new blessings I see;

All I have needed thy hand hath provided –

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

 

Summer and winter, and spring-time and harvest,

Sun, mooon and stars in their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Jumping Jehoshaphat! – Son of David, King of Judah

Who was he and why was he jumping?!

To begin with, he was faithful and obedient, like his father:

See 2 Chronicles, 17: 3-9. 

He sent out teachers to train his people in faithfulness to the one true God, tearing down the totem poles of Baal.

However, he then he entered a military alliance with Ahab, King of Israel, against God’s will – with disastrous results; God wasn’t best-pleased with him!

Naturally, he became anxious when his enemies, already having wiped out Ahab,  approached – very jumpy! All the enemies of Israel and Judah had come together in a huge show of strength. So Jehoshaphat went to the Temple and made a very public plea to God for help. God’s response is an amazing illustration of faithfulness, communicated to the people through one of the Levites, Jahaziel, who prophesies to them, and then by Jehoshaphat himself, who ordered men to sing songs of praise to God’s enduring love at the head of his army:

2 Chronicles, 20: 1-30. Try reading the account in stages:

vv 1-13:

Later the Moabites, Ammonites and some Meunites came to start a war with Jehosaphat. Messengers came and told him, “A large army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. They are already in Hazazon Tamar!” Jehoshaphat was afraid, so he decided to ask the Lord what to do. He announced that no one in Judah should eat during this special time of prayer to God. The people of Judah came together to ask the Lord for help; they came from every town in Judah.

The people of Judah and Jerusalem met in front of the new courtyard in the Temple of the Lord.  Then Jehoshaphat stood up , and he said….

Imagine and describe the setting, the atmosphere and mood of the people. Imagine yourself as an Israelite (vv 3-4). What are you feeling?

Perhaps a bit like the men, women and children of Rohan, in J R R Tolkien‘s ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’, under siege at Helm’s Deep by the hosts of Mordor, waiting for their king, Theoden to do something dramatic…

Jehoshaphat’s Prayer (vv 6-12). On what basis does he appeal for help?

“Lord, God of our ancestors, you are the God in heaven. You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. You have power and strength, so no one can stand against you. Our God, you forced out the people who lived in this land as your people Israel moved in. And you gave this land for ever to the descendants of your friend Abraham. They lived in this land and built a Temple for you. They said, ‘if trouble comes upon us, or war, or punishment, sickness or hunger, we will stand before you and before this Temple where you have chosen to be worshipped. We will call out to you when we are in trouble. Then you will hear and save us.’

“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Edom. You wouldn’t let the Israelites enter their lands when they came from Egypt. So the Israelites turned away and did not destroy them. But see how they repay us for not destroying them! They have come to force us out of your land, which you gave to us as our own. Our God, punish those people. We have no power against this large army that is attacking us. We don’t know what to do, so we look to you for help.”

 How would his view of God encourage the people to trust in God?

 vv 14-19:

God’s response (via Jahaziel), filled with the Holy Spirit . How would the prophet’s words have required faith from the people?

vv 14-17:

All the men of Judah stood before the Lord with their babies, wives and children. Then the Spirit of the Lord entered Jahaziel, Zechariah’s son…a Levite and a descendent of Asaph (who) stood up in the meeting. He said, “Listen to me, King Jehosaphat and all you people living in Judah and Jerusalem.The Lord says this to you; ‘Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of this large army. The battle is not your battle, it is God’s. Tomorrow go down there and fight those people. They will come up through the pass of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the ravine that leads to the Desert of Jeruel. You won’t need to fight in this battle. Just stand strong in your places and you will see the Lord save you. . Judah and Jerusalem, don’t be afraid or discouraged because the Lord is with you. So go out against those people tomorrow.’  

What evidence is there that the people believed his message?

vv 18-20: 

Jehoshaphat bowed face down on the ground. All the people of Judah and Jerusalem bowed down before the Lord and worshipped him. Then some Levites came from the Kohathite and Korahite people stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with very loud voices.

 Jehoshaphat’s army went out into the Desert of Tekoa early in the morning . As they were starting out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, people of Judah and Jerusalem.  Have faith in the Lord your God and you will stand strong. Have faith in the prophets, and you will succeed.” 

How would you have felt if you’d come looked over the desert towards the vast army?

vv 21-23:

Jehoshaphat listened to the people’s advice. Then he chose men to be singers to the Lord, to praise him because he is holy and wonderful. As they marched in front of the army , they said, “Thank the Lord, because his love endures for ever.”

As they began to sing and praise God, the Lord set ambushes for the people of Ammon, Moab and Edom who had come to attack Judah. And they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites attacked the Edomites, destroying them completely. After they had killed the Edomites, they killed each other.

Have you ever praised God in the middle of a problem – BEFORE an answer came? Apparently, this is what Cromwell’s troops did when they went into battle against their King in the English Civil War. They didn’t just put their trust in the Lord, they didn’t just pray, they kept their powder dry and sang psalms of praise.

How were the people affected by God’s faithfulness?

vv 24-30:

When the men from Judah came to a place where they could see the desert, the looked at the enemy’s large army. But they only saw dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.  When Jehoshaphat and his army came to take their valuables, they found many supplies, much clothing and other valuable things. There was more than they could carry away; there was so much it took three days to gather it all. On the fourth day Jehoshaphat and his army met in the valley of Beracah and praised the Lord. That is why the place is called ‘Beracah’, or the ‘Valley of Praise’ to this day.

Then Jehoshaphat led all the men from Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem. The Lord had made them happy because their enemies were defeated. They entered Jerusalem with harps, lyres and trumpets and went to the Temple of the Lord.

When all the kingdoms of the lands around them heard how the Lord had fought Israel’s enemies, they feared God. So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was not at war. His God gave him peace from all the countries around him.

What can we learn about faithfulness from the example of Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah from this passage?

At the end of the story, Jehoshaphat was jumping with joy! Have you ever experienced this as a result of God’s faithfulness to you?

How does God’s faithfulness to us affect the way we treat others?

How can we grow in faithfulness to God and others?

 

English: Eric Liddell in Paris Olympic Games M...Eric Liddell

The Eric Liddell story – ’he who honours me, I will honour’:

The 1981 Oscar-winning British film, ‘Chariots of Fire’ commemorated the achievements of this runner, known as ‘the Flying Scotsman’,  before and at the 1924 Olympics. There is a scene which depicts the true story of how Liddell fell in a 400 metre international race and made up a 20-metre deficit to win.

Another scene from the film shows Eric Liddell preaching on a passage from Hebrews, to the crowds who stayed to hear him after one of his races. He compares Faith to running in a race, and asks ‘where does the power come from to see the race to its end?’ He answers, ‘from within…If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run the straight race.’

Later, at the Paris Olympics, he refuses to run in the 400m heats on a Sunday, and when he is handed the chance to run in the 200m instead, he is also handed a piece of paper by one of the American athletes with a quotation from 1 Samuel on it, ‘he who honours me, I will honour.’ A true story. Not just Hollywood, and he wins the race.

Hebrews 12.1: ’Let us run with patience the race which is set before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end…’

This verse from Hebrews is well known in English as the basis for the verse of a hymn written by J S B Monsell (1811-75). Born in Ireland, he believed that Anglicans were ‘too distant and reserved’ in their praises. He wrote over 300 hymns, many of them set to joyous and bouncy tunes, still popular with young people, like this one:

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,

Lift up thine eyes and seek his face;

Life with its way before thee lies,

Christ is the path and Christ the prize.

Our faithfulness needs to be a reflection of God’s faithfulness, the shining prize set before us, which also lights our path. Liddell certainly remained faithful. He returned to China, where he was born, as a missionary and died in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. Being faithful requires action on our part, whether it be fasting, praising, running, jumping or praying! But then we need to submit and subject ourselves to God’s will and purpose for our lives, just as Jehoshaphat did.

Pray about the things you need to give up to God’s control in your lives… in the coming weeks and months… as you look out for heroic acts of faithfulness at the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics!

 

3 responses to “Jumping Jehoshaphat!

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  1. Pingback: The Power of Corporate Prayer | Good Devotionals

  2. Pingback: God Is With You Upholding You | Good Devotionals

  3. Seems like you really understand a lot related to this particular topic
    and it all shows throughout this amazing post,
    titled “Jumping Jehoshaphat! hungarywolf”. Regards ,
    Marguerite

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