CHOOSING THE RIGHT PATH
Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on January 16, 2011 under 2011 |
Preached Sunday, January 16, 2011
2 Chronicles 21:1-20
Theme: We must choose wisely the path we’ll walk before God—because there are consequences to our choice.
(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
We come this morning in our study of the Kings of Judah to the life of King Jehoram—the son of godly King Jehoshaphat.
His story helps us think about the choice we must make of what path we’ll walk in life.
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The Bible describes the course of our life as a “walk” down a chosen path. That choice can be to walk the way of reverent dependency upon God in obedience to His instructions for life, or it can be to walk the way of those who deliberately turn from God and ignore His instructions. And since we’re each responsible for the choice we make, the Bible urges us to consider carefully the consequences of the path we’ve chosen.
For example, it tells us in Proverbs 4:14-19;
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
And do not walk in the way of evil.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
Turn away from it and pass on.
For they do not sleep unless they have done evil;
And their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall.
For they eat the bread of wickedness,
And drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:14-19).
Many choose to reject “the path of the just”. They find the other path to be more attractive, and pay no attention to its end. But in the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus said;
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
The apostle Paul got down to specifics with respect to the pattern we should imitate, and the path we should avoid. He wrote;
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them (Ephesians 5:1-7).
There is great value—and even the prospect of eternal reward—in taking the time to stop in our activities of life and ask, “Am I walking on the right path? Am I headed toward a good end? Whose example in life am I imitating—and what was the end of their journey like? What does God Himself—the very Author of life—say in the Scriptures is the final outcome of the path I’ve chosen to walk in life right now?”
This leads us to consider King Jehoram. I don’t believe there was another king in all the history of the Kings of Judah that had a greater opportunity to learn about the importance of choosing a godly path in life than Jehoram did. He grew up watching the path that his godly father Jehoshaphat walked. There’s evidence in Scripture to suggests that he served a co-regency with his father for a time. He could see first-hand the consequences of his choices.
He watched, for example, as his father turned dependently to God in the midst of terrible trials; and saw how God marvelously demonstrated the greatness of His power toward him. And he watched as his father sought to lead his people into a faithful devotion to God; and saw how God blessed him and the people as a result. He also watched his father form alliances with the ungodly; and saw how he suffered the discipline of God as a consequence. And he watched as his father repented; and saw how God blessed and restored him. I really don’t think any king could have learned more about making godly life-choices than Jehoram.
And yet, Jehoram did not choose to walk in the godly pathway that his father took. After all that he saw, he knowingly chose to follow the ungodly path of the wicked kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. And as a consequence of his choice, his end was the most pathetic and dishonorable of any of the other kings of Judah.
His life story—and the end of it—is a great reminder to us that we must choose wisely the path we’ll walk before God; because—as invariably as night follows day—there are consequences to our choice
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So; let’s consider his story. It’s told to us in 2 Chronicles 21; and it begins with these words;
And Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place (v. 1).
King Jehoshaphat was a godly king. He was faithful to God, and walked in the ways of his great-great-great-grandfather King David. But as we’ve seen in our previous times together, one of the great character flaws in Jehoshaphat’s life was that he—being a godly man—habitually formed alliances with the ungodly kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. And these alliances brought great harm upon his son Jehoram.
First, Jehoshaphat had entered into an alliance with wicked king Ahab which resulted in Ahab becoming Jehoram’s father-in-law. What a tragic mistake that was! As a consequence, Jehoram was brought so much under the influence of wicked King Ahab that he was said to have “walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done” (2 Chronicles 21:6).
Second, this alliance made Jehoram King of Israel the brother-in-law of Ahab’s wicked son—who was also named Jehoram. The Bible tells us that he, like his father Ahab, was a man who did evil in the sight of the Lord; and he too would have brought his negative influence on his namesake Jehoram.
Finally, the woman that Jehoshaphat took to be the wife of his son was Athaliah—the daughter of wicked king Ahab and of the notorious Jezebel. This young woman—steeped from childhood in wickedness and paganism—would one day grow up to murder almost the entire linage of the kings of Judah in order to make herself queen. She very clearly brought her negative influence upon Jehoram’s life. As the Bible warns us, “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33); and this was certainly proven true for Jehoram as a result of Jehoshaphat’s foolish alliances.
Now; God was merciful and did not destroy Judah because of all this. He had made a promise long before to King David to “give a lamp to him and to his sons forever” (2 Chronicles 21:7). But whatever good morals Jehoshaphat sought to instill into his son Jehoram were soon undermined by the influences of the royal family of the northern kingdom.
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So; set before Jehoram were two very distinct and clearly exemplified paths—the path of godliness modeled by his godly father Jehoshaphat, and the path of ungodliness modeled by his wicked father-in-law Ahab. Jehoram had a choice to make—just like you and me.
Sadly, Jehoram chose to follow the path of wicked King Ahab. And as the Bible goes on to tell us, the manifestations of his character began to show itself in his reign almost immediately. Verses 2-3 tell us;
He had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azaryahu, Michael, and Shephatiah; all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. Their father gave them great gifts of silver and gold and precious things, with fortified cities in Judah; but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, because he was the firstborn (vv. 2-3).
Apparently, Jehoshaphat didn’t make Jehoram his heir because he was a better man than his brothers. The Bible makes it clear, in fact, that all of them were better men that he was (see verse 13). Rather, Jehoshaphat appointed Jehoram to be king because he was the oldest. How tragic for his kingdom that, when it came to naming his successor, Jehoshaphat chose birth-order over character; because it’s then that we read;
Now when Jehoram was established over the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself and killed all his brothers with the sword, and also others of the princes of Israel (v. 5).
What a monstrously evil act! Some scholars believe that his brothers were beginning to confront him about his increasing unfaithfulness to the God of their father Jehoshaphat; and so, he murdered them. And it’s not hard to trace where such wickedness came from. It sprang from the direct influences of Jehoram’s mother-in-law Jezebel. She once went throughout the northern kingdom and murdered as many of the prophets of the Lord as could not be hidden from her (1 Kings 18:4). She was also the one who murdered a godly man named Naboth so that her husband Ahab could take possession of his vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-16). And what’s more, Jezebel’s murderous character was passed on to her daughter—Jehoram’s wife Athaliah; who went on a campaign of murder of her own later in life (2 Chronicles 22:10). Jehoram, with full awareness of the options that were before him, chose to walk in the way of this wicked royal family and to follow its policy of bloodshed.
Jehoram also learned from his father-in-law to debase the religions character of his people, and to spread idolatrous worship throughout his land. Ahab went after and served the false god Baal. He set up an altar in the temple of Baal that he had built in Samaria. He also made a wooden image to the Canaanite goddess Ashtoreth. The Bible tells us that he “did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings who were before him” (1 Kings 16:31-33). And Jehoram chose to follow in his ways—encouraging his people to depart from the Lord, and to worship idols. As the Scripture go on to say;
Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD. Yet the LORD would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that He had made with David, and since He had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever (vv. 5-7).
How gracious God was to the people of Judah, in spite of the wickedness of their king!
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Now; all of this is remarkable, considering everything that Jehoram could have learned from his godly father. He could have learned much from the remarkable ways in which Jehoshaphat diligently sought the Lord; and from the ways the Lord responded by bringing about a mighty deliverance for his people. And he could have also learned much from the sad outcome that came about whenever Jehoshaphat foolishly aligned himself with the ungodly kings of the north; and from how he suffered grievously as a result. He saw the options clearly—and the consequences of them. But he deliberately chose to follow the path of the ungodly.
And soon, the consequences of Jehoram’s chosen path of rebellion began to demonstrate themselves. We’re told;
In his days Edom revolted against Judah’s authority, and made a king over themselves (v. 8).
Jehoram’s father had once—by God’s gracious help—secured his land from the threat of the Edomites. But now, the gains that his father had once made were beginning to be lost to him.
So Jehoram went out with his officers, and all his chariots with him. And he rose by night and attacked the Edomites who had surrounded him and the captains of the chariots. Thus Edom has been in revolt against Judah’s authority to this day. At that time Libnah revolted against his rule . . . (vv. 9-10a)
A portion of his own kingdom—Libnah—began to turn against him! And note the reason;
. . . because he had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers. Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit harlotry, and led Judah astray (vv. 10b-11).
It seems that the time finally came when God had enough of Jehoram’s unfaithful walk; “And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet . . .” (v. 12a). It was a letter that had all the authority of a word directly from God Himself; and here’s what it said:
Thus says the LORD God of your father David:
Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot like the harlotry of the house of Ahab, and also have killed your brothers, those of your father’s household, who were better than yourself, behold, the LORD will strike your people with a serious affliction—your children, your wives, and all your possessions; and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day (vv. 12-15).
It should have come as a very sobering thing to have received such a letter from Elijah! He was, after all, the very same prophet that God had repeatedly sent to confront the wickedness of King Ahab! Ahab had called Elijah the “troubler of Israel”; but Elijah told him, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals” (1 Kings 18:18). And now, Jehoram received a letter from the same prophet; rebuking him for having made his people “play the harlot like the harlotry of the house of Ahab”, and for having killed his brothers and those of his father’s household “who were better than” himself.
Every chosen path has an end; and now we come to the end of the path that Jehoram chose. Elijah said, first, that God would strike Jehoram “with a serious affliction—your children, your wives, and all your possessions . . .” And it’s then that we read that
. . . the LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines and the Arabians who were near the Ethiopians. And they came up into Judah and invaded it, and carried away all the possessions that were found in the king’s house, and also his sons and his wives, so that there was not a son left to him except Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons (vv. 16-17).
The possessions that his father Jehoshaphat had amassed must have been very significant; because “he had riches and honor in abundance” (2 Chronicles 17:5); and because the surrounding nations had brought him “presents and silver as tribute; the Arabians had brought him “flocks, seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats”; and he “had much property in the cities of Judah” (vv. 11-13). What’s more, Jehoshaphat had given “great gifts of silver and gold and precious things, with fortified cities” to Jehoram’s brothers (which he, no doubt, took possession of after he had killed them). But now, it was all ripped away from Jehoram’s hand—along with his sons and his wives. No one was left except his youngest son, who would sit on the throne after him for only one year before he himself was killed.
And those where the consequences that fell upon Jehoram’s possessions and family. Now comes the consequence that fell upon his own person. Elijah also told him, “. . . you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day”. And so, we go on to read;
After all this the LORD struck him in his intestines with an incurable disease. Then it happened in the course of time, after the end of two years, that his intestines came out because of his sickness; so he died in severe pain (vv. 18-19a).
His end truly was the most pathetic and dishonorable of all the kings of Judah. The closing words of his story are these:
And his people made no burning for him, like the burning for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings (vv. 19b-20).
How different his end was from that of his godly father. Jehoram was not considered worthy of being buried beside his father along with the other kings of Judah. Nor was he considered worthy of a memorial fire. He was not even considered worthy of being mourned by his own people. He departed in great agony—and once he was gone, no one missed him.
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What do we learn from this horrible story? First of all, we learn something of how gracious God is. When Jehoram began to act like Ahab, the Lord could have justly rejected Jehoram’s people—just as He had rejected Ahab and his people. But He didn’t. He had made a promise long ago to King David—that His mercy would not depart from them; but that He would give “a lamp” to David “and to his sons forever”; and God kept His word. One day—many centuries later—our Savior, King Jesus, was born from this very same lineage of king David. How glad we should be that He is a gracious, promise-keeping God!
We also learn about how consistent God is with His own holiness. The fact that He made a promise to David doesn’t mean that He will compromise His holy standards. When His people turn from Him in rebellion, and choose instead to walk in the path of wickedness, they will suffer the consequences. With eyes wide open, Jehoram rejected the way of Jehoshaphat, and chose to walk in the way of the kings of Israel. And as a result, he suffered terrible affliction from the disciplining hand of God.
And we learn that we too—just like Jehoram—have a choice set before us. We can choose the path of dependent obedience to God that characterizes the godly, or we can walk the path of disobedience and rebellion that characterizes the wicked. We can choose the way of Jehoshaphat, or we can choose the way of Ahab. The choice is ours—and so are the consequences.
But the good news is that if we discover that we’ve been walking on the path that leads to destruction, we can choose to change our path. We don’t have to keep on going down the path that leads to destruction! We can repent! God has sent His Son Jesus Christ for that very purpose—to take the guilt of our foolish choice upon Himself, pay the penalty for our sin on our behalf, wash us clean of our sin before a holy God, and teach us to walk the path that leads to life. As the Bible tells us, He has not sent His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (see John 3:17).
May God help us learn the hard lesson from the life of Jehoram; and choose to walk—all the way to the end—the path that leads to life!