Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SimpleAcres: A Simple Compromise?

A Common Cause or a Colossal Curse?

By Elliott R. Parfitt

Chapter 1: 1 kings 22

Jehoshaphata breath of fresh air; a ray of light. Asa his father had been a good king, but the later years of his reign had been increasingly turbulent with political and spiritual unrest. He had relied on the world for help, had been sternly rebuked by God... and had thrown the prophet Hanani into prison. Then came the disease. Jehoshaphat could only watch helplessly as his father wasted away without once asking for a priest or prophet of God to go to the Lord on his behalf.
And as the great fire of honor and lamentation for the old king lit the faces of his new subjects, Jehoshaphat could see in the flickering shadows the lean, bitter countenance of oppression. It was time for change.

At thirty-five, Jehoshaphat was mature, capable, enthusiastic, and in the prime of his life. With God's Help he turned the nation of Judah to a prosperous country. Three years into his reign he sent out groups of men to educate his people in the ways and commandments of the Lord. The king led by example; the people followed with joy. Young men flocked to his military standard and soon the godly leader not only had made the entire nation a veritable fortress, but had enlisted a military of 11.6 million men who were the picture of bravery and courage.

Looking over at his brother country, Israel, Jehoshaphat could find it in his heart to pity Ahab their king. He was in a bitter struggle with the greedy Syrians, who were pushing in at the borders of Israel and taking choice cities and towns, like a bully taking toys away from a child. Ahab was a weak king who made innumerable mistakes and thought about God only when some pesky prophet showed up and informed him that he had again made a bad choice. Ahab's protection from God's messengers was at last to surround himself with hundreds of men who called themselves prophets. Some were dramatic, others funny, while others uttered long mysterious incantations and adorned themselves in ludicrous apparel. But they made the unhappy king feel better, and helped him feel he was doing his religious duties. Besides, his wife Jezebel liked them; in fact had taken it upon herself to hire most of them.
Everyone in the land had long forgotten the God of their fathers, it seemed, and worshiped whatever, and whomever and however they pleased. What a mess.

Jehoshaphat began to turn over ideas in his mind. Israel was of Judah's blood. Ahab, poor soul, was still his brother. Maybe a little encouragement was all that was needed. Maybe Judah's military might, coupled with their godly influence, could save the day! Why not go down and break the ice with Ahab; just test the waters.

Ahab received him very cordially, and even broached the subject himself.

Wilt thou go with me to Ramoth-Gilead?”

Jehoshaphat had no hesitation. This was definitely an answer to prayer! If Judah helped Israel materially by helping them gain back a key city, would not the doors fly open spiritually? He turned his energetic, smiling face back toward the battle-worn Ahab.

I am as thou art, and my people as thy people;and we will be with thee in this war.”

As was natural for him, Jehoshaphat asked if they could inquire what the Word of the Lord was in the matter. Before he knew what was happening, a horde of four hundred “prophets” were there. What a confusing mess! What a foppish disaster! Could Ahab really have some kind of confidence in these clowns? Over the loud chanting, the demonstrations, and the beating music, The godly king made a humble suggestion. Might there be a prophet of the true Lord around?

Yes, but I hate him.”

Maybe this wasn't going to be as easy as Jehoshaphat had hoped. And when godly Micaiah showed up, what a prophecy he gave! Well, the guy was a bit sarcastic and gave nothing but doom and gloom, no encouragement or even a chance to repent. Still, Jehoshaphat swallowed hard as he watched the man being dragged away to prison. Hopefully he and his men could save the day (God was with them at least, right?) and Micaiah would soon be released. His confidence rose again, and he willingly accepted Ahab's cunning offer of giving him the honor of a king by wearing his robes on the battlefield. After all, he would be the recognized leader in the victory this way.

But how different was the battle to turn out! It had scarcely begun to rage when the king of Judah found himself looking into the snarling faces of a score of Syrian warriors as they ranged around his chariot. Suddenly, his proud confidence crumbled. He cried out an inarticulate prayer for mercy, and the Lord came to his aid. Realizing of a sudden that this was not their man, the Syrians parted and Jehoshaphat escaped. At the end of that terrible day, when the crash and the screams of war had died away, and the setting sun shone red as the blood that covered the battlefield, that single prophecy from that lonely prophet came true. The wicked king of Israel, wounded by an apparent accident, ceased to breathe. As Micaiah had foretold, Israel was indeed without a shepherd.

Chapter 2: 2 Chronicles 20

History repeats itself. Or is it that the mistakes and failures of our ancestors we repeat over and over through the ages, even when we know that they accomplished nothing but heartache?

Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem in peace, but with all dreams of prosperous allegiances and religious conquest shattered to pieces. Truly God had been merciful, but when the king came into his city, he was greeted by God's messenger. The son of the prophet Hanani met the son of the king who threw his father into prison. Was history doomed to repeat itself yet again? But Jehu the prophet faithfully delivered the message of God's wrath, and His remembrance of righteousness. Jehoshaphat was at a great crossroad in his life, and what a relief that he chose the right way! Turning back to God, the spiritual king went on to establish a godly government of righteous judges and stewards. The chain was broken, but another test was soon to come.

Fear? Judah would never know it in the face of any of the countries around them. But when the news came that three nations were confederated against his nation, Jehoshaphat feared. Again, the remembrance of Asa came before him. He had the wealth to pay any army to come to his aid, perhaps several hosts. But again, Jehoshaphat broke the chain of generational sin. He turned to the Lord and his people followed suit.

God wanted to humble them one more time. All the recruiting, the training, the discipline, the manufacture of millions of weapons... One of Judah's greatest investments was told to stand by and watch while God fought the battle for them. What a battle! So different from the Israli-Syrian battlefield, the soldiers rejoiced in amazement as the enemies turned on each other and destroyed one another to the tunes of the singing Levites! What a rejoicing and celebration as the entire army returned with never a scratch, worn out only by the three-day task of gathering wagon-loads of spoil!

Another proving-ground was right around the corner for the good king. This time it took the form of an enticing trade route, in corroboration with Ahab's offspring, wicked Amaziah. It was too good to pass up. Perhaps with Ahab gone, things would be better this time around. After all, if Judah prospered because of Israel’s help, God could still get glory, and of course the tithes would be faithfully offered to the Lord. Jehoshaphat, with seemingly total disregard to past lessons learned, plunged wholeheartedly into a ship-building project. Soon a beautiful fleet of trade ships tugged at their anchors in the Ezion-geber harbor. But Jehoshaphat was to see a display of both God's might and His mercy. To the sound of splintering masts and cracking hulls, Jehoshaphat's dreams and schemes disappeared beneath the waters of the Mediterranean.

Chapter 3: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Spoiling the Egyptians or Spoiling Our Heritage? Jehoshaphat thought he could meddle with the world and the ones who were apostate. He thought he could get away with joining himself to those who did wickedly... as long as there was a common cause. Do we do this today in our churches? Do we strike hands with those that do not the truth, who live in unrighteousness? Do we think that our children will not suffer for our foolish actions? Do we think, as Jehoshaphat perhaps reasoned, that we could “further the Kingdom” while also accomplishing our own desires?

Poor Jehoshaphat. The story comes to an end. We assume he did all right after his last venture with Amaziah. But his hypocritical life may have been the cause of his son becoming one of the most wicked men to rule Judah. Our children catch more from our walk than they hear from our lips. They watch our life.

So does the devil. He knows our weaknesses. Are we bent on increasing the size of our congregation? Do we envy the money that is brought into the New Evangelical ministries. Maybe we wish to experience the popularity that mega-churches and radio hosts enjoy. Satan will always help us come up with some reasoning. He will also make sure we see the hard part of a life of serving God thanklessly. Did you ever wonder what happened to Michaiah?

Jehoshaphat's army won the war with no weapons but the music of the Temple. But the people rejected the godly music and went for the pagan songs of their sister country as soon as a wicked king came on the scene. If a church enjoys the benefits and blessings of a fundamental lifestyle, it does not always mean that they are there in their hearts. Jehoshaphat should have devoted his resources fully to the teaching and admonishing of his people; to the establishing in their hearts the laws and love of God. Fundamentalism today is making the same mistake. They are stepping ever nearer to the apostasy and feel-good complacency of the New Evangilical movement. One song at a time. One program at a time. One clothing style after another. We need shorter sermons, and a more comfortable delivery. We teach our young men that it's “cool” to be a Christian. That it's fine for the young ladies to leave their father's authority and protection to “serve the Lord”. These outward appearances and subtle changes are not the problem. It is the hearts of the people, parents and children alike, which must change.

A day of reckoning is coming. What will our answer be at the appearing of Christ? Will we have clung to the truth, no matter the cost? Will we be able to show Him our families and children , kept safe and sound? Or will we have heaped false teachers to our itching ears, oiled ourselves with conformity, and slipped down the slide of Compromise?