The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
2 Chronicles 19
2 Chronicles 19:1-4
1. And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem [A contrast with the fate of Ahab is suggested. (Comp. chap. 2 Chronicles 18:27, 2 Chronicles 18:34; and ibid. 2 Chronicles 18:16)].
2. And Jehu, the son of Hanani the seer [the seer whose father had suffered for his reproof of Asa (chap. 2 Chronicles 16:7-10), and who had himself already witnessed against Baasha, king of Israel ( 1 Kings 16:1-7)], went out to meet him [unto his presence ( 1 Chronicles 12:17; chap. 2 Chronicles 15:2)], and said to king Jehoshaphat [the prophets never shrank from facing the highest representatives of earthly power (comp. 1 Kings 21:20)], Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? [And haters of Jehovah lovest thou?] therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord [See the same phrase in 1 Chronicles 27:24. In the case of David, the divine wrath was embodied in pestilence; with regard to Jehoshaphat the following chapters show that his land suffered invasion and his fleet shipwreck; his posterity was evil, and came to an evil end].
3. Nevertheless ["Yet the divine wrath will not pursue thee to destruction, for there are good things found in thee." (So chap. 2 Chronicles 12:12; comp. also 1 Kings 14:13)], there are good things [chap. 1 Chronicles 17:4, 1 Chronicles 17:6] found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves [thou hast consumed (or exterminated) the Asherahs. ( Deuteronomy 13:6; 2 Kings 23:24.) So Asa had done (chap. 2 Chronicles 17:4)] out of the land, and hast prepared [or directed. The contrary was said of Rehoboam (chap. 2 Chronicles 12:14)] thine heart to seek God.
4. And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again [Heb. he returned and went out] through the people from Beersheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the Lord God of their fathers.
"AND Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace," not in peace of soul, or in contentment of mind, but, literally, in wholeness; or, as we should say in English, safe and sound: he had been engaged in an unholy war in alliance with a most wicked man; that wicked man had been slain in the battle, but Jehoshaphat returned in peace, in wholeness, without scar or wound or mark of injury. It is important to mark this distinction, lest we should imagine that a man can go out and fight with whom he pleases, and carry out all his own will, and come back with the seal of divine peace impressed upon his mind and heart. This is only a physical wholeness, a bodily immunity from danger. Jehoshaphat did not figure well in the war; he was thought to be the king of Israel, and the soldiers of the opposing king had received instructions not to think of great or small, but to fight only with the king, so they gathered around the chariot of Jehoshaphat, and in the moment of supreme danger he cried out, and he was sent away, coming to Jerusalem in peace, without having sustained any bodily injury. A whole skin after a war is about the worst medal a soldier can wear. Let Jehoshaphat have his little enjoyment, and we shall see what came of it
"And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him" ( 2 Chronicles 19:2).
How comfortably we should proceed but for these seers! If there were no religion in the world, how admirably we could get along! If we did not strike our feet against the altar we might walk straightforwardly on courses of selfishness and worldliness. If suddenly the whole cloud outlook did not take the shape of a great white throne we could preserve a completer equanimity. But there are prophets, there are religious critics, there are spiritual censors, and we cannot bribe them into silence. They are not afraid of kings. A truly spiritual man should not be afraid of anybody. Religion should never give way; true spiritual feeling, high spiritual illumination, should always be at the front. The man who can pray as he ought to pray should never feel the blush of shame upon his cheek, or the trembling of weakness in his knees, in the presence of earth"s mightiest sons. What has this man to fear? Nothing. Why does Jehoshaphat listen to him? Because he cannot help it. We are bound sometimes to be our best selves. Occasionally conscience will assert its dominion, and the least attentive ears must incline themselves in an attitude of listening. If there were no Sabbath day, how we could riot in all manner of evil, and have a whole seven days" week at it! If there were no church, no sanctuary, no stone finger pointing upwards eternally to brighter and higher things, we could do better behind the counter, in the way of business, in the calculated relationships which are dignified by the name of society. Why will seers meet us? Why will Jehu always come when we do not want to see him? He may not be a speaking Prayer of Manasseh, he is a looking man. Christ said some of his most eloquent things by looking them. Sometimes he had a grief which could not be expressed in words, but could only be written in the scorching fire of an indignant countenance. Once he broke a man"s heart by looking at him. There are looks that have yet to come upon us, and they will burn us like hell. So it would be more comfortable if there were no affliction, no loss, no fluctuation of fortune, if every time we went out we brought sheaves back. Yet sometimes we come loaded with darkness, and when we seek our profit we thrust our eager fingers into nothingness.
How critical are these prophets! We cannot put them off with general phrases; they will take our words to pieces, they are gifted in moral as in literal analysis; they hold each syllable up between their eyes and the sun that the light may shine well through what they are looking at. A wave of the hand will not dismiss them, or if they be dismissed in grief or in anger the sound of their retreating footsteps is itself a judgment, a thing that the memory cannot shake off, a sound hollow as the grave. They are not only so critical, they are so audacious; they are not afraid of a millionaire, of a king, of all kings, of a congregated body. They will assail us as we are sitting down to the feast, they like to choke our hunger; they will speak to us over the frothing flagon, and intoxicate with a deadlier alcohol. They will not be shut out by our folding doors, by our guards, constabulary, or military; they will whisper to the king as he goes to his throne, and say, "Thou hast offended God." Could we but get rid of these pests! If there were no preachers to listen to, and no prophets who preached to themselves, if we could have nothing but music and dancing and profit and health and sunshine, what a changed world it would be! But such is not the constitution of things; we are constrained therefore to look at facts and realities of the grimmest kind, we are compelled to own that life is a tragedy. Even if there were no religion, there would remain conscience in a certain degree or form; if even there were no preacher there would be an internal monitor, saying to us now and again, What doest thou? and these monitors—call them prophets, seers; call them by abstract names, as conscience, reason, judgment—will insist upon following us all through life and meddling with everything. We live under criticism. Blessed is that man who hears his own inward voice, and listens to it; he may have to blanch before the accuser, he may have to end his terror in prayer. If there were no such hindrances on the way, the lawyer might go home and quietly smile over his misled and impoverished client; the merchant might go home congratulating himself that he had taken the purse of some other man along with him; the liar might return to his rest, praising his eloquent falsehood; the base Prayer of Manasseh, who has taken advantage of the weak, the helpless, the homeless, might say, Who knows? Who cares? I only am master, there is no God, no death, no judgment, no hell, I will do tomorrow as I have done to-day. But we cannot take our food quietly, thankfully, and enjoyingly, because there is a demon whispering over the shoulder, there is a spectre touching the throat as we swallow the gluttonous viands, and there is in the air something that spoils the feast. God has set these things about us for our education, for our control; he has tethered us to certain centres, and given us permission of a limited kind, which we call freedom, but which in reality is but an enlarged enslavement.
"And Jehu said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?" ( 2 Chronicles 19:2).
We know the kind of man with whom Jehoshaphat had been allied. Baser man probably never lived; in some respects he prefigured the Iscariot of a later day: There was nothing too bad for that king to do. The reference therefore here is not to difference of opinion, but to difference of character. "What communion hath Christ with Belial?" None; not because there is some intellectual difference between them, but because they do not belong to the same moral zone. "The liar," said a zealous saint in Old Testament times, "shall not dwell in my presence." We are to have nothing to do with men who delight in wickedness. Find a man who is given to injustice, and we are called upon to hate his injustice as an unpardonable offence against right and against society. Find a man who is the victim of his passions, and we are bound to hate his sensuality. Thus we are warned in the direction of character, not in the direction of opinion. Besides, coming to this matter of opinion, whose is right? How long will it be right? Opinion has a history, and that history has proved beyond all things that opinion develops, enlarges, purifies itself, corrects its judgments, enlarges its outlooks, and reverses its verdicts. Your opinion to-day about many things is not what it was a quarter of a century ago. Who is right in opinion? Who has any authority in opinion? Who can say to another, You must follow my judgment and not your own? Blessed be God, there is no man who is charged with that wicked and foolish authority. But find a man who breaks the commandments, who violates all social sanctities, who laughs at morality, who tramples virtue under foot, and we are called upon, whatever our opinion may be, to repel him, to dissociate ourselves from him by the breadth of an immeasurable chasm.
"Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord" ( 2 Chronicles 19:2).
Jehoshaphat was punished because of his wicked alliances: his land was invaded, his fleet was wrecked, his posterity was of an evil kind. We cannot understand why this should be Song of Solomon, except we have this doctrine to guide us, that God must in some way at some point get hold of the human race. The question is infinitely larger than can settled by our judgment. When actions are lifted up into a judicial sphere, and are treated by God in his judicial capacity, God is not dealing with the individual or the individual family alone, he is exemplifying the morale of his government before all ages. Better for us not to sit in judgment upon things we have never seen, quantities we cannot comprehend, and issues and consequences we cannot measure. Men can find their rest only in this sublime doctrine, that when all comes to all it will be found that God is love. We are not asked now to empanel ourselves and constitute ourselves into a jury; all the parties are not before us, all the questions cannot be expounded to us, all the perplexities cannot be disentangled; we therefore happily escape the responsibilities of juryship, and accept the rock-doctrine, the granite-foundation, that he who has made so beautiful a universe will not belie himself by moral confusion, but at the end his righteousness shall outshine the sun"s, and as for his love, it shall be softer, purer, tenderer than all the dewy morning, than all the rain that ever baptised the tender herb.
"Nevertheless, there are good things found in thee" ( 2 Chronicles 19:3).
Here is an instance of the compassion and tender criticism of God. The criticism of heaven is never ruthless; that is to say, it is never inconsistent with reason, and justice, and fairness, of every kind. The Lord will analyse a man"s disposition and a man"s character, and will assign to him all that is due. "There are good things found in thee": what man is wholly bad? Surely in the very worst of men there are excellences, and it ought to be our delight to consider these, and, where possible, with due regard to justice, to magnify them, and to call the man"s attention to them. A man may take heart when he sees some of his best points, and he may fail in hope when nothing is held before him but his infirmity and his blameworthiness. Here is a lesson for parents, here also is a lesson for magistrates, and here is instruction for teachers and monitors of every name and position. Tell a boy that he has done something well. We are too much afraid of what we call flattery, forgetting that flattery is a lie: but we are called upon simply to state the truth, and to state it with affection and emphasis, that it may become an encouragement to hearts that are very easily cast down. Recognise everything that is good in a Prayer of Manasseh, and tell him that if he can be good up to this point it is perfectly possible for him to be good up to the further point, and urge him by tender appeal to attempt the higher grade; and he may take heart when you speak to him thus with apostolic hopefulness and Christlike sympathy. Suppose the character of a man to be divisible into seven parts; it is perfectly possible for six of those parts to be what is called by the seer "good." Is a man whose character is good to the extent of six-sevenths to be pronounced a bad man? Is there not a spiritual arithmetic which looks into majorities and minorities of a moral kind? Will God then at last drive away from him men who have had six good points out of seven? From which point will he begin his judgment? That is a solemn question. We may be helped by a reference to our own action in the matter. It would seem a cruel issue that a man who has six good points out of seven should be driven into outer darkness because of the lack of the seventh excellence. Will God count us, attribute by attribute, excellence by excellence, and will he set the evil on one side, and the good upon the other, and strike an average, and report to us the balance of his audit? How do we do? As business men suppose a man be recommended to you in these terms: This man has seven qualities, and six of them are really admirable; the only thing about him is that you cannot trust him with money; he has excellent temper, wonderful patience, great kindness, his energy is hardly to be surpassed, and as for his quickness of apprehension and rapidity of execution too much cannot be said; but he is a thief. Would you take him? Six points are good out of seven: Will you go by the majority or by the minority? Another man is also good in six points, admirable; the only fault he has is that you cannot believe a word he says; you think that it is hard for a man to be condemned because of one point when six are good. Will you take him into your business? There is a minority greater than any majority can be. That is the doctrine which we have omitted when we have been criticising eternal providence and wondering about the issues of human action. Whatever is done on a human plane cannot of course measure what is done upon the eternal disc, the infinite line, but we get peeps of God through our humanity: "Like as a father... so the Lord" is an analogical argument, which is not only permitted but employed in inspired writ. So we may put the question to ourselves, whether we would admit to our confidence a man who has six good qualities out of a sum-total of seven when the seventh quality strikes at the very root of things, and is needful to the very cohesion of society. One thing is certain—God will be just. Sometimes good things are mere accidents in a man"s character; they come to him through birth, they are part of his education, he has never seen anything but courtesy, civility, and unselfishness, and he has been called upon from his earliest days to display certain virtues and certain graces: but let him live his life, and he will show you where his vulnerable point is. Achilles had a heel not dipped in the all-protecting stream. No man is stronger than his weakest point. Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. Amongst ourselves it is right that we should say of one another, "He is a good Prayer of Manasseh, take him on the whole." But what is the meaning of the reservation? What is it that is reserved? Is it a grace, a posture that may be taught by a hired master? Or is it a morality the want of which turns the whole being into a bog on which you cannot rest with sense of security? What is it that is wanting? must be our continual question. On the other hand, let us never forget that God does not allow a single excellence of character to escape his attention.
Then comes the great vital doctrine that we are not to be changed in points. Human character is not a question of isolated aspects, of self-complete phases; human character is a spiritual entity, a spiritual reality, and according to its central quality will be all the circumference which touches society at a thousand points. Better be right at the soul, than be conventionally right and socially acceptable, either because of negativeness or simple inoffensiveness. A man is what he is in his soul. Has God touched your soul? Have you asked him to touch it? How does God touch soul? By soul. How can spirit be born again? By Spirit. Not by education? Never by education. Education is a temptation, education is a mockery, education is a tribute to your vanity; it may be the mischief and the ruin of your life. The great change is mysterious, subjective, internal, of the mysterious nature of God"s own Spirit: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Your little excellences are like jewels which you can take off and lay down and resume again tomorrow, but a man"s soul, by which is meant a man"s character, his real disposition, that must be a recreation of God. So let us go to our Father with a heart-prayer, and say, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." And let us understand by what agency all this is done—not merely intellectually comprehend it, but let us know of a surety that there is only one way revealed in the Scriptures by which a man can become a new man. Is it possible for a man to throw off his old self and become a new creature in Christ Jesus? That is the miracle which the gospel was sent not only to proclaim but to accomplish. No man can come into vital connection with Christ Jesus without throwing off his old self. It is impossible to approach the cross, and yet keep our selfishness, our love of sin, our ignorance, and our folly: To want to see and touch the cross is the beginning of the new life. If you propose to yourselves to analyse the metaphysics of regeneration, I cannot assist you. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." This is partially true of intellectual birth, intellectual emancipation: we cannot tell when the meaning of words really came to us; it is impossible in many cases to put down upon a record the moment at which we said, Eureka! We found the blessing, the liberty, the new life, so suddenly as to do away with the encumbrance and weight of time. Let every man take heart therefore in this, that if he wants to be good he is beginning to be good; and there is no need to be ashamed of saying that every upward desire we form is a creation of the Holy Spirit of the living God. Why not? The Holy Spirit is everywhere. Every flower that opens in the springtime is a creation of the divine energy, a signification of the divine presence, a pledge of some further revelation. What is there to be ashamed of in saying that every upward look, every heavenward desire, is the gift of God, the work of the Spirit, the miracle of the Holy Ghost? And what is there to be ashamed of in saying that having tried to get rid of sin we never succeeded in the spiritual endeavour, but at the moment we saw the cross and felt its power sin died, and our whole life was filled with the ineffable grace and the unutterable peace of God? I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation. Cease to think of your little moralities as sufficient, cease to count the beads of your good-doing, as if you were laying on virtue before God, and remember that character is not a question of good things, numerable, and distinct, and valuable, but is a question of the soul. As the soul is the man is. And none can touch the soul redeemingly, regeneratingly, but God the Holy Ghost.
Almighty God, there is none like thee; other rocks are not as our Rock, our enemies themselves being judges. Thou doest as thou wilt in the armies of heaven and among the children of men; none can stay thine hand. Mercy and judgment belong unto the Lord our God. Our song is tremulous because we remember the mercies of heaven, and noble because we remember the judgments of God. Our song shall be of judgment and mercy; unto thee, O Lord, will we sing. Thou dost cause a light to arise in darkness to them that are upright; thou leadest the blind by a way that they know not; thou findest bread where men expected to die of hunger, and thou openest deep rock-springs in places where men said there was no water. Thy miracles are daily. The signs and the tokens of God are written upon the whole heaven and upon the whole earth. Give us eyes to see; give us ears to hear; give us hearts to understand; then shall the whole space around us be living with the divine Presence, radiant with the divine light, a very sanctuary and temple of God. We bless thee for the morning; its dew is pure, its light is full of hope, it brings new strength to bear upon new duties. May we be early with God in the opening day, high on the mountain-top ere the sun is well-risen; and thus rising a great while before day, may we rule the time with a master"s hand, distributing its affairs skilfully, and perceiving its engagements and duties with the keenness of an apt mind. We bless thee for sleep, because it makes labour easy; we thank thee for rest, because we can toil the better after sitting a while; we bless thee for sanctuary hours, because they make the sun stand still and the moon to pause until life"s great battles be brought to victory. The Lord keep us, seal us with his own signature, and preserve us in Christ, Son of God, Son of Prayer of Manasseh, the atoning, redeeming, priestly Christ, and acknowledge us amid the universe in the great time of judgment, so that we, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, may enter into holy habitations. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 19". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25