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Among the good kings of Judah, Jehoshaphat was right up near the top. But things went south in a big hurry. That’s the story in the reading today.
The obligations of family — The primary evil of what Ammon, Moab, and Edom (Mt. Seir) did was attack a family member. War was sort of considered a sad fact of life in the ancient world, but it was considered betrayal if you were attacked without cause by family. The Ammonites (children of Lot), Moabites (children of Lot), and Edomites (children of Jacob’s brother, Esau) had been protected by God as Israel approached the land of Canaan; God forbade Israel from even crossing their land without their permission. Yet here these family members were attacking Israel without cause.
Loyalty is expected of family. We understand that, when it comes to family, and sometimes even nations. But do we always understand and practice it within the family of God, the church? That counts, too.
Evil men will often destroy themselves — Not taking anything away from the intervention that was clearly coming from God, causing Jehoshaphat’s enemies to turn on each other; but one of the typical characteristics of evil men is that they often destroy themselves. It’s why criminals often fail. There is something fatally flawed in evil that cannot stand — there’s no honor among thieves.
Bad alliances — Do we need to be careful of our friendships and alliances? Jehoshaphat was one of the good guys, but he was so apparently desirous of reconciling the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah that he made some strategic and ill-advised compromises. He gave his son (Jehoram) in marriage into Ahab’s family, he went to war with Ahab against Ramoth-gilead, and joined Israel in a commercial venture. God was displeased with every one of these compromises, but it was the marital alliance that turned out to be strategically tragic. Leaving the kingdom of Jehoram, married to the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, led to the murder of all of Jehoshaphat’s other sons. Jehoram only ruled 8 awful years of war and loss, and died of God-given disease “with no one’s regret”. His son Ahaziah took his place, but was killed by Jehu — at which point Athaliah, Ahaziah’s own mother, ordered that all her own grandsons be killed, so that she could rule over Judah. Only one son was hidden and preserved during the massacre, Joash. All because of poor choices — by an otherwise good man — of alliance.
We certainly understand that we can’t completely close ourselves off from the sinful and worldly in a cloister, but on the other hand we need to know where the lines are. What are all the old “chestnuts”? “If you lie with dogs, you get fleas”; “Bad company corrupts good morals”? We always think that we can filter out the bad, or be in control, so that things won’t get out of hand. So we get into business with a shady partner; we marry someone with some “rough edges”; or go on trips (maybe to Las Vegas?) with a wild friend. Sometimes the fall is meteoric — from great to awful. Paul’s warning stands as one of the best comments on this principle:
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, NAS95.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.