II Chronicles 19:2, "And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD."
This morning, certain subjects seem to stir the emotional juices more than others. These subjects are those that even the most passive of conversants get worked up about – generally speaking. Such a subject is upon our mind this morning, and the subject is still very much relevant today. We see Scriptural prophecy fulfilled with things getting worse and worse, and therefore should not be surprised by that. (II Timothy 3:13) Yet, what exactly is getting worse and worse? Man – by nature – is just as depraved today as he was immediately after Adam's transgression in the garden. The nature of man is just as wholly filthy now as then, but the manifestation of that nature is getting worse and worse. People seem to outwardly push things further and farther than they did before, making the circumstances worse and worse. Even though this should not be surprising, this situation should not contaminate us, though it could very well do so if we fail to follow after Scripture's injunction.
I am always amazed when I read the Bible, for the rich treasures keep coming forth no matter how many dozens of times we may have perused or pored over its contents. Sometimes, a passage yields rich thoughts that make us think, "Why have I never seen that before? I can't believe that I missed that all this time." Our study verse above yielded things on my latest pass through it that I had never really "seen" in the verse before. The thoughts relate to the interaction that God's people should have in the world in which we live.
How many times have you heard somebody say that we should love everybody? Equally often, we hear people say we should treat everybody the same. Do these concepts have merit or stand up to the Scriptural test? If I treated everybody the same, then logically I would treat all women (married or not) as I treat my wife. I would treat men and women the same. Children would receive no difference of treatment than anyone else. Such behaviours are patently foolish, for no man would prefer his wife to be treated as my wife, women should be handled with more tenderness and differently than a man, and discretion and prudence dictates that certain things should not be discussed around children as they "are not ready" to handle certain subjects due to their development. Equally conclusive, we should not love everybody, for the Scriptural test will not allow it.
Our verse describes a rebuke that God's prophet gave to Judah's king Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat – unlike many other kings in Judah and all the kings of Israel post-split – followed after the Lord doing that which was right in His eyes. Yet, even the righteous kings had problems in the flesh. Even king David, a man after God's own heart, had problems in the flesh. David's particular brand of weakness was lust and pride. Jehoshaphat's brand of weakness was quite different, for his righteousness and uprightness was sometimes overshadowed and clouded by the company that he kept.
One of the most wicked kings that ever lived – Ahab – ruled over Israel concurrently with Jehoshaphat's rule over Judah. How did good king Jehoshaphat interact with his fellow ruler? He aligned himself with him to the point of declaring himself one with him: "I am as thou art, and my people as thy people." (II Chronicles 18:3) Before going to battle with the Syrians, Jehoshaphat not only pledged himself personally to Ahab, but he pledged the nation of Judah to him as well. When that campaign against the Syrians ended with misery and failure, Jehoshaphat returns home to Jerusalem only to be met with rebuke from Jehu. What was Jehoshaphat's error? The prophet specifically calls reference to Jehoshaphat showing love to them that hate God.
Many times, the concept of love is muddied and muddled in people's minds, for they do not properly understand what it means. Love is not to be confused with feelings of lust, nor is it to be confused with tenderness and puppy feelings. Also, it is not to be confused with gentility or a cheerful disposition. Love can be shown in unpleasant scenes and times, and love should never be equated to carnal desires or natural emotions. Love is action borne of devotion and sacrifice. The action is neither self-serving nor self-promoting, but it freely gives to the point of personal sacrifice if necessary and complete loss should the need so require it. The Bible equates love to a man being willing to give everything – life included if necessary – for his wife. (Ephesians 5:25-30) The Bible also equates love to a man being willing to apply the rod to his son for the son's well-being and instruction in uprightness in this world. (Proverbs 13:24) Quite a far cry from the talks of love by the world at large.
Therefore, knowing that love is rooted in sacrificial action, a good connection passage to our study verse is the language of David in Psalm 139:21-22. David claimed a perfect hatred over the wicked that hated God, for he hated them as God would hate them. How does God hate those that are not His? God suffers the wicked in this world (while also providentially restraining them at times from fulfilling all the wicked desires of their filthy hearts) full well knowing that their judgment is coming. Our course should be to suffer them if necessary, knowing that their judgment cometh right soon, but also – should providence allow – prevent them from furthering their cause against the name of Christ.
Thoughts on love and hate definitely stir the emotions of people, but let us put these two together and see what the message is for us today. Since love is not equatable to kindness or civility, nor is hate equatable to torture and death, Jehoshaphat should not have actively sought Ahab's harm (kill him or overrun him). We should, as much possible, live peaceably with all men, but being civil and kind does not equate to furthering their cause. The first clause of Jehu adequately explains the second. If we help the ungodly the way that Jehoshaphat helped Ahab, then we are loving those that hate the Lord, which the prophet declares ought not be done.
When we see people today that actively pursue a life of hating God, despising His name, and actively running contrary to His ways in this world, we should not actively seek these people's hurt, but we should not assist them in their pursuit. Nor should we fail to hinder that pursuit should providence so provide opportunity to do so. Our love – sacrificial actions of devotion to God – should overwhelm all desire to be at one with God's enemies. When at one with those in the world, following after the lusts of this world, one cannot tell the difference between them and us. The battle against the Syrians in the previous chapter even included the Syrians for a time during the battle mistaking Jehoshaphat for Ahab. When we are at one with God's enemies, it might be hard for others to tell us apart.
Because of this problem that Jehoshaphat had, Jehu prophesied that God's wrath would be upon him for this offense. We should likewise expect the displeasure from our God when we align ourselves with His enemies. Rather, we should do as David did, hate them with perfect hatred and thereby leave them with our God. He deals with injustice, and He will rightly and justly repay. Sometimes, He gives us the circumstance and situation to rightly put down those that rise up against Him (such as courts of justice and judgment in this world). May we seek His face of guidance and counsel, and may our lives never be found aligned with God's enemies. By doing so, we love those that Scripture demands we not love.