All posts by Philip

Evening Thoughts (The Jehoshaphat Problem)

The Jehoshaphat Problem

The Bible is replete with examples of men and women with everything from no faith to strong faith. One of the most common examples are those that did not exercise their faith properly. Such was the case of the life of Jehoshaphat: one of the righteous kings of Judah. His story is found from I Kings 15-II Kings 8. During this stretch, we find his story chock full of occasions of a man who was most assuredly a child of God but not willing to stand as strongly as he should have on different occasions. The problem that this caused plagued his own life, but sadly, his actions affected things long after he was gone from this earth. It is this particular thrust that we most would like to peel back and investigate.

After the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms – Israel and Judah – during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the line of kings over Judah sprang from the house of David. Scripture bears out that about half were good and half were bad. One of the good kings was Jehoshaphat, but he failed to follow God with a perfect heart as David had done. These imperfections were most seen by his association and companionship with the kings of Israel. The line of kings over Israel were primarily evil, and any bright spots during certain reigns were brief and not the defining hallmark of their kingship. So, Jehoshaphat was quite friendly with wicked king Ahab and his house after him.

Ok then! So, with the history lesson behind us, let us all think together how a Jewish king that lived around 3,000 ago has a similar bearing on life for us today in the 21st century. Though righteous, Jehoshaphat’s hallmark quality was his friendliness with his neighbors in Israel. No other king of Judah is recorded as having as much familial interaction as Jehoshaphat. He tells Ahab that he is as he is and his people as his people before joining him in battle. Though Jehoshaphat hears the declaration of the Lord’s prophet that Ahab would die in battle, he agrees to go and dress like a king while Ahab hid in common clothing. This action very nearly cost him his life on the field of battle. (I Kings 22)

He continues this behavior with Ahab’s heirs as he is not only in league with Ahab’s son but also the king of Edom to go out to battle with them. When Elisha is called for, he reproves the wicked kings and says that only Jehoshaphat’s presence is worth regarding. (II Kings 3) The ultimate consequence is what this lifelong friendship with the evildoers of the world brought to his house. When he died, his son Jehoram begins to reign and does wickedly as the kings of Israel did. However, it goes further. Jehoram’s wife was the daughter of Ahab. So, Jehoshaphat’s friendship not only affected his own life, but it trickled down to affect his son’s actions and who he chose to marry. (II Kings 8:16-18)

I know. More history right? Let us zero in. Our world today is so geared towards political correctness and tolerance that it can be considered odious behavior to disagree with someone or – gasp! – publicly call out their behavior as wrong. How many people today would almost involuntarily bristle at hearing someone declare that fornication, divorce, homosexuality, etc. are evil? Some might even react by spitting out, “How could you?…” This automatic reaction society-wide stems from the long-term diet that people have been fed every day that “it’s really what’s right for you” “the truth is the truth to you” and “who are we to judge”. These ideas being constantly pumped into the mind find lodging places that can make the truth sound wrong when declared as the lie has been sounded so consistently for so long.

Was Jehoshaphat supposed to be Israel’s friend? More particularly, should he have had such a close kinship and association with such wicked kings? He is reproved for it by God’s prophets, and it cost him his family in future blessings and spiritual prosperity. Are we supposed to be the world’s friend? More particularly, should we have a close kinship and association with wicked men? I think Scripture is pretty plain and straightforward on that point. (James 4:4, Matthew 6:24) While I would not advocate going out of our way to be unkind or rude to people, there is a vast amount of ground between being rude and unkind to people and having friendship with them.

What is the cost? As a now middle-aged father, I have children that are 12 all the way down to 4. Seeing them grow before me is a staggering thing at times. How will they turn out? What kind of men and women will they be? My wife and I daily struggle as parents to know how much to say, when to say it, and how to say it. Bringing children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is not an every now and again proposition. It is daily. Constantly. Perpetually. What happens when a parent gets too close to the world? They lose their children. What happens when we make friends with the ungodly of this world? Our children marry into this world. Jehoshaphat was a good man. He is called a righteous king. It is not a matter of his position as a child of God. It is a matter of his deportment and how he walked in this world.

Part of pure religion is keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. (James 1:27) Spots are seen when we look in the mirror, but regrettably spots in our character and teaching are also seen when we look at our children. When my children mimic one of my poorer behaviors, I feel the disapproving eyes and sometimes hear the scorning words of my companion, “I know where they got that…” I cannot keep my children from all the problems and trials of this world. Such is just not possible. However, I can keep my manners from being corrupted by avoiding people with wicked lifestyles (I Corinthians 15:33) so that my children have a good example to see and learn from. Though I cannot make them love what I love and hate what I hate, I can show them through faithful deportment how much I love the right things and hate the detestable things of this vain and perishable world.

Part of mine and my wife’s daily prayers for our children is that the Lord would keep them safe, bless them to grow up as good men and women, and marry good people. We pray that the Lord would bless their future spouses today so that those blessings would carry on into the future as they build their own homes and have their own families. God help me to not join affinity to the things of this world from whence my children’s marriages might spring. God help me not to jeopardize my own life and the health of my family by joining the world in battle. At my father’s funeral, an old deacon told me something that has stuck with me, “The steps of a good man are most clearly manifest in the faces and steps of his children.”

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Evening Thoughts (Dealing With Loss)

Author’s Note: My apologies for not putting out writings over the last several months. My spare time has been filled with an effort to put together a hymnbook for use among our people. That work has reached its initial conclusion as we went to print last week. Lord willing, the hymnal will be available for purchase at the end of the year. For those interested, the book will be called “Worship the King: An Old School Baptist Hymnal” and further information can be found at wtkhymnal.org.

Dealing With Loss

One of the oldest clich├ęs about our existence is, “Death is a part of life.” We all understand this on a conceptual level, but when the “rubber meets the road,” it affects us in different ways at different times. During this time of the year with holidays, family time, etc. death and loss seems to invade even seasons such as this. Many families – while joyous of the holiday season – recall to mind those that they have lost: either due to losing them at this time of year or in seeing certain family seats empty that once were filled. So, for a time and season that is generally filled with thanksgiving and rejoicing, how do we deal with our loss in a fashion that pleases God and strengthens our inner man?

The human mind can be a fragile thing as we build up tendencies, notions, prejudices, and fancies that many times are not really rooted in fact but rather opinion. When an older person passes away, it might seem natural to think, “Well, they lived a good life, and though we’ll miss them, it’s understandable.” When a young person passes away, it might seem natural to think, “What a tragedy! Such a loss with so much life left!” Again, this is natural to think like this, but is it really fact? Some of my deepest losses have not been the young that I’ve lost but rather the old. When those sage old vessels of wisdom depart these shores, it can leave me with a void that seems like a canyon. When lifelong encouragers are stripped from us, we feel the grief that their shining countenance and cheerful disposition will be absent from our days here.

So, if a loss can be deeply felt – regardless of the circumstance of the person – we should look for a common answer. Yes, the Bible reader can point to heaven itself. Yes, the faithful kingdom soldier can point to the love and grace of God that has overcome death so that we might have hope while we continue our pilgrimage. Recently, during this season of thanksgiving, I came to a realization that of all the things I was thankful for, I had left something glaringly out. Has that ever happened to you kind reader? Have you had the “palm smack the forehead” moment that made you feel very tiny in your thoughts and understanding?

Sometimes if we look hard enough, we can find blessings in curses and curses in blessings. They come in all forms. Wealth and goods can be a great blessing and a great curse. Good things bestowed can turn the heart to covetousness or idolatry. None of us are immune. Many times, we are thankful for the deliverances from death. Salvation from its effects. Deliverance from its end. However, I am now thankful for death itself. Yes, there is a great curse in death. It is the penalty for sin. Yet, the blessing in death is that it separates the child of God from the curses, strains, and toils of this existence.

Many years ago, I lost a 1st cousin at the ripe old age of 22. A few years later, we lost my father at the elderly age of 49. Both situations brought a multitude of statements and condolences about what a great loss it was and the tragedy of so much potential cut short. A few years ago, we lost my great uncle and my father in the ministry who were both in their 80s. In both cases, people talked about the good soldier laying his armor down. However, all those cases – though varied in many ways – are still felt to some degree by me today. My 1st cousin was one of the nicest young men I had the pleasure of knowing, my father was a great instructor with much of what I know today to his credit, my great uncle was the meekest man I ever knew, and my father in the ministry was one of the kindest and wisest men I ever had the pleasure of being around. What was common to their cases?

Some had cancer, some had heart conditions, some showed the rapid advance of age in all its ugliness. Death relieved each of them from those burdens. The pain of cancer is gone. The burden of a sin cursed existence is forever removed. Job declared that infants that never see the light of day are in a place where the “wicked cease from troubling” and the “weary be at rest.” (Job 3:15) Consider what we think is the tragedy of the death of a child. Job declares that a child in such a case cannot be troubled by the wickedness that we daily endure, and the weary soul and longing heart is in complete rest.

Years ago, a rock band posited the question, “Who wants to live forever?” Seen in the context of this life, who would? Would you want to live forever with cancer wracking your body with pain? How about a ticker that keeps you weary, out of breath, and light-headed? More importantly, would you want a perpetual life where evil thoughts and wicked desires rise up in your heart and prey on your mind? No friends, though the curse and sting of death can be bitter for us in this old world, I’m thankful for death. It is the vehicle that separates us from all these curses that we see and endure.

When God placed the flaming sword in the Garden of Eden to keep the way to the tree of life, that was a curse that man had brought upon himself. His right to that tree was banned. Yet, even that curse had a silver lining. God knew that man would attempt to eat it and live forever, so He prevented that from happening. Why? So we would not live forever down here. We will not live with these problems and deal with strife forever. Sometimes – like all I suppose – I think about what it would be like to chat with one of those sage minds once again or listen to the encouragement and kindness of those that have been so good to me. And yet, I’m glad that they aren’t plagued with cancer, bent over in a wheelchair where they can’t walk, or suffering the ravages of a stroke, senility, etc. Forever they are at rest and peace at home.

What are you thankful for? I’m supremely thankful most of all for the Almighty and what He has done for us. One of the things I’m now thankful for is that we have the deliverance that death brings. The Psalmist declared that the death of the Lord’s saints was “precious” in His sight. (Psalm 116:15) May this be precious to us as well in that while we miss the fellowship of our loved ones, we love the deliverance that has fully and mightily come unto them. A fellow minister told me one time, “I’ve gotten to the point where I have more friends up there than down here. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself that I’m still around, but I remember His grace and await the day that death knocks on my door. When it does, I’ll not only see my friends again, I’ll see Him with the perfect understanding that just doesn’t belong in a place like this.”

In Hope,
Bro Philip