II Chronicles 17:6, “And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.”
This morning, pride and exaltation is all around us. While man’s ego is already fully tilted in the wrong direction based on the effects of the fall in the garden, certain environments can induce man to engage and indulge his ego more than others. Today’s environment (evil men and seducers waxing worse and worse) could be described as one of the lushest environments to foster a bloated ego. Some of the earmarks of an egomaniac is that he never believes himself to be wrong. Furthermore, he is quite happy about his situation, and the only thing that will bring him down from it is for someone to challenge his overgrown opinion of himself. A simple, cursory perusal of Scripture will show that such a mindset is foreign to the teachings of the Almighty, and such mentalities have no place for a child of God seeking to foster productive fruit in his service to the Master.
In our study verse above, we see some of the opening remarks and details about the beginning of the reign of Jehoshaphat: one of the righteous kings over the land of Judah. While the entire account of his reign and rule shows many flaws in his thinking and deportment, he is still listed as a righteous king. Perhaps one of his most righteous traits is displayed in our verse. The text says he was “lifted up in the ways of the LORD.” The term “lifted up” has two connotations: 1. to be exalted in good like a tree grows or an eagle flies and 2. to be haughty in a negative sense due to pride. Surely the haughty connotation of being lifted has been shown above, but what does it mean to be carried away in an upward fashion to good things?
The Psalmist correlates Jehoshaphat’s mentality and actions when he stated that we boast in the Lord all the day long. (Psalm 44:8) Boasting is normally seen as quite a negative thing (with good reason for the overwhelming abundance of it on that end of the spectrum), but boasting in something worthy of praise is not only good, but would be evil on our part to neglect. Just as surely as boasting in the Lord or being lifted up in His ways is profitable, it is just as unprofitable to leave it off. This is why the precepts and dictates of Christ’s commandments should be followed with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (all that we are).
Now using our landmarks of how to spot bloated egos in man, how should one manifest being lifted up in the ways of the Lord? An egomaniac never believes he is wrong, but since we are not dealing with an egomaniac, we should rightly stand by the principle that the Lord is never wrong. There is an old expression, “The Lord said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” Now, if the Lord said it, that settles it. Period. But, it is in our best interest to believe it and staunchly adhere to it. No matter the circumstance or the opposition, it is always of the utmost importance to be lifted up in the ways of the Lord by firm conviction that He is right all the time, no matter what.
One of the easiest tools that Satan has in his arsenal to ensnare us is the tool of doubt. If he can foster doubt in our minds about the Lord, he will do it immediately. The very first question he posed in Genesis 3 towards God’s command was geared to make the man and woman doubt what God really said. People today spend their time trying to implant doubt that the book we call The Bible is error-ridden, not worthy of our attention, and not all it is cracked up to be. To be frank, without going into a long treatise on the defense of the infallibility and inspiration of the Bible, let me pose a simple question. If you throw out the Bible as a standard guide and measuring stick, what will you use as your guide and standard? Man’s opinion? That changes as often as the wind. Man’s feelings? That changes even more often. Governments? Family? Friends? Pray tell what? If not the Bible, then what? If the Bible is supposedly full of such problems, show me something that contains less errors, speculations, etc. A diligent search provides nothing even remotely comparable to the Great Book, and that is because what God says is right all the time.
Another waymark of being lifted up is being completely happy about the condition or status. An egomaniac is completely happy with himself with no need or regard to change anything. It is painted and tattooed over every fiber of his being. To the child of God lifted up in the ways of the Lord, we will manifest the happiness and joy that accompanies contentment in the Lord. Many times I encounter people in the world that are what I like to call “mopey dopes.” They seem to drag misery, suffering, bitterness, and such like around with them like a ball and chain. Of course, if my outlook on life was like theirs, I would probably look and feel the same way. However, it always boggles my mind to fathom when I get in that shape or see church members in that situation.
The Bible says that we will spend all of eternity in the satisfaction that defies our utmost imagination’s stretch here. (Romans 8:18) No matter what, we will live together with Him forever because Jesus died for us. (I Thessalonians 5:9-10) Furthermore, God has promised that no matter the trials and circumstances of life, He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5-6) Not only will we never be forsaken, but His presence remains! Never alone! What about life – regardless of outward factors – is cause to shift us from being lifted up in His ways? Will following HIs ways yield persecution and ridicule? Certainly. Does that change the reality of His presence, our final abode, or even the integrity of His character? Not one iota.
Just as a side note – and perhaps a bit of a soapbox – it never ceases to amaze me when I witness a minister of the gospel delivering the grandest message the world has ever known like he is having his wisdom teeth extracted without anesthetics at the same time. Sometimes it seems so painful to him, that you could make a case he wished he was somewhere else talking about something else. Friends, not everything in the Bible is pleasant – as many subjects go against the grain of our old nature – but if I as the minister am not happy and devoted (lifted up) about the things I am presenting, why would I be surprised if no one else is too?
Finally, Jehoshaphat showed his state in the ways of the Lord by doing something very specific. He removed the idolatry out of the land. To be lifted up in the ways of the Lord, we must not just pay them lip service, but also walk them as well. Too many times, we set the Lord on the shelf with equal standing to all our little gods in life. He is just one in the midst of a lineup, but to be exalted and riding high in Him, we need to clear out the things that do not belong. Idols take on many forms and guises, but a good indicator of something being an idol is if it invades the two landmarks we have discussed.
Does the thing cause us to doubt the Lord’s integrity? For example, the Lord commanded us to give Him public service in His house (Hebrews 10:25), and many things today seek to pull us away from that service. Many rationales are employed to hide the sin such as “I think the Lord will understand” and “God knows my heart.” No matter the statement, one cannot evade the obvious point that God said it, and that settles it. We would do well to observe it with all that we are. Does the thing cause us to not be happy in our situation? Keeping the example of public service in His house, are we there with zeal and anticipation or are we there out of dreaded duty? More often than not, being in God’s house out of dreaded duty entails that we wish we were somewhere else. Not always, but generally it is the case. In both scenarios, it is easy to spot the idol for what it is. More often than not, it is far harder to buckle down and remove it than it is to identify it. The idolatrous groves and high places were easy to spot in Jehoshaphat’s day, but it took courage to tear down what had been used for so long.
Friends, I personally do not believe that we should be happy about life and its circumstances for many of them will be bad to terrible in this fallen, sinful world. However, I also believe that we have no reason to cease from being exalted in the ways of the Lord as they are permanent and never-changing. The two illustrations for good exaltation used above were trees growing and eagles flying. In Scripture, we are compared to both. (Isaiah 40:31, Isaiah 61:3) Let us be constantly growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as that growth will lift us further and further in the ways of the Lord, and may we soar as eagles so that the weak and perishable things of this old world look smaller and smaller.