Expository Sermon on 2 Chronicles 17 – 19
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 5/21/2022
©2022 by Maylan Schurch
Please open your Bibles to 2 Chronicles chapter 17.
Welcome to another sermon in the series I’ve been preaching since we started our read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. 2 Chronicles 17 was one of the chapters in this week’s reading-range, as you’ll see on the announcement page of your bulletin.
Several years ago you might remember hearing about – or maybe even reading – a book called The Prayer of Jabez. It’s a 32-word prayer given by someone named Jabez. Jabez only shows up once in the Bible, in First Chronicles 4:9 and 10. Jabez praise this prayer to God, and it says that God answered him.
Unfortunately, a lot of Christians – and a lot of Christian merchandisers – have seized on the prayer of Jabez, and printed it on keychains, postcards, refrigerator magnets, greeting cards, coffee mugs, stickers, T-shirts, a necklace pendant, little buttons you can wear on your shirt, and posters. The posters come in dusty blue, sage green, and black-and-white.
As of yesterday, an Amazon.com search for “prayer of Jabez” merchandise came up with 853 possibilities.
As far as I can tell, the prayer of Jabez seems to be fading as a trend. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’m sure that the trend was created from good motives – here’s a prayer someone prayed to God, and God answered it – but I think that anybody who seriously reeds their Bible finds it pretty lacking in details. And unfortunately, since the prayer is so short, and you could carry it on a necklace with you, a number of people began using it as a good luck charm.
Which of course is not how prayer works. There’s nowhere in the Bible that tells us that the prayer of Jabez should be used as a model prayer. Jesus gave us a model prayer. And in His model prayer, Jesus prayed for mostly different things than Jabez prayed.
In this week’s Bible reading range, I discovered the prayer of Jehoshaphat. And this is definitely a prayer we can use for a model. For one thing, this prayer-pattern is repeated a number of times in the Old Testament, and probably in the New Testament as well.
And for another thing, Jehoshaphat himself doesn’t simply jump onto a single Bible page, occupy just two verses, and vanish, the way Jabez did. Instead, Jehoshaphat lays down a track record for us. We see what he did before he prayed his major prayer, and we see what he did during that prayer, and what he did afterward.
In fact, I believe that Jehoshaphat’s experience is such a gold mine, that I’m going to break my sermon plan and make this a two-part series. This week we’ll look at how Jehoshaphat sets the stage for his prayer, and next week will look at the prayer itself.
And I think this is so incredibly important. I believe that the specific steps Jehoshaphat took, we can take too. And I believe that we will know better how to pray for what God wants us to pray for.
So let’s get started. And as we go, let’s find how to prepare for Jehoshaphat’s prayer.
But first let’s set the historical stage. The year is probably 872 BC. Jehoshaphat has just been anointed king over Judah, taking over from his father King Asa. Let’s watch what Jehoshaphat does:
2 Chronicles 17:1 – 2 [NKJV]: Then Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his [King Asa’s] place, and strengthened himself against Israel. And he placed troops in all the fortified cities of Judah, and set garrisons in the land of Judah and in the cities of Ephraim which Asa his father had taken.
King Asa had been basically a good king, but hadn’t put his full trust in the Lord, and had come into some struggles with nearby nations. So his son Jehoshaphat had to do a bit of damage control.
But I think we can find our first sermon point out of what we just read. Let me give it to you and see what you think. I think it makes sense.
What’s one way to prepare for Jehoshaphat’s prayer?
Protect your blessings.
What do I mean by that? I mean basic stewardship. If God has given you a steady job, and the salary, make sure you take care of what you have. When God created Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden, He didn’t suggest that they spend all their time taking vacations and going on sightseeing tours.
Instead, in Genesis 2:15, even before there was such a thing as sin, with all the hard labor it would cause for Adam, God put Adam and Eve in the garden to “tend and keep it.” In other words, take care of it, be good stewards of it. Protect your blessings. Guard what God has given you.
This means that you follow other Bible advice to live within your financial means. My dad feared and destested debt, and he passed this terror along to me. This sometimes means cutting down, and cutting back.
I grew up in a family where dad was the only breadwinner until my brother, the youngest of the family, was 11. Then mom went to work on a full-time night shift at a state institution, so that she could be home to get her kids off to school and welcome them back every day. This meant she never got quite enough sleep, but she wanted to protect the children the Lord had given her.
Protect your blessings. Before you go into a store, put your valuables out of sight and lock your car. And you can tell me many other ways to just be sensible, and protect what God has made you a steward of. We need to protect the planet, as well.
We need to protect our bodies from unhealthy food and drink. Someone once suggested that when you go to the grocery store, shop the outer walls rather than the center section. By the outer walls you’ll find most of the produce and other natural items which are good for us.
So why is it so important – for your prayer life – that we protect God’s blessings? Not only being a faithful steward is good, but because there should be less to pray for. Unexpected things happen, of course, but if I take care of God’s blessings the best I can, I normally won’t have to send up emergency prayers about these things.
But now let’s move on to another way to prepare for the Jehoshaphat prayer.
Verses 3 – 6: Now the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the former ways of his father David; he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, and walked in His commandments and not according to the acts of Israel. Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah gave presents to Jehoshaphat, and he had riches and honor in abundance. And his heart took delight in the ways of the LORD; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah.
What’s another way to prepare for the Jehoshaphat prayer?
If the first way is to protect your blessings, I believe that the second way is to act out your dedication to God.
Thinking back to our old friend Jabez, we don’t know whether he acted out his dedication to God. All we have is his prayer. But we do know exactly what Jehoshaphat did. We’ve just read about it. Jehoshaphat followed David’s righteous example, he refused to even consider following the god Baal, he sought (hunted for, searched for) the true God, and walked in God’s commandments. And verse 6 says that following God wasn’t just a duty but a delight to him.
Jehoshaphat didn’t just claim to be dedicated to God—he acted out that dedication. Even though Jesus’ friend James wouldn’t be born for nearly 900 years, Jehoshaphat followed James’ advice in James 1:22 – 25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
This past Sunday, on a post-breakfast saunter, I spotted a worm. I’m a little vague on the details of worm-gender, so let’s call him “he” for convenience. When I first saw him, his head was under sort of a soggy dark wad of vegetation. He was pushing his head into that pile, systematically doing his best to tunnel through it.
I grabbed my phone and fumbled with the camera app, but by the time I focused on him, his head had popped through on the other side, and he was moving methodically on to other adventures. I was happy for him, but on reflection I decided that I needn’t have been too worried. After all, this worm’s main occupation was tunneling through dirt, and this soggy clump of organic matter barely tested his muscles.
Perseverance, right? A refusal to be stopped by what must have seemed like a gigantic shrubbery-thicket, right? This worm operated, as far as I can tell, by faith and not by sight, because worms don’t really have eyes. They only have light-and-dark sensors on their body so they can tell whether they’re above ground or below it.
So how can I act out my dedication to God? Well, like Jehoshaphat, I can refuse to be captivated by the world’s idolatries. Jesus specifically called a greed for money idolatry. Other idolatries he spoke against were pride, hardheartedness, and stubbornness. I need to ask the Savior to show me if any of these are a problem for me.
And like Jehoshaphat, I need to walk in God’s commands, not the temptations of the culture. Even the tiniest glimpse at today’s media shows that they are flaunting God’s 10 Commandments one by one. They are providing human idols for us to worship, using God’s name carelessly, disregarding the Sabbath, dishonoring parents, glorifying murder and adultery and theft and lying, and are ignoring the dangers of covetousness.
And finally, Jehoshaphat took his faith far beyond duty, and move toward delight – delight in the Lord. Do I know enough about God – through His Word, through a fascinated study of His natural world (such as that humble but incredible worm)?
Now, stay tuned for a hugely fascinating third sermon point. I never realized that this was in the story before – in fact, I hadn’t really devoted the attention to the story that I should have.
How else can I prepare for Jehoshaphat’s prayer?
Verses 7 – 9: Also in the third year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. And with them he sent Levites: Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah, and Tobadonijah—the Levites; and with them Elishama and Jehoram, the priests. So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the LORD with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people.
What’s another way to prepare for Jehoshaphat’s prayer?
The first way is to protect your blessings. The second way is to act out your dedication to God. And I believe that the third way to prepare for Jehoshaphat’s prayer is to support God-education.
I was tempted to make this third point “support Christian education,” but even though Jesus and His Father and the Holy Spirit were always working together, Jesus the earthly Messiah wouldn’t be born for nearly 900 years.
You see, Jehoshaphat new how crucially important it was for the average person to know what was in the Bible. When it says in verse nine that these teachers “had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them,” don’t get the idea that it was just the rules and regulations. Each of the five books of Moses, and any other book that had been written to that time, had the priceless stories of how God communicated with people and invited them to follow Him and be nourished by Him.
And that’s what the people needed to hear. If nobody knew what was in the Bible, there would be very little defense against a tangible wooden idol, or a heathen altar of sacrifice in a high place. God’s people needed God’s stories.
How important is this? Yesterday morning I got a breathtakingly encouraging example of why it’s so important. On Monday, Shelley and I had traveled to Coupeville, where I had a part in a memorial service for our longtime church member Ron Riter.
Ron had been a mountaineer, and as I was deciding what to speak on for two chapel talks at Kirkland Seventh-day Adventist School yesterday, I decided to tell them a little about Ron. But while Ron is indeed an inspiring subject, and the kids were impressed, what really took my breath away was when I asked them if they could think of anyone in the Bible who was ever on a mountain top.
I’d written down a couple of my own answers, off the top of my head. God came down on Mount Sinai, and Moses had climbed that mountain. Jesus had climbed the Mount of Transfiguration, and later the Mount of Olives.
But when I asked the kids the question, hands flew up all over the room. And I began to get answers I had not thought of – Noah’s ark resting on Ararat, David being chased by Saul through the mountains, Abraham taking his son up on the mountain.
And I suddenly realized that these young people were getting it! They had been taught the Bible story so well, that those stories were within them. They knew them in fascinating detail.
And that Bible education didn’t, by accident. I’ve known grown-ups who were never taught even the most basic details about how God created us and loves us, and all He has done for us.
But these kids had that education. These kids knew the same stories that Jehoshaphat wanted to have taught to his whole nation. And these kids might knew more stories than that – they knew the stories of Jesus. Because these kids receiving a Christian education.
After all, if – as 2 Timothy 3:16 says – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” and if it’s true – as Romans 15:4 says — that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” – if that’s true, then no wonder Jehoshaphat dispatched teams of educators all over the nation.
So how can we put this step into practice? How can we support God-education? Or as we would say today, Christian education?
I hope nobody ever assumes that the Bible stories are old-fashioned, or too direct or brutal for young years. Sure, you need to be careful which stories you tell first. Someone recently told me that he has a couple of grandchildren who have no Bible learning at all. The parents don’t think it’s important.
This grandpa told me that one time when he visited their house, and I think it was when they were having a meal, he said to his grandkids, “Let’s have prayer.” In his littlest granddaughter asked, “What is prayer?”
So make sure your kids or grandkids – as much as is possible for you – and know the stories of the Bible. Bring them to Sabbath school. How else are they going to learn those stories in the company of other children, taught by knowledgeable and tenderhearted teachers?
Send them to our Adventist church school. I had eight solid grades of Adventist elementary education, and that’s where I learned the sermon on the Mount. That’s where I learned those dramatic and sometimes baffling stories that really happened. That’s where I learned that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. That’s where I learned, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
That’s where your kids will learn what it will really look like when Jesus returns. When Jesus comes back, it will be bright, and noisy, and earthshaking, but very safe for those who are ready for His return.
And if you don’t have children or grandchildren in our schools, but you do have money, get together with the school people and find out how best your funds could be used. Dare to be a Jehoshaphat, someone who will make as sure as possible that God’s Word reaches the hearts of the children.
And if you’re longing for your own children to attend our Seventh-day Adventist schools, talk to the school itself. They have scholarship programs. Get in touch with me if you’d like more information.
Let’s look at just one more way to prepare to pray the Jehoshaphat prayer. The next week will pick up the story with 1 Final Way to prepare, and then go through the actual prayer Jehoshaphat prayed.
The rest of chapter 17 mentions how richly the Lord blessed Jehoshaphat, and how the nation was at peace, and even foreign nations would bring gifts to the king.
But now let’s move to chapter 18. This is a rather strange chapter, because it shows how Jehoshaphat seems to be toying with an alliance with the king of Israel, who has been Judah’s enemy from time to time. But as we go through this part of the story, we’ll see that Jehoshaphat still has his firm principles.
2 Chronicles 18:1 – 4: Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and by marriage he allied himself with Ahab. After some years he went down to visit Ahab in Samaria; and Ahab killed sheep and oxen in abundance for him and the people who were with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramoth Gilead. So Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me against Ramoth Gilead?” And he answered him, “I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will be with you in the war.” Also Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire for the word of the LORD today.”
Again, we feel a little queasy with the plot here. Later on, the Lord will use a prophet to firmly rebuke Jehoshaphat four getting into this position. But as you’ll see, Jehoshaphat hasn’t completely lost his mind. He still wants to find out whether the Lord is in agreement with this battle.
King Ahab knows very well that he has 400 prophets who will prophesy exactly the way he wants them to, so he called them in.
Verse 5: Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” So they said, “Go up, for God will deliver it into the king’s hand.”
But Jehoshaphat still smell something fishy. He has evidently picked up on the true character of these 400 prophets.
Verse 6 – 7: But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?” So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil. He is Micaiah the son of Imla.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say such things!”
What I’m about to read is a delightfully intriguing and ironic story. Watch what happens:
Verses 8 – 14: Then the king of Israel called one of his officers and said, “Bring Micaiah the son of Imla quickly!” The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah, clothed in their robes, sat each on his throne; and they sat at a threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made horns of iron for himself; and he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed.’ ” And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, “Go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the king’s hand.” Then the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, “Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king. Therefore please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement.” And Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.” Then he came to the king; and the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” And he said, “Go and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand!”
And now it is King Ahab who get suspicious. I don’t know if there was a smirk in Micaiah’s voice, or an ironic twist, but Ahab knows he’s not telling the truth.
Verses 15 – 17: So the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” Then he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’ ” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
The story continues, but let’s lay down Sermon Point Four. What’s another way for me to prepare for the Jehoshaphat prayer?
The first way is to protect your blessings. The second way is to act out your dedication to God. The third way is to support God-education. And I believe that the fourth way to prepare for the Jehoshaphat prayer is to insist on God’s truth.
The story goes on, and it includes a rather interesting account of God’s decisions to make sure that King Ahab gets the punishments he deserves.
Ahab, of course, would never have been in this position if he, like Jehoshaphat, and always insisted on God’s truth.
A week or so ago I was walking through our neighborhood and I noticed that there were some trucks gathered at one of the houses. One of the trucks was a white van, and I don’t believe it had any markings on it as to which kind of repair vehicle it was.
My stroll took me close to it. There was nobody inside, but my eye was caught by something I saw on the dashboard as I passed. It was a large inch-thick thick paperback, and on the cover it said, NFP 70 National Electrical Code, 2020.
I looked it up online, and here’s what it says about this book: “The National Electrical Code (NEC), or NFPA 70, is a regionally adoptable standard for the safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment in the United States. It is part of the National Fire Code series published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a private trade association.”
And suddenly whoever was driving this white van gained a great deal more credibility in my eyes. I don’t know this person, and don’t know what kind of experience they had, but at least they had the source of truth right out where they could get at it.
Jehoshaphat insisted on God’s truth. And I need to insist on God’s truth too. You and I need to ignore any popular opinion if it clearly disagrees with what the Bible clearly says.
Well, I believe that we’re ready to learn how to pray Jehoshaphat’s prayer. We’ll do that a week from today. If you’d like, go ahead and read the Bible-reading range you see in the bulletin, but make sure you also study through Jehoshaphat’s prayer in chapter 20. I believe it’s a pattern which other Bible people like Moses used when talking to God, and I believe that you and I need to pray like this too, when the stakes are really high.
But now let’s express our worship to our Creator in a hymn which is perfect for that purpose. It’s number 83 in your hymnal, and you’ll also see the words behind me as you sing.
Closing Song – “O Worship the King”– #83