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"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you."—Matt. 6:33 .
WHILE Ahab was king of Israel, Jehoshaphat succeeded to the throne of Judah. He had the advantage that his parents were godly people—a great advantage. As suggested in our last study, the iniquity and idolatry of Israel reacted favorably upon Judah, just as the drunkenness and profligacy of a parent sometimes reacts upon his children, who perceive his folly and learn by his mistakes. Moreover the idolatry of Israel, which drove its most saintly characters of all the tribes to Judah, enriched the latter nation in moral tone and character. This included all of the priests and Levites who were still loyal to God and to the worship which he had established.
Encouraged thus, the young king began a general crusade against every idolatrous place and custom in his kingdom. As Ahab exceeded his father Omri as an evil-doer, so Jehoshaphat exceeded his father Asa as an upholder of the Divine Law. Indeed we remember that in Asa's later years he became proud and self-conscious and in a measure for a time rebellious against the Divine arrangements.
Jehoshaphat's kingdom prospered. He fortified its various boundaries, especially toward the land of Israel, Judah's nearest neighbor. Neighboring smaller nations sought Judah's favor and for it paid tribute and presents until Jehoshaphat's kingdom was very prosperous. Thus fidelity to the Lord was rewarded with prosperity. If some from this are trying to draw the lesson that all prosperous persons and nations are honorable, righteous and in Divine fellowship, they surely err. Those also err who claim that adversity, poverty, sickness are sure evidences of Divine disfavor and a sinful life.
Not only should we remember that the bad kings, Omri and Ahab, were prosperous, but we remember also that many wicked nations and iniquitous customs have prospered and are prospering today. Prosperity, therefore, is not always a sign of Divine favor. To Jehoshaphat and his kingdom, however, prosperity was a sign of favor because Judah still represented God's chosen nation in a special manner. According to God's Covenant with them they would be blessed in proportion as they maintained their loyalty to their agreement—their loyalty to God. But this promise or Covenant was not made with mankind in general, but merely with the one nation of Israel, which, at the time of our study, was specially represented by the Kingdom of Judah. If we would see that righteousness does not always bring peace and worldly prosperity, we have only to look at the Master himself and at his most faithful followers to see the contrary. Moreover this is the Master's assurance to his followers: "In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace"; "Marvel not that the world hateth you; ye know that it hated me before it hated you." "Whosoever will live godly in this present time shall suffer persecution."
In other words, the systems of rewards and punishments which justice would indicate are not now being enforced. God now arranges that his spiritual family shall walk by faith and not by sight; and to give them trials of faith he frequently permits their suffering and disadvantage in earthly interests to test their loyalty and obedience—to demonstrate them as overcomers, faithful unto death, in their adherence to principles of righteousness. To these the promise is that when found worthy they shall receive the heavenly inheritance. Then will come the world's trial time.
But when Messiah's reign shall begin, all this will be changed and every wrong act and word and thought will receive prompt punishment, and every good effort will be rewarded and encouraged. Thus the Scriptures declare, "When the judgments (righteous dealings) of the Lord are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." The blessed opportunities of that time will belong to all mankind except the Church. The specially called class of this Age have the special blessing of hearing ears and understanding hearts and a call to the heavenly portion—the "High Calling." Thus, my dear readers, we see that our trials and difficulties, rightly appreciated and accepted, are blessings for us, because they thus work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory—than the world will receive. The highest rewards for the world will be restitutionary, earthly—to attain perfect manhood. Thus we see God's provision in Christ to be eternal human life for mankind in general, and eternal life on the spirit plane for the elect Church, and eternal death for those who, after experiencing to the full Divine mercy and opportunity, shall sin wilfully.
Like others, this king, no doubt, made many mistakes, [R4730 : page 396] blunders, but his most important mistake was in affiliating with Ahab, king of Israel. There is a lesson here for all of God's people. "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers"—neither by marriage ties nor by business partnerships and close friendships. "What communion hath light with darkness?"—2 Cor. 6:14-18.
Ahab made war and invited Jehoshaphat to go with him. It was expected to be an easy conquest, but the Lord's blessing was not with it, as Jehoshaphat later learned, escaping barely with his life. But his still earlier mistake was in arranging a marriage between his son and the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. No doubt he considered this a wise method of ultimately re-uniting the two kingdoms—but it was worldly wisdom—foolishness—contrary to the wisdom from above. The Lord's disapproval of Jehoshaphat's fellowship with Ahab was indicated. The Prophet was sent to him, saying, "Shouldst thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore wrath is upon thee from before the Lord."—II Chron. 19:2.
Our Golden Text refers to the Kingdom to which spiritual Israelites are now invited. To seek it means to seek a place with the Redeemer in the glory and power of his coming Kingdom. Those who seek it may apparently lose in temporal advantages, but by faith they recognize that all things, even trials, difficulties and privations, are working together for good to their spiritual advantage, preparing them for the Kingdom.