Purpose higher than ourselves
July 29 — 2 Chronicles 19:4-11; August 5 — Psalm 146:1-10By Regina Shands Stoltzfus
Second Chronicles is the account of the southern kingdom of Judah and the reigns of the monarchs there, including Asa, Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah. Scholars agree that this part of Israel’s history is written from a post-exile perspective and recognizes the ways in which Israel has not adhered to the covenant with God.
Post-exile reflections take heed of “where we went wrong.” To avert falling into such disaster again, the nation must seek purity in their religion and in their ethics. There is no separation between the two.
For Israel then, and for followers of God now, just and right behavior concerns one’s relationship with God and with the rest of creation. The behavior of leaders — kings, judges and priests — is vitally important.
Chapters 2-7 are concerned with the construction of the temple. The temple is the place set aside for sacrifice and prayer (6:1-7:22), the home of the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle, visible reminders of Yahweh’s presence.
In chapter 19, the prophet Jehu berates King Jehoshaphat for entering a coalition with the apostate King Ahab. Israel’s kings must not have divided loyalties, and Jehoshaphat cannot be loyal to Yahweh if he enters into a coalition with a king who does not recognize the Lord.
After the death of Ahab, Jehoshaphat returns to Judah. Even though he is chastised for his mistakes, there is acknowledgement of the good that is in him, because of his loyalty to God and God alone (19:3).
Jehoshaphat institutes judicial reforms by putting meat on the policies developed at the beginning of his reign when he sent priests throughout Judah and the surrounding area to teach the book of the law of the Lord (17:9).
As leader, Jehoshaphat takes care to include all people in the recovery-and-reform effort. Each city has a judge appointed to them. The judges are carefully instructed that their service to the people is on behalf of the One who has created them and who has formed the people for a purpose higher than themselves.
Just as kings answer to a higher calling, so too must the judges. The Lord is, in fact, a partner in their work of meting out justice. To consider only what humans, in their frailty, consider just is not enough. God’s justice — justice that cares for the poor, the weak and the marginalized — is the standard.
The judges are not placed in positions of leadership to get advantages for themselves or their friends. Therefore they are not to show partiality or take bribes (verse 7). Jerusalem, the religious headquarters, is also the judicial headquarters. Acting justly is central to right worship (9).
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