In chapter 26 last week, we saw the reign of King Uzziah. He had done well, doing right in the sight of the Lord. But when he became strong and famous, he fell into pride. He entered the temple and burned incense on the altar of incense. The priests rebuked him, but instead of repenting, he became enraged. Leprosy broke out on his forehead.
As a leper, he was excluded from fellowship in the house of God and secluded from everyone.
2Chr. 26:21 ...And Jotham his son was over the king's house judging the people of the land.
Jotham was acting king until the death of his father. And when Uzziah died, he was buried and his son Jotham officially became king.
It is interesting to read,
2Chr. 27:2 He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done; however he did not enter the temple of the LORD...
Bible commentators seem to be split as to the meaning of this phrase. Some think that it means because Jotham's dad was stricken in the temple, he wouldn't go to the temple any more. But this same phrase was used to describe his father's actions:
2Chr. 26:16 ...he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
And so I don't believe this is saying that he was afraid to go TO the temple, for in the very next verse, we will see that he built the upper gate of the temple (2Chron. 27:3).
No, I believe that the Chronicler is saying that "he did what dad did, but not the bad stuff." This is why more modern translations read,
2Chr. 27:2(NLT) He did what was pleasing in the LORD's sight, just as his father, Uzziah, had done. But unlike him, Jotham did not enter the Temple of the LORD...
This gets me thinking. Dad was a good example for the most part. But he also left a bad example.
Parents, we must strive to be a good example to our kids. I wonder how many dads are sending the message to their children today, "Do what I say, not what I do"? Moms telling their daughters not to smoke, when they themselves do so regularly. Dads telling their sons not to drink, in spite of the obvious hypocrisy. Parents telling their children to be wise with their money, when the kids see the glaring inconsistency.
We need to be examples for our children. After Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, He said,
John 13:15 "...I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you."
And we also need to be honest about our example. Admitting when we've messed up. Confessing when we've been a bad example. Repenting when we've been ungodly. Our kids need our honesty as much as they need our example. That way, they can look back and say, "Do what dad did... but not the bad stuff." Or, as the apostle Paul was able to tell the Corinthians,
1Cor. 11:1 "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."
Notice too that in spite of the fact that the king was doing right, the people were not. They were "acting corruptly." It is interesting to me that this is the same Hebrew word ("shaw-KHATH") used to describe King Uzziah when he entered the temple (2Chron. 26:16).
So, you could say that the new king was following the old king's good example, while the people were following the old king's bad example.
In the recent past, the Judean kings had built protection for various cities (2Chron. 14:6-7; 26:9-10; etc.), as Jotham is also doing.
But Jotham is also building the upper gate of the temple, as well as Ophel, which is a long, narrow ridge of hills on the southern slope of Temple Mount. He is building protection for the house of God. That is very interesting to me. You see, it seems that every time the enemy breaks into Jerusalem, they invade the temple and steal the valuable things which are sanctified for the Lord. This is the way our enemy still works. The enemy's primary goal is to invade the house of God and steal that which is sanctified for God: us. It is we...
1Cor. 1:2 ...who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling...
And Jesus called our enemy the devil,
John 10:10 "The thief (who) comes only to steal and kill and destroy...
And so we must build our structures of protection around the house of God. We must make this a safe place, where the enemy has no foothold or entrance. We do this very practically by following the guidelines set forth in the book of Ephesians, which shows us how to live in the house of God with the people of God, and keep the devil out:
Eph. 4:2-3 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eph. 4:25-27 ...laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.
If we do this, the devil gets no opportunity. And Paul continues, saying,
Eph. 4:28-5:4 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
I pray that this house of God continues to provide strong protection for the sanctified vessels who dwell within its walls.
The last we've heard from the Ammonites was when a huge army of Ammonites, Moabites, and Meunites came against Jehoshaphat in chapter 20. When the people of Judah focused on worship, the Lord turned the invaders against themselves.
Now, Jotham fights the Ammonites, and is victorious. They are forced to pay tribute to Judah for three years.
This is a great example of the difference between leadership that seeks the Lord and leadership that doesn't. God had promised in the Law, that if they...
Deut. 28:47-48 "...did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies..."
You can be subservient to your enemies, or your enemies can be subservient to you. It all depends on your relationship with God.
When Solomon wrote Psalm 72, he said of the king,
Psa. 72:9-14 Let the nomads of the desert bow before him, and his enemies lick the dust. Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts. And let all kings bow down before him, all nations serve him. For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help, the afflicted also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy, and the lives of the needy he will save. He will rescue their life from oppression and violence...
The enemies of the king would bow down when there was justice and righteousness in the kingdom.
So, these things are key: serve God joyfully, and you won't end up serving your enemies miserably.
These verses sound like many of the other conclusions of the reigns of the Judean kings. However, one thing really stands out to me:
2Chr. 27:6 So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God.
I think there is something here for us. Something deeply important to see and understand.
The Hebrew word for "ordered" is "koon." It means to be firm and established, prepared and determined. It is the result of planning and determination.
The word for "before" is "paw-NEEM," and it means "in the face of, in the presence of."
So what we see here is that Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways - his life, his choices and decisions - in front of God, knowing the Lord was right there, watching and present.
Careful planning in His continual presence. That will make us mighty.
What are we planning in His presence? The steps of our day, making choices in advance. Think about it: The successful worker always has a plan. It's a to-do list, or an assignment that he's been given. If an employee just wanders the halls or the job site all day, then they are a terrible worker, a failure at their job.
The Christian life is the same way. We've got to have a plan. Now, understand that I'm not talking about religious obligation. I'm talking about making decisions tonight about what we will do tomorrow.
You see, many Christians don't have a plan, they aren't ordering their ways. And so...
- They can go weeks without ever reading the Bible outside of church, because they didn't plan to read it.
- They can go long periods of time without praying because it wasn't on their to-do list.
The approach that many of us take is, "I know I should do it, and I'll get around to it." And that doesn't make for a successful Christian.
Tonight, make a commitment for tomorrow. It starts in the morning. Look at all the great people of God who "arose early in the morning": Abraham (Gen. 22:3), Jacob (Gen. 28:18), Moses (Exo. 24:4), Joshua (Jos. 3:1), Hannah (1Sam. 1:19), Samuel (1Sam. 15:12), and all the way through the Bible to Jesus (John 8:2).
Mark 1:35 In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
That doesn't happen by accident. It happens by commitment. When David wrote Psalm 5, he made a commitment to God:
Psa. 5:3 In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
Am I prescribing a religious program? A rule to follow? No. I am saying that if you want to become mighty, you will order your ways before the Lord. Have a plan for tomorrow. Know when you're going to make time for prayer. Know when you're going to be in the Word. Make a commitment, "Lord, in the morning, you will be hearing from me."