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2 Chronicles ch. 20; Daniel ch. 2

It is a scriptural axiom and saying that one star differeth from another star in glory. The apostle Paul, you will remember, says that "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon", (quite a different glory) "and another glory of the stars." The apostle Paul was not speaking to an elite association of astronomers, he was talking to an assembly of men and women far more important, and about something far more to the point. He was talking about our relationship to the God of the universe and our prospects in regard to the Kingdom of God which is about to be established on the earth.

Now in our three readings for the day they are right on the mark when we come to look at three men in relation to their prospects in the Kingdom of God. We refer of course to Jehoshaphat, to Daniel and to our Lord Jesus Christ. Jehoshaphat, according to our reading, was a good king. He did that which was right and departed not therefrom, and followed, it says, "the first ways of his father David." It is an amazing thing that having said that € and the Scripture is true, it cannot be broken € this same Scripture goes on to tell us of some of the remarkable inconsistencies of human nature and what it is capable of in moments of weakness. Of course, we are all of the same poor, human, mortal material and the trouble is that we cannot see ourselves; but looking at some of these examples in the Scripture we may be able to discern our own weaknesses and failings, and with the help of God rectify them. That is what probation is for. It is to enable us to discover our own moral weaknesses and deformities and to rectify them while the Master remains away, otherwise, if we do not, there can be no prospects for us in the Kingdom of God.   ..

"Know", saith the Scripture, "that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself." It is something we have to work at every day of our lives. We keep on failing, that is the trouble. We can keep on telling others what to do and how to do it, but "how to perform that which is good I find not" said one writer in the Scripture. So it was with this good king Jehoshaphat. I want you to have a look at our first reading with me in Chronicles. Perhaps if we go back just a day or so in our readings to where Jehoshaphat started to reign, chapter 17.1: "And Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his stead, and strengthened himself. ..". Verse 3: "And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; but sought to the Lord God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. Therefore the Lord stablished the kingdom in his hand; and all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat presents; and he had riches and honour in abundance. And his heart was lifted up (that is, if you look in the margin, "was encouraged") in the ways of the Lord: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah."
So far so good, but in the next chapter and verse 1 we read: "Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab." What a remarkable thing for this man of God to do, to join affinity with Ahab! It is easy to talk. There are a lot in the Truth in this our day and generation who cannot see straight, who cannot see the eternal issues between life and death, the favour of God and the favour of men. There were some like that, you remember, in the days of Jesus, our dear Lord. It is written: "Among the chief rulers also many believed on him, but for fear of the Jews they did not confess him openly lest they should be put out of the synagogue." The spineless, gutless, jelly-back specimens! So they feared not God but men. Israel "could not look to the end of that which was to be abolished," and neither could these, the rulers of the Jews, who sat in Moses' seat and told the people God's Law, how to observe it, how it should be done and what should not be done. They could not see straight, and neither can we, until we come to look at the examples of others in the Scripture and begin, by the grace of God, to discern our own weakness and our own deformity.
Now look at this man Jehoshaphat. Fancy a good man, a straight man, an upright man, one who feared God, who abolished idolatry and walked in the first ways of his father David, joining affinity with Ahab! You know what affinity is € it is sympathy, the same ideals, the same ideas, the same objectives. It seems incomprehensible. If you remember, he went to Ahab, it was not Ahab who came to him. He went to Ahab and "Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance" and made quite a fuss of him. Of course, once you partake of someone's hospitality you are automatically under something of an obligation to them. You should not put both feet wrong. Having accepted of Ahab's hospitality, Ahab had only got to turn round and say, 'What about coming with me to Ramoth-gilead? It belongs to us, you know. Why don't we go and take it?' And have you noticed the remarkable statement made by Jehoshaphat: "I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses." By what stretch of imagination can we understand a statement like that? I am going to put it the other way round. Supposing a wicked man like Ahab joined a righteous organisation and set-up. You cannot imagine it, can you! Something has got to give somewhere. If a wicked man joins a righteous set-up and organisation he has got to abandon his position and 'toe the line' with the others. Consequently € you cannot get away from it € if a righteous man joins an ungodly setup something has got to give, something has got to go to the wall somewhere, somehow, and here it is. Something did give.

Jehoshaphat was going wrong, and fast. He put both feet wrong, and God told him in no uncertain terms: "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?" Now I do not suppose for a minute that Jehoshaphat had thought about it like this. You know, in our reasonings and exhortations the one to the other we tend to tell one another, and quite scripturally: "Do good unto all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith." When Ahab said, "Wilt thou go up with me to Ramoth-gilead?" I do not suppose Jehoshaphat thought a word about it. 'O yes, I'll go with you.' Once you have opened your mouth you cannot go back. He had already gone there. There was no need for him to go at all. You cannot draw back afterwards without loss of face, without loss of position. He nearly lost a lot more beside 'face.' They went up to this battle € but before they got that far, Jehoshaphat suddenly thought of something.

"Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord today." He had not forgotten everything. So they enquired. The four hundred prophets said: "Go up; for God will deliver it into the king's hand." Jehoshaphat said: "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides?" "There is yet one man" said Ahab, "but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil." "Let not the king say so," said Jehoshaphat. So Micaiah came and you know what he said: "I saw all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd... Let them return therefore every man to his house." "Did I not tell thee?" said Ahab.

You know what happened. Ahab said: "Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction until I return in peace"; and there was this righteous man, Jehoshaphat, who never said a word! He allowed this prophet to be put in prison and fed with bread of affliction and water of affliction and never opened his mouth in defence of a prophet of the Lord who had spoken to them in the name of the Lord to save him getting himself thrust through and killed. You know what happened. Ahab was crafty, "I will disguise myself, and will go to the battle but put thou on thy robes." It did not matter who got killed as long as it was not Ahab. When the captains of the opposition saw Jehoshaphat they said 'That's the one, it's the king of Israel.' But Jehoshaphat cried out. God is merciful. It was a good thing for Jehoshaphat that God is merciful. He turned them away, and the one who had been clever and disguised himself was killed. He finished up in a pool of blood; they brought him back; one washed out the chariot and you know what happened.

One would think that Jehoshaphat would have learned the lesson. Human nature is very peculiar. You can allow for a man making a mistake. We all make them. It is a saying that a man who never makes a mistake never makes anything. When Jehoshaphat helped Ahab, possibly he thought, 'Well, I'll just help him this once. It won't matter just once. But God does not reason like that. We must examine our motives, and there is a reason why we must examine our motives. We must think carefully what God is going to think about us, the righteous have known all along where the wicked are going to finish up, or shall I say, down, under six feet of earth. We are always telling the world and one another that "the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked and the sinner." "When he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him." Although we know the Scripture very well which says that "the world passeth away, and the lust thereof," why is it, in the name of sense and reason, that every now and again we want to do just a little like the world does?

Now Jehoshaphat seems to have reformed and retraced his steps. In 2 Chron. 19.2 it says: "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?" Verse 3: ".. . there are good things found in thee." Verse 4: "Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem." We will stop for a moment to wonder what that means. Perhaps we ought to know what it means. Does it mean that he stopped going to Samaria? That is the first thing which struck me. Had he learned his lesson? Had he finished with Ahab? Did he stay with the influence of the Deity and His prophets, and the temple worship? Had he learnt anything?

Well, it seems so. In chapter 20 we have his prayer to God against the Ammonites. In verse 12 he asked God to judge them. In verse 20 he asked the people to believe God and His prophets, and he appointed singers to praise the beauty of holiness. Now we know what holiness is: it is separateness, sanctification, absolute purity, unsoiled righteousness. So God delivered them. But after saying in verse 32 that Jehoshaphat walked in the way of Asa, departing not but doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord, the 35th verse tells us that "after this," after all that, he joined Ahaziah "who did very wickedly." As I said, you can allow for a man making a mistake, even a public one. He made a public mistake twice in the same thing, and you know what God did. It tells us in the same chapter. God broke his works. His ships were broken.

Now if God breaks a man's works early on there is some hope that he may learn the lesson and renew himself and his position in the sight of God, but if God breaks a man's works at the end his prospects are going to look grim. Perhaps we may learn something there. We have been called out of this world for the next world, the world to come, and in that world there is going to be glory for some. The glory is going to differ between sun, moon and stars, as we said at the beginning.

Now we want to look very briefly at another example, Daniel. Daniel was a man who sought God consistently, persistently all through his life. Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah were all young when they came to Babylon. Between the 2nd chapter of Daniel and the 9th chapter there are no less than sixty-six years of time. So Daniel was a very young man when he first stood before Nebuchadnezzar. He was consistent all through. Now I cannot help saying again: "Know ye that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself." "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in due season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Now, that is glorious. It is the God of heaven who has caused that to be written. Daniel is going to shine as the stars of the firmament for ever and ever, and all those of like calibre, of like grace, of like humility and disposition towards God.

Well, what did Daniel do? These Scriptures highlight the vast differ-ence between men in the sight of God. Bro. Roberts once observed that a prayerless man is a godless man. Some men pray not at all. Some men pray a little but nowhere near enough. The Scripture says that God heareth not sinners. When they call, even in trouble, there is no response. Proverbs 1 reminds us of this; we have not time to go to the verses this morning. Jesus prayed ever such a lot, in fact he spake a parable "to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."

The disciples said on one occasion: "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." That made me stop and think just for a moment. Where does it tell us that John taught his disciples to pray? It does not. Jesus said of John € remember, these are the words of Emmanuel about a mortal man € "He was a burning and a shining light." How would you like that to be said about you? Daniel was a man like that. He was a man who was much in prayer. Do you remember a man coming to Jesus once who told the Master that "to love the Lord thy God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices," and the reply of the Master was that he was not far from the Kingdom of God? Now what has love got to do with prayer? It has everything in the world to do with it. When you love you tell. You communicate. You tell one another your inmost thoughts, you lay bare your heart, all your desires, all that you need, all that you want. And it is reciprocal. It is never one-sided. This is how it was between Daniel, this lovely young man, and his Maker. When they were in trouble it says that they "desired mercies of the God of heaven," and they did not desire this merely and only when they were in trouble. They desired them from the beginning. Daniel desired those mercies of the God of heaven for the whole of those sixty-six years that we have on record in the book of Daniel.

There is such a thing as a personal relationship with God. There is a response. What is the measure of the response between God and Daniel? It is amazing. There is something at the root of it, of course. Do you remember that edict, or decree, or interdict which was made in the days of Darius? It was founded upon a lie. These men came before king Darius and said: "All the presidents ... and the princes ... have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree," that no man should make a petition to any for thirty days, save to the king. Well, all the presidents had not agreed to it. Daniel was the chief of them and he had not been consulted. The king was completely taken in. The thing went through.

Daniel knew what the consequences would be of praying to God, but he made his requests known to God in the same way and at the same time and in the same place as he did aforetime. His windows being opened towards Jerusalem, he prayed to God three times a day. He knew what was in store. His life was at stake and he knew it. Come away from Daniel just for a moment. Our lives are at stake. They are. Everyone of our lives is at stake. Unless we communicate with God daily, yea hourly if need be, to deliver us from the carnal mind, the lust of the flesh, the influence of this world, the deceitfulness of sin, and above all, the deceitfulness of our hearts, we are destined to perish. "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."
Daniel kept on praying and you know what happened. He was deliv-ered. An angel was sent to Daniel after his delivery from the lions. He was told by this angel from the Deity Himself why he was delivered and why he was given all these visions and all this understanding. The angel said, very simply, "Thou art greatly beloved." Fancy a mortal man being told that by the Deity. If you look in the margin it says "a man of desires." God knows more about desire than we shall ever do. This is why He hath set apart him that is godly for Himself. He wanted Daniel. He wants you, He wants me. He wanted all that have ever been godly. This is why He sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. This is why every prophet, every man of God that has ever come into the world from the beginning of time has said: "Turn you." "Repent." "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
It is a question of identification. If we are going to identify ourselves with our God let us do it, but if with the world then let us make a job of it, and done with it, one way or the other. There is nothing in between. There were five wise virgins and five foolish virgins. You have the godly and the ungodly and in the final issue of things there is nothing in between. God calls upon men and women everywhere, in every age, to declare themselves on one side or the other, and this is what we are doing during the days of our probation.

When the call comes to appear before the Master we shall have done it one way or the other, absolutely, irrevocably. The ditherers and hangers-back will be kept dithering and hanging back. "Whosoever", said the Master, "shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man also be ashamed, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Jesus, our beloved Master, whom we remember now, identified himself both with God and with the godly, and throughout those chapters which we have been reading lately in John's gospel record he manifests God to his disciples, he communicates with them.

Look what he told them. "Now," he said, "ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." How would you feel if the Son of God's love told you that you were clean? "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." This is David telling God what he thought of His words. Have you ever received a letter from someone telling you how they loved you? You write back and tell them that it is the joy and rejoicing of your heart. It has added a new dimension to your life. Consider Jesus. He added a new dimension to the life of the disciples. He washed their feet. He comforted them, and, says John much later, "we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." He was a man of desires. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Ere long the Son of God's love is to put in his appearance and make up God's jewels. "They that be wise," those who have joined themselves to the Lord, will be glorified. They will be on his side. There will be one glory of the Sun and all others will fall joyfully, gratefully into their place: € D. Hingley