8 He (the Lord) has told you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (ESV)
Upon his return to Judah after a narrow escape from death resulting from his unwise alliance with King Ahab, Jehoshaphat had a personal awakening. As a boss of mine once warned me, “Don’t make the same mistake twice”, and Jehoshaphat certainly did not.
God had judged Ahab on the battlefield. A “random” arrow fired by an enemy soldier was divinely guided to land right between his protective armor plates, leading to his death. Ahab had set up King Jehoshaphat to be killed in his stead by having him be the one dressed in king’s robes for the enemy to target, but the Lord spared him.
After a stern warning from his own prophet, Jehoshaphat returned home to begin a new mission in life – strengthening and healing faithful Judah by pointing the people to God and focusing on establishing a holy justice for all.
4 Jehoshaphat lived at Jerusalem. And he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim, and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. 5 He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, 6 and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment. 7 Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” 2 Chronicles 19:4-7 (ESV)
Jehoshaphat wanted the people of Judah to focus on a few simple things that were pleasing to God. The first of these was to do justice to other people. He wanted it to begin in Judah’s court system, a system that apparently had been unfairly influenced by prejudice and financial corruption. This is the exactly the type of thing that the Lord was seeking from King Jehoshaphat, not aligning with evil King Ahab to fight in an unwise battle.
Following God’s will can be simple, but is rarely easy. For instance, people are often tempted to take more than their fair share of just about anything, like the judges taking bribes. At our heart’s core, we are not born with the nature of God, and are often focused on our own self-centered and fear-based interests, such as not having enough. We may act on this at the expense of others. But when we seek the Lord and invite Jesus Christ into our hearts, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our body, the temple of God, and begins a life-long reclamation project on our heart and soul. Concern for the welfare of others begins to take up more of our daily focus.
But we still do fail on a regular basis. For instance, it is quite easy for me to get angry when someone has shown me a lack of respect in some form or fashion. I immediately have the desire to retaliate for even the most minor of transgressions. This recently happened when someone blasted a loud car horn at me for my own minor infraction – I was at fault. But still, the anger stirred up inside me, and I forgot for a few minutes who I am in God and that I am supposed to have love and tolerance for my brother and sister.
Once I cooled down, I felt bad for my raw emotions and unchristian thinking. I forgot the simple things that God actually wants from me:
- Love Justice. I was completely at fault. I caused the problem.
- Love Kindness. When this type of thing happens, do my best to remove myself from the situation, and cool down. Become nice again, as quickly as possible. This may take a little time.
- Walk humbly with my God once again.
The “walk humbly” part did not really hit me until a couple of days later, while I was listening to a Christian radio program. The speaker reminded me of Jesus, as He suffered both before and during His crucifixion. Jesus did not seek revenge, even as people were whipping Him or pushing a painful crown of thorns into His head. He was totally innocent, yet suffered through it without revenge or evil thoughts. Nails were driven into His hands and feet, yet did not despise or curse His tormentors. Instead, He said, “Father, forgive them, they do know not what they are doing.”
It was the image of the crown of thorns that got my attention at that moment. They pushed the thorns into His head to the point of bleeding. Would this not be far more painful than the hurt pride of a blasting car horn? Indeed it would. Yet, Jesus did not retaliate. As His follower, could I not learn to withhold my own anger or scorn for far more trivial offenses?
I now try to remember those thorns the next time I am tempted to respond with anger. But I am a work in progress, so God, please help me to do so! Divine justice, grace, and mercy all go hand in hand.
Where do you struggle to have a heart like God?
When we fail, we confess our sins to God and, if possible, make amends to anyone we have hurt. We seek spiritual growth through Him – it is a journey of progress, not perfection. We have been given a blessed and a good life of joy and hope in Him as we undergo a continuous spiritual transformation and reconstruction, seeking to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, day by day.
Lord, thank you for giving us Your Holy Spirit in our hearts when we turn to Jesus. Change us from the inside so that, over time, we become more and more like You. Grant us grace and charity whenever we find ourselves in situations of stress, hurt pride, or any offense against us. Help us to love those who oppose us by the divine nature of Your Holy Spirit living within us. We ask this in Jesus name, Amen.