From a sermon series on 1 Kings by See Huang Lim, a missionary at IBF.
Today’s message is my last one on the book of 1 Kings. Last month, we read about the death of King Ahab, one of Israel’s most stubborn and unrepentant kings.
Today’s passage is about King Jehoshaphat. While Ahab reigned in the northern kingdom of Israel, his ally Jehoshaphat reigned in the southern kingdom of Judah. I’ll give historical background on the passage, but mainly I would like to talk about the theme of compromise. Let’s pray.
[Read 1 Kings 22:41-50]
Verse 43 is somewhat refreshing after all we have read about evil kings in this book. Unlike previous kings, it says Jehoshaphat: “…he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…” But unfortunately, Jehoshaphat still compromised on a few matters.
Verse 43 continues: “The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” High places were sites of worship—in this context, dedicated to idol worship.
Next, verse 44 says, “Jehoshaphat was also at peace with the king of Israel.” Why is that alliance a problem? 1 Kings doesn’t explain why, but the book of 2 Chronicles does. 2 Chronicles 19:2-3 says, “Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet [Jehoshaphat] and said to the king, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is on you. There is, however, some good in you, for you have rid the land of the Asherah poles and have set your heart on seeking God.’”
2 Chronicles also gives us more information about Jehoshaphat’s trading ships. 2 Chronicles 20:35-37 says, “Later, Jehoshaphat king of Judah made an alliance with Ahaziah king of Israel, whose ways were wicked. He agreed with him to construct a fleet of trading ships. After these were built at Ezion Geber, Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because you have made an alliance with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.’ The ships were wrecked and were not able to set sail to trade.”
When we look at later history, we see that Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab and Ahaliah brought bad consequences to his descendants:
The book of 2 Kings records that Jehoshaphat’s son married Ahab’s daughter. They produced descendants who imitated Ahab’s ungodly behavior. In addition, Ahab’s daughter and daughter-in-law tried to wipe out the line of King David. In other words, God’s plan to bring the Messiah through David’s line was almost destroyed.
Jehoshaphat was said to be a good king generally. But his compromises had an effect on the nation and, more than that, his actions mattered to God.
From this passage, I would like to reflect on the theme of compromise.
Actually, compromise isn’t always a bad thing. In a marriage, for example, sometimes spouses have to compromise when they disagree. One spouse wants to go for a holiday; the other spouse hates spending money. So they agree to have a cheap vacation—that’s a good kind of compromise, right?
So what kind of compromise would be bad for our journey with God? I can think of 3 examples: a compromise of biblical values, compromise of relationships, and compromise of doctrine.
Compromise of Biblical Values
First, what is a compromise of biblical values? That happens when we imitate values in society which oppose values that God wants us to have, as revealed in the Bible.
For example, the book of James tells us that godly values include humility, patience, self-control (especially controlling our tongue), being peacemakers, and caring for the needy. In contrast, examples of worldly values include selfish ambition, envy, and respecting the rich while looking down on the poor.
In 4:4, James describes a strong contrast between the values of God and the values of the world. He says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
Now, the Bible is not saying, “Don’t be friends with non-Christians.” Obviously that was not how Jesus behaved. In fact, our Lord Jesus was notorious for spending time with people that society considered irreligious, “sinners” or outcasts at that time. He loved them. But befriending them doesn’t mean he also approved of their sins. In fact, one of his teachings was calling people to repent from their sins and live in God’s way.
I think what James says is that, we must not compromise with anything that could distract us or turn us away from God’s values.
As we try to reach out to others with God’s love, we also need God’s wisdom. Our brother F. shared with me the story of a man who was doing ministry among prostitutes. He started with good intentions but ended up making wrong choices and entered into inappropriate relationships with some of the women.
And so, in wisdom, churches and ministries often set a policy that men should try work with men, and women with women. That’s why when I have a private English lesson with a young woman, I conduct the lesson where my wife is around and where she can hear our conversation.
I believe that personal friendship is an important ingredient in sharing the good news of Jesus with others. So I spend time with people through food, sports, events, and other ways. But I have to be careful about how I do it.
To conclude this point, I hope you don’t think I’m saying that Christians are good, moral people while non-Christians are bad people who are ignorant of God’s ways. That is nonsense. We can learn many good things from our non-Christian friends, family, and colleagues. God sometimes teaches us lessons through them. So, we should be humble to learn from others, but at the same time, let’s be discerning about how that interaction is influencing our values.
Compromise of Relationships
My second example of compromise is about relationships. I hear that it’s especially difficult in Japan to find time for family and for God because of the work culture.
But I feel hopeful for Japan because of a non-Christian student I have. He’s what people here call an “ikumen”, the kind of husband who is involved in childcare and housework. I find him inspiring because he was able to withstand pressure from his colleagues. In the past, when he wanted to go home on time, his colleagues questioned him. When he said he wanted to help with housework and take care of his daughter, his colleagues said, “Isn’t that what a wife is for?”
Last year, he quit his job and found a new one that allows him to leave at 6pm and pick his daughter up from nursery. She comes to English class with him sometimes, and I can see how attached she is to him. So I believe his commitment to family is having a positive impact on his daughter.
Sometimes you hear about Christians who are so busy serving God that they neglect their marriages or their children. Although the ministry is successful, the family life suffers. Or perhaps they are too busy with ministry to listen to God and be refreshed by God.
What is the purpose of life? It’s quite interesting how the Westminster Catechism states this: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” We are called to enjoy a relationship with God. Are we experiencing that? Or is our relationship with God purely like a boss and an employee?
We can enjoy God more by spending time with him, just like how we spend time with any loved one. Reflecting on the Bible and praying are simple ways we can focus our attention on him during that time. However, if we don’t spend time with God, our desire for him will gradually decrease as we get distracted with other priorities.
Compromise of Doctrines
My last example of compromise is a compromise of doctrine. Doctrines are central beliefs of the Christian faith.
Among some Christians, there is a saying, “Christ unites; doctrine divides.” Another similar phrase is: “All I need is Jesus.” Basically, these phrases express the following idea: If we care too much about doctrine, there will be a lot of unnecessary quarreling between believers.
There is truth behind these opinions. And yet, how can “Christ unite” if our view of him isn’t informed by doctrines in the first place?
Doctrine is necessary for the church. Paul in 1 Timothy 4:16 says, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Our salvation depends on what we believe in; and what we believe is shaped by the doctrine of who Christ is.
Where does doctrine come from? Doctrine is developed from Scripture. We read Scripture because we believe it is God’s main way to communicate truths about himself, about us, and his will for our lives.
The Apostle Paul says of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So what is an example of compromising on doctrine? One example is to say that not all Scripture is inspired by God. Or, to say that the Bible is unreliable. Many people within the Church actually believe this, saying that the Bible is helpful and inspirational but is not always true or relevant for the 21st century. In other words, for them, the final authority of truth isn’t the Bible but the individual person’s feelings and reasoning.
It’s not uncommon for self-professed Christians, even pastors, to fashion their own beliefs while taking inspiration from the Bible. I recently read about a Lutheran minister and bestselling author in the U.S. named Nadia Bolz-Weber. In her book Shameless, after defining “holiness”, she provides as an example the sexual union between two loving individuals. For her, premarital sex isn’t necessarily a sin; it can be holy. It’s no surprise, then, that she rejects the authority of the Bible over various teachings on sexual morality.
Let me close by saying that I think it’s alright for us to disagree about some doctrines. We can disagree on minor ones, let’s not compromise on major doctrines that are essential to our view of God, Christ, Scripture, and salvation. If we compromise on those, we have no solid foundation to stand on as Christians.
To end today’s message, Jehoshaphat’s story reminds us that compromise, even in small doses, can lead into disastrous consequences. May God grant us the grace to not compromise on His values, relationships, and doctrines. Let us pray.