His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. 2 Chron. 17:6a
I'm not a theologian, but I love God's Word and read it every day. One of my favorite ways to read through the Bible is chronologically. In case you didn't know, the content of the Bible is not laid out in the order that it occurred in history. This year I'm once again reading the Bible chronologically.
Sometime in early June I found myself reading in the book of 2 Chronicles. This is a book that highlights much of the nation of Israel's early history as they struggled to establish a unified kingdom (very unsuccessfully, I might add). There were many kings who came and went, most of whom were not good kings, regularly summarized by these words, "And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord." But a few kings would have positive things said about them, that they obeyed the Lord and walked in his commandments. One such king was a man named Jehoshaphat.
While Jehoshaphat was certainly not perfect (no king is other than Jesus), he had this said of him: His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. (2 Chron. 17:6a) Wow! What a wonderful badge to be pinned on the chest of any human being. These words leapt off the pages of Scripture and sunk deep into my soul. Oh, Lord, how I long to be labeled with such words of commendation.
What does it mean to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord?"
Courage is defined as "the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery." I think everyone (especially men) would like to be described as courageous. We want that noble quality that emboldens us to face difficulties with bravery, even heroism. But anyone can exhibit the actions of courage, even those of poor character. What separates the merely courageous from those who are courageous "in the ways of the Lord?"
To boil down "the ways of Lord" you could simply go to Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which says, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." And in another place in the law (Lev. 19:18) it says, "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord."
These are the two passages that Jesus drew from when millennia later he would be asked by a religious leader what the greatest commandment was. Jesus responded, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) This is the way of the Lord: to love God and love others in obedience to God's law.
But the Scriptures did not say that Jehoshaphat simply acted courageously in the ways of the Lord. It says his heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. Why is this significant? Because it is from the heart that we live. What is in the heart is what makes a person righteous or unrighteous before God (Mark 7:14-23). It was Jehoshaphat's heart that was being commended by God, not merely his actions.
How can you and I have this same commendation pinned on our lives? In exactly the same way it was for Jehoshaphat: to obey God from a pure heart. Are there areas in your life in which you are not obeying the Word of God? Or are you obeying the "letter" of God's law but with impure motives, maybe trying to impress people instead of truly serving God for His own sake? Check your heart and ask God for boldness of character in the face of temptation and opposition.
The world we live in today is begging for us to blend in and abandon our Christian beliefs. You and I have a choice: to be "courageous in the ways of the Lord" or to "do what is evil in the sight of the Lord." What is in your heart to do today? May you grow in courageous love day by day...
by Dan Allender
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