“These things . . . were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come.”—1 COR. 10:11.
1, 2. Why will we consider the examples of four kings of Judah?
IF YOU saw someone slip and fall on a path, would you not be careful when walking on that same pathway? By considering the mistakes of others, we may be helped to avoid making the same errors. This is also true of our spiritual course. We can learn valuable lessons from the mistakes of others, including those recorded in the Bible.
2 The four Judean kings who were considered in the preceding article served Jehovah with a complete heart. Still, they made some serious mistakes. What can we learn from their experiences, and how can we avoid a similar course? Meditating on these examples can help us to benefit from the things that were written beforehand for our instruction.—Read Romans 15:4.
RELYING ON HUMAN WISDOM LEADS TO DISASTER
3-5. (a) Though Asa’s heart was complete toward Jehovah, what problem did he face? (b) Why might Asa have relied on humans when Baasha came up against Judah?
3 Let us first consider Asa and see how God’s Word can influence our life. Asa relied on Jehovah when a million Ethiopians came against Judah; yet, he failed to do so when Baasha the king of Israel began to fortify Ramah, a city bordering Asa’s domain. (2 Chron. 16:1-3) In the latter case, Asa relied on his own wisdom and bribed King Ben-hadad of Syria to attack Baasha. Did Asa’s tactic succeed? “When Baasha heard of it,” the Bible reports, “he immediately quit building Ramah and abandoned his work on it.” (2 Chron. 16:5) So Asa’s strategy worked—at first glance!
4 How, though, did Jehovah view Asa’s course? God sent his spokesman Hanani to reprimand Asa for not relying on Jehovah. (Read 2 Chronicles 16:7-9.) “From now on,” Hanani said, “there will be wars against you.” Baasha was turned away; however, Asa and his people experienced wars for the rest of his reign.
5 As we noted in the preceding article, God examined Asa’s heart and judged it to be complete with Him. (1 Ki. 15:14) In God’s eyes, Asa’s devotion was basically sound, satisfying divine requirements. Still, he had to reap the consequences of his unwise course. In dealing with Baasha, what led Asa to rely on humans—Ben-hadad and himself—instead of Jehovah? Could he have thought that diplomacy or militaristic maneuvering would deliver a more favorable outcome than would turning to God for help? Could he have given in to such reasoning as a result of receiving bad counsel?
6. What can we learn from Asa’s mistake? Illustrate.
6 Will the account about Asa move us to examine our own course of action? When we face problems that seem too much for us to deal with, it may be easy to see the need to rely on Jehovah. But what do we do when we have to cope with smaller issues of daily life? Do we resort to human thinking by trying to solve them in our own way? Or do we look for Bible principles and try to apply them, thus showing that we rely on Jehovah’s way to solve problems? For example, on occasion you may face some opposition from your family regarding attending meetings or an assembly. You ask Jehovah to direct you and help you discern the best way to handle the situation. Or what if you lose your job, and you are having difficulty finding another? When speaking with a prospective employer, would you still inform him that you will be attending weekday meetings regularly? Whatever the problem may be, we do well to heed the words of the psalmist who said: “Commit your way to Jehovah; rely on him, and he will act in your behalf.”—Ps. 37:5.
WHAT CAN BAD ASSOCIATIONS DO TO YOU?
7, 8. Jehoshaphat made what mistakes, and with what results? (See opening picture.)
7 What about Asa’s son Jehoshaphat? He had many desirable qualities. By relying on God, Jehoshaphat did much good. Yet, he also made unwise decisions. For example, he formed a marriage alliance with wicked King Ahab of the northern kingdom. And despite a warning from the prophet Micaiah, Jehoshaphat joined Ahab in fighting against the Syrians. In the battle, Jehoshaphat narrowly avoided being killed. Then he returned to Jerusalem. (2 Chron. 18:1-32) At that, the prophet Jehu asked him: “Is it the wicked you should be helping, and is it those who hate Jehovah you should love?”—Read 2 Chronicles 19:1-3.
8 Did Jehoshaphat learn from that experience? While he did continue to show zeal in wanting to please God, it seems that he did not learn from the experience with Ahab and from Jehu’s warning words. Jehoshaphat forged another unwise alliance. It was with an enemy of God, this time with the son of Ahab, wicked King Ahaziah. Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah built ships together, which ended up being wrecked, not accomplishing the purpose for which they were built.—2 Chron. 20:35-37.
9. How can bad association affect our whole life?
9 Reading the accounts of Jehoshaphat ought to move us to examine our own life. How so? Well, overall Jehoshaphat was a good king. He did what was right and “searched for Jehovah with all his heart.” (2 Chron. 22:9) Still, he was not immune to the effect of bad associations. Recall this inspired proverb: “The one walking with the wise will become wise, but the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) On the one hand, we may be trying to help interested ones into the truth. Yet, Jehoshaphat’s unnecessary dealings with Ahab almost cost him his life. Similarly, our having unnecessary association with those who do not serve Jehovah involves risks.
10. (a) What lesson about getting married can we learn from Jehoshaphat? (b) What should we bear in mind when faced with the problem of bad associations?
10 What practical lesson can we draw from the experience of Jehoshaphat? A Christian may begin to have romantic feelings for someone who does not love Jehovah, thinking that a suitable mate cannot be found among true Christians. Or a Christian may feel pressure from unbelieving relatives to get married ‘before it is too late.’ Furthermore, some may feel like one sister, who said: “We are hardwired to want love and companionship.” What is a Christian to do? Meditating on what happened to Jehoshaphat can help. He usually looked to God for direction. (2 Chron. 18:4-6) But what happened when Jehoshaphat associated with Ahab, who had no love for Jehovah? Jehoshaphat should have borne in mind that Jehovah’s eyes look for those whose heart is complete toward him. In our time too, God’s eyes are “roving about through all the earth,” and he is ready “to show his strength” in our behalf. (2 Chron. 16:9) He understands our situation and loves us. Do you have faith that God will fill your needs for love and companionship in a satisfying way? Be sure that at some point, he will do so!
DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BECOME HAUGHTY
11, 12. (a) How did Hezekiah reveal what was in his heart? (b) Why was Hezekiah spared from God’s indignation?
11 The lesson we can learn from Hezekiah involves the heart. On one occasion, the Examiner of hearts exposed what was in Hezekiah’s heart. (Read 2 Chronicles 32:31.) When Hezekiah became very sick, God gave him a sign indicating that he would recover—a shadow moving backward. Apparently, the princes of Babylon sent emissaries to inquire about that sign. (2 Ki. 20:8-13; 2 Chron. 32:24) Revealing what was in his heart when “left . . . alone,” Hezekiah showed those Babylonians “his entire treasure-house.” This foolish act exposed “all that was in [Hezekiah’s] heart.”
12 The Bible does not tell us just what caused Hezekiah’s heart to become haughty. Might it have been his victory against the Assyrians or his being cured by God miraculously? Could it have been because of his “vast riches and glory”? In any case, because Hezekiah was haughty, he “did not respond appreciatively to the good done to him.” How sad! Though he could plead with God that he had served Him with a complete heart, Hezekiah did for a time displease Jehovah. Later, though, “Hezekiah humbled himself,” so he and his people were spared God’s indignation.—2 Chron. 32:25-27; Ps. 138:6.
13, 14. (a) When might Jehovah ‘leave us alone to put us to the test’? (b) How can we deal with praise we receive for what we have accomplished?
13 How can we benefit from reading the account of Hezekiah and meditating on it? Remember that Hezekiah’s haughtiness became obvious soon after Jehovah defeated Sennacherib and cured Hezekiah’s deadly sickness. In our case, if we have accomplished something worthwhile, could it be that Jehovah is ‘leaving us alone to put us to the test,’ allowing what is in our heart to surface? For example, a brother may have worked hard to prepare a talk and give it before a large audience. Many praise him for what he has done. How will he react to the praise?
14 When praised, we do well to apply Jesus’ words: “When you have done all the things assigned to you, say: ‘We are good-for-nothing slaves. What we have done is what we ought to have done.’” (Luke 17:10) Here again, we can learn from Hezekiah’s experience. A haughty attitude surfaced in that he “did not respond appreciatively to the good done to him.” Our meditating on how much God has done for us will help us to avoid an attitude that Jehovah hates. We can speak appreciatively of Jehovah. He has provided both the Holy Scriptures and the holy spirit that supports his people.
TAKE CARE WHEN MAKING DECISIONS
15, 16. Why did Josiah lose God’s protection and his life?
15 Finally, what warning can we find in what happened to good King Josiah? Consider what led to his defeat and death. (Read 2 Chronicles 35:20-22.) Josiah “went out against” King Necho of Egypt, although that king told Josiah that he had no dispute with him. The Bible says that Necho’s words were “from the mouth of God.” Why, then, did Josiah go out to fight? The Bible does not say.
16 How, though, would Josiah know that Necho’s words were from Jehovah? Well, he could have asked Jeremiah, one of the faithful prophets. (2 Chron. 35:23, 25) But there is no record of his doing so. Also, Necho was heading to Carchemish to war “against another house,” not to war against Jerusalem. Moreover, God’s name was not involved, for Necho was taunting neither Jehovah nor his people. So it was bad judgment on Josiah’s part to battle against Necho. Can we see in this a lesson that we can apply? When faced with a problem, we do well to consider what Jehovah’s will may be in the matter.
17. When we encounter a problem, how can we avoid making a mistake like the one Josiah made?
17 If a problem arises, we ought to consider what Bible principles are involved and apply them in a balanced way. In some cases, we may want to consult with the elders. We may have given thought to what we already know about the subject, and we may even have done research in our publications. Yet, there may be other Bible principles to take into consideration, which an elder might help us to analyze. For example, a sister knows that she has the responsibility to preach the good news. (Acts 4:20) However, suppose she plans to go out in the field service on a certain day, but her unbelieving husband wants her to stay home. He says that they have not had much time together lately, and he would like them to do something as a couple. She might consider relevant Bible texts, such as obeying God and the command to make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20; Acts 5:29) But she also needs to think about wifely subjection and being reasonable. (Eph. 5:22-24; Phil. 4:5) Is her husband completely opposed to her going out in service, or is he asking her to do something else just that one day? We need balance as we seek to do God’s will and strive to have a good conscience.
MAINTAIN A COMPLETE HEART AND REJOICE
18. How can you benefit from considering the accounts of the four kings as set out in this article?
18 Being imperfect, we too may at times be inclined to make any one of the mistakes committed by the four kings discussed above. We might (1) unwittingly rely on human wisdom, (2) turn to bad associations, (3) become haughty, or (4) make decisions without first considering what God’s will is. How kind of Jehovah to see good in us, as he saw good in those four kings! Jehovah also sees how much we love him and how much we long to serve him fully. So he has provided us with warning examples to help us avoid making serious mistakes. Let us meditate on these Bible accounts and be thankful that Jehovah has provided them for us!