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The Dangers of Compromise

The Dangers of Compromise poster

Messaged preached on Sunday morning, July 17, 1949 by The Moody Church’s Associate Pastor, H.A Hermansen.

I want to consider with you an Old Testament story that comprises four chapters of the book of Second Chronicles; and for a  text I would like to read just the first eight verses of the nineteenth chapter.

And Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned to his house in peace to Jerusalem.

And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to the king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.

Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.

And Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem: and he went out again through the people from Beer-sheba to mount Ephraim, and brought them back unto the Lord God of their fathers.

And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city.

And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment.

Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.

Moreover in Jerusalem did Jehoshaphat set of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, for the judgment of the Lord, and for controversies, when they returned to Jerusalem.”

There are several things I would like to call to your attention that took place in the early part of Jehoshaphat’s reign. This king came to the place where he compromised before the Lord and suffered greatly, almost to the point of losing his life. The first thing we are told about this king when he came to rule over Judah is recorded in the seventeenth chapter. In the first verse we are told that he strengthened himself against Israel. Now that may not seem very signifant at first glance. Someone may say that is nothing unusual; it is nothing more than a sensible, good ruler would do—strengthening himself against a neighboring nation as a military precaution. But there is something more behind that move of Jehoshaphat than that. If you remember who it was that was the king over Israel at that time. Back in the first book of Kings (chapter 16) we read who the king was and something of the character and the nature of this man (vs. 29, 30).

And in the thirty and eight year of Asa, king of Judah, began Ahab, the son of Omri, to reign over Israel: and Ahab, the son of Omri, reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab, the son of Omri, did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him.”

That was the man who was ruling over Israel when Jehoshaphat came to reign over Judah. With the desire in his heart to please God, he recognized the necessity for strengthening himself against an ungodly, vicious ruler such as Ahab was, not only for his own sake but for the sake of the people. God was pleased to bless him for that, because, we go on to read in chapter 17,

…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 fathers and walked in His commandments.”

Then, the second thing we are told about Jehoshaphat is that because of the stand he took, God gave him a wonderful influence with his own people, and we read in verse 5, that

…the Lord established his kingdom and all Judah brought presents to Jehoshaphat and he had riches and honor in abundance; and his heart was lifted up in the Lord: moreover he took away the high places and the groves out of Judah.”

And then we notice that he went on and took the leaders of his people and sent them forth to educate and instruct them and, best of all, to give them the law, for we read in verse 9,

They taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.”

And I tell you, friends, there always comes the blessing of God when leaders and those who are put in places of authority and responsibility will recognize God and His Word which is the power for bringing blessing to the people of God. God blessed Jehoshaphat because he gave the word of God to the people. Oh, what a word for some of our national leaders today who insist on setting aside the Word and taking it out of our school systems and depriving our young people of getting the Word of God, whether in the church or in the schools or wherever it may be. It gave Jehoshaphat a wonderful influence with his people because of the stand he took.

Not only that, but that blessing and that influence extended far beyond this, for we go on reading in the chapter and we find that God gave him a tremendous influence among the people all around, for the fear of the Lord fell upon the kings of the lands round about, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat. Furthermore, God blessed them in their business relationships, and He blessed them in their commerce between one another in such a way that the military strength of Jehoshaphat was such that the people feared him and feared God and they did not dare attack him or do anything against him. And the fear of God went wherever Jehoshaphat went.

It is wonderful to live such a life and to have such influence for God that people and nations recognize that God is for us. I remember some years ago in a church I served there was a young man whom I knew, worked in a concern where some other members were owners and the leaders of that business concern. I said to that young man, “It must be wonderful to work in a place where the men or the heads of it are Christian men—it must be very interesting.” “Well, pastor,” he said, “that may be true. It is one thing to be a Christian in church and another thing to be one in business. I wish I were not working under Mr. So and So. If you knew him as we know him in the plant you would understand.” I was shocked to hear him say that. God forbid that anyone should be able to say that of us—that our lives do not measure up in business or in the home or the neighborhood to that which we profess before the Lord.

Well, God blessed Jehoshaphat and I think you have in these four things said about him an illustration of what a godly life should be.

But now we go on with the story and we notice something in chapter 18 that is quite a contrast to that which we have already read. Will you look at verse 1 of chapter 18:

Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.”

Do you notice anything there, friends? And here we read directly the opposite to what is said in chapter 17, verse 1:

He joined the affinity with Ahab.”

What was the cause? Had Ahab changed? Not at all, not for a moment. And what a sad record we get now. I wonder if the reason is not given in the first part of verse 1 of chapter 18, “Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance.” It is a good thing to have riches and honor, but not always a good thing to seek for, and, young people, may I admonish you: Do not try to seek riches and honor. I do not mean that God is against riches and honor, but it is not everyone to whom God trusts riches and honor because of the dangers, traps and pitfalls that are connected with those things. And here we read that Jehoshaphat joined affinity with Ahab. Now what was the danger there? I do not think it occurred right away; for we read in the next verse: “After certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria.”

Perhaps because of the honor and the glory that had come to Jehoshaphat he was now beginning to allow things in his life that he did not allow formerly. You see, he had become strong, he had become famous, and perhaps he felt he could let down a little bit and his conscience was a bit less sensitive. Ah, young people, recognize this—that the best blessing God has given us is a sensitive conscience—and here Jehoshaphat is less conscientious about things that he used to be very careful about in his early life. We read that he joined affinity with Ahab. How often we have seen that occur. Perhaps I am talking to someone who has done that very thing. There are men and women who have had a desire to be successful in business and perhaps to have a good standing in a social way; and perhaps young people who have had a desire to be successful in athletics or some other field, or it may be something more important, such as a relationship in a love affair, and they have let down their standards and joined affinity with the world for the sake of things that they have needed, and they compromised and have gone down to defeat.

We mentioned that a defeat like this does not happen all of a sudden. But “after certain years” he went down to Ahab in Samaria. Mel Trotter used to say that there is no such thing as a sudden fall; no man becomes a drunkard all of a sudden; no man becomes a libertine all of a sudden. It takes a while, and maybe you are letting down here a little and there a little and after a while there comes a fall, and we say so-and-so has suddenly fallen—on, no. It was after certain years that he went down, and that is the message we need to consider. “After certain years”—how many we have seen like that. We used to live in a community not too far from Chicago, with very wonderful suburban residences, and I can remember in my pastoral calls at certain times I would meet one or another person and find that such a one once lived here in Chicago, and in one or two instances they had had some relationship with The Moody Church. They had gone into business, become successful and moved away and bought a nice home, and became enamored with the beautiful surroundings there and society life. I found that those people at one time when they were in poorer circumstances were walking with the Lord, but now that riches and honor had come to them they were far from the Lord. Perhaps that is the reason why Jehoshaphat could not stand the power and the glory that came to him.

Now we notice that he went down to Ahab to Samaria and Ahab entertained him royally. In verse 2 we read what he did:

And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramoth-gilead.”

You can be sure that the wicked king Ahab had some motive in entertaining Jehoshaphat, whom he knew to be a man of God. Recognize this: that the world never gives something to a child of God without making large demands in return. I remember some years ago there was a very well-known evangelist in this country whose name, if I mentioned it, every one of you would recognize. He was a man whom a certain industry feared because of the power he had in influencing men and money away from it, an industry which has perhaps done more to harm the spiritual and moral life of this country than any other thing. Back there in those days he was in California holding meetings, and some of the outstanding men in that business invited him to their homes and entertained him lavishly and royally, and I do not know why he accepted it, but I know this: that ever after he had accepted the hospitality of these people that man’s mouth was shut as to what he used to hold against them.

Jehoshaphat accepted the hospitality of Ahab, and notice what followed. Now this was a very reasonable thing that was requested of him by Ahab. He persuaded him to go to Ramoth-gilead. What was Ramoth-gilead? That was one of the cities of refuge that had unfortunately been taken captive by the Syrian Army, and Jehoshaphat, perhaps innocently, went to restore that city. And Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “Wilt thou go with me to Ramoth-gilead? And he answered him, “I am as thou art and my people as thy people; we will be with thee in the war.” And so he accepted and consented to go with him. But now notice in verse 4, his conscience begins to trouble him and he says, “Inquire, I pray thee, at the hand of the Lord.” So the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men. Now of all the unseemly things ungodly men can do, to call upon God whether it was all right to go to Ramoth-gilead or not, I do not know of anything more unseemly than this. Here was this ungodly man Ahab with the prophets who were Baal worshippers seeking to know the will of God. Shall we go: and they said “Go up; God will deliver them into the king’s hand.”

If you want to do anything that you know to be wrong you can always get plenty of people to tell you it is the thing to do. That is exactly what happened here. This ungodly group of men did not know God. they did not even recognize God. They were Baal worshippers. They were getting their food and rations from this wicked King Ahab and his far worse wife, Jezebel. They had better please Ahab or their heads would have come off. And so they said: “Sure, go up and God will deliver it into the king’s hands.” But Jehoshaphat’s conscience was still troubling him and he was not satisfied with that. He said to Ahab, “Is not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might inquire of Him?” He knew that these men were not telling the truth. And the king said unto him that there was yet one prophet of whom they might inquire of the Lord, but, said the king, “I hate him, for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil. The same is Micaiah, the son of Imla.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” Then Ahab sent one of his messengers to Micaiah and when the messenger came to Micaiah he said to him, “The king wants to go to Ramoth-Gilead and all the prophets have prophesied ‘Go up to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.’” And the messenger said, “Let thy word be like theirs. Micaiah said, “As the Lord liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak.” He was not a man that would do that thing. He was going to tell the truth and preach what God gave him to preach. Oh that we had more men like that, to speak the Word of God with boldness, cost what it may. So he brought him down.

You remember at first Micaiah seemed to concur in the advice already given and he said: “Sure, go ahead,” but Ahab knew he was not speaking God’s word and he said to Jehoshaphat, “See, I knew that he would not tell the truth” and he made him tell the truth, and then Micaiah gives that description in verse 16: “I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains as sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.” And you remember that Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah, smote Micaiah on the cheek and said “Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak to thee? And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hid thyself.” And here is the sad part of this whole experience. Here was Jehoshaphat, a man who had witnessed the power of God, hearing all this, and then he recognizes that there is a true servant of God, speaking as a servant of God, and one of these ungodly men smites him and Jehoshaphat never lifts his voice in protest once. Oh, how Satan can deceive men and weaken their influence for God and silence their testimony so that they do not utter one thing for the servant of God or Himself. That was what happened to Jehoshaphat.

They sent this godly prophet Micaiah back to prison and put him on the affliction of bread and water, and then we find that the king and Ahab went on to Gilead. Now notice the meanness and subtlety of King Ahab. He said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and will go to the battle, but put thou on my robes.” Notice the scheming and wickedness of the man. He knew they would look for the leader, they would not look for the common man; they would try to pick out the leader first of all and get him and do away with him. Therefore he sought to disguise himself. So the kings went to battle.

Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains not to fight with small or great, but only with the king of Israel. And it came to pass (v. 31) when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed him about to fight: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him: and God moved them to depart from him.”

And oh, my friend, if this morning you have gotten into the place in your life and you have let down and you are living in sin and defeat and have lost your testimony, if you will cry out to God He will deliver you, for there is a word in First John, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Perhaps the Holy Spirit is speaking to you this morning and you know where you let down, you know where you compromised; perhaps it was that business deal that you got into that you should not have done. Perhaps you thought you could gain a little fortune by going into that thing and you know there was a little compromise and you lost your testimony. You do not have the interest in the things of God that you used to have. Perhaps in some other way you let down and you have not had a testimony for the Lord for a long, long time. You are not reading your Bible the way you used to; you are not praying the way you used to pray. You are not in fellowship with God’s people because you compromised somewhere along the way. You know where it is. You know the thing you have to confess. You know where you have to go back and deal with that.

Then you know how the story ends, that Ahab himself was killed in this battle. Now to come to the blessed close of this story. And that was really my text and I am putting the text at the end of the message rather than at the beginning. We go back and remind you again how God in grace and mercy can restore the soul that by foolishness and sin has gotten away from him, and we read in the nineteenth verse that the king of Judah returned to his house in peace in Jerusalem. And now comes another faithful man of God to him and reminds him what the cause of his failure was. “And Jehu, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord.”

In letting down and compromising with the things of this world, what are we doing? We are helping the ungodly and loving them that hate the Lord. Now that will help us, friends, to determine what will be your relationship to the world. Is it all right for me as a Christian to go with the world? Is it all right for me, a Christian, to affiliate myself with this thing or that thing? What kind of people are they? Are they godly people? Do they hate my Lord? Should I love them that hate the Lord? If you do, the wrath of the Lord may be upon you, and this prophet reminds Jehoshaphat that that is the reason he fell down. But then he reminds him that there are good things that follow them who have prepared their heart to seek the Lord. When they confess their sin, God in mercy restores them.

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